Sunday, November 25, 2012

Design Work

I've spent some time in the last two weeks working on a new sock design.  This has resulted in ten different swatches, 7 completed sketches, and 5 charts.  I don't know if it's there yet, but I'm knitting up a sample.  If the sample works when I knit it, the next step is to hand it off to a sample knitter. 

Sometimes I lose track of how much is involved in bringing a new design through the whole process.  This sock has open work and cable work, so the gauge varies throughout.  The shaping of the gusset needs to be worked around the design elements.  And the whole thing needs to be worked in a yarn that will allow it to be made in a single skein of sock yarn, or 400yds total.  If not, folks are much less likely to make it.

During this same time, I've designed and made a hat, designed and swatched a pair of gloves, and knit on other projects just to clear my head of sock obsession.  Still and all, I'm probably 24 hours into this sock.  Some projects just go more smoothly than others.  This one seems to be shy, and isn't ready to step into the light yet.

No pressure.  It's supposed to be a holiday gift, but it's not panic time yet.  If the gussets don't work, then maybe.  For now, I need coffee, chocolate, and bravery. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

What to Knit Holiday 2012 6 - Toys

This is often the most popular post of the What to Knit series.  Who doesn't love toys?  Fun to knit, fun to give, and a wonderful alternative to the knitted baby blanket if you've had enough of blanket knitting for awhile.

Knit these Toy Balls for children in cotton or acrylic for babies for a hypo-allergenic baby toys.  Self-striping yarns can be great fun, or use several different colors of a particular yarn.  Remember fathers appreciate toys made in their favorite team's colors for their sons!  Red Sox colors or Green Bay colors are fun for Dad and baby alike.

This Old-Fashioned Sheep Toy by Sarah Elizabeth Kellner is charming.  You can choose a boucle yarn or mohair if the child is old enough to keep toys out of their mouths.  Make it in real sheep colors, or have fun with crayon brights.  Add an I-cord or ribbon collar for a Bo Peep's sheep!

For all the space buffs and burgeoning astronauts in your life, there's this Little Rocket by Megan Kelly.  There are a variety of metallic yarns available if you want a more realistic look.  Maybe for an older child you could embroider NASA across the side!  You can make them in a variety of sizes and make an entire fleet of rockets.  Great idea! 

Fat Robin comes to us from the Petit Purls blog, and it's a multi-piece toy.  Naturally you can make any or all the parts of this set, but the robin's eggs are not baby safe for kids under 3.  It's a well-written pattern designed to take US 5 needles.  With a little adapting, you could make this pattern represent a variety of real or fantasy birds!  Variegated greys and browns would make a believable pigeon plumage, and bright yellow mohair would make an adorable chick!

Last but not least are these adorable Rabbit and Bear by April Cromwell of the By Small Means blog.  Not only are they endearing on their own, they also come with patterns for 5 clothing items!  Many children love to play dress-up, and with a little ingenuity you can devise a wide variety of outfits from these few patterns. 
I really hope this has given you some ideas for ths holiday season, or your next baby shower.  Send pics of toys you've knit.  We'd love to see them!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

What to Knit Holiday 2012 5 - Mittens

Those who follow this blog or know me personally know that Mittens are among my favorite things in the world - to knit, to give, to receive, to read about, to write about...  Mittens are friendly, cheerful, cozy, practical, and well-received by all who live or work or vacation in wintry weather.  This year's round up includes the ones I'm hoping for this season.  Which ones?  You can surprise me!

Bias Cable Mittens
Our first mittens, Bias Cable Mittens, come to us from Elegant Yarniverse blog, and were designed by Jenny Jo.  If you have any doubt you can do this, get over it.  Of course you can.  The diagonal effect is created by simple increases and decreases.  This is beautifully creative, but not hard.  It's a very warm and durable design, and as you can see, has optional gauntlet or ribbed cuffs.

Cabobble Mittens
Next up are the Cabobble Mittens, which have a simple and elegant architectural feel to them.  Cailyn Meyer, the author of the Daily Skein blog, offers these lovely mittens with a well written pattern.  Knit in DK weight yarn on US 3s, they have a firm, dense fabric that still manages to be soft and supple.  I'm always a sucker for a pretty cable, and the bobbles are easy and tiny, so if you're new to them, this is a great way to get acquainted!
Pirate Mittens

From Adrian Bizilla of come the Pirate Mittens.  If you loved the hat recommended in the What To Knit Hats article, you'll definitely want to make the matching mittens. Sport weight yarn knit in stranded colorwork on US 3s makes a warm fabric that will keep you dry in all of your outdoor endeavors.  When choosing yarn for these mittens, yarns with a high twist per inch and a low halo (the fuzzy haze around the yarn itself) will show the pattern better and wear much longer.  Wool is equally warm when wet, so if you're making these for the snowball fight prone, you may want to head to the superwash wool section of the store!

Little Zebra Mittens

The Little Zebra Mittens by Odessa Reichel are adorable for young children.  This is one of the rare occasions when I will recommend using a synthetic yarn.  Be aware that not all natural fiber yarns are colorfast (no matter what they say), so if you want to use wool or cotton, you may want to test your yarn for colorfastness first. This can be done by snipping off a 2 inch piece of yarn, soaking it thoroughly, and then rubbing it for 30 seconds to 1 minute between two white paper towels.  If no color comes off, you're good.  If it does, you'll want to launder and dry your yarn while it's still in the hank.  For fun and craziness, consider making these mittens in colors other than black/white, or brown/white.  Maybe rainbow and red?  Very joyful!

For those who love traditional knits, these Chrysanthemum Mittens by Mary Ann Stephens of the Two Strands blog are lovely.  They are a Norwegian Stranded style, and like all stranded knits, very warm and long-wearing.  They're easy to appreciate by men or women, depending on the color combination you choose. 

But we all know some men in our lives who will only wear things that are overtly MANLY.  For that person, try the 3 St Waffle Mittens, posted on Ravelry by Zortified.  They knit up quickly in worsted weight, the pattern is as easy as I've ever seen for a mitten, and you can make 'em in any color(s) he likes.  Black cuffs on a chocolate mitten might be great, or a solid charcoal heather yarn would be strong and rugged.  If he's a sports fan, maybe combine cuff and body colors in his team colors. 

I hope these help you in your holiday knitting preparations.  And if you make any of these, by all means share a photo with us.  We'd love to see, and we promise we won't ruin the surprise!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

What to Knit Holiday 2012 4 - Food

I've been recovering from surgery for the last week, and while on the major pain pills, I've re-discovered cooking TV.  Since I had abdominal surgery, I didn't feel like eating, which strangely made food look all the more fascinating.  (Or maybe it was the pain pills.  Anyway, food was riveting.)  I started thinking about knitting for the TV chefs and food personalities.  What would they like?  Maybe a stocking full of knitted food?  Woo hoo!

Dad's Blueberry Pie
First we have Dad's Blueberry Pie by Jennifer Tallapaneni.  Kind of like ships are always female, it seems that if there's a man in sight, he has claimed rights to the pie.  (And the cookies, even though he says those are for the kids.)  It's a truly beautiful finished piece, and I'm sure some chef would wish that his/her crust would turn out that well!

Knitted Garlic

Mama G's Big Crafty Blog brings us Knitted Garlic.  They use a lot of garlic on the food shows, though I'm not sure why.  They put it in everything!  Maybe they have a vampire phobia. 
Summer Squash

Summer Squash is a ubiquitous ingredient in the homes of many a gardener, and as if you don't have enough of them in your house, now you can knit them, too.  Naturally you can knit them in green and make them zucchini, too.  These will never spoil at the back of the refrigerator waiting for the next time you make soup.  The pattern comes from the Gerwerken blog.


From Hannah Loveless on Ravelry comes this adorable pattern for a Prawn.  I've discovered that the chefs on TV are unaware that all the rest of us call them "shrimp".  Handily enough, since it's on TV, we get to see what they're talking about, and we figure it out pretty quickly.  If you're knitting for a "Foodie", I suggest knitting at least three of these, as they never seem to use just one at a time. 

Knit Mushroom
Knitted Mushrooms have all the advantages of other knitted food, plus you don't have to scrub off the little beards, because you won't knit them on in the first place.  From the Just Crafty Enough blog, these little darlings can be made by the bunch, and if you vary up the colors of tan and beige, and the size of the caps, you can make a variety of gourmet mushrooms. 

Heirloom Strawberries

"Heirloom" fruits and vegetables are mentioned a lot on TV.  In my slightly drug-induced stupor, I picture food in old-fashioned canning jars being handed down for generations.  Apparently that's not what they mean.  They mean fruits and vegetables grown from "traditional" seeds, not engineered seeds.  I've looked and I've found "heirloom" knitted food.  (I don't know what kind of seeds these come from.)  Heirloom Strawberries are adorable, low in calories, and if you make them out of cotton, hypo-allergenic.  This pattern comes to you from the Schooling From the Heart blog. 

These should get you started making trinkets for your favorite gourmand.  If you have a favorite food pattern, please share it with us!  Thanks.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Under the Bigtop

As I was teaching this fall, I had the pleasure of having some of my colorwork classes sponsored by Mountain Colors Yarns.  They supplied wools in a variety of colors for my students to use during their various lessons.  Blues and greens and golds and reds drew the hands of delighted students as they chose their yarn samples for the swatches they would create.  To a person, every student fell in love with the yarn (4/8 wool) and marveled over the richness of the colors.

Watching the various swatches grow day after day, I was mesmerized by the shear beauty of the lively color combinations.  I wanted to make something with these incredible colors, too!  I've used them before, and it's definitely time to use them again.

As a designer, wife, and mom, I have a huge backlog of knitting to do, and wondered when I'd be able to fit something in.  Then I started thinking about the charity knitting group I'd just started, and realized I had my "in".  I could design a hat for the charity group using these wonderful leftover ball ends from my classes!  As I started working on the hat nad posting about it on Facebook and Twitter, I started getting "Can we see it?" questions.  It's not finished, but yes, here it is.

I chose the Harmony Iris and Firestorm colorways, and was inspired by the joy of the Firestorm colorway to make something reminiscent of the circus.  It isn't a literal interpretation of a circus tent, but I like to think it has a little circus tent, a little carousel, and a little childish wonder built in.  (Finally, even Colleen would approve of these colors!  Nothing subtle here!)
I'll be posting the pattern to Ravelry in the next day or  two, as soon as I finish it.  I'm just working out the decreases to make them smooth.  Thanks for your interest.  I hope many of you will make it and donate it to your favorite charities.

Update: Done!  Pattern to follow soon! 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Knitting to The Bike in the Parlor

Sometimes when I knit in public, people come up to me and talk to me about how knittting has touched their lives.  One of my favorite stories is here, paraphrased, as told to me by a frail-looking woman of unknown age.  She spoke with a European accent I couldn't quite recognize, but I was so fascinated by the story that I forgot to ask her where she was from.  I hope you're as captivated as I was.

I learned to knit from my mother when I was a child.  It was during the second World War, and we would knit at night, often during the blackouts. 

I didn't have any needles.  My father had a spare bicycle wheel, and he clipped out a couple of spokes for me to use for knitting needles.  His bicycle had a light on the front, and he'd ride his bike in a little stand in the parlor to give us a little light during blackouts.  My mother would unravel our outgrown socks and sweaters, and taught me to knit socks with the old yarn.  Eventually I moved on to gloves and mittens. 

I remember for Christmas one year I received two skeins of soft, blue wool!  It was very extravagant.  No one could afford new wool.  It was all going to the war effort.  But there it was, just waiting for me to make anything I wanted!  I was so excited!

"What did you make?"

I made gloves for my mother.  She loved them.  She would darn the holes and wore them for years.  She said they were the best gloves she ever had.

The woman smiled at the memory.  She was clearly transported back to another place and time.  She looked at my knitting, now at rest in my lap as I listened to her story.

"It's nice to see that people are still knitting.  I never really cared for the store-bought sweaters.  It was nice to know that something had been made just for me by someone who loved me."

She walked away smiling.  I still smile every time I think of her.  I tell her story in my classes, to remind my students that we have it easy with our knitting in the scheme of things.  We're part of a wonderful tradition of handcrafts that has been transferred from person to person for hundreds of years.  That knitting was a life skill so important that it was taught on bicycle spokes by bike-light makes it more meaningful to me. 


Saturday, November 3, 2012

What to Knit Holiday 2012 - 3 Hats

This holiday comes on the heels of the worst natural disaster in US history, leaving more people homeless than hurricanes Irene and Katrina combined.  Our focus on the warm and cozy things wonderful under the tree is ongoing; but if you don't normally knit for loved ones at the holidays, consider knitting this season and donating.  Donate to the needy in your community, or knit for those in the Northeast who are survivors of this historic storm and are left with little or nothing.  Many communities are arranging donation drives through TV and radio stations, religious groups and churches, and local charity networks.  Just a thought.

Amelia Earhart Aviator Cap

The ABC Hat comes from The Blue Blog Patterns, by Allison Hansel.  She asks that her patterns are used only for non-commercial uses.  It's an easy hat, a fast knit, and more importantly, really cute!  If you're knitting for charity, please tag the finished object identifying the fibers involved to help those who may be living with allergies.

The Amelia Earhart Aviator Cap is adorable!  It's a pattern coming from Head Huggers, which is a charity network donating hats to cancer patients.  It's definitely girlie, and has a retro vibe that still works well with today's pared-down fashion with clean lines and a close fit.

Beehive Hat
From the Unfurled blog comes the Beehive Hat.  Designer Holly Klein has created this adorable confection which works equally well for children and adults.  Again, it's a quick and easy knit, and it has a joyful personality that's hard to resist. 

Wolf Pack Hat

If you're a fan of colorwork, the outdoorsy types in your life might fall in love with the Wolf Pack Hat.  Originally published in Canadian Living, Thirteen Mile Farm is credited as the designer of the pattern.  Colorwork hats are much warmer than hats in single colors as a rule, because the fabrics are twice as thick due to the second color of yarn being carried behind the first.  If you live somewhere really cold, consider making this hat in an alpaca or camel blend, which add significant warmth!

We Call Them Pirates

From the incomparable Adrian Bizilla comes the We Call Them Pirates Hat.  It's more colorwork, and for those on your list who love pirates, skeletons and skulls, and things slightly counter-culture, it's a sure-fire hit.  It's one of the most popular hats on Ravelry, and it's adorable. 

The last hat I have to offer this year is extremely fun to work.  Originally published in Knitty, Alexandra Tinsley has created a pattern that is dictated by the color changes in a variegated yarn.  Knit in stockinette until the designated color(s) come along, and then purl.  The result is a uniquely textured piece with great style, and appropriate for every member of the family.  It's called Topographie

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Free Charity Hat Pattern

I've designed a hat for my charity knitting KAL for 2013, and I was going to release it on January first, but due to the push for warm clothes for those in Sandy's aftermath, I'm releasing it now.  Millions without power are waking up to temperatures in the 30s and 40s!

January 2013 Charity Hat KAL  The pattern is free, and the hat is a skullcap sized for adults.  Made in wool or wool blends it will be warm for recipients, but please label as such for those with allergies.  Thanks, Friends.  You guys are the best!