Archive for January, 2007

Dipping Beeswax Candles

Every Tuesday morning, I host a knitting group for crafty parents at my house.


The common denominator for this group is the Seattle chapter of Attachment Parenting International. I have been part of this community since Sophie was a baby; now that my children are in school, it is time for me to give something back to the parents who are new to the parenting journey. I love the mix of babies in slings, nursing toddlers and motoring pre-schoolers zooming around the house as we try to squeeze in a row or two of knitting, and a little fiber talk.

This week, our normal group took a break to create beeswax candles at Jen and Matt’s house with their boys, Cuinn and Kevan.

The first step in dipping candles is to melt the beeswax. Jen started the process at 7:30 am, estimating it would take several hours to melt. They buy large chunks of beeswax from a gentleman who sells honey by the gallon from his home in Lacey, WA; this wax is unfiltered, so it still contains chunks of pollen. Mmmmmmm. The smell is heavenly.


Once the wax is melted, cut a piece of wick twice as long as your dipping container, with a little bit extra for holding; in our case, we cut six twelve inch pieces. Dip the wick in melted wax three times, letting it drip and cool a little in between each dip. The first time it will barely look like the wick has any wax coating. Jen recommends dipping quickly to ensure even distribution of the wax. If you leave the wick in the wax too long, the early layers will melt back into the pool.


Jen rested a large dowel between two shelves in her kitchen doorway, next to the stove. I dipped each pair in turn, placing them on the dowel to cool after a double dip in the wax. By the time I was done with the sixth pair, the first was cool enough for another bath. After each of these early dips, straighten the wicks by hand, or roll them on a counter, as they will naturally curl and bend.

Did I mention covering the floor with newspaper? There will be plenty of drips along the way, so unless you enjoy scraping your linoleum with your fingernails, tape down a layer of newspaper.


Periodically trim the bottom of your candles to remove the little “nipple” that develops from the drips; this will ensure that you are dipping the entire candle.

Continue dipping each pair, topping up the container as necessary to keep the level of wax right up to the brim, otherwise your candles will be much wider at the bottom than at the top.  

After an hour of dipping, I had six pairs of beautiful beeswax candles.


I couldn’t resist including a couple of pictures of Cuinn (the elder) and Kevan (the younger), our young apprentices. These adorable boys are incredibly fortunate to grow up in a house with creative parents who have put their children foremost in their tender years. It is a joy and a pleasure to see them every week.

Thanks for hosting Jen and Matt!

Madrona Recap

Sittin’ around knittin’, bumping elbows with designers and knitting superstars, sampling delectable eats around the city with our own personal tour guide, playing with lots of colored yarn, laughing until I want to lie down and growing my brain. I can’t imagine a more enjoyable way to spend 72 hours. I sincerely hope this becomes an annual event for this group of fantastic women from the Fiber Gallery.

 Let’s start with some of the silliness:


Loren writes a note to the driver of a Mercedes SUV who has straddled two parking spaces in a very crowded lot at the Sheraton.


When we finally get inside for the evening lecture by Fiona Ellis on “The Knitter’s Muse” the silliness continues with a little nametag fun.


We discover the largest bundle of roving known to man or woman, though, it was considerably larger the day before, according to Jessica.

I took a class on “Uncommon Finishing Techniques” by Helen Hamman of Andean Inspired Knits, recently published by Interweave, and “Celtic Cables” by Fiona Ellis; both full of inspiring garments and a few good tips (always hide a decrease “under” a cable and never bind-off when you can just create another piece of your garment).

The highlight of my classroom experience at Madrona was a six hour class taught by Janine Bajus on fair isle color work and techniques. There were only twelve knitters lucky enough to get in her class, but it sounds like there are rumors that Janine will be teaching more in the near future. Watch the Madrona site for upcoming classes.


Janine brought her stash of Shetland 2-ply yarn for our pleasure and learning. Our materials fee bought:

  • a color wheel
  • a value finder
  • a hat pattern designed by Janine
  • more than enough yarn to knit the hat with leftovers for more swatching

I messed up the hat pattern she handed out in class, so I had to wait for her to email the .pdf to the class before I could chart out my colors and get started. I can’t wait to start.

The silliness continued on Saturday night when we decided to skip the banquet (I hear that was a mistake) and go for dinner at Asada…or was it Masa? We were the most flamboyant group at the bar for a while and then some stiffer competition sidled up next to Loren. When she offered them our seats, she got a big squeeze and hug. She is such a sweetie!

Returning to the hotel, we stumbled into the same group of Capitol Hill knitters who had shared their chocolate cake the previous evening (thank you Daniel!). Melissa was coaxed to share her amazing cat & yarn tattoo inspired by Buffy, her beloved tabby who is no more of this plane, and a skein of Manos from Mary’s shop.


That is Suzanne Pedersen, one of the organizers, getting closer for a good look at Melissa’s tattoo. The color is amazing, particularly for anyone who appreciates a good skein of Manos.


The artist who created this work of beauty is Jimmy the Saint at Seattle Tattoo Emporium.

By that point, Erin, Melissa and I were getting so silly that I felt it necessary to bolt upstairs.


Loren remembered that the teachers hang out upstairs in the lounge after hours, so she spent the rest of the evening swapping stories with the Yarn Harlot and Fiona Ellis.

Erin observed, between fits of giggles, that Madrona was like camp for adults, a la carte. You get to eat when you want, where you want and intoxicants are shared freely.

Works in Progress

One of the things I love seeing on other knitting blogs is just what people have sitting around the house in various baskets and corners.


First, is a pair of toe-up socks using the magic loop method. The yarn is Bearfoot by Mountain Colors in “Larkspur”, 65% superwash wool, 25% mohair, 15% nylon. The mohair makes the yarn very soft and fuzzy, but I’m having a hard time with unintentionally splitting the strands. The dark colorway is also difficult to knit in less than ideal lighting situations. I started these socks on US 1 40″ Addi Turbo circular needles, using the Turkish Cast-on tutorial at Misocrafty and then floundered a little because I was unsure how to increase to my ultimate width; I settled on a simple kf&b on either end, which is pretty invisible considering the dark color of the yarn. After three false starts and a decision to move down a needle size, I’ve become really good at the Turkish Cast-on. Now, if I can only get started. Lance has been very patient as I’ve completed three other projects since casting on these socks right after Christmas. Madrona may be my opportunity to get some mileage under my belt; then again, iffy lighting may dictate completion of UFO#2:


My knitting buddy, Melissa Walpole, bought Sophie three skeins of pink yarn for Christmas because she knows Sophie loves pink and I generally bend over backwards to make sure no pink enters our house. What Melissa doesn’t realize is that I love Noro yarn, and will forgive any color choice if it is Noro. Besides, this particular colorway has so many beautiful colors spun with the pink that I couldn’t resist knitting it up immediately. Melissa was a little suprised that I didn’t let Sophie knit it (I believe that was her intention), but I swear this was Sophie’s idea. She picked out the pattern with me after I spent two sleepless nights dreaming of how to show off three skeins of Noro to its best advantage on a six-year old. Sophie is very fickle with her clothing, but she has inherited a love of scarves. Since she takes the bus home from school several days a week, a long thick scarf such as this is very practical for keeping her hood tucked around her ears.


My last project, and the project least likely to become a complete garment: Rogue with cardigan modifications. My dear mother-in-law, Michele, bought this lovely Fisherman Yarn by Bartlett Yarns at a craft fair in Dublin, NH. A bit prickly on first feel, the swatch softened beautifully; the yarn is slightly tweedy with bits of white and red popping out. Larissa, a regular knitter at the Fiber Gallery brought in a gorgeous finished Rogue, which I had admired from afar on several occasions. She convinced me that the pattern was no more complicated than anything I had executed so far. What she doesn’t realize is that I have a hard time getting started on large projects that require attention to a pattern, and the ability to knit for long stretches of time. So there it sits, in a lovely basket next to my chair, collecting black hair from Zeke the Dog.

 All in all, three unfinished projects really isn’t too bad. You need at least that many projects going so you can forget one at a friend’s house, and have something engaging to pick up on the rare evening that you are home alone, plus some car knitting…

Clapotis is officially kaput. I frogged it yesterday after getting about twenty rows into it. There just wasn’t enough to engage me, no offense intended to all of the lovely clapotis knitters. Besides, the sea silk just wasn’t a robust enough yarn to create anything of substance with this pattern. I’m considering a Cat Bordhi moebius shawl, or something else gauzy, but for now it will stay in my basket until inspiration strikes.

I almost forgot. I have another doozy of a project that doesn’t fall into the knitting category, but is still an unfinished project looming over my head; actually, there are two related projects waiting for “the right moment”: a pair of duvet covers for Sophie and Owen’s bed.


The front of Owen’s cover has been pieced together with an assortment of tie-dyed squares; it the largest bundle on the bottom of the pile closest to the wall. I haven’t figured out how I want to piece together the front, as there aren’t enough tie-dye pieces for another complete side, and Sophie wants a few pieces for her duvet cover. All of my pieces are trimmed, measured, folded and inventoried, just waiting in our dining room for that right moment. Sophie told me today that she can’t wait until we have time to plan out the arrangement for her duvet cover. My hope is that the delayed gratification will increase the love she has for the completed piece.

Sea Silk

After months and months of knitting my sea silk scarf, a couple of rows at a time, it is finally complete, and every bit as delightful as I had hoped.


Despite spending many months kicking living in my little felted bag, and only seeing fresh air inside a sweaty dojo, the scarf continues to offer a soothing, delicious aroma. While I wouldn’t exactly say this yarn smells like the ocean, it reminds me of ocean-scented candles I have owned in the past.

Pattern: Candle Flame motif from Barbara Walker’s A First Treasury of Knitting Patterns
Yarn: Fleece Artist SeaSilk
Needles: US 2 Crystal Palace bamboo circular

I’ m so enraptured with the seasilk, that I immediately cast on for a petit clapotis.


Any suggestions for avoiding the little bump on the selvedge created by kfb and pfb? What is the point of slipping the first stitch if increasing a stitch on each edge is going to result in that little bump? Since my candle flames scarf has a nice trim selvedge edge, it kills me to leave those bumps on this project.

Small Bits

fingerless_mitts1.jpgI’ve been reading a lot lately about destashing, and I’ve got to pipe up here: I get more satisfaction out of knitting from my stash than I do from completing objects. Now, when I complete something knit out of my stash, that is a great day.

These little puppies gave me a lot of satisfaction because not only were they knit with leftover yarn I bought for Blaze, they were actually recycled from a capelet that was knit with that leftover yarn. I kind of see this is as a double stash reduction.

It is safe to say, that my life as a knitting mother, or a mother who squeezes in a tiny bit of knitting every night, my life has been reduced to small projects like this that I can whip out in two knitting sessions. I also have to admit to blog-envy; when I see something like this flying around, and my little fingers are turning blue from working too many hours on the computer in my cold basement, I’ve got to cast on.

Pattern: a twisted stitch baby cable rib knit over 40 stitches in the round with a thumb gusset increase
Yarn: Cascade Yarns Lana D’Oro (50% alpaca, 50% wool)
Needles: size 5 dpns

Color Addicted

calorimetry.jpgTwo nights ago, I read a post in WhipUp about Calorimetry. I checked out all the modifications, browsed through the flickr group as Lance was getting ready for bed, then proceeded to shut down the computer, and get ready for bed. As I lay awake, visions of my own Calorimetry floated around in my imagination, preventing my mind from settling.

In an effort to get some sleep, I did the only thing I could think of: I got up and spent two hours knitting while listening to This American Life. As I left our warm bed, Lance said “Just admit it: You are an addict”. When I see something sweet, simple and beautiful, I covet it until I have my own.

As suggested on a number of blogs, I decided to knit mine with fewer stitches, and fewer repeats in the middle to create a narrower band. The first attempt ended up too short to button in the back, but the second version is fantastic.

Pattern: Calorimetry on Knitty, with modifications as suggested by Knitting Goddess, knit over 110 stitches
Yarn: Noro Kureyon
Needles: US 5

Little Aran Sweater

This little sweater has been on my list of “things to knit” for a couple of years, but my fear of seams kept me from tackling it earlier. In the end the seaming did take three hours, but it wasn’t nearly as difficult as I had imagined.


I neglected to read the pattern specs carefully enough, which resulted in a larger front panel than I needed. For the picture, the sweater is backwards in order to make the buttons visible. While I like the idea of open shoulder flaps, I’d like to find a way to knit this pattern in the round.

Pattern: Aran Pullover in Knitting For Baby by Kristin Nicholas
Yarn: Jaeger Matchmaker Merino Double Knitting, plus Beaverslide McTaggart Tweed for trim
Needles: US 6

Bright Colors

tiedyedrobe.jpgDon’t we have enough projects? Why are we doing this?

Lance was skeptical when I told him I wanted to tie-dye flannel instead of buying fabric to sew a duvet cover for Sophie and Owen. Then I told him I wanted to perfect my technique on some old white t-shirts; well, that changed everything. It wasn’t long before we were both stained with dye up to our elbows.

After we had tied up all the clean t-shirts, jogging bras, underwear and sports socks we could find, we started to hunt around the house for new material. My bathrobe was thelargest canvas we could find. It really looks great here. We left it sitting for four hours; actually it was doing more dripping than sitting; the dark shapes seeped in every direction making the edges pretty blurry. The turquoise and green faded in the rinse, but the reds and pinks stayed bright and the unpainted spots didn’t end up tinged with pink.

Sophie had so much fun she wants to have a tie-dye party in the backyard for her birthday. I love the idea of buying white t-shirts for everyone instead of cheap, plastic goodie-bag toys.

Make Me A Monster

cimg3931.JPGOur friends, Erika and Jeremy Carlson, had a beautiful baby girl almost two years ago. Inspired by a picture in Kristin Nicholas’ book Colorful Stitchery, my daughter, Sophie, decided she wanted to make a special toy as a first birthday present for little Anna. She drew the shape of the doll on paper, traced her pattern onto felt and then cut it out. I embroidered the face on the front, and then blanket stitched the two together

Continue reading in you are interested in Chapter 2 of this story.

One of the required courses for my Communications degree at Concordia University, was a study of space, a very nebulous concept at best. For three credits, we had to attend one class and complete one assignment. A relief for your first semester of university on the one hand, but on the other hand, a lot of pressure.

Monster dollI chose the Musée des Beaux-Arts, in particular, an exhibit called Out of the Drawings of Children, in which children’s drawings were faithfully turned into velvet dolls with embroidered features, much like Sophie’s monster doll. The exhibit was created by Claude Bouchard, a researcher interested in studying children’s perceptions of themselves and world they inhabited.

I should say, that this exhibit and my study of it took place in Montreal thirteen years ago, so my recollection of the specifics is a little sketchy. A very helpful archivist at the musée, Danielle Blanchette, provided me with the details. She also mentioned that there was a report in their files submitted by Carole Leah Dawe. Imagine that!

I spent a lot of time at the musée that semester, getting as much as I could out of my free pass. The dolls captured my imagination at the time, and have stayed with me ever since. I’m still delighted when Sophie draws something as she sees it, instead of the way other children draw, or as she has been shown to draw it.

Flickr Photos