DIY Links to Brighten Up a Monday

After being laid up for 6 weeks, you can imagine how nice it is to be able to get back to normal. I started feeling very sluggish, and sitting on the couch watching things pile up to do around the house made me cringe, to say the least. I had the pleasure of celebrating Chilean independence day with my dear friend Friday night, then woke up Saturday morning and realized my son had a playdate here at the house the next day, and it was time to get things in order. I am in the frame of mind to freshen things up while I’m cleaning and have kept my eye open for inexpensive, yet rewarding ways to add fun details to our space. Have fun taking a look, and feel free to share your own with me!

  1. When in doubt, lots of clean white always makes a space feel fresh.
  2. The motherlode resource if you’re really ready to dive in!
  3. Somehow, this just makes a simple glass of icewater so much more appealing.
  4. Because all sprucing up, at least in my experience, involves some time spent organizing.
  5. Our cats are such an important part of our family, and this isn’t exactly DIY, but it made me smile, as I’m sure it will all cat owners.

A Design from Start to Finish (how this designer earns her keep)

This new design just published a few days ago went through a long process. To be fair, it did sit in the yarn closet for half a year or more to ponder its sins when I got unhappy with it and considered scrapping the whole thing altogether. Usually when I work on a design, I am very focused, and although I put in the hours, it doesn’t take as long in a calendar year because I work better when I’m focused.

I really enjoyed this book because I appreciate it when designers share their sketches and thought processes. Since this particular project was on the needles for a long time, I was extra careful to document everything, and I thought you all might enjoy seeing my process from start to finish. Unfortunately, I don’t have beautiful sketches like Galina’s, but I hope you enjoy it anyway!

It started with The Yarn. I had just bought Freia Ombre Sport and had been toying around in my head with how to best show it off. I’m really nuts for gradated yarns and was so in love with this particular one I left it sitting on my coffee table to just look at.

The inspiration - which hit me on the way to the metro.

The inspiration – which hit me on the way to the metro.

When I was on the way to the metro station one evening, I saw the sun setting with the graphic shapes of the telephone poles and found my inspiration.

I usually do sketches, especially for garments, but the only shortcut I took in this project was to skip the sketching process since I had a visual in my head. So on to the knitting…

The first version

The first version

This photo is the first version. Yes, I got quite a long way in the knitting, and took careful notes and records of everything. I could still write up the stranded version of this pattern, minus the gauge, if anyone wanted it. I was actually quite happy with how this was looking. Considering I skipped the sketching and just started knitting what was in my head, it’s pretty cool I got what I envisioned.

Then my mom came to visit, I showed her the design I was working on, and she gave it to me straight. She flipped it over and pointed out that there were an awful lot of floats on the back. Um, yeah, because just like stockinette stitch curls, colorwork involves floats. Innocently, she looked at me and asked if I thought people would like a scarf with all those floats that could pull so easily.

I really tried to rationalize this one. People spend alot of money to dry clean expensive fabrics. Knitters are used to little pulls and ends that need to be woven back in. Yes, floats on a scarf are much more likely to snag than on a sweater, since on a sweater, they’re all on the inside against the body. But, I thought, it’s not any more fragile than taking care of a lace shawl, and at least this yarn is thicker and much harder to break than laceweight.

But, as mothers tend to do, mine really got into my head, and so this design went to sit in the naughty closet until I could resolve the issue. It took the better part of a year before I found a satisfactory answer.

Closeup_mediumI might still make a colorwork scarf one of these days because I do like colorwork and I stand by my rationalizing. But when I went to Vogue Knitting Live in Pasadena earlier this year, I took a class with Franklin Habit on shadow knitting and loved it. I realized that I had just found a solution that would make my mother much happier, should I still decide to gift her with the finished product. :)

Shadow knitting lends itself quite nicely to shapes and playing with contrasting colors. I knew it would show off the beautiful gradations in this yarn and also better express my original inspiration. Once I realized shadow knitting was  the solution that had eluded me, I tore out all my work and knit the entire thing in a month.

My chicken scratch

My chicken scratch

Last, but certainly not least, is the pattern writing. I spend alot of time on this. I take very careful notes about everything, as I’m knitting. I NEVER knit the whole thing and then start writing because it’s impossible to keep all the details in my head throughout the course of the project. The most important part of pattern writing is making sure that whoever buys it and knits it is able to understand exactly what I did. I make my own charts, take my own photos, and do all my own graphic design. I also am very careful to read, reread, let it sit a few days, and then reread it again before I publish. This is not to say there is never a mistake, but I work very hard to keep mistakes to a minimum because I know how frustrating it is to deal with a carelessly written pattern. Even though this is the most tedious part of the process for me, I try to give it proper attention and time.

I am very happy with the result, and I hope if any of you make the pattern, you enjoy it too. If you are a designer, I’d love to hear about your process, and if you make any of my designs, I’d love to see your projects – in progress and/or finished!

Links to Inspire

Simply beautiful!

Cool DIY project that involves fiber, if not yarn!

Just for fun – and also a great idea for playing with colors if you’re feeling stuck!

I’m a sucker for cool stationery, and 100 times so for DIY, and I still believe a handwritten thank you note beats email and social media any day!

And if you prefer to apply your marbling to household items instead of paper.

Colorful Photography and DIY Ideas Are My Fave

As you all know, I’m always on the lookout for new ideas and inspiration, and I just happened across a blog I thought was particularly full of both! You Are My Fave is full of DIY ideas, fun, colorful photography, and actually, some of my favorite things, such as abstract art. Good things are meant to be shared, so I hope you’ll enjoy browsing it as much as I did!

Set-In Sleeve Tips

I am currently designing a sweater/coat, meaning it’s a cardigan shape, but I wanted extra ease so I could throw it over jeans and a top like a jacket. It has been a very long, involved project because it involves color charts which I developed completely from scratch based on my inspiration photos. (More on all that later.) As you can imagine, I’m feeling lots of project fatigue at this point

As usual, the sleeves are the last part to be done. Unfortunately, I completed one entire sleeve only to realize upon bindoff that there was no way it would ever fit into the armhole. My efforts to incorporate added ease resulted in it being entirely too large altogether. But since failure is the opportunity to learn, I took the opportunity to evaluate what I missed in my calculations. Happily, I now have a much more promising-looking sleeve in the works. Below are my top three important factors to consider when you’re doing set-in sleeves – whether you’re adjusting an existing pattern or designing your own.

  1. Sleeve Length – you need to know the measurements from where you want the sleeve to end to where you want it to stop under the arm, as well as all the way to where it will be stitched at the shoulder. Of course, if you’re making a garment, you should swatch anyway, but this is extremely important for sleeves! Also, after you knit the swatch, WASH IT! Let it dry, and recheck your gauge. I made another sweater in which my gauge was consistent and accurate, but when I blocked the sweater, the sleeves ended up way too long because the fabric stretched by several inches.
  2. Cap Length – This length is calculated on a number of measurements, but it’s vital that you are accurate! (See Shirley Paden’s book to get in-depth information on calculations.) Essentially, the cap is what will extend past the under arm and cover the appropriate section of your upper arm and shoulder. It should be a curved, bell-shape and must fit the armhole of the main body of the sweater.
  3. Match Bindoffs – For a set-in sleeve to fit perfectly into the armhole, you need to match the armhole bindoffs. This is easily done, as you can simply refer back to what you did at the armhole bindoffs of the front and back of the sweater.

This is by no means a comprehensive guide to making sleeves, but if you are having trouble with set-in sleeves, perhaps a check of these three things will help you sort out your problem. I’m always happy if I can help someone avoid the same mistakes I made!

A Crafter’s Luxury

sock knitting

The basics – cuff down and toe up.

As I’ve mentioned before, my foray into yarny adventures began with crochet. After I crocheted for awhile, I realized how different knitting and crocheting are, and that each lends itself better to certain things. My original reason for wanting to learn to knit was so I could make socks. People do crochet socks, but all the ones I saw my friends making were knit, and I wanted to be able to do that too!

Sock knitting has been a difficult thing for me, for whatever reason. DPN’s do take some getting used to, and then there’s the heel turn, and getting the darn things to fit on my extra long feet! However, I will say, despite the struggles I’ve had, I still think a handmade pair of socks, even those like mine above, which don’t have any fancy pattern, are a crafter’s well-earned luxury. Most of the socks you buy at chain stores may be cheap, but they’re not made from superwash merino or alpaca and cashmere, and let’s be honest, they just don’t look half as cool! Most people would abhor the idea of spending $25+ on a single pair of socks (the going rate for a skein of fine sock yarn), and to make them means you’re completing practically as many stitches as you would if you made a sweater. However, I figure it’s a small price to pay for a really special luxury!

toe-up sock knitting

Toe-Up – given a choice, I do like toe-up better than cuff-down.

If you are new to sock knitting, I recommend that you find a very simple pattern to follow, or begin with Silver’s Sock Class. You can always use a variegated or self striping yarn as I did to give basic Stockinette interest. My first ever pair was done cuff down. I then decided I wanted to try toe-up, which is the second pair I just finished. There are many books on sock knitting, but when I’m learning something new, I like to stick to the basics for awhile. Now that I’ve tried the basic techniques and managed to finish two pairs, I’m ready to try a pair with a little more pattern. If you are struggling to make it through the second sock, I encourage you to push through to the finish, because you will be rewarded when you slip them on your feet!

A Solution to a Common Problem

I LOVE these ideas for what to do with yarn scraps! Most of the time, I throw mine away, but I always hate doing it. It goes back to that whole, I-Hate-being-wasteful thing. Check out a tutorial, save your scraps and share your photos if you like. I’m going to have to find a special spot to start saving my scraps from now on. :)


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