Tuesday, December 31, 2013

What's In A Name?

Briefly, when I was a kid, I wrote poetry. I loved writing. I hated choosing titles for poems, though. When I became a photographer, I simply called everything by the numeric system I had developed for filing my negatives.

I worry about naming things. A lot. I know names matter, so I worry about picking a good one.

Fortunately, I have clever friends. I described the above hat, which is made in 12 sets of 12 rows, to one and she said, "Well, that's a gross."

There you have it.

The So Easy It's Gross Hat.

No one else has used it on Ravelry, either.

(Yes, I always check.)

Monday, December 30, 2013

Design Inspiration: Sherwood Slippers

Sherwood Slippers started out as a design feature I wanted to try.

I had an idea for easy slippers knit from the toe up with a beyond-easy heel that closed in the back. I shopped it around to two or three publications and was rejected.

For 2013, I promised myself that I was going to get at least one other person to "sign on" to a design idea before wool hit the needles. I still really liked the design, so what else could I do?

I read on Ravelry that Cascade, a company I already love, is great about offering yarn support for indy designers like me. So, I wrote them an email outlining my idea for slippers. They wrote back the next day!

I knit up the slippers and I knew they would be a hit when my lovely model refused to part with them. I had to buy more yarn to knit a pair for myself. :)

Sadly, the yarn I used to knit the originals has been discontinued. But, they work in any yarn that will produce a gauge of 15 stitches in 4 inches (10 cm) after felting.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Almost Ready for the Road

Empty closet: the least embarrassing-looking area of our house at the moment.

Preparing to leave is always exciting, but strange. I love the life we have built here, but I'm looking forward to the next step, too. 

(BTW, that photo is square because I'm on Instagram, now. It's fun!)

Peace Fleece is Awesome

Hat knit in Peace Fleece, lined with another hat knit from random thrift-store boucle. Keeping me ridiculously warm and happy since the year 2000. Shown here repelling water (snow) through the power of 25% mohair.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Five, er, Seven Books

This is a photo of most of my knitting books. I'm trying to make myself pack only 5 or 7 for the apartment. The rest will come on a moving van after the house sells. 

Which five (or seven, I think five might not be realistic) of your books would you keep out? I'm definitely taking The Principles of Knitting and one or two Elizabeth Zimmermann books. Oh, and a few sock books. 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

OK, Just For a Minute

Boomer is really not as lonely as he looks.

This is a basket full of hand-knit socks that need washing and a self-washing cat.

Sometimes they just look SO SAD. All they want in life is for me to put down the packing tape and pet them. (I do, sometimes, for a minute or two.)

Merry Christmas to everyone who celebrates it!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013


We're getting ready to move. Soon. I haven't reached the point where I want to just take the cats, knitting, weaving, and spinning supplies and abandon everything else, but it's out there. It's coming.

I play Never Mind the Bollocks Here's the Sex Pistols on loop on my iPod. My copy was dubbed onto a tape from vinyl by my sister when we were in high school. About 5 years ago, I made a digital copy of the tape. It sounds smeary and strange compared to all of the crystal-clear downloaded versions of songs I have, but I don't want to replace it.

How do you keep going? Punk rock music from before I was born is my motivating vehicle of choice. Oh, and this version of Don Giovanni. Sometimes The Ting Tings or The Gossip make it in there. I know. I'm a bit strange.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Design Inspiration: Chicken Dinner Socks

Yes, I am such a geek that I knew about a candy bar called Chicken Dinner. I heard about it a long time ago, I think on This American Life. I knit up a version of these socks in white and brown (which my sweetie wears with pride to this day) and named them after the long-lost candy.

I photographed the socks I made and sent in a submission to Sockupied, an eMag by Interweave Press. I was really psyched when they said they wanted to use it! They arranged for me to knit the socks, again, in Louet Gems, a yarn I hadn't used before. This pair was in cream and deep purple. A lot of designers aren't crazy about this part of the process, but I love trying out new yarns and different color combinations. (So far, they have always looked great to me.)

It's a simple pattern, but not so easy that it becomes boring to knit.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Return Address

I can't show you what's in the package. It's a secret, for now. But, how COOL is that return address? The Island Wool Company is awesome!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Update: KAL (with a prize) Extended

Dream in Color has extended my Knit A Long (KAL) within the I Dream in Color group for Keys to the Castle on Ravelry. (Consider joining, if you're not a member. It's free!)

KAL Rules:
- Any Keys to the Castle started after November 1, 2013 and finished on or before February 1, 2014 will be eligible for the prize.
- To be eligible for the prize, you must use any Dream in Color yarn and must post a photo of your completed project in the KAL thread on Ravelry.
- You can use the tag “DICcastleKAL” for your projects.

Prize: a skein of Perfectly Posh Sport in Heavenly, to be awarded at random amongst the eligible participants at the end of the KAL.

P.S. - Until you have a project photo of your own, feel free to download this sleepy little guy to use on your project page. 

Getting ready to Dream in Color?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Interweave Knits, Winter 2014

If you knit and don't read Interweave Knits, I humbly suggest you give it a shot. No magazine can be everything to everyone, but I love that IK continually offers something unusual - a pleasant surprise. Or, even better, a set of them.

I'm not a giant fan of orange. The thought of knitting what's basically long underwear doesn't really appeal to me. BUT it's taking about all of my self-control not to buy yarn and cast on for the cover project right this moment. It is so cute!

I thought the history of Orenburg lace was just that...history. The profile of Galina Khmeleva taught me that it's a history that's still being written, one stitch at a time.

And let's not forget that one my favorite designers of all time, Annie Modesitt, has a design in this issue. The Dreamcatcher Cardigan looks gorgeous, fun to knit, and colorful.

Check it out. There are over 20 patterns in this issue. One is going to be your favorite.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Pile of Wool

This is my office chair after I come in and take off my winter wool. That's Dee's Slouch Hat, the Bold and Blended Striped Wrap, (those are both free patterns, by the way), and Sideways Mystery Mittens, which are worth the price of Elizabeth Zimmermann's Knitting Around.

The Bold and Blended wrap has become a staple in my wardrobe. I wear it almost year-round and have hauled it halfway around the world and back. You would never know I knit it just about two years ago. Madelinetosh is not fooling around - tosh merino light has turned out to be a beautiful and durable yarn, at least as a wrap.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Design Inspiration: Magic Trick Baby Sweater

Depending on how you look at it, the Magic Trick Baby Sweater is either one of my most challenging designs, or one of my easiest. It started from a conversation on Twitter. I was going on about The Principles of Knitting, and the charming Kate Atherley mentioned War and Peace - and the fact that she knows (and teaches) how to knit two socks in one.
I kind of freaked out about how cool that is, then I wrote, “Wait, what if it were a baby sweater?” The exchange basically turned into a dare/wish for me to make it, so I did. 
Since this sweater starts at the cuffs and works its way in, you have a little while to get used to the way double-knitting feels before you get to the body.
The first version I made kind of drove me crazy, because after I was finished with the “main” knitting, I had a lot of edges, borders and ribbing to add. This version is more simple, with hems already knit onto most of the edges, and minimal finishing.
Luckily for me, one of my co-worker friends had a baby the right age, so I used him as model. (Note to pregnant, local friends, I AM watching your facebook feed to see when I can borrow your kid.)
I sent the design in to Petite Purls and they published it in issue #14. So, go get it! It's free!

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Long View & Trying Again

Chicken Dinner Socks

I don't know if it's because I come from a background in newspapers, where today's work is tomorrow's recycling, but the long timeline on some of my designs sometimes gives me pause.

I knit the prototype for my Chicken Dinner Socks in June of 2012. They were published 15 months later.

I just signed a contract for a (needs to be secret for now, sorry) project that is set to be published in September of 2014. The first swatch of what later became that design is from early July of this year. So, that will be 15 months, too.

Maybe 15 is my lucky number!

But three also seems to be my lucky number. I once asked a photographer who had won a grant to continue her work what made the difference between the two years that she was rejected and the third year she was accepted.

"Different judges," she said. That was it. She and her work were both the same.

When I develop a design idea I really like, I submit it to three places before I make a final decision to self-publish or scrap it.

I don't do them all at once (that would be rude!) and I don't just throw whatever I've been doing into the hopper and see what comes out (that would just waste everyone's time). I just usually have three or four ideas simmering that I think are ready to be seen. When I read a design call that sounds like it might fit, I polish one up (or cook up a new one) and send it.

Sometimes rejection makes me rethink an idea or change a design element. Sometimes I reassess and decide I like it even more than before. I always keep in mind that choosing a body of work has a lot of factors involved. Just because a design didn't work as part of a group (or doesn't match someone else's idea of an awesome knit) doesn't mean that it doesn't have merit.

More than once, the third publication I have sent an idea to has said, "Yes!" Again, I will never know for sure if the stars are aligning at that particular moment or if the previous two rejections made me sharpen my presentation/idea that much more.

After all:

"The reason a lot of people do not recognize opportunity is because it usually goes around wearing overalls looking like hard work."
- Thomas A. Edison 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Little Red Sweater Mystery

I think I may have taken this photo with my (then) terrible camera phone. The mind recoils.

In 2011 I got to see a sweater "in person" that I had only seen in photographs. I took some rather bad photos of it, but you can work out most of the details in this one.

It was a child's sweater that was knit in the 1960s or 1970s. It looks hand-knit. Raglan shaping, seamed. Gorgeous garter stitch collar. Full zipper. Intarsia white rabbits on a bright red background. Rather incredibly adorable black detailing. The family thinks it is a Cowichan sweater, but that bright red color throws me off. I think it is more likely to be a Mary Maxim design.

No one in the family knit, but they might have commissioned the sweater. They lived in Canada or Minnesota at the time.

Does anyone out there have or remember a sweater like this? I would love to hear your stories!

P.S. - The Random Number Generator chose Sarah Montie to receive the Sirka counter. I hope she loves it!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Knit and Crochet Now! Review and Giveaway

The nice folks at Annie's Publishing sent me a Knit and Crochet Now! Season 4 disk set to review.

I hadn't seen the show before, but now I'm sad that I've been missing it. It plays on many PBS stations, and you can see where and when it's playing near you using their handy online search tool.

Thirteen half-hour episodes are on 3 DVDs and there is a CD-rom with over 39 patterns on it. If your main interest is in the patterns, they offer many of them for free on their website.

But you're missing a lot if you miss out on the episodes. The host, Brett Bara, is engaging and knowledgeable. The projects look both fun to make and useful or pretty. The lighting and camera work is all professional - so you can really see what they are doing. Also, because it's on DVD, you can pause and rewind if you miss something. One feature I would have liked is chapter controls within each episode. At least on my player, I couldn't skip forward to the next project, but had to watch the entire episode to get to the information I wanted. 

Every episode has at least one project made with knitting and another one in crochet, so there's going to be something in every show for people who aren't bi-craftual. (I'm not a crocheter, but the Woodland Fox from episode 4 has me rethinking that stance.)

Overall, a great show, and well worth the time!

I'm giving away the review copy they sent me. Leave a comment on this post by midnight EST on 12/18/13. I will choose the winner at random and announce the winner on the 19th. I may not be able to mail it right away because of holiday travel, but I'll get it out to you as soon as possible.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Proof Is in the Felting

Sorry for the bad iPhone photo.

I got some responses from my friends at knitting group about last week's post. They were along the lines of: Sure, sure, but what happens when you FELT the slippers? 

In this case: a perfect match. Cascade 220, held double, felts up exactly the same way as Cascade 128. The resulting slipper feels a tiny bit more dense (which makes sense, it contains more wool), but fits the same way. 

In the photo above, the red Sherwood Slippers are knit in Cascade 128, the blue and purple sets are in Cascade 220 (held double.)

It's so nice when things work out, especially this close to Knitter's Test of Will Day, er, Christmas.

There's still time! Buy the pattern, find some Cascade 220 in your stash, and cast on. Impress your friends and brother-in-laws.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Design Inspiration: Bellybutton Baby Blanket


The “bellybutton” in the Bellybutton Baby Blanket refers to the shape of the center of the blanket. I knit it when I found out my younger sister was pregnant. The lovely Allison of Simply Socks Yarn Company let me borrow her adorable son for the photos.

The bellybutton is formed when the plain knit section hits the patterned ridges. I love it as a symbol of a child’s connection to the four sets of families that came before him or her, since a new baby is the heart, root, and hope for everyone involved.

This is a very simple knit that takes advantage of the wonderfully unpredictable and lovely variations in Malabrigo Rios. (It could even be a great stash buster, as long as you keep the type and weight of the yarns used the same.)

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Sherwood Slippers: Cascade 220 Held Double (and Why Grist Matters)

Ok, so my first thought when I heard that Cascade 128 (non-superwash) was discontinued: knit some Sherwood Slippers in Cascade 220, held double.

Cascade 128 on top, Cascade 220 on bottom. Before felting.

"Held double" means that you work with two strands of the same yarn as if they were one strand. Some knitters like to use both the inside and outside strands of a center-pull ball. I find that I always get tangled up if I do that, so I wind my yarn into two different balls and go from there. Knitter's choice, of course. 

I knit up the last of the Cascade 128 in red that I had and, using the same instructions, needles, and knitter, made more in purple Cascade 220.

Before felting, the 220 slippers were just a tiny bit longer than their 128 counterparts (maybe 1/4-inch or a little more than half a centimeter.) The width was identical. The 220s weighed a little more, at about 47 g/slipper instead of 40 g/slipper.

Both yarns are 100% wool and I get the same stitch gauge with each. Why is one slipper almost 18% heavier than the other?

1) The thinner yarn, in this case, is spun and plied more tightly than the fatter one. It even says so on the ball band, if you know how to look at it.

Cascade 220: 100 g = > 220 yds (201 meters)
Cascade 128: 100 g = > 128 yds (117 meters)

Gee, I wonder where they get their names. :)

Let's start with one Cascade 128 slipper. It weighs 40 grams, so takes about 51.2 yards of yarn to make. If the Cascade 220 slipper uses the EXACT same yardage for each strand, it takes twice as much = 102.4 yards. 102.4 yards of Cascade 220 should weigh (102.4/220)*100 = about 46.5 grams. I love it when the lab result matches the math.

2) Grist.

Knitters don't think about this much, but what we're looking at is an example of different grist, even though I have the same stitch gauge. Grist is normally given in meters per kilogram or yards per pound, but we could turn it on its head and see how many grams there are per meter of each yarn.

Cascade 220 (doubled):  .995 grams/meter
Cascade 128 (single): .855 grams/meter

So, a project using the same yardage in each yarn will weigh more in Cascade 220 (held double) than it will in Cascade 128 (held single).

Which also means:

- When subbing yarns, ALWAYS use length measurements, not weight, to determine how much yarn you need!

- A pair of Woman's Medium Sherwood Slippers can be made with just one skein of Cascade 220, held double, with about 15 yards left over (whew).

- Cascade 220 slippers might hold up better than the Cascade 128 slippers, based on my somewhat unscientific idea that a slipper that uses more wool takes longer to wear out. The scientific way to say it is that the tighter twist and more plies involved in the Cascade 220 make the fibers of the yarn less subject to abrasion, but who can say for sure until the sole hits the floor?

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Sirka Counter Review and Giveaway (Comment to Win)

The nice folks over at Grellow and Gray sent me a Sirka counter to try out - and give to one of you!

The counter is well-made, cute, and allows you to keep track of up to three different counts at once. Need to keep track of the number of rows, number of sets of decreases and number of times you've worked those sets? Done.

The counter is designed for you to move the three little levers (they call these "crowns") along as you work, until you hit one of the "hands" you have set at the beginning. In the photo above, the gray hand is set to 6, the yellow is set to 10 and the blue is set to 14. The levers do not advance automatically (it isn't a click-type counter), which is a good thing because you have to look at the thing to see if you have lined up with your preset hands. There are springs and things inside the Sirka that make the crowns click into place as you turn them, so it feels solid as you use it.

The makers of the Sirka point out that its best to start the crowns at 1 when counting rows and 0 when counting sets of things (rows, sets of decreases, etc.) This is important because you do, after all, never work a row 0 but you will have a moment, at the beginning, when you have completed 0 sets.

Would you like to get your hands on this little device? Leave a comment on this post by midnight (New York time) on December 11, 2013, saying how you would use the Sirka. I will select a winner at random on December 12 and ship it out!

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

When I Grow Up...

I SWEAR I have read all of her books. Maybe the last two were ebooks?
I have said that I wanted to be Annie Modesitt and/or Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (listed in alphabetical order, of course) when I grow up.

After an almost impossible-to-process weekend that involved over 6 hours of soaking in the awesomeness that is the Yarn Harlot, I've decided that I don't want to BE either of them. 

Rather, I want to attain the qualities I admire in them. 

They are both: 

1) Funny. To the point of pants-changing being a real possibility.
2) Humble.
3) Seem to be very much their "true selves." I mean, they put it all out there. The good, the weird, the I-have-a-complex-relationship-with-my-hair.
4) Authors who are so good at writing it makes me want to be the Igor to their Dr. Frankenstein.
5) Teachers who make me, as a student, feel humble and exhilarated at the same time. 

It's like they're showing me the map of a wonderful country. I've visited once or twice, but they live there. They speak the language. They know where to buy groceries. 

...and they're willing, waiting and wanting to tell all of us what they know. 

What could be more wonderful?

I didn't take any photos. Because I'm a victim of camnesia. I know. I KNOW.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Design Inspiration: Firebird Flight Shawl

I was inspired to knit my Firebird Flight Shawl by the silky drape and color shifts of Panda Silk in Firebird.
This is a fingering-weight yarn that is 52% bamboo, 43% Merino wool and 5% silk. It is 204 yards in 1.76 oz per skein or 187 meters in 50 grams. It is gorgeous!
The shawl’s unusual shape is part yarn-saving triangle, and part figure-flattering hexagon, with fun scalloped edges, too.
Luckily, when it was ready for photography, I was visiting my sister and my baby niece. I took the chance to include this special moment in their lives in the shawl's photographs.