Inside the Summer Knitting Bag

Summertime is a great time to knit, I love knitting by the water or the campfire. Nothing is more relaxing. Here’s a quick look at the projects I’ve been working on this Summer.

 

The Sun Shawl

Current Status: Final laps

I am loving this pattern by Sylvia McFadden! It’s been an amazing summer knit. I started the project while on vacation in July and continued working on it during my commute until it grew too large (and heavy). Now it’s become my weekend project by the campfire or in the car during long trips on the highway (in the passenger seat obviously – no one can knit and drive).  It’s a circular shawl, so part of the driving force for me to finish it is so I can see how the finished piece looks. Although, it’s so heavy that I’m starting to wonder if it might become more of a small blanket. Either way, I can’t wait to finish so I can wrap myself up in it on a summer evening.

I’ve been keeping track of my progress in my Ravelry projects. I’m using Berroco Vintage in Douglas Fir, which is a lovely shade of green that photographs horribly in low light (which is why I have so few pictures of my progress on this one). I almost through my third skein in this project, and am pretty sure I’ll need to use a fourth. 

Fair Isle Owl Mitts

Current Status: Awaiting their photo-shoot

These adorable mitts were my first attempt at Fair Isle Knitting and my first attempt at chart knitting. I learned a lot while making them, and really enjoyed the process. I look forward to trying more Fair Isle patterns in the future. I still need to take pictures of them, so hopefully soon I can share them here!

Cute Kitten Baby Hat

Current Status: Ready to mail

This hat was a quick-knit project, I completed the body of the hat in a weekend and the detailing took about a week. I didn’t use a pattern for the hat, I improvised as I went. I need to wrap it now and get in a mailer to send to my cousin as a baby shower gift. I have a post about it coming soon!

A Sweater

Current Status: Pattern purchased

Over the winter I came across the pattern book PlumDandi, which I gushed about here. Last week authors Alicia Plummer and Melissa Schaschwary hosted a sale on their independently published patterns. I purchased three sweater patterns, but haven’t decided which one to try for my first sweater.

Here are my options:

  1. Overlynd by Melissa Schaschwary
  2. Real Life by Alicia Plummer
  3. Backshore by Alicia Plummer
  4. Keene by Alicia Plummer
  5. Genesee by Melissa Schaschwary

I’m likely going to use a Berroco yarn, because I love them, in a neutral color. Not sure which one I’ll start with, but I’m really excited for this next big project!

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5 Beginner Tips for Fair Isle Knitting

This summer I knit in Fair Isle style for the first time. I used to be intimidated by the pattern intricacies, but am so happy I tried this knitting style. Fair Isle knitting is not as difficult as it appears, and it’s a lot of fun to knit. During my first  Fair Isle project, I was given some advice I’d like to share with other Fair Isle newbies, in the hopes that others will not be as afraid to start like I was for so long.

1. Knit loosely

This advice came from the shop owner of Inspire to Knit & Tea in Plymouth, NH. If you naturally tend to knit true to gauge or loose, you’ll be fine. If you are naturally a tight knitter, you’ll need to be cognizant of every stitch.

Knitting too tightly pulls the carried yarns and shrinks the project. My friend, B, experienced this firsthand. She’s knits tightly, and her project bunched within the first 5-10 rows. We compared our mitts and hers was half the width of mine. She needed to unravel and begin again.

2. Charts read right to left

Knitting charts are read right to left, starting from the bottom of the right-hand corner. As you work your way through the chart, you’re going upwards. The chart may have numbers indicating stitches and rows to help you navigate.

Chart knitters would already know this information, but this was also my first chart knitted project so I was completely unaware. Thankfully the shop owner also mentioned this helpful guidance!

3. Second mitten’s chart is opposite

When working on the second mitten, the chart is read in the opposite direction: left to right. This ensures the completed mitten is a mirror image of the other. It makes sense when you think about it, but if the shop owner hadn’t told me I’m not sure I would have thought of it!

4. Carry yarn loosely from behind

When carrying the non-working yarn, ensure that its always on the wrong-side of the project. Otherwise, the carried yarn will obscure your pattern entirely! This is harder to see when knitting ribbing in alternating colors, but would become very apparent once you segued into the pattern.

It’s also important to carry the yarn loosely. I can’t stress this enough! If the yarn is pulled too tight, it will create a bump or a bulge in the finished object.

5. Twist the yarn

Twisting the carried yarns when switching colors helps to prevent holes in between the stitches. To achieve this, I would always change colors by carrying the new working yarn over the completed working yarn prior to making the first stitch in the new color. Every few color changes I would need to untwist the yarn balls, which was a pain, but the finished object was worth the effort.

Thinking I was being clever, I tried carrying the Main Color over the Contrasting Color and the Contrasting Color under the Main Color during each color switch to prevent the yarn from twisting and needing to untangle the yarn balls. As a result, my owl’s face on the right-hand mitten is not quite as tight as the face on the left-hand mitten. Also, when stretched, there are holes in between the color work. To correct this mistake, I would have had to undo half of the mitten. Since this project was only for me, and not a gift, I chose to live with it.

 

I’m still a novice when it comes to Fair Isle Knitting, but these tips are the ones I learned on my first project to help get me started. What are some other tips out there for Fair Isle beginners?

Revising the Ravelry Goal

At the start of the year, I set a Ravelry Challenge Goal of completing 7 projects. Some of the projects in my queue were on the larger side, so this seemed doable. I underestimated myself though – I met my goal at the end of March!

So I’ve decided to increase my goal for the year. I think 15 projects will be a good number. I want to continue to challenge myself, so we’ll see how this goes!

Of course, my knitting queue largely falls on what inspires me in the moment, so this isn’t entirely set in stone or really in any order. It’s more of a wish list.

Here’s my current queue wish list

  1. The second Viking Hat (personal pattern)
  2. The Cunning Hat (personal pattern)
  3. Anchor hat pattern
  4. Another hat (undecided pattern yet)
  5. Fair isle mitts (from the Sheepshearing festival)
  6. Sweater for me (there are two patterns from Plum Dandi Knits that I’m eyeing)
  7. Sweater for my husband (Expedition pattern by Todd Gocken)
  8. Socks for my husband (toe-up, magic loop method)

One of the hats is currently in the works, and I’m about to start selecting yarns for the next one. The fair isle mitts and socks are also both likely this year, (probably in the summer when it’s too hot to work on large projects) because both of those would also involve learning new techniques. I’m curious to see if the rest of the patterns will ultimately be the ones I work on to round out my challenge goal, or if another pattern will come along the way.

Inside the Knitting Bag

Two hat projects in the works right now, both at different stages of completion. Both of these hats are patterns I’m designing myself, and the finished hats are intended as Christmas gifts for my relatives.

Viking Helmet Hat

The body of hat is now complete, this yarn is so soft to the touch. The design is based on a trapper-style hat, so I picked up the stitches along the cast-on edge to create a neck guard to the helmet. I decided to do this section in garter stitch, because I like the simplicity of it and the contrast adds a little dimension to the hat.

I’ve also knitted the base of the two horns, but they’re not entirely complete. Next up for the horns will be stuffing, a mattress stitch to add a curve to the center, and sewing the horns onto the hat.

The Clever Hat (Firefly’s Jayne Cobb inspired)

Cast on is complete! I made a game-day decision and changed the needle sizing for my pattern. Rather than casting on with US Size 6 needles I went with US Size 8. I think after the ribbing section is complete, I’ll switch to US Size 9 or 10 for the body of the hat.

The hat consists of three color blocks, the first is in orange yarn. For that I’m using stash yarn from my Grandma’s stash. She used to make orange hats for us when we would go playing in the woods so we would easily be spotted.  She had several skeins of yarn in just the shade I was looking for, and it seemed more sensible to use what she had rather than buy new yarn.

Gore Sheepshearing Festival Recap

Last weekend we joined our friends at the annual Sheepshearing Festival at Gore Place in Waltham, MA. It’s a fun family-friendly event that takes place at the Gore Historical Society, a large house on beautiful grounds. There are animals (sheep, alpacas, and sheepdogs),  a craft fair (mostly centered around yarn and wool crafts), lots of food trucks, tables from community businesses and groups, and a band.

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Ready for his haircut!

This is our second year attending the festival with our good friends. We arrived shortly after 10:00 and started the morning off watching a farmer deftly trip his flock with shears. It was impressive the amount of strength and dexterity it took to keep the animal still and calm during the process. The wool was clipped in one large piece, rather than trimmed at the ends like a haircut.

Gore Sheepshearing Festival

The wool is sheared off in one piece.

Then the girls strolled the yarn booths at the craft fair (swoon), while the boys visited Wild Billy’s soda truck and the other food vendors. We of course had to stop by the alpacas – they’re so fluffy and cute!

Alpaca

It looks like he’s smiling!

As is tradition, B and I each bought a new yarn kit. This year we’re going to learn fair isle knitting. Neither of us have done it before, so by each having the same kit we can compare notes as we go. The pattern is for a pair of blue and white fingerless gloves featuring an owl motif.

B was more adventurous this year – she’s also going to try spinning! She bought a drop spindle and a few ounces of brightly dyed wool. I’m excited to see how it goes!

We overindulged at lunch, buying salads with grilled salmon from the booth run by the local boy scouts troop (healthy!) and chicken tenders and fries because we were shopping hungry (not so healthy!). There are so many food options at the festival it’s hard to choose.

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The militia on the march.

There are also colonial reenactments of daily life and militia, which is pretty cool. They have tents stationed at the front and back of the house, and the militia will periodically parade between them. families reenact daily life scenes such as preparing meals or spinning on a spinning wheel (like the kind in sleeping beauty). The historical society offers tours of the interior of the house.

Handmade lace

Completed handmade lace is very delicate and beautiful

While we didn’t participate in the tour, B and I did step inside to see the lace-making demonstration. Lace-making seems intensely complex! The patterns and multiple strands of thread connected to bobbins was very cool to see, it’s a true art form.

Another great festival in the books!

Inside the Knitting Bag

My current knitting bag has a few projects happening, incidentally they’re all hat-related. After having finished a few larger projects following patterns, I was in the mood for something quicker. Then I decided to create my own patterns… so there went the quickness. I’m really happy with the directions of all these projects.

Viking Helmet Hat – Toddler size

I’ve started the Christmas knitting early. Our nephews are close in age, so I thought it would be fun to knit them some superhero-themed hats this year. I couldn’t find any patterns online, so I decided to create my own.

For the first hat, I’m working on one inspired by the character Loki. I’m using a basic trapper-style cap design to create the helmet shape, with the intention of picking up the stitches from the brim to create the ear flaps. The initial cast-on for the brim also includes a little dip to indicate the front of the helmet.

Bear Cub Hat – Baby size

I finished this cute little baby hat, and since it’s the second hat like this that I’ve made, I want to write the pattern down. It’s a hat I enjoy making, but it would be much easier to have my notes consolidated rather than to have to recreate the pattern each time.

Jayne Cobb Inspired Hat – Adult Size

Very early stages. I’ve sketched out the design and drafted the pattern for the hat. Now I need to find the yarn for it. This will be another Christmas gift this year….

This hat is also a trapper-style hat. It will feature a basic cap: knit-in-the round in stockinette stitch with a brim done in ribbing. There will be a pom-pom on top and the stitches for the ear flaps will be picked up from the brim and knit down.

Sawyer Complete

I’ve gushed about the latest pattern book on my bookshelf, Plum Dandi Knits: Simple Designs for Luxurious Yarns by Alicia Plummer & Melissa Schaschwary, and that’s where I found this lovely pattern, Sawyer.

Coffee break

Pausing for a coffee break in Portsmouth, Sawyer kept me warm on a chilly, windy day.

For this pattern, I used one and a half skeins of Berroco Vintage in black currant, a yarn that I received as a Christmas gift this year. I love how soft this yarn is.

This was one of those patterns that I wore as soon as I finished it. Spring has been unusually cold this year, which has given me more opportunities to wear this item. There’s two ways to wear it, depending on the look you’re going for. I tend to gravitate toward the Cowl option.

I completed the majority of the knitting for this project during my commute. The lace pattern repeats were the perfect balance for challenging my concentration and allowing me to get lost in the knitting.

All in all, I loved this pattern; and it’s so easy to wear that it makes the delay of nice spring weather not so hard.

Quick Knit Hat

This hat, Pebble by Sylvia McFadden of Softsweater Knits, is probably the fastest hat I’ve ever knit. Granted, I was participating in the Ravellenic Winter Games, so I had a self-imposed two-week deadline. I was really proud of myself for finishing a hat in two weeks and finishing my first hat that involved lace work.

Pebble Hat side view

I’m wearing the hat very slouchy, but since it’s a beanie you can wear it close to the forehead too. It’s a good length for a hat.

I used exactly one skein of Paton’s Kroy Socks FX Yarn in Cascade Colors (and I mean exactly one, after bind-off I had six inches of yarn remaining). The pattern calls for the size 1 yarn to be “held double”, but this is a four-ply yarn, so even though it’s a size 1 it knits like a size 3. I took a gamble and went with it. I also didn’t knit a gauge swatch – horrible I know!! But when the gauge is twenty rows knit in the round in the lace pattern – at that point I just took a second gamble that my gauge would be close enough. Worst that could happen I would need to undo the hat. Luckily that didn’t happen, my gauge was close enough to the pattern that even with my two little tweaks it worked out okay.

Pebble Hat

I love the color of the yarn against the snow!

The most challenging part about this pattern is that I needed to check the pattern constantly. There were times when I’d finish a row, only to then have to un-knit the entire row because I missed a stitch at the beginning of the row that would throw off the entire pattern. Sometimes I hide my mistakes when knitting, but this hat doesn’t seem like the type of pattern that would hide mistakes well. I’m happy I was a perfectionist about completing this pattern, because the end result is beautiful!

Overall, I’m pleased as punch with how it turned out. I love the gradient color of yarn, it knit up beautifully and really showcases the stitches well. I’m saving the hat for my mom for mother’s day, even though it won’t quite be winter weather by then.

New favorites on my bookshelf

Recently I’ve added three new books to my bookshelf that I’ve been loving so much I wanted to share them.

The Knitter’s Book of Knowledge:
A Complete Guide to Essential Knitting Techniques

by Debbie Bliss

I took this book out of the library maybe four or five times before my hubby got it for me for Christmas (with new knitting needles – what a guy!)  The step-by-step instructions are sketched and fully-in color. The book explains techniques in a simple manner, so the instructions are easy to understand.

The book is very comprehensive, and reads as if you’re sitting down with your knitting teacher. I’ve found the sections on cast-on methods and shaping (increases and decreases), very useful in the past few months when I couldn’t quite grasp certain stitches and methods in a pattern.

Because of the structure of the book, it’ll be a good resource as I progress through more projects in the future, such as: reading charted patterns (one of the patterns I bought recently has only charted instructions, which I didn’t realize), knitting with color (something I want to try), and designing to fit (the hubby said the one thing he would love knitted most of all is a sweater, so I want to be sure it fits).

Plum Dandi Knits: Simple Designs for Luxury Yarns
by Alicia Plummer & Melissa Schaschwary

The pictures in this book are what first caught my eye. Beautifully photographed, the knitting patterns in here are streamlined, modern designs. All the patterns have a classic timelessness to them, stylish without being too trendy. The influence of New England is apparent in the styles and the names of the patterns, many of which are local towns.

I also appreciate the simplicity in some of the patterns, by which I can lose myself in the pattern. It’s very meditative when I’m commuting; I can be surrounded by other commuters but remain alone in my thoughts and my stitches. Conversely, when I want to be social I can knit and carry on a conversation easily.

This is currently my favorite pattern book on my shelf. All of the patterns are for items that would seamlessly blend into everyday life. Though the book calls for luxury yarns, I don’t think that would be a requirement. For the first pattern I knitted, Exeter, I used leftover stash yarn to make the fingerless gloves.

There are so many patterns in here I’m anxious to try.  Next up on my list will probably be a sweater, I love Keene and Genesee.  Currently I’m working on the cowl/capelet Sawyer, and I’m totally in love with it.

Vogue Knitting The Ultimate Knitting Book
2018 Edition by the Editors of Vogue Knitting Magazine

Wow. When they say the ultimate knitting book, they really do mean it. Glossy pages, full color pictures and sketches, and it spans the gamut of all things related to knitting. The edges of the pages feature a color-coded index, which makes it super easy to locate sections within the book. This book is a comprehensive guide to techniques, methods, tools, and pattern designing and sizing.

Beyond just structure and sizing of sweaters, this book delves into hats, gloves, mittens, socks and shawls. For a christmas hat project I have in mind, this will be very useful; since I haven’t been able to find a pattern that achieves what I want, I will probably design my own.

This is another great resource book that will be used over and over again. The book is very detailed on pattern designing and the back of the book features knitter’s graph paper (which is sized differently from regular graph paper) in several sizing gauges depending on the type of paper.

Those are the three books I’ve been enjoying; I hope you like them as much as I do!
Happy knitting and reading!

Reading and Knitting (and watching the games)

Last weekend while browsing the shelves of Barnes and Noble, I came across a new book: Plum Dandi Knits by Alicia Plummer and Melissa Schaschwary. The photographs really drew me in, the designs are simple, stylish, and wearable. Ultimately, the deciding factor was my favorite yarn brand was the yarn used in one of patterns I liked best. I took that as a sign, and brought the book home.

Eager to try one of the patterns, I started with Exeter, a fingerless gloves pattern that seemed fairly straightforward. After all, there was a large sporting event on February 4th that I intended to knit while watching; I couldn’t start anything too complex!

Exeter mitts by Plum Dandi

Love these simple mitts, in a neutral color like this they’ll be good transitional gloves for New England weather.

Since the pattern doesn’t call for much yarn, it was a perfect project to use stash yarn. I went with Paton’s Kroy Sock yarn in Flax, working through the leftover skein and a smidgen from a sock project last year.

Between the Puppy Bowl, Superbowl, and Beanpot Hockey Game (BU v. Harvard), I finished the first mitt. The games weren’t too distracting – although I did accidentally knit the thumb inside-out and needed to redo that. The second mitt took the remainder of the week to finish, since I primarily worked on it during my commute.

The trickiest part was repeating an error I made in the rows switching from the smaller needles to the larger. Instead of ending on row 1 I ended on row 2 in the two-row pattern repeat; which resulted in a noticeable knit row line at the cuff. I didn’t catch the error until almost bind-off, and didn’t think it was worth the effort to undo so much work. Hence, while working on the second knit, I needed to repeat the error to make it look intentional!

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Warm and cozy!!

In the end, I’m happy with the finished mitt project and I’m totally in love with this book. I’m really excited to try out more of the patterns in here!