31 March 2012

March Giveaway winner!

Okay! 83 comments, and one was a duplicate. So we're choosing from 82...

Congrats to KatieHine, commenter 69! I really couldn't make up those odds! I hope you enjoy the yarn and share your FO with us when you figure out what you're making!
To everyone else, thank you for entering! I love seeing all the faves and comments! Tune back in tomorrow for the next giveaway!

- YX

30 March 2012

New photos!

Andrew and I took some new photos last night! They're older FO's, mostly belonging to my mom. My dad came into town and brought the pieces with him so I could take good photos!

The rest of the gallery is here.

And today is your last surefire chance to enter my giveaway! I'll choose a winner on the 31st, and introduce my NEW giveaway on the first! Are you excited? I am!

- YX

27 March 2012

Photography 101: Lightboxes

Happy Tuesday! This is the first in a series of posts I plan to do on knit photography. I should note that I have ZERO training in photography, but this is based on my experience as I've stumbled through attempting to find good ways to document my projects.

There are tons of ways to take photos of finished objects, and I'll try to get to all of them, but for now I'm focusing on small objects, like toys, hats, gloves, and even skeins of yarn for your stash page.

I didn't use Ravelry's stash feature for AGES, and when I did, it was a series of badly-taken webcam photos that didn't represent the yarn in any useful way:
The color in this photo is off, the lighting's uneven, and parts of it are blurry. I can't even get a good feeling for the texture of this yarn in the photo-- is it soft and light, like a fingering weight yarn, or is it super heavy bamboo? Is it scratchy or silky? This photo basically tells me nothing except that I own some yarn that looks fairly like rainbow sherbet.

Now, I take all of my small object photos using a curl or lightbox. This method results in photos that have a clean, white background with no "setting" in the shot.

(I'll talk more about backgrounds/settings in another post.) For stash images and most of the images on my site, I choose plain backgrounds that put the entire focus of the image on the object, without distractions.

To accomplish this look, you don't actually need any fancy equipment... A white sheet or piece of posterboard can make a curl. To start, just attach the material to a vertical plane (wall or chairback) and let the fabric or paper drape toward you, creating a gentle curve. If using posterboard, I tend to favor the matte side (the side that typically has the price sticker on it), so there's no reflectivity. Once you've created a curl, you have to determine your light sources.

Lighting can be approached many ways. Natural light obviously depends on the weather. Using the sun can be great (and cheap!) but the best results occur in the shade or on an overcast day, where you get all the ambient light of the sun with none of the harsh shadows.
If using artificial light, I like to use opposing lights or a single overhead, diffused light. If you just put two lamps on opposite sides of a ball of yarn, you'd probably get some harsh shadows. Diffusing light makes it more even. A quick way to do this is via lampshades or the use of parchment paper. Parchment allows light to shine through, but breaks it up and makes it more even. It's also heat resistant, so BAM!

I followed a tutorial and constructed my own little lightbox. I then went to Home Depot and bought two cheap worklights and two "daylight" bulbs. My final result was this:
I'm using parchment on the sides to diffuse the light, which creates a great, even glow in the space. You can buy premade tents, but I like this as a cheap alternative. I keep this box in my guest room, under a lamp with a white bulb, so I can just turn on the light and get a good, quick image from it. In fact, the photos from yesterday's post were taken in the tent, with just the overhead lamp!
Super easy! Do you have any tricks for small photos like this?

- YX

Don't forget! Just a few more days to enter and win!

26 March 2012

FO: Blanket Square

One of the best things about Ravelry is that, despite being a huge community of over 2,000,000, people still connect on a personal level.

I belong to a group on the website that has a 10,000-person membership (although it's arguable that even 1/3 of these members are "active")... One of our members had posted a few times talking about her husband, who had been suffering from a few health ailments. As time went on, her stories became sadder, until she recently posted that his life has unfortunately and unexpectedly ended.

A bunch of us rallied together and decided to make her a blanket. The great thing about these kinds of knitted blankets is that they require the tiniest bit of material and effort, but allow many people to come together to make something beautiful. I joined forces with some friends on Twitter to buy a skein of Tosh Vintage and do some squares:
The great thing about this square is that I was able to knit it entirely patternless, since it was exactly the same as the other blanket I'm working on:
I love the miters, which are made by yarning over and then KTBL on the next round. It makes a nice square with no eyelets and no pulling.
Also, I freaking love my 50mm lens. Yum.

I did the EZ Sewn Bind off on the square, sewed up the hole in the middle, and blocked it out. I am NOT a fan of yellow as an apparel color. My olive skin tone means yellow makes me look positively green... So I am super happy to be able to play with the color. I meant to send it off in the mail today (along with some other packages, but my local PO at work is open for a whopping TWO HOURS each day, so tomorrow, it'll be.

I love blankets. I need to finish mine, even though the cold weather is basically over. I still get cold in the AC, so perhaps I can find a use for it, after all?

- YX

24 March 2012

The Sweater Curse

Brownstone is my first sweater for an adult that is Not Myself. It's not only Not for Me-- it's for Andrew, and I'd be lying if I didn't say the sweater curse had come to mind a few times since I started knitting it.

The sweater curse basically states that if you make a sweater for someone before you're married, the likelihood that you'll break up is exponentially greater. I think it's something akin to Murphy's Law... You spend all this time making something for someone, just watch them walk away with a handful of your Malabrigo stuffed in their suitcase.

Not the worstedddddd!!!!

I've made knitted objects for past boyfriends, but I'll be completely honest-- I never made a man's sweater until now. I even made a pair of socks for Andrew:
I don't know that I can blame my non-sweater knitting on a fear of some abstract curse, because I generally think there's always a logical explanation for that sort of thing. For instance, it would be incredibly hurtful to make a sweater for someone and have them not appreciate it as much as you want. You hand over the newly blocked object and the recipient shrugs his shoulders or just say "thanks" without any sort of genuine feeling...  Of course it would be rude to ask for more praise, so you walk away, kicking yourself and feeling vaguely (or totally!) resentful of the hours you spent on some jerk who ended up breaking your heart.

I also wonder if the giver notices when the curse works, but doesn't notice when the curse is broken. How many of you have knitted a sweater for someone you actually ended up staying with? Or is it just a matter of time before we're all drawing up divorce paperwork?


Curses! Pah!
- YX

(Ooh, of course I'll remind you to enter to win the yarn-- just a few more days!)

21 March 2012

WHERE have you BEEN?!

Hello, Exploders! Miss me? I was in Orlando for a business trip, which afforded me very nice weather and (sadly) zero yarn shops.
I did get the chance to knit a little bit on the plane, but it was just more of the Brownstone, so nothing much to note. The sweater is knitted from the bottom up, and the sleeves are supposed to be knitted first and joined to the body, but I've decided to knit the body upward, then provisionally cast on for the sleeves and knit the yoke, then come back to the provisional and knit the sleeves last. I'm not confident that the yoke would be perfect for the desired sleeve length, so I'm taking those steps to be as accurate as possible. This is my first sweater for my husband, so I want it to be as close to perfect as I can get.

I've added two new things to my queue, which I find particularly intriguing from a colorwork standpoint.

The first is Encadre, by the lovely Julie Hoover:
I love this little cowl's geometric grid, and the laceweight yarn means it's a good candidate for shawl leftovers. The simple grid leaves room for serious color exploration. I'd personally do a color scheme that is super current and trendy-- light grey and fluorescent yellow:
I'd knit this in linen for early summer, and make it about twice as long so it feels scarfy. 

The other pattern I've been looking at is Locale, a shawl with some neat little blocks of color:
The shawl has 3 distinct color bands using 2 skeins of yarn. The middle band (where the blocks are) is created by alternating the edging color with the top edge color, creating a slow transition. I love the concept. I think it would be cool to see on a sweater, too. 

Anyone have similar projects they love? Show me! Also... Don't forget to enter:

- YX

16 March 2012

Plum Street Fiber Art yarn inspiration

This afternoon, I took a peek at some pattern options for the Plum Street Fiber Art yarn I'm giving away. 
If you win, you could make:

A Madelinetosh Honey Cowl (short version).
Churchmouse Yarns and Teas Welted Fingerless Gloves
Susie Roger's Reading Mitts
A Purelife Phone Case by Helen Limbrick
Awesome Mama Jane slippers by Michelle Miller
Violetta's gorgeous Hinagiku Hat
These 17th street gloves by Kristen Jancuk
or you could rock out with your bad self in these Driver mitts by Robin Melanson!

Just a small list! We're halfway to the end of our giveaway, so don't forget to enter!
- YX

14 March 2012

Book Review: The Knitting Answer Book

I'm not big on knitting books. 

I know that's kind of a bold statement, considering the stack I pulled off of my shelf this evening:

I've had a lot of luck with getting books as gifts, but when it comes to buying them myself, I hesitate. There's something about buying a whole book and knowing I'll only use one or two patterns... With the features Ravelry provides, it seems to make much more sense to buy patterns individually, as PDFs. You get a copy in your email, one saved to your Rav library, and you can always print out copies, too.

I DO love stitch dictionaries, though, which really help when you're looking at substitutions or designing your own stuff. I'd love to have more of them... But my most treasured book is the 3rd one in the above stack:
This teeny little answer guide is about as big as a greeting card, and maybe an inch thick. It's a must-buy for new knitters that are working up to advanced skills. Set in a question-and-answer format, The Knitting Answer Book allows you to jump around based on topic (Basics, Bind offs, Tools, Fit, Shape, Finishing, etc), to find what you're looking for.

Answers range from a sentence or two to multiple paragraphs, charts, and/or illustrations. The illustrations are so cute, too, and remind me SO much of TECHknitting, which means they're super easy to understand:
I often use this book as a reference before heading to Ravelry, which should definitely say something about how valuable it is to me. I'll also happily admit that I've read the book, front to back, at least 2 or 3 times since I started knitting. Once I graduate to a higher skill level, I usually peruse it and look for new improvements I want to adopt in my next project. Better buttonholes? Smoother increases? Nicer stitch choices? I can see how to fix these things on my next project.

I'm a firm believer in not focusing on doing everything "the right way" immediately. I think it's discouraging as a new knitter to feel like you have to make every step correctly, particularly when the first projects you do are always going to seem like they're not 100% perfect. Allowing myself to improve gradually has kept my interest in the process.

Do you have a great reference book you use? Let me know about it!

And you still have time for the giveaway! Enter enter enter!
- YX

12 March 2012

Queued: Summer Flies

I'm going to a wedding on Saturday, and although the weather's looking to be nice, you can never really predict the coolness in a conditioned space at this time of year. The temperature ping-pongs from 55 to 80 in a span of a day (sometimes mere hours!). I plan on taking my Texelle for warmth, but perhaps I'll be better prepared for wedding season if I can get this on the needles:

This is Donna Griffin's Summer Flies shawl, a lacy little number that adds knitted pretty to an outfit without making you sweat off your face spackle. Using layered but simple geometrics, Donna creates a semi-circular shawl that won't look too busy or bulky with summer fabrics. The butterfly lace is pretty but subdued, and not all "LOOK AT ME" juvenile.

If popularity is any indicator, this shawl must be awesome. At 3,338 current projects, it's not a diamond in the rough, but rather a simple piece that could show off some awesome yarn in the cotton/linen/rayon family. In fact, I have some Araucania Ruca which may be up for the task: it's a plant fiber-based yarn. Here, let me show you a terrible photo of it:

In reality, it's not nearly as MULTI MULTI as it seems. The color changes are subtle, and may end up making a delicious sorbet-inspired FO.

I love the edging detail on this. I'm beginning to feel like blocked points are the cop-out of shawl design. Not that they aren't generally gorgeous, but who wouldn't feel super accomplished after a bind-off row FULL OF NUPPS? I bet you'd be taking a break from nupp-related activities after this one...

Hey! Don't forget to enter the thing where I give someone free yarn! And have a good week!
- YX

09 March 2012

WIP it good

Well, after a short break, I started on Andrew's Brownstone:

It's not much to look at now, but I've already used up two balls of the Sublime Organic merino I got for the project, which is kind of scary. I have 13 total, which will hopefully be enough to complete the sweater... The yardage on the pattern suggests that I have more than enough.

Whenever I try to photograph this sweater, it always looks super yellow, even when I dramatically reduce the K value on my camera. Here's a shot of the yarn to show you the "true" color:
I love the yarn, and the fabric is super soft. I was lucky enough to grab it during the last sale at the yarn shop, for $5/ball. It's normally twice that! Andrew seems excited about the final product, too, which makes it even more exciting to knit. Also, he's a men's small/medium, so maybe I'll get a shot or two at wearing it, myself. Mwahahaaaa-- always a secret motive for me!

Since I can't bear the thought of slogging through another sweater without a few distractions, I looked through my leftovers and settled on the rest of the Little Red Bicycle dk to make a quick pair of fingerless mitts for absolutely no reason:

And I've started a pair of socks with that Sunrise Fiber Co yarn I bought:

I like the striping! I'm knitting these on threes, with a starting count of 16 stitches for my figure-8 cast on. Total circumference, 48 stitches. I have a narrow foot, and I really like to have my socks stretch a bit when I put them on. Aside from a pair of pink cashmere socks I made for myself (which met an untimely mothy demise), I don't really have other handknit socks for myself. I'm not much of a sock knitter, but maybe it's just because I've failed at picking fun yarns.

So that's what's going on right now... I also have a dress design that is close to test knitting time, so there will be more on that at some point! Exciting!

Have a good weekend, and don't forget to enter!
- YX

07 March 2012

Queued: Pinctada

I was on Pinterest a bit earlier this week, when I came across a pretty crossover wrap vest image that I repinned to my knit board. The pin took me to Etsy, where the creator of the garment was selling the finished garment, with a request to not copy or use the design. I can respect that, but I really enjoyed the concept, which seemed to consist of a super long cowl that was worn in a way similar to Sarah Dallas's Affric Cape:

Except instead of ties at the end, it's just a continuous loop of one width.

I went searching for a cowl that I could lengthen to produce a similar project, and found Pinctada, a beautiful cabled cowl by Angela Button:

This cowl is so elegant and beautiful, and I was drawn to it immediately. I love the large, braided cable motif in the middle, which is more complex than the rope and spine cables I've done in the past. It'll be a fun challenge!

The other thing that I really like about this pattern is the attention to edging:
The edges aren't just a slipped stitch, garter edge, or a ribbed edge. The layering of knits and purls and those pretty little chains make for a substantial foundation that compliments the weight of the main motif without fighting against it.

Now to take some measurements and figure out how long it'll need to be. The pattern calls for a sport, but I have a ton of worsted cotton that would make this a good match with a plain tank for spring knitting.

Or perhaps I'll look in the blue family and try something new... I need a companion piece for the Brownstone I'm working on (WIP post coming soon), so this wrap sweater may be the ticket!

Have you entered my yarn giveaway yet? All you have to do is fave a Plum Street Fibers colorway on etsy and comment to tell me about it! I'll pick a winner on the last day of the month!
- YX

05 March 2012

Trend: Mint

Spring has sprung in Houston, which means a few weeks of decent weather before we're back to living on the surface of the sun. I know it's still cold for many of you, so here's something to cheer you up.

Lately, I've been seeing tons of fashion blogs covering mint green fashions, including an article over the weekend talking about Chanel's Jade nail polish, which is selling on ebay for over $200 a bottle (nuts!)
I fell in love with the color while working on my Texelle, which is done in Little Red Bicycle's Ahab colorway. Although I look wretched in greens, this color is subtle enough that it doesn't make too much of a fuss.
It has prompted me to buy a few pieces from American Apparel in the color family, too:

So why not knit something for spring? I found a few options on Etsy for your stash-enhancing needs. First up is Recycled Fibers' T-shirt yarn in mint green:
How cool would it be to knit a really intricate cable or lace pattern in this yarn, then sew it onto a t-shirt or tank? Oooh, I may have to try this...

Penelope's Fine Yarns does recycled yarn, too. This is an 85% cashmere, 15% silk blend that would probably feel awesome if applied directly to my eyeballs, even.
A cute, open lace wrap would be great in this, or maybe a Wisp worn like a bandanna/scarf, with a white t-shirt and jeans, to add a pop of color?

Something more substantial? How about 1AZColorwork's Thick and Thin slub yarn, which would be awesome as an Ovate:

What do you guys think? Love it? Hate it? Show me your yarn picks in the comments!
- YX

01 March 2012

March Giveaway

Giveaway time! We had 38 comments, but one was a duplicate. Thanks to the Random Number Generator...
Our winner is Chels! Congrats to you, and thanks to everyone for entering!

For the month of March, I'm giving away an incredible skein of Plum Street Fiber Arts in Frost Bite. At 250 yards per skein, there's enough there to make an awesome hat, cowl, or mitts. 

The color is a beautiful wash of dark lavenders and plums, with a ribbon of mossy green filtering through it. It's absolutely gorgeous in person:

The yarn is DK weight Falkland merino wool, which is gloriously soft and squishy, while still remaining light. 

So how can you win this month? Go to Plum Street's Etsy Shop and fave one of her colorways by hovering over the item and clicking the small heart icon in the top corner. Come back here and comment with which one you faved! Make sure to include with a Ravelry username or link your email in the comment form!
The contest ends March 31st, so don't miss out!

- YX