Saturday, April 5, 2014

An Evolution of Stripes

Red is a stunningly difficult color
to photograph accurately
Spring has finally arrived in Appalachia, even though the weather has decided it still would rather be ornery than cooperative and pleasant. Even with the wildly ranging high and low temps and storms marching up the valleys and along the river, trees are in bud, grass is greening and even the early spring bulbs have started blooming.

Is there anything happier than a bright yellow daffodil?

With Spring comes the promise of fresh veggies, fresh air and fresh ideas. Even Spring gray skies are brighter than Winter's.

I'm decidedly very glad to see the seasons changing.

Last week, I was going back through my pins on Pinterest (yes, I've given in to the website of evil collections) and browsing the blogs I follow on Tumblr -- you can follow my Tumblr at http://rodeoknits.tumblr.com/ -- and decided that I want to work up a design that is easy to wear and has just a little drama.

I started swatching a sweater with oversized shrug-like sleeves and, the best thing (if it works), knit in two pieces only. Easy! The first yarn I grabbed, and mainly because I am absolutely sure I'll have plenty of yarn even though I have no idea how much yarn the finished product will use, was Cascade Eco+ Wool in color 8443 Baked Apple. It's a good deeper red color, nothing like the way-too-pink color that my camera insists is correct.

With the simple shape, I toyed with stripes. I love stripes for how they can add interest to a fabric but they're very accessible. I do like fair isle and stranded colorwork, I think they are incredibly interesting and can be beautiful, but they are also fairly - in my opinion - "specific" in the look. I think they can be fussy or old-fashioned. I want something very classic.

One thing I'm always concerned about on garments is the direction and size of stripes. Years and years of fashion magazines and talk-show-makeovers have taught us that horizontal stripes are bad and vertical stripes are good. Unless you're beanpole skinny, then the opposite is great. And if you're adventurous, do whatever you want.

Other fashion-y tips I've picked up: black is slimming. Or not. Monochromatic is the way to go. Or go with a bright splash of color. Don't wear patterns. Or do. It's all very confusing.

So I started playing with my Cascade Eco+ Wool and monochromatic stripes, or better yet, textured stripes. An immediate benefit sprung out at me - I don't need to try to remember what color goes next or follow a chart like a slave (and you know I love charts). Every row is either knit or purl.

For the first several rows, I tried a pattern of double garter stitch from Barbara Walker's Second Treasury stitch dictionary. I like the fabric very much and recommend you try it out. But for an entire garment? I'm not so sure. It involves double wrapping each stitch and that can just take forever. 

Next I started experimenting with different combinations of stockinette and reverse stockinette before finally settling on a pattern I like a lot. There is plenty of stockinette that even a variegated or kettle-dyed yarn would look really nice, but broken up with easy rows of reverse stockinette. 

Good news is, I've got the front of a sample sized large finished and have started on the back. I'm aiming for a finished garment by the end of next week. 

I better get a move on!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Slumps. And a Free Pattern Coupon Code.

Yesterday it was almost 70° F (I don't know Celsius-conversions, sorry) and today the weather guy tells me the temps are going to plummet to about 20° F.

Ugh.

Swatching with Miss Babs'
Yowza in "Coffee Break"
I don't know about you, but I get into slumps. I've fallen into a bit of a post-Winter Olympics knitting slump. I wind yarn into balls, swatch projects, sketch designs; but nothing gets past the start. It's times like this when I really turn to Ravelry to find a new project.

Sitting in my queue is a pair of slippers (Stippers) I only made once for my dad and, because of the way hand knitted gifts sometimes work, I got them back. Now he needs another pair of slippers, something warm and woolly and maybe a little taller because I think he might shuffle too much and they slip down over his heels. Or maybe just a pair of socks?

Suddenly, this doesn't seem like the cure for a knitting slump like I thought it might be.

Want one of these? Use coupon
code "RodeoKnitsMarch"
Maybe I can help you. If you're feeling in a slump (or even if you're not), I've decided to offer 25 free patterns to anyone who uses coupon code "RodeoKnitsMarch" when you purchase a pattern from me on Ravelry from 5:00pm EST March 12, 2014 through 11:59pm EST March 15, 2014. You can review all of my patterns here: http://www.ravelry.com/stores/rodeo-knits.

I'm really very curious to see which patterns might be most popular. Let me know in the comments what you think. And don't hold back, I'm a big boy and can handle it.

Monday, March 10, 2014

A Workman Is Only As Good As His Tools

It should come as no surprise to anyone who knits (or quilts, or crafts, or is a mechanic, a photographer, a cook, a human being), I love tools and gadgets. Gadgets I can do without. I can resist gadgets. I don't need lot of stitch markers and counters.

But tools. I do love tools. And when I find something new that I like, I want everyone to know.

Fair warning: I'm not affiliated with any of these companies; these opinions are my opinions only. But if any of them (one in particular) would like to work something out, you know how to find me.

Two of my favorite tools are my current knitting bag and a new set of needles.

My Knitting Bag

If you see me out and about at a yarn shop, most likely, my knitting bag won't be far away. I can't remember if I saw one a friend owned first or if I found it online first but my Tom Bihn Swift knitting bag is my favorite. It's the perfect size for carrying multiple projects (because I'm definitely not monogamous to knitting projects) and has two very handy pockets on the inside. The handles are the perfect length for carrying or throwing over my shoulder (granted, not the most masculine look but whatever) when my hands are full of need-to-purchase yarn. I also have one of the yarn stuff sacks and a small zipper pouch for holding little things I don't want to lose in the bottom of my bag. Bonus: a yarn stuff sack is also handy when I want to carry my knitting project to work without taking the whole bag.

My Knitting Needles

I almost exclusively knit with circular needles and own many different types and as I knit more and get more experience, I find there are specific things I look for in my knitting needles: a sharp point, a clean join and a smooth shaft. A couple months ago, my LYS started carrying a new brand of needles: Knitter's Pride Karbonz. I bought a pair of circular needles to try them out and, wow, I love them.

I'm slowly building my collection, mainly because I find myself only wanting to start projects that I have the right size in Karbonz to use. The shaft of the needle is carbon fiber and the tip is, for me, perfectly pointed nickel-plated brass, a combination that allows the needles to easily enter the stitches and the carbon fiber grips the yarn just enough that my projects don't slide off the needles too quickly. The cable has just the right about of flexibility that they're easy to work with and don't twist and kink up like cheaper circular needles with plastic cables.

And yes, if Knitter's Pride wants me to be their spokesperson, I'm all for it. Hit me up, KP.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Method To My Madness: Picking Colors

In the last post, I showed you the new hat I made for my mother. In preparation for writing the pattern and re-knitting a sample to make sure I don't miss an important step, I went shopping for a yarn that I just had a hunch would work really well with the pattern. I want a lighter weight so that the doubled hem isn't too thick and bulky and overwhelming. I wanted current colors and I wanted a yarn that is easily accessible to many different knitters, but also easily substituted for another yarn.

I turned, as I did for another hat, to +Berroco Yarn Ultra Alpaca Light. I love how soft, but strong, the yarn is. And the colors are great. The alpaca-half also adds a nice halo to the yarn and should mix the stripes together pleasingly.

Picking colors is one of my favorite things to do. I am, by no means, trained in fashion or design or the arts so I have to rely on simple intuition and some tricks I've picked up along the way. Mind you, there are so many better places to learn about color choices and mixing - this is just my method.


I think picking two colors is fairly simple for anyone. But three or more, and it gets a bit trickier. My steps are:
  1. Pick a color I love
  2. Pick a darker color
  3. Pick a lighter color
  4. Review all colors and see if one of those should be a neutral
First, I pick a color I love. Every year, Pantone releases their color of the year. Because I'm a huge nerd for off the wall "of the year" lists and such, I always look forward to learning what it is. For 2014, look for Radiant Orchid. I knew I wanted to highlight Radiant Orchid. Fortunately, Ultra Alpaca Light is offered in a color called - tada! - orchid! Sold!

Now for the other two colors. For these two, I first looked farther into Pantone's website and found their Fall 2014 trend forecast for colors - the one below is for men's fashion but the women's fashion is fairly close to the same colors. (You might also be interested in learning how they pick the colors - click the picture to get to the Pantone website. It's very interesting.)


Probably just because I saw the two colors next to each other, I loved the combo of Cypress with Radiant Orchid. And it fits my second criteria: pick a color that's darker.

And next: pick a color that's lighter. Immediately, your eye can pick out the lighter colors: Aluminum and Sea Fog. For me, Sea Fog is slightly less masculine and picks up quite a lot on the pink and purple tones of Radiant Orchid. Of course, that might be a great thing but not what I'm looking for. Aluminum is also a great color, though I did think it might be a little too green to go with the Cyprus.
From top to bottom:
Peat Mix, Steel Cut Oats,
Orchid

Check it out:
Favorite: RADIANT ORCHID
Darker: CYPRUS
Lighter: ALUMINUM
Neutral: ALUMINUM
Now, take a trip to your yarn store or to look at colors online. Of course, buying colors online is a little difficult but I don't mind it. Even though I'm particular, I'm no picky. Orchid and Cyprus were easy but Aluminum wasn't such an easy find. I wanted something less gray and more brown. Or more brown than gray. It's a very complicated color. In the end, I ordered three colors from +WEBS: Orchid, Peat Mix and Steel Cut Oats. What do you think of these three colors together?