Fire Thief KAL!!

April 29, 2015 - 3:33 pm

Fire Thief is getting popular on Ravelry again. I was so afraid I had muffed it when it went viral early, but it seems like the pattern is recovering well. I’m also getting an education in online social marketing, but I won’t bore you with those details now. 🙂 Maybe after the release is passed, if folks are interested.

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I’m starting a KAL on Ravelry for Fire Thief. Here are the details:

  • I’m going to cast-on Friday, May first, and try to knit it out in a month, but you’re welcome to cast-on now if you’d like.
  • I’ll pick a random winner when I finish mine from everyone who posts FO photos of their project in the thread.
  • I’ll pick a second random winner from everyone who casts on.
  • Winner will receive a care package including yarn to make a nice Fire Thief.

I encourage you to try different ways of using the charts. They’re all modular and designed so they can be put together in different ways. If you have an idea and aren’t exactly sure how to make it go, ask me! I have all sorts of thoughts on modifying this pattern. For instance:

  • It could be a circular shawl
  • Or as a Curl without the circular start
  • It’s possible to knit out a smaller version by stopping the central motif after round 22 and beginning to Curl at that point.

Have fun and be creative with it!

Ok….. GO!!

Fire Thief Release Party!

April 28, 2015 - 2:38 pm

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It’s alive!!!

I have so much to say about the process of designing, testing, revising, and releasing this pattern. It’s been at least 50% of my working time for the past month and some. But it’s done and out in the world! I’m going to dinner and a show with a friend tonight to celebrate. 🙂

So the Ravelry page has a discount for the next week, or you can join the newsletter for an even better deal. More tomorrow, I promise. 

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Shaping Success!

March 6, 2015 - 1:38 pm

First the triumphant photo:

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That right there is my GINORMOUS swatch for Fire Thief, using all the charts, but only working a small part of the circular center motif and a couple repeats of the curl expansion chart. I believed in my geometric intuition about how this would work out, but I needed to test. 

Imagine the glass bowl represents your shoulder. The shawl is designed to hug your shoulder and Curl around your neck. (heh heh. See what I did there?) This is a small scale swatch that would fit a two or three year old, and it doesn’t have any beading, but the shaping will work just the same in the adult size. Phew! It works!

Here’s a pic from the top:

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It’s a pretty straightforward knit with just a few tricky bits. More or less you make a circular start, work in the round for the circular chart, then knitted cast-on a couple stitches and take off working back and forth Curling in one direction and picking up live stitches off the circular motif in the other. When you have used up all the sts from the motif you just keep working the Curl charts.

If you want a looser, flatter scarf you can use the progressively larger expansion charts as you work outward, or for a tighter spiral stick with the first chart. 

When it’s as large as you like, work the edging chart appropriate for however you ended up working the expansion charts. 

I have all the charts and am just working up final layout and the transition explanations. I should have it all written up soon— possibly later today– and have a version out for anyone who wants to test knit along with me. I’m off to Ravelry right now to set up a pattern page. 🙂

Let me know if you’d like to knit a test one! All I ask are nice photos. 

Progress

February 25, 2015 - 12:26 pm

As of about half an hour ago I have reached the end of the center chart for Fire Thief: 

Fire Thief center

The chart is quite pleasant to work, now that I put the time in to get it constructed correctly. Thanks again to JC Briar and stitch-maps.com

Over the weekend I bought beads:

Fire Thief beads

I also spent some time with construction paper, scissors, and tape, and I think I have a sense of how I want the shaping to work: 

Fire Thief shapes

I don’t really think there’s any way to know other than to work and see how it comes out. The white paper one in the foreground is the closest to what I think I’ll end up with.

There are eight repeats of the center chart, each of which divides into four arms, leaving 32. This is a number that pleases me. 🙂 I didn’t so much plan it that way as notice it when I was starting to think about how to divide the segments between the various ways of working the expansion chart. 

Next up is to do a tiny bit more chart work to make the transition from the center to the expansion, and then start working and see how it comes out. 

Fire Thief Stitch Maps

February 19, 2015 - 3:39 pm

I’d love to have a pretty progress picture for the Fire Thief, but you’ll just have to imagine it looking sort of like half of what I showed you yesterday. Well, two thirds, maybe. I have ripped back to where I start the first purl column and am going to re-knit again, again, again.

This time I decided not to try to “work it out on the needles,” because that clearly wasn’t a winning technique. Instead I fired up JC Briar’s site stitch-maps.com where I can enter the pattern and visualize the knitting better. This is the new center motif chart:

Fire Thief Stitch Maps

Just for giggles I also entered the expansion chart

Fire Thief Stitch Maps

I encourage everyone to go have a look at JC’s site. It REALLY helps me understand what’s going on with the knitting. The data entry is a little tedious, but nothing compared to hours of frustration from ripping and re-knitting. I’m now confident I have the chart correct, and I can just knit it out.

I’m going to sign off and do just that. 🙂

Fire Thief

February 18, 2015 - 4:01 pm

I am working on a new pattern. I’ve decided to try something different, and rather than hide it under a bucket during the design phase I’m going to blog freely about the design. If you like the idea and enjoy watching my process drop something in the tip jar over there —>

I’ll also be looking for a test knitter or three when I get this sorted. Let me know if you’re interested.

Hunter’s Curls are my favorite thing right now. I have one completed and a second on the needles and they are fantastic. I asked her how she would feel about me designing a Curl of my own, and she was enthusiastic. So! Here we go.

I decided I wanted to design to commercial yarn this time, and picked the Abstract Fibers colorway Bonfire on the base Temptation. It’s truly lovely. Look: 

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Bonfire is a great name for this colorway. I wanted a stitch pattern that was evocative of flames and worked with the yarn’s color changed instead of fighting them. I decided I needed big yarn-overs in every row in order to show a lace pattern, so came up with this swatch I posted a couple days ago: 

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I worked it on US 8’s, and it opens up nicely and the little three to four stitch runs occasionally stack to make little snaps and flashes of color. Perfect! 

You might notice there’s something going on towards the top of the swatch. There’s a line of faggotting that pops up in between the pattern repeats. That’s because I want to enhance the curliness of my curl, so the stitch pattern will expand as it’s worked by getting spaced out by more and more columns of faggotting. I worked up this chart:

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The idea is that you start with the bottom eight rows and repeat them a few times, then knit the blue transition row and move into the second set of eight, and so on. I haven’t decided how many a “few” is yet. 

The other idea I want to pull into this is something I’ve been playing with for a while, which is making two-sided scarves. I don’t like having a right and a wrong side to my neckwear. I don’t want to have to think that hard when I get dressed. 🙂 So I reworked the pattern to have an A and a B chart, with knits and purls: 

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Looking at the key there you’ll see notation for beads. Because, well, beads are fun! so there will be beads in the faggotting as well. 

The other notion I’ve been playing with in some pattern starts that may never see the light of day is having a circular start that at some point breaks free by having some number of stitches cast-off and the remainder getting worked into a rectangular shawl. I personally prefer long shawls to triangles or circles. 

When I saw Hunter’s Curls I immediately started thinking about how to work this into the start of a Curl shape instead of a rectangle. I am still not sure exactly how the circle will transition into the Curl— I’ve got some ideas but they will require testing. For the moment I’m focussed on getting the circular start done correctly.

I found a fabulous circular motif that was recently published by the inimitable Franklin called the “Laura Star.” It isn’t quite right for this project, however. I want it to flow nicely into the zig-zags. So I’ve added a lot of rows and inserted some columns of k2tog, yo to break it up into 4 st columns like the motif for the body has. You can see them starting to develop below:

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I’m setting them up as alternating knit/purl sections to flow into the flame pattern properly, and that has been the task of the day. Because there are so many increases and decreased it’s damned difficult to chart this out properly. I want the purls to start where they need to start and end where they need to end for the pattern to work out correctly. That means I need to count backwards from where I want to end up to where I need to shift from knitting out of the yo’s to purling out of them, and that turns out to be HARD, at least for me, at least today.

I have found out the hard way that I can’t rip this motif and then put it back on the needles, not even in little sections— if I screw up I have to tink back stitch by stitch and row by row, unless of course I want to start over from the cast-on. Which I have done twice. I have lost count of the rows I have tinked.

That tangle of yarn at the top? yeah. That’s the start of the next tinkage. I’ve dropped stitches down to where I need to rip- four or five more rows. 

The good news is that I’m working all of this out in beautiful charts, so it will be easy for *you* to knit once I’m done. Or, as easy as knit/purl lace that has no resting rows can be. 🙂 This is not going to be sleepy knitting. 

I’m jazzed about this design, and everyone I waved swatches in front of at Madrona was interested as well. I think Susan at Abstract Fiber and I may do a knit-along once I have something ready for the rest of the world.

This, by the way, is what you pay for when you buy a knitting pattern. Done well they are gorgeous and simple for the knitter to use. All of the work that goes into making that simplicity is invisible in the finished product, just like we don’t see the hours of practice when we watch a figure skater or a gymnast perform a flawless routine. Trust me, there’s more going on behind the scenes than you might imagine.

This is perhaps 10% of the way to having a pattern ready to ship— if I’m lucky and don’t hit an impossible problem. I’m not offering advanced sales yet because I know I may not find clean ways to solve some of the problems I see in front of me. How exactly am I going to Curl this circle? Stay tuned and we can find out together.

In the meantime, this is the song I took the pattern name from: 

Thanks so much to Hunter, Franklin, and Susan for their inspiration.

Sheep and Swatches

February 12, 2015 - 12:30 pm

A couple weeks ago we visited our friend Alice Mattson at Reflection Farm and took several hundred pics of her beautiful lambs and their mamas, as well as the dogs who keep them safe. The full set is here, and highlights below:

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Only a couple hours old.

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Took him out into the sun for a better pic.

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The colorful flock racing for the barn.

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It’s a lamb rainbow!

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Thor with one of his charges behind him

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Alice teaching Rainy some manners

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Rainy, the new guardian dog. She’s Thor’s little sister.

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Thor being inspected by a youngster with CVM markings.

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Who then raced straight back to momma!

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Aaaah, comfort. 

And I’ve been watching for a new pattern. What do you think this wants to be when it grows up?

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Find me at Madrona this weekend and I’ll tell you all about it. 🙂

Icterine Curl Completed!

January 8, 2015 - 3:38 pm

Quicky post to share pictures of the completed Icterine Curl:

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blocking:

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Before blocking: 

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Enjoy! I sure plan to. 🙂

Curling

December 3, 2014 - 4:17 pm

Drive-by post today to share progress on the first Curl I’m knitting: Icterine. It is made of gigantic braided cables:

Icterine

I started with leftover BFL-silk, the first part of which was used for the DK weight Viburni:

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Then kept knitting:

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And knitting: 

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Until I ran out of yarn. Fortunately I have a lot more of the fiber, since this didn’t turn out to be enough scary wrap thing for what I wanted. So I spun a bit more, finished the yarn to be sure I had spun matcning yarn, and knit that bit into the scarf. I’m going to start spinning up the rest Right now.

 🙂

Using My Beading Tool

September 19, 2014 - 7:42 pm

This will be the last post in the Viburnum series, and it’s about the tool I use to bead lace.

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Shortly after I joined Ravelry I developed and posted about a tool I made for beading lace from a guitar string. Folks have been regularly requesting a video on using the tool ever since.

That day has arrived! Here is the video:

 

Making Lace

September 18, 2014 - 12:33 pm

The third Viburnum sample in Knitty was the lace weight one. It’s an interesting “coming full circle,” since the piece I developed the initial pattern with was also lace weight. 

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That first sample was knit in Art By Eve’s “Anne,” which is a 70% Alpaca/ 30% silk yarn. It’s beautiful and drapey and deliciously soft and warm against the skin of my neck. The fiber blend was pretty close to perfect. That sample has now gone to live with Amanda, as a thank you for modeling in the Knitty article.

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I knew I wanted to spin something similar, but nothing in my stash called to me. I had some delicious kid mohair and some alpaca, but I wanted something colorful that would look good on the page with the lavender DK weight wrap, and nothing I had in my stash was going to work with those requirements.

Then I thought of Terry at Rainbow Farms Pygora. She makes the most delicious batts blending pygora with other fibers. Her batts are done in small lots from fiber she dyes in crockpot sized batches, and each one is built by hand on her drum carder. I’ve worked along side her in her studio and was impressed with her process and artfulness.

Fortunately I had this thought about a week before we were scheduled to get together at the Black Sheep Gathering in Eugene, OR. I went straight to Terry’s booth when I arrived and had a delightful time with her picking out a complimentary batt to go with the DK sample. I settled on a deep purple. 

I also splurged on a new supported spindle from Spindlewood to spin the batt up. I have a number of spindles including representatives from most of the major artisan spindle makers, but Steve’s are my favorites. And Connie is such a delight to talk to— if you ever make it to a festival where they are selling you should drop in. 

I wanted to make sure the yarn I spun up was strong and fine enough to carry beads well. Being at Black Sheep I remembered a couple years ago when I took a class from Galina Khmeleva on Orenburg lace spinning. One of the things she stressed over and over that made me chuckle was “You can eat butter with your butter, but why would you?” She was referring to plying fine handspun singles with silk or cotton thread instead of spinning two singles of the same fiber together. It is the practice in Orenburg to ply the cashmere singles with drawn silk. That gives strength and a bit of sheen to the finished yarn, keeps the final yarn quite fine, and makes the single go twice as far! 

I checked the SkaSka booth for a plying thread that would go with the purple batt, but they didn’t have anything I liked in stock. Just down the aisle, though, was the Fiber Addict, who had hand-dyed 60/2 thread that was the perfect color.

So here are my tools and the yarn in process:

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I love support spindling. I find it’s the best way to make a fine, soft single, because the single doesn’t need to be strong enough to be wound on through the orifice of a wheel and doesn’t have to support the weight of a drop spindle. It seems to me the fibers stay relaxed and a little fuzzy because they don’t get that extra tug in the spinning.

To spin this I tore off handfuls of the batt and spun from the tips of the fiber rather than from the fold. I experimented with both methods, but the single was finer and more consistent spun from the tips. Terry’s batt spun like magic! I had an ounce spun up in a couple hours. 

To ply I went to my go-fast wheel. I am fortunate enough to have a lovely Canadian Production Wheel that’s about a century old:

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It’s made for spinning fine and fast. I plyed straight off the bobbin, after winding the thread onto a card:

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The spindle is in a tall water glass with a point protector on the tip, and the card with the silk is in a mug. I wanted to make sure the yarn didn’t become a boucle in the finishing, so I tensioned the spun single while letting the silk glide into the orifice with no tension. That way when the single relaxes it won’t form loops:

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After plying it was time for the finish! Still in the mood to avoid a boucle, I opted for a steam finish. Into the steamer basket with the yarn!

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Onto the stove over a frying pan of steaming water:

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And aaaaaah. Nice relaxed yarn:

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The photos don’t show how much of a change a little steam wrought. The yarn went from being kinky and unbalanced to being smooth.

Beauty shot on the porch:

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And then I set straight to knitting. I love how moebius scarves on the needles like to make heart shapes: 

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Next to the cowl is my beading tool. More on that tomorrow!

Viburnum becomes a pattern

September 17, 2014 - 10:36 am

Shortly after I completed David’s neck warmer, mentioned in the last post, I got an email from Knitty about submissions for the upcoming issue. They were specifically looking for small things, gift sized, and themed for winter wear. 

I mulled over what I might have to submit, and it occurred to me that the pattern I had now knit in two weights could be knit in more or less any weight of yarn, and could be sized up or down as desired to match gauge and style. 

I decided I needed one more size to make my point, so I grabbed a skein of Manos wool and silk and started knitting. I adore the little neck warmer that came out:

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It has been given to my Aunt Lynne as a gift. 

I wrote up the pattern and submitted it. On a whim I sent it to Knitty Spin since one of the three samples was handspun. I was pleasantly surprised when Jillian accepted it— provided I knit all three samples from handspun!

The acceptance note arrived shortly after Spinzilla. I spun for Team Storey, as I have several friends with books published through them. One of the yarns I spun up for the contest was a light purple fulled single from merino/silk top my friend Heidi dyed. It’s the skein in front on the right:

End of Spinzilla

The final yarn was much less kinky— this is the freshly spun picture. 

This style of yarn is one of my favorites. I first made it in imitation of the Malabrigo and Manos worsted singles I adore, and have knit several sweaters and other smaller projects from it. The yarn is quickly and lightly spun, and then heavily fulled to get it to hold together and to balance out the twist. I find this yarn doesn’t pill as badly as a two or three-ply yarn from the same fiber that’s finished less roughly. It will only work with non-superwash blends that are made mostly of feltable wool.

To make it I spin a middling sized single using a supported long backwards draw from the end of top. I spin it only to the point that the single loses the stretchy taffy-like feel, and then run it into the orifice and onto the bobbin.

Pull back, treadle a couple times, run the yarn in. Slide my fingers back down the top a bit, pull back, treadle, run in. It’s as soothing as a rocking chair. The rhythmic motion helps me maintain consistency in the single, and I can spin up a sweater’s worth of yarn in a couple afternoons. Delightful!

Once it’s spun I skein it off on a swift, tie it up well, and beat the living daylights out of it. I wrote up a tutorial a few years ago on learning to spin long draw and finishing a single with a hard fulling wash. There are bigger pictures in my flickr stream, and I think these two capture the spirit and vigor of the finishing: 

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I swish the single in boiling hot water fresh from the kettle with a bit of soap, then dunk it in an ice bath, and move the yarn back and forth again and again until it shrinks and hangs limp in the skein instead of curling up. To finish the yarn I “thwack” it vigorously against a wall or the edge of a basin. The photos show me doing it in the kitchen sink, but that makes a big splashy mess. Most of the time I use the wall of the shower. This action further “sets” the yarn, helping the fulling process along.

Once the yarn dries I put it back on the swift and re-skein it, gently separating the strands where they have stuck together. Generally I have to adjust the swift in several pegs from where it was originally skeined up because fulling causes the yarn to shrink in length and bloom in diameter.

The end result is a soft fuzzy yarn that is, nevertheless, as solid as a hard twisted multiply plied yarn, for a fraction of the effort. It doesn’t have the glossy sheen of a worsted yarn, but it’s lighter and warmer. It’s generally a bit uneven in diameter, but that disappears in the knitting. 

The end result is the neck warmer I wear the most: 

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Yummy.

Viburnum origins

September 16, 2014 - 1:48 pm

Viburnum began as a small take-along summer holiday project. It has origins in conversations with Sivia and Cat about the sorts of patterns that work well in a Moebius design. I am fortunate to have such friends. 

The issue with a moebius is they are knit in two directions at once, so the pattern must look the same from the top to the bottom or the bottom to the top. They are also single sided, with the “front” and the “back” flowing into each other, so the pattern has to be the same on the front and the back.  Cat has many designs which meet these criteria. Sivia has the Harmonia’s Rings pattern, which I had just come through knitting into a sweater when I cast on what was to be the first Viburnum.

After a lot of iterations I ended up with a chart and a swatch that made me happy. It took less time to knit out the first one than it had to design:

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At about the same time I was finishing up the first cowl, I ruined a fleece.

David’s Viburnum was made with some gnarly handspun:

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I botched the washing job on a lovely Romeldale fleece by letting it cool too much in the bathtub. In my defense I was a bit distracted for several hours because the bathtub drain had sprung a leak and was showering my basement with sheepy water. By the time I determined what the problem was and drained the tub the grease had redepositied, and removing it required harsh treatment that was fulling the wool.

Instead of rewashing the whole thing, which I had planned for some colorwork and had painstakingly sorted, alas, I set it aside a bit sticky.

David asked for a neck warmer to cover the space between his bike helmet and his jacket for commuting in the Seattle winter muck, and I pulled out some of this tacky fleece because (I reasoned) it would throw off rain and drizzle better than a properly washed one.

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It performs beautifully in that role, but processing and spinning a fine and sticky fleece into a yarn doesn’t produce a smooth or consistent single, that is certain!

I opened the locks with a flicker, and then ran it through my Pat Green Big Batt carder, and pulled the batt through a diz to get a hand pulled roving. This is a picture of dizzing a wool/silk batt for another project:

pulling roving from the batt

The resulting yarn is fluffy and warm, but … rustic. You can no doubt see the thick and thin bits, as well as the neps and other messy bits. What you can’t see is that I had to pry it apart fir this photo because the lanolin had pretty much glued it together. Nevertheless, it knits up nicely.

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Once I had the yarn I went casting about for a pattern. After some talking and thinking we figured out David wanted a moebius so it would fit high on the back of his neck but down under his chin. I realized I could use the same stitch pattern as my beaded lace cowl, minus the beads, and I knit him one that evening. This pattern is so very fast to knit in bulky weight!

I haven’t decided if I will process and spin the rest into a sweater for him, or let it languish. I did use some to stuff pin cushions, in the thought that greasy fleece would be a nice way to keep sewing pins.
Anyway. I encourage you to knit with your yarn. I have learned so much about spinning by actually working with the yarns I make!

Viburnum in Knitty

September 15, 2014 - 9:15 am

Some of you may have noticed I have a pattern in the latest Knitty!

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It’s called “Viburnum.” It has been shown in three weights of yarn: lace with beads (above) DK:

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and Bulky:

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It’s a moebius cowl, based on the Cat Bordhi moebius patterns from A Treasury of Magical Knitting. I designed it with hand spinners in mind, because the pattern can be easily adapted to any weight of yarn and desired size of knitted neck warmer, from a neck wrap to a shoulder wrap to a double loop infinity scarf. The stitch pattern scales gracefully and always complements the moebius structure.

I’ll write articles each day this week, explaining how to use my Beading Tool and how I spun each of the yarns used. 

Enjoy!

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Big News!

May 7, 2013 - 9:17 am

On May 20th, Amy Singer from Knitty and Tom Bihn from Tom Bihn Bags will be joining me for the weekly Hack Your Clothes night at Metrix!

Knitty10th TombihnMetrixRobotLogo orange

Evite here! The space can only hold a limited number of people, so sign up soon if you would like to join us.

Squee! I’ve been working on the details for this for the past month or so. Possibly longer. It’s awesome to be able to publicize it, finally.

Rainy April Monday

April 29, 2013 - 7:37 am

Rainy morning

It’s dreary out there right now, but supposed to get nicer as the day goes on. I’m looking forward to a quiet and productive day, and a busy evening at Metrix.

I have these two pieces on which to weave in ends:

Knitting to finish

The scarf I showed blocking yesterday and a sweater I made on the knitting machine. I’m absurdly proud of the sweater. I made it without a pattern, just a knowledge of standard sweater ratios, my measurements, the gauge of the fabric, and some guesses. I love how it fits! Some of that is silk being drapey and forgiving, but truly it’s a good fit. I’m pleased that I’m getting enough of a feel for sweater construction that I can just make one up spontaneously.  

This is made with Urban Silk from Little Knits; it’s 80% off on clearance, and as of this writing they still have it in stock in several colors. I bought ~1000 yds of Aran weight silk for $33, which was more than enough for this long, loose sweater. $33. Silk. Sweater. Run, don’t walk. 🙂

Does anyone out there in blog land know about italic handwriting? I’m realizing I would like to have a better hand so I could annotate illustrations more legibly without having to go back and type stuff in. It would shorten the cycle from sketch to release. Once upon a time I had a lovely calligraphic hand, but that was before I broke my wrist and more or less stopped using a pen for 20 years. I’d like to get it back, and I expect it would help my drawing as well.

Yesterday’s goals were:

  • Illustrator Class
  • Write up backlog of textile work
  • Organize upstairs with David

Yesterday’s extra accomplishments were:

Organizing was the must happen, so I’m fairly well pleased that was done. I had forgotten the poor sad plants waiting for me in pots, and was appalled by the state of the beds in the backyard, so those were good tasks as well. By the time I sat down to do the planned desk work I wasn’t braining well enough to be effective, so I had a quiet evening of pleasure reading instead. I hadn’t put the zentangle in my planned activities, but that’s a daily goal.

Today’s goals:

  • Laundry
  • Weave in ends in projects
  • Illustrator class- at least 1 hour, preferably more
  • First draft of tee shirt tutorial
  • Daily zentangle
  • Metrix textile night

Morning stretches

April 28, 2013 - 6:51 am

New lace scarf giving its all

It’s 7:30am. Showered, puttered, tea made, meditated, and now writing.  Check!

The puttering this morning took rather a long time, because I was blocking the ends of a scarf I’ve been knitting on the machine. I blocked the body before vacation, but decided it wasn’t finished enough, so created a border chart. I knit the first end, which is on the right in the picture below, by hand. The second end last night by machine. I definitely could have knit the second end faster by hand than by manipulating the stitches on the machine, but I learned a lot, so perhaps it was worth it. I certainly now have more motivation to figure out how to use the lace carriage!

New lace scarf giving its all

When blocking lace I believe a harsh blocking is best, no matter how the lace screams, particularly when blocking silk.  This is Handmaiden Sea Silk in colorway Boreal. The iPad camera doesn’t do it justice; photos later when it’s off the rack. Note the hand weights to help keep the mat flat- it’s not really blocking if I don’t need at least 10 lbs. This one used 18, but I probably could have gotten away with a little less. 😉

Also, pro tip: when pinning on the dining table, be VERY CAREFUL that the pins don’t go through the mat. Perhaps avoid this all together in the future, and pin on the floor, then check for pins sticking through before moving the lace to the table for photos.

There are some errors in the pattern on the machine knit side, but I declare it Good Enough.

Yesterday was spent continuing to get acquainted with my wacom tablet, working on the Illustrator course on lynda.com, and napping, glorious napping. I feel more well rested today. David and I also took photos of some FO’s I need to post, including the sweater I finished at the Visionaries retreat and a skirt I made on the knitting machine.

Today there will be more illustrator class, and writing. I’ve cleared all the nagging UFO’s out of my backlog in the past week or so, but am not starting anything new until the documentation is complete.

We are also having an extreme low tide again, so may take a little jaunt down to the beach with our cameras for that.

Finally, I’ll be taking advantage of David being home to complete the sorting and rearranging of Stuff on the main floor of the house.  The remainder of what needs to be sorted is joint property, and I want to be certain the putting away of Stuff is satisfactory to all. I’m determined the dining table will be empty of clutter 100% of the time. I like sitting here looking out over the bay, and I like having a nice table for eating, rather than plopping down on the couch as has become our habit.

Next up: exercise! Yesterday I had to abort the morning routine after an upper body twisting stretch triggered some sort of stomach spasm that had me heaving for half an hour or so. I’m working on strengthening and mobilizing my scalenes. The stretches I’ve found to help are uncommon yoga poses that I don’t know the names for. If anyone has suggestions, please share.

And there’s a goldfinch on the bird feeder.  It really is spring.

2 hour knitted skirt

April 8, 2013 - 9:13 pm

Tonight at Metrix I knit a skirt in two hours. Which is kind of awesome.  It was my first time using the bulky knitting machine for an actual project.

I started with a bag of Nashua Handknits Geologie wool in Citrine:

Nashua Geologie Citrine

And knit through one skein across the full bed of needles on the bulky machine at tension 5. It was about the perfect length for a skirt, which was my dream for this yarn. I had seen this skirt:

And wanted to try something similar.

So I joined on another ball, put 10 std in hold, and began short rowing, adding two needles per pair of rows to the hold position until I had worked across the bed, then shifting all the needles back into work at once and picking up the short rows. The triangle was just about one more ball.

I continued working a plain panel for one ball and a short rowed panel for one ball, working through 8 balls total.

The skirt is gorgeous.  I need to kitchener the seam together, add an elastic waistband and lining, and decide how I want to finish the hem, but I’m ecstatic. Pictures tomorrow. Everyone at Metrix was gobsmacked that I churned out yards and yards of fabric in two hours.

Squee!

The Good Life

March 31, 2013 - 11:12 am

This was my afternoon yesterday after I finished my taxes. Lazy sunshine with my cat and Sivia Harding‘s Harmonia’s Rings.

And this was my morning today, sketching, fresh baked chocolate chip pumpkin bread, and tea.

This afternoon we’re going to the farmer’s market, and then to shoot pictures during an extreme low tide, and the evening will be spent at Metrix playing with robots.

Life is good.

Weekend Fiber Chores

March 4, 2013 - 8:05 am

Between Madrona and the Visionaries retreat and it being February and therefore generally kind of a low energy time, many chores were left undone. This past weekend was a time for catching up. In addition to the mundane kitchen cleaning and floor vacuuming and laundry mountain, I sorted and washed a second fleece for Deb, and David & I tossed our stash.

The stash toss involves a sunny spring day that’s not too breezy, and dumping all the yarn out on a sheet on the porch, sorting it into categories, inspecting for pests, and then putting it back away.

From this:

Stash toss 2013

To this:

stash toss 2013

And then all back into boxes with new labels. This year we divided it by weight, by fiber type, and by whether we loved it or merely saw it as useful. A special category was made for “souvenir yarn” which is yarn we don’t expect to knit but reminds us of places and times, or is the scraps and remnants from memorable projects. We also sorted out a bunch both in the “love it” and the “useful” categories that would be good machine fodder.

More than half of the yarn is in the “useful” category. I believe that’s going to be moving to Metrix and be sold by the ounce to folks who want to start fiber projects there. Where I’m going to start teaching regular classes and hosting a regular fiber craft night shortly. But more on that later.

The fleece sorting was cut short by a breeze picking up and clouds rolling in. Not much to detail differently from the last operation, except that there was only minimal sorting this time. There was a bit of wool in the bag from the britch, which ordinarily I would have skirted but Deb asked for it to be kept:

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The fleece is white. No really. even though it looked like this fresh out of the bag:

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It has the same pattern of not having guard hair on the center back as the other fleece I processed for her. I sorted the neck wool into two bags and the back wool into two bags and the britch into its own; don’t remember the tie colors offhand but I’ll note them later. The rest all went into unmarked bags.

ETA: The blue tags are the neck wool, with wool that had more guard hair in one bag and wool that had less in the other. The yellow tags are the back wool.  The red is the britch.

Here’s a picture of it drying in the sun:

Fleece drying

See? white!!

And an obligatory cat in the sunshine picture:

Fleece drying

For those who asked about drying racks, I’m going to be making a second one probably later this week, and will blog it. If you’d like to follow along at home you will need:

  • A wire mesh shelf you don’t mind destroying:
 
  • 4 48″ shelf bracket strips:
  • A bunch of zip ties that will fit through the slots on the shelf
  • wire cutters or scissors to trim the ties

See you then!

Stash Enhancement

February 18, 2013 - 3:39 pm

Wowzers what a week and a half it has been. And I have a gigantic bag full of new! yarn!, two fleeces, and a bunch of swatches and samples to show for it.

First let me flash the new stash.

Dear Claudia, I can only say WOW. Your generosity is amazing. The pink hatbox of yarn love was indeed inspiring. I got silk, linen, and sock yarn in my box.

The linen, in colorways “Paprika” and “Passion Fruit” will be a summer sweater wrap:

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See the swatch? Imagine a drapey swingy sweater with the sweet little cable trimming the edges, and some leaf lace accenting the neckline and hem. Can you picture it? I can. It will be knit at an open gauge to enhance the drape and be just the right weight for a summer layer. 

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Next up is the Superwash fingering yarn in colorway “John B.” It’s already mitts! I want to do a second knit through to have a perfect pair for photos, but they knit up quick! They took a little less than one 175 yd skein. I squeed about them all over Madrona, and made everyone try them on:

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The loveliest of Claudia’s lovelies, though, was this green silk in colorway “Riverbank Grass.” I have a pattern that’s been simmering for a while.  I started a knit through with a green merino of about this shade, but while the color was right the fiber was wrong. It wanted something with some shimmer. Now I have it. I am looking forward to knitting the sample this summer, and feeling this cool silk slide through my fingers:

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Thank you!!

Next up: Blue Moon. I love Tina’s yarns. I’ve already knit two of my patterns in her yarn, first Beamish and then one that’s still a seekrit. In her gift bag of deliciousness I found Geisha:

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It’s mostly mohair, with some silk and nylon. The color is luminous, and the yarn has the sheen of mohair and silk. I roughed up the swatch a little to get the mohair to bloom, and it has just enough of an aura to be warm and soft without so much that it obscures a lace pattern. This is what’s in active development on my needles right now. I have a stole planned, and it’s going to be delicious.

Also from Blue Moon were two skeins of Socks that Rock, one in Heavyweight, and the color, “The New Color Of Love” which will be a hat patterned to my son’s specs for next year’s ski season.

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The other was in lightweight, and the color way “Currier and Ives.” I’m seeing an intentional pooling project for this one. I love the interplay of the colors and the possibilities:

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The last of the gift skeins is a Merino/Cashmere/Nylon yarn called “Carnal” which comes from a small dyer in Texas named Vice. I haven’t been able to get much information about her; Hunter Hammersen of Violently Domestic and The Knitter’s Curiosity Cabinet brought it to share. I got a skein of a lovely blue-green that reminds me of a Monet Waterlilies painting. Hmm. French Impressionists and carnal vice. Who knows where that will lead me?

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Rejoining My Tribe

February 16, 2013 - 7:38 am

For the past week and a half I have been by turns deeply engaged in conversations with knitting designers, working flat out at my job, and collapsing unconscious. I’m full to overflowing with inspiration and ideas, and the intention to carry this forward into action.

First was the Visionary retreat on San Juan Island with Cat Bordhi and twenty-odd knitters who were drawn together by her for the better part of a week. We discussed our individual ideas as well as plans for collaboration in the upcoming year. It was intoxicating; I may hav OD’d on creative inspiration.

The time was made even more amazing by the Lakedale Lodge location, and the cooking of Deb Nolan. The only way I can thank these people for my time in that place is to follow through on the work they have enabled and inspired.

Anyone who wants to make or take a retreat in the Pacific Northwest should consider Lakedale. It’s sumptuous, with a delicious breakfast and a variety of accommodations ranging from hotel-like with fireplaces and jacuzzi tubs to detached cottages with full kitchens, fireplaces, and a shared hot tub to (I understand, though I haven’t seen them) tent cabins and camping spots.

It’s just disconnected enough to make access to the outside world inconvenient. Email gets through in the lodge house, but web surfing is extremely slow. It’s possible to take care of essentials in this connected world, and access needed online resources, but in the inviting surroundings and amazing company the lure of the Internet dims to a minor annoyance. Perfect for a retreat.

There is a lake, with swans and diving ducks. There are the beautiful towering trees of the Pacific Northwest sheltering the enchanting mosses and plants of the understory. Walking, or just being outside is a sensory delight. I gush. I drool. I dribble. Would that I could spend a week a month there.

Deb’s cooking. If you ever have the chance to experience it, say yes. She delights in cooking food that is not just delicious but also healthy and nurturing for the people in her care. She is mindful of dietary limitations, and makes sure there are delicious options for all; in fact most of the meals she prepared were gluten free and largely vegetarian to support those of us with limits, but she fed us in a way that didn’t feel limited. Beautiful and delicious food that drew raves from everyone. Again with the gushing and the drooling. I wish I had thought to take photos of some of her meals.

Cat is inestimable. Many knitters have had the pleasure of taking classes form her; probably most of the knitterly folks who will see this post. She is a dynamo of inspiration; she spins through the world throwing off sparks that set fire to imaginations. I have been feeling a bit dull and drab for months now, without ideas or even desire to find ideas. I stopped writing in my journal, stopped spinning, all but stopped knitting. I felt empty.

Now I am awake and alive and in touch with my creativity again. The only words that come close to expressing how that feels are: “Thank you.” Dearest Cat, You have returned me to the core of my self, lit and nurtured my creative spark, and turned me out into the world inspired to share the light you’ve awakened in me. I didn’t know how much I needed that this year. Thank you, thank you.

And let me not forget to thank the generous and inspirational yarn donations from Claudia’s Handpaints, Blue Moon Fibers, and Vain. I will need to blog about them later, but I’ll add one teaser pic. I have a new mitt pattern completed and mostly written up from Claudia’s yarn, two more in development, and one from Blue Moon. Did I mention overflowing with inspiration?

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But the Visionary retreat was only the beginning. After a few days being distracted by that work I do for money, it was time to come to Madrona.

I’m writing this on Saturday morning from my hotel room, with two more days of wonderful awaiting me. I will be taking spinning classes from Sarah Anderson and Amelia Garriopoli; sadly I will not be taking my scheduled classes from Jacey Boggs due to a death in her family. I’m looking forward to learning wonderful stuff, and having my spinning inspired as well as my knitting.

Right now though, the classes feel like a distraction from the community I’ve been savoring since Thursday night. Being with my tribe is something hard to explain. I suspect those of you who have communities that come together for gatherings a couple times a year understand. every moment is precious. Sleep is an annoying distraction. There is not enough time, there is never enough time. Things are left unshared, connections missed, plans fall through and time is so short. I have two days left and it doesn’t feel like enough; I’m already thinking forward to Black Sheep, and maybe Rhinebeck this year.

But it is enough, and more than enough. I’m full to overflowing with plans and ideas. I have found my heart and center again, and am determined to follow through. I’ve set some goals and they feel attainable.

Last year I was gifted with a Surprise! sabbatical immediately after this time, and the opportunity to do whatever I wished for a while drew me away from my plans to create in fiber. I learned about 3D printing and met a local community who have become my friends and had glorious adventures, but I lost this. I am back now. There will be more. Fiber is where my heart lives, and this community is my tribe.

Blue Mud, Revisited

December 29, 2011 - 11:53 am

The blue fuzzy sweater I posted about a couple weeks ago?  umm, yeah.  Ripped back from the bottom of the bust dart to the point where the arm connects.  I knit to the waist, started knitting a sleeve, and it became very clear the back wasn’t going to fit nicely.  Here are some shots:

sweater from the front

The front is good.  The front I like.  The short rows in the shoulder are helping fit my actual shape.  I’m in love with the detail of the broken rib in the raglan increases, and I expect to really, really like the hourglass shaping as it develops.  Very va-va-voom, which is what I was going for.

The back though?

Sweater from the back

Perhaps this doesn’t look awful (other than being a blurry iPhone snap) but it’s never going to be great.  I meant to put more of the back stitches into the sleeve and fewer into the back itself.  I wasn’t paying enough attention when I divided things up (I blame Doctor Who) and tried to convince myself it would be ok.  It’s not.  The back has a poof and the sleeve is pulling too tightly.

Here’s an annotated pic:

Annotations

bleargh.

So, I’m taking a little break, knitting a few other things, and I’ll get back to the sweater Real Soon Now.  It’s sitting here in my desk WIP basket staring at me.

Spinning a Single for a Sweater

October 30, 2011 - 10:43 am

Last Spring before the Tour De Fleece I fell in love with The Painted Tiger’s Golden Oak BFL. Here, look, a picture ganked from her site:

The Painted Tiger Golden Oak BFL

Don’t you just want to snorgle that?  I did.  I bought a pound of it.

So I only just now got around to starting to spin it.  My goal is to make a low twist soft worsted single, something like Malabrigo Worsted or Manos.  I want to make another sweater along the lines of my Ingenue, except from wool I spin myself.  This sweater is by far my favorite sweater; I have to talk myself out of simply wearing it all winter long.  A second similar sweater in rotation would be a good thing!

I think I got it in one:

TPT BFL Swatch

I”m very happy with how the yarn and the swatch has come out.  I spun it up on my Moswolt M2, which I’m less happy with.  I have decided I don’t need to make friends with Irish tension.  It pulls too hard for me.  I am going to make certain I can reproduce the yarn with scotch tension on the Kromski, and if I can the Moswolt is going to be listed for sale.

This weekend I’m spending a small amount of time spinning as a break from pattern editing.  I have something getting published Real Soon Now I’m excited about.  But work!!  So much work!!  I’m learning how much work goes into developing patterns.  This time last year I had no idea.  I thank all of the folks who are supporting me in this endeavor- I couldn’t do it without you.

Swatchy Swatch

April 8, 2011 - 12:19 pm

Today’s telephone time crafting has been swatching Henrietta.  My goal is to end up with a shoulder wrap thing, with alternating swaths of stockinette and lace, set off by garter ridges.  There have been a number of patterns lately that use this technique to good effect.

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I started on US 6’s, which is the blue/green swatch on the right.  I liked it, but I wanted to see what a larger needle would look like, so I switched to US 10’s.  Holey Moley.  It looks like lace!  It has the right character for the rough handspun look I was imagining.  And it will knit so quickly!!

Both of these swatches are 21 sts across.  The one on US 10’s is 40 rows.  The one on US 6’s is 56.  If I wanted a sweater, I’d go with the 6’s.  Since I want a lacy wrap, it’s the 10’s all the way.  The swatch is .4 oz, so roughly 1/10th of the yarn I have.  I’m going to play with some designs, but I’m thinking I will be hard pressed to get a decent wrap out of that.  Maybe an Elizabethan collar sort of thing, that wraps around neck and shoulders.

No yarn was cut in the making of these swatches.  🙂  I cast-off the first swatch, looped the last stitch around the whole swatch and snugged it down, and cast-on for the second.  There’s a small puff of yarn left after the second swatch, which is mostly out of frame on the bottom of the picture, which I dealt with the same way.

My plan is to unravel the swatch, and start the FO with the small skein, then shift to the larger skeins that are actually fractal spun.  I believe the shorter repeat in the small skein spun from two ends of a short repeat ply will work well in the smaller start section of a shawl.  It will still be stripey.  I’m thinking start with the pink end then work through the green, followed by the pinker end of skein B worked through to the dark end of skein A on the bottom.  I’m not committed to that yet, though.

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