Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Basic Triangle Shawl FOs; Creativ Festival Classes

A couple of weeks ago I published my Basic Triangle Shawl pattern.

SheepLady75 on Ravelry has created an absolutely stunning one in her rainbow-coloured handspun. I am blown away by how the colours progress and work so well with the shape. And Mom2Bassets has worked one in a very sophisticated and chic colourway of Mushishi.

Wow - they're both great! This is precisely the sort of thing I imagined when I created it - a great use for a coloured or textured yarn, and a great TV or travel knitting project.

On a different note, the schedule for Creativ Festival has just been released, and I'm teaching a number of classes. The event takes place October 23, 24 & 25th at the Metro Convention Centre in Toronto.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Update: No-one Looking for the Little Guy

So he's staying here, and he seems to like it.

And we like it very much.

We're calling him Dexter. If a family calls, and can prove he belongs with them, he can go. Failing that, we're his family now.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Two Non-Knitting Things Keeping Me Busy This Week

Am taking a sewing class at The Workroom in Toronto. It's a day camp for grownups for the week - complete with candy and treats.

It's a Amy Butler shirtdress project - if you've seen me around this summer, you know how much I love wearing shirtdresses - and as soon as I saw it advertised I had to sign up.

It's a fun group, and it's great to stretch my sewing skills - I don't do it nearly often enough.

The other thing that's keeping us busy is this little guy:

He was found by a neighbour in her yard on Friday, and we've been busy working with our neighbours taking care of him, and trying to find his family. He's a sweetheart, he really is, and we're sure that somewhere there is a family missing him very much. He has no chip, and no tags on his collar, so there was absolutley no info about who he is or where he came from. We've posted at the Humane Society and with City Animal Services; we've been using Twitter and Facebook and Craigslist. We've searched classified ads in all the local papers. We've emailed all the vets in the area, and we're postering.

We're also making sure he feels safe and taken care of - making sure he's not alone, and he's fed and healthy.

No news, so far. It's a heartbreaker, the idea that there is a family somewhere without their little guy. And if there isn't someone looking for him, it's a heartbreaker in a different way. We will keep looking - we're carrying posters further afield today.

If you know who he might be, or you're willing to put a poster in your neighbourhood in Toronto, please email founddog@wilnervision.com.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Secret Knitting: Not Very Exciting

I've just finished a big Secret Knitting Project. Secret Knitting Projects are those that are meant for publication...

Secret Knitting Projects make for terrible blog fodder. We can't show them off, you see. They are Secret!

You've seen hints of it, in various photos of late.

Secret Knitting has spent hours on the bench in our yard, enjoying the sunshine.

Secret Knitting went to Coney Island.

Secret Knitting has enjoyed with me an iced coffee or twelve.

Secret Knitting has ridden the streetcar, back and forth across Toronto, many times. Secret Knitting got caught in a G20-related TTC stoppage.

Secret Knitting has been around, it's true. It's a big project. By yardage, it's one of the largest projects I've ever worked. It's a fine yarn, so it wasn't too big to carry around until the final stages. But it is a warm yarn - cashmere - so there were days when it was a challenging project to work in public in this hottest of hot summers.

And now, Secret Knitting is in a puffy envelope, making its way to a Secret Location for photography.

I'm proud of this one, and can't wait to show it off when the time comes.

Fly safe, Secret Knitting - I look forward to your eventual return home!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Free Pattern: Basic Triangle Shawl - Non-Lacy, Very Easy

I love a top-down triangle shawl, but I don't always want to knit lace. A plainer shawl is much more suited to wearing with a parka in the depths of winter, and is much easier to knit.

This is an ideal first shawl project for a newer knitter, or a relaxing knit for an experienced knitter. Shaped from the top down, it uses the "kfb" increase and markers to help you on your way, and it's a great introduction to the top-down triangle construction.

If you're not sure about yarnovers - or just not wanting lace - this is the shawl for you!

A PDF version is available on Ravelry.

Approximately 136 cm/54 inches wide x 21 inches/54 cm long after blocking.

2 x 50gm balls Rowan Felted Tweed (50% Merino, 25% Alpaca, 25% Viscose, 175m/ball) -sample uses colour 150
-substitute 350m of any worsted weight yarn - e.g. Cascade 220 or Noro Kureyon
4.5mm needles - a 24 inch/60 cm circular is easiest, butyou can use straight needles if you prefer
a single 6mm needle for casting off
a stitch marker

approximately 16 sts and 26 rows = 4 ins by 4 ins/10 cm by 10 cm in stocking stitch
it's not critical for this project - what's most important is that you like how the fabric looks & feels

Top Edge
The top edge is established in garter stitch.

With 4.5mm needle, cast on 9 sts. Use the long tail or the cable cast on. (These are links to videos on knittinghelp.com for these cast-on methods.)

Row 1 (RS): Kfb, k2, kfb twice, k2, kfb, k1. 13 sts.
Row 2 (WS): Knit.
Row 3 (RS): Kfb, k4, kfb twice, k4, kfb, k1. 17 sts.
Row 4 (WS): Knit.
Row 5 (RS): Kfb, k6, kfb twice, k6, kfb, k1. 21 sts.
Row 6 (WS): K11, place marker on the right-hand needle, k10.

To work the kfb increase: Knit into the front of the stitch as normal, pulling the yarn through, but leave the stitch on the left-hand needle. Put the point of the right-hand needle into the back loop of the stitch, and knit that. Pull the yarn through and slip the stitch off the left needle. 2 sts where there used to be one.
Knittinghelp.com has a great video here.

The body is worked in a 8-row pattern. On each RS row, 4 increases are worked - one at each end, and two in the middle. The placement of the increases is what makes the shape - the increases in the middle push the rows out sideways, on an angle. The marker helps you keep track of where to do those increases.

Row 1 (RS): K3, kfb, k to 1 st before centre marker, kfb, slip marker, kfb, k until 5 sts rem, kfb, k4.
Row 2 (WS): K4, p to last 4 sts, k4.
Repeat rows 1 & 2 twice more.
Row 7 (RS): K3, kfb, k to 1 st before centre marker, kfb, slip marker, kfb, k until 5 sts rem, kfb, k4.
Row 8 (WS): K all sts.

Repeat the above 8 rows until you're almost out of yarn, ending after a Row 8.

Lower Edge
You'll work a few rows of garter stitch and then cast off.
Ensure RS is facing. Knit 5 rows. WS will be facing. Using the 6mm needle in your right hand, cast off knitways.
Tip: Using the larger needle for the cast-on ensures your stiches are loose and even. It's actually very hard to get a loose cast-on using the same size needles you knit with. This is actually a good idea for all your knitting.

Soak the finished shawl in lukewarm water for 10 or 15 minutes. Roll in a towel or if the yarn is machine washable, run through the spin cycle of your washing machine to wring it out. Stretch it out and pin the three corners to your laundry rack, or a mattress, or blocking mats, or towels on the floor and leave to air dry. This step is important to make your shawl look its best!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Figuring Out What Does Work

I've talked here about particular styles and fits that do and don't work for my particular body type.

I'm often asked by knitters how to figure this out for themselves - every body is different, and everyone looks good in different things.

I highly recommend three general steps, and one very specific...

1) Measure yourself, and figure out what shape your body actually is. You probably instinctively know some key facts already - collect your dressing rooms experiences. Me, I knew for a long time that I could never find a blouse that fitted me well in the shoulders yet actually buttoned up. What this means is that my bust is larger than is typical for someone of my frame size. Do you find that you often need a different size bottom than top in suits, for example? Do you find that things fit you well in the hips but the waist is too tight or loose? No judgments from me or anyone else on these matters - it's not about numbers or fashion magazine sizing - it's about knowing yourself and knowing how to take advantage of your shape to look your best.

2) Get your hands on a copy of Maggie Righetti's book "Sweater Design in Plain English". The author spends a lot of time describing and categorizing different body shapes, and discussing shapes and styles that work for those shapes. It's a terrific book, whether you wish to actually design a sweater or not. Many of the books of the "what not to wear" ilk would help with this, too. Maggie's book is best as it focuses specifically on knitwear, but you can learn a lot from a book like Clinton Kelly & Stacey London's "Dress Your Best", or Trinny & Susannah's "What Not to Wear: The Rules"

3) Go shopping! (And Sherri suggests you do this on a hot day so you can enjoy the air conditioning in the mall...) Go try things on. Be respectful of the garments and the shops, of course, but try on as many things as you can. Try on things you like, and try on things you don't like, or wouldn't normally wear. This isn't about colour, it's about style and shape. Be honest with yourself: can you move in the style? Do all the key elements lie flat and aren't straining? Is everything even, or are certain areas too loose while others are too tight? Take an honest friend with you, if you can, to provide feedback. Or take pictures of yourself. Focus on necklines and armhole/sleeve/shoulder shapes - those are the key factors. Try on different necklines. Try on different shoulder & sleeve constructions. Set in sleeves work for me, for example, because I'm petite and narrow in the shoulders... if I wear something that's a too loose in the shoulders, the overall effect is that I'm a little kid wearing my big brother's clothes. A broader shouldered friend looks better in a raglan because there is typically more space in both the shoulders and underarms. Once you've identified neckline/shoulder/sleeve shapings, then look at lengths and overall shapes - straight, shaped, a-lines, and see how you like them and what works best for you.

4) And when you're considering a specific pattern, go look at Ravelry. Ravelry is an amazing resource for knitters, as you can see the completed projects on other knitters of all shapes and sizes. Find someone who is roughly your shape and see how it looks on them.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Another New Sock Design: Hollaback Sock

The second in my Rocker Chick series for van der rock yarns, I present the Gwen Stefani- inspired Hollaback sock....

Rock on, sock knitters...

More details and the pattern available here.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Pamela Wynne is a mensch; I am not

As I mentioned yesterday, I'm interviewed in Shannon Okey's wonderful new book, The Knitgrrl Guide to Professional Knitwear Design.

Shannon interviewed me by email... we've worked together a few times, and it was a long and fun email conversation, and I was my usual candid, opinionated self. Shannon printed many of my comments verbatim.

Rereading it now, I realize that my intended tone doesn't come through in print at all... it reads to me like I'm cranky and bitchy.

In the interview I criticize another designer's work, and name names. And that's not fair or professional.

The design in question is a top-down raglan, and my personal struggles with those are well known. I cannot wear a top-down raglan - seriously wrong shoulder/bust ratio to make it work. To make it fit around my bust, it gets (much) too big in the shoulders and armholes.

When talking about challenges with finding a garment that fits your own body well, I cited this sweater as an example of a sweater that had fit challenges. What comes through in print is that I think the sweater is bad. Not at all true - it's just bad for me.

As soon as I realized how it read in the book, I contacted the designer in question, Pamela Wynne, to apologize. She was gracious and kind in return, and I'm very grateful for that.

One more lesson learned from Shannon's book - to remember that tone doesn't come across in print, and that anything may be reproduced out of context.

Mad for Plaid

Introducing Mad for Plaid, my latest sock design published in the new Knitty - the First Fall issue.

I had fun playing with colours for this design...

It's an easy and approachable sock construction, top-down, band heel, nothing fancy going on. Very knittable as a first sock project. What makes it special is some not-too-challenging colourwork that creates a clever tartan sort of effect... it's mostly easy horizontal stripes, with four 1-stitch wide vertical stripes.

And of course, I did a left and a right sock - and I mixed up the colours. These four socks were knitted with 4 50gm skeins of sock yarn - all the same colours, just positioned differently. You can work a pair exactly the same, but I'm not that sort of girl...

Thursday, July 08, 2010

The Knitgrrl Guide to Professional Knitwear Design: Book Review

Shannon, the world of knitting thanks you.

Good lord, this book is a marvel. I agree wholeheartedly with all the glowing reviews out there.

For me, it's worth every penny just for Appendix B, the Book Proposal Template. The interviews with other knit design professionals are utterly inspiring and illuminating - while being brutally honest about the challenges of working in knitting. The book is full of well-articulated, clear and reasonable advice for anyone in the knitwear industry. She covers everything - not just the knitterly stuff like writing patterns and including schematics, but detailed advice on marketing, sales and legal topics.

Her style is friendly and accessible, while being realistic and balanced. Lots of concrete and relevant examples underline her messages and guide the reader's thinking and learning.

Last but not least, Shannon covers a topic very close to my heart: she provides a very clear argument for using technical editors.

This book is the best mentor I've ever had - and I didn't even need to take it out for lunch.

If you want to publish a pattern, read this book. If you want to write a book, read this book. If you want to work in the knitwear industry - as a designer, yarn shop employee, editor, writer, knitter - read this book.

Just read the book! Even someone who considers themselves to be "just a knitter" will find much to enjoy in the interviews with designers... Shannon talks to all the names we know and love - my friends Amy and Jillian are there, as is one of my personal heroes, Annie Modesitt, and the wonderful designer Louisa Harding, and so many others... I won't reproduce the full list, but every single one of them is worth reading. Shannon gathered designers and professionals of all levels, styles, backgrounds and opinions.

(I promise you, I'm not saying all this because I'm quoted in the book. In fact, it was day three of reading and loving it before I realized I was... ) Perhaps the best recommendation of all is that as soon as it arrived, I turned to the section that provides information on something I'm working on right now, and starting using Shannon's suggestions right away.

Speaking of opinionated, I am one of the interviewees... and as usual, I'm frank and opinionated. I've expressed a couple of ideas that I'm sure some will disagree with - and I look forward to the discussion that results from that!

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Lots to Read, But Elsewhere...

The last few weeks I've been writing the KnittyBlog WWW Wednesday round-up post... lots of fun and interesting stuff for you reading pleasure! Check it out on Wednesdays!

In addition, Robin Hunter has posted an interview she did with me about the business of being (and becoming) a professional knitwear designer. I enjoyed the conversation very much - I hope you enjoy the result.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Summer Knitting

Central Park, Sunday July 4th, 90 degrees or so. And yet still knitting with wool.

I may be slightly mad...

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Probably a very bad idea...

but a delicious one, on a hot summer day.

Happy July 4th to my US friends!

Friday, July 02, 2010

On Holiday

I've been quiet of late, but for two good reasons: I've been blogging over at KnittyBlog - which you should read, if you don't already. Even if I'm not writing it, you should read it regularly.

But also I've been on holiday.

With my knitting, naturally.

I took my knitting by subway to Coney Island and Brighton Beach.

Both my knitting and I had a very good time.