Pondering Patterns

Remember way back in May when I went to TNNA? I know, it seems like forever ago … but it has been fresh in my mind. Immersing myself in the world of knitting and yarn was a fantastic if exhausting experience. My primary goal for the trip was simply networking. I figured that I had (and have) a whole industry to learn and my best bet was going to be doing more listening than talking and trying to learn as much as possible. All in all the trip was an overwhelming success for me.

But, I also had a secondary, you know – just in case it happens – goal. I wanted to investigate the idea of getting my patterns out there into local yarn stores in hard copy. Why you might ask? Well, believe it or not, there are knitters who are not on Ravelry. Heck, there are knitters who aren’t even on-line (much). And while I personally prefer the more direct contact I get with knitters that direct digital sales provides, I would like to reach those knitters that prefer to have a printed copy of the pattern in their hands.

I understand, I don’t like reading books on an e-device and I am sure it is a similar thing.

As is happens, the stars aligned, one thing led to another and I ended up talking with the amazingly talented Heather Zoppetti who is the one woman force of nature behind Stitch Sprouts. The impetus behind writing this post was a new blog post on the Stitch Sprouts blog announcing the New Designers. I am totally excited, and frankly slightly stunned to be included among all of the talented designers at Stitch Sprouts. Many of them I met and got to know at TNNA (hurrah for the break down team!) and I wish I could have them all living around me so that we could plot and scheme constantly. But alas, designing is a relatively solitary pursuit.

I now have my very own page on the Stitch Sprouts site – here is a screen grab for proof:

Stitch Sprouts designer, Barbara Benson

A snap shot of the website.

The upshot of all of this is that your local yarn store can now carry my patterns! All they have to do is go on the Stitch Sprouts site and sign up for the upcoming catalog. And really, I think it will be well worth it. There is such a great variety of patterns in both knit and crochet that, even if they don’t like my stuff, they are sure to find something that will be a hit in their store.

Along with the patterns, Heather also carries some absolutely lovely yarns and some really fun stitch markers. My favorite of the stitch markers are these:

Stitch Sprouts paper stitch markers

The weigh pretty much nothing

Do you know what these are made out of? Paper! And where did the paper come from? Old Stitch Sprouts catalogs! Isn’t that brilliant? They take the old catalogs and instead of chucking them in a landfill they get torn into wee strips and turned into beads. Heather then turns the paper beads into snag-less stitch markers et voila! Upcycled. Totally one of those “why didn’t I think of that” moments when I found out.

Big news to round out the Summer, eh? If you have any questions please do not hesitate to ask. And if you think that your LYS would like to carry my patterns, please pass the info along. Thanks!

au Courant

What do you want to hear about? Do you want to have a detailed description of the pattern proposal process and the wonderful experience that was working with Twist Collective? Or do you want to peer into the dusty corners to try and understand the slightly off mind that would even dream of combining these two techniques? Maybe you want to see my relatively pitiful attempt at a “fashion sketch” that is required for pretty much all proposals?

Or do you just want to see the pretty pictures? Because we can totally do that!

Hand knitted color-work lace stole from Barbara Benson

Photo by Linus Ouellet courtesy Twist Collective

I was waiting impatiently to see how the photography for this shawl turned out … and I was not disappointed. I hope you love it too. This pattern involved quite a bit of indulging myself. If you hadn’t noticed, I like to push the boundaries a bit, break a rule here and there. One day I was visiting my best friend (who is a knitter of course) and I started paging through her copy of The Haapsalu Shawl and, just like any knitter, was in awe of the beauty of these intricate stitches.

But can I leave well enough alone? Hah! Never. Where I stray from being on the “normal” side of things is that my first thought was “how can I make this two color?” The review I linked to refers to the book as “The Estonian Barbara Walker” which explains a great deal, considering my obsession with Walker’s Mosaic knitting concepts. Long story short (don’t laugh) I spent a great deal of time figuring out how to make this happen.

Knitted color-work lace shawl pattern by Barbara Benson

Photo by Linus Ouellet courtesy Twist Collective

And this was the result. I will be forever grateful to Twist Collective for being willing to publish such a adventurous pattern. The entire issue is absolutely beautiful and if you haven’t taken a look at it yet, you should. I will be here when you get back.

It is a big piece, my biggest to date. I am not going to lie, it is a lot of knitting. But it was nothing that even resembled a chore because of the unbelievable yarn I had to work with. The incomparable Miss Babs supplied the perfect blend of Merino and Silk in her fingering weight Shiruku in the colors Helen of Troy and Cygnus. In my proposal to Twist I was fairly adamant that they yarn needed to contain silk. This was necessary for a couple of reasons.

The slip stitch color-work technique used in the pattern creates a situation where there is a lot of compaction of the stitches. If you have handled any “traditional” mosaic work it can be quite … dense. Much of my development time has been centered around figuring out ways to thwart this tendency. One solution I have arrived at is knitting at a larger gauge than normal. A second component is the lace itself; adding in holes creates a more bendy fabric. The silk is the final component.

Silk has fine drape and allows the fabric to move and flow just as a shawl should. It also has very little memory so it improves the shawl’s ability to retain its shape once it has been blocked. Now, you might ask “Why not just go 100% silk?” which is a good question. Silk tends to be a very well defined yarn and the stitches stand out individually. Which is not precisely what I wanted. My yarn needed some floofiness, some bloom. It needed to fill in a bit so that the color-work had more of a presence.  So the Merino/Silk blend is perfect! And shucks if I didn’t have to knit with it. The sacrifices I make for y’all. ;)

A knitted stole combining mosaic style color-work and Estonian lace from Barbara Benson

Photo by Linus Ouellet courtesy Twist Collective

Well, I have babbled on haven’t I? Considering that I started out with questions please let me know in the comments if there are any questions you have about this new shawl. If it is complicated enough, or if there is more than one, I can do a whole additional post. If you have an easy one I will answer in the comments.

I want to wrap things up by sending a special Thank You out to the awesome Raveler CathyG. The knitting of this shawl took place during my jaunt around the MidWest and she was kind enough to allow me to take over an entire room in her house to block this big guy. Crawling around on the floor with someone is an excellent bonding experience and I was pleased to have it with you!

Sneak Preview – BitterBlue

There has been scheming going on. Scheming and plotting with a bit of nefarious activities on the side. All of it started around February of this year and I have been plugging away at it with my co-conspirators ever since.

A sneak peek at a new beaded shawl from Barbara Benson, The Unique Sheep, and EarthFaire

A little peek at the shawls.

Have you heard of EarthFaire? It is a lovely online store that has a very tight focus on beaded knitting. The proprietor of EarthFaire is Ellen and I was lucky enough to get to know her when she contacted me regarding Caladan and I was pleased as punch that she wanted to carry the shawl as a kit. Kits are what she specializes in, being a private shopper for you and your knitting. She matches the perfect yarn and the perfect beads with a pattern so that you don’t have to guess what is going to work.

A sneak peek at a new beaded shawl from Barbara Benson, The Unique Sheep, and EarthFaire

I could take “arty” pictures all day.

After working with her for several years I felt that she might not think I was completely crazy when I approached her with a slightly crazy idea and I was right. She was game and she brought the amazing Kelly from The Unique Sheep in on the plan and we were off like a shot! Using two images that I had earmarked as inspirational for their color palates, Kelly crafted two new and beautiful Gradiance Color-ways to be used in an new shawl pattern.

A sneak peek at a new beaded shawl from Barbara Benson, The Unique Sheep, and EarthFaire

A slightly different angle gives slightly different hints.

Ellen worked with me to pick the perfect beads and then it was up to me to get the patterning and knitting done. With the help of a wonderful sample knitter to handle one of the shawls I am now at the point where I need to shoot the final photos and put the finishing touches on the pattern. But the reason I am posting this today is that if this idea excites you – you don’t have to wait. EarthFaire has put the kit up for pre-order on her site here! She has tons of info on there that I won’t be all redundant about, but it is worth looking at for details about club exclusives, pre-order discount, and a knit-a-long.

A sneak peek at a new beaded shawl from Barbara Benson, The Unique Sheep, and EarthFaire

The most revealing shot.

As she mentions, the pattern will be available on Ravelry – but if you want the custom colors you can only get them from EarthFaire. I will be releasing the pattern in September to coincide with the yarn and kits being ready. This gives me a wee bit of time to get all of my ducks in a row. In the meantime, you can be sure that there will be some blog posts about how to put beads on your knitting.

Anatomy of Cable Abbreviations, part two

I seriously had to resist naming this post “part Deaux” or  “Abbreviations Reloaded” or “The Cable Strikes Back” … I am just full of the silly.

Onward and upward!

Learn how to decipher a written cable abbreviation in a knitting pattern, part Two. -TumpedDuck

Cable/cross two right

Diving right back into crossing cables – we are now looking at Right and Left cables.

To start off with, these are 100%, absolutely identical to the Front and Back cables in execution, we are just looking at different nomenclature. Po-tay-toe, po-tah-toe as one says. Now for the break down

  1. C – once again letting you know you are fixin’ to cable or “cross” your stitches. This is the same as understanding that ‘k’ is telling you to knit and ‘p’ is telling you to purl.
  2. A Number – nothing new here. This is letting you know how many stitches are involved in your upcoming cable. In this case you will be crossing 2 stitches, but how? (As usual, if the number is even it is assumed that you will split the stitches evenly.)
  3. Direction – here is where things are changed up. With Front and Back you are being told what to do with the stitches. Left and Right lets you know what the end appearance of the cable will be after you have completed the stitch swap. Yeah. I know. It is time for a picture
Understanding how a Right Cable moves - TumpedDuck

A Right Cable

 

 

What you see to the right is a Right crossing cable. The black arrow represents the stitches moving to the front and the brown arrow is the stitches moving to the back. Right is referring to the direction of movement of the stitches that are held to the front of the work. The arrows show the directionality of the stitches. When considering the constituent stitches of the cable (here there are a total of two stitches) you are moving the left-most stitch to the front and over the right-most stitch.

Try to remember: in a Right cable the front stitches move from left to Right.

Learn how to decipher a written cable abbreviation in a knitting pattern, part Two. -TumpedDuck

Cable One over Two Left

Understanding how a Right Cross Cable (CL) moves. - TumpedDuck

A left Cable

As in the Back/Front cables, you can also have an uneven number of stitches and the abbreviation works pretty much the same way.

  1. C – I think you might have this by now. C = this is a cable. You, dear knitter will be cabling before you know it!
  2. A Number – remember, this is not a fraction. The / symbol should be read as “over”, so this tells you that it is a one over two cable. If you were passing two stitches over one then the number would be written 2/1.
  3. Direction – this is a Left cable so you know that your end result is a cable where the front stitch(es) appear to twist to the Left. In the case of this stitch you already know from the number that your single stitch is passing over the other two stitches. Because this is a Left cable that means that the first stitch is held to the front, you knit the next two stitches and then the held stitch. The single stitch is passing from the right to the Left. If you follow the diagram to the right you can see the black arrow representing the direction the front stitches move.

For a Left cable try to remember that the front stitches mover from the right to the Left.

Now, I find the Left/Right naming convention to be considerably more confusing than the Front/Back, but to each their own. Whatever clicks the best in your brain you just go for it! If you need to draw parallels between the two styles of naming you can try to remember that Right = Back and Left = Front. My mnemonic for that is R&B. For some reason my musical nature always associates R&B together (Rhythm and Blues anyone?) so I can remember that R(ight) goes with B(ack).

Incidentally, this is the same way I remember how to work a Right leaning increase. When you want your M1 to lean right you pick the strand up from the back. R&B just go together (in my crazy brain). Do you have any knitting mnemonics?

Anatomy of Cable Abbreviations

My newest project has been working on cables. For some reason lace came instinctively to me. YO = hole. Big circle on a chart = hole. Even the basic increase and decrease abbreviations and symbols made complete sense. (Well, I admit to having a bit of difficulty remembering which of ssk vs k2tog leaned which way) But cables are a challenge.

Not precisely a challenge to actually knit , I can follow instructions just fine. But to truly internalize what all of the symbols mean – well, that has taken some time. And I don’t know that I can say with 100% certainty that I have got it. Hopefully I am close. While writing a pattern I have had to come to a concrete decision on one particular issue. Abbreviations. I have to pick a style and stick with it, and there lies the conundrum.

Are the two kinds of cable crosses Front/Back or Right/Left. They both mean the same thing but represent two different ways of thinking about things. To prevent any suspense, I settled on Front/Back because that is what makes the most sense to me. But there really isn’t a correct way of doing it. As long as I remain consistent I hope that everything will work out all right.

To the subject at hand. For now I don’t want to address reading cables on a chart. It isn’t that difficult to find guides to reading charted cables, but when I started really looking online to find somewhere that breaks down understanding the abbreviations used in written instructions for cabling – well, I came up a bit short. I am going to put this out there, and it is my understanding of how it all works. If I have erred at some point, please do not hesitate to let me know personally or in the comments. As I said, I have come to grips with cables through a difficult path and I might have miss-stepped along the way.

The best way to understand how to cross a cable is to read the instructions provided in the pattern. A good pattern writer will describe how you are to execute the cable based on the abbreviation they use. That being said, I would like to arm you with the ability to suss out what the cable means if you are in a situation where details are unavailable. Onward (allonz-y)!

Learn how to decipher a written cable abbreviation in a knitting pattern. - TumpedDuck

Cable Two Back

This is what a basic cable abbreviation looks like. The specific cable illustrated would be written out Cable Two Back. The abbreviation can be broken down into three elements – which I have labeled as such.
  1. C – this big ole c starting things off announces, “Hey, we are fixin’ to cable!”. Some say that the C stands for cable others that the C stands for cross. Regardless, when you see the C prepare yourself to cable.
  2. A Number – the number tells you how many stitches are involved. (edited for accuracy, for original see*) In this example there are two stitches involved which will be crossing one over one. You could also see C4B – which would indicate crossing 2 over 2, C6B … and so forth.
  3. Direction – this tells you whether you are crossing Front or Back. This letter can be one of four options B, F, R or L. For now we are sticking to F & B, specifically looking at a Back cross. When dealing with the Front/Back naming system you are being instructed what to do with the first stitches you come to. With Back this tells you that the first 2 stitches of your 4 stitch cable will be held to the Back of the work, the next two stitches will be knit (and therefore cross to the front of the work) and then you will knit the stitches from the cable needle.

If there is no number, meaning that you have run across the abbreviation CB or CF, then you can safely assume that it is a 1/1 cable. With CB you would hold the first stitch to the back knit the next stitch and then knit the held stitch. With CF you would hold the first stitch to the front knit the next stitch and then knit the held stitch. Pretty much C2B and CB mean the same thing. Capiche?

Learn how to decipher a written cable abbreviation in a knitting pattern. -TumpedDuck

Cable One over Two Front

But what do we have here? There appears to be a fraction in the middle of my cable! Looks can be deceiving, there is no fraction (waves hand). It is a different kind of cable.

  1. Why hello there Mr. C – you are once again telling me that we shall be cabling forthwith.
  2. A Number – but what a strange looking number indeed. When you see this notation it is telling you that you have an uneven cross. It is not a fraction but instead the number of stitches that you are working with (as above). This particular one is a One over Two cross. The number in the first position tells you how many stitches will be at the Front of the work and the second number tells you how many stitches will travel behind, regardless of whether or not it is a Front or Back cross because …
  3. Direction – and here we have a Front cross. As I said above this tells you what to do with the first stitches you encounter. You will have to do a little figuring with this. You have a 1/2 cross which means that you know that you will need to be holding 1 stitch to the front of the work and crossing two stitches behind – but in what order? The Front tells you “Hey, the first stitch you come to goes to the Front!” so you would take the first stitch, hold it to the front of your work, knit the next two stitches and then knit the held stitch. The reflected version of this stitch is C1/2B. Reading it you would hear “Hey the first stitch(es) you come to go to the Back!” and since it is a 1/2 Cross (where you know the single stitch always goes to the Front) you would hold the first two stitches to the Back knit the next stitch, and then knit the two held stitches.

These uneven crosses are usually an uneven number 2/3, 1/2 but they can be an even number of stitches that are worked unevenly. You could conceivably run across a C3/1B, a 4 stitch cable where you have three stitches passing in front of a single stitch. At times you may also see a notation such as C2/2F which would mean the exact same thing as C4F – only more spelled out.

That is pretty much it in a nutshell. As long as you remember the 3 distinct sections of a cable abbreviation you should be able to be able to read a set of written instructions for a cabled piece.  I had planned on explaining the Right/Left notation and how it differs from Back/Front in this post but this has gotten a bit long and it might be enough to ponder for now. There will be a Part Two of this post coming in the next few days that will hopefully clear things up.

If you have any questions, please feel free to pipe up and I will do my best to figure it out! If I can answer the question in the comments I will, but if not it might show up in Part Two!

Part Two is live and you can read it here.

 

*Originally I had the following “If the number is even then it is actually telling you that the number of stitches that you will be working with is actually double the number shown. In this example the number is 2, so you will be making a 4 stitch cable – 2 crossed over two. (More on this in a wee bit.)”  Because I have see cables written like that. After CatBrown (thank you!) made her excellent observation in the comments I did a bit more digging and found that this is the less common way of doing things. As I said – the best thing to do is read the instructions in your pattern.

If that isn’t working out, consider the context of your pattern. If you have a picture take a look at it. If it looks like a big honkin’ cable and your instructions are C4F then most likely it is 4 over 4 as opposed to a 2 over 2. The lack of standardization can be frustrating at times!

Blog Love

I read a lot of blogs, no exaggeration needed. Enough that when I just went and opened up my Feedly window and it didn’t count them for me I realized that I didn’t want to count them.

Obviously I read a load of knitting/yarn blogs, but I also have about the same number of food blogs that I follow. And then there are the ones I have sorted into the “inspirational” category that are mostly fashion and design blogs. You never know where inspiration is going to arise, so I have things like but does it float, Design*Sponge, and NOTCOT that I peruse every couple of days.

FeedlyCaptureDesign

If you have any knitting, food or design blogs that you think are particularly inspirational, educational, or fun I would love to hear about them in the comments!

With knitting blogs, I particularly like educational posts where experienced knitters pass on tips and tricks, I collect these on a Pinterest board named Knitting Stitches and Techniques that you might want to follow. But I thought I would share a couple of my favorites here too!

Some medium/advanced tips:

Needle Material Affects Gauge

This fantastic post from Alexis Windslow provides the best explanation and proof on how your needles can change what gauge you get. Bookmark this now.

Knitted on Border – How to

Miriam Felton provides a photographic, step-by-step explanation of how to work a knitted on border. You will be empowered after looking at this.

Yes you CAN

…fix a twist when knitting in the round! Wise Hilda works magic on working in the round, showing you how to fix a twist after you have joined to work in the round (but before you start your second round).

And a couple of simple, but awesome tips:

Use a Side Marker

A simple idea that can save you a boat load of time and frustration from Tamara Goff

Carrying yarn while switching colors

Not that the PurlBee needs any more traffic to their awesome blog, but this is something that is often taken for granted and rarely explained. When you carry yarns while knitting stripes – how exactly do you do that?

 

 

Wrapping (up) Presents

OK, I have one more post to share about prizes for the Lace-a-long. I want to say something like “last but not least” or “saved the best for last” but really, I think all of the prizes are pretty awesome and totally want to keep them all. I hope y’all feel the same.

Anzula Squishy Spruce

Anzula Squishy in Spruce – I forsee a beautiful green shawl.

At TNNA I met a whole bunch of great people who are doing amazing things in this yarn-y type industry. One of the wonderful surprises was meeting the Lady(ies) behind Anzula. Sabrina and her dynamic team create absolutely stunning yarn on a wide variety of bases, many of which I have never seen anywhere else. Being in Atlanta things like linen and silk really speak to me of cool, breezy knits that could be worn most of the year. Why is there so much to knit and I only have two hands?

Anyhoo … seeing that this is a lace-a-long and I mostly design shawls when offered the opportunity to claim a skein of yarn for y’all I decided to go with this decadent MCN fingering blend base. And this green, it is so soft and lovely. I hope I did good picking yarn for y’all? Honestly, if I were able to keep this yarn I would totally knit a Roller Coaster Cowl out of it; just so I could have all of its squishy softness up close to my skin.

Finally, a place to keep your doohickeys and thing-a-ma-bobs:

Erin Lane Notions Wallet

An Erin Lane notions wallet

To be honest, I purchased this for myself at Stitches South, but then decided it would make such a good prize that I would have to part with it. I was going to link to the Erin Lane website but it appears to currently be under construction. Regardless, they/she make really cool bags and things of holding to organize your knitting life. I fell in love with the pattern on this and its really innovative inside. To see the inside you will need to click through to the additional photo in the Prize thread on Ravelry.

That pretty much wraps things up on the prize front. I will be figuring out what will be “Grand Prize” and how to distribute the other prizes in the near future. I want to spread the love as much as possible.