Dec 14, 2014

The Best Gift

Recently, I received one of the best gifts a knitter can get. No it wasn't yarn, or needles or a handcrafted treasure. It was this ...

Following a lovely, relaxed Thanksgiving dinner, the extended family was sitting around the table chatting when my youngest goddaughter poked her dad and tilted her head. (She’s a bit shy in large gatherings.)

Reading his cue accurately, he leaned back in his chair and casually remarked how much she wanted to learn to knit. The oldest GD immediately piped up and said, “Me, too!”

(For the record, I have three goddaughters and one godson ranging in age from 12 to 21.)

The youngest GD is a true newbie, but technically the two oldest ones know how to knit. When they were young, they used to spend a chunk of time with me every week or two. We’d cook, bake, draw, craft and chat.

Occasionally, we’d pop in a video, light a fire and they would wind yarn while I knit. When they asked, I taught them the basics and we spent one enjoyable Christmas season making scarves for their mom, grandmother and aunt.
They loved to go yarn shopping and feel the different fibers. They also loved untangling, which was fortunate. We bought very soft, very expensive yarn for all the projects, but when we tried to wind the yarn for the aunt’s scarf, we found a snarled mess. We should have returned the skein, but instead we spent an entire evening carefully teasing apart the tangles to salvage enough to finish the project in time for Christmas.

Back to present day. Oldest GD had cleaned out her closet and found a small WIP from long ago, but when she tried to restart it, she no longer remembered the basics. If I was willing, she said, she’d really like a refresher course.

So now, in addition to the flurry of pre-holiday knitting, I’m striving to put together a simple strategy for a series of post-holiday knitting sessions. It's a joy not a burden and I'm glowing like a Christmas tree at the prospect. 

Sometimes the best gift a knitter can get is the chance to spend quality time with beloved godkids ... and begin planting the seeds for a new generation of fiber fanatics.

PS: If you have any hints, tips or suggestions for fast and easy projects for new knitters, please share.

PPS: To see what others are working on, visit Frontier DreamsSmall Things, Wisdom in Wonder and Natural Suburbia.

Dec 8, 2014

There's Still Time

The holidays are right around the corner and once again I find myself marveling at the weird and wacky mindset that surfaces this time of year.

Granted, this probably doesn’t happen to you, but it certainly happens to me:
My logical brain looks at the calendar and notes Christmas is 2.5 weeks away.
My knitter’s brain looks at the calendar and whispers, “There’s still time!”

Time for what? Good question. It’s different each year, but in this particular instance, it occurred to me there might be time to …
  • Finish the cashmere scarf above. (I’m in the home stretch.)
  • Design a pair of last-minute mitts to match the cashmere scarf.
  • Knit the mitts and have them ready for Christmas.
  • Start (and finish) at least one small knitted item for each of my four godkids.
  • Start (and finish) a few holiday decorations to add to the collection.
  • Start (and finish) a holiday tea towel and cloth set.
  • Finish the shawl that’s on the needles. (About 35% complete.)
  • Finalize the cable rib afghan pattern and get it to the tech editor.
  • Cast on a new afghan. 

And that list captures only what I'd like to do before Christmas. Clearly I’ve succumbed to a delusional state fueled by fiber fumes and the tantalizing temptation secretly spun into every strand of yarn.

In this state, it's easy to glibly gloss over many other things that must be done. Pesky things like work. And more work. (This is a busy time of year in my non-knitting world.) Decorating. Cleaning. Holiday cards. Cooking. More cleaning, cooking and decorating. Plus time with family, friends and colleagues.

My logical brain says, “Save your sanity! Trim the list!” 

My knitter's brain shouts, “There’s still time!”

To see what others are working on, visit Frontier DreamsSmall Things, Wisdom in Wonder and Natural Suburbia.

Nov 30, 2014

Pattern | Drumlin Reversible Afghan

If you're in the mood for a fast, easy and reversible afghan that's versatile enough for family, friends or your favorite fella, Drumlin fits the bill.

The name comes from an old Gaelic word for ridge and alludes to the fluted ridge stitch, which produces the same ridged texture on both sides of the fabric.

Choose solid colors to keep the focus on texture.

Pair closely related colors in each strip for an appealing tone-on-tone effect.

Opt for high contrast colors to accentuate stripes on the front and tweedy chevrons on the back.
Drumlin offers a few advantages you might appreciate:
  • The stitch is reversible, easy to execute and easy to memorize. It's also fascinating, because small changes in yarn or color combinations make a dramatic difference.
  • The colorwork is simple and straightforward, because only one color is worked on a row. There’s absolutely no stranding involved and the inactive color is carried up the side. 
  • The strip strategy keeps your project compact and portable. You can work a few quick rows on the go, plus you can knit afghans anytime and anywhere without the bulk of a full blanket in your lap. 
  • The seaming method features a modified three-needle bind off. It’s fast, easy and reliable, so assembly goes quickly and smoothly. 
  • The pattern is simple enough for any moderately experienced beginner. Concise but comprehensive, it includes a basic schematic along with directions, stitch counts, yardage and dimensions for three sizes (small/baby, medium/lapghan and large/throw).
  • In terms of yarn, Drumlin is particularly well-suited to those with a bit of memory, so worsted weight wool and wool blends are ideal.
  • The design is highly adaptable. Go classic with luscious yarn in a single color, fun with a mix of yarns from stash, or tailored with solid or tweed yarn.

Drumlin is also a very fast knit, so there's still time to complete a compact afghan in time for holiday gift-giving.

Drumlin | Fast & Easy Reversible Afghan
Yarn: Worsted Weight
Yarn Shown: Cotton Fleece (Brown Sheep)
Needles: US 7 (4.5 mm) and US 9 (5.5 mm)
Sizes: SML (baby-lapghan-throw)
Yardage: 900 to 2000 yards (approx.)

To celebrate the official arrival of holiday season, Drumlin will be available at a 33% discount until midnight December 7 (EST). On December 8, it will revert to full price.

Click here to purchase the Drumlin pattern and view the Ravelry description. (Remember, you don't have to be a Ravelry member to buy patterns.)

PS: The fast, easy and reversible Twegen Afghan pattern is also on sale, so now's your chance to get both patterns at a special holiday price.

Nov 25, 2014

FYI | Drumlin Reversible Afghan is Coming

A number of you have inquired when the pattern for Drumlin would be released, so this is a quick heads-up to let you know that it should be available within a week.

Here are a few Drumlin highlights:
  • It's fast, easy and reversible.
  • It features strip construction and is highly portable.
  • The pattern is written for worsted weight yarn.
  • It's the ideal way to turn one-skein yarns into something cozy and useful.
  • It includes directions for three sizes (SML).
  • It incorporates a handy Quick Reference chart to make modifications easy.
  • It's simple enough for most moderately experienced beginners.

To anticipate your questions:
  • Yes, I'll let you know the moment the pattern is released. *See below.
  • Yes, there will be some special deals to add to the appeal. *See below.

The holidays are right around the corner. If I had to choose one afghan to make as a gift, it would be Drumlin. Why?

The fluted ridge stitch knits quickly, produces a completely reversible texture and is easy to memorize. These factors make Drumlin a remarkably speedy project: I can complete a compact version in about three to four weeks, which is astonishing since I'm a relatively slow knitter. If want to learn about Drumlin and it's versatility, you'll find more examples herehere and here.

If you simply must start an afghan today, consider Twegen. The look is similar and it too is fast, easy and reversible.

* UPDATE: Holiday Sale!
The Drumlin Reversible Afghan pattern has been released. To celebrate, you can buy Drumlin and buy Twegen at a special holiday price for a limited time.  (Remember, you can purchase patterns through Ravelry even if you're not a member.)

Nov 17, 2014

Room to Spare

At one time, there was more Cotton Fleece in my stash than any other type of yarn.

It all started years ago with a wacky idea to make a multicolored sweater jacket featuring 24 different colors plus black. My sister and I laughingly called it the PMS sweater because the initial sketches resembled a Pantone Matching System color chart.

Once the idea took hold, I had to act. Since none of the local yarn stores stocked Cotton Fleece, it was all purchased online. Suffice it to say I ended up with lots and lots and lots of one-off skeins in my mission to acquire 24 colors that blended well in real life as opposed to onscreen.

Fast forward to late 2012. The body of the sweater was completed and sitting in the cupboard destined to be an eternal UFO, when inspiration struck. For me this project was more about “stitch and color” and less about “must make a sweater.” So ... the sweater became the Swafghan.

The remaining full and partial skeins of Cotton Fleece evolved into a different sweater and an entire series of blankets, coasters, dish-spa cloths and whimsical knits.

After two years of diligent knitting, the once delightful and daunting  array of Cotton Fleece has been reduced to this:

Yarn that once filled my largest tub to overflowing now fits neatly into a shoebox ... with a little room to spare.

To see what others are working on, visit Frontier DreamsSmall Things, Wisdom in Wonder and Natural Suburbia.

Nov 9, 2014

Little Big

Every now and then, I think it's possible I devote too much time to knitting.

There's more than enough in the pipeline: two active WIPs, several projects waiting to be cast on, a new pattern to finalize and several designs in the works.

Nonetheless, I'm also swatching and experimenting to test different stitches in various combinations. The reversible fluted ridge stitch is a good example. It's been featured in three different afghans (Almost NeutralBright and Gem tones) for one simple reason.

In solid colors, both sides look like this:

In closely related tone-on-tone colors, the stitch looks like this (front and back):

In high-contrast black and white, the stitch looks like this (front and back):

The photos leave something to be desired, but I chose them for a reason. They all feature the same stitch, same texture and same yarn, so the only variable is color.

Little changes. Big differences. Infinite possibilities.

Just a few of the many reasons why we choose to knit.

To see what others are working on, visit KCCOYarn AlongFiber Friday and Creative Friday.

Nov 2, 2014

Breaking the Spell

Most of us have a few rarefied skeins lurking in the stash, but they can be a touchy topic we'd rather duck and dodge than discuss.

I’m referring of course to yarns that are so soft and sublime, we pet them, stroke them, cuddle them and adore them. They tempt us with their beauty. They taunt us with their hefty price tags. They accept our gentle caress but refuse to be knit.

They sit happily ensconced in the stash but are not truly part of it, secure in the knowledge they're the highest fiber life form: They're "shrine of precious" yarns.

I confess to owning more than a few skeins. All were acquired with specific projects in mind, but somehow the project didn’t materialize, the concept lost its appeal or they were “too good” for their planned use.

Enough already. In a breathtaking and daring move, I’m working on not one but two shrine of precious projects.

The first is my latest shawl. It combines nice but unremarkable variegated wool-nylon sock yarn with black Tajmahal, a delicious Italian-made sport weight blend of superfine merino (70%), silk (22%) and cashmere (8%).

This is an emotionally risky venture. Part of me still believes one day I might actually make the sweater for which the Tajmahal was purchased and part is convinced pairing premium yarn with humble sock yarn is quite simply wrong. Surely such luscious fiber was destined for greater things?

After much cogitation (Do it? Don’t? Do it?), I decided the only way to know for sure was to test the combination and see what happened. The initial swatch went well and it's grown into a full-fledged project that looks like this:

So far, so good.

The second project features another precious yarn from the shawl test lineup. Called Richesse et Soie, it’s a fingering weight blend of cashmere (65%) and silk (35%). This yarn was also made in Italy and is truly sublime. I’ve swatched it several times but never quite found The Perfect Project.

Hopefully that’s changed. The last time you saw it, it looked like this:

Now it looks like this:

(Yes, that's the same purple yarn in both photos, but the color in the first is more accurate.)

The red and purple swatch helped me realize how much I wanted this super-soft yarn draped around my neck, so instead of a shawl I’m making a narrow scarf. It’s growing slowly, but if all goes well, I’ll end up with something light, lush and long enough to be worn multiple ways.

Soft yarn, hard choices. It’s time to break the spell.

To see what others are working on, visit KCCOYarn AlongFiber Friday and Creative Friday.

Oct 26, 2014

FO | Twegen Afghan (Coffee)

While we’ve been talking about other knitterly things, the coffee-colored Twegen has been steadily brewing in the background and I’m pleased to report it’s done. In fact, it’s been finished and waiting patiently in the wings for more than two weeks. 

You're familiar with the essentials: It’s fast, easy and reversible, relies on strip construction and was made entirely from stash. The photo shows it unblocked, with the ribbed side above the fold line and fluted side below it.

The Berry and Harvest versions feature nine colors each, but this one has five. Left to right, each strip incorporates two neutrals: black with gray, gray with brown, brown with taupe, and taupe with cream.

Several factors keep drawing me back to this pattern. In addition to being reversible, the stitch is attractive in one color or two. Closely related colors create an appealing tone-on-tone effect, while contrasting ones highlight the stitch pattern. These qualities make it easy to blend two colors from different dye lots, turn "uglies" into "snugglies," or transform lonely singletons into a cohesive whole to maximize yarn from stash.

The strip strategy makes it portable right up to the point of assembly, and because it's easy to adjust the width and length, it helps me make the most of yarn on hand. I used Cotton Fleece (80% cotton, 20% wool) to produce a year-round fabric, but with winter rapidly approaching superwash wool or a wool blend would be lush and cozy.

Since I'm a rather slow knitter, it takes me about five to six weeks on average to knit this particular pattern. This version took nine from start to finish, but that includes four weeks where it was set aside so I could tackle other WIPs.

Twegen Coffee
Pattern: Twegen
Yarn: Cotton Fleece (Brown Sheep)
Weight: Worsted
Yardage: 900 yards +/-
Needles: US 9 (5.5 mm)
Size: Small (approx. 28 x 36 ins)
Ravelry Notes:  Here 
WIP Posts: Here and here

There are other projects in the pipeline clamoring for attention, but my passion for afghans is unabated. Don't tell the others, but at the moment, this version is my new favorite.

It was pressed into service.long before the last end was woven, because our weather turned cool. Now it's becoming a ritual to greet the day with a cup of coffee in hand and this afghan warming my legs. 

On a crisp autumn morning, what could be better than that?

Joining Frontier DreamsSmall Things, Wisdom in Wonder and Natural Suburbia.

Oct 20, 2014

The Winding Road

Lately it feels as if I'm knitting a great deal but making little headway. This feeling is part reality and part perception.

The reality? Recent FOs include the Oyster Bay shawl, Wineberry shawl, Fluted Ridge cloth and Twegen Coffee afghan.

The perception? At the moment, most of my knitting time is focused on finding the right stash yarn for my newest knitting addiction, shawls.

For me "finding" means experimenting, and experimenting means swatching. This is just one of the many yarn combinations I've tested:

All this swatching has kept me busy:

The small ovals show the handful of color and yarn combinations that made it to the photo stage. The larger ovals show the two swatches promising enough to pursue: One turned into the Wineberry FO and the other is my active WIP, the Blackberry shawl.

None of the test swatches were fatally flawed, but it consistently took at least three tries to land on a color, weight and fiber combination that prompted that crucial "must knit this" reaction.

These twists and turns are a familiar part of the knitting journey, but it's a process others rarely see and may not understand. We're knit-knit-knitting but making little visible progress, because we're traveling a long and winding road.

To see what others are working on, visit KCCOYarn AlongFiber Friday and Creative Friday.