it's what i do

Knitting patterns and blog ramblings about knitting and sewing. ... and gardening, and cooking. Basically all the makes. There's a lot of strange knowledge in my brain that I'm hoping can do some good out in the world.


Unpatterns are available on Patternfish!

on the needles

• Big Grey Thing

• Lots of Turkish Bed Socks in BMFA Socks that Rock

in my ears
  • The Cruelest Month: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel
    The Cruelest Month: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel
    by Louise Penny
  • A Rule Against Murder: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel
    A Rule Against Murder: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel
    by Louise Penny
under my nose
  • The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload
    The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload
    by Daniel J. Levitin
fueled by
go find it!
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we've moved!

Great news - I've upgraded the blog to the latest version of Squarespace, so things will look much more twenty-first century around here.

Come see me at (gosh, we're all grown up!)

I've migrated all the blog posts from the last ten years (!) over there, so please update your RSS feeds and blog reading apps. I'll be shutting down this URL sometime in the next month or so.

Thanks for following me over there! Hope you like the new look.


keto half-marathon training

[Apologies to my fibery friends - this post is bound to contain nearly 0% knitting content. Whole30 and health nuts, read on!]

As part of My Clean Year (#mycleanyear), going hand in hand with taking a break from alcohol, I've wanted to break my sugar habit. Doing several rounds of Whole30 (and non-strict, Whole30-inspired 'resets' afterwards) went a long way, but I kept finding myself sliding quickly back into a near-daily relationship with chocolate, sugar, baked goods...

And then our friend Dr. B was diagnosed with Lyme disease, and has been fighting the wee beasties with a ketogenic diet: super-low carbohydrates (around 50g/day), moderate protein, and lots of healthy fats. He's feeling so much better, and wow has he leaned up! As someone who's hovered at the Overweight/Obese line of body fat percentages, that leaning up sure caught my attention.

Then come to find out my stepdaughter and her husband have been going keto as well, and feeling and looking great too. That non-scientific cohort of 3 was enough to convince me to try it. (I had already committed to the month of June sans sugar altogether, so keto was a logical extension.)

But wait - what about that half-marathon goal coming up? (I'm doing the Pie High Trail Run in July.) Can I switch to running in ketosis while keeping up my training runs? Googling the question got me some anecdotal information from a few (über-geeky) (male) ultrarunners, but not a lot of real-life, I-did-this feedback from my fellow women half runners. So I thought I'd put myself into the mix! [Note: I'm not affiliated with Leanne (yet!) - all opinions are my own, and I don't make any $ from any links here.]

I'm working from the plan outlined by Leanne Vogel in her book, The Keto Diet. I've appreciated her focus on whole foods, especially the open door to vegetables! Old-school ketogenic diets (like Atkins) have eschewed all carbohydrates, even those from plants -- and as a big fan of Michael Pollan and his reasoned approach ("Eat Food. Mostly Plants. Not Too Much."), I like that we need fear no veg.

Pictured here is the result of my wholesale dive into 'keto-izing' my kitchen: a spiralizer (I like this one from OXO); bone broth, hemp milk, coconut creamer, various oils and nut butters, sea salt and mineral drops. (Many of which were based on Leanne's shopping list from the Healthful Pursuit website.)

Step Two: purge the kitchen. This wasn't a huge effort, considering that we were already pretty Paleo/Whole30 to begin with. Mostly, it was ditching the partial, opened and older boxes of mysterious pasta (pasta?!) on the upper shelves. But I did rearrange some things to put the oils close-by, and shift the less-used items (almond flour, etc.) to higher shelves. Oh, and putting my new food processor out on the counter, ready for action!

Step Three: Devour the book and plan for implementation. The first half of Leanne's book is background, information about how the eating plan works, and how to set yourself up (particularly appreciated is the 'roadblocks to keto' section, which includes some mindset resets that I found very reassuring during this first week of adjustment.)

As a planner geek (didja guess?), I knew I'd want to track my 'macros' - how many grams of the macronutrients fat, protein, and carbohydrate I was eating in a day - so I could know I was on-plan. I've loved using PaleoTrack so far; Marc, the creator of PaleoTrack, has done an amazing job to keep the UI streamlined yet supremely functional. It's rare for me to stick with a tracker so thoroughly, even ones I love initially, without losing focus or spacing out entering info. Marc's made it so intuitive and easy - I bit the bullet and subscribed for a full year. Since Boyhood & I aren't jumping on buying a ketone monitor (yet), I'm going to rely on how I feel and where my macros are to gauge when/whether I'm in ketosis.

Now for the interesting part: I'm in my second week of training for my half, so how is the shift to keto going to work with that? Shifting to burning mostly fats has a rough transition period, not unlike the first week to 10 days of Whole30. You may get the 'carb flu' in the first days, feeling grouchy and hungry and lower energy as your body shifts from its reliance on carbohydrates to burning fats. (I liken this to trying to start a fire with logs and no kindling - the carbohydrates were the fast-burn kindling in your system.)

I've found I can do quite well on 3 runs a week - that seems to give me the time on my legs that I need without risk of injury to my nearly-50-year-old joints. The past month, I've been cruising on 3-, 4-, and 5-mile runs, but this next week I up the ante to 4-, 5- and 7-. The ramp-up is beginning - right when I'm likely to be low-energy.

The good news is, I built in a buffer week to my training - when I laid out my run schedule, I had 11 weeks instead of 10 on the calendar. (Always a good move, in my experience - it lets you account for the vagaries of life and the strange weeks you get when you can't get quality runs in no matter how you try.)

I plot out my runs on my monthly pages in my planner with little sticky flags, so I can move them around if necessary without a lot of erasing or white-out.

So I shifted a few things around - mostly moving the long run stickies down a week - and did three runs per my slower regimen of the last few weeks. I started eating Keto officially on Thursday (June 1), so I've done two runs so far on the new eating plan!

Happy to report that, at least in these first few days, runs haven't been noticeably harder or more sluggish than before. Could be that I'm still digging through some stored glucose, of course, but so far so good.

Next run is tomorrow (Monday), and I'll see if I can't take on that 5 miler I have planned. Knowing the reason why I might bonk is keeping me calm - that, and a tablespoon of almond butter before I hit the road, that is.

My aim is to post here once a week to keep track of how this transition to keto during half-marathon training is working for me. Thanks for coming along for the ride!

Also, FYI: I'm on Day 4 and already down 2 pounds. Consistently eating around 2,000 calories, with carbohydrates at or under 50g. On the days I don't run, Boyhood and I tackle the stairs from Downtown to Uptown - 130 short steps in the full flight, and we do 7 sets. Good HIIT training, we think!


it's the little things

I don't know if it's the spring weather or what, but I find I'm making time to fix those little annoyances around the house that had been bugging me for ages - yet I just didn't get off my duff to take the few minutes to make them better.

Case in point: my needle stash labeling system. I keep my needles in a little sheet-music drawer stand my mom gave me - and the little paper labels I made years ago for the needle sizes keep flicking off from where they were taped down. Grab a needle, replace a label. Grr.

Like any other card-carrying member of the OverOrganized Club (that should be a thing, shouldn't it?), I own a labelmaker. I own a labelmaker with a keyboard, for kripes' sake. That stays plugged in permanently (in case of those sudden labeling emergencies).

So this morning, hey presto Eureka and lo, we went from this –

to this!

And in the Department of Redundancy Department, each needle size has its needles contained in a LABELED zip bag. I couldn't trust the little buggers not to roll around in the drawers and commingle like freshman at a college dorm mixer.

Power to the Labelmaker, People!

How do you store your needles? Do you have the same problem corraling them as I do? (Or maybe you don't have the crazy deep needle stash I do -ahem-...?)


on swatching: size matters

[Repost from a new thread over in my Ravelry group]

(Fountain pen for scale.)

Every once in a while, a newbie knitter would bring to my teaching table a swatch made up of just a few stiches - a wee, postage-stamp-sized slip of a thing. “The pattern said I needed a gauge of 6 stitches to the inch, so I cast on 6 stitches!” Fair enough - that’s an easy assumption to make as a brand-new knitter. Knit up 6 stitches, and if it’s not 1 inch, you’re off… Right?

Welllll, no. And what I’m about to say applies to just-slightly-larger-but-still-not-big-enough swatches as well: if you aren’t working long enough rows, you aren’t really creating the kind of fabric you’ll make in a larger garment. PLUS, you won’t be able to count accurately.

A sweater-sized project will likely have a hundred or more stitches across a row - long enough for you to get into a good rhythm, get moving at a good clip, maybe even space out a little bit. That different rhythm can impact how loosely or tightly you knit! So the longer you can make your rows in your swatch, the more accurately it will reflect how you’ll knit in a sweater.

A slightly more experienced knitter might cast on the # of sts in 4”/10cm called out on the pattern. So, 24 stitches in 4” for the same gauge as the newbie above. That’s better, but still no cigar, and here’s why: your edge stitches always curl in just a little bit, which sucks away a bit of the measurement… And you don’t have a larger bit of fabric within which to measure, which means you might lose that half-a-stitch that would otherwise creep into your 4”/10cm measurement across - and a half a stitch in 4” means 5 stitches in 40” around a sweater, which could be an inch or more off. Might not sound like much, but believe me - it’s the difference between your sweater fitting beautifully or not. Between your fabric being just the right density, or being too stiff or too loose. Those half stitches matter! And the way you’re going to be able to see that is by knitting a swatch that is larger than 4”/10cm across.

So if your gauge says 24 sts = 4”/10cm, CAST ON MORE THAN THAT. Doesn’t really matter how many more, as long as it’s materially more. In this case, 4 more stitches would be a bare minimum. I’d be more likely to cast on 32 or 36 or 40 for a swatch at this gauge. Be generous with yourself - those longer rows are more pleasurable to knit, anyway.

And while you’re at it, make sure your swatch is also tall enough - row gauge matters too! Sometimes different needle sizes will generate a bigger difference in row gauge than stitch gauge. And a too-tight row gauge means you’re eating up yarn faster than the pattern calls for, so you might run out before you’re done…! Or it might mean your fabric is too dense. So check your row gauge as well; at the very least, it’s a good indicator that you’re on the right track, fabric-wise. I try to go until my swatch is nearly square, or until I’ve done about 10 rows more than the row gauge on the pattern over 4”/10cm.

This is the first in a series of posts in praise of swatching, and how to make it really work for you. More in the coming weeks!


on slowing down

We're a few days into #slowfashionoctober, a conversation/movement instigated by Karen Templer over at Fringe Association as a means for us to dive into what 'slowing down' our fashion or clothing consumption might mean to all of us.

It's a many-sided topic: some folks are getting into the environmental and human consequences of 'fast fashion'; others are getting into the nitty-gritty of making more of their wardrobe... There are so many ways to enjoy the notion of 'slowing down' our wardrobes.

Week One of "Slotober" this year is dedicated to Introductions, so here's mine. I'm Karen, a maker of sweaters for years and years who's just branching out in the wild and wonderful world of sewing (making garments in days rather than months! Yippee!). I call myself a 'creative minimalist,' with all the rhetorical tension that implies. I love being inspired to make things (especially things to wear), but I aspire to a capsule wardrobe of just the right things. I have a yarn stash and a fabric stash, and never enough time to make all the things that I'm inspired to start.

So for me, it seems fitting that my version of Slow Fashion October become about SLOWING MYSELF DOWN.

Boyhood and I had planned to take a major cross-country trip starting this week, heading East to Rhinebeck. Yet the closer we got to our departure date, the more agitated we both seemed to get. Boy confessed to feeling ungrounded as well as sad about leaving his workshop with all his creative tools (unlike me, his creative outlet isn't portable!).


We sat with that feeling, tossed around a few 'what if?'s, and cancelled our trip. We're staying home and creating a generative, healthy, creative staycation space for ourselves, complete with a round of nearly #whole30, walks every day, and a focus on maximum creative time. We're thrilled.

Perfect timing for Slotober, right? I was immediately filled with a desire to DO.ALL.THE.THINGS!, running around making lists of epic proportions. And then I stopped.

Hey waitaminute: there's the word S-L-O-W in there. Maybe that might apply to *how* I'm working this month?

The best way for me to slow down this month is to really allow myself the luxury of focusing on one project at a time. Yup, Project Monogamy. I've been notoriously skittish with projects, working on as many as five at a time, due to deadlines and work constraints for the last few years. This is a perfect opportunity to just settle in and meditate over a project. Helpful that the project in question is the gorgeous cardigan White Pine by the fantabulous Amy Christoffers - a cabled bit of loveliness that requires good, solid attention lest a twist go the wrong way when you're not looking.

So no binge-watching "NCIS" this month; no flitting off to work "just a few rows" on this or that other project with its siren song... Just me, a little soothing ambient background music, and The Pines of Rhinebeck. Until it's done.

Knitting is supposed to be meditation, right? It's that thing we imagine sinking into with complete flow after a hard workday... it's what we dream about when the kids are melting down before dinner, or when we're stuck in traffic... "If only I could be quietly sitting on the couch, enjoying the yarn moving through my fingers and the satisfying click of the needles..."

So why not be there with it? Let's slow down and just knit together this month. You know what project I'll be bringing...!