Friday, October 04, 2019

I'm back!

I feel I owe you an explanation for all the silence, dear blog, so here's a post that I started earlier this year. I'll add more at the bottom....

"Before it gets to be a whole year since I last posted, which I am aghast about, I want to breathe life back into this space. Thank you for your patience. Actually, if you're like me, you won't have noticed much that I haven't posted in so long. We are all so distracted. Which leads me to the chunk of this post.

For the past couple of years I have been highly distracted by our life changes. We sold our house in Tacoma, WA, after calling it home for fifteen years, moved into an apartment in the same town, then moved to my mom's house in North Carolina where Fred found a job in Greensboro in just a couple of months, so we moved to an apartment here to be near his job, and in about six weeks we will move into a new house here in town! Well, it's new to us. We don't much like "new" houses. This one was built in 1969, which is just great with us.

Anyway, all that change of domiciles has had me quite jangled. I am a Cancer, after all, so my home life is extremely important and Fred's the same. Another thing that disrupted my flow was the recently-discovered-by-me fact that in my adult life I have changed vocations about every ten years. First I was a singer/vocal instructor/mom, then a high school teacher/mom, and then a knitwear designer. I'm still a mom, but I no longer have to take care of my children as part of my job. They've been doing that for about 17 years now, some for longer, since I have 38-, 36-, and 34-year-old daughters now (two of them with their own children).

That ten-year-career-change thing? Well, I passed it with the knitwear designer job in 2015. That was just before we started getting our house in Tacoma ready to sell. My seemingly in-born desire to restructure my life every ten years came at about the same time that life threw me into turmoil anyway, so my designing took a back seat. At times I wondered if I even wanted to keep doing it. I never stopped knitting and crocheting, though. The love has stayed with me.

Flash forward to 14 years into this last occupation and I find my self wanting to revive the whole darn thing. I have ideas for other pursuits, some related to knitwear design, but I want to keep up maintenance of my two pattern lines and to keep bringing new ideas into the world. There are never too many!

I can't wrap up this post without talking about other distractions, ones we all have. When I started my business back in 2005, I knew nothing of Facebook, there was no Ravelry, no Instagram, no Pinterest, and certainly no Twitter (which I have never joined anyhow). Heck, we still barely went online and we still got our news from the physical newspaper that was thrown onto our front stoop every morning. So hard to imagine now, only 14 years later. I admit to spending way, way too much time on my phone every morning, scrolling and scrolling. One of my determinations is to return to a life with much less of this. I appreciate all these online treasures, especially Ravelry, but I need to return to a life away from the internet. I'll admit that the day I got on Instagram was the day my blog posting took a nosedive. It also stopped me reading other blogs. I want that to change.

I spent an hour or so this morning clearing out my favorites list of blogs, finding that many had been stalled for much longer than mine and some had been closed. I can certainly understand. It's hard to tear ourselves away from the endless onslaught of information and imagery too easily available to us online these days. We can use the excuse that it is inspiring, as I have for years. To be honest, it really mostly just inspires me to keep scrolling, not to do much of my own creating. For that we need to get outside, go to museums, contemplate, drag out our materials and try things, meet with other creative types, etc. None of those things involve screen time. So I must limit that screen time and get back to making words and making pretty (and sometimes ugly) things.

I'll be back! And it'll be quick this time."

And months and months later...well, I meant it to be quick and then we moved and then we had a new house to get in order and then I got to work on a new pattern and then I got to work on updating older patterns and here we are. The Whalsay Gansey Pullover is published, 19 Figheadh patterns have been updated, and I am busily working on lots more updates. Next post, I'll let you know which patterns have gotten makeovers and provide links in case you want to see for yourself.

I hope I'm back for real. I missed this blog.

Have a hopeful, peaceful day!

Thursday, October 03, 2019

Whalsay Gansey Pullover

We have a new pattern--the Whalsay Gansey Pullover! My sweet husband Fred consented to modeling for me. He looks great in the Whalsay, right?

Whalsay Pullover in Cascade 220

I love Ganseys, so I added one to the Figheadh men's sweater group. I kept this one pretty simple so that new Gansey knitters wouldn't feel intimidated. It has basic drop-shoulder style and underarm gussets.

Whalsay in progress

I think underarm gussets are the best invention! They remove all the fussiness from that underarm join and they make the sweater comfortable for your armpits. Ha! Just craft a little diamond shape at the armpit by increasing as you knit the lower body and then decreasing as you knit the sleeve. 

The lower body is knit in the round, the upper body pieces are knit flat, the shoulders are seamed with 3-needle bind-off, and the sleeves are picked up and knit down from the armhole. Then the collar is knit in the round from the neck hole.

It's knit with worsted weight yarn with lots of Stockinette stitch, so the going is easy and fast. The upper body is embellished with simple cables and knit/purl stitches to give it a bit of Gansey/Guernsey flair! You'll see images of flags, ropes, winding paths, and ladders as a nod to the life of fishermen of the British Isles beginning in the 19th century, from whence the design of this type of garment came. All the edges are done with traditional 2/2 rib for good fit and the neck is big enough for wearing a collared shirt beneath.

The Whalsay is sized from finished chest of 33.5" to 56" in a range of 12 sizes. As with all our men's garments, I think of them as unisex, so anyone can wear it. A couple of my testers made them for themselves, and all my testers were women. 

Speaking of testers, I'll be back to show you the testers' Whalsays!

This project was given yarn support from Cascade Yarns. I so enjoyed knitting the sample in Cascade 220 Heathers in this beautiful blue, color #9332.

I hope you'll knit one for yourself or someone you love.

Keep on knitting!

Friday, March 30, 2018

Show Us Your Lauren Tanks!

The Lauren Tank is the pattern of the Month for March, so what better time to look at a few samples!

photo credit: Callalily
Here's my tech editor Tracey's beautiful Lauren knit with Yarn Place Vivace, which is 100% bamboo. So lustrous! She also tested the pattern for me. She's wonderful!

photo credit: Ritzyknitz
Here is Ann's Lauren knit with Tahki Yarns Cotton Classic Lite in Periwinkle. Perfect fit!

photo credit: snuzy
Cheryl knit this vibrant pink Lauren with Classic Elite's Provence. I love it!

And here is my latest Lauren!

While I was editing the pattern recently, I knit this one up with Cascade Yarns Ultra Pima in Periwinkle. I loved every minute of this project. 

It's always fun to work the shaping from the stitch patterns in this tank--that's my favorite part!

However, when I got to my last part, the upper back, I distractedly hurried too much and let the stitch pattern shift above the armhole decrease. Can you see it? What's worse, I didn't even notice it until the thing was assembled and blocked. No way am I undoing this. It just stays as a reminder to pay attention!

I hope you'll knit a Lauren for yourself. It's a fun and intriguing project.

Happy Spring, Folks! Knit yourself something pretty for warm weather!

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Great Grethryn Color Project

I recently completed a very fun project that I'd been wishing to do since I wrote this post way back in February of 2013. 
Almost as soon as the original Grethryn Hat (OG--ha!) was published, I wanted to put some color into her. Don't misunderstand--I love this original one with two natural colors of Ravenwood Cashmere 3-ply. It's so sweet!

But there's nothing at all wrong with adding some color! However, you must proceed with caution when choosing colors for Fair Isle stitch patterns. Choose for compatibility, but also for contrast. Placing two colors next to one another that do not have enough contrast only serves to hide the lovely stitch pattern you're working so hard to give attention to. Let's look at how I not only made that mistake but also learned to choose better.

First, let's identify the basic stitch pattern for the Grethryn. It consists of three different Fair Isle motifs--two peerie patterns and one larger border pattern. I wanted this project to be good for beginner Fair Isle knitters, so it begins with just alternating between the main color and a contrasting color for one round (A). Then a couple more main color rounds are worked before trying three rounds of alternating the same for a checkerboard effect (B). Then you relax with two more rounds of main color before it gets a bit more challenging as you work a larger seven-round OXO pattern (C). Then the B pattern and then the A pattern are each repeated for symmetry. 

The first color Grethryn that I made, on the left, taught me a lot about color choice. You can see that my A color choice of light grey had good contrast against the dark blue background, but most of the colors between the two A patterns are mushy. There wasn't enough difference between the shades of the different hues that I chose--they were too similar in value. I chose better with my second attempt on the right. See how the stitch pattern is honored and apparent? 

These two hats are my husband's and mine and we wear them a bunch. That attests to the quality of this yarn, which is Rowan Felted Tweed DK. I used this yarn to knit these and all the following hats. These two were knit all on size 4 (3.5 mm) 16" circular needle with a k2/p3 rib as in my written pattern, but all the rest were started at the rib on a size 2 (3 mm) 16" circular needle with k3/p2 rib and worked with size 4 needle on the remainder of the hat, which worked much better. This yarn relaxes after washing and wearing, so the adjustment to the rib helped keep it a little more snug.

These next two color Grethryns are similar in style, so I paired them for a pic. The only difference is color choice and the decision to "frame" the B-C-B area with rust on the hat on the left. I had fun adding little rounds of contrast color between the A, B, or C sections with differing results. Sometimes it's subtle, and sometimes it really helps define the area. I felt that these two had good contrast in the color choices, with the one on the left working the best in that regard.  The teal and the light green used in the C section of the hat on the right almost do not lend enough contrast, but it works well enough. I am partial to greens and blues, which led me to these color choices. It might have gone better had I added in some gold or purple. 

I had a little fun when I was working on the light green one above and asked my Instagram community for help when I was charting and deciding on which way to go with it. They were so sweet and gave me lots of feedback! As I said, I had made it harder by sticking to so small a color palette, so I needed help!

With some of these hats, I charted four different ways to position the colors before casting on. Even that did not assure success, however, because colored pencils on paper are never exactly like the knitted result, even when you are careful choosing your colors in pencil! That's one thing I like about it--it's an adventure!

With my next attempt I must have been distracted or getting complacent about the whole thing, because I ignored my own instructions and knit 12 rounds of main color instead of two before working the Fair Isle section. That's exactly backward--the 12 main-color rounds are supposed to come after the Fair Isle section and before the crown shaping. That pushed the color section way up near the crown shaping. Oh, well. I wasn't about to rip it out because of that. On this teal hat, I particularly liked the look of adding the dark purple into the middle of the B sections and the C section. 

And I was really pleased with the contrast in this golden Grethryn.

But then I pulled back the challenge and tried a more simple approach. Each of the three sections, A, B, and C are only worked in one contrast color on the dark purple background. A is in gold, B is in teal, and C is in light green. 

This dark green Grethryn was probably the most fiddly, because I changed colors more often. The A section simply morphs from the main color into rust, then the B section begins with dark blue, works its next part in light grey and gold, and then changes to taupe. The C section is bordered by the main color and then uses rust and dark blue with a touch of light grey in the center. I think the B sections look like little picket fences!

See how color choice and placement can make one simple Fair Isle pattern look so different? You wouldn't know that dark purple hat and that dark green hat were from the same pattern. So much fun.

Now we come to my favorite ones in the pack--the stripeys! The hat on the left was worked when I was growing short on yarn, which made me realize that the Fair Isle section did not need to be symmetrical. In other words, the first A and B sections did not have to match the second ones. I kept each section simple with just using two colors in each, and then I worked the crown in stripes. I used the yarn I had the most of for the stripes in the plain section before the crown decrease begun, and then the yarn I had the least of in the stripes when the stitches became fewer. It worked! I liked it so much that when I was done and realized I had enough yarn to make a whole nother hat, I just made the whole darned thing stripey. Sweet! 

I was a little sad when this project was over. That's how much fun it was. If I'd had more colors of Rowan Felted Tweed, there's no telling how many hats I would have ended up with. As it stands, I have ten of these little beanies. I haven't decided what to do with them yet. I just like looking at the them. I think I'll hang 'em on the wall. 

In case you're wondering, here are the colors of Rowan Felted Tweed that I used:

Cocoa (Taupe) #143
Pine (Dark Green) #158
Midnight (Dark Blue) #133
Ginger (Rust) #154
Clay (Light Grey) #177
Mineral (Gold) #181
Herb (Light Green) #146
Watery (Teal) #152
Bilberry (Dark Purple) #151

I used almost all of the nine skeins to make ten Grethryn Hats. When choosing colors for each hat, I usually narrowed these down to around five, remembering to use a good mix of dark and light colors, one neutral, and one pop color. I did not consult the color wheel when choosing compatible colors, but simply went with what I loved. 

I hope I've inspired you to experiment with some Fair Isle yourself.
The Grethryn Hat is a fun way to do just that!

Happy Knitting!