Giovannina Stole


I received tons of requests for information about the shawl in the blocking post from last week. The pattern is called Giovannina Stole and is published by Skacel (#21100405). It is not available on Ravelry right now, but you can call your local yarn shops to find it. I bought my copy at So Much Yarn in the Pike Place Market.


This pattern is absolutely lovely and a total labor of love - it took me a LONG time to finish it. I did not knit it straight through as each section is 30 rows and each are different, which takes a while to get used to in the beginning so I could not do it in front of the television or when people were talking to me for awhile. If you are going to knit it, you should note that my copy did not provide for two repeats of the middle section in the large chart, but you have to do it for the pattern to work out. 


I used Madeline Tosh Merino Light in Saffron (it took approximately 2.5 skeins) and a size 4 needle. Since I used a different yarn and needle size than recommended, I only repeated Chart  D 13 times instead of the recommended 20 times and, after blocking, it ended up approximately 65 inches as suggested.  

For this project, you may need:

Blocking - How To Do It

Earlier this week I wrote about why I block knit and woven items - and you should, too! This is a follow up with instructions about how I block. There are a billion tutorials on blocking online, so there are probably hundreds of ways to do it, but this is the system that works best for me. 

blocking / knitting /

I do not use expensive or fancy equipment for blocking. Eventually I will ask for the blocking mats as a gift, but for now I just use a towel pinned into the rug for large items and a small quilting mat for smaller items

Here's how I block:

1) Prepare a sink, bowl or other appropriately sized bin (the whole item needs to fit into it and be under water) by making sure it is clean while being careful not to use any harsh chemicals to clean it so that it does not ruin your piece (i.e., do NOT use bleach to clean your sink and then put your item into the sink as any left over bleach may mark your item). I use a basic plastic bin so I only have to rinse it out with water. 

2) Pour a small amount of softening soap into your sink or bin. I use Soak Wash as a soap, but I hear that other people use a small amount of dish soap or laundry detergent. I like Soak because you do not have to wash it out. 

3) Fill up your sink or bin with water. Make sure not to fill it all the way to the top as the water will rise when the item is placed into it.

4) Place your item into the prepared water and wait 15 - 20 minutes.


5) Gently remove the item from the water and let water run out. I like to support the item on the bottom so it does not stretch. Do NOT ring the item. 

6) Have a towel placed on the floor. Carefully place your item on the towel and roll the towel with the item inside.


7) Gently step on the towel to get the water out of it. Unroll the towel. 


8)  Where to lay the piece: If you don't have a blocking mat or if your piece is very large, think about where you will put it to pin it before you start the process. Consider whether the dye in the yarn will bleed. If so, you may not want to put your red, blue, etc., knitted piece on your white bedspread or cream colored rug (also be careful with your towels!).   

9) Follow the instructions in your pattern for what size to block your item. If it is a sweater, the pattern should instruct you as to what size each piece should be. If the item does not have a specific desired size, try to make it as straight as possible. Use a ruler or measuring tape to help. When you have the desired size, place pins along the edges of the item so that the item is secured to your blocking mat, rug, etc. 

blocking / knitting / cute cat /

10) Leave the item there to dry. Watch out for cats as they like to lay on the item and can get their claws stuck in the item (I learned this the hard way). When your item is dry, remove the pins. Make sure you get them all out and pull your item gently so that it doesn't pull your item if there is still a pin stuck in it.


Here are a few basic items that you may find helpful for blocking:

How to block if fairly easy as long as your project isn't too difficult. I hope this helps!

Blocking - Why Do It?

There are a ton of blocking tutorials online, but a few people asked about it after I posted that I was blocking, so I thought I would join the club and write about it, too. In case you don't know what "blocking" is, it is a finishing process where you steam, spray or soak a knit or woven piece or pieces so that you can stretch or you can redistribute the stitches/fabric. The most asked question was why I block because it seems like an unnecessary pain. I block to shape items, to make them softer, to make the fabric expand and settle a bit.  Here is an example of squares for a quilt I am knitting before and after blocking. The before is the dark purple on the left and the after are the pink squares on the right. The difference is astounding! 


I don't block absolutely everything. With knitting, I block anything that needs to be shaped, including sweaters, anything that has curled while knitting, any garments that I am giving to a child and anything that needs to be made to a certain size. With weaving, I generally soak the item first or wash it on gentle cycle in the washing machine and then dry it on the lowest setting in the dryer. If you weave towels or other heavy use items, it's generally ok to wash the items and dry them however you would normally do so. Depending on what fabric you use, each strand of the woven item may get a bit plumper which leads to a more satisfying cloth look. With this piece I thought the weave was not tight enough until I washed it:

weaving / blocking /

I am working on a tutorial with a bit more detail about blocking items and will post it later this week. 

Charity Knitting Request

Oh my goodness, we watched Captain Phillips the other night and it was SO much better than we expected! There were a few moments where the Tom Hanks we know and love came through, but I was pretty captivated with the rest of it. I have to admit that I never really thought about the shipping industry, which is embarrassing as we live near the Port of Seattle (which I have since learned is the fourth busiest port in the US).  I am so much more interested in the Port now and want to take a tour. 

Ship leaving the Port of Seattle /

On another note, I received an email that Afghans for Afghanistan is in great need of donations of hand knit, wool or alpaca baby hats for newborn to 1 years old as well as 7 years old to adult sizes. The organization collects items for those in need and sends them to a hospital in Afghanistan. If you are looking for something easy to make this weekend or have a bunch of wool scrap yarn laying around, this is the project for you. The deadline for them to receive donations for the current shipment is currently July 3, 2014, but they are requesting an extension. More specifics on the rules and regulations is on their website here.

baby hat pattern / knit /

The hat above is an easy baby hat pattern. I recommend the following:

Materials: Double pointed needles of a size to get 5 stitches per inch (I used size 6) and 1 ball (or scraps that equal a ball) Cascade 220 Superwash. For the hat above, I used two colors of leftover scrap yarn and changed colors every three rows. 

Cast on 64 stitches, put a marker and join to knit in the round. Be careful not to twist the yarn as you join it. If you do twist the yarn, you won't be able to fix it and will have to start over.

Work in stockinette stitch (knit every round) until the hat measures 5 inches from the edge. Decrease as follows:

Rnd 1: *k6, k2 tog,* repeat from * to * around (56 sts remain)
Rnd 2: knit
Rnd 3:*k5, k2 tog,* repeat from * to * around (48 sts remain)
Rnd 4: knit
Rnd 5: *k4, k2 tog,* repeat from * to * around (40 sts remain)
Rnd 6: knit
Rnd 7: *k3, k2 tog,* repeat from * to * around (32 sts remain)
Rnd 8: *k2, k2 tog,* repeat from * to * around (24 sts remain)
Rnd 9: *k1, k2 tog,* repeat from * to * around (16 sts remain)
Rnd 10: k2 tog all the way around (8 sts remain)

Cut the yarn leaving approximately an 8 inch tail and thread it through the remaining 8 stitches. Pull it tightly and secure the end by pulling yarn to the inside of the hat through the center of those stitches. Weave in the ends. The hat should be approximately 5.5 to 6 inches tall and at least 11 inches around. 

Happy knitting!

Knitting, Weaving or Crochet: What's Your Method?

A number of people have asked about the differences between knitting, weaving and crochet so here is a very simplistic explanation of each to try to clear it up a bit. Knitting, weaving and crochet are similar in that they are all ways to make cloth or form fabric. The technique used to make the fabric and how the construction looks when the cloth is finished are the main differences. 

knitting, weaving or crochet / what's your method /


Weaving is a system of making fabric with two separate sets of yarn (the warp and the weft). The warp is wrapped around the loom and runs the length of the fabric. The weft is entirely separate yarn that goes back and forth across the width of the fabric as the warp strands are systematically moved up and down. The moving of the warp up and down while the weft is moved back and forth creates a sort of grid that holds all the strands together. If you look at fabric and it looks like a grid, it is probably woven. The yarn for the warp and weft can be the same or different. 

houndstooth weaving / what does weaving look like /


Knitting uses two or more needles to form fabric. The stitches the knitter is working with are held on one needle and additional stitches are made by using a second needle to pull a strand of yarn through loops held on the first needle. The knit stitches are only removed from the needle when an additional loop is made through that particular stitch. The new stitch is usually held on the second needle. Knit fabric often takes on "V" shapes on one side. The other common knitting stitch is known as a "purl", which is what it looks like on the other side of the "V".  It is worth noting that it is common and possible to change yarn or knit with multiple strands of yarn at the same time and that it is also common to wrap the yarn around the needle to create lace.    

knit example /


Crochet is typically made with a single hook, a strand of yarn and a series of loops. Only one or two loops are on the hook at a time, which is different from knitting as most stitches must stay on the needle to preserve the work when knitting. Crochet is a fairly easy way to make circles, squares and lace out of a single or multiple strands of yarn and it is easy to change colors of yarn as well. 

crochet sample /

Hopefully, now you will be able to look at pieces of cloth and determine which method was used to make each. Look at the shirt you are wearing up close. Which does it look like?

How to Drill A Drainage Hole for a Potted Plant

Why does it seem like the cutest pots do not have drainage holes in the bottom? Last summer I was tempted and bought three pots that did not have drainage holes because they were so cute.  Of course, I had to replace the two smaller plants around the Fourth of July because they weren't doing so well without drainage. I put the most lovely smelling rose bush in the larger pot and it thrived all summer, made it through the winter and then died as it suffered root rot in May after I unwrapped it and it was exposed to the great rains of spring in the Pacific Northwest. 

drill a hole in a potted plant / garden /

This year I decided to take matters into my own hands and drill holes in the bottom of these lovely pots. I am not a drill master and was not sure that it was going to work out, but it was surprisingly easy! 

Here's how I drilled the holes:

prevent root rot / gardening /

1) Gather the necessary supplies: a drill (make sure it is charged if it is cordless); a diamond head drill bit; a towel; and a spray bottle or dish of water.

2) If your pot has dirt in it, empty out your pot and clean it out. You can see how wet the dirt was at the bottom of my pot (no wonder the rose bush had root rot!), so I had to dry it with a paper towel and then let it air dry for a bit as well.

steps to drill a hole in a pot / gardening /

3) Lay down a towel. Turn the pot upside down and place it on the towel so that the bottom is facing up.

4) Spray a generous amount of water or just pour a little bit of water on the bottom of the pot.

5) Get ready to drill! Note that if you are drilling a ceramic pot, it may make a loud screeching sound. The whole process takes a few short minutes so do not be deterred by the noise.

6) Hold the drill on a 45 degree angle and start drilling. Be careful because the drill can jump around a bit until it gets a grip on the bottom of the pot.  A bunch of the other online tutorials that I watched recommended turning the drill on before putting it against the pot, but this did not work for me. Go slowly and figure out what works for you.

learn to drill a hole in a pot for a plant / garden /

7) When you feel a good ridge in the spot you are drilling, move the drill to a 90 degree angle (straight up in the air) and continue drilling until the drill goes through the pot, leaving a hole. You may need to add additional water as you go along. Be extra careful that you are putting pressure on the drill, but not leaning your body weight on the drill because you could fall over when the drill goes through the pot as it can go through quite suddenly.

drill a hole tutorial / plant / pot / garden /
gardening / drilling a hole /

8)  If you want an additional hole or holes (depending on the size of your pot and the size of your diamond head drill bit), start at step number 4 and work to the end. Just make sure there is a reasonable amount of space between the holes.

prevent root rot / drill a hole in a pot tutorial /

9) When you have as many holes as you want, you are finished. Turn the pot over, clean up the towel (it will probably be a bit messy so make sure you do this somewhere you won't be upset if it gets a bit wet or sludgy) and plant your beautiful flowers. 

Happy planting!

A Special Gift

I am mid-project on about 18 different things today (both yarn related and wedding related; I guess that's what happens when you only have four weeks to go - eek!), so I thought I would feature a fun handmade birthday gift that I received: this great pair of air plants with a magnet on each from my friend, Genevieve, over at Bark and Purl!

Air plants by Bark and Purl / gift / diy /

Aren't the corks great? I love the one with the ship and castle. These are super cute and easy to provide care for when you have them.  All you have to do is carefully pull the plant out of the cork and run the roots under water once each week. 

Air plants by Bark and Purl / diy / blog /

Genevieve is really creative and I was delighted to receive these air plants as a gift. I thought I would share her lovely blog with you, too!

Yarn in Videos

I love it when I am out and about in the world and see how someone has integrated yarn into a totally unrelated topic. We recently visited the EMP Museum in Seattle to see an exhibition on music videos and I was pleasantly surprised to see part of the set from the Walkie Talkie Man video by French film director Michel Gondry.  

Walkie Talkie Man Video / EMP Museum /

The set is made from yarn and buttons. Even the projector and four pictures on the wall are knit. It was really cool to see in person. If you are in Seattle, stop by the EMP and check it out. The rest of the exhibit was pretty interesting as well.  

Walkie Talkie Man

I also came across the video below on the Colossal website. We've all seen a ton of yarn bombing in the last couple of years, but this is the first time I have ever seen yarn used in such a touching way.

According to the website, this video is titled Moving On and is a stop-motion video from Ainslie Henderson, which was made for the British rock band James.  The video is also available on their website. 


We received so many generous gifts from family and friends at my bridal shower a few weeks ago. It was really touching and sort of unbelievable to have so many thoughtful people in our lives.

papyrus thank you cards / bridal shower / thanks / warp or weft /

While we love all of our gifts (especially this electric wok that we've used almost every night for the last two weeks), I wanted to share some of the handmade items that we received from our Etsy registry. Here's a beautiful handmade vase:

Beautiful vase from the object enthusiast

Beautiful vase from the object enthusiast

The gold flecks are unbelievable in person. I'll post a few more photos of handmade gifts in the coming weeks leading up to the wedding.

Bugs and Balls

The aphid battle persists. I am out there every morning with my spray bottle. I may have to start doing it twice a day. I am still determined to beat them without chemicals. How Northwest of me, right?

aphids on a rose bush / warp or weft /

In fiber news, I finished a large project that is a gift. I can't wait to share it with you. It took me a year of working on it a bit at a time. So of course, I picked up another project right away. The yarn was too slippery and thin to mechanically spin it into a ball, so I had to wind this ball by hand. It looks more like an onion than a ball, but it is ready to go. I'll be making the Clapotis wrap with a plum metallic yarn from Blue Heron Yarns. The pattern is free and I am excited for it to be a little sparkly. So many people have said - "this was really popular a few years ago." It's really pretty, so I am bringing it back.

ball of blue heron yarns plum metallic / warp or weft /

Have a great weekend. Do something outside if you can. We could all use a little fresh air.