Twins bound by a love of knitting talk about knitting and more.

Episode 50 — turbogal, AKA Lisa

In which we celebrate the milestone that is episode 50, discuss NYC trips, trip ups with deer, podcaster visits and prank calls, Wilson’s continuing mastery of the chess world, precision dancing viewed at Radio City Music Hall with Jenny and light up swizzle sticks (!), pulling it together when your gauge is all over the place and a special outtake for your holiday merriment….oh, and turbogal.

Episode 49 — Full Bellies

In which we discuss filling up our bellies at Thanksgiving, podcast endings and podcaster beginnings, cabbages and kings (well, not kings), fine dining in NYC and nights on the town in DC, visitors and the proper pie ratio, new members of the farm family and a bit of farm animal photography!

Episode 48 — Catch Me Up If You Can

In which we offer condolences to the “Car Talk family”, start a new contest for a Boston Jen design, congratulate Wilson for his “Top 100″ chess status, Marie’s debut in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade*, Gale Woods Farm, Jan’s new job, Buddhist housekeeping, NYC visits to daughter’s restaurants (well, restaurants at which daughters play key roles) knitting retreats that bring healing, new playwrites and playing in parks, Dr. Yarn’s anger management techniques, Spinzilla and designing for flow, and try to catch up on many other aspects of life!

*Update!  Marie will not be a Christmas tree — instead she will be a pirate, a treasure chest or a shark devouring a person as one of the wire walkers for the “Pirate’s Booty” balloon.  She hopes she gets to be a shark!

What’s going on?

Dear Jan,

Something’s up.  Not only did we get an episode from the podcast up (with show notes!), but I’m blogging for the second time in a week AND launching a second pattern, to boot!  Something is in the air.  Maybe it is the snow that is coming down as I write this that is both in the air and inspiring me to send warm wooly wear out to the world.

The pattern for this post is my Diana’s Quiver sock pattern, designed for Modeknit Yarn.


The Little Tent Stitch I used for the pattern not only reminded me so much of a series of colorful darts filling a quiver, it ended my hunt for the perfect pattern for a variegated sock yarn.  “Darts”, “quiver”, “ended my hunt” - get it?  Diana, goddess of the hunt, seemed to need a pair of these socks.

Yarn floats carried across the fabric both highlight the color changes and subdue any unwanted pooling or flashing.  This is a simple pattern with complex effects.

Knit on US Size 1 (2.25 mm) needles out of Modeknit ModeSock, these have a firm enough fabric to wear nicely.  The wool/bamboo/nylon blend of ModeSock is great.  The wool (60%) provides warmth, the bamboo (30%) drape and luster, and the nylon (10%) is just enough for some strength without squeak.


The pattern is available on Ravelry (you don’t have to be a Ravelry member to click through to the pattern) or you can get it free with purchase of ModeSock.  Please, if you want to try this yarn, do get the pattern that way - I want Annie Modesitt, co-owner of Modeknit Yarn, to come back to me with more requests to design in this great yarn!



And don’t miss the younger daughter…

Dear Jan,

The purported reason for this blog post is to publicize the availability of my newly released pattern set, Paving Mitts and Cowl.  The real reason is to share my lovely model (and elder daughter) with you all.


Tunisian crochet in the round creates beautiful colorwork. Working in two colors, one tonal and one variegated, creates an effect of tiny colorful pavers laid in even rows. I was inspired to design these after a class in Tunisian crochet entranced me, but existing mitt designs didn’t have a shaped thumb gusset.  These do.  And the cowl is shaped, too, designed to dip down and cover the throat and keep that little gap where your coat is open nice and warm.


The mitts are a small enough project that experimenting with color combinations is possible - heck, Lisa says it takes her all of 6 hours to work an entire pair!  (Caution - your mileage may vary.  They don’t call her turbogal for nothin’!)


Note that working these, as for any Tunisian crochet pattern in the round, calls for a double ended crochet hook.  I used a size H with fingering weight yarn for mine, but others have used a size up for the hook and various weight yarns.  It’s easy to experiment and do a bit of the cuff and try it on for gauge. Yarns shown include Claudia Handpaint Addiction and The Yarns of Rhichard Devrieze Peppino.


Did I mention that these are super fun to work?


Video tutorials, including several I prepared to teach the needed techniques for the Paving Mitts pattern, are listed in the pattern.

Oh, as long as I’m showing off my beautiful (and very talented) eldest daughter, here’s a link to a story about the restaurant at which my equally beautiful and talented younger daughter works - with a photo of her in action.

Yes, I’m insufferable, but since they are your nieces, you have to be supportive.



P.S. Thanks to Lisa, Cindi, and Vicki for test crocheting!

Paving Mitts Tutorials ONE, TWO, THREE - from twinsetellen’s YouTube Channel

Episode 47 — Melancholy Bunny

In which much is out of date, but still interesting…to me anyway.  And probably Ellen.  Hopefully to you.  Sorry!

Thanks to listeners, old and new, for joining us!

We kick off this episode with acknowledgement that by the time it was posted, it was out of date.  Consider it a history lesson and enjoy.

Patterns of Our Lives:

Ellen is proud of a the MN Senior Chess Champion - her husband!   That was about all she had for Patterns of our Lives, but Jan had plenty.

Dale and Jan got away to Virginia Beach for a mini-break before Jan started her new job.  They rented a very nice suite in a nice hotel - and then invited a bunch of friends to join them.  I don’t think they really understand the concept of an intimate weekend away, but hey, whatever floats their boat.  Rumor has it that Fisherman’s Platters were eaten.

Returning from the beach, Jan headed north to the Knitting Pipeline retreat, chauffeuring two VIP’s, Louise of Caithness Craft Collective and Zelia, her mum.  Of course, when you are traveling with Jan, you fit time in to tour Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, and visit an alpaca farm (Jan’s).  I think there was some knitting in there, too.  The retreat sounds like it was a blast, lots of yarn, lots of food, lots of talk and fun and learning courtesy of fellow retreat-goers and also Susan B Anderson, artist-in-residence for the retreat.  If you want to check it out, check out #KPMaine on Instagram.  You will be able to follow the story of Sylvia and Flavio Sylvio.

Jan followed the retreat with a full week of naval conferencing and finishing up the Prickly Pear pattern that she designed for the Yarn Barn in San Antonia for their 2014 Hill Country Yarn Crawl.  She is not resting at all before starting her new job - which is Chancellor of one of the 5 colleges that comprise the National Defense University.

Ellen had some yarn fun this month, too.  Part of that was her autumn pilgrimage to the Sisu Lost in the Woods Knitting Retreat on Burntside Lake just outside of Ely, MN.  The project for the retreat was Norwegian mittens, guided by Jan Bilden. Many colorful mittens got their start that weekend.

Ellen got to spend an afternoon with Jim Pietkowicz and Cat Bordhi, following their class at StevenBe.  Ellen noted that valuing brick and mortar LYS’s is important - enjoy those Etsy shops, but don’t forget your local yarn purveyors.

Finely or Finally Knit:

With so much time between recordings, some knitting got done!

Flavio Sylvio, the Portuguese bunny, was one of the projects Jan finished.  He was made of leftovers from Prickly Pear, a hooded scarf that Jan designed (see above).  She used picture lace to suggest prickly pear cacti, perfect for a Texas yarn crawl.  Jan hopes to publish the pattern in the near future.

Jan also knit a pair of mittens for the charity drive associated with the Knitting Pipeline retreat.  Of course, none of these projects actually have project pages on Ravelry, or we’d link to them for your viewing pleasure.

Ellen also finished a few items.  She finished her Wild Apple tam (#wildappleaday on Instagram) which she started in Sweden (so appropriate to knit Bohus patterns in Sweden!) out of merino/angora yarn from Solsilke (no longer available, but Angoragarnet is beginning to supply kits). It still needs blocking, after which you will undoubtedly hear about it again!

She also finished #11 Eyelet Cowl by Cathy Carron out of her handspun, an MCN blend from Rain City Fiber Arts. A super simple eyelet cowl in a cushy handspun yarn - it was a pleasure to knit.

Jan finished her assymetrical socks, too.

On the Runway, Jan reports that Fog Lights (the original design is the Green Mist pullover by Kerstin Olson), is making great progress with just bands remaining.  Likewise, Ellen is almost ready to start the bands for her Bohus reproduction (Many Moments of Grace, a reproduction of the Rimfrost design).

Ellen is also working on Norgie mittens - started in the Sisu retreat class taught by Jan Bilden.  Her mittens are out of Kenzie from Skacel, 50%, 25%, 10% angora, 10% alpaca, 5% silk noils for a crimson red, as well as a nice hard Norwegian yarn, Rauma Strikke-garn in deep sky blue.  Jan has knit boot socks out of Kenzie, so it promises to stand up to wear and so isn’t as odd of a pairing with the Rauma.

Ellen got some progress in on her Crazy Vanilla Socks out of Schoppelwolle Crazy Zauberball sock yarn, worked on size 0 needles in a plain stockinette stitch and a Cat Bordhi Sweet Tomato Heel (not to mention the tubular cast on).

Bitten by our Knittin’:

Once again, Ellen learns that you should at least read the pattern before going your own way.  She had to frog the crown of her tam when she discovered that she wasn’t following the prescribed decrease rate.

And once again, Jan learned that you shouldn’t knit lace late at night and while drinking, leading to some frogging in the final knit of Prickly Pear.  And she bit her knitting, clipping the fabric by accident when trying to remove waste yarn.  She also misplaced one of Flavio’s arm during the knitting, the first time she knit her bunny, anyway.

Be sure to check out Cat Bordhi’s new book, Versatildes - a New Landscape for Knitters.   And the new Frog Tree yarn, Llambrosia.  I checked with Jim Petkiewicz of Frog Tree Yarn and the pronunciation is as we suggested - think llama, not lamb.

Ready to Wear:

Jan offered some of her farm wares at the Knitting Pipeline retreat and reports they were well received.  She has replenished her inventories as she received her order from 84 Alpacas has arrived - yarn in various weights, plus roving both pin-drafted and not.  She hopes to be offering it sometime soon.  We are likely to all fight over the 3-ply DK weight out of the cria fleeces.

Design Principles

Ellen received detailed notes and feedback on her  Shirley Paden Design-along 4  Fair Isle design.  Shirley suggests a 3-needle bind off for a stronger shoulder seam, rather than the mock Kitchener seam Ellen had suggested.  She has also suggested some changes to the armhole shaping, so Ellen is giving that some thought.

Jan asks about whether a thumb on a mitten should carry the pattern to match the hand.  Ellen says, it depends.  Really, it needs to be suited to the mitten.

Design Aesthetic

Jan and Ellen review Laura Rickett’s, Beauties from the Far North - Swedish Sami Knitted Mittens, available for $20 on Ravelry.  The book has 8 mittens - and in a flash contest - you have a chance to win a copy of the book.  Check our Ravelry group for a chance to win - we will close the thread when we record the next time (which will be two episodes from this one, as we did record this morning and this episode was posted late last night - somehow that doesn’t seem very fair).  Here is the TwinSet Technical Review(TM) of this book:

1) Good overview for each pattern — CHECK.
2) Written Instructions — Yes - full descriptions of how to knit these, stitches and materials, but charts are used for color.
3) Charted Instructions — See #2.
4) Words of caution/Tips/Tricks — Notes and special techniques are embedded in the pattern.
5) Photography Styling — Very nice. Includes caribou hides and horns.
6) Photography Clarity — Very clear, several shots of each mitten.

This is a super book of super designs for super colorful mittens.  We recommend you take a look, you’ll enjoy both the designs and the history of the Sami culture.

360 Degrees

Ellen described working with an MCN blend from Rain City Fiber Arts.  She spun the singles with a woolen draw, working hard to keep them fat and puffy, and the resulting yarn is nice and puffy.   A fast, fun spin.

She also gave Valor a bath - Valor’s fleece, that is.  He is the Fair Winds Farm ram, and his fleece is gorgeous.  Ellen recommends Synthrapol, available at Dharma Trading Company, for a low-sudsing, highly effective wash.  She trimmed the tips from the fleece, removing the sun bleached ends and thereby making sure that the dark fleece that Valor produces will still be dark when carded and spun.  She also drum-carded a fleece from Rhinebeck from a few years ago - lots of fiber fun and future spinning to come.


Jan is enjoying her Kindle Unlimited investment - for her, it is paying off!  Ellen mentioned an embellishment that Wilson found - a fitness tracker for cats.  They are called KitBits.  (April Fool’s in October!)

Fun Fur

Ellen’s fun fur is reading blogs - and she is going to start reading other’s blogs again and posting to the TwinSet blog, too.

Slick Trick

Diane (knotjusthats on Ravelry) shared the slick trick she learned in a pattern for making an enclosed edge when picking up a button band.  When picking up the band from the front, work a smooth cotton yarn into the loops formed on the back of the band as you pick up the stitches.  Now you have clearly marked the stitches to use when picking up the backing band of fabric.

You may already be a Wiener!

Many winners in our Cleaning off the Needles KAL - but you were all winners, with so many wonderful projects!  Winners and prizes listed below - please be sure and connect with twinsetellen on Ravelry to figure out how to get your prize!  And THANK YOU to our donors, lotsofhermies, DCAlaneknits, Cat Bordhi, and Fair Winds Farm.

Grand Prize (TS summer camp project bag) — cperrine (Cindi) — Toothless
LOH (lotsofhermies) Stitch Markers –Knotjusthats (Diane) — Fuscia Fantasy hat
LOH Stitch markers — AZknitwit — Market Bag
LOH Stitch Markers — Prairiegl (Leah) Plum Tree Slouch
Versatildes — camanoah (Judy) — Sockhead hat
DCAlaneknites pattern donation — Oldest project

Fashion Forecast

Jan will of course start her new job, but also a trip to the NW for a Cat Bordhi knitting retreat.

Ellen actually got a knitting retreat application in on time.  She is planning to attend the Zombie Knitpocalypse next year.

And both twins plan to figure out how to get out episodes a bit more frequently!

Enjoy the show!

An incredible autumn…

Dear Jan,

This autumn has been one of the most gorgeous in memory here in Minnesota.  After a cool start, we’ve had many warm and sunny days.  The cool, wet summer may have been worth it, setting us up for intense fall color.  When I had the chance to do some colorwork at the Sisu Lost in the Woods retreat up near Ely, MN in late September, I had to follow my muse.  My color choice - the gorgeous crimson maples against the autumnal deep blue sky.


The project was Norwegian mittens, led by the talented and prolific Jan Bilden. You got a peak at these a couple of posts ago - here they are in detail.  We chose cuffs and mitten backs….


…and we chose mitten palms….


….and mitten thumbs.


I know I’ll be glad of these this winter, both for the warm wool and the warm memories.



P.S. Yarns were Rauma Strikkegarn 3-ply and  Kenzie by Hikoo by Skacel.  Knit on US 1.5 dpns.  Pattern improvised.

Knittin’, Bitten…

Dear Jan,

I believe I promised photos of the repair work I did on my Cowl for George Bailey (Stephanie Pearl-McPhee’s Pretty Thing, knit of handspun (mine!) bison, though not by the light of the moon).   Here they are.  Brace yourself.

First the damage.  A cat knocked the cowl to the floor, and a dog had a play with it for all of maybe 7 seconds.


First thing I did was to delineate the damage - basting lines of slick cotton thread to show where in the lace panel the teeth of that saucy dog had cut, and the same thread to trace an undamaged row above the gaping hole.  It would have been impossible to follow the path of the lace without that pink guideline.


Happily, the damage was limited to one repeat of the lace motif - I could actually knit a piece to graft right in to the body of the cowl.  I cast on at the bottom - it just seemed too complicated to try to graft top and bottom - and I knit across each row leaving a long tail on either end.


Then came a bit of crazy - I grafted the top of that replacement bit to the top of the opening….


…and duplicate stitched the ends into the abutting portions of the cowl.  Here we see it with the right side completed (except for trimming ends) and the left side yet to be done.


From the front, it was starting to look pretty good.


From the back, you can see the ends and the damaged flaps - I trimmed these away fairly close.  Because this yarn is very fuzzy and sticky, this technique worked incredibly well.  The halo covered a lot of the transitions, and except with your fingers, you really couldn’t tell there was a lot more yarn where I wove in the ends.


I hate to brag (really, I do), but I am pretty darned impressed with the result.



Lost in the woods…again…

Dear Jan,


Theoretically, the Lost in the Woods knitting retreats are about knitting, but I’m here to tell you they are about color.


And more color.


Well, maybe some knitting…


…as long as you include lots of color.



From the top, now…

Dear Jan,

In just over two weeks, I’ve gone from top to bottom with this cowl.  Bottom, that is, if the last thing you do with a knitted item is block it.  Top, because that is what I started with - a beautiful hand dyed top from Rain City Fiber Arts .


This superwash Merino/Cashmere/Nylon (80:10:10) top was beautifully prepared.  I was able to do a long draw woolen draft to create an air singles.  I had broken the braid into 3 equal pieces, spun them up and then plied them together with a bit more twist in the plying than needed to evenly balance the yarn, a typical approach for a woolen yarn*.


With the hope of giving this to a friend on September 21st, I needed a quick knit.  The softness of the yarn said “cowl”; need-it-quick said “existing and straightforward pattern”.  The #11 Eyelet Cowl by Cathy Carron (gotta love those evocative Vogue Knitting pattern names, this one from VK Holiday 2009) was just right, and the simple design was wonderful for this handspun.


The reverse of the fabric is just as attractive as the purported public side - it has me thinking about design possibilities for this simple welted eyelet fabric.


With a steam blocking on the hotel room ironing board (hover, never press!), I finished it well ahead of my deadline.   All of 45 minutes!



*To be technical, this would count as a semi-woolen given that I spun from a combed top rather than a batt or roving.