Tuesday, January 28, 2014


Being a DIYer, I love the mentality of 'make do and mend'. Why discard something that I love, simply because it has a hole in it? Since adopting this philosophy, I've gotten pretty handy at darning knits. Darning is my go-to solution for holes, but I admit that darning can sometimes be unsightly. That's when I fall back on my second favorite strategy: patches.

Patches are great for covering up a darn and for adding more fabric to a high-stress area. For me, this is often the elbows of a much-loved sweater. I've patched one sweater with 2-mm felt, but this time I am trying something different: using woven squares from my handloom.

It turns out that a 4"x4" handloom is the perfect size for elbow patches. To patch the sweater, I simply darned the holes in the elbows and then used a blunt darning needle to sew a square directly over top. As the squares don't take to long to make, I was able to freshen up my sweater rather quickly.

I will note--for anyone who wants to follow in my footsteps--that you should pay attention to the yarn weight. I used KnitPicks Palette for my patches, as that was what I had on hand that coordinated best, but most handlooms aren't designed for fingering weight. I tried the yarn held single and double (above) and, while the doubled yarn matches better with the loom gauge, I decided I liked the drape of the single yarn. In the end, I wove with a single yarn held taught, so the squares pulled together when I took them off the loom and the weave was not too loose.

I'm very happy to have finally hidden the unsightly darns on this sweater, though I wasn't entirely satisfied with the patches at first. It looked too much like a mend instead of an intentional style. To this end, I decided to add a front breast pocket to tie everything together. It was simple to make one more square and I love how the sweater now leans more to "colorblock" than "mended". So hooray for weaving and adding new life to an old sweater!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Yarn Regret

Have you ever admired a skein of yarn, not bought it, and then kicked yourself later for making that decision? I don't have yarn regret hardly ever, but I've been sighing wistfully since Wisconsin Sheep & Wool when I saw Fiber Optic's gradient yarns and fibers. Her gradients are beautiful and subtle and have the most amazing color transitions from one color to another, often through a third.

Needless to say, I was thinking about the gradients for several weeks after the festival and finally decided to track Fiber Optic down on the web. After a bit of website stalking, I managed to snare a gradient pack--no mean feat seeing as she posts one colorway at a time every couple weeks in limited quantities (FYI, the release schedule is posted in the Ravelry group).

After all of the effort to get my hands on this yarn, I knew it had to be made into something special. And that something special is this Stripe Study Shawl.

Goodness me do I love this shawl. The "blackbird" gradient is subtly paired with a black Cascade sock yarn and result is simple yet beautiful. I can't get over the smooth transition from one color to the next; these photos cannot do the colors justice. It's pretty amazing and amazingly pretty.

Knitting this shawl seems to have stemmed the yarn regret, but I'm still looking forward to next year's Sheep & Wool festival when I can peruse all of the colorways at once. In the meantime, I'm dreaming up new uses for gradient yarn.

I should end by fessing up to my new obsession with Fiber Optic, seeing as I'm devoting a whole blog post to this yarn and, nominally, this shawl. Consider me firmly in the Fiber Optic fan club.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Free Pattern: Lake Effect Muff

Living in Wisconsin, you get pretty used to not seeing the grass from November through May. It was that way when I lived in Madison and it's even worse now that I'm in Milwaukee because of lake-effect snow. The past 2 months have taught me to add 3 inches of snow to the forecast just because I live close to Lake Michigan. Still, I don't mind the snow so long as I have ways to stay warm.

(I should add that, as I wrote this, an ad for ice fishing supplies came on TV. Welcome to life in the north!)

Living around so much snow means that I'm always on the lookout for things that are both warm and stylish, and nothing says winter glamour quite like a muff. I made this one out of bulky and super bulky yarns, so it knit up quickly and provides a lot of warmth. It's going to keep my fingers super toasty this winter when worn over my gloves (because, seriously, it's too cold to go outside with only one layer on the hands).

The muff itself is dead simple to make--it's simply two stockinette tubes, one inside the other, with optional fiberfill stuffing. The trickiest part is actually grafting the last row of stitches to the cast on edge, though you could always seam everything if you don't like grafting. Either way, I hope you enjoy the pattern and are finding lots of pretty and cozy ways to stay warm this winter.

Requires ~70 yards each of super bulky (MC) and bulky (CC) yarns.

I used:
MC: 1 skein Istex (nee Reynolds) Bulky Lopi in Gray [100% Wool, 67 yds per 100 g skein]
CC: 0.2 skein Cascade Eco Wool in Natural [100% Wool, 478 yds per 250 g skein]

Another good option is Lion Brand Wool Ease Thick & Quick (MC) paired with Wool Ease Chunky (CC).

Size 10 dpns (or 16" size 10 circulars)
Size 8 dpns

Fiberfill (optional)

Darning needle for grafting

MC and size 10 needles: 14 st/20 row = 4 inches in stockinette
CC and size 8 needles: 18 st/25 row = 4 inches in stockinette

(The gauge is a little tighter than normal so as to keep fiberfill in and wind out)

Provisionally cast on 48 stitches in MC on size 10 needle.
Join to work in the round, being careful not to twist your stitches.

Knit 9 inches in stockinette.

Switch to CC and size 8 needles.

Continue to work in the round in CC for another 8.5 inches.

Cut yarn, leaving long tail. Weave in all ends but this one.

Fold CC lining down into center of MC cylinder, with wrong sides of the fabric together. Stuff lightly with fiberfill between the layers, if desired.

Remove provisional cast on and graft CC stitches to MC stitches using long CC tail. Weave in end.

Wear and stay warm!

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Wrapping Up the Holidays

I hope you all had a very happy holidays. Husband and I enjoyed some wonderful time with both of our families over Christmas week and are now back home enjoying our last quiet day before going back to work.

The time off was great and I got some crafting done, mainly playing around with my Arbor loom. Between a skein of handspun and some leftover yarn from my Gretel hat, I whipped out over 20 squares (though I don't know what I'm going to do with them all yet). I even learned to weave a twill, which is so beautiful that it makes me excited to learn new weave patterns.

The other craft time I had came with Mom, when we hand-felted a shawl together. Mom wove the shawl for me out of wool and tencel, with a pattern that would create a lot of texture when felted (as the wool will felt while the tencel won't). The finished shawl is beautiful and textured and awesome. I can't wait to wear it.

Speaking of Mom, she gifted me a set of blocking wires for Christmas. After blocking my lace shawl and her lace scarf together in the last year, she realized how much they will help. I'm looking forward to trying them out the first time on Ysolda's mystery knitalong.

Needless to say, I had a great Christmas. I hope your holidays were just as wonderful!