Tuesday, September 2, 2014

"Pay If You Want" -- Revised

An upcoming pattern: Inclination
Just a quick note about Rodeo Knits: I've decided to discontinue the "pay if you want" experiment I started about 15 months ago. In those 15 months, I only had 14 requests for free patterns. I'm a little surprised by those numbers; I suspected they would be higher.

I see quite a few downloads of my free patterns on Ravelry, but not so many requests for paid patterns for free. I wonder if the mechanism I put in place to request a free pattern was just too much for knitters that would impulse download free patterns and then never knit them. There was still a cost and the cost (name, email, pattern requested, some information in exchange for the pattern) was just too high.

I'm tempted to try an experiment where I put a coupon code on Ravelry for any pattern for free and see what happens. Last autumn, I offered two cowls to one group on Ravelry and, wow, did they get used a lot. I loved it. The coupon was used 348 times!

Thanks for stopping by for this short post. Stay tuned for the baby blanket I'll work on while you follow along.

Friday, August 29, 2014

"We're Having a Baby!"

Baby blanket designing in process
Is there another phrase that instantly sets a knitter into motion like "We're having a baby!" from one of your friends? Or friend of a friend? Or family member of a friend of a friend? It's definitely a major trigger, along the lines of "This winter is going to be the coldest winter in living memory."

The last time I heard those four words, it was uttered by my parents in reference to their friends. (No, I don't have another little brother/sister on the way. One is more than enough and he's got two great kids of his own and I'm happy just to be Fun Uncle Steve.) So, of course, it sets off a series of questions I'm sure you're familiar with:
  • Boy or girl? -- Girl!
  • Traditional or non-traditional? -- Surprise me!
  • Fussy or easy going? -- Easy going!
  • Good friends or acquaintances? -- Great friends!
  • Pink, purple or yellow? -- All of the above. And gray! And lots of color! They're not afraid of color!
By the way, "not afraid of color" is another four-word-phrase I love to hear. I like to think I have pretty decent color sense, even if old pictures of me in seafoam green dress pants and bright pink button down shirt with yellow tie might tell you another story. I'd share those pictures but I'm not sure the pixels on your monitor are ready for that kind of horror.

So now I'm working on a baby blanket for a new little girl that won't arrive until December. That's plenty of time to finish a blanket for just about anyone, depending on how ambitious you want to be. I, maybe not smartly, want to be very ambitious.

So here's my design process for this blanket:
  • It's for a baby so I don't want a blanket that's heavy, rough, scratchy, difficult to wash.
  • Pick a yarn that feels nice to the touch, easy care and light.
  • Pick a pattern that's fun and interesting for me to knit.
  • Buy enough yarn for the pattern I have in mind.
  • Knit.
I start by looking through yarns and patterns on Ravelry, especially for baby blankets, to see what yarns other people are using and I also think back on yarns I've used before and I might enjoy again. Last winter, I taught a knitting class using SimpliWorsted by Hikoo and liked it a lot. I looked up it's smaller cousin, Simplicity, and decided that would the perfect yarn for this project. Time will tell.

In the project "brief," I was given the colors gray and pink as a jumping off point. I picked out a gray and a pink that I liked together and then, for fun and to flesh out the scheme, added two darker pinks, a lavender and, for a splash of color, a bright citronella.

For pattern ideas, I turned again to Ravelry and also Pinterest. Most of the baby blankets I came across, though pretty, relied on stripes for multiple colors and I'm not really into stripes right now. No stripes and no ripples and no chevrons. I broadened my search from baby blankets. For example, a blanket pattern might get some inspiration from quilt patterns. In fact, this current blanket takes a little inspiration from the modern quilt idea. One of my favorite quilt ideas is larger blocks of patterns stacked or in a line and put together in a random manner.

So now I have six colors and the idea to have blocks of pattern/color and a border around the whole blanket. Enter Barbara Walker and her stitch dictionaries, in particular, Volumes 1 and 2 (blue and red). I picked out quite a few different patterns, matched them together, fudged pattern repeats and lengths and finally settled on seven patterns:
Roxanna, the baby blanket
  • faux/mistake rib for border
  • slip stitch cable
  • slip stitch texture
  • knit/purl diamonds
  • knit/purl woven blocks
  • stockinette lace
  • knit/purl lace
Randomly assign colors to patterns, move patterns around, use Excel for pattern placement and now I have the basic framework of a baby blanket pattern, tentatively called "Roxanna" after the new baby's mother.

I'd like to invite anyone that wants to join to get in on the baby blanket knitting fun with me. I've already worked at putting a design together and I'll share it freely with anyone that comes to the website to get it. After we finish the knitting, and if we're happy with it, I'll put the pattern together and offer it for sale on Ravelry.

For this project, I'm using Size US 6/4mm needles and I purchased the following colors of Simplicity by Hikoo (it also helped that the yarn was on sale at FiberWild!):
  • four skeins Gun Metal Gray (#37)
  • two skeins Bubblegum (#21)
  • one skein Make Me Blush (#44)
  • one skein Framboise (#14)
  • one skein Lavender (#23)
  • one skein Citronella (#06)
I can't stress enough that I don't know for sure that this is enough yarn. I haven't done specific maths and I haven't knit the blanket all the way through yet. This is my jumping off point. If you're knitting along with me, I expect you to use your best judgment and, if you decide to buy more yarn and have too much, how awesome would a matching Baby Surprise Jacket be?!

In the next post, I'll discuss casting on and the border pattern. I'd love to know if you're knitting along with me. Let me know in the comments, on Ravelry or on Twitter.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Exciting Things Are Happening: A Real-Live Book!

60 Quick Luxury Knits

60 Quick Luxury Knits, published by
Sixth&Spring Books. Photography by
Jack Deutsch and text copyright © 2014
by Sixth&Spring Books. Used by permission.
It's happening!

I'm so excited to let you know that I'm included in the newest installment of the "60 Quick" books from Sixth and Spring: "60 Quick Luxury Knits." I've had my first looks at the other projects in the book and I'm definitely in great company, some very beautiful projects have been selected and mine is one of them.

Introducing the Solid and Stripes Infinity Scarf.

It's knit with Cascade Yarns Venezia Sport in two colors. The denim blue and spring green are a bright and cheerful mix of colors but I could imagine this in so many other great color combinations: think school colors or black and white or monochrome or one self-striping and one solid or even variegated. It's knit in the round, a long tube, and then grafted together for a seamless tube. And the intarsia section (switching from one color to the other) is so simple you will hardly need to keep your pattern handy once you get started.

This is a super exciting time for me and everyone (okay, it's just me) at Rodeo Knits. "60 Quick Luxury Knits" will be released in August and I just learned last week that I'll be included in another exciting project. Of course, I can't talk about it yet because, well, mainly I don't know much but as soon as I do/can, I'll post here first. Actually, probably on Twitter first but then here. Definitely.

If you want your own copy of "60 Quick Luxury Knits", check out your local yarn store or, if you want, you can order from Amazon here: 60 Quick Luxury Knits: Easy, Elegant Projects for Every Day in the Venezia Collection from Cascade Yarns® (60 Quick Knits Collection). (Side note, if you order by clicking that link, I get a little tiny bit of thank-you from Amazon.)

Happy knitting!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Yarn, a Building and a New Scarf

Recently I've been swatching and experimenting with a new-ish yarn from Classic Elite Yarns called Cerro. It's the dyed version of the naturally-colored cotton/alpaca blend Canyon. Initial reaction: buy it and use it.

First, the look -- a sport weight yarn, Cerro comes in a variety of more muted, dusty colors. Canyon has a smaller variety of similarly-hued natural colors. Unlike some other yarns with both dyed/undyed versions, Cerro and Canyon work well together. There is a very slight sheen to the yarn, more like eggshell-finish paint than satin finish. In other words, not flat. The yarns capture and reflect light just enough to be very interesting. 

Second, the feel -- I haven't used a cotton/alpaca blend before and I'm hooked. Soft like cotton and smooth like fine alpaca, there are no fly aways or fluff. I did have a little trouble splitting the plies if I was a little too careless, but nothing that was unmanageable. A quick unknitting and fixing the split stitch was all that I needed to do to fix it and, unlike other splitty yarns, once I fixed it, the plies settled back into each other and there were no remnants of the error. (Other yarns, the split ply stays a little more stretched out.)

I swatched with several different sizes of needles before settling on a project. At US4, US 5 and US6, the yarn behaves well and maintains excellent drape. It was never too stiff. Using a US7, larger than the yarn band suggests, is perfect for a lace scarf and the feel is perfect for close to the neck wear. I'm not an expert, but I also think the alpaca lends itself to blocking and helps prevent the cotton from being too heavy.

And now for the part where I can't think of a good transition so we just switch to another semi-related topic:

Masonic Temple
Hale Street and Virginia Street, Charleston, WV

Temple Windows Scarf
There is a building at the corner of Hale and Virginia Streets in downtown Charleston, WV with (to me) very beautiful architectural details. I've lived in this town for a long time and didn't really know what the building was, if it had a name, etc. I just know I like it. I love the arches and the points at the windows and at the top of the building. A quick search online and I now know it's the Masonic Temple of Charleston. Who knew that was a real thing? (I only thought Masons were only a plot in "National Treasure.")

I took the shapes of the arches, the long windows, the points and melded them all together and sketched out a lace pattern to highlight Cerro. Last weekend, I finished, washed and blocked the scarf and I'm very pleased with the results. In the preview picture (in black and white because I was experimenting with the camera on my phone and didn't save the original), I hope you can see the arches, the points and the way they work together that might have been inspired by the Masonic Temple.

I'm very pleased with the end result. There are garter stitch columns between the lace "windows", adding just a little extra texture but not overpowering the lace. And the lace is fairly simple - plain purl rows on the back and many of the right side rows are the same (shifted to the side by half a repeat), so once you are familiar with the stitch pattern, you only need to refer to the chart once in a while to make sure you're on track.

The pattern for Temple Windows is now available on Ravelry! I think it's something you'll like and I definitely suggest you try Classic Elite Yarns Cerro; it's a wonderful yarn and feels so nice. Even though my finished scarf is an orchid pink/purple color, I'll definitely be wearing it this winter before it gets so cold that I default to heavy wools.

Through July 31, 2014, buy Temple Windows for and receive 30% off! (No coupon code needed.)