Wednesday, March 31, 2010

On The Road: Classes at Shall We Knit in New Hamburg

Saturday April 10th I'm making a road trip.... I'm taking my ever-popular and fun Entrelac class and my life-saving Fixing Mistakes class to Shall We Knit in New Hamburg.

Info here.

I met the SWK team at the K/W Guild in January, and I'm thrilled to be teaching there - and not just because of their legendary Koigu selection. They're a great group of knitters and people!

Hope to see some of my slightly-westerly readers there, too.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Finished Moose Sweater

Way to go, J.!

J's Moose sweater is phenomenal. And I'm not just saying that because I designed it, and because she choose the colours I would have used... ;-)

It's phenomenal because she did an absolutely amazing job of knitting it - holy even colourwork, Batman! - and she looks great in it.

She did made a couple of modifications: no front pockets, and she cut the lower part of the collar short so that she can put a zipper in. If you're working on the sweater and need the details on these changes, email me and let me know.

Thanks J. - I'm honoured you chose my pattern.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Knitting my Own Pattern: Modest Lace Shawl v2.0

The Modest Lace Shawl was one of my earliest published designs, and certainly my first lace design.

It's the project we work in my Lace Knitting classes. As anyone who has taken one of my classes knows, we begin by swatching up a few of the most basic lace stitches, to get comfortable with handling the patterning. And the swatches build in complexity, until we get to this pattern stitch. And then I show how to handle it when you're working increases, too.

The original sample shown in the photo above is not in possession anymore. So I've been reworking it in Manos' Serena, a blend of cotton and baby alpaca. The colourway is a lovely slightly variegated pink that reminds me of strawberry ice cream. It's very nice to work with, and I'm getting a great lacy fabric on 4.5mm needles. I'm still having a few issues with the alpaca, a possible allergic reaction. I have to be careful to wash my hands after I've worked with it, and not touch my face or eyes if I've been handling the yarn. I'm not happy about it, but it's not so bad I've had to put the project down.

As someone else commented recently, it's interesting and instructive to knit your own patterns. It wasn't completely lost to me, as I do often refer to it in my class, but it's different to actually follow the instructions all the way through.

I'm pleased to report that I still like the design very much - a great choice of pattern stitch, if I do say some myself. Once again, thanks go to Ms. Barbara Walker for the original stitch.

It's a fun knit, and a good place to get started with lace. It's worked tip up, so it's easier to track and manage the increases, and the pattern stitch is a nice easy 7-stitch repeat, with nothing too fancy going on.

The design itself needs no updates, but I think the writeup could, at the very least, use a few more commas...

Available at Patternfish and Ravelry

Monday, March 22, 2010

On Sock Sizing; Worsted Weight Toe-Up Sock Pattern

I had an email last week from someone looking for sock patterns for small feet.

I say this often: every designer gives something away about her/himself in their designs. For me, it's that I'm petite. And that extends to my size 6ish (US; size 4 UK) feet. They are just on the smaller size of average.
This means that I can often do well at shoe sales - and that I have benefited from optimistic shoe shoppers who have bought a size smaller hoping it would fit (again, many thanks to N's Mum who bought the wrong size, and has gifted me with a lovely pair of shiny red shoes).

A very good, very tall friend of mine has a size 10 1/2 foot. The idea of one-size-fits all socks seems pretty silly to me - especially when you're going to the trouble of knitting them, they may as well fit you properly.

I am, therefore, very careful to ensure that any sock pattern I publish comes in multiple sizes. (And I work very hard to enforce this at Knitty, too. I've only let one one-size-fits-all sock pattern get by me... Skew. Both the designer and I are mathematicians, and neither of us could figure out the numbers. Be prepared if you submit a sock pattern to Knitty, I will demand multiple sizes!)

Which brings me to my latest design: a worsted-weight toe-up sock that comes, naturally, in three sizes.

Available at Patternfish, Ravelry, and The Naked Sheep.

I designed this to be an intro to toe-up sock knitting - so top-down knitters could see what all the fuss is about! I use the wonderous Judy's Magic Cast-on, and its soulmate, Jeny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-Off. A single skein of Cascade 220 (or equivalent worsted weight yarn) very quickly makes a nice pair of socks.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Knitter's Frolic: Classes (but no shopping)

I'm teaching again this year at the DKC Knitter's Frolic. I love this event - a great chance to meet and mingle with knitters from all over Canada and the northeastern US.

I'm teaching the following: Pattern Reading, Fixing Mistakes, and Designing Custom-Fit Socks, on the Saturday.

More info here.

The bad news (for me, anyway) is that I'm teaching all day Saturday, and will have very limited time to shop. I will need to be very focused.

Do say hi if you see me!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Just in Time For Spring: The Puffy Vest Pattern

Because where I live, Spring is all about layers. The sun is shining, and we're all keen to ditch the heavy winter gear, but it's not very warm yet. These sorts of things are perfect - I can feel springy and lightly dressed, without freezing to death.

And if you're anything like me, you get tired of your winter clothes long before it's warm enough to dust off the summer gear. So a new, warm-but-not-too-wintery vest may be just the thing you're seeking to change your look and enliven your wardrobe.

And trust me, this is an incredibly fast knit. I created my first one in less than 48 hours, and I knitted a second one in a handful of days.

As I've commented before, I have a soft spot for chunky-weight mohair. But it is a difficult fibre to design with. It knits up big and puffy, and the resulting garments can be suffocatingly warm.

This reinterpretation of the hoodie vest harnesses these challenging properties of the mohair and uses them to great effect. The puffiness is what makes this a fun and attractive style. It's sleeveless so it knits up quickly and uses little yarn; this feature also ensures that you don't overheat.

It designed it to be worn fairly fitted and cropped, to keep it flattering.

Pattern available on Patternfish and Ravelry .

Monday, March 08, 2010

More On Raglans/Unpopular Opinion Alert/"Easy to Alter"/Solving the Wrong Problem?

I let my frustration show in a tweet last week... I said something along the lines of "Dear Top-Down-One-Piece Raglan people: Please stop."

I was teaching a class last week, and I had a long discussion with a woman about the sweater she was working on.

It was a top-down one-piece raglan, and she was partway through the yoke. It was a fairly plain garment, and a relaxed style. She had a million questions. She was looking to alter it.

We wanted to change the length of the garment. Easily done - and indeed, one of the excellent benefits of a top-down sweater. She was considering altering the sleeve length - also easily done.

But then she explained to me that she wanted it to fit differently in the top, and to make it more fitted.

At that point, I lost my patience.

Not with the knitter - but with us.

With the community.

This woman was a reasonably skilled knitter, with a clear idea of what she was looking to create.

She'd gone into a shop, looking for a pattern to create a particular garment - and she'd been directed to a top-down one-piece raglan. "They are easy to alter."

I really wish we'd stop presenting the top-down one-piece raglans like they are the solution to every knitting problem.

Elements like body and sleeve length are very easy to alter - sure. But not necessarily the whole thing.

And no matter how skilled you are at knitting and altering, there are limits to what a raglan can do and how they can fit. And they simply don't work on every body type.

Here's the unpopular bit: go look at the hundreds of February Lady Sweater projects on Ravelry. It's a design that looks terrific on some people, but looks truly awful on others. (In particular, check out the armholes.) And despite this particular sweater being a favourite of the Harlot, it's got issues in the armhole area, too.

And one-piece construction is great if the yarn isn't too heavy - but a yarn like alpaca or cotton can get very heavy, and really benefits from seams to retain some structure.

I feel like we're really misleading knitters if we keep pushing them towards only one style of garment. I cannot get a raglan to fit me, it's true, but I'd have the same rant if they did fit me well. I like set-in sleeves, but I don't push everyone to that style, either. Everyone is shaped differently, and everyone needs to know what works for them.

And how do you know what works for you? Experiment! Go spend an hour in the Gap and try on every sweater they have. Try raglans, try set-in sleeves, try circular yokes, try drop shoulders. Try garments with waist shaping. Try garments that hang straight. Try different lengths. Take a good honest look at yourself. And take notes!

I know, I know. I've grumbled about this before.

I just feel that far too often something is missing from the decision process when you choose a pattern to knit: the understanding that this is a garment you are going to wear, and that you should like the look and fit of.

Now, I do understand why both designers and knitters like the top-down. Amy presents a nicely articulated discussion of why she likes to design raglans here. And I agree with everything she says.

And I know one of the big reasons why knitters like them: people don't like seaming.

But I think we're solving that particular problem the wrong way. I know that people don't like seaming because they don't know how. The patterns glibly throw out instructions like "set in sleeves" in the finishing, but never explain precisely what they mean.

And if you don't have a reference book like my beloved Vogue Knitting, you're going to be at sea.

(The people who struggle the most sewing up knitting are those who are most familiar with sewing fabric. It's entirely different. A proper seam is really not hard, and the result is truly amazing. I love teaching my finishing class, because of the amazed reactions I get.)

So people don't like seaming, so they like a one-piece sweater. Makes sense to me. But you're going to be limited on styles and fits if that's all you have in your knitting toolkit. I'm on a one-woman crusade to banish fear of finishing.

And of course, top-down sweaters are worked in the round - also great. I'm a big fan of this - but in many cases, that can actually be done with all sorts of different styles. There's no reason why a set-in sleeve can't be worked in the round to the armholes, whether bottom up or top-down - assuming it's an appropriate yarn and style.

So yeah - people think I'm a raglan hater. I'm not, really. I'm a hater of narrow thinking and of limiting possibilities.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Two Socks in One: A Class!

I've had a few questions about the whole two-socks-in-one thingy....

it's not a double-thickness sock - it's two ENTIRELY SEPARATE socks knitted at the same time, on the same needles.

Yes, it's absurd.

Yes, it's likely a bit slower than knitting them separately.

Yes, you lose the magical no-purl benefits of working normally in the round.

Why? Because it's there.

It's the knitter's equivalent of Mount Everest.

And I'm teaching a class on it. Sunday April 18th, 1-3pm at The Purple Purl. Click here for more details.

For experienced and adventurous sock knitters only - ideally those with a well-developed sense of the absurd.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

First Moose Sighting in the Wild!

Miko did hers in purple, naturally.

I've said this before, but this will never grow old for me, seeing people knitting my designs.


Thanks to the Yarn Harlot, Franklin Habit and David the Code Monkey for setting this all up.