Friday, September 28, 2012

Too Hip for Me

So here's a little something I've been working first mitten pattern with a hip, slouchy hat to match.  You can see that I'm trying my very hardest to pull off a hat that I'm not sure I'm cool enough to wear.  I know that plenty of knitters are that cool though, so I'm looking forward to publishing this pattern for them! 

The lovely folks at Knit Picks have accepted this pattern into their Independent Designers Program and provided the yarn for me to knit up a couple samples.  I've got the pattern written for my size and just need to grade it before I can get this test knit going.  I've been working on getting the cardigan graded, as well, and I'm actually all the way through the body and just need to finish the sleeves & hood portion of the pattern.  It's been a little slow-going though, because I'm using the cardigan pattern along with a "Sizing Knitwear" class I'm taking on-line.  My main objective in taking the class is to learn how to use Excel spreadsheets to do my grading because I know it will be a big time-saver in the long-run.  But for a person who is not terribly tech-inclined at the core of her being, it's been a little slow-going to get it all figured out.

My husband and I are looking forward to attending a friend's wedding tomorrow and a one-year-old's birthday party on Sunday, so getting these test knits started will most likely have to wait until next week.  But if you need a hat or mittens (or both!) for someone special, check back on Monday or Tuesday because I'll link to the test knit thread as soon as I get it started!

Monday, September 24, 2012

What's Happening?

The blog hasn't been updated in a while, but I've been knitting every day! 

I have been working on a project for "The Fat Squirrel's" LoKal (that's local yarn knit-a-long for those of you who don't speak knitter-eze).  She started in early in September and it'll run until October 14th.  The point is to buy yarn that is produced relatively locally to you and make something out of it. 

I bought this Happy Go Lucky sock yarn in Buffalo Grove when I was on my Chicago & Southern Wisconsin yarn crawl back in early August.  The woman behind Happy Go Lucky yarns is out of Aurora, IL, so I figured that was local enough to me.  I wanted this yarn to be socks really badly.  I wrote a pattern for cabled socks and started knitting, but the yarn said it didn't want to be cabled socks.  I wrote a second sock pattern that used textured stitches, but the variegation in the yarn didn't let the texture stand out the way I wanted.  So I decided to listen to the yarn.  It didn't want to be socks, it wanted to be a sweater.

And since I only have one 460-yd skein, it was going to have to settle for being a baby sweater!  I wrote out a new pattern and did the math.....  The 12-month size will supposedly take 433 yards, plus it'll probably be finished with an i-cord which will take another 20-30 yds.  So I'm hoping to make it by the skin on my teeth!  I already found a willing baby model, although pictures might have to wait until later this winter when she's more toward the 12-month size rather than the 6 month size I think she's currently wearing. 

Anyhoo, you Ravelers can check out my progress on my project page if you're interested, and if you want to play in the LoKal, too, there's still plenty of time!  Just find some local yarn, make a project and post it to the appropriate thread in the Fat Squirrel's Ravelry group by October 14th.  And for heaven's sake, if you haven't watched her video podcast yet, what are you waiting for?  Very entertaining and chock full of not only knitting but also just regular life silliness. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012


One of the many things I love about being a designer is the social aspect of it.  I love meeting and talking to other knitters.  I have really been enjoying the knit nights I have been going to at my LYS.  I have established internet friendships with a couple people who I would jump at the chance to get together with if we ever had the opportunity to be within a hundred miles of each other, and I have corresponded with a number of other crafty souls, mostly through the on-line Ravelry community.

Some of the most special souls are people who volunteer to test knit.  I think that some people enjoy getting to see new designs before they're available to the public.  Some people enjoy the challenge of knitting something new that might have a few mistakes for them to catch.  And I'm sure some people probably enjoy the test itself, as it is typically done in an on-line forum where a number of other people are working on the same design and you can all chat and compare notes.

One person I've 'met' through test knitting is Kreativia.  She a Norwegian mum with a number of kids to knit for who worked on both my Charlotte Dress test and just finished up her test for my Munchkin Dress (coming soon!)  She had posted a couple peeks along the way, and the yarn she chose (Drops Baby Merino) was knitting up beautifully.  I think her dress came out looking like something you could only find at a high-end boutique (if you could even find it there.)

And how big a smile do you think was on my face when I saw this charming photo that she posted of her two daughters - one still wearing the Charlotte Dress more than a year after she originally knit it, and the other wearing her brand new Munchkin Dress and legwarmers?  Yeah, that's right.  A really big one. 

Those two kiddos look like they have a lot of fun together!

Kreativia, if I'm ever in Norway, I'm totally tracking you down and inviting you to come and join me for a drink and a couple hours of knitting!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Tiny Dancer, Jr!

 I've actually succeeded in knitting something for my daughter that she wears voluntarily on a regular basis!  If you know my daughter, the fashionista, you will know this is no small feat!

The pattern was released today so you can make your own favorite girl a sweater that she'll love, too!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Does this knitting make me look unemployed?

Sometimes on Ravelry I see threads with titles like, "I hate telling people what I'm knitting" or "Do you hate knitting in public?"  I can't relate because, actually, I love it when people open the door to talking about knitting.  It's one of my favorite topics, and while I try not to bring it up too much with non-knitters (the same way I hope my son doesn't talk exclusively about Minecraft) I'm happy to give real answers if people ask me questions about what I'm making, about the patterns I write, or about knitting in general.

In the same way, I'm a big Knit in Public person.  I don't like to feel like I'm wasting my time in waiting rooms, or while hanging out while my kids do this or that.  So if I'm out in public for any reason other than maybe running errands, I probably have my knitting in my bag, just in case some free time presents itself.

This past Saturday, we went out to watch a parade that our son's marching band was in.  I knew we had a 30-minute drive to the town the parade was in, plus we would be sitting at the end of the route, so I knew we'd have a little wait before anything exciting happened, so of course I had a project with me.  The sweater that needed a new hood-top, actually.  As I was sitting there, I had quite a few comments....some pretty typical, but one guy who caught me a little by surprise!

One lady marching in the parade walked by me and yelled, "Hey!  Are you making a scarf!?"  I didn't yell back that it was an almost-finished sweater sitting in my lap.  Maybe that lady likes her scarves extra-large!  Next, a politician walked by in the parade, shaking hands with anyone he could reach.  I could see I wasn't going to get away with leaving my hands full of knitting, so I put it down to shake his hand.  He said to me, "I just saw a tv show about that!"  Yes, Mr. Politician, I bet you watch lots of knitting shows.  Maybe I should vote for you because you're just like me! ;)

Then an odd man ambled up.  He approached my family and said to no one in particular, "You know how you can make $135?"  No one was answering, so I said something like, "Nope.  How?" hoping the answer was going to be appropriate to say in front of my kids.  He told me, "You can go across the street to the court house and sign up to be an election judge!" 

With good humor, I asked him, "Do I look unemployed?"  He told me, "No! I mean, I'm retired, and I've done it."  (I'm 37, and I don't think I'm knocking on the door of being confused with a senior citizen quite yet.)  I asked him, "Does knitting make me look like I need a job?"  He just went on about what a great gig being an election official is, and how it's so easy to sign up.  We nodded and smiled and he decided to move on to another group of victims fine citizens farther up the street.  They weren't knitting, so I guess he has other ways of figuring out if people might want to be election officials. 

It just gave me a little moment of pause because that's honestly the first time I've been a little surprised at someone's reaction to the fact that I'm knitting.  I have read the threads about negative reactions on Ravelry,  and it's not like I thought people were making that stuff up, but it's just not part of my world-view that people would see a person making something with their own hands, mind & creativity and think that it deserved anything other than appreciation and respect.  I come from a family of people who can make all sorts of things, and among the people I know, those skills are celebrated, not looked down on as something "quaint" or "something to do if you have nothing left to do".

I'm sure there was a chance that this man didn't target me because I was knitting, but I was sitting there with my two kids and husband while a senior-citizen woman was sitting alone a couple feet away from us.  I do find it interesting that he approached me (who I would think looked like I had plenty to do), but completely skipped the lady next door.  

At any rate, I think I'll pass on the election official gig!

Monday, September 10, 2012

A Question About Gauge

Hi there!

I get the occasional e-mail from a knitter asking about this or that.  While I'm more than happy to answer questions or point people in the right direction as far as articles on the web or tutorial videos, I thought it might be nice to collect some of these questions and answers on my blog.

So today, I'd like to share a little note about gauge, and my answer (with some extra thoughts on gauge tacked on to the end):

Q: I'm fairly new to knitting and hope you don't mind a quick question.  I've started a few rows of my Meditation Infinity Scarf and it seems to measure about 5 1/2" wide.  I noticed that the yarn label recommends size 1-3 needles and your pattern calls for 5's.  Should I start again with smaller needles (size 3?) and see if the width is closer to the 4" the pattern calls for?  Or stick with the 5's but try and knit a little tighter?  My work looks a little looser than yours. 

A: You've probably heard of gauge (where you count the number of stitches your work has over a span of 4 inches, then compare it to the gauge listed in the pattern.  Go up in needle size if you have too many stitches, and down in needle size if you don't have enough stitches).  With something like a scarf, gauge isn't as important as it is with something that has to "fit", like a sweater or a hat.  So if I were you, I'd use whatever needle makes a nice fabric with the yarn you are using.  (My yarn was a pretty typical fingering weight, which I'd knit on size 1-3 needles if I were doing socks, but since this is a light, lacy scarf, I upped the needle size to make the fabric more drapey and less dense. Always start with the needle size in the pattern when you're trying to figure out what to use - not the needle size on the ball band of the yarn, although they will sometimes be the same thing.  As you become more experienced, you may find that you are a "tight knitter" who typically needs to use a size or two larger needle than recommended to get gauge, or you may be a "loose knitter" who typically needs to use a size or two smaller needle.)

If you like the way your work looks, then I'd just go with it and have a slightly wider scarf (but 5.5" is not at all "too wide".) If you think it looks too loose, I'd start over on size 4 or size 3 needles and work a few inches with that size and see what I thought.  Did you try the provisional cast-on?  Kudos to newer knitters who aren't afraid to learn new tricks!  

A couple more thoughts about gauge: First, make sure your swatch is large enough that you aren't measuring distorted edge stitches.  If you want to measure 4", try casting on the number of stitches that you are guessing will give you about 6" of width, then knit it about 6" high.  

Second, if there is ever a time where you are going to wash the item you're making and you want to know what size it will be after washing, make sure you wash & dry your gauge swatch the same way you will wash your project in the future.  There is nothing worse than spending time and money to make a beautiful hand-knit only to find out that after its first bath it is two sizes too large! 

Third, make a note of your "working" (preblocked) gauge as well as your "finished" (after washing & blocking) gauge.  If you are working from a pattern that says, for example, "Knit until work measures 10" from cast-on edge", you need to know the difference between your two gauges so you can figure out what your length should be in your working gauge so it will measure 10" once it is blocked (if the two gauges aren't identical, you don't actually want to just knit to 10" then go on to the next step.)

Here's an example - Let's say your working gauge is 26 sts x 37 rows = 4" square, and your blocked gauge is 24 sts x 35 rows.  If you have an instruction concerning the length of your garment, then you need to look at the row gauge (37 rows vs 35 rows.)  If you divide 35/37, you find that the blocked gauge is about 94.5% the number of your working gauge.  Translated into practical application, that means you should only knit to 95% of the 10" that was instructed, or 9.5".  Once you block the garment, that 9.5" section should "grow" a bit length-wise and turn out to be 10". 

Finally, if you are making a garment where fit is important, please, please, please don't skip the swatching step!  Unless you are a woman with 10 kids or someone who knits for charity with the philosophy that "it's gonna fit someone!", you really don't want to invest your time and money in a garment that may or may not fit in the end.  It's frustrating for you and it wastes your time, money and talent.  Take the extra hour to knit a swatch, then wash & let it dry overnight, and hopefully you'll be ready to begin your new project in the morning! 

If you have a question about one of my patterns, I am always happy to help out.  If I think your question could help other knitters, you will likely see it on the blog sometime!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Advanced Sweater Repair

 My new sweater is going to be called Leap of Faith.  I was talking to one of the owners of my LYS one day and she was asking me about the sweater I was knitting.  I found myself saying (as I did in almost every conversation about this sweater) that "Theoretically, it's gonna work.  Not that I'll know for sure until I cut the sucker down the middle, but the numbers all add up and I think it'll be ok."  I told her that the whole thing was "a leap of faith."  She asked me if that was what I was going to call the sweater.  At the time, I said no, but the more I thought about it, the more I decided it would be very aptly named!

So, here's the (kinda) finished sweater, pre-blocking (so it's a little too tight) and pre-steeking (obviously, the cardigan isn't open in the center like it's supposed to be.) 

I really did enjoy knitting it.  I did it in the round, from the bottom of the hem all the way up to the top of the hood.  The set-in sleeves are also knitted right on to the sweater (not made separately and sewn in later), and those are in the round, too.  The only purl stitches were a few on either side of the cables. 

After entertaining my neighbors with the Blue Man photo shoot in the front yard, I took it back inside and got to work figuring out how to steek this baby.  I knew it was a thing people did, so I wasn't terribly worried about it.  But, since I had already invested a chunk of money in 4 skeins of this lovely Three Irish Girls yarn, and about 30-40 hours of my time (remember, I had two false starts before I actually knitted this final version of the sweater!), I really didn't want to screw this up.  Lucky for me, Kate Davies has a fantastic blog series about steeking.  It's a four-part series, but I'll link you to the meat & potatoes portion of it: Part 2: reinforcing and cutting.

Anyway, I got through the steeking without a hitch (and video taped the whole thing so you can enjoy it later!)  Then I whip stitched the steeked edge into place and had myself a little open-front cardigan.  After blocking, the fit was 100% perfect. 

.....except for the hood.  This is the first hooded garment I've designed and actually only the second one I've ever knit.  The first was a DROPS pattern I made about 3 years ago, and while the hood is fine, it doesn't really have any shaping in the back, so it looks like a very pointy elf-hat when worn up.  So I knew the hood was going to have a little trial & error potential for me. 

The main problem was that it was about 3 inches too tall.  When worn up, it looked big & slouchy, and since this is a fitted hoodie, it just wasn't the look I was going for.  Normally it would be no problem to frog back a few inches and redo the top part, but since this thing had already been steeked, that made the repair much more complicated. 

Foraging ahead, I took the whip-stitching out of the top few inches of the hood and hacked off about 6  inches.  I had to dig in farther than the repair itself because I needed about 3 inches for the shaping at the top of the head. 

Miraculously, I got the hood back on the stitches (for the most part.  I didn't trust the stitches on the edge of the steek to stay put once the needles pulled on them, so I left the outer two stitches on each side dangling free and decided to sew them in later.  It worked like a charm.)

In this third picture, you can see one edge after the repair was a few inches along.  The body of the sweater is to the left of the picture and the top of the hood is to the right.  On the left you can see one of the steeked edges looking a little ragged (that was from me picking out the whip-stitching.  It didn't look like that after being steeked.) 

Once I had knitted the new and improved 3-inches back into the hood, I folded the edge over and re-whip-stitched it.  It looked great and matched the steeked edge almost exactly.  The only difference is that the new edge didn't have the small thread of the crochet reinforcement running through it, but I had used a piece of blue yarn that was so close to the color of the sweater, that it's not at all noticeable that it's missing.

I'm hoping to get modeled shots taken soon and the pattern graded this week so I can start testing.  Meanwhile, I can already tell I'll be getting a lot of use out of this in the cooler months!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Munchkin Dress

We're about halfway through the test-knit for this new little dress.  It's the same as the rainbow-striped one you may have seen me most about a month ago.

This dress has a few elements that are new to me, so it was a challenge to figure out the math and a challenge to write clear instructions....and unfortunately, I failed miserably on my first try.

In a normal test knit, I expect that a couple knitters will ask for clarification for one or two instructions, and they may even find a spot where my math is off, but beyond that, I haven't really had any major problems with test knits.  This one began as a total train wreck, and it was totally my fault.  I've not done a top-down v-neck design before, and figuring the math to get to the row where the sides join each other and you begin working in the round did not go well on the first try.  I had the right idea, but I forgot to figure in the numbers for the button band (in the back) as well, so that threw the whole production off.

Of course, this mistake was discovered the night before my family was supposed to leave for a weekend of fun in Chicago!  But thanks to a fabulous husband who did all the driving so I could re-work the math and get a correction out ASAP, two great kids who entertained themselves in the back seat and let me work, and 5 angelic testers who stuck with the project (I offered to let them out of the test, no hard feelings, since some had already knitted quite a bit through the incorrect pattern and were going to have to start over), we got it all worked out.  I decided to knit the smallest size along with the testers (actually, trying to stay ahead of the testers!) so I could double-check my work and catch problems before anyone else had to wonder about them.  And since we began this new version, we're having a great test - much more typical as far as what knitters are pointing out to be clarified / corrected!

I'm excited for the couple months to come.  The adult release of Tiny Dancer was well-received last week and the girl's version will likely publish next week.  Then, later in September I have a Top Secret sweater jacket (newborn - child's sizes) that I am SO excited about putting out....and at the beginning of October, this dress pattern should be ready to publish.  I also just sent a new proposal to Knit Picks Independent Designer's Program last week, so I'm hopeful that will be accepted.  That hat & mittens set should be ready to test in October and publish in November if it doesn't get held up at the proposal stage.  I haven't published much this summer, but I've been busy getting these patterns ready for you to enjoy this fall!