Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Alaria Shawl by Leah Thibault

Hi Knitters,

I experienced a major learning curve on my first venture into shawl knitting.  My only prior projects were the very basic one-skein "Two-step shawlettes" that I knit earlier this summer.  Leah Thibault's "Alaria" is the real deal.  A triangle, three-chart beauty, but a tad complicated for a novice to the lace shawl.  I jumped in way too quickly and a little over-confidently and I won't tell you how many times I frogged a number of  rows -- which is neither quick nor fun when knitting lace patterns.  But I am persistent, if not quick, and finally -- crying uncle at the umpty-ninth frog -- I added several stitch markers.  Duh!  It went much better and much more quickly after that.  I could see the logical sequence of the rows and the transitions from chart to chart flowed smoothly.  I began to see why knitters get hooked on this shawl thing.

First here's a look at the original from the Quince and Company website so you can see why I fell in love with "Alaria." 

My photos are much less professional and much, much less artistic --in fact they are not artistic at all -- but here is my first "Alaria":

The yarn is Quince and Company's "Tern" in the color Kelp.  The color is hard to capture.  In some lighting it looks green, other lighting more gold and I like that, kind of a chameleon color.

Don't look too closely!  Notice in the photo on the Q&C website that the pattern calls for nice strong points.  As the instructions suggested I used a needle two sizes larger for the bind off, but still my edge didn't have nearly enough ease to make the points.  The next time I will go up three or four needle sizes.   Yes, I could have ripped out and bound off again but I was ready to be done with this one.

If you look closely at this kind of blurry photo I am wearing the shawl wrong side out.  I have no explanation other than that I took it late in the day and only realized the wrong side out thing as I uploaded the picture.

The photo above is a truer depiction of the color.  

This shawl is off to surprise a special friend in time for the cold weather to swoop in.   She loves me and won't think a thing about a few irregularities and the lack of points.

I really enjoyed knitting with Tern.  It is a high quality yarn for a reasonable price. The Quince and Company website is outstanding and I could work my way through each one of their well-selected designs.  They are timelessly classic with a new and modern feel and their yarns are basic workhorse yarns in a very appealing color pallet.  However, I do wish they were available at my LYS.  I know that it helps the small manufacturer to keep prices down by selling directly to the consumer.  But I also know what it is like not to have a LYS to squish the yarns and see the real color before buying and to receive personal help from the experienced knitters who work there.  I hope that as Quince and Company grows they will be able to offer yarns on a wholesale as well as retail basis.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Sundance Sock yarn and the Two Step and Tango Shawlette

Hi Knitters, 

Here's the Rocky Mountain DyeWorks "Sundance Sock" wound and ready to make into something pretty ( I think this color is called American Emerald).

Yarn has a way of speaking to the knitter.  This yarn was calling to be something for my loves-everything-Irish friend, Cathleen.  Cathy has gone the extra mile in friendship lately and a gratitude gift from me was overdue.  Aside from being one of the dearest people on earth, another perq of my relationship with Cathy is getting invited to the St. Patricks Day dinner which she and her husband host faithfully every other year (even though it sometimes happens in June instead of on the actual day).  Just a short walk down the street and around the corner for an evening full of Irish hospitality including Cathy's lamb stew, fresh soda bread, and homemade mint chip ice cream.  She and her husband even built their home with the look of a cosy Irish cottage.  This emerald green was calling out to be something for Cathy.

After looking at about 200 shawl patterns I decided on Wendy Johnson's "Two Step and Tango Shawlette."   My sister-in-law (KnittingMaryB on Ravelry) brought Wendy's designs to my attention a while ago and I had been keeping her patterns in thought for a future project.  Wendy is a shawl/lace master.  She is also the most prolific knitter I have ever seen! I marvel at the sheer volume of her knitting.  She churns out original and beautiful designs on a weekly basis (and holds down a full-time job as well)!  Check out her interesting blog and see what I mean.

This pattern is one of Wendy's simplest designs and would be very good for someone just beginning lace.

I really liked knitting the long lace edging first (a very simple pattern repeat), then picking up the stitches all along the edge for the body.  The rest was all stockinette and went quickly -- maybe two evenings to finish.

I am not completely happy with the way my short row turns look.  I don't recall my turns showing up as much in other projects.  But I still loved the finished project and began hunting through my stash to see what might work for another Tango shawl.  Another neighbor friend was celebrating her birthday the same week.

I found a skein of Schaefer's "Chris" in the color Chamomile (great color name) that was perfect for her.  It was a worsted weight and I only had the one 200 yard skein, so I made a shorter straight version without the short row shaping.  With the heavier weight and using larger needles it still came out long enough to wrap around my neck nicely.  

I like to see how the same design looks in different weights and gauges.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.  This design worked well in both gauges.

It's very hard to imagine giving someone a wooly scarf when its a hundred degrees plus outside but both friends were heading north for cool mountain vacations.  It was fun to wrap the scarves and leave them on their doorsteps just in time for their trips.    

Happy knitting, Josey

Rocky Mountain Dye Works

Earlier this summer I followed a link in KnitCircus Magazine to Rocky Mountain DyeWorks.  It's a beautifully designed site and I spent quite a bit of time admiring all  of the hand dyed yarns.  I left a comment on the blog and forgot all about it until some weeks later when I got an e-mail from the owner/designer/dyer, Hasmi Ferguson, that I had won a yarn giveaway.   Hasmi dyes the fiber herself, which surprised me because the professional look of the site and the nice inventory made me envision a large, well-staffed company.  She was kind enough to ask me for a yarn preference.  I didn't see how I could go wrong and pretty much said that I would be happy with anything she would like to send.  She responded shortly telling me the package was ready to go and would be on its way as soon as the Canadian postal strike ended.  A couple weeks later the package arrived.  It was overflowing with things that make a knitters heart happy.

Isn't this project bag fun?  Hasmi said it is made of recycled advertisements --  from Viet Nam, I think.  It will hold plenty of yarn.  Isn't the T-shirt logo perfect?
Makes you want to visit.

These sweet little stitch markers must have been made with the teeniest crochet hook ever.  All the lace projects I've been working on require markers, so I was really happy to have these.  They make me smile.

The yarn!  The photos don't quite do the colors justice but I think you can see the lovely variations in each.  I have knit several lace patterns recently and I really appreciate using the variegated solids.  They add more richness and warmth than a solid/solid without interfering with the design of the lace.

The yarn is called "Sundance Sock."  I love the name.  I love the yarn.

Hasmi also enclosed these mini skeins, little 30-40 yard samples of several of Rocky Mountain Dye Works other weights and colors.  Just enough for a few amigurumi or mini mochis.

I included this photo just to show off the hang tags.  Makes me -- along with the rest of the population of Oklahoma and Texas -- want to head north.  We are in desparate need of some cool mountain air down here.  Although this week the weathermen have promised a break from the 100 degree plus temps.....

What a fun and generous giveaway.  Thank you Hasmi and Rocky Mountain DyeWorks.

Tomorrow I'll post pics of what I knit with the green skein.

Check out Rocky Mountain DyeWorks here.

PS  It rained in Oklahoma tonight.  Real earth soaking rain!  I opened our back door just to listen and feel it blow in through the screen.  I thanked God and danced around the kitchen with happiness and gratitude.  My kitties thought it was interesting.  

Friday, May 13, 2011

New design from Laura Nelkin "Lolly Pod"

I have been privileged to knit for a very talented designer named Laura Nelkin.  She is not only creatively gifted, she is also a dear person and I have really been happy to get acquainted with over the last few years.  She recently left her position as Design Director for Schafer Yarns to pursue her own design career full-time.  I can't wait to see her first book.  But, along with working on a future book, she is keeping busy traveling the country doing workshops and creating new patterns.  Here is her latest design called "Lolly Pod." Is it not just the cutest thing ever?!

She calls this design "Lolly Pod"and you can purchase it here at Laura Nelkin Designs  or here on Ravelry:

What about that baby, too?  Precious.  I had to buy this pattern immediately even though at the moment I don't have any newborns to knit for.  But then on Ravelry I saw this sweet picture of a little girl snuggling her stuffed animal in a Lolly Pod and that opens the opportunity to knit Lollys for a much wider number of kids.

What little girl, or little boy for that matter, would not love a cozy little sleeping bag for their favorite stuffed animal?  I am definitely going to have to show this to my 11-year old niece who took up knitting two Christmases ago while I was home.  She looks like she might be about the same age as the little girl in the photo.

More knitting news:

If you are not already receiving Clara Parke's e-newsletter "Knitting News" I highly recommend signing up for it.  This week Clara shares her seven-minute video tour of the 38th Annual Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival.  For those of us who couldn't make it to Maryland, she provides a fast and fun little taste of the festival that you can take without having to leave your desk.  Watch it right here.

Clara Parkes probably knows more about fiber than just about any other living person and her Knitter's Forum is a great place to find answers to any knitting question you can imagine.  It's a great resource and one that I have used often.  Clara is the author of The Knitter's Book of Socks, The Knitter's Book of Yarn, and her latest, The Knitter's Book of Wool.  She has such a genuine appreciation for the sheep who provide us with so much warmth and cozy comfort and her writing style is entertaining and easy as well as being very educational.

Finished one sleeve on my Susan sweater yesterday and the next one is on my needles so I'm on track to have it finished in this next week.  Signing off now to work on some swatches for a beginning crochet class that I am teaching at Gourmet Yarn in the morning.  I really do love introducing knitters to the few simple crochet stitches and techniques can add so much creativity, and really pretty edges, to their knitted projects.

Happy Knitting, Josey

Monday, May 9, 2011

Kolache Festival

Hi Knitters,

The Kolache Festival was everything I had hoped it would be.  We had a beautiful sunny day in Oklahoma, not too windy, which is something rare this time of year.  It was a bit hot but we were in a lovely shaded area for a good part of the day.

Yes, the kolaches were fresh and yummy and sweet and yeasty.  Did I tell you my son-in-law's father was in charge of the judging committee to determine the ribbon winners for best home-made beer, home-made wine, kielbasa, yeast breads, and kolaches?  Tough job.  Here are the entries waiting to be sampled.  My hubby was invited to help taste which he was happy to do.

The judges discuss their plan of attack.

Yes, the judges did work their way down the entire line-up over the course of the morning, but as several had a long drive home, did not swallow many.  I am happy to say that, although I am completely incapable of judging a good wine or beer from a not-as-good one, I was happy to sample both the first-place winning kolaches and I even got to bring home what was left of the first-place winning yeast bread.  We have had the yummiest toast the last two mornings.  Pays to know people in high places.

My favorite part of the day was watching the young girls (and a few boys as well) in their  traditional Czech dress.  The colors, the lovely lace, the embroidered ribbon and sashes, the beautiful bows and flowered hair wreaths captivated me and I spent most of my time in the pavilion watching all the participants chattering away happily as they waited to do the traditional dance in the street just before the parade.

The backs of their dresses were just as beautiful as the fronts:

The children were precious.  As soon as I asked to take their picture, they would place their hands in the traditional before the dance stance and smile for the camera.  They seemed to be really enjoying themselves.  The moms were all nearby checking their bows, hair and make-up before they went out to dance.

The embroidery on the dress on the left was extraordinary.  Many of their dresses are hand-sewn by mothers, grandmothers, aunts, etc.  Love the little blonde on the right with her missing teeth:

These two pretty young girls are last year's Kolache Queen and Jr. Kolache Queen.  Each of the past Queens wore their sashes and I think the earliest one I saw was from 1992.

Time to dance:

I really loved the embroidered fabric used for this dress:

It was very hot by this time and I am sure their layered dresses were not to comfy at this point but they all looked wonderful and kept up the pace through several traditional dances:

This little one was so charming, so tiny, but knew all the steps as well as any of the dancers.  I am sure there is a sash in her future.

Most of the dresses were in the red/black fabrics with colored embroidery, so this color combination really stood out.  I think it's beautiful.

There was an import pavilion with beautiful glassware and jewelry, and some of the Czech ribbons and fabrics -- really high quality.

And, of course, I loved the quilt samplers:

This was one of my favorites:

All-in-all a wonderful day.  I can see why so many people make it a tradition to attend every year.  And I did get a little knitting done on the way to Prague.  One more sleeve to go on my sweater.

Happy Knitting, Josey

Friday, May 6, 2011

A few tips on sweater knitting

Hi Knitters:

I have made quite a bit of progress on my sweater over the last week.  As I was knitting I thought of a few things that I have found helpful over the years that I hope you find helpful as well.

Tip #1.  Most sweater patterns call for you to knit the back first.  I am not sure why that is the case but a while back I started knitting the front first.  I find it much easier to get an idea of how the fit is working out.  I hold the front up to myself frequently as I knit to check the length and width.  I even occasionally will lightly block the front with a little steam while it is still on the needles if I have some doubts about whether I have enough ease around the sides, etc.  It's also easier to check your armhole depth, fit around the bust, etc., when working with the front piece.

Tip #2.  Once I have finished the front to my liking, I block it before starting the back.  This way it is very easy to count the rows.  For years I did exactly what the patterns called for and that was to knit according to measurements.  For example, knit until garment measures 12 inches  and begin armhole shaping.  Or continue knitting until armhole measures 9 inches from first bind-off.  I do knit the front according to measurements and then check by the holding it up and around me method.  But then for the back I actually knit by duplicating the # of rows in the front.  Maybe it was me, but I always ended up with the front or back, or armhole  being a little bit different length, even though my tape measure said it was the same.  There are just too many variables when measuring something that by it's very nature is flexible and stretchy.  So, after completing the front, I count rows and make a note of exactly how many rows I have knit to the first increases, the first decreases, the beginning of the armhole shaping, and the first bind-off -- anywhere the back needs to correspond exactly to the front.

Then I knit the back to match exactly to row # instead of measurement.  This really helps when it comes to the sewing time because I don't have to ease in extra stitches here and there.  Now someone may write me and let me know exactly why it is important to knit the back first and it may be for a very good reason.  If so, I will humbly swallow my words, but this is what I have found works really well for me.

Tip #3.  Another little tip if you would like to use this method is to put yarn markers at the edge of your work as you count the rows which saves you from having to recount over and over as you knit.  I might place a marker every 25 or 50 rows, depending on the project.

Tip #4.   I discovered a nice-sized hole in my knitting after I had knit a good bit further than the hole.  This one really puzzles me.  I didn't discover it until I did a stitch count several rows later and found I was off by one.  When I spread the piece out to have a look at where I lost the stitch I saw the hole.  There was no dropped stitch, the hole was just there, right smack in the middle with no loose end anywhere to be found. I can't account for the mysterious little circle.  I guess that's what I get for knitting while mesmerized by Orange County Housewife Peggy's amazingly orchestrated gourmet dinner party on her fabulous candle-lit patio with her disastrously dysfunctional guest list.

There it is in all its holey glory.  Moral of the story and Tip #4: When watching reality TV, check your work at every commercial break!

Anyway, I had knit enough that I didn't want to tear back, but because it wasn't actually a dropped stitch, I couldn't weave it back up to the current row with a crochet hook.  After pondering my options I decided to try weaving through the stitches immediately before and after the hole on the back of the fabric, seeing if I could just close up the hole by snugging the stitches close together.

I threaded a length of yarn on a tapestry needle and wove it in and out of the stitches to the right and left of the hole, following over the path of the yarn.

It was a little like doing the "kitchener" stitch or graftin.  When I got to the hole, I continued into the next stitch just after it and gently snugged it together.  I wound my way through three or four more stitches and then cut the ends leaving a little length so the ends won't pop through to the front.  It's not perfect but I decided that since it is in the back in a not-very-noticeable  spot that I would knit on without frogging.

I am liking the sweater a lot so far.  The yarn is so cool and summery.  But am a bit concerned I may have overdone it on the depth of the vee.  We'll see when it's all sewn together.  I can always add a few buttons or maybe a knitted inset if necessary.

Tomorrow we are headed to the Kolache Festival in Prague, Oklahoma.  It will be my first Kolache Festival, but not my first kolache.  I tried one for the first time last year at festival time when a friend brought one home for me and have decided kolaches are worth the drive.  All of the churches in Prague bake for many months in preparation for the festival.  My daughter's new sister-in-law helps with the baking at the Baptist Church where she said it is not unusual for them to bake 2400 dozen in the months just before festival time.  Each of the town churches claims to have the best recipe and I am going to do my part in trying as many as possible.

The drive should give me plenty of knitting time tomorrow.

Happy Knitting, Josey