Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Another FO Off The Needles



My final (at least for now) Philodendra scarf, in Handmaiden Fine Yarn's Mini Maiden silk and wool blend yarn, is fresh off the needles. As usual, the unblocked finished object looks like a wadded up dish rag. Guess I'd better get blocking.

On another note, have I mentioned that knitters and crocheters are the best folks around? At least I think they are, especially after a very thoughtful new friend (one of three of us named Robin at Camp 1) from Meg Swansen's Knitting Camp sent me this lovely surprise in the mail today. 


Robin wore the cutest T-shirt that she'd made herself by creating an iron-on transfer with this picture of an American Robin. When I admired it, she kindly offered to send me a transfer. Thank you for the adorable transfer Robin, I can't wait to make my own shirt!

And thanks to my readers for stopping by my virtual studio today - I wish you peace, blessings and many hours of happy stitching!






Friday, July 11, 2014

Knitting Camp Wrap Up



Warning - Long post with many photos ahead! 

I've just returned from a pilgrimage to knitters' heaven Meg Swansen's Knitting Camp in Marshfield, Wisconsin. 

I experienced so much in just four short days that it's hard to know where to begin in sharing it here, so I'll just start at the beginning. 

First of all 'camp' is somewhat of a misnomer now that the event is held at a very nice hotel and conference center. 41 years ago, the roots of camp went down when knitting innovator Elizabeth Zimmerman (Meg's mother) began teaching a weekend knitting course at an extension of the University of Wisconsin.


Since then, the gathering has evolved, with Meg now at the helm, and grown to include four sessions run over every weekend in July. 

Our session, Camp 1, began with a dinner on Thursday evening where we were welcomed by camp staff Amy Detjen and Heather Black, and Meg's son and Schoolhouse Press representative Cully Swansen. After dinner the doors to our classroom were thrown open and the stampede for seats was on. 

As we jostled our way through the mayhem to an open spot we were greeted by cute camp logo tote bags and other goodies, including folders that eventually were stuffed with all the notes and patterns given to us for class sessions.

Standing towards the back of the modified ring of tables in the photo below, Amy Detjen (in the fantastic purple ensemble), was available all day, every day for personal coaching of campers' projects. Amy has been Meg's assistant for many years, is herself a fantastic teacher, and can be counted on for her fun, enthusiastic attitude in addition to expert technical advice.




Video monitors throughout the room made for easy, close-up viewing of knitting and other details being shown by Meg during class, and Meg also had a monitor so she could see our view of her hands at work.



The classroom and adjacent marketplace were open all day and well into the evening hours, providing a gathering spot where many campers opted to return after dinner to hang out, knit and shop. 

The room was ringed with tables stacked high with piles of incredible  sweaters and other knits from Schoolhouse Press publications, many of them knit by Meg or Elizabeth Zimmerman. Campers were free to examine, try on and wear the knits at their leisure.  
  



You may recognize many of these knits as being the actual samples seen in various books, patterns and video recordings. Below is the famous Saddle-Shoulder Aran Cardigan. 


This garter stitch jacket design can be seen in the photo of Elizabeth with Barbara Walker and Mary Walker Phillips.

 

 

You can knit your own version of the jacket using the pattern from a recently published book of Elizabeth's garter stitch designs, Knit One Knit All. 

I loved the ingenious construction of Elizabeth's jacket in natural wool, seen here and in the photo at the top of this post. 
  

Yes, I tried this gorgeous jacket on (the sleeves were a good 3 inches too short for my monkey arms). Unfortunately, I was not struck with a flash of Elizabeth's knitting genius as I wore it, but it was thrilling to try it on all the same!

Schoolhouse Press staff stocked the marketplace with merchandise from their web store, and campers simply wandered through and selected what they wanted throughout the weekend, recorded it on a sheet of paper on an honor-system basis, then tallied up and paid for their purchases at checkout on Monday morning (welcome to the Midwest).

We drooled over gorgeous wheels of unspun Icelandic wool, 





 every color of Jamieson's Spindrift yarn imaginable, 
 

 and many other delights.





On Saturday, local vendors added their wares to the mix, including yarns from Sun Valley Fibers, Kimmet Croft Fibers and many others, as well as pottery from Jenny the Potter.

During three days of morning class, Meg instructed on such topics as the EPS (Elizabeth's Percentage System) for sweater construction, and stranded color work techniques.

Meg is a wonderful teacher and knows so much about knitting that it boggles the mind. 
 

Although there was a planned topic for every class, the format was loosely structured and we frequently digressed along whatever path the class wanted to travel, for instance, developing a right-leaning double decrease to mirror the SK2P double decrease, or the technique for working a Latvian braid like the one in this sweater.


We received loads of patterns, some from Schoolhouse Press books, others developed especially for camp, including hats, mittens, sweaters, vests and more. I can't wait to knit this beautiful hat from a camp hand-out.


Afternoons were presided over by Amy and featured 'show and tell' where campers shared their favorite knits as well as knitting challenges they've faced. We saw many gorgeous sweaters and shawls, and one camper shared this beautiful blanket in many colors of unspun Icelandic wool (pattern from Knitpicks).


The entire Schoolhouse Press staff did a wonderful job of making us feel welcome, answering questions and ensuring that things ran smoothly. 

Meg is such a kind and gracious lady, it was a huge pleasure to meet her and learn from her vast wealth of knitting knowledge.
 
 
Although it would be nice to be able to simply download her expertise into our brains, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't want to miss out on the fantastic learning experience and fun that was Knitting Camp. I was incredibly inspired by this camp and I already want to attend another one!





Elizabeth Zimmerman photos on pinterest

Saturday, June 14, 2014

New Knitting Pattern - Philodendra


Our extended winter was still in full swing, and I was in the midst of chemotherapy treatments, when I first began experimenting with stitches and swatches for the Philodendra scarf. 


 

I longed for spring, vitality, and something bright and cheerful to knit and wear. Thus, a travel-friendly project combining an airy stitch pattern, lightweight silk-wool blend yarn, and bright colorway was an easy choice.

I love the way a pretty scarf can elevate simple jeans and a white shirt to 'outfit' status so I set out to make something light and delicate enough to wear as a warm-weather fashion accessory (however, since the pattern requires only a single skein of yarn, I also plan to knit it in a special, wintry cashmere yarn I've been hoarding!).
 

The Philodendra stitch pattern includes multiple decreases and yarn overs on right side rows, creating almost as much air as fabric (wrong side rows are purled). I didn't want the pattern to be too challenging for most knitters, so I opted for a one-piece construction eliminating the need for grafting or a provisional cast-on. 


The twin panels of meandering vines are defined by columns of eyelets and cascade the entire length of the scarf, just as a natural vine would do. 

And speaking of vines, this leafy stitch reminds me of a favorite plant, philodendron cordatum, one of which (similar to this one from Design Sponge) grows in my living room window.
 


Hardy and undemanding, my philodendron produces lovely pendulous leaves, offset along the vine, that add a little greenery and life to the room.

I've knit several versions of this scarf, starting with a lavender prototype in Fiber Optics Foot Notes yarn, and have just finished the latest version (in another yarn), not yet photographed, which I'll eventually post to Ravelry


For the main pattern version I knew I wanted to start with a bright, fresh, green yarn in a lightweight wool or wool blend, but I had a really hard time finding the exact color I wanted until I finally came across Cascade's Heritage Silk in the Citron colorway. 



The color was just what I had in mind, and the addition of silk to the wool in the yarn lightens the scarf and adds sheen and drape to the fabric.

I must give a giant thank you to my awesome test knit team for their help on this pattern - Cheryl, Connie, Laurie and Josefina. As usual, they came through with flying colors on this project. You ladies are terrific!

Once the knitting was complete, I had a lot of fun photographing the scarves and got much too carried away with that part (what else is new? Lol), experimenting with different ideas.


I promise, one of these days I will start using proper lighting and manual camera settings, hahaha...

Thanks for stopping by my virtual studio today, I wish you peace, blessings and happy knitting!





Thursday, June 5, 2014

Blocking



With the third version of my next pattern off the needles, I'm again amazed at the way blocking brings out the true beauty of lace. What started out as a wadded, lumpy finished object stretched into an elegant, open piece in less than an hour.

I soaked the above project in tepid water until it was saturated, then gently pressed out as much excess moisture as I could. Next I slid blocking wires along pertinent edges and pinned the project into place using rust-proof T pins on thick, foam mats. 

For the areas of lace within the body of the fabric that I wanted to keep straight, I manually adjusted the stitch position, then placed a pin on either side to hold it in place (another option might have been to insert blocking wires into the main lace fabric, although that needs to be done very carefully so that stitches on either side of the wires don't become distorted).

Some edges I chose to create points by pulling stitches out and carefully pinning through them.



I l.o.v.e. blocking wires for finishing lace. You can purchase wires like mine, as well as pins, mats, and other blocking tools, at many local yarn shops.  If your LYS doesn't carry them, try online sources for wires and pins, like these shown below from Knitpicks.


 

My 24" square blocking mats were purchased inexpensively at a large hardware store (sold as anti-fatigue mats for workshop floors), and they work beautifully. Their large size allows me to easily block large projects. If you cannot find mats at your LYS or hardware store, you might like these smaller Knitpicks mats. 


Special mats are not necessary for proper blocking (some people use a clean, carpeted floor or bare mattress), but they do make it easier. And I highly recommend blocking wires for the best finish possible on many projects, especially lace. 

Although not every knit or crochet project requires blocking, most lace projects will benefit from the opening up of stitches that results. If you are not familiar with blocking lace, there are many excellent tutorials and videos online, like this one from Knitpicks.

 A few minutes of blocking a knit or crochet project is time well spent, considering the amount of time, care and money you've already invested in your wonderful project.






Thursday, May 1, 2014

Possibilities...

 

 "All things seem possible in May."
- Edwin Way Teale

  Wishing you a May 
filled with possibilities...



photo via pinterest

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Spring Forward (& Special Pattern Savings!)

 
Yes, I know spring officially began a month ago, but not only has our weather just recently decided to behave in a spring-like fashion, since last year a serious illness has kept me from feeling as though spring would ever arrive. Sometimes I was so sick and weak I couldn't even sit up to knit or be on my computer. That, however, has all changed for the better! 

I am so happy to be able to say that not only has spring weather truly arrived (always something to be excited about) but that my long months of chemotherapy are over, my CT scan is clear, and I am at work on a new knitting pattern! 

A huge thank you goes out to everyone who sent kind wishes and prayers my way. I received so many notes, cards, flowers, emails, tweets, blog comments, Ravelry PMs and more that I can't begin to list them all or I might forget to name someone, but I'm truly humbled and blessed by the thoughtfulness of my friends, family and the fiber community. 

With my slowly but steadily returning vigor, my knitting needles have begun clicking in earnest on something light, lacy and expressive of my happy mood these days (see a peek in the photo at the top of the post). This little project will be available for test knitting soon! 

Special Pattern Savings...
To share my happiness about spring and a return to health, I'm offering a special 20% off coupon, good on all non-set pattern downloads in my Ravelry shop, through the next four days (April 30th). Just add your patterns to the cart then enter code: Spring2014 to receive your savings. 

Thanks for stopping by today and for all the sunshine you, my online friends, brought into my life during some very wintry days!



Thursday, April 24, 2014

Favorite Thing - Knitting Cake




It's been a while since I've posted a Favorite Thing, but when I saw this gorgeous knit-themed cake on the Knit & Crochet Now Facebook page, I knew I had to share it both on my Facebook page and here with you as well! This cable knit frosted cake would be fantastic for any wedding, birthday, knitting group party or other special event. 




Thursday, April 17, 2014

Swatching


Swatching is one of the most fun parts of a new knitting or crochet project for me because I love testing different combinations of yarn, stitches, needles and even blocking methods (all of which can have a huge impact on a finished knitting project). 

If you've been reading my blog for a while you may have noticed that I often try out new stitches in a solid, light-colored yarn in order to compare and contrast them. The yarn I used in the photo is a basic fingering weight wool as I've been swatching stitch combinations for a new pattern for fingering weight yarn.

Once I settle on a few stitch favorites, I swatch them again in the yarn I'm considering for the design. And for every project, I always block the swatches in the same way I plan to block the project. 

Now I have piles of swatches and (being a thrifty person who hates to throw out something useful) I need to come up with an idea to put them all to good use.

Thanks for stopping by today, happy swatching!


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

In Like A Lamb

 


The old adage has held true, at least around here, that March came "in like a lion and went out like a lamb" prompting me to share this photo of a ewe and her twin lambs (from my Pinterest Fauna board). 

Today it finally seemed like spring has arrived, with sunshine and temperatures in the mid 70's, feeling very lamb-like indeed. I hope you are enjoying some nice spring weather where you are. Thanks for stopping by today, happy knitting and...

Happy April!





Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Vintage Vogue



Not long ago my friend Loren sent me some vintage Vogue Knitting Book magazines she'd scored at a yard sale. I had a ton of fun leafing through them, both admiring and giggling at various designs and advertisements from 60 years ago.

The issues she sent, from the Fall/ Winter 1953 and Spring/ Summer 1954 seasons, each include patterns for 70+ knitting and 16+ crochet projects, an impressive value for only 50 cents. 

While some designs are clearly of their era, others are remarkably timeless.

 

I thought it interesting that both issues include patterns for sandals.


Nearly all of the shawl patterns are for long rectangles.


1950's pink proliferates. 






The majority of the designs are more formal than those of today, often knit in very fine gauges, and the magazines include loads of patterns for dresses and suits.




This coat is a true classic, but I'm not sure I have the fortitude for the oceans of sport weight stockinette stitch required.


I'm impressed with how many crochet designs are featured.




The written instructions are a little more abbreviated than those of today, and look slightly more complicated to figure out. The magazines also include patterns for men, children and home. 

I really enjoyed the look back into our knitting history, and I hope you did too. Thanks for stopping by my virtual studio today, I wish you peace, blessings and happy stitching!