Monday, December 28, 2009

Worldwide Splendor

Such exciting things are happening over here! You may remember our previous post in which we mentioned some of the exposure and love we'd gotten by getting mentioned in other blogs & forums. Well, it's just! Getting! Better!

The Wild Thing hoodie has recently been featured on WeLoveYouSo.com--a fanblog dedicated to the Where the Wild Things Are book & movie. It was incredibly flattering to discover this, somehow. I think the extra flattery (for me) lies in the fact that, since this is a fan site, the interest & excitement are coming from fellow nerdy fans--and I mean that in the most becoming way possible. I mean, I definitely count myself as part of that group!

In addition to this, we've been getting visitors from a couple of websites that appear to be Japanese (http://bbs1.nazca.co.jp/ and http://p2.2ch.net/), which is also flattering and very curious. Neither of us is able to read any Asian language, so if you can help us discover how we're mentioned on these sites, we'd be most appreciative. Regardless, though, it's incredibly nifty to know that there is interest in our little blog all over the World!

Speaking of global interest, a Francophone reader recently offered to translate the pattern for The Natural into French, and this translation is now available here! Many thanks to Mélusine for this translation! I also hear that an Italian translation of the pattern is in the works. HOW COOL IS THAT!?

We'd both like to extend a warm Thank You to all of our readers for showing us love in all the ways that you do. Stay tuned; there's more super fun knitting in the works!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Visual Texture

I'm not gonna play; I'm one of those guys that knitters complain about: I unabashedly enjoy stockinette sweaters in grey, blue, or black...maybe with a stripe across the chest? [full disclosure: I mostly choose greys or black, which means that most of my 'sweater quantities' of yarn are varying shades of grey, with an occasional bundle of black yarn]

However, I don't believe that stockinette fabric needs to be boring to look at, so I bring you examples of yarn with what I call Visual Texture. These are just a few examples of swatches I've been playing with that use yarns which create interest without a complex stitch pattern.



Yarn: Fibra Natura 'Mermaid' in colorway 'Turkish Tile'

The interest in this yarn is the result, in part, of its composition. The blend of pima cotton, superwash Merino wool, seacell, and silk creates subtle variances in tone, as the different fibers absorb dye to varying degrees. On top of that, the silk and seacell give it a really yummy sheen. Seacell is made from cellulose (read: wood pulp) and seaweed, and the buzz is that the seaweed content transfers nutrients when worn against the skin (osmosis FTW!!!). Between that and the lovely feel of the yarn and fabric, I'm bent on uncovering the manly accessory that I'm sure is hidden in a ball or two of this fab yarn.



Yarn: Universal Yarn Classic Worsted Holiday in colorway 'Silver Bells'

Ok, I give! I'm easily distracted by shiny objects! I don't know that there's anything guy-friendly waiting to happen with this yarn, but I do enjoy the challenge of looking for it. This machine-washable (79% Acrylic, 19 % Wool, 2% Glitter) yarn has a metallic element with a shine that's hard to resist. That, alone, is really enough to give some 'oomph' to a piece of "plain knitting". I'm showing the Reverse Stockinette side of this ribbed-border swatch to demonstrate how simply displaying the side of the fabric that we don't normally see can create some intrigue. What is that pebbley fabric, anyway? Right?



Yarn: KnitPicks City Tweed Heavy Weight in colorway 'Orca'

Here is another yarn whose mixed fiber content (Merino wool, superfine alpaca, & Donegal tweed) contributes to multi-tone appeal. Tweedy yarns, in general, are great for visual interest, as the tweedy bits--usually multicolored, and typically brightly-hued--break up what might be an otherwise-solid (or -semisolid) fabric. In this case, though, I really appreciate that the 'tweeds' are neutral tones. Davitron and I are of two minds on this one, but I truly enjoy the visual appeal of tweed without the distraction of bright colors amidst grey or black yarn.



Yarn: Fibra Natura 'Oak' in colorway 'Pewter'

This swatch (that looks like it's on its way to becoming a scarf, no?) illustrates that very complicated stitch patterns are not necessary to create very interesting fabric. You can see in the ball (background...a little bit) that the yarn itself (a blend of linen, silk and superwash Merino wool) has a respectable amount of color variation going on in it. Here you can see seed stitch (center), sandwiched between ol' reliable garter stitch (above & below the seed stitch sections), and at the top and bottom there's a very simple stitch pattern that I've been thinking of a lot lately. It's a variation on the Mistake Rib stitch that might actually have a name, though I'm unaware of it. The stitch pattern repeats over a multiple of 3 stitches, and you just knit 2, purl 1 on both sides of back-and-forth knitting. I added a slipped-stitch edge to my swatch, though, cuz I'm fancy like that! :o)



Yarn: Dream In Color Classy in colorway 'Cocoa Kiss'

Just when it's starting to seem like the only way to get visual interest is to blend some fibers, here's an example that is pure, delicious superwash Merino wool. Dream In Color's Veil Dying process and color palette create some pretty freakin' amazing yarns! Cocoa Kiss is an example of one of their yarns that combines different hues artfully to create a pleasing color combination, but you can bet your biddy that I have a sweater quantity of yarn stashed in their newer 'Grey Tabby Cat' colorway! Whether you're talking about one of their semisolids or multi-hued colorways, though, the gorgeously subtle variations in color create a lovely 'textured' fabric out of plain ol' stockinette fabric.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Sakura

Hullo there!

Wow, it's been quite a month. TricotChico and myself have been hard at work writing patterns and preparing info for test knitters! (also, if you're interested in test knitting, comment below with your e-mail address, or find one of us through the ravelry links on the sidebar)

First I need to say a huge thanks to all of you find folks who visit us regularly, or send your friends over here or just find us randomly, some how, through the magick of the Internet. You may have noticed an interruption in the presence of our blog recently. You see, thanks to all of you lovely readers, we exceeded our monthly bandwidth for the first time! In all the excitement, I forgot to buy the next hosting package up, and VOILA - interruption. But we're back up and running! Thanks for sticking in there!

A couple months ago, a good friend of mine at Knit Picks, Kate, offered me an opportunity to be part of their new Independent Designer Program. Their format was incredibly unique, and frankly, groundbreaking. Their program puts 100% of pattern revenue in the hands of the designers. If you're at all familiar with how a lot of magazines work, I'm not going to sugar coat it for you - a lot of them don't look out for the designer's interests (lots of other designers, like Annie Modesitt, have written fantastic blog posts explaining this situation) You can understand why i was excited and wanted to be a part of this program.


Pattern: Sakura by David Castillo
$1.99 on the Knit Picks Pattern Store
Yarn: Knit Picks Gloss HW in 'Aegean'
Needle: US8

This hat was knit from an idea I've had kicking around in my head for a while. It was nice to finally take some time and work it out. I have also knit a very serviceable prototype out of Cascade 220 that is equally fabulous.

Let me talk for a second about the yarn used in this pattern, though. A lot of people tend to associate inexpensive yarn with low quality, which i can understand but I'm always saddened by this dismissal. Gloss is an incredibly affordable yarn while maintaining an excellent quality! I had no issues with this ball of yarn, it was spun nicely and evenly, no excessive knots (I'm not sure if there was any knots, actually). On top of that, the fiber blend is delightful! It's 80% Merino 20% Silk. Absolutely fantastic.

That little gush-session/commercial aside, This hat is a great, quick knit - Excellent for all that Christmas knitting you need to get done! The decreases include a few twisted-stitch cables, which provide you with the chance to try out some cabling without the daunting task of knitting an all-over cable pattern. On top of that, when you finish of this hat you're going to feel like a super clever knitting rock star!

Again folks, thanks for all the visits! It's been so exciting to watch the blog stats and see so many people enjoying what we put out there.

Happy Stitching!
Davitron

Friday, October 30, 2009

Dia de los Muertos!

Happy Halloween and Feliz Dia de los Muertos to everyone! There are lots of reasons these holidays are among my favorites, but do you really need a reason to love a holiday centered around playing dress-up and eating candy!? True, Dia de los Muertos isn't quite like that, but nosotros Americanos get the best of both, que no?


There are lots of Dia de los Muertos Festivities in NYC this year (as, I'm assuming, there are every year), not to mention the Halloween Parade in Greenwich Village and general mayhem that will undoubtedly ensue (and I use 'mayhem' in the most endearing of ways--Witch's Honor!), so I decided it would be fun to make myself a Dia de los Muertos-style Mexican Sugar Skull Tote to carry the sundries that I'll need with me for these celebrations.


I thought it would be fun to use Calavera (one of my Living Dead Dolls, pictured in the first photo) as the inspiration for my tote, though the project sort of led itself after a while, as creative projects are wont to do. I started with a plain white canvas tote bag, some black kraft felt, & some Aleene's Tacky Glue, then went stash-mining for other bits that could be used for decoration.


I sketched out the 'framework' of my design on the totebag (it didn't erase very cleanly, and you can see it if you look closely; I probably should have used fabric chalk), then traced stencils for the felt bits onto some paper. After using these to cut the eyes, nose, and forehead medallion out of black felt, I glued them into place, then began gluing yarn in place for the features, and embellished with silver-lined glass seed beads. Don't the red ones look like pomegranate seeds? Mmmmmmm, pomegranate....!


This was definitely a very last-minute project, as I just thought of it today, and I wouldn't really have time to work on it again before these holidays start. If I were to make another, though, I think it would be a good opportunity to give couching a go, and it's definitely a good start for some actual beading. I understand that using glue is rather persona non grata in the beading world; hopefully my naivete will save my future reputation in this case!



Aside from the out-and-out radness of being a fun crafty project, I liked this one because I was able to do it for so cheaply! The yarn is Red Heart Sport yarn that I bought on clearance as a dewy-eyed newbie--before I realised I don't like knitting with acrylic yarn--and it's been sitting in my stash since. I inherited the seed beads from a friend who was cleaning out some of her craft stash. I initially had another use for them, but that project has fallen by the wayside, so they were more than available for this one.


In all, the only purchases I made specifically for this project were the blank tote bag ($3.99) and the kraft felt ($0.30 per sheet--I bought two, but ultimately used only one). Really, there are only so many ways to have hours of fun for less than $5.oo, and I just discovered another!


Now there's just one question on Calaverita's mind: Trick? Or treat?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Natural

The Splendor Boys are on a roll! It's exciting to have so much in the way of new knitting projects and patterns to show you, and it's really exciting to think about what we have in store. I can gleefully assure you that there are more than hats on the way, and more than a few things that are as exciting to knit as they are to look at!


Pattern: The Natural -- a Splendor Knitting pattern by Homero Luna
Yarn: Jamieson's Shetland Heather in Charcoal
Needles: Addi Turbo Circulars in Size US7

This hat combines basic cabling and great yarn for a look that is classic, wearable, and satisfying to knit. It's pretty much a natural progression from your first hat to something a little more challenging, but not so much so that it's completely overwhelming. The Shetland wool--much heralded for its durability by Knitting Demigod Elizabeth Zimmerman--is definitely sturdy, though it softens considerably into "I could wear this on my head" comfort with a gentle wash. I personally really enjoy heathered yarns for the way they add visual texture and interest while still being 'calm' enough to not overwhelm or obscure a cable or lace pattern. You can pretty much bank on seeing more use of heathered yarn from this knit-whit. But back to the hat...


As mentioned above, this hat was envisioned as a transition between basic stockinette or ribbed patterns and cabling, and it uses one of the simplest cable patterns around. There are actually three 'versions' of the cable used (all explained in the pattern notes), as the decreases are done 'in pattern' and the cabled sections become narrower in the crown shaping.

I enjoy knitting in the round to the extent that I don't knit flat unless there really is no other way to accomplish what I want by knitting in the round--obsessive a bit, I know. The good news, though, is that hats are perfect for round knitting. I'm also an avid proponent of Magick Loop knitting, so naturally the sample shown was knit with that method. Some early versions of this hat were knit on double-pointed needles, though, and the cable pattern repeats over eight sections, so it could easily be divided over some DPN's, if that's your preferred method of round knitting.


This version is, naturally, written to cover my rather-large head (and my super-thick curly hair. I'm not bragging, I promise; it's kind of a pain to deal with, but I digress...), though the ribbing and cabling make it comfortable for a range of head sizes. The un-stretched circumference is approximately 14", and it fits my 24" head, so it will comfortably conform to any size in between. The pattern also includes an option and instructions to make the hat a bit shorter--which is a consideration for smaller head circumferences. In short, this hat will most definitely fit you--and look great!!!

You can download the pattern PDF for The Natural free from the Splendor Knitting Ravelry Store, or by clicking the download button below. As always, you don't need to be a Ravelry member to download here, from our blog.


Happy knitting, everyone, and stay tuned for more good stuff coming soon!

UPDATE 11.12.2009: We've posted a revised version of the pattern. The updated pattern includes some clarification on the cable repeats and we fixed a bit of errata in the crown shaping section. When you download now, your document name should be "Splendor Knitting THE NATURAL V2.1"; this is the updated copy.

UPDATE 12.29.2009: Les explications sont aussi disponibles en français. Merci beaucoup a Marina Orry pour faire et oufrir cette traduction sur son blog!

EDIT: Visit TricotChico.blogspot.com for more knitting patterns by Homero Luna.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Props for Splendor & Updates

Hello to all of you out there in the blog-o-verse! The past few weeks have been serendipitous and exciting and BAM! Here I am to tell you about it!

Firstly, Splendor has gotten a couple of mentions in other blogs. Here we are featured with several other fun knits in Discovery Channel's Nerdabout NY blog. The post is about DIY Knitted Halloween costumes, so they shared our Swine Flu Masque and the Viking Toque I knitted for my friend Corey.

More recently, we got some English luv when Simply Knitting--a UK-based knitting magazine--shared a review of our blog. It's mildly amusing that they have Davitron and I both living in NYC, but I understand that it's not really clearly stated anywhere that this isn't the case. Just to clarify: Davitron lives in Portland, Oregon (a.k.a. 'PDX'), which is where all the knitting began. Well, not all the knitting, but the knitting related to Splendor, anyway.

Finally, we wanted to give you an update on Peppermint Patrick. We've been considering varied options for making this pattern available, and are pleased to announce it will be available as a kit soon! Stay tuned for more details on this, and other Splendor patterns slated for release soon.

Yay knitting!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

32,000 & Then Some

Some of my favorite crafty moments are when I get to use a technique in a way other than the way it's typically used. This one isn't really earth-shattering--it will, decidedly, not rock the knitting world--but it was enjoyable, shows the benefits of the techniques used, and it's probably not the way projects like these are typically executed.


Pattern: Gryffindor House Scarf by Lauren Kent (also published in Charmed Knits, edited by Alison Hansel)
Yarn: Cascade 220 in Red (color #2413) and Gold (color #7827)
Needles: Addi Turbo Circulars in size US7

It's true, I already have such a scarf--it was my first "real" knitting project, and it does its duty by being easily recognisable as a Gryffindor House Scarf, but I just needed a new one. See, when I knit that first scarf, I wasn't used to wearing scarves, so I didn't yet realise what makes a good, wearable, comfortable scarf. My first one is a cotton/angora blend, chosen mostly because it was the only yarn the shop had that came in both the colors I needed. After wearing the cotton scarf for a couple of seasons, I've come to realise that cotton is heavy (relatively speaking) & not very warm (yay wool!), ergo I obviously needed the same scarf, but in a wooly variety!


I like the wide-striped version because I think of it as the 'original' version. Truly, it is; even before the movies, etc, this is the style used in the art for the books and other fan paraphernalia. Nerdy, I know, but what can you do? Knit a new wool scarf, that's what! Conveniently enough, I needed a project to work on while I watched Lost (which I had never watched before and decided to view from the very beginning this summer), and few things are more perfect for something like this than stockinette in the round. I mean, really, isn't that the definition of "mindless knitting"?

a close-up view of the Magick Cast-On edge

The 'unconventional parts of this project are really only the beginning and end. I used Judy's Magick Cast-On for the beginning, and then grafted the end closed. It might seem superfluous to make such an effort for the beginning and end of a scarf that will have tassels on it (yet to be added), but sometimes 'can' most definitely means 'should'! Besides that, it really was good practice for these techniques, and gives me an opportunity to show how great they are at doing what they are meant to do, which is to make a seam all but disappear. You can see in the pictures that my grafting technique (at the time) could use a wee bit of practice, but this will likely resolve itself with a nice, gentle wash anyway.

a view of the Cast-On edge (r) and the grafted "finished" end (l)

I had every intention of making this according to pattern other than not using long-tail cast-on and the usual bind-off method (I'm sure you can appreciate how difficult that was for me), but decided to knit 21 stripes, rather than the recommended 19. The curious, and slightly bored, part of my brain that wonders about such things decided to calculate how many stitches this would represent, and the answer was 32,340 (=70 sts x 22 rounds of each color per stripe x 21 stripes). Ultimately, though, I decided I wanted an even longer scarf, and didn't stop knitting until I had completed 23 stripes. Oops.

Until next time, friends, remember: Draco Dormiens Nunquam Titillandus

busted! my fancy fake light-box setup is really
a chair next to the kitchen window!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Sneak Peek!

As many of you know (especially you oregonians) this weekend is Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival at the Clackamas County fairgrounds in beautiful Canby, Oregon.

I have had the pleasure and fortunate to have spent time working with both Stevanie Pico and Deb Accuardi, who have formed a new company called Pico Accuardi Dyeworks. Stevanie is a very very talented dyer, who specializes in natural dying. She's like a sorceress with plant matter! There have been many times I've walked into her studio and been CONVINCED the yarn i'm looking at must have been dyed with acid dyes. She assures me no such deception has occurred and that her yarns are as natural as they are wonderful.

Together we created the pattern I'm previewing for you today.


peppermintpatrick2
Pattern: Peppermint Patrick - A Splendor Pattern by David Castillo
Yarn: Pico Accuardi Naturally Dyed Soft Touch in
"Sumptown Brown"
"Bleeding Heart"
"Thai Mango"
"Rodger's Midnight Dancing"
&
"Columbian Sunset"
Needles: US4 (i knit so insanely loose, don't even ask. you need at least an 8)

peppermintpatrick1

This pattern will soon be for sale through our blog and ravelry, but for now it's only going to be available at the Pico Accuardi Dyeworks booth at OFFF. Once the festival is over, we'll be posting it for sale here, so keep an eye out! And for you splendorfiends who live in Oregon and are planning to go to OFFF, stop by the booth, say hi, take a look at the pattern and tell them how much you love us! ;) Okay, i'm only being a little cheeky. but still.

Have a great festival, everyone!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Wild Thing!

"And now...let the wild rumpus start!" I don't think there's a more perfect way to introduce this (surprisingly highly-anticipated) pattern! It's been incredibly exciting to work on, and it's finally ready to share with everyone!


Pattern: Wild Thing (by me for Splendor Knitting), shown in size 44
Yarn: Universal Yarn Deluxe Chunky in "White Ash" & "Dark Oak" & GGH Lara in color 17
Needles: Addi Turbo Circular needles in sizes US7, US9, and US10.5


This seamlessly-knit hoodie is available in nineteen sizes, from infant to the largest Adult size with a 56" finished chest measurement, all in one PDF (download links at the bottom of this post). It's pretty much an expression of the kind of thing that can happen when my inner dork gets knitting needles and yarn in his hands. It's also an expression of me finding a way to share my love for knitting, despite my selfishness as a knitter.


When I saw the trailer for the upcoming Where the Wild Things Are movie, I was enthralled by the look of the Wild Things, the world they live in, and the feel of the movie in general. Not to mention my longtime big love for the song Wake Up by Arcade Fire (featured in the movie preview trailers). Seriously, that song has what I consider to be one of the best lyrics of all time: "...children, don't grow up/ our bodies get bigger, but our/ hearts get torn up". Is there a more poignant way to describe growing up?


But, I digress...I (and probably just about everyone within about 15 years of my age) grew up with Where the Wild Things Are as a part of my life. Whether you read it as the the story of a boy whose imagination gets the better of him, or the story of a boy who uses his imagination to make the best of things, a lot (a lot, a lot, a lot) of us count it as our favorite children's picture book. Naturally, the movie trailer made me realise it would be super awesome to have a Rumpus Suit of my very own.


At the core of things, I'm an ethical slacker. This isn't to say that I don't care about what I do, but that I don't believe in using more steps than are absolutely necessary. This is one of the many reasons I love working with seamless sweater construction, and that's what I've used for this hoodie. The body is knit flat and the arms are knit separately, but in the round, so that when it's all joined to knit the yoke (which continues up to the hood), there are as few seams as possible. In this hoodie, you really only have the underarms and the top of the hood to graft together. The ears and tail are knit separately, naturally, though they are still knit in the round.


I prefer knitting with animal fibers, so I used Universal Yarn's Deluxe Chunky (100% wool), but their Classic Chunky is a machine-washable alternative (for the smaller sizes, Universal Yarn Classic Worsted is a machine-washable alternative to the 100% wool Deluxe Worsted I have listed in the pattern). The best part is that all their yarns can be ordered right from their website! Seriously, I love mail-order. It's always best when I order several things, so when I go to pick it up at the post office, it's still a surprise to see exactly what came in!

It's true, "there is one in all of us"...some more than others.


This pattern is available as a FREE download from the Splendor Ravelry Store. If you're not a Ravelry member yet, you can also download the pattern for FREE right here on the Splendor Knitting Blog by clicking the button below:



All photography Copyright 2009 Santiago Felipe, used with permission.

EDIT: Visit TricotChico.blogspot.com for more knitting patterns by Homero Luna.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Wild Knitters Needed

I have a really, truly, exciting project on my needles, and I'm really excited to be able to share it with you so early on.

I'm working on a hoodie based on Max's 'Rumpus Suit' from the upcoming Where the Wild Things Are movie. (<= link to movie website w/trailer, etc), based on the book by Maurice Sendak (you love this, book, I know you do!).


The hoodie will be available in what seems like a MILLION sizes from little kid to big adult (finished chest circumferences 26", 28", 30", 32", 34", 36", 38", 40", 42", 44", 46", 48", 50", 52", 54", and 56"), and will be a button-up cardigan-style sweater with Monster Ears and a removable tail. The smaller sizes (up to the 36" finished size) will be knit in worsted-weight yarn w/a gauge of 5 sts/in, while all sizes from 38" up will be knit in chunky/heavy worsted/aran yarn at a gauge of 4.5 sts/in. The body of the hoodie will be knit flat, the sleeves knit in the round, and all of them joined on one long needle for the shoulders and hood to be knit "flat" (back-and-forth as opposed to in-the-round). Skills? Knit, purl, buttonhole (explained in pattern), knitting in the round, increase, decrease, kitchener stitch/weaving/grafting.

The pattern will be a FREE downloadable PDF, and my goal is to make it available mid-September, so that fellow Wild Things out there can knit it prior to the movie release on October 16th (notice how I just assume that there are knitters out there as dorky as I am, who will want to wear the hoodie when they go see the movie?).


If you are interested in TEST KNITTING this hoodie, please email me at: TricotChico [at] SplendorKnitting.com and let me know what size you'll be interested in knitting. Keep in mind that this is kind of a super-tight turnaround because of the anticipated release date. I'm working on the first draft of the pattern as we speak, and will email it out to test-knitters Friday morning.

ETA: when I say "super-tight turnaround", what I mean is that I hope that test-knitters can finish their projects w/in 2 weeks in order to have pattern notes an comments back to me for editing. :o)

ETAgain: I've added a couple of smaller sizes to (hopefully) include toddler sizes. The pattern now goes down to 20", 22", and 24". I believe this should cover sizes down to 12 months.

Ummmm...I think that's all the relevant info...definitely email me also if you have questions before deciding to test-knit.

"And now...let the wild rumpus start!"

Saturday, August 15, 2009

So...What'cha Been Up To?

I fear it's slightly gauche these days to make two wordy, pictureless blog posts in a row, but I'm not sure what to post to illustrate this one...we'll see what comes to me as I write.

It's been an interesting month, to be sure, and "learning to walk" comes to mind as a metaphor. I spent some time doing nothing, then some time wanting to do something, but not sure what to do, then some time with ideas of what to do, but no motivation to actually do it, then feeling yucky about not getting anything done, then I had a change of plan, and this week has been pretty productive, I'd say.

I think, more than anything, the whole cycle is a pretty good illustration of how important it is to Do What You Love (warning, preceding is a self-congratulatory link the other post where I talked about this idea a couple of months ago). See, I had this idea for a pattern that seemed like a super-great idea and (more than anything), I thought it would popular. Read: I thought it would sell well. It probably would; even non-knitters who heard about the idea were pretty intrigued by it. I spent several weeks thinking about this idea, drew up several charts, re-drew charts, started knitting a prototype, decided it needed it to change, drew another chart...but it just never seemed to come together. It just wasn't working out. In addition to some technical challenges in making it work, said pattern wasn't really something I'd wear, so it wasn't something I was super-excited about designing. It just wasn't me. Once I admitted that to myself and started thinking of how to change the design into something I could get excited about, though, the creative-ness just started flowing like whoa. I sat down to re-draw the charts (and watch a few episodes of Ugly Betty), and BAM! Before I was done for the night, I had three strong new ideas that only needed a bit of refinement.

This week has started a new up-swing in productivity for me, though (is that business-talk? Weird!). I've been swatching like a fiend, working on the prototype of the aforementioned "suddenly very exciting" project, calculating and sketching. Knit design! Wheee! Also, I bought a ball winder and swift, and I'm patiently awaiting the delivery of a couple of bundles of yarn that will be knit into samples for patterns we'll be releasing in September. See? Productive like whoa!

Oddly, the ball-winder and swift make me feel like I'm serious about knitting now. Nevermind the several rubbermaid containers full of yarn, or the fact that there's more on its way. Nevermind the stacks of knitting books, the Addi Turbos in just about every size, the color cards I just ordered, etc, blah blah blah. Yeah, it's the gadgets that make me feel like I'm a serious knitter.

Hmmm...no pictures yet. I try to avoid making posts that are like, "consumerism! Whooo-hooo!", but, that said, I added this kid to my collection several weeks ago:


Yep, that's Ugly Betty! She's a Madame Alexander doll that was apparently released in 2008, though I got mine on eBay--for less than retail, even after shipping! Go me! What's better is that she's wearing a poncho that Davitron and I jokingly considered writing up as a pattern. We were gonna call it the "Guadala-man-cho". Dodged that bullet, eh? ;o)

Alright, Knitters! Stay tuned, and I promise the next post will have real pictures, more exciting info about the super-fab projects we have for this fall, and you won't have to wait a month for it!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Race is Long, and In the End, it is Only With Yourself

I found out a couple of weeks ago that I'm getting laid off from my Day Job. In fact, this Friday is my last day of full-time work, then I'm effectively on my own. It's odd, because I was kinda surprised, but not really. Everyone knows that the Economy is in...disrepair (to say the least), my job is administrative (so people could really do for themselves the tasks that had been assigned to me), and I had noticed that the projects enrolled in our program were canceling at a surprising rate because *they* were losing funding, so in a way it was inevitable, I suppose. I freaked out about it for about 24 hours after after I found out. There was shock about the news, and a whole rundown of "what do I do now?" scenarios. After some research and phone calls with friends back in Portland, and my family in Houston, I had a better feeling about things, an idea of what the next few months would look like for me, and a sense that I'll be much more than just "okay".

A lot of people asked whether I'd move back to Portland or Houston--in fact, I think some of them were requests for me to do just that. It's really warming to know that I have people in my life who care enough to offer the support and assistance that my friends and family did, but I think that New York is where I'm meant to be right now. Don't misunderstand: I miss these people dearly and hope I can see them again soon, but....NEW YORK CITY!!!! Yeah, I knew you'd understand if I put it like that.

I'm taking this change as an opportunity rather than a defeat, ultimately. Davitron and I are already working on several patterns to release this Fall, so I will definitely take this time to focus on that, and perhaps I'll have one or two more to offer than I originally thought. We each have several ideas for pullovers, outerwear pieces, and accessories, so keep an eye on this blog over the next few months; we'll have the same usual posts about other projects we're working on, but there will also be several exciting patterns coming up: Knits He'll Actually Wear. Tell your friends!

Of course, part of what this means is that I'll need to be more disciplined than I've ever been before. EVER!!! That could easily be a huge obstacle on its own, but I also know how focused and resourceful I can be when I've decided I really want something to happen, so I've got that going for me, for sure. In the midst of all this, I'm thinking of ways to stay focused, inspired, and positive. I'm thinking my dry erase board will become a 'whiteboard' for keeping track of designs I have in mind, as well as milestones and personal deadlines I want to meet. I'll get some construction paper, too, to make style boards for the various designs I'm working on.

Naturally, I'll be listening to music a lot, too. All the songs from here will be on heavy rotation, as will my "Eff Them Mofos" playlist that I made a couple of years ago. It was something I'd listen to when I got frustrated and annoyed with dating, but all the songs are about being confident and independent, so of course it's totally relevant!

And then there are those schmaltzy platitudes that make us groan when we're feeling cynical, but make us teary-eyed when they're exactly what we need to hear. These are some of the ones I'll be keeping close by:

The title of this blog post is from Everybody's Free (to Wear Sunscreen) by Baz Luhrman

"When one door closes, another opens, but it's hell being in the hallway."

"All you misfits and losers, you know you're Rock 'n Rollers! Yeah, you're doing alright, so hold on to each-other, you gotta hold on tonight..." --Hedwig and the Angry Inch, from Midnight Radio

"Change, change...if I can fake it I'ma make it something worth dreaming of." --Santogold, from L.E.S. Artistes

"The less room you give me, the more space I've got. Today has never happened and it doesn't frighten me. It doesn't scare me at all." --Bjork, from Alarm Call


Saturday, June 27, 2009

Knits of the Living Dead

"I knit, I like cats, and I collect dolls, but it's not what you think." I found myself thinking this as I bound off the neck opening of a tiny little sweater last night. My cat was sitting next to me, and I was home on a Friday night (which is unusual for me) watching The Listener on hulu.com.


The sweater in question was for the little guy in the pic above. Wolfgang is a Living Dead Doll*, which I started collecting a year ago or so. As I mentioned before, I only buy dolls that I fall in love with immediately. Looking at Wolfgang, I knew that I could love him if only his sweater wasn't so frigging hideous. Fortunately, I have a craft that empowered me to change the thing that was bothering me about this situation.


Seriously, how can you not love a face like that!? Conversely, how can you love a boat-necked monstrosity like that? It took me a while to actually get to the knitting (being the non-monogamous knitter that I am), but it totally flew once I did!


Pattern: Seamless Yoke Sweater by Elizabeth Zimmerman/ Cobblestone by Jared Flood
Yarn: Koigu KPM in Maroon
Needles: Addi Turbo Circulars, size US3

I based the measurements for this sweater off of Jacob's hoodie (see below), which told me it would have a 6" chest circumference (42 stitches, if I remember). The sleeves (according to Liz Z's percentage system) should have had 14 sts, but when I used that number, I got a sleeve that was more snug than I would have liked, so I used 16 sts. As recommended for sweaters for toddlers and children, I cast on the number of stitches that you'd use for the upper arm and knit a straight tube (rather than casting on fewer and increasing to the amount needed for the upper arm, as you would w/most sweaters for people over the age of, perhaps 8 or 10). I used the Magic Loop technique for knitting this tiny jumper. Can I just tell you that casting on and knitting the first row of a 16 stitch sleeve will teach you the meaning of the word "fiddly"? Yeah, it will. I now have a Master's Certificate in fiddly knitting. I love it!


I fudged the "Yoke Sweater" directions a bit for the yoke, too (Elizabeth would be proud!). Or maybe not, it's hard to tell w/such a small piece of work, since I believe Liz's directions were only ever tested by her on people-sized garments. Anyway, it was mostly guesswork, and, as mentioned before, I re-started the sleeves once. I also ripped the yoke back once (last night, actually), when I decided that I wanted the garter stitch to start earlier and that my decrease rows were too close together (the shoulders were too 'square'). This yarn, though? Effing DELICIOUS!!! Super -soft merino wool that I don't believe to be superwash (the ball band didn't say so, and I spit-spliced a couple of ends together, which I don't think superwash would do, but let me know if that's not the case). I want my own sweater knit from it, but not from the fingering weight. I'm going to be checking to see if Koigu makes a similar yarn in DK weight. Or I suppose I could buy a poop-tonne of the fingering weight and hold it double...hmmm....


Here's Wolfgang with his pal Jacob (on the left in the red hoodie). You can pretty well appreciate the subtlety of the semisolid shading in the yarn in this pic and the one above. It's really lovely! Jacob very graciously served as a fit model for the sweater, as he had been liberated from his box when I started the sweater and Wolfgang had not. Wolfgang really likes his new sweater, though--doesn't he look much happier now? He tells me that Jacob should have his own handknit sweater, since he was such a good sport about helping to make Wolfgang's sweater a reality (I had to pop Jacob's head off in order to remove his hoodie and try on the new sweater. Ouch!).


While shooting the other pic by the window, I noticed Wolfie's reflection in the window. The Horror Film lover in me thought it would be unforgivable to snap a super-creepy shot like this one! Add this to the list of things you don't wanna see in your window at night, eh? ;oD


I knit wiff Jacob, I knit wiff Homero, now I wanna knit wiff youuuuuu......!

Ok, kids, I'm off to work on something less absurd and creepy....or am I? ;o)

_______________________________________
*If you're unfamiliar with Living Dead Dolls and would like to know more, you can visit the official website by clicking here. Once you enter the page, you can view the Archive/Morgue to see the various series of dolls. Wolfgang is from Series 10, and Jacob is from Series 13. :o)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Process Behind the Process

Do what you love.

There are many times when this uber-simple piece of advice really is the best guide. I once gave this advice to a new collector of dolls (on a message board) when they asked which dolls they "should" buy from a particular doll-maker. "Get the ones that make your heart stop when you first see them, forget about the rest. There's no way to know what will happen to a doll's 'value', and if it it never appreciates, at least you know you'll have a doll that you love."

Santogold, L.E.S. Artistes

"I hope it will be worth what I give up...suddenly I find myself an innovator...change, change, I wanna get up outta my skin. Tell you what, if I can shake it I'm gonna make this something worth dreaming of."

The same is true with knitting--or any craft, really. A very good friend of mine decided that she wanted to make socks for her 2nd (ever) knitting project. I helped her pick yarn and needles and got her started. Sort of. She abandoned the socks for a less 'fiddly' 2nd project and wanted to know why I let her choose something so complicated when she had just learned. 1) I'm not one to stifle a person's creative energy. 2) I believe that the best projects to work on are the one's you're really excited about--the ones you're in love with.

Bjork, Alarm Call

"You can't say 'no' to hope, can't say 'no' to happiness....I want to go on a mountaintop w/a radio and good batteries and play a joyous tune and save the human race from suffering...the less room you give me, the more space I've got. Today has never happened and it doesn't frighten me. It doesn't scare me at all..."

And so it is with design...for me, anyway. When I actually picked up knitting sticks and yarn and learned how to knit, it was because I wanted a 'Harry Potter' scarf (Ravelry link) and had a hard time finding one in a shop. While working on that project, it occurred to me that there were lots of other things I could (and would love to) knit. My mind started turning over ideas of sweaters I'd like to have, more scarves, and so on. Yep, I'm a selfish knitter (because 95% of what I knit is for me and me alone), but I also tend to want designs that are not what I see available from other designers. Modifying a hat pattern here, making something up completely there, taking an idea from the construction of one project and using it in something not quite the same....and that's just where it starts.

Santogold, Creator

"I'm a creator, the rules I break got me a place up on the radar..."

That's a rough sketch of the 'how', but there's also the 'what' and the 'why', and lately the answers to both of those have come from music I've been listening to. Sometimes--oftentimes--it's in the lyrics. Sometimes it's the art direction of the video, or just the overall style of the musician. The few videos I've posted here are examples of what I'm looking at as reference points for what's rolling over in my mind lately. Where the lyrics are inspirational to me, I've noted my favorite lines below the video, but sometimes it's just the overall sound, or maybe the style of the video.

Bjork, Declare Independence

"Don't let them do that to you...raise your flag...ignore their patronizing, tear off your blindfold, declare independence!"

I have a sense for where/how I want these designs to go, but I know they could end up somewhere else entirely. That's another part of the process, no? Following it to see where it takes you? We'll see where they go, but for now the process is exhilirating and a little scary, but I know I'm on the right track when I feel my heart stop.

Keep on knitting. Do what you love.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Manhattan Project, Part I: A Tale of Tubular Cast-ons

As many (or maybe some, or perhaps few) of you know, I recently moved across the world (read: Country) from Portland, Oregon to New York, New York. The whys, whens, and hows are another subject, but suffice to say that I was (and am) very excited about this move. As you might expect, I'm still in the midst of exploring the City and figuring out how to make it work for me, but that hasn't caused so much as a pause of my knitting needles. When figuring out how to get my stuff from there to here, I ultimately decided the best way would be to ship everything and fly in. Of course, as soon as I decided I would by flying, my first thoughts were how I would get my knitting on the plane and what I would work on. I'm obsessed, I know, but knowing is half the battle.


The moving preparations included buying a sweater quantity of Cascade 220 in Ruby (color 9404) from Davitron at Abundant Yarn & Dyeworks in PDX. I'm an unrepentant fan of Cascade 220 for several reasons: 1) It's cheap (relatively) 2) It knits up to a lovely, soft, sturdy fabric and, most importantly: 3) It comes in eleventy-pi amazing colors (like Ruby). All in all, it's the natural choice for proletariat yarn crafters such as the one writing this blog. I can tell you now that the pictures here don't do justice to the color. If your LYS carries this yarn, I recommend you check it out in real life; between my camera and my (lacking) photo editing skills, these pictures are not a true representation of the color, and the color is freakin' amazing.

So I had decided I would work on a Ruby Sweater on the plane. More than that, I decided this will be the first sweater that I finish, and that it should be an Elizabeth Zimmerman Seamless Hybrid. Really, you can't mess up one of her sweaters.

Pattern: Elizabeth Zimmerman Seamless Hybrid
Yarn: Cascade 220 Wool in Ruby
Needles: Addi Turbo Circulars in sizes US3, US4, and US7

Since I am who I am, though, I couldn't just do a straight-up long-tail cast on and start from there; I needed to do a tubular cast-on. Some of my knitting crew in Portland is familiar with my 'fascination' with tubular edgings. Some of my old knitting crew finds this perplexing, confounding, and maybe a little bizarre. Call it Warholian; most of the knitting that we're familiar with is machine-knit, and machine-knits generally have tubular edgings. Not only that, but tubular edgings just look good.

My first attempt included a 1x1 rib with a tubular edge that starts out as Judy's Magic Cast-On. (link to Judy's Magic Cast-On video) It's amazing, really, and it does create quite a nice-looking cast-on edge. Here's a link to the video showing how to go from Judy's Magic Cast-On to a nice 1x1 ribbed edge. This does create a nice-looking edge, but once I transitioned from ribbing to stockinette, I decided that I didn't like the size difference between the knit stitches in the ribbing and the knit stitches in the plain stockinette (see previous re: obsessed).

a view of the 2x2 tubular edge demonstrated by Ysolda


Fast-forward to take 2 (or so), where I use the tubular cast-on that Ysolda Teague demonstrates on her blog here. I chose this one because I had decided (after some goading/stern input from Davitron) to use a 2x2 rib instead; it was easier to get a more consistent knit-stitch size this way, and the technique that Ysolda demonstrates works beautifully for 2x2 ribbing.

an edge-view of the tubular edge demonstrated by Ysolda


After several trial attempts, I settled on using US3's for the cast-on and first couple of rows of k1, p1 prior to the 2x2 setup on Ysolda's technique. Once I switched to the k2, p2 ribbing, I switched to US4's. All in the name of getting knit-stitches to match.

Stay tuned, knitters; the body is mostly knit (5 1/2 weeks later) and then it'll be time for sleeves! Now that I have the edging and needle sizes worked out, the rest should go much more quickly. Hopefully it'll be finished before it's too hot to model the FO!

Keep on knitting!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Because every 'pandemic' needs some levity...

I had an exceptionally boring day at work. I mean, I cleaned everything, stocked everything, all that jazz... and still had time left over. So, I started working on a "funny project". And thusly, I bring the world, The "Swine-Flu Masque". The full pattern text is published here, but it's also available as a free downloadable PDF at the bottom of this post.

SwineFlu Masque
(flickr photoset)

Patterns: Swine-Flu Masque by David R. Castillo (aka GoGoDavitron)
Yarns: GGH Bali in pink, Cascade 220 in Jet
Needles: US2 straight needles, US3 DPNs for the Nose.
(I knit kinda loose, you might want US5-6)


Sizes
Well, okay, it's pretty much a one-size-fits-most kind of thing. The part that will cover your face is about 8-9 inches wide and about 6-7 inches tall. You can adjust it while you're knitting if you need more or less.

Gauge
6 sts/inch or 24sts/4inches in stockinette.

Materials
Approx. 100 yrds of your favorite DK weight yarn. I used GGH's Bali (not my favorite, but servicible). Appropriate needles, Sense of humor. Oh, and a little bit of black yarn for the nostrils.

Make It!

Top Strap:

CO 200 sts

knit 3 rows in garter stitch (knitting each row)

At the beginning of the next 2 rows, cast off 75 stitches.

K 1 more row.

Mask:

Row 1: K
Row 2: K5, P to last five stitches, K5

Repeat rows 1&2 once more.

Short Row Shaping: Use your preferred short row method (wrap and turn or yarnover would be best) to work a total of 6 rows in shaping. I spaced them one right next to each other to mimic the folds in a real surgical mask. Here is the shaping method I used.

Row 1: K to last 5 stitches, turn work.
Row 2: YO, P to last last 5 stitches, turn work.
Row 3: YO, K to last 6 stitches (not counting YO), turn work.
Row 4: YO, P to last 6 stitches (not counting YO), turn work.
Row 5: YO, K to last 7 stitches (not counting YO), turn work.
Row 6: YO, P to last 7 stitches (not counting YO), turn work.
Row 7: K to end of the row (SSK the yarnovers and adjacent knits as you come to them).
Row 8: P to end of the row.(P2tog yarnovers and adjacent purls as you come to them)

To Finish the mask, knit as follows:

Knit rows 1&2 of "Mask" 4x
Repeat Short-row shaping.
Knit rows 1&2 of "Mask" 4x
Repeat short row shaping
Knit rows 1&2 of "mask" 2x

At the end of the last row, cast on (either backwards loop, cable, or knitted-on cast-on are appropriate) 12 stitches.

Knit across the next row, then cast on 12 stitches at the end of the row.

Knit 2 rows plain, then cast off knitwise.

Stitch the ends of the the shorter ties so that the form a comfortable triangle with the longer ties.

Nose:

Cast on 40 stitches and divide between DPNs with 13 stitches on the 1st and 2nd needles, and 14 stitches on a 3rd.

K 8 rows
P 1 row

SSK the first two stitches on the needle, K to last 2 stitches, k2tog. Repeat until you can no longer decrease in this manner. Cut the yarn, thread through remaining stitches 2x and then pull it tight, weave the end in on the other side.

At this point, i whip-stitched the black nostrils on the mask. you don't have to, you don't have to use black... Whatevs! it's all good! You'll notice the nostril is slightly triangular, but the base stays kind of circular.

When i made the mask, i intended the cast on edge to be the top, but i carelessly stitched the whole nose down to the wrong side. don't make this mistake - it works better if your cast on edge is the top. Stitch the nose down to the middle, still keeping it approximately circular. It works really well if you just whip stitch it. If it's in the same yarn as you knit the whole thing, it doesn't really matter cus you won't really see it. Voila! Swine Flu mask! (don't forget to weave in your ends)

The pattern PDF is also available as a free download by clicking the button below. You do not need to be a Ravelry member to download from this page.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Knitting is *so* Metal!!!

Dear BlogoFans, it's been a while, but now I have something quite exciting to show you!

For your perusal and edification: a hat that my friend Corey requested quite a while ago and is just now finished, photographed, and ready to share. So what happened is this: approximately 14 months ago, Corey emailed me a pic of a Bearded Toque with the question, "can you make me one of these?" Admittedly, I'm a selfish knitter; I learned to knit because I wanted to make things for myself because either I couldn't find them in shops or I just didn't want to take the time to search them out. Yet, for some reason, I agreed to do this favor for Corey.


Patterns: Bearded Toque and Viking Hat
Yarns: Malabrigo Merino Worsted in Pearl Ten (cap) and Cinnabar (beard/moustache),
Louet Riverstone in Charcoal (hat band) and Cream (horns).
Needles: Addi Turbo Circular needles, size US7, except the horns,
which were knit on size US5 needles.

Part of the deal included dinner for me, so over said dinner I got the requisite basic information, like color, general beard shape ideas, etc, and by the end I could tell that this could be no ordinary Bearded Toque. I would combine this idea with the Viking Hat that I had recently seen on Ravelry. Measurements were taken, yarn purchased, and, eventually, a hat was born.


Corey was incredibly patient, and only asked me about his hat once. To his credit, when I originally asked when he wanted the hat, his response was, "next winter." That was in Spring 2008; his "when am I gonna get it?" inquiry was during a very cold walk in January 2009. Yeah.


Learning, however, is of tantamount importance when taking on any project. During this project I learned a new cast-on technique, how to make bobbles, and I learned to not take requests. Really, it's better for everyone involved if my knits are given as surprises.


Besides, surprises are always awesome.