Monthly Archives: January 2012

Review: AlterKnits

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Some of you may remember that, while I’m chugging away on my Rocky Coast Cardigan (chugga-chugga choo choo!), I checkout out a couple of knitting books from the library. My first review is AlterKnits: Imaginitive Projects and Creativity Exercises by Leigh Radford. In the introduction, Leigh talks about her book’s philosophy, specifically how she envisioned the book as a the ‘next step’ in her design career, as she altered her traditional ascetic. God, I hope that makes sense, because I don’t know how else to explain it. There are 27 designs in the book, and they range from the generally unmakable (a knitted screen door, anyone?) to gorgeous garments and useful household items.

Alterknits, by Leigh Radford- joined by Mr. Sunflower

While there weren’t really any patterns in here that made me say, “wow, I HAVE to knit that,” there were several that were stretches for me, but that I could see someone with a different fashion sense making and wearing quite successfully. First of all, the Mohair Cables Pullover is very, well, pretty. Of course, part of that is the gorgeous photography. You see the model in a field with the sun setting at her back, and it’s a lot harder to notice the sort of strange neckline and the bulkiness of the sweater. It has more of a lounging around the house/boyfriend fit then something I would probably make, but it is really, really pretty. Especially in this picture.

Mohair Cables Pullover- doesn't the model look sad?

The other pattern I was drawn to was the Unisex Deconstructed Pullover. Now this is what I think Radford meant when she was talking about alter-knits. With a quick look at the schematics I’m not sure I quite understand the construction, but it looks like on of those projects that you do partly because you like the look of the finished garment and partly because you want to see how the magic happens. The mix of colors, stitching, and symmetry (or lack of) certainly creates a unique FO.

Unisex Deconstructed Pullover, joined by what looks to be a Mohair Cabled Pullover...

I took a quick picture of the schematics just to show you a couple of things. First, how big they are. Aren’t they beautiful? I always love it when the publisher (or the author, but I bet a lot of the discussion here involves the publisher) takes the time to spread out large schematics so that the knitter can actually see and use them while they are dealing with the wet wool. All of the projects have schematics like this, which is a major plus for this book. Secondly, isn’t this pullover complicated?

Schematics!

The verdict in this book is egh. It’s certainly not a horrible book full of 1980’s ‘fashion’ for knitters, and there is a lot to be said for it. The patterns are creative, and Radford adds little tips and activities throughout the book to increase creativity. Of course, the photography is also gorgeous, but that sometimes takes away from your ability to see how the finished object will really look on a real person. Finally, the projects veer heavily to the household area, which I’m not really drawn to. Most of the garments aren’t really to my taste- it was printed in 2005, so some of the newer styles that are invading knitwear design (shawl collars? open-neck cardigans?) aren’t really in here. All in all, I would strongly recommend checking it out of your local library to at least give it a flip through. You never know, it might spark your creativity!

Rocky Coast Cardi

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If you didn’t guess from the teaser in my last post, I’ve cast on the Rocky Coast Cardigan from Coastal Knits. I got the book in the mail last week and simply raved about it. You can snoop on the awesome patterns on ravelry (hell, that’s what made me buy the book in the first place), but it’s not until you get the book in your hands that you can see the stunning photography locations. I particularly like the idea of a pattern inspired by a certain place, it gives it another dimension. The Rocky Coast Cardigan was inspired by Two Lights State Park in Maine. Hannah Fetig aka Knitbot, the designer, talked about how she would always be surprised by the drop in temperature on the coast and have to grab a sweater. The all-stockinette cable pattern reminds me of the picture she includes of a rocky outcrop. The texture just seems to match! Anyway, enough raving about the book. On to the project.

yarn, yarn, yarn!

Some of you may remember that I used the yarn that I frogged from my extremely ill-fitting Garter Yoke Cardigan…that’s what I’m using. It’s Plymouth Yarn Galway Highland Heather in a shade that I’ve long forgotten the name for. I’m going to call it lipstick. The original Cardigan was probably the first sweater I ever made, so it was a little sad to frog it. Still, I am never, ever going to wear it again. I have enough of my mother in me to understand what that means: re-purposing. I didn’t realize it going in, but both the original cardigan and the Rocky Coast are top-down, seamless raglans, which, to me, is a great full-circle moment. I think the new pattern will definitely fit my maturing style more as I…grow up and get a real job (gasp!).

about how far I've gotten. the ends roll a bit (they'll have ribbing late), but it's a lot more than it looks like!

Anyway, I cast on not long after I showed you all my swatch, immediately jumping into it. I’ve already finished the yoke and have several inches under the arm finished. It’s going really quickly- probably because it’s on size 10 1/2 needles. Once again, I’m a little worried about yarn. I only was able to salvage a little under 350g of wool from the original cardigan (I wonder what happened to the other 50g…did I make a hat with it? Hmmm…), but I have a whole 100g skein of the same exact yarn (bought at the same time) in brown. My plan is to use the brown for the ribbing- at the bottom of the sweater, at the bottom of the sleeves, and around the button band and shawl collar. I’m really, really hoping it will be enough, because Plymouth discontinued the Highland Heather and I don’t think I’ll be able to get any more of it. Plan B might be to rip out all of the brown and get another color instead. Oh god, that sounds really complicated. Wish me luck!

close up of the cabled textured fabric

I know that just watching a blogger chug away on a big project gets a little…boring…to say the least, but never fear! I have a plan to tone down the monotony. I’ve already gotten a bunch of knitting books out of the library! So, in the next couple of weeks as I probably spend most of my time working on some pretty blog-boring projects (this cardigan and another big project), I have book reviews planned, and there may, may be a few design releases on the way, too! Don’t worry, I’ll keep you all plenty updated on the boring stuff, too.

A Tale of Less than 10% of a Mitten

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So yesterday I decided to bite the bullet and start on my Bobsled Mittens, using some Knit Picks City Tweed Heavy Weight that I got in the  mail last week. Now, in case you haven’t noticed, I’m a little stressed. I have two patterns that are currently being test knit, so I’m obsessively stalking their ravelry forums and my messages. Couple that with the fact that this semester I’m starting education classes in a building that isn’t EXACTLY in walking distance (and there’s no parking near me) and I’m getting my student teaching contact soon…and you get a pretty stressed me. Still, this didn’t stop me from attempting to knit these mittens.

Brownish and tweedy...

Warning sign number one that this is a complicated knit that NEEDS YOUR ATTENTION should have been the fact that the sizing of the mittens is based on guage, not on, you know, stitches. This should have told me that the four pages of instructions were all for one size and, therefore, were fairly extensive.

Warning sign number two should have come when the pattern called for you to cast on almost 200 stitches using Judy’s Magic Cast On. Number three was when it took me three tries to get the correct number. (Well, at least I can to a mean Judy’s Magic Cast On.)

Warning sign number four was when I just gave the long cable (magic looping…insanity) a gentle tug and then suddenly I couldn’t get any more stitches to move.

Still, I ignored ALL of these signs. But, when after well over an hour of knitting all I had to show was this:

It isn't even ordered chaos...it's just chaos.

well, that was the last staw. You see, somewhere in the knitting I had disrupted all of my loops, and the mitten looked nothing like the organized line drawing. In fact, despite the fact that I had the correct number of stitches, all it resembled was a tangled mess. After that hour, all I wanted to do was take a double dose of excedrin and crawl under my covers while I waited for the caffeine to kick in (did you know that excedrin has about the same amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee? It does, and it WORKS. Just, you know, don’t take excedrin and drink coffee. That’s where the problem happened). I pulled out my needles, snipped the yarn working as a stitch holder, and just frogged everything. Eventually, when I have the time and energy to really do these mittens, I will. I promise. It’s still a goal, and I swear it will happen.

I know it doesn't look like it, but THAT is order.

In the mean time, I swatched. It’s going to be amazing; I can feel it. I also picked up a bunch of knitting books from the library. Be prepared for a BUNCH of reviews. Now, I’m going to run across the street and take advantage of the $1 coffee at wawa before my 3:30 class. Wish me luck!

What’s going on in my knitting world…

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Usually, I’m (gasp!) a pretty monogamous knitter. Maybe it’s my attention span- if I don’t love a project enough to work on it right away, I probably don’t love it enough to come back and knit it. After about a month, I generally have to admit that any project that I haven’t worked on is probably never getting finished. Usually, I’m OK with that. At this point, though, I have a bunch of different things happening in my life and my knitting, but that doesn’t mean I love any of them any less.

Freedom! And finally a sunny day to take somewhat good pictures.

First, the hat out of Freedom Spirit. I was kind of winging the pattern. I felt like plain stockinette would get the best effect out of the pretty busy yarn, and I was right. It looks self-striping and awesome. Still, I have a couple of grams of yarn left, so I’m probably going to rip out the decreases, add a couple of rows, and then re-knit them. Of course, this is going on the backburner until I can get some of my other WIP’s finished.

Mostly, mostly finished.

Second, we have the design for Knit Picks Independent Designer Program. It’s coming along really well, but, as I’m pretty much writing the pattern as I go, it’s taking longer than I’d like. I’m just using Wool of the Andes Sport (100% Wool) in Sagebrush, so the yarn is just a simple, satisfying wool with no fancy-ness. It’ll really show off the stitch pattern well, and I’m excited to get some test-knitters on it to see how it’ll look in different sizes. I’m thinking I’ll range it from baby to adult, because it would be really, really cute on some adorable children!

Although I’m not knitting anything else, there’s a bunch of other things taking up attention that COULD be spent on knitting. One of my design projects is in the test-knitting stage now. All of my testers are being SUPER understanding around my struggles. See, the stitch pattern is extremely intuitive, but not, as it turns out, very easy to write. I think, after three or four different versions of the pattern, I’ve found a way of presenting the decreases, which continue the stitch pattern, a lot more easily. Still, it’s taken time and a whole lot of effort to get here. Hopefully, this will be shown in the finished pattern.

And then, of course, there’s all the projects that I’ve planned to do with my new yarn delivery. After these two hats are finished I’m FORCING myself to work on the mittens. It’s getting pretty cold here, and stuffing my hands in my pockets while I wait for the bus or walk from the far reaches of campus isn’t going to cut it anymore. The sweater-making urge that’s been taking over me in the wake of finishing Livingstone will just have to wait. And I think I might get a chance to hit the yarn store this weekend…

And it came!

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The package from Knit Picks came in yesterday afternoon. There is so much to talk about! First, there are needles…

US6's- I've already used one to replace my broken one!

This is a new pair of US6 interchangeables. They’re replacing my old pair, which came with my sampler. For some reason one of the 6’s won’t screw all of the way on. They’re usable, but the stitches sometimes get stuck and the fabric will bunch up if I don’t pay attention. This will make working on 6’s much less painless!

honestly, who could resist this photography?

Next comes the book. I added Coastal Knits to the cart, and I am so glad that I did. Of course, I had seen bloggers gushing about it all over the place when it first came out a couple of months ago. In case you haven’t heard of it, Coastal Knits is the brainchild of Hannah Fettig and Alana Dakos (each from a different coast…get it?). I fell in love with the Rocky Coast Cardigan and added the book to the list of things that I must get. Looking through it, I am so glad that I did. Each pattern comes with gorgeous information about the location that inspired it (and that the photography is from), plus it includes some great information on the authors and their favorite indy dyers/yarn producers. It’s such a stunning book, and that’s before I even mention the patterns.

I love how the locations match the patterns.

I know for sure that I plan on making the Rocky Coast Cardigan with the Plymouth Galway Highland Heather that I frogged from my old Garter Yoke Cardigan, but I think I’m going to have to add the Tangled Yoke Cardigan to the list of prospective sweaters. It’s hard not to fall in love with a pattern when it is so beautifully presented. I also love the  Rustling Leaves Beret…add that to the queue, too!

yarn to the left, design to the right...any ideas what it is?

Now, to the yarn. This Wool of the Andes Sport (100% Wool) actually came separately. I submitted a pattern proposal to the Knit Picks Independent Designer Program and they chose to take it! Instead of financial compensation (that comes when someone buys the pattern, just like when you sell on ravelry), they provide you with yarn support. I’m buzzing away on the sample, and after the pattern is written I will be looking for some test knitters!

sweater!

Next, I have 6 skeins of Palette in Black. I’ve been goggling the Zest Cardigan ever since I won a copy of the pattern from the author, Fern. It’s wonderfully lacy and open, and I bet it will be a great transitional sweater for the Spring. And I don’t have a black sweater, yet, which is SUCH a problem. Black goes with everything, after all!

it's just a wee bit lighter than it seems- sorry, it's way too rainy and gross for a good picture!

Finally, there’s one skein of City Tweed Heavy Weight (although it’s a worsted weight yarn…) for my Bobsled Mittens from Beyond Toes. I am in pretty desperate need of a new pair of mittens, and I’m excited to try out this new blend (55% Merino, 25% Alpaca, 20% Acrylic). Hopefully they’ll be snuggly warm! The pattern is pretty interesting- it almost looks as if it is knit on the bias. The solid colorway should highlight that, and the tweed will add just a bit of interest without distracting from the awesome design.

Basically, I’m so excited that the package came in because now I have everything I need for almost all of the projects that I’ve been eyeing for the rest of the winter. Of course, classes have started so the knitting will probably slow. Still, I’ve been craving another cardigan on the needles ever since I finished Livingstone, and hopefully I’ll have one!

Parade of Finished Objects Part 2: Livingstone

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Here it is, the moment you’ve all been waiting for:

yes, my shirt has a cowl neck...

This is Livingstone, born from a sudden sweater impulse and much anxiety over yarn amounts. Seriously, I think I wavered over weather I had enough yarn for three or four posts. It was getting ridiculous. Of course, it was only after I finished that I remembered that I wasn’t using two whole skeins of Cascade Eco like I thought I was; I had used some of the second skein to knit a border on a sweater for my mother…woops. I ended up using literally all of my yarn- I was snipping extra long ends to finish making the last I-cord for the button loops.

the back

Still, I would say that this sweater was definitely a success. Due to the above-stated small amount of yarn, I had to cut several rows out of the deep shawl collar, but I think it looks just fine. And it certainly is as comfy as it looks. The buttons were cheap-o ones from Hancock Fabric, but I think they’re simple enough to fit the overall look of the sweater. And I’m the one who matters 😉

the front, lying flat

The intense cabling looks stunning, and I’m really proud of myself for sticking with the pattern. Especially after I realized that I had mis-crossed the FIRST ROW of cables on the back after knitting another inch. I dropped stitches and re-crossed, and it really, really looks perfect.

oh god, the back got complicated...but I can't see any mistakes on the finished object!

The biggest problems I had with the sweater probably have more to do with the platform it was published on than the actual pattern. It was from the last issue of Interweave Knits Magazine (Winter 2011), and I think the act of squeezing the pattern into the format  created some problems. The charts were quite small, and I wish that I had the forsight to scan them in and blow them up so that I wasn’t constantly looking up and squinting at the chart. There were a couple of times were it was a little vague, but I muddled through. Finally, the design schematic was, to me, kind of hard to understand. I talked about all of these issues in A LOT of detail in past posts, though, so I don’t want to dwell on them here.

obligatory awkward mirror shot. I think my tooth brush is in almost every FO shot that I've ever done!

WIP Wed: waiting

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Right now, I’m pretty much waiting for an order to come in from Knit Picks. And it’s not like I’m JUST waiting for a skein of yarn: I’m waiting for supplies for three separate projects that I have in mind. So, just to pass the time, I’ve cast on a quick hat in my Freedom Spirit. I know I’ve talked about doing the Spoked Hat from last year’s Interweave Knits winter, but after obsessively browsing the project pages, I think the bobbles are just too big for me to actually wear the hat…at all. I’ve already done about an inch of ribbing, but I think I’m going to convert to stockinette. The yarn is just so busy that only stockinette can do it real justice.

the yarn is a bit lighter, but you can how tell all over the place it is here

Besides working on the hat, I’ve been covertly planning the projects I’m going to work on when that package FINALLY comes in. To start, we can talk about this old cardigan.

slightly, you know, tiny

It was a Garter Yoke Cardigan from the now-dead Knit.1 Magazine. I made it within months of getting the magazine, so that dates it to 2008. Let me tell you, it was pretty small three years ago, and I’ve only gotten bigger (don’t judge- Freshman 15. Completely legit.). It’s always been too short. You can’t tell, but the grey T-Shirt I’m wearing underneath it goes for about another four inches, and I usually like my sweaters longggggg. I made it before I really knew anything about ease, or swatching, so it’s pretty much too tight all around. I had to use a bunch of buttons to keep it from gaping, and they just look a little big. I probably could’ve used some smaller ones for a bit of balance. And then there’s the neck. It’s way too big. I don’t know if it’s because it is a raglan or what, but it has the hugest neck I have ever seen. It would be find if I work collared shirts that kind of peaked out, but I don’t, and it just looks strange.

the yarn is definitely more red than how it looks in this picture...it's like in between this one and the one of the old cardgian

Anyway, judging from the fact that it’s been sitting in the drawer for about two years, I decided it was time to frog. So now I have about 350g of Plymouth Yarns Galway Highland Heather in colorway 746. It’s just a bit pinker than it looks in the picture- almost like a lipstick that’s between pink and red. I don’t know how to describe it. Anyway, I’m adding a skein of the same yarn in a light brown for a little bit of contrast. It’s going to become one of the sweaters in a book that is hopefully coming in the Knit Picks order (all books 40% off- who can beat that?), and I’m really, really excited to make it!

Bobsled Mittens, picture courtesy of ravelry (link below)

My other WIP plans include a new pair of mittens. I’m not a huge fan of knitting mittens, which is probably why I’ve been using the same pair for the past four years. It’s time for a change. Some of you might remember that I won a copy of Judy Becker’s Beyond Toes: Knitting Adventures with Judy’s Magic Cast On. I was pretty entranced by the Bobsled Mittens, and I’m happy to say that I also grabbed some yarn that I’m pretty hopeful will work with these. It’s luscious and warm, but simple enough to show of the interesting construction. Excitement!

For more WIP Wed. posts, check out Tami’s.