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!