Category Archives: On My Needles

Itsy Bitsy Fair Isle

My kid is growing like a weed.   All the sweaters I made for him (except for this monstrosity) are already way too small for him.  His little Captain Picard sweater was practically too small when he was born- I could never get it to button all the way up.  He doesn’t like knit hats, he’s too little for mittens and scarves, and socks and bootees slip right off of him.

Anyway, I have an un-sweatered baby and I’ve got a little free time in my knitting schedule and some sock yarn leftover from a recent design.  Perfect timing!IMG_0525

I decided I wanted to try my hand at some fun Fair Isle knitting.  And, it had to be a pullover (cardigans just end up in the baby’s mouth).  Plus it had to be seamless and top-down (my favorite way to knit sweaters).

So, I dug around on Ravelry for a bit, util I found this beautiful sweater!

Christmas in July by Tanis LavalleeChristmasInJuly-Laura_medium2

Insanely pretty, right?  I love how multi-colored it is!  Sure, mine will be distinctly more blue-green, since that’s the yarn I’ve got, but that’s OK.  I love the fun, modern take on a classic yoked sweater.   (And I like that the color work doesn’t go past the armpits- continuing color  work down sleeves is a pain in the butt.  I mean, I’ll do it, but I’ll complain the whole time.)

Plus, it comes in kids and grown-up sizes!  If I really like how it turns out, I can make a matching sweater for myself, and become that lady.

I’m currently about 3/4 of the way through the yoke, and I kind of love how it’s turning out.IMG_0531It’s not as graphic as the examples, but I love the subtle way my speckled and variegated yarns work together in the complex color work.  I think this is going to be a great little sweater.  (Here’s hoping the boy fits in it for more than fifteen minutes-  I’m making a one-year-old size, in the hopes that it’ll get a little more use.  We’ll have to see how it goes.)

I can’t wait to see it finished!

What are you working on now?

Best Laid Plans

I don’t usually show you my “in progress” designs.  Usually, that’s because either: 1. I’m under contract to keep them under wraps.  Or 2. I’m so excited with how the pattern is turning out that I want to keep it a surprise and unveil it when it’s all shiny and finished.

Which means that you guys only ever see it when projects are finished and I’m happy with them.  (To be fair, most projects that I’m unhappy with never even get finished.  I usually bail halfway through and rip out the yarn to use in some other project.)

But this time you guys get to see a pattern from the Island of Misfit Sweaters!

I was so excited about this design- I was even excited enough that I decided to go ahead and knit it up and write up a pattern, even though my original design wasn’t picked up by publishers.  I was sure I knew better!  It was so cute in my mind!  It was an interesting knit!  It was small enough that it wouldn’t take much time!

Well, maybe I was in a haze of baby-brain/sleep-deprivation when I decided to go on with writing the pattern, but man was I wrong.

This pattern was doomed from the outset.

  1. The colors I picked were not good- two shades of green and a weird yellow-brown? What was I thinking? Was this 1972?IMG_0498.JPG
  2. The design that I thought was so clever was actually just overly complicated and a pain in the neck.  (Why make a sweater the time-tested, easy, simple way I’m familiar with, when I can break out the provisional cast-ons, short rows, and three-needle bind-offs?)IMG_0502.JPG
  3. I had intended the sweater to fit my kid (he’s already grown out of all the sweaters I made him before he was born- he’s a Robust German Baby).  I did the math wonky, and I think this sweater will fit him when he’s about 4 years old.  Look how long it is! And those sleeves!!!IMG_0504.JPG
  4. And, speaking of math, all that math I did to write this pattern… I lost it somewhere along the way.  Maybe I did the math in a fever dream… Maybe I got some sort of virus that only deletes bad patterns… Maybe I just forgot to save.  We’ll never know.

So, in summary.  Here’s a picture of the sweater that is not to be.  You won’t be seeing a pattern for this bad boy.  You might see my kid wearing it in a few years, or you might see me unravel it and knit it into something else (but probably not).  IMG_0506.JPGIt was a good idea, but some ideas aren’t really meant for this world.  Sigh…

Have you ever had a great idea that ended up going really, really sideways?  What happened?

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?

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?

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?

Cruising Right Along

I’m making headway on my Provincial Tweed sweater.

But, I’m still not exactly sure what I’m doing.

(I once heard that the most interesting people were those that still didn’t know what they were going to be “when they grew up.” If that’s true, then this is going to be the most interesting sweater ever.)

I think I’ve committed to the “straight, tunic-length, and with an asymmetrical hem” option, but I honestly haven’t really spent that much time thinking about it.

This project has turned into my “I just put the baby down, so I might have 5 minutes or I might have an hour” knitting.  It’s been great to have such a simple project to pick up and put down at will.  No counting, no worrying about patterns, not even any dpns to lose in-between the couch cushions.  Just lots and lots of knit stitch.

About 10 inches of it so far.I know I’ll have to come up with some more concrete plans down the road, but for now, I’m enjoying just cruising along.  I suppose when it gets long enough, I might start doing some ribbing.  Or maybe start working flat to create a split hem.

Or maybe I’ll just keep knitting, and it’ll turn into a floor-length tank dress. (That sounds practical!)

Do you ever keep a super-mindless project on your needles?

More Socks

It seems like I’ve been on a sock kick (ha!) since the baby was born.  There’s something about a small, simple project that you’ve done a million times that’s very comforting.  It’s something I can pick up whenever I get a minute or two, but can then put down again when the little guy starts crying.  I’ve made so many socks over the years, that I could probably do them in my sleep.  (Which sometimes happens these days.)

Plus, it’s a great excuse to play with some beautiful, fancy yarn.  Like this:(Country Yarns Artistry, a hand-dyed super-dense sock yarn that I picked up at last fall’s Vogue Knitting Live.)

It’s even prettier in real life- all blues and greens and purples, vibrant and saturated.  (I can’t for the life of me figure out how to photograph intense blue yarn.  For some reason my camera always washes it out and makes it look all one-note.  I even tried Photoshop to correct the color, but it still doesn’t look great.  If anyone knows how to fix this, I’d love to hear it!)

Now, I love variegated yarn… when its in a skein or balled up, ready for knitting.  I visit a yarn store or a knitting expo, and I almost invariably leave with a skein or two of something hand-painted or dyed.  It’s irresistible!  But, then I get it home and start knitting and go “Eh.  It’s not as pretty as I thought it would be.” (I make a point of only sock yarn in variegated colorways these days.  It’s no big deal if the colors are a little bit brighter/sillier/tackier than I would normally wear.  )

But, this time I am pleasantly surprised.  Somehow, the pooling on this sock worked out really well!  It’s turned into a pretty blue-and-purple spiral, zooming down the broken seed stitch leg.Unfortunately, the heel has messed up the perfect spiral pattern.  Dang.

Hopefully the spiral will come back as I make my way further down the foot.  (And hopefully I can get the other sock to match!)  Fingers crossed!

Have you ever been surprised with how a new yarn works up?

Mouse Bear

Lord knows, I’ve made a bear or two in my time, but this bear is special.  This bear was a first birthday gift for a friend’s adorable daughter.

It’s Mouse Bear!  (So named because of its ridiculous ears.  I mean, look at them!)This little guy (or gal) was a really fun project that I zipped through a few months ago as a way to use little bits of as many colors as I could find in my stash.  And I have to say, I think it was pretty successful.  I wanted a pattern for something cute and squishy, but simple enough that I could add stripes without too much fuss.  I settled on this adorable teddy bear from Arne & Carlos (I always love their designs).  It’s worked from the bottom up in the round, and the arms and legs are connected in the same way you work a sweater.  The muzzle is then picked up and knit from stitches around the face, and the ears are added as the last step.  Easy-peasy for someone who likes knitting bottom-up sweaters (and great for someone who’s interested in learning garment construction, but who isn’t feeling up to making a whole sweater).

It was a super fun project, and the end result is too stinking cute.  If you used self-striping sock yarn (as the pattern suggests), it would be really easy, too!

If you were a dumb-dumb like me and changed colors every six rows, you will have approximately one gajillion ends to sew in.  (But, I think the finished project was worth the trouble of all those ends.  Seriously.  So many ends.)

I think the birthday girl likes it!Have you ever experimented with stripes?

Electric Socks

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks (as you might imagine).  As I’m writing this, the baby is just about 4 weeks old, and has not quite figured out the whole I-should-sleep-at-night thing.  He’s pretty great though.  I certainly won’t be complaining (except about the being awake at night thing).

The biggest surprise to me, about the last few weeks has been that I’ve actually had time to get some knitting done!  (Mostly when the grandparents have been visiting, if I’m being honest.)  I even managed to finish a pair of socks!

I started these bad boys a couple days before the baby was born, with the intention that I’d want something simple and small to work on when I was hanging out at the hospital (what was I thinking?).  Of course, one of the first things they did was put an IV line into the back of my hand, so knitting was completely out of the question the whole time I was there. (Not to mention, I was having a baby.  What was I thinking?)

But, despite that, over the last almost-month, I managed to cruise through these socks while the kid was napping, being held, or otherwise engaged.

I love a good, sturdy sock, and these just fit the bill.  They’re knit up in Hazel Knits Artisan Sock in Electric Slide (one of my favorite brands and colorways), so I know they’ll hold up well.  I used my basic sock recipe, and decorated them with a simple knit-and-purl basketweave pattern- juuust complicated enough to keep me interested, but not so complicated that I’d have to anything as difficult as counting past 3.I did not, however, bother blocking them.  Because that seems like a lot of effort right now.  Perhaps I’ll block them later, but honestly, I think I’m just going to start wearing them.

Have you been up to anything lately?

It Has Begun

I finally started my blue sweater- the one that I’m using my Knit Picks Provinicial Tweed for.  The one that I’ve been putting off, because I didn’t know precisely what I wanted to do with it.

Well, I still don’t know what I want to do with this sweater, but I’m not letting that stop me right now.

I do know a few things about my plan, however:

  1. I know my gauge.  I’m using my favorite US8s and they give me about 4.75-5 sts/inch.
  2. I know I want to make a pullover.
  3. I know I want to make a sweater with set-in sleeves.  (It’s been a hot minute since I did the whole set-in sleeves thing, and I want to give it a go again.)
  4. I know that I have a lot of yarn, so I should make something tunic-length or billowy to use up some yardage.
  5. I know that if I start from the top and work down, I’ll have time to figure out what I really want to do.

So that’s exactly what I’m doing.  I’ve started a top-down pullover with a crew neck and set-in sleeves, based on Ann Budd’s genius book, The Knitter’s Handy Book of Top-Down Sweaters: Basic Designs in Multiple Sizes and Gauges.  I love this book, and find it’s an indispensable tool when designing my own sweaters whether they’re one-offs, just for me (like this sweater), or they’re turned into published patterns.  She walks you through making a simple sweater (that you can jazz up any way you like) with virtually any gauge and any size.  I like math more than your average person, but the amount of math that Ann must have done to write this book boggles my mind.

Anyway, enough fan-girling (though, you really should pick up this book if you’re interested in designing your own sweaters).

I started knitting, following the instructions for the appropriate size set-in sleeve pullover, and I’m currently a couple inches down from the armpits.  And now I’ve got to make some decisions.My original impulse was to pick a few points around the bustline (maybe two points on the front and two on the back, or maybe just at either side along the “seams”) and increase as I knit down, making an A-line sweater, something that fit nicely through the shoulders, then flared out below the arms, like this:But, now I’m not sure.  That shape seems a little girly for me.  I’m now thinking I might just make the sweater straight and let it get extra-long (maybe hip length or longer), then splitting the hem and working in a little extra length (like this sweater, but even longer).What do you think?  What would you do?  I’ve pushed off making this decision for long enough!