Blog - Patty Lyons | Knitting Teacher

Fasting and finished objects (or the Shul of knitting)

Yesterday was Yom Kippur. Although I did fast, I decided this year to skip Shul in favor of knitting. Brenda Dayne often talks about the church of knitting (for nice Jewish girl, Brooklyn Knit Chick, it is the Shul of Knitting). I decided it be nice to spend the entire day working on a something for someone else. Late last night (long after both sundown and fasting had passed) I cast off and blocked the scarf for my brother in law Colin. Here it is posing in my garden. It wasn’t an easy fast this year, and I got pretty woozy by late afternoon, so a simple scarf pattern was all I could manage.

I decided a good way to make a contribution to the world (in my own little crafty way) was to get more involved with charity knitting. If anyone has their favorite pet project, I’d love to hear about it.

I cast on today for the Red Scarf Project. I’m pretty pleased with how it’s looking so far. I’m going with a machine washable wool/acrylic blend. I figured machine washable would be important if it fell into the hands of a sloppy college age boy!

All this knitting for others has made my Spring Fling sweater slow down to a crawl. Here’s all the progress I managed to make in that:

Today I was sitting up on the roof deck, enjoying the freaky 78 degree day, listening to old Cast On episodes. We all know about charity knitting, but did you know about protest knitting? Neither did I. There’s a web site called Steal This Sweater (that name will not be lost on Abbie Hoffman fans). On the site are all sorts of machine knit sweaters with various political statements on them. There are also the Body Count mittens.

Here’s the text from the web site:

The Body Count Mittens

These mittens memorialize the number of American soldiers killed in Iraq at the time the mittens are made. Since the numbers escalate daily, each mitten has a different number and date. Seen together, the pair of mittens show a span of time and the increase in killed soldiers over that time. I began these mittens on March 23, 2005, when 1524 American soldiers had been killed in Iraq. After finishing the first mitten, I began work on the second mitten one week later, on March 31, 2005. The number of American troops killed in Iraq had risen to 1533 by then. This was a great project to knit in public, and I look forward to wearing them somewhere cold soon.

Thanks to all the free designers . . .

I got an e-mail from the very talented Marnie MacLean to find out what the problem was in the Evening Tank (that I had wrote about in “Summer Knitting had me a blast”). I must say I felt overcome with guilt for complaining about something offered out of the kindness and generosity that is so, wonderfully, present in the knitting community. I e-mailed her the math problems I found, but also the following:

. . . and, my apologies for not searching the internet for your e-mail address. I realize now that was a somewhat ungrateful and rude thing. I posted an apology on my blog comments as well. When I thought about the selflessness of people who post patterns for free (that I use all the time) I was somewhat ashamed when I re-read my post and saw how ungrateful it sounded. thank you for your work, and for sharing it with others.

So here’s a big shout out to all those kind and talented folks who offer up their designs and ask for nothing in return. If you find a mistake, instead of bitching about it in your blog (as I did), seek out the designer’s e-mail and respectfully submit your corrections.

I did poke around Marnie’s blog and found some great spinning tips! More about that later.

In the world of knitting . . . I finished my niece’s scarf. We’ll see how long she holds onto this one:

The last one I made for her, out of various bits of scrap yarn, she promptly lost. Ah well.

Here’s my brother-in-law’s scarf. It’s coming along nicely. The greens are flecked with all sorts of pretty reds, yellows, purples, and oranges. None of which he’ll see. He’s color blind. That pretty much sucks.


I’m suffering from Castonitis (cast-on-eye-tis). Although it’s not fatal, there is no pain, no itch, you might risk running out of needles. I’ve had a few happy cast offs this week, and then proceeded to go a little nuts with the casting on. I was SOOOOO thrilled to finally cast OFF the dreaded braided scarf (happy now Zeena?)

I also whipped up a little hat out of the hand spun, hand dyed wool I made

and last but not least. . . I finished the Sarah Tank. I’m really happy with the way it turned out. The pattern was only written for M-L, so I just messed around with the gauge a bit until I was happy with the smaller sizing. I made it from the really dreamy Debbie Bliss cotton angora.

That’s when the casting on madness began. Fist of all, I had wanted to get rid of the rest of the Filatura Lanarota Summer Soft I bought during the Smiley’s summer sale. I bought a bag of ten and only used two for the ballet t-shirt. I decided to cast on, what was probably going to be my last summer weight garment for a while, the Spring Fling.

Then the madness started. I found out I’m going to go out with the Jersey Boys national tour. We start rehearsal in late October, and I’ll be hitting the road on November 20th. This means, once again, no Thanksgiving with my family. I had promised my brother in law and my niece that I would bring them scarves for Thanksgiving. Now I have to finish the scarves before I see them in mid October. So I cast on a tweedy green garter slip stitch scarf for Colin

and a crazy novelty yarn (Fiona Feza) scarf for my niece Rachel.

I also bought a yummy skein of Alpaca from the NJ Sheep and Wool Festival. I’m making a simple cable scarf for David.

Last but not least in the “drowning in scarves” phenomenon . . . There’s the Red Scarf Project. For that I’m using a maroon yarn and casting on a cable, bauble scarf.

I’m in a bit of a panic thinking about packing for a tour. I feel like my knitting stuff is going to take a whole trunk. Thank god my union sets our luggage limit based on weight, and after all, yarn doesn’t weigh that much!


So here I sit feeling pretty good about my crafting ability. I’m making a hat out of the wool I spun and dyed myself.

Granted, it is the most simplistic hat pattern known to man . . . the wool came out uneven and chunky . . . the color isn’t what I wanted . . . what the hell? I suck!

I’m having a dilettante moment. (For my favorite musical definition of dilettante, check out my rockin’ pal Nell Balaban’s song. Just click on her name, and click on Dilettante on her site). A dilettante moment, we’ve all had them–usually after meeting someone who’s a real artist. Someone who does more than follow a pattern. Someone who, at the risk of sounding both trite and queer at the same time, follows her heart. I recently came across not one, but two such examples of our craft at its most impressive.

First was Christina O. She was the woman who taught me how to make my cardboard box Tensioned Lazy Kate (by the way, here are links to other people’s homemade lazy Kates: Stuck on Socks, and Keyboard Biologist). I met her at last week’s Sit n’ Knit NY. She (wait for it) felted her own wedding dress. WHAT? Now that may seem like some crazy heavy, smelly-when-wet, dress, but NO. It looked lighter than air. Here’s the description of the process from her blog:

The bodice is almost finished and I started on the petals for the skirt. This is really exciting. I love my electric sander. It really makes life easy. So here’s how I’m doing it. First, I cut the gauze in a petal shape. There are three sizes, as the skirt is longer in the back than the front, and I wanted to keep the number of rows the same. That means the petals in the back will be in a triangle shape with the larger ones in the middle, and then graduated sizes to the outside. After the gauze is cut, a petal is laid on the counter, wet down with soap/water spray, and the wool is laid on top. Once the areas are filled in, wet muslin is put on top of that, and I lightly sand it-a few seconds for each area. I flip the fabric over, and now the felt is stuck a little to the muslin. I peel it off like hot wax, at an angle away from the felt, so that I don’t disturb the placement of the wool. Next, I sand it some more, this time for longer to make sure the layers are attached. I flip it over and sand the backside for good measure, then rinse out the soap and full it on the washboard in the sink. Ahhhh. That’s all there is to it.

That’s right folks, “that’s all there is to it.” WHAT?!? Here’s a pic of the finished dress:

You all must go see the pics of the whole crazy process. Click on the photo album link.

Next there’s my friend Francesca’s mom. She crocheted and beaded, not only her own wedding dress, but her bridesmaid’s, matron of honor’s and flower girl’s as well. Here’s a blurb from the local paper:

(At her wedding on Saturday Miss Pauline Philomena Bagshaw wore a full-length dress and train which she had crocheted herself. The bodice and sleeves were edged with 1500 beads. She also made her bridesmaid’s and matron of honour’s crocheted dresses.)

And then there’s me: dabbler, trifler, idler, amateur, lightweight, tinkerer, dilet–wait a minute. I just finished my hat. It looks pretty good! The color in the yarn looks really neat. The uneven weight turned out cool. I rock!

Muddah, faddah kindly disregard this letter. (you’re either old enough to get that reference or you’re not. Sorry.)

Men’s sweater vest

I’m looking for a simple sweater vest for a very picky man. Does anyone have a pattern with a single cable, and a v neck? Everything I’ve showed David he’s nixed for one reason or another.

Spinning is like crack!

So I spun my first 6 oz of wool. It’s incredibly addictive. All I can think of is my next roving fix. Oh sure it starts with a free drop spindle and a bit of wool, next you’re buying a few dollars worth of roving, next thing you know you’re cruising eBay looking for Spinning Wheels.

Here’s my crazy drop spindle made from CDs and my first spindle full of wool.

My first 3 oz. were pretty chunky. Christina gave me a bit of blue roving. I practiced on it and plyed it with a commercial yarn. I knit this sad little swatch with me very first plied yarn:

After a little practice, I took a shot at the other 3 oz. of wool. I did a little better on the old drop spindle. I Kool Aid dyed both plys a light raspberry. I meant it to be a lot darker, but I didn’t use enough Kool Aid. David kept threatening to drink it because it smelled “so sweet and tasty”.

Here’s my first ply before and after Kool Aid dying:

I built the bizarre little cardboard box contraption that Christina drew for me. I was initially going to ply each 3 oz spindle with commercial yarn, but I decided to ply them together after all.

And finally, days later. . . 65 yards of pinkish chunky, hand spun, hand dyed wool. YEAH!

I’m doomed!!!!!!!

Crazy Weekend of Knitting – part two

If your just checking the blog today, scroll down (trust me it’s worth it). This is actually part two of a post. There was too much for one post.

On to Knit Out New York. Holy @^%$ that’s a lotta knitters in one place! I got there at 11:58 am (it started at noon), and there were already thousands of people there. Usually I love being around knitters, but being around 30,000 knitters when free patterns, free yarn, and free needles are being given out, was not for the faint of heart. I don’t know what the heck was going on at the Michael’s booth, but those women looked like they’d kill you just as soon as look at you, so I kept moving.
I enjoyed the fashion show. The dogs were really hard to photograph, because they moved kinda quickly. The kids were even harder to photograph. All my kid shots came out blurry. Here are some of the doggy fashion show.

(the dog wouldn’t put on the sweater)

The human fashion show was really long, but the always fabulous Yarn Harlot kept things lively. The whole show broke down into three distinct groups:
1) things I would knit and wear
2) things that I admire, but wouldn’t wear
3) just because you can knit it, doesn’t mean you SHOULD knit it

1 – Things I would knit and wear
(my fave – Lion Brand Cashmere Blend. Knit it Fall/Winter 06)
(I liked this as a top, but was horrified when they said it was a dress. Is the designer high?)

2- Things that I admire, but wouldn’t wear

3- Just because you can knit it, doesn’t mean you SHOULD knit it

(WAY too much)

(What’s with the plate on her head!!)

(RONG – Wrong!)

After the wool fashion show in 89 degree weather, it was time for a B&N iced coffee break before meeting up with the Sit n’ Knit NY group. I met some really cool knitters. I hooked up with some of my fellow bloggers, Annie, Hila, Necia. I also met this amazing spinner, Christina. She taught me how to ply the two singles that I’m going to spin. She even drew me a little sketch of how to make some crazy cardboard box thing. Can’t wait to try it. Thanks all.

Crazy Weekend of Knitting

So my fun filled few days of knitting began Thursday night at the Tea Lounge in Park Slope (I know, not technically the weekend, but just go with me. There I met the Park Slope Knitting Circle. It was really a great evening. First of all, love my Tea Lounge! If they sold yarn it would be my fave place on earth. Hmmm, that’s an idea. I met a lot of cool knitters. My favorite moment in the evening was when Emily nonchalantly walked in carrying her spinning wheel. As you might imagine . . . she turned a few heads. She was nice enough to give me a little tutorial. I found it pretty cool, but lets face it. I’m out of control enough with the knitting. I can’t get into spinning. . . right. . . (gulp).

(Emily on her wheel)

Then I saw this woman knitting a beautiful sweater out of yarn she spun herself. Well Alexandra started talking to me about how great spinning is. I said I don’t really have any room for a wheel. She said “you can spin on a drop spindle”. I said “you are not going to be satisfied until I start spinning”. Well Alexandra, Emily, wait till ya hear what I did on Saturday!

(Alexandra and her super cool hand spun wool)

So next stop on Patty’s tour of cool knitting spots was the New Jersey Sheep and Wool festival. It was my first ever Sheep & Wool Festival. It was also my consolation prize for not being able to go to Rhinebeck. It’s the same weekend as my family reunion. Although I toyed around with the idea of disowning my own family, I came out of my yarn daze in time to realize that wasn’t a great idea. As soon as my pal Francesca and I arrived we signed up for the 10:30 am spinning workshop (Happy now Alexandra??). We got a crazy drop spindle made from two CD’s. It was really hard to get the hang of. Francesca said hers looked like dred locks. Of course, by the end of the workshop I was shopping for rowving. I decided to buy 6 oz because I figured that would take me a while.

(spinning class)

(Francesca spinning her dred locks)

Here are some picks from the parade of breeds, the adorable Alpacas. So cute you wanna take them home. A tiny boy, like four, came up to one of the Alpaca owners and asked “Can I feed the bunnies?”. The guy didn’t have the heart to explain the whole, they’re not giant bunnies, thing, so he just said “I don’t have anything to feed them.

(Parade of Breeds)

(Strangely evil looking sheep)

(nice bunnies . . .I mean sweaters) (SCARY sheep)

(Francesca with the sheep of her homeland!)

Way off in the corner of the barn, segregated from all the other sheep was the sad sight of racism in the animal kingdom. The dreaded KKK sheep:

Okay, not really. I think they were just keeping there coats clean until after the show. But we did think they looked just like KKK sheep. They kinda freaked me out.

The craziest thing we saw was the sheep dog demonstration. They were herding, wait for it, geese. It was one of the more bizarre sights in the world. I don’t know why the site of dogs ganging up on foul to make them walk through an obstacle course, renewed my faith in humanity . . . but it did.

(get in there, don’t make me have to get up!)

Of course what day would be complete without a sheep shearing a fleece auction. I was feeling full of love for these creatures that gave me my fiber. I called home and told David I was going to buy a small sheep to keep up on the roof deck. He was not amused.

(thank you for all you do for us)

(This one I just call – TRUST)

(why can’t I own this sheep?)

coming up next . . . Knit Out NY!!!!!!

Read twice, Knit once

So, I’m cruising along a few nights ago on my Sarah Tank Top, and I’m feeling a stockinette malaise setting in. Kind of getting bored, kind of itching for a little yarn over, purl together action. So I measure and I think “yeah, it’s time for the cool edge pattern that repeats in the center of the top”. I happily knit a whole round until I realize that I forgot to do the increase round you need to do before the pattern. %#@$%!!! Unknitting a whole round of pearl togethers and yarn overs is a stone cold drag.
Meanwhile, back in to the world’s most tedious project. My friend Zeena saw a black, white and grey braided scarf last winter (for $45.00!). I told her “screw that, I’ll just make you one”. I’ve been knitting working on it on and off for eleven months. Knitting three REALLY long strips of knit two, purl two in sock weight yarn is so boring. I keep the strips rolled up so I can carry them on the subway easier. It makes it look cooler than it is.

tomorrow I’ll tell you all about my crazy knitting weekend (Park Slope Knitting Circle on Thursday, NJ Sheep and Wool Festival Sunday, Knit out NY and Sit n’ Knit NY on Sunday)

Summer knitting had me a blast (or hot town, knitting in the city)

It’s rainy and 65 here in beautiful Brooklyn. I’m desperately trying to get my Sarah tank top done before there are no more 80 degree days left.

As promised, I’m going to sum up Patty’s summer of knitting. My summer of psycho crazed knitting began in June when I had my first summer off in years. I was able to spend more time with David then I have in . . . forever, and hang out on my deck and knit. Some might see this as unemployment, but my pal Nell simply called it “P & D’s summer V” and it ROCKED!

Here’s where you could find me most days:
The first early summer sweater I finished was a bit of a trauma. It was the Moda Dea Curious Diamond top in Distrato Tutti Purple yarn. I like to call it the muppet sweater. This pattern is a LIE!! See the nice model, see the nice model wearing a form fitting sweater, see the nice model wearing a sweater that has NOTHING TO DO WITH THE PATTERN. So, I knit the entire front (yes, I did a gauge sample, I’m kind of a nut about doing that) and it looked like a shapeless potato sack. I bravely, naively, stupidly knit on thinking “I’m sure the pattern writer knows best, it will all come together.” I knit the back. I frogged it and started again. I rewrote the pattern entirely, removed one whole pattern repeat and added shaping to the side. This is the result:
The yarn is this crazy furry stuff that makes me feel a bit like Elmo when I wear it, but that’s life.

With a closet FULL of projects, I did the only thing a girl can do as the summer heats up. .. buy summer weight yarn! As the temperature rose (and rose and rose!) it was time to put away all thoughts of wool and alpaca and anything that came from a furry beast, and turn our attention to all things cottony blendy.

Next up was the adorable xback ribbon tank. It knit up in a couple of days. My problem is the ribbon yarn I used was really stretchy, thus making it a little (ehem) whorey to wear braless. I ended up knitting a little shelf bra inside. My mother would be so proud. I had a skein and 1/2 left over, so I made a little shrug

With a big ole bag of cotton & viscose blends, cotton & linen blends, and cotton & strange chemically sounding word blends it was time to delve yet deeper into the wonderful world of summer tops. First stop the Honeymoon Cami. What the hell would I do without I loved knitting this top, and although I though at first the designer was high when she called a ssk a right slanting decrease. I decided to go on blind faith (although still stinging from the whole muppet sweater affair). It turned out FAB! I think she just meant that ssk was the decrease on the right side of the sweater. Whatever, all is forgiven, cause check it out:

Next came another tank, Evening Diamonds, and another r-0-n-g, wrong pattern. This time I only got halfway through the front before I realized the math was all wrong. By the time you get to dividing for front and back you don’t have the right amount of stitches. I counted backwards from the divide to figure out the right number of stitches to cast on. It was also my first foray into crochet (for the edge).

Since the little Evening tank took me a good long while. I decided to move on to instant gratification time. Yes, I’m talking Loop d Loop ballet t-shirt. It knit up (hand to god) in 3 1/2 hours. I bought a bag of ten Filatura Lanarota Summer Soft at Smiley’s and it was perfect for this top.

I got a huge cone (my first) of greyish lavender mohair from David’s mom. People are constantly dropping yarn and unfinished sweaters off at her house. I told her she could go into business finishing other people’s projects. I usually walk away with a little sumin’ sumin’ for the old stash every time I visit. The mohair seemed perfect for the Fluffy lace camisole and pull off cowl from Weekend Knitting. I’d been meaning to make it for a while, but hadn’t learned how to crochet, for the edging. Now that I conquered crochet for the evening tank. I dove it. It’s just a big tube, no shaping, so it got a little headachey after awhile, and it didn’t look as good on me as the model, but I still like it.

More later about my trip to the NJ Sheep and Wool Festival, and of course, Knit Out NY!

Finally . . .

After years of saying “why would anyone want to read what I have to write” (all the while reading every knitting blog I could find), I finally gave in. My first post is kinda long – I’m just catching up.

So, here I am . . . a little about me. I’m a Stage Manager who lives in FABULOUS Park Slope Brooklyn. Years ago when I was working at Lincoln Center I used to sit in rehearsal and watch Ira Weitzman (the Musical Theatre Associate Producer) knit hats. I was fascinated by the strange and wonderful circular needles. I had learned to knit when I was a kid, but I never got past the ole’ garter stitch scarf stage. My next step towards knitting obsession was when I was working as a Stage Manager on the Broadway show 42nd Street.

(Company shot – that’s me in the black shirt & jeans in the first row)

Many of the people from the hair and wardrobe department would knit on the deck (backstage) during the show. I finally asked Jack, one of the hair guys to teach me to knit. . . four years, many garments, and many hundreds of dollars of yarn later, here I am.

For my first post, I’ll give you all an abbreviated rewind of my year. This past season has been full of knitting triumphs and disasters.

Last summer I was in Seattle with the pre-Broadway (which in this case turned into STILL not on Broadway) run of Princesses.

There was far too much moving scenery, and thus too many opportunities for chorus girls to be run over, for me to get much knitting done backstage. Not like Dessa Rose. . .that tech (the time in the rehearsal process when you move to the theatre and add all the sets, lights, costumes etc.) was so long I got three pairs of socks done, and started a poncho!
Next up in my season was Irving Berlin’s White Christmas. That show had a character who was supposed to be knitting a scarf on a train. The actress didn’t know how to knit. I taught her the knit stitch, and another yarn obsessed freak was born! By the time the show was over she finished her first scarf and hat. I was so proud.

As for my nine weeks in San Francisco, I had a Stitch and Bitch obsessed winter.

Here’s my version of the marsupial tote. I made it a messenger bag, and added a little stripe.
Here’s my Under the Hoodie
and last but not least, my Manly Sweater (on my manly man, David)
Before my summer vacation began, I had to survive a full Season at Encores! Encores is kind of hard to explain. For fans of Big Brother All Stars, think of the fast forward week (where they had to do a whole week of shows in one day). That’s what Encores is to musical theatre. It’s doing a big ole’ giant musical in two weeks. It’s Broadway on crack. With that schedule, it’s a miracle I got any projects off the needles. I managed to finish my lace scarf for my sister. I made it from a ball of REALLY thin mohair that was given to me as a thank you gift from the actress I taught to knit in White Christmas. When my fellow Stage Manager (and expert knitter) Alissa saw it, she said “why would you want to knit with thread!” After finishing it I wondered the same thing, but it turned out kinda swell.
My favorite project this spring was the Bolero sweater from Weekend Knitting, by the fabulous Melanie Falick. It was pretty tricky, and it was the first thing I ever knit that looked EXACTLY like the picture in the book. When does that ever happen? I knit it with Cervinia Londra in Berry Heather. I bought it on sale at the crazy big Smiley’s Yarn Sale (a huge yarn shop in Queens) last spring. Okay, I know it’s kind of queer, but I had to pose just like the book.

That takes me up to my fabulous summer vacation. More about that and my summer’s worth of FOs in my next post.