Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Curwen Scarf is Here!

Presenting the Curwen Scarf, designed for both 
distinguished ladies & gentlemen.

The Curwens

The Curwens' Scarves

Friday, March 14, 2014

A Yarn's History

I've been putting the finishing touches on a new scarf design tonight--the woven stitch. I don't have a name for the design yet, but I'm thinking something British-sounding. My mother brought me this beautiful Rowan from a trip to the UK a few years ago--from a yarn shop in London. She picked out the colors, and so for a while, the yarn felt too special to use.

My mother is a writer and travels a lot, which is lucky for me because she picks out yarn for me wherever she goes.  She brought delicate, violet shades of yarn from France. The skeins came wrapped around a bar of lavender soap, and every time I take the yarn out to see if it's right for something, I get a hit of Provence. Let me tell you: getting a hit of Provence is never, ever a bad thing.

Oh how I digress when the lavender yarn that smells of lavender is mentioned.

Let's get back to the Rowan--to the woven stitch. In the above photo, the rolled scarf on the right is knit with the heavier Berroco Peruvia. In woven stitch on a #7, it's a dense scarf. It's substantial, and is the kind of scarf you want when you're getting over a cold--which I am.

We took a drive up to DIA Beacon today to see the Warhols. Afterwards, we went to Cold Spring for lunch and looked out over the Hudson. I think we were looking for spring. I'm sure we were. You can't quite see a change yet, but you can feel something. When the wind blew over the water and reminded us that it's still too cold to stand around for long, it didn't even bother me--so cozy was I in my woven stitch scarf!

When we got home, the Rowan scarf had finished drying. On the same needle, it's looser and softer than the Peruvia version, and the Rowan has such elegant fold and drape.  I like them both. 

I'll let you know when the pattern is up--I'm sure this week. I'll likely design a set of mittens to go with, but those won't be ready for some time. I still have lots of gorgeous Rowan left. Who knows? Maybe I'll do a hat, too.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Consider Hiring a Professional Blocker

Shown: Newlie, my professional blocker, working on the woven stitch scarf.
A professional blocker (see above) is an excellent way to get curled knits flat. You can hire--or adopt--a professional blocker by visiting The North Shore Animal League. Best thing about a professional blocker? You "pay" one another with love and affection, and your professional blocker will keep company while you work my Woven Stitch Scarf Pattern (coming soon).

Woven Stitch Scarf
Jules takes over
Remember, fair labor practices apply to blockers, too. You might consider hiring two professional blockers. Two blockers also insure quality inspection.

Restive contemplation and the occasional nap are also encouraged.

Newlie settles into blocking after a short water break

Monday, March 3, 2014

Now, Where Was I?

Before I began writing a novel, I was knee deep (or wrist deep) in what I thought of as The Fairy Tale Project. This was only the project's working title--a quick way to describe what I was up to--but I didn't know exactly where I was going. I thought I'd re-imagine some of my favorite tales, design pieces for them, and do illustrations. This is how far I got:

Beginning in the lower left-hand corner and moving counter-clockwise: The Woodsman's Hat, Little Red Cap Mittens, The Briar Rose Blanket, The Briar Rose Sleep swatch (pillow sham).

That's pretty far!

But creativity works in fascinating ways, and if you stand back and let it do what it wants, it often takes you in unexpected directions--for instance: you thought you were going to be working on a major new knit design project, but suddenly you're writing a novel instead.

But how did that happen? I was reading about folklore and fairy tales for the knits, and the way our stories migrate. Here is a Wiki link to both the Aarne-Thompson classification system and the Uther. So cool! If you're unfamiliar with tale type indexing, the link gives you a bit of explanation.

As I began to rework the tales for the knitting project, I realized that I wanted to write something else--something more sustained. Words replaced stitches, and every day, though I told myself I was going to work on my designs, I would instead return to my novel.

Little Red Cap Mittens Pattern Illustration
Yesterday I pulled out all of my Fairy Tale Project knitting notes, opened abandoned files, and located half-finished designs. It was only then that I truly realized how much my knitting project had affected the novel. I should have seen it! But I didn't plan to switch directions, you see. It crept up on me, and sometimes I think that's when the best magic happens.

Little Red Cap Mittens. Kept in pristine condition.
Briar Rose Blanket Bird
Hopefully one day, you'll get to read the book, and you'll see how the tales influenced the story. In the meantime, perhaps I can still pull off a couple of these designs. They are sort of pretty and worthy of completion. Don't you think?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Woven Stitch Scarf

I have so much bright yarn left over from my winter affair with Nordic knitting that I've decided to work a lengthwise woven stitch scarf. I'll probably do it over in tweedy colors and write up a pattern, but for now, I'm having fun experimenting with the stitch and colors.

Woven stitch is one of those beauties that breaks my heart a little every time I see it--in an Oh, will you look at that? way--and I just stare at it and touch it for a while.

When the stitch is slipped with the yarn in back, I find it a little too easy to make the mistake of knitting two or slipping two. You can check your knitting as you go by making sure the slipped stitches in the rows below are aligned with those being worked. This is great to know if you're working lengthwise, as going back to the middle can be tedious.

I'll keep you posted on its progress!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Wow. That Sweater Looks Like It Was Made For You.

On Technique -or- An American Imagines Herself Icelandic

First, let's discuss the skills you'll need to make people say, "Wow. That sweater looks like it was made for you."

Reading the Pattern

You're going to read the pattern in an original way, disregarding the normal steps one might take--like beginning at the beginning.

First, choose your size. I'm an M, so I've high-lighted that. Next, see how many stitches the BODY should have (180). That's your cast-on number for the body. Next, find the upper-most SLEEVE number. I've high-lighted that (64). That's the number of stitches you'll cast-on for your sleeves.

Click on the images to make them bigger:

 The Provisional Cast-On

No, it's not nearly as scary as anyone would have you believe. It's basically the exact same thing as a long-tail cast-on, but it's better because you don't have to figure out how much yarn you'll need.

Step 1: I always tie the two strands of  yarn together. There's absolutely no reason to, but it makes me feel good. Then I cast on. This is not a stitch, like with regular long-tail, so don't count it.

Step 2: Forget that you're doing a provisional cast-on. Pretend you're doing long-tail. See? You know how to hold the yarn. Color A is white. That's your sweater color. Color B is purple. That's the yarn that will hold the open stitch. Hold Color B in front and Color A in back. Cast on like you would with long-tail. See how easy? So not scary.

Step 3: Remember not to count the first stitch. When all of your stitches are on the needle, slip the first stitch off. Join to work in the round, being careful not to twist, and knit. See? So easy. Who told you that was hard?

Knit 2" ST st

That's knit two inches of stockinette stitch. You'll want about two inches of the body and each sleeve. When you get your two inches, pretend you have an entire sweater and follow the directions as usual for joining to work in the round.
Work the Yoke 

A yoke is not a dessert! Knit it right away.

You can see my provisional cast-on yarn (blue). At this stage you'll have curl at the edge of course, but it's there. A friend in knitting group asked me a pointed question about this method: "Why not just knit from the top down?" she asked. I'll tell you why: I like to wait to knit the collar. I often take it out or change the shape of it, so when I get to the top, I put the stitches on scrap yarn and begin knitting the body and then the sleeves. Also: Did you ever try to pick-out a collar or rib edge when they've been worked in the opposite direction? Never again, my friends, never again.

I wanted this sweater to have shaping, so at this point, I cast aside the written directions and just begin measuring and trying on as I go. So rewarding.

Jogless Knitting

Here's Meg Swansen's technique: Jogless Jog. I'd be lost without it, and probably not quite as addicted to yokes as I am.
Also! Side note: Check it out! Me and master knitter, Meg Swansen. I'm holding her book, and she's holding mine. She is the nicest. And, of course, she is the best knitter ever.

Making Your Lopi Soft

People often complain that Lopi is scratchy. I find it a little scratchy, but I also find that it softens--especially if you wear your Lopi every day. My husband dislikes scratchy, so I took special care with his Lopi knit. I simply added hair conditioner to the wash-block process. Yes, wool is hair. I'd recommend anything relatively dye and scent-free. I chose a Burt's Bees conditioner, and added a good two tablespoons or so.

Enjoy Your Sweater!

Because it will look fantastic on you.

Here's a rather stiff picture of me wearing the finished sweater. Even though I don't quite look like it, I'm totally enjoying my sweater. I just never know what to do in pictures:

My sweater is long enough. My sweater comes in at my waist line and not an imaginary person's. The sleeves are long enough for my long arms, and because the stitches of the sweater were open in both directions, I was able to have fun experimenting with the collar and edges.

Thanks for visiting, and if you try this technique, please let me know! 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Winter 2013/14 Knits

Is there anything better during a winter of non-stop snow than donning the perfect cold-weather garment, making a cup of super strong coffee, and staring out the window while pondering new and interesting approaches to snow shoveling methodology every AM?

I think not.

I've been knitting tons of yoke sweaters this season, and I have some tips about working them. The best part is this: You don't have to wait until you've knit the entire sweater practically to work the yoke.

But let's look at the pictures first! I've had terrible phone pics of my knits all year, which I think is one bad thing about photo convenience. Sweaters that take weeks to knit deserve a good picture. I finally asked my husband to take some photos. Call it a post-Valentine's day gift. He takes lovely pics.

We'll start at the beginning then--the way back of last autumn--and work our way through.

Knit 1: This is a nice picture of me wearing the blue sweater, the Detective Sarah Linden sweater. It's Owls by Kate Davies, but it's done without the owls, as detectives don't wear owls on their sweaters--unless they're solving very twee crimes--like who stole the squirrel's scarf--was it the chipmunk or the hedgehog? But we are serious here, like Linden, and we need cables instead. Don't I look like I'm solving a crime? Clearly.

Knit 2: Every Yarn

The original pattern for Every Yarn sweater only calls for four colors. I think I've got at least twice--three times--as many. This was loads of fun to knit. This is the Yes You Can sweater--as in Yes, you can use as many colors as you want. The Feel Free Sweater. The sweater in which you destash. You can see more pictures of this sweater on older blog entries, but I like this pic, so we're looking at the sweater again; specifically, we are admiring the sleeve details.

Knit 3: Now we move on to the Lopi Obsession which caught me unawares around November, when I saw this sweater.

You can knit this exact same sweater by going here. No, really. You can knit this exact same sweater. I loved everything about the Lopi Anniversary Sweater by Védís Jónsdóttir so much that I didn't change it. This was a first for me as a knitter, and I have barely removed it from my body all winter. No, really. I haven't. My husband started talking to my sweater the other day when I left it draped on the couch. He thought it was me.

Knit 4: Anniversary Sweater was only left on the couch because I finished Aftur. It's another Védís Jónsdóttir design. Aftur is also free, which is just kind-of loopi (stop), because these are the best Nordic patterns I've seen.

I messed around with this a bit. I put in the shapes at the start of the yoke and worked the edging differently. I did a little of this and a little of that in altering the pattern--not because the original pattern isn't excellent, but because I mess with things. All the time. You can find Aftur here.

Knit 5: I also knit one of Védís's designs for my husband.

He's wearing Riddari, from Lopi Pattern Book #28.

I have to get a nice picture of him in it, but I love this photo. This was taken on one of those nights when it was negative something and there was a pile of snow on the ground. Oh sorry. That's been every night this winter. Anyway. He came in from shoveling in his sweater the other day and said: "I love this sweater! It never stretches or scratches!" He stopped and looked down at it, smoothing it as he talked. "It's awfully warm! And it fits me! Really fits me. Like it was made for me."

To which I raised an eyebrow, lifted my coffee cup, and said: "Because it was, my dear."

My husband is 6'2", so you can imagine how long it took to knit him his perfect sweater. That's a lot of fabric. That's a lot of clickety-clack. That's a lot of PBS Newshour. But oh, what a great project for such a colorless and drear winter. These Lopi yarns have a beautiful palette.

In my next blog entry--tomorrow, perhaps--I will update you on my novel, discuss Lopi scratchy to non-scratchy, and reveal the magical process of knitting the yoke before you knit everything else. In the mean time, enjoy the photos (and the snow), and if you find out who stole the squirrel's scarf, please let me know. My bets are on the hedgehog.

 xo B