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Restocking the present shelf

17 Jan

Do you have a present shelf? The spot in the closet dedicated to last minute hostess gifts, birthday presents and things you just can’t justify giving yourself so you buy it to give to others? At my house, the present shelf materialized while living in Italy. During visits to America, I would stock up on English language books and goodies for the girls to give at birthday parties. We’ve grown out of that tradition, but the present shelf continues. Contents range from EVOO available at Giardini di Sole, textiles gathered during travels and of course, hand knitted items.

Hand knitted items on the present shelf headed out to support Jules’ Struck Girl Scout Gold Star Project in October, so the shelf is quite bare. Knit scarves are an ideal present shelf item. With so many knitters obsessed with scarves and shawls and with me hanging out and nurturing knitters eight hours a week, it’s difficult not to catch scarfitis. Mindless scarves, technique building scarves, spring scarves, winter scarves, scarves to layer… you get the picture.

So how will I restock the present shelf?

Alanna Nelson Boston Knits Nancy Marchant design Icicle

Icicle by Nancy Marchant

Icicle by Nancy Marchant gives me a chance to begin playing with her two color brioche knitting book and creating a hopefully gender neutral scarf. I picked up some great yarn at Circle of Stitches after visiting the PEM Native Fashion Now exhibit. I chose a deep plum to combine with gold, but have yet to cast on.

Knitting Fresh Brioche: Creating Two Color Twists and Turns uses different vocabulary and could definitely fill my winter with opportunities to swatch. Having received this book for Christmas, I’ll begin with one color swatches, enjoying the process and eventually end up with

BTW, the thought provoking, tactile tempting exhibit at the Peabody Essex Museum features great curation and interesting textiles.  Highlighting how heritage and global mish mash struggle in a world with boundaries, borders and limitations left me contemplating perspectives of native designers. Hmm… are there any audio books on native american cultural expression in the 21st Century so I could listen as I knit?


Alanna Nelson Boston knits Bristol Ivy designs

Sallah by Bristol Ivy

A survey of my stash yields plenty of options for sock weight yarn scarves. Sallah by Bristol Ivy could be the right choice for many of these skeins.  One of the Sit and Knit knitters has this on the needles, so I’ve been living it vicariously through her for the past couple of months. No casting on yet… I’ve still got a zick zack scarf on my needles, so in the mindless category, I’m probably set for a while.


Fabulous wind: we’re keeping up with the tug! @bostonsailingcenter #knitstagram #ravelry #zickzackscarf

A photo posted by Alanna Nelson (@tactiletravels) on

The present shelf doesn’t need to be restocked overnight.

Tips for Knitting Wild Animals

21 Jun Alanna Nelson knitting in Melrose MA

My 3D knit mojo rolled along over the winter. Most recently, I turned back to Knitted Wild Animals, by Sarah Keen.

Alanna Nelson knitting in Melrose MA

The giraffe, panda and elephant in their new home

Sarah’s patterns are easy to knit but need a chunk of time to assemble. These three animals used almost an entire bag of polyfill (I chose not to stuff them with wool, as the panda was really quite big and I wondered if the wool might get a bit felted over time).

The last time I knit patterns from this book, there were mental notes about what I might do differently next time. Did I remember them? Of course not.. but this time I’m writing it down.

Alanna Nelson knits wild animals in Boston

Knitted Wild Animals by Sarah Keen

  • Leave 8″ long tails at the cast on and bind off edges to seam your pieces together.
  • If you have difficulty identifying the cast on and bind off edges, tie a bow on the cast on tail to help you remember which is which.
  • Tie sets of arms, legs, horns… everything that’s knit in twos and keep them together until the seaming begins
  • Consider knitting pieces in the round on double pointed needles (the shorter, the better). The legs, arms and horns could have been knit in the round for the giraffe, elephant and panda. The body sections for the panda and elephant could be, too.  Just put markers in between the 2 pieces so your increase and decrease points are easy to identify.

So, there! Now, have you knit patterns from this book? I’d love to hear your tips about what worked for you.

Road Trip: Quilt National 2015

18 Jun

Ohio may not be everyone’s ultimate summer destination, but I’ve always wanted to visit a Quilt National at the Dairy Barn in Athens. This juried biennial exhibit reflects cutting edge art quilts from around the world. Videos where the artists talk about their work are available on the Dairy Barn YouTube channel sharpen my anticipation.

In true Tactile Travel style, I’m researching good food, cultural history and interesting shopping. Do you have any suggestions?

Setting sail with Judy’s Magic Cast ON

20 Mar

One of the unexpected gems from FiberCamp last weekend was Anne’s method to create a knitted tubular cast on. There’s oodles of options, but I’d never seen her version, which uses Judy’s Magic Cast On. Surveying my knitting circles this week, I realized that many have yet to try this versatile cast on technique.

I also hadn’t explored Judy Becker’s book about other ways to use this cast on. So I ordered Becker’s book from 2011, .
Beyond Toes: Knitting Adventures With Judy’s Magic Cast-On (aka JMCO).
Now, of course, I’ve got several projects I would love to try. Stay focused, Alanna, those Master Knitter corrections need to be in the mail before sailing season begins on May 1.

I’d love to see ways any of you use JMCO in your projects. Links in comments, please?

You are fab!

18 Feb Alanna Nelson at New York Fall Winter Fashion Week 2015

The stars have entire armies of people dedicated to telling them how fabulous they are every day of their lives. You have a mirror. Get in front of it and be your own publicist, darling.

This fabulous quote from Tom Fitzgerald and Lorenzo Marquez’s giggle read, “Everyone wants to be me or do me” could be a motto for many.

As I sit on sides of the Lincoln Center Plaza, watching young stylists, models, photographers grasp a bit of that Fashion Week feeling, considering their quest for fame and fortune, it seems a bit preposterous. On the other hand, how many other people are their own worst enemy?

You are fabulous dahling. Go out and share that brilliance with the world!

Recovering my 3D knit mojo

30 Nov knit cat by Alanna Nelson

Once upon a time, there was a mother who would knit anything for her daughter. The toddler loved hats and all kinds of animals. When the mother discovered The Knitted Farmyard by Hannelore Wernhard, she resolutely created its landscape rug and a variety of tiny animals that required hardly any knitting but plenty of fiddly finishing. The toddler loved playing with each of the knitted animals. She and her friends would take the animals all over the house, in the stroller and around town. Before the mother knew it, hours of laboriously fashioned little animals had completely disappeared, thereby extinguishing all desire to ever create anything three dimensional again.

Alanna Nelson knits toy animals

Giraffe from Sarah Keen’s Knitted Wild Animals

With very little exception, 3D knitted toys did not pop into this mother’s knitting radar (or onto her needles) for a very long time.  Last summer, as I watched a knitter create an ornament in the form of a box of Hobb’s popcorn, the kernel of knitting curiosity cracked that moldy resolution to avoid knitted toys. The flame sparked brightly when my sister requested not one but THREE knitted wild animals from Sarah Keen’s Knitted Wild Animals. Another toddler who may just love animals in my future? Can I refuse? No way! I don’t want to miss this chance.

So soon I shall knit another giraffe, an elephant and a panda. I’m warming up with other 3D knit projects this winter.

knit Mimmo

Parlour Cat a free Rav pattern by Sarah Kellener

I finished one of two Parlour cat by Sarah Elizabeth Kellner, in memory of our dear gatto di lusso. No face yet, but it looks quite convincing when placed on the chair. Can’t wait to make the next one.

Celestine is a 12 pointed star designed by Norah Gaughan. Easy to knit in sport weight yarn, this pattern could be a traveling project… except for the double pointed needles. However, TV knitting is completely appropriate.

If If keep this up, a knit cornucopia with accompanying knit vegetables may be in my future.  But will the 3D knit mojo last that long?

Into the craft abyss: Book making

22 Jan Alanna Nelson textile artist

Drip, drip, drip…
A lifelong avid reader, a doodler and occasional journal writer, my book attraction has broadened over the past few years.

Drip… While working at the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum, I loved the insights and discoveries of Anne Marie Eze, who at the time was a curatorial fellow (she’s become part of the curatorial staff since then).  Mrs. Gardner was a dedicated book connoisseur before she launched into other art forms. Anne Marie brings the cultural background of many books to life as she explores the collection.

Drip… Pam Parmel mentioned the embroidered caskets collection at the Museum of Fine Arts during her talk at the Common Cod Fiber Guild in 2012. As a member of the Textile and Costume Society, I had the chance to observe more of these incredible works, learning that many book binding techniques were used to assemble the pieces.

Drip… Stacie Dolan published Book Art Studio Handbook and I started thinking about all of the opportunities to mix my love of textiles with book binding.

Drip… An email from the Folk Art Museum leads me to a very cool way kit, which I just have to share on Twitter.


: V Cool gift idea: Book binding kit (I know you need a new craft idea) from @FolkArtMuseum 1:15pm, Dec 13 from HootSuite

FolkArtMuseumFolkArtMuseum: @Tactile_Travel Our staff loves that kit. What sort of book do you think you’d make? 3:09pm, Dec 13 from Web
Long pause. I don’t know.  I just want to try the putting together.  No idea about the content.
Alanna Nelson textile artist

Peg and Awl lead you through the book binding process with their Anselm kit.

My darling hub gave me the kit for Christmas. As I attempt to stay focused on completing the master knitter portfolio, I can’t dip in just yet (however, I keep a stack of books on the topic near my bedside table!).

Today’s Writer’s Almanac (January 22, 2014) gave me direction on the book inspiration.  It is enough by Anne Alexander Bingham. Add this to my collection of cherished poems.

Time to develop my book. I wonder how that paper will handle being stitched….

On your way to the Master’s…

11 Jun

More than four months into Level 3 of The Knitting Guild of America’s Master Hand Knitting Program, I’ve completed reviews, reports and absorbed the contents of a lot of knitting references (thank goodness for interlibrary loans). To date, 12 of the 19 swatches are blocked, labeled and complete with swatch pages. Generally, the swatches were knit twice before they were worthy of blocking. I’ve answered the associated questions for these swatches.  Onward and upward, I tell myself.

Soon, I’ll resolve my yarn choice for the doily. Isager’s Plant Fiber sounds and feels luscious, but I’ve never knit with it. Should I spend so much on a doily which could just as easily use Brown Sheep’s Cotton Fine for 40% less expense? Design notes, swatches, measurements and yarn options ferment for my hat and sweater designs. Combination ugh and delight, my attitude about the final level of the program ranges from joyful, determined, focused to dejected and incredulous (now why am I doing this when there are so many things I’d love to knit or crochet?).

Slowing the process slightly is my learning curve on making charts using Illustrator.  The program doesn’t require anything nice computerized patterns, but it’s been a longtime goal of mine to develop a pattern template and graphic style for the patterns I write.  Makes sense that I personally consider this to be part of a Master Knitter skill set.

My nagging fear:  Not following the directions completely, which results in rework for sheer carelessness.  If there’s one thing that I’ve learned about the Master Knitter Program, following directions, checking your work, letting others review your work and then checking it again perhaps has been the most valuable lesson (remember, I’ve been knitting for decades!).

This post is more brain unload than informative, inspirational or entertaining.  There are online forums and I enjoy support from 2 other local knitters who are tackling the program, but Master Knitter journey is quite solitary.

Thanks for listening.

To have and to hold…

13 May

Ever since I found out that June Hiatt’s The Principles of Knitting
was reprinted and available digitally, I began to actually want a a digital book reader. Wouldn’t it be fabulous to tote that tome of knitting knowledge spritely in my knitting bag?  What a tantalizing idea!

A bit of shopping around and I realized that my love of textile books meant a simple black and white reader wouldn’t support the color photography, so a fancier tablet was in my future.  And recently, my hub surprised me with a Kindle Fire.  What a darling!Alanna Nelson, Master Knitter

My dearly beloved and I are best friends, parents and share much together.  Makes sense, as it’s been nearly a quarter century of matrimony.  He sweetly let me know that with his Amazon Prime membership, we could stream movies and I could read books for free. All I had to do is register the Kindle to his Amazon Prime address.


But of course, this means that any time I download a book, he’d get the notification.  His preferences and Amazon profile would be littered with my wish list and purchases.  And more importantly, my Amazon profile would essentially wither into the ether. My Kindle library would become forever associated to his linked address unless otherwise gifted to me.


To have and to hold, in sickness and in health does not mean that we lose our identity.  Am I ready to let any sort of assumptions that Amazon could make based on more than 15 years of patronage disappear?  Worse yet, do I care?  Apparently, I do.

Asking friends, I found that some couples share not only a profile, but even a tablet… it was no big deal.  Others, who choose the presentation and display of their books carefully, as if decorating and making a personal statement, could understand my dilemma.

In the end, I decided my Kindle’s purpose was for my literary pursuits and not watching video, and that I wanted my profile to remain linked to my interest areas.

But I haven’t de registered the account…yet!

Any requests for which books to download first?