Friday, February 25, 2011

Gridiron Release!
My first-ever pattern in a real print magazine! British magazine Yarn Forward issue 35 just hit the stands, with my pattern for an NFL style sweater for boys, sizes 2-8 years of age. See the little guy on the blue sweater on the side front cover?
The sweater is made in the round from the bottom up. There is an EZ's phony seam at the yoke, and the sleeves are picked up and knitted down. The large numbers are knit separately on tight garter stitch and applied later. A quick knit, with a couple of fun tricks, lots of texture. And fun to personalize with the little guy's favorite team or school colors.
In typical British style, it was released right after Superbowl was over, but the good news is that the rights will be returned to me right before the next season, and I will likely release it as a stand alone pattern... we can even have a fun KAL. Oliver has his Vikings sweater already, but I bet Calvin would love an Arizona Cards one.
And I am also working on a companion hat!

Awash in Silk Goodness
I finally received the yarn for the Aouda shawl - 900 yards of the finest Muga silk, dyed a deep blue. Trish Moon, the dyer/owner of Indigo Moon, was a complete pleasure to talk to - she clearly loves what she does and loves her fibres. For added bonus, she sent me a little pack of snippets and samples of her silks. That, to me, is priceless. Often times I yarn that photographs beautifully, but a photo never conveys the tactile qualities of the material, which is so important in knitting.
So I felt I had to brush up in my silk knowledge. As a child, we used to keep and raise a few silkworms every year. They are wonderful pets - cheap to feed, quiet, undemanding (a shoe box was their palace), clean and oh so short lived. Our street was lined in mulberry trees, and every spring the bottom branches were suspiciously bare of leaves, when all the kids of the neighbourhood harvested them for their silkworms.
Here is the life cycle of the silkworm. The brown guy, or pupa, is what is inside of the cocoon.
Tussah fleck, tussah, muga and blend silk from Indigo Moon

Cultivated silk, or Mulberry silk,(far right, a blend of silk and wool) is the usual kind we are all used to. It comes from silkworms risen in captivity. Before the moth hatches, the cocoons are placed in water to kill the pupa, so the cocoon won't be broken. Because the conditions of growth are controlled, the silk is smooth, round, perfect, and the color can be more or less controlled by the worm diet. It is a strong, lustrous, durable fiber.
Tussah silk (2 samples on the left) is silk from wild silkworms, harvested after the moth has hatched. The worm feeds on trees naturally rich in tannin, so the silk is a soft beige color, and the texture is a bit rougher and more irregular than cultivated silk. Still, a strong and lustrous fiber with an earthy tone.
The region of Assam in India is home to some rarer species of silkworm. Muga silk (second sample from the right) is produced by a special silkworm, and it has a natural shimmery gold color and glossy texture. Due to its low porosity, it can not be bleached, so the gold undertones are retained. It is a very durable silk, often outliving the owner.
Meet my Muga silk sample. The blue color indeed has an earthy undertone,though it is much darker in person,  and has a lovely natural gloss and feel. The beginning of my shawl is on the top... but you can't tell anything by it ;)
I was quite impressed by Trish' new blend, Exquisite Silk, 50% mulberry silk, 50% wool. It is about the softest, smoothest yarn you can imagine. It has a bit of bloom. It would be perfect for any shawl, if you want the luxury of silk but with the shape retention of wool
Exquisite in Blue Jeans, a very close up to show the bloom, and another sample of silk

My cashmere is still in Ireland, being lovingly dyed by Beata from Hedgehog fibers. The first go was a bit too olive for my taste, and she was nice enough to give it another try. I am so impatient, because it will take a while for it to get here.
In fact, I was so anxious to get my Foggy yarn that I ran into a beauty at Fiber Optica Etsy store and I just had to have it. More silk blend, in this moody Winter Solstice colorway. So now i have a real trouble deciding what to use! Owner Sarah was intrigued with our project, so I hope she will keep up with the progress of her "child" once in a while.

The Stages of our Journey
How do you go around the world in 80 days? If you have started the book, you know the answer to this question.  Mr Verne tells us you need:
London to Suez via Brindisi, 7 days by train and steamboat
Suez to Bombay, 13 days by steamer
Bombay to Calcutta, 3 days by rail
Calcutta to Hong Kong, 13 days by steamer
Hong Kong to Yokohama, 6 days by steamer
Yokohama to San Francisco, 22 days by steamer
SF to NY 7 days by rail
NY to London, 9 days by steamer and rail
Add it all up, it is 80 days!
So our “stops” or clues, will be
Hong Kong/China

Be ready with your inspirations!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Sign up opened for 2011 KAL

We have a new name!

Our Ravelry group name has changed to 2011 KALendar to make it easier to quote and remember, and we also have a new badge and banner for this year, thanks to raveler SnookiesOz. Great job, Jody!

Sign up opened
We are ready to sign up for the 2011 KAL. Joining between now and March, 21st is free, and late sign ups are possible by buying the cumulative clue, which will be uploaded after that date. We will keep 2 clues available at any given time, up to a month's time to catch up.
The sign up process is simple. Read the 2011 KAL ten commandments .
Then, go to the Ravelry group and post in the sign up thread stating that you have read, and understood, the rules and you wish to join. That is it! No joining other groups.
Clue posting
Clues will be posted on Rav, same as last year, and we will keep an updated compiled pattern with all the past clues so you can catch up if you miss any. It will cost you a little cash ($2.50 I think) but you will only have to pay once, even if you loose multiple clues at different times.
We have a great group of test knitters who are really keeping me on my toes, and we are already four clues into the testing. The shawl is looking great, both the triangle and the square versions.
So far, the clue release schedule will be:
Clue 1: March 1st.
Clue 2: March 7th.
Clue 3: March 21st, also the end of the free sign up period. The cumulative pattern will be posted then.
After that, the clue release will drop to every 3 to 4 weeks (we will see a little further ahead) as the shawl will grow large quite soon, and larger yet with each clue. The plan is to be able to release the final clues in time for everybody to be done by Christmas, if not sooner.
Members participation
Like last year, it will be possible to post inspirations in form of lace pattern suggestions, or plain good old pictures related to the theme. We will post a list of all the "stops" of our trip in the Ravelry group, so feel free to post anything you like! A pretty picture of a building, people, food, fabric, anything you like, or some gorgeous lace pattern you feel evokes a place or a part of the story.

2011 KAL Materials List:


For square, about 1800-2000 yds of lace weight to light fingering. Any material works, but keep in mind there might be a chance of nupps later, and pure silk and cotton don’t do well with those. There will be options for nuppless shawls though. For triangle, about half that amount.


Square shawls will need a set of DPNs until the shawl is large enough for circulars, then circulars of variable length. I would recommend a 24” and then a large, 40”, and that is probably all you’ll need. Size US 3 to 6, depending on desired size and laciness degree.
For triangles, the DPNs are not usually needed, and a single large circular will suffice.


If you are the beady type, go ahead and get some. The pattern will allow for alternate or optional beads in some clues. Definitely will plan for optional beaded border, but those who don’t like beads fear not, it is not required.

Crochet hooks

Maybe useful for start up cast on, a medium size. A tiny one for beading is useful if you work beads, since I don’t recommend pre-stringing (I have no idea how many we will be needing!).

Stitch markers, etc

Your best friends. I favor the little brass rings ones, but get whatever you want. As the shawl gets bigger,you may need a pile!.
You will probably need a lockable marker, a safety pin or some waste yarn for the start up (square mostly).
Waste yarn and tapestry needle for lifelines, weave ends, and so forth
Blocking stuff. Still lots of time to get that.
Chart holder/row markers. Plenty of ideas on the group pages.
A pretty bag to hold it all! And a notion bag!
Coffee, tea, chocolate, gin or whatever you need to fortify yourself. Nice background music or TV program of choice. Kids in beds, cats under control, dogs locked up, husbands busy.

What character is your shawl?

No doubt, one of the most fun parts of the KAL is to pick your yarn. I started thinking that each of the four main characters of the book would choose very different materials and colors if they were to make a shawl. 
Phileas Fogg's Shawl
Mr Fogg is the imperturbable, unsinkable, all-British gentleman who makes the wager that he is able to go around the world in 80 days. He is predictable, logical, and apparently devoid of emotion, though the evolution of this character in the book shows that he has a generous, brave heart and a deep stock of chivalry and honor. 
I see Mr. Fogg in crisp, cool colors a true Englishman will wear: silver greys, pure white, blacks. Wool blends and Alpaca with a touch of cashmere or silk for his refined yet practical character. He may give a little room for nupps, but no such thing as beads. 
I choose one of my shawls to be a Fogg shawl. I have ordered some great pure cashmere lace from Hedgehog Fibers, in Winter Thaw colorway - still getting dyed so it will be a while until I get to meet my yarn. Look around Beata's Etsy shop, as she has a great eye for soft, whispering colors 

Passepartout's Shawl
Passsepartout, the Frenchman that joins Mr. Fogg as his servant the very day they are to depart, is his perfect opposite. All improvisation, all heart and emotions, resourceful and kind, Passepartout is a jack of all trades that has been anything form a gymnast to a circus performer. I see him picking bright, bold colors that betray his circus background, with anything but the kitchen sink: nupps, beads, and whatever works. This shawl is sure to make a statement!He may choose any material, from sensible to wacky.
Here is a sample : A bright sunflower yellow merino/angora/cashmere cobweb by The Gossamer Web, who has lovely ultra-thin yarns is traditional soft pastels, as well as bright and bold, unusual colors.
Aouda's Shawl
The beautiful Indian maharani saved by our travelled from being burned in the funeral bier of her husband, Aouda is regal, collected, elegant and calm. No doubt I see her in the deep Jewel colors and rich bold tones I associate with India: purples, deep pinks, blues, saffron. And I see beads in gold, silver and jewel colors to echo the richness of Indian saris. Also, no doubt for me, she must have some silk.
My second shawl choice is for Aouda - I have on the way a skein of Indigo Moon Muga Silk in a deep blue color, which I plan to pair with golden beads, for a triangle shawl.
Take a look also at the offerings of  Dragonfly fibers, which has a great eye for brights, pinks and purples. This lovely color is Gaia Lace, a supersoft cashmere/silk blend, in Walking in the Sun colorway. I just finished a Cliffrose on this material (not same color), and it is like knitting buttah!!!
Mr. Fix
The persistent, obstinate policeman that hounds our heroes through their travels, believing them to be bank robbers! He is a practical, cunning fellow, however capable in the end to amend his mistakes. Mr. Fix would choose sensible, practical color in wool blends, such as this lovely Forest Green from Knit Picks Shadow, a long time favorite of mine. Surely, he has no time for embellishments such as nupps, and even eyelets are a concession, LOL!!!
So, who does your shawl want to be? It may even be a different character yet!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

2011 KAL : Shape unveiling

Happy Birthday Mr. Verne!
Jules Verne 183rd birthday was yesterday, February 8th. Google celebrated his birthday with a little interactive doodle.
As you all know by now, Mr Verne is the source of inspiration for our 2011 KAL, which I will call "Lace Adventure Around the World". Because we are once more venturing into unknown, mysterious territory, armed only with a ball of really thin string and pointy sticks. Fear not! At the end of the year, we will accomplish a stunning piece of work that will tell a story all of its own.

Jules Verne was the greatest armchair traveller that ever lived. Born in Nantes, his education was as a lawyer. He worked as a stockbroker, but his soul was in writing. He wrote theater plays, until the success of his novella "Five Weeks in a Balloon" allowed him to write full time. After that, he produced at least a book a year, many of them forever a part of popular culture. Verne, a man with absolutely no scientific or technical training, and who hardly travelled far from home, took his readers in wild, adventurous trips to places nobody had been before: the bottom of the sea (in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, where he created one of the most famous heroes of literature, Capt Nemo and his submarine the Nautilus), to the moon (From the Earth to the Moon), to the center of the Earth (Travel to the Center of the Earth), to the Russian plains (in the horse of Mihel Strogoff, the Czar's courier). He wrote about floating cities, mysterious islands, space travel. Here is the unbelievable long list of his writings. In the fashion of many truly visionary writers, many of his "inventions" have come to life in later years - more notably the submarine; The first all-electrical AND the first nuclear subs were called "Nautilus". 

We will talk in more detail about Around the World in 80 Days as the weeks go by, because we are not just stacking together a bunch of patterns in this shawl, but indeed following the comings and goings of the characters, and the final result will have a more cohesive feel to it than our 2010 sampler did!
If you haven't read the book, don't remember it, or haven't seen a movie, here is a link to the original theatrical trailer for the 1956 movie starring David Niven, Mexican comic Mario Moreno "Cantinflas", Shirley McClain and Joseph Newton in the main roles.
Click on the "see trailer". You can also rent the movie
It won 5 Oscars and had more than 40 cameos by famous artists, including Frank Sinatra!. If you want to watch the movie, don't even consider the 2004 flop starring Jackie Chan. I love Jackie Chan, but they turned Fogg into a bumbling idiot of an inventor, instead of the supremely cool and composed English gentleman. Watch that delightful snippet in the trailer where Passepartout scoops snow from a mountain peak to add to Fogg's tea while flying in a balloon.

Soooo ... What are we making? And the answer is:
Our 2011 shawl will be a square one, knitted on the round from the center out. BUT... we will also give the option to make a half-square shawl (essentially, using two repeats and knitting back and forth), which would give you a triangle!. Yay! I love options!!!!. Get about 2000 yds if you want to do the full square, and half that much for the triangle. And YES, there will be options to do nupps, beads, or nothing at all so you can adjust the look and the difficulty level. Excited??? I sure am.

In a few days, I will post an update about choosing your yarn and colors to represent the different characters in the book. It may not matter to you, but it is a fun bit anyway, and it will give us the chance to do some virtual shopping through some gorgeous yarns. I will also post a list of materials, and the sign up rules.

A knitter's happy place
How many times do you gift a knitted item, one in which you have pour hours of effort and work, only to get a lukewarm reception or outright dismissal? And why do we keep making knitted gifts anyway?

The answer is: because sometimes, somebody is absolutely elated, enchanted, enamoured or just totally amused, and we live just to see that moment.
Autobots (good guys) in front

Decepticons (bad guys) in back

Reversible! "more than meets the eye" caption

Such is the case with my son's Transformers Toque. He loved the damned hat so much he popped it in his head the minute I finished weaving ends. That night, he slept wearing only his PJ pants and the hat (no shirt - he hates PJ tops). He wears it around the house while brandishing his plastic sword (so loved it is held together with duct tape). I could cry in happiness.

Winterchild is out!
And you probably knew already because Karen "puffycats" blew the horn, LOL!!! Knitpicks moved pretty quick in putting this guy up for sale. Here is the knitpicks pattern site, and Here is the Ravelry pattern page.

February is going to be a HUGE month for me; Yarn Forward Magazine (in its issue #35) is publishing my first pattern ever to appear in a real trade magazine! And another one soon to appear in the Spring issue of Tangled Magazine!. Very excited :). I will give you a heads up.

Scraping the bottom of the WIP drawer...
Yes! I finished the Sylvar sweater!
One down, three more UFOs to go (and a couple of designs in the Messing Around phase). I have moved on to finish my Cliffrose out of Gaia Lace - yum! I forgot how scrumptious that yarn is. I am well past the half. Also still laboring on the edge of my 2010 KAL. I get easily distracted, but I am also past the half. I need to clean out stuff because I plan to start not one, but TWO 2011 shawls!!!