Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Yarn Tease

The postman has told me that he's fed up of delivering my parcels. You see, there's been a lot of new yarn to swatch for some of the designs I'm working on. I guess this is the inevitable result of regular journaling - everything ends up in my notebook and eventually wants to be turned into an actual project. As there have been so many posts NOT showing you anything, I decided that today's 'Show & Tell' would be a quick peek at some of the things in my yarn basket, which are also a hint at things to come in the next couple of months.
Yarn yarn everywhere
You'll notice there are a few shimmery things - I'm working on a pattern which I am really excited about and planning to swatch in a few different yarns to suit different budgets. This stunning undyed alpaca/silk arrived today - it's Blue Sky Alpacas Metalico and is jaw-droppingly beautiful. Look at that natural shimmer!  It's a total luxury yarn and I can't wait to see it knitted up ... but it's so lovely I almost don't want to unwrap it from the skein. 
New yarn!
In total colourful contrast, this Malabrigo Mecha (colourway Piedras) threw me a real curveball - I got it on a whim, but it's so beautiful, I altered another design planned for a different yarn, in order to suit it. Each stitch is the most amazing colour - and I really think it needs a simple design which will allow the colours to sing without being overpowered.
New yarn!
You might have guessed that working with yarns like these, I've started to really love swatching!
New yarn!
Just for fun, I also started playing around with some of the new Yarn Stories merino DK to see what it's like. I love the cobalt and spring green together and they feel so soft and snuggly. I really want to finish these mitts but just haven't had a couple of evenings free to get them done. It seemed I'd have so much more time with the children both at school but that is definitely not the case, as I'm trying to cram so much in.

In fact, this is only the tip of the iceberg, as my WIP-bag 'overfloweth' at the moment. I have even more gorgeous yarn - and a new project - to show you later in the week, but it needs a whole post to itself. (It's going to be a free pattern here on the blog once it's finished and written up and I LOVE IT!) 

Before I go, a huge thank you to everyone who has already purchased a copy of the Leaf Collector's Mitts pattern. I have been absolutely thrilled to see that some awesome knitters have already downloaded it, and some are using it for the Little Bobbins Mittalong. Happy Mitt-ing!
Saturday, 18 October 2014

Design Notebook: Leaf Collector's Mitts

I'm pleased to announce that the pattern for Leaf Collector's Mitts is now available to download from both Ravelry and Craftsy. I've already posted about the project a few times, so I won't repeat how the design came about, but (based on the types of questions I usually get) I've put together a few notes for anyone who might be unsure whether the pattern is suitable for them.
Design Notebook: Leaf Collector's Mitts
I must start by saying that it is intended to be accessible to beginner or intermediate knitters, so I've tried to pre-empt any questions while writing the pattern, but the following may be useful in deciding whether to make a purchase. If there are any frequently asked questions which are not covered here, I'll come back to edit this post. 

What skills will I need? 
  • It's mostly knit and purl stitches with a few increases and decreases on alternate rows. You'll need to be able to work a 'yarn over', a 'k3tog' (knit 3 together) and to follow instructions/photos for a simple decrease I've called "s3yp3" - you probably won't recognise the name, but you can see it here and it's detailed in the pattern.  
  • The pattern includes both written instructions and a chart, so you can follow either. If you haven't used a chart before, you might like to give it a try because it's a good one to start with - the number of stitches remains the same, it's easy to spot any mistakes as you go along as the chart looks like the piece you're knitting. In fact, it's such a clear chart to follow, you may find you like it more than reading the written instructions.
  • It's knit flat (so you don't have to worry about using DPNs or circular needles) and joined using 'mattress stitch' - see below. 
It's knit flat? Can I knit it in the round? 
Of course! I prefer to knit in the round but this pattern is designed to be knit flat in response to the overwhelming number of requests I've had for a 'flat' version of my other patterns. Leaf Collector's Mitts is very easy to adapt as there is a selvedge stitch at the beginning and end of each row (this makes for a perfect mattress stitch join). If you want to knit in the round, simply omit the selvedge stitches on each row - the pattern will work seamlessly for you. Just work flat where you'd like the thumb hole to be.

I've never used mattress stitch before!
Don't worry, it's really easy. There are lots of tutorials online already, I especially like this one from Knitty.com as it has clear pictures. For this pattern, you can pull the first and second stitch apart a little at each side to see the 'bar' you'll sew up. Your join will be almost invisible, inside and out (see photo below right).

I have loads of yarn already and want to use something from my stash, what should I look for?
I used Scheepjes Stone Washed which is a very soft washable sport weight/ 5 ply. Here in the UK, sport weight isn't that common, and if you're substituting yarn from your stash you could use a light DK and that will work just fine. If in doubt, knit a swatch and check you like the fabric and that the gauge will work for you (see the next point).

I have tiny/enormous hands, I'm worried they won't fit me as there's only one size. 
As both the ribbing and leaf pattern are stretchy, I'd be very surprised if they were too small, but if you have tiny hands, or want to knit the mitts for a child, there are a couple of options. You could either use 4ply yarn and smaller needles, or omit one of the leaf pattern repeats - either way I'd highly recommend you make a swatch (yes, really!) to work out how many cms you get for each repeat of the pattern (I get 6.5 cms per repeat at the gauge stated in the pattern) and then work out the best option for you. 

I'd like them to be longer. How easy is it to do this? 
Really easy. Repeat the leaf pattern, before moving onto the ribbing - five repeats would make a nice long armwarmer, I'm planning that length next.

Is there a version with a thumb? 
No. I prefer mitts without thumbs as this makes them much more versatile. Once you have thumbs, they have to be worn as gloves, but without a thumb, you can push them up and wear them as cuffs or armwarmers (pictured). This is especially useful when you have 3/4 length sleeves (like most of my wardrobe) or if you need to wash your hands or do something messy - just push them up and you stay toasty but have your hands completely free.

(If you want to add your own thumb, you can add it wherever you like, depending on how long you want your mitts to be.)

I hope that has everything covered and that you enjoy making your Leaf Collectors Mitt as much as I did. 
Friday, 17 October 2014

The joy of..... Grafting

Grafting (aka Kitchener Stitch) tends to get a bad press. It is often perceived as being 'difficult' or advanced. But the truth is, it's actually very simple, and produces a seamless invisible join in your knitting. In fact, if it weren't so perfectly logical, I'd think it were magic.

For example, it's absolutely perfect when you just can't find a suitable way to reverse stitch patterns so that they are exactly identical when inverted from bottom-up to top-down (see my last post if you're wondering what on earth I'm on about!*) 
If you haven't tried it yet, you might like this free class from Craftsy: Ins and Outs of Grafting (affiliate) in which Anne Hanson shows exactly how it's done (the class also includes additional materials and student-led discussions which you can refer back to anytime). If you prefer written words and photos, there is also an excellent article on Knitty.

If you haven't already, give it a go!
*Yay - so I almost have an FO for Friday, just the border and blocking to go and it's done. But you'll have to wait to see it. I really hate having so many projects I have to keep secret from you, but that's the way it is at the moment. Next week I'll have a gorgeous project which I can share here - can't wait for you to see that. Have a lovely weekend!
Thursday, 16 October 2014

Knitter's Problems: Still obsessing about decreases!

Last week I showed you the uncommon decrease I'd decided on for the forthcoming Leaf Collector's Mitts pattern - which is ready apart from a few minor changes suggested by a lovely editor, that I haven't time to make. In my post (which you can read here if you missed it) I talked about the frustration caused by left- and right-leaning decreases not matching when they really should. 
Decrease obsession - knitter's problems
This whole issue is still driving me bonkers this week - I have almost finished another pattern, but for the final section, an inversion of the first section - which has revealed the same issue again! Except this time it's a single decrease and not a double, and one is knitted top-down and the other bottom-up... so the same solution doesn't work. 

The bottom-up version is lovely - great stitch definition and looks exactly how I wanted it to. The top-down version.... not so much. It's making my brain ache, as this project has a definite unmovable deadline - Sunday - and my 'perfect' planning was completely knocked out by the week I'm now referring to as 'mosquito-gate' and which had been my intended contingency time. 

So while I'm thinking about this, I'm sharing the resources I'm using to try to make sense of it. Surely some you have faced these problems too (if so, what did you do?) or will do in the future, and you'll remember this post to come back for the links. If nothing else, it'll make me feel as though I'm making progress. 

June Hemmons Hyatt talks about the issue in The Principles of Knitting:
While it is common to use mirror-image pairs of decreases to shape the two sides of a garment, this can be problematic because the facing stitch of a Left Decrease tends to be larger than that of a Right Decrease. This is odd, since the structure of the two is the same..... Why it does this remains a mystery.
The wonderful TechKnitter offers some advice. In fact lots of advice, in a series of posts starting here (with the background), continuing here, and offering some solutions here (with SYTK - slip, yank, twist, knit) and here (including a crochet hook). 

So now I'm trying to decide whether JHH's twisted decreases or the SYTK option would be best for the pattern and the intended audience..... Did I mention that my brain hurts?!?

If When I get this sorted, I'll make the final changes to Leaf Collector's Mitts and get that published, as I know some of you are waiting to knit them! Also there's a "mitt-along" about to start on the 'Little Bobbins Podcast' which they might just be perfect for. You can find more details here
If you're wondering why the photo is in black and white, it's because there is some colourful awesomeness in it which I'll be showing you soon! Maybe you can guess what it is. 
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