Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011: A Year in. . . Other People's Knits

One of the coolest things about being a designer is seeing how other people interpret your designs. Sure, I'm used to being able to write something down and have it work for me. But it still amazes me that, when someone else knits it, it actually works for them, too. I suppose at some point this will stop being a glee-inducing experience, but man, is it still the coolest now! To that end, I decided to highlight some of my favorite projects from Ravelry from my designs. (All photos are copyright their owners, of course!)

Bristol's Cowl:

Lara's gorgeous version uses one of my favorite Quince colors, Bird's Egg.

And Jenn's elegant version uses another Quince favorite, Frank's Plum.

And I would be remiss if I didn't brag on my students at Medomak, who were all knitting along on their cowls merrily by the end of the week:

Earl Grey Mitts:

Ani and Martha's gently toned and sea-colored versions are both seriously beautiful, and both make use of the luminous and color-shifting qualities of Noro. I want a pair in Noro for myself!

Ness's pair make use of a commercially spun alpaca yarn and a thick and thin handspun in my favorite color; you can read more about them at her blog.

Lida Shawl:

Rachel's beautifully knit, blocked, and photographed version uses the recommended yarn, Quince's Sparrow.

G's Lida uses MadTosh in the color 'Grove', the very name of which would make me swoon even if her knitting hadn't.

Nadia's luscious version was the first completed after the pattern came out, and she knit it out of cashmere/silk. Enough said.

Karen's vivid and summery version was knit in Malabrigo Sock in the colorway "Lettuce" and had me at "chartreuse".

And Taryn's ethereal version made me think of sunbeams and fresh orange juice.

Delius Vest:

Okay, I'm going to cheat a little here, since I technically finished my dad's version of this in February and have to share!

Tricia knit her excellent (and what seems to be well-loved!) version from Peace Fleece, which, of course, I love.

Juliet's sleek and classic version was knit from Quince's Lark in Peacoat; all versions of the pattern that I swatched were in tweed yarns, so I love this different interpretation! Plus, you know, I love Quince yarns.

And Sarah's version isn't quite finished, but I love it already, because it's knit in Brooklyn Tweed's Shelter, another favorite!

Thank you to to everyone who let me show off their projects and their photos here, and thanks to everyone who has knit one of my patterns this year. I am truly blessed to be able to work in this industry, and can only look forward to what 2012 will bring. Happy new year!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Desperation of a Knitter

Sometimes, you have grand plans for your knitting. Sometimes there are patterns and charts and carefully wound balls of yarn in exactly the right amount. And sometimes you forget to add that kind of vital next skein of yarn to your knitting bag, leaving you with exactly fifteen minutes worth of viable knitting material on knit night. So, sometimes you make a cup cozy.

Major thanks go out to Karen, whose yarn, needles, and pattern went into this project so that I might keep my sanity.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Introducing Alys

Designs have a funny way of taking a bunch of different sources and inspirations, stirring them all together, and then coming up with something in a completely different direction. This is nowhere more true for me than the design process of the Alys cardigan (pronounced "Alice"), which started way back in 2005, took a new turn last November, had some tweaking in May, and finally came to fruition this past Tuesday. Never before had I imagined that the Iron Age torcs of the British Museum, an awful movie, and a new idea for a short row neckline would come together in this package. . .

(all well-taken photos of the sweater are by Carrie Bostick Hoge. The bad and blurry ones are all mine.)

Part I: I had finished my sophomore year of college, and my family and I took a vacation to London. As a lifelong Anglophile, this was my idea of heaven. Though we only spent one day in the British Museum, and the photos are lost in a Photobucket account I can't get to or on a computer I no longer have access to, I was obsessed with the torcs. Large, impressive, wrought metal bracelets and necklaces worn in Britain's Iron Age by the women in some stories and the warriors in others--these huge, ornate pieces of jewelry were breathtaking and beautiful. At that point, I was a knitter, but I hadn't started thinking of designing. I resolved to keep these torcs in mind for some purpose in the future.

(This is my favorite picture of the photoshoot. The colors are so wonderful!)

Part II: Last winter, I went down to Boston on the bus for the weekend to visit a friend from college. I make it a habit of watching the movie on the bus, but not listening to the audio; they're typically of such horrid quality that making up my own plots is far more fun. On this occasion, the movie on the way back home was The Back-Up Plan, a maudlin, unfunny, and all around pretty crap film. The plot that I made up for it was much better than the original. But the main character's sister/best friend (never did figure that out) had on a sweater that I loved. From what I could tell from the grainy bus TV screen, it had a stockinette body that pleated at the neckline into a cabled or garter stitch band at the top. Instantly, my mind went back to the torcs in the British Museum--could I bring the two pieces together?

Alys sketch

(the original sketch for the sweater. Notice that I change my mind a lot.)

The original plan was for a bottom up, round-yoke cardigan, pleated at the hem, collar, and cuffs, and edged on all parts by a laurel leaf cable. The cable would be knit sideways, and the neckline would use some seriously cool short rows to shape the curve. See?


But when I went to figure out the math for this in May, it soon became clear that wow, would it be easier and less stressful if I worked from the top down, all in one piece. I talked to Pam at Quince, and they were on board. That meant I got to use my favorite color in one of my favorite yarns, Tern.

(edge detailing)
The last piece of the puzzle fell into place when I was teaching at Medomak in July; this was the knitting project I brought with me to camp, and in the midst of many classes and lots and lots of porch knitting, I made the final decision to leave out the pleated hem and go for an a-line shape.

(that amorphous blob of chartreuse in my lap is the sweater in progress. Don't mind my clothes--I was mixing dye in them. They don't need to be pretty for that.)

The final sweater, worked from the top down with round yoke increases, has a soft swing shape and bracelet-length sleeves, and is edged with the laurel leaf cable. Through its many iterations, this has been one of my favorite projects, and I couldn't be more happy with how it's turned out. The pattern is sized for busts 31"-61", takes between 1,300 and 2,600 yards of fingering weight yarn, and is available for sale over at Quince and Co. Check it out on Ravelry, too!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Battle Scars

At every dance studio I went to as a kid, it seemed that this poster hung on the wall in a prominent location. We tried to emulate it, standing underneath and tweaking out our pliable little knees into a perfect 5th position plie, even though our ballet slippers were squeaky clean, baby pink leather and those mustard yellow tights were (sadly!) a thing of the past. But the image of those beat-up, perfectly worn-in shoes stuck with me. Later, as a teenager, I carried around a duffel bag half-full of old pointe shoes that were far past their prime. I mean far. Tips blackened by the marley floors and sticky from rosin, shanks broken by my unwieldy arches, ribbons frayed to the point of non-existence. But I couldn't bear to throw them away! They had molded to fit my feet perfectly, and putting them on for barre warm-ups was like putting on an old friend. It even took me another two years or so after I quit ballet to get rid of them outright. I've stopped dancing now, but I've come to recognize that same sense of history and friendliness in my newer foot-related accessory: handknit socks.

These socks, first knit in October 2008, were darned in April or May 2010, and haven't been worn since I got back from New Zealand. They still have pride of place in my sock drawer, though.

Knit in May 2008, these socks still see weekly use (as you can tell by the cat hair), despite having been darned heavily in New Zealand and despite being see-through:

These socks were a Christmas present to my mom in 2007. I stole them back away from her last year in horror when I saw the balls of the feet. Yet they remain undarned. Mea culpa.

The latest addition to our family of socks whose history is as long and varied as those above, but whose time on feet hasn't really even begun yet.
These socks began as a present for my older brother for Christmas last year. They have traveled around with me in my knitting bag for months, getting shoved perpetually to the backburner when sample knits or designs had earlier deadlines. They were Christmas presents, then birthday presents, and they finally they were plunked unceremoniously down on my brother's bed, with a note of apology, a few weeks ago. They're Malabrigo Sock in the colorway Alaucil, on size 1s, in my typical toe-up sock recipe. I reinforced the heels with reinforcing thread, but neglected to make sure that the spools matched when I grabbed them off the shelf. Oh well. It'll help him tell left from right.
Though I love how pretty they are here, I really hope that, in time, their history will be as long and varied as the ones above, and that they'll look just as decrepit in a few years. Because that's when we know they're loved.

Oh, and you want to know the best bit about the three socks pictured above?
Never even wove in the ends.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Telemetry Hat

Sometimes, I think I have the best friends in the world. In this case, my wonderfully willing friends Casey and Dana, both sick with horrid colds, bless them, came out with me on a bright and frosty morning a few weeks ago to Gilsland Farm to shoot the photos for my latest design, the Telemetry Hat. (Which another lovely friend, the wonderful Aimee, named!)

casey detail

Knit from the bottom up and utilizing SuriPaco's Harmony DK, a 75/25 domestic alpaca/Maine wool yarn spun locally at Bartlett Yarns in Harmony, Maine, this slouchy and comfy hat uses one of the most interesting stitch patterns I've ever come across!


I wanted to find a combination that would utilize the beautiful, creamy natural tones of this yarn, as well as showcase the hand-dyed accent colors. Also, I am coming out of the closet as a stripe addict--this hat is just the tip of the iceberg!

cover shot

The pattern is available for purchase on Ravelry, and will soon be available on the SuriPaco website!

I also wanted to share with you a sneak peek of another design that we photographed that day, but that's going on hold for a while.

close detail

See, as some of you know, I started a new job about a month ago with a really, really cool company. And this shawl might be getting reknitted in some seriously gorgeous new yarn. And it might be heading for publication in a different format than I had originally planned. . .

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

SOAR--A Week in Fuzzy Pictures and Muddled Thoughts

Has it been only two and a half weeks since I got home, tired, sore, and covered in little bits of fuzz, from SOAR? It seems like much longer, and even then I haven't even started processing the experience. How do you sum up a week where you do nothing but create and explore and cram as much as you can into the short hours of the day, all surrounded by people whose interests and loves are the exact same as yours? Well, yes, it's summed up as "heaven", but it was more than that. Part of being a SOAR scholarship recipient (an opportunity I was privileged to be chosen for) is that you must present them an essay before the next year, talking about your experiences. I think, perhaps, only by that point will I be able to sum it all up! In the meantime, a pictoral essay will have to do. And, since this is me we're talking about, it'll be a patchy one at best! Did I take pictures of any of my classes? Nope. But I got some shots of the things that inspired me and challenged me, and I can't wait to share them.

A table of samples from Janel Laidman's three day color blending workshop. I got to take her one day ply-blending workshop and her half-day fiber blending workshop, both of which were amazing.

The results of Pat Sparks' three day workshop on pictoral needle-felted "watercolors".

A glorious pile of art yarns, including the cover yarn for the SOAR magazine, from Jacey Boggs' three-day. I took her thick'n'thin'n'coils class on Friday and oh my goodness, she is the most wonderfully technical spinner ever. Such a cool way to learn about art yarns!

There was a gallery of finished items to ogle as well. I caught it as the light was coming in strong and golden from over the river.







The final night was a huge group spin-in in the Armory.



The big things I think I've taken from SOAR are not answers to the questions I had, or the techniques I learned. While I came away with plenty of those, the major thing was that every question answered or technique learned was a hydra--two more "what if?"s sprang up in their wake. What if you combined a gradient-carded series of batts with a handpainted roving fractal? How would you spin silk on a tahkli? How did both Roman sheep and Viking sheep develop single and double-coated breeds? What happened to sheep domestication and breed development when the masses moved from the country to the city in the Black Plague? Could you use a Guatemalan spindle to spin in the Blackfoot tradition? What if, what if, what if, what if--I can't wait to keep exploring these throughout the rest of the year.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The perfect everyday hat

I am a hat girl. I always was, as this picture from oh, probably around 1987 illustrates:


As I grew up, I had the best series of hats. As a teenager, I had a Paul Frank hat for the wintertime that was barberpole striped in blue and red, and was topped off with a voluminous pom-pom on each corner. I also had a bucket hat made from coiled ribbon, an authentic Donegal fedora, and I stole my dad's broad-brimmed cowboy fedoras with appalling regularity.
My favorite, though, was the one I had in college. It was, frankly, pretty horrid; it was a hand-me-down from a friend, who had bought it at Wal-Mart (I know, I know). It was simple one-by-one rib, marled beige acrylic yarn, and hadn't even been knit in the round--there was a gigantic seam on it that had to be kept in the back. But it was huge, and comfy, and slouchy; I could wear it as a really long beanie, or pull it back further for some slouch. Best of all, it reminded me of my college friends. I will blushingly admit to wearing it all the time after college, too--a work colleague called it my "London slums urchin hat" at one point, which wasn't far off. (I don't have any pictures of this one, thank goodness!) I even brought it with me as a safety blanket to New Zealand, and wore it All. The. Time, especially to sleep when it the temperature in my bedroom didn't make it above 40! But, as part of the whole process of learning and growing in New Zealand, I decided that it was time to surrender it. I left it at my favorite hostel in Wellington for someone else to love.
Since that time, I haven't had a hat to truly live in. I have a Selbu Modern that I love, but it's a bit too fancy to cover up on a bad hair day, you know? So when I went back to Grinnell in June and got a request from my friend Maggie for a hat (in exchange for a kick ass wallet made from an old burlap coffee bag), I knew that this was the perfect opportunity to make my perfect hat.
Knit from one skein of Quince and Co.'s gorgeous aran-weight Osprey, the Eyen Hat was designed to have just the right amount of slouch, enough going on with the cables while knitting to keep it interesting, and the wearability for everyday.

(Quince photos, as always, by the lovely Carrie Bostick Hoge!)

This hat was also part of the downward slide into Chartreuse obsession--I LOVE this color! Quince's Honey just kills me every time. I love how it changes in every light!


All in all, I absolutely cannot wait to have one of these hats for my very own.