Monday, January 27, 2014

Happy 100,000 Plus!

Just had to celebrate:  over this past weekend, the number of hits to this blog passed the 100,000 mark!

Thanks to everyone who has dropped by the blog.






I'm especially happy to see that thousands of people have taken a look at the free patterns offered here, and that many of you are making beautiful things out of them, for yourself, a loved one, or for charity.

A blanket in every lap!  That's my goal!










TV time for the bears

Thursday, January 23, 2014

New Pattern: LoLo's Newsboy Cap

My version

My latest pattern, LoLo's Newsboy Cap, was first conceived a few months ago, when I asked Lauren at the LQS (local quilt shop) if she would model some of my scarves and such, for photos for my patterns.  I was hoping maybe she would see those scarves and take one in trade, but I was also willing to pay cold, hard cash if that was her preference.

Turns out, what she really wanted was for me to make a hat like one she bought in England ages ago, as seen below.  It is her favorite hat, but it's getting on in years.

Original hat bought at airport just before flight back to U.S.
A part of me was thinking, That could be a fun challenge.  Another part of me was thinking, You've got to be kidding, that will take hours and hours of reverse engineering!

A third part of me was thinking, I could write up the pattern and have another to offer in my Etsy shop.

A fourth part of me was echoing the second part, adding, Hours and hours of knitting along with hours and hours of reverse engineering?  Say it ain't so!  There may even have been a mild curse or two in there, but only in my thoughts.

The things I don't say aloud....

But Lauren looked so excited, because although she is a wonderful quilter, she doesn't knit.  And there I stood, with all the appearance of someone who knows what the hell I'm doing, all knitterly and the like, epitomizing the perfect opportunity (or so she thought!  Ha!) to make the hat of her dreams.

And here she was, willing to take a couple of hours out of her full-time busy schedule to pose for me, so I agreed to the deal, all the while hoping that once she saw all my beautiful scarves and cowls and such, she would be unable to resist the thing that would be easiest for me.

So we got together on a surprisingly warm day in winter, the opposite of perfect weather for wearing scarves, and we took a ton of photos, and they are appearing little by little in my patterns, and I think she is so photogenic, it's just great!  I am grateful.

Alas, she still wanted her hat.  No amount of cables knitted out of handspun yarn or intricate lacework could tempt her.

So, when the going gets tough, the tough go shopping for yarn.  We went to the LYS and had a lot of fun playing with colors and fibers, and she finally picked Tundra, a luscious blend of baby alpaca, merino wool, and silk.  Then we grabbed some Scoubidou, a thin, metallic yarn, as a carry-along to give it some sparkle.

I took the original hat and started measuring dimensions and counting stitches and figuring stitches per inch.  I made a swatch or two with different sized needles to see what looked good.

I started knitting the actual hat, writing down what I did with every row, and feeling quite sure I had counted the right number of stitches and had a handle on when to knit and when to purl, and it was going swimmingly.

Or so I thought.



Cue the Gauge Gremlins, who, unlike helpful Shoemakers' Elves, come out at night when you are sleeping and you are halfway through your project, and cause your gauge to change!

They clearly caused my hands to change my own knitting gauge--amazing! Gauge Gremlins are such powerful creatures!--so that in spite of all my assiduous counting and measuring, the hat was coming out HUGE.

It's true, I'm a sloppy swatcher.  Did I knit an entire 4-to-6 inch square and bind off and block and measure it, the way you're s'posed to?  No.  I got the gist a few rows in, and I liked the way the fabric looked with the needles I was using, and off I went.

Sloppiness goeth before a fall.

By the time I got past my severe knitting denial and was able to admit that the hat was HUGE, I was almost finished with it.  I didn't want to rip out 25 rows, so I kept knitting.  At least I took it to Lauren to try on before I wove in the ends, because a part of me knew this was HUGE and frogging might have to occur.  I was willing by that time to rip the whole thing out and start over with smaller needles.  And maybe fewer stitches.

That's knitting denial for you.  I wasn't willing to rip out 25 rows, but finally I was willing to rip out 39!

When Lauren tried it on, it was clearly too big.

Luckily, we agreed starting over again at the beginning was a Very Bad Idea.

Instead, I fixed it in the mix, as we used to say in the music biz.  When I attached the brim, I skipped stitches on the hat and tightened it up enough so that it doesn't fall off her head.

Then I went home and made another, with fewer stitches and a slightly thinner albeit chunky yarn, Colinette Prism, and one size smaller needle.

Behold, a much more sensible size!







It also looks cute without the brim, so if you don't want to fuss with the Lauren-approved brim, you can just make the hat.

Please note, the baby alpaca in the Tundra yarn makes it awfully heavy, and you might want to avoid it if you're making a hat with a brim.

That brim has a bit of plastic in it to keep it from sagging, and two layers of knitted fabric surrounding the plastic, so, be forewarned.

The Prism is wool and cotton, much lighter, but any chunky weight yarn will work.

This may look complicated to some, but for most of the pattern, on every other row, you simply knit the knits and purl the purls.  Easy!

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Color Re-Affection: Could This Be Love?





A few months ago, I finally found the right grey and black yarn (Shibui Staccato, Merino and silk) to go with the wonderful teal Madelinetosh Sock for my Color Affection Shawl.

I am so happy with it!  I haven't had a chance to wear it yet, due to the temperatures being in the 70s around here, but it is draped lovingly in my apartment.





Just to refresh our memories, here's what I started with:


Not enough contrast.

Well worth frogging and continuing the search for the perfect yarn.



It does get chilly at night around here.  I keep the thermostat low anyway; I'll wear a t-shirt--forget the turtlenecks--and throw on a beautiful shawl!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Free Pattern: Good Old Old Shale

A free pattern seems like a good way to start the New Year!  It's short and sweet, and you can skip down to it below, or read all about it first.

Bear-Bear looks happy!  Little Bear looks more subdued.  He prefers to celebrate in a quiet way.
A little champagne, a little caviar, and off to bed.

A few months ago, a lady hired me to knit a baby blanket for her.  She wanted a traditional knitting pattern called Old Shale, also widely known, apparently incorrectly, as Feather and Fan.

Now, before you get your feathers ruffled and your fans in a flap, before you grasp your knitting needles like daggers to attack, check out this link written by Elizabeth Lovick, and see what you think!

I decided last night that, for fun, I would research this traditional pattern and post a bit of history on my blog.  (My idea of fun is pretty tame.)  Along the way, I found the website above, and it makes a lot of sense.  Before I finished reading, I thought, "Uh-oh, now I have to change the title of my blog entry."  I was so sure I had been knitting Feather and Fan!

Well, I kept reading and it turns out, I was indeed knitting Old Shale, at least according to Elizabeth Lovick, and I have no reason to doubt her.  This pattern really does look more like shells, which is apparently what "Shale" originally meant, as opposed to "rock" as we might have thought, and the other pattern she shows really does look more like feathers, at least, if not fans.


Regardless, you who have been knitting for a long time may be thinking, "Ho-hum, another Feather and Fan/Old Shale pattern, big deal."

True, this stitch pattern appears in many stitch dictionaries; all I offer here is a "recipe" in which I have done some math so you don't have to do it.

There's a reason this stitch pattern has remained so popular:  it looks delicate and classy, and once you learn it, it's easy.

But the woman who hired me was new to knitting.  She wanted to make the blanket herself, but was having trouble with the pattern.  I remember when I first started knitting years ago, this one was about as complicated as I could handle.  There were many dropped stitches or yarn-overs omitted.  There was much tinking and gnashing of teeth.  Now it's a piece of pie!  Persistence pays off.

However, this otherwise perfectly nice lady who was offering me actual money to knit for her also wanted me to use her sport weight yarn.  (Ominous music now plays in the background.)


The adventure begins

Having made a baby blanket with sport weight before, I had vowed that I would never make another, as it takes FOREVER, but she was going to pay me, so I relented.

Never say never.

Now, about that "forever" business:

The best way I have found to know if you have made your blanket long enough is to hold up your work-in-progress from one side, not from the top.



If you hold it up from where you are knitting on the needles, the weight of the yarn makes it look like it's long enough.  It isn't.  Sorry.  You have to keep knitting.  It's sport weight.  It feels like it will never be done;  trust me, I know.  You have my deepest sympathy.

Are we there yet?
After you have knitted for a few more hours, days, or weeks, just hold the blanket up from one side, then lay it down on a table or on a nice, clean floor, perhaps, and get out your measuring tape, and measure down from the needles.  Then pick it up and keep knitting.

Almost for forever.








Then one day, suddenly, you're done!



Doesn't look bad from the "wrong side" either!
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GOOD OLD OLD SHALE



© 2013 Reyna Thera Lorele
YIYO Designs


Finished size:  36" x 42"
Materials needed:
1500 yds. DK or sport weight yarn
#5 needles, 29" circulars
Gauge:  5.5 sts per inch

Note:  pattern repeat is 18 sts.  I have added a garter st border of 6 rows to begin and end the blanket, and 5 sts on either end of each row.  You may want to place a marker after the first 5 sts and before the last 5 sts so you don't forget to do your border once you start the Good Old Old Shale pattern.

CO 208 sts.
Knit 6 rows.

BEGIN PATTERN--CENTER STS ONLY
Row 1 (RS):  k
Row 2:  p
Row 3:  k1, *(k2tog) 3 times, (yo, k1) 6 times, (k2tog) 3 times*, rep from * to * across to last st, k1.
Row 4:  k

Repeat rows 1 through 4 almost ad infinitum, until blanket measures about 41 inches.  Then finish with 6 rows of garter st, i.e., k every row.

BO, weave in ends, block, and take a much-needed rest!

Abbreviations
BO = bind off
CO = cast on
k = knit
k2tog = knit 2 together
p = purl
RS = right side
st, sts = stitch, stitches
yo = yarn over