Saturday, November 11, 2017

Overbrook Shawl - Lace and Color for Everyone

November 11, 2017

The Umbrellas standing in as a
backdrop for Blackbird Knob Hat
A little more than a year ago, I came across an Instagram post for a yarn that reminded me so strongly of my grandmother that I immediately bought it. My grandmother was a painter and one of my favorite of those paintings is of a cluster of colorful umbrellas in a grey moody rainy day. You've probably seen it in the background of some of my project pictures.

My family affectionately calls it "The Umbrellas" and, I don't know, it just speaks to me. I generally enjoy grey rainy days and moody weather but the splashes of colors are perfect for bringing a little happiness and brightness to the world.

So when I was scrolling through Instagram and saw a post by AlexCreates showing off the new "6 Train Rainbow" color he had dyed, I was struck so strongly how much it brought to mind The Umbrellas. How could I resist? I also snagged a skein of a matching semi-solid grey called Concrete.

At some point, I had also seen a Kristy Glass YouTube video interview with Alex and another where she talks about a sweater that mixed granny square crochet and knitting together. All of these inspirations just spiraled around inside my head and I put them together in a new shawl: Overbrook Shawl.

I'm always looking for a new way to use variegated yarns that won't fight with my first love, lace patterns. In my opinion, and remember, it's just an opinion, lace and variegated yarns don't always get along. Either the lace gets lost of the variegated yarns aren't shown off as pretty as they could be.

The other "problem" with lace - problem in quotation marks because I don't necessarily think it's a problem - is that lace has a feminine reputation. Personally, I love to wear my lace shawls and scarves but, admittedly, I don't spread them out to show off the pattern. I think I mainly like how they can be both light and warm at the same time.

But with Overbrook, I have a lace shawl that doesn't read feminine and isn't obscured by the beautiful hand-dyed yarn. The stitches are light granny square stitches but it's all knitting!

Oh, you'd probably like to see a picture, huh?

Overbrook Shawl is now available on both Ravelry and LoveKnitting. It's been tech edited by a wonderful editor and tested by a new friend! I love how knitting brings us together with people across borders and around the world.

I can't wait to see your finished projects. As usual, tag me (@RodeoKnits everywhere) so I can see what you're making!



Sunday, October 8, 2017

Lace and Tucks and Short Rows!

October 08, 2017
Say hello to the newest member of the Rodeo Knits pattern family: Venable Shawl!

I'm unashamed and unabashed about my current love affair with tuck stitches. Coincidentally, the knitting world seems currently to be having a massive love affair with brioche knitting, which I consider a cousin of tuck stitches.

Brioche is a stitch that can be worked either with yarn over stitches or working into the stitch below. Each forms a fabric that is practically the same as the other, but can present different difficulties for the knitter and designer. I've used both and probably prefer the method with yarn over stitches; I find it's faster for me because you're really skipping every other stitch.

Tuck stitches can also be worked the same as brioche but are generally worked either over multiple stitches or multiple rows. Venable Shawl uses tuck stitches that carry over seven(!) rows so the yarn over method is vastly easier than counting down and knitting into the stitch seven rows below -- that would drive me bonkers.

I really wanted a yarn that shows off the tuck stitches and I think the yarn I used for my Venable Shawl accomplishes that perfectly. I used Queensland Collection Oxley, a 50/50 blend of wool and yak -- YAK! -- that is smooth and strong and soft and practically flows off your needles. It blocks out well and holds stitch definition, showing off all of your hard work.

Venable Shawl also uses short rows and combines them with a strong lace stitch. If you don't like short rows, or just really prefer the main lace pattern, I think just continuing the lace stitch would be amazing -- a rectangular shawl with a beautiful and bold lace.

I can't wait to see all the gorgeous versions of Venable Shawl you'll knit and the yarns you'll choose. My test knitters have already given me so many great ideas for other yarns I want to try, including a really gorgeous version in a purple to pink gradient.

To kick off Autumn 2017, Venable Shawl will be 50% off for the rest of October (2017, for you future readers), no coupon code required! It is also be available on Loveknitting.com.

Happy knitting!


Saturday, September 30, 2017

3 Way to Make Your Knitting Less Stressful

September 30, 2017
Joining the folded hem on The Gigi Hat
(read on for a little backstory)
I read somewhere that blog posts with "number of ways to [blank]" are more eye catching and people like them more. I don't know why; they always irritate me. But heck, I'll do it anyway.

I used to teach a lot of knitting classes before "real" life got in the way. One time I even went on riverboat cruise (with a genuine sternwheeler!) and taught a beginner's lace pattern -- that was the pattern "24 Carats" available on Ravelry (free!) and so named because there are 24 diamonds and you can practice three different double decreases.

I'm the first to admit that I'm not very good at teaching brand new knitters; I haven't had enough practice to develop the right language to make knitting "click" in someone's brain. But I genuinely love to teach new knitters to expand their skills and abilities.

When I would teach a class, there were several things I would repeat over and over again. I don't know if it was helpful or not, but no one ever told me to stop. (I'm sure some of my old students would be able to tell you, yes, he used to say those things. A lot.)

  1. "It's Just Knitting." -- It's just yarn and two sticks. The fate of the world does not rest in your hands. Enjoy yourself. If you make a mistake, don't panic because there are really only two options: fix it (either rip back or some other method of "fixing"), or forget it. And you know what kind of person you are. If you can ignore a mistake and still be happy, forget it; if you will always focus on the mistake every time you see the project, fix it.
  2. "It Will Fit Someone." -- This mainly applied to hats and scarves, projects that either don't have to fit perfectly, or are small enough that you can knit them relatively quickly. (A little secret about my hat designs: I've never swatched any of them for gauge before I knitted them, only after when writing the pattern.) Especially for hats, they will fit someone. Is the baby hat too small or too big? I don't know. It will fit a baby!
  3. "There Is No Right or Wrong, There Is Only Generally Accepted." -- So many times I'd hear a knitter complain "I'm not doing it right" or "What is the right way to work this stitch" and I'd always say "Generally, most knitters/most books will tell you to do [this], but the end result is [that] so however you get there is good." This applied a lot to techniques like left-leaning decreases, cables and, oddly, stockinette. (The stockinette was probably mainly because a lot of people knit twisted and I'd explain the difference but, you know what, a lot of people knit a lot of twisted stitch patterns! Who am I to judge?)
A little bit more on that third point? There are so many self-appointed knitting police out there in the world (and no actual knitting police) that it can be difficult to find your own way, especially when you're new to a craft. I refuse to listen to them. You can if you want; but I think you'd be less stressed if you didn't.

And I'd like to tack on a 4th thing: "Patterns Are Usually Guidelines." Now I know this would sound counter-intuitive, but I'll elaborate. Yes, the numbers and stitch pattern and such - if you don't follow them, you may not end up with the pattern you envisioned. But maybe that's a good thing. There are so many reasons to change stitch counts (sizing) or patterns (maybe you hate cables but love the shape of the finished design). But the other place where you should use the pattern as a guideline: techniques.

I recently was trying to occupy some time in a hotel room on vacation and had packed two balls of Rowan Felted Tweed Aran from my stash and found a really great pattern on Raverly: The Gigi Hat by Margot Allen (free!). It's a different shape than I'd knitted before so I was curious to see how it would work up. Plus it has my favorite thing in a hat, a folded hem.

I whipped out my yarn and appropriate needles (no gauge swatch, see Point 2 above) and then read down the pattern: "With scrap yarn and using your favorite provisional cast on method..." Uh oh. Don't get me wrong; I love a provisional cast on--my personal favorite is crochet cast on and quite a few of my patterns use it--but I'm 6 hours from home with only a few knitting supplies and no scrap yarn.

So I just started with long tail cast on and got stitches on the needle and got started. I know that I can pick up from the cast on edge; I've done it before. And you know what, it worked this time, too. And I learned that there isn't a HUGE benefit to going through the provisional cast on. Yes, the inside edge isn't as neat but, guess what? No one will ever see it. Well, maybe whoever wears the hat, but it's INSIDE!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Sometimes Titles Are Difficult So This Is The One Where I Talk About What I Watch When I Knit

September 10, 2017
Knitters knit and crocheters crochet everywhere. Anywhere. It's one benefit to the hobby. Unlike, say, dressmaking or quilting or furniture building or piano playing, I can knit pretty much anywhere. But this means I mainly just carry a knitting project around a lot and then sit on my couch and knit while I watch television. I'm not even ashamed.

I mean, should I probably get more exercise? Yep, but then that cuts into knitting time and I need to knit more and design more and become a world famous knitting designer. Or maybe I should skip the knitting for a while, exercise a whole bunch, eat healthy and then, when I'm really "hot", take lots of pictures of me knitting and become famous that way.

Sitting on the couch sounds easier.

Besides, if I didn't sit on the couch, knit and watch television, I wouldn't be able to have conversations with strangers about television shows. It's such an easy way to find common ground.

In 2017, though, it's more than just television. There are so many different options for consuming media at home that it can be difficult to narrow it down. I'm one of those darned cord-cutters the cable industry hates but, fortunately for them, I'm still addicted to the internet; that's how I get all the media.

Let's do a run-down of what I'm watching when I knit (and sometimes when I'm just laying on the couch like a bump on a log. And I'd love to get suggestions from you, too! Don't be shy.

Netflix

Pretty much the holy grail for media in a cord-cutter's home, Netflix used to fuel the bulk of my entertainment time. Lately, I've found myself watching less and less, mainly tuning in when I just want some background noise.

It's a bit on the nose, but I definitely recommend "Slow TV: National Knitting Evening." It's perfect for just background noise and gentle entertainment. I mean, the most exciting thing is... It's not exciting. I'll be perfectly honest. And because I don't speak Norwegian, I miss a lot -- sometimes it's difficult to read subtitles and knit -- but I don't even care. I still love it.
For sheer ridiculousness and jokes I'll always laugh at, I will always turn to "The IT Crowd." I'm not even going to try to explain it. Just do it.
And one more favorite that I've watched multiple times, and will watch again and again: "Better Off Ted." The cast is fantastic, the situations ridiculous, the dialogue snappy. The most disappointing thing is finding out the show was cancelled too early and there aren't enough episodes.

Amazon Prime

I absolutely cannot recommend more the series "BrainDead" on Amazon Prime. If you're trying to make sense of today's really confusing political climate in a way that is absolutely nonsensical, watch this series. It follows Laurel, her pals Gustave and Rochelle, and her philandering brother/senator, as they investigate space bugs. Space bugs! Bonus, every episode begins with an amazing recap song like this one:

YouTube

Don't fight it anymore; join the YouTube revolution. It's not just stupid cat videos and kids badly lip syncing to terrible pop songs. I've discovered so many cool things but mainly I love to watch people create. It's so inspiring to just be "around" creative people and feed off of their positive energy. It makes me want to learn and try new things. On the knitting side of things, I'd suggest Grocery Girls Knit, kristyglassknits and the new podcast Dogstar Knits.

The Grocery Girls are funny and prolific knitters and really encourage other knitters. They've got a second show on the Craftsy channel called "Off Our Needles". Kristy Glass has some really great interviews with people in the knitting/yarn crafting world (typically, I loved her "Man"ch series - interviews in March with men who knit). Dogstar Knits is a husband and wife duo that has a really chill aesthetic. Dogstar Knits only has four episodes so far but fingers crossed for a lot more.

It's really interesting to see how people approach the knitting lifestyle from many different angles--as crafters, as interviewers and as designers and dyers. These are the kinds of videos I like to watch to make me a better member of the knitting community.

But on the non-knitting side of YouTube, don't be afraid to deep dive for off the wall things, like The Great Pottery Throw Down, which is, yes, a pottery version of the Great British Bake Off! But with clay! It's amazing!

TED

When I want to feel intellectual and take a surface look into deep subjects, I'll flip over to TED.com and start watching any of their many videos. Some of the videos I've found inspiring:








Sunday, September 3, 2017

Design Series: Raven Rocks Scarf, Part 7 - Putting It All Together

September 03, 2017
It's Labor Day Weekend, the traditional end of summer. You know what that means? Autumn is literally around the corner. Cooler and shorter days, more gray skies, then winter and snow and sleet and windy: my favorite weather. It's time to really kick scarf, shawl and hat knitting into overdrive.

I don't know if it's a knitter thing, but I'm very uninterested in making sure that my knitwear matches my coats. I know when people ask me to knit for them, I always hear "well, my coat is blue, so I want a blue scarf" or "I have a gray jacket and need a gray scarf." Why do non-knitters want their accessories to disappear into their outerwear? I'm very much a fan of wearing whatever strikes my fancy and if that means I wear a gold hat with a pink scarf and blue gloves, so be it! I want all the color!

I'm very excited that this winter I'll have a bright bright BRIGHT pink scarf. You've seen it; it's Raven Rocks! So the design is done and I'm happy with it. I like how it blocked and dried and how it hangs. It's going to be so warm during the cold winter months. Most likely, though, it'll be purloined by some family member who decides she wants it more than I do. I'm okay with that.

The hardest part comes next: putting the whole pattern together. By my quick count, this scarf will have about 10 different charts. In addition to the charts, I'll probably put together written instructions for knitters that don't like charts (I don't judge). Plus instructions and directions and tips and abbreviations and pictures and materials and tools.

Frankly, when I'm a world famous knitting designer, or really, when I can afford it, I'll just design and then send the charts and notes off to someone else who will put it all together for me. It's my least favorite part.

If you're at all interested in spying on me and my editing process, I'll work on it in Google Docs, which you can access here: Raven Rocks Google Doc


Saturday, August 26, 2017

Design Series: Raven Rocks Scarf, Part 6 - The Beginning of the End

August 26, 2017
Let's be cliche; all good things must come to an end. And the beginning of this end is a scale. Why is it that a scale always lets me down?

I think I'll skip the preambles and the rambles and the ambles and just dive into what next steps are in Raven Rocks. I've got a bunch of ideas brewing in my brain for some of the other hundred (hundreds?) skeins of yarn in my studio and I want to get back to me needles.

Since I'm designing this on the fly and on the needles, I thought I need to be a little more scientific about how to know when I should start decreasing. I assumed (uh oh) I know how to do math but nope, and, spoiler alert, I ran out of yarn. But the good thing about me running out of yarn is hopefully now I know how to write the pattern so that you don't run out of yarn.

Where did we leave off? We were knitting the long "plain" no-increase section of the scarf. Probably by now, you've settled into the comfortable rhythm of lace knitting and texture stitches. And I'm coming along to shake it all up. Not really, though, we're just adding in a decrease and every row will be quicker and quicker. But just like before, we need to work some short rows.

The interesting thing that happened when designing the scarf was I discovered that I could put the short rows in basically the same spot of the pattern and so I don't have to re-do the short row chart. I can just say "go back and re-read the short row section and do that" and ta-da! Done.

After you finish the short rows, there are a series of four decrease charts, but only one is worked multiple times. The others are one-off charts just to get from Point A to Point B. All of the symbols are the same as you've been using all along, so that's super handy/fortuitous.

Here they are in the order you should work them:

The first chart begins the decreases and transitions you to the beginning of what you recognize as the row repeat.


The next chart will be repeated a bunch of times, basically until your last time you don't repeat the stitch repeat section marked in red more than once. This will transition you to the final lace chart.

And now just a few more rows of lace:



And finally, the decrease rows for the border so that we get back down to the bind off. Don't be thrown off by the gray wedge of no-stitch stitches now looking like it goes the other way. We explored briefly why the gray wedge flips back and forth to keep the edges "straight" in a previous post.

Congratulations! You've finished knitting. You're SO close to being done. Now you can cast on another one in another color and whiz through. Think of all the people that will love to have a scarf like this!

What's next? Finishing. Yeah, we finished knitting. But now we need to wash and block and dry and weave in ends. This is one of those things that is a little more than magical and I don't hate it. It's not like seaming a sweater, which if I'm honest, even I don't love.




Saturday, August 19, 2017

Design Series: Raven Rocks Scarf, Part 5 - Just Keep Knitting

August 19, 2017
You know how when you go on a long journey, it's really fun at the start but then you hit a long slog in the middle where you can't stop yawning and even new scenery looks boring because oh-my-gosh-why-isn't-it-over-yet and after a long time, you start to realize that you're close to the end and it's all easy again? Well we're at that point in knitting Raven Rocks scarf.

Last year, I drove almost all the way across the USA from my house to Las Vegas (a little more than 2,100 miles!) and while it was all fun, like knitting a scarf, it did get a little boring about Oklahoma. From now on, I'm calling the middle section of any scarf "Oklahoma." You have to push through and then you get to Arizona, which is amazing. 

Don't tell anyone I'm making up metaphors on the fly. My metaphors are terrible. Let's skip the metaphors.

Last time we met, we worked some short rows to go from increasing to just knitting the scarf straight. Hopefully, you were successful with the short rows.

Because I'm designing on the fly, on the needles, and without much planning, I need to know how much I can knit so that I don't have play (fingers crossed) crazy yarn chicken at the end of the scarf when I switch back to decreasing. I tossed the ball of yarn on my very cheap scale and weighed how much yarn it took to get to where I am - 2.11 ounces. Now I know about how much I need to have when I switch back to short rows and decreasing.

If you'll remember back to the last increase rows we worked, we stopped at a weird spot in the pattern--after Row 14, not a full repeat. Then there were two more rows worked across the scarf in the short row section. That means when we start the main chart, we're not going to start on Row 1. Let's instead start on Row 17.

I marked the spot to START the main chart with a light blue border. I totally get it, this feels awkward and wrong and, when I send the pattern off to my tech editor, I'll ask for opinions if this is "wrong", but here's my reasons: After working so many repeats of the increase sections, I'm used to the pattern rows as they were charted. If I change Row 1, then I'm confused again and my brain feels like it needs to relearn the chart. And now the chart looks familiar, just without increases.

So start this chart on Row 17, then continue repeating the entire chart until your scarf is as long as you want the middle section, or until, when you weigh your yarn, you have the a little more than what you used in in the increase sections. But - and don't forget - you'll need to finish the main chart at Row 14 again. And this is marked by a light green border.

I'll let you in on a happy little accident that I stumbled on while working out the decrease chart: you've already done the next step once. It's short rows! But that's for next time.