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Thursday, March 18, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: TOGETHER OR SEPARATE

I am looking at the beautiful book by Ann McCauley on my desk and do not want to put it back on the shelf. The cover is so beautiful that you want everyone to admire it. When I first looked at this book I was very curious to see what projects does it include. Some books invite you in but there is not much to see after you pass the cover. I was pleasantly surprised to find patterns which are chic, well made, well styled, beautifully photographed, have interesting details, and very flattering for many figure types. There is a variety of patterns for every "knitterly" taste: socks, headbands, skirts, tank tops, cardigans, sweaters, and even a dress. Some are complicated and some are not. The idea of reviving a twinset is taken in this book to a different point from what you normally expect. Ann McCauley offers a thought that a twinset does not have to be a tank plus a cardigan. How about a pullover and wristlets, or a cardigan with matching socks, or a sweater and a skirt? Of course, there are "old" twinsets as we know them as well. Here is one of them. There are plenty of projects to keep your interest no matter how experienced you are. Instructions are very clear.
To explain why the focus of this book is a "twinset" the author writes in her introduction:"...Hollywood in its glamorous era of the 1940s helped make the twinset a star. By 1950s, the twinset was walking the halls of colleges and high schools..." I thought it was beautifully written. There are many interesting twists in this book. For example, the "Alphabet of musing" at the beginning is an interesting read which is full of great tips on knitting techniques as well as tips on how to keep your hands and back from aching when you are working on your projects. We all can use help there. Ann combines her artistic background as a dancer with her passion for knitting in a very unique way that comes through in her designs. She teaches dance, healing arts, and knitting. You can watch her in the Knitty Gritty episode called "Delightful Details". You can meet Ann when you take her classes. Her upcoming classes are at Sedalia Spring Fiber Festival and at the Estes Park Wool Festival on June 10. You can see more of Ann McCauley's designs on her Ravelry page.

I hope I sparked your interest in the work of this designer and you will check her book out. You will see that the book is all what I said and more.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Driver's Cap Stories

In Casual, Elegant Knits I have s a few hat designs. I do like hats and enjoy making and wearing them. When Dawn and I were putting our book together, we knew that we should have a hat that complements one of the outfits for a man. The result of our discussion was the Driver's Cap. I am very proud of this design. I think I was able to achieve a good balance of the form for this hat and the fabric that holds this form. The construction of this hat is very much like a real English driver's cap that is sewn from a tweed fabric. I wanted to stay with that look as close as I could. The Close Stitch pattern and slightly multicolored yarn Autunno by Di. VĂ© made the fabric look like a tweed. The first hat I made was a flap. It was fine for a giant, but too big for a normal man's head. The second one came out perfectly and that's the one you see in the book. All of the designs from this book are on Ravelry.com. Although in the book this hat was introduced as a man's hat, from the very beginning we thought of it as a unisex projects. That's why my Monique is wearing it also. There are already some projects made by knitters from our book. I asked two wonderful knitters if I can brag about them by sharing their photos and Driver's Cap stories. So, with their permission, here is what they write:
Aimee made this hat for her husband as a gift for their 17-year anniversary. She used the yarn called Tweed by Plymouth Yarns. Here is what she said: "Finished this hat while we were in our bed and breakfast room in Mendocino the weekend of our 17 year wedding anniversary! The owners of the inn helped us find some plastic to fit into the brim and all I had left to do was sew it up…Bill proudly wore it into town that evening where we did some shopping and got our massages and to a nice restaurant for dinner…" I think, Aimee, you did a fantastic job! Thank you very much for letting me to share this with everybody. I also want to say thank you to Bill for modeling.

Denise made three hats for Valentine's day gifts. She commented on her page :"It was very refreshing to finally knit a pattern that was ERROR FREE! Yes, people! This pattern is very well written! No need to guess at what stitch comes next, during the decreases!"
She also said about her two hats for her niece: "I have taken pictures of my neice wearing her Suprise Valentine Gift! She started dancing in place, like a little girl when she seen it and could not wait to try on the cap! She loves it so much so, that she wanted to model each colour! Each cap is worn with a top that I have also knitted. Sooo, it looks like I may be making more for my neice!"
Thank you, Denise, for your kind words and excitement about this pattern. You did an incredible job on all three hats! My thanks to both of your models and especially to your beautiful niece who posed for you and I hope she will enjoy wearing the hats you made for her.
It just cannot get any better for me. I love to see that people share my passion for knitting and appreciate what I do. I hope you enjoyed to see other people's projects. If you made something from this book, please let me know. I would love to brag about you here:)

The book can be purchased through Amazon, Martingale and Co., local yarn shops like HeartSrings Yarn Studio, or through this blog.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

New Tutorial Video on Decorative Cast-on

I just posted a new version of the video. I think it is a better one. I am still learning, people:)
I use this cast-on for many of my designs. The latest is in Spring Twilight Pullover.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

And the Toe-Up goes to...

Hi all! Thank you all who left the comment on the post about the book. I wish I had many books to give away, but I have only one here. I wish all of you who want to learn more about sock knitting good luck. There were 60 comments and many people were voting for Kat and Laurel. So, the tally was: 18 people for Kat and 16 people for Laurel. This means...CONGRATULATIONS, KAT!! YOU ARE THE WINNER OF THIS BOOK!
Kat, please e-mail me with your address where you want me to ship your book. By the way, it is signed by the author, Chrissy Gardiner.
It was a lot of fun. Maybe we will do it again some day.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Galina Khmeleva's Class at Stitches

Ever since I was a little girl, I admired Orenburg Shawls (also called Gossamer Webs) that some people owned around me in Russia. They are so beautiful and gentle-looking, that they make any woman who puts one on feel like she is immersed in luxury. Nobody in my family had this shawl, so I never really saw it very close. I also was in awe of the workmanship of such shawls. It was not even in my vocabulary to say that some day I will be knitting one of those. You know, some things you look at like they are in the museum and it is not anything that you can just make yourself. When I saw books by Galina Khmeleva where she not only talks talks about the history of the Orenburg Shawl but explains how to make them, I bought them and put them on my shelf with the intent to get the right yarn and just jump into this big project. Well... I never really did. The books are still staring at me from the shelf and I know what they are thinking... O.k. I admit. I was scared. This is not your ordinary knitting. I did not have the right yarn either.
Last year at Stitches I have met Galina Khmeleva who was teaching classes on lace, but I did not take her class. I wanted to do that, but so everyone else. Her classes were sold out very quickly. I was happy to have a chat with her at that time and I thought that she was very interesting. I felt like I know her for a long time. That alone helped me to get into the mood of taking her class. So, this time, a year later, I did. It was a 6-hour class. We made all kinds of swatches, listened to Galina who was telling us about history, practicality of these shawls, stories of her life related to this topic. She showed us how to design with these patterns, how to block the finished shawl (that on its own is a spectacular presentation) and many many other very useful things. Since I am teaching professionally, I have to say she worked so hard and I imagine she was sooo tired after that class. I did not notice how tired I was until I got in my car with my friend Mary Beth Temple to go to a restaurant. I did not know the area near the Convention Center of Santa Clara, CA, but I knew the area in San Jose where there are many restaurants. So, we were talking, I was driving following my GPS lady's directions. When I realized that we are going in the loops, I knew I was tired and did not really do what I was told. I was so grateful that Mary Beth, who was very hungry and tired, was not angry with me. We did have a nice dinner after all.
The result of my taking this class is that Galina took my fear away. I probably would not attempt to make a big shawl. I do not think I will be using it if I did. I can definitely see myself designing a smaller shawl with the techniques and elements of Orenburg shawls. I am energized by this wonderful teacher and you might see my designs inspired by her. Watch the interviews on the Designer's Studio. She will participate in this project soon.