Monday, November 30, 2015

Review: Fine Things for Plain Occasions

Hunter Hammersen's newest book of patterns arrived in the mail last week at just the right time - I was wanting to indulge in a little startitis, but couldn't seem to land on a pattern to cast on. Once I flipped through the book, I knew I wanted to get something on the needles, and I grabbed some yarn and started the Suitable for Use hat that very day.
Fine things for plain occasions by Hunter Hammersen
I'd seen a preview of Fine Things for Plain Occasions (available here from Pantsville Press) at TNNA and knew the patterns would be great as always - I love Hunter's aesthetic; seeing the finished book just added another layer to it all. In the forward, she explains that she's been collecting vintage etiquette guides for many years now, and they are the inspiration for the patterns: each design is accompanied with an actual quote from one such guide (from which the pattern names are also derived). Each piece has a vintage flair to it, but with a modern twist, and the pattern layout has vintage flourishes which I am sure are also inspired by the same.
Fine things for plain occasions by Hunter Hammersen
Left: Knowledge of What Was Sensible; Right: A Lady is Known.
The patterns are especially focused on socks; they comprise 8 out of the 15 total patterns. Also included are two fingerless gloves, three neckwear/shawls, and two hats. If you're familiar with Hunter's work, you'll find the well-written patterns you are accustomed to here in this book, complete with clearly written instructions, charts, and helpful notes. Instead of specifying a specific yardage for patterns, each pattern states the size shown in the sample and the yardage used, and then gives a general yardage amount to make any of the listed sizes - perfect for destash knitting. There are tons of photos of each design (the average amount is about 3-4 for each one) so that you can see the stitch pattern and other details clearly. One other note about this book, it is available only as a hardcover, and it's a nice, thick, sturdy book to add to your library.
Fine things for plain occasions by Hunter Hammersen
Fine things for Plain Occasions is available in both print & eBook format. You can find it on Ravelry, Amazon, and on the Pantsville Press website.

Friday, November 27, 2015

FO Friday: Pennant Cardigan from Knitscene

What perfect timing - last weekend, we had our first snowfall, and I finished my Pennant Cardigan from the 10th anniversary issue of Knitscene! It's designed by my pal, Mari Chiba, who is profiled in the issue by none other than....me. I'm super excited to finally have this project off the needles, just in time to wear for the holidays.
A rainy Thanksgiving meant our photo shoot had to be held indoors.
I started this project in August using 100% yak sport weight yarn from Bijou Basin Ranch; at the time, I knew I wanted to use handspun for the colorwork yoke, but I hadn't even purchased the fiber I'd be using for it! Luckily, a mostly stockinette sport weight sweater takes a long time for me to knit, especially when I have all kind of other projects and KALs to distract me. That allowed me to find the PERFECT gradient roving at the Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Festival - a merino/silk braid from Fiber Optic Yarns in the Raven colorway. 
On Monday, I shared the process of how I approached spinning the weight of yarn I needed for this project (click here if you missed it). I was able to spin the yarn in just one weekend once I realized I was very close to being ready to start the colorwork yoke. My 4-day birthday staycation was the perfect time to focus on this project, and by the time last weekend rolled around, I was down to just the finishing work to mark this project 100% complete. After weaving in the ends, I blocked it in Prairie Breeze Allure (which I've decided is now my favorite scent) and then laid it flat to dry on my massage table (aka, the world's most expensive blocking mat). 
I ended up breaking the yarn in between each colorwork section so that I could "skip ahead" a bit in the gradient. I know it's pretty subtle, but I really like the black-to-deep-blue-green progression.
This would probably be more apparent in natural light.
I suppose this technically isn't 100% done: I have yet to sew on allllll of those buttons. Not my favorite task! For the moment, I am putting this off because a) I still need to purchase said buttons and b)I almost never button my cardigans, so I'm reticent to spend the effort, knowing that it is more or less in vain. I am sure that, at some point, I'll add buttons - maybe before I pack it away for the summer months.
Robin wanted to be a part of the photo shoot.
I also have plenty of yak yarn left to make a small project - I'm thinking about making these mittens for myself and using a few yards of SilverSpun yarn in the tip of the index finger so that I can use my phone without removing my gloves. I also have a lot of the handspun yarn left over which will be great for a small project, too! 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

WIP Wednesday: One Sweater To Go

Spoiler alert for FO Friday: over the weekend, I finished my Pennant Cardi! I'm now officially down to just one (adult-sized) sweater on the needles, and my goal is the use the Thanksgiving holiday weekend to make some serious progress towards the finish line on my Broad Shoulders Cardi:
On the smaller side of things, my striped baby sweater is coming along nicely - I'm almost done with the first sleeve:
And I had been keeping up with my one-pattern-repeat-per-day quota for the Miya Shawl KAL, when I got into the zone on Monday night and worked though 4 or 5 pattern repeats....which means that I am very, VERY close to the finish line - just one more repeat to go!
Over the weekend, I did succumb to startitis, but only a little: I started crocheting a teeny tiny christmas light garland using this free pattern from Repeat Crafter Me:
I have all of the lights I need crocheted to string across my knitting library, so now I just need to finish weaving in ends and hang it up with the rest of our holiday decor...which we already put up! I have to admit, I'm a little proud of this year's decorating endeavors. Each year, I make a few more handmade items to add, and I have two more projects in mind for this year. I can't wait to share them with you once they're finished.

Hope everyone here in the US has a safe & happy Thanksgiving tomorrow!


Monday, November 23, 2015

Sample Spinning

I'm not sure if I ever mentioned this, but I almost never plan out my spinning projects ahead of time. I just grab some fiber and fiddle with the wheel til things feel "right" and go for it...which is great if you don't have a project in mind for the end result, but lately I have felt the urge to spin yarn for specific projects. By now, I know my wheels well enough that I have a general idea of what will work to produce the yarn I want, but I thought it was better to err on the side of caution and spin some samples to be absolutely certain.

I happened to receive a pretty handy gadget from Spinzilla (which arrived broken, regrettably, but the good news is that the most important part was still usable...plus, there's always tape). Not only is this a nice tool to quickly identify the weight of any yarn, I have been using it to check my singles as I spin to make sure they are (reasonably) consistent. So, when I was spinning a sample for the yarn which ultimately was to be used for a sport weight cardigan, I made sure that my singles were a thin fingering weight (ideally, a little thinner than the line for fingering yarn on the gauge - and please pardon my chipped manicure below).
Sometimes, I take a photo of my wheel settings if I'm worried that I'll forget which ratio I was using so that I have it to refer back to later.
For my super bulky Swalesdale project (which will - eventually - become a very sturdy sweater), I'll be using my Louet Victoria wheel, which has a different build than the Ladybug above - when I remove the flyer, I don't have to also remove the drive band from the ratio settings (ie, I don't have to take a reference photo). Each Swalesdale single needs to be sport weight, which I'll then n-ply into a Bulky:

After I spun each sample, I let the singles rest, as I would if I were spinning a larger project. The next day, I plied them, then washed them in a no-rinse wool wash (Allure):
After that, it was time for the moment of truth: measuring them once again to make sure I was hitting my mark! It must have been beginner's luck, because both of my samples turned out to be exactly what I was aiming for.
I've heard that it's a good idea to take the samples and keep track of their details such as what wheel you used, how you spun them, fiber content, etc. I'm not sure if I'm ready to start a spinning sample notebook just yet, but perhaps that will be a project I embark on next year as the nature of my spinning starts to change from "just for fun" to "project based."

I'd love to hear any of your sample spinning tips in the comments!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Teeny Tiny FO Friday

Despite a 4-day weekend filled with lots and lots of crafting time last weekend, all I have to show for FO Friday is.....a tiny Bluebird of Happiness
Yup, that's it! I knit this little guy in just a few hours' time using some leftover Lorna's Laces Shepherd Worsted (in the Douglas Fir colorway) that was in my stash using the free Bluebird of Happiness pattern from Ravelry. I think I might add a little loop at the top so that it can be used as a tree ornament for the holidays! 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

WIP Wednesday: All the Progress

You may have noticed I took Monday off from blogging (or perhaps you didn't notice at all, except for now I just drew attention to that fact). I took a four-day weekend to celebrate my "birthday staycation," which was pretty much just four days filled with doing as many craft projects as possible, mostly of the knitting variety. I probably made the most noticeable progress on my yak sweater, which is so. close. to. being. done. Please excuse the indoor photos and lighting, it has been really dark and rainy all week!
Check out that oh-so-subtle gradient yoke:
The Royals-inspired striped baby cardi with my Spinzilla prize yarn has also seen quite a bit of progress since last week:
I continued to work on my one-pattern-repeat-a-day quota for the Miya Shawl KAL, and over the weekend I passed the halfway point - just look at how loooooong and hard-to-get-in-frame it's become!
The spinning wheel also got dusted off as I embarked on a sheep to sweater project using 3 pounds of Louet Swalesdale fiber. I filled a bobbin on Monday which will be the first of many, I'm sure.
Lastly, I started a project which has nothing to do with knitting, crocheting or spinning. Several months ago, I bought a project kit to sew a cat head garland, and I decided that I would sew one each day over the course of this week so that I can assemble the whole thing over this coming weekend.
That's pretty much it for this week, thanks for stopping by!

Friday, November 13, 2015

FO Friday: Aloha Project Kit from Skeino

I was recently sent a project kit from Skeino for review on my blog, and you have probably seen my WIP photos of the Aloha Hat & Scarf kit over on Instagram as well as here on the last couple of Wednesdays. In addition to sending me a free project kit, the Skeino folks were also kind enough to create a coupon code for my readers (found at the end of this post)!
Aloha Hat-Scarf Kit in Hapuna
I was pretty excited to give this kit a try because I don't knit many entrelac projects, so it's nice to have a reason to revisit this technique, which I learned via a Craftsy course I took 3 or 4 years ago. Since then, I've knit a handful of entrelac projects here and there, and while I don't really keep that skill set sharpened, it's pretty easy to jump back in whenever I need to. Sometimes I'll re-watch the Craftsy class videos to get a refresher, although there are some really great free tutorials online which will do the trick if you don't want to pay for a class.

Two of my favorite entrelac lessons are from VeryPink.com (which is a video tutorial) and Crazy Aunt Purl (which is a photo tutorial). They might be great links to keep handy if you want to try knitting this kit and you are new to entrelac, but honestly, I think most adventurous knitters can get the hang of it just by following the instructions as written. I found the pattern to be much easier to follow than other entrelac patterns I've encountered - in fact, what I like so much about the Aloha pattern is that there is NO pick-up-and-purling, which is probably the trickiest part of the whole entrelac knitting experience in my opinion.
Finished cowl, pre-blocking and a little bunchy.
The yarn was also quite a treat: I really liked the corriedale sock yarn which came in the kit: it was bright and colorful, and the yarn was quite sturdy with a nice twist to prevent excessive snags and splitty plies. Entrelac involves a LOT of picked-up stitches, so using a yarn that is not prone to snagging or splitting is key to both your happiness while knitting the project, but also the finished product.
I used Knitter's Pride blocking mats, wires and Knit Blockers to block out my cowl.
As you can see, crazily-variegated skeins of yarn are great for the entrelac technique - but the magic doesn't stop there. Once you have finished knitting your project, be sure to block it out: you'll see a pretty stunning transformation!


The Aloha Hat & Scarf kit is a two-in-one accessory which can be worn either as a hat or a cowl; personally, I prefer the cowl, but you can see how this looks as a hat in the above video from the Skeino website. I wore it for the better part of yesterday and loved how the entrelac gave structure to such a lightweight cowl and kept it snugly around my neck (apologies for no modeled shots on today's blog - circumstances conspired against them this week, but I will try to share at least one this weekend over on Instagram). There are over 30 variegated colorways to choose from; I chose Hapuna (it's one of the few colorways which doesn't include pink or purple in it).
Finished, blocked & ready to wear!
Another plus for this project kit is the price point: at just $29.95 (plus shipping), it makes a great gift (either for yourself or a knitting friend), and you can save 10% on your purchase of the Aloha kit or ANY of their project kits, yarns, etc. - just enter HM-BY-STEFANIE at checkout.

Click here to see more at Skeino.com.

Here is the fine print for the coupon code::
- valid for orders worldwide between now and December 1st, 2015
- discount is not applicable to shipping cost
- voucher can only be used once per customer
- voucher cannot be used in conjunction with any other vouchers, promotions or discounts
- this coupon code has no cash value and can only be used on www.skeino.com
- not valid on previous purchases
- the above mentioned Terms & Conditions may be altered without any prior notice

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

WIP Wednesday: Under the Sweater Weather

On Monday night I started to have that feeling that I was coming down with something. Lo and behold, I got the cold that's been going around, and spent most of yesterday on the couch, attempting to accomplish some work to-do's (there are no sick days for the self-employed). I can always tell I'm not feeling well when it's even tough to knit, and I had a hard time getting through even the simplest rows on Tuesday night.

Thankfully, it was a productive weekend. I spun both gradient singles for my yak cardigan and am in the process of plying them together this week.
I also conquered the back piece of my Broad Shoulders KAL sweater; all that remains is the right front, two sleeves, and a button band - I can totally finish all that by December 13!
My Spinzilla prize was a gift certificate to Purl & Loop, and I received my order on Monday and couldn't resist casting on for a stripey baby sweater using Allyson Dykhuizen's Baby Sweater Buffet pattern: 
And I am still working on the Miya Shawl; I realized that I just had to knit one 12-row repeat each day in order to finish by November 30. I fell a bit behind at the start of the week, but plan on giving this project some extra attending this weekend, which has been decreed a 4-day Birthday Staycation. I am counting down the minutes! 
Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Knitter's Bookshelf: Top 3 Tech Editing & Design Resources

Earlier this year, I took the Joeli's Kitchen tech editing course, trained under a tech editor, and edited many patterns which have come out this fall - something I never would have imagined I'd do in the course of just one year, although tech editing has always been of interest to me.

I would definitely say that I am still refining those skills, though some things are easier for me than others. Obviously, my many years of sock knitting mean that I am quite comfortable tech editing a sock pattern, as I know the basic formula for socks backwards and forwards. I've also knit so many hats, cowls, mittens, etc. that almost any accessory pattern resides well within my comfort zone. 

What's been pretty far outside of that zone is sweater patterns. I've made a fair number of sweaters in my 10+ years of knitting, but I would by no means call myself an expert - and I'm definitely not on a sock pattern level of comfort with garments. 

Most of the sweaters I've knit have been seamless top-down construction, though I have made a few seamed sweaters, too. What I found challenging about tech editing sweaters was all of the many, many different types of construction (some of which I have never come across beforehand), and trying to visualize how the written directions would translate into a finished garment. I realized quickly that I would need some really good reference books to help me work through these unusual constructions, and I have found all 3 books to be helpful, not only when tech editing, but also when designing my own patterns or knitting the patterns of others. It occurred to me that others might also find these books as helpful as I have!

This book is jam packed with exactly the kind of stuff I was in need of: formulas, worksheets, schematics - all arranged by the type of construction (or "silhouettes," as the book refers to them). The focus is entirely on garments, with sweaters covered the most in-depth, although there is also a discussion of skirts and dresses in Chapter 6. You'll be amazed at how many variations there are when it comes to shoulders, armholes, necklines, and so many other little details (or perhaps you won't be...but I sure was). 

Other topics covered include planning a design (taking measurements, understanding ease, etc.), choosing yarn and a pattern stitch and translating gauge and measurements into the final design, and finishing techniques such as blocking, seaming, creating buttonholes and adding zippers. 

As the name would imply, this is a master's course on making sweaters, and I'm so glad I invested in a copy, which was just under $20 on Amazon (though I've seen it for less than $10 during Interweave's Hurt Book sale). 

I've had this book for years - I believe I bought it way before I attempted my first handknit sweater. This book is great because it lists general sweater measurements for both child and adult sizes, which is helpful because part of the Tech Editor's job is to also determine whether or not the design's finished measurements are within the realm of reason (basically, we should take note as to whether or not something would be too big or too small for the given sizes). 

The bulk of the book is sweater recipes which can be used at any gauge. The layout of the charts always throws me off when I am getting started, and I always have to flip to the front to reread the section on how to use them. But once I get a refresher, the patterns are easy to follow. Each style of sweater also has some variations to try (the book calls them copycats) by suggesting stitch patterns to substitute in for stockinette stitch. 

There are bottom-up and top-down seamed and seamless styles to choose from; if you are looking for generic recipes for accessories, I highly recommending The Knitters' Handy Book of Patterns by Ann Budd, which employs the exact same approach to designs for hats, mittens, scarves and socks. Bonus: both books are spiral-bound, which I love! 

3. The Knowledgeable Knitter by Margaret Radcliffe
I just got this book as an early birthday present and was incredibly impressed with it - just by thumbing through and glancing at a few pages, I picked up a few extremely helpful knitting tips. The section which most fascinates me is the second chapter, which talks about how to plan a project. It talks about the order of construction, cast on methods, and how to plan ahead for "perfect finishing." This last item is a really, really cool section because it shows actual knit examples of everything discussed: for example, it has a comparison of 1x1 ribbing knit 3 different ways to clearly illustrate why you would prefer one method over the other two. 

Other topics covered are pattern modifications, shaping and fitting considerations and techniques, fixing mistakes, finishing techniques, borders and embellishments, and more. Everything is clearly illustrated with photos, drawings or schematics, all of which are accompanied by well worded explanations. There are case studies which cover a lot of interesting topics, my favorites being the ones which convert patterns from flat to circular and vice versa. For some of the topics - such as darts for shaping, several options are offered up for consideration, along with a discussion of why one might be advantageous over the other in a given situation. 

If I had to choose one of these books to recommend to a knitter who had absolutely no interest in design or tech editing, I would definitely tell them to check out this book. This is one of those books I'll be turning to any time I get stuck on something, because I am pretty sure that it'll give me better advice that whatever random thing comes up on Google (not that there's anything wrong with turning to the interwebs for knitting help!). 

Friday, November 6, 2015

FO Friday: Surprise Socks

This week's FO project kind of came out of nowhere, as I have neglected to mention it here for nearly the entire time I was working on it. I can't even tell you when I cast on for these socks - it's been over 4 months, I'm sure - but I am pretty excited to finally have them off the needles!
I used a skein of Cascade sock yarn which was gifted to me and winged it for much of the pattern - I used a 2x2 rib cuff, followed by a 1x1 broken rib on the leg, the OMG heel, and then a stockinette stitch foot. All told, these should have been done in under a month's time, but they spent a lot of time in hibernation whilst I was distracted by other shinier projects.
What finally got me to finish these socks was the need for a nice, mindless project which I could work on in dimly lit bars while watching the Royals in the World Series. Along with my yak cardigan sleeves, these proved to be the ideal project, and I finished knitting them the night that the Royals won Game 5 - such great memories!

I'm so excited to have a new pair of socks to add to my sock drawer this winter!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

WIP Wednesday: Progress?!?

What a difference a week has made....for some projects! With the Royals in the World Series, I found myself doing a tour of dimly-lit bars to watch as many games as I could (my very lucky husband actually got to go to Game 2 at Kauffman Stadium last Wednesday!). This meant that I needed to work on projects which didn't require too much of my attention, and so my go-to project became a pair of socks which I never blog about (more on them later this week) and the sleeves for my Pennant Cardi. The night the Royals won the World Series, I finished the sleeves and was ready to join them to the body of the sweater as soon as I got home!
Of course, now I need to spin the yarn which I'll be using for the colorwork in the yoke.....so this project will be on the back burner til that happens.

Even though my Broad Shoulders KAL project doesn't leave the house, I managed to make some some decent progress - as you can see, I finished the left front and am now about halfway through the back!
I am also very close to the halfway mark on my Skeino Entrelac Cowl. This project is proving to be a very good one to take when riding the bus or train!

The only project which hasn't gotten a ton of my knitting time recently is my shawl for the Miya KAL. I am actually looking forward to picking this back up now that the series is over and I have more brain power to expend towards knitting. It's going to be such a pretty shawl when I finish it!

In other exciting news, one of my favorite products is hosting a bunch of giveaways this week over on Instagram! Click here to check out their feed & find out how you can win a Gleener of your very own. Don't forget to follow their account while you're there, I'm sure they'd appreciate it!

Monday, November 2, 2015

En Français!

I'm excited to announce that one of my patterns is now available in French! I was recently approached by a Raveler who offered to translate my Chittery Chattery sock pattern into French, and I couldn't say no!

Thanks to Guy (also known as tricotman on Ravelry), this free pattern is now available in both English and French. I took 5 years of French, but couldn't even pretend that I know enough to translate a knitting pattern, so I am quite appreciative of Guy's efforts. He noted that my super-clangy title was a big of a challenge for him to translate: "avoir un brin de jasette" or "piquer une jasette" translates to "having a chat" in Québec. Close enough for me!

Guy has a blog of his own which is in French located here - it's worth checking out, you can definitely get the gist of it through Google translate.

The Chittery Chattery socks are available as a free download in your choice of English or French here on Ravelry & are part of the Conversation Socks eBook.

Now that all of the Conversation Socks patterns are available as individual PDF downloads (in addition to the discounted eBook), I wanted to make these simple socks available for free as a preview of the rest of the collection. If you enjoyed knitting these socks, consider giving another pattern from the Conversation Socks collection a try!

Note: the rest of the Conversation Socks patterns are not available in French.