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Monday, June 22, 2015

A Camping Project

Over the weekend I went camping for the first time in at least fifteen years. A friend had invited myself and my son and I thought it might be fun. I forgot how much I hated camping as a teen. I still hate camping. In fact, now I loathe camping. It's way too much work packing, schlepping supplies, setting up, trying to cook in the wild, porta potties, pulling it all down...I'd rather hang out for a day at the state park and have the fun stuff like 'smores and then go home and sleep in a real bed.

But I brought a long a quick grab and go project that didn't require a lot of attention - the Figure 8 Headscarf from the latest Interweave Knits - to work on the few times I got to sit down and relax.

As luck would have it a friend of mine had gifted me with a random ball of yarn in pinks and purples with no identifying band. It felt like an acrylic blend, definitely not a cotton or wool, and looked to be about the right weight, so I decided to cast it on. I didn't gauge swatch for a headband but it doesn't really matter for this type of pattern, IMO.

Decided to shorten the number of repeats before and after the twist to fourteen instead of seventeen. I didn't care for how long it was in the magazine's picture. The pattern is incredibly easy to memorize, after one or two times of repeating the eight rows all I had to do was remember what row I was on and the stitch pattern came to me. And I finished it in one weekend!

Thanks for the aforementioned horrible time camping I was exhausted today for work so I just threw my hair up in a bun and tied the scarf around my head to cover my greasy hair. Et voila! 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Review: Interweave Knits Summer 2015

Yes, I renewed my subscription. It was only $33, so I figured, why not? First, it was really nice to see some smaller, quicker projects featured in this issue. Interweave too often consists of larger projects like sweaters that would take at least a month to complete. Sometimes you want a quick knit, and this issue offers a lot of those. The first section "Section Hike" has three headband, a head scarf, and a kerchief, all of which are adorable.

My two favorites were the Berkshire headband and the Olympia headband, both knit in shades of purple/maroon.

Not only are they small projects they're super cute! I'm going to go through my stash this weekend and see if I have yarn I could substitute for the Olympia headband and knit it up over Memorial Day. The remaining three patterns in "Section Hike" felt kind of tacked on to the collection. The Applachian Thermal and the Bartram Vest are both knit in Oatmeal/brown-ish shades, which at this point makes me want to scream. COLOR. This is a summer issue, for pete's sake! The Mount Robson Pullover is knit in a beautiful forest green, and I love the ribbing in the body contrasted with the saddle stockinette shoulders. Since I don't have a man in my life to knit it for, however, I guess it'll have to wait

 The second section, titled "Wild Bouquet" did feature pieces in a variety of colors like soft green, pink, lavender, etc. The idea being a bouquet of wildflowers. I liked the slouchiness of the Phyllotaxis Hat, and the open lacework in the pattern would keep it from getting too hot. The Clove Hitch Tee is boring and boxy. I don't think it would be flattering on anyone, honestly. 

The Wildflower Bolero's pattern features the self-striping yarn and bobbles, I'd like to see it in another color but it's at least interesting visually. It doesn't meet all the way in the front, however, so I'd probably add stitches on either side to eliminate the gap. 

 Both the slip stitch and the openwork on the Dianthus Cardigan and the Blue Columbine Cardigan would get tedious after a while. They're both pretty, but I wish the magazine had better pictures of the front. The detail of a triangle of openwork on the cuffs on the Blue Columbine pattern is very cool.

 There are two shawl patterns in this collection which, even though I'm not a fan of shawls, have beautiful designs and colors. The Western Slope Tee has an open work section on the front, so you'd have to wear it with a camisole underneath. The back is worked entirely in straight stitch up to where it divides for front and back. As I'm currently slogging through a piece with a lot of straight stitch I don't think I'd find this a fun project. 

 The third collection in this issue, "Local Color," features three patterns with colorwork designs. I hate all three of them. There's the return of the browns/creams on the Magic City Henley and the Chrysler Cardigan (which the editor featured on the cover - WHY?). They both scream 'Old Lady' to me and look very dated. 

The Chesapeake Jacket has turquoise crabs and waves against a cream background. If that's your thing, great. 

 I wish that, instead of including the "Local Color" section, the editor had just chosen more patterns for the "Home & Hearth" section. The sock braided trivets are made of i-cords and were obviously included to help sell this i-cord maker thing-y Interweave is selling, but they're cute and practical. 

Since my son is always losing coasters under the couch I may make a few for the living room. The Cottage Baby Blanket is just gorgeous, even though it looks like a lot of work it would truly be a heirloom piece. Like I said, I wish the editor had chosen more patterns to fit in this section. Overall, I'd say the patterns in this issue were hit or miss. Here's a shot of the pictorial table of contents at the end of the magazine.

Of course no one is going to love every single pattern in an issue, but since this one has a lot of smaller projects perfect for road trips and summer afternoons I would recommend picking this one up. I've already started one of the headbands for my camping trip this weekend!
 - D

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Looking for Test Knitters: Toddler Short Sleeve Sweater

I haven't had a lot of luck finding people to test knit my patterns for me. It's frustrating because I'd like to be able to share my designs more widely but don't want to publish patterns that haven't been proofed. My most recent piece is a simple pullover sweater knit in a bulky yarn. The design is knit in the round from an i-cord cast on, then you divide for front and back. My inspiration will come in the next post, for now, anyone want to test knit? :)

Here's a picture of the finished piece, modeled by my adorable son;

I'm doing something new and have posted it on ravelry to a test knitters group, too, but no one is responding. Maybe people don't like the design? No clue *shrug*

It'd be nice to get some feedback, though

- D

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Driftwood Tee - Interweave Knits Summer 2014

A year or two ago a LYS, Needleworks Unlimited, offered a groupon. Needless to say, I snatched it up even though the store is a good drive across town. I went one afternoon with a friend who enables me in my yarn habit and picked up this gorgeous yarn - Sublime Lustrous Extrafine Merino - soft with a metallic sheen - but had no idea what to make with it. I wanted a pattern that would show off the yarn's sheen, but due to the yarn's weight a lot of the patterns that were appropriate were too lacy/open to do that effectively. So it sat in my stash for over a year. Until I found the Driftwood Tee in Interweave Knit's Summer 2014 issue.

The open work panels at the side provided interest, but the larger section of straight stitch would show off the yarn. So I cast it on. First, the gauge is really tight! It grew tedious to knit that tight after a while. Since I got gauge on size 4's I didn't go down a size for the hem the way the pattern suggested.

Second, it's knit front and back, then you cast on using M1's and then the cable method to increase for the sleeves. After having knit it I wonder why it wasn't knit in the round, then divided to knit the front and back. It would have saved finishing time, and aligning the open-work panels when seaming was a real pain. After you complete the side panels it's an awful lot of straight stitch, there are no increases or shaping through the waist or bust.

Because of this, I was afraid the tee would end up too boxy to be flattering. Laid flat, it doesn't look like much.

But once I'd blocked and tried it on the drape of the yarn really came out. It hugs my curves nicely but isn't too revealing. Of course it has to be worn over a camisole, but I knew that going into it.

I've already worn it twice, it's very comfortable and the perfect lighterweight spring piece. I think I'm going to get a lot of use out of it. Here's a close-up of the side section.

And the neck, where you pick up and knit, then purl, then knit three rows.

I'm pleased with how it turned out and I think the pattern accomplished my goal of showing off the yarn.

- D

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Trying something new - Steeking

One of the things I love about knitting is also what I love about dance and writing - there's always something new to learn. Neither of my last two projects have been a challenge in terms of new techniques, so I decided to stretch myself. Steeking - ie, knitting in the round, sewing a hem, and cutting *gulp* up the center to make a cardigan. I've been fascinated by the history, culture and yarns of Iceland for years. A visit is definitely on my list of things to do before I die. So when I found the website of designer Helen Magnusson,, and she had a sale on her patterns and yarn, I decided to go for it. I ordered the kit for the Bryjna cardigan and green/magenta yarn. It was very cool to get a package from Iceland and the yarn was to die for (and surprisingly cheap!).

I found the pattern easy to follow until I got to the short row shaping along the yoke. I've done short rows many times before but for some reason the instructions really threw me. I actually had to email the designer with questions - a first. She was very helpful and nice, and responded right away with additional instructions and a tutorial. I think a simple re-write of the short row section would help immensely.

As written, it says;

Work the back and shoulders longer to lower front neckline: work 8(8,10,10)10,12,12 short rows over the shoulder and back sts between front markers as follows: k to left front marker, turn, yo, p to right front marker, turn, yo, *k to 3 sts (2 sts and 1 yo) before gap, turn, yo, p to 3 sts before gap, turn, yo* 3(3,4,4)4,5,5 times.

So I knit ten of the first rows, then started the rows between asterixes. That didn't work, needless to say. Ripped it out, really thought about it, and realized I needed to knit two rows, then six of the rows between the asterix, to make a total of ten rows. Voila! Problem solved.

So I think simply re-writing the instructions to say;

Work the back and shoulders longer to lower front neckline: k to left front marker, turn, yo, p to right front marker, turn yo *k to 3 std (2 sts and 1 yo) before gap, turn, yo, p to 3 std before gap, turn, yo* 3 (3, etc) times for a total of 8 (8, 8, 10, etc) short rows.

Would have been much clearer. Hopefully my re-write spares someone else the pain of ripping out ten rows.

Once I had the short rows done, it was time to work on the flowers in the magenta. The pattern is beautiful, in my opinion, but there were some really long floats where I struggled to keep the yarn tension even, particularly across the center section. I think adding another cross shape at the bottom of the flowers, like at the top, would have helped with that.

I'd wanted extra room in the cardigan, so I knitted a medium even though my bust size fit a small. But when I tried it on before steeking it was tight enough to be worrisome.

So I decided to try steeking, then blocking it. It turned out to be a disaster. The neckline ended up too stretched out, the cardigan is still too small, and two attempts to re-block and fix it have failed. At the moment, I'm very discouraged. I'll keep you guys posted if I manage to fix it. Until then, this trying something new was an abject failure.

- D

Friday, March 13, 2015

When Your Ambitions Outpace your Knitting Skills

The first issue I bought of Interweave Knits was Spring 2009. I poured over the pages and analyzed each project, fascinated by the potential of what I could create. I finally decided to challenge myself with the Sprout Tee. I’ve always loved cables, but they also intimidated me. I’d only done one project with cables prior to the tee. I picked a tweed Patons yarn, which I ended up really liking. The stitch definition was lovely and my cables stood out in sharp relief.

However…I didn’t know how to finish it. I watched videos of mattress stitch online, and did my best, but the seams came out lumpy and exposed. The sleeves weren’t set in right, and had weird bumps from where I’d tried to gather up the excess knitting. Frustrated after my third attempt to get it right, I tossed the sweater in my UFO pile and hadn’t touched it since.

Until last weekend, when I decided it was time. I picked out the side seams and the sleeves seams and set to work. All told, it took me over two hours to fix the sweater. I wore it on Tuesday and received several compliments!

I still struggled with the sleeves – they’re supposed to be a little ‘poofy’ like a puff sleeve, but I think that it doesn’t quite work with this pattern and yarn. While I like the idea of the cables on the sleeves, it made sewing them into the armholes very difficult.

I'm glad that I took the time to fix the project, and I think it'll be a nice lightweight spring sweater. It was nice to take something off the UFO pile, I think I'm going to continue to tackle it over the next month and see what progress I can make. Happy knitting!

- D

Monday, March 2, 2015

Three's a Charm Tam - Interweave Knits Fall 2012

A few weeks ago, I went on a trip to Boston and was in need of a project for the plane. My current WIP was a shirt - too big for travel. So I stopped by The Yarnery on Grand Ave to pick up the yarn for a hat. Specifically, the Three's a Charm Tam from Interweave Knits 2012. The Yarnery didn't have the yarn that the pattern suggested, but the salesclerk recommended Berrocco Blackstone Tweed instead. It's a wool, mohair, angora blend. I picked a teal color. While the yarn itself was nice, and had a good feel, I don't know if I'd recommend using it for cables. The yarn had a tendency to split, and sometimes just pulled apart while I was knitting, likely due to the mohair and angora content. Since stitches have to be stretched behind and in front when working cables, this tendency was a bit frustrating sometimes. In addition to pulling apart, I also encountered a knot in one ball. The color, however, was gorgeous.

 The pattern consisted of three complicated cable repeats offset by triangles of trinity stitch. If you're new to working with cables, you should probably skip this pattern as it had not just the basic hold two stitches behind, knit two from the left needle, return the two stitches held behind to the needle and knit them, but also hold two in front and purl one, and two unusual cables that also reduced stitches in them (a new one for me).
 I enjoyed working the cables and the 'plain' rows of knits and purls in between. I did use a piece of scrap paper to keep track of the row on the trinity repeat and the cable row. It took me about a week to knit, but when I put it on my head it didn't quite 'flop' like I'd expected. It was kind of flat.
With fingers crossed, I decided I'd block the hat to see if it took a shape closer to that of the hat pictured in the magazine
After letting it dry, I tried it in again. Better, but still not as floppy as I'd have liked. I refuse to rip out an entire hat and knot in a larger size needle to see if that fixes the problem, so I guess I'm living with it. Here's a trinity stitch section.
And here's the cable.
I'm hoping it stretches out more like the photo in the magazine. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

LYS Review: Newbury Yarns in Boston, MA

Local yarn stores are a treasure. Without the help of patient clerks, owners, and fellow knitters who gathered at knitting circles I would never have become the knitter I am today. When I travel I love to drop in on a LYS and pick up something cool – a unique yarn, a locally produced hand-dyed skein – to make a project that commemorates my trip. My last trip to Pittsburgh I dropped in on Kid Ewe Knot and had a wonderful experience. Two weekends ago I took a trip to Boston and found my way to Newbury Yarns and had a different experience.

It was, hands down, the oddest yarn store I’ve ever visited. Given the precarious position of independent stores I always hesitate to leave negative reviews, but this isn’t a negative review per see. It’s an utterly befuddled one.

First, Newbury Yarns was down some very slippery brick stairs just off Newbury street. The store was oddly laid out – upon entering there was a table for knitting groups to the left and a table with knitted projects on the right. But then there were some odd bolts of fabric and a small selection of patterns. The owner had left a large open space between the two walls of cubbies that contained yarn, with a bare floor. No cute braided rugs, no knitted rugs, no chairs. No tables piled high with yarn spilling out of baskets, or the like, nothing to browse. It was very austere and unwelcoming.

The yarn itself had no organization system that I could tell, not by weight, or fiber, or anything. There were no tags on the cubbies to identify the yarn, its weight or fiber. Many of the cubbies were empty or had only one or two skeins. If you’d come here to pick up enough yarn to knit a sweater or larger project you’d have been out of luck – there simply wasn’t enough of any one yarn to do it, even if you could pick any weight/color. There did seem to be a lot of fingering weight yarn, so perhaps the store caters to sock knitters. Oddest of all – there were no prices tags on anything! Like I said, no tags on the cubbies, so the price wasn’t listed there, nothing on the skeins. Utterly bizarre.

The woman behind the counter was somewhat helpful but not friendly. She found a set of DPN I needed when I asked, retrieving them from a cardboard box behind the cash wrap desk. That’s right, not all of the needles were hanging or accessible. But she wasn’t a good salesclerk in that I gave her several openings to engage me in conversation that she didn’t take. I mentioned that I’d forgotten my set and was traveling, she could have asked where I was from/why I was in town, and then directed me to the locally hand-dyed yarn that they had that isn’t available elsewhere and increased the sale. Nothing. She could have asked if I liked knitting hats (as that was the project I mentioned) and directed me to a great yarn/new pattern for hats. She was more interested in casting on the project she’d just started.

Given her lack of interest I didn’t feel comfortable approaching her to ask the price of any of the yarn that interested me, I felt like I’d be bothering her. Which is another reason I find the absence of price tags so odd – it forces the shopper to constantly approach a salesclerk and ask “how much is this?” which is awkward when they’re already just standing behind a counter giving off the impression of being disengaged.

Given the lack of stock and complete lack of any attempt to sell, or make the space welcoming, I do wonder if the store is unfortunately going out of business. The whole space gave off the impression of a lack of pride and an “I don’t care anymore” attitude from the owner or person in charge.

I left without buying any yarn – an absolute first for me - and feeling vaguely uncomfortable. If you’re in town for a visit, and looking to drop in on a LYS, I’m afraid I can’t recommend going out of your way to stop by Newbury Yarns. If you forgot needles and need to pick up a set, by all means make a trip, and it is centrally located and just off the green line. Otherwise, I’m willing to bet there are better yarn stores in town.

- Dena (and if you're the owner - are you closing? selling? Satisfy by curiosity?)

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Someone might need to stage a cowl intervention...

My only excuse is that I didn't knit this for myself. Every year I try to knit something for my awesome agent. This year she requested a cowl in neutral colors. I chose this yarn because it had been in my stash forever and because I thought the flecks of color in it would make the cowl versatile.
She could wear it with a lot of clothes and not clash. For a tweed yarn, it kept its twist nicely and was super soft. According to the pattern's requirements I had just enough yarn, but I ended up running out on the bind off row and had to rip out two rows in order to get enough yarn to bind off.

 The pattern was the Fiddlesticks Cowl from Interweave Knits Fall 2014. It had an i-cord cast-on, which was nice and easy. Now that I've learned it, I wish that the pattern designer for the Ryann Tunic had selected this cast on instead so you didn't have to pick up stitches along the hem. The first few rows before the diagonals emerged were a bit hard to knit, and I confess I lost track of where I was more than a few times and had to rip out. Other than that, it was a quick knit. Thanks to the knit through the back stitches and the yarn it ended up very dense and warm. My agent claims to love it, so I think it was a win.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Yarn Cost Breakdown - Interweave Knits Winter 2015 magazine

As promised, here are the costs for the suggested yarn for each of the patterns in the Interweave Knits Winter 2015 issue. A few notes - most of the prices I pulled off webs, but even if I found the yarn on sale elsewhere I calculated the cost at the undiscounted price for the yarn (since you're not guaranteed to get it on sale). I calculated it for the size closest to my bust, so 34-36 inches, which since I'm typically the smallest size they list means that for a lot my bustier friends the yarn would cost even more.


Brace yourself, some of these patterns aren't cheap!

1) Fall River Cowl. A cowl, so not bad on price. $59.10

2) Quivira Coat. Though it's a larger piece, they used a cheaper yarn, so it's only $69.30

3) Moraine Jacket. $43.96. Color me utterly shocked to see a Lion Brand yarn in Interweave.

4) Muir Wrap. $68.

5) Hudson Wrap. $166.25

6) Bear Lake Cowl. $51.

7) Ozark Wrap. $111.60.

8) Tanawha Wrap. $103.60

9) Zuni Cardigan. I didn't bother, since it has so many different colors in it.

10) Bozeman Hat. $34.

11) Trapper Cowl. $30. Not bad for getting to work with a Manos del Uruguay yarn.

12) Ice Rink Pullover. $205.20. I'm going to officially call that not worth it, though not surprising since it uses an alpaca and merino blend yarn.

13) Kittery Point Cardigan. Didn't bother, too many colors.

14) Siobhan Blouse. I was pleasantly surprised by the price tag - $49.39.

15) Quadrille Pullover. $87.96. Since I'd lengthen it, I'd probably have to order extra, so it might be more. Such a gorgeous yarn, I might have to splurge. Someday.

16) Cocoa Cardigan. $220. YIKES.

17) Pearl Lake Mitts. $32.

18) Caterpillar Cowl. Glad I stash-busted on this one - $49.90.

19) Modest Pullover. $73.60. Again, I'd lengthen it, so I'd need more yarn.

20) Wind at Your Back Pullover. $103.80.

21) Matalina Pullover. $230.45. YIKES again.

No one who reads Interweave Knits regularly is foolish enough to delude themselves into thinking they use cheap yarns. Knit Simple and Love of Knitting are for that. But even I gulped at some of the price tags on these patterns. HOWEVER, it's worth nothing that a larger knitting project can mean over a month's worth of entertainment, evenings and weekends spent enjoying the feel of the yarn sliding through your hands and listening to the soothing clack of the needles. If you factor in what you'd spend to go a movie each of those nights, or to buy a book*, really, it's cheap entertainment! And thus ends your yarn purchasing enabling.

- Dena

*we'll leave libraries out of this justification.