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Monday, May 25, 2009

Does The Yarn Matter?

Most novice knitters have so much to take in as they learn different stitch patterns and techniques that they pay very little attention to which yarn will make their project outstanding. I understand. It was very long time ago when I started to knit, but I remember very clearly what I felt and how I moved from step to step to become a better knitter. At first you just want to get it. Your practice yarn and needles do not matter. After awhile you want to make a project that will show your skills and makes you proud. So you come to the point of choosing a “real” yarn for a “real” project. If you are using a certain pattern for this project, the designer is suggesting the yarn for it. What if you want to change the yarn? Let’s say your friend gave you a few balls of yarn and you want to use it. For the sake of staying on the topic we are not going to discuss how to change your gauge (we will assume that the yarns are very close in weight) and we will not talk about anything complicated like a sweater. Instead, we will take a scarf pattern. You could start thinking about the color, softness (important for a scarf, right?), content (especially if you are allergic to some fibers), price, and length of the yarn. Everything seems to be fine. Is it enough information? Could be.
I will tell you about my recent experiment with one of my patterns Lacy Scarf from Casual, Elegant Knits. I made it out of three different yarns.This is the first scarf that I have made with this pattern. The yarn is
Gioiello by Filatura Di Crosa in Fingering weight and is made out of Mohair, Wool, Nylon, Cotton, Acrylic and Metalic. The scarf is very light. It shows the stitch pattern beautifully.
When I needed to choose the yarn for this scarf to go with the book projects, I changed the thinking on this scarf. It became heavier, yet more glamorous, with more functionality to it. There were two yarns used this time. One is very thin Kid Merino from Crystal Palace Yarns and the other one is La Boheme from Fiesta Yarns which is made of two strands: luxurious rayon boucle and brushed kid mohair. I had to use less stitches and bigger needles this time. Very recently, I had to make this scarf for a workshop from the yarn that this shop had on hands.The yarn is called Glimmer from The Alpaca Yarn Co. It is made out of Polyester and Alpaca. It also has a little metallic thread going through which is hard to see on this photo, sorry. The thickness of the scarf is in the middle of the first two. It is definitely more sporty looking and because it does not have that much fuzz, the stitch definition is more pronounced.
I have used the same pattern, but different yarns for this "non-intentional experiment"and I have to say that my heart is still with the first scarf. I think it is because my design was for that yarn, that was my vision and it came out exactly as I wanted it. I also am in love with the white version. The yarn I used brought a luxury look and some dreamy qualities to the design. To me it is a totally different scarf. The last one is too close to my first one and it is very hard for it to compete. I think it is the least favorite one for me. It looks nice, but it is not want I was hoping to achieve. I did not know it when I was asked to use this yarn. It looked very suitable to me.I did not have much of a choice, really. Do not misunderstand me, I love the result, but it is not the same as I hoped it to be.
So, my suggestion to a novice knitter: make a good swatch and look at it. The yarn is a crucial component of your project and you want it to be right. Good luck with your yarn choices.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Brioche in Green

Before I tell you about the scarf, I wanted to mention that Marnie MacLean interviewed me and a few other designers on her blog right here. If you read my blog, you saw my plates. One of them was this one. The yarn is Lorna's Laces of two colors and the pattern is from Casual, Elegant Knits. As you see I had such fun at the "photo shoot" of this scarf. When we were working on this book, I wanted to make sure that the "usual thing" with brioche does not happen with this scarf. If you are not familiar with this basic brioche stitch you probably do not know that if you do not take special care of the edges, one side of the scarf will bow out and the other one will be straight. It took me some trying and figuring out before I got this result. Do you see my nice edges? Now you can do this too. It is part of the pattern. The stitch pattern is easy and the final product is lovely and soft .

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Using Excel for calculations in design work

I have to say that Excel is a wonderful program. It can do so much when you know how to use it. My knowledge of it after taking classes and using it for work is still very minimal. I am working on expanding it at least to the point that I am not spending hours on grading for sizes (calculating all the numbers for about five different sizes). My few templates are done now in a way that I can manipulate them for different stitch patterns. It is still work, but the organized one. Designer Marnie MacLean has a great tutorial on how to use Excel for designing purposes. I followed her format, but changed many entries to fit my own logic as I follow the pattern and calculations needed. She has other free tutorials as well, if you are interested.

Did I mention that my daughter made a very nice brunch for me on Mother's Day? We started with this wine that she brought from her recent trip to Napa Valley's Hess vineyards. After some wine and cheeses we had a delicious salad with shrimps followed by fruits. I felt very special. So nice to have grown children.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Yoga+walking+knitting=happy

Going to yoga class is doing wonders. It is an amazing place and I join people who are able to isolate themselves from the world for an hour. It is contagious. I just wish I can do what they can. I have to be patient and I will be there. I am not new to yoga, but I had a big break, so I have to be at the beginner’s level. It is fine with me.
Walking and hiking was always my first choice of exercise. I love to walk for 2-3 hours and listen to the music or just look around and think. I do not do it every day. There is so much to do in a day that 3 hours devoted to just walking seems insane. I try to go for one hour instead. This I can justify.
Knitting. Well, if you read my blog, you know by now that this is one of the things I just have to do. I got this bug at 8 years old and it never left me.
So, conclusion is: if I am able to do all three every day, I am happy; all other things are done and all people around me are dealing with the happy person. Can we all vote for all three components be accomplished daily? Anyone out there feel the same? What makes you calm and happy?

Friday, May 8, 2009

Black Sea

I was waiting for this for some time now. This month a new book called Knitting in the Sun by Kristi Porter will hit the shelves. I do not have a copy yet, but it will come in the mail any day now. From what I saw already on Ravelry it is going to be a fabulous book. I am a big fan of good photography, so this book besides its great patterns (and they are great!) is a delight in that sense as well. The photoshoot was on the beach of San Diego. Do I need to say more?
I am very proud to be a contributor to the collection of designs in this book.
Here is my Black Sea.
I named it after a beautiful Sea where we had our honeymoon and a family vacation in a few different spots around there. Good memories. This skirt has a look and a texture that I would wear if I were back there.
There will be a blog tour soon, so you will see more of the designs and hear more stories about the making of this book. For now, enjoy my Black Sea.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Top Down Sweater

I have a little break between patterns and wanted to comment on top down sweaters. My latest design is worked from the neck. This is going to sound nostalgic, but many, many years ago, when I lived in Russia, I made lots of sweaters from top down. I guess I was tired of it and for many years I did not use this construction. Last January I went to TNNA in San Diego and took a class taught by Stefanie Japel . I loved the calculation method she introduced in this class. I always used the neck circumference as a stepping stone. She is going off the shoulder width. This picture was taken after the class. It is me, Stefanie and Simona Merchant Dest. Simona and I had a lot of fun at TNNA. I wish we lived closer, so we could see each other not only at TNNA.
Back to the top down construction. If you never tried it, I recommend it highly. It is a very fast knit. Not so fast to design this way with a complicated stitch pattern. I just did this and told my husband that if this exercise for my brain will not help me with Alzheimer's, I do not know what will. But seriously, I loved it. I am going to do more of this. If you are interested in this construction and want to learn more about it, I recommend these two books: Fitted Knits by Stefanie Japel and Custom Knits by Wendy Bernard. Both books have very nice patterns and written in a way that you can learn and do your own design.
Enough of a break. Need to write two more patterns.