Archives for posts with tag: review

–Colette, in one of her apparently few quotable quotes not involving cats

I got my copy of The Colette Sewing Handbook the other day and it’s LOOOOOOVE. What a gorgeous book. One of my first sewing books was Built By Wendy’s Sew U, and I learned a lot from it, but this book, while somewhat similar in general contents and approach, is about a thousand times better suited to me in both the aesthetic and the sloper measurements. (I haven’t made a garment from either book yet, so I can’t speak to actual fit!)

I’ve been idly checking in on the posts on Colette Patterns’ blog every so often, and decided at some point that I’d add this book to my next Amazon order, but I hadn’t looked through it all until the book actually arrived in the mail. It includes five patterns, all very pretty and very, very girly.

I found the Pastille Dress on the cover somewhat uninspiring–the cover photo is possibly the worst one in the book. The dress is fitted very closely, but somehow between the cut and the color, the model just looks like she’s wearing a fleshy Spanx tube rather than a dress. This version is way cuter–check out the belted, cardi’d picture down at the bottom of the post. I like the knife pleats across the hem of the skirt, but I’m wary of the cut-on sleeves–seems like it could be very difficult to get the fit right.

This blog post covers the Taffy blouse and Meringue skirt. I’d totally make and wear the scallop-hemmed Meringue skirt. The Taffy blouse, on the other hand, is probably the pattern in here I’d be least likely to make–it’s lovely on the model, but those sleeves are really pretty enormous if you look at them, so it would probably be better in theory than practice, unless you have a very narrow torso or are really proud of your shoulders and just want to show them off to everyone.

This post has pictures of the Truffle and Licorice dresses. TO DIE FOR. Truffle is a simple sleeveless A-line with a gorgeous front drape across the skirt, and Licorice has a big draped collar and big, poofy elbow-length sleeves. (Eat your heart out, Anne Shirley!)

I have been surfing around to find finished versions of these, and unfortunately haven’t found a ton, but here are a couple of cute versions:

Truffle in black brocade
Licorice with sassy belt
Licorice, described as “the dress that almost broke me”

The measurements for these patterns are interesting. To compare with some other pattern companies and ready-to-wear: I normally wear a size 6 or 8 in RTW. Going just by bust-waist-hip, I’m close to a Burda size 40 across the board,  just a little smaller in the bust depending on whether I’m inhaling or not. Looking at the measurements for Vogue patterns, my waist is a little bigger and my bust a little smaller than the size 14, but again, pretty close measurements across the board. According to the Colette measurement chart, though, I’m probably a size 4 by bust, size 6 by waist, and size… uh… smaller than a size ZERO by hip measurement. Since none of these patterns are very fitted in the hips, I won’t worry about it too much, but it’s interesting to see such a huge variation from the Burda and the Big Three slopers. I’ve read that Colette patterns are drafted for a C-cup bust, so I’m guessing the size 6 is going to be closer to the right size for my frame–I’ll probably start from there and see if it works out.

The real draw for me was the patterns, but the book has a lot of other good info, including making a personalized croquis, assessing fit (how to read all the random wrinkles your muslin makes across your body when it doesn’t fit!), making bias tape, and how to do a number of standard adjustments like full or small bust adjustments, sway back, or adjusting for small or large waists. It also covers a lot of the basic information about sewing, like grain lines, pattern layouts, fabric types, and finishing seams–I have a lot of other books with this info, so I skimmed over it, but it looks like a solid summary. Since a single Colette dress pattern goes for $18 by itself, this book is a bargain at $18.99 on Amazon even if you only like one of the patterns, and a positive steal if you like more than one pattern or would find the sewing information useful.

Next step: stop talking about/accumulating Colette patterns, start making more of them. I think I’ll start with either the Meringue skirt or the Truffle dress.

A few people were interested in hearing what I thought of my first Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab order (a 6-sample order) so I thought I’d post a followup for the folks who are interested! If you are not interested in perfume, stop reading right here because there’s a lot of frivolous rambling coming.

General notes first:

  • Shipping was very slow, which in all fairness they do warn you about. I think it took about 2 weeks for them to get the samples sent out to me.
  • Wish I’d known that if you log into the forums on, a swap forum appears in the list where you can buy or trade for perfumes and/or samples. For any future samples, I’m going to check there first, since the samples are typically going to be cheaper and faster to ship.
  • I wasn’t sure what the imp’s ears samples would actually look like. They are tiny 1/32 oz bottles similar to this: the lid pulls off and has a little stick attached to it that you can use to dab on the perfume. There’s a white printer label label wrapped around each with the name of the fragrance printed on it. They are resealable, and I’m guessing you could get quite a few applications out of each– one might last a month, if you were wearing it every day, but that’s just a wild guess.
  • These oils are strong! My neck got a little red and irritated when I put on too much.
  • This is old news, but I hadn’t ever given it too much thought before: perfume branding is really something! There were several scents in this order that I wouldn’t have given a second thought to if they were fragrances pushed by Justin Bieber or J. Lo, but I’m finding myself wanting to give them more of a chance due to the vivid descriptions on the site (not only the official ones but the ones written by fans! The kind of cultish product loyalty companies would kill for). The site is kind of ugly, ridiculously hard to navigate, the shipping super slow, they sell mail-order perfume, which is such a difficult item to buy online–and you pay a few dollars apiece for the size of samples you could get for free by walking into Sephora, but the narrative and cultural allusions are like catnip to a certain breed of nerd or goth. In point of fact, I went to Sephora the other day and was thinking of getting some Fresh perfumes (my hands-down favorite scent is Fresh’s Brown Sugar,and I could bathe in that stuff–it smells amazing!) but somehow it seems like it would be more interesting to get a BPAL fragrance. Even if nobody around you knows, you’re not just dabbing on a smell, you’re dabbing on a subculture! And my little sheeple pea brain tells me I’d much rather be a “BPAL person” than a “Sephora person,” even though I’m perfectly aware on a conscious level that this is stupid.
  • I’ve read the Patrick Suskind book but not too much else about perfume, so I think at some point I might also check out: The Secret of Scent: Adventures in Perfume and the Science of Smell, The Perfect Scent: A Year Inside the Perfume Industry in Paris and New York, Essence and Alchemy: A Natural History of Perfume, and/or The Emperor of Scent: A True Story of Perfume and Obsession. Maybe even The Scent Trail: How One Woman’s Quest for the Perfect Perfume Took Her Around the World, although just from the title, I think this is probably insufferable, narcissistic privilege-lit in the vein of Eat, Pray, Love. (Which, to be fair, I didn’t read all of, but the little bit I did read rubbed me the wrong way in so many ways I couldn’t continue.)

The samples I ordered (the first five from the Mad Tea Party collection, the last one from A Picnic in Arkham):

  • The Dormouse: “A dizzying eddy of four teas brushed with light herbs and a breath of peony.” My hands-down favorite out of everything that arrived! This smells ridiculously good to me–fresh and green-appley and tea-leafy, with light floral notes that come out more in the drydown. I might order a full bottle of this when my sample runs out. The green tea smell is the strongest and purest in this one out of all the tea blends I tried–just wonderful.
  • White Rabbit: “Strong black tea and milk with white pepper, ginger, honey and vanilla, spilled over the crisp scent of clean linen.” Based on the description and my love of all the component smells, I thought this would be my favorite out of the batch. Unfortunately, I thought it smelled just terrible out of the bottle, with an overpowering baby powder aroma that I guess is probably the “clean linen.” It gets more interesting as it dries, with the black tea, ginger, and vanilla smells emerging, so I’m on the fence about it–will have to wear it all day and see what I think. I haven’t had the chance to wear all of these all day (the first day they arrived, I put dots of each one on my wrists, inner elbows, and knees and walked around smelling them all day until I got a headache and had to take a shower.)
  • Tweedledee: “Ridiculous! Kumquat, white pepper, white tea and orange blossom.” This has a nice, slightly bitter citrus scent, and the orange blossom gives it an interesting soft note, but it doesn’t have the immediate pure, sharp grab of, for instance, the Fresh citrus fragrances. I like it, but it’s lower down on my list of something I would buy.
  • Bread-and-Butter-fly: “Bread, lightly buttered, with weak tea, cream, and a lump of white sugar.” I thought I’d like this because I expected it to be more of a toasty, nutty smell, but it smelled just vile to me: a weird, sickly sweet, strong mixture of baby powder and fake buttered popcorn. Just awful. Hours later, it dries down to something nicer, with gentle vanilla and sugar notes, but I don’t think I could handle going through the earlier stages of reeking like an accident at the movie theater concession stand just to get to that softer base note.  I don’t smell bread in this at all, which I think would have made the butter smell more acceptable.
  • Eat Me: “Three white cakes, vanilla, and red and black currants.” Very sweet, as you would expect from the description. Not awful, but not my favorite. Initially, the sugary cake smell overpowers the fruity currants, but the blackcurrant becomes more noticeable once the cake fades a bit more. I’m still looking for a perfect vanilla perfume–I tried a few samples of Lavanila on Julie’s recommendation, but they were all too heavy for me, even the grapefruit vanilla one.
  • Night-Gaunt: “Their scent of their slick, rubbery hides is bittersweet, ticklish, and skin-creeping: something akin to yuzu, white grapefruit, and kumquat mixed with the snow-dusted flowers of Mount Ngranek.” I hated this initially, really thought it smelled disappointingly strong, bitter, and disgusting, but I just put a tiny drop on my arm to think about what to write about it now, and now I can’t stop huffing the crook of my arm. Maybe I over-applied it before? It currently smells just delicious, like a mixture of grapefruit and white gardenias–brings back memories of family vacations to Hawaii.

Plus they threw in two additional free samples:

  • Fae (from Bewitching Brews): “A brilliant, ethereal scent: white musk, bergamot, heliotrope, peach and oakmoss.” This is not anything I would have picked out for myself, since I don’t like musky scents much, but it’s not bad. The peach and musk are pretty evident to me, but I don’t smell the bergamot, heliotrope, and oakmoss at all. Because of the musk, it reminds me of either teenage drugstore perfumes or very expensive old-lady perfumes… nothing I would pick out for a signature fragrance, but maybe appropriate for certain occasions?
  • Deadly Nightshade Honey: (from Rappaccini’s Garden–there’s no detailed description of each of the honey scents) A wonderful surprise–I absolutely loved this one. It was my second favorite after Dormouse. It starts out with a somewhat spicy, green layer over a strong honey smell, and eventually dries down to just plain honey, but not too cloyingly sweet for my tastes. Actually, the entire time I tried it, I would have said it just smelled like plain honey, nothing more complicated than that, but comparing the dried version of the perfume to the freshly applied version made the green notes much more evident, and I think whatever the “deadly nightshade” smell is helps tone down the honey a little.

Some other BPAL fragrances I’m interested in trying at some point:

  • Dorian, from Sin and Salvation: “A Victorian fougere with three pale musks and dark, sugared vanilla tea.” Possibly something I’d hate because of the  musks, but I’m curious.
  • Aizen-Myoo, from Excolo: “Yuzu, kaki, and mikan with cherry blossom and black tea.” Katinka’s recommendation, and one that people keep comparing to Night-Gaunt. Mikan didn’t register as a citrus fruit to me when I was browsing the descriptions, but after looking it up, it sounds really appealing.
  • O, from Ars Amatoria: “Amber and honey with a touch of vanilla.”
  • Carnal, also from Ars Amatoria: “Bold, bright mandarin paired with the sweet, sensual earthiness of fig.”
  • Snake Oil, also from Ars Amatoria: “By far, our most popular scent! Magnetic, mysterious, and exceedingly sexual in nature. A blend of exotic Indonesian oils sugared with vanilla.” It’s described as “spicy” and “incensey”, which I’m not sure I like, but apparently the vanilla smell is strong too. There are a lot of glowing reviews in the forum about people being stopped on the street and asked about their perfume.
  • Akuma, from Diabolus: “Devilish temptation, as sweet as sin: blood orange, neroli, and raspberry.”
  • Kumiho, also from Diabolus: “A sharp, biting blend of crisp white tea and ginger.”

Are you a BPAL devotee? What’s your favorite?

I was interested to see today that Knit Picks is continuing their expansion into the cult classic yarns market with a knockoff of Rowan Kidsilk Haze called Aloft. $6.99 for a 25 g skein–about half the price of Kidsilk Crack. I wonder how it compares with Elann’s longtime contender, Silken Kydd? Or Artfibers Tsuki? Or Shibui Silk Cloud? (oops–edited table to add Lion Brand Silk Mohair, which I’d forgotten)

All pre-packaged yarns weigh 25g Rowan Kidsilk Haze Elann Silken Kydd Knit Picks Aloft Artfibers Tsuki Shibui Silk Cloud LB Silk Mohair
Mohair/silk ratio 70/30 70/30 75/25 60/40 60/40 70/30
Yardage 229 yds 232 yds 246 yds n/a, sold by the yard 330 yds 231 yds
Super kid mohair specified in fiber content? Y Y N Y Y Y
Suggested gauge 18-24 sts/4” 18-24 sts/4” Not specified 22 sts/4” 20 sts/4” 17 sts/4”
Suggested needles US 3-8 US 2-6 Not specified US 6 US 7 US 8
Colors 31 currently listed 7 currently in stock 15 currently listed 19 currently listed 13 currently listed 6 currently listed
Price $14.95 $6.50 $6.99 n/a, sold by the yard $17.00 $8.00
Price per yard 6.5 cents 2.8 cents 2.8 cents 4 cents undyed, 5 cents dyed 5.2 cents 3.5 cents


  • KSH has the best color selection but is also crazy expensive (in case you hadn’t noticed).
  • Tsuki has a more limited color range, but is also the only one that offers hand-dyed multicolors
  • Tsuki and Silk Cloud have the highest silk content, Aloft has the lowest
  • Silk Cloud is sold in the highest-yardage putup
  • I don’t think the suggested gauge or needles are significant–I’m sure these are all interchangeable
  • I’m not sure if the lack of “super kid” designation on Aloft was intentional. Maybe it’s scratchier than the others?
  • Silken Kydd is the cheapest per skein
  • However, Silken Kydd and Aloft are the same price per yard
  • Knit Picks offers free shipping for orders over $50, and shipping is pretty darn cheap even when you have to pay for it, so once you factor that in, it’s probably the cheapest choice by far… on the other hand, Shibui and KSH are sold through retailers instead of direct to consumer, so you have a better chance of finding random sales or discount codes than with the other yarns
  • Silk Cloud seems the most expensive but is actually quite a bit cheaper than KSH once you look at the yardage

EDIT: Feb 22, KP confirmed that Aloft also uses super kid mohair!

Here are some projects I’ve made with

Honestly, though, I couldn’t tell you the difference between any of them unless I had them side by side.

I haven’t yet had the pleasure of a whole project with Silk Cloud, Lion Brand Silk Mohair, or, obviously, Aloft.

Next I hope Knit Picks comes out with a knockoff of Rowan Calmer!

Edited for full, FCC-compliant disclosure: after I wrote this post, the folks at Knit Picks kindly sent me 3 skeins of green Aloft yarn for free! (I didn’t know they were going to do that when I wrote it.)

The new knitty is up! While this warrants some general excitement in and of itself, I’m feeling lukewarm about this particular issue.

My faves:

Mythos and Purlieu are OK, but I can’t really get too worked up about either of them. I like the novelty yarns used in Purlieu.

Victoria and Iced feel like almost the same sweater to me, and it’s a sweater that conjures up either old pipe-smoking men or sturdy farm women in waders in my mind. I’m not big on the boxy cardigan silhouette + shawl (or shawl-ish) collar.

I admit this issue has a lot of clever little projects for handspun, and maybe I’ll be more excited when I see a few versions of, say, Purlieu or Jewels worked up in unique handspun yarns…

The new knitty is up!

I was so excited to see Kalani‘s design, the Know It All bag, in it. Not just because she’s my pal but because this bag is AMAZING. Computational textiles! Felting! It counts your rows and shows you the next line on the chart! I have always admired the computational textiles I’ve seen popping up now and then (oops, typed “pooping” at first) on the CRAFT magazine blog, but nothing has seemed really worth the effort until this totally functional bag.

My other favorites from the issue:
The Duck socks. So cute!

The Summit shawl. It looks mind-bending, along the lines of a Lynne Barr pattern, and I might need to make a scarf version of it soon just to understand how it’s constructed.

Emmaline. I love the silhouette, not so crazy about the lumpy-bumpy yarn it’s knit in (even if it is organic–sorry). It’s totally cute and knit on size 10.75/7.0 mm needles, though, so it seems like a nice instant gratification summer project (if one’s climate allows for wearing a chunky gauge sweater, albeit short-sleeved, in the summertime).

Petrie is lovely, though I have the feeling the shape might be better suited to sewn fabric–thinner, drapier.

Que Sera looks amazing in the photos, but I suspect this might just be my total love of the styling and photography. It probably would not be as appealing without the crazy-colored skirt and door and ukelele, but man, does it ever look great with those accessories. I probably won’t actually end up ever knitting it, unless I start a ukelele band that only plays shows in housepaint showrooms.

Gams. OK, this is not one of my favorites, but I thought I’d mention it because this is sort of the polar opposite of Que Sera. The shorts have the potential to be cute, but this photo shoot is really distracting. The first photo is like a punch in the aesthetic face after 20 minutes of browsing pretty, conventional, Anthropologie-esque knitwear photos. The hiked-up rear and camel toe in front! The Scowls! The green eyeshadow up to the eyebrows! The black socks! Wham! Pow!

You scroll down a bit for a reasonable photo of a smiling model with the shorts worn low enough to eliminate the camel toe… then BAM! Close-up of a man-butt clad in tight green knitted hot pants, with legs spread! OK, this photo shoot is probably really avant-garde and high fashion, but it doesn’t sell me on the knitting at all.

Here is how I think they could be kind of cute–knit with a bit more ease (please) and a folded waistband casing with elastic threaded in to hold them up. Knit in cream or white yarn without the contrasting edging, to evoke traditional Aran sweaters. But I could be wrong. Knitted shorts! It’s so risky.

(Speaking of risky: I went to the designer’s website and found this knitted bathing costume. Wow.)

This is the best knitty (for my tastes) that I’ve seen in a while.

My faves from this issue:

I would make Spoke if it weren’t so similar to the Sunrise Circle jacket I already have. I love that asymmetrical circular shaping–one of these days I’m going to make Norah Gaughan’s Swirl Pullover, too. Eyelets rather than stockinette, but it’s the same kind of idea.

Quadrat is gorgeous. I really want to make this, but if I do, I will also have to go buy a huge belt to go around the middle so I don’t look too boxy.

Knotty but Nice: the world can always use more cabley skullcap patterns for manly presents.

Incognito. I approve of mustachioed knitwear.

Duet. I love this! It will probably be the first thing I make from this issue. It has leaf lace! It’s a hat! And a cowl! It uses hardly any yarn! It’s convertible! And it doesn’t advertise the fact that it’s convertible!

Bitterroot. Did I mention I like leaf lace? This is beautiful, and it takes as little as 365 yards of yarn. I love the flow from stitch pattern to stitch pattern within the shawl, and the bead placement.

Citron. The ruched texture works so beautifully with the soft matte surface of the Malabrigo lace yarn. I would totally make this to wear to a holiday party if a) they weren’t apparently all happening this weekend and b) I weren’t deep in the midst of emergency Christmas knitting. I am only making a few gifts this year, but somehow the end of the year totally snuck up on me.

Speaking of which–off to work on my Ishbel! (It’s a stashbuster that’s using up some Alpaca Cloud I’ve had for ages–hurray!)

So before I go on to talk about some more spinning stuff, I’d like to ask you to take a look at my friend Fee’s new Etsy shop,, to see if anything catches your eye. As she blogged about here, her husband, who is only 35 years old, recently discovered that he has a tumor in his colon and will need to have an operation very soon to have it removed. They’re still waiting to hear about whether it’s malignant, and her friends in the Bloomington knitting community are all wishing the best for them. Fee opened up her Etsy shop to raise money for medical bills, so I wanted to help spread the word… she currently has some very nice original artwork (some knitting-related!), a knitting pattern, and a handknit cowl for sale. I hope you see something in her shop you might like.

Anyway, far off in Madison, I’ve been spinning and spinning. When I went to California over the summer, my dad and stepmom and I had a really wonderful day in Point Reyes–we saw fawns and tiny songbirds in the marsh, and had the good fortune to watch a whale playing in the waves, very close by, for probably a good hour. In Point Reyes Station, we stopped in at Black Mountain Weavers, where I bought a 3 oz. bump of locally dyed mohair-wool roving. It was all kinds of colors all carded together, and I was very curious to see how it would spin up; the base color was a warm mahogany brown, but shot through with streaks of bright red and blue and yellow and purple.

As it turned out, it was fun to spin–the fibers were slightly coarse and drafted smoothly with just a little coaxing. It spun up into a really interesting tweed with a lot of visual depth. (I’m taking Abby’s definition, because she’s the expert, but it doesn’t have neps/flecks in it, so I would have called it more of a heather.) From far away, it reads as brown:

When you look a little closer, though, you can see the streaks of brighter colors in the yarn. Mohair takes dye really well, and I’m assuming the really shiny bright colors are from the mohair part of the blend:

Here’s a picture of the singles on the bobbin.

It’s about 12-13 wpi, so more or less a sport weight yarn, with a shiny, slightly fuzzy surface. I treated this as an experimental sampler, so most of this is spun worsted, short forward draw, but other parts are spun over the fold or long draw. It’s about 136 yards total. (Honestly, I don’t quite understand how people can charge so little when they sell their handspun! Maybe I’m doing it wrong, but it takes me hours to spin up even this much yarn, and it’s not a large amount.)

Also, I think I discovered what kind of spinning wheel I have! I bought it used at Yarns Unlimited–someone was selling a couple of old spinning wheels, but the shop owners didn’t know that much about them. A patron at the shop told me she thought it was an Ashford Wee Peggy, but I think that’s just based on the fact that it’s a castle wheel. When you look closely, it doesn’t look too much like the wheel in the photos on that page.

However, browsing through that page about New Zealand-built spinning wheels, this castle wheel, by H. H. Napier/Glenfield Industries, caught my eye. It says this type of wheel was made on Auckland’s North Shore in the 1960s. Look at this and compare the shape and placement of the mother-of-all, treadle, legs, etc., even the spokes on the wheel. Doesn’t it look just like mine? I love the fact that his initials are H. H. too.

It doesn’t help me too much with the things I was wondering about–where to get extra bobbins, for example. I have two bobbins and one of them has a pretty small whorl, so it spins at a fairly high ratio (good for finer yarns) and gets less use than the slower bobbin. I’d like at least one more larger bobbin–actually, I would really like to have at least four bobbins so I can do a three-ply easily, but judging by the paucity of information on the internet about this wheel, I don’t think I’m going to have too much luck with finding extras. I’m also mildly curious about how much my wheel is worth, in case I decide to trade it in one day for a wheel with easily available spare parts.

More stuff in my setup: You can see my orifice hook dangling from the wheel in the picture above. I use a Dritz loop turner for the purpose and I love it–it has a little latch over the hook that works perfectly for grabbing onto the leader. Also, I just put on a new drive band, made of a long strand of Plymouth Encore tied in three places. I read somewhere that jelly yarns make nice drive bands, so maybe one of these days I’ll try that out.

I own one spinning book: Maggie Casey’s Start Spinning. I also checked out the Alden Amos Big Book of Handspinning and Teach Yourself Visually Handspinning from the library. Of the three, I think Teach Yourself Visually is my favorite; in addition to the absolute basics about wheel and spindle spinning (like in the Maggie Casey book, which is an excellent introduction to spinning), it gets into some slightly more advanced (but still practical) information–construction of novelty yarns using different plying effects, and appropriate methods for spinning different types of fibers, like cotton, vicuna, and angora. Alden Amos is amusingly opinionated, kind of the Elizabeth Zimmermann of spinning, but the book gets very technical about things like mathematically figuring out slippage percentages in a double drive wheel system–not the type of information I personally was looking for, but great for a certain very select audience.

(Actually, I have a note to add: after reading some of the reviews of the Teach Yourself Visually Handspinning book, I’m starting to doubt whether it’s a good source of information. Since I haven’t compared all the different types of wheels personally, or tried the methods the author suggests for certain types of spinning, I can’t speak to those criticisms personally, but one of those negative reviewers seems pretty knowledgeable and pretty certain about what’s wrong with the book.)

Less than 2 miles from my house, about a 10-minute bike ride away, there’s a local yarn shop named Lakeside Fibers.

I was feeling a little cooped up today, so at lunch, I decided to pack up my laptop and go down there to look at buttons for my Cherry cardigan.

Let’s take a ride, shall we?

My house is on a tree-lined residential street in the Vilas neighborhood, a few blocks from UW-Madison’s Camp Randall Stadium. Some fairly large and busy streets (Park and Regent) pass through the neighborhood. Park runs north-south and is lined with some interesting shops and restaurants as you go further down–a very large Asian grocery store that sells fresh durian, a tiny taqueria with whitewashed walls, an “Oriental Store” (I haven’t been in yet to figure out what, exactly, they sell–it doesn’t look like a grocery store), a South American handicrafts store, a Peruvian restaurant. Sadly, the Vietnamese restaurant called “I’M HERE” doesn’t seem to be there anymore, just its sign bearing false witness.

If you cross Park, heading east, you reach a bike trail that runs around the shores of Monona Bay, a round little pond of a thing scooped out from the much larger Lake Monona. It’s a beautiful place to ride, with mallard ducks and Canada geese resting in the shade on the banks, and an occasional muskrat making an appearance from among the rocks on the shore. Here’s a view looking across the bay towards the yarn store.

If you ride on this dedicated bike path, tiny private piers on your left, eclectic and doubtless very expensive houses on your right, you’ll eventually loop around till you meet Lakeside Drive. Turn left, and just before the railroad tracks you’ll see a tiny block of cute little shops. Lakeside Fibers is just up ahead, on the left, by the rainbow flag.

In one of the windows is a yarn bouquet.

Step inside, and there’s a table of the newest pattern booklets on the front table, and the most delicious luxury yarns all piled up high–Classic Elite cashmeres, Hanne Falkenberg kits, Shokay pure yak, glittery, beaded Prism yarns, Claudia hand-painted sock yarn… and on the back wall is a big Wheel O’ Berroco, just above a mega-sized ball winder and a box of partial skeins (no labels) on sale for $2 an ounce. The buttons are over to the left. (I didn’t find anything suitable, but they do have a nice selection.) The needles and pattern books are over to the right, and the single patterns are stowed in binders under the windows.

Here are some Mountain Colors handpaints…

and my favorite ones to look at, the Dream in Color “veil-dyed” yarns (the Shokay can be seen in the lower left-hand corner):

In the next room back, there are tons of Rowan yarns and a large selection of chunky and tweedy yarns along the left wall:

And finally, in the back, you reach the cafe, the Washington Hotel Coffee Room. There are couches here for knitting, and tables, and the walls are lined with yarn. The stairs lead down to a room of coned yarns for weavers and machine knitters.

The cafe serves lots of locally sourced and organic foods. I had a slice of onion and kale quiche with warm, seedy toasted buttermilk bread slathered with fresh butter, and later on, a big mug of hot chocolate.

On the back wall is their selection of Cascade 220. On the right, their sale yarns–among the good finds were some Habu kits and Muench Touch Me. There’s an outside wooden balcony with tables, too.

And, of course, sit down for a coffee and you get a beautiful view of a park and Monona Bay:

The wi-fi worked wonderfully, and I spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening working there and looking out the window at the lake and the dogs playing fetch in the park. They played some Sufjan Stevens and some Sun Kil Moon. I approved.

(The two downsides I’ve found so far: the cafe is pretty expensive, and the train comes by periodically and makes noises like it’s about to burst through the wall of the yarn shop.)

When I saw Macoco’s fantastic Greta Garbo sweater, I became intrigued by the book it came from–Hollywood Knits, by Bill Gibb–so I added it to my shopping cart the next time I had an Amazon purchase to make. I didn’t know anything about the book aside from seeing that sweater, so it was a leap of faith to buy it. All I knew was what she’d posted–that it was a book of sweater designs inspired by classic photos of various Hollywood stars in knitwear.

(A brief long aside: I used to do this all the time back in high school. I found out about the Magnetic Fields from a friend from an online chat room and went out to buy a copy of Holiday based on his recommendation alone, having no idea what the band would sound like. I somehow obtained a paper catalog from Firebird Records and randomly ordered British folk rock CDs based on one-paragraph written descriptions of the music.

Nowadays, we depend so much on sample-before-you-buy, no-commitment purchasing, whether it’s downloading an entire album and listening to it for weeks before deciding to buy it, scarfing free samples at Costco, or buying 20 pairs of shoes at Zappos–something we discussed at knit night tonight–with the ability to return them all if you change your mind. We’re guarded, we’re picky, we use Metacritic to sort through dozens of reviews at once and can reject an album before ever hearing a single note of it.

But back in the day, I think I used to discover a lot more cool new stuff because of that necessary leap of faith. Once I had committed to the random purchase to learn about something new, I had an investment in it, and it was in my own best interest to give it a fair chance and find things to appreciate about the item I’d already bought. Sort of like an arranged marriage, maybe; once you’re committed, even if you might not have originally made that decision if you could have made a fully informed, consenting choice, you really try to find something to love.)

So, in that same spirit, I ordered the book. Oddly enough, almost all the listings for used copies of Hollywood Knits on Amazon have it as being by “Bill Gibbs,” but it should be Gibb, as far as I can tell, like this listing and this listing have it.

I’m kind of amazed that Macoco took her own leap of faith to make the sweater in the first place. The sweaters are all illustrated in two ways: 1) the photo of the inspiration sweater, and 2) a crazy 80s “fashion” line drawing of the sweater, very stylized and inevitably with gigantic, padded trapezoid shoulders tapering to a carrot-like waist. Some of the inspiration photos are sort of hard to see, too, so I guess you just have to read through the pattern and hope for the best.

Anyway, I thought I’d pay a little debt back to the Internet, and enable all you fickle noncommittal shoppers to get a taste of what’s inside Hollywood Knits. The Bill Gibb book, not the Suss Cousins one.

In no particular order, here are the photos of the patterns found in this book. There is interesting chatter about the patterns and the movie stars in all the facing pages.

Greta Garbo, in the sweater that piqued my interest in the first place.

Jean Harlow in a polo shirt.

Lana Turner in another polo shirt. Both of these seem kind of similar to Salina, from Vintage Knits.

Adele Jergens in a fluffy monstrosity.

Loretta Young in what might be a cute, classic cardigan. Who can tell?

Claudette Colbert in a pretty puff-sleeved blouse embroidered with flowers.

Vilma Banky in a tennis vest with flags on the chest. I would make one like this with two American flags and embroider “THESE COLORS DON’T RUN” across the stomach. I think that would be very classy.

Joan Crawford in a puff-sleeved sweater that’s sort of hard to separate from her overall suspendertastic, old-man-feeding-pigeons-in-the-park look.

Peggy Cummins in a turtleneck that might be very cute but also has giant shoulder pads for the Carroty look.

Cary Grant in a basic cabled V-neck. NEEDS MORE ANGORA AND SHOULDER PADS

Jane Greer in a sweet blazer, holding a giant tie

Jennifer Jones in a big textured coat I think I might love, if I could only see what the front of it would look like.

Dorothy Lamour in a bejeweled boatneck.

Jane Wyman in a shirt emblazoned with embroidered cigarettes.

Marilyn Monroe in a turtleneck vest thing with the neck pinned down by a brooch. It looks fabulous, but I suspect it loses some of the overall fabulous effect if you do not look like Marilyn Monroe.

Virginia Mayo in a bird sweater.

Robert Taylor, in a cabled sweater as boring as his name.

Gary Cooper, in a sweater with kind of an awesome colorwork band across the chest.

Errol Flynn. Yeah, baby!

crap, counting these now, I think I’m short one pattern, but I don’t know which one it is. Anyway, that’s at least 19 out of 20. Now you’ve sampled what’s inside, and can find excuses not to buy this book.

Tonight I’m visiting a llama farm with Kalani and Elli! Hopefully, many cute llama pictures to come.

I have two new finished objects to show you, both made from Knit Picks Cotlin yarn in Moroccan Red, an inexpensive DK weight cotton-linen blend. I blogged about it before here, when I made a Bainbridge Scarf with it for my friend Jeanne.

Now that I’ve used it a bit more, some further thoughts: the color of this yarn is lovely and bright, and the yarn is pretty soft and drapey as far as I can tell. The two things I disliked about it were the occasional long, pokey fibers I would have to pull out of the yarn, presumably bits of flax, and its tendency to shed red fuzz as I was knitting with it (mentioned in my last post). It made me feel sneezy, and if I washed my hands after knitting with it for a while, little red fuzz pills would rub off my palms. These skeins seemed less fuzzy than the one I knit before–maybe it’s the effect of aging the yarn a bit.

I was undecided before, but I’ve decided I like it after all and I would use it again, especially since they’ve added a bunch of new colors that are right up my alley. Of the old ones, only this red and the natural linen color really appealed to me. Maybe Nightfall. But I wasn’t crazy about the sherbet colors like coral and turquoise. I love all the new ones, though–Coffee, Glacier, and Kohlrabi are all beautiful.

The Cotlin yarn for these two new FOs and the Bainbridge scarf is all from the same batch. I got it from chemgrrl, who bought too much for her super-adorable Cherry sweater. I was curious about it, so she gave me the skein I made into the Bainbridge scarf, and then she swapped me the sweater quantity, plus some mohair, for some Elann Den-m-nit
I had so she could make a jacket or something for her small niece.

I had it lined up for a lobster for a friend’s baby, but I’ll have to find a different red yarn for that, because the Cotlin is now all used up!

First up, Rusted Root! (Wow, it’s been ages since I’ve done a proper FO post)

Pattern: Rusted Root, from Zephyr Style, given to me as a Random Act of Kindness by knottygnome
Size made: Small (for 32-35″ bust), although my gauge wound up being off and the sweater measured about 34″ before blocking when it should have been 32″. Not that the pattern tells you this, of course.
Yarn used: Knit Picks Cotlin, Moroccan Red, approximately 4.5 skeins
Needles used: US size 7/4.5 mm Denises for most of the sweater; US size 3/3.25 mm for the ribbing on the sleeves
Date started: May 5, 2008
Date finished: May 11, 2008
Mods: More tedious details about size and yarn usage can be found on the Ravelry page. I started with the neckline ribbing (since you pick up the same number of stitches as you cast on, in the same ratio, without short rows or any such things going on, I see no particular reason to pick up the neckline later) and worked 5 rows instead of 3, using the larger needles instead of going down a size. I did paired M1 increases around the raglan seam lines (lift from back and knit through front loop, k2, lift from front and knit through back loop).

I totally reworked the waist shaping, and then my gauge was off and I was unable to finish my reworked shaping scheme anyway–after I’d worked only 3 sets of hip increases out of my desired 5, the sweater was long enough and I decided to stop.

I also put in Elizabeth Zimmermann’s phoney seams on the sides before starting the ribbing.

I knit the neck and hip ribbing (about 9 rows) on size 7 needles, since I didn’t want them to draw in particularly, then knit the sleeve ribbing for 5 rows on size 3’s (I used k1fb to increase one on each sleeve to make the k2, p1 ribbing pattern work properly).

I used a sewn bindoff for the sleeves to make them stretchy, and a suspended bindoff in rib for the hip (since I hate sewing with that long, long tail over long distances… I really should have used the sewn bindoff at the hip, too; it could definitely be stretchier, but it’s not terrible as is, either.)

I hope to have more photos later. It’s unblocked and hot off the needles in this photo (so it’s all uneven and lumpy, and it’s being worn over a clearly unsuitable tunic top instead of a camisole).

The thing is, I committed a Cardinal Sin of knitting with this sweater. I didn’t knit or wash my swatch the way I would wash my finished garment–I knit a flat swatch instead of one in the round (hence the aforementioned gauge issues), then hand-washed and laid it flat instead of machine-washing and drying. Then I finished the sweater and threw it in the washer and dryer. We’ll see what happens! Hopefully I can still wear the sweater afterwards. It seems silly to have to hand-wash and flat dry what is essentially a t-shirt, so if it’s not easy care, I guess I might as well find out now instead of after it’s a cherished essential piece in my wardrobe and I accidentally toss it in the hamper. Anyway, I did read up on it beforehand and people have said it tightens up a bit and takes very well to machine washing. Not sure about drying. If it’s a disaster, I surely will have notes on it in the near future–it’s in the dryer as I type this. Wish me luck!

While I think the finished top is really cute, I did find the pattern kind of weird and annoying to work with at certain points, for a few minor reasons. Believe me, I totally understand the headaches of trying to sort these things out when drafting a pattern, and I don’t think I could do any better (people who live in glass houses shouldn’t point fingers at other people’s pattern-writing abilities!) but nonetheless, should you be in the market for Zephyr Style patterns and wondering about how they’re written, let me tell you what my gripes with this were:

  • No schematics in the pattern. This is the biggest annoyance. I couldn’t decide if I should make the XS or the S (since both cover a 32” bust)–seems like the S gives a 32” actual bust size, meaning negative ease if you’re on the larger end of the range. I wasn’t sure if the sleeves would actually fit over my biceps (thankfully, they did)–I had an issue with the sleeves being too tight on my Green Gable and had to redo my bind-offs on that top before I could actually wear it. There is also no information about the intended or modeled ease.
  • No stitches put on hold/cast on at the underarm. Just a note, not a gripe (yet). I’ve just seen the put 8%-of-underarm-stitches-on-hold thing in numerous patterns, though I’m not sure what type of functional difference it makes in the fit. I’ll see how it fits when it’s done and washed.
  • Asymmetrical waist shaping decreases. OK, actually, there’s nothing wrong with this, but I kind of like symmetrical ssk/k2tog shaping on either side of a seam instead of using just k2tog on one side of the seam.
  • Very sparse with the stitch counts. I’m pretty sure I got it right, but it would have been very helpful to see a detailed breakdown of stitch counts in the puff sleeve increase/decrease sections in particular so I could easily double-check my work and see if everything was OK. I’m not personally bothered by the lack of information about the increase rounds, as I’m capable of figuring out the number of increases per increase round from looking at the directions, but a beginner might have issues.
  • The lace is not charted out, and sl1-k1-psso is written as 3 separate steps (separated by commas) which confuses me since the 3 steps consume 2 stitches and result in 1 stitch. I prefer seeing it written using hyphens/dashes. In any case, I rewrote it using ssk.
  • The lace also calls for you to read your knitting on every other round, knitting into the knit stitches and YOs and purling into the purls. I don’t mind this, but again, if you’re a beginner, it might be easier to have it specified as “Row 10: K7, p2, k6” etc.
  • As someone’s notes somewhere on the internet point out (I can’t find them now, of course), the poof in the sleeves tends to vanish for many people, probably because of the tiered increases–i.e. XS and S have the same number of increases for the puffed sleeves, meaning the XS sleeves will be puffier than the S in proportion to the rest of the sweater, and the same deal for M/L, XL/XXL. We’ll see how mine come out. I don’t have my heart set on it either way.
  • Not a lot of information about the techniques they use. M1 is specified as Make One, but there are at least 4 different actual increases that could mean. The instructions for knitting the sleeves on two circulars are very sparse (they tell you to divide the stitches onto two circulars and knit in the round, but I can see this potentially causing issues for a beginner who wasn’t familiar with the technique). No cast-on is specified, even though they specify that you should use the backwards loop cast-on in their FAQ because apparently a lot of people were having issues with their necklines or underarm seams binding because the cast-on wasn’t stretchy enough.

It’s been ages since I made Green Gable, but I remember having some of the same issues with that top as well.

Anyway–I’m excited about wearing it, so thank you again for the pattern, knottygnome! I desperately hope it fits when it comes out of the dryer.

I had a bit of the yarn left over, about half a skein, so I cast on for a dishcloth.

Pattern: Yvonne’s Double Flower Cloth
Yarn used: Knit Picks Cotlin, Moroccan Red, approximately 1 skein
Needles used: A set of 5 US size 8/5 mm bamboo DPNs (sort of annoying–they kept falling out of the stitches. Two circs or magic loop would be easier to deal with)
Date started: May 12, 2008
Date finished: May 13, 2008

Mods: I was trying to use up the half-skein of yarn left over from my Rusted Root–I ran out of yarn at row 31 and had to rummage around to find the other half-skein of yarn left over from the Bainbridge Scarf so I could finish the cloth. I had some left over, so I knit a little garter stitch loop to use for hanging the cloth up to dry (just cast on 3 sts, knit every row for maybe 2 inches, folded it over, picked up stitches from the base of the loop and knit them together with the live stitches) and used the rest of the yarn to single-crochet around the outer border of the washcloth. Also, I used a lighter weight yarn and larger needles than recommended.
Notes: I don’t know the last time I spent so little time on a project and wound up with something so pretty and functional! Again, this photo is before washing and drying the cloth, so the knitting isn’t terribly even-looking. I think this is a great pattern, though–very easy to follow and fast to knit, with beautiful results.