May 1, 2016

FO | It's a Wrap

It took a little while, but Alaris, my cape-poncho-ruana-shawl is finished. 

The timing couldn't be better. Storms have been roaring through the region, hail has been pummeling us with alarming regularity, and the temperature has been zooming up and down like a rollercoaster. Mornings and evenings are cool, and often a residual chill lingers throughout the day.

In other words, even before it was finished, Alaris was getting quite a workout. Let's look at a few highlights.

This was a fast and easy knit, and it was satisfying to see the variegated RicRac in action. This yarn has been waiting for the right project to come along, and finally it did. Pairing it with the Cotton Fleece (black) worked well. It preserved the cottony feel, added a little woolly resilience, created tweedy stripes, and helped prevent color pooling.

The modular approach (no surprise there) kept work in progress compact and manageable, and the panels grew quickly. They waited patiently until I found time to seam them together, but once underway, the task went quickly. Both times. (As you recall, I changed my mind, unpicked the seams, and reassembled the panels in a new sequence. Yet another reason to love modular construction.)

I'm pleased with the results for several reasons. The fabric is fluid and reversible, and the design is versatile. Long before the last ends were woven, I decided to give my overworked Dojeling shawls a break and began wearing Alaris indoors as an extra layer on cool days. (Garbed in a wrap with dangling ends, trust me, I was a lovely sight to behold.) 

Now that it's finished, it's become my go-to wrap whether I'm working in the office, running errands, or grabbing a few precious knitting moments in the evening. Because I left one seam open, I've been wearing it whichever way strikes my fancy that day. 

Monday, I draped it like a shawl. Tuesday, I wore it square like a cape/ruana. Wednesday and Thursday, were shawl/wrap days. Friday, I added a decorative pin, and wore it angled like a poncho. Eventually I may add closures, but right now I'm having too much fun playing with the possibilities.

Alaris Mixed Media
Yarn: RicRac (Blue Heron); Cotton Fleece (Brown Sheep)
Needles: US 9 (5.5 mm)
Yardage: 767 yards
Size: L (44 x 44 ins sqr)

I'm getting so much wear out of this, I'm eager to cast on another. I'm resisting the urge, for one simple reason: There are several other projects OTN, and you know I get twitchy if there are too many WIPs. That said, I suspect none of us would be surprised if a second one finds its way onto the needles before too much time passes. We shall see.

For those who've inquired, the pattern is nearly ready for tech editing and will soon be available.

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Apr 24, 2016

The Might Could List

Might could.

It's a phrase packed with wonderful possibilities, isn't it?

This lovely linguistic gem comes from the American south, where it surfaces in various ways. As a statement, it can confirm something will happen: Yes, I might could do that. It can convey agreement without actually making a commitment, thus leaving some waffle room: Yes, that might could happen. In a question, it often takes the form of a gentle, understated request that's hard to resist: Might could you do this for me?

I've been thinking about the power of might could, because it's the perfect phrase for knitters. Or perhaps, it's simply the perfect phrase for this knitter.

For example, I might could seam an afghan this week.

I might could strive to get better photos of my cape-poncho-wrap.

I might could cast on a new project.

Or, I might could cast on two.

Where a to-do list often feels rigid and demanding, the might-could version is upbeat and inviting. Plus, it inherently offers a little wiggle room, which for me definitely adds to its appeal.

So that's it, my Might Could list for the week. What's yours?

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Apr 17, 2016

Why Knit? 10 Simple Reasons

Not long ago a friend and I were talking about our respective creative passions. (She's a talented photographer, and I design, knit and write.)

During the course of the discussion, I found myself describing knitting as the process of using yarn and needles to build an afghan (sweater, scarf, hat, sock, whatever) one pixel at a time ... stitch after stitch, row after row, inch after inch.

The silence was deafening as she mentally worked through the daunting implications. Then she asked: Why do you do it?

That's a very good question, isn't it? It's one many of us wrestle with from time to time.

We knit for many reasons. Some are obvious, others are more complex and esoteric. After much thought, here are 10 simple reasons why yarn and needles are integral to my life:

1. Creative Needs. From color to stitchwork and concept to structure, knitting taps into an elemental creative need. For me, it's infinitely fascinating to see how the smallest changes can produce dramatically different results. You and I could knit the same pattern, but every choice we make transforms that design into something personal and unique.

2. Fidgets. Patience isn't my strong suit. Knitting is the ideal diversion for airplanes, bleacher benches, car rides and  waiting rooms. It occupies my mind and hands, calms me down, passes the time, and helps me feel productive.

3. Fiber. I've been fascinated by fiber and fabrics in all their forms since I was a child. Through the years, I've tackled weaving, natural dying, batiking, sewing, quilting, embroidery, cross stitch, macrame, crochet (sort of) and knitting. From time to time I still do these activities, but knitting is the only one I feel compelled to do every day.

4. Listening. I'm a vocal person and can chat up a storm. Because knitting taps into a different part of my brain, I talk less and listen more intently whether I'm on the phone, having coffee with a friend, or enjoying a family gathering, This is a good thing.

5. Maker Genes. Like most families, we have our fair share of brainiacs and boneheads. We also have a remarkably long line of makers both male and female. From quilting to embroidery and toolmaking to glass blowing, my maker DNA can't be denied.

6. Passion. Yes, we could go out and buy afghans, booties, cowls and hats, but as lovely as they might be, they're mere things. When we craft those same things by hand, they're instantly infused with our affection for the recipient, individual design sensibility, and our passion for fiber and craft.

7. Portable. Part of knitting's appeal is its easy portability. With a little thought and planning it can go almost anywhere, which is why I'm an avid fan of modular designs and try to have at least one portable project on the needles at all times.

8. Relaxation. Like many of you, my work and life schedules are demanding, and at the end of a typical day, I'm lucky if two gray cells are still sparking. Knitting satisfies my need to feel productive, but it also offers the rare opportunity to relax, renew and regenerate at the same time.

9. Results. Much of what we do on a day-to-day basis occurs in an ethereal digital universe. While digital output is "real," it's not tangible. From concept through execution and use, the knitting process is physical, tactile and engaging. Finished items exist in the here and now, have dimension and substance, and are real in a very meaningful way.

10. Sanity. Need I say more?

This list is a decent start, but it barely scratches the surface. So, tell me your tale: Why do you knit (crochet, embroider, sew, quilt, etc.)? Feel free to share, your secrets are safe with me.

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Apr 10, 2016

WIP | Color Me Happy

There's nothing like a fresh infusion of fiber to keep the needles click-click-clicking. 

This afghan is the perfect example. It's moving forward at a rapid pace, which is satisfying under any circumstance but especially important right now when there's so little knitting time available.

With things just past the halfway point, the various elements appear to be coming together as intended with one minor change. I'd planned to incorporate a dollop of cream, but in the end I left it out to keep the focus on rich, vibrant shades.

If you think some of these yarns look familiar, you're right. A notable quantity of lovely merino skeins live in the stash, but recent yarn investments are helping transform them into something useful. It's too early to estimate final yardage, but broadly speaking the finished afghan will consist of about 80% stash and 20% new yarn. Here's the basic breakout:

     Stash: Black (Korall, Laines du Nord)
     Stash: Red (Korall, Laines du Nord)
     Stash: Purple (Torino, Tahki)
     New: Turquoise (Superwash Bulky, Valley Yarns)

After a brief, tantalizing glimpse of spring, the weather has reverted to freezing temps and snow. So while the work in progress looks like nothing more than a random pile of rogue modules, with these vivid shades of soft, warm merino flowing through my fingers, you can color me happy.

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Apr 3, 2016

Yarn Logic

Brace yourself. After last week's lament about my lack of knitting time, this post is going to seem puzzling at best. 

Here's why: Time is at a premium and progress is difficult to see, yet once again I'm in the process of making a few select yarn investments. (Weird, right? Granted, there are projects waiting to be photographed and others almost but not quite finished, but much of that isn't visible here.)

In actuality, I'm quickly approaching a knitting wall, and without more yarn several projects will stagger to a full stop. In respect to the last fiber infusionI've just tapped into the final full skein of Cotton Fleece (Brown Sheep), one of my favorite stash staples. I'm also busily working my way through the other yarns, and soon (hopefully) most of them will be gone or nearly so.

To keep fiber flowing through my fingers and ideas moving from concept to completion, it's time to restock.

Here's my rationale: So far, every skein from the last round is helping convert three to six stash skeins into something pretty, practical or both. That's a good return on investment, so to sustain this trajectory any new yarn buys must meet similar criteria:
  1. Leverage existing stash 
  2. Support projects in progress
  3. Suit new designs in the pipeline
In practical terms, that means instead of buying all the lovely things (which is what I really, really want to do), I'm exercising restraint. The stash (new skeins included) must continue to fit in its designated cupboards. I've worked hard to pare it to manageable proportions, so this is non-negotiable.

The fresh fiber must also have a clear, defined destiny instead of a tantalizing but purely imagined one. In other words, either there's a project on the needles, pattern in hand, or design sufficiently developed to cast on. This helps me resist the soft, seductive charms of a particularly appealing skein (or three) for which I have no immediate plans.

It all sounds rather calm, well-considered and rational, doesn't it? 

We shall see. As every fiber fan knows, from swatches to sweaters and stash building to stash busting, yarn has a whimsical and unpredictable logic of its own.

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Mar 27, 2016

Loose Ends

My schedule has been pretty hectic lately, which like so many things in life is something of a mixed blessing. It's good to be busy, but it has its frustrations as well.

Since the start of the year there's been so little knitting time, I have yet to finish a major project. (Swatches, yes. Modules, yes. Projects, no.) Since I'm not a fast knitter, I strive to knit a little each day, and slowly but surely projects get done.

Lately, that hasn't been possible. By the time the workday wraps up, I'm lucky if two gasping gray cells remain. In practical terms, this means there have been entire weeks where I've not worked a single stitch, which for me is a rarity.

The result? There are several projects on the needles, but each one is in some state of half-doneness.

My cape-wrap-poncho thingy is a good example. It's such a simple, fast knit, and yet there it sits, almost but not quite finished, waiting for me to find the time and brainpower to weave ends.

Now, we all know weaving ends isn't difficult. However, as a fan of knitwear I can grab, wrap and go, I want to preserve the reversible quality, which means I need to take my time and work with care to ensure both sides are presentable.

So that's the mission for the week: Weave one yarn tail each day until there are no more loose ends.

As goal-setting goes, it certainly isn't exciting or ambitious, but it's realistic and (hopefully) doable. If those assumptions prove true, my spring wrap might actually be ready to wear ... while it's still spring.

PS: Have a lovely day one and all, and a very Happy Easter to those who celebrate.

PPS: For those who've inquired about the pattern: It's in development and will be available soon.

Mar 20, 2016

Picture It: Color Combos in Action

Over the past few months, we've been discussing the challenge of choosing the right colors for the people in our lives. We wrestle with this whether we're making something for our favorite fellow, a beloved grandparent, family friends, a new arrival, or a kid heading to college.

We've been exploring color from a variety of perspectives, because knitters often tell me they have no color sense (their words) or have difficulty envisioning how colors work together. In both instances, it helps to 
picture the possibilities, so let's look at assorted color combos in action.


Let's start with a small handful of guy-worthy knits featuring colors that are bold, neutral or a mix of both. (Just click the link below the photo to see details about that specific design, and keep reading, there are more guy-worthy examples to follow.)

        Flashpoint Black and red with deep purple 

        Drumlin Cool neutrals with red

        Twegen Warm neutrals with black and cream

It can be quite challenging to hit a happy balance when you're making something like an afghan that's intended to be shared by several people, whether that's a newly married couple or an entire family. While many combinations above might work in these instances, here are a few that tend to hold crossover appeal:

        Color Check Shades of red, fuchsia, plum, purple and blue

        Color Check Greens, blues and yellows

        Drumlin Rich gem tones

        Twegen Shades of gold, pumpkin and clay


Any of the options above could conceivably work for kids, too. In my family, for example, one kid adores red combined with purple, one loves shades of green and gold, and a third gravitates toward color wheels and rainbows. Another has a passion for the Ohio State Buckeyes, so the red and gray combination would be his pick.

Because the kids in your life have their own preferences, here are a few more kid-worthy examples:

        Breidan Muted rainbow shades

        Breidan Fuchsia, rose, pink and lavender 

        Drumlin Vivid greens, blues, purples and pinks

When in Doubt

Clearly, any of these color combos would work not just for afghans but for almost any item you might choose to make. 

If you're completely stumped and all else fails, remember my tried-and-true knitting rule: When in doubt, make it blue. Both personal experience and statistical results support this rule, since kids and adults of both genders consistently cite blue as a favorite.

        Flashpoint Turquoise and cream

        Breidan Blues with shades of blue-green

The point is this: Color plays a different role for each of us.

For me, it's a powerful force. It drives my devotion to clean lines, non-fussy stitches and unisex designs. These elements quickly shift from strong and masculine to gender neutral or soft and feminine with nothing more than a color change, so it's easy to tailor a piece to a particular recipient. It contributes to my fondness for strip and modular construction, which allows me to alter colors and their placement at almost any point in the processIt keeps knitting fun and interesting, because color makes even a familiar pattern or stitch fresh and new.

But that's enough about me. 

What's your story? From the projects you choose to the yarns you use, how does color influence your knitting journey?

For more guy combos, click here.

For rainbow combos, click here.
For more kid combos, click here.
For more on rich combos, click here.
For thoughts about color and afghans, click here.

Mar 13, 2016

Spotlight | Rainbow Color Check

We've been talking recently about rainbow color schemes, so this seems like the perfect moment to shine a spotlight on this striking Rainbow Color Check afghan created by Ravelry knitter ylime102,* 

Isn't it lovely? 

Emily's color mix ranged from warm shades (brown, red, orange, yellow, yellow-green) ...

to cool tones (blue-green, blue, purple, pink, gray).

Brave knitter that she is, she opted to include 40 different colors plus black. To span the entire rainbow, she made 10 strips (four blocks each), with each strip highlighting one color and shading from light to deep for a custom gradient effect.

Mixing so many shades in one piece can be daunting, but here's what she said about her color selections:
... some were easier and came out better than others. Finding light reds was quite challenging, since light red is pretty much pink, so the lightest reds are darker than the other lighter colors. But the gradient itself seems to work ... I’m pleased with the overall effect of the whole thing and I really like how it came out!
And pleased she should be, the overall effect is beautiful.

To suit her preferences, she scaled it up, making each block a 12x12 rather than 10x10 grid. Other than that, she said she followed the pattern exactly and shared this kind (unsolicited) observation: 
The pattern is great, very well written and clear, with lots of information for customizing. I don’t usually like to do a selvedge edge, but in this case it worked out well and made aligning the grid lines when seaming very easy.

To accommodate all the colors she wanted to use, Emily made two full panels and joined them to create one double-layered blanket. (I did the same with my Color Check.) We used similar but slightly different joining techniques. For those who plan to do the same, she helpfully shared clear, descriptive notes on her project page, while my approach is outlined here.

Emily's version demonstrates how very easy it is to scale this project up or down based on personal preferences. Her full-sized bed topper features 20 colors per panel, the original Color Check (size M) incorporates 12 colors per panel, while a basic baby blanket (size S) might use 9 colors. 

Emily and I both opted for rainbow shades, but you could achieve a very pretty color-block effect by focusing on a few colors and varying their placement in each strip.

By scaling things up, Emily was able to include neutrals, using warm ones (cream, sand, brown) on one side and cool ones (shades of gray) on the other. In spite of the fact she made the equivalent of two full-sized blankets. she moved from cast-on to FO in a remarkably short time.

Rainbow Color Check by ylime102
Pattern: Color Check afghan
Needles: US 9 (5.5 mm), US 10 (6 mm)
Yarn: Encore Worsted Solids & Heathers (Plymouth Yarn)
Weight: Worsted
Yardage: 2000 yards
Dimensions: 50 x 62 ins (approx.)
Project page: here

Thank you, Emily, for allowing me to highlight your gorgeous Color Check. 

I can only imagine how very cozy and satisfying it must be to fall asleep and wake up snuggled under this amazing, hand knit afghan. Just looking at it would lift anyone's spirits and make each day seem brighter.

For more discussion on rainbows, check out 7 Cheerful Rainbow Color Combos.
* Original images: Copyright ylime102, used with permission. To keep the focus on her lovely handiwork, images were placed against a neutral background.

Mar 6, 2016

Count the Ways

Periodically I prattle about my ongoing love affair with fingerless mitts. Through the years I've made so many, I've lost count.

At present, I have 14 pairs. Plain and practical, I love them with a ridiculous passion and wear each and every one on a regular basis.

You'll recall early last year I culled the collection, pitching mitts that had grown limp and lifeless. Since then I've been gradually replacing the dearly departed and building a small reserve in anticipation of those teetering on their last yarny legs.

My current strategy is very straightforward: I'm making some for public wear to match or complement existing hand knit neck wear (scarves, kerchiefs, shawls, wraps). Others will use up lone rangers, odd balls and scraps, and some will allow me to test interesting stitches, especially those that are both stretchy and reversible. (Yet another obvious knitting obsession.)

In the past, we've discussed how many mitts are too many and wisely concluded there's no such thing. (Whew!)

Some of you are thinking, with spring on the horizon who needs mitts? I can't speak for you, but in this region, mitts and shawls are two of the most useful spring (and fall) accessories, which may explain why there's a pair of sock weight mitts on the needles.

Since many of you love fingerless mitts as much as I do, tell me:
  • How many pairs have you made? 
  • How many are in your collection now? 
  • How and when do you wear them? 
  • Why do you make them? 
  • Which pair is your favorite and why? 
  • Do you make mitts for yourself, others or both?

Lush and lovely or simple and serviceable, we treasure our mitts for many reasons. Together, let's count the ways.

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