Saturday, August 6, 2016

Top Ten Knitting Patterns for Fall

Although it is definitely still summer here in Illinois, lots of knitters are starting to plan some new projects for fall.  To help you along with a little pattern enabling, I put together this list of ten fantastic knits for fall!

1) Il Grande Favorito written by Isabelle Kraemer

It's a nice, oversized sweater that you can easily personalize with stripes, color blocking, or by adding special details, and it would be cozy to snuggle up with on cool fall days.  But the 3/4-length sleeves and sport-weight yarn mean that it won't be an overwhelmingly warm sweater, so it'll be great for those days that start out cool, then warm up a bit in the afternoon.

It's available in bust sizes ranging from 36" - 48", and the pattern is available in English, German, and French.
2) Dangling Conversation written by Mindy Ross

This shawl uses less than 500 yds and has a simple enough texture that you could really get creative with the yarn you choose to make this project.  And when that warm fall afternoon turns into a cool evening, it's nice to have an extra little layer that you can throw over your shoulders or wrap around your neck!  I can see this done in 3 different colors, as in the sample shawl, or it would be lovely knit in a gradient kit.

3) Chaleur written by Julie Hoover

Get out your leggings and a pair of cowboy boots...this oversized pullover looks like a fun & unique project to pair with them!

The design assumes such a loose fit that it is only available in 4 different sizes.  This really takes some of the stress out of knitting a garment. Chances are good that if you pick the appropriate size for your hip measurement, you can knit the pattern without any major alterations and it'll fit just as intended!

4) World War G{loves} written by Nicole Montgomery

Why go to the trouble of intricate color work or remembering a textured stitch pattern when these casual stockinette stitch gloves fit so well and coordinate with so many pieces in your wardrobe?  The fun in these is working the welts, which give the surface a rumpled texture while keeping the inside of the fabric smooth against your hands.  

If you've got 200 yds of DK-weight yarn in your stash, you could have these gloves finished by the end of the week!

5) Colors for a Cloudy Day written by yellowcosmo

This sweater has been in my queue ever since it was released.  I'm just waiting to collect enough DK-weight leftovers from other projects that I won't have to buy full skeins for the 6 contrast colors that would require less than 100 yds each.

I love a simple silhouette with fun details, and this sweater definitely fits the bill.  The pattern is written for chest sizes ranging from 31 - 53", so almost everyone should be able to find a size that will work for them.

6)  Nellie written by Donna Higgins

What if you're a baby girl this fall?  They need pretty fall knits, too!

I love this little baby sweater.  It provides a nice warm layer with a lot of visual interest.  And I love the little detail of the "flower buttons".  Such a sweet little design!

This pattern uses differing gauge to change sizes rather than different stitch counts, which isn't my usual jam, but more than 200 people have project pages up on Ravelry, so there are plenty of people who are willing to give this method a try!

7) Therapy written by Laura Aylor

If you crave garter stitch and changing colors, this shawl might be right up your alley!  One color requires a full skein of fingering-weight, the second color requires about half a skein, and the third color uses less than 1/4 of a skein.  It would be a great opportunity to pair a couple leftovers with a full skein and get them all used up!

8) Bulle written by Oomieknits

I became aware of this cute design when my sister decided to make it for her little girl.  It was her first attempt at knitting a garment, and she finished it with great success!

If your daughter needs a special back-to-school top, this is a style that is classic, yet fits perfectly with the current trend of longer tops worn over leggings.  So chances are, this is one your daughter will actually wear!

Bulle is available in sizes 3/4 - 11/12, and written in English, French, or Italian.  And if you're into being twinsies with your daughter, check out Lady Bulle for this same design written for women's sizes!

9) Surrounded Afghan written by Susan Rainey

A fall essential is a snuggly throw that can keep you warm on cool nights.  If you're one to play "furnace chicken," you know how important it is to have a blanket to throw over you when you decide to sit still.  Once your thermostat drops below about 68º in your home, that can feel pretty chilly without a couple layers to keep you warm!

Pick up 1700 yds of bulky wool, and you can create this lovely textured afghan.

10) Habañera by Mary Annarella

This 3/4-sleeve beauty could be a showcase for some gorgeous hand-dyed yarn.  But even if knit in a solid color, the lace collar still gives the sweater a lot of visual interest.

It's made from fingering-weight yarn in sizes from a 29" bust all the way up to a 50" bust.

Depending on size, you'll need between 900 and 1900 yds of fingering weight yarn to knit this lovely piece.  If you're anything like me, you probably have more than enough yarn in your stash that would fit the bill!

Which of these pieces is your favorite?  Do you have a favorite fall knit?  Leave me a comment and let me know what is on your project list for this fall!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Scallops and Bacon Tank Top test knitters drawing....

Thanks again to the testers who participated in this project, and good luck in the drawing to the two who finished by the deadline!  You'll have to watch to see if you're the winner.....  :)

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Local Swap

Are you the type of person who travels to a new place and always wants to pick up a little something (yarn!) to take home as a memento of your visit?  It doesn't matter if I'm a couple hours from home or have traveled half a day by suitcase is always heavier on the way home than it was when I arrived at my destination!

Every year, when I hang the seashell ornament that my husband and I bought on our honeymoon in Hawaii up on the Christmas tree, I get to remember the excitement of being a very young adult off on our first vacation together (and being too young to rent a car from most of the dealers!)  I have a magnet on our fridge from our trip to Coronado Island that I see all the time, and it still brings back memories of the wonderful trip we had when our kids were a great age for traveling.  (That means "too old to need naps, but still young enough that they were easily impressed by new things!")  There's a small sculpture on our fireplace mantel that my husband I and bought at an outdoor market in Willimstaad, the capital city of Curaçao, where we spent our 10th wedding anniversary.  But these days, more often than not, I like to check out the local yarn shops at my destination and pick something up from there....and then make my own souvenir!

Inspired by a recent surprise yarn package from a friend (he visited Iceland and sent me a couple lovely skeins of natural-colored Lettlopi), I decided to organize a "local swap".  Each participant would get to share a favorite "local" yarn and one other local product with a swap buddy, and their partner would get to do the same for them.  "Local" can mean whatever you want it to.  Maybe there is an indie dyer in your county, or you have a favorite somewhere else in your state/country.  Maybe there is a farm somewhere in your vicinity that sells handspun that you can get your hands on.  Maybe you have a favorite commercially-produced yarn that is made somewhere in your neck of the woods.  Same thing with your other "local gift"....maybe you know a local with an Etsy shop full of adorable treasures, or there's a superb candy maker nearby, or your area is famous for producing something specific.  Whatever you want to send, that's great!  And it'll be even better if you include a little note telling your swap partner where you live and how it is that these things are representative of your locale.  Share your home with someone far away, and learn a little about theirs, too.  The world keeps getting smaller, and this is one small way you can take a little trip without ever leaving home.

This is the last day for sign-ups though, so if you're interested, make sure to post in the swap thread today!  You can find it here.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Color Packs & Stash Scraps Knit-along!

Yesterday got away from me because we got to enjoy our New Year's Day at a wedding, but it was still the official start of the Color Packs & Stash Scraps knit-along!

If you have been petting the mini skein color packs at your LYS or have one at home that is begging to be used, take a look through the patterns in this collection and see if one would be a good match for the yarn you are dying to knit with!

Or maybe you're one of those noble knitters who made a resolution for 2016 that you would knit more from stash!  Chances are, you have more than a few partial balls of fingering or sport-weight yarn leftover from larger projects.  They might be a perfect match to something like the Swirls & Curls cowl, the Wine in the Wool hat or cowl, or Ziggy Pop.  Or pair five balls of sport-weight scraps with a full skein to make the child or smaller adult-size cardi, Tessie!

I invite you to join us this month and next for a knit-along.  Just click here for the KAL thread, read the details, and let us know what you are planning to make!  I look forward to knitting with you!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Year in Review

2015 was a fantastic year for me, both personally and business-wise.  I was really productive as far as pattern writing goes, and not only were there no personal disasters, but I got to do some things that made me happy in my personal life, too.  So I thought I'd start a new tradition on this (almost) New Year's Eve that I hope to keep up: My year in review and goals for the New Year!

First a little look back.

Some designs from the Color Packs
& Stash Scraps Collection
Three things I'm proud of business-wise:

1) I published my first collection (and it was a pretty big one at that!)

2) I kept my goal of reaching out more to yarn dyes & distributers.  Out of the 22 designs I published in 2016, the yarn for 13 of the sample projects was supported by the yarn company.

3) I far exceeded my publishing goal (which was 12 patterns in the year), and I haven't done the math yet, but I have no doubt that this has been my best year of sales yet.

Three Things I'm proud of personally:

1) I stayed healthy all year.  I don't know if I've mentioned this on the blog, but I have Crohn's Colitis, and a couple years ago, I was not in good shape.  I've been on a drug called Remicade for 2 years now, and my health is better now than it has been in the past 10 years.

2) I took up the cello.  I have played the violin since I was 10, but after giving birth to a baby that was terrified of violin sounds, and now having a cat in the house that bites my ankles and climbs on things so he can bite the violin while I's kind of hard to keep that up.  I've always been interested in the cello, so when the opportunity came along this fall to rent one and see if I liked it, I jumped on it.  I've had it in the house for 9 weeks now and I just began the level 3 Suzuki book.  I'd like to say that it's similar to playing the violin, and there certainly are techniques that I know from violin that translate to the cello, but it's a different notation (bass instead of treble clef), the fingering is different (you either skip playing with your 2nd or 3rd finger on each string, depending on the key signature), and the bow hold is completely different.  So it's been a lot to take on, but I practice every single day and I love it.
That's my husband and I, right before we
left the hotel to see Phantom

3) I was able to take my husband on a trip to San Francisco for his 40th birthday.  I would have loved to have been able to pull a "pack your bags, honey, we're leaving in the morning!" but I knew he would want time to get things organized at work before taking off.  Plus, I thought he'd pick San Francisco as his preferred destination, but I wasn't 100% sure, so I gave him 3 choices: San Francisco (with the highlight being a performance of "Phantom of the Opera", LA (where we could attend tapings of podcasts he listens to), or Disneyworld (because last time we were there with our kids who don't love rides, we talked about how fun it would be to just go without them!)  Anyway, he did indeed pick San Francisco and we took off on the 3rd vacation we've ever taken, just the two of us, in our 17 years of marriage.

My three favorite patterns from 2016:
It's kind of like having to choose which of your kids you like the best, but these three definitely have a special place in my heart:

1) Ziggy Pop (That's the hat on the right in this photo) - I love the bright pops of contrasting colors against the darker solid main color.  I enjoy simple colorwork, and I was absolutely thrilled that I figured out a way to carry the zig-zags right up through the crown of the hat to create a star-like pattern.  This might be my favorite hat that I've designed so far.

2) Borderline - It's such a simple shawl, but the Miss Babs gradient set that I used is so lovely that it doesn't need any fancy stitches to make it look good.  And the crochet border gives the shawl a lot of personality, while still being simple enough that a crochet novice (like me!) would have no trouble completing it.

3) Wavelength Tee - It's just super comfortable, easy care (I was Hempathy in the washer - in a garment bag - then dry it on a hanger).  I love that I can wear it with shorts or jeans, or with nicer pants & jewelry if I need to dress it up.

My favorite photo shoot of 2015:

Obviously, RollerGirl Raglan.  How could anything compete with this?

Three favorite projects I made from other people's patterns:

1) Passerine Hat  by Erica Heusser- I like the hat a lot, but it was more than that.  I also used this pattern to practice my "Invisible knitting", which I learned from the "It's Not About the Hat" pattern by Susan Rainey.

 2) Sun Powder by Elena Fedotova - This one was kind of a dare to myself.  I had just started playing with crochet around Christmas of was kind of my "Christmas vacation project".  By Christmas of 2014 I was thinking to myself "I should try to make something more challenging than baby booties from crochet just to see how difficult it really is."  So I decided on a shirt.  And, of course, I couldn't make it simple and do the pattern as written, I had to choose a heavier yarn and rejigger the whole thing so it would come out the right size.  And in the end, I didn't love how it looked as a cardigan, so I made some adjustments and turned it into a pullover top.  But now I think it's great, and fun to wear over a sleeveless tank top!

3) I called this one "Sperry at the Opera" because it mixes two patterns: the basic shape comes from "Sperry" by Amy Miller and the color changes are modeled after "Opera" by Elise DuPont.  This is a comfortable everyday pullover, and I made it from Fat Squirrel Fibers yarn that I bought at the Knitting Pipeline retreat a few years back and held on to forever because I couldn't find a pattern worthy of it!

Favorite Knitting Thing Learned in 2015:

Invisible Stranding.  Check it out - it's a cross between double knitting and stranded knitting.  It is amazing for when you want to have long floats in a colorwork pattern.  The first project I made with this technique was my "It's All About the Invisible Stranding" hat.    The design on the front, in case you were wondering, is the symbol for "Cancer", my zodiac sign.  It is not, as my various family members suggested, a picture of sperm, numbers, or a yin-yang symbol.

After that hefty year-in-review run down, my goal for this year might not surprise you.  My number one goal for 2016 is: Balance.

2015 was busy.  And I actually like staying busy.  But I know that constant busyness is not always a good thing.  My kids are in 7th and 10th grade, so I'm looking at only having another year and a half with my oldest in the house, and that has made me more conscious of having time with my kids.  I also know that when creativity is an important part of what I'm doing, I have to be careful to not let it start feeling like a chore, because, for me, that's when my creativity falters.  Producing 22 patterns this year was a joy in many ways, but it has exhausted me.  In fact, I currently have 4 other patterns in various stages of being knit & written, but you'll probably only see one of those designs published this winter.  The other 3 are just going to hang out until I get my mojo back.  Meanwhile, I'll be knitting for pleasure, reading lots of books, playing my cello, and maybe sewing or drawing a little - both hobbies I have enjoyed in the past, but have not given any time to for the past few years.

For the past few years I've set a goal for myself of publishing 12 new knitting patterns.  This year, I'm not going to set a publication goal.  Instead, my goal is to get back to wanting to write new patterns.  (It is one thing to want to create new patterns - and I am still very motivated to do that for myself.  But it's a whole other thing to go through the steps to write, grade, edit, photograph, and test a new pattern so it's ready to share with others....that's the part I'm burnt out on at the moment.)

But I won't be disappearing completely.  Since I'll still be knitting, I'll still be blogging and I'll still be around on social media & Ravelry.  In fact, I'll be hosting a knit-along in January & Feb (more on that on Friday!)  But don't be surprised if you don't see a new pattern from me for a pattern-writing days are not over, but I am taking a little time to regroup and remember the joy in creating!

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Grand Finale: Swirls & Curls!

Are there any words sweeter to a knitter's ear than "100% Cashmere"?  I think not.  

So when I came up with the idea to ask for support from a variety of different yarn companies, approaching Pepperberry Knits, the maker of the 100% cashmere sport & dk-weight mini skein bundles, was a total no-brainer.  

And can you even stand the bright & fun mix of colors in the cowl (above)?  It's the "Urbanite" color way, and I can see why it's a popular seller for Pepperberry Knits.  About 1/4 of the Ravelry project pages that use this yarn have it labeled as being the "Urbanite" colorway!  

 I had so much yardage leftover after making my first sample (the one on the right without the i-cord edge in this photo), that I made a second sample.  This one combined the Pepperberry Knits leftovers with my Sweet Georgia leftovers I still had from my Sweet Stripes legwarmer samples.  I thought the two yarns worked really nicely together. I finished the second cowl off with applied i-cords around the top & bottom edges just as an "alternate ending" to this project.

Below, you'll see a close-up of the two ways you can finish this cowl.  Either just knit it up with the textured edges and be done (right), or work applied i-cords around each edge for a more polished finish (left).

This cowl pattern gives written instructions for things like the cast-on, when to change colors, and how to finish, but the colorwork design itself is charted.  So in order to knit this one, you have to be willing to read a colorwork chart.

Other than that, it's pretty straightforward!  It's knit flat, then seamed with Kitchener stitch.  Video links are included in the pattern to help you along with the techniques that might be less familiar.  If you would like more specifics, you can find them on the Ravelry pattern listing page here.  If you would like to purchase the pattern, remember it's available as a single pdf download, or as part of the Color Packs & Stash Scraps collection!

Many thanks to Heidi at Pepperberry Knits for supporting this project and sending an extra gorgeous bundle of yarn!  I am looking forward to awarding it as one of the prizes for the Color Packs & Stash Scraps Knit-along that will run in the Trappings & Trinkets Ravelry group from January 1st through February 28th.  If you are interested in knitting any project from the entire 13-project collection, please consider joining us!  There aren't any rules or requirements other than 1) Knit anything from the Color Packs & Stash Scraps collection and 2) In order to be entered for prizes, please post a finished photo to the "Finished Projects" thread by February 28th.  Enjoy knitting along with others who might be making the same project as you, or other projects that are made from their favorite mini skein color packs, or are using up some of their lightweight stash leftovers, and you'll also have a place to post where I'll always be checking in to see if I can answer any questions you might have!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

New Release: Tessie

Remember summer?

I love summer.  Walking around in bare feet, spending lazy afternoons knitting in my backyard, letting the kids ride their bikes up to the old-fashioned candy store on the square, staying up late, and being able to forget about a schedule some many more days until summer?

Oh wait, I was going to talk about this little number.  I am actually not 100% sure what I should call it.  It's kind of a vest, but it has sleeves, so that's not quite right.  It's kind of a cardigan, but it's pretty skimpy to fully qualify, so that one is out, too.  A shrug?  The construction is similar to many shrugs I've knit in the past, but shrugs are usually more cropped than this little sweater.  So "Tessie" it is.  No label, or all the labels - you can call it a shrug, cardigan or vest.  But I'm just going to call it Tessie.          

Tessie is the perfect compliment to a summer outfit.  I wear a lot of sleeveless tops & dresses, but there are times where I feel a little underdressed just walking around in a little sleeveless, cotton tank top.  Throw this on top and I immediately go from "A little naked - aren't you the mom of a teenage boy?" to "classy and stylish".

Construction is simple.  Cast on at the back of the bottom hem and work increase rows until the cardigan goes around the body to create an angled hem that is longer in the back and visually "nips in" at the waist.   Then continue on with the established stripe pattern until you divide the stitches into 2 front sections and 1 back section and basically work those to the shoulder before seaming.   The cap sleeves are knit as part of the body, then given a little more length with a handful of edging rounds.

This pattern pairs perfectly with a "combo pack" from Wonderland Yarns - this is one full skein of Mad Hatter sport-weight merino yarn, and one mini skein color pack of Mad Hatter yarn.  Because I wanted to stay within the size range I could get from one combo pack of yarn, this pattern is written for 8 sizes ranging from a Child's Size 6 up through a Women's Medium (that's the sample size in the photos, shown on a 37.5" bust, and it took just about every last yard of the yarn to make it.  If you tend to need  every last yard that I recommend for my patterns, I'd recommend either buying a second full skein of your main color - in the sample, that's the gray yarn - or being flexible about the length of your sweater - you can always work one stripe less if you're running short on yarn.)

Instructions are both written and charted - three charts visually spell out the stripe pattern, and the written instructions supplement the charts by telling you things like when to jump from one chart to the next, when to divide the stitches into a back and 2 fronts, and how to work the neckline shaping.

Tessie is just the thing to throw in your bag when you're meeting friends for lunch at that place where the air conditioning is always turned up a little too high.  Make one for your daughter to wear over her sleeveless Easter dress since you know it's almost always too chilly at the end of March for those dresses anyway!  Or grab it to throw over your summer tank top when you're headed somewhere that's not overly casual, or when your daughter needs to cover up just a skitch more.  It's a great wardrobe piece that will prove to be useful in all sorts of situations!

You can buy Tessie now as an individual pattern download on Ravelry here, or as one of 12 (soon to be 13) patterns in the Color Packs & Stash Scraps eBook collection!