Monday, September 15, 2014

Air Quotes Socks in Baah Yarn!

I'm pleased to start the week off with a brand-new sock pattern, the Air Quotes Socks! They are the second-to-last design from Conversation Socks, and I am beyond thrilled to have this ebook so close to completion. In fact, my goal is release the final pattern two weeks from now, and you know what that means - the ebook price will increase once more!

The  cable panels on the front of the Air Quotes Socks remind me of the old-timey quotation marks (in journalism class, we called them 66 and 99); the cuff is ribbed on the back to ensure excellent fit. The stitches are very easy to read so that you can fly through the pattern without needing to constantly consult the chart, and they are the perfect way to show off the beautiful hand-dyed colors from Baah Yarn. Bonus: the superwash merino of Sonoma is soft and easy-care!

If you're just joining me, here's the deal: all 5 designs are written for sport weight yarn on US #3 needles; each pattern was created with the express purpose of being simple enough for knitting on-the-go, but interesting enough to keep you engaged. These patterns are perfect for your morning commute, knit night, or a trip out of town! They don't require huge, hard-to-follow charts or incredibly complicated techniques. Instead, they take the basic building blocks that the average knitter has at their disposal to create five designs the whole family will love.

I'm giving everyone a chance to pre-order ALL FIVE sock designs for the low price of just $14. I'll be releasing the final pattern very soon, and when I do, the price will increase to $18 for the entire collection (five patterns).

You will receive the Air Quotes sock pattern pictured above plus 3 more great designs for immediate download AND an automatic update once the final pattern is published.

Friday, September 12, 2014

FO Friday: Luxurious Lory Shawl

I am so incredibly excited about my FO this week: the Lory Shawl by Bristol Ivy, which is a pattern from the Fall 2014 issue of Knitscene. It calls for Bijou Basin Ranch's Himalayan Trail yarn, and I knit mine in one of their new Outlandish colorways, Geillis.

"Shawl" is a bit of a misnomer in this pattern, as I'd really consider it to be more of a scarf - at least, that is how I intend to wear it this winter! It's 80 inches long but not terribly wide (at least by shawl standards), so that qualifies it as a scarf, at least in my book.

It will be great for wrapping around my neck this winter, and I love the bright green color. Yak fiber is known for being incredibly warm (after all, they are native to the harsh, rugged regions of Tibet and Mongolia). In particular, the Himalayan Trail yarn is a 50/50 blend of both yak and merino fibers, and it feels cashmere-soft. It's the kind of yarn I can only knit slowly, because I keep stopping what I'm doing so that I can pet the resulting fabric.

I soaked it in a sample of a new fiber wash from Bijou Basin Ranch called Allure; it's a no-rinse, all-natural wash that's developed by one of the owners of the company, Eileen, who has a background in chemistry. The sample I had was in the Woodland Mist scent, which was a fresh, clean scent that wasn't too overpowering.

Blocking the scarf was a breeze with my new Knit Blockers from Knitter's Pride (click here to see them in action with another recent project). Just for funsies, I timed myself while pinning it out on my blocking mats. I was done in exactly four minutes. FOUR! I'm certain I would have spent at least twenty minutes blocking this with T pins, and the straight edges probably wouldn't look as nice.

The welt technique was easy to learn (and the magazine includes a full tutorial articles), and I like the way they look on the fabric of the scarf. They were a bit slow, but it was a nice way to break up the monotony of the stockinette stitch. The final step was an i-cord bindoff which was never-ending, but it does provide a nice, polished edge that was well worth the effort.

I am really excited to add this super-warm scarf to my winter wardrobe this season!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

WIP Wednesday: Irresistible Socks & Dancing Sheep

As I mentioned on my blog earlier this week, I was able to snag the third-to-last limited-edition colorway in Bijou Basin Ranch's Tibetan Dream sock yarn which was hand-dyed by Miss Babs. Even though I'm test knitting a sweater, participating in the Chill Chaser KAL and also doing the FreshStitches Mystery CAL this month, I have thrown all caution to the wind and cast on for another pair of Wedge socks by Cookie A with my pretty new sock yarn:

This pattern is really fun to knit, and it's absolutely perfect for variegated yarns. The first pair I made ended up being a bit large, so Tyler ended up being the lucky recipient of the finished socks. Though I didn't keep detailed project notes in my Ravelry notebook, I was able to find the pattern I'd copied for knitting-on-the-go, which had all of my handwritten notes on it. I'll be making the next size down so that I'm assured these socks will fit my feet this time around! 

I printed out the second clue for the Mystery CAL on Monday, but I probably won't get to it til later this week since I'm working on a top-secret project for my nephew's upcoming birthday. However, I have made some progress on my Chill Chaser, this week - though it's not very exciting to look at, I do have 12 inches of stockinette under my belt:

If you're thinking of joining the Chill Chaser KAL, there is a fun new video to help you pick your colors which was animated by my husband Tyler (and it features an instrumental version of a Shalloboi song!):

Monday, September 8, 2014

All Things Midwest

This past weekend, I spent an afternoon at the Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Festival with my fiber friend Lauren, which is one of our favorite regional shows to attend (second only to YarnCon in the spring).

I had a specific shopping list in mind which somehow I managed to stick to:

L-R: Cloudlover Spinning Fiber, Green Mountain Spinnery Weekend Wool, and Bijou Basin Ranch Tibetan Dream in Seaside, a limited-edition color dyed by Miss Babs.

Besides shopping the vendor marketplace, I spent a lot of my time talking to people at the show - I ran into a friend I haven't seen in a while, met up with Sarah of the excellent Knitting Sarah blog, and chatted with a few of my clients who had booths at the show. As always, there was plenty of temptation, but I was somehow able to resist.

We didn't get a chance to see the sheep shearing demonstration (though we caught it last year), but I did get a chance to make some sheepy friends and snap a few shots.

We also popped into the fleece auction right before it started, but thought it was best to remove ourselves before we filled our car with huge bags of fleece.

Per our tradition, we stopped on the way home to pick up some New Glarus Beer:

All in all, it was a fantastic day!

While I'm waxing poetic about all things Midwestern, I'd love to share my friend Allyson's latest project, which is currently raising funds via Kickstarter:

Midwestern Knits is a pattern collection celebrating the history and culture of the midwest, and it promises some great designs from both well-known and up-and-coming designers, all knit in yarns from the region. It's being curated by Allyson  Dykhuizen (from Holla Knits and the Sweatshop of Love) and Carina Spencer (designer of many great patterns, including Zuzu's Petals).

Allyson has published many design collections with Holla Knits, and the work ethic that both she and Carina have is exemplary; if they reach their funding goal, I know that the the resulting collection and book will be nothing short of spectacular.

Having done my own Kickstarter, I also know what an uphill battle reaching the funding goal can be. It's really hard work - even harder than doing the project you're raising funds for, in many ways!

If you can take a moment to visit their Kickstarter page to pledge - even $5 will be a big help to the cause (though I highly recommend taking advantage of some of their killer rewards). 

Click here to back Midwestern Knits! 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Review: Sockupied Fall 2014 Issue

It's been a while since I've checked out out an issue of Sockupied, but when I was offered a free download for my review, I couldn't say no! This latest issue is a user-friendly, interactive app which is available for both Mac and PC. I really liked the overall presentation; the images of the socks and products were well-done, while the graphics interface was eye-catching and engaging.

The layout is such that you can click (or tap) various areas on the page to bring up more content which are generally well-marked with graphic elements such as asterisks or arrows.
True North DK Socks by Lucy Neatby
Navigating through each section was fairly intuitive for the most part (although sometimes I would totally miss something which probably is quite obvious to tablet users, which this format seemed geared towards).

After so many years of knitting (and designing) socks, I have countless books and patterns in my library, and I find it hard to get excited about most "new" sock designs I come across. While I'm not sure that I'll be casting on any of the designs from this issue any time soon, I can definitely see adding some of these to my queue for knitting in the not-so-near future. All six sock designs are well-presented within the issue; it seems that there was great care in selecting each one to cater to a variety of sock-knitting preferences. There was a nice range of basic socks (Enduring Sock, Lida Rose), intermediate (Daisy Field Socks, Time Traveler Socks, Thyme Marches On), and the show-stopping technique-based True North DK colorwork socks by Lucy Neatby.
Lida Rose by Anne Podlesak
The patterns are included within the interactive application, plus there are also links to download individual PDFs.

After so many years of knitting under my belt, I am always pleased when I can learn something new which helps me hone my craft, and I definitely picked up some useful tidbits to sharpen my sock-knitting skills in this issue. I found many handy tips in Kate Atherley's Knit Durable Socks article, and the product spotlights on wool washes and breed-specific sock yarns were eye-catching and interesting. Jennifer Crowley Raymond's short article about vintage knitting patterns contained a list of extremely useful resources, for those of you who are vintage pattern enthusiasts.
Daisy Field Socks by Maria Leigh
The Fall 2014 issue of Sockupied is well worth the purchase price of $7.99; for just a few dollars more than the average cost of a single pattern, you get six great designs and access to articles, tutorials and resources to help you level up your sock knitting for fall.

I'm excited to see what future issues of Sockupied will look like under the editorial leadership of Amy Palmer!

You may like to know: I was provided with a free issue of Sockupied in exchange for this review. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

WIP Wednesday: -Alongs Aplenty

Though I failed to finish my Holla Knits KAL project for last month's event, I am pleased to say that I made some major progress on the Admiralty pillow - the second pillow piece is done! Blocking it gave me an opportunity to test out a new product from Knitter's Pride which I had seen at TNNA earlier this year and was anxiously awaiting:

These new Knit Blockers are the most ingenious blocking tool I think I've ever come across. Having spent a good 15-20 minutes blocking the first pillow side with a ton of T-pins, I found myself wondering where the Knit Blockers had been all my life....because using them to block the second side took UNDER FIVE MINUTES!

Needless to say, I am incredibly excited to bust them out whenever I happen to finish the Lory Shawl. I was really hoping this project would be done before the Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Festival this coming weekend, but I am not sure that's a reasonable expectation at this point. However, I am reeeeeaaallly close to being done. It could be a photo finish!

The start of September (and the beginning of my favorite time of year) brought with it two more -alongs: the Spud & Chloe Chill Chaser KAL, and the annual FreshStitches Mystery CAL. I had been eyeing the Chill Chaser Cardigan pattern ever since it came out, and now that sweater weather is just around the corner, I can't resist joining in this two-month KAL. Plus, I love me a stockinette stitch sweater - I find I make a lot more progress since I can take the project just about anywhere and sneak in a few rows whenever I have down time. Check out how much progress I've made in just a few short days - almost 7" of stockinette stitch!

I also finished the first clue for the FreshStitches Mystery CAL, and I have absolutely no idea what it is so far. If you are wary of Mystery KALs or CALs (as I am), rest assured that this is a really good one to take a chance on.This is the third year I've participated, and I am pretty much always stumped til the end - but ALWAYS happy with the outcome!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Louet Fall Collection: Emin by Anne Podlesak

Photo © Caro Sheridan
I hope everyone is having a great holiday weekend; I am excited to be today's stop for the Louet Fall Collection Blog tour! If you haven't seen their new fall collection, click here to check it out on the Louet Blog. There are plenty of knit-worthy sweaters and accessories for fall (and even some crochet-worthy ones, too!).

When I signed up for the tour, I immediately went digging through my yarn stash to find all of my GEMS yarn - turns out, I have quite a bit of Sport on hand! As luck would have it, I had the exact same color of yarn shown for the Emin Cowl, Hat, and Mittens; it also happens to be one of my absolute favorite colors.

Though you probably noticed that all three pieces are listed separately on Ravelry, the actual pattern includes instructions to make all 3, making the $7.50 purchase price an absolute steal!

There are two size options for the cowl, and I made the smaller version, which is a close-fitting 20" circumference that will be great for layering under a scarf or wearing around the house. I ended up knitting the entire project in just 3 days; I'm sure folks who practice project monogamy could even finish it faster than that!

The smaller-sized cowl took less than a skein of yarn, and the larger size (40" circumference)  calls for two. Should you want to make a matching hat or mittens, you'll need 2 more skeins of yarn (one for the hat and one of the mittens).

The stitch pattern is charted and it's ideal for cabling without a cable needle, which I opted to do for my project. It was fairly easy to memorize and keep track of where I was in the chart simply by looking at my work, which is probably why it knit up so fast.

The only modification I made was in the cast-on; while the pattern calls for the long-tail cast-on, I opted to use the crochet cast-on because it more closely matches the bound-off edge (note: while pretty much every tutorials talks about using this cast-on provisionally with waste yarn, I highly recommend trying it with your actual yarn to create a nice, neat edge without using a ton of yarn!).

Given the circumference of the smaller size, however, it does seem like a stretchier cast-on such as the one called for is way more appropriate. I happen to have a pretty small head, so my finished cowl is quite easy to slip on and off, but I wouldn't recommend substituting a less stretchy cast-on if you are concerned about fit.

The stitch definition provided by the high twist of the GEMS yarn is quite striking, as you can see in the photo above. In addition to textured stitches, it's also great for colorwork and stripes, as I discovered with my own recent design in GEMS, the Chittery Chattery Socks.

If you're planning on gift knitting this holiday season, GEMS is a superwash yarn that is soft enough for next-to-skin wear, yet hard-wearing and pill resistant. You can find out more about GEMS here on the Louet blog!