Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Checkerboard Stitch Gypsy Turban

I have this gorgeous variegated green cotton yarn, which I thought would be perfect for the Gypsy Turban pattern. After a few rows, I realized that the variation in color wasn't looking so good in moss stitch. So began my journey into trying a different stitch for the turban. Wow. Checkerboard looks great with the yarn coloration, but the gauge is way different. So here you see my third completed turban in this yarn... the first two got frogged because the sizing wasn't right.

Here's how to adapt the moss stitch Gypsy Turban pattern to checkerboard stitch (cotton yarn only... haven't tried anything else):

1. A flat swatch made with Lily Sugar 'n Cream cotton worsted weight yarn on US no. 7 needles gives a gauge of 20 st = 4.75 inches.

2. I made a size medium, so all you have to do is add 19 stitches to the medium cotton number in the pattern when casting on. It's best to have a multiple of 8 stitches for checkerboard st, or a multiple of 4 would work, but it wouldn't look as good. For size small, I'd recommend adding 17 stiches to the small cotton number of cast-ons, and for large, try adding 19 stitches to the large cotton number.

3. Work in checkerboard stitch for the same number of inches listed in the pattern, ending with a full 5 rows of pattern. Checkerboard stitch is easy: (K4, P4) repeat to end of row. Do this for 5 rows, then switch to (P4, K4) for 5 rows. Keep alternating like this until the piece is the right number of inches... it took 7 sets for me.

For more tips and variations on the Gypsy Turban, see
Cast-Ons: Keeping Count
3-Needle Bind-Off for Dummies
Add Fringe!
Swatch Wars
I Love Cable Cast-On

Monday, August 24, 2009

I Love Cable Cast-On

Yes indeed, I do. Cable cast-on is used in the Gypsy Turban, Witch Warmers, and Cheryl's Prayer Shawl patterns because it gives a very neat edge to the knitting. Regular cast-on turns out to look sort of loopy, especially when using cotton yarn. In the photo above, the swatch on the left has cable cast-on, and the one on the right has standard cast-on.

Cable cast-on takes longer, but it's worth the trouble. Here's how to do it:

1. Cast-on the first two stitches in the standard way, and for each of the remaining stitches, use the following steps.

2. Insert the right needle between the top two stitches already cast-onto the left needle, instead of into the top cast-on stitch. Your right needle will be inserted from the front of the work straight through to the back.

3. Wrap the yarn over the right needle tip and proceed as if knitting a regular stitch, taking the loop created on the right needle, over to the left needle.

For more tips on knitting the Gypsy Turban, see
Cast-Ons: Keeping Count
3-Needle Bind-Off for Dummies
Add Fringe!
Swatch Wars
Checkerboard Stitch Gypsy Turban

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Add Fringe!

Adding crocheted fringe is a great way to change the look of a favorite pattern: hat, scarf, shawl, bag, whatever.

Here’s how to add it to the Gypsy Turban.

1. After binding off, don’t cut the yarn or tie off.

2. Turn the work, and insert a US size F crochet hook into the loop left from the last bind-off.

3. Chain 11.

4. Starting in the 2nd chain from the hook, work a slip stitch into each chain (10) going back down to the turban edge.

5. Single crochet in the top loop of each of the next 3 bound-off edge stitches.

6. Repeat steps 3-5 until you reach the end of the bound-off edge stitches.

7. Single crochet tightly along the edge across to the beginning of the fringe.

8. Slip stitch to the first base stitch of the fringe.

9. Tie off.

For more tips on knitting the Gypsy Turban, see
Cast-Ons: Keeping Count
3-Needle Bind-Off for Dummies
I Love Cable Cast-On
Swatch Wars
Checkerboard Stitch Gypsy Turban

Friday, August 21, 2009

3-Needle Bind-Off for Dummies

Yes, in this case the dummy would be me. This bind-off-and-join is very much like 3-needle bind-off. As a lazy knitter who hates sewing seams, I came up with another way to join and bind off in one row. I think it’s more foolproof than 3-needle… fewer needles to juggle, and the safety of a holder to keep stitches from dropping off.

The idea is to join two pieces of knitting with live stitches by knitting two stitches together: one from each piece, and bind off as you go.

Here's how to do it for the Gypsy Turban:

1. Move the desired number of stitches that are located at the end of the row (you have to be using a circular needle for this) from the right needle to the left needle.

2. Now move the same stitches from the left needle onto a large stitch holder so that the first stitch that will be taken off the holder is the last stitch in the row you just worked.

3. Take the first stitch from the holder, onto the left needle and K2 tog (one that came from the holder and one that was already on the left needle).

4. Take the next stitch from the holder onto the left needle and K2 tog (again, one that came from the holder and one that was already on the left needle).

5. Bind off the previous stitch on the right needle by passing it over the just-made stitch and off the needle.

6. Repeat steps 4-5 until all stitches on the holder have been worked.

Congratulations. You have just bound off and made a seam without any sewing!

Note: This method can also be used to join two separate pieces of knitting. As you finish knitting the first piece, don't bind off the edge to be joined, and place the live stitches on a stitch holder. Then when you're finished knitting the second piece don't bind off, and start with step 3 above.

For more tips on knitting the Gypsy Turban, see
Cast-Ons: Keeping Count
Add Fringe!
I Love Cable Cast-On
Swatch Wars
Checkerboard Stitch Gypsy Turban

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Cast-Ons: Keeping Count

How many years have I been knitting, and counting and re-counting and fudging cast-on stitches? Too many. A few weeks ago, I figured out a way to avoid re-counting over and over again. This is probably obvious to most knitters, but here goes...

After every 20 cast-on stitches, place a marker. It's that simple. I like to use those stitch holders that look like big safety pins, because I can move them if I've miscounted. To start, cast-on 21 stitches. Then count 'em to be sure, and place the marker between the 20th and 21st stitches. Then continue to cast-on up to 41, and place another marker after the 40th stitch... and so on. Remove the markers as you come to them while knitting the first row.

Easy peasy.

This makes the Gypsy Turban and the Prayer Shawl much easier to cast-on!

For more tips on knitting the Gypsy Turban, see
3-Needle Bind-Off for Dummies
Add Fringe!
I Love Cable Cast-On
Swatch Wars
Checkerboard Stitch Gypsy Turban

Inspiring Turbans

The Fortune Teller by Caravaggio, circa 1594

Here are 2 paintings that got me going on the design of the Gypsy Turban pattern.

There's a great webpage on Renaissance gypsy garb:

The Fortune Teller by Manfredi, circa 1610

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Gypsy Turban

The idea for the Gypsy Turban pattern came to me when looking at paintings of Medieval gypsy fortune tellers. It's easy to knit and easy to wear--no sewing, grafting, or blocking. You can wear it to cover the hairline, pull it down over your ears, or push the whole turban back on your head. It can also be worn as a hood. Pattern includes detailed instructions and photos for how to put it on. With a twist and a flip, this turban practically arranges itself. Make one in cotton for summer and another in wool for winter warmth.

You can find knitting tips and variations on this pattern in the following posts:
Cast-Ons: Keeping Count
3-Needle Bind-Off for Dummies
Add Fringe!
I Love Cable Cast-On
Swatch Wars
Checkerboard Stitch Gypsy Turban
Inspiration for This Pattern

The Gypsy Turban pattern is available for purchase as a download here and on Ravelry. $3.00 USD

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Nose Wars

This post is about an Indian technique for preventing and clearing up colds, called jala neti. Last year my husband finally convinced me to try it, since allergies were making me a dripping fount of misery.

No, I don't use a neti pot... tried it... can't stand it. But I do use the more ancient form of irrigating the nose, which is much easier and much less, well, disturbing. And it works. I have had absolutely no sinus infections or colds or allergic rhinitis since starting this daily practice 1-1/2 years ago, and when I do have allergies, there's pretty much no congestion or drainage.

Here's what I do once a day:

1. Heat 1/2 cup distilled or sterile water in the microwave for 20-30 seconds to get it warm. Put it in a bowl.

2. Dissolve in 1/4 tsp. sea salt... anything other than sea salt isn't okay for this.

3. Add 1/2 cup more water, not heated. The overall temperature in the bowl should be lukewarm.

4. Dip your finger into the bowl and then wet the front of your nose. (This prevents the dreaded tickle.)

5. Breathe gently out of your nose, and then stick your nose into the water in the bowl, over a sink.

6. Click your glottis once or twice to pull a little water up into your nose.

7. Take your nose out of the bowl and let the water run out into the sink.

8. Repeat steps 5 - 7 twice more.

9. If one of your nostrils seems a little clogged, do it once more, but with a finger closing the other nostril.

10. Blow your nose gently into a tissue, each nostril separately.

11. With the tissue over your nose, bend forward at the waist and exhale through the nose 4-5 times in the following 4 positions: with your face pointing straight ahead and top of the head up, then top of the head pointing to the front and face pointing to the right, next same but to the left, and finally with your head hanging straight down and facing your legs.

12. Sit or stand with your head upright and breathe deeply and slowly, inhaling through your tongue curled to form a little tube, and exhaling as completely as possible through the nose. Do this 5 times.

When I started doing this, I did it 3 times a day because I had a lot of fluid and nasal congestion.

This does not cure my allergies or prevent my sinus headaches. It does prevent fluid buildup and infection for me.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Find the Kitteh

Spazz is playing big-kitty-in-the-jungle. Can you find her?

(Both of my kids found her, but Michael's nerdy friends couldn't.)

Tonight's ice cream flavor: banana with nutmeg

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Okra: The Misunderstood Vegetable

Hate okra? Who could hate such a cute little veggie??

Here's what I have learned about how to prepare it...

Okra should be small: no thicker than 3/4 inch, but 1/2 inch is best. After washing, rub each one with a kitchen towel to remove some of the hairs. Cut off the pointed ends and stem ends, and discard or compost them. The best knife for slicing okra is one with a serrated edge.

When sliced no thicker than 1/4" and sautéed in oil, fresh okra is not likely to be slimey. It tastes great simply sautéed in olive oil with onions, salt, and pepper. You can use frozen okra in your favorite gumbo, but be prepared to get slimed. Adding hot water after cooking will help disguise it.

The small, tender ones are good eaten raw, too... a nice addition to your crudité list.

Here's another okra recipe:
Summertime Gumbo

Tonight's ice cream flavor: banana, pure and simple.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Temple of the Hearth-Fire

I came across this passage from a book by Dion Fortune:

"In order to make the home a Temple for the soul, its duties must be dominated by two ideals--love and beauty. Its services must be rendered with sympathy and joy, and we must make its humblest details beautiful. Even in the barest room there is a beauty of perfect cleanliness and order. If we would merely eliminate the superfluous from our homes and keep what remains in perfect order, we should have achieved true beauty...

"Let us, in imagination, always put a chair at the fireside and lay a place at the table for the Unseen Guest, and live our life and do our work in the light of that Invisible Presence.

"If we rule our homes in a spirit of selfless love and serenity of heart, asking no return, but doing our duty for the sake of the need of those to whom we minister, our house will be a true Temple of the Hearth-Fire...

"Let us try to keep our homes always in readiness for the coming of the [divine] Wayfarer... For His coming it is not enough that the house should be swept and garnished, the spirit of the home must blossom on the hearth in peace and good will and, above all, in serenity, which is the true keynote of home."


Last night's ice cream flavor: mango!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Summertime Gumbo

There's something about gumbo that tastes like comfort food... maybe the allspice. My mother used to make okra gumbo when I was growing up. Fresh tomatoes, fresh okra, fresh onion... this recipe makes the hot summer's abundant okra totally yummy and not slimey. Less cooking than regular gumbo, too.


3-4 cups cooked brown rice
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/8 tsp. allspice
1 cup sliced fresh okra, 1/4" thick (use only the skinny ones)
1 med. onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely minced (about 2 Tbsp.)
2 med. tomatoes, diced or 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
6 shakes Tabasco sauce, or to taste
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. salt, or to taste
Sauté the okra, onion, garlic, chili powder, and allspice in olive oil. When the onions are softened, turn off the heat and stir in tomatoes, Tabasco, thyme, and salt. Cover to heat up the tomatoes a bit without actually cooking them, until ready to serve over rice. Serves 4.

You can find more info on cooking okra here:
Okra: The Misunderstood Vegetable

Tonight's ice cream flavor: cantaloupe... best when soft and ripe and juicy and with a tiny bit of honey.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Don't Try This

How come banana and peanut butter sandwiches taste great, but the combination in ice cream is terrible? I even added some cinnamon. The peanut butter gives the ice cream a sort of grainy texture on the tongue... all wrong.


Friday, August 7, 2009

Cheryl's Prayer Shawl

Super simple garter stitch makes this prayer shawl a fast, easy knit that’s perfect when the need arises. Large-sized needles and skinny yarn give a fabulous drape when worn. The yarn used in the picture is crimped sportweight with lots of slubs, which makes it very huggable. It’s also a machine-washable and dryable wool blend, to make life easier for the recipient.

The free pattern includes some thoughts on the blessing of a prayer shawl, as well as text for an enclosure card to go with it. Cheryl passed away in 2009, and this pattern now serves as a tribute to her. She used the shawl for about 10 months during her illness.

US 10 /  6.0 mm long or circular needles

approx. 1200 yds / 1100 meters lightweight yarn, such as sport, DK, or mohair

A note about the yarn: The photo shows "Cindy" yarn by Bouquet.  It’s discontinued (8 skeins were used for a 5.5-foot shawl), and I would recommend looking for a crimped, slubby sportweight yarn if you want your shawl to look like the one in the photos. The pattern will work well with any yarn, since it’s a very basic design and stitch.

20 st x 16 rows = 2.5" x 2.5" / 6.5cm x 6.5cm (flat swatch) in K1P1 rib

Skill Level: easy

For a free .pdf of the pattern for Cheryl's Prayer Shawl, click here:

download now

You can find knitting tips for this pattern in the following posts:
Cast-Ons: Keeping Count
I Love Cable Cast-On
Swatch Wars

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A Great Lady Has Passed This Way

Today I learned that a wonderful woman left this life last night. She loved nature, flowers, her family. I'm sure she took comfort in the knowledge that she raised fine children, all good people. And her grandchildren are growing up to carry the clan forward.

My own mother fought cancer for 10 years before she left the body at age 55. It took 6 years for me to actually come to terms with her death. My conclusion was, and still is, that it was not the unfair taking of her life away from her and my brother and me, but it was the release that she needed. She was freed from a body that just couldn't go on, freed from the trials of her life, and she was finally able to go to whatever was waiting for her.

The full Moon is shining through the trees outside my window. The mist that surrounded her has vanished, and she is high and bright now.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Ayurvedic Spice Mix

This is a wonder! I found it when researching Ayurvedic allergy remedies, and it seems to be a classic mix of ground spices that are absolutely delicious for cooking. I can't tell that it has helped my allergies, but it has been excellent for adding to stir fried veggies, pasta dishes, and soups. I use about 1/4 teaspoon per serving.

6 parts cumin
6 parts coriander
4 parts turmeric
1 part ginger
1 part black pepper

Note: most versions of this recipe call for 6 parts fennel as well, but... ahem... I'm allergic to fennel. And I wouldn't like the taste with fennel, anyway.

You can find a recipe using this spice mix here: Spiced Carrots.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Black Plum

Jack Sparrow had his Black Pearl, and I have my black plum, or at least until I've gobbled it up. This is my favorite flavor of homemade vegan sherbet so far this summer. It tastes like sweet, sweet wine.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Bye Bye Vinyl

This is the most dated 1970s feature in the house we bought 3 years ago. Been livin' with this pattern in the bathrooms, and it's being ripped up to be replaced with tile. Yay!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Strawberry Bliss

What else can I say? 1/2 cup ripe strawberries, mashed, 1 Tbsp. honey (or vegan sweetener), 1/2 cup rice milk, freeze in an ice cream maker, enjoy! I did. Mmmmm.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Swatch Wars

Actually the war is with my poor brain. I have just learned from a wise tester for the Gypsy Turban pattern, that
a) flat swatch makes pattern gauge, counting stitches in a stretchy FO gives a way different gauge, and
b) smaller swatch means higher gauge (more stitches/inch), and larger swatch means lower gauge (fewer stitches/inch).

Go figure... and while you're at it, give thanks for wiser knitters and crocheters than yourself.