Melody's Cowl is live!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

I'm thrilled to present my first test knit and tech edited pattern, Melody's Cowl. designed this cowl for my friend Melody, a non-knitter who accompanied me on my visit to Yarns Unlimited in Sewickley PA last summer.  She chose this worsted weight yarn, Berocco Vintage in “Pool Party,”  and asked for a design that wasn't too wide, and that could be worn long or doubled.

I classify this cowl as an advanced beginner project. The only tricky skills needed include  provisional cast on and kitchener stitch. I use the provisional cast on Aredna Holladay teaches on her blog. If the kitchener stitch is new to you, I highly recommend the free (as of this writing) Craftsy class “The Ins and Outs of Grafting.”

Preparing a pattern for sale

Monday, November 10, 2014

Over the past month, my previous two patterns have been downloaded more than 900 times (!) which is very exciting, and lets me know that people like my designs. However exciting that number is, though,  I've learned that this is pretty common for free patterns. Knitters will download and stash free patterns but may never cast them on.  When people pay for a pattern, they intend to knit it. But they also expect a good pattern - one that is clear and helps them achieve the expected result. That's where testing and tech editing come in. 

My next pattern, Melody's Cowl, is currently being tested by some lovely volunteers in Ravelry's Free Pattern Testers group. As a new pattern writer, I was offered some valuable feedback by a tester who lives in Eastern Europe, which not only helped make my pattern better, but reminded me that knitters are a global village and I shouldn't expect only to be writing for North American knitters. 

Once the testing is complete, I'm going to send my pattern to a tech editor for a final look over. Knitting tech editors make sure that the instructions make sense and that nothing is left out. Most importantly, they check the designer's math. I'm starting my designing adventure with one-size accessories, but this is especially important for sweaters and other garments that need to be presented in a variety of sizes. 

I'd like to give a shout-out to Laura Nelkin's Design Your Own Cowl Craftsy Class. I've designed and knit three cowls using the information in this class, and am working on design #4. I'm not a Craftsy affiliate and will get absolutely nothing if you order this class, but it's been amazingly helpful to me on this journey. It's worth every penny of the list price of $49.99, but Craftsy is known for its sales.

Checkered Moebius

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

NOTE: I have since had the pattern tested and tech edited and it is now available for sale.

I've been thrilled by the responses to my first pattern, the Mossy Rib Cowl. Since its release on October 7, it's been downloaded almost 400 times and, even better, several people have posted Ravelry Projects.  Very exciting for a beginning designer!

Today I'm releasing a new free pattern, the Checkered Moebius. Moebius knitting is another of those "seems complex, but isn't really" techniques that I love so much. When you knit a moebius, you need to use a very long circular needle to casting on pairs of stitches. The knitting spreads from the middle out.

If you've never made a moebius before, have no fear! This video tutorial by moebius master Cat Bohdi will get you on the right track quickly.

Mossy Rib Cowl

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

NOTE: I have since pulled this pattern for testing and tech editing, and will be offering it for sale.

I'm so excited to publish my very first pattern, the Mossy Rib Cowl as a free download on Ravelry!

I created this cowl to showcase the beauty of the Alpaca Pure I purchased at Purl Soho this summer. Something this soft deserves to be worn close to the skin, and a cowl makes use of every last yard of this luxurious (and expensive) fiber.

This design is appropriate for the advanced beginner or intermediate knitter because it calls for a provisional cast-on and invisible finishing with the kitchener stitch. There are great tutorials online for both these techniques. I used the crochet provisional cast-on from Arenda Holladay's blog.  Arenda's blog is one of my favorite sources for learning new techniques. She's a wonderful teacher.  To learn the kitchener stitch, I highly recommend Craftsy's free online class,  Ins & Outs of Grafting, taught by Anne Hanson.

The actual knitting is easy - just knits and purls - and goes quickly. There's plenty of time to knit one (or more) up for a special holiday gift - maybe for yourself!

Brioche knitting is as luscious as brioche bread.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

I love learning new knitting techniques, especially techniques that look a lot more complicated than they are. Brioche knitting, popularized by Nancy Marchant's book Knitting Brioche: The Essential Guide to the Brioche Stitch is one of those techniques.  It looks complex, but if you can knit, purl, knit stitches together and make a yarn over, you can do this. I highly recommend giving it a try.

Much like brioche bread is soft and buttery, brioche knitting produces a very airy and spongy fabric that is ideal for soft pieces like scarves and cowls. Knit in one color, the basic brioche stitch produces a reversible fabric. But two color brioche is where things get interesting. Some of Marchant's examples of variegated yarns used in tandem are absolutely gorgeous.

Marchant offers a Craftsy class, "Explorations in Brioche Knitting" that offers visual instruction as well as two scarf patterns. I made the Alex scarf with two colors of Spud and Chloe Sweater,  a soft worsted blend of washable wool and cotton that I purchased during the Steel Valley Yarn Crawl.

Alex Scarf

It's important to pick colors that are different enough in tone that there is a good contrast between the lights and the darks. As an example, this is the same scarf in black and white: 

Alex Scarf (B&W)

You can see that the blue is light enough to really pop from the grey background.  If I had used a darker blue, the effect would be muddied. 

The only downside to brioche knitting is that it does use a lot of yarn. I used every bit of both skeins, and I would have liked my scarf to be a little longer. Also, when knitting two color brioche, you knit each row twice, once with each color.  It goes quickly, though, and I didn't find that to be a problem.

Here's a link to my Ravelry project page if you'd like to see more about the pattern and the yarns I used.

(Yarn) Crawlin' through the Steel Valley

Friday, August 8, 2014

I've had a fun two days visiting new yarn shops participating in the Steel Valley Yarn Crawl. On Wednesday, I made the drive out to Sewickley to visit Yarns Unlimited, bringing my friend Melody along for the ride. Melody is not a knitter, and even after admiring the beautiful colors and touching the soft fibers, she still has no desire to knit. But she did pick out some Berroco Vintage in a vibrant blue, aptly named Pool Party, for me to make her a custom scarf. It's a great color for her because she is a very upbeat person, and I'm going to have fun coming up with something that suits her.

Yarns Unlimited had a custom color way of Kiogu KPPM made especially for the crawl, but by the time I got there, it was long gone. I spent a long time going through the Rowan yarns, but ended up buying a skein of Swans Island Natural Colors Merino fingering weight in Garnet. There's someone on my Christmas list who has the perfect coloring for it, and it would be perfect for a ruffled edge scarf. (Maybe. That's a lot of stitches, so I may not want a deadline.)

Thursday, I visited Yarns by Design in Oakmont.  Although I am in Oakmont more often, I haven't taken the time to stop in before. Definitely a mistake I will rectify in the future. They have some lovely choices, but I was most intrigued by their Habu selection. The Purl Bee has had some intriguing projects made with Habu textiles, most recently the Open Air Wrap. After much deliberation, I chose Wrapped Silk. I'm experimenting with a simple garter stitch on the bias on huge needles for an open, lacy look that will knit up quickly. This one is definitely for me! I also picked up two different colors of  Spud and Chloë  Sweater to make a brioche scarf (probably a gift) and two skeins of the scrumptious Road to China Light which will be a gift for my aunt.

I only made it to these two stores before my budget ran out. I wanted to buy yarns that a) aren't offered by Natural Stitches and b) to make special projects either for myself or as gifts.  Next year, I'll be budgeting better, and making the trip to Ligonier! In the mean time, I'm sure I'll find myself at both these shops before the next crawl.

Visiting Purl Soho

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Last week, I had the chance to visit Purl Soho's New York store.  Unfortunately, I didn't have time for an extensive visit, or to take photos because I was with a 14 year old boy who was impatiently waiting for me outside.  My closest LYS, Natural Stitches, has a Gamestop next door  - a win-win for both of us - but upscale Soho boutiques are not his thing.

The shop is a lot smaller than I've imagined, but the colors and aesthetic are exactly as I pictured. I've been admiring their very expensive yarns for years, but haven't wanted to take the plunge without being able to touch the yarn. You really can't tell what a yarn is like by reading about it. It must be touched.

I splurged on two skeins of Purl Soho Alpaca Pure in Steel Blue. I can honestly say that it's the softest yarn I've ever touched, even softer than some cashmeres. It's a true joy to work with.

I am using it to make my first ever custom design, the Mossy Rib Cowl. Once I'm finished and have the pattern written up, I'll share it here. It's knitting up pretty quickly.

Letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Yesterday, I worked on the Level 1 mitten all day, to where I was almost finished.  Then I noticed the tiniest possible flaw, a spot where the yarn tail I had weaved in was just a little bit stiff.  I decided to unravel and re-sew it, and of course, left a huge hole that couldn't be fixed, at least not to the standards of the program. I was ready to just finish the thumb, wash and block the mitten today, but instead I am re-knitting the entire thing from the cuff up. It was of course, perfectly acceptable.

Even with this setback, the end is in sight for my Level 1 submission to the TGKA. The re-knit mitten is on the blocking board.  I've finished the swatches. I just need to type up the report and questions and package up the binder. I want to get it in the mail on Friday so I can move on to my next project.

I'd like to use a lifeline, Regis.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

I'm taking a break from MHK 1 to work on the Halligarth Shawl from Brooklyn Tweed. I adore Brooklyn Tweed's aesthetic and sophisticated, texture-rich patterns. Yum. (Note to the Universe: One day, I would like to design something  for them)

Lace has often stumped me in the past because it's so darn hard to fix mistakes. With knit and purl patterns, and even cables, it's easy to fix mistakes with a crochet hook. But lace? No. With all its yarn overs and right and left leaning decreases, it's too easy to completely lose track of what is happening and end up with an ungodly mess.

Then I learned about the lifeline. A lifeline is simply a strand of a contrasting, smooth yarn (I'm using white cotton) than you thread through a purl row. That way, no matter how badly you mess something up, you only have to rip back as far as your lifeline. Genius!

I've been placing the line at the start of each vertical repeat, but since as the shawl gets wider, I'm going to add it half way through. Only two repeats left until I start the edging! 

Whining over stockinette

Wednesday, May 7, 2014 I think I finally have an acceptable stockinette swatch that I got by knitting backwards rather than purling.  Once I block it, that means the gauge swatches are DONE.  I started the increase swatches using a smaller needle for the purls. 

As a Mother's Day treat for myself, I bought the yarn and the pattern for the Halligarth shawl from the latest Brooklyn Tweed collection. I adore Brooklyn Tweed's aesthetic. 

Simple isn't easy.

After a very long hiatus, I am revisiting the TKGA Master Handknitting Program. One of my goals for this year is to get my knitting skills to the next level. I signed up for Level I back when I was a SAHM (stay-at-home mom, for those unfamiliar with parenting board parlance), and now that I am again "between jobs" I ordered the latest instructions and started knitting up my swatches.

The MHK program is not for the faint hearted. I have been knitting for almost 30 years, and I am downright intimidated by the instructions. I have knit and re-knit the first three swatches at least three times, hoping to get perfect tension in my stockinette stitch. This is not an easy task.

I have no idea if these swatches will pass muster. To the uncritical eye, they look just fine. Yet to achieve perfection (or as close to it as humanly possible) in the simplest of stitches is the hardest thing of all.


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

I was away at my church retreat over the weekend, and committed to an internet fast for the duration, so I haven't kept up with the "every day" of the Blog Every Day in May challenge.  One of the OWL prompts in January was to create a More/Less list for the year.  My circumstances have changed since then, so I've revisited them for this post:

More freedom/less constriction
More happiness/less stress
More ease/less struggle
More joy/less fear
More space/less clutter
More connection/less isolation
More contentment/less resentment
More sweetness/less bitterness
More creativity/less stagnation

What's on your more/less list?

Goals, goals, goals!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

I'm not at all ready for prime time on this new blog, but I'm inspired by the  Blog Every Day in May Challenge over at Love Happy Daily. There's no better way to get started other than to just do it. So here goes!

So what are my goals for this month, and for this blog?
  • Get clear on what I want the blog to be and write my "about page"
  • Exercise 5 days/week
  • Finish my Project Star quilt (I belong to a quilt group at my church; this is for a child in foster care)
  • Complete my report and half of my swatches for the Master Hand Knitting Program
  • Purchase and set up the new blog template I have my eye on
  • Journal daily
  • Get caught up on OLW
  • Finish my Desire Map workbook
  • Meditate daily