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.