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.


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:


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!


When I want to feel intellectual and take a surface look into deep subjects, I'll flip over to 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.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Design Series: Raven Rocks Scarf, Part 4 - Really Short Rows

August 13, 2017
A blue lifeline and short rows
I've been working with a tech editor for a new pattern that will be published in a magazine (a big magazine! I'm so excited!) and wow, there were a LOT of red marks. Ouch. That's difficult for someone like me who always tries to hard to be perfect. Each red mark is a reminder that I'm still so new to designing, but also that I'm human and make mistakes. That's a good thing to be reminded of.

And then I was reviewing what I've posted for Raven Rocks scarf pattern so far and, wow, I think I need a tech editor for even my blog posts. I also need a better way to organize the pattern as I work on it than sequential posts. I'm going to get confused and I'm only on part four. If I'm confused, you're probably confused, too.

So to fix a little omission from the last post, please work the 2nd lace increase chart twice, then rows 1 - 14 once more.

And now we can get started on the transition to just knitting the pattern without increasing. If we just stop increasing, the border won't block out nicely and evenly. I need to "bend" the border so that it will now go vertical instead of on an angle. We can achieve this through short rows. 

Short rows have been very popular in a lot of different patterns in the past few years, mostly for wedges of colors or patterns -- I'm thinking of Exploration Station or Color Affection shawls. I used short rows in Glady Creek Shawl and there are more short rows in my Venable Shawl that's currently in testing.

I have a long history with short rows and for a lot of years of knitting, I avoided them. There were wraps and turns and picking up wraps and more wraps and double wraps and picking up from the right side and picking up from the wrong side and I never really got the hang of it. I mostly used short rows in socks and just didn't like them. But one day, a knitter friend was working on a sweater, I think, and she was explaining German short rows. I checked it out and -- bam! -- hooked. I found them to be so easy that I don't even have to think about it anymore.

I'm not even going to try to explain how to work German short rows or write a tutorial. I learned from a great post at La Maison Rililie Designs' blog and it's the link I include in any pattern I write that has short rows. It's the kind of technique that involves a very short learning curve and then you'll never have to refer to the instructions again. It's just that intuitive.

For Raven Rocks scarf, we're going to use short rows only in the border section. Because we don't have to "bend" the border at a 90-degree angle, the short rows are extended by more than one stitch each time. We're also going to continue to work in pattern, so even though you're probably used to the border stitch pattern by now, you might need to refer to the chart more closely.

So again we have a border to show where the marker is and another border for the main repeat. Row 1 and Row 24 of the short row pattern go all the way across the scarf, including the lace section. These two rows are the next two rows in the lace pattern -- remember, we stopped the lace pattern mid-repeat.

You'll also notice a lot of "grey no stitch" stitches. That's because we're working short rows; Row 2 has only 3 stitches including the beginning yarn over. These rows go so fast!

You can also see that the short row stitch, the one where you do this "weird" pull-the-stitch-up-and-over movement, is marked by the sideways U. Don't forget to treat both "legs" of this weird stitch as one when you get to it on the next row. I've been known to use another symbol in the pattern to so the knitter can see where it's happening, like the chart below:

Both of these charts will work, the second one just adds a stitch that tells the knitter "hey, here's where the stitch I'm working into looks a little different and I need to be aware of that." I'm not sure which one knitters prefer. I should probably find out. Maybe I should ask knitters and then I'd know for future reference.

Okay, so I don't forget, you'll only work this chart once. That makes the short rows! Super easy and quick to do. If you've added extra repeats to your border stitches, this chart may not work perfectly and you might run into some problems. (This is where pattern design starts getting more complicated.) I do have a sneaking suspicion that, since the short rows are 24 rows long, and the border pattern repeat is 8 rows long, and 24 is evenly divisible by 8, you could continue the short rows until you reach the marker for no matter how wide your border pattern is, as long as you knit the full 8-row border increase repeat. Add a lifeline before you knit the short rows so you can rip back easily if needed.

Knitting is so cool.

Next time, we'll get back on track and switch to "boring" knitting.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Design Series: Raven Rocks Scarf, Part 3 - Even More Increases

August 08, 2017
Raven Rocks Scarf, in progress
Sort of blocking on my ironing board just for the picture
I think everyone gives in to some vanity searching every once in a while, or maybe more than once in a while, but why not? We live so much of our lives, for better or worse, digitally and online. It doesn't hurt to see what's out there attached to our names. So if you're ever working with any of my patterns, please don't hesitate to tag me (@RodeoKnits everywhere) or use #rodeoknits and eventually I'll find you!

Now let's move on to something more fun than googling myself. More increases.

We're still working Raven Rocks Scarf. Maybe you're already finished the border increases--it was only 44 rows--and now you're ready to start adding lace to your pattern. This is definitely where it gets more interesting for a designer.

Making increases in a knit/purl stitch pattern is one thing, adding them for lace patterns is another. But, I mean, not really that much different. You just have one or two more things to think about.

When you increase in a knit/purl stitch pattern, all you need to do is work the row following the increase like it should be worked as if there were no increases and you've always had that many stitches. It's fairly simple with a little backwards engineering. When you increase in a lace pattern, remember these two things:

  • For every yarn over/increase, there is a decrease.
  • For every decrease, there is a yarn over/increase.
There are times this isn't true, such as if you're working a lace pattern where the number of stitches varies from row to row. But I'm working with a stitch pattern that maintains an even multiple of 6 + 7 in every row, so I followed these steps:
  1. Chart multiple stitch and row repeats to make a large "swatch"
  2. Enter "no stitch" stitches to create the increase edges.
  3. Add in increase stitches, whether yarn over or make one or whatever.
  4. Adjust lace pattern to have matched increases/decreases.
  5. Swatch.
  6. Smile when it all works.
Since we're already into the pattern, first the charts and then I'll talk about them:

So this first chart sets up the lace pattern so that we can get into a repeat. It's the very beginning of the lace and there isn't too much going on. This chart will be worked once, but there are multiple things going on.

Look at the border section first; it's separated from the rest of the chart by a blue border, which shows where a marker would be placed. This helps when your knitting gets wider and you're used to knitting the border so you know when you switch patterns. The border section also has a purple box, which shows the border stitch repeat. No matter how wide/narrow your border section is, as long as the border increase chart was worked in full repeats, this chart will work.

And now we have even more fun things happening.

This second chart continues the lace increases. You can knit this chart as many times as you'd like, with the following instructions: Work Rows 1 -24 a number of times, then work Rows 1 through 14. This is marked by the green line, which shows where to stop knitting from this chart so that you can continue on to the next step in the pattern for Raven Rocks Scarf.

Want a hint for what's next? Short rows! Who's excited?!

Monday, August 7, 2017

New Pattern Alert: Ticking Stripes Blanket

August 07, 2017
Copyright © 2017 Sixth&Spring Books
I interrupt our Raven Rocks Scarf design series with a quick announcement. So exciting!

I have a pattern included in a new addition to the 60 Quick Knit series. This collection of patterns is 60 More Quick Baby Blankets (preorder on Amazon) and will be released at the beginning of October 2017. I've seen pictures of some of the other patterns and I don't think you'll be disappointed in the variety of patterns included.

My pattern is called Ticking Stripes and calls for 3 hanks each of two colors of Cascade Yarns 128 Superwash. It's so squishy! I loved working with the yarn and have already knit the pattern again as a gift for my cousin and his wife. (I hope Baby Jack likes the blanket!)