Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Stitches West and Betsy's Beads

I've just returned from 4 wonderful days teaching at Stitches West. I love going to Stitches. Since I work at home, it's an incredible feeling to be surrounded by thousands of people who share my love of yarn and knitting and all such pursuits. I spent some quality time with good friends that I don't get to see nearly enough, and I met new people who I just know are destined to become good friends. The women (and, yes, it was all women this time, but it isn't always) who took my classes were the BEST. STUDENTS. EVER.
I have a hard time remembering to take photos at events like this. When I'm thinking about taking pictures, I find it takes me away from being in the experience. So the only photo I came back with is this one.....
from left to right: me, bead and lace designer extraordinaire Sivia Harding, Karin Skacel and Michelle Hunter of Skacel Yarns, and Andrea Wong. Susie Moraca from Kollage Yarns was seated to my right, but got up to take photos.
 This was taken Thursday evening at the launch party for Betsy Beads, the new book by my friend Betsy Hershberg. Like all good cocktail parties, there were more people than chairs. We started out leaning against the wall, then one by one slid down to the floor. Before the night was out, this was the picnic spot were all the cool kids were congregating.

Let me tell you about Betsy's excellent book.  Betsy makes the most amazing bead knitted jewelry.  I am the proud owner of an original Betsy Hershberg bracelet, which she made for me a couple of years ago in exchange for a cowl I knit - I definitely got the better end of that trade.
Betsy Beads is rich in technique.  Detailed illustrated instructions will enable you to reproduce any of the spectacular designs shown.
But the heart of Betsy's book is the essays that open each chapter.  Betsy revels in the creative process. In her essays, she shares her journey of experimentation and discovery, and encourages you to set out on a journey of your own.  I was familiar with Betsy's work and knew it was beautiful.  What I did not know is that she is such a good writer.  You'll want to take time to savor each word.

The photography is this book is also a treat. It is a challenge to capture bead work in photos. I've often seen pictures of beaded projects where you wouldn't know beads were included if they weren't listed in the materials list. Alexis Xenakis is a master of capturing the nuances of knitwear in photos. With this book, he has extended his mastery to beads.  The subtleties of color and finish are beautifully rendered.  And his choice of background for the close-up shots is flawless. The use of jelly beans? Brilliant.

If you'd like to buy the book (and you really should), here is a link. Following that link takes you to the website of the publisher, XRX books.  While there, you can download a free pattern for a necklace, and see photos of all the projects included in the book.

Here is what jumped out of my stash as soon as I got the book home.  I don't actually have time to start a new project. But since I already have the yarn and beads, and I only need to find a clasp, it doesn't really count as a new project, right? Right?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Sweater Surgery

A couple of weeks ago, I showed you the cardigan I made with my hand spun yarn, and lamented the fact that I'd made the sleeves too long. I finally got around to fixing those sleeves so I can wear the sweater to Stitches next week, and I want to show you what I did.
These sleeves were knit flat, from the cuff up, and sewn into place. There were two options for fixing my problem. One option would be to take out the seams, rip out the sleeve cap and part of the sleeve, and start the sleeve cap sooner. The other option was to cut off the lower part of the sleeve and re-knit the cuff.
You may be asking why not just unravel up from the cuff.  It is not possible to unravel knitting from the cast on edge.  Go ahead - try it.  It doesn't work.
I decided to cut off the lower part of the sleeve.  I began by picking out the seam from the cuff to past the point where I needed to cut.

Then I identified the recovery row. This is the row just above the spot where the cut would happen.  I needed the sleeve to be 2" shorter, but I was going to re-knit cuff, which is 1" wide. So, I needed to remove 3".

The process was complicated just a bit by the fact that I was working with a slipped stitch pattern.  On some rows, not every stitch is knit.  I wanted my recovery row to be one on which every stitch was knit.  I chose a row worked in white because it is easier for my old eyes to see.

The next step is to take a small knitting needle and thread it through every stitch on the recovery row. As you can see, I worked the tip of the needle under the left-hand leg of each stitch along the row.  Since it is a slipped stitch pattern, some stitches are shorter, some are longer, but they are all in the same row.
Here is the needle worked through the entire row

Now for the scissors.  I want to remove everything below the recovery row. If this was plain stockinette stitch, I could cut one stitch, unravel that row, and be done with it.  Because this is a slipped stitch pattern, I had to cut two stitches.  My recovery row was sometimes worked into a white stitch, sometimes worked into a brown stitch.
  Both strands must be cut to release the cuff.

Here is the hole that opened up with I cut one white strand and one brown strand.

Then I picked out the white row and the brown row, working from the center of the row out to the sides, until the cuff was separated from the rest of the sleeve, leaving the stitches of the recovery row conveniently on the needle.
Then it was a simple matter of unraveling the cut off section, and using that yarn to knit  new cuff, beginning with the recovery row.
I'll be wearing this sweater at Stitches West next weekend, if you want to see the results in person.
Speaking of Stitches, the forecast is calling for beautiful weather, and the buzz is starting to build.  The marketplace is sure to be inspiring, the classes and events will be entertaining and informative.  You know you want to be there!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

12 days and counting...

That's right - Stitches West begins in 12 short days. I've been trying not to get excited, because I need to keep my head down and stay focused on the work on my desk, but it's a struggle.
I love Stitches!  I love being surrounded by the tribe.  I enjoy the opportunity to spend time with friends from around the country. I love browsing the ginormous marketplace to see what is new and exciting in the world of fiber and knitting. And I love teaching.

Click on the graphic here:
Really, please click - there is a contest with a cash prize.

There is still space available in a couple of my classes, so I thought I'd share some info. Keep in mind that other teachers have openings as well - don't assume you've missed out on the opportunity to take classes just because you didn't register in advance.

Kids Socks was a big hit when it was offered for the first time last summer at Sock Summit.
This class begins with a discussion of sock sizing, and a worksheet that will lead you through developing the essential numbers to make socks in any size at any gauge.
Once we get the numbers, we take a look at a couple of adult sock patterns and talk about how to re-size them for children.  We work through specific examples of texture, lace and cable patterns and adjust the stitch patterns to suit various sizes.  You can bring a pattern of your own you want to re-size, and we'll  work through it together.
 Obviously, this class is a good choice if there are children in your life who want socks "just like Mom's".  But if you or someone you love of any age has feet in a non-standard size, you'll find this class helpful. Please join us!

How about a little deja vu?
A couple of years ago, I did some design work for the now defunct Nashua Handknits. In addition to their great yarn, Nashua became known for their lovely seasonal design booklets, artfully compiled by Susan Mills. Though their yarns are no longer available, these designs are becoming available via Patternfish as individual pattern downloads.
One of my favorites just went up, and I was so happy to see it again. This little cardigan is made at 4 1/2 sts = 1", so you can use Aran weight yarn from your stash, if you don't have any well aged Nashua Velvet Wool on hand. This sweater is a good example of little details making all the difference. The basic cardigan is dead simple.  Knitting a couple of yarns of I-cord and sewing it to the front of the cardigan in the shape of fern fronds is the touch that makes this piece special.
If you'd like a copy of the pattern, you can order a download here.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

What a knitter does when a baby is on the way...

No, Mom, I'm not pregnant (heaven forbid). But I do have a friend who is expecting a baby shortly. And babies need warm, cozy, handmade things.
The gender of the baby in question is as yet undetermined. Well, ok, not undetermined, but unknown outside the confines of the womb. With the vague notion of a wee cardi in mind, I browsed the stash in search of a suitable yarn.
See what happened over the weekend?

It isn't yet quite dry, and still needs buttons.  I have some yellow buttons in the button box, but they are a little too citrusy - I think this cardi wants to be accented with a more golden yellow.

The yarn is Fibra Natura Sensational, distributed by Universal Yarns. This is a worsted weight 100% superwash merino with a lovely hand and great stitch definition. I had 3 skeins of Leek Green and 1 skein of Sunlight. This was plenty for the cardigan, with enough left over for the hat and booties.

Now, normally I'd be giving you a link to the pattern at this point, but no. There is no pattern. This was just improvised on the needles. Here is what I can give you from my notes, in case you want to try your own improvisation: I got 4.5 = 1" on size 8 needles, and used size 7 for the garter stitch edgings. I started with 45 stitches for the neckband, and increased 8 stitches every other row until I reached 181 stitches. When I divided the pieces at the underarms, it was 23 stitches for the left front, 45 stitches each for the left sleeve, back and right sleeve, and 23 stitches for the right front. The body was worked straight. The sleeves were decreased 2 stitches every 6 rounds to 35 stitches, then 5 stitches were decreased just before the cuff.

For many of you, this is plenty of info, and you'll be off to the races.  I'd love to see what you come up with.

On another note, have you heard of Design Seeds? I adore this blog. Each day, Jessica posts 4 amazing color palettes inspired by a photograph. I love the dose of eye candy with my morning coffee.

One more thing - I received an e-mail confirming my acceptance as a giver for World Book Night! In this age of digital everything, I'm still enamored of books as physical objects, and I'm so pleased to be participating in this program to spread the love. I've been told I may not get my first choice of book, The Hunger Games, because it was such a wildly popular selection. But the list is so full of excellent books (and yes, I am proud of how many I've read) that I'll be happy with whatever I'm assigned.