Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Ultimate Labor of Love

What started as a silly idea based on a targeted Facebook ad is now reality. I'm so proud of this sweater. I sketched out a basic idea, ordered some yarn that I thought would be the right colors, and pretty much just knitted by the seat of my pants, charting the next section when necessary. I'm pretty sure that my success is due more to blind luck than anything, and I don't think I could pull off something like this again.

But- I did! And I love it! The Star Wars Sweater was my husband's Christmas present, and he loves it too. It's a bottom-up circular-yoked pullover. Not my usual method for constructing sweaters, but I thought it would be the best option given that I was flying blind and had charted nothing before casting on. I started with the sleeves. He said he wanted a section of plain sleeve in the middle, so I thought that the sleeve would be a true gauge swatch- some colorwork, some stockinette. At the bottoms of the sleeves I just did some simple patterning. Up around the biceps I did stormtroopers! I stranded the stormtroopers, then came in with duplicate stitch for the darker parts. Much easier than either stranding with three colors or doing intarsia in the round on a small circumference.

The body was a little more complex. He wanted two things: alternating rebel alliance and imperial symbols, and a tie-fighter/X-wing battle in front of the Deathstar. Ok, no big deal. (Internal panic.)

I learned how to do intarsia in the round for the symbols around the bottom. It's a handy technique to have in your back pocket, but I don't think I'll be making a habit out of doing it. That section took me longer than anything else to knit. So many tiny balls of yarn, constantly getting tangled. I reminded him several times of how lucky he is to have a wife who would tackle such a project.

For the fight scene, I taped together a bunch of graph paper and sketched out what I wanted it to look like, then converted that to stitches, colored everything with colored pencils, and knitted the crap out of that section. I love it. It has perspective, and depth, and it's just cool. Luckily he wanted the back of that section to be just plain, so I got a tiny break. I worked that portion in intarsia in the round, as well.

After all that intarsia the yoke was easy. Simple patterning, stranding with two colors, done. I played a bit of yarn chicken with the navy but I won. Good thing too, because I didn't finish this sweater until we were already at my parents' house for Christmas. Had to do the finishing and blocking two days before Christmas. He really wanted to wear the sweater to go to see the new movie, and of course he wanted to do that before Christmas day, so I had to employ a complex series of fans and drying racks to get it dry before the movie. Also, that navy yarn ran dye like you wouldn't believe. Luckily I had a stack of color-catching laundry sheets, and I think that prevented any bleed onto the white yarn. I would have cried so hard if the whole thing ended up vaguely blue, after all that work.

I'm thinking of writing this up as a pattern. I charted all of those designs myself, and dang it I worked hard on this, so I want other people to be able to knit one, too. Thoughts? I think it will be a LOT of charting, since all of mine are on graph paper still. But I'd really love to see more of these in the world.

Details: I used Cascade 220 for the navy and the lighter blue. It took 4 skeins of navy. The white, light gray, dark gray, red, and green are Knit Picks Wool of the Andes. WotA is slightly thinner than 220, but not enough to make a difference in the finished sweater.

Chest is about 38", so I think this would be a Men's S/M.

Monday, January 2, 2017

New Design in I Like Knitting!

Just popping in quickly to say that I started out 2017 on the right foot with a design published the very first day of the year! My Hearts & Arrows Hat is in the February issue of the digital magazine I Like Knitting.

While this hat does say "let's all celebrate Valentine's Day" a bit to me, you could easily make it less so by using a monochrome palette, or maybe using a variegated sock yarn for the hearts? I think there are a lot of options here. 

It's written for three sizes of adult heads. The pattern is fairly easy to work if you're familiar with stranded colorwork. 

Yarn is Cascade 220 Fingering. The hat uses less than one skein of each color, making it both economical and a great use of leftover fingering from other colorwork projects!

Check it out on Ravelry here

Thursday, December 22, 2016

2016, Year of the Dumpster Fire, Wrap-up

I don't think I'm alone in saying "Good riddance, 2016, screw you and never call me again." While some lovely things happened this year- we went on a Caribbean cruise, went to three lovely weddings, got pregnant- a number of truly horrific things also happened, like my house flooding, the horror and terror that is the Giant Evil Cheetoh (aka Trump), and the death of Alan Rickman. One amazing thing that came from the terrible is the overwhelming support I received after our house flooded. Knitters are the kindest, most generous people on the planet, and I can't say thank you enough for every person who bought a pattern, re-tweeted about my pattern sale, offered to send me yarn, or just sent a kind message on Ravelry. It really helped restore my faith in humanity.

I'm hopeful for 2017. We should be able to move into our house at the beginning-ish of January, then we'll have the terrifying (but wonderful?) experience of having a baby sometime around mid-March. That should keep us occupied for a good, long time.

Knitting-wise, 2016 was ok. I went through a terrible publication-acceptance drought for the first half of the year. Nothing- and I mean nothing- that I submitted was accepted for a full six months. I tried to have a positive attitude and use the time to recharge my creativity, knit some things just for me, and generally chill out about needing to always be the best. Once I got a grip, I started having things accepted again. It was a good mental break, but not necessarily one I'd like to repeat.

I started the year with a pattern in a Knit Picks collection, then published a blanket pattern in the Knit Picks IDP program. I went on a few-month break, then had a pattern in the Spring/Summer issue of Twist Collective (one of my goal publications!). After that, I had two (!!) designs in the Knitscene special issue this year- a scarf and a baby blanket. For my birthday, I published a cute nautical bag. Then I had a hat pattern in Knitscene Fall. I did some more work with Knit Picks, publishing a free cowl pattern in a new yarn, then a sweater pattern in another of of their collections, then a pillow pattern in ANOTHER one of their collections (I love working with Knit Picks, can you tell?). Two self-published sweaters, one for me and one for my husband; several more Knit Picks designs- a free hat pattern, then a three-piece bathroom set. Most recently, a self-published sweater and a pair of mitts, and a cardigan pattern in the December issue of I Like Knitting. I will likely get a cowl pattern published yet this year, but I think that's the last one for 2016.

Altogether, that's six self-publications, eight designs with Knit Picks, one with Twist, three with Knitscene, and one with I Like Knitting. Nineteen designs in all. I think that number would be higher, except that the flood really knocked me on my butt (unsurprisingly) and shelved a number of self-publications, and caused me to stop submitting designs to publications entirely. I have a few magazine things in the works for 2017, but I've again stopped submitting designs because the sample/pattern due dates are starting to overlap with MY due date, and that's just not going to work. We'll see what 2017 brings, design-wise.

If you've made it to the end of this post, how about a treat? As a Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Festivus gift to you, and to say goodbye to 2016 and hello to the hopefully much, much better 2017 (I don't have terribly high hopes with an actual moron running the show, but we'll see), use coupon code DumpsterFire to get 40% off all of my self-published patterns on Ravelry, from December 23rd until January 1st. Good riddance 2016, best of luck 2017.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

June Cashmere // Beeswax Mitts

Over the Thanksgiving holiday break, I really wanted a quick, small knit (the Star Wars sweater is at an unwieldy intarsia part and all of my design work is at the "big decision time" part), so I used a skein of June Cashmere DK in Mulberry to make a pair of Beeswax Mitts. I've been moderately obsessed with this pattern since it was released (along with what feels like most of the rest of the knitting world), but I don't often have DK on hand, and I'm almost always short on non-design knitting time. The stars aligned over Thanksgiving and now I have either a beautiful little luxury Christmas gift or a new pair of mitts for me. Not sure which yet.

The June Cashmere is lovely. It's quite soft, as you'd expect from a 100% cashmere yarn. Love the color selection- great jewel tones + neutrals. Perfect for colorwork projects, perhaps? The skein is half size (50 grams, 150 yards), so that's definitely something to keep in mind if you plan to knit with it. I used nearly all of the skein (40 grams) to make these (short-ish) mitts. I don't think I would have had enough to do mittens. 

I like that this yarn is responsibly sourced in Kyrgyzstan and is transparent about where it's processed. Ever since I saw this John Oliver segment about sweatshops I've been trying hard to know where my clothes (and clothes-making materials) come from. The more free time I have, the better I feel about it, because more free time = more time to make my own clothes. Since we had to move into this apartment after the house flooded, I've sewn one single garment. There is simply nowhere to sew, and no place to store sewing stuff. I hate that. I've made a bunch of knitted stuff, so at least that's something, but I hate not being able to sew. I just want to move back into my house, please. 

Anyway. Back to the yarn. The yarn is made up of many, many tiny plies, which means that it does split easily. Once it splits, it's a bit hard to make the stitch look pretty again, so it's best to try hard to not split the yarn. I find that paying slightly more attention and using sharper needle tips helps me not split stitches, but I know other knitters swear by blunt tips. As always, you do you. 

Full disclosure: I was given this skein of June Cashmere in exchange for a review. I bought the mitts pattern because it's important to support indie designers like myself.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Finished: Marylebone Cardigan

I love this sweater. I debated knitting it or not, because it's bulky weight and I don't get to wear sweaters nearly as often as I'd like, but I decided to do it and I'm glad I did.

The pattern is Marylebone by Bristol Ivy. I used Knit Picks Wool of the Andes Bulky in Seaglass, a nice blue-green. I really like this yarn- I've used it for a few sweaters over the years. It's a teensy bit scratchy where it touches my skin, like at the back of my neck, but honestly I find most wools at least a little scratchy.

I knitted this sweater with no modifications, because I find that Brisol Ivy patterns (at least the ones I've made) are not really modify-able. It ended up a bit long- pretty much covers my butt- but I think that's ok, since I mostly made this cardigan to take on my Christmas trip to the Dakotas, where the temperature will likely be about -20 F and I will freeze to death unless I'm covered in wool. Also, the longer length means I can use it as a jacket here in Baton Rouge.

Parts of this pattern are pure genius. The back decreases are inside the antler cable. The back cable splits at the top, turns a corner, becomes the saddle, then merges with the front cable and becomes the sleeve cable. Who thinks of these things?? Knitting short-row cables was a wild ride, let me tell you. More details here on Ravelry.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Finished: Mielie Vest

I finished my Mielie Vest! Ravelry details here.

This was a lovely quick palate-cleansing sort of knit after the turmoil of my recent life. Also all of my recent magazine samples have been sport weight or thinner yarn (the last one was a DK linen/cotton that really hurt my hands), and sort of tricky to knit, so what I really needed was some super soft wool, size 9 needles, and stockinette. It was excellent. (I admit to getting just a little bored right at the end, but who doesn't with a project?)

Fits perfectly. I ordered these from Pacific Trimming and I love them. I pretty much just followed the directions on this knit. I did modify the pockets slightly after reading other people's notes on Ravelry. As written, the pocket doesn't extend all the way to the button band, and you seam it to the body fabric. A) that's silly, and b) it would result in a pocket that's not quite big enough. There is almost nothing worse than too-small pockets. So I did what a lot of other people have done and just worked the pocket from the side (eliminated the purl "faux seam", didn't want to interrupt my stockinette flow) to the edge where the button band would be. Then it was easy to just pick up stitches through both the pocket and the body fabric for the button band. Note: there is a LOT of picking up stitches to do throughout this knit. I got sick of it. I don't really like to pick up stitches.

The vest weighs 353 grams, which means I used about 3.5 skeins of the Malabrigo. I had a tiny little ball of yarn left over- 10 grams. I'd say that's cutting it pretty close. I had the original sweater that I frogged and talked about in this post (which must have only taken 2.5 skeins- doesn't seem like enough but ok) plus one random skein of this yarn. The random skein was clearly not the same dye lot, so I used it for the pockets and the collar only. In hindsight I should have alternated it into the body fabric, but I didn't actually think I'd need it, so it was sort of an "oops I need more yarn oh look I have this skein!" sort of thing, and also I don't think anyone will notice except me.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Nazareth Yarns // Spicule Hat

 I recently received a skein of a new-to-me yarn: Kraemer Yarns Naturally Nazareth. It's a worsted-weight merino blend, and I'd compare it to a good, solid workhorse yarn like Cascade 220. I got the Breeze colorway, which is entirely un-descriptive of the pretty purple-red heather, but hey, they get to name their yarns whatever they want. I really love the color. It's probably the best heather I've ever seen in person. Terrific color. I do love reddish purples.

The best part of this yarn, in my opinion, is that it's entirely US made. The sheep live in the US, and they spin the yarn in Pennsylvania. As someone who cares about where her clothes come from, this is important. As sewers and knitters, it's easy to feel all high and mighty because we know where these jeans came from (I made them in my sewing room), but it's easy to overlook the materials- I admit that I have no idea where the denim came from. That bothers me a little bit, because who's to say that the denim wasn't made in a sweatshop overseas, which is the exact thing I'm trying to avoid by sewing my own jeans? No one, that's right. If you're also concerned about these things, well then here you go. A wool that's grown and processed in this country, comes in pretty colors and good yardage, and knits up well. Done, and done.

I decided to make this yarn into a hat, for reasons that I'm still not clear on. Possibly I will give this as a Christmas gift. Or I'll add it to my hat collection. Don't know. I just wanted to knit something fairly quick after the dumpster fire of a week it's been for this country and for human rights. And I like twisted stitches.

I picked Hunter Hammerson's Spicule pattern. It's a great pattern because you actually get three different hat patterns in one, PLUS patterns for miniature (Christmas ornament) sized versions of each hat. AND she gives you a chart of three different gauge/cast-on combos for each hat, so there are tons and tons of options for sizing. A bargain for sure.

I made the Frazil version. If you like twisted knit stitches, and luckily I do, this is the hat for you. The cables are twisted as well which is totally neat. If you do want to make a hat from this pattern, I'd highly, highly recommend learning to cable without a cable needle if you don't already know how to do that. I think I would have been terribly annoyed if I had to use a cable needle while knitting.

Anyway. The yarn. The longer I knitted with this yarn, the more I liked it. At first I thought maybe it wouldn't be soft enough for next-to-skin wear, but somehow it seemed to soften up as I was knitting. It's a good solid yarn- like what I would want to knit a sweater for my husband. A perfectly wooly wool. And the color! I can't get over the perfect heather. I do love a good heather.

Full disclosure: I received this yarn for free in exchange for a review. I bought the pattern because it's so important to support indie designers.