Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A New Decade

Hi Knitters,
My eldest son turned twenty. Twenty. It is difficult to describe the love, appreciation and admiration I feel for my kids as they grow into adulthood. Parenthood is beyond words, really, and it is by far the best and most challenging work I have ever done.
This one brings a peaceful, warm contentment to my life like I have never known.

Happy birthday, little one.
best, mom

Monday, November 28, 2011

'ello Elefante

Hi Knitters,
My sweet knitting-whiz of a neighbor, who is 15 years-old, recently completed an Elefante. She asked me to stitch the head on for her the other day. Her Elefante turned out great. It is a gift for a friend. I am pretty sure this is her first toy.She is already a crochet champion as is her mother. Her mom crochets like the wind, no joke. I love the way she tilted the ears back a bit.
To balance this version of the Elefante I had to tip the head slightly up so the trunk doesn't sit on the ground. It stood up better this way. I love how you can play around with the placement of the toy parts to give a different feeling. This Elefante looks happy like he is lifting his trunk to say hello. Good job all around!

Click here to find out about the free pattern for Elefante. There are now 2,423 finished Elefantes on Ravelry and there are 6,184 more in queues. That's pretty cool.

I love to see the progress of young and talented knitters. I am lucky to have a few around me at all times.

Hope you all had a good holiday weekend. Back to the grindstone, right?
best, susie

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Sweet Little Mini-Retreat

Hi Knitters,
First things first, the winner of Custom Knits 2 has been randomly selected and contacted. Congratulations to MonkeyButtBabies (rav id) or Jessica who has already contacted me with her address. I promptly sent the information off to the publisher to send out the book. Done deal! I have a big stack of books lined up to review and give so enter again if you are interested. Thanks to everyone for participating.
Last weekend was the Knit Circus Mini-Retreat and I had the best time. The retreat was held in the founder of Knit Circus, Jaala Spiro's, parents' home. It is a gorgeous little house nestled in one of my favorite Madison neighborhoods. The house was bright and cheerful and artistic and cozy. I just loved being there and knitting in this lovely treasure box of a house. Jaala called her mom's house a treasure box and I thought it was so fitting. The house from the outside looks like any other nice house on the block but when you are inside you are met by bursts of color and pattern and homemade goodness. You want to stay forever.
Jaala's dad is a talented woodworker. He made the dining table and the mantle amongst other things in the house. I got to sit in front of the fireplace the entire day.

My students worked on tiny knit fairies and all made good progress. Most finished the body and head and arms and legs. It was a chatty group as many of the knitters knew each other from other places and the Sow's Ear (a knit shop in Verona, WI).
The knitters were so much fun. The group in these photos are from Amy Detjen's colorwork class.
Amy is a fantastic teacher with so much experience and unending tips for improvement. I learned two new things from Amy, a new way to do a kfb and a clever way to trap floats while doing colorwork. The class was last Saturday and I have already used both of these new techniques since then. I call that a success.
I made this simple two-handed colorwork hat during the class that Amy is stretching here as she gave us some blocking tips. I almost finished the hat during the class but didn't quite make it. I finished the hat quickly that night by basically putting the top of the hat on, weaving in the ends, giving the hat a good hearty steam, and lastly, adding a couple of twisted ropes at the top. I've already worn it on a couple of walks. It's a good one. I am still using up the leftover Brooklyn Tweed Shelter yarn I have from a couple of book projects. I love this yarn so much.
Many of the students stayed all day which was fun, a few came and went. Pat (above) was a pleasant and fun all day attendee. She sat in front of the most colorful bookshelf I have seen. Each shelf was painted a different color and had matching shades of books inside. It was so well done and interesting.
Jaala's mom recently went to Paris and came home with these tiny winged cups. The house belongs in a magazine and my photos don't do it justice by any means. Everything was sweet and heartfelt and colorful.
See what I mean? My stove never looked so cute.
I love the dropped basin sink, the teal floor, the white glass cabinets, the beautiful light fixture that looks like folded paper, the handmade curtains.....
Amy brought her suitcase of her spectacularly impressive colorwork garments that included a couple of Alice Starmore creations. Wow, did I enjoy that and everyone oohed and aahed as she pulled the items out to share.
I have never tackled something so intricate but I would love to someday.Here is my finished hat from the retreat. It is like a fun memory hat for the day. The knitters I taught were sweet and fun and oh-so talented. It was the easiest group I've ever taught. They were all so accomplished and didn't need much help from me. I actually for the first time ever got to knit right along with them during the class. The day was like a giant knitting circle and I've never experienced anything like that before. I loved everything about the day.
The simplicity of my sweet checkerboard hat is the perfect representation of the day, colorful, warm, cozy, skillful and easygoing.

If you ever have the opportunity to attend a mini-retreat in Jaala's parents' home, DO IT! If you ever have the opportunity to take a class with the delightful and funny Amy Detjen, DO IT! You will laugh and learn at the same time. Amy is teaching at the upcoming Vogue Knitting Live in NYC so go sign up for her classes if you are able. You will have a great time.

Have a sweet, warm and cozy holiday weekend, Knitters. I am thankful to have you, the talented knitters, and knitting in my everyday life. I am so lucky.
best, susie

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Win a Copy of Custom Knits 2!

Hi Knitters,
I am a longtime fan of Wendy Bernard. Sometimes you find a designer that just clicks with your own thought process and Wendy is that person for me. I read her writing and patterns and I get her intentions so clearly. I have learned so much about sweater knitting from her, especially over the last year or two.

With that in mind, I want to share with you her second book, Custom Knits 2. It is an extension of her first book, Custom Knits, with even more technique and guidance packed in. Custom Knits 2 was released this past October and it is an excellent pattern book but even more so it is an excellent resource book for customizing your sweaters. The book is fun to look at but it is one that you need to actually sit down and read thoroughly. Custom Knits 2 has a ton of instructional tutorial-like information that benefits any sweater knitter from beginner to advanced.

Here are the various topics addressed in Custom Knits 2:
Preplanning for your sweater
Simple alterations and add-ons
Converting patterns to fit men, women and children
Tailored raglans
Substituting yarns, gauge and stitch patterns
Starting from scratch

Starting from Scratch is my favorite section in both of Wendy's books. This is where she provides a formula for making your own sweater from scratch. Her formulas really work as I have used them before and I will be using the one in this new book to make a top-down yoked cardigan very soon. I have big plans for this.

Anyway, please check out these links to get some great information about this book:

I simply love Wendy's easy, casual style, her clearly written patterns and formulas for sweater knitting and her blog. I think you will, too. I basically recommend everything to do with Wendy. She's a good one.

If you would like to win a copy of Wendy's new book, Custom Knits 2, please leave one comment on this blog post. Please leave your email address or your Ravelry ID in your comment so I can get in touch with you if you win. I will be back in a few days to select a winner.

Good luck if you enter.
best, susie

Monday, November 14, 2011

College Road Trip

Hi Knitters,
My senior son was invited to spend a weekend at Ohio State University in Columbus and so we packed up and took a college road trip. It was a most beautiful weekend weather wise, you could not have asked for more. We had campus tours, a football game, and time to enjoy that good old campus atmosphere that we are so used to in Madison.
One thing we learned about OSU is that it is big, bigger and the biggest in just about everything. The campus and facilities are all topnotch and a lot are brand new. You can see the stadium in this view from a library window.
This is the main campus area and it looks like many other Big Ten campuses but again, it is just huge. It truly is a lovely and nostalgic college. You can really tell that people love OSU when you are there and with good reason.
I was struck by this sculptural art piece outside one of the campus buildings, so simple but it could tell many a story.
That's my son in the shorts and blue t-shirt. He is with his group of swimming recruits for the weekend. He had a good time and was thoroughly impressed. I don't know what will end up happening for him and his college selection but what a great place to visit either way.

On the way to and from OSU we had many hours in the car which enabled me to sit and knit to my heart's content. I worked on all kinds of projects that have been languishing including that handspun Hitchhiker shawl (I don't have a photo of my progress). I completed a bunch more of the points but I have to say I get bored very quickly on that project. I can do it for a bit and then I have to move on to something else. I hope it doesn't turn into another Citron for me which is a year and a half in the making so far.

I knit up a quick pair of the Outsider Mitts, a free pattern I did for Spud & Chloë, in our high school colors. These are a gift for a swimmer on my daughter's team. I knit them in the super-bulky Outer yarn on US size 13 dpns and I am telling you if you want a fast and cute gift these are it! I could knit these a million times over because they turn out great and they are quick and fun.
I finished my Door County Cherry socks. I am in love. Madelinetosh Merino Light is the yarn and it is lover-ly! I have been shuffling about my house in these and they are exquisite.
My college sophomore son sadly told me the other day that he lost his Surefire Hat that I made him at least 5 years ago. I am not making it up when I tell you that he wore that hat everyday for most all of the day in our cold Wisconsin months and for years. My other son has two of these hats due to losing and finding one while I knitted him a spare. Both boys wear their Surefires constantly and it makes me incredibly happy.
Well, of course I told him I would whip him up another Surefire Hat in an instant. The originals are knit in Tahki Donegal Tweed but I recently had acquired some of Brooklyn's Tweed Shelter for a book project I am working on and I had some leftovers just waiting to be used up. The colors happened to be just perfect and remarkably similar to his old hat. I gave it to him last Saturday and he put it right on and wore it the rest of the weekend. Nothing is better than that.

I have talked about this pattern quite a bit but only because it is a hat that is so loved at my own house. If you are looking for a teenage boy or man hat with earflaps you should check this one out. The Shelter looks and worked fantastically well, too, if you are wanting to try out that new-ish yarn.

TC is knitting away on her Noro scarf. It is so pretty and rustic and halo-y. Good stuff and right up TC's alley.

She brought this to knitting club last weekend along with the start of a baby hat that you can see a bit of in the photo above. She comes and goes with her knitting but it never seems to leave her completely.

I started a Mini-Fairy-Along on Spud says! This week I am posting in progress shots on Spud says! and I started a thread on the Spud & Chloë Ravelry group for people to post photos and share their progress. I needed a new sample for an upcoming class. I am teaching a fairy knitting workshop this coming Saturday in Madison at the Knit Circus Mini-Retreat along with the fabu Amy Detjen. I signed up for Amy's colorwork class for the afternoon so I am really excited about that. It will be my first knitting class and I am starting with the best instructor in the biz. That's pretty sweet.

The fairy project is from the Knit Simple Holiday Issue 2011 and is called Flora & Fairies.

On Saturday I went for a run while TC was at her knitting group at a nearby church and when I came home she had set up shop in my tiny studio to stitch up a charity blanket. It made me really, really happy and I just had to share. Oh, and to be young and sit on the floor to stitch up a blanket... I can't do this any more due to various aches and pains but I enjoy her being able to do this.

Isn't it a great blanket? The church collects knit and crocheted squares and then pieces them together to make fantastic patchwork blankets to give to local charities. TC said that all of the squares are supposed to be the same size but they always end up all different sizes. I had to laugh at that because that's what always happens with knit and crochet patterns. Everyone works and measures differently, right?

My sweet and juicy Peachy finally got her Bella's Mitts! This project was over a year in the making. Patient Peachy never forgot though and has been asking about them. A long car ride to Ohio was exactly what I needed to get these done. She could not believe her eyes when I gave them to her. She is in love with her new mitts and just in time for the new Twilight movie, too. That new one is looking a little racy in the ads isn't it? Not so sure about that.

TC modeled the new mitts for me early yesterday. I used Knit Picks Wool of the Andes in the Pewter colorway. The yarn is a bulky weight, and I knit on size 9 dpns. I did quite a bit of modifying but you wouldn't need to as it is a great pattern. They are shorter in cuff length than the pattern calls for, too. We wear coats in these parts and to have a cuff going almost to your elbow with a bulky yarn isn't functional. Also, I ordered two hanks of this wool from Knit Picks and only used one hank so I may whip up a matching hat for Peachy in the future.

I hope you are well this week, dear Knitters. I am contemplating another fun giveaway this week but I'll see how things unfold around here. It has been the busiest fall on record for my little family and me. I am looking forward to less travel and fewer deadlines and more home time in the coming winter months and into the spring. I am snuggling in around here for sure! Light that fire and put the teapot on....

How about you?

best, susie

Monday, November 07, 2011

Wee Ones Seamless Knit Toys on Craftsy!

Hi Knitters,
In October I headed to Denver for several days of taping two online courses for I had such a great time while I was there. It was hard work filming the classes but very fun at the same time. Today I want to share one of the courses, Wee Ones - Seamless Knit Toys, with you and it is available and for 50% off for a short time!

Now, for a little information about Wee Ones - Seamless Knit Toys. It is a three in one pattern for an elephant, hippo and bunny. The body is the same for each toy. The head for each animal starts out the same and then is shaped at the front to create the different features.
You start out by knitting the head of each animal. The ears are picked up and knit right on the head. After the head is complete you pick up stitches for the neck and knit down for the body as if you are making a top-down sweater. After creating a yoke, you leave the arm stitches on scrap yarn.
For the legs you use the afterthought technique that is often used for heels in socks, thumbs on mittens, or pockets on sweaters.
After you knit the last stitch, you are done with the toy! It is clever and fun and fast. There is literally no seaming at the end and not one separate part to stitch together. Using various techniques and tricks the Wee Ones come together so smoothly. I think you will really love this pattern.

After making the first Wee One you will see how easily and quickly be able to make more. These toys are the perfect gifts for any occasion!
The tails are picked up and knit on for the elephant and hippo and of course the bunny has a sweet little pom-pom attached to the back.

In the course I demonstrate face embroidery which is one of the most important pieces to a successful knit toy.

This photo became a little fuzzy when I re-sized it, but I want you to see the bonus pattern I included in the course. The pattern is for a fun little stripey top-down sweater that fits all three Wee Ones! I love this quick little add-on. I was thinking the sweater could be personalized with school/college colors, favorite colors or embroidered with an initial or two.

The Wee Ones are about 5 inches tall when seated. The toys are made in a worsted weight yarn and I used Spud & Chloë Sweater, of course. Each toy takes less than one hank of Sweater.

I linked this previously in the post but here it is again with more detail. I have a 50% off deal available for you right now! This deal will end soon. The course is normally $59.99 and right now you can purchase it for $29.99! You get all of the video lessons which you can watch any time at your own pace, it never expires.

The patterns for the Wee Ones and the top-down sweater are both included with the course. You also get a 100% money back guarantee if you are not satisfied with the course. There is no risk whatsoever. Also, there are discussions, project photos, a forum to ask questions or to discuss. I am already jumping in to help with questions and discussions and it has been so fun to hear what people are thinking while knitting the Wee Ones.

Right now the pattern is only available when you purchase the Craftsy course for Wee Ones.

If you haven't been to the Craftsy site before you really should pop over and see what all of the buzz is about. It is a fantastic resource for all kinds of crafting, not just knitting.

Let me know what you think. I am really proud of this pattern and design and how this course turned out! I'll do a separate post later about the second course I did for Craftsy.

best, susie

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Fading Fall

Hi Knitters,
I have notified the winner of Coastal Knits. Thank you to everyone who entered. I have more to give very soon so be sure to enter again.

A few weeks ago TC and I went for a hike in our nearby nature conservatory. It has been a gorgeous and warm fall here in Wisconsin and this day was no exception. Now it is getting a lot colder and darker and I know the fall season is fading fast. I want to share our beautiful Madison fall nature one last time.....
Golden hued paths....

... bursts of red....

.... flowers still in bloom....

....changing leaves....

... purples, greens, golds, reds, browns....

... fuzzy stems in the fading sunlight....

... tiny ponds flocked by wildflowers and long grasses...

... open fields surrounded by dense woods...

... my favorite red climbing vines....

....and long casting shadows. If you look way out on the horizon you can see the wonderful University of Wisconsin campus buildings peeking up from the landscape.

And it wouldn't feel right if I didn't include my Halloween crew in this post. A few cousins and my sister and sister-in-law came over to share pizza and trick or treating on Halloween night. TC is holding out her spooky Halloween fingernails (press ons!). She also had feather eyelashes and our neighbor did her ghoulish make-up. In addition to TC we had two un-costumed teenagers, a nerd, a snowboarder and a very scary werewolf. The night was a hit.

Bring on Thanksgiving!
best, susie