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Jun 29, 2016

Spotlight | Red, White & Blue Holidays

In the US, we'll soon be enjoying an extended holiday weekend in honor of America's Independence Day (July 4). 

To celebrate, I'm offering a Summer Breeze Sale on all patterns (through midnight July 4).



I'm also sharing a list of red, white and blue holidays, which I hope you'll find useful. Many of us enjoy brightening these occasions with our handcrafted items, so this list of patriotic US holidays will help all of us get the maximum enjoyment from the things we make:

JANUARY

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Third Monday: Recognizes his contributions to American society

FEBRUARY
National Freedom Day. Feb 1: Celebrates the law that abolished slavery
Lincoln's Birthday. Feb 12: Celebrates Abraham Lincoln
Washington's Birthday. Feb 22: Washington was born Feb 22, 1732 (or Feb 11, 1731 using the Julian calendar in effect at that time)
President's Day. Third Monday: A joint holiday to recognize Washington and Lincoln

MAY
Loyalty Day. May 1: A time to reaffirm loyalty and celebrate American freedoms
Armed Forces Day. Third Saturday: Recognizes our Armed Forces
Memorial Day. Last Monday: Honors those who've died protecting our freedoms

JUNE

D-Day. June 6: Commemorates the 1944 Normandy landings, the beginning of the end of World War II
Flag Day. June 14: Celebrates the adoption of the US flag in 1777

JULY

Independence Day. July 4: Celebrates the US Declaration of Independence in 1776

SEPTEMBER

Labor Day. First Monday: Recognizes all American workers
Patriot Day. Sep 11: Remembers the 2996 people who died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks
Constitution Day. Sep 17: Celebrates the signing of the Constitution in 1787
Citizenship Day. Sep 17: Recognizes the rights and responsibilities of US citizenship
Gold Star Mother's Day. Last Sunday: Honors the mothers of those who've died serving in the US Armed Forces

NOVEMBER

Veteran's Day. Nov 11: Celebrates all veterans on the anniversary of the World War I Armistice in 1918

DECEMBER

Pearl Harbor Day. Dec 7: Honors those who died in the 1941 Pearl Harbor attacks

    Perhaps with so many opportunities to celebrate, you'll feel inspired to make something in red, white and blue!



    Have a relaxing and enjoyable weekend one and all, whether or not you're celebrating Independence Day or Canada Day. Meanwhile, if you're seeking inspiration, you might enjoy these posts:

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    Jun 26, 2016

    WIP | Making Rainbows

    This design has been nestled in my portfolio for quite some time. There it might have remained, but our discussion on rainbow color combos triggered the realization it was time to translate this concept into action. Let's take a quick look.

    The last time you saw this afghan, it was rather unprepossessing:


    But within a very short time, it began to grow:



    Gradually, the pile of strips grew, too:



    Until one day, all of them were finished:


    Seaming is moving forward at a steady pace, and I'm fighting the same battle I always fight. I'm eager to see this come together, but I'm forcing myself to work patiently. Experience has taught me rushing might get me to the finish line faster, but the end result tends to fall short of my expectations.


    So far, I'm delighted with how things are shaping up. This design pairs one of my all-time favorite stitches with one of my go-to yarns (Cotton Fleece), and together they've produced a textured fabric that's light, drapey, and versatile enough for year-round use. Add in the rainbow shades, and it's the ideal antidote to the grey, rainy weather we've been having.


    It's been fun working this afghan in tandem with Angletyn, because the contrast couldn't be more striking: Angletyn is bold and dramatic, this design is light, cheerful and summery. Both are satisfying knits, but at this moment I'm relishing the undeniable magic of making rainbows.


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    Jun 19, 2016

    FO | Angletyn Vivid

    For most of us, knitting is about many things: color, texture, the need to create, and the soothing sensation of fiber flowing through our fingers.

    Angletyn has been an extraordinarily satisfying project because it hit those buttons and more. Forgive the lumps and bumps, but even in its current unblocked state, I freely confess I love everything about it:

    The vivid colors and contrasting lines of the seams and trim.




    The subtle texture on the front and the plush texture on the back.




    The large-scale angled bands that transform into mega chevrons once the strips are joined.



    I'll try to get better images once it's blocked, but for now these will have to suffice.

    Angletyn Afghan
    Pattern: In testing
    Yarn: Bulky weight
       Black & Red: Korall (Laines du Nord)
       Purple: Torino (Tahki)
       Turquoise: Valley Superwash Merino (Valley Yarns)
    Needles: US 11 (8 mm); US 13 (9 mm)
    Size: Lapghan
    Yardage: 600 yards (approx.)

    This was a fast knit in terms of actual time, about six weeks in all. Calendar-wise, it's a very different story. This project has been on the needles since early spring, but knitting time has been so scarce entire weeks have passed and I've not worked a single stitch (a true rarity for me).

    Luckily, the strip strategy made it possible to pick it up and work a few quick rows whenever time permitted. The bulky merino yarn helped the project grow steadily and produced a finished afghan that's light, lofty and pleasantly substantial. As an added plus, the bold colors and clean lines are appealing and completely unisex.

    Angletyn was such a fun, easy knit, you don't have to be psychic to predict what's coming next: Yep, another version in rainbow hues is already on the needles.

    Wishing you all a Happy Father's Day!



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    Jun 12, 2016

    Stashbusting Strategies (Part I)

    Not all knitters have stashes, but most of us do.

    This means stashbusting strategies are an essential part of our lives as makers, and heaven knows, they're a big part of mine. Now, truthfully, almost any project can with planning and care be adapted to serve as a stashbuster, but we all know some fulfill that purpose better than others.


    Examples are always helpful, so let's look at a few projects and explore specific ways to leverage the stashbusting potential they offer.



    Alaris Shawl (coming soon)

    This modular cape-poncho-ruana-shawl offers infinite stashbusting possibilities. You could:
    • Do something comparable to the version above and pair a single solid color with variegated yarns or a smooth yarn with a nubby one. (I did both.) 
    • Use up singletons by working each panel in a different shade, or create tone-on-tone stripes with closely related colors. 
    • Work the top, middle and bottom thirds in different shades to create appealing broad color bands.
    • Move lots of yardage out of stash with multi-stranding. (See this conversion chart for general guidelines.)


    Dojeling Shawl
    This easy triangular shawl readily adapts to a stash-based strategy. You could:
    • Select two precious skeins with equal yardage and work two-row stripes and solid wings to make the most of every single yard. 
    • Adopt a color block approach and work the center panel in one color and each wing in a different one.
    • Subdue a wayward variegated by pairing it with a closely related solid shade worked in alternating stripes.
    • Pair a single MC with CC leftovers and work an ever-changing series of contrasting stripes.
    • Choose mix-and-match skeins that appeal to your eye, take the plunge and start knitting.


    Breidan Afghan



    Breidan's simple design and classic stitch accommodate yarns in any weight. To burn through stash:
    • Pick a rainbow array of solids with similar weights and use a different color for each strip.
    • Or choose assorted neutrals and do the same.
    • Take an afghan quantity of matching yarn, use it for the strips and seams, or use a contrasting orphan skein for the seams.
    • Compile an afghan quantity by selecting three complementary yarns, then working three strips in one, two strips in another, and the seams in the third.




    Someday, I'd like to knit this as a classic nine-patch (three strips with three blocks each). Until that day comes, here are options to consider:

    • Scale it up by adding more blocks to a strip or more strips to the layout, or scale it down to suit yarn on hand by working fewer blocks/strips.
    • Opt for a traditional color block strategy, choosing one MC and two CCs to create a checkerboard pattern.
    • Use up variegated yarns by selecting a unifying MC and working each block (or strip) in a different one.
    • Use a similar strategy if you have lots of yarn in one color family: Pick a unifying MC and work each block/strip in a different CC.


    Drumlin Afghan


    This fast, easy knit readily lends itself to stashbusting. You could:

    • Do what I did for the Bright version above, and work each strip with two closely related colors for muted stripes.
    • Make solid strips in widths tailored to the amount of yarn you have (a strategy I used for both Gemtones and Almost Neutral).
    • Create high contrast stripes by pairing a very light shade with a very deep one for a striking effect.


    Flashpoint Afghan


    This pattern is infinitely scalable, so it's very easy to adjust the triangular modules up or down to suit yarn on hand. To put stubborn stash to good use:

    • Try working each triangle in a different color, fiber or a mix of both.
    • Add a touch of whimsy, and work each seam and border in a different shade as well. 
    • If you have a large quantity of one or two colors, use them for the modules and choose a contrasting color for seams and trim.


    Twegen Afghan


    As the first afghan pattern I released, Twegen holds a special place in my knitterly heart. From the beginning, it was conceived as a stashbusting design, and it's achieved that goal admirably. To accomplish the same:

    • Scale the width and/or length up or down to accommodate yarn on hand.
    • Use a rainbow assortment of singletons to create something pretty and productive.
    • Choose a handful of neutrals and make solid or two-tone strips similar to Twegen Coffee.
    • Pair closely related tones to transform ugly yarns into something lovely.
    • Subdue variegated skeins and prevent pooling by pairing a closely related solid shade with the variegated yarn.

    These are easy strategies that work with almost any project, so mix and match them in any way that works for you. My hope is they'll inspire you to examine your stash with fresh eyes and come up with creative ways to tame your own yarny hoard. Not only is it remarkably rewarding to convert stagnant stash into something pretty and purposeful, but once you've pared things down, it seems only reasonable to reward your diligence. 

    Perhaps a fresh infusion of new yarn would do the trick?



    For more on stashes and stashbusting:

    Stashbusting? 3 Reasons to Buy More Yarn
    Yarn Logic
    Room to Spare
    Stashbusting Strategies (Part II - coming soon)


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    Jun 5, 2016

    Why Make? Readers Reply

    A few months ago, I was wrestling with the eternal question: Why do I feel compelled to knit? What makes this particular fiber art so fascinating? I shared 10 simple reasons that partially explain this unshakable compulsion, and you were kind enough to share your own insights. 

    Here's what you had to say.

    Some of you love the fact the fiber in your hands represents an unbroken thread that spans centuries to connect you with makers past, present and future:
    MichelleI agree with so many points on your list, and would like to humbly add one of my own: I love the connection it gives me with women (and men) who throughout the last 500 years or so also picked up two (or four or five) needles to create something beautiful and keep their families warm. It taps into my love of history.



    Some of you love the countless rewards of making, which range from finished objects and the powerful sense of accomplishment they bring to the strong connection that comes from being part of a making community: 
    Laura ElizabethI love to be productive, to have something to do with my hands. I love the feeling of accomplishment when I make something beautiful. I love giving a handmade gift to a family member or friend. I also love the knitting community!
    DOJELING (WIP)


    Some of you find keeping your hands busy fights the fidgets and helps you listen better:
    JennyI read number 4 out to my boyfriend to reinforce that I AM still listening while knitting or crocheting. He laughed at me but I maintain I listen way better when I'm occupied with yarn.
    Mimi @ Sweet SassafrasI identify with all these, especially 2 and 4. Knitting keeps me patient when teaching my children to read, especially. Great post! 


    DOJELING (WIP)



    Some of you know fiber is the best therapy:
    NecapricornSo many friends say, "Oh, I don't have the patience for that kind of thing." I tell them I don't have the patience to NOT! LOL

    And some of you relish the mysterious alchemy that occurs when you pick up needles and fiber:
    JennyI love that with two needles and some string I can make something useful and beautiful, it makes me feel like I'm doing magic!

    The urge to make is a powerful motivator driven by forces great and small, practical and magical, tangible and ethereal. Often, we simply make because we must.





    Feel free to chime in and add your voice to the conversation. From knitting and crochet to sewing, weaving, dying, quilting and beading, why do you feel compelled to make?


    Other posts about makers and making:


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    May 29, 2016

    Summer Means Red, White & Blue

    Summer has arrived in every sense of the word.

    It's Memorial Day weekend, which in the US is the defacto start of the season. And after a very cool, grey and rainy spring, we're experiencing a stretch of warm weather accompanied by the delightful humidity that makes summer in this region so sticky memorable.

    Regardless of the weather, makers and non-makers alike will be unfurling flags, pulling out decorations, and preparing all things red, white and blue (RWB) for summer duty.

    As I was going through this annual ritual, it was a bit disconcerting to realize for the first time in several years, there have been no new additions to this cloth and coaster collection.


    Obviously, this is a problem that must be rectified. There are several projects in various states of doneness (that's a word, right?) and a long list of items clamoring to be cast on, but as a knitter I can feel the RWB collection tugging at my maker's heartstrings.


    The only logical option is to update the Might Could list and cast on at least one item to freshen the collection. 

    What will that be, you ask? I have no clue. 

    I've been thinking a handknit towel and/or placemat would serve as an anchor for the 27 coasters and cloths. (Yep, I counted.) The collection has actually grown smaller, since several items have found new homes with friends and family.


    I'm especially fond of the RWB Hearts and Spots (which are beginning to show signs of wear), so new ones are a real possibility. 

    Or if I get ambitious, I might tackle a table runner. What do you think: Perhaps a long stretch of blue accented with red and white stripes at each end? Or something in red and white that would work for Christmas and Valentine's Day, too?

    I feel confident with your input I'll make a sound decision.

    Meanwhile wherever you are, I hope you're having a relaxing weekend. And if you're in the US, enjoy your holiday weekend by celebrating with family, friends and something handcrafted in red, white and blue. In many ways, they're the true colors of summer.


    PS: Hard to believe, but Independence Day (July 4) is only a few weeks away. In the meantime, for those of you who live in the US, Flag Day (June 14) offers another opportunity to celebrate with red, white and blue. 


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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 version of my Angletyn afghan:



    2. Wove a few final ends on Alaris, 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 soon.

    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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