Friday, March 24, 2017

The next shipment of yarn is ALMOST ready....

I don't know about you guys, but I'm counting down to that Father Yarn from my friends at YOTH, and I'm also so happy that they thought ahead to order more when the collection came out, because you guys did scoop up the first batch pretty quickly!

But more is just about ready, and if you are lucky enough to be going to Vogue Knitting Live in Vegas this weekend, Veronika had some mailed straight to the show, so there WILL be a limited amount of Father on hand in their booth. For the rest of us, the big shipment is coming late next week and will be up on the website by 4/5 - plus shipping out to shops that carry it at the same time.

In all the colors. Yes.

So... just another week or so!  And I've been prepping for a KAL in my BabyCocktails group on Ravelry, starting on 4/3.

The Vodka Collection thread already has a bunch of chatter in it,  and people have started thinking about yarn choices and which sweater they want to make, and what sizing mods they may have in mind, so if you've been waiting to cast on (or have recently cast on), feel free to join in.

For now though, a little commentary on the inspiration behind  With A Twist!

This one is kind of special to me, not only because I love the squishy texture and the cozy collar.

The idea for all those cables came from a kinda cool place (at least I think so) and a vintage sweater that's pretty special to me.  Below is said sweater. It's a really old, ginormous, cashmere turtleneck that used to belong to my Pop. I'm lucky enough to have a few of his sweaters, and I love them all. And even though they are HUGE (he was well over 6 feet tall and broad, and if you know me you know I'm not.) I wear them, because they are warm and cozy and because they were his,

But something about the texture on this one always sticks in my head. I have a love hate relationship with this design. I love the contrast and the slipped stitches - the motifs are really simple and beautiful -- but I hate hate hate the transitions between them. It's not a handknit, so this was something that was manufactured back in the 50s and maybe that's how the machines had to do it, but man, those transitions BUG me.  Bumpy, uneven.... distracting, right?

It's funny the things you start to see as a knitter, but it's just so very sloppy,
I see this sweater now and my head goes immediately to the ways they could have made this neater. A rib, a slipped stitch, a border element on the actual motifs?  But as I said, I love the overall idea. The big and small versions of the same stitch next to each other in vertical stripes, I do like that. 


I did it my way.  Really, that made me feel so much better! It's almost like I fixed it.

Anyways, that's a little Friday diversion, right?  

 I hope you all have a great weekend, and if you have been waiting to get any one of the  Vodka Collection sweaters on the needles, check into the Ravelry group and say hi, and maybe join in once the KAL begins on April 3!  

 me and Pop, a couple of years ago. not sweater weather that day.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Whiskey Highball also kind of came out of last year's Edinburgh Yarn Festival.  It's a collaborative project I've been working on with the folks at LoveKnitting, featuring  Bloomsbury DK yarn from The Yarn Collective in some gorgeous custom colors by Carol Feller.  Did I lose you with that sentence?

I met Carol last year, literally standing on the sidewalk in front of my door as I walked out of my flat to catch the bus to the Yarn Festival!  It was one of those amazing moments when you go to a big yarn gathering and you know you may see some of your design heroes, but then there they are.  And when you live in the US and travel to Scotland, and there's this face that you have been seeing on your computer for years and she's right there, it's kind of amazing. I don't think I got used to it at all.  

But Carol was warm and wonderful (in addition to all the talent) and we hit it off enough to continue emailing a bit, and when she asked if I'd be interested in working with her new colors of this yarn and launching a pattern with LoveKnitting, I absolutely said yes! 

A little about the hat though....  As soon as I saw the generous yardage in one skein, I knew it was time to design a cap with fat, satisfying cables AND a deep cuffed brim. I always want to do that, and I always run out of yardage with one skein and wish I'd bought two.

But not this time - and Whiskey Highball is exactly what I wanted - a deep, cozy hat that's actually long enough to cover everything I want it to (and in today's blizzard, it may be today's shoveling choice in a few hours.)

These bold cables pair with the slipped stitch detail nicely. In the crown shaping, when the cables narrow and cross inwards to taper off, the ribs work their way towards each other, creating lovely
curved lines that frame the tip of each cable in a delicate "star" at the top of the hat.

The Bloomsbury DK is soft and round and dyed in Carol's beautiful semi-solid shades, so the bold cables and slipped stitches were chosen to showcase both the yarn and the subtle color shifts without getting lost.  I also think that with the right color, this could be a great unisex design - depending on the colorway chosen.  You can see how the mood of the hat changes between the Moss and the Surf, both beautiful - but one deep and moody, the other bright and vibrant.

All the info for Whiskey Highball and the PDFs can be found either on LoveKnitting or on Ravelry for $5.  and you can find the yarn on LoveKnitting 

And that lovely model is my Maya.  Teenagers with good hair who like to look down make for great hat pics!  (She was quite willing as long as lunch was involved.)

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Angostura is the new design I referred to in my last post, and it's my attempt to attend the Edinburgh Yarn Festival in spirit -- if not in person, this week.

If you're lucky enough to attend, be sure to stop by the Blacker Yarns booth and squish some of their lovely Classic DK, the yarn this was designed for. While there, you might get to say hello to Sonja and see her beautiful test knit! If you are just walking around EYF, there's a chance you'll see a couple other test knits wandering the aisles of the Corn Exchange as well, but me?  I'll be here in Massachusetts.

Last year I was lucky enough to make the trip.  If was fantastic. I had many must-see people and yarns, knowing my time in the UK was limited, but after hearing about Blacker Yarns on the Pompom Podcast for months, I just had to go see them in person. I wandered into the Blacker booth more than a few times (also because it was conveniently located near the podcast lounge, snacks, and ladies rooms...) to check out their wares. I was not disappointed, as they had a huge, beautiful booth stocked with baskets and shelves of UK sourced fibers in some gorgeous colors. I bought a few skeins to play with, had a few conversations, came home, swatched a bunch of things, exchanged more emails, chose Blacker Classic DK in Dark Red, and happily played with these cables for a while..

Fast forward one year, and my sister and I have a cozy, versatile pullover to play with on a snowy day.

Angostura is a classic sweater, showcasing this intricate, eye-catching cable that I started playing around with and just loved working. Originally, this was more of a detailed Aran-inspired design, but I found these cables really shine when they are the focus of a fabric, as opposed to nestled among other textures.  I was also happy to design around some simple stockinette, which is really satisfying and beautiful in the Blacker Classic. It's got a subtle heather, a rustic hand, and a nice, even ply.  Plus it's the perfect weight for everyday wear.

Knit from the bottom up with saddle shoulder shaping, the sweater is actually pretty simple.  Sleeves are knit separately and joined at armholes, and the subtle A-line silhouette allows for ease in the body, but is a bit more fitted through the yoke. Both the construction and the amount of stockinette make for easy modifications if desired. You guys know me, so you won't be surprised that the cables are easier than they look.

I just love the fit of saddle shoulders and the clean lines that the yoke shaping creates.

But mostly, it's the way it all comes together at the back that makes me happy.

The Angostura pattern is available on Ravelry for $7.00, as well as on the purchase page of the blog here.  All the specific details, more photographs, and the test knits will be on the Ravelry page. (test knits may take a day or so to show up, so check back in a few hours!)

And for those of you who keep track of my pattern names....  you already know that bitters are one of my favorite things to add to a basic drink, and I find that Angostura bitters are a really wonderful, versatile ingredient. They don't have a instantly recognizable flavor of orange or lemon or anything, but as a herbal mix, they are more of a subtle, but noticeable way to spice up a classic drink - kind of like these cables!

Angostura bitters began (if you want the story) in the way that many cocktail ingredients did - as an herbal medical cure for soldiers suffering from stomach maladies.  In the 1820s, Dr Johann Siegert had come from Germany to Venezuela to serve as the Surgeon General for the armies of Simon Bolivar, and this was his solution to some of the discomfort the men were having. He was living in the town of Angostura (hence the name) and by the 1850s, cocktails had come into vogue and he was importing the tincture to England, the US and the Carribbean.  By the 1870s, they had a factory in Trinidad and through the 1900s, although other recipes and tinctures didn't survive the series of regulations, prohibition, wars and changes in the marketplace, this one dodged all the bullets and is one of the more recognizable staples in a bar today.

A few of my favorite ways to enjoy them:

- make a Manhattan
- add a few drops a Gin and Tonic
- just add a few shakes plain seltzer water and lemon  


Friday, March 03, 2017

This time last year, I was winging my way across the Atlantic with my good friend Ellen, who is always a great fiber travel buddy (especially when Sonya joins in and we may or may not have a beer with lunch). We had an incredible time eating, drinking, exploring and getting lost in the city and an even better time at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival with friends from both sides of the pond.

This year the festival isn't in the cards for me, as it's my last chance to see my older daughter strut her stuff with her acapella group, and I may or may not have a different special trip planned to the UK later on in the year.  But I just can't ignore the whole thing, because it's a really, really special event full of gorgeous yarn, inspiring knits, talented people - and super cool accents.

One of the most wonderful things about being a designer is that I go to these things FOR WORK. Heading to Edinburgh or Squam or NYC means that I spend time with others in the industry that I could, yes, ordinarily talk to online. And okay, many of them I already know from emails and Ravelry. But the in-person conversations are different and we all live in various far-flung cities and towns and there's a different energy when you put us in a Corn Exchange full of yarn.

Although my family mocks me a little bit about "business meetings" that occur in pubs and bars, or on the dock at Squam, or while exploring the streets of a city, or even when sitting on the floor in groups scattered around a hotel lobby late at night, with bourbons in hand -- we really DO get things going when we hang out and meet in person. Creative people, maybe need some creative environs in which to collaborate.

And as a person without an office space, I also want to point out that a table in a bar or a restaurant or a day on the beach, or even a hike on a craggy bluff in Scotland makes for a pretty inspirational discussion venue.  It's also way less weird than inviting co-workers to talk about upcoming projects in your living room, although that's happened too.

Anyways, my trip to EYF has led to a number of discussions about future projects and yarns and I do have a bunch of design-intended skeins and things in my office here.  But two of those conversations I had last March have already led to a couple of projects you'll see next week.

I'm not entirely sure I am allowed to share an image of the second one, so I'll just show you a bit of the first one - a sweater I've just finished up in Blacker Yarns Classic British Wool. I spent a bit of time in that booth on both days of the Festival, falling in love with all their wooly, heathery,UK fibers and the gorgeous colors of the skeins and knits displayed all around.

Fast forward one year, and - voila!  Keep your eyes out for Angostura, coming next week.

The plan is for Tuesday.

So if you are on your way to the Festival, you can do a little planning before the marketplace opens...

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

With the flurry of preparation and activity around my Vodka Collection, things did pile up a little. I'm still going thru the emails and the to do list from before Stitches....

And as I went down that inbox, there were a few messages from friends near and far who are using their needles to fight disease and injustice and generally help make the world a little easier for others. As always, I am impressed with the generosity of both time and spirit in our community, and the designs in these collections really are stunning - from folks like Joji, and Ysolda, and Bristol Ivy and Kirsten Kapur.  Click on the links and you'll see.

First was Sight Is Life, a collection of 7 beautiful accessory patterns, including 4 shawls, 2 hats, an adorable pair of socks and a mystery project. The proceeds from this collection go to a doctor who's been working to bring healthcare to people in the Congo.  Proceeds help the eye center there, and your pattern purchase will restore and improve sight for people in one of the poorest regions of the world. The knits are beautiful and the project was curated and coordinated by Kristina Vilimaite (animaknits on Ravelry)

Then, there was Heart on My Sleeve, a sweater collection curated by Tin Can Knits -- half of which (Emily)  I met last year at EYF and she's just as lovely in person as through the internet.  The collection features 8 yoked sweater designs, sized from child to adult - again, by some of your favorite designers. This one is fun, since each designer brings her own personality to the sweater - and they are all a bit different, featuring colorwork to texture to lace around the yoke. It's also unique, as so many of the patterns can be knit for your entire family.  The collection was put together to help the fight against Malaria, and so far they've managed to raise a few thousand dollars!

Back to my inbox now, and I can check these off my list of things I wanted to share with you guys. Check them out!

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.