Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A Leap of Faith

 If you are a knitter, chances are that there is some sort of project that you've seen in a yarn shop, something that someone in your knitting group was working on, or something you saw on a Ravelry project page that you just looked at and thought, "I don't know if I'll ever be able to do anything like that!"  For me, and probably for a number of people out there, that "bucket list project" was steeking.

Theoretically, I knew it could be done.  And I knew that if the people who lived on isolated islands in the North Atlantic routinely used this technique a couple hundred years ago, it was silly for someone who has access to an infinite number of knitting support websites and You Tube tutorial videos to think that steeking might be something that I'd have any trouble figuring out.  But, being a novice at it, I was still a little apprehensive about the whole thing.  Mustering up the courage to chop in half something you spent a good amount of money and about 40 hours of your time creating takes a little bit of effort.  But, as I do with most things related to knitting, I decided to just suck it up and trust that thing would work out.  I'd try it first on a swatch and if I had any trouble with it, I knew that the Universe would send me just the right article, knitting forum post, or teacher, as has happened so many times in the past.

Turns out, when I steeked the swatch I had knit, it worked beautifully.  I wasn't even working with 100% wool - it was Three Irish Girls' Adorn Sock yarn, a super wash 80/20 blend of merino & nylon.  I'm not a crocheter, yet working a slip-stitch crochet chain on either side of my steeking line was a breeze thanks to some fantastic steeking tutorials I found on the web.  (If you want to be extra fancy with your steeking edge, you might choose to work a single-crochet chain instead of the testers and I found that both ways work just fine.)

This pattern was a leap of faith for me in another way, as well.  It is the first time I've written a pattern that includes a hood.  I had knit a hooded sweater in the past, I understood how hoods were constructed, and I had quite a few of my own hooded sweaters at home that I could use as measurement guides (since hoods don't vary widely from the XS small adult size to the 3X size, I didn't need to really worry about having a wide range of hood measurements for different sizes.) But still, the hood is the last part of this sweater to be worked, and because it is steeked before I can really check the size, I knew I had to get it right the first time.  Whenever friends saw me working on this design and asked me about it, my answers always started out like, "Well, theoretically, I think it's going to be like XYZ....but there's a lot of about this design that is just a leap of faith."  I said that to one of the owners of my LYS, and she said, "That would be a good name for this sweater!  You should call it that."  And she was right.  It was the perfect name.

You might remember how things ended up going with my first attempt at this hood.  I knitted it to what I thought were the right measurements, steeked the sweater open and found out that the hood was a couple inches taller than I really wanted it to be.  I wrote a blog post about how I did surgery on my already-steeked sweater.  That sweater surgery was much scarier than steeking for the first time!

Still, even after the surgery, the hood wasn't perfect.  It was still a little bit too big, and I didn't like the way I had shaped the decreases at the top.  I knew I could get a nicer-looking curve to the top of the hood.  So, I rewrote the hood section and knit a second sample sweater along with my testers.

It was perfect timing because I wanted to knit something special for a friend's birthday (you might remember that post from earlier this month...this was the friend who taught me how to knit.)  So, I got to take photos of a second sample sweater with a perfected hood, and my friend got a unique birthday gift in her favorite color!

I was excited when I began the test knit for this pattern because the majority of the ladies who participated had never steeked before.  A couple of them told me that they volunteered specifically because steeking was something they wanted to try, and they figured what better time to do it than when they have a whole group of other testers plus the designer around to help answer questions if they get in trouble.  It was fun to live vicariously through their steeling experiences, since I am now a self-proclaimed steeking addict.  I MAY NEVER PURL AGAIN!!  Ok, that's a lie, but I am definitely very likely to convert flat patterns to in-the-round in the future if it makes sense to do them that way.

So anyway, I write all this to encourage other knitters who are on the fence about steeking.  Let me be clear - this should not be your first sweater pattern.  There are enough intermediate techniques used in this pattern (three-needle bind-off, grafting, picking up stitches, steeking, whip-stitching the steeked edge into place, and sewing in a zipper - if you want to finish it off that way) that you really should have a couple simpler sweaters under your belt before you work on this one.  But if you're an intermediate knitter who wants to take it to the next level, I promise you will feel like a knitting rock star after you complete this pattern.  And I provide either written instructions or links to articles and videos to help you through the techniques that might not be familiar.

So, make 2013 the year you tackle something on your knitting bucket list.  Honestly, with all the resources we have access to between the folks that work at our local yarn shops, the knitting pod casts and video casts that are available, and the wealth of information available on the internet, there is nothing that is too difficult for you to tackle!

The Leap of Faith pattern is now available in women's sizes 30" - 54" on the pattern page of my blog, as well as on Ravelry and in my Etsy shop.  I hope you enjoy knitting it, and I hope you get as much use out of your sweater as I do out of mine!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Photo Re-shoot and the Big News Story

I woke up this morning to a very dreary day.  The temperature here is trying to move from highs in the 20s and 30s last week to a high in the low 60s by tomorrow.  And in Illinois in January, that doesn't happen without some stormy weather.

When I saw the warm forecast, I thought, "Yay!  That'll be a great time to reshoot the photos for the Hearth Sweater without having to freeze!"  And when I saw the overcast skies today, I thought I'd take my chances, drive to the location I wanted to use for the shoot, and see if I could get some pictures taken in between showers.

When I arrived at the riverfront, it was super-foggy.  But just right at the river.  If you moved 20 feet away from the river, there was no fog at all.  So I got nice, clear pictures with mother nature providing a thick gray backdrop.

This shot was taken about 10 feet from the river.  You can see that it's still a little foggy, but when I moved another 10 feet inland....

...the air was nice and clear, with perfect diffuse light, even though I took these pictures right at high noon!

Completely off the topic of knitting, there seems to be no real news in Peoria, IL today.  While I was shooting pictures, a man approached me and introduced himself as being a photographer from the local paper.  He asked if I was on the riverfront taking pictures of the fog and wanted to know if he could take a picture of me taking a picture of the fog.

I told him that yes, I'd be happy to help him out, but that I was probably the only person on the riverfront not here to take pictures of the fog.  I explained why I was there and he seemed very interested.  I offered to pretend to take pictures of the fog for his photo, but he said, "No, that's ok.  Just keep doing whatever it is that you're doing!"

And so I kept on shooting.  The photos I took while he was watching me were just's bad enough letting my husband take my pattern photos, but I was way too self-conscious with this newspaper photographer watching me.  Hopefully he'll use one of the shots he took of me playing with the settings on my camera, rather than the ones he took of me doing my modeling thing!

One of the "culture shock" moments I had moving to Central Illinois for college was watching the local news.  My hometown is about an hour south of Chicago, so I grew up watching the Chicago news.  Fires, murders, robberies, big cultural events...those are the kinds of stories you hear about on the Chicago news.

I remember watching the Central Illinois news in my college dorm room and being absolutely floored that the newscaster was talking about "corn and pork belly prices" and that news stories were things like, "They're doing construction on such and such road" or "The Mayor attended a breakfast at the Civic Center this morning."  Where were the stories about gun fights?  Where were the stories of political corruption and suspected arson?

It's almost 20 years later and I'm happy to be living in an area where the nightly news isn't a parade of horrors.  And even though I still laugh a little when the newspaper covers stories like, "Today it was REALLY FOGGY", I know I'm blessed to be able to raise my kids here.

So, if you're local, look for me in the Journal Star tomorrow....and don't laugh too hard if he uses one of my "this is super-awkward that you're watching me pose" photos!

Saturday, January 26, 2013


I am a BIG fan of testers.  I am fortunate to have worked with a number of testers who not only do beautiful work, but also understand that they are an important part of the pattern publishing process - questioning things that aren't written as clearly as they could be, asking me to double-check numbers that look suspicious (although, thank goodness, this happens less and less as I have gotten better at the math required when grading for different sizes), and asking questions that require me to think ahead about why I'm constructing something a certain way and whether there is a better way to do it, so I can answer these questions knowing exactly why I wrote something the way I did.  

Some tests have the personality of a knit-along, with testers posting lots of "in-progress" pictures and chatting with one another in the testing thread.  I like it when this happens.  It's fun to get to know the testers a little bit through the things they post.  

As this cardigan's name suggests, this test was a big "leap of faith" for quite a few testers.  I'm not sure of exact numbers, but my best guess is that for about 7 of the 10 testers, this was their first crack at steeking.  When one tester expressed in the thread (before volunteering) that she really liked the sweater and was thinking about participating, but that she had never steeked before and was pretty apprehensive about it, I posted a little pep talk letting her know that when I made the sample sweater for this pattern, it was the first time I had steeked, too.  I just approached it like, "People have been steeking their knitwear for hundreds of years.  They did it before they had all the resources I have available to me on the internet.  If they could figure out how to do this, then I can do it, too!"  I don't know if it was the pep talk or just her desire of the sweater that pushed her over the edge, but she got on board along with a number of other steeking newbies.  And boy, did we have fun with it!

If I didn't think too hard about it, I'd think that I kicked off the "Knitting Superhero / Rejected Blue Man Group Member" photos with this picture of my mom.  She was trying on the second sample sweater I made while the test was going on.  I snapped this photo of it on her while I was home for Thanksgiving and my mom, sister and I were sitting around being silly one night.  (And if you have a really good memory, you might recall me striking a pose in my own unsteeked Leap, back in the infancy of this pattern.)

Lately, more of these pictures have been posted to our test thread.   And once I gave it a little thought, I decided that the testers weren't following my lead at all.  They needed to try the sweater on before they steeked it (because once you make that cut, you're not going back to fix anything!)  And it seems quite natural that you'd snap a progress picture at that's the first time you've gotten to fully put the sweater on your body!   The "it really fits me" thrill still hasn't faded for me, so I assume others enjoy that feeling of being amazed that the thing they've spent so much time & energy working on actually came out the way they wanted.  Plus, in the apprehensive mind of a first-time steeker, she might be thinking, "Well, if this all goes awry, I might as well get a picture of all the work I've done before it all falls apart!"

By the way, check out Alibeee, hanging out in her gray Leap of Faith...was that photo taken at a Starbucks??  I bet she had a few gawkers during this little photo shoot. :)

But guess what!  No one's sweater fell apart.  We used a variety of different fiber content, though I had suggested that they would want to keep the wool content pretty high for the easiest time with steeking, and every single cut came out just the way it should.  Not one tester had their sweater fall apart, or anything remotely close to that.  

Yarn-dar, peeking out the top of her blue Leap, was traveling during part of the test, so her sweater has already been on vacation.  She was so dedicated and kind about posting a finished photo on time that she took it in a public restroom.  See - that's the type of awesome testers I get to work with!

If I knew where Yarn-dar lived, I would be tempted to go and steal her sweater.  She made it out of Knit Picks Palette yarn in the Tidepool Heather colorway.  It's one of those colors that catches my eye every single time I look at the Knit Picks site....then I think to myself, "Someday I will design the perfect sweater for that yarn!!" and I end up not buying it.  It's like when you buy one skein of the most perfect yarn ever when you're on vacation somewhere special, you bring it home, and it sits in your stash forever....because no pattern is perfect enough to use your most special skein of yarn to make it!  Seeing her sweater, I think I need to get over it and just buy the yarn for my next project!  (Whatever that might be??)

 ShelbyWoo made this pink Leap for her daughter.  She said that when she tried it on her daughter at this stage and started taking pictures, her daughter asked why it wasn't open in the front.  She told her that it was finished just the way it was.  I'm not sure how long she had her daughter going with that line, but the thought of a sweater being finished like this makes me laugh.

In true teenager fashion, her daughter requested a change to put her own stamp on this design.  She wanted the sleeves long enough to cover the palm of her hand, with a thumb hole in each side so she could wear them like fingerless gloves.

I thought that was fantastic, and exactly like something I would have done if I was her daughter's age.

If this sweater was finished without the cut in front, I would look a lot like tatacharlotte wearing mine.  If you look closely, you'll see that she has her glasses on over the front of the hood.  After all, she wouldn't want to walk around without being able to see!

This was another one that I would totally want to steal, if this tester didn't live across the ocean from me.  I'm not even a green person, but I absolutely love the light & dark green stripes that she created with her Leap.  It was a great tragedy that she ran out of the dark green when she was two sleeve stripes away from finishing her sleeves, but she's taking care of the problem by unraveling the bottom row of the body and using that green yarn to finish the sleeve.  Even worse, she ran out because one of her dark green skeins was 10g light.  Rats!

So, all these wonderful testers (and more!) are working hard to wrap this test up by Sunday, and I anticipate publishing this pattern by next Friday at the very latest.  There isn't much editing that needs to happen to finish things up, but I am using the mac program "Pages" to do my layout for the first time.  (All my patterns up until now have been done using Microsoft Word).  The learning curve on a new computer program is pretty steep for a low-tech person like me, but I'm excited by the possibilities, and I look forward to being able to give knitters patterns that have a little bit fancier layout than I've been able to create in the past!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Hat Holiday

Today is all about knitting.  On Fridays, after dropping the kids off at school, I like to come home, cue up Grey's Anatomy from the night before on the Roku, and catch up with Dr. McDreamy while I knit.  Today I've made it through 3/4 of a new hat pattern.  I just have the decreases to go, and this little cutie will be ready for a few testers.

This hat is being made from Holiday Yarns' "Flock Sock" fingering-weight yarn.   I'm holding it double to give this hat a little extra squishiness.

I hope you find time this weekend to do a little knitting and whatever else you love.  Stay warm!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Llama Socks

Here's what I've been up to this week:  my simple striped socks made out of Good For Ewe's "Sultry Steps" yarn.   I used the basic idea from my Blizzard Socks, though I omitted the ribbing in the foot area and worked these from the toe-up instead of the cuff-down.  But they're just a cast-on of 60 sts on #1 needles, used a short-row heel and knit up the leg until I was just about out of yarn.  (I had divided the yarn I had left from my Polyrhythmic Sweater in half before I began so I knew I wouldn't use too much yarn on my first sock.) I love the bright colors.  They'll be fun to wear in the dreary days of that can settle in during February and early March around here!

Last night I started swatching for a new project I am planning with another yarn from the Good For Ewe line, Claddagh.  It'll be a sleeveless sweater.  Something modern and cozy that you'd wear over a long-sleeved t-shirt when you need a stylish extra layer.  I know it probably seems early in the season to be saying this, but this project will likely have to wait until next fall to publish.  My pattern writing/sample knitting typically takes about 6 weeks, then it'll be another 6-8 weeks for the test knit on the adult-sized garment.  So even if I had all the yarn on hand today (which I don't), this design wouldn't be ready for publication until the beginning of April.  And by then, people are paying a lot more attention to warm weather designs than cozy winter knits.  So....this new project will be a long, long tease.....

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Socks for Fun!

I've been in pattern grading/writing/editing mode this week and desperately needed something to knit last night after working at the technical aspects of the craft for 2 solid days. I had about 85g of sock yarn left from my Polyrhythmic Sweater, so I decided to knit up some fun striped socks in a "plain vanilla" sock pattern.

These are just 60 sts around, with 10-row blue stripes and 6-row purple stripes, with a short-row heel and 2x2 ribbing on the entire leg portion. They'll be a fun burst of color in the bleak mid-winter!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Just Do It

Anyone who has every knitted something that needs to fit has been in the situation I found myself in this morning.

I finished all the knitting for my adult Hearth Sweater yesterday.   (Bigger version of the sweater pictured at right).  Husband and I had a dinner & coffee shop date last night where I worked on weaving in all the ends to the sweater, so by the time we came home, it was ready to block.

It was like Christmas morning when I woke up today and ran down to the basement to see if my sweater was dry.  Hooray!  It was ready to go!  I grabbed it from the blocking table and ran upstairs to put the finishing touches on - two buttons needed to be sewn to the back to hold the belt in place. 

I laid it out, marked the button holes, and sewed them on.  I tried it on and - well - the buttons were a little too far toward the sides.  So I moved them in a half inch - still far enough apart that the belt wouldn't sag, but a little further from the sides.  Tried it on again and it, it was ok.  The buttons still weren't as close together as I had intended.  I took out my ruler and found that they were 8 inches apart instead of the 6.25 or 6.5 I meant them to be. 

I stood in front of the mirror for a solid three minutes looking at the buttons and telling myself that they were fine.  Maybe it wasn't what I had intended, but it didn't look bad at all.  I couldn't figure out what had happened with the blocking - I blocked the first 12" of the belt after my first night of working on it to see if it would stretch, and there was no difference at all!  When I finished my 58" belt, it stretched 8 more inches when I washed it!  I know swatches lie sometimes, but that was ridiculous!

So back to me standing in front of the mirror:  The buttons were fine.  They were functional, they were on the back of the sweater (not creeping over to the sides)...they just weren't as close together as I had meant for them to be.  And on top of that, my belt was really about 6 inches too long on each end.  It looked like a bathrobe belt rather than a chic sweater belt.  But who would even notice that, right?

I would.  I wanted to wear that sweater today.  I was really looking forward to it being finished.  But I knew that every time I wore it, the long belt would look weird to me, and I'd notice that the buttons weren't where they were supposed to be.  I'm not a perfectionist in real life (teaching junior high cured me of that!) but I do believe in doing things to the best of my ability.  And this finished project wasn't the best I could make it.

So I reluctantly took the sweater off and went about the business of fixing the belt.  It required me to open up the double-knit belt at both ends - on one end I just cut off 6 inches and bound off again.  On the other end, I had to putt out about 20" of work - back past the button hole on that side so I could redo the button hole row closer to the existing hole, then double-knitting the rest of the belt length on that side.  I worked on it for an hour or so this morning and have another 14" or so to go.  If I'm lucky, I'll get a few hours to finish it up tonight, but it'll definitely be done tomorrow.

And when I finally DO get to wear the sweater early this week, it'll feel great because I'll know it was made exactly right, perfectly fit to me, and I'll know it was done to the best of my ability.

In the meantime, I'm doing some work on the adult pattern this afternoon.  My hope is to have the test knit posted by the end of this week!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Miracle Donation

It's tax time at Trappings & Trinkets.  The nice thing about bring self-employed is that you can do your taxes any time you want because you are responsible for everything, including doing the work to come up with your business financial records for the past year.  The not so great thing?  You're responsible for everything, including doing the work to come up with your business financial records for the past year!

All this financial work reminded me that I have a donation to get together!  Back in October, when I released the pattern for the Miracle Sweater, I did it with the promise that 50% of the profits from the pattern in its first two months of sale would go to the Children's Hospital of Illinois, in honor of all the little miracles that need a little extra help coming into this world.

It's hard to predict which patterns are going to sell well and which ones are going to slowly find the right knitters.  I thought the Miracle Sweater was very unique and from the reactions of testers, I thought that once it was available, it would sell well.  But, as it turns out, I think this is one that will need some time to find the right knitters...sales did not start off with a bang.  And because of that, I decided to donate 100% of the pattern fee instead of just 50% of the profits.

So, many, many thanks to the 9 people who did purchase the pattern since October.  Because of you, I just submitted a $54 donation through their website.  I really appreciate not only your support of my patterns, but also of the hospital that does so much good in my community!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

I am a Liar.

I've been very busy lying to a close friend of mine.  You see, she had a big birthday yesterday (and while I won't out her on her age, I will say that the number ends is "-ty".)  We're not normally birthday gift-giving buddies, but this year was special.  You only turn "insert mystery age here" once!  And I really wanted to knit her something because she is the person who taught me to knit about 5 years ago.  If it wasn't for her "Knitting and Sangria Night", I wouldn't be doing what I love, and you wouldn't be enjoying this knitting blog right now.  So we all have reason to celebrate this friend of mine.

Figuring out what to knit was the easy part.  I made my own "Leap of Faith" sample cardigan late last summer and she complimented me on it.  I knew she loved variegated green yarn because her daughter was the model for my Guacamole Sweater and she went crazy over it when she saw the color.  So the only tricky part was figuring out how to get her measurements without her suspecting anything.

Luckily, and idea presented itself.  I made the Salsa Shrug last summer and have still not written the pattern for it.  The reason is that the main measurement that the sizes will be based on (around the person's back from front of right armpit to front of left armpit) is not available on any of the size charts I have access to.  (Because it's basically a front-less shrug, a person's chest size has nothing to do with which size will fit you best.  It's all about how big around you are minus "the girls".)   I had talked to my friend a while back about how tough a time I was having because I didn't know how to get that measurement for a wide range of sizes.  So a couple months ago, I stopped by to visit one day (with the knitting bag in tow) and steered the conversation toward this dilemma again.  Then I said, "Hey, would you mind if I took your measurements?  Then maybe I could get measurements from a few more of my friends and I could just size it from that information!"  She was happy to oblige...and didn't say a word when I not only took that measurement, but a bunch of other measurements that had nothing to do with a short-sleeved shrug like "total arm length".  She's very trusting that way!

I picked out some beautiful superwash stroll tonal yarn (color: Springtime) from Knit Picks and got to work, finishing this sweater in just a few weeks, and that was with about 6 other project simultaneously on the needles.  I was very excited to steek for the second time.  The first time, it was terrifying.  This time it was exhilarating.  I practiced on a swatch just because I wanted to be 100% sure that the superwash fiber was going to cooperate with just the crochet reinforcement, and it went perfectly.   

Once the sweater was done and blocked I got a little nervous.  In my head, this friend and I have similar builds, but when I tried the sweater on, it was really small on me.  Like I felt like I was trying to squeeze into my daughter's clothes.  So I called up the friend and told her that I needed her help fitting something that I was giving to my mom for Christmas.  My mom is a very similar size to this friend, so she didn't think anything of trying the sweater on and standing patiently as I tried to figure out where to place the clasp I was going to sew across the bust as a fastener.  She kept commenting on how nice the sweater was, how she loved the color and how she wished it was hers.  And, it was a perfect fit!  She kept suggesting that maybe it didn't even need a clasp because she had some sweaters that didn't fasten in the front that she liked a lot.  In the end, I put markers on the sweater as if I was going to put the clasp on, but never did it since she seemed pretty adamant about it not needing one.

I needed to make a second sample of this sweater anyway, because I changed the stitch count on the hood after I made my first sample.  I decided the hood was too big for what I was going for, and I'm much happier with my second hood.  My lovely mom helped me out by modeling my friend's cardigan before I gave it to her, so I got a few pictures where the hood size is clearly shown.  I would love it if my friend wanted to model, too, but I wasn't going to coerce her into it..that certainly wouldn't be in the birthday spirit!

When I saw my friend about a week ago, she asked how my mom liked the sweater I made her for Christmas.  I assume the hard part of lying is keeping track of what you've said because for a few seconds I had no idea what she was talking about.  But I think I recovered quickly and told her how much mom liked the sweater when I gave it to her on Christmas.  So when I presented the birthday gift yesterday, we both had a good laugh over what a spectacular liar I am.  Hopefully she won't distrust me now that I've led her astray (even for a good cause!) for a few months now!

The Leap of Faith test knit is going really well and is slated to wrap up in about 2 weeks.  I don't have too much editing to do once it's finished, so if everything continues to go this well, I expect to be able to release the pattern by the end of January!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Owl Sweater by Kate Davies

 The famous Owl Sweater has been on my list of things to knit for about 2 years now.  I have always loved the look of it, but I don't often knit other people's designs for myself.  It's not that I don't want to knit All The Things...I just tend to be a work-aholic in the way that if I'm spending a good chunk of money on yarn and many hours to work on a project, it's probably one of my own design ideas.

So I've been saving this project for a special occasion.  That day came this fall when I found out that my LYS was doing an Owl Sweater knit-along.  I thought, here's my chance!  I'm going to do it!  And I set out on a search to find the perfect yarn.

I've been having some hive issues lately, so I've had to become extra-finicky about what fibers I wear.  I love, love, love the look and wool and the bright & varied colors it is available in, but I started to react really strongly when I wear many 100% wools and certain high-wool-content  blends.  But I knew that the People of Ravelry would help me find something that would work even for a sensitive girl like me.

I went to the "yarns" tab and typed in "Bulky".  Then I sorted the results by "highest rated".  There were almost 5 pages of results for bulky yarns that were rated 5 (out of 5) stars, so I went through and started reading the comments.  I was looking for one where more than a couple people mentioned how soft the fiber was and/or how nice to wear it felt.

A few pages in, Springvale Bulky caught my eye because I had just finished another sweater that used Three Irish Girls yarn.  The yarn page on Ravelry only had one (very complimentary) comment, but I decided to take a chance on it based on the fact that I was so happy with the Adorn Sock yarn I had just finished using.

I knew I could order the yarn through the Three Irish Girls website, but I wanted to support my LYS, so I placed the order through them. 

A few weeks went by, and because I follow Three Irish Girls on Facebook, I knew that she was relocating the yarn studio from a seedy part of town to a lovely new space far away from the bar brawls that she apparently had to witness outside her door occasionally.  A few more weeks went by and she made the move and wrote about getting set up in the new space.  By this point, I had missed the knit-along month (which was fine...I wasn't anticipating having any major troubles with the pattern that I'd need help getting through) so I decided this would be my "for fun" knit that I'd do over the Christmas holiday.  But alas, at the last knit night before Christmas break, the yarn still wasn't in, so I just kept working on the samples I was in the middle of.

Imagine my surprise when I got an e-mail on the Saturday before Christmas letting me know that my yarn had arrived!  She said that the yarn shop would be open until noon that day if I wanted to pick it up.  I checked the time.....11:37.  And the yarn shop is about 20-25 minutes from my house.  They were closed the next day, then Monday (Christmas Even) and Tuesday (Christmas).  I had plans to be out of town until Thursday or Friday, but a feverish kid changed our plans.  So I was in town the day after Christmas and I picked up my yarn as soon as I had the chance!

I would say that this sweater probably took me 15 hours total to knit.  I typically make things from very lightweight yarns, so working with bulky really made this project fly.  I had the body done in 2 days, then each sleeve took me 1 evening.  Once I joined the sleeves to the body and worked the owls, I think it was about 2 hours before the thing was completely done.  It really was a breeze.

I can't really say too much about the pattern, only because I followed it in the vaguest of ways.  I was knitting at a gauge slightly off from the pattern gauge, so I had to re-figure all the numbers.  (I tried it at pattern gauge, but I just thought the fabric I was getting was a little too airy.  I wanted a sweater that wasn't see-through at all.)  I got lucky and my re-figured numbers were really close to the ones she used for the size 38", so I was using those stitch counts as a touchstone to make sure I was on track.

I extended the body (to 25" total) and the sleeves (19" and I should have probably gone for 20" or 21"...for some reason my normal sleeve length just looks a little too short with this bulky yarn.)  And I changed the proportions a little because I don't like my waists to be quite as clingy as Owls is meant to be.  I think I did a 37" hip, a 33.5" waist and a 36" chest.  Hip and chest are pretty snug-fitting and the waist has a few inches of positive ease.  I also relocated the increases to the sides instead of doing them as written (this was from a suggestion on a project page by Caruba that I found very helpful.  Be aware though that the pattern has been revised since Caruba made her sweater, so some of her suggestions are now included in the pattern.)

If the rest of the pattern instructions are anything like they were on the page with the yoke instructions (including the chart for the Owl cable), it was very easy to follow, very complete, and I had no trouble at all with it.  It's no surprise that this pattern has more than 6000 posted projects on Ravelry.  Kate Davies did a fantastic job with the design and the pattern writing, and I am feeling very pleased with my result.  I think this was an instance where I had exactly the right yarn paired with exactly the right pattern.

As far as how wearable the yarn far I haven't had any trouble getting hives from this sweater (and I'm really hypersensitive right now).  I do wear a long-sleeved cotton t-shirt beneath it, but the sweater does directly touch my skin around the collar area and I haven't had any trouble with itchiness today or the one other time I've worn it so far.  I can't speak to how durable the yarn is, but it is knit to a pretty tight gauge, so that should help.  I'll have to wear it for a month or two and see how it holds up before I comment on that.

Now, all I need are my buttons to sew on a few owls for eyes.  I've got my eye on some from an Etsy seller that are natural wood - just a small branch sawed up into little discs with the bark still on with little holes drilled in the center.  I can't wait to add the finishing touch!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Knitter's High...and the Inevitable Crash

Yesterday was a really good knitting day.  I was still riding high from finishing up the Owl Sweater on Saturday, then getting to wear it on Sunday.  The kids and husband were back to their regularly scheduled activities, so I had my daytime back to work on the things I wanted to accomplish.  I spent a couple hours finishing up the second sleeve of a new adult cardigan that I'm working on, then later in the evening I picked up almost 400 stitches and worked the 16-row buttons band.  I knew I would have to frog & redo one of the sleeves (I had made them slightly different sizes so I could decide for sure which I liked better), but that was fine.  I was getting to the point where I'd be able to get the sweater off the needles and confirm that it does indeed fit the way I planned (this keeps happening, but I'm amazed every time....I guess I should start trusting the math!)

So I was all smiles at 10:20 last night when I bound off the last button band stitch, snipped the yarn and tried the sweater on in front of the mirror.  I knew I still had a double-knit belt to go, and that's not a quickie project, but I felt like I was definitely within a few days of being able to take pictures and get the test knit posted, even with the frogging and re-knitting of one sleeve.

As I stood in front of the mirror admiring the sweater, I imagined what it would look like with the 5 wooden buttons sewn into place.  I felt lucky when I found them at a local craft store...they were exactly the size I wanted and had the wood-y look I was hoping for.  I had originally wanted 6 buttons, but the store only had 5 in stock, so I decided I could make that work.

As I was imagining the cardigan buttoned up around me, I mentally tied the belt around my waist and decided it was going to be just what I had been envisioning from the start.  Then it hit me: the belt is fastened to the cardigan by the two buttons on the back of the sweater.

So tomorrow I will be calling JoAnn Fabrics in neighboring communities to see if they have 2 more of the buttons I need.  Unfortunately, their on-line website doesn't carry them, but maybe the JoAnns about 45 minutes from here does.

Or, it's back to the drawing board with much for "a couple days away" from a finished sweater!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Christmas Gift Round-Up

 So today it's back to reality.  Christmas break is over, the kids are back at school, this is the husband's 3rd day back at work, and I guess it's time for me to get busy, too.  Getting back to real life is a rude awakening after 20 days of letting things get so out-of-hand that you find yourself happily knitting and watching old re=runs of "Family Ties" at 2am, but all good things must end, right?  So today I'm back to it: working on finishing up a sample sweater for a women's cardigan that I'm writing, and doing a little blog post to share pictures of some of the handmade gifts I gave this Christmas!

We've always made it a "thing" at our house that we let the kids open one gift on Christmas Eve.  When they were little, it was always new pajamas.  They caught on to that a few years ago, so I switched it up and sometimes gave them new books that they could read at bedtime.  This year, I granted a wish that my daughter has been requesting for at least a year now - a pair of felted clogs.  

I think these are the 7th and 8th pair that I've made.  My daughter has watched my husband and I wear them for a couple years now and always wanted them, but half our house is hardwood floors, and the living room in the middle of the house has a step down, plus we have wooden basement steps.  I had visions of my kids sliding into walls, falling down stairs, or just general mayhem if I gave them these slippers because the floors are slick, these slippers are even slicker, and my kids can occasionally still be maniacs when they're playing.

Recently though, I've noticed a little more maturity coming from both of them, and I thought they might be able to handle slick slippers with a little bit of caution.  I knew my daughter would be excited about them, but I wasn't sure about my 12-year-old son because he's the sort of "person with plenty of body heat" who tends to strut around the house in just his boxers unless specifically asked to get dressed.  Imagine my surprise when he opened them, got a big smile on his face, and started ice skating around the dining room in his boxers...and new slippers.  My daughter was equally as thrilled and wears hers all the time.  I think I got mom points from both kids for this one! 

Here's the honey cowl I gave sneak peeks of on my Facebook business page:  This was made for a friend who belongs to my mom's group.  We do a Secret Santa exchange each year, and so far, I've always handmade something for the person I'm playing Santa for.  We do it for 4 weeks: Week 1 is supposed to be a homemade gift, Week 2 is something that costs $1 (typically, we tear up the dollar bins at Target & Michaels searching for this gift, but this year I found a rubber wine bottle corker that only cost $1.50, so I decided that counted!), Week 3 is a $5 gift and Week 4 is our cookie exchange and the night we get together to reveal ourselves and give the "big gift" (supposed to be around $10, but people tend to go a little higher on that last gift.)

In the past, I've made the mistake of giving the knitted thing as my handmade item in week 1 and totally giving myself away (I'm one of two known knitters in the group, and the other person isn't as constant about the craft as I).  So this year I gave some homemade Turtle candies during week 1 (made by my neighbor, not me, but that still counts, right?) and I saved this cowl for the big gift.  Unfortunately, my giftee wasn't able to attend that night so I didn't get to see her open it.  Hopefully she liked it - I know her favorite color is red, so I know I got that right, and I know it will look great on her, but I don't know if it's something she's comfortable wearing.  So, fingers crossed, I hope she liked it!

 But the disappointment over not being able to see my friend open her gift was more than made up for by the reaction of this little lady.  I made my niece a Harry Potter scarf & hat set.  Before she opened it, I told her, "I made this special for you and it's the only one in the WHOLE WORLD."  She opened the box, looked a little confused for a moment, then the lightbulb came on.  She had it on in an instant and was mugging for the cameras.  I think I need to recruit her as a future model.

Anyway, the scarf and the hat are both double-knit.  I think I've already posted about the scarf on the blog, so I won't go into detail about that, and I just made up the hat as I went along.  I'm still going back and forth on whether to actually make a pattern for it...I haven't taken a look to see if a similar pattern already exists, and I don't know if there is much of a demand for a simple, double-knit, funky-style hat.  Decisions, decisions....

As I was setting down my camera, I caught this last picture:

So that's just about it....I do have one more thing to show you, but I'm not quite ready, so it'll have to wait until later this week.

I hope your holiday was fun & relaxing and filled with everything that you love.  Even if it's something weird like knitting and watching "Family Ties" at 2am!