Wednesday, November 30, 2016

november post 15: bulky knits, portillo please!

 **Hey there Boston area folks--I am teaching an iphoneography class at Craftworks Somerville on this Saturday 12/3 -and I just learned there are 3 seats left!  11 am- 1pm. Join us! Why make Just Average images?
 I'm not done with the bulky knit love yet. Not even close.
 Portillo Cowl from Drop Dead Easy Knits. Of all the patterns in the book, this one is the drop dead easiest.  It is also my lone design contribution. Given the talents of my two co-authors, I kept it simple and left the amazingly stylish and beautiful yet easy-to-knit designs to Kirsten and Mary Lou. If you have the book, you know what I mean.
 Big squishy yarn + warm snuggliness +  contrast yarns that are fun to knit = excellent gift knitting. 
That's my formula.
The sample for the book is made with two skein of Malabrigo Rasta. I kept it graphic and crisp with two mostly solids but you can go WILD, check out their color card.   This is a pattern to use handpainted yarn, and variegated yarns. The stitch pattern breaks it up.
Personally, I wear it doubled over, like this.  
About choosing the yarn: one of the things we did with Drop Dead Easy Knits is keep it yarn shop friendly--meaning, that you can pretty easily find the yarn we used, in your local yarn shop.  Since every shop can't stock every yarn, we also added a page in the back where we list substitution yarns-- all also easy to find in yarn shops. And, we want to offer  economic alternatives.
What's that you say?  Yup, we kept thinking about your knitting budget.  My Portillo costs about $ beautiful hand dyed yarn, and its worth it--but not always in the yarn budget. Or maybe, like me,  it's in the budget for a special treat, but it's a stretch to spend that for multiple friend gift knitting.
Substitutes*! Any nice super bulky with 90 yards/skein or more  will be equally fab.  Or possibly even fabbier. Here's Rowan Brushed Fleece,** which has a bit more yardage ,  two balls will total about $27. US.  It's also amazingly cloud like and delicious to knit.
Or the higher contrast red and grey. Love.
Kirsten grabbed these four balls of ValleyYarns  SuperWash Super Bulky .  You only need two for a Portillo Cowl but we loved these colors together- so you could mix and match. And guess what? $ 9.49 /skein, which means your project clocks in at just under $20.  Winner-winner chicken dinner.  Also, check at the link,  a lot of color options. 
 A real life Portillo Cowl testimonial: I was visiting my BFFL Arline on a Friday a couple of weeks ago.  She hauled out these two balls of yarn in her favorite colors, purchased long ago for some unrequited project. (They are a discontinued Tahki Yarn, but that company has other excellent super bulky options). Arline rarely knits. I had to refresh her cast-on skills. Above is what her Portillo looked like by Friday evening.
Monday morning! (photo courtesy of the knitter ) And I know she didn't just stay home and knit all weekend. I rest my case.
As for me, I came home with some of that Rowan Brushed Fleece *** in the pinkest of fluffy fuschia hues. It is going to be an Azel Pullover for Zoe,  it qualifies as both a bulky and super fast knit= good gift knitting. I'm trying to keep it a  secret and surprise her for Hanukah. Shhhh, ok?  
PS are you following the MasonDixon Knitting GiftAlong on their Lounge site? 
  * You might notice from this link to the Rowan page that suggested needle size is US 10 but this pattern is knit on US 15.  This is why the word suggested is so important. For the Portillo Cowl you want a nice drapey gauge and let it fluff up.  Fear not and go with the larger needles (and of course, the smart money is on doing a quick gauge swatch). 

** Many thanks to Kirsten Kapur and Beverly Army Williams for the yarn choosing and hand modeling The three of us were in Webs, where the options are mind-boggling. I don't know how they put up with shopping with me when there are so many oooh look squirrel choices  but I love them both for it. 

***this last link is to the discontinued Rowan Brushed Fleece colors at Webs.  You can knit a super duper economical Portillo Cowl. Just sayin'.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

november post 14: more hats, bulky hats

Knit big or stay home. No, wait---knit big AND stay home! Nominating these for  Craft Friday single day projects, and fab gifts, all from photo shoots for my clients earlier this year.

Coast Redwood Hat . I love everything about this photo--the Tilda Swinton-ish model, the natural  undyed bulky yarns from the Tahki Terra collection,  the styling by Karin Strom (I mean, that acorn necklace? Nailed it) and the  colorless dewy light that we had, thanks to drizzly rain as we were shooting. Of course, the hat, itself. One of my favorite photos from the year.
Silver Fir Hat  from the same shoot, also a contender. It has a matching capelet. (I am not sure I'd call it a capelet but you can see, it is one of those big shoulder covering not-quite-a-poncho-but-way-bigger-than-a-cowl things)  This is the most amazing mash-up of natural wool yarn and high fashion that I've ever shot. My forever gratitude to  Stacy Charles for just letting me do my thing with these.
You can see the rest of the collection here, in the Oh, Natural flipbook. (I also love that cover piece.)

Annnnd....two fabulous super bulky hats from Lar Rains' new book Presto. Excellent gift knitting ahead from Mr. Modern Lopi himself.
Threesome So cushy and lovable that the model requested to pleeeeeeeeeease keep it, and got her wish. (Thanks Lars!). For me, I'll just make that pompom a little chubbier, and then: perfection.
Polar Coordinates , a rare slouchy super bulky hat. As usual, Josephine rocked it. It's got volume, and a lot of warmth.
The whole Presto book is fun, upbeat projects in MadTosh ASAP.  You can see the cover cowl knit by Kay of  MDK here, along with a great review. You could sub in the super bulky yarn of your choosing, no prob.  Fun fact: super bulky doesn't always mean the warmest-- because you knit in a fairly loose gauge to keep things drapey, the air gets in between the stitches. So don't rule out the supersized just because you are in an non- arctic zone. There's something about a big hat that's...cheerful. 

If you're prepping for Thanksgiving today in the US (or elsewhere), have a blast! And take a break to knit a little. It can't hurt, right?

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

november post 13: more hats- Sidekick and Headford

Back at you with a hat post. Pretty sure this won't be the last, hats are a real THING with me this week.
Sidekick Hat by Mary Lou Egan, from Drop Dead Easy Knits is top of my list. I'm loving color work at the moment, this is the 4 color version. It's a month before the gift giving kicks in, so plenty of time to knit these, right?  Mary Lou designed it for our Drinking Buddies chapter-the idea is you buy yarn together with a few friends and knit along, sharing the contrast colors. Buy the good stuff, you only need about 20 yards per hat of contrast color.And you can swap hats for added entertainment.
Here's Sidekick Hat  in 2 colors. This pattern is the one in Drop Dead Easy Knits most likely to find us on the receiving end of the query "Easy? You call this.... easy?". The answer is, yes, truly. You are only ever working in two colors per round, and the repeat is short and easy to memorize.  Short floats are less likely to get pucker-y. It's only a hat's worth of knitting.... you can do it!
The secret is use contrasty colors--I am thinking this may be an opportunity to finally nab a couple of the Unicorn Tails I've been eyeing at my LYS for ages. I am thinking Edison Bulb could maybe get a repeat in there, just for fun. 
Fun fact: we originally named this hat a Sidecar (a cocktail I am very fond of in the case you have me over, now you know). All the patterns in this chapter were drinks (get it? Drinking Buddies? we are so subtle, yes?) but an editor pointed out that maaaaaybe we were a little too boozy--and so the Sidecar Hat became a Sidekick Hat.

I had the annual hat gift convo with bro-in-law Lamar (of Lamar Scarf fame). He said this year, he wants a beanie, close fitting, any weight and go wild with the color/design. He confessed his fave hat ever from me was this one-of-a-kind from a decade ago. He still wears it. So, I have a plan!
I'm starting with  Headford Hat from Drop Dead Easy Knits, by Theresa Gaffey. It is a great basic beanie. She designed it to be knit in multiples, as you travel, give away as you go. Of course you can color block it, or add stripes --but  I'm going to make it into something one-of-a-kind with  use of this book I acquired at Rhinebeck, from Mary Jane Mucklestone, I can't wait to start it.
Best of all part of this plan: in size S adult, the Headford Hat is 96 stitches around--that means I can make use of motifs that are 2,3,4,6,8,12 or 16 stitches across and have them fit in neatly. Restraint, gone. FYI the motifs are pretty mixed, from traditional to modern to geometric--so I can have a lot of fun with it. Maybe the Edison Bulb will show up here, as well.....

Monday, November 21, 2016

november post 12: traveling to Port Jeff on MDK

I'm thrilled to say my latest Knitters Weekend travelogue is up on Mason Dixon Knitting today.  
There are critters large, small, fuzzy, and porky. Yarn. High tea. What more could you want for a Monday???? Go read. And leave a comment there if you feel so inclined so they know you stopped by.
Here'e the souvenir yarn I reference in the writing, it's a skein of Lambstrings Ewetopia ,  in the process of becoming a Color Break Hat* because I am way into hats this week. Three observations on this knit: 
1) it is the perfect pattern for skeins of very variegated yarn. For the first time ever I am wishing the yarn was even more contrasty/speckled. Instead of regretting falling for it in the skein. 
2) the stitch pattern is easy to read, and creates a super cushy, quilted fabric, so it will be warmer than your average worsted weight hat knit on size 8 needles. Hygge win!
3) umm, do you think I have seasonally affected yarn hue choosing disorder? I mean, for real? 

More from our visit to Long Island Livestock while shooting the MDK piece a couple of weekends ago. 
Zoe has asked to go back every few days since. Can't blame her. Llama walking!
Sister Lulu came along too,  and got this nice portrait of me, Sir Arthur and my Stopover.  Note to self:  a llama is a slimming accessory. You heard it here first.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Friday, November 18, 2016

november post 11: hats - bts Jill Draper Makes Stuff/Walkill River

Behind the Scenes: Rural Renewal photo shoot for Jill Draper Makes Stuff
Let's talk about Walkill River, designed by Thea Coleman. When Jill asked me to shoot the Rural Renewal collection, she sent a mood board. I loved the styling/vibe --eclectic, casual, textural, with imperfect surfaces. And chickens! What did I think using an historic property in the Hudson Valley as the location? Yes, please.  And a wonderful model, the artist Caitlin Parker.
 I asked if there were animals at the location--specifically chickens. No. But the groundskeeper had a couple of pets. A cat, a cockatiel.... a dove. When our model put on this sweater and hat knit in Windham yarn, we brought Snowy the dove out. I thought maaaaybe he'd allow himself to be held for a few quick shot.  Nope! Snowy was not into being held. He is all about shoulder perching.
But he actually prefers heads. And to be the center of attention, not a styling detail. Note to Thea:  doves are the new pompom.  After deigning to look left and right for a few frames atop the Walkill River hat,  Snowy looked around for an even better and higher perch.
Which was Jill, the unsuspecting BossLady herself. 
I know. Put a bird on it. Someone has to say it.
It really is a fantastic design. The wiggly ribbing gives it such good structure. I'm all about the hats this week. They are my comfort knitting. Immediate gratification plus they keep your head warm. And make a great gift. And cover your hair if you are trying to switch colors/styles/grooming. Just saying! If all goes as planned--which it rarely does- I'll be back with more hat talk on the weekend. 
What hats are on your horizon? I'm making my queue and checking it twice.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

november post 10: postcard to november

Dear November,
This image might have been shot in September but it feels like you. Dark. With some elements that I love, some gathering, some essence of cold and wet, and still some light coming through.  So far, you've been tough to enjoy--or, to even steady on- but I'm trying............

This week I'm
traveling: crack of dawn Wednesday down to Maryland/DC for a family visit. My traveling companions are Zoe (almost 5) and my 23 year old son, who is going into the service in the coming months and wants to see his grandparents and cousins before he heads off to who knows where. That is a sentence I never thought I'd be writing. Having kids is just a roller coaster ride that keeps going and going, isn't it?

knitting: well, of course! In my head I am knitting gifts--and I'll be  aiming for Line Leader in the Mason Dixon Gift KAL.  (only someone who hangs with a pre-schooler would say something ike that, y'know)  But I haven't event touched the gift knitting. Yet. On my needles, the Zacapa sweater is moving along nicely, a Grand Central  Scarf* in Rifton is entertaining me, and I just cast on a Colorbreak  Hat because of Vicki's three.There's something about quick hats this time of year. And this one is for me.

planning for Craft Friday: I'm looking forward to pulling out the stops for the thanksgiving feast followed by Friday making things. I'm torn between knitting some gifts that day---or maybe sewing...or stitching...or crocheting the very rocks you see on the postcard....or or...what about you?

* the Grand Central scarf has high entertainment factor.It is knit in the round in a slip stitch sequence that has all the good feels of the Honey Cowl. The area that will be fringe gets unraveled and snipped when you are done knitting and just like that you have a scarf.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

november post 9: picking up and carrying on

Well, it seems I lost my will to blog daily.  For a couple of days there this week, it was one foot in front of the other, walk on. Just keep moving forward because what choice is there. I suspect you understand. 
I was so very grateful that my work schedule had me driving down to Delaware to present a photography talk/ program and teach a workshop to the ladies at  Harmony Weavers Guild at the Center for Creative Arts near Wilmington. Note to self: remember this place, a great location for a retreat or workshop day.

We spent a lot of the hands-on workshop playing with ways to shoot scarves, indoors and out. Backgrounds, props, light... it was so wonderful to retreat from the world to this building full of art, set in the bright foliage, and just focus on photography and fiber for the day.  And the weaving--so beautiful. 

Next I drove up to Princeton NJ, for a visit with a dear friend, and to meet up with Kirsten Kapur for our booksigning party at Pins and Needles, on Friday evening.

Why yes, we do have drink coasters to go with our book.You might just get one if you catch us in person.
I think it is safe to say Kathleen (the owner),  Kirsten and I all felt far from festive as we put out the trunk show and set up the wineglasses. The phrase "dragging our asses" comes to mind. But the knitters showed up. The community of talking and sharing about our lives, work, our book, the yarn, our world, was good for all our broken hearts that evening.
Looking ahead- more gatherings. More community. 
Starting with plans for Craft Friday. Have you got your projects ready?
A few other links
Kirsten and I will be at CraftWorks Somerville on Saturday December 3 for a Boston area Drop Dead Easy Knits day. Join us!
The Mason Dixon Knitting Lounge , a forum, is open for hanging out--have you stopped by yet? I'm thinking this could be a good place to retreat virtually. Also they are starting a Gift Knitting KAL this week. I'm all in. 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

november post 8: camurac cardi & hygge

DROP DEAD EASY KNITS  this weekend at PINS and NEEDLES in Princeton NJ*
Friday Nov 11 5-8pm wine, snack, booksigning and hanging out--just drop in!
Saturday Nov 12th  Photo Scavenger Hunt workshop w/Gale Zucker 10-1
                                Lucy & Either Cowl knitting workshop with Kirsten Kapur 1:30-4:30
there are a couple of spots left in each class- contact the shop and join us!

If ever there was a season that calls for hygge, it is now. Creating a coziness and warmth and light and appreciation for the good things in life-- I am clinging to these. I'm planning get togethers with friends, and small treats. I ordered really kickass warm new boots, so I won't skip walks in the cold.  I'm stacking the cozy knit project cast-ons  like planes waiting to take off at O'Hare. One of them is this Camurac Cardigan.
Like everything in Drop Dead Easy Knits, it is stylish but not fussy. Aran weight, good and slouchy with pockets (love me pockets on a cardi). Detailing on the hem and lapels that are fun to knit. I have a store bought cardi that I wear all the time that is similar--except my Camurac is going to be so. much. nicer. And it will be a cozy and fairly quick knit. Win-win.
See what I mean about the pockets? Another great design from Kirsten Kapur. It should have a hygge stamp of approval on it.

Monday, November 07, 2016

november post 7: Tuesday 11/8 just go VOTE

Apologies that this is USA-centric today.
Go vote. Tuesday November 8th. Wait in line if you have to. Make history. Don't throw away your right by sitting the election out. 
Then go have a drink and knit, OK?
And for those of you in other countries--send us your good thoughts.

november post 6: new sweater project and a vocabulary revelation

Jill Draper makes fabulous yarn. I think we can all agree on that. After working on her Rural Renewal collection, and then on assignment for Etsy, I  wanted needed to knit a sweater in one of her yarns.  Coincidentally, Dave made a rare request for a sweater. That''s my knitting stars aligning, because Jill's yarn is special--and Dave will wear a sweater I make him for years and years. Decades of years, even.  So we found a pattern he liked a lot---not a simple task-- and hopped online.

Jill posted that new yarn was up in her shop. Dave fell for Valkill in Prune--a killer good black/purple/brown--y'know, like a prune. But it was gone before we had a chance stick it in a cart.

we like to wind yarn al fresco
So I'll interject here that a son and I were just discussing how often people misuse the word ironic.  Usually, it's actually coincidence--when two unrelated events happen and they are related in your mind. Irony is when an outcome is not what you'd expect.
my #1 yarn winding assistant these days
So when I saw that designer Thea Colman was flaunting her good mail  Jill Draper Makes Stuff Yarn delivery, I squinted into my phone to read the ballband of a familiar looking color... Valkill Prune....damn!  But it's Thea, and if someone had to nab that yarn, at least it's a friend who will do beautiful things with it. Coincidence!

Dave chose this Middlefield in Old Mahogany instead.It's a little heavier than the pattern gauge but I can make it work. I love it.

Wondering what pattern he chose for his new sweater-for-the-ages? Before he'd even looked at the yarn colors?  Zacapa. By Thea Colman. 

That, I'm pretty sure, is irony.

Sunday, November 06, 2016

november post 5: recording for Webs podcast

Field trip! Earlier this week, Kirsten Kapur and I hit the road to Northampton MA to record a Drop Dead Easy Knits  interview with Kathy Elkins on Ready, Set, Knit - the WEBS weekly talk show/ podcast
You can hear it here
Turns out it was the 10th Anniversary show. What an honor! This is the "after" shot inside the recording studio at WHMP.   I am a little bit -  OK, A LOT- of a communications and media  geek.  Suffice it to say I was the only girl in my middle school AV Club*.  I didn't really care because...I got to run the film projector. I love being around sound equipment and in any kind of recording studio or broadcast station.
Kathy Elkins is such a pro, and fun to talk to,  she put us both at ease.  The engineer made our voices sound so smoooooooth. Kathy totally "gets" our book, it was a joy to chat about the projects and the process with her. 
Followed, of course, by a little shopping excursion to her famous store. But that is another post!

PS apologies for the quality of these photos. No real cameras --only the phone and the dim/contrasty radio station studio lights. Too bad our third partner in knitting book crime, Mary Lou Egan wasn't along. 

*AV Club- so this is no longer a thing, since classrooms all have TV screens and if a class watches a movie, it's on a dvd or streaming, and everyone knows how to access it.  But before that...AV Club was a group of kids who got trained to run the film projectors, filmstrips and troubleshoot the overhead projectors, and had a vest and belt with a ton of keys to get the equipment from a closet and roll it on a cart into the classroom. 
The namesake-The AV Club website reports on pop culture, it  is worth a visit for entertainment.  Just thought I'd throw that in.  

Friday, November 04, 2016

november post 4: strawberry head hat

 Last Friday, on her way out the door, Zoe told me she'd like a new hat. At the time, she was wearing a sweater and hat on their third seasons, for better or worse. I'm calling the felted pompom on the hat she'd grabbed, worse.
We all know wearing of handknits should always be rewarded with more handknits.  I asked her what hat she'd like. "The kind that makes my head look like a strawberry" was the reply.
A couple of weeks earlier, she'd seen me clean out a box of old patterns, including a printed Ann Norling  for fruit hats, circa before I had kids.  Zoe's got opinions about clothing, and she thought they were All That.
I didn't think she'd stick with the concept for two weeks but she did. Fruit hats?!  So, of course I made her a strawberry hat. Wouldn't you? I thought so! Ironically, after all this time, I misplaced the printed pattern we'd found two weeks ago.   I used this one, instead. That's Cashmerino Aran for the red and green yarns, and some leftover Malabrigo Rios close enough to black for the seeds.  (all machine washable--see felted pompom, above) . Whenever I had  spare minutes last weekend I worked on it and by Sunday night it was done. It reminded me how much I love knitting hats. Since this is a season of getting all warm and cozy, I might be making quite a few. Just not all fruit themed.
Meanwhile, this one has seen daily action this week, which hasn't even been chilly.
Kid's got good taste--it really is kind of cute. I just remembered I should show her when I made her baby head into a pumpkin.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

november post 3: TBT lamar chunky cabled scarf

Eight years ago, I made up a chunky scarf for my bro-in-law Lamar. He almost always gets a handknit gift from me, because he has the charming habit of a) appreciating handmade  b) wearing it and c) reciting back to me by memory, everything I've ever given him. That's more than a decade of knits. I know! Let's clone him!

I shared the pattern on my blog and put it on Ravelry, gratis*. It is still on point, though I'd knit it to a longer length now. It's had more than 45,000 page views. Far more than any other post! 

It's still a free download. But I'll add the following, because I feel more strongly than ever that all work has value: If you like this pattern, and download it, please consider a donation of any size to CRAN, an orphanage in Bogota Colombia that I am close to. Every nickel is well-used and appreciated.**

So!  for this post, I am throwing it back to Dec 2008 and sharing Lamar Chunky Cabled Scarf with you. I'll list some good alternatives to the recommended yarn, below, at the end of the original post. I can't wait to see your knits. Enjoy!

I'm ready to show & tell the finished gifts but Lamar gets its own post. I like it that much.

LAMAR a reversible cabled chunky scarf
Designer: me
Pattern: free download here
Yarn: Cascade 109 Tweed, a chunky yarn, 109 yards per skein, 3 skeins in walnut
Needles: size US 13
The backstory: when bro-in-law said he'd like a scarf I was ready to jump on one of those striped scarves. Except he added, "it has to be reeeaally soft so I can have it right on my neck."

Now, I can call the Noro Silk Garden soft enough when blocked for me, the knitter, but in the real non-knitting world? Not so much on the bare neck.

So, what to knit? I have Opinions on scarves. They should look great from both sides, and no ribbing allowed on the ends if they're cabled. And I wanted cables but not with squared off long sides. I felt like knitting chunky. So I winged it. (wang it?) . Manly enough for the guys, don't you think? Still a little artsy, looks good on women too. That's sister Lulu lending her neck for the cause.

I usually get bored on the last quarter scarf, but not this time. It was that quick a knit.

 added 2016:
 I'd recommend more yardage than in the pattern, the original scarf was traditional/short  I'd suggest 400-450 yards of super bulky yarn, and keep knitting till it is gone, for a longer scarf.
Some good options are
Misti Alpaca Chunky- 4-5 skeins
Malabrigo Yarn Chunky - 4-5 skeins 
Tahki Yarns Montana- 4 skeins
Rowan Big Wool - 4 skeins--and go up a needle size, try US 15 or 17- this is even chunkier! You can super size it.
 Also you can check out the 524 projects posted for yarn ideas.

*Let's discuss this gratis/free thing. You get what you pay for--I made up this pattern, wrote it up in my own style, described it as I wished and posted it. No conforming to any style sheet or notes to help a new cable knitter. No charts or diagrams. Test knitting, tech editing? Nah.  You get nice professional photos  because I am a [nice] professional photographer :-).
In 2008, it was a little more of the Wild West in the internet knitting community, and posting an off-the-cuff pattern for free wasn't unusual.  I wouldn't do so now.  I work with too many super talented and dedicated designers whose patterns you should buy to support our  corner of the crafting world. By giving away my design work, I would disrespect  and undermine theirs. Not to mention the work of all creatives, including myself.

**It is National Adoption Month, and so CRAN is on my mind, just as they are always close to my heart. They do good work, caring for children in residential foster care, caring for and placing abandoned babies and children in adoption, and running an early childhood education day program and school for an impoverished neighborhood near the orphanage.The link is to a non-profit that fundraises for them internationally.

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

november post 2: postcard to autumn

Dear Autumn, 
I appreciate your breezes, and the red leaves on Maple trees.  But we both know I am saddened by your arrival. You bring increasing  darkness, cold mornings and way too much pumpkin flavor in everything.
However, I am writing to thank you for this beautiful inner seed globe of a flower while in Maine in early September. I've decided to embrace the season-and the coming winter- in the spirit of hygge

The yarn is Starcroft Nash Light in Mussel Shell. I love love love it and have almost a sweater's worth. When I get the contrast yarn,something natural/grayish,like Driftwood, I will knit a colorwork yoke sweater in it. My hygge will be enhanced.