Thursday, December 31, 2009

GWOY: January 2010 Swatches

I love knitting swatches for the GWOY at the semi-annual TNNA trade show!  I have been doing these swatches for years and have included pictures of them on this blog for the past couple of years: January 2007, January 2008, January 2009, and June 2009 .  This gives me such a wonderful chance to play with new fibers that I might not even hear about otherwise!  I also get a chance to try out some stitch-patterns or ideas that are roaming around my head ... as there is always so much up there that never makes it to the needle or a final project -- swatches are a great solution.

This time I asked Heidi at Trendsetter Yarns (the company that organizes the GWOY) to send all fingering weight yarns ... I just didn't want to mess with novelty yarns this time.  I love the classic look of even new fibers (such as POSSUM!) and how you can update them with styling and color.

Here are the swatches I did for this go-round:

I received two yarns from Zealana Yarns:

 Kiwi -- 40% NW merino, 30% organic cotton, 30% possum.  This yarn (this is "tussock", a sage/mustard color) knits up beautifully and really shows great stitch definition.  I knit the swatch on US#3s and this would make such a great year-round sweater/top!

 Rimu -- 60% NZ merino and 40% possum.  Who'd a thunk possum would make such a gorgeous yarn?  I received a ball of Paru Brown that just begged to be knit in a lace "tree" pattern.  The yarn is soft but holds a nice stitch-definition using US#4 needles.

Origin Cachemire is a yarn distributed by Bergere de France and is lovely -- but made of 90% cashemere and 10% wool, what would you expect?  I used US #4 needles and knit a small sock with a textured (knit/purl) design.  The sock is knit toe-up with a short-rowed garter heel.  Wouldn't you love a pair of cashemere socks?  This yarn would also knit up into a nice, year-round weight sweater.

Firefly from Classic Elite is a lovely yarn made of 75% viscose and 25% linen.  Stiff to the feel, it knits beautifully and once washed, the linen softens slightly but still keeps the great stitch-definition necessary when doing lace patterns.  Here, knit on US#5s, I did a lace-rib pattern with slowly decreasing purl ribs (down to 1 purl between) than increasing to 7 purls between the lace columns.  I can see this yarn as gorgeous summer top with a fitted waist. 

Be Sweet's Cotton Candy is an 100% organic cotton yarn that is hand-dyed and balled by women in a South African co-op.  This yarn is beautiful -- the color, the feel, the knittability.  This colorway is called Greens-Mix and is a beautiful blend from a pale yellow-green through to a very blue-green.  I did the knit-purl texture "hem" and a lace-arches above -- seeing a spring/summer top.  I love the way the color-patches follow the flowing lines created by yo's and k3togs!  I used US#5 needles to create this swatch and the "hand" was perfect.

Enjoy these new yarn offerings and revel in the ability we have today to create with fibers as diverse as between possum and organic cotton from South Africa!  Get a ball of something unique and test-drive it by doing a swatch and seeing if you like it ... and please, let me know what cool yarns you discover!

BTW, I challenged myself to only use Lisl Fanderl's Bauerliches Stricken 1 for the stitch patterns, playing with different stitches and ideas until finding just the right one that would show off the yarns in a unique or clever way.  The three volumes in this set are easy to use even though the books are written in German -- the patterns are all charted and the symbols are easy to figure out.  Lots of fun, traditional patterns based on hand-knit items from the Alpine regions of Germany and Austria.

Happy knittin'
Mary C. Gildersleeve
By Hand, With Heart -- hand-knit designs

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Designs: latest off the needles ...

Well, I just finished off these Julenisse socks ... literally, just tucked in all the ends and they are ready to wash and block.  I just couldn't wait to show 'em off, though!  I do toe-up, 2-at-a-time on circs ... this allows me to change the pattern as I go.  These have a striped toe (yellow and cream), a solid, smooth charcoal grey foot, short-rowed garter stitch heel, cabled leg and then a bit of two-color patterning on the cuff.  The red in the cuff design remind me of the Norwegian knitting during WW2 -- to thumb their noses a bit at the occupation Nazis, the Norwegians added a bit of red to all their knitting!  BTW, the name "Julenisse" is Norwegian for "Christmas elf".

One of the problems that often occurs with cables in socks and two-color knitting is the need to increase neatly so the cables fit the leg.  Here, after finishing the heel, I increased from 48 to 60 sts to accomodate the 6-stitch cable pattern (4 cable twist sts + 2 purl sts).  The purl sts make a "rib" that helps form to the leg.

The two-color knitting portion is started right after the 6th twist; I then do a final charcoal purl row, increasing 8 sts for a total of 68 sts for the cuff.  Since these socks will come up about mid-calf, I need a bit more and the two-color knitting will pull in slightly.  Note, I REALLY need to work on my round joins on the two-color portion (lower sock in the above picture) -- hopefully, when the socks are worn, no one will notice the "jog" as I'll wear it the socks so the jogs are on the inside as I walk.

A further consideration when knitting socks like these is the finish work:  make sure the inside looks as neat as the outside:  all ends should be tucked in, the carrying for the two-color knitting should be even and NOT tight.  All bits and pieces need to be as smooth as possible to ensure a comfortable wearing.

These socks are knit with Dale of Norway's Falk -- a washable wool -- knit on #2s.  48 sts for the foot; 60 for the cabled leg; 68 for the cuff.

Here's a close-up of the knitting on the cuff  ... loose but not too loose, ends tucked in and out of the carries to ensure a smooth fit.

Another project, that I had to put these aside for a bit to complete, were NINE hair-bun covers for String Bean's ballet class in co-op.  I needed to finish these in time for Wednesday (12/2) dress rehearsal, with the performance on the 9th.  This is our Christmas gift to these wonderful girls ... the design was fun to create and the knitting went pretty fast -- just something that I had to do at night when I could make one in about 2-hours worth of movie-watching.

They came out nicely ... I'll post pictures of the performance -- making sure to get pictures of the girls' hair!  These are knit on #4 dpns using Vanna's Glamour from Lion Brand -- an acrylic yarn with a bit of sparkle twisted with the yarn.
So, what are you knitting?

Happy knittin'
Mary C. Gildersleeve
By Hand, With Heart -- hand-knit designs