Podcast Episode 7: To the Moon and Back

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WATCH NOW:
http://www.podcastgarden.com/episode/to-the-moon-and-back_15365

What makes a good knitting pattern or kit? I review the Over the Moon sock kit as an example of how to do it up right. Also in this episode: how do you go about making the transition to a career in the fiber arts? By request from a couple of viewers, I talk about my own story and what I’ve learned about the joys and perils of making that change. The technique video today shows two ways to create a smooth join when joining your knitting into the round.

Mentioned in this episode:

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Boys’ knitting roundup #4

Time for another roundup of recently published boys’ knitting patterns! This time around, we’re looking for some color to cheer those of you stuck in week bazillion of gray, cold weather. (As I type this, it’s 75 degrees here in Texas. Before you shoot daggers out of your eyes, remember that you can have your own moment of Schadenfreude when we here in TX have had our 40th straight week of 100+ degree temperatures.)

ImageFirst up, a design to keep your eye out for: the Benjamin pullover by Gabrielle Danskknit. The pattern is currently being tested, but will be released next month. Wouldn’t this be a fun use for some leftover bits of colorful worsted yarn? Maybe even some leftover bits of handspun?

ImageThe pattern will come in an impressive range of sizes, from newborn up to 12 years—and the simple, charming quality of the design can easily support that kind of size range. The garment is worked top-down, so there’s very little seaming—just the kind of quick knit you might be looking for as spring hovers around the corner.

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ImageI know that technically this is a knitting roundup, but I couldn’t resist including the great-looking, crocheted Zigzag Spiral hat by A la Sascha. This design also comes in a wide range of sizes, from newborn to adult large, but I can see this appealing particularly to boys aged about 9–18.

This is the kind of hat that just might get your son to pick up the crochet hook himself. I know my three 20-something nephews would all want to make this.

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ImageSome boys are not particularly keen to wear knitted items, but would love to play with something that you knit for them. Polar Pete by Cilla Webb is an absolutely charming (and ridiculously inexpensive) pattern for a knitted bear that has a complete wardrobe of hoodie, overalls, and boots. He even has his own fishing pole and fish to catch! The shaping of the face, body, and clothing have some really nice attention to detail.

This would be an ideal gift for a younger boy (say, around 4–7 years old), but I’m pretty sure my nine-year-old would also covet this hard.

Podcast update: new subscription feeds

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If you’ve been watching my new Dark Matter Knits video podcast—and I’ve been thrilled with how many of you are!—please note that the subscription feeds have now changed. (I’ve just found a much less expensive podcast hosting site.)

And you can always watch the episodes here on my website. Hope you’ll join us!

DMK Podcast, episode 1!

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Exciting news to share with you today: I have started a video podcast! Episodes will appear every other week and will have more of a reflective / essay-style format, and include lots of learning opportunities. (The inveterate teacher in me will NOT be repressed.)

Come listen here on the blog.

iTunes feed also available.

Meet Laura Patterson, lace designer extraordinaire

Here’s a fun change of pace: today, I’m interviewing fellow designer Laura Patterson of Fiber Dreams. You can find her at her website and on Ravelry.

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(There is Laura’s lovely, smiling face!)

This post is part of the Indie Design Gift-a-long blog series. The GAL is going on through the end of December on Ravelry. There are hundreds of participating knit and crochet patterns by many of your favorite indie designers, all perfect for gift knitting. There are games and tons of prizes as well. Come join the fun!

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It looks like you and I have both been knitting for many decades. The knitting world has changed so much in the last 15 years or so—what are the most exciting developments for you?

The easy access of knitting-related information is astounding these days. I remember getting a pattern pre-Y2K, and it using an abbreviation that I hadn’t seen before, one that the designer didn’t include in her meager abbreviations list. It took many hours of looking in a huge assortment of knitting books before I was able to track down the meaning: sm = slip marker. Oh! Then “rm” must mean remove marker. Oh. I get it. These days it’s super easy to find answers to almost any knitting question online in just moments. What a time saver!

For many years I didn’t know anyone else who knit. I had to figure out everything myself. At times, I felt like the only knitter left in the world. I worked a lot of overtime back then, knew only a handful of people in town, and the people in the knitting stores I went into were less than welcoming. When I first got online there were just four, yes four, knitting related websites. Can you imagine? The online communities that have grown and evolved from that have served to bring knitters everywhere closer together. I no longer feel so isolated, alone in my passion for playing with my two sticks and a piece string.

What kind of knitters do you picture in your head when you’re designing your patterns?

I design for knitters who want something to keep their interest while knitting, and that provides something that is enjoyable to wear when done … something that can add a bit of interest, charm, or femininity to whatever else they are wearing. I love thinking of women tossing on a beautiful lace scarf with their business suit, wearing a lacy little cardigan with their jeans and T-shirt, or tossing a delicate lace shawl over their shoulders when going out for an evening out with friends.

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Birdsfoot Fern

How would you describe the style of your patterns? 

I definitely don’t design for beginners, though at the same time I do try to include information to make the knitting as easy as possible. I add little notes about using markers, shaping, whatever, whenever I think a knitting tip would be helpful, and there’s room for it in the pattern.

For patterns with charts, which is most of them, there is a key on every page where a chart appears that includes the symbols used in the chart(s) on that page. Several years ago I began making my charts with Illustrator, and so the squares in all of the charts in all the patterns I’ve released since then are all the same size. I never re-size a chart to fit a page by shrinking it. I can’t speak for anyone else, but neither I nor my eyes are getting any younger, and I have a very hard time these days reading charts that have been shrunk up to nothing so the whole thing will fit on one page. I realize that some people will still need to have my charts enlarged, but I do try to minimize that.

Which patterns did you enter into the gift-a-long (GAL), and have you been surprised by which designs have gotten the most attention?

I only entered nine patterns in the GAL: Lalique, Raspberries, Birdsfoot Fern, Cirrhosa, Lazy River, Clarine, Clematis, Domus Aurea, and Ione. (All are pictured below—click on the image for links to the individual patterns.)

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So far I’ve only seen two projects using any of my patterns in the GAL: one Cirrhosa and one Birdsfoot Fern. This surprises me. I would have thought that more people would have at least started one of my other GAL designs by now. Most of them knit up relatively quickly, especially Ione and Lazy River. Birdsfoot Fern and Cirrhosa are also quicker to knit than one might think. With both of those designs, the lace is knit before the garter stitch shaping section is worked, and the lace rows are quite short: a maximum width of 31 stitches in Cirrhosa and 35 stitches in Birdsfoot Fern. This helps to make the lace portion easier to manage, faster to knit. Once established, the shaping is pretty mindless on both patterns, and so though the rows grow long, it’s all just knitting, so it gets done in no time.

Any particular design(s) that you’ve got in the GAL that you’d like to say more about?

Lalique continues to surprise me. Not only is the sweater all-over lace, but it requires a number of harder techniques: provisional cast on, applied border, grafting, adding beads….

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Even relatively new knitters have successfully knit the pattern—a fact that both surprises and delights me. Lalique was released almost three years ago, and has done quite well the entire time, and it was my top seller for the GAL sale in early November.

Men’s knitting roundup #4

Since the holidays are rapidly approaching, today’s men’s knitting pattern roundup will focus on accessories – that is, quick gifts that can still be accomplished between now and possibly even Hannukah, though that comes quite early this year!

ImageFirst up: some beautifully designed socks by Jennifer Beever, a relatively new designer based in Calgary. The pattern, called Josh, has some fine features, including a false rib pattern down the back of the leg that merges seamlessly into the heel flap. It’s a great, classic sock that even men with the most conservative clothing tastes could appreciate. Josh can be yours for $5 Canadian on Ravelry (that’s just a little less than $5 US).

Jennifer also recently published a pair of garter-stitch mittens that would be perfect for men living in cold climates.

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ImageThis next duo of patterns, the Tolt Hat and Mitts by Andrea Rangel (available together for $8 on Ravelry), would make a perfect gift set and would appeal particularly to younger men, I suspect. If you are new to stranded colorwork, this would make a great pattern to cut your teeth on, as the stitch pattern is fairly simple, quick, and satisfying at a worsted-weight gauge.

When choosing colors for your own project, just make sure to select two colors that have some significant difference in light value. (That is, choose one color that’s relatively light and another that’s rather dark.) Otherwise, all your hard-won colorwork will be difficult to see.

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ImageAnother design that’s likely to appeal to younger men (and boys!) is Elizabeth Murphy’s Goblin Hat. I love the clever construction on these: if you’ve ever been baffled by how to wear a slouchy hat, you will love how this buttoned-down version makes the wearing of a slouchy hat simple. And what a great stash-buster for leftover bits of worsted-weight yarn. Plus, the pattern is free!

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If you need a super-quick knit, try the Courage fingerless mitts (also free) by another new designer, Elizabeth Davis. This pattern includes instructions for three sizes and two lengths (short length shown here), so you can whip up several pairs for people on your list.