Peanut the Lamb: A picture book for all ages.

Who can resist a sweet little lamb? While having sheep around the house may not be feasible (or even desirable, except for a quick encounter at the petting zoo), let me introduce another option to enjoy sheep from the comfort of your own home. Meet Peanut:

Picture book by Jim Thompson Peanut the Lamb

Peanut of Blind Faith Farm by Jim Thompson

This is a bedtime story to sooth and inspire all ages. The soft and playful watercolors by Rebecca Gavney Driscoll glow à la Beatrix Potter. A sweet story, Peanut of Blind Faith Farm has an optimistic moral to boost your spirits after the dreariest of days. Maybe it’s a desk drawer story to boost your moral during a tough day at work… in any case, in the face of adversity, it’s good to know that we can make things work.

Author Jim Thompson based this picture book on the real life occurrence at Blind Faith Farm, located between Madison and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I’m thankful he did. No spoiler alerts here!

Remember my fantasy fleece? It came from Blind Faith Farm (but not from Peanut). Small world, right? Thanks to the book publishing revolution, we can enjoy stories from all over the world. While I’m at it, do you know the work Boston-based Mary DePalma and Jamie Harper? Aren’t we lucky to be alive in a time when we can easily discover the lovely work of others?

Get a copy of Peanut of Blind Faith Farm for the little ones in your life… and perhaps one for yourself, too. Let me know what you think.


Restocking the present shelf

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

Tips for Knitting Wild Animals

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

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

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?

4 Books to Conjure a Knit and Crochet Spring

Alanna Nelson Knit spring flowersWhen the view from my desk is greyscale, a splash of spring blossoms is just what I need.

This occurs every March since I’ve lived in New England. A few years ago, I took a hangar and shaped it into a green grid that could support a growing bouquet of knit and crochet blossoms. My goal was to create new flowers every year. At this point, it’s a somewhat desperate but well intentioned beginning. With all of my other knitting projects, new blossoms won’t appear  this year. But I think I’ll put the wreath up anyway. I’m ready for a shot of yellow.
Knitted blossoms New England spring wreath.

Interested in making your own knit or crochet blossoms? Here’s four resources I enjoy:
Hawaiian Lei in Crochet by Roberta Wong. Who couldn’t use a bit of Hawaiian paradise in New England after the winter we’ve had?

Nicky Epstein Knitted Flowers. If you have any of Nicky’s book, you’ll probably find a knitted flower pattern. This books keeps them all in one place!

Noni Bellows Noni Flowers: 40 Exquisite Knitted Flowers is the perfect book if you have tidbits of leftover wool. I bought this book two years ago as I love her knitted and embellished handbag patterns. Alas, I have yet to do anything other than fondly page this gorgeously styled pattern book.

Leslie Stanford’s 100 Flowers to Knit and Crochet features slightly more crochet patterns than knit, but that’s not a big deterrent to me!

If you create any spring blossoms with me, show me your photos on Ravelry. I love virtual bouquets!