Tuesday, November 10, 2015

New Release: Checks and Chains

If you've followed my blog & Facebook & Instagram posts for a while, you probably already know what inspired me to start selling knitting patterns.

We have a home that was built in the 50's.  And although it had great "bones", it was in need of a LOT of improvements & updates when we bought in back in 1998.

Our first big project was gutting & remodeling the kitchen (back when we had no kids and I had summers off from teaching.)  That was followed by a full gut & remodel of both bathrooms (we were anxious to get those finished before our baby was crawling.  We didn't want to experience living in a construction zone with a baby who could crawl under the plastic lead paint-protection tarp and start licking up paint chips!)

But once those two big projects were finished, we got busy.  We had our second child (and had no motivation or money to do more improvements once we had two small kiddos in the house, especially since I had quit working full time so I could be at home with them).  We did some painting projects and managed to buy a little furniture, but we still had windows that were painted shut by the previous owners who apparently had major allergies, we still had carpet that was infused with the smells of 100 unwashed dogs, we still had a family room with a terrible stamped vinyl floor that was supposed to have the look of stone, but was so full of scratches & dents that it wasn't fooling anyone.  By the time our youngest was 7, and my first knitting pattern was starting to experience some popularity, we were ready to get going on more improvements.  I decided to give pattern writing a serious try, with the intention that anything that came of it would go toward home improvements.

And I'm very happy to report that I've had enough success to motivate me to continue with designing!  First, we bought replacement windows that we can now open AND see out of (the old windows had permanent condensation between the two panes of glass that blocked the view outside).  Next on our list was flooring.  The smelly animal carpet is now gone, and we've replaced it with less-smelly carpet in some rooms and wood floors in others.

Then over the last year, I started another project.  It began as a "replace the family room & living room furniture that the cats have destroyed with their scratching" project, but ended up as a total redecorating of both rooms.  The living room is completely done and the family room just needs a tv stand to finish things up.  Here are some photos:

One view of our weird, old living room  I always had trouble
with furniture placement because it's such a big space with
large openings in the walls, plus we have a baby grand piano
that takes up a lot of space...I'm a piano teacher in my "other life" :)

Another view of the "before" version of the living room

And a bright, happy view of our newly redone living room, complete with furniture that the cats haven't destroyed!  I finally hired an interior designer to help me with strategies on where to put furniture....I wish I had done that years ago!  I highly recommend involving an interior designer if you're stuck for ideas.  Mine charged about $50 and spent an hour at my house giving me suggestions.  She would have shopped for me or gone on-line to find specific things to suggest for my home if I wanted to pay for more of her time, but all I really needed was someone who could tell me how to turn this giant room into a place that functioned as both a piano lesson studio AND a family tv area.  I tried for 17 years and you can see in the "before pictures" that I never did quite get it right!

Our family room is tricky because it's a long, narrow room

The point of sharing all these photos is two things.  First, to say thank you for supporting my pattern writing business and helping me to contribute to making a home that my family can be comfortable in!

A new, lighter coat of paint helped make the space feel a little bigger, as did the new mirror over the couch and the big bay window that we put in a few years back thanks to you and other wonderful knitting pattern customers!

Second, to show you exactly what inspired the pattern that I'm releasing this week.

I spend the majority of my work day in my new living room (which, by the way, has contributed so positively to my pattern business over the past 8 months or so.  It's amazing how inspired I felt once I wasn't doing all my design work in my old bright green family room, sitting in a chair that my cats had clawed up (It's difficult to see because of the shadows in the photo with the red furniture, but there are wide strips of fabric sewn around the bottom of the couch & chair to cover up the shredded parts!)

So when I was brainstorming ideas to make for my "Color Packs & Stash Scraps" collection, I put "throw pillow" on the list.  I was hoping I could come up with a fun little pillow that could live on one of our new couches.

The stitch-pattern swatch for this pillow actually started out as a scarf idea.

But as soon as I saw the "Neutrals" color pack of Croissant Sock yarn from the Kim Dyes Yarn Etsy Shop, it coordinated so perfectly with our living room that I decided to use this stitch pattern to make a pillow out of this color pack of yarn.  I still think this stitch pattern would make an adorable scarf though!

The gauge for this pattern is 23 sts x 37 rows = 4" x 4" in stockinette.  But if you're unable to match both the stitch and row gauge for the pattern, there's an entire page in the pattern dedicated to ways you can deal with differences in gauge.  (As a person who rarely matches both the stitch AND the row gauge when I knit other people's patterns, I feel your pain!)  Actually, neither of my testers were able to match both the stitch and row gauge in the pattern (neither tester was working with the recommended yarn though), but they both still came out with beautiful projects, so it can be done!  (Shout out & a big thank you to Linda & Jennee, who were both fantastic test knitters for this pattern!)

I had to laugh at myself when I was trying to photograph this pillow in an eye-catching way.  I realized that I'm so used to photographing garments & accessories being worn by a person, that I've given almost no thought to how to capture home items, and other things that don't really need to be shown with a human in the picture.

I breathed a sigh of relief when my cat hopped up on the couch as I was taking pictures and started to give herself a bath.  A living creature was all I needed to feel like I knew what I was doing!  (And as an awesome bonus, I managed to click just as her tongue was poking out to take another swipe at her paw!)

Before the cat showed up, I was using my current knitting project to try to liven up the photo a bit.

I call this one "Still Life with Two Pillows, a Bird Lamp, and Knitting."

Here's a close up where you can see the details - the basic knitting for this project is super easy...just a series of stripes in various colors of yarn.  Finishing details are vertical columns of stitches that can be done with duplicate stitch or as an applied crochet chain (don't worry, you don't need to have any crochet experience in order to do this!), sewing the two squares together to make a pillow case, then adding applied i-cord around the seams for a professional-looking finishing touch!

If you're nervous about any of these techniques, there are links in the pattern to videos demonstrating applied crochet chain, applied i-cord, grafting an i-cord into a circle, and another link to an illustrated article about different methods of seaming knits.

So if you have a room in your home that could use a little pop of color, or if you want a finished knitting project that you can display in your home, head over to the Checks and Chains Ravelry pattern page to get the individual pattern download, or, for a little bit more, you can get my 13-project "Color Packs & Stash Scraps" eBook.  This is the 6th project that is being added to the collection, so if you buy it now at the discounted price, you can still look forward to patterns for 7 additional projects appearing in your library in the coming weeks.  (The collection will be complete the week of Christmas.)

And make sure to check out the yarn in the Kim Dyes Yarn Etsy Shop.  She has a gorgeous variety of yarn in various weights.  Everything from solid & semisolids to veriegated & gradient color ways, as well as mini-skein color packs in gradients of various colors, bright rainbow mini skeins, and color bundles that have a "fall" or "easter colors" look to them.  Kim has a great eye for color - you won't be disappointed if you give her shop a chance!

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