TKGA Report: Level 3 Sweater

Well, here it is almost tax time, and I’m just getting around to my first post of 2015. Since the first of the year, I have been working pretty exclusively on my Level 3 sweater. Spoiler Alert: last week I finished it and sent it off to the committee for review. I have just received confirmation that my binder is on its way to the first committee member, so now I must figure out a way to forget about it until early June, when I can begin to haunt the mailbox.

Why does it take so long? The binder is sent to 3 committee members, who each carefully evaluate the entire package and write up their findings before it is sent to the co-chair, who gathers up all of the evaluations and writes a detailed summary that discusses which work has been done well and which needs to be redone before it can pass. The committee members are all volunteers with real lives and are scattered across the country, so it is amazing to me that they can do all of this in about 10-12 weeks. That doesn’t make it any easier to wait, but it does explain the need for it.

I have been working on the Masters program since March 26, 2013–just over 2 years. When I started Level 3 last May, I had set a private goal for myself to have the binder submitted by the March anniversary, but life intervened. In any case, I needed to have it finished within a year of starting because a revised set of instructions had been issued a few weeks after I had started. According to the rules, if I exceeded a year, I would have to follow the new instructions, which I didn’t want to do. So the pressure was on. I made it with exactly one month to spare. I must say, now that the dust is settling, I feel a bit at loose ends—-somewhat the same feeling one has after having completed final exams but not yet knowing the grades.

I do have a lot of catching up to do here, so I will begin with the details of the assignment.

Since I had designed my hat using the Fair Isle technique, I needed to design my sweater in the Aran tradition, which needed to include a cable stitch pattern, a bobble or popcorn stitch pattern, and at least two other stitch patterns of my choice. Furthermore, the sweater needed to be a sleeved cardigan, pullover or jacket sized to fit an adult, and the sleeves and back had to have a pattern–no stockinette stitch allowed. Finally, the color must be light enough to allow the stitch patterns to be seen easily. There was also an option to design in another knitting style, but special permission would be needed in order to proceed.

Armed with these instructions, I gathered my research materials and some yarn and started swatching. This process was just as laborious as the one I documented for the hat. I must have spent an entire month swatching. My brain thrashed this way and that, trying to come up with a design. I knew early on that I didn’t want to design a traditional Aran sweater in cream-colored heavy wool. As a lifelong resident of Los Angeles, I have never had one and couldn’t imagine ever wearing such a thing!

As part of the Level 3 program, I had researched and written a report on knitting traditions of the British Isles. I liked the look of traditional ganseys, especially those collected by Gladys Thompson in Patterns for Guernseys, Jerseys and Arans. I considered designing a gansey and experimented with various combinations of traditional knit/purl patterns. I also consulted various stitch dictionaries and acquired two excellent books by Janet Szabo: Cables Volume 1: The Basics, and Aran Sweater Design. The latter was the most valuable book to me; it opened my eyes to the possibilities of Aran design and set my feet firmly on the path towards one. At the very end of the section on construction was a short chapter on wide-saddle designs, which consisted of a description of the technique and a little sketch of the yoke. The rest was left to the imagination. Even though there were no images of a finished sweater, I was intrigued by the concept and by the unique construction. But then I thought it looked too complicated, sighed, and moved on. As I continued to struggle with coming up with a design over the next few weeks, I found myself returning to those pages again and again. Finally I decided just to make a start and see where it led.

During this discovery phase, I had ordered several skeins of yarn in different weights and colors. By this time, I had settled on this lovely DK weight merino/silk blend and had chosen the colors I would use. And so, with a rising sense of excitement, I picked up my needles and began to swatch once more.

Note: I have not received any compensation for posting these links. They are here solely to help you find the items if they are of interest to you.

TKGA Report: Level 3 Hat Finished!

Photo of my tam from the top view.
The top of my tam.

Since my last post on this project, I knitted and blocked a smaller swatch to confirm gauge and then got busy knitting the tam. After all of the angst that went into the design, the actual knitting went fairly quickly and uneventfully. I made a couple of mistakes in the pattern, but a little duplicate stitching fixed that.

Photo of the underside of my tam.
Underside of my tam.

A few notes on the design and execution:

I found this beret calculator by Lucia Liljegren to be very helpful when planning the stitch counts and shaping directions.

I decided to use the Old Norwegian Cast On (aka German Twisted Cast On), which is recommended for use with corrugated ribbing by Cap Sease because it is elastic and firm, yet less likely to curl. I wanted the cast on edge to be in a different color than the ribbing, and I discovered from my swatch that it looked better if I knit the first row of ribbing using the cast on color, and then switched to the ribbing colors. The edge does lift up just a little bit, and if the other colors are joined without that intervening row, the light-colored floats can be visible. Plus I liked the way it gave the edge color a more substantial presence.

Photo of tam interior.
Inside my tam.

With a 13.5-inch diameter, this is a very large tam. Perhaps it dances on the edge of being too large. I wanted to have a large canvas to work the stitch patterns in, and I think that smaller tams eventually start looking like a toque or watch cap as they lose their blocking through use. I suppose this is in danger of turning into a slouch hat when it loses its blocking! Most patterns will tell you to use a dinner plate to block a tam, but this one is too big for that. Luckily I had a plastic cake board with a 14-inch diameter that was perfect for blocking. The fabric pulled in a bit after I took it off the board to reach its final diameter.

Photo of tam interior.
Another view inside.

It was a bit challenging to measure the gauge because it changes a bit, depending on where you measure it. Close to the headband and the increase row where the stitch count changes from 172 to 300, the fabric has a subtle gathering, and close to the area where the edge of the board was is off by a stitch or two per four inches from the count I get on the top side, which is itself complicated by the fact that the wheel decreases make it difficult to find a four-inch section of stitches that are not affected by the decreases. Still, the average gauge is what I was getting on my swatch, so I am happy with that.

I am happy with the fabric, and I feel that I did a good job with the float tension. The fabric is elastic and smooth; the floats aren’t too tight. There were a few places where the floats had to span more than 8 stitches, so I had to trap them. Those spots don’t show through to the right side. Whew.

There were a lot of ends to weave in, but I just sat down and powered through them in one afternoon. Not too bad, really.

Photo of buttons on headband.
Beautiful buttons finish the headband.

Finally, I thought it needed one last thing to add a little zip. I had bought these Celtic knot buttons from Robert Gilmore for another project, but ended up not using them. It turns out that this tam is the perfect place to use them, so all’s well that ends well.

In all, I’m quite happy with my tam. I hope that the TKGA committee will approve it. It will be several months yet before I am ready to submit my binder, so I will not know for a long time. I have to finalize the pattern for this tam, which I have given myself until the end of the year to do, and then it’s on to the final piece of my Level 3 submission–the sweater project.

And the winner is…

And the winner is…Sweetp! Congratulations, you have just won the pattern of your choice from Deirdre Lejeune’s Ravelry shop!

Will you choose the just released Joining the Dark Side Cowl or one of the other lovelies in Deirdre’s shop? Please let us know.

Photo of Joining the Dark Side Cowl by Deirdre Lejeune
Joining the Dark Side Cowl by Deirdre Lejeune
©Deirdre Lejeune. Used with permission.

Interview with designer Deirdre Lejeune

The 2014 Indie Design Gift-A-Long continues on Ravelry through our New Year’s Eve party on December 31st. All paid patterns by participating designers are eligible for the KAL/CAL, and there are still many prizes to be won and fun to be had. It’s not too late to join in!

One of the 293 participating designers is Deirdre Lejeune (deirdre78) from Belgium. Her Ravelry shop can be found here. Stay tuned for a special surprise from Deirdre at the end of this post.

Photo of Delores Wrap by Deirdre Lejeune
Delores Wrap by Deirdre Lejeune
©Deirdre Lejeune. Used with permission.

You wrote this on your Ravelry profile page:
My mother divided the women in our community into two distinct groups: those who like to clean things and those who like to make things. Looking at our house, it was not hard to figure out which group she herself belonged to. Growing up surrounded by a constant creative mess, it is not surprising that I too spend every free moment playing with fiber and fabrics.

I love this! When I was a teen, a family friend gave my mother a sign that read “A creative mess is better than tidy idleness” because it reminded her of our house. Rather than being offended, my mother laughed and put it on display in the kitchen for all to see. My mother taught me how to knit and crochet, so I definitely have her to blame for my fiber obsession. Who taught you to knit?

When I was 4 or 5 years old, I wanted to do everything my mother did. So she got me some nice little books aimed at children and taught me some fiber crafts. At the time, I liked embroidery the most. A few years later, I was in an all girls school run by nuns, and we were taught to knit and crochet there. At the age of 7 (this was around 1985), we started out with a single crochet chain that was glued around a plastic cup and served as a flower pot. After that, we crocheted a simple animal in the round (I think it was a mouse). Then we moved on to knitting. Projects got more and more complicated while we grew older. We were also taught to knit in the round, with 5 full length double pointed needles. That was a real challenge! I always enjoyed these crafts classes, but never managed to meet the deadline so in the end, my mother had to step up and take over in order for me to finish in time.
I consider these classes a valuable part of my education, and was very surprised to hear that they are no longer a part of the primary school curriculum. I’ll have to teach these skills to my children myself… I still have those little books my mother got me, so I am fully prepared!

What a shame that this has been discontinued! I have always envied the fact that many European educations include fiber arts. Many people here are so woefully ignorant that they will see me knitting, which they find fascinating, and then will ask me if I’m crocheting (and sometimes if I’m sewing!) They will often say rather sadly that their mother/grandmother/aunt (insert beloved female family member here) used to knit or crochet, but they, themselves, never learned and they think it would be too hard to learn now. I always encourage people to give it a try and have taught several people who were truly interested. I was so happy when it became clear that my daughter had caught the fiber bug, but it took some time for that to show. So my advice to you is to teach your children as soon as they show interest, but be patient because they may appear to lose interest for a time, but it will probably return a few years later.

Photo of Tapti Hat by Deirdre Lejeune
Tapti Hat by Deirdre Lejeune
©Deirdre Lejeune. Used with permission.

What made you decide to start designing?

I always get very clear and vivid images in my mind of what I want to knit with a particular yarn. For the last few years, the Ravelry search engine became a great resource to find patterns that matched the ideas in my head. But very often I could not find what I was looking for. That’s amazing, given the amount of patterns that are already out there. For me, this is proof of the unlimited possibilities in knitting. There will always be new ideas, new concepts, new combinations!

The more I thought about it, the more it appealed to me to create my own patterns. I’ve always been a “maker”, if I can make something myself I won’t buy it. So why not take it to the next level and create patterns, too? Especially now that online communities and services make it possible to self-publish your designs. There are so many options to get your patterns seen by the knitting community, it has made everything so much easier!

I completely agree. I think so many of us designers have the same story.

You live in Antwerp, which is known for its art, tapestries, lace and other textiles and has been a center of trade for over 600 years. How does living in such a historic place inspire your designs?

This city is a constant source of inspiration. First of all, there are a lot of very fashion-forward people here: students, designers, people from all over the world. When you walk the streets or sit down for a coffee, there are always interesting silhouettes, details or fabrics that catch my attention. Secondly there’s the wealth of book shops. When I have a moment to myself, I like to look at books about fashion and design, about fabrics and techniques. I am never out of ideas because of these books! I also want to mention the fashion museum here in Antwerp. They always have interesting exhibitions, of course not always knitwear related but that’s not necessary to get inspired!

Not to mention the fact that the city provides so many interesting backgrounds for photo shoots!

Which of your designs is your favorite and why?

Photo of Cornelia Sweater by Deirdre Lejeune
Cornelia Sweater by Dierdre Lejeune
©Deirdre Lejeune. Used with permission.

That’s a tough choice. I still like my very first design so much, and I wear it often, Cornelia sweater. Looking back, it was not the most logical thing to create a sweater, graded in multiple sizes, as a first pattern. But of course, when I started, i had no idea what it takes to make a pattern :-). It took forever to get it finished, I had to do so much research on grading and shaping, and then I had to research how to actually write it down! And just when I thought I was done, I had to get nice pictures, and my first experience with a tech editor, and my first interactions with test knitters… I’ve learned so much! And when it finally got published, I was extremely proud. That’s why that pattern will always have a special place for me.

I was amazed when I realized that your first published design was a sweater! I have yet to produce a pattern that requires grading because I decided to start with items that don’t require sizing and then work my way up to that.

But at the moment, I’m very happy with my Irena wrap. It really came out the way it was intended, and it was received so well! This was the first pattern that gave me some recognition as a designer, and I really needed that reassurance. So that pattern will always be special for me as well.

Photo of Irena Wrap by Deirdre Lejeune
Irena Wrap by Deirdre Lejeune
©Deirdre Lejeune. Used with permission.

I think many people agree with you, as Irena is currently your most popular pattern. It is very cleverly constructed.

What is your favorite aspect of designing?

I really enjoy the creative part: making an idea in your head come to life, finding out which techniques and materials will work and which won’t work, etcetera. I really like swatching and I very much enjoy doing all the maths.

And what is your least favorite?

Creating a design is one thing, but a design is not yet a pattern. The actual pattern writing is a chore, because a pattern has to be understandable for everyone and not just for yourself. It takes a lot of time to make a clear and concise pattern, with enough information to make it useable but not so much to make it too long or tedious. I’m lucky to have found a tech editor that I have a good interaction with, she always has great suggestions. I also rely on feedback from test knitters on how to make my patterns better.

Making clear pictures of a design that are appealing to other knitters is also a difficult aspect. It’s so much harder than you think!

Yes, I agree. I’ve learned to write the pattern as I go along because it is just too difficult and depressing to have a finished object that has turned out just as you hoped, but then you still have to make sense out of a pile of scribbled notes in order to explain how to make it.

What can you tell us about your new design that is coming out soon?

It’s a colorwork cowl that can be worn doubled and it’s knitted in the round. It has been finished for a while now, but I’m not happy with the pictures. It’s going to be a clear and bright weekend, so I’m planning to do a final photoshoot tomorrow. Wish me luck!

Hopefully by the time this post goes live you will have great photos and can share your new design with all of us!

Thanks very much for your time.

Deirdre is very generously giving one of her patterns away to one of you lucky readers. Please leave a comment here before December 2 at 9:00 PM Pacific Time and I will randomly select a winner.

TKGA Report: Level 3 Hat More Progress

Photo of third swatch for the Fair Isle tam
Yet another swatch…

Here is the final (I think) swatch for my tam. As you can see, I have vastly simplified the color scheme by sticking with the medium purple color throughout for the background. While some might find this not as visually exciting as using a range of colors, I prefer the unity that it provides, which focuses the attention on the stitch patterns. I didn’t change the ribbing at all from the previous swatch (in fact, I ripped that one back to the ribbing, then picked up the stitches to make this one).

I think that I have figured out the wheel section, although this swatch illustrates a couple of problems. Notice how the two large black crosses collide with the decrease line; I have now adjusted the spacing on the chart so this won’t happen in the final hat. I have also reconfigured and simplified some of the smaller black crosses and added a row of purple between the black line and the start of the cross designs to give them a bit of breathing room.

Finally, I’m not entirely sure about the use of black for that section. I really like the contrast with the purple, but the black dye seems to make for a slightly heavier yarn, which makes the stitches a tiny bit larger than the purple ones. I think this effect may be exaggerated by the fact that this hasn’t been blocked yet and by the way I am swatching with cut lengths of yarn, so I am going to see how it goes in the real hat when I get there.

I need to make and block a small swatch using fresh yarn to confirm the gauge and then I’ll be ready to start knitting at last!

Interview with author and designer Larissa Brown – Part 2

This is the second part of my interview with author and designer Larissa Brown (LarissaBrown) The first part of the interview can be found here.

It’s hard to choose from among the 81 patterns in your Ravelry shop, but I think I would have to say that my favorite is Lichen. (And I have a lot of company there because it has been favorited 3,628 times!) Do you have a favorite and why?

Haha, I had to go look at my own design page on Ravelry, because I can’t remember what I’ve done.

Right now, my favorite (which I actually wear, which is not usual) is the Whale Road hood. I can tell it’s not going to be a popular one with the knitting public, and that’s fine. I love it. I think it’s weird and cool. I’d say that the Falconry Gauntlets are a favorite, because they’re so nerdy. The On Off Shawl and Layer Cake Blanket are two favorites, because they were instances where I pulled off what I intended without suffering. Same with Lichen, which I designed and knit in two days. It came out the way I intended when I drew it in my notebook, very naturally and smoothly, without problems. I love when it seems like a design is meant to be, not something I have to slog against to finish.

Photo of Lichen shawl by Larissa Brown
Lichen by Larissa Brown
©Martin John Brown. Used with permission.

Photo of Whale Road hoodie by Larissa Brown
Whale Road by Larissa Brown
©Larissa Brown. Used with permission.

Photo of Falconry Gauntlets by Larissa Brown
Falconry Gauntlets by Larissa Brown
©Larissa Brown. Used with permission.

On Off Shawl by Larissa Brown ©Larissa Brown. Used with permission.
On Off Shawl by Larissa Brown
©Larissa Brown. Used with permission.

Photo of Layer Cake Blanket by Larissa Brown
Layer Cake Blanket by Larissa Brown
©Larissa Brown. Used with permission.

Those gauntlets were a close second choice for me. They are so dramatic!

I know what you mean about how some pieces just seem to design themselves, while others have to be dragged into the world kicking and screaming. I have a couple of those types on the go now. When I get annoyed with one of them, I’ll put it on a time out and switch to the other one for awhile. It gets kind of depressing when progress is slow, but it’s exhilarating when the design just flows from your head to your hands and flies off the needles.

As indie designers, we have to wear a lot of hats. What is your favorite aspect of designing knitwear?

Seeing the very different ways that knitters approach a design and the huge range of results. It still amazes me how much variety can be seen when hundreds of people work from the same pattern. I wrote about this in my book Knitalong and online all over the place when I did my Meathead Hat installation, and it has always been my favorite part of designing.

Photo of Meathead Hat by Larissa Brown
Meathead Hat by Larissa Brown
©Larissa Brown. Used with permission.

And your least favorite?

I guess just the reverse–releasing a pattern that does not get made by many people. I have a few underdogs that I have affection for that just don’t get out there. I’ve included a couple in the GAL, such as a cute hat my son designed when he was 5 years old, and a very simple eyelet shawl that I think is lovely. Sales are not as relevant in terms of how I feel about designing, though money is important. The Shift Shawl is so fun–creating a sort of manual gradient–and I’d love to see more of what people bring to it and do with it.

Photo of Shift Shawl by Larissa Brown.
Shift Shawl by Larissa Brown
©Larissa Brown. Used with permission.

Can you tell us something about a new design you are currently working on?

I’m trying not to work on one! I’m working on my next book and want to devote precious hours to that. For fun, I’m knitting projects I’ve been letting sit. I’m making the Undertow shawl by Toby Roxane Barna and the Mitered Crosses Blanket from Kay Gardiner. I have ideas in mind all the time, including one for an MKAL shawl, and I write them down or try to let them float away.

Can’t wait to see what you come up with next!

Selected patterns from Larissa’s shop are on sale for 25% off as part of the 2014 Gift-A-Long on Ravelry. The sale ends Friday, November 21, 2014 at 11:59 pm US EST, but the Gift-A-Long continues until New Year’s Eve. Finished Objects made from any of the paid patterns from the 293 participating designers are eligible for prizes, so stop by and join in the fun.

TKGA Report: Level 3 Hat Progress

Photo of tam swatch
Yet another swatch for the elusive Fair Isle tam. Click on the photo to enlarge.

I put the tam on a time out, but then I came back to it and knit another swatch. I am definitely making progress, but it is very slow. When I am designing, I am usually pretty decisive. I will make a swatch and can decide right away whether or not it is working, and furthermore, I can usually figure out why it isn’t working, which leads me to a solution. However, I am finding that figuring out the stitch patterns and the color patterns at the same time is very challenging. This swatch shows more experiments with both. I am having a hard time deciding because there are so many possibilities, and so far, none of them has leapt to the fore and shouted “I’m the one!”

I think that I am now happy with the stitch patterns for the ribbing and the band. As for the colors, I was not happy with what I had knit, so I used duplicate stitch to try out other colors in place of the ones I didn’t like. What I finally decided is that I am using too many colors, so I am eliminating the blues and the yellow, leaving purples, pinks, grays and black. I took one more stab at varying the colors in the corrugated ribbing, but this time I left the purl stitches all one color and varied the knit stitches, which makes for clearer delineations. I like this effect, and this will be the ribbing pattern I will use. I found The Art of Fair Isle Knitting by Ann Feitelson very helpful for this. She is a master of colorful corrugated ribbing, sometimes varying the colors on both the knit and purl columns. I think these work best when the colors in a group are very close to each other, so you get a subtle shading as the colors shift. I realized that the steps between the colors that I am using are too wide to achieve this effect, so that will have to wait for another project. On the right side of the swatch you can see where I forgot to knit all the stitches of the first row, but then I remembered about halfway through. This is why you can see the gray purl bumps peeking through the black; these will not be in the final project.

I like the stitch pattern in the blue band, but as I said, I am going to eliminate the blue yarns because I think it is just too much. I will use the medium purple as the background color throughout, and I will use the maroon color in place of the dark blue pattern. The center stitches will be the light pink. I may swatch this, or I may throw caution to the winds and just start knitting. I am getting tired of swatching!

I like the purple diamond band as it is, except I will use the dark pink for the center row, instead of the maroon, because I think it reads better. I have also decided to mirror the dark purple peerie pattern at the bottom and top of the band, rather than using different patterns as I did here.

Then there is the wheel section. Heavy sigh. I am having so much trouble with this section! My brain is having a tough time seeing how the pie wedge of stitches works into a seven-part wheel. The two books that I have found the most helpful for this section are Knitting Tams: Charted Fair Isle Designs by Mary Rowe and Traditional Fair Isle Knitting by Sheila McGregor.

Mary Rowe’s tams are gorgeous, and she uses a highly efficient method of charting that uses only two black and white symbols to convey both the stitch and the color information. Genius! Sheila McGregor’s book offers much about the history and some advice about designing, but the bulk of the book is devoted to stitch patterns that are composed of black dots on graph paper. I found this was really helpful to me because it took color completely out of the equation allowing me to focus on the pattern itself and then add the colors later, which made the task less overwhelming. Another reference that I used was 200 Fair Isle Motifs by Mary Jane Mucklestone, which presents many of the same stitch patterns actually knitted into swatches and graphed using colored squares. This was a great way to see how the colors can play across the pattern, but I found it difficult to imagine the pattern knit with my colors, which was why, at least for now, it was helpful to have the black dot format to work from.

So, it looks like I have more work to do on the wheel section before I am ready to cast on for real. Hopefully I will figure it out soon because I have given myself a deadline of the end of the year to finish this hat. Stay tuned to see if I make it!

Note: I have not received any compensation for posting these links. They are here solely to help you find the books if they are of interest to you.

Interview with author and designer Larissa Brown – Part 1

Gull Cowl by Larissa Brown
Gull by Larissa Brown
©L. Brown. Used with permission.

Larissa Brown (LarissaBrown) is the author of two books about knitting, Knitalong and My Grandmother’s Knitting, as well as a new novel about a woman from the 22nd century traveling through time to a Viking settlement in 10th century Iceland. She is also a prolific knitwear designer who is participating in the 2014 Gift-A-Long on Ravelry. Larissa graciously took time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions.

This year your first novel, Beautiful Wreck, was published, and you have released 16 knitting patterns. What is the secret to your amazing productivity?

That was a lot in one year, now that you mention it! I’ve been known to try to do everything, and for a year I had a sign on the kitchen door that said “NO NEW IDEAS.” To make it work, I get help. This year, I worked together with my amazing friend Michelle Kroll (rainmomma) who did a TON of the work on the Shieldmaiden Knits collection. I have wonderful test and sample knitters, and most important, my family is supportive–both in giving me time to work and also reminding me to step away from it.

The work on my book took place over the two prior years, but this year I’m writing the second one. There is a very welcoming writing group on ravelry called Pens & Needles, where members plan ahead for each month’s goals. Planning ahead is another thing that makes it possible to do so many projects. The trick is to plan without your work getting rigid or un-fun. I’ve gotten a lot better at it as I’ve gotten older.

I need a sign like that! I often have trouble focusing on a design and getting it finished because I keep getting distracted by the next great idea that pops into my head.

You mentioned your new ebook, Shieldmaiden Knits, which has just been released. These seven accessory patterns were inspired by the research into Viking style that you did for your novel. Can you tell us more about the inspiration for these pieces?

Vikings were artists. If you look at their jewelry and everyday objects like needlecases and drinking horns chased with silver, you see their love of beauty. I tried to use the gorgeous Malabrigo yarns to dream up ideas that seemed epic and beautiful to me. I tried not to worry about whether people would like them or many knitters would make them. It was hard, because I’m a pleaser and want people to like my designs, so I don’t think I went big enough.

As a fiction writer of time travel love stories, I personally have (and I cultivate in my books) a very rosy view of Viking settlement in Iceland. In reality, I’m sure it was a struggle I can’t even imagine, and sometimes miserable. But I feel strongly that the Vikings settlers’ lives were punctuated with moments of intense beauty, just being in that landscape and living off the land, the way it was over a thousand years ago. And I believe Vikings were romantics, who placed a value on love. I tried to absorb that as I did my research and visited Iceland. I think these years of studying Viking culture just naturally went into the knitting collection.

It is a fine line. I try to design what I want to design, but at the same time, I do keep an eye on how many exotic techniques it will require to execute because, what good is the most beautiful design in the world if people get intimidated and don’t want to knit it? On the other hand, I totally agree that thinking too much about what other people may or may not like is a sure way to kill what was special about the design. I like the way that the collection features lacy stitch patterns and simple shapes in mostly bulky and rustic yarns to evoke that place and time, yet are completely wearable today.

In my next post, Larissa plays favorites!

Getting Ready…

The Indie Designer Gift-A-Long is almost here!

What is a Gift-A-Long, you ask? Just a 2-month-long KAL/CAL of holiday gifts made from patterns designed by independent designers.

Check out these stats about the participating designers, as compiled by Kimberly Golynskiy (80skeins, Kimberly’s blog)

a chart showing 2014 Gift-A-Long stats.
2014 Gift-A-Long stats

From Thursday, November 13th at 8:00 pm US EST through Friday, November 21, 2014 at 11:59 pm US EST, 293 indie designers (including me!) will be offering a 25% discount on selected patterns in their Ravelry shops. You can read all about the details here.

KAL/CALs will run from Thursday, November 13 at 8pm (US-EST) through New Years Eve, Wednesday, December 31 at midnight (US-EST). There will be games, prizes, great conversation, and a lot of fun. Hope you will join us!

To celebrate the start, I will have a special post in which I interview novelist and indie designer Larissa Brown. Stay tuned!

TKGA Report: Level 3 Hat

Now that I am finished with the required Level 3 swatches and written responses and reports, “all” that’s standing between me and the designation of “master knitter” are two projects: a hat and a sweater, one of which must be in the Fair Isle style and the other in the Aran style, and both of which must be designed by me.

Saying “all” is like saying, “all” that stands between Southampton, England and New York City is 3,400 miles of ocean.

I have decided to tackle the hat first. After much dithering, I decided to make a Fair Isle tam. My reasons for this are that I think these stitch patterns look best when knit at a very fine gauge (7-8 stitches per inch). Just the thought of knitting an entire sweater of heavily patterned colorwork at such a gauge gives me a headache. The doubled yarn makes for a lovely dense fabric, but here in Los Angeles, we don’t really have much use for such a heavy sweater. However, I always have a knit hat in the pocket of my “winter” coat (which would make most people laugh because they would think it fine for the first few weeks of fall) and use it frequently for my wintertime walks. Mostly though, I love the look of a tam.

So, a lovely tammie. But where to begin? I chose the colors and ordered the yarn a month ago. Then we moved back into our house after having been away for 9 months during a major remodel. The re-entry was pretty rough, but I won’t bore you with the details. Suffice it to say that there was not much knitting going on for the first three weeks.

But things are settling down, and I have been diligently working on this hat for the past week. It seems like I am not really getting anywhere. I am making invisible progress because, although I have charted and knit several swatches, I have ripped them out almost as soon as they were finished because I was just not happy with them. I am swatching in the round, which means that I am using cut lengths of yarn for each row. In order to save yarn as I work out my design ideas, I decide which parts I think are working and which parts are not, then rip it back and start all over again. Each time I start a new swatch I think, “This is going to be the one.” But as you can see, so far I have worked out only the corrugated ribbing and the first band. In the process, I am learning a lot about how these patterns and colors work, but it has been slow going.

I have worked out my knit and row gauges, and the math that goes with them, so I have a preliminary idea of how many stitches and rows I will be working with. I used this yarn to make my Level 2 wristlet project, so I know that the gauge doesn’t really change that much with blocking, but this will all have to be confirmed by knitting the final swatch with fresh yarn and blocking it. Whenever I decide I have gotten to the final swatch. Which will be soon, I hope. Or maybe not. I may take a break from this and work on something else for awhile. Sometimes that helps. Or I might just keep bashing away at it. We’ll see.