3-month-old for scale

So this is sort of old news by now, but … I had another design published by Twist Collective! It’s a fun blanket I named Sunbreak. Here you can see the sample I photographed for my submission to Twist, with my munchkin included for scale.* (Teeeeeeeeny! Holy cow that seems like a long time ago.)

I got my start in designing by reverse-engineering of patterns for my sister. She would bring me a sweater from a friend of hers, and I would make her something similar (altered to match her specifications). It was a great excuse to play with gauge and shaping and interesting construction techniques, and it was a great way to reinforce that I didn’t need a pattern written by someone else to tell me what I could make.

A few years ago, my amazingly talented and artistic cousin Jenny had a Big Birthday. I offered to knit her something – anything she wanted. She thought about it for a good 6 months, and at Christmas at my parents’ house that year, she said she knew what she wanted: A blanket. Big enough for her queen-sized bed. In burnt orange. With a big sun in the center. “Not possible,” I said almost immediately. Such a thing would have to be knit from the center out to be at all attractive, but figuring out the math of how to turn a circle into a rectangle would be challenging to say the least.

The beauty of designing something according to the specifications of an artistic non-knitter like Jenny or my sister is that they don’t know the limitations of the knitted form, so their requests force me to question my perceptions of those limitations. Turning a circle into a rectangle wouldn’t be impossible, I realized. The circle could be turned into an octagon and then into a rectangle with much less math. The math would be, well, trigonometry … but it was just a bit of math. And I love math.

[I had every intention of showing a picture of my chicken-scratch doing-trig-on-the-bus-by-hand notes, but I can’t find them. Just believe me when I say that Mrs. Novstrup and Mrs. Matson would be very proud of me if they could see my notes.]

one of Jamie Dixon's official Twist Collective pictures, used with permission

Once the math was completed, the knitting zoomed along with great results. Kate at Twist Collective decided to stage the design as a picnic blanket (see the terrific story about that particular photo shoot) so I knit one whole afghan-or-picnic-sized blanket in worsted weight yarn, plus a quarter-blanket each in sport and bulky weight to show what the design looks like in other sizes. That was a lot of knitting, so my photos of the finished blanket are terrible (photographing a yellow item at night in a yellow room = bad idea). Fortunately, the pictures Jamie Dixon took are absolutely wonderful.

photo by Magpie Yarns, used by permission

The most exciting part of designing to me, though, is seeing what other people do with the design. Elly of Magpie Yarns (Ravelry/website) used intarsia to make the sun and background different colors. That idea that had occurred to me but that I hadn’t found time to try out, and I was thrilled to see it executed.

photo by Nicolor, used with permission

And Nicola (Nicolor) completely blew me away, knitting only 5 out of the 8 sections of the octagon and turning it into a shawl – and doing it in a gradually color-changing yarn. That’s just gorgeous.

Thank you, Twist Collective, for giving my design such wide audience and beautiful presentation! Thank you, knitters, for pushing it beyond the blanket I imagined. And thank you, Jenny, for giving me the idea in the first place! I promise I’ll finally finish YOUR blanket by this Christmas.

* The sun panel can be knit either as one piece or as four quarters; this was my first pass at the design, and (obviously) I just knit the one quarter. When I realized the design would work, I reknit this piece (the one that will go to Jenny soon!) and the sample sent to Twist in all one piece. I don’t mind sewing, but I didn’t want to deal with THAT much sewing.)

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Hello blog! Hello summer!

Oh look! A functioning computer! A kid who isn’t sick right now (knock on every wood and faux-wood surface within reach)! And … dahlias! Welcome back snails. I missed you.

Alpen Cherub, 4" collarette

Four out of the first five plants to flower in my yard this year (excluding those in the window boxes) are white or near-white collarettes. Yes, these really are early bloomers!* One Taratahi Ruby (red waterlily) is the only other plant blooming yet.

Taratahi Ruby, 4" waterlily

The peas are out in force, though! This is our first year really planting peas, and we’re absolutely loving them. Maybe next year we’ll make the support a little higher.


OMG peas! and potatoes! with munchkin's little play structure for "scale"

* For context, this year we’ll have at least 56 dahlia plants, representing 38 different varieties, which is why it’s so surprising that the first four plants to bloom were all little white collarettes.

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It would be much easier to have a blog, and to post entries on that blog, if my internet browsers didn’t quit every time I tried to upload a photo. Just a thought.

As the Facebook group says, unless life also gives you water and sugar, your lemonade is going to suck. (This lemon-tastic laptop is HOPEFULLY getting replaced soon. Yeesh.)

Related: I wonder how many posts it is reasonable to upload in one day, once I get this thing fixed? [Something about trees falling in the forest and no one hearing … Yeah. Whatever.]

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A couple of months ago, Elinor announced that she was sponsoring a sock design contest to get herself excited about knitting socks again, and encouraged her readers to use the contest as an excuse to finish any patterns they had kicking around in their heads. Well, it just so happened that I had one of those sock patterns in my head. And last Friday, with three whole hours to spare before the contest deadline, I put the pattern up for sale on Ravelry.

Introducing: Denature

This pattern makes me a happy, happy geek on several levels.

The DNA cable itself is surprisingly accurate: the minor and major grooves in the double-helix (the distance between the two strands in the helix, and between turns in the helix) are appropriately proportioned, and there are a nearly-accurate 10 bases per full turn of the helix. I may have done a happy-geek dance around the room when I sketched out the chart and realized that the math worked out like that.

Then, the whole denaturing bit is sort of a visual pun on an old sock style in which an otherwise plain pair of socks would have some sort of decorative band running down the sides of the leg. This band, referred to for some reason as the clock, would split just above the heel, with half of the band running down the foot and the other half running down the heel flap. This was actually the original inspiration for Denature: what if it were actually pieces of double-stranded DNA that were running down the clocks and denaturing over the heel!

I had this idea during my first rotation in grad school … three and a half years ago. Finally, after several attempts at charting the denaturation point and single-stranded DNA, a couple of hard-drive crashes, three and a half pairs of socks, and some good solid test-knitting/editing by the wonderful Sara, the pattern is finished. (THANK YOU, Elinor, for giving me an excuse to get this dang thing finished after all those years. Yeesh.) Now I hope you won’t all run out and find mistakes in it, but if you do, let me know and I’ll fix them.

The pattern is available for $5 as a PDF download through Ravelry, but you don’t need a Ravelry account to purchase it. Just click this link and it’ll take you to PayPal.

Sizes: S (L) — although the size is easily adjustable just by varying how much stocking stitch you put between the DNA bands
Measurements: 8.5” (9.5”)
Yarn: any solid- or heathered-colored yarn that knits to the correct gauge; roughly 400 (600) yds
Gauge: 32 sts / 48 rows = 4” in stocking stitch
Needles: US 2 (2.75 mm) dpns or circulars
Notions: cable needle (optional); darning needle; four stitch markers

Full details of the pairs I’ve knit are on Ravelry: Valerie’s; Annie’s; Michael’s. And big thank-yous to Valerie and Jess for modeling for me!


And if DNA socks aren’t science-y enough for you, or you think I’m the only one who’s combining biology and socks, check out Whitney’s amazing neuron socks! I haven’t even looked through the rest of the contest entrants – that one alone makes me feel like I’m in good company.

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Weekly bread

I don’t cook. Ok, that’s a bit strong – I almost never cook. My husband is a terrific cook and actually enjoys doing it, so the kitchen is largely his domain. The big exception to this rule is baking, and in particular the bread machine. That was Mr. Snail Bait’s birthday present last summer, and I have baked at least one loaf of bread in it per week since then. I love this thing. Last night, since I had completely run out of sandwich bread for myself, I tossed together a loaf of Scandinavian Light Rye, set the timer …

Bread flour, rye flour, vital wheat gluten flour, brown sugar, salt, caraway seeds ... and yeast

… and had a fragrant loaf waiting for me when I got up this morning. (I also woke up at 3am when the beeper went off to let me know I could add things if I wanted to, but we’ll ignore that.) Of course we were in too much of a rush this morning for me to remember to take a picture of the finished loaf, but it looked like a loaf of bread. You can use your imagination for now.

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Hello world!

I thought I’d start with more of a bang than this, but … oh well. I’ll get there. (Eventually.)

This weekend was the Puget Sound’s 5th annual LYS Tour, and I participated for the first time … if visiting four out of 25 shops counts as participating! A friend and I met up today, took the ferry to Bainbridge Island to visit my old haunt of Churchmouse Yarns and Teas, and I came back with loot: some Churchmouse Summer tea, granola from Blackbird Bakery, and a skein of Shibui Sock in a bright orange color. Not much yarn, but I’m excited anyway. It’ll be another pair of duck socks for the munchkin when I get around to it..!

Once back on the mainland, we visited Weaving Works (one of my primary LYS), then Bad Woman Yarns and Full Circle Yarns. I acquired two buttons and … nothing else, although I am now eagerly awaiting some Louet Gems fingering weight in a gorgeous light teal color that Weaving Works had only in sport weight. Yum.

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