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A Sweater for Me

This one is mine.

For all the time I spend making things, very little ever gets made (or mended) for me.  I may sew for a living, but my wardrobe is riddled with holes, frayed cuffs, and is frequently held together with safety pins.  In what was quite a departure for me, as well as an excercise in discipline, I decided to both knit down my stash and be the beneficiary of the enterprise.

My sweater is off the needles, though yet to be blocked— and it needs it.  It is something of a bastardization of the beautiful Hiro pattern.  I used inappropriate yarn, lengthened the cuffs and added thumb holes, widened the collar, eliminated any waist shaping.  I still plan on adding pockets, but I haven’t decided where  or what style yet.  I made it ridiculously large to wear cross country skiing over leggings finished just in time for — ummm— spring.

I'm a big fan of thumb holes.

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Bee for a Cause

bee for a cause

In cooperation with The Syria Refugee Mission of the North Shore the next Bee in the Barn at Todd Farm will be be a collection site for donated handcraft supplies to be contributed to NuDay Syria’s frequent shipments of humanitarian aid to two refugee camps in Syria.  These are communities of primarily women and children who have very little opportunity to build a better life.  Textile and handcraft tools and materials will provide these women the ability to develop a vocation and a means of support for themselves and their families, as well as the much needed supplies to enrich the lives of a community teetering on the edge of sustainability.  Sewing Bees have a long tradition as community gatherings for a common goal.  In that spirit, at the next bee we will be accepting donations of any handcrafting material or supply you would like to contribute.

When:  March 19th, 1-4 pm.

Where:  The Barn at Todd Farm, 275 Main Street, Rowley, MA

What to Bring:  A handwork project of your choice and a friend!  This is a free community gathering open to all with a love of handcraft and community.

What to Donate:  Any handcrafting material or tool, including fabrics, sewing supplies and notions, yarn, knitting needles, sewing machines; to name a few!

NuDay Syria is a 501c-3 non-profit dedicated to providing humanitarian aid to displaced Syrians. They are particularly focused on creating safe environments and opportunities for single and widowed women and mothers. For more information, visit NuDaySyria.net .

For more information, please contact Jess@jwrobel.com.

 

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The Chunky Alpaca Cabled Afghan Knitting Pattern

Chocolate Cabled Afghan

The sounds of my home waking up in winter are quite different than the warmer seasons when the windows and doors are thrown wide open and we are roused by the birds and the wind.  In the colder months, we are closed up and tucked in, insulated from nature’s alarms.  When I wake before light to start my day, our winter home offers the comforting morning sonata of the gurgling coffee pot, the furnace kicking in followed by the soft whir of the blower, and the gentle snores of my dogs (and sometimes husband) as they all linger in dream land.  It is this winter soundscape that will always be audible memory of writing this pattern.  Up before the rest of my household, my knitting would expand with the growing light.

Chunky Chocolate Alpaca Afghan

As winter projects go, there is none better than this alpaca throw.  Steaming cup of coffee beside me, I’d work tucked beneath the warmth of my work in progress watching the sun burn the mist off the field outside my window.  Core spun alpaca is a sensory joy too work with and it’s working weight would gently nudge my sleepy muscles to wakefulness.  Finishing up at over 6 lbs, this throw is a physical project with big broad movements as undulating cables are manipulated and the throw is rotated from row to row.  Back and forth.  The greatest pleasure may be rewards of seeing such a large project work up so quickly.  Knit on size 50 needles, progress is swift.  Cast on today and you will be snugly tucked in beneath your completed blanket in no time.

cream alpaca afghan in progress

The Chunky Alpaca Cabled Afghan is available as an instant download in my shop.  Happy Knitting!

Ombre Chunky Cabled Afghan

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The Eyelet Baby Kimono Wrap Knitting Pattern

The Eyelet Kimono is designed with Cumbria by The Fibre Co.

A number of years ago I came across a pattern for a simple baby kimono.  There were a lot of things I liked about it, but there were also a lot of things I didn’t.  I’d been brooding over how a kimono I designed would differ for quite some time before I finally put pencil to paper and needles to yarn.  The beautiful Cumbria by The Fibre Co helped spur things along.  As soon as I had sample in hand, my head started whirring with the possibilities.  Finally, after many stops and starts.  Knits, tinks, knits, tinks, pencil scratches, recalculations, tear outs it has all come together and my newest pattern is now available in my shop.

The Eyelet Kimono is designed with Cumbria by The Fibre Co.
The Eyelet Kimono is designed with Cumbria by The Fibre Co.

I’ve always been a texture girl, and Cumbria excels in its stitch definition.  I really wanted to create an interesting visual and I’m a sucker for a YO.  After much fiddling, I devised an all over eyelet pattern I was happy with.  The other thing that I really wanted to achieve with this piece was beautifully finished edges that did as they were told.  No rolling or buckling or bad attitudes.  I-cords came to my rescue at every start, stop, and turn.  From the cast-on, certain bind offs, and all along the neckline I-cords were my design friend.  It took a bit of re-work of the traditional I-cord edge to accommodate the quick decreases along the neckline, but tiny little short rows did the trick.  I really couldn’t be happier with how the whole thing came out and am already working designs for companion pieces and variations for different skill sets.

The Eyelet Baby Kimono

 

I’ve also stocked my shop with three beautiful shades of Cumbria to get you started knitting right away!

Helvellyn, CumbriaWindermere Cumbria by The Fibre CoScafell Pike

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Swatching Daydreams

It should come to no one’s surprise that when I say that I need to knit down the stash or de-stash it is really me just readying an excuse to buy more yarn. “It’s a mental illness,” to quote a friend. Yep. And I’m refusing therapy.

Gorgeous skeins of Fino by Manos del Uruguay.

This week the studio is filled to the brim with my first shipment of Manos del Uruguay yarns. I’m thrilled to be carrying so many beautiful skeins and am itching to begin designing with my new fiber friends. Somehow I ended up grown up enough to be showing a little bit of restraint, though. I’m intent on finishing up the pattern for the Fisherman’s Bunting, a project that requires much counting and my wrists are filing complaints against cables, but even still my days are busy with no idle hands and my imagination is running wild with new designs to come.

Swatching with Fino, I feel like I am knitting a sunset.
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Designing Fall

My version of heaven may just involve a crisp chilly night, curled up in my favorite chair with a good mystery and a glass of wine. My dogs scattered comfortably around me (and not trying to regain my favorite chair). The alternative, however, might be a crisp autumn morning with everything the same except for coffee replacing the wine. Either way, my head is daydreaming of lush knits and–um, yes…. Soup.

I confess, if I could create a world that was singularly Fall, I’d be in heaven. Soup is my soul food that carries me through 9 mos of the year, and Autumn heralds the return of the Soup Days. As you may or may not know, I Cook. My kitchen gets a much better workout than I ever do. That said, I don’t agonize over my cooking like I do my stitching. I may re-knit the same 3 inches a dozen times to achieve perfection, but I have never made the same sauce twice—merely close approximations of favorite flavor combinations. I refuse to measure. My cooking style is decidedly rustic. I will only peel a vegetable if I’m seriously doubtful of the outcome otherwise. My potatoes, carrots, and apples hit the pot as clothed as the day they sprouted.

Designs progress eagerly, but slowly while the soup simmers.

I frequently wish myself able to tackle my knitting with the same reckless abandon as my cooking. But knitwear design is more about undoing than doing most days, and swatching only tells half the tale. Each stitch needs to be carefully plotted and counted, deeming each soft undulating cable a math equation rather than a recipe for comfort. All that said, the thick luxury of the woolens beneath my fingers inspire me to keep knitting and tinking and knitting and tinking. Much like soup, it feeds my soul. And I always have the joyful wild freedom to add to my stash carefree to balance out the duties of design, whether my wallet appreciates that or not.

The buttons remain to be chosen, and I think I'm going to ask Dave to make something special for this.
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The Cabled Earflap Baby Cap: A Knitting Pattern

Big sigh of relief.  This pattern is finally complete!  It’s the most challenging pattern I’ve written to date.  That is, challenging to write, literally.  Hopefully, I’ve devised a pattern that is easy as pie for you to read and knit.  There are detailed instructions for less experienced knitters, and those of you who have a few more miles of knitting under your belt should be able to take it and run.  Lots of pictures (and big thanks to Sara Jensen Photography for the best ones!), helpful links,  and in the end you will have one cute topper for your favorite babe.

Enjoy!

Cabled Earflap Baby Cap, photo by Sara Jensen Photography.
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Swatch Along No. 2: The Accidental Swatch

First Try
That's Better

I love my unwavering belief that I am going to just sit down with my yarn and needles and whip something new out.  Beautiful.  Inspired.  And get it right the first time. I apparently refuse to learn.  Things like this happen.

I had my favorite delft blue yarn, Terra by the Fibre Company, and  a vision.  I wanted to make an infant’s earflap cap with subtle cables and a nubbly moss stitch border.  Seemed like a good plan.  I wasted a little time doing some math before I dove in with much gusto.  The first earflap was well underway.  Hmmm.  Not sure that is what I had in mind.  Starting at the bottom of the flap, I made my increases by knitting into the front and back  of the first and last stitch of the designated rows.  Somehow, though, it just seemed sloppy.  Misshapen.

Try again.

For version number two I used the same number of stitches–same number of border stitches and everything–but I made my increases on the interior of the border stitches instead of at the outside edges of the piece.  On the designated increase rows (which happen to be RS rows) I knit my border stitches in moss stitch then M1B.  I continue across the earflap until I’ve reached the last set of border stitches.  Here, I M1F and then finish my border stitches.  I find it fascinating that the exact same number of stitches, the same yarn, and the same needles can make such different swatches that are so decidedly influenced by how you choose to make your increases.  As you can see, the second swatch has a much rounder shape and also a neat and clearly defined border that the first was lacking.

The final results!
side view
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Swatch Along No. 1: Cable and Ladder

I know this is knitting heresy, but I’m usually no fan of swatches.  I find the little buggers an inaccurate determinate of guage.  When I knit a four inch square, I inevitably work at a different tension than when knitting a full size piece.  Besides, it just slows you down and keeps you from getting to the fun stuff—starting your project.  However, what I do appreciate swatching for is the creative exploration of learning something new.  It is easy to get into a rut with your knitting, especially for someone like me who is a production knitter.  I’m always in such haste to get the next piece out that it is important for me to remember to slow down, look at a different stitch combination, and expand my horizons.  Besides, it is a great way to use up some remnants, too.  So.  I hauled out my fabulous copy of A Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns by the Barbara G.  Walker and picked a place to start.

Cable and Ladder

Cable and Ladder

What appealed to me about this pattern is the unusual combination of cables and lace.   I find it striking, actually.  The pattern is a fairly straightforward 14 sts panel by 8 row repeat.  It is easy to learn and memorize.  If you aren’t already familiar with knitting abbreviations, click here to follow along.

For Flat Knitting:  Cast on a multiple of 14 sts, plus 1.  For my first swatch, I used the Fibre Company’s Fingering Canopy Yarn and size four needles.  I cast on 29 sts.

Set-up Row (front side):  Knit

Row 1 (and all other odd rows) :  k1, *p2tog, yo, p11, k1, rep from*

Row 2:  k1, *ssk, yo, sl next 3 sts to dpn and hold to back, k3, k3 from dpn, k6, rep from*

Row 4:  k1, *ssk, yo, k12, rep from*

Row 6:  k1, *ssk, yo, k3, sl 3 sts to dpn and hold to front, k3, k3 from dpn, k3, rep from*

Row 8:  repeat row 4

And there you go.  Repeat rows 1-8 as needed.  What I like best about this pattern is that it lays nice and flat, so it would be wonderful for scarves, shawls, or collars.  It would also make a beautiful insert panel in a sweater or jacket.  I actually want to experiment with combining this knit with some ribbon running through the bits of eyelet.  Hmmm.  We shall see.

Note to you In The Round Knitters out there:  If you want to knit this stitch pattern in the round, cast on a multiple of 14 sts ONLY and join for the round.  Knit one row.  Your first row of the pattern and all other odd numbered rows should be worked as follows:  *k2tog, yo, k11, p1, rep from* .  Even numbered rows are worked as listed above.

Variation:

Cable and Ladder Variation

This second swatch is knit with the Fibre Company’s Terra on size 9 needles.  Here, I wanted to expand the border sts a bit to mimic the stitch pattern between the cables.  To do this, cast on the desired number of sts (multiple of 14, plus 1) and then add 4 more sts.  This will add 2 sts to the beginning and end of each row.  So, on a right side row, k2, work the stitch pattern to the last 2 sts, k2.  On a wrong side row, k1,p1, work stitch pattern to last 2 sts, p1,k1.

And there you have it.  Your turn!