Monday, February 20, 2017

Introducing The Vodka Collection,
a collaboration between myself and the lovely people over at YOTH yarns...  

The Vodka Collection started with a conversation about what we add to a basic sweater when knitting. Each of us likes to knit what makes us happy, dictated by our skill level, our overall style, our preferred techniques, or even our mood on a particular day.  You guys already know that knitting to me is about enjoying the making - as much as the wearing - of the final sweater.  So, with this project, I wanted to take one sweater shape and explore some different ways to work with it, looking at how the knitting experience changes when different elements are added to classic sweater shapes. My goal here was to try and incorporate versions of a sweater to fit each of those knitting moods into a small collection.

So, I took one of my all time favorite sweater shapes - the classic V-Neck Cardigan, and designed 4 sweaters to try and cover that spectrum.  I tried to make them all more approachable for you guys, so choosing would be less about skill and more about what you felt like knitting and wearing. With that in mind, I used stitch patterns and techniques that weren't particularly difficult, and then played with construction and details to elevate the amount of attention each project would require. 

Vodka Straight Up is for when you want to knit something soothing and simple. You want to feel the needles moving, but be able to chat and think and let your mind wander. It's a wardrobe basic that can be worn as easily as it's knit, featuring lots of stockinette with a few garter details in the ribbing and along the fronts. It's knit seamlessly from the top down, and can be customized easily in a variety of ways for fit or design. The pattern contains two options if you'd like to add stripes -  either textured (shown above) or colorwork (shown below).  And if you have something else in mind, it's super easy to add your own details to the body instead.

Vodka On the Rocks is for when you want to pay just a little more attention. This is the kind of sweater I flatten out and look at as I work, because it makes me happy as the fabric evolves and the designs become more distinct.

Here, I've added overall texture to the body and sleeves and incorporated some bold accent cables on front and back of a seamless raglan. It's knit from the bottom up, with sleeves worked separately and joined at the yoke.  Both the cables and the ribbing are simple enough to become rhythmic over time, but they keep you just a little more engaged as you work, and the overall combination of texture and cable makes for a cardigan that's a bit more dramatic than just basic. You can still modify things pretty easily if you want, but there are a few more things to keep track of.

Vodka With A Twist is for when you want to think about what's on your needles and let your mind really get into the project. This is the kind of knitting that I can lose myself in, get obsessed with, and most often use the "just one more row" excuse during.  It's rainy day and snowstorm knitting, when you have a soft chair and a little time to devote to your work. 

It's also the statement cardigan of the collection, knit with panels of honeycomb cables in contrasting sizes for some deep, gorgeous texture. As I said earlier, honeycomb cables themselves aren't too challenging, but here they keep you busy, since you are repeating them throughout the row. Set in pockets, a generously shaped shawl collar, and seamed construction have also been incorporated into the sweater, and it's the details throughout make this one kind of special. When finished, it's a super satisfying, head-turner of a knit. 

So that's where I ended up. Simple to detailed, social knitting to involved thought, and basic to more unique wardrobe pieces. All four of them are wearable, classic cardigans. My hope is that one of them might just speak to you, and that you'll really enjoy the time you spend making it!

I also know that the yarn we put on our needles dictates so much of our knitting joy, and you know there's a reason I chose YOTH's Father yarn for this collection. Besides feeling good about where it comes from and who's behind it, and having stunning colors to choose from, this stuff is wonderful to work with. Made from domestic Rambouillet, it's a beautiful, versatile, solid worsted weight yarn in a weight that kind of flies off the needles.  The fiber is soft, and round, and wooly and it's pretty fantastic no matter what you do with it.

And, because we know how much you already love this yarn, and because we've learned your buying habits with my previous YOTH designs, Veronika already has a new supply at the mill, shipping in a few weeks. I'll keep you updated on actual delivery dates, but don't worry if you have your heart set on a specific color and it runs low once we launch these. More is on the way!

The Vodka Collection is available for $19.00 on Ravelry, or you can purchase the single patterns for $7.00 each.  All the information, test knits, and lots more photos are on the Ravelry pattern pages.  


The other exciting thing about this collection should be obvious as you look at the photos. We wanted to put something together that came from both YOTH and BabyCocktails, so the collection was beautifully shot and styled and put together under the careful eye of Veronika, who has some stellar taste!  Some huge thank yous to Kathy Cadigan for the gorgeous photography, to Veronika for the coordination,styling and photo shoot work, to the beautiful Jenny who modeled these, and Marc - Veronika's husband - who designed and worked on the actual pattern layout.  


all images @Kathy Cadigan

Thursday, February 16, 2017

I have a bunch of editing, proofreading, and writing to do today but it's still early.  I've checked my newsfeed for the day and my mind hasn't settled yet.  I'm in my office with my coffee and my eye just found the project I finished a few days ago, which has got me thinking about how different my knitting world is now vs. when I began doing this.

And that seems pretty perfect for Throwback Thursday -  a little procrastination and maybe just a tiny bit of self-involved rumination if you'll indulge me. Because the world is moving pretty fast right now and I think I need to stop and ignore it for a few moments longer.

This sweater began because I got obsessed with Malabrigo Twist, a yarn I'd never used before but had seen a hundred times. You know that moment on the laptop when you go down a yarn hole?

That's what I was doing on the Malabrigo website a few weeks back. I knew this stuff was gorgeous and round and soft, but had never knit with it because I often avoid the world of vareigation. Simple things aren't what you guys usually come to me for, and the more detailed a sweater gets, the less detailed the yarn should be - IMHO.

But that morning, I opened my laptop and started looking through the Malabrigo colorways on the screen, flipping from one to another just to see them, and I found Zinc.  And then I kept coming back to that Zinc. It's hard to capture in these winter office light photos, but it's gorgeous and soothing and plays with gray and a subtle lavender tone and has a touch of gold here and there.

It felt so good to just fall in love with a yarn right in the moment. Looking back, I realize that's what I used to do all the time, just for fun. I  used to look at yarn and get carried away and take it home. I bought it for no other reason than because it made me happy.

I ordered 8 skeins from WEBS, and the moment I opened the package, I started playing around with it. No deadlines, no expectations, no cable dictionaries - nothing. Just playing with it.  Just for fun, because the yarn is beautiful and it felt great on my needles and it took my mind to a place it wanted to be. A mindless, double seed stitch place.  Without even a sketch to work from.  That itch I have to design was silent for a little while, replaced by a different itch - to just knit and block out all the chatter.

When I began designing about 10 years ago, there were no expectations tied to any of my knitting. I'd buy yarn, I'd play with it and I'd see what happened. Sometimes it would become a pattern, but not always. And even when it did, I didn't have test knits, or relationships with the yarn companies, or a group on Ravelry to check in with, or an Instagram account to update. I just did my thing as it came to me, and then went to pick the kids up at school.  Running an actual knitting business isn't the same thing.

My yarn purchases now come with expectations, and casting on creates a whole new set of goals, both internal and external. My needles aren't just working for my own entertainment anymore. They support my family, they help my friends who run small businesses, they entertain a slowly growing group of knitters, and they keep you all engaged in this thing called a "brand".

Sometimes the pressure is passive, and a deadline or agreement doesn't officially exist, but to me, every skein here in my office is some kind of promise to be kept.  And that gets in my head and I think about each project very differently, much more carefully - than I had in the beginning.  I must choose wisely each time I knit, evaluating what the project will be and how it fits into my plan for that season. I can only make so many things a year, so they have to work, right?

Creativity now exists within a framework of goals, schedules and the question of whether it's going result in something that will sell or photograph well, look good on a variety of shapes, and get out in the world at the right time.  And newly prevalent this Fall is the fact that my girl got into college and this is our payment plan and there's an overall number I'm inching up to with each new design published.

Some of you may have noticed that I haven't released a single sweater since Stone Fence in October. Part of that is the fact that I have a collection going on in the background that will go live next week, but I'm not sure that's the real reason I've had this lull. I've done bigger projects before and made sure there were other sweaters lined up to launch in the meantime -- this time I just didn't feel like it.  I had no new ideas, no itch to get THAT cable into THAT yarn, and the things I had going on were not working out. I was a little defeated, somewhat exhausted, and mostly annoyed.

I bought some Zinc instead, without thinking about a design. And I cast on.

It was soft and gorgeous and did what I wanted it to do. It slowed me down and made me enjoy the process again. I know that I can't really go back to the way things used to be for too long, because the rest of those promises and responsibilities are incredibly important to me, but maybe this step backwards has me ready to take two steps forward again - I did buy two SQs last week, and I'm incredibly in love with both of those new yarns. My fingers are itchy again.

Next on my to-do list is to write this up, and it looks like some easy, soothing math.

I'm pretty sure that when I'm done with the Excel chart, the world will seem to be spinning just a little slower and I'll jump back in.  And maybe I should write Malabrigo a little thank you note.