My Favorite Things: Blocking

September 29, 2014

I am always amazed when knitters don't get around to blocking. The second that I bind off the last stitch I am itching to get my latest WIP onto the blocking board. Then I'm as antsy as a kindergartner waiting for recess until I can unpin and see the finished piece in it's full glory. For me that is pure magic. 

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Blocking 1

(Pictured above, a new design knit with Jill Draper Makes Stuff Mohonk in Moss and Straw Into Gold.)

Trillium Yarns Grand Re-Opening

September 22, 2014

Visiting Trillium Yarns is like going home for me. It is owned by Beverly, one of my dearest friends, and is close to the town where I lived and raised my kids for 21 years. Even without the personal connection there are the piles and piles of spectacular yarn, books, magazines, and knitting supplies. It's easy to understand why Trillium Yarns is one of my favorite places to hang out. Earlier this month Beverly moved the store into a charming downtown location in an old building in Morristown, New Jersey. I love this new location for several reasons: the new space has rustic brick walls and a beautiful front window, I can easily walk there from the Morristown train station (yay no driving and worrying about the traffic at the Holland Tunnel), the new location is a few doors down from a fabulous cafe where we can grab a tasty lunch, and there is a beautiful garden out back where knitters can gather in nice weather. 

I went to the grand re-opening party on Saturday and snapped a few pics of the new spot. If you are every in the area be sure to stop in and support this wonderful LYS.

Trillium Yarns Collage

FO Friday: Prolix Mitts

September 19, 2014

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What could be better than a quick knit that you cast on one morning, work on sporadically throughout the day, and weave the last end in on the following morning? I'll tell you what's better, one that accomplishes all of that PLUS plays nicely with those lonely skeins of variegated yarn that you have around the house. Thank you Laura Nelkin for your versatile and lovely Prolix Mitts pattern. They were an absolute joy to knit. (Laura actually knows that I feel this way about these mitts because she was seated on the couch with me for a while as I worked on them and effused about my admiration.)

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Pattern: Prolix Mitts from Knockout Knits

Designer: Laura Nelkin

Needles: US 6 & 8 circulars, magic looped

Yarn: Quince & Co Lark in Frost that I over-dyed at Fiber College

Size Made: Medium

Started: September 18

Completed: September 19

 

Fourth Thursday Friends: Laura Nelkin

September 18, 2014

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As I sit here typing I await the arrival of my good friend, Laura Nelkin. She is coming to NYC this weekend to celebrate the publication of her new book, Knockout Knits. She'll be teaching classes and signing books all weekend. The fun begins tonight at Lion Brand Yarn Studio where she will be signing books beginning at 6:00 pm. Then tomorrow and Sunday she's teaching several classes at LBYS. I happen to have it on very good authority that Laura is an EXCELLENT teacher. So if you're anywhere near NYC, sign up for one of the several classes she's teaching.

But that's not all that Laura has planned for the weekend. On Saturday she's heading out to Morristown, New Jersey to teach a beaded jewelry class from 1-4pm at Trillium Yarns' new location at 4 Cattano Ave. Next, starting at 4pm on Saturday there will be a Grand Reopening Party at Trillium, where you will find Laura signing books, and me drooling over Trillium's fabulous yarns.

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Since this is going to be the weekend of Ms Nelkin, I thought I'd cast on one of the patterns in her new book. Fingerless mitts are very popular in my family, we can never have too many pairs, so I decided to cast on Prolix Mitts. This pattern is shown in an elegant shade of Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in the book, and I really adore them in that color, but I have a basket of yarn sitting around that I dyed at Fiber College last week, and it's filled with variegated yarns. Since the elongated stitches that Laura features in these mitts really show off variegated yarns beautifully, I decided to dive into my basket and cast on. These mitts will be extra special since the design is Laura's and the yarn was dyed with the help of Ellen Mason in her fabulous dye tent at Fiber College. These are truly friendship mitts.

I should tell you more about the book -- which is excellent and as you'd expect is filled with new techniques taught in Laura's easy-going and very effective style -- but I've gone on and on already, and I have to tidy up the house so that Laura doesn't know what a slob I really am. However you should  go pour over the designs from the book on Ravelry. Then queue and favorite them to your heart's content, and buy the book!

If you come to one of Laura's book events this weekend, please do say hello! I'll be the one merrily knitting away on a pair of bold green mitts.

My Favorite Foods: Brussels Sprouts

September 16, 2014

I am no food blogger, nor am I any sort of cooking expert. Mostly I cook by throwing a bit of this and a bit of that into a pot, or bowl, or what-have-you. But if you'll indulge me, I'd like to occasionally share  some of my favorite things to cook and eat. Today I have a recipe (of sorts) from yesterday's lunch, roasted Brussels sprouts.

Brussels Sprouts

Here's how I do it. 

Pre-heat your oven to 425.

Clean and chop the Brussels sprouts.

Toss the chopped Brussels sprouts with olive oil, a touch of rice vinegar, smoked Spanish paprika, cayenne pepper, and a good quality salt (I used Red Alder Smoked Finishing Salt from the Meadow.) I can't tell you exactly how much of each of these I use, as I said, I don't measure. I just add the ingredients to taste.

Spread the mixture into a single layer in a pan.

Cook 15-20 min until brown. Toss once midway through. I like to let mine get a little burnt because I like the caramelized taste they acquire.

Fiber College Photo Round-Up

September 15, 2014

I don't have time for a long post today. I need to get myself together and go to Pilates. But I do want to share some photos of my trip to Fiber College. Each year this trip recharges and inspries me. All of the fiber, and crafting are one thing, but for me the best part of Fiber College is the time spent with smart, wildly-talented, funny, like-minded friends, like Gale, Mary Lou, Beverly, Ellen, Jani, Cal, and Amy Lou.

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Felt at Clementine (go there if you are ever anywhere near Rockland Maine!), Dye selection in Ellen & Jani's dye tent, My baskent of yarn, Purchases at Clementine

Fiber College Collage People

Plying Class with Dyemama Jackie Ottino Graf, Mary Lou's first lobster in decades, Beverly's joy at her newly dip dyed sweater, Ellen matches her knitwear to her fries

FC Collage Views

Gale and Jani enjoying the view, Storm clouds rolling in

New Release: Duane Park Triangle

September 12, 2014

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Duane Park Triangle, an asymmetrical, triangular shawl knits up quickly in two colors of fingering weight yarn. Its casual elegance will make Duane Park Triangle your go-to shawl this fall. 

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The original design calls for Wanton Fibers Haughty Sock -- a delicious blend of merino and silk. I used a soft blue and grey combination for a subtle look. I liked that version so well I couldn't resist knitting a second using a more dramatic pairing -- Anzula's Squishy in Temperance and Karabella Breeze in Natural. Sadly the Karabella Breeze is discontinued, but you could easily substitute any natural fingering weight yarn.

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The shawl starts with just a few stitch at one point, and increases to a delicate border of lace. The final edging is knit side to side onto live stitches.

Duane Park 1

As you can see, Sofie loves this one. She tells me she plans to wear the yellow/natural version all winter. I'm not sure I want to let her take it though. Pehaps I'll knit a third.

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Duane Park Triangle

Size: Medium (Large) -- The blue/grey version is large, the yellow/natural is medium

Finished Measurements: 31.5 (36)” deep x 71.5 (76)” wide

 Yarn: Wanton Fibers Haughty Sock, 50% Merino, 50% Silk, 438 yds per 100 g skein, MC: 52 Wisp-- 1 [1] skein, CC: 50 Atmospheric -- 1[1] skein -- note that I used most of the MC for the largest size, so you'll want a fingering weight yarn with at least 438 yards if you make the large size. 
 
Gauge: 16 sts x 26 rows in garter stitch, blockedAlways take the time to check gauge.

Needles: US 7 (4.5mm) circular needles or size to obtain gauge

Other Materials: stitch markers, tapestry needle 

Price: $6.00 US

Second Thursday Swatches

September 11, 2014

Thank you all for your excellent blog suggestions. My Bloglovin list is growing thanks to you. I especially loved it when some of you sent links to your own blogs. It's really fun to see what you are all working on. Please keep the links coming!

As part of my commitment to blogging I've come up with a schedule of the types of posts I'd like to do. Each Thursday of the month will have it's own theme, with Second Thursdays being all about swatches. Since today is the second Thursday, I'd like to introduce you to Second Thursday Swatches. 

For today's swatch I have a fun clustered stitch that gives an almost crocheted effect. I promise you though, this is entirely knit. I don't know the name of this stitch pattern, if anyone out there does let me know and I'll add it. ETA: Dana commented and told us that this pattern is a variation of the Anemone stitch. Thanks Dana!

Swatch Collage
This stitch pattern is great for cowls, shawls, and scarves because it looks great on both sides. It's also an excellent choice for variegated yarns. I've shown it knit in a single color and then as a two color pattern. As you can see in the photo above, both side look great either way. So for this one I am not going to say which is the RS and which is the WS.

If you swatch this pattern, I'd love to see your swatches. So please send a photo. If I get enough photos of your Second Thursday Swatches I'll start a album so that we can see them all in one place.

Here's how I did it. If you work it as a two color pattern work rows 1 & 2 in one color, and rows 3 & 4 in the second color.

Instructions

This stitch pattern is best for an intermediate to advanced knitter. Row 2 below is the trickiest bit. The idea is to create 5 elongated sts by dropping the double yarn overs from the previous row and then clustering them by knitting the 5 elongated sts together, then without dropping the 5 elongated sts work 9 new sts into them, so that the 5 elongated sts become 9 sts.

CO a multiple of 5.

Knit 2 rows

Row 1: (Yo twice, k1) to end. — note that the first yo twice will be at the beginning of the needle, before the first knit st.

Row 2: *(Slip 1, drop both yarn overs) 5 times, knit these 5 elongated sts together but do not drop them off the needle, (yo, k1) 4 times into the k5tog, drop the 5 elongated sts from the needle. Repeat from * to end. — each cluster creates 9 sts from the 5 elongated sts that are knit together.

Row 3: (K1, k2tog 4 times) to end. — stitch count after this row should equal the number of sts cast on.

Row 4: Knit.

 

The Specs on My Swatch

Yarn: Anzula Oasis, 70% Silk and 30% Camel; Colors: Temperance (gold) and Denim (blue)

Needles: US 5 / 3.75 mm -- use the needle size that creates a fabric you like with your yarn and knitting tension. If I were to knit a cowl or scarf in this pattern with this yarn, I would probably go up a needle size.

Gauge: I'm not going to tell you my gauge. See my note on needles above.

Cast On: 25 sts

Finished Measurements: 4" wide x 3.25" high

A Renewed Commitment to Blogging

September 09, 2014

I've joined with a group of friends and made a commitment to make my blog more of a priority. Way back when in the early years of Through the Loops, I remember the fun and excitement of planning a new post. The best ideas would come as I drove -- which I did a lot of in those days -- and I'd rush home to get those ideas down on the page. I don't drive much anymore, but New Yorkers do walk a lot and that is ample time for planning blog posts. 

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Here's the part where I ask for your help:

Along with posting more, I'd like to get back to reading others' blogs. When Google Reader closed up shop, I never got around to transferring my blog list to another reader. Finally this weekend I joined Bloglovin and have been adding blogs as I remember them. I know there are some excellent blogs that I'm forgetting or that are new and I've never known about. This is where I could use your help, please leave a comment and recommend blogs -- both your own if you have one, and those that you love to read. They don't have to be knitting blogs, I'd love to hear about anything that strikes your fancy. 

Here's a list of (only) a few of the many blogs I like to read. Check them out. I'm sure you'll want to follow them too.

The Joy of Knitting with Handpsun

July 22, 2014

I love, love, love to spin! Even though Spinzilla is months way, I am eagerly scheming about what fibers I’ll spin, and stalking the forums for new fibers and dyers that I’ve never tried.

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Spindle from Spindlewood, fiber 100 % Merino "Rare Gem"  from Blue Moon Fiber Arts

Spinzilla is a global event where teams and individuals challenge each other to see who can spin the most yarn in a week. This year's event is happening October 6 – 12. Nobody cares what kind of yarn you spin, the goal is to just spin your heart out and see how much yarn you can make. That being said, once we have all that yarn, it is nice to actually do something with it. Make your plans now and by November you will be casting on with your beautiful handspun yarn!

Spinzilla is a great excuse to make time in my busy schedule to do something that is just for me. Since I am a working knitter, spinning is my relaxing time. I love to watch the fiber slip through my fingers and turn into yarn. Hand-dyed rovings seem even more beautiful as they wind onto my bobbin than they were in the braid.

Like a lot of spinners I love to buy my fiber in braids so most of my spinning is in 4oz increments. Choosing patterns for my handspun is governed by what can be made with the yarn I spin from these braids. I pick patterns where the pattern is enhanced by the small inconsistencies that make spun yarn so interesting.

When working with yarn with a lot of variability, such as handspun, I recommend making a large swatch and measuring over a larger area than the usual, 4x4".  For example, rather than taking a gauge measurement over 4", take it over 8". Let's say you find that you have 32 sts in 8", that means your gauge over 4" is half of 32, or 16 sts = 4". Measuring over a larger area, means that you will have a larger sampling of the variability of the yarn. As with any yarn, always block your swatch before measuring, in the way that you plan to block your final piece. Gauge can change significantly with blocking.

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I have a few patterns that I have specifically designed for handspun yarn. The first version of Saranac (pictured above) was designed with my handspun. Made with Unwind Yarn Company Handdyed Merino, the construction of this shawl shows up nicely when worked with a yarn/fiber's subtle color changes.

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I created the Winter Wonderland Shawl (above) for the Winter 2013 issue of Ply Magazine. For this shawl I used a light fingering weight handspun yarn that was spun by Amanda Hartrich of Willow Glen Farm (formerly Inspiration Fibers) from a blend of Shetland, alpaca, bamboo, and firestar. I cherished having the opportunity to design with someone else’s beautiful spinning. This pattern takes 750 yards of yarn, so it may take a bit more than 4 oz, but you could easily work the body in one yarn, and the border in another.

I find that another great way to use handspun is in multi-color shawls. You can either use all handspun, as Earthchick did for her gorgeous versions of my Andrea's Shawl, knit with yarn spun from Silky Cashmerino from Fluff in "Asteroid" & "Pebbles": 

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and Cladonia, knit with yarn spun from Romney in "Timber" from Hello Yarn.

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Photo copyright Stacey Simpson Duke used with permission

Or combine your handspun with commercial yarn as I did the second time I knit my Germinate Shawl:

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I used the commercial yarn in the lace sections to allow the delicate stitch patterns to show most clearly, and the yarn that I spun from the fiber shown in the first photo at the top of this post, in the stockinette sections.

I have a dream of spinning for a sweater someday. If I ever do, I will definitely make yarn for my Beach Street Park design. The simple details on this sweater make it a great choice for handspun.

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Maybe I'll make that dream come true and spin the yarn during Spinzilla. Spinner Registration opens August 14. You can sign up either for a team or as an individual Rogue spinner. 100% of the team registration fee is donated to the Needle Arts Mentoring Program (NAMP).