Friday, September 28, 2012

Spotted in the Wild: September Knitspiration!

It's been a while since I've shared Raveler projects, so here's the latest, greatest projects to inspire you (clockwise from top left):


For more FO Projects, visit the Tami's Amis blog!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

New Pattern: Moving Mountains Socks

I've been working on this sock pattern for a really long time; the first version was originally going to appear in Malabrigo Book 3, but at the last minute I subbed in the Quick Draw Socks because the yarn they sent me for my original design was inadvertently a test yarn. Oops! (Side note: I loved the yarn, but have not yet seen it out on the market). So that would date this pattern to 2010....no, that's not a typo!

Obviously, the pattern was shelved for a while as other things came up - other design work, the transition from working in a salon to working from home, general life craziness...you get the idea. Finally, late last year, I decided to revive this design and set to work. Then life interfered again: last-minute holiday gift knitting, busy season at work (and a job promotion!), and lots of traveling at the beginning of this year. Yet again, this pattern got relegated to the back-burner.

Before we fast-forward to the present, where the sock pattern finally makes it out into the world, let's set the mood by listening to the inspirational/namesake song for this pattern, Moving Mountains by The Warlocks:


Ok, that's better! Originally, I named these socks after one the song you are probably listening to now, which is among my favorite Warlocks songs (though it should be noted that pretty much all of their songs are my favorites). Mostly it was because I thought the name sounded cool, but it also fit the stitch pattern, which looks a bit like mountains if you look at it sideways. Maybe that's just me, but at any rate, I kept looking at this stitch pattern and having mountain-y thoughts.
Left: stockinette version; Right: ribbed version

Of course, after so many years working on this design, I started to feel a bit like I was trying to move mountains. The irony in all of this? These socks are super-easy to knit, not to mention lightning-fast: they're sport weight and simply fly off the needles! The key is to keep working on them. I say that only for my own benefit, as I'm sure the rest of the world has figured that out by now.

They're the perfect project for last-minute gifting, and I'm sure a one or two of my family members will be getting a pair of these this year. Also, you have the option of making two versions depending on whether or not you'd like to continue the rib pattern down the leg of the sock or switch to stockinette stitch.

Subscribers to my free e-newsletter received a special introductory discount on this pattern; if you're bummed that you missed out on that, click here to sign up for future emails!

Moving Mountains Socks 
by Stefanie Goodwin-Ritter


Skill Level
Intermediate

Sizes:
S/M (M/L)

Finished Measurements
Approx. 7” (8½”) circumference – to fit average woman’s (man’s) foot.

Materials
2 skeins Quince & Co. Chickadee in Honey (100% Wool, 181 yards (166 meters) in a 50g hank)
or 400 yards of any sport-weight yarn
Set of US #3 DPN’s
Darning Needle

Gauge
24 sts = 4” in stockinette stitch in the round

Other notes
Sock is worked in-the-round from the top-down. Stitch pattern is charted. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Craftsy Class Review: Know Your Wool!

In this free Craftsy class by Deb Robson, co-author of the Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook, you'll learn how to pay attention to the fiber content of the skein of yarn you're holding. As Deb notes in the introduction, lovely-hued yarns can often distract us from the characteristics of the yarn's fiber.  If you want to be satisfied with your finished project (not to mention have it last a long time), it's important to examine the fiber beneath the color.

In the introduction, Deb covers the basics, sharing the four categories she uses to approach any new wool she comes across (fine, medium, long and double-coated). There are thousands of breeds and types of sheep; when working on her book with Carol Eckarius, they identified 125 breeds of sheep 'reasonably available" to english-speaking fiber folk alone...the book itself contains more than 200 breeds, but if they had keep going from there, it would have never been completed!

Following the comprehensive introduction (it clocks in at just over 20 minutes), Deb takes you to the Estes Park Wool Market. Get ready for lots of adorable baa-ing sheep! You'll get to meet 2 handsome Lincoln Longwool rams in person and see Bond and Corriedale fleece up close. Deb interviews several sheep breeders and interjects lots of interesting facts along the way, too.  The emphasis in this lesson is to focus on the qualities of the fleece to understand what specific breeds do well - both for the hand-crafter and the breeder. The lesson ends with several drool-worthy shots of skeins of yarn, each hand-spun from a specific breed of sheep.

Can't make it to a wool festival? Deb shares some helpful tips to track down breed-specific yarns online, from a few of her favorite sites to tracking down specific breeds via Etsy and eBay. I'm intrigued especially by LocalHarvest.com, which I'll definitely be exploring.

When you're ready to knit with your hidden treasure, it's time to swatch! Though many knitters avoid swatching as much as possible, it's an important step when working with a breed-specific wool you've never used before.  Deb recommends making several gauge swatches, starting first with a simple stockinette swatch; swatching is when you get acquainted with the yarn, paying attention to how it is behaving as you work with it.

Once the knitting is done, give it a rinse in your favorite fiber wash and lay it flat to dry. Now it's time to really get to know your wool! Deb walks you through the steps one-by-one to make sure you cover all the bases - after the stockinette swatch, it's time to put the yarn through its paces as you prepare to find the right project to cast on. She also shares a fingerless mitt pattern that she recommends using in lieu of a swatch if the idea of swatching is complete anathema; other small projects are also ideal for the swatch-phobic.

I aspire to one day keep a swatch notebook as Deb outlines in this course; as a sometimes-designer, you'd think that's something I would already be doing, but of course that is not the case! Consequently, I spend a lot of time staring at swatches I assumed I'd remember the particulars of at the time. I'm sure I'm not the only one with this problem!

Finally, Deb covers the ins and outs of selecting the right pattern for you yarn, sharing many of her finished projects and outlining why each specific breed worked for the particular type of garment or stitch pattern. As a classmate wrote in the comments at the end of the introduction, "I grew up on a farm [and have been knitting] for nearly thirty years....you taught me a few things I didn't know!"  That pretty much sums it up - no matter how much you think you know about yarn and fiber, there is always something more to be learned!  Deb's decades of fiber experience are food for thought for the fiber fanatic. This free course will educate, excite and delight knitters, crocheters, spinners, and weavers of all skill levels.

Click here to sign up for free on Craftsy.com!

Friday, September 21, 2012

FO Friday: Vacation Edition

I took five projects with me to Kansas City; four FO's returned with me, and I started the fifth project on the train back to Chicago!

I was halfway to the heel on sock #2 for the Jelly Beans Sock KAL before leaving for KC; about halfway through the train ride down, I realized I'd left the instructions at home. Genius! Luckily, I had sock #1 to use at a reference. I'm not terribly experienced with short-row heels, but I have to pat myself on the back and say I did a pretty good job with reverse-engineering sock #2, which was completed sans instructions. I can't tell which one is the off-book sock, can you?

One note about the yarn (Spinnery Sock Art - Forest in Natural Gray): it bloomed quite nicely once I blocked it with a little Eucalan.  I'll have to give some of their hand-dyed colorways a try next!

I know I shared a photo of my finished Tarragon Swan Cowl earlier this week, but I wanted to share a photo with an actual humanoid (even if it is just me after a post-run shower). Working with this yarn, I was surprised by how different it was from other bulky yarns I've knit with; it had several plies that were actually themselves plied yarn, creating a really smooth and springy yarn that was also quite structured and substantial. This cowl will definitely keep my neck warm when the wind howls, and I love the green color.

If you've never knit with anything from Swan's Island, you're in for a treat: it's spun from certified organic merino (yes, certified) and dyed with all-natural dyes. Because it's minimally processed, it is super soft with the added benefit that it won't irritate those with sensitive skin because there aren't nasty chemicals and petroleum products used to process and spin the yarn.

Actualy, this is also the case for the Green Mountain Spinnery sock yarn used for the  Jelly Beans Socks above. I didn't even realize that this was the theme of my projects! The Green Mountain Spinnery is a worker-owned cooperative in Vermont that processes all of their yarns in the most environmentally-friendly way possible. Nearly all of their yarns are made with fleeces grown in the USA (and they do their best to source locally first). They have a really cool story that you can read here!

On my last day in KC, I cast on for the Antelope Hat, a free pattern by Kelly McClure, using one of the skeins of Manos Wool Clasica I'd purchased recently via Craftsy Deals. For some reason, I had a hard time following the pattern as written. I have no idea why, the pattern itself was well-done and quite celar, yet I found myself adding a few rows here and removing a few rows there. Nevertheless, I whipped this up in two days, completing the bulk of the work on the 7-hour train ride back to Chicago. The colorway is called Olivewood; I love how autumnal it is! Can you tell I'm ready for fall to be here?

Now for the moment we've all been waiting for (or maybe just me): the sad, sad tale of my Rockefeller Shawl! After many weeks of ignoring its existence, I decided that  the only way it would get done would be for me to take it on the trip. However, the thought of schlepping two balls of yarn and a mostly-finished shawl around didn't sound too appealing, so about four days before we left town, I decided I should go for broke and try to finish this thing once and for all.

All work on other projects halted and I somehow managed to meet that goal - I still don't know how! There I was, the morning of our trip, knitting like a maniac on my Rockefeller Shawl. I bound off and blocked it so that it could dry while I was out of town, and here it is....finished at last. As far as shawls go, I think it's lovely, though not what I would normally choose to make for myself. I do like the yarn/color combination I used (Malabrigo Sock in Alcaucil and Anzula Cloud in Denim) and will certainly find many occasions to wear it. All of that intarsia was a pain when it came to weaving in ends; I'm sooo glad I spend some time during the KAL weaving in the lion's share, or this post probably wouldn't happen til next year!



Thursday, September 20, 2012

New Free Pattern: Pikachu!

Both of my nephews are really into Pokemon (I suppose if anyone has kids under the age of 10, this is a ridiculously obvious statement, but bear with me), so for my nephew Jake's birthday this month, I thought I should knit him his very own Pikachu. Even though there are loads of cute Pokemon crochet amigurumi out there, I consider my newfound crochet skills remedial at best. Yep, better stick to the knitting on this one! Of the very few knitted Pikachu patterns I found, I couldn't find one that looked quite right, so I set to work making up my own.

This necessitated a lot of research via google image search (and resulted in this pinboard of some of the crazier things I came across along the way) and lots of trial and error. I did write down the play-by-play of what I did and hope someone finds it helpful. Please be my guineau pigs (as in, test knitters) by downloading a free PDF from my Ravelry pattern store if you fancy! Should you find any errata, please kindly alert me via Ravelry PM.

I've also got a top secret sock pattern coming out next week - please click here to sign up for my monthly e-newsletter to be notified when it goes live (you might even get a nice discount on your PDF purchase, wink wink)!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Kansas City in Instagrams

Today I'm back in Chicago after spending a long weekend with my husband and our families in Kansas City. We both needed a trip out of town that wasn't for business (or a family emergency). This mini-vacation was laid-back, filled with food, family, friends, knitting, and most importantly....BEER!

Early on in the trip, I finished my Indigo Swan Cowl. It proved to be the perfect train knitting project - an easy-to-memorize pattern that I could absentmindedly knit no matter how tired I got. I used up pretty much all of the skein, too - after binding off, there were only a few yards left.

the first day we were in town was my Dad's sixtieth birthday, so my mom and I treated him to lunch at Beer Kitchen. Our server brought him some drunken donuts for dessert and he was a pretty happy guy!

We stayed with Tyler's parents downtown and took some time one morning to explore the historic graveyard that their balcony overlooks. I lived in Kansas City til I was 23 and never went there - nor have we checked it out in the five or so years the Ritters have lived nearby. It was established in 1852 (or so) and apparently there are some confederate soldiers buried there. Yikes! If the historical society had been open that morning, I would probably have more interesting stories to share, but instead I walked around looking for the most interesting names and headstones:
We've always wanted to take a brewery tour of Boulevard Brewing when we were visiting, but they sell out in the blink of an eye. Tyler's dad had a hot tip that they take walk-ins for no-shows - and you'd be surprised how many people didn't show up on Friday afternoon!The tour is FREE, and at the end you get to taste four beers on tap...who doesn't want to see the inside of a brewery AND drink free beer?!
We learned a lot about the brewing process, got to stand in the barrel aging room and inhale the angel's share (which is what they call the wonderful smell of beer aging in repurposed whiskey barrels), and sample a test brew that we hope will become a for-sale beer someday (it was ginger and lemongrass - very crisp and refreshing)!
I'm glad I decided to pack my Color Affection at the last minute since the weather ended up being much cooler than I was expecting! This awesome PBR Sock Monkey Mural is outside of The Velvet Dog, which is walking distance from where we were staying. Love it!



Saturday, September 15, 2012

Deal Alert: Craftsy's Endless Summer Sale!

Craftsy's Endless Summer Sale
Just announced: Craftsy's Endless Summer Sale! All weekend long (and ends at midnight on Monday, September 17), all online courses are only $19.99 (or less!). If you haven't taken a Craftsy course yet, it's a great time to give them a try; the average course costs between $30-$50.

I admit, I'm kind of a serial Craftsy-course taker.  I learned to crochet via Vickie Howell's Crochet Lab; Gwen Bortner taught me to Entrelac. I've signed up for Stacey Trock's Amigurumi Woodland Animals, Carol Feller's Celtic Cables, and Felicia Lo's Spinning Dyed Fibers, too. I even signed up for this workshop to make my own lip balms and body butters (I still haven't given a shot to date, but it'll happen...eventually).

I hope you find something fun to broaden your crafting horizons this fall. Let me know what class you decide to sign up for!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Lateral Socks = Done!

I think I surprised even myself by finishing these socks in less than a month! There's something to be said for a simple, easy-to-memorize sock pattern. Cookie A's Lateral Socks were clearly the perfect choice for the gradual color changes of the yarn I used, Wisdom Poems Sock (purchased via Craftsy Deal). I'm so happy with how these turned out, I may even make another pair sometime soon!
Need some more FO Friday fun in your life? Click here to check out more finished projects via the Tami's Amis blog!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A Jam-Packed Weekend

Feeling German in Lincoln Square
As luck would have it, all of my favorite things for fall converged upon this past weekend: Renegade Craft Fair, the German-American Festival in Lincoln Square, and the Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Festival (this was my first time attending, but anything yarn-related falls under the rubric of 'favorite things for fall'). I'm not one for large crowds of people and, as a general rule, I don't leave the house very much on a day-to-day basis now that I work from home. However, these three events (plus my local farmer's market) were enough to tempt me away from the homestead and go out amongst my fellow humans. I'm so glad I did!

On Friday night, Tyler and I hit the German-American Festival and had a few litres of beer. Yes, more than one...probably not the best plan ever, but it sure was fun! Plus, we arrived just as the festival opened, and there was nary a line for tickets, food or beer. That's the way to fly! You'll note that the poles behind Tyler are wrapped in carpeting...apparently people drinking liters of beer have impaled themselves in years past. I'm guessing this is their solution, since the carpet was a bit too high to be considered a cat scratching post.

Smiling Sheep @ WSWF!
I was up bright and early on Saturday morning for my trip to the Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Festival with my pal Lauren (mental note: don't drink two litres of beer the night before). I'm so glad we decided to go this year - it was fantastic! There were two barns full of vendors, and I had a hard time holding back. There was a great selection of regionally-produced yarns and fibers, plus some vendors from other parts of the country, too.  We missed the sheep-shearing demonstration, which I heard was really fantastic, but did manage to hit the hall of breeds, see a shetland-judging competition, witness many bleating sheep, and watch one very feisty shetland refuse to walk obediently on a lead. All in all, a fantastic time! You can view all of my photos here on Facebook (don't worry, you don't have to join the site to view my photo album). If money had been no object, there's no telling what I would have brought home...probably an actual sheep! Here is my (modest?) booty:

I bought one braid of merino on sale for $6, a couple of hand-whittled wooden shawl pins, and some lovely yarns from Green Mountain Spinnery, Bijou Basin Ranch and Ogle Design.

Tyler and I hit Renegade Craft Fair on Sunday afternoon to browse, drink a few beers, and enjoy the wonderfully fall-ish weather. The fair was a little bigger this year - there was an offshoot of vintage-specific vendors, for instance - and I thought that there was a pretty good mix of vendors, too. For instance, there wasn't an overabundance of items with birds on them, too many zombie-themed whatevers, or (as in the case of last year) a multitude of terrarium vendors that caused me to question how there could be such a high demand for terrariums. There did seem to be more baby and kid-oriented vendors, but I think that's become the wicker park demographic, which would explain the number of people who were attempting to push their strollers through the crowd (I never understood that, isn't it hard enough to walk through the crowd as a single person?!).

I think I was already at my saturation point for crowds and looking at pretty things, but It was great to see many of my poster-making friends as well as my favorite vendors who I count on to attend Renegade in Chicago every year. Here's what I ended up walking home with:


T-Shirt by Dan Grzeca, art print by Dan's daughter Ella, two skeins of yarn from Rhinofluff, and a soy wax candle from Nicolet Candle Company...a pretty great haul!

Monday, September 10, 2012

How Many Hats?

Apparently, I've been knitting a lot of hats this year:


L-R: Simple Things, Roscoe Village Hat, Amaranth Hat, Topiary Beanie, Hendreary Hat, East Falls Hat, and the Union Long Beanie. I think there are even a few that are not pictured, these are just the ones I could find when rounding them up for a photo shoot!

It's been quite a weekend - I attended the German American Festival, Renegade Craft Fair, and the Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Festival! If anyone knows me, that is more "outings" than I typically partake of in the span of a month, much less one single weekend! I'll be sharing photos and other tidbits just as soon as I recover from all of the excitement!

Friday, September 7, 2012

FO Friday: Hendreary Hat

Ever since I snagged Whimsical Little Knits 3, I've been dying to make this colorwork hat. I bought the yarn back in July during Bijou Basin Ranch's Fourth of July flash sale, but didn't cast on til mid-August. It's a nice, easy-knitting colorwork hat and I'm really thrilled with how it turned out.

Both colors are hand-dyed, but as you can see the Cadet blue color has a lot more variation within the skein, producing a kind of trippy effect! The yak/cormo blend yarn (Bijou Bliss) feels sturdy yet soft when you knit with it, but the real treat is what happens after you give it a good blocking: the yarn relaxes and blooms, becoming even softer than before! My hat actually grew in size to a slouchier version of a beanie. These are the kinds of surprises you get when you throw caution to the wind and don't gauge, but at least this time it was a pleasant surprise.

I'm hoping to wear this tomorrow, when I head up to the Wisconsin Sheep & Wool festival with my pal Lauren. There are some great vendors (among them a few of my clients) and I am expecting a bit of a yarn-and-fiber-blowout. I'll be sure to share my photos with you, if I survive this weekend - besides a day trip to Wisconsin, I'll also be stopping by the 92nd annual German-American festival in Lincoln Square, hitting our neighborhood's block party on Saturday, heading to the farmer's Market on Sunday morning, and browsing the Renegade Craft Fair on Sunday afternoon. It kind of makes me tired just thinking about it!

Pattern: Hendreary by Ysolda Teague (from Whimsical Little Knits 3)
Yarn: Bijou Bliss in Cadet and Steel (1 skein each)
Needles: Knitter's Pride Cubics Special Interchangeables

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Fresh Designs Series: Sweaters + Men

I wanted to take a few weeks before revisiting the two Fresh Designs Series books I have yet to review (Fresh Designs: Sweaters and Fresh Designs: Men). For those of you who missed last month's review of Fresh Designs: Scarves and Fresh Designs: Shawls, you can click here to get up to speed. There are also a lot of general notes about the book series as a whole, which I'll summarize in the following bullet points before we move on to the task at hand:

  • Graphics: A clean, modern aesthetic. Patterns are clearly written and laid out in a way that's easy to follow and include well-shot photos of each design. Bonus points for non-conventional models!
  • Stitch patterns are written out and charted when necessary. Charts are readable and easy-to-follow (only one lace design has an unavoidably small chart)
  • Patterns have all the information you need right there - no rifling through the book to find the symbol or abbreviation key. 
  • Each garment has at least 4 size options, sometimes more. In general, sizing begins at Small and works up to XL or XXL.
  • The series features a diverse crowd of designers, including several who are up-and-coming.
  • There is an impressive range of indie dyers used throughout the book (and even a few commercial brands, too): The Sanguine Gryphon (now Cepahlopod Yarns and The Verdant Gryphon, of course), Yarn Love, Kangaroo Dyer, Three Irish Girls, Berocco, Rowan, Blue Sky Alpacas, and Debbie Bliss...to name a few! 
Ziggy Cardigan by Pamela Wynne

Now that you have the general overview, let's get to the good stuff! Fresh Designs: Sweaters features 10 women's sweater designs - pullovers, hoodies, cardigans, and even a few camisoles to round out the mix. One of my favorites is a ballet-wrap cardigan by Alexandra Virgiel called Claire M, so named for the designer's inspiration, the work of an American fashion designer in the '30's, '40's and '50s, Claire McCardell. Other highlights include Pamela Wynne's colorwork cardigan Ziggy, the stylish Sophia Goes to Houdan jacket with twisted-stitch details, and the Lacy Summer Camisole. For those who are more into the bohemian look, Crescent and Anina are sure to become wardrobe staples. Rounding out the collection are a few more timeless pieces such as the Classic Cabled Crew, the Knots and Cables Vest, and the Everything Nice Hoody. Oh, and the Beach Vines Pullover wins the prize for best photo, hands down!
Claire M by Alexandra Virgiel

However, I was most intrigued by Fresh Designs: Men. I find it's pretty difficult to find truly great (not to mention wearable) men's designs, so whenever I see a book or collection that is dedicated to solving this problem, I take note. I was certainly impressed with the ten designs offered by the series. Truth be told, there were several that I'd like to make for myself! 

Cooper Scarf
by Amy Duncan Lingo
In the accessories department, Amy Duncan's Cooper Scarf can be worn several different ways; the Brick Stitch Scarf features clever slip-stitch colorwork; the quick-knitting cabled Baume Socks use just 460 yards of worsted-weight yarn; and two textured hats round out the mix (the Abalone Cove Hat and Rhythm Maker's Hat).  I could envision knitting any of these accessories for my husband, dad, or even my nephews. 

Brian Cardigan
by Ruth Garcia-Alcantud
The ultimate test comes with the five sweater designs - it's so hard to find a good men's sweater pattern! Of course, the only person I'd knit a sweater for, other than myself, prefers a plain stockinette v-neck knit in my choice of black yarn - my husband is very much a "basic" kind of guy. In a perfect world, I could make Ruth Garcia Alcantud's Brian Cardigan (in black yarn, of course) for Tyler. Or perhaps myself - I love those cables! 

The other design that really grabbed me was the Riga Sweater by Susi Ferguson. The entire sweater is knit in the round with a simple slipstitch stripe pattern. It's a little tough to see in the photo, but the hem and cuffs feature a Latvian braid detail. It's pretty stunning!    

The Stairway Sweater is a basic garter rib crewneck that sneaks in a little bit of colorwork to keep the knitter interested. It might a bit flashy for the average guy, but with the right colors, you can probably get away with it. If you're in need of a few safer options, the Gone Fishin' sweater and the Sartor Vest are nice, classic designs that would appeal to just about any guy; knit one in their favorite color and I'm sure they'd never take it off. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Sock Progress!

I've had quite the productive weekend so far - I got caught up on work Saturday morning, finished a new design that's been on the needles since February of this year (and been in the works since last fall, truth be told), finished my nephew's birthday gift, and made some serious progress on my Jelly Beans and Lateral socks:
Looking forward to making even more progress today. Hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday weekend!