Saturday, March 31, 2012

Lo-Cal Easter Bunny - Free Pattern!

Here's a new, free bunny pattern for those not into candy.  (You know, babies, toothless people, diabetics...)  It's available on Ravelry, and the free pattern link is here.  This may be the best bunny pattern I've seen, in that it is realistic, cute, and not too difficult.  Try it!  And be sure to post a nice comment to Sara Kellner on her terrific pattern!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Birthday Knitting

It's my birthday today, and I would love to spend the day knee deep in fibery fun.  That's not going to happen.  Instead, life keeps showing up.  Meetings, chores, taking my daughter to the doctor - all of these things are on the list.  Knitting?  We'll see.  So instead, I'm having a fantasy birthday here on the blog. 

First, I would have a lazy breakfast with Elizabeth Zimmerman and Barbara Walker, who would bestow knitting wisdom peppered with witty anecdotes of years of knitting, teaching and publishing.  (This is my fantasy birthday, so I'm dreaming big.)  They would be wearing sweaters of styles they made famous, and the craftsmanship would be inspiring.  Just as breakfast winds down, they would each give me a gift they had knit to celebrate the occasion, and I would be moved and thrilled.  I'd take my decaf with double soy to go, and head off to the LYS.

Karma Knitting is my LYS, and it would be chock-a-block with people I love, all knitting interesting projects.  New, irresistible yarns would line the shelves, and inspire a ridiculous spate of new design projects.  I wouldn't spill my coffee on any of the new yarns, and would cast on some toe-up socks in a silky cotton blend.  Before I left, I would indulge my fondness for addi Turbos and round out my collection of circs. 

Jill Draper
Lunch would be outside, with Colleen the intrepid and magical assistant, Jill Draper the dyer and designer extraordinaire (whom I've met and really like), Melissa Leapman the designer and author (whom I haven't met and really like), and my goofy dog, Max.  The picnic would include light vegetarian faire, a little wine, and plenty of fetch with Max.  The knitting would come after lunch, under a tree on the picnic blanket.  We'd all discuss our current projects, and make plans to meet up at the various events where all of us are teaching.  Melissa would tell me that her publisher wants to publish my next book. (I'll remind you, this is a fantasy!)

Tailor Statue in Toronto's Garment District

The mid-afternoon would be held in Toronto (very close to Buffalo, NY), and I would bop in and out of Lettuce Knit and Romni Wools, building on my design ideas from the morning.  I'd wander the garment district a bit and see what the young and interesting are wearing, and then settle in a sidewalk cafe and sketch over more coffee as the city wanders by.  Stephanie Pearl-McPhee would walk up, and recognize me from my blog.  (It's a fantasy, remember.) "I've been wanting to meet you!"  she'll say, and we'll strike up a conversation.  She'd be even more delightful and grounded in person, and it would be lovely.  She'll tell me about a cool yarn bomber she knows, and show me pictures on her phone.  We'll decide to yarn bomb the bronze tailor statue in the garment district, and put hat, gloves, and scarf on him.

Now, because this is a fantasy, I'll arrive at the ballpark just in time for the Toronto Blue Jays to take on my beloved Red Sox. My family will be there, and we'll have terrific seats.  My birthday will be announced over the PA system, and I will be embarrassed. Over a beer and a couple of hot dogs, the Sox will win in a close game.  The Jays will vow to get
'em next time.  I'll drive back to Buffalo enjoying the city lights of Toronto, the view across the lake, and arriving home.

Happy my birthday, every body!  I hope it was a good one!

Sunday, March 25, 2012


International Sheep Dog Trials, UK 2010
The New York Sheep and Wool Festival is loosely referred to as "Rhinebeck" by East coast knitters, and many others around the US and Canada.  (That's because Rhinebeck is where it's held.)  It's a massive show in October, and unlike most of the other big shows, still focuses on sheep and wool, not just selling, shopping and making money.  Not that any of those is a bad thing, per se.  But after you go to a few festivals that are little more than really large, outdoor yarn shops, you may yearn for something different.  You'll find it at Rhinebeck. 
Clara Parks in a Relaxed Moment
The reason I bring this to your attention is I've just received my contract to teach at Rhinebeck this year, and I'm really looking forward to it. I don't mention every contract I receive, or every professional relationship I enter, but this one is different.  Rhinebeck is when knitting throws itself a party, and the Knitterati show up.  These folks are at the top of the field, and for good reason.  Clara Parks, Vicki Square, Ysolda Teague, Stephanie McPhee, Gwen Steege, Amy Herzog... I'd love to pick the brains of each of them.  And I think most of you would, too.

Sometimes the biggest shows can feel a bit like a zoo, and that's off-putting.  This one doesn't.  (If there's a sudden downpour, it gets temporarily nuts, though.) You can visit literally hundreds of vendors, if that's your thing, or if you're one who has to see and touch a fiber before you're willing to take it seriously.  But unlike many festivals, you can visit the livestock and see a variety of demonstrations. Watch the sheepdog trials, and root for your favorite pooch.  (If you've never seen one, try it.  You'll be amazed!)  You can attend book signings and lectures, and not with just one author - with over a dozen nationally known authors and speakers!  And cooking classes, about how to make sheep's milk cheese, or what wine to pair with lamb.

While all this is seriously cool, my intrepid assistant Colleen and I will not be able to attend most of the events I've just listed.  We will be teaching all day every day.  Thursday and Friday, the vendors themselves get to have their own private Rhinebeck, because it's so big and busy no one can get away from their booths and meetings long enough to see the rest of the festival.  Colleen and I will be running "professionals" classes on those days, too.  (No rest for the wicked...)  On Thursday and Friday night, though, we will get to hang with everybody and attend the various parties.  It's 5 months away, and I'm already wondering what to wear, and what questions to ask of whom.

If it were today, what questions would you ask, and of whom?  Who would you want to invite to have a beer?  Whose knitting do you want to see up close and personal?  I can't wait to hear if your list is the same as mine!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Why Doesn't My Knitting Look Like That?!

Have you ever knit a pattern faithfully, only to have it come out looking very different from the picture on the pattern?  There may be good reason!


1.  The photo may not be of the pattern as written.  Sometimes in the process of knitting the sample for a pattern, corrections are made, but the sample isn't re-knit.  Don't you hate when that happens?  But with publishing deadlines being as tight as they are, a re-do isn't always possible, and so the pattern won't match the photo.

2.  The photo may be knit in a different yarn.  Designers, me included, design things and have the samples knit in good faith.  We intend for the yarn to be available.  Yarn manufacturers make the decisions that are best for their company.  Sometimes that means the sample is finished in yarn A, only to have that yarn discontinued before publication.  A last-minute substitution to yarn B is made by the designer so the pattern can go to press with the publication.  Though the change is usually stated in the pattern, sometimes it just doesn't make it.

3.  The tech editor goofed.  When sample knitters knit the project, they often find and correct errors in the text.  Those changes go to the technical editor, who adjusts the pattern accordingly.  Also, each pattern is usually only sample knit in one size, but is published in many sizes.  If there are any errors in the different sizes, it's the job of the tech editor to find them.

4.  The pattern was just poorly written.  It happens.  If you've ever tried to give someone step-by-step directions on how to tie their shoes, you'll understand how difficult it is to convey certain ideas in words.  The designer may think they were perfectly clear, but the general public may find the pattern to be wildly unclear.


5.  You didn't swatch, and either your stitch gauge, row gauge, or both are way off.  Some people say that row gauge doesn't matter.  Yes it does.  Do you want your sleeves to be long enough?  Do you want your armholes to meet up for seaming?  Of course you do.  If your row gauge is off but your stitch gauge is on, try changing materials on your needles.  Metal tends to have a taller gauge, bamboo the shortest.

6.  You knit very tightly.  Even if you've achieved gauge, if you knit very tightly the yarn will loose much of its spring and loft.  This will make many stitch patterns look flat or sloppy (cables and decreases look particularly odd).

7.  You used a different yarn.  Even if you get gauge, remember that your substitute yarn may have more loft or a different finish on it than the original.  For example, high twist yarns have clearer stitch definition than low twist yarns do.  Cottons and acrylics often have a sheen that many woolens lack. 

8.  You don't knit evenly yet.  If your stitch size isn't extremely consistent, you may produce a project with a wrinkly appearance.  How do you fix it?  It depends on the person, but in general a knitter needs to perform a stitch 2000 to 5000 times to consistently produce a smooth stitch.  The longer you've been knitting, the faster you'll perfect new stitches.  If you aren't smooth yet, you will be.  It's one of the many reasons we often have knitters begin on scarves...

9.  You haven't blocked it yet.  It is a rare project that doesn't benefit from blocking.  It's a bit like what ironing does for a pleated cotton skirt.  It's an essential finishing technique to make your work look its best.

I hope these notes help make your next project a huge success!
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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Knittted Noah's Ark - More Toys!

In keeping with my recent apologetic post about great knitted toys, I offer this.  From the brilliant and creative mind of Fiona Goble comes another knitting classic, Noah's Knits.  She's the inventor and author of Knit Your Own Royal Wedding, with the incomparable knitted Queen Elizabeth and her corgis, and the precious Archbishop of Canterbury.  So many people have found these patterns addictive that the knitted corgis have popped up in knit shop windows all over America, as well.
Now there is the Noah story, and yes, the animals come two by two.  There are lions and tigers and bears (oh my!), but I'm a sucker for the knitted alligators.  And the giraffes and penguins are the most adorable I've ever seen.  There are 16 projects in all, and though you personally may not be a fan of the creationist story, these animals will delight any child.

Love the designs you've seen here?  Check out her other books, Knitivity, The Twelve Knits of Christmas, plus several titles in the sewing realm.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Knitted Dolls and Toys

I've neglected the toy makers in our readership for a while now, and I'm sorry.  I just hadn't come across something truly unique.  It seems like many doll patterns are just slightly reworked versions of each other, and that's not too exciting.  And then there's this.

Take a look at this wonderful blog from the UK.  It's called Flutterby Patch, and I'm in love with the little dolls and critters.  The patterns are scrumptious, and some of them are free!  (Including these!)

Each post appears to be a story in words and pictures developed around a large cast of knitted dolls and critters.  I won't tell the stories here, as it would ruin the surprise, but they are ideal children's stories, and I would happily read them to kids under 8. Take a look, and enjoy!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Spring Yarn Shopping Ideas

Spring is trying to take hold in the Northeast, and succeeding about 2/3 of the time.   Since it was 65 degrees and sunny just a couple of days ago, and will be again in a day or two, I've been digging through the wardrobe looking for appropriate clothes for the season.  Not so successfully.

Like any good knitter, it's time to go off to the LYS.  Bulkier yarns in cotton, silk and linen seemed like the order of the day.  Luna by Cascade Yarns, in cotton, is one of the few I saw that color for color matches up with the Pantone Spring Color Report.  It's a light worsted, but traps a lot of air because of its slight texture.  Plus, it comes at a very workable price, and is frequently featured on sale.  I was delighted, as I want to knit something that works with my current wardrobe but also steps "fashion forward" a little bit.  It's a yarn that could make pretty spring things, or transitional pieces that would work from Spring into Fall and Fall into Spring.  It knits up beautifully, washes like a dream, and in two years of wear in one garment, hasn't pilled or changed shape.  Cool.  Put some in the basket.  Maybe make one of these...  

A yarn with dreamy texture and good hand at a moderate price point is Katydid, by Classic Elite's Verde line.  It's a cotton "tape" yarn that is impressively soft for its amazing durability.  It hold is color well, is easy to knit, and creates a slightly textured fabric.  That's very on trend.  It scores very well on every critic's review, and yet is often found on BIG sale.  It can be worked as a heavy worsted up to a bulky.  This yarn also comes in lovely colors on the Pantone chart as well as closely related colors.  A little texture in every piece is huge for spring and fall 2012.  Toss 'em in the basket.

Flying in the face of "trendy" is the incredibly classic "Provence" from Classic Elite.  If you're looking for that perfect New England twin set yarn that feals like a liquid breeze, look no farther.  It's a solid DK weight, and it's mercerized cotton, so minimal shrinkage!  You can easily find every color in the 2012 palette, but you can find all your classic favorites, too.  This is especially helpful when your intended recipient isn't an edgy fashionista.  If you have a classic or retro wardrobe, you'll find what you need here, and you'll adore working with and wearing it.  Yep, I'll take 10.

Last but not least, Karabella Lace Merino Silk.  Lovely, whisper soft colors, a gorgeous hand, and strong.  If you're going to take the time to knit lace, you want it to stand up to the little inevitable pulls and snags.  The twist is high enough for durability but loose enough for just a little bit of halo.  And the merino adds some nice warmth to a very lightweight yarn.

I hope these musings help you in your spring shopping.  Knit well and quickly.  Spring is close!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Free Legwarmer Pattern

This very easy legwarmer pattern is called "Deux", and it's available free of charge, from Berroco.  Pattern written for S, M, and L.  They knit it up in "Foliage", a wool and acrylic blend with lovely color changing self-stripes.  Since this yarn is now discontinued, you may have trouble sourcing it at your LYS. Not to fear!  There are substitutes... 

Try Universal Yarns "Poems Chunky" in Ultraviolet for a similar look.  It's 100% wool with long color repeats.  Or try Noro "Hitsuji".  The colors are dreamy, but the stripe repeats are much longer, giving a different effect.  Noro "Iro" is also discontinued, making it available on sale in LYS and online, with a nearly identical striping profile.

Not a variegated fan?  Prefer your yarns to variegate without striping?  Those yarns are available everywhere.  Just make sure that you choose a yarn with the same weight and get the same gauge, and have a ball!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Knitter's Elbow Update

My left elbow still hurts like a sucker.  It's far better than it was when I injured it originally, two months ago, but still hurts in most positions.  I'm beginning to think there's a trip to the doctor in order.  A quick recap:

I moved across town, and while moving a mattress with my 17yr old daughter, injured my left elbow.

Nausea-inducing pain arrived 24 hours later, and it was nearly impossible to find a comfortable position.  Naturally, I finished the move anyway.

Once in the new place, I started babying my arm by keeping it in a sling.  This seemed to be the only position guaranteed to induce constant pain.  I abandoned this sling thing after three days.

I waited around for doing nothing about my injury to be enough for it to heal.  I did this for about three weeks.  This was not successful in any way.

I got religious about not using my left arm for any purpose, and began icing 1-2 times per day. 

After about ten days of the above, it started feeling better.  Naturally, I started using it again, "only a little".  This is because I am, at least in part, a total idiot.

About ten days into using it "only a little" it's back to hurting nearly all the time.  I carefully avoid any significant weight bearing with it, I don't drive with it, and I've only knit twice in the last month, but just incidental use (putting on a bra, answering the phone, cooking, washing a pot) is kicking my butt.

I'm going to try keeping it Ace-wrapped all of my waking hours.  Maybe the distraction of it being immobilized at the elbow will be enough to remind me not to use it for even incidental activities.  If not, off to the doc.  It's tough, though.  Have you ever tried to wash the pots from dinner one-handed?  Or cook from scratch?  Or put on pantyhose?  I swear, making a how-to video on life with one functioning arm might be a very profitable venture.  I'll get on it just as soon as I figure out how to get anything done.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Still Life With Knitting Tools

As I was cleaning up knitting supplies yersterday, I had a flash of inspiration.  The result is my silly, self-important "masterpiece": Still Life With Knitting Tools

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Colorwork 6 - Color Choices

Have you ever looked at an outfit, or a textile, or a paint color, and know that it just says "1970", or "1985"?  How does that happen?  When you see a TV commercial or poster in a retro style, do you wonder how they get the colors to tell the story?  How do you know the colors you choose now will go with your wardrobe next season?

Basic Palette

One place to start is  They have indices of the "on trend" colors for spring and fall for men and women for the last three years.  These color palettes can help you choose colors to coordinate with clothes that your garment will be worn with in the future. If you choose to combine colors from any individual palette, you will be telling the color story of the season.  Different seasons tell different stories, so if you don't like the story any particular season tells, switch to a different palette.

If you Google (click the Images browser once you're in Googel) some of your ideas plus the word colorwheel, you may find what you're looking for.  I did that with 1950s and Colorwheel, and I came up with the colorwheel for the Edsel automobile.  It shows a very subdued, plant based palette that was typical of the early 50's.  Just about any combination of these colors will evoke a retro feeling, and coordinate in a familiar way.
Another approach is to assemble an inspiration board.  Collect pictures, magazine ads, and swatches of fabric that you love.  Don't stop until you have at least ten.  Now, when it's done, step back from the collection, and assess it just for the color scheme.  The board at right has a distinct color family represented.  Here is a link to one of my Pinterest pin boards.  There is a distinct lean toward one palette, and the only piece that doesn't fit is the Matisse poster.  If I were to choose colors based on this board, they would reflect my own personal taste and style without being tied to a particular era.


You can pull up a color wheel on the computer as well.  Colors directly across from each other are called complimentary colors, and they tend to accentuate one another.  Green next to red looks a whole lot greener than green next to turquoise. 

Another way to accentuate a color is to combine it with itself.  Try a dark and light version of the same color, or two versions of one.  Fern green and sage green, or either of those with some pine green would make an interesting combination.

Not feeling confident combining colors?  Combine a color with cream, white, or grey.  The color will look classic and crisp.  Not the classic kind?  Pull two colors you like from an object like a lunchbox, or some packaging.  Still nervous?  Ask a friend or store clerk to guide you.

If you're still unsure, make a swatch in your colorwork pattern.  If you want a little more or less contrast, it will become clear very quickly.  With a little practice, you'll find your confidence increasing! Protected by Copyscape Online Plagiarism Checker