Thursday, November 4, 2010

Detail Oriented: #64 Saone

There are so many wonderful patterns in this issue of Verena Knitting it's easy to miss some of the more subtle details of the designs. To highlight some of these potentially overlooked details I plan to write about them in this space, knitting up examples of interesting stitch patterns and treatments.

First up is #64 Saone, by Tina Hees from our "On The Street" collection of fall cardigans and jackets. It's a very versatile, wearable design in a lovely angora/silk yarn. The lines are clean and straightforward, with crisp narrow ribs adding interest. But what's easy to miss unless you really stop and examine the picture is the cabled button band, which frames the buttons and adds a feminine touch of curve to this crisp design. I knit up a swatch with button bands on either end to feature this lovely detail.

Another nice touch is the way the ribs along the bottom edge continue up into the body of the sweater, and then rejoin the ribbed edging of the collar. 

(The buttoned up photo looks like a sleeve, because I sewed the buttons on my swatch and buttoned it to show off the band in action. There are no buttons on the sleeves.)
 I couldn't get my hands on Julia, the recommended yarn for the project, but I did happen to have a skein of Valley Yarns' Deerfield in Sweet Pea, which has the same 80% angora/20% silk blend. This is a wonderful soft yarn that I really enjoyed knitting up. It has a subtle halo from the angora and a sheen from the silk. Stitch definition is excellent, I think it would make a good alternative for those in the US who don't have access to the recommended yarn.

While the pattern calls for 3mm needles, to achieve 6.25 stitches per inch, the ball band of Deerfield calls for 5-5.5 stitches on 4mm (#6 US) needles. I chose 3.25 mm needles and achieved a gauge of 8.1-7.8 stitches per inch. (As I grew more comfortable with the stitch patterns my gauge relaxed. This illustrates nicely the wisdom of knitting a large swatch. I would continue swatching and adjusting before settling on a needle to tackle the sweater with.

When it came time to bind off I decided to experiment with binding off in pattern part of the way to see what it would look like. The in-pattern bind off resulted in picot like bumps, and the flat bind off was neat and flat and more in keeping with the clean lines of the design.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Maker Faire NY! Rocket Yarnbomb!

NY Hall of Science & Unisphere.
Last Saturday I spent the afternoon teaching knitting at the TNNA Stitch Zone. For the first time ever Maker Faire came to NY, hosted at the NY Hall of Science in Queens, on the site of the 19964-65 World’s Fair. It was a great 21st Century event with people making everything from the practical to the ridiculous. Surrounded by commemorations of the beginning of the Space Age, Maker Faire got back down to Earth, with contributions from the Madagascar Institute, Steampunk creations, a Technology Tent, a Craft Tent and sundry Makers such as a pottery wheel made out of a lawnmower and its very own Yarn Bomb.

Just outside the Craft Tent, the Stitch Zone was stocked up with yarn, knitting and crochet needles, needlepoint and cross-stitch kits and an ever shifting group of volunteers armed and ready to teach needle crafts to the uninitiated. When I arrived, there were a few people teaching, and I picked up some good pointers watching them. There was a mid-day lull, and it was a convivial bunch so for a while it felt like the first meeting of a knitting group where no one knows each other yet. Soon enough curious fairgoers, as well as makers from other areas, began wandering in, eyeing that big pile of yarn and wondering if they could play with some of it. We tried not to pounce on them, and eventually everyone got to do some teaching.

One woman was naturally inclined to hold the yarn in her left hand, so I showed her Continental knitting which gave her a better way to hold the yarn in the hand she was already using.  I’ve tried to show right handed people this way to knit, but until they’re comfortable with the needles and yarn (two needles + yarn = three hands?) many aren’t ready to consider using their left hand this way.  That’s the fun of teaching: sharing what you know and watching someone have that “Aha!” moment. Many of the volunteers that were there have taught a lot of people and I felt that I learned as much from watching other people teach as I taught to the novice knitters who came my way.
Lessons would continue until people felt comfortable with what they were doing and were ready to move on. They would try to surrender the yarn and needles, only to be given bags to carry them home in so they could continue practicing. Everyone left happy with their kits of needles, yarn, and information about yarn shops in the area and websites where they could find more help. Hopefully we’ve hooked a few more into the fiber arts. 

As I wandered around after my teaching stint was over I found the Burda sewing booth. I must confess I had a traumatic experience in middle school home economics and I’ve been intimidated by sewing machines ever since. Both of my incredibly skilled grandmothers, as well as my grandfather, a tailor, would turn over in their graves to know the sad neglect my sewing machine endures. So I decided that if ever there was an opportunity to face that fear, this was it. Mere feet away from where I sat at the machine, people were riding on the Jet Ponies. Suddenly, a sewing machine didn’t seem so scary.

I picked out some fabric and ribbon, a kind volunteer reminded me how to operate the basic controls of a sewing machine, and I made myself a little project bag! Isn’t it pretty? I feel empowered to tackle the machine I have at home, since this one didn’t yell at me or sew the seams crooked or bite my fingers. I think I’ll take another look at the Anna magazines I have and see what small projects I might start off with. 

As I continued my wanderings, I encountered my first ever Yarn Bomb in the wool! I took some pictures and went in closer to meet, finally, Robyn Love. She's a Queens-based fiber artist and Yarn Bomber that people in my community have been telling me for some time I should meet. What a wonderful way to finally connect with her! The knit and crochet squares were sewn together and placed on the Gemini-Titan missile in Rocket Park, appearing from a distance as if they were flames from the jets. Robyn was inviting passers-by to attach a “message to the universe” onto the squares which would metaphorically blast off and carry the messages into the beyond. It reminded me of the Tibetan prayer flags that carry blessings on the wind to the countryside. It was a beautiful Yarn Bomb,thanks Robyn, next time you need help with some Yarn Bomb knitting, let me know!


Friday, September 24, 2010

Maker Faire at New York Hall of Science

Maker Faire NY is this weekend at the NY Hall of Science in Queens, near the famous Unisphere. I'll be teaching knitting at the TNNA booth, under the GIANT KNITTING NEEDLE tomorrow, Saturday the 25th from 12-4. This promises to be a wonderful event on a beautiful day, so if you're in the NY metro area looking for something to do, check it out! There will also be volunteers teaching crochet, needlepoint, cross stitch and other needle arts, so if you're a knitter who's wanted to learn more about any of these crafts, you should stop in for a free lesson. Or just come and say hello if you're a fan of Verena. Bring the whole family, this event has something for everyone. Knitting! Robots! Food! Did I mention Knitting?

See you there!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Maker Faire NYC

Just a quick note to say that the Fall issue of Verena Knitting will be arriving in subscriber mailboxes next week. We know that many of you treasure and save your knitting magazines, so we took a little extra time to put the magazines into protective covers before mailing. The digital issue should also be available next week and newsstands and bookstores should be stocked up the following week.

For those of you who are in the New York area, I will be in the TNNA booth teaching knitting at the World Maker Faire at the New York Hall of Science, on Saturday September 25th from 12-4. I'm sure no one reading this needs me to teach them knitting, but if you're going to be there do stop by and say hello! It promises to be a really fun family event all about making and doing things for yourself. I've never been to one of these so I'm really looking forward to it. If you haven't been to the Hall of Science, it's a wonderful place to visit with your kids, there's a highly acclaimed Science playground and Rocket mini-golf in addition to permanent and visiting exhibits.

Friday, September 10, 2010


For those who are interested in something a little more daring, the Fall 2010 issue of Verena Knitting has this audacious design by Barry Klein for Trendsetter Yarns. Using 3 different yarns in a dramatic diagonal stripe he has created a dynamic coat of many contrasts. Employing Dune a blend of mohair, nylon and acrylic, Merino 8 Shadow 100% wool, and Othello which combines alpaca, wool, polyamide, and cotton to great effect, this coat will turn heads every time you wear it.
Also in the magazine, easy to miss under this coat is this classic crew neck top. Knit in fine gauge yarn it will be an elegant staple in your fall and winter wardrobe.

And finally, an alternate view of our cover design. This cozy hooded tunic vest, is seen in the magazine only from the right, obscuring the asymmetrical zipper placement and exterior pocket detail that add to the trendy "inside out" look.

Monday, September 6, 2010

"Pantheon" by Norah Gaughan

"Pantheon," by Norah Gaughan, sleeve detail
It's Labor Day today, which means that the hot, humid weather will be coming to an end soon and knitters will be digging out their large needles and wool and daydreaming of sweaters. I love knitting lace, and I've been having a great time knitting up the Orenburg Shawl, but I am also looking forward to more substantial projects.

Fall is the perfect time for knitted coats, and there are several beauties in our Fall issue. On my recent visit with Margery I snapped some pictures of a couple of them that deserve a closer look than you get in the magazine.

First up, is this unusual design by Norah Gaughan. Made with Berroco Blackstone Tweed on size 8 needles, and constructed of pentagons, you can start knitting the smaller shapes for the sleeves now and not find yourself knitting the larger pieces until the weather has cooled off enough to make that welcome. Before you know it, there'll be a nip in the air, you'll want a light coat and find yourself nearly done! 

Berroco Blackstone Tweed is soft and luxurious with a wonderful, lofty texture. The mohair and angora in the blend give the yarn all the visual appeal of tweed but none of the scratchiness.

The design is so subtle it's really not easy to photograph in a way the does it any kind of justice. You can see the different directions the knitting takes in the pentagonal design, but you'll have to trust me that this gem is so much better in person than pictures can convey. 

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Fall Preview!

Last time I posted I promised some pictures of designs from the Fall issue. As it turned out I had to put aside the Orenburg shawl (that chart is too large for travelling) and go on the road to rendezvous with some of the samples on their way from Germany to a Trunk Show here in the US.

I joined up with Margery and the designs and we had a photo op.

First up is a soft, wonderfully drapey, dark gray stole. With all the beautiful sweaters and coats parading through the pages, you could easily miss it in the magazine. Just a stole. But what a glamorous, versatile accessory for Fall! Here's a view in silhouette:

Also in accessories, I got a closer look at this lovely cowl. It's sparkly and light and the detail of ribbons tied into the yarn is not so easy to see in the long shot from the magazine.

I could see it worn in a number of dramatic, inventive ways. It's wider than a scarf, so you could wear it like a hood, twine it like a scarf or drape it like a shawl. It will knit up quickly without a lot of technical details, the yarn will do most of the work for you and people will be very impressed when they find out you made it!

Stay tuned, the next installment will be: Coats.

Now that I'm back home, I'm reunited with the Orenburg shawl and I'm so glad I've color coded my stitch markers. The row counters tell me which row I'm on, but the design repetitions have gone out of my head. It was much easier knitting through a row to have the colors of the markers change when the lace repeat changes to remind me what I'm doing.

I've used small hair ties, they're readily available, come in a multitude of colors and one package contains enough for several projects at once. Here's how I organized them: the red one on the right and the green one on the left separate the border stitches and tell me which side is which: red for right. The orange markers mark the "pine cone" repeats around the outside of the triangle, and the blue markers the diamond shapes in the center. Not only do they tell me which motif goes where, they make it easy to find those 1-3 stitches of patterning on wrong side rows, tell where the missing yarn over is when I drop one and figure out (in case I forget to turn the row counters) where I am by counting the stitches in between motifs, since they change every other row.

Why do I need to many mnemonic devices? That's another story altogether.