Friday, March 25, 2011

A Gift for You from Lisa: Chakra Pillow Set Pattern

Hi Everyone,

Many of you know that Lisa is a genius with color work. She's also a Queen Hostess, and has a tremendous gift with helping retreat attendees really chill out, both through yoga and knitting (not to mention Holden's whoopie pies). Today, I present to you a gift from Lisa, one that combines the joys of knitting with that whole get-centered-feel-better energy thing that we get from yoga. She's designed these really gorgeous chakra-inspired pillows and the pattern is yours for the knitting.



Chakra Pillow Set

Seven stackable pillows in graduated sizes

[note: pattern and photos copyright LB Evans. You may enjoy this pattern for your personal pleasure but you may not use it for profit.]

Nashua Handknits Julia, 50 gr balls

A Geranium (6085) - red

B Orange (0121) - orange

C Golden Honey (2163) - yellow

D Spring Green (5185) - green

E Bright Blue (4037) - blue

F Midnight Blue (6416) - indigo

G Purple Basil (3158) - violet


Size 7 (4.5mm) needles.

Tapestry needle

Cable needle

Sewing needle


½ yd cotton fine weave muslin, natural color

Flax seed

Various herbs and crystals (see below for ingredients), optional

Sewing thread to match fabric


20 sts and 24 rows to 4 inches (10cm)

Special Instructions

Wrap & turn (w&t):

RS: Slip next stitch purlwise, yf, slip st back to lefthand needle, yb; turn work over and work row.

WS: Slip next stitch purlwise, yb, slip st back to lefthand needle, yf; turn work over and work row.

Note on yarns:

Any natural fiber yarn can be used for this project as long as it coordinates with the indicated colors of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. Needle size would be determined by yarn choice and actual pillow sizes would vary depending upon the gauge of the chosen yarn.


Beginning with the red pillow working in color A, read pattern instructions thus to coordinate each individually sized pillow with its special color:

A (B, C, D, E, F, G).

Work the following repeat 5 times for each size pillow. Repeat is complete when * is reached in instructions. At this point begin a new repeat.

Cast on 17(15, 14, 12, 11, 9, 8) stitches.

Row 1 P12(11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6) sts, K5(4, 4, 3, 3, 2, 2) sts,

cast-on 12(11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6) sts.

Row 2 K12(11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6) sts, P5(4, 4, 3, 3, 2, 2) sts, K2, w&t.

Row 3 P2 sts, K5(4, 4, 3, 3, 2, 2) sts, P2 sts, w&t.

Row 4 K2 sts, P5(4, 4, 3, 3, 2, 2) sts, K3 sts, w&t.

Row 5 P3 sts, K5(4, 4, 3, 3, 2, 2) sts, P3 sts, w&t.

Row 6 K3 sts, P5(4, 4, 3, 3, 2, 2) sts, K4 sts, w&t.

Row 7 P4 sts, K5(4, 4, 3, 3, 2, 2) sts sts, P4, w&t.

Row 8 K4 sts, P5(4, 4, 3, 3, 2, 2) sts, K5 sts, w&t.

Row 9 P5 sts, K5(4, 4, 3, 3, 2, 2) sts, P5 sts, w&t.

Row 10 K5 sts, P5(4, 4, 3, 3, 2, 2) sts, K6 sts, w&t.

Row 11 P6 sts, K5(4, 4, 3, 3, 2, 2) sts, P6 sts, w&t.

Row 12 K6 sts, P5(4, 4, 3, 3, 2, *) sts, K7 sts, w&t.

Row 13 P7 sts, K5(4, 4, 3, 3, 2, *) sts, P7 sts, w&t.

Row 14 K7 sts, P5(4, 4, 3, 3, *, *) sts, K8 sts, w&t.

Row 15 P8 sts, K5(4, 4, 3, 3, *, *) sts, P8 sts, w&t.

Row 16 K8 sts, P5(4, 4, 3, *, *, *) sts, K9 sts, w&t.

Row 17 P9 sts, K5(4, 4, 3, *, *, *) sts, P9 sts, w&t.

Row 18 K9 sts, P5(4, 4, *, *, *, *) sts, K10 sts, w&t.

Row 19 P10 sts, K5(4, 4, *, *, *, *) sts, P10 sts, w&t.

Row 20 K10 sts, P5(4, *, *, *, *, *) sts, K11 sts, w&t.

Row 21 P11 sts, K5(*, *, *, *, *, *) sts, P11 sts, w&t.

Row 22 K11 sts, P5(*, *, *, *, *, *) sts.

Fabric Filler pillows

After completing each individual pillow, place the flattened knitted piece on top of cotton fabric and trace outline of pillow onto fabric with a pencil. Cut out 2 traced circular shapes. With matching cotton thread sew fabric pieces together with a stitch small enough to prevent flax seed from slipping through seams. Leave a ¼” seam allowance and a 1” opening for filling fabric pouch.

Fill fabric pouch with flax seed until it is firm but not hard packed. Optional filler items such as herbs, crystals, or essential oils (see list below) can be added now if desired.

Carefully sew closed opening to pouch and trim loose threads.


After creating fabric filler pillow, carefully stuff inside knitted pillow covering and close seam using a Mattress or reversed Kitchener stitch, tapestry needle and matching yarn.

Additional, optional Pillow Fillings:

Each pillow is designed to coordinate with each of the 7 chakras in both size and color. In addition to the flax seed filling, there are other ingredients that may be added to the fillings of each pillow which are also associated with the various chakras.

Below is a list with its special significance and coordinating crystals, and herbs or oils. Select any or all of the items listed below to personalize your own pillow set.

Crown chakra (violet): Connection and alignment with source, sense of being guided in life. Amethyst, diamond; lotus, lavender, rosewood

Third eye chakra (indigo): Intuition, inner knowing, vision of desire. Lapis, blue sapphire; star anise, camphor, patchouli

Throat chakra (blue): Individuality, manifesting the voice and ones personal truth. Turquoise, lapis lazuli; frankincence, tea tree, cypress

Heart chakra (green): Self love, wholeness, love of the heart.emerald. Rose quartz; lavender, rose, eucalyptus

Solar plexus chakra (yellow): Self will, boundaries, self reliance. Amber, topaz; peppermint, lemon grass

Sacral chakra (orange):. Creativity, self acceptance. Carnelian, coral; gardenia, rose, jasmine, bergamont

Root chakra (red): Strengthen presence in the world, grounding, soothing anxieties. Ruby, garnet; cedar, clary sage, rosemary

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Getting My Goat-- In a Good Way

(photo copyright Ori Sofer 2010)

Several years ago I was at a holiday bazaar when I met a woman named Lisa Shell, who was selling mohair she spun from the curly locks of her own angora goats. I got her card but let's just say it took me longer than I intended to follow through and visit her. Well about a year ago, I finally made it out to Lisa's place-- Kai Ranch-- and I was beside myself with joy. I've always had a thing for goats, even before I learned to knit-- perhaps my affinity stems from the fact that I am a Capricorn, sign of the goat.

Lisa Shell (photo copyright Ori Sofer 2010)

After that first trip, I wrote a profile of Lisa over at the blog for Hill Country Weavers, my local knit shop. But I wasn't done with Lisa yet. So impressed was I with how she lives her life, raises her goats, spins her yarn, and just all around kicks butt that I began to dream. Actually, I had two dreams. One dream was to invite Lisa to invite me to follow her around every day for a year to learn as much as I could so that I, too, could become a goat woman. Let's call that the uber-fantasy dream, something for the distant future. The other, more realistic dream, was to buy enough of her handspun to make a sweater, as a birthday gift to myself. This idea was inspired in part by last year's Monhegan Island Retreat-- on the way back to Portland we stopped to meet Kelly Corbett at Romney Ridge Ranch who raises her own sheep, and then again when we stopped to meet Nan Kennedy of Seacolors Yarn who also grows and dyes her own. I got this idea that from now on, whenever I'm able, I want to know the animals my yarn comes from-- as in meet and greet them personally.

To dye for! (photo copyright Ori Sofer 2010)

Okay, so my birthday came and went and I got a little behind in making the dream come true. But last week Lisa was holding a dyeing class out at her ranch and she invited me to join in. (Ori-- my resident photographer-- came along and documented the day.) I'd never dyed yarn before and it was a total blast. Actually, I still haven't dyed yarn-- I chose to work with loose curly locks-- maybe I'll make one of my dogs a little wig with it.

Future handspun or doggie toupee? Decisions, Decisions (photo copyright Ori Sofer 2010)

We also headed out to the pasture to check out all the little baby goats that arrived in the past few weeks. Now I want goats even more than I did before. Honestly, one of these days I'm moving out to the country. Y'all can come visit me, I promise.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Random Acts of Knitting and Senseless Beauty

image copyright ori sofer 2011

During the Monhegan Retreat 2009 attendees had a good time passing around a collaborative piece of knitting. Everyone knitted several inches in any style they wished. In the end, we had a column cozy which we presented to Holden who promptly installed it in one of the parlors. It was a nice touch, our souvenir to him and a reminder that we'd be back.

A few months ago my friend Maggie signed up to be part of a project at the Blanton Museum of Art down here in Austin (where I hang out when I'm not on the island). The Blanton had teamed up with Knit Graffiti artist, Magda Sayeg who goes by the handle Knitta Please. Magda has committed acts of public knitting all over the world-- she once covered an entire bus in knitting-- and, in particular, all over Austin where she lives. Often she uses pieces she knits on a machine-- it's the only way she can cover a lot of territory in a reasonable amount of time. But for the Blanton project, A Knitted Wonderland, she asked local knitters to contribute their hand knitting skills to create cozies for 99 trees.

image copyright ori sofer 2011

I honestly don't know how many people total worked on the project. I do know that for our tree I was part of a team of three and each of us knitted a section about three feet square. Maggie sewed the pieces together and installed it with help from her boyfriend, Southpaw and our other team member, Amanda. The end result is, I must say, pretty darn awesome. Visitors agreed and vocalized their excitement so much that the installation, which was due to come down this week, is staying up for awhile longer.

image copyright ori sofer 2011

I admit my enthusiasm about knitting what amounted to an oversized swatch in acrylic yarn (necessary to hold up in inclement weather) sort of wavered as I worked on the project, But the sum of the parts-- not just our tree cozy but a whole plaza of knit-covered trees-- left me quite happy I took part. And it makes me want to spearhead a movement for the 2011 Monhegan Retreat, leading the group in knitting multiple column cozies for Holden, and perhaps a matching sweater he can wear.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Crazy Knitting Aunt (That's Me)

Is this child cute enough and delicious enough for you? He's also supremely chilled out.

I'm on the East coast today, wrapping up a week of business/pleasure/chaos. On Tuesday night I gave a talk at the Korea Society in Manhattan about my latest quilting book. (Don't panic if you missed it-- KS posted a video of my entire one-hour discussion. Kind of like a TED talk, only different.)

Since my mom and 7 of my 8 siblings and their many, many children all live in South Jersey-- just a couple of hours from NYC-- I divided my time, spending most of my visit holding court at my mom's house, but dedicating one day to tromping miles and miles (and miles) around Manhattan. While my day in the big city was fun, and I did make a quick stop at PURL SOHO (where curiously I bought quilting fabric instead of yarn), hanging out with my family allows me to play a role I am most delighted playing. I am the Crazy Knitting Aunt. I love teaching as many of my 25 (or is it 26? I can't remember) nieces and nephews to knit as are interested. My most eager student is my niece, Geena, who's been knitting for several years now. Geena really gets it-- the structure, the math, the architecture of knitting and I love watching her skills improve and expand.

Baby Daniel wearing his Umbilical Cord hat in Debbie Bliss Cashmerino
Aunt Spike sporting her favorite sweater: a top-down in Manos de Uruguay

On this trip, I brought a couple of skeins of Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino with me. My plan was to either knit a baby hat one of my sisters had requested or, better yet, teach that sister how to knit it herself. Let me back up and say that, since my pal Debbie Stoller first came out with Stitch 'n Bitch, I have made about 2,000 of the umbilical cord baby hats featured in that book. The hats are super simple and they knit up in a day and everyone loves them. Last fall, when my youngest sister was about to have what most likely will be the last grandbaby/nephew, I made this imminent baby an umbilical cord hat in a nice bright green Cashmerino with yellow stripes. (I like making baby stuff in anything-but-blue-or-pink.)

That hat was such a hit that one of my older sisters, Mare, asked me to make two more for her to give to friends. I got one done but not the other. I decided that teaching Mare to make these herself would've been a very cool thing to do since it was Mare who, way back in 1986, first taught me to knit. She long ago put down the needles but I figured it would all come back to her pretty quick. Instead, Geena got to me first. I showed her the yarn, explained the simple pattern, asked her if she wanted to try it-- yes, I was being a bit like Tom Sawyer and the fence painting, though I stopped short of asking Geena to pay me for the "lesson."

Well Geena's been happily working on the hat and she'll likely finish today-- finishing means she'll get her first lesson from me on I-cords. I got her a copy of Stitch 'n Bitch while I was at PURL so she can do some self-learning when I'm not around. I hope she'll keep up with the knitting for the rest of her life. I meet so many people who tell me that they learned from their grandmother or aunt. I like to imagine Geena telling her friends that her crazy Aunt Spike is responsible for creating a cheerful knitting monster.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Deeply Felt Post

Before: the Grim Reaper Snuggie Coat

The other day, I was giving a knitting lesson to my friend. He's a quick study and we were talking about mistakes and how to fix them. I was telling him what Allison told me on last year's Monhegan Island retreat-- her mother used to say, "If a man running for a bus can't see a mistake, don't worry about it." That's a rule which-- even before I heard it put like that-- has served me well. If I make what feels like a noticeable error and I'm far enough along that fixing it means ripping out inches and inches, I remind myself that probably no one else will ever notice it and, once I let it go, I also will stop noticing it.

As I was discussing all this with my friend, I remembered one of these errors on a sweater coat I made a couple of years ago. So I trotted out the sweater coat to show my friend and see if he could spot the mistake. Even when I pointed it out he couldn't tell. That was the good news.

Then there was the bad news. Well, okay, not horrible news. But let's just say I had a little accident after the knitting session was over. Looking at the sweater coat I remembered a much more noticeable problem with it. When I made it, I only realized when I got to the sleeves-- which seemed extremely long-- that I had been knitting the XL pattern and not the L pattern. As my goal had been to finish the coat to wear on my pending trip to France, and as-- like I said-- I'm not one to do much ripping, I thought to heck with it, I'll just keep going.

The end result was what my boyfriend termed the World's Most Expensive Snuggie. It was massive. When I pulled up the hood, I looked like the Grim Reaper. But I remained determined to wear it on my trip, and consoled myself that it was so big I could wear added layers under it. That was good since it was about negative 50 degrees most days we tromped around Paris.

Somewhere along the way, my friend Suzanne, who owns Hill Country Weavers in Austin (I blog for the shop here), suggested I try a "light felt" to get the sweater to a more reasonable size. I parked the idea, then forgot it, then remembered it when I took the sweater out to show off the invisible mistake. I thought about an upcoming trip to New York, where it's still chilly, and I decided that it was time for a "light felt" so I could take the sweater with me. I worried that all of the bobbles would sort of melt together, that the definition of the cables would be gone. But I reasoned that at least I'd be more inclined to wear the thing if it fit me.

Then I did that thing I'm famous for. I convinced myself that surely it would turn out just right if I let the fates have a hand in the process. I looked up how to felt on a couple of websites but admittedly just skimmed them. I recalled an accidental felting years ago-- that time the first sweater I ever made sneaked into the washer and in the end I cut it up to make a bag-- but assured myself this time wouldn't be a disaster. I thought of one other felting project I'd done when the bag I knitted just would not shrink down enough to please me. Then I said, "Whatever," tossed the coat (made from Manos de Uruguay) into a hot washer and let it agitate. I checked it after a few minutes. It still seemed big. I let it agitate some more. I wandered off and...

After: my new felted "short coat"

Yes, that's right, I wandered off. And so what I ended up with was... well, let's just say I'm glad I recently watched Robert Altman's movie Pret-a-Porter about the Fashion Industry. Because if I squint my eyes just right when I look in the mirror with my "new" sweater on, I can convince myself that it is High Fashion. Granted the arms and armpits are so tight that it feels like a straightjacket. And can I really get away with the new jumbo "collar" that used to be the hood and now sticks out like something you might see on an old episode of Star Trek? Um... well... probably not if I'm in any city except for Austin, which fortunately is where I live. Here "fashion" mostly refers to which pajama bottoms and flip-flops you decide to throw on before heading out to a food trailer. But I'm thinking I will not be wearing the felted "short coat" in New York.


Did I learn a lesson? Maybe. Maybe not. Yes, I will admit I do have a tendency to sometimes do things the hasty way. And when I think of how many yards of yarn went into the original, and how many hours (I really did lose track, though I remember getting up every morning to put in 2 - 3 solid hours on it before my trip)... well, I'm trying not to think of that. It'll probably be a long time before I felt anything again. But I absolutely, positively will be sure that I circle the right size pattern next time I start in on a garment.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Knit Lit: My New Favorite Book

I am equally dedicated to knitting and reading. When I put my mind to it, I can do both, but really when I knit and read simultaneously both passions suffer some. My solution most of the time is to listen to audiobooks, which I love, when I'm knitting. My other solution is to remember the joys of not multitasking, and to just dedicate time to one and then the other.

Sometimes when I choose to go with a printed book vs. an audiobook, I'll still find a way to bring knitting into it by choosing knit-related books. Toward that end, I really loved The Knitting Sutra: Craft as Spiritual Practice, by Susan G. Lydon. Last week, I got what I am currently referring to as My New Favorite Book. It's called Beautiful Sheep and it was published in the UK, but I was lucky enough to get my hands on a copy. I didn't really get it to read the words (though it's got some very interesting writing). Instead, I was drawn in by the stunning photographs of award-winning sheep of various breeds. These pictures are a great cross between simply stunning and mildly ironic, though I don't necessarily believe the irony was intended. Still-- to see sheep posed in studio against a cloth backdrop is kind of funny. And it begs the question: How did they get the sheep to pose like this? Really pretty amazing.

What about y'all-- do you dedicate much time to reading about knitting and knitting related things like sheep and goats? And do you like essays about knitting? Fiction about knitting (like the Friday Night Knitting Club series)? Or do you mostly stick with books of patterns?