Wednesday, January 05, 2022

Hand Crafted Memories

Mike and I are about to embark on our first long vacation since summer 2019. We are heading to San Diego for a week -- a week during the school year. This is a first for us. For the last 30 plus years we have been constrained by the academic calendar and have had to put up with crowds and higher prices for traveling during peak times. 

This trip is only possible because, while we are both still in academia, Mike is on a college schedule and it is currently intersession, and I now have a year round role in a Central office, not in a school and can take my vacation time with more flexibility.

When we travel I always bring my knitting with me. Always. 

Often I come home with more yarn than I left with and, I usually come home with at least one pair of socks finished on the road. Sometimes they are even on my feet!

It is vital that I have my knitting with me. Knitting makes me feel productive while enduring flight delays and give me an outlet for my nervous fidgets while making our way from here to there.

My knits also serve as a memory time stamp. For example, while on our epic trip to Harrogate, England I finished three or four pair of socks. Two pair, in particular, will always evoke memories of that trip. 

The socks at the top and bottom were knit with yarn brought from home. The pair in the middle, and a second pair (not shown) were knit with yarn bought in England. While both of my kids have socks knit in England from British wool, I have socks (top pair) knit en route from wool purchased in Lancaster, PA.  See, time stamps from two different trips combined in one pair of socks!

Mike's hat was made from yarn purchased in a lovely shop just outside of Leeds and knit here in NYC. 

This shawl was knit from wool acquired in Dublin in February 2020 while on a trip with my daughter. The wool is a rarity in that it comes from Irish Sheep, was dyed in Ireland and was started in Ireland on needles purchased along with the yarn. It was finished back here in NYC during the weeks following the start of the pandemic. Whenever I wear it I remember that wonderful trip and the fact that the yarn store was our very first stop after dropping our things at the hotel.

For this week's adventures I give you this!

A pair of socks with half of one foot to finish, The Russell Street Shawl, still in early stages, and a pair of socks in larval form. My thoughts are that I will work on the socks while waiting in the airport and the shawl while in flight. Sock knitting will be with me where ever we wander, ready to take out while visiting with friends, waiting for a meal or just relaxing after a strenuous day of sightseeing.

And, just in case you think I forgot about Mike, he is bringing his paints with him and will return with his own hand crafted memories.

Sunday, December 05, 2021



It’s that time of year again, Chanuckah. Actually, by the time most people read this Chanuckah 2021 (5782 in the Jewish calendar) will be over. If you want to know when Chanuckah is next year view this video: A Chanukah Song then come back.

So … Latkes.

As I type this the latkes are frying. 

O.k., not really, that would be dangerous. (Unless I wasn’t the one making the latkes, then it would be fine.)

Actually, I’m early in the prep stage. The potatoes are peeled and cut and soaking in a bowl of water and the onion is ready to be cut as soon as I am ready to grate.

Yes, I said grate.

There are many schools of thought as to what makes the perfect latke. There are those who coarsely chop their potatoes and then grind them up in a food processor, there are those who steadfastly use a box grater and then those, like me, who split the difference, grating the potatoes and onions using a food processor with a grating blade.

I grew up with both types of potato prep, first learning on a box grater and being taught that the best latkes always had a bit of blood in them. I passed that lesson on to my kids with the caveat that blood was not actually a secret ingredient and mechanical grating was perfectly acceptable.

In later years I learned the latkes could also be made using a food processor. Then I made up my own mind.

Back when Mike and I were young and adventurous we did a lot of cooking together (yes, I did cook once upon a time and I liked it). We were fans of many of the t.v. chefs and had shelves full of cook books. 

One of our favorite cookbooks was written  by Paul Prudhomme of New Orlean’s fame. We pored over his books and even made a pilgrimage to his restaurant in the Big Easy while on our honeymoon.

Chef Prudhomme had a recipe for cajun potato pancakes. I really don’t remember how they tasted but I do remember the texture and prep and adopted that for my own latkes.

The Prudhomme recipe called for potatoes, onions, salt, pepper and cajun spices. The potatoes and onions were grated, strained in a colander and mixed with the other components. They were then dropped in small dollops into a pan of hot oil until crisp on both sides and then drained on paper towels.

That is how I make my latkes -- minus the cajun spices. 5 ingredients. Potatoes, onions (roughly 2:1), salt, maybe pepper if I feel like it, and oil for frying. Fry until crisp and eat. Maybe with a dollop of applesauce, maybe some sour cream. DO NOT FREEZE.

My latkes have to be eaten hot and crispy. Almost right out of the pan. This is my idea of heaven.

Now to start frying!

Happy Chanuckah!

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Failure or Lesson?

 Failure or Lesson?

I frequently encounter the phrases “I could never do that,” “I would mess it up,” “what if I make a mistake,” “that looks hard,” and others of that ilk. I’m never quite sure what to say in response.

My journey through crafting has always been a matter of seeing something, saying (perhaps just to myself) “that looks interesting,” and then, maybe years later, trying it.

Over the years I have learned how to crochet, knit, cross stitch, make bobbin lace, tat, construct and paint a doll house, paint my apartment, garden on a balcony, program a school, drive, weave and replace various parts of my dishwasher (none electrical). I admit to leaving most plumbing and electrical tasks to  professionals.

I learned how to crochet from my mother (I think, I don’t actually remember being taught), to tat from my aunt, to drive from my father (and a driving school) and everything else is mostly self taught. 

I do not consider myself brilliant by any means. Rather, I see figuring out something new as just that. Figuring it out. Each new skill, whether professional or personal, is something that someone else has done and therefore doable by me. Notice that sports are not included. They are not a puzzle I wish to figure out.

Yes, there are some things I do not wish to become good at.

Each of the skills that I have acquired had a learning curve (literal curves in the case of driving). My proficiency in these skills has improved due to my willingness to fail or, in the case of driving, to not crash.

Case in point,  these leggings.

Dark green leggings with contrasting pockets

They look good on the surface but are, in my opinion, not what I was going for. The design and execution are pretty good but I made a bad choice in the fabric. It is far thinner than I like in my workout tights and I didn’t adjust for my height so they are shorter than I would like. I also don’t like the thread. Oh, and the fabric on the legs is wrong side out. Oops.

Are they a failure? No. Are they a lesson? Absolutely! This lesson sent me to my computer to  research knit fabric weights and terminology. 

Will I try again? Yup! I think I have found the same color in a heavier weight and will probably order it.

All of my skill acquisitions have a similar story. The sweaters knit early in my knitting career that were far too big for my kids. The cross stitch projects that look kind of wonky. The lace samples that certainly don’t look like the illustration in the book. Did I give up? Maybe. I can’t remember what I have tried and then dismissed as “not being for me.” Certainly I have pushed crafts aside only to come back to them later in life as they became more intriguing. My aunt will often suggest things that she has tried that I am not ready to play with yet. Sometimes I try them, sometimes I don’t.

In the realm of education we talk about wanting to nurture a love of learning, to create life long learners. That is how I view my not-so-perfect makes. They are part of my learning curve, a part of being someone who is willing to try and fail learn.

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Silk Stockings

 Silk Stockings

Okay, maybe not silk. Perhaps nylon. And maybe not stockings. Pantyhose? That sounds right.

Nylon Pantyhose.  Yup. Silk Stockings is a much better title!

Two summers ago I did my “back to school” shopping and, as I always do, stocked up on pantyhose. Because yes, I still wear pantyhose. Sue me. 

(Please don’t! I’m a working educator and you won’t get much.)

For a few months I wore my pantyhose, ran my pantyhose and threw my pantyhose away.

And then I stopped.

Stopped wearing pantyhose. Stopped running my pantyhose. Stopped going to work.

Sort of.

I did indeed stop all of the above except the going to work part. I just stopped commuting. Or at least commuting far.

Basically my commute consisted of walking from the living room to the spare bedroom. The room previously known as my daughter’s bedroom and more recently known as my craft room.

Now it was my office by day and my craft room on the weekends.

But back to the stockings pantyhose.

I stopped wearing them. I also stopped wearing shoes. I kept wearing dresses, skirts, slacks and pretty tops because I felt the need to dress for work. It made me feel a bit more normal in a rather abnormal time.

Fast forward eighteen months and we are now in the early days of autumn. I am back to commuting (if a walk of 10 blocks counts as a commute) and my legs are getting a little chilly.

So I have broken out the panty hose. (And the shoes.)

Actually, one might say that I have run with the panty hose. Or, rather, they have run with me.

The first day I put them on I immediately discovered a run. So I did as ladies do, cursed a bit, threw them out and donned a fresh pair.

The fresher pair lasted the entire day and hit the trash when I got home because my panty hose, unlike me, like to run.

Today I broke out a brand new package! I think I have 4 or 5 of these bad girls (each containing 4 or 5 pairs of panty hose) in my dresser.

My goal -- to run through them all and never buy another pair (except for special occasions). This includes, by the way, a dozen pair of tights, of which I have not spoken.

Then I will have a free drawer in my dresser for all of the wonderful things I am knitting and sewing!

Friday, October 15, 2021


If the last post was about finishing then this post needs to be about starting. (The topic of continuing will be another post.)

While the first steps in production happened this weekend, the two project I just started have been months (years for one) in the planning process. When I embark on a project I might just get the idea, buy the supplies and then start immediately. Others start as a germ of an idea and then proceed slowly as I figure out the how, what and why of the project. (For the writing teachers out there, the who, where and so what are usually the initial driving factors.)

Some projects may go from start to finish in the course of a weekend (a hat, a pair of socks knit while traveling) others may take months or even years.

The sweater below started as a concept the day that my son accepted his offer to the University of Michigan. It took a year and a half to get it to a finished state. The knitting only took a month. The other 17 months were spent thinking about it. Swatching, ordering thinner yarn, swatching again, graphing the notes, figuring out what to do on the sleeves (there is a clef on the right sleeve and a stop mark on the left) until I finally had it figured out. Mostly. There was still a considerable amount of recalculating done on the fly as I knit.

Adult male wearing a blue sweater with the notes of the University of Michigan fight song knit on it in yellow.

Other projects start as fiber that "jumps" into my arms in a store or at a fiber festival or fabric that just calls out to be a dress or, an idea that I want to try because it seems intriguing.

Last weekend I started  two projects. One began as fiber just begging to be spun and the other started as an idea begging to be created.

First up, I started knitting a new wrap/scarf thing in a handspun merino silk blend from Lisa Souza. The fiber was purchased at the New York Sheep and Wool festival at least two years ago, probably 3 or 4, and spun within a year of purchase. It has been sitting on a shelf looking pretty for about 2 years. 

Skein of blue yarn on a table top swift.

Ball of Blue yarn

My second project is a pair of cargo pants. The idea of making cargo pants crept into my head shortly after I successfully made my second dress this spring. A member of my family is tall and thin and favors cargo pants and it is difficult to get them in a waist size that also fits his leg length.

There are not that many patterns out there that fit the bill so much time was spent searching on line until I found one that also came with a video tutorial. I found the pattern two months ago but it took me this long to find what I think is the right fabric. Saturday was spent piecing the pattern together and cutting it out. Sunday I cut the fabric and started sewing. Monday was spent sewing al day. I successfully completed the front with the zipper, two side pockets and one front pocket over the 3 day weekend.

Front page of pattern for men's cargo pants

Bolts of fabric in shades of brown and tan

Neither project was finished over the weekend. I expected to finish the pants some time over the week but didn't get much done. Between evening activities (hello Carnegie Hall!) and this weekend's trip to the New York Sheep and Wool festival (hello Rhinebeck!)  these may be three weekends in the making.

The scarf/wrap has been cast on but it will likely take a month or two to complete. But then the satisfaction is in the process -- starting and finishing are just two of the steps.

#sewing #productivefidgeting #knitting #cargopants

Saturday, October 02, 2021


I like to finish what I start. When I talk to other knitters I often hear that they have lots of unfinished projects. Unsewn sweaters, wraps with ends that need hiding, and tons of single socks. That's not really me. Yes, I have unfinished projects -- at least 2 cross stitches -- but as a general rule I tend to eventually finish what I start. Something about hiding ends and sewing the pieces of a project together is deeply satisfying. Even more so when I have made the fabric or yarn myself.

Right now, actively in progress (as opposed to those cross stitch projects), I have: a pair of socks (still working on the first sock), hand spun yarn that needs to be plied (at least 2 different types), a scarf being knit out of my hand spun and masks that are in their initial stages of the assembly line. 

Also in progress but nearing the finish line is my career as an education. 

Last week I wrote a blog post that I did not publish. I had to vent and I did so but, for now, am keeping it to myself. Maybe I'll put it up later as a part of a multi-part post on my time working for the New York City Department of Education. A time that is approaching its end.

Right now I am not sure when the end will arrive but it is pretty safe to say that I will be retiring in anywhere from 2 to 20 months. Monday may determine if I go on the earlier side. 

In the mean time, while I try to pretend that I am not stressing, I spent the day finishing some projects.

This dress was assembled several weeks ago but I had to wait until my daughter came for dinner to mark the hem. It is now hemmed and ready to wear to work next week. Pattern: Sydney from 5 out of 4 Patterns.

This top was purchased as a kit from Needle Sharp. I started it last weekend and finished it today. It is also slated to be worn to work next week. Pattern: Cielo from Closet Core Patterns

And then there are these ... some pretzel masks destined for Bar Method Noho and Darian. There are more in the pipe line because I may have gone a bit overboard when I purchased the fabric. 

Pattern: Fabric Masks from Twig and Tale with my own modifications.

I'm not sure what I will make tomorrow but you can be pretty sure that I will finish it.

#sewing #endings #maskup

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Masking Up

As a little kid I had dreams of being a seamstress. 

I would sew dresses out of old sheets and trim them with lace from old panties. I even posted a hand written sign in my bedroom window offering my sewing services.  I just loved to make things. That love of making has stayed with me my entire life and mask making fits right in. I find something seriously satisfying about sewing one batch of seams, then another and so on and so on, repeating step after step multiple times until a pile of masks is sitting in front of me. The actions are simple and yet the end product is actually fairly complex. 

Panel masks arranged in a wreath around a ball of blue yarn

In our home there was never a question about wearing masks. It was a given even if our Co-op hadn't required it in all public spaces. We weren't going out often, but when we did, we wore a mask. 

Over the last year or so I have spent a lot of time thinking about masks. What makes one style more wearable than another? Why do people have such different preferences?

Like my cousin over at Patterns from the Past, I have played with many styles and made personal judgements as to which ones are easiest to make (a basic pleated mask), which ones are best at keeping my glasses from fogging (pretty much anything with a good nose wire), what makes a good nose wire (I prefer 12 gauge aluminum cut to 14 inches with the ends bent under), which method is best for holding a mask on one's face (again, personal preference) and so on and so on. 

My answers to these questions are as varied as the questions themselves. 

It seems that masks, like shoes and underwear, are a personal matter. What works for you may not be what works for me. Yes, I am a proponent of nose wires but then I wear glasses and a mask that doesn't seal well over my nose means that I can't see  due to the fogging. My husband prefers that masks be held in place with elastic that goes around his head. My son is partial to a panel mask and my daughter needs softer ear bands, preferring ones that she crochets herself to the elastic that I use. Other folks are gung ho for the gold standard of non-medical masks, the KN-95, while yet others are partial to the disposable pleated paper mask. 

3-D and hybrid masks hanging from the spokes of a lazy kate

When masking was initially recommended I immediately thought "why buy when I can make?"  I could not stand the idea of paying for a disposable item when I could easily (or so I thought) make my own. The materials were already on hand and free DIY patterns were  plentiful. So, I dusted off my sewing machine (really, it was covered in dust!) and started making masks.

I had a fair amount of quilting cotton left over from my curtain making spree ten years ago. Google provided a basic pleated mask pattern and my daughter crocheted ear bands because elastic was in short supply.

Pleated Masks with crocheted ear bands

That first batch was a wonky looking lot but they covered our faces. Taking out a few for the family, the rest were donated to the soup kitchen at the church next door. I feel a little bad about those now but I was doing my best at the time.

Over the next several months I refined my techniques, found new "favorite" patterns and distributed my masks to family, friends and the staff and students at my sister's school. My repertoire expanded to four basic styles -- the "old school" pleated, the "hybrid" pleated, the "3-D" and the "panel" masks. My son and I prefer a panel mask with a zip tie inserted as a stiffener while my husband prefers the 3-D and hybrid masks. My daughter seems to mostly wear pleated and hybrid. In our family we all use nose wires now (we didn't originally) as we all wear glasses.

Hybrid, Halloween themed mask worn by the author.

I made some for the holidays because, if I'm going to wear a mask, I'm going to have fun with it!

One friend only wears KN-95s that she purchased in bulk and another mixes it up, moving between paper pleated, KN-95 and cloth -- heavy on the pink. Some folks like to coordinate masks with their outfits (ME!!!), wear seasonally themed masks (also me!) and others want their masks to be plain and unobtrusive. My son prefers plain colored fabrics because he finds a pattern distracting. He is, however, willing to wear colors of all hues. 

Child sized masks, half with fairies, half with trees

My mask making adventures reignited my love of sewing, particularly of production sewing. The rhythm and repetition of mass producing something is soothing and satisfying. It harks back to my childhood where I helped my father put out mailings for his firm. It's different from making a garment, satisfying in a different way. With a dress I am clothing one person. With masks I'm protecting my family, friends and community. And that is what drives so much of what I do in life, serving my community.

#sewing #productivefidgeting #maskmaking #masks 

Thursday, September 09, 2021

A Tale of Three Dresses


As I stated in my last post, my dive back into sewing was driven by one particular social media post. For some reason (known only to the algorithm designers) my mask adventures led to an ad in my feed from Rebecca Page. The ad photo was of the Classic Dress, a style that just screamed my name.

I love a summer dress with a flowy skirt and a fitted bodice and I had to have it. But I was afraid. I remembered the last dress I made, an ill fitting affair that I wore two or three times before retiring it and the slightly too tight nursing tops. But the ad kept popping up in my feed like it was daring me to give it a try. So I did.

I ordered the fabric on line from a highly recommended source and the website even matched the thread, lining, and zipper for me. This so excited me that I didn't realize that the vendor was located in Manhattan's Garment District -- a mere ten blocks away (and only two blocks from my office!).

The pattern was purchased and downloaded, I measured myself, assembled the pattern and started. The instructions were incredibly detailed and guided me through every step of the process from my first French seam to the final hem. Going slowly and carefully, reading and rereading the instructions, I put it all together. I sewed, I pressed and I trimmed. At one point I realized I was running out of matching thread and switched to using white on the inside seams, conserving the lilac for the hem.

And suddenly I was done!

Classic Dress in blue poplin, front view

Classic Dress with pockets, blue poplin

My first fitted garment in 20+ years! I was so excited -- and a little bummed that I was still working from home and had no one to kvell over it besides my family. Yes, I like to show off a little. 

There are imperfections. The zipper shows a bit because I didn't have the right zipper foot. The pockets (yes pockets!) have some puckers where they join the seam. And, it is a bit loose. But I made it and love it!

This time I went to the fabric store in person. I roamed the aisles stroking and poking the fabrics and finally settled on two. One was intended for a short sleeve dress, the other for another, more casual, sleeveless version.

Once again I cut and sewed and pressed, confidant that I knew what I was doing since this was my second go at the pattern -- and this time I had the correct zipper foot! I was even confident about the sleeves since I had eased many a sweater sleeve into place.

Yes, you can predict what happened. I got cocky and made newbie mistakes.

This fabric was thicker and had some stretch to it. I hadn't realized the stretch issue when I purchased it but did realize that it was thicker. What didn't occur to me was that the thicker fabric would give me some problems when it came time to put in the facing. You see, I had decided to forgo the lining this time and do a facing instead since the fabric was totally opaque.

Silly me.

Once again I followed the instructions to a fault, including hemming the facing. That was the fault. Since the fabric was on the thicker side this made the facing hem too bulky, a fact that bothers me every time I wear the dress (which I do!). No, I haven't fixed it but I probably should. Lesson learned: there are different ways to finish the edges of a facing and hemming may not be the best one.

I had, however, learned my lesson about the invisible zippers from the first dress, purchased the appropriate foot (and many others) and this zipper is indeed invisible. There are still issues where the zipper starts at my neck and the pockets are still a bit wonky where they meet the seams and the dress is still a bit loose despite my using the size corresponding to my measurements. But here it is!

Pink short sleeve dress

The second length of fabric that was meant to be another sleeveless dress was repurposed into matching skirts for my daughter and myself (the subject of another blog post due to the vast amount of learning that went with them).

Then I went on a bit of an adventure with workout gear and skirts. More about those in later posts.

Fast forward to July. I am now working from the office five days a week and am usually alone due to pandemic restrictions. Since returning to the office I have taken to roaming the nearby blocks to get some exercise and to check out the smaller fabric vendors. If I just want to get lost in the fabric, however, I still default to the larger, more well known store because, for me, a good browse is more comfortable in a larger space. I picked up some knits here, some voile there and had fun with my makes.

Then came the day of the fire drill. As happens in all office buildings we had an evacuation drill. Leaving the building is fairly quick but reentry can take up to an hour due elevator capacity. Knowing this, once I exited the building I decided to take an early lunch and headed over to the larger fabric store. Without any clear goal in mind I wandered the aisles and, while chatting on the phone with a friend, stumbled on the perfect poplin for a new dress. Then I found a fabulous light knit for a coordinating cardigan. I admit to crouching in the aisle stroking the knit for longer than was probably socially acceptable.

Using the lessons learned with the other two dresses and the garments in between, I pressed and cut and sewed. This version was lined with a thin, soft, cotton purchased from a hole-in-the wall shop near FIT (SUNY's Fashion Institute of Technology). The pockets are without wonkiness (yay!) but the zipper took three tries and I wound up doing some hand stitching to make it look more normal near the base. I just was not willing to redo the whole back yet a fourth time! I dare anyone to look that closely at the small of my back.

Classic Dress in red patterned fabric

This one fits perfectly! It seems (seams?) that when I actually use the recommended seam allowance the dress is just right -- almost. In between dresses I purchased a social media promoted gadget -- a magnetic seam allowance guide -- so I am no longer eyeballing my seams and they are now the correct width and much more regular. Love it!

As for the "almost" part of the fitting, I realized that the neck didn't lie quite right. This prompted me to go back to the first two dresses and realize that it doesn't lie right on them either. The problem is my body shape, not the pattern. So, I made a small box pleat in the center of the front neckline and now it lies better. Another lesson learned. On the next go I will try to actually alter the pattern piece to fix it since I want the dress to lie a little closer to my chest without the added pleat. Oh, and I also hemmed this one properly. The first two I just folded up the hem evenly around. This time I had my daughter mark the proper hem placement so that the back doesn't look shorter then the front. That lesson was learned from the mommy and me skirts. But that's another story!

#rpclassicdress, #rebeccapage, #rebeccapageba, #sponsored, #sewing, #skilllearning, #productionnotfidgeting, 

Monday, September 06, 2021

Sew What?

It has been a long time since I posted and even longer since I quietly stopped blogging regularly. I could write an update of all that has happened in the intervening years but that would just bore you. Instead, I will fast forward to the last 18 months.

When I started this blog it was to highlight my knitting. Eventually it grew to include stories of my family and the city I love -- and the occasional squirrel. I am resurrecting the blog to once again share my hobbies and the journey that is the coming years.

Over the last 18 months all of us have had to adapt and change to accommodate the times. It hasn't always been easy but there are plenty of stories of the good that has come out of the not so good. One of the pleasant occurrences in my life was the return to an old past time. It appeared in the guise of protecting my family -- and persisted.

For the last 22 years I have been an active and avid knitter. Hundreds of socks have emerged from my needles. A score or more of sweaters, mostly for my son, and enough wraps and scarves and shawls to keep a small village warm. Alongside and complementing the knitting is the spinning -- not on a bike (though I do still ride) but on a spinning wheel. Miles and miles of yarn has been created while listening to a good book or seven while sitting on my balcony.

But before I knit regularly I dabbled in other needle crafts. Some bobbin lace here, a bit of cross stitch there and yards and yards of tatting. With the onset of pregnancy I dove into sewing. I made some decent maternity clothes, a few pieces of nursing attire and many cute infant and toddler clothes. Sewing, however, requires space to spread out and space is at a premium in a NYC apartment. So I turned to knitting. Small and portable it fits nicely into the apartment lifestyle. (Feel free to laugh here.)

Masks were the gateway for my return to sewing. My membership in mask making groups on social media led to sewing ads appearing in my feeds. One particular ad kept attracting my attention and down the rabbit hole I went.

During lockdown we were all working from home. Our daughter, who had moved out, commuted each day to our apartment and her old room, now my craft room. She and I shared an office -- a room that kept calling out to me to craft instead of working.

Our adjustment to working from home required that my sewing machine table become a desk where one of us worked while the other used my actual desk. For several months I would convert the sewing machine table back and forth from "desk" during the week to sewing table on the weekends so that I could churn out masks for those I love.

Picture of a fabric masks encircling a ball of blue yarn

Now we are back in our respective offices and  my weekends and evenings are devoted to making. Dresses, tops, workout gear and whatever else catches my fancy. Just yesterday Mike wore a particularly silly pair of shorts that I made for him. So (sew), to get to the point, I will now be sharing my journey from mask maker to sewist here, with you gentle readers. Yes, this will be a brag book but I also intend to talk through my difficulties and how I solved them -- or didn't. You can take the teacher out of the classroom but not out of the person.

The name of the blog will remain the same because, why not? Besides, I do still knit, just not quire as prolifically.

So welcome or welcome back to Squid Knits and join me on my journey through life and crafts.

Mike at his easal wearing a pair of hand sewn shorts. The shorts have cartoon figures of sea creatures on them.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Make a Blanket Statement at Catskills Conf 2018

Make a Blanket Statement at Catskills Conf 2018

Looking forward to hearing all the great speakers at Catskills Conf?

Naturally fidgety?

Don’t want to be rude by: constantly checking your phone? Daydreaming? Doodling?

Want to be even more constructive while filling your head with awesome and interesting new ideas?

Put needles (or hooks) and yarn in your hands and help us construct the third Catskills Conf blanket(s) for Project Linus.

The project will run in a few ways:

  1. Learn how to knit at Catskills Conf. I will be available before breakfast, during meals, during session breaks and as an alternative during the activity times. Caveat: I can only actively teach 2-3 newbies at a time -- but can do many over the course of the weekend. Then, knit blocks during the conference. 
  2. Or … Bring pre-made knit or crocheted 7 inch X 9 inch blocks. Any color is fine, the yarn must be acrylic (Project Linus regulations) and should be worsted weight. Any pattern is fine. I have many premade blocks in burgundy but will make any color work! 
  3. And / Or … knit the blocks during the conference. There will be more than enough yarn available for a large blanket, as well as knitting needles (and a few crochet hooks), scissors and rulers. Feel free to bring your own supplies (size 7 or 8 needles or crochet hook H/I).
Materials (needles, hooks, yarn, rulers and scissors) will be available to borrow.

Taking the bus and want to knit your way to the Ashokan Center? We’ll have the materials on the bus!

Blocks brought to the conference should be made in a worsted weight (medium weight) acrylic yarn using any pattern that makes you happy. A box or bag will be provided to leave completed blocks in.

As the blocks are finished, they will joined into a blanket. Work in progress will be on display all weekend.

The completed blanket(s) will be donated to a Project Linus chapter for distribution. Any left over blocks will be added to those made by a Project Linus group and incorporated into a blanket.

In each of the last two years we made one complete blanket over the course of the conference. These were donated to the NYC chapter of Project Linus. I am hoping to be able to complete 2 blankets this year but that will require people making the blocks ahead of time and bringing them to the conference.

The block size is 7 X 9 (inches) or 9 X 7. Direction does not matter.

Thank you!

Devorah Zamansky

Saturday, November 04, 2017

We Did It! Making a Blanket Statement at Catskill Conf

About a month ago I posted the instructions for participating in the Blanket Statement project that I was leading at Catskill Conf.

I am proud of what we accomplished.

Over a dozen knitters contributed to the project either by learning to knit and/or by completing blocks.

Thank you to: Sarah, Tiana, Milo, Carla, Joanna, Sabrina, Alyse, Jasper, Joe, Oliver, Kelly, Mandy and anyone whose name I many have missed!

Here is the completed blanket  (displayed on my son's bed atop his elephant comforter).

Note the leaves on one of the blocks.

Milo (the designer of the images used for Catskill Conf this year)  worked with me to put them in a form that could be worked into the blanket. I am absurdly happy at the way they came out.

This blanket will be sent along to Project Linus with the next batch that goes from my monthly blanket group.

Even after the conference the project continued. Over the last few weeks I've received blocks completed by not only conference participants but by Ashoken staff who wanted to participate off hours as well. These blocks and one more that just arrived, and any that may yet come in, will be incorporated into a second blanket being constructed out of the leftover yarn. I'm taking my time with that one so don't expect to see it finished until just before the next Catskill Conf.

If there are anymore blocks in progress out there, let me know and send them in! I am always working on blankets for Project Linus in conjunction with the Sanctuary Stitchers at Temple Shaaray Tefila. We can and will find a blanket for any and all blocks.

(Sanctuary Stitchers graciously contributed the burgundy yarn and its members have been knitting blankets for children in need for a dozen years.)

Finally, this is the blanket made from the leftovers from last year's Catskill Conf blanket.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Make a Blanket Statement at Catskills Conf

Looking forward to hearing and sharing all the great ideas at Catskill Conf?

Naturally fidgety?

Don’t want to be rude by: constantly checking your phone? Daydreaming? Doodling?

Want to be even more constructive while filling your head with interesting new ideas?  

Put needles (or hooks) and yarn in your hands and help us construct the second annual Catskill Conf blanket(s) for Project Linus.

The project will run in a few ways:

  1. Learn how to knit at Catskill Conf. I will be available before breakfast, during meals, during session breaks and as an alternative during the activity times. Caveat: I can only actively teach 2-3 newbies at a time -- but can do many over the course of the weekend.  Then, knit blocks during the conference.
  2. Or … Bring premade knit or crocheted 7 inch X 9 inch blocks. Our palette this year is woodsy colors … browns, oranges, greens and blues. Stuff that theoretically coordinates with the large amount of burgundy yarn that was gifted to me for this purpose.
  3. And / Or … knit the blocks during the conference.  There will be more than enough yarn available for a large blanket, as well as knitting needles (and a few crochet hooks), scissors and rulers. Feel free to bring your own supplies (size 7 or 8 needles or crochet hook H/I).

Materials (needles, hooks, yarn, rulers and scissors) will be available to borrow.

Blocks brought to the conference should be made in a worsted weight (medium weight) acrylic yarn using any pattern that makes you happy. A box or bag will be provided for depositing completed blocks.

As the blocks are finished, they will be joined into a blanket. Work in progress will be on display all weekend.

The completed blanket(s) will be donated to a Project Linus chapter for distribution. Any left over blocks will be added to those made by a Project Linus  group and incorporated into a blanket.

Last year we made one complete blanket which was donated to the NYC chapter of Project Linus. This year we want to complete 2 but that will require people making the blocks ahead of time and bringing them to the conference.

The block size is 7 X 9 (inches) or 9 X 7. Direction does not matter.

Thank you!

Devorah Zamansky

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Fabulous Fourteen!

Happy Birthday, Little Squid! May all your math classes be sensible!

Monday, June 06, 2011

Eighteen pairs of socks: pair number 5 ... and another shawl

This is the busy season here ... concerts, proms, awards ... and, of course, knitting.

Saturday night Mike is taking me to his high school prom. My own was this past Friday and I am still recovering from the really late night followed by three early days. My body is no longer designed to gracefully handle a day on just 4 hours of sleep.

That said, the kids were wonderful, looked beautiful and handsome and acted like proper young adults. They made us proud to be their teachers.

On to the knitting ...

Butterfly Garden socks
Yarn: Knitpicks Stroll in Springtime Tonal
Intended recipient ... it's a secret!

Also finished, Annis.
Yarn: my own handspun cotton which ranged between cobweb and lace weight in thickness.
Spun on a Bosworth book-size charka
Detail shot

Those nupps were rather annoying ...

On the needles: sock pair 6 and pair 7 and the Lazy Kate shawl in cobweb weight, handspun silk.

Tomorrow is the Arista induction at Little Squid's school so pair 6 just might get finished.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

100 Miles of Nowhere Somewhere

Consider this an early entry into Fat Cyclist's 100 Miles of Nowhere

East Harlem High School Division

I work in a true inner-city high school. One that, in a few short years, will cease to exist and will remain only in the memories of the staff and students who came through its doors.

Most of our students come from less than ideal, one might even say, crummy, circumstances. Many of them have only one parent at home. Others have none. Too many of my students need a hug when they come in each day, a pat on the back, a kind word. Too many of them start off life at a disadvantage and, by the time they reach us, catching up is hard to do.

I’ve heard people say that the students in my school can’t do it. That they can’t come back from years and years of lost time. That my students are going Nowhere.

This is what I pondered as I debated whether or not to take part in this year’s 100 Miles of Nowhere. I know that the main purpose of the ride is to raise funds and awareness for cancer research but the idea of going Nowhere just resonated with me as a metaphor for what people say about the students I love.

Too many of my students have been told, repeatedly, that they are going Nowhere. That school is pointless because they are going Nowhere and that they should just give up. And too many of them do give up. Those that don’t, however … they wind up Somewhere. And their kids get a better chance in life.

It is tough working against so much ingrained negativity. But sometimes we get through to them. And when we get through, and the kid that was told they’d go Nowhere winds up Somewhere … well that’s when we realize that all the work was worth it. When the kid you were sure would drop out gives you a hug at graduation … well then you just have to wipe away the tears.

So, in the spirit of getting Somewhere while staying in the same place, I am dedicating my morning commute to my students. For 5.25 miles a day, most week days and a few Saturdays, from now until June 30th I promise to keep my mind on my kids (and a small part of it on the traffic around me) and do my best to figure out how to get them Somewhere. Because everyone deserves to be given the chance to go Somewhere.

Monday, May 16, 2011


"It was only a matter of time before I got doored."

I'd thought that only a day or two earlier.

Dooring, the act of a cyclist being hit by an opening car door, is a not unusual occurrence. Riding in and with traffic, an urban cyclist winds up passing hundreds of parked cars every day, thousands over the course of a year. Add to that all of the taxis that pull up into bike lanes or up near curbs to discharge passengers and it is kind of surprising that dooring does not happen more often.

Which is why I was not really surprised when it finally happened to me.

Riding home on Friday, I was negotiating my way south on a traffic-packed Ninth Avenue, picking my way between the cars and the left-hand curb (riding on the left is legal in NYC if the street is wider than 90 feet). This is my standard evening commute and I've done it probably close to a hundred times this academic year.

Somewhere around 45th Street (I really was not paying attention but I know I was south of 47th and north of 42nd) I slowly pedaled past a taxi at the corner of whatever street and Ninth Avenue. As traffic was crawling, I did not realize that the taxi was pulling over to discharge a passenger, as the curb lane is open to traffic at that time of day I thought that it was just another cab caught in traffic.

And then it happened.

The passenger opened her door without looking and caught the back of my bike.

In slow motion (or so it seemed), I fought to keep my balance and failed, falling with my bike toward the curb.

The passenger, it must be said, was apologetic and offered to help me up, staying a moment to make sure I was o.k. (I was).

Hauling myself and my bike onto the sidewalk, I rolled up my bike tights and checked the scrapes that I could feel starting to sting. Just a skinned knee and some really, really minor skin loss on my other shin. But boy they stung!

Nothing else appeared to be injured on my body though I knew that I'd caught myself with my left hand, so I expected a bruise or worse when I got back on the bike. Fortunately I was wrong.

Examining my trusty bicycle, I found the handlebars twisted this way and that and skewed on the stem. A quick application of my multi-tool put everything right and gave me a few moments to collect myself before reboarding and completing my commute.

Once at home I did a more through self-examination and put a couple of band-aids on my scrapes so they wouldn't rub against my jeans. No real damage done, though I could feel a nice bruise on my thigh and, just this morning, realized the my upper arm soreness was actually due to a handlebar shaped bruise.

Frankly, if I had to get doored, I'm glad that this is how it happened.

I was back on my bike the next day and even commuted in the rain today.

Didn't even lose my back blinky!