About Woolly Wits

I am a hand-knitting designer and teacher. See and purchase my published designs on Ravelry.

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Accessories Issue

It seems to be accessory-palooza around here, with the unfortunate consequence of a great lack of posting, either here of in Ravelry.  (Many items have, however, made a brief appearance in Instagram.)  So, to force myself to get those photos taken, I am assembling my accessories into a little post here.

The last shall be first . . . here's my accessory in progress: fingerless gloves from Ogle Designs, both yarn and pattern.  I won them as a door prize at the Madison Knitters Guild Knit-In, lucky me!  The brown and tan colors do not photograph well (at least for someone with my poor-to-middling skills), but so look lovely in person.  A good pattern and a fun quick knit.  I see these being stolen by a teenager when complete.

At holiday time I became Barley hat crazed and knit three from recycled cashmere yarn as gifts for my husband, nephew and daughter's boyfriend.  When I found this well-aged ball of yarn I had hand dyed at Camp Stitches, I decided it had to be a Barley, too.  This is a great pattern from Tin Can Knits that really successfully walks the unisex line.  And, it's free!  I am not so excited about the color pooling on the ribbed band, but it is only a little bit that doesn't flow into the hat itself, so I (and, hopefully, it's future recipient) can live with it.  This pattern is excellent for using variegated yarns.

The other personal project is a hat from reclaimed cashmere yarn.  The pattern, bobble and cable hat by Laura Zukaite is, unfortunately, one of the worst written patterns I have ever experienced.  There are both poor design decisions (not working the ribbing on smaller needles), impossible attributes (and 18 st by 32 row gauge in stockinette, really?) and poor (actually horrendous) pattern writing (too many examples to list).  My version is what appeared in her Luxe Knits book.  According to Ravelry, the pattern is now available on the Knit Picks website.  I can only hope it has been strenuously edited.  This is my second version of this hat, and this one resolves all of the flaws I failed to correct in the first, so I am actually thrilled with the results.  I am wearing it any time the temperature dips below 30 degrees F, which, fortunately, is less often these days.

I think this item has not been posted because it really deserves much better photos.  Until that happens, I give you my Regia Zoofari mitts.  (No, although this photo was taken in the dead of winter, my skin is not actually so pale it glows.)  I love animal prints and had wanted to play with this yarn for some time.  I am not a sock knitter, but I think the two ball of the zebra print might end up as socks.

Much of my other recent knitting has been in preparation for teaching at the MKG Knit-In.  I worked an easy striped cowl from three recycled cashmere yarns.  The weights were not exactly the same, so there is a little resulting texture to the design which I quite like.  The pattern is super easy, so I plan to offer it for free here.  Hope to have it up soon.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Back In The Entrelac Saddle

(Opposite end from Instagram pic)
This weekend I had the honor of teaching at the Madison Knitter's Guild Knit-In.  It was the first time I had taught a knitting class since moving to Wisconsin almost six months ago, and what a great re-entry it was.

One of the two classes I taught was Intro to Entrelac. Although I have taught this class dozens of times, I found myself a sample short.  I have entrelac hats and purses galore, but the class project is a scarf.  And the only scarf I have is in a gorgeous but discontinued Noro yarn.  So I assembled a pile of all my Noro Silk Garden scraps and got to work.

The class project is designed to be worked in standard scarf structure - cast on a few stitches and knit rows until you cannot stand it anymore.  But I was concerned that this structure was not going to work well with such an collection of yarns.  As you can see in the pile, some yarns were much brighter than others, and I was concerned that the results would be blotchy.

So, I decided to turn my scarf on end.  I cast on over two hundred stitches and worked in long rows.  I began each row with a new color and worked with it until it ran out.  I tried to not worry excessively about how the rows blended with the colors above or below.  The result was a scarf that is decidedly brighter at one end than the other!  And what's the solution to that dilemma?  Wear the scarf folded and tucked with only one end visible.  Then it looks like I have two scarves instead of one.

 The scarf was a hit.  And I do have to admit that I am really pleased with the greater contrast between rows that was achieved here than in the typical short rows scarf.  I shall have to get to work on a pattern for Ravelry.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

My Selfish Knitting

We are almost into February, and I haven't yet posted about my first selfish project for 2015.  As a designer, I don't have much time to knit or crochet for myself, but I seem to have fallen into the habit of starting off the year with a new project for myself.  In 2014 it was a (still unfinished) crocheted moorish afghan.  This year it was Tabbethia's Skirt by Doris Chan.

This project was purchased as a kit from Long Island Livestock Company at VK Live! Chicago 2012, giving it plenty of time to age to maturity in the stash.  The fingering weight yarn is a beautiful blend of 68% llama, 21% wool, 7% bamboo and 4% nylon in the Midnight Magenta color way.  The only magenta I see are occasional slubs, otherwise it is a deep, tweedy purple.  I am not really a purple kinda gal, but recognize that occasionally I need to push myself out of my blue/green/brown rut.

But, what truly pushed me towards this as the 'Selfish Kickoff 2015' project was the damage to my  twelve-year-old purchased brown crocheted skirt.  Even having gained a not insignificant amount of weight over that time, the skirt still fit and looked good.  But, the catch of my bracelet caught on it and broke a couple chains.  It seems repairable, but finding the exact shade of army greenish brown seem nearly impossible.

So, in looking for a replacement, as well as a good crocheting time, I pulled Tabbethia.  I must say that Doris Chan knows her stuff.  The pattern was well written and a great match for the yarn.  Even as a relatively slow crocheter, I was able to complete the twenty-one motifs, joining as I went, in about a week.  Looks great, fits great.  My only struggle is what to wear under it.  My beloved brown skirt had an attached knit lining, making it easy-peasy.  With Tabbethia, my opinion is that the holes are too big for just a nude slip underneath.  So far I've worn it over brown leggings, but I just know I need to sew up a lining for it.  Now I need to find better fabric options than the big box stores.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Fair Isle Mash-Up

Here at Woolly-Wits we've often gone to the Webs catalog for a 'which sweater is most flattering?' post.  Today, I am turning to Knit Picks for inspiration.  Their 2015 Fair Isle Pattern Collection caught my eye, and I thought the diverse styles would make for an insightful post.  After all, Fair Isle patterning is all about the horizontal stripe.  My major issue with the Knit Picks photos is that they sweaters are worn by a model, rather than the more normal human-type models often used by Webs.  A disappointment, but I hope the lessons carry over.

Beatitude Cardigan
Beatitude Cardigan by Katy Banks
Beatitude is a very classic and pretty cardigan.  The varying tones of red stand out strongly from the main cream color.  However, this design is all about horizontal lines.  Now you know that I feel pretty strongly that you should only wear horizontal stripes where you want to look wider, and I, personally, don't need to look wider anywhere.  But, I have trained myself to remember that some body types other than my own do benefit from the balance that a horizontal can bring to their figure.  Bodies that are bottom heavy (the majority of American women) are brought into balance with a strong horizontal at the shoulder.  And, bodies with broad shoulders and slim hips (commonly known as inverse triangles), can benefit from a bold hip band.
But, these body types are mutually exclusive, while this sweater combines boldness in both places.  A more pear-type knitter would look lovely in this cardigan without the band at the hem.  For the broader-on-top type, there would be more adjustment.  Beef up the patterning on the lower body by adding more bands, while eliminating all but the least solid of the upper stripes.

Flower Medley Hoodie
Flower Medley Hoodie by Daniela Nii
The Flower Medley Hoodie is very non-traditional Fair Isle.  It has panels of color patterning at the center front and back, which makes me wonder how this was constructed.  The Fair Isle panels could have been knit in a tube and steeked, or they could have been knit back and forth.  Unfortunately, the pattern description on both Knit Picks and Ravelry give no insight into the construction.  Grrrr . . .   But, we are here to talk about style, and it is not bad.  With so much patterning, the panels don't read so horizontal, and the strips of darker color at the sides are visually slimming.  The horizontal bands at the elbow do bring focus to the waist, so I would omit those if your waist is not an area to highlight.  The kangaroo pouch does add bulk at the abdomen, so you might want to leave it off if you have a bit of a tummy.  Conceptually, this is a great modern sweater.

Shetland Rose by Geoffrey Hunnicutt
On the other hand, the Shetland Rose Cardigan is quite traditional.  The colors are a more modern combination, but the strongly horizontal patterning keeps it on the classic side.  The horizontals also make this hard to wear for anyone but the slender.  Shetland Rose also has my least favorite armhole, the drop shoulder.  This choice makes sense for a steeked Fair Isle design, but it adds a lot of bulk.  Look at the deep folds between her bust and upper arm.  Not a slimming look.  It looks even worse in the catalog photo where the cardigan is buttoned closed, but that photo does not appear on-line, either at Knit Picks or Ravelry.  That photo also better reveals that the button bands were knit too loosely and gape unattractively, but that's an easy fix for any knitter experienced enough to complete this sweater.

Mull of Kintyre Cardigan
Mull of Kintyre by Anna Davis
The last design featured on this model is Mull of Kintyre.  I like that, as in the Flower Medley Hoodie, the density of the patterning makes the Fair Isle read as less horizontal.  And, if you've visited here before, you know I looooove a deep v-neck cardigan.  It's the most universally flattering sweater.  Unfortunately, I am concerned that there are some fit issues here.  Typically I would expect that a belted sweater would cross over, rather than just meet in the middle.  Is the sample too small for the model?  This is an pattern where you would need to closely examine the schematics to understand how the fit should be for your size.  There's also wonkyness on the right side.  The shoulder is pulled over and it's stretched over her breast.  Are there hidden safety pins pulling it together?  Again, tread carefully and understand the schematic before you commit to the knitting.

So, at the end here I am supposed to decide which design is most flattering.  I do like the Flower Medley Hoodie, but it harder to wear for a fuller figure.  So, I am choosing Beatitude.  Just be sure to modify the pattern for your figure type.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

My Finest Plaid Pullover, Vogue Knitting, Winter 2014/15

Vogue Knitting Winter 2014/15
copyright SoHo Publishing

I think I may have hit the pinnacle of my plaid knitting.  How am I going to top this?

This was a thrilling project for me, not just because of the fabulous outcome.  This was the first time that a magazine editor approached me, asking for a contribution.  Just what every designer dreams.  Just at the worst possible time.

The call to discuss my contributing a plaid design to VK's winter issue came in late July.  In the week between the first call and working out some design issues, we sold our house and simultaneously bought a new house a state away.  My two teenagers were thrown into hysteria, as we had to be settled in Wisconsin by the start of school the day after Labor Day.  And, I was under so much pressure I was mainlining the Maalox.

But, those kind editors at VK smiled upon me and gave me a very generous six week deadline.  This was very good, as I literally could not knit for the three weeks before the move.  I was so busy packing I had almost no time, and just could not physically knit when I had a moment to sit.  So much for Elizabeth Zimmerman's admonishment to knit on with confidence through all crises!

So, we arrived in Wisconsin, dropped the boxes, and I knit.  So, as you look at this lovely sweater, you are literally seeing the first three weeks of my life in Wisconsin.  Looks great!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Make It Work

This fall I took a break from knitwear design work as I was working on improvements to our new home.  So, I took the rare opportunity to knit a sweater for me.  I also used the opportunity to  use some stash yarn acquired from String Theory in Glen Ellyn, Illinois.  This project proved more of a stretch than I had anticipated, but I am happy with the results.

As I said, I  bought the yarn at String Theory over a year ago.  I purchased it to use up store credits from their summer sidewalk sale.  (You de-stash, they sell it and you earn store credits.  Great concept.)  I just love the teal color of this Feederbrook Farm worsted weight BFL.  I knew it had to be a sweater, although I generally prefer a dk or lighter weight for my own sweaters.  But the biggest issue was that they did not have enough of the teal for a sweater quantity for me.  There was a lovely dark green color, and in a fit of inspiration, I decided that I could use green for the bands and cuffs. The first 'make it work' moment.

The second 'make it work' moment occurred this fall when I had decided on a pattern for this project - Sablier by Nell Ziroli - and pulled out the yarn to wind it.  One of the teal skeins was definitely not like the others.  When shopping, I had just grabbed all the hanks, assuming they were the same dye lot.  Not so.  So, with more Tim Gunn inspiration, I decided to knit the back in two row stripes of the off shade and the others.  It had to be stripes, because there would not have been enough to work the entire back in the single skein, and the two colors were different enough that to try to transition from one to the other in a single piece would have been obvious.  It also would have looked odd to try and knit one sleeve with this skein.  But, since all the cabling was on the front of the cardi, and the back was plain stockinette, I thought it could work.  

I think it worked.  From the front you have lots to look at - cables, button band, collar, color contrast - and from the back you have some subtle interest from the stripes.  I love the pockets on this design, as I seem to be all about the pockets lately.  (As does the rest of the knitting world.)  My Sablier has not gone into heavy rotation, as it is, indeed, a little heavy for indoor wear.  But with a windchill of -23 F today, I think I will wear it to my afternoon knitting group.  If I am brave enough to venture out, that is.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Downton Abbey, Season 5 and a Coupon Code

My design: Modular Lace Blouse

Last night (Sunday), was the long-awaited premier of the newest season of Downton Abbey for those of us in the US.  (The British season begins in the fall and ends with a Christmas episode.) 

To celebrate, Interweave/F&W Media is running a special promotion on digital  issues of Unofficial Downton Abbey Knits 2014. Below is a link to the issue from the Interweave Store and a coupon code for 20% off on this issue (active January 8-16). 

Coupon code (active 1/8-1/16): DOWNTON20

This is a fabulous issue filled with great designs from top designers.  If you'd like a sneak preview before purchasing, pop over to Ravelry and search on the issue.  When you find it, only three designs will appear but you can click on the 'view all 26 patterns' button so see them all, and click on any individual design for more details.