Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Invictus Redux

When I was just starting to think about being a knitting designer, I released a free pattern on Ravelry for a simple lace scarf. I'm not much of a scarf person, but I thought that by releasing a free pattern for something that a lot of people knit (scarves), I could get my name out there, and then knitters would recognize my name when I started really designing. It doesn't really work like that, but what did I know. (Nothing.)

A couple of months ago, I totally re-did my first ever for-purchase pattern (Cascading Cables Mittens and Mitts) because it really, really needed it. I knitted new samples, re-wrote the pattern, had it test-knitted and edited, and felt way better about life. I started thinking that I should do the same for my free scarf pattern, just to tidy everything up and bring that last pattern up to my current standards and style sheet. Right around the time I was thinking about doing this, the online store A Good Yarn offered me a skein of one of their yarns to talk about on my blog, because they've redone their website and they wanted to promote it. So I've pretty much killed two birds with one stone, because here's my new sample for my scarf pattern Invictus, and also hey! A Good Yarn has a new website! You can order their specially hand-dyed yarns more easily now!

The yarn they sent me is an exclusive colorway to their store called Sweet Lips. It's dyed on a base of Lorna's Laces Pearl, which is 51% silk and 49% bamboo, so you can just imagine how luxurious it is. I will admit that I didn't like the yarn when it was skeined, but of course I forgot to take a picture of it, so here's one I stole from the store's website. Hope they don't mind. The colors are more vibrant than this in real life.

So no, I didn't like it like this, but knitted up, it looks totally different, and I really like it! I think this was a good pattern/yarn combo- the stitch pattern of my scarf really breaks up any pooling that would happen. The scarf has drape like nothing I've knitted before, and the shine is beautiful. One thing though, if you ever knit with this yarn, put lotion on your hands first. I found that the yarn snagged on all the dry spots on my fingers- silk yarns will do that. Other than that, it was lovely to knit with. I knitted the scarf during a l-o-n-g layover in the Dallas airport, and it kept me sufficiently entertained to not lose my mind. 

 I'm happy that I took the time to rework my scarf pattern. It's so much better now for about eleventy million reasons, but I think the top reason is this beautiful yarn. Can't wait for it to get cold enough here that I can actually wear it!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

New ebook: Autumn in North Dakota

Part of my husband's research is based in North Dakota, his homeland, which is super convenient for us, because when he has work meetings there, we can both go and stay with his folks. In September, he scheduled a meeting there for mid-October, we bought plane tickets, and I thought, you know what I should do? Write an ebook of three or four patterns and photograph them while we're there! I'm so smart! Then I started knitting and realized that by "smart," I actually meant "nutso," because time, and the lack thereof. I didn't want to let go of my idea, so I knitted like the wind, managed to finish a sweater, a cowl, and the cuff of one mitten, got on the plane, finished the first mitten, arrived in North Dakota, finished the second mitten, did my North Dakota autumn photo shoot literally the day before all of the pretty leaves fell off the trees, and breathed a big sigh of relief. If not relief, then resolution to not to that to myself again. I'm pretty proud of myself for pulling it off with so little planning time, but I'm also disappointed because I had plans for a hat, too, and now I'm being ridiculous.

Here it is! Autumn in North Dakota: three designs to keep you warm on the prairies. 

The three patterns: 
Ghost Stories, a top-down raglan with matching front and back cable panels

Sizes: 34.25 (36.5, 39, 41.5, 44, 47)
Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash. You'll need 4 (5, 5, 6, 7, 7) skeins.

$6 on Ravelry, no account needed

Fireside Cowl, a heavily textured, twist-stitch cowl with a drawstring to keep the chill out

One size, about 10 inches tall and 11.5 inches across.
Yarn: Dream in Color Classy. To make a cowl this size, you'll need the whole skein.

$4 on Ravelry, no account needed

Northern Lights Mittens, sock yarn mittens with a twist-stitch "ribbon" up the back

One size, to fit an average woman's hand.
Yarn: Knit Picks Hawthorne, 1 skein, or about 250 yards of fingering weight yarn.

$4 on Ravelry, no account needed.

I hope you love this collection as much as I do! I wear that sweater all the time; I think it's my favorite one ever. So comfy and cute! 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A knitted knitting lady gnome

Two years ago, I instituted a Christmas ornament exchange among the women in my family. I did this because a) I realized that we owned just about 3 and a half ornaments, which looks super goofy on a full size tree, and b) I like to make stuff, but probably most importantly c) I love almost nothing more than getting mail. Four women each make three (or four, if you want to keep one for yourself) ornaments and send them out to each other- easy. I got new ornaments (and mail!) and I was happy. Last year, I don't know what happened, but we failed to get going, and no exchange happened. This year, I decided that dammit, I'm doing Christmas the way I want it done, so on October 1st (the first reasonable-ish day to start planning for holiday stuffs) I informed everyone that we're doing the exchange again. We now have 5 women in the family, so I'll get even more mail. You see where my motivation is coming from.

I do this thing were I get sort of obsessive about finding the perfect blank. Bedding, boots, recipe for appetizers for a party, whatever. It's annoying. I wish I didn't do it. Things take me so much longer. Of course, I am obsessing about what I want to make for our ornament exchange. So much time on Pinterest. UGH. I finally, FINALLY, settled on a knitted gnome pattern. I've had my eye on this Russian designer for a few months now because her designs are so freaking cute. I bought her gnome pattern  thinking I'd make two boy gnomes and two girl gnomes and then send them randomly to the ladies. I started on the lady gnome... and it took ages. I think it's the fiddliest thing I've ever knitted, and I've been around. So many tiny pieces. That nose? It's knitted separately. I think this beast took me 4 hours total, which included getting out my glue gun for the toothpick knitting needles, sewing on lace trim to the little apron, and figuring out how to make the arms go the way I wanted. So much tiny fiddling, but... I really love it. I showed it to my husband and he asked where I got it, which I'm not sure is a compliment or a "what is that weird thing and why is it in the house", but I think it's awesome. That being said: there's no way I am making three more of these for the exchange. So I'm back to square one, but at least I have a knitted knitting gnome. That's something.

I might start putting it around the house where my husband will find it, then pretend I know nothing when he freaks out. Is that childish? I don't care. 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

A plain ol' maroon sweater

You may have gathered this, but I really love to read. I read when I'm knitting plain-ish things, I always read when I'm eating lunch, and I like to read before bed... so I end up reading a lot of books. One of my all-time favorites is The Help. Great book. I re-read it a month or two ago, then randomly happened on the movie on tv. Normally I don't watch movies made from books I love (coughHarryPottercough) but my husband was out of town, and I like Emma Stone, so I gave it a go. Um, it's fantastic. It stayed true (enough) to the book, the acting was great, and the outfits- oh my gosh, the outfits. I got weirdly obsessed with this one particular sweater- deep scoop neck, maroon, fitted, shorted sleeves- then bing! Lightbulb went off. I CAN MAKE THAT RIGHT NOW. I had a sweater's worth of DK weight maroon yarn in my stash, I know how to make a top-down sweater, drop everything and start now. Normally I don't do things like that. For one, I have about a bajillion knitting commitments at any given time, and can't really spend my knitting time on not-paid work. For two, I don't really need more sweaters. And for three, there was no three because I started that sweater within 20 minutes of finishing the movie.

Because it was purely for fun knitting, and very simple stockinette, I admit that I didn't pay a ton of attention while I was making it, which sucks, because it doesn't fit the way I had in mind. The bust is ok, but there's a lot of extra fabric in the body (which I sort of gathered into the back and secured with the belt, ahem), and the bottom tends to ride up because there's too much ease. I can't decide if I want to re-knit from the waist down, or if I want to do something quite drastic like use my sewing machine to take it in at the sides, which is total sacrilege, or if I should just leave it as-is and vow to pay more attention in the future.

I knitted the body on my new Knitter's Pride Nova Cubics. The needles are square instead of round, which is supposed to be easier on your hands than traditional needles. I can't put my finger on what exactly, but there definitely was something awesome about knitting with them. I knitted for hours on that sweater and never got sore hands. Want to know the best thing about these needles? The cord didn't need to be soaked in hot water when I took them out of the package. That is literally the best thing I can think of when it comes to circulars. I think I gasped out loud then did a little jig when I realized. That's the way to create a life-long customer, people. No cable soaking.

They seriously came out of the package looking exactly like this! So great.

Full disclosure: I got the needles for free in exchange for a review. No lies though, I freaking love these needles.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

New Pattern: Niffler's Delight Mittens

Hi, my name is Emily, and I'm a Harry Potter addict. But you knew that. Everybody knows that.

This pattern idea kicked around in my head for probably a year before I did anything about it. I don't know why; usually I just go for whatever's in my head. A couple months back I came across a yarn support offer for the Kangaroo Dyer's yarns that was being spearheaded by my invisible internet friend Emma Welford, a fellow Harry Potter freak. I knew that she'd go for the design, and one of the yarns offered was PERfect for my idea, so I wrote up a proposal, sent it off, got the yarn, and fulfilled my Harry Potter mitten dreams.

These are the Niffler's Delight Mittens. For those unfamiliar, a Niffler is a fluffy, mythical Harry Potter-land creature with a long snout. Nifflers are drawn to sparkly things, like gold coins, and can often be found in mines. They make terrible house pets because they have a bad habit of tearing up a house in the search for something shiny. So what do Nifflers like? Sparkly gold coins. What are these mittens? Sparkly, gold, and covered in coin cables. A Niffler's delight! (Cue Harry Potter groan, it's fine, I'm a super nerd.)

Mittens knitted from sock yarn is my new favorite thing. They're great for warmer climates where you don't need big heavy mittens, they have a lot more stitches, so it's easier to make intricate designs, and sock yarn is just lovely to knit with. I love sock yarn.

Niffler's Delight Mittens

Sizes: Women's S, Women's M
Finished hand circumference: 7.5 (8) inches

Yarn: Kangaroo Dyer Poet Seat Glitter; 75% Merino, 20% Nylon, 5% Metallic, 438 yards; Color: Papaya or about 50 grams of fingering weight yarn

Skills Needed: i-cord and backwards loop cast ons, cabling, knitting in the round, picking up stitches, basic decreases, M1 increases

$4 on Ravelry, no account needed...but they will be 25% off until November 30th! No coupon code needed.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Bijou Basin Ranch and Outlander

Despite having never heard of Outlander 8 weeks ago, I am now a little bit obsessed. I've devoured the first three books, but I'm making myself wait to buy the 4th because I know I won't get anything done around here until I read the whole thing. I haven't watched the tv show because we don't get that channel, but with wool as my witness I will find a way. It's just so enthralling! I can't imagine going from modern life to 1700s life, just like that. Running water and A/C for me, please. But anyway, it's a good series. So when Bijou Basin Ranch contacted me to see if I'd like a skein of their new, Outlander-inspired yak yarn, I was like heck yes, I love those books! Let me see the colors. I got a skein of Himalayan Trail, which is 75% yak and 25% merino, in the colorway Gloaming, a really pretty lilac-y semi-solid. I love a good semi-solid- so much more interesting than a plain old solid.

Yak is supposed to be incredibly warm, so my first thought was gloves. Last winter I realized that I had a serious glove shortage. I have enough mittens to wear a different pair every day for a month (exaggeration: I do it sometimes) but I only have one pair of gloves, and those I made a few months ago. I'm not sure how often I'll even need gloves (Louisiana, it's hot here, broken record, blah blah), but I like the idea of having some, just in case.

I made some simple gloves, nothing fancy. I thought I wouldn't have enough yarn to do anything fancy, but I was wrong, and there are leftovers. Oh well. The yarn was really lovely to knit with- it feels so indulgent. It has a slightly felted texture when knitting, which I kind of liked, and meant that there was no splitting. I love a not splitty yarn. You do have to be careful when ripping this yarn though- it didn't like to be ripped and re-knit. Got pretty ragged looking pretty quickly. Just be certain that you're casting on the correct number of stitches, and you'll be fine. One more thing- you do have to be gentle. When I was drawing the yarn through one of the fingertips, I broke the yarn. Super annoying, but not the end of the world.

I love these gloves! This yarn is seriously great. If a sweater's worth ended up under the Christmas tree, I wouldn't be upset... just sayin'. But really, if you're looking for Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/etc. gift ideas, a skein of this lovely yarn would make any knitter happy. Or you could whip up some one-skein projects for your non-knitters.

Full disclosure: I got this yarn for free in exchange for a blog review. My own opinions, of course.