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

Sheep!
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.)