Monday, January 30, 2012

Turtle-necked Capelet

Turtle-necked Capelet, currently in progress
I've been wanting a piece of outerwear that hearkens back to the ponchos my mother made for me when I was a kid.  It was the seventies, and they were a great fall layer.  Now that ponchos and capelets are back in a big way, I have a different take.  I have a lovely pima cotton and silk lace one that takes a chill off beautifully in the summer.  And I've often lusted after the wrap in the cover of Wrap Style, by Pam Allen and Ann Budd.  Different from the seventies, and in a really good way!

I'm not one to knit patterns by other people very often.  I'm really opinionated, first of all; and I also like making things tailored specifically to my own body.  I decided to make a capelet for me, and instead of making the lovely Fair Isle design on the book cover, I would make one featuring texture. I  realized that it was a great way to utilize my embarrassing stash, which is filled with leftover yarns I love from past projects.  It's almost like a knitter's memory quilt! 

So far I've used more than ten different yarns, between colors and specific brands and styles.  Using each one for only a row or two has resulted in some interesting texture, as I'd hoped, but also created an obvious contrast between the different features and benefits of the yarns.  It made me decide to share some of my opinions.  After all, these are yarns I've loved over the years.  I hope you love some of them, too!

First off, I used the Cascade Yarns Baby Alpaca Chunky.  It's one of my favorte yarns, and I always have a bunch of ball ends around, so I've been using that.  It's soft and fluffy, and knits easily.  It retains its loft, and looks gorgeous knit up.

Not usually a fan of any synthetics in any significant proportion, I was delighted to fall in love with Kraemer Yarns Fountain Hill Brushed Mohair.  It's 80% acrylic, and 20% mohair.  It has that lovely halo we all love from mohair, but isn't as weak and wispy as some of the mohairs out there.  The acrylic allows the mohair to stand up beautifully as a carry along yarn.  It smoothly travels over the needles, and blends with the yarn it's carried with.  It says it's a 2 weight, and I would even suggest that it might be a 1 on its own.  I don't think I'd use it as a single yarn, but I love it as part of a pair.

Another returning favorite is Cascade Pima Tencel, a 3 weight.  It's a beautiful blend with a lovely sheen.  For all of those who hate knitting with cotton, you won't like this any better, as it retains all of its cotton charicteristics and adds the strength and sheen from the pima.  The stitch definition is fabulous, but as such, it shows every little mistake.  If you're a smooth knitter who loves to show off your stitches, this is an excellent yarn for you.

The color palette (lavender, teal, sage, pink) was decided by the colors in the Universal Yarns Bamboo Bloom Handpaints Fallen Petals colorway with which I fell in love at my LYS.  It's a thick and thin, listed as bulky weight, 48% Rayon from Bamboo, 44% wool, and 8% acrylic.  The thin part is approximately sock weight, and the thick is a bulky, sometimes a roving.  It has several different finishes within its skein, each revealing itself a yard or two at a time.  It comes in several colorways, and though I'm fussy about my variegateds, I genuinely love every colorway I've seen.

In the same pink, lavender and sage green colorway as the Bamboo Bloom is the Mission Falls 1824 Cotton, held here with the Cascade Pima Cotton, and although it's been discontinued, you can find it out there.  Swaps, Ravelry stash busting, and even a few online outlets still have it.  It's two ply, one very thin and one thicker, giving it a texture all it's own, and the colors are dreamy.  Mission Falls, we miss you.

Both Mountain Colors Moguls and Mountain Colors Mohair Loops have stunning texture all their own, and I've inserted them periodically to accent the color (teal) and to vary the texture. Moguls is 96% wool and 4% nylon.  It knits up in a nubby boucle texture that's toasty warm and beautiful.  Mohair Loops is 93% mohair, 4% wool, and 3% nylon.  It's strong and soft, and sheds less than most mohairs I've used.  It has a lively sheen to it, and makes a beautiful accent to the smoother yarns in the piece.  I can see it as collar and cuffs on a coat or sweater in my future.

Cascade Sierra, a blend of cotton and wool, has a beautiful finish, and comes in wonderful colors.  I love the way it wears, and it's so soft!  It comes in many coordinating colorways with the rest of the Cascade line.  Cascade 220 is in the mix, too, as one of the cream components.  It's a standard worsted weight wool, the workhorse of the knitting world.  It's reliable and easy, as always.  And Cascade Luna is a cotton two ply much like the Mission Falls, but is a heavier yarn.  It' says DK, but it's a little heavier than most of my Dks.  The finish is incredibly soft, as are the colorways.  In this case, I'm using it doubled with the Cascade Pima Cotton, both in the sage and fern color families. 

Since I'm using most of the yarns doubled and sometimes tripled, it's hard to estimate how much yardage I'll end up using.  I'm working on size US 8 needles, and it's making a heavy fabric with a lovely drape. 

I'm really enjoying digging through my stash every few rounds to bing in a new texture, weight, or color.  It has me remembering all the original projects made from these yarns.  I think I'm going to love wearing this capelet.  It's like 10 years of knitting history wrapped up in one project.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Snuggly Sock Preview

I know!  Gorgeous work knit by the magical and intrepid Colleen, Wonder Assistant.  She always makes my patterns look good.  (That's Colleen's foot in the photo.  Unless you're looking at this on your phone, it's probably close to actual size.  Her feet are tiny!)

This is the Gift Knit Kit Club pattern for February, Snuggly Socks.  Sized for both men and women, it is made from the incomparable Mountain Colors Yarn, Crazyfoot.  It's a very cozy sock in colors that can only come from Mountain Colors.  I love the way they blend!  It's an easy knit, but due to the yarn and the pattern, looks harder than it is.  It will definitely elicit comments of, "I can't believe you made these!"  If you choose to give them away, be sure to make another pair for yourself.

More beautiful Mountain Colors yarn in
in my Elk Mittens pattern.
I'd like to shout out once again to the lovely ladies at Mountain Colors, led by founders Leslie Taylor and Diane McKay.  It is a nearly all female workforce, and every part of the process at Mountain Colors is done by hand.  (I know.  I've been there and seen it myself.)  The yarns are terrific quality, and the colors take my breath away.  Thanks for all you do.

Like last month's gloves, the yarn alone for the socks costs more than the club members are paying for the yarn and the pattern,  (In my LYS, $26 plus tax for the yarn vs. $26 no tax for the club) and it gets delivered right to your door.  How cool is that?

Wishing you could get the pattern for yourself?  All club patterns will be released for sale 90 days after the club members recieve their kits.  Just wishing you could have the yarn? (I'm only slightly offended.)  Call your LYS and see if they carry it, as the colorways are truly magical in person.  They are available on line (at somewhat discounted prices) through Paradise Fibers.  Seriously, though, check the LYS first.  No computer monitor can show you these colors like they really look.  And we need to support our local knitting communities.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Moving Confusion

In the last couple of weeks I've moved into an apartment.  It's not a dump, but it's not a palace, either.  It's a simple, humble apartment in a safe neighborhood.

Anyone who has moved recently will understand the following: living in a new space is disorienting; putting stuff away in a place that makes sense today does not guarantee you can find it tomorrow; paint doesn't smell nearly as bad as it did 10 years ago; the thin veneer of clean and Elisabeth decor does not make the new place feel like home. 

There is a profound amount of shopping involved with moving, and most of it is annoying.  It isn't the delightful "let's redecorate the living room" type.  It's the "dammit, the couch won't fit through the door" type.  Or the "I ran out of painter's tape yesterday and forgot to get more today so I need to get some tomorrow" type.

In the meantime, I've assembled and shipped the Gift Knits Kits, and sent a very cool pair of mittens to TNNA with my friends at Mountain Colors.  The Kits came back for a postage problem, but they're really on their way now.  None of that stuff got misplaced in the shuffle, and I am grateful.

I carefully moved yarn and needles absolutely first so I could maintain my sanity by knitting at least a little each day.  That worked out great until I finished the first project.  It would be great if I could remember where I put those early yarn boxes.  Now I have a pattern to finish, and I can't find the intended yarn.  My stash is very large, and located in a variety of bins, boxes and bags that made sense in my old living circumstance.  Now that they are out of context, I can see the flaws in the organizing system.  (Okay, no system; there are flaws in the placing of a lot of yarn in unmarked bins and boxes and then moving them to a new abode.)

The good news is that while looking for the specific pattern yarn, I'm rediscovering fibers in my stash that haven't seen the light of day for a while.  The bad news is, I really don't know where the specific yarn I need is hiding.  I hope it's with the missing earrings, and wine glasses, and AV cables, and my iron.  It would be a strange box to have all those things in it, but it's much more discouraging to think all that stuff is lurking separately.  Coffee, chocolate, and red wine will all help.  (And they all stain.  Did I mention the new place has white carpets?)  We'll start with coffee.  This will all settle down.  It's Friday.  Okay.  This isn't panic, it's energy!  Gotta go find that yarn.

Monday, January 16, 2012

My Silly Little Hat

I finished my slouchy silly hat project I was dreaming of on Friday.  It's so warm!  And truly a very silly look.  It makes me so happy!  There are lots of reasons.

First of all, I really like the way the pattern came out, and I'll definitely use it again.  Second, it's snuggly, warm and soft because it's made from the wonderful Cascade Yarns Baby Alpaca Chunky.  Third, it's the first thing I've designed and knit in my new apartment. 

I used to say that you don't really feel like you live in a new place until you've gotten really sick, thrown a great party, and depending on your situation, been home for the holidays.  Now I know that as a knitwear designer I can add design and knit a garment.

As I set up my new yarn swift and ball winder, I was very excited.  But then to settle into a corner of the couch and get this hat finished - it's priceless.  To me, anyway.  I've included the pattern in case you're feeling a little silly yourself.

The Silly Little Hat

Cascade Baby Alpaca Chunky yarn in your choice of colors

4 US 7 DPNs

2 US 7 Circulars longer than 16"

2 US 5 Circulars longer than 16"

Cast on three stitches and divide across all three needles. 

Round 1: Knit, make 1, knit, make 1, knit, make 1
Round 2: Knit to last stitch on needle 1, make 1, knit to last stitch on needle 2, make 1, knit to last stitch on needle 3, make 1. 

Repeat round 2 30 times, switching to 2 circular needles as needed.

Round 33: Knit

Repeat round 33 until hat is desired length ( I did 18 rows for mine.)

Ribbed rounds:  Switch to size 5 needles, and knit in (k2, p2) around.
Repeat the ribbing rounds for a total of 12 rounds. 

Bind off! 

Weave in your ends.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Slouchy hat day

The weather in Buffalo stinks today.  It's cold (wind chill around 4) and snowing positively sideways.  As you might imagine, this weather is just the thing to make a girl feel creative about her knitwear. 

In an ideal world, knitwear would help cut the wind on a day like this.  Even the best felting I've ever done wouldn't stand up to these 50mph winds, so I've decided to forgive the felting, and just go for cuddly.  I'm a big fan of alpaca, and I happen to have a lot of different colors hanging around right now.  So this little mountain of alpaca is going to be my project du jour.

I never did jump onto the "big and chunky" bandwagon, but I think today is the day to start.  I'm hoping to post a picture of a slouchy cozy hat tomorrow or Sunday.  I have about a thousand other things to do today, so I'll be looking forward to knitting tonight for the rest of the day!

Does the weather of the day influence what you choose to knit or design?  Or due you knit the next object in your queue?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

In Other News...Fire

A LYS in Williamsville, NY (Just outside Buffalo) was severely damaged by fire a couple of weeks ago.  It was not my usual LYS hangout.  I didn't teach there.  But it made an impact on me nonetheless.  The rate of closings of LYSs across the country is still very high, and this represented the loss of another one.  Each loss damages the entire knitting community.

Have You Any Wool (HYAW), like so many other local shops, does more than sell yarn.  They teach classes.  They support charity knitting.  They host a knitting group for cancer survivors.  They give expert advice.  They help the local knitting community stay in touch with each other on a daily basis.  Linda Maslona, the shop's owner and operator, is the driving force behind everything the shop does.

Today I received an email saying that Have Ewe Any Wool will re-open across the street from their former location, and I sighed a sigh of relief.  I'm happy for Linda, and for all of her regular patrons who have suffered along with her.  I'm not changing my LYS from Karma Knitting, but I'm happy to know she's going to be back.  Re-opening is an obscene amount of physical work (and just imagine the paperwork!), and I'm delighted she's making the effort.

LYSs are the lifeblood of most local knitting communities.  Online outlets are fine for those who aren't blessed with a shop nearby, and for those in-a-pinch-times when you MUST have something the LYS doesn't carry.  But with the potential loss of HYAW reminded me again of how important it is to support our local businesses if we want them to continue to exist. 

Buy your needles, notions, yarns, patterns, and tools at your LYS whenever possible.  All of them.  They have a higher overhead cost than the online outlets, so they will have slightly higher retail costs.  For that tiny extra cost, you receive advice, info, camaraderie, the opportunity to touch a yarn before you commit to it, and the ability to compare two yarns side by side in reality.  (Ever have your computer tell you the yarn is one color only to have it arrive as a totally different color?)  And of course, there are the knitting groups and lessons that take place there.  You can't get that online.  The tiny extra cost to you is what keeps the doors open and the lights on.  What would happen to your knitting community if your LYS closed?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Great Lakes Fiber Show, May of 2012, has scheduled 2 of my workshops for their show!  They're in Wooster, Ohio, which is within 5 hours of lots of the eastern midwest.  I'm teaching my Mitten class, about knitting and designing mittens, and Adapting and Adjusting Patterns.  AAP is about making the changes you want to the pattern you have.  Need to use a different yarn?  Wonder how to estimate yarn yardage?  Gauge off by a tiny bit?  Need a size they didn't list?  Want to change a design element or two?  This class covers the basics of making these changes. 

Until the schedule is published on the site, it is still in flux, but at the moment I will have one class Saturday (Mittens) and one on Sunday (AAP).  This is the first show to put specific dates to classes, so mark your calendars!

If Wooster, OH is farther than you want to drive, make sure to lobby your local show to invite me to teach closer to your home.  My contact info is on this site.  If your show currently has a call for instructors out and you want to make sure I apply, please bring it to my attention here.  I can't wait!!!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Ewe and I

Today, just a little while ago, the British Campaign for Wool published a new blog post.  Founded by Prince Charles, the Campaign celebrates and advocates for the British wool industry, which at one point had declined to near extinction. 

I was delighted to see the post, because I wrote it!  They invited me in the beginning of December, and it came out today.  It can be found here.  I hope you enjoy it!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Knitting Resolutions 2012

Sadly, in 2012 I will be working on many of the same resolutions as last year.  Here they are, about the same as they were.

1. Knit during classier TV shows.  As I said last year, I'm going to knit during Masterpiece Theatre and Inside the Actor's Studio. (And pretty much any adult programming on PBS.) This will add an air of class and sophistication to my work, not to mention a pretentious accent.  If I'm going to knit in front of the TV, I should make it more educational. Right now it's still Law and Order reruns and Top Chef.  Old habits die hard.

2. Knit with more color. Also familiar from last year - The intrepid Colleen is still reminding me I need to brighten up.  I knit with subtle, muted colors now, and nature has shown us that this is a losing strategy in evolution. Otherwise, life wouldn't be full of colorful flowers and rocks and animals.  Adaptability and bright plumage are what have allowed the peacock to make it this far. I'm not ready to go "full peacock", but I will take my palate in new directions.  Maybe pastels this year.  (Baby steps.)

3. Knit every day. I've gotten pretty good about knitting in public, but I can't say I knit every day.  There are days I don't knit a stitch.  I would like to have the discipline to knit every single day, forgiving abstinence only in the cases of physical disability.  It's not a religion, I know, but it is a skill as well as a hobby, and I want to continue to improve every day.  Practice makes perfect, or at least makes a lot of scarves...

4. Knit with water or white wine. White wine doesn't stain. Need I say more? And yet, I still find myself knitting with coffee and red wine.  I will learn.

5. Knit with more recycled materials. Reclaimed yarn and t-shirt yarn, and so on.  Right now I knit with my grandmother's WWII era needles as much as I can, and seam up with her tapestry needles.  I've made a little t-shirt yarn, but haven't knitted it yet.  I've been buying my knitting books secondhand. That's a good start.  I will do more.

6.  Waste not beautiful yarns. I've gone for most of two years without buying any yarn.  I've been using up stash, of which I have an embarrassing amount. As a designer I receive a lot of yarns sent from yarn manufacturers to make specific designs, making drawing down the stash a real challenge.  It's brutal to not buy all the beautiful yarns I see, but I'm irked by the waste factor of having so much stash yarn sitting in wait. Others will make brand new yarns into beautiful projects.  I will work from stash even more than this year, if at all possible.  It's good for the soul, the planet, and the state of my closet space.

7.  Knit more for charity.  This was not a good year for getting much charity knitting done.  I want to get out at least 10 charity projects this year.  I used to make hats and mittens for charity regularly, carrying only charity projects in my to-go bag, and working on everything else at home.  I need to return to that.  With oomph. 

That's it. This changes everything (a little)! It's going to be a wonderful year.