Vacation Yarn

Some people collect miniature spoons, or porcelain thimbles when they go on vacation.  Others collect magnets or key chains or tiny, personalized license plates.

I try my darnedest not to collect tschotchkes, but I still want something to remember my vacations by.  So, I’ve started collecting something that I think you guys could get behind.

Vacation yarn.

I try to buy a skein of vacation yarn whenever I go out of town for the last few years.  At first I would just get a skein or two of whatever piqued my fancy.  But now, after realizing I have a bunch of skeins vacation yarn in my stash that I’m probably never going to use for one reason or another, I have given myself Vacation Yarn Rules:

  1. The yarn must be purchased at a local yarn store- no online stores, no big box stores that happen to be in the area.  It’s gotta be something I can only get on location, or what’s the point?  (Plus, it’s a great excuse to go find a new yarn store!)
  2. The yarn must be spun, died, or both by a local yarn producer.
  3. The yarn must be in a colorway that reminds me of the vacation. (This rule has a little more wiggle-room than the others… I can pretty much convince myself that whatever skein I find the prettiest is the one that most closely matches the location.)
  4. One skein must be enough to make a complete project.  This means that 95% of my Vacation Yarn ends up being sock yarn.  But that’s great, because now I’ve got a bunch of pairs of Vacation Socks!

We just got back from a trip to Lake Tahoe, down in California (which is lovely by the way.  I highly recommend going in October- It’s practically empty, the weather is perfect for taking long walks along the lake or sitting in the sun with a cup of tea and some knitting.  And when the weather’s not perfect, it’s a great time to go inside and play board games with your buddies).

And, of course I got a skein of Vacation Yarn.

It’s from a very cute little shop in South Lake Tahoe, Knits and Knots Tahoe, and was hand dyed in the area. This sock yarn was dyed in a colorway called “Driftwood” and it’s a lovely brown-y olive, with little speckles of dark brown and a splash of bright leaf green.  It really reminded me of the colors of the area- the soft brown of the dead pine needles that cover the ground under the massive pine trees, and the green of the little plants peeking through the forest floor.  IMG_0486

I can’t wait until I have time to knit up my Lake Tahoe Socks!

What do you collect when you’re on vacation?

Guesstimates

I’ve been knitting for decades.

I’ve been knitting sweaters for almost as long.

I’ve been designing my own patterns for close to 10 years, and professionally writing patterns for more than 5 years.

And no matter how I try, I still can’t accurately estimate how much yarn I need for a project.

Example 1A: My Provincial Tweed Sweater.IMG_0331I’ve been working on this bad boy for a while now, off and on over the last few months.  I’ve gotten the body done to about hip length (it still needs the nice long ribbed hem that I have planned for it).  It’s currently 15″ from the underarm.  A nice, generous length for a sweater.IMG_0337I have used up 2 skeins of yarn to get this far.  I originally thought I’d use 10 skeins.

Now I’m thinking I’ll maybe use 4 skeins.  I’ve poorly estimated yarn yardage before, but dang… I was very very wrong this time.IMG_0322I guess everyone is getting blue tweed sweaters for Christmas.

Have you mis-estimated your yardage before?  How badly were you off?

In Defense of Garter Stitch

I was dinking around the internet the other day, snooping in knitting forums and not commenting (because that’s what I do). I came across a post about garter stitch.

“Aha!” I thought, “Another garter stitch enthusiast!”

But, was I mistaken!  This poster had written up an entire diatribe on how garter stitch was Dumb, Ugly, and Boring!  Heresy! (I’d link the post, but 1.  I don’t want to start any drama, and 2. I don’t remember where I found it.)

I didn’t reply at the time, because other people had already said everything that I would have said (more eloquently, and with fewer “How dare you”s).  And of course, everyone is entitled to their own opinions.

Unless their opinions are wrong.

IMG_0293Because garter stitch is a fantastic stitch!  It’s cozy and warm and squishy.  It’s incredibly meditative and satisfying.  It make fabric that’s extra warm.  It lays perfectly flat (perfect for scarves, blankets and dish cloths).

IMG_0315It’s simple to do.  And simple is not to say bad or ugly.  I think because garter stitch is often the first stitch that new knitters learn, it gets a bad rap as something that’s “just for newbies.” I’ve been knitting for over 20 years (which is crazy to say), and I love garter stitch more now than I think I ever have.  I’ll admit, there was a little while there when I looked down on it a bit.  For a while I thought if a pattern didn’t have crazy cables or intricate lace, it wasn’t worth my time.  But now, I have to say, I love going back to the basics.IMG_0284Which isn’t to say that garter stitch has to be basic!  There’s little I love more than a pattern with crazy cables running across a big field of garter stitch.  It’s squishy on squishy, cozy on cozy, and frankly, an unbeatable combination in my opinion.IMG_0298I’ve even been experimenting with variations on garter stitch!  I love how these garter stitch ribs break up what would otherwise be a boring swath of stockinette.

In summary, I love garter stitch.  (Of course, I also love ribbing and stockinette and lace and cables and twisted stitches and…)

Do you love garter stitch, too?

Prepped and Ready

I have about 37 different “favorite parts” of knitting.  I love picking out yarn, I love casting on, I love binding off.  I love trolling Ravelry for the perfect pattern, and I love deciding that Ravelry doesn’t actually have the pattern I’m looking for and deciding to go my own way. I love getting deep into a big swath of stockinette or garter stitch, and I love carefully picking my way through fussy little lace.

But my current (and by current, I mean “this morning.” It could change by this afternoon) favorite part of knitting is getting my yarn ready for knitting.

I just spent a quiet hour with a podcast, a cup of coffee and my yarn swift, turning these squishy, gorgeous skeins of yarn into usable little cakes.IMG_0227There’s something really meditative about spooling up skeins of yarn. Watching the swift spin faster and faster, and the yarn zoom around the ball winder is very calming to me.  Something about getting everything set and prepped and ready to be used is so satisfying.IMG_0236It feels like the first day of a new school year- all that promise.  Only instead of new notebooks and pencils in my Jansport, I’ve got all that lovely yarn stashed away in my knitting bag and the perfect set of needles ready to go.  I can’t wait to get knitting with this yarn.IMG_0263I’m sure I’ll get frustrated with this project at some point (I’m guessing at about 60% completion), but right now, I couldn’t be happier with it.

What’s your favorite part of starting a knitting project?

Inspiration: Dreaming of Pullovers

My love of pullovers is well documented, even if I haven’t said it in so many words.  I’ve written a dozen sweater patterns.  Only two of them are cardigans.

I don’t really have anything against cardigans, but there’s something just so wonderful about throwing on a pullover and being totally enveloped in lovely, warm wool.  It’s the closest I will ever come to my dream of it becoming socially acceptable to wear a blanket out and about.  Especially since the weather has started turning distinctly fall-ish around here, there’s nothing I want more than to snuggle up with a big, soft pullover, a book and a mug of steaming tea.

But, since I have a little baby now, (ahem) access is the major concern with all my outfits .  So, it’s cardigans for me for the foreseeable future.  (And cardigans worked exclusively in superwash wool, because… well… baby.)

But, I can still dream, can’t I?  I can comb through Ravelry and pick out all the pullovers I would totally be wearing if only I had the time to knit them up.

I love a simple, classic silhouette on patterns like this.  There’s nothing more versatile than a perfect, plain sweater.  As long as we’re daydreaming, I’d make seven of these in seven different colors/yarns so that I could wear a different one every day for a week. Heaven.

No Frills Sweater by PetiteKnitIngen_Dikkedarer_Sweater_4_medium2But, I might get bored making seven of the same plain sweater.  I could throw a few of these into the mix.  I love the twisted stitch details at the raglan seams and the cool, understated cable/twisted stitch pattern at the bottom.  It’s just enough to make the sweater a little fancy without being fussy.

Opteka by Isabell KraemerIMG_9756_medium2But, really, I want to make this sweater.  I’ve had my eye on it for years.  I think I even picked out yarn for it a few years ago (but then used that yarn for something else).  I don’t know why it’s so appealing to me- it’s just a basic, boxy raglan sweater with nice wide stripes.  (It has pockets too, which I like in theory, but I’d probably omit.)  Maybe it’s the 90’s kid in me; I do appreciate a good striped sweater.

Tea with Jam and Bread by Heidi Kirrmaierfullsizeoutput_a137_medium2If you could magically have a new knitted wardrobe, what would you include?  Lots of pullovers? Cardigans? Ponchos?

First Sock Syndrome

We’ve all heard of Second Sock Syndrome– that affliction that makes it nigh on impossible to make yourself knit the second sock of a pair.  I admit, sometimes I get a little flare-up of SSS, but it’s something that I try really hard to avoid.

But, I have to admit that I live with a related affliction.  Something just as (if not more) deadly than Second Sock Syndrome, but perhaps a little less common.  I’m here to raise awareness about FSS.  That’s right: First Sock Syndrome, otherwise known as Cuffonly Sockitis.

I realized that I might be having a bout of FSS this weekend when I went to grab a set of my favorite sock needles for a new project (5″ bamboo US2 dpns, if you’re wondering). I have 5 or 6 sets of these needles, so I figured I’d be able to just grab some from the jar on my bookshelf and go on my merry way.  But no!  I couldn’t find a single needle!

It turns out they’re all being used in socks.  And not second socks.  That would be too easy- just a couple hours work to free my needles and finish off a brand-new pair of socks!  Not a single sock in my house is past the heel.  They’re all firmly stuck mid-way down the cuff.IMG_0193I don’t even remember starting this sock.  I think I started it literally before we moved… almost 4 years ago.IMG_0195And this one… I don’t even know what to say. IMG_0198It looks like I started it, got bored with it, put it down, picked it up again, completely forgot what pattern I was working, and just guessed until I got a couple more inches knit.  Look!  You can clearly see where I totally forgot what I was doing.IMG_0202.JPGClearly, I have a problem, and clearly, I’ve got some knitting to do to finish/fix these socks.

Or maybe I’ll just go buy another set of dpns.

Do you ever get FSS?

Swatch Swatch Swatch

It’s finally happened- I’ve used up all my buffer posts.  Sure, I’ve been writing posts this summer from time to time, when I have a minute (or when the baby happens to have a really good nap), but this is the first one I’ve written that’s truly going out in the present!  Which is good, really.  It means that I can just write about what’s on my mind without worrying about the order that my posts are coming out in.

And I’d love to tell you all about what I’ve been doing…

But I can’t.

It’s the eternal knitwear designer/blogger problem.  I’m all excited about my current projects, but I have to keep them under lock and key (or at least off the internet) until they’re published, well into next year.

I gotta say, though, it’s great to be getting back in the designing game.  I took a decent-sized break around when the boy was born, but I’ve slowly been ramping up my freelance work in the last couple months.  It’s great to be able to stretch my brain again in non-nursery-rhyme-related ways.

And while I can’t show you what’s currently on my needles, I can show you what was on my needles.  My swatches.

Swatching gets a bad rap, and I get it.  Sometimes I just want to get on to the project and get knitting.  After all, that’s the whole point of knitting, right?  Making sweaters and socks!

But when I’m designing, I kind of love making swatches.  They’re fun little samples- I think of them like little sketchbook pages, but made with yarn.  IMG_0142

I used to rip out my swatches once I had determined my gauge, so I wouldn’t
“waste” that yarn on the swatch. (I’m nothing if not frugal.) But over the last few years, I’ve been keeping them.  The ones I’m particularly fond of are pinned up on cork boards in my studio, and the rest live, stacked up in my closet.  Sometimes I like to go back through them, to see if there are any ideas in there that I should bring out again.

And recently, I’ve added something to my swatches that I think will come in handy down the line.  On the backs, I’ve been stapling a little tag with the yarn, needle size, and gauge.  So, in theory, the next time I want to make something with Cascade 220 Superwash, I might already have the swatch all finished and ready to go.IMG_0148

Do  you keep your swatches?  What do you do with them?

Not Knitting

It’s been hot as… well, something that’s really hot.  It’s been too hot to really think.  And it’s definitely been too hot to knit.

Seattle doesn’t usually get more than a day or two of hot weather in the summer.  (I’m talking actual hot weather, not “Seattle Hot” where it gets to 75 degrees and everyone whines.)  But this year, we’ve had a couple weeks of upper 80s/low 90s, which is real miserable.  No one has air conditioning around here, and in the places that do (like the mall), it’s pretty disappointing.

So I’ve set my big blue sweater aside for the time being.  As lovely as it is, I’m not interested in sitting with a gigantic pile of wool on my lap.  No thank you.

Instead, I went diving into my craft room stash for something a little more seasonally-appropriate to do.

And, boy, did I hit the jackpot!  (Thanks, Past Allison!)

At some point, I must have been on a cross-stitching jag, and I bought three little cross stitch kits.  They’re cute little Christmas-y birds (that are inexplicably postage-themed?).  A goldfinch, a bluebird and a chickadee.I had already started the goldfinch- the “stamp” part was mostly done when I pulled it out the other day.  (I honestly have no memory of working on this cross stitch- I must have started it years ago!)  A couple days of work, and voila!   I’m working on the bluebird now.  I’ve already messed up the head, but I don’t think it’s terribly noticeable, so I decided not to unpick the problematic stitches- he’s just a slightly chubbier-than-normal bluebird.The birds are supposed to be made into little ornaments, but I’m not sure if that’s what I’ll do with them.  Maybe they’ll end up being part of a wall hanging quilt, or sewn into little pillows.

I suppose I should finish them before I go planning next steps.

What do you do when it’s too hot to knit?

Inspiration: GBBO

Other than knitting, I think my favorite hobby is baking.  I love making cakes and cookies, pies and buns.  The more complicated the better.  Last year I even made a dozen mini fruitcakes for my family for Christmas.  It involved a lot of baking, about 5 pounds of dried fruit and a whole bottle of brandy.  I even had a cookie baking blog back in the day.  I definitely love baking.

So naturally, one of my favorite shows is the Great British Bake Show (or Great British Bake Off, if you’re outside of the USA).  The contestants are all so talented!  I had been baking up a storm (pre-baby and pre-middle-of-summer-without-air-conditioning), making Victoria Sandwiches, Tea Cakes, and Swiss Rolls.  My husband has been working to perfect his Kouign Amann technique (which I’m happy to help him test).

And this season (Season 5 if you go by PBS, Season 3 if you go by the original BBC order), there’s something that makes Bake Show even better! That’s right… you guessed it…Sweaters!

Precisely, sweaters worn by one particular contestant and resident of the Shetland Isles, James!Every week he rolls up to the tent with yet another gorgeous Fair Isle sweater, vest, or cardigan.  I look forward to his knitwear almost more than the baking!

And in the spirit of James, let’s look at some amazing, full-on Fair Isle vests!

I love the neutral palette of this sweater, and the classic shape.  I could totally see wearing this to go compete in the tent!

Edward by Rita TaylorThis one is a little more modern, a little brighter, and a little more my style.  I like the slimmer cut and bright color choices.

#03 V-nek vest by Yoko HattaBut, I think this one is my favorite!  I love the interesting edging- no plain ribbing here! Plus, the Fair Isle pattern is crazy complex and absolutely gorgeous!  (Not that I’d ever have the patience to knit this guy up!)

Fair Isle Vest WG 54 (aka April in Wisconsin aka Traditions) by Meg SwansenDo you watch GBBO?  What’s your favorite baked good?

Pattern: Herring Cove Wrap

Hey! Guys!

Have you seen the new issue of Interweave Knits?It’s all about cables!  And you know how I feel about cables. (I’m pro-cable, if that was ever in question.)

Look at this wrap!  That’s an impressive amount of cables.Definitely something I’d make- I mean, come on!  It’s a massive wrap covered all over with intricate, squooshy cables.  Yes please.

Oh, wait just a second… look!That’s right! I’ve got a pattern in Interweave Knits!

I’d say it was a dream come true, except that I never really believed that I’d be able to do it.  I remember buying back-orders of Interweave in high school because I couldn’t afford to get an actual subscription.  It always seemed so fancy, so professional.  I always though “Man, those Interweave designers must really be experts.”

And now I’m one of them!  Hot dog!

Harper Point Photography and Interweave

I’m almost as excited about the pattern as I am about just getting it published-  The Herring Cove Wrap is a massive wrap- a gorgeous tangle of multi-strand cables.  It’s not for the faint of heart, but the results are totally worth it.  The example in the magazine is worked in delicious Shibui Knits Drift– an insane blend of cashmere and merino that shines like silk but feels like a cross between a kitten and a puffy white cloud.  (But if you don’t have hundreds of bucks laying around to blow on yarn, any soft, squishy worsted should work well.)

Harper Point Photography and Interweave

 

You can order a copy of the magazine (online or paper) here.  Or, take a trip to wherever magazines are sold!