Seven Socks in Summer

I’ve been knitting socks over the summer for charity, and yesterday I realized I had to ship them.Unfortunately, two of the socks looked like this:
White a4a youth socks
These are bound for Afghans for Afghans, so I couldn’t send white socks (which are very boring to knit – next time I dye the yarn before knitting). So I pulled out some plum acid dye that was leftover from the dyeing class I took in Montana in June, and after two times dyeing (the first time things were blotchy), I got dark and rich plum- colored socks:
Plum dyed socks
And now the whole batch is winging its way across Golden Gate Bridge to the packing office (aka the basement of the American Friends Service Committee).

Youth socks

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Pattern: Interlocked

Today marks the debut of my new knitting pattern – Interlocked – a buttoned cowl and matching fingerless mittens, knit in luscious Malabrigo Twist for high-touch effect. And Sale!

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The cowl, pictured below, is one-size, although you could knit it smaller or bigger depending on how you would like it. I used three different buttons, which I think offers a fun touch:

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The fingerless mittens come in two sizes, small and large, and each feature the interlocking diamond pattern found in the cowl.  It will only take two skeins of Malabrigo Twist to knit both the mittens and the cowl – making it a bargain knit.

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I’m publishing this pattern on the day of my local yarn store’s 5th Anniversary – the wonderful Bluebird Yarn and Fiber Craft. Sophie has made it through the tough economic times and continues to keep on the current edges of knitting. I’ll be down there today to help knitters find lovely uses for their sale yarn.

To celebrate, I’m offering a coupon for 50 percent off the Interlocked pattern on Ravelry. Just click the Buy Now button, and use the coupon code Bluebird as you check out. The code will be good through September 30th!

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A New Pattern Preview and Teaching Schedule

This coming weekend is Bluebird Yarn and Fiber’s 5th Anniversary sale! Go here to find all the details:

Bluebird is my go-to yarn store for so many reasons: great selection, great prices, and a wonderful owner, Sophie Kurnik! I’ll be there in Saturday, September 28th doing some demonstrations of beaded knitting and cables-traveling stitches without a cable needle, plus providing pattern selection support with my trusty iPad for those lovely sale finds! As Sophie’s email notes, there will be a ton of yarn and fun to be had by all!

One feature of the sale is the debut of my new pattern, a textured cowl and fingerless mittens pattern. Here’s a preview photo!

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The pattern, Interlocked, will be up on Ravelry come Saturday, and those who check back with the blog will find a sale code to buy the pattern at 50 percent off  from the beginning of the sale through the end of the month!

Plus, I will teaching a number of classes over the next couple of months at Bluebird. Check out my classes page for more details. All of the classes at Bluebird offer small sizes and personalized attention. 

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Tech Tip Tuesday: Backing Buttons for Button Bands

Buttons can make or break a garment. Drooping buttons are a drag. I have some drooping buttons on a sweater myself, and they really bug me!

But how can you prevent the droopage? Backing buttons! These are small plain buttons that you attach through the button band so that there is something on the other side to hold the button in place.

I’m currently finishing my Dark and Stormy sweater which is coming out very well – the fit is good but loose for casual wear. I love the buttons that I got for it!

The fashion button and the backing button are two different sizes:

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I got a 100 buttons through a service company to dry cleaners, but just search for backing buttons, and you’ll find them. Buy a bunch at one time, I’m still working through the first 100. Now sometimes I will add a grosgrain ribbon treatment on the back of the button band, but in this case, I didn’t think the weight of the buttons would be an issue, so I’m going sans ribbon.

Essentially, I am making a button sandwich with the buttons as the “bread” (pro-tip – don’t eat it!):

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I sew on the buttons together, going through the fabric and the other button with the same thread. On the front, things look really good:

IMG_1899and everything is tidy on the back as well!

 

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Knitting Amnesia

Jasmin over at the Knitmore Girls podcast has been on a kick of revamping her sock drawer. Seriously, she has an amazing set of socks, but she is bored with them, and will give them to new appreciative homes and knit some new ones. In my imagination, my life is ordered at these degree.

In reality, however, my replacement strategy goes more like this. See falling apart socks:

Socks with holes
These socks are several years old (at least one pair predates Ravelry), have been mended more than once, and I have finally come to terms with the fact that they are done. This pair I even had made out of scraps from other socks, so I really shouldn’t be sad that they’ve finally outlived their usefulness.

Scrap Socks with holes

Unlike Jasmin, my sock drawer has socks on their last legs, but on the other side of the coin, I also have my “reserve socks.” Yes, I have knit so many socks that I put some in reserve to be added to the rotation when socks like these go splat. They are kept in a ziplock bag at the back of the sock drawer for easy retrieval, usually two or three pairs of socks.   I opened the bag, and found this pair of socks:

Hummingbird socks

I was astonished – where did these socks come from? They aren’t my usual colorway at all. I had absolutely no memory of them. But nobody knits this expert knitter socks – not because I’m picky, I just don’t have any family members who are sock knitters. This was a case of knitting amnesia. Only after about five minutes did I realize where the socks had come from – these were the socks of my travail earlier this year.

They are the children of whirlwind (rav link). I knit them in chaos of life, job, mom getting sicker. I knit them a lot in hospital rooms and ERs, to calm my last nerve. They were the keepers of the chaos, the socks that held me together when everything was spinning apart. They were the socks that clocked the seconds, minutes, and hours of sitting at my mother’s side wondering where her journey would take her, and where my own life would lead next. Round after round, the socks were created out of sticks and yarn and the creativity of design.

The name of the pattern is Hummingbird by Sandy Rosner from The Knitter’s Book of Socks by Clara Parkes. Today, outside my office window,  I can see hummingbirds whisking from bloom to bloom, finding the nectar to sustain life. And then I realize, my hummingbird socks are being called out of reserve at the perfect moment. This fall, which used to be called harvest season, I will wear them as a reminder that chaos settles down, and we are called to live and thrive again, to reap the plenty of the earth. Round after round, I am supported by my knitting through the chaos.

I will not forget these socks, or their story, ever again.

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Tech Tip Tuesday: Swatching buttonbands

I’m beginning a new series here on the blog  called Tech Tip Tuesday, which will focus on technical tips that can make our knitwear and knitting more beautiful and efficient.

Let’s begin with something I’m working on now – a buttonband for a cardigan – Dark and Stormy. Having read a lot in Ravelry project pages as well as in the pattern itself, I came to two conclusion: 1. the Shawl Collar instructions are not helpful, and 2. the ratio of stitches picked up on the bands in the pattern were off. I concluded that I was going to need to redo the pattern, because, let’s face it, the collar and bands are the most important finishing for a cardigan sweater.

I consulted two of my favorite sweater knitting design books, Knitting Pattern Essentials by Sally Melville, and Knitwear Design Workshop by Shirley Paden. Each of these books has a wealth of information; while some of it overlaps, there are also unique features, and sometimes these knitting mavens disagree. Shirley seems to like to separately knit collars and buttonbands, while Sally strongly urges knitted-on ones. Shirley provides some good detail on shawl collar construction, while Sally provides numerous pick-up ratios for various bands on various stitch patterns at the various points on the bands and collar. See my review of Knitting Pattern Essentials.

I followed a lot of the instructions in Shirley’s book beginning on p 235 (for horizontal shawl collars), which I won’t duplicate here. Instead, let’s focus on the button band.  I swing with Sally on this one – I am not going to separately knit a button band and collar and then attach it – instead,  I want to pick up stitches and knit.

Onto to testing the button band approach. This is enough knitting that I don’t want to find out after I knit the whole thing and blocked it that the ratio was off. What can I do?

 

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This is my sweater swatch.  At 9 inches by 7.5 inches, it’s large enough to see how the fabric feels, and will be perfect as a test for my button band, which will also let me test out some buttonhole sizes.  I knit up the side of the swatch in the 1×1 ribbing in a needle size one size smaller than I used for the body of the sweater, using a 5 stitches for every 6 rows ratio that Sally Melville recommends for single fabric ribbing against a stockinette background. She has a plenitude of ratios for all kinds of situations, which, in my mind, is worth the price of the book right there. Here’s the swatch after knitting and blocking. In this case of Miss Babs Yowz! superwash wool, blocking entailed soaking the swatch wet for about 20 minutes, throwing into the dyer until damp, and flat drying from there to bone dry.

 

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And focusing in on the band itself and the various stitch sizes of each buttonhole:IMG_1856
The swatch is laying perfectly, with just a hint of pulling together, but after hanging ought to even out. The ribbing is firm without being stiff.

What about the buttonholes. Here’s the button I am using:

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I did three different sizes of buttonholes – 3-stitch, 4-stitch, and 5-stitch.  I always want the buttonhole to be slightly smaller than the button, but how much smaller is difficult to tell ahead of time. While the knitting was on the needles, I thought the 4-stitch one worked the best to my rule of thumb – use the smallest size hole that I can get the button through easily – but blocking can change that. After blocking, I found that the 5-stitch one worked, as did the 4-stitch one, but the 3-stitch one was too difficult to use. My initial guess was correct, but it could have been wrong!

Let’s review what I learned through this exercise: the correct ratio of rows to stitches on the front bands, the correct size of needle for the buttonband, and the correct size of buttonholes. Combined with the information from Shirley’s book on shawl collar construction, I can knit the last bit of this sweater with confidence, and not have to reknit later!

 

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A Brand New Home

Welcome to my new home! I’ve been thinking for a while that it would be a good idea to have my own domain for the website so I can break things tweak the site to fit my own needs and interests.

As an interim pastor, I have moved a lot, personally, and even more professionally (I know because each time  the count of my professional life book boxes grows, even in this digital age). And here’s a lesson I’ve learned from moving:

Unpack it. Now.

Because I’m in and out of places frequently, I’ve learned that taking your time unpacking is just another way of living longer amid chaos and crap. Far better to get things out and up on the shelves and walls, and rearrange it later as needed. In the meantime, you get to enjoy your stuff!

I know from consulting on other websites that this analogy doesn’t always carry over to websites, but mine is small enough at the moment to work. You might notice the new logo (thanks to Susan Searway – she’s a great designer and delight to work with), a pattern page, a better “about” page, and that you can email me via revknits home. Much more is being planned, but you know:

“Unpack it. Now.”

In the meantime, please know that I am grateful for each and every one of you who reads this, and finds technical help or inspiration.

Renee (aka Revknits)

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If it’s after Labor Day, it’s time for sweaters

In some regions of the country, Labor Day signals the change of seasons – some folks will not wear white after Labor Day, in other areas, it signals the beginning of school. None of those things applies to the San Francisco Bay area – schools have been in session for a couple of weeks, and white can be worn year round, although in the rainy season, that’s probably not such a good idea.

At Casa Del Revknits, we like to think of Labor Day as the changing of the knitting season. Over the summer, it’s been lace and socks and socks and lace, and maybe a cowl because that’s not too hot  on the lap. But with the turning of calendar, I was yearning to knit something more substantial, and now. Now is the time for hats, and of course, sweaters!

I thought by now I would be knitting a sweater for Amy Herzog’s new software system called CustomFit – which is going to blow the minds of sweater knitters everywhere.  I am still a beta tester, but Amy, for excellent reasons, including the loss of her father unexpectedly, had to delay the roll-out, so I’m hoping to begin the sweater process in the next week or so. But if you want to check out what she’s up to – go to CustomFit now, and sign up for the newsletter, or check out the amazing sweaters on Ravelry that earlier beta testers have knit.

No, that sweater was going to have to wait, so instead, I picked up a sweater I had started in the spring – my Dark and Stormy (my Ravelry project page). Thea Colman created this lovely top down cable sweater, and it has many features that I love, including a deep shawl collar, cardigan, cables in the right places and not too many of them. My big hesitation? It’s that it is a top-down raglan sweater, which can be known to not work so well on women with bustlines.

I got to the point of separating the sleeves and had knit down to the waistline when I got indecision about whether to continue – plus the weather turned warm.  Even though I had added short rows for the bustline a la Ysolda Teague, and put in more waist-shaping, and tried it on and found that it fit pretty well, I couldn’t seem to give up the idea that this would be wrong. In this case, imagining perfect sweater becomes the enemy of the good.

Finally, since it was after Labor Day, I decided to pick it back up and keep going. I have now finished the body of the sweater, with kitties doing feline inspection, and then I also looked up other folks’ versions on Ravelry, and decided to cut down on the underarm fabric when I knit the sleeves to reduce the potential for bagginess there. I think this is going to be an excellent decision, and i”m now in cruise mode on the sleeves (one at a time – it’s faster to me, especially with alternating the rounds in two balls with the hand-dyed lovely Miss Babs Yowza! in the rainforest colorway.

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Of course, it was a high 80s day when I did pick it back up – but it was after Labor Day. That made all the difference.

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