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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

New Release: World War G{loves}


Here's a funny story for you:  About a month ago, I was hard at work on my husband's secret birthday sweater.  I brought it with me to Knit Night every week, with a decoy project in tow as well, just in case Jason asked me what I had worked on that night.  Darn those husbands that take an interest in what you do....it takes a lot more effort to pull off a surprise for them!

So on this particular day, I happened to meet my husband for lunch.  I told him that I had just finished up whatever project I had been working on....and as soon as the words were out of my mouth, I realized I had made a mistake.  Now I had no decoy project to take with me that evening to Knit Night.

But I left for Knit Night before he got home from work that evening, so he didn't see my bag that was "chock full of sweater".  When I came home that night, I actually left the sweater project bag in the trunk of my car, so he didn't see it when I came home either.

But as I sat at The Fiber Universe that evening working on his sweater, I thought about what I was going to say if he asked me what I worked on.  For most of the evening, I thought I was just going to tell him that I didn't work on anything and just decided to sit & visit with the other knitters.  But just before I was ready to leave, the answer hit me:  the new Frog Tree Llambrosia yarn I had been drooling over.

My local yarn shop just started carrying this line of yarn in September, and I had been eyeing it, thinking I would definitely want to use it to write a pattern.  I bought two skeins of yarn in a light brown that I liked, still not knowing what they were going to be.  My plan was now to tell m husband that I had stared at these two balls of yarn all evening trying to figure out what they might be.  He'd believe that story.  I spend a significant amount of time staring at yarn.

But it takes me about 20 minutes to drive home from the yarn shop.  And by the time I got home, I knew that the Llambrosia was going to be gloves, probably fingerless ones.  I wanted them to be simple but interesting.  No fussy stitch patterns, but I didn't want plain stockinette, either.  I had experimented with some alpaca yarn a couple months back that I had considered turning into fingerless gloves, and I remembered liking the way it looked when the stockinette fabric was kind of "bunched up" with wrinkles showing.  And the idea of welts was born.

The welts are super-easy to do.  If you can pick up stitches and knit 2 stitches together (1 stitch from each of 2 needles held parallel), you've got this.  If you're still not sure, you can check out my welting video here.

In keeping with the theme of "simple & slightly rumpled", I went with a turned hem.  I didn't do a purl row as the turning row (because that gave them too tailored of a look), but I'm sure some will prefer to make that modification.  Which is great - I can't remember the last pattern I knit (besides my own) that I didn't modify in some way!

And the name?  When I showed my husband the finished gloves and said, "What do these make you think of?" he read my mind and said, "The apocalypse."  I guess that's why we're married....we tend to share a brain sometimes.  I had been knitting them up thinking, "These look like fingerless gloves that might be worn by an army of zombie-fighters in one of those crazy movies."  He agreed.  Playing off the name of one of the more famous recent-ish zombie movies, "World War Z", I named these "World War G{loves}".  I was pretty pleased with myself, then immediately started to wonder if this was going to end up being an inside joke with myself.  Luckily, some of the lovely people who are connected to my Facebook business page reassured me that they got the reference, as well!

MargiBorck, WoollyKim, & LTimms were the brave testers who took on this project.  They all called this an intermediate project, and I agree with that.  There are a few techniques used that might be new to a less-experienced knitter (find a list on the pattern listing page here), but I give links in the pattern for the ones I think might throw you for a loop.

If you're substituting yarns, I'd recommend using one with a significant amount of llama or alpaca in it.  Wool will work, but the 100% baby llama yarn the sample gloves were made from have a drape that is much more similar to alpaca than it is to wool.  The welts will end up a bit stiffer & more pronounced when done in a high wool-content yarn.  Even having a plant fiber-blend (such as bamboo), possibly with some silk in there for strength, will give a drape that is relatively close to the llama yarn.

This pattern is written as a "one size fits most women" size, but suggestions are included for using sport-weight yarn paired with a smaller needle to make a child-size pair, or worsted-weight yarn paired with a larger needle for a man-sized pair.  I used Mirasol Yarn's Nuna  (a silk/wool/bamboo blend) which made a beautiful child-sized pair and Cascade 220 (100% wool, which is why I know now not to recommend high-wool content yarn!) for my man-sized pair.

These gloves were a quick knit and might make a great gift for someone on your holiday list this year!  The pattern is now available on Ravelry here!




Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Where Does the Time Go?

Saying that life has been busy sounds so lame, because whose life isn't busy, really?  

The school year started off with a bang.  I made lists.  I decided to do a deep clean / purge around the house.  I took a day or two with each room and took a number of boxes to Goodwill and filled up our garbage can week after week.  How I can stuff a kitchen-size garbage bag full while cleaning my son's room is beyond me.  How can all that trash be in there and we can't see it?  

Anyway, as a reward for my organizational efforts, I'd knit.  I came up with 2 patterns since school began, both of which are being tested now.  I'm hoping to release a pattern for fingerless gloves in a week or two and a pattern for a double-knit cowl in November.

But crazy health developments have cropped up once again and have been biting at my heels, not allowing me to do everything I'd like.  I have some sort of undiagnosed swelling problem that happened 3 times last month.  Once it was my bottom lip, once it was my top lip, and once it was the upper side of my nose near my eye.  I know going to the emergency room for an IV dose of Benadryl stops the swelling and sets things right, but who wants to do that every 7 days?  I went once and joked with the nurse that they probably think I'm a drug seeker.  But really I was.  I came in, announced that I had swelling that has been seen by a few different doctors and no one can tell me why it happens, but I know what to do about it.  They gave me the Benadryl and I slept most of the day away.

In an attempt to keep the swelling under control & maybe not have a major reoccurrence, I took a lot of oral Benadryl in September.  Which means many of my days went like this: Wake up, take the kids to school, take a dose of Benadryl, sleep for 4 hours.  Wake up groggy, try to find something to eat, attempt to stay awake until kids get home from school.  It was not the end of the world, but it definitely put a cramp in my style.  

But nothing has swelled up for about 3 weeks now.  I thought I was on the upswing, then last week I managed to catch a virus that is basically a very minor cold with severe head and face pain.  It's the craziest thing I've ever had.  I would be worried that I actually had something seriously wrong with my teeth or jaw except the pain arrived at the same time as the cold (and when I say cold, I mean no fever, enough sinus stuff that I might blow my nose 3 times in a day, and I might cough or sneeze 3 or 4 times a day).  Plus, because of the wonders of Facebook, I've seen a handfull of friends post status updates over the past month about their kids coming home from school with bad headaches.  When I posted about it on Facebook, I was immediately answered by two friends that currently have this virus and one who said her husband had it and it lasted a few weeks for him.  Meanwhile, I'm considering buying stock in Tylenol, because it has become my new BFF.

So all this is just to say: the blog has just fallen off the list for now.  I look at it occasionally and want to update it, then immediately think of 5 other things that are more pressing.  Yesterday, during the 5 drugged-up, pain-free hours that I manage to have every day, I wrote up 4 proposals for new knitting patterns and sent them off to yarn companies.  One sweater, one that would fall into the "housewares" category, one summer sleeveless top, and one hat.  I'm excited to find out which one I get to start first!

I did accomplish one other thing so far this fall.  Early this year, after I gave my husband a hand-knit sweater for Valentine's Day, he asked if I would consider making him another one.  I said, "I'd love to, but I can't take knitting another mile of brown worsted-weight."  He said, "I totally understand.  How about gray?"

He's cheeky, that one.  We agreed on a pattern, and when I was ordering some yarn on-line for a couple projects I wanted to do but couldn't find the right materials at my LYS, I showed him some options of tonal gray yarn I'd be able to stand knitting with.  He picked one and it sat in the stash all summer.  I kept telling him I'd work on it when the weather cooled off.  

But his birthday is at the end of September.  Perfect timing for a new winter wardrobe piece.  I knit on the sweater when he was at work, I knit on it on the evenings that he played basketball, I brought it with me to Knit Night at the LYS.  In 6 or 8 weeks, I had sneaked around enough to have a finished men's XL sweater.  

He said he loved it and he's backed up that claim by wearing it about every other day.  It reminds both of us of a sweater he had in college when we first started dating.  He wore that sweater until it had holes in it, so I had a hunch that re-creating the thing might be a winning idea.  

Anyway, here's a picture of him in his birthday sweater.  He's a cutie.  He has also recently lost about 20 lbs, so feel free to tell him in the comments how fit & trim he looks in his stylish new sweater!

One other bit of excitement: a fellow knitwear designer who showcases different indie designers on her blog decided to feature me!  She published her post today, so head over there and check it out.  I was very flattered that she had such nice things to say about the patterns she chose to feature. 

Back to resting for me....the headache is kind of under control from the Tylenol, but we've had roofers at our house yesterday and today, so the pounding is not helping the situation.  I'm going to put in some earplugs and see if I can take a little nap before the kids get home from school!


Thursday, September 4, 2014

New Release: Herriot Hat

I am sure that I am not the only one who can't walk by a silky skein of alpaca yarn without giving it a little stroke.  The fiber is so tempting - a bit of sheen, smooth fibers, silky and warm...  So when I was given a skein of a new alpaca yarn from Juniper Moon Farm and asked to write a pattern for it, how could I say anything but, "Absolutely!"?

Here's the part that had me stumped for a little while: Herriot Great yarn is bulky weight (which is not my usual "thing"), and one skein is 131 yds.  It's enough for a hat or a pair of mittens, but probably not enough for a good-sized cowl.  And due to the fact that alpaca yarn is not a good fit for a project that needs some stretch - like a hat or mittens - it took me a while to figure out what to do with this single skein!

But in the end, the answer was in the stitch.  I wanted to make a hat.  The yarn would make a fantastic hat for shoveling snow, taking walks in cold weather, or giving to my son to use this winter when he has to walk 4 blocks home from the bus stop on windy, cold days.  The thick yarn paired with the warm fiber gives you yarn that will keep your head warm even when the temperature dips below freezing.  To make up for the lack of stretch in the yarn, I picked the stretchiest stitch I knew for the brim - a smocked stitch that begins as a 2 x 2 rib and alternates pulling different groups of stitches together with a bar knitted across the ribbed stitches.  Instructions for the smocking stitch are written in the pattern, and there is a video at the top of the video page of this blog (click the "videos" tab above) titled "Charlotte Dress Smocking Stitch" that will demonstrate exactly how this stitch is done.

The result is a hat that is warm, with a snug fit, and is fun to make.  And did I mention that the 20" size (smaller adult size) only took me about 3 hours to make?  This would make an easy weekend project, and it's something you could whip up as a gift if you only have a couple days' notice.


Give it a try - I'm offering the pattern for free, and the recommended yarn can be purchased here or you can substitute your favorite bulky-weight fiber!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Oatmeal Dress


Back when I was planning out my projects for the Ravellenic Games, I wanted a project that would be relatively instant-gratification.  I already had a man-sized sweater I was working on, and a pair of bright self-striping socks to combat the mile of worsted weight brown yarn I'd be knitting for the sweater.  But I wanted an in-between project as well.  Something that would be portable, knit on smaller needles, and easy to finish in a week or so.  I looked at my list of design ideas and found a sketch for the little dress you see here.  
I wanted it to be an "every-day" dress as opposed to something you'd save for a special occasion.  I already had a couple dressier dresses in my pattern portfolio, so this pattern would fill a different niche.  After all, we put so much of our time into our knitting projects...sometimes it's nice that something will get worn more than a hand-full of times!                 
I see this dress worn with a long or short-sleeved t-shirt underneath and maybe some thick tights or leggings in the fall or winter months.  

Beaverslide Dry Goods yarn has also been on my "check it out" list for a while.  Amy Beth, host of The Fat Squirrel Speaks, has made a number of projects using their yarn, is always complementary about it, and has said that it's very reasonably priced.  I ordered it for the big brown sweater I was making my husband during The Games, and while I was on their website, I came across some 2-ply sock weight yarn in the natural buff shade of the sheep it came from, and it caught my eye.  The yarn gave the "Oatmeal Dress" its name - not only because of the color, but because I intended this dress to be a "staple" item for baby/toddler's wardrobe, just like oatmeal might be in their diets.  

This dress starts from the hem - an easy 3-row sequence gives the hem a scalloped shape, then it continues on in garter stitch with decreases at regular intervals to create the A-line shape.  Little pockets are knit separately then sewn on, and the neckline and arm holes are trimmed with an applied i-cord.  The back is fastened with a zipper - I used an "invisible" style on the sample so it is completely covered up by the knit fabric.  
Despite using a few "intermediate techniques", this is a very do-able pattern for anyone willing to learn.  I provide a number of links to photo and video tutorials as well as an attached i-cord supplement to help you through the trickier parts.  Anyone with an internet connection and a little determination can learn everything needed to be successful with this pattern.

 The Oatmeal Dress is available now on Ravelry.  It is written for sizes 3 mo - 24 mo, and uses between 315 - 560 yds of heavy fingering weight or light sport weight yarn.  The Beaverslide Dry Goods yarn I used in the sample is listed as a sport-weight, but with a garter-stitch gauge of 23 sts and 38 rows per 4", I think a heavier fingering weight such as madelinetosh sock would be a close substitute that many people would be familiar with.




Monday, August 4, 2014

A Good Yarn

I have been terrible about blogging this summer, but only because I've had non-stop projects!  Like anything, the more I do, the less time I have to talk about it.  But I've taken tons of pictures and have plenty of stories for the blog....one day! :)

My family kicked off summer by taking off to Siesta Key, Fl at the beginning of June.  Like all vacations, we made sure to stop at a yarn shop or two while we were on our travels.  I think my husband actually likes going with me, and while my kids may not technically "like" it, they are patient and well-behaved and find someplace to sit and hang out with Dad while Mom pets the yarn.  

The first shop we went to was a bust.  It would have been lovely if I was into spinning art yarn, because it was really more of a spinning studio than a retail shop with lots of yarn for sale.  But it wasn't my cup of tea, so after a quick lap around the tiny studio, we left.  Luckily, our second try more than made up for the first place!  

A Good Yarn is a yarn shop located just across the bridge from Siesta Key, in Sarasota, Fl.  It might have the most impressive inventory of any shop I've been in.  It's nice-sized and very well organized, by weight.  It's big enough to have a lot of inventory, but small enough that you can easily look around and feel like you've seen everything they have to offer in an hour or less.  The thing that floored me was how many yarn lines they have that I've heard of and thought, "I'd love to see that yarn in person and maybe give it a try".  They were ALL there!  They even had a wall of Quince & Co. Linen, which I've often wanted to try, but didn't want to pay shipping for a single "experiemental skein", and I didn't want to order a project's worth without knowing what to expect.  (Side note: Sparrow is FANTASTIC.  The best linen I've come across so far.)  I probably spent an hour and a half looking around and trying to narrow down my purchases, and even then, I only got it down to a little over $300 worth!  (But I didn't feel bad about that since it was my first big yarn purchase all year, and I got 17 skeins for that price.  My only trouble was wondering if I'd have room in our suitcases for it on the plane trip home!)  My purchases included 6 skeins of Quince sparrow, 2 skeins of Madelinetosh pashmina in a tropical colorway dyed just for this shop, 5 skeins of Anzula - 4 worsted in a tonal beige colorway and 1 sport-weight in a slightly off-white,and 4 skeins of Sirdar Snuggly bamboo yarn.  And even after all those purchases, I still had to make a note on my phone about 4 or 5 other yarns and colors that I had seen there that I wanted to later order on-line.  I could have easily spent $1000 there if I didn't have money & suitcase space restraints!

In addition to the terrific inventory, the owner came right up to me as soon as we walked in, introduced herself and proceeded to show me around.  When I showed interest in something, she would show me a few other things she thought I might like, too.  She and the other woman who were working while I was there were both super-friendly, helpful, and not at all of the "snooty yarn shop" persuasion.  (If you've been in a handfull of shops, I'm sure you've come across one or two that seem to be staffed by the snooty salesclerk in the iconic "Big mistake!" scene from "Pretty Woman".  These ladies were exactly the opposite of that!) 


I didn't even start a project with my new yarn while I was on vacation though, because I had two substantial projects that I packed to work on over our 12-day trip.

The first was a beach dress.  Yes, I might have planned ahead and finished this before I hit the beach, but it didn't occur to me that I might want a beach cover-up until exactly 3 days before departure.  By the time I got on the plan, I was done with the bodice, so I just had an endless stockinette skirt with a little made-up lace along the bottom, plus i-cord straps to finish the project.  It was all done on the fly....no pattern.  Just kept trying it on until it seemed right.


 I think I had it finished by Friday, so it took just under a week to complete.  Probably seems fast for a dress, but it was dk-weight yarn (Cascade Ultra Pima), and I had a lot of waiting in the airport time, plane ride time, and knitting on the beach time in there.

Also, I'm kinda a fast knitter.

Once that was finished, I started in on my Francis top, which was made from a pattern.  I used the recommended yarn, Shibui Heichi, which was a very nice, rustic silk.  I had a love-hate relationship with this project.  Some parts of it were a pleasure to knit, but I found other parts unnecessarily complicated.  It's a simple shape and really doesn't need to have such a complicated construction.  While I'm all for learning new things, I'm also a big fan of patterns that are easy to alter to suit your taste, and the absence of a schematic with detailed measurements makes it next to impossible to alter this top.  The pattern will work if you just trust it as you go (except I did have issued with the short rows at the end of each back section...the numbers just didn't work for me, but I was able to fudge it and make it work).  Just don't go into it thinking you're going to make it wider/shorter/longer/alter the sleeves/neckline/etc.  It is what it is, and until you've knit it at least once, you're not going to know which end is up until you're well into the pattern. I finished this project right after we got home.  It would have been done on the plane ride home, except it ends with grafting in garter stitch, and I needed to refresh my memory on that before I attempted it.  If I ever knit this again, I will make one side wider and the other narrower so the seam is at one side of the garter stitch panel.  My stockinette Kitchener Stitch is pretty polished, but I don't graft in garter often enough that my stitches look very consistent.  

Overall, I'm happy with this top (after I sewed the back down...I didn't like the feeling of being half-naked on the one day I attempted to wear it with the back open as it was designed), and I do wear it pretty often.  The silk yarn is beautiful and nice against my skin, I would definitely use it again.

It was a lovely family vacation full of fun yarn-y stops and projects.  Can't wait to see where we decide to go on our next trip!


Friday, August 1, 2014

Hepatica

 At the end of the school year, I had this plan: take a couple months off from writing, start up again toward the end of July so I could have a couple things ready to publish in the fall once the weather starts to cool and seasonal knitters pick their projects back up.  But the wonderful owners of my local yarn shop (happily) foiled my plan.

They had been given 2 skeins of soon-to-be-released yarn by one of their yarn reps.  He had told them that if someone wanted to write a pattern using either of these yarns, he'd be happy to show off the sample as he travels to different yarn shops.

How could I pass up that kind of opportunity?  My master plan was a bust, but the chance to have yarn shop owners see a sample of one of my designs was way too good to pass up.  So I took both skeins of yarn home and stared at them for a few weeks.  I knew right away that the Debbie Bliss Fine Donegal yarn was going to be a lace scarf or cowl.  It has a thick-thin texture that makes it fun for accessories, but a little tricky for garments that you don't want to have any thin patches.  The little nubby bits called for a simple texture so it wouldn't compete with the texture the yarn has on its own.

I swatched a few stitch patterns from my stitch dictionaries, and ended up modifying one of them to come up with this little eyelet pattern.  The 6-hole repeat reminded me of little flowers, so I named the pattern after the flower I thought looked most similar to the lace, Hepatica (also known as Liverwort).

This is a quick and straight-forward pattern.  The pattern is written, but the lace portion is charted.  One of my testers was a complete beginner with charted lace (she had only previously attempted one lace chart and ended up frogging her project after multiple tries), and she declared this pattern simple and easy to follow.

If you can Knit, Purl, SSK, K2tog, YO and pick up stitches, you are ready for this pattern.  Additional skills that you will learn (through video demonstration links) are how to graft using Kitchener Stitch and how to provisionally cast on using a crochet hook.  (The cast-on is optional...this project could also be left un-seamed to be worn as a flat scarf if you didn't want to tackle the provisional cast-on.)

I had to mail the blue sample off to the yarn rep, but I liked it so much that I made a second sample for myself to keep out of Knit Picks Stroll Tonal in the Springtime colorway.  It's a great light-weight accessory to give you a pop of color at any time of the year!

Available now on Ravelry.

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!