Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Beekeeper's Tank

Today I get to release my last "deep summer" knit for 2014.  I started work on this one a number of months back.  I had this top sketched out, but didn't have the perfect yarn in mind for it yet.  As luck would have it, I arrived at Knit Night to find a friend working on a Snowy hat in two beautiful colors, a tonal gray and a tonal red.  After noting the tonal variation in the skeins and feeling the softness of her yarn I said, "Are these madelinetosh dk?"  She told me that no, they were the work of an indie dyer she found on Etsy called January Yarns, and I made a mental note to check out her shop when I got home.

At first, my plan was to purchase some of the same dk yarn my friend had with the intention of making a sweater from it.  (And that is definitely on my "to do" list next time I take some time for a "fun knit"!)  But as I let that idea simmer, I came across the drawing of this top and knew I wanted a tonal color way, preferably in a soft wool that I could wear next to my skin that would also show off the texture nicely.  I decided that January Yarn's fingering weight yarn would be a perfect fit, so I wrote up a little proposal and contacted Sarah, the human behind January Yarns, and asked if she'd be up for a collaboration.  She not only gave me yarn support, she jumped in on the test knit and made herself a Beekeeper's Tank while helping me make sure that her size was free of errors!

If you order from January Yarns, don't be alarmed that most of her listings are for one skein.  She offers custom dying, and she'd be happy to dye you as many matching skeins as you would need for your project.

They even come wrapped in tissue paper with an adorable printed label.  Send some directly from her as a gift - the presentation is already lovely!

Anyway, I found the "Staple Sock" yarn a pleasure to work with.  It showed off the texture of the honeycomb yoke beautifully.  And far from being too warm, the merino fiber is comfortably adaptable and allows heat to escape in warm weather, allowing the wearer to stay cool.  It really was a perfect match for this pattern.

Knit from the bottom up, this tank begins with a garter stitch hem, and is then joined in the round for a stockinette marathon with no shaping in the body.  Some might think this would make for a dull project, but I am always wanting a "mindless knit" to take with me on a car trip, to my kids' sports events, or to knit night, where I can easily mess up a pattern when my attention turns to socializing instead of paying attention to what I'm doing.  The bulk of this project is the perfect mindless knit - you literally do nothing except knit stitches in the round!

And the grand finale is the fun part - a few inches of honeycomb follows by some shoulder straps and trimmed out with applied i-cords.  New to i-cord finishing?  You'll love the video demonstration links included in the pattern as well as the written-out i-cord supplement that is included as a separate document with the pattern download.

Testers rated this as an "advanced beginner" to "intermediate" project.  There's lots of links and explanation for all the techniques that might be new to you - Kitchener Stitch, simple cables, applied i-cord.  The only knowledge you really need to come into the project with is how to knit in the round, how to pick up stitches, and how to decrease.

The Beekeeper's Tank is available now in my Ravelry shop!

Friday, May 2, 2014

The Sweetest Thing

This design started a few months ago.  I was stuck on a name for a design I was going to publish soon.  I don't even remember which pattern it was...maybe the Cobblestone Hat & Cowl?  Anyway, I was lamenting to my husband that I had hit a creative block and was having trouble coming up with a name.

When the two of us are in need of a little uninterrupted time for conversation, we like to head to a little coffee shop near our house.  We like it because it's an easy date and it includes coffee and chocolate muffins (ok, they're just cupcakes without the frosting!).  The kids like it because they can play computer games and eat junk food without their pesky parents trying to harsh their mellow.  It's win-win.

Once at the coffee shop, we staked out claim on the big couch in front of the little fireplace.  As I often do, I tried turning to music for inspiration for naming the pattern I was stuck on.  My husband was throwing out gobs of names that night, and though none of them were right for the pattern du jour, many of them were great names and conjured up images of future patterns.  Today's release was one of them: The Sweetest Thing, inspired by the U2 song of the same name, was an easy pattern to imagine.  What are the sweetest details I could imagine for a baby dress?  Well, it would have to start out a simple shape - nothing fussy.  So I went with the classic "empire-waist bodice with a full skirt" outline.  OF COURSE it would have to have tiny puffed sleeves.  And after browsing a number of stitch pattern books, I knew this hem of lacy scallops would be just the right detail to really set it off - still simple to do and not fussy-looking, but striking.

I also knew just what yarn I wanted to use.  A couple summers ago I was in a yarn shop near my sister's house in Wisconsin and I bought two skeins of Manos del Uruguay "Serena" yarn.  It's a baby alpaca/cotton blend.  It's so soft to the touch, with a mild the photos it looks just as soft as it is in real life.  My only frustration with this yarn is that it's labeled as "sport", but when I knit it on side 3 and 4 needles, the fabric was really thin and full of holes.  It was only when I went down to a US 2 1/2 (and I'm a pretty "average" knitter in terms of stitch tightness) that I got a fabric I was happy with - and it was 28 stitches to 4".  To me, that's a lighter fingering weight yarn, not a sport.  So don't be confused when you look at the yarn recommendation - I labeled it as a lighter fingering weight because that's how this yarn acts, in my opinion, regardless of what it says on the label.

The little wooden buttons I used were from a shop we visited during our trip to Ontario last summer.  Knitca is located in Mississauga, right outside Toronto.  They are an on-line retailer as well, and man, do they have buttons!

So with my dress plan all written up, I needed to find a baby who could model it for me.  Fortunately, I belong to a little "mom's club" where I am one of the few "old ladies" of the group.  Where my kids are junior-high aged, the vast majority of the moms in this group have kids who are still in grade school or younger.  And a few of them are still in their baby-having years!  One mom was blessed with twins last fall, and was willing to let her baby girl be my little model for this dress.  And the timing worked out well - we got our photo shoot in just before Easter, so this little pixie got a special handmade Easter dress!

So between the cuteness of this baby and the sweetness of the dress, I've been very excited to share with you my new pattern: The Sweetest Thing.  It's written for babies & toddlers sized 3 mo - 24 mo.  I'm on my second one now, this time done in Lorna's Laces "Solemate".  Plenty of stockinette if you like "tv knitting", with just enough details to make you feel like you've really made something special.  Keep it in mind next time you need a first birthday dress, something for baby to wear to church or a summer wedding, or, with a little extra length added in the skirt, I can see this as a gorgeous baptism gown!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Roxborough Dolman

There's been a whole lot of knitting and not a lot of posting going on around here.  This winter has been chock full of projects...most of them samples for new patterns, but I did squeeze in a couple "fun knits".  This one was a quickie - it might have taken me a week.  It's a dolman-sleeve sweater made out of Three Irish Girls Adorn Sock yarn.  I happened to be loitering at my local yarn shop on a day they received a bit Three Irish Girls shipment.  I fell in love with the bright pink and bright turquoise yarns that I saw. They had a very 80's vibe to them.  I took a few days to make sure I knew what I wanted to do before I made my purchase, and when I saw this 80's-inspired sweater, I knew it would be a good match.  I couldn't bring myself to go full-on 80's pink & turquoise stripes though, so I just went with one of those colors and mixed it with a nice gray from the TIG collection.

This is a super, super simple design.  The sleeves are not knit separately - the sweater is basically a rectangle that gets wider toward the top, and the sleeves just grow out of the extra ease built in from all the side increases.  

I believe my stripes were 6 rows each, which makes them a little less than an inch wide.  This sweater is great for wearing over a long-sleeve t-shirt in cold weather (it was my favorite "running errands" outfit in the dead of winter because I was warm, but this wasn't bulky under my coat like a bigger sweater would have been.  It's also great for wearing over a tank top in warmer weather.  The fingering-weight yarn makes it quite a versatile piece.

I did a minor modification to the neckline.  Rather than picking stitches up in a circle around the neck, I worked a flat ribbed strip along the front neckline and another along the back neckline, then stitched the down, overlapping at the sides of the neck.  For me, this helped close up the neckline just enough that I can usually keep this sweater up on my shoulders.  The neckline width is easy enough to adjust though - you'd just need to bind off more or less stitches for the neckline, making sure it's evenly centered across the bind-off row.  If I made this top again, I would knit a few extra rows after the neckline bind-off just to drop the neck down an inch or two because right now it does sit a little higher on my chest than I really like.

Pattern is Roxborough Dolman, yarn is Three Irish Girls Adorn Sock in "jellybean" and "little black raincloud".

Monday, April 7, 2014

January in April

 A couple months ago, I had just released the Snowy hat pattern.  One of my Knit Night friends was making one for herself and she brought the yarn she had ordered to Knit Night.  She had two gorgeous skeins of 100% merino in a tonal gray and a tonal red.  I picked up a skein, looked at the beautiful depth of color and felt how soft it was and said, "Oh!  You picked up some madelinetosh dk?"

I was very surprised when she told me that nope, it was from an Etsy shop called "January Yarns".  Honestly, even after she told me it wasn't madelinetosh yarn, if you put a skein of that next to a skein of the merino dk yarn from this Etsy shop, I am not confident at all that I would be able to tell them apart.  The shop quickly went to the top of my "New Yarns I Need to Try" list.

Imagine my surprise when a couple days later, I noticed in my "User Activity" feed on Ravelry that a Ravelry user by the name of "JanuaryYarns" had put my new Snowy Hat on her "Favorites" list.  When I saw that, it jogged my memory about seeing the yarn at Knit Night, so I sent her a little note saying I had seen a friend with some of her yarn and I thought it looked like it had outstanding quality.  She sent me back a message saying she liked my designs and if I ever wanted to propose something to her as a collaboration between her yarn and my designing, she would be open to that.

Well, she didn't have to ask me twice!  I thought I was going to be busy with projects through the summer, but as it turned out, one of the designs I thought I was going to pair with a yarn from my LYS didn't work out because of timing, but I knew it would be a good match to January Yarn's sock yarn.  I sent her a proposal and she responded quickly, then dyed 3 beautiful skeins that came out exactly as I would hoping they would.

Side note: See the yarn all stretched out on the yarn swift above?  I was SO happy that when I untied this hank of yarn, the strands were all untangled and very easy to wind into a cake.  Tangly yarn can be the bane of your existence, especially when you favor yarns on the thinner side that often come in skeins with 400+ yards in them.  There are definitely yarn companies out there that send out skeins that appear to have been thrown in the back of a pick-up truck, undone, and driven over hundreds of miles of roads that are full of potholes.  I've had moments with a few sock yarns where I think, "Ok, the time it's going to take me to untangle this is not worth the $20 I spent on this yarn."  But then I sit there and do it any way...I'm no stranger to spending an hour or two untangling yarn, rolling it into a ball so I can thread it in and out of the tangled strands, then finally winding it into a cake so I can knit from it.  What I'm trying to say here is THANK YOU, January Yarns, for sending us yarn that is actually a pleasure to work with from start to finish!

The Staple Sock yarn base that I'm using is a merino / nylon blend.  It is plump and soft and just a pleasure to knit with.  It is among the more "springy" sock yarns I've worked with - there is definitely a bit of bounce here.  The fabric this yarn creates isn't exactly elastic, but it does easily spring back into shape, and when I blocked my swatch the gauge only changed by 1 stitch over 4" before and after washing.

So I'm happily in the middle of knitting my sample for a new summer top.  Between this one and the one I just finished using a new linen yarn from my LYS (more on this one soon!) I'll have a couple fun new women's releases this summer!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Webs Anniversary Sale

I just noticed today that Webs is having an anniversary sale.  Included in the sale is  Elsebeth Lavold's Silky Wool, the yarn I chose when I wrote my Hearth Sweater for Girls pattern.  If you have any future plans for making that sweater you'll save $3 per skein if you order your yarn during this sale!

And that's just one of the 70 different yarns they have on sale.  I saw a cashmere blend and a cotton blend that I'm thinking about ordering.  Lots of good cotton, linen & tencel yarns...those fibers might be good choices for whatever summer projects you are planning.

Happy Hunting!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Summer Vines

 As I write this, the predicted high for today in Central Illinois is 48 degrees.  But we've had a couple nice days in the past few weeks, and I'm optimistic that warmer weather really is on its way.

Last spring, I started hearing chatter about my high school class planning a 20-year reunion.  At the 10-year-reunion, I was still an at-home mom/ private piano & voice teacher, so I knew I'd get some looks of confusion when people asked me what I was up to these days and I replied, "I write knitting patterns."  So I decided I'd design something unique and fun to wear to the reunion.

At the time I was working on this design, I still didn't know if the reunion was going to be a fancy dinner or a night at the carnival beer tent, so my goal was to come up with something that would look equally good paired with shorts or dressed up with dress pants and jewelry.  My favorite way to wear this top is over dark denim capris.

As it turned out, only 10 couples bought tickets for the dinner a couple of my classmates so generously planned, so the whole thing was cancelled due to lack of interest & funds.  But I am still pleased with the summer top that I now have and can wear to all sorts of warm-weather occasions!

You can find the pattern on Ravelry and in my Etsy shop.  Size/skill/materials needed information are listed in those two places.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Plan B

Well, this morning was supposed to be dedicated to making a chart for a new pattern.  Unfortunately, I couldn't find one of the stitches I need in my chart-making program, and I'm stumped about how to create a new stitch to my collection.  Luckily, this chart-making program has a Ravelry support group, so I'm hanging out now, hoping someone will reply to the SOS message I posted there.

While I wait, I thought I could use this time to write a post about the projects I worked on during the Ravellenic games!  I know I put bits and pieces up on Facebook, but if you are exclusively a blog reader, you may not have seen what I knit over the Olympics.

This was my pile or yarn and patterns on the day of the opening ceremonies.  I started Jason's sweater a few days before the Olympics began, mostly because I was excited to get going on it, but also because I wanted to make sure I'd have enough time to get my socks and dress done, too.  So the sweater fell into the "works-in-progress" event.

I used Beaverslide Dry Goods Natural Heather worsted-weight yarn.    It was really nice yarn, and is left the natural color of the sheep it came from - there's no dye on this dark brown yarn.  It did have a nice heathered appearance, which broke up the monotony of knitting a full mile of brown yarn.  It was also VERY sheepy - I definitely felt the lanolin from the wool as I worked with it.

I couldn't recommend this yarn for anything that would be worn next to the skin, but for a sweater that will always have a shirt beneath, it was a great "workhorse"-type yarn.  Jason was quite please with his new sweater and has already asked about the possibility of procuring a second.  I told him I wasn't sure when I'd be able to bring myself to knit another mile's worth of plain yarn and asked him if he might consider a different color next time.  "How about gray?" he asked.

He's all about taking fashion chances, my guy.

Knowing that I would need some "color breaks" while knitting these other two projects, I picked the brightest self-striping rainbow yarn I could find.  I always love knitting with colors, especially when they keep changing, but it was especially nice to work on this project for a while as a reward for knitting an hour's worth of brown or beige yarn on one of the other two projects!

I heard about Quaere Fiber on the Fat Squirrel Speaks video podcast, and took a chance ordering from her Etsy shop.  I could not have been happier with the yarn.  It was beautiful, with bright, saturated colors, the yarn was tightly spun, just the way I like my sock yarn, and it was soft to the touch.  The resulting socks were soft and squishy, and very fun to wear!

I wasn't following any specific pattern for these - they're just plain vanilla, toe-up, with a fleegle heel.

My last Olympic knit was a sample dress for a pattern I'll be releasing in the fall.
Once again, the yarn is from Beaverslide (this time it's the 2-ply sport/sock weight), and as soon as I saw it on their website, I knew it would be a garter-stitch baby dress, and I knew what it would be called.  I wish I could show you a picture, but I'm going to have to wait until closer to the release for that. :)

While knitting it for the Olympics, I made the dress wildly too long, but I finished the project entirely, so it counted as done.  After the games were over, I ripped off the trim, took the zipper back out, unjoined the shoulders, frogged it down to the top of the skirt, and reknit the top once again.  This time it was the perfect size for a 2-year-old and I can't wait to do my photo shoot with my little model next week!

It was such a fun 2 weeks.  Typically I don't have 3 projects on the needles simultaneously, and it was entertaining to go back and forth between the different projects, yarn weights, needle sizes, etc.  The real reward was in the finished projects, but my local yarn shop (the team I was knitting for) had a couple more prizes in store.  Each participant that finished at least one project was awarded a medal that I believe was handmade by another local knitter, Jolean.  In addition, the yarn shop did a random number drawing and awarded gift certificated for their shop to 3 people who posted their projects in the "finish line" thread.  I was lucky enough to have posted Jason's sweater in Post #22, which was the number chosen for the "silver medal" certificate!  Yay for more yarn!

This was my first official year as a Ravellenic Games participant, and I'm sure I'll do it again in the future.  I enjoyed planning my projects out, ordering just the right yarn, working the swatches leading up to the games, and challenging myself to finish more than usual in the time the Olympics are going on.  I found that I ended up watching the winter Olympics more that usual as well, and that was a lot of fun, too!