Monday, July 21, 2014

A Giveaway!

I’m giving away the Under100 Knit Collection – 30 patterns that use 100g of yarn or less. Perfect when you want some instant gratification, or a quick gift, or you have odd balls of yarn to use up!
These are projects that delight, entertain, challenge and ultimately reveal their form in just a single weekend (or afternoon, if you're really on top of your game!).
© Knit Picks

Whether featuring the simple ordered beauty of garter stitch, or the rich complexity of entwining cables, the 30 patterns of Under 100 represent a modern aesthetic that's informed by tradition - yielding results that are timeless, useful and infinitely giftable.
See all the wonderful projects here.

Just sign up for my Newsletter (top right corner of the page), if you're not already on the list, and leave a comment here on the blog by Aug 10, telling me why you’d like this book. Please include either an email address or a Rav ID so I can reach you if you’ve won!
That's it! 
I'll announce the winner here.

Share on Twitter  

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Book Review - New Vintage Lace

I love knitting lace, so I was excited to see this book -- New Vintage Lace - By Andrea Jurgrau, Interweave/F+W; $24.99 

Do you admire doilies and antique lace tablecloths for the exquisite workmanship, but can’t find a place for them in your contemporary life? Yeah, me too.
Well maybe you don’t want lace doilies all over the house, but you can wear lace wraps, shawls and hats.
That’s where Andrea’s book comes in: she has carefully adapted vintage lace patterns to modern, wearable pieces.
The book begins with a useful discussion of the different weights and fibers of yarns and how to use them; types of beads; and blocking tips. There’s also a great discussion of swatching; in addition to checking gauge, swatches are indispensable for seeing how well the yarn works with the lace pattern. Watch the lace pattern practically disappear when a variegated yarn is knitted up! This is a lesson that I had to learn the hard way.
The 22 projects are arranged in categories of one-skein projects, small shawls, triangles and squares, and larger projects. Here are some highlights:
There are some doilies that are turned into Beanies like the Clematis Doily and Beanie

The Cherry Blossom Stole is very pretty, with allover mesh and lacy borders : 
Copyright Joe Hancock and F+W Publishing

Kodama Shawlette is a lovely semi circle lacy gem. 
I really appreciated having schematics so that you don’t have to guess at the finished shape of the shawl.
Coeur d’Amour is another pretty one.

Blue Dahlia has a sort of V shape, almost like 3/4 of a circle. 
Copyright Joe Hancock and F+W Publishing
Ghost Orchid is another stunning piece. I think it would be perfect as a wedding  shawl.  

The book concludes with a Design your Own Shawl section, with lots of useful info, and Sources for the various tools and yarns used in the book.


I really enjoyed the book and Andrea’s careful, methodical approach. I have no doubt that I’ll be knitting from this book soon.

Note: Charts only are provided for the lace.

Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this book.

By Andrea Jurgrau
Interweave/F+W; $24.99

Friday, June 20, 2014

More Tips: The Hanging Swatch, Design News, and Stuff.

Today's Tip

Swatching: Hanging Gauge

You’ve all heard about the importance of doing gauge swatches, to make sure your gauge matches what the pattern calls for, and additionally, to see that you’re happy with the drape and overall look of the piece.
Now, wool and acrylic yarns have lots of bounce and springiness. But other yarns like cotton, bamboo and silk, don’t have that bounce. 
As we might be using these fibers for summer knitting, it’s important to understand that your finished garment might stretch and droop as you wear it. I’ve heard stories of a summer top becoming a summer dress by the end of the day, with armholes drooping down to the waist. Not attractive! 

A solution to this problem is to not only wash and dry your swatch, but also to allow it to hang vertically with additional weight suspended from it, just as if it were hanging from your body. Let gravity do its thing! 
You'll have a more accurate prediction of how the fabric will behave with normal use.
This is how I did it, for a cotton/bamboo blend yarn I’m currently working with.

Hanging the swatch from a hanger with clips.

I added binder clips for additional weight.   

You could add earrings for weight, if you have those hanging around – ha ha, pun intended.
Keep in mind that the top part of the sweater will stretch more than the bottom part – there’s more weight to pull it down. So rather than the hem just extending down further, the result could be that the pretty scoop neck becomes a plunging neckline. Ouch.

I left it there for a day, and re-measured the resulting gauge and, sure enough, there was a change of about 10%.  This info will be really useful when I decide how to shape the neckline and how long to make the top; I’ll be able to take the stretching into account and get a better fitting garment. 


On to my designs:
I’ve been really enjoying the design work I’ve been doing for the Three Irish Girls yarn clubs -- both because they are nice people, and, they produce gorgeous yarns in rich complex colorways. For a period of time the designs are exclusive to 3IG club members, so I can’t show them to you yet, but they will eventually be published for sale on Ravelry.  They include a poncho, a hat and mitten set, and a shawl. 

My current project is a summer top in a luscious lemon-lime. Isn't it beautiful? The ladies at my weekly knitting group loved this color.

This is the cotton-bamboo yarn for which I did the hanging swatch I talked about earlier.

I’ve also recently been published in the book called Knit Noro 1-2-3 Skeins published by Sixth&Spring Books. Photography by Rose Callahan and text copyright © 2014 by Sixth&Spring Books. Used by permission. 
It’s a great collection of garments and accessories that use either 1, 2 or 3 skeins of Noro yarn, taking full advantage of the unique long-repeat colorways that Noro is famous for. 
Photography by Rose Callahan,© 2014 by Sixth&Spring Books. Used by permission.

My design is the Intarsia Cowl.
This cowl is comprised of 2 rectangles, each bisected into two triangles that use 2 different colorways. It uses intarsia to create the design. A ribbed edge provides a neat finish. This would be a great first intarsia project since there is only one color change to worry about.

Check out this book, it's fabulous!

I will see you next time with a book review.

Monday, May 19, 2014

A Loss

I just felt like I wanted to share a piece of sad news with my friends. 
A dear friend, an active member of our knitting group (West Hollywood Stitch n Bitch) - Laurie Ann - passed away very suddenly this week. She was such a vital, lively, generous soul, fun-loving, and young at heart (she was only 49). Her passing was quite a shock to us all.
She organized our Ravelennic Games, our Yarn Crawl outings, Knit-A-Longs (KALs), and so much more. She will be dearly missed.

Take a quick look at her Ravelry project page to get a sense of who she was - beards for babies, mustache hats, gifts for friends, and her pride and joy, Bernadette the Beaver.

You can tell how generous she was - nearly everything she knitted or crocheted (she was excellent at both), was given away as gifts.

Our group is planning to adopt Bernadette as our mascot, and to finish up her Unfinished Objects (UFOs) to give to her family.

Last thing I wanted to share with you all - as one of our members said at the memorial service - "Cherish your friends -- and use the good yarn first!"

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

April News, Designs, a Spring Discount

Today’s Tip:

Working with lace weight yarn
I recently completed a project using HABU Stainless Steel yarn, a lace-weight yarn with a core of actual stainless steel. I’ll address the steel aspect in a future post, but for now I’ll just talk about working with lace-weight. It was my first time using yarn barely as wide as a hair, and here’s what I have found.

Needles: I used my favorite, size 5 Signature needles, which come in blue. Oh-oh, the yarn was blue and I literally COULD NOT SEE IT. I had to switch to another set of needles for this project. 
Also, if your yarn is the slippery kind, try bamboo or other wood needles or some metal ones that are not too slick. You don’t want to lose your stitches!

Surface: Knitting with dark blue yarn while wearing (blue) jeans is just harder than it needs to be! Place a light colored pillow, pillow case, towel, or cloth napkin on your lap – makes a huge difference! If your yarn is a light color, try a dark colored towel or cloth.

Lighting: If you can knit during the daylight hours, hallelujah!  If you do your knitting in the evening, please, save your eyesight and get good lighting in the room. If a good work light isn’t possible – say if you’re watching TV with the family and they object to lights bright enough to film a Hollywood movie with, try a portable light such as the Stitch Light from Buffy Ann Designs. 
Yes, it’s kind of dorky, hanging around your neck, but it really works, and it has saved my eyes! 

Markers: Since it can be hard to read your knitting, use removable markers where you can – either the plastic kind, or pieces of contrasting yarn. Any time you need to “increase every 6th row” or anything like that, use a marker to help you keep track. Use them for lace repeats as well.

Yarn Handling: If your yarn has a tendency to tangle, just pull a little off the ball at a time. My yarn comes on cardboard cones and I actually created a spool for my yarn, as follows. 
Take an empty shoebox. Run a skewer or straight knitting needle (at last, a use for my old skinny metal straights!) through one side and out the other to make holes. Now withdraw the needle from the second hole (it’s still sticking through the first one) and push it through your cone or ball or cake, then through the second hole. Now the yarn will spool off the skewer or needle without tangles. I was working with the yarn held double so I used 2 skewers.

copyright Brenda Castiel

My project became much less frustrating once I used these techniques.They saved my sanity, although there are some that might disagree with that ;-)

New Designs

It’s been a while since I blogged, so there is a lot that’s new! 

I’m really proud of the Richmond Mitts. These pretty fingerless mitts use an unusual zigzag rib combined with a single cable on the top of the hand. The palm is subtly decorated with two sets of zigzag stitches with a stockinette stitch background. They come in two sizes for a perfect fit.
The test knitters thought the zigzag stitch was great fun!

The yarn is the wonderful Luxe Sock yarn from Dana at the Unwind Yarn Company – hand dyed and soft and luscious!
Richmond Mitts - copyright Brenda Castiel
Luxe Sock Yarn - copyright Brenda Castiel

The next one is the Intarsia Cowl  published in Knit Noro 1 2 3 by Sixth and Spring Books. The book is full of lovely designs using Noro yarn. It will be published in June 2014.
This attractive cowl is comprised of 2 rectangles, each bisected into two triangles. It uses intarsia to create the design. Increases and decreases keep the intarsia border straight and even. A ribbed edge provides a neat finish. There is short-row shaping so that the lower edge is wider than the top edge.
Choose two pretty colors and cast on!
Intarsia Cowl by Brenda Castiel from Knit Noro 1 2 3 Skeins, published by Sixth&Spring Books. Photography by Rose Callahan - copyright © 2014 by Sixth&Spring Books. Used by permission.


Yes we have discounts! Just because it’s spring.

When I lived in Canada, spring was my favorite season. The winters were so long, and it was such a relief to stop wearing coats, boots, and hats. Even now I dislike wearing boots. Can’t see the point of wearing them for fashion when I had to wear them out of necessity ;-)  But I digress.

From now until May 15, get  40% off all my patterns, using the coupon code “spring”. See my designs on Ravelry here. There are summer tops, hats, shawls, kids’ clothes, and more.  Please take advantage!     


Next time I will be doing a book review and a giveaway so stay tuned!