Friday, December 18, 2015

What's In a Name?

A collection of Rodeo Knits finished projects
Today I grabbed a hat a recently finished and a favorite scarf on my way to work. The temperature finally dropped below 40° and forecasted to stay there. You don't know how long I've been waiting! It's the end of December and I should have been wearing hats and scarves already!

This new hat... oh, you're going to love it. I used Miss Babs' Kunlun DK in Coos Bay, an awesome light gray/blue color and it shines. It's all knits and purls, with some twisted knit stitches for textural contrast. The silk content in Kunlun DK makes the twisted stitches pop even more because they catch the light differently.

But the biggest problem is what the heck do I call it? Everything has to have a name!

Names are super important. You have a name, I have a name. I have several names really, depending who I'm talking to. Fortunately, I haven't had to name anything as important as a pet. Or a kid. I mean, that's forever and they might resent you later. Especially the kid. A knitting pattern is a little easier to name but for me, still super complicated.

I guess I could call it "DK Weight Hat With Knits, Twisted Knits and Purls" but that doesn't exactly roll off the tongue.

Several years ago when I decided I'd get more serious with designing, one of my favorite knitters suggested a series of names that I've since expanded on and adopted for all of my patterns. If you look back through my catalog, you can almost pinpoint exactly when it started and when something is designed by me but published by a third party (they don't follow the same "rules).

So for most of my patterns, the naming goes like this:
  • Scarves/cowls/shawls/miscellaneous neckwear accessories: West Virginia streets and city districts
  • Hats: West Virginia state and national parks
  • Sweaters: West Virginia rivers and lakes
  • Other knitwear: randomly West Virginia related name

Do you see a theme? I officially adopted West Virginia as my home state when I finally decided I'd probably live here for a long time. The size and speed is just right for me. Culture could use some work but if you abandon everywhere for a bad culture without working to change it from the inside, you'll never settle anywhere.

So the new hat will definitely be something state or national park related. It may be a feature in the park, a peak or lodge or ski run. It's also a way to share West Virginia with knitters from around the world.

On a side note, after I decided to take this type of naming convention, I learned that one of my favorite retailers does the same thing! Check out all about IKEA's names in this post on Buzzfeed. (Also, I love gifs of people showing emotion. They make me happy!)

Friday, December 4, 2015

Finishing Is the Worst!

Action shot: weaving in ends
(Knitter needs a manicure)

I was fortunate to get a vacation last May in Napa Valley, California and visited a great little yarn shop, Yarns on First. Such a friendly and fancy store with an amazing yarn selection. One thing I love about vacations is finding a yarn store and seeing what kinds of yarns and products are popular in different parts of the country/world.

Also, I always look to see if any of my patterns are in the store, or any of the books I'm in are in the store. I don't know what I expect the store owner to do, though. I guess I'm still a little weirdo.

I didn't see any of my patterns/books in Yarns on First, but that doesn't stop me from buying yarn. I bought some wool blend that was local to the area. I love local yarns. A couple skeins of Shibui Knits yarns also found their way home with me

Luckily, I wasn't the only person buying yarn. A friend went shopping with me, yarn enabling friends are the best, and she bought a couple skeins of yarn (one ITO Kinu and two ITO Sensai) and a pattern (Unemizo Capelet). Actually, she doesn't knit so I said I'd knit it for her if she bought the supplies. Win-win!

You know I'm a bad blogger when I don't have before/after pictures of the yarn. Let me just say - I hadn't worked with yarns like those much, a silk noil and a silk/mohair blend and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. The pattern calls for a larger needle than you'd generally use with either of those yarns as they're both very light, but the resulting drape is amazing. It weighs next to nothing and is so soft.

I almost didn't deliver the finished project. The silk/silk/mohair blend is awesome. I wanted it for myself. Nevermind that I'd never be able to wear it like it was intended. As a cowl, perfection. But no, that's now why it languished on my coffee table for so long after I finished knitting.

Knitting is the most fun part. Then comes the finishing. I guess there are some people who say they like it. I don't like it. They say it's part of seeing it come together, the whole process, they lovingly play with the seams in their finished sweaters or show off how delicately they darn the ends in. I just want to be DONE.

Lies! A picture exists of Rodeo Knits wearing
Unemizo Capelet!
It took a couple weeks of not-full-time knitting to finish the capelet. It took several months to get all ends tucked away. But I finally finished and gave it back a couple weeks ago. Again, no pictures. Sorry. (Except sometimes the knitter, like gauge, lies.)

I knew the time was coming -- by "the time" I mean "winter" -- and the capelet could be put to good use so I buckled down and finished tucking away ends. It really took about 20 minutes. Here's a secret: if the yarn is fuzzy and light weight gauge, don't worry so much about how tidy you are at weaving in the ends. Tie a few neat little knots, trim up the ends and fluff it a bit. Of course, any knitter will be able to find the ends, but chances are you're gifting to someone who isn't a knitter and THEY'LL NEVER KNOW!

Don't tell anyone I cheat.

Sometimes I don't even weave in the ends at the top of a hat. I tuck the ends inside, tie a knot and trim it up. As long as they're not long enough to fall out of the hat when I'm wearing it, what do I care?

On a side note: this trip to Napa Valley also gave birth to another infinity scarf/cowl pattern that I released this summer called Beazley. In my own (not very) humble opinion, it's a great option for anyone who deserves a warm neck. The one I worked on used two skeins of Madelinetosh Tosh DK. I've got another on the needles with Stonehedge Fiber Mill Crazy that I snagged from Fresh Stitches. It's a bit of a "luck of the draw" kind of thing picking the yarn out but I'm very pleased with my selections and I hope to have a finished project to show off shortly.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Friday Thoughts: On Being an Independent Designer

The three most important autumn accessories:
knitting, pie, adult hot cocoa
It's a bit of a weird concept: independent designer. I would think that today, the indie designer is in the majority and should just be called designers while in-house designers should be titled something else. I'm not sure. Just an idea.

Anyone with a little bit of skill can be a designer or writer or crafter or artist or whatever. Someone with a lot of skill can be a successful designer or writer or artist or crafter or whatever. I put myself in the "little bit of skill" category (and no, I'm not looking for reassurances or anything). I currently don't have as much time as I would like to devote to the skill. It's a lot of work. But anything worth doing is worth the work. I'm not complaining. And I may have a lot more time in the coming future. That's another story.

As I see it -- and from here on, this is all my theory and conjecture and, mainly, me just writing it out so that I can get my brain around it and will mainly focus on knitting design -- to be a successful designer these days, it's more than just knowing how to do the "thing." At least now, in these days. There's social media and websites and blogs and publishing and packaging and Instagram and Twitter and email and text messages and Etsy and Ravelry and and and and and. In today's "anyone can be a designer" it's almost a popularity contest.

As I've mentioned a few times, I've been participating in the Independent Design Gift-A-Long on Ravelry (today's the last day for 25% off sale patterns but the GAL continues), both as a designer and a knitter. So far, I've been able to "meet" a few more designers and I find that they're wonderful people. Of course, I don't know much about them personally other than their social media or Ravelry presence. But they're mothers and fathers, spouses, full-time employees and stay-at-home parents. They devote everything to knitting design, or it's a hobby with a bit of payback. They're talented graphic designers and writers and photographers.

And if they're like me, every mention of one of their designs, every notification of a pattern sale, every picture of a finished project gives them a little flutter in their gut. Some "yes, that's a good thing" excitement. If you don't design or knit, you know that feeling when you cook dinner for someone and they ooh-ahh-yummmm all over it? It's that kind of feeling. A warm glow. (I mean, for me there's also a bit of dread like "what if there's an error no one caught and this person will think badly of me for the rest of their lives", but I'm a little nutty sometimes.)

So as you're going about your days, think about your independent designers. Mention them when you finish one of their projects. Show off and share their name and designs with your friends. If you need a pattern, consider buying from an independent designer. Browse their Etsy stores or websites where you may find carefully curated products they're proud to offer. Connect with them on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram. And I'm going to say it again: buy their patterns, even the $1 "can this person even knit" patterns. It's hard work and a leap of faith to put it out there for the public to judge.

So come say hello to me on Ravelry, show me your current project on Twitter but most importantly, say thank you to your favorite independent designers!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Selfish Gift Knitting

Do you know who doesn't need more knitted anything? Me. Do you know who wants more knitting everything? Me!

This time of year, when the weather turns colder (at least in my neck of the woods), everyone starts thinking about ways to keep warm and that's when a knitter is most popular. At least, most popular amongst non-knitters for knitterly reasons. Whatever - you know what I mean.

Of course I love to knit gifts for family and friends. And really, anyone who asks for something usually gets it eventually. But then there's always the projects you just want to keep for yourself -- the pattern is so pretty or the yarn so perfect that you don't really want to give it away. I've been adding a lot of these types of patterns to my to-knit-when-not-swatching list. I blame this year's Indie Gift Along for enabling my addiction.

Currently on my needles is Collingwood in Beaverslide Dry Goods 2-ply wool. I love this yarn. It's so wool-y! And the color is a perfect bright pink with hints of red. The pattern, by Carolyn Macpherson from The Next Beautiful Thing, is well-written and instructions easy to follow with both charts and written directions if you hate charts. I think it would also really well with some of those kettle-dyed yarns with some color variation because the cables are more textural.

 Texture is super important to me when I'm knitting. I find that I'm very drawn to patterns and projects with interesting textures or combinations of textures. Sure, I love colorwork and stripes and such; they are definitely in my wheelhouse. But texture is the best for me.

I think this is a product of when I re-discovered knitting about 10 years ago. Like a lot of people, I learned to knit when I was a kid. I've told that story many times. But then I got older, school and friends got in the way, knitting mainly fell by the wayside. Sure, I'd pick up needles and yarn once in a while but never really made anything. And then a yarn shop opened in town, a friend asked me to teach her how to knit and I fell back in love with the craft.

Right at the height of the fun fur, crazy, novelty yarn scarf craze. Everyone was combining a plain yarn with a crazy yarn and garter-stitching on big needles all these scarves. Maybe it's because I'm a dude, maybe it's because none of my friends or family wanted a scarf like that, I have still never made a novelty yarn scarf. (I well say, though, novelty yarn is super fun in a project like felted hedgehogs. Go make them NOW!)

Maybe it was a little revolt against  novelty yarn, but I focused mainly on texture -- the art in the stitches. And finding the right combination of yarn and texture is really fun.

Before you think I'm anti-plain knitting let me just say that garter stitch, stockinette and reverse stockinette are all equally important to knitting and are perfectly wonderful textures in their own rights. I would never discount any of them.

I've been browsing the Indie Design Gift-A-Long sale bundle for the past week and I've put together a list of patterns that are going on my to-knit list. Some are heavy texture, some are color and one is even crochet! Gotta show some love to the hookers!

All of these patterns are on sale for 25% off until November 27, 2015 at midnight EST.

copyright Amy van de Laar

Designer: Amy van de Laar

Look at this texture! In worsted weight yarn, this would be simply amazing! It's going so high on my list right!

copyright Dana Gervais

Designer: Dana Gervais

I know, plain green socks, right? Maybe. But look at the opportunity for embellishment and creativity. I haven't done much (any) embroidery and maybe a daisy stitch isn't for me, but I would imagine it's very easy to substitute a lot of other embroidery stitches!

copyright 10 Hours or Less

Designer: 10 Hours or Less

And this is where everything I said about texture-texture-texture goes out the window, but only because I cannot resist chevrons. I also really believe that crochet is perfectly suited to blankets since it's generally a more sturdy fabric and not subject to as much stretching out like a knitted blanket. 

copyright Lee Meredith

Designer: Lee Meredith

First, it's the colors - grey and yellow - that catch my eye. (What was my theory about texture again?) But also the interesting construction with the varied texture being worked in a bias stripe across a rectangle. So maybe this is more texture than color? The grey/yellow combo does mute together somewhat.

copyright Stitch Definition/Jen Lucas

Designer: Jen Lucas

The more patterns I list, the more I believe myself when I say I love texture. I may have to rethink everything. But then again, these mittens, though contrasting colors, are more of an all-over pattern that highlights the smoothness of stockinette and the beauty of the play between knits and purls in the corrugated ribbing.

copyright Fiona Hamilton-MacLaren

Designer: Fiona Hamilton-MacLaren

Here the rustic nature of garter stitch is given a sophisticated turn with the stripes and bias construction. And I truly don't believe anyone can have too many hats. When you wear great hats, people will remember your great hats. So you should definitely have a wide variety to pull from. 
So what's on your needles or your wishlist? I'm always looking for new inspiration. Let me know in the comments or find me on social media!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A Return, a Sale and a Hat

Y'know, sometimes a person just has to take a step back, take a breath, take a nap, and then you return to the world and you're rejuvenated and relaxed and ready to take on all challenges. And boy, am I glad that I did.

Let me catch you up since I last posted seven months ago. Seven months! That's almost enough time for a new child to come along. (Don't worry, I don't have any new children.)

I had a few vacations, worked a lot, knitted even more, read several books, designed some more, published a couple patterns and just got back in touch with myself. I cancelled cable television--small victory because I still have internet and Netflix, so I'm not completely crazy--deactivated Facebook, got back in touch with some old friends. There have been furniture purchases and redecorating and, of course, more yarn. More and more yarn.

There is always more yarn.

But one of the biggest reasons I feel ready to come back to regularly blogging is the community of knitters, crocheters, crafters and designers that I've dipped back into on Ravelry. Being a knitting designer isn't really that exciting; it's a lot of hard work. And it can be lonely (oh boo hoo, Steven, pull up your big boy pants). But every year about this time of year, a group of hardworking indie designers get together on Ravelry for a huge gift-along/knit-along/crochet-along extravaganza. This is the third year for the event and I think I've participated each time. I know for certain I did last year. (Come to think of it, maybe last year was the first year I participated.)

I haven't really been able to participate much in the planning--my full-time day job is just too demanding to be able to devote the time to the group--but I'm helping in any other way I can. Well, frankly, that means a lot of Twitter posts and participating in the GAL (that's the nifty abbreviation) group on Ravelry.

The Indie Design Gift-A-Long is a 6 week long KAL/CAL of holiday gifts made from patterns designed by a rather extensive list of independent designers. From Thursday, November 19th at 8:00 pm US EST - Friday, November 27, 2015 at 11:59 pm US EST tons of indie designers will be discounting between 5 - 20 of their patterns 25% for this event. Use coupon code: giftalong2015.So you should totally come and join, too. Starting Thursday, 11/19, there will be a 25% off sale on over 5,000 patterns! Wow! If you can't find something to knit from 5,000 choices, well.... I don't know what. Join the group and get active in the forums. Everyone is super nice. Tell 'em RodeoKnits sent you. There are sales and contests and prizes, both digital and actual, for-real prizes like yarn! (You need more yarn!)

I have 20 patterns in the sale and each will be 25% off. There are a couple new patterns and several of
my old favorites. One of my newest patterns, Whittaker, is a fairly simple stranded colorwork hat that works up quickly, even though it uses a sport weight or fingering weight yarn and US #3 and #4 needles. Hats just seems to work up so much faster than any other projects, no matter the needle size.

For the sample hat, I used two skeins of Brown Sheep Nature Spun Sport in Enchanted Forest and Cream. If you haven't used Nature Spun before, I highly recommend it. It's definitely a wool-y yarn, but softer than you'd expect. Because of how light the sport weight is, the hat will be comfortable to wear even on warmer winter days. And two colors means this hat would be perfect for your sports fans. Nature Spun comes in 80 colors, so you'll definitely find two that fit your needs. Any other sport weight, light DK or heavy fingering weight yarns would substitute perfectly. One of my test knitters is using Knit Picks Palette and it's turning out very nicely.

Coming soon: several more stranded colorwork hat patterns and variations, perhaps an earwarmer and matching cowl. Of course, for the cowl, I will need to find some very soft and luxurious yarn for close-to-the-skin wear. And get ready for the premiere of some Rodeo Knits sweaters!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Gone Fishin'

It's been far too long since I've been able to check in here. There's been more yarn and more knitting but less picture-taking and less writing about it than I'd like. Some new finished projects and patterns in the works, but nothing imminent or amazing. I'm taking a break from the blog so that I don't have it looming over me as a "you need to be doing this!" kind of thing and can focus on sketches and writing patterns and trying new yarns.

See you soon and best stitches!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Miss Babs' K2 - A New Favorite

Back in December (maybe? could have been January but December feels right) I went on a buying spree with Miss Babs and found several pounds of yarn in my mailbox a couple of days later. One skein was an irresistible K2 in color "Shaken Not Stirred."

"OMG" has never been more appropriate for a yarn. First, the color is perfect, of course. I expect nothing less from Miss Babs. The blending is flawless. In my experience, the Babette colorways are more exciting because they're unpredictable. That can also make them more challenging to work with on large projects. Fortunately, I chose a smaller project (and then an even smaller project to finish it up) and the color just shines.

I don't usually knit with chunky yarns but I've been on a hat knitting binge. Give me a chunky yarn, size 10 needles and I'll have a hat finished in no time flat. K2 is no exception. It knits smoothly with no snags or splitting. The finished stockinette is squishy with good body, nothing wimpy about the superwash merino. And to change things up, I knit a cowl using much larger needles--US 17, I think--and the fabric is just as nice as at a tighter, more "normal" gauge, just looser with more drape. In the cowl, I paired it with some leftover Quince and Co Puffin in River that I had laying around because, to be honest, I was too lazy to rip out the cowl when I ran out of yarn to make it smaller.

Next time you're shopping for yarn for a quick present and you want something colorful and hardy, I definitely recommend K2. The hat pictured is my basic "Stress Free Hat" pattern and the cowl is based on a cowl I've seen on Ravelry a lot. I can't attest to the pattern, as I just made up my version (and switched to stockinette) as I went along, but support independents designer and give Foolproof by Louise Zass-Bangham a try!

(Update on both projects: my mother claimed both, first the cowl and then the matching hat. I guess it's just a good excuse to find more K2 and make another hat for me!)

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Great Destash of 2015 -- Part One

My yarn stash is seriously getting out of control. Have you heard the acronym SABLE? Stash Acquisition Beyond Life Expectancy? Mine is nearing SABLEx3+.

I've been threatening all of my yarn -- and its embarrassing how much yarn that is -- that if it doesn't start inspiring me or spontaneously knitting itself into sweaters, it'll get its marching orders. And today, the destash begins.

The pile of yarn gathered for part on of the destash took less than 15 minutes to pull together. And it's just the tip of the iceberg. All of the skeins are mainly grouped by color and, when there are multiple skeins of the same color, all the same dyelot. And I have no pets and don't smoke, so you shouldn't have any unwanted odors. Just pure wooly-ness (mostly).

My decision to clear out yarn is your gain. In order to hopefully replenish the stash, I'm offering this perfectly good yarn to anyone who wants it at discount. I'll list an asking price, you make a best offer and, when we come to agreement, I'll ship the yarn to you. I'm not sure how international shipping works, but I think that's possible, too.

I think it'll be best if you email me ( what yarn you want and, because I'm fully expecting a mass rush for the yarn (yeah right), I'll go by time/date stamp in the email if two people want the same yarn and priority will go to the person who wants all skeins of the colorway offered.

Here we go:

Plymouth Gina, 100% wool

  • Color 0007: 7 skeins - $5.00 each
Plymouth Gina, 100% wool

  • Color 0005: 7 skeins - $5.00 each
Plymouth Gina, 100% wool

  • Color 0006: 5 skeins - $5.00 each
Classic Elite Yarns Desert, 100% wool

  • Color 2058: 1 skein, $5.00
  • Color 2047: 1 skein, $5.00
Nashua Handknits Wooly Stripes, 100% wool

  • Color WS26 Jewels: 3 skeins, $5.00 each
Skacel Merino Lace, $100% Merino

  • Color 800: 1 skein, $10.00
Blue Ridge Yarns Kaleidoscope, superwash Merino

  • Color Secret Garden: 1 skein, $15.00
Malabrigo Worsted, 100% Merino

  • Color Col china: 3 skeins, $5.00 each
  • (one skein has been wound, but not knitted)
  • Color Lettuce: 1 skein, $5.00
  • Color Red Java: 1 skein, $5.00
  • Color American Beauty: 1 skein, $5.00
Shibui Knits Sock, 100% superwash Merino
  • Color 51304: 2 skeins, $5.00 each
Marks & Kattens Fame trend, 75% superwash wool/25% polyamid
  • Color 651: 1 skein, $10.00
The Fibre Company Khroma DK, 50% baby alpaca/50% merino
  • Color Aegean: 3 skeins, $5.00 each
  • Color Cyprus: 5 skeins, $5.00 each
  • Color Clementine: 6 skeins, $5.00 each
  • Color Thira: 4 skeins, $5.00 each
  • Color Olive Oil: 5 skeins, $5.00 each
  • Color Raspberry: 3 skeins, $5.00 each

Sunday, January 4, 2015

My 2015 Knitsolutions

Okay, so it's super-difficult to create a portmanteau (I've always wanted to work that word into regular "conversation") of "knitting" and "resolutions." And yes, I think you're supposed to set these up before the new year.

So let's just get to it. When I list them out, put them out into the universe, hopefully that will make me more accountable and stick to the plan. And no, "go the gym more" won't show up on this list anywhere.

Blog More

I mean, this one is obvious that I can't even write more than "this is obvious."

Knit More

Why would I even have to put this down in a list of resolutions? Everyone needs a simple gimme-resolution so that you have a sense of accomplishment. I can already check mark this one DONE.

Design More

I've got lots of ideas. I've got patterns I've half-started and just never pulled the trigger. I want to push myself to design new things that I haven't tried before: sweaters for adults, maybe a mitten or glove. Some things I can't see myself designing. Socks, for example. There are already so many amazing sock designs and, frankly, I hate knitting socks. (I've been working on the same pair of socks for probably three years. Maybe I'll finish them this year.)

I've set a goal of at least 12 pattern releases for the year. There will definitely be a few more scarves, cowls and other neckwear. Also look for a hat or two. I've got one on the backburner that'll compliment Bluestone really nicely. There is a sleeveless sweater in a heavy aran yarn with a simple knit/purl graphic pattern I think you'll really love.

Miss Babs' K2
Shaken Not Stirred

Expand My Yarn-y Horizons

Let's face it, we all have yarn we love and go back to over and over. The old favorites, the workhorses, the yarns you know consistently have the colors and the feel you love. Except, there are literally, like, gazillions of amazing yarns out there that we don't get a chance to try. Maybe they're just not that popular, or too "average" and normal. Or new. Or we just have a default. Maybe it's a different weight than we usually use. For example, I'm often a fan of fingering or light DK weight yarns, perfect for shawls and lace, but last week, I ordered a bulky merino from Miss Babs (go check out K2) and, wow, I'm in love: one day and I have a new hat and I'm already scheming how to score some more.

Bonus, my new K2 has was knit with my Stress-Free Hat pattern! Try it!

And if I find a yarn I like, I'm definitely telling you all about it.

Finish That Baby Blanket

The baby was born last month. I need to get it done. And soon. Yesterday.

What are your knitsolutions? (I still think that looks like "knit fixes" but it's the best I can do.)