Monday, February 25, 2013

Pattern Release: Twisted Hipster

Do you have a skein or two of sock yarn languishing in your stash, just waiting for the Perfect Project? I've got the pattern for you!  Knit up a Twisted Hipster for yourself, or give it to someone you love for a squishy, stylish treat!

This pattern is intended for Adventurous Beginners or better.  You should be comfortable knitting in the round, increasing & decreasing, and willing to learn how to work twisted stitches (explained two ways in the pattern, either with or without the use of a cable needle.)

And to help you on your way, I've got a giveaway!

One lucky blog reader is going to win a free copy of the Twisted Hipster hat pattern along with the yarn to make it!  And you even get a choice with the yarn...

Choice #1: 2 Skeins of Knit Picks Stroll Tonal sock yarn in the Blue Yonder color way (which will make any size of this hat):

Choice #2: About 1 3/4 skeins of Knit Picks Stroll Tonal sock yarn in the Springtime color way (again, plenty for any size)

Choice #3: A skein of Malabrigo sock yarn in the Light of Love color way that I had to steal 1 oz from to complete my pink sample hat.  You'd have enough yarn with this skein to make either the size small or medium slouchy-style hat, or the large size modified to be less slouchy.  Modification instructions are included in the pattern.

All you have to do to win is leave a comment on this post.  Make sure to say which yarn you'd choose if you win!  I'll leave comments open until I choose the winner with a random number generator on Friday, March 1.  Check back to see if you're the winner!

PS...If you can't wait until Friday to get started, but still want to enter the giveaway, you'll get your pattern purchase refunded if you buy it before Friday and end up being the, you'll get to look forward to free yarn in the mail!

Friday, February 22, 2013

I Wanna Hold Your Hand

I get it.

Steeking is scary.

The idea that you'd drop a chunk of cash on the perfect yarn, then devote 30+ hours of your life to making something, only to be told "Get a pair of scissors and cut it down the middle" just doesn't sound right to a lot of people.  I used to be one of them.

But I've always been a "I'll figure it out" sort of person.  I operate under the assumption that if there are people out in the world that have been able to do X, then there's no reason I wouldn't be able to do it, too.  I had to be reminded of this myself, when, about 5 years ago, having just mastered knitting & purling, I was still making scarves, dishcloths & simple hats because I thought, "No WAY would I ever be able to follow a pattern."  My knitting guru said, "You can follow a pattern.  Just read the first line, do whatever it says, then go on to the second line."  

When she put it that way, it wasn't so scary.  I no longer thought, "I could never make a sweater that fit a human, a blanket with a fancy stitch pattern, a shawl where I'd have to keep track of lace repeats, or insert scary knitting challenge here..."  Instead, I remembered that I am a reasonably intelligent person, and if The People of Yore knitted sweaters without a pattern beginning well before they hit puberty, then I, a college educated woman with access to the World Wide Web, could certainly read a few pages of instructions, follow them, and end up with a decent result.

Still, hearing that reassuring "You can do this" from my knitting guru was the the push I needed to take it to the next level.  And now, I have been given a great opportunity to help a new group of knitters get the push they need to take on one of my favorite things:  Steeking.  I know that with a little explanation and someone to say "I promise, this will work", any knitter can learn this simple yet amazing skill.

The fantastic ladies of The Fiber Universe, my favorite LYS, asked if I would teach a class on the topic.  The date is set and registration is now open.  If you're in my area (Peoria, Illinois) and would like to spend a fun 90 minutes learning a new skill that will forever cut down on the amount of purl stitches you have to work, come and join us!  You'll find the yarn shop's class schedule here, and if you go about halfway down the page, you can sign up for "Learn to Steek: with Nicole".  Bring a swatch or two and even a finished project that needs to be steeked if you like, and I'll show you a couple options for how to reinforce your knitting, we'll practice those stitches, then we'll cut those swatches right in half so you can experience the magic of steeking first-hand.  It'll be a fun afternoon, so don't miss it!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Twisted Hipster

 The "Purp Hat" finally found a new name!  "Purp Hat" had totally grown on me, but since my sample hat ended up being pink, I figured the joke might get lost in there.  So "Twisted Hipster" it is!

It's a fun hat.  This one (size large) took me one day to make.  It was maybe 6 hours of knitting total...but that was without having to swatch (I have already worked with this yarn & needle size, so I knew what to expect) and since it was the third time I had knitted the pattern, I was very familiar with the stitch pattern.  So for other folks, I'd probably say this is an 8 - 10 hour hat.
I had about a half hour between the time I finished the hat and the time I was planning to leave the house to go to "Knit Night" at my LYS.  So I jazzed myself up and ran outside to take pictures.

It's just as well that I had to hurry, because it was in the mid 20's with an even colder breeze here yesterday afternoon!

I always find photographing hats a little challenging.  In general, I like faces in my modeled shots.  (There's no photo worse than shots where a model has his or her head chopped off as if they were a dress dummy.)  But, if you're seeing a model's full face, then you're not seeing much of the hat.  Exhibit A: The photo is fine, but since it's taken straight-on, you can barely see an entire repeat of the stitch pattern on the very top of the hat.  And although the ribbed band is lovely, you probably want to know what's going to happen after that!

So, I am much happier with shots like Exhibit B here: the 3/4 turned away shot.  Still a face, but you are seeing way more hat than face.

And just for good measure, we always need to throw in some shots of the back of the hat.  You know...make sure those decreases look nice and there are no funky lumps or bumps happening in the decrease section!

The plan is to release this one early next week.  And if you like free stuff, make sure to check back on the blog next week because I'm going to be doing a give-away to celebrate this release!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Sweater Fail

I was very happy with the way the Dream In Color yarn softened up in the wash.  (I even threw it in the washer on the gentle cycle rather than hand washing, as I normally would.)

But for real, this sweater had it in for me.  

After blocking, my gauge actually matched the pattern gauge.  So, even though I did my original swatching in the round, my swatch totally lied to me. 

Ok, that happens.

Because I wanted my finished dimensions to be slightly smaller than the dimensions in the pattern, and I thought I was knitting with slightly more stitches per inch than the pattern gauge, I actually use the neckline/chest stitch counts.

Obviously, the top of this sweater is not my friend (nor was the bottom, nor were the sleeves).

And since my swatch was such a lying liar, it turned out more like a sweater dress (and check out how long those underarm seams ended up.  I doubt they were supposed to extend halfway down to my elbow!)

So, while waiting for my children in the dentist's waiting room this morning, I turned my sweater into this:

Note to self: Knitting Muggles are not used to people unraveling clothing in public.  The receptionist definitely thought I was nuts.

I did some figuring this morning before I destroyed the sweater so I could reknit it into something that fits better.  So, I'll be doing it again and still basing it on the idea of this pattern, but changing more of the numbers.  Cross your fingers for me that it comes out sized for me and not for Andre the Giant this time!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Sweater Surgery

 I spent a good chunk of time about 2 weeks ago working on a 'fun knit' for myself.  The thing that qualifies it as a 'fun knit' is that it's someone else's pattern, so theoretically, I shouldn't have to do much math before I begin!

Of course, when I started swatching with my worsted weight yarn (Dream in Color Classy), I was getting fabric I didn't love.  I am always wary of knitting yarn too loosely because I know that contributes to pilling.  (And we all know the disappointment of spending hours and hours on a project only to have it turn into a pilly mess after wearing it a handfull of times!)  I got gauge fine using a needle one size smaller than recommended, but even after I blocked the swatch, I felt like the fabric was too airy.  I was looking for a cuddly "hang out at home and stay warm" sweater, so I didn't want to see any daylight through my fabric.  So, I ended up just choosing the fabric I liked best (done on size 7 needles instead of the recommended size 10) and I refigured the numbers based on my new gauge.

It was actually fine, because I like my sweaters with a little less ease than this one was written with.  The size I made was going to end up with about 2 inches of ease in the chest and I changed it to zero ease.  I gave myself a little more room in the waist because I don't love things to be too tight there (I've had babies, y'all!), and I think the hips ended up with about one inch of negative ease.  Anyway, this is just my personal "favorite silhouette"...there was nothing wrong with the measurements of the pattern, it just didn't match my personal taste.

But here's the thing that did turnout to be a flop: I had a major neckline fail.  And because I looked at the pattern photos and thought, "Oh, I wouldn't mind if the neckline was a bit smaller," I cast on the exact number of stitches called for in the pattern even though because of my new gauge, my stitches were smaller than the ones the pattern was written for.  So I honestly have no idea what is going on with the neckline.   If I wasn't wearing the white shirt underneath, my shoulders would be poking out the top of this sweater. And while the pattern photos definitely show it as a wide neckline, it's not hanging off of the model's shoulders.

I don't love the result, but I like it enough that I'm going to try to do a couple modifications to see if I'll like it enough to make it a keeper.  First, I'll be frogging the stockinette rows that are curling over the neckline and subbing in a thick ribbed neckband to try to close up that space a bit.  If that maneuver is successful, I'll be pulling out the brown yarn at the bottom and starting that color up a bit higher.  The brown was added because I knew I wasn't going to have enough orange to make the sweater full-length, but I had intended for the brown to start around belly-button level, and as it is now, it's about 2 inches lower than that.  It's not awful looking, but I think it hits me in a slightly awkward place and will look better a bit higher on the body.  If that is a success, I'll also redo the bottoms of the sleeves so  the brown color starts at the same level as it does on the body.

Wish me luck - I think there's a good chance this sweater will be a just needs a few modifications.  Don't you hate that when you get done with a project only to have to start pulling stuff out and redoing parts?  The sleeves of my Owl Sweater still need an extra 1.5" on each cuff ribbing (they just look a tiny bit like baby sleeves on me) and I've had that done for over a month with no motivation to do cuff surgery.  I'm sure it'll get on the list eventually.  There are just so many Things I Must Knit!

Thursday, February 14, 2013


Did you know you've been reading an award-winning blog?  I didn't know I was writing one until I got a very nice message from Ruth over at Kangath Knits a few days ago.  She told me how much she enjoyed my blog and said that she wanted to include it as one of the blogs she was passing the "Liebster Award" on to later this week.  

Who wouldn't love getting a message like that?!  I was all   


Also, I'm always thrilled to know that there are people who read this blog that aren't related to me by blood! 

Then I got curious and started to wonder what the idea behind this award was.  Was it really a thing?  Was there any sort of criteria for being nominated for it?  Well, the internets are a beautiful thing, and I came across this little snip:

So, as it turns out, the idea behind this award it to recognize "smaller" blogs, so that perhaps more people are exposed to them and the blogging community can grow.  I think that's a great idea, andI look forward to passing the award on to others sometime in the not-so-distant future!

For now, I will answer the questions posed by Ruth, then tell you 11 random things about myself!

1. What kind of music do you like? I listed to pop music most of the time and have a pretty wide range of artists on my iPod - from Tori Amos and Barry Manilow to Ben Folds, Willy Porter, and the cast of Glee.  I also have a slight addiction to certain musicals.  I could probably sing the entire score  of Les Mis or West Side Story right now.
2. Do you prefer the weather to be so cold your nose hairs freeze or so hot you sweat just thinking about moving? I know it's probably knitting blasphemy to admit this, but I hate cold weather.  Give me a 95 degree day, a little shade, a lawn chair and a good book, and I wouldn't even have to worry about moving!
3. If you were forced to choose only one knitting technique to use for the rest of your life, would it be cabling, color work, or lace?  No contest.  Cables.
4. What was the last book you read? I think the last book I finished was "Let's Pretend This Never Happened", which I recommend to anyone with a good sense of humor, but that was a few months ago.  I'm currently reading "Bonk".
5. How do you tie shoelaces? Make a loop with one lace, wrap the other lace around and pull it through the hole to make a bow.  But honestly, the only shoes that I have to tie are the ones I wear to the gym.
6. Name one thing you have done that you will never do again.  This was a tough one, because I don't really live with any memorable regrets.  So I'll say "have another child".  I love the two that we have with all my heart, but I know that, as a family of 4, we are complete!
7. Describe your relationship with your camera.  Getting better & better every time we work together!
8. Apples or bananas? Apples.  Honeycrisp.
9. What scares you? The thought of anything bad happening to one of my kids.
10. Name three knit designers whose work you admire. Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, because I really enjoy her writing, Stephanie Dosen from Tiny Owl Knits because I think she found her niche and does a beautiful job with it, and Sarah Wilson over at The Sexy Knitter because she and I seem to share a similar aesthetic.
11. What do you like to do after a hard day? Knit a pattern that is already written!

11 Random Things You Don't Even Know You Want to Know About Me:
1. I've had a pretty random collection of jobs in the last 20 years.  Some of the highlights: candy striper, waitress at ChiChis, telemarketer for an insurance company, wedding/funeral singer, music teacher/choir director, and now knitwear designer!
2. I used to be involved in theater as a teenager / young adult.  I played "Laurie" in "Oklahoma" and "Abby" in "Arsenic & Old Lace" and have been in a hand full of other shows, and even one opera.  It's one of those things that I'd love to get back to "one day".
3. I lived my entire childhood in the same community that my parents and grandparents (and one great-grandparent!) all grew up and lived most of their lives in.
4. I'm one of those people who really believes she can do anything she sets her mind to, but knows that there are seasons in life, and not all goals are compatible with all seasons.  And I know that the reason I believe in myself like that is because I was blessed with outstanding parents and some top-notch teachers.
5. I really enjoy learning new things.  It's the only way to keep life interesting.
6. My favorite thing in the world to eat is chocolate chip cookies.
7. I'm a difficult person to really get to know well, but there is nothing I wouldn't do for my friends.
8. I got the attention of the man I married when we were in college and I called the radio show he helped to dj on our college station to dedicate a song to him.  Embarrassingly enough, the song was "Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses". (It was going to be "Desperado", but the person that answered the phone said they didn't have that song, and this was the best I could come up with in a frantic few seconds of having to pick a different song!)
9. I briefly considered being a psychologist when I was in high school.  But then I decided that listening to people talk about negative stuff all day wasn't something I was built to handle well.
10. I love competing.  My favorite is the "Amazing Race" my husband and I compete in on a team with another couple, that is sponsored by the park district in our town every fall.  Those are some of the most fun days we've had.
11. If I fantasize about what I'd love to do if money were no object and I wasn't concerned about having a stable home for my kids, I'd love to live all over the world, changing locations every 6 months or a year.  I think it would be fascinating to meet different people and really get to see the "regular life" part of all the different cultures that exist in this world.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Oh, Sadie!

I thought I'd take a moment to post about one of my most popular patterns, the Sadie Baby Dress.

I think it's a combination of the classic simplicity of this design paired with the fact that the "skills needed" isn't a very intimidating list that made this one popular.  That, and a bit of luck with people finding it.  (There's always a bit of luck involved when you are a small web-based business!)

By far, the most popular comment that I see on project pages for this dress is "I don't know why she didn't write this as a bottom-up design!" or a variation on that theme.

It never occurred to me that beginning with a provisional cast-on at the empire waist would be such a big annoyance to knitters.  But in case anyone is interested, I thought I'd let you in on the reasons I wrote it the way I did.

First, this dress requires either 1 or 2 skeins of yarn (depending on size) and because fingering-weight yarn usually comes in yardage quantities between 400- 465 yards, a couple sizes of this pattern are very close to needing one entire skein.  So to give knitters the best chance for success, I decided to begin at the waist, knit the bodice first, then knit the skirt last.  That way, rather than having knitters sweating the last few yards of yarn hoping they won't run out at the top of the bodice, they can rest easy knowing that if they come up a bit short on yarn, they'll just have a skirt that is a smidge shorter than intended.

Second, the section that is most critical to fit in this dress is the empire waistband.  If that's the right size, the rest of the dress is going to come out beautifully.  Now, I'm sure that everyone who reads this blog swatches religiously....but I know that not all knitters do....especially on smaller knits like hats or baby things.  So by beginning at the waistband, a knitter can slide it onto some waste yarn and actually try it on baby before preceding (granted, it may grow a bit upon blocking, but it's better than no swatching at all!)  If it fits, they can confidently move forward with the project.  If not, they only have to frog a dozen or so rows of knitting and start over with a different size, rather than having an entire skirt attached to the waistband (as would happen with a bottom-up design) that they now need to figure out how to modify to fit a new size dress, or frog entirely.

My third reason started out as a reason, but then never developed because I learned a bit more about knitters as I was writing this pattern.  I made a dress some time ago for my own daughter that had a knitted bodice sewn to a fabric skirt.  When I conceived this idea, I thought it would be a fun addition to suggest the knitted bodice/fabric skirt as a variation on this pattern.  But in the meantime I published a purse pattern that suggested a sewn-in fabric lining and.....crickets.  It got almost no attention at the time it was released (and more than two years later, I've probably sold less than 10 copies of that pattern.)  I participate in a couple "designer forums" on Ravelry, and it seems to be a common theme that patterns that require (or suggest as a variation) sewing get very little attention from knitters.  I have seen that to be true not only through the failure of my purse pattern, but also through my Sock Monkey Lovie Pattern.  It's actually a pretty good seller, and has 47 project pages listed on Ravelry - and not one person chose to use a fabric blanket over a knitted one.  So, armed with this new knowledge, I decided not to spend the time to make a knitted bodice / fabric skirt combo dress, photograph it, and include it as an option in the pattern.

Never fear - if you are opposed to provisional cast-ons, swatch to make sure you've got pattern gauge before you begin, and aren't worried about running out of yarn, there are two very easy ways to modify this pattern so it can be worked without the provisional cast-on.  First, it can be done bottom-up as many Ravelry knitters have done.  Alternately, a regular cast-on could be used, then at the point where the pattern tells you to remove the provisional cast-on and put the live stitches on the needles, you'd just pick up the cast-on stitches one-for-one and work your skirt downward.  It won't have quite the seamless look that you'd get using the provisional cast-on, but I bet baby won't mind a bit!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Cable-y Goodness

 I've been playing around with this design in my head for a while, in fact, I believe I even posted about it once before.  I've been imagining a cuddly pullover with a gorgeous chunky cable in the design.

Playing around with tweedy yarn and a cable idea from my imagination, I came up with the design at left.  It was fine, but I wasn't wowing myself.

As luck would have it, I recently ordered one of the Barbara Walker Treasury of Stitch Patterns....Number 3 to be precise.  It arrived last Friday and I dove into it.  Included in this stitch dictionary was a few chapters on different types of cables.  I strongly prefer reading patterns from written instructions rather than charts, but I was very pleased with myself for decoding the chart for one of the fancier cables in the treasury:

Knitting this cable up definitely felt like an accomplishment, but once I had translated the chart to written instructions, I felt confident that anyone who understands the basic concept of cabling can be successful with the pattern I'm planning to write.

I submitted my proposal to the Knit Picks Independent Designer Program today, and if they accept it, I'll be using their City Tweed HW yarn for this pullover.  If not, I may use Plymouth Encore Worsted Tweed instead (it's what I made the swatch out of.) I think either yarn would be a good match for the look I'm wanting to achieve.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

An Afternoon at the Yarn Shop

Today there was a sick husband at my house.  He was sick enough to stay home, but not sick enough to stop working.  So, if I stuck around, I knew I was in for an afternoon of watching him tap away on his laptop while talking on the phone to coworkers about whatever numbers they wanted to discuss.  It's not that I don't find accountant-type stuff fascinating, but I prefer the background noise of a knitting podcast or a good conversation, so I headed over to my LYS and worked on my current swatch for a couple hours while enjoying the company of one of the shop owners and the steady stream of customers who visited her this afternoon.  (Really, I was pleasantly surprised - I didn't think a Tuesday afternoon would be a hopping time at the yarn shop, but as it turns out, it was!)

Anyway, I'm swatching with Malabrigo sock yarn for a new idea for a summer top.  Sadly these photos don't do the "Solis" color way justice, it's much richer than it appears here.

This top is going to be partly stockinette and partly textured.  I played around with a couple stitch patterns I like - this first one kind of has an organic, vine-y thing going on....

And this one kind of looks like fish scales.  (Don't look too's a little messed up...took me a while to get the hang of it!)

I'll keep you in suspense about which one I decided I liked better for this pattern.  They both look nice, but I have a definite favorite, and when I asked the yarn shop owner and my husband which one they liked better (without letting them know what I thought), they both agreed with me.  So, hopefully, if you're in the mood to make a new top this summer, you'll agree with us, too!

In other news, I finished the pattern for the "Purp Hat" today.  I know that really shouldn't be the name for it (short for "Purple Hat", obvs.) but the more I refer to it that way, the more the name is sticking.  I should really pick a different name, but everytime I look at this hat, all I think is "Purp Hat".  I think that part of my brain is broken right now, so if you have any ideas, send them my way!  At any rate, I'm going to try my best to get the test knit for this posted tonight on Ravelry.  It's written in 3 sizes (18", 20", 22"), which is roughly (2/3 yrs, 6yrs - Adult S, Adult M, L) and uses between 330-558 yds of fingering-weight yarn.  (The yarn is held double, which is why it seems like way too much yarn!)