Elinor Brown Knits

Knitting Designs by Elinor Brown

Category: Running


New stripey sweater

My thrumming adventure has been partially interrupted by a striped, stashbusting sweater for Beatrix that I started over a month ago. I decided to pair up some Knit Picks Merino Style with the Debbie Bliss Merino Aran that Nova sent me last year to make a toddler cardigan. Sadly, I had to set this aside for a few weeks because I ran out of yarn – both colors, in fact (yes, that was great planning). Unfortunately, I only needed a few yards of each new skein so you will likely see these colors again soon in some hat or another.

"stwipey sweatah", complete with cwazy hair

Pattern: Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Seamless Yoke Sweater from Knitting Without Tears

Yarn: Knit Picks Merino Style in Hollyberry and Debbie Bliss Merino Aran in #06

Needles: US 6 (4.0 mm)

New stripey sweater

I regret that the severe yoke decreases show in spite of my careful blocking. I used three evenly spaced decreases to form the yoke and if I were to do it again, I would probably place four less aggressive decrease rows in there. Also, I skipped the back neck shaping and ended with a 2×2 rib collar. The knitting was terrifically mindless, the yarn was soft and I feel certain Beatrix will outgrow this far too soon for it to pill. I would neither recommend KP Merino Style nor DB Merino Aran for any project one expected to last, however. These are soft and fuzzy yarns, categorically not durable ones. Still, I am happy with the results.

Stashbusting sweater, done

Its initial reception was not good, unfortunately. Beatrix maintained, “I don’t wike stwipes!” Fortunately, a two-year-old’s preferences seem to change as quickly as her moods and this morning, she deemed it acceptable attire.

Returning to the thrumming activities, I happily report the mittens are done!

The last of the thrumming

And what a lot I have to say about them. I decided to go overboard on these to create the most densely packed, tightly knit, wind-proof mitten ever.

This is what 600 thrums looks like

Contrasted against the Yarn Forward mittens I made for Aaron last winter, these mittens pack an incredible amount of sheep. I made the 2008 pair with Lamb’s Pride Worsted on US 6 (4.0 mm) needles and each mitten contained 161 thrums. Of course I counted, you wouldn’t have? My only complaint about them is that the wind cuts through them on the coldest days. Consequently, I knit the 2009 pair with Ram Wools Selkirk on US 2.5 (3.0 mm) needles and nearly doubled the number of thrums. Each mitten contains exactly 300 thrums. I hope they will be sturdy enough to protect my aunt Therese from the bitter cold of watching early morning ice hockey practices and games.

Sheep explosion

Yarn: Ram Wools Selkirk with who knows how many ounces of Blue-faced Leicester

Needles: US 2.5 (3.0 mm)

For the cuff, I cast on 32 sts, worked 3” in 1×1 rib. I increased to 42 stitches, thrummed every three stitches, every fourth row. After a few rows of thrums, I added one pattern repeat below the thumb to make a little more room. There are 252 thrums in the mitten body and 48 thrums in the 24-stitch thumb. I worked three K1, K2tog decrease rows at the mitten top and one at the thumb top.

Now with twice the thrums!

The sheer volume of material stuffed inside is astounding to me. You can see the contrast with the old pair. On the whole, I cannot say thrummed mittens wear well. As you can see, Aaron’s pair (oh, who are we kidding? they’re really mine) is in dire need of a shave. They pill and fuzz all over everything. They also grow with time, as the wool inside packs down.

Last year's mittens, for comparison

I cannot so much as turn a door handle wearing thrummed mittens, much less wrangle a toddler. However, I do not fear for my extremities when it’s -10 degrees during my 5:30 a.m. runs. That’s really all that matters, right? Therese will only be able to wave and clap with her new mittens but isn’t that all one needs to do at a hockey game?

Mitten torpedoes

On wool

Ivy League Vest

Last winter, it became clear that I would not be able to continue my half marathon training without warmer clothing. Specifically, I needed better coverings for my head and hands. I walked into the local outdoor gear shop looking for the appropriate accessories. Now, some of you will point out the contradiction of a knitter buying synthetic mittens. This point was not lost on me; I felt appropriately ashamed but cold, nevertheless. Actually, I had decided my enemy was not cold, it was wind. Not only that, but who wants to knit mittens to cover sweaty hands during a long run? Not I.

So there I stood, talking to a salesman about the accessories to buy. He showed me some brand name, very expensive hats to block the wind. Neoprene, polypropylene, wind-block fleece, all materials designed to keep you warm. When I said I needed something specifically for a long run-a run lasting about two hours-he quickly abandoned the hats he’d shown me, instead turning to a different line. The answer, he said, was wool. Specifically, a $50 wool hat whose materials had been specially engineered to keep one warm in the cold and provide enough ventilation to prevent overheating. What did he mean by specially engineered materials, I asked. Isn’t that just what wool does? Generations of sheep represent the only technological innovators on this front, as far as I was concerned.

I’m not saying there is no room for technical fabrics. After all, I would never be able to run through the winter without fleece-lined, polypropylene tights. However, it is clear to me that no amount of human engineering can compete with thousands of years of selective pressure on sheep to produce the most effective insulation from the cold.

I need not tell you how I made it through the rest of the winter, of course. I am cheap and unabashedly so. I dug out an old wool hat I knitted years ago and stole the tufted mittens I knit for Aaron. To my amazement, 5 a.m. runs in -15 degree weather were no big deal. Actually, to be completely honest, the 5 a.m. part was still a big deal but the bitter cold was not.

I’ve been considering this experience lately, as it comes time to find Beatrix some warm winter clothes. I decided to design a heavy wool jacket for her as a cheap alternative to a winter coat. In fact, I find some of my heaviest wool sweaters far warmer than my biggest parka. Although my sense of parental guilt will likely drive me to the store this winter to buy her a coat she’ll quickly outgrow, I hope this heavy sweater lasts her two winters.

Grow Like a Weed Jacket

Last week, I sent the pattern to a handful of test knitters. Hopefully, I will be able to offer it to you soon!

In the meantime, I have some stealth mittens under way at the moment. I will certainly share them with you next week when they have met their intended recipient. Until then, I’ll leave you with the beginnings of Bryant’s Slipover vest (Ravelry link), a project I’m knitting for my cousin Ida. I promised to knit this last year but I found myself sidetracked by other things. Since I will be seeing Ida in Boston next week, I decided to finish it so I could leave it with her! Wish me luck on that one, the gauge is 7.5 sts/in and I’ve not yet reached the waist.

Pretty slipped stitch pattern or 1970s uphostery?

Straight Knitting

It’s been a busy few weeks here! We just returned from a weekend trip to my 10 year high school reunion. I’m so annoyed with myself for forgetting my camera at virtually all of the events but I did manage to snap a few pictures. Only about a quarter of the class made it back but it wonderful to see those who came.


We picked up right where we left off ten years ago as if nothing had changed. While our lives have changed radically, the personalities certainly have not! I think my class must have been a particularly good one because there is not one person with whom I would not enjoy spending time. That was certainly an interesting observation to come out of the weekend. I doubt many people could say that about their high school class. I think the reunion also gave Aaron some context for my stories, since it is often difficult for him to understand the boarding school setting. Oh and the other bonus? I ran a personal record in the annual 5K pie race – 26:57!

The reunion provided my hands a much needed, 3-day break from knitting. I usually manage at least a few rows every day but it was too hot and sticky to even think about it. Instead, some of us played with the hose.


So, a break from what knitting? Sweater knitting! Doesn’t everyone pick up a heavy wool sweater when the temperature climbs into the 90s?

Here we have the back, fronts and one sleeve of a Central Park Hoodie, which I hastily cast on and furiously knit last week. The yarn is Tahki Donegal Tweed in “Obsidian” (#850) or, as I’d like to call it, “Only Photographable with a Tripod and ISO 100”. I am making the 36″ size (no ease) and when I knit and washed my first sleeve swatch, the gauge matched precisely. Perhaps a result of using the recommended yarn? Forgive my surprise, following patterns exactly is a new thing here at ExerciseBeforeKnitting. Knitters on Ravelry have commented that the cardigan fits snugly; however, the stretchiness of the yarn makes me wonder if the knitted fabric will sag and droop. Still, nearly 1400 knitters Ravelers can’t be wrong, can they?

Central Park Hoodie

My fiendish sock knitting last month wore out my hands so I sought out some projects that could be knit on straight needles. I know many people curse straight needles but I confess that I love them. Brittany birch straights, in particular. Circular knitting always hurts my hands after a while but I could knit painlessly with straight needles forever. While they are impractical for a lot of my projects, I usually pick them up when I’m tired.

This is the back of a sweater for Beatrix. Little Knits recently had a sale of 10-skein bags of Rowan Cashsoft DK in “Madame” for $25 and I bought one in spite of my current ban on pink and purple. A $25 Rowan sweater? What would you have done? Well, if you were smart, you would not have received ten skeins of bright pink, notoriously pilly yarn in the mail. In fairness, I did not expect it to be quite so bright. I suppose I will use it for baby and toddler knits now. I think an adult sweater with this yarn would be too garish to wear.

Another baby sweater on the needles

I hope you all had a great weekend! Expect some more sewing from me later this week!

Kansas City Half Marathon 2007


I finished my first half marathon in 2:23! My goal was to finish before the marathon winner lapped me and although it was close, I made it with seven minutes to spare. I actually ran a 10:00/mile pace but a few bathroom stops along the way slowed me down. It was a really fun race and even though the thought of running it made me ill all last week, I’m contemplating another one in November. Is that crazy, Sharon?

Exercise before knitting, right? The Sunrise Circle took days to block but there are no pictures yet because I haven’t managed to get light, the photographer and the sweater in the same room at the same time. I’ll try for this week.


I cast on last week for the Katharine Hepburn Cardigan from Lace Style (Ravelry link here) using some Brown Sheep Nature Spun Sport in Chuck Berry that I bought on a cone from my LYS. I swatched this months ago using some leftover Nature Spun Sport from my Winter Sunrise hat and the gauge matched perfectly. Nature Spun Sport is one of my favorite yarns and considerably less expensive than the Louet Gems Opal the pattern recommends. This is not a color I would normally choose on my own; however, when I asked several clerks for their opinions of the light pink I had originally chosen, one suggested the pattern and color combination would be “very white, suburban, Republican housewife”. Needless to say, I selected a different color.


I’m hopelessly behind on comments and blog feeds but I hope to catch up when you all get back from Rhinebeck (I’m so jealous).

Early Mornings and Almond Anise Biscotti

For about four weeks, I’ve been getting up just before 5 a.m. to run. Most days I run with a group but sometimes I’m on my own or with a friend. I’ve always struggled with the morning runs. On one hand, I love both being up before the sun and the sense of accomplishment that comes from running hard long before most people get up. On the other hand, until Beatrix came along, I also loved the snooze button. When you intend to get up and run in the morning and don’t, you bear two burdens: you start your day off with a failure and you have all day to look forward to dread your evening run. Since I’ve been up in the morning, my overall mental health has improved dramatically. I know how crazy that sounds. My alarm is set for 4:40 a.m. So I can get up and RUN. Some days it’s hard running too. I think I’m sleeping less. But I have more energy throughout the day. Where is the science, people???

If you had told me a few years ago that I would successfully run in the mornings for more than a week at a time, I would have died laughing. Now there seem to be so many more obstacles (e.g. a baby, a teething baby, a baby who doesn’t sleep through the night anymore) but I find it easier. I’m sure it’s because running time is so much more precious now than it was when I had my life to myself. The other part is that I prefer returning home to a smiley, awake baby rather than waking up to one. Mommy Duty no longer wakes me up, Running does. Somehow, that’s better in my book.

I started this post about getting up early so that I could share with you my daily post-run breakfast: single shot cappuccino and homemade biscotti.

I’ve been making a new batch of biscotti every Sunday night and they’ve been so tasty that I decided to share my experiments recipes with you. This week’s batch was almond anise. The best part is that if you only eat one, they’re not a lot of calories. You could take out the almonds to reduce the calories too.

Almond Anise Biscotti
2 c white flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
3 eggs
1 1/4 c sugar
1 tsp anise extract
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp anise seeds
1 c whole almonds
optional: sliced almonds

Pre-heat oven to 300 F. Combine flour and baking powder in one bowl. Set aside.

Combine sugar, eggs, anise extract and salt. Whip until thick. Stir in flour mixture.

Add anise seeds and almonds.

The dough will have the consistency of sticky cookie dough. Spread into a 4″ x 16″ log on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. OPTIONAL: Sprinkle sliced almonds over the top. Bake 1 hour. Reduce oven temperature to 275 F. Cool 10 minutes. Slice into 1/2″ wide slices. Place slices cut-side down on baking sheet. Toast biscotti 10 minutes on each side for a total of 20 minutes.

Makes about 2 dozen.*
*Be sure to make a kind that the other members of your household will eat. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck with 58934854309859304859034 calories of biscotti. Not that that would necessarily be a bad thing…