Gooseberry

I always feel a little bad doing a bunch of “work-y” posts in a row – this blog is primarily a form of self-expression, not a marketing tool. But… it is also a marketing tool. We’ve been working our little tushies off trying to do justice to the new Kirby Meritime yarn, and the fact that its release coincided with the beginning of the month means that this is the third new pattern out in a week! You can bet we’ll plan that better next time. This time it’s quick, free, and also available in a kit in a variety of colors – colors that you helped pick. I give you Gooseberry.

Recognize the stitch? You should; it’s one of the many variations of the Three-Color Daisy Stitch (Thank you Barbara Walker; Second Treasury) that you chose the colors for last week. The kit will be available officially in seven of the funnest colorways, but as always you can make your own kit out of any colors you like by emailing me.

Why “Gooseberry?” Honest truth: Being a yank, I don’t really know anything about gooseberries. But the stitch looked very berry-ish to me, and I’ve been charmed ever since I watched Victorian Farm with how Ruth Goodman pronounced them “guzz-burries.” I guess I should try to find some before I get too attached to the idea.

Because Kirby Meritime is wool blended with Tencel, the ribbing in particular does tend to relax a great deal. This allows for some versatility in how it’s worn. I like to wear it semi-slouched but covering the ears, as above. But you could also wear it super-slouched, or what I call “rasta style,” as below…

…or pull it all the way down like a beanie if you want to practice looking like a broody teenager.

(because that look is so hot right now on anyone over 17. Not.)

You can download the pattern for free through ravelry: http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/gooseberry Or if you purchase the yarn as a kit (it’s the second one down), we’ll include a color copy of the pattern with your yarn.

Happy stitches. I’ve got some thinky posts on the works in my brain, so I promise next week we’ll be back to your regularly scheduled rambles.

Eight Tiny Tea Leaves & Nine Inches of Sock Leg

Yesterday was really busy, and my planned Day 9* post fell through (I realized the thing is at home, I haven’t taken pictures of it, and the recipient hasn’t even opened it yet), which factors conflued to give me the perfect excuse to put off posting ’till today. But I think you’ll agree it was worth the wait.

What do you do when you have a dudely friend who is really into tea, and you want to knit him tea-themed socks, but there is no such thing on the internet as a sock pattern with leaves on it that doesn’t look girly? Honestly, I have no idea what you would do, but I designed my own. He got his gift in the mail just in time for Christmas, and now you get to partake in the giftage. I give you a new free sock pattern: Tea Time.

The idea was a variation on the traditional “clock” designs on socks, but modified to look more obviously like a clock. The tea theme is both in the light brown yarn (which could have been dyed with tea, but was actually dyed with black walnuts), and in the fact that the “hands” on the clock arms are in fact little tea leaves. There are actual eyelets involved, but I am confident they are subtle enough that they do not take away from the manliness of the socks. In a clever twist, when the socks are in their relaxed position off the foot, the hands sit at about four o’clock, traditional tea time. (Flip them over, and they sit at eight o’clock, the time I am most likely to have tea.)

In order to make the hands the same, this sock is constructed rather unusually: you knit the heel flap first, then the foot, then pick up and knit the leg last. This not only simplifies the construction of the leafy hands, but means that you can use up all your yarn while still getting a top-down fitting for the foot. In my book, this is having your cake and eating it too. It comes in three sizes, from Women’s Medium to Men’s Large. (Please note: the largest and smallest sizes have NOT been test knitted at this time; if you elect to knit these, would you please let me know if you have any issues?)

Here’s a secret just for the blog readers: The pattern calls for 100% Merino Fingering, which would be perfect for these babies. However, This pair was knit with My Backyard Sock, which I’m keeping on sale until it’s all gone. There’s one skein left in this colorway, if you feel led to snap it up.

So Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! You can download this pattern for free by clicking here, or through the pattern’s new Ravelry page.

*apologies to Starcraft 2 players everywhere. I did try watching one episode of Day 9, out of some desperate insecure need for nerd cred, but I let it go. Real Time Strategy is just not for me; I’m sticking to adventure games and wimpy RPGs.

Last Minute Gifts

I’ve mentioned it in passing, beating around the bush, but now that December is here, there’s no escaping it: Christmas is coming. If you are under the age of yuletide responsibility, these words are probably accompanied by joy and cheer! But adults hear the sounding of a death knell as they realize they still haven’t bought Christmas cards. (Maybe that’s just me. I once got a Christmas card from a friend so organized that she sent them in October. No joke.) Knitters know this more than most, because in addition to the usual tasks of baking cookies, decorating, attending parties, shopping, wrapping, etc., we take it upon ourselves to demonstrate our love in woolens.

I got things under control last year: I only knit for folks I really wanted to, and kept everything else super-simple. Remember the year of the dishcloth? But this year, things have gotten away from me a bit. Loads of my monthly socks have gone into the Christmas Planning Box, but when you have no money and a lot of stash, it’s hard to resist knitting more things for loved ones. (Especially when they are clever and actually ask in advance. They’re getting cleverer.) This means that it’s 23 days until Christmas, and I still have two hats, two pairs of socks, six toys, a cowl, and a pair of slippers to knit. I am not going to give myself a panic attack over this; I really am okay if some of these lovely people get a book.

With that said, let me put my business hat on and tell you that, even though I’ve got myself in a swell old-fashioned lurch, Mum and I aren’t about to let you down. Mum knit these two cute samples this spring, before Sheep & Wool, to show off her new Kirby Woolpaca yarn. Big life lesson: Don’t show a sample if you don’t have the pattern. A hundred inquiries later, Mum wrote up the patterns, and now they are edited and posted for public consumption. Both free – call it a St. Nicholas’ gift. They will both make great last-minute gifts, or as a gift for yourself to keep you going through the pile of felted slippers you’re probably under.

At the same time, we’re taking this as an opportunity to launch our new Kits Store. This will speed up the process a bit, and when you order the yarn as a kit, we’ll include a color copy of the pattern. Before long, we hope to have all of the patterns that use our yarn up as kits. For now we just have these two up there, since the page is still under construction. (But it still works – December means you don’t waste time on cosmetic hindrances.)

Three Part Invention is a cowl, knit in the round, designed to maximize a wild multi-colored yarn while learning some new stitches. It includes a knit-and-purl pattern, a slip stitch pattern, and a traveling-twisted-stitch pattern. If you’ve never done these, this is a good way to learn. It was knit with two skeins of Kirby Woolpaca, and the pattern can be downloaded here. You can order the kit here.

The Sassy Sampler Scarf is another experimenting/teaching scarf, this time with 13 different stitch patterns of all difficulties. It was knit with two skeins of Kirby Woolpaca, and the pattern can be downloaded here. You can order the kit here.

Now it’s time to go back to watching Buffy and knitting tiny cotton dogs.

Warm Hands, Cold Heart

My first paper of the semester is due on Tuesday, and due to a series of social plans for things I actually want to do, tonight is my only chance to put any real time into writing it. Any hope I might have of an academic career is seriously called into question by the fact that I Hate. Writing. Papers. It’s not that I’m particularly bad at it, or that I object; I just hate the actual process of making coherent thoughts on demand. I resent it. Much the way that some people hate sewing up seams and weaving in ends. I have consigned myself to this proclivity, and I have finely-honed systems of avoidance, procrastination, and anxiety to manage my productivity. One of which is writing a blog post instead of a paper.

Last week, it was suddenly really cold. Okay, so it was in the 40’s. Cold-ish, but not enough that I’m willing to pull out my winter coat. It’s just not time yet. I’m not ready. So I’ve been managing the weather by the careful, woolly insulation of extremities and pulse points. This includes the obvious – Wool socks, layered over cotton, and hats. But I’ve also been experimenting in the less-than-typical.

These wristwarmers were made with less than 50 yards of bulky handspun (not mine) that I’d acquired in a gift basket and found too cute to part with, so I had to invent something weeny-small enough to make it useful. Hence, wrist-warmers. If you’re thinking, Wrist warmers? Like… sweat bands for pansies? The Richard Simmons of knitwear? I know what you mean. But I heard once (don’t you love how “I heard once” is an actual authority source for me?) that insulating pulse points – places from which you can take your pulse, because blood vessels are close to the surface – can go a long way toward keeping your internal body temperature up without bulky outwear. So I decided to try it, and wow. I didn’t take them off outside the shower until the temperature got back above 60. Pairing them with fingerless mitts doubled the effect.

The recipe: With US 8 (5mm) needles and Bulky yarn. CO 10 stitches. Knit 1 row. Every subsequent row: Sl 1 purlwise with yarn in front; Knit to end. Continue until work reaches around your wrist (for scrawny me, about 8″). To bind off, pick up 1 stitch from the cast on with the left needle; knit it together with the first stitch of the row. Pick up the next stitch from the cast on with the left needle; knit it together with the next stitch of the row. Then pass the first stitch worked over the last stitch worked (this binds it off). Continue to bind off in this way, joining the cast on edge as you go. This will save you having to find your tapestry needle.

On the complete opposite end of the skill spectrum, I’ve started a pair of lace gloves:

I started these on a whim, because I was in between projects and needed something to do. (Real reason: My character in Dungeons and Dragons made herself some spiderclimb gloves out of magical wool that lets her climb walls and shoot webs all Spiderman-style. I got jealous, so I’m making them IRL.) To be honest, I didn’t think I’d get this far. It’s cobweb lace on size 0s, for goodness sake. But the rule still applies, believe it or not, that when you knit on something, it gets knit. It’s weird that I’m surprised by this, but there we are.

The fingers are pretty tedious, I won’t lie. I switched from magic loop to DPNs because it was taking longer to wedge the (Addi Turbo lace!) needle tips into the tiny stitches than I was saved time by one less needle switch.

To my surprise, I haven’t been getting as many “you are freaking nuts!” comments from this project as I do on the average pair of socks. The responses have been “Ooh pretty!” (understandable) or “those aren’t going to keep you warm.” To which I beg to differ: Counterintuitively, lace can be very warm. As much as wool is a good insulator, air is even better – and lace traps air. So, use these gloves by themselves, and they provide a moderate amount of warmth; pair them with a pair of wool gloves or mittens, and you’ve gained a +3 constitution bonus from sheer manual warmth.

Okay, enough dawdling. It’s getting late, and I’ve only got another hour or so before my cup of decaf wears off and I start thinking that some gibberish theological motto I’ve just come up with is the most insightful thing since simul justus et peccator. Nobody wants that.

Rosette Recipe

I had a little challenge two weeks ago – a commission to make an “interesting” baby hat for a little girl. I couldn’t make any of the texture ideas I had work out with the three colors my client (customer? collaborator? patron? victim?) chose, so I made a mostly plain hat with some textured bands and then made a big ol’ rosette to up the odd-and-cute factor.

The rosette is my own invention, cobbled together from ideas that I probably gleaned from browsing books by Nicki Epstein. I give you the recipe here, in case you wish to make your own little five-pointed, garter stitch flowers.

Flower:

With long-tail cast on, Cast On 3.

Row 1: K 3. Turn work and Cast On 3 with purled cast on. (It’s like the knitted cast on, but with purls.)

Row 2: K 4; wrap & turn.

Row 3: K 4.

Row 4: Sl 1 purlwise with yarn in front; K3; wrap & turn.

Row 5: K 4.

Row 6: Bind Off 3 (slip 1st stitch purlwise instead of knitting it); K 3.

Repeat these 6 rows 4 more times (5 times total).

Bind off 3.

This will make you a funky little polygon. If you sew the tail from the bind off to the middle of the back of the first petal, you’ll get a very satisfying five-petaled flower.

I layered two of them to make the hat’s rosette, tacking down each petal, then went crazy with the yarn needle and brown to make a center.

Lurve. Yarn: Cashmerino Aran from Debbie Bliss. Base hat pattern: cobbled together from this and this, on 56 stitches and US 8s, with something generic out of my head for the crown.

Spirited

Happy almost-Pentecost! This Sunday we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the newborn church, fifty days after the Resurrection. The Easter season is coming to a close, and we enter into the second half of the liturgical calendar, in which we focus on growth and walking in the way of the cross in the power of the Spirit.

I love learning about the third member of the Trinity, though I willingly admit that my knowledge is pretty weak. However, I can follow in the work of Lutheran theologian Robert Jenson, who drew heavily from our Eastern Orthodox brothers and sisters, to pray: Holy Spirit, draw us into your future, your final purpose for all of God’s people, that we might all be one in fulfillment of Jesus’ high priestly prayer, to the glory of God the Father.

In celebration of the Paraclete, I have a little free pattern to share with you. Summer scarves are all the rage right now, I so I have written up the pattern for a little scarf I designed for Pentecost two years ago. It uses “stuff yarn” – a type of yarn made of different novelty yarns tied together. (If you normally consider yourself a “wool snob,” I deeply appreciate you, but stop reading now.) This pattern makes use of a particular brand of stuff yarn to create a scarf with long lines of parallel craziness. Check it out on Ravelry.

The summer sweaters are well underway – I have one sample nearly done with the pattern alongside, and after a swatching frenzy for the other, I hope to have both patterns out to their test knitters by this weekend. Oh, and did I mention I have an intensive class next week? Planning ahead is a sort of theoretical art in this household.

Twelve Knobby Knots

Happy twelfth day of Christmas, everyone! Tomorrow is the day we remember the wise men coming to bearing gifts for baby Jesus, and today I come bearing gifts for you. Big, fat ones, with imaginary ribbons.

My cool boss at the farm, R. J., had stated in passing that she wanted some socks. When queried non-chalantly about her favorite color, she coolly answered “forest green.” Okay then. Forest Green socks it is.

I found and fell in love with a skein of Ella Rae’s Lace Merino. Yarn Review: I can’t believe the dye job on these babies. They’re incredibly gorgeous. And I love working with that particular “coiled” type yarn construction (I don’t know what it’s actually called). Even though it’s called Lace, it’s obviously a workable sock yarn – no nylon, but it is superwash. But it is finer than the average sock yarn, as I found out the hard way.

I ended up knitting most of a sock before finally admitting that the gauge made the sock extra small. I couldn’t even get it on my foot. Not willing to knit the same failed sock pattern over again, I exasperatedly cast on in 2×2 rib.

Then I started playing around. What happens if I decrease like this… and increase… and ooh how can I make them match… and on and on until before I knew it, I had a full-fledged original sock pattern on my hands. I wrote it up, test-knit it on the second sock, and voila.

I give you Knotty – So named because the shapes reminds me of the knots on a gnarled old tree. Insert a Christmas pun of your choice here.

This is an unusual but very doable pattern for the knitter who’s only done a pair or two before. It’s all 2×2 ribbing, but the knots are formed with increases and decreases. The heel is a typical flap – but look out for the gusset decreases – they’re in an odd place. (I’ve always wanted to try that.)

This pattern is offered for free download right here.

Please note: the smaller size has not been test-knitted. I went over the math ’till my head hurt, but I didn’t knit them myself. I couldn’t knit a second pair right now with a gun to my head (well okay maybe then) so I am looking for an experienced sock knitter to volunteer. I have little to offer in return except a warm thank you and a pat on the back, but such things are often their own reward (hey, you will hopefully at least get a pair of socks at the end). If you do test-knit these, please shoot an email to osbornfiber at gmail dot com to let me know how it went.

The rest of your gifts are highly ethereal in nature. Myself and Curtis (aside: I must be the luckiest knit blogger in the world to have both a husband AND a webmaster who knit. Seriously!) have been messing about with the site a bit, trying to spruce it up for the new year. This is very much still in progress, but you may have noticed some sidebar changes: Knitting patterns now have their own category, so you can access all OFS pattern links from the home page. (As usual, links for free patterns take you directly to download.)

Also, I am working on categorizing my posts so that, should you find anything said here useful, you can browse it more easily. To that end, you will see the categories sidebar on the right – but the only one really complete right now is the “Tutorials” category, which is probably the most important. That way, if you’re wondering, “did she say anything about how to do thus and such?” you can find out without searching through the archives. I also take suggestions for tutorials, if you see something I am doing that you don’t know how to do. You can probably find it on youtube, but I labor under the delusion that some folks find learning this way more helpful, so I go on sharing.

We’ve also switched “hosts” whatever that means, so some of the bugs are going away – for you that mostly means that when I link my posts onto facebook, you get little extracts an a thumbnail preview again.

I hope you like, and that you’ve had a joyful twelve days of celebration. Merry Christmas, everyone, and Happy New Year!