Sunday, December 11, 2011

Yule Badges

I felt like I needed a little Holiday spirit, something to carry me through the annual panic and remind me that all this with the paper and lights and last minute card making and frantic knitting is ultimately supposed to be fun. Cheerful.

                  It's how we mortals make a stand against the darkness, if only metaphorically.

These are surprisingly easy to make. I covered some old pin-badges with a little white cotton, then knit blanks of my favorite Shetland wool - Jamieson & Smith's Ultra. I ran the ends through the edges and pulled them snug around the backside of the pins, and I used Appleton tapestry wool to duplicate stitch the motifs. I think I'll have to make more (when the aforementioned late night knitting is completed)!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Owyhee Vest

A few weeks ago, I inherited a mixed bag of Colinette Chrysalis from a long line of baffled knitters. I decided to accept the challenge, and see if I could make something wearable out of it. A most unusual yarn, it is a kind of unspun cotton suspended in a loosely bound tube of stitching, bulky, heavy, and soft.

After pouring over every pattern on Ravelry, a design started grow in my brain. A vest, loose but a little fitted, pockets, a shawl collar. I couldn't find exactly what I wanted, and I wasn't sure I had enough yardage to get me there. I went for it.

I made the back first, with some shaping. Next, I picked up from the side seams and knit forward, casting on to shape armscye, then knitting straight until I had a shoulder to seam, then casting on a little more to meet at the center of the neck. Here, I joined the front pieces to work the collar as one. When I was done, I picked up along the bottom edge for a few rows of ribbing. Finally, I picked up near my side seams and made some capacious pockets. 

I'm pretty pleased with the results.

I think next time, I'll add some short rows across the back to keep it from curving up so much, and some across the collar to make it a little larger. Next time, I think I'll use wool, or maybe an alpaca blend. I definitely need at least one more of these. 

This turns out to be a wonderful way to make a nearly seamless sweater; the only joining is shoulder to shoulder, sewing down pockets, and stitching the collar to the back at the neck. The changes in direction highlight variegated yarn, and any pooling winds up vertical on the front pieces. It is terribly versatile. I've worn it with skinny jeans and long skirts, over t-shirts and sweaters. The Pacific Northwest calls for a lot of layers, and this vest is a perfect addition to the heap.

The blending of colors reminds me of little lichens, and picture jasper, and the desert southwest of where I grew up, all dust and sky. I never would have chosen this yarn for myself, but I'm so glad it made it's way to me.

Sunday, November 6, 2011


What a busy weekend! And here it is Thursday, and I still have glitter stuck to some of my eyelashes. We've had guests, and even though we had more fun than was entirely safe, it is a relief to have my nice, quiet little space back, along with my nice, quiet life. In fact, I think I have a new found love of the mundane, the quotidian, the normal.
In a few days, all the Halloween decorations will have to come down and I'll be dreading Thanksgiving, but for now I'm curling up with a big, steamy bowl of old-fashioned steel cut oatmeal, with lots of brown sugar and cardamom.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Chiroptera anteocularis

                I decided to paint a bat with antlers. Isn't he cute?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Doing the Batty Batty Bat

     My house is basically Halloween themed by default. This kind of thing goes on all the time.

 I spent today putting up even more decorations. The kitchen gets the most love, as there is plenty of space to work with. I love Martha Stewart for putting out these great silhouettes.

Our apartment is tiny and crowded, so I try to use wall space as much as possible.

I particularily like these little guys.


Someday, I'll have a front porch to cover in jack o' lanterns.
For now, pumpkin lights brighten a stormy evening.

Friday, September 9, 2011

I Send to You this Cadmium Yellow

This was so enjoyable to knit! The fancy herringbone stitch, from Barbara G. Walker's indispensable Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns, is easy and quick. It makes for a squishy fabric that looks lovely on both sides, perfect for an effortless cowl or scarf. I used an economical and surprisingly dreamy cotton, dyed with tumeric powder. 


-350yds worsted weight yarn.
I used Universal Yarns Cotton Supreme, white, dyed with about 2tbsp tumeric powder.
-US #8 (5mm) needles.
-Waste yarn for provisional cast on.

4.75sts/1” in stitch pattern.

Finished size:
14" x 35"

Psso2: pass the slipped stitch over 2sts. Slip all stitches purl-wise.
With preferred provisional method, cast on 67sts.
You can find instructions for my favorite provisional method here.
Purl one row. 

Fancy Herringbone Stitch (multiple of 3 + 1, repeat in brackets):

R1 (RS): Slip 1, k3, {yo, slip 1, k2, psso2} to last 3sts, k3.
R2 (WS): Slip 1, k2, p1, {yo, slip 1, p2, psso2} to last 3sts, k3.

Repeat R1-2 until cowl measures 35” or desired length. Work R1 once more.
Next row: k3, purl to last 3sts, k3.

Remove waste yarn from provisional cast on, placing live stitches on a second needle. Graft ends together with a 3-needle bind off or kitchener stitch. You can find my directions for kitchenering a provisional cast-on here. Make sure you do this a bit tight, to match the tension of the fancy herringbone stitch. If you prefer, omit the provisional cast on, begin and bind off in the usual way, and seam.

Copyright 2011 The Idle Witch
This is a free pattern for all to enjoy, but please let me know if you would like to use it in a class or sell items made using this pattern.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Vintage Horror Style - The Legend of Hell House

Welcome to September! Or, as I like to call it, Almost-October. The mercury may disagree for now, but the leaves are crisping, the nights are getting longer, and the light is slanting towards Autumn. The most wonderful time of the year is just around the corner, when the worlds inside and outside my head briefly coincide. Since it's still too hot for me to get out my Fall clothes, I'm biding my time with some vintage horror inspiration.

Legend of Hell House (1973) is not a scary movie by today's standards, but it does have top notch performances, an immured corpse, possession, kinky ghost sex, and a lovably ridiculous dénouement.  Pleasantly light on special effects, much of the exposition is done by banging chargers and repressed British snark, with the occasional wacky camera angle thrown in for kicks. It's based on a novel by Richard Matheson. What more could you want?

   A physicist, who brings along his wife, and two mediums are sent by a wealthy old man to Hell House, "the only place where survival has yet to be refuted". Survival after death, that is.

Pamela Franklin plays Florence Tanner. While the book focused on the characters equally, the movie really belongs to Florence - and her fabulous outfits.

I love her romantic, slightly bohemian blouses and dresses, her pounds of silver jewelry, and her odd, shaggy hair. Who knew Spiritualists were so groovy? 

Florence goes ghost-hunting

The eerily luminous Gayle Hunnicutt plays Ann Barrett, who always remembers to pack her silk scarves when visiting a haunted house. Really, one wouldn't want to catch a chill.


She develops a bad habit of sleepwalking in her kimono, molesting the statuary.
That'll teach her to drink and read textbooks on psycho-sexual phenomenon before bed.

What do you mean, the ghost drank all the vodka?

I may have to knit something like the sweater Ann wears toward the end, but with a lower cowl neck. This is further proof that horror movies have undermined my reason. Is it mohair? Angora? Something destined to put fluff up my nose.
For now, I think I'll dig out my big silver rings and paisley neckerchiefs. I don't want to be unprepared for poltergeists!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Zanahorias en Escabeche

It was 96° yesterday! We haven't had much summer this summer, and it was blissful to finally be too hot and sticky lazy to move.
Whiskey Sour + Lime + Sunset

In weather like this, I usually end up making tacos for dinner, especially Baja-style cod fried up crisp. Just as quick and cheap to make at home as to pick up, I like mine with a little green cabbage, salsa fresca, and a pickled carrot and jalapeno mix called zanahorias-en-escabeche.

Anyone who knows anything knows I'm kooky for pickles, and this is one of my very favorites.

Spicy, garlicky, slightly crunchy, and just a little sweet, it's wicked good on hot dogs, too.

This recipe takes no time at all, and makes about 3 cups.

3 carrots
2 medium jalapenos
1/2 red onion
4 cloves garlic
5 bay leaves
2 tsp peppercorns
1 tsp oregano
1 cup white vinegar
1/2 water
2 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp salt
3-4 tbsp oil, for sauteing 

Peel carrots and slice carrots and jalapenos diagonally. Slice onion in thin rounds. Slice garlic in quarters or halves lengthwise.

In a small saucepan, heat water and vinegar to a simmer. Remove from heat. Add brown sugar, salt and lime juice. Set aside.

Heat oil a deep sided, heavy bottomed frying pan. Saute carrots, about 3 minutes; add onion, peppers, garlic, bay leaves, peppercorns, and oregano. Saute until garlic begins to brown.

Put pickles in a jar, cover with liquid. Cool, and keep refridgerated.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Yipes! Stripes!

                  I turned around one day in July, and realized I'm in the midst of a craze for stripes.
Mad Simple Shapely Legwarmers
Top Down Summer Sweater

Little Anklets

This is hardly surprising. Return with me now, if you would, to the dark ages of the late 20th century, before there was a Hot Topic in every mall, before Harry Potter and Hogwart's house colors. Should a girl want something like the Doubtful Guest's scarf, or Dorrie's long and never-matching socks...
from one of my favorite Edward Gorey books

from Dorrie and the Blue Witch

...there was only one thing to do. Learn to knit. Somewhere in a trunk, I still have that first black and white striped scarf. It's about 1.56 miles long. I wore out the stockings long ago.

The Rikke Hat
-Stripes are completely addictive to work. "Just one more row"  easily becomes, "Just one more stripe".
-Stripes are thrifty, and eat up those single skeins all knitters have lurking in their stash.
-Stripes are a fantastic way to play with color; against a neutral background, even wild colors look fresh.

Different Lines

You'd think I'd be sick of them by now, but I'm plotting some old-fashioned stripey knee-highs for fall. Maybe I'll mis-match them, just like Dorrie.