Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Giftalong Interview with Sara Peterson

As I'm sure you're aware (if only because I've mentioned it quite a few times here), the Indie Design Giftalong is in full swing over on Ravelry. Seriously, if you haven't peeked in on the group, you should -- there are lots of gorgeous gifts being whipped up. In any case, part of the reason for starting the Giftalong in the first place was to promote indie designers and encourage knitters and crocheters to use indie patterns for their holiday crafting needs. I have to say that for me, even though I usually try to keep up with the patterns that are being released, it was a real eye opener -- I've seen so many amazing, beautiful, creative patterns that I wasn't aware of before. And while most of the design-related talk on this blog is about my own designing, I wanted to use the Giftalong as a good excuse to introduce you to some other indie designers whose work you may not have seen before.

Today, that designer is Sara Peterson of knottygnome crafts. I've "known" Sara (as least as much as you can know someone from interacting with them online) for several years now, and she has some beautiful knitting designs and a really inspiring blog. Sara was kind enough to answer a few questions about her design process, and I'd like to share her answers with you.

What’s your design process like when you’re coming up with a new pattern? Do you start with an idea for a finished product, for instance, or does the design take shape as you’re swatching and knitting?

I admit to being a selfish knitter and I'm most inspired to design when I want something specific but am unable to find a pattern that is just right. I'm a visual person and I often make charts for both color and texture patterns on my computer in my spare time. I do a lot of interplay between charting and swatching until I find the combination of pattern and yarn that sings to me. Then I apply it to the garment, but I don't plot out everything in advance. I try to leave room for flexibility in the actual knitting. When I was designing Jane, I knew I wanted a stranded yoke, but I decided later on that the white sweater needed more visual interest. So I added colorwork bands to the sleeves.

I like sweaters but I love to design accessories the most. There's something about starting with a small basic structure and finding unique ways to express yourself within those limits that i find very appealing. Plus as someone who always wants to move on to the next fresh idea, I like to make things that I can finish before I get bored with them!

You spin and quilt in addition to knitting. How do your other hobbies influence your designing?

My design inspiration often comes from other crafts. A space-dyed wool top might influence a color palette for a quilt or a stranded knit design. I would say that color play translates the easiest from one craft to another. I love putting together color schemes whether it's for a handspun yarn, a quilt, or a plaid woven scarf.

I've also experimented with using classic blocks in quilting for colorwork charts. For example, even though the Norwegian star in Tindrer is a classic stranded pattern, I was drawn to it for its similarity in shape to the Lone Star block.

What’s in the designing pipeline for you?

I took a long hiatus from knit and crochet design to focus on other things, but I'm happy to say that I'm back to pattern writing. There's something about winter that makes me want to cozy up with wool. Right now I'm working on the sample for a pair of colorwork mittens and I'm swatching for a cabled hat. Naturally both of these ideas came to life because the weather is getting colder and I need a new hat and mittens for the upcoming winter season. I'm hoping to self-publish both patterns before the end of the year.

Thanks so much to Sara for sharing some insight into her design process. I can't wait to see what she comes up with next! In the meantime, do take a look at her Ravelry pattern shop to see the other designs she has available. You can also visit her blog for an interview with me!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Spinning the Winter

After spending Friday evening and a little bit of yesterday morning at my wheel, I managed to get my second bobbin of singles finished. Last night, I started plying. I still have a ways to go, but I love how it's plying up.

This colorway -- Winter Is Coming -- reminds me so much of the winter sky when a snowstorm is brewing. I'm trying my hardest not to ply as tightly as I usually do because I want this yarn to have more drape. It's silky smooth running through my fingers, so I already know it will feel fantastic around my neck. I'm hoping to finish this up today or tomorrow so I can cast on later this week!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Hearts and Butterflies

It's been quite a while since I did any test knitting, mostly because I don't have enough time as it is to work on my own designs and knit baby gifts and whatnot. That said, I still keep my eye on the Ravelry testing groups because I'm interested to see what others are doing. One day late last week, I stumbled upon a test for a stranded colorwork hat that would be perfect for Rainbow. I contemplated it for a few minutes but then clicked elsewhere (because have I mentioned that there aren't enough hours in the day?). I kept thinking about it, and I logically came to the conclusion that (a) Rainbow needs some new hats, which I was intending to knit her anyway, and (b) this was a really cute one that had all the work done for me and likely wouldn't take me more than a few days. So I signed up.

After digging in my stash to find the yarn (Knit Picks Swish Worsted that I'd bought as part of kit years ago and will never make), I cast on Friday evening, worked on it some more Sunday afternoon while binge-watching The Paradise, and finished it Monday night. In the first half hour or so of knit night last night, I knit the butterfly, which I attached when I got home. Clearly, the recipient loves it. And this mommy is happy, too, because the stranding and the hemmed brim make this a super cozy topper -- much needed, as the weather's getting colder.

I might even knit this one again, but with a couple modifications. First of all, I'm not sure that I really love this hat shape on Rainbow (I keep worrying that it's going to fall off her head), so I might adapt it to more of a beanie shape. I also think I'd also go down a needle size or two and knit a larger size; I used worsted weight yarn, though the pattern called for Aran, because that's what I had. I think the colorwork would look tidier at a slightly smaller gauge. I used 7's for the brim hem and 8's for the colorwork, but I think it would work well with 6's and 7's.

The pattern is by Kate Bostwick of Cowtownknits, and I'm expecting it'll be up in her store sometime next month, if you're interested.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Mergers and Acquisitions

I mentioned in my last post that I made a brief stop at the Indie Knit and Spin event over the weekend, and I promised you a shot of my spoils. With apologies for the bad lighting (this is why I hate this time of year for getting blog pictures!), here you are:

While I didn't need anymore sock yarn, I do have a couple of design ideas percolating and want to use some indie yarn for them. The burnt orange is from Fibernymph Dye Works. It's a blend of 80% superwash merino and 20% nylon in a colorway called Earthenware Red (and it's really a bit more orange-y than it looks in this photo). The slightly sparkly purple is Lucina from SpaceCadet Creations, a 75% superwash merino/20% nylon/5% sparkle blend in the colorway Plume. The very bright bagged fiber is also from Fibernymph, 6 oz. of polwarth in rainbow shades that's for a certain preschooler (who specifically asked me to bring her back a surprise), and the other fiber is 4 oz. of Falkland from Cosy.

As if these goodies weren't enough, I came home later on Saturday to find a yarny surprise waiting for me -- two skeins of Malabrigo Sock (in Ivy), my prize from the Stockpile event in the Ravelry Malabrigo Junkies group!

I will have to ponder these two for a bit to decide if I want to use them together in a large-ish item like a shawl or split them up for smaller accessories.

Finally, yesterday's mail had my final stash enhancement. About a week or so ago, I'd heard that Quince & Co. was going to be giving 10% of its profits on a given day to typhoon relief efforts. I'd long wanted to try Quince yarn, so I thought this was the perfect opportunity. I ordered six skeins, and they arrived beautifully packaged up yesterday.

From left to right are two skeins of Chickadee in Goldfinch and Lupine and four skeins of Lark, two each in Twig and Chanterelle. I can't believe how soft and squishy these skeins are. I haven't even knit with them yet, but I already know I'm going to love them.

So now that I've added all these yarns to my stash, I suppose I should get knitting!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Winter Is ... Well, You Know

Another crazy weekend here. I only accomplished about half of what was on my to-do list (and on the half that was not accomplished was some photography, which is getting harder and harder to do as we get later in the year). I was able to get over to Indie Knit and Spin for a bit on Saturday morning and made a handful of purchases that I'd really like to show you, but the light right now won't do them justice. I spent most of the day wrangling the kid (first at a big birthday party and then at home through an exhaustion-fueled temper tantrum), so I rewarded myself with an evening of DVRed episodes of Masterpiece Classic, a big cup of milky tea, a couple of cookies, and some spinning. Earlier in the week I pulled out some Gale's Art polwarth/silk that I bought at MDSW this year, and after staying up past my bedtime last night, I managed to finish up the first of two bobbins.

Here's what the fiber looked like before (the colorway is called Winter Is Coming -- so apt for these shades):

and here was the bobbin yesterday morning, before I put in all the time at the wheel:

This is such an enjoyable spin that I really didn't want to stop last night (and fortunately it was a weekend and I could stay up so late). The fiber is beautifully prepped; it drafts effortlessly and, but for a few slubs of silk and a couple of tiny pieces of VM, it's perfectly clean. Polwarth is probably my favorite fiber to spin, and combined with silk it's an absolutely dream. I'm hoping to get the second bobbin done this week or at least by next weekend. The plan is to use the resulting yarn for my friend Amy's Quinta Cowl as a present to myself.

I also finished the second skein of yarn from my Spinzilla singles, but as it looks pretty much like the first one, I'll spare you another picture of cream-colored yarn. I'm hoping to ply the third one at some point this week. If I can get that done and deal with the leftovers, there should be a dyeing experiment to document in the near future!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Keeping It Going

After finishing up the long-suffering baby blanket, I figured it was best to start on the sweater right away, before I lost my baby-knitting mojo. I think I mentioned that I'd picked up some blue Cascade 220 Superwash, so on Sunday night, I sat down to watch some back episodes of Masterpiece Classic and cast on for Henry's Sweater. As of last night, I was just a few rows shy of finishing the body.

Tonight I'll finish the body and tackle the sleeves, which should knit up very quickly (they're in the round and small). I'm already planning some minor adjustments to the collar. The pattern calls for picking up stitches only around the neck and along the increases to the front, but I'm going to pick up along the whole front edge. Otherwise, the fronts are going to want to curl under, and I just don't like that.

Finally, a reminder: The 25% indie pattern sale for the Giftalong ends tomorrow (11/15) at midnight GMT. The knitting and crochet portion of the Giftalong (including the awarding of hundreds of prizes) will continue through the end of the year, but this is your last chance to save on patterns! All of my self-published patterns are eligible for the discount, as are thousands of others.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Is That How Big You're Making It?*

After months of working on it on and off, the waffle-y baby blanket is finally finished!

This yarn will never photograph accurately -- it's purple, not red!
I didn't really have a pattern for this; I just did some garter stitch borders around a waffle-like ribbing and knit until it looked big enough. The yarn is Dream in Color Classy, one of my favorite hand-dyed superwash yarns. I'd had two skeins of it buried in my stash from a couple of years ago, when I bought them intending to make a sweater for Rainbow that never materialized. I bought a third skein to supplement them but only ended using about half of it, so I'll figure out something to do with the leftovers. I'd originally intended to make it a little longer, but I got bored with it, in all honesty. I took advantage of the tendency of superwash to stretch when wet to make it a little larger when I blocked it, so it now measures about 23" by 33".

The recipient of this blanket is due in December and will be the second son of my best friend's older sister. The family has been very close to us for my entire life -- they're the family we spend Christmas with every year -- so obviously they are very deserving of handknits. You might say that this blanket is a bit of a cop out when you consider that the first baby got the intarsia blanket, but a new baby with an older sibling gets hand-me-downs, right? He'll be getting a sweater and probably a hat to go along with this present, so he should be good and covered in wool.

* The title of this post is courtesy of a comment I got from another customer at my LYS this past weekend when she asked what I was making and I told her it was a baby blanket. We're still not sure if she expected it to be bigger or smaller than it was.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Twisted Up

This week was the week to ply, apparently. I find myself with not one but two skeins of handspun finished this Sunday. The first is the first skein from my Spinzilla singles, undyed Romney spun long draw.

I plied until one of the three "storage bobbins" ran out, then broke the other two singles (I'll save all my leftovers and ply them together later). The skein is nice and poofy and looks to be in the DK/light worsted range. It's 183 yards, so I'm hoping I will have close to 600 when I ply up the rest of it. My intent is to use this yarn for a sweater for Rainbow. I showed her the first skein and told her so, and do you want to know what her response was? "Mommy, can we add some color to it?" I guess there's some dyeing in my future.

Because I needed some color after all that cream, I spent the last two evenings plying up my Bee Mice Elf Pool Party. The depth of color doesn't seem to want to be captured by my camera.

I may have put a tad too much plying twist in this (if you look carefully, you can see a couple of corkscrews), but I like it. It poofed up to about sportweight and 291 yards.

My spinning mojo has come back in full force, and after I ply some more Romney singles, I have my next spin all picked out -- this Gale's Art polwarth/silk that I picked up this year at MDSW.

The colorway is called Winter Is Coming, which seems appropriate for the time of year.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Back to Basics

Secret knitting continues but should be done soon (tonight, if I get enough time to knit). As soon as it's off the needles, I will be turning my attention back to the last of the baby knitting that still needs to be finished. I pulled the baby blanket out over the weekend and finished up the second skein of yarn, so I'm getting pretty close to the end now. Anna has given me permission to finish it sooner than I was planning -- she thought it was big enough -- so after a couple more repeats of the pattern, I'll do the border and be done with it.

I promise you this blanket is purple in normal light
The added benefit of ending this early is that I'll have at least half a skein of yarn left, which means I can probably do a hat or something with the leftovers (if not for the baby, then for Rainbow, whose head seems to have suddenly grown enormous).

As soon as the blanket is done, I need to cast on for the sweater to go with it. I made the big brother a Baby Sophisticate when he was born, and I wanted to do something that was similar but not the same for this baby. I found a sweet little sweater on Ravelry, Henry's Sweater, that has the same overall look to it and picked up a couple of skeins of Cascade 220 Superwash in an ever-so-slightly heathered blue.

Normally I'm not one for doing blue for boys and pink for girls, but this color was so vibrant that I couldn't resist.

In other news, I've come to the realization that it's time to knit some more socks for my sock drawer. There are a number of pairs that have worn out this year and others that I'm realizing I just don't like to wear, so some new options would be welcome. I have quite a few skeins of Socks That Rock in my stash and even more skeins of handspun sock yarn, so there are a lot of options. Perhaps this weekend I will do a proper dig through the stash and see what I can come up with.

Don't forget that you can still get a 25% discount on thousands of indie designer patterns through the Giftalong! Details are available on Ravelry here.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Playing Catch-up

I can't really show you the project I've been working on for the past week (suffice it to say that I'll be able to share it with you in several months), so will you settle for some really finished shots of a project from a while back that I only just put the finishing touches on this weekend?

Pattern: Cascade by Raya Budrevich, from Petite Purls, winter 2010, 6 month size
Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash (100% superwash wool) in Turquoise, one skein
Needles: US 7 (4.5 mm) Addi Turbo circs
Started/Completed: September 13/September 29

This was the third sweater I'd knit from this pattern, so the amount of time it took to finish it was really a mark of boredom rather than difficulty. Don't get me wrong, it's a lovely little pattern, but when you knit it twice, back to back, you begin to crave something a little different. This particular iteration is for the soon-to-be born baby of one of the Mister's coworkers, who I believe it due to arrive this month. The Mister thought they were expecting a girl but wasn't completely sure, so I went fairly gender-neutral on the color and the buttons, which I picked up at my LYS.

I was excited to once again eke out a baby sweater from a single skein of yarn. As I did the last time, I saved myself a bit of time (and yarn) by keeping the last stitch of the bottom live after binding off, turning, and proceeding to pick up the button band right away. I did the same thing for the collar. As a result, there was minimal finishing on this -- just a few ends to weave in here and there and the buttons to sew on. I'll admit that I let it sit for several weeks with the buttons in a bag on top of it until finally I couldn't stand to see it anymore. So now it's all done and ready to be delivered as soon as the baby is born.

I feel it's worth mentioning that the latest issue of Petite Purls just came out and features an adult version of this sweater that I think is rather fetching. I'm not in a hurry to cast on for it, but it's in my "someday" list. This issue is also, sadly, the last one for the magazine. I'm not sure if it will continue to be available online or not or (if not) if the patterns will still be available on Ravelry, so you may want to print out the patterns you want now.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Color Craving Satisfied

I've been doing some deadline knitting that's kept me busy for much of the past week, so it was such a treat to sit down at my wheel the last two evenings to keep spinning my latest Bee Mice Elf club shipment.

These colors are pretty accurate, and I'm just loving how they've been transitioning from one to another. I finished spinning up the last of the fiber you see here this morning, so I will be able to ply soon and see how the colors blend. I'm wishing that I had gotten more than one braid of this fiber!