EEK! A steek!!

Have you been wanting to try steeking, but for some reason or other, haven’t gotten around to it yet? I sure have! So when the lovely Shannon Cook posted about her own desire to learn the technique on Instagram a few months ago, it seemed like the perfect inspiration to finally tackle the oh-so-scary steek. Shannon had the wonderful idea of hosting a steek-along and invited myself and Andrea Mowry to cohost with her, so of course I jumped on the opportunity! 

From Shannon's blog....

WHAT IS THE "stEEk-along"?

It's a fun, casual and ongoing project for anyone to join in and conquer the steek and eventually work up to steeking accessories and garments! We're starting off easy and simple - by steeking a swatch.

PROMPT #1 - SWATCH N' STEEK 

Date: Monday, April 3rd, 2017

So our first prompt and challenge is for us all to knit up a swatch (a full swatch in the round - like you are knitting a tube or sleeve - not a swatch in the round where you carry long strands behind).

Today we invite you to share a pic of your yarn and a pair of scissors. We will be using these yarns over the next week to make our swatches.

Use hashtag #swatchnsteek and #stEEkal on Instagram to join in! 

PROMPT #2 - PREOP :)

Date: Anytime between today and Monday, April 10th, 2017.

Did you use a pretty colorwork chart for your swatch? Show off your swatch before you snip it! 

Use hashtag #preop#beforethesteek and #stEEkal on Instagram to join in!

PROMPT #3 - SNIP YOUR KNITS

Date: Monday, April 10th, 2017

Then....this is gonna be seriously so fun....on Monday, April 10th we're all going to snip our knits on Instagram together!!!! Woot woot!!!! I'm so excited! We're going to fearlessly snip our knits TOGETHER!

Use hashtag #snipyourknits and #stEEKal on Instagram to join in!

 

We decided to start with a simple swatch-n-steek- because it is less scary than just having your first steek be on a huge sweater that you’ve spent countless hours knitting. Most knitters I know go weak in the knees thinking about cutting their knitting, so let’s start with baby steps! I know that I want to knit approximately 4029284 fair isle cardigans, so I am super ready to tackle this.

 

I started my research for this project by checking out some great posts from Eunny Jang, Kate Davies and Interweave, as well as referencing the excellent book Alice Starmore’s Book of Fair Isle Knitting (one of my most-loved knitting books). There are a ton of great resources out there, I feel armed with knowledge and much less nervous about cutting my work now. Hooray for information!

 

For my swatch, I decided to make things easy on myself and use a traditional “wooly” wool- something that has a natural velcro effect, making the stitches grab together and resist unraveling. Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift fit the bill perfectly, a lovely, rustic fingering weight and it comes in SO many fantastic colors, it is a great choice for steeking newbies! I decided to knit my swatch on US 2 (2.75mm) needles, to help create a denser, firmer fabric, which is also recommended to aid in steeking. Also, I can’t find my US 1.5s… (where do they go???)

This week I’ll be knitting 3 swatches to try out 3 different steeking techniques, a traditional, unreinforced steek, and crocheted steek and a machine sewn steek. I will post updates this week on my swatches, and the cutting will take place on Monday, 4/10. I’ll share my thoughts with you on the different methods and how they work out for me. I hope you will join us! I am going to knit the chart I designed below, feel free to use it for your own swatch if you like! I’ll be casting on enough stitches for 4 pattern repeats, plus the number of extra stitches required for the steek. I will go into more details in following posts, as well as on Instagram, so check in again, won’t you? <3

Little Cabin//Design Process

After months of work, my Little Cabin sweater pattern is finally available on Ravelry, hooray! This sweater is a design that I started dreaming about last spring and I have been working on perfecting since then. I wanted to share a peek into my creative process and how this sweater came into being. For me, the design process is a circular path. I usually start with a spark of an idea, and then begin to source the yarn that feels right for the project. Once I find the yarn and begin swatching, new ideas are born and the original idea begins to evolve and take shape. 

Everything I need for a perfect fall day. Just add coffee.

Everything I need for a perfect fall day. Just add coffee.

The initial inspiration for the Little Cabin sweater came from an image of a tiny log cabin, deep in the woods that I came across on Pinterest while dreaming of the one I would like to build someday. I wanted to create a sweater that conveyed the feeling of that cabin- cozy, rustic, warm, simple and naturally beautiful.

The next step after the initial idea was to find the perfect yarn. I wanted something soft and rustic, with a nice halo. I had heard of O-wool Local, but hadn't had an opportunity to use it yet, and I was eager to try it. I am drawn to the small business and sustainable principles that owner Jocelyn Tunney embraces (read her story here), so I ordered a color card from her and was bowled over by the gorgeous rich colors. When they arrived I knew this was the exact yarn needed to bring my design to life. I chose the Red Squirrel color for my sample, the perfect warm, reddish brown that was exactly the color that I had dreamed of for this project. 

Swatching is one of the most fun parts of designing. 

Swatching is one of the most fun parts of designing. 

Just a bit of swatching made the design pieces click into place, and I knew exactly what this sweater wanted to be. Sometimes the design will evolve during the knitting process, but that wasn't the case with this design. The final product is pretty much exactly like the original sketch.

Original sketch in my Fashionary Sketchbook.

Original sketch in my Fashionary Sketchbook.

I am really pleased with how this sweater came out. It perfectly embodies the vision I had for it, and I plan on wearing mine allllll fall and winter long.

The pattern is available for purchase as a pdf download in my Ravelry store, and is available in sizes XS-4XL! You can buy it here.

I want to say a huge thank you to those who helped me to bring this design to life- the amazing test knitters who ensured that it would fit perfectly in a range of sizes, my incredible tech editor Amy (bobble math genius, you are!!), and O-Wool, for embracing sustainable business practices while creating gorgeous yarn. I couldn't do my work without the help of these talented people, THANK YOU!!!

 

 

Fidaz

I've just posted a new pattern in my Ravelry shop- the Fidaz hat features a lovely lace pinecone pattern and a chevron rib brim. Knit in Vulpine DK by Little Fox Yarn in the color Into the Woods, this merino/cashmere/nylon blend is the ultimate in durable luxury!

I was so inspired by the amazing color Aimee created for this yarn, it brought to mind the beautiful forests of the tiny mountain village where I spent a year abroad in high school. Fidaz (pronounced fee-dats) is an ancient Romansch town where the cows outnumber the people, and farmers yodel from the hilltops to call their herd home. I imagined the blue-green branches of the conifers and the tiny, precious pine cones which dotted the floor on the paths where I walked near the town, and the crystalline waters of the nearby lake Caumasee

Caumasee- image by Adrian Michael

Caumasee- image by Adrian Michael

 

 

bad pom/good pom

Can we talk about pompoms please? I mean, this is a serious blog after all!

Hey, nice pompom!

Hey, nice pompom!

It is my heartfelt opinion that there is nothing sadder than a lame, limp, wimpy little wad of yarn attempting to pose as a pompom. Pompoms should be regal! Full! Grand! Awash in splendor! I mean, if you are going to have one, you may as well have one, y'know what I mean?

I know this story well because, friends, I used to suffer from lame-pompom-syndrome, also known as LPS. It is true. But those were in the dark ages- pre-internet (gasp!)- when we were mostly left to our own devices on figuring out how to do things. I used to wrap the yarn around my fingers until they turned purple, then bravely attempt to somehow tie them together (not to mention extract my fingers from the whole business). The last step was to trim the living hell out of the thing to try to coax it into a shape roughly resembling a ball, and use the string I wrapped it with to tie it to the top of the hat. Let's just say I have a drawer full of hats with misshapen, falling-off pompom facsimiles. 

NO. Never again. Please also ignore my dye-stained fingers. I cannot help it.

NO. Never again. Please also ignore my dye-stained fingers. I cannot help it.

But, thank heavens, this needn't be your fate! Because now we live in the glorious future! And there is literally no excuse for lame, loser-y pompoms anymore. Literally. You've spent hours knitting or crocheting a beautiful toque (hi, Canada!), it deserves proper topper! (Sorry!) So let's make a good one!

RECIPE FOR A REALLY GOOD POMPOM

INGREDIENTS:

These are the things you need. Except for the yarn. And the darning needle. Oops!

These are the things you need. Except for the yarn. And the darning needle. Oops!

YARN- A healthy amount. Typically, for a hat I like a pompom to use about 25-35 grams of yarn (I use a digital kitchen scale to weigh my yarn. It is sooooo handy! You can calculate your yardage based on the weight!). I find that I usually have just the right amount of yarn left after making an adult-sized hat to make a perfect pompom. If you don't, a contrast colored pompom might be just what you need! Or you can mix what you have left with another color. Go nuts. Check the pictures below to get a rough idea of the amount you'll need if you're more of a guesstimator. You can use one color or many, just hold the strands together as you wrap.

EXTRA YARN: You'll need some extra scraps of yarn to tie the thing together and attach it to the top. Keep 2 arm-length pieces aside for this purpose.

CARDBOARD- I used an empty cereal box, as the weight is just about perfect for this task. Easy to cut, but sturdy enough to handle a metric ton of yarn.

CIRCLE-SHAPED THING- I used a 3.5" diameter coffee mug for a mid-sized pompom, but you can make it as big as you want. Use a glass, a bowl, whatever circle-thing you've got handy! You also need a smaller circle-shaped thing, like a quarter. I used a medicine cup. You also need a pen. I didn't think a pen warranted it's own section in the list, so I am putting it here. Get a pen. 

SCISSORS- Sharp scissors. Trust me. Don't try to use your kid's craft scissors. 

DARNING NEEDLE- Or tapestry needle. Whatever you prefer.

Like so!

Like so!

STEP 1: Trace 2 circles on the cardboard. Cut them out. Now draw another, smaller circle in the middle. If you don't trust yourself to eyeball this, use a quarter, but don't stress about it too much. We are only making pompoms here. Now cut straight into the middle of each of your circles and cut out the littler circle. You can cut a little wedge opening on the side- I like to do this as it makes wrapping a lot easier. You can see the wedge I cut in the next picture.

STEP 2: Now start wrapping the yarn around the form. Move along the form so the yarn is evenly distrubuted as you go along, but again, don't worry about it too much.

This is just the beginning.

This is just the beginning.

STEP 3: Keep wrapping. Then wrap some more.

If you stop here, your pompom will be pretty lame.

If you stop here, your pompom will be pretty lame.

STEP 3.2:  Think you're done? No! Keep wrapping! More!!

See how the hole in the middle is pretty much filled in? That should be your goal.

See how the hole in the middle is pretty much filled in? That should be your goal.

STEP 4: Ok! Now that you are almost out of yarn, you are done! Here comes the scary part. Cut your tail(s) off, the grip the pompom tightly with your non-scissor hand. Now cut, slipping the scissors between the 2 pompom forms. If you did everything right, this won't be that easy, but you'll be so glad you have sharp scissors! Because how much would this suck with dull scissors!?!? Ugh! Anyway, whatever you do, DO NOT let go of your pompom!

Look! It's ALIVE!

Look! It's ALIVE!

STEP 5: So, now that your pompom is cut open and you are still gripping it like a mad person, grab one of your extra yarn pieces and slip it between the 2 cardboard forms. Start releasing the pompom with your gripping hand as needed to get the yarn around. Then wrap the yarn around 5-6 times, and tie the 2 ends off- I just do a square knot.

Sorry for the blurries. At least the scissors are in focus?

Sorry for the blurries. At least the scissors are in focus?

STEP 6: Trim! Use your awesome sharp scissors and trim trim trim! I usually take a really long time with this, and end up cutting off too much. Don't be like me. Walk away from your pompom.

Your sharp scissors are your best friends for pompom trimming.

Your sharp scissors are your best friends for pompom trimming.

STEP 7: Sew it to your hat! Thread your second piece of scrap yarn onto your darning needle. Now thread the thing through the inside of your hat and tie it securely. Stick it back through to the right side. Now you may stick your needle right through the center of the pompom, and then back through and into the hat! Do this 3-4 times and fasten off inside. And voila! No more lame pompoms for you! 

Bonus points for matching your darning needle to your project. 

Bonus points for matching your darning needle to your project. 

That's the whole story! Now you can have trillions of glorious pompoms around you at all times! I'd love to see your poms- tell us your horror stories or successes in the comments and share them on instagram, just tag #boylandknitworks! Happy knitting!