Fascination with Old Treasures

This week’s topic isn’t really knitting related. It’s more knitting tangential…

One of my favorite things to do is go to antique stores and look for interesting objects left behind by past generations. I love things that have a history, and had a meaning to someone else decades past. Some of the things that I have gotten from antique stores have turned from forgotten treasures to cherished pieces of my collection.

I have a ring that I love wearing. I saw it in a jewelry case at an antique store near my mom’s house and it called out to me. The center has a turquoise cabochon, and the silver around it has recesses in it that are filled with black. The profile on the ring is rather high, but it was a perfect fit for the middle finger on my right hand, and it’s one of the rings that I wear every day. I have no way to know when or how it was made, but I like to imagine that someone else loved this ring as much as I did.

Other treasures that have come into my life have come in the form of gifts. When I was a teenager, my mother, stepdad, and I lived in a house that was underneath redwood trees in Northern California. It was beautiful, but it was also damp all the time. We had an older neighbor that lived in an apartment below us. He was a nice, older gay guy. We used to watch his dog while he went away for the weekend, or just for the day – his dog didn’t much like being left alone in his apartment. He was a sweet dog, and I miss him.

One year, for my birthday, I got a card from this neighbor and a little present. The card had this beautiful picture of a flower on it ,and it was addressed to “the Flower of Fungus Alley.” which was the nickname he had given to me. I thought it was sweet. I opened the present and it was a fan that had belonged to his mother (pictured below). It was painted with pretty flowers. At the time I thought it was pretty, but I hadn’t yet found an appreciation for old treasures. I think I had it hidden away in boxes until I moved back to Maine a year and a half ago. Since then I have significantly expanded my love of all things old.

Another thing that I find interesting, if a bit melancholy, at antique stores are journals. I found a 5-year journal at an antique store, near where my mother lives, again, that was completely filled out. Someone spent every day of their life writing one line in a journal every day. She was a teenager – in high school – in 1920.

I find it melancholy because obviously this woman passed and this journal was sold to this antique store as part of an estate sale. Which meant that she didn’t have any family left to cherish the memories that she felt important to write down.

I took the journal home with me so that I might understand this person better. She wrote about people she knew, places she visited, which were sometimes the same places that I was visiting on my weekends. She wrote about the books she read, many of which have gone out of publication, and are available for free on Google Books. I haven’t yet read any of those, but I thought it was interesting to find them.

I told this story to my grandmother, and she bought me a one line a day journal. It has 5 years worth of journaling. I have managed to write in it every day since the first of the year. It seems to help me focus my thoughts. I used to try to write fiction every day, at least a few lines, but now I am more focused on coming up with one line to put into my journal.

I think it is a good writing exercise. I think about what I might want to remember years from now, when I am older. I think about what I might want my children and their children to know about my time in my late 20s, if they care to know.

This love of all things old carries over to my knitting. I often see vintage patterns and want to try to make them – especially old patterns for yoked colorwork sweaters – but I haven’t yet gotten the courage to try colorwork properly.

These things have been on my mind

Starfruit Brioche Hat – FREE pattern!


Designed by:

Monica Littlefield of Quarrelsome Rhinoceros Stitches

This simple hat was born out of experimenting with two color brioche. Most of the brioche hats I have seen worked in the round are worked from the brim upwards. I wanted to make this one in the opposite direction to use increases to create a pattern on the crown that reminds me of a starfruit. The brioche makes the hat stretchy.


Yarn: Any two worsted weight yarns. You will use less than 100g of each color to complete this project.

Shown in: De Rerum Natura Cyrano – Plume / Unknown Worsted/Aran Weight – White

Needles: US 8 (5mm) for main body of hat – US 6 (4mm) for brim of hat.

Gauge: 14 stitches X 20 rows = 4″ (10cm) in brioche pattern with larger needles, after blocking.

Techniques used:

Terms/Stitches used

K – knit.

P – purl.

Brk – brioche knit – knit stitch together with the associated yarn over from the previous row.

Brkyobrk – brioche knit, yo, brioche knit – all into the same stitch. Brk1, leave the stitche on the needle, bring the yarn forward, then brk1 into the same stitch. 2 stitches increased.

Brp – brioche purl – purl stitch together with the associated yarn over from the previous row.

Sl1yo – slip one yarn over. Following a k or brk stitch – bring yarn forward, slip next stitch purlwise onto the right needle, work next stitch as indicated by pattern. Following a p or brp stitch – yarn is in front of work already, slip next stitch purlwise, bring yarn over the right needle and back to the front of the work in preparation for the next stitch as indicated by the pattern.

MC – Main Color.

CC – Contrast Color.


Using Emily Ocker’s circular cast on method and MC, cast on 12 stitches. Place marker to indicate the beginning of the round.

Set up:

Row 1(MC): *k1, sl1yo* repeat to end of round. (12 stitches)

Row 2(CC): *sl1yo, p1* repeat to end of round. (12 stitches)

Increase Rounds:

Row 1(MC): *brkyobrk, sl1yo* repeat to end of round. (24 stitches) (It helps to put markers before every increase stitch.

Row 2(CC): *sl1yo, brp1* repeat to the end of round. (24 stitches)

Repeat these two rows four more times. You will have a total of 72 stitches on your needles when you have completed the last increase.)


Row 1(MC): *brk1, sl1yo* repeat to end of round.

Row 2(CC): *sl1yo, brp1* repeat to end of round

Repeat these two rounds twenty-seven more times.


Switch to smaller needles at the beginning of this next round.

Row 1(CC): *brk1, sl1yo* repeat to end of round.

Row 2(CC): *sl1yo, brp1* repeat to end of round.

Repeat these two rounds ten more times.

Bind-off rows

Row 1(MC): *k1, p1* repeat to end of round.

Using a stretchy bind off method, bind off all stitches.

Weave in ends. Block.


If you have any questions about this pattern please feel free to comment or send an email to quarrelsomerhino@gmail.com

Inspiration in Everything

Inspiration seems to be a difficult thing to master. A lot of my fellow knitting podcasters talk about losing, gaining, or being at odds with their “knitting mojo.” I find that when I am stressed out, all I want to do is knit stockinette, a vanilla sock, but when I’m relaxed I want to attempt more complex and complicated patterns.

The inspiration for my own designs often come from nature, or the patterns in nature. I also find inspiration in the various shows and movies that I watch. One of my designs is inspired by the natural patterns from the Black Lake in Harry Potter.

I wanted to share some pictures that inspire me. The first was one that I took this morning. I am visiting my grandmother who lives right on a bay. Her back yard is basically a beach. There are rocks, trees, and even some ducks! These ducks make really interesting patterns in the snow as they walk around. The ducks were walking away from me, because I also had my dog with me. They didn’t want to play, and Kelsier did.

I love being here and watching the calm waters of the bay. In the summer there are always boats on the water, fishing boats.

I also find nature fascinating in the patterns it makes naturally. Bismuth is one of those things that fascinates me. It grows in geometric patterns. Even though most of the samples like this one are grown in labs, it still makes me want to construct a shawl inspired by it.

I also love honeycomb. I have wanted to make a honeycomb inspired pattern for ages now.

I find inspiration everywhere, but lately I have found that I get the most inspiration from my fellow knitting podcasters. When other people start doing colorwork, I want to learn. When other people make brioche projects, I want to make brioche projects. I always try to do something different than what I have watched others doing, just so I can expand my experience beyond just what I have seen.

How do you find inspiration?

Always Looking Ahead – 6 Ravelry Patterns to get you ready for Valentine’s Day

For my full-time job, I’m a manager in a local handmade candy store. We are always looking forward to the next holiday, to prepare and get ready so that everyone can enjoy giving handmade and gourmet chocolates to their family and friends. Sometimes it takes weeks of preparation for one holiday.

As knitters, we are always looking forward to the next holiday or the next season. We are planning gifts, and trying to figure out where all the extra hours knitting them are going to come from. All aspects of my life are looking forward to the next holiday.

I thought I would share a small round-up of loosely Valentine’s Day themed projects that I love. Click on the pictures to go to the Ravelry pages for these patterns!

First up is a shawl pattern by Martina Behm This pattern is a little scarf that has a line of hearts on one of the ends. It’s an asymmetric triangle, with garter stitch in the main body. This is one that has been in my “to knit” queue for a long time.

Then we have a pattern called Heart Head by Stephanie Lotven I absolutely love the colorwork on this cute set. I think that I would make it with two solid colors to really show off the colorwork.

The next two are both patterns by Ambah O’Brien, a designer that I adore. The first is the Sweet Valentine Cowl, and the second is the Dark Valentine. I love both of them, as I love most of Ambah’s patterns.

Next is more subtly Valentine’s themed. I really want to knit this sweater. I have never done a colorwork circle yoked sweater before, it seems just challenging enough to me to attempt one this year, though! Maybe it will be the Ironheart Pullover by Robin Allen

The last pattern is for the crocheters out there. I thought that this was too cute to pass up putting on my list, given my occupation. This crochet pattern is called Box of Chocolates by Michele Wilcox.

Now, my question is, what do you do to get ready for a holiday? Are you always looking forward to the next one?

Conquering Knitting Fears in 3 Steps.

At this time last year, I was planning on learning Brioche “soon.” That word is so paralyzing. “Soon.” There isn’t a definitive start date for “soon.” It took me until June to pick the right project that would kick off a new love affair with Brioche that carries over to today.

I thought it would be too hard. I thought that I would mess it up and not be able to figure it out. I feel this way about every new project, every situation I come across. I’ll suddenly realize that I’m not terribly good at anything, and then have no creative outlet to get me through the days.

Self-confidence is always something that has come in pieces for me. It’s only after I have proven that I am good at something that I can fully realize the confidence in doing it.

I think that everyone feels this “soon” paralysis. I hope that the rest of this post will help you pick up the needles and try something new (brioche?) today. I have broken down that paralysis into three stages to help you get through it.

Stage 1: Research

The first stage of trying to learn anything new – in my case, it was Brioche – you have to do some research. The entire internet is at your disposal with technique videos, written tutorials, and even classes online. The internet is one massive “How To” do anything that you’re not sure about.

Here are some essential Brioche knitting guides that I’ve found. There are so many different ones out there, but these are the ones that I watched, read, and used when I had finally had enough of the “soon” paralysis.

First is a video tutorial by the Knitting Expat. She has a podcast, and is a knitwear designer. She has a lot of useful information in this video. It’s where I started when I was trying to learn Brioche. I watched this video at least 10 times.


Next, I love the tutorials that come from Purl Soho. Their photography is stunning, their posts are full of information, and usually they provide you with a simple, free pattern to follow to test out the techniques that you have just learned. This is a tutorial for 2-color Brioche in the round – which is a useful technique if you want to make hats or cowls using the Brioche stitch.


Last, I wanted to share a class that you can take. This class teaches you the basics of brioche in the round, using one or two colors. I love the Craftsy classes, and they are definitely worth it if you need to give that paralysis a little extra time to settle.



Step 2: Use the right beginners tools.

Do not start with precious yarn. Do not start with tiny sock needles.

The best idea is to start with something cheap, and move to something lush that you’re going to love. I keep a stash of one or two skeins of Red Heart acrylic yarn in my closet so I can use it to teach myself new techniques.

I love working with wool, silk, and other natural fibers. I actually don’t use acrylic much in my knitting because I find that it dries out my hands when I use it, and I don’t enjoy the finished product as much as I would if it were animal or plant fiber. That being said, using the right tool for the right project is really important.

If you are not sure if you’re going to like a project, or if you’re going to be able to do a certain, difficult technique, practice first on yarn you’re not going to be sad to get rid of. If you choose a thicker yarn and a bigger needle, you’re going to be able to see exactly what the yarn is doing. You’ll be able to learn to read the knitting better if you start there and work your way down to using the sock weight yarn with 2.5mm needles.

Step 3: Knit!

Start. Make mistakes. Most importantly, give yourself a definitive goal, and you’re more likely to actually accomplish it. Don’t start saying “I’ll get around to it” or “I’ll start that soon.” If you get into that habit, it’s going to take you forever to really get into a new technique. Write down your goal to learn the new technique by a certain date, or block off time in your hectic schedule to do a little bit each day.

If you make mistakes, that’s okay! Everyone does. There are fabulous videos and classes on how to fix your mistakes with almost any kind of technique. Make the mistakes now, and when you’re using the expensive yarn you bought on holiday because you needed to have it, you will be able to avoid that same thing.

I hope that you found this useful, at least to know that there are other people out there who have that same fear of messing up that you suffer from when you come across a new technique. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below.


Metaphorical Brainspace

20171130_103849.jpgHi. Hello. Let’s start with the basics. My name is Monica. I’m a knitter, a podcaster, and a pattern designer. I’m an artist. I take really weird selfies. For the last year I have been producing a fortnightly podcast called Quarrelsome Rhinoceros Stitches. I use that podcast to show off my works in progress, finished objects, and future designs.  

And, now I’m a blogger.

I felt I had more to share with the knitting community than a podcast every two weeks. I have also felt that I have more thoughts to share with anyone who cares to read, for catharsis, for community, for understanding. I want to give a voice to those things that I generally leave unsaid. Maybe some of you will connect with what I’m feeling and saying and find company in that common ground.

I am now technically in my late twenties. Unlike most of my friends, I am not a college graduate. I am not married. I do not have children. I do not know what I want to be when I “grow up.” I have friends who have found their passion and turned it into a career. I have found mine, too, but it hasn’t translated into a viable job.

Knitting is one of my passions. I find the process incredibly calming. I have some of the best ideas while I’m knitting away on something monotonous. At the same time, if I want something to challenge me, I turn to knitting first.

Writing is also one of my passions. Language is difficult to master, and trying to communicate effectively with it can be a challenge. Part of what I would like to do is explore my ability to craft a story. I want to paint you a picture with words that accurately portray the tangled skein of thoughts I have swimming around in my head.

My first skein of thought that I’d like to share is about metaphors and self images.

I have heard about a mind-warehouse metaphor. Say you’re telling a story and you forget the name of the city you were in.  If your mind was a warehouse, there would be a person trying to find the information you requested in a massive filing system. (“Why do we have an entire cabinet full of Disney song lyrics, but nothing on basic geography?!”). This is how I used to picture my mind. On days where I felt good, everyone working there punched in on time at the warehouse that day. Sometimes the filing system even felt computerized where they could just enter what I was looking for into a search engine and not even have to deal with any paper. Some days, where I didn’t feel as great, there was one guy who gave everyone else the flu. He’s fine, but he’s also an idiot and can’t find his own elbow.

I have this new picture of what my mind metaphor is. Over the last few months, I have formed an image of myself sitting cross-legged in the middle of a relatively bare room, hand winding a never-ending tangled skein of yarn, untangling each wrap as I come to it. Each thought I have is wrapped up into the skein. When I get stressed or anxious, I’m covered in the yarn, tangled up in it. When I’ve hit what feels like a creative roadblock, I have found a knot. I work to straighten these out or extract myself from the skein before I can continue wrapping this yarn into a neat ball to cast on a project.

As I navigate life and find where I want to go, perhaps I’ll finish untangling that skein, cast on, and see what turns out.