Friday, February 5, 2016

You're invited: Join the Purls KAL!

For the month of February I'm co-hosting a knit-along or KAL with Morag of Vintage Purls, and I hope you'll come join in! If you haven't been part of a knit-along before, the idea is that a group of people knit similar-themed projects, and chat and post photos for the others to admire. The Purls KAL is one of the monthly knit-alongs held in the Ravelry group Budding Designers Downunder.

The theme of the Purls KAL is knitting any of my designs in Vintage Purls yarn. I'm offering a 25% discount on all of my self-published patterns and pattern collections during the first week of the KAL, using the Ravelry coupon code ALLTHEPURLS. You've still got until the end of Sunday to take advantage of the pattern sale. :)

www.ravelry.com/discuss/budding-designers-downunder/3367815/1-25

Full details are in the KAL thread on Ravelry: February 2016 Purls KAL: Baroque Purls + Vintage Purls.

In case you've been wondering, yes there are prizes! Really cool ones too, if I do say so myself. Check them out:

2 Skeins of VP Sock in “Silver Arrow” + “High and Mighty”

2 skeins of VP Max in "A Handful of Silver” + “Man From the Sea”

A notions pouch (or pencil case) by Belinda Piper

A set of stitch markers by Marmalade Scarf + a small pouch (or coin purse)

Aren't they pretty?

And for some pattern inspiration, below are some of my designs using Vintage Purls yarns. They're definitely among my favourites, with their subtle, rich colours and great stitch definition.

Amy's Scarf

Droste Effect

The Beeswax Set

Quite a few knitters have already joined in and posted yarn-photos and work-in-progress photos. It's going to be a fun month! :)

Friday, January 29, 2016

New pattern: Tailfeather

Tailfeather is my latest scarf design, and it's so, so, so cosy. It's a big, wide scarf with a garter-stitch-and-lace texture inspired by feathers.



I adore birds, as you may have gathered, and I've been planning to knit a scarf in this feathery stitch pattern for ages. It's actually related to the edging on my Kea shawl, but with elongated and slightly narrower 'feathers'. The worsted-weight yarn in this version gives it a nice casual, unisex look.

Features:
  • interlocking feather pattern based on garter stitch and simple lace
  • intuitive stitch pattern that makes for a fast knit
  • worsted-weight polwarth/alpaca/possum yarn for warmth
  • two width options (wide version shown)
  • long-tail cast on + simple knitted bind off
  • both charted and written instructions.



I used one of my favourite yarns for scarves, Outlaw Yarn's Bohemia Worsted (45% polwarth, 45% alpaca, and 10% possum). The subtle, muted brown colour is called 'Ambrotype'. It's actually a really interesting colour, with hints of mauve and mushroom.

If you're curious or concerned about possum-blend yarn, Outlaw's website has a great short explanation of their pest status in New Zealand, and why supporting the possum yarn industry is great for our native birds, forests, and wildlife: Deb's 'Official Rant' about Possums


The Tailfeather pattern is available to download as a pdf from Ravelry, Loveknitting, Craftsy, or Etsy.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Craft holiday II

My post-Christmas break in NZ is nearly over, so it must be time to show off all the things I made! Like my previous craft holiday, I took full advantage of having access to Mum's sewing machine. This time I made tops using downloadable indie patterns. I haven't had much experience sewing from patterns (as opposed to following photo tutorials on blogs or just figuring things out myself) - so I learned a lot along the way. :)


I started off making a Wiksten top out of some lightweight cotton fabric with a diagonal tie-dye stripe. I enlarged the pattern one extra size, which worked well - hooray for drawing skills! The fit is pretty good, certainly good enough for a casual top.

I dove into making a second one, this time using a crystal-print cotton sateen fabric from Spoonflower and plain white bias binding. Mum thought the fabric was far too heavy for a Wiksten top, and (surprise, surprise) she was totally right - it didn't drape well, so the not-quite-right fit around the armholes was very obvious. She fixed the problem by demonstrating how to put in some small darts above the bust line - thanks Mum!

I moved on to another pattern for my next sewing adventure, a Fen top in a black linen-cotton blend. Instead of following the pattern's instructions I kind of did my own thing while sewing it up. This worked out very well with the bias binding around the neckline (which is super tidy if I do say so myself):


However, I messed up with the seams - I decided to do French seams again, but didn't realise it would cause problems with the curved underarm seams. Luckily the fabric looks the same on both sides, so I just decided to turn the top inside-out and continue. It's not a mistake, I declare, it's a design decision to have my French seams on the outside. ;)

Again, my fabric was a bit too heavy for the pattern, but I think it looks ok this time. It's certainly a very comfortable, roomy top. I'll be looking out for lighter, drapier fabrics to make more Fen tops the next time I do some sewing.


Learnings:
  • using proper patterns isn't hard or scary
  • I can enlarge a pattern if necessary by looking at the outlines of the other sizes and just drawing one size further 
  • bias binding isn't hard to get nice and tidy (if you use the iron a lot)
  • fabric choice is IMPORTANT - pay attention to the pattern's fabric suggestions, and Mum's warnings
  • French seams are awesome, but not for curved underarm seams
  • linen / linen blends are easy to work with
  • bust darts are my friends 

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I've also been knitting away on a new scarf design which I plan to release in the next week or two, once it's all photographed and polished up. Here's a peek at the scarf-in-progress...

Friday, January 15, 2016

Wrapping up the Gift-A-Long

The fabulous Indie Gift-A-Long ended at the close of 2015, but I've delayed my wrap-up post as I was still knitting my final project! Now that it's finished, blocked, and photographed at last, here we go...

My two GAL projects were tubular cowls for a pair of special people who are wintering in Berlin this year (and could probably do with some cosy neck-warmers about now):



The silver-and-black cowl is a simple striped stockinette number which I hope will be extremely wearable. The pattern is Preserving Life by fellow NZ designer Kelly Brooker, and the yarn is Bohemia Sport in 'Fog' and 'Leadlight'. This was a great tv/travel project, with its long stretches of plain knitting.

The silver-and-turquoise cowl was a little more involved, but the short sequences of each colour were easy to memorise, and the changing patterns kept my interest up. The pattern is Elektrocute by Emma Welford, and the yarn is Bohemia Sport again in 'Fog' and 'Tarnished' - don't these colours look great together?


If you're a Ravelry member, you can see all the GAL projects that people made using my patterns: Eleven finished projects! I'm thrilled that my Beeswax designs were so popular. :)

Another cool highlight was being interviewed by another designer on her blog, RocketBoy Knits. Jennifer came up with some really cool questions: Indie Gift-A-Long Designer Interview - Amy van de Laar of Baroque Purls

Annnnnnd, I had a really lovely surprise after the GAL ended: I actually won one of the prizes for finishing a project before the deadline, and so a skein of Malabrigo yarn is on its way to me. :)

So that's that! I hope you'll join us for the next GAL - keep your eyes peeled in early November.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

A flying visit

This time last week I was rushing around Wellington with Mum and Dad and Willie - a brief burst in my old city, sandwiched between my Christmas with the in-laws in Taranaki and my summer break in Whakatane. We all stayed on upper Cuba St, which was fantastic! We never had to walk far to get coffee, and it was really nostalgic being in that part of town.

Our one full day in Wellington was a very busy one, beginning with a cafe breakfast, shopping for fabric and second-hand clothes and yarn, a gallery visit after lunch, and (after a much-needed nap back at the hotel) a lovely dinner with the four of us and my old friend Rowan.

As always, Dad took plenty of photos...

Me and Mum at Midnight Espresso

On our way to the City Gallery (with bonus pigeon)

Part of the swatch collection at Holland Road Yarn Co.

Visiting the Holland Road yarn shop on Willis St was a major highlight for Mum and me, as we don't often get to see such a great collection of yarn in real life. I'm a happy online yarn shopper, but it really was great to be able to compare colours and textures in the shop!

I eventually decided on a skein of Madelinetosh DK in 'Button Jar Blue' for a hat I'm in the process of designing, some Knitsch Sock in 'Sweet Pea' which I'll combine with 'Silver Lining' from my stash for some stranded mittens, and coordinating colours of Zealana Kiwi 4ply for some stranded mitts... or possibly another hat. I also made mental notes of other lovely yarns that I want to try later (honourable mention: Quince & Co Piper in 'Austin', a lovely auburn laceweight).

My new treasures!

The fabric above is from The Fabric Store, both woven linen-blends. Once again, I plan to commandeer Mum's sewing machine and make some clothes while I'm in Whakatane. I've started making a Wiksten Tank using less-precious cotton fabric from my stash, after enlarging the pattern one extra size beyond the largest included size. If that turns out well (fingers crossed), I'll make another out of my new grey-and-silver linen. The black lightweight linen will probably become a Fen tee.

My grand plan for the holiday is to make lots of sewing and knitting progress, in between beach and lake visits. :)

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

New patterns: Rose Jam

Some of you may have gathered I have a bit of a thing for roses. I like to look at them, smell them, and for good measure, eat them! Rosewater and rose jam are lovely in desserts and baking, and fun to experiment with. My favourite combos are quince jam made with rosewater (recipe here), and rose jam on scones with whipped cream. :)

It was only a matter of time before I came up with a rosy knitting pattern, and in fact I've made two: the Rose Jam Hat and matching Rose Jam Mitts.


The stitch pattern is inspired by rose petals, which sometimes have a very sweet heart-shape in some old-fashioned and wild varieties. Like so:

Rosa moyesii, at Melbourne's Royal Botanic Gardens

Hat features:
  • all-over mini-cable texture inspired by rose petals
  • the petals flow smoothly out of the ribbing and up to the crown 
  • a one-skein project (128-160 yards of worsted-weight yarn)
  • suitable for solid or semi-solid colourways
  • two adult sizes, photos show larger size  
  • both charted and written instructions. 


 Mitts features:
  • all-over mini-cable texture inspired by rose petals
  • the thumb gusset emerges naturally from the stitch pattern
  • a one-skein project (140 yards of worsted-weight yarn)
  • suitable for solid or semi-solid colourways 
  • one size, to fit 7-8" palm circumference
  • both charted and written instructions. 


The 2-stitch cables in the hat and mitts can easily be knit without a cable needle, making these quite straightforward projects for an intermediate-level knitter. I've included a guide in each pattern based on this excellent method.

The yarn I used for my hat and mitts is the famously-squishable Malabrigo Rios, in the semi-solid colour 'Ravelry Red'.



The Rose Jam Hat and Mitts are available as separate patterns, or together.

Ravelry links: Rose Jam Hat and Rose Jam Mitts, and the ebook Rose Jam.
Loveknitting links: Rose Jam Hat and Rose Jam Mitts.

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The little white flowers in some of the photos above are from Mum and Dad's Viburnum opulus, known to us as the 'Snowball Tree'. After our Rose Jam photoshoot, Dad took photos of me messing about and making the tree 'snow'. And then he made an animated gif. ;)

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

A rainbow of lace

Well, my Indie Gift-A-Long knitting is off to a slow start. I somehow sprained my right index finger (don't worry, it's nearly better now!), so I've had a frustrating week of trying not to knit or use my laptop too much.

One slight silver lining was that I finally found time to watch some Craftsy class videos. I'm now in the middle of Miriam Felton's Lace Shawl Design class, and I'm getting some new insights into how lace works. I'm looking forward to the 'fixing mistakes' video, a subject dear to my heart!

I clearly have lace on the brain, because I soon found myself browsing through lace patterns on Ravelry. Here's a selection, all by fellow GAL designers - some are more complex, some more simple, most are knitted, one is crocheted, some have texture, some have beads. There were so many that caught my eye, I started narrowing them down by colour, and a rainbow happened...

Tiong Bahru by Åsa Tricosa, photo by Åsa Söderman

Hugs and Stitches by Yuliya Tkacheva

Afterglow by Diana Rozenshteyn

Laura's Leaves by Emily K Williams

Lichen Mists by Ruth Garcia-Alcantud

Midnight in Sydney by Meg Gadsbey

When The Leaves Fall by Lily Go

And for one final bit of lace, check out this amazing yarn-bombed tree! It's part of Yarn Corner's series of tree-cosies in Melbourne's City Square, all with a Christmas theme. The others were cool, but this one really wowed me, especially since I don't see much knitted lace yarnbombing around. The red and green striped under-layer sets off the lovely lace patterns beautifully. <3