Birth of a Knitting Pattern

A couple weeks ago, I was ready to throw in the towel on the 4! Ounce! Challenge! The whole “challenge” part was getting to me. I was caving under the stress of life.

My first swatch was fugly, my yarn wasn’t finished and I was all wrapped up in maintaining interspecies harmony in my household—a real challenge these days—and fighting the meager beginnings of a flea infestation. Giving up seemed like the best way to keep myself sane.

Then I got it together and put on my big girl panties. The lure of that grand prize was strong. And the idea in my brain was festering. So, I finished my yarn…

“Pomegranate,” 510 yards of heavy fingering weight 2-ply Shetland wool, spun from 4 ounces of Spunky Eclectic handpainted top

…and, throwing caution to the wind, cast on a prototype design without even swatching.

Damn, it feels good to be a gangsta

Cuz that’s how I roll.,,,mad deep, yo…

 The biggest problem here is that I’m not a designer. I work with words for a living…the numbers are not my friends…so wrapping my head around increases and patterning has been pretty challenging for me. My pattern numbers don’t completely work out evenly, so I might end up charting the whole damn thing out. Which isn’t horrible. I kind of like charting.

The scene from the couch…eh, I mean, workspace…yeah, workspace…

I spent most of the day yesterday working on the prototype.

At first, I was trying to knit the stitches, then write the pattern based on what I knit. (That really wasn’t working.)

Then I tried to hand-write the pattern out while I was knitting it. (No dice.)

Then I tried hand charting. (That was the most futile effort of them all.)

Then I tried using a nifty little online knitting chart generator. (Failure. First-class failure.)

Then, finally, I dusted off my Excel skills and built a spreadsheet and started charting one row at a time. (Success!)

Needless to say, this will be a charted pattern. Written directions will remain at a minimum. Really, it’s for the best.

I had a dedicated little helper in this process, too.

Madori concurred that abandoning the paper was the way to go…made more room for her on the couch…er, I mean, in the workspace…

Her contributions to the effort were truly invaluable.

I still have some concerns about actually publishing this in time. While I made some progress, I still have a lot left to knit on the prototype—which I’m knitting with that Woolen Rabbit Kashmir I got at fiber revival…it’s dreamy—then I have to knit the handspun one, plus there’s test knitting and tech editing and actual publishing. And it all has to be done by September 30.

But I figure it can go out for testing once the prototype is done, while I’m knitting the handspun version. So that might ease the crunch a little bit. If I can get the prototype finished by the end of the week, that is.

I’m itchy to get the handspun version going.

Lovely rustic wooly yarn

The yarn came out really nice.

Ruby and amythyst splattered all over

Can’t you just see it all knit up in stripey, lacy cables?

Itchy fingers want the wool…

 Gotta finish that prototype first… 

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One down…

…one to go!

Digging the vintage feel

The white ribbon probably isn’t permenant—especially since that’s the only piece I have; not nearly enough for two stockings—but I wanted to see how it would fit. Turns out the ribbon is essential; no way this would stay up without it.

So damn pretty

Of course, I didn’t swatch for these. So couple what’s probably a row-gauge issue with the fact that I’m tall—and have ridiculously, I mean *ridiculously,* long limbs—and that means I’ve had to do many, many more pattern repeats than what’s called for. I also did some extra calf shaping because, even though I don’t have big calves at all (I can’t even usually buy a pair of knee-high boots off the shelf—they tend to be baggy at the tops), I don’t think these would have fit without more shaping.

More deets to come once I knock out the second of the pair!

EEK! Steek!

The time had come. If I were to have any chance to finish the Frost Tapestry set by the end of Malabrigo March—which wraps up on Wednesday—I would have to commence with the steeking.

Deep breath.

Smiling to hide my nerves

I used Eunny Jang’s tutorial for a crocheted steek, which provides nice, clear, illustrated directions. Have I mentioned I don’t crochet? I mean, I did when I was, like, five years old. But now, my hands just feel clumsy with a hook. So, there was more than a little learning curve here.

I decided to attmpt the steek at my SnB for the moral support, and they were fantastic. I used a US F hook and some gray Paton’s Classic Merino from the stash for the crochet. In hindsight, I probably should have used a less-bulky yarn for the steek, but oh well. This was my first times and was a total learning experience.

Steeks in place, ready for the cut

So, my clumsy hands crocheted the steek. They’re lumpy, bumpy and uneven, but they get the job done.

Another deep breath. Time for the scissors.

It’s now or never…

I used my small set of sewing scissors, and they were a good choice: little tips on sharp blades, perfect for delicate snip, snip, snipping.

Then I went at it…

The first snip

…and proceeded to cut…

Shaky hands…very shaky hands…

…my beautiful Malabrigo fair isle knitting…

Almost done!

…right down the middle.

What a rush!

Ta-da!

And there it is! Everything held together perfectly! Steeking accomplished!

Now all that’s left is to knit on the button bands, block it and sew on the pretty silver buttons Allison found during our shenanigans at JoAnn’s yesterday.

I also finished the main knitting on the first matching mitten…

Gotta love the colorwork!

…and just have to put in the thumb.

Can I finish the whole set by Wednesday?

Yay for successful steeking!

Maybe, now that the scariest part is over!

Malabrigo March: Plugging Along

Busy, busy, busy.

That’s been my life for the last two weeks. And it’s been why this blog has been silent. Between a lingering plague that laid me up for a few days and crazy-time at work and parties with friends and helping Kris paint and move into her new apartment, my life has just been crazy!

With all that, Malabrigo March has been cruising by, and I’ve just been plugging along. My first FO was my Burberry-Inspired Cowl (Rav link).

And it even matches my awesome new-ish coat!

I actually cranked this out over two days while recovering on the couch from the plague that’s been making it’s way around my office. And it’s fantastic! The pattern is beautiful and works so well with the very busy “Plena” colorway. And I love the idea of not setting cables apart by purl rows. It adds a whole new dimension to cabled fabric that is really very pretty. 

Still totally in love with this colorway

I did stripe the two balls of Twist, but I got some pooling anyways. I don’t really mind it though; I think it works with the pattern. And I have nothing but awesome things to say about Malabrigo Twist. It’s fabulous, simply fabulous, and I have dreams of a sweater made out of it sometime in the foreseeable future…maybe in time for Rhinebeck this October…we’ll see…

I also cast on for Colonnade (Rav link) as planned, and then frogged it. Really didn’t like how it was working out, and life’s too short to knit something you’re not happy with.

So, then I switched gears and started my Grove mittens (Rav link).

Snuggly, swirly stitches

The first one went surprisingly quickly, which was a little unexpected from my first glance at the chart. The cuff is made up of tiny two-stitch, knit-through-the-back-loop cables, which take a while, but the rest of the mitt is all twisted stitches, which work up pretty easily. The first one is a little short for me, so I’ll probably gift these eventually.

I also picked up two skeins of Worsted in “Natural” and another in “Forest” to make Frost Tapestry (Rav link) from the Twist Collective. So far, I’ve finished most of the neckwarmer.

Such a pretty colorwork pattern

I’m at the steek. My first ever steek. Yeah, not sure I’m ready for that yet.

Where I will eventually, at some point, cut my knitting. Yes, cut. With scissors. Yikes.

Very scary. I might start the matching mittens before I go for the steek action. And, if I have enough yarn, the matching hat as well.

And though it doesn’t count for Malabrigo March, since I cast it on in February, I did whip up a 1X1 rib scarf in my “Cookie” Twist…

Ummm….Twist…so wonderful….

…which has quickly become a wardrobe staple. It’s without a doubt the squishiest scarf in my closet.

So, that’s my Malabrigo March so far. I might whip out a couple more projects, but if things stay as busy as they’ve been recently, I probably won’t have much time.

All this Mal does reinforce, however, my undying love for this yarn. Cables, lace, colorwork, basic stitches—it can literally do everything. It may just be the *perfect yarn.

In Which the Sock Knitter Goes Hat Crazy

I’ve never really been a big hat knitter. I guess everyone has their thing, and for me that’s mostly been socks. Sure, there’s a scarf here, a sweater there, a couple bags, a pair of mitts…but hats have never really been my thing.

It’s kind of weird, too, because hats are such instant gratification. They take so little yarn and so little time, you’d think I’d have knit more of them. Well, maybe I’m making up for lost time, because I been on a little hat kick recently and can’t explain why.

First was my handspun Selbu Modern, and then came this handspun number…

Mountain Nights Toque, with pom

…which, at first, I thought might have been better in theory. The pompom makes it, though. This is the Mountain Nights Toque (Rav link) in my “Creation of Adam” handspun merino. I cast on two extra repeats on US 10 needles for this one, since the pattern calls for bulky and this is more of a worsted, and it did come out pretty slouchy and squishy.

Gahh! Apologies for the dreaded “no-make-up” shot…

I like it, but not on me so much. I’m clearly not a beanie-style-hat person.

Next came the Half-pipe Hat (Rav link). I’d made one of these before, and it’s a pretty quick pattern, again on US 10s. This one worked up in one night, over only a few quick hours.

Nothin’ but a g-thang…

I used some long-stashed plastic canvas for the brim, and the yarn is Sheep Shop Sheep 2 bulky-weight I picked up on closeout during a recent trip up to WEBS with a couple of doctors. I’m thinking this will be gifted to my brother, as he can probably rock this way, way better than I can.

Finally, there’s Beaumont.

Hello, colorwork…

On the same trip up to Northampton, the docs and I stopped into Northampton Wools, where I (finally!) picked up one of their last copies of Jared Flood’s book for Classic Elite, “Made in Brooklyn.” I also picked up two balls of Plymouth Mulberry Merino, which I just could not walk away from, to start this tam.

The yarn is buttery soft and drapy and shiny. I’m loving it, but it is splitty. Very splitty. I knit the ribbing on a metal US 4 fixed circular needle from Knitpicks, and that was kind of torture. The needle was way too pointy and kept splitting the stuff apart. After the ribbing, I switched to a US 7 fixed Harmony wood circ from Knitpicks…much, much better. It’s notably less sharp of a point, so while it still splits, it’s not nearly as bad.

The only other issue I’ve had with the yarn so far is the yardage. It only comes in 99-yard hanks…which I thought would be enough…which was clearly a delusion on my part. I’m two rounds away from the start of the decreases, and I’m out of the white. Boo. Another hank is on it’s way, but I was hoping to have this finished and blocking by the weekend. Oh well. I just really hope the red doesn’t bleed into the white when I wash it…spray block maybe?? Instead of wet block? We’ll see…

And at least it’s the white and not the red. How off can dyelots really be on white? Oh, sweet delusion…