Tuesday, October 27, 2015

New Release: Sweet Strokes

Do you know a girl who loooooves her leggings or her "skinny jeans"?  

How about a little girl who only wants to wear skirts, even in the dead of winter?

My own "independent dresser" started out as a strictly skirt girl, but has transformed over the past 5 years into the kid who only wants to wear leggings or skinny jeans.  But whatever stage she is in, leg warmers are a great accessory to keep her a little cozier when the weather turns chilly, or to just add a pop of color to an outfit!

You could not go wrong knitting these in Sweet Georgia's "Party of Five" color pack.  The color combinations are so fun, and the CashLuxe Fine yarn base is so buttery-soft, you will want these legwarmers to knit on forever.

And then you will want to find another project that will use up your leftovers because you will want to keep knitting with this yarn.

And then you will order CashLuxe yarn in a sweater quantity because, hey, the 500 yards in that mini skein knit up way too fast!

Anyway, I digress.... 

Sweet Strokes is a beginning-level color work pattern.  The chart is only a handful of stitches wide, and every 9-round stripe uses two 2-color rows where a little basic stranding is required (floats never have to pass behind more than 5 stitches), followed by 5 rows in a single color, then 2 more rows of stranding.  Add a little ribbing on the top & bottom and you've got yourself some leg warmers!

Sizes on this pattern are really flexible.  My "approximate fit" ages only go up to 10 yrs, but I can actually wear the largest size comfortably on my lower leg.  So it just depends how you want them to fit.

If you like a slightly baggy look (as is shown in these photos), measure your girl's leg just under the calf muscle.  This little model is 11" at that point and the 10" circumference size large fit her very well. (Her widest calf muscle measurement is 13", and the ribbing and upper section of the leg warmer easily stretch a few inches to accommodate her leg.)

Sweet Strokes is the third release of my Color Packs & Stash Scraps eBook.  Haven't purchased it yet?  It's still available at a price that is lower than it will be in the coming weeks.  You've seen 3 of the 13 projects so far, so if you like the look of the things you've seen so far, I'd encourage you to go for the whole set since it's still just a little more than the price of 2 patterns!  (Plus, you get the fun of a new pattern appearing in your Ravelry library every week until Christmas!)

Monday, October 26, 2015

A Hundred Ravens Giveaway!

I totally blanked on posting about the giveaway A Hundred Ravens hosted last week to support the release of the "Layers and Links" hat, but I am thrilled to report that the person who won is a person who has been super supportive as I have learned to be a knitting pattern writer.

If I remember correctly, we "met" (only corresponded over the internet, texting & Facetime so far...haven't yet has the pleasure to meet in person!) when she knit from my "Sock Monkey Hat" pattern and did some adorable modifications like putting little earrings on the ears & using curlicue i-cords for the ties.  I commented on her project page saying how much I liked her hats, and she wrote me a very kind note about how much she liked the pattern.

Since then, she has cheered me on, helped to test knit a lot of patterns, set me straight on crochet (she's a crocheter, I'm really not!), and just been an all-around awesome person to bounce ideas off of, share new projects with, and chat about things yarn-related & not.

So when she texted me last week with an excited "I won the yarn!  I never win anything!" I couldn't have been happier.  I hope you love the yarn, Kelly!

I was also very happy to see so many familiar names in the yarn giveaway thread.  My hope in approaching these yarn companies about sponsoring a giveaway is not just to get them to supply prizes for knitters who are paying attention to my patterns (although that is a huge perk!), it's also to share our audiences.  Most of these yarn companies have larger audiences than I do in their Ravelry groups, their Facebook business pages, and on Instagram, so I know they are probably exposing more new people to my work than I will be able to expose to their yarn.  But to my happy surprise, I bet I recognized at least 40% of the people in that prize thread, so maybe I'm able to send more eyes their way than I realized!

Speaking of social media....if you don't yet follow me on Facebook & Instagram, now would be a great time to start doing that.  There are quite a few more giveaways planned over the course of this eBook release, and I will definitely post about them on those two sites.  I *might* manage to get a blog about them up, but you will definitely hear about it on the other two sites.  (Although Facebook does not show each of my posts to every person that "follows" me there.  Though you can do your part to see more posts of mine if you "like", comment on, or "share" my posts that you do see.  (Facebook's algorithm shows you more posts from the pages you interact more with.)  Instagram though, will show you every post I make.   And if you don't have accounts on either of those sites, you can always find out about the giveaways in the Trappings and Trinkets Ravelry group if you check in there pretty often!

Thanks again to A Hundred Ravens for their generosity and general awesomeness (did I mention that they're still running a 15% off sale so the people who didn't win could snag a rainbow set at a discount?)...and congratulations again on your win, Kelly!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

New Release: Layers and Links

You know how sometimes you see a yarn online and you think, "Ooooo, those colors are just gorgeous!  I must have it now!"?

And then the yarn comes and it is every bit as gorgeous as it looked online, and you're very pleased with your purchase?

Well, how many times has the yarn arrived and you've thought to yourself, "Oh my goodness, this yarn is even MORE BEAUTIFUL than it looked in the photos!  Obviously, camera technology of 2015 still has a way to go before it can capture the actual delightfulness of this yarn!"?

Knitters, I'm going to show you a picture here with a full disclaimer that any gorgeousness you infer from it will be multiplied once you see this yarn in person.  The colors are so bright and is a perfect bold rainbow of mini skeins, and I love it.  

This is the Iachos Mini Skein Set in the "Rainbow" colorway by A Hundred Ravens:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     I didn't want any fussy stitch patterns or color work designs competing with this yarn....I just wanted to celebrate it in all its glory.  So stripes were the obvious choice.  But since my mantra for this collection was "No plain stripes.  Anybody can add stripes to any old pattern," I had to think a little harder.  And I came up with this fun twist on stripes.  It's a little stripe pattern where the colors are divided by a horizontal chain of stitches that imitates a crochet chain, but it 100% knitting:

Right?  So every 5 or 6 rows, you work a "chain link" round that you have to think about, and then you get 4 or 5 "rest rows" where it's just plain old stockinette.  That's my kind of knit!  And the result is a fun slouchy-style hat that will keep you cozy (fingering-weight is held double to give you a cushy fabric), and use up about 100g or less of mini skeins or stash odds & ends!                                                                         
So if you're in the mood for a quick mini skein / stash-busting project, and you have some yarn that is so lovely that you just want a simple pattern that gives that yarn a chance to show off, pick up the Layers and Links pattern here, or for a few dollars more, purchase the entire Color Packs & Stash Scraps eBook and look forward to a new pattern in your Ravelry library every week until Christmas!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

New Release: Borderline

I am a sucker for gray.  It is, I believe, second only to my love of blue.

So when I saw a gradient set that transitioned from a beautiful sky blue all the way to a deep, deep gray?  Well, obviously I had to do get busy concocting a plan to turn this set into something beautiful.

Lucky for me, this set was perfect for an idea that I had been kicking around.....a fringy shawl that could be worn like a scarf, covered in crocheted flowers.  It was going to be a work of art!

And then I made it.  Sometimes you just don't anticipate how all those flowers are going to weigh your shawl down and make it hang weirdly.  

And that's why it's important to be flexible.  The practical reality of my idea, which was subject to gravity, just didn't have the ethereal, flowers-floating-lightly-along-the-surface idea of the apparently magically enchanted shawl in my head.  And so I unpinned all the flowers I had pinned to the shawl and wrapped it around my neck.  

And you know what?  I kind of loved it.

My style is generally pretty simple.  I am not a fussy dresser.  It's unusual to see any jewelry on me except my wedding & family birthstone rings.  And so a shawl that plainly features the beautiful shades of this gradient pack set off by a fun bauble fringe is my perfect accessory.  

The finished shawl has a 56" wingspan and is about 17" deep, not counting fringe.  The perfect size to throw over your shoulders or wrap around your neck to wear as a scarf.  The knitting is super simple, and the fringe, although crochet, is pretty darn simple, too.  If you can make a crochet chain and you understand what a slip stitch is (or are willing to google it), you can make this crochet trim.  I include a link to a tutorial video that will demonstrate everything else you need to know.

Borderline is the first release of my new eBook collection, Color Packs & Stash Scraps.  If you tend to like my style, you might want to purchase the eBook this week because it is at the lowest price it will ever be offered.  I'm starting it off at a discounted rate for knitters who are willing to take the rest of the 12 projects on faith; each week as a new pattern is added to the collection, the price will go up a little bit until it is full price on December 22nd.  If you purchase the eBook before the full collection is released, you can look forward to a new pattern being added to your Ravelry library each week until the week of Christmas.

Thank yous for this pattern go out to the crew at Miss Babs for supporting this project with their gorgeous yarn, and to Kelly & Judye for testing this design.  Thank you so much for making this pattern possible!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Color Packs & Stash Scraps

I have a mini skein pack fettish.

My favorite local yarn shop started carrying 5-skein color packs from Frabjous Fibers a while back, and I am always eyeing them and trying to figure out what sort of project I could use them for.  There's the obvious "just make something striped", but I've been holding out for something a little more interesting.  I even bought a couple color packs thinking that surely a pattern would pop up that would be perfect for them, but so far it hasn't happened.  And so around the middle of June this past summer, I started thinking.

"What if I wrote a whole collection that focused on smaller projects that used these lovely color packs I've been seeing at my own LYS, at yarn shops I visit while I'm traveling, and on websites I've browsed?"

"Is it nuts to think I could have a collection of patterns written, knitted, edited, tested, photographed, and ready to release by this fall?"  I was excited enough about the idea that I didn't want to wait a whole year for a fall release, and let's face it, knitting patterns get more attention in autumn than they do at other times of the year, so I didn't want to release it at an off-time.  But still, 4 months is not a long time for even a single pattern from the time I get the idea to the time it's ready for release.  Thinking I was going to have a number of patterns ready all in 4 months seemed pretty nuts.

And because I'm the sort of person who takes "that's nuts" as a challenge to see if it can actually be done, I jumped it with both feet.

I started by collecting links to yarn that I loved off of websites and the Ravelry database.  I asked around to my yarnie friends to make sure I wasn't missing any fabulous yarn dyers that sold mini-skein color pack or gradient sets, and they helped me find even more companies that I wasn't familiar with.

And then I started thinking about rough ideas - what sorts of projects would I include?  What stitch patterns did I want to use?  How would I integrate the different colors?  What color packs might match up with which ideas?

And then I did something that I honestly wasn't sure how it would go over:  I sent out proposals to yarn companies that were along the lines of "I have this idea for a pattern collection, and I would like to include your XX yarn.  I might use it for a (insert type of project here) pattern, but that might change once I know which other yarns I will be working with for this collection."  And I included a photo of about 8 different swatches of stitch pattern ideas I thought I might use that I had knit up out of scrap yarn.

I thought there was a fairly good chance that at least half the companies would send me notes back that said something like, "Nice try, wiseguy.....why don't you send us a sketch and a solid idea like a normal designer, and then we'll let you know."

But miraculously, I got a lot of "Sure!  We'd love to be included!" -type replies.  I think there was actually only one company that I approached who said they were not up for it.  And there was one company who wanted to be included, but by the the time I heard back from them, all my ideas were already matched up with color packs that had already been offered.  I still wish I could have come up with one last idea for that lovely yarn dyer!

But all in all, I came up with ideas for 13 projects.  They are everything from hats & scarves to a throw pillow and a baby dress.  There's even a shrug that will come in Child's size 6 up through Women's Med (sorry, after Women's medium, the yarn from the color pack runs out, so that's where I stopped the sizes.)

My family has been great over these past 4 months.  I knew I'd be busy; a typical year has me publishing about 12 patterns, so I knew that getting 14 patterns ready in 1/3 of a year would be pretty insane.  But my husband has picked up some slack, and my kids have been patient when I tell them I have to spend some time working.  No one even complained when I knit the entire way to South Carolina & back - by car - when we took a road trip this summer!  And so far (because some of the later releases are still being tested), test knitters have been absolutely wonderful.

So tonight I want to thank the yarn companies that took a chance on me and this project: A Hundred Ravens, Black Trillium Fibres, Frabjous Fibers, June Pryce Fiber Arts, Kim Dyes Yarn, Miss Babs, Pepperberry Knits, and Sweet Georgia Yarns.  I hope you are as pleased with the patterns I created from your beautiful yarns as I was to make them!

Tomorrow the first pattern from this collection will be released.  It'll be available for individual purchase, or, if you'd like to get the full collection at the cheapest price it'll ever be available at, you can purchase the full 11-pattern (13 project since 2 patterns are 2-project sets) eBook.  If you go this route, a new pattern will arrive in your Ravelry library each week until the week of Christmas.  And each week when a new pattern is added to the eBook, the price of the collection will go up, so if you tend to like my style, you might want to jump on the eBook when it is available this week at it's introductory price.

Happy Knitting!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

New Release: RollerGirl Raglan

I'm going to let you in on a little secret: I do my own photography.  I tried early on to have my husband take the pictures when I was playing model for my own designs, but then we decided we'd rather stay married. ;)  So for Christmas a couple years back, he bought me a remote shutter release - a little remote control thing that has a sensor that attaches to your camera so you can click pictures from farther away.  And it works out great - for the most part.

The times when I wish I did have a photographer with me are the times when I want to use public settings as my backdrop.  I often use a garden at a local community college, or various places in my yard.  Those locations are fine when it's just me and my tripod, and my remote control because people hardly ever wander by.  But I also live in a town with a quaint "square" (our tiny downtown area), and when I schlep my equipment and set it up there, I feel pretty conspicuous taking pictures of myself.  Sometimes I wonder if the people driving by are thinking that I have lost my mind and am going to ridiculous lengths for a good selfie!

So this past week, when I wanted to take pictures for my latest pattern, I thought I had a good plan: I wanted to use the back wall of one of the businesses on the square.  It is painted white and faces an alley, so it is already hidden from the main road.  It is one side of a big parking lot, but I figured if I finished up before the businesses opened at 10, then there wouldn't be many people in the lot yet.  A few store employees maybe, but certainly not a crowd.  And since this month's pattern photos had me looking quite out-of-the-ordinary, I was not looking to draw a crowd! laid plans, right?  Not long after I started shooting, a couple older women came out of the quilting store on the other side of the parking lot.  I wasn't aware that it was open before 10am, but fine.  How many early-morning quilting customers would there be, right?  They walked by me with quizzical looks on their faces, and smiled when I said hello.  Then another older woman followed behind them, eyeing up my tripod and said to me, "I was wondering why someone was taking pictures of that white wall.  It didn't seem very interesting!"  I gestured to myself, "Yeah," I laughed, "the interesting stuff is all right here!"

I kept snapping photos, and the ladies kept coming.  After crossing the parking lot, they congregated near a bench at the corner of the parking lot and I started to see their phones come out.  I laughed to myself once I realized some of them were probably taking my picture or possibly filming my little photo shoot.

In the end, there was quite a large group of them, and I figured out what was going on when I saw a tour bus pick them up.  I have no idea what sort of tour includes a stop at Peg & Lil's Needle Patch in Washington, IL, but I hope they all enjoyed their stop in our little town!  And I know some of them will have a funny story about the "roller derby girl who was taking lots of selfies" to tell their friends back home!

And speaking of roller derby girls, I have to thank my husband for hooking me up with the legit roller derby gear.  He works with a woman who is on a team, and agreed to let me use her gear.   She even gave me all of her protective pads as well, but I figured being able to see the entire sweater would be easier without extra pads in the photos.  Her gear worked out much better for the pictures than my original idea of "I'll try to borrow a bike or skateboarding helmet from one of my friends kids, and maybe I can scrounge up some roller blades, too."  I love it when pattern designs and photo shoot ideas come together as perfectly as this one!  From the very start, the rainbow color way I used for the sleeves gave me a strong "roller skating + the 80s vibe".  I thought it would be a lot of fun to do the pattern photos with a roller skating or roller derby theme, but I wasn't quite sure how to accomplish this.  In fact, this pattern has been in my idea book for about 2 years only because I wanted to make sure I knew how I'd accomplish the photos for it before I proposed it to Knit Picks.  In the end, I could not have had more fun with this design!

Details on materials needed & techniques used can all be found on the Ravelry pattern page.  The pattern is written for full bust sizes 33" - 48", and you should choose the pattern that is closest to your actual bust size.  In the photos, you are looking at a size 36" modeled on a 37.5" bust.  I went down in size because my frame is a little on the smaller size, but a 39" size would have been a good fit for me as well since I'm right in between two sizes.

I used Knit Picks Chroma Worsted yarn, which is a heavy worsted-weight yarn (198 yds / 100g).  They offer 3 solid colorways (neutral, gray & black) and a wide variety of self-striping colors - currently many of which have a glorious autumn look to them!

My perspective is probably skewed since I make a lot of fingering-weight projects, but this sweater absolutely flew by for me.  Like, I started knitting, then I blinked, and the sweater was done.  It took me about 3 days to knit the body & sleeves, and a fourth day to seam it.  It might have taken me 12 hours total.....a very satisfying quick-knit sweater!  And my test knitters unanimously agreed that this is a project that can be accomplished by an adventurous beginner.  Knowledge of only a few basic techniques is assumed, and the pattern provides links to instructions on an increase method that might not be familiar (left & right leg increases), as well as a mattress stitch tutorial that will help you seam your sleeves and sweater body together!

The RollerGirl Raglan pattern is available now on Ravelry!