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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Dragon Skin wrap for a wee one

I was in NYC the other day and happened to be near The Point. And look who decided to come home with me:

It's several skeins of Filatura di Crosa Zara (a DK superwash merino) in a powder pink color, destined to become the Dragon Skin Wrap from the Holiday Interweave Knits. There are so many great knits in this issue - most requiring just a minimum amount of yarn and time commitment with very darling results. But the dragon skin wrap caught my eye because a friend from college just had a baby girl 2 months ago and I've been meaning to knit up something sweet for her.

I'm already almost done with one front.

It took a little while to get used to. I think I reknit the first 2 rows 3 times before getting everything right. But once you set up the pattern, it's very easy to tell where you are and it goes by very quickly - particularly since the dragon scale pattern is fascinating to watch develop. I find myself just wanting to knit one more row!

Angela is busily calculating for an adult sized wrap as we speak too, so those of us who want to wrap ourselves in scaly goodness will be able to as well!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Interweave Winter Preview is Up!

And I'm in it! :) Or my design is to be more precise.

I'm grabbing the image from the site:

I'll try to be more coherent later, but for the moment, I'm really really excited! :)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Donna Druchunas' Blog Tour - All aboard!

I have the honor of being today's stop on Donna Druchunas' Book Blog Tour to celebrate the publishing of her third book, Ethnic Knitting Discovery.

Donna's books are always written with humor and in a great, conversational style. As a reader, I feel that I'm having a nice chat with a good friend, albeit with a friend who just happens to be a expert knitter and knitwear designer.

I'll start out with what Ethnic Knitting Discovery isn't. It isn't a glossy, coffee-table book of knits modeled by pout-y, twenty year old models. It isn't even a book of patterns per se. Instead, it's a meticulously researched book focusing on historical knitwear from 4 main regions -- The Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, and the Andes. Some of these regions may be more familiar to readers (Norwegian sweaters with their fair-isle motifs are very recognizable in the U.S.) than others, yet I managed to learn new things about even the knitwear that was most familiar to me. For example, yoke patterned sweaters (from the Netherlands) are very appealing to me visually, but I didn't realize that their design comes from the more practical origin of thriftiness -- textured stitches consume more yarn, thus long ago dutch knitters relegated their use to just a small region. And Andean knitters purl in the round from the the inside to achieve stockinette stitches on the outside (right side)!

More importantly for the knitter ready to strike out on his or her own, this book doesn't contain detailed instructions of any particular sweater or item. Instead, Donna encourages the reader to experiment, all the while providing as much or as little guidance as needed by the individual.

The book is organized (save for the first two chapters) by region. The first chapter covers the basics of swatching, some sweater silhouettes, the concept of ease, the percentage system for determining the components of a sweater, and standard measurements for different sizes. The second chapter delves a little more deeply into the nuts and bolts of good sweater design -- the importance of considering yarn type and weight, knitting in the round, basic steeking (yikes!), and working with charts.

After a preface of the necessary tools (techniques, mini-stitch dictionaries, etc), the region chapters are divided into 3 main sections -- small projects designed to serve as practice or even a large gauge swatch (hats, scarves, etc), medium projects as the individual becomes comfortable with the knitting style of a particular region (simple sweaters), and large projects utilizing most of the techniques illustrated in the chapter (more complex sweaters). Each of these sections are further divided into 3 "patterns" depending on the comfort level and design style of the individual -- a visual plan containing a rough sketch and pertinent measurements, a planned worksheet where the measurements of the visual plan are translated into actual stitch and row numbers, and a step by step instruction sheet which gives detailed, written instructions incorporating the numbers from the planned worksheet.

Most invaluable in my opinion, are the many tips and hints scattered throughout the book such as Donna's advice when picking up stitches to "[fudge] on the 'slightly less than' side" (pg. 57). Although knitting is a very mathematical discipline, there still remain elements of art and judgment that make it very fun (and at times, frustrating).

At any rate, the enthusiasm Donna has for her subject and her readers is infectious. I'm usually a plan-most-things-out-before-I-start kind of designer, but by the end of the book, I'm inspired to try to design a little more freely like the knitters that came before me.

Thanks, Donna, for stopping by my blog. For more Donna, check out her guest post on my blog last year and her other stops on the current tour.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Super quick trip home...

...and home is the San Francisco bay area which means I got to stop by Artfibers (aka knitters' mecca) quickly!

Unfortunately, I didn't have too much time. I was pretty sure I wanted some Hana - a smooth, fingering weight, luxurious plied silk - to make a camisole for a friend. But other than that, I wasn't sure what else I might want to look for. In the end, I left just with the Hana, but I was also sorely tempted by Rush - a beautiful, painted DK to worsted weight cotton, Tsuki - a slightly thinner version of Kidsilk Haze (one of my all time favorites), and Kurosawa - a soft and brilliant merino silk blend.

The last time I was at Artfibers, the yarn still came in 50 gram balls, but they've apparently changed to a 250 gram cone system. They still allow you to wind off a smaller amount (in my case, 150 grams) by yourself if you wish to purchase less, but the best part of all of this is fewer ends for me to weave in at the finishing step!

Here's my Hana. The color was hard to capture, but it's a deep magenta or plum. My friend has stunning coloring - jet black hair and creamy porcelain skin - so this color will look great on her.

Speaking of Hana, I recently dug out a UFO that I had shoved to the bottom of my knits drawer. It's the Prairie Tunic from IK Spring '06 made in Artfibers' Hana in a variegated pink color. I casted on for this puppy as soon as the issue hit the stands and rapidly worked through the back and the front. I guess I knew something was looking strange when I got to the triangle shaping at the top, but I plowed on through blindly. I then partly seamed it up and realized something was wrong and no amount of wishful thinking could make it be otherwise. A quick search through the blogs revealed that errors had been found and errata posted but by that point, I was fed up with the whole enterprise and hid it in a bag - out of sight, out of mind, right? I should say also that I love love love Veronik Avery's patterns and design aesthetic which is why I was so excited about this tank. Errata happens, it's an unfortunate and statistically guaranteed fact of life. I should have been more watchful or at least more patient, waiting a bit for any potential errata to surface. Anyway, here it is, my shame:

A brief chat with Kira convinced me that the yarn is too pretty not to reclaim. So as soon as I can muster up the motivation, I'm going to unravel it, skein it, wet it, and rewind it. Wish me luck!

While I was in the bay area, I also spent a day hiking in Point Lobos, a small peninsula jutting out just below Monterey Bay. Somehow I spent my entire life pre-college in California without discovering this little oasis of beauty tucked away just an hour and a half south of where I grew up. I've always liked the Northern California coastline with its craggy cliffs and colder waters. It's so different from the smooth and sandy beaches of the east coast. Point Lobos is an erosion area which means its home to some truly stunning and unusual wear patterns and structures. As an extra treat, my husband and I were able to spend the day with my friend Leah, a landscape photographer who takes the most exquisite photos. Seeing Point Lobos through her eyes was really interesting.

Here are some parting shots from that day. The first photo is of a small enclave dubbed the Devil's Cauldron for the particularly frothy surf that hit its shores. The second photo is of a view up a majestic cypress tree, one of many dotting the rocky cliffs of Point Lobos. Covering its twisted branches are copper growths of algae, giving it an otherworldly and kind of creepy (to me) look.