Monday, May 30, 2011

You spin me right round

Yes, a quote from a Dead or Alive song to talk about spinning yarn! I spun last night for the first time since becoming a mom. It's been nearly 4 years since I've used either of my spinning wheels. Lately I've been dying to get back to spinning, so a couple weeks ago I oiled my main wheel, a Cherub (a wonderful wheel from New Zealand that I don't think is produced anymore) and got it all ready to go. Then I set about finding all of my spinning stuff. Lazy Kate, bobbins, niddy-noddy, spinning fiber. I found it all and finally last night, I sat down and spun a bobbin full of Blue Faced Leicester (yummmmmmmmmmmmm) to match one that I spun years ago. I was so happy to have found the remaining BFL in a box in the garage. Now later today I'm going to ply it, and despite its lovely cream color, I'm going to dye it a deep red.

I was terribly out of practice and overtwisted it a bit, but whatever. It'll mostly even out when I ply it, and it's handspun, right?

I am not a great spinner even when in practice. I have a lot to learn. Last summer at the farmer's market, I saw a woman spinning alpaca roving and she was drafting the fiber so effortlessly right from the big, thick roving. I can't do that yet. I have to tear it into thinner strips and then I draft from that. I hope I see that lady at the farmer's market again. She sells alpaca fleeces, for one thing, and I totally want to ask her to teach me how to spin as awesomely as she does.

I hope to ply it later and dye it tonight or tomorrow night. I plan to use my favorite dyeing technique, Rita Nauman's brilliant Jar Dyeing technique. It's so easy and not at all messy.

Aside from spinning, I made some progress on my Rose Lace Stole. Here it is, 25 rows in.

Not the best picture, but you get the idea. The Lanas Puras Melosa Laceweight is knitting up so nicely! It's super-soft, yet strong. This is the first time I've ever knitted with laceweight yarn, and I have to tell you, I'm glad that I did a few lace projects with thicker yarn first so I could get a feel for how lace works before attempting to knit with laceweight.

I am loving it and I'm totally addicted to lace. I foresee many laceweight projects in my future. Next will probably be the lovely Cold Mountain stole from Knitty. I have some Misti Alpaca Lace that would be perfect for it! After that, I am thinking Rock Island. That one is unbelievably beautiful and irresistable.

Cold Mountain wasn't even on my radar until I got the latest Jimmy Beans Wool catalog on Saturday. Oh. My. God. They are brilliant over there at Jimmy Beans Wool. This is the prettiest catalog I've ever seen. Cold Mountain is featured on the cover and the entire catalog is all about hand-dyed yarn. It features Lorna's Laces, madelinetosh and Misti Alpaca. It's a remarkably effective catalog, because there are now several new yarns I want to try, particularly madelinetosh, since I have never tried any of their yarns.

Also in my mailbox this weekend is the Early Fall 2011 issue of Vogue Knitting. LOTS of great patterns in here and lots of inspiration. Several things went into my Ravelry queue, such as this cowl AND this sweater:

I have not yet made a cowl. I didn't like them at first, but this is now the second one that I want to make. The yarn called for in the pattern is, extremely oddly, discontinued. That must have happened recently for it to be used in this issue. No problem, I wouldn't have used that yarn anyway. I'm probably going to double-strand my favorite Blue Sky Alpacas Sportweight.

I also really like the simple sweater in the above photo. It calls for Bergere de France Origin Bambou, but that's one of those yarns that I hate, which has only 87 yards per ball. Looks like it goes for about $11 per ball. $11 for 87 yards. That is ridiculous, unless it contains gold. I hate patterns that call for 20 balls of some yarn that has only 80 or 50 yards per ball and costs an arm and a leg for that pathetically small amount of yardage. No, I will not be using Bergere de France for this pattern. I plan to make it with the lovely, soft, affordable Lion Brand LB Collection Cotton Bamboo. At $7 per ball and 245 yards per ball (which is how it should be!), it'll cost me less than $30 to make the size I want.

I love yarn manufacturers like Cascade and Brown Sheep, who create wonderful, high-quality yarns with tons of yardage per ball, and do not charge an arm and a leg for them. I'm always going to reach for a yarn like that instead of an 87-yard ball that costs more than a nice lunch!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Provisionally ready

Know how much I have done of the Rose Lace Stole? This much:

That's it. A provisional cast-on in mercerized cotton. I didn't even do the provisional cast-on called for in the pattern. I did a crochet chain provisional cast-on, because the one called for in the pattern boggled my mind, and I was afraid of screwing it up and then not being able to take it out after I'd knit hour upon hour of lace in laceweight merino. I see no reason why this crochet chain provisional cast-on shouldn't work, but I will of course let you know if it ends up biting me in the ass.

This Saturday night will be dedicated solely to knitting the Rose Lace Stole. Saturday night is when I focus on my me-knitting. Quite a rockin' way to spend a Saturday night, I know. I'm so cool.

I also hope to spin tomorrow night. I wanted to last weekend, but those plans, like my Rose Lace Stole, were derailed by two sick kids. Said kids are now all better, so hopefully mommy will get some me-knitting time this weekend!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Banana Leaf Capelet

Inspired by the banana plant that spends the summer in our backyard and the fall, winter and spring in our dining room, I give you the Banana Leaf Capelet!

Each leaf is knitted separately, then seamed using Maie Landra's brilliant "two needles and a crochet hook" seaming technique. Ties adorned with tiny leaves connect to applied i-cord along the top of the leaves. The pattern calls for two glorious hanks of Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks That Rock Mediumweight, one of my most favorite yarns. Knitting each leaf separately, knitting applied i-cord across the top and seaming the leaves with the aforementioned technique gets the beautiful hand-dyed yarn going in three different directions, maximizing its beauty effortlessly.

I had loads of fun designing this and knitting it, and I hope you enjoy knitting it, too! The pattern is available on Ravelry for $6.

A lost week, and I love surprises!

Both my kids were sick all of last week and the weekend that preceded and followed it. That royally sucked. It was so intense, I forgot what the hell I was doing before they got sick! Yesterday I remembered. I was going to post the Banana Leaf Shawl to Ravelry! I hope to put it up there today.

I was delighted to see Knitty's "Surprises" for the Spring + Summer 2011 issue come up today. Two of my favorite designers are featured! Wendy Bernard has an adorable felted ukulele cover (yep!) and Ann Weaver has an amazing, gorgeous cardigan called She's Electric, knitted in Lorna's Laces Shepherd Worsted. It's so beautiful, and I love the waistband. I also love her color choices. It's rare that I knit a pattern in both the yarn and color shown in the sample, but this is one case where I probably will. I just love it.

Ann Weaver is awesome. I love her designs and her style. Why have her two most recent designs in Knitty been "Surprises," which don't get published until it's nearly time for the next issue to come out? Why aren't they headliners or cover patterns that we get as soon as the new issue of Knitty is published? The gorgeous "Oranje" was a "Surprise," too. I hope her next stroke of genius is published in the first batch of patterns and we don't have to wait till the "Surprises" come to see it and knit it.

And now, to self-publish my most recently-rejected pattern. I'm still waiting to hear on one design and I'm going to submit one of my rejected designs to a different publisher, in hopes of resurrecting it. I will of course blog all about it, as always!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The agony of defeat

I was really optimistic about one of my designs making it into a magazine, because it was less than two weeks before the issue's release date, and I hadn't heard anything. The submission guidelines say to e-mail if you haven't heard anything within 2 weeks of the release date, so I did.

Unfortunately, what I found out is that my design didn't make it in. However, the editor was very kind and encouraging in her personal rejection letter. Much like the very encouraging rejection letter I got from the editor of a different magazine several months ago, she had some very nice things to say about the design, said she liked my style, and said she hopes I'll submit more designs in the future.

Gentle as it was, this rejection was quite a blow, as I'd stupidly gotten my hopes up because it was so close to the release date and I hadn't heard anything. I am usually pretty good about not getting my hopes up, but this time I allowed my hopes to get away from me a bit. I wanted to cry, but I just took the kind, encouraging words to heart, wrote a reply thanking her for the personal note and went and got myself a beer.

Maybe I'll cry later. Maybe I'll have another beer later. For now, here's a preview of the pattern, which I'll be releasing on Ravelry this weekend. The Banana Leaf Capelet, knitted in Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks That Rock Mediumweight, in the Lemongrass colorway:

There it is on the knitwear model tree. I don't know what I'll do when we move someday. I'll have to bring that tree with me.

On my favorite bench...

On me!

And a detail view of the pretty, leaf-adorned ties:

Also this weekend, I'll be finishing and submitting a new pattern to this very same publication. Giving up just is not in me. I adore writing, knitting and painting. I live to do all three. I couldn't stop creating if I wanted to, and I'm determined to make one or all of them my career. So onward I go, with a few tears and a few beers.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Let the lace begin!

Or rather, let the lace continue. I went stash-diving today and brought up from the depths this beautiful ball of Lanas Puras Melosa Laceweight in Desert Bloom.

Sooo lovely, and absolutely perfect for the Rose Lace Stole, which I'm going to swatch for today!

This one will take me a while, which is fine. I'll be working on other projects while working on it, mostly my own designs. I just finished and blocked another design and even got some photos taken of it. I'll be sending it off this Saturday. Very exciting! It's a lacy alpaca headband/earwarmer for a magazine's fall issue. I hope it gets accepted!

I also need to get back to my poor March socks, which are now April May socks. Pathetic. I think once I finish this pair, which is knitted in self-striping yarn that is boring the hell out of me, I'll get back on track with my sadly lapsed Self-Imposed Sock of the Month Club. I'm going to stick to hand-dyed yarn for the next several pairs. Hand-dyed yarn holds my attention like nothing else. "Oooo, what is it going to do next??"

The latest Knit Picks catalog arrived today, and yummmmmmmm. It actually inspired a few new designs, which I jotted into my sketchbook and there are also a couple patterns in it that are going into my Ravelry queue. You know how much I love striping color-transitioning yarn... so imagine my delight when I saw this beauty. The Shift Tote:

Chroma is a delight to knit with. Super-soft and the color transitions are to die for!

Also from the catalog are these totally adorable slippers:

Beautiful and perfect to keep the chill off your toes when your husband cranks up the air conditioning this summer! Now, back to sketching and swatching while both kids are still napping.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Colorspike! Crochet Scarf Pattern Available Now!

Now available on Ravelry is my new Colorspike! crochet scarf pattern. It's a long (8 feet, to be exact), dramatic, wrappable scarf, crocheted in lovely, soft Lion Brand LB Collection Cotton Bamboo. The fiber content makes it perfect for wool-allergic people and also makes it great for more than one season!

The bulk of the scarf is crocheted in simple, meditative single crochet, making it perfect for crocheting in front of the TV or for crochet-as-therapy. Each color spikes into the next using simple, fun spike stitch in staggered intervals. This creates a color lifeline from one color to the next and creates a gentle wavy effect that makes the scarf look a lot more complicated than it is. It's simple enough to be a great first crochet pattern, particularly for a knitter who wants to give crochet a try!

I was inspired to create this scarf in the dead of winter, which is one horrible, drab shade of gray here in the Seattle area. This scarf will inject some color into your life!

It's available for purchase for $4:

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Interweave Knits Summer 2011 - A much-needed taste of summer

I can't believe summer starts next month. Spring never happened here in the Seattle area. It has been one endless winter, during which the sun has refused to shine. I'm pretty sure the sun might actually be gone.

Interweave Knits Summer 2011 issue made me feel a little bit better. I read through it twice after I got my baby down for her nap on Saturday and delved into it a bit deeper on Sunday. What a gorgeous issue, with so many things I want to knit!

In no particular order,the Swirl Skirt. Oh my God, the Swirl Skirt...

I had already been daydreaming about knitting Lanesplitter, a somewhat similar skirt. Now I guess I'll be knitting two skirts this year. I have never knitted a skirt, and don't currently have any skirts that I like. All of my nicest clothing is stuff I've knitted or sewed myself, so I'm thinking I'll make these two skirts for my birthday this year, and then I'll have two skirts that I like!

Aside from that stunning skirt, this issue is loaded with lace. To the Ravelry queue goes the Bistro Lace Stole by Daniela Nii, which is just so cool and innovative. It looks like crochet, but it's knitted! Beautiful and inspiring.

Also by Daniela Nii in this issue is the Pebble and Reed Tunic, another gorgeous, lacey sweater. I love tunics, and this one would be gorgeous with jeans or dressed up.

Aside from many great patterns, this issue has an awesome article on designing your own lace motifs, which just happened to have perfect timing for me. I needed just such an article to help me figure out something for one of my own designs. Accompanying the article is the Baby Elephant Vest pattern, which is just adorable, and which both of my daughters would love.

I'm not even done reading this issue yet. Interweave Knits and Vogue Knitting go beside my bed where I pore over them until I've exhausted every bit of knitterly goodness from them. Then they go in my knitting cabinet, filed away for future reference and for when I get around to knitting the patterns that I like.

I'm still working on my log cabin baby blanket and the headband/earwarmer pattern that I mentioned last post. Both are going swimmingly.

I may be swimming soon, if it doesn't stop @#$%^&*!! raining. The sun just won't come out, so I'm going a bit crazy and painting my own sun. I'll post it here when it's done!

Monday, May 9, 2011


The Prism Pullover is done and blocking!

It was loads of fun to knit. I was looking for something different, for a bit of a challenge, and I got it. I love the result.

One thing this sweater reminded me of, though, is how much I hate seaming. I knew there'd be six pieces to seam when I initially saw the pattern and decided I had to knit it. What I didn't remember was how much seaming sucks.

I spent two and a half hours seaming it on Saturday, while my 17-month-old napped and my husband watched my 3-year-old. The seams are fairly short in this sweater, due to the unusual shape of the pieces, so the first half went fairly fast and wasn't too painful. The second half, though, I got kind of bored and hurried a bit on one of the seams and got it all finished only to realize that I hadn't lined the pieces up correctly and had to rip it out and start over.

I also did the ribbing twice on one of the sleeves. I went against my own rule of ignoring the number of stitches that the pattern says to pick up and instead picking up whatever looks and feels right. I picked up the number of stitches that the pattern says to and the sleeve opening was too narrow and I could hardly get my arm through it. So, I ripped it out and redid it. Saturday night I finished the armbands and yesterday evening I finished the neckband.

You'll notice the sleeve on the right side of the picture is off a bit, slightly misaligned. I noticed this when laying it out to block this morning. Am I going to rip it out and redo the seam? Hell no, I'm not. You won't be able to tell it's off when I'm wearing it. The front of the sweater will be distorted by my ample chest, so I figure if anyone does notice that the one half is off a bit, they were staring too hard where they shouldn't have been anyway.

Before I start the Rose Lace Stole, I'm making a little log cabin blanket for my daughters, which I have had in my head forever and the yarn for which I've had for over two years. It's Lion Brand Nature's Choice Organic Cotton. Nice and soft, but it definitely doesn't compare to Blue Sky Alpacas Worsted Cotton... I don't like the sewing thread-like binder, and if the binder breaks, the yarn pulls apart as if it were made of cotton balls. Nonetheless, it will make a nice blanket, which is a lot of fun to knit because I'm improvising it as I go along.

I have dreams of one day doing a crazy-luxe Koigu KPPPM log cabin blanket for my king-size bed. That will have to wait for a day when I have considerably more disposable cash!

In designing news, I have yet to hear about the two knitting designs that I submitted to two knitting magazines a couple months ago, so they're at least being considered. While I wait, I'm designing another, a headband/earwarmer for winter. Yes, summer hasn't even arrived and already I'm thinking of next winter. I am a knitter, after all, and I live in the Seattle area, where this cold, gray spring makes it seem like winter has yet to end!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Koigu Magazine Spring 2011 review!

For years, Koigu KPPPM has been one of my favorite yarns and Maie Landra's book, Knits from a Painter's Palette has been a great source of inspiration for me. The colors and textures she creates in her designs are mind-blowing. They're nothing short of art, and wonderful art at that. To create totally unique garments, she uses innovative techniques such as mitered squares and joining seams with two needles and a crochet hook, one of my personal favorite techniques and one that I just used in a design of my own.

I have used Koigu KPPPM for baby blankets, using the famous Big, Bad Baby Blanket pattern from Stitch n' Bitch to make blankets for each of my daughters. They were each wrapped in Koigu moments after being born. I wouldn't trust just any yarn for my babies' first blanket. It has to be the best, the softest and the most beautiful, so it has to be Koigu. Here's my second daughter, wrapped in her Big, Bad Baby Blanket a few hours after being born:

Since I've drawn such inspiration from Knits from a Painter's Palette and I've held Koigu yarns in such high esteem for so long, I was ecstatic when I found out that they were coming out with a magazine! Koigu Magazine's Spring 2011 issue just arrived earlier this week, and I love it as much as I love Knits from a Painter's Palette. Like the book, the magazine is full of gorgeous designs in Maie Landra's typically ingenious style. The Allegra dress jumped out at me immediately as an absolute must-knit! Not only is it gorgeous, it looks like it would be absolute loads of fun to knit. The Tumble Leaves shawl is next on my list. A fairly simple lace pattern looks sumptuous in KPPPM!

The magazine contains patterns by other designers as well, and it contains CROCHET patterns, too! As someone who knits and crochets and loves both, this is awesome. There are a couple garments, some accessories and an adorable blanket in crochet named "Comfy Cozy." That name is definitely appropriate!

I wish I could include pictures in my post, but I can't find any of the patterns from Koigu Magazine on Ravelry yet, and I can't find any pictures in Google images that wouldn't require filching from someone else's blog. Once pictures start appearing in other places, I'll come back and add them to this post.

While I was typing this, my mom called, having just received the coin purse that I sent her for Mother's Day (see post below this one). She was delighted, totally loves it and wanted to know what stitch I used and how the heck I had time to do it. Gotta hand it to good old single crochet! It's easy, it's fast as hell and it looks really impressive when you use a beautiful yarn like the unfortunately discontinued Noro Daria Multi. Maybe next I'll make her something with Koigu!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Mother's Day

I usually make something for my mom for Mother's Day. No, not macaroni art or crayon drawings. I usually knit, crochet or paint something. This year crochet won, and using the wonderful, unique Noro Daria Multi that I've talked a lot about, I crocheted this cute coin purse for her.

I love the look of single crochet. Plain old single crochet. It is such a beautiful stitch, especially at a tight gauge like this. I knew this gorgeous yarn would really look amazing in single crochet, so I decided to use it to make this coin purse. Using a D-3 (3.25 mm) hook, considerably smaller than the recommended needle/hook size, I chained 16, then single crocheted until it was as big as I wanted. Then I decreased one stitch at the beginning and end of each row until the flap was the way I wanted it. It's pretty much the same shape as my Striped Kureyon E-Reader Cover. Here it is before I sewed the seams.

It took me about an hour and a half to make, that's the best part. You can't beat crochet for working things up quickly!

This tiny project provided a nice break from the Prism Pullover. I have all but one sleeve-half done, and I hope to complete that by mid-week. Maybe I'll even be able to wear it this weekend!

The June/July issue of Knitting Today! arrived on the weekend and wow... this issue is even better than the last one, which was a big improvement over the first few. This issue and the April/May issue are so much better and so totally different than the previous three issues, it makes me wonder what happened! What changed? Are the first few issues so horrible because they tried to rush the magazine out before it was ready, to make it out in time for the holidays or something? I think they should just burn all remaining copies of the first three issues and forget they ever happened. They should definitely keep going the way they are now, because now it's a good magazine! So good that one pattern from the June/July issue is going into my Ravelry queue!

The Plumage Shawl is so simple and so pretty and the perfect project for the whole bag of Knit Picks Merino Style that I bought for an aborted project about 6 years ago. It just happens to be in a purple colorway, too!

Next, though, is still the Rose Lace Stole that I am dying to start knitting. That and several more designs of my own.

Next post will be about the glorious thing that arrived in my mailbox today... the first issue of Koigu Magazine! It totally, totally exceeded my already lofty expectations!