Wednesday, January 29, 2014

While it's still freezing out, how about a nice cozy, bulky knit?  Introducing Mango Smoothie.  Kind of perfect for what's going on outside my window today.  

 This one was a request from my daughter. She wanted something big and cozy and textured and cabled. And the conversation happened just as I was wanting something quick and rhythmic and soothing, so the stars aligned and we both got our wish.

 She picked Webs Berkshire Bulky as her yarn of choice, and I loved it.  Quick to knit up, distinct in the stitches, but with just a bit of a haze from the loosely plied alpaca and merino fiber. 

The sweater is worked top down, and features a lovely, and easy-to-memorize textured motif.

 Balancing out the texture is a bold center cable, and a couple of surprise cables down the sides and arms.  I wanted a few vertical details to keep things flattering, and thanks to those cables, personal modifications to the shaping are easily added in.  Plus, the sweater has a little extra something special - both for the knitter and the wearer.

The Berkshire comes in a ton of colors and is priced so you can make this for less than a dinner out.  As are many of WEBS Valley Yarns.  You can make this whole thing for between $50 and $85, depending on your size.   Really.  I want to make myself one in gray, but she won't let me.  Apparently Mother-Daughter outfits went out in the 1970s.  

So while I work on a totally different bulky sweater for me to avoid any teenage social faux pas, you guys can start this one.  Some details are below and the rest are on the Ravelry page.   The pattern will be available on the Patterns page on my blog here, or on Ravelry for $6.50.   In a few weeks, you will also be able to get it through WEBS.

Yarn:  Valley Yarns Berkshire Bulky, 108 yards per skein, shown in Orange. 

Needles:  US#10.5/6.5mm or size to get gauge. 

Gauge:  3 st/5 rows per 1" in textured pattern.  Based on blocked swatch. 

Sizes:  34(38,42,46,50)(54,58,60)" based on finished bust measurement.  Shown with 4" of ease. 

Yardage:  750(850,950,1050,1150)(1250,1350,1450) yds

I better watch out or Zoe will be chiming in next.  

By way of a drink, I can't even imagine making a smoothie, so how about a hot beverage? 

This article has some amazing options.  I need to do a bit of shopping and go through them one by  one as the week goes on.

But I went with what was in my house tonight --  

My version of a Mexican Hot Chocolate
Make a cup of hot chocolate.  Add a pinch of cinnamon and a pinch of chipotle, stir in 1oz of Creme de Cacao and 1oz of vodka.  You can add whipped cream too, but I didn't.   It kind of hits the spot.

you need to knit up a bulky sweater, don't you?  In a really happy color.

Stay tuned, this one's coming up in the next few days! 

Friday, January 24, 2014

I should be working on a button band right now, but to be honest -- I'm just kind of not in the mood.  So this sits, seamed up and waiting until later on tonight.

It's been a busy week following Slater Mill!  Here's the schedule from yesterday alone.  A half day for Maya, due to midterms -- followed by play practice, dentist appointment, a 2 hour break to study for the last tests today, and then guitar.  Overlapping Maya's trip to the dentist was Zoe's pickup from school and dropoff at chorus practice across town. Overlapping the trip back from the dentist was lacrosse, and then overlapping Maya's guitar was Zoe's lacrosse practice, where I have to travel around town and pickup 4 other kids and bring them over.  And I almost forgot about lacrosse because I decided to stop at the liquor store on the way home from the dentist since we are totally out of wine.  Impressive, right?   Or just sad?

But Slater Mill?  Such a fun event.  An entire weekend of knitting.  The trunk show with Ellen and Gudrun was great, Gudrun's presentation about the Shetland Isles made me want to hop on a plane tomorrow, and Ellen's year long project of dresses and matching sweaters is beautiful to see all together.  I loved teaching the workshops, and any nervousness disappeared pretty much the moment the students sat down and started talking. I was lucky to have a wonderful mix of the greatest students on both days.  Sharing my process and going through the workshop with them was a blast.  I absolutely loved it, and plan to do it again next year!

The space at Slater is amazing and inspiring, and just lovely to spend a few days in. The Mill staff is a joy to work with, and made both teachers and participants feel warm and fuzzy the entire weekend.  (Impromptu snacks!).  I think everybody involved had a great time.  Ruth and Bernadette have a ton of great ideas of how to bring the history and creativity of the Mill space to all of you in the coming year, so keep your eyes open, especially if you are local.  I'll have my hand in a few of the projects so you may hear a bit more over here as things develop as well.  The plans are kinda exciting :) 

I only had my phone camera, so excuse the few grainy photos, but you get the idea:

Upstairs, before the Trunk Show -- a whole bunch of my sweaters, displayed on vintage dressmaker dummies, and a beautiful antique drying rack that was living up in the Mill's attic. The rest of the sweaters are lining the pipes above, because I might have too many sweaters all together.

Meanwhile, downstairs in the Marketplace, was Ibisco - my upcoming "date sweater", on display in the Ball and Skein booth.  Judy had a whole shelf of LYRA dyed up and ready to go (that pale bluish gray was to die for) -- and she's now taken my sample on the road to her next few shows - including Freeport ME, Pittsburgh PA, Conn Sheep and Wool,  and New Hampshire Sheep and Wool.  I did wear it on Friday night, but since I don't have any actual dates coming up for a bit, I figured I could let it go traveling.

I take that back - I did have one last date planned after the sweater left my possesion.

Arriving home on Sunday, I took Maya and her buddy to see Bastille in a real concert at a club in Boston on Monday night (I'm finally rounding out and ending the whole Bastille blog chapter here, I promise.)  It was a great spot to see them - a pretty small club venue where we could get front row railing spots on the balcony and be this close.  For just one moment, he looked up, she waved in a little semicircle at him on the railing, and he smiled back.  Not as personal as the private concert in the park, but the kid is going to be in for a shocking disappointment when she sees a band at some giant stadium someday and the band is a tiny dot in the distance and she's in the middle of a thousand other fans.  And yes, for those of you paying attention, I took her to a concert the night before her midterms week began.  We bought the tickets long ago and had no idea.

But she studied all weekend while I was at Slater, and we both really did want to go.
I'm a bit of a sucker.

Have a good weekend, and I'll finish up that button band in a bit.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Yes, it's only Tuesday, but there are times when my Type A sensibilites take over.  So, this here is the dining room divan - often, for socializin and relaxin with the family unit (right?).  But it's not available for the family unit right now.  Now, it's covered with All The Things I need to remember for Slater Mill's Knitting Weekend, in just a few days.  Knits, cards, tags, skeins, and things to copy.  

Half of that pile is for Friday night's cocktail reception and and trunk show.  I'll be there with a drink in hand and sweaters on table.  And so will Ellen Mason, Amy Christoffers, and Gudrun Johnston -  who will also be giving a talk all about Shetland.

The other half of the pile above is class stuff - for my first set of Design Workshops!  There's also a two day marketplace, lots of great spots to sit and knit in the Mill, and Providence about 5 mins away for lunch and meandering.   I think a few spaces may still be left in Ellen's mitten class and although my workshops both sold out, there was somebody in my Ravelry group who couldn't make her spot in my Saturday class and is looking to sell her ticket.

You know, just in case any of you are local and wondering just what to do this weekend.  The link is here.

I'm a bit excited about the whole thing -- not only because I get to go away for the weekend with some of my favorite knitting friends - and get to meet even more, but also because these will be the first real sessions of my Workshop, about which I am really excited.  I've managed a trial run or two in my dining room with a few brave volunteers and it was so much fun.  But I bribed those guys with snacks and mimosas and I also kind of knew all of them.  This time, I'll be in front of paying strangers.  So, here's hoping, right?


On the sweater front,  I'm loving this next project.  You can see my sophisticated design process in the works here - apparently my pencil is eraser-free, so I'm crossing out all over the place.  And I think this is Zoe's old Elmo notebook.  But hey.  The sweater is about to be a big, cozy cardigan in a gorgeous shade of pink.  Warm for winter, in a color that gets you ready for spring, yes?  The yarn is from O-Wool and I love it.  Legacy Bulky.  Talk about instant gratification :)

Anyways,  hope to meet some of you this weekend :)  I'll tell the rest of you all about it next week.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

The last in my 3 part series of blog posts for this design -- Bastille, the Cocktail.  And for this, I'm leaning French, not band.  For some reason, the delicacy of pear, coupled with gin and lemon seems perfectly French to me right now.   And way more desirable than a French 75, since I have no champagne - or Pernod, which I really, really don't like.   So, after a couple of combinations, this one's the winner:


2 oz gin
4 oz pear nectar
.5 fresh lemon juice
 2 shakes of lemon bitters
lemon seltzer

Combine the gin, nectar, lemon juice and bitters in a jigger and shake with 2-3 ice cubes.   Strain into a glass over a couple more ice cubes.  Add a splash of lemon seltzer and enjoy!   

Now that I've told you the story, it's time for the pattern!

Bastille is a balance of a delicate motif and a really sophisticated, dark shade of green.  I think that perfectly sums up the lead singer of any band - sensitive AND badass, right?  The yarn is Plucky Knitter Primo Sport - in the colorway Bastille.   The mix of merino and cashmere in her Primo base is soft and perfect on your neck, and the Sport weight is light and easy to wear in a cowl that can go indoors or outside.   Besides Bastille, Sarah has a few other colors that I think hit this same "lead singer" feel being of deep and gorgeous and dark - her new Jack of All Trades would totally rock this --  or perhaps Medieval, Lonesome Highway, Cabaret, Rye, or Cafe Society, to name a few others.   


The cowl is worked in one piece, but has two halves - the first featuring an allover repeat of beautifully complex Gothic lace (a nod to the history and tradition behind the name Bastille) and the other featuring long columns that transition off of the allover panel, and a smaller bit of lace just to keep that side fun and interesting.   Like repeating the refrain in a song, maybe?

Worn long or wrapped, the two textures play off of each other nicely.

The Bastille pattern is available on Ravelry for $6.00 or on the patterns page here on my blog. 
More information is on the Ravelry page, but some details are below.

Yarn:  Plucky Knitter Primo Sport, 550 yards - 2 skeins (275 yds ea).  Shown in Bastille. 
Gauge:  5.5 sts/8 rows in lace pattern.  Instructions included in pattern on adjusting for other yarns.
Needles:  US#6/4mm needles, or size to get gauge. 
Size:  12" wide x 54" long as shown. 
As for a drink, I'm going to add that tomorrow.   It's only 9:45 so far this morning and I'm still on coffee around here.  Enjoy!  Can't wait to see what you guys do with this one :)

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

As promised, a little tale tied to my next pattern release...

Most of you know I have two girls.  The little one is Zoe and the big one is Maya - and Maya's the musical one.  She's always been pretty into her bands, and for a few years now, there's been this one band on the radar called Bastille. Lead singer Dan Smith is her boy (oh, swooooon) and these guys have been her favorite band for a while - posters up, playlists saved, lyrics memorized.  She spent most of 8th grade angling for a trip to London that just might include a concert, since they weren't popular here and never came to the States.

But fast forward to this Fall when their song, Pompeii started popping up on this side of the pond. 

Like most teenagers today, Maya's got her social media figured out for all her favorite things - including Bastille.  And when she flew down the stairs in early September to tell me that they were COMING TO BOSTON and HAVING A CONTEST for a SECRET CONCERT,  I nodded and handed her a backpack or something.  

The next day, Maya informed me she was going to duck into a bathroom at exactly 9am when they announced the winners, and she was going to take her cellphone out during school (not usually OK) to see if she'd won.  I said fine - and probably something about your chances in these things and don't get caught with the phone.

So when my phone rang that day at 9:02 with crazy excited Maya on the other end of the phone, huddled in some bathroom stall somewhere, talking super fast about Boston and Concert and Pick Me Up by Noon TODAY, and can I skip my last two classes PLEASE????? --  well, it took me a moment to realize what was going on.   I was busy planning things with Plucky and playing phone tag with her (as we do).  But I was on board, and picked her up.  Honestly, I was kind of psyched myself ...

It was a gorgeous day in Boston, and the super secret location was in the middle of the Boston Common.    We were dying, because it looked like there were only about 30 people there and this was going to be one tiny, private concert.  I think Maya was rehearsing intimate conversations with each band member in her head.  However, I forgot to tell Plucky where I'd gone, and she returned my call during the middle of all this and got quite the earful - followed by how many texted photos?  I don't really remember.  I going to bet we interrupted her sporadically for the next 2-3 hours. 

But really - put yourself in Maya's head (or, yeah, mine too) and imagine winning a contest to see your favorite band in the middle of the school day, without a crowd, 2 feet away, AND getting to talk to each of them afterwards. Because that's what happened.  

First, we were led to a grassy spot with instruments on the grass.  Maya is in the red plaid shirt....

And then the band walked up, said hello, and started playing:

And then they played for about an hour.

The video guys are because the band filmed and posted Vevo videos of each song on You Tube.  You can look for me and Maya in them.  Standing behind the guitarist limited her cameos to a few, and I'm in a second row - but we're in there for a few seconds on each of the songs.  LINK

And - as if that wasn't cool enough, they said everybody should hang out afterwards because they'd sign autographs and meet all of us.   They all signed her phone case - which is the SAME one Dan Smith has (again, swoon).  All four of the band members could not have been nicer and Maya got to have those pre-rehearsed conversations. 

And best of all, she had her moment....

This really would not have a thing to do with yarn, except that we were kind of sharing the whole thing with Sarah as it happened, since the one thing I forgot to wrap up before leaving was that game of phone tag.

So -- a little while later, 2 skeins of Primo Sport arrived in the mail.  In the colorway Bastille.
Because Sarah is awesome that way. 

Sunday, January 05, 2014

the year with a little Plucky.

It seems about right, doesn't it? 

Keep your eyes out for this pattern later next week.  (First, everybody needs to go back to school and work so I can concentrate, and Sarah needs to be back in the studio so you guys can get yourselves some yarn.)  All that's required for this one are 2 skeins of Primo Sport and the desire to knit a little lace.  There's a story behind it, and I'll share that when the pattern is ready.   And PS, the name of the pattern is Bastille.

As for the rest of 2014,  I see everybody else putting down their plans and suspect I should too.

You may have realize that I have definitely been bit by the accessories bug, so you will continue to see a lot of cowls and  hats and mitts peppered in with the sweaters around here from now on.  One of my goals last year was to branch out and do more accessories and honestly, they have been way more addictive rewarding than I expected!

Sweaters are not going away, but I am loving the instant gratification and lack of sizing involved in cowls and hats and mitts.   Plus, it's awesome to use almost any stitch pattern I want without worrying about seams or fit and all the other sweater-like things that often muck up the gears. The smaller projects are using up my stray skeins pretty quickly - and they're fun - so I hope you like making them as much as I am loving designing them.

In addition to more accessory designs, I am also planning to branch out a little this year in terms of the type of sweaters I'm working on.  I have some menswear ideas in the works, and a collection of kids things on the radar.   Because really, how many sweaters can one girl own?  It's time to reward the patience of the other members of this household, who have been watching me knit non-stop for the past few years, while silently (or not so silently) hoping for a bone.

The first bone will be Maya's Mango Smoothie, which is almost done in testing and should release mid-January.   (The yarn on this one is WEBS Berkshire Bulky - great stuff, comes in like a thousand colors and a serious bargain.)  It's slouchy, textured, and super cozy.   She loves it almost as much as her Black Tea hat.  And she won't let me make myself a gray one, because anything even vaguely resembling twinsies translates into a teenage nightmare. 

In addition to the designs, I'm planning a bit of  knitty traveling in 2014, since I'm teaching some workshops!  Unfortunately, both workshops that I've committed to so far are sold out, but there will be more as time goes on.  The first one is going to be at Slater Mill in Pawtucket, RI.   I'll be at their Knitting Weekend on January 17-19, along with Gudrun Johnston and Ellen Mason.  Then in April, I'll be traveling again with Gudrun to Oregon for Lantern Moon's Annual Retreat on Mt. Hood.  While in Portland, I'll be popping into Twisted for a little visit, and of course I'll be traveling to Michigan for the annual Plucky Shindig.  That's all for now, since I still have to pick and choose my travel and weekend chits wisely, but I am excited to be adding this piece of the puzzle into my repetoire.

So, those are my big resolutions - more accessories, a few new categories of people to knit for, and some teaching. All while keeping the usual sweater pipeline humming (and hopefully managing a bit of laundry and parenting in between.)  We will see how it goes. 

Before I sign off,  I also just want to say Thank You to ALL of you for a really great 2013.  Your constant enthusiasm for my designs and support of my business means the world to me and I love nothing more than seeing your finished knits - your talent is a always such an inspiration!   I hope to keep you happily knitting in 2014 and can't wait to see what you make with my next ideas...  XO