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New FO: Belcarra Cardigan

August 18, 2014

Belcarra Cardigan – side view

In general, I’m one of those people that tends to work on just one thing at a time, mainly because once I start something I really hate not finishing it.  Check out these stats:  of the 261 projects I have listed on Ravelry, 7 were frogged and 10 were never actually started, so I’m not counting them.  Therefore, out of a total of 244 started projects, I have 233 completed, or a 95% completion rate.  Not too shabby, huh?  Yeah, I’m pretty committed.

Every so often though, there’s a project that comes along that challenges this “completion compulsion”, for one reason or another.  Most of the time it’s caused by boredom with the pattern, other times it’s not liking the yarn.  Whatever the reason, one thing stands true:  WIPs irk me.  So when I finally wrestle one of them in submission and finish, it’s a special cause to celebrate!  Exactly one year ago today, I started working on a Belcarra Cardigan, a pattern from Interweave Crochet Magazine Fall 2010 issue.  I fell in love with this design almost immediately and bought a sweater quantity of yarn for it, which then sat in my stash for over a year before I finally started.

Belcarra Cardigan – back view

When I first cast on this project back in April 2013, I got about 20 rows into the back, and then got so bored with the somewhat monotonous stitch pattern I put it down.  It sat as a hibernating work-in-progress for about 6 months, until I re-discovered it over the Christmas holidays.  I worked on it like gangbusters for several weeks, finishing the entire back, the right front and about half of the left, but then sadly I ran out of steam again, and once more the WIP was banished to the bottom of the crafting pile.

In April of this year, one year after I started this project, I sat down and finished the main body and sleeve edging, and it looked like I was actually going to get it done.  Then, about three-quarters of the way through the collar, disaster struck – I realized I was going to run out of yarn before I finished.  The horror!  Disheartened by the monumental task of having to frog all that work and start over, I instead opted to admit defeat and once again cast this cursed cardigan aside.

Belcarra Cardigan – front view

Finally, this summer I decided that enough was enough – I was either going to finish this sweater, or frog the yarn for something else.  Re-starting the collar with a narrower band than stated in the pattern, the work was slow but eventually I did it!  15 months later, I had my finished cardigan.  What is amazing is that I didn’t actually spend that much time working on the cardigan itself – total it probably took between 25-30 hours to make.  The hardest part was the stitch pattern – it’s beautiful, but a bit boring.  The collar edging was no walk in the park either – I must have done hundreds of rows of alternating sc blo and dc blo.  Still, I am extremely happy with the finished product!  The yarn is Saffron Dyeworks Pali Sport in the colourway RC Cola, and I can’t say enough good things about this yarn.  It’s soft yet sturdy, a gorgeous deep purplish-brown colour, and even though I used 5 different skeins of yarn the colour is remarkably consistent, even though I did nothing to blend the skeins together (you know, like you’re supposed to do with hand-dyed yarn).

Even though I just finished this sweater, it’s already a go-to piece of my wardrobe.  I absolutely love how it fits me, and I can wear it with almost everything.  Really happy with this!

A Tale of Textured Hats

April 21, 2014

Ava Slouchy Hat

This winter I had the great fortune to become a pattern tester for a very talented new designer named Justine Walley, aka ScatteredDahlias on Ravelry.  I first came across her patterns on Ravelry, joined her designer group and quickly signed up to be on her tester list.  Joining one of her tests involves a magic combination of speed and luck, as her tests fill up within minutes of being posted – she’s that popular.  Why?  Because she’s that good.

Aubrey Hat

A year ago she challenged herself to design 100 original hat patterns in one year, a goal she successfully achieved in early March.  What is extra remarkable is that each pattern is unique and different – it would have been very easy for her to create a series of “cookie-cutter” patterns with the same basic shape and minor variations in stitch pattern, but instead she uses her seemingly boundless creativity to come up with new and fresh designs every week.

Victoria Hat

I think one of my favourite things about Justine’s patterns is her use of post stitches to create beautiful texture.  The first pattern I tested was the Ava Slouchy Hat, a simple design that combines post stitches running in contrasting directions in the body and brim of the hat.  The yarn is a yummy skein of single-ply merino/silk DK dyed by Kattikloo Fiber – I bought it last summer while travelling in BC.

My second pattern test was the Aubrey Hat, a richly cabled slouch that beautifully showcases the colour of this skein of indigodragonfly Merino Silk DK.

Post stitches alternate with bobbles to create the subtle texture found in the Victoria Hat, made with a skein of Ancient Arts Fibre Crafts Superwash BFL DK that I picked up at Lettuce Knit.  I wear this hat all the time and always get compliments!

Winterfell Beanie

The last ScatteredDahlias pattern test I did this winter was the Winterfell Beanie, a loosely criss-crossing cabled hat that I made with a merino/silk DK yarn I bought on sale at EweKnit.  So quick and easy to make.

As of the date of this blog post, only one of the patterns I have tested (Aubrey Beanie) has been published yet.  Hopefully the others will be available soon.  In the meantime, I highly recommend you check out her current patterns on Ravelry or Etsy (AlyseCrochet) – I’m sure you will find at least one that you will want to make!

Pattern Test: Pommi and Pearls Shawl

December 3, 2013

Pommi and Pearls Shawl, designed by Voie de Vie

Recently I had the opportunity to do another pattern test for the wonderfully talented Voie de Vie.  She has just released her latest fall/winter collection, and once again she has created a range of designs that are both modern and classic.  This time around I got to do a shawl pattern, which in fact turned out to be the design selected for the cover of her new e-book:  Pommi and Pearls Shawl.

Overall I found this shawl to be a quick, easy, beautiful shawl to make.  The stitch pattern is simple and easy to memorize, but with enough variety to keep you from getting too bored with it.  I love the texture of the pattern, both in the main body and especially in the row of broomstick lace.  The edging is the icing on the cake – it really adds a nice finishing touch.

Even though the pattern was originally written for light worsted yarn, for this pattern test (on Denise’s suggestion) I dipped into my stash and selected 2 skeins of Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light in the Sugarplum colourway.  I’ve used both this yarn base (held doubled to make a Mossy Cowl) and this colourway (paired with Fawn to make a hat and mitts) before, and I love the soft and light feel of this fingering weight single-ply yarn.

Hat & Mitts (in Tosh DK)

Mossy Cowl (made with TML in Smokey Orchid)

I originally chose a relatively solid colour of yarn because I thought the texture would fight with something more variegated, but in retrospect I think the stitch pattern used would actually work quite well with a tonally variegated yarn.

Voie de Vie is currently rolling out her new designs on her blog over the next few days.  You can read her introductory post featuring her version of this shawl pattern here.  I highly recommend you get her new book as soon as it becomes available!

Muirlands Cowl Free Crochet Pattern

April 7, 2013

OK, here it is… my first attempt at writing a pattern.  I welcome any and all feedback – just a leave a comment below or send me an e-mail.  And please be sure to share photos of your FOs on Ravelry.  I’d love to see what you make!

I originally designed this cowl as a birthday present for my best friend, who I’ve known since we were little.  I don’t often work with solid-coloured yarns so I wanted something with a lot of texture.  The name of the cowl comes from a local park located near where the two of us grew up.  The park has a lot of green rolling hills, and the peaks and valleys of this cowl remind me very strongly of them.

I originally used a DK/light worsted weight yarn to make this cowl.  However, this pattern can be easily modified to make with practically any weight of yarn.  Just work the correct number of pattern repeats to achieve the measurements you wish.  Be sure to also adjust your hook size to create the desired amount of drape.  And of course, the amount of yarn you will need will vary too.

Materials:

Approx. 400 yards DK/light worsted weight yarn (I used Pear Tree 8 ply for mine)
5 mm (H) hook
yarn needle

Gauge:  

Gauge is not important for this project.  Adjust the number of pattern and row repeats to achieve the desired mesasurements (the final measurements of my cowl after blocking are 10″ x 50″).

Abbreviations (US terms):

fsc      foundation single crochet
ch       chain
tr        treble crochet
FPtr   front post treble crochet
sl st    slip stitch
st        stitch

Pattern Notes:

Pattern repeat is 17 stitches wide.  To adjust size of cowl, add or subtract a multiple of 17 chain stitches.

I use fsc to start the cowl as it results in the top and bottom edges looking more symmetrical.  However, you may opt to begin with a chain of 173 instead (170 + turning ch 3).

I prefer working the first row of the pattern before joining the ends to prevent accidental twisting.  Leave an extra-long tail on the initial fsc/chain row to use to sew the bottom edge together.

With the exception of Row 1, the ch 3 to start each row does NOT count as a stitch.  When joining rows, ignore the ch 3 and work sl st into the top of the first actual tr/FPtr.

Pattern:

Foundation Row:  Fsc 170.  Ch 3, turn.  Work tr into 1st fsc.  Continue on with Row 1. (Alternative direction:  Chain 173.  Work tr into 4th ch from hook.  Continue on with Row 1.)

Row 1:  [2tr in next st] 2 times, *[sk st, tr] 5 times, sk st, [2tr in next st] 6 times*; repeat from * to * across, ending with [2tr in next st] 3 times.  Taking care that ends are not twisted, join with sl st to top ch of starting ch 3.  (working in rounds from now on)

Round 2:  Ch 3, turn.  FPtr around each tr, ending with a FPtr around the ch 3 from the previous row.  Join with sl st to the first FPtr, ignoring the starting ch 3 (see Pattern Notes).

Round 3:  Ch 3, turn.  [2tr in next st] 3 times, *[sk st, tr] 5 times, sk st, [2tr in next st] 6 times*; repeat from * to * across, ending with [2tr in next st] 3 times.  Join with sl st to the first tr.

Round 4:  Ch 3, turn.  FPtr around each tr.  Join with sl st to the first FPtr.

Repeat rounds 3 and 4 until cowl is desired width, ending with round 4 (my cowl is a total of 18 rounds).  Fasten off.  Using the extra-long tail from foundation row, sew bottom ends of cowl together.  Weave in ends.  Block if desired.

Close-up detail of right side of pattern

Wrong site of pattern – also an interesting texture!

Copyright © 2013 by Kim Davidson.  This pattern is for personal use only.  If you like this pattern, please link to it – do not repost it onto another site or blog.  Do not sell or distribute this pattern without my permission.  Thank you!

March Break madness!

March 14, 2013

Without getting into too much detail, the last few months have been pretty stressful for DH and me (hence, the lack of blog posts).  Work woes, health woes, even crummy winter weather seemed to conspire to make life feel unbearable at times.  In light of this, we decided to spend a quiet March Break at home this year.  I have spent the majority of this week parked on the couch with my feet up, letting my mental and physical batteries recharge.  So it should come as no surprise that I’ve taken the opportunity to celebrate International Crochet Month in my own special way by getting a crapton of projects finished.

Eye of the Storm

So my first FO I technically finished before March even started, but I love it so much I feel compelled to show it off.  This past Christmas I decided to treat myself to a Giftapalooza gift package from one of my favourite indie dyers, indigodragonfly.  The package contained an abundance of goodies, including two skeins of soft and squishy merino/cashmere yarn and an e-book of 4 patterns, one of which was crochet.  Last month they started a CAL on Ravelry for all the Giftapalooza patterns, and I decided to jump in with my two skeins.

Eye of the Storm

The pattern is called Eye of the Storm, and it has a unique rhombus shape to it, created by cleverly placed increases.  It uses the most basic crochet stitches (ch, sc and dc), works up really quickly, and is a great way to use up those single skeins of sock yarn I can’t seem to stop myself from buying.  It can be made to any size, and worn in several different ways.

I think the thing I love the most about this shawl is that there is no way I would have chosen these two colours to go together myself.  As I posted in the CAL thread, in my safe little matchy-matchy colour world, purple and green do not get worn together in an outfit unless you are a villain from a Batman comic.  But, I decided to trust the judgment of the dyers in pairing the skeins together (I ordered them as a contrasting set) and I think the end result is beyond gorgeous!

Chevron Lace Cardigan

My next FO is also the result of a CAL in a different group on Ravelry.  I’ve had the pattern Chevron Lace Cardigan in my queue forever, and I’d seen FO’s done by others dozens of times (there are almost 1900 projects post on Rav!) but it was always one of the patterns I never seemed to get around to.  I totally understand why this little sweater is so popular though – it is super easy to do, and while I wish the pattern were a bit more explicit in detail in some places, I learned enough from reading various projects and asking questions in the CAL thread to finish my own with no trouble.  For a free pattern, it is great for an easy wearable.  I used madelinetosh Tosh Sport in the colourway Dried Rose, a rich dusky pink-purple shade.  Best finishing touch:  these perfectly matched pewter buttons I found at Lettuce Knit.  Score!

Horizontal Ribbed Beanie, version 1

Horizontal Ribbed Beanie, version 2

The last couple of FOs that I did were pattern tests for hats.  The first hat, called Horizontal Ribbed Beanie, was a bit of a struggle through no one’s fault but my own.  I’ve discovered a new “local” yarn dyer – Northbound Knitting (she’s actually all the way up in Barrie but I consider anything in the same province local).  Her colours are simply stunning.  I subscribe to her yarn club, and her yarn is also available at Lettuce Knit.  For this test, I picked up a skein of superwash merino worsted in a colourway called Papyrus, a beautiful neutral taupe.  However, about 3/4 of the way through I discovered I 1 skein wasn’t going to be enough yarn, and when I went back to the LYS there was no more of this colourway left.  I ended up buying another colour called Cremini, which at first glance is brown but has faint hints of green and pink in it.  I improvised some colourwork (with the OK of the pattern designer) and I like how it turned out.  Well actually, the first time I did it, I wasn’t entirely happy with it.  So I ripped it back and reversed the colour scheme.  Much better.

Marionberry Hat

The second hat pattern test was much more straight forward.  The pattern is called Marionberry, and it took a single skein of merino worsted/aran weight yarn, dyed by Tanis Fiber Arts, that I bought at The Purple Purl.  The colour is called Dove, a steel grey with hints of blue and purple blended in.  It only took a couple of hours to work up.

Traditional Finnish Mittens

The final FO I want to share is one that I’ve been working on for quite some time, since just before Christmas.  They are a pair of Traditional Finnish Mittens, and the pattern is available on the Crochet Spot website.  For this project I chose to use madelinetosh Tosh DK – I had some partial skeins leftover from another project (Sugar Plum purple and Fawn beige), plus two full skeins of a deep navy called Stovepipe.  I had intended for these mittens to be a Christmas present for my MIL (since she is Finnish), but they turned out a bit big so I’m probably just going to keep them for myself.

So now that I’ve finished all these projects, what’s next on the to-do list?  Well, I’ve had some ideas for my own pattern designs rolling around in my head for some time now (including a few that I’ve actually made but never bothered to write own) so my goal is have one written and published before heading back to work next week.  If I do get one finished I will post it here on my blog (for free, I don’t kid myself that anyone would want to pay for anything I’ve created).  Stay tuned!

Loving the chunky cluster stitch!

November 25, 2012

I’ve discovered a new love – chunky yarn.  Why?  Mainly because it’s fast.  After spending MONTHS working on a laceweight scarf, it’s pretty awesome to be able to whip off a hat or a cowl in a matter of hours.  It takes way less yardage to make something with chunky yarn as opposed to fingering or sport yarn, so I can buy just 1 skein (often for less money) and still get something out of it.

So last weekend I volunteered for a pattern test – a simple cluster stitch beanie in a bulky weight yarn.  Unfortunately I didn’t have any suitable yarn to use so I stopped in at a LYS (Mary’s Yarns in Unionville) to get some.  I wasn’t looking to spend a lot of money, so I ended up choosing a sale skein of cream-coloured Pacific Chunky from Cascade Yarn.  It’s a (gasp) acrylic/merino blend, but it was actually pretty soft to work with and didn’t cause my hook to squeak horribly like other acrylics I’ve used.  As soon as I got home I started hooking the hat, and within a few hours it was done.  I’ve still got to add the flower to the brim, but I think it turned out super cute!

While I was at my LYS I had THAT MOMENT.  Those of you who have stashes of yarn squirrelled away at your house know what I’m talking about.  You’re browsing the shelves, randomly squishing the skeins when suddenly, you spot it – that gorgeous skein that you can’t leave without.  I tried… believe me, I tried.  I picked it up, fondled it, admired the gorgeous colours – browns, creams, purples – told myself I didn’t need it, put it back.  Moved on to another shelf.  But every so once in a while, I would glance back at it. And it would be sitting there, in all its wonderful beauty, silently calling me.  And so the yarn came home with me – two irresistible skeins of Gladstone Chunky Yarn from Estelle Yarn, yet another merino/acrylic blend… what is happening to me?  I had thought myself to be quite a yarn snob… what’s with the acrylic all of a sudden??

Anyways, as soon as the hat was done, I couldn’t wait to start a project with my newest yarn.  I knew I wanted a cowl, big and chunky around my neck, but finding a suitable pattern would be tricky because of the highly variegated nature of the yarn.  I needed something that would show off all the colours without turning them into a muddy mess of ugly pooling.  I started off inspired by a pattern with the same stitch as the hat I had just finished – the Chunky Cluster Cowl.  However, I ended up modifying the pattern so much that by the time I was done the stitch was pretty much the only thing that I kept the same.  I used a smaller hook (6.5 mm), cast on more ch stitches to make it wider, and worked it twice as long in length.  It turned out perfectly, exactly the way I had envisioned wearing it in the store, and it only took two days to make!

And here it is, worn doubled around my neck – very cozy!

Pretty in pink!

November 20, 2012

So it’s been a while since I’ve posted.  Not because of a lack of things to write about – I’ve got plenty of FOs that I may or may not get around to chronicling, and don’t even get me started on the amount of stash I’ve accumulated over the last month or so.  Without going into too much detail, let’s just say that the last few weeks haven’t been the greatest on a personal level, so I’ve been doing my best to comfort myself with a combination of long evenings of stitching and binge purchasing of yarn, with varying degrees of success.

So last week I finished 2 WIPs, both them coincidentally pink in colour.  For the longest time, I had a thing against pink.  I was always a bit of a tomboy growing up, and when I was about 11 years old I decided that pink was “too girly” and banished it completely from my world.  Things stayed that way pretty much until I was well into adulthood, when I decided to give pink another chance.  Since then it’s slowly worked its way back into my wardrobe, and now I have to admit it’s a colour I find myself wearing all the time.  Depending on the shade I find it to be actually quite flattering, especially if it leans more towards a creamy/taupe pink as opposed to a bright bubblegum pink.

The first FO was a pattern test for my Rav friend Cathy, aka moonlitbeach.  She lives in NJ, and sadly her home state was hit pretty hard by Superstorm Sandy.  In an effort to raise money for relief efforts, she is generously donating all proceeds from her pattern sales to charity.  If you like this design, called the Diamante Infinity Cowl, I strongly urge you to purchase your own copy.  She has other designs available on Ravelry and on her website too, so please check them out and support her if you can.  This cowl is quick and easy to make.  It takes just 120 yards of bulky weight yarn and a 9mm hook.  I used Pure Aran from Becoming Art in a colourway called Soft Wheat.

My other pink FO was quite the labour of love.  I started working on this shawl back in August, and kept working on it on and off for weeks and weeks until it was finally done.  The pattern is called Pax, and it is by Irish designer Aoibhe Ni.  Aoibhe is an incredibly talented designer, especially of laceweight Tunisian shawls, and she offers this pattern for free as a way to introduce crafters to her unique style of pattern writing.  I’m a pretty experienced crocheter, and I admit I found this pattern to be quite challenging to wrap my head around at first.  If not for the excellent companion videos Aoibhe has posted on YouTube, I highly doubt I would have been able to complete this project.  But as long as it took to finish, I’m really glad I did.

I bought the yarn for this shawl at this year’s Knitter’s Frolic.  It was one of 2 skeins of yarn I was lucky enough to snatch up on clearance as the dyer (The Painted Fleece) sadly is not dyeing anymore.  It is a laceweight seacell/silk blend in a colourway called Shrimp.  I adjusted the pattern in an attempt to make the main body wider (and use up more yarn), but it still ended up being basically scarf-sized, and I’ve got plenty of yarn left over.

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