Shaping Success!

March 6, 2015 - 1:38 pm

First the triumphant photo:

2015-03-06 09.51.18.jpg

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:

2015-03-06 09.51.10.jpg

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. 

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 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: 

496 ss bonfire

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: 

2015-02-11 10.45.27.jpg

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:

Screen Shot 2015-02-16 at 10.53.23 AM

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: 

Screen Shot 2015-02-16 at 11.45.25 AM

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:

2015-02-18 15.22.52

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.

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:


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:


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.


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.


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!

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:


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


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:


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. 


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:


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:


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:


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.


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:


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?


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?


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:



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.

Making Mud

December 2, 2011 - 4:03 pm

For the past couple years my design effort has been focused on socks.  Turning a simple curve, wrapping around the contours of a foot and leg, these have been the focus of my efforts and time.  But since October I’ve begun shifting my attention to a sweater.

When I started creating my own knitting shapes I started with toys and sweaters, but found when I wanted to write the designs I didn’t have the skills to do so. My interest in design and my interest in socks hit at about the same time, so it’s not surprising they became intertwined.  The majority of my published patterns are socks.  I’ve made conventional designs, slightly quirky designs, and zomg off into the hinterlands odd designs.  Socks have enough geometry to be intriguing, but not so much as to be intimidating.  I have developed the chops to be able to write a sock pattern before I pick up my needles and be fairly confident of having a comfortable, wearable, attractive FO at the end of the process. To be sure I’m not done learning about writing designs so other folks can follow them, but I’m developing my confidence.

Now, though, I am ready to up the ante, expand my horizons, do something new and dangerous. A week or so before Rhinebeck I picked up some powder blue Rowan Kid Classic yarn, and knit a little sweater shaped swatch.



My idea, roughly, is to replicate my favorite yellow Ingenue sweater in shape, but do something entirely my own in design.


At first I was taking detailed notes, but I rapidly let that go.  There was a lot of ripping.  A LOT of ripping.  I wanted to work this as a circular yoke, with a snowflake shaped lace motif to hide the increases, but couldn’t get the motif to work.  I gave up, and went back to a raglan design, with a little two stitch twist along the raglan line.  The collar is worked with short rows to be asymmetric, and off center.


I’ve added short rows to the sleeve caps and full bust.  The raglan lines divide the stitches into 4 equal sections, and about half way down the twist diverges from the raglan line.


I don’t know yet if this will work the way I want it to.  My idea is for the broken rib pattern to form an hourglass shape, with a plain stockinette panel in the front decreasing to the waist and then increasing, and the broken rib pattern increasing and then decreasing, amplifying the wearer’s natural contours.

It may work.

There may be more ripping.

I’m concerned at the moment there may be too many sts across the back.  Perhaps I should have stopped the raglan increases there when I started the diverging line in the front.  We’ll see as I get further.

I have given myself permission to make mud.  Meaning, I can mess up as much as I need to.  This doesn’t have to come out right.  I think I will have a nice sweater at the end of the exercise, but I may yet end up with a misshapen lumpy thing and a learning experience.  I don’t have to get anywhere.  I don’t need to keep careful notes so I can grade this later into a publishable pattern.  This sweater will be a one of a kind learning experience.  I’m learning to make a sweater.

I will rip and re-knit, ponder, then rip some more.  Tweak and explore and consider ways to make this sweater skim nicely without having too much bulk where I want less or being too tight where I want to keep a little mystery about the underlying contours.  Perhaps in the end get frustrated and just finish the damned thing with some flaws, or perhaps drop it in a UFO basket to be ignored for years.  Even so, it will have served its purpose.

I need to learn how to create a sweater, so mud I shall make.  Creative, fuzzy, fluffy blue mud.