Tag Archives: review

Custom Colorwork Techniques

Stephannie Tallent has a new class on Craftsy that I’m excited to share with you all! Custom Colorwork Techniques is more than just a class on fingerless mitts* – it’s a primer for designing your own mitts with your own trims, colorwork patterns, and sizes.

colorwork mitts class

Stephannie has tech edited some of my patterns, published another in her Hitch book, and is an all-around awesome designer. So when she offered to let me view the class so I could recommend it to you all I jumped on the chance! Especially since I’m also getting to share at 50% off link with you!

The class is broken up into six videos each with its own focus. This class is not for absolute beginners, Steph assumes you know how to knit, purl, increase, etc… and if you’re comfortable with some basic chart reading and math that’d be helpful too. But with lessons including a chart reading refresher and how to use either the provided worksheet handout, or build a worksheet in excel, this class will help you make perfectly beautiful AND perfectly fitted fingerless mitts.

Steph’s style of teaching is approachable and conversational. One of the things I love about Craftsy classes is that they feel much more like a one-on-one lesson with a friend than sitting in a big classroom with lots of other students. This class is perfect in that it covers everything from my favorite increases (the lifted ones are the most invisible) to my favorite gusset-style (offset thumb gussets!). And she’s even provided a charted template so you can free-form design across the whole mitt – thumb gusset too! While the excel portion was mostly review for me I love the lesson on choosing colors; including complementary colors and a couple of tricks for checking the contrast between two yarns (that’s the part that trips me up the most when I start a new colorwork design.)

The Craftsy platform is designed for hosting craft classes, and its perfect for it. I love the note-taking feature, and the ability to check your notes later without having to scroll through the video. The 30 second replay allows you to re-watch the directions for something quickly and easily. You can ask questions of the teacher and get a direct answer, or you can just review other people’s questions and the teacher’s answers to them. The integrated project pages will even let you see what your classmates are working on!

Have I piqued your interest? Here’s the link for 50% off Steph’s class! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

*Although I love mitts enough that would be fine!


(Please note that I did receive this class 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.)

Unexpected Cables

Unexpected Cables
Unexpected Cables: Feminine Knitted Garments Featuring Modern Cable Knitting
By Heather Zoppetti Interweave/F+W; $24.99
Heather Zoppetti is a knitwear designer, instructor, and author of Everyday Lace (Interweave, 2014). Her patterns have been published in many Interweave publications such as Knits, Knitscene, and Jane Austen Knits, and by yarn companies such as Manos del Uruguay, Baah Yarns, The Alpaca Yarn Company, Reywa Fibers, and Universal Yarns. She is also the owner and founder of Stitch Sprouts, a company dedicated to helping your stitches grow. Heather lives and teaches in Lancaster, PA, and be found at http://www.hzoppettidesigns.com and http://www.stitchsprouts.com.

I received a copy of Unexpected Cables by my good friend Heather in the mail a couple weeks ago. It’s such a pretty book I’ve been waiting and waiting for a chance to share it with you!

Cables cover

As you’re well aware, I love cables. Love love love them. So this book grabbed me right from the start. Heather does such unique and pretty things with cables. She makes things I would never think of and would love a chance to try. And that’s what is awesome about knitting – there’s always something new.

cables and lace

And this book is full of more than a few new somethings. I love this whole chapter on lace and cables. Lace is the hardest element for me to design with, but Heather makes her ideas look easy and natural.

I’ve got an interview with Heather to share today, and her lovely publishers have given me permission to share some details from one of my favorite patterns too!

Design time
1. How did you first get started designing?
I first started designing how so many other designers start…just by changing other patterns. Eventually I felt confident that I could create patterns on my own.

2. Where do you find inspiration for your designs?
I find inspiration everywhere. Sometimes it might be just a color or a tile pattern I see out and about. Other times a specific stitch pattern might call to me. I try to be observant and always on the lookout for ideas no matter where I am. To this end, I find it’s important to always carry a notebook with me so that I can jot ideas down.

3. How does designing fit in with the rest of your life? Is it a full time job, part time job, or other? If you do a different job full time, is designing at all related?
I’d call knitwear design my part-time job. My full time job is running Stitch Sprouts. For whatever reason I still feel guilty spending a whole day knitting, even if it’s for a deadline. So pulling orders, updating the website, editing, and other computer work is what occupies my workday. Luckily everything I do is yarn related in some way which makes work feel less like work.

4. Publishing a book is very exciting! Do you know what’s next for your design line?
Books are very exciting, and rewarding, as I’m sure you know having just published one yourself! Next I’m choosing to focus on expanding the pattern support for Stitch Sprouts. I’ll be developing some pamphlets, patterns, and also more class kits. Of course, I also have another book idea simmering…so that could happen too!

Downtime
1. When/If you’re going to knit just for fun what do you look for in a pattern?
I don’t really get to knit much for fun anymore. But when I do, it’s usually socks. I love making and wearing hand knit socks. For these I like to choose wild and fun yarns and just do a plain vanilla pattern to let the yarn be the star. Other patterns I might make end up being quick and easy things intended as gifts.

2. Who is your favorite designer? (or favorite pattern, if that’s easier)
Hmm, that’s a hard question. I really do love and appreciate so many designers. Right now I’m loving everything that Jared Flood is doing. Yarn, patterns, and collections, I love it all. He has an understated elegance that is both classic and modern.

3. What do you do to relax?
I like to get lost in a good story, so when I’m not knitting, reading is at the top of my list. In fact, I’ve even learned to read while knitting! Besides knitting, I enjoy other fiber arts such as spinning, and crochet and like to use these as relaxing non-work activities.


Finally, let’s explore the Stevens Vest, I love the look of circle sweaters and I have to agree with Heather that they seem to work for all body types! But rather than me rambling on some more, let’s hear from Heather:

Unexpected Cables - Stevens Vest back

Circle sweaters flatter all body types, and Stevens is no exception. This circle vest begins in the center with a shawl cast-on, which grows into a large flower medallion. Its edge features a reversible cable so there is no wrong side when the collar is folded over.

FINISHED SIZE
Back Width: About 16¾ (17¼, 18, 18¼, 19, 19¾)” (42.5 [44, 45.5, 46.5, 48.5, 50] cm). Vest shown measures 16¾” (42.5 cm).

Unexpected Cables - Stevens Vest collar

Making Reversible Cables
Cabling, while beautiful, is typically only shown on one side of the fabric. This works for most applications, however, occasionally you want to see cabling on both sides.

The cable is only viewable in the knit stitches while the purl stitches hide the crossing. To combat this, the easiest fix is to work the cable in rib. This way knit stitches are on both sides of the fabric and so we can see the crossing on both sides as well.

The cables on the outer rim of Stevens utilize these ribbed cables so when folded over at the collar, there is no wrong side.

Unexpected Cables - Stevens Vest front.jpg


(Please note that I did receive this book 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.)

Silverspun yarn

I got a skein of SilverSpun yarn from the Feel Good Yarn Company a couple of weeks ago. I love the concept behind this company – yarn sustainably made and spun here in the US. Sounds like my kind of thing, right? Well there’s a twist* This is a cotton yarn, no wool at all.

feel good baby sweater

And you know me, I love my wool. So I wasn’t sure if I wanted to try this yarn. But they said the yarn is like wool. Bouncy, but not too stretchy, cushy, and with the silver it’s supposed to be a bit antimicrobial too. So I figured I’d give it a test drive.

The people behind SilverSpun actually recommend this for socks. But since I don’t knit a lot of socks these days I decided to knit up a Wee Cria. This brilliant little sweater is designed by Ysolda, and she highly recommends a yarn with the bounce of a wool. Seems like a good test, right?

feel good baby yoke

So what do I think? So far I’m very impressed! In the skein this yarn feels like Green Mountain Spinnary’s Cotton comfort – an 80% wool 20% cotton blend. I hand-wound it into a ball. In the ball it does feel a bit dense, more like a cotton yarn. But once knit up it’s back to cushy and soft.

The yarn handles the modular construction of this wee sweater very well. The garter stitch doesn’t seem to stretch out of shape, and the button holes don’t seem to gape or grow. The yarn is a bit splitty as you knit with it, but not to the point where it slows down my knitting. I just have to pay attention when doing something like picking up stitches along the edge.

feel good baby WIP

I tried to unwind the yarn to see how many plies it contained, and it doesn’t unwind like a stranded yarn. This made me think maybe it was chain plied? But as I picked at it more that didn’t make sense either. I have to admit I don’t actually know exactly what the construction here is. I think it may be either chain plied or two strands twisted – but in either case they’re bound together with a silver thread.

feel good yarn

One thing this yarn isn’t? It’s not that weirdly bouncy cotton yarn that is so stretchy you can’t see the stitches once you’ve knit with it (no offense Cascade Fixation, but I have two skeins of that upstairs that I don’t know how to knit with…)

I would definitely recommend this yarn if you’re looking for the bounce of wool, but don’t want to use wool. Whether for allergies, or for ease of care, or if you’re just knitting something for the summer and want a light, non-wool option. SilverSpun is a great choice. I haven’t quite finished this little sweater yet (it’s a gift for a friend) but I’ll let you know how it turns out.

*haha, a yarn with twist, get it?

(Please note that I did receive this skein 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.)

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!

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.

karbonz

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?

20150305121737273_1

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:

IMG_20150315_144356_025_1

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.)

Hawthorne

A couple of weeks ago I got an exciting package from the folks at Knitpicks. They sent me a couple of preview skeins of their Hawthorne yarn, fingering kettle dyed and the new sport weight.

I think I’m an excellent knitter to review these yarns, mostly because they’re exactly the sort of yarn I love. First let’s talk about how they feel in the hand. These are not merino yarns, the labels say these are “fine highland wool” and I’d agree with that assessment. These yarns are softer than your basic wools (softer, for example, than wool of the andes or cascade 220) but I can tell just from the feel that they’re going to be hard wearing. Both the fingering and sport weight are 20% polyamide (that’s a type of man made fiber) which again will make these excellent sock yarns.

hawthorne sport

Next, look at the twist. These are highly twisted yarns (although not over-spun, or anything negative like that.) Both weights are made of two plies twisted back upon each other to make sproingy, cushy yarns. One of the biggest problems I had with the Stroll yarns (I used stroll sport in my Foote Brook socks) was that the plies tended to split while knitting. I don’t think I’ll have this problem with these yarns.

hawthorne kettle

Finally the colors. I’m holding Compass kettle dyed fingering and Vancouver in the multi sport yarn. Compass is a lovely golden yellow, gorgeously saturated. While Vancouver combines teals, greens, and purples in a single variegated skein. I also love that the kettle dyed yarns are made up in colors that will coordiate with the multi dyed colorways.

How will they knit up? I wish I could tell you. I took them both too my knitter’s retreat weekend, and didn’t get around to knitting either. Turns out there are only so many hours in a day. But I will get back to you and let you know once I give them a try!

(Please note that I did receive these skeins 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.)

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…

CameraZOOM-20150213151832566

I’ll get there. Eventually.


(Please note that I did receive this book 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.)

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.

frilly hat
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.

marlene top hat
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.