KnitCrate July Surprises!

As you all know, the folks at KnitCrate have offered to send me some of their subscription boxes for review. I’ve been posting about them at intervals here and discussing them on the blog–just a few posts ago, I showed off an FO I made with some of their beautiful sock yarn! And remember, because I’m a reviewer, it means you all get a 20% discount if you use this code on their site: KTS20 🙂

First up is the Sock Crate: I’m not usually into greens (unless they are from Megan Morrell of Old Crow Art Yarns), but this modern primary green was pretty cool. The tricky think about this skein is that it’s dyed so that the knitter can achieve contrasting cuffs and heels! Fabulous! The Uru Yarn is a KnitCrate house blend that’s very soft.

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And in the Artisan Crate? Oh my goodless! Two skeins of Shalimar Yarns in gorious blues and purples (my favorite!). These skeins are destined for a multi-skein project: a fingering weight sweater that calls for some variegated yarn. More on that in the coming year, I hope! For now, I’ll leave you with the skeins in all of their glory. . .

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If you are interested in trying out KnitCrate‘s subscription boxes, don’t forget to take your discount code with you over to their site! KTS20

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Posted in community, KnitCrate, review, sock yarn, variegated yarn, yarn, yarn review | Leave a comment

Better Sweater Series #5: Charting Software and Pattern Scaling

Well hello there! I’m SO SO SO excited to bring you the 5th installment of the Better Sweater Series. I have an actual, real, in the wool FO to show you . . . it worked, y’all! We have a sweater and it IS better than the original! In this installment, I’ll walk you through the garment, discuss charting software, and scaling for patterns. Lots of info and entertainment, for your knitting hours 🙂  As always, thanks for spending time with me!

All Testing Spots have been filled–THANK YOU all for your support and offers to test!

**TEST KNITTERS NEEDED** Please send me an email at knittingthestash@gmail.com and a link to your Ravelry notebook portfolio! I would love for some knittingthestash folk to knit the following sizes: 36″ 38″ 40″

**For those of you involved in the Re-Make-Along for 2018, I’ll be announcing giveaways in the Ravelry thread! So head on over this week and give us an update on your projects!

Posted in Better Sweater, community, compound raglan, custom pattern, knitting, knitting math, pattern writing, patterns, Phoenix Pullover, question and answer, scaling a pattern, sizing, sweater, sweater design, sweater math, test knitting, test-knit | 1 Comment

FO: Frozen Silver by Suvi Simola

I ❤ this beautiful shawl by Suvi Simola! It’s a pretty, triangular, slip-stitch pattern that is a quick knit–I worked on it during car trips in between sweaters. Rachel Smith of Wool n Spinning calls these “snack” projects, and I couldn’t agree more! It was a joy to knit!

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I used a skein of KnitCrate yarn for the main color and a skein of plain, undyed, merino for the slip stitch sections–it was held double with the main color to produce the effect you see.

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Holding two colors together is a neat technique I have been wanting to try for a while now and I think these slip stitch motifs are the perfect place. The two colors gives some extra depth to the shawl’s mosaics. In case you’re interested, the KnitCrate yarn was Audine Wools in the “Weekend” colorway.

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If you are interested in trying out KnitCrate‘s subscription boxes, you can received a  discount with the code: KTS20  The good folks at KnitCrate have been sending me monthly boxes for review and I have enjoyed the surprise and variety of yarns in both the Artisan Crates and the Sock Artisan Crates–both highlight the work of indie dyers, designers, and small businesses!

Posted in Audine Wools, community, finished objects, FO, KnitCrate, knitting, shawl, slip stitch, Suvi Simola, triangular shawl, unicorns, variegated yarn | 3 Comments

Episode 39: Going Pro?

Hello Yarn-istas! Episode 39 is up and ready to keep you company 🙂

As you requested . . . Spencer is back!! He joins me to talk about going pro with hobbies and other loved activities. Plus, my Frozen Silver is finished–and it’s taken on a different form then when you last saw it! I used some KnitCrate yarn for the base and supplemented with some plain white for the slip-stitch sections. I have some news on the Better Sweater Series and a GIVEAWAY!**

**Giveaway: A free pattern of your choice from Ravelry (up to $10 value)! To enter: leave a comment here, on the blogpost, or in the Ravelry thread about “Going Pro”! Giveaway will close on 7/22/18; winner by random number generator.

 

SHOW NOTES:

Posted in Better Sweater, discount code, Frozen Silver, goals, KnitCrate, knitting, metaspencer, professionalization, shawl, sweater, tension, triangular shawl, Uncategorized, variegated yarn, yarn | 4 Comments

Wool & Honey Sweater

Hello fiber folk! I realized that I never posted about my most recent sweater: the Wool & Honey pullover that I knit as a sample for the yarn shop of the same name! Wool & Honey has a great online presence, so even if you can’t make it out to Michigan to check out the shop in person, you can still benefit from their awesome yarn, magazine, and notions selections. Wool & Honey, the sweater, is a top down pullover that uses elongated slip stitches to create a honeycomb pattern that appears to float over the garter stitch background.

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I knit the size 47″ (at the request of Melissa and Liz)–this is a “M” according to the pattern. I made Two modifications: I used German short rows for the back neck lengthening and I used a provisional cast on for the underarms (rather than picking up stitches). I did pick up an additional 4 stitches on either side of the provisional cast on to avoid any holes and to create a seamless underarm. I then decrease these four stitches by P2tog and SSK (x2) on either side of the underarm marker.

The pattern is simple to follow–a top down yoke followed by a continuation of the garter stitch background through the bodice. The sweater is ‘boxy’ as it is written and would be a beautiful garment for high waisted pants/leggings or a skirt. If you are interested in a longer sweater, you can add length, but keep in mind that you would be changing the very proportions that make this sweater work well. The sleeves are half garter, half ribbing and that also creates a cool (proportional) effect that would be changed if you made a normally proportioned cuff. Just some things to consider 🙂

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As for the honeycomb elongated stitches, they are easy to execute, but because of their floppy nature, you can sometimes end up knitting past them into the next area. I would advise always counting and checking your numbers OR being comfortable dropping down to fix a slipped stitch that is accidentally knit into the garter stitch background.

Garter in the round is not quite as fun as garter in the flat–you have to execute a purl row every other row to create the garter effect (rather than knitting every row, as you would in the flat). There are numerous videos about how to fix a garter stitch “jog” when working in the round. If you don’t want the “seam” down the back of your sweater, check these techniques out before you begin!

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**Added Bonus: Knit in Brooklyn Tweed Loft, Hayloft colorway Review
This yarn is not for the feint of heart! It’s a beautiful woolen spun, and it needs to be treated very gently. Pulling and yanking–even from a cake *could* break the yarn. Once knit, it’s strong, light, and lovely. I heard one designer say this of BTLoft: it’s important that the final garment is worth the effort of working with this yarn 🙂 And, as it’s also a fingering weight yarn, I agree! The results are stunning, but knitting with it can take a different kind of zen; I had it break on me early on, and I learned my lesson well! The yarn also has some VM in it–this is both endearing and awesome (think soulful stash!), and also potentially awkward and frustrating: you will have to pull out bits of hay etc and that can be tricky given the fragility of the yarn.

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Posted in Andrea Mowry, Brooklyn Tweed Loft, commissioned project, community, finished objects, FO, knitting, pattern, sample knitting, sweater, unicorns, Wool & Honey, yarn, yarn review | 1 Comment

Ask a Designer w/ Kephren Pritchett and Albina McLaughlan

A month or so ago, I asked you all what questions you have for knitwear designers . . . and wowza! you all came through with some brilliant ideas!  Two of my favorite designers, Kephren Pritchett and Albina McLaughlin, agreed to answer your questions and I’m so excited to share this Q & A with you 🙂

Kephren is the mind behind Kephren Knitting Studio. You have likely ooh’d and ahhh’d over her patterns in Interweave Knits, Knit Picks, and Knit Scene; you have also heard me wax poetic about her beautiful indie designs, such as the Sand Shawl, the Peony Shawl (immediately below), and the Storm Clouds Shawl (also below)

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Albina is the one-woman show behind LB Handknits. You have heard me talk all about her many, beautiful designs, including Scéal Gra (first image below), Sunny Every Day, and Laítis. She has helped to bring Irish indie yarns to the fore and has an incredibly intuitive mind for knitting all the things.

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Albina Mclaughlin, wearing her work in progress henley design (below)

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By the Orchard Gate [ https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/by-the-orchard-gate ]

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A Pale Fire [ https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/a-pale-fire ]

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Rusticana [ https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/rusticana ]

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Sunny Every Day [ https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/sunny-every-day ]

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In this installment, we focus on questions about yarn and inspiration, the difference between knit and sewn fabric, and the uniqueness of knitting patterns. I hope you enjoy . . . and look closely, because you may even see your name or question below!!

YARN 

Q. Does the designer have a yarn in mind as he or she thinks about the pattern? Does the type of yarn change often in the pattern development phase? —lsjames

Kephren: I usually start with a mental picture of the design, whether it’s cabled, lace, or colorwork, and the elements of the design help me to determine the type of yarn I want to use. Then I swatch with the yarn I plan to use for the design or a similar yarn I have in my stash and find out if the design works the way I want it to in that yarn. Sometimes it doesn’t, and I swatch again with different yarn. If It still doesn’t work by the second or third yarn choice I might have to change the design idea or give up on it altogether.

When I’m working with a publication I specify the qualities that I think the yarn should have to fit the design best, (drape, fuzziness, stitch definition, etc.) and I swatch with a yarn that has those qualities, but I’m rarely assigned the yarn I swatched with for the final pattern. The editors try to match the yarn I’m looking for with the yarns they have available, but sometimes the yarn I’m given may be a different weight or fiber content than I envisioned. Then I just have to make it work!

Albina: I usually have a yarn in mind even at the earliest stages of pattern development. My approach to design is quite visceral, and so from the very start I need to be able to imagine the texture and drape of the garment in order to think about its construction. In that sense, the yarn and design go hand in hand for me, and I would not normally change yarns in the course of the design process. I should mention also, that at the moment a good portion of my design work is either for, or in collaboration with, yarn companies – which means the yarn is often a fixed variable. So in those situations, if something is not working I need to tweak the design in order to accommodate the yarn and never the other way around.

UNIQUENESS

Q: I would love to know how a designer knows their pattern is unique. There are so many patterns in the world that I wonder how anyone can come up with something new, and yet there are beautiful new patterns coming out every day. —Twinkle

Kephren: I like Elizabeth Zimmermann’s philosophy of “unventing”. Knitting has been around for a long time, so even something that is new to you is probably not new. That is to say, I don’t worry much about being unique. If a common technique is what works best, that’s what I’m going to use, but it is fun to play and try different ways to do things.

Albina: I don’t think we can ever know for certain – just as we don’t know whether any of the things we say, write, draw, even feel, are absolutely unique. I try not to let it worry me, as thinking about it too much can sap confidence and impede creativity. But as far as practical steps to ensure my pattern does not repeat an existing one: I do check for patterns with similar attributes before I dedicate too much time or energy to an idea. For example, at the moment I am working on a fairly classic henley top with certain details which I hope will make it interesting and different. Before committing to the process, I went though every single henley pattern listed on ravelry to make sure that a similar design did not already exist. Doing this does take some time, but I think of it as a necessary part of the design process. That being said, I think every human-generated design has something intangible that makes it a bit special, even if it is one of many similar designs. Think about the time you saw that perfectly ordinary raglan sweater, and it stood out from all the other perfectly ordinary raglan sweaters? Uniqueness can be fascinatingly subtle.

INSPIRATION

Q. I would like to ask what inspires a designer to create. Is it a feeling that there are not enough types of patterns, such as men’s sweaters, or simply what they find fun or challenging? —haysmom25

Kephren: I like to design mostly shawls and sweaters, and my inspiration is different for each type of pattern. A shawl can be just about any size or shape, as long as it can be wrapped around the shoulders, so my inspiration for those patterns is more abstract. I like to start with an idea like raindrops on water, or the shape of the wave that forms behind a fast moving boat, and create a shawl that visually interprets that idea.

For sweaters my inspiration is more practical. I think about how the sweater is going to be used; what kind of weather it will be worn in, what the wearer will be doing while she’s wearing it, and what design elements would add to its functionality and make it interesting to knit. My sweater ideas come from what I want to wear and what I need in my wardrobe too. When I was living in Louisiana a lot of my sweater designs used three-quarter length sleeves, fingering weight yarn, and lace patterns. Since I’ve moved back to Wisconsin I’m designing sweaters with higher collars, thicker yarn, and cables.

Albina: For me it’s not really either of those things, and I do not know how to even categorise what inspires me. Usually, the design just sort of pops into my head, and then I feel compelled to make it. Sometimes it’s a vague feeling, other times a very specific and detailed visual, or even an entire scene that develops around the design. For example, I recently designed a cardigan called By the Orchard Gate, which I conjured up in the process of wandering through the grounds of an abandoned orchard near my house. I was passing though this rusting gate and for some reason began to think about how, years ago, this must have been a romantic spot for local couples to meet. I then imagined a young woman running out of her house at night to meet her sweetheart in the orchard, and in my imagination she was waring this specific cardigan. Why it works like that for me, I cannot tell you, but that is how most of my designs happen.

Vs. FABRIC

Q. It seems that there are many more options working with fabric, especially in terms of drape and shape. Do knitwear designers ever get silhouette envy? It seems that we have only boxy, floppy or fitted, for the most part because we are working with drapey rather than fabrics with more body. Have you ever had a garment in mind that you just couldn’t work into a pattern for knit fabric? —KittenWhiplash

Kephren: I’ve done more knitting than I have sewing, so maybe I just don’t know enough to feel limited, but I don’t. I feel like there are many options with knit fabric that you don’t have with sewn fabric, like the ability to shape the fabric three dimensionally as you make it, or to transition from one type of fabric to another, like garter stitch to stockinette to ribbing, seamlessly.

Knitted garments don’t have to be floppy and shapeless either. If you look at designs by Shirley Paden and Mel Clark you’ll see examples of knit garments that are just as structured and fitted as garments made from woven fabric.

Knitting does have some limitations; even though you can knit skirts and pants I think those types of garments are better suited to sewing, but sewing has the same kinds of limitations. Can you imagine socks sewn from woven fabric? That’s definitely something better suited to seamless knit fabric.

Albina: In the past I have been frustrated at not being able to knit a jacket that felt sufficiently jacket-like. No matter what methods and tricks I’d employ, my knitted fabric was not behaving like woven cloth. It took a stint as a weaver’s assistant last year, for me to appreciate that weaving is weaving and knitting is knitting; they are different methods precisely because the aim is to create fabrics with different properties and potentials. So, over time, I have come to better understand and enjoy the parameters of knitted fabric, and, subsequently to work with it rather than against it. I even think I could make that jacket now!

***

Thanks so much, Kephren and Albina for sharing your ideas and expertise! And thanks to everyone who submitted a question for the giveaway that inspired this Q & A interview! Happy knitting! 🙂

Posted in big questions, community, design, designer, designs, inspiration, interview, Kephren Knitting Studio, knitters, knitting, LB Hand Knits, LB Handknits, question and answer | Leave a comment

Episode 38: Summer Sampling!

It’s been a few weeks of family time for me . . . and backpacking! But I’ve also managed to slip into the yarn room this weekend to record a new episode for you all! This one is all about my Wool & Honey sample sweater made for none other than Wool & Honey–the Michigan knit shop! I’m also happy to reveal a *new yarn making project* that is a collaboration between me and some local shepherdesses! Oh, and a few backpacking pictures at the end will give you a taste for the La Garita Wilderness 🙂

I can’t wait to hang out with you all!

~Melissa

 

Ravelry group: https://www.ravelry.com/groups/knittingthestash

KnitCrate subscription discount code: KTS20

SHOW NOTES:

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Posted in Andrea Mowry, Brooklyn Tweed Loft, commissioned project, community, episode, fiber, knitting, knitting podcast, podcast, sample knitting, sweater, video, Wool & Honey, yarn | 1 Comment