Toasty Volume 2

There's a certain sweet spot that some designers hit where they produce knitting patterns offering enough of a mix of soothing comfort and challenge that I'd (eventually) knit a whole book of their designs. When a copy of Toasty Volume 2 by Rachel Coopey arrived recently, I knew I'd found such a book. 

One of the biggest problems I have with my knitting is decision paralysis. I like so many yarns and designs that I get overwhelmed and in the face of having to choose, just end up getting a bit melty and plod along slowly on the same thing that I've been knitting for ages. This time though, this time, I cast on....

Handwound ball of Dovestone DK

Last Summer, I took a learning journey to discover some British wool producers and in doing so found a skein of Baa Ram Ewe's Dovestone yarn. Dovestone is a delicious mix of Masham, Bluefaced and Wensleydale wool. At the time I swatched and enjoyed the new to me sensation of Masham. It gives a slightly hairy texture on the fingers, not unlike mohair but instead of that dreaded ethereal floof mohair exudes, you get a bit more bite to the fabric that locks the fibres together in the twist of the yarn so no sneezing. I've revisited that swatch often, rolling it between my fingers to enjoy a sort of textured softness; robust but gentle. It's a truly fascinating blend both on the needles and in a fabric. The hand wound ball however, remained unused for months. The arrival of Toasty Volume 2 prompted me to rifle back through my knitting basket full of oddments waiting for me to decide what their fate might be. 

Toasty Volume 2 collage

Toasty Volume 2 is full of projects to sink your teeth into. Rachel offers nine accessory patterns with either undulating cable patterns or appealing colourwork that change colour when you're least expecting it. I'm currently on a colourwork kick so initially thought I would opt for a stranded design but then these mittens caught my eye. 

Padeside Mittens image courtesy of Jesse Wild

Padeside Mittens image courtesy of Jesse Wild

I think this is what I like about Rachel's design work so much: she offers choice. Most of Rachel's designs tend to involve lots of interesting details that travel around hats and socks beautifully but she doesn't forget the simple pleasure in a soothing knit project that just works. The Padside Mitts are a mixture of garter and stockinette and so casting them on offered a palate cleanser to the two colourwork projects I'm also dipping into whenever I have time. 

Progress is slow on this project, largely because I've had so little knitting time but also because I keep finding myself flipping back through the rest of the Toasty collection whenever I have it sat on my lap while I check directions for the mitts. I'm really drawn to the colourwork hats, especially those where the colour changes in a place that feels a little unexpected. It's really encouraging me to finish my current pile of works in progress and get to them. 

Toasty volume 2 (2).jpg

In the meantime though there's glorious Dovestone in a sumptuous blue named 'Eccup' and hours of pleasing garter ridge bumps. Magical. 

Useful links:

 

With thanks to Baa Ram Ewe for providing both the skein of Dovestone and copy of Toasty Volume 2 for review purposes. Opinions here are my own. 

Home and Away by Hannah Fettig

This sponsored blog post is brought to you by The Fibre Co. and views expressed here are my own. To find out more about sponsorship opportunities, please email me

One of the biggest responses that I have ever had to my podcast came from a throw away comment that I made recently, stating that there is a vast difference between the wardrobe I picture wearing and that which is actually in my wardrobe. It sparked a series of interactions from listeners who agreed that they needed some new wardrobe essentials that they could feel stylish and comfortable wearing each day. So when I interviewed Hannah Fettig recently for the podcast, I was really struck by her commitment to hand crafting a wearable wardrobe. I felt like Hannah understood the term ‘uniform’ without making me feel frumpy. I want go to sweaters that swing softly and fit well; Hannah’s latest book assures me that I can get there. 

Home and Away by Hannah Fettig

Home and Away by Hannah Fettig

Home and Away is Hannah’s latest (and entirely self-published) book.  The fact that the book is dedicated to Knitters and Adventurers let me know that while I will cuddle into my beautiful sweaters, I’m not meant to stay at home but live and explore in them. These sweaters are meant to be enjoyed and look good at the same time. 

In these pages you will find knits that will become 
wardrobe essentials—nothing ornate or precious, 
but pieces with simple lines
knit in wonderful, well-wearing wool.

- Hannah Fettig, intro to Home and Away

I looked at the digital copy of this book and instantly liked the smart features- easy navigation within the book, quick links to Ravelry and also linking to useful tutorials and other places to find Hannah such as Twitter and Instagram. The beautiful styling and incredibly helpful advice sections however are making me crave a paper copy- this book will get pulled from a shelf time and time again.  

Beautifully styled and presented knits

Beautifully styled and presented knits

There’s a few things that make this a new staple for my knit book collection for me:

  1. Smart advice- peppered throughout the book are sections such as yarn substitution, gauge issues and how to solve them as well as fit and finishing advice. This goes beyond a pattern book and somewhere much closer to a how-to for sweater knitters. With my recent commitments to a handmade wardrobe, I can see these pages becoming heavily thumbed as I return to sections for support. 
  2. Alternative construction- I love this flexible approach! Hannah offers both flat and seamless construction and talks you through the how and why you might want to go this route. I found this really educational as I have a real aversion to seaming which means I automatically reach for in the round instructions rather than thinking about which construction might flatter my shape more.   
  3. A new uniform- Hannah admitted that she tends to wear the same sweaters in her own daily life and I can easily see these patterns becoming staples in mine. The shapes are elegant and feminine without fuss or questionable details that might not age well. Highlights for me are the Moto Jacket, Rosemont and Boothbay for their flowing lines and great use of simple stitches that let beautiful yarn shine. 
Boothbay  by Hannah Fettig

Boothbay by Hannah Fettig

Moto Jacket  by Hannah Fettig

Moto Jacket by Hannah Fettig

Rosemont  by Hannah Fettig

Rosemont by Hannah Fettig

 

A note from Daphne at The Fibre Co explaining why she is supporting the distribution of Hannah's latest release:

I first met Hannah through a LYS in Portland, Maine during the early days of launching The Fibre Co. It took no time at all to realize the depth of her knitting talent and we soon began working together. Hannah started the I Heart The Fibre Co. group on Ravelry back in the day when we were all figuring out what we wanted to do and how we wanted to engage with our new way of connecting. I was there when the editor of Hannah’s first book recognized her talent at a trade show while Hannah was helping out in our stand. My connection to Hannah runs deep. 

When the opportunity came along to distribute Hannah’s books and patterns across Europe, I jumped at the chance. I knew that my time involved with Hannah’s publications would be enjoyable, but most importantly, I wanted to play whatever role I could to introduce Hannah’s gift to a wider audience. There isn’t a single design of Hannah’s that I wouldn’t knit and wear. With its nine highly wearable and very knittable designs, Home & Away is full of ideas, inspiration and heaps of thoughtful advice. The book is now available from The Fibre Company (UK) Ltd.

This Month I Wish I Was Knitting.... May 2015 Edition.

My handmade wardrobe thoughts are currently pretty rampant. I've been looking at shapes, yarns and my queue with fresh eyes. A ransack of my current wardrobe showed me that boxy tees in light  fabrics are my staple uniform. Also, I now own 3 denim shift dresses and that's not stopping me looking for more as I rummage in the local charity shops.  It's making me realise that I could do a lot more to complement things I already have and develop a stronger style than I usually have. This pleases me as the girl whose socks rarely match. 

This Month I Wish I was Knitting.... May 2015 edition

This Month I Wish I was Knitting.... May 2015 edition

So I'm reviving my monthly knit list with this top 5 (and a half) wishes for my Handmade Wardrobe. 

Hesperus by Bristol Ivy

Hesperus by Bristol Ivy

1. Hesperus by Bristol Ivy

Let's all get on the cocoon shrug band wagon. The Shift dress is a tricky layering piece and I think therefore I need a cardigan with an interesting shape. This is the perfect accompaniment for that shift dress uniform I seem to be falling into. I've been in Berlin for 3 days and I'm already craving this shape in a super urban colour as the cocoon like shrug is a must have round here. Also, Bristol reassures me there's only a very small amount of seaming. Sold!

Lobelia by Meghan Fernandes

Lobelia by Meghan Fernandes

2. Lobelia by Meghan Fernandes

I think it was while I was pondering my growing aversion to showing my arms that I fell for the cute shape and laceweight appeal of this little cardigan. If I'm going to get over this shift dress thing, I realised that summer dresses with cute skirts and proper waists are inevitably going to mean bare arms. This is where I think the lace weight cropped cardigan needs to make an appearance in my wardrobe. It's also got to be a pretty thrifty make with only 1-2 skeins required for making this unusually girly addition to my wardrobe. I think this kind of garment could be a game changer for me. 

Lus by Mer Stevens

Lus by Mer Stevens

3. Lus by Mer Stevens

Talking of lace weight handmades, I am very tempted by this little tee. I love the peephole sleeves and the colourwork. I also keep pondering what would happen if we took out the mohair and put in something a little less allergy inducing. Anyone got any suggestions for good substitutes? I'm all ears because this would get worn and worn over a simple tank as the evenings cool down. 

Starstruck by Dieuwke Van Mulligan

4. Starstruck by Dieuwke Van Mulligan

So how to reconcile these uncharacteristic feminine urges with my love of a good classic tee shape? Well, this newly published pattern doesn't hurt. It has a central lace panel for interest and calls for Walk Collection Delicate Silk. Cathrin's work is impeccable. This was an instant crush for me. I think this would pick up some of my go to days of my favourite pedal pushers made from cut off jeans and sandals (note to self, make more of these as store bought shorts are hideously short). 

Pellucid by Dieuwke Van Mulligan

Pellucid by Dieuwke Van Mulligan

(Incidentally I was torn between this and Pellucid which I still very much adore). 

Mitchell by Ysolda Teague

Mitchell by Ysolda Teague

5. Mitchell by Ysolda Teague. 

If you heard the interview recently with Ysolda, you'll know she sparked a lot of this Handmade Wardrobe obsession. It's no surprise to me that she released a pattern that is destined to become a regular part of my wardrobe. I love my baseball tees and jeans in the winter. I occasionally switch for  striped long sleeve tee but my love for the baseball tee remains strong. Imagine my delight when Ysolda brings out a cute version with lace sleeves? 

 

So it would seem this month has taught me to recognise my go to shapes and uniform but also where I can grow an existing style into something new and exciting. Interesting.... 

I'd love to hear yours! 

The Designalong: What Happened Next

When I announced the Designalong, I hoped it would be a chance for several independent designers to find their feet with the support of one another, Kate Atherley and whatever help I could give with ideas and tips on the blog. What followed was an amazing reaction of designers entering from all over the world and offering one another support and advice for weeks to follow. 

Sarah won the public vote and has been working on her final design. It's almost ready to publish and I can wait to see the final results. 

Here's how she is getting on: 

An Inspired 2015 by Sarah Schira

"After I won the contest, it dawned on me just how much I had to learn about writing and publishing designs. I’m used to heavily modifying patterns and even making up patterns for things I’m knitting for myself and others, but that’s different than translating something into text that others can follow.  It’s one thing to invent a cabled sweater for my daughter, and another thing entirely to contemplate it fitting many bodies!  Kate Atherley’s book Pattern Writing for Knit Designers was something I’d read as soon as it came out, but I soon (re)learned that reading along and agreeing with something is far easier than  reproducing it!

After a quick consultation with the three generous minds behind the contest, I went ahead and sent out the pattern to test knitters.  I’ve test knit, inlcuding Woolly Wormhead’s hats, but I was surprised to learn that it’s best to test knit before sending the pattern to the tech editor. Now that I’m partway into the process, it makes sense, though.  My eagle-eyed test knitters have found pretty obvious mistakes that my brain just skipped over because I knew what I meant.  It will save time for the tech editor who can then focus on less obvious aspects.

Right now, I’m using a new colour of Fyberspates Scrumptious Aran.  If you’ve been following along on my blog, you’ll know that colour selection is very important in order to make the stitch pattern show as a plaid.  See what a huge difference it can make?

colour swatching for plaid

But I managed to mess up a little when selecting colours - colour, especially colour tone, can be hard to see objectively.  I wrote about my troubles here.  That’s why I would suggest looking at your three colours in black and white.  You really do need a light, a medium, and a dark - at least to get the same sort of result.  If you’re ordering online, printing the yarn page off the website in black and white and then cutting out the squares can make it easy to see them side-by-side.  In-person yarn purchases are pretty easy to check if you’ve got a smartphone - the black and white filters will show you instantly what you’ve got in your hands.

Use black and white filters to help with colourwork

Use black and white filters to help with colourwork

I’m so eager to have this in a finished state that I can share with knitters!  And for people to see the wonderful colour combinations the test knitters have put together.

What’s exciting about this whole process is that it’s lit a fire under me to finally get to things I’ve been thinking about doing.  It seems that this year will be the year of trying new things!  For instance, not only am I working on publishing designs, I’ve learned how to film a tutorial and post it to YouTube.  I wanted to be sure that people who have trouble translating written instructions into reality had something to follow for the one-row buttonhole technique.  And now that I’ve done a little bit of filming, I’m wondering if my time has come to finally podcast. 

A lot of what’s going on in my life fits perfectly into A Playful Day’s “An Inspired 2015” theme.  It’s been a bit overwhelming as I struggle to learn all sorts of things from Ravelry uploads to YouTube policies, and from Canadian business law to how to chart stitch patterns using Excel.  To keep from overwhelming myself, I’ve got a few techniques for balancing inspiration and workload, and I’ll be blogging about them over at Handmade Homeschool tomorrow."

Sockupied Spring 2015

Do you love knitting socks?

I've always been a knitted sock fan so when Amy Palmer, editor of Knitccene and Sockupied issued a call out for reviews of Sockupied, I waved my hand enthusiastically. I'd been vaguely aware of the existence of this sock loving publication but hadn't really got to grips with it. Amy sent through the Spring 2015 edition and asked me what I thought. Here's what I found:

The Highlights:

A good balance of patterns and articles (5 socks, 2 articles and a couple of other fun things). The images are really supportive so you get plenty of sock pictures where you can see the construction and stitch patterns. 

This is a digital only publication. Previously, you downloaded an app on your ipad or straight onto your desktop to keep the file. Now it's gone PDF which means you can have it on whatever device you want. This is much better for knitters on the go and those of us who don't want paper patterns cluttering our already fit to burst houses. 

Mill Ends Socks  by M K Nance

Mill Ends Socks by M K Nance

The Patterns:

I liked the mix of skills I would need to make any of these socks. Each had a range of sizing and written as well as charted instructions. I was glad to see names I know like Rachel Coopey and Kate Atherley but also be introduced to less familiar to me designers like Mone Drager. This is for the sock enthusiast- plenty of techniques to work through and explore. 

Chain Socks  by Mone Drager

Chain Socks by Mone Drager

I also particularly liked the fact that there was a good mix of commercial versus independent hand dyed yarn. I know I go for crazy variegated for my feet because it's fun but I like to have a mixture to look at and see how something looks in a solid tone versus a self striping for example. It's good to see a bigger company like Interweave champion hand dyers. It can be hard to support with non repeatable colours but I feel like sock knitters are particularly drawn to hand dyers for their wild colours and fun. It was a good fit. 

The Articles:

I loved Kate Atherley's in depth look at how to modify knee high socks. I am now sorely tempted as I made one pair that sagged woefully and deemed them too much effort. Her clear explanation and the fact the supporting pattern is in speedier sport weight has me tempted, I won't lie. 

Kate Atherley's  Washington State Knee Socks

I wasn't as sure about the designer feature initially as it began with a very familiar format: introduce the designer (Coopknits), summarise their publications but then...? There was an insight into her favourite cocktails and shoes she likes to wear to showcase her socks; I really liked this! I tend to find I want something really in depth about a designer that goes deeper than a summary of their work or something different. This hit the spot. 

Laith Socks  by Rachel Coopey

Laith Socks by Rachel Coopey

Food For Thought:

I wasn't sold on the cut out and keep graphics on the final page. It seemed printer heavy to me even if it was meant as a bit of fun (the idea was a bit like a paper doll where you dressed a pair of feet with the socks from the publication). 

If you're a sock fan and want to get your download of Sockupied Spring 2015, you can do so at the Interweave store

Tune in this weekend for a sock based podcast and an interview from Amy Palmer, the editor of Sockupied!

Blog Week: Thea Colman of BabyCocktails

Tomorrow I will be publishing my answer to the 'beginnings' theme for the Love Your Blog challenge so hopefully see you there for the link drop and new creativity prompt?

Before then, you can enjoy some wonderful blogging inspiration to round off blog week thanks to Thea Colman. Thea is another of those knitting bloggers I discovered pretty early on in my voyage into knitting and the fact she combines her knitting with cocktails? SOLD!

Thea Colman the blogger & designer at BabyCocktails

Thea Colman the blogger & designer at BabyCocktails

"My name is Thea Colman and my blog is BabyCocktails, which is about my world of knitting and the  drinks.   And occasionally on the things that happen outside that in my travels.  To be honest, the blog has narrowed down these days to  mostly the knitting, and has less adventures lately,  probably because I adventure less and knit more these days.  But the drinks haven’t stopped…   

cocktails and yarn

cocktails and yarn

I started blogging for a business idea that never came to be, and just kept going with it.  I lived in a neighbourhood with a great bunch of women about 15 years ago and many of us had first babies and husbands who worked fairly late. By 4 or 5pm, there was always someone on the street who was ready to get together and make a drink and play with another grownup for a bit.  We called those drinks “babycocktails". 

I was knitting back then, and my friend Gabriella loved to sew and we had this idea to make baby clothes where we’d get thrift shop items and add edgings and borders and make them adorable and crafty while having our drinks. Our plan was to name that venture BabyCocktails.  So I got the URL and began blogging to test the waters a little, with the thought that eventually this would be our business website.  

I’m still very good friends with Gabriella, but that idea never took flight.  (The drinks may have gotten in the way of any actual planning or productivity.)  In the meantime, I just kept blogging about my knitting and whatever came to mind. By the time I started designing, the blog had enough of a following to keep the name and go with it.   

As I began designing,  the blog introduced me and connected me to the greater online knitting world.  Knitty had just begun, and other designers were coming out of the woodwork and it was great fun to feel like I was part of something besides my house and home.   And it gave me something to come back to and do each day. Reading other blogs and writing my posts were tasks that had nothing to do with childrearing and that was a great bonus in my day.  Plus, it made my fledgling little design business feel a little bit more real, as I saw page views and comments and felt  in touch with other knitters through the writing. 

The reason for the blog now is more about having a home for my business online.  I have so many Other Things to do, and the writing itself isn’t the a priority it once was, but it’s still fun and I do try to keep at it as best I can. I always use my blog when launching a pattern – it’s the between-pattern times that I need to get back to. 

Bailey's Irish Cream  by Thea Colman

Bailey's Irish Cream by Thea Colman

I focus mostly on my knitting, but I’m a bit chatty in real life – and on paper - so bits about my world always seem to seep in to the posts.  I don’t  walk around now thinking about what I’ll blog about, but usually I get the urge to share when I’ve just begun/finished a project – or when something great arrives in the mail, or I find a great drink.   

The non-knitting things I find bloggable are usually amusing moments  in my day that were vaguely knitting related - like the time  I found out there was a porn star with my name because another mother googled one of my hat patterns and informed me she’d  “found out” .  (The porn star is lovely but she spells Colman with an E, and I don’t think she knits, and she’s NOT me.)  Or the time I burnt an iron mark into the dining room table while blocking a sweater.  This week, I’ve been thinking about it as I’ve added something new to the bad art collection on my office wall. 

cocktail

The cocktails were not as important in the beginning, but once I started publishing patterns and naming them, I began to include lots of drinks.  So any time I have a new or unusual drink it makes me want to blog – especially if I can get a photo. My family and friends are conditioned not to take a sip of anything until I’ve had the chance to snap a pic. They roll their eyes and sigh sometimes, but they place the glass just so on the table for me and sometimes offer snippets for the post. 

Dark and Stormy  by Thea Colman

Dark and Stormy by Thea Colman

I think blogging showed me that I could put things out there. I’m not exactly shy in person, but I’m not overly confident.  Online, people can be much more black and white about what they want to hear or not, and comments and page views make you face the hard facts that show if people do or don’t care about what you’ve got to say.  It was intimidating.  

The fact that people actually came to my blog and that they were interested in what I was saying and what I was putting out there in terms of design was very empowering and I do think it gave me confidence to put more things out there.  It showed me that I could create something and that people would come for it.  Which was amazing – especially when you spend your days home with a toddler, saying inane things for hours, right?  So for years, I could write stories about my kids and my life and the drinks and the knitting and it made a thing that I was into and people liked.  I found I liked having that little stage, so to speak. 

I find inspiration all over the place – I think that once you get deep into any craft, you see it everywhere.  From sidewalk bricks to tree branches to museum exhibits to shop windows.  Sometimes I take sneaky photos of people on the street because I love That Cable or Her Neckline.   I just deleted 1,200 photos off my phone because I’d used up 8 GB of my storage taking photos of things I was absolutely, positively sure would lead me straight to my next design.   (About 1,100 of them were never glanced at again) but in the moment, I see something and that detail is IT, absolutely IT.   

Mostly, I’m constantly inspired by the industry I’m in – a beautiful yarn can take me down a rabbit hole, or a sweater collection that Brooklyn Tweed puts out can get me thinking about tweedy cables. Every time that Gudrun Johnston publishes a design, I am inspired to do something steeped in history, and every time Joji Locatelli publishes a flowy cardigan, I want to make something drapey with lots of stockinette.  

But I think that answer kind of gets into  my design inspiration – for blogging, my world is focused on the knitting,  and I so wish I could take those perfect photos of folded knits on weathered chairs, and steaming teacups next to skeins of cashmere on a marble countertops.  I’m inspired to work my craft more beautifully when I see those blogs, but I know that in real life, I’m sitting on an exercise ball in my living room or working with a thousand papers piled near the burn mark on my wooden table, and the light is never perfect and that ends up being so much more ME that I guess it’s what I end up talking about instead.  Because, let’s be honest – that’s my actual world, inspiring or not and it’s what I know best."