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Friday, September 23, 2011

Book: Cable Ready - Bobbles Beyond Compare

Photos by White House of Birches

Yippee! This is my first pattern "Bobbles Beyond Compare" that was picked up to appear in a book: Cable Ready - A Collection of 10 easy-to-master cable knitting projects.

It's a great first cable and bobble project with super bulky yarn that will work up really quickly. The great thing about this scarf is that you will work only one cable twist and one bobble every 8th row! And look how much more intricate it looks... :)

Actually, all the projects in this book look so much fancier than the straight forward knit that is required would ever let on. I LOVE those kind of projects: they look complicated but are easy to knit.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Interweave Knits: Grace's Bag

I was super busy at the beginning of the year with design submissions for the Fall season. Luckily this design was a super fast knit that is now out in Interweave Knits Weekend 2011 issue or as an individual pattern for download in the Interweave store.

Photos by Interweave Knits
The bag is knit in Lion Brand's Wool-Ease Thick & Quick which is a super chunky yarn. It makes for a no-nonsense sturdy bag that will hold all your essentials and is a great companion for your spare time.

I've used again the shaped intarsia technique (other project: the Hourglass Pillows) that makes for smooth edges around the blue diamond, even with this chunky yarn - no ragged steps at the color changes.

The bag has a 3-colored braided strap ending in playful tassels and running along side the height of the bag. And the brown and white argyle diamond lines are applied afterwards using a chain stitch embroidery stitch or you could crochet a foundations chain straight onto the bag (or sew it on).

I definitely like the bold pattern and bright color splash for the colder months when we need a bit of cheerfulness in our days.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Creative Knitting: White Mountain Kimono Coat

My super warm Rowan Cocoon coat design is out in the Creative Knitting Magazine September 2011 issue! Yippee!

Ooh, if you have not yet touched the Rowan Cocoon yarn, you are missing out on a treat. It is such an buttery soft yarn that you just wish your project would never end...well, you do want to finish but at the same time you don't want to let go of this yarn...

Photo by DRG

You might remember that I was playing around with all different kinds of slip stitch patterns for my final 5 piece collection (hats) for the finale of the Yarnway Project. That was actually a result from exploring pattern options for super bulky and bulky yarns. I really like cables but didn't want the bulkiness it would create with these specialty yarns. Slip stitch cables, or I like to call them "mock cables", are a great way to give the impression of cables but without the thickness and awkward cabling of super bulky stitches.

The mock cable for this coat came about through a happy accident - when I was experimenting with different slip stitch patterns my swatch escaped and fell to the floor. As it turns out, it had rotated so that when I was looking down to pick it up it was upside down and my imagination saw flower heads with leaves staring back at me...

I quickly grabbed another color to try out my "vision" and was happy to find that the pattern lent itself well for a two color variation that really turned the original slip stitch pattern into something new...

Left: Swatch is knit from the bottom up

Right: Swatch turned upside down

Doesn't that look like flowers? :)

This happy accident was quite an eye-opener for me and I now routinely turn my swatches every which way to look at it from different directions. I even look at the wrong side of a swatch because you never now what you will find there... and another thing happened: this small act of looking at a swatch from a different direction than the "traditional" way somehow freed me from my own rules (I didn't realize I had them until then) and allows me now to "think out of the box" more often. So, turn you work around and see what you might discover. You will be surprised. :)

Well, that was all fine but it also meant that I needed to knit this coat upside down or top down. I've never done that before! This was going to be a learning experience and all under a submission deadline...

Photo by DR
It definitely forced me to think the whole design through before casting on my first stitch. I couldn't just begin at the bottom and as I was working my way up I would figure out what to do for the sleeves, neckline, etc.

It was a bit unnerving because I felt the time ticking away and I still didn't have any stitches on my needles... but in hind sight, it did teach me another valuable lesson: you should always think your design all the way through before casting on because then you will become aware of iffy design decisions or problem areas, especially if you to size the pattern for multiple sizes...

Okay, more seasoned designers will most likely know this already but for me, this was a major insight. I guess, it's one of those things you learn when you move from a single-size-family-and-friend-knitter to a designer-who-publishes-patterns-in-multiple-sizes... ;)

The coat knit up very quickly thanks to the thick yarn (Rowan Cocoon held double throughout) and the very easy and addictive slip stitch pattern (just one more flower row, and one more...). I was making good time... and then came the finishing.

Photo by DRG
I should know by now that the finishing just takes time if you want to do it right. And considering that the magazine might want to show close-ups of some detail, there were no short-cuts allowed.

It was important to get the knitted on I-cord right and then the hunt for buttons is on. I don't know about you, but I seem to spend a lot of time looking for the "right" button. I still have to come up with some good sources for buttons. You know, buttons that are somewhat special but won't break your bank?

I've been pretty lucky so far with finding some at the local sewing stores and I do have a card of a button lady I met at a crafts fair. Finding the right closure is such a crucial step. You don't want a button to distract from you design, unless it is the focal point, but at the same time you don't want to use cheap looking ones either as it will devalue your lovingly, hand knitted garment. So, make sure to take your time to find the right fit but don't let it keep you from wearing it either. Use a decent button as a placeholder and change it out as soon as you score "the one." :)

Monday, August 1, 2011

Summer Lace Hat

I LOVE hats! I wish more ladies would wear hats.

Men and boys can wear their baseball caps, but ladies, well, I think we can do better. :)

I have my "workhorse" straw hat that goes with me everywhere but I needed a light summer hat to wear with a summer dress. I had my eyes on the "Picture Hat" pattern from the book "A Gathering of Lace" for quite a while already.

But there was always something else coming up so that it got pushed out, and pushed out... so when the 1st Denver County Fair was announced, I entered the hat for the knitting competition to give myself a deadline: last drop off date - July 28. And what a deadline this was!

I entered a day before the registration closed (July 17) with no sts cast on or yarn picked out… hm, just a little pressure there… Because I also needed to take into account that the hat needed to be starched, blocked, dried and embellished…the actual knitting time would come down to about a week. Eeks! And with all the other obligations... keep on dreaming...oh, well, luckily it was only $5 entry fee...

But you know what, the pattern is very smooth flowing, easy to remember and if you work on it every day for a bit, it comes together very quickly. Yippee, I needed that!

I had picked out a natural colored bamboo yarn (Aunt Lydia's Bamboo Crochet Thread Size #10) from my stash and worked on a set of US #3 (3.25 mm) dpns. The yarn was so smooth and soft and easy on the hands that I was starting to wonder how to stiffen it...

By July 24, the knitting for the hat was finished, right on track for the deadline with even a bit to spare...or so I thought. It used up just that one ball of yarn, ~ 300 yds.

I knit the whole hat on dpns (didn't have a circular in the right size), with 2 flower petals per needle = 5 dpns and a 6th needle to work with. That worked out surprisingly well - well, it had to as I didn’t have the time to be picky.

I did make a couple of pattern changes along the way:

Pattern change 1: After Rnd 42, I worked Rnds 35 - 42 2 more times to get a deeper hat part (~4.5” tall).

Pattern change 2: I needed 6 chain sts instead of the suggested 3 sts per arch to crochet off the edging so that it didn’t pull. I used a US C-2 (2.75 mm) crochet hook for that.

Then came the challenge of how to stiffen and block the hat... After reading the book's instructions, Ravlery comments and surfing the web to gauge what my options were, I decided to go with my own idea: I've used fabric stiffeners for 3-D snowflakes and crocheted angles in the past very successfully so why not for this hat? And I still had half a bottle sitting around somewhere...

Finding a suitable blocking setup up was a bit tricky. At first I thought of purchasing a Styrofoam sheet, cutting out round shapes and stacking them to block the hat box, but after seeing the price tag on Styrofoam and thinking of the mess when cutting it, I went low tech: a grabbed my favorite hat, plastic wrapped it, stuffed it and there you had it.

I used the fabric stiffener at full strength (Stiffy from Hobby Lobby, ~$6 for 16 oz. bottle) and needed about 3 oz for the hat.

The weather was so hot that the fabric stiffener started to dry as I was pinning the hat! Gotta work faster!!!

After drying overnight, the hat was VERY stiff. Good. Now, how shall I embellish the hat and finish it off? Wouldn't this be a perfect opportunity to try out some knit flower patterns?

I was down to the last 2 1/2 days and I was going to be out of town for one of them... off to the Cheyenne Frontier Days. I can highly recommend this event, especially if you go on the Wednesday with the Pancake Breakfast and air show.

So I took 2 flower books with me for the trip to Cheyenne and was trying out different flower designs during the drive (I was a passenger of course!). I used Perle Cotton #5 on US #0 (2 mm) needles. After knitting, what felt like, a whole flower bouquet of various styles and sizes, I finally settled on a Daffodil-looking design and Lavender flower shapes. The Daffodil petals would mirror nicely the lace flower petals and the Lavender added elongated, interesting textured filler shapes without overpowering the rest.

I have to say, the flowers nearly took as long as the hat - or so it felt. Once I settled on the flower designs it went pretty quickly but until I had the right ones... it took forever and I could feel the time ticking away.

It was coming down to the wire. On the day of the final drop off period, it was time to assemble the hat. Some purple tissue paper from a yarn shipment from Darn Good Yarns as the background, an old foam core project board from my kids as the mounting board, leftover ribbon from some leis for the hat band and sewing on the flowers. I can handle that!

Drop off time: 2:35 pm - hey, I had a bit more than 20 minutes to spare to make the deadline!  :)

To wear it, you definitely need a ribbon band on the inside edge or else you will feel some pretty sharp points poking and scratching you. I “massaged” some of the more stubborn tips and was able to soften them enough to smooth out the wear… now I understand why most better straw hats have that inside ribbon… :)

I really LOVE how this hat turned out. It makes me feel quite special and it sure is a great conversation starter… and perhaps more ladies will consider wearing a hat…?

Edit: My hat didn't place and was beaten by a feather and fan scarf because I was told that they weren't sure if the hat was hand knit and only judged the knitted flowers...well, I guess that is a really nice complement, sort of... ;) Note to self: be present during judging in case there are questions...