Anita’s Beads in Wakefield, NH

For the Fourth of July weekend, apart from having fun at our mother’s 75th birthday, my sister and I wanted to have a Saturday excursion. While making plans I mentioned that I wanted to make some nifty stitch markers like the ones she made for me a million birthdays ago. The stitch markers in question are made with beads. Of course, my sister suggested: “We can go for a walk in the White Mountains in New Hampshire and FINALLY STOP AT ANITA’S BEADS!”

I have no idea how many years she and I have driven together to the White Mountains to climb a mountain, seen the sign for the Anita’s Beads shop, and commented “we must go there some time!” Now we had a perfect excuse because I wanted to make some rad stitch markers.

Before heading up the Kancamagus Highway my sister had to teach me how to make these wonderful stitch markers. I was surprised at how easy they are to create. Years ago she found a blog with instructions for them. The link still works: http://www.wormspit.com/stitchmarkers.htm

The link above is quite old. I’ve found other links with instructions on how to make these beautiful stitch markers but I honestly believe they are copycats of the directions my sister originally used.

I managed to make quite a few lovely “practice” stitch markers using my sister’s huge bead stash. I, the beading ignoramus, can make them quite successfully, so I do not doubt that anyone can, especially with the thorough directions I’ve linked to.

Here is the result of my practice session:

Fully equipped with my knowledge about making stitch markers we set out on July 5 to the White Mountains and, on a beautiful morning, stopped by Anita’s Beads in Wakefield, NH.

This wonderful bead shop looks beautiful on the exterior, like so many New England shops I came to love when I was growing up in this region. The selection of beads available in this store is quite impressive. Anita herself greets her customers warmly, gives them little trays to gather their loose beads, and a clipboard with a slip and pen to make note of the beads they’ve selected with the quantities and price in preparation for payment. Apart from loose beads, the shop also sells them on hanks and in tubes. There are so many types to choose from: porcelain, fimo, Czech glass, Japanese glass, etc. My sister and I spent over an hour trying to decide what we wanted.

While shopping and chatting with Anita, I explained to her my enthusiasm for knitting and my mission to make some elegant stitch markers with her lovely beads. She did not hesitate to tell me all about Kumihimo, a technique for making braided cord, with or or without beads. I wanted the tools to make Kumihimo braids very much when I saw one of her “Bracelet of the Day” beading kits that uses the Kumihimo method. My sister treated me to large and small Kumihimo disks, bobbins, and the bracelet kit.

I spent the weekend with the kit, learning how to use the Kumihimo disk by following an instructional video by Beadaholique:

As explained in the tutorial, one can choose whether or not to use a weight. I soon discovered that I needed a weight to get my tension right. I used what I had at hand: a travel-sized bottle of shampoo dangling from some dental floss:

Yes, I use dandruff shampoo. Eh-hem!
Here is how my disk looked from above when I was in the middle of making the basic spiraled braid pattern:
I can’t remember which “Bracelet of the Day” kit I chose from Anita’s shop but I think it was intended for more advanced bracelet makers simply because it included two types of beads: large and small. The kit did not come with very specific directions and I could not find any particular instructions on Anita’s web site, but I just deduced to alternate rounds of big beads like this: Round 1 use big beads, Round 2 don’t use big beads. My result was this:

I gave this bracelet to my sister, of course!
As Anita explains on her blog, her Kumihimo bracelet kits are based on her own design ideas which are quite brilliant and elegant. Instead of knotting the warps together when preparing the disk one simply threads half the number of strands necessary through an elegant button and folds them in half to set them up on the disk as warps. The bracelet is finished without beads to create a length of cord suitable to make a loop with a knot. I secured my knot with jewelry cement.
For more information about Anita, her bead shop, and her art, have a look at her web site: http://anitanh.com
Kumihimo braiding is so easy that I decided to look up other patterns on the internet. One need not feel obligated to use only beads with beading cord or to make simple spirals. Here are some useful links I’ve found about how to make some interesting cords with plenty of color variation:
At the friendship-bracelets.net web site there are also plenty of braiding patterns submitted by anonymous users.
And so I went to the White Mountains to enjoy a nature walk and get beads for some stitch markers and I ended the day with equipment to learn a new craft, which is always wonderful because I can always find ways to combine it with my knitting and crochet projects. Thank you, Anita!
And now, some gratuitous nature photos of our wonderful walk on 5 July along the Pemigewasset River:

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Mom’s Pi Shawl

Well, here I am, back in the USA! I’ve been here in Maine, my home state, since June 23rd. I have the entire month of July to be surrounded by my native language, to visit family and friends, and to enjoy the hot summer weather. I’ve had plenty of time for barbecues, get togethers with friends, nieces and nephews, excursions, and even some knitting! Now that the 4th of July holiday is over I’ve had a lot of time for knitting, actually. I’ve been working on my friend’s leg warmers quite incessantly.

My mother’s birthday happens to be on July 4th. When I found out months ago that I would be able to return to the United States after two years of living my expat life I decided that I wanted to knit something special for her. I then remembered Elizabeth Zimmerman’s “Pi Shawl” pattern from her Knitter’s Almanac. I’ve probably spent my entire life trying to find an excuse and the time to make it. Usually I’ve managed to find lots of excuses not to make it: the intended wearers don’t do shawls. Somehow I figured Mom would wear a shawl in the winter. When she saw it she actually said it was exactly what she wanted.

The Pi shawl is the circular surprise I mentioned in my blog post in which I exalted the marvelousness of summer and the time for knitting productivity it provides me. I started the shawl in May and knit it like mad. Round and round I went for two months in any spare moment I had. I didn’t finish it before arriving to the USA. I knit on the plane, I knit it on the bus from the airport, and I knit it at Mom’s house. I even blocked it at Mom’s house, right on the living room floor, on plenty of towels, of course:

What a horribly gray, humid day it was when I washed and blocked this 70″ mega shawl! 
The true gloriousness of Zimmerman’s Pi shawl is, as with all her patterns, the room for creativity she inspires the knitter with. This pattern comes with many suggestions and options. I went for the instructions for the “plain shawl” and added a K3-yarn-over fagoting on the outer rounds to make the shawl look like a big sun with its numerous rays of light. The edging is Zimmerman’s clever “sideways garter stitch” edging which is not only simple but extremely beautiful. I altered her pattern a bit to fit my four-stitches-per-inch gauge (her pattern calls for 3). 

My choice of color, a deep pinkish rose, was no accident. It’s Mom’s favorite color. This shawl has eleven balls of Mondiale extra fine merino knitted into it.

The center begins with just nine stitches cast on in the round invisibly. Mine ended with over a thousand stitches.

Here’s the center:

And now I shall go to bed, thinking about other people in my life who might like a shawl. It was so much fun to make this one that I wish to get started on another as soon as I possibly can! There are just so many possible design variations to try!