Friday, July 29, 2011

Project Runway: A Not Guilty Pleasure


There I said it.  It is sort of a guilty pleasure to love a TV show, especially a reality TV show.  But I do not feel guilty.

My father's mother was an unbelievably outstanding seamstress.  When I was 9, I spent a weekend at her home, and I made a blouse, in what seems so strange to remember now, a brightly colored patchwork print taffeta.  When I was 12, I spent another weekend at her home, and I made a winter coat in brown corduroy with a quilted lining.  I actually wore both of these garments.

I made most of the clothes that I wore to JR High and High School.  In those years I dreamed of being a fashion designer.  Of course it never happened that I became a fashion designer, but I never stopped 'making things'.

Last night was the first episode of Season 9 of Project Runway.  I left my Sit and Knit at 8:00, stopped at the grocery store on the way home, put away groceries, and talked to my daughter on the phone.  Then I went down to the family room with my knitting bag and a glass of my favorite white wine...
As I turned on the TV, there was Tim Gunn (you gotta love that guy!) and he was saying "Welcome to Season 9 of Project Runway, one of the best seasons ever".  I said out loud, "Thanks Tim, its good to see you again."  Really!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

What Else Am I Working On?

This post will have no talk of top-down sweaters!  (I will, of course, continue to work on themI will even share some finished photos.  But, for now, enough said about my "Top-Down Immersion".)

I am in the beginning stages of designing a cowl for a new Fair Isle class to be offered at Gosh Yarn It! this fall.  Two-handed stranded Fair Isle will always be near the tippy-top of my list of favorite things to teach.  Shown is a bag I designed, which I have used several times for Fair Isle classes (since April 2009).

I created a variation of the bag last fall.  But this is 2011, and it is time to come up with a new design for teaching these skills!  Both the bag shown, and the new cowl are knit in the round.  There are many rows in the above bag that have short floats, but there are also some rows that have long enough floats to practice 'weaving in' or 'catching' the yarn not in use.  The cowl I have planned will also have both of these kinds of rows, but with a more distinct separation.  I will share more on the cowl soon, so please stay tuned.

Next up is a Linen Top, which I knit the front and back for, but will add to its length with crochet.  This is a photo of the first piece after blocking.

I have a project page for this top on Ravelry with much more information.  I wish I could spend more time on it, but those fall classes will be coming up before I know it.

And now for something completely different.  I am making a second "Turkish Bead Crochet" bracelet.  I made the first bracelet during a class at Beadweaver's, a local (and online) bead and jewelry shop.  The lovely and creative instructor, Jane, has taken some knitting classes of mine, and I wanted to take one of her beading classes.  It was so much fun!  My first bracelet is more beautiful in person than in the photo.
For my second bracelet, I am using many of the leftover beads, and the same cord.  The main difference is that the first used 6mm Swarovski Bicones in a 'Pacific Opal' color, and the second has 6 mm Fire Polished Rounds in 'Champagne T Luster'.

One of the best thing about these bracelets, is that I can make one in about an hour and a half.  Even though I NEED to be working on fall class samples, I do not feel guilty about taking a little pick-me-up break with these.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Midweek Meditation

"If you want to make your dreams come true, the first thing you have to do is wake up."   -- J M Power

Friday, July 22, 2011

My Top-Down Immersion

I am currently working on TWO top-down sweaters!

In the last week, I met with the manager and the owner of Gosh Yarn It! (an LYS where I teach) to discuss Fall class offerings.  We had previously talked about a "My First Sweater Class," and a pattern was selected.  Not surprisingly, it is a seamless top-down, (what everyone wants to make, right?)  It falls into the first category that I mentioned in a recent post, starting with a raglan top and then knit as three tubes.  It is called New Neckdown Pullover by Diane Soucy, and I am making the class sample with yummy Debbie Bliss Rialto Aran.

Here is what it looked like at the start (indoor lighting).  It begins with the higher back neck and sleeve tops, set off with red markers.  Then the center front neckline is cast on (at bottom of photo) and work begins in the round.
Raglan increases happen every other row (at markers) until underarm.

The second photo shows what it looks like now (outdoor lighting).  On reaching the underarm, sleeve stitches are placed on waste yarn, with some stitches cast on for the bottom of each armhole.  The top is up in the photo, but when I am knitting, the top is down.  I am on the first tube which is the body tube.

From my recent post..."It is the other category that I could learn from.  These often start with a provisional cast-on, and involve picking up stitches here and there.  I feel that if I just make one of these, maybe I can begin to think of sweaters that are knit in different directions.  In my next post I will talk about two top-down cardigan patterns that I recently downloaded"...

The first pattern that I download (but am not currently knitting) is Summer Solstice by Heidi Kirrmaier.  It begins with a provisional cast-on, which will sit vertically at the center of the back yoke.  The right side of back yoke is knit first; then stitches are cast on (to the left side of work) for the right front.  Continuing from all of these stitches the right sleeve is knit to the wrist.  The left side is knit as a mirror image, starting back at the provisional cast on.  Next, stitches are picked up across the bottom of the body, and knitted down with increases and decreases.  There is a nice bit of shaping.  Last to be knit is the front band/collar.  As you can imagine, this also begins with picked up stitches.  I will definitely be making one of these.  I am thinking of some navy dk merino in my stash.

The second top-down pattern, which I have started, is Cerisara by Bonnie Marie Burns.

I love, love, LOVE the lace stitch pattern in my 'Fir' So-Soft DK from Handwerks! The provisional cast-on with white yarn (at bottom in above photo) will be at the very top of the back (as in second photo).  The stitches shown on the needle (above) have been placed on a blue waste yarn (see below), now that the bottom of armhole has been reached.

The left back neckband starts with another provisional cast-on (at center back, curling under a bit in above photo).  It is very interestingly joined sideways to now live stitches at the left center part of the back rectangle.  The remaining stitches on far left are picked up as live stitches and the left front will be knit down to armhole.  The right front will begin similarly, with the right back neckband, and become the right front, also to be knit down to armhole.

This post is so long!  I will sum up quickly:  The left front, back and right front will be joined, with some cast-on stitches at each armhole.  Then the body, along with front neckbands, will be knit down.  Each sleeve will begin with picked-up stitches at armhole, and then be knit down to the wrists in the lace pattern.

I cannot imagine being any more immersed in top downs.  Time to come up for some air!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Midweek Meditation

"For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream."  -- Vincent Van Gogh

"The Starry Night"
My photograph at the Museum of Modern Art, New York City, August 2007.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Top-Down (Sweater) Experience Needed

     I have made very few top-down sweaters.  I made a couple of these little baby sweaters, which are top-down, when I taught a knitting class on them.  This is Elizabeth Zimmerman's "Baby Sweater on Two Needles" from her lovely little book Knitter's Almanac.
      If you are a modern sweater knitter, it is quite likely that you make only  top-down sweaters.  I would not blame you for that.  You can probably name all of the 99 reasons why they are better to make than the knitted-in-pieces, from-the-bottom-up, and then seamed sweaters.  The most common of these reasons would be: "few or no seams" and "you can try it on as you go".
     When I admit to other knitters that I have made almost no top-down sweaters, I am always asked why.  The best, and truest, answer is that I have never sought out that type of pattern.  I began making sweaters around age 12, and I learned how to sew (all kinds of clothes) at about the same time.  I do not mind seams.  I have always thought of seams as a necessary part of garment construction.  And I like the results that I get.
     But I am an aspiring designer now.  And I find myself thinking that there is currently a great (sometimes obsessive) interest in top-down, seamless construction.  So I do plan now to knit some of these styles, and see what I can learn from them.  I find that there are two categories...

     The first is a yoke or raglan at top, knitted down until it is divided into three tubes: body and two sleeves.  This would not teach me much, as I have made many a three-tube and then on up to a yoke or raglan top (bottom-up and almost seamless).  The next photo is a fairly recent bottom-up and almost seamless, Fair Isle, which once had a front steek and now has a front zipper.

     It is the other category that I could learn from.  These often start with a provisional cast-on, and involve picking up stitches here and there.  I feel that if I just make one of these, maybe I can begin to think of sweaters that are knit in different directions.  In my next post I will talk about two top-down cardigan patterns that I recently downloaded.  (I have already started one of them with my Handwerks So-Soft DK!) 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Midweek Meditation -- The Bag and the Magnet

 "In all object making, that aspect which relates to its conceptual interpretation is art, that which relates the object to an intended purpose is design, and the quality of its execution is craft."  -- Hella Basu

I must warn you, gentile reader, that I am likely to repeat this quote.  I came across it about a year ago.  I copied it and printed it; and it has been held by a magnet (depicting a sunflower painting by Van Gogh) on my refrigerator ever since.
I like knowing that other people (besides myself) think about such things.
I am not really saying that the designer bag is "art".  But together with the quote, it gives me something to think about.  (And then there is the magnet...)

Friday, July 8, 2011

Handwerks Yarn: May I have some more, please?

Some of the yarn in this photo was one of my wonderful prizes for winning the Knitcircus Health & Love scarf design contest.

The prize was a $50 gift certificate for HANDWERKS Artisan Yarns and Textiles which I could redeem at

If I were a normal knitter, I would have happily selected two skeins of any of the lovely sock yarns...or maybe a skein of lace yarn in combination with a skein of sock yarn.  So pretty!  But, I am not a normal knitter.  I have been knitting for a very long time, and I have always made a lot of sweaters.

It was the So-Soft DK yarn (80% superwash merino, 10% cashmere, 10% nylon; 110grams, 231 yards) that I wanted.  Of the colors shown on the website, I liked the 'Montery Cypress' DK best.  So, I emailed Laura at Handwerks to ask if she had six skeins of it.  She did not.  She does not sell a lot of the DK (of course), but the good news is that she always has some undyed yarn for special orders, and she could dye six skeins in one dyelot just for me.  Just for me!  Never before had anyone offered to hand-dye yarn just for me.  I had one more question.  I asked if I could have the DK dyed a color that one of her sock yarns was dyed, called 'Fir'.

My final special order was for six skeins of So-Soft DK in 'Fir'.  It arrived here on Saturday.  Here is a photo of it outdoors.  Thanks, Laura, I love it!

The gift certificate covered the cost of only two skeins.  I am definitely not normal.  Most of the yarn I buy is in sweater quantities.  (May I have some more, please?)  Do you think that more is better?  Or is this a case where more is just enough?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Midweek Meditation -- A Birthday

Pablo Picasso...

 "It takes a long time to become young."

I have a birthday this week.  My family got me an expensive designer handbag that I saw while out shopping with my daughter.  In my entire lifetime, I never thought that I would want an expensive designer handbag.  I told my daughter that I liked it a lot.  She went back for it, and now it is mine.  (It has a red lining.)

Friday, July 1, 2011

My TATU Sock Pattern

     The first time I taught knitting (and was paid for it) was at our local Michael's Art & Craft store in 2006.  It was very part time.  I was asked to teach a "Learn to Knit" class, and I wrote a little pattern on how to knit a small square which included photos showing creative things to do with a small knitted square.  I also wrote a dishcloth pattern.  Later I offered a felted knitting class and a cable class.  I gave my free pattern, Both Sides Now , in the cable class.

     By early 2009, I had been teaching at an LYS named 'Cozy Cabin' for several months.  I wanted to teach a toe up sock class.  Only thing is, I had not yet made a toe up sock.  I was sure that I wanted to write a pattern to teach making a toe up sock to students who had previously made only cuff down socks.  I also knew that I would use two circular needles.  I researched methods of casting on, making the heel, and the cuff bind off.  I found the ones that I not only liked best, but knew that I could teach.  I titled my pattern 'TATU Sock, Try A Toe Up Sock'.

     I chose to make the sock from sport weight yarn so that it would knit up quickly.  I felt that experienced sock knitters could learn to make one in a two-session class.  I have also offered it as a three-session class with shorter length classes (better).

     Most knitters enjoyed making the socks and did like how quickly they knit up.  You will find the free TATU Sock pattern here.

     Some have had difficulty getting the right tension on the 'Kitchener' bind-off.  It is such a beautiful finish to the top of the sock and well worth the time it takes to learn to tension it.  A much easier bind-off would be the sewn bind-off for those who just can't get the Kitchener one.  In a future post, I will show pictures of both with hopefully a bit of a tutorial.

     I would like to now offer a helpful hint for knitting the heel.  I had one email question from a knitter who had trouble counting stitches when working the rows with wrapped stitches.  I actually use two markers to help with the
In the "Start Heel" section, 
Row 1:  After you slip 1, place a marker, then continue to work the row. 
Row 2:  After you slip 1, place a marker, continue to work row to the other marker, remove marker, slip and wrap next stitch. 
Row 3:  (Similar to row 2) after you slip 1, place a marker (the one you just removed at the end of previous row), continue to work row to the other marker, remove marker, slip and wrap next stitch.
Continue to work each row placing and removing markers  as in row 3.
     When I work this way, I find that I do not have to count stitches every row.  I just check every so often that on the knit side I knit an odd number, and on the purl side I purl an even number -- stopping when I am down to purl 8.
     HTH (Hope That Helps)
     Happy Knitting, my friend!