Short Story: Getting to Tufte

DistrictLinesI am beyond thrilled to announce that my short story, Getting to Tufte, was recently published in Volume II of District Lines, from the venerable DC bookstore (and now publisher), Politics & Prose.

Here’s a taste of the story…

Having neglected to turn on either the baby monitor or the alarm clock, Melissa Lisstrom woke late to hysterical children who were convinced, since she did not tiptoe in at their first stirrings, that she must be dead. Traumatized, they refused to tell her whether they wanted oatmeal or granola. Things overflowed: the coffee, the diaper. Leaving her children to scowl at unwanted yogurt, she rushed upstairs and realized that the dress she had picked out the night before was ridiculous. She tossed on the best skirt ever and tried five different tops to go with it. With a whisper of regret for her telecommuter’s uniform of pajamas and fuzzy socks, she grabbed her one designer jacket (hand-me-down; sister-in-law). She felt both professional and artsy.

It’s a fantastic collection of local work.  You can buy it here.

Big thanks to everyone at Politics & Prose – I couldn’t be more delighted.


How to Clean Your House in 6 Easy Steps

  1. Have a heart-to-heart talk with a trusted friend
  2. Read yourself into a stupor
  3. Wake up early with a nasty eye-strain headache
  4. Make coffee
  5. Drink coffee
  6. Pull out your morning pages journal. Write “Ok, if I do have deep-seated anger, what am I so angry about?”

Bam! Before you know it, it will be 3 o’clock in the afternoon, and your house will be spotless!

Ally Hat

Should you, for any reason whatsoever, wish to make a hat based on the Ally Flag, either during the Sochi Olympics or at any other time, well, here’s a pattern for you.  This hat is dedicated to Team SHERlocked, who inspired the Rainbowllenics Parade.


This hat is worked in garter st, flat.

Yarn: I made the original in ancient stash yarn that’s a touch heavier than worsted, with bits and bites of random worsted yarns for the stripes.  You can use any yarn you like!  You’ll need approximately equal amounts of black and white, and a few yards each of the 6 colors.  Alternatively, you could use a black and white variegated yarn and a colorful variegated yarn for a more “impressionistic” approach. I’ll write the instructions for stripes, though.

Needles: Something appropriate for the yarn.  I went up a needle size and was happy – it made the garter st a little loftier.  Although you could, theoretically use straight needles, a circular will allow you to try it on.  You may also want to go down a size or two for the bottom ribbing.  Unless, of course, you don’t want ribbing at the bottom.

Accoutrements: You’ll need 7 st markers and a tapestry needle

Notes: You have two options when it comes to working the A.  I’d recommend you decide ahead of time which you’ll do, so that you can prepare your yarn accordingly.

  • Option A: Work in pure intarsia.  You’ll need two separate balls of black and white, plus little bits of each for between the legs of the A.  The advantage here is that the tension is easier to manage, though all the balls of yarn aren’t.
  • Option B: This is what I did – draw the black or white yarn across the back of the A.  You have to be good about your tension here, but it gives you fewer balls to manage.  If you’re going to do this, here’s a trick: When you’re working on the right side, twist the carried (black or white) yarn every 3-4 st.  However, when you’re working on the WS, just pull the carried yarn across the entire section (be sure to give yourself enough slack that you don’t make the A pouf). Then, on the next RS row, in addition to twisting your yarn every 3-4 st, also pick up the slack yarn once or twice and work it into a stitch.  To do this, put your right needle in the next st, then poke it under the slack yarn.  Wrap your yarn and finish the st as usual.  There should be no effect on the RS. (See those little white flecks in the orange stripe?  That’s where I forgot that you can’t twist yarn into the WS of garter st.)

More Notes: Theoretically, since this is top-down construction, you could use ANY weight of yarn.  You just keep increasing until it’s the right size.  The big difference is going to be the size of the A in different size yarns.  So, if you’re using a bulky yarn, you may want to have only two rows per stripe.  If you’re working in DK, Sport or smaller, you may want 6 or even 8 rows per stripe.  The idea is the same – start with one red stitch, increase one st on either side every other row, and switch colors when you switch background color.  You always want an even number of rows per stripe, and to start a new stripe on a RS row, for crisp color transitions.

And yet more notes! To increase in garter st, I like to knit into the purl bump below the next st.


BO Bind Off
CO Cast On
Garter St K on RS, K on WS
Inc Increase
K Knit
PM Place St Marker
RS Right Side
St Stitch
WS Wrong Side

Shall we start?

With black yarn and larger needles, CO 8 st.

Setup row (and all WS rows): K with the yarn you used for the previous row.

Row 1 (RS): [Inc 1, K1, PM] repeat to end (16 st) (no, you don’t have to PM at the end of the row)

Row 3: Start using white yarn.  [Inc 1, K 2] repeat to end (24 st)

Row 5: At the beginning of the row, twist the black and white yarn.  Use white yarn for the next four rows. [Inc 1, K3] repeat to end (32 st)

Row 7: Drop white yarn and pick up the black yarn from underneath.  Use black yarn for the next four rows.  [Inc 1, K4] repeat to end (40 st)

Continue in this manner, [Inc 1, K to next marker, sl M] repeat to end (incr 8 st per row), until the hat is the right size around.  Don’t remove the markers – you may want them later.

Ok, more note time, now!  If you want a beanie, stop increasing when the width is equal to the head circumference you’re aiming for, or maybe an inch or two less for snugness.  If you want to make more of a beret shape, like mine, make it an inch or two larger than the head size.  I have made many many top down hats and I get this wrong ALL THE TIME (seriously – I was going for a beanie when I made the original).  If you discover that your hat is too big, there are two things you can do: 1) mark where you should have stopped increasing, and rip back to that point. 2) work some decreases towards the end and call it a beret.

Once your hat is the right size, stop increasing and just work Garter st until you get to the end of a white row. Pick a point where you want the A to begin – the half-way point is a good spot.  Work the chart, placing the first red st where you chose.


When you’re done with the chart, keep going with stripes until the hat is as deep as you like.  If you’re making a beret, now would be a good time to decrease at each marker for a round or two.

Finally, end as you like: switch to smaller needles and work a rib, or switch to stockinette (K on RS, P on WS) to make a rolled brim, or just keep going in garter st until it’s long enough.  BO loosely.  For rib, I like this bind off.  Cut your yarn, leaving a nice long tail for sewing up.

Carefully sew in the colored ends, making sure to close any holes.

Now, for the seam.  I think of sewing garter st seams as a zipper: take your BO tail, thread it onto a tapestry needle, then go through single purl bumps on alternate sides until it’s all “zipped up.”  It’s easy to make this seam too tight, so give it a nice stretch once you get to the top.  Then go through every other CO st and pull tight to get rid of the hole at the top.

Block if you care to; I rarely do.

Enjoy and wear with, dare I say it, pride!  Here’s the Ravelry link.

Comments or questions?  Please ask away!

Elf Hat!

Just in time for Christmas knitting, it’s an elf hat!!

Hat picture

Quick and easy, perfect for the kids on your list.  This is just my Top Down No Math Manly hat, started with 3 st instead of 6!  Made of  Bernat Softee Chunky on size 10 1/2 needles, it worked up in about two non-intensive evenings.

I’ll write the pattern out here, but if you’ve made my top-down no math hat before, just CO 3 and away you go.

Yarn: Whatever you like. 

Needles: whatever the label calls for, or a bit smaller. You can use dpns to start, then switch to a smallish (24”) circular, or you can stay on dpns throughout, or you can magic loop it.

Notions: a tapestry needle and a freewheeling attitude.

Pattern Note: You’ll want to know about a very nearly invisible increase from the the awesomely wonderful TechKnitting. When I use inc1 below, this is what I mean.

CO 3 st.

Row 1 (and all odd rows): k.  Work the first round as if you’re doing icord – just slide the st to the other end of your dpn or circular, and tug the yarn tight before you begin.

Row 2: inc1, k1, repeat to end (6 st)  At this point, or maybe after row 4, you might want to distribute evenly on 3 dpns.  If you’re using magic loop, you’re already good to go. 

Row 4: inc1, k2, repeat to end (9 st)

Row 6: inc1, k3, repeat to end (12 st)

What I’m doing here is increasing 3 st in every other row.  If you want a really long, floppy elf hat, you can work more K rows between the increase rows.  

Continue in this manner until the circumference of your knitting is a little smaller (an inch less? Thereabouts?) than the circumference of the head you’re knitting for.

Note: it’s really easy to make these hats too big.  Happens all the time.  You get increasing, you smush your stitches so they won’t fall off the dpns, and the next thing you know the hat’s too big.  There are a few things you can do:

  1. Stop increasing a little earlier than you think
  2. Rip back to when the increases were enough
  3. Decrease a bit towards the end.

Once you’ve increased enough, just knit around and around until it’s long enough, or you’re about to run out of yarn.  I just BO loosely and let it roll up.  You can rib, or do a few rows of garter st, as you prefer.  Sew in the ends, and seriously consider adding a pom pom or tassel.


Top-Down, No Math Hat: FourSquare

Ok, folks, I can take a hint.  My two Top-Down, No Math hats account for over half the hits I have ever gotten on this site.  So, I will give you more.  Yes!  A new Top-Down, No Math hat, this time aptly named: FourSquare.  It looks like a hot-cross bun, doesn’t it?Image

Here we go:

Yarn: Same as the others, yarn is whatever you like, about a hat’s worth. In the sample, I used Cascade EcoWool, which is lovely stuff.

Needles: Needles should be appropriate to the yarn.  You’ll need to start either on dpns or a magic loop.  By the end, you’ll either need more/longer dpns, or a circular.

Notes: We’re going to use two different increases.  The first is the same nearly invisible increase we used before.  The second is the same idea, but heading left.  I’m going to point you to this lovely tutorial from the Twist Collective, and use her terminology: RLI and LLI.


Ready?  Let’s begin.

CO 8.  Join in the round, being careful not to twist.

Round 1: K all, placing a marker after stitches 1, 3, 5, and 7.

Round 2: [RLI, K2, LLI] 4 times (16 st)

Round 3 and all odd rounds: K

Round 4 and all even rounds: [K to 1 st before st marker, RLI, K2, LLI] 4 times, K to end of round.

So, here’s the weird part: even though you’re working 2 st around each marker, the result looks like a single st going the other direction.  If you want the cross to be bulkier, you can work an extra stitch or two around each st marker (inside the increases).

Keep going until you have the circumference you want, then work plain stockinette until you feel like doing ribbing, have enough for it to curl under, or run out of yarn.

BO loosely.  My favorite trick is to go up a few needle sizes for the bind-off row.

If you like this or any of my other patterns, would you drop me a comment letting me know?  Nice comments make my day. Thanks.

Making Moments Matter: A Guide to Conversations

This is part 1 of a new series: Unconventional Resources for the Engaged.

You’re getting married. Fantastic.

There are approximately 18 gazillion websites out there ready to sell you pretty stationary and silly cake toppers.

But you know what?  Ehhh…

The abosolute, bar-none, #1 top most important thing you could be doing right now is this: talking with your partner, and then talking with your families.

I know – picking out cocktail napkins is more fun.  But the talking, now, will impact the rest of your life.  The napkins won’t.

And the trouble is, no one teaches us how to have an honest, deep conversation.  Sure, miscommunication fuels half the romantic comedies in Hollywood, but marriage is real, and hard, and it’s much much better when you’re on the same page with your sweetie, and when you’re clear and honest with your families about this new family you’re building.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if someone, say, a relationship coach or two, would sit down and explain to you how to figure out what’s important for you to say, how to talk so that you can be heard, and how to really listen?

You lucky duck – they already have!

In Conversations for Making Moments Matter, Judy Elkin and Pearl Mattenson lay out strategies for talking about the important moments in our lives (weddings, natch, but also graduations, funerals, even vacations!) with the people who matter most to us.

Ironically, the people you’re closest to can be the hardest to talk to, and the important moments can be the hardest to talk about!  That’s why you can get into a minute analysis of last night’s Mad Men with you mom, but never quite bring yourself to tell her that your vision of your wedding doesn’t match up with hers.

Conversations for Making Moments Matter is like having a coach in your pocket, walking you through those conversations.  Yes, they can be awkward and weird – but they can also be important and painful and awesome.   This book gives you the tools to approach these conversations, and strategies for when conflict arises, so that you can feel confident treading territory that may be new for you.

It’s an eb00k, so you can download it and start reading in minutes.  Go, now.
This is part 1 of a new series, Unconventional Resources for the Engaged.  Please leave a comment with your thoughts on this resource and other resources you’d like to see.  Coming up: books on money and imperfection – hot topics!

“She *gets* relationships” A review from Pearl Mattenson

I met Pearl Mattenson when we both wrote for (now defunct) Carrie + Danielle.  Though we still haven’t met “in person,” we’ve been internet buddies ever since.  When I saw her profiled on Fear.Less (go read it, it’s awesome) recently, I had to drop her a congratulatory note.  We got to chatting and turns out we were both working on book projects.

Pearl is a leadership and relationship coach, with all this training and years of experience, so I was waiting with bated breath to see what she’d think of my book, which is a lot more about relationships than it is about tulle and bows.  Just the other day, she posted this on Amazon:

A “meaningful” gift to couples… [5 stars]

Suzyn is a talented writer with a down home sense of humor so I knew I would laugh. (I did). I also knew she was wise beyond her years and I would learn from this book. (I did). What I had not realized is that even without the years of training I have put in, she gets relationships and how to create meaning- in her bones. What I love about this book is that it gets at the core of what is important.

Suzyn gets right to the point- It is not about the magazine driven mayhem that wedding planning has become. It is about you and your partner. It is about building a life and setting the tone for how that life together will begin. The book is content rich AND a workbook. And because the questions Suzyn asks are so fundamental and important- it is more than a workbook. It becomes a repository for your (you & your partner’s) most heartfelt dreams and closely held values.

The beautiful cover ensures this will be a keepsake that stays with the wedding album and will be pored over for years to come.

I think I’ve read this 50 times since she posted it – I’m completely blown away and so so honored!

Stay tuned for my review of Pearl’s book, Conversations for Making Moments Matter.  It’s fantastic.