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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Three little kittens, lost their mittens...

Anyone else remember that nursery rhyme?

When I left for college in Boston I didn't own a single pair of mittens or gloves.  Having now pumped gas in below zero weather I now understand their importance. But have you ever tried keeping them on a toddler?  I've already gone through three pairs and it's only mid-December!  We've got at least five more months of this. 

Which is when I remembered the illustrations in a childhood book of nursery rhymes - two mittens attached by a long cord that you string through a kid's jacket sleeves.  Genius.

A quick search and I found that unless I wanted to spend $118 for a pair of Ralph Lauren mittens for a two-year-old (number 25 on the list of "Signs You Have Too Much Money"), I'd have to make my own.  Which I did. 

Not only do we not waste ten minutes every morning looking for mittens, the fact that he can't drop them when putting them on means that Connor's been able to put them on himself.  

And I've made a couple more pairs since - which are on sale at Teeny Bee Boutique in St Paul.  And not for a hundred eighteen dollars, either!


Friday, December 6, 2013

Review: 150 Scandinavian Motifs: The Knitter's Director by Mary Mucklestone

The moment I saw this in Knitting Daily's email I added it to my wishlist. I didn't even bother to read the article. As most of you are aware, my heritage is primarily Scandinavian, with one full-blooded Norwegian grandmother and one Swedish grandmother, and I feel a strong connection with their culture and art. I was thrilled when a friend gave it to me as a belated birthday present a week ago (thanks, M'ris!) and couldn't wait to curl up on the couch with a cup of tea and lovely, lovely knitting designs.

When I first read the author's bio, I squealed again. She's also from Seattle, and talks about growing up in the Scando community out there, and being exposed to the traditional artforms. All of which I can relate to - though my grandmother did knit, she was more into tole painting, but there were plenty of Norwegian sweaters scattered around the congregation at her covenant church. Thanks to this book, I now can identify them as lusekofte sweaters.

Not having done a lot of colorwork knitting, I found the explanations at the beginning of the book extremely helpful. They were some of the clearest I've seen for this kind of work. After the directions she provides information on how to plan a piece, how to use color and traditional motifs, and some historical background on types of garments made using the motifs. What follows is a motif directory where one can quickly reference the different motifs in the book side by side, with page numbers so that you can flip to their instructions and chart in the book.

Some of my favorite motifs were; The climbing vines of number 4, the boys and girls of number 44 (going on a pair of mittens for Connor), the traditional snowflake of 70 and 103.

It should be noted that this is not a patterns book. She does include four patterns as examples at the end of the book (none of which I liked, frankly), but that's it. This book is a more useful resource for creating your own designs and incorporating the motifs, which is why I wouldn't recommend it for a beginning knitter. You're going to need to know the basic 'how-to' of knitting a mitten or a hat in order to use these motifs, or at least know how to incorporate them into an existing pattern.

But if you are a more advanced knitter, and are interested in or like Scandinavian knitting, then this is definitely the book for you. I can already tell that it's going to get a lot of use at my house!

- D

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

There's a method, I believe it's called the magic loop method, where you knit two socks at once. This prevents the "I've knitted one sock and now I'm bored with the pattern and don't want to knit its mate" problem. *ahem* A problem with which I'm intimately familiar. For some reason I have an annual desire to knit a pair of socks. Not sure why, it just crops up only once a year, I knit a pair, and that's it. They're great travel projects, so this year I started this pair when we went on our trip to San Francisco. I have one sock done. One. It's now *cough* October. Clearly, I have a problem. This is the sock in progress;
Shall we start taking bets on when I finish the next one? The next time by LYS offers a class in that two-at-a-time method I need to sign up. Otherwise I foresee a future of beautiful, hand-knit one socks. - D

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Whale Sweater

When your yarn works against you...I wanted to make a whale sweater for Connor, with the vision of a whale swimming along in the water, arching up and across the back, and his tail splashing back down on the front. It took me a few tries to get the shape right - it kind of wanted to look like an alligator! - and to graph the design. Being cheap, I found some discount yarn online and decided to try it. GAH. I've never had a yarn that literally unravels in my hands as I try to knit. It wouldn't hold a rib, and it had no shape to it. I'm not very happy with how the final design turned out, and I think it could have been a much cuter sweater with a different yarn. Lesson learned. C refused to hold still for pictures - in fact, he seemed to think it was a game to make me chase him around the living room with the camera - so I only have one blurry shot of his back. The rest are from before the sweater was assembled. Here are the back two whales;
And here is the front, pre-assembly;

It's okay, but not great. I'd wanted to put the pattern up on ravelry, but I don't think this sweater made in this yarn really showcases the design. I didn't even bother to embroider a mouth or eyes on the whales. Ah, well. Next time I don't cheap out on the yarn. - D

Friday, August 16, 2013

Review: Interweave Knits Fall 2013 Issue

I've been wanting to start reviewing each issue of Interweave Knits as it arrives in my mailbox for a while now but...time. However, I've decided to give it a go.

Let me start by saying that this review is my opinion, and reflects my personal taste. I highly respect the work done by the knitwear designers to create these patterns and don't mean to offend. However, I am going to be honest about whether or not I like them. Starting with the Fall 2013 issue. This is the new editor's second issue and, um, wow I hope they get better. Link to the issue and photos is below.

My first thought upon finding the issue in the pile of mail was, "Holy 1985, Batman!" Seriously, could the sweater on the cover be more dated and ugly? All it needs is wooden toggle buttons. With a sinking heart I flipped to the back to check out the pictorial index of patterns.

Only it's not there. I flip back to the editor's letter only to discover that they've removed this feature from the magazine and moved it online. No. This does not work for me *at all* I keep all my back issues of the magazine and when I'm looking for a new pattern to knit I go through them, flipping to the pictoral index at the back, then flip to the pattern and instructions to see if I have a yarn in my stash that would work. I use the index constantly and I don't want to have to go online to look at it. I appreciate that the new editor may want to add more content but I think this was the wrong feature to cut.

So now I'm a little annoyed. I flip to the first feature - "As the Crow Flies," to look at its patterns. There are three sweater patterns, a dress pattern, and a cowl. The three sweater patterns all look waaay too similar. They have the same style and shape - long-sleeved pullovers - and even share the same neckline. They're fine, basic sweaters, but nothing special and nothing that calls out to me "KNIT ME NOW!" The cowl isn't for me, either, having that much fabric hanging in front of my chest would drive me nuts. Plus, it would collect all the food that my two year old spills while sitting in my lap *G* The dress is fine, but close-fitting and has the potential to look awful on any woman who may have *ahem* lumps under it? Ie, if you're not super tall and skinny I don't see this as being flattering.

Now thoroughly bummed, I find the next section "A Westerly Course." The surrey jacket is cool, I love the contrast border and the shape, though I might knit it a little longer. The way it's structured now the curve upwards and the open space between the two sides of the jacket draw the eye to the tummy bump. Great. Not exactly where most women want people to look!

The minstrel stole is pretty, love the color that they chose. It does strike me, though, that none of these patterns and colors seem to really 'go' together. They're nice on their own but as a collection they look like they were randomly selected. It's a personal thing but I don't like shrugs that are basically two attached sleeves - I find that they bunch oddly around the armpits - so the No 6 Shrug is out.

The "Colorwork Pastoral" feature contains the offending cover sweater. I'm pleased that they included a child's piece but it'd only work for a girl :( I think that the Concord jacket has potential if I knit the two sides to come closer in the middle, otherwise I'd spend all day awkwardly trying to tug them together. The cap is cute, the other patterns are decidedly 'meh.'

Oh, dear, a special on dropped stitches. "Drop me Here." I rarely like the way dropped stitches look - to me they're messy and often look accidental. And the patterns that use them often require the wearing of a tank/camisole/t-shirt underneath for modesty's sake and I don't always want that bulk. The Joan of Arc sweater is cool - love the shape - but why, oh, why would a woman want to draw that much attention to her hips?!?! The Filtered Pullover also isn't bad, though it would have to be knit longer to cover the tummy area. The other patterns, well... I'm starting to feel like I'm being a little b*tchy so I'll stop there.

This issue wasn't a total loss, but it definitely wasn't Interweave's best. I am apprehensive now that the new editor's aesthetic won't match mine at all. There's no question in my mind that I wouldn't have bought this issue in a store, I'd have glanced at it and returned it to the shelf.

If you're thinking of buying this one, I'd call it a pass. If you like one or two of the patterns just wait until they release them for sale individually.

- D

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Audrey's Cardigan, Interweave Knits Spring 2010

When this issue of Interweave Knits showed up in my inbox I knew that I had to knit this pattern. It's gorgeous, unique, and sweet. It also required enough yarn that I knew I'd have to wait until I had the money to order it. As much as I love pink - and you all know that I love pink - I'd knit three projects in a row that were pink so I decided to knit this in a gorgeous teal color. When the yarn arrived from Knit Picks I literally exclaimed "Oooooh!" when pulling it out of the box. I might have sat and petted it for a while, too *g*

The cardgian is knit from the ribbon band up. While I found the construction technique interesting (knitting both sides of the band and then folding it together) I ended up with weird gaps on one side in the first row. Luckily, I could just make this the wrong side.

One thing that I didn't like about this pattern was that the swiss dot pattern and the shaping (increases/decreases) happened on the same row. God, I hate it when designers do that. Then I have to keep track of two things at once. And it wasn't easy to see where the last swiss dots happened in the shrug - they offset each other - even when I held it up to the light. So I ended up knitting an extra row in order to shift the swiss dots to a non-shaping row. Shhh! Don't tell! *g* It worked, the extra row wasn't visible in the shrug, and I didn't have to keep track of two things at once.

While the yarn was silky soft to the touch it was hard to frog, if needed. The yarn really sticks to its shape and the loops are hard to tug out without breaking it. Be aware, too, that if you drop a stitch it may not be immediately visible because the yarn does *not* unravel.

I find that with Interweave's patterns I end up in one of two boats by the time I finish the project. I either have two skeins of yarn leftover or I'm praying I'll have enough to finish the bind off. In this case I had a full skein and a half left. So if you're considering casting this one on but don't quite have enough yarn I'd say you're probably safe.

- D

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Amateur Photography Hour

Today I took the camera and two of my designs down to Teeny Bee Boutique and played photographer.  I had an absolute blast, even though our usual child photographer has no reason to feel threatened!  A friend of mine who used to teach at the studio with me - Kristie - opened the boutique roughly a month ago.  It's stocked with some of the cutest baby clothes and brands I've seen in a long time but for my purposes it had something else I needed - a baby *g*

Connor is too big to showcase some of my designs for the younger set and I just finished a pair of baby legs and matching sweater for a twelve month old.  I wanted to get pictures of them to include with the pattern.  Kristie's baby Faye is a little younger than that, so the sweater ended up being more of a dress, but she was still a great model.  She smiled, cooed and kicked in the front store window - a live display at its finest!

The baby legs are obviously too big for her, but I still loved how they looked, especially with the adorable hot pink diaper cover that Kristie had in stock.
Faye rolled from her side onto her back and struck a pensive look for me.  Look at those gorgeous eyes!  And I love the roly-poly legs.  Can you tell I miss having a little baby around? 

Then we put on the matching sweater and she hung out in Mommy's lap.  It's definitely too big for her, but I do like how the ruffle on the bottom turned out and the seed stitch button band.  When I was working on the design I struggled with the puff sleeves and how much material needed to be folded together - I think I ripped and knit three different versions - but the little puff shape I ended up with is exactly what I wanted.  Faye is wearing a little bow that matches the diaper cover and an amber teething necklace, one of Kristie's most popular items.

And one final shot of the cardigan front.  The yarn I used was Sensations Cuddle from Joann's, and it only took one skein to knit both the baby legs and the sweater.  It's machine washable, which is a necessity with baby clothes!

Who can resist a baby nomming on hands?!?!  A great big THANK YOU to Kristie for letting me borrow her baby and her store to take these pictures.  Faye couldn't have been better behaved.  The patterns are called the Sweet Sugar Cardigan and Sweet Sugar Baby Legs and they'll both be going up on ravelry by the end of the week.  On ravelry I'm dmstoll, if you need to find me.  I'm so pleased with how the designs turn out, I hope everyone else likes them, too!

- D

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Longbourn Mitts, Jane Austen Knits 2012

When I saw that Interweave Knits was publishing special issues devoted solely to Jane Austen I might have squealed a little bit.  Okay, a lot.  Like most die-hard romantics, I adore Jane Austen, plus I've found that they do a *much* better job with pattern variety in their special issues than in their regular publications.  One problem that I have with their regular issues (I'm a subscriber) is that they focus a lot on larger projects - sweaters, skirts, wraps, etc - that use a lot of yarn and thus cost a fair amount to make.  But in their special issues they'll include more smaller projects that are less expensive and take less time.  Given that I have a toddler 'less time' is a good thing.

This pattern is actually from the third Jane Austen Knits, the 2012 issue.  I'm always looking for some cute mitts and these fit the bill.  The issue's release also coincided with a Knit Picks sale.  Lucky me *g*  Here's the finished product;

As you can see, I didn't go with the i-cord laced through the holes.  I didn't like the way it looked so I went with a satin ribbon instead.  I  really love the way it turned out, and the smaller bows mean that I can wear them while typing and not be irritated by something dragging on the keyboard.

Something else I liked about the pattern was how it continued up the thumb - I thought that was a nice touch.  I recommend putting markers around the lace repeats - don't skip this step or you'll end up ripping out and starting over *ahem*

 All in all I'm very pleased with how these turned out.  The yarn was great to work with - didn't split, felt nice in my hands.  I adore Knit Picks worsted weight yarns, they're never scratchy or uncomfortable and this one had a nice sheen..  I wore them at work in the winter and a co-worker made a crack about Charles Dickens - I told him he had the wrong British author *g* 
- D