Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Summer Knit

I am thrilled to say I finished up my last pattern of the school year today.  It's the one I promised myself would be done before the kids are out for the summer, and they still have 3 days left!  I still need to do my final estimates for yarn usage and give it a last "once over", but it'll definitely be ready for testers by next week.

I don't think I'll be running a full-scale test on this one since I'm not really sure where it'll end up.  I'm guessing this pattern will end up as a magazine submission for Summer 2014, but if that doesn't work out I'll probably self-publish it rather than hold on to it indefinitely.  

Since I don't know the final destination of this pattern yet, I can post any pictures, but I can tell you that it's a sleeveless summer top in fingering weight yarn.  It has a very flattering fit for most body types.  About half of the top uses a patterned stitch and about half of it is stockinette, and it includes a gorgeous cabled band as well.  It is something that I have worn casually with denim shorts or capris, but I could easily dress it up with khakis and a little jewelry.  

The pattern is written for chest sizes 34.5" (37", 40", 42.5", 45", 47.5"), and my best guess, having not done the math yet, is that the top will require 2 (3, 3, 3, 4, 4) skeins of Malabrigo sock yarn or a similar light fingering-weight yarn.  (I chose the Malabrigo because their sock yarn is very un-irritating to my sensitive skin, which is necessary for a summer top I wear next to the skin.)

If you have questions or might be interested in test knitting, send me a note through the "contact link" or pm me on Ravelry.  

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


It's always been my intention to learn to crochet.  There are some things that I love in knit fabric, but there are some things that just look best in crochet.  One of these things, I've found, is flowers.  Ever since I wrote the blog post about the headband I was working on, I've been experimenting with different ways to knit flowers.  And I am the first to say that they just don't look great.  Behold, the flower on the far left is knit.  Gross, right?  Yeah, I agree.

On the other hand, the two other flowers in the photo are crocheted.  And they actually look like flowers!  Here's the problem: I crocheted them "by ear", meaning, I really have no earthly concept as to how to write a pattern for what I did.  I know that I used slip-stitches, single crochet, and double-crochet stitches, and "chains", but that's it.  I have no idea how one tells someone to "go into that know, the one that's to the right of your slipknot"?  That doesn't seem like professional pattern writing to me.

So I have a dilemma: I have a finished headband and I have flowers I like to use with it.  But I do not have the crochet knowledge to write the pattern.  Solution: read some crochet books this summer and figure out the language for crochet patterns.  It won't give me the skills I need to be a crochet designer, but I probably can learn enough to write a simple pattern for a flower that is accurate enough to send it to a tech editor who can make sure I don't have anything too crazy in there.

So, it'll delay this particular design, but that's ok.  It'll just be a long, dry summer for patterns here at Trappings and Trinkets.  I promise you though....I have one in the works that will knock your socks off when I release it this fall!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

As the School Year Draws to a Close....

Despite being 16 years out of school myself, my life has never stopped revolving around the school calendar.  After I graduated college, I immediately took a teaching job and had 3 more years of following a school calendar.  Once I made the decision to become a stay-at-home mom with a baby, then two, I was still following the school calendars even before my own kids were in school or even preschool, because I taught piano lessons and tried to make our lesson schedule reflect the school calendar as much as possible.

The end of this month marks the tenth school year I've gone through with my own kids.  I worked on design last summer.  A lot.  Enough that I started feeling a little bit like there were times I wished I had decided to set aside some time to just be home with my kids again.  So I was determined that this summer, I would tie up loose ends and just be leisurely about any design work I get done over the summer months.  I still have a huge list of ideas, and if a couple things get worked on - great!  (And I know myself well enough to never make a resolution to not work over the summer, because I know I'll break it.)  But I'm not leaving any big projects to be finished over the summer months.  I'll be running a couple test-knits, and working at a leisurely pace on a couple other projects, but the main plan is to have time to spend with my kids.  As of 2 weeks from now, they'll both be junior high students, and I know they won't be around here forever!

As the kids went back to school last August, I made a couple goals for myself.  And I'm proud to say that I've met three of them, and have a good start on the fourth.

My first, and most important goal was that I wanted to self-publish 12 patterns over the course of the school year, and I managed to do just that.  I started with the two Tiny Dancer patterns in late August and finished with he Unisox I put out in May.  A couple of the patterns were 2-fors though (2 different items included in 1 pattern), so all told, since August, I've published patterns for: 1 pair of socks, 3 adult sweaters, 3 children's sweaters, 1 cowl, 2 hats, 2 pairs of leg or arm warmers, 1 pair of mittens, and 1 girl's dress.  All the garments were written for at least 8 sizes, if not more, and every single one of these patterns have been test knit in, if not every single size, pretty close to it.

I couldn't have met that first goal without having a family that is very willing to pitch in, and an extremely supportive husband.  When we take long drives, he drives while I knit.  When he comes home and sees that I'm in the middle of something, he starts getting dinner ready.  When I order a heap of yarn, he just asks what I got, not how much it costs.  He's pretty great.

A couple other goals I made and met:

I wanted to offer another free pattern at Christmastime on my blog for the people who have supported my designs.  "Bananamiss" on Ravelry helped me meet this goal by being a fantastic test-knitter on this project.

I wanted to start publishing adult sweaters.  For my first couple years as a designer, I was a little intimidated by all the shaping required to make a good adult sweater pattern.  But by this past fall, I had designed enough children's garments that I was confident in my basic skills, and I spent a good chunk of time reading books on knitwear and taking Craftsy classes to learn different ways to shape adult sweaters (and anything, really).  So by last summer I was ready to take on my own personal "final frontier".  And I did it twice more this year (and actually two more times you haven't even seen yet!)

My last goal was not fixed in my mind, but I got a couple gentle nudges from other Ravelers this spring and finally followed through on creating a Ravelry group to support my design business.  It was fun to see familiar faces joining.  Lots of people who have test knit my patterns in the past, customers whom I have corresponded with either answering questions or complimenting their projects, and others who have become "virtual" knitting buddies all jumped in to support me, and that made me very happy.  I won't be able to personally thank all the people who gave me those nudges because there were a lot of you and I know I'll accidentally leave someone out.  But I do appreciate you telling me that you wanted such a group, reassuring me that people that are not my blood-relations will join, and offering to help moderate it.  And to Jen and Kelly, who actually are helping me moderate it, I appreciate the help you're giving me!

The only goal that I had in my mind that I didn't meet was to start offering my patterns in hard copy form to yarn shops.  I'm still a little ambivalent about that one.  On the one hand, it might open up a new market and provide exposure to people that don't notice my patterns on-line.  On the other hand, I've heard that yarn shops are just not buying as many hand copy patterns anymore, and for the very small profit I'd make off each one (we're talking about maybe 25% of what I make off a digital sale), I'd be doing a lot of extra work.  There's preparing the files to be printed (most printing services will only print in multiples of either 2 or 4 pages, so I'd have to re-format a lot of patterns), removing hyperlinks (which I don't love because I do so much video support to help clarify techniques that I use), ordering, shipping to yarn shops, and doing the leg-work to get my patterns into shops, since I don't have a distributor to do this for me.  Not to mention the fact that, as a self-published pattern writer, I have the luxury of using as many words as I need to be clear in my instruction.  As a result, many of my patterns are 6 pages or longer (which is very expensive to print and a little impractical when trying to sell hard copies.)  So in order to make these detailed patterns more like what you'd expect to buy in printed form, I'd have to do a lot of editing, which will make the patterns less "beginner-friendly", which is something I'm not thrilled about.  You can see why I'm still on the fence about this, right?  :)

Anyway, I'm happy with what I've accomplished this school year, although I'm going to set my bar a smidge lower for the next school year.  I still want to put out 10-12 patterns, but I will probably try to make the accessory : garment ratio a little higher.  There were too many times this school year where my husband had to pick up the slack, and he's all but taken over the grocery shopping.  I know he's happy to do it, but I also know that it's going to be my turn to do those things again soon.  So throwing in a few more patterns for smaller things (as in, not sweaters that need to be graded and tested in 10 sizes) will help free up a little more time for "life & family" stuff.

As for this summer, I have 4 knitting goals:
1) Knit a couple patterns from other designers
2) Finish up the two secret test knits & get those patterns finalized
3) Finish the Craftsy classes I am part of the way through
4) Work on reformatting my older patterns that actually sell to my new layout

And 4 personal goals:
1) Make time to do some fun stuff with the kids
2) Paint the hallway and the banged-up white trim (and bug Jason until he gets the bathroom ceiling painted)
3) Continue to exercise (which I'm really good about during the school year, but really bad about once the kids are home for the summer and it's really hot outside)
4) Get our cat + furniture situation sorted out (I've been trying to train our cats to use their scratching posts instead of our furniture for 4 years now, and I've failed's time to get the cats declawed, then replace the shredded furniture)

Hmmm...8 goals over the 11-week summer break?  I guess no one can ever say I set the bar too low!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Are you monogamous?

I was talking to a friend last week about her knitting project.  She said, "I just like working on one thing at a time.  I just want to focus on one thing and get it done!"

I couldn't agree more.  Knitting monogamy is my nature.  Sometimes the ladies at my Knit Night laugh about how quickly I finish projects, but part of the reason they seem to go so fast is that I enjoy focusing on one thing, giving it all my spare time, until it is finished and I, or someone else, can enjoy it.

My friend went on to ask me, "Do you always have a lot of projects on the needles, or do you usually work on one thing at a time?"

Up until this past fall, I would have said that I pretty strictly keep a "one at a time" policy.  But last November and December, leading up to Christmas, I let that rule slide.  I'm pretty sure that for a good part of those two months, I had 7 or 8 projects all on the needles simultaneously.

Since then, I've tried to get back to monogamous knitting, but lately I've been failing pretty miserably at that.  I have been working on a summer top, but it has been slow going, as some parts are taking multiple re-knits to perfect.  While that has been going on, I've dug up an old project that I want to write the pattern for this summer, but the trim of this sweater will need a little tweaking, so it'll be back on the needles shortly.  And then there's the pullover sweater I just started the test knit's pretty much done (I've actually worn the sweater 10 times or so), but I've decided that the collar needs a very small adjustment.  So I need to frog the rather large collar and get that re-knit while my testers are working on their sweaters.

And then there's the KAL sweater I'm working on.  This one is purely a "fun knit", so there's no real deadline (although I do intend to finish by the end of June along with the other KAL knitters), but I have been working in spurts on it.  And it's sooooo nice to be knitting a pattern that is already easy to pull it out and know exactly what to do next instead of having to plan it out and do a little trial & error to get it just so!

Finally, I have a bag of "limbo" projects.  It includes a sweater that hates me, a stuffed animal that just needs the top of its head finished, a headband that is a fully formed idea in my head, but that I need to swatch and do the math for before I can actually knit it, and a winter hat & scarf that are made, but I haven't decided if I'll write them up as patterns.  I also have a baby sweater that is completely knit, photographed & has the pattern written in one size.  It's just waiting for me to get out my spreadsheet so I can grade it for multiple sizes.

So....yeah, not so much focused on one thing right now.  And my main focus today is finishing the proofreading on a re-formatted pattern.  I got an e-mail on Friday from a knitter saying that I had some "Rows" mis-marked as "Rounds" in my Knit Purl Project Bag pattern.  She was absolutely right, and it made the instructions confusing (the part she was referring to is written flat, which it does say in the instructions, but it would definitely confuse someone to see flat knitting marked as "rounds". )

Anyway, rather than just edit those few row headings, I decided to take the opportunity to re-format this pattern to my new template.  One of my goals for this summer is to get all my older patterns put into my updated template and go over their wording so they are more in line with my current writing style.  For a long time I didn't have a "style sheet" (a document that says exactly how I will word certain things, what I will abbreviate & when, what sorts of words to use in different situations), because I didn't even know that was a thing.  But one of the Craftsy courses I took (Edie Eckman's "How to Say It" class) suggested that all pattern writers should create such a document for themselves, so I now have one!

It'll be quite a chunk of work to reformat the old documents, but it'll be nice to have a cohesive collection.  The Knit Purl Project Bag's updated document is actually all finished; I just have to give it another read-through or two to make sure I don't have any weird typos or goofy spacing issues.

Happily, I (kinda) finished that summer top this morning, and it's taking a soak right now.  I don't know if I love the hem trim yet....sometimes you just have to see how it "blocks out", right?  So in the back of my mind, I know I might have a little work yet to go on it.  Later today, I'll probably put the collar of the winter sweater back on the needles, because that fix won't take more than a day or two, and I can really put that project to bed.  Maybe there's a way to whittle down this pile little by little, but I don't think I'm going to hit my goal of being through all my 'work knitting' before the kids are out of school in 2 weeks.  At that point, I have some home improvement stuff that I've promised myself I'd work on for a bit, so anything that doesn't get done by then is going to have to be patient with me.

I do understand the allure of having multiple projects on the needles.  Need a big chunk of stockinette to knit while you're socializing?  I'll grab this vanilla sock!  Have an hour alone in the house with no kids or husband to distract you?  Where's that intricate lace project?  Going to go sit in the audience at your kid's track meet?  Take a long the sleeve of that sweater you've been piecing together!  It's fun to have knitting on hand for all occasions...different weights of yarn, different size needles, in case your hands are starting to cramp up from too much knitting on a certain size.  And sometimes, after knitting on an oppressive brown men's sweater for a week, a lady just needs to work on something in a beautiful shade of blue or purple!

I tend to get the most joy out of an idea come to life though.  So the more time and energy I can put into that one project, the quicker I get the payoff of holding my finished idea in my hands.  Maybe it has something to do with "process knitter" vs. "finished object knitter".  I do love the process, but I love the finished objects more.

How about you?  What's your knitting style?  Are you a one project sort of gal, or do you feel "the more, the merrier"?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


The Sweater Knit-A-Long that we're hosting in the Trappings and Trinkets Ravelry group is chugging right along!  Everyone has picked their pattern and most people have chosen their yarn, though some are still waiting for it to be delivered.  One knitter is even spinning her own yarn from her own sheep as she knits up her Hearth Sweater!  (I feel like I may have mentioned this on the blog before, but I have to mention it again because I am so in awe of her skills!)  I love that in the space where the project page asks you to enter the name of the yarn you used, she just wrote "Madame Carole", the name of her sheep.

As for me, I am loving my second Leap of Faith sweater.  I'm making it out of gorgeous madelinetosh sock yarn in the Composition Book Grey colorway.  I keep trying to force myself to do other work during the day and limit my "fun" knitting to after 9 pm and on weekends, but as you can see, I've been cheating a little bit.  This project is just such a great "do it while you're waiting" project (lots of stockinette, and shaping and cables are very easy to remember), so I take it with me when I have to wait somewhere.  It's also great for "social knitting", so it comes with me to Knit Night and got even more attention while we were visiting my in-laws last weekend.

I finished my shoulder plackets last night during my "after 9 pm" knitting (it took about an hour to knit both of them), so this morning I was excited to seam the shoulder and check the fit.  I was even more excited when I saw it was all perfect and that I could move on to the sleeves & hood.

BUT NOT YET!  I really am going to work on some other stuff and force myself to only do this during "fun knitting" hours.  I have a summer top pattern that is kind of in limbo right now.  I've finished the sample, but I'm not 100% thrilled with it, so I need to do a little tweaking and re-knitting, then grade the pattern for a range of women's sizes.  I have also had the Salsa Shrug on the back burner, and it's time to work on that pattern as well.  Add to that the headband pattern that has been dancing around my head, but still hasn't gotten knit.  I guess I really do have plenty on my plate, so I guess my Leap is going to have to be patient with me!

Speaking of the KAL, it's not too late to join us!  You can work on any of my 10 sweater patterns, using any yarn you like.  The KAL ends June 30, but that still gives you plenty of time (and there are no knitting police who will knock on your door if you don't finish in time!)

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day

A Mother's Day message from my kids....

I hope you were treated as well as I have been today! Enjoy the day, fellow Mommies!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

How to Wear a Scarf

I love the look of scarves.  They're a fun way to brighten up a drab outfit, and in the middle of winter, it's nice to have a scarf, especially a big scarf that you can take off your neck and use as an extra little wrap if you end up someplace chilly.  But I've definitely been in a scarf rut.  I see other people wearing scarves wrapped in fancy ways with stylish knots while I tend to either go for the "wrap around neck and let the ends hang in front" method or I just throw on an infinity scarf wrapped 3 or 4 times around my neck.  So I was very interested when someone posted this "25 Ways to Wear a Scarf" video on Ravelry yesterday!

Apparently, my "rut" style is also called "The European Loop".  On this video, I found a few new styles I look forward to trying.  I am partial to "The Magic Trick", "The Fake Knot", and "The Braid". What are your favorites?

I love the idea of giving someone a handmade scarf and writing the web address to this video on the accompanying card.  I think more people would wear scarves if they just felt like they had options other than "wrap around neck."

I just took a look at this post on my phone and realized that the video won't play on devices that don't have a flash player (sorry, iPhone users!)  Take a look next time you're on a device that does support's a really useful video!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


I try really, really hard to remember how I felt as a beginning knitter trying to get into knitting from patterns.  Each new project seemed like it was full of new techniques to learn and puzzling instructions to try to de-code.  It really shouldn't be that hard for me to remember....I only knit for the first time in 2007.  But a lot has happened since that first lesson, and I really have immersed myself in it.  So, as much as I try to remember how I felt back then, I know it's easy to forget that feeling of everything seeming new, confusing & sometimes overwhelming.  And sometimes I receive a question through Ravelry or e-mail, or just have a conversation in person with another knitter, and it reminds me of how much I have forgotten about being a beginner.

I had just such a conversation this past weekend with a good friend of mine.  She's taking on her first adult sweater project and we were talking about swatching.  I think she generally makes either projects that don't require fit or goes with the "it'll fit someone" approach to knitting.  I don't get the impression that she routinely does swatches before she begins.  But after spending a good chunk of money on the materials for her sweater, not to mention the fact that if she's going to put in a number of hours to make it, she wants it to fit her properly, so she jumped on the swatching bandwagon and whipped up a couple swatches in different needle sizes to see what sort of gauge she was getting.

She had a lot of questions about swatching, and I'm sure she's not alone, so she inspired me to write down all the things we talked about as she went through the process, and a few things that occurred to me afterward.

Swatching Tip #1: Use the exact yarn & needles that you intend to use for the project.

I know, you may think that this goes without saying, but I mean use the exact yarn & needles.  If you are making a sweater out of composition book grey tosh sock yarn, don't swatch with whiskey barrel tosh sock yarn. This might seem crazy picky, but different colorways can actually soak up different amounts of dye, which can result in a difference in gauge.  Similarly, if you want to use your US Size 3 Addi Turbo needles for your project, don't swatch with your US Size 3 Knit Picks nickel-plated set.  These needles are super-similar, but they are not the same needle.  So don't make the mistake of swatching with one of them when you actually intend to use the other on the actual project.

Swatching Tip #2: Your gauge then is not necessarily your gauge now.  Swatch again.

I have heard the legend of the knitters who keep their swatches in some sort of organized storage system so if they want to make a project now from the same yarn & needles that they used on something last year, all they have to do is pull the swatch out of the box and remind themselves what their gauge is.  The problem is threefold (at least!)  First, are you sure you know exactly what needles you used to make that swatch a year ago?  Second, are you absolutely sure that the yarn is exactly the same as it was when you made that swatch?  As in, the batch that is currently being produced is identical in every way to the batch that was produced a year ago?  And third, are you sure that you knit with exactly the same tension now as you did a year ago?  I don't know about you, but my tension can vary for many reasons.  It might be tighter around Christmastime or at the end of the school year when my life is very busy, while it might be looser in the middle of the summer when my main job is being at home with my kids while they are on summer vacation, and our days are generally pretty laid-back.  It can vary day-to-day depending on whether I'm in a hurry to get a project finished, or if I'm watching a tense tv show, or if I'm enjoying a relaxing, long drive with my husband at the wheel.  There's no way I'd assume that my tension at this moment is identical to what it was one month ago, much less an entire  year ago.

Swatching Tip #3: If you want to be able to wash the finished object and still have it fit, you must wash your swatch.

Many yarns relax when they are washed.  If you don't work your project based on blocked gauge, you're asking for your project to turn into a giant, oversized monstrosity once it's washed.

In the same vein, if you plan to steam-block your finished object, you need to steam-block your swatch.

If you are going to machine wash or dry the garment, do the same with the swatch.  Plan on hand washing?  Hand wash the swatch using the same soap & water temp that you'll use for your finished project.

Swatching Tip #4: Swatch with a consistent needle type.

If you are running through a few different needle sizes, you might have a little trouble getting a good reading on different gauges if you swatch with a metal needle for one size, then a bamboo needle for the second size, and an acrylic needle for a third size.  There's nothing wrong with using different types of needles, but the different materials may change your tension as much as the different sizes do.  So, for instance, your US #3 bamboo needle might give you larger stitches than your US #4 metal needle will.

Swatching Tip #5: You must swatch in the same way the project will be worked.

Will you be knitting something flat?  Then make a flat swatch.

Knitting a large project (like a sweater) in the round?  Your swatch needs to be done in the round, preferably using magic loop (since you won't be making your sweater on double-pointed needles).

Are you making something small on dpns, like mittens or a toddler hat?  If you want to make a swatch for a very small item, then go ahead and swatch using the dpns.  Though often people figure that if something is quite small, they'll just go ahead and take their chances with gauge, knowing that they won't lose a ton of work if it turns out the wrong size and they have to redo it.

Swatching Tip #6: Start with fresh (unused) yarn for each swatch.

If you swatch with one needle size and don't get the pattern gauge, you'll need to work another swatch. But don't just unravel the swatch you just did and reuse the yarn, start with the other end of the skein and use fresh yarn for your second swatch.  It might not make a big difference, but I'd rather just begin from the same starting point with each swatch so I know I'm comparing apples to apples.

Swatching Tip #7: What do they mean when they say the gauge listed is for a ribbing pattern "slightly stretched"?

Normally, you want your ribbed stitches to stretch out a bit.  If your sweater cuffs were so big that the ribbing on them didn't have to stretch at all to fit around your wrist, you'd think they look weird.  But how stretched is slightly stretched"?  I can't really tell you that.  It's really up to the way you want the fabric to look in the spot that uses that "slightly stretched" stitch pattern.  So stretch it out as much as you see fit, then measure.  Hopefully, the pattern will give you a second stitch pattern to also use as a checkpoint for gauge, so you can choose your needle size based on the other stitch pattern, then swatch with the appropriate size for the ribbing (many times you'll be asked to go down one needle size from the "main needle" used to achieve pattern gauge in order to work the ribbing) to see if you like the way it looks.

Swatching Tip #8: Your swatch needs to be bigger than 4" x 4".

Yes, gauge is given as the number of stitches that make up 4" horizontally and vertically, but it is assumed that you are measuring away from any distorted edge stitches.  I aim for a 6" x 6" swatch plus a border (usually seed stitch to make it lie flat), so if the pattern gauge says 24sts x 34rows = 4" x 4", I cast on at least 44 sts and knit until the swatch is more or less a square.  That gives me 36 stitches for the pattern stitch (stockinette or whatever) and 4 stitches on each side for the seed stitch border.  So when I'm measuring the innermost 4", I'm more than an inch away from any edge stitches, which gives me a "true" reading of my gauge.  Or, as true as I can get, because....

Swatching Tip #9: Sometimes swatches lie.

Despite your best efforts, sometimes swatches are just jerks.  I remember when I was working on the Leap of Faith pattern.  My first step was to swatch the patterns I wanted to use (stockinette, 1 x 1 ribbing, and the cable detail), then I did the math for my size and wrote down the bare bones instructions.  I had swatched in the round using the exact yarn and needles I was using for the sweater, and I had made a good-sized swatch for the stockinette portion so I could be sure of my gauge.  Still, once the project was complete and I measured my gauge again, I found that it had changed by 1 stitch per 4 inches in most places, and 2 stitches per 4 inches in other places.  I was lucky that I still liked the fit, so I just kept the numbers and adjusted the ease the pattern was intended to have, but it was a little bit of a curveball to find my gauge had changed so much from the swatch to the actual project.

So, the best thing you can do to keep an eye on lying swatches is to write down your gauge before as well as after blocking.  That way, you can measure occasionally as you work to make sure you're still matching the pre-blocking numbers, and be confident that your gauge will match the blocked (pattern) gauge once you wash your finished object.

Swatching Tip #10: Sometimes you might not need to swatch.

Do I really care if my scarf is 4" or 5" wide?  Probably not.  Is a gauge that is 1 or 2 stitches off pattern gauge really going to make my mittens unwearable?  Nope. Swatch for a blanket I'm making to throw over my couch?  Nosiree.  Swatch for a baby hat?  Um, the hat is the swatch.  If it doesn't fit, the baby will grow, or I'll undo it and spend 90 minutes recreating it in a different size.  Sometimes size just doesn't matter, or the scale of the project is so small that to swatch is to double the time you might need to make it.  In some cases, swatches really might be more bother than they're worth.

If you're making a larger project though, please do yourself a favor and work a gauge swatch.  Yes, it delays the fun of making the actual project for a day or two, but if you find that your gauge is way off, it's much better to find that out after an hour or two of swatching rather than after 8 weeks of working on a sweater!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Knitting Retreat

Over the weekend of April 26 & 27, I got to attend a knitting retreat that was put together by Paula, famous podcaster and the voice of the Knitting Pipeline.    I am totally spoiled because Paula lives in my neck of the woods, and this retreat is close enough for me to sleep in my own bed rather than having to rent a hotel room for the night!

The retreat kicked off with a yarn crawl on Thursday afternoon and dinner at a local restaurant, but I already had a commitment that day, so I didn't get in on the action until Friday afternoon.  I also missed the farm visit that a lot of people went on Friday morning....they got to cuddle baby lambs and kittens and take photos with them.  It's just as well.  I would have had a very hard time leaving the farm without a kitten in my pocket.

So my excitement for to start mid-afternoon on Friday.  Once the kids were home from school, I packed up my knitting bag and drove up to the church that allowed Paula and her 100+ guests to use their space for the weekend.  I couldn't believe that the place was already packed.  I was expecting that a lot of people would come after work, but apparently everyone took some time off to make sure they were there as soon as the doors opened.  One of the organizers told me that people were actually sneaking in a little bit before the official start time!

I found a table with other locals that I know from my knit nights down at the Fiber Universe.  We enjoyed chatting and knitting and looking at the yarns & accessories that a few local yarn shops had brought to the church to sell.  There was a yummy dinner served and a few workshops to choose from on Friday evening...I remember one was on sock repair, one on continental knitting, and one on belly dancing.  That's right.  Why not??

I think I got home around 11pm on Friday night, spent a little while trying to wind down so I could get to sleep and wake up early on Saturday.  I wasn't that successful....I don't think I actually closed my eyes until 1 am, so I scooted my alarm back a bit thinking that if I was back up at the church by 10, I'd be ok with that.

Saturday was a lot of fun as well.  I got quite a bit done on a top I was working on over the course of the weekend.  I was smart enough this year to bring something that didn't require any thinking harder than "increase every 3 rows".  There were more workshops on Saturday, and after lunch, about 10 independent vendors set up tables.  I found a few things that just had to come home with me.....

The top picture is the two skeins of Quince & Company "finch" that Paula put in each attendee's souvieneer Knitting Pipeline tote bag.  The color is much, much lighter than it appears in this photo....the rest of the pictures are pretty true-to-color, so I'm not sure what happened there!

The second photo is "Double Dutch Sock Yarn" from Ogle Designs.  Like I said in my last post....I'm a sucker for blue!

This third photo is to "big girl" skeins of Fat Squirrel Fiber's sock yarn.  I love, love, love tonal yarn, and the depth of these two colors is really lovely.  The dyer is Amy Beth, who you may know from the Fat Squirrel Videocast.

This last picture is a couple bags of fiber I bought to make "surprise balls"!  It was a little make-it-and-take-it craft that one of the yarn shops put together.  Basically you repetitively wet, wring, and roll the fiber until it becomes a dense ball of wool.  After letting it dry completely overnight, you cut it into discs, which you can then make into magnets, a decorative pin, or buttons.  I think I'll save these for sometime when I want to do a craft with the kids.

I always wish that I had taken pictures when I go to events like this, but I was enjoying the actual moments so much that I didn't want to ruin it by getting out a camera.  So, I regret that I have no photos to share.  If you want to see photos taken by other attendees though, there is a Ravelry thread here where people are sharing them.

It's always fun to get to talk to other knitters at the retreat, and to meet new people who share the interest.  I had an unexpected surprise when Julie from "Happy-Go-Lucky yarns" sat down next to me and said, "Can I have a hug?"  I had no idea who she was, but she seemed harmless enough, so I said, "Sure!"  She showed me a picture on her iPad of a sample sweater I knit last fall (pattern forthcoming....maybe fall 2013?) using some of the yarn she dyes and sells in the Chicago area.  It made me happy to see that I had made another indie fiber artist happy just by using her yarn for a pattern.

If you have ever wanted to visit Central Illinois in the springtime, I highly recommend coming for the Knitting Pipeline retreat!  A good time was had by all!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


It's May 1st, which means it's the first day of the first knit-along I've ever hosted!  (Well, aside from test-knits, which, at their very best, can really be a lot like a knit-along.)  But this is the first OFFICIAL knit-along that I've hosted.

I had these grand plans that I'd get my swatching done in April so I'd be ready to cast-on my new Leap of Faith sweater on May 1st.  But, alas, as often happens, life got crazy just as I had a giant to-do list, and swatching was not a "must do" priority.  Unfortunately, the blog wasn't either, as you can probably tell from my recent absence!  The last couple weeks gave me a long list of curve balls, only the tip of the iceberg were water in the basement and personal identity theft.  Seriously, buy about halfway through our two weeks of crazy, I told my husband I just wanted to stay in bed the next day.  I was afraid to find out what was going to go wrong next!

But things have worked out as well as they could, and I'm a little less overwhelmed by regular life stuff, so I have been doing a little more knitting over the last few days.  I actually got to attend a knitting retreat this past weekend, which I'll blog about soon.  But today, my main goal was to get my swatch done for my KAL sweater!

Behold: The Yarn of Awesomeness:

It appears that I have a problem with blue.  I tend to always go for the color when I'm picking out yarn. And I wouldn't even say it's my favorite color.  (Usually purple has that distinction....but I rarely pick purple yarn.)  But I bet if I went through my stash right now, at least 25% of my yarn is either blue or a variegated mix of colors that has a lot of blue in it.  But because I pretty much live in jeans, I don't always love wearing blue sweaters.  It's a little too monochromatic for my taste and I get a little tired of all blue.  So I really wanted to make a neutral sweater that I could throw on over one of my brightly colored t-shirts or almost anything really....enter madelinetosh sock yarn in composition book grey.

I love the Three Irish Girls yarn I used for my sample sweater, but it has gotten a little fuzzy as I've worn this sweater over the past 9 months.  Not too fuzzy to wear at all, but just a little "not new" looking.  On the other hand, the Tiny Dancer sweater that I made almost a year ago, and have worn at least as much, looks almost brand-new.  There are a few little pills under the arms, but they are very easily removed, and the yarn itself does not have the slightest bit of a "fuzzy look".  If I was stranded on a desert island and could only have one yarn with me, I'd find it difficult to find something I liked better than Tosh Sock.

I thought the madelinetosh was a slightly heavier sock yarn than the Three Irish Girls though, so I thought I might need to go down a needle size.  I started my swatch with a size 3 (as I used for the original Leap), then went down to a 2, and finally down to a 1.  The 1 was obviously too small once I finished that section, but the 2 and 3 were really close.  I measured the 3 gauges before I washed the swatch and it looks like the #3 needles are actually going to be the right size to use again.  So, note to self: madtosh and Adorn Sock knit up pretty much exactly the same!

So tonight I'll let my swatch dry, and tomorrow I cast on!  If you intended on joining us but haven't gotten around to actually signing up, head on over to the KAL thread and say "hi"!