December 1, 2014

16 Yes, I Made A Sweater Out of Novelty Yarn!

We all have our stories about the crazy yarns we bought when we started knitting, right?  Well I bought with the best of them, as you can see.  I remember squealing in glee when finding $1 balls of acrylic, dubious lots of 'unknown fiber' at Walmart, or mystery boxes of scary wool off Ebay.  I bought a lot of weird yarn when I started, and a lot of it was quite... well... furry?

Oh, did you just sneeze?  Have a tissue.  This, my friends, is the aptly named "Showstopper" from Ironstone yarns and it's made of 3 yarns plied together: a bulky mohair, an eyelash yarn, and a... um... "bling" yarn.  It's bulky, oh my god is it bulky.  I mean the gauge is 6 sts over 4 inches.  Yup, by just knitting 3 stitches you've already got 2 inches of knitting done, ha!  This yarn was bought as a gift for me years and years ago, and it was actually quite expensive.  This makes me laugh because compared to what I had been buying, it was the most expensive yarn I owned by far, and it still looked like what Chewbacca would wear to his birthday party!

I was determined to use it, even as my yarn snobbery continued its yearly escalation.  Actually, walking down the streets of Montreal these days I see that fake fur is IN FORCE!  I mean, people are looking mighty hairy, and not just because it was Movember.  It was high time to make a move.  I found a free pattern for really big needles from DROPS that used their own old school fur yarn called Fox.

Actually, now that I look at this she really has the Chewbacca color down pat.  ;)

Also, what was there to lose if the gauge was so big?  Truth be told, I finished the entire body in one devoted day.  To my surprise, I was really intrigued and decided to continue.

I never did a DROPS pattern before, it was a fine experience.  In fact, it has a really neat neckline.  At some point you do a few stitches in the center of the front in garter, and then start decreasing for the neck continuing in garter just for those stitches.  Very sweet.

I must admit, I had the idea that maybe I should shave the whole thing with hair clippers...   I suggested it to my friend and she freaked out "Nooooooo, doooooooooon't!"  In fact, I have been totally astounded at the compliments I have been getting on this hairy-maybe-scary piece.  I mean, people stop me on the street to say how cool it is... I guess the clippers and bikini wax will have to stay in the closet for now!

In other news, it is December 1st and I am quietly freaking out about the move.  This is why you're seeing more of me on Facebook than here, because I only seem to be able to focus on 1-line wonders!  Unfortunately, I didn't get the job I wanted.  Worse, I didn't find out in time to take advantage of another opportunity I had, so I am back to square zero (if that exists!).  There's collateral damage to this, because it seems like they can't give us the house loan until either I have a contract or we immigrate, which we aren't allowed to do until December 26 because of my husband's visa rules.  Drat!  The rather funny part is that they have to move everything out of the house on December 23 because of the holiday, meaning that we will have an interesting Christmas eating off of cardboard coffee tables and sitting on an air mattress!  Maybe I should make a tree out of packing materials, what do you think?

For those of you wondering about whether I am giving away any stash, DON'T GET YOUR HOPES UP!  :D  One of the perks of this move is that they are packing us up so I don't have to get rid of any of it!!!!  /evil laugh/

I'll be back very soon with a suggestion for the perfect holiday gift for your favorite knitter.  See you then!

See my Novelty Madness on Ravelry

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November 10, 2014

9 Wonky in More Ways Than One -- Brindled Hat by Woolly Wormhead

I always like to tackle a free Knitty pattern here and there.  To be honest, I tend to pick accessories because I always find myself in a race to the finish.  It's not for any good reason, but if I like a new Knitty pattern I just feel this need to dive in and be one of the first to finish.  I don't particularly like that about myself, but it is the truth.  For instance, how often do I pick a Knitty pattern from an old issue?  Never.  Despite all of this, I had a great time with Princess Franklin by Franklin Habit:

Woolly Wormhead, the intrepid hat designer, tempted me this time with Brindled from Deep Fall 2014.  I've never made a Wooly Wormhead hat, so I thought this would be a nice free way to do it.

The hat uses a light fingering weight held double, but I wanted to try the new Rowan Finest, a luxurious blend of 50% extra fine merino, 30% royal alpaca and 20% cashmere.  I hate itchy foreheads, and this was one of the softest fingering yarns I could find!  You only have to hold it single to get gauge, and luckily they have two uber-in shades, chartreuse/yellow and a dark gray:

The wonky stripe effect is due to knitting the stripes with short rows... and that is always fun, right?

Weeeell, not so much.  Honestly guys, this is one of the few projects I was tempted to call a Ravelry "UGH!".  For those of you who don't know, that's the lowest rating you can give one of your projects.

You see, there is one big problem with this hat.  Notoriously, short rows can leave holes where you turn, but there are a million and one ways to do it to satisfy yourself.  No problemo.  WHAT THERE ISN'T, is an effective way to pick up "wraps" that were done on the wrong side, from the RIGHT SIDE when you join back in the round.  It's just physics... coming in from the other side will always be wonky, no matter whether you use fish lips, German, Japanese, wrap-and-turn, shadow... how many other short row methods have been named?!  I've lost count.

If this hat were knit flat and seamed, you wouldn't get this, I swear.  See all those holes?

The only thing I could do to fix these purl wraps was to cheat.  You will see two large loops leaning towards each other.  Just stick your needle in and pull up the slack to the left and right of those big stitches:

Not too bad really, thankfully we are saved from an embarrassing "UGH!" experience!

And what about the Rowan Finest?  Wow, what a yarn!  I've been wearing this hat for weeks and it is very very warm and soft.  There is still a tad of itch on my forehead after long wear -- I am really extremely sensitive there.  Also, the hat has no pills at all yet.  Yes, it doesn't really rub on anything like the underarm as a sweater, but I am still really impressed. 

(Do you ever see girls on the bus or train and their purchased hats/cowls/scarves have huge pill balls that you want to tear off when they are not looking?  Is that just me?)

This is definitely a luxury yarn though, as the balls are only 25g for a price.  I feel like I got a great value, though, as this slouchy striped hat only took 1 ball of each color.  I used it up to the very end, wrapping everything I had left in my friend Jen's Clover pompom device (tempted to buy one, despite the price!).  I love the extra-wonky splatter of gray in the resulting poof.  As you may know from a previous blog post, I'm a horror at pom poms!!

Ok, so the hat was fun to make (before trying to fix the holes), the yarn is fab and I wear it all the time.  So, I really shouldn't complain too much.  But my fix won't make everything perfect, so if you are picky about short row turns showing in your work, don't make the hat.  However, if you accept the wonky holes as simply an essential part of the extreme and purposeful wonkiness of this hat, go for it... you will be entertained!

In other news, I've got two whole sweaters to show you, but my brain is filled with house inspections, well water, septic tanks, no job, currency exchange dejectedness, lack of concrete financing and feverish planning for a move with no date.  A.K.A.: what happens to everyone when they move.  I can't believe I almost signed up for a test knit yesterday... I need to focus on this stuff!  It has been a blast looking through all my knitting magazine stash and paring down, though.  If any of you in Montreal are following, I have a ton of color photocopies of library book patterns and straight needles I'll be giving away.  Make sure to be somewhere I will be if you are interested in a freebie!  :)

See my Wonky Stripes on Ravelry

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October 24, 2014

6 On Going Rogue -- The Rowan Kaffe Fassett Mystery KAL, My Way

Just on the tails of the last mystery KAL from Rowan came the announcement that another one was starting imminently.  Ack, already?!  And the crazy thing was that it was another afghan!  Holy moly, that's a lot of epic knitting.  Despite my aching hands, I was game -- but I still wanted to play my OWN way.

My version of the Martin Storey KAL afghan was somewhat rogue, in that I used only one color instead of 17 and made a different border.  It was a lot of work, but the result was very worth it.  The pattern is still available for free on the Rowan website.

Read my Martin Storey KAL blog post here

Both KAL afghans use Rowan's Pure Wool Worsted.  An update on the Martin Storey afghan -- my husband uses it as a top blanket every night and it looks pristine.  In fact, it still looks blocked, too!  I haven't washed it yet, I suppose that will be the big test.  I'll let you know.

The new KAL is designed by Kaffe Fassett (download the free patterns here), and is very very popular.  We have ~1500 people signed up on Ravelry, which I estimate is around half the participation.  Check out the interactive KAL map, too.  I'm a map fiend -- give me a map and I'll pore over it respectably.

Now, when you hear Kaffe, you may instantly think "intarsia", or "colorwork" and many presumed this mystery KAL would be an intarsia-tastic.  Sorry.  I hope that will come someday, something epic like the Jubilee Throw...

You'll never believe it, but this pattern is free, too.

...but if you actually want to knit 63 squares and a border by Christmas, pretty much the only way to do it is with stripes.  Kaffe is just as stripe-obsessed as intarsia-obsessed, did you know?  In fact, 4 of the 5 most popular Kaffe patterns on Ravelry are striped.  Here is my personal fave (and of course, it's my rogue color version of the original):

Read my Earth Stripe Wrap blog post here.

But Kaffe is also a big quilter.  Maybe even more so, as can be evidenced by him quilting peacefully during a Rowan video describing the KAL.  That was rather eerie, but that man clearly is devoted to his craft!  Kaffe has actually designed quilts and blankets that are quite similar to what we seem to be making:

knittingkonrad's X-Factor blanket, read his blog here

Quilts designed by Kaffe Fassett

So, how am I going rogue this time?  Well, almost all the way.  The pattern is designed so that each square is the same stripe pattern with different colorways.  First, I didn't feel like following the colorways, because I wanted my own style.  So I looked at the square and used Adobe Illustrator to make up a placement diagram.

Look how just changing the width of 2 stripes changes the look, so many possibilities:

I decided to keep the original stripe sequence, and that is probably the only thing similar to the pattern.  I might even make a different number of squares, because the afghan isn't quite symmetric like I would prefer (see that left edge versus the right in my placement diagram?).

The colorway goal is:

  • Permanent background color and border: Heather (dark gray)
  • Wide stripes: Light Denim
  • 3-stripe square: Moonstone (light gray)
  • 5-stripe square: The color grab bag

Mustard is my very favorite color, so I started with it.

Then I went through all my available shades and made one square.  I'm not sure if I like all of them, but since the colors are added at the end of the square, it's no big deal to change them.

Just missing the shade Apple here.  See all my shades on Ravelry.

I am making 4 of each color and sewing modules together using mattress stitch.  This turns out to be very simple, unlike in the Martin Storey KAL, because every stitch matches and is easily 'read' by the stripe changes.  Quite fun, actually!

BUT BEWARE of the points where squares meet.  I am using one long piece to stitch 2 sides of each module.  I found it was hard to do this without leaving a hole at the center point.

I highly recommend you DO NOT weave in the corner ends so that you can tidy up this hole if necessary.  Of course, I personally never darn in ends until I have a seam.  If you darn ends before mattress stitch, it will be harder to see where you are supposed to sew, and of course, ends always hide better in seams.



It's pretty astounding how many posts there have been on our KAL Ravelry thread about the different ways you can make a single square... knitted 63 times.  Here's the stuff I'm doing, using the M1 version of the square:

1. Long tail cast-on in purl so that the first row is the true RS.  Do a Google search for "long tail cast-on in purl" for more info.

2.  For the second inc f&b, add a yarn-over between the increases so it's easier to do the M1 on Row 3.

3. Always yarn-over in the row before any M1 -- this will loosen the edge so that it looks more like the decrease side.  You have some choices on how to do this.  Easiest: Drop the yarnover and pick it up to do the right orientation of M1.  Moderate: Yarn-over the same way, then flip the direction to do the right orientation of M1.  Experienced: Yarn-over in two different directions, knitting into the front or back of the stitch as appropriate for the right orientation of M1.  Moderate to Experienced: backwards loop cast-on the yarn-over in two different directions as per my blog post here.

4. End the square with k3tog, K1 then simply slip the right st over the left st to fasten off.  This gives a good pointy finish that allows sewing on either side without messing with the direction of the point.

5. Block those tacos out after a good soak.  I usually pin dry and block, but I found I really wanted the ultimate control over the shape of these guys.


WAIT, what am I doing?  I don't have time to blog -- I have to knit another square!!  One a day is my mantra -- I have 26 done, past the 1/3 mark, yippee.

By the way, life is hectic because of our move to Maine in December.  We made an offer on a house today (oh my!) and ordered a new car (a Subaru Outback, the state animal of Maine), but whether we will live in said house or be able to drive the car off the lot with all the Catch-22 logistics of moving to another country, I CANNOT FATHOM.  Oh yeah, and I *still* don't have a job... hoping very much to know that in a couple of weeks.  Keep your fingers crossed for me.  :)

See my Everyone Loves Kaffe on Ravelry

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October 6, 2014

19 It's All In the Details -- Laszlo Cardigan from Graphic Knits

I always need a really good reason to knit something that is all in stockinette.   I soooo love to make my knitting life difficult (and this blog is becoming a testament to that), but sometimes a simpler knit catches my eye because the final product has more than stockinette.  It has details -- lovely, carefully thought-out, keep-Dayana-interested-or-else details that make the pattern a true delight.

This is the Laszlo Cardigan by Alexis Winslow, a top-down seamless picture of elegance from her new book "Graphic Knits".  The book is released this month, woohoo!

I became an instant fan of Alexis's work and especially her attention to detail, when I discovered her fabulous earflap hat pattern, Arbuckle.  I wear it every day of my Montréal winter, I highly recommend the pattern.  Read my blog post about it here.

I was lucky enough to be chosen to join a small group of bloggers who received Graphic Knits a little early.  We all picked different patterns that we liked best and are now releasing these posts to celebrate the book's release -- scroll to the bottom to see a schedule of other posts in our little blog ring!

There were obviously many tempting patterns to choose from, but as I mentioned before, what caught my eye about Laszlo was the details:

First there was this great big sailor collar!  I had never made one of those, and I saw that it was constructed in a clever way with increases and short rows.  Fun.

I made some tiny little mods -- I thought the transition from the last short row into the ribbing was a little bumpy on the original, so I knit an entire row without short rows to smooth the transition.  Secondly, and this is something I always do, I used an end to whip stitch the edge of the button band ribbing to add bulk so that it would meet better with the collar ribbing.  Ribbing always wants to accordion back on itself, and these types of edges are never very square without a little help.

The inside of the collar is all in reverse stockinette.  If I do up the button at the end of the collar a little of it shows, which I actually like.  However, I really recommend you do the following to perfect the look:  to change from stockinette to reverse stockinette you have to transition from picking up in knit to picking up in purl.  You may find that this leaves a blip of the wrong color showing.  Just make sure to duplicate stitch over it until it disappears!

A second fab detail is the button placket cuffs.  Yes, that's a lot of buttons to sew, but it's worth it because it adds such a nice dressmaker's detail to the rather simple cardigan.  I did use one less button because I made my sleeves too long (I always typically overcompensate!).

Finally, there are the sweet pockets.  Now these are optional because they are sewn in later, but who doesn't love pockets?  I made them bulge out a tad more than in the original, just for the "I-actually-use-these-pockets-look."  Don't you just love the little button closing it?

A note about the buttons: they need to go on two different colored fabrics, the light colored sleeves/pockets and the dark colored button band.  In the original they only show on one color.  So, I tried hard to find a button that would show up on both fabrics, and I'm really happy with that choice.

In the pocket pic above, you may have also noticed the little decreases running down the middle front, just like the seam of a fully fashioned blazer... so nice!  See what I mean about details??  The decreases are also cleverly placed in the back.

I used Rowan Pure Wool Worsted in Satin and Clove shades, and it came out really nice and soft after soaking and blocking.  I think this yarn is growing on me after the epic afghan I finished earlier this year.

If you are thinking of making anything from the book (and you should scroll down to see my other faves), I have advice for you:


They are so useful.  I only learned too late of a fabulous way of doing a tubular cast-off on my 1x1 ribbing using kitchener stitch.  You just grab every knit stitch on one needle and every purl on another, and then sew them shut as if it were the toe of a sock!  Unfortunately, the tip box was on the page after the body ribbing and button band so I missed using it there.  However, I did "catch" it in time for the cuffs.  I LOVE THIS TECHNIQUE!

This was a lovely knit, I really enjoyed it.  If you like top-down seamless sweaters, this is a good one, and all of the little details will keep your interest high.  (Do make sure to check the errata available, for the print copy.)

If you'd like to learn more about Alexis's process designing the patterns for Graphic Knits or see what she is up to, please go visit her blog on Knit and become a follower!  Here are some other knits from the book I particularly like:

See the Germander Shrug on Ravelry

See the Tanager Shrug on Ravelry

See the Orly Cardigan on Ravelry

And better, why don't you visit some of the other bloggers in our little release party?

Up now -- Heather Zopetti Designs -- Woodstar Mitts and a Graphic Knits book giveaway!
Oct. 9 -- Stockinette Zombies -- Germander Shrug, Rockland Cardigan and Sweetness Pullover
Oct. 9 -- Knitscene/Knitting Daily Blog -- Barbet Turtleneck
Oct. 15 -- Polkadot Overload -- Bowerbird Wrap

See my Laszlo Cardigan on Ravelry

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