Wednesday, 29 April 2015

'What to knit Wednesday': patterns I'm stalking

Clockwise from top L: Lemon, Fairchild, Rosebud, Cirrus, Baya, SofTrope Sock in Weld
If you're a Ravelry user you'll know what I mean when I say, 'I'm pattern stalking.' Basically pattern stalking is when a pattern catches my eye and I queue it and want to knit it desperately. I think about it a lot and I start investigating yarn options and I look up other people's projects to see what they have done. There are so many great patterns that are available on the Ravelry database, so you can imagine that I pattern stalk a lot.

Here are some of my current pattern crushes.

1. Baya by Mindy Wilkes.
This shawl was featured on the cover of the summer 2014 issue of Pom Pom Magazine. I saw it and couldn't stop thinking about it, so buying that issue of Pom Pom was inevitable. 

The pattern is a crescent shaped shawl that has a beautiful lace edge that sit against a simple garter stitch body. The two sections can be knit in tonal colours or colours in contrast. The pattern designer used two yarns from Canadian hand dyer, Sweet Georgia Yarns. I have had a look at their colour palette and it is seriously sweet looking yarn. So, in truth I not only have a crush on the Baya pattern I also have a crush on the Sweet Georgia line of yarns. However, in my efforts to stash less I will have to be content with a substitute yarn and I think I'll use the SofTrope sock in weld colourway for it.

2. Fairchild  by Bristol Ivy.
Here's another Pom Pom pattern and it was on the cover of the Winter 2014 issue. I am a fan of Bristol Ivy's patterns and this sweater is no exception. It has an interesting design where deep pleats are knit in the front to create a sort of pocket for cold hands. I don't usually attempt sweaters for myself but I am drawn to this because I think it will be a great challenge for me to learn some new techniques.

There is no way I am going to source the suggested yarn without spending way beyond my budget. The Uncommon Thread range is a luscious hand dyed range that is based in the UK. The Posh DK is a 70% Superwash BFL, 20% silk and 10% cashmere; a very luxe yarn that I would one day like to try knitting with. Instead I'm going to try knitting the Fairchild with Shilasdair's Luxury DK in thistle bloom. The Shilasdair is still a really really nice yarn because it's a naturally dyed wool, angora, camel and cashmere fibre and it's stocked at Sunspun.

3. Cirrus by Nancy O'Connell.
I am always drawn to big drapey garments and often think that I need a poncho. The Cirrus pattern is kind of in between a sweater and a poncho. It is a drapey, sleeved garment that looks super comfy and sophisticated. I can see myself wearing this a lot and I would also very much like to try knitting with the Shibui yarns that it is designed for.

4. Lemon by Helga Isager.
I want to knit more garments that I can wear in the Spring/ Summer seasons so that I can keep wearing hand knits all year round. I like this Lemon pattern because it is a simple styled tee that I can see myself throwing on during those warmer months. 

5. Rosebud by Jared Flood.
I have wanted to knit this slouchy cabled hat for around a year now and I have now decided that I'll give it a go with some super soft The Fibre Company, Road to China Worsted. I wanted to make this hat for myself with something that is super luxe and I think this alpaca, silk, camel, cashmere blend is just gorgeous. I want to knit more cable and I think this hat will be a good project to get started with since it only has one main cable panel set in garter stitch.

As you can see, all the patterns that I am stalking is for myself. I dream of doing more selfish me knitting but realistically I am not under any time pressure with these projects. I will take my time and leisurely enjoy the knitting so that there will be no risk that the joy for the craft will be lost.

What are you pattern stalking at the moment?

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

How do you balance commercial knitting and personal knitting?

I've been knitting this bella shawl as a commissioned project for a friend.
I've been thinking a lot about the idea of commercial knitting lately. I often get asked if I sell knitted items and I have always admitted that at this stage in my life I cannot make enough to sell because I am barely staying on top of my personal knitting projects. I spend what little knitting time that I get trying to make gifts for others and items for myself, my husband and the kids. As you can see from my making list I have attempted to carefully map out the projects that I will work on this year and the list just doesn't have room for knitting items for commercial sale.

My main daily knitting time is the couple of hours at night after the kids have gone to bed. I try to steal as many extra little moments as I can such as knitting a couple of rows while supervising bathtime or while waiting for my boy's swimming lesson to end. I would like to spend my whole day knitting but my current season of life does not lend itself to that luxury.

Recently I took on my first commissioned knit. A friend from church asked if I could knit her a shawl. When I agreed to it I was feeling on top of my making and thought I could manage it. I find myself making slow progress on the shawl and have been interchanging my time between working on it and working on a hat for my brother's birthday in a couple of weeks. I have assured my friend that I am working on the project but I have to admit that I feel bad that I cannot work very quickly and that it may be some time before she will receive the finished product.

I know that there will be a time in the future when I can knit more so maybe a commercial venture is possible in the future but definitely not now. However, I do still wonder how do other people do it? How do you manage to fit in knitting time amidst daily responsibilities? For those of you who knit for 'work' do you sacrifice personal knitting? Or do you manage a healthy balance?

Please comment with your thoughts and experiences.

Apologies if you were looking out for a 'What to knit Wednesday' post. I'm just a little too disorganised this week to pull it together.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

What to knit Wednesday: Quick gift knits

The Sabi Hat that I knit with Sublime Yarns Baby Cashmerino Silk DK
Hooray, we're over the illness hump and I'm bringing 'What to knit Wednesday' back. I've just finished knitting a present for my SIL so I thought I might take a moment to look at some quick knits that are great little gifts.

1. Mitini Mitts by Colleen Powley.
This pair of dainty mitts is what I just finished for my SIL. I love how the simple cables across the back of the mitt creates texture and a subtle elegance. I received this pattern as a freebie when I purchased a ball of Blue Sky Alpacas Royal Petites, which is a super soft 100% alpaca yarn. One ball of the Petites is meant to be enough for both mitts but my gauge must be off because I was yards off. After knitting the right mitt I found it to be too big for my hands and I knew that it would be even bigger for my SIL's hands. It was also clear that I wasn't going get both mitts out of the 1 ball so I knew I needed some MODS. I CO 50sts (6 less than the pattern's instructions) and to ensure I had enough yarn to BO I made the thumb shorter. Full details of my MODS can be read on my Ravelry project page.

My SIL's birthday is next week so I hope she'll like these little mitts through the winter.

2. Chibi Maruko by Mari Chiba.
I knit this cowl a few months ago as a birthday and farewell present for a friend who was moving back to NZ. I thought a cowl would be a nice way for her to stay cosy during those Kiwi winters and she would be able to remember us whenever she wears it.

The cowl is a lovely textured stitch that is easy to remember and since it's not a fitted garment it is easily adapted for desired size. I chose to knit it with some Quince & Co. Owl Tweet in Boysenberry and I think the texture suited the darker coloured yarn well. The yarn itself is an alpaca/ wool blend with some nubby bits to give it a slight tweed feel. 

3. Honey Cowl by Antonia Shankland.
This pattern is a free Madelinetosh download and it is so easy. It uses a slipped stitch to create a honeycomb pattern that is really easy to memorise. It can pretty much be knit with any weight yarn even though the suggested weight is DK/ 8ply. The pattern gives suggestions for a long and short cowl and these instructions can be used as a guide for modifying the pattern. I knit it with 2 skeins of Madelinetosh Pashmina Worsted for a long cowl.

4. Sabi Hat by Olga Buraya-Kefelian.
Hats are another one of those small projects that are quick to knit up for gifting. I made this last year for a church friend and it took me just a few days. It's a stylish hat that uses directional ribs to create a zig zag pattern. The ribs also makes it quite a stretchy hat and can fit lots of head sizes and shapes.

5. Windschief by Stephen West.
Here's one for the boys. I made this as one of my Christmas gifts last year and it was such a quick knit with the worsted-aran weight/ 10ply yarn. The design is not overly fussy which appeals to the guys and the rib panel gives it a bit of stretchiness to fit a variety of head shapes and sizes.

Not that it's necessary to point out the obvious but small projects are best for knitting up last minute gifts. I have a preference for cowls, hats and mitts but small softies, socks and small household items like mug cozies are also great gifts that can be knit up quickly.

Also, patterns that have easily memorised instructions are ideal. Once you memorise the necessary steps of the pattern you can sped through the rows or rounds without constantly needing to look up the pattern. Another perk of memorising the pattern is that you can knit on the move without needing to fiddle with checking patterns on paper or on tablets and phones. When knitting to a deadline you can maximise your knitting time by having your projects at hand for any spare moments of knitting. I can usually knock out a row or two while I'm supervising bath time or during a car ride to the grandparents.

Leave a comment and share your quick gift knits.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

How I got converted to being a gauge swatch knitter

My original swatch for the Maeve pattern.
We're still battling illness (I know whinge's unending) so I'm skipping 'What to knit Wednesday' again, but I don't want to give up on this blog so I'm writing about some of my current thoughts on gauge instead.

For the uninitiated a gauge swatch or tension square is what knitters are meant to knit before beginning a project. The swatch is a way for the knitter to test that their knitting tension will match the suggested tension or gauge of the pattern. Every pattern will list how many stitches and rows will make up a certain area of knitted fabric. Sometimes patterns give a 1" gauge, sometimes they list 4" and for metric it'll be 10 cm of fabric. If gauge is followed accurately the end project will theoretically be the exact size measurements that the pattern designed it to be and that is the main reason people say it is important to check gauge when knitting.

I generally have been a naughty knitter/ lazy knitter and avoided knitting gauge swatches in the past. I restarted my knitting life knitting a blanket for my baby girl and then clothes for the kids. I personally didn't feel too concerned by what size these items ended up being as long as they were generous enough to get a good amount of wear by the growing little bods. Whenever I buy kids clothes I always go big because my motto is, "kids grow." I didn't even measure the kids before I knit and just went by the suggested age size; which is really bad of me because my kids have very slight builds for their ages. 

Other reasons I avoided swatching was because I usually tried to knit with the yarns that the pattern suggested. This sometimes ended up with me sourcing yarns from the US and paying the hefty international postage rates. When I didn't knit with the suggested yarn I would still stick to the same yarn weight and just hoped that it would come out the same. I would also check up on Ravelry other knitters who had substituted with the same yarn I was using and just work off their suggestions and modifications, so if they went down a needle size I followed suit. 

For my recent personal items I also chose not to swatch because I knit things where gauge wasn't really that important. When knitting a shawl, having a different gauge doesn't impact the fit of the garment because it's just something to drape over the shoulders. Even my recently finished Moto Vest didn't really have strict gauge requirements because it was a drapey open vest design.

In my mind checking gauge was only something important if I was making something that I needed to fit in a particular way and since I didn't really do projects like that I was going to keep skipping that step.

Here are my pins mark out the 4" square.
However, in my last post I mentioned that I was allowing myself a little 'hit' of the gorgeous The Fibre Company's Canopy Worsted yarn by knitting a gauge swatch for the Maeve shrug. I love handling the yarn while I was knitting my little square of stockinette but when I took out the ruler to check my gauge I was off and even after blocking the square I was still off. What I got was 19 sts and 27 rows = 4" rather than the 18 sts and 26 rows that the pattern listed. What this means is now I need to knit a new gauge swatch with larger needles and then block it and check gauge again, before I can allow myself to get started on this project.

So, why the change of heart on gauge swatching?

1) I really love this pattern and yarn and I want to make it perfectly. To do justice to this pattern and the yarn I really need to respect it and treat it properly.

2) Knitting the little swatch gave me a little taster of this soft yarn and I couldn't resist going to it and patting it while I had laid it out to block. I recently listened to the Clara Parkes (The Yarn Whisperer) interview on the Pom Pom Magazine podcast and she mentioned that she has a little swatch of some of her favourite yarn that she carries around in her handbag and she will touch it every now and then when she's grabbing stuff out of her bag. I can see myself doing that with this yarn; I just love it so much.* 

3) I also recently listened to an old podcast episode where Pam Allen and Hannah Fettig discussed gauge**. They carefully explained why knitting gauge swatches cannot be skimped on and I learned some really interesting things from them. I learnt that every knitter's gauge is different and that gauge is affected not only by the knitter's style and tension but also the needles you knit with and the most obvious one, the yarn being used. Pam even stressed that the same yarns but of a different batch could still yield a different gauge to one another. Now that really surprised me and has given me a much deeper understanding of the complexities of gauge.

Cast on for another 6" square
I'm off to knit another swatch for the Maeve Shrug on 5mm needles. What are your thoughts on gauge? Have you struggled with getting the gauge right on your projects? What tips do you have for swatching and preparing to knit a cherished pattern?

*Ok, I'm totally disregarding the fact that I am starting to sound like a crazy yarn lady.

**This podcast episode is well worth listening to:

Saturday, 4 April 2015

I think I need to attend Yarnaholics anonymous

What is there not to love about a sweater lot of Canopy Worsted?
At the start of this year I decided to try to stash less after to reading Felicia Semple's series of stash less posts from her The Craft Sessions blog. I even set it as one of my goals for this year in my making list and tried to mentally match up the projects that I listed with yarns currently in my stash.

Well I need to confess that I have fallen off the wagon and if I really want to be honest with myself and with you all, I have fallen off the wagon, doused it with petrol, struck a match and set the whole thing on fire to burn it to the ground. Okay, maybe I'm being a bit melodramatic but suffice to say I have failed at the stash less challenge.

Ever since my yarn splurge post a back in late January I haven't done too well with the challenge. This last couple of weeks have just been a complete wash out and I blame it on the horrible time we've been having with the kids being sick, then me straining my back and now me catching the cold off the kids. The urge to buy yarn during this very testing time has been due to the very comforting feeling that yarn brings. Yarn lifts my mood when I am feeling tired and frustrated.

This thistle bloom is such a yummy colourway
After being at home for about 5 days straight with sick little Miss L I felt compelled to visit my LYS, Sunspun for a bit of yarn therapy. While there I bought a sweater load of Shilasdair DK to knit Bristol Ivy's Fairchild pullover from Pompom Magazine Issue 11. I probably won't get to this project until June but I needed to buy the yarn now for some yarny goodness. Even Miss L needed a bit of yarn therapy as she clutched onto a skein of the Shilasdair and cuddled it all the way home.

Like mother like daughter.
Alas, the yarn therapy doesn't end there. A few of days later I popped into Yarn + Co. in Collingwood and got very excited that they are now stocking The Fibre Company's Canopy Worsted yarn. I had been eyeing this yarn for ages and wanted to buy some for Carrie Bostick Hoge's Maeve Shrug. So, I found myself walking out of there with 6 skeins of turmeric coloured Canopy Worsted and I love it. 

This is such a yummy yarn to work with, it's becoming one of my favourites.
I can't wait to start on this project even though I have many other things of my list to get through first. In the mean time I'm being a good knitter and swatching the yarn. This is like getting a small 'hit' of the yarn in preparation for the real thing. I have to say I am loving this yarn which is a merino, alpaca and bamboo blend. I recently used it in quetzal colourway to knit a Garter Ear Flap Hat and love love loved it.

So squishy and cosy for the coming winter.
So there you have it, "My name is Rebecca, and I'm a yarnaholic."

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Stash busting tips please.

My messy bundle of project remnants.
Everything looks so much nicer re-balled.
We're still in the throes of illness here with both kids coughing and sniffling now and I've got a strain in my back, so it's another short post this week. I hope that once I get my head back in the game I will have the brain space to write a much more thoughtful post.

Anyway, with all the time that we have been spending at home under self imposed quarantine I spent some time organising my stash and working out which yarns to pair with which projects. After this bit of planning time I am excited to tackle the stash and knit up some of that beloved yarn into some lovely patterns that I have been crushing over in my favourites list on Ravelry.

While sorting through the stash I also took the time to tidy up the scraps or remnants that I have kept from finished projects. I balled up all of the substantial remnants and I wonder what am I going to do with them. The really scrappy bits I throw in a bag and use for craft with the kids or for tying up gifts, but I don't have too many ideas with the bigger balls that I have left.

So, I thought I would ask you my readers a few questions. What are your best stash busting projects? How do you manage all your scraps? Or are you usually spot on with your yardage and end up with very little scraps?