Archive for the ‘designing’ Category

get ready for weather

Sunday, January 25th, 2015

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with this week just hours underway, we are already bracing for heavy snow and blizzard conditions that will bring up to twenty four inches of snow to our eastern seaboard states. sounds like we’ll be needing a good knitting project to cuddle up with. laura cast on this woodcutter’s toque in a sample skein of chebris worsted (coming in february!!) that we are all drooling over.

she swears by this project as the ideal blizzard knitting, as it was immediately addictive and impossible to put down—so be sure to get changed into those jammies before you cast on.

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working this hat IS a lot of fun and i can attest that the result is a hit with david at least—two of the originals appear frequently in his rotation of favorite hats and when he wears one, he draws a lot of interested queries about it.

there is really but one choice to make as the first flakes begin to fly and the first DVD of your marathon movie series clicks into place—whether to complete a healthy chunk on a big WIP or to cast on new and useful accessory that you can actually wear, once you emerge into the world again.

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emily is all set, now that her knitting has hit its stride; she has a high peaks hat on the needles in kent worsted (it’s possible that she’s actually knitting a hot waffles cap; i’m doubting my memory now).

hat or mitten projects have several advantages—the patterns are are easily purchased and downloaded without leaving the house, almost every knitter has a suitable yarn on hand to make one, they are interesting but still allow you to watch TV, and they are quickly finished up so that you can wear them to shovel the snow or play in the park afterward.

barb was kind of making fun of me the other night when i brought a pile of swatches to our knit night (wednesdays, 6:30 to 8:30). she remarked that i could have just knit from an existing sweater pattern in the time it took to knit all those swatches and come up with a new project.

tell me about it, sherlock. do you really think i do this to break speed records?

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but now, with a nice number of projects planned and swatched out in advanced (there WAS a method to my madness, heh), i have my pick of what i could nestle in with for winter storm knitting (especially since i have a yarn shop in my back yard—which granted, is unusual).

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in fact i have swatches everywhere right now. but the strongest contender for my attention is a new pullover with a cable pattern that i love knitting. i chose kent DK, a soft springy merino/romney blend which i haven’t knit with nearly enough—and i’ve had my eye on the kelp shade for a sweater for ME since it came in last year.

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last week, i swatched my fabric every which way to prepare—both the cable panel detail and in stockinette, washed, unwashed, AND in the round.  i used information from all these pieces to work out the pattern draft (though i’m not working any part of my prototype in the round, i may see if we can produce a pattern for both versions).

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the cable (from barbara walker’s second treasury) is so cool and so fun to work. it’s actually not a real cable at all, but a large twist stitch pattern that shreds into ribs and comes back together again, over and over. the fabric it makes is not bulky or heavy because there is never a place where all the stitch cross over each other. so it has the appearance of a complex, heavily cabled fabric, but is actually quite light and breathable across its whole surface.

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i cast on my first sleeve last monday evening. our kent shades come in several families, but the kelp stands out a bit as unique in that it is a warm, caramel with gold—almost green—highlights. as each batch of our yarn will vary with whatever the wool crop brings that season, when i see something that stands out to me, i make sure we save out a sweater’s worth for a sample.

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well, this is one project i love in every way—the colors in the wool are entrancing, the cable is addicting, and in DK weight on (what i consider to be) bigger needles, it’s flying along. by thursday morning i already had a good bit knit.

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that piece was off the needles and folded up by friday, when i launched right into the second sleeve.

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i really needed project like this—one that i don’t have to worry about getting done for a deadline or meeting anyone else’s expectations. i mean, i DO plan to publish the pattern, but what drives the design and the choices i’m making is purely personal—which feels great right now; very freeing.

by the way, it’s not unusual for sweater pieces to look like writhing sea creatures as they come off the needles, or for them to be the wrong size and shape entirely. if you are new to sweater knitting or still contemplating whether you want to try, know that these homely pieces will eventually be transformed by blocking and that you will be witness to absolute magic when it happens.

so, i have my sweater to work on. oh and look—the snow is growing heavier as i write this (can you hear me grinning?).

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now don’t forget to cook up a big pot or casserole of something warm, easy to heat up, and filling—that way family members can help themselves and leave you alone to knit. last night after dinner i put on a pot of my grandma’s lentil soup—which is vegan by the way, using just the few ingredients you see here, plus some tomatoes and later, spinach. it took just a little while to prep and then i sat to knit while it bubbled.

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of  course, i always have my little sock to work on should i need a break from the sweater, or something portable to work on in the kitchen while fixing a meal. i really love the way this is turning out—with such warm, tweedy goodness, i’m really hoping for great wearability as well.

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though i did have a moment the other night when i had to kick myself for a stupid mistake i’d made. i had knit the heel flap and put it aside for later. that evening i pack it in my purse to take to a meeting. i merrily knit away around and around while people talked and presented. several rounds into the gusset shaping, i realized something was amiss—my heel looked awfully wide. groan—i’d forgotten to do the short row shaping to turn the darn heel. r-i-i-i-p-p-pp

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better now and easily fixed. this stone soup fingering yarn takes a ripping and reknitting really well; hopefully that says something positive about its durability. BTW, if anyone out there has already been knitting and wearing socks from this yarn, we’d love to hear some feedback.

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now that should be plenty to get me through one (oh heck, even TWO) snow storms. but i will always be that knitter who needs to be overly armed and prepared for any eventuality. i’d rather carry a couple of extra projects that i’ve no hope of getting to, than find myself stuck someplace (even at home!) with nothing to keep my hands busy. that’s just me; i’m sure none of you have any experience at all with such an issue.

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anyway when this new, medium gray (AKA tide pool) shade of kent DK arrived last week, i leapt on it. i got a bee in my bonnet that david would look adorable in a natty cap knit from one of our yarns.

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david’s got a couple of older hats that have really seen better days—like slöfock, one of his favorites. but the colors are fading and the fabric is pilling after several years of constant use; time for something fresh. the natty cap has a similar brim texture and body shape; i think he’ll like it.

i really waffled between this new kent shade and some shade of stone soup DK. but then i realized it would knit up quickly and i could make a second one—maybe for me—in stone soup.

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so last evening while i was cooking that pot of soup, i cast on.

holy cow—is this ever squishy; i love it. the pattern doesn’t include a size to fit his head (i guess i always thought of it as a girly design before), but it was easy to size up from what is included. plus, since this yarn has more body than the original yarn, i was able to used needles one size bigger all around and that helped get me to the size i needed—big.

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the texture of this design is a bit subtle, so it relies on a yarn that offers good stitch definition, which kent delivers. it also relies on fiber that softens nicely so that the hat body slumps in just the right way and kent does that too. with a couple of our natural material buttons added at the closure, it’s going to be quite good looking i think.

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and the soup turned out yummy; we’ll probably have some for dinner tonight.

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of course i cooked enough for an army, but this soup freezes very well and there’s a rumor going around that we might have company from pittsburgh coming to take a class sometime next week or the week after.

and as i said before, i like to be prepared.

oh, where does the time go?

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

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boy oh boy, one minute i’m running around after my little friend helena, who stands barely up to my shoulders but is basking in the glow of her first modeling assignment.

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and the next thing i know she’s playing sexy secretary in my office, with an arsenal of looks and characters she’s portrayed in dozens of our photo shoots since.

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today she turns eighteen—how time flies (hehe, i’m sure kris and jeff are thinking the same thing!).

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from her very first session modeling pine and ivy, she’s always styled her own outfits, with just the right sense of what was needed.

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though one or two may not have been her dad’s favorite (sorry jeff!).

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at age thirteen, she did create a stunning look for our crossing mitts release, in a swirl of vintage silk and chiffon ruffles—like a christmas fairy.

still one of my all-time favorite photo shoots.

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there was crooked walking shawl the next spring and

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sheltie triangle with the apples in clover tam

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and hazeline with her beautiful mom and my dear friend, kris.

she’s got a real way with hats, too—a designer’s dream come true.

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but mostly, she’s been a great kid, one of my favorites and i know she’s going to be a great woman, too.

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on sunday, several special guests were invited to helena’s birthday fête—an afternoon tea party at her home.

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we were enthusiastically greeted by our hostess katherine delores (k.d.), who let it be known that there is but one fairy princess in this house—thank you very much—and that is herself.

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platters of scrumptious hor d’ourves were laid out on the table—not only did they look beautiful, but we soon discovered they were divinely delicious as well.

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the table was literally a work of art—a bit of spring blooming inside the house on a winter’s day.

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(i think k.d.’s personal designer must have done the napkin folding, however; those little paws are probably better suited to other tasks, such as dancing)

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beckie and i had been there just a few minutes when the rest of the guests arrived—three little red-headed girls who were as charming as could be—of course they were friends of helena’s.

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after we all had a close look at the new dollhouse that helena and her dad recently finished building (i think they’ve been working on it for two years), we all sat down to the table.

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while the daylight turned to twilight, we nibbled on delectable foods and watched helena open her gifts.

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k.d. stayed behind the scenes and made sure that every detail was attended to with graceful precision.

it was much too dark to take photos of the cake cutting, but be assured that it was irresistibly good.

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happy, HAPPY birthday, dear helena; thank you for sharing the loveliness of your youth with us and the goodness that you carry out into the world; we love you!

 

notes from a snowstorm

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

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mid morning snow begins falling like we’re holding a christmas card audition.

cozy new sweater on the needles—finally.

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i tear myself away for a few minutes to snap some photos for a short blog—wow, the white stuff is falling fast—look at our street just a few minutes later.

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i finished swatching for this sweater last night and after a long, hot, soapy soak, they are blooming and drying in my workroom.

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i just love the transformation that takes place between the knitted fabric and the washed fabric—stunning, right? i’m working with squooshy kent DK in the kelp shade, which is a rich brown with gold highlights.

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the design is one i knitted off-the-cuff years ago for a friend, but then liked it so much that i wrote down careful notes afterward so i could replicate it some day for myself. ok, well it took sixteen years, but i’m finally doing it.

hey, i had a long queue and a lot of life changes in between, haha. besides, i was waiting for just the right yarn to come along . . .

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anyway, now it’s here; time to settle in and knit near the window to watch the snow fly, while  appreciating indoor heat and the fact that we don’t have to go anywhere today.

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sounds like heaven to me.

starting from scratch

Monday, January 19th, 2015

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with our purple club now complete and a midwinter holiday weekend in progress, my mind turned to a plethora of new projects that have been percolating for awhile, patiently outwaiting the holidays for their turn at my attention.

i had several beautiful yarns lined up to explore—some for actual projects i have slated and some for testing, in order to send feedback to the mill.

and you know what that means . . . (begins with an ‘s’) . . . i had some swatching to do. in fact somehow while my back was turned, a lot of swatching that had piled up. now you know me—i love swatching. but there are times when being patient makes me just as crazy as it makes you.

i’m so itchy to start a new sweater that i can’t stand it. feeling like this can make me a bit reckless . . . but i figured i was safe in starting something with the kent DK (far right, above) in kelp, because that was the yarn best known to me and a project i had been thinking about for some time.

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now i’m not saying i didn’t swatch (i didn’t completely lose my mind!). oh no, i swatched both flat (left) and in the round (right), because my original idea was to knit myself the placketed pullover version of my pedal pusher design which would need to be knit partly in the round and partly back and forth.

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i even went ahead and started a sleeve, completely confident that this was what i wanted to knit (my friend anne C is knitting the official sample for her husband). but then i got thinking . . . boy, i really love this yarn and the way it knits up; i honestly didn’t think it was going to feel this soft and this spongy-squishy or this light.

i’m really thinking it might be terrific in a more textured fabric.

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and the next thing i knew, i had that sleeve on a holder and i was swatching for a completely other sweater, something i’d knit years and years ago for a friend that i always wanted to recreate. so i have yarn, i have swatches, and i have a pattern, but none of them are for the same project.

i’m hoping that by tuesday i’ll be settled with a definite goal for this, because if i’m not knitting myself a sweater by then i just might have to knit a dumb, topdown stockinette pullover to satisfy my craving for one.

and that would be a big waste of my precious design time, ya know?

by the way, did i tell you the latest thing david said that gave me the shock of my life? it was actually over this very batch of kelp kent DK. i was planning all along to knit the placket pedal pusher for him, but when i started asking him a few questions about it, he told me not to bother. i was floored. i said, “but you need sweaters—yours are all in a bad state”.

he explained that this was just the point; he just ruins them, wearing out the elbow, getting tears at the neck edge from clipping his earphones on. i was stunned; i never cared about that. in fact, i find it endearing that david literally loves his sweaters to death. to me, it’s really touching that when the sleeves and neck disintegrate to the point of falling off, he simply layers them over another badly worn item and wears them for doing yard work (thus showing them off even more publicly; so cute).

so yeah, i was going to cast on a sweater for him next, but then he refused it. which kind of threw me off, so at first i assumed i’d just knit that same sweater for me. but now i’m thinking i’d rather have something different. so for the moment (and hopeful very temporarily) that project is back to the percolating stage while i swatch a little more.

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somewhere in the midst of all this, barb actually DID start a new sweater, just like she said she was going to do (i should take lessons from her in efficiency). last week she bought four skeins of better breakfast fingering yarn in the new daybreak shade to knit herself a bel air pullover, because her old one is her favorite sweater. and this week she came to class with one sleeve done and about one-third of the front complete. isn’t it gorgeous?

barb says she really loves the way the better breakfast is knitting up in the stitch pattern—she never appreciated the motif as much in the other yarn, which didn’t have as much dimension as the BBF. not to mention how soft it is; she’s finding it hard to stop petting it.

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we’ve also been swatching up a storm with the new cabécou lace yarn i’ve showed you a few times (center in that lineup of yarns, above). the sample skeins are really beautiful, but the washed skein showed some inconsistency that we want to get to the bottom of. since it’s a new weight and lace can be very tricky to spin, we’re doing a bunch of swatching to pinpoint the exact issue. laura did several swatches and i’ve got several myself.

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they sat in a bath all afternoon while i went to a birthday party for a special friend (more about that later this week). i also have a really big post brewing about the results of all the swatching; stay tuned for that later in the week as well.

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with everything in testing stages and nothing really on the needles to knit, i thought, what the heck, i may as well get it all out of the way while i’m in that mode and next thing you know, i was swatching my special, special yarn that we brought home from the mill last week (sound dizzying? don’t get me started).

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i tried it out on two different needle sizes in both stockinette and the wheaten pattern, figuring that this would give me plenty to think about. the yarn is buttah soft; it will be a luxurious garment. i was thinking that a long, softly shaped cardigan would be lovely in this yarn. i’m not definite about that; we’ll see.

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meanwhile, i’m collecting data.

so you see, lots and lots of knitting and nothing really to show for myself.

later today though, i’ll be releasing a couple of patterns from the september installment of the purple club—two very pretty lacy designs. have a wonderful MLK day and come back for more a little later on!