Through the Storm


So what did you do to pass the time while you watched the Weather Channel for the constant loop on Irene?

I worked on two things on Saturday.



The top image is of a pair of socks that I making using Dragonfly Fibers Dragon Sock in the Deep Ocean colorway. I started them a few weeks ago. I got the yarn from Cloverhill during MDSW.

The second image is of the front of the vest. I finished the back before the heatwave began and only recently started working on the back because I really didn’t want a big old lump of alpaca sitting in my lap during the hot spell.

I hope if Irene hit you, you didn’t suffer too much damage and life is returning to normal for you. It finally seems to be doing that here.

Also, a big thank you to Roseann for letting me know of a certain problem I had with the site. I think that I fixed the problem and have reported the issue.

Copyright 2011 by G. P. Donohue for



There are a lot of reason why I am into my fiber crafts, but one of them is that they provide me a means to, at least for a short while, take my mind off of my problems and think about something else. While I am knitting, spinning, weaving, or sewing, I get to escape what I can’t seem to get to leave the forefront of my mind any other way; so even if I am working on a project that I am find kind of laborious, I will still be grateful for the relief it gives me from having to think about other, more pressing things for a bit.

On that note, the dreaded socks are done.

Knitting socks two-at-a-time just isn’t for me. I can see where this method would be helpful to those that have problems reading their knitting and not wanting to take any notes, or those that suffer from “Second Sock Syndrome”; but I don’t have either of those problems, so what I gained from this method was some frustration. Different strokes.

The yarn itself, Miss Babs Bamboo Baby, was pretty nice. It did seem a little splitty to me, but I am not sure if that was just because of the yarn or had something to do with the fact that I was using my very pointy Addi Lace Turbo needles.

On the spinning front, I have reached some milestones!

I finished spinning the singles of Spirit Trail Fiberworks’ merino/angora/cashmere blend. That is eight ounces that you are looking at there. I am trying to decide if I will just ply the bobbins against each other, or do my usual plying from center-pull ball for each bobbin individually. I am leaning towards the former, just because of how fine the singles are.

And plying is happening with past singles that I have spun.

The BFL in Everglade that I got from Fiber Optic at Maryland Sheep and Wool is done, and I am working on plying the BFL in Sapphire.

I am having issues with my wheel here. The drive band is stretched loose so that there is not always traction. Big problem. Looks like I am in the market for a new drive band.

Back to knitting,

when one sock ends, another begins. This is the start of a ribbed cable sock in Dragonfly Fibers Djinni. The colorway is Bad Moon Rising. The most difficult part of this sock is keeping track of which row I am on so that I know when to do the cables. Otherwise, it is pretty simple.

Kate of Dragonfly is having a trunk show at Cloverhill this Sunday, so you know that will spell trouble for me….

Not that there aren’t already other things planned for me for this weekend.

Copyright 2010 by G. P. Donohue for

Here You Come Again


By now, you have probably heard about the second helping of snow that we are currently getting. It is a concern because it looks like we will may be stuck for a while because of this.

Mr. Penney and I have been fortunate in that we have not lost power for any significant period of time. Last time I remember anything this bad was back when I was in second grade. We had blizzards in February that basically meant that we only went to school a few days during that month. (There was a week about 15 years ago where we got hit with a few storms within a week that dumped a lot of snow on us, but I was away on business for part of that, so I didn’t get the full effect on that one.

I did manage to finish knitting the second baby sweater today.

I don’t have any buttons for it, so when it will be totally finished, I do not know. Maybe March?

I am not sure the stitch pattern switch was a good one for this sweater. There is kind of a chevron effect going on with the modified vine stitch, causing the garter area to get a bit distorted. While blocking will help this, the final recipient probably won’t understand what is going on once she washes it. Looks like I have some explaining to do.

Please take care out there. It is a mess.

Copyright 2010 by G. P. Donohue for

Let’s Talk About Sex

I mean socks! Yes, socks! Let’s talk about socks. Definitely socks! Reference

For the past few years, I have been mainly doing socks. While I did a few pairs of socks in my early knitting “career”, it wasn’t until I got Sensational Knitted Socks that I really got into knitting socks, and specifically toe-up socks. When anyone asks me for a reference book on socks, SKS is the book I recommend without reservation. It just opened my eyes to see all those numbers together and see the pattern of how it all worked out.

Now, why toe-up? I believe that I have talked about this before, but for the sake of having this all in one place, I put it here too: It is better for me to short change the leg in length than it is for me to short change the foot in length because of the fear of running out of yarn. I have a big foot, at least as far as sock yarn manufacturers are concern, and the sock yarn that I like can be kind of pricey. Buying two skeins of a pricey yarn just to make one pair of socks is a lot even for a spendthrift like me. (Ok, I am really not a spendthrift, but I do like nice yarn. MMMMMM, yarn!) Doing toe-up means that I will have a pair of socks that fit without fear of buying a second skein or ripping out and re-knitting.

So here is what I generally do for socks: First, I have a magic number for my sock yarn – knitting needle pairing. This magic number is the number of stitches used around most of the leg and most of the foot if knitting stockinette or rib. As an example, some sock yarns, I use 64 stitches on 2.5 mm knitting needles as my magic number. For some thinner and/or softer sock yarns, I use 72 stitches on 2.25 mm knitting needles as my magic number. The development of this number comes through testing and personal preference. For socks, I like a firmer stitch than I would for a sweater.

Please note, these numbers are not carved in stone. If I need to add or subtract a stitch to get a stitch pattern to workout correctly, I will do it. Knitting is not an exact science, and a stitch here or there is probably not going to make the difference in whether a sock will fit or not. If you’ll notice, both of my magic numbers are divisible by 8. This makes a lot of calculations that I do for toes and heels easier. I will get into those calculations in other posts. Being divisible by 8 (and the latter one being divisible by 9), also makes putting together stitch patterns for socks easier. Math is a wonderful thing!

While I have tried a number of different toes (that certainly sounds like an odd phrase) for socks, I keep going back to the one that I found in SKS, where a small rectangle is knit and stitches are picked up around the rectangle as the base for the increases for the toe. I find that this toe gives a nice curve to the tip (no “ears” that some people talk about with the figure 8 cast-on), a good length for the toes (whirlpool toe seems to be a bit too short for my foot), and it works well with hand-dyed yarns (no noticeable change in color sequence that can be seen on a short-row toe.)

Once I am done the toe, I am now up to my magic number; and I work the rest of the foot, with the top of the foot being in pattern, while the sole is in stockinette. But this leads to a big question, when do I stop knitting the foot, and start knitting the heel? This depends on two things: foot length and type of heel being knit.

Foot length is pretty self-explanatory. When knitting socks for myself, I just use the length of my forearm as a reference for the length of my foot, since they just happen to be the same. Oh, the wonders of the body! If I am making socks for someone else, I use the charts in SKS that convert shoe size to various foot measurements, including foot length. There are conversions available on the web as well, just do a Google search on “shoe sizes in inches”.

The type of heel that I am going to use for the sock matters in when I stop knitting the foot and start knitting the heel because different heel designs are of different lengths. (Foot length minus heel length equals when I start work the heel.) I generally choose among three heels: short row heel, heel flap gusset, and, most recently, the results of my heel experiment. In all three cases, I use something that I have already knit to determine this length: the toe.

For the short row heel, the heel is pretty much the same size and shape as the toe, so I just use the length of the toe as the length of my heel.

One thing that you will notice in this photo and the next couple is that this is all approximation. I really don’t like to break out the ruler or tape measure when knitting, which is why I use the toe for my measurements. It is a matter of convenience. In all cases the length of the toe is going to be a little longer than the heel measurement. Again, since knitting is not an exact science, this is ok. When faced with the choice of going a couple rows short on foot length as opposed to going a couple rows long, I always choose short, because the knitting will stretch to make up for the difference in length. For me, having my knitting stretch a little (which makes it wear a little faster) is a better option than having my knitting bunch up under foot (which will cause blisters and other general discomfort.) That said, my socks last me for years. My oldest pair of socks finally wore out after 15 years of use.

For the heel flap heel, I don’t use the entire toe length, but just the measurement of the increases for the toe doubled.

Why only the increase portion? Because I do a slip stitch pattern (eye of partridge) for the heel flap, which shortens the length a bit.

Finally, for the heel experiment, it is the length of the toe doubled.

I will go into more detail about the construction of the heel for the heel experiment in another post.

By the way, which heel I choose to knit is more about whim than anything else. Sometimes I feel like a nut; sometime I don’t. That is not to say that one heel doesn’t have certain design advantages over another, just that it really doesn’t play much of a factor in my choice.

At this point, all of my decisions are made. I knit the heel and start the leg, back to the magic number I was at just before the heel.

Now, why write all this up? Well, hopefully this will demystify toe-up socks for someone out there. I have heard a few people say “I can’t do toe-up socks.” Maybe this will start them on the path of being able to knit toe-up socks. If you have any questions, feel free to post them in the comments. (BTW, I am currently having router issues such that I am not able to send email out. If you sent me an email, I am not ignoring you. I am just having technical difficulties.)

Copyright 2009 by G. P. Donohue for

Apparently Nothin’


There has been a lot going on around here, but not a lot to show for it. A little over a week ago, I finished writing up the pattern for Sheila’s sock club so that everyone’s favorite test knitter could start knitting it. I still have some hints and tricks that I want to put in it, but the pattern itself is done, barring any corrections. I have received the winter edition of yarn from Sheila. And? SQUEEEE! But again, I can’t show you that yet.

I finished spinning up the single last night of the first course of Hungry for Handspun‘s Fiber Feast. I would show you, but it really doesn’t look much different than the last time I showed you. I am figuring on chain plying. What I will do with it, after that, I am not sure.

Finally, I am running again in the Komen Maryland Race for the Cure, in Hunt Valley, MD, on October 18. Unfortunately, this year I am not able to offer any prizes, but I did start the ball rolling by selling off some of my stash on eBay. The last buyer paid me this past week, so all of that is done and out the door. I will write up a lessons learned on that later.

If you would like to support me in the race, just go to this link.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

Thank you for your support.

Copyright 2009 by G. P. Donohue for



Well, after completing two projects, you would think I would be all giddy and happy and all that. And I was. For about a day. Then I got all moody, wondering what to do next. Granted, it was not like I didn’t have other projects that couldn’t just get off my duff and get back to; but I wanted to start something brand shiny and new.

This is when problems happen for me, because it is in these moody times that I start a project that I am really only half-hearted about just to start a project. Self-awareness is a wonderful thing. This time, instead, I allowed myself to stay moody trying to decide what to do next. (Poor Mr. Penney for having to put up with me.)

Well, I decided on a project! Continue reading



Well, here it is, the why and the how of entering your local county and state fairs? I am going to try to keep this as general as possible, not focusing on any craft or art in particular. Most fairs have a category for anything you can think of, so finding a place for you should be no problem. Continue reading

Nu Nu

Or Nuno Reference

Last weekend, I went to the Warped Weavers Guild meeting. I haven’t been to a meeting in a year because of the distance and scheduling conflicts. I dearly missed them, so when I was specifically invited to this meeting to celebrate my 40th with them (we will be celebrating my 40th all year!) I jumped at the opportunity.

The guild meetings were always such fun, because while there was an agenda with guild business, show and tell, and the program for the evening, the meetings were never so formal or so strict that anyone felt like she (or he, Hi Hank!) couldn’t participate or didn’t have input that was worth sharing. Rather, the opposite was true. Everyone was welcomed and encouraged to participate from the very first meeting. And being a small group, it is impossible to get lost in the crowd. This meeting was no exception.

I got there and met the new members of the group and got hugs from the veterans of the group. Everyone was pitching in to get stuff ready for the guild program, being presented by Becky. Once everyone had arrived that was going to arrive, the meeting began with guild business of reminding people of weaving demostrations that are coming up, setting up a special workshop, etc.

And then, my favorite part of most meetings, show and tell. This was always my favorite part with this guild because everyone seemed to come to the craft from a different direction and purpose, so I would get all kinds of ideas from everyone else. Rug weavers would bring one thing to the group, those doing tapestry something different, while those doing clothing something else. And then there are those that don’t weave at all. It is kind of like going surfing through all of these blogs; but the blogs discovered you rather than you discovering the blogs, if that makes sense.

This meeting, show and tell was comprised mostly of knitting. I took some comfort in this, since I haven’t woven anything since moving away from the guild. I think being away from the group has kind of stymied the flood of ideas that I had for weaving.

Following show and tell, was Becky’s program on nuno felting. Nuno felting differs from regular felting in that there is a layer of guazy silk fabric in amongst the wool. The silk helps the resulting felt have more drape as silk provides some of the stability for the felt that is normally taken care of by layers and layers of crossed wool fibers.

Becky had us make little nuno felt critters (or creatures or people, depending on how you look at them.) I won’t go into how the how thing is done, but it did involve bubble wrap, sheer curtains, pvc pipe, hot sudsy water, and lots of laughter. Use your imagination!

And my creation? Continue reading

If You Ask Me To


I’ll admit it. I can be very willful and independent. Tell me I can’t do something, and I will show you that I can. Tell me I have to do something, I will show you that I do not have to do it. This is especially true of my crafts.

A lot of times, people have turned me off of certain projects or techniques because of how they initially approached me with the project or technique. They say it with the best of intentions, but are just a wee bit overzealous. Here is a general one that seems to happen too often.

“Oh, you have to make this (insert project here)! I did, and I just loved it.”

Well, I am glad you had such a great time doing it, but I am not you. I have plenty of projects already in my queue. And what you are insisting that I do? Not happening. Not any time soon, at least.

Here are some specific instances from people about technique.

“You knit really inefficiently.”

I was knitting a scarf for Mr. Penney’s birthday while at a conference, and this is what one of the other people at the conference said to me. As a knitter, I am a thrower, not a picker. It is not that I don’t know how to pick. It is just that I prefer to throw. This woman was chomping at the bit, though, to convert me to being a thrower.

Judging by the look on this woman’s face and the rate at which she backed away from me after saying this, I must have had the look on my face like I was going to kill her right where she stood. I did take a bit of offense at the remark, partly because I didn’t see her as any great guns on the knitting or weaving front herself. (She was dropping what she thought were all of these “little pearls of weaving wisdom” during the weaving workshop, while having all of these problems with her warp and weaving that none of the rest of us were having.)

“You are going to have to learn to warp back to front. You can’t weave things like chenille warping front to back.”

This was told to me by a weaving teacher in a class she was teaching. After that statement, and how it was said to me (kind of condescendingly,) I never took another class from her again. Why? Because I knew from experience that her statement was patently false. Right before taking that class, I had woven my first chenille scarf, warping my loom from front to back with no problems. It made me wonder how much of what she was saying in class was fact as opposed to her own prejudice.

I have since learned to warp back to front, but I still do most of my warping front to back because I find it easier to do with fewer tools. It turns out there are a lot of weavers that think like this instructor, as I have read a number of them poo-pooing front to back warping. I am more in the camp of “do whatever gets you to your goal.” No one can tell how the loom was warped after the item is woven, anyway.

The thing with all of these remarks that are meant to help is that I might have been persuaded to change if it was just said in a different manner or if it was just reworded. But people get very passionate about all of this, which I can understand, and forget that I might not be going in the same direction with a craft as they are.

All of this said, I sometimes wonder how I come off to people when I talk to them about my projects or theirs. I often ask why people did something they way they did. Sometimes the response sounds kind of defensive, so I wonder if there was some inflection that I failed to put in the question. It sounds like they are saying in their head, “You Assh*le.”

If you had said that in your head when I have asked you a question about what you were making, please accept my apology. I am asking because I am really curious about why people choose one way over another. After all, you might know something that I don’t know!