Quill Eyelet Cowl: The Cowl Saga Continues

Yes, I know it’s the wrong season for wearing cowls, or mostly the wrong season; when I worked in an office, the air conditioning ensured that I could’ve used all the hand knits I had all summer. However, spring & summer are the right seasons to knit cowls. Really, any season is the right season to make cowls; they’re small projects, a fast and satisfying knit. In the summer, their smallness means so you don’t have the weight and wooliness of say, an afghan or the body of a winter sweater on you. They’re also easy to take with you when you travel. So without further ado …

Introducing the Quill Eyelet CowlsQuill Eyelet Cowls! A pattern two-fer (two patterns, one file) that’s available on Ravelry and Craftsy for free until April 22. If you’re not a knitter, both the small and long cowl samples I made are available on etsy and I’m more than happy to create a custom listing for you.

My Wordless Wednesday this week was a visual tour of my design process. A week ago I started thinking with yarn again, playing with stitches. I tried cables again but that wasn’t working – it turns out double-sided cables have limits; they can’t travel horizontally across the fabric and still be reversible. I gave up on trying for a reversible fabric and tried to find a lace pattern that I liked. I pulled out Knitting On The Edge and Knitting Over The Edge, which have always inspired much more than just edges for me. Side note: Barbara G. Walkers Treasuries have been on my wish list for years but I just haven’t gotten around to getting them; if you’re reading this and wondering what to get for my birthday next month here is a big hint.

Where was I? Oh, yes. Lace.Dream Scarf: Close I wanted something airy for the warmer months and something that would show off the texture and color variegation in the Noro Akogare I bought in a stash sale on Ravelry. I found the quill eyelet edging in the lace section of Knitting On The Edge. It’s similar to and pictured on the same page with razor eyelet, which I’m familiar with from knitting Lisa Bruce’s Favorite Scarf Ever; to the right is a close-up of my version.

Purple Scarf: CloseQuill eyelet is much more airy than razor eyelet; the solid part of the knitting is much more narrow. This makes it a perfect spring-summer-fall cowl, a cowl that’s more for looks than for keeping warm. I wanted the first cowl to be a long loop that could be worn doubled, so I used a provisional cast on, knit it flat, and grafted the ends together. It took about 150 yds (more than 1 skein) of Valley Yarns Berkshire to finish and I knew that making the same cowl in Noro Akogare would take two skeins since they are put up in 102 yard skeins. I thought it would be better to design something that only takes a skein of really nice yarn for knitters who have fallen in love with a yarn but can’t afford more than one skein, or for those of us who fall in love with a yarn and buy it without having a project in mind. So I designed the second cowl to be smaller and knit in the round to show off the wavy horizontal edge that quill eyelet makes. And that’s how the Quill Eyelet Cowls came to be. ::bows::


Cowl Kick, Pricing Finished Knits

I’ve been on a cowl design and making kick after spending a couple months working on a Exeter cabled sweater. I can’t stop with the cowls now – they’re quick, easy projects that give me near-instant gratification.

The cowl kick started at the end of the sweater project. For about 2 years now I’ve been trying, somewhat successfully, to knit down my yarn stash. I wanted to find something to do with 3 skeins of Plymouth Earth Ecco Baby Camel that’s been in my stash since 2008. InfiniteWaveCowlIt’s a bulky weight yarn that Mr. Q got for me at With Yarn In Front for my birthday & Mother’s Day. He got it intending for me to make a hat with it, but the hat designs I found for it over the years haven’t wowed me. I wanted something close to the skin for this luxury fiber, a reversible fabric, and a cowl that could be finished as a loop or a möbuis. (Möbiuses are so cool! Two sides become one! What’s not to like?) After swatching, ripping out, and more swatching – thinking with yarn is what I call that process – I came up with the Infinite Wave Cowl. It’s a relatively quick knit, I can finish one in about 12 hours, and fun. It’s easy enough for TV knitting, but the cables keep it interesting.

I wrote the pattern up and decided to make it available for free for a limited time to get it out there in the knitting world. I’ve published 4 other patterns (Owl Honeycomb Blanket, Pasithea baby blanket, Double Rainbow Scarf, and Feathermoss stole) with limited success – under 10 people have bought them (some less than 5) and no one else has actually made any of them, just me. And so with the Infinite Wave Cowl, I’ve made 5 so far; 4 are available in The Yarn Office and I sold one to a friend. Although no one else has cast on yet, over 400 people have downloaded the pattern when it was free on Ravelry & Craftsy. I even briefly made it onto the first page of Ravelry’s hot right now patterns! Hooray!

So all those cowls I made are also now available in The Yarn Office. I’ve had some people exclaim that the price is relatively high, so I wanted to explain how I arrived at the prices. After some research, I’m charging 20 cents/yard + the cost of materials. So, for example, the Infinite Wave Cowl uses 220ish yards of yarn; 220 x .2 is $44. If a scarf takes me 12 hours to knit, that means I’m earning slightly less than $3.67/hour. Not only did I knit the cowl, but I also spent time designing it using skills I’ve built up over time, none of which are factored into the price. From my perspective, $3.67/hour is a bargain for you; minimum wage in my state is $7.25/hour, so I could/should be charging a base price of $87. Or could/should I charge closer to my hourly rate in my chosen profession as a technical writer, which requires some of the same skills, at $45+/hour?  These finished cowls are a bargain.

Now let’s talk about materials. 220 yards of bulky/chunky weight yarn doesn’t seem like much. I should just be able to pop over to JoAnn’s and Michael’s for something cheap, right? The least expensive suitable yarn available at JoAnn’s is Big Twist Collection Chunky Yarn at $4.49 for 195 yards of 100% acrylic yarn. Aside from the fact that I don’t find knitting with or wearing acrylic enjoyable, I would need 2 balls of this yarn to complete a cowl – $8.98. So the total for even the least expensive cowl would be $44 + $8.98 = $52.98. That’s certainly less expensive than the baby camel cowl I made the pattern for – materials for that cost $54, but it’s baby camel! Try to find that in a store! Or the alpaca scarfs I have available – materials for them cost me $31 each and I priced the cowls at $75 – can you even find a 100% alpaca scarf in a store? So yes, I can make them for less money but at the same time, yarn isn’t free and neither is my time.

Could the knitting be outsourced to hand-knitters in other countries and made for less? Sure, that happens, but most of those hand-knitters still aren’t receiving a fair wage in their economy. Could these be made on a machine in a factory (probably in China) in large quantities for less? You bet, but I don’t have (or want) those resources. Offering these handknits for sale on etsy clearly isn’t about making money for me or providing you with a cheap, disposable consumer good: this is more personal than all of that.


TBT: Poetry Edition

I started college as a Creative Writing major; this is from a workshop in my sophomore year, 1992. It’s not exactly one of my favorites – some lines are spot on though – but I chose it because it’s very TBTish.

Attic Afternoons

Beauty Parlor was best. Pink curlers next
to powders, creams, polishes borrowed from
our mothers and carted up attic steps
weeks before. Bright blue eye shadow and coral blush
applied with small brushes. Cutting hair was our future;
teasing styles, chatting our way to marriage.
Pant suits hung from rafters unfilled, musty
out of date clothes to pretend in. Modeling, I did the runway
walk following a floorboard down the room.
Our upstairs salon had clothes and makeup
to match. We sang with Neil Diamond records,
his voice scratchy with vinyl wear,
our voices skipping and rising off-key.
You taught me how to dance; we waltzed, tripping
on shoes years to large for our nine year old
feet. The attic turned into a disco at dusk,
we watched Solid Gold, knew all the moves.
Hot and tired, we descended to wash off
the attic grime, gaudy cosmetics, and the waking dreams
of Saturday. Those nights you leaned over
the top bunk so we could talk about boys
at school and how wearing makeup in public would feel.
I still look for you through the plate glass windows
of hair salons, rolling curls and sweeping stray
ends with a push broom, half hoping one of us
followed the attic dreams we had.

Weaving? Weaving.

I’ve been intrigued but daunted by weaving since a few of my knitting & spinning friends started and I swore I wasn’t going to add it to my repertoire. The cost of additional equipment also put me off, even starter rigid heddle looms range from around $100-$300. And floor looms, perhaps the ultimate in looms, take up a lot of space.

After some reading, mainly Hand/Eye, an excellent art & craft blog, I realized that not everyone who weaves uses a floor loom, that really weaving requires that your warp threads be under tension Weaving (anything from cloth to rugs) is still a source of income for many people in non-western countries, something that’s easy to forget in the land of cushy convenience. So I made my own backstrap loom following instructions from Weavezine using oak dowels I had around from making my own niddy noddy, clothesline rope, and scrap fabric for the backstrap.

After getting everything together, I decided to skip the first recommended project and just began making a back strap, the second project. I clamped some scrap wood to a table, as shown on Weavezine, for an improvised warping board and wound white Bernat Handicrafter Cotton for the warp. I made lease sticks from 12″ crafter’s dowels that I got at JoAnn’s for something else and followed the pictures on Weavezine to get set up and started.

I had problems, of course – like making continuous string heddles instead of making heddles on a stick. The back loom bar, the one that attaches to a stationary object, kept slipping to one side and pulling everything with it, including any tension I had on the warp; I eventually hooked the back loom bar around my feet to get enough even tension with the backstrap. I also didn’t realize the difference between a balanced weave (what I thought I was making, where the warp & weft are equally visible), warp-faced weave (what I was really making, in which the weft is hidden by the warp), and weft-faced weave (the opposite of warp-faced), so I used a different yarn for the first inch or so before I realized that it wasn’t going to be visible at all.

I learned a lot from all the problems I had and the backstrap came out pretty well:

I decided I wanted to more than warp-faced weaving on a backstrap. I considered making or getting a rigid heddle, which would allow me to make a more balanced weave. I looked at other loom options, like tapestry weaving and using yarn on a potholder loom or making my own frame loom. I even considered a floor loom (and still daydream about using or having one) but started looking instead at table looms. During one of my ebay forays, I discovered vintage Structo Artcraft Looms and decided to keep an eye out for a reasonably priced one (i.e., something under $150). In early June, I ended up with this little Structo Artcraft 440/4, with a 9″ weaving width and 4 harnesses. It came complete with a project from the 50s still on it, as evidenced by the July 1955 calendar page used in winding on the warp threads.

I cleaned the loom, oiled the spots that needed oiling, made a raddle with some wood we had around + finishing nails + the cutest clamps ever, and improvised a warping board.

Taking Stock

What follows isn’t entirely proofed. If I wait to proof & edit it, it’s going to be 2012 and I’ll be writing about a hangover, which will be much worse than this, I think.

Last January when I started this blog, I was fighting through another bout with depression. I honestly don’t know that I’ve beaten it. I have good days (like today, where I have a plan & a purpose that I believe in) and bad days (when I get up but end up going back to bed or when I get up & stay up & can’t sleep the following night so that one day includes two sunrises & sunsets) and in between days (of course). Everyone has their ups & downs – I know that – I just don’t want my downs to affect my daily life, such as it is, quite so much.

Really, more than anything, I’ve been looking for a way forward, wondering what I’m going to be when I grow up, and looking for a way to be proud of my past & myself without having to agonize over things all the time. It’s helped to blog, email, and talk about it; I’m really thankful for everyone who’s reached out to me. I’m particularly amazed at how many people have told me their own story and how much talking about it can help us both.

The confrontation in November really threw me off balance. I’m still trying not to feel guilty about how strong my reaction was. I could have been more graceful about it, I wish I had slept on a few posts before making them public, and I sometimes wish I had confronted him with a warning of public exposure instead of just putting it all out there). But what’s done is done and I finally feel a taste of redemption, a way to be good again. (Khaled Hosseini pulled me into The Kite Runner with that idea and I haven’t stopped thinking about things in those terms since reading that first, very short chapter.)

I did a lot of new things in 2011. I’ll be 40 in 2012 and am trying to be nonchalant about it while hurrying to get myself to where I wanted to be in my 30s.

Aside from the blog, I went out of my usual comfort zone and took a class in the spring over 3 weekends at the Art League of Alexandria with Steph & Alana. I drove on the beltway and didn’t die. I met new people and, while I probably made a complete fool out of myself, people liked me, I had fun, I learned a lot, and I strengthened friendships with two strong, funny, intelligent women. I also discovered that beer is quite good if you know what to look for (hops=blech and Guiness is a good go-to in my case).

I started playing roller derby thanks to Misty/electricsoup/Loudoun Dirty. I’d never even considered derby and started mainly because I loved skating in elementary school and wanted to start again. Skating is even more fun when you skate in a circle, work as part of a team, and get to hit people who’re expecting/prepared to be hit. I haven’t felt this good physically for a long time. I’ve also met a lot of people, made new friends, found new heroes. I also learned, again, that not everyone is going to like me and that I’m not going to like everyone – that I don’t have to like everyone and vice versa. It doesn’t mean that something’s wrong with me or the other person and it also doesn’t mean that we are arch enemies, although sometimes I think maybe I should have those too (yup, still working that one through).

I briefly had a real job and was a real adult, until I realized that after 7 years of setting my own schedule, a 9-5 job in a windowless office is more than I can handle. After quitting, I vowed that this time, I would start something on my own, something that might eventually make money, not just involve me being parked at a keyboard, and that would allow me to see outside (not that I’m claustrophobic, the windowless office was more demoralizing & dehumanizing). So I started The Yarn Office, which has been hanging over me like a chore instead of my future – I need to put more time & thought into it and really get it going in 2012.

I also volunteered to be the webmistress/admin for NOVA Roller Derby and took it from a cookie-cutter site to more customized HTML (Dreamweaver) to slightly-customized-yet-cookie-cutter WordPress. I took entirely too long to figure out WordPress (& the template files) and was reassured when I finally understood at least the basics. I finally grokked more of PhotoShop & Illustrator this year too and installed OpenOffice on my MacBook so I can stop complaining about how much MS Word sucks.

Then there’s my gig as mother & mate to that guy on the other side of the bed. I could blab endlessly about marriage, motherhood, and the boys, but I don’t want to join the legions of mommy-bloggers. My kids are happy, doing well in school, laugh often, help each other, and are good, responsible people.

While Mr. Q and I have our ups and downs, we’re doing just fine and I don’t feel the need to write about it or get/give advice here,  though he is still exploring permanent employment while consulting: anyone looking for a hard working, highly intelligent, pretty technical VP, look no further.

So 2012: bring it. Whether I’m ready or not, things keep happening to me and I keep waking up every day, breathing and all that – I might as well live, really live, procrastinate and dwell less, laugh and sweat and jump for joy more. And take more pictures! And throw more balls for the dogs! And kiss the boys while they still let me, even if it’s just on the cheek these days! And eat more Smarties because I can never have enough Smarties.


This post might throw you for a loop; read my posts from winter 2011 if it does. 
One of my uncles, the one who will never change, the one born with fetal alcohol syndrome (which wasn’t exactly recognized in 1965 – look at me, making excuses!), the one the same age as my oldest cousin on that side, the pedophile, the incestuous piece of shit, called me a month or two ago. I recognized the area code – New Hampshire’s 603 – and picked up the phone. My mother lives in that area code and while it wasn’t her phone number, I thought it might be my stepfather’s cell phone.
Imagine my surprise when it was Joel, calling from work for my address, he’d found my Dad’s baby book, and to catch up after Hurricane Irene had blasted through Vermont. I am a reasonably good actress in such situations; I can make it seem like everything is okay or (more likely, based on what Mr. Q tells me) that I am pissed, but I will keep talking about normal things, things that don’t matter. It’s the old familial urge to maintain that everything is fine, normal – nothing is wrong – gained from two parents who experts in covering up the sometimes-bad people their parents were.
In such situations, I will also go along with pretty much whatever you’d like to say and I will tell you that I will do what you’d like me to (in this case, email my address even though you probably still have it from when I was still talking to you or you could probably get it from, say, someone else in the family).
I will be cordial.
We will have a pleasant conversation. We will talk about how Hurricane Irene blew through and tore up the town we grew up in, but the trailer that your Dad, my grandfather, fought to place in the middle of a field on the banks of the normally calm Ottauquechee (no joke- it’s basically maybe 200 yards from the river) made it through with minor flooding while the trailer park, down in a narrower part of the valley maybe a mile a way as the river flows, had several homes swept away and many more flooded. Oh, family – I remember you, and miss you, when I was young and we were all together and everything was okay. Except it wasn’t, but I didn’t know that outright until I was older.
You see how the history comes flooding back? My longing to belong, to trust and have family again?
I never emailed him my address. I mulled the phone call over for a few days and then decided that a baby book wasn’t worth renewing contact, just like getting a table that my Dad left me isn’t worth being back in contact with my Stepmother.
Even if this package hadn’t shown up with more evidence that for my Dad’s family (Ben and Betty and Johnnie and Suzy, and later Scottie and Joel) there was a definite before and after (before Betty became an alcoholic, before one Ben or Betty was a pedophile – no evidence, but I strongly suspect one of them must have been up to something to have half of their children do the same – [edited 11/17/11 to cross this out after reassurances that this was not the case, rather more that they were people of their time, with Ben providing for the family financially while Betty took care of the house & kids as well as an alcoholic can] before they moved off the farm, before they moved to VT, so many before & afters to chose from), I have already been thinking about the whys of what happened to me and the price I was ready to pay to keep family in my life.
I’ve been deliberately avoiding news – lately it all seems the same or at least predictable, cyclical. I heard rumblings about the sexual abuse scandal at Penn State, but not the specifics. Then I made the mistake of watching CNN for a little while the other night and my faith in humanity crumbled even more. My heart is broken for the victims – my heart is broken for every one of my friends who read this blog and told me that they had also been molested as children.
I am angry that more wasn’t done to punish Sandusky earlier or help his victims, that more wasn’t done to help my friends or me. I am angry that as a young adult and now, an adult, that I haven’t do more to defend myself or to prevent more children from dealing with things that I’ve dealt with, things that will stay with me my entire life. Lamely, this – writing and posting in a semi-public place – is my vengeance.
So first I get this phone call. I talk to him like everything is fine. I tell him I’ll email my address to him, but I never do it. Then yesterday a package showed up, from him of course. And in it is my Dad’s baby book, dutifully filled out by Betty from 1944-1957 for her firstborn (of course I looked through the whole thing immediately). All of my issues – everything that fucks me up – come rushing back. Everything I’ve tied up, resolved, and set aside – how many times now? – have come undone and are fresh again. I’m struggling to tie the knots back up and set them aside again.
And now today, I have an email from Joel asking me to at least acknowledge that I got the package and that I’m okay. I am not okay, I am undone again. Last fall my therapist recommended that I cut him out of my life again, what I did in high school, what I did by going to college as far away as possible. When my Dad got sick, him back in, thinking that 20 years might have changed things.
Why couldn’t he send the baby book to my brother? Why couldn’t he drop it by my mother’s house? This is deliberate and I don’t know why. I don’t know what his goal is here. Renewed contact? More of what happened in 08? Access to my children?
I don’t know what to do. Part of me wants to drive 10 hours and have it out – a final confrontation. Part of me wants to avoid the situation completely and drink, like my grandmother did, lose myself. I could use my default strategy for everything – carry on like nothing is going on, ignore the situation until it goes away. I should respond to the email and explain how this is fucking with me. I should respond to the email and tell him to leave me alone, that I don’t want any more baby books, any more family stuff, that I’m done because nothing in the world is worth this. Nothing physical in the world is worth my sense of well-being, which has now gone to shit anyway.
Yes, I’m a little crazy and for some understandable reasons.
Yes, you’re probably right – I do have a little too much time on my hands, but remember: I may not have an office job, but I should be moving The Yarn Office forward or at least vacuuming up the dog hair dust bunnies, which are getting as big as the dogs.
Yes, yes – you, too – you’re right that I probably shouldn’t be airing my dirty laundry.
And you too – I am a derby girl these days and we’re supposed to be tough as nails. I can take a physical hit, bruises – whatever. But this?

There are so many reasons for me not to post this, probably the most disjointed of all my posts, (a big huge part of me is embarrassed & ashamed to have this hanging out there) but what I need is a lifeline, plan. I’ve lost the path again and I need some help finding it again.

Edited to Add:

The email I got earlier today, along with yesterday’s package, set me off. Here’s the email and my response, sent a few minutes ago:

Hi there…. Did you get John’s  Baby Book? Sorry it took me so long to get it off to you…it rode around in my truck for a good 2-3 weeks.
I hope this finds you well I also hope you drop me a line at least to let me know you got the book and that you are OK….
Talk later….

And my response, fat lot of good it will do:

Oh, I got it and it ripped me apart, like your phone call did.

Am I okay? I’m still breathing – that counts for something. I’ve been writing a lot too, since last winter, actually. Your secret is out, at least to people who are friends with me on Facebook, follow me on twitter, or follow my blog, some of whom are family & classmates that live in VT or NH.

I never sent you my address because my sanity is worth more than my Dad’s baby book, it’s worth more than having extended family again. You might as well be dead. You and Julie are in the same category here – she has the table that Dad left me, but I’d rather slit my wrists than talk to her to get it back.

I’m sorry your life has been what it’s been and believe me, I sympathize. We all have choices – for example, I was molested by you and Scott, but I’m not a pedophile. Your choice to be a pedophile and engage in incest is not my fault or my responsibility, but because I have been a coward in confronting you about what you did to me, because my parents were cowards before me, I have no legal recourse against you. The only way I can make this right, warn other people about you, is via semi-public opinion, thanks to the almighty Internet.

You should feel as shitty as I do – that you don’t is amazing to me and tells me that you are basically a sociopath, along with all the other pedophiles. I hope you’re not doing anything to Susan’s granddaughter, but since I know that you did something to Kelly also, I don’t have high hopes. I hope your next victim and her family have more courage than I and my family had.

Don’t write, don’t call, but know that there are people in your area that know about you,