Today is Leo's birthday, which he hates because he's a birthday scrooge but that's OK because I love him and his birthday, enough for both of us. So a big happy birthday to my favorite human. Here's hoping he has a zillion more of these to suffer through.

As it happens, today is also the day you can check out my new pattern, Helios. Right now, it's available exclusively through Black Trillium Fibres. Melanie is hosting a KAL with prizes to be decided. You can get all the details here. I'm pretty excited about this shawl design. I had a lot of fun designing it and the yarn is a dreamy mix of silk and merino in a fine lace weight, which always feels extra special to me.

This piece uses Zimmermann’s pi-shawl construction, starting at the center neck and working out to the borders. The pattern is entirely charted with no written-out instructions and those buying the pattern during the KAL will receive a printed pattern.

With this shawl, I really wanted to play with the way different stitches read as different shades of the yarn color. Against a dark background, the yarn overs read as darkest and least saturated, then the purl areas, then the knit until you finally reach the twisted stitches which are the most saturated and brightest. Those twisted stitches work to form an outline between stitch patterns, giving a strong line of delineation between sections.

And since the yarn is so light and airy, I added just a few beads to the hem to give it a little weight. These are added as you are knitting, using a small crochet hook. They are, of course, totally optional.

I hope that if you are interested in the design and you have the budget and time to knit the pattern and purchase the yarn, that you'll support Melanie at Black Trillium Fibres. She's a local (to me) independent yarnie and she is as great to work with as her yarns are beautiful. If new yarn isn't in the picture for you, but you like the pattern, both she and I will be selling the pattern alone, after September.

I'm looking forward to following the progress of the KAL and seeing people's finished shawls. As always, if you have any questions, feel free to let me know. See more details and photos on Ravelry.

Polenta and flowers


Last month, I ended up with a bag of course cornmeal, of which I needed only a half a cup and I was trying to think of something to do with it. My husband whose father's side of the family is Italian, loves polenta so I figured I'd give it a try. I used Alton Brown's recipe, with some modifications and I'd thought I'd share since Leo dubbed it the "best polenta I've ever had." If you like a more traditional flavor, Brown's is excellent. This is just a more robust version.


  • 5 slices thick-cut bacon
  • 3/4 c finely chopped shallots
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 4 c chicken stock
  • 1 c coarse ground cornmeal
  • 3 Tbs butter
  • 1 c shredded extra sharp cheddar
  • Olive oil for frying

To taste:

  • salt (used about 1tsp)
  • sambal/chili paste (used about 1.5 Tbs)


  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 3 sprigs fresh oregano divided
  • 1 shallot cut in half
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed but whole
  • thumbnail size piece of parmigiano-reggiano rind if you have any

Preheat oven to 350F

Cook bacon in a dutch oven or other oven-safe saucepan, until crisp and set aside. Remove all but 2 Tbs of the rendered fat. Cook shallots in fat over low heat until translucent. Add garlic, cook until tender. Add broth, bring to a boil, whisk in cornmeal. Cover pot and place in oven. Cook for 36 mins whisking ingredients every 12 minutes. Check for doneness and cook longer, if needed.

While the polenta cooks, chop bacon into small pieces.

Once polenta is cooked and while still hot, stir in butter and allow to melt. Add sambal to taste. Add bacon and cheddar and season with salt as desired, remembering to taste a bite with some bacon to ensure you don't over salt.

Polenta is ready to serve at this point. To get the results in the photo, do the following:

Place a piece of parchment paper on the bottom of a 9" x 9" cake pan. Pour polenta into cake pan and allow to chill until completely cool. Use the freezer for faster results

While polenta cools, add tomatoes to a small sauce pan, with olive oil, shallot, garlic, 2 sprigs oregano and cheese rind. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove shallot, garlic, oregano and cheese. If the wateriness bugs you, you can cook the tomatoes with the cover off, but I like it and mix it in with the polenta when I eat it.

Once cool, turn onto a cutting board, removing parchment paper. cut into 16 squares by dividing into 4 pieces in each direction. Add olive oil to a non-stick skillet and add polenta, working in smaller batches so as not to crowed. Cook each side until golden brown. Serve on top of tomatoes adding some chopped oregano for garnish.

In the garden

For those of you who don't like polenta, here are some shots from the garden

Hydrangea starting to bloom

Spiral buds of the jasmine

Bowl of Beauty peony

Same bloom, different angle



Regardless of what the calendar would have you believe, it's been Spring in Oregon since February, when the first daffodils started poking their heads out of the ground, but it wasn't truly Spring for me until the new Twist Collective went live about a week ago.

If you haven't had a chance to check it out, there's plenty to love. Whenever I write these post, I think I'm going to list my favorites but them I go and look at the edition and I can never narrow it down. There are just too many beautiful pieces from so many talented designers. As a designer, being immersed in other people's fantastic work is both inspires me and pushes me to try to do better. Even after 12 years of designing, I still find myself learning new things with each project.

My contribution, this season is Zaida.

Photo copyright Fanny Jacob-Lafontaine

I would consider this one of my more ambitious designs. There are no visible cast-on or bind-off edges. Any cast-on edges are provisional and any bind-off edges are grafted. It was a lot of fun to design and I hope it'll be equally fun to knit.

I also have an article about Provisional Cast-Ons in the edition.

I demonstrate four different methods and discuss why I might choose one over another. There's also a tips and troubleshooting section to help you get the best results with your provisional cast-ons.

There are plenty of other great articles in the magazine and, of course, tons of great patterns, so I hope you'll take some time to flip through the edition and check it all out.


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Things must be a bit hectic, lately, because I released this pattern about a month ago and am only now getting a chance to blog about it. I suspect most of you have tracked me down on Ravelry, Twitter, or Facebook and have seen my posts about this set, but if you haven't my latest design features dancing robots (though some people see foxes or cats, it's all good in my book), rocket ships and craggy terrain. 

Julia (looking stunning in the pattern sample) and I spend a lot of time emailing about what we're working on, what we want to work on and how our published pieces have fared over time. It doesn't sound like much but having a friend who designs makes a huge difference. Whether it's a person to celebrate with you when you are really excited about a piece or someone to vent to when you are feeling frustrated or burned out, having someone around who gets it, is great. But you know your designer friend has gone above and beyond when she is so excited about your next design that she offers to knit a sample for a kid's version and have her son model it for the pattern.

Can you even handle how cute he is? The embroidered heart was 100% Julia's idea, and it's probably the best part of the whole design.

The women's version is knit seamlessly from the hems to the armholes and joined in one continuous yoke. Dart shaping is easily adjusted or omitted to get whatever fit you like. The ships are added at the end using duplicate stitch.

The kid's version is knit seamlessly from the hems the underarms, then worked back and forth in rows. There's a placket on the shoulder for comfort when taking the piece on and off.

Patterns are available individually or as a set for 20% off. You can get the discount either by buying the ebook or by purchasing each, separately. The discount is applied automatically when you buy the second pattern.

If you want to see more photos, read all the pattern details, or buy the patterns, you can find them here:

Women's Version

Children's Version


And if you are trying to imagine other color options, I've put together a few options, based on Shalimar Yarns' extensive color palette.

Row 1 (left to right): billies blues/driftwood, love potion/buttermilk, oyster/waterchestnut
Row 2 (left to right): byzantium/buttermilk, shamrock/buttermilk, american beauty/buttermilk

Whatever colors you choose, be sure there's lots of contrast. Those skinny little legs and arms will show up best that way.

Eight is great


A very happy birthday to my goodwill ambassador, body guard, comic relief and snuggle monster.


I hope there's another eight years to come.

All pictures taken Friday with her new favorite toy.

April 2021

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