Oct 23, 2016

Pattern | Lucben Reversible Afghan

Fast, easy and reversible, Lucben is packed to the brim with luck and good wishes.

Here's why. Derived from Old English, Lucben means lucky bean, in reference to an old folk belief that the large beans which occasionally washed ashore not only brought great luck to those who found them, they were especially lucky for expectant mothers.

This folk belief may be the basis for the Jack and the Beanstalk tale, but we'll probably never know. With Lucben's classic unisex design, it doesn't really matter. From baby blankets to full-sized throws, you can create an endless stream of lucky beans to share good fortune with everyone on your knitting list, from new moms and babies to beloved grandparents.

When we knit for others, each stitch is imbued with the affection and good will we feel for the intended recipient, and Lucben helps take that to the next level. The easy, twisted stitch creates the same texture on both sides and doubles the luck captured in each color block. As an added plus, blocks are worked in strips rather than individually, which streamlines work in progress and speeds assembly. 

The smaller sizes are ideal for mini-skeins and leftovers, while the larger ones are perfect for new yarn or orphan skeins plucked from stash. The version shown incorporates five rosy shades ranging from light to deep and set against cream for contrast, but the possibilities are endless.

Have fun and experiment. Mix various shades from the same color family. Choose a light and dark color, and alternate them for a checkerboard effect. Adopt a tonal approach using closely related shades for the blocks and border, or try a simple two-color strategy, using one for the blocks and the other for the borders

Consider soft shades for little ones, rainbow hues for young kids, school colors for teens and college students, neutral greys for guys, or rich jewel tones for family and friends. 

Briefly, the:

  • Twisted stitch is easy to execute and produces the same texture on the front and back.
  • Blocks are worked in strips, which simplifies work in progress and assembly.
  • Strip construction keeps your project compact and portable, so you can work anytime and anywhere without the weight of a blanket on your lap or needles. 
  • Seams are a breeze to work, so assembly goes quickly and smoothly.
  • Pattern is simple enough for any moderately experienced beginner. Concise but complete, it includes a basic schematic along with directions, stitch counts, yardage and dimensions for eight sizes.
  • Yarn is worsted weight or its equivalent, so your project grows quickly.
  • Unisex design suits all ages young and old, so have fun and experiment with different block sizes, color combinations and arrangements. 
Skill Level 2: Easy
Yarn: Worsted weight; adapts to any weight and multi-stranding
Shown: Cotton Fleece (Brown Sheep)
Needles: US 8 (5 mm)
Sizes: 8 sizes (4 square and 4 rectangular)
Yardage (approx.): 690 to 1960 yards

The pattern includes four square and four rectangular sizes for a total of eight options, ranging from car seat and stroller to baby, lapghan and throw. Written for worsted weight yarn, it readily adapts to other weights and multi-stranding, especially with sock or fingering weight yarn.

Work the pattern as written or tailor it to your tastes. Either waythe detailed yardage breakouts and useful tips, tricks and modification ideas make the process easy.

The frequent color changes are motivating and the end result is so versatile, you'll find yourself making Lucben again and again for family, friends, loved ones and charity. 
I truly can't wait to see the creative fiber and color combinations you use to make this design your own. 

Whether you're ready to cast on today or planning ahead for gift-giving, buy Lucben now, and you'll save 30% through midnight October 29 DST.

Shopping at your favorite LYS? All patterns are activated for in-store sales.
Want to read more? See WIP | Lucben Rose and WIP | Lucben Tidepool.
Wrestling with color choices? These articles offer ideas and inspiration.
Considering a multi-strand strategy? See this helpful conversion chart.

Oct 16, 2016

Hand Knits in TV Land: The Craftsman's Legacy

Between Rhinebeck and I Love Yarn Day (ILYD), this is a fiber-filled weekend for knitters, crafters, dyers, spinners and fiber producers.

It seems only appropriate, therefore, to highlight Maple Smith who appeared on an episode of The Craftsman's Legacy, an interesting show hosted by Eric Gorges, a motorcycle builder and metal craftsman.

Eric travels around America, visiting expert craftsmen and learning more about the tools, techniques and objects they produce. Each episode features a specific artisan, and Eric spends a day or two in their workshop or studio, learning basic techniques and producing a finished item under their guidance.

Recently, he spent time with Maple Smith, a retired school teacher who owns and runs North Star Alpacas, a fiber farm located in Ithaca, Michigan. As a fiber producer, spinner, dyer, knitter and weaver, she's embraced the full spectrum of fiber arts.

      copyright: Maple Smith, North Star Alpacas

Maple introduces Eric to her alpacas, demonstrates the differences between huacaya and suri fleeces, teaches him how to use a treadle spinning wheel, and helps him spin fleece into yarn, dye it and knit a small scarf.

Maple has an interesting story to tell, so whether you're a full-bore fiber fanatic or a casual knitter, you'll enjoy watching fiber move from hoof to fleece, from fleece to yarn and into a finished object.

The Craftsman's Legacy appears on PBS, so check your local station for broadcast times and viewing options. You can learn more about Maple, her alpacas and fiber offerings by visiting North Star Alpacas on Etsy. To learn more about Eric Gorges and the artisans featured in the series, visit The Craftsman's Legacy.

Meanwhile, there's headway on the home front. My quick, simple mitts are done, Lucben Tidepool is ready to be assembled and finished, there are more Christmas Trees to make, and several new projects are waiting in the wings. 

For all of us, the steady ebb and flow of starts and finishes, challenges and rewards are often less about legacies and more about practical matters, but this, too, speaks to our life as makers.

What are you working on?

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Oct 9, 2016

Intermittent Progress

Fall has arrived, and while the weather has been mild, mornings and evenings are cool. The temperatures are perfect for transitional knits, so the Alaris and Dojeling shawls have emerged from summer hibernation and are beginning to see daily action.

And therein lies the rub. For nearly a year, I've wanted to make a pair of mitts to coordinate with this version of Dojeling (Oyster Bay):

I suspect I'm a bit of an oddball here, but in my world mitts get more wear than any other item, scarves and shawls included. From early fall through late spring, they're constantly present, keeping my wrists and hands warm in my perpetually chilly office and my sometimes drafty knitting corner. Me Made Mondays demonstrated this beyond question. Other particulars vary, but almost every week, my Me Made attire includes a pair of mitts.

As much as I admire the exquisite, intricate versions so many knitters make, for daily wear, I prefer a streamlined, no-fuss design that leaves my fingers and thumbs free. That way, I can wear mitts all day, whether I'm working on the computer, sketching, doing paperwork, tackling chores, running errands, or knitting.

In a previous post, CathieJ commented she loved mitts but hated cold fingers. Me, too, hence the need for mitts indoors and out. If it's cold outside I wear traditional gloves, but I don't remove my mitts. I just pop out my thumbs and push the mitts down into scrunchy gauntlets or folded cuffs. When winter arrives, I may try Kathi B's fun suggestion, and wear mitts over my gloves like her sister does.

With all these wearing options both real and planned, clearly I need more mitts. Lucben Tidepool is in  the finishing stages and colder temperatures are on the horizon, so the time seems right to take a quick detour and cast on a pair.

There are too many things in the pipeline already, so I'm keeping things simple. After much swatching and ripping, I abandoned the cream and variegated yarns shown above, and opted instead to pair the blue (Rowan Wool Cotton) with an understated grey (Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece) that blends a bit better with the shawl.

There's not yet much to show, but for the time being, I'm relishing these small signs of intermittent progress.

What's on your needles?

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