Saturday, December 31, 2011

So Long, 2011!

I finished one of these two things today, and the fact that you see the needles still in the sleeve of this Wanda Nell is a dead giveaway. I know you had your doubts (as well as I should have) that I would get this cardigan done in time to wear tomorrow. One reason is that I used some of my time this week finishing Little Dorrit! I am so jazzed! I have been trying to read this novel for about the whole of 2011 because I insisted on trying to do so before falling to sleep every night. Well, that's the only time most days when I'm not knitting (I have only knit in bed once in my entire life!), so I thought it would work. Well, it turns out that reading this novel when you're on the edge of dozing and not able to soak it all in is just nearly pointless.

I decided about the middle of last week that if I was going to get this novel finished by today (my goal) I would have to read it on the other end of my night's sleep--in the mornings with my mandatory two mugs of coffee. I cut short my morning routine of looking at photos on Instagram to allow reading five chapters of Little Dorrit each day this past week to try and finish. Boy, did that work out better. I wish I could go back and read the whole thing over again, especially the parts I skimmed in my doziness over the past ten or so months. This all started with watching the 2008 BBC film adaptation in early February and deciding that, heck, I was finally going to read it. I love Dickens and was already heartily familiar with David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, A Tale of Two Cities, and Great Expectations. I taught the last two in high school English classes for years. I don't know why Little Dorrit is not more widely read and appreciated. Probably because of its length! Fortunately, I had a copy of it in my Great Books (volume 47), which fools you into thinking it's not so long, with its onion-skin pages and semi-fine print. 

Now I just have to decide what's next. A Suitable Boy? Pride and Prejudice? I'm perplexed!

Along with deciding what's next is figuring out my goals for next year. First, I'll make a list of some things that got done this year:

Five new patterns rolled out for Figheadh--all sweater patterns, no less, and four of them 13-page Fundamentals.
Four new patterns went live with Ravenwood and a new fifth one was released recently (Brackenhill).
I got a sweater design and article done for a magazine, which will be out next May.
My sock pattern is in Clara's new book!
Finally updated my portfolio in Flickr (it had only been a year since the last update--groan).
We started raised bed gardening here at home.
We nixed cable TV and I haven't seen a TV commercial in months.
Fred and I celebrated 10 years of marriage.
I kicked artificial sweeteners!
I let Jillian Michaels into my living room and I feel a lot better for it.

That's just a partial list, of course. I don't want to lose you--this is going long! And as for the list I so bravely set for myself in this post? Well, I am sad to say I only completed a couple more of the 16 items I had set out to finish by the end of the year. At the time of that post I had already completed seven, so this means I am far behind, having only checked off nine of the bunch. I think my downfall was trying to hit too many different things each day. If I've learned anything this year, it is that things get done faster if you focus on one task at a time. You get long novels and whole sweaters finished that way--seemingly much faster than if you try to do too much.

Looking forward, I hope to accomplish a few things in 2012:

Finally add new patterns to the Mirth line--it's been almost two years!
Design two fabulous sweaters for two great freelance jobs already in the works.
Get those glove designs released (sigh).
Finish my mom's knitted blanket.
Jog...regularly.
Renew my passport.
Do some instructional videos.
Pay down debt...way down.
Build a second raised bed so we can plant more veggies.
See family down South!

This list is also partial, of course. Still fleshing it out. I hope you've gotten your own lists sorted out, at least in your head. I wish you much success with those and I wish you the most fun ringing in 2012. I hope to see you here in the coming year and I hope you'll leave your two cents' worth when you stop by. Thank you so much for reading and for joining me in my wacky adventures--yarny and otherwise!

Happy, Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Holiday Bounty

Was Santa good to you? I hope so. He was certainly generous to me. Let me share...

My Santa always does a bang-up job on the stocking stuffing--too many fun toys and goodies to name. My favorites, though, are the bamboo yo-yo and the Scottish shortbread! Do you think enough yo-yoing could work off the calories in the cookies? I'm giving that a try.
Another favorite is the hand made gifts I received from Natalie and from Jessica and her brood. Sachet, personalized necklace, candle in a tea cup, and little grandson handprinted kitchen accessories. Sweet little hands (I'm sure their mother doesn't exactly agree on that every single minute of every day, though. )
Here's a very much wished for appliance--our new juicer from Natalie and Jesse! Just got back home from Costco with huge bags of carrots and apples to go with some ginger and lemon to make R Thomas' Frosted Champ! Boy do I miss those. If you're in Atlanta, go and have one for me, along with all their great food. Honestly one of my favorite places on earth. Hopefully, I can replicate the Champ and dream of being there, watching R with his birds.
Back to the gifts! Fred got me this wonderful little chest of stationery and every kind of card you can imagine. It pays to leave hints around the house around Christmastime. When the Victorian Trading Company catalog came a couple of months ago, I went through it and circled some wishes and starred some others. I got my wish! Now I can write real letters and send nice cards all year. He even found a wonderful hand made cartridge ink pen like the ones we used in school to learn cursive. I must brush up my best cursive writing to use all this! What's that nondescript brown leather thing in the front, you might ask? My new Kindle Fire! I didn't even wish nor hint for this and Fred used up a bunch of Amazon points and got us both one. This morning I watched a little of Age of Innocence on it for free, thanks to my complimentary month of Prime. Nice!
Mom and Fred both consulted my Amazon wish list and got completely too generous. And they didn't even duplicate--a miracle in itself. Well, not yet, anyway. They both say I have another gift from Amazon coming late, around February. Hmmm...I just read that the Principals of Knitting  that I have been fervently wishing for is being delayed until February. Coincidence?

These are all excellent books! I want to knit several things in the new EZ book, and this completes my set of all of her books, as does the Vogue Stitchionary 6--I have the first five and love using them. I have Custom Knits the first and am so happy to expand my study of Wendy's fabulous sweater knowledge with this Custom Knits the second. I have been happily reading The Yarn Harlot's latest book in bed every night. I know I am driving Fred crazy giggling while he tries to read his gifty books, but who can help that? I had been trying to read Little Dorrit every night, but switched to reading it in the morning as I get my dose of caffeine. Much better! I think I will finish it by Saturday. That's my plan, anyway.
Also in the plan for this, the last week of 2011 (what??), is to finish this Chocolate Wanda Nell (made with Hazel Knits Artisan Sock and Schaefer Nichole). This spot on the couch is where I have been spending hours every day and evening this week--just ask Fred. I am on the first sleeve, which I am changing to wrist-length for this sample, and am going now to try and finish that one and start the second sleeve today. I hope to be wearing this on New Year's Day! Luck wishes, please! Strong hands wishes as well!

Onward!

Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Friday FO #6: Secrets

This close to Christmas weekend, pretty much all I have are secrets. Some are gifty secrets, of course, but some are design secrets.
It's no secret how yummy these cookies and munchies are that Natalie and I finished up last Saturday. She made Puppy Chow (middle front two containers), and we made Snickerdoodles (center), chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal cookies, Chex mix, and some little bites that you make with pretzels, Rolos, and pecans (a Pinterest find). Again this year, I was the most pleased with the Snickerdoodles. They and the Chow were the only keepers from last year's holiday baking, and with good reason! Unfortunately, they taste the best just after baking, still warm, with a nice cup of coffee. You want to eat the whole batch!

I have been very, very busy lately with this little stack of assorted hats and headbands in some rustic farm yarns (bottom to top: Columbia/Icelandic from SunFiber Yarns in Kalispell, MT; some wool from Lopez Island; good ol' Eco Wool; and some Kerry Woolen Mills wool from Ireland). You can see some of their linings peeking out, too. Most of the lining material is made with angora that Shelly of Butternut Woolens felted for me. It is bar none the softest fabric I have ever come across and works heavenly for lining hats. We have some very happy folks over here who get to wear these this winter. The pattern will be ready next month, in time to make some heads warm where you are. 

I've also been working on and finishing something for the Knotty Knitters calendar 2013. All I can tell you is that it's 74" x 16" of Baby Alpaca Chunky (#580) softness. This design is a fun knit. However, it will be a really long time until I can say more about that. I just had to give you a little peek!

And super duper secret are these two little bundles made with (left) Hazel Knits Artisan Sock in Sassafras, and (right) Mountain Colors Bearfoot. I'm not sure of the color name of this one--lost the tag! It's a black with shots of red, blue, smokey green, and dusty tans. These are going in someone's stocking very soon. Maybe I can get a shot of the Someone wearing them and show you later. Cross fingers.

So there you have it--the reason I've been away. If anyone has written me e-mails and not gotten answers, I've been trying to stay off the computer and get this stuff done--please excuse. Are you still trying to finish up someone's gift? Well, get outta here and go finish!

I'll be back next week to look back at that to do list I set for myself and see how much I really got accomplished. Chuckle.

Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukah! Enjoy!

Friday, December 09, 2011

Firefly Socks & KBOS

It's a threesome!

One week ago I received my complimentary copy of Clara Parkes' new book, The Knitter's Book of Socks, which follows her bestsellers The Knitter's Book of Yarn, and The Knitter's Book of Wool, and I couldn't have jumped up and down more! Really--I wore myself out. The book hit the shelves in October, but through a series of unfortunate-ish events, I just got mine. Stingy as I am, I did not buy one through the whole long month-or-more of waiting. At one point I did go to the local big box book store to peek at one, but did not buy. Now I have one of my very own and have read almost the whole thing. You might ask why I scored a free copy--why, that's because I have a sock design in this book! I feel especially lucky to be in a book with a bunch of sock designer experts who consistently come up with entirely new ways to knit socks. Me? I just like to stick some cables in 'em. 

Here's my second pair of Firefly Socks. I took their FO picture with one blocked and one squinchy, because you know I can never resist a plug to block...your...knits. It helps them to be what they were meant to be! Nuff said.
And here they are on my feet. I love these socks. I knit this pair with O-Wool Classic 2-ply in Slate on size 2 needles.

Allow me to explain. When Clara contacted me way back in the spring of 2010 about designing some cable socks for her next book, of course I said yes. I had done designs for her first book, and even though my design for her second book got cut, she used it for a free promo, so it got some attention anyway. Clara is very, very nice to work with. She is not only an all-purpose good writer, but designs and writes patterns herself, so she is very nice to us designers.

After I gave Clara a resounding affirmative, I set about working up three sock designs, because I like to give folks choices. Clara picked the simplest, most classic one. Boy, was I glad, because actually when I did this project I was also going through a pretty stressful time trying to get ready for my first (and most probably last ever, ever) STITCHES event. I won't go into detail about that here, but I'll just say I did not have my whole entire brain function on, so it was nice to do a traditional, top-down sock design with a simple cable involved. I added a little variation on the cable at the cuff edge to make it begin with 2/2 rib for a gentle flare effect there. I do not have dainty, small ankles nor calves, so I am always attentive to giving folks room at the top of their sock cuffs. I hates bindy sock cuffs!

I originally had it in mind for the Firefly to be boot socks. I swatched it with this O-Wool, which is a sturdy, somewhat heavier fingering. Clara wanted to do the socks in a finer gauge, so she sent me a lovely denim-hued BFL. I knit them up and sent them on with the pattern. Later on, the yarn had to be changed for the book, because that yarn supplier stopped producing, so Lorna's Laces was apparently called upon to provide some of their lovely Shepherd Sock in Bold Red. I was so glad to see that, because I love Lorna's Laces. I have made a couple of pair of socks with that very same yarn and they wear very well.

You will see in KBOS that the eventual sock provides a snug, delicate fit, but I love my pair in O-Wool. I can't wait to see how they wear and (hopefully not) tear. Oh, and I can't move on without thanking the editor(s) who brushed up my pattern draft and made it correct and more sensical since I was not at my best when writing it. After working the second sock of my pair to the pattern in the book, I don't believe there are any errors. I won't swear to that, because I do miss things from time to time, but as far as I can see, it might be perfect!  

As for Clara's writing, it is perfect, and no "might" about it. She just gets better and better at this. Let me say that Clara is a scientist and her books are like textbooks for us yarny fiddlers. Each one could supply study for a college course in fiber. If you have yet to acquire any of these "Knitter's Book of" treasures, start at the top and get all three. You will be so much more informed about how to choose the best yarn for your knitting or crochet project (because crocheters use yarn, too, huh?) Yes, all three books have only knitting patterns included, but a great deal of each book discusses the structure and use of yarn--the first features yarn in all its fiber varieties, the second focuses on just wool in its myriad forms, and the third studies sock yarns of all types. Clara talks about fiber content, how it's spun, what to do with it for best results and how to take care of it once you turn it into something functional.

You might be thinking that the sock knitting thing had just about worn itself out. I mean, there's a whole convention for it now, right? But before you even form the thought in your head that surely there are already enough sock knitting books out there and surely it's all been said by now, grab a copy of Clara's new book and you will see that you would be wrong in forming that particular thought. All kinds of wrong.

Now, I'm off to look at this beautiful book some more and try my best not to be tempted to cast on for another pair of one of these fabulous sock patterns. I gots too much knitting to do already!

See you soon! Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

December's Here!

Yes, I know it's been here for five whole days, but I am just now blogging it. I wish I could mind-meld with my computer because I do  posts in my head almost every day! Most days, though, I have to make myself stay off the laptop so I can actually accomplish something--darned timesucker techno-thingy! And lately there have been gifty knits on top of the regular knits, so time gets gobbled up even more. Sound familiar?

I have also been allowing myself days here and there, usually with my daughter Natalie, to dabble with other crafts--it broadens the senses. Any time is a good time for craftiness, but the holidays just beg for it. Last week's craft day I made paper snowflakes while Natalie sewed little snack bags. I'll try to get a picture of those next time she makes some. They're so cute!
I can show you my snowflakes, though.You should try this if you have these coffee filters lying around but no longer use them (like us--after the death of the fourth coffee maker, we now use a French press). Just flatten some out with a warm iron, fold each one in half and then again and again as many times as you can and start cutting out parts. Have fun with it. I stuck these to the windows with a glue stick. I tried starch, but they fell down. Natalie assures me I will be able to widget them off easily when I'm tired of them being there. I love them!
Today I am wrapping presents. I have not actually bought wrapping supplies for years now, but prefer to use materials that can either be recycled, are reused, or that would normally be thrown in the trash. That's no problem with plenty of newspaper, paper bags, cardboard, string (and yarn!), some rubber stamps, hole punchers, and maybe some fancy scissors around.
I made these gift tags from a beer six-pack holder.
I think it all looks even prettier under the tree than that shiny, expensive stuff.
And to give the house a holiday aroma, I made some granola. Here's my favorite recipe. I use dried cranberries instead of raisins and I usually half the recipe and store it in a Mason jar once it's cooled. My favorite way to eat it is with a little fat-free milk in a bowl. It's also yummy with fat-free plain yogurt and a little maple syrup. Healthier than oatmeal cookies, but just as delicious!

Next time I'll be back to show you a very special pair of socks and have a book talk. In the meantime, make some granola for yourself. You deserve it!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Need a Really Nice Gift?

If you're like me, this time of year finds you searching for just the right gift for the people you love. For instance, I think I just about have it figured out for Fred and just about everyone else, but I am still perplexed about my mom! If you have someone that needs a special gift, I have a unique idea for you.

You all know that I work with Ravenwood Cashmere by designing with their yarns. The good news is that Delia and Reed recently started offering samples of those designs for sale from their Web site. Their son Ryan took some gorgeous pictures of them recently, modeled by his wife on the Ravenwood Farm and I thought I would show them off to you.

Here is Melanie wearing the Cable & Lace Beret, the Lace Scarf, and the Bavarian Mitts, all in cream. They make a great accessory ensemble, don't they?

Here she is modeling the beret and mitts in taupe. I love this color.

This is a beautiful fall photo of Melanie wearing the beret with the Brackenhill Shawlette.

But I think this photo is my favorite of all of Melanie wearing the crocheted Kathy's Cowl.

These lovely accessories were hand knit and crocheted by Kelli, Betsy, Shirley and me. Prices for the finished items are all listed here. We plan to offer more of these as we expand the line--we hope to have some sweaters in the future. That leads me to my next topic.

We need expert knitters. We're trying to build a cottage hand knitting group here in the South Puget Sound area. If any of you think you would be interested, please e-mail me at jen@jenhagan.com and let's start a conversation. Delia and Reed Rasmussen of Ravenwood Cashmere are committed to paying sample knitters at the top of industry standard for this work, not to mention that you would be working with the most luxurious yarn available. Well, I just had to mention it--it's my personal favorite!

I should also mention that we changed the kit details (all the links above lead to kit pages--hey the kits make a great gift too!) so that these patterns are only available when you purchase the kit. The Ravenwood patterns are presently not sold separately.

Help me by passing the word along. Does someone you know need a special gift too? Is someone you know interested in knitting with yummy 100% US cashmere and getting paid well to do so? I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Men's Top-Down Cardigan

I had to be mean a couple of weeks ago and ask two people who were recovering from a stomach virus and one who was (almost) recovering from (almost) a bad cold to go out in the chilly, wet weather for some pictures of this cardigan on a real person. And that person will NOT allow his head to be shown. My husband hates, hates, hates most (okay, almost all) pictures of himself. I think he's quite cute myself, but I won't argue. I respect his views.

Here is Headless Fred wearing the new Figheadh Fundamental Top-Down Men's Cardigan.

And here is Headless again showing it buttoned up. He says this is his favorite sweater. It fits him perfectly, because I was able to make the sleeves and body just as long as he wanted. He picked out the Cascade 220 Paints in color #9928 and he picked out the buttons.
It was a fun knit and the yarn blocked up beautifully. Fred says it's a very warm, comfortable sweater. I think it may have just gotten him over his little bout with whatever that was--that and the pint of Guinness we enjoyed at the Irish pub just after this quickie photo session in the park, that is. A pint of Guinness is always good on a crisp, fall day.

Thanks to Natalie and Jesse and Fred for coming out in the cold to help get these pictures!

I hope you and yours enjoy some beautiful fall weather this weekend and for those of you celebrating Thanksgiving, enjoy the heck out of that turkey!  

Friday, November 18, 2011

Friday FO #5: Balls!


"Hey, I thought you said balls, not pods." Wait a second...


See? I do not disappoint. I have had this knitted ball pattern on my queue for years, people. Ever since I first got Melanie Fallick and Kristin Nicholas' book Knitting for Baby, I have wanted to try these little jewels. They are so much fun!


They're made with short rows and you only join yarn once to make each ball in two colors. Each ball works up in one piece, you seam the cast on edge to the bind off edge and close up one hole and felt it. Then you stuff it (I used leftover yarn bits--I keep them all!) and close the other hole and there you have it--a ball! Lucy and Malcolm are going to love these! Heck, I want some for myself. Now, if you're looking closely you can see that they could have been felted a bit more--I like to felt knitted or crocheted wool fabric until you can no longer see the individual stitches. I owe the light felting effect to my new washing machine. It's not even one of those fancy front loaders or anything, but I think it's a bit too gentle. I need to get me some tennis balls to add to the mix to jostle things up more. You can bet I'll be making more of these. I made these with some Lion Wool that I had leftover from a crochet design submission a few years back. It felts great. 

And I just have to tell you about mine and Natalie's latest adventure in all things crafty. We went to a meeting of the Tacoma Calligraphy Guild last night (as a part of Art @ Work, a month-long event here in town) and learned Clothesline Caps, a fun hand-lettered font.  My attempts here are rudimentary at best, but I learned a lot. I learned that I need to practice with the watercolor pencils more, for one thing. The folks were all so nice and you can tell they love what they do. I should have taken pictures of all the beautiful examples of their calligraphy. If I get to go back, I'll get some pics for you next time.
Now I must head on away from the computer. I have a date with my cutting mat, rotary cutter, some fleece, and some pom-poms.

But not before I have my Brussels Sprouts Salad lunch! Yawm!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Bring Out Your Woollies!

With temps dropping into the 20's here at night and not getting much out of the 40's during the day, I had to scramble to organize all the warm things. It seems just yesterday I was slipping on the flip-flops. Winter already? They're talking snow as soon as...tomorrow!

Yike! And another yike--I'm about to let you into my closets. Yes, I showed you my yarn stash, my offices, my garden, and now to show you my favorite ways to keep track of the knitted and crocheted yarny items.

This is my non-hanging clothes closet. I have another for all the things that will go on hangers, but I never hang my sweaters. I love these hanging bin thingys instead. They keep the sweaters and vests peeking out where I can see what I have. I am making it a goal to actually wear all of these this year. The one on the right is entirely hand knit and hand crochet sweaters and vests. The one on the left is about half so. I'm aiming for all hand made. Wouldn't that be divine?

This is a couple of shoe hanger bin things I got for keeping all the hats, scarves, cowls, and gloves, mitts, mittens where I can most easily see them in the coat closet by the front door. They have little pockets on the sides and that's where I have several pair of fingerless mitts and gloves. This way, as with the sweaters, I might really wear them all at some point. I am a hopeless "out of sight out of mind" person. If I can't see it, it is forgotten completely!

I even tackled Fred's closet. The man has enough t-shirts that he could probably wear one each day for a year and practically never repeat. This is because he never throws any away (or turns them into rags--my favorite). Some are so thin I wonder how they do not disintegrate in my hands, but I dare not throw them out. That would bring trouble, for sure. Sentimental, he is. Anyway, the sweaters were getting all jumbled up in the t-shirts, so I sorted. I know, I know--it will never stay this way and that is why I had to take a picture. I have to remember that it once looked so neat. Soon it will all be a jumbled, wrinkly mess again. Sigh....
Six of these you see are hand knit by me. I know (again)--I have many, many more than he does. Let's just say I am not one of those who does not knit and crochet for herself. That's just crazy! 

How do you organize your woollies and keep them where you can see them and wear them? Make sure you wear them. Stay warm!

Tomorrow I'll be back to show you what's felting in the washer right now. So cute! It's for Malcolm and Lucy.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Happy Onesday!

Because it's 11-11-11 and of course I couldn't resist mentioning this rare occurrence. Be sure to make a big wish at 11:11 today. This used to be a ritual with my girls and me. We had lots of wish opps (crossing a bridge, going under an overpass, finding a folded potato chip in the bag, etc.) and whenever the clock turned 11:11, we would notice and make appropriate wishes. I still do this one. Today, it ought to count twice as much...or eleven times as much, right?

I'm wrapping up a good week here, and I hope you are over where you are, too.

This week Natalie taught me how to make paper. It was awesome! What you see here are 16 dried sheets waiting to be pressed flat. These were all made from some of what was in my office shredder. Next we'll make a book out of them. Fun!

I also worked on a new hat pattern for babies and toddlers. It has cables and ear flaps! This is the combination of objects I had to assemble in order to block the toddler one. This is one reason I don't throw many things away. You never know when you might have occasion to use these things! (two plastic bowls, beer growler bottle, Chinese soup bowl, tape, face mask)


Here's my FO for the week. I finished the knitting of Fred's cardigan, which will be the sample for the pattern, which should be ready for release next week (yippee!). Today I need to sew the ribbon backing onto the button band and then attach the buttons. I think this may be my favorite button attaching method of all the ones we've discussed.

By the way, this is Cascade 220 Paints in color #9928 and as with all Cascade 220, it blocked out nice and smooth. Fred can't wait to wear it, especially since there's a nasty cold trying to get him down. Get well, honey! I'm sure this comfy sweater will help.

Have a great day and a great weekend and don't forget to make your wish!

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Fundamental Top-Down Cardigan for Women

I am always, always glad to tell you when a new pattern comes out, but this one has me very excited. If you've been stopping by in the past six months or so, you know I've been working on this for a while. We talked about raglan line options, how to attach buttons, and even fancy edge finishing.

Well, now it's all come together for a cardigan for us ladies!


Last weekend Natalie and her boyfriend Jesse and I went to the park to get some shots. It was a perfect fall day for it.
 On this purple one you see I opted for a crew neck and ribbon backing on the button band. Luckily I already had the perfect green and purple Argyle grosgrain ribbon, these Celtic knot buttons, and the Elsebeth Lavold Classic AL in my stash. This cardigan fits perfectly, because I decided how long I wanted the sleeves and the body. That was easy with the seamless, top-down construction.


Natalie did the same with hers in Patons Classic Wool in red and grey, except that she chose a V-neck, instructions for which are also included in the pattern. It was easy for her to do striping to make use of two bunches of yarn that each on its own would not have been enough. These cardigans are great for striping.


This is a very soft, warm cardigan for a chilly day in the park fiddling with spiky chestnut husks, from which the squirrels had eaten all the insides--they are hungry little dudes.

A couple of months ago when it was still only slightly chilly, Natalie got some pictures of the cardigan I made in Schaefer Sandra from this same pattern. I thought I'd try the V-neck version myself on this one. I still like the crew neck best.  

But because so many of you said you prefer V-neck, it's well treated in this pattern, which has separate instructions for all 12 sizes (from size 32" bust up to size 54" bust) in each of its four yarn weights. You can use whatever yarn will bring 6, 5, 4, or 3 stitches to the inch or all of the above! I hope you'll give this pattern a try. It's one you will use forever and not just for yourself. You can make all your friends cardigans and never have to leave your stash. But I know you want to start with at least one for yourself, don't you?

Note: Two of these yarns have been discontinued (like I said--I raided my stash!) but you can use virtually any yarn for this pattern. I'll bet you've got sweater amounts hiding in your own personal yarn mountain--go find 'em!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Brackenhill Shawlette

I'm so excited to be back to show you a very special FO--my first Faroese-style shawlette design. Ever since I made Ysolda's Orchid Thief Shawlette from Brave New Knits exactly a year ago, I have wanted to try my hand at designing one of these beauties. Delia at Ravenwood Cashmere requested a shawl design of me back in 2010, and because she knows how to set things in motion with style, had already sent me four beautiful skeins of her lace weight domestic cashmere yarn to do the sample. This past summer I finally got busy.


Delia is of Scottish and Irish heritage, so I wanted to infuse her shawlette design with lots of Celtic flair. When I found this Argyle lace pattern that makes up so much of the territory of Brackenhill, it was fairly easy to also find some compatible panels to center and to border it. The center panel and the border remind me of the Celtic knots I love so well and I liked the way they neighbored the diamond-and-Scotch-pine lace pattern. It took a little tweaking to make the math all work, but I learned so much while putting this design together.

I love how you can wear it fanned completely out and it drapes all the way past your waist. I also love how you can wrap it cozily up around your neck. The cashmere is so soft and warm, yet light and not so fussy.

As I tried to figure out the perfect name for the shawl, I asked Delia for some place names of her Scottish ancestors. She told me the most fascinating tale of the Will Graham clan of father and eight sons who lived in the border area of England and Scotland and shifted their residences according to how best to escape the law. They were a raucous bunch who took care of themselves, as they were such notorious scallawags that the larger Graham clan had "put them to the horn"--ousted them from the family. One of the manors they inhabited in England, and the only one of their 13 Scottish design towers that still stands, is called Brackenhill and was home to Richie Graham, Will's grandson. In fact, Brackenhill is the only Scottish design tower left on the English side of the border. The property was sold in the 1990's and renovated into a grand luxury destination, especially for newlyweds who tie the knot at nearby Gretna Green in a popular tradition of holding their hands clasped together over the anvil of the ancient blacksmith shop there.

I can imagine a young bride wearing this shawlette on her special day at Gretna Green, cant you?

The Brackenhill Shawlette is a Faroese-style shawl made with approximately 565 yards (3 skeins) of Ravenwood Cashmere lace weight yarn on size 4 needles. It is available from Ravenwood as a pattern booklet and soon as a kit. You can purchase the yarn to make it here until the kits are ready. The pattern includes both charted and written instruction for every part of the shawlette and plenty of pictures to help you along the way. It's a fun knit that begins with just a few stitches at the neck and finishes with the true lace border of RS and WS yo increases and accompanying decreases--a bit of a challenge that definitely rewards you for your efforts. Ravenwood Cashmere is a remarkably strong yarn for so delicate a 2-ply and I can attest that I have never encountered a knot nor a break in this well-spun yarn. It's pure joy to knit. Just ask Clara Parkes, who said it so well in her review of this yarn.

Huge thanks go to my daughter Natalie Goza for these gorgeous pictures. I also have to thank Commencement Bay here in Tacoma for providing us with a perfect cloudy day to snap these shots. It helped me to imagine being in Scotland by the sea. 

I hope you'll give Brackenhill a try and let me know how you like knitting her. I hope to have time to do another one myself soon!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

WIP Wednesday #7: Cardigans, Socks, Toddlers, & Arugula

Ha! You thought I'd fooled you, didn't you? No foolin'. I'm really back.

A couple of weeks ago when I'd finished Secret Project #1 and my time had gotten freed up enough to jump on all the other projects waiting, I sat down and made a hard list of everything I wanted to accomplish work-wise from now until the end of the year. Here goes: Finish and release the shawlette pattern for Ravenwood, finish and release the women's top-down cardigan for Figheadh, finish and release the men's top-down cardigan for Figheadh, design a Fair Isle cap for Ravenwood, design something yummy for Marsha, design a fabulous cable sweater for Liz, finally figure out an earflap hat for Figheadh (with cables of course), balance the books for third quarter, finish and release the five glove and fingerless mitt patterns I have been trying to get to for over a year now, finish the Tsunami socks (see below), finish the Lace Scarf sample (see below as well), back up all the files on my laptop because it's acting funny, finish a cable sweater design with Schaefer Miss Priss that's been on the needles for over a year now, finish a cable blanket design for Figheadh, and finish a combo knit/crochet coat design for Mirth I started last winter. Oh, yeah, and the two Wanda Nells I have on the needles. Think I can get this all done by the week after Christmas? Well, I've already completed seven of these. It pays to make a tight plan. We'll see. I'll keep you posted.

First up in the WIP roll call is this men's cardigan I'm making for Fred. He picked out this Cascade 220 Paints himself. I see now that it goes with the vintage robe he's been patiently waiting for me to repair the whole entire ten years we've been married. The lining has come loose in a couple of spots, so I've put it here in the living room to remind me to finally, finally fix it. I can see him when he's 88 wearing this cardigan over this robe, thinking he's looking all GQ. Cuz he's funny like that.

And here's the progress on the Tsunami socks. One down and mostly one to go! Been too tied up to pay enough attention to them (see above list). But isn't the Hazel Knits Artisan Sock in Sassafras gorgeous? If you'll remember, this skein of yarn was one of the only two I bought at Sock Summit (because it never disappoints) and my intent was for these to be mine. Nope. Turning out too big. They will be Fred's as well, but no worries--there are lots of knitted things ahead for me.

This scarf for Ravenwood is about five pattern reps away from the finish line. Whenever I have the time to visit with her, though, it's time well spent. Cazhhhhhmeeeeerrrrre. Yum!

And I can't let you go without a garden update. We harvested the rest of the tomatoes and the one pumpkin that our little raised bed produced and replaced them with some cauliflower, spinach and these little arugula seedlings we sprouted ourselves. I hope they grow to be big enough to eat. It's already getting quite chilly here, so we might need a row cover, my mom, the Master G says. She's over in NC growing blue potatoes. Imagine that!

What I really, really can't let you go without seeing is the Grandtwins and their 18-month-old selves. Yes! Eighteen months old today! Look what a big boy Malcolm is getting to be!
And Miss Lucy--so grown up and fancy. I envy them their naturally curly hair.
Okay, enough visiting for now--I have some math edits for the women's cardigan pattern to do and the calculator is calling my name. I'll be back soon with how the list is going. I hope you are having good day! Thanks for stopping by!