Free Pattern Friday – Sunflower Dress

It’s Free Pattern Friday!

Sunflower Dress in Garden_blog

Today, something bright and summery for the crocheters!  The Sunflower Dress in Garden 10 is a sunny delight.

Sunflower Dress in Garden_altWritten and charted, this crochet confection uses our Garden 10 100% mercerized Egyptian Giza cotton thread.  Garden comes in both 50 gram balls and in 500 gram cones, handy for larger projects.

This is exactly the kind of design that inspires me to stretch my wings when it comes to crochet.  Just gorgeous.

Happy crocheting!

Throwback Thursday – Rainforest Cardigan

Welcome to the first Throwback Thursday!

Starting this week, we’re going to be featuring designs in retired yarns that would still look great now!

Rainforest Cardigan in Seasong from web_throwback

Today we’re featuring the Rainforest Cardigan, originally in Sea Song.

Sea Song was a member of our Fibra Natura line of luxury organic yarns.  It consisted of cotton and seacell, both plant fibers which give this garment a relaxed feel.  We’re recommending another plant fiber yarn for this garment, Bamboo Pop.

Bamboo Pop ball_2_webThe sideways construction of this cardi makes it especially well-suited for variegated yarns like Bamboo Pop, which also comes in solids.  Although slightly thinner than the original yarn, Bamboo Pop will still give 5½ stitches to the inch, the required gauge for this pattern.

This is an easy to knit, easy to wear piece that would be a great accent for mild weather.  It’s a classic design with a current look.

Happy knitting!

Weaving Wednesday – everyone loves rainbows!

I have this sort of love affair with linen. Anytime I’m asked what my favorite fiber is my response is always linen. If I could marry linen and have little linen babies, I might just do that. You get the picture.

We recently added 6 glorious new shades to Flax, our 100% linen yarn in the Fibra Natura line.  When I started out to do this Weaving Wednesday project, my first inclination was to do a sort of sophisticated plaid, using mostly the new Flax shades. I had a skein of every color of Flax laid out on the floor, grouping them together, ungrouping; just playing around. Before I knew it, I had a rainbow all lined up begging to be used! Unable to say no to the pretty arrangement, I immediately began direct-warping my 15″ Cricket.

I like my scarves wide. I decided to use up every last hole on my 8 dent reed and make the most of my 15″ weaving width. For anyone wanting to reproduce this scarf, here are the specs:

Colors used:  102 Poppy (A) , 03 Orange (B), 02 Tangerine (C), 01 Lemon (D), 101 Butter Cream (E), 104 Wild Lime (F), 12 Tarragon (G), 11 Adriatic (H), 103 Regatta (I) and 18 Pewter (X). Pewter is the only new color I ended up incorporating. I decided the rainbow needed to be tamed with a dose of neutral. I used only about 1/3 or so of each 50 g skein. If I had it to do over again, I would have warped 3 times as long so I could have gotten 3 scarves!

Because I wanted a very drapy scarf, I went with the 8 dent reed. I’m going to touch more on choosing reed size in future posts. But briefly, a good rule of thumb is to go with a reed size that is half of the WPI (wraps per inch) of your yarn if you want a fabric of “average” density. Because I wanted a more open scarf, I chose a reed that had fewer than half the WPI so there would be more space between strands. My threading went: 12A, 12B, 12C, 4X, 12D, 12E, 12F, 4X, 12G, 12H, 12I; then at each end I did 2 double strands of X. My warp length was about 100″; I also like my scarves plenty long.

Be sure to click on each image for a nice close-up!

RainbowScarf_1

I wove a few picks with scrap yarn and then started right in with my color progression without doing a header. I decided I wanted natural looking ends without the structure of a header. Because I like to do things the hard way, I decided to weave according to my warp, in the same order, thereby making checks. Because there’s so much going on with color in this project, I decided to stick with plain weave. I started out with 4 picks of X, then 12 I, 12H, 12G, 4X, and so on.

Because the warp threads are spaced on the airy side and my goal was to have checks of color that were as tall as they were wide, I was very conscious of my “beating” of the weft thread. Instead of firmly pushing the weft down, I was sure to have a gentle hand and simply push it into place. After a couple of color changes, I measured the work on the loom to make sure I was on track. I could see my touch was a little too gentle, so I started again, pushing a bit harder. Hand weaving isn’t an exact science; it takes the right touch, just like any other craft.

Which brings us to our next lesson: adding in new colors to a row.

RainbowScarf_3_weavinginends

Every time I started a new color, I began from the opposite side (right or left), so the ends wouldn’t be all grouped on one side of the scarf. I wove a few rows, and then wove in the ends. It’s easier to do this while the piece is still taut on the loom and also nice to not have a bazillion ends to deal with at the finish. I have a special tapestry needle that I use whenever I’m working with Flax. It has a large enough eye that the strand easily passes through, but with a sharp point. Plant fibers are slippery and require special care when dealing with.

When weaving in the ends on my scarf, I basically “wove” this strand in, following the strand just above it, but actually pierced the yarn as I wove. So, not only is this strand “woven” in, it is also further secured through the center of the strand above it. Once woven in, I clipped it but left a couple of inches. After washing, I then clipped all the strands close to the piece.

You may have noticed a fun looking thing back in photo #1, which is a special shuttle called a boat shuttle. The Cricket comes with stick shuttles which work just fine, but it only comes with 2. Since I was weaving with 10 different colors, that wasn’t going to work for me, as having to rewind a shuttle every other color sounded like a lot of work. Schacht also sells boat shuttles, and these are really handy for weaving with many colors. Inside the “boat”, fits a little plastic bobbin. You can purchase these bobbins by the dozen typically, and they’re pretty inexpensive. You can wind them by hand, but I love to use the bobbin winder on my sewing machine.

RainbowScarf_2

After doing 5 repeats of my striping/check sequence, 75″ of weaving, it was time to call it quits. I’d decided prior to starting the project that I was going to finish with twisted fringe. I separated my warp strands into groups of 4, and twisted it up. Although I don’t have any in-progress pics of doing that on this particular scarf, here’s a handy quick video of the technique:

After twisting all my fringe I threw my scarf (with the woven-in ends still hanging off the scarf, unclipped) into the washer on a gentle cycle and warm water. Even though the yarn label says not to machine dry, I’ve had good experiences washing and drying knitting projects in Flax, so I threw my scarf in without hesitation. It came out soft and with incredible drape. The finished size on the loom was 15″ x 75″; final size after blocking was 13.75″ x 72″. Because the weaving was so loose, there was fairly little draw-in, which is what I wanted! The only thing I wasn’t crazy about were my edges. To be fair, they didn’t look so great on the loom either, or before going into the washing machine.

Not to be discouraged, I decided it was time to break out the sewing machine once again. I had the perfect piece of fabric in my stash – a nice lightweight grey-blue rayon blend. I cut 2 strips (straight on the grain, no bias) that were 75″ long x 1.5″ wide. I folded in the sides, sandwiched my edges, folded under the edges, and sewed it onto the sides of my scarf, much like a single-fold quilt binding.

Flax Scarf 8 retone blog

I’m wearing this new scarf draped around my neck this very moment. Although it’s sweltering here in North Carolina right now, this is the perfect thing to give me a little warmth in our air-conditioned offices.

Flax Scarf 4 retone blog

Getting tired of plain weave? So am I! I love the look of a plain woven fabric, but I’m ready to move on. Join me next time for Garden thread and pick-up patterns!

Sunday Swatch – Bella Chenille

Today’s Sunday Swatch is in Bella Chenille colors 109 Blueberry and 111 Clover.

SS Bella Chenille blog

Bella Chenille is a superbulky supersoft chenille.  I dare you to pick up a skein and not squeeze it.  It’s also available in a multi version with sweet pastel tones.

We love this yarn for baby knits.  Not only is it very soft, but it’s also machine washable.  The swatch shown above ran through my front-loader before being laid out to dry, and as you can see it came through with flying (vibrant!) colors.

The pattern above was originally meant to be a circle, although unblocked it came out more of a soft flower shape – it almost reminds me of a poppy.  It’s based on instructions in the Alyoops! blog post linked here, although this swatch used two size 10 1/2 (6.5mm) circular needles rather than double-points.  Wouldn’t this make a great throw or baby blanket?  I can even see sewing a few ribbons on the edges to make a “wooby” for a toddler to carry around.

There are more free ideas for kid projects on our website, like the Lil’ Lightning Baby Blanket in Bella Chenille and Bella Chenille Multi at right.

We wish you soft, sweet, pretty things in your life.  Happy crafting!

Free Pattern Friday – Netted Tank in Cotton Supreme

It’s Free Pattern Friday!

Netted Tank blog

Today’s offering is the Netted Tank in Cotton Supreme.

I don’t know about where you are, but here in North Carolina today it is hot with a capital H-O-T.  Great timing, then, for a breezy cotton tank!

The Netted Tank uses Cotton Supreme 100% cotton and a simple (k2tog, yo) repeat to create an open and airy mesh that’s a great coverup on a warm day.  The twisted ribbing hem in a contrasting color is a great touch!

A great summertime knitting project is just the thing to distract from the heat.  I’m thinking I may whip up a batch of something cool with my very favorite lemonade recipe (hint: cut the sugar just a bit), then sit out on the back porch and sip and knit.  Ahhhh…

 

Afghan Knitalong – Block Six

Block Six is live!

6 Slip Stitch Step block_blog

Block Six, “Slip Step,” looks more complicated than it is, which I call the best kind of knitting.  It uses the same slip stitch technique as in Block Five, just patterned a little differently.  You can totally do this!

One of the themes of this knit along is “learning.”  The blocks showcase techniques that may be new to some of us.  And for us in the office, they’re highlighting some areas that we now know we need to work on.

Which brings us to Chandra.

Chandra in accounting is just learning to knit, and like a trooper she is knitting along with the rest of us.  She’s so proud of her squares, and rightly so!  So when she asked a co-worker about blocking, she dutifully followed the instructions that would make her block really stand out.  Unfortunately, it’s not standing out in quite the way she hoped.

Chandra bedraggled block_blogLuckily, Chandra has a GREAT sense of humor, so she is fine with her square being used as a teaching tool here.  Somewhere in translation, instructions about exposure to heat and moisture were translated into “boil your square for 30 minutes.”  At right: Chandra’s poor, poor, bedraggled Square One.  Chandra, good sport that she is, willingly let it be photographed and immediately cast on for a new square.  Way to pick yourself up and keep going!

Based on this experience, we realized that maybe a little instruction on blocking would be in order.  In the video below, we’re using a garment steamer and have the square laid out on a foam block of the type used in nursery flooring.  The foam is handy for pinning things down without damaging the floor, and the blocks interlock into a variety of shapes for larger scarves and shawls.

Whether it’s a triumph or… less of a triumph, we’d love to see what you’ve done.  Share it here, on Facebook, or in our Ravelry group.  We’ll see you in two weeks with a new block and a new technique!

Sunday Swatch – Bamboo Bloom Handpaints

Today’s Sunday Swatch is in Bamboo Bloom Handpaints color 310 Fuji.

Sunday Swatch Bamboo Bloom Handpaints_120

The word of the day is “simplicity.”  A very simple garter stitch swatch on size 9 needles.  Knit every row and voila.  A beautiful textured scarf that would look great with blue jeans and equally great dressed up.  Add to your simplicity by kicking off your shoes and enjoying the great outdoors while you’re at it.  Bamboo Bloom Handpaints has thick, soft wool sections interspersed with thin, shiny stretches of rayon from bamboo.  It won’t weigh you down on a gorgeous summer day like today.  There are beautifully coordinating solids in Bamboo Bloom, as well.

Our most popular free pattern for this yarn is Michael del Vecchio’s one ball Persephone Handpaints Cowl, pictured at right.  It’s a simple knit on size 10 needles that really lets the texture of the yarn shine through.

We hope you are able to find some time today to appreciate the simple things in life – and to knit!

 

Inspiration By Design