31 July 2012

July Winner

Excuse my insanity... I had an entire post written out today before I remembered it's GIVEAWAY TIME! Woot!

Out of 119 comments (a record! woot!), our winner is:
Number 85! Congratulations to flutterbykk on Rav! I hope you enjoy the yarn!

Check in tomorrow for the next giveaway!
- YX

26 July 2012

Knit patterns!

I love knitting- this should come as no surprise. I find it to be relaxing, fun, and a great creative outlet. I also really love seeing knitted items in stores- even something as simple as a basic pullover with good detailing deserves a second look.

I really geek out when I see other items with knit patterns on them. I stumbled across these mugs today, and started looking at fun knit-related items...
Knit Pattern Mug by Mochithings

How about Couture Deco's Knitted wallpaper? I hate wallpaper but holy crap I love this:
It'd be awesome with a really smooth wainscoting/panel on the bottom half of the room.

I love this knit print stamp from Etsy seller Hugfishandorange:

I love this incredible knit texture pen from Nakaya. Heh... Christmas, anyone?

Share other knit-related items in the comments!
- YX

(PS- you know the drill.)

23 July 2012

FO: En Pointe Wrap Sweater

It's done!
I finished my En Pointe wrap sweater last night, and snuck off to take a few quick photos before bed. It's sooooo comfortable. I love this yarn. Wow.
I was really surprised to have so much yarn left over...  It seems like I may have half of each skein (probably less) to use on another project. Teeny striped wristwarmers, mayhaps?

Speaking of stripes, these photos don't show the color well, so here's a detail shot:
The variations are subtle, but you can tell the difference in person. I think the lights are just washing out the stripes in these photos. 
I chose to accent the sleeves with gold, and did the ribbing pieces on the back in pink. I figured it would be easier than trying to simultaneously maintain stripes and a rib, since the yarn is so soft and smooth that I was constantly retensioning it.

You really get a feel for how the sweater wraps on the sides. Its a teeny slip of a thing, but the pattern definitely allows you to adjust the stitch count. I'll probably end up using this for leftover sock yarns as a stash buster. Although it took be about three weeks to get through the pattern, I attribute that to my refusal to take the project with me anywhere-- all the knitting was done at home. I didn't want to risk turning the wound cakes into a mess of tangles, which happened while I was winding them. Once is enough, thank you very much!

The icord works well as a durable option for ties, but I could also see starting this with a wide garter stitch ribbon, or sewing on some pretty ribbon as well.

I'll leave you with my favorite shot:
- YX

PS- I still have quite a few people entering my July giveaway! Only a week left to enter!

20 July 2012

So you want to learn to knit?

I have a few Facebook friends who admire the knitting projects I post there. They (and sometimes random strangers who see me knitting) often say they couldn't possibly figure out how to do something as complex as make a whole sweater.

If you've done more than a few projects, it becomes apparently how easy knitting is, which seems like a kind of injustice... The second things feel natural, all the knowledge that would've benefitted you in the beginning, nervous stages appears.

The thing is, knitting IS easy. Perhaps I'm betraying a legion of craftsmen and women when I say this, but it's a skill in which almost anyone can learn and become proficient.

I learned how to knit during winter break of my freshman year in college. I didn't knit religiously, and there were periods of months where I didn't knit at all. Within the last ten years as a knitter, I'd say I've probably been truly active for less than half of that time, and I'm comfortable with pretty much any knitting pattern that I wish to knit.

If you want to learn how to knit, there are tons of venues. There are classes and private lessons, books, and tons of resources on the internet. I started with an impulse buy at a craft store: a "Learn to Knit" kit that came with some utterly horrific boucle yarn, super large needles, and an incomprehensible pamphlet complete with single-color diagrams that did little to bolster my understanding of an entirely foreign concept.

One of the infuriating aspects of knitting is that the very first thing you do is "cast on" stitches to your needle... This creates little loops that will form the edge of your fabric, and forms the foundation for the rest of the knitted work. The thing is, the technique for casting on is not the same as normal knit stitches. And there's more than one way to do it, with multiple applications.

I struggled with casting on my first few stitches for days. This was before Ravelry, a great resource for knitters, and without friends or nearby relatives who could assist me in the crucial beginnings of my first little project. Soon enough, though, I figured it out, entirely due to stumbling upon Knittinghelp.com and the gloriously thorough videos there. I was on my way.

I never finished the scarf. I think I threaded the yarn through the loops I had, and tied a clumsy knot. I went on to my first real project:
Knitting is comprised of a few basics: Knits, purls, slips, and yarnovers. Knits and purls create a new stitch on an existing loop. Slips are just moving existing loops to the next needle. Yarnovers are creating a stitch without an existing loop. Everything else really stems from these building blocks.

It's exciting when you get it right! And more exciting when you start to realize the things you can do with those skills! Other old-timers, leave me some stories about your learning curves in the comments!

- YX

(Yarn, yarn, yarn!)

18 July 2012


I've been working on a few things lately, but nothing "big" that has been fancy enough to post about.

Like these socks. Remember them?
Neither did I, until I started working on my other WIP, which is not an easily-traveling project. (More on that in a minute).

We were about to leave for New England last weekend when, through various unfortunate events, we missed our first flight and were cancelled on the second. We ended up staying home for the weekend, but the 7 hours we were in the airport were filled with intermittent naps and working on the sock. I finished the first one and started the second one before we were informed that our plans were cancelled and we should go home.

So at least I have the socks to work on during my morning commute, which has been fiber-free recently. Kind of hard to work on something like Pinctada in a car. Especially when you're the type to get Exorcist-style carsick in the presence of the written word. Reading patterns is not an option for me.

Great, I have a sock. But I also have this:
Okay, I am super embarrassed that this is the only photo I have of this. It's the En Pointe Wrap Sweater by Erin Archer. Her website is freaking adorable, though, so you should go check it out if you're into crafty, cute, Anthropologie-style stuff. It's supposed to look like this:
Cute, right? The sweater calls for a dk-weight yarn, but I decided to use my Artisan Yarns Baby Camel/Silk that I bought from Loop back in May. It looks like this:
This is a sock yarn, but seems to be working pretty well with the pattern, which I'm knitting on size 8 needles. The fabric is drapey and open, and feels reeeeeeally good. I keep rubbing it on my face. Like actually stopping my knitting to rub it on my face. Really.

The sweater is knitted from left to right, so the stripes are vertical, which is kind of neat. Except it requires both yarn cakes at the same time, so traveling with it is more challenging. Especially in a car. Especially because it has silk content. Especially because ever silk yarn cake I've wound has this charming way of falling apart, even when I knit from the outside, unless I keep it in some kind of super secure pantyhose cage thing. Regular project bags become a tangled mess...

ANYWAY, back to the sweater. The back is really pretty and scooped, too, which you can't see in the above photo. I'm finished with all but one sleeve, so I should be doing a FO post of that soon.

Then, it's challenge to see what will win out: my desire to use up all of my stashed black alpaca, or my interest in designing a sweater I've had a concept for since last summer... Hmmm... Your opinions are always welcome in the comments. :)

- YX

PS- In the meantime, how about you enter to win this awesome yarn and make an ombre en pointe sweater like the one above? I haven't even used 100g of yarn yet on mine....

13 July 2012

Queued: Hakusa

There's a shawl in my future... In the interest of full disclosure, it's likely Rock Island, and it's likely going to be done in Schaefer yarn's Audrey base in this color.

But I have a ton of queued/planned projects. I still have all that black alpaca and I have a sweater design I need to swatch and crank out sooner rather than later.

But there's this:

It's called Hakusa and it's by Kirsten Johnstone, who might very well be my new favorite person, ever. Seriously, click on that link and look at her designs. So cute, contemporary, and simple. Perfect perfect perfect.
I love how feminine this is without resorting to lace. Even the ruffles are edgier- like torn chiffon- than deliberate. The sheer vs opaque parts set up an opportunity for experimenting with tonality. This is probably my favorite recently-found queued items.

Other colors, you say? OKAY:
Kirsten Johnstone, you are adorable. We need to be friends who meet up at a PoMo coffee shop and talk about Rem Koolhaas between cups of extremely strong tea. You are the best.

Know what else is great about this pattern? It's a scrap magnet. The small version is like 170 yards and the big one is 330. I have tons of leftover lace that could work with that. In fact, I have leftover qiviut that would look excellent.

Love her.
- YX

(Get some yarnnnnn!)

10 July 2012

FO: A giant honkin' cowl

During the re-graft shuffle I was doing on my Pinktada, I took a brief break to address the Araucania Liwen I had in my stash:

Back in January, I wrote about this yarn and how I felt kind of sad that I had nothing to do with it. It's pretty enough, but just so thick and thin that the fabric was going to be difficult. I thought the answer was possibly a bulky shrug, and I had a few options. 

I pulled the yarn out of my stash again and began looking at it. It seemed kind of odd, after all, to do such a warm shrug with no sleeves. When I get cold, my arms are the first thing to respond, so maybe it wasn't so smart to make a whole garment that would only be wearable when I could go sleeveless. I guess I could layer it over a long-sleeved tee, but it somehow seemed an awkward prospect. 

So I did what pretty much anyone else would assume to do with the yarn: I started a cowl. 

This is the Mid-December Easy Knit Infinity Scarf by A Crafty House. The pattern's free, and very simple. Although it looks like a straightforward rib in the photo above, it's actually a broken rib that gives a different texture to both sides. I love the versatility of large cowls like this... Most people think to wear them as shown above, but what about as a shawl?
Worn this way, you also get a great stripe of texture across the back:
I love the coloring of the yarn... No pooling, emphasizes the texture of the yarn, and reminds me of seaglass. Or Easter eggs. I loved the yarn in the skein, so this was a great way to retain the handpainted feel of the yarn, which tends to get lost on more complex stitch patterns. Here's a close up:
The pattern calls for a 24", #19 needle, which I happened to have laying around thanks to my mother-in-law, who gifted me with a bunch of large needles on her last visit. I knocked this out in one tv session, and it was a glorious therapy to recover from the frustrations of ripping out the Pinktada graft (woven-in ends and all). Sometimes you just need the satisfaction of finishing something. 

I'd pair this cowl with a white tank or boyfriend tee and black leather pants. For the dissonance. It'd also make a great companion for the plain little cocktail dresses I tend to accumulate. It'd give them some much-needed visual interest. 

There's enough fabric that I can make the front and back both drape without it falling off my shoulders, which is kind of pretty, too: 
- YX
(PS: bulky stuff not your style? How about some socki maki?)

06 July 2012

Throwing caution to the wind

I've been threatening to do this post for awhile, but talking to my group at Knit Night yesterday really solidified my resolve.

A quick perusal of my finished objects on Ravelry shows me that I've knitted one project in the pattern's suggested yarn. (It's Caliper, for those of you playing the home game) I love the finished samples in a pattern, and I appreciate the time and effort required to choose a yarn that compliments the design. That's awesome.
I also appreciate the issues that some people, especially beginner knitters, have with gauge. One of the best ways to get a great product is to follow the pattern instructions exactly. The result is more likely to resemble the sample.

But I find that tracking down the exact yarn for a pattern doesn't work with my impulsive desires. Sometimes, a suggested yarn line doesn't have a flattering color. Perhaps I'd rather use superwash, or something with a smaller halo, or something with a twist for durability, instead of the delicate singles specified. Maybe (and this is usually the case), I want to use stash yarn.

The first step toward throwing caution to the wind is simple: subbing similar yarn. Something of a similar weight and fiber is guaranteed to end up alright.

Next is to stay in the same weight family. You have to consider the implications of the fiber types, and number of plies; the fabrics can drape differently. In my experience, the "silkier" a yarn is, the drapier the fabric will be.

Then, you get bolder. I've found that sport, worsted, DK, and fingering weight yarns tend to swap out reasonably well. Fingering yarn held double is supposed to equal worsted, so it's a likelier match than just subbing one for the other directly, but as long as the fabric's openness isn't of ultimate importance, it doesn't seem to make a bad product. Using a bulky weight on a lace shawl is probably a bad idea, but the sport weight that I subbed for the suggested DK in my Texelle had no effect on the project.
Now, my frequent subbing does come at a price. Sometimes things look funky. I usually whip out a ruler and try to determine if I'm close to gauge. If I'm not, I may have to frog the few inches of the project that I've finished. Gauge swatches? Baaah, I just go for it. I figure no one's grading me based on accuracy.

I'd love to hear your favorite stories of subbed yarns- good and bad. And links to the project pages!

- YX

(Get some free yarn for all of your yarn subbing needs here!)

04 July 2012

FO: Pink-tada

Woohoo! Happy 4th of July, friends in the USA! Today, I celebrated my independence from the neverending Pinctada I've been working on!
Now that all is said and done, I'm pretty happy with the final product. I've found several ways to wear it. There's the crossbody vest  shown above, as well as a cowl vest:
I can also just wear it as a doubled-up cowl, too, which is closer to its original design:
It was a guess and check situation for the length. I just kept wrapping the fabric around until it finally seemed long enough to fit... I ended a little short because I knew it'd block out a bit longer. I'm glad I did! It grew a little bit. 
I'm so happy with how it turned out.  For those who follow my Twitter, you know I had quite a rough time at the end, when I grafted the whole thing together, put it on, and realized it needed a twist in order to be worn as a vest! I had to pull out the entire graft, twist the cowl, and re-graft it. I wanted to cry!
The graft is so ugly-- it looks like a craggy scar running down the piece. I blocked the whole thing before grafting (so it could be blocked flat), and grafted afterward. I'm going to block it again on the grafted area, and I'm hoping that will clean it up a little. Ah well, new skill!

Have a great 4th! I've enjoyed reading the comments on this month's giveaway! Keep 'em coming!
- YX

01 July 2012

July Giveaway!

Well, hello there. It's my understanding that you may enjoy some yarn. Indeed, some free yarn.

How about this month's giveaway?

It's two GORGEOUS little rolls of Play At Life Fiber Arts Revelous Sockie maki in "dogwood"!

60% Merino, 30% Bamboo rayon, 10% nylon: this stuff feels ridiculous to touch. Soft and beautiful. I love the variations in the green, too. Two separated cakes means easy sock knitting, too. Since this yarn is a slow gradient, having matched cakes makes it easier to match items, whether it's halves of a shawl, individual socks, or gloves/mittens.

It's beautiful and I'm seriously jealous of the winner! Luckily for the rest of us, Play At Life is also offering 15% off all orders in the online store, with the code "YARNSPLODER"! So don't worry if you don't win something!

To enter this month, visit the Play At Life Fiber Arts online store, and come back here to comment with your favorite!

Good luck!
- YX