Sunday, February 27, 2011

Knitting to Raise Funds - Suggest Charities

(This is not me or Colleen. In case you wondered.)

As I read through various knitting blogs, I see a lot of charity knitting going on, and I love that.  Knitting beautiful things for folks in need is important.  I've knit dozens of hats and mittens for winter clothing drives, and chemo caps for the local cancer hospital.  I've even knit clothes for Teddy Bears for children being fostered from domestic abuse!

But what if we looked at it differently?  What if the buying the pattern was the donation?  My dear girlfriend and intrepid sample knitter Colleen pointed this out. The charity would get a boost right away, and wouldn't need to wait for knitted goods to be finished.  It also opens charity knitting up to organizations who don't much need knitted goods.  (SPCA, Autism Speaks, etc.)  It's good Colleen is the brains in this friendship, 'cause I never would have thought of this, and I LOVE IT!

How would it work?  She patiently explained that a pattern could be posted on Ravelry for sale, with proceeds to go to a worthy cause.  The knitter would get a cool pattern at a normal price, and instead of the money going to the designer, it would go to a charity.  The knitter could then make the pattern (or give it away, or store it for later) at their leisure. 

This is cool.  It also led me to think of other fundraising possibilities.  A knit-a-thon for a cause?  An auction of knitwear for a particular charity? 

We have chosen our first charity, and are just working the kinks out of the pattern.  I'm hoping to post a photo and have the pattern for sale by the end of the week!  Please submit your ideas to us.  It will help us to design projects relevant to all of us.

1) National or international charities only, please.  This will create a broad base of appeal and possible donations.

2) Organizations only - no fundraising for individuals.

3) Send the exact name ("Susan G. Komen for the Cure" instead of "Breast Cancer") of the organization, with any other contact info you may have.

4) Indicate what the organization does, and why the organization is meaningful to you. Do you have friends or family helped by this organization?  Is it a cause you've worked for and believe in?  Did you found the organization?  

5) If someone has already posted your idea, post it anyway!  It helps us recognize the level of interest in a particular organization.

You are welcome to submit as many ideas as you have.  Please forward this post to your family and friends.  We would like to create projects that will appeal to as many knitters and families as possible, and we need your help.  Thank you in advance for all of your consideraton.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Kids' Earth Day Tote - Freebie Friday

Relating to the theme that I haven't been posting nearly enough patterns for babies and children, here's one from Lion Brand Yarn.  The Kids' Earth Day Tote is adorable and functional.  An added benefit is that it's from Lion Brand's By Kids For Kids program, meaning that the pattern was designed by a child for other child knitters.  It's made from cotton, so it's soft and durable, and there is no concern about the knitting provoking an allergic reaction.  Imagine your child bringing a tote they made to school, camp, or a sleepover!  It would be a pretty cool show and tell item, too.

This would be a great Mom & Me project for a family of knitters.  Each could make a tote of appropriate size to their needs.  The Mom part of the project could easily be the Windy City Tote.  It's bigger, of course, but it might take about the same amount of time for an adult as the Kids' Tote take for the child.  Mom's tote is made of wool and then felted, making another stron and durable piece.  The knitting skills are similar, and both incorporate stripes.  Choose related colorways, and you're on you way!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Spring Baby Sweater

It's been a long time since I've featured baby clothes.  I've been too focused on the Mitten Project!  Sorry!  It's time to remedy that.  This sweater, Baby Pullover-Cardigan, is by Claudia Olson.  It's about the most joyful baby sweater I've seen in ages!  The combo of the pattern and the colorway combine for a fabulous effect.  And Ms. Olson is generous enough to offer this patten, and several others, free of charge.  (Thank you very much!)

This sweater can be knit as a cardi or as a pullover, and changing the colorway makes it a pretty versatile piece if you're into a more subdued palette. (Seriously, though, it's fun to find a variegated yarn based on the most common colors in your child's wardrobe.  Then they can wear it with everything, and it doesn't have to be a neutral solid.)  Knit side to side, it makes an easy project for even a very new knitter.  If you haven't knit a garment side to side, try it!  It offers very cool design possibilities.

As every mom knows, finding a spring sweater that your child doesn't want to play with or take off is a real coup.  That makes the fact hat this can be a pullover or a cardi a huge benefit.  (Pullovers are much harder to take off!)  If you choose to make it, let Claudia know on Ravelry.  I'm sure she'd enjoy seeing your photos!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Sample Knitting

Tree - AC

One of the odd things about designing knitwear is that making your own samples doesn't teach you much.  I designed the chart above, and test knit some of it, and liked how it seemed to work.  But when I write a pattern, I know what I mean.  For someone else to be able to read it and knit it and make an object that looks like I intended and they anticipated is another matter.  (Have you ever knit a pattern with a gorgeous photo, and try as you might the pattern won't get you and your knitting to come out right?  The designer may have knit their own sample, and never found the errors they had written into the pattern!  A good sample knitter will critique as well as provide a beautiful sample.)

I'm incredibly lucky to have a dear friend who is an excellent knitter and willing to point out all of my mistakes.  (This last bit is annoying when unsolicited, but face it - the mark of a true friend.)  She knits samples for me of everything I have any doubts about - I don't always wonder if it's okay if it's a pretty elementary chart - and makes my work look terrific. She likes to call herself my "bitch" (I am not making this up) but I think she knows she's more like my slave (kidding!). 

We had dinner last night, and she was kind enough to bring the sample above.  It reminded me once again how lucky I am that she is willing to help me in such a vital capacity.  Thanks, Colleen.  You so completely rock!

BTW: She is in love with the yarn above, as am I, Cascade Yarns Pima Tencel.  If you haven't tried it yet, get some!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Knitter's Frolics

I'm starting to get really excited for the Toronto Knitter's Frolic, April 30 - May 1, and the Central New York Wool and Fiber Frolic, April 16 in scenic Baldwinsville, NY.  These are the first frolics of significant size near me (suburban Buffalo NY) this year, and I'm champing at the bit! They're two months away, and it's driving me crazy.  It's like a 7 year old waiting for Christmas.

Knitting and fiber frolics are amazing for a zillion reasons, but I will only list ten, in no particular order:

1.  They are stocked with nearly universally "animal friendly" products, and cruelty free is an important credential for any product.

2. Absolutely one-of-a-kind uniqueness.  Handspun yarn is original like a fingerprint.  There is no twin to the skein you're buying anywhere in the world.  It's not all handspun, but there is substantially more artisan yarn than any other situation.

3.  The option to shop a wide array of completely organic product - no chemical sizing, dyes, or finishes make the yarns much less allergenic, and earth friendly.  Organic yarns are usually very clearly marked.

4.  The option for processed art yarns.  Most shops can't carry a large array of art yarns, and when they do it's hit or miss as to whether they're colorfast, superwash, or durable.  The spinners at Frolics are on site to tell you exactly how each fiber will hold up, knit up, and wear.

5. Many other knit, crochet, and weaving products are represented, and they are usually also mostly handcrafted - wooden knitting needles and spindles, ceramic yarn holders, stitchmarkers, sock and mitten blockers, project bags, needle gauges, jewelry, hats and tees, and of course, hand knit sweaters and everything else that can be knit (or woven).  If you prefer artisan crafts to mass produced goods, you'll be in heaven.  (Don't worry, there are plenty of quality manufactured products as well.  If that's your thing, you'll also be happy. Trust me.)

6.  Other fiber fans!  No matter how big your stash is, or how obsessed with your craft you are, there are like-minded people, and those who will make your obsession look like a casual fondness. 

7. Buttons.  Buttons and buttons.  Finding the right buttons can be a challenge, and the wrong buttons can really take the WOW out of a project.  You'll find handcrafted buttons of every material you can imagine, and like other artisan products, originality is assured.  Sometimes manufacturers are represented as well.

8.  Classes are not a given, but they are pretty common in these events.  I love taking classes, teaching classes, and even just reading through the classes that are offered.  It always reminds me how much there is to learn, and keeps my perspective on my work fresh. Whether they're teaching how yarn is made, or some intricate needle technique, there is always something I can use.

9.  Exotic fibers abound.  Suri, quiviut, buffalo, llama, banana, soy, silk, camel, angora - they're all there, just waiting to be caressed and admired, and ultimately taken home.

10.  You don't have to spend a dime to have a wonderful time.  Shopping is fabulous, and encouraged, don't get me wrong!  But these are some of those situations where you will see things and learn from them as if you were in a really cool interactive museum.  There are creative ideas galore, and it's contagious.  So no matter how weak or healthy your budget is on Frolic day, there's a great reason to go. 

Okay, to me the above post reads like knitting porn.  If it has the same effect on you, I'll probably see you at these events.  Let me know if you're going.  I'd be delighed to meet you. :)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Knitting vs. Designing

Slowly but surely I am awakening from my knitting hiatus.  Coffee has been involved. Design is still fighting for supremacy, but some knitting is finally getting done.  I've added an inch to the No H8 Mittens, and a few inches to the Guinan Hat.  The mittens are in Cascade Ultra Pima (white) and Cascade Pure Alpaca (burgundy), and so soft!  The hat is in Cascade 220 (turquoise) and Aslan Trends Bariloche (grey) and really warm.  I've decided to finish the hat in spite of occasional hives because it's easy, cute, and has been adopted by one of the children.  I started to frog it, and was asked to stop when a teen daughter realized she could never "borrow" it if it didn't exist!  And still lurking in the workbasket are the two-color brioche scarf, yummy socks, and the promised Girlfriend Gloves.  At least I don't have to start anything for an upcoming class right now!   I love that there are no deadlines.  Unless you want the mittens, hat, scarf, and gloves available this winter.

The rival of my knitting queue, my design process, often involves me knitting up a swatch of a small part of a design to check the look of a motif.  These side projects are a major impediment to getting UFOs into the FOs column.  I still can't choose one over the other as the priority, though, as I only want to design in spurts.  Trying to design when I'm not inspired is as futile as gift wrapping Jello. I need to get it down on paper while it's fresh, or it's gone forever.

I fuss over each design project a little every day like a doting mother.  There are some William Morris inspired mittens, Nursery Rhymes blanket squares, and a whole set of Arts and Crafts/Mission Style pillows, blankets, and towels.  The hand bone mittens are coming along, though ridiculously slowly.  I'll get there.  I think I have design ADHD.  Is there a cure for that?  Does it come in coffee flavor?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Freebie Friday - Annika Mittens

I've been looking for a Nordic looking pattern in multiple colors,with a rounded top, and haven't found what I'm looking for, so of course I had to design one.  I named it for my Swedish friend Cindy's daughter, who is adorable and charming. 

I went back and forth on whether to make a thumb gusset, and saw that most Nordic looking patterns don't have thumb gussets, so I skipped it.  For now.  I'm not sure I won't add one in the future as I knit these up.  If I do, I'll add it to this page for you so you'll have a choice.

Annika Mittens

Cascade Yarns 220 Sport

 Main Color - White
CC1 - Brown
CC2 - Red
CC3 - Green
CC4 - Blue

Size 5 needles

Size - As written this pattern makes a Women's mitten approximately 8.75 inches around at a 6.0 stitch 7.5 row gauge per inch.  To adjust size, adjust needle size and/or yarn weight.

Cast on 60 stitches.  The dark brown squares on the chart represent slipped stitches in the lower row and knitting the slips in the upper row.  This creates a slightly scalloped edge.

The right and left mitten are knit from the same pattern.  The lavender lines represent the knitting with waste yarn for the afterthought thumb placement.  Remember to use the right chart for the right thumb and the left for the left!

At the decrease for the top of the mitten it is K2, K2 together as indicated, then knit one row even.  The next row is K1, K2 together as indicated.  Then knit one row even.  The last row is K2 together around as indicated. Break CC4, leaving a 6 inch tail for weaving in ends.  Thread MC through remaining stitches, and pull to close top.  Weave in all ends.

The thumbs are worked in a similar fashion. When finished, weave in all ends.

I hope you enjoy these.  Happy Knitting!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Knitting Hiatus

The last couple of days when I move to pick up my knitting, I'm draw instead to putting more of my designs into the computer.  I think I may have just been knitting more than I realized, and with knitting being the same focal length as studying, I just can't take it.  This happens from time to time, and I let it take its course.  It always wears off, usually in under a week.

I did get Analisa and her hands to try on the cuff of the NoH8 mittens, and they fit well.  What a relief!  No takers on the yet-to-be-frogged Guinan hat.  It's a shame.  It really is cute!

Today I entered a Dog Cloth/Square.  I had a German Shepherd in mind when I drew it.  I mention this because the picture looks more random.  It looks like this:

As is usually the case, cast on 38.  Grey  = Knit on RS, Purl on WS  White = Purl on RS, Knit on WS.  Size US 7 needles in worsted, size US 5 in DK.   Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Object Update

What's on the needles now is similar to what was on last week - No H8 mittens for Ana, Guinan Hat for class (now taught, but not yet frogged.  Cute hat, but wool is not my friend.  My hives are just starting to fade!) and socks for me.  There are a couple of test- knits hanging around, but they don't really count.

I sat down last night to knit, and got to the point on Ana's mittens that I needed her hand to confirm custom measurements.  She wasn't home, so I picked up the socks.  Hello Nichole Sock yarn!  Man, I love this stuff.  I got about an inch and a half done when I discovered the mistake I had made in the second row of the evening.  I ripped back, and now have about 4 rows of total progress to show for it. *Heavy sigh*  I'm in no hurry, which is clearly a good thing.  I can knit well, or I can knit fast, but I cannot do both.

The Punk Sweater and Andean Hat requested by Allison are in the finishing stages of the design process.  I may end up making the sweater in cotton or linen so she can wear it in the summer - we'll see what she wants to do.  Once completed, I'll post the patterns.  It's really fun to design for other people with different tastes.  It's like visiting a theme park - it doesn't feel like work no matter how sweaty, tired and sunburned you are at the end of it. (And you get to eat junk food in both situations.  What's not to love?)

Monday, February 14, 2011

You Should Write a Book, St. Paddy's Mitts

A reader sent me an email: "You should write a book. I'd love a book of yours on my shelf for mittens and blankets.  Are you writing one?"  I get that a lot.  So first off, Thank You!  Because I design so much for customers at the shop, for myself, and for my friends and kids, I have designed and test-knit hundreds of things.  I love seeing other knitter's interpretations of my designs!  Customers come in with their RFO's (recently finished objects) and I can't stop grinning about them expressing themselves with their work. 

So why not?  Trust me, I'm all for it.  I have no idea how to go about it, but since I can't stop designing (I've tried, believe me, but to no avail) it just might happen.  If you're looking for me on the bookshelf now, however, I'm afraid you'll need to wait a while. Visit me here, and I'll visit you back.

St. Paddy's Mitts

The idea was something Irish-looking enough to be great for the parade, but not so cutesy that you can't wear them on all the other cold days.  If you start them now, they can easily be finished by St. Patrick's Day!

Materials: Size 5 needles
Cascade Yarns 220 Worsted Wool, one skein each green, and white

Makes women's size large mittens. For smaller or larger size, decrease or increase needle size respectively.  Finished size 4.25 inches across, 8.5 inches long.
Cast on 60 sts needed. There is no separate cuff on these!  The pattern above makes a whole mitten.  Please note - there is a white stripe up each edge of the mitten, so make sure to count those on the above chart.  I admit, they are not super clearly marked.

This pattern is designed in the round, with an afterthought thumb.  The front and back of each thumb are the same.  The light green lines on the palm of the mitten body represent where to knit with scrap yarn for thumb placement.
Happy knitting!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Musings on Bones

For two months I've been trying to design a mitten (shocking! I know) with a pattern of the skeleton of the human hand.  If you think that's morbid, stop reading now.  You won't understand. I think bones and most other body parts are really beautiful.  With few exceptions they are spare, efficient, and strong.  I wanted to explore celebrating it with our most complex bone structure, the human hand.

For me, the trick to a mitten is that it has to be functional as well as interesting to look at.  If I were to design this mitten in sock weight yarns, I could probably do it.  The pixelization at worsted and DK is just too large for the bones to look like anything but a cartoon.  But living in Buffalo, I've got to say, I don't think I've ever met a sock yarn up to the challenge of keeping me warm, dry, and shoveling on a ten degree day. 

Is there a significant call for sock weight mittens elsewhere?  Should I keep going down in yarn weight?  No human bones are straight.  Every surface and every length is curved to one degree or another.  The only way to exhibit convincing curves is to spread them out over a LOT of stitches, and the idea was the bones on the mitten would correlate directly to the bones of the hand below.  Let me know what you think.  I just might keep trying.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Freebie Friday Knitter's Mitten

These are some of my favorite mittens I've ever designed, perhaps because they are the first.  Any two colors can work, but when I made them for a friend I made them in two naturally occuring sheep colors - off white, and chocolate brown.  The recipient, a fellow knitter, let out a belly laugh when she opened them, and swears she wears them even now, 6 years later.  (She lives in Seattle, so I don't get to see her very often, but I take her word for it.)  I made the palms the dark color to hide wear and soil, and the backs lighter.  The tops are rounded, accomplished by knitting two together periodically in alternating rows. 

Materials: Size 5 needlesCascade Yarns 220 Worsted Weight Wool

White - Main Color, 120 yds
Grey - CC, 140 yds

Makes women's size large mittens. For smaller or larger size, decrease or increase needle size respectively.
Cast on (52 sts) in CC for the ribbed cuff.  I like the cuff in just one color, as a 2x2 rib.  In the solid color row before the main mitten pattern, increase one stitch every 8 stitches to achieve the 60 sts needed. Please note - there is a white stripe up each edge of the mitten, so make sure to count those on the above chart.  I admit, they are not super clearly marked.

This pattern is designed in the round, with an afterthought thumb.  The front and back of each thumb are the same, and the LEFT thumb is on top, the RIGHT thumb is on the bottom.  The charcoal lines on the palm of the mitten body represent where to knit with scrap yarn for thumb placement.

For the decreases at the top, as charted, knit one, knit two together around. 
Then knit one round even. 
Knit two together around.
Knit two together around.  Graft top together.

Happy knitting!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Dishcloth/Washcloth Battles

I knit washcloths.  I know several other people who knit washcloths.  I use them as bathing tools, particularly for facewashing.  I like the way they exfoliate gently, and the organic cotton I use feels "healthy" somehow.  I tend to use washable microfiber cloths and sponges for housework. It works for me.

I know other people who do not use washcloths of any kind for bathing, and use their knitted washcloths to wash dishes, wipe children's faces, clean counters and minor spills, and even to wipe down their bathroom.  They have decided which textures best suit their needs, and they are happy.

Then there's that third group of people whom I don't really understand.  They not only don't use washcloths, they are ANTI washcloth.  These are the people who "would never use a dishcloth.  GERMS!"  Really?  (OK washcloth people, settle down.  The Anti's will get theirs in a second.)  They are washable, like your dish and bath towels.  You can wash them after every use, or every day, or as often as you like.  You can use anti-bacterial cleaners.  You can bleach them.  Assuming that because they exist in someone's home they must be germ-infested colonies of the plague is a little extreme.  These same Anti people are reasonable about other things.  They do not change their sheets every morning.  They do not store their toothbrushes in bottles of mouthwash.  They do not wash their hats and gloves more than once a season. 

I'm surprised by the intensity of the judgement, and think everybody needs to calm the heck down.  One can only surmise that these germless women are the same women who understand how men think, are immune to the powers of chocolate, and whose children start performing charity work in the womb.  I don't get it.

If you love making washcloths, make 'em.  If you love using washcloths, use 'em.  If you think they're a terrible idea, don't make 'em or use 'em.  And if you use 'em and don't wash 'em for weeks at a time, change your ways.  That's just gross!  OK?  Move on.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The "Go" Bag

My 7" Tool Kit

At the LYS I'm a knitting doctor (or knitting dork, as my daughter calls it).  Knitters ask me all the time what tools they should buy, carry with them, etc.  Here's the answer:

1. Short, very sharp scissors.  Mine are Westcott, 5 inches long.  They will not let me take them on planes.  I can live with this.

2.  Cloth tape measure.  It will measure any shape and size from glove fingers to a blanket.  And you're under no obligation to share your measurements with anyone you don't want to.

3. A needle sizer/gauge finder.  Really,  though you may think you don't need one, when you do nothing else will do.

4.  Flexible stitch markers.  Again, it's one of those "when you need it you need it" deals.  Don't plan to throw it in the bag when you think you might, just always bring them.

5. Locking stitch markers.  See 4 above.

6. A good tapestry needle.  They are for more than finishing and weaving ends.  Plus, they're one of those things somebody always needs, so you can loan it to a friend for a minute, and feel very competent.

7. A small to mid sized crochet hook.  They're the easiest way to pick up dropped stitches. I carry the 3.25 inch Lantern Moon one, and it will do the job up to bulky yarn.  Above that, I would need a bigger one.

8.  A bigger crochet hook.  It does all that the little one won't. (And in a pinch it's a coffee stirrer.  I'm just saying...)

9.  A row counter.  When knitting in public, it's much harder to keep these numbers in your head.  Plus, they're generally cute and tiny, so you have no real excuse.

10.  One set of cable needles.  They're good for more than cabling.  Heck, I've seen one woman use one as a re-usable snack stabber!  (Not that I'm admitting anything here.)

11. Point protectors.  Even if you never use them in your regular knitting life, you're more likely to get interrupted in public, and not every situation will "wait 'til I finish this row".

12. Stitch holder.

The Go Bag Tools

Gosh, that sounds like a ton of stuff, and we haven't even gotten to the knitting!  Well, it's not.  Mine fits in a pouch that is 7 inches long and 2.5 inches in diameter.  I have a second set of all these tools that stay home.  This is important, because if you poach from your go bag, it isn't a complete tool anymore!

Isn't all that stuff expensive?  No.  Maybe $2 at a yard sale, $6 on eBay, and $20 if you get it all new.  (Clover sells a kit with most of these things for under $10  at most North American craft stores.)  If you're at a point in your knitting life where you can afford luxury, you're still going to have trouble spending more than $50 on the very fanciest stuff you can find.

Build your tool kit.  One dozen tools will make your knitting on the go as comfortable as knitting at home.  Put it all in a pouch so it doesn't get lost in the bottom of the bag.  :)

Monday, February 7, 2011

OOPS! One More Mitered Mitten - Thistle

Just when I thought I had posted all of them, I came across one more mitered mitten... Here it is.

Materials: Size 5 needles
Cascade Yarns 220 Sport

Main Color - White
CC1 - Green
CC2 - Purple

Makes women's size large mittens. For smaller or larger size, decrease or increase needle size respectively.

Cast on (52 sts) in CC2 for the ribbed cuff.  I like the cuff in just one color, as a 2x2 rib.  In the solid color row before the main mitten pattern, increase one stitch every 8 stitches to achieve the 60 sts needed.

On the single white rounds between the stem and the bloom, SLIP the colored edging stitch from the row below to carry color on the edge.  For the white rounds between the bands of flowers, use white in the edging stitches.  If you really want those stitches colored, you can go back and duplicate stitch them.

This pattern is designed in the round, with a mitered top and a mitered afterthought thumb.  It can be worked flat, using the edges of the pattern for seaming.

The pattern for the back and front of the thumb is the same, so it is listed only once above.  The blue lines on the palm of the mitten body represent where to knit with scrap yarn for thumb placement.

Happy knitting!

Digital Chain Stitch Mittens

This is the last if the Mitered top mittens for awhile.  The remaining mittens I intend to post are conventional tops.  These were designed and knit for my son a few years ago, when he was big on Legos and computer games.  Naturally, now that I want a photo of them, he can't find them.  (I've learned, no mittens for teens until after  the pictures!)  I made them in black and a vivid blue.  They are slightly different dimensions from the last couple of pairs, being slightly longer and wider. 

Materials: Size 5 needles
Cascade Yarns 220 Worsted Wool

White - Main Color
Dark Grey - Contrast Color

Makes Men's Medium mittens. For smaller or larger size, decrease or increase needle size respectively.

Medium Grey and white - Rib stitch in Contrast Color

Cast on 52 st in contrast color and work ribbing as indicated, or three inches.  In the solid color row before the main mitten pattern, increase one stitch every 4 stitches 12 times, then knit remaining 4 stitches.  64 sts.

This pattern is designed in the round, with a mitered top and a mitered afterthought thumb.  It can be worked flat, using the edges of the pattern for seaming.

The pattern for the back and front of the thumb is the same, so it is listed only once above.  Remember to use the Right thumb chart for the right mitten and the Left for the left!  (I've had to rip back a couple of thumbs for this reason, and it makes me crazy!) The blue lines on the palm of the mitten body represent where to knit with scrap yarn for thumb placement. 

If your mitten recipient has longer hands or thumbs than the chart indicates, repeat the existing graph to add length.  If you need help modifying the pattern, please write, and I will send you a customized graph!  

Happy knitting!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Building Knitting Skills

In knitting, I want to learn new things.  I want to very much.  I see the beautiful work of others, and I want to be able to do it, too.  So I read books, take a class, watch YouTube videos, or all of the above.  And sometimes the yarn and the needles win, and I lose.

It's aggravating to be confounded by sticks and string.  I would like to dominate these simple tools and make them create any object my heart desires, but alas, it is not to be. 

I'm slowly beginning to recognize that what I want is actually ALL knitting knowledge.  Like kids with ice cream, "all that there is" seems to be the ideal portion.  I want an endless supply of creativity and skill (and yarn) so that every project I attempt will be beautiful and successful.  I'd also like a puppy who doesn't poop on the floor, and other magical things, but let's stay on topic.

ALL knitting skill is not within my reach, but I'm working on it as fast as I can, which is roughly the same rate the Earth is falling into the Sun.  I love the thrill of mastering a new technique (hello two color brioche stitch) and the satisfaction of completing something that was tougher than I thought.  The sticks and string still refuse to give up their secrets on a regular basis (hello two color brioche stitch), but I have another glass of wine and start again.  (I have a friend who puts her needles in "Time Out", so they can "think about what they did".  I prefer the wine.)

There is still a ton to learn.  Knitting and I will grow together for the rest of my life.  I've barely gotten my feet wet in lace, or spinning, or double knitting.  Knitting is a comforting and challenging companion.  At the rate of one skill every month or two (my current rate of increase), I won't feel like a great knitter until I'm in my 90's.  I've been knitting for 37 years already!  Oh, well.  Pass the multivitamins.  I'll need 'em.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

More Mittens (Mondrian this time)

Mondrian Mittens

As knit by Paivi H., Finland
I love designing, knitting, wearing, and giving mittens.  I was thrilled to see my Treble Clef mittens knit up (in two days!) by a knitter in Finland, and other patterns knit by other mitten enthusiasts.  I know for some people it's shoes or handbags, but I'm telling you, I'm a sucker for a good mitten.

This latest pair was inspired by Piet Mondrian, the artist.  He did so much with straight lines and boxes, with black and white and primary colors!  As I was drawing these, I was imagining them in crazy acid colors, subtle earth tones, and black and white.  I messed around with the color schemes on the computer, and am currently leaning toward earth tones.  (The trick is always to find the yarn in non-wool (due to allergy) in the colors I want, with the appropriate resistance to wear.  Oh well.)

The pattern for these and other mittens can be found on

Friday, February 4, 2011

Freebie Friday Vest Pattern

My dog does not bring me the paper, or slippers. He doesn't rescue people from fires.  Max will eat the paper, and the slippers, and lie down by the fire, and that's about it.  He's not a TV hero dog, he's a good dog.  He's great company, and I love him for that.
Today's Freebie, Rowan Yarns' Glow Vest, is much like my dog - beautiful, uncomplicated, doing the basic job for which it was designed very well.   I love it for a dozen reasons: it's a little different, it's practical, it's a quick knit, it's in COTTON, it's blue, it's a versatile layer, it's pre-shrunk, it's ageless, it buttons, it washes, it's seasonless, and it's contemporary.

It's definitely in the lineup of things I will knit, and I'm even hoping to do it soon so I can wear it for spring. This means clearing a backlog of owed and promised projects, but it's great incentive!  I hope you enjoy it, too.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Wool Dispute

The Mr. Mittens are finished, and within moments of finishing them, the Mr. put them on and walked out to work.  He then left them in his car, and so I have no pic to show you.   I will nab them back for photos, I promise.  They came out nicely, and very warm. 

Then I cast on the Guinan Hat (see Ravelry pattern of the same name) to make for a class I'm teaching soon about basic knitting in the round.  It's an easy pattern for a cute and very un-fussy hat.  Unfortunately, it's in wool, like the last several projects in a row, and with my allergy to wool my hands are really beginning to rebel.  Hives and redness abound.  They're threatening strike action, and I'm doing my best to negotiate with the union.

Why make things in wool at all? you may ask.  Well, the purposes of having classes are to sell yarn, and increase the skills of the students.  The bread and butter of Karma Knitting (my LYS) is definitely wool, as it is for most of the students.  As such, I feel obligated to show the students how the pattern will behave in the fiber they will likely use for the project.  If it's a project I'll keep for myself, I'll make it in a non-wool fiber.  If it's a summer pattern, ditto.  But for most of my classes, I teach in the fiber called for in the pattern. 

Update:  Whatever the next couple of classes are, I'll be knitting them in non-wool.  Strike arbitration has made me promise to take a one month leave from wool.  I've caved to the hands' demands, not for higher pay or more vacation days, but for a hive-free workplace.  It's the least I can do.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Crazy Weather Plans

As many of you know, there is a monster storm moving across the country, and Buffalo NY is in the path.  They say the weather will start to deteriorate here around 10pm tonight, with serious snow starting around midnight.  Schools and municipalities have already cancelled all activities for tomorrow, and outside you can hear family after family firing up their generators to have them ready in case we lose power.

I realize I'm in the minority here, but I really like snow days when the power is out.  Our generator is enough to keep us warm.  Our stove is gas, so we can cook.  And we have a dozen gas lamps and 30+ candles that keep us lit.  In our last major storm we were out of power for 6 days, and so were the grocers, so even when we walked to the store we couldn't buy food.  There was a driving ban in place for 4 of the days.  The whole neighborhood (20+ people) ended up at my house to eat, sleep, and stay warm.  The refrigerator food ended up in coolers packed with snow.  (Neighbors brought whatever they had in their cupboards, and we baked bread and cooked up whatever folks had for meals.)

The kids played board games and read novels.  The women cooked and knit.  The men cleared snow and downed trees.  No computers or TVs or video games.  I don't want to live back in the 1890's, but it's a nice place to visit.  Knitting and cooking and living as a community for a few days is almost a vacation.  So, be careful.  I hope all of you are safe and warm.  I'll be happy and knitting.  (And purling.)