Patterns I’m Dying to Test Round #2

I have this problem where I get sidetracked from actual crafting with the prospects of new projects on the horizon. This week I have been making mittens in a desperate attempt to quickly get rid of some of my yarn stash. This confinement to simple mittens has got me lost deep in the pages of Pinterest looking for my next big project. Here are my top three picks at the moment.

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The Chocolate Stout by Thea Colman

The texture of this cardigan is unreal. I love the ghost baby cables and the deep ribbing at the bottom of the piece and ends of the sleeves. The pockets are also coordinated perfectly into this deep ribbing so they do not disrupt the swirling stripes of texture throughout the body of the cardigan.

 

 

 

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Perth Wrap by Naturally Caron with Cari Clement

I love the cabling on this piece. The staggered effect of the regularly twisted and untwisted cables add a lot of interest. The texture added by the seed stitching borders in combination with the purl stitch backdrop emphasizes the beauty of these simple stitches. If I was to make this piece I would make it in less outrageous colors, although the colors pictured strangely work together quite well. I would also alter this to be a cowl or long scarf instead of a wrap. Let’s be honest, wraps really aren’t that practical.

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Mystery Cardigan found on Tumblr

Something about this grungy dude and his Navajo sweater is really inspiring. Maybe it’s the mustache or maybe it’s the retro color palette. Whatever it is, it makes me want to gather some weaving books and re-purpose some traditional designs.

 

No copyright infringement intended, all images can be linked through the hyperlinks back to their original sources.

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Boyfriend Sweaters–Not Just for Boyfriends

f3bf5e98b1dbcabadcd2fc9f970f6038Bruce Weinstein and Jared Flood  have joined their knitting superpowers once again to create this book. Weinstein knows how to design classic unisex garments while Flood knows just how to photograph them. These two knitwear superstars have created a book that is both useful and beautiful to look at.

Boyfriend Sweaters” is divided into four different technique chapters that focus on the said technique. These chapters are, Line and Drape, Texture, Reversibility, and Color. Each chapter begins with an introduction into the technique and a list of tips and how-tos that will be used in the chapter. After this intro section there are four or five projects dedicated to the techniques explained. Each chapter is then concluded with a brief personal essay. These little essays are a sweet way to end each chapter as they are both informative and a cute look into Weinstein’s life. The first essay addresses the curse of the boyfriend sweater, that being that if you make a boyfriend a sweater while you are just dating that your relationship will be doomed.  Though I don’t expect any issues to come about, this was something I did not know and wish I had known before I spent two months making my boyfriend the Jared Flood designed sweater ‘Brownstone.’ Another essay talks about Weinstein’s connection with one of his father’s sweaters that he stumbled upon after his father’s death. Each one is a nice little anecdote that made the book more about the process of making a sweater than about the end product.

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Bruce Weinstein

One thing about the book that I found particularly interesting were the tips on each project page that are intended to help the knitter choose more masculine or feminine colors for the patterns. Weinstein really worked hard to make a book that is not limited to a just female or just male audience. I appreciate his attempts at creating flexibility among knitters.

At least half of the sweaters in this book seem to be worth making, while the other half are able to be adjusted to be worth making as well. I am not a fan of intricate color work or off center zippers, or zippers on a knitted piece of work period. These factors turned me off of many of the patterns but I do believe these offensive features can be easily removed and replaced to conform with my classic knitwear preferences. The best sweater in this book is one that I  plan on making immediately as a Christmas present for my Dad. It is the Shaker Cardigan with can be found in the ‘Texture’ chapter. It is a simple button up v-neck cardigan in a classic shaker rib stitch. It is pictured in a lovely heathered chocolate brown in the book. I know that if I made this sweater for myself it would be the only thing I would wear for the rest of my life. Throughout the book I have found that Weinstein’s designs are their strongest when he sticks to a simple, clean cut, and natural style.

Although the book is entitled “Boyfriend Sweaters” not all of the projects are sweater patterns. When I discovered this I was a little disappointed as I had hoped for a comprehensive collection of classically shaped sweaters that can be easily adapted to fit and represent the style of the people I would make them for. Where there could have been  five more sweater patterns, there were four scarf patterns and a hat pattern. And of those extraneous patterns only three of the scarf patterns are worth looking at. I have no idea how the double knit scarf and hat in the Reversible Section even got into the book. The colors used are garish and the patterns are way too gaudy to be in a book of natural toned sweaters. Perhaps this was the publisher’s choice as they know that the majority of knitwear book buyers are older ladies who enjoy this sort of thing.

Overall, I am glad to add this book to my collection of reference and pattern books but it did not quite meet my expectations. I would recommend it to knitters who are looking for jumping off points for their own designs. For Weinstein’s next publication I ask him to add a pattern for a simple, shawl collared cardigan in a natural fiber and tone. If he publishes nothing else in his life, let it be that pattern.

Afghan Addiction

Crocheting afghans is one of my favorite things to do. I love the process as it is both intensive and relaxing. It is also incredible to see something that began as an idea form in your hands into reality.

DSCN0301Yesterday I completed a hexagon afghan that I started in mid-January. The multi-colored hexagons were made from scrap yarn that I have been hoarding throughout my crafting career. I love that all color families are present in this afghan.

Each hexagon is bordered with two rows of double crochet and are then joined in a raised join with single crochet.

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I used a classic granny hexagon motif pattern. You can find many adaptations of the granny hexagon on Ravelry.

It measures out to be approximately 40″ by 56′” making it the perfect size for a living room throw or a child’s blanket.

 

DSCN0343I can’t wait to have a better photo shoot with this one and get it listed in my Etsy store.

Super Stitches–The Must Have Book Series For All Designers

The world of free patterns for handmade items is endless. Unfortunately most of those patterns are made by old ladies who haven’t looked in a fashion magazine since 1975. So, when searching for patterns I often give up and turn to a set of books for stitch inspiration. These books are Super Stitches Knitting and Super Stitches Crochet. These two books offer hundreds of stitches that can be adapted to create miraculous hats and cozy afghans that bear your signature style.

super stitches knittingSuper Stitches Knitting is a true piece of art in itself. The photography is simplistic and clean and the sample swatches are created from quality materials and a beautiful color palette.  This book has an extensive ‘knitting basics’ section that covers yarn, abbreviations, how to read charts, basic techniques (knit, purl, cast on, bind off), and caring for knitwear post-production.This book showcases a thorough sampling of all stitches you might want to try and even includes some fair-isle color work charts and motifs in the back of the book.

 

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Super Stitches Crochet is a much more practical book. Though the swatch photography style is much the same as Super Stitches Knitting, the actual stitch swatches were created in an exclusively retro variety of colors. Though this design choice does not detract from the helpful qualities of the book it is distracting to look at lovely stitches in putrid colors. This book also has an extensive ‘crochet basics’ section that covers basic technique (chain, single crochet), abbreviations, how to read charts, and how to care for your pieces. The book offers a huge variety of mesh-type crochet stitches as well as an extensive section dedicated to Tunisian crochet techniques. If you are interested in Tunisian crochet this book is a great resource this as much of the free information you can access online is muddled and confusing.

These two books are must-haves for designers, due to their great basics review section,  clear stitch tutorials, and sleek design.

A Fiber Artist’s Online Toolbox

I strongly believe that the creation and explosion of the internet has allowed for the recent resurgence of DIY culture. This is because the internet is a place where we can all interact, share tips, and create tools that make these sometimes scary DIY adventures not so scary. This kind of collaborative culture is especially prevalent among fiber artists. Knitters and crocheters have built a huge interactive community via the internet and have developed some useful tools along the way.

Some of the best tools include:

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Ravelry–If you are an avid knitter or crocheter and you have not made an account on Ravelry, do so immediately. In making an account you gain access to an extensive catalogue of patterns of all types that can be searched much like a yarn-centric Google search engine. The best part about Ravelry is that each pattern page contains a tab called projects that showcases what other users have made with the pattern. They can then write about the process of making the project, what they modified, and what materials they used. If you complete a project from a pattern on their site, you may also contribute to this peer review process. As I have become more serious about yarn crafting, I have turned to these peer reviews and evaluations of the patterns to decide if this project was worth the time and effort it would take to make. Another helpful feature of Ravelry is the Yarn Stash section. In this section Ravelers (as they are called on the site) can upload images of yarn they have tried and write reviews.

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Biscuits and Jam Stripe Generator–If you are a color lover, this little tool could not be more helpful. If a project that you are working on needs a little dash of stripy goodness, you can fix that problem here. Simply choose the approximate colors you wish to use from the palette available, choose the stripe widths you like, and the number of total rows for the project you wish to make. Then click Generate My Stripes to see your stripe pattern. If you don’t like the first generation, feel free to hit the refresh button to see another with your previous specifications still in tact. This site is also good for straight up color inspiration.

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Knit Pro–Knit pro is a web application where you can upload any image and turn it into a knit or crochet graph for intarsia or stranded color-work. Simply choose the image file you wish to use, the size of the graph you would like, and what type of craft you are doing (knit, crochet, needle-point) and hit submit.

What is your favorite online tool for yarn crafting? Let me know in the comments and we shall discuss.

In Defense of Red Heart

red heartRed Heart yarn has a questionable reputation among the new wave generation of knitters, crocheters, and fiber enthusiasts. Red Heart products are known as low quality, extremely low price, and are often only thought of as ‘practice yarn’ for children and those new to their chosen yarn craft. Though these claims are true in some respects about the Classic, and Super Saver lines of yarn, they do not extend to their other product lines.

Red Heart has recently made a very obvious effort to catch up with the knitting community as it shifts and changes from prolific grandmothers looking for a good value to calculated artists looking for quality. With approximately 40 different lines of yarn now, Red Heart is able to offer their basic yarns in hundreds of colors as well as newer innovations that allow creators more variety.

My two personal favorite yarn collections offered by Red Heart are relatively new to their lines called Eco Ways and Debbie Stoller. The Eco Ways group is made of three differentRH Eco yarns, the Bamboo Wool blend made of 55% bamboo and 45% wool, the Eco-Cotton blend made of 75% recycled cotton and 25% acrylic, and Eco-Ways made of 70% acrylic and 30% recycled polyester. These eco-friendly yarns use environmentally conscious fibers and print all of their labels on recycled paper. This sort of sustainable thinking is necessary in any setting and being able to maintain it when crafting is a huge bonus. All three of these yarns are very soft and easy to work with. They also all come in a very unique variety of colors that are specific to the dye-ability of each of the fibers used.

RH debbieThe Debbie Stoller collection is composed of four types of yarn that are all centered around the inclusion of natural fibers. These four yarns are Alpaca Love made of 80% wool and 20% alpaca, Bamboo Ewe made of 55% bamboo and 45% wool, Full O’ Sheep made of 100% wool, and Washable Ewe made of 100% superwash wool. Of course, in true Red Heart fashion all four of these types of yarn are offered in a huge variety of colors with a focus on bright jewel tones.

These yarns can be bought in most chain craft stores as well, so there is no need to hunt online for a mass distributor. Red Heart has made quality craft materials accessible to everyone with the introduction of the Eco Ways and Debbie Stoller collections thanks to their always low prices.

Which Red Heart products have you tried and liked/hated? Let me know in a comment so we can compare notes.