27 March 2013

Queued: Summer knits

Two cute things in my feed recently:

Cowl Cami, by Jennifer Hansen, has only four projects and is just gorgeous:
I'd love to use linen, cotton, or a plant fiber on this to keep it light for summer. I also love that the tank is styled with another tank under, which is much more realistic to me than wearing just a knitted tank by itself. Whenever I see a knit tank alone, I always wonder how someone can wear it with just a bra and not feel "exposed".

I love the drape of the cowl and the texture of the fabric on this piece. And it's possible that I'm being seduced by a great colorway and photo set.

The other thing I'm loving right now is Caret, a Romi Hill design:
The wrap is so cute and the colors are classic and nautical. I could totally see throwing this in my purse to fight the AC in the summer. I know we've looked at chevrons before, but I love this for the irregular striping and aged look. Just an excellent combo of color and pattern.

Do you have any summer favorites?
- YX

23 March 2013

The LYS dilemma

Let's talk about local yarn stores. Have you ever noticed that local yarn stores don't typically seem to carry independent yarns? I've been to many places all over the country, but it seems like many yarn stores carry a very specific set of manufacturers.

I think one of the main reasons the local yarn stores don't carry independent yarns is because they're too varied for the general customer. It's a much smarter, from a business standpoint, to have a balanced variety of weights and fibers, in a series of popular colors. Beyond that, a large number of "big name" distributors have required minimum order amounts a retailer must buy in order to carry their yarn. And once you get into the indies, how can you really choose? There's so many fiber blends and color combinations that it would be difficult to pick things that you know would sell.

On the other hand, as a frequent yarn store shopper, I find it very frustrating to go into a place that sells three major brands and not much else. I know what Rowan, Debblie Bliss, and Cascade have to offer. I also know that a sweater quantity of those yarns can be easily acquired online. Furthermore, I know that every other store in the general area is going to have something similar.

I'd love to go into a store that primarily sells varied types of yarn. Crazy color combinations, fun dyeing techniques or weird blends. I want to see brands I've never heard of before, with amazing blends that are softer and feel "more special" than the standard stuff. Why are "workhorse" yarns the focus in many local yarn stores? If I want a sweater quantity of Cascade 220, wouldn't it make more sense to order it online and verify that I have matched dyelots?

The yarn above is one I bought at Loop, a gorgeous and near-perfect yarn shop in London. Near perfect only because it requires a bit of a trek for me to get there. Although they have some "regular" yarn, I find their collection to be more curated. There are maybe 5 colorways of a certain base instead of all 15. You may struggle to find the seven skeins of Yarn A that you needed, but, in my opinion, you gain so much more.

For one thing, a yarn shop with a ton of indie yarns supports the little guys who need the exposure. You know who Rowan is. You know what their yarns are like. You can see seventy projects done with a Rowan base on Ravelry. One the other hand, buying indie yarn online is a crapshoot. Sometimes you get amazing things and other times you get half-white, crunchy, scratchy skeins with five knots. A shop with a selection of great indie yarns gives me exposure to things I may have wondered about online and introduces me to new things I might like.

Second, a selection of indie yarn tells me a lot about the LYS owner and staff. Imagine walking into a shop with "Julie's pick of the week" or having someone behind the counter telling you why Brand Q yarn is so awesome in a cowl they're knitting. When you really like something, you get excited. You want to share it. But if everyone already knows it, you're not able to share in that new experience with them.

Third, I strongly believe in the potential for yarn to "tell you" what it wants to be. If I love a yarn, and there's only one skein of it available, I'm going to get that skein and find a pattern that fits it. Knitting is a tactile experience, and I'm not walking away from a good opportunity to play with some pretty string because there's not enough to make the next thing on my queue. I tend to follow my desires and instincts in a slightly less rigid way.

Finally, a shop with a variety of indie yarns has more flexibility to change up the stock in the shop. Since you don't have to reorder $750 worth of a brand, you can get a few skeins from one person, try a sampler from another, and get a solid stock of a third. Every time you visit the store, you'd want to stay and browse, because the products are always changing. Right now, when I walk into my LYS's, aside from a few "seasonal" new things, there isn't much that I haven't already seen.

At the end of the day, I firmly believe in supporting the little guy. Especially when there are so many great indies who are breaking out and becoming mainstays in the industry- Madelinetosh and Cephalopod (pictured above) spring to mind immediately.

What does your ideal yarn store carry? What do you dislike about your current LYS? What indie dyers are your favorites? Tell me everything in the comments!
- YX

18 March 2013

Project planning: Gramps

My lovely friends Carl and Laura are awaiting a new baby. Now, I'm not normally one to make things for babies; I usually go straight to the registry or pop a gift card into an envelope, but for friends, I like to take the time to knit something in addition to whatever store-bought items Andrew and I pick out for the baby.

This time, I've chosen Gramps, a teeny little Old Man Cardigan by Tin Can Knits.
The photography was just too cute to pass up, so I had to check it out. The pattern calls for Madeline Tosh worsted weight yarn (vintage) and includes two little pockets and some hilarious elbow patches:

I've chosen Rowan's Baby Merino Silk DK for the project, which is a washable baby yarn, in "Teal" and "Straw" colorways:

I'm choosing a DK for the project because I want to reduce the bulk of the sweater and thin down the fabric to make it easier for babies to wear. My friends live in a moderate climate, so a huge sweater isn't necessary. Since he's due to arrive in late spring, I'll opt for a larger size that will fit in the fall. 

I definitely need to cast on and get moving on it, because I have something like two months to get it done...and who knows what else might pop up in the meantime?

- YX

16 March 2013

Technique: Bobbles

I'm still working on my list of techniques from the last post. Don't worry, I plan to mix these up with other content, but felt like this would be a fun topic for today!

Bobbles... Have you made them? Do you love them? Hate them? I think, generally speaking, I don't know many knitters who jump at the chance to knit bobbles on their projects.

Texelle was my first bobble project:
These (and most) bobbles were made by increasing into a stitch, knitting back and forth on those increases for a few rows before decreasing back down to one, and moving on to the next stitch.

Around the same time, I also worked on Erikson, which has a bobble motif that imitates metal studs:

They're interesting little design elements that can really add dimension to knitting. Though you have to be careful... A row of them across the bust might not be the best placement option...

- YX

10 March 2013

Undereducated: Knitting techniques

One of my lovely readers asked me to write a blog post about knitting techniques I'd like to learn. I found a huge list of techniques via Google, so to begin with, I pared the list down to remove things like project types, since those aren't techniques as much as a combination of things. I also removed references to dyeing or spinning, since those aren't knit-related. Now, although my primary goal is to talk about what I want to learn, I will add some anecdotes about the things I have learned... Primarily for your amusement. Here's the list:

American/English knitting and Continental knitting

Cable stitch patterns
Combination knitting
Designing knitted garments
Domino knitting
Drop stitch patterns
Fair Isle knitting
Free-form knitting
Garter stitch
Graffiti knitting
Kitchener stitch
Knitting and purling backwards
Lace patterns
Long Tail CO
Machine knitting
Moebius band knitting
Norwegian knitting
Short rows
Slip stitch patterns
Stockinette stitch
Textured knitting
Thrummed knitting
Tubular CO
Twisted stitch patterns
Two end knitting

So I'll start with American/English knitting. Have I ever told you how I learned to knit? With a Lion Brand boucle scarf kit? Yeah, the instructions would've been better if they were written by Ikea. Luckily, I was able to find the excellent resource that is Knittinghelp.com, and things became much clearer. 

Now, I'm not sure why I chose English over continental. I think, most likely, it was because I'm so utterly right handed that trying to control the yarn in my left hand was doomed from the start. Now, I knit English with a few weird nuances, like keeping my right thumb against the needle when I "throw"... Would you like to see me knitting something? You would?! How about this:
Lovely! Now, I normally knit a bit faster and more fluidly when my hands aren't around a tripod and reaching into a lightbox... :D

I'd love to learn to knit continental. The fact is, I do know how to knit like that, but my left hand is so bad at keeping tension that it just seems useless to keep going at it. I get my projects done quickly enough without the extra efficiency of continental, so I think I'll just stay happy with this way, until I come up with something better. 

How do you knit?
- YX

08 March 2013

WIP: Meridien

So I'm working on Meridien, a swing cardigan by Joji Locatelli. Here's the designer photo:
 And here's where I am so far:

I'm enjoying the pattern, which is knitted side-to-side. The construction is interesting, but I'll write more on that as I get to it. For now, I'm just enjoying the different textures of the fabric.

Unfortunately, the piece needs to measure something like 44" from the narrower stockinette side before I can do anything else, so I'm stuck in a 33-row repeat that is a bit tedious but is at least memorizable.

I have a small notebook I'm using to keep track of rows and repeats, which is imperative as I run a cable and increase short rows at the same time. It seems to be working out well, for the most part! I already have one repeat that messed up and doesn't look like the rest, but I'm going to go ahead and leave it different. I'm a big fan of the Deliberate Mistake in projects.

You know what I'm talking about, right? The idea that leaving a mistake in your work somehow keeps you honest. Perhaps less prideful, perhaps less perfect. Crafters and artisans throughout history have made or kept intentional mistakes. I think having a mistake in my work makes me less stressed about fixing things, which makes a project more enjoyable and less like work. Although I'm more of a project knitter than a process knitter, and I sure as heck don't need an INTENTIONAL mistake for all the ones I dump into my knitting. Heh.

Anyway, this cardigan is going to take awhile, so I may end up hopping onto another project for a few weeks to take a bit of a break...
- YX

04 March 2013

March Giveaway!

Oooh, this is like, a new record of lateness for me. I had a great yarn dyer lined up for March's giveaway, but trunk shows have totally depleted her awesome stash! This is a good thing for her, but for us it means waiting!

Luckily, I have Lace Knitting To Go for you this month!
It's a deck of 25 lovely lace patterns on convenient little cards. Easy to take with you on the plane of in a  project bag, the patterns are less project and more stitch dictionary. I adore sources like this for my knitting. It makes pattern design and improvisation so easy!

If you check the book's Ravelry page above, you'll see some of the designs Andrea Tung has created for this set!

To win this deck for March, all you need to do to enter is comment on this post with something you'd like to see me talk about on this blog! Don't forget to include an email or Ravelry username so I can let you know when you've won!

Also, I have Google ads up on my blog each month... They're usually at the bottom of the sidebar. Just a friendly reminder to check them out if you see something you're interested in! My ad revenue goes directly to giveaways.

Happy March! WIP post coming later in the week! :)
- YX

01 March 2013

February Winner

Wow! A total of 203 whopping entries for the giveaway this month! What a crazy month!

I always feel bad for the people who sign up for my giveaways early... It seems like the random number generator always comes up in the middle somewhere. Luckily for the earlybirds, this month I drew a low number!
Congratulations Nellum! I'll be PMing you shortly for your info!

Stay tuned for another giveaway this afternoon!
- YX