Monday, December 22, 2014

Stress-Free Knits - A Hat

I run into fellow knitters pretty often and one thing I hear a lot is "I need to make a hat for... " and "How do I knit a hat?" Everyone wants a hat, needs a hat, makes a hat. And there are so many hat patterns available. Hats of all kinds: lace and fair isle and big floppy and tight beanie and cabled and felted and beaded and... well, you get the idea. The patterns are out there. Go get one. (I would, of course, suggest my Bluestone plaid hat when you want a really special gift for someone.)

But, really, sometimes you just want a basic hat. All the fancy is great for hats for yourself. You know what went into it. You have all the pleasure of wearing that hat and knowing how you made it. But gifts for non-crafters? C'mon. Admit it to yourself. They generally aren't as impressed with what a hat looks like as you are. They don't notice fancy tubular cast on or intricate cables and lace. They say "Hey, this hat is comfortable and it keeps me warm and it's a color I like." So, go easy on yourself.

2 skeins Plymouth Gina
US #10 needles
Friday afternoon--yes, I'm not lying, Friday afternoon and in about 2 1/2 hours--I whipped up a very basic hat using two skeins of Plymouth Gina yarn, a really great wool with long color changes. It's the most basic hat: several rounds of ribbing, 1 round of increases, plain stockinette to the top, and four quick rounds of decreases. The secret to success with this basic hat is lining up the color change so that it starts in basically the same spot but offset a little - when one skein changes color, the other will start changing a bit later, staggering the color changes.

For my adult-sized hat, I used 16" US #10 (6.0mm) needles.
  • Cast on 68 stitches, join in the round (don't twist your stitches over the needle or you'll never have a hat!) and place a marker for the beginning of the round.
  • Work 9 rounds or 1x1 ribbing (knit 1, purl 1, knit 1, purl 1, over and over, around and around).
  • Increase round: knit 5, knit front and back and repeat all the way around. There aren't enough stitches to work another knit front and back at the end.
  • Keep going around and around in plain stockinette until the hat is 8" from the cast on edge.
  • Decrease round: knit 4, *knit 3, knit two together, repeat from * to end of round
  • Knit one round plain
  • Decrease round: knit 2, knit two together, repeat all the way around
  • Knit one round plain (you probably want to move your stitches to double pointed needles here)
  • Decrease round: knit 1, knit two together, repeat all the way around
  • Knit one round plain
  • Decrease round: knit two together all the way around
  • Decrease round: knit two together all the way around (yes, do that round twice with no plain row)
  • Cut your yarn and use a darning needle to slip go through all the live stitches. Remove your needles and cinch it up tight. Weave in ends and put it on. It's awesome!
Don't stress about your hat knitting! All your friends and family will have warm heads this and every winter.

A pair of hats made with this basic "recipe" for a hat
Spud and Chloe Fine
Do you have some yarn you want to turn into a hat? Here's my formula for a basic hat that will fit someone at sometime. (And I'm a bit of a heretic, I guess. I just go for best-effort.)

First, a little math. An adult head is roughly somewhere between 20" and 23" around. Generally. Knitting stretches so don't worry too much about perfection. It's a hat! Now, look at the band on your skein of yarn. You want to find two pieces of information: recommended needle size and gauge. Pretty generally, I pick out a needle that's a size or two smaller than the one recommended by the yarn but if it's a lightweight yarn, I don't go down too much either. Use your best judgment. You're smart!

Next you need to know the gauge. It might be in words or in a picture. Or ask the yarn store owner to help you figure out the gauge. Now, do a little math. If the gauge is something like "18 stitches/4 inches", divide 18 by 4 to find 4.5 stitches per inch. Then multiple 4.5 stitches by the hat size.

I generally start with 21 inches.
4.5 stitches per inch x 21 inches = 94.5
Subtract 10% of those stitches.
94.5 x 10% = 9.45

94.5 - 9.45 = 85.05
Round your answer to the nearest multiple of your ribbing (2 for 1x1 ribbing, 4 for 2x2 ribbing, etc.) Round up or down; it's one stitch. Who cares? Let's go 84. There's your cast on.

Once you have the stitches cast on, work ribbing for as far as you want. Like I said earlier, you're smart and you know what a hat looks like. Go long if you want to fold it over or short if you just want to get it done!

Finished with the ribbing? Now switch to stockinette. Remember how we subtracted stitches to find the cast on number? Let's add them back now. In the first round after ribbing, work 9 knit stitches and then knit front and back the next stitch. That adds an extra stitch for every 10 stitches. (That's 10%, by the way). And again, don't stress if you don't get around and it doesn't end even. No one will notice and it's a round object.

Keep going in stockinette (knit every stitch, every round) until you are about 8"-9" from the bottom edge of your hat. Why not measure from the cast on? Well, you might, but if you want to fold up your ribbing, you'll measure from the fold because that's the bottom of your heat. Now we start decreasing.

I'm a big fan of really fast decreases. It gathers up and, when I wear a hat of this style, I don't feel like such a pinhead. It's three rounds of decreases, each separated by a plain round. While you work these rounds, at some point you'll probably want to switch to double pointed needles. Do it. They're not scary.
Round 1: knit 3, knit two together - all the way around (don't worry about odd stitches left at the end!)
Work one round plain
Round 2: knit 2, knit two together - all the way around (again, don't worry about odd stitches!)
Work one round plain
Round 3: knit 1, knit two together - all the way around (guess what I'm thinking?)
Work one round plain
Rounds 4 - whatever: knit two together around and around. Keep doing that until you have some stitches left. Aim for 8 or so. That makes it easy to cinch the hat closed. Just cut the yarn and draw the tail through all the live stitches.

That's a finished hat!!

What are some changes you might want to make? Stripes, of course. That's easy. Fewer stitches for a kid's hat. More stitches for those people with big heads or lots of hair. Shorter hat for a little person. Longer hat for someone that wants something slouchy.

Have so much fun!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

High Fashion - A Rectangular Poncho That's So Easy to Knit!

Poncho - it's such a weird-to-me garment. They can be high fashion or "I made it with my grandma" (not that there's anything wrong with making anything with your grandma; I encourage it!). And who can forget the poncho craze ignited by Martha (Stewart) when she was released from prison and showed off a crochet poncho.

Rectangular Poncho
Photo: Paul Amato for
A poncho is basically just a square or rectangle or circle--polygon would be the right word--with a hole in the middle so you can stick it over your head. Fancy with lace or home-y with double crochet or granny square-esque  motif, poncho designs are all over the place. You may remember my first poncho pattern, Ruffner. Ruffner starts with a provisional cast on, a length of lace is knitted, then the provisional cast on is picked up and added to the live stitches, more lace is knitted and then you finish off and have a poncho with no sewing.

I loved designing Ruffner and I'm very pleased with the finished projects I've seen. Of course, I'd like to see more. And now, I have another poncho to add to my design portfolio. Published this autumn, Noro Knitting Magazine Fall/Winter 2014 has my Rectangular Poncho. It's knitted with Noro Silk Garden Sock yarn and is so easy! All stockinette with some easy increases and decreases and the gorgeous Noro yarn does all the heavy lifting color-wise.

There are a bunch of other really awesome patterns in the magazine. Check them all out at and pick up a copy at your local yarn store, bookstore or online. Happy knitting!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Gentlemen Wear Plaid Hats: Bluestone

If you poked around in my closet a couple years ago, you'd find hanger after hanger of plaid shirts. Okay, I'll be honest, my closet is still fairly full of plaid shirts. (Eddie Bauer and I have had a long, unhealthy-for-my-wallet relationship.)

Plaids and tartans have been a mainstay of knitting patterns for a long time but they're often clunky or, in my opinion, not really effective. I think part of the problem may be that plaid doesn't necessarily translate well from woven fabric to a knitted fabric. Knitted fabric can be too thick and bulky and when you add in colorwork and stranded yarns, it gets thicker and bulkier.

Plaid hat in process
Plaid hat in process
adding vertical stripes
Because of my affinity to plaids, I tried it over and over again but I was never happy with the results. Then, about a year and a half ago, Webs Yarn Store posted a blog with a new-to-me technique for easy knitted plaid. Go read about it. I'll wait.

I swatched a few different times to practice this plaid technique and I really love it. It has limitations, of course. The plaid is narrow/fine and lacks the "drama" of a wide tartan. But the fabric retains nearly the same drape as plain stockinette.

Finally planning a project, I grabbed three skeins of Quince and Co. Chickadee (love it!) and cast on

for a hat. The first part of the knitting, a ribbed hem, and then the around-and-around of stockinette with several single-round stripes of contrasting yarn was a breeze. Very exciting. And then...

You knew there was going to be an "and then...", didn't you? I started to add the vertical stripes with a crochet hook and, uh oh, it's hard to get the slip stitches in the fabric when I'm wrestling inside and outside the hat. It just got so frustrating. I will admit that maybe I'm not the best with a crochet hook but I think this easy plaid technique just isn't great for hats.

But I'm not stymied. I learned that a smaller and narrower plaid is more what I want in a finished fabric. Mixing a little stranded knitting with some plain stripes and I came up with the Bluestone Hat.

Bluestone Hat
Berroco Ultra Alpaca Light
I've got plans to make a lot more of these hats, especially in random team colors for all of my sports fan friends. And because you use relatively little of the accent colors, I could make three hats without having to buy extra yarn. Each hat will have a different main color, so they'll all be related but different, also perfect if I'm knitting hats for a family/group.

A little hint about knitting Bluestone Hat: resist the urge to wind the strands of yarn for the vertical stripes onto bobbins or into butterflies. Leaving the strands loose will make it easier to untangle everything when it inevitably twists around and together. Running your fingers through the strands a few times will straighten all the yarn out.

The Indie Designer Giftalong discount continues through the end of the day Friday. Don't forget to use code giftalong2014 to get 25% off. Buy now!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Colorful Cables and You - Gift-A-Long Interview with Andi Smith

Synchronicity, by Andi Smith
Hopefully you're taking advantage of the Indie Design Gift-A-Long pattern sale (25% off  bunch of patterns with coupon code giftalong2014, if you don't remember!) and finding all kinds of new designs and designers that you didn't know you were missing but now are loving so much.

I know that I love the community of knitters and crocheters and crafters that I'm a part of just because I'm able to wrap some string around two sticks in the right manner and create all sorts of beautiful and useful projects. And meeting one of these other knitters and crocheters and crafters in public is especially wonderful. But sometimes, you have to settle for just meeting online.

I'd like to introduce you to a new-to-me knitting designer, Andi Smith. Andi, knitbrit on Ravelry, has been designing for eight years and also helps other designers bring their patterns to life by making sure their patterns are as correct as possible, a tech editor par excellence. Let's get to know Andi a little bit together.

Andi, welcome to Rodeo Knits. How long have you been designing and working with designers?

I've been designing for about 8 years. Firstly, expanding my role as a sample knitter for Shannon Okey, and then in books and magazines, before I embraced the job full time about three years ago. My first book, Big Foot Knits (Amazon link: Big Foot Knits) came out last year, and my e-book, Synchronicity, came out this year. As well as designing, I work as a Technical Editor for Cooperative Press and indie designers at large.

We were introduced through the Indie Design Gift-A-Long this year. Have you participated in the Gift-A-Long before?
I participated last year, and loved the experience. From a designers point of view, this is a wonderful opportunity to meet and talk to so many knitters. Some really great connections can be made. This year for me, I'm looking on the Gift-A-Long as the ideal opportunity to spread the Two-Color Cable love. The patterns can look daunting, although they're not. The Gift-A-Long gives me the ideal platform to share both the patterns and the technique tutorials that accompany them. Being involved with the knit-a-longs, means that I'm on hand to answer questions, and learn from knitters at the same time. 
The patterns you're offering as part of the Gift-A-Long are mainly multi-colored cabled patterns. I love cabling but haven't done much with two-color cables. What are your top tips for success?
Good question. When I teach this class, my main tip is to relax and enjoy the process. Each pattern has a step-by-step tutorial attached. If you take a few minutes to work a practice swatch, you'll quickly discover that the techniques aren't really that difficult. The "ah-ha" moment comes much more quickly than you would imagine.
I love to knit for other people. Almost everything that comes off my needles is for a friend or family member. What are you favorite go-to patterns for gift knitting or crocheting?
Like you, I'm a "other people" knitter. I have three types of knitting that I usually have in my UFO pile throughout the year:
  1. Generic 2 x 2 rib scarves. These are great for watching TV scarves, that don't require you to look down very often. I like to work with 2 skeins of yarn, switching out after every 2 rows. I try and work in unisex colors, and by the time gift-giving season arrives, I have a stack to choose from. There isn't really a pattern for these, but Jared Flood's Noro Striped Scarf is my jumping off point.
  2. One or two complex gifts for my mom. My mom taught me to knit, and we love knitting complicated, fiddly things for each other. This year, I'm making her a pair of the Chrysanthemum mittens. I had to go down a needle size to get gauge, so I'm working on US#0's which is a bit of a challenge, but they're stunning!
  3. Charity Knitting. I do a lot of scarves and hats for Open M each year. I tend to knit garter st scarves, and a plain fisherman's cap.
Sometimes I want to give a gift to a fellow knitter or crafter. Sure, they'd appreciate a hat or shawl, but I think they'd really love a new yarn or tool. Do you have a favorite yarn or tool that you'd suggest as a gift for another knitter?
I have two answers for you - one from my thrifty self and one from my extravagant self. Thrifty me likes to make project bags for people. Finding the perfect fabric for someone and creating a bag that matches their crafting needs, to me, is the epitome of a good gift. However, sometimes, I like to splurge, and when that happens, I head for DyakCraft's needles. Anything from them would be an amazing gift to give or receive.
Thanks for joining me here at Rodeo Knits!

You can follow along in Andi's knitting adventures on Twitter at @knitbrit and keep up with her designs on Ravelry.

I'm going to be casting on for Black Bunny using some wonderful stashed but discontinued Khroma DK by The Fibre Company. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Getting Gifty, Getting Discounty

Gift-A-Long 2014
Use code giftalong2014 for 25% off any of these patterns
from November 13 - November 21, 2014!
I know you don't want to hear it. You've been trying to ignore it for a really long time but you can't
hide anymore. It's going to happen.

Winter. Is. Coming.

Everyone you know is going to start eyeing your steady parade of scarves and hats and cowls and wraps and toboggans and beanies and gloves and mittens and shawls and... you get the idea... and scheming how they can get one of their own. Short of knitting it themselves, of course, and mostly without paying for it.

But that's okay, you like most of these people and you really like to knit. And now you can justify that extra skein of yarn you really wanted to use but didn't know what to make. So here, permission, go knit for your family and friends and, maybe, if you're feeling generous, for someone you don't know just to brighten their day and warm their winter.

Go knit for a stranger! I think that's one of my new goals: knit something for a stranger. A hat would be perfect, I think. They're easy and quick and will fit just about anyone. And since it's a relatively small amount of yarn (compared to, say, a sweater), it's not even expensive. I just made a plan!

Sometimes the hardest part of knitting for anyone else is finding a pattern. You want something different than you've done before, something interesting but not so difficult you want to pull your hair out and throw the project across the room. But then again, not so amazing you have a hard time giving it away.

So here's an idea. For nine days in November, a group of independent designers are getting together for the second year for the Indie Design Gift-A-Long, offering a discount on their patterns and opportunities to win lots of prizes. From November 13 - November 21, more than 3,800 patterns on Ravelry will be 25% off. 25% off! On more than 3,800 patterns! That's crazy awesome.

To make it even sweeter, from November 13 through December 31, there's a massive KAL/CAL/GAL to help encourage each other to knit, crochet and gift our fingers off. And you know what? By participating in the GAL, you can possible win one of over 1,800 patterns. Plus there's a ton of other prizes. I can't possibly know everything. Go check it out yourself and get excited and involved in the Ravelry group - Indie Design Gift-A-Long.

And because I'm nerdy, and hopefully you are a little bit, too, enjoy this infographic put together by one of the other fantastic indie designers.

Monday, November 3, 2014

A Bridge and a Scarf

I know, you're expecting another baby blanket post but, well, no. That project has sadly been sidelined for just a bit. I've got a big project to get out the door and back to New York in a short amount of time. I can't give much away but it's really great alpaca /merino blend that's so soft and will be an amazing infinity scarf in a super amazing deep fuschia/purple color. I'm enjoying it so much.

For several months, I worked on a new scarf pattern and it's just been released! I'm in love with it right now. It's got symmetry and graphic lines and texture and cables. I'm actually really looking forward to the coming winter so I can start wearing it. Introducing: Fayette Scarf!

Fayette Scarf
Miss Bab's Yummy 2-ply in Oyster

#55134: New River Gorge Bridge Spans
A little wider at 11", Fayette is a statement scarf, something you may want to wear all day long. And since it's knit in fingering weight (sock) yarn, the scarf is light and easy to wear and shows off the texture and eyelets nicely.

I knitted with Miss Bab's Yummy 2-ply in Oyster, which has subtle color variations of grays. I think that with the wider areas of stockinette and the graphic eyelets, a slightly bolder variegated might work well, but you'll have to try it to see.

Why did I choose to call this scarf Fayette? Let's wax poetic a bit.

High in the hills of WV, soaring above the rowdy New River, flies the New River Gorge Bridge. Finished in the 70's, it was at the time, the highest and longest single-span bridge in the world. I remember the first time my family and I drove across the bridge. I was very excited about seeing the marvel of human engineering. We approached. The road continued straight and flat. We left. Nothing. It was nothing. It's like we didn't even do anything interesting at all. But when Dad turned off the road to the overlook, well, it's a different story. The gorge falls away sharply under the bridge and the steel girders and I-beams don't look like they should be able to hold all of that roadway and traffic above the river. It really is a sight to see, especially since every October for one day, the bridge is closed and insane people hurl themselves off of a perfectly good bridge and BASE jump to the riverbank below. 876 feet. Insane.

In one of my many surf-the-net, Wikipedia spirals-of-doom, I came across a picture of the bridge
from below. The crisscrossing of the beams was so interesting and graphic to me. I immediately thought of the decreases and in a scarf and how the decrease stitches can highlight the edge so sharply. And so the Fayette Scarf was hatched.

Fayette is available now in my Ravelry store (buy now) and will be a part of the upcoming Indie Designer Gift-Along 2014.

Now start knitting!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Vacations and Baby Blankets

Last week I went on a much-needed vacation to Cape Hatteras in North Carolina. One whole week of relaxation and reading and knitting and recharging and spending time with family and friends. I even got in some yarn shopping, of course, at Knitting Addiction in Kitty Hawk (I've been shopping there once a year for a long time!) and Blue Pelican Gallery in Hatteras. I think yarn is new to Blue Pelican because I'd been there before but don't remember seeing much yarn. Now there are two rooms full of yarn and notions and books in addition to artsy gifts and collectibles.

Oh yeah! I almost forgot. Totally cool thing for me: at Books To Be Read in Ocracoke I found a copy of the book my first published pattern is in! I snapped a picture, of course.

I didn't really get too much knitting done -- it's difficult for me to focus on knitting when there's the ocean and napping -- but when I did knit, I worked on a new scarf pattern. I'm super excited by it and I hope you will love it as much as I do.

I did take the baby blanket with me but didn't pull it out once. I know I want to keep blogging about it and it's just too complicated for me to blog from my iPad or phone. Let's get back to the baby blanket now.

When we last talked about it, I showed you the basic plan and the yarn and colors I had chosen. So far, I'm about 1/4 of the way through knitting the blanket.

Let's get started with the border.

I'm using size US 6 (4.5mm) 24" circular needles, Knitter's Pride Karbonz. I love these needles. (Frankly, right now I won't start a project without the Karbonz, that's how much I love them.)

Since I'm knitting the whole blanket in one piece, the cast on is fairly big, but not unmanageable - 164 stitches. You can't see it in the pictures - I should learn to take better pictures - I used a crochet cast on so that all edges of the blanket will be cohesive. (I did a video of crochet cast on here. Don't worry that it's for provisional, use your working yarn and it's the same thing.)

A couple notes about the border:
  • Every row ends with slipping the last stitch with the yarn in front. This is a very neat and tidy selvedge edge.
  • The border pattern I chose is an interesting two-row knit/purl rib pattern from one of Barbara Walker's stitch dictionaries that is completely reversible even though the two rows are worked differently.
After you work the beginning border, you'll continue to work the border on the right and left side, though they are different. Once you get into it, though, you'll be able to easily see the pattern and you shouldn't get too confused.

Let's say you don't want to knit and purl and you want an even easier border? Knit every stitch, knit every row! Change it to garter stitch. I would recommend doubling the number of rows knitted so it stays more square with the side borders and so you'll want to adjust the amount of yarn you buy for the border.

My pattern for the blanket is a work in process. I'd love to get feedback from you if you're knitting along with me. I've uploaded the draft pattern to Dropbox and made it available to anyone that wants to download it. Please note that I may be uploading revised versions of the pattern as I go along but I'll be sure to post to the blog if I change anything. The link to the pattern is:Roxanna's Baby Blanket (Draft)

Let me know what you think!

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.)

Monday, June 16, 2014

Baby Surprise Jacket Revisited Again

As I've been thinking a lot about the Baby Surprise Jacket pattern lately - teaching a class, knitting for a friend and writing a blog post - I dug into my knitting memories and pulled out one of my favorite projects of all time.

A little back story: when I worked on the project I ultimately title "You Are My Sunshine," I was going through a phase where I was experimenting with mosaic knitting, a technique of color work using two colors but only knitting with one at a time. Alternately knit two rows with each color and, with well-placed stitches, you'll have a colorwork pattern that looks far more complicated than it is. My Clendenin cowl pattern is made with mosaic knitting.

Many years ago, after knitting several Baby Surprise Jackets, I experimented with marrying the two -- jacket and mosaic knitting -- together into one pattern. The Baby Surprise Jacket is all garter stitch and so, I thought, perfect for mosaic knitting. I think it was successful.

Mosaic knitting on the back
Mosaic knitting from the front
I love how the front looks conservative with a little flair at the bottom but the back is a riot of color and beams of light. I used a mosaic pattern from Barbara Walker's Treasury of Knitting Patterns (Volume 1 or Volume 2, not sure I remember which one) and expanded it to fill the sides. There's also some intarsia at the decrease and increase points so the coral color is solid at the ends and the mosaic knitting is only in the middle.

I haven't written the pattern, Elizabeth Zimmermann did the best version, but I have made my spreadsheet available if you'd like to copy my "You Are My Sunshine" Baby Surprise Jacket. Some basic notes: the chart only shows the sections between increases/decreases (marked by an "x" on the spreadsheet) and the white squares in the color section shows slipped stitches. And though it doesn't make any sense now, Color B is the main color (coral in my version).

I'd love to know if you try it!

Favorite Pattern: Surprise! It's a Baby Sweater!

Look at these adorable puppy buttons!
Into every knitter's life there comes a pattern that you will return to over and over and over again. I suppose it's true for any craft-type thing: favorite recipe, favorite painting style, favorite genre of writing or music, etc. You can probably think of a pattern off the top of your head that you've made several times and will gladly make several times more.

For me, it's an unlikely pattern -- a baby sweater. I don't have children. My nephew and niece are too far away and too rarely seen to get knitted garments (they grow too quickly and I have no idea what size they are for knits). Not very many of my friends have children or are having children. But still, a baby sweater.

Baby Surprise Jacket in three colors
I was introduced to Elizabeth Zimmermann's Baby Surprise Jacket about eight years ago. This was before I even joined Ravelry. How did we find patterns before Ravelry? I can't remember how I discovered the Baby Surprise Jacket pattern but that doesn't even matter. I did find it and I did knit it. Many times. The first sweater I knit was in 2007 before the pattern had even been added to Ravelry and there are now over 21,000 other projects for this sweater on Ravelry alone! And since it was first published in 1968, can you imagine how many babies have owned one of these sweaters?!

Back when I first bought the Baby Surprise Jacket from Schoolhouse Press, it was a single sheet of 8.5" x 14" paper with instructions on both sides. The instructions, in Zimmermann-signature style, are fairly spare and concise. And totally intimidating. But let me tell you, I sure learned a lot.

What I love about Zimmermann is she believed in the knitter and that the knitter should believe in him/herself. Not much handholding from Mrs. Zimmermann when it came to knitting patterns. Do this until that, then this step, then finish with that and then you're done. (Another of my favorite baby sweater patterns is also written by Elizabeth Zimmermann, the February Baby Sweater, and it is really only three paragraphs of instructions.)

After knitting, before seaming
After seaming and buttons.
It's a sweater!
The Baby Surprise Jacket is all garter stitch, no purling, two short seams and a couple buttons. Or no buttons. Add a hood. Or not. Jacket or pullover. Collar. Or no collar. And it really is magic -- one big, lumpy blob of garter stitch and two folds, two seams and it's a sweater. It does take a lot of trust that it will work.

I've taught the Baby Surprise Jacket class at Kanawha City Yarn Company several times and helped many of my knitter friends with the project. Here's some of the things I've learned:
  • The original pattern (I'm not even sure it's still available. My copy has been folded and unfolded so many times it's showing lots of wear.) is intimidating. There are few pictures, few instructions and lots of reliance on the knitter's skill and confidence. But it's doable!
  • There are many rows with a lot of things happening. Don't panic.
  • For almost the entire pattern, every right side row will have two decreases or two increases. Treat these decreases/increases as just part of the row and not an extra instruction and you will be less confused.
  • Every wrong side row is just plain. Just knit! It's a great time to relax.
  • Color color color color. Use whatever colors you want. Mix variegated yarns and solid yarns. Stripes are so easy because it's all one piece, whatever stripe pattern you use will automatically -- automagically? -- be symmetrical!
  • Don't stress about the finished size. Maybe this is just me because I've never had to bother with dressing a baby, but I don't worry about the finished size. If the sweater is finished before the baby arrives, it will fit at some point in the baby's life. And if it's a little later? Garter stitch is so forgiving and stretches in almost every direction. One of my friend's kids wore her baby surprise jacket as a baby and as a toddler - first as a jacket and then as a short sleeve shirt.
I absolutely recommend that you go out, buy the pattern and knit up many Baby Surprise Jackets.

Quick note on the pattern: I've been using a new version of the pattern in the latest class and it has instructions for baby, child and adult jackets, in addition to very expanded instructions. There are even line-by-line instructions if you get confused by any step. Buy it from Schoolhouse Press now! (I am not affiliated with Schoolhouse Press so all I get out of it is the satisfaction of a new Baby Surprise Jacket fan.)

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 -- 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.


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:

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,

Check it out:
Darker: CYPRUS
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?

Saturday, January 25, 2014

And Then There Was a Hat

The Knitter in his favorite winter
hat in Malabrigo Worsted

Newsflash. It's January in the northern hemisphere and it's cold. Cold with a capital Polar Vortex. I don't think it's been this cold since last winter! Crazy how seasons work sometimes.

Wool hats. Alpaca hats. Any-kind-of-warm hats. Now's the time to dig 'em out and get 'em on your heads.

"So Steven," people ask me, "what is your favorite hat pattern?" (Well, of course, they ask me that in my head. Usually, it's just people looking at my hat jealously.)

I have one hat I wear more than any other. It's Malabrigo Worsted and has a wide hemmed brim, so it's two layers of wonderfully warm and soft merino right on my ears. I love it.

We've established many times that I'm a fan of provisional cast on and a hemmed brim is a perfect time to dig out your provisional cast on skills and go to town.

Sneaky picture of The Knitter's
mother in her favorite new hat
I whipped out another hemmed brim hat a couple weeks ago for my mother. She requested a slouchy hat. So many hats give a person that dreaded "pinhead" look and she hates that. I'm not a big fan either. But big slouchy hats can also be too much. I think the hat I knit for her is the best of both worlds.

For mom's hat, I dug out a discontinued yarn that I've been wanting to use and hadn't found the right project yet. It's The Fibre Company Khroma DK (50% alpaca, 50% merino). Instead of a plain hat, I added stripes to the brim with stranded cables over top in a diamond pattern. As you can see in the covert picture, mom loves it and it has just the right amount of slouch.

I think I'll make one for me since I have plenty of this yarn left over and it feels so nice. A great substitute yarn would be Berroco Ultra Alpaca Light.

I'm not very specific when I knits hats. In my opinion, hats are very forgiving projects. Approximately enough stitches is the right amount for a hat that basically fits. It just needs to fit enough that it doesn't fall down over your eyes or fly off if you bend over.

Here's the basics for my favorite hemmed brim hats in a not-very-professional-pattern-writer way:

Unglamorous flat-on-the-table picture of the
new hat using discontinued awesome yarn
Step One: find your gauge. But only basically - cast on 20 stitches, work in stockinette for about two inches and then measure your stitches per inch.

Step Two: find your head size. But again, only basically. You can get perfectionist and measure your head with a tape measure. I usually just assume that a head is somewhere between 20" and 22".

Step Three: multiple your stitch-per-inch by the size of your head. I multiple by 21" so that if I need to go up or down for stitch counts, it works for 20" to 22".

Step Four: provisionally cast on with waste yarn the number of stitches you need and join in the round. I do one of two things here:
  1. Cast on 90% less stitches (multiple the number from Step Three by .90) and work with the needle you used to check gauge, or
  2. Cast on with a needle a size or two smaller than you used for gauge and work the brim in the smaller needle.
Step Five: knit every round until the inner brim is as tall as you want it. I knit anywhere from 2" to 4".

Step Six: purl one round. This makes a ridge on your hat that makes it fold perfectly. Also on this round, either increase 10% (up to the number from Step Three) or switch to your regular needle.

Step Seven: knit every round until the distance from turning ridge to the needle matches the height of the inner brim.

Step Eight: join the inner brim to the outer hat. Magic. Pick up all stitches from the provisional cast on with a spare needle. Holding it behind your working needle, knit one stitch from your working needle together with one stitch from your spare needle. Super special side note: if you cast on fewer stitches from the inner brim and increased on Step Six, you need to skip the spare needle at the same rate as you increased in Step Six. For example, if you had "knit 9, increase 1, etc", on the joining row, you need to "knit from working needle and spare needle together 9 times, knit from working needle only once, etc." I hope that makes sense.

Step Nine: keep knitting around and around and around until the hat is as tall as you want it. I make hats for me about 9" from the turning ridge.

Step Ten: close up the top of your hat. I don't panic about this. I like a fast decrease and gathered top. I think it lessens the "pinhead" look by putting extra fabric on top.
  1. Decrease round one: knit 3, k2tog, repeat all the way around
  2. Knit one round plain
  3. Decrease round two: knit 2, k2tog, repeat all the way around
  4. Knit one round plain
  5. Decrease round three: knit 1, k2tog, repeat all the way around
  6. Knit one round plain
  7. Decrease rounds four, five, six, etc: k2tog around and around and around until you have a few stitches left, probably 6 or 8 or even 15.
  8. Break yarn and pass through all of the remaining stitches twice and pull tight to close.
Step Eleven: make all of your friends jealous because your hat is so much better than theirs.

I would love to see the hats you're making and hear what makes your hats special.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Another Stitch, Another Obsession: Brioche Knitting

You'll remember from several months ago when I was obsessed with star stitch. From that obsession, three new patterns were born: Carriage Trail, Quarry Creek and Ridgeview. (By the way, each are available individually in my Ravelry store or together as an e-book called "Stars Shine.")

When I'm knitting, I think a lot about how we-knitters can rearrange two simple stitches, knit and purl, into almost infinite combinations. And with simple adaptations to those two stitches, even more patterns can emerge. Knit the stitches out of order and, voilĂ , cables! Throw in some planned holes and decreases and, tada, lace! Knit with two colors at the same time and, presto, fair isle! It's all just knits and purls.

Lately I've been looking at a lot of pictures of sweaters online, mostly from designers. Knitwear that has graced the runways of London, Paris, Milan, or New York. I see a lot of what looks to me like brioche stitch. Consider me inspired. I grabbed needles and scrap yarn and started swatching.

Miss Babs' Yowza in colorway Coffee Break
looks messy in a knit/purl pattern

Miss Babs' Yowza in the same color as above,
but in brioche stitch
I'm not new to the brioche stitch. One of my favorite gifts to my nephew was a blanket done entirely in stripes and double brioche. The fabric is fluffy and drapes nice, but still thick and cuddly, and that was with a not-my-favorite cotton yarn.

I'm surprised when I see brioche stitch labeled as advanced knitting. At its most basic form, it's nearly as easy as garter stitch; every row is the same. (There are plenty of free patterns available online for simple brioche stitch scarves. I suggest this one from Purl Bee.)

I think the confusion comes in because there is a slight bit of magic and sleight of hand required to make the stitch work. Oh, and some patterns use different abbreviations for stitches, like maybe brK or something like that. Don't let it confuse you!
In my opinion, the easiest form of brioche begins with an even number of stitches and one set up row:
*yarn forward, slip one stitch as if to knit, knit one, repeat from * to end of row.
Immediately, the knitter's well-trained brain sees a problem. "I moved the yarn to the front, how can I knit? The yarn must be at the back to knit!"

Trust me. When you knit the stitch with the yarn in front, a yarn over magically appears and it appears exactly how you need it, on top of the slipped stitch. This makes the rest of the rows easy peasy. 

The rest of the time, you'll only have to remember one set of instructions:
*yarn forward, slip one stitch as of to purl, knit two together, repeat from * to end of row. 
Won't a knit-two-together make fewer stitches? Don't forget, you're also adding a yarn over so it balances out. And bonus, the knit-two-together is actually already set up as one stitch because it's the previous row's yarn over and the stitch it covers! Magic!

Repeat that row forever (or close to it) and you'll have a scarf you'll love for its warmth and squishy-factor and even stretchy. It's also perfect for those variegated yarns that just look muddled and messy in other stitch patterns. The slipped stitches and yarn overs calm down even the craziest of dye jobs. Don't count it out for projects for the men in your life, too. It's the opposite of fussy knitting.

Of course, you can get wild and crazy with brioche. Two colors or offset stitches or in the round. Increases, decreases and cables. But sometimes you just need something that's a good switch from garter stitch or ribbing for a basic project. 

Also, brioche is a delicious bread and now I'm hungry. 

Friday, January 3, 2014

So You Want to Learn to Knit?

Once upon a time…

Okay, it was a couple weeks ago.

One knitter said to another, "I only know how to make scarves and I want to do more." The other knitter replied, "No problem, if you can cast on, knit, purl and bind off, you can make anything you want." And thus a knitting class was born.

That seems a little too easy. It also involved rounding up several other wanna-be knitters and the materials and the pattern and the space.

Where? Panera. Easy. Good food and a private room where we won't bother anyone.

Look at all these awesome colors
new knitters ordered from Fiber Wild!
Who? A ragtag group of old and new friends. And everyone, super nice.

What? I placed a call to Fiber Wild, a yarn store I've shopped with before online. I spoke with a clerk, maybe Nicky or Natalie or Jennifer (I can't remember), and explained the situation: short notice and need yarn and needles for eight. She assured me I could place an order online and it would arrive in time. I put out an email to all the new knitters asking for color choices and placed the order. Another call to Fiber Wild to confirm they received the order and spoke to Nicky or Natalie or Jennifer again. They even refunded part of the cost of the extra fast shipping! And the yarn showed up in plenty of time!
We used HiKoo SimpliWorsted, a wool blend yarn, and my Daily Gazette fingerless wrist warmers with thumb hole pattern. It's not the most elegant way to knit wrist warmers or fingerless mitts but it is a great way to learn to knit.

The biggest problem with most first-knitting projects is people generally go for scarves. Scarves are long. Big projects. Long big projects. Big long projects that feel like they are never-ending. It can take forever to finish if you just started knitting. The wrist warmers are only 30 stitches wide and 24 ridges (48 rows) so it's a totally doable and fast project.

Knitting Class!
I also love these wrist warmers as first projects because you get all of the basics in one pattern: knitted cast on, garter stitch (knit all the time - lots of practice!), and binding off. You ever get a little bit of extra fun because the thumb hole involves binding off in the row and then casting back on.

It's exciting!

What was your first knitting project? Or, if you're reading this for my sparking wit, what will be your first knitting project?

*ps: I'm not affiliated with Fiber Wild; they're just a really great store with a website and I had a great experience.