Thursday, January 23, 2014

New Class: Learn to Knit. Knitting for Absolute Beginners

A couple of months ago I went back to Indiana to tape another video class with my friends from Annie's. They are a great team to work with, and I've loved reaching their audience of knitters through my Magic Socks class.

This time, however, they wanted to do something new: something new for them, and for me: a Learn To Knit class.

Teaching beginners is something I've done a lot in stores, but to do it over a video class required some thinking. How to best convey the motions and the tactile nature of the experience, in a video? It was a fun challenge, and I'm pretty pleased with the results.

The class includes everything you need to kick off your knitting adventures: casting on, the knit and purl stitch, stitch patterns like ribbing, stockinette stitch and seed stitch. Along the way, we work 6 easy and fun confidence-builder projects, including a dishcloth

a great shawl

and this headband and wristwarmer set.

Have a friend or family member who wants to learn to knit? Get them to learn from this class, so you can focus on your own projects...  

More info, and a video preview here.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Improvised Blocking Solution; A Chunky Rickenbacker

It's cold here; I suspect you already know that. Until recently, I didn't even know what a Polar Vortex was. Now, apparently, I live in one.

Last fall I taught at class at Shall We Knit on the Rickenbacker shawl. In a class like that, I like to work along with my students on the project. And it happened to be the weekend that the infamous Shall We Knit "closet" was open. The closet is their sale room. It's only open for one weekend a month, and you can never be sure what you'll find in there. They are always putting new and interesting stuff in there: it's often ends of lines, or discontinued yarns or colourways, or bits and pieces from the back catalogue.

Now, it's not like I need more yarn, but sometimes I can't resist a bargain. I got myself 5 balls of "Freedom Purity" - a discontinued Chunky weight wool and alpaca blend yarn. They were asking the princely sum of $4 a ball. How could I say no? 80yds per 50gm ball, I figured that 400yds would give me a decent size shawl.

My excuse to myself was that if I working the class sample in a chunkier yarn would make it easier for my students to see what I was doing.

I've been working on it, on and off, since then... and I decided, given the weather, that it would probably be to my benefit to finish it up. So I took it with me on our trip to NYC for Vogue Knitting.

Here we are, very early last Thursday morning at the airport. God bless Porter and their coffee machine.

I worked on it on the plane, binding off the last stitch as we trundled up to the gate at Newark Airport.

That first day, I wore it around town, ends a-dangling, unblocked.

When we got back to the hotel that evening, I soaked it in the sink for a bit. I should have taken a picture of the sink - the dye ran, and turned the contents of the sink a very dark grey.

I rolled it in a towel to wring it out, and the dye left nasty stains on the towel. I hope the hotel staff were able to get it clean...

I considered pinning it out, but didn't have any pins... and I was afraid it would stain the carpet. So I improvised: two clothes hangers, in the shower. I'd got most of the moisture out anyway, with the towel, so it wasn't very heavy. It dried overnight, and looked terrific.

(Want to know more about blocking? Check out my Craftsy class on this topic!)

We tried to get a good photo of it, but with it being a dark colour, and me wearing dark colours, it wasn't really showing up. 

Here's the finished thing, with an existing fingering weight version for comparison.

You'll see that the edges aren't straight, due to my stellar blocking technique. However, it still looks great and wears nicely. (Oh yeah, and I haven't woven all the ends in yet, either.)

400yds of a chunky weight (approx 13 sts 4 inches on 6mm needles) has given a shawl about 30 inches at it deepest point by about 65 inches wide. Snuggly!

Update: The clever ladies of Shall We Knit propose Cascade 128 Superwash as a terrific substitute for the Purity yarn. Similar texture, same weight, and a great range of colors. Also, not discontinued, which is really the most important bit!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Spring 2014 Sockupied: Profile and Pattern

I am over the moon to announce the Spring 2014 issue of Sockupied magazine. It's already an honour to have a design in it, in such great company with designers like Lana Holden and Stephanie Van Der Linden.

But I was also interviewed, for a feature about me and my work. Here's my name, right on the cover!

My design, Constant Cables, takes some of my favorite numbers - mathematics constants including Pi and e - and cleverly encodes them into cables.

I had a ton of fun creating this design... Both Pi and e are irrational numbers - that is, they cannot be represented as fractions a/b, they have non-repeating non-ending decimal points... The first few digits of Pi are 3.14159 26535 89793 23846 26433 83279 50288... the first few digits of e are 2.71828 18284 59045 23536 02874 71352 66249 77572 47093... although they go on forever.

So I had an idea... why not use these numbers to create non-repeating, un-ending cable patterns. Pi is represented by a C3 - crossing 3 sts over 3, and the number of even rounds worked between the cable turns are determined by the decimal points. No matter how long you want your sock to be, you've got a cable pattern!

Nerdy? Insane? Wonderful? All of the above, I hope!

I also got to use MY colourway, the wonderful Safety Pint from indigodragonfly.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Cowls for Hounds

When the weather got truly miserable last week, I was worried about keeping the dog warm... he has a coat, but it leaves the back of his neck fairly exposed. I rummaged around in the cupboard and found a Noro cowl I'd made for myself a few years ago, and slipped it on him. He fought it for about five seconds, but then decided it wasn't such a bad idea after all. It didn't stay up over his ears, but I figured even a little protection was better than none.

(It's the sadly discontinued Silk Garden Chunky, about 18 inches in circumference, a bit of (k1, p1) ribbing at top and bottom and otherwise just stocking stitch.)

So it turns out that hound-cowls is actually a thing. They're more applicable for dogs in the Greyhound family, who have long thin necks and very little body fat... Dexter's neck is neither long nor thin, and he's doing fairly well on the body fat thing, but the shape of his coat does leave a good bit of him exposed.

After doing a bit of research - ok, doing a Google Image search for dog cowls, which is an excellent way to spend half an hour on a cold day - I decided that it wasn't unreasonable to make him his own, more snug so it covers his oversized and delicate ears.

This free pattern on the bromeleighad blog seems like a good place to start, and I love the photos.