I miss my mind

My brain feels like it’s spinning out of control. Ideas are pouring in faster than I can knit. Such an array of yarn arrived on my doorstep last week that I can’t sort it out. It’s all wonderful. Twenty balls of yarn, each different from its brothers, each a different blend of yarns, all that contain at least some alpaca. I’ve been swatching. Some balls are more wonderful than others. One swatch has already turned into the beginnings of a light and airy scarf, yet others are pulling me into thoughts of cozy winter sweaters. The weather warms as we approach summer, and I find myself once again wanting to knit something thick and warm and heavy, something to really cuddle up in. I think I must be mad. Why does this happen to me every year when other knitters start reaching for the fine lace weights, or give up knitting altogether until the fall?

Here are the small swatch that I used as a proof of concept, and a truly horrible photo of the beginnings of the actual scarf. It has cables and faggoting, and is truly and completely reversible. There is no wrong side, so it will make a perfect gift for anyone on your list who invariably wears your hard work wrong-side out.

I’m still working on the neckline layout for the fun little top I knit with the lovely Sonoma from Baah Yarn, the one of the right. It’s more complicated than it looks, since the stitch count changes on every single row. It was much easier to knit than it is to describe.

The little cropped number on the left got itself finished, blocked, and its ends woven in within the last few days. It’s a little too small for Nicole. When I get the other sweater off of Rose, I’ll put this cropped green one on her. The green yarn will show off better on Rose’s lighter covering, and it will fit her better. This sweater is knit with yarn given to me by Teresa Ruch Designs. It’s a light fingering weight yarn, hand dyed, Tencel 5/2 held double. I tried knitting it up with just one strand of yarn, in the usual way, but didn’t like the results.

Heading back to the chalk mines… if I can figure out where I was before I diverted myself by writing this post. Gads.

Of all the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most.
Mark Twain

Tank view

I’m still plugging away at my most recent secret project, so there isn’t much knitting-related stuff that I can share with you at the moment. I can share this, though: why on earth does it seem faster to knit a single, complicated 350-stitch row, than it does to knit 35 simple ten-stitch rows? Why? I ask you. Although, perhaps it’s different for you, and I’m the odd one out. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time.

Let’s see… I knit a sock! Earlier this year I knit the first sock in ages. Not only did I knit a sock , but it’s someone else’s pattern! It’s Glynis by Cookie A. Knitting something someone else designed is a huge treat. Here’s the first sock.

Glynis by Cookie A.

Sock one: Glynis by Cookie A. with STR

The sock is knit with Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks That Rock in Raven-Rooky. I worked on the first sock when I was traveling earlier this year. I’m hoping to work on the second one when I’m traveling again in early summer. I was really hoping that the trip would be in May (so I could cast on for the sock sooner), but it doesn’t look like it’s going to work out that way. Drat.

Dave and I went to a local tulip festival on Easter Sunday. The flowers were incredible. I took more than 100 pictures, and I think Dave took about the same number. Here are a few of my better ones. (You’re right. There is a picture of lilacs there, too. The lilac trees are just starting to come into bloom. Hooray!)

Last, but not least, I’d like to make the official blog announcement of my latest pattern, Crocosmia. Crocosmia is a sweet little tank top with cabled sides and shoulders, and waist shaping. It’s knit in the round to the armholes, then back and forth to the shoulders. Best of all it’s on sale through midnight GMT April 24, 2014—which just happens to be my mother’s birthday! Enter the coupon code SUMMERISCOMING at checkout on Ravelry to save 15%.

Crocosmia

Crocosmia

When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.
John Muir

Spring!

It’s spring! The birds are singing, flowers blooming, trees greening up, grass is growing. Wow. Is the grass ever growing.

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The one tiny patch of lawn daisies is blooming like mad.

Lawn daisies

And with very little help from me, most of my paper whites are blooming, and sharing their glorious fragrance.

Paper whites

In fact, I completely forgot to plant these precious bulbs when I was supposed to, and only popped them into a pot on the deck a month or two ago. I really didn’t expect them to do much of anything. Only about half of them are blooming, but what a show.

On the knitting front, I’ve been constantly busy, but at times it doesn’t feel like I’ve done a thing. Take yesterday for example. Worked at my desk all day long, most of the time spent cranking away on a spreadsheet—a sheet that started out quite complicated and confusing, and was widdled down to something simpler, much easier to understand, and that actually provided me with the correct numbers. What a concept. In the evening I knit about three rows. Both are secret projects, so I have no photos. Naturally.

Also this week, I blocked this little sweater that I knit with Sage Sonoma from Mira at Baah Yarn. Mira gave this yarn to me when I saw her at Stitches West in February, and it’s already a sweater. With luck, I’ll get the pattern to my tech editor this week. Keep your fingers crossed.

Lace-topped shell

I have another top pattern knit up with Sonoma from Baah Yarn. That pattern is with my TE, and waiting to float to the top of her queue. The other one is a little something I knit up last fall. Instead of lace, it has cables—cables on the sides, and on the shoulders, but is otherwise worked in stockinette stitch.

Orange tank 3/4 view

With luck both patterns will be available soon. There’s also a lacy little cowl that I designed in January or something, and completely forgot about. I had it tech edited, took final pictures, did everything except edit the photos, name the pattern, do the final layout, and actually publish it. When listed out that way it sounds like there’s a ton left to do, but in actuality it’s probably about a day’s worth of work is all.

On top of all of this stuff going on, we’ve been unpacking. Did we move, you ask? Yes. We did. We moved one thousand miles north from California to Washington about 19 months ago, but most of our stuff was still in storage until the very end of February. It’s a long, boring story. Don’t ask. Having our stuff back is a bit like Christmas. Each box that gets opened contains old friends, some that we haven’t seen since before we staged our house for selling nearly two years ago. The house we’re in now doesn’t have anywhere near the storage capacity of the previous one, and so we’re struggling to get things unpacked and into new homes. Right now my dining room table (it’s here—yea!) is buried in stemware. The library is full, and some of the dishes have new homes. It’s so nice to see my depression glass again, and my collection of fish dishes, and the books, and…

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And then there are my grandmother’s dishes, and Dave’s grandmother’s bowls, and… I could go on, but I’m sure you’re already bored to death, so I will end this now with hopes, again, of blogging more regularly. Keep your fingers crossed on that one, but at the same time, don’t hold your breath.

Oh gift from God, oh perfect day
Wherein no man shall work, but play
Wherein it is enough for me
Not to be doing, but to be.
Longfellow

Name the green crescent

First off, pardon my dust. At least for a bit here, hopefully mostly today, the look of my blog will change periodically—either by drips and drabs or a lot at a go. The theme I had been using, which I’d labored over last summer to make look just so, updated—irrevocably reverting a large percentage of my changes to what the theme designer wanted, not what I wanted. So, I’m starting over with a brand new theme base. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Now for the good stuff…

Back in January I designed and knit up this bright green crescent with Aran weight Shanghai yarn from Teresa Ruch Designs and US 8 needles. I came up with the concept before going to visit my mother, took the yarn and needles along, and knit the whole thing in the evenings after dinner at her house in less than a week. Getting the time to get the pattern ready to be tech edited took longer than that. Getting around to blocking it even longer. I finally got it all done though, and have had it back from my TE for a while now. I finally took photos of it today.

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Since I knit this lovely green crescent in January I’ve been wondering what to call it. It has both cables and lace in it, which I love. It has some lovely semi-circular things going on, columns from the cables, points from the lace, and plenty of garter stitch to balance it all out and shape it into a crescent. I’ve been wondering and wondering, thinking and pondering, and have absolutely no ideas whatsoever. I need a name for the pattern before I can release it.

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This is where you come in. Leave a comment to this post with your idea (or ideas, if you have more than one), along with the reason you think this is the perfect name for this crescent. The reason is just as important to me as the name, so don’t leave that out.

The winning entry will receive a free copy of the pattern when it’s released. If you win, and you’re on Ravelry, let me know your Ravelry name so I can drop the pattern in your library. I will release the pattern as soon as I get a good name for it.

Naming contest runs from now through midnight Saturday, March 15, 2014.

“My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way.”
Ernest Hemingway

Sheyenne

If you know me at all, you’ll already know that I love lace, and I have a passion for crescent-shaped shawls. When I thought about my submission to Louet North America for their Spring 2014 Collection, I drew on an idea that had been floating around in my brain for some time. I designed a rectangular shawl years ago, In the Woods, that has this particularly lovely old fern lace stitch in it that I thought would make a beautiful crescent. Evidently, Louet thought so, too.

When I web-res-16244-640was told that they wanted it big, I was delighted to give them BIG. The inside edge of this crescent is a full 6½ feet, and the outside edge is 8¼ feet. The length gives this shawl a lot of wearing options. It can be draped gracefully over your arms, wrapped around your neck, the garter stitch portion can be folded over for extra warmth… the list goes on.

When putting the collection together, Louet decided not to include written stitch instructions… at least not for my design. If you haven’t knit lace from charts before, this is a good place to start. The chart for this is relatively simple to knit: there are only four different stitches in it, and it’s knit from the bottom of the chart straight up to the top, one row at a time, repeating the section that is outlined over and over until you get all the way across each row. Another thing that adds to the simple beauty of this lace is the wrong-side rows: they’re all the same, and go like this: knit two stitches, purl to two before the other end, then knit two more stitches. See? Easy! To shape the lace into a crescent, I use the same method of short rows often found in a top-down sock with a heel flap. If you’ve ever knit that style sock, the shaping will be second nature to you. If not, never fear, it’s easy to learn, and since in this section of the shawl every row is knit, it is simple to do. Honest!

I first saw all the designs when the Louet’s Spring 2014 Collection look book was released. Each design is showed to perfection with Caro Sheridan‘s beautiful photography. All patterns will be available in print at your LYS. If they don’t have the patterns at your LYS yet, have them contact Louet North America to get them. Patterns are all also available online on Ravelry. My pattern, Sheyenne, is also available on Craftsy and Patternfish.

Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
 Among the river sallows, borne aloft
  Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies.
Keats

Name the red crescent

We’re going to start the new year with a naming contest. I love naming contests. Knitters come up with the most fabulous stuff that I never would have thought of. Here’s how it goes: leave a comment to this post with your idea(s) of what the shawl should be called. I’ll sort through them, decide which one I like best. What’s in it for you? Scroll down to find out.

Unnamed crescent 1

The stitches…
From lower edge going up: pennants, bees, cable rope, garter stitch.

unnamed crescent 4

Think of…
Lazy times in days gone by picnicking at the shore, everyone is dressed in white except that one woman who wears a floral print dress in pastels, cabled V-neck pullovers with a navy blue line to set off the neck, big picnic baskets, sun hats, fine china and crystal, boats with pennants flying, reading, a glass of wine, napping under a tree, children watching bumble bees in the grass.

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If I choose your suggestion, you’ll get a PDF of the pattern. I’ll put the PDF in your Ravelry library, if you have an account there, or I’ll email it to you, if you don’t.

unnamed crescent 3

Get your suggestion to me before I get up in the morning of January 6, 2014 to be eligible. I’ll close the comments at that time.

They stood begging to be the first to make the voyage over and they reached out their hands in longing for the further shore.
Virgil

Knitting Maine

I’ve been wanting to blog lately, but between the back-to-back secret projects, life, then a week’s vacation to celebrate our anniversary, Thanksgiving, my birthday, frogging said secret projects, finishing one secret project only to start the third secret project in a row, planning more of them, planning non-secret projects… I just haven’t gotten around to it.

I have help, on the blogging front anyway, by way of a topic presented to me by Kristen TenDyke, an online friend, designer, tech editor, and author. Kristen has just published a new book, Knitting Maine (on Ravelry: Knitting Maine), and gave me a PDF of it to review.

Knitting Maine by Kristen TenDyke

Knitting Maine by Kristen TenDyke

What struck me most when I first saw the book, in addition to the lovely designs, is that Kristen went out of her way to have the smallest carbon footprint possible for her book—from yarn spun from local sheep to the printer she chose, everything was done in the State of Maine where she lives, or at least as close to Maine as possible. I love this.

Kristen has a little something her book for everyone: Sumner, a classic cardigan sweater with cables decorating the sleeves, back, and kangaroo pockets; Allagash, a modern little short-sleeved pullover sporting a fun cable starting on the kangaroo pocket and finishing up at the base of the high scooped neck; Northport, a semi-triangular affair with a wide cable-and-lace border; September Spirit, a lovely all-over lace cardigan with a simple textured yoke top; and Rousabout, a basic little cardigan vest that you can toss over just about anything to help keep warm.

If you’re already familiar with Kristen’s work, you’ll know that she eschews seams, so her sweaters are normally all knit in one piece. The designs in this book are no exception. She also provides a wide range of sizes. Three of the designs are worked with worsted weight yarn, one with bulky, and one with sport weight yarn, so they’ll all knit up relatively quickly.

After each pattern, Kristen provides interesting information about the yarn company who provided the yarn for that design, as well as her reasons for wanting to use each yarn in this project. She notes when yarn is animal friendly, dye free, dye friendly, organic, or has a low carbon footprint. She included photos from the farms or mills, including some wonderful animal shots. All-in-all I think it’s a lovely little book, and well worth the price.

Shaping crescents

While there are other methods of doing this, so far I’ve always used the same one. So far. Whether knit from tip to tip with stitches picked up along the side, or lengthwise with the short rows growing out of the lace, all of my crescent designs have one thing in common: the lace is knit first, then the shaping is done with garter stitch short rows.

I occasionally get questions about working the short rows, so I’ll try to explain it further here, where I have more room than in a pattern.

First off, short rows aren’t necessarily rows that only have a few stitches in them, but rows that are not knit all the way across at first go (or even second go or third go). What you do is this: you knit for a while, stop at some point short of the end, turn around, and go the other way.

If you’ve ever knit a top-down sock with a standard short-row heel, you should be familiar the method I use. Once you get your brain around it, it’s actually quite simple. It’s getting your brain to cooperate that can sometimes throw you for a loop. Often people get confused about the same thing: the gap. The mechanics of knitting short rows this way creates a gap between where you were, and where you’re going. Sometimes this gap is wider and easier to see than others. It’s also easier to see the gap with some yarns, on some days, so depending on the texture and color of the yarn used, how you knit, comfort levels, lighting, how often you actually look at your knitting, etc. it might help you to use stitch markers to show you where to turn, instead of relying on actually seeing that gap.

The upcoming gap is clearly seen on the left needle between the 4th and 5th stitches.

The upcoming gap is on the left needle between the fourth and fifth stitches.

To use stitch markers from the start do this: knit the number of stitches stated in the pattern to get to a place somewhere near the center of the first row, k2tog, k3, turn, place marker on the right needle. When you slip the first stitch and start to knit in the other direction, you create a gap—a gap that is now filled with a pretty little stitch marker. To work the second startup row, you basically do the same thing: with yarn in back, slip the first stitch, then knit the indicated number of stitches, k2tog, k3, turn, and put a stitch marker on the right needle to easily show you where that gap is.

Place marker before starting the next row.

Place marker before starting the next row.

Every row from here on is worked exactly the same way, unless I have you do something special at the very end. It’s a tiny bit fussy, but I think it’s worth it. If you use the markers, and can knit without looking, then this truly turns into a nice mindless bit of knitting that you can take with you just about anywhere. Honestly, I’m always amazed at how fast the short row shaping portion goes, even when the rows are really long. That said, do this for every row: with marker already on right needle, slip 1, knit to 1 stitch before next marker, slip next stitch to right needle without twisting, remove marker, return stitch to left needle, again without twisting, k3, k2tog, turn. Before slipping the stitch to start the next row, put that marker on the right needle.

There you go. Easy, huh? Well, I hope so. If you still find it hard to wrap your brain around, I definitely suggest playing with some smooth waste yarn until your brain cooperates. You’ll know when it does. That light bulb will go off over your head, and you’ll suddenly understand. I know. That’s exactly what happened to me when I tried knitting my first sock, and had no one to help.

“Dust is not made up mainly of human skin. That is just a myth. It is actually composed of forgotten childhood dreams.”
Henri, le Chat Noir

Allergic to knitting in the round

I haven’t been very good about keeping my new blog up-to-date. Let’s try a short blog post. We’ll see if “short” works out. Fingers crossed.

If you’ve been following me on Facebook, you’ll know something about the trials and tribulations I’ve had with the sweater I’m designing right now. It’s a little tank top, cables at the sides, cables at the shoulders, if I ever get that far, and stockinette everywhere else. I’ve had a number of false starts, one of which got me within 75% of finishing the thing, and one that was considerably farther. I have given up on trying to knit the thing in the round. Seems I’m allergic to knitting this thing in the round (you’ll see). First I forgot to alternate between skeins of this lovely hand-dyed yarn that Baah! Yarn gave me to design with.

If you look closely, you'll see the line.

If you look closely, you’ll see the line.

I frogged back to the ribbing, then started to switch back and forth between two hanks, every other row. Things moved right along, though I didn’t really like the very obvious spot where I switched the hanks, but thought I’d be able to get around that, if it didn’t fix itself with blocking. I finished the waist shaping, and knit up the back, then took another picture.

Missed crosses! head.desk.

Missed crosses! head.desk.

I happily shared the photo on Facebook. Then I looked at it closely. Then I took a good close look at my knitting. Really? Yup. In not one but two places I missed crossing the cables, and in another I crossed one in the opposite direction. Head.Desk.

What did I do next?

You got it.

Riiiipppppp.

This time when I cast on I thought I’d be clever and knit the thing in pieces, then seam them later. Heh. I figured I’d knit the back separately from the front and sides. I spent an entire evening knitting the back, got most of the way through the waist shaping. The next morning I realized how silly that was.

At least this time when I frogged it, there wasn’t quite as much knitting done.

And I used the ball winder to get nice, fresh, center-pull cakes to knit from again.

Then cast on for (hopefully) the final time.

Now I’m knitting the whole thing at once, but flat, with the yarn changes hiding safely along one side. I even remembered to add two stitches to the cast on, stitches that will disappear when I make the one and only seam.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a current progress picture. The camera’s up here with me, and the knitting is downstairs, and frankly, at the moment I’m far too lazy to put everything in the same place to take a picture of it.

In case you were wondering, the pattern will include instructions for knitting flat and for knitting in the round. Just in case someone else out there wants to knit this, and like me, is allergic to knitting sweaters in the round.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
Mark Twain

Is this for me?

Is this for me?

Poor kitty

I’m wanting to blog. I’m really wanting to blog about my knitting. But… I have been knitting. I’ve been swatching for this and that. I’ve submitted a couple of designs to different publishers. I got yarn! The yarn is for a secret project related to one of those submissions. Because it’s a secret, I can’t talk about it. I can’t show you any pictures. I’d show pictures of progress on the sea-themed shawl, but it’s on hold while I work on the secret project. Hopefully there will be time to continue the sea-themed shawl between secret projects. I’m waiting for yarn for a second secret thing, you see, so talking about what I’m working on will be a little dull for a while. I guess I’ll talk about some other stuff for now.

Knitting Maine

Author (Finish-Free Knits), designer, tech editor Kristen TenDyke is looking for additional funding for a new booklet project, Knitting Maine. She’s already met her original goal of $5,000. If she gets a total of $5,909, then she’ll be able to print twice as many booklets: 1,500 instead of 750 (ah, the economy of numbers). I donated a small amount to her cause. She has another 24 hours before her campaign closes. If you can donate even a little bit, you’ll get her that much closer to her goal. You go, Kristen!

Yard sale!

Dave and I have found that yard sale-ing here in our new community is vastly different than it was in southern California. Down there, if you didn’t get going at (or before) the crack of dawn, the other millions of people interested in the stuff you might be interested bought it already. There aren’t that many people here, yea!, so the overall odds of getting good stuff, even if you get a late start, are significantly better. We went out on Friday (a lot of them start on Fridays here), not expecting to find anything, so were pleasantly surprised to come home with a beautiful holiday table runner, a gorgeous old nine-drawer card catalog, a small refrigerator for the garage, and then this: a small jewelry roll. As wonderful as the other two things are, and they are wonderful, the jewelry roll is the gem.

Card catalog

A 9-drawer antique card catalog.

Hand made jewelry roll.

Hand made jewelry roll.

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I saw the jewelry roll sitting there on the table, folded, its ties wrapped around it carelessly, and ignored it. There was another one with brighter colors. It was nice, but nothing to write home about. The one I already have is the same size, and much nicer. That one had metal zippers in it, which turned me off. The newer nylon zippers work better for me. I almost bought it anyway, as it would occasionally be nice to have two, when I looked around some more. Then I really saw it. I picked it up, took a close look, and realized that it was embroidered. By hand. The inside is nicely made, has the usual complement of zippered compartments, a spot for rings, and a large compartment at the back. The outside, though… That’s what made my heart sing. It’s just lovely! The peacock, the flowers, all embroidered with loving care. Some of the floss used has solid colors, some gently variegated. I had to have it. It’s a treasure. The price tag of $.50 didn’t hurt my feelings any, either.

Color acuity

When I first came across this color test earlier this year, I knew I didn’t have the colors in the right order, I knew it. For the life of me, I couldn’t arrange them correctly. It just.didn’t.work. I don’t remember what my score was, but it was bad. The same color test came around again last week, so I tried it again. This time: spot on. I got a perfect score. Strange. It’s a bit of a head-scratcher. Why would I score so poorly one time, then get a perfect score the next. I was using the same computer with the same monitor, so that wasn’t it. Did the room’s ambient light make that big of a difference? Was it me? If it was me, was it something to do with my eyes, or was it my mood?

Sour puss

Sitting in her favorite window, enjoying heat rising from the floor vent just below, and alternately basked in sunlight or gazing out at the rain, you’d think Miss Rickie was having a wretched day. Poor kitty.

Poor kitty

Poor kitty