Loose Ends

Loose Ends

the creative impulse gone awry

Friday, May 30, 2014

Spring Sproing KAL

Hi there.  Soooooooo.  I'm going to try something a little different here, at the blog, and at the shop.  We're trying our first ever Knit-a-long --KAL for those in the know.  For the record I was not in the know and I HAD to do a tremendous amount of research on the internet *cough* ravelry *cough* to figure out how it works.  I know, my job, it is such hard work sometimes.

If you are new to the whole KAL thing, let me explain how it generally works.  People "get together" online, and knit a particular pattern, and they talk about it on ravelry - by talk about it I mean they post something saying "Hey, I'm doing this!" on a KAL thread on a group in ravelry.  Then they make a project page for the project they are making and then they do their best to finish by a certain date.  When they finish they post to a different thread on ravelry (generally called a Finished Object -- FO thread) and they get entered into a drawing for prizes.

Sometimes when you have a really "famous" designer they will do a MYSTERY KAL and you have no idea what you are making but you know you like the designer's work so the "prize" of that kind of KAL is getting to knit the pattern before everyone else can.  Which is cool, but there are generally no other prizes.  There, now I've taught you something today.  But wait, there's more!

We have this great pattern on Ravelry that Naomi and I worked on together and it's a freebie - so bonus.  We think it's fantastic and we'd like lots of people to make it so we thought maybe if we do a KAL we'll get lots of project pages up and other folks will see the pattern and get inspired.  It's a great hat called Sproing and it takes 2 colors of a heavy worsted/aran weight yarn.  We thought we'd do this one first because it's free and easy AND it would make a great father's day gift -- It looks really great on Josh.... (I really miss that beard...)
That one is knit in Simpliworsted.  The hat is reversible and uses a super easy two-color knitting technique called spiral knitting.  Honestly, I feel kind of silly making a tutorial about it but I wanted to SHOW you how simple it is.  So, next post is a tutorial for how to do spiral knitting, which is essentially 3 pictures and some text because it is that easy.

So one exciting thing about our KAL is because we want to encourage people to post their projects is if you've already knit a Sproing and you want to enter into the drawing you can post your project to the FO thread to enter.  Our only requirement is that you have a picture on your project page.

So go to our KAL thread here, join, and start knitting!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A dress, really?

I know, I know, a knitted dress seems, well, a bit much.  But trust me, with a pattern as charming and straightforward as Noyaux, it really didn't seem like a big deal at the time.

I have to admit, I really really love this thing:

In fact, it was pretty cold today, I really should have worn it.  I have a knit dress that I picked up earlier in the winter, that is actually a t-shirt made to look like a dress and I wear it all the time.  I love the look of shorter dresses with leggings because, honestly, at the park, with a kid like Zoë going without the leggings leads to indecent exposure.  So we wear the leggings, even in the summer, because WHO KNOWS what she's going to get herself into that I'm going to have to rescue her from....

I'd been trying, this winter, to go through some of my stash and knit some of it.  Honestly, it seems so simple, I have the yarn, I should knit with it.  It's complicated when you own a yarn shop and you talk about your knitting/life online because you do want to have those things work as a team... which means I'm often only knitting with stuff that is currently available at the shop.  But it can be a little stifling creatively and a lot wasteful, considering how much yarn I have stored in my house right now, ahem.  So I have been trying to use up my yarn. 

I've also been working on getting my entire knitting library entered into my Ravelry library.  Maybe it's a generational thing, or just an embracing of how technology actually can make your life easier, but I adore browsing patterns on Ravelry.  I know it's not just me, people who spend a lot of time on Ravelry talk about what a time suck it can be, and truthfully, I often rationalize the time I spend in the name of research for the shop and for my own designs, but simply the ability to sort and play with the patterns I already have on my bookshelves means that I'm finding patterns that I love that I already have on my bookshelves and I'm looking at my stash and realizing I have the yarn to knit them, and then boom: I'm knitting a dress.

Life is crazy sometimes.

So this dress is awesome.  You should knit it.  Yes, you.  (unless, you're having lots of hot flashes and think a knitted dress is like the 18th circle of hell, in which case, I get it, but it would still look cute on you... cotton?)  I looked at the projects on Ravelry when I was deciding if it was a good idea to make it and I saw loads of ladies of all different shapes and sizes wearing the dress and smiling and they all looked as I would hope to look in a knit dress -- which is to say, happy.  It was basically a no-brainer.

So I made it a bit shorter (as I was a bit short on yarn, but it turns out I would have had enough, bygones.  I gave the rest of the yarn to my Mominlaw for making other amazing things) But I love it.  It's cute, comfortable, and warm - my trifecta of perfection in knitting.  I used the called for yarn, which we discontinued at the shop because my lovely customers take issue with tweed.  Why?  I have no idea.  I heart a good tweed and Blackstone Tweed is a good tweed.  If enough people beg for it and make special orders we'd get it again in a heartbeat.  The knitting experience with this yarn is great, it was lovely, and bouncy, and squishy, and basically everything that makes me like yarn.

Also, let's talk about the pattern for a second, because, really, that shit looks complicated.  And, to a certain extent there is thought required.  It's not like Boxy, which basically requires a pulse and some great tv.  But I looked at that thing and when I sat down to knit I had my yarn, my pattern, my knitting needles and a cable needle. But... THERE ARE NO CABLES.  I know what it looks like, but no, there is no cabling involved.  If you can yo, k2tog, ssk, and k and p, you can make this thing. 

Now, I know I'm a knitting professional and so my opinion on these things can be a bit skewed, but I was knitting this while drinking wine and watching the first season of House of Cards.  Happily, cruising with my knitting and not making mistakes.  Which on my scale of difficulty means advanced beginner.  Really, it was a fun knit and it's a great garment.  What's not to love?

some project details here if you care to look.

Friday, May 23, 2014

more stripes

I knew when I knit the playful stripes for Zoë that I would want to make one for Clara.  The pattern, happy thing that it is, goes up to a size 6 and it fit Zoë so well.  I knew the colors would have to be different, but I wanted to keep the base of an off-white, so they would look a little matchy, but still reflect their different personalities.

Because Zoë is totally a pink/purple/sparkly girl:
And Clara is less of a traditionalist. 

It is constantly awesome to me how DIFFERENT they are from each other.  They are both so much like Josh and I and yet so different from each other... it amazes me how that is possible.  I love it.  So Clara definitely needed different colors.  Because she is in school during the days (which is both wonderful and hard) she couldn't easily pop down to the shop and get bored and pick out her own colors, so I grabbed a selection that I thought would appeal to her and brought them home for her to look at.

I'm actually creating quite a little stash of the baby cashmerino - I see many of these sweaters in my future.  People better start having more babies....

It's bizarre, when my Grandfather died this past November it was both totally expected and completely shocking at the same time.  I was trying to figure out what to do about myself and my family and traveling to the funeral.  It was kind of Grandpa to die when he did, he missed birthdays, anniversaries, and conveniently passed right before a long weekend.  It was as if he had planned the whole thing.  Which on some level I think is both possible and not possible.  But I had choices, we had planned to go to Maine to visit grandparents and our new nephew (and their parents, but we all know we were basically going to be cooing at the nephew the whole time)  So Josh and I decided that he would drive up to Maine with the girls -- let them have the fun weekend that we had planned, it would help Josh to not be solo with the girls for the whole time I would be gone and it would help the girls cope with not having me there.   My mom (who left at 3am from Maine to drive to Kentucky where the funeral would be) would swing by and pick me up and we would drive down together.... re-living the last time we roadtripped to Kentucky when I was 15 and deeply in love with my first, wretched, boyfriend - for my brother's college graduation.  whoa, memories.

I ran around that morning trying to figure out luggage - I would be driving down and then flying home, waiting until we were certain of the time of the funeral before I purchased my ticket.  I had never spent this much time away from my girls - and frankly, Josh and I are a matched set, we rarely spend nights apart.  I was in a bit of a panic, while trying to maintain a calm exterior for the girls and also pack for what I knew would be one of the more surreal experiences of my life.  One moment, the universe saw my vulnerability and decided to strike, I was rummaging through a carry-on option and found the print out of my ultrasound when I was pregnant with Zoë - cue tears. (she's always had such a nicely proportioned head... I love those pictures.)

anyway, as knitters -- or at least, as followers of this blog -- you'll know that what you bring to knit on such an occasion is CRUCIAL to your sanity.  I brought this sweater which I had barely cast on and knit the first few rows of.  It was a perfect choice.  I had miles of stockinette and miles to drive, and then a flurry of stripes at the end.  I managed to find the perfect buttons in my knitting doo-dad bag and had the whole thing finished by the time I flew home.  It helped me feel connected to my real life, both my knitting life, and my mothering life, and the actual knitting was geniusly therapeutic.

Since I was pretty high from the whole top-down size extension from the previous post, I threw in a few details to make it a bit easier to make it bigger later if we want to.  This sweater is all in one piece, but it isn't top-down, it's bottom-up.  Which means that you knit the body to the armholes, then separately knit two sleeves to the armhole and then you join them all together and knit the yoke.  Then button and buttonhole bands and then, voila, sweater.

I have found that a sweater that is a little short in the body is okay, especially over dresses, so I was primarily concerned with the sleeves.  There is something about a bracelet length, or 3/4's that looks normal on a grown-up, but looks just inappropriate on a kid.  Like, they've grown out of their clothes and you are not a together enough mom to get them the right size.  ahem.  So I used a provisional cast-on on the sleeves and I decided to sew the hem down at the end, rather than knitting the hem in place as I went.  This way when it's time to make the sleeves a bit longer, I can snip the sewing, un-zip the cast on, rip back the stripey section and then re-knit the cuff.

I also love wacky linings in garments - you know, bright colors and patterns that usually only you see as you are putting on and taking off your garments... so I added some hem stripes that are only visible, really, when the sweater is off.

There is no reason for them to be there, other than to amuse Clara and me... and it does make me smile.  I actually finished this long before I left Kentucky, and I managed to work on my stripey boxy and a hat I was designing, and I had a little vacation yarn shopping at one of my brother's LYSs that was so inspiring.  So the knitting and yarn definitely kept me (relatively) sane during an (insanely) stressful and difficult weekend.  Have I ever mentioned how terrified I am of flying, yeah, that was big time fun as well. 

Of course, Clara loves the sweater, because she's awesome.  And matching sweaters are fun (especially when you get to meet actual ballerinas!!!):

Thursday, May 8, 2014

In praise of the Top Down Sweater

I'm not an enormous fan of the Top Down Sweater.  I mean, don't get me wrong, I don't have issues with them -- some folks are total fanatics.  The reasons they love them never really applied to me, I don't mind purling, and actually I really love sewing sweaters together and all of that fussy finishing stuff really makes me happy.  I'm crazy, I know.

So when a pattern appeals to me, it's construction isn't make or break for me -- I'll knit it if I want no matter what.

But, I have realized that the true value for me in the top down sweater is that I can take a sweater that Clara wore and loved for one winter and size it up really easily.  This, my friends, THRILLS me.  It does seem at times a bit of a waste to knit all of these things that may never be worn out.  I'm happy to hand things down and give things to friends with kids, but man, to get two seasons out of a sweater for one of the girls is awesome.

You may recognize this little number from October 2012, when I finally finished it for Clara: 

Well, it had gotten a little small... mostly too short in the body and the arms - she's a tall, slender kid.  So when we learned that her classroom was cool, and she loved it so much, I thought I would try to enlarge it.  If it worked, hey presto, another sweater for not a lot of knitting, if it didn't, oh well, no huge loss.

The first thing that I did was pull out the cast-off for the sleeves, and rip back the garter stitch border.  I put the stitches back on the needles and knit another 2 inches, and then did the garter stitch border again.  Sleeves, finito.  The body was a bit more annoying because the button and buttonhole bands are picked up and knit onto the body.  So I needed to pull out the bands, then pull out the cast-off and garter stitch border on the bottom of the sweater before I could lengthen the body.  Once the body was long enough, there was only the matter of picking up and knitting on the button and buttonhole bands and sewing back on the buttons.

All in all it took me roughly a weekend of un-knitting and re-knitting to have a nearly new sweater, which, without anything in the two pictures for scale, looks basically identical.

Obviously, it's well loved, pilly, with stains, and missing a button.  But how awesome is that.  I always want their sweaters to end up looking really well loved.  It's a trick of the photo that the button bands look so much brighter than the rest of the sweater.  The light here is weird today -- in real life it isn't noticeable that these parts are new.

I have the button, by the way, it will go back on and she'll keep on wearing it on cool days.  And who knows, maybe I can get another year out of it, I still have leftover yarn!