Vogue Knitting Live!

Last weekend my intrepid friend Kat and I ventured into her hometown of Chicago for Vogue Knitting Live, a tremendously impressive conference for knitters and fiber enthusiasts. There was definitely something for everybody! We went on Friday afternoon and again on Saturday, and the event was open on Sunday as well. There were so many vendors in the marketplace and neat things to see and do at every turn!

The event was in a beautiful historic hotel called Palmer House in Chicago. We saw so many different vendors – some of my personal favorites were Nerd Girl Yarns (she comes up with the greatest names for her colorways!) and The Grinning Gargoyle (I loved the Hoek sample she was wearing so much that I had to buy the yarn). There were many, many neat things to see and buy. I enjoyed people watching for all the handknits that wandered around – one of my favorite things about being around other knitters is getting stopped for the pattern you’re wearing or having the urge to stop others. I picked up tons of great ideas and more than my share of new wool. There were some fiber celebrities in attendance, free patterns, and beautiful fiber art. I put up some photos here:  http://imgur.com/a/TKR5G

That’s some incredible crochet art by Ashley Blalock in the first photo. Next is my friend getting a book signed by Ysolda Teague (the impressive Saturday Treat, check it out!), followed by fashion shows from Koigu, Skacel, and Malabrigo, and a shot of the Palmer House Lobby as seen from the top of the escalators.

If that wasn’t enough, we also managed to find time for Loopy yarns, Windy Knitty, and an incredible notions store called Soutache (I picked up some lovely vintage buttons and ribbon for drawstring project bags).

the button wall at Soutache in Chicago

Kat and I declared ourselves “fiber drunk” and the weekend a success!

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Color infection…

There’s a new virus sweeping the streets my friends. No one is immune. You’ll notice it first in the yarn shop. A happy, unassuming knitter will start to judge yarn by whether they can find three complementary colorways. They might even make a purchase of three colors that are quite striking together. It’s happening everywhere; nowhere in the world is safe from this dreadful curse. I’m speaking, of course, of the Color Affection. I first noticed on ravelry that, goshdarnit, an awful lot of people seem to be casting this on. Then every blog I read seemed to be about this interesting pattern. Finally, yarnharlot had a post which involved photos of many many knitters holding up the evidence of their affliction. It seems everyone’s involved. I must confess, I’ve been eyeing the pattern for awhile. It just looks so snuggly and modern and, well, perfect. It allows knitters to combine three of their favorite passions (which almost never happens all in one project) – beautiful color combos, an interesting pattern that isn’t too hard (it’s garter stitch after all), plus the ultimate yummy yum cherry on top bonus – a lovely finished product that we’ll actually want to wear. Finding a pattern that combines all these elements is like that rare gem, harvested through some miraculous window of opportunity that happens just once in a blue (and grey and white, those three colors would look great together) moon.

Of course I’m not immune. I’ve been pondering my own options. I’ve been drooling over the Tosh color Filligree for some time, but haven’t found a way to use it. I usually prefer very neutral colors for the things I make myself, but this pattern allows me to get a pass and incorporate a strong variegate with a couple of neutrals for a still classic finished look. Here’s what I’m pondering now…

This is Tosh Merino light in Filligree, Antique Lace, and Composition Grey. Of course I’m looking at web colors – I’d just love to see them in person. I’m not jumping on anything yet, though. I think the joy of this pattern is it gives you a license to look at color in ways we don’t often get to try. Knitters love color so much, and this gives us the ability to showcase color through an endless series of combinations. Drawing out the process for choosing colors for this pattern is going to be just as enjoyable as knitting the thing up itself. I may never cast it on. I may go for years, enjoying knowing that oh, someday, I’ll find the perfect, epic combo of three lovely colors and I’ll blissfully continue searching through the years. Luckily, that’s half the fun…

A Knitter’s Dilemma

So I cast on some very plain toe up, two at a time socks. I cast on 8 stitches. I increased 4 stitches per round. I calculated my gauge. I measured my foot. And somehow, three inches up, I was way off on my gauge, and the socks were way too big. I didn’t account for the stretchiness of the fabric. It also turned out I mismeasured my foot by about a half an inch. In any case, I needed about ten fewer stitches than I had.

At this point, I faced a dilemma. Elizabeth Zimmerman’s eternal wisdom says that when we make a pair of socks that don’t fit, we should just give them to someone else and move on. I had been rocking and rolling on these socks, and I was all excited about speeding through them. I also (selfishly) wanted them for myself. My husband suggested I just finish them as is and give them to him (so helpful).

I had to put them down. I couldn’t face the decision. I’m sure every knitter goes through this on occasion. Should I rip back, or just keep going?? I contemplated a stiff drink. I paced around the house, grouchily mumbling about clutter that needed to be picked up. I tried to remember if we had any chocolate around.

In the end, I frogged back the socks that very evening. I decided it was like a band-aid that needed to be ripped off, and the sooner I took care of it, the better I’d feel. I turned out to be right (I’m just the best..).

I was sure to wrap the frogged yarn around my skeins. This way, as I knit on again, I’ll know the minute I’ve caught up to the mistake. The Yarn Harlot recently wrote a blog about that gratifying feeling when you finally catch up to your previous mistake, and I completely agree with her.

Puget Sound LYS Tour 2011

The first day of the Puget Sound LYS Tour was ca-raaaazy! I only made it to two stores. I started after work. There was a really bad accident on the freeway and I got stuck in traffic for about two hours in between the stores. Needless to say, after the second one, I decided to just call it a day. Still, the two stores I did make it to today were well worth it.

First off, Cultured Purls.

This is an awesome little shop. Tucked into a cozy little set of stores in Issaquah, the vibe on the outside is very inviting. The staff were extremely friendly – I even pointed out as I was signing my receipt that the pen I was using was particularly nice to write with, and the gal gave it to me to keep. Not a big deal, but one of those things that gives you a good vibe about the people there. I ended up buying a very cute handpainted mug for my mom that has horses and sheep on the outside and just on the inside rim says “Nag, Nag, Nag…”. I also picked up a beautiful skein of purple twisty sock yarn from a local spinner/dyer husband wife team called Four Footed Fiber.

All in all, Cultured Purls is a great little shop and I’m really happy that the Local Yarn Store tour gave me an excuse (aka, the kick in the butt) needed to go check it out!

After my long experience stuck in traffic, I did finally make it over to Serial Knitters in Kirkland, which also happens to be my home store. They weren’t too busy which was great. I, of course, love this shop. The staff are so friendly, the atmosphere is bright and cheery, and they have the coolest, most unique selection of yarn that I’m likely to see anywhere on the tour. From Hazel Knits, to Black Trillium, to Three Irish Girls, they are great at keeping a very unique inventory. They had Madelinetosh light and Manos on sale and I picked up a great colorway of the Tosh.

I’m sure the color in the photo doesn’t do it justice, but the color, Baltic, is incredibly vibrant and lovely.

All in all, a productive, great day at two really great local yarn shops!

The second day was quite the event, as I spent it with my lovely niece Lauren. She’s a non-knitter, but she was more excited about the yarn than I was. We hit up 5 stores in total.

Acorn Street is a lovely, old shop with a lot of good, sturdy wool. It felt like Elizabeth Zimmerman might be lurking in a corner somewhere. They carried Lorna’s Laces in Hawkeye colors, which Lauren was particularly jazzed about.

Next up, we hit a shop called Tricoter. (pronounced, Tree-ko-tay) Now, for those unfamiliar, Tricoter is french for “to knit”. I was unsure what to expect from this store, and unfortunately, I’m still not sure what’s going on with this place. The name itself seems to constantly remind you that you’re “not quite cool enough” for this store, and that’s how I would describe the whole vibe. The wool is organized by color, and I couldn’t seem to figure out any other organizational method. Their selection was brimming with novelty yarn, something I personally am not super interested in. Unfortunately the staff really made me feel like we were inconveniencing them by coming into their shop. Possibly I just caught them at a bad time on a random day, but it was a bummer of a blemish on the otherwise lovely trip. One person also made some rude comments to my niece, so we didn’t stay long.

From there we hit up Bad Woman Yarn, a fabulous shop that I wish I could make it to more frequently. They have TONS of sample items which really makes it easy to pick out wool. They have a huge inventory, including a lot of Malabrigo, Berocco, Tosh, and on and on. I picked up a skein of Mini Mochi here in a rainbow color, which Lauren used to finger knit for the rest of the day while we travelled.

Next we hit up So Much Yarn. This is a lovely little store, tucked right near Pike Place Market. It’s interesting to get to, as you have to get yourself buzzed in by the gate, but the awkwardness is totally worth it. They had a great selection for a small space, and the staff in the shop were incredibly warm and knowledgeable. They also had a huge selection of well chosen books here. I hope people find this shop, as it’s worth stopping in.

Finally, we hit the barracuda, Churchmouse. The ferry ride is wonderful, (what can I say, my husband proposed on the Bainbridge Island ferry, so it’s safe to say I enjoy it.) The other shops on the island, charming and sophisticated. I would actually use those same words to describe Churchmouse. It’s classy, simple, elegant. they carry a large selection of Rowan, Malabrigo, Madelinetosh, Plymouth. Their patterns turn up in every LYS that I seem to go to, nationwide. They take simple patterns passed down through generations, write them up, and publish them. Depending on your outlook, this should either be infuriating or comforting. I haven’t decided which camp I fall into. For the tour, they were passing out glasses of sparkling water and champagne, which I thought was a very nice and generous touch. Lauren and I enjoyed checking out their large selection, followed by grabbing an ice cream for the ferry ride back. What a weekend…

2010 Charity Auction Shawl

It’s that time of year again and I have made another shawl for my friend Jane’s West Seattle theatre group’s charity auction. My lovely niece Lauren is modeling and the shawl will be auctioned off on October 8, 2010. More information about Twelfth Night Productions is here: http://www.twelfthnightproductions.org/

For this shawl, I used the pattern Easy Triangle Shawl 60301 by Lion Brand. I used Cascade Yarn in Lana Grande in a beautiful shade of dark purple. I used circular size 13 needles. All supplies purchased at the wonderful Serial Knitters yarn shop in Kirkland, WA.

DIY Knitted Garter

I recently made this beautiful hand knitted garter for my upcoming wedding. It was so easy! If you can knit, you can easily make this project yourself. I used a 10 yard roll of blue silk ribbon from the craft store. I cast on 4 stitches onto size 2 needles leaving a long tail. I simply garter stitched back and forth until it was the length I wanted, and then bound off, leaving another tail. I used the two tails to tie the garter together and Voila!! Thanks to Julianne Smith for the original design idea.

Simple Shawl

I certainly wasn’t the first to come up with this technique, nor will I be the last. As a beginner knitter I remember searching far and wide for a REALLY simple triangle shawl pattern that would knit up quickly, and I came up empty. I wrote this one up for my own records and to use when I was teaching beginners, and I posted it because I got some requests to make it public. Here’s the pattern I wrote up.

One more thing – it hasn’t been tested at all. Knit at your own risk and always buy extra yarn of the same dye lot if possible.

Simple Shawl

Materials:

One pair size 15 US needles (10 mm). (Unless you really prefer straight needles, I would recommend using circular needles with a cable length of 24-40″ to accommodate the width of the shawl. The project is knit flat.)

820 (1230, 1640, 2050) yards /Medium (Large, XL, XXL) Malabrigo merino worsted yarn in color of your choice

OR

Substitute any worsted or aran weight yarn.

Instructions:

First, divide your yarn into an even number of at least two balls. OR the skeins can be wound into center pull balls where you will pull from both the center and the outside of the wound ball simultaneously. The reason for doing this is that the yarn will be held double while you knit. 

With yarn held double (holding two strands of yarn,) cast 3 stitches onto your size 15 needle.

Row 1: Knit

Row 2: Knit 1, KFB (Knit into the front and back of the stitch), Knit 1 (Increased by 1 stitch, 4 stitches total)

Row 3: Knit

Row 4: Knit 1, KFB, KFB, Knit 1 (Increased by 2 stitches, 6 stitches total)

Row 5: Knit

Row 6: Knit 1, KFB, knit until two stitches remain, KFB, Knit 1


Repeat rows 5 and 6, alternating one knit row and one increase row until piece measure 22 (Small) (26(Med), 30(Lar), 34(XL)) inches from bottom tip to the top, or until you run out of yarn.

I like to put a split ring marker on one side of my fabric to help me remember which side is the increase side, and which side is the “Knit across” side. Once I get going, I forget which side is which, and newer knitters especially may not be able to tell which side they’re on by looking at their stitches.

Bind off loosely and weave in loose ends.

This is a very easy pattern for a beginner who is looking to learn how to do increasing without too much work. 

*** Author’s Note: The method of “increase” I used was to Knit Front and Back (KFB), however, you could modify the pattern and use whatever increase method you prefer. More information about different ways of increasing is here: http://www.knittinghelp.com/videos/increases

This shawl is done by knitting two strands of yarn together at the same time. I used two strands of the same color, but you could combine two different colors for a funky, twisted look.

Shown below in Lion Brand Wool-Ease Worsted Weight in Oxford Grey. This size (which I would call Extra-small) used two skeins and had a bit left over. For the shawl below, I picked up some stitches on the edges and created two “ties.” I wasn’t crazy about how they looked, though, which is why I didn’t include this in the finished pattern I wrote.


The above shawl was made to auction for a wonderful community theatre group called Twelfth Night Productions. They are located in West Seattle.