Tuesday, August 31, 2010

mochi mochi!

it's been a busy end to august - there have been band practices, social engagements, extracurricular work meetings, and of course lots of knitting and designing to get done.  not much happened for me in that last category over the weekend, as i was too busy running around with my friend from kansas city on friday and saturday night after work, and sunday night my band played a show in logan square. 

(sometimes i need these sorts of things to force myself to give my hands and arms a break from knitting; it's harder for me to take a break if i'm just sitting at home.)

i am pleased to report that, despite all the general zaniness of the last few days,  i did manage to knit a pair of flip-top elbow-length fingerless gloves - although i have to confess it was a slower week at work, and most of the knitting got done on a day i had some client cancellations. 

you may recognize the yarn from last week's post - crystal palace's mochi plus - it's true, i just couldn't have these skeins staring me in the face for long.  be warned, if you buy this yarn, i guarantee it will not be sitting in your stash for long.  it begs - no, demands - to be knitted!  and really, why wouldn't you want to knit with it right away - it's exciting to see what color will come up next, and if you're knitting sometime that comes in pairs, you have the added anticipation of seeing what type of fraternal twins you're going to have.

besides the beautiful colors, the softness of this yarn will definitely have me purchasing more skeins in the future.  i love my noro socks and scarf - i'm convinced they will never pill and, most likely,  last forever - but i could never knit a gift for a non-knitter out of it, because a) it's not very soft (excepting the silk garden) and b) it's hand-wash.  

which brings me to my next point - you can machine wash this yarn!  that's always a big plus in my book, especially if i'm gift knitting, because i know that most people don't know that machine wash = felt for the vast majority of non-synthetic fibers. considering the fact that even the most experienced knitters have accidentally felted a project they've knit, i don't hold out much hope of a non-knitter carefully hand-washing the socks or gloves i made for them - nor would i want them to be burdened to remember such things. 

that said, i will probably still hand-wash my fingerless gloves - but i am curious to see how they hold up with daily wear and perhaps the occasional gentle machine washing.

the design of the gloves came fairly easy, and i wanted to try out a stitch pattern from the book i recently purchased (The Stitch Collection).  i chose the turtle track lace pattern from book 3 (lace!  imagine that!), which consists of a 16-round repeat.  I did three and a half pattern repeats before starting the thumb gussets, spent the next 16 rounds working on those, and then after binding off the stitches for the thumb, that left 16 more rounds to knit before doing a bit of ribbing and binding off.

after that, adding some flip-top mitts really didn't seem like such a bad idea, either - i still had a sizable quantity of yarn left, and wouldn't it be nice to have toasty fingers when i'm walking to work in the wintertime? 

all told, i still had two-tenths of an ounce remaining of each ball of yarn!  who would have guessed that a 95-yard ball of yarn could stretch so far?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

to contract or not to contract

i've been getting some treats in the mail lately, but the one i was anticipating the most is Shannon Okey's The Knitgrrl Guide to Professional Knitwear Design.  until earlier this year, i self-published or sold designs casually here and there.  now I've been getting to work with some pretty cool companies (Malabrigo and Sanguine Gryphon, anyone?), although there were a few straggling projects leftover from last year, one of which came back to bite me in the butt.

without getting into the gory details, the main point is this:  last year i was naive enough not to sign a contract for a certain design project.  i held up my end of the bargain, met my deadline, etc, and assumed that their word was as good as mine, only to be told in july (after i'd already completed the work) that the design fee they'd promised last year was now half that.  compound that with a lot of frustration due to communication issues (very hard to get any sort of response whenever i contacted them - never a good sign!), and i have been left with a bad taste in my mouth. 

obviously, this is a shining example of how a signed contract could have helped us to avoid mistrust and bad blood, and while i was already coming to that realization on my own, reading this book is already giving me a lot of good pointers on so many aspects of publishing a design and working with other people in that context.  i can't put it down - it arrived yesterday afternoon and I'm already on page 63! other budding designers, i highly recommend!

since i had a paypal balance and wanted to get free shipping (that's how they get you!), i also added Debbie O'Neill's The Stitch Collection to my order, just for yuks.  i already have a couple Harmony Stitch Guides as well as the The Vogue Stitchionary - Cables (and, perhaps it should be mentioned, a few vintage knitting books with some inspiring stitch-dictionary sections in them).  who needs another stitchionary?  what this series of portable little books housed in a nifty box offers, besides some solid stiches (old and new), is some well-thought-out packaging.  i predict this coming in handy over the next few months, as i will most likely be taking a few 7-hour train rides down to my hometown of kansas city.  with so much uninterrupted crafting time, i think it's safe to say i might be happy to have some portable inspiration - i can save my back from having to lug around a larger, heavier stitchionary from my collection, not to mention have more room in my bag for projects.  you gotta love that.  

as i flip through, it's pretty apparent that this series is adding something new to the world of stichionaries - sure, there's the old standards (brioche, moss, seed, chevrons, etc), but there are some pretty interesting ones as well - madeira leaf pattern?  art deco arches?  scrolling cables with bobbles?  is anyone else thinking about making some fingerless gloves at this point, or is it just me?

speaking of fingerless gloves - though i have a gift list a mile long, one last design due in about 4 weeks, and a few of my own designs i'd like to self-publish between now and thanksgiving, i really want to make myself some elbow-length fingerless gloves.  i've been pondering such a project for a while now, but yesterday i dropped by Knit 1 in lincoln square and found the perfect yarn:  

i'm a big fan of noro, i'll say that right now.  who doesn't love yarn with a good, long color repeat?  it's like having all the fun of colorwork, but without the weird pooling that can sometimes happen with multicolored yarns with shorter color repeats, not to mention, there's not a zillion ends to weave in.  A+!

at any rate, i've been seeing crystal palace yarns' noro-like mini mochi yarn here and there, but just couldn't justify more sock yarn.  and so i present to you the two skeins to the right, undoubtedly soon to become some killer fingerless gloves pour moi: crystal palace yarns' mochi plus, a ridiculously soft (80% merino wool, 20% nylon) aran-weight yarn.  i was immediately drawn to the lovely autumnal hues of these skeins - i always find it curious when yarn companies choose to print only the color number, and not the name, on their label.  color 557?  ok, sure!

i know a color name shouldn't be informing my secondary reaction to a yarn - but sometimes that's the bit of information that can make or break something for me.  i don't think i'm alone in this feeling - lots of my friends have confessed that a colorway they'd purchased that seemed out of character for them was because they couldn't resist such a clever or evocative name.  i've also had a few instances where i picked up some yarn that i liked by sight, saw what a terrible name was attached to it (groan-inducing puns tend to have this effect on me the most), and set it back down immediately. 

hmm, after that tangent, perhaps it's a little clearer to me why a company might opt not to include a name on the label - it's harder to be turned off by just a number.  but "puffball jubilee" or "crocus in the frog pond" (which are not, to my knowledge, actual yarn color names....i hope) could certainly have such an effect.  i think i'm getting away from myself, because all i was going to mention is that the colorway of the yarn i bought yesterday is very appropriately titled ' autumn rainbow.'  yep, i'm not surprised to have discovered that at all.  a very utilitarian name indeed - although i have to say, if i'd been shopping for this yarn online, i might have completely overlooked this colorway and gone for something like 'neptune rainbow' or 'fern rainbow' (as though i don't have enough blue and green yarn in my stash!)  they just sound more exciting to me....

what is in a name, anyway?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Reversible Cables Redux

A long-term project of mine is to update my previously-published patterns with better photos and the addition of charts (instead of just written instructions).  The first pattern that is newly updated is a free one - the Reversible Cables Wristwarmers.

I've knit these up as gifts in a matter of days, and whenever I wear mine (pictured), I always get compliments.  You can make three pair using one skein of either of the yarns called for (Malabrigo Worsted and Lorna's Laces Worsted) - talk about economical!

If you aren't a member of Ravelry, then you can download a free copy of this newly updated pattern by clicking this link!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

finishing nothing, starting everything!

major startitis has kicked in.  i blame several things:  1) the ever-present knitting ADD i just can't seem to shake;  2) a break from the crippling heat and humidity this week, reminding me that summer will eventually end and i will get to wear my sweaters and mittens and hats once more;  3) last night's fashion show at nina;  and 4) having lots of birthdays, special occasions, and holidays to knit for from now 'til the end of the year, with new ones popping up weekly! 

last night's show at nina was super fun - i don't get to attend many events of any kind, since most of them happen when i am working (thursday & friday evenings, saturday and sunday).  so to me, getting to come to last night's event was a bit of a treat.  i haven't been to many knitting fashion shows, but the few i've attended were definitely on the lame side.  not so last night - i was more than pleasantly surprised.   Really beautiful yarns,  interesting patterns, and even some things i would consider making for myself! 

for example, there were a lot of one- and two-skein scarves/wraps/mobius bands.  i am really not into knitting scarves at all, and quite honestly never got why everyone was into mobius bands.  perhaps it was seeing them in person, knit out of pretty yarns instead of fun fur or something reminiscent of semi-digested trix.  or maybe it was the realization that a mobius band is quite practical in a city like chicago, and since my new work commute involves walking over the chicago river twice a day, it might be a good idea to wear something that is not only warm, but well-attached to my body and therefore not likely to go flying off into the river.   i'm not casting on just yet, but the idea has definitely taken hold in the back of my mind. 

and then there's the tea leaves cardigan.  i'd already been thinking of making one for myself, but was holding off until i finished up the bulk of my gift knitting...but as i drooled over it last night, i  thought about how it only makes sense to start it now, even if i only work on it a little bit in between finishing up designs and gifts and such - because then there's a greater probability i could be wearing it by my birthday (or, more realistically, by christmas).   and then there was the wall of malabrigo rios, staring me in the face.  i already had two skeins of cumparsita at home....perhaps if i bought a few more, i could have the softest, squishiest machine-washable tea leaves cardigan ever. 

it's dangerous to go to a yarn store when you don't need any yarn (and trust me, i certainly don't at this point!  hence i will NOT be attending stitches midwest this weekend - because obviously, i can't be trusted).  it's even more dangerous to go when you have some money burning a hole in your wallet - which is why i will be casting on for the afore-mentioned cardigan at some point later today.   my to-do list for today is quite long, but if all i do is cast on and knit the first couple of rows, that's just peachy with me. 

i wish i had thought to take my camera to the show last night - i tried taking some photos with my phone, but they're all pretty crappy.  if you don't believe me, then behold:

yes, that is the best photo i took last night.  pretty sad, right? 

on the plus side, i do have some WIP photos to share: 

 first up, i am working on a monster using some of my tour de fleece handspun.  the pattern is rebecca danger's iris the gourmet monster, available only in a kit.  i'm using some mixed-wool fiber i dyed and spun myself; it's somewhere in the neighborhood of a light worsted/dk weight, and i'm knitting a very tight gauge on #4 DPNs. 

 again with the whale socks - these might appear to be FO's, but i assure you, hidden behind those sock blockers is mess of loose ends to be woven in.  i don't make it a habit to block socks unless they are 100% complete, but i was a little worried about the tightness of my color work.  i don't think i'll have to rip anything back and re-knit at a looser gauge (but if i had to, good thing i knit these socks toe-up!) 

though these socks did loosen up a bit in the blocking, i've decided that, from now on, i'm going to go up two needle sizes for my colorwork.
 i just knit too tightly - even when i think i'm making the world's loosest stitches, something happens (probably around the time i'm doing longer color floats - even though i wrap them every third or fourth stitch, it doesn't seem to make much of a difference).   when i'm not doing colorwork, i don't have a problem with overly tight stitches - which is what makes the whole thing so vexing!  so we'll see if i get back on the horse any time soon, and if my little plan actually works. 

it should also be mentioned once more that the pattern for these socks is from Wendy Johnson's Toe-Up Socks for Every Body - i used the Critter Socks pattern for most of the knitting, and then at the end, plugged in my own colorwork chart (see here or here).

 these intricate cabled socks have been slow going - i started them about a week ago, and as you can see, they haven't grown much.  i just really wanted to start knitting with this yarn - having the skein lying about was far too tantalizing.   the pattern is my own, and due to come out next month - more on that when the time comes.  the yarn is sanguine gryphon's skinny bugga! in gryphon's purple soldier fly (a limited-edition color that was only available for a day or two - but check out all the other amazing colors they offer on their site!).  i'm knitting on #1.5 needles and pretty in love with how it's knitting up.

last but not least, the samurai socks - so close to being done!  this morning i finished turning the heel and picked up the gusset stitches.  since the rest of the sock is knit in stockinette, i predict this will be done in less than a week.  it's the perfect train project, and tomorrow is the start to my work week. 

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

WIP Wednesday

I recently treated myself to this book, and not only am I in love with the overall presentation and creative photography, but i am overwhelmed by the sheer number of patterns i want to knit out of it!  my ravelry queue has grown exponentially, and it's just the shot in the arm i needed to get excited about socks once more.  bonus:  many of the patterns are for sport-weight socks, which is my new tactic for finishing all of my holiday gift knitting in a reasonable amount of time, while still juggling all the designing i want/need to get done.

working from my stash,  i thought a good project to use up some bright red tonal yarn would be the Samurai Socks - they're textured and cable-y, but not fussy  and overly time-consuming.  the slight variegation in the yarn doesn't overwhelm the pattern, and vice versa.  one of my favorite parts is that the cabling in the cuff becomes part of the pattern of the leg - little details like that always delight me.  

i just finished turning the heel and the gusset decreases yesterday, and since the rest of the foot is in stockinette stitch, i expect to be starting the second sock relatively soon. 

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

I wanna be a whale!

Working on some colorwork socks at the moment - I recently bought Wendy Johnson's new book, Toe-Up Socks for Every Body, and I am in love with so many of the colorwork designs!  I was never much of a colorwork sock girl...I always make my stitches and floats too tight, and then the sock fabric isn't stretchy enough and it's nearly impossible to get over one's ankles. 

It's amazing, however, what going up a needle size can do for you.  My floats and stitches are still sometimes a little too tight (hence the slight puckering in the unblocked sock pictured below), but there is still plenty of give and i think this will actually be wearable.

This is my version of Wendy's Critter Socks; while I think ducks and cats are fine little critters, for some reason I've had whales on my brain.  I made my own colorwork chart to plug into her pattern, and if you'd like to have some whales on your socks (or gloves or hats...), this chart can be easily inserted into any project with a stitch count divisible by 14 (toe- or bottom-up, of course). 

Monday, August 2, 2010

BFL is blocking!

When was the last time I had an FO that wasn't top-secret?  It feels like months to me. (Edit:  correction, it's been almost exactly a month.  doh.)  But today I present to you my version of Laura Chau's Simple Yet Effective Scarf, which I've been knitting with the handspun BFL I made as my first project for the Tour de Fleece last month.  I soaked it this morning and it's currently being blocked on what passes for our dining room table.  I'm hoping the cats don't decide it makes a comfy bed....if i block things on my massage table, I usually find a cat lying atop my project a few hours later. at least they don't tend to wrinkle it up - if anything, they're sort of like big, furry irons.  all the same, i feel as though it will dry faster WITHOUT a 20-pound cat using it as a lounge. 

Unblocked, curly-edged scarf:


Many views while blocking!

my plan is to sew on some buttons and wear as a cowl.  I have a tiny bit of handspun left, which is most likely going to trim some mittens or fingerless gloves at some point.