Monday, October 24, 2011

No time to blog, but here's what's consuming my free time...

A baby blanket for a friend, Attic 24's Neat Ripple stitch pattern, various shades of Blue Sky Alpacas Worsted Cotton. Sigh... Love!! More about this and other stuff later this week!


Sunday, October 2, 2011

All-consuming

I just realized how long it had been since I'd blogged. It might be a record for this blog! The reason that it's been a while is the fault of one man: Steig Larsson.

My Dad sent me The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, figuring I'd like it. Boy, was he right. I absolutely LOVED it and tore through it in just a few days, utterly unable to put it down. Dad kindly sent me the next two books in the trilogy, and I tore through the second and am now halfway through the third. These books are unbelievably good. I can't remember the last time I read something so totally engrossing and utterly impossible to put down. I really can't remember the last time any book cut into my precious knitting and crochet time.

I am both sad that I'll soon be done with the third book and happy about it. Sad because I am in love with the story and the characters, particularly the totally f$%king awesome Lisbeth Salander, but glad that I'll soon be able to go back to life as usual, life not completely obsessed with a trilogy of amazing books.

I think there will be some Lisbeth-inspired patterns in my designing future. It's just a grain of an idea, but it's there. It'll have to wait till I finish my Frida collection, though! One thing at a time.

Speaking of Frida, I an halfway done with the second design in my Frida Kahlo-inspired collection. The third and fourth patterns will be smaller accessories, then maybe after that I'll be ready to tackle something bigger again. Mostly I am hard at work crocheting a second Colorspike! scarf/wrap, this time in Knit Picks' wonderful CotLin yarn. It's soft and the colors are saturated and fantastic!

I am about 3/4 done with my first Ella headband, and it looks like I'll be able to get more than one of these out of one ball of thread. This is my first crochet thread project and my most complicated crochet project yet, and I am loving it. It is just the challenge I needed, and I'm happy that it's opened the door for me to the world of crochet thread. I am planning filet crochet curtains for the kitchen in crochet thread, as well as placemats and tablecloth edging. In a word, I am addicted. It's great, versatile stuff and cheap as hell, which for my current budget is really good!

To fuel the crochet bender that I'm currently on, I got Crochet Master Class: Lessons and Projects from Today's Top Crocheters from the library, and WOW. I highly recommend checking it out. There is loads of inspiration in here, and in particular, I can't stop staring at the Overlay Mandala Pillow Cover by Melody MacDuffee. My crochet skills are not quite ready to tackle this yet, but it's something to aspire to. So gorgeous. Also, the pattern is made in embroidery floss, which is really inexpensive. All that beauty for not much money.

I've also been spinning. I have two bobbins full of this glorious 80% merino/20% silk blend, and I hope to ply it tonight while watching Ice Road Truckers. LOL.


I'll post some pics when it's plied. I still have 8 ounces of it left to spin. No idea what it'll be yet!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Little-Known Aspect of Second Mitten Syndrome

There's a little-known aspect of Second Mitten Syndrome, which I have unfortunately suffered.

Your gauge can change drastically in a year.


Shit.

The mitten on the right was the second-ever stranded colorwork project that I undertook. I got it 90% done, then let it sit for almost a year, while I worked on other projects. I recently got a bug up my butt to finish all of my UFOs, and this is the first UFO that I've gotten cleared out.

When I am learning something new, I get a bit stressed and tighten up while I try to get everything right. That explains the right mitten. Now that I've done 6 or 7 other projects using stranded colorwork, apparently my gauge has relaxed, which explains the left mitten. Ah, well. At least they're for me, and I still love them.

This project has me addicted to knitting mittens, and now everyone will be getting stranded colorwork mittens for the holidays this year! All except my sister, that is, who got mittens last year and will therefore be getting something different this year. She reads this blog. Hi, sister!

I recently got this amazing book out of the library for the second time, and I'm totally obsessed with it, particularly mitten #20 and also mitten #18. You can find all the patterns from this book on Ravelry.



I seriously can't stop staring at this book. I'm daydreaming of making sweaters using some of the border patterns. It's totally inspiring and wonderful!

While I wait to buy the yarn for my holiday mitten projects, I am working on a scarf/necklet thingy for a friend (great story there, that will be an upcoming blog post), a toddler blanket ( another pesky UFO) and the second project for my Frida Kahlo series. Lots of fun fiber arts! And this weekend I get to visit an alpaca farm. Life is good!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Cookbook and a Recipe

My oldest daughter's 4th birthday is tomorrow, and one of her gifts is a sweater, knitted by me. I designed it and knitted it over the last two weeks with Blue Sky Alpacas Worsted Cotton, one of my all-time favorite yarns and my favorite yarn for kids' and baby stuff!


The main color is Bone, and the stripes are done in Caribbean, Azul and Orchid. I used about 2 and a half hanks of Bone, and obviously just a little of the contrast colors. I am so happy with how it turned out!

I chose bright colors for my daughter's bright, cheerful, creative personality. I knitted it top-down, in one piece, using Barbara Walker's brilliant top-down raglan cardigan template from Knitting from the Top, which I think may be the most important knitting book of all time.

It's like a knitting cookbook, except Barbara doesn't even necessarily give you recipes, she gives you a thorough understanding of all the ingredients so that you can develop your own wonderful recipes and confections. I wonder how many people she has turned into designers with this wonderful book.

I have recently thought about what it is that has given me the ability to design my own garments, something I never thought I'd be able to do when I first started knitting. If you want to design your own garments and accessories, too, here's what I recommend:

1) Knit a LOT of patterns. Knitting a lot of patterns for a wide variety of garments and accessories gave me a great foundation and taught me a wealth of techniques. Now that I can design my own stuff, I still knit a lot of patterns because I want to learn all there is to know, so I can apply it to my own designs.

2) Read Knitting Without Tears by Elizabeth Zimmermann, Knitting from the Top and Maggie Righetti's Sweater Design in Plain English. Reading these books has given me the knowledge that I need and the guts that I need to make my own designs.

3) Buy a few stitch dictionaries. These are invaluable for sparking creativity, and they are just plain fun to look at.

I will eventually pattern-ize this sweater, when I make a second one for my younger daughter later this year. For now, though, if you'd like to make your own, here's the recipe:

1) Barbara Walker's Knitting from the Top, specifically the chapter about raglan cardigans.

2) Blue Sky Alpacas Worsted Cotton. For a 4-year-old girl, I needed 2.5 hanks of the main color. (Sweater Design in Plain English has an excellent chapter about estimating yarn quantities.) The contrast color could be pretty much whatever you want. Spin the color wheel, have fun!

3) I used size 7 needles and my gauge was about 4 sts x 6 rows per inch. But if you're designing yours yourself, your gauge can be anything! Barbara Walker has you start with a gauge swatch, which is the foundation for everything. The number of stitches per inch that you get is the basis for all the rest of the math (and the math is easy, fear not).

I'm going to do a lot of posts in the future about how to free yourself from patterns and knit whatever you want. It's a wonderful feeling to not have to worry about making your gauge match a pattern or to keep anal-retentive track of where you are in a pattern, and to just knit a swatch and then let loose from there.

I wish there were more knitting books like Elizabeth Zimmermann's, Barbara Walker's and Maggie Righetti's, where the book isn't just a collection of patterns but rather a collection of jumping-off points, a manual for learning how to do something yourself, written in a friendly, encouraging, conversational, often hilarious tone. They are fun reads which give you the instructions for freeing yourself from instructions.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Modeling knits: Why are only the smallest sizes ever shown?

I'm a size 12. I'm not fat, but I'm not thin, either. I'm about average, I think. My bust is a bit above average, at a 38 D bra size, which makes my bust about 43 inches around.

When I first started knitting 6 years ago, there were a lot of patterns in books and magazines that I couldn't knit because the largest size had a 38 inch bust measurement (and I hadn't learned yet how to modify patterns). Now, somehow, the books and magazines have gotten a clue and almost every pattern goes at least up to my bust size and usually beyond, so I can make almost any sweater pattern without having to do the math and calculate the larger size myself.

Now that both Interweave Knits and Vogue Knitting have so many wonderfully inclusive patterns that will fit from a 30-inch bust (haha, not since about 4th grade for me...) to 60+, why are most of the garments in the magazines modeled on super-thin models, who wear the smallest size available for the pattern?

I have occasionally seen some larger models in Interweave Knits, and their models overall tend to be very normal and human-looking. Their models tend to look like women, not too thin. But it is extremely rare that I see a larger, even what you would estimate to be a size 12, model.



Pretty normal, happy-looking models. They are modeling garments with a 35.5-inch and a 33-inch bust size, respectively, which is the 2nd-smallest size for each pattern.

In Vogue Knitting, in which the current issue's patterns almost all accommodate extra small to extra large or larger sizes, however, I see much thinner-looking models. In contrast to the happy-looking, smiling models of Interweave Knits, in Vogue Knitting, we have angry-looking, very thin models:




I call that the "model-glower." They all seem to be thinking, "I hate you."

But I digress. Despite these patterns all being offered in larger sizes that fit me and much, much larger women, we see none of these sizes represented. It's all thin women. Why are none of the larger sizes represented?

In the case of fashion magazines like Vogue and Bazaar, I can understand the thin models. They're modeling couture, which designers only make in very small sample sizes. But in the case of knitting magazines, the designer or test knitter can knit up any of the sizes the patterns offer as a sample... that is, if the magazine employs models that will fit that size.

I recently knitted a sample sweater in my own size. I figure, I can wear it after the company is done with it, right? I can even model it for them and take photos to their specifications. It turns out that all sample garments must be knitted to fit their models, and thus must be made to fit a 30 to 32 inch bust.

That pissed me off. If you are going to offer the larger sizes in the patterns, and I am grateful that you do, why not take at least a small percentage of them and have them be modeled by women who wear the medium and larger sizes? We knitters are not all small and extra small, so why should we have to look at only small and extra small-size models modeling the garments? I would think that if medium and large and extra large size knitters can see how a garment might actually look on them, rather than on a size 0 model, that might help sell patterns and would prevent unhappy finished garments that look fine on a size 0 but not so much on a larger woman. That larger woman, who wasted money on a garment that worked on her body in theory but not in practice, is now pissed and a bit humiliated, and now might not buy the magazine or the book in the future, having had this unpleasant experience.

The sizes have become inclusive. How about making the models more inclusive as well? Just a few, maybe 10% or 25% of the garments in a book, in a magazine, or on a website, modeled in the medium and larger sizes offered in the patterns, would go along way towards making us knitters who are not size 0s or size 2s feel a lot more welcome.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The "Frida" Peasant Blouse

I am a huge Frida Kahlo fan. I adore her art and also her personal style. She was not only a fantastic, gifted artist, she was also a style icon, an aspect of her that is just now beginning to be appreciated.


When I saw the embroidery on this skirt of hers (above), I was captivated and my first thought was "stranded colorwork!" I thought and dreamed and came up with a colorwork chart that I thought approximated it, and this sweater design was born!


This peasant blouse sweater is a raglan, knitted top-down, in the round, in one piece. The ribbed neckband is knitted first, then the stitches are divided for the front, back and sleeves. The shape is extremely simple. In fact, there is no shaping at all, making this a great first stranded colorwork pattern or a first top-down pattern.

At the beginning and end of the stranded colorwork, there are four rows where you’ll be stranding all three colors, but for the bulk of it, you’re only stranding two. The colorwork is a simple, enjoyable, 8-stitch repeat.

The neck opening is made oversized, then pulled in as much or as little as you want after the sweater is finished using a twisted cord tie.

Being a peasant blouse, the sweater is designed with a lot of positive ease, and the three sizes available (S/M, L/XL and 1X/2X) accommodate a wide array of sizes (44, 55, 64 inch finished body circumference, respectively). The sweater shown in the pictures is an L/XL (55 inches around) modeled on an actual 43-inch bust.





This pattern is the first in a series of Frida Kahlo-inspired knitting patterns that I am working on. I've already begun knitting design number two, which will be out as soon as my busy life allows me to complete it. I hope you'll enjoy knitting the Frida Peasant Blouse as much as I did!

The Frida Peasant Blouse sweater pattern is available on Ravelry for $5.00.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Après-ski Headband/Earwarmer Pattern


“Après-ski” (French for "after skiing") is a lacy headband/earwarmer, knitted in super-soft, super-warm alpaca. I wanted to combine the best things about hats and earmuffs into one pretty accessory and I wanted something soft, warm and totally non-itchy. Blue Sky Alpacas Sport Weight was the obvious yarn choice, and as I envisioned the pattern, I knew it had to be lace. Lace might seem like an odd choice for a cold-weather outerwear accessory, but the alpaca yarn is so warm, you’ll never notice that this headband is slightly ventilated. The lace diamond pattern makes it delicate, pretty and chic, and the lovely dark red colorway provides a much-needed pop of color for dreary fall and winter days.

It’s knitted in one piece from one i-cord tie to the other, and requires just one hank of Blue Sky Alpacas Sportweight. A garter stitch border prevents rolling. This is also a very fast knit, making it great for holiday gift-giving! One size fits all.

Yarn: Blue Sky Alpacas Sportweight, 1 hank, 511 (red)

Needles: Size US 3 (3.25mm) dpns, Size US 3 (3.25mm) straight

Notions: tapestry needle for weaving in ends, stitch markers



Available for download from Ravelry for only $3.00.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Fall mags, handspun and another rejection letter

Ah, finally I get to blog. I hope to fit two or three blogs in this week, if I manage my time well enough. One of them will be another self-published pattern, which I submitted to a magazine a few months ago and for which I just got the rejection letter today. Once again, it took a loooong time to hear back. The design was not just rejected out of hand, someone took some time and thought about it. So that alone gives me encouragement.

That said, I'm going to stick to self-publishing for a while. I have a lot of ideas, and unless one happens to fit someone's editorial timeline so perfectly that I can't NOT submit, I'm going to just self-publish for a while, and if someone notices and asks me to do a design (a girl can dream) or something, awesome. Otherwise, I'm taking a break from submitting to the mags. The 3-5 month time period that you have to wait to hear back is frustrating, especially when after like 7 attempts I haven't gotten one in yet, and I could be selling those patterns myself that whole time. A little break to do exactly what I want and not have to worry about whether it fits the theme or whether my kids will be in college before I hear back will be nice.

That said, let's talk about the designs that DID make it into the mags!

My hands-down favorite of the three fall mags that I have is Cast On. It blew my mind! The focus this issue is mosaic knitting, and I want to knit quite a few patterns from this issue. I learned a lot about mosaic knitting from reading it, and there are some really stunning patterns. For instance, the lovely socks and the very intriguing "Grolse Wanten," the blue, white and red mittens that come from a Dutch mitten knitting tradition:


I am 1/4 Dutch, so I pretty much have to make the mittens. I just love them.

Interweave Knits also blew my mind with a great article on double-knitting and this gorgeous double-knit throw:


That looks like loads of fun and would look great draped over a sleeping husband or kid. :-)

I also have to make this beautiful shawl, knitted in Imperial Yarn Bulky 2 Strand Pencil Roving. Whoa! I can knit the shawl and spin the leftovers! And they're a Northwest yarn company, from Oregon. They raise the sheep that grow the wool on their ranch. So awesome! I'm glad to have found this company through finding this pattern. It's by Andrea Rangel, a Seattle designer, so it's local all-around!


After those two arrived, Vogue Knitting's fall issue came along, too and wow. I love the Fair Isle gloves on the cover. To use the yarn the pattern calls for, Schulana Cashmere Fino, would cost $100, though. Hahahahahaha. No. I will be using something else, if I make them.

The other pattern from Vogue Knitting that I really, really like is the #4 Oversize Nordic Pull, by the awesome Kristin Nicholas. GORGEOUS!


I love her colorwork. This sweater is so stunning. I don't know if I could pull it off in a graphic black and white like shown above, but I think it would work well on me in more neutral colors, or maybe even in crazy, bold colors. Who knows what I'll do with it?

This year there's definitely a good batch of fall magazines. That said, I do find it tiresome when issue after issue, year after year, certain magazines stick with the same designers who design with the same yarns, over and over. That gets boring. I like the magazines who change it up, who bring in new designers, magazines where you can tell it's not just yarn companies having their in-house designers submit designs that pimp their yarn, where they try out new yarns and new yarn companies.

Speaking of new yarn, I finished spinning and Navajo plied some of the merino that I dyed a while back. It was my first time Navajo plying, so there were a few times that I lost my rhythm and screwed up, which resulted in some unintentional lumps and boings, but who cares? It's art yarn. People charge a lot for handspun art yarn that has lumps and boings intentionally inserted into it! Here it is. I am in LOVE with it.


I don't know yet what I'm going to do with it, but I think it wants to be mittens, or part of mittens. There's about 90 yards of worsted to heavy worsted weight yarn here. Maybe big, crazy cuffs on black or cream (or another neutral color) mittens? I have it next to me as I write, to look at, pet and admire.

That's it for now, but the next day or two, I'll post my most recently-rejected pattern, a fall/winter accessory that takes just one skein of wonderful, wonderful Blue Sky Alpacas Sport Weight. Mmmm, alpaca.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Dreaming of Sheep

Poor blog, it's been more than a week again. I have so much knitting to do it's crazy, and I am working part-time from home again. This is good, I'll have money for fiber and yarn again! But it also means less time to blog and read my favorite knitting blogs. My two favorite bloggers haven't even posted since the last time I read, so apparently everyone is crazy-busy.

I'm working away on my self-designed sweater, halfway done with sleeve #2. Here I am trying on sleeve #1 and checking its length:


I love knitting top-down, in-the-round so much, I don't know when I'll be able to bring myself to knit a sweater in pieces again. It's fast, there's no purling, you can try it on as you knit, it's perfect.

I hope to have this sweater done by the end of this week and have the pattern done by the end of the following week. I also need to crochet a huge scarf, knit two sets of baby hats and mittens, and a knit a baby blanket. None of that is holiday knitting, by the way, which I am in denial about, but hell, it's only August.

The two sets of hats and mittens are actually from... *drumroll please*... my very first paid commission! I briefly had an Etsy shop last year but got no orders. Hardly even got any views. Then I took my kids to the farmer's market wearing the baby girl hats that I designed and people went nuts over them. One super-nice lady who bakes incredible bagels at the farmer's market said she'd like to commission some baby stuff sometime, and now it's happening! I'm so excited, and this has me working on re-launching my Etsy shop. That will be coming sometime in the next month or two. I've got a clear idea of what I want to do now, and I learned a lot from my previous Etsy shop's epic fail, so this time ought to go a whole lot better!

I still haven't gotten any alpaca fleece. I don't know what happened to the one lady I was talking to, but I serendipitously found a different lady who invited me to come out to her farm, buy Huacaya AND Suri alpaca fleece at a discount, and process it using her equipment. Dude! How incredible is that? I will be taking her up on that amazing offer as soon as possible. I can't wait to get my hands on the fiber and learn to process it!

Speaking of fleece, I recently read a wonderful book called The Knitter's Book of Wool by Clara Parkes, which I cannot recommend highly enough. It was recommended to me by the very knowledgeable and very nice Deborah Robson on Twitter. She really did me a favor recommending this book. It fell into my hands at just the right time, a time in which I'm thinking about knitting locally, getting my fiber locally, spinning most of my own yarn, or buying mostly local or at least American yarn. The book is fascinating. If you want to know how wool becomes yarn and about the different types of wool different sheep breeds produce, I highly recommend this book.

Through reading it, I found the Bluefaced Leicester Breeders Association, which breeds what is so far my favorite breed of sheep. Through that website, I found a local Bluefaced Leicester breeder and reserved 2 lbs of fleece after she shears them next month. I am beyond excited. Maybe next year I'll get a whole fleece, who knows.

Soon I also hope to visit a farm right in my suburb and get some Romney wool as well. I've never knitted or even touched Romney wool, but after reading The Knitter's Book of Wool, I'm very intrigued, and it's practically in my backyard. Can't beat that.

After I finished that book, I picked up an equally wonderful, delightful book called Living with Sheep by Chuck Wooster. I have dreamed of having a few alpacas and a few sheep ever since I started knitting, and I half-expected this book to cure me of that. I expected it to scare or intimidate me into no longer having this dream, but no, I want it now more than ever. I feel so contented and warm and fuzzy (downright woolly!) while reading this book. The idea of having a few of these beautiful animals of my own just makes me so happy. Someday when we have the land and it's time to get some sheep, I'm going to re-read this book, because it is an excellent primer in raising sheep. He tells you everything a new shepherd needs to know, in an extremely pleasant, unpretentious, conversational tone. He uses words like "poop" instead of manure, and I find that refreshing (OK, and funny, too. I'm 10.). Whether you want to raise sheep someday or not, this is a really fun, informative read and I highly recommend it.

With that, I'll sign off for this week, since there's a 3-year-old looking at me who wants to play. I'm so happy to have my first commission and to be nearly done with my first sweater pattern. And even though it takes precious knitting time away, I'm grateful to be working part-time from home again, because I haven't been able to buy yarn in I don't even know how long, and that sucks for a knitter! Hopefully this part-time job will give me the little bit of extra money I need to realize my dream of eventually making fiber arts my part-time job.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Colorsongs

I can't believe it's been over a week since I've blogged! It's been a crazy-busy couple of weeks. Such is the life of a work-at-home mom of two toddlers.

Amid all the chaos, I have gotten a lot of knitting done, thanks to my favorite art form being so portable. I'm finishing the heel flap on the second watermelon tourmaline sock and I've finished the bottom colorwork band on the body of the current self-designed sweater that I'm working on. Today I'll bind off the body and then hopefully I'll finish the sleeves next week, do the math on the pattern and post it! I'm not going to show many details until it's ready to go, but here's the back of the stranded colorwork:


Sigh... even the floats are pretty. For most of it, you're only stranding two colors, but while it transitions from solid black to colorwork and back, there are a few rows where you strand three colors. It's not too big of a bear to do, and I find it to be loads of fun.

The swatch for this sweater design was actually the first stranded colorwork I ever did. That was about 9 months ago and afterwards, I quickly became addicted and have since knitted many stranded items. This sweater can finally come to fruition now after a 9-month gestation period, and I'm so excited for it to be born!

I was intimidated by Fair Isle and stranded colorwork until I was inspired to make this design and thereby became absolutely determined to learn how to do it. Before I even attempted it, I did a lot of Googling and read two books that gave me the knowledge and the courage to try it. First, I read Alice Starmore's absolutely fantastic Book of Fair Isle Knitting. I highly recommend it to anyone at all interested in Fair Isle knitting or stranded colorwork. I learned an unbelievable amount of valuable information from this book and found the history of Fair Isle knitting touching, inspiring and fascinating. This is a wonderful book, which I've gotten out of the library twice now and will add to my home knitting library as soon as I have the spare cash to buy books again.

The second book that I bought and read before attempting stranded colorwork was Nanette Blanchard's Stranded Color Knitting. This one is a must-have, must-read on the subject. I found it indispensable, and after reading it, I felt 100% prepared to design my own stranded colorwork project with no prior experience. As a download, it's only $8.99, too, which completely rocks, given the superb quality of the information inside. This book will teach you everything you need to know about stranded colorwork.

The only thing I still find a bit challenging about stranded colorwork is getting my yarn tangled. I find it manageable when knitting with only two strands, but when I'm knitting with three strands, I often find that my working yarn looks like a friendship bracelet, it's so twisted together. It only takes me a minute to disentangle the yarn every few rows, and I'm sure I'll get better at this aspect with time. For now, I'm just so happy to be doing it, because it's opened up a whole new door of creativity. Damn near every recent design in my sketchbook and in the passion project that the sweater pictured above is a part of involves stranded colorwork to some degree.

Knitting itself is very relaxing for me, but stranded colorwork takes it to a whole new level. It requires a little more focus, and to keep track of the pattern as I'm knitting it, I do a little color-song in my head. "Red red, yellow yellow, red, yellow, red." It's bliss.

I haven't dyed anything in a couple weeks, but I am spinning some of the roving that I dyed. I've got nearly a bobbin full of it as of last weekend and hope to mostly fill another bobbin this weekend. I'll post a pic of that soon. My spinning skills are really coming along.

Tomorrow I hope to acquire some local alpaca fiber at the farmer's market, if they're there this week. I'll definitely post pics of that, if I do!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Knitting on the West Seattle Bridge

Last week, I dyed 3 four-ounce chunks of white merino roving. I dyed each using the jar dyeing method, which I've mentioned a lot (because I love it!). I currently only have 6 colors of dye (something I hope to remedy soon), so I'm kind of limited in how many colors I can dye currently, even with mixing, because I wasn't smart enough to get a set of primary colors. Ah, well. I love the results that I've had so far. Here's a four-ounce hunk of roving that I'm calling "Wildflower Riot!"


Those colors just make me happy, especially the cobalt blue. That's my favorite color.

I am spinning a similarly-dyed four-ounce hunk of merino roving, and it's spinning up wonderfully. The beauty of spinning from hand-dyed roving is you control the color changes. You can tear off some roving in whatever color you want and spin it right onto another color. You're not limited to the order in which the colors are dyed. Then you can decide if you want to ply it traditionally and how many plies you want, or you can decide to Navajo ply it and preserve the color changes. I'm not sure yet which route I'll go! I'll post pics when I've got a little more of it spun.

Right now, I've got the 80/20 merino silk that I mentioned going on my Cherub wheel and the dyed merino roving on my Ashford Joy. I have lately only had time to spin on the weekend, so I'm really looking forward to Friday night, when I plan to attack both of them a little more.

In knitting, I'm working on the body of the Knit Picks Capra sweater, and I'm almost ready to start on the stranded colorwork! Yay! I hope to get a good chunk of that done this weekend, too, while my husband is home and can assist if one of the kids really, really needs something midway through a colorwork row!

I'm also working on a sock, the second of the pair I'm knitting in Blue Moon Fiber Arts Mediumweight in the Watermelon Tourmaline colorway. These I've been working on mostly in the car lately.

I love car-knitting. I really, really love it. I get my husband to drive, I grab a sock-in-progress and off we go. It's the perfect thing for an agoraphobic like myself, who's freaked out by crazy big-city traffic. I grew up in Toledo, OH, a mid-sized city on Northwest Ohio. You can get across town in 20 minutes, at any time of day. When I moved to Seattle, I was TOTALLY overwhelmed by the size of it, its labyrinthine nature, and the notoriously awful traffic. We used to live in West Seattle, and I tell you, as much as I loved West Seattle, using the West Seattle Bridge to get into or out of West Seattle nearly drove me batshit. That thing gets the worst clogs and bottlenecks during rush hour with just normal traffic. Throw in an accident or a breakdown, and you can get stuck for hours. We had to go to West Seattle on Monday for a meeting, and of course, right as we got to the West Seattle Bridge, a semi broke down, blocking one lane. It was at 3:00, the beginning of rush hour, so this was a total clusterf$%k. We were the lucky ones... we inched along and made it past the broken down semi in about 20 minutes. On our way back home, that side of the bridge had been CLOSED while they moved the wreck. I shuddered as we drove past the seemingly endlessly backed-up traffic.

Being in heavy traffic like that, not moving, particularly being stuck on any kind of bridge, anywhere on the bridge FREAKS ME OUT. If I had not been knitting at the time, I would have had a panic attack. But nope, I just uttered the occasional swear word and focused on my knitting, stitching away and watching the pretty hand-dyed colors change as the soft, soothing merino slipped through my fingers.

I often say that if I were not addicted to knitting, I'd be addicted to something bad. I thoroughly believe this to be true. Knitting shuts my mind off, it's an all-consuming passion and it makes me happy. It also has no side effects, aside from the beautiful clothing and accessories that you get when you're done.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Whatever, Martha!

You might remember a couple posts back that I blogged about the... shall we say, TRYING time I had assembling the pattern pieces for the child's sun hat sewing pattern from the July issue of Martha Stewart Living.

Well, the fun was just beginning. Sunday, I sat down and actually tried to sew the fabric pieces that I'd cut out together and I discovered another problem. The side piece for the child's hat (the .pdf file for which prints out two identical copies of the pattern piece) is about 4 to 5 inches too long. Try to wrap the side piece around the crown piece and you'll see what I mean. I didn't realize this until I had already cut the fabric out and when I was pinning the pieces together to sew them, I had to hack 4 to 5 inches off of the side piece of each fabric.

The brim fit perfectly onto the cut-down side pieces, so the crown and brim are correct. It's only the side piece that's wrong... and you get two copies of it! Awesome!

While assembling and sewing this abominable pain in the ass of a pattern, I was reminded of the show starring Martha's daughter Alexis (who I find extremely likeable... I want to hang out with her!) from a few years ago called "Whatever, Martha!". I actually DVRed it when it was on. In it, Alexis Stewart and a friend named Jennifer showed old clips of Martha Stewart wearing questionable fashion choices and doing bizarre or regrettable craft projects. While the clips played, the two women made snarky comments and it was hysterical. I know Martha herself likely had absolutely nothing to do with this sewing pattern, but still, it was in her magazine, so WHATEVER, MARTHA! Please assemble a QA team to go over your magazine's sewing patterns in the future.

Anyway, the end result of all this confusion, swearing and general pain in my ass was worth it:


I made one for each kid and they turned out adorable. The inside fabric is pink. I haven't ironed the brims yet, so it looks a little floppy and boho at the moment.

Aside from sewing, I've been knitting on the black raglan sweater and dyeing fiber. Here's some merino roving I dyed yesterday morning. I didn't solar dye it, I dyed it on the stove. I just wanted to get a good pic of it in the sun.


I'll post a pic of it when it's dry. It's bright, cobalt blue, green, purple and vermillion. It's drying in the shower right now, looking like some kind of technicolor wool monster. I LOVE it and I think I'm going to turn it into a pair of socks!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Anachronistic holiday

I love long weekends. Even though I do a little bit of something creative every day, be it knitting, spinning, crocheting, dyeing, painting or sewing, I get a hell of a lot more done on the weekend when I have no reason to get up early and my husband is home and can help with the kids.

I've been knitting my ass off on a self-designed top-down raglan sweater, a design that was born 6 months ago but is just now coming to fruition. There will be beautiful stranded colorwork bands around the bottom of the body and sleeves, but right now, you can at least see the raglan seams. Raglan seams are so lovely. I love the way the stitches branch and branch and branch off of each increase:


The yarn is actually a deep, true black. It's Knit Picks Capra, 85% merino, 15% cashmere and to.die.for. It's soft in the skein, softer when knitted and still softer after being washed. The perfect choice for a luxurious sweater, which is what this will be.

Here's last weekend's spinning, some lovely merino which I got the feeling just wanted to be purple.


So here it is becoming purple!


Apparently I really like purple. Before my first daughter was born, I loaded up on spinning fiber, believing (correctly!) that I would not have money for such things for a while. So in my Happy Cabinet in our spare bedroom, 14 oz. of lovely, lovely, purple/blue/gray/gold/white 80% merino/20% silk spinning fiber has been sitting and waiting for me to spin it. The last two nights, I've spun some. The singles are about fingering weight, which is what I wanted. I want about a worsted weight when I ply it.


So, so pretty. Back when I started spinning 4 years ago, I had some of the same fiber and five other colors of 80/20 merino and silk roving that I spun and knitted into a shawl, which is now my favorite shawl. I bought the roving with the plan to spin it and make this shawl with it. Here it is, on my knitwear model bench:


And a detail view:


After I spun it and knitted it, I promptly took it to work, to my gray, bleak cubicle, where it was freezing in the winter and overly air-conditioned in the summer, both to keep myself warm and to serve as a reminder to myself of who I really was and what I really cared about while I toiled at my pointless, soul-sucking corporate job. It worked. It made me happy every time I put it on.

That's sort of why I started knitting and spinning in the first place. It was a creative outlet and also a cry from deep within me for a simpler, quieter life. I couldn't stand the corporate world. I was not at all cut out for it and in hindsight, I have no idea why I, a very square peg, ever tried to cram myself into the round hole that is corporate America. In college I double-majored in Spanish and German and focused on Latin American and German literature. I dreamed of becoming a writer. And then I graduated in the dot-com boom and went into the software industry. Um... WTF?

The frustration and utter lack of fulfillment I experienced during that post-college decade were ultimately valuable because they served to teach me who I really am and what I really care about, so I'm glad I spent that time in that miserable cubicle surrounded by (with the exception of my friends) the living dead.

Now I'm surrounded by inspiration and determined to do what I'm really meant to do, which is care for my family and CREATE! Here's some inspiration that I found outside my bedroom window today. These are some very, very ambitious roses! We cut them way down last fall and after a brutal winter and an equally brutal spring, just look at them. They're flirting with the roof, reaching as high as they can! I'm going to do the same.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Sewing dischord

When I saw this adorable sun hat pattern in the July 2011 issue of Martha Stewart Living, I immediately went and printed out the pattern because earlier that day, I decided that my kids need new sun hats. The ones they had last year fit, but just barely and I have the perfect fabric for this project.

Today I cut out the pattern pieces and while putting them together, I got very confused. The first source of confusion is that the .pdf of the side piece of the child's hat contains two copies of the pattern pieces. You only need one. I figured that out fairly quickly. Then came the real confusion. The pattern pieces for the brim of the child's hat look like this after you cut them out:


Um... how exactly the bleep does that turn into the brim of a hat? I looked up the comments for this pattern on marthastewart.com and discovered that I was not the only one who was confused, so I decided to blog about it. Here's how the pieces go together. The key is that they OVERLAP. I figured this out after much turning them every which way and swearing. First, put these two big pieces together:



Then things start to make sense and you can start overlapping more pieces, lining up the lines:


Here it is all put together:


Et voila, the hat pieces all together, as shown in the article and in the pattern overview:


I hope this saves someone some time, confusion, frustration and swearing. Some of the pieces for the brim are just superfluous and you don't need to tape them on. You'll see what I mean when you start taping them together. Pinning 3-layers of printer paper to fabric is not going to be any fun, but the pattern is cute, free and looks simple to sew. In fact, I expect the sewing to be a hell of a lot easier than assembling the pattern, which needs some QA. The second side piece should be removed from the child's hat side .pdf and the brim could be simplified into a lot fewer pieces.

What have I been doing aside from putting together sewing pattern puzzles? I finished my husband's scarf:


It's single crochet, two manly colors of Cascade 220 Superwash. He loves it. Hooray!

I've also been spinning, and in the last week, my spinning skills have greatly improved. I still have to tear the roving into thin strips and then draft and spin from there, but the singles I'm spinning are now getting to be consistent, and the weight that I want. A key thing for me to remember has been that fine fiber (like the pile of merino roving I have) wants to be spun fine. Spinning about fingering-weight singles has been easy. Now to ply it and dye it! Pics when it's plied.