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Updated: 6 days 23 min ago

FO | Herlacyn Heatwave Afghan

Sun, 04/15/2018 - 10:30
Last week, I promised you a proper FO post for my Herlacyn Heatwave afghan. I love how it looks, now that blocking has worked its usual magic. The stitches relaxed, the bumps disappeared, the seams are much straighter, and the borders lay flat.



As you can see, it features a warm gradient created using six shades ranging from pale yellow to red, and against the rich black background, the colors pop. The colors are arranged on the diagonal from the lower left to upper right, so they were worked in this order:
  • Left strip: Provincial Rose, Tropical Coral, Buttercream, Banana
  • Center strip: Cherry Moon, Provincial Rose, Tropical Coral, Buttercream
  • Right strip: Barn Red, Cherry Moon, Provincial Rose, Tropical Coral

Herlacyn was designed with stashbusting in mind, so I was determined to work with yarn on hand. In the end, however, I had to order more Cherry Moon, because there was so little left after last year's rainbow Valere afghans and I wasn't in the mood to play yarn chicken.

Herlacyn Heatwave AfghanPattern: In development
Yarn: Cotton Fleece (Brown Sheep)
Needles: US 8 (5.5 mm)
Size: Small / baby
Dimensions: 27 x 35 ins
Yardage: ~670 yards
The back side is attractive, but it has a different look and feel. Because of the wrapped stitches, the colored triangles resemble appliques and almost appear stitched on rather than worked as part of the fabric.



Don't tell the other afghans, but Heatwave is my new favorite. It has fantastic drape, and the strong geometric shapes and cheerful colors delight my simple heart. It's also the perfect weight for our chilly spring weather and it will transition well into summer, when a soft, light afghan is welcome on a cool morning.
I'm itching to cast on another in cool blues and greens, but that may have to wait. A shawl, a pair of mitts, and a vivid rainbow afghan are already on the needles, and they're all crying out for some well-deserved attention.


RELATED



WIP| Herlacyn Heatwave Ombres & Gradients: What's the Difference?


Looking for the pattern? It's in development and should be available soon.


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Want Straight Edges? Try this Trick

Sun, 04/08/2018 - 10:30
Whew! The last end has been woven and my Herlacyn afghan is blocking as we speak. 

I promise to do a true FO post soon, but in the meantime, I thought you might be interested in a few quick tips and tricks to help you block everything from scarves and shawls to cardigans, blankets and afghans with greater precision and straighter lines. 

If you own the basic plain blocking tiles as I do, straight lines can be a challenge. If you're lucky enough to own blocking mats printed with a grid, you're ahead of the game but you might still find these tips helpful. Blocking wires provide a nice, straight edge, but they don't work for all projects.

Since I like to keep things as simple as possible, here's what I do. First, I connect as many blocking tiles as I need. Then, I tie a slip knot in a piece of string and hook it over one of the nubbins at the top edge of the mat.



I run this string down the full length of the mat and wrap it around the corresponding nubbin at the bottom, making sure it's taut and straight to form a guideline for the left edge.



With the edge established, I begin spreading the entire piece over the blocking mats, continuing to run string lines between the top and bottom as needed. In this instance I ran four vertical lines (one for each edge and one for each seam).

I then start patting out the lumps and bumps, pinning things into place using the strings as a visual guide to align shapes, seams and edges. 

I keep my tape measure handy and continue to make adjustments until the end result looks something like this:

In this instance, I was able to use the top and bottom mat edges as a lateral guide, but if I need horizontal lines, I simply follow the same strategy and run strings side to side. It's equally easy to establish diagonal guidelines for triangular shawls or other items with slanted shapes, and if I were making a pile of individual blanket squares, I'd get the strings in place, block the first square, then leave the strings in place, so I could block each subsequent square to the exact same dimensions.
One of these days, I may invest in mats with a pre-printed grid, but for now, this fast and easy trick helps me block straighter seams and edges to improve the overall look of the finished piece. Have your own favorite blocking tips? Feel free to share them in the comments below.

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Hand Knits to the Rescue, Again

Mon, 04/02/2018 - 15:03
This weekend, I'd planned to pack away the winter-weight afghans and accessories and pull out their mid-weight siblings in preparation for milder weather, but somehow the task didn't get done. This turned out to be a good thing, since after an all-too-brief interval that carried hints of spring, our world is once again coated in snow that's clinging to every branch and twig and turning the world white. 

Luckily, thanks to my knitting obsession, I was able to start the day fortified by that extra touch of comfort only hand knits can provide. As I sipped my first steaming cup of coffee and watched the sun rise, I wrapped my warm and woolly Tikkyn Flagstone lapghan around my legs ...

 
 and slipped my soft, cozy Kintra Blackberry mitts onto my hands.



I donned a heavy marled cardigan (a great thrift store find) and draped my Dojeling Blackberry shawl around my neck and shoulders for extra warmth.



Now, I'm working in my perpetually chilly office with my Flashpoint lapghan tucked over my legs and feet, cheered both by it's cozy weight and the fact that it blends beautifully with the flashes of red, purple and black in my shawl and mitts. (I can be strange that way.)


The calendar may say it's spring, but the weather looks and feels like winter, so once again, hand knits have come to the rescue.


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Mixers

Mon, 03/12/2018 - 00:37
Where active works in progress are concerned, every knitter has their own tolerance level. My magic number is three WIPs consisting of one large, one medium and one small project. 

And therein lies the problem.

I have one afghan in the finishing stages and another about 40% complete. That takes care of the large project requirement, but it means I'm actively searching for something in the mid- to small-scale range. Or both.

With that in mind, I decided to rummage through the stash and see what surfaced. For some reason, three variegated skeins caught my eye. The first one features a lovely mix of plums and reds, offering lots of opportunities to put various shades of burgundy, red, rose and purple to good use.
The second one incorporates varied blues, teals and greens, which means it coordinates beautifully with solid yarns in similar colors.
The third one sports numerous shades of grey, which offers countless opportunities to either stay neutral or spark it up with a rich splash of color.

These variegated yarns are relatively recent stash enhancements. Each skein contains more than 400 yards of goodness that includes extra-fine merino and cashmere, two fibers that are very difficult to resist. Add in the long color shifts and the range of possibilities they bring to the stashbusting party, and they might well be the perfect mixers.


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FO | The Thinking Cap Works

Sun, 03/04/2018 - 17:25
A series of non-knitterly things are demanding an extraordinary amount of time and energy, but I wanted to share an update on the Thinking Cap

It's done, and as simple as it is, it's delivering on every front. Soft, stretchy, light but warm, it features one of my favorite slipped rib stitches (Kintra Mitts). Worsted weight yarn meant it knit up quickly, and the simple five stage gradient worked in a mirror pattern (front: black to cream, back: cream to black) allowed me to use up leftovers from previous projects.



Kintra Thinking Cap
Pattern: Improvised
Yarn: Amherst (Valley Yarns)
Needles: US 10 (5 mm)
Yardage: ~135 yards
Size: L (21-22 ins circumference)

I opted for a neutral combo sparked with a touch of burgundy red. As a result, the Thinking Cap coordinates with my Grey Daze shawl ...


and Grey Daze mitts, especially since I typically wear these pieces with a black turtleneck or cardigan.



It also works beautifully with my Dojeling Wineberry kerchief, which because it's so light and adaptable is still one of my all-time favorite accessories, .



The Thinking Cap delivered on the intangible front as well. As you know, I started this quick knit because I was wrestling with different project and WIP options, and wanted to keep busy while I sorted out things. It did its job, and as soon as the cap was off the needles and trimmed, I devoted some much needed attention to the Herlacyn afghan, which has been patiently waiting in the wings.

Who knew a simple little thinking cap would work so well?


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Thinking Cap

Sun, 02/25/2018 - 18:47
Now that the bulky red hat is finished (granted, there are still some ends to weave), it's time to make some decisions.

The almost-but-still-not-quite-done Herlacyn afghan is one of two active projects on the needles. All it needs is the final edging and the last few ends woven, so the obvious choice is to buckle down, do the edging and turn this lingering WIP into an FO.




The second most obvious choice is to tackle the next strip in my plush rainbow afghan. While I've chatted about other things, I've been quietly working this in the background, and as a result, three out of five strips are done. It's been too grey and overcast to take pictures, so this is the most current shot available:





But why go with the obvious when one can indulge in some knitterly angst? Perhaps I should cast on the soft, simple gradient shawl, the one I've been spent so much time swatching and longing for. 



Or, I could succumb to the overwhelming temptation to whip up a quick pair of fingerless mitts in bulky red yarn to coordinate with my cheery red hat.




All of these are logical options, but somehow, in a moment of distraction, a completely different project crept onto the needles. 




It's another fast and easy hat, literally a "thinking cap," since I might as well keep my hands busy knitting while I figure out which project to tackle next. 


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It Might Be a Hat

Mon, 02/19/2018 - 01:24
Well, it was quite a wrestling match, but finally it's come to an end. I have what might be a hat ... or possibly a potholder. In this quick (unblocked) shot, it's a bit difficult to tell, isn't it?


I was ready to frog this fiasco, but I decided I might as well see it through to the end. Things began to look a bit more promising when I tacked the seam ends together.


This simple adaptation made a real difference, and revealed a surprising bonus. The hat looks cute worn with the black trim facing front or back.


And for more good news, it also works with the seams tracking straight up the sides and meeting at the crown. 



The slipped stitch fabric is delightfully plush, the yarn is soft, and the color will be heartwarming on a cold winter's day. What can I say? After the frustrations that have plagued this project, it's gratifying to have a finished piece that's actually wearable.


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Still Hatless

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 17:01
As part of the annual month-long Stash Knit Down Hatathon, I committed to making one or two hats. Easy peasy, right?

Well, this low-ball commitment has turned out to be quite a challenge. I don't knit hats often, but I've made more than a few and swatched this simple slip stitch multiple times, so I felt confident things were under control. Wrong! 

In an effort to get a very basic hat underway, I have over the course of the past week or so cast on five times, and somehow, I've managed to make every newbie mistake in the book. Twice, I cast on the wrong number of stitches. I've also chosen the wrong needle size, knit a basic ribbed edge that didn't work, and in one case, cheerfully knit along for some time before I realized I'd miscalculated the finished dimensions.

Between the gnashing of teeth and the croaking of frogs as I ripped, ripped, ripped one false start after another, knitting sessions were anything but quiet and peaceful. 

More than a week after I started, I'm still hatless. There's yet another attempt on the needles now, and while I very much hope this version will work, that remains to be seen!


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FO | Colsie Lake Gradient Mitts

Sun, 02/04/2018 - 21:39
Over the holidays, I managed to finish another quick pair of  Colsie fingerless mitts, worked in a simple three-stage tonal gradient. I delayed this FO post, hoping to get better photos. But between cloudy skies and the demands of life and work, it just may not happen, so let's work with what we've got.

The mitts feature the super-delectable Grignasco Champagne in shades of lake, which is more green, and teal, which has decided blue tones. The colors are so closely related, it's a challenge to spot the transition, but the swatch below shows it best: 



The first section is lake, the last is teal, and the center portion features alternating stripes of both. This creates a subtle ombre effect that flows imperceptibly from green to blue-green to teal. As a result, the mitts go nicely with the Colsie Mirror Gradient Cowl-Scarf, which expands my wearing options.


Colsie Lake Gradient Mitts
Pattern: In development
Yarn: Champagne (Grignasco)
Needles: US 7 (4.5 mm)
Yardage: ~90 yards

This yarn is one of my favorites. It knits up beautifully and thanks to the superfine merino and silk blend, the fabric has a soft sheen and feels like a dream. Technically, the yarn hasn't been discontinued, but it's difficult to track down, so if you find some, grab it. 






With one afghan on the needles, another in the finishing stage and multiple patterns in the pipeline, there's plenty of knitting-related tasks clamoring for attention, so I'm off to see if I can make some headway on these other fronts.



RELATED



FO | Colsie Mirror Gradient Cowl-Scarf

Tonal Gradients Tame Variegated Yarns





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Clean Slate

Tue, 01/30/2018 - 16:12
I very much wanted to start this year with as close to a clean slate as possible. So with that goal in mind, I made a difficult but logical decision to allow Herlacyn to hibernate while I cranked out a handful of quick holiday knits and focused on finishing a cluster of scarves, cowls and mitts.

Now, the time has come to wake Herlacyn from its winter slumber and bring this project to completion. When last you saw it, it was seamed and ready for a border.




That work is now well underway, and with a bit of time and attention, the border will soon be completed. 

To minimize the amount of finishing required, I've been weaving most (but not all) ends as I go. 



The bad news? This tends to slow down my already slow knitting speed. The good news? In theory, once the borders are worked there will be just a few remaining ends to tackle. Then I'll have my first major finished project for the new year, and that will be a very good feeling, indeed.


RELATED



WIP| Herlacyn Heatwave

WIP| Herlacyn Heatwave Gradient

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Close Call

Sun, 01/21/2018 - 23:19
As a fiber fanatic of the first order, I had a close call this week.

A friend contacted me with a nearly irresistible opportunity. A friend of hers had discovered 30 or more skeins of yarn that had belonged to her mother. The friend knew I was a knitter, so if I was interested, I could have it all, no strings attached.

This was a truly generous offer, and as an added bonus, the yarn appeared to be wool and featured some of my favorite colors.


Frankly, the timing couldn't have been better. I'd just reorganized my stash cupboards (more on that another day) and wouldn't you know it? The reorg was so effective, I had plenty of empty containers and clear shelf space ready for an infusion of new yarn. 



Need I say it? The temptation was strong, because much like nature, stash cupboards abhor a vacuum.


Luckily, a glimmer of common sense began to break through the heady prospect of fresh yarn. Some rather intensive sleuthing revealed several important facts. Produced in Sweden, the yarn was indeed 100% wool with a tight twist and sturdy but prickly hand. It was spun as rug yarn and designed for weaving or tapestry work, not hand knitting.

In the end, it was indeed a close call - like many makers, I find fiber in all its forms is so very tantalizing - but this yarn needs to go to someone who can help it find its proper destiny.


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Is This the One?

Sun, 01/14/2018 - 22:15
It's difficult to believe, but over the course of the past year, I've worked more than 25 swatches in an effort to find The Right Stitch for an afghan design that's been rattling around in my head and portfolio for several years. 


We all know I'm not a flashy knitter, but I can be a bit finicky. For this design, I wanted a stitch that created a fabric that was attractive on both sides (of course!). Something that offered a bit of texture and handled color well, but was still easy to work (naturally). Something that looked good in a wide range of yarn weights from sport to bulky. (Not all stitches handle such variances well.) 

Several times, I thought I'd found The One, but on further experimentation realized it wasn't quite right. I've shared a few of these with you in the past.



For a time, I was particularly enamored with the syncopated effect produced by this stitch combo.
In the end, it wasn't the best match for this project, but it will eventually find its way into another.

To date, I've knit way more than 200 yards in pursuit of that elusive creature, The Right Stitch, and it's possible I've finally landed on one that could work. The right side is attractive ...



and the back is, too.




Is this the one? Let me know what you think.



RELATED

Right Side? Wrong Side? You DecideTemptation


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FO | Nearly Neutral Kintra Cowl-Scarf

Sun, 01/07/2018 - 11:30
Clearly, it's impossible to have too many handknits this winter. There's snow on the ground, more is on the way, and it's so cold here, we've been breaking temperature records (some of which date back to the 1800s) almost daily.
Between the frigid temps and my vow to make better use of the many shrine-of-precious yarns that reside in my stash, I've been diligently transforming sumptuous skeins into cowls, scarves or a mix of both (cowl-scarf).


At the same time, I've been striving to create pieces that coordinate with my favorite fingerless mitts in order to build coordinating sets.


Last week, therefore, I focused on finishing this cowl. It features a five-stage gradient, so colorwise, it mimics the mitts on a grander scale:
  • Section 1: Black
  • Section 2: Black and grey
  • Section 3: Grey
  • Section 4: Grey and cream
  • Section 5: Cream
I know all-enveloping scarves and cowls are the trend, but I prefer a narrow profile, which for me is less overwhelming and more versatile. Much like the Colsie cowl, therefore, I chose to work this flat with small buttonholes so it can be worn closed like a cowl, open like a scarf, or twisted and draped in different configurations. 


Kintra Reversible Cowl / Scarf
Pattern: In development
Yarn: Tajmahal (Filatura Cervinia & GGH), Charlemont (Valley Yarns)
Needles: US 8 (5 mm)
Yardage: ~400 yards
Dimensions: 4 x 45 ins

This blend of superfine merino, silk and cashmere is delightfully soft, knits up beautifully, and looks good even in its unblocked state, as it is here. The reversible rounded rib is plush and stretchy, and the finished fabric offers the perfect balance of warmth without excessive weight. Plus, the neutral shades blend seamlessly with my equally neutral wardrobe, while the small band of red adds a spark of color.
In other words, I'm so enamored with this cowl right now, I'm ready to make another. All I need to do is spend some quality time with my stash, choose the right yarn and cast on.


Looking for the Kintra Cowl pattern? It's in development and will soon be ready to send to the tech editor.


RELATED

 FO | Kintra Mitts Nearly Neutral  Pattern | Kintra Mitts


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FOs | 2017 in Review

Sun, 12/31/2017 - 11:30
Whew! This year has been a whirlwind of activity on the work-life front. Knitting and designing often took a back seat, so days and sometimes weeks passed with little or no knitting at all. 

As a result, I often focused on smaller projects like cowls, mitts and shawls, but I somehow managed to complete three lap-sized afghans as well. Here's a quick roundup of my 2017 FOs. (Just click the links to see the related project post, but some FOs are so fresh, they've not yet been featured.)


Accessories

Colsie Mirror Gradient Cowl-Scarf



Colsie Lake Gradient Mitts



Colsie Mirror Gradient Mitts



Colsie Green Gradient Mitts



Colsie Plumberry Gradient Mitts


Colsie Rose Gradient Mitts


Colsie Tonal Gradient Mitts


Grey Daze Mitts & Shawl



Kintra Nearly Neutral Cowl-Scarf



Afghans

Tikkyn Flagstone



Valere Summer Rainbow




Valere Vivid Rainbow


Holidays

Christmas Trees Merry & Bright

Patterns

While the Valere Reversible Afghan was the only pattern released this year, there are several in near-final form. They'll be ready for release once they've been thoroughly tech edited.


Going Forward

In an effort to start the year with a relatively clean slate, I resisted the urge to cast on new projects (with the exception of the last-minute Christmas Trees) and chose instead to finish active WIPs. The two new cowl-scarves will be especially useful, since we're in full deep-freeze with snow on the ground and windchill temps often well below 0 degrees F.

My goals for 2018 are rather straightforward. Once again, I'll be striving to focus and finish, which means limiting myself to roughly three active projects at a time. First on the list is Herlacyn Heatwave, which is almost but not quite done (all it needs is a border). I'm also itching to cast on something new, so I'm waffling between another cowl or shawl. 




As we wrap up the old year and welcome the new one, feel free to share your 2017 accomplishments, your plans for the coming year, or a mix of both. Thank you, as always, for stopping by, sharing your comments and feedback, knitting my designs, and offering your support and encouragement.

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