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May 22, 2016

Might Could Works

As every maker knows, small things can make a big difference.

Such is the case with the streamlined, pared down, low-key Might Could list I shared a few weeks ago. Since then, here's what I might did:

1. Seamed this vivid afghan:



2. Wove a few final ends on the wrap-cape-shawl-ruana and worked to get a slightly better picture:

3. Completed the components for a summery slip stitch afghan featuring rainbow colors. I'm weaving ends now, then it will be ready to assemble.


4. Started (yet) another afghan, which has seen some action since this photo, but which is mostly waiting patiently for its turn in the spotlight.


5. Drafted a design for something I desperately need, a light, fluid spring-summer shawl suitable for the cool mornings and evenings we're experiencing.

6. Finished writing several patterns, which will head to the tech editor this week.

Dazzling? No. Progress? Yes.

In fact, the results have been so satisfying, I'm developing an updated Might Could list, to see what other things this understated, loosey-goosey, weirdly motivating strategy might be able to manifest. If you haven't tried it, stroll over to the dark side and give it a lazy whirl.

Who knows what you might could do and might could make if you had a Might Could list of your own?


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May 15, 2016

Right Side? Wrong Side? You Decide

Among my many knitting obsessions is an unwavering fascination with reversible stitches. I love them in all their forms, from solid textures to the interesting effects achieved by working slip stitch patterns in different colors.

Twegen Afghan swatch (L: front, R: back)


Many years and miles of yarn have passed through my fingers since I first consciously wrestled with the issue of reversability. My sister had made a simple striped garter scarf, so one side featured the smooth, invisible color joins, while the other displayed the characteristic broken stripes. Unconstrained by convention, she wore the wrong side facing outward because it was the look she preferred, which was an eye-opening experience.


Flashpoint Afghan 
(L: back, R: front)


Over time, the distinctions between right and wrong sides have evolved in the knitting community at large. These distinctions tend to blur even more when we as makers develop a richer appreciation for the varied patterns and textures different techniques create. 

This swatch is a good example. Some people prefer the front, some prefer the back, but the majority find both sides attractive. What do you think?

Test swatch (L: front, R: back)



There are, of course, plenty of knitters who gravitate toward a narrow definition of reversibility. The only stitches that meet their criteria are exactly the same on both sides, an outlook some of you may share as well.

Dojeling Shawl (same on both sides)




Drumlin Afghan (same on both sides)



Through the years, a range of experiences have helped expand my personal definition of reversability. 

When I swatch to test a new stitch, for instance, I'm surprised how often I find the backside as or more appealing than the front. The swatch below is a good example: Which side do you prefer?

Test swatch (L: front, R: back)


Making items for non-knitters is also revealing. They admire, stroke and happily wear, use or display their handmade treasures ... with the wrong side facing out. 

This annoys some knitters, but I've learned to embrace it. Our non-knitting friends see the fabric with fresh eyes, discovering possibilities we may not perceive. They're unconcerned with technicalities, so they simply pick the side that appeals to them most. 

And when all is said and done, that's just how it should be. Right?


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May 8, 2016

Legacy

I come from a long line of women who were talented makers.

From tatting and crochet to knitting, sewing, embroidery, quilting and basket weaving, many of them could (and did) do it all. Whatever fiber genes I've inherited come from them. Whatever modest skills I've developed, I learned first at their knee.

There are other treasures I could share, such as full-sized quilts stitched entirely by hand, but instead I've chosen just a few small mementos that remind me of this legacy:

Wicker tray: Great Great Aunt M  |  Hand mirror: Great Grandmother P  |  Stuffed dog: Great Aunt M
Embroidery & tatting: Grandma M  |  Sewing monocle: Grandma J 
Knitting needles: Mom


Naturally, there'a  story behind each of these items, which we can discuss another day. Meanwhile, whether you're making, giving or receiving, I hope your day is filled with the special joy that comes from family, friends and handmade treasures.

Happy Mother's Day!


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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.

NOTE
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?


To read more of the Might Could story, see Might Could Works.

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.