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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Winter Skyline Sweater

My oldest son is overdue for a sweater, especially after his younger brother got the Ryuu-ko sweater earlier in the season. Hm, do I detect some jealousy here?

That's when I happened to bump into a new Ravelry group called "Project Yarnway" which is a year-long design competition with monthly design challenges a la famous Project Runway on tv. Just what the doctor prescribed to get me out of the starting block and finish a sweater before Spring arrives.

 Project Yarnway entry: Winter Skyline Sweater

The February Challenge (#1) was:
Using only yarn, hooks, needles, notions, and materials that you already own, create a design that expresses who you are as a designer.
 Since I was sitting on a stash of Wool Ease that urgently needed to slim down to make room for new yarns coming out soon it was easy to pick the colors for a sweater design. And any clothing for an active young boy needs to be easy care. Perfect. One down.

Hm, what expresses who I am as a designer? I have used so many different techniques and enjoy them all for the right type of project... but I have to say I just love color work. Thinking back, I must have been knitting stranded color work since I can remember, and I started to knit in elementary school!
Although I enjoy the traditional designs I always like to give it my own twist or come up with my own not so traditional design. Since this was going to be a sweater for my son, we had a little brainstorming session and came up with a design that reminded us of the view we enjoyed from the sundeck at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science with the Rocky Mountains in the background.

But now I had to hurry as it was already half way through February and I had only two weeks left to get this done. Yikes!

To make things quicker, I decided to make it a seamless, bottom-up, raglan design worked in Fair Isle technique and Stockinette stitch. After drawing lots of different skylines and mountains, swatching, and some math I was finally able to start with the actual sweater. But that leg work up front is worth it as I was able to zip along without any redos. Invaluable if you are under time pressure.

Uninterrupted skyline and mountains

3 days before the deadline I had the sweater finished except we had thought that some nice big snowflakes for the upper body would be a great idea. First I sketched a couple of different snowflakes on graph paper, then started to stich one, a second, a third with duplicate stitch on the sweater... something was just not right! Ah, what was it? It was too busy and would only distract from the main design! I rather have the skyline and mountains do their thing.

Then came the weather forecast: snow for the next 2 days! Yikes, I still needed to get some pictures taken and natural light would make it so much nicer. We grabbed the scooter and headed for the closest neighborhood playground... and acutally never made it all the way as my test shots on the road already made for nice photos!

Just busy with his scooter and not aware of any photo shoot :)

Currently the sweater is in a size 10 but I am thinking of offering the pattern for sizes 8, 10, 12, and 14. Well, actually I've already gotten some feedback that call for toddler sizes as well... What do you think? Any preferences? Leave me a comment. Thanks!

And there you have it, my Februrary challenge entry over at the "Project Yarnway" group in Ravelry. The voting will start tomorrow, March 1, and will last for 2 dyas. I hope to see you there and vote for my Winter Skyline Sweater! :)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Everyday Cable Rib Jacket

I am finally making good progress on my cable rib jacket that I started last October (free pattern: Cable & Rib Jacket by Debbie Bliss) . Things just got a wee bit hectic around the holiday season so that my own jacket was put on hold until calmer days. And now I've got to hurry up a bit so that the jacket gets done while it's still cold!

I decided to go with the very affordable Lion Brand Fishermen's Wool in Nature's Brown on 4mm needles. The swatch is barely off the called for gauge which will be just fine as the ribbing pattern will make it body hugging.

The pattern is very easy, knits up very quickly and is rather addictive - just one more row, one more pattern, one more increase... :)

The only thing I had to pay attention to because of my slightly off gauge was the length of the sleeves. I needed to switch to the larger needles (4mm) about 2 inches earlier so that the increases would start early enough and the sleeve wouldn't get too long.

I am now at the point where I only need to close the sleeve and side seams, sew down the double-layer collar and sew in the zipper which I've picked up on my last trip to Jo-Anns.

It looks like I am actually going to finish this jacket while it is still cold. :)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Mittens for Cheyenne River Reservation

I don't know if you heard about the miserable conditions on the Cheyenne River Reservation after a major snow storm hit the South Dakota region? I thought it was just fitting to attend my first Community Knitting event at a local yarn store benefiting the children at the Cheyenne River Reservation with knitting woolen mittens.

Two pairs ready to go

The yarn store, Shuttles, Spindles & Skeins (What a great store! Visit it if you are in the area), donated the yarn and one of their great instructors (Roxana Bartlett) provided the pattern for the mittens.

About 20 knitters of all ages and skill levels showed up (my knitting neighbor was over 80 years old!), chatting and helping each other along with the mittens. During the meeting you can ask questions and get help with some new technique, etc. then you take the project home to finish and return it at the next month's meeting.

So there will be a whole big box with woolen mittens make its way to the Cheyenne River Reservation! Yippee!

What a great way to do something you love, make something for people in need and making new friends. Perhaps I will see you at next month's meeting? The rumor is that we'll make felted slippers...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Valentine Candy Airplanes

Valentine is just around the corner and with two school aged boys now, our work was cut out for us to craft a valentine for their class mates (a total of 48 students!).

50+ candy airplanes ready to deliver a sweet valentine to class mates

After scouring the web for a while we found this really neat candy airplane and my boys' hearts were set on it. Wow, what troopers the boys were! This was quite an assembly line: heart punching, chewing gum paper wrap cutting, wrapping, plane assembly, and heart gluing...

I was really impressed how the boys hung in there, but then sneaking a life saver into their mouths now and then could keep them going for ever I bet... :)

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Petite Purls Spring 2010 Design Finished

I am excited to say that Petite Purls has accepted another of my designs for their Spring 2010 issue coming out in March!

Unfortunately, I can't give you any hints about or sneak peaks of my design and we all will have to sit tight together for only a few more days. I am sure all the designs will again be great and just adorable.

Sit tight and keep those knitting needles going!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Diamond Back Laptop Sleeve (felted)

I really needed a laptop sleeve to protect my laptop from all the scratches and scuff marks it was getting when traveling. But when I went to the stores, I could only find either mainly solid colored (boring) or funky colored sleeves which don't quite work in a business environment.

 W 12" x L 15.5" x D 1.5" (fits most laptops to 15")
Photo courtesy Knitcircus Magazine Spring 2010

Alrighty, off to make my own. I picked colors that would work in a business environment and came up with a design that was pretty snazzy but not too over the top, and would work for a woman as well as a man.

As it turns out the team over at Knitcircus really liked the design as well and accepted it for their first online only magazine for Spring 2010. Yeah!

Photo courtesy Knitcircus Magazine Spring 2010

After drawing and re-drawing the pattern on graph paper a couple of times to make it nice and balanced it took me two swatching sessions to tweak the pattern so that it was easy to knit (not too many floating strands across more than 5 sts that need twisting). Then off it went for a round of felting - and - rats, the bands looked much too skinny now and the red diamond in the center was taking over! Help, I see red!

Alrighty, pattern got adjusted one more time to account for the shrinking and to keep the colors in balance. After this felting session, I liked the look of the pattern but also noticed that the non-colorwork sections didn't shrink as much. So, pattern needed to be adjusted again to account for the stronger felting of the stranded work sections.

The swatching and felting sessions also gave me a heads up on how hot the water can be before the red color started to bleed. Crucial to know because you don't want to knit and felt your project just to have it ruined by bleeding colors at the very end!
Lesson learned:  

It is crucial to swatch AND felt before you start your project
You will be sooooo... disappointed if you don't do this little bit of homework up front. Every yarn and color felts differently and you want to get the water temperature right so that the trickier colors won't bleed.

felted Diamond Back color pattern

I prefer to felt these smaller items by hand (just can't get myself to run the washer even on a small load for just one piece) as it takes only about 15 - 20 minutes of playing in water (who doesn't love that?) to get it felted nice and densely. Plus, with hand felting you can control the shrinking as it felts in the direction you rub. With the washing machine you are left to luck...

I then used a couple of books wrapped in a plastic bag and a towel to block the laptop sleeve to size or you could cut a foam block to size and wrap that in a towel.

While the felted sleeve was drying I wrote up the pattern and emailed it to Knitcircus for tech editing. And as soon as the sleeve was dry, I sewed in the zipper and mailed it off to Knitcircus as well for a photo shoot.

That was the hardest thing for me because the sleeve felt so great and I really loved the pattern and wanted to look at it a bit more before letting it go...my baby! :)

If you would like to wrap your dear laptop in this felted Diamond Back Laptop Sleeve you can find this pattern in the Knitcircus Magazine Spring 2010 issue as part of their whole pattern collection for $7.50 until May 1, 2010 (that's when the next magazine issue will replace this one). What a deal!

And if you don't own a laptop that needs to dress up, you could use this pattern to make a bag (just add a handle) or a great pillow for your favorite lounge chair... just thinking out loud. :)

I will have to decide then what I will do with the pattern. So, hurry up to ensure you get a copy for sure.

You can now also purchase the individual laptop pattern:

Happy Knitting and Felting!