Tag Archives: design

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?

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!

 

Math… After Dark

When I start a project, I like to finish it.

And sometimes, when I’m working on something particularly tricky, I want to finish it right now.  Which can lead to mistakes.  Especially when I get stuck on a bit of particularly tricky math.

Which has led me to make a rule for myself:

No math after dark.

I’ve burned myself too many times with this.  I start working on a particularly tricky part of a pattern, or find a mistake, then next thing I know, I’ve deleted and re-jiggered a weeks’ work in an evening.

And invariably, there ends up being some massive mistake in my “fix” that takes three days to re-fix.

(When I worked in an office, I had a similar rule- no mass emails after 4:00, especially on Fridays.  The few really big email mistakes I made always happened when I tried to send out emails right before leaving work.  Like when I accidentally sent invitations to a group of about 50 “no” applicants to interview with our company.  Whoops!)

I’ve been working on a fairly complicated design lately, and I’m 90% of the way there- I just have a few more tweaks (and a little ripping out and re-knitting) before I’m finished.  I almost finished yesterday, but felt myself starting to get carried away last night (and the growing urge to delete big swaths of data that I was sure were wrong).

But, this morning the sun’s shining (as much as it ever does in Seattle at this time of year), I’ve got my fully-caffeinated coffee and I’m ready to tackle some more math.

Wish me luck!

Broken Seeds

I’m currently working on a big project for work (it’s another pattern, and I’m super stoked about this one… buuuuut, I can’t show it to you until next fall), and I’m in love with the stitch pattern I’m using.

This stitch pattern is insanely easy to work, but it looks crazy fancy.  It’s a great way incorporate some color into your knitting, and it’s so simple that you barely have to pay attention to what you’re working on.

It’s the Broken Seed Stitch:It’s literally a 4 row repeat, with nothing more complicated than knits and purls.  In fact, I’m going to give you the pattern right here:

In the round:

  1. MC (beige):  K
  2. C1 (dark brown): K1, P1
  3. MC: K
  4. C1: P1, K1

Worked flat:

  1. (RS) MC: K
  2. (WS) C1: K1, P1
  3. MC: K
  4. C1: P1, K1

It’s easier than I believed the first time I saw it.  It looks so complex- almost like there’s a MC  lattice knit over a C1 background.

I first found this stitch pattern on a pair of socks.  I was looking for a nice pattern to use up some half-finished ends of sock yarn last summer, when I came across the Broken Seed Stitch Socks.  It’s really more of a recipe than a full-blown pattern, but it got me started.  I love using the MC yarn for the details- cuffs, toe and heel.  And I really like how the designer used a variegated colorway for the C1 yarn.  I haven’t tried it with variegated yarn yet, but it’s on my to do list.

I’ve already made a pair of socks with this pattern (which turned out really nicely- this design works so well with stripes- a great way to use up little ends of yarn).  And now I want to put it on everything!  Broken Seed Sweaters!  Broken Seed Hats! Broken Seed Mittens and Blankets and Scarves!Have you come across any new favorite stitch patterns?

Well, it’s done, I guess

Phew!  It’s done!

Well, 99% done.  I still have to weave in some ends on my cursed project, and it’s got to finish drying out (it’s blocking right now).

And, I’ve gotta say, it turned out…. OK.

I love the pattern; the textures and the cables are great.  I love how it looks, sitting on the table, or pinned out for blocking.  But, I gotta admit- I don’t love the fit.

I tried it on when I finished knitting yesterday (after ripping the neck back several times-because this is the cursed sweater, after all).  And, I don’t know what happened with the measurements- I swear my math is right, so on paper, this sweater should fit like a glove.  But, instead, it’s too tight, and the sleeves are too short!  How on earth did that happen?!

As far as I can tell, I probably messed up in one of two ways:

  1. My gauge is off, or my math is somehow wrong.  In which case, I can fix the written pattern fairly easily.  However, I refuse to re-knit another stitch on this sweater.  If this is what happened, I’ll just have to find someone skinnier and shorter than me to take this prototype.
  2. I designed this sweater to use some really stretchy stitches- stitch patterns that block out almost twice as wide as their unblocked counterparts.  I got gauge off of a blocked swatch.  In theory, simply blocking this sweater will make it fit.  In theory.  I really hope that this is the problem.

Fingers crossed!

Have you ever finished a big project and ended up less-than-thrilled about the result?

Only Knitting

I’ve got a problem.  (Surprise!  I feel like I begin a lot of posts this way.  Maybe I have a lot of knitting-related problems?  Or maybe I think that you guys are particularly good at fixing my problems.  One or the other.)

This problem is kind of a first world problem, a problem of “too much.”  I’ve taken on too much knitting work. It’s great- because I’m really making knitting my “big girl” job, which is amazing and exciting.  I never even considered “professional knitter” when I did those “What I Want To Be When I Grow Up” assignments when I was a kid.  I always thought it would just be a hobby.  So, it’s fantastic that I’m actually getting paid knitting design work.

However, I may have bit off more than I can chew this month.  I (accidentally?) agreed to three contracts this month.  I should be able to manage everything, after all I’ve got until the end of the month, which is a long way away.  But in the meantime, I’m going to be knitting like the wind!

It feels a little like the month before Christmas- working as fast as I can, in every available minute.

Cross your fingers and send good knitting vibes!

Do you ever take on too much knitting?  What do you do to help yourself go faster?

Project Tea Cozy- Finishing Up

It’s done!  Woo! My tea pot isn’t naked any more!

I finished up the top of the tea cozy last week, working it just like the top of a hat.  This week I’ll start by working the spout opening the same way I would work the thumb on a mitten.  I transferred the 12 reserved stitches (saved on my stitch holder/safety pin) to my dpns, then picked up and knit 4 stitches in the little cast on edge.  I then worked a little 2×2 ribbed cuff around the spout and bound off.  Easy!img_3389Then I sewed up the bottom of the handle hole (I still need a better name for that), so now it fits snugly on my tea pot without me having to safety-pin it in place.img_3402But, you know what… It looks a little… sad?  Like it’s missing something.

Something like a pompom.

So I made a nice, tight 2″ pompom with bits of all 7 colors and sewed it on top.  img_3667Perfect!  It’s all finished and ready to go out on its maiden tea voyage!  I can’t wait.

And, next week, I’ll write up the pattern in a nice finished form and you can make yourself a tea cozy!

(And, don’t forget!  I’m giving away a copy of Knit Picks’ new Garter Ridge collection on Friday!)

Project Tea Cozy: The Top

All right, it’s time to close up the top!  After all, this is a tea cozy, not just a pretty rectangle with a couple weird holes.

I switched to dpns (because I didn’t have a short enough circular needle in the right size), and started working in the round.img_3373I did a few rows even, then decreased all the way around, once every 8th stitch.  I kept going, knitting one row even, then decreasing in pattern, making the decreases line up.

Once I got right to the top, I cut my yarn and passed the tail through the active stitches, the same way I would work the top of a hat.

img_3380Voila! closed up nicely!  If I wanted a smoother top (and less-obvious pleats around each set of decreases), I probably could re-knit it and decrease at a more relaxed rate, but I think I kind of like how the top turned out.

The spout is still pulling in what would be an uncomfortable way if this were a garment for a human, but I think that’ll be sorted out once I work the spout cuff, so I’m not worried.

img_3384The one thing I don’t love is that the handle hole ended up a bit too big- see that gap at the top of the handle?  I’m not a fan.

I mean, not enough to fix anything, but if I were to re-knit this pattern, I might change that.  Otherwise I’m pretty happy.

Speaking of pretty, let’s talk about my notes.  Because those are not even close to pretty anymore.  Observe:

img_3385

I don’t think there’s a line I haven’t scratched out or adjusted.  I think just about every number had to be re-calculated and each measurement ended up slightly adjusted.

But that’s how designing a new pattern goes- you’ve got to be flexible and ready to find and fix any mistakes, because there will be mistakes.

What do you think of this design so far- I’m getting close to being done!

Project Tea Cozy: The Spout

It’s spout time!

My original idea was to make a gusset for the spout, in the same way that I would make a thumb on a mitten.  But then I cast on, started knitting, and promptly forgot about that.

Oops.

So, I had a big rectangle of knitting that wrapped nicely around my teapot.  I knit it until it reached the split between the spout and the ‘body’ of the pot, in between two stripes (so I wouldn’t have to worry about making a hole and maintaining the colorwork pattern at the same time).  First I thought I would make a simple 8-stitch button hole, but that didn’t seem right.  I thought it would make the tea cozy pull funnily, and I want a little cuff around the spout of my tea cozy.  So, I decided to do a slight variation.

I knit to where I wanted the hole to be, then transferred 12 sts to a stitch holder, then I cast on 4 sts using a backwards-loop cast on, and knit the rest of the row.

img_3357The way I made the hole reduced my total stitch count by 8, so now I was working with 112 sts instead of 120, but that felt right to me. After all, I was going to decrease for the top of the cozy in a few inches.  I continued knitting, following the established pattern without any more shaping until I got to the top of the 10 colorwork repeats I had planned.img_3366And, when i put the unfinished cozy on my tea pot, it fit surprisingly well!  I still have to seam it on the bottom and the top needs to be knit.  The spout hole fit really well, sure the safety pin is pulling a bit, but the when I knit up those stitches into a little cuff around the spout, I’m sure it’ll fit like a glove!

 

Project Tea Cozy: In The Belly of The Beast?

Last week I did my first try at writing up the Tea Cozy pattern.

This week I did a bunch of knitting (and proofreading)!

Remember that math I did last week?  I determined that I needed about 120 sts around the belly of the pot.  I could just cast on 120 sts, but I want the ribbing at the bottom  to be a little tighter.  I think it’ll look better that way.

I figured if I want to increase about 1 st per 8, that should give me the result I’m looking for- just a little tighter, without any weird puckering.  So, a little more math, a bit of estimation, and I’ll cast on 106 sts.

I worked a p2 (k2p2) rib for a generous half inch (5 rows), then worked an increase row to get me up to 120 sts.

Then it was colorwork time!  img_3348Hoo boy, did I underestimate the amount of ends I would be generating!  So many stripes, so many color changes.  Oops!  At least it looks pretty.

Also, I want to bring your attention to a detail I’m really proud of.  Look at the edge of the handle hole (I really need a better word for that):img_3370See the brown edge?  I made a little mini-skein of brown for each side, and used intarsia to work a few stitches of garter stitch to keep the ends from curling.  I think it makes the tea cozy look really professional.

Now I just have to figure out how I want to make the hole for the spout…  Hmm.