Friday, February 8, 2013

Modular (No Sew!) Baby Sweater

A few months ago, Made in America Yarns and I had a little chat about designing some patterns. They particularly needed some baby things. They sent me yarn, and for some reason, their American Lamb in pink and purple variegated screamed to me, "Baby Sweater!"


So I set to work. I don't know how I thought of making this sweater, to tell you the truth, but sometimes ideas just pop into my head, and I work with them. This particular idea was to make a modular sweater. I started out wanting it to be stockinette, but the math just wasn't working and the pieces didn't fit together smoothly. Rip, rip, rip. I switched to good old garter stitch.

The sweater was a ball to knit. I designed it during a vacation to Disney World, and I have to say that the pink and purple yarn just seemed at home with all the princesses that were walking past.

To make it, you start out by making a center front and then a center back panel. Then you pick up stitches along the sides, using slipped stitches as a finishing edge (just as you do for my log-cabin blanket pattern), and you knit toward the side seams.

When you get to the width desired, you put the stitches on a holder. You pick up for the shoulder seams, and use a 3-needle-bindoff to join them.

Then you take the sleeve stitches off the holder and knit the sleeves out. (They are knit extra-long so that the cuffs turn up. I envisioned it both ways, and I couldn't get past the idea of turned-up cuffs.)

When that's done, you pick up the stitches under the arms, you put the side stitches back on the needle, and then you do one, big 3-needle bindoff under the arms and down the sides--and voila! Your sweater is finished!

(By the way, the pattern has a typo. The baby sweater takes 2 skeins of American Lamb, not one. I blame Yarn-Fumes for this oversight on my part.) 


I loved working with Made in America's American Lamb yarn! On top of feeling great, it looks great! The variegation was super-cute for this project, turning into mini stripes.

It was a happy knitting day when I saw my work up on their website. You will find the free pattern on their website here. Or you can get to it via Ravelry.

Thanks for inspiring me, Made in America!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Teegan, Continued

Teegan seems to be captivating people! I'm having fun watching this pattern do well on a "Nerd Wars" board on Ravelry. If you are on Ravelry (a site that is like a Facebook for knitters, for you nonknitters out there), follow this link to watch the action:

Ravelry Nerd Wars: Scroll down the page, and look for madamezola’s hat called Bert and Ernie. That is actually Teegan.

If you are not on Ravelry, then I will update you. As of this writing, Teegan has gathered 98 votes in a 5-way race of knitting projects. The next vote-getting project is at 84 votes. The voting for this round ends at the end of the month.

So that has been fun to watch. (Feel free to go there still to add your vote!)

The other fun thing about Teegan this month happened when Anne walked in the other day:


She had made multiple Teegans for her son's family and brought them in to show me. Mom and Dad and baby are each getting a Teegan. And Anne, having a great deal of foresight, also made the baby a larger Teegan for when he is bigger. She has promised me upon a stack of yarn that she will show me photos of everyone in their hats.

So I want to thank everyone for voting on Teegan and for making Teegan. It has been exciting to watch! 

I am going to start a class called "Really Clear Year" at Stitch Your Art Out. It will be a monthly class, and we will do only my patterns. We are going to vote on the Really Clear patterns to make--for all but the first class. For that one, we're going to start with Teegan. Fair Isle is always fun and always exciting to see, but on this project, trust me that you will particularly love making the earflaps. I hope you can join the class! Call the shop between 10 and 5:30 to enroll!


Monday, December 10, 2012

Teegan

The photographer who takes my photos wanted an earflap hat for a prop. I started designing one. I took it to her, and she fell in love with it--so much so that it turned into her own hat.

I hadn't planned on anything further, but as soon as she put it on, I decided it needed to be a pattern.

So I made her pose for the pattern photo.

I first wrote the pattern back in August, but it took this long to get it through testing and revision. It is ready now, and is available on Ravelry, and will also be on paper at Stitch Your Art Out by Tuesday or Wednesday. It uses Dale of Norway's Falk, one of my favorite yarns. You can make one for everyone in the family--the sizing runs from baby to large adult. The ear flaps are particularly fun to make, if I do say so myself. (Can you tell what I did by looking at them?)

The best part about Teegan, however, is that as you work, the colors of yarn will dance in your hands. There is nothing more satisfying or addicting than a little bit of Fair-Isle!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Make a Million

Shawls have always bugged me a little. I like them, but I have never liked the way they fit. When they are made straight across (as most of them are), the neck always sticks out or rolls down. But once I figured out that if you make more increases, the shawl curves around the neck, I started working on a pattern.

Writing the pattern took much testing. I tried out many different types of increases and had many modifications along the way. I can't even tell you what I did anymore. But I do remember that I made the first version out of Harrisville Highland, one of my favorite yarns:
When I am an old woman, I shall wear purp...  

Ruh-roh!

The next version I made was this one:


It's made out of yarns from about four different companies. Here, I was fiddling with adding yarn-overs, beads, a ruffle, and working the back increase to make it as pretty as possible. (If you look at the shawl from the back, you'll see 3 or 4 different types of increases.)

As I worked on these shawls, I really enjoyed them. I thought it would be good to make one out of the gorgeous, natural wool we have from Underhill Farms, a local farm that's an hour away from us. This is actually my favorite version, even though it's not quite so flashy:

(I'm looking up at little birdies in the trees here, in case you were wondering.)

And then I thought, what if I used our really cool silk yarn from Himalaya Yarns as fringe on our really cool bulky yarn from Noro? This is what happened:


Hippiriffic! 

By now, Kim had caught on to my enthusiasm and started making her own shawls. (I had them out on loan for a day for photos.) She wanted one that had varying shades of orange-toned pinks, with purples. She got this:


Then she wanted greens, greens, greens!


I think she might be working on another, but I'm not sure. She has a lot of knitting projects going at the moment, and I've lost track.

I was thinking I'd be tired of this shawl at this point, despite its name. Honestly, I'm not.

I'm not tired of it. Not at all. I want to make more! more! more! It really does live up to its name. And it is so great for travel knitting. It's easy and fun.

I'm working on two more right now. One is in Kauni:


I'm thinking about adding some Artyarns Mohair Splash toward the edge to dress it up a bit. Hmmmm....



And the other is in stash yarn that I happen to have in "Hello Kitty" colors!





Despite all evidence to the contrary, I think I don't have enough pink in my life. So I have more yarn set aside for an all-pink one in many textures of just pink. Rumor has it that it may also contain sequins.

I'll be teaching this class at Stitch Your Art Out this coming Tuesday at 6:00 p.m. I hope you'll join us; it is inspirational to see what others are making! Give the store a call at 814-238-4151 to sign up.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

On being a Movie Star--or at least a Hand Model

One of the things that has always frustrated me about teaching knitting is that there has been no great way to reinforce or remind people about how to do what had been taught in the class in between lessons. For instance, when you begin to knit, it's hard to remember the cast on if you don't practice it over and over. And after you cast on to make your first scarf, you obviously don't practice the cast on for a while.

When was the last time you did a provisional cast on? Maybe last week, but maybe not for months before then. It's just hard to remember between times.

So for years I've been talking about making a series of videos that I could keep on my website, where I could send people. But it always seemed to be too overwhelming.

Finally, a few weeks ago, I decided on impulse to make one and see how it went. That day, I was able to make three. Well. This was easier than expected. I have apparently given these little speeches many times.

So every once in a while, I would go to work early and make a few more.

I am suddenly up to 23 videos. If you go to my Really Clear website, you can access them all from one place.

For the moment at least, I have them divided into four main categories:

(1) At the Beginning: Things such as casting on, knitting and purling (both English and Continental styles), binding off, weaving in ends.

(2) Techniques. You know the drill--increases, decreases, knitting and purling through the back loop, stretchy bind off, 3-needle bindoff, wrap and turn on short rows.

(3) How to Save Yourself. These videos show you how to fix various types of mistakes.

(4) Niceties. These videos show you ways to refine your knitting or make it more beautiful.  

I am particularly proud that they are all close-captioned, thanks to the wonderful MovieCaptioner software.

I have many more videos planned, but if there's a specific technique you would like to see, sing out in the comments or let me know!

Friday, April 20, 2012

"Completion"

I have been knitting an incredible amount lately. I'm working on a shawl pattern that should be ready in about a month or so. I've been testing it and have made 4 shawls--so far. Each one is a little--okay, a lot--different. That's what keeps it interesting. I love this shawl and started the 5th today--and, truth be told, there is also a 6th one around here somewhere already started. It will be fun to show you all the pictures when the pattern's done.

But that is not all that's going on. It is the time of the year when I go through my projects, pile them up, sort them, and then decide on priorities. Doing this has shown me that a busy winter has left me scattered. It's the same story every spring.

I have 4 half-done blocks for a block-class I'm teaching, a pair of fingerless gloves (gift) with just two thumbs left to knit, a couple of languishing hats, a steeked sweater with one buttonband half-knitted, many other sweaters (let us not count them) in various stages of "completion," a poor little wrap just a quarter of the way finished--and the list goes on.

On the writing side, I have about 6? 8? 10? professional photos of my own designs that need to have the patterns written up.

Let's not even mention the quilting.

There was only one thing I could think of to do when faced with all of this, the one place I knew to go for all the answers to all the challenges I face in life:

I typed the word "Completion" into Google.

After the dictionary definitions (yes, yes, I already know what completion is--or do I?), there was an app called "Completion." Its screen layout appealed to me. I downloaded it.

I now have a choice: I can work on the stuff I need to complete, or I can type my to-do list into Completion.

What would you do?

... And what would you do if you were me?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Health

For many years now, I've been working on health. This work came, as it almost always does, from being unhealthy.

Health isn't an instantaneous switch. It is a gradual understanding built over a lifetime. It is learning to adjust and heal your body as best you can when inevitable problems crop up. It's biology. Ultimately, it is taking care of yourself. Health-care providers of any type can go only so far.

And that's where the going gets rough. It often goes against the grain to take care of ourselves. Sometimes it means resting when we're not sick. It means feeling empowered to say no to sugar and cheesypoofs (when you never really wanted them anyway).

It means getting out and moving, which I still do not do.

I'm working on thinking about that.

The point is, anything you do takes a long, long time to develop. There's no endpoint. Expertise is always cultivated, and it shifts with your current knowledge and the knowledge of the people in the world around you.

In the end, however, when things work the right way, they just kind of click into place. Right now I'm eating better than I ever have--and the food is the best food I have ever eaten in my life. I look forward to meals and snacks. Brown rice with ghee and sea salt, fresh avocados, raspberries, and blueberries--what could be more delicious?

The same is true of crafting. It always starts out rocky, and you don't understand what you're doing. Gradually, you accumulate expertise: You know what the instructions in the patterns mean, and you can execute skills without a blink. "Slip, slip, knit"? Bring it on, baby.

In the meantime, however, as you learn, there is the struggle--going to the Local Yarn Shop again and again with questions, searching through technique books, surfing YouTube. It gets embarrassing sometimes.

Owning a LYS, I have watched the struggle many times--and that includes my own struggles with reading instructions. I have to say that I have always had a soft spot in my heart for the distressed knitter trying to figure out what the pattern is saying. From the very beginning, it drove me into writing patterns.

At this point, writing patterns is in my blood. I know how to explain knitting. And I love to explain it so that knitters understand. I want my patterns to make knitting feel healthy to the knitter--he or she might be learning new skills, but there is no struggle with things that need not be a struggle. No one wants to puzzle out decreases in rows; we all just want to knit.

In my patterns, I try to explain why you are doing what you are doing, so that when you get to a pattern that is a bit more ... shall we say ... pithy, you know what to do.

I want to show you why you might want to make certain choices. That way, when you get to a pattern without options, and the instructions aren't working, you know how to forge ahead on your own. And, in the end, if you don't follow my advice because you want to do something differently to make it work better for you, then fine. It's knitting.

Knitting should not be something that raises your blood pressure. You can go to work for that. If you are knitting with patterns that make knitting a pleasure, then the knitting is not frustrating and stressful, but healthy and fun, like eating a bowl of blueberries. And that's the whole point. Knitting: It's supposed to be fun.