Making sense of variegated yarn

Making sense of variegated yarn
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I have a problem.

Every time I walk into a yarn store I become enamored with hand-painted yarn. My pupils dilate, I grab a skein and cuddle it to my face, naming it Fluffy and promising to bring it home to be made into something amazingly beautiful.

I have done this many times… my yarn stash is full of skeins like this beauty:

Manos del Uruguay - Alegria

Manos del Uruguay, Alegria in Agave colorway

I bought this Manos del Uruguay skein while in Alaska (read about our Alaskan adventures on Off to Earth) because it reminded me of the aurora.

Whenever I get settled in at home after buying such a skein, I log into Ravelry and check out what’s been made with the yarn.

And I’m almost always disappointed.

Manos del Uruguay Alegria shawl

A pattern featuring the Manos del Uruguay Alegria yarn. I know some people love the way this coloring looks, but I can’t stand it. 

The way these beautiful skeins knit up into a barfy, disorganized mess makes me want to cry. In my head, I always imagine a finished knit that gradually fades from one color to another, like the skein, even though I know it won’t happen! What I’m really looking for is a gradient yarn, like these, but I keep buying variegated yarns instead.

If you’re like me, then perhaps you’ll find this Ravelry bundle of knitting patterns for variegated yarns to be helpful! I’ve found a few things seem to make variegated yarns look a bit more organized:

A small number of rows in the variegated yarn color separated by a solid color. The separation of color lets your eyes make sense of the color changes in small sections, giving a sense of organization. Each bubble in the sock below is kind of like a tiny window.

Sunnydayknitter's Stained Glass Bubble Socks

Sunnydayknitter’s Stained Glass Bubble Socks

Patterns to try for this effect:

Tall or dropped stitches. Taller stitches seem to give the colors some room to breath and the color changes don’t seem as abrupt. I didn’t see any examples, but I imagine treble stitch crochet would look pretty awesome as well.

Frazzledknitter's Drop Stitch Scarf

Frazzledknitter’s Drop Stitch Scarf

Patterns to try for this effect:

Linen stitch. The exact opposite of long/dropped stitches, the way colors mesh in a tight linen stitch seems more pleasing than stockinette / garter stitch.

Koigu Linen Stitch Scarf Pattern

Koigu Linen Stitch Scarf Pattern

Patterns to try for this effect:

Plan the pooling of your colors to create a pattern. I’ve thought about tackling the task of planned pooling for a while now. Planned pooling allows you to create a pattern using a variegated yarn using a bit of math. I’m not sure I’m totally up for all of the planning this entails since I usually like to wing it, but it’s definitely worth a try.

Color pooling on knit shawl

Really cool pooling occurring on this shawl made by Karla Stuebing

Learn about The Art and Science of Planned Pooling by Karla Stuebing.

Do you have any go-to patterns for variegated yarn?

The Crochet Project: Curated beautiful, wearable crochet

The Crochet Project - Curated beautiful, wearable crochet
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I heard about The Crochet Project on a recent podcast episode of A Playful Day (another interesting and fun podcast to subscribe to).

The Crochet Project is a collection of crochet patterns for wearable items that I actually want to wear. The only things I’ve crocheted are amigurumi (stuffed animals), baby hats and one scarf. I’ve never been drawn to the stiff “drape” (if you can call it that) of a crocheted garment which is why I started knitting in the first place. Knitting just looks better worn.

Joanne Scrace and Kat Goldin are hoping to bring crochet’s reputation closer to knitting’s with The Crochet Project. Every year, they create and seek out beautiful, modern crochet patterns for wearable items (hats, shawls, scarves, socks, sweaters and shirts) that are made with natural fibers (another hard-to-find aspect in Crochet Land). They collect these patterns together and release them for sale on their website.

Kate of A Playful Day has been interviewing many women makers in her podcast; Joanne and Kat were interviewed on the podcast about a month ago. If you want to hear more about The Crochet Project and their journeys in making, that podcast episode is a good place to start.

If you want to pick up your hook, I noticed their Alchemilla shawl pattern (top right of the featured image above) is available to download for free!

Have you seen any drool-worthy crocheted wearables lately?


Check out The Crochet Project

The Crochet Project Website

On Facebook

On Twitter

And Ravelry, of course

Cute Knit & Crochet Patterns on Ravelry

Cute knit and crochet patterns on Ravelry
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I know, I know, it’s been over a month since I last posted and it’s especially embarrassing that although my last post was about finding my passion and hopefully getting motivated, it seems like I have nothing at all to show as far as progress of my own.

Because I have nothing to show that’s my own, I thought I’d just collect a bunch of knit and crochet patterns that tickle my fancy at the moment for your enjoyment. I hope you find these delightful and that they put a smile on your face as they do mine!

cupcake kitten hat by tiny owl knits

Cupcake Kitten Hat
by tiny owl knits

Super cute hat with a bit of colorwork and cat ears by Tiny Owl Knits, one of my favorite knit designers for all of her whimsical and woodland-y knits.

A free amigurumi pattern of the cutest flipping sheep I’ve ever seen! Momomints is a duo who design cute amigurumi patterns and polymer clay keychains. They sell a DIY amigurumi sheep kit on their Etsy shop, if you want to crochet this cutie.

Gooey Bun by Anna Hrachovec

Gooey Bun
by Anna Hrachovec

Anna Hrachovec is the designer behind Mochimochi Land, a world of knitted happiness. I came across this tiny sweet roll and couldn’t resist a squeak of delight! You can find this pattern in her latest book, Adventures in Mochimochi Land — a book of cute stories accompanied by knitted scenery and characters, along with patterns for all of those characters.

Fezzes are cool by Nyss Parkes

Fezzes are cool
by Nyss Parkes

I can’t resist a nerdy knit, especially a Doctor Who related nerdy knit. These are cute and clever!

Who wouldn’t want to prance around in these cute bunny house slippers? I bought this pattern forever ago and need to get it on my hook!

(Get off my) Cloud by Kate Davies

(Get off my) Cloud
by Kate Davies

Kate Davies is another favorite designer of mine, she does lovely cable and colorwork and her blog always seems to be full of dreamy pictures of knits on the country side, or sea side, or garden side… Anyway, this hoodie really caught my eye when I found it because it was so cute and seems very different from Kate’s other designs. I can’t resist that cute cloud pocket!

LoveSocks by Devon Clement

LoveSocks
by Devon Clement

Sometimes it just takes one little detail to take something from ordinary to super cute. I love this sock pattern and everyone’s different versions of it on Ravelry!

What are your favorite cute knit or crochet patterns? Share them with me in the comments!

Woolful Podcast, Interviews of Inspiring People in the Fiber Industry

Knitting and coffee
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I have a little time to kill before heading off to school for a workshop this morning, so I decided to knit and listen to a podcast.

In the latest Woolful podcast episode, Ashley interviewed Hanahlie Beise who followed her passion, bought some alpacas, and started a line of yarn (Hinterland).

Like I admitted before, one of my dreams is to have my own alpacas, so it was inspiring to listen to someone else’s journey into it.

If you haven’t been sucked into Woolful yet, I highly recommend subscribing. Ashley, the creator of the Woolful podcast, recently purchased land in Idaho to start her own flock of sheep and fiber mill. She started the podcast to share her journey and to collect knowledge from other people in the fiber industry (designers, shepherds, millers, fiber artists…). I have found it to be extremely inspiring, with many moments of pausing and reflecting on things that resonate with me.

If you love anything about the fiber industry, I think you’ll find the Woolful podcast to be inspiring and hopefully you’ll be hooked like I am!


Woolful Blog

Woolful on Ravelry

Trying new things: Hand spinning yarn

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I began thinking about someday owning my own alpacas after John and I went to an alpaca farm / yarn shop while visiting my parents in Wimberley, TX. In this shop, they sold yarn spun from specific alpacas and each skein came with a little card of information about that alpaca. Yes, the yarn was lovely and soft, but it was actually those silly little cards and knowing the alpaca’s name that made me buy the yarn.

Before this, I only bought yarn based on how it felt and looked. After this, I started looking at the fiber content of the yarn I bought and I started reading books about fiber:

The Natural Knitter by Barbara Albright — I own this one and love it. Each fiber discussed is accompanied by a project that works well with it and the book has gorgeous full-color photos from cover to cover.

The Knitter’s Book of Yarn by Clara Parkes — This is one of the first fiber books I checked out from the library and it is JAM PACKED with information and super cute illustrations of animals.

Spinner’s Book of Fleece by Beth Smith — This one is only about sheep, but goes into great detail about many breeds of sheep and each breed is accompanied by knitted swatches of hand spun yarn made from that fleece. It’s a great way to visualize the differences between the different breeds.

*(These are affiliate links.)

I found Spinner’s Book of Fleece interesting because of the sheep and how each fleece could be so different. Spinning was on a list of things that I’d do if the opportunity ever arose but I wasn’t really looking to buy new gadgets for yet another hobby.

…And I already have enough yarn to last a lifetime.

When we helped out at Evan’s Knob Farm a couple of weeks ago, that opportunity to learn how to spin did arise. Kathy, the farm’s overlord (hehe), let me pick out some roving she had created from her flock of sheep and sat me down at her spinning wheel. That first night of spinning was a bit frustrating, but I kept at it for hours until it finally clicked.

My first attempt at spinning yarn on a wheel

My first attempt at spinning yarn on a wheel

And then I went back to it another night and finished this kinda gnarly but in its own way lovely skein of yarn.

After earning my “Hand Spinning Newbie” badge and my “Sort of Helped Shear a Sheep” badge, Kathy sent me home with a big bag of fleece!

When I got home, I ordered a drop spindle and some hand carders from The Woolery (these were a lot more pricey than I was expecting but I couldn’t find many cheaper hand carders on the web that didn’t look like someone had grabbed dog brushes and attempted to market them as hand carders).

Wool on a carder

My first time using hand carders. Look at those fluffy fibers!

The carders worked well, and I think I got the hang of carding pretty quickly. I carded 5 or 6 little batches and rolled them up into rolags.

Then I had to figure out how to use a top whorl drop spindle… Nothing that a little Googling couldn’t fix.

Hand spinning wool

Look, ma! More yarn!

I spent about two hours spinning the bits of wool that I’d carded. A little slow, but I still enjoyed it.

Yarn on a drop spindle

Two hours worth of yarn… phew!

I need to remember to put a cloth or something over my clothes the next time I spin. All of those little sheep fibers cling to my clothes!

If you’ve been into yarny crafts for a while but have never tried spinning, I’d suggest giving it a try. There’s a little learning curve but it’s no worse than the one for knitting or crocheting. Unless you buy fleece, you’ll only need a drop spindle (mine came with a niddy noddy and was less than $20 for both) and some roving to play with.

Let me know if you decide to try it! I’d love to see your first attempts!

Real Income Reports from Real Knit/Crochet Designers

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Sorry, it’s been a while since I posted! John and I were WWOOFing for a couple of weeks (this included my first attempt at shearing a sheep and spinning yarn, so take a look).


On to business…

Tara Swiger helps makers figure out what they want to do and how to make it a viable business. I’ve always been impressed by the vast amount of information on her website and blog. She even has a podcast!

I stumbled onto this awesome list she put together: income reports from knit and crochet designers. It’s really interesting to see the range of income that designers make per month.

The most impressive number is a designer who brings in a net of almost $9,000 per month! They attribute that high number to book sales and a subscription-based product. If I’ve learned one thing over the years, it’s that if you want monetary success without killing yourself, you’ll need to take time out of the equation. With the internet, it seems like subscription-based services and high-value, reusable, digital products (classes, workshops) are the way to go.

I also found it interesting that one designer mentioned that free patterns just didn’t work for them, since people looking for free patterns hardly ever converted to paid customers.

I hope you all find this as interesting as I did because I had no idea what I could expect to earn selling patterns on the internet.

5 Real Income Reports from Knitwear Designers

Knitted: Doctor Who – Inspired Hat

INSULATE! Knitted Hat
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After the train wreck that was my mug cozy, I felt like I needed to redeem myself as a knitter and I think I did, so I wanted to share this finished knitted object with you all.

I found the INSULATE! hat pattern by Amy van de Laar on Ravelry a few weeks ago when looking for something to knit with two skeins of yarn John bought for me. It’s a 2-color hat, covered in Daleks, and the pattern is free!

Luminous in the May Day colorway, by Sincere Sheep

Luminous in the May Day colorway, by Sincere Sheep

Polwarth Shimmer in the Plump colorway by Knitted Wit

Polwarth Shimmer in the Plump colorway by Knitted Wit

I wasn’t sure about knitting pink and purple Daleks, so I held off on knitting the hat, hoping to find a more appropriate use for the yarn. But the urgent need for a pick-me-up knit trumped my color concerns and I decided to cast-on earlier this week.

I loved working with these yarns. They are both 85% Polwarth wool and 15% silk. The wool makes the yarn squishy and the silk makes the yarn soft(er). They’re both hand-dyed and had slight variations in color. (And in case you’re wondering, which you’re probably not, fiber-enthusiasts care to know what kind of sheep their wool comes from, which is why it is known that this wool is from Polwarth sheep.)

Whovian in a knitted Dalek hat

Dalek hat and a Doctor Who reference on my shirt (not planned, but I have so many Whovian shirts, it was bound to happen)

Oh, how I love to knit a hat. They’re so quick to knit up and this one only had 3 ends to weave in when I was done — quick finishing FTW.

If you enjoy stranded colorwork, I’d definitely recommend this pattern. Amy (the designer) gives very clear instructions on how to knit the hat and how to knit it without needlessly wasting too much yarn. Rows with minimal color changes actually just use slipped stitches from the previous row so you don’t have to carry the other color around the back. Pretty snazzy!

In other knitting news, I started knitting a shirtie today (that’s a shirt and a hoodie). This is my first non-accessory garment that I will be knitting. I’m nervous but excited at the same time. Will keep you all posted!

Knitting Pattern: Nailed It! (NOT)

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I’ve been working on a test knit for my mug cozy for probably a month, picking it up and putting it back down. The intarsia was a slow process, since I designed the color changes based on my own visual likes rather than ease of knitting. I’d also never done intarsia knitting before this.

Sheep in a field - gridded drawing

For your memory, this is the color pattern I was working from.

With intarsia, you create a new little bobbin of yarn to work from each time there is a color change. So, you’re knitting around in blue, get to a cloud, switch to a small bit of white, then switch to a new bit of blue (that’s right, you don’t just pick up the old blue you were using before until you come back around). Because you don’t bring the yarn along behind the work, every time there is a color change, you get a new bit of yarn. For every new bit of yarn, there is going to be an end to weave in.

Intarsia chart

For a visual representation: All of the stars in this section of the pattern show where a new bit of yarn is going to be used. The thicker black lines indicate a section where a bobbin of different yarn is used.

As I was designing this, I had no experience with intarsia, therefore, gave no thought to how many ****ing ends there would be to weave it when I finished the cozy.

Knitting - so many ends to weave in

Attack of the spaghetti monster

I don’t even want to pretend I’m going to finish this test knit.

But either way, NAILED IT!

Crappy knitting

NAILED it! (NOT…)

Hahaha, just kidding. This poor mug cozy is a step away from being knitted vomit.

Aside from being a finishing nightmare, my technique was just not very good. The randomly loose stitches above would be fixed after I weaved in the ends of the yarn — they’re just loose because they’re not quite attached.

The blob thing that should be a sheep in a pasture though… wowwee.

I knit the clouds in seed stitch – k1, p1, then on the next row I’d purl the knits and knit the purls, creating these cute, fluffy clouds because purl stitches create a little horizontal bar that puffs out a bit.

The problem with purl stitches in colorwork is that the previous stitch is visible behind the purl bar. Not so noticeable when it’s white on light blue, but super noticeable when it’s white on dark green. I wanted the sheep to be fluffy, so I tried the same thing on them.

Colorwork gone wrong - knitting

Another example of how using purl stitches in colorwork can go horribly wrong, since I did purl the white stitches below the black stitches

Another issue I had was in using this technique to be able to knit in the round while still using the intarsia technique. I thought I did this correctly everytime I turned my work, but apparently not because the start/end section of the mug cozy looks quite… jacked. If you’re not a knitter, just notice how most sections have a straight line of Vs going down, but in the middle… who knows what’s happening? Also, you should become a knitter.

Bad knitting

Did I add stitches? I’m not sure, but that section looks totally wibbly-wobbly.

And my last gripe with this is that the green on the bottom needs more saturation. It’s being ousted on the next run.

So, it’s back to the drawing board with this pattern. Lessons learned:

  1. Practice the intarsia in the round technique way more, or just knit it flat and sew it into a cylinder when you’re done.
  2. Make sure your yarn colors are all equally saturated or it just looks sad.
  3. Don’t try to be cute with your fluffy purl stitches when doing high-contrast colorwork.
  4. It may not be worth the pain to create a color chart based solely on visual design — take the knitting experience into account and try to reduce the number of ends that will need to be weaved in at the end.

Read more about my adventure in creating my first knitting pattern:

Lost Projects Club: Accountability for Your Insane Crafting

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My pals and I had a problem. We are crafty gals and dabble in many things. Fleur has ceramics, jewelry making, crocheting… Carly has sewing, paper craftiness, knitting… I have knitting, crocheting…

We started lamenting about our stashes of unfinished projects. The things you start with every intention of getting done as soon as possible that end up in the corner of a room or packed up in a box. You think about that project every once in a while, wishing you had just finished it when you had the chance but now you have so many more new projects to work on, you couldn’t possibly…!

We blame Pinterest.

I can’t remember if it was Carly’s idea or Fleur’s, but somebody called out with a battle cry,

“Let’s finish this stuff, dammit!”

We decided that we’d get together over tea and the only rule was that you had to work on something that has stagnated, that you haven’t touched in months (or maybe years). We called it The Lost Projects Club.

Every few weeks, we meet up and spend 3-4 hours together doing our crafty thing. The club keeps us accountable to each other to at least continue on with old projects, if not finish them (we’re not very demanding of each other).

It has helped me by forcing me to keep a list of on-going projects and noting how far into them I am. I even finished a scarf last year that I had started in 2009!

If you’re feeling scattered, like you’ve started too many new things and just don’t have time to finish the crafts you felt so inclined to start before, get a group of your friends together and start your own Lost Projects Club!

Woman crocheting

Fleur, doing some tunisian crochet wizardry. Notice the awesome abundance of snacks available in the background to keep morale up!

Woman ironing a skirt

Carly, working diligently on her skirt-making skills

Loom knitting

Fleur, working at this loom knitting!

Paints and a birdhouse

Carly’s daughter took up her own craft too… then got bored

 

Adventures in Intarsia-land (Or the Difference Between Intarsia and Stranded Knitting)

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I’ve done a bit more research on the color knitting techniques I should try out for my mug cozy and I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to learn intarsia knitting.

Before today, intarsia and stranded knitting were all the same to me. Now I know better…

When using the stranded knitting technique, the floating yarn on the inside of my mug cozy was unruly and out of control. To try and fix this, I looked for tips on stranded knitting and found that I could secure the float every few stitches to keep the wrong side of the stranded knitting from looking like a bowl of spaghetti. In that Knitty article that I’d found a few days ago, I failed to notice the “when to use intarsia vs color stranding” section, which suggests that if you have a pattern with blocks of color that span more than 5 stitches, you’ll probably want to use intarsia. Which I do.

Today, as I started yet another Google search for more suggestions on yarn management in colored knitting, I kept seeing “intarsia” pop up. I figured I should at least see what the deal was and when I started learning how to do intarsia knitting (not just looking at end-results), I realized that although intarsia may not make knitting my mug cozy easier, it will probably make a better end product.

Differences Between Intarsia and Stranded Color Knitting

  1. The presence (stranded) and absence (intarsia) of floating yarn behind the work. This is a big deal for my mug cozy, which would be a huge pain in the butt to get onto a mug due to the floats inside the cozy.
  2. If you’re not switching back and forth between colors every few stitches, you’re going to waste yarn with stranded knitting. Intarsia is good for big blocks of color and vertical stripes because the yarn is carried a short distance  up to the next row behind the work.
  3. Setting up for intarsia looks like a lot of fun (not). For every color change or block of color in a pattern, you will want to create a mini ball of yarn that hangs behind your work. With stranded color knitting, you would typically knit from the same ball of yarn the entire time for all colors.
  4. Each color block in intarsia knitting will need to be weaved in when you’re done. Unless you’re not using a color for a long while, you probably won’t have much to weave in as a result of stranded knitting.

References and Helpful Tips for Beginning Intarsia Knitting

  1. The Woolly Brew has a very beginner’s guide in 10 tips for intarsia knitting. I loved this article because it gave me a fairly good overview of how to get started. It also made me dread making all of those little bobbins…
  2. For a visual guide, a video from KnittingHelp on intarsia. A comment on their site also alluded to the difficult nature of intarsia knitting in the round (which is how I’m knitting my mug cozy).
  3. A video on intarsia knitting in the round from Planet Purl, which shows that to do intarsia in the round, you’ll need to purl every other row (eeewwwww). I suppose that’s better than not being able to put the mug cozy on a mug.
  4. Introduction to intarsia from Twist Collective. The author gives some tips at the bottom of the article, such as adding in detail once the knitting is complete using embroidery or duplicate stitch.

After learning these things, I’m still a bit hesitant to use intarsia for my mug cozy. There are some sections of my pattern that seem like they will be obnoxious to set up and the thought of purling even though I’m knitting in the round is not appealing. But the amount of yarn I would waste in using stranded knitting for this, especially in the sheep section, makes the annoyance of intarsia seem pretty worth it.

I will keep you posted on how this intarsia adventure goes! If you have any tips, let me know!