Friday, January 29, 2016

Sweater Swatching

While I'm really enjoying all of these instant-gratification projects, I think it's time to start another sweater. I've had the yarn to knit the Liathite Hoody in my stash for exactly a year now, and I think it's the perfect antidote to my current sock yarn projects on the needle, since it's knit with Berroco Vintage Chunky. I find that varying my yarn weight/needle size from project to project really helps stave off hand or wrist pain. Since I don't have any FOs to share this week, I thought I would share the two swatches I finished recently for this project:
Like most people, swatching isn't my favorite thing, but I know it's a necessary evil if I want my sweater to fit. Of course, even swatching isn't always foolproof - I have been spot on for gauge for sweater projects, yet still had a too-big-or-too-small finished sweater. Think about it: you're basing everything off a small swatch of fabric, which kind of makes sense, but in the grand scheme of a larger garment, the size and weight of said garment can play a pretty big role in the final gauge. That's not to say that you should skip the swatching step entirely - it's still good to see what happens to the swatch once you wash it - did it bloom or stay the same? While you still might have variations when it's all said and done, it can get you closer in the ballpark at least! There was a pretty interesting blog post about swatching here on the Ancient Arts Yarn blog which also tackles this topic if you want to read more.

At any rate, I tried to knit larger swatches than I would normally be inclined to do, in the vain hope that this would close that swatch-to-garment gap. Will it work? I sure hope so, but there's only one way to find out for sure!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

WIP Wednesday: Stuck on Skinny Yarn

Another WIP Wednesday, and here I am with only fingering weight yarn projects on the needles. So much for mixing things up in terms of yarn weight and needle size! The good news is that I am closing in on the Xanadu Snowflake Cowl - I passed the halfway point over the weekend! It pretty much looks the same as last week (only a little longer), so I will spare you the same photo, but you can see it on my Ravelry page on on my earlier post this week where I shared some of the tips that have sped up this knitting process for me, click here if you missed it).

Of course, I did finally cave and cast on for a pair of socks with the Tortoiseshell yarn I was eyeing last week. I decided to give two-at-a-time magic loop socks another go, and I am using the stitch pattern from Knowledge of What Was Sensible, which is one of the sock patterns from Hunter Hammersen's Fine Things for Plain Occasions. I'm making a few modifications along the way, which includes an afterthought heel so that I can knit these on the go without having to worry about heel flaps and gusset decreases. Basically, these socks are almost the complete opposite of the the approach I usually take to sock knitting (which is: one-at-a-time on DPNs with a heel flap and gusset, for anyone keeping track) - however, I am still sticking to top-down for the time need to get too crazy.
Another new project I started was a baby hat version of the Force Awakens hat, which is for a friend of ours who recently had a baby yet still found time to go see the new Star Wars movie (I don't know about you, but I find that impressive). I'm using a hodgepodge of sock yarn from my stash and size 2 needles with the same cast on number in the pattern.
Lastly, the Alegria sock yarn hat continues to chug along, I added at least an inch or two since last week thanks to several meetings wherein I could sneak in some stitches.
Thanks for stopping by this week!

Monday, January 25, 2016

3 Easy Tricks for Quicker Colorwork

Last month, I cast on for a really beautiful stranded colorwork project (the Xanadu Snowflake Cowl by Julie Crawford) using a buttery sock cashmere yarn from Bijou Basin Ranch. Having knit several colorwork projects before, I really thought this would be a piece of cake, but I ended up struggling with it quite a bit at first, and progress was frustratingly slow until just recently.

I think my main issue was that I had taken a fairly long break from stranded colorwork, and I was sorely out of practice. I couldn't quite get into the rhythm of the project, and I also wasn't able to spot mistakes until I had knit several stitches (and sometimes even rows ahead), which made for a lot of frogging and maybe even some cursing here and there.

But I stuck with it, and the more I kept working at it, the easier it got. And once I started getting the hang of the chart and working with the two yarns, things moved along just a little bit quicker. I also have three little "tricks" that have helped speed things along, and I thought I would share them today just in case they help you, too.

Trick #1: Highlighter Tape
I don't know where I would be without highlighter tape! I like to position a long strip of highlighter tape so that the row I am working on is directly below it, and I can also see the preceding rows (more on that in a sec). At the end of each row or round, I can reposition the tape and begin anew! This also works with washi tape or chart holders with magnetic strips. All are quite invaluable for complicated charts!
Highlighter Tape - image from, where I usually buy mine.
Trick #2: Read Your Stitches
At the beginning of this project, I was clearly out of practice in this department - there I was, knitting along and not paying a bit of attention to the previous round of work, only to snap out of it a few minutes later and realize that something was totally off! It's easy to get tunnel vision and only look at the row you're currently working on, but those stitches are there to help you if you let them.

Once I started paying more attention to both the chart and the WIP in my hand, things clicked into place. As I was knitting, I would look at the chart and make note of where the contrasting colors fell in the row I was currently working in relation to the previous round of work. For example, were there three stitches of the contrasting color in the previous round, and one stitch of the contrasting color that fell in the center of the previous color block? Paying attention to the relation of colors and stitches made it much easier to spot mistakes before I got too far along.

Trick #3: Pre-Count Long Blocks of Stitches
When reading charts, it's usually pretty easy to count 3 or four stitches at a time visually, depending on the size of the chart (oh, and that's another tip: if that chart is making you squint, enlarge it as much as you can!!). But larger groups of stitches can be easy to miscount if you aren't taking the time to stop and take a closer look. So, I usually go through a chart and write down the numbers of stitches that I'll be working in a block - here is an example of what I mean using my free whale chart:
Feel free to share your own tips for speedy colorwork knitting in the comments!

Friday, January 22, 2016

FO Friday: Hats

For me, 2016 will most likely be the Year of the Hat. There are so many great patterns in my knitting library, and I am determined to shop from my stash and knit as many as possible this year since they are fun, useful and - most importantly - instant gratification. Over the weekend, I started a chunky weight hat when I needed a break from all of the teeny tiny yarn and needles from my current WIPs. The Library of Congress Hat from Tanis Gray's Capitol Knits was a super quick knit on size 9 needles:
I also finished Tyler's Force Awakens hat, which he is pretty psyched about. Since I added in a fourth color and opted to cut yarn instead of carrying it up the inside, there were a lot of ends to weave it, but I think it was worth the effort. And as you can see, he is already enjoying it immensely!
Also, for anyone who has an excess of hats looking for a good home, there is a collection happening right now for the 25,000 Tuques Project, which I discovered via the Knitmore Girls Podcast - you can get more info about how to donate here in their Ravelry group!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

WIP Wednesday: Tiny Yarn Update

Welcome back to another installment of Knitting with Tiny Yarn! On today's episode, we have moderate progress to report. The Snowflake Cowl continues to grow; in fact, I'm incredibly close to the halfway point - I kind of can't believe it myself, for a long time it felt like not progress was being made at all!
My Alegria Hat has also gained an inch or two in the last week:
And I am trying very, VERY hard to resist the siren call of socks, but this skein of yarn from Ancient Arts Yarns (which is dyed to match my tortie cat Tilly, from their Meow Collection) keeps calling to me! My crafting time this week has been pretty limited, so I have yet to act on this urge - the closest I've come is to gather everything that might be used for said project to create this irresistible tableau:
Will I cast on for a pair of socks tonight? Will I wait til the weekend? Will I wait til I get one of the above projects off the needles (snort)? I really don't know, anything could happen!

Monday, January 18, 2016

The 2016 Holla Knits KAL starts Feb. 1!

The 3rd Annual Holla Knits KAL will run February 1-April 30, 2016, during which you can knit any Holla Knits pattern (or patterns!) to be eligible for tons of great prizes. Whether you like to knit accessories, or are looking to start your next sweater, there is something for everyone (click here to read more on the Holla Knits blog).
I'll be hosting a project-specific KAL for the Spring-Tastic Socks here on Ravely & sharing everyone's progress on my blog, too. If you decide to knit along (and I hope you do!), be sure to use the #hkkal and #springtasticsocks hashtags on your social media posts!

As an additional bribe bonus, I'm offering up a yarny prize for anyone who purchases the Spring-Tastic Socks pattern between now and February 1 - the winner's choice of these 2 lovely skeins of hand-dyed sock yarn:
The lucky winner will get their choice of these 2 yarns,
Lorna's Laces Solemate in Skyway or Abstract Fiber Arts Super Sock in Iris.
To be entered in the giveaway, just click here to purchase the Spring-tastic Socks pattern. I'll announce the lucky winner the first week of February right here on my blog. Good luck & happy knitting!

Friday, January 15, 2016

FO Friday: #BeRoyal Edition (or, Tangled up in Blue)

I'm pretty excited to share my finished projects with the yarn I gifted my parents for Christmas (for any Kansas City Royals fans out there, check out the Nerd Girl yarns website for the Royals-inspired colors I used in these projects).

My mom picked out a free cowl pattern by Jen Lucas, the Buckhorn Cowl. It ended up looking great in the variegated Be Royal colorway of 8-bit Sport.
My dad chose a simple ribbed hat pattern for his yarn, Blue Okctober 8-bit Sport: Melissa LaBarre's Icehouse Hat.
I am really looking forward to mailing these to my parents so they can enjoy wearing them for the rest of the winter!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

WIP Wednesday: Start Even More Things

I have to say, I'm really enjoying the instant-gratification projects I've been working on lately. It's a nice balance to my currently longterm project that's on the needles, the Snowflake Cowl. I'm now about halfway through the fourth chart repeat and this is starting to a cowl!
I also joined the dark side (or maybe it's the light side??) and cast on for a Force Awakens hat for Tyler. He's pretty psyched for me to finish this one, I think.
I ended up starting another hat project so that I could have something simple on the needles that I could work on outside of the house - colorwork and mass transit generally don't mix. So I cast on for a super simple hat with this pretty new skein of Manos Alegria that hopped into my shopping cart when I was buying some Cascade Eco+ on closeout with my Webs gift card.
And that crocheted snowman wall hanging continues to elude me! I have a few more pieces this week, but I need to get him finished up so that I can pack away all of the holiday decor before Groundhog Day.
This weekend, I want to make it to the halfway point on my Snowflake Cowl - of course, the only way that'll happen is if I can resist starting even more projects in the mean time. Uhh, yeah, good luck with that!

Monday, January 11, 2016

New Pattern: Yadda Yadda Cowl

It's been a really long time since I've released a totally new design: we're talking spring of last year, by my watch. It's not that I don't have ideas percolating, or that I haven't been working anything in secret - it's just that, for the better part of last year, I have been working on wrestling with this cowl design - charting patterns, knitting, ripping out for several cycles before I finally found the golden combination.

It seems like my go-to projects these days are "easy" stockinette/garter with just a few bells and whistles to add interest while I knit - but not too many bells and whistles, or I simply can't knit on them at the end of a long day of work when I am totally brain dead. Does anyone else have this problem?!

I wanted this cowl to be something that was fun to knit and had the potential to be "weekday knitting" (or "conversation knitting" if you prefer). So, each time I found I couldn't master the stitch patterns I put together, out came the needles and riiiiiiip went the yarn back to frog city. And there I was, back at the drawing board.

It was pretty exciting once I found the stitch patterns which worked, because then this cowl FLEW off the needles! The worst part was not being able to share it on this blog or Instagram, but there are worse things - and now, here we are! It's finally time to present my first pattern of 2016, which was a long time coming: the Yadda Yadda Cowl.

This pattern is totally customizable based on your own preferences - I provide instructions to knit the cowl as pictured with a combination or written instructions and charted stitch patterns (please note - the instructions for each stitch pattern are not written out to save space, so you will need to know how to read basic charts). The pattern also provides ideas for ways you can customize your own cowl or knit a smaller version (which only uses 1 skein of Shasta yarn). You could knit endless combinations!

As written and shown here, the Yadda Yadda Cowl alternates panels of garter stitch with 4 different easy-to-memorize stitch patterns; using larger needles than you would normally for a worsted weight yarn, you'll create a delightfully squishy fabric that is still quite warm. The sample shown here is knit using 2 skeins of Baah Shasta worsted yarn, a lovely superwash that comes in a variety of hand-dyed colors. I'm amazed at how different this shaded solid can look, depending on the lighting - something I'm sure you have also noticed from photo to photo!

As for the name, it came about one day when I noticed I'd scribbled out a few pattern notes to myself, followed by "yadda, yadda, yadda" which gave me a chuckle. Luckily for you, I expounded on the yadda for this pattern so that you don't have to guess what that might mean as you knit.

I can't wait to see which stitch combinations everyone chooses for their cowl!

Click here to purchase the Yadda Yadda Cowl pattern on Ravelry. 

Friday, January 8, 2016

FO Friday: Made-Up Mitts

This week, I kind of have a theme going - on Monday, I featured a new yarn from Ancient Arts Yarn called Big Squeeze (click here if you missed it, there is a free hat pattern!), and today, I have a project knit with another new yarn from Ancient Arts called Reinvent!
This yarn is particularly intriguing because it is spun entirely from reclaimed luxury fibers, which you can't really tell when you hold it in your hand, though it is apparent that there is something a little different going on. There is a slight mohair halo, though the yarn itself is very smooth and well-plied - and it is STRONG. I was feeling too lazy to dig out my scissors and tried to break the yarn with my hands to no avail. It also aced the frog test quite beautifully, needless to say.
I packed this yarn for my trip to Kansas City over the holidays, intending to knit a pattern from Hunter Hammersen's new book, Fine Things For Plain Occasions. I was trying to travel light, so I just made a copy of the pattern I wanted to knit and left the actual book at home - unfortunately for me, I somehow managed to only copy half of the pattern, a fact which I discovered about 3 hours into the train ride when it became apparent that I was missing the referenced stitch charts. So, I decided to just make something up on the fly - a little garter cuff and some stockinette hands, easy peasy. As you can see above, they fit perfectly, and I'm happy to say that they are my new favorite mitts to wear in my drafty office this winter.

I hear that Reinvent (and Big Squeeze) are making their debut at the TNNA Trade Show in San Diego this weekend, so I expect that you can find them soon at your LYS or here on the Ancient Arts site

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

New WIPs for a New Year

I have lots of exciting new projects planned for January - I'm waiting on yarn to knit a Force Awakens hat for Tyler, though I have plenty to keep me busy til it arrives. Over the weekend, I finished my Dad's hat and started my Mom's cowl using the yarn I gifted her for Christmas from Nerd Girl Yarns and a free pattern by Jen Lucas. And yes, I watched the DVD while working on this project!
I also started my final holiday decoration, a crocheted snowman for our front door, which will probably be finished just in time to pack everything away for next year. So far, I just have the top hat completed:
I'm still working on the Xanadu Snowflake Cowl, too - man, I didn't think this would be such a slow project for me, but that teeny tiny yarn is a killer! Thankfully, it's buttery soft and delightful to work with, and I am finally starting to get the hang of the chart so there is less ripping back when I miscount something (and I don't want to jinx myself, but it does seem to be coming along faster now). I'm about halfway through the third repeat, which means that I am nearly one third of the way through, so that is also good news!
Hope your new year is off to a great start!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Pattern Update: Snaky Cables Hat

I've always wanted to revisit one of my super early designs, the Snaky Cables Hat, which is now available for free here on Ravelry. I think it was the second thing I've ever designed (or maybe the third?) and I have learned so much between now and then. Even though it's a free pattern, it's still a reflection of my work, and I wanted to make sure it was the best it could be.
So, when I recently got the chance to try out a skein of a new bulky weight yarn from Ancient Arts Yarn called Big Squeeze, I decided to re-knit this design to see where I needed to update the instructions. This turned out to be a great exercise, because I realized there was a bit of errata (the pattern neglects to specify which way the cables lean), and it could also benefit from the addition of charts to accompany the written instructions. As a result, I've added a supplement PDF which is available as a free download here on Ravelry - it includes both the errata and the charts for your knitting pleasure.
It's great for wearing around the house, too.
After finishing my hat, I opted to add a fun pom pom to the top, which the pattern doesn't call for - but I assume that those who enjoy a good pom pom already know how to do that (if you are wondering, I used a 5.5cm pom pom maker from Knitter's Pride to make mine).
Click here to download the Snaky Cables hat pattern for free on Ravelry!

Friday, January 1, 2016

FO Friday & Happy New Year!

Hope everyone had a safe & happy New Year's Eve last night! I can't believe this is my first blog post of 2016. This year will have me stepping outside of my comfort zone a bit, which is both exciting and anxiety-producing. What I'm most nervous about is some of the travel I'll be doing for work during the first six months of the year - besides the Ply retreat in Kansas City and the Summer TNNA Trade Show in DC, I will also be attending my first-ever H+H trade show in Cologne, Germany. I'm excited but also apprehensive, since it's been a long time since I've traveled internationally. However, not much should change here on the blog (I hope) - I plan to continue to share whatever I'm working on, reviews, new patterns, etc. in 2016.

One of the things I'm really hoping to do is to get back into knitting socks this year, so I think it's pretty appropriate that my first FO post of 2016 is for a pair of socks - Tyler's Christmas socks, no less. I used one of my favorite Cookie A patterns for gift knitting (Lateral) and yarn from Leading Men Fiber Arts, the superwash Show Stopper base.
I have affectionately been referring to these as my "Christmas barf" socks, as they are pretty eye-popping and unabashedly merry. Tyler is pretty psyched about his new pair of socks, since Christmas is his favorite holiday, so I was glad that I could finish them on the Amtrak train back to Chicago at the beginning of this week.
Wishing everyone an exciting, happy & healthy 2016!