Monday, April 30, 2012

Club Feedback Wanted!

Okay, so I'm getting very close to opening the Gift Knit Kit Club for the 2nd edition.  I've heard from a couple of warm weather members, and one indicated they don't have much need for the warm clothing, and one indicated that they love it and give it to relatives in colder climates. 

Please send me your feedback here, Facebook, Twitter, or my email, and send it soon!   I definitely want to create the club you want to join.  If that means 50/50 warm and cool weather accessories, so be it.  The proposed schedule is in the post below, and I need to open the club soon so I can start ordering yarns, etc...  Thanks!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Gift Knits Kits, 2nd edition

The Gift Knit Kit Club has been a huge success, and I have loved it more than I could imagine.  All the feedback from the knitters and all the pictures of the finished products have been a blast!  Naturally, I have to do it again.

If you're not familiar with the club, here is how it works: members receive a kit in the mail every month.  The patterns are beautiful, and knit up quickly.  The finished products will look like you worked much harder than you did!  In each kit is a pattern for an accessory, instructions, and premium yarn.  Each pattern is an original design of mine, offered to club members at least three months before it is made available to the general public.  Since each yarn is paired with the pattern by the designer (me), your results are going to look like the photo in the pattern when you follow the instructions.  Everybody has a variety of occasions where they need to give a gift, and spacing out the work through the year makes it much less daunting.  You can save them all up for the holidays, or plan a recipient for each one.  (You can also keep them for yourself!  I'll never tell!)

Right now, I'm thinking July - December should be mostly cozier knits.  The lighter weight projects were well received, but the snuggly stuff generated the best feedback.  The tentative schedule for the 2nd edition looks like this:

July: Easy Lacey Ladies Socks
August: Coveted Mittens (Ladies)
September: Warming William Hat (men's)
October:  Nordic Socks (men's or women's)
November:  Alpine Heirloom Mittens (men's or women's)
December:  Alpine Heirloom Ski Cap (men's or women's) [Will coordinate with November project]

Feedback, please!  If you were a club member, would this list work for you?  If you could build the perfect kit project, what would it include?  Is there a particular kind of yarn or project you want to try?  Let me know!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie...

Ever have one of those days where you walk into a room for one thing, notice something that needs doing, do that, notice something else, do that, and two hours later go back into the same room for the first thing?  No, neither do I.

Not only do I do that all the time, but it mirrors my design process.  I'll look at a design, maybe on a person in front of me in line in the bank.  Either I'll admire it and try to learn from it, or I'll dislike it, and start correcting it in my head.

If I "need" to redesign it, I start with a gauge swatch.  The swatch will lead me to think about the best use for the resulting fabric.  The original design may be an overcoat, but the fabric I made wants to be a Saturday Sweater.  I'll get into designing a Saturday Sweater, and then decide that the pattern repeat that I want needs a slightly smaller gauge.  After achieving the smaller gauge, I'll realize that part of this pattern would make fantastic socks.  While searching through sock yarn to find the ideal fiber for the socks in my head, I realize that I'd love to use this cashmere blend sock yarn as a run-along with a silk/tencel blend to make a texture-y hat.  I grab the two yarns, and make a new gauge swatch.  I discover that this is a very soft and strong combination, and I'd love to try it as mittens.  I start drawing mitten after mitten. 

6 mitten patterns later, I decide this is a silly idea, and that what I really want to do is design an overcoat.  What would it look like? .....

Monday, April 23, 2012

New Patterns on Ravelry!

Faux-gyle Mittens
Gift Knit Kit Gloves

Snuggly Socks
Starry Night Socks

Harlequin Hat

I posted these 5 patterns to Ravelry over the weekend.  Each is $5 or less, and small enough to be a terrific portable project for all of the warm days to come.  They are  patterns only, and not available as kits.  Take a look!  Ravelry Store

Friday, April 20, 2012

I Don't Get It

Exhibit A
I've had a very strange week, and haven't been able to focus on knitting the way I like.  Instead, knitting and I have had furtive moments in the car, in bed, on line, and at the doctor's.  No long evenings working on a project.  It's not the knitterly life I aim for.

Exhibit B
On top of the not-enough-knitting, I had a nasty stomach bug, which isn't good for my attitude.  It led me to a different perspective on knitting - I found myself re-designing knitwear I saw on the street and in magazines.  I got snarky about it.  Just because something can be done doesn't mean it should, and it is as true in knitting as anywhere.  I noticed an unsettling trend toward enormously oversized items.  Look at Exhibit A.  Look at the size of that!  It's a tote bag, not a hat!  I really do get the concept of haute couture being a highly artistic interpretation of a reality.  It should be inspiring.  I just think it should inspire you to do more than fix it.

Exhibit B is no prize, either.  It seems like somebody stuck the pieces of this kitty condo to this poor woman's sweater.  Why?  Are they protective gear for some odd futuristic sport?
Exhibit C

Exhibit C is from Yves St Laurent.  This clothing line will undoubtedly survive this tragic misstep, but it would tank a new designer.  I have no doubt this model is a lovely, shapely girl, and this sweater hides it masterfully.  And if that wasn't enough, adding hip pockets definitely is not amping up the style quotient.  We all have our dumpling shaped clothes, or at least I hope we do.  They're cozy.  But they're not attractive. This sweater reminds me of a Snuggy, except not machine washable.  Very sad.

Exhibit D
This last one I almost understand.  There are so many wonderful Gansey-style textures at play here, it must have been brutal to try to edit it down to a reasonable size.  I can see wanting to make it into a blanket, but then thinking, "Well, I can't really wear a blanket, so maybe I can make it into a sweater."  Just because something can be done doesn't mean it should.  Garments like these give knitting a bad name.  Worse than reinforcing all knitting is Granny=frumpy, these garments reinforce the notion that knitting is uncool. 

I said I felt snarky.  That's what I get for not knitting much this week.  I'll cheer up...

Friday, April 13, 2012

Letter to a New Knitter

Dear New Knitter:

I've been knitting for a very long time.  I wanted to let you know that you're not alone, and you'll be fine.  If you're pulling your hair out, you're probably on the verge of your next knitting breakthrough.

A few words of advice: 

Use the best yarn you can afford.  This doesn't mean to use the most expensive yarn!  You want to use the yarn with a nice, springy loft, and a high twist.  Most of the yarn you'll find in a craft store doesn't meet that criteria.  Unsure of what to use?  Bring an experienced knitter with you when you're shopping.  The springy, high twist yarns will help you avoid a variety of problems, and you can just focus on the knitting.

Choose a light to medium color.  It is very difficult to sort out any mistakes you may make on dark colors.  Until you're very comfortable with your knitting skill, avoid the navy blues, blacks, and pine greens.  Just trust me on this.

Use wool unless you're violently allergic.  Wool is the best behaved fiber for new knitters.  it goes a long way to evening out your stitches, and when you're new, this makes your work look much better.  A truly even stitch takes between 5000 and 10,000 stitches of practice to create.  Interestingly, this is the same range of stitches in most scarf patterns.  (This is why so many new knitters start with scarves.)

Choose needles that feel good to you.  Not every needle is made for every knitter.  Some of us love metal needles, some plastic, some wood, and some bamboo.  Some like sharper points, some duller.  Some like long needles, etc.  What matters is that these needles are going to be in your hands for many hours in your future.  If you don't like them, you won't enjoy your knitting very much.  If you know people who knit, they will likely be happy to loan you needles to play with until you find a pair you really like.  Several shops also offer this option.

Connect with your inner patient person.  Knitting rarely offers instant gratification.  Knitting creates fabric one fraction of a square inch at a time.  Finishing your project will take time.  It is definitely a process-oriented hobby, not a strictly results-oriented hobby.  If you need instant gratification, order at a drive through.  Then, get back to your knitting!

Have a sense of humor.  Read knitting blogs or tweets by knitters, and you'll see that we all have little knitting demons fighting out forward progress.  Sometimes it's your pet, who decides to "taste" your yarn.  Sometimes it's your child, who "helps" you knit.  Sometimes it's a riveting TV program, and you mess up your pattern because you were distracted by the story.  I've been known to spill a coffee into a project bag.  Successes are sweet, and problems are a fact of life.  A sense of humor will get you through things that might make you want to cry in a weaker moment.

Keep at it.  You won't love every project you finish.  You won't always feel like knitting.  The yarn and the needles won't judge you if you spend evenings with your other hobbies for awhile.  But like most skills, knitting skills rust and dissolve with disuse.  When you get back to it, you may take a few days to get really smooth and comfortable again.  Putting it down for a few days or a week will be easier to overcome than setting it down for a year or two. 

Knit with friends.  It's great to have the support of other knitters.  Join a knitting group, drop by your local yarn shop and knit a few rows, or just knit in public.  Knitting in a cafe will attract other knitters like flies to honey.  They'll want to know what you're making, and they'll readily tell you where to find a good knitting group to visit.

You're among friends.  We knitters are nice people.  Join in. 

Best wishes,


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Father's Day Freebie - Knit Ahead Vest

Sidelines Vest by Creative Knitting

This sweater vest is ageless and charming.  Originally made in Berroco Peruvia, and published by Creative Knitting Magazine, it can be knit in any worsted weight yarn making it a go-to vest for any climate.  It's shown knit with lots of positive ease, maybe 6 inches worth, which is also a choice you can manipulate to your own taste.  If this were knit in a soft yellow in cotton, I could see it going to the country club for dinner.  If it were in its current color and more fitted, it could go to the office.  If your man has a flair for fashion, try a more fitted amount of ease and a turquoise shade in a wool/cotton blend.  If you start now, it's sure to be ready for Father's Day!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Changing Colorway

This post will begin to explore the differences your color choices will make in your finished work.  If you've ever heard several versions of a favorite song, you know that musical arrangements make a huge difference in how a piece of music is perceived.  (Think "The Grammys", "Unplugged", or "Austin City Limits".)  The energy and even the message can change.  Well, so it is with knitting. 

The mittens above were both made with my "Mondrian Mittens" pattern.  The pattern is written with the suggested yarn colors of black and white.  Why?  Because much of Piet Mondrian's wonderful work is based in black and white, with hints of primary colors.   I thought that as the mittens were knit up, some people might choose to duplicate stitch in some of the boxes in some primary colors, and make their own personal tribute to this treasured modern artist.

Original Work by Piet Mondrian

As you can see from the photos at the beginning of this post, two people on Ravelry chose to work the pattern very differently.  The different effects are huge.  The one on the left, in black and white, looks beautiful, a bit formal, and possibly even masculine.  I'm imagining it in cream and chocolate brown, which would probably have a similar formal effect.  It is the pattern I wrote, and it's executed beautifully.

The one on the right is also beautiful.  I never thought of using a self-patterning variegated yarn to work this pattern, but now that I see it, I wonder why.  The result is cheerful and beautiful.  What a great idea!  This makes me wonder how it would look if the grid was knit in a bright, coordinating color, and the field was knit in a variegated.  Probably a very high energy look.  It's still the pattern I wrote, but it has evolved with the knitter's skill and imagination.

When you look for a pattern to make, what catches your eye?  Often for me I'll love the color, and then start noticing the design details.  Of course, this doesn't mean you have to use the recommended colors.  That's when we start to edit.

If you've every been in a clothes shop and asked the clerk, "Does this come in blue?", you know what happens.  You see something, you really like it, and then you start editing it in your head to make it work with the rest of your wardrobe.  Then comes the hunt for the right size/color combination.  When you find it, you bring it home beaming with pride.  For you, that color and design are the Grand Prize.

In my own little design world, my daughter and my assistant both chide me about my color choices.  In decor and wardrobe, I tend toward natural colors blended in traditional combinations.  I thrill at the artwork of Peter Maxx, Leroy Nieman, Alexander Caulder, and Andy Warhol.  I love the colors!  But somehow they aren't me.  In Colleen's world, my palette is "a little quiet".  In my daughter's opinion, it's downright "gloomy".  (And these are people who love me!)  My fans tend to use language like "classic" and "traditional", "timeless", and occasionally "elegant".  (I like "elegant".  A lot!)  Ok.  I'm content.

I love sorting through project pages on Ravelry, and seeing all the different choices the various knitters made as they worked a pattern.  I do it almost every time I'm considering making a pattern.  I've seen plenty of work that wasn't my taste, and a little that only a mother could love, but mostly I find all the different color and fiber choices really inspiring.  

Do you think outside the box when it comes to choosing colors for your knitting?  Do you look at photos in patterns and consider them like the "serving suggestion" on the cereal box?  Or are you happy to leave the choice of color and texture to someone else, and knit the pattern as written?  No matter what you do, what matters most it that you enjoy it.  I'd love to see your photos!  Tell me the name of the pattern, so I can look up the photo that went with the original pattern.  And thanks!
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Thursday, April 5, 2012

Knitting and Armageddon

I've seen a couple of news reports, specials, and even an episode of a series about "doomsday" people, and to a person they believe they will have to be totally self-reliant in the near future.  The idea is that through war or other means, civilization as we know it will cease to exist.  They hoard weapons, water, and food.  I hope they're wrong.  But if they're not, one thing I haven't heard discussed is how they will remain clothed.

I don't see any of them hoarding clothing, or fabric, or needles and thread to mend their existing clothes.  They do not appear to be planting flax, or cotton, or herding sheep.  I am not aware of anyone having a loom stashed away.  And this brings me to knitting.

If I believed that I needed a fortified homestead independent of the utility grid where I might need to live for a year or more with minimal contact with the outside world, I would want to make sure I had clothes.  I can already cook from scratch on a wood stove, build a fire and a shelter, mend a fence, and purify water.  (Thank you, Girl Scouts, for making this all possible!)  I can plant a garden, and maintain it.  (Thanks, Mom.)  I'm sketchy on how to make soap and detergent, but I'm sure there are books that I could stock.  But clothes?  Should knitting be considered a basic survival skill?  For me, yes, just to keep my sanity.  But in general, is knitting a survival skill?  Or sewing?  Weaving?  Spinning?

When would we have the time to knit, what with all the farming and cooking from scratch?  Would we ever knit for fun?  Or just out of necessity?

What about blacksmith skills?  Or glass-blowing?  Are the doomsday people one hailstorm away from a home without windows?  Candle-making?  (And does that mean bee-keeping?)  What about fuel?  I have no idea how to make lamp oil.  Or an oil lamp, if I'm unlucky enough to break mine.

Some of the many things that make knitting a joy include that I can do it in the evening, in my heated home, under electric light, with beautiful yarns I didn't need to make myself.  I'm not a gifted spinner, and I don't know where I'd get silk, linen, cotton, and alpaca anyway.  I'm allergic to wool, so shepherding is probably a non-starter.  All of a sudden, Armageddon is looking really unpleasant!

I've decided that Armageddon is an unacceptable outcome.  Survival is important, but what's the fun if I can't knit anymore?  You can call it denial, but I'm happy living the life we have.  Let's not screw it up.
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Monday, April 2, 2012

Autism Awareness - Cascade Yarns' "David's Hat"

My daughter has Asperger's Syndrome, which is a high-functioning type of Autism.  (I know, some kids have CD collections...)  In general, she's pretty cool, and pretty happy.  She's not a fan of touching, or most sounds, or interacting with people for extended periods of time.  She loves books, electronics, and cats.

When she learned she had Asperger's, she was surprised to hear it's considered a disability.  I tried to explain that not everybody processes information the way she does, and that it might explain why people, from her perspective, behave so strangely.  "So if I didn't have this, I'd act like everybody else?"  I considered.  "Well, more like everybody else."  She frowned.  "I'm glad I have this, then.  I want to be like myself!"

Over the years, her Asperger's has brought many unique perspectives to our home life.  "It doesn't seem like cooperation of only one person gets what they want."  "TV is easier than people, because the soundtrack tells you what they're thinking."  She doesn't understand many idioms, and was appalled when I mentioned a TV character doesn't hold a candle to her.  "Well of course not!  Why would you want to do that to a person?"

For everyone who loves and supports someone with Autism, the joyfully-colored logo for Autism Awareness makes sense.  It's not always fun, or gloomy, or confusing.  It's a whole rainbow of experiences (sometimes within a couple of minutes!)  It's tough to be or to love a person with Autism, and yet uniquely rewarding. 

If Autism hasn't touched your life yet, cool.  If it has, you're probably learning that you're stronger than you ever thought.  As knitters, we often express ourselves with "sticks and string".  This free hat pattern from Cascade Yarns is one of those times.  It's for the Cascade blogger's son, David, and I love it.  My daughter won't wear knitted hats (they feel funny), but I'll make this one for me and wear it with pride.  Thanks, Cascade, for sharing it with us.  David's Cabled Hat