Saturday, November 11, 2017

Overbrook Shawl - Lace and Color for Everyone

The Umbrellas standing in as a
backdrop for Blackbird Knob Hat
A little more than a year ago, I came across an Instagram post for a yarn that reminded me so strongly of my grandmother that I immediately bought it. My grandmother was a painter and one of my favorite of those paintings is of a cluster of colorful umbrellas in a grey moody rainy day. You've probably seen it in the background of some of my project pictures.

My family affectionately calls it "The Umbrellas" and, I don't know, it just speaks to me. I generally enjoy grey rainy days and moody weather but the splashes of colors are perfect for bringing a little happiness and brightness to the world.

So when I was scrolling through Instagram and saw a post by AlexCreates showing off the new "6 Train Rainbow" color he had dyed, I was struck so strongly how much it brought to mind The Umbrellas. How could I resist? I also snagged a skein of a matching semi-solid grey called Concrete.

At some point, I had also seen a Kristy Glass YouTube video interview with Alex and another where she talks about a sweater that mixed granny square crochet and knitting together. All of these inspirations just spiraled around inside my head and I put them together in a new shawl: Overbrook Shawl.

I'm always looking for a new way to use variegated yarns that won't fight with my first love, lace patterns. In my opinion, and remember, it's just an opinion, lace and variegated yarns don't always get along. Either the lace gets lost of the variegated yarns aren't shown off as pretty as they could be.

The other "problem" with lace - problem in quotation marks because I don't necessarily think it's a problem - is that lace has a feminine reputation. Personally, I love to wear my lace shawls and scarves but, admittedly, I don't spread them out to show off the pattern. I think I mainly like how they can be both light and warm at the same time.

But with Overbrook, I have a lace shawl that doesn't read feminine and isn't obscured by the beautiful hand-dyed yarn. The stitches are light granny square stitches but it's all knitting!

Oh, you'd probably like to see a picture, huh?

Overbrook Shawl is now available on both Ravelry and LoveKnitting. It's been tech edited by a wonderful editor and tested by a new friend! I love how knitting brings us together with people across borders and around the world.

I can't wait to see your finished projects. As usual, tag me (@RodeoKnits everywhere) so I can see what you're making!

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Lace and Tucks and Short Rows!

Say hello to the newest member of the Rodeo Knits pattern family: Venable Shawl!

I'm unashamed and unabashed about my current love affair with tuck stitches. Coincidentally, the knitting world seems currently to be having a massive love affair with brioche knitting, which I consider a cousin of tuck stitches.

Brioche is a stitch that can be worked either with yarn over stitches or working into the stitch below. Each forms a fabric that is practically the same as the other, but can present different difficulties for the knitter and designer. I've used both and probably prefer the method with yarn over stitches; I find it's faster for me because you're really skipping every other stitch.

Tuck stitches can also be worked the same as brioche but are generally worked either over multiple stitches or multiple rows. Venable Shawl uses tuck stitches that carry over seven(!) rows so the yarn over method is vastly easier than counting down and knitting into the stitch seven rows below -- that would drive me bonkers.

I really wanted a yarn that shows off the tuck stitches and I think the yarn I used for my Venable Shawl accomplishes that perfectly. I used Queensland Collection Oxley, a 50/50 blend of wool and yak -- YAK! -- that is smooth and strong and soft and practically flows off your needles. It blocks out well and holds stitch definition, showing off all of your hard work.

Venable Shawl also uses short rows and combines them with a strong lace stitch. If you don't like short rows, or just really prefer the main lace pattern, I think just continuing the lace stitch would be amazing -- a rectangular shawl with a beautiful and bold lace.

I can't wait to see all the gorgeous versions of Venable Shawl you'll knit and the yarns you'll choose. My test knitters have already given me so many great ideas for other yarns I want to try, including a really gorgeous version in a purple to pink gradient.

To kick off Autumn 2017, Venable Shawl will be 50% off for the rest of October (2017, for you future readers), no coupon code required! It is also be available on

Happy knitting!

Saturday, September 30, 2017

3 Way to Make Your Knitting Less Stressful

Joining the folded hem on The Gigi Hat
(read on for a little backstory)
I read somewhere that blog posts with "number of ways to [blank]" are more eye catching and people like them more. I don't know why; they always irritate me. But heck, I'll do it anyway.

I used to teach a lot of knitting classes before "real" life got in the way. One time I even went on riverboat cruise (with a genuine sternwheeler!) and taught a beginner's lace pattern -- that was the pattern "24 Carats" available on Ravelry (free!) and so named because there are 24 diamonds and you can practice three different double decreases.

I'm the first to admit that I'm not very good at teaching brand new knitters; I haven't had enough practice to develop the right language to make knitting "click" in someone's brain. But I genuinely love to teach new knitters to expand their skills and abilities.

When I would teach a class, there were several things I would repeat over and over again. I don't know if it was helpful or not, but no one ever told me to stop. (I'm sure some of my old students would be able to tell you, yes, he used to say those things. A lot.)

  1. "It's Just Knitting." -- It's just yarn and two sticks. The fate of the world does not rest in your hands. Enjoy yourself. If you make a mistake, don't panic because there are really only two options: fix it (either rip back or some other method of "fixing"), or forget it. And you know what kind of person you are. If you can ignore a mistake and still be happy, forget it; if you will always focus on the mistake every time you see the project, fix it.
  2. "It Will Fit Someone." -- This mainly applied to hats and scarves, projects that either don't have to fit perfectly, or are small enough that you can knit them relatively quickly. (A little secret about my hat designs: I've never swatched any of them for gauge before I knitted them, only after when writing the pattern.) Especially for hats, they will fit someone. Is the baby hat too small or too big? I don't know. It will fit a baby!
  3. "There Is No Right or Wrong, There Is Only Generally Accepted." -- So many times I'd hear a knitter complain "I'm not doing it right" or "What is the right way to work this stitch" and I'd always say "Generally, most knitters/most books will tell you to do [this], but the end result is [that] so however you get there is good." This applied a lot to techniques like left-leaning decreases, cables and, oddly, stockinette. (The stockinette was probably mainly because a lot of people knit twisted and I'd explain the difference but, you know what, a lot of people knit a lot of twisted stitch patterns! Who am I to judge?)
A little bit more on that third point? There are so many self-appointed knitting police out there in the world (and no actual knitting police) that it can be difficult to find your own way, especially when you're new to a craft. I refuse to listen to them. You can if you want; but I think you'd be less stressed if you didn't.

And I'd like to tack on a 4th thing: "Patterns Are Usually Guidelines." Now I know this would sound counter-intuitive, but I'll elaborate. Yes, the numbers and stitch pattern and such - if you don't follow them, you may not end up with the pattern you envisioned. But maybe that's a good thing. There are so many reasons to change stitch counts (sizing) or patterns (maybe you hate cables but love the shape of the finished design). But the other place where you should use the pattern as a guideline: techniques.

I recently was trying to occupy some time in a hotel room on vacation and had packed two balls of Rowan Felted Tweed Aran from my stash and found a really great pattern on Raverly: The Gigi Hat by Margot Allen (free!). It's a different shape than I'd knitted before so I was curious to see how it would work up. Plus it has my favorite thing in a hat, a folded hem.

I whipped out my yarn and appropriate needles (no gauge swatch, see Point 2 above) and then read down the pattern: "With scrap yarn and using your favorite provisional cast on method..." Uh oh. Don't get me wrong; I love a provisional cast on--my personal favorite is crochet cast on and quite a few of my patterns use it--but I'm 6 hours from home with only a few knitting supplies and no scrap yarn.

So I just started with long tail cast on and got stitches on the needle and got started. I know that I can pick up from the cast on edge; I've done it before. And you know what, it worked this time, too. And I learned that there isn't a HUGE benefit to going through the provisional cast on. Yes, the inside edge isn't as neat but, guess what? No one will ever see it. Well, maybe whoever wears the hat, but it's INSIDE!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Sometimes Titles Are Difficult So This Is The One Where I Talk About What I Watch When I Knit

Knitters knit and crocheters crochet everywhere. Anywhere. It's one benefit to the hobby. Unlike, say, dressmaking or quilting or furniture building or piano playing, I can knit pretty much anywhere. But this means I mainly just carry a knitting project around a lot and then sit on my couch and knit while I watch television. I'm not even ashamed.

I mean, should I probably get more exercise? Yep, but then that cuts into knitting time and I need to knit more and design more and become a world famous knitting designer. Or maybe I should skip the knitting for a while, exercise a whole bunch, eat healthy and then, when I'm really "hot", take lots of pictures of me knitting and become famous that way.

Sitting on the couch sounds easier.

Besides, if I didn't sit on the couch, knit and watch television, I wouldn't be able to have conversations with strangers about television shows. It's such an easy way to find common ground.

In 2017, though, it's more than just television. There are so many different options for consuming media at home that it can be difficult to narrow it down. I'm one of those darned cord-cutters the cable industry hates but, fortunately for them, I'm still addicted to the internet; that's how I get all the media.

Let's do a run-down of what I'm watching when I knit (and sometimes when I'm just laying on the couch like a bump on a log. And I'd love to get suggestions from you, too! Don't be shy.


Pretty much the holy grail for media in a cord-cutter's home, Netflix used to fuel the bulk of my entertainment time. Lately, I've found myself watching less and less, mainly tuning in when I just want some background noise.

It's a bit on the nose, but I definitely recommend "Slow TV: National Knitting Evening." It's perfect for just background noise and gentle entertainment. I mean, the most exciting thing is... It's not exciting. I'll be perfectly honest. And because I don't speak Norwegian, I miss a lot -- sometimes it's difficult to read subtitles and knit -- but I don't even care. I still love it.
For sheer ridiculousness and jokes I'll always laugh at, I will always turn to "The IT Crowd." I'm not even going to try to explain it. Just do it.
And one more favorite that I've watched multiple times, and will watch again and again: "Better Off Ted." The cast is fantastic, the situations ridiculous, the dialogue snappy. The most disappointing thing is finding out the show was cancelled too early and there aren't enough episodes.

Amazon Prime

I absolutely cannot recommend more the series "BrainDead" on Amazon Prime. If you're trying to make sense of today's really confusing political climate in a way that is absolutely nonsensical, watch this series. It follows Laurel, her pals Gustave and Rochelle, and her philandering brother/senator, as they investigate space bugs. Space bugs! Bonus, every episode begins with an amazing recap song like this one:


Don't fight it anymore; join the YouTube revolution. It's not just stupid cat videos and kids badly lip syncing to terrible pop songs. I've discovered so many cool things but mainly I love to watch people create. It's so inspiring to just be "around" creative people and feed off of their positive energy. It makes me want to learn and try new things. On the knitting side of things, I'd suggest Grocery Girls Knit, kristyglassknits and the new podcast Dogstar Knits.

The Grocery Girls are funny and prolific knitters and really encourage other knitters. They've got a second show on the Craftsy channel called "Off Our Needles". Kristy Glass has some really great interviews with people in the knitting/yarn crafting world (typically, I loved her "Man"ch series - interviews in March with men who knit). Dogstar Knits is a husband and wife duo that has a really chill aesthetic. Dogstar Knits only has four episodes so far but fingers crossed for a lot more.

It's really interesting to see how people approach the knitting lifestyle from many different angles--as crafters, as interviewers and as designers and dyers. These are the kinds of videos I like to watch to make me a better member of the knitting community.

But on the non-knitting side of YouTube, don't be afraid to deep dive for off the wall things, like The Great Pottery Throw Down, which is, yes, a pottery version of the Great British Bake Off! But with clay! It's amazing!


When I want to feel intellectual and take a surface look into deep subjects, I'll flip over to and start watching any of their many videos. Some of the videos I've found inspiring:

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Design Series: Raven Rocks Scarf, Part 7 - Putting It All Together

It's Labor Day Weekend, the traditional end of summer. You know what that means? Autumn is literally around the corner. Cooler and shorter days, more gray skies, then winter and snow and sleet and windy: my favorite weather. It's time to really kick scarf, shawl and hat knitting into overdrive.

I don't know if it's a knitter thing, but I'm very uninterested in making sure that my knitwear matches my coats. I know when people ask me to knit for them, I always hear "well, my coat is blue, so I want a blue scarf" or "I have a gray jacket and need a gray scarf." Why do non-knitters want their accessories to disappear into their outerwear? I'm very much a fan of wearing whatever strikes my fancy and if that means I wear a gold hat with a pink scarf and blue gloves, so be it! I want all the color!

I'm very excited that this winter I'll have a bright bright BRIGHT pink scarf. You've seen it; it's Raven Rocks! So the design is done and I'm happy with it. I like how it blocked and dried and how it hangs. It's going to be so warm during the cold winter months. Most likely, though, it'll be purloined by some family member who decides she wants it more than I do. I'm okay with that.

The hardest part comes next: putting the whole pattern together. By my quick count, this scarf will have about 10 different charts. In addition to the charts, I'll probably put together written instructions for knitters that don't like charts (I don't judge). Plus instructions and directions and tips and abbreviations and pictures and materials and tools.

Frankly, when I'm a world famous knitting designer, or really, when I can afford it, I'll just design and then send the charts and notes off to someone else who will put it all together for me. It's my least favorite part.

If you're at all interested in spying on me and my editing process, I'll work on it in Google Docs, which you can access here: Raven Rocks Google Doc

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Design Series: Raven Rocks Scarf, Part 6 - The Beginning of the End

Let's be cliche; all good things must come to an end. And the beginning of this end is a scale. Why is it that a scale always lets me down?

I think I'll skip the preambles and the rambles and the ambles and just dive into what next steps are in Raven Rocks. I've got a bunch of ideas brewing in my brain for some of the other hundred (hundreds?) skeins of yarn in my studio and I want to get back to me needles.

Since I'm designing this on the fly and on the needles, I thought I need to be a little more scientific about how to know when I should start decreasing. I assumed (uh oh) I know how to do math but nope, and, spoiler alert, I ran out of yarn. But the good thing about me running out of yarn is hopefully now I know how to write the pattern so that you don't run out of yarn.

Where did we leave off? We were knitting the long "plain" no-increase section of the scarf. Probably by now, you've settled into the comfortable rhythm of lace knitting and texture stitches. And I'm coming along to shake it all up. Not really, though, we're just adding in a decrease and every row will be quicker and quicker. But just like before, we need to work some short rows.

The interesting thing that happened when designing the scarf was I discovered that I could put the short rows in basically the same spot of the pattern and so I don't have to re-do the short row chart. I can just say "go back and re-read the short row section and do that" and ta-da! Done.

After you finish the short rows, there are a series of four decrease charts, but only one is worked multiple times. The others are one-off charts just to get from Point A to Point B. All of the symbols are the same as you've been using all along, so that's super handy/fortuitous.

Here they are in the order you should work them:

The first chart begins the decreases and transitions you to the beginning of what you recognize as the row repeat.

The next chart will be repeated a bunch of times, basically until your last time you don't repeat the stitch repeat section marked in red more than once. This will transition you to the final lace chart.

And now just a few more rows of lace:

And finally, the decrease rows for the border so that we get back down to the bind off. Don't be thrown off by the gray wedge of no-stitch stitches now looking like it goes the other way. We explored briefly why the gray wedge flips back and forth to keep the edges "straight" in a previous post.

Congratulations! You've finished knitting. You're SO close to being done. Now you can cast on another one in another color and whiz through. Think of all the people that will love to have a scarf like this!

What's next? Finishing. Yeah, we finished knitting. But now we need to wash and block and dry and weave in ends. This is one of those things that is a little more than magical and I don't hate it. It's not like seaming a sweater, which if I'm honest, even I don't love.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Design Series: Raven Rocks Scarf, Part 5 - Just Keep Knitting

You know how when you go on a long journey, it's really fun at the start but then you hit a long slog in the middle where you can't stop yawning and even new scenery looks boring because oh-my-gosh-why-isn't-it-over-yet and after a long time, you start to realize that you're close to the end and it's all easy again? Well we're at that point in knitting Raven Rocks scarf.

Last year, I drove almost all the way across the USA from my house to Las Vegas (a little more than 2,100 miles!) and while it was all fun, like knitting a scarf, it did get a little boring about Oklahoma. From now on, I'm calling the middle section of any scarf "Oklahoma." You have to push through and then you get to Arizona, which is amazing. 

Don't tell anyone I'm making up metaphors on the fly. My metaphors are terrible. Let's skip the metaphors.

Last time we met, we worked some short rows to go from increasing to just knitting the scarf straight. Hopefully, you were successful with the short rows.

Because I'm designing on the fly, on the needles, and without much planning, I need to know how much I can knit so that I don't have play (fingers crossed) crazy yarn chicken at the end of the scarf when I switch back to decreasing. I tossed the ball of yarn on my very cheap scale and weighed how much yarn it took to get to where I am - 2.11 ounces. Now I know about how much I need to have when I switch back to short rows and decreasing.

If you'll remember back to the last increase rows we worked, we stopped at a weird spot in the pattern--after Row 14, not a full repeat. Then there were two more rows worked across the scarf in the short row section. That means when we start the main chart, we're not going to start on Row 1. Let's instead start on Row 17.

I marked the spot to START the main chart with a light blue border. I totally get it, this feels awkward and wrong and, when I send the pattern off to my tech editor, I'll ask for opinions if this is "wrong", but here's my reasons: After working so many repeats of the increase sections, I'm used to the pattern rows as they were charted. If I change Row 1, then I'm confused again and my brain feels like it needs to relearn the chart. And now the chart looks familiar, just without increases.

So start this chart on Row 17, then continue repeating the entire chart until your scarf is as long as you want the middle section, or until, when you weigh your yarn, you have the a little more than what you used in in the increase sections. But - and don't forget - you'll need to finish the main chart at Row 14 again. And this is marked by a light green border.

I'll let you in on a happy little accident that I stumbled on while working out the decrease chart: you've already done the next step once. It's short rows! But that's for next time.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Knitting is so cool.

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

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And now we have even more fun things happening.

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

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

Monday, August 7, 2017

New Pattern Alert: Ticking Stripes Blanket

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

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

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

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Design Series: Raven Rocks Scarf, Part 2a - Why Does That Chart Go the Wrong Way

It's Sunday so that means office hours at Starbucks (#notsponsored) and I try to write more blog posts. I like having this structure of writing on Sunday afternoons even if I feel like a pretentious prat with a laptop at a coffee shop like I'm writing the next Great American Novel.

Also, by the way, it's a venti vanilla sweet cream cold brew and cheese danish kind of day.

In the last post I released the first chart for the beginning of Raven Rocks Scarf. You may have noticed that I'm not posting any written instructions, just charts. I greatly prefer charts to written instructions because the chart helps me visualize what the finished stitch pattern and project should look like.


Look at these two pictures side by side:

The sketch (left) shows the scarf growing to the left. The chart (right) shows the scarf growing to the right. It looks like I'm wrong; the chart doesn't match the finished project. And sure, a little bit. But what the chart shows is the left edge is "straight", just like the left edge of the sketch. The chart shows the increases are at the right border, just like the right edge of the sketch.

But another way to look at this is the chart keeps the stitch pattern as it will look when it's knitted, with the stitches lined up and showing the correct pattern. If I rearranged the chart so it grows to the left, it would look like the chart to the left.

No, it's not the worse but, as you can see from the red box, the stitches are no longer aligned and, in my experience, this will make it so much harder to knit by sight. You will be forced to follow the chart exactly and won't learn the stitch pattern as quickly.

It'll also be harder to recognize mistakes and fix errors. You can't tell by looking at this chart if a purl stitch should fall above the knit stitch or not and that can make your knitting much less fun.

So I suggest you use the chart in the last post for knitting Raven Rocks Scarf.

And another caveat: this is the chart I used for my sample of Raven Rocks Scarf. If you want to knit the border wider or narrower, I've charted a condensed version of the chart, which I may substitute for the full chart in the finished pattern. The instructions would read something like "Work Beginning Border Chart Rows 1 - 20 once, then Rows 13 - 20 three more times."

If you want the border wider/narrower, work more/fewer repeats of Rows 13 - 20, but always all rows of the repeat so that it flows neatly into the next chart.

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Design Series: Raven Rocks Scarf, Part 2 - Let's Get Started

If you're knitting along with me while I draft, design and edit the Raven Rocks Scarf, you've already picked out your yarn and maybe swatched the stitch patterns to settle on a needle size you like.

Wait. Did I even talk about swatching? Probably not because I didn't swatch for this project. I picked out two stitch patterns I'd already used and knew I like. I picked out a needle size knowing that it would be large enough to work with lace but not so large that the garter textured pattern would get lost.

But I'll let you take some time to swatch. In the last post, there are two charts for stitch patterns. Grab your needles and your yarn and let's do it.

For the Bricks pattern, cast on a multiple of 4 stitches -- 4, 8, 12, 16, etc. You get the idea. You want enough stitches that you can really see the pattern, so I'd recommend at least 32 stitches. Then work the pattern according to the chart. I suggest you work the chart at least 4 times to get a really good idea of the fabric.

For the Arched Lace pattern, cast on a multiple of 6 + 7. This is a bit more complicated multiple because the pattern makes allowances for extra decreases on the edges. So how do you cast on a multiple of 6 + 7? First, cast on a multiple of the first number listed: 6 -- 6, 12, 18, etc. And then cast on 7 more stitches. So 6 + 7, 12 + 7, 18 + 7, etc. I suggest at least 31 stitches (24 + 7), but with lace you may want more. I also suggest you work the chart at least 3 times. It's a longer repeat so you'll see the fabric you get with few repeats of the chart.

Ready to move on? Great!

A couple more decisions:

  • What are my edges going to look like?
  • Where do the increases go to make a triangle?

What are my edges going to look like?

I picked out two different edges for Raven Rocks Scarf. On the long straight edge, I decided to go with an i-cord. I'll work the i-cord at the same time as the scarf. This type of edge has its own challenges and benefits.

To work the i-cord at the same time as the scarf, three edge stitches will be slipped on every wrong side row and knitted on every right side row. This means that the three-stitch edge will be shorter than the rest of the scarf by half. It's only being knitted every other row. But knitted fabric is stretchy and flexible and I find that I like the firm, but finished, edge created by the i-cord. I also find that the i-cord edge helps the scarf almost curve toward the i-cord and so around my neck.

On the opposite edge, I'm going to work a decorative yarn-over/decrease edge. I'm not sure there's a fancy word for it. But for this type of edge, every right side row is just worked in pattern. The wrong side row begins with yarn over and then k2tog (knit two together). The k2tog balances the yarn over and doesn't cause increases while the yarn over makes a loopy decorative edge. It's especially beautiful on a lace pattern that will be blocked out severely.

Where do the increases go to make a triangle?

This turned out to be way more complicated than it should be. Increasing and decreasing in knitted fabric can be a fickle and cruel thing and it's very interesting how just moving your increases really makes your knitting "move" in one way or another.

Now, too long into the design process, I sketch out the pattern on paper so I know where the stitch patterns go.

I know I want the i-cord edge to be "straight", so my first draft of the pattern put the increases in the yarn over/decrease edge. I loved this because I could, in the increases, just yarn over without decreasing, and then add the decreases when I was ready for the pattern to go "straight." This looked fantastic and worked beautifully until.... always until... until I added the lace pattern. Then it doesn't work anymore because I have to also increase the lace section. and that moves the increases and changes the shape and everything falls to pieces.

Rip it out. Re-sketch. Move the increases. Re-swatch. Success!

I still want the i-cord edge to be "straight," which means the increases in the lace section need to be at the boundary of the arched lace and bricks stitch patterns. If I put the increases for the bricks section at the same spot, when I switch from increasing the bricks pattern to increasing the lace pattern, everything will work!

So here you go: the chart for the beginning of Raven Rocks Scarf. 

Monday, July 31, 2017

Design Series: Raven Rocks Scarf, Part 1 - The Yarn and the Stitches

Every November, I usually get the same semi-panicked msgs and phone calls from friends: "Can you knit a hat for me to give to [insert name]" and I usually say "yes, if you buy the yarn and here, pick out the yarn you want from this website" with a link to Miss Babs. I know, two posts in a row where in the first paragraph I link to Miss Babs hand-dyed yarns, but it's a good yarn in pretty colors and has never yet let me down. For hats the past couple of years, I've been defaulting to Kunlun DK because it just feels so amazing and I love working with it. I love working with it even more if someone else buys it. (I'm no dummy.)

So last year when I placed an order for a few skeins of Kunlun DK, I tossed the dice and ordered a giant skein of Killington, a Polwarth wool and Tussah silk blend, in a bright pink called "Floyd." (You get it, right? Pink Floyd? ha!) I had no projects in mind, but I new the very generous yardage -- an 8.5 ounce skein is about 700 yards and my skein came in at just over 9 ounces -- would let me knit anything from a small sweater or vest to a shawl.

The wool arrived and it was a better pink than I could have imagined with a soft yet sturdy feel. I know this yarn can withstand a little rough handling and some unknitting and reknitting. Spoiler alert: it totally does hold up and that's after I unknit/reknit the same section FOUR times!

By now, the better part of a year has passed and I'm finally ready to get started on a new project. I pull out my hank of Killington, wind it into a ball and start thinking.

Here's what I know.
  • I want to knit a scarf or shawl. A neck accessory.
  • I want to knit some lace or some texture. The color is a bright bold pink, but it's mostly solid so it can work with lace or texture and they won't fight each other.
I know from experience that for extra drape and to show off lace, I'll want to use a needle that is larger than suggested on the ball band. Miss Babs suggested US 3-5. I'll go with US 7 or US 8. (Side note, I'll probably just stick with US sizes because it's easier for my American brain. Apologies to the rest of the world that is tired of constantly making allowances for Americans.)

So if you want to follow along with me, pick out a sport weight yarn in a solid(ish) color and find your US 7 or US 8 needles.

Then we get out the stitch dictionaries and sketch books. I like to sketch shapes on paper but patterns I like to sketch in Stitchmastery, a knitting chart program. I skipped the shape sketches this time because I know I want either a triangle or a rectangle and, well, that's a boring shape to draw. I do settle on the idea of knitting from side to side, starting at a point, increasing one edge so that there is a triangular shape, then decreasing to the other point. It's a shape I've been toying with lately.

I also pick out two stitch patterns I like that I had already "sketched" in Stitchmastery, so I'm not sure where I found them originally. When I can find the source, I'll post it. I wanted two patterns that complement each other and, super importantly for charting, have a row repeat that matches up. (This is where you become glad you paid attention in math class and remember your common denominators and common multiples.

The first one is basically a garter stitch that is broken up by vertical columns of single stockinette stitches. I think it looks a little like bricks. I've used it before in a hat pattern but I love it because it's so easy to work, with or without the chart handy. In a hat or other circular project it's even easier, but every right-side row is knit and all the patterning (and it's only knits and purls) happens on the wrong-side rows. The pattern repeats every 8 rows.

The second stitch pattern is a lace that combines knits and purls for texture and the pattern repeat is offset, giving even more dimension to the finished fabric. Also, almost serendipitously, the pattern repeats every 24 rows -- a multiple of 8! The repeats will sync up and remove the necessity for a knitter to work from two different charts across a row.

Charts for both patterns are below. These are not charts for Raven Rocks Scarf pattern, just the stitches. Next time, I'll show how I go from basic chart to pattern chart.

Bricks Stitch pattern
Stitch multiple: 4
Row multiple: 8
Arched Lace pattern
Stitch multiple: 6 + 7
Row multiple: 24

Sunday, July 30, 2017

A Rodeo Knits Design Process

If you follow me on Instagram -- and why not? it's lots of pictures of knitting and/or beer -- you'll Miss Bab's Killington, a sport weight wool/silk blend. I'm through the first couple steps in the pattern, a scarf, and settled into the long straight scarf section.
know that I'm working on a new design in a bright pink

I thought I'd bring you along on my design process for this scarf, which doesn't have a name yet. I've been tossing a few around. I'm not sure where the name Killington comes from, but it makes me think of a mountain, and since I name almost all of my patterns after places and features of West Virginia, it makes sense to me to go with a mountain name in West Virginia.

And now for a tangent about mountains. The tallest mountain in West Virginia is Spruce Knob but the last time I named a pattern with "knob," one of my knitter friends from England clued me in that "knob" is a slang word in British English. So maybe I'll stay away from that. Raven Rock and Mount Porte Crayon are a couple of the other taller mountains in West Virginia. I think Raven Rocks has a nice ring to it, but I worry that "raven" has enough of a color connotation that it would make it difficult to see it in any color other than black.

But that's the end of that detour and as I typed it out, I realized I'm leaning very much to Raven Rocks.

So this is going to be a short series of blog posts about the new Raven Rocks Scarf pattern -- I like the way that sounds -- and it will be different from some other series I've read featuring a pattern.

I do plan to eventually release this as a self-published pattern available for purchase from various online sources (you know, like my other patterns on Ravelry or LoveKnitting) but until then, I'll post it for free while I'm drafting through it.

I'll post charts and yarn suggestions, needles and gauge, pictures, suggestions, edits, etc. here on this series and you're welcome to follow along, make suggestions, ask questions, anything you like. I like the idea of collaborating with knitters who will be working from my patterns.

Don't be shy and let's connect!

Monday, July 24, 2017

A Late Review of Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival

I went to Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival for the first time this year. It was drizzly and cold (even
though it was in May!) and muddy, giving me new appreciation for my friend who dubbed it the Maryland Sheep and S*** Festival. It's really neat to walk around and see the sheep and shop the vendors and food stalls. It's also kind of interesting to be a man at what has been turned into a yarn festival. I'll get back to that.

You can still see the vestiges of its origins as a sheep fair. There are quite a few vendors of sheep-keeping (shepherding? sheep husbandry?) accoutrements like fences and feed and other stuff like that.Y'know, manly stuff. There are lots of sheep contests and judging and sheep-based food products. I think you get the idea.

It's smelly. And muddy. Mostly smelly.

And there are lots and lots of other vendors of wool and wool products and wool-related products. Yarn, yarn and more yarn. Hand-dyed, hand painted, hand spun. Fancy yarns and home-ly yarns. And so. many. knitters.

To be a man at a yarn festival is to be ignored, pushed, interrupted, pitied, side-eyed, and sighed-at. But you do get used to it and it's a small thing to endure to be able to enjoy the yarn and the sheep and the new patterns (except for the brief moment I thought I found a pattern I wrote but rewritten with a new name but decided I was probably just being paranoid and anyone could write a plaid hat pattern) and tools. I spent a little (too much) money and made some new friends. I spoke with wonderful people to make and dye the yarn. I found yarn new to me that I love -- North Light Fibers -- and repurchased the same types of yarn I buy every time I see them at a yarn event -- Brooks Farm Yarn.

Would I go again? Maybe. Next year? I'll need a good reason. For better or worse, the internet makes yarn festivals less necessary to find and try new yarns and the quality of everyone's hand dyed yarns is just through the roof. If it's no good, it doesn't survive. Besides, I'm not such a fanboy of hand dyed yarns that I need need need it. I much prefer a good quality wool or wool blend.

The next yarn festival I'd like to go to is New York Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck, NY but it's really far away and just a week before my favorite festival, Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair in Asheville, NC, which I haven't been able to go to in several years. Maybe North Carolina this year and New York next year. It's good to have goals.

And while I'm planning travel destinations, let's add North Light Fibers in Block Island, RI to the list.
A wall of North Light Fibers yarns!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

A Blog: Resurrection

Well, we made it to mid-July. Nope, sorry, scratch that. Late July. It's hot and humid and sticky and it makes me a cranky knitter.

Welcome to that most-amazing blog post that you read on every blogger's feed: the where-have-I-been-I'm-such-a-terrible-blogger-OMG-I'll-do-better post. I hate them. But I guess it's necessary when you haven't even looked at your blog for more than half of a year, especially when you have almost no excuses.

So let's do a quick catch up: knitted a lot, lost a job, knitted more, traveled some, traveled some more, knitted more, relaxed through a summer, stressed a bit, knitted even more, released a couple patterns without much fanfare, replied to a few design calls, knitted a few things, binged through a lot of series on Netflix, knitted, binged through YouTube knitting vlogs, knitted, found a new job, knitted less, binged less, worked, stressed, picked up knitting again. I think that covers it mostly.

I didn't completely fall off the face of the earth. I've been active on Instagram and Twitter, posting vaguely political stuff on Facebook (and then deleting it again), and then deleting posts from Twitter. I go back and forth between opinionated and active to private and you-don't-know-me.

So let's skip over that and move on. I'm a knitting blog and let's talk about knitting. Well, next time. And just so there is a next time, I'm going to move write on to the next time and schedule my next post!

(That's called.... uh.... something witty but I don't know what. I'm not a writer.)