Saturday, March 14, 2015

A Free Pattern in Collaboration

It's been a busy Saturday around here at Two of Sticks headquarters! Editing by day and website tinker-smashing by night. As I was sticking out my tongue trying to make new pages (sorry, not even close to done yet!), I came across this happy hat and scarf set and remembered all the great collaborative efforts that went into it.

The yarn comes from the lovely Crabapple Farm in Chesterfield, MA. It's an enviably abundant and diverse farm that's the product of a lot of thought and effort. You'll often find me poking through their great selection of produce and heirloom vegetable plants at the local farmer's market. I even learned how to harvest wheat with a sickle or scythe at a workshop they held last summer! Sheep are just one spoke on the big wheel of life at their farm, but they produce a lot of hardy, springy, naturally colored wool that's spun into some really fun yarns by Green Mountain Spinnery.

Would you like some chard with that?
This batch was spun in a self-striping gradient, some from light to medium, some from medium to dark, and some going through all three (four? more?) in a very pleasant worsted weight single ply. When they asked me if I'd be willing to design a few patterns in their yarn, I couldn't say yes fast enough! I think I may have scared them a little.

After playing around with it, I discovered that somehow k1, p1 rib was just THE perfect stitch for this yarn. It created a soft and bodyful, almost double-knit-looking fabric, perfect for a man or woman and for knitters of any skill level, and perfect for turning into a free pattern to help sell some yarn! Now, it's not many people's favorite stitch to knit (bouncing back and forth between knits and purls is pretty cumbersome with most knitting methods). But if you've ever wanted to find a way to speed up your ribbing, this is a great place to practice!

You may have also noticed that the photography is just a touch better than mine usually is (did you also notice the understatement there?) That's because I was able to get my great friend and coworker Lindsey Topham to take some truly excellent photography. She and her assistant Amy are behind many of the amazing images at WEBS. Just watching them work has taught me more about photography than I've learned in all my years of camera-fumbling. So I'm especially proud to be able to showcase it here for my own fun little thing.

Gradients in wool, grain in wood! Loving it. 
A collaborative effort from start to finish: from sheep to farmer, farmer to designer, designer to photographer and all the powers that be on the internet to allow the free distribution therein. A serendipitous chain of events to hopefully inspire knitters to connect up with their surrounding fiber community. You never know where it might lead!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Special Project

Just got the green light to design a small shawl for a special outside project! It's due in about a month, but if this is just my morning's work, I imagine it'll get done a lot sooner!

I wanted to play with the currently popular crescent-shaped shawl trend by revisiting the lovely, venerable Faroese shawl. Traditionally, they're worked from the bottom up, casting on all the stitches for the base of two outer triangular pieces and a central, unshaped panel. The two triangles are slowly decreased until you reach the back neck.

But I dislike committing to a shawl size right off the bat. I like to let it grow and see how large I can make it with a set amount of yarn or in a set amount of time. And who likes counting out hundreds of cast-on stitches? 

So I cast on for the central panel, then just my selvage stitches on either edge. I'll increase 1 stitch on either side of the panel every RS row, making a slowly sloping shape up and away from the central panel. Then I'll have to think of a clever way to bind off all the stitches up by the shoulders and neck so they aren't too tight. It'll come to me! :)

Monday, March 9, 2015

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Not even close

Next up this weekend is a shawl swatch not even close to being ready for prime time. Had an idea to make a shawl from end to end with biasing lace increases and decreases, but look at that nasty little point there where the k2togs meet the ssks! Yeah, that's not going to work.

So, after this picture I tried making it all with k2togs (and a k3tog where the garter crescent meets the lace portion) and it made a most unusual, sadly unwearable and somewhat unsightly paisley sort of shape. Must have been due to the natural biasing of the k2tog making one side fall short of a half-circle and the other side overshoot it. 

I tried to block it out immediately and the fabric's not really buying it. I think I've seen other designers use short rows to achieve a crescent shape in similar applications, but that way lies the problem of over-complication.

I don't have too many design rules, but one big rule is to make the directions match the apparent complexity of the project: if it looks easy, make sure the directions are easy. I don't want anyone buying a pattern thinking it'll be straight-forward, opening up the pdf and having their faces blanch with horror as they find 5 pages of inscrutable instruction.

So I may experiment with short rows, but chances are you won't see this shape in pattern form. Back to that drawing board!

Weekend Revisions

What we've got here is a yet-unnamed (okay, I have a few ideas, but it should be a surprise!) sleeveless shell-like pullover in progress, knit in Valley Yarns 2/14 Alpaca Silk with relatively large needles so it'll be sheer, with a lace detail at the front neck you can't see very well here.

Even though the neck opening is pretty wide on the front and back (7"), I tried it on the other day and nope, not fitting over the head. Which makes sense when you remember that an adult human head's around 20" around and 7+7 = 14. Doh! So, I have to rip out the back so far (not so bad, just a few inches) and make some vertical straps, at least 3" long to get that 20" circumference, to go on the sides.

Oh, shoot, and that'll mean the underarm shaping will have to be undone, too, since those 3" are going to be distributed evenly on the front and back, making those 7"-long armholes 8.5" long, which is definitely longer than I want.

See, folks? This is what happens when you don't do all your math ahead of time!