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!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

SO many things to knit!

....So little time to post about them!

And still no time tonight.

Instead, I thought I'd show off a new product my local yarn shop is carrying.  I *think* it will become part of a color work sweater this fall.  Don't you love this rainbow?

Thursday, March 6, 2014


This sweater is a long time coming.

The baby in the photos below is now well into her toddlerhood.

And isn't she the cutest?

Sometimes I can't believe how lucky I get with test knitters.  I had a great crew on this test, and I would encourage you to check out the project pages they link to the main pattern page.  Maybe give them 24 hours or so to link up so you can see all of them.  One woman did a color-blocked version that was hit pink & gray, with striped sleeves.  So cute.

Another tester suggested I add a photo of the back of the sweater to the pattern, and I couldn't agree with her more.  The back of this sweater really shows off the smocking.  But I didn't have any great shots from the photo shoot I did with this adorable baby.  Luckily, Elin, tester extraordinaire, had already taken some beautiful shots of her test sweater, and generously allowed me to use them!

I wish I could recommend the yarn she chose, but it's discontinued.  The yarn I used for the baby sweater was Happy-Go-Lucky HGL Sock Yarn.  I later used Knit Picks Stroll Tonal for a second sample sweater (the bright blue one at left).  Another good alternative would be Claudia Handpaints Fingering yarn.  (This one just apparently underwent an image makeover.  It is now labeled as "Addiction", but I'm pretty sure it's the same sock yarn they've always sold.)   I would recommend something either solid or tonal to best show off the smocking stitch.  One tester did use a more variegated yarn and her sweater turned out quite nice, too, so sometimes you never know!

This light sweater will keep the chill away this spring, and it would look beautiful over an Easter dress.  There's still just over 6 weeks until Easter...plenty of time to knit this up for your special girl!

The pattern is the Galway Girl Cardigan.  It is written for sizes 3 mo up to girl's size 5.  Testers rated the difficulty between Adventurous Beginner and Intermediate.  Specific skills needed are listed on the Ravelry pattern page and on the listing page in my Etsy shop.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


Every once in a while a project goes awry.  It happens less and less as you get better at knowing your body, pairing the right yarn with a pattern, and being able to tweak patterns so they'll fit you as good as possible, but let me assure you it does still happen.  Case in point: this recent finished object:  The Orange Sweater that Hates Me.

Let me start by saying this: I know that this project isn't an epic fail along the lines of being unwearable or too ugly to be seen in.  It's fine and I wouldn't get arrested for indecency if I dared to wear it in public.  But the finished sweater isn't what I was going for, and that's the problem with this project.

Copyright: Aleciaplum
It all began almost a year ago, February 2013.  I cast on to make the pattern "Ease".  The pattern is written with two options for the neck, and I opted to go for the more open neckline.  

What I found was that when I made the neckline this open with the amount of ease contained in this design, I couldn't keep the sweater on my shoulders.  

So I frogged it, did a little tweaking (subtracted a few stitches from the back and front cast-ons to make the neckline slightly narrower) and reknit the entire sweater a second time.

This time, I have no idea what went wrong.  Once blocked, the sweater was a giant monstrosity even though I was using the same needle size as I did on my first attempt.  Apparently my gauge was WAY relaxed on the second time through.

So I thought, "Surely, I can get this right on the third try."  I decided the neckline would not only have a few less stitches in the initial row, but I would add a ribbed band to make it even more likely it would stay on my shoulders.  And now that I had an entire sweater to use as a swatch, I was sure I had my gauge measured correctly.

So I knit the entire sweater a third time.  And it's….fine.  But it's no longer the sweater I wanted to make, and I just don't see myself wearing this one.  The neckline, which was one of the main things that attracted me to the Ease pattern, no longer resembles the pattern in any way.

I'll probably let this project hang out in my closet for a few months just to see if I have the occasion to wear it, and if it doesn't get any love by spring, it's back to the drawing board for my Dream in Color Classy yarn.  

Just to be clear, I don't think the Ease pattern is a bad one.  It would be far easier to modify the pattern if a schematic had been included, but the pattern itself is clearly written.  I wish I could put my finger on exactly what went wrong here.  My yarn was very comparable to the yarn recommended in the pattern, so I don't think it was a bad yarn/pattern pairing.  If anything, my yarn is slightly thinner than the ones recommended, but the sweater's fabric, knit at the gauge the pattern suggests, is too dense for my taste.

I would say I'm pretty "medium" as far as my size and bone structure - I was even right in the middle of one of the bust sizes (this pattern gives sizes as 32-34", 36-38", etc), so I really have no explanation as to why the original neckline wouldn't work for me.

Now that I look at the original photo from the pattern page again, I'm tempted to tear this sweater out and go for it a fourth time.  I just need to figure out how to balance the neckline not being too big with having a little positive ease in the sweater.  A look through the project pages tells me that this dilemma has been experienced by quite a few other knitters on this pattern.  If you do attempt this pattern, I found helpful notes (which I, of course, didn't look for until I had knit this project three times!) on how to make the open neckline work better here and here.  

I originally wrote this post about a month ago.  Since then, I've taken this sweater off the shelf and put it on twice, but immediately decided to wear something else.  So I think it's safe to say this one isn't going to make it into my actual wardrobe.

Wah.  Sweater fail.