Monday, July 30, 2007

How to drive a pregnant woman nutso.

As if it weren't enough that Billie Anne has entered the dreaded final stretch (no pun intended, honest) of her pregnancy, she has to work in these deplorable conditions:

Really, in terms of work environment, Wal Mart might be a step up.

Her desk at Loops World Headquarters (aka our home office) backs up to the laundry area. Lately the dryer has taken to making a loud whiny noise, such that country girl Billie Anne was looking outside the window for an owl. Although truthfully, it sounds more like a sea gull that has just swallowed a fruit bat. Scree-scrEEEch! Scree-scrEEEch! On the other hand, Billie Anne may in fact be grateful that it drowns out the sounds of our children lovingly "playing together in peaceful harmony."

Why, you ask, is there so much laundry? The answer, dear readers, is simple:

It's my Hot Loops secret project (see? I'm keeping it secret with the black bar ala "girls gone wild")- remember the slippery Berroco one with 429 stitches that kept falling off? The beast lives - and the monotony of the stockinette stitch has taken up residence in the deepest corners of my psche. Naturally, I have begun to fantasize about new projects - but more about that next time.

Since I hate to be coy (it's not really in my nature), I will share with you another Berroco project in Suede that is (finally) finished. I actually did it months ago, but the lining was too tight and the fabulous Dianna re-lined it for me on the bias, so it now fits. This pattern is officially called Sunny Set from Berroco Booklet #243, but I call it Cowgirl from He**:

Here's a close look at the crochet (yes, crochet!) section that took me right to the edge of the abyss:

I decided to officially consider myself a "hooker" when I mastered one stitch called a Treble Crochet Pocket Group that required 16 steps. Each. Being from Oklahoma, I called them Twisters because they resembled tiny tornadoes.

And thanks, Billie Anne, for taking the skirt pictures! Outside! In 100+ degree Oklahoma heat! While squatting to get the angle I needed! By the way, I called the hospital, and the maternity ward DOES have one padded room. I reserved it for you :)

- Shelley
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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Bedlam temptation.

For the edification of you non-Okies, we have quite a state college rivalry. Every year, the University of Oklahoma (OU) Sooners and the Oklahoma State (OSU) Cowboys have a football face-off that's come to be known as the Bedlam Series. I didn't attend either school, but I pay attention for 3 primary reasons:

1. My parents met while at OU. They are now divorced but the personal nostalgia lives on. I remember being allowed to join them on very grown-up bus trips to Norman for the games, while my baby sister stayed home. Doesn't get more nostaglic than that.
2. My husband went to BOTH schools - two years of 70s-style partying at OU, followed by one year at a very dark and intense art school (think Hogwarts), followed by a hallelujah-I finally-found-my-calling year studying art & design at the highly-regarded OSU/Okmulgee. But apparently, his heart still belongs to the party years (or maybe he's trying to keep the peace with my 6-foot-6-inches tall father), so he cheers for OU.
3. I graduated from Texas Christian University, home of the horned frogs. Yes, that's right. You wanna make somethin' of it? And, while the education is great, and we did beat OU one very glorious time in recent years, that is pretty much the limit of the glory, unless you count the tennis team.

Anyway, when our friends Stacey and Amanda over at Tempted Yarns asked if I had any special sock yarn orders, I quickly put in a request for OU and OSU colors. After all, they already make a great University of Tulsa blend:

Plus, customers are always asking for OU crimson-and-cream or OSU orange-and-black (it's not just for Halloween anymore!). With every sales rep that visits with some new sock yarn, my hopes are raised, only to be dashed yet again. So imagine my ecstasy when Stacey and Amanda mixed up these little babies:

These were part of a larger order, including the wild colors like Punk Junkie and Shock Rocker from our first order that flew off the shelves in just days. When Stacey asked how many I wanted, and I said 20, and she said you mean like, 3 of each color? And I said no, I mean 20 EACH, I don't think she quite believed me. But we are already taking requests for the OSU and OU colors, and the list is filling fast enough to make a horned frog's head spin. I have a feeling that when the yarn arrives this week, there's only gonna be one word for it.


- Shelley
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Friday, July 27, 2007

And the winner is...

Gwendolen Gross, lucky commenter #40, has won the Cable Couture Knit Bag kit! In case you're wondering, I used this random number generator to select the winner for me. Very handy tool!

Thanks so much to all of you who commented and entered to win. I hope you'll bookmark the Loops blog and join thousands of other faithful readers. I try to make it fun and offer project ideas, free pattern links and other valuable knitting-related nuggets.

If you didn't win, here's a consolation prize: Get 10% off the Cable Couture Bag Kit of your choice when you order through our online store! Just mention the "Bloggy Days of Summer" when you make your purchase - or simply send us an e-mail. You can also call the store to order at (918) 742-YARN - again, mention the giveaway promotion to get your 10% off.

- Shelley
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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Gina's sneaky spaghetti sauce recipe.

After my surgery, lots of Loops Troops brought me yummy dinners (thank you, thank you!). Barbara's brisket was to die for, as were the salad, bread and brownies. And Gina's spaghetti sauce - well, I was instantly hooked. Like Gina, I think I could eat spaghetti every day of the year. But her sauce was so rich and so delicious, I had to share the recipe with you faithful blog readers. I call it "sneaky" because you sneak in extra veggies and your kids will never be the wiser!

Here's the recipe:
Saute onion with 1 lb. hamburger and 1 lb. spicy Italian sausage.
Add two 28-oz cans diced tomoatoes, 1 small can tomato sauce, 2 small cans tomato paste.
Finely dice a couple of peeled carrots and a seeded red bell pepper in your food processor, and add to the pot.
Also add 2-3 cloves minced garlic, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, some basil, oregano, salt, a dash of nutmeg. Gina also adds some fennel and red pepper flakes. I added some fresh black pepper.

Try it - you will love it! It makes a big batch - enough for two family meals - but there is none left for me to take a picture of :)

So instead...I would like to discuss my youngest child's acquisition problem. Despite our best teachings and her attendance at a school that highly values the environment, this child feels a strong need to own every freakin' plastic house for every concievable kind of collectible plastic junk toy that every evil toymaker has ever dreamed up. Littlest Pet Shop - need I say more? We work to curb her "collecting" but having 3 sets of doting grandparents who feel the need to shower her in the beloved plastic junk does not help.

She does recognize the value of money (money = more plastic crap!); however, Gina Y. recently asked how M. gets her cash, and she answered "I find it." No loose change is safe. The other day she was counting up her collected change and I noticed she had quite a pile. She was quick to point out, "I'm not sure where that twenty came from." Guess where it came from? The floor - underneath her daddy's shorts he threw on the couch.

So I had to take a picture the other day when I happened by this lovely plastic Barbie (not sure of her name, but I'm guessing Casino Barbie, B-movie Barbie or simply, as I have titled the photo, BarbieHo):

And next to Barbie, my little darling had created her own version of what every BarbieHo surely needs most of all:

That's right! Barbie Munee! Painstakenly drawn, colored and cut tiny little twenties.

(If you have any munee, please feel free to come acquire some lovely yarn this weekend. We have lots of it.)

- Shelley
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P.S. Have you checked out the number of comments on the Doggy Days of Summer Giveaway post! We are over 146 comments and counting! Check it out - the giveaway happens tomorrow night!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Meet the Loops Troops Part 1: Loretta

We've added three new employees to our "Loops Troops" in the past month or so. It's always a big event to welcome newbies to our very tight-knit (or as Billie Anne would say "tight-hooked") group. These new additions are so wonderful, it's inspired me to introduce our amazing staff to you and let them tell you a bit about themselves. For the next 14 weeks, every Tuesday will be Troops Tuesday. This is also a chance for all you folks far and wide to get to know us a bit better, so someday when you come to Tulsa to visit us, you will be surrounded by familiar faces!

Meet Loretta, one of our newest Troops - and a real Trooper - she has already proved herself to be a super stocker and super socker, plus she is a font of internet information:

I posed the same 13 questions to all 14 employees. Here are Loretta's answers:

Q: What's currently on your needles?
A: Ingrid's 3-Way Wrap in the teal color. I just cast on a new pair of socks with Prism Saki yarn I bought at the trunk show. I also just finished a pair of socks with J Knits yarn and posted them on Ravelry.

Q: What's your middle name?
A: Marie

Q: What's your favorite all-time yarn?
A: Koigu

Q: How long have you been knitting, and who taught you?
A: 7 years knitting, 35 years (yikes!) crocheting. I'm mostly self-taught through books but I've got a sister who's a master knitter and many knitting friends who have answered lots of questions along the way.

Q: What's your favorite food & drink?
A: Can't really narrow down a favorite food, but my drink would be a raspberry vanilla cappuccino.

Q: Name three songs on your iPOD (or whatever).
A: "The Way You Do The Things You Do" by the Temptations, "Graceland" by Paul Simon, "Turn Your Love Around" by George Benson.

Q: What's your favorite hand-knit or crocheted item to wear?
A: My Hanne Falkenbery Lastrade sweater.

Q: How big is your stash?
A: My sweater project stash is quite manageable, but my sock yarn stash and my Koigu stash are a bit overwhelming.

Q: What's your favorite movie?
A: "The Philadelphia Story" with Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart.

Q: What makes you happiest?
A: A morning walk in springtime.

Q: What's your favorite color?
A: Teal

Q: Your biggest pet peeve is?
A: In knitting, it's when variegated yarns pool rather than blend nicely.

Q: Name three things most people don't know about you.
One, my beaded ornaments have been featured at the Philbrook Museum Festival of Trees, the M.A. Doran gallergy and Color Connection Gallery. Two, I've been needleworking in one way or another since my first stamped cross-stitch sampler in 7th grade - it's still hanging in the hallway. And three, I love to dance!

- Shelley
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Monday, July 23, 2007

Cable Couture Kit Giveaway!

Hey everyone, here's something fun and new to our little Loops Yarn Blog. You can thank Elizabeth for connecting us with the Rocks in My Dryer blog, and this great idea they had called the Dog Days of Summer Bloggy Giveaway!

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

You can enter to win a Cable Couture Bag Kit in polar (white). This popular kit is a great first cable project, and one of the top sellers in the Loops Online Store. Here's our own Marisa "modeling" this fab bag:

To enter, all you do is post a comment. We will randomly draw a winner's name from the comments at 8pm CDT this Friday, July 27th. We will ship it to wherever you are - even international addresses!

So post your comment now - and be sure to check out all the other great giveaways! And remember, just one comment/entry per person. Have fun!

- Shelley
P.S. If you don't win, you can still order your own Cable Couture Bag kit, available in a bunch of different, lovely colors of alpaca. Click here to browse this and many other super-hip patterns!

Friday, July 20, 2007

A sweeter, gentler post.

After my pool and ripping posts, I've been looking for something nice to blog about. And then Carl, our UPS guy, walked in with a truckload (okay, a boxload, but still a lot) of Be Sweet bags.

Oh my, they are sooooo yummy. The star and heart bags are brand spankin' new. Here's a close-up:

For those of you who don't know, proceeds from Be Sweet products fund a variety of projects, from supporting high school training programs to empowering disadvantaged South African women. Plus their stuff is just real purdy.

Here is something else positive: Dawn!

Dawn has been seen in the store lately. She is always so positive and fun. She also used to live in NYC and the other day she gave me a tip about the only Asian food restaurant in Tulsa that she feels measures up to NYC standards (New Hong Kong on 11th, try the Singapore noodles but watch out, they're seriously hot). She has been a bit overwhelmed lately because she signed on for a bunch of online swaps and they all ended at the same time. But she did find time to make this Not Pedestrian Sock in Regia. Isn't it cute?

And here is another sweet gal, Judy, showing off the Blue Sky Sweater Socks she made in Blue Sky Sport Alpaca:

Here's a close-up:

She says they are incredibly comfy. I squeezed them and can attest that they were quite squooshy. Plus, hey, cables. And sport weight, so they're fast. Oh, I'm feeling soooo positive. But don't worry. It won't last forever.

- Shelley
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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Stop. Think. Stitch marker.

So yesterday, I was sitting at my child's dyslexia tutor, with a lovely full hour ahead of me to put up my feet and knit. I pulled out the newest project and knew instantly something was wrong. About 10 stitches had slipped off the needle (all of my point protectors having been pressed into service as Fashion Polly accessories by my youngest). That doesn't seem so bad, except this particular Berroco yarn (which I can't reveal because this is for our Fall Hot Loops wall) has sections that are quite slippery, and they slide down three rows and hide their cowardly little heads in the blink of an eye.

Aah, but that was just the beginning.

At first, it's just a primal sense that's something is amiss. Then, you think you see something. Then, the sense of dread creeps over you as you allow yourself to really look and come to the full realization that YOU KNIT IT WRONG.

True, the picture is bad (there was a glare off my Addi's) but I'm sure the adroit among you will notice that this little swatch of garter stitch, done on circulars (so you actually knit a round, then purl a round vs. all knit rows on straights) has an extra knit row, thus forming a little bonus of renegade stockinette stitch amidst my garter. But wait, it gets better.

Did I mention that, to knit this little confection, you cast on 429 stitches?

That's only about 8 rows. Times 429.

There's the moment of abadon where you just rip those 429 suckers off the needle. And then there's that moment where you start to do calculations in your head. Let's will take me at least an hour to go back 3 rows, but if I have to cast on 429 stitches and knit 8 rows, that will take me 2 hours. But this yarn, dangit, it's like a greased pig and even as you get one stitch back on the needle, with the slightest pull, the next two stitches slide down two rows and it's a very, very slippery slope.

Maybe if I try a smaller crochet hook to catch the loops...

Oh look! The tutoring is done and it's time to go home. Maybe if I spread it all out on our kitchen island:

Here, I have gone back 2 more rows than expected. No one has eaten dinner. But I have realized if I breathe, slow waaay down and stick a stitch marker in the NEXT stitch every time the slippery buggers start to slide down, there is progress.

It ends up taking me 2 1/2 hours to get them all back on.
Maybe I'll go take a dip in the brown pool.

P.S. Have you made the Fauve Curly Q bag yet? The pattern is free and oh so fun with purchase of the yarn. Check it out and shop online at

- Shelley

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Dirty pool.

Aaahhh, paradise.

We bought this house in November - first house in my lifetime with a pool - fantasized all winter about lazy summer days spent sunning ourselves. Hahaha. This pool has looked like this, or some even fouler color on a spectrum between forest green and baby poo-poo brown, for about 7 weeks. Ever since the Tulsa Monsoons of '07 began. Our pool guy, Andrew (I would include a photo of him if he would ever show up) has been promising to have it cleaned up for weeks. The kids just stare longingly out the window at the pool, then go back to their video games.

The worst was yesterday. Until now, we have comforted ourselves with the knowlege that our friends on the next block have the same problem. Andrew's uncle cleans their pool, and he has assured us that their pool is "so much worse than yours, they probably won't be able to swim in it all summer."

Then their daughter called, yesterday, to invite our middle child over to swim.

To complete the idyllic backyard setting, picture this: After I snapped the photos of the scribble lace and shrug for my last post, my daughters ran to me screaming. They had gone to jump on the trampoline, and there was a dead squirrel laying on it. Decapitated. Perhaps it attempted a daring feat on the tramp, jumped too high and re-connected with a branch?

And they wonder why kids these days spend all their time indoors.

- Shelley
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Monday, July 16, 2007

What I did on my blog vacation.

I'm here, I'm here! I had surgery last Monday - don't worry, it wasn't anything dire or life-threatening - but it was hard to sit at the computer. Luckily I could do LOTS of knitting while lying down! That is, after Tuesday, when I flushed the nasty Demerol/Phenergen stuff they had me on in favor of good old Extra Strength Tyelonol. I figure, Tylenol got me through the birth of 3 kiddos averaging 10 pounds each - it could get me through this!

Anyway, here is the first of my two Recovery Projects. This little shrug in Prism Stuff (One and one-half skeins) from their Book 41 was so ingenious. Prism Owner Laura Bryant says it's a "true beginner's project" - and I am proof, since it was doable even on the Demerol. It's basically just a garter-stitch rectangle with tapered ends. You fold it in half, sew two seams to form the sleeves, and voila! This is going to be fun with my usual Loops Uniform of jeans and cami:

Here's the back:

And here's the cuff. This required four, count 'em four, crochet stitches. Billie Anne would be so proud! This shows the depth of color in the shrug, which looked a little more washed out in the other pics. I used three other yarns from the trunk show for the trim: Trieste, Bowen and my favorite, Roccocco - looks just like hand-dyed ricrac.

Recovery Project #2 was my first Scribble Lace. It's hardly even lace at all - just knit, purl and about as much fun as you can have with a #17 needle. This technique is discussed in "Mason Dixon Knitting" or you can just check out this free Knitty pattern for all the how-to's. Gina. H. got me started when I saw this little confection she was whipping up, vampire-style, in Alchemy Haiku and Prism Tulle:

Since I'm allergic to mohair, I opted for Suss Fishnet (a lacy alpaca blend) and Louisa Harding Sari Ribbon:

And here's the yarn:

If you like the Knitty version, you'll be happy to know we have plenty of Berroco Hip Hop and Rowan Kid Silk Haze in stock! Or go through your stash and put some crazy colors together - it's even more fun when the colors clash a bit, so the bulky yarn or ribbon seems to be floating in an ethereal haze of lace.

Now it's off to get my stitches taken out. I'm thinking of it as casting off a really big project! Whoopee!

- Shelley
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Saturday, July 7, 2007

Loopies, unite!

Hi everyone,

This past week, I've been alerted to a couple of causes that are worth our attention. You know how, when you contribute to various causes, you never really know what kind of difference you are making? Well, here are a couple of ways that you can help and really know that you are changing something.

First, let me introduce you to my friend, Alfre:

Alfre is one of my best friends. She is bright, intuitive, always smiling and fun to be around. We met through our kids, who attend the same school and have become good buddies. Her son is one of the few kids that can have a playdate with all three of my kiddos without it all descending into madness. Check out this spontaneous moment last night, walking down Cherry Street on the way to Hideaway Pizza:

(A little aside - we were walking away from snooty Tucci's, which didn't have room for us at 5:45 (!) and said it would be a 45-minute wait, though we saw lots of empty tables. Love their food, but this has happened to us 5-6 times when we are a la famille - I don't think they like kids.)

Anyway, Alfre has alerted me to the American Express Members Project - and as an American Express cardholder, I never heard of this - but how very cool! American Express has this Members Project site where you can go and cast your vote for a variety of very worthwhile causes. You can actually see your vote count (don't ya just love the internet). Whatever cause gets the most votes from July 3 - July 15 will receive $5 million from Amex!

So, here is what Alfre asked me to do:
"I am passing this on because ANSA (Artists for a New South Africa) needs your support. My aunt, Alfre, her husband, Roderick, Denzel and Pauletta Washington, Mary Steenburgen, Robert and Donna Guillaume, Blair Underwood, Danny Glover, Samuel and LaTanya Jackson, CCH Pounder, and several others in the creative community, co-founded ANSA, previously, Artists for a Free South Africa (Pre-Apartheid), in 1989. While I was in LA, I volunteered at the ANSA headquarters and had the opportunity of a lifetime to travel to South Africa to witness ANSA's goodwill in action. More recently, ANSA's work has spanned into creating awareness and support of AIDS Orphans. I encourage you to check out their site"

Voting is really easy and quick. Go to the Members Project site. If you already handle your American Express billing online, click "Register Now." (Just for doing this, Amex will donate another dollar on top of the $5 million). Then vote for "Help African Children Orphaned by AIDS." You can vote every day until the deadline, July 15. When I voted just now, they had 525 votes and were in 3rd place out of thousands of causes! The #1 had 861 votes. So if all you Loopies out there who read this cast your votes, we could seriously help AIDS orphans get $5 million! How cool is that?

OK, now here is the other opportunity. Many of you met Annie Modesitt last winter when she came to conduct a great workshop at Loops. Annie, herself a breast cancer survivor, recently moved with her family from New Jersey to Minnesota to make a lifestyle change. Her husband, Gerry, a TV producer, was going to be "Mr Mom" to their two kids, while Annie focused on her hand knit design career. Shortly thereafter, Gerry was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a blood cancer that manifests itself in the bone marrow and is quite painful.

To help offset the non-medical expenses associated with ongoing trips to the Mayo Clinic, Annie started a fund that is explained on her website. You can go there and download a fabulous free pattern called the Red Carpet Convertible, a gown she designed for her friend that was going to the Emmy's (the pattern includes instructions for a sleeveless top or short dress, too).

You can make a direct donation online if you feel so led, and I thought it would be nice to have a box at the store to gather cards, donations etc. and send it to her with our good wishes. Look for it at the front counter, hopefully today.

There you have it. Two very different causes, one very gratifying result. In the words of the old Pearl Drops tooth polish commercials, "Mmmm. It's a great feeling!"

- Shelley

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Back in black.

Nevermind that it is so low-cut, even with the addition of miles of elastic, that it will never hold "the girls." Nevermind that one wing sleeve is four rows wider than the other. Nevermind that the empire waistband is so tight, I may need to have some ribs removed to wear it. Nevermind that it will probably cost the size of a small mortgage to have it lined.

I finally went back to the Tilli Tomas dress, and it is done. Here it is before I blocked it:

Then, after washing it in hair shampoo and then conditioner (just following designer's instructions) and then rinsing it out a billion times to get the water not to be black and then blocking on the bathroom floor (this is when I realized one sleeve was bigger - clearly past the point of no return. Oh God, I hope Ingrid isn't reading this, she'll make me rip it out):

The amount of finishing required for this dress is of epic proportions. Just when I thought I was finished, I realized the instructions had left out that I needed to sew in the waist elastic. Here it is, one more trip to Joann's and 240 stitches later:

I must find a way for this to fit. Too many silkworms worked much too hard to let all of this go to waste.

But for now, I simply do not care. I have finally allowed myself to cast on something new.

Life is good.

- Shelley
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