Friday, August 9, 2013


Not too long ago, I was interviewed by the fabulous Robin Hunter of How to Become A Professional Knitter. You can read the interview here. I've enjoyed reading her interviews for a long time; they're reminders that even famous designers (and yarn shop owners, dyers, etc.) are ordinary people who work with yarn for a living. The first question was "Where do you find inspiration?" Among the inspirations I listed (Classic Movies, Music, and Archaeology) is another that I forgot to mention: vintage fashion.

Not long ago I discovered the website, which sells the most gorgeous authentic vintage clothing, much of it museum quality. One of the pieces for sale was a capelet designed c. 1895 made of ruby velvet and cream lace with jet beads and sequins. It's an amazing piece, and I wondered if it would work as knitwear. Guess what? It does! Several weeks and 3 skeins of yarn later, and behold: Countess of Grantham (left), next to her inspiration.

The resulting capelet is elaborate but still wearable today. It could be worn on a dressy occasion, but it would work equally well with jeans and a sweater. I'll be wearing it that way this autumn.

Countess of Grantham- $6.95
Ravelry | Patternfish

Monday, March 4, 2013

Put a bead on it

Yukiko Cowls & Scarf - $5.95
Ravelry | Patternfish
Miyabi Collar - $5.95Ravelry | Patternfish
So, over the winter I got temporarily obsessed with this interesting stitch pattern out of a Japanese stitch dictionary. It has graceful leaf forms divided with seed stitch. It's versatile, too - as you can see on the left, it works well in rectangular form for cowls and a scarf, and on the right I adapted it for a circular collar.

In addition to its other merits, the leaf and diamond shapes also lend themselves to embellishment,which led to another obsession - knitting with beads. Large-hole beads (size 6/0) work wonderfully well. I also have a fairly large bead stash from my jewelry-crafting days, but most of them are seed-beads (10/0). They'd probably work well if they were pre-strung, but the beads on all of my designs so far have beads added with a crochet hook during knitting. With some trial and error, I found a way to get the seed beads on the stitches without too much effort using fishing line. Here's my little graphic and explanation:

Working with small beads: Are you using seed beads with very small holes? It can be very hard to get them over a stitch, even with a crochet hook. Try this: Cut a piece of fishing line or beading wire about 8" / 20 cm long. When you reach the stitch to be beaded, thread the fishing line through the stitch and hold the ends together. String the bead onto the fishing line. Holding the fishing line tightly, take the stitch off the left needle and push the bead down onto it with space at the top. Return the stitch to the needle and remove the fishing line. Knit or purl the stitch.
Carry A Tune - $6.95
Ravelry | Patternfish |
Sylvia Woods Harp Center
Once the beading was done, it was time for another type of stitch pattern: double-knitting. It's been awhile since I gave y'all a musical pattern. I asked myself, what does every musician need? I answered myself: a music bag. So here I present to you Carry A Tune. It's knit in mega-sturdy Cascade 220 with harps on the front and musical symbols creating a brocade-like design on the back and inside. It was fun to design and is absolutely HUGE inside. There are two large interior sections and one small pocket, and the layers of fabric make a cushy and protective carry-bag for anything, not just music.

Even though the cold weather is on its way out (yay!), that's no reason to stop having fun with yarn. Small projects aren't oppressive during the hot weather, and they'll come in handy again all too soon. Best get started now. :)

Happy knitting!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Old Books and Warm Hands

My first pattern of 2013 has been ready for awhile and was just waiting for a name. Being January, it's now very cold outside and perfect weather for a set of armwarmers: Whisper Down the Lane. They're very quick to knit in worsted weight yarn with beaded edging. The yarn is Ella Rae Bamboo Silk in colorway "Sugar," and though the size medium calls for 2 skeins, that's just to be safe - I was able to complete them with just 1 skein.

Sometimes patterns name themselves. This one didn't; it's taken nearly 2 months to come up with one that fit. So where did the name finally come from? It’s my description of a story in Creative Chemistry, a 1919 textbook by Edwin E. Slosson. Its full name is The Century Books of Useful Science - Creative Chemistry, Descriptive of Recent Achievements in the Chemical Industries, by Edwin E. Slosson, M.S., Ph.D. Though the research is nearly 100 years old, the explanations are easy to understand, and they're just plain fun. If you never thought you’d be entertained by a textbook, you should definitely check this one out; it’s available free from Project Gutenberg. I LOL'd out loud - a lot. In the beginning of chapter 11, “Solidified Sunshine,” we find this gem:

Just as mankind is now divided into the two great classes, the wheat-eaters and the rice-eaters, so the ancient world was divided into the wool-wearers and the cotton-wearers. The people of India wore cotton; the Europeans wore wool. When the Greeks under Alexander fought their way to the Far East they were surprised to find wool growing on trees. Later travelers returning from Cathay told of the same marvel and travelers who stayed at home and wrote about what they had not seen, like Sir John Maundeville, misunderstood these reports and elaborated a legend of a tree that bore live lambs as fruit. Here, for instance, is how a French poetical botanist, Delacroix, described it in 1791, as translated from his Latin verse:

Upon a stalk is fixed a living brute,
A rooted plant bears quadruped for fruit;
It has a fleece, nor does it want for eyes,
And from its brows two wooly horns arise.
The rude and simple country people say
It is an animal that sleeps by day
And wakes at night, though rooted to the ground,
To feed on grass within its reach around.

Doctor Slosson certainly had a way with words. I laughed so hard picturing those trees full of sheep! Happily for us, though, sheep don’t have to grow on trees for a knitter to keep herself warm. When the weather turns cold, stay toasty with these feminine lace armwarmers. Columns of easy lace travel up the arm, while increases are incorporated into a leaf accent. Optional beads add extra shine at the wrist. Soft worsted-weight yarn makes the armwarmers both luxurious and quick to knit.

Whisper Down the Lane Armwarmers - $5.95 RavelryPatternfish