Friday, December 16, 2011

Dyer Moments: Shayla Myst Morrigan

When I design knit patterns, my inspiration usually begins with a color.  I like to design textures and patterns that represent, in some way, the color I’m working with.  If a particular dye lot reminds me of fire, or a stormy sea, or a leafy vine, I’ll try to reflect that in the stitch pattern or overall shape.  But where do those beautifully colored yarns originate?  I'm particularly fond of the work of indie-dyers, and so I've created this interview process - Dyer Moments - to expose the people that make the colorways that inspire new design.  


Join me today in getting to know Shayla Myst Morrigan!


Describe the first time you dyed.
~ I saw so many pretty colors in the world around me and wanted to see if I could translate those colors into yarn. So I bought a dyeing kit from Knit Picks, just to see if I could dye at all. I made a huge mess in my kitchen and was tickled when the skeins were finally dry and the colors were so pretty.

How did you begin your business? 
~Some of the women in the Harry Potter Knit/Crochet House cup group really liked the skeins I'd dyed and someone suggested that I sell them. Since I already sold herbal salve online, it wasn't a big leap to add yarns to my shop.

What inspired the name of your company?
~ Many years ago I wanted to come up with a name to represent my online presence, so I began looking up various names and words. Alina means "away from home" and Shea means "a magical place".

What inspires your colorways and how do you name them?
~ A lot of my colors are inspired by the things I see in life. From Morning Glories, Nightshade, & Bright Vincas to Melted Lipstick, Nightfall, & Chocolatey Mint, it's all out there in the world to see. The names just come to me as the colors form in the pots and they just seem "right".

Do you also knit? Crochet?
~ Yes, both! I also like to spin and I weave a little bit. I can't imagine sitting for very long without some project in my hands.

What is your favorite color and do you have a favorite pattern for showing off your yarn?
~ This varies between deep purple and rich green. One of my favorite colorways is Nightshade since it has both colors. Favorite patters? I think that changes every time I see a new project that someone used my yarn with.

What is your favorite fiber/yarn to dye?
~ I carry a base called Frosted Moon and I love how it soaks up the color and gives just a hint of sparkle.

Is there anything especially cool about your yarns we should know?
~ I try to get really soft yarns. I ask companies for lots of samples, and when they don't quite feel soft enough to make baby clothes, I probably won't carry them.

Describe your background / education. Does it have any influence on your company?
~ My mom was known as an "Earth mother" so there was a lot of hippy-ness going on during my younger years. A lot of time spent outdoors looking at pretty flowers, interesting leaves, animal tracks, and so much more. I think that really influenced my ability to see beauty in so many things. Education? Well, I was home-schooled, then in college at 16. The most useful class I took was interpersonal communications, but I still have trouble communicating even now. (The other classes dealt with computer programming, drafting, and math.)

What advise would you give others looking to dye?
~ Play! Don't be afraid of adding a little extra color, or a little less. Trust your intuituion. If a color doesn't look right, over-dye it with a harmonizing color (blue for cool colors, bold orange for warm colors) and you'd be amazed at the way it changes.

Tell us about your biggest dye “fail”.
~ Mud. I was trying for a soft blend of blues, greens, and browns. Sadly, I dropped the skein fully into the brown (while my tongs were on the other counter) and the whole skein ended up looking like the mushy leaves at the end of winter. I over-dyed in in black and never put it in the shop.

Most importantly, what’s the best way to purchase your yarns? Are you in retail stores or do you have a shop online? Do you offer a yarn club?
~ I have an online shop through Etsy (http://www.etsy.com/shop/AlinaSheaCreations) and you can keep up with the weekly updates through Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/alina.shea.creations).

~ I do have a yarn club! I have so much fun coming up with colors and gifts each month and the members are truly amazing people. Most of the information is found on AlinaShea.com (http://www.alinashea.com/club.html)

Shayla Myst Morrigan - Alina Shea Creations
To get a better idea of the people behind the product…I ask our dying interviewees these insightful questions developed by Bernard Pivot.

What is your favorite word?
~ Illume. It just seems to hold all the magic of a tiny point of light growing slowly to help us to see clearly.

What is your least favorite word?
~ Can't. Only because so many people believe it when they use it and everyone has so much potential for "Can".

What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
~ So many things. The sparkle in my kids' eyes (14 & 19), the love from my friends, the purring of my cats, the wind blowing the bright leaves in my yard, The snow glittering when the temperatures drop, the rain hitting my window...

What turns you off?
~ Intolerance and beligerance. I think they just send out such negative energy that it hurts anyone around the one doing the sending.

What is your favorite curse word?
~ I don't really have one, but I usually say "snack crackers" when I'm really mad.

What sound or noise do you love?
~ The wind. It has so much life to it.

What sound or noise do you hate?
~ A car's tires screeching. That one stops me in my tracks everytime in a near panic.

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
~ Alpaca breeder, or farmer, they are both tied.

What profession would you not like to do?
~ A public defender. You don't really get a choice in who your clients are and that could easily go against a person's own morals.

If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
~ Yes, you made a positive impact in people's lives.

Please visit Shayla at http://www.etsy.com/shop/AlinaSheaCreations

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Mismatched Dye Lots

If you are following along with my blog, you know of my most recent Fail, caused fully by over confidence in my own memory, and lack of project preparation.  I ended up ordering another skein online as I could source none locally.  Now I wait.  The likelihood I'll get the same dye lot I bought at my LYS is extremely remote.  So remote in fact, I think I'd have better luck in the lottery.

I'm very fortunate that the project this happened on will not be badly affected by the mismatched dye lots.  If it is noticeable at all, it will be very subtle.  The recipient will be entirely too thrilled with the gift to care, if in fact he did notice.  This mismatch will only matter to me.

So this situation has given me time to think about dye lots.  In most projects, mismatched dye lots spell disaster.  A single color project with mismatched dye lots will have an obvious color shift in some lights, while not so obvious in others.  This can be downplayed by alternating skeins with each row, or it can end up looking striped.

Multicolored projects like "scrap-ghans" can actually benefit from multiple dye lots, seemingly contributing more color and variety to the end project.  This got me thinking... in what other ways can I make mismatched dye lots "art" instead of "fail"?

I'm curious what could be achieved working with a collection of different dye lots of the same color.  Could an afghan project look like a study in monochromatic tones?  Would it be too subtle too notice or would it be just subtle enough that the effect would be unique and classy?

Have you ever intentionally created a project with mismatched dyelots?  What was the result?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Over Confidence = Knit Fail

Friday I visited my LYS to pick up supplies for a new design test knit.  I'd estimated my needs, and KNEW that I had one skein of the red yarn I needed at home, so I purchased 2 Navy skeins and just 1 more skein in Red.  Saturday I started the actual knit work.  At one point, approximately 20% of the way complete, I grew a little nervous about the amount of yarn remaining and reviewed my estimated yardage needs against my actual usage, did a little math, and decided I was in the clear.  Sunday, I worked another 20% before I chose to re-evaluate, just to be sure.

My need to review my supply over and over should have been a clue that my subconscious knew something I was missing.  My math was good.  My color memory, not so much.  When I went to pull that other skein out of my stash, as it was coming close to time for the new ball, I discovered that the "Red" I'd previously acquired wasn't just from another dye lot, but another color shade altogether. Christmas Red and Burgundy aren't even close.

How big an issue is this?  20% = 100 four foot long rows or 2600 stitches.  I'm 40% done, which means I may have to pull 5200 stitches out to recover my yarn.

Is my LYS open Sunday's? NO!  Am I panicked?  YES!
Do I know better than to start a project before visually verifying all supplies and tools? YES.
Were lessons learned?  Indeed and follow thusly, as we all should be reminded.

  1. Over Confidence = Knit Fail  (Even seasoned astronauts have checklists.)
  2. BEFORE beginning project, gather all supplies and tools to verify their existence and attendance in full required quantity.  (Just like baking cookies!)
  3. MAINTAIN a stash inventory online at Ravelry.com
  4. REFER to your Ravelry stash online if in store with doubts as to your stash.
  5. REFER to your Raverly stash online if in store and purchasing anything in addition to, to compliment or to supplement your stash. (How many of us have bought the same yarn over and over because we loved it? Or, as in my case, the wrong color?)
  6. CALL your LYS as soon as you suspect an issue.  Don't wait until they are closed to realize you MUST have that yarn.  MOST LYS will happily hold yarn for you with a simple phone call.
Keep your fingers crossed for me the LYS still has this in stock for me.
Happy knitting all!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Great Resource & Free Patterns

If you haven't checked out Knitty.com, you're missing out.  I love this knitting e-mag.  It's published four times a year and every issue is jam packed with wonderful new innovative knit patterns.  Their Deep Winter issue was just released and I've already picked out a couple of favorites for my knitting queue:  Sleepless by Mary Keenan and Groove by Stephen West  Visit Knitty today and tell me which patterns speak to you!

(No, Knitty didn't ask for a review, nor did either designer.  I wasn't compensated in any way.  I just tell you about things I love!)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Online Learning Opportunity

I found a wonderful new online learning opportunity - Craftsy.com.  Craftsy features online video classes in such subjects as Quilting, Sewing, Crochet, Jewelry, Paper Crafts, Cake Decorating and Knitting.  They also offer Free Patterns.

I'm currently enrolled in two classes: Knit Sock Workshop with Donna Druchunas and Mastering Lace Shawls with Laura Nelkin.  I haven't started reviewing the Shawl course yet, but I have begun working in the Sock course.  I find the video format easy to watch, pause and jump-to-points when life interrupts or I need to re-review.  I haven't used any of the other various resources such as video note-taking, online Q&A, or course discussions.  I've really only scratched the surface of this resource, but thus far, I'm a believer and recommend this to anyone interested in taking a knitting class online from home. (No, I haven't been asked to review this site, to endorse it or any one and no, I haven't received ANY compensation.  I simply show you what I believe in.)

Some of you may be wondering... Why are you taking these classes?  You already knit socks and shawls.  Yup, I do, but there is always room for improvement, opportunities for new techniques, and tips you can gain from other teachers.  And at the price of just $29.99 each - it's a opportunity that simply shouldn't be passed up.

Have you found great online class resources?  Please leave a comment and tell me about them!

Green Bin Farms Onions!

This weekend we got snow.  Nothing even close to say a nor'easter, but freezing temps none the less.  After consulting with a very knowledgeable gardening friend, we decided it was time to pull the onions out of the garden, rather than risk losing them.

But what to do with all those onions?  Our gardening friend had an answer for that as well.  Being a big fan of our Roasted Garlic and Onion Jam, she suggested we make more and gift it to friends - clever girl!  And so we did.  We made ten 8 oz jars, with a little bit of leftover for our fridge stash.

Still we had leftover onion greens, which we dried and sorted/sifted into onion powder and onion flakes for cooking with.  We initially started the dehydrator in my studio and quickly realized all of my yarn was going to stink intensely of onion, causing us to relocate it to the garage  You should smell the garage!

What did you do this weekend?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Giveaway Winners!

Winners have been drawn and (drum roll please) congratulations go to Knittingdancer and Nikki57.
Please email me your mailing addresses and choice of pattern.

Thank you to all who participated.  A new giveaway is coming up SOON! so stay tuned.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Dyer Moments: Shannon Shaw

When I design knit patterns, my inspiration usually begins with a color.  I like to design textures and patterns that represent, in some way, the color I’m working with.  If a particular dye lot reminds me of fire, or a stormy sea, or a leafy vine, I’ll try to reflect that in the stitch pattern or overall shape.  But where do those beautifully colored yarns originate?  I'm particularly fond of the work of indie-dyers, and so I've created this interview process - Dyer Moments - to expose the people that make the colorways that inspire new design.  

Join me today in getting to know Shannon Shaw!

Describe the first time you dyed. 
"Don't Call Me Nymphadora"
~The first time I dyed, I had a skein of Patons wool & some grape & lime Kool-Aid. I dyed half of it lime green & half purple. I still have it. I haven’t found the perfect pattern for it yet.

How did you begin your business? 
~I started dyeing with Kool-Aid & then graduated to what my friends call “big girl” dyes. I bought Jacquard Acid Dye from Knit Picks & some of their Bare yarn. Once I was comfortable with my chosen dye method, I started building up my inventory before I officially listed my first items in my shop last year. What’s a little ironic is that 10 minutes after I set myself up on my Etsy shop as a seller, I got a call from my regular job that they were closing in 2 months. Needless to say, it was the kick in the pants that I needed to get my inventory built up & open my shop.

What inspired the name of your company? 
~After I found the wondrousness of Harry Potter, I searched online for Harry Potter quilt patterns & found a site on Livejournal. An amazing person had listed free quilt patterns she designed especially for Harry Potter on a Livejournal community, hp_paperpiecing. I joined Livejournal with the username of hermione_jean. On there I met others who adored Harry Potter as much as I did & got me back into crocheting & eventually teaching myself to knit. I learned of Ravelry from them & carried the same username over. It just became who I was known as & I didn’t want to change that familiarity so I kept it when I started my Etsy shop. Plus, who wouldn’t want a company named after the brightest witch of her age.

"Hagrid's Pumpkin Patch"
What inspires your colorways and how do you name them? 
~My favorite fandoms inspire my colorways. I usually come up with my ideas while I’m listening to my audio books or watching movies or my favorite TV series. I always have a notebook with me to jot down the ideas. I’ve got many colorways jotted down that haven’t been dyed yet.

Do you also knit? Crochet? 
~Yes, I knit, crochet & spin.

What is your favorite color and do you have a favorite pattern for showing off your yarn? 
~I love green but if you want to know my favorite colorway I‘ve dyed up so far, it would have to be…all of them. Really, that’s like trying to choose a favorite child. ;) Honestly, I adore anything that has been knit or crocheted with my yarn. It always gives me a thrill when I see something made with my yarn.

What is your favorite fiber/yarn to dye? 
~I love to dye with merino yarn especially superwash because I don’t have to worry too much about felting it.

Is there anything especially cool about your yarns we should know? 
~I don’t know how “cool” this may be but I’ve had a dear friend tell me that she loves my yarn because I put thought behind the colorways & the names of my yarns. There’s always a reasoning to them. They aren’t haphazardly thrown together.

"The Unbreakable Vow"
Describe your background / education. Does it have any influence on your company? 
~I have a B.S.B.A. in Business Management & Accounting. I wouldn’t say it’s had an influence on my company but it has given me the knowledge I’ve needed to run a business. I feel the influences have been from my family. I was taught to sew when I was 8 by my mother & to crochet at the same age by my grandmother. I’ve always dabbled in crafts whether it be sewing to quilting to yarn.

What advise would you give others looking to dye?
~I would say just start dyeing, try all the methods you can & find the one that suits you best. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, sometimes those are the best.

Most importantly, what’s the best way to purchase your yarns? Are you in retail stores or do you have a shop online? Do you offer a yarn club? 
~My yarns are only available in my Etsy store. I’m on my second yarn club which starts in December. I have plans for another one after that & possibly one in worsted weight.

Shannon Shaw - Hermione Jean Creations
To get a better idea of the people behind the product…I ask our dying interviewees these insightful questions developed by Bernard Pivot.


What is your favorite word? 
~Magic

What is your least favorite word? 
~Ignorant ~ It’s not the word that I dislike but that some people are ignorant.

What is your favorite curse word? 
~I don’t really curse all that much but I do say crap a lot.

"Hogwart's Halloween Feast"
What sound or noise do you love? 

~I love the sounds of water. It’s very soothing.

What sound or noise do you hate? 
~The sounds of town. It’s too much noise, I live in the country.

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? 
~I would love to be a costume maker for the theater or movies. I think that would be so much fun.

If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? 
~Well done!


Please visit Shannon at http://www.etsy.com/shop/hermionejean

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Extreme Knitting

As Christmas nears, many knitters begin to feel the weight and magnitude of their holiday knitting.  Here's a quick video to show you what extreme knitting really looks like.  Perhaps your project won't seem so daunting afterwards.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Knitting Lace

I love knitting lace almost as much as love knitting cables. I find knitting stockinette stitch boring.  I live for the variety lace and cables provide.  They are visually exciting to look at and most definitely not boring to knit.

Most recently I completed a lovely little FREE pattern I found on Ravelry called 198 yards of Heaven by Christy Verity.  It's knit with worsted weight wool, and in most cases you only need 1 skein.  It knit up very quickly (about 5 1/2 hours) and the pattern provides both written and charted instructions.  This is a great beginner project for individuals looking to try lace.  The finished size is just over neck kerchief and makes a lovely winter accent.

I highly recommend this pattern and look forward to trying more of Christy's patterns.  (This is an unpaid, unsolicited endorsement.)  

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Giveaway!

To celebrate my Robin Hunter interview I'm hosting a giveaway!




PRIZE: Set of Holiday Ornaments (Hat, Sweater & Mittens) from Lindy Howell & Friends (free shipping) ANDDigital Copy of the Knit Pattern of your choice from my designs (emailed to you)
VALUE: $11.75-$13.75 (depending on pattern selection)
# WINNERS: 2 (two)
END DATE: 11:59 PM MST, Friday, December 2nd
WHERE PRIZE CAN BE WON: United States and Canada Only


To enter giveaway, leave comment below and follow my blog.  Be sure to leave me a way to contact you!

You can earn additional entries by:
- Following Lindy Howell & Friends Blog at http://lindyhowellandfriends.blogspot.com/
- Visiting http://www.myknits.com/ and joining the mailing list
- Adding a pattern to your favorites on http://www.ravelry.com/designers/jessica-lheureux
- Sharing this giveaway on your Facebook page
- Posting a link to this giveaway on your blog

- Visit the Robin Hunter Interview of me and leave a comment on Robin's blog
- Purchase from Lindy Howell & Friends Etsy shop and earn you an additional 5 entries to this giveaway!


To get credit for your additional entries, please be sure to let me know what you’ve done by leaving separate comments for each entry that you've completed.  You must list your blog address if you post a link.  Be sure to include your email address, substituting "at" for @.

This giveaway will end at 
11:59 PM MST, Friday, December 2nd.  Two winners will be chosen using a random number generator on Saturday, December 3rd.

I look forward to reading each of your comments!

New Patterns (Two!): Rhoda's Scarf and Brenda - Women's Hat

Rhoda's Scarf 

Sometimes you simply need a scarf to complete your look. By special request, this scarf has been designed to coordinate with the Gracie hat pattern. 

The pattern begins with a lace edge. Stitches are then picked up for the main body of the scarf featuring a wide cable framed with gooseberry bobbles, worked back and forth to half the desired length. A duplicate half is then knit and the two halves are seamed at the center back. 

Instructions are given for two sizes: Child (40") and Teen/Adult (58")  Shown in Cascade 220 (Oyster).  Yardage: 235 (335)
Tools: Size US 7 (4.5mm) straight needles, stitch holder, tapestry needle, and cable needle. Row counter is helpful.

Rhoda, thank you for the inspiration!

  $3.00 for PDF pattern @ Raverly.com

Brenda - Women's Hat

Medallions and smocking details give this hat wonderful visual appeal! The main body is knit horizontally and then joined into a circle. Stitches are picked up around the top edge to finish the hat. Brim edge rolls up to show face framing cable. Braid embellishment is optional.

Shown in Red Heart Soft Yarn Solids (Grape). Yardage: 170-190
Tools: Size US 6 (4.0mm) straight and DPNs, cable needle, stitch marker, tapestry needle.  Row counter is helpful.

  $3.00 for PDF pattern @ Raverly.com

Friday, November 18, 2011

How to Become a Professional Knitter Interview.

My Google Reader had my name on it this morning!
How proud am I?
I consider it a huge honor to be interviewed by Robin Hunter.  Please take a moment to visit the interview and then be sure to "follow" Robin's blog.  There is an amazing wealth of information presented there.

I think this calls for a celebratory Giveaway...
Stay tuned!!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Upcoming Pattern: "Rhoda"

I recently taught my "Gracie" hat pattern to a lovely group of women here in Albuquerque (Thank you Ladies - I enjoyed my time with each of you!), and one of the women asked me if I could find a scarf pattern for her that would compliment "Gracie".  I searched.  I went through the several thousand Raverly patterns and even jumped over to Pattern Fish to see if there was anything there, but nothing really offered the same design elements or tied into the "feel" of the "Gracie" hat.  So, I'm proud to announce, I'm creating "Rhoda" in honor of the requester!

"Rhoda" features the cables, gooseberry stitch and lace of "Gracie" but in a slightly less intense, scarf format.  This pattern is in the final testing stages now.  Be on the look-out for it's release in the very near future!

Rhoda, thank you for the inspiration.  I'm delighted to have had the opportunity to design this for you!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Home and Home Again

The Storm that Wouldn't Be
It's always good to visit home.  John and I enjoyed a surprise trip back East this fall... although we weren't the only surprise.  During our visit, New England was hit by the Halloween 2011 Nor'easter, despite my brother-in-law's insistence that the forecasted storm wasn't going to amount to "anything".  (Ray, you had to know I wouldn't let it go!)

Like any vacation, our time was too short, and filled entirely too full.  We tried to get around to seeing everyone, but the storm and our time constraints eliminated many of our hopes and opportunities.

John: Husband, Hiker, Saver of Cameras
Before the storm hit, John and I were able to get out and enjoy some of the sites.  We had a lovely little riparian hike at Cascade Falls, which nearly spelled the end of our digital camera.  It's fascinating to see how fast a man can scamper after a cased camera tumbling water-ward.

We both really enjoyed our time at the falls.  It was a very different environment from the desert we call home.  So many trees!  So much moss!  Beautiful.

We also took a little time to stare at the ocean.  It occurs to me that I never appreciated it as much when I had open access to it as I do now that it is so very far away.  I would have loved to have had the time to have gone out on the mail ferry.

This was an extra-special visit for John's family as it was the first time in many years that the entire family was together in one place. We were able to spend a couple of meals together, and even managed an early Thanksgiving dinner with my mum, Bob, and sister, Rachel also in attendance.  It was a real treat to have our families meet, and I'm very grateful for having had the opportunity. A very heartfelt thanks goes out to Ray and Anne for hosting us all.


Nick, Ethan & Emma @ Halloween
We had a great time visiting with our niece and nephews.  They've all grown so much!  Not to mention some of the other, more curious changes in appearance we observed.

As for the bed and breakfast in which we stayed... Many, many thanks go out to Jamie and Denise for hosting us.  We have great appreciation for how stressful a home renovation can be, and even greater appreciation for the stress a houseful of family can impart.  Every minute was a delight, and seriously, nothing was an inconvenience.  Thank you, and, you'd better send pictures of your beautiful new kitchen.

Maisy: B&B Hostess, Fan of Yarn & Knitters
We managed a couple of quick visits with Chris and Sam on our way in and out.  Due to our GPS and rush hour traffic, we missed Sam's last soccer practice of the season.  I'm really disappointed about that, but I still got in my hugs, and was able to deliver a couple of pairs of handknit socks, which Sam loved.  He's already grown so much since his visit this summer, and I can't wait to see how much more he'll have grown before I see him again.

Our journey home was long.  We hope to get back East to visit everyone again in the not too distant future, but need to heal our plane-worn butts first.  Family is ALWAYS welcome to come visit us.  Jamie, the Firey Foods Festival is March 2-4, 2012, and we know you'd love it.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

New Pattern: Nancy's Wrist Warmers

Does your chilly office still demand productivity?  Is it sunny enough for cafĂ© patio coffee, but just a little too brisk for bare hands?  Nancy’s Wrist Warmers solve these problems.  Lacy pattern lends style to fingerless function.  Alternately knit in the round, back and forth, and in the round again on circular or double pointed needles, the thumb hole is effortlessly formed.  Ribbing may be extended to individual comfort and delight.

One size fits most.  Shown in Lion Brand Yarn's Microspun (color: Cherry).  Tools: US Size 3 (3.25) 9" circular or double pointed needles, stitch marker, tapestry needle.  Row counter helpful.

  $2.50 for PDF pattern @ Ravelry.com

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Necessity Knitting - 6 Hour Halloween Hat

My husband and I visited home recently, just in time for the freak Halloween 2011 Nor'easter.  Neither of us was prepared for this weather.  Out of sheer coincidence, I'd brought a scarf knitting project with me.  John however, was without woolly warmth accessories.  Of course, there was yarn shopping on my trip, and I found some lovely Rowan DK Tweed on an exceptional sale, days before the storm, which my brother-in-law assured us would turn out to be nothing.  I bought two skeins... tempted by the price/value.  Little did I know to what value it would appreciate.

Halloween we were to accompany the niece and nephews trick-or-treating, and thusly, I cast on a hat for John that morning.  Six short well entertained hours later, John was warmer and envied.

Lesson learned... buy sale yarn when you see it.  You never know how quickly it will become useful.

During our trip, I also purchased 2 skeins of Happy Feet, destined for socks, and 2 skeins of local hand spun & dyed wool that was simply too beautiful to resist.  I'm slightly annoyed that the hand spun & dyed label offers a weight, but not yardage, so I'll have to measure it when I ball it.  It's very difficult to select a fitting project without yardage measurement :(

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Christmas Knitting

Here's my fun way of reminding you that there are 55 days left to complete your Christmas knitting. I suggest casting on before you start the video.

Happy Knitting!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Upcoming Interview!

I'm very proud and excited to announce I have been interviewed by the amazing Robin Hunter of Robin Hunter Designs and will be featured on her blog How to become a Professional Knitter November 18th!

I've been following Robin's blog for a LONG time now and find it to be an incredible knitting resource.  Her knitting professionals interview series has introduced me to many wonderful people and products.  I highly recommend you follow her blog, never mind that her designs are beautiful!! You can also find Robin on Ravelry.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Trick or Treat? Design Elements

Trick or Treat Bags - Lion Brand Yarn
FREE Pattern! See bottom of post.
Often in my classes when students discover they've made a mistake there is a minor panic on their part. Occasionally I find a few students who take it in stride, recognizing that the class is a learning opportunity and that mistakes will be made - it's part of the learning process. But more often than not it seems students grade their success on the perfection of their work in class, and want immediately to fix any issues. Some errors can be readily fixed, and some cannot - without tears and ripping back.

Yes, I teach my students how to correct their work whenever possible. I even teach a class about only that - Knit Research & Rescue - in which students learn to correct knitting without ripping back. But I also try to teach my students that not all errors are bad.

Recipe Fail.  Look familiar Mom?
I think it is important for knitters to understand that a pattern is nothing more than a recipe. Yes, sometimes you can make mistakes in recipes bad enough that the result is no longer food. (Mom, stop laughing!) But you can also make wonderful substitutions that not only make the process, but also the end result, more enjoyable. Take chocolate chip oatmeal cookies for example. Love them. But... substitute those chocolate chips with butterscotch chips and dash in a little orange zest... OMG, get out of my way... I'm eating them all! (Really, try it - very very tasty!!) Did I make a mistake? No. I made something better suited to my tastes. I added a design element. Knitting is the same way.

Design Elements can be intentional or unintentional. Intentional design elements include things like intentionally adding or changing a stitch or the project's structure: 1x3 rib substituted for 2x2, gooseberry stitch for bobbles, moss stitch instead of a stockinette field, shortening sleeves, adding shaping, adding striping, knitting a turtleneck collar instead of a Henley, etc.

Unintentional Design Elements originate from errors. For example - on a recent project I misread/interpreted the pattern and performed a "C4F,C4B" (two cables twisting inward) as a "C4B,C4F" (two cables twisting outward). At the next pattern repeat I did it correctly. Then I saw the error. Yes, I did it wrong. Yes, I could have fixed it. But in fact, I liked it. It made a sort of "O" or medallion. It occurred to me that if I replicated my error, every other repeat, I'd get a sweet little X's & O's pattern... which of course reminds me of Kisses & Hugs, which are never bad... and there, I'd added a design element to my project, making it entirely my own, and more special to me than if I'd executed the pattern perfectly.


Does this work with every type of error? No. If you knit one sleeve 8" too long, making the other sleeve 8" too long will result in a monkey sweater. But, if the error doesn't affect structure, the trick to turning an error into a design element (treat!) is simply this... Consistency. Replicate your error consistently and you've added a design element.

...Oh, and the cool image at the top of the page with the little Trick or Treat Bags - that's a FREE pattern available from our friends at Lion Brand Yarns.  No, I wasn't paid or even asked to link to them - I just love the pattern!

Silly Sam & Mom Picture

Courtesy of my dear friend Jessica Billy.  She is an amazing artist.  When Sam & I visited her studio this summer she just happened to have this awesome two sided cut out for fun photos.  Thank you Jess for taking our pictures!!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Diabolical! Scintillating! The Reviews Are In!

My "Learn Cables & Bobbles" class has begun and I'm getting some really interested reviews thus far.

The first lesson covers gauge rather intensely (is there any other way?) to really give students an understanding of when to respect gauge and how to understand its impact.  Yes, there is MATH.  Yes, I make you KNIT.  I won't tell you any more than that (take my class) but I will tell you one student called me "diabolical".  I'm proud of that.

I LOVE teaching.  Nothing thrills me more than seeing the Ah ha! moment happen for my students.  Because I love it, and I want this to be exciting and fun (you are paying to learn a skill that you will utilize as personal entertainment - it should be fun!) I have a tendency to be flamboyant and exuberant and silly.  It is a performance, teaching is a performance.  That's probably why another student told me I am a "very scintillating teacher". Take one of my classes and see.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Eventually I Will Learn

Hello.  My name is Jessica and I haven't learned my lesson.

I know how to run life lines.  I teach others to run life lines in their knitting.  But do I run them? No.

I'm working on a sweater, Shalom Cardigan by Meghan McFarlane, which is available for free on Ravelry.  The pattern is not graded and I've had to make a number of changes for fit and flattery.  With each of these changes, there has been tinking and even frogging.  You would have thought I might have been inspired to run a life line the first, or even fourth time, I ripped back, but I wasn't.  And it has happened again.  Once more I became so sure of myself, secure in my last calculations and fit check, that I over-confidently forged ahead without a life line.  It's a blessing that it's only yarn and not an actual life or death situation.

Please, learn from my mistakes.  Take Two for Safety.  Run a life line through your knitting now.
This has been a public service announcement.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

New Feature! Inspiration Image: Creative Spark

As a new blog feature, each week (mostly) I will be posting an "Inspiration Image"  I've found online that has the power to light a creative spark.


All of these images belong to someone else, and anytime I can find the true copyright holder, I will link to them.  If I failed to properly link to your copyrighted work, please contact me asap so that I might correct my error.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Never too many notebooks...or Bath Crayons.

My husband and I recently attended a "Q&A / Meet the Authors" night at our local library with three prominent science fiction writers.  Really very interesting!  They had a full audience, and I was grateful to have gotten there in time for actual seats.  There was a library staff member there to moderate the discussion, and attendees took turns asking questions about the writing/publishing experience.

I'm not a writer, and although in years past I thought I wanted to be one, it's really not something I'm working towards right now.  But I am a designer, and in many respects, it is a similar process.  Dream it up, work it out, get it on paper and sell it.  One of the biggest hurdles I deal with is capturing my ideas.  I simply can't knit, chart, draw or create as fast as ideas come to me.  And so, I asked the panel what they do when the creative flow hits them hard and fast.  For a second, they looked at me like I was the next alien they'd be writing about.  Then the panel each took turns expressing that intense creative flow was a gift, and that you need to do everything you can to capture it when it comes, and that you can NEVER have too many notebooks.  One author went on to express just how many notebooks they have, and where all they have them stashed for that perfect moment of creative flow and capture.

I have notebooks.  I love notebooks.  I'm sort of an extreme perfectionist and have that whole "my notebooks should be neat and orderly" disorder.  You know what I mean... indexed, no mistakes, neat and clean.  You're laughing or agreeing.  Yes, I see the brilliance flaw in my ways, so I'm trying to make amends.  I started by designating the existing notebooks.  Small blue one - Ravelry HPKCHC.  Giant green one - pattern writing, impromptu concept sketching.  Black grid notepad - duh, charting.  Okay, done.

Nope, not enough.  I get design ideas at work, in my car, in bed, and more often than anywhere else, my shower.  So I went to the craft store and picked out three of those little $1 journals in three distinctly, can't confuse them and they won't blend into the clutter designs.  I'll be putting one in the car, taking one to work, and leaving one in the bedroom.  As for the shower...

I used to have these awesome soap crayons.  They were awesome.  See, I do website design too, and sometimes layout designs come to me at weird times too (usually the shower) so with these bath crayons, I'd just draw on the way when the idea struck, finish my washing, dry off and transfer the idea to wherever it belonged.  I haven't had a set of bath crayons in ages.  I looked for them, but I can only seem to find them online.  It being time to start thinking of Christmas gifts, I figure now is the perfect time to let the Universe know I'd love another set.  And yes, telling the Universe I want them may result in multiples, but like notebooks, you can never have too many soap crayons.

And if the Universe wants to send me more cool notebooks too... well yeah, they won't go to waste!