Tag Archives: knitting

Defarge Does Shakespeare

Fun times all around, there’s a new book in the Madame Defarge series! Check out Defarge Does Shakespeare! It’s on the Defarge site, on Cooperative Press, on Ravelry – pick your favorite.

Heather Ordover is back with this third collection from new and returning fabulous designers. And this isn’t the end either, I know there are more Defarge books in the works. If you like this sort of thing you should sign up for her e-mail newsletter. You should also sign up because later today three readers will be winning copies of Defarge books (and some other cool prizes)

Let’s take a peak, shall we? Maybe it’s how knitters interpret Shakespeare (or maybe it’s just that April is around the corner) but I’m finding this collection to be delightfully spring-like. I mean, start with the Fairy Queen Tea Cozy:

Ok, that’s clearly spring. And good for early spring too, because on cold rainy days I do like to curl up with a hot mug of tea and a book (or a mug of lukewarm tea an a toddler – but a mom can dream)

But the Lady M sweater is also a perfect transitional season garment. There’s lovely lace in the yoke and you don’t have to think about the drops of blood in the pattern description unless that makes you feel sly and sneaky and literary all at once:

How about the Midsummer’s Eve Wrap? I SO WISH I had time to knit a giant panel of lace. Something squishy to curl up with on the couch after bedtime… Maybe I should cast on now, it’ll only take a couple of years at the rate I’m knitting right now.

And to wrap things up the Taming of the Shrug! Not only does it have a very entertaining name, but it really is gorgeous.

I am not a shrug person because if I try to wear them my back feels cold and drafty. But I can totally see myself wearing this gorgeous piece of lace. I’d probably end up keeping it at the office to wrap up in when the AC gets too cold in the summer.

What is your favorite Defarge pattern?

I feel like I need to say, I did not get anything free for this review. However I am a Defarge designer. You might remember my Iseult Dress pattern is in the second volume, What else Would Madame Defarge Knit? So I am affiliated, and proud to be a Cooperative Press cooperating author!

A little FO

Here’s the first of two recent finished baby items. I’ve got 4 more friends and family due in the next couple of months which means more tiny newborn knitting!

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This is from the Tiny Trees baby vest. I guesstimated gauge instead of swatching so this is more of a 3-6 month vest. But for an April baby I hope that means it’ll fit come autumn.

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I knit it out of Patons classic wool DK – it’s a great workhorse yarn that I’ve never tried before. I tend to avoid superwash wools for myself, so it is fun to explore this whole new category of yarn as I knit things for future moms. The whole project only took about two days. I never get to knit that much in two days, but I made this while on retreat back in February. I might be a little behind with the photos…

Karbonz

I have a problem with my needle collection – it’s getting old. Old might not be a problem for metal needles, but I have a lot of wood needles in my stash and they start to splinter and split after years of use. So I was really excited when the awesome folks at Knitter’s Pride offered me a test set of Karbonz.

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Nothing like a set of interchangables to revitalize an aging collection of tools. Now, I like quality knitting tools (I own more than one set of signatures) and I’m not a huge fan of aluminum needles (true fact: they bend as I use them. Maybe I should learn to relax?) These Karbonz needles feel like quality right when you take them out of the case.

karbonz set

That’s probably because they’re made of carbon fiber, the same stuff they make high tech vehicles from! This makes them very strong, and the metal tips mean the fibers won’t split with use (like my wood ones did) The carbon fiber isn’t quite as smooth as metal, but it’s much smoother than wood. So these needles are in the middle for grippiness. How do they perform?

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Really well, actually. I’ve knit two baby sweaters using these shiny new needles (note to self, take FO photos) and they’re comfortable in my grip, the yarn slides perfectly, and the stitches are even. I can feel the point where the metal meets the fiber with my finger, but I never had a stitch snag or a slow down as they slid over the joins. The point where the cable meets the needle is strong too. I don’t usually do magic loop because I’ve ruined more than one circular by cracking that join. But in the interest of SCIENCE! I knit both these little sweaters in the round bending and twisting the cable:

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And it held up to my abuse beautifully. Really, the only point that showed any wear at all is the printed size number on the side of the needle. While that is obviously just about gone after just two projects each needle is also imprinted with the size on the metal end.

karbonz worn numbers

So even when the white lettering is gone I’ll still be able to tell what size needle I’m looking at. I do own stitch gauges, but they’re always going on walk-about. So it’s nice not to have to hunt one down…

Overall, I love these new needles. I’m a DPN girl when working little baby sleeves or socks. But for hats, sweaters, skirts, etc… I love working in the round. And these needles will make so many projects easier and faster. I’m excited to finish up the collar on this little red sweater and find something to cast on next!

(Please note that I did receive these needles free for review purposes. However my opinions are my own, I won’t review something I don’t truly enjoy and think that you will like.)

Back to life

I’m coming down hard after a wonderful weekend high. We had a little designers’ retreat here in Vermont so I got to see (and meet) online friends in person, spend the whole weekend knitting and chatting. Oh, and I slept all night without a baby waking me up. I didn’t break out the camera often, so I’m going to borrow from a few friends (oh, and I’m on Instagram now – I’ve been in denial for a bit. But if you’re over there I’ve got my usual user name: BeckyinVT)

The lodge is gorgeous in the winter. We had snowshoeing, sunshine, and a beautiful fire place to curl up in front of with our knitting. The food at the lodge was absolutely amazing, they even make their own granola:

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And the evening’s entertainment was hilarious, if not entirely appropriate for polite company. At least we were all able to relax!

evening

Moths

This is one of those stories where you can hopefully learn from my mistakes. I was in the craft room a couple of weeks ago – looking for a spinning project to take on a little retreat weekend I have coming up. My craft room was the messy sort of organized. And honestly it’s seen a bit of neglect over the last year. But I always had a basket or two out in the open, displaying the pretty fiber. I picked up one long neglected project and unthinking, turned it over.

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Hint: cocoons in your fiber are never a good sign. (I mean, unless it’s a collection of silk worm cocoons. I guess there’s an exception to every rule.)

Lesson #1: never EVER leave your fiber untossed and unsealed for a long time. This project had been hibernating for year. I go through and toss the stash (checking it for bugs) at least once per year. But I hadn’t flipped this little pile of wool over in much longer than that. Turns out that spraying cedar oil only goes so far…

Unfortunately a lot of my craft room had this problem. Because I’d “never had moths before” so I wasn’t worried.

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And of course it’s the pretty, pretty handspun that was all the most exposed. That basket also held a couple of cocoons at the bottom. Luckily not all my stash was in trouble. I keep my sock yarn in this pretty hat box, with cedar balls at the bottom. And this yarn all checked out ok:

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And none of my design yarn was hit. Which is a bit of a shock, since I kept my “inspiration” skeins, um, like this:

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Lesson 2: laundry baskets just give the moths plenty of access on all sides. I think this basket was only saved from damage because I have a regular habit of flipping it over and sorting through it.
Lesson 3: Moths hate turnover.

Any designs I’m not wearing regularly are stored away carefully. I have a large collection of rubbermaid bins, and I’ve been adding to my freezer bag collection recently. Because these open topped bags?

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They’re all gone. I think it was just luck that none of their contents were damaged.

Most of my personal stash lives in this lovely old chest.

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I wish the chest were cedar, but it’s not. Instead I have a variety of cedar satchets, boards, and balls scattered throughout. I went through the whole chest. It looked fine, I was congratulating myself on no damage. When I found this:

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No cocoons, no moths, no eggs that I could see. Just one, ONE skein with a little nibble taken out of it. Seems unlikely that it could be the sum total of the damage. So I bagged up ALL that yarn as well.

Lesson 4: when you have moth damage. Nip it in the bud.
All yarn with obvious damage, and any yarn with exposure (such as Every. Single. Skein. in the chest with that one nibbled skein) ALL that yarn went into plastic bags. I bagged stuff that was stored together in giant freezer bags and grocery bags. But I didn’t cross between storage areas (no point in creating more exposure – even briefly)

Um. I have 4 kitchen trashbags of exposed yarn.

Luckily none of my finished garments showed damage. No yarn stored in other rooms of the house was harmed. My kilt, Neil’s pea coat, the wool couch blanket in the living room: all ok. So it could have been worse.

Also, since I’m counting my blessings, it’s COLD outside.

Lesson 5: Freeze the little buggers to death.
Moths and larvae die below freezing, but you have to freeze for 2 weeks. Then you let everything thaw for a couple of days – so any potential eggs can hatch (eggs are hardy.) Then you freeze again! It hasn’t been above freezing on my porch yet this month – so I’m almost done with this freeze thaw cycle and I haven’t had to plug in an extra chest freezer yet!

Luckily the majority of my spinning stash is perfectly safe. Why is that?

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Because apparently I’m much better about storing it… When the yarn all comes back inside I’m going to have a zipper-baggy party. Then my yarn stash will look like this too!

Head to Toe

As much as I talk about knitting for myself as we all know I’m drawn to the adorable things I can knit for Adorable Windsor. And that’s exactly what drew me to Head to Toe: Kids’ knit accessories


(also on Ravelry and from Cooperative Press)

This book has so many great kids knits that I didn’t even know what to start with. My colorwork bug (it’s some version of startitis, that disease sure can mutate) wanted to do either cannonfire

or Northumberland:

I love that color pattern in both colorways. And I love how Katya shows the mirror colorways because they look so different!

Then there are the cables. Cheviot Hills are gorgeous, but I don’t know that Windsor would understand fingerless mitts yet

And Back Hand Hitch has the same problem:

So what did I cast on? Breamish:

Windsor really needs some thicker socks for this cold cold winter. Unfortunately, I had grand plans of having at least one done by this blog post. But it turns out knitting goes a lot faster when you actually knit things. Instead of just dreaming about knitting them…

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I’ll get there. Eventually.

WIWIWK

Here’s what I wish I were knitting: almost anything than what I’ve got on the go right now.

I finished the blue and gray mittens, and they’re blocking by the wood stove. The fresh coat of snow we’re getting today should make a pretty backdrop for later this week when I’m hoping to have an early morning photo shoot (just me, myself, the tripod, and some tourists if I’m unlucky)

After weaving in the ends I looked at my pile of WIPs and realized I have a children’s design that I’m knitting in about an 18 month size – and I need to finish it before my model out-grows all that clothing… It’s an adorable design, and it’s 80% done. But what it still needs is a lot of i-cord and a hood. And you know how it goes. I just want to cast on for something new.

So what would I rather be knitting? Something for myself, I think. Something warm and cozy for winter, but could still transition to spring (it’ll be here someday)

I’d rather be knitting almost anything from Cascadia.


(again, available through Ravelry and Cooperative Press too)

I don’t know how I have the self control to NOT simply cast on for Courtenay

The bell sleeves, the touch of lace, the promise of a quick worsted weight pullover. I want it now.

Weirdly Redcedar is also calling to me. And I never knit scarves. But that cover is just so cozy, it’s definitely the finished product calling me, not the process of knitting it.

And I sort of adore the mother daughter set that they’ve modeled for the Sea Glass pullover It’s too bad that boxy shape never looks good on me. But it doesn’t stop me from wanting to knit it. Actually I should knit it in Windsor’s size anyway. She would be so thrilled by a sweater with beads. I can see the grin on her face already.

Yup, I think that might be my weak spot, right there. Remember how, at the start of this, I said I wanted to knit something for myself? Turns out I was wrong. I’m a bit of a fickle knitter these days.

The awesomeness of books

So, as I mentioned my book is a combination of knitting patterns, and cooking recipes. That, combined with our photography, really make it a book worth having. Sure you can buy PDFs online and you can find lots of recipes too. But the book combines them both with tips and resources and puts it all in one convenient place.

Cooperative Press is really good about providing this sort of content: the patterns and MORE sort of knitting book. And that’s why today I want to remind you all about What (else) Would Madame DeFarge Knit?


(Also on Ravelry, and Cooperative Press)

This book combines knitting patterns, essays, and more. It’s a great book to sit down and read, not just to knit something from. As a designer in the book I felt like writing an essay really let me stretch my wings a little. Along with an awesome sweater dress:

iseult wafting

I got to write an awesome little story about how Iseult is not just your average princess, but really an empowered woman reaching through history to show that princesses weren’t always just waiting for their prince to come.

Intriuged? Please check out the whole book! And while you’re at it check out a few of my other favorite designs from WeWMDFK:


Ahab’s Gansey features some really amazing cables. It’s a mens sweater, but I’m not sure if Neil or I would wear it more…


Check out the birds on the thumbs of the Counting Crow mittens!


And finally the cables plus lace of Fosco’s Pret Pret Pretties make for a pair of VERY pretty little socks.

What’s your favorite pattern from What (else) Would Madame DeFarge Knit? Leave a note in the comments! Better yet, talk about it on your favorite form of social media (twitter? facebook? Even Raverly counts!) let Shannon know that you’re sharing the CP love here: http://bit.ly/lovetowin200 and you could win books, or even cash. Who doesn’t love winning?

She makes hats look good

Have you seen Theressa Silver’s book Hat Couture? I love it:


(Also available from Ravelry! and directly from Cooperative Press!)

Theressa has done the amazing work of turning classic, fashionable hat styles into knitting patterns. With no felting (although the fabric is knit at a dense gauge) you too can have a collection of styling hats.

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This is Jackie, inspired by Jackie Kennedy, of course.

But where would you go in such a hat? Anywhere that requires a little dressing up, of course! I wore this one to a wedding. I fit right into the crowd, and got so many, many complements. Some of them were on my hat, but most people complemented my outfit. A hat simply pulls your whole outfit together.

frilly hat direct

Theressa does a really wonderful job explaining how to pull together the little bouquets of notions that adorn these hats as well. So between the excellent pattern that lets you shape a fully form top hat, to the decorations that make this a true act of millinery, she has it all covered.

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Marlene as knit by Faithellen on Ravelry.

Honestly though? I wish our culture wore more hats. They’re such a great accessory. People are all about scarves, bags, and jewelry. Why do hats get left out of the picture? I could pull together a great outfit for meeting friends at the little indie coffee shop down in the village:

Bette at the coffee shop

(This hat is Bette, and I love it extra for the crazy Robin Hood style feather!)

Or what about Sunday brunch? Why shouldn’t you wear a hat then?

sunday brunch with Carmen

(this is Carmen, it’s a little out there, but I know you can pull it off!)

Remember women, historically, wore their hats inside (as opposed to men who take their hats off when entering a building) so once you’ve done all that work you don’t have to feel like your outfit is incomplete the moment you step through the door.

If you want to know more about Hat Couture I highly recommend this behind the scenes post from Theressa herself.

Dominant and resessive

We’ve been having a bit of a conversation in the naknimitmo group regarding color work and yarn dominance. If you’ve never heard of yarn dominance the basic idea is that the stitches made with one yarn stand out more than the other based on how you’re holding them. Yarn dominance only comes into play when you’re knitting with two strands and it only matters at the edges between the two colors. But when it matters it can matter a lot.

The dominant yarn is always the one you hold closer to the fabric or under the other strand or strands. In this case I’m holding the white yarn dominant:

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When working with two colors I normally hold both yarns in my right hand like this:

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You can also hold one in each hand. Since I don’t knit continental I find this slows me down although it’s a pretty good trick when I want to knit with three colors in a single row.

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I’m only brushing the surface here on “ways to hold your yarn.” I’m not even trying to cover things like yarn guides, or where to put third or fourth strands if you’re doing more than two colors in a row. Every knitter has their own preferences, techniques, and tricks for maintaining tension. I think the goal for stranded colorwork is to find something you’re comfortable with that doesn’t involve dropping and picking up each yarn as you go. (and hey, if you don’t think that slows you waaaay down, go for it)

But no matter where you hold the yarns or how you knit the dominant yarn is the one closest to the fabric and this makes the stitches just slightly bigger. If you’re looking at your hands and you still can’t figure out which is dominant my suggestion is to knit TWO gauge swatches. I know many knitters dislike them. But there’s really no better way to see how much yarn dominance is going to affect your knitting than to try it out. Any time one stitch is surrounded by a sea of the other color, or you have a diagonal line of single stitches, or little curlicues, or anything like that and you usually want the motif yarn to be dominant. That’d be whichever color your using for the flecks, lines, curlicues, flowers, and snowflakes.

I discovered something else about yarn dominance recently. It really matters when knitting corrugated ribbing. The dominant yarn should be the knit stitches, purls need to be the recessive yarn. If you get it backwards:

purls dominant

Then it just looks wrong. The purls are trying to come forward which just doesn’t work. Even the stitches themselves know that purls are supposed to recede. Poor things look so awkward. If you reverse things (ie frog it all and try again) and put the knit color yarn in the dominant spot:

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See how much happier everything looks? The knits are coming forward just as they should. The purls are happily receding. So even though I’m using the white yarn as the dominant color in the hand of this mitten it needs to be recessive in the cuff. Sometimes I learn these things the hard way. Hopefully you can learn from my mistakes so you don’t have to make them yourself!