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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sometimes work gets in the way of fun...booo, hiss!

No podcast this week (and next week too)! For the next couple of weeks, we will be finalizing our sales rep fall/winter sample packs (a big, deadline driven project), so we won't even have a chance to record a new episode :-/

BUT, once we're done, we sure will have lots to tell you!! Don't you hate it when work gets in the way of having fun (I may still take a few minutes of yarn fondling here and there...hey, a gal's got to get her fiber fix. No cold turkey for me!)

Stay tuned...


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Episode 4: Vest, and socks, and shaping, too.

Yes, I am tired of the rain, and the dirty, melting snow, and am now looking forward to mud season (not really) - and yes, mud season IS an official season in Maine. Good thing I've got plenty of knitting to get me over that dreadful hump...

In this podcast episode:
1) Joyce feels pressured by me (what?? me? nahhh...) to reconstruct her mitered vest
2) I get inspired by Cookie A., the sock mistress
4) the mini lesson is about full-fashioning

First off, let me apologize for the tapping/bumping noises on the podcast. I think as we speak, our hands move around (I am French, you know, and speak LOUDLY with my hands!), and perhaps tap the counter where the microphone sits. I haven't pinpointed the problem (we can't even think of what we were doing), and it may be annoying to hear. I'll bring my ruler next time and swat any noisy fingers! (just kidding...we'll just sit on our hands :-)

In Episode 1, Joyce and I discussed some ideas to change a vest from a too-small garment to one that fits just right. Although she claims that I "nagged" her into finally making those changes (something about being her work wife...), the finished version fits her way better, and looks great, too.
She chose to add a solid color band, continuing in Garter stitch with a mitered stitch in the front corner. A couple of rows of the contrasting color just before the bind off brings it all together nicely. I know taking out a project you thought was done to rework it is no fun, but that is the difference between a project that sits in the closet never to see the light of day, and one you can wear proudly, and often!

Joyce described a method of weaving a loose strand of yarn in and out of your fabric, from row to row, to use instead of a stitch marker. I searched the internet to find such a method demonstrated and didn't find anything. So I experimented and came up with this, my own version. I guess you could just as well make a small loop (like a yarn ring) and use that instead of a ring marker, but this video shows you what Joyce was talking about. Can you think of a reason to do it this way?

During my latest trip out of town (yes, again having to decide what projects to take), I took inspiration from a sock designer I very much admire, Cookie A. I find the way she makes the stitches move around in her sock designs intriguing and clever. So, as I looked at a new color of Ty-Dy Socks Dots (called Periwinkle, brand spanking new and not even in stock, yet), I decided to take a small stab at making my sock stitches travel, too. Still don't know what I'll call this design. Any suggestions?
I recorded a short video to demonstrate the Stretchy Cast On method I used for the top of the socks. It is a new method for me so my technique is a little rough, but I think it's clear enough for you to give it a shot. It really makes a nice stretchy cast on—not too loose and sloppy looking like some other methods I've tried.

This episode's mini lesson is about full-fashioning. As I explained in the podcast, that term refers to working your decreases a few stitches in from the edge to create a decorative ridge. The two garments shown below make good use of that technique for working a raglan sleeve. On the left, the Urbana Cardie, has the yoke worked in one piece. The cardigan on the right, the Stadium Cardie, has all pieces (fronts, back and sleeves) worked individually and sewn together. Both garments feature the feathered version of full-fashioning, and both are worked with Nautika, a high-twist and smooth yarn that shows stitch detail beautifully. It is new this season, comes in 12 coordinated colors, and is machine wash and dry (you gotta love that for a summer yarn!).

The 2 examples below are as follows: a close-up of the Stadium Cardie with feathered full-fashioning (left), and a small swatch done in Wrapunzel with basic full-fashioning. As I mentioned in the podcast, even though this yarn has lots of personality (textures and colors), the refined detail still works well.
As I finish writing this blog entry, the sun is shining today (the process of recording, video taping, editing and writing spans several days) and I see the remnants of snow on the roof morphing into water drops. Yes, ladies and gents, spring is coming to Maine, any day now, and that makes me happy. Have a great knitting week :-)


Monday, March 7, 2011

Episode 3: Business Challenges, and a bit of Lace, too!

Episode 3 comes to you from my kitchen, on a rainy Monday morning in Maine. After experimenting with a few recording spots at the office and warehouse, stepping away from the hustle and bustle may just be the best solution for decent audio.

After a short trip to Las Vegas, I share one of my all time travel fears: running out of knitting projects to work on during a trip! From experience, I ALWAYS over pack. This time was no exception—3 projects for a 3-day trip. Really...REALLY?? Yes...I can't help it. You never know. I actually Mapquested the nearest yarn shop in advance, Gail Knits (a customer of ours), just in case...

And if you think a Vegas casino is no place for knitting, think again. While waiting for the slowest penny slot machine to pay out $111.27, I took out a sock project (note to self: never leave the hotel room without an emergency knitting project) worked in an experimental version of Ty-Dy Socks (Skinny Stripes—a new version of this popular yarn). A win/win situation ($$ + knitting in public) And by the way in case you are wondering, no tattoos!

While I was in Las Vegas for the American Rental Association trade show (Jay, my SO, owns an equipment rental store), I did not take the time to walk the show floor with him—tractors and chain saws do nothing for my creative soul. Fortunately, there is a trade organization in our industry, The National Needle Arts Association, that totally fits the bill. We exhibit our products at the bi-annual trade show, along with many other companies. The show, including classes open to members only (sorry folks, not to the general public), spans 5 to 6 days, and one of the highlight is the Friday evening fashion show. We always participate and for this latest show, we had 3 featured designs: the Mermaid Tee in Ty-Dy cotton, the Stadium Cardigan in Nautika, and the Yoga Shrug and Sock Set in Pediwick.

We have many new designs for spring, including the Athena Tank. This design is a perfect example of a blend of 2 ideas: an off-the-rack tank top with a printed motif on the racer back and a design for the Triangle Shawl from a previous season. Combine components of these 2 very different garments, and the end design is the Athena Tank (shown below in blue), pattern 1740, worked in Babyboo, a bamboo/nylon blend (very soft to the touch and machine washable).
This pattern is also featured in the June issue of Knit'n Style magazine (should be on the newsstand any day now).

The mini lesson for this episode is about the basics of lace: for every yarn over in lace (which creates the eyelet openings) there must be a matching decrease to offset it. If you work a yarn over without this matching decrease, the yarn over becomes an increase (and you will have more and more stitches on your needle). The following chart shows you each group of matching stitches (each color = matching stitches).

For the groups of symbols in blue, red, purple and green, each yarn over is matched with either a k2 together or ssk decrease. The 2 orange eyelets are offset by the double decrease in between. The Hey Teach Cardigan from I designed in 2008 (and still going strong) is a perfect example of a pattern where you must be careful in keeping track of your matching yarn overs and decreases. In the chart below, the blue line illustrates a sample armhole shaping. The 2 circled yarn overs must NOT be worked because their matching decrease (the inverted V to the right) is no longer being worked after being eliminated by shaping.
As promised, I've created a pdf file with a blank grid to be used whenever you want to chart out the complete armhole shaping of a garment, or if you want to experiment in designing your own lace—go ahead, give it a go!