The Knitting Nurse

Rambles and Travels

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Madrona Part Two of Three – Stephanie Pearl McPhee – Lightning Fast Knitting – And restrained (somewhat) stash acquisition.

The last class I took at Madrona was from Stephanie Pearl McPhee, AKA the Yarn Harlot, a woman whose blog I’ve been following since 2007.

What a treat to finally take a course from her.  Via historical photos detailing a timeline of knitting, she explained how knitting sustained families and how British families accomplished knitting 2 pairs of socks per week per person back when.  It was all about efficiency.  In time, knitting became more restrained, more lady-like and  the mechanics that promoted efficiency were frowned upon.  Hand and body positioning changed to meet society’s requirements.

Show us the palm of your hands while knitting?  For shame! Walk while knitting?  Gasp! That’s for peasants…

Thus, the norms of knitting changed which slowed pace and efficiency.

Stephanie then taught us tidbits about hand positioning, arm motion, knitting belts, walking while knitting, how to carry it on your person, yarn organization, choosing continental vs English method (picking vs throwing) depending on the project (in the round? colorwork?  flat?) and being willing to use both. She discussed varying your projects’ yarn weight to cut back on fatigue and injury (eg: socks and worsted weight item and something bulky) which was also a concept Carson touted in his ergonomics course.

Then,  she put on her knitting belt and walked around the room knitting, and all fell silent. The speed and efficiency of her knitting was astounding. This is called Lever Knitting. 

In this video she is using DPNS on a sock. I grabbed this video off YouTube and it shows the technique well and the gal provides interpretation of it. Very interesting:

I tried the technique with a pair of long straight needles  (had to scrounge to find a pair, haven’t deviated from circulars in ages), one tucked into my right armpit.

It felt super-awkward but really neat-

Here’s Hazel Tindall, the worlds fastest knitter, using the lever technique and her knitting belt:

This is a technique I’d like to delve into and try more.

On to the Stash Acquisition part.

The vendors market was glorious! One could find yarn, fiber, notions, handmade needles, all sorts of things. I focused my shopping on unusual and locally or small-batch produced yarn.  So many choices.

The grey wooly yarn is from Island Fibers on Lopez Island up here in the San Juan Islands. It’s soft but rustic. 1600 yards will easily yield a lovely cardigan. I bought it with Naima or Aileas in mind. To the right, Local Colors Rambouillet Fingering weight, all plant dyed, will combine for a lovely shawl.

I’ve yet to knit with cormo, a lofty, plump and deliciously squishy wool. The greenish blue yarn on the left is from Sincere Sheep and begs to be something very cabled, probably a hat. In the middle, the joyfully colored skein is a DK weight yarn by Fancy Image Yarn. Myra Garcia has an eye for color and I was so glad to meet her. This lovely is destined to become a little cardi for my niece Lily, the colors every bit as bubbly as she is.  The luscious froth of moody blues on the right is sport weight alpaca/merino by Black Wolf Ranch out of Montana.  It’s marinating.

Dat’s it!  I used restraint.  I’d love to go next year.


Christopher’s Quilt

My nephew Christopher arrived on Feb. 2. And man is he cute!

Each neice and nephew have received a handmade quilt from me.

I picked up these fat quarters at  The Cloth Shop  on Granville Island in Vancouver BC. It’s a fun little shop with a thoughtfully curated quilting fabrics.  I couldn’t resist the main fabric with the pirates, ships, maps and treasure chests as well as the navy one with the sea critters. I just searched the collection and am not seeing it much out there including on Makower, UK’s website.  Missouri Star Quilt Company has a bit.  The line is called 1674 Pirates Fishes buy The Henley Studio. I’m not sure what line the octopus and white fish prints are from. The red and white dots are from Cotton and Steel.

Not wanting to cut up the larger prints, I found a pattern off ETSY called Husky which may be the best $9 I’ve ever spent on a quilt pattern. Sized for baby to queen each block requires a fat quarter or a couple fat sixths. It’s simple, speedy and allows your prints to shine in large pieces.  And did I mention speedy?

I have the greatest respect for the heirloom quality, hand quilted, intricate quilts out there but in reality, that just isn’t in the cards for me.

This gal’s shop, Sunnyside Fabrics has a collection of simple quilt patterns I’ve added to my favorite list in Etsy.

I quilted it in a meandering pattern.  I really struggle with machine quilting. Even with my super grippy gloves and long table attachment to provide a slick, large, machine bed height workspace it find the process cumbersome and tiring.  Someday I’d like to build (I mean have Pete build) a table with a recess to drop the machine down into. I also dream of a long arm…but that would require a new house – with a large room for it…and a small fortune…alas!

This will head off to MN today and become a baby warmer, floor pad, brain synapse developer and spit up catcher.  Such a multitude of uses I believe a baby quilt should be.

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Evening In the Garden-Spring Rejuvination

Gardening season has finally arrived though the sun’s warmth still lags a few weeks behind. Nonetheless, I’ve been rejuvenated by getting earth on my hands, the chorus of encouragement from the birds and satisfaction of falling into bed at night tired and sore in muscle groups I forgot I had.

This has been a huge spring in the yard. Recall we bought our home 2 1/2 years ago as a blank slate with nary a plant in the yard.  This spring’s been a blast, with 9 new trees planted, the entire east side of the home dug up and ripe for planting and the woodland in the backyard’s bones further laid out by Pete’s love for digging and moving dirt about.

The light was positively lovely the other evening. I stepped out and snapped a few pic for you:

A Black Tulip Magnolia now graces the backyard. Her rich, purple flowers are divinely scented:

The raised beds are plump with winter greens.

Living in a Zone 8 climate is a privilege. Hearty pansies overwinter and added color during the dark winter days. Pansies and violas are one of my fave flowers.

Unfortunately, slugs share an affection for them as well.  My strategy is to plant TONS so we can both enjoy them.

Kale and parsley:

Our little Orcas pear tree is strong and really budding out this spring.

Wee pea sprouts. I remembered to cover with anti-bird netting this year. Last year I forgot and later realized the lack of sprouts indicated I was feeding the critters. A learning process this gardening thing is.  I’ll remove the netting today.

Hardy fuchsias overwinter here.  Hooray!  Up comes Delta’s Sarah.  By the way, a list from the Northwest Fuschia Society is essential reading if you are interested.

Honeysuckle makes an entrance. This pink variety I planed a couple of summers ago. It’s been slow to gain size.  Might warrant a move if that is the case again this year. I also need to be sure I am pruning it correctly.

The tangled mass of swampy brambles is transforming to our vision of a woodland garden. We added in a clump of birch, a vine and a japanese maple and a weeping birch this spring. The native willows have lovely leaves and provide pretty shade and screening but these trees are very short-lived. Deciding what to plan to fill in and replace them, eventually, is on our mind. Bushy stuff will also be planted along the back fence to help with screening, hiding the ugly fence and to replace critter habitat.

I etched in a new corner for shade-loving plants, a new forsythia, an old fashioned rose, and the Japanese maple.  See the wee-red leaflets starting to appear on the maple?

Fresh, pale green leaflets on the new weeping birch:

“Maggie” the Magnolia has lost her blooms. Leaves start to fill in.

Our raspberries promise great yields this year.

Seed flats of nasturtium, sunflowers (learned that lesson last summer when the birds ate all my direct sowed seeds), kale, and calendula.

A flowering quince was on my bucket list. This is the Storm Pink variety. It’s thornless, should stay under 5′ and has the loveliest pink blossoms. It’s destined for the front yard between the new Japanese Stewartia Tree and in front of the foil of a  hinoki cypress .

Forget me nots. Is there anything more cheery?

New fuchsias wait for a home in a shady spot.

It’s going to be a delightful gardening season. I’m looking forward to sharing more with you.

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A Two Month Lapse

Jeez. I haven’t posted in two months – not for lack of interesting things to share.  Still here. But I’ve been ignoring the laptop on days off as I’m glued to one on work days.

I’ve had some knitting disappointments, placing an entire finished sweater in a don’t look at it and you won’t know it’s there pile and a vest that fell victim to a lying gauge swatch.

So knitting momentum is slowed – but not gone.

Here’s what’s been filling up my time-

  • A new nephew, Christopher arrived on Feb 2nd. He’s adorable!  Keeping the tradition, I made him a quilt and am nearly done, sewing the binding down.  Pirates, Octopus, Fish, in huge and simple blocks are delightfully colorful. More on that once done.
  • Spring won’t arrive. It’s been cold and rainy. Folks I am so ready for sun and warmth.  We must be at least 3-4 weeks behind in weather.  Nevertheless, gardening’s happening. We had the entire east side of the house dug up and prepared for landscaping.  We’ve planted 9 trees thus far – A Black Tulip Magnolia, A Japanese Stewartia, a Hinoki Cypress, A Vine Maple and a Japanese Maple, a Weeping Birch, a clump of Himalayan Birch, a Juniper and a Shore Pine.  This is the spring of investment in trees.  Seeds are starting in the dining room window and a couple new garden beds are in place. On work-outside- days, that delightful fall into bed and sleep better than you ever do feeling is back. There’s something so gratifying and therapeutic to me for working in the garden.  Photos to come.
  • Working in the yard has displaced some crafting time.  The little I’m doing tends to be while listening to the Wet Coast Wools Podcast on Youtube which I’m glad to recommend to you.  Glenda and Bernadette are goofy,  informative and enjoyable. I look forward to seeing their FO’s and WIPS.  5 minutes into a podcast I know if I’ll stick with it.  I’ve been watching back episodes as well.  Glenda owns and Bernadette Manages/works at Wet Coast Wools in Vancouver, BC. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting them and shopping at their shop.  They kindly welcomed me to join them at their knitting table while waiting for Pete to return to pick me up.
  • I’m on book three of Ransom Riggs Series that starts with Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Sure they’re kids’ books. But man I can’t put them down.

What else is in the queue for you?  How about a weekend at Madrona Fiber Arts? Or a hiking trip at Dosewallips State Park? Maybe some photos of the Olympic Mountains from above tree line? And there’s that fingering weight colorwork hat that’s done.

I’lll get going on those this week.  Until later!


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A Very Windy Beachwalk

Winter won’t quite give up.

Last week, a walk on North Beach. Windy. Wild. Sorry for the high speed camera movement.


I noticed some new sights including this rock that looks frosted-

Rock hard lichen on drift wood-like stone critters in a chase.

A sinuous pathway worn by water through granite-

The return walk was into the wind. The setting sun cast a net of yellow and backlit some kelp.

Wild and windy – please spring, arrive!


Christmas Knitting 2016

Pretty tough to get a wee one to stand still for a model photo.


I kept holiday knitting pretty simple for 2016.

My nieces Sonja (above) and Lily both got Baable hats. Wow,  are they fun to make!  I used the Bairns Baable hat modifications to fit their wee heads.  Obviously, it was still not small enough for Peanut Sonja. Lily wouldn’t try it on for me at Christmas so I’m not sure about hers.  They’ll grow into them soon enough.

I winged mods for earflaps and ties for Sonja’s so it can be tied on.


Lily’s has a double fold brim for warmth and both sport pom-poms. Because anything this cute should have pom-poms.


We drew names for gifting this year. I made my sis Ali a quilted french press cozy as she alluded to wanting a press and I sneakily verified with her hubbie that she didn’t have one.


What a blast!  With a hand full of batik scraps I used a quilt as you go method to apply them to insulated batting. Then, I bound around it, tucking in elastic button loops and sewed on colorful buttons.  It’s all washable.

Easy peasy! Now I need to make one for our giant press at home.  Not that we leave coffee in it, to cool down, that often.  ;  )


One quickie project I completed in MN for the holidays was a Chunkeanie in a luscious yarn  called Oopmh! by Schmutzerella I bought at Knit Fit. The color name:  The Legs. The Nose. And Mrs. Robinson.  Her website is down but you can find her on Ravelry. It’s brilliantly squishy and the colors glow.


Off to buy buttons for a FO sweater today.  Pics to come!