Sunday, December 30, 2012

May I Pick Your Brain?

Brilliant knitters, I need your help!

I have two patterns-in-progress that use double knitting.  To help knitters who are new to the technique, I posted a couple tutorial videos.  I wasn't sure what to label the cast-on video, because I don't know the "real name" of this cast-on. 

If you recognize the cast-on used in the following video, can you please post the name of it in the comments?  I will be so thankful for your help!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Handmade Christmas

 My favorite part of the Christmas gift exchange is the "handmade gift exchange" that my mom, sister and I have been doing for about 4 years now.  Each year we invite the rest of the family to participate, but they always decline.  Chickens.

So it's not a surprise at all when it comes to who is making your gift, but it's also not a surprise who you're supposed to make for this year.  Since there's only 3 of us, we just make a gift for the person we didn't make one for last year. 

This year, my mom made me a fabulous arrangement using succulents and crazy squiggly branches.  I'll have to find a place to put this where the cats won't knock it down and destroy it.  Can you believe that the cacti are fake?  I was totally fooled.

For my sister's gift, I knitted her a bag to haul her knitting projects around in.  She liked the one I made for myself a few years ago, so I thought she might like having one of her own.  Now we'll just have to be careful not to accidentally switch knitting bags when we're visiting our parents' house.  
Finally, my sister sewed these little throw pillows for my mom.  We're a big scrabble family, so she made pillows that spelled out the word "HOME" (not "HO", as this picture suggests.)  She can also spell out things like "Oh, me!", ""HOE", or "MOE", depending on her mood.

We've had a full day here, so it's time for a little relaxing.  I'm looking forward to enjoying some time off with my kids!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Polyrhythmic Sweater

 Ten days after I cast on, I'm wearing my new sweater!  Between the bright colors, the varied textures of the sweater, and getting to use a new yarn, this was a fun knit for me.

I was inspired to do stripes by one of the testers who is working on my Leap of Faith pattern right now.  She is doing her cardigan in alternating lime green and darker green stripes.  Also, when I was drooling over this new Good For Ewe sock yarn at my LYS, I was having a hard time deciding between these two colors.  Then it occurred to me that I might be a bit bored doing an adult sweater in just one solid color, and so, this idea just kind of easily came together.

It might be a little hard to tell unless you click on the picture to enlarge it, but this sweater is not entirely stockinette.  In fact, every third stripe is done in reverse stockinette (so it looks bumpy instead of smooth.)  The combination of the texture and the color stripes reminded me of that thing in music where you have a "two against three" thing going on.  If this sweater was music, it would look like this:

[I totally stole that little diagram from the "Polyrhythm" page of Wikipedia.  So here's the link back to the page in case you want to check out the original source.]
The color stripes alternated every other row (like the eighth notes in the bass) and the texture stripes exist in a "3 pattern".  I couldn't remember what this was called in music until I did a little Googling.  But thank goodness for the internet - I never could have come up with "polyrhythm" just from memory!

And so, the Polyrhythmic Sweater has been born, made, and is soon to be written into a pattern.  I believe that the Good For Ewe yarn I used is a relatively new yarn line, based just down the road in Indianapolis, Indiana.  I don't think there are many patterns published yet that use it as one of the recommended yarns, so I'm happy to be able to support a fellow Midwestern lady who is trying to do her thing!

Anyway, I was 99% happy with the way this sweater came out, but I'll be making one minor change when I write the pattern (and will do a small re-knit to fix this in my sample)...see how the sleeve cuff ribbing starts a few rows into the last purple stripe?  I think it needs to start as soon as you change to the color of the cuff stripe.  No big deal, and it'll only take me an hour or so to fix it.  But in the meantime, I'll enjoy wearing this cozy sweater over the holidays!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Knitting Champ, Household Slacker

This week, I've been hard at work.  Well, I guess it depends what sort of work you're talking about.  I have been failing at the housewife one starved, and no one went to school in dirty underwear, but I didn't do any of this:
And I certainly didn't do any of this.
Luckily, I'm one of those moms that doesn't think they need to raise their kids on a pedestal that's too high to climb down from when it comes time to pitch in around the house.  My son is often on dishwasher duty (with help from Dad), and both the kids help out folding & putting away the laundry.  (I'm almost ready to teach them how to actually wash the laundry, but for now, well, I'm just not quite to the point where I think they'll retain everything they need to know for my clothes to continue to fit me.)  

Just so the kids didn't feel totally neglected, I did do this with them:
And we even decorated the sugar cookies together the night before we brought a tray of them to our first family Christmas gathering of the season.  My daughter's cookies and mine looked quite lovely.  My 12-year-old son still likes to see how high he can spread the frosting and go for the world's record for number of sprinkles adhered to a single cookie.  I am pretty sure he blew away all previous records.

But by Wednesday afternoon, I had the body of a new sweater done.  It's made out of the lovely Good for Ewe sock yarn on #2 needles, and probably took me somewhere in the 12-15 hour range to get this far on it.  Yeah, sweaters made of sock yarn do take a little longer to knit, but not that much longer.  And I love the look of them!

Over the past 3 days I've gotten the first sleeve finished and started on the second.  The first one ended up just a hair tight on the lower arm, so I'm going to space the decreases just a little farther apart for my second sleeve.  This means I'll end up redoing the first sleeve (and hopefully that's all I'll have to redo!) but it'll be worth it to have a perfect sweater in the end!

I can already tell from just trying it on mid-knit, that it's going to be a thin but very warm sweater.  Perfect for the Illinois winter that is about to start any minute!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Good for Ewe!

My husband called me this morning to see how my day was going so far.  I told him things were going well, but what he heard was "I'm super happy because I've done nothing except knit on the sweater I started yesterday from the second I got home from taking the kids to school."  And darn it, he was right.

It's not a secret that I love the designing & creating part of this job way more than the "sit down, do math, and write up the patterns" part of the job.  Unfortunately I haven't figured out a way for the patterns to write themselves yet, so I do eventually get around to that part.  But whenever possible, I tend to get lost in the next knitting project.  I'm going to have to get better at resisting that!

But in the meantime, I have something exciting to share.  It's a new sweater happening from new yarn.  I'm feeling a little like a jerk for showing this one off because I don't think that this yarn is available yet on-line, but if you are interested in giving it a try, she does sell it in a number of yarn shops across the US.
I was very interested in a new yarn line that my LYS rolled out during their first anniversary celebration in mid-November.  I loved the colors of the yarn they had in stock, and I was intrigued by the fiber blend of "Sultry Steps", the sock yarn I picked up: 40% merino, 40% baby llama, and 20% nylon.  I've read that llama is hypoallergenic, which I'm really hoping makes this a fairly non-itchy yarn because I've been having trouble wearing anything remotely itchy lately.

I was really impressed as I started knitting up this sweater.  The yarn feels very squishy and fairly soft.  My swatch softened up even more after washing, so I'm very hopeful.  This yarn also has random little white hairs that don't absorb the dye, which gives it not so much a "halo" as just a little added "fuzziness".   Kind of like if you had a cat sitting on your lap while you were knitting and accidentally knitted a bunch of its hair into your sweater.  Only classier.  If you click on the sweater picture, you can probably see a few of them sticking out. 

So far, so good.  I'm hoping I can get this sweater done before Christmas.  Considering I've worked up 8 inches of the body in less than 24 hours, I think I've probably got plenty of time.  Not bad for a sweater made out of fingering-weight yarn on US #2 needles!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

More Harry Potter

I've been having a double-knitting party over here for the past week.  First, I worked on the belt for my new girls' sweater, and now I'm working on this Christmas gift.  It's for my 7-year-old niece, so hopefully my sister will make sure that this website is not left up on her computer where small people might be closely lurking!

Anyway, this is a pretty simple double-knit scarf.  The sides are just reversed colors, so one side is mostly gold with maroon stripes & a maroon Gryffindor lion, and the other side is maroon with the same accent designs done in gold.  The idea for the checkers at the bottom and the chart for the lion was taken from Ann Kingston's Harry Potter Bookscarves, and I just kind of estimated everything else as I went along.  A scarf's length is supposed to be about the same as your height, and my niece is probably a smidge over 4' tall, so that was my goal length.

I'm about two-thirds of the way done now.  I spent an hour this morning trying to chart a design for the other end.  I worked on a picture of the "sorting hat", tried out a Harry Potter logo, and thought about possibly doing either the barn owl, a magic wand, or a cauldron, but nothing looked terribly great.  The problem is mostly that I'm working on a width of only 15 stitches, which doesn't leave a lot of room for designs to have very much detail, and all my charts just turned out like oddly-shaped blobs.  So I think I'm just going to go with a monogram on the opposite end.  I am taking the general shape of the letters from the charts in Mandy Chronister's  "Potter Alphabet Chart", but I'm modifying them to be slightly longer and not as wide so they'll fit sideways in about the same amount of room as the lion takes up.  It should work fine, and what kid doesn't like something that was personalized just for them? 

Since I've borrowed most of the interesting elements for this scarf from other sources, I won't be making a pattern for it, but if you would like to recreate it, you can download the charts from the two sources I linked to, and know that my scarf is 34 sts wide (so, 17 sts for each color) which, on worsted weight yarn, gives me a width of about 4.5".

If you're not well-versed in double-knitting, never fear!  I just recorded two videos today which show you how to do a 2-stranded cast-on and how to work the stitches for stockinette stitch double knitting.  My goal is to have them posted in the next couple days, which would still give you plenty of time to make this scarf for the Harry Potter lover in your life!

Monday, December 3, 2012

When is an inch not an inch?

So you're knitting along in a pattern and it tells you to:

"knit in pattern until work measures 10" from CO edge".

You go along your merry way, keeping the stitch pattern even, not increasing or decreasing and work until you whip out your ruler and see that your work now measures the aforementioned 10".  So you're ready for the next step, right?


(You knew it couldn't be that easy, right?)

Disclaimer: There are two instances where it really is fine to go by the measurement on the ruler.
1) You're working on something that doesn't need to be an exact size like a scarf, a throw pillow, or a stuffed toy.
2) You're working with a yarn that is the exact same size before and after washing and blocking.  I hear such a thing exists, though I can't remember the last time I noticed that my yarn didn't change size at all after blocking.

But back to the main idea here: you do not want to go with the measurement on the ruler because you are working with pre-blocked yarn.

Remember when you made that nice big gauge swatch, washed it and let it dry (in the manner in which you will eventually let this cherished garment dry?)  Afterward, you measured the number of stitches in a 4" span, then you measured the number of rows in a 4" span (and you took those measurements in a couple different spots, away from the edges so the stitch sizes weren't distorted.  Then you averaged them together to get your best measurements of stitches per inch and rows per inch.)  Now is the time to pull those measurements back out and use them to figure out when you actually hit 10".

For example, maybe your pre-blocking yarn gave you 26 x 35 = 4" (or 6.5 stitches per inch and 8.75 rows per inch.)  After your swatch was blocked and bone dry, you now measured only 24 x 31 = 4")  or 6 stitches per inch (because the knit fabric relaxes) and only 7.75 rows per inch.

So instead of getting your ruler out to measure the 10", if you really want a good fit, you're going to multiply your row gauge (7.75) by 10".  So, 7.75 x 10 = 77.5.  I always round up (I'd rather something be just a smidge too long than a smidge too short), so I would count off 78 rows and know that at that point, I had 10" of work on my needles and I'd go on to the next step!

It probably doesn't seem like it would make much difference, but if you are knitting a sweater with the gauges in the example above that should end up being 24" long, you'd work  186 rows.  Or, if you measured each section with a ruler, you'd end up knitting 210 rows, which, after blocking, would add an extra three inches to your sweater!  That's definitely enough length to change the look for the sweater, and, if your yarn wasn't estimated to have a lot of leftover, you may end up running short of yarn before you're finished!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Jazz Hands!

 Happy release day to me, and to you!  Hannah, the winner of the Jazz Hands test-knitting give-away, finished up and shipped me her gorgeous arm-warmer-fingerless-mittens and it's taking every ounce of self-control I have to mail them back to her.  (The colorway of this yarn is one of my personal faves.  I might have to buy another skein and duplicate these for myself!)  Anyway, I had a little photoshoot with my daughter behind the camera (pretty great pics for a 9-year-old, eh?) and I've got my act together just in time to release this as a holiday goodie to all of the wonderful knitters who support me by reading my blog, following me on facebook, and spreading the news of my patterns through word-of-mouth, comments/sharing posts on Facebook, or sharing finished projects on Ravelry!  You wonderful people are the reason more people are finding my designs, and the more people that do, the more likely I'll be able to continue doing this creative work that I love.  You are the best!

So please, check out the fun zig-zag "lightning bolts" that shoot down the sides of these arms, and the ribbed hand that has a lot of stretch to accommodate a range of hand sizes.  This pattern is a "one size fits most" sort of deal.  I have a 10" forearm (widest part below the elbow) and a 6" wrist and you can see there's still some ease in the way these fit me.  This isn't the easiest pattern to re-size since the stitch repeat is 16 sts long (so, if you throw in an extra repeat or take one out, it's going to change the size by about 20%).  You could throw an extra stitch into each of the repeats (you work the 16-st repeat 5 times around as the pattern is written) but it will be a little trickier to keep track of those 5 extra stitches while you're working the pattern.  If you're really dying to add a little extra circumference, I'd recommend re-sizing by using a sport weight yarn and size 3 or 4 needles, though you'll probably want to switch back to the #2 needles to work the hand section since hands don't differ in size much, even when body weight is significantly different.

For anyone who reads my blog or follows me on Facebook, I'd like to offer you a coupon code to get this pattern for free as a "Happy Holidays and thanks so much for supporting me this year!" gift.  The code you will enter is "Very Jazzy Christmas".  The code is only valid when you purchase the pattern through Ravelry and you can do that either on the site or through the pattern page on my blog (click on the "patterns" tab at the top of this page).  You do not have to be a Ravelry member to make a purchase through my blog.

Please feel free to link to this blog post from your own blog if you'd like to share this code with your readers.  (Please don't simply re-post the code, since I do want people to know the source of the code.)

This would make a great quickie gift for someone you love this holiday season.  I hope you enjoy making your Jazz Hands, and I hope you share your finished projects either on Ravelry or upload a picture to the Trappings and Trinkets page on Facebook.