Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The 5th Anniversary of My 29th Birthday

Celebrate with me, get 34% off pattern purchases in my Ravelry shop through Saturday at midnight with the code BIRTHDAY.

If you need me, I'll be watching all 8 seasons of That 70s Show--a great birthday gift from Oliver.


Saturday, October 11, 2014

Review: Knitter's Pride Karbonz, Cubics and Bamboo Knitting Needles

http://learnersperknit.blogspot.com/2014/10/review-knitters-pride-karbonz-cubics.html


Recently the nice people at Stitchcraft Marketing gave me the opportunity to try out a few different kinds of Knitter's Pride knitting needles. I've been happy with my current interchangeable sets, but it's always fun to try something new. I also believe in the importance of working with the best tools available--and you can't find the best tools if you don't try new ones occasionally!

Knitter's Pride has a wide variety of needle-types--straight, double-pointed, circular and interchangeable, in several different materials, so there's really something for everyone. I received a sampler set with 3 different interchangeable tips, as well as 2 different kinds of fixed circular needles. 



I first tore into the Karbonz fixed circular, and this one was definitely my favorite. They're made with carbon fiber, with nickel-plated tips. First--and a big plus for me--the size is printed right on the needle. This is true of all the needles I was given to try. I have eleventy needle gauges, but can never find one when I need it; having the size printed on the needle is much more convenient.

The carbon is lightweight and smooth--the stitches glide easily, even with superwash yarn, which I often find a little "sticky" on nickel-plated needles. The points are sharp, the cables are flexible (good for magic loop!) but sturdy, and the joins are smooth. The carbon truly does make for a much lighter needle, which can improve your knitting experience if you're working on a heavy project like a sweater--anything that reduces the weight is an improvement. You can find them in sizes 0-11, in 16 (only up to size 10), 24, 32 and 40" lengths.

 

I also got to try the interchangeable Karbonz tips--same needle, but as an interchangeable tip, available in sizes 2.5-11 and with 24, 32 and 40" cable options. The difficulty in evaluating interchangeable needles is that you really need to work with them a while to see how the joins hold up--do they loosen over time, get stuck, stop lining up correctly? It can take a few months for these kinds of issues to pop up, so I'll be reevaluating as I work with them, but assuming they do perform well, I'm considering purchasing a set. There are actually 3 different sets of the Karbonz interchangeable needles available: Starter, Midi and Deluxe. Deluxe, I'm sure you can guess, has all available sizes, while Starter and Midi have different subsets, so if you aren't ready to invest in the full set, you can buy a smaller set with the sizes you use most often. Since I'm a tight knitter, a 2.5 is often small enough for me to use for socks, so that's a great bonus for me: an interchangeable needle set that includes sock-sized tips. 



Next I tried the Nova Cubics. I was quite curious about these needles--they're square! The tips still taper to a rounded point, but the body of the needle is squared off.  According to the company, the "Unique ergonomic shape provides excellent grip and uniform stitch definition to the knit fabric." Sounds pretty good! They felt as natural to hold as regular needles, and my knitting did look nice and even. I don't--knock on wood--have any knitting-related wrist problems, but some knitters with wrist issues, arthritis, etc., who've used these needles found that they were able to knit for longer periods of time--fantastic!

I did find, however, that they made my knitting even tighter--whether because I was holding the needles differently or for some other reason related to the shape. As I am already a tight knitter, this isn't a result I'm looking for, but if you're a loose knitter, maybe they can help you tighten up! I plan to keep using them to see if that issue resolves itself as my hands get used to the unique shape. The Nova Cubics circular needles are available in sizes 1.5-11, in 16, 24, 32, 40 and 47" lengths. The interchangeable tips come in sizes 6-11, with 24, 32 and 40" cable options.


My last test drive was of the Bamboo interchangeable needle tips (shown here with Ollie's Christmas stocking on them!). I don't use wooden needles very often because, again, I think they tighten up my already tight knitting, but I do find them useful to have on hand for very slippery yarn. These are very lightweight, with a smooth finish, and even with the "sticky" Wool of the Andes yarn I'm currently using, the stitches are gliding over the needles quite easily. 

The Bamboo tips come in sizes 2.5-15, and fit with the same interchangeable cables as the other tips, available in 24, 32 and 40" lengths. I did not try the fixed circular needles, but they are available in sizes 0-15, in the usual 16 (up to size 11 only), 24, 32 and 40" lengths. 


Overall, I enjoyed working with these needles--I like that the sizes are labeled, I found the joins to be smooth and the cables flexible yet sturdy across the board, and the tips are sharp but not dangerous. All the needles come in a broad range of sizes with standard cable lengths, and the variety of materials and types of needles should meet most knitters' needs. 

The only con I found for these needles as a whole is that the cables are black--this can make the stitches hard to see if you're using dark yarn, knitting in dim light, and/or if your eyesight isn't what it used to be. It's not enough to dissuade me from using or buying them, but it's something I would change, given the chance.

The Karbonz get my vote for the best of the bunch, but I encourage you to get your hands on any of the Knitter's Pride needles and give them a test drive!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Pullover #2: Aunt Fred


Yes, it's true. It's the TENTH month of the Year of the Pullover, and I've finally finished another pullover!

Pattern: Aunt Fred, by Pamela Wynne, from The Rhinebeck Sweater
Yarn: Quince and Co. Chickadee; Cypress (6 skeins) and Leek (4 skeins)
Needles: US 5 and 7 (2 sizes up from pattern suggestion)

 

This is the first sweater I've knit from The Rhinebeck Sweater, though I ultimately expect to knit almost all of them. I actually bought the book for Pumpkin Ale, which is still my dream sweater, but it doesn't fit into Year of the Pullover, so it will wait until next year.

I finished most of this sweater in July, but wasn't happy with the collar, so I ripped it out and redid it.
I'm still not happy. The instructions for the short rows are a bit vague, and I'm not sure I've done it correctly. The edge seems tight. The seam at the base of the collar looks rather messy too, but I made a good faith effort to do it neatly, and don't see any way to improve it.

I originally purchased 5 skeins of the main color, and as I got close to the end, panicked and ordered a sixth. When I started the collar, instead of using the rest of the fifth skein, I started right away with the sixth so I wouldn't potentially run out in the middle. So whether I actually needed a sixth skein is unknown, but I was happy to have it.


This sweater was my first adventure in steeking, which you can read about here. I'm happy to report no unraveling or other steek-related issues!

Overall, I'm happy with the sweater, but still need to lose some baby weight before I can actually wear it.

So, where does that leave me for Year of the Pullover? I'm still working to finish up my I Heart Aran, and have started Artichoke French, another great sweater from The Rhinebeck Sweater. Can I squeeze 2 more pullovers into 2014? Wish me luck!


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

End of Month Reminders: KAL, Pattern Sale

Volteado socks

 A quick reminder that our Volteado KAL starts tomorrow, October 1! In honor of Socktober we're getting together and knitting the Volteado socks, available for FREE in Knitty's Deep Fall issue. Grab 2 skeins of sock yarn and come join us! There are prizes! Yarn ones!


Also, today is the LAST day to get my Pumpkin Butter sock pattern for just $3.50! The price goes up to $5 tomorrow, so don't miss out.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Saturday Sampler: 8 FREE Knitting Tutorials


With all the extra time spent indoors, fall is a great time to learn a few new skills. Here are 8 FREE knitting tutorials I've found to help you ramp up your knitting this season:

  


 Cabling without a cable needle, from the Knitting Daily blog (essential technique IMO).


 Methods for joining new yarn, from STITCH This!
 

 Knit Picks shows you how to set in sleeves.

 Short row shadow wraps, from Signest


 Anne Hanson offers a free mini class on grafting over at Craftsy.


 Ysolda teaches you the tubular cast on (which is a bit labor intensive, but really does look astonishingly better).


 And my photo tutorial on magic loop.

What new technique are you interested in learning?

Monday, September 22, 2014

KAL-ing, Pattern Preview and more!


Did you hear (erm, read?) the news? I'm hosting a Socktober knit-a-long! Please join us over in the MediaPeruana Designs Ravelry group to knit your own Volteado socks! Remember, the pattern is FREE, so you just need the yarn. The official kickoff is October 1, but we've been doing some pre-cast on chattering about yarn. And did I mentioned there are PRIZES?! So go check it out!

I think I've settled on the colors for my KAL pair--more Tanis Fiber Arts Blue Label, this time in Poppy and Orange Blossom. I'm going for an "autumn leaves" look. But I may have also ordered a skein of Lucky Penny, just in case I change my mind.

This two kids thing is really limiting my knitting time. I still have 2 pullovers nearly finished, but am making almost no progress on them. My focus has primarily been on a new baby/toddler cardigan pattern:



Here's a little sneak peak. It's currently with testers, and I'm knitting up a 2nd sample in the newborn size so I can get pattern photos on both my boys. Then it's off to the tech editor, and hopefully published in late October!

And speaking of patterns, if you like the Abrigado pattern, check out this cute, behind-the-scenes video on the Creature Comforts collection (and don't forget to order your copy of Creature Comforts during Knit Picks' book sale, it's only $8.99!):


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Volteado: In Color

All photos courtesy of Tanis Lavallee / Tanis Fiber Arts

If you're planning to knit Volteado, I bet you're excited to pick your colors--that's half the fun, isn't it? Imagining all the possible combinations and how they'll look together. Deciding and then changing your mind, and then changing it again until you finally settle on the perfect color combo.

Or maybe not. Maybe choosing colors stresses you out. So much room for error. What if your chosen colors don't work well together--there's not enough contrast or one makes the other look washed out? Too much pressure!

The yarn used in my sample socks comes from Tanis Fiber Arts. Tanis has some of the most gorgeous and unique colorways I've seen, and I can't seem to stop myself from placing a couple orders each year--even though I have to pay for shipping from Canada! It's totally worth it.

No one knows these colors better than Tanis herself, so I asked her if she could suggest some color combos for Volteado, for the color-averse among us. Here are a few of her ideas:

Oh, I love this one. I ogle Lucky Penny every time I'm on her site, trying to decide what I would do with it. I already have a skein of Gold. I might have to just go ahead and grab Lucky Penny and make myself a second pair of socks.


So bright! So fruity! Lemongrass looks fresh and clean, and Grape would be a gorgeous complement.


Another one I LOVE! I also have a skein of Iris. I'd love to see how it would work in these socks.


A more muted palette, I love this combo of blues. This might work for a masculine take on the sock, too (the larger size could work for a gentleman whose feet aren't exceptionally big; you might also try playing with the gauge to make a larger size.).

And for fun, here are two combos I considered when planning my socks:


 Very autumnal and cozy looking.


And in contrast, very bright and spring-y!

Tanis also pointed out that Charcoal, Chris Grey, Natural and Sand are neutrals, so they work with pretty much every color--if you're just dipping your toe into color mixing, you might choose one of these for your contrast color, to make the decision a little less intimidating. You just have to narrow down your main color from this beautiful selection:


(That's just the ones I could fit in a screenshot!)

Incidentally, Tanis also said some very sweet things about the Volteado socks. Isn't that nice? I love fiber people.

I hope this look at color jump starts your planning process for Volteado. Be sure to visit Tanis' site to see all the colors she offers (she also has two other fingering weight yarns that would work for these socks: sparkly Cosmic Blue Label and Purple Label with cashmere!).

And if you are planning to knit a pair, would you be interested in a KAL? I'm consider hosting one in the MediaPeruana Designs group--maybe I could even rustle up a few prizes! But I want to gauge interest before I commit, so if you're interested in KALing, leave a comment here, or visit the Volteado pattern thread, and tell me you'd like to do a KAL!

ETA: The KAL is a go! Join us here!