Use coupon code Twitter100 to get 50% off any of these patterns until noon (Pacific Time) February 17.
PS Whoops! Looks like this expired sooner than it should have because I set it for the wrong time zone (duh).
I’ve reset it and extended it until midnight tonight (Pacific time, February 17). The code should work whether you buy here or on Ravelry but if for some reason it doesn’t, just e-mail me before midnight and I’ll refund you 50%.
I’ve been on a real cowl thing lately, if you hadn’t noticed. They’re quick to knit and super-practical, especially if you live in the Pacific Northwest—yet for some reason have a wardrobe full of scoop-necked T-shirts.
I actually made Single Malts as Christmas presents for both my husband and my step-dad but it would work just as well for a woman (just make it pink or something). And it’s fast. If I can make two of these in the weeks before Christmas, knitters who aren’t ADD shouldn’t have any problem turning one out in a weekend.
Bear in mind these aren’t super-professional instructions. I haven’t had this tested or tech edited or anything useful like that. But it’s free, so there you go.
Single Malt Cowl
Yarn: Plymouth Yarn Baby Alpaca Grande Paint100 gr/110 yds. Color: 8822.
Finished size: 17″ around at top, 9″ long at front.
Gauge: 13 sts x 22 rows = 4″ (10 cm). (Gauge isn’t absolutely vital, but you do want to be sure this fits over the recipient’s head.)
Needles: US 10.5 dpns or 16″ circulars
Notions: Marker; tapestry needle for weaving in ends.
CO 48 sts, place marker and join, being careful not to twist sts.. Work 6 rnds in garter stitch.
Rnd 1: k1, m1L, k to 1 st before marker, m1R, k1.
Rnd 2: Knit around
Rep Rnds 1 & 2 until cowl measures 8.25″ (or until it looks like you’ll run out of yarn soon).
Work Rnd 1 again.
Next Rnd: purl around.
Rep these last 2 rnds 2 more times. Bind off loosely (or use something like Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy BO because you really don’t want this part to be too tight). Weave in ends. Block.
I’ll keep it short because this has nothing to do with knitting and is probably of no interest to anyone except me (frankly, even my husband’s not that interested), but we paid off our car loan—and we did it two years early!
Three years ago we bought our behemoth when I was hugely pregnant with Chubby Chan and friends were outright laughing when we proposed that we might try to fit three car seats into the back seat of our tiny little Saturn sedan. We traded in the Saturn and got a reasonably good deal on a used (sorry, “pre-owned”) Taurus X but we had to take out a 5-year loan to do it.
Then two years ago I decided to go all Dave Ramsey on our finances (got all annoying and self-righteous about it too—just ask my husband). Iced the credit cards (not literally, but we did stop using them), paid off that last little bit of Dear Husband’s student loan that had been hanging over our heads since we got married, and I began putting half what Rope Knits made into extra car payments. We lucked into some extra money just before Christmas—my husband got bumped from a flight and the airline gave him a check to make up for it—and we were DONE.
We still have a mortgage back in Illinois (happily renting the house out now) and will probably take on another mortgage soon when we buy a house here, so I’m trying not to get too complacent. But this is it for the small-time debt.
So to everyone who’s bought a pattern or taken a class from me in the past two years (or ever): thank you so very much! Your support really has made a difference for us and I deeply appreciate it.
Warning: several of the following photos commit at least one of Alex Tinsley’s Seven Tacky Sins of Photography. It’s a great post. Read it, then come back here and learn from my mistakes. There’s a 8th sin that has to do with photographing outside when it’s cold enough that your nose turns the same color as your lipstick, but Alex forgot about that one.
Bumming around on the internet the other day I came across this post from Madigan Made on making cowls from old sweaters. The very next day I found this cashmere sweater languishing at Goodwill for $5:
The sweater was a pretty shade of blue and very soft but happily so shapeless and unflattering that I knew I’d have no qualms about cutting it up. So I took it home and that’s exactly what I did:
And this is what I came up with :
And this is what it looked like as a loop:
Kind of cute, huh? And being cashmere, very soft and warm.
But that raw edge kind of nagged at me, so not being the type to leave well enough alone, I decided to slip stitch a row of crochet around the edge:
A few suggestions if you Try This At Home:
- Keep it very loose; too tight and it will pull in the edge in an unattractive manner.
- You may need to experiment with hooks. I started with a steel hook which was great for stabbing though the sweater fabric but tedious at pulling the fingering weight yarn through. I moved up to a 3.25 mm hook which was better for the yarn but made the stabbing part less fun. What works best will ultimately depend on the gauge of the sweater and the weight of the contrast yarn.
- When you’re done, trim the edges as neatly as you can but DO NOT trim closer than 1/4″ to the single crochet line. Trust me on this one.
So that looked nice but I still wasn’t crazy about the raw edge up top so I decided to cover it up with single crochet. I began by using the same green yarn (Spud & Chloe Fine in Glow Worm, in case you were wondering). I basically stabbed the hook through each of the little slip stitches, pulled the yarn up and worked a single crochet over the edge.
This shows it well, but after a few inches I decided there was too much contrast—I didn’t like the way the blue showed through the green, so I switched to some teal colored yarn.
From here, it would have been very easy to crochet any kind of lacy edging on to it, but I wasn’t feeling frilly. I can see potential, though.
Though I prefer it as a cowl, this is what it looks like as a loop:
Let me be clear that I’m not one of those anxious parents who feels compelled to make every bite count, who sneaks spinach into ice cream and hides carrot puree in perfectly good chocolate chip cookies. The happy fact is that my kids love sweet potatoes, and they share their mother’s conviction that no matter how good something is, it can always be improved by adding chocolate. When I mentioned making sweet potato brownies, they were all for it.
Unfortunately, the first recipe we tried wasn’t great. It was vegan without any of the workarounds that make vegan baking acceptable (in fact, I had to cheat and add an egg and some oil just to get the dough to stick together).
But it still sounded like a good idea so we kept looking and found this recipe.
These brownies are vastly superior: chewy without feeling undercooked, dense, just the right amount of sweet. I think the sweet potato is a big part of what makes the texture so nice. The big thing to remember is to really puree the sweet potato; mashing won’t cut it. Use a blender or a food processor and add a little water if you need to. You want it really smooth.
Enjoy, and remember I never said these were healthy!
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons coconut oil
(note: the original recipe called for 4T of butter; we were running low so I subbed coconut oil. Really, you can use 4T of whatever kind of oil you’d like.)
2/3 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup white or whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup sweet-potato puree (about one skinned, boiled sweet potato, pureed)
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract (we were out so I didn’t use this)
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch square pan; set aside.
In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt butter and coconut oil. Remove pan from heat, and stir in cocoa. Let cool slightly.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir in sugar and sweet-potato puree, then egg.
Add vanilla (if using) to cocoa mixture. Then add flour mixture to cocoa mixture and stir until no traces of flour remain. Spoon into prepared pan; smooth the top. Bake until surface of brownies looks barely dry and an inserted knife comes out with a few moist crumbs, about 20 minutes. Cool to room temperature before serving.
I gave up drinking coffee last fall. Not the first time, but this time it looks like it’ll stick. For extra excitement, I decided to give up dairy and black tea and to cut way back on sugar while I was at it (for the record, I have not given up chocolate and have no plans to do so). After a few rough days of caffeine withdrawal, I felt much better, but while I didn’t crave caffeine I did crave a nice warm cup of something creamy and sweet at the beginning of the day. Here’s a record of some of my adventures in coffee substitutes:
Nut Milks I quickly developed a taste for almond milk. Warm it gently and flavor with a vanilla bean, some cocoa or cinnamon. Sweeten with maple syrup or honey. I’ve found I prefer the Pacific brand of almond milk; other brands like Almond Dream had a fake creaminess that came from a lot of thickeners which I didn’t like (you can of course make your own, too). I recently discovered that Pacific also sells hazelnut milk. This is truly delicious and rather puts the almond milk in the shade but so far, I’ve only found it sweetened—and it’s a little too sweet.
Tea I’m developing a taste for Rooibos tea, a red tea from South Africa which is supposed to be very healthy (you can buy it at the supermarket or health food store; many brands have it in a variety of flavors).
I’ve also found I like peppermint tea which is cheap and tastes like a candy cane. I haven’t found that it needs sweetening at all.
“Mayan” or “Aztec” Hot Chocolate Still experimenting with this one. Most recipes claiming ancient South American provenance are essentially hot chocolate—with standard milk and sugar—spiced up with cayenne pepper or fresh chili. The Mayans themselves would have drunk something closer to this recipe. I figure if people can drink their coffee black and unsweetened (admittedly, I never did), then milkless hot chocolate should be an acquirable taste.
So far, my best results have come from simply melting two squares of a Lindt chocolate bar (a tablespoon or so of chocolate chips will work too) in 6 oz of boiling water, pinch of cayenne pepper optional. I tried adding almond milk but I had to add so much to get any of the flavor that I didn’t think it was worth it.
That wasn’t bad but it had too much refined sugar. I tried melting about a quarter oz of unsweetened baking chocolate and flavoring with honey but the chocolate didn’t melt completely and still had a bitter aftertaste. Also, honey has such a strong flavor that it tends to overwhelm the chocolate (maple syrup goes with anything but alas, is very expensive). Also tried 1.5 tsp of cocoa powder in 6 oz water (bring to a full boil for at least one minute or it will taste chalky); this was a nice texture, slightly thicker than coffee. This morning I gave in and added a little bit of regular sugar and quite liked it. Not exactly a healthy drink but less caffeine than what I used to have and still nice and warm and sweet.
Chai I haven’t actually tried this yet. I’m thinking hot almond milk and a spicy rooibos. I’ll let you know how that goes.
Any other ideas for acceptable coffee replacements?
Just some quick updates:
1. Just discovered that the baby above is now for sale on Patternfish. I sold the rights to it when I designed it for Nashua so I won’t make any more money from it, but if you buy it you’re supporting Patternfish, which is a great company.
2. Probably obvious from the sidebar over the the left, but Tsuwano is now available for sale. (Psst! Use coupon code HAPPYNEWYEAR until end of the day Monday, January 16 for 40% off). And check out the projects on Ravelry!
3. Also having a Buy One, Get 50% Off Another sale on the Finchley Road Series: Shawl, Hat and Cowl. This promotion should apply automatically but I think it will work only if you use the “add to cart” feature (not Buy Now). Let me know if you have any problems and I’ll make it right. This promotion lasts indefinitely.
And that’s it for now! Thanks for checking in.
When I put out the call for proposals for Stitching in the Stacks, I was praying that I’d get enough submissions to fill up the book. As it stood, I ended up with over 90. It was very difficult to decide which 60+ patterns to cut, but it was absolutely fascinating to see the variety of proposals that came in.
Now, I’m not a professional editor (though in a previous career incarnation I did a lot of editorial work) so bear in mind that the following list of suggestions represents only my own thoughts on submitting proposals and they apply primarily to proposals submitted over e-mail. And I want to emphasize that the vast majority of proposals I got were extremely professional and most of this advice is based on what people did right, not what they did wrong. But I learned a lot from studying other people’s proposals and I thought it might be useful to share.
Basically, you want to do three things:
- Make the editor’s life easier
- Reduce your chances of getting lost in the shuffle
- Show off your work to its best advantage
So to that effect…
Keep it simple You don’t need whole pages of text to convey your idea. It will get scanned, not read. Try to get the whole thing on one page, two max.
Include the right information in the right places Make sure your name and contact information is on each page of the proposal. Don’t bury technical information about the yarn you used, the notions you’ll need, etc. in the text; put it in a sidebar or up at the top, just like a published pattern. Make sure you include a link to a website, blog or Ravelry page where I can see your other work, whether formally published or not. Number your pages.
Use sketches to show proportion Don’t just draw a picture of the garment/accessory; draw it over a human figure to show where the hem ends, what kind of ease it has, how cropped the waist is, etc. Don’t worry if you can’t draw people all that well (do a search for croquis templates to trace if you like); just give a sense of what your idea would look like on an actual human.
Don’t worry (too much) about layout I got some proposals that were beautifully laid out with lovely little graphic designer touches and others that were the most basic possible combination of text plus image. Didn’t really matter too much. The well-designed proposals did feel a bit more professional than the more basic ones, and adding an extra sense of professionalism never hurts, but ultimately it’s more important that your photos be clear and your text well organized.
Worry A LOT about swatch photos The editor can’t see and touch your swatch in person so your photo has to convey the bulkiness of the gauge, the softness of the yarn, and the texture of the stitch pattern. Soft focus has no place here. Don’t hold your swatch in the air with one hand while you photograph it with the other. Don’t stretch it out with your fingers. Lay it flat. Photograph it in strong but diffused light—you don’t want it to be dark but you don’t want harsh shadows either. Don’t worry about styling an artistic backdrop for it, though photographing it with something that gives a sense of proportion may be a good idea (hint: I usually photograph mine laying next to a ruler).
Name your file something practical I received eight proposals that one way or another referenced Marian the Librarian from The Music Man. Organizing 93 submissions was enough to deal with; if all the Marian patterns had had names like Marian.pdf, Musicman.pdf, Dancinginthestacks.pdf, etc., I would have had a hard time remembering which was which. Fortunately, I’d asked people to name their files with their name and project type, e.g., RSmith_Cardigan.pdf. and about 90% of the submitters did. This made my life much easier and greatly reduced the chances that proposals got lost or overlooked.
Submit separate files for multiple proposals A couple of times I read through a proposal and closed the file then opened it up later only to realize that I hadn’t read the last two pages and that there was a whole other proposal there! Separate files give equal weight to each submission. If your proposals are linked in some way or if you’ve been asked to submit only one file, make it clear on the first page how many proposals and what kind are included.
Meet that deadline Look, I’m a soft touch. If you ask me for a few more days to get your submission in, I’ll probably say yes. But if you interpret “a few days” as “two weeks” or ask for more extensions on top of that, or write me multiple e-mails about how you were sick and then there was an earthquake and then the dog ate your computer, then it really doesn’t matter how good the proposal is when it comes in—I’ve lost faith that you’re going to get the finished project in on time or even at all. Do everything you can to get your proposal in on time. If you’re given an extension, get it in before the extended deadline.
Any other thoughts on what makes a good proposal? Fell free to chime in!
Sarah BarbourKnitting and crochet designer/teacher and stay-at-home mother to three lovely little girls. Recently relocated to Oregon from the Illinois and enjoying my new life as a West Coaster.
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