December 27, 2015

5 Ready For Hitchiking Again -- A New Thumb For My Winterland Mitten

These are the quintessential winter mittens. I mean, look at that pastoral wintry scene! Don't you just want to see how warm that fire is inside, and lounge with a book and hot toddy by your side?

As you can see, I marked one thumb of my Winterland mittens by Wenche Roald with the year I made them.

Four sweet years of hard, relentless wear... I biked in these mittens, sweated in these mittens (thus the red bleeding into the white), stacked wood in these mittens. They didn't have that "spare me I'm handmade!" fate... they were my utility mittens. Why? Because they were just so warm (a seriously intense gauge) and such a slim fit. They didn't get in the way of anything!

However, the thumb eventually couldn't take it.

The wool I used was from a farm in Poland, dyed goodness knows when, of mostly unknown provenance! Needless to say, there was no nylon anywhere near that yarn (if you want socks and mittens to last, you need some nylon in the mix).

Luckily, I had saved leftover yarn, and it was time to make a-mends! Always do this, my friends. I'll often give away or sell the remainder of my yarn after a project BUT I always keep a small ball of each color to do repairs. Believe me, it has saved me countless times.

First I charted out what the thumb looked like and when it started decreasing. I suppose I could have re-downloaded the pattern, but lazy.

Then, I threaded one end of a circular through the right leg of every stitch in the row on one side...

...and then the other.

Then I cut off most of the top of the thumb (leaving a good record in case my chart was wrong)...

...and unraveled until I had everything cleanly on my circular, ready for using magic loop.

A bit of knitting and voilà! You can see how bright and white the new yarn is, haha. No matter, I love this reminder of what the mitten has been through, and the new life it will surely have in Maine!

See my Nicolas and Sonya In the Night mittens on Ravelry

And now for some HOUSE UPDATES! The long summer, fall.... and WINTER(?!) of our deck renovations are finished! First it was the screened porch and some of the deck. Then we realized we should just bite the bullet and do all of the deck when we installed the mudroom. That's her on the right, isn't she the sweetest thing?!

The concept was this: Install the mudroom onto the house as a no foundation/no insulation addition. Post and beam styling, open rafter ceiling, large plate glass windows, french doors and a black metal roof. Tiled flooring with a heated undermat as well. All the materials were chosen so that it could double as a sunroom in the winter, and happily, it easily reaches a delicious 72 or more on a cold sunny day.

Let's start from the inside of the house! This is the view from our hallway, which used to have boots and shoes strewn all about.

We shingled the inside of the room, like we did in the screened porch. This is a nod to the classic houses in Maine, covered in gorgeous (but a bitch to maintain) cedar shingles. We're basically pretending that the outside of our house is not vinyl siding while being inside our additions.

The ceiling is so lovely...

...the tiles are faux wood. We need to decide if we'll have a low table in front of this window, not sure if a plant would make it at night.

The French doors take up one whole wall. These will probably be difficult to open when a pile of snow dumps on the deck! But we decided to deal with it, after all there are only 3 other doors AND a window you can use to leave the house if necessary.

The deck is made of gorgeous douglas fir, a splurge. We stained it even more orange than the fir, because we really wanted to maintain it's unique shade as long as we could. (All wood grays out over time in the sun, but in different tones).

In the Spring we get to have some landscaping fun! We're pretty wiped out cash-wise, as you can imagine. Barring disasters (which of course WILL happen), the next big expense will be our closet re-design. Did you know we still have all our clothes in wardrobe moving boxes?! Can't wait for that next step!

December 20, 2015

3 Because Your Knitter Friend (Or.. Ahem.. YOU) Needs This Gift

In case you didn't know, when you are shopping for someone else, the simple state of thinking unselfishly deserves a sweet selfish prize: a gift for yourself. I know you like my logic, so here's something to accidentally click/tip/toss/lovingly place into your cart: Alex Capshaw-Taylor's latest pattern book, Dressed In Knits: 19 Designs for Creating A Custom Knitwear Collection.

You may know Alex from some of her popular patterns:

Bryn Mawr Dress by Alex Capshaw-Taylor

Pluie Cardigan by Alex Capshaw-Taylor

OR you might recognize her as that gal who made the incredible cabled bling wedding dress!

Suffice to say that Alex is on my Designer Watch List so let me show you my favorites from her new book.
First up, because I lived there for 10 years, is the Montreal cardigan!

I pretty much fall for any sweater with lace appliqué, but this one really got me because of the elegant way the lace is shaped around that perfect U-neck. I also like how wide those bands of lace actually are, they really spice up the cardi.

Another great cardigan in the book is Madingly. This one reminds me a bit of my Laszlo cardigan because of that generous shawl collar and pockets:

This one will make you work a little because of all that moss stitch. But hey, you can't deny it, moss stitch is one of those annoying stitches that looks fantastic. We must accept our fate.

What I like most about this cardi is the deep horizontal ribbing details on the cuffs and hem. The whole thing just really comes together with those matching elements. Oh! And there's some elbow pads!

Here are the pullovers I love in this book as well. First off, only the hardest of hearts wouldn't fall for the intarsia Montmartre pullover:

Like the first cardi I showed you, I'm liking that scoop neck. And those rows at the end of the ribbing make a nice frame for the pullover, like it was an embroidered landscape.

Another sweet pullover with that same ribbing contrast is the one featured on the cover, the Xian pullover.

I've seen designs like this before, but often the lace is only on the body. Here, it's matched on the sleeve and extends even further, which I really like. It continues around the back, too.

There's another 3/4 sleeve pullover that has some incredible texture, made with a "raindrop" stitch with a mini-bobble effect. This is the Catalunya.

I just find this piece to be really nicely tailored at the neck, shoulders and hem... feminine and even a bit sexy.

There's actually quite a few dominantly 'sexy' pieces in the book, but this is the one I find the most intriguing, Eveleigh.

I'm not sure I would make it, but I simply appreciate the detail that goes into designing that heart shaped bust. It's not easy to do that kind of shaping and maintain the well-tailored look -- this is a theme to Alex's designs.

Finally I'll end with the outdoor piece, because the lady above must be chilly. It takes effort to design a good poncho -- they can look strained, dowdy, dated, what have you. But ALL of us, when we see a good poncho pattern we think about how wonderful it would be to be in it. Maybe even swooping past onlookers like you're on the catwalk...

Anyway, I really really like the Shinshiro Cape.

One of the things ponchos can suffer from is drape. If they are too heavy, of the wrong fabric, or made with a fiber that stretches -- you are sadly no longer wearing a poncho, but something akin to a wet blanket.

Alex has really thought about this. First, it has a beautiful texture from a herringbone stitch -- importantly, the type of stitch required for firm outdoorsy fabrics.

Second, it is made from 4 pieces, giving 4 evenly distributed seams that will carry the weight and prevent stretching.

And then the icing on the cake: those are little fabric lined and zippered pockets, omg too cute! Well, then. Can you guess which pattern I would want to make?  :D

I've only showed you my favorite pieces, but there are many more. As I said --> YOU NEED A GIFT, and I don't see why it shouldn't be this book. And the yarn to go with it, bwahahaha!

I'll be back next week with a sweater and pictures of my fabulous new mud room! Yes, a mud room can be fabulous (before the mud.) See you then!

December 15, 2015

10 The Easiest Polka Dots You'll Ever Knit -- Mayfair by Martin Storey

I went into this project blind as a spotted bat, uncaring of all the fairisle I would have to do -- it was going to be  worth it to have this sweet polka dot pullover. I even flipped to the pattern to order the yarn... why didn't I notice that the yarn quantities were so low? Keep reading, because you won't believe the calculation I'm about to make!!


This is Mayfair by Martin Storey, from the Rowan book Easy DK Knits. If you look closely, you'll see that the background color on the lower part of the body and sleeves are a lighter gray.

And of course, you'll notice from my version that I didn't listen to that at all. I thought it would be more fun to change the contrast color here and there.

There really was no rhyme or reason to it. I originally wanted to use more colors, but then things were getting too busy with all those polka dots. So, I stuck to one color, did 2 stripes in the front,  1 in the back...

...and some on the sleeves, not aligned on purpose, I swear. A fellow knitter even said, "How did you not match them, you always match everything!" Truer words were never said, but I don't know, why not throw OCD to the wind!

Now it's time for the magical calculation. As I hinted, this is not fair-isle but a simple slip stitch color pattern. This means you never carry more than one yarn at a time. On contrast color rows simply slip 3 stitches of main color from the row before and then knit 1 of contrast color. You do two rows of this to make a little moss stitch X.

WAIT! In case this isn't sinking in... for every 2 rows, YOU ONLY KNIT ONE OUT OF FOUR STITCHES! I decided to figure out how much knitting I was saving for the body alone:

Yes, your overknit shoulders wrists and elbows will thank you.  :)

Advanced math alert: some of you are very clever and realize that slipping stitches provides no actual length and thus forces you to knit more rows. Touché, and for you I've calculated 21,060 sts saved... but let's not scare the others!

Also, the slipped stitches make for a very interesting back. I was almost tempted to wear it inside out, but then I got caught on god-knows-what walking by, and knew better.

I should tell you that all of this slipping does add a lot of width to the fabric. If you don't want to add a good half-inch to your waistline, choose another pattern.

You can see this thickness of fabric best when you look at the cuffs, the pillowy slip stitch poofs over the thinner ribbing.

I did change the pattern a bit. For instance, do you see how the polka dots are offset for each row? Well, for some reason the back and front are written as identical -- but that would mean that the dots from each row would crash into each other at the side seam. (To fix that, just flip which row you start with for the front).

Also, I used much larger needles than called for. That slip stitch will pull your work tight, watch it!

So what smooth and squishy yarn is this, you ask? It's a new three-weight yarn line from Rowan of the most high quality merino then wily sheep can make. It's not Fine, it's not Extra Fine... it's SUUUUUUPER Fine!!!


Yes, Rowan Super Fine Merino is the soft (pushover) cousin of the everyday Zara, Lang, etc. "extra fine" cousins. There is NO itch possible for wool-sensitive skin (barring allergy, of course). I mean, you'd think the stuff was cotton in sheep's clothing! There are three weights, 4-ply/fingering, DK and Aran.

Pretty, hey? I made a secret Santa gift out of that deep purple aran, it's so squishy soft and makes an excellent fabric. (Pattern is the free Candle Flame Cowl by Julia Allen)

All in all this was a great knit in a simple but mega-luxurious yarn, and I recommend it. If anything, knit it to whip out a sweater in 1/2 the number of stitches, what a trip!

See my Mayfair Zing on Ravelry

Go ahead, you know you want to.
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