Brioche Bonanza!

0ly8d0nZNG1meuMegKlhD91lsWsRXpMn4s0Ms4dMmR8I have played around with brioche in my knitting life, and I will admit that in the past I have not been the biggest fan of this intriguing way of creating a rich, deep fabric with yarn and needles.

Perhaps it’s because I’m gluten free?

I’d read articles by Nancy Marchant, which were fascinating, but never really grabbed me the way that Mercedes Tarasovich-Clark’s new book, Brioche Chic, has sparked my imagination.


Beautiful cowl for first time Brioche knitters.

Beautiful cowl for first time Brioche knitters.

Brioche can be a complex subject, and Mercedes breaks down the process of creating lovely one and two-colored brioche in simple, easier to comprehend bits.

The book itself is bright, light and cheerful – which would make it a terrific gift for a knitter on your list who is ready to move into a new technique – with very clear illustrations, many charts (love that!) and excellent photography of the garments and details.

The book is also available as an ebook, which I love because it allows the knitter to make the text large and the charts even larger as I knit!


I'm in love with Lattice!

I’m in love with Lattice!

I loved the patterns in this book!

Ostensibly a technique book, it’s really a book of amazing patterns that just happen to be worked using the brioche technique.

I especially loved the accessories sprinkled through the book, although I may be giving the Lattice Edged Cardigan a go (I’m DIGGING that lapels/collar simple shaping!)


I'll be making this for Gerry!

I’ll be making this for Gerry!

The use of 2 colors to show off the beauty of brioche might actually make this possibly-daunting technique more accessible to the average knitter than they might think!

In much the same way as when working double knitting, two colors makes the technique pop!

I feel the same could be true of brioche. This seems especially notable in the deceptively simple Colorblock Pullover.


Gorgeous use of 2/C Brioche

Gorgeous use of 2/C Brioche

Mercedes has done a wonderful job of marrying lovely, well-matched yarns to the projects.

(I especially loved the O-Wool (Flame Cable Scarf & Hat), and the Fancy Tiger Heirloom Yarn (Star-Crown Beret)

With a background as a shop owner AND a yarn dyer, Mercedes is well placed to fit the best yarn with the appropriate pattern, and it shows here!

The Down Side

Rich, deep and textural! Brioche at it's best!

Rich, deep and textural! Brioche at it’s best!

Having said that I love this book – and I do – I don’t think the charts are as helpful as they might be (and I’m a chart LOVER!)

I felt a bit intimidated by the charts, which is a very unusual feeling for me.

However, I’m not sure there IS a way to make Brioche Charts less formidable.

Perhaps that will be Mercedes next book…
Simple Charted Brioche!


I’d like to give a copy of this book to a happy reader, simply tell me if you’ve ever tried Brioche, and if so, how did it go for you…?

Leave your comments in the section below, anyone who comments is eligible (even if you’ve never worked Brioche, leave THAT as your comment!)

I’ll be determining the winner this coming Saturday, and will announce it on the Blog on Monday.  So comment away – and good luck!

A Boost and A Book Giveaway

It’s been a busy few weeks since I’ve been home from TNNA.  I was SO wiped out and full of pain at the end of my trip, but I’m overjoyed at the positive effect my bike riding has had on my muscle and joint pain.  The heat here in Minnesota was terrible last week, but biking 10 miles in the heat works wonders on deep rooted joint and muscle pain.

Having said that, the heat wave’s lifted here in the Twin Cities with my full approval, and to celebrate I rode 25 miles on Saturday and 14 miles Monday.

If I’m not biking, I’m knitting.  If I’m not knitting or biking, I’m editing patterns for History on Two Needles or getting swatches together for the online class I’ll be shooting this Summer.  Life is extremely busy.

Monday, June 9th, was the last day of my Kickstarter Fundraiser for History on Two Needles, and I’m absolutely overwhelmed with the positive and loving reaction I’ve received from the knitting community (and the micro funding community at large!)

It’s such a boost to have the positive reinforcement, and gives me great push as I work through the details of the book.  When I look at all the work that is yet to be done I can get overwhelmed, breaking it down bit by bit makes it easier.  Support from friends makes it seem possible!

To celebrate, I’ll be giving away a bunch of great books and items I received at TNNA over the next few weeks.  Knitting’s only made better by sharing, and the same is certainly true for books!

Knitters Curiosity Cabinet
(Chrysanthemum frutescens socks)

The Knitter’s Curiosity Cabinet
20 Patterns Inspired by Vintage Botanical Illustrations
by Hunter Hammersen

This is a beautiful book.  If you love interesting, repeating patterns and gorgeous photography, this is a book you MUST have.

Dianthus Superbus Sock

The inspiration for the book is the Victorian ‘curiosity cabinet’ – repository of interesting little tidbits from the world at large – and botanical drawings of the same period which portray that same enchantment with nature.

Linaria Bipartita Sock

There are more sock patterns than anything else, which is absolutely fine.  I find the motifs themselves are worth the price of admission (which, I admit, was free for me…) but they’re engaging, fun to knit up (I already cast on a swatch of Chrysanthemum Frutescens just to try out the pattern used in the socks of the same name)

When I read the pattern names I half broke out in a cold sweat with a flashback to a failed botany final; Rubus suberectus, Rosa rubiginosa, Loasa lateritia are just a few of the pattern names that carry the natural history theme through the book.

Narcissus Pseudo-Narcissus Sock

I was sent this book to review, and before it arrived I idly wondered, “Should I give it away, or should I keep it?”

I’m keeping this one!

But I’m giving a copy away to someone here on my blog – just leave a comment with the name of your favorite floral embellishment; it can be as simple as ‘rosebud’ or as complex as ‘gladiolus caryophyllaceus’, every comment will count and I’ll draw one winner at random on Sunday.

A Winner! And A New Prize!


The winner of the book below is Elizabeth Howard from Facebook.

She left a comment, I closed my eyes and
touched the screen and I landed RIGHT on her name!
Congrats to Elizabeth!

Stay tuned for more giveaways as life progresses!!

Using a VERY scientific process which involved paper, a bowl and two fingers, I have selected a winner of Knitting Everyday Finery.

Zoe from Minneapolis (PURE coincidence, I had no idea she was nearby!) will be receiving the book later this week.

I’ll be sending her book out to her later today – shoot, I should just bike it over – and I’m announcing a new book giveaway:

One + One: Scarves, Shawls & Shrugs is a great book full of small pieces worked in a variety of skill levels.

Most of the pieces are to be worn around the neck, or close to the face, which makes perfect sense as the yarn used is Iris Schrier’s Art Yarns – a wonderful selection of soft, shimmery, colorful fibers.

I would be happy to knit and own any of the pieces in this lovely book, but a few stand out as exceptional small garments which can challenge a new knitter while fulfilling an established knitter’s need for something engaging to occupy hands and minds.

Lacy Textured Cowl by Laura Zukaite

I especially liked Laura Zukaite’s Lacy Textured Cowl – a very wearable piece which could easily move from casual to extremely elegant.  The yarn chosen – Artyarns Ensemble Light – is a beautiful choice of soft cashmere and resilient silk.

Easy Cable Cowl by Michelle Miller

Michelle Miller’s Cabled Cowl would be an excellent small project to help a new cabler hone their skills.

Slip Stitch Wimple by Annie Modesitt

I have a piece in the book, too – the Slip Stitch Wimple (although it wasn’t photographed over the head, which is where a wimple usually sits, this could work as both a cowl AND a very warm hat-like piece)

Slip Stitch Wimple, Flat

For THIS giveaway, I’m going to select from among folks who leave a comment on my facebook page under this blog post announcement.

(yes, I DO understand you’ll have to be on facebook for this one, that’s how this particular cookie crumbles…)

Leave a comment by Wednesday at noon, and I’ll notify the lucky winner and send the book off soon after!


Book Giveaway – Knitting Everyday Finery

A book landed on my desk a few weeks ago and I thought it was absolutely lovely.

It’s Knitting Everyday Finery: Practical Designs for Dressing Up in Little Ways, and it contains quite a few beautiful pieces that run from relatively easy to knit, to more challenging and knit-skill broadening.

Physically it’s a great book; the photography is elegantly rustic (a combination that seems so easy but is devilishly hard to pull off!)

The instructions are clear and well laid out, the charts are very easy to read and the models have a timelessness about them (no strong fashion or makeup choices which can so easily date a book!)

A book which is all about using knitting to create small pieces that enhance everyday life is a book worth having.

It’s true that we knit to make ourselves happy, but if along the way we also make our lives a bit more refined, rich and pleasant in a simple way, then we’ve used our skill to it’s best advantage.

There’s nothing wrong with adding little bits of beauty to our lives, loving ourselves enough to create something truly FINE for our own use.  This book will help you do just that!

So – would you like a copy of this beautiful book?  Here’s how to get it!

Click the “tweet” button at the top of this post (which will include the link to my blog) and tweet about my review of Mel’s book.  I’ll select one tweet that links to this blog, and I will notify the sender of the tweet that they’ve won this book by noon (central time) on Friday, May 4th.

And then you, too, will have your copy of Knitting Everyday Finery: Practical Designs for Dressing Up in Little Ways and will be knitting some fine, fine, finery!

Wishes on the Wind

I was randomly searching the internet this weekend and wandered onto an event I hadn’t heard of before!

Our Wishes

Wishes for the Sky is an annual kite flying happening, this was the 4th one, and it took place on Sunday.

When I read about the event on warm & shiny Saturday, I told the kids we’d bike down to Harriet Island for the fun.  Oh, yeah – SURE we would…

But on Sunday it was rainy and cold and miserable. Gerry and I did duty as crossing guard / door openers at the Temple for Hebrew School, and I felt like an achy mess when I got home.

But Hannah would have NONE of it. She fixed a beautiful lunch (gluten free soup for me, a sandwich for her) and gently bullied me into the car so we could go to the event.

Kite Girl in St. Paul

BOY was I glad she did!  The kites are reused every year, they’re sturdy little structures and stand up to a LOT of crashing!  Each year when folks get their kite they use black or white pens to write a wish on the kite, then they go fly it for as long as they like.  A suggested donation of $2 helps to cover the costs of the event.

When finished you turn the kites back in (or you can purchase your kite for $35 if you want, the steep price a deterrent to folks just wandering off with their kite) and the happy day is done.

It was really lovely; a windy, overcast day in St. Paul, but a LOT of fun!


If I needed proof that wheat / gluten is a culprit in my fibro journey, I got it yesterday.  Sheesh.

I drove out to Goodwill to look for luggage (we needed suitcases for our trip, I have them, but the kids could use cases with wheels so we can travel easily) After checking at several 2nd hand shops and discount stores, Goodwill was my last stop.

My they're tasty! Just like Meth!

By the way, I found the best deal at Tuesday Morning – 2 nice Dockers suitcases for $29 each on special clearance – yay!

Anyway, I try not to eat out, and I have avoided fast food places since my diagnosis, but I was absolutely starving so I figured I’d have a bite at one of the few places I can get something satisfying with no gluten; KFC.  I like their grilled chicken, and it has no batter.

But my two pieces DID come with a biscuit.  Damn.

I ate the chicken, it was delicious, but all the way home the biscuit was calling out, “Annie, Annie, you KNOW you want me, I’m your FAVORITE thing!  Take a walk down memory lane and enjoy the wheaty-crunchiness & fine, fine smoothness of a baking powder biscuit…”

Before I even knew what I was doing, the biscuit was GONE.  Inhaled.  Like a drug.

Hugs not Biscuits

Hugs Not Biscuits

Stay in school, kids.

It took about 40 minutes for the effects to begin to show.  I was fascinated while watching myself change, like Frederick March in Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde.

  • First I became irritable and had a sort of hollow, dark feeling.   Just an overall malaise.
  • Then my throat began hurting and my nose felt stuffy. 
    If I didn’t know better I’d have thought I was getting a cold.  I know now how often I’ve made this mistake this in the past.
  • The sore throat evolved into a headache, with VERY sore shoulders and neck.
    (Luckily I have my Relax Pack, which helped quite a bit after being warmed in the microwave!)
  • Eventually the soreness traveled to my joints and down my back, sending me to bed early.

I tried to read in bed, but I just felt like crap.  Movement was painful, lying still was painful, and I felt just as irritable as I had hours earlier.

So I took the Trazadone (to help me sleep) that I keep by my bed but seldom use, and this morning I feel much better.  Hooray sleep!


A good friend dropped by yesterday with dinner (oh, huzzah!) cooked by another good friend in my knitting group. I felt embarrassed at how incapacitated I was, and I had to admit to her that it was my own fault for scarfing a biscuit in less time than it takes to turn on my windshield wiper. She understood.

My knitting group has decided that they will fix us a dinner once a week and drop it off, and it’s been a most appreciated gift!

Aside from the food, which is amazing and delicious (as with the Minnesota driving test, there’s a cooking test one must pass in order to bring a hot dish to someone) the love is overwhelming.  Mondays are hard here, getting back into the school routine, Sunday night with less sleep than we all need, you know the drill.  Having one evening when dinner is taken care of is pretty delightful.

We are very lucky, you know?


Each one tells a little tale!


I have meant to write about this for weeks, and I’ve been SO remiss!

Nicky Epstein (one of the best designers I know and a hell of a good and funny friend) has started making buttons!  Her buttons are pewter, they’re adorable (that seems like too flimsy of a word – they’re whimsical!) and I can’t WAIT to use them in my next sweater!

I already have an idea for a wide belt using the bustier closure, isn’t it amazing?

You can find out how to order her amazing buttons at her website,, and if you’re lucky your local yarn shop may be carrying them soon!


I want to send these off before I head over to the Emerald Isle, so here are the winners of the John Irving & Laura Hillenbrand audio books!

CONGRATULATIONS to both winners, I hope you thoroughly enjoy the audio books!

Bonny McCormick is the winner of Last Night In Twisted River
Beaweezil is the winner of Seabiscut

…and the WINNER is…


I’ll be contacting her privately, but she’s the winner of the Crochet for Bears To Wear book. The publisher will be sending her the book directly!

Now, for those of you who missed out, I have TWO audio book giveaways (direct from me) and I’d love to get them sent out before the end of next week. Here’s the skinny:

Last  NightBook 1: Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving. I have to confess that the package has been opened because I wanted to listen to the book! It’s pure Irving, more substantial than his earlier stuff (which I love) and maybe just a bit heavy for me (I’m a lightweight) but I can see this becoming primo listening for some hearty knitter / crocheter!

SeabiscuitBook 2: Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand I adore this book.  I love the story, I love the writing, I love the story BEHIND the writing!  My recent/current introduction to a chronic pain condition has made me much more aware of how Ms. Hillenbrand worked to get such an amazing piece together, and the audio book is a delight to listen to.

If either of these books seem to stir something within you and you think you’d like to have them to listen to, just leave a comment and I’ll randomly pull a name out and contact you!

Being Mature

Today I went for a colonoscopy, my first in almost 10 years.  Unfortunately we showed up on the wrong day (after I’d done the 24 hour fasting and prep) I swear, this fibro fog is just NOT funny any more.

However I was VERY lucky in that they were able to squeeze me in!  This was a more eventful scope than my last, a lesion polyp was discovered, and a big one, too! (15mm)

I think when the doc heard about the delivery of my 11 lb baby boy 12 years ago, he felt a little competitive!

So we’ll hear soon what the biopsy has to say, and I’ll probably have to go back for a scope every 3 years now instead of 10.  Dang.  Well, I guess it’s good to have another hobby…

Crochet for Bears to Wear

bear crochet

I intruige you, no?

A good friend (Amy O’Neill Houck) sent me her new book, and although I don’t have any teddy bears (I have a stuffed poodle), I thought it was an adorable little volume of patterns that can be crocheted for any size teddy bear.

But the REAL power of the book escaped me at first, it took a special kid to help me see the true value of this collection of adorable patterns.

Last year I taught a young friend to knit.  It was one of the most fulfilling teaching episodes of my life, as this boy is very energetic, has difficulty focusing, but I could immediately see what a calming effect knitting had on his mind and soul.

Ben Knits

Ben Knits

And on his mother, who was pregnant at the time with her 3rd child and could use the respite of her son’s knitting!

So this year, just before the bear book arrived in the mail, my young friend dropped by (we watch the Amazing Race together each week) and noticed me crocheting like a madwoman (remember that doll I worked up 3 times?)

“What are you doing?”
“It looks like knitting…”

Which was a perfect segue into explaining that knitting and crochet are like cousins, with a lot of similarities.  The main difference is that with knitting each stitch is left live after it’s worked, but in crochet each stitch is bound off as you work it, making for a thicker fabric which can be more sculptural.

My brilliant explanation totally flew over my young friend Ben’s head, he just wanted to get to the YARN.  I showed him how to make a chain, and we made a passable start at learning an actual single crochet, but I could tell the spark wasn’t there.

Then Crochet For Bears To Wear arrived in the mail.

When Ben arrived the following Sunday for our regularly scheduled TV appointment, the book was sitting on the table and he gravitated to it like the moon to a planet.  He devoured it, he looked at every picture, commented on the designs, the possible difficulty of some of the pieces, and – of course – how cute  it all was.

As I said, this is a very special kid with huge amounts of creativity AND sensitivity that can hide themselves in an energetic exterior.  But he’s smart with his hands, and he was itching to try some of these projects.

CFBTW Interior

Just one peek...

Crochet For Bears To Wear is NOT a child’s book, although anyone who can crochet would enjoy working up the patterns.  It does, however, have such a wide ribbon of whimsy running through it that it would engage anyone.

Passion, fun, joy – these are thereasons we knit and crochet.  Any book that can bring so much of all three to a new – or established – crocheter is well worth owning!

In full disclosure I should say that I’d intended to offer my review copy as a giveaway to a worthy reader, but I’m afraid it’s spoken for – it will go to Ben!

[UPDATE: I WILL give a copy of the book away, just not THIS copy!  Leave a message saying that you’d like the book, and I’ll pick one worthy winner.  I’ll need to contact you (I can see your email address when you log in, no one else can) and you’ll receive the book from Amy’s publisher as soon as they can get it out to you!]