August 28, 2013

4 The Magazine that Filled My Queue - Armenia from Rowan 54

Armenia by Marie Wallin, knit by Dayana Knits

Armenia by Marie Wallin, knit by Dayana Knits

The 'folk' section of the new Rowan Magazine 54 slayed me this season.  You guys know that I am a glutton for colorwork!

Are you like me and get a ridiculous unexplainable fever when you read through a new magazine?  Does your adrenaline hike up Mount Everest?  Is there a tickly tingle in your fingers?  Do you throw away all previous plans for the evening and start maniacally sifting through the stash that is so beautifully organized in your closet... uh... mind?  

This fever directed me to make Armenia IMMEDIATELY, do not pass Go, do not collect $200.  You see, I knew I had enough yarn in my mind Rolodex.  

The pattern, by Marie Wallin, is for an intarsia pullover made with Rowan Frost and Rowan Kid Classic accents. 

Armenia by Marie Wallin, knit by Dayana Knits

I decided to use Rowan Kid Classic for the background, as it is my all-time favorite yarn.  

Armenia by Marie Wallin, knit by Dayana Knits

Let me tell you why:

  • Lovely fuzzy texture that is just right (ie. not sneezy)
  • Nice stitch definition despite fuzz
  • Doesn't pill
  • Is killer warm... really, remember that when you walk into a building
  • Has unbelievable yardage per skein
  • Knits at a gajillion different gauges and manages to look normal for each of them

I "unearthed" a bag of Kid Classic in Peat (lol) and put it near the doorway in wait for the postman.

For the accents, I went back to my old stand-by amazing color palette from my stash of discontinued Rowan Kidsilk Aura.  I have tons of small pieces of color from my Sofia Wrap.  As my friend Jen commented, "The Sofia Wrap, the project that begot all others."  This is apropos, as I have a biblical flood worth of love for this yarn.

Armenia by Marie Wallin, knit by Dayana Knits

Rowan has this new thing, that I don't like, where everything is organized by a range of sizes that is, of course, not my own.

Boooo!  I'm a 34-36, and frankly, I think that is a REALLY COMMON SIZE.  My suggestion to you Rowan users out there: do a quick calculation of the width of the piece by the number of stitches you cast-on.  This will tell you the actual intended width, and thus the 'ease' of the garment that they recommend.

I can understand how you can't please everybody with sizing, but it would help enormously if Rowan could at least state the size used on the model for comparison.  We see this in all sorts of knitting magazines, right?

Here is an interesting post by Marie Wallin, Head In House Designer for Rowan, about models and current sizing in Rowan publications.


So, I actually cast-on 79 sts, something in between the two first sizes.  That's the easy part.  Then, for the armholes, I had to fudge something in between.  That's not so easy.

Armenia by Marie Wallin, knit by Dayana Knits

Also, what is with all the cropped sweaters?  I knit 2 extra garter border rows and 8 extra rows before starting the intarsia chart.  It's still to short, in my opinion.

Armenia by Marie Wallin, knit by Dayana Knits

Another mod was required to account for the fact that arms are always longer than torsos, and should not have the same charts.  I had to steal a whole rose motif and add it to the top of the chart so that I would avoid awkward empty spaces above and below.

Armenia by Marie Wallin, knit by Dayana Knits

Another mod:  It was like Goldilocks and the Three Sleeve Caps on this thing.  

(sorry, couldn't resist showing you the fruits of my Google search)

I tried to do the sleeve cap top down, but it was way too short.  Now, one reason for this is probably that a 'make 1' top-down is much tighter than a k2tog bottom up, because you have to tighten yarn that is already there, instead of supplying new yarn.

My new brilliant fix:  if you make a yarn over in the row before the 'm1', you'll have plenty of yarn to work with for the increase!

"What?!  This sleeve cap is too short (furrowed brow)."
"$%#@!  This sleeve cap is too wide (throws it across room)."
"Christ on a cruise!  This sleeve cap is just right (sigh of relief from husband afraid of knitting needle launched into eye)."

You could ask me what I actually did with the sleeve cap... but then I'd be trying to read this chart that was erased 5 times and blew into a lake twice.

Armenia by Marie Wallin, knit by Dayana Knits

This beauty is made with intarsia.  That colorwork technique where you switch colors as you reach a motif, instead of carrying the unused colors at the back of the work.

Well, I cheated, and I suggest you do so as well!  

I did a combo of intarsia and carrying colors.  Basically, I never cut the background color... I would just go until a motif, pick up the bobbin and strand with the two colors until the motif was done.  I used about 4 bobbins per motif.

Here is what the back of that looks like.

Armenia by Marie Wallin, knit by Dayana Knits

Sometimes I used two colors.

Sometimes I used sequins!  (Kidsilk Haze Glamour + Kidsilk Haze)

Armenia by Marie Wallin, knit by Dayana Knits

There's a lot of embroidery in the middle.  A part of me didn't want the embroidery, and not just because of laziness.  I liked the abstract flowers.  

Armenia by Marie Wallin, knit by Dayana Knits

And I didn't want it to look to like a tapestry you should hang on a castle wall.

Armenia by Marie Wallin, knit by Dayana Knits

But if I didn't try it, I knew I'd always wonder.  And here is my Armenia(n) knitting lesson for you: always try something before scrapping it, even if you don't think you'll like it.  You may be very surprised.

My first attempt followed the pattern which mentioned 'french knots' in the flowers and 'chain stitch' stems.  

Armenia by Marie Wallin, knit by Dayana Knits

French knots can be gorgeous... but they are rather small.

Armenia by Marie Wallin, knit by Dayana Knits

My attempt was truly awful.  Not enough knots, too small, and the color was wrong.

Armenia by Marie Wallin, knit by Dayana Knits

I was this close to nixing it, but the veterans of my Rowan Love group on Ravelry convinced me to try again.  They said, no no no, do 'bullion stitches' and make smaller stem stitches!  Bullion stitches are really just french knots with a lot of wraps.

Armenia by Marie Wallin, knit by Dayana Knits

They are like little worms!

Armenia by Marie Wallin, knit by Dayana Knits

So I tried, for real.  I made little curled caterpillars and tiny delicate stems.

Armenia by Marie Wallin, knit by Dayana Knits

And, what do you know?  I preferred it, I really did.  

Armenia by Marie Wallin, knit by Dayana Knits

But YOU try doing bullion stitches with mohair!  Ugh, my fingers were raw!  I decided to only embroider the front, and I did a sort of asymmetrical rose embellishment, claiming 'artistry' to all my friends.

Armenia by Marie Wallin, knit by Dayana Knits

You really should check out the other amazing colorwork patterns in Rowan Mag 54.  I hope to show you two more of my favorites in the future!

If you want a warm, artistic, and useable sweater, I highly recommend Armenia.  You can play with your stash for the colored accents, and simply pick a background yarn that you love.  It really was so much fun to make and honestly, I was wearing it before I had even finished weaving in the ends.  (shh, don't tell!)

My Fuzzy Armenia on Ravelry

Armenia by Marie Wallin, knit by Dayana Knits

August 19, 2013

5 Fuzzy Like a Bunny - Knitting with Rowan Angora Haze

I've had only two pets in my life: a baby goose (that didn't last long in the suburbs, lol) and a mini lop-eared bunny rabbit.  I got him when I was a kid at the Altamont, NY Fair for $20, and he became our house-broken companion/mascot for 13 years. His official brilliantly genius name was Cottonball... but, yeah, we all called him Bunzo.  

Bunzo was white with gray ears, and blue-black eyes... I swear!  I don't have any pictures of him, except this rather creepy cut-out that I jammed into this locket.  If only I had 'red-eye reduction' back then!

The locket, by the way, is super-cool.  It's a vintage affair, with pages for 6 pictures.  I gave myself a Bunzo treatment and jammed my 13 year-old braces self in there, too.  The black and whites came with the locket from the antique store, and I kept them in because they were way better than the ones I added.

Bunzo had a real non-bunny character, which I highlight here.  He was basically a dog.
  1. Came when you called his name.
  2. Spread out across whatever arch/doorway of the room you were in, like a guard dog.
  3. Followed you to whatever room your were in.
  4. Woke me up in the morning by jumping on the bed and licking my face.
  5. Hated carrots and lettuce and all that rabbit-y stuff.
  6. Loved playing with (and uh... humping) his favorite rubber ball.
  7. Hated being carried.
  8. Loved fruit roll-ups and bananas.  I can still remember the squishy wishy noise he would make when he chewed them.
Man, I loved that funnybunny.  So, it was rather lovely when I touched a ball of Angora Haze that I received from Rowan, and instantly thought of him.  Except... he wasn't blue or green. :)

Left: 524 Hug; Right: 526 Embrace

Rowan Angora Haze (just released this 2013 season), is made of 69% angora, 11% wool, and 20% polyamide.  You get 150 yards for 25 grams, and this is great yardage, because you can use this yarn for many different weight projects.  You see, the yarn makes a nice firm fabric at 4-ply tension, but the fuzziness also works to really fill in the holes at larger gauges.

If you have concerns about how angora is sourced, you can read more about where Rowan's angora comes from here.

I don't mind the synthetics in this yarn, no, not at all!  We have ALL had the experience where we are either wearing (or sitting next to, achoo!) an angora sweater, and it can be very unpleasant.  Hello, hairs! Floating through the air, they are somewhat beautiful and mesmerizing.

Woven between your eyelashes?  No, none of the above.

I'm pretty sure the synthetics keep the angora in line.  It's not magic, mind you, angora is angora is angora.  You will leave hairs behind when you get up, you will be 'pff pfffing' while you knit.  That's just the reality of the short rabbit hair fibers.


(On that note, let's cue in more crazy bunnies)

I decided that because the yarn seemed that good, I would gamble and make something for my head... dangerously close to my eyelashes.

I thought that maybe if I stranded the angora (that is, carrying two colors at the same time and weaving them into each other), I could further minimize the shedding of hair.

It may have worked!  When I brush my hand over a stockinette swatch, I pull off more hairs than on my patterned colorwork.  Really.

What is the pattern for this hat, you ask?  Welllll, it's complicated.

Ravelry has a fantastic search-engine to find what you most desire to make.  I started with 'hat', 'colorwork>stranded', 'fingering OR sport'.

I picked the lovely free pattern "as the leaves begin to fall" by Eliza Jarvi for the shape and dimensions: 

But since I have a chick pea sized head (as my husband likes to joke), I used a smaller needle size for the brim (US 3 instead of US 4) and stranded portion (US 5 instead of US 6).  I casted-on exactly as recommended and went up through the increases after the ribbing.

(The increases are important to make up for the tighter tension you will get with stranding.)

Next, I wanted different colorwork because none of the hat motifs grabbed me.  I changed my search to 'mittens' and wow, that was a great move!  Designers have really focused on making fantabulous colorwork patterns for mittens, I had my pick.

I decided on the Paradoxical Mittens 237 by Lucy Neatby. (are there 236 other paradoxes to discover?!)

Now, one of the reasons I picked this pattern was that the 2 colors change and lock around each other for every stitch.  This was in line with my 'Tame That Bunny' strategy.  Also, the colors I got were not my idea of matching colors.  I mean, seriously, I would have never bought them together, ever! 

My strategy, then, was to pick a motif that married the colors closely together, with no real stretches of one block of color.

I think it came out fabulously!  The brim is 16" unstretched, 20" stretched. The stranding is 8.5" unstretched and 22" streteched.  It would fit a ton of chickpeas or melons.

I didn't use the pattern at all, but just charted something similar by looking at a photograph.  I made a chart for 128 stitches over 40 rows.  Feel free to contact me for the chart, dayanak AT g ma il DOT c o m.

I then came back to the free hat pattern, decreasing evenly across using sk2psso (not k2tog and ssk as recommended), so as to always maintain the stripe pattern.  You can see that here:

With the two colors, I wanted a set of teeny swinging pompoms.  Guys, I'm a pom pom making disaster. To help with my severe deficiency in Vitamin P, I dug through my notions bag and found this kit. (Previously I had just wrapped around a "C-shaped" piece of cardboard.)  This is the smallest pompom size it makes.

You can still see angora hairs stuck to it!

To use it, you basically thread 4-5 strands on a needle and then thread them through the little donut.  It's best to go around and around, overlapping layers of thread until there is no room to stick your needle in the center anymore.  Then, you use the groove between the pieces to guide the cut through the center, before tying a piece of yarn around the middle to tighten it.  It wasn't a bad experience, though doing it with a needle is more annoying that winding around a "C" of cardboard.  And my green pompom is definitely lopsided, trust me.  Pictures lie.

But then, IF THE POMPOM WAS PERFECT, IT WOULDN'T BE MINE, WOULD IT??  The world would collapse, people would be like, 'oh my goooooooooodddddd, her pompom is rounnnnnnnnd, what has happened to the Dayana I kneeeeeeeeew?!'  /person melting; poofing in smoke; carted off in straight jacket/

That's how bad I am at pompoms.

Oh yes, I'll be continuing to use this kit in the future, let me tell you.  I attached the pompoms with a 7-strand braid.  That was fun to learn, too!

Do you know that I only used 1/2 of each ball to make this hat?!  I thought about making some wristies with the rest.  Maybe with beads.  But then I just got bored...  I really hate doing the same sort of thing twice.  Probably explains why I walk around like this:

Speaking of Angora Haze and beads... there is a lovely book to go with the launch of the yarn, eponymously named, with patterns all by Martin Storey. Check out my favorite, Brigitte. Those beads are so delicate and wonderful!  

The stitch pattern in Audrey is fantastic.

But it's worth seeing the halo in pure stockinette for Rita.

Audrey and Rita are a hit for our Rowan Autumn/Winter 2013 KAL on Ravelry... it's not too late to join, we knit until the next season in January!

Finally, an accessory with another great stitch pattern, the Judy Gloves.  If you slim these up and shorten them, I bet you can get away with buying only one ball.  and. you. will. be. very. warm.   Note, the styling here is kick-ass.  I kind of want to knit that pillow way more than the gloves!

I hope that there will be some stranded colorwork patterns in Angora Haze's future.  The new Rowan book for kids, Little Star, also has some cute fuzzy patterns for Angora Haze that you may want to check out, but no stranding... yet.

I think it's a fab way to use this yarn, agreed?

My Ode to Bunzo on Ravelry

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