The Kitty’s out of the Bag (At Last!)

Remember that teaser I shared at the beginning of August?  Well, the “Kitty” is out of the bag, so to speak.  Kitty Hawk, my pattern in the fall Steampunk pattern lineup at The Sanguine Gryphon is up!

Kitty HawkIt’s inspired by the fabulous attire worn by aviators around the turn of the 20th century and motorcycle gear of today — fitted, textured leather and sturdy securing straps translated into knitwear… with some fine detailing as an homage to the age of the Victorians.  I definitely have plans to knit up another set for regular fall and winter wear.  I think the mitts will look pretty awesome with a certain cape I’ve been eyeing on http://anthropologie.com.

My sample is knit up in two absolutely stunning colours of Bugga! Oak Timberworm (the dark one) and Owl Moth (the light one).  You’ll have to visit their pattern page to see the colours in their best light, along with all the other fabulous and beautifully styled fall patterns.   (I have to say, this is one of the best pattern collections I’ve come across.  If they wanted to release the whole fall collection as a book, I’m pretty sure I’d be among the first to preorder… it goes without saying that I’m totally honored to be a part of it!)

It comes in 4 sizes for both the hat and mitts to fit most men and women (although if you’re trying to knit a pair for, say, Rick Fox, I’m not sure even the largest mitt size would accommodate his huge hands).   It’s a quick knit (I finished my sample, including swatching and frogging and swatching and knitting and frogging and reknitting and writing the pattern in about 3 weeks); the mitts are easily done by an advanced beginner or intermediate knitter; the hat requires a bit more skill and patience but is also pretty straightforward in terms of construction.

And the very best part?  Looking forward to seeing what knitters do with this pattern.  I’m really looking forward to seeing some of these out in the wild!

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2 Inches a Day

After a fit of being determined to finish things, I seem to have fallen into a bout of startitis. (In all honesty, that fit of determination may not have been so much an actual fit of determination as it was habit resulting from a spell of knitting a bunch of things that had actually had deadlines and not just deadlines, but deadlines that were pretty close to each other, close enough that it was easy to fall into a pattern of saying to myself “Well. That’s off the needles, what needs to be finished next?” But, I digress). I blame September, season of wardrobe updates and new beginnings and change and potential…

On the one hand, the startitis is great. I have a new sock on the needles that is so addicting to knit that I’ve nearly completed the first sock after casting on three days ago, ripping out all my work, starting over, casting on again and spending all day yesterday at a Renaissance Faire (which was totally awesome, except that it was kind of ridiculously and uncomfortably hot. Thank goodness for gelato and cider). I have a testknit of a pattern that I want to release soon-ish on the needles, and a third sock occupying another set of my sock needles. I have a swatch and a plan for another garment… I’m just working on convincing myself that I can cope with magic loop, just this one time, because I really don’t want to buy two short circs that I will probably not use ever again and because dpns just wouldn’t work in this scenario.

I am still, despite all of this, making progress on the shrug, though progress is slow and really, there’s not much to show you that’s interesting. I think the only way to make it interesting would be to take photos of it as it grows on a day-by-day basis and compile them into some kind of time-lapse video and I’m just not that sort of diligent documentarian.

The point is, I’m hitting the doldrums. That point where you’ve come a long way, but there’s still a really long way to go. Long enough, in fact, that the end seems just beyond the horizon. (I think this is approximately the point where second sock syndrome hits for many a sock knitter, and I kind of wish it had a name for sweater knitters or lace knitters or knitters who knit anything other than a sock. Second sleeve syndrome? Forty percent blues?)

My solution: In an effort to exercise some of that determination that I must have hiding somewhere given that I actually finished every project that I cast on in July before mid-September, I decided that whatever else I work on, the shrug must progress at a rate of 2 inches per day before I work on other projects. It might mean slower progress than I’d have if I had a deadline or were a slightly more monogamous knitter with a slightly higher boredom threshold than the one I’ve been blessed/cursed with… but it also means there’s a real shot that I’ll finish this fall garment before the end of, well, fall.

2 inches. I can commit to that. Right?

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A reluctant sweater knitter?

Once upon a time, I fancied myself a dedicated accessory knitter.  I knit socks and wristwarmers and the occasional scarf and… well, actually, that was about it.  Then I got bitten by the lace bug — or rather, I made the very intelligent decision that giving my bridesmaids something more versatile and wedding-wearable than a pair of socks was perhaps a better way to go and THAT was when the lace bug bit.  (Nevermind that I haven’t knitted a shawl yet.  Then again, it hasn’t yet been a year since my wedding and I started designing this year and my lace design skills aren’t where I want them to be just yet, at least not for the purposes of shawl design and…)  Of course, after four shawls, I wanted a kind of respite from big lace projects, so I did some spinning, and then I knit a pair of socks and then I sent myself into the throes of sweater knitting.

Apparently, I haven’t looked back.  While my first few pattern ideas were (more or less) for accessories, the two major ones that I’m working on this fall, in terms of new garments (patterns for old garments don’t count — that’s an entirely different part of the design process) are both garments.  A shrug with a giant lace shawl collar and a squishy cabled, tie-waist open vest.  I’m blaming my wanderings in Europe and perusal of window displays and department store settings for my current fashion sensibilities and for a strong desire to knit comforting, soft, squishy things for fall.

The shawl-collared shrug is called Sapphire.  I’m working it up in Wollmeise Lace-Garn in an unnamed experimental colourway that I acquired via a lace grab bag sometime last spring.  The colour is dark blue with some deep purple and black bits and just incredibly lovely overall.  It has just enough variation to give it some depth and interest and not so much that it seems like the kind of thing it’d be hard to sneak into my wardrobe as a garment for regular wearing.  I do have to admit, though that I kind of wish that I either liked a more open gauge or was using a thicker yarn… 3 mm needles make for slow going.

“Don’t limit yourself by thinking of yourself as strictly a sock or lace or sweater designer; try everything,” was the advice an older designer gave to new designers a while ago on some forum on Ravelry.  I don’t think I meant to take it… but seeing as I’ve now designed mitts, socks, panties, a choker, a fascinator, a hat and am now working a sweater, well, I guess that advice sunk in deeper than I thought.

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Stalled

Remember these?  These are the now-named Meriel Mitts, and they’re squishy and soft and lovely for fall and I’m very excited about them.  I’ve even written (most of) the pattern.  It could still use some formatting and a tech edit and maybe a photo of the pair together, but, you know, they’re something that I could potentially release sometime next month with a little work and a few speedy testknitters.

One warm wrist

The problem with that, though, is that I’ve hit a wee snag in the finishing process.  You see, I knit these out of my own handspun yarn.  It’s easy enough to give the details on that yarn — 100% BFL, 2-ply, 14-15 wpi — but if I only give those details, I’m pretty much leaving out a huge population of knitters who don’t spin, or who only spin somewhat chunky yarns or … In any case, I don’t want to leave out any knitters, so I’m looking for a good commercial substitute, preferably one that I can knit a pair of these with as a second testknit.

I’m officially seeking suggestions.  I’m looking for something that’s either a heavy fingering or light sportweight — it needs to play nice with US #2/2.75 mm needles — preferably hand-dyed by an indie dyer with decent stitch definition.  (These are kind of tweedy because my spinning isn’t as even as I’d like it to be, but I’m happy to entertain non-tweedy possibilities).  Please tell me your favorites!

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Early Fall and a Finished Object!

I can’t believe we’re nearly halfway through September!  The calendar turns officially to fall in just over a week and I’m already feeling some of it’s fresh crisp air creeping in to the last days of Summer.  (Though honestly, summer here has pretty much been cold and damp which means I’ve spent a lot of it thinking about fall and winter and seasons in general and kind of missing the days when I lived in places where the seasons were really different from each other).  I’m pretty excited about this — I love fall, and my life has been run on an academic calendar for so long that I tend to think of years as beginning in August and ending in July.  It probably helps that I age every July, too, so my years of work and my years of me tend to coincide.  Anyway.  Fall.  Knitting season, time for cute boots and layers of camisoles and long sleeved shirts and cardigans and other soft squishy knitwear.  I’m excited.  And my fingers are twitching with anticipation of the lovely knits I have planned for the coming months.  As to what’s been happening in the last little while, well…

Another New Garment!I finally finished my Hawaiian Diamonds (Rav link) top.  The yarn is Sundara Yarn Fingering Silky Merino in two limited edition colours, and the pattern is Themis by Gryphon Perkins from The Sanguine Gryphon Summer 2010 Pattern Collection.  The buttons on the shoulders came from a tiny, crowded yarn shop in Lausanne.  (La Mercerie, it’s called.  Tiny, really, and packed, floor to ceiling with all kinds of beautiful yarns and embroidery threads and an amazing array of buttons.  It’s the kind of shop where it feels like a young woman in a novel who’s down and out or just simply lost and messy would rediscover herself under the mentoring and patient kindness of a much older shop owner.  Cozy.)  I felt like the garment needed something floral to soften its geometry and these reminded me of well, that.  Plus they’re kind of like cameos (or at least, they remind me of cameos) which I fell and fell hard for years ago on my first trip to Italy.

I knit the pattern pretty much as written, except for the part where I decided that bobbles weren’t really my style and  proceeded to replace the bobble rib with a 2 x 3 twisted rib for the waist and 1 x 2 twisted rib on the cuffs.  They’re also a bit shorter than the pattern suggests, in part because I have short arms and in part because I really wanted to highlight the pretty drape of the lace.

I can’t wait to wear it.  I’m pretty sure it will look great with any one of my lace trimmed camis and some  dark wide-leg jeans or herringbone trousers (still looking for those.  If anyone finds a really great pair, do let me know!).  I love the thought of a little bit of lace peeking out from the bottom edge of the rib, and I love how this top fits into my wardrobe.  It’s dressy and pulled together without being fussy which totally fits my “vintage hipster” (as a friend called it) fashion sense (another argument for the cameo-styled buttons), and the boat neck is super flattering.  I have been blessed/cursed with narrow, sloping shoulders, so I’m pretty much a fan of anything that makes them look broader.  (This includes horizontal stripes.  Go figure).  Love.  Love love love.

I also started something new, but that will have to wait for another post.

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Places into Lines, Lines into Patterns

I’ve spent the last week and a half or so traipsing about Switzerland (my day job sent me to a conference in Lausanne and I’ve taken advantage of the enclosing weekends to do some sightseeing research.

I can definitely say that I’m headed home full of ideas, some based on garments I’ve seen in shop windows (as an aside, I now have proof of a sort that the Europeans believe Americans have no taste — the Missoni garments here have absolutely stunning use of fabric and colour. Nothing I’ve seen of that label in the US even comes close. It’s like we get their “well, this was an experiment, and we’re not really happy with it, but you’re so garish over there, you’ll probably buy it anyway” line. But I digress.) and most based on the places I’ve been. I think of Lavaux as the curving lines of terraced vineyards. Lausanne is a collection of wrought iron balconies, each with its own unique pattern. Zurich is a city of clock towers surrounded by gentle waves (there’s no mistaking that the Swiss are expert watchmakers here; watches in every window and I think I counted 4 different and very grand clock towers during my wander through the city this afternoon). Zermatt is defined by the mountain peaks that surround it standing guard over the town and by the glaciers that creep between peaks and flow into crevices. By wooden architecture with bright shutters and vibrant flowers.

I’d love to spend more time, capturing the quieter places and taking more than a day or two to absorb ambiance. But, you know, I’ll take what I can get.

My “notebook” (a set of files on my iPad) is full of sketches and scribbles and I think I have knitting fodder for a good six months. It’s an exciting journey, this trip from knitter to designer, especially the part it’s playing in changing how I look at the world. I pay more attention to detail… but also to essences and to abstractions.

(I think this is why I’ve been a fan of the Hipstamatic app for my iPhone, lately. I didn’t pack the SLR for this trip due to it being heavy and my being weak and something of a clothes horse, and I found that my point-and-shoot wasn’t doing the things that I wanted it to do. I spent time fiddling with the technology, trying for something better than snapshots but nowhere near what my SLR can do and eventually abandoned it in favor of more impressionistic photography options. I wanted photos, but I also wanted to be really present and see with my eyes and my heart and not with my camera. So something that creates the old and awkward and impressionistic and arty has been a good fit).

I’ve been knitting, some, (I knit 3000 stitches on a train between Munich and Zurich, yet somehow this only added about 3″ of length to the sweater I wrote about in my last entry, and I’ve been working on the second of my Blue Greenhorn socks, but that’s bizarrely slow going), but mostly I’ve preferred to observe and to think. I guess that happens to all of us, sometimes.

I expect the knitting to increase when I return to my “normal” life. Minus 8 hours of knitting on my flight to the US. Apparently they don’t let knitting needles on planes in Switzerland, and after my adventure with Airport Security in New Zealand, I’m not interested in taking chances this trip.

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Something Simple, Something Soothing

So, remember how once upon a time, I was cruising along on a sweater? The cruising got put on pause while some stealthy things took precedence. Actually, so did my day job. And a visit with my husband’s family. But, I digress. I’d gotten as far as picking up the waist stitches and even knitting a number of rounds in what should have been a pretty wavy-rib pattern.

Should have been. In reality, what I ended up with was this messy-looking sampler of ways one could theoretically do a wavy rib, in the round, evenly over 150 or so stitches. No, I don’t have pictures. I thought I could live with it… and then after a month of being picky about many details of many projects, I realized that I really couldn’t.

So I ripped, and I puzzled and I picked up the stitches all over again (neater this time, too, because I wasn’t in a hurry) and I realized that after a solid month of very cerebral knitting, I wanted to do something simple. Something pretty, but mindless. (I should note as an aside, here, that cerebral is not to be confused with difficult. The sort of thing that makes you really have to pay attention. All. The. Time. As opposed to difficult which is the kind of thing where the stitch count changes on every row and the pattern is full of k3togs and sssks).

I came up with this. 2 x 3 twisted rib in round after round after round after round. I like that it’s textured and structured (in opposition to the lace) and that it’s linear and simple and geometric (as a complement to the lace diamonds). I also love that it’s mindless. I can start and stop, pick up and drop off anywhere I choose. I can get bored after a couple of rounds and move to another project and come back and know just where I was. I don’t worry about “stopping points” other than the occasional measurement for length. Simple, clean, elegant, pretty… and, what I wanted most (or maybe even needed) right about now, soothing.

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