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.