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.

Oct 12, 2014

FO | Wineberry Wrap

The other morning, I was working at the computer when I looked down and realized two things: It was the first full week of October, and I was already swathed head to toe in knits.

On my hands were a pair of Last-Minute Mitts (pattern is here):

This fluted ridge afghan was draped over my legs:

And my just-finished Wineberry wrap was draped around my neck:

(Not a great photo, but it captures the general idea.)

Wineberry Wrap
Pattern: My own
Yarns: Charlemont (Valley Yarns); Happy Feet (Plymouth)
Yardage: 250 yards (+/-)
Weight: Fingering
Needle: US 8 (5 mm)

Like most of my recent projects, it was a fast and easy knit. It’s light, soft and drapey, the ideal weight for this time of year. The wings are long enough to wrap twice and it's reversible, so it can be worn many ways.

Plus, the combination of red with splashes of purple make it the perfect grab-wrap-and-go accessory for my mostly neutral wardrobe. It features the same construction as the Oyster Bay shawl, but the look couldn’t be more different.

We all know what that means, don’t we?! Yep, there’s another one already on the needles.

To see what others are doing, visit KCCO and Yarn Along.

Oct 6, 2014

WIP | Double Dose of Coffee

Few things are better on a gray and chilly morning than sipping a rich, dark cup of coffee while you sit by the kitchen window with a cozy afghan draped over your lap.
That’s exactly how my Sunday morning started.

Well, "exactly" might be an overstatement. 

There was a mug of coffee on the table and a coffee-colored afghan heaped in my lap. Overall, it was a very pleasant way to start the day.

The heap was deliberate and not the mindless result of early morning bleariness. As soon as the caffeine kicked in, I buckled down to weave ends.

Finishing isn't my strongest suit and Twegen is reversible, so I take extra care to make the work as invisible as possible on both the front and back. And yes, experience has taught me I need to be fresh, alert and fully caffeinated to come anywhere close to that goal.

A great deal is going on in non-knitting world. This means my finishing pace has been tortoise-like but progress has occurred. I'm in the home stretch and ready to tackle the last few wayward ends.

The timing couldn't be better. Nothing can compete with the crisp air and soft light of autumn mornings, but personally, I'd prefer to face them with a steaming cup of joe in hand and a toasty Twegen warming my legs.

Afghan season has officially arrived and I'm craving a double dose of coffee.

In Case You Missed It
Twegen, the pattern for this afghan, has been released.

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

Sep 28, 2014

Pattern | Twegen Reversible Afghan

Does the prospect of cooler weather have you longing to knit something warm and cozy? If so, you've come to the right place. 

Twegen, the pattern for the fluted rib afghan, has been released.

If you’re a regular reader, you’re familiar with the basics. This afghan is fast, easy and reversible. One simple slip stitch creates gently fluted columns on the front ...

and fluted ribs on the back.

The name Twegen in fact comes from an Old English word for “two,” since each side has its own distinct appearance and appeal. 

In addition to being reversible, Twegen offers a range of features you might appreciate:
  • The stitch is easy to execute, easy to memorize and extremely versatile. In solid colors, the focus remains on the texture, and in two colors, it creates a pleasing tone-on-tone or high-contrast effect based on the colors you choose. 
  • 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. It’s easy to work a few quick rows on the run and you can knit afghans anytime and anywhere without the weight 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 ranging from small (baby) to medium (lapghan) and large (throw).
  • In terms of yarn, Twegen 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. Create a classic look with luscious yarn in a single color, knit a mix-and-match version to make the most of yarn from stash or do both.

To reward you for your patience and celebrate the arrival of afghan season (some people call it “autumn”), Twegen will be available at a reduced introductory price ($4) until midnight October 5 (Eastern DST). On October 6, it will revert to full price.

To view the Ravelry description and purchase the pattern, click here. Or take the shortcut and click the button below.

Twegen | Fast & Easy Reversible Afghan
Yarn: Worsted Weight
Examples Include: Cotton Fleece (Brown Sheep) and Four Seasons (Classic Elite)
Needles: US 9 (5.5 mm) and US 10 (6.0 mm)
Sizes: S (baby)  M (lapghan)  L (throw)
Yardage: 900 to 2000 yards (approx.)

You’re talented and creative knitters, which means I truly can’t wait to see the wonderful variations you’ll produce. Once you discover how fast, easy and versatile it is, you might find yourself making Twegen over and over again, just as I have.

Sep 22, 2014

WIP | Coffee's Still Perking

The last time we discussed the coffee-colored version of Twegen, the strips had been bound off and were waiting to be assembled. Remember?

Knitting time is limited right now, but I’ve been steadily working on the simple tasks of seaming and edging.

There are ends to weave and it’s still unblocked, but progress has occurred.

Is it just me? At this stage, I'm always tempted to rush through the final steps and declare the project done. But weaving ends isn't one of my strongest suits, so my constant challenge is to slow down and work carefully to make the finishing as tidy and unobtrusive as possible.

Until every last end is woven, the coffee afghan will continue perking in the background. What’s on your knitting agenda this week?

The pattern for this fast and easy reversible afghan, Twegen, has been released.

Sep 14, 2014

WIP | Warning Signs

It all started so innocently.

Last month, I cast on my very first shawl:

It was such a fast, fun and satisfying knit, the moment it was off the needles, I began rummaging through the stash seeking yarn for another.

Soon, this was on the needles:

It mixes alternating strands of fuchsia and bright pink Helen's Lace (Lorna's Laces) with variegated Happy Feet (Plymouth) fingering weight. While it has real possibilities, it wasn't quite the look I was after.

That version went on hold, so I could cast on this:

It features Richesse et Soie, a discontinued yarn so exquisite it may never actually get knit into anything. It's difficult to find a project worthy of this delicious blend (65% cashmere, 35% silk), but I'm a big fan of red paired with purple, so this version has genuine potential.

Unfortunately, I couldn't seem to stop. In a moment of distraction, I began this:

It alternates variegated Happy Feet with solid burgundy Charlemont (Valley Yarns) and it would be fair to say this combination is beginning to grow on me:

To the casual observer, these pictures look like innocuous WIPs or a simple case of start-itis. But we know better, don't we? They're clear proof of another dangerous knitting addiction in the making.

They're warning signs ... which I've decided to ignore.

To see what others are working on this week, visit KCCOYarn Along and Fiber Friday.

Sep 7, 2014

WIP | Coffee is Perking

The last time we talked about afghans, the current WIP was little more than a gleam in the eye.

My original intent was to test out a new concept, but for better or worse when it was time to cast on, I decided to revisit Twegen, with its reversible fluted rib stitch. Why? I simply couldn't resist the urge to see it in these warm neutral shades of Cotton Fleece.

Color-wise, the photos aren't particularly accurate because the camera and its hapless operator (me) can't quite capture the warm brown undertones. Each strip incorporates two shades for a tone-on-tone effect, and you'll have to trust me when I say the colors are richer and deeper than they appear here.

Strip 1 blends brownish black with gray brown.

Strip 2 combines gray brown with deep brown.

 Strip 3 mixes deep brown and medium brown.

Strip 4 features medium brown with cream.

Here in blog world, I've been preoccupied with the search for a Four Seasons replacement yarn and the fast and easy Oyster Bay shawl. In non-blog world, I was quietly working on this afghan, so all the strips have been completed, bound off and are ready to seam.

My method for seaming and edging is very easy, but I'm always happier with the results when I focus, work deliberately and take my time. The next few weeks are filled with deadlines and commitments, so these final stages may progress even more slowly than usual. And that's okay.

As eager as I am to see this come together, for now it's enough to know the coffee afghan is perking steadily in the background.

The pattern for this fast and easy reversible afghan, Twegen, has been released. 

Aug 31, 2014

Spotlight | Four Seasons Yarn

If you're a regular reader, you know Four Seasons by Classic Elite is one of my go-to yarns. When the company decided to discontinue it, I was relieved to have a significant quantity safely ensconced in the stash.

Four Seasons had many desirable qualities. The 70% cotton and 30% wool blend combined the silkiness of fine cotton with just enough wool to offer the springiness and memory I need. It came in a wonderful range of colors, and as an added bonus, it was well suited to myriad projects, producing a worsted weight fabric that was comfortable to work with and use year round.

The differences between Cotton Fleece and Four Seasons are subtle but real, akin to the way cake and bread flour are similar but different. Cotton Fleece works well for many things, but there are times I want that extra bit of woolly resilience and loftiness that made Four Seasons a must-have staple.

With that context in place, let's take a quick look at a few projects.

Colorado Baby (2012)
(This is the only photo I have of a small blanket for a friend's first grandchild.)

Cable Rib Berry (2013)

Dishcloths, Coasters & Placemats

Christmas Trees (2013)

Hot Shot Kitchen Set (2013)

Owl Family (2013)

Sweet Hearts (2014)
 Soft Spots (2014)

Red, White & Blue (2012, 2013, 2014)

When you're knitting from stash, it's crucial to mix and match yarns to make the most of what's on hand, so some of these projects also appeared in the Cotton Fleece round up. The berry Fluted Rib afghan is a good example: the colorful strips are Four Seasons, while the creamy seams and trim are Cotton Fleece. 

These projects are representative but by no means all inclusive, particularly where cloths, coasters and holiday knits are concerned. Unfortunately now that Four Seasons has been discontinued, my supply is rapidly dwindling. There are a few skeins of red, white and blue, but the rest has been reduced to partial skeins and scraps.

You don't have to be psychic to know one day soon, I'll be desperately searching for precisely the right cotton-wool yarn for a new design or familiar favorite. Frankly, I'd rather avoid that crisis by starting the search for a substitute now.

So, tell me: Do you have a favorite cotton-wool blend? What do you like and dislike about it? What have you made with it?

Share whatever details you feel are pertinent, and together, perhaps we can discover fresh yarns that suit projects we've longed to make or those we have yet to conceive.

Twegen, the pattern for this fast and easy reversible afghan has been released.

Aug 24, 2014

FO | Oyster Bay Shawl

I’m delighted to report the Oyster Bay Shawl is finished.

This was a wonderfully fast knit and it would have been even quicker if I hadn’t miscalculated. I completed 95% of the blue wing and part of the oyster wing before I realized I was going to run out of yarn about two inches shy of the points.(To see work in progress, go here.)

Yes, I could have done a work-around. Instead, I bit the bullet and ripped and restarted both wings. Such is the nature of knitting sometimes.

Pattern: Personal pattern
Yarn: Tern in Boothbay Blue and Oyster (Quince & Co.)
Yardage: 442 yards
Weight: Fingering
Needles: US 7
Dimensions: 44 ins wide x 18 ins deep (unblocked); 60 ins wide x 22 ins deep (blocked)

Tern's mix of wool and silk is lovely to knit. It has a pleasing hand, plenty of wooly springiness and a subtle sheen. Equally important, it produces a versatile light weight fabric with a pleasing drape so this shawl will see lots of wear when cooler weather arrives.

The finished dimensions were determined partly by yardage and partly by the blocking method. The goal was to use up the yarn, so I knit until it was almost gone, bound off, wove in the ends, then lightly steamed it to relax the yarn and stitches.

Because it's worked in seed stitch, it's reversible and nearly identical on both sides. Size-wise, it's ideal for me: Large enough to wear as a small shawl but compact enough to wrap as a scarf this winter.

There are several fingering and lace weight skeins tucked in my stash. This concept might be just the ticket for transforming a motley assortment of odd balls into warm and wearable things, so it's likely another will soon be on the needles.

We all saw that coming, didn't we?

Joining Wisdom in WonderFrontier DreamsSmall Things and Tami's Amis.