Wednesday, February 27, 2013

WIP Wednesday

This is going to be short.  Not much has been done on the knitting or reading front since we've been the host of an un-welcome guest for the last week or so.  The benign-yet-horrible-end-of-winter-cold has invaded my house and has tackled each and every member of the household in turn.  If there was still time at the end of the day for knitting or reading, it was often devoted to trying to get rid of the bug myself.

I nevertheless did cast on my tryout sweater (being stubborn, or trying to do something pleasant for a few minutes), but every time progress was made I had to rip off because I was completely unable to concentrate.

As for reading, my sweater is a "knitting from the top" sweater, so Barbara Walker is never too far.  Elizabeth Zimmermann is right next to her, and I am having lots of fun jumping from one to the other, opening their books at a random page and discovering the knitting wisdom within.

There is one fundamental thing I have learnt through that sneezing-galore week:  health is so precious, especially in children.  That cold was nothing: nobody ran the slightest fever.  However, every time I was hearing one of my daughters cough, my heart would break.  Parents who have a sick child - a really sick one - and who manage to walk through the ordeal alongside the child are superheroes.

I am blessed with two beautiful and healthy daughters. Blessed.  There is nothing more to say.

Except perhaps to join Tamy and Ginny for their WIP Wednesday!


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Design Envy: Venezia Pullover by Eunny Jang

So there I was, Tuesday morning, breastfeeding Sarah with my left hand, drinking coffee and checking my emails with the right one.  I was going through the morning inbox with new positions available in finance, the latest deals from my favorite stores, and my Knitting Daily email from Interweave.

It was about a new book by Martin Storey, Scottish Knits.  I thought "Oh!  This is the designer behind the little cardigan I am making for Gabrielle!".  Scroll, scroll, scroll.  I kept on thinking "This is nice, I should check out his other designs..."  Scroll, scroll, scroll and BANG!

Design envy.

Like I mentioned last week in my post on Granville by Fiona Ellis, design envy is similar to food envy.  Food envy strikes me in a restaurant when the plates arrive: sometimes I would give anything to eat what's on my table neighbor's plate instead of what's in mine.  Design envy is when I see a design and I would give anything to have been the one coming up with this idea first.  Does it ever happen to you?

Well, on Tuesday, design envy struck me at the very bottom of the email.  A little vignette among many "other traditional designs".  A Fair Isle pullover by Eunny Jang (see also here), called Venezia Pullover.

It was published in Interweave Knits, Winter 2006.  Fancy that!!  That amazing design has been waiting there 6 years for me to get all envious about!

I usually do not like designs with motifs/patterns all over, but this one is definitely an exception.  The choice of colors and the subtle motif give a definite "chic" to the pullover.  The waist shaping, three-quarter sleeves and overall length add to the elegance of the design.  Big presentation to the Board of Directors with the A/C max-ed out?  Dinner in a fancy restaurant in the midst of winter?  That pullover would be my top choice!!

You have to be brave though:  It involves steeking, that is, cutting into your knitted fabric to assemble the garment.  It must be completely freeky to knit something so beautiful and then put the scissors in it!!

You may have seen Eunny before, as a host on Knitting Daily TV.  I came across a video on the TECHknitter's blog in which she explains how to make jogless stripes.  Jogless stripes are certainly an interesting topic, but even more fascinating is the speed at which Eunny knits!  Check it out at 3 minutes 50 seconds.

Well, now that I have confessed everything about my sin of design envy, I can keep on going and check out the 1120 designs by Martin Storey!  I'll probably become envious again!

If you have ever suffered from design envy before, share the pattern with us!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Evernote Part II

A few days ago I wrote about Evernote, a free software I use to keep my craft information and ideas at hand and tidy.  I have showed you the main view of the software, where you organize your notebooks and tags and where you can browse your notes.  Today, I'd like to show you what an actual note looks like.

In my "Knitting Patterns" notebook, I have a note in which I store a free pattern from the Rowan website:  Bobby, by Martin Storey.  This is what the note looks like:

The pdf file sits nicely in the note, and all pages can be viewed from within the note (the pdf can also be extracted to be viewed on a stand-alone basis).  Whenever I import a new pattern (as easy as drag and drop within Evernote), I tag it in the upper panel with, among others, the yarn weight, and I copy the gauge at the top of the note.  As you see, the pdf is like an object in the note and I can put text (or a picture, or another pdf, ...) above and below.

I am almost finished knitting the piece.  Before I started, I change the instructions to knit the cardigan seamlessly.  I did the calculations in an Excel spreadsheet and have dropped the spreadsheet below the pdf:

Of course, while knitting, some things didn't go as planned, so I took a few notes to make sure I would not repeat the same mistakes if I ever knit this piece again.  I have also added the pictures I took to upload on Ravelry.

Whenever I am planning a new design, I create a new note and literally chuck in all my ideas, pictures and stitch patterns.  I also scan any scribble I make on the way and save these scans in my note, with pictures of my swatches.  I do not have much space at home to keep hard copies of everything that goes into a design (OK, I never was very tidy with old swatches and scribbles) but the essential gets save in Evernote.

If you end up downloading and trying the software, please let us know what you think!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

WIP Wednesday: the Tryout Sweater

Shortly after Christmas, I was browsing around for yarn deals and stumbled across some Caron Simply Soft Worsted at Mary Maxim.  $1.29 for 150 yards!  "Bargain!", I thought to myself, even for acrylic (the deal seems to be still on, if you are interested).  I thought that it would be perfect for amigurumis and as "tryout yarn" to  save my more expensive yarn from swatching mania.  I ordered a bucketload.

About three quarters of the bucketload is still there on the shelf, looking at me while I breastfeed and wondering when I'll finally have the time for serious knitting again (I am wondering the exact same thing).

Now, many of the techniques I would like to try would fit best on a sweater.  But here's the issue:  I am breastfeeding an ever-hungry baby.  My bust size is far from what it used to be, and only God knows what it will be when I am done.  I like my sweater close-fitting so any sweater I come up with now would be, most likely, short-lived.  Hence, I must wait.

"No!", I hear you shout!  "You can make a short-lived sweater out of the $1,29 yarn!"  And you are right.  I hereby announce the birth of the Tryout Sweater, through which new techniques will compete for a position in my knitting toolbox.  Color: whatever looks nice in my $1.29 stash.  Size: breastfeeding.  Lifespan:  from the moment it is finished to the day Sarah switches to porridge and cow milk.

It will be a completely seamless top-down raglan sweater a la Barbara Walker.  The raglan seams will be decorated with a cable or some cute stitch.  My cast-on and bind-off will match, probably through their tubular version.  I will weave in ends as I go.  It will be in stockinette, although I really like the seed stitch too.  I'll have no choice but knit with more than one color, because the stash was built mainly for amigurumis (many colors, few skeins of each).  There will be bust darts (to accommodate for the breastfeeding size) and waist shaping,  I don't know about the collar yet, but need to make my mind soon because when you knit with Barbara Walker, that's where you start.

But even before the collar, there is the gauge swatch.  I'll be knitting in the round, so I must need to knit my swatch in the round too.  I could knit myself a hat (the Elizabeth Zimmermann way) or knit flat on a circular needle leaving long floats behind.  The TECHknitter suggests another way:  the "Whole-Loop" method.

The idea is simple.  You first knit your right side row.  Then, you turn and knit the next row, just like if you were knitting in garter stitch.  Once you're done, you mark the yarn straight after your last stitch with a safety pin, and undo the second row.  The length of yarn between the last stitch of the first row and the safety pin is the length of yarn you need to knit one row.  You can go back to the beginning of the right side and start knitting holding the yarn where the safety pin.  That is, you knit your row with the long float that you created (the explanations of the TECHknitter are much much clearer - check them out here).

I tried it out.  Here's the result.

The length of yarn I needed to knit a row was from the tip of my left hand fingers to my right collarbone, with the left arm extended.  I doubted that I could always be "spot on" at the end of the row with that "high-tech" measurement method.  Also, my gauge is pretty even, but I am not a machine,  Finally, even with the best intentions, there is always a little slippage when you knit the first stitch of the "wrong side made right side" row.  I found a way to make it work though.  When I had too little yarn, I knitted 2 together at the end of the row.  When I had too much, I knitted through the front and back loops.  That is why the left side of my swatch is so uneven.  However, since my swatch is large enough, I have plenty of room left - when ignoring the leftmost inch of the swatch - to make an accurate gauge reading.  Accurate, because blocked and lying completely flat!

The Whole-Loop method wins in the tryouts!!!  I am happy to share this victory with Tami's amis and Ginny, on another WIP Wednesday.  Visit the other WIP projects too!!


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Evernote: to remember every stitch

After knitting many years alone in my corner, I finally became a Raveler last October.  Wow!!  What a platform!!  What a community!!  Now, probably like many other Ravelers, I browse patterns and projects hours on end and can't wait to start and finish projects to post photos of my work.

I have also discovered cool tools available through the platform, such as the library, the queue and the favorites.  I am not using them though because while I was alone in my corner, I used another tool to achieve similar results.  It is called Evernote.

Evernote is a free web application that you can download and install on pretty much every device.  Here's a screenshot from my computer:

You start by creating notebooks (upper left corner in the illustration above).  As I use Evernote in pretty much all aspects of my life, I got three main notebooks:  Crafts, Personal and Work.  I've got other notebooks inside each three to keep things tidy.  When the notebook "Knitting Patterns", inside "Crafts" is selected, I can see the list of all the notes in this notebook, with a little thumbnail, in the middle of the screen. That makes it easy to browse through the 600 free patterns I've collected on the web.  To search through my collection, I've created a set of tags that I use every time I import a new pattern.When I want to see a pattern in particular - let's say the gloves by Drops Designs - I select the note and it appears on the right side of the screen.

That is pretty similar, I believe, to what the Ravelry library offers.  However, I can expand my library content with Evernote:  in addition to knitting and crochet patterns, I also got a notebook on techniques and references for both crafts.  If I see an interesting article on set-in sleeves in Knitty, for example, I store it in my notebook!  I also got notebooks of various stitches for both knitting and crochet, a notebook on things related to this blog, a notebook on yarns and another one on design ideas.

The really cool thing is that you can store pretty much everything and anything in Evernote:  text, images, pictures, files (including Word and Excel), videos, name it!!  And you can access your notes from anywhere with an internet connection.

An unrelated but cool experience I had with Evernote is our last family camping trip. We wanted to visit Charlevoix, a region of Quebec fairly far from Montreal.  We had never been there before.  So a couple of weeks before our departure, I created a notebook with information on camping sites, maps, and attractions. I put in the phone number and address of friends that are now living there.  I was pregnant, so to play it on the safe side, I downloaded maps with the regional hospitals.  We could access all that information through my husband's iPad on the way.  I was so useful!

Anyways, in a next post, I will show you how I organize some of my knitting notes.  In the meantime, why don't you try it out?  It's free!!

*** UPDATE ***
I have written a follow-up post on Evernote.  Find it here.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Design Envy: Granville by Fiona Ellis

Have you ever felt food envy at a restaurant before?  You know, the feeling you get when the plates arrive and you SO wish you had ordered your table neighbor's food instead of yours?

I sometimes feel like that when I browse patterns.  I'll come across one and the time suddenly stops.  I then SO wish we could all go back in time for me to create this design before the designer because every detail is presented exactly as I would have done it.  And the result is so beautiful that it aches a little.  Yep, design envy.

The design is not necessarily a garment I would like to make for myself or my daughters (although it often is). It has more to do with the creative spark behind the design, the way the designer married yarn, color, texture and construction together to come up with the garment.

The great thing about design envy though is that it will often jump-start my imagination.  How can I make something similar yet different?  Is there any technique used in there on which I could build a brand new design?

Let me illustrate.  Here's my design envy of the moment: Granville by Fiona Ellis.

First, it's green.  That caught my attention all right!!  Green is my favorite color.  To me, it represents the incredible feeling you can feel in the air in Spring on the first day you venture outside without your winter gear.  It smells freshly cut grass and tastes like lime.

On top of that, it's a hoodie.  I love hoodies because I don't like hats so the hood comes in handy when it's cold.  I like hoodies too because I constantly lose my umbrella so the hood comes in handy when it rains.

However, that doesn't mean that I get design envy every time I see a green hoodie.  The envy really comes from the use and choice of cables.  I consider cables as a jewel you put on a garment.  Too many of them makes me feel overwhelmed.  I believe that even the most simple cable pattern stands out on an otherwise plain fabric and brings elegance and refinement to the garment.  Granville beautifully illustrates that belief.

I just love how the two cables running up the lower back interconnect in the upper back....

and how the "negative space" between the two cables is used ti adjust for shoulder width...

and how the back cables and the two cables going up on the front all make it all the way to the hood...

One last thing:  the cardigan has a zipper on the front.  I like zippers - they are fast and handy.  I however rarely used some on my knits because I wasn't comfortable putting them on securely and neatly.  But now, thanks to the TECHknitter, I know how to add no-sew zippers!!

It's no surprise that I "design envy" Fiona Ellis.  She is a well-established and fantastic designer.  I was really interested by her design process using i-cords and various pictures, as she explains it in her Craftsy class Mastering Cable Design.  If your budget doesn't allow you to purchase this class, I suggest you go for Creative Cable Neckline:  it's free!!

One final note:  Granville was published in the Winter 2012 Twist Collective.  You can find the publication here.

As I was writing, I thought that I feel design envy often enough to make it a weekly blog thing, like Tami's amis Work in Progress Wednesday and Finished Object Friday.  Sunday would be a good day for this.  You'll tell me that Design Envy Sunday doesn't work because "Design" starts with a "D" and "Sunday" with a "S".  True.  However, I am a francophone and Sunday is Dimanche in French!!

*** UPDATE ***
I have just discovered a Ravelry group for Fiona's fan!!  It seems they are currently knitting Granville along.  We can join them here!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Another bear coming along

A few days ago, I wrote about my finished Valentine projects for my family.  Here they are again:

They were a big hit, especially with my three year old daughter Gabrielle.  She immediately adopted the three of them even though the duck was daddy's gift (no problem there) and the bear was here sister's gift (ouch!).

Now the little sister, Sarah, is only three month old.  She certainly didn't fuss about her sister playing with her bear.  I can foresee, however, that she will get exponentially more fussed about that in the months/years to come.  I therefore demanded, last night, for Gabrielle to hand back the bear to her sister for the night.  Well, that was akin to a Greek tragedy for my Gaby (tough, tough for mamma!!).

She finally agreed to give it back on the promise that I would crochet a similar bear for her....  That was the price of peace, which I will be paying for in the coming week!!

If you like amigurumi, I strongly suggest that you visit Stacey Trock website, Fresh Stitches.  Stacey designs the cutest amigurumis I've seen and she runs a number of fun crochet along (with great tips!) and contests.  I would also suggest her blog to anyone wishing to start a web-based design business.  Many of her posts suggest that behind her happy-go-lucky character, Stacey is a very sharp and wise business woman!!

And like me, she participates in Tami's amis FO Friday!

Join us too, if only to check out and comment on the beautiful work of fellow knitters and crocheters! 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Wednesday WIP

It's Wednesday, and today is the perfect day to join Tami's Amis Wednesday WIP circle!

So, what's in progress at Elly Knits?  A few things are in the very early stages, but Gabrielle's cardigan almost done.  I chose to knit the largest size of Bobby by Martin Storey.  Before getting started, I converted the original pattern - knitted flat in distinct pieces - into a seamless cardigan.  However, when I got into the knitting, the stripes caused me a few little problems.

First, I started knitting the sleeves in the round but realized I was creating a "jog" every time I changed color. I didn't know, back then, that it was possible to knit jogless stripes back then, so I reverted to knitting the sleeves flat.  This is what it looked like when the sleeves and body were completed up to the armhole.

Second problem:  I didn't plan the shoulder shaping short rows adequately with regards to stripes.  Moreover, I was knitting away without paying enough attention, so I didn't catch the mistake until I was done with the hood!  Result, on the left front piece, I have a 4-row blue stripe, instead of a 2-row one.  This is what it looks like:

I guess that, from a distance, and especially with the smiling little princess inside the cardigan, you don't really see the extra-large stripe.

Now, here comes the last issue.  It has nothing to do with stripes.  Even though the pattern called for 7 balls of yarn for the largest size (6 for the others), I bought only 6 as I didn't want to end up with some yarn left over to add to my ever growing stash.  Well, guess what?  I don't have enough yarn left for the edging and the button band.  It is especially problematic given that the shipping costs for one ball of yarn will be more expensive than the yarn itself, and that a trip to the yarn store in the middle of the winter with a 3 year old and a 3 month old requires a lot of planning/effort.

I guess it'll be a little while before this little cardigan makes it to Tami's Amis Friday FO!

Join Tami's Amis here!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

My finished Valentine gifts!

Finally!!  Not only have I finished my Valentine amigurumis, but I have also taken pictures of the final products.  Only parents who have or had young kids to take care of know what an exploit that is!!

Aren't they cute?

The bear is for my baby Sarah, the raccoon for Gabrielle and the cranky duck, well.... for my husband.  Funny choice for my other half, you say?  Well, my husband collects rubber ducks.  He has over 100 of them, all of them sitting pretty in our main bathroom.  This one isn't rubber, true, but I am sure he'll find a place for this cranky guy too.

I have made the bear and the raccoon as part of the Amigurumi: Woodland Animals Craftsy class.  I absolutely loved it, and immediately enrolled in the Design your own monster class afterwards, from which the cranky duck was born.

These classes have also given me an idea for Easter....  Coming up in a later post!

Now, I just have to wait for the 14th to distribute my presents to the family!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Mercedes Knits - A New Book

Among all knitwear designers, Mercedes Tarasovich-Clark makes it to my very very short list of favorites.  When I look at her designs, I can't help but think:  "I wish I had designed that myself".

Here's an example:  the Heliotropic Pullover.

It is simple and elegant (two qualifiers I prize when it comes to garments) and looks very comfortable to wear.

I love this one too: 

It is called Capture.  Again, simple, elegant, and so original!!

There is also the Artemisia Sweater designed for Mercedes' Craftsy class.  The sweater is constructed from the top down, with a gorgeous lace motif.

Thank to my Google Reader, I saw a new post on Mercedes' blog.  She is in the process of writing a book!  I bet it'll be fantastic, I can't wait to see it.

Also, check out the Artemisia sweater blog tour.  That,ll be a great opportunity to read about Mercedes' designs and discover new blogs about knitting and crafts!

Monday, February 4, 2013

What I am up to (beside being a mother)

I guess the time has now come to talk a little bit about what I am up to these days.  I could summarize my daily time allocation as such:

99.5%: being a mother
0.5%: other things

Don't get me wrong.  I love being a mother.  My two girls, Gabrielle and Sarah (respectively 3 years old and 3 months old) are absolutely fantastic.  Sarah makes me melt every time she smiles, and Gaby is amazing me by being such a loving and caring big sister.  But still, it is sometimes overwhelming and frustrating to have them buzzing around me, well, 99.5% of the time.

The other hard thing is that Sarah doesn't like to be separated from her mommy much.  By that, I mean that she doesn't want to be anywhere else than in my arms (OK, I have to say, she sleeps in her bed every night for approximately 5 hours).  So I have to make my way through the day with only one hand.  It means I have to type this text with one hand.  But mostly, it means that I cannot knit.

Hoooow frustrating.  However, the one thing I can do though is browse (with a computer stratrgically placed next to my rocking chair).

Browsing leads to fabulous discovery, like the TECHknitting Blog I mentioned in my post yesterday.  In one of the posts, I have learn how to finish the baby cardigan Bobby (by Martin Storey) with rolled stockinette stitch bands....

I have also made a list of all the cotton yards available online (well, probably not all but many many!!) to find the best quality/price ratio because I have these beautiful cotton dresses in my heads fo my girls just waiting to be designed and knitted.  I am still browsing for this, but the King Cole Bamboo Cotton DK and the Lara Sport Weight seem fabulous for these projects....

While browsing on the site, I went crazy and bought all the Barbara Walker books...

I am waiting for them to be delivered, just like the eyes I bought from Suncatcher Craft Eyes to finish my amigurumi Valentine presents.

And, finally, I am taking pretty much all the knitting classes available on Craftsy!

I cannot knit.  Well, certainly not as much as I would like to.  So what do I do?  I buy knitting-related stuff on the internet to release the frustration.  Good for the soul, bad for the wallet, esprcially while being off work.

That is what I am up to!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Techknitting: A Real Treasure

It starts with this: "30 years of tricks want out of my mind and into yours."  
It looks like a blog, but it isn't.  It's a knitting encyclopedia.  Seriously.  And it's free.

It all started for me in Amy Detjen's Craftsy class Custom Yoke Sweater.  In the class, Amy mentions the great number of technical resources for knitters that can be found on the web and cite TECHknitting as her favorite.  So I checked it out, and so should you if you haven't done so already.  Find it here.

Even better, check out the blog index here.  I have sworn to myself that I would read every piece of information in there!  It seems to me that all subjects are covered in over 200 posts.  Simple to complex techniques are described very clearly with fantastic illustrations, photos and videos.  No wonder this blog won prizes!

I got started this morning on a series of 10 posts on "How to knit better bands and cuffs".  Well, believe me, my cuffs and bands will never be the same again.  I am seriously considering ripping the bands I have made for a baby cardigan I am currently finishing to replace them with rolled edge.  See the first post of this series

After you've been through a couple of posts, you may also feel the 30 years of experience hidden behind the words.  Moreover, the TECHknitter doesn't just knit for a living.  She loves to knit.  You can hear it in her podcast Two bits of knitting theory: the "work-to-glory" ratio and "product-plus-process".  Here is a quote that talked directly to my heart:

Often, however, hand-knitted objects add another dimension, a process dimension. See your kid standing near the door in hand-made socks, ready to pull on shoes and head out? Those socks are loving that child--the kid is wearing a hug on each foot, and the knitter and the kid both know it. This is process and product combined: knitted object as connection between people. 

That's exactly how I feel when I knit for my girls, and I am sure many other knitters share this feeling too.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

My first post: Google Reader for Knitting Blogs

Well, this is it.  After weeks of changing my mind about it, I have decided to start blogging.  There are so many blogs and other resources on knitting that I kept on wondering whether I could add anything of some value.  Of course, I find it fun and motivating to share what I am working on, but there should be a little more to it, no?
I was musing about this again this morning, and suddenly had an idea.  In my work, I have to do a lot of research and have to compile a lot of information.  I've become pretty good at it.  So what if my blog, in addition to the sharing of pictures, was about sharing the great (and not so great) knitting and crochet resources I have found on the net and elsewhere?  That could "add value", as it is currently said in my big office building.

So, let's get started!

Here's a great tool that I have discovered not long ago.  It is not directly targeted to knitter, but it did make my knitter's life much easier!  I like to follow several blogs (on knitting and other things), but also discussions on Ravelry.  The links were all in my favorites, but it was a long run, every morning, to check whether something new had been posted.  That was until I discovered Google Reader.  This is what it looks like:

You press the SUBSCRIBE button to add the RSS feed address of all the blogs you want to follow.  You can directly read the latest posts in Google Reader - they are now all at the same place!  Best of all, if you leave Google Reader open, you get this little notification whenever something new is posted!  That's the feature I like best.
You can download it for free from the Google web page.

Who knows?  Maybe you'll put my blog's feed in your Google Reader subscriptions!