Homeward Bound

The exigencies of winter travel and the dictates of large group schedules have meant that not only have I not blogged while I’ve been here, I’ve even been so unreasonable as to not have any blog-worthy adventures. Today, as I begin my travel home, I will do my best to partially remedy this. After a close consultation with the weather gods, the ferry schedule, a host of maps, and a variety of folks more versed in local traffic patterns than I, I have decided that the signs augur well, and I’m going to attempt to make it over to Orcas Island and secure another blanket.

I’m fairly certain I will end up with a blanket, a good story, or possibly both. Wish me well.

Options

The more I knit, the more I find myself interested in options.  I almost never knit something without thinking ‘hmmm, I could do it this way, or I could do it this way, or maybe I could try this other thing’ and wanting to more or less do them all.

Now often, this is a bit impractical.  Eventually I just have to settle down and knit the thing.  And if I’m writing a pattern (which I do for almost everything I knit), I don’t feel good giving you options for variations I’m not showing you pictures of.  Doing that would mean extra yarn and extra knitting time and extra photos, and that’s not always a realistic way to go.

But this time, it is.  This set was so quick and so much fun to knit, that I almost couldn’t help myself.  There will be two versions of the hat (with and without the hole), two versions of the cuffs (with and without the hand part), and maybe possibly two versions of the cowl (it depends on if my yarn and enthusiasm hold out long enough).

scale And just to really show how versatile this is, I’m doing the two sets at totally different gauges (the first was done on 11s, this one is done on 8s).  Same yarn, same stitch, but changing the needle size gives a whole different character to the fabric.  I still can’t decide which I like best!

Modern Colorwork Collection, review and giveaway

 [note]This giveaway is now closed, the winner has been notified.[/note]

Knitters are a clever bunch.  We take very long pieces of string and a pair of sticks and tie giant knots.  Beautiful, useful knots that you can wear.  It’s a neat trick.  I really appreciate it when designers realize just how clever knitters are and write their patterns accordingly.  Miriam Felton has done just that with her recent Modern Colorwork Collection. ModernColorworkTitle

The six pieces of this collection (three sweaters, a cowl, a shawl, and a pair of mitts) draw their inspiration from quilting and modern art.  The result is projects that feel fresh and timeless.  They’re all things I’d be happy to wear.  Just as importantly, they’re all things I can actually imagine myself making.  So much of the colorwork I see looks beautiful, but feels more than a bit overwhelming.  Miriam’s pieces, however, strike just the right balance.  They’re lovely, but not so intricate as to be daunting and detailed without being fussy.  The Willis Triangles Cardigan is the perfect example.

WillisTriangles1The shape is classic and flattering, the sort of thing that would fit in any wardrobe.  All the interest comes at the collar, which provides the perfect place to indulge in a bit of colorwork.

WillisTriangles4As an added bonus, the inside of the cuff and hem have a marvelous secret detail, just the sort of thing to set a knitter’s heart racing!

All the patterns in the collection are like this, wearable classics with fascinating little tweaks to make them extra special.  If you already love colorwork, this belongs in your collection.  And if you’re a colorwork newbie, this just might be the perfect way to discover a new obsession (the Chromaticity Cowl looks like just the sort of pattern to tempt a bunch of people to try something new).

Miriam has graciously agreed to give one of you a copy of her lovely new collection.  If you think it would find a happy home with you, just leave a comment here telling me about your experience with colorwork.  Are you a novice?  Have you been doing it for years?  Still waiting to take the plunge?  Let me know, and the collection might be yours!  You can leave a comment through the end of the day, eastern time, on Sunday February tenth.

All the pictures here are Miriam’s and are used with her permission.

 

 

Bloom

I mentioned last time that I loved how the Bare Naked Wools yarns bloomed when they hit the water.  Then I showed you a picture of them still on the needles where they were totally 100% not blooming.  So let’s fix that, shall we?  I just finished up the second slipper (well, finished the knitting, I still have to attach the strap).  The first one has had a soaking, a nice vigorous thrashing, and a good blocking.  The second is fresh off the needles.  Look at the difference.

_DSC9486See how the top one is nice and fuzzy and happy?  You can see the ribbing clearly, and the stitches are neat and tidy.  Whereas the bottom one is still sort of tense and bunched up.  You can’t really see the purl half of the ribbing at all, and the stitches are uneven.

_DSC9483The whole structure of the slipper changes dramatically.  The soaked and blocked one is lovely and relaxed, the one fresh off the needles is puckered and tight.  This is a prime example of why it’s ridiculously important to wash and block your gauge swatches before you start your project.  Yarn changes when it hits the water, and it’s important to know how it changes!  The only way I’ve found to do that is with a swatch.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to finish up the straps and tuck these away in my suitcase.  I’m headed off Wednesday for Washington and the Visionary Authors retreat (I wrote a bit about last year’s trip here), and I want to photograph them on the trip.  This is one of those trips that’s oddly hard to talk about (it’s the strangest combination of lots of fun and really really hard work), so I’ve not said too much about it in the past.  But I do have every intention of making a return visit to the sheep and goat farm for another blanket, and of heading out to the water, though perhaps without encountering a giant mudhole, so with luck, I should have something to report when I return.  And never fear, I won’t leave you languishing while I’m gone, I’ve got a lovely give away lined up for later in the week!

Fitting

I am, for reasons that seemed extremely good at the time, knitting with gray and cream yarn in the middle of a very long winter.  Normally, this would be enough to drive a knitter around the bend.  But somehow this yarn is so snuggly and cozy and textured and just downright knitterly that it feels right.

knit slipperThis is take two of the strappy slippers ( you guys wanted them enough that I’ve gone ahead and started working on them as a stand alone pattern instead of waiting until the end of next year and putting them in a book you’ve not even heard of yet).  The yarns are from Bare Naked Wools and are just perfect.  The lighter yarn on the upper part of the slipper is Breakfast Blend DK in Oatmeal, and the darker yarn on the sole is Confection Worsted in Milk Chocolate.  They play together perfectly, and they bloom up beautifully when they hit the water.

I’m absolutely itching to get this one finished and start playing with the straps!  Expect a fairly irritating barrage of updates on these as they come together.

Golden

People, it’s cold outside. Cold and very very snowy.  So I am not going to go outside to try and find a spot with little enough snow that I can take a picture of these.  I know I should, but I’m just not.  You’ll have to settle for a uncharacteristically well-scrubbed kitchen counter and a rare streak of January sunlight.  I think it will serve to show off the pretty quite well enough.

_DSC9436That’s the fat socks (String Theory Caper Aran in Melon) on the right, and the skinny socks (String Theory Caper Sock in Beach Plum) on the left.  The fat socks use the alarmingly-plain-yet-unreasonably-satisfying variant of the pattern, and the skinny socks use the still-soothing-but-slightly-more-swoopy variant.  I truly cannot decide which one I like better.  They’re both rather smashing, if I do say so myself.  And the toes, cutest toes ever!  See?

_DSC9443The pattern will be coming fairly soon (read, likely some time in March).  I’m taking the socks off with me on a bit of an excursion next week and hope to get them photographed while I’m away.  Then it’s a few more rounds with testers, and they’ll be ready for release.

Snow Day

The blog is closed on account of weather.  Or rather, I’m shamelessly using the weather as a blatant excuse to curl up inside, wear woolly socks, drink hot chocolate, snuggle kittens, and generally laze finish the penultimate round of KCC3 edits.  All the schools have had a pile of snow days, I’m taking one too.  I’ll be back when the frost on my office window melts.

frost monster

Repeat

The set I’ve been working on offers a good opportunity for a little instructional aside.  You know how variegated yarn sometimes acts very differently from one project to the next?  I’ve got a lovely little demonstration of why.

You may recall I’m worried about running short of yarn on this project. So because I’m going to be using every inch of the yarn I have, I’m trying to be reasonably clever.  Once the cowl got to be just long enough, I put it aside on an extra needle and moved on to the hat.  The plan was to make the hat, make the mitts, then come back to the cowl and add as much length as I can with whatever yarn I have left.

You’ve seen the finished hat, and you saw how I made a band of the textured stitch, wrapped it around my head, picked up stitches, and started working up to make the top of the hat.  The band of textured stitches is narrower on the hat than on the cowl, and as I started knitting it, I noticed something interesting.  Let’s take a look (it’s snowy outside, hence the background being all blown out, this is an instructional shot not a glamor shot, so please bear with me).

repeatSo over on the right, we’ve got the cowl.  Look how the colors stack up in a lovely progression of orderly stripes that reach half way across the fabric.  The colors cycle in order right up the length of the piece.  Now, in the middle, we’ve got the band for the hat. (Plus a few rows of stockinette being all super curly there on the right side of the hat band.  They are the start of that ‘pick up stitches along one side bit,’ and are knit with another strand of yarn.  Just ignore them here.)  Look at how the colors stack up on this one.  Instead of making stripes, they make big solid masses of color that cycle very slowly along the length of the piece.  And over on the far left is the skein of yarn, just so you can see how the colors cycle on it.

So what’s going on?  It all has to do with the relationship between how much yarn it takes to do a row of knitting and how much yarn it takes to get through the colors on the loop of yarn.  Let’s start with the yarn.  Look at the top of the loop, right where it changes color from peach to light green.  If you follow around the loop you’ll see light green, dark green, brown, peach, and then back to light green.

On the hat band, a pair of rows (one right-side and one wrong-side) used about an inch less yarn than it takes to go through the yarn’s color progression.  So every time I worked a pair of rows, the color changes crept a bit (just about one stitch) farther across the piece.  On the cowl, a pair of rows (again, one right-side and one wrong-side) used about one and a half times as much yarn as it takes to get through the yarn’s color progression.  That led to the tidy stripes you see there.

Both effects are lovely, but if you don’t understand why they’re happening, it can be a bit perplexing.  But once you do understand it, you can use it to your advantage.  If I wanted to change how one of the pieces was cycling, I could either add or subtract stitches.  That would change the relationship between how much yarn it takes to do a pair of rows and how much yarn it takes to get through all the colors.  Just something as simple as adding an extra edging stitch on each side would make a big difference.  The cowl is 8 stitches wider than the hatband, and you see how much of a difference that makes.

For me, that sort of obsessive fiddling leads to insanity, but I do feel better knowing I could do it if I really really wanted to.

Put a pin in it

Please do not suggest that I have been lazy with my blocking.  I may laugh manically and chase after you with a t-pin.

cuffs being blocked

Oh, and pro tip, the snow will re-wet your knitting, so be a smart kid and be sure it’s cleaned off and dry again before you pull out your pins.  Not that I’d know or anything…

Almost There

The yellow socks are almost done.  Very very close to done.  I just need to remember all the clever stuff I did on the toe of the first one and manage to write it down and do it again, and they’ll be all set.

yellow socksWhich is good, because the fingering weight ones that Katie has been graciously working on for me are not only finished and in the mail, but have arrived here in sunny (cough) Cleveland.  As soon as they’re all done and blocked, I’ll get a picture of both styles on some fake feet and show you what we’ve been up to.  With any luck, I’ll have some proper pretty pictures in February, and the pattern will be out shortly after that.  I think you guys are going to love it!