June 27, 2013

1 Beaded Shawls Part II - The Hard Way, with the La Dolce Vita Shawl

In Part I of this series, I showed you how you can bead your shawls the super-lazy way, using pre-beaded yarns like Rowan Kidsilk Glamour.  But as I love extremes, I wanted to show you how you could bead a shawl enough to kill you, stitch by stitch.

I wanted to make the shiniest, beadiest, bling-est shawl on the planet for my dearest friend from grad school to celebrate her marriage.  I wanted it to be so heavy with Swarovski crystals, that a simple movement would whip people merciless with sparkling, beaded majesty, forcing them to stop and say, “Wow, what a was that!”  In essence, I wanted her to be noticed for the shiny wonder she has always been for me, inside.  (Love you, Xina).

What attracted me about this shawl were the unusual symmetrical motifs, reminiscent of Arabian or even Thai patterns.  The border is beaded in the pattern…


So I took a piece of the chart that looked like this:

And added beads like this, everywhere:

Weight was going to be an issue, as I really wanted to bead the bead-jeezus out of this.  Luckily, I found some very plasticky pearls that were incredibly light and came in bags of thousands.  I used an entire bag.

You can see how I had to puncture the paint to use these little guys!  I was worried about that, but they came out beautifully.

I like to pile as many beads on my crochet hook as possible.  It really speeds things up.  Don't even think about stringing beads onto yarn for a project like this, you will find yourself in the insane asylum, quick.

The border got the heavyweight Swarovski crystals.  These guys were serious:

For the bulk of the border, I alternated between a baby pink circular crystal and a rose bicone crystal.

NOTE: All crystals are not made alike.  If your crochet hook does not fit through a bead, whereas it does for most of the others, STOP.  Do not force it!  A good result is having the glass shatter in your hands and make a dangerous mess.  A bad, very very bad result, is that your yarn gets sliced by the irregular glass inside of the bead.  Yes, this happened.  Several times.  My only hope was the Russian join, and a lot of spit- splicing.  Nightmare!  So: buy more crystals than you need and don't even touch a bead that seems irregular.  I know, I know, they're expensive!  My beads cost more than my yarn!

Speaking of the yarn, this is Zephyr Laceweight Wool-Silk by Fiddlesticks Knitting.  I was lucky enough to visit my friend in St-Louis where she picked out a color I would have never guessed, frosting pink!  It really suits her.  :)

The yarn was initially disappointing.  The silk is more raw than 'silky', and I felt like it had a bit of a hippie look.  That was NOT what I wanted for a wedding shawl.  But blocking evened it out, and it beautifully benefitted from the drape of the silk with the fuzzy warmth of the wool.

Knitting photography is an art in our little family.  I always know that if we can play with the camera part of things, we're all more likely to have fun.  We have a little studio where B. plays his double bass for fun, almost always at night.  A little visit in the day proved worthy.

We played a lot with stringing the shawl along a wire all around the room:

A new challenge has been playing with bokeh -- highlighting the aesthetic qualities of the blurry part of an image.  After a glance at this photo:

...we realized that I could become a part of my work.

I bestowed this gift upon Xina during her bachelorette beach weekend in St-Pete's Beach, Florida.  I had never done anything like that in my life -- going to the beach with a bunch of lovely ladies.  I wish now that I could do it every year, and for way more than a weekend.  sigh.

This pattern is amazing.  It's actually not that complicated, even if you decide to bead every other stitch, like always-have-to-overdo-it me.  There are large runs of stockinette, and then you dependably reach a fun and interesting motif to play with.  The purl rows are rest rows, mostly.

The crochet bind-off confused me at the end, but I somehow managed.  I couldn't tell you what I did, though, it was a blur of finishing in time.

It's killer hard giving something like this away, but it was worth it to see her smile!  

June 18, 2013

8 How to Knit for a Hipster Baby - Friedrich from Rowan Studio 30

One should always be prepared with an arsenal of good baby patterns.  Obviously, knitting for babies is fun because you get to make an entire sweater in a rather short amount of time.  But the reason I like knitting for babies is COLORWORK!  

Silly motifs like odd animals, other-wordly cartoon characters and construction equipment always look good on babies.  On adults?  Not usually.

(Ok, even a baby can't make that look good.)

The hipsters of the world have brought knitted colorwork animals back from the dark box they were stuffed into after the 80's.  And they are GOOD, the animals are very good!  Hipster faves these days: bird silhouettes, squirrels, and of course, foxes.

This pattern is Friedrich by Sarah Hatton, from Rowan Studio 30.  Normally, the Studio series has a handful of modern adult tops.  But oddly, this issue was devoted to kids.  Sorry everyone, but this pattern is by far the coolest.

A couple of other hipster colorwork patterns to choose from in this issue:

For Friedrich, I wanted a vintage 70's coloring, and went with the brown, avocado, and orange I remember from the rug in our kitchen when I was young.  

Tangent: YES, there was a carpet in our kitchen when we moved into our new house.  (And you thought "wall-to-wall" wasn't meant to be literal.)  When you spilled milk, it just soaked right in.  (All of our appliances were mustard color, as well).  Wait... is this my kitchen?  Tasteful and practical indeed!  

Funnily enough, I already had these vintage colors in my stash from the last baby hipster cardigan I made!  This is an awesome Cowichan hoodie from a Phildar pattern, made with Berroco Vintage DK and Jaeger Extra Fine Merino DK.  My husband has requested this exact hoodie for himself many times. 

This lucky baby had other hipster accoutrements in his wardrobe.  <3

(Sigh, I always seem to be knitting for boys.)  

This new foxy one is for my dear dear friend Eva, who escaped my clutches and moved back to France.  :(  She is due in July, so I chose 6-9 months, hoping that it would fit the baby for the winter.

She and daddy Laurent were our cherished witnesses (and only guests) for our wedding (September 2012)!  They're going to have a beautiful SUPER-ACTIVE kid, I am quite sure.  (Haha, Eva, good luck!)

(I must say that having had an 80-person wedding before, a 4-person wedding kicks ass).  

Friedrich was a delight to make!  It's really quite well put-together.  I especially like the short-rows that shape the shawl collar.

IMPORTANT NOTE:  When picking up wraps for the shawl collar, pay attention to which side you show the wrap!  Normally, you try to hide the wrap on the right side, but because the collar folds over, the wrong side will be what shows.  This means that when you are knitting the wrong side, the wrap will be done in the normal way (to hide it).  But when you are knitting the right side, you must work the wrap so it shows on the side facing you.

I'm not sure there is a tutorial anywhere on how to SHOW wraps.  It may be something I will have to do someday for the betterment of knitkind.  Please direct me, if you find a link!


There is one issue with the pattern that I would have liked to change, in retrospect.  The fox chart just repeats foxes, probably because there are so many sizes.  But, I really don't recommend that you make a partial fox that will get eaten up by the side-seams.  For my size, I ended up with a warped bunny-rabbit.  Just don't make that last fox, it will look great, I promise.

For the sleeves, you can have partial foxes though.  This is because the fox face slowly decreases along the seam, making it just look like a sewn together motif fabric.

The final touch on this cardi is, of course, the embroidered fox faces!  I dipped into my stash to find a fuzzy black mohair for a sleepy fox...

...and a bright blue and dark green for french knot eyes.  Good news, I conquered french knots once and for all!  (Thank you sublimestitches.)  TAKE THAT FRENCH KNOTS.

I wasn't satisfied with just one french knot for the nose.  So instead, I made two, one above and below, and then wound the yarn around the two to gather them together and secured the 'wrap'.  This made a seriously high and pointy nose.  Perfect for a fox!

And here is a better look at the buttons that just scream 'hand-made':

You may have wondered what mysterious item is my fashion model on my headliner pic.  It's my funky humidifier!  Isn't the belly perfect for a round little baby tummy?  Also, I can't help but love the bling "necklace" he seems to be wearing.

And now I must pack up little Hipster Friedrich and send him to his mama.  I hear they don't have a baby name yet.  May I suggest Rowan?  HA!  ;)

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