Oh Bother

I had to search my own blog. I remember talking about it but couldn’t for the life of me recall when. And then I was like, did I just write that blog post in my head? But I did indeed write it. Speckle dyed yarn, a bit of an obsession for me really. It is an awesome looking dye technique that has been showing up recently from the yarn artists (dyers) I follow. Swatching to deal with the yarns idiosyncrasies took place a while ago and a pattern has been in development. Today is the day that I have unleashed it upon the world (BWAHAHAHAHA – man, I should probably lay off of the Phineas & Ferb – channeling a wee bit of Dr. Doofenschmirtz).

Can yarn look as good in knitting as it does in a skein? Yes!

Yarn in skein, yarn in pattern – do they match?

Honeycomb style stitch —> Honey —> Winnie the Pooh —> Oh Bother. Because that is the way my brain works, I have no real excuse. But this isn’t your average honeycomb stitch, can I ever leave well enough alone? Don’t answer that. By tinkering around a bit and adding some slipped stitches I was able to cause the honeycomb effect to kinda scrunch down into an almost brioche like effect. The resulting fabric is deeply smooshy with a three dimensional element. It actually has a thickness to it without a whole bunch of needle gymnastics.

Oh Bother cowl from Barbara Benson, easy to knit in DK to show off speckle yarn.

While I was knitting the cowl I kept trying it on to make sure that it was as I liked. Specifically I was going for a “close to the neck” style. Which meant that I had to slide it over my big ole head. Sometimes I would start pulling and then get distracted and end up with the cowl on my head. It felt good there. I looked at it in a mirror and it looked good there – so obviously I had to do a hat too. Luckily Gale from Gale’s Art has several colors that I lust over. The cowl that started it all is in Meadow, which makes me inordinately happy. It just makes me feel Spring in my heart. But the hat? The hat is Goth Girl which has everything I love all blended together and yet somehow still working.

Oh Bother hat, easy to work deep texture that shows off colorful yarn. By Barbara Benson.

And the hat!

And the stitch is so easy that I was able to provide instructions for sizing up the hat; Adult, Youth, Toddler, and Newborn are all included. The hats are worn with almost 3 inches of negative ease, so they will definitely grow with a child’s head. I don’t have any pictures of a kid wearing one – but hopefully y’all knitters will fill in that gap!

Reversible Cable Moebius Cowl

I have been cheating. I admit it. I should tattle on myself to the teacher but I haven’t.

Each year as the holiday approaches I come to the realization that I need to get knitting on something for my son’s teacher. But I cheat, or double dip if you will. If I am going to be spending time knitting on a gift I might as well get a new pattern out of it, right? So when I say that this new pattern is good for gift knitting, I really mean it because it was designed and knit as a gift!

When it is cold and you are out corralling about a million second graders on the playground do you need to be fiddling with the ends of a scarf? I am gonna go with no on that one. So a cowl it was to be. For naming ease I used the recipient’s last name. So meet McClanahan.

McClanahan, a reversible cable Moebius cowl in worsted, aran, and chunky weights. By Barbara Benson.

I may have mentioned that I am in the throes of a minor obsession with Moebius construction, this is the pattern that started the whole thing. But because of timing and stuff it is only now getting released. After I finished knitting the prototype I decided I wanted to work it up in multiple different weights of yarn – to give the pattern more bang for the buck. Thinking about what yarn to use I remembered how much I enjoyed working with Dream in Color Classy for Cables are Cool and I thought I would see what the color geniuses over there might have in stock in the chunky / aran  yarn weight range.

 

Reversible cable Moebius cowl by Barbara Benson, three yarn weights in Dream in Color.

Mammoth in Rio Verde Blue

It must have been in the stars because their response was that they were in the finishing stages of introducing both a new Chunky and a new Aran weight yarn. Get OUT of here! So I got my grubby little mitts on Mammoth and Canyon and rounded out the plan with their lovely worsted weight single Calm. I asked them to pick out some awesome colors that would go well together because I had this vision of a photograph with a squooshy pile of cables. And they did not disappoint.

 

Reversible cable Moebius cowl by Barbara Benson, three yarn weights in Dream in Color.

The Yellow/Green is Calm in Prickly Pear.

Back to the pattern (I can talk about yarn all day), since you always see both sides of a Moebius I went with reversible cables. Essentially the whole thing is ribbed. The cast on is seriously the most complicated part of the whole pattern. Once the stitches are on you have some knits & purls and a cable once every couple of rows. As my son would say “Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.” I think that one came from last year’s teacher (For her I designed I Can’t Control my Fingers).

I have provided the cast on and instructions for all three weights and the circumference of the respective cowls are inversely proportional to the weight of the yarn. And what I mean by that is the chunkier the yarn the closer to the neck the cowl will sit. The worsted weight (skinniest yarn) has the largest circumference. I tailored it to fit the yardage. If you wanted a looser cowl you could use the cast on for one of the other sizes, but then you would need additional yarn. Which, two skeins isn’t that bad is it?

A reversible cabled cowl worked in Moebius by Barbara Benson in Dream in Color aran weight yarn.

This is Canyon in Goblin Valley

To finish up the pattern I had some awesome test knitters take a whack at knitting it up and I tried something different. Usually I have a “secret” place to do the testing, but this time I decided to do it in “public”. If you are a Ravelry member and want to see the growing pains in all of their glory check out the testing thread. You can see what the testers thought of the pattern and how they helped me to whip it into shape. Once they were done it took a turn with my awesome Tech Editor and now it is available for you.

I would love to hear what you think in the comments.

Social Media

Considering that you are reading this here blog I am going to go out on a limb and say that you engage in some form of Social Media. I feel like that should be in all caps SOCIAL MEDIA. What about all caps and italics? SOCIAL MEDIA! As something that is spoken about as if it has a life of its own it feels quite intimidating to me.

I don’t know if y’all know it but I have quite a few of these Social Media-ing things happening. I have a Facebook page, an Instagram account, a Twitter thingie, and a Pinterest page. I also have a Google+ account but it gets about as much action as my bunnies do (they are neutered).

I think I pretty much have the idea of Facebook down and I am starting to get a feel for Instagram. Pinterest had me on day one and I don’t think I have gone a day since without checking in. I am curious to see how the service evolves. There is talk about being able to sell directly through them and that could be a huge shift in the internet.

Twitter? I just cannot seem to get the hang of what precisely is going on there. How to really interact with people via Twitter mystifies me. I feel like I am sitting off to the side in a coffee shop listening to a mix of really interesting and completely mundane conversations. I hesitate to jump in because it would be all like BAM, now I am in your convo and I am worried that the people would be all like “Where did you come from and who invited you to this party?”

Google+, well I wish it had more action but it just seems to be a bit forced. I signed up for that Ello thing but haven’t been back there since setting up my profile. On the plus side I know no one is going to snake my username.

All of this babbling is as a lead in to asking you what kind of social media you use? Specifically, where do you interact with other knitters and where do you go to find your knitting fix? I know that there is more knitting on Facebook than I have found. Do you have any groups there that you frequent and would recommend? Please leave any ideas you have in the comments for me to explore!.

Obviously the number one answer will be Ravelry, is there a specific group that I should check out? According to my profile I am “in” 144 groups. Holy cow that is a bunch!

If you have one of the above mentioned social media dohickeys and we aren’t yet friends/followers give me a shout out or send a friend request or whatever the platform allows you to do. I would love to add you to my collection. ;)

Queen of Mapes

During the Gift-a-long I posted an interview with one of the other participants of the event and had a lot of fun. It got me to thinking that there are so very many interesting people in the knitting community that I should do more interviews. Then I got to thinking about who I should interview. The obvious thing to do would be other designers and dyers and so forth – which I totally plan to do – but it occurred to me that many of the people I would like to know more about are the knitters.

People like you, gentle reader. ;)

And immediately someone popped into my mind. You see, there is a wonderful knitter on Ravelry (who I have never actually met) who has made one of my patterns 10 times. She is the undisputed Queen of Mapes As someone who can barely manage to knit the same pattern twice (hence becoming a designer in the first place) I am completely floored by someone wanting to knit one of my patterns more than once. It gives me a warm fuzzy feeling.

A collage of 10 shawls all knit from the same pattern named Mapes.

Here are 9 of the 10 Mapes

So I would like you to meet Judy (perseph43 on Ravelry). She graciously agreed to answer my nosey questions and I am super excited to share them with y’all. I did a bit of snooping on her Ravelry profile to develop some questions and she was kind enough to elaborate even more.

Before we get into the interview, here is a little background on Judy from Judy:


In my prior (to retirement) life I ran my own home based cottage industry business designing and manufacturing clothing for women’s specialty shops. I employed two full time seamstresses, several home based pieceworkers, and a sales rep. Our kids also worked on part of the process when the spirit moved them to do so. We had a big old house and the room to do this but most importantly, I was a stay-at-home-mom.

For fourteen years I had a quilting group of “old ladies” who came to our house every Thursday for the day. The youngest one was 74 when we began. As they became unable to drive a girlfriend and I would go around and pick them up. We made so many quilts – all hand pieced. We always had at least two quilts in the works – one on the table for quilting and one in pieces that the ladies would take home to work on. We took turns being the recipient of the finished quilts.

Everyone brought their own lunch including the two seamstresses upstairs – we all ate together and it was much fun. A side benefit of that quilting club is that my children enjoy and are comfortable with the elderly. Now that I’m in that category myself we are reaping some rewards – ha!

After the kids were grown and gone I designed and maintained websites for organizations and several businesses.


And now, the questions:

Q: Moving from Minnesota to New Mexico is a huge shift in culture and climate. What prompted you to make such a huge move and how much does where you live influence what you choose to knit (and knit with)?

A: What prompted us to move was Minnesota ice and the endless winters. Las Cruces is high desert at the foot of the Organ Mountains about 40 miles north of El Paso. We do have winter but the coldest it gets at night is perhaps 20 degrees. Beautiful bulky knits are not an option here, but mid-weight garments are perfect and those with a rustic flavor always get my attention.

Q: Looking through your projects, knitting something for yourself seems to be the exception among beautiful gifts. What are your favorite gifts to knit?

A: It’s getting harder and harder to part with my treasures but mitts, cowls and scarves are nice to have in my gift drawer. Shawls are good gifts but only if I am certain of color or shape for a particular recipient.

Q: Of course, the thing that brought you to my attention (among my nosey Ravelry snooping) is your apparent affection for my pattern Mapes. Why do you like this particular pattern?

A: Mapes! What can I say? It’s the perfect pattern and project. It is portable, easy enough that I can carry on conversation or follow a TV show and has such a relaxing rhythm to it that I’m always thinking of the next one while I knit. It curves around the shoulders and stays on! But also it’s a blank canvas –

Q: When I wrote Mapes it was with hope that people would find it easy to customize and make their own. You seem to have caught on to that intention. What are the modifications that you have made and which are your most successful? Is there anything you tried that just didn’t work?

Knitted shawl Mapes with beaded ruffle.

Can you believe that ruffle?

A: I have added one extra stitch in the cast-on to give me an odd stitch count rather than even when I wanted to incorporate a centered pattern and this worked well. I tried to incorporate beads into that very pretty line of holes which start at the neck and wrap around over the shoulder and hang down the front. That was a flop but I’m still thinking about that one. It’s simmering on a back burner in my brain. (This is something that I had to make happen too, see Caladan).

Q: What are some of your other favorite patterns? (it is OK if they are from other designers)

A: Amiga by Mags Kandis. Amiga is another blank canvas open to all kinds of interpretation and I love it. Although it was written for flake cotton and summer it works equally well in heavier weight yarn for cooler weather. I love top-down cardigans because it’s so much easier to control the fit. You don’t finish all the knitting only to discover that the fit is horrible and fixing it would require massive frogging. (Except I managed to do just that on one top-down sweater)

Martina Behm’s 22.5 Degrees because the formula for the shaping renders a triangle shawl which is more shallow and longer.

Q: On your Ravelry profile you paint a lovely picture of knitting with your Grandmother and her friends, it sounds like a wonderful memory. Could you tell us about that here? And in this vein, have you taught (or considered teaching) any of your grandchildren to knit?

A: I was my grandma’s first grandchild and she called me Honey. So I, in turn, called HER Honey. The name stuck and all the future grandchildren called her Honey. What was so lovely about being with Honey and her friends was that I felt like a grown-up while I was with them. My verbal contributions to their conversation were accepted and the flow continued. We would have lunch on plates which also held a teacup and hold them in our lap.

I have six grandchildren – five boys and one girl. I taught one grandson to knit when he was about 8 or 9 and now he is a senior in high school. He is very creative and artistic so maybe knitting is something he will come back to later in his life. My granddaughter was not interested as a child but she says she has taken up knitting recently. She is back in Minnesota and maybe when we go back to our cabin next summer we can compare notes

Q: Finally, I am always curious how other Ravelers use Ravelry. What role does Ravelry play in your knitting life? Do you use it mostly for finding patterns, planning projects, keeping records? Do you make use of the social aspects of the site? What is your favorite feature?

A: I could not believe my good fortune when I stumbled upon Ravelry! I’m a ‘puter nerd and actually built several of my own in the nineties. So it took me no time at all to appreciate the complexity of the Ravelry site. What a resource! It’s wonderful to see what other knitters are creating and their interpretations of a pattern or their use of a particular yarn. It’s so stimulating – the brain cells feel like they’re statically charged! :) Keeping track of stash is wonderful – although, I confess to having some not listed. Being able to go back and see what size needle you used on a project or how many yards were used is priceless to me. I’m sometimes disappointed when people leave out some of the critical info on their project pages.

Another invaluable tool for me is the listing of my personal library. My goodness, to be able to get a look at all the cardigan patterns in my library and see what magazine or book they are located in? It boggles the mind

It never would have occurred to me without Ravelry to mix yarns to create unique fabrics. Now I love mixing yarns and kinds of fiber together. I like adding silk to a garment to get that lovely drape. Rayon does the same thing and I like adding that. When I invest in stash now it is with the idea that it will be blended with something else.

Oh – and let’s not forget dyeing! That too has become addictive – all the info you need right on Ravelry.

***

As suspected a fascinating person was behind all of that knitting. It is possible that knitters are the coolest people ever. I hope that y’all enjoyed this as much as I did, because I plan on more interviews. Is there any one in particular you would like to hear from? Feel free to comment away!

Malabrigo Quickie – Reciprocity Cowl

Reciprocity – the quality or state of being reciprocal:  mutual dependence, action, or influence.

Reciprocal – shared, felt, or shown by both sides

Malabrigo (or as I refer to it; mmmmmmMalabrigo) has this wonderful program where they accept proposals from independent designers for projects that focus on utilizing one or two skeins of their yarn to produce a quick and fun pattern for knitters. They supply the yarn, you supply the pattern, both parties promote the pattern and everybody wins!

Moebius cowl knit with Malabrigo Silky Merino and Silkpaca by Barbara Benson

The same lovely model as for Sardaukar

This is my second Quickie – the first was Curiosity and I am still super proud of that one. For this cowl I wanted to address the challenge of making the gorgeous variegated colorways look as amazing in the pattern as they do in the skein. My first step towards that goal was to pair a variegated color of Silky Merino (Queguay) with a complementary solid in Silkpaca (Abril). The solid was chosen to pull out one of the colors in the multi and to break things up a bit. The second step was to stick with a simple texture pattern to allow the yarn to really shine through. I worked the texture holding both yarns together for extra softness.

Moebius cowl knit with Malabrigo Silky Merino and Silkpaca by Barbara Benson

Texture and stockinette alternate

But do I ever leave well enough alone? Do you know me at all? ;)

I wanted to have some stockinette but I didn’t want to continue holding the yarns together, each yarn deserved its own spotlight. So I cooked up a bit of faux double knitting that is super easy to work once you have it set up. While working with the Silkpaca I did not want to stop because it is just so exceptionally soft – so there is a bit more of that in there than the DK. These extra rows cause the Silkpaca panel to bow out a bit and therefore fluff up and rub a bit against your neck. I am sure that you will bear with the sensation.

Reciprocity Moebius cowl in Malabrigo Sikly & Silkpaca by Barbara Benson

Another drape option.

Of course, I haven’t yet addressed the construction. I may be a wee bit obsessed with Moebius right now. A true Moebius has the cast on in the middle of the piece and grows out from there. The top & bottom edges you see there? Both are the cast off. This construction allowed me to create a cowl that is truly reversible and that presents different panels of stockinette at different places. The cast on itself is a bit challenging to wrap your brain around, but I have provided a link to the Cat Bordhi video and fully written out *and illustrated* instructions on how to get it done.

Reciprocity Moebius cowl in Malabrigo Sikly & Silkpaca by Barbara Benson

The whole schebang.

All in all this is a fun, quick to knit pattern that should keep you entertained the entire time. The number one thing that I am excited about is seeing what all colors people decide to pair up for their cowls. What colors do you think you would use?

Zagless

Last week I had two patterns come out and I thought I would go ahead and talk about one of them. It was a little bit of a surprise for me because these projects are ones that I worked on last Fall in conjunction with Stitch Sprouts and the dyer Anzula. You see, these two independent fiber companies teamed up to produce a series of booklets to feature Anzula’s yarns (and also Stitch Sprouts designers) Yay!

I had the opportunity to work with two different bases Squishy and Cricket. Both are crazy soft and come in an amazing array of colors. For the fingering weight Squishy I decided to do (surprise) a two color mosaic style shawl.

Zagless - a two color hand knit shawl in Anzula Squishy by Barbara Benson

I know, you are stunned. ;)

As you might have noticed I am a bit enamored of this side to side construction right now. This one is similar to Love Child in its shaping, but with subtle and not so subtle differences. For one, there is no lace at all in this. Truly. A actual solid piece. For me, an event, no? It is knit up on larger-than-average needles for fingering to allow the yarn to shine in its glorious softness and to maintain a lovely drape. But I wanted to keep it solid so that we had a truly functional shawl, one that would actually keep you nice and cozy.

The pattern is an optical illusion and one thing that really surprised me is how much the texture creates an interesting overlay that is almost independent of the color pattern. You can see it most in the zigging portion of the stripe – where the texture of the slipped stitches actually moves in the opposite direction of the color pattern.

Zagless - a two color hand knit shawl in Anzula Squishy by Barbara Benson

You can see the whole side to side.

This oddity is why we chose to keep with colors that were very close in tonal value. If you crank up the contrast on the colors I think the illusion is going to be exaggerated and you are going to get something that truly changes appearance depending on how you look at it. Which could be totally cool, I can’t wait to see what people do. But it would have been a giant PAIN to photograph – so we went more subtle.

Of course, with this kind of project I have to lovingly pack up the sample and send it off to live with another. I miss it and its snuggly aspect. I am afraid that I am going to have to knit one of my own so that I can love it and pet it and hopefully wear it! Of course the question there is what colors I might knit it in for my very own self? I love the colors that the pros picked and would be tempted to do the same. But why do the same thing twice? They carry 98 colors to choose from, you can see a sampling on the Ravelry page here. What colors would you match up?

Zagless - a two color hand knit shawl in Anzula Squishy by Barbara Benson

One way to wear the shawl.

The pattern is available in the ebook and soon through your local yarn store that carries Anzula. It is also available as a singleton. The single pattern has instructions in both written & charted formats. The pamphlet had to think about space issues so it is chart only, which really, when you also get 5 awesome patterns from some very talented designers it really isn’t much of a issue, eh?

All photographs courtesy of Stitch Sprouts.

Every Day

Here at the Benson household we had a pretty uneventful weekend. We had pancakes on Saturday and went to visit Grandma on Sunday. Since Monday was a school holiday I took the small person down to The World of Coca Cola. He had requested this for an activity over the winter break but instead we decided to become inflicted with pestilence and sit on the couch trying not to cough up our lungs. Good times.

Last night as we were driving to the pet store to buy hay for the bunnies I took this photo through the windshield of the car.

January 19th 2015

January 19th 2015

Sometimes I think I need a reminder to stop and appreciate the simple beauty of every day. There is pleasure to be had in the simple. I have been embracing simple for the past few weeks, in my life and in my knitting. This is not to say that the crazy is going to disappear – because that is integral to my nature. But in the upcoming months you should expect to see some simpler pieces coming out.

While the weekend was a study in every day, last week held a little excitement. I started a new job! Don’t worry, it shouldn’t cut into my knitting time too much. I will be working two days a week at my LYS! I am completely stoked to be working in a yarn store again. Spending several days a week surrounded by yarny goodness and interacting with knitters of all kinds is wonderful for keeping my mojo going strong. So YAY! Come visit me if you are in the area. I am there on Thursday & Friday until 2.