Sunday, March 22, 2009

Shetland Triangle Shawl

A cascade of silk to enfold me. A gift from a fellow knitter, fiber artist, kindred spirit, and most importantly, a dear friend, who is known as Pink Knitter in all the important circles, i.e. Pink Knitter can be found here on Flickr and here on Ravelry. If you don't know Sherry go say hi, you won't be sorry you did!

Lace shawls always remind me of something a spider might have spun in the garden overnight. I spun this shawl using the Shetland Triangle pattern which is easy to knit, as all of Evelyn A. Clark's patterns are.

I like to think that I'm a renaissance woman knitting and wearing shawls from a bygone era. But unlike the shawls worn by our grandmothers I like to update the look with use of modern yarns and colors. I'm eccentric by some standards, but I don't wish to be conspicuously so. And yet. I am drawn to the beauty of authentic cottage shawls worn in that time that has now long passed away.

Have you ever heard of Tasha Tudor? Curiously clad in clothing of another time...... so goes the description of her in a recent Victoria Magazine Article . If you have never heard of this woman you are in for a treat discovering her legacy of art, baking, and of course, knitting. This iconic woman lived on a farm, dipped her own candles, and created and wore her own homespun shawls and on top of all that managed to find time to become a well known author and artist. Now that truly is a renaissance woman. She also was known for her frequent afternoon tea parties, which makes her all the more endearing to me. You can learn more about her at Tasha Tudor and Family.

Nancy Bush, an iconic woman in her own right, has given us all a chance to bring a little Tasha Tudor into our lives by writing a free cottage shawl pattern, aptly named Truly Tasha shawl which can be found on her retail site Wooly West. I think a beautiful rustic lace wool might be just the ticket for this pattern so I'm keeping my eyes pealed for just such a yarn.

Particulars: Shetland Triangle printed in Wrap Style; 1 skein Handmaiden Seasilk; US 6 needles. Modifications: I knit one extra repeat (for a total of 9 body repeats); I used the bind-off method used for the Flower Basket Shawl, because I believe that method gives a little sturdier edging. Notes on that bind-off method can be found on my Ravelry page. Some have eliminating the final edging rows to diminish the scalloped effect. But one reason I enjoy these shawls is the scalloped edging so I knit that part as written. Finished dimensions: 60" x 24"

Some Time Away in San Clemente, California

One of the things I love most about being in San Clemente is taking walks along the beach. We live on North Beach and there is a wonderful footpath that connects this beach with the San Clemente pier, and beyond.

We took these pictures on our walk down to the pier late on Saturday afternoon. It's a lovely time to take a walk as the sun is setting and the various bonfires are being lit all up and down the beach. I'll say this about San Clementians. They do love their beach Bar-B-Ques. And why not.

There is something particularly nice about grilling at the beach. Growing up in Santa Barbara we occasionally had family and church picnics down at the beach and those were happy times. If you have never had a picnic at the beach, you need to plan one right now!

We stopped for dinner at Cassano's Pizza (a family owned restaurant) situated directly across from the San Clemente Pier and enjoyed a casual meal of pizza and salad sitting out on their patio. It's nice to see Steve looking relaxed and happy as he always does when we are in San Clemente.

I know some of you have missed seeing Mr Puffy modeling lately. The reason is that Mr Puffy has expressed some concern that the pictures that I have chosen make him look foppish and he has been reluctant to pose. I have assured him that is not the case and no one thinks that. Nevertheless, I have acceded to his wish that he be allowed to pick the pictures of him that are posted. He chose this picture because it gives him an air of intrigue which he believes is better suited to his personality.

It's finally Spring and Easter will soon be here. I love to color eggs and ice cookies to celebrate the season and hope to visit a See's Candies for some chocolate eggs too. I hope you all are enjoying Spring and that the memories of cold will soon fade away when you see all the beautiful Spring flowers.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Keep Your Socks On! The Many Uses of Lycra

If you have read this blog before, then you probably know that I have the rare privilege of being friends with a knitwear designer. Without question her Designer Tips and Tricks have incalculably improved my knitting and so I figure it's about time I shared her with all of you! It is my hope that her sense of fun, creativity, and out of the box approach to knitting will open a gateway for you into new ways of thinking about your knitting. It is with great pleasure that I introduce Murielle of MurielleKnitwear and her first, of hopefully many, guest posts here on Mr Puffy's Knitting Blog.

Keep Your Socks On! The Many Uses of Lycra
By Murielle Hamilton

Lycra is one of the home knitter’s most underused resources. If it ever figures in their stash, it is in a ready-to-knit blend. Yet in industrial knitting, it is used frequently, usually with another yarn. This is because:

• It works wonders with legwarmers, socks, armwarmers and tube tops; really, with anything you wish would stop falling down!

• It is a great addition to the bottom of sweaters or sleeves, which, especially when knit in cotton or linen, tend to become wavy and loose.

• It gives the yarn memory and your knit will snap back in place, even after being stretched on the body for hours.

• It allows you to knit with bigger needles, if you wish, since the final product will shrink. That is also true of knitting thin yarns on bulky hand looms.

I have incorporated it into many of my designs: for example, the deep V neck sweater shown here has 2 ends of lycra blended with one end of alpaca in the bottom ribbing, so I can get that forgiving blousant look. Of course, you can wear it stretched out as well if you, like Claudia, are lucky enough to have a flat tummy!

Another example is the bolero jacket, which would not fit and stay around the body like it does without the addition of lycra. I added it only to the edge band, and it always looks impeccable.

For a fast and easy summer top, I added lycra here to make a chic tube top:

To graphically see the power of lycra, look at these pictures:

The swatch is knit on needles size 13 US (9 mm) in stockinette and garter stitches. The only difference between the top and the bottom of the swatch is that at the top of the swatch I added a strand of lycra along with viscose yarn for about an inch.

Lycra being very elastic, I had no problem stretching out the top portion of the swatch which had the added lycra. To give you a sense of how thin lycra is, the following picture is a shot of lycra next to the viscose yarn (a sock weight yarn) used in the swatch:

Technical Trick:

Lycra only works with applied heat. When you press or steam the area containing lycra, it will visibly shrink, gathering the texture together. Try it on swatches first: you won’t believe the result. If your garment looks a little stretched after a while, just apply a puff of hot steam to the lycra area and it will be like new.


Lycra is also called Elastane, Elite or Spandex depending on the manufacturer.


You can use it stranded with wool as well as with all cellulose fibers (cotton, rayon, linen, tencel, etc…) and silk. Do not change your gauge if you are only using it on a limited area. With wool, you will need to be cautious when applying heat, as you will want to shrink the lycra without felting the wool. I have used it most successfully with mohair and kid mohair, which don’t felt, although the alpaca in the sweater above does not seem to have suffered… ;)

Sometimes, especially with a bigger or heavier yarn, you may want to use two ends of lycra alongside it, to give it a stronger elasticity like I did in the bottom ribbing of the sweater.

If you are using lycra for more than a small part of the garment, do recalculate your gauge based on your pressed yarn/ lycra swatch. Adjust your needle size up until like what you see.

So where do you find this magic fiber? I get mine from Silk City Fibers ( in Paterson, NJ 07522 (Phone: (201) 942-1100) or (800) 899-7455). Theirs is called Sting, and is a blend of 83% nylon and 17% spandex. A few online retailers also sell Silk City Yarns. Sting is quite expensive due to its yield: a whopping 32,500 yards per pound, so it will last you forever. Try to get a small cone when you order. It comes in 7 colors: white, ecru (cream), coral red, maroon (burgundy), dark brown, navy and black and you’ll want the color most closely matching your yarn.

Contact: or visit her Etsy shop to see more of her beautiful designs.


After reading Murielle's article, Mr Puffy helpfully noted that it might have been a good idea to have added lycra to those Fetching mitts of mine that have stretched out so badly. Exactly so. Thank you Puff. I would also add that it was a mistake to use a silk based yarn for something where I needed the yarn to have memory. Live and learn.

St. Patrick's Day is Just Around the Corner!

Don't forget that St. Patrick's day is next Tuesday. I'm not Irish but I love this holiday because it's a great excuse to enjoy Irish folk music and beer! So this St. Patrick's Day kiss the Blarney stone , hoist a tankard of Guinness Extra Stout, and sing gustily along to your favorite Irish ballad (Roger Whittaker singing Danny Boy is one of my favorites). Have a hankie nearby, though, as some Irish folk songs are quite sad.

And until we meet again, on my next post slated for March 24, 2009....
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the hollow of his hand.

Traditional Irish Blessing