I am busy working on the pink O-Wool Balance version of Mandy’s Heart sweater.  This is the back.  I wasn’t going to post so much of the pattern online until February, but here I am showing you the main fabric.  If anyone wants to design another sweater using this kind of fabric, well, you won’t be the first and I’m probably not the first either!  You can only put knits and purls together in so many ways and I’m sure I’m not the first to knit them in this arrangement.

It’s times like this that I wish I was a faster knitter.  My friend Nancy told me that I really need to learn continental style knitting (I’m an English knitter, or a “thrower”) not only because it’s faster but also because it would probably be less strain on my shoulder.  When my shoulder starts to hurt these days, I immediately stop knitting.  And when I say stop, I mean stop for a few hours, not just a few minutes.

You can tell that this Balance fabric is much different from the Vintage fabric I showed a week ago.  It’s not nearly as bouncy or stretchy.  The 50% cotton has a big impact on the fabric.  It knits up to gauge immediately.  Washing the gauge and laying it out to dry makes the stitches look more regular but doesn’t change the overall size or shape.

I’m really hoping to get the back finished in the next few days and move on to the front.  The front is a lot more interesting to knit because of the cable section.  I’m looking forward to that!

By the way, I’ve started my own group on Ravelry here, in case you want to follow the progress of this sweater, and more sweaters to come (soon).

Kaffe Fasset in Amsterdam

Last night Kaffee Fassett had a book signing and a gave a short talk in Amsterdam.  It was sponsored by the American Book Center (ABC).  The book signing took place on the ground floor of the ABC shop and the talk was just a short walk away at the ABC Treehouse.

That’s Kaffe, seated, signing books and laughing with customers/admirers.  Brandon Mably stands nearby.  Kaffe is so animated and is always moving, making it a challenge to get a good photo of him!

He has just published his memoirs, titled “Dreaming in Color – an autobiography”, which is the reason behind the book tour.  I have yet to read it, but given the amazing life this man has lead, I’m sure it’s going to be a page turner!

During the talk at the Treehouse he showed us some of his work.  It was just a tease.  But still nice to see some of his things in person.  I first saw both Kaffe and Brandon on the Vogue Knitting Tour to Alaska in 1999.  They tried to teach us how to use color in free and organic ways.  I think I failed.  At that time I just couldn’t get my mind wrapped around knitting without a chart to tell me what to do.  I think today I would be a much better student.

Here are some photos from last night.

Of course I wore my Tumbling Blocks Kaffee Fassett sweater.  I made it in 1990 as far as I remember.  I definitely remember cursing at all the ends I had to weave in in the back!  That sweater is over 20 years old but it’s still going strong.  I don’t wear it very often anymore because the style is rather out of date (remember big 80’s sweaters?).  But for this occasion I had to wear it.  When Kaffe was signing my book I showed him the sweater, then I showed him my copy of his first book that has that sweater pattern in it.  He signed that book too and seemed really happy to see someone carrying it around.

I just wish that he would have talked longer.  Much longer.  The talk seemed really short and constrained by the ABC’s timing issues.  I would have loved to hear about his amazing life.  I’ll just have to read about it instead.


Sneak Preview

These past few months I’ve been busy designing and knitting.  I haven’t shown you anything of this effort because, well, because I just wasn’t ready for the world to see what I was working on.  What if it was a flop?  What if I decided that instead of self-publishing I would try to get it published in a magazine?  Today I can finally give you a sneak preview of the sweater and pattern that will be coming soon.  And to ask for help.

The idea for this sweater was born from the desire to see more bottom-up, knit flat and seamed, interesting sweater patterns on the market.  Knitting without seams, in the round, top down, is all the rage.  That’s fine, and I love those methods myself, but I don’t think it’s good for new sweater knitters to start with that method, and I also think that anything knit with heavier yarns needs seams for stability and strength.  I couldn’t find patterns I liked so I decided to design my own.  I’m absolutely thrilled with the final result and it’s all I can do to keep from showing you the entire thing in detail!  All in good time….

I’ve named this pattern Mandy’s Heart.  There is a heart cable motif running down the center front and down the center of one sleeve.  Mandy is my niece, who I *heart* very much.

Today I’m announcing that I’m looking for test knitters for this sweater.  I’m going to post this request on a couple of Ravelry forums.  I thought I would post the same request here just in case you miss it on Ravelry and are interested in participating.

A Fall and Winter classic crew-­?neck sweater with cable details and stretchy figure flattering fabric. Knit in worsted weight yarn from the bottom up, in pieces, and sewn together.

The front of the sweater has a heart cable motif running in a column down the center. The back does not include the cable column. Directions are given for a sleeve with the cable column running lengthwise through the center of the sleeve, and directions for a sleeve without the cable pattern. Both sample sweaters were knit with one sleeve in each design with the heart cable on the left sleeve.

I recommend using 100% wool or yarn with at least 50% wool for this sweater. Using a tightly spun wool yarn will show off the cables and stitch pattern to their best effect. I would not recommend using alpaca or silk as the fit will be substantially different than intended. Having said that, you are of course free to use this pattern as a basis for your own take on the design and use whatever yarn you wish!

The sweater is designed with only 1”/2.5cm of ease. This is less than the typical ease for a worsted weight sweater. Please note that the finished sweater measurements are for un-­? stretched fabric. The fabric is very stretchy and will easily accommodate curves and waistlines. My design goal was to create a sweater that hugs the body in a flattering way, even with a worsted weight yarn, and feels good to wear.

I’ve designed this sweater to be knit in pieces and sewn together. I am a firm believer in seaming a garment of this weight. Seams, especially shoulder and sleeve seams, add the strength needed to hold a sweater of this weight in the correct shape. A worsted weight sweater without shoulder or sleeve seams will very soon sag and lose its shape and look old before its time. Taking the time to make beautiful seams will give you a beautiful garment you will wear for years. Don’t be afraid of seaming! There are many fantastic resources online to help you sew invisible seams in your knitted garments. (See the Appendix at the end of the pattern.)

Requirements for test knitters:

  • You need to be comfortable knitting simple cables, making right and left leaning decreases (SSK, K2T), and knitting and purling through the back loop.  You need to be able to read basic knitting charts.
  • The sweater must be made with worsted weight yarn and you must match the gauge given (within reason).
  • The yarn used must be at least 50% wool (superwash is ok).
  • You must join the Ravelry group for the test knit and give weekly feedback on progress.
  • You must be open and willing to communicate what you like and what you don’t like about the pattern, what problems you have, and any solutions you may offer for problems others may have.
  • The sweater must be finished with all input given by 10 February 2013.  The pattern will be released to the public on 14 February.
  • You will not share the pattern with anyone outside of the test knitter pool.

What do you get in return?

  • My gratitude!
  • Recognition in the pattern notes and on Ravelry.
  • Final copy of the pattern free, PLUS the pattern for the matching socks (coming also in February), PLUS a free copy of my next sweater pattern (which is already in the works).
  • Individual support from me while knitting your sweater.  I will answer all questions within 36 hours and will provide detailed photos of my sample sweaters and knitting techniques if required.

If you are interested in being a test knitter, and you are on Ravelry, drop me a message on Ravelry, or add a comment to this post, and I’ll send you more information.  The pattern will be emailed to test knitters.  It is currently in a pdf file, without fancy formatting.  I’ve included several photos, but more photos with different models will be included in the final version of the pattern.

I am now making a second sample sweater, in the same size, using a yarn that is 50% wool and 50% cotton so you can see the difference that makes to the fit and drape of the sweater.  I’ll be knitting along with my test knitters, heading for the February deadline.

Look out for February 14 when the final version of the pattern will be available!

Mermaid Sock #1

Here’s a photo of my first Mermaid Sock, designed by Lucy Neatby.  It’s an interesting construction, which is what drew me to it and why I decided to make these socks.

You knit the garter stitch top band first, then pick up stitches along one edge of that band and knit down the leg.  The heel is a garter stitch short row heel which I had never made before.  The toe is cleverly designed to decrease gradually in pattern.

As you can see, it fits perfectly.  I made the 66 stitch size and used 2.0mm needles for the garter sections and 2.25mm for the rest.  Now I need to get busy and make the second one.  I usually don’t have “second sock syndrome” so I expect to get the second one finished in good time.  I really recommend these socks if you are looking for a fun, quick and interesting knit.  Thanks Lucy!

By the way, it’s just now 4:30pm here in Haarlem and it’s already dusk.  DUSK!  Car headlights are required.  Streetlights coming on any second now.  Ugh! The dark days are falling fast and hard!

Good Intentions

I’m always so full of good intentions.  Super plans.  My mind is a constant whirlwind of things I’d like to do/accomplish/make happen.  And therefore, me being me, I’m often disappointed.  I should learn to stop doing this to myself but after 54 years on this planet I haven’t, so I will probably be disappointed in myself for continuing for the next 54 years in the same manner.

I intended to write a blog post every day in November but clearly that hasn’t happened.  It hasn’t been my highest priority.  Or I was lacking enough commitment.  In any case, I’ll just carry on and move forward and tell you what’s been happening these days.

These photos were taken a couple of weeks ago but I’ve just now taken them off the memory card.  The black swans you’ve seen on this blog before, but never so close up.  In the first photo you can see that they were adventuring nearer to people and a busy intersection in North Haarlem.  I was able to walk up very close to them before they both started hissing at me.  I’ve heard that swans are very powerful and can hurt you so when they raised their heads like this and started to hiss, I backed off.  I was only about a yard (1 meter) away.

I also took a photo of Egyptian geese.  They are very common in this area.

I wanted to also give you an idea of the building going on around here.  There might be an economic crisis going on, but affordable housing is still is short supply in the Randstad and housing is still being built.  The rows of houses in this photo in Spaarndam were finished a couple of years ago.  I think they are so cute!  I want to live in the first one on the left with the white front, looking out onto the water.  In the second photo you can see that, along with the new tall white wind turbines, there are still the old windmills here and there, and they still work.

What else have I been doing so far this month?  I made a commitment to start running again, and was doing pretty well at it.  And I went to yoga and the next day every muscle in my body was sore.  I was feeling pretty good about getting back into the exercise routine but unfortunately I have to take the next 2 weeks off.  I had a strange mole thing cut out of my left hip and have 2 stitches holding the gap together. My doctor said no sporting for 2 weeks to ensure I don’t tear it open.  I get the stitches out in 2 weeks and then I have to find my rhythm once again.

I’ve also been knitting quite a bit.  More about that tomorrow in the next post.  I promise.  It will be tomorrow.