Swatch Sketchbook: Banded Agate

Last week, I explored combining plant-based sources of inspiration with swatching. This week, I'd like to explore the possibilities that lie in the world of minerals.

Ever since I was a child, I’ve been fascinated by gems, rocks, and minerals. I enjoyed collecting them in variety of colors, textures and patterns. I remember my favorite piece being a small rock of Fool’s Gold (pyrite). I thought it was something magical.

As an adult, I no longer collect rocks and minerals, but I still love to look at pictures of them on the Internet. One of my favorite sources right now is http://mineralia.tumblr.com/.

There is so much inspiration out there in the world of rocks and gems that it’s hard to know where to when deciding on a design. After lots of scrolling, I decided that banded agates were a great match for with my affinity for knitting striped items.

I love all the color combinations that nature comes up with in the layers of these agates (seriously, there is not a bad one in the bunch!), and the undulating effect is quite beautiful.

There are many stunning banded agates out there, and it was hard to choose one for my design inspiration. Here is the inspiration photo I used for the swatch: http://www.d.umn.edu/~mark0524/Project/Fall/LagunaAgate1.jpg

For my banded agate swatch, I decided on Shibui Pebble for the yarn (appropriately named!), and a basic ripple knitting pattern for the undulating stripes.

Since the rippling effect is not uniform in the agate, I decided to only do the rippling effect on certain rows, working across the rest of the row normally. One row stripes created with random increases and decreases created just the effect I was looking for.


Charts are a lot more fun when I get to use my colored pencils! Here is the knitting chart I made in my Knitters Graph Paper Journal.
June 17, 2015 by Oleya Pearsall

Swatch Sketchbook: Dandelions

The plant world is full of wonderful textures, color palettes, and shapes for knitters to draw inspiration from. Recently I have been finding myself drawn to dandelions, the invasive weeds that have been appearing on my front lawn this past spring. Even though they can be a nuisance, I do think that their white fluffy heads are beautiful and inspiring.

I wondered how I could translate the characteristics of a dandelion to a small knitted swatch, perhaps for future use in a shawl design. I decided to sketch out my idea in my Knitters Graph Paper Journal, which is full of blank charts to use for all sorts of knitting purposes.

For this particular design, I knew I wanted to create the appearance of a dandelion quite literally—capturing both the long, skinny stem and tufted head. After a few false starts, I decided the stem would look best as a twisted knit column on a background of reverse stockinette stitches.

Finding a way to make the seed heads was probably the trickiest part of the swatching process. I started by knitting rays of slipped stitches going in multiple directions, but the result wasn’t quite what I’d hoped for. After spending some quality time with the Internet, I was lucky enough to find a stitch pattern called dandelion stitch, and I worked that pattern into my swatch so that it stacked on top of the stem design.

After finishing the design, I experimented with a few different yarn combinations. I settled on Shibui Silk Cloud held together with Shibui Cima in Ivory. I thought Silk Cloud’s halo would nicely mimic the fluffiness of the dandelion, and the Cima would give the swatch a bit more structure.

Here is the resulting swatch:

While I like the end result, next time I might experiment with making more loops to fill out the dandelion head a bit more. Overall, it was a fun experience, and I really enjoyed combining natural inspiration and my Knitters Graph Paper Journal to create a design.
June 10, 2015 by Oleya Pearsall

Tried & True

When we knit for other people, forming each stitch by hand, I think we all hope the finished piece will be special to the recipient. When my Grandma Pat knit a baby blanket to welcome me—her first grandchild—into the world over 36 years ago, I wonder if she imagined that rectangle of fabric would become one of the most meaningful objects in my life.

May 06, 2015 by Keli Hansen

Our Favorite Finished Objects

Many of us have created several projects over the course of our knitting careers. No matter how many projects we make, each finished object should be considered an achievement. Lots of thought, time, and energy go into the act of creating cloth from a simple length of string. Hundreds of tiny stitches represent hours, days, and perhaps even years of work.

And yet there are still certain pieces that hold a deeper place in our hearts. Maybe they’re the projects we labored over intensely for several months, or the pieces that complete our wardrobes in a satisfying way. Perhaps they’re the projects that are a spectacular match of a pattern and yarn, or the stunning projects we admire from afar, created by others.

Here are our favorite projects that we’ve either made ourselves or lovingly admired:

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From the process of choosing beautiful yarn to completing a favorite finished item, we hope you have enjoyed learning about our staff favorites. Here’s to ten more years of knitting beautiful things!

April 29, 2015 by Oleya Pearsall

Our Favorite Sources

When looking for new patterns, techniques, or just general inspiration, there are quite a few sources we like to consult. A variety of blogs, books, and magazines make up many of the sources, but overall, Ravelry.com is the ultimate source of knitting information. If you’re not familiar with the site, Ravelry is an extensive yarn and pattern database, that simultaneously functions as a fiber-based social network. Patterns, yarns, and more—you name it, it’s in there. Millions of knitters use the site as their main knitting resource, and it’s very easy to get lost in the myriad project pages full of inspiration. In addition to using Ravelry, we also like to turn to our favorite blogs, books, and magazines for extra bits of curated knitting information.

Here is how our staff members like to get their knitting information:

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BEKAH: “Ravelry.com. You can find pretty much anything and everything. And get lost for hours.”

ELA: “Fashion shows, web search, purlonpearl.tumblr.com.”

SARAH C: “Interweave Knits magazine, Knit Purl newsletters, Ravelry”

SHEILA: “One of my favorite books is a reference book, ‘The Knitting Answer Book’ by Margaret Radcliffe. This is my go-to book if I’ve forgotten how to do a stitch. It is also the book I recommend the most. My three favorite websites, Ravelry, http://techknitting.blogspot.com and Knittinghelp.com, all have fun, interesting information for every knitter whether beginner or advanced.”

SARAH K: “Knit Purl of course! But also Ravelry.”

CAIT: “Pom Pom Magazine.”

OLEYA: “I primarily visit the Fringe Association blog (updated on a daily basis!), but I also like Clara Parkes’ Knitter’s Review, and the Woolful podcast. I also have a very deep respect for ‘The Principles of Knitting’ book by June Hemmons Hiatt.”

KELI: “I find Ravelry endlessly inspiring. It’s hard to pick anything else, since Ravelry includes it all!”

Whether they’re digital or analog, these are the sources we turn to when we need advice, inspiration or to find out what’s new in the knitting world.

Please join us next week for the last post of the series, which highlights our favorite finished objects.

April 22, 2015 by Oleya Pearsall

Our Favorite Patterns

This week, we are musing over our favorite patterns and designers. A variety of details make a pattern attractive. Most knitters are drawn to elements like clear photography, styling, presentation, and brand familiarity. Looking closer at the pattern details, some are drawn to how interesting the pattern looks and the relative knitting requirements—patterns can range from monotonous and repetitive (great knitting for binge-watching), to detailed and complex (no wine tonight!). Clearly, there is a lot to take into consideration when choosing a new knitting pattern.

Our favorite patterns reflect our diverse backgrounds and interests—we have chosen a mix of traditional patterns, patterns from long-time designers, and patterns we have designed ourselves. Let’s take a look at the designers and patterns we find inspiring.

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Bekah “Backbay by Jared Flood. Simultaneously classic and modern, simple and interesting. Favorite designer: Boadicea Binnerts. From the Netherlands, she designs clean yet intricate modern pieces, often inspired by fashion on the runways of Europe.”

Ela “Hats—my own designs!”

Sarah C “Cowichan sweaters. My sister gave me some really old patterns I have used for several sweaters, and I adapted the one below and changed the design from an adult sweater. The tops of the buttons are bits of caribou antler from Alaska!”

Sheila Hannah Fettig

Sarah K “Stephen West! I love how he is always daring to try something different and experiment with textures and colors.”

Cait Julie Hoover

Oleya “I am a huge fan of Jared Flood/Brooklyn Tweed due to the attention to detail, photography, and styling.”

Keli “I have to credit Kaffe Fassett for inspiring me to learn to knit many years ago. Someday I will knit one of his designs.”

With pattern inspiration and some new designers to try, go forth and make pattern decisions with confidence!

April 15, 2015 by Oleya Pearsall

Our Favorite Tools

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Tools are a vital part of any maker’s work. Their function, aesthetic qualities, the stories they tell, and the craft they represent all add to their value.

It can definitely be said that aside from a plentiful yarn stash, tools are among the most indispensable items in a knitter’s arsenal.

With so many options for tools on the market, from homemade contraptions to luxury hand-turned accessories, sometimes it’s hard to know what’s worth investing in. How many of these tools do we actually need? When it comes down to it, it seems helpful to go back to basics. First and foremost, a quality set of knitting needles seems to be of utmost importance.

Here are a few words from our staff members regarding their favorite tools:

BEKAH: “Addi Clicks—I never need to buy different length needles, and can even use them as stitch holders.”
ELA: “Circular needles / Rockets!”
SARAH C: “Probably Lantern Moon cable needles with beveled groves—works so well for cables.”
SHEILA: “Besides my array of knitting needles I could not live without my crochet hooks, not because I crochet but rather because they are essential to fix those pesky mistakes that happen to even the best knitters.”
SARAH K: “My trusty Addi clicks set.”
CAIT: “My Lantern Moon Rosewood Interchangeables.”
OLEYA: “Folding scissors. I’m kind of a klutz, so it’s nice to have something that has the pointy ends folded away. (I actually have poked myself with no injury!) I love that they’re travel-safe, too.”
KELI: “My Ebony Interchangeables from Lantern Moon are one of my most prized possessions, period. I also get pretty excited about the Fix-A-Stitch—it’s exceptionally handy for fixing garter or seed stitch.”
RACHEL: “A row counter!”

Our favorite tools, pictured above:
1. Brittany Cable Needles in Birch
2. Addi Turbo Rocket Needles
3. Lantern Moon Crochet Hook in Rosewood
4. Fix-A-Stitch Tool Set
5. Snip-its Folding Scissors
6. Kacha-Kacha Row Counter
7. Lantern Moon Interchangeable Knitting Needles
8. Addi Click Interchangeable Knitting Needle Set
9. Addi Click Bamboo Interchangeable Knitting Needle Set

With proper tools and captivating yarn at the ready, finding a pattern that brings the two together harmoniously is the next step of the knitting process.

Please join us next week for a look at what patterns and designers have a permanent spot in our knitting queues.

 

April 08, 2015 by Oleya Pearsall

Knit, Purl, Weave


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Knit Purl now carries looms! After much research (we were definitely swayed by Knitty’s glowing review) we’ve started stocking 20″ Knitter’s Looms, made in New Zealand by Ashford. I have personally been fascinated with weaving ever since seeing a customer’s scarf created with hand-dyed yarns in my early days at Knit Purl. When I realized that Ravelry has a section full of woven projects, my fascination intensified ten-fold. Though I’ll always love the body-hugging stretch of knit fabric, I welcome the chance to create more stable woven fabric for items like bags, pillows, wraps, and placemats.

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Perhaps the greatest appeal of weaving for me, however, is the opportunity to play with color in a new way. Have you ever been besotted with a variegated yarn in the skein, only to watch it knit up into a blotchy mess? To my eyes, weaving blends and mellows wildly colorful yarns. When warp and weft are strikingly different colors, the fabric can be nearly iridescent. I’ve also seen amazing things done with slow striping yarns like Noro and with pooling warps, which align the colors in a yarn across the width of a piece. Best of all? None of these effects require a huge, complex loom—they’re all perfectly suited to a simple and portable rigid heddle loom like those at Knit Purl. If you’re curious how it all works, Ashford has a video covering the basics. Or come by the store and try our floor model yourself! We’re starting a scarf on our loom (and we’ll be sure to share the results). What will you make?

December 17, 2014 by Keli Hansen

A Slow Knitting Manifesto

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Especially at the height of knitting season, the world around me seems to settle into a constant state of blur. Timelines, deadlines, due dates—they rush forwards and then past, being fulfilled and crossed off the planner, pages turning like a flip book, the margins animated with notations and ideas. The knitting of samples, swatches, patterns, projects, speeds by almost as quickly. Sometimes this is okay. A project rapidly off the needles provides some sense of satisfaction, especially if I can wear it sooner. Lately, though, I have been thinking of slower knitting.

You may have heard of the “slow food” or “slow living” movements, through which people are taking a breather in their busy lives and re-evaluating. Fewer ingredients. Fewer belongings. Simple food, simple beauty, simple lives. It’s a return to the past. After all, didn’t our ancestors come up with all of this technology, all of these inventions, to make life easier? So why has it become so difficult to set aside time for ourselves, our families, our interests? We seem busier than ever.

I propose a return to the slower cycle of all things knitting. I plan on taking my cues from fiber animals, whose fleeces follow a year-long journey, culminating in a shearing, a carding, a spinning, a yarn.

In this same way, I will choose my fibers carefully and thoughtfully, selecting a project not for it’s expediency or end product, but simply to make something beautiful. I will muse over the stitches, taking pleasure in the beauty of yarn passing through my fingers to become something new. No longer will I fear a long project, or blocking, or trying a new technique. I will do this for the enjoyment of the process as much as for the project.

I vow to take time each day simply to enjoy the act of knitting—all too often, I find myself absorbed instead with a task within the task, knitting while waiting or doing something else. I will add in time just for the knitting itself.

In these simple, quiet moments, I will rediscover the meditative quality of wool and needles.

November 04, 2014 by Hannah Thiessen

Knitting Outside the Lines

I’m not the most adventurous knitter. I like to experiment, but generally I stick (somewhat) close to a pattern. I need the guidance.

That said, I love swatching and designing, both of which involve a lot of free knitting. But being inspired by so many other knitters and designers, I’m not completely without that guidance.

We’ve been thinking of ways that we like to deviate from the written word a little around the store, in little ways, and in dramatic ways. Some examples we’ve come up with are changing stripe arrangements, adding colors, adding shaping, and using our experience to go off on our own a little bit.

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Some of my recent experiments include the Encadre, by Julie Hoover. I altered the MC and CC in the colorwork section, and started knitting the second half first.

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With Shibui’s Cliff sweater, I had difficulty getting the bottom ribbing to be tight enough, so I used smaller needles, a 2×2 rib, and a single color. It’s still a little loose, but much better. I also changed the neck ribbing to i-cord.

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I started knitting Hannah Fettig’s Wispy cardi, and decided I wanted it to be a shrug. I added Cima to my Linen, and knit in garter stitch in the round for a cozy shrug that made an appearance at a summer wedding.

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This hat is based on a mitten pattern Alexis Winslow designed for Brooklyn Tweed. (She’ll be here for a book signing November 1 from 2–5—you should come!) It was intended for a fingering weight; but with a little math,  I changed it to a worsted-weight hat. It’s super warm, and I don’t get to wear it enough!

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Linda knit her Skipping Dots using our suggestions, but added a little purple stripe for that extra pop of color.

Two of the patterns feature in our newsletter this month,  Dessine-moi un mouton and Lucky No. 7, we did a little experimenting with stripe sequencing in our samples, too.

For the Lucky No. 7, Keli decided to use Swans Island Fingering instead of any of the recommended yarns, because it’s so wonderfully soft and she loves the natural colors. Searching the projects on Ravelry, she found 2 people who had worked the pattern in that yarn: one inspired her to use the lighter Natural colorway as the contrast color, and the other inspired her to use just one skein of each color to make an abbreviated cowl. Our sample knitter decided to knit the cowl with 14-row stripes of the main color, because she liked that the wider spacing made the white stripes look less busy.

For the French sweater, we knew we wanted to show off the Geilsk Wool Cotton, but we thought we’d go understated by picking just a few colors instead of knitting a whole rainbow of stripes. We laid out all the colors on the table and grouped those that looked especially nice together, finally settling on greens and neutrals. Again, Keli turned to Ravelry to check if anyone had worked the pattern with a dark main color.

We found this project in colors very similar to those we had just picked and thought it looked fabulous. To arrange the stripes, she scanned other projects on Ravelry to see what worked best, deciding that she liked the sweater most when the lower 3 stripes were very subtle and the most eye-catching stripes fell above the bust line. From there, Keli mixed the colors around a little to give the stripes a fun, random feel.

How have you been playing with your patterns?

October 22, 2014 by Cait Lamborne