I hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving holiday.  I had a wonderful week off, interrupted by our little Small Business Saturday sale, and thanks to everyone who came!  I’m very happy to announce that the winners of our Advent Calendars were Donna Hain and Janet Kakareka, both of whom will have a lot of fun opening those little doors next month, and figuring out things to do with all their little mini-skeins.  Next year there will be one with my name on it!

I visited my sister and came home with 4 knitting commissions! She wants another lightweight cowl like the one I made her last year, only in a different color.  This is the pattern I used, the Ocean Waves Loop from Swans Island Company:

According to my sister (and Chinese acupuncture), keeping the back of your neck warm is crucial to keeping your body warm and will protect you from colds and other winter ills! And as I sit here at my computer on this chilly morning with a throw over my shoulders like an old lady, I can attest to feeling much warmer with it covering the back of my neck.  I can also attest to the fact that if I switched out the throw for a beautiful infinity scarf, I would look much more stylish and much less like a haggard old crone.

The other requests came from my niece, mother of Maxwell the Great (Nephew), who, by the way, is the cutest little guy ever and is in constant motion and thoroughly in love with trucks and heavy machinery of any kind.  He needs a sweater, perhaps with a truck on it!  She needs another pair of socks, and would love a simple navy turtleneck in a warm soft fabric, which she is having a hard time finding in the stores.

How much do I love being asked for knitted things?!!  I absolutely love it.  I enjoy knitting no matter what, and I’m lucky that I can do so much of it because the demands of the store are never-ending, but it’s really special when someone you love asks you for something.  I found the most beautiful navy yarn in my stash, 80% merino and 20% cashmere, and have made a beginning on her sweater.

I’m using Laura Aylor’s Burn for the numbers and basic construction, but will change the style quite a bit to add a full fold-over turtleneck, full-length sleeves, deep ribbing at the cuffs and bottom, and more ease overall.

We’re adding a class on Sunday, December 10 from 1 – 4 p.m. , $35 class fee, to make the Last-Minute Mittlets in luscious Cashmere Light.  One $28 ball of yarn makes a pair of the softest, warmest fingerless mitts you’ve ever worn! You’ll need the yarn, size 10 or 10.5 double points, some markers and the pattern (from us or from Ravelry).

I have more to talk about but I have to catch up with everything I didn’t do when I was lounging about last week.  I believe there are about 400 emails waiting for me to delete, plus somewhere around 400 errands to run today.  I must get on – see you soon!

 

 

 

 

I was thinking of Steve Martin in “LA Story” when I wrote that title.  He’s sitting in his apartment, writing those words backwards on a fogged-up window.  I’m making myself a plain top-down sweater in a neutral color of Encore Tweed and it is seriously boring knitting.  This is the kind of knitting done in the olden days when knitting was basic and necessary, instead of a creative pastime.

Yuh, you see what I mean. So then, why?  I need a work-horse sweater that is warm-ish, will fit under a jacket when I walk the dogs every morning, and go in the washer and dryer with no fuss.  It can’t be too bulky or too long or in any nice natural fiber that takes any amount of special handling. And even though Encore is basic and inexpensive, it’s still about 10 times nicer than the cr*p you can find in the stores.  So I’m persevering and it’s okay because it will be exactly what I need when it’s done.

But let’s see some color, because when I’m done with this, I’m going to want something completely yummy to work with!  We received some Victory Sock from The Knitted Wit, just a smattering to see what her dyeing is like.  The base is a sturdy 80/20 wool/nylon blend, so just perfect for socks, and it’s grown, spun and dyed in the US, isn’t that nice?  It would also make long-wearing mittens or fingerless mitts, a good hat that would hold its shape, and could be combined with many things for shawls and cowls.  I bought very bright colorways:

One-skein project ideas:  Close to You, Rose City RollersSunnyside, Sockhead Slouch Hat – all free on Ravelry!  (By the way, it costs $1.50 for us to print these patterns and put them in a plastic sleeve for you if you’re not Ravelry-friendly, going up to $2.00 in the new year according to my business manager. So, get Ravelry-friendly already!)

Combining could be a good idea for anything more than a one-skein project.  These combos leapt off the shelves at me:

and there are many more, to make Breezy Cabana, Party on My Needles, Klickitat Street Cowl, a fab baby blanket, and many other wonderful things that will be so much fun to make.  I’ll just keep thinking of possibilities while I knit away on my boring beige thing.

Look at the sweet fingerless mitts that Deb Cech made out of one ball of Lang Nova:

She adapted these from Tin Can Knits’ Loch pattern, which includes full mittens and a great hat. Love them, so soft, light, and warm!

We have a lot of great colors in Nova.  I’m determined to have at least a hat and maybe even a sweater this winter!

 

 

What is this????

This is an Advent calendar from Opal Yarn and I have 2 to raffle off on Small Business Saturday!! (This is the Saturday after Thanksgiving in case you didn’t know.)  We’re having a little sale, and for every $50 you spend that day, you’ll get a ticket to win one of these 24-days-of-surprises treasures!  These sell out so fast that I could only get two, and it was really hard for me to commit both to the raffle because I want one just for me!

 

Save the Date:  November 25!!

 

I love it when the time changes in the fall.  Everything falls back into place.  I can wake up to daylight, watch twilight fall in the late afternoon and eat dinner after dark, all of which seem right to my biological clock.  Plus we get that hour back that was plucked from our lives by Daylight Savings Time.  How did you spend yours?

I have promised myself to use that hour cleaning some of the clutter that is beginning to accumulate in piles around me.  There’s a pile of catalogs at the front door, a pile of pantry items that all of a sudden seem to have found a home on my kitchen table, and my desk must either be sorted out or burnt to the ground.  (I’m favoring the latter, if I could only find some matches!) Plus errands are piling up – things to be mailed, things to be recycled, things to be hunted and gathered.  None of which I want to do.

I want to knit and that’s what I’ve been doing.  Easy things that take little thought, that can easily be put down when something else comes up, that can be taken with me and worked on without instructions.  I made a simple hat with the fuzzy Andean Mist I showed you last week:

I based it on the Brunswick Beanie, a free Ravelry pattern from Sue Grandfield, but changed to stockinette stitch after about 3″ of k1, p1 ribbing.  It was enough already.  Turned out cute, and you can wear it slouchy or not:

The very soft yarn would also make a great chemo cap.

I made this very pretty scarf from 2 balls of Millefiori from Berroco (these are the new colors this year):

with our free Chevron Scarf pattern.  I love the way it turned out and the pattern is just interesting enough to keep you awake:

And I have just embarked on a Railroad Rib scarf (also free pattern with purchase) using a strand of plain fingering with a strand of Zauberball (new colors just in:)

I’m using these two colors:

And these are some other ideas:

and there are only about 1,000 more!

Come in and choose your combo.  You’ve got that extra hour to browse and play!

 

For some reason, I seem to be drawn to anything fluffy this year.  Give me a nice basic yarn that I would normally love in a textured stitch and I want to add a bit of mohair or a smooch of alpaca – anything to pump up the “ooooh” factor.  Sometimes I think it’s the political turmoil going on in Washington and all over the world that makes me long for the soft, cozy comfort of fuzzy yarns.  Whatever it is, I’m totally indulging that yearning.

I made a couple of quick gifts from free shop patterns that I thought might satisfy my need for soft and cozy:

A new take on our famous (no, not really!) and ever-popular (yes, really!) Button Scarf (download the pattern here), using one skein of Arequipa Fur, a lovely furry blend of baby alpaca and fine merino, plus one great button:

and a rejuvenation of our Seed Stitch Pidge, prompted by a customer’s request for the pattern, which I had completely forgotten about, but which turned out to be a perfect use for one ball of Lang Yarns’ Cashmere Light, which is back in stock in five lovely basic colors. You just won’t believe how light and soft this little neck thingie is – a perfect gift for friends, teachers, bosses, Moms and anyone else whom you would like to make a fuss over:

I made this Leaf Cocoon for my sister’s birthday – it’s convenient to throw on when you need a little extra warmth around the house or the office.  I scaled down the original version, which was pretty humongous, and warmed it up with a combination of Plymouth’s DK Merino Superwash and a lace-weight fuzzy-wuzzy mohair/silk:

Love the drape and the yummy neutral fabric – I hope she does, too.

I have in my head a shawl with fluffy little ruffles in lace weight mohair picked up at intervals.  I may have to invent it because I haven’t seen one like the one in my head.  I ran to the shop to explore the possibilities and here are a few combinations that looked likely:

So, so beautiful and any one of them would make me happy.  So while that percolates in the creative sliver of my brain, the much bigger practical part is going to find a great project for this little fuzzbutt of a yarn, Andean Mist – super soft alpaca plus silk:

Jack, Purl, and I are all gettin’ fuzzy!

Sometimes I don’t know where the days go!  It’s nearly the end of October, and the trees are still green. I don’t know where the barrels of leaves are coming from, I just know there are lots more to fall. My tomato plants are still happily making new tomatoes. I know they should be pulled out, but they’re still so exuberant.  And my lovely soft cozy sweaters are still in their plastic zipper bags.  Summer keeps drifting along and so do I.

However, November hovers in the offing and that’s my wake-up call.  I have lots of birthdays in November and while I don’t usually knit for those birthdays, both my sisters have milestone birthdays this year and I want to send them something I made.  Unfortunately, my younger sister, whom I adore and would knit her anything she wanted, doesn’t ever like what I knit, no matter how chic and black it is, so I’m sending her a pair of Cloud Nine Slippers from our recently finished class.  These slippers are really cute

but a lot of trouble to make – something happens every row and it’s really pay-attention knitting – so I feel that I put some effort into them as a present, and if she ends up giving them away or making dog toys out of them, at least it’s not a cashmere sweater.

I also finished a pair of Brother-In-Law socks to send along.  Mickey’s a gem and he loves crazy socks.  This was a new stripe-y color from Opal and I snagged one right away:

These I know will be worn and appreciated!

For my other sister, who does seem to like knitted things or at least has the grace to pretend she does, I’m making a cozy little cocoon, a scaled-down version of one I designed and taught a few years ago.  It’s not done yet so I can’t show you much.  This is the first half and all you can tell is that the fabric will be lovely.

It’s Plymouth’s DK Merino Superwash held with a strand of Kid Gloss lace weight mohair-silk, and it’s pretty darn yummy.  I’ll have it done this week, by hook or by crook, because there are so many, many, many, many things I want to knit for ME!

Here are a few things I’ve just added to my favorites, as I spent a couple precious hours trolling through the recent past on Ravelry to catch up with what I missed:

Shawls:

Theresa Schabes’ Escalator Wrap

 

Laura Aylor’s Brookhill

 

Susan Ashcroft’s Myssoni

 

Sweaters:

Josee Paquin’s Cathedral Grove

 

Heidi Kirrmaier’s Avalanche

 

Thea Coleman’s Cranberry Gose

 

Maureen Clark’s Seeded Pullover

 

And about a hundred other things, big and small, easy or intricate.  Aren’t you happy to be a knitter????

Lots of people come into the shop and ask for a pattern for something like an easy hat, a simple baby sweater, or a plain pullover. I show them the patterns that we still stock, but I also ask “Have you looked on Ravelry?”  If I get a blank look or “oh, I hate computers” (yep, still get that now and then), we look at print patterns.  Sometimes I hear, “I found some but I’d like to buy from you,” which I love but online patterns are welcome in our shop; if it’s a decent pattern (see below) we can find the right yarn and help you to choose the right size and fit.  Very often, when I mention Ravelry, I hear “I looked but I get lost.”  We can help you with your searches: with a few questions we can narrow things down so you’re not looking at tea cozies when what you want is a cabled cardigan. (All of a sudden, you’re distracted and thinking about the virtues of a tea cozy that looks like an old English cottage – I know how that is!)

So (I ask again) what makes a great pattern?  There are a few things that distinguish a poor pattern from a really good one:

Gauge.  The number of stitches and rows per inch (or centimeter) that you should achieve.  The only kind of pattern that could possibly get away with no gauge is a dishcloth or perhaps a blanket.  And even then, you must be sure you have way more yarn than you think you’ll need.  If your gauge is way off, (and how will you know?) you could end up using a lot more yarn than you think.  If your project has to fit anything (even a teapot), you need a gauge to swatch for.

Size.  You need a finished size in inches or centimeters.  Small, medium, large: meaningless.  8, 10, 12: meaningless. Even To Fit Bust 32, 36, 40: meaningless.  The designer may think that you want a sweater with no ease (the distance between your body and the garment) but that may be because she’s 24 years old and weighs 98 pounds.

 

 vs.

Personally, I want a little wiggle room, and sometimes a lot.  On the other hand, the designer may be employed by a yarn manufacturing company, so he or she will be motivated to use as much yardage as possible.  Sixteen inches of ease may just make you look like you’re wearing a skillfully cabled pup tent instead of an elegantly casual hand-knit sweater.

vs.

 

Schematic:  Not essential for most accessories, but these boring-looking outlines with lots of numbers are absolutely crucial for a garment. (Below is a random Google image for knitting schematic – I don’t know what garment it’s for.)

Yuck, right?  But!  A sweater must fit many different parts of a body, not just the bust.  How deep is the armhole?  How wide is the neckline?  How long are the sleeves?  And how will these dimensions sit on your body?  A detailed schematic means 1000 times more to a knitter than the beauty shot on the front of the pattern.

Love the way it looks on the model?

How tall is she?  Is she long- or short-waisted?  Is she wide in the shoulders?  Where will the hem fall on you?  Will the shoulders fit you or fall inches down your arm?  Are the sleeves too wide or too narrow?  Without actual dimensions and a tape measure, you don’t know. We can help with that. (The sweater above is Sunshine Coast by Heidi Kirrmaier, who writes wonderful patterns.)

Recommended yardage/yarn details: When a yarn manufacturing company commissions a pattern, they are doing it so you will buy their yarn.  That’s understandable, and we need to do some research to find the right substitute. Yardage and weight per skein, fiber content, and recommended gauge all figure in to finding the perfect yarn for your project.

Of course you want the pattern to have clear instructions and explanations of techniques and abbreviations.  Before you buy, you can get a good idea of how well the pattern is written from the comments of people who have posted projects for the pattern on Ravelry.  Take time to read them before you buy.  Study the photos of people who have made the sweater.  You can also look at the ratings on the pattern page but be aware that 5 stars from the designer’s two best friends don’t mean nearly as much as 4 stars from 200 people.

Classic design and versatility should also figure in to your decision on a pattern.  If something catches your eye with its trendy neckline or hemline or poofy sleeves or pleats or whatever is popular this season, be sure you’re going to want to wear it 3 or 4 years down the road.  Hand knitting is not cheap or fast; invest your time and money in  something that will make you happy for a long time.

Choosing your next project should be fun but there’s also a little work to be done.  We’ll help you with the pattern research, with choosing a yarn that will work for the design that you want, and with making the right size and the right adjustments so that the garment you make will be the one you’re dreaming of.

Churchmouse’s Simple Tee is a great pattern that gives a lot of information to help you choose yarn and size, with a good schematic and excellent instructions. It also gives you lots of flexibility in the look you knit, depending on the yarn and features you choose.  (Churchmouse Yarns & Teas is a Local Yarn Store in Bainbridge Island, Washington.  Being a LYS, they know what makes a good knitting pattern, and they’re completely reliable as to including the essentials above.) They show two styles on this pattern:

Long with split hem and cap sleeves:

Short with long sleeves:

We gave a class on this sweater this past spring.  I made the long version in summery Hempathy with three-quarter sleeves (the gray version below) and have just now finished a tee from the same pattern with a shorter and wider body and short sleeves in Lang’s luscious Lusso (say that 3 times fast), a fingering-weight fuzz of – now, get this – extra fine merino, silk, baby camel and super kid mohair.  Can you say luxurious, light, and lovely? A little layer of warmth and color over a black tee!

Two completely different looks for different seasons, both wearable for many years:  this pattern is a keeper.

 

We had a good turnout for our knitting afternoon for the benefit of Houston’s animal shelters and the Red Cross.  We had loads of goodies to eat, good conversation, good company, and an all-around good time, and we raised $300!  People could designate if they wanted their $10 donation to go to a certain place; what was left was split evenly.  The Red Cross received $90, the Houston SPCA received $100, and the Houston Humane Society received $110.  Thanks so much to everyone who came, and also to those who couldn’t come but took the time to drop off a donation anyway!!

We received some lovely new yarn this week.  Diamond Yarn’s Tradition sock yarn comes in beautiful heather-y shades, is a very traditional blend of superwash wool and nylon for strength and easy care, and is extremely well-priced!

Very nice indeed and perfectly suitable for other fingering-weight projects!

For those not-so-traditional sock knitters (or baby sweaters or colorful scarves and hats), we received a few new color-ways from Opal’s Rainforest Series:

I confess to snagging a ball of one of the colors for my BIL’s socks, which I must remember to knit a bit more loosely this time.  The last pair will have to go to my narrow-footed cousin because I knit them with so much fervor, I think they’re nt just tight, they might be watertight!

Berroco sent us some lovely vibrant colors of Lusso, a fingering-weight yarn made of pure yummie-ness!  Extra fine merino, silk, baby camel and super kid mohair, all stuffed into a light and fluffy ball of fuzz:

Can you see how the silk gleams through all that wonderful fiber?  A few more colors to come, but I couldn’t resist that bright red-orange.  I decided to make a tee that will pop on over something to add a light layer of warmth and color this winter.  Using Churchmouse’s Simple Tee pattern and size 5 needles, I’ve got a good start:

Love it already!

Karen brought her Saudade Hat class sample with her on Sunday and modeled for everyone.  I didn’t get a snap of how cute it looked on her, but you can get a feel for what a great hat it is:

If you turn the ribbing up, it’s a beanie.  If you leave the ribbing unfolded, it’s a slouch.  All the pretty color work and the Cumbria fingering make the hat so cozy, so warm, so perfect.  (Only a few spots left in the class!)  The beautiful colors of Cumbria Fingering that everyone ordered for their First Fair-Isle sweaters should be here this week, and I can’t wait to see all the combinations.  So exciting!

Oh, how I love knitting season!

 

 

I have so much to write about that I’m having to just cut it down into small bites or I’ll never get anything on this page!  I’ve been finishing up the pattern for the afghan we’re making later this fall – Karen proofed it for me this week and I took the best pictures I could of the blocks, now to finish up the general instructions and figure out formatting and so on.  It’s complicated and interesting for such a big pattern.

Anyway, I’ve also been knitting happily away when the computer screen starts to blur.  I posted a photo to Facebook of the Alegria we received from Manos:

Beautiful, unusual colorways plus a wonderfully soft merino/nylon base = so many possibilities.  So of course, I couldn’t let it go at this.  Had to play!

Sophisticated

 

 

Pretty-pretty

 

 

Refined

 

Refined with a punch

 

 

Unrefined with a punch

 

 

POW!

Loved them all, couldn’t choose, plus I needed a quick model.  This is what I made with one skein:

I love this sweet asymmetrical shawl with a sawtooth eyelet edge and a picot bindoff, all in garter stitch so the colors blend beautifully, it’s so soft and squishy, and the pattern is free on Ravelry!  It’s Justyna Lorkowska’s Close to You and it’s an addictive fun knit!  Go get it, then come get your favorite color of Alegria!  You can finish the shawl before the classes start –

Speaking of which, the sweater class is full, I’m happy to say, and the others are filling up nicely.  If there’s a class you’re interested in, please don’t delay registering!

 

I haven’t done all that much stranded knitting in my life.  I suppose it’s because I haven’t had to.  Karen Walter is a great one for stranded knitting and makes lovely projects and teaches wonderful classes, so I don’t need to.  I have to say, though, that when I do a small project of some kind using this technique, I enjoy working the little “peerie” patterns the most.

Peerie means small in Scottish, and the peerie patterns in Fair Isle knitting use only two colors across any round and are short repeats both stitch-wise and row-wise.  It’s easy to get into a rhythm with them, and their appearance is delicate and decorative.  Here are a few examples from Ravelry:

Kate Davies has done some beautiful designs, and if you’re interested in ethnic history of knitting in Northern Europe and the British Isles, you’ll learn a lot from her blog, as well as seeing some of the most glorious photography you’ll ever experience:

Carraig Fhada

Machrihanish

Peerie Flooers

Alice Starmore literally wrote the book about Fair Isle knitting (Alice Starmore’s Book of Fair Isle Knitting). Packed with history and technical details plus page after page of charts for traditional stitch patterns, it’s an amazing resource.  It also has sweater patterns and very scary instructions for making and cutting steeks.  You can look at her patterns on Ravelry but she doesn’t sell patterns there.  Her designs, except for the books she has published, are available as kits only.

Anyhow, all this is leading up to telling you about the sweater Karen is going to teach this fall, starting late in September.  First Fair Isle is a beauty, featuring loads of pretty peerie patterns and modern top-down construction.

 The Fair Isle patterns are at the bottom of the body and sleeves, so they’re in the round, not interrupted by steeks or shaping, and all the fun comes at the end!  This is Karen’s version:

Karen used Cumbria Fingering from Fibre Company, a lovely choice for this project. Its blend of traditional British sheep’s wools give the colors a heathery depth, and the addition of a smooch of mohair adds loft and sheen.

One of the most pleasurable aspects of stranded knitting is choosing the colors.  It’s also one of the most fraught aspects.  Karen was a bit disappointed in the lack of contrast between a couple of the colors she used (although I like the subtle differences).  Plus it’s very difficult to visualize what the patterns will look like with other colors.  The solution?  Coloring the chart!  The other day I pulled out my old colored pencils and got as close to some of the Cumbria colors as I could, and had a great time playing around.

The chart patterns start right under the bustline and travel down to the hem, so they’re shown in reverse order on the chart.  The one below shows colors similar to the book’s sample.

This teal and green version is quite pretty.

And I like this one, with greens and a pop of copper:

This one is different in that I used a dark gray as the main color and went brighter at the bottom:

Well, I thought this would make choosing colors easier, but I still would have a hard time deciding!

Come in and do some coloring!

 

 

 

Many people think of spring as the season of renewal. I tend think of fall as the season of new.  It’s probably a holdover from school days, when fall meant new clothes and new shoes, new teachers, new books, sometimes a new building and always new classes and new things to learn.  I still think of fall as a freshening breeze, crisp days and cool nights, crunchy leaves and Siamese-cat-eye-colored skies, renewed vigor and, of course, the beginning of knitting season.

Have you thought of new projects for the coming year?  Turtlenecks are making a comeback – love them or hate them?

Big cable knits are still everywhere.

 Tunics are still being shown

but there are a few shorter styles.

Color work is popular – graphic intarsia as well as stranded or striped.

 

 

Classic fisherman rib is always popular

and can also be not-quite-so-classic:

All the images above are from Nordstrom’s website.  If you want to spend $450 – 1200 on a sweater, you can have them, no knitting involved!  I use their website for inspiration for what I’d like to make this fall.  We all have different body types and issues, but for me, I’m reluctant to wear big chunky tunics (I look like the Hobbit) or turtlenecks that are too high or bulky (a hold-over from my hot flash era) or big graphic images (not wanting to come off as the side of a really short barn).

I would like a shorter cable knit, though, and I’ve always liked this one, which I think is a good transitional style for fall.  I would make it as shown, in Luma, Fibre Company’s wool/organic cotton/silk blend:

or this nice little gansey :

in Plymouth’s DK Merino Superwash.

I also like this one, maybe scaled down a bit:

in Ella Rae’s Classic Sport, a nice woolly kind of wool.

I wouldn’t mind a turtleneck this year, as long as it wasn’t too overwhelming. I’m old, so I have neck issues along with my hot-flash PTSD.  Maybe this:

because it’s done in lace weight and the collar is loose.  It would be incredibly yummy in Road to China Lace.

And this looks wearable and comfy:

I may experiment with two strands of Lang’s Lusso (coming soon to the shop, with wool/silk/camel/mohair- yum!) held together.  Debby Andrews is currently knitting this sweater in Lana Grossa’s Arioso, which will be absolutely lovely, too.

As for colorwork, I love the sweater that Karen is going to be teaching this fall – more about that next time! – and I also love this light little striped pully.  Some color packs of Fino are coming soon and I think this would be fabu using one of Fino’s lovely semi-solids along with a color pack:

Fisherman’s rib really is classic, but it’s a time-and yarn-intensive stitch.  How about this cute capelet instead, in a rich color of Worsted Merino Superwash?  Or I might try it in one of my favorite combinations, Fine Donegal (wool/cashmere) held together with Herriott Fine (baby alpaca/nylon), tweedy and lush all at the same time:

There are so many things to get excited about for fall…can’t wait!