my year in knitting

Re-caps of the year seem to be the thing to do on blogs these days, so I thought I better jump in as well! And not without good reason either: I think it’s fair to say that 2010 has been quite a watershed when it comes to my craft. It brought about a multitude and an increasing variety of finished objects, as well as lots of thought on the craft.

I’ve been blogging for almost a year (I started in early January) and it has definitely had an effect on my knitting. It’s forced me to learn better photography, it’s made me articulate what seemed to be only incoherent thoughts (but sometimes turned out to be very strong positions), sometimes it gave me motivation to go on, and it made me realize that, even though they might not be present in my physical life, there is a whole community of fellow-crafters out there to support me.

At the end of 2010, I am even more in love with knitting than I was at its beginning. I think that says it all.

Here’s what I made in 2010: Lots and lots and lots of hats. Five baby sweaters. Two pairs of unbelieavably adored mitts. Three scarves (including my first ever man-knit). Tiny shoes. A pullover for a 12-year-old. And a cardigan for a 28-year-old. :)

My wishes for 2011 are to continue adding to that list and to continue sharing my knitting journey with you guys! Thanks for being around and may 2011 be the best year ever! ;)

to match

The Mystic Pullover is coming along nicely, and I frequently find myself lost in daydreams about how snuggly and wonderful it will be… On one such occasion, it occured to me that it would be lovely to have a pair of thick socks to match it, so that my feet could be all snuggly as well.

Immediately, I remembered the Wealthy peasant’s socks pattern, which I’ve had in my queue for a looong time.

– photo from the pattern and linked back to it –

Everything about it, the yarn weight, the cables, the name even, just yells out snuggly! I’d have to modify it a bit since my yarn is a worsted weight (the pattern calls for aran), but I think it’s doable. And the two would make a lovely pair, don’t you think? :) Perfect for kicking back and reading a book on these cold winter evenings… (…and this is where I go off into the daydream again…)

a goal

I’m quite wary of setting goals for the new year, for several reasons. One, because we all know the most common fate of such goals (they are usually eaten by the same monster responsible for the disappearances of odd socks). Two, because I’ve found that having to knit something, with a deadline, with a set goal to fulfill, makes me like the knitting less. And where’s the point in that?

I do have one particular goal that’s been sitting in my mind for a while now – to start making myself (and others) actual knitted garments, to wear, to be kept warm by, to snuggle in. Let’s be honest, hats are lovely and all, but they cover about, ummm, 7% of one’s body. And the winter winds are howling.

So here’s a start.

You are seeing the finished back of what is to be my Mystic Pullover, which went much faster than I had expected it to (ok, having nothing else to do but knit and eat for the last three days definitely helped), and I am as excited as a prancing lamb! The front has already been started, and I am pushing on with joy. I fell head over heels with this pullover when I first saw it and I am happy to report that the process of making it is wonderful too! So far the pattern has been very clear and simple, and I’m even looking forward to the seaming.

But what I’m reaaaaaally looking forward to is – the wearing. :)

What selfish projects are you working on now that all the gift knitting has been given away? :)

learning: colourwork and yarn dominance

So, as you know, I’ve recently begun my big adventure into the world of knitting with multiple colours. Once I had settled on my colours, I thought, there was no more decision-making or thinking to do – just making sure I read every little square in the chart properly and transfer that into my yarn. Knitting while holding a yarn in each hand is somewhat clumsy and slower than my ‘regular’ knitting, but I find that I get used to it fairly quickly. So I sped along, and soon enough, I ended up with half a mitten in three colours. Yay!

And then I discovered yarn dominance. Ouch.

The bug safely planted in my brain, I started doing more and more research. Basically, yarn dominance refers to the fact that, when knitting with two different colurs on one row/round, one of the colours will appear more prominent, and this does not depend on the colour itself but on how you hold your yarns. There are various explanations for why this happens (slightly larger stitches, the ‘float’ somehow pushing the stitches out, etc.), but regardless of the explanations, it does happen. And it makes a world of difference. Go and look at this sample here. Go on, I’ll be right here waiting. Can you believe it’s the same motif, just knitted with yarns held differently?!

It took me a while to believe it! But when I did, I realized I had been doing it all wrong… The rule of thumb for yarn dominance is to hold whichever colour you want to be dominant (and that is normally the colour of the motif) in your left hand (if using the standard double-handed technique). I, on the other hand, had been using my left hand to hold the background colour (i.e. MC – main colour): because I am a continental knitter, I knit faster with whatever is in my left hand, and the MC is used most often (as it is the background for all the motifs), so for me it made most sense to put it in the hand that is most skillful. I didn’t realize that holding the background colour in my left hand meant that the background would swallow up the motifs I had been creating so carefully in the contrast colours. Ouch.

At first, I decided to live with it – the first motif would be as is, and for the rest of the time I’d apply my newly-acquired knowledge. But there was another catch. In the pattern I’m working on, there is one section where the main colour switches from creating the background to creating the motif. I only thought of that after I had already finished the section, and realized that, in that section, I should’ve switched hands. Ouch.

The conclusion: I’m ripping. These mitts I’m knitting are small enough to warrant ripping for the sake of quality. And I want to apply my new knowledge. Before I cast on again, I’ll make notes next to the chart, indicating section by section which yarn should be held in my left hand.

Knitting is not just about handling yarns and needles. It also requires thinking and careful planning. Somehow, that makes me like it even more. :)

happy holidays

My family has had a very busy few weeks, which forced us to be super-organized when it came to holiday preparations. Which means that pretty much everything has been taken care of by now, and all there’s left for me to do is sit back and knit until everyone arrives home in the evening and we get down to decorating the tree…

To keep things in the festive spirit, I’ve taken up some red knitting. ;)

 

Whatever you may or may not be celebrating, I hope these coming days are filled with love, laughter and yumminess for all of you!

Happy holidays,

Ivana

variegation madness

Variegated yarns. I wonder if they fall into that category of things one either loves or hates. Frankly, most people I talk to, or follow online, say the following: “I don’t really like how they look knitted up, but sometimes I just can’t resist those gorgeous skeins in the shop.” That pretty much sums up my feelings on the topic as well.

And when it comes to luring one from the shelves, there’s no greater expert than Malabrigo. Their variegated yarns are so rich, so gorgeous, so magical, that they render me powerless. Especially when you think of the incredible buttery softness that comes with it. So, last summer, I found myself snatching off the shelf a skein of Malabrigo Merino Worsted in the colourway Sotobosque (615), a warm combination of pink and light and dark browns, resembling at once burnt paper and chocolate-strawberry icecream.

Even as I was putting the skein in my shopping bag, I knew I’d have trouble finding a project on which to use it well. However, after many (and trust me, when I say many I mean many) false starts, the last bits of the 100-gram skein have been used and I, somewhat unexpectedly, have two new favourite hats. (There is no way someone else would get these.) And perhaps a recipe for making variegated yarns wearable?

My first solution was to mix it up with a solid neutral colour, to placate the lively variegation. You’ve seen this hat already, but what you don’t know is that I basically haven’t taken it off ever since it was completed. Which is funny, because I was quite unsure about the colours as I was making it and kind of thinking I’d give it away. Once it was done, I fell in love. And I keep getting loads of compliments on it.

My second solution (for the rest of the skein) was to do a simple pattern in stockinette stitch. I had tried several slightly more complex stitch patterns, such as the Yulie hat pattern with which Kathryn Ivy put a skein of variegated Malabrigo to great use, but it just wasn’t working for my skein. In the end, I settled on a pattern which I had been meaning to make for ages, possibly the simplest and single most knitted hat pattern on Ravelry – Felicity (it’s free, by the way). It worked like a charm. I loved how the colour pooled and how the pattern showed off the soft changes in colour, without making it look like someone had gone mad with the yarn (well, to me at least!).

Have I discovered the ultimate solution to using up those variegated skeins that sneak into your shopping basket? No, of course not. Every skein is different, and just like what worked for Kathryn Ivy didn’t work for me, what worked for me might not work for you next time. But I do feel much more confident about cashing out for those irresistable variegated skeins now that I know that, with the right amount of patience and persistence, I can find suitable projects for them, ones that might even surprize me with the amount of love they provoke.

If you can spare a minute from the cookie-baking and gift-wrapping, I’d love to hear about your experiences and feelings about variegateds! :) And feel free to make up words like I just did right there. :)

winter

There is a hat currently weaving its way through the postal offices of Europe all the way to Ukraine. I don’t know what comes to your mind when you think Ukraine, but for me winter is definitely one of the main associations.

And this hat has got winter covered! Even Ukrainian winter. ;)

It was knit with a fingering-weight yarn held double (a first-time for me, and much easier than I expected).

I think that made it approximately aran-weight, which is what the pattern calls for. It definitely made it extra warm and squishy!

And of course, it provokes endless sillyness…

Some patterns are such classics that you can just make them again and again and again and again. That is exactly how many times I’ve made Debbie Bliss’s Cabled Beret. Mind you, I still haven’t made one for myself. Hmm, maybe I should make it again

Is there a pattern you keep going back to? What’s your favourite classic?

 

colour challenge

Remember my success with my first attempt at colourwork? Yes, that went rather well, but let’s be honest, it was a rather simple design in an aran weight. The second colourwork project I’ve taken on, however, is more complex, and, eek, in fingering weight. It is, of course, a hat. Why not learn on the thing I like most anyway? But let me tell you, it is slow going. I basically manage to do one round at a time before I lose my patience. And for those of you scoffing at one round right now, a round is 192 stitches in this one. I’m in no rush.

Colourwork has lately been on my mind quite a lot. In the last few weeks, I picked out yarns for three different colourwork projects with which to challenge myself (you’ll hear a lot more about them soon). But while I thought the main challenge would be handling several yarns at once and keeping a steady gauge, I encountered issues much sooner – in choosing the colours.

Oh my! I thought that would be the fun part. I’m pretty good at combining clothes. I have an eye for nice art. Picking three shades of the same yarn that will go well together shouldn’t be a problem, right? Think again. In the end, I think, like everything else, it requires experience. So I’ve made pretty conservative choices for now, hoping I can’t go wrong if I start with basics. I even reduced one pattern which called for 5 contrast colours (five! imagine choosing 5 colours that all go together and then another main one which sets a good background for all of them!) to only 2 contrast colours and one main. And so I continue tackling my colour challenge…

One thing was pretty easy, though. The current project, for which I chose a combination of mustardy yellow and dark blue with slight halos. I’d used this yellow with dark blue buttons on my Veylas before, so I knew it went really well with it, and I have not regretted going for the same effect now. When the knitting goes so slow, it’s nice to at least be confident in your colour combination…

What are your experiences with colourwork? How do you choose your colours? Do you have a rule of thumb to share with the rest of us? Have you had any colour disasters? I’d love to get your inputs!

modify me!

Most of the time, I make knitted gifts as surprizes. I like the process of finding what I think suits the person best. Of course, you could claim that they should choose themselves, because who better knows what suits them best? But my non-knitterly friends can mostly base their choices on the things I’ve made before, while I have a whole treasury of patterns on Ravelry. Their yarn preferences mostly come down to choosing a colour, while I can think about different drapes, weights, halos. Sometimes I can also challenge them a bit, make them consider something that they wouldn’t normally think of on their own (of course, that has to be kept in good measure, if I want the gifts to be used).

And then there are the other times, when I ask people what they would like. In my modest experience of doing that, I have so far encountered three types of people when it comes to answering that question. The first kind are those who get completely set on something they’ve seen elsewhere, and refuse to budge even a tiny bit. The second kind are those who have general ideas about what they want, but rely on me to use my knowledge, experience and judgement to make the specific choices. And then there are the third kind, who put me in a bit of a pickle.

Recently I asked a friend who wanted me to knit her a hat to point out on my previous FOs what she liked. She pointed out the colour of one, the shape of another, the band on a third, the cables on a fourth. She loved it all and absolutely wanted it all. The problem was, however, that some of the things she liked were completely mutually incompatible. An all-over cable-pattern and a button band, anyone?

I raked my brains. I had at least three false starts. First I thought the best idea would be to eliminate one of her preferences, simply fulfilling three out of four, and hoping that I ignored the one that was least important to her. Halfway through, I realized it wasn’t working the way I wanted it too. Then I tried stepping aside from her requests and finding something that was generally similar but much more knitterly advanced – I think the hope there was that she would be so awed by the elaborate pattern that she wouldn’t mind that I had pretty much ignored her wishes. I gave up on that one quickly, hehe!

Finally, I found a pattern that I thought I could modify easily to meet her requirements. It was the Hermione Hearts Ron pattern (which I highly recommend, by the way!). I modified it to include a small button-band and to be slightly slouchy. No one had done this before so I had to figure it out on my own. You can find detailed notes on the mods here, if you would like to do something similar.

In the end, I think I did ok! Most importantly, I managed to put together buttons, cables and semi-slouchiness without it looking like an unfortunate gargoyle. I am told the recipient loved it, and said that it was “exactly like she wanted it and impossible to get in stores”. Yay! Isn’t that exactly the point of handknits? :)

And I was grateful for the challenge she had posed me. :)