Pattern: The Ballard Pullover

I’m so excited!  I finally get to share one of the patterns I’ve been working on!  And it might be my absolute favorite!

Here it is, the Ballard Pullover:

51910220_7Oooh, aah!

The Ballard Pullover is inspired by (ahem) Ballard, my favorite neighborhood in Seattle.  Ballard was historically a very working-class neighborhood, full of Scandinavian fishermen and boat hands.  But, in the last couple years it has become the newest cool neighborhood in Seattle to find fantastic tapas, a vintage records, and hand-made jewelry.  I think this pullover captures that feeling: traditional comfort with a slightly modern edge.  It’s an updated version of the traditional Fisherman’s Sweater.

51910220_12Knit seamlessly from the bottom up, the sweater is knit in a fantastic squishy texture  that looks and feels great, and make this sweater ultra-warm and cozy.  Generous panels of cabling on the underarms and sides flow smoothly into the raglan shaping of the shoulders.

51910220_14This quickly became my favorite sweater (which killed me, because I couldn’t show it to you guys for months!), and I’m sure it will become yours, too!

You can find the pattern here:

Ballard Pullover

Flower Loom

A few months ago, I received a little package from my mom.  Inside was a letter from my Great-Aunt Coletta and tiny brass instrument that looked like something Dumbledore would use to cast some esoteric spell.  Or maybe stab people.

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The letter said that the instrument (just about 3.5 inches long and about 1.25 inches wide) was a little loom for making flowers that had once belonged to my Great Grandmother Anna (Coletta’s mother).    Coletta wasn’t sure how it worked, and didn’t have the box or any instructions about how it worked, but if you looked closely on the height adjuster (the second spoked wheel can move up and down), you can see a name and a patent number.

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Flower Loom, Pat. No. 2011617.

My mom had done a little Googling and figured out how to make a simple rosette using the loom, and had even sent along a couple finished ones that she had made:

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Cool right?

But I wanted to know more!  What else could this little bad boy do?  When was it made?  Where did it come from?

A little more Googling later, and it turns out that the patent for the “Bucilla Floral Loom” was filed in August of 1935, and manufactured shortly thereafter.  It was designed to be super adjustable, so that you could make all sorts of flowers-different shapes, and sizes.

sizes[1]But, I still wondered what you were supposed to do with these little flowers.  Sure, they were cute, but not entirely practical.  Well, the internet provided answers for that question, too.  I found a booklet of patterns for the Bucilla Flower Loom (published in 1937, and available for a low, low price of 20 cents!)

lg_302A[1]In it, they show you how to make all sorts of things- baby blankets, afghans, dresses, jackets, and even a glamorous nightgown!

lg_302P[1]This has got me itching to break out my Floral Loom and going to work on some fantastic flowery garments!

Manly Socks

Here’s the annoying part about being a knitter:  When people learn about your hobby, they all want knitted things for their birthday/Christmas/Arbor Day.

And here’s the sick part about being a knitter:  You want to make stuff for everyone.

For example,  my father-in-law is notoriously hard to find gifts for, so when he mentioned to me that all he wanted for Christmas was a pair of hand-knit socks each year, I couldn’t help but oblige!  I even had a pair of fairly large manly-looking socks in my stash of finished projects in a lovely burgundy-brown color.  Easy-peasy!

He loved them, and wore them the rest of Christmas break (which made me very happy-it’s always great to see your work being appreciated).  But there was a problem:  They were WAY too small.

Not too small that he couldn’t get the socks on or anything, but my knitter’s eye couldn’t help but notice that the sock was pulling across the ball of the foot and the heel was much too close to the toe.

It drove me nuts!  I pulled out a couple skeins of sock yarn from my suitcase and started working on next year’s Christmas Socks then and there (what?  Don’t tell me I’m the only one that travels with a selection of yarns and needles.).

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Unfortunately, these socks are slow going, for many reasons.  First off, I kind of forgot about them for a while and they hid somewhere in my knitting studio.  Second, I’ve been crazy busy with a bunch of pattern writing and haven’t had time to finish these guys.

But most of all, these socks are annoyingly large.  A few extra stitches per row and several inches longer than my standard socks.  And, I picked a cool-looking, but annoyingly complicated basket-weave stitch.  It all adds up to very slow going,

Ugh.

Oh well, at least I have 5 more months to finish them!

Inspiration: Ziggy Stardust

I think it’s time we talked about David Bowie.

Specifically Ziggy-Stardust-era David Bowie.

Specifically his knit onesies (jumpsuits?).

Have you seen these?  And if, so did you realize they were knit?

tumblr_m6slctzmex1qh1g19o1_400[1] 9c8beedd3dd227fafffc073743173e49[1] david-bowie-ziggy-stardust-02[1]Amazing, right?!  Maybe this is due to my age, but I only just recently realized that these outfits existed, much less that they were knit.

(Also, can you imagine performing a big rock show like that covered head-to-toe in wool?  I love my sweaters, but that’s just crazy.  Though, I guess no one ever accused David Bowie of being a practical person.)

I’m kind of obsessed with these outfits, designed in the 70s by avant-garde fashion designer Kansai Yamamoto.  I only wish there was a socially acceptable place for people to wear knit one-arm-one-leg-colorworked onesies in public.

You could make a plain one for yourself with this pattern:

Salwar Jumpsuit by Margery Winter

33_39_jump_window_medium[1]Or you could try making up a pattern yourself by combining these two patterns (minus one leg and one arm):

Nether Garments – Adult (September) by Elizabeth Zimmermann

1551948317_b5dccd83bd_z[1]Polar Dip by Amy Miller

ABU-PolarDip_148_medium2[1]Now I’m wondering if I can justify making a jumpsuit… Maybe?

Stoichiometry and Knitting

calculator[1]I don’t get to use my college degrees very often (they’re in a couple fairly impressive-sounding branches of biology and chemistry), but sometimes I get to use a technique I learned in school.  It always makes me happy to use to use things my professors never would have expected.

For example:  Stoichiometry.

Never heard of it?  Not a problem.  Stoichiometry is a fancy chemistry word for a really useful way to do conversions.

If you’ve ever figured out how many stitches there are an inch of sweater or how many rows you need to knit to make a  foot of scarf, you’ve probably done stoichiometry without even knowing it.

Here’s the idea:

You know how if you divide a number by itself, it equals 1?  (Like:  2/2=1)  Stoichiometry tells you that you can do the same thing with words, units, and variables (remember x from high school algebra?).

So what does that mean?  Let’s take a really simple example:

1We can cancel out the “sts” from the top and bottom, so the answer (1) doesn’t have any units.

Now, that example is kind of useless to us, right?  So let’s use stoichiometry to do something that really is useful.  Figuring out how many rows we need to knit to get a 7 inch-tall sock.

Start by making a list of everything you know:

  • Our gauge is 12 rows/inch.
  • We want a 7 inch sock.

You could probably figure this one out in your head (or just on a calculator), but let’s do it the long way for example’s sake.

Start with the number that has a single unit (in this case the “7 inch” finished length) then, build your equation, multiplying across, and making sure that you cancel out your units as you go:

4 We can cross out the units that appear on the top and on the bottom (in this case, the “inches”).

Then we just multiply across, and the answer to the problem gets whatever unit is left (in this case, “rows”)3

So, in this example, if you have a 12 row/inch gauge and you want to knit a 7 inch sock, you have to work 84 rows.

Does that make sense?  Want to do one more (slightly complicated) example?

OK:  Imagine you’re designing a sweater pattern.  You want the front to be covered with fair-isle patterned stripes that are 8 rows tall.  You want to calculate how many stripes you will need to work to cover the front.

Here’s what we know about your sweater:

  • Gauge: 6 rows/inch
  • Sweater length from hem to shoulder: 22 inches
  • Stripe width: 8 rows/stripe

So, let’s set up the formula (starting with the sweater length- remember, begin your calculation with the number with the single unit.)

5(See how I flipped the 8 rows/stripe upside down, so it’s 1 stripe/8 rows?  That’s totally OK!  And, actually really important.  Flip any/all of your numbers, if it makes the units cancel out correctly.  Just remember, if you flip your the number, make sure you flip your units, too.)

Once everything is lined up correctly, start crossing out units that cancel:

6Then multiply across:7And then divide the top by the bottom.8So, in this example, you’d need to work 16.5 Fair Isle stripes to cover the entire front of your sweater.

Cool right?  (Or maybe that’s just me being a math nerd.)

Of course, you don’t have to use stoichiometry to work these things out, but it’s a great tool to have in your pocket- you never know when it will come in handy.

Do you think you’d ever use this technique to calculate bits of your pattern?  Do you have a different technique for calculating things?  Or do you avoid math completely?

Help me! I think I have a problem!

And that problem is that I’m now obsessed with lace shawls.  I can’t stop looking at patterns.  I’ve even gone digging through my stash and found a bunch of yarn I could use .

Sock yarn!

I’ve been collecting sock yarn over the years, and I have a big box of it next to my desk.  Sometimes I open it up and dig around in it just for fun.  But now I think I want to make a lace shawl with some of my sock yarn (despite having absolutely zero time for “fun” knitting right now.)

So here’s your task: talk me out of knitting one of these shawls.

I love the garter stitch body on this one, with the big openwork edge and the chunky braided cable.  Gorgeous and elegant!  Look at those huge eyelets along the edge!  So pretty!

French Cancan by Mademoiselle C

DSC_8833_medium2[1]I love this one, too.  It’s not exactly lace-y, but it is completely beautiful.  And I could use up a bunch of little skeins of leftover yarn to make the gradient stripes!

Song of the Sea by Louise Zass-Bangham

DSC_6050_-_Version_2_medium[1]And how great would this one look with a soft gray garter stitch panel and deep burgundy or forest green for the lace edging?  *Drool.*

Henslowe by Beth Kling

IMG_1366Or, of course, I could (should) just keep on working on the projects I’ve already committed to.  But where’s the fun in that?

A Short Pause

I love being busy.  To me “a day with nothing to do” means “a day I can work on extra projects.  I  could work on my yard, knit up a sweater, write out a new pattern, make some peach sorbet, or get a jump on my blog writing.

But, it seems like this summer it’s been a little too busy.

I’ve been keeping up with the blog, of course, and working my two day jobs.  I’ve been working on several super-secret freelance design projects (stay tuned for more details!).  Plus, I have a puppy to take care of, a house to keep clean and dandelions to battle in the yard.  And, we keep having visitors stop by.

I love all of these things-  Our house guests have been fantastic, my jobs are great and I couldn’t be happier with how my patterns are turning out.

But there are only so many hours in the day, and I’m starting to get a little frazzled.

Luckily, today is a magical, amazing, special day.  A day when I don’t actually have to go into work!  It’s 9:30, and I’m still in bed.

Sure, I’ve already put in a good hour and a half of knitting time and I’m writing today’s blog post from my laptop, but it’s so much more pleasant to “work” from bed with music playing and a cup of coffee, my pup curled up at the foot of my bed.

My goal today is to knit as much as possible.  And that’s it!  It’s kind of great to only have one thing to do today.

So, I’ll sip my coffee, listen to my music, and knit another row.  (And then another, and another.)

Sometimes that’s all you need to refresh your brain.

And now, a picture of my dog having a very important conversation with his squirrel toy:

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Inspiration: Lace Shawls

All this talk about lace (and blocking lace) has gotten me itching for a new project (despite the fact that I have a million other projects I need to be working on, and I’m working more than 40 hours a week for the summer- Wheee!).

I usually am not terribly girly with my clothes. You can find me more often in flannel and jeans than dresses and lace.  But, I admit- I’m a sucker for a gorgeous lace shawl.

There’s something fantastically satisfying about knitting up something beautiful and complicated- especially with beads.  Lace shawls drape amazingly and are simply gorgeous.  I don’t even wear most of the ones I’ve made over the years.  I have several hanging on my walls as art.

And when I’ve had a bad day, I love ogling lace shawl patterns, and lusting after skeins of luxury lace yarn at my local yarn shop.

Sigh…

Rainshine by Boo Knits

rain3_zpsrsexz0oo_medium2[1]Out of Darkness by Boo Knitsdarkness6_medium2[1]Snow Angel by Boo KnitsIMG_7621_medium2[1]Do you have a guilty knitting pleasure?

Blocking: Lace

Nothing makes me happier than finishing a big lace project- a shawl, a scarf, or a fancy-pants sweater, and stretching it out across my blocking boards.  There’s something alchemical and transformative about blocking lace.  It’s kind of magical.

You start with a little blob of knits, purls and yarn overs, and toss it in some water to soak.

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It stretches, and changes, and I think I’m going to accidentally rip it in half (especially if it’s something particularly delicate).  But, then, I get it pinned out, and hey, presto!  You can suddenly see all the lovely stitch detail.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEven when you remove it from the board, the fabric is totally transformed from the ugly knot you started with.  Now, it’s flat, beautiful and incredibly drape-y and wonderful.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd, of course, pinning out scallops and points on finished lace shawls always makes them look even better!  (Remember how we tried to avoid stretching the knitting so much that it made points on scarves and socks?  You can do it on purpose now!)

Here are a couple shawls I’ve made over the years with interesting borders:

Panache by Lankakomero

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Aeolian Shawl by Elizabeth Freeman8176172544_3cfd6827e5_z[1]

Knitting lace can be a tedious and slow process, but there’s nothing more satisfying than pulling out the last pin from your dried shawl and looking at your beautiful creation.

It’s too %^*$ing hot

I don’t like it.

I refuse to accept that it’s this hot.

It’s been in the upper 80s/low 90s for weeks at this point, and I’ve really and truly begun to melt.

This is not why I moved to Seattle.  I was promised 60s and raining.  Sweater weather.

Not tank-tops and shorts weather.

Sure, I lived in Austin for several years and central Illinois for almost a decade, but in those places at least people had air conditioning.  We don’t have AC, and most businesses around here don’t either.

My work sure doesn’t.  There’s nothing like hanging out with a dozen cranky pre-teens as they sweat and dehydrate.  Ugh.

And, my poor pup is handling the heat about as well as I am.  (Here he is waiting for us to fill up his pool.  Notice how all my grass has died-except for the dandelions.  I am convinced that nothing short of nuclear winter will kill dandelions.)

11242554_10105201950730850_1616358060907359022_oI know, I know.  I’m being whiny.  But, it’s exhausting.

And It’s made me thoroughly uninterested in knitting.  (Which really stinks.)  In fact, this post was supposed to be an update on my progress on the “Husband Sweater.”  But, honestly, I’ve probably knit about one inch of sleeve since I last posted about it in May (sorry, Tristan!).

Instead, I’ve been drinking lots of water, eating Popsicles and trying my best not to move.

I hope your summer is going well, and you’re staying cool and hydrated.  And that you’re still interested in your knitting.  I’m sending you happy, air-conditioned vibes and best wishes for your summer knitting.