2018 Year in Review

My Christmas weekend got derailed by a stupid cold. Needless to say, all that talk of starting a new sweater was just talk.  I’m on the mend and making such good progress on the old projects, I can’t bring myself to start something new just yet.  Instead of new knitting progress, I’m walking down memory lane and looking at all the things I have finished this year.   It’s been a good year for FO’s!

According to Ravelry, I’ve finished 57 projects so far, that’s 23 hats, 2 cowls, 5 sweaters, 11 shawls, 3 blankets, 6 stuffies, one set of baby mittens, a pair of socks, two pair of leg warmers, a flying pig and a yarnbombed bicycle…it sounds like a lot when you say it that way!

Of course, quantity doesn’t matter if none of it is useful or appreciated.  A lot of what I knit is gifted, this year, that means my new nephew Marcus!  So far, he’s been pretty appreciative…happily stuffing everything I’ve sent him into his mouth.   Most recently, it’s been this guy…Rebecca Danger’s Lil Love Slug.

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Those eyeballs are perfect for teething on!  After that, came Mom.  Of course, she appreciates everything too.  Her current favorite is this Pebble Beach Shawl in yarn she dyed herself!

I really liked knitting Pebble Beach and it’s great to wear.  I definitely want to make one for myself.  My favorite piece of knitwear in 2018 was probably the lone sweater I finished for myself.

I liked it enough to start a second one right away.  Unfortunately, it’s been ignored for months.  Any day now, I’ll pick it back up!

Despite all this knitting, I’m pretty sure my stash grew this year.  I tried as hard as I could to use it all up but I managed to visit new yarn shops in four states, adding yarn at each stop. (Not to mention Vogue Knitting Live and Stitches West.)

Certainly my shopping this year tended towards the green family.  And like always, I’ll say 2019 is the year of no yarn shopping.  I made it until February 1st in 2018.  Hopefully I’ll make it longer in 2019.  I take yarn collecting very seriously but I’m running out of places to put it.

And oh yeah, I haven’t mentioned that Mom dyed me a new batch of lovelies for Christmas.

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The left is a set of colors on a merino-yak-alpaca base and one the right is a set of colors on Miss Babs Kunlun base, a merino-cashmere-silk base!  Wooo!  Turns out Miss Babs sells partial naked skeins for a steal!  I’m guessing it’s her version of mill ends, little odds and ends that she can’t use but thanks to Mom’s penchant for finding sales, I will definitely use this skeins for something fun!

Now, it’s time to think about goals for 2019.  More Sweaters!  Finish my current sweater.  An RBG Sweater.  A Pebble Beach.  Lots more nephew toys.  AND NO YARN SHOPPING!  (ha…yeah right.  wish me luck!)


 

Jimmy’s SmartStix Needle Review

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I’m happy to have my needles clicking again…I don’t have much to show for my renewed efforts though…at least not on my Striped Esjan Shawl.  It’s going to be scrunched on the needles and hard to see for a while longer but I’m transitioning to the border so next to you see it, at least it’ll have new colors to look at!

In the meantime, let me tell you about Jimmy Beans new SmartStick knitting needle + tape measure combo.

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Firstly, because of the recent kerfuffle with Making Things, I’ll tell you, I paid for these needles because I wanted to try them.  I’m not being compensated for this review.  I’m not getting kickbacks.  There’s no affiliate links (or links at all.  If you decide you want the needles, I’m sure you’re clever enough to find them on your own!)

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So, the gimmick here (and yes, it is a total gimmick) is the needle has 1″ segments marked from tip to tip so it can double as a tape measure.

I’m firmly in the camp that says you measure with a ruler.  It’s the Elizabeth Zimmerman camp and she’s never wrong.  The logic here is you want the most accurate measurement and the firm edge of a ruler provides that.  Measuring flat on a table with a tape measure isn’t so bad but there’s still flexibility and wiggle room with that method.   Firm edge = best possible measurement.   Measuring with the floppy cord of a knitting needle (with knitting attached?) on your lap will never give you an accurate measurement.  I will never use this needle in that manner.  Seriously, I’m nixing this idea from the very beginning.

That said, I’ll step off my soap box and acknowledge that is not what the folks at Jimmy Beans are encouraging.  They say themselves on the package ‘for quick & dirty measuring on the go’.  Okay fine.

I’m really just in it for the needles.  I’m a die hard Addi fixed needle user.  I really do knit faster with the amazing Addi Turbo.  That’s not just lip service but I’m open to trying other needles.  One day something better than an Addi fixed may come along.   The SmartStix happen to be Knitter’s Pride needles, which I’ve never used.  There’s lots of things I like about it.

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The join is smooth.  The tip is pointy but not so pointy that I impale my thumb.  I’m an occasional pusher.  I don’t do it all the time but when I do, I don’t want a needle so sharp it hurts.  The 1″ segments along the barrel are joined nicely, they don’t catch or snag.  I like the foil packaging with the sturdy zip top.  I store my needles in their original packaging, clearly the intent of this bag.

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Personally, I prefer my needles a bit more slick.  In my mind, Addi’s are slick, not slippery.  If you think Addi’s are too slippery and you lose stitches off the end, you’ll enjoy the finish on these needles.  The feel of metal without the slipperiness.

The cord is soft and pliable despite being on the thick side.  It’s got a nice suppleness to it. It’s not stiff or inflexible.  I like the cord.  The markings on the needle barrel are engraved so no rubbing off.  I think the marks on the cord could wear off over time.  I tried my best to scratch one of the spots off with my finger nail.  I couldn’t so I think that bodes well for those who are into the tape measure gimmick.  It’ll require a lot of use before those marks show signs of wear and tear.

Ultimately, these are nice needles and the price is right.  I like them fine but they’ll never become my go to needles.  I wish they weren’t pink.  They’re color coded by cord length, 16″ are red, 24″ are blue, 32″ are green and 40″ are pink.  You get what you get.  40″ size 4 is my most used size so I went with it.  I’m sure it will get use…I always want to cast on another shawl.  I’m not rushing out to buy the interchangeable set or even another pair of the fixed needles though.

Now…on to that shawl edge!  I’m ready to tackle those 600 stitch rows!


 

Artist in Residency

This week, I’m the Artist-in-Residency at a lovely, quiet retreat in the sunny hills of Santa Clara.  Aka, cat sitting out in the burbs.  We started our time together with an afternoon photo shoot.  The boys cooperated…at least for a few minutes.

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They’re friendly kitties so I had a shadow all afternoon.  Like when I scoped out the chainlink fence as a potential cross stitch photo spot.

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I got a late start so I missed the best light but this was a good practice run.  I’m always looking for new places to take Etsy photos.   A backyard with a bunch of random stuff in it, is a treasure trove of spots, just waiting to be discovered.  Like the random carpet or this great wall…

 

In the city, we’d call this a park!

Maybe the ‘burbs aren’t so bad!  I mean, how can I be mad when I’ve got a driveway to use all week!?  It’s been decades since I’ve known that feeling!  Woooo!


 

Ribbit, Ribbit.

 

I could spend this time telling you about the cute little raglan pullover I started for my nephew.  It’s fall, that means tweed time.

I could rant against the designer who called it a ‘simple raglan’ but then used a highly modified version of raglan increases.  Only a problem because the pattern is so jumbled with other useless information like this gem ‘NOTE:  sl markers as you come to them’ that I didn’t bother to read the actual pattern.   The 9 other ‘NOTES’ about things such as the definition of work even and the fact that this is a top down pullover cluttered the page to the point that I didn’t bother reading any of it, until it was too late.

Sure, it might be my fault for not reading it, and subsequently assuming that a simple raglan meant 8 increases, every other row.  Obviously, I should have read the pattern and discovered that the author meant for me to do 12 increases every 3rd row with twice as many increases going into the sleeves.  On a different day, I’d be pretty annoyed with that convoluted bullshit being called ‘raglan shaping’.

That’s not actually my problem today, though.  Today’s problem is stupid wordpress.  Anyone else having a heckuva time getting photos to display in the editor properly?  I’ve been having trouble with my account for a couple weeks now.   The photos just aren’t loading properly when I need them too.  I suspect it’s because I’m at 90% capacity for my photo storage.  I can upload photos no problem but getting them from the upload stage to the posted stage is driving me crazy.

I’ll start a draft of a post, return to it a few hours later and the photos, while still in the post as they should be, just don’t appear.  Unsure if a picture is where I want it, I’ll return later hoping it shows up…sometimes it does, sometimes I’ll have to fight with it for another hour to get it to work.

I like to post a lot of photos and I use the mosaic arrangement a lot.  That’s pretty dependent on being able to see the photos.

It’s incredibly frustrating and it certainly doesn’t inspire confidence when it comes to giving wordpress more money to upgrade my account to the unlimited plan.   I’ve tried avoiding high traffic internet times, hoping that would make it easier for photos to appear as they should but nothing seems to be helping.

I’d contact wordpress help, but have you ever tried to email them?  They aren’t exactly helpful.  It seems like they copy & paste useless info that I could have found myself in the help files.  And given the email nature of it, it’s not exactly rapid communication.

So, dear readers, I turn to you, anybody have difficulty with photos appearing in the editor?  Can anyone confirm my suspicions that it’s due to being near capacity?  Anybody upgraded to the unlimited storage plan care to speak highly about it?

In the meantime, I’ll be sulking in the corner and ripping out my sweater progress.

 

Work in Progress Thursday

‘What have you been up to?’ is such a generic question.  It’s in line with ‘How are you?’…it’s hard for me to be anything but dismissive, when faced with such questions.   I haven’t been at work at all week.  I don’t know what I’ve been doing.  Am I supposed to actually stop and think about it and then recount all the things I’ve done this week?  Funemployment is different every day and remembering is hard work, okay?

Thank goodness for the iPhone…how else would I know what I’ve done?  Photo stream to the rescue!  I don’t have to remember what I’ve done…there’s pictures of lots of it!

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And, that’s not all…My Dragon Fade shawl is finished!  Mostly…I’ve still got a few ends left to weave but I’ve been wearing it anyhow!  Pics tomorrow!  It’s gorgeous…I love it!


 

VKL Fashions

One of the things I liked most about the San Francisco version of Vogue Knitting Live was getting to do everything.  The small size of the event meant I had time to do all the things…shopping and classes, yes but also stop at the measurement station, the line wasn’t a mile long.   Catch a couple fashion shows, because they were in the same ballroom as the marketplace.   Stroll the Rowan 40th anniversary collection that was being displayed and get up close and personal with original pattern samples!

Vogue had Josh Bennett’s Marvel collection on display as well as the cover sweaters from the current fall issue and a sneak peek at the brioche collection that’s going to be featured in the next issue!  The next issue could be good!

Let’s start with the current issue.  I have issues with this current issue.  In true Vogue style, they manage to mangle classics and bomb in the biggest way possible.  It’s start with the cover.  Easter colors on a fall cover?  What?  No!

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I’m no traditionalist and you may have noticed how much I enjoy color.  This cover just really grates on me.  I complained to everyone who would listen.  At the Vogue publishing booth, I told the woman.  She said ‘would you rather have the European cover?  We have it and the content is the same, just a different cover?’  Of course…it was still pastel.   No!

This particular cover choice has irked me since it was released.  It had not occurred to me, I’d get to see the actual sweater in person!  There it was waiting for us, right at the top of escalator into the marketplace, along with the rest of the yoke sweaters from the same issue.

I’m not saying it’s a bad sweater.  Not at all, it’s a lovely sweater, just not the cover sweater.  Especially when the rest of the collection is perfect for fall!  Of course, hotel lighting was awful, so click here if you want to see how beautiful these sweaters are.  The bottom right sweater is a lovely soft turquoise color with rust and burgundy accents in the yoke.   That is a redhead’s dream!  And a perfect choice for the cover…what were they thinking?

The cover is nearly forgivable though.  Maybe they were trying to think outside the box or be fashion forward or some shit like that.  Fine, the actual garments are great.  Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

The same can’t be said for their next choice.

BOOB TASSELS??  WTF?  I mean, seriously?  How did any fashion editor,  anywhere, think this was a good idea?  NO.  That’s a lovely sweater that has been turned into an abomination.  I still can’t really process what is going on here.  The number of hands this had to pass through to become part of the magazine and no one thought to question it?  Or perhaps feature the sweater without ridiculous boob tassels.

Maybe it’s all a setup.  They’re prepping us for boob fringe, which will seem rather normal by comparison?  There’s really no good explanation for it.

The brioche sneak peek from the winter issue is much better.  Nothing completely ridiculous or rant-worthy, except maybe poor lighting.

Two raglans, a cardigan, a yoke sweater and a wrap, all in brioche.  I think this issue will be popular.  I see potential for wearable garments, in lots of colors, at a range of skill levels.   Let’s hope they don’t fuck up the cover!

Josh Bennett’s Marvel collection, I think these sweaters have been at a lot of Vogue events already but I really liked getting to see them!

Writing knitwear patterns for men’s garments is a thankless job.  I don’t think we’ll ever see patterns for these sweaters but they are terrific garments.   They were designed as part of a hand knit collection that retails for about $1300.  Honestly, that’s a great price for a hand knit sweater.  I would charge you more.  :)

The was one more set of sweaters on display, a collection celebrating Rowan’s 40th anniversary.  This gown was gorgeous!  Knit from Kidsilk Haze and adorned with Swarovski crystals…oh la la!  They even sent it down the catwalk during the fashion show.  It was great to see it on a person!

And, of course, there were plenty of samples on the marketplace floor to be inspected as well.  I really liked this cashmere cardigan, probably the zipper that sucked me in.

The collar was folded over, sandwiching the top of the zipper.  Interesting way to almost do an encased zipper while giving the collar enough bulk to stand up.

Maybe a design feature for my next cardigan?  There’s certainly a wealth of options here to think about!  Seeing all these garments in person is great inspiration, even when it’s inspiration about what I don’t want! The results of failed experiments should never be underestimated!


 

Snips n Zips with Franklin Habit

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My Vogue Knitting Live class was ‘Snips n Zips’ with Franklin Habit, aka steeks and zippers.  I’ve got experience with both techniques but I’m always looking for ways to improve my finishing and add polish to my knits.

I’m happy with my steeks, but you can see my zippers buckle.  They’re definitely passable.  I wear that brown sweater, my Rhinebeck Sweater from a few years back, frequently.  They are not perfect though.

I’ll just get straight to the money shot because this is a perfect zipper!  I couldn’t be happier.  Those lines are so lovely.  I’m really pleased with my work.

The big secret?  Basting the zipper into place before sewing it down.  It helped immensely.  The buckling in my previous zippers is due to the fabric shifting as I sewed.  It’s something I, especially, need to combat.  Loose fabrics like I knit, shift a lot as they’re being stitched.

Always sew zippers at a table, was Franklin’s other advice.  Allow the table to support the weight of the garment.  That will help stabilize everything and making sewing easier.

So, I’m super happy with the zipper portion of the program.  I will say though, I do not prefer Franklin’s method of steeking.  He teaches the slip stitch crochet method.

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And he teaches it very well.

He’s got great visual aids, both drawn and 3D.  That board represents 4 rows of 5 knit stitches, the center stitch being the one cut.  With a very large crochet hook and lengths of thick i-cord he demonstrates precise hook placement and stitch formation.  It’s so helpful.

He’s an extremely experienced teacher, having presented this class to over 2000 students.  Even before that though, he tests all his classes on a group of volunteers back home and really spends time thinking about where students run in to problems and how to avoid them.  Simple tips like always sew with the zipper closed.  It’s a simple observation and a simple adjustment.  I like not having to reinvent the wheel.

All that said, I don’t like the crochet steek method.  I did it in class to be a good sport and see if my dislike was still reasonable.  It is.  Here’s why…bulk.  I’ve got plenty of my own bulk.  I do not need garments adding any extra.

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On the right side of the swatch, you see the slip stitch crochet method.  On the left side, my preferred technique, a sewn reinforcement with a simple backstitch.  When the stabilizing stitches are sewn like this, you’re putting a lot less yarn into it, it makes perfect sense that it would be less bulky.

Of course, I’m also basing my decision on Lopi.  The yarn you cut influences these decisions in a big way.  Sticky wools barely need any stabilizing stitches at all.  If I was using a superwash wool, my choice might be different.  (Like don’t chose superwash wool!)  I might consider a crochet steek at that point.

Franklin had lots of samples for us to see.  Much to my surprise, the lovely blue and grey floral vest he knit was from a superwash, Lorna’s Laces Sport.  Slip stitch crochet steek and it’s a gorgeous garment.  Certainly not showing any signs of unraveling.

 

Of course, the first thing I did was turn it inside out.  How does Franklin finish garments?  Turns out, his insides aren’t all that different from mine.  If you work with precision, those details just fall into place and sort themselves out.

The biggest difference between our work is gauge.  Firmly knit fabrics are not my thing.  Franklin’s gauge is unbelievable to me.  My homework was knit with Lett Lopi on Size 4 needles.  Franklin just happened to bring a tea cozy he made with Lett Lopi on Size 4 needles.

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It’s tough to get a sense of drape without the samples in hand but look closely at the stitches and you’ll see.  There’s daylight between and behind my stitches, you can see the looseness.  Look at his stitches, they’re tight and closely packed.  No daylight there.  Same yarn, same size needles, both knit in the round…completely different fabrics!  Moral of the story:  Gauge matters, take time to do a swatch or three.   It’s true.  Sorry.

SO, I had a very good class experience.  My only real complaint, Vogue makes the teachers collect their own materials fees in class.  We had a $5 fee for the zippers.  I’m not faulting Franklin for collecting it but I know how much zippers cost (less than a dollar) and I know how much I paid for this class ($125).  And Vogue couldn’t afford to toss Franklin a few extra bucks for materials?  It was a sold out class.  How cheap are they?  Also worth mentioning, they materials fee was not on their website so we didn’t even know about it.  I poked around, other classes had their fee listed so I’m sure it was an unintentional oversight but c’mon…it’s not like this is their first rodeo.

As for the rest of the classes I talked to people about, seems the bad stories were overwhelming.  All those good things I said about Franklin, they were missing entirely from other teachers.  No class notes, no long history of teaching, no thought and intention put into curriculums, no well oiled classes.

Instead, it was first time teachers, people who are instagram famous for designing shawls but can’t teach worth a damn.  Designers who can sell patterns but lack quality public speaking ability.  Authors who changed class itineraries with no notice.

I was surprised at the big name knitters who put out substandard classes.  It’s too bad. Conventional wisdom around here said VKL gets better teachers than Stitches but after this weekend, we need to rethink that idea.  I’d say it’s more accurate to say VKL gets bigger name teachers, that’s not to say they can teach at all.

There was one other guy who got very high marks though, Josh Bennett.  He did not disappoint!  I had a feeling he’d be a good teacher.  I watched him mentor designers throughout the course of Skacel’s Fiber Factor.  He provided great insight into the design process in those videos and the importance of editing.   If you haven’t seen the Fiber Factor, you can check it out on YouTube.  It was an attempt at giving knitwear designers a chance at reality tv style design challenges.  It didn’t last into a second season but I definitely learned a lot about designing knitwear by watching it.

Anyhow, Josh Bennett…he’s a yes!  Stay tuned tomorrow for lots of sweater pics, including the sweaters Josh designed for Marvel, inspired by Black Panther and a sneak peek at the garments in November’s issue of Vogue Knitting!