A Free Pattern That Almost Passed Me By

With all my years of knitting behind me I had never tried a pattern generator. This may be new to you too, so let me introduce you to the free Top Down Raglan Generator by Knitting Fool. With this site you can create a pattern using any yarn from fingering to super bulky and any size from premie to XXXL. First make a test swatch, then simply type in your needle size, gauge, chest measurement, and whether you want snug, comfortable, or loose fit. Next, click on the submit button and your pattern appears. Really, it's that simple. Both of these sweaters were made using this method. 

Note from Knitting Fool: And before you go any further, obssessed in the quest of a free pattern, be aware that this pattern is a percentage approximation. If you are accustomed to having a pattern that spells everything out to the letter or if you are a beginner, this pattern may not meet all your needs. The pattern you will get from this process will be a guideline to making a sweater, but you need to know something about what you are doing. Or be a bit adventurous.

With that said, I don't think you'll have any problem following the directions. Top down raglans are a cinch to make and if you measure as you go, you won't have a problem making it fit. As for yarn for these two sweaters, you know I have a drawer full of DK weight yarns leftover from other projects. I'm happy to say that all these years of making scrappy, stripey baby sweaters is slowly whittling away at my collection. These are two of Carter's starting-preschool sweaters. I'll get modeled shots when I can get a two year old to agree to a modeling session; in other words, I can't hold my breath.

The colorfully striped one I call Chroma.
The one in the autumn colors I call Making Friends.

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Here is my granddaughter Annie, now 18 and a freshman in college and at that simply gorgeous time in a young woman's life. But her beauty is not the only thing that makes her sparkle, and that "other thing" is the reason why I'm so proud of her. She has had to go though many challenges in her young life but faces these challenges with optimism, poise and determination. Her hereditary spastic paraplegia means that among other things, she tires easily and often her legs don't feel strong, sometimes not strong enough to walk. Still, she rarely says no to anything. She is very involved with the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in her home town of Simi Valley, California, and is often asked to take on herculean tasks which have included being the youth hostess to visiting dignitaries (a 12 hour day!), master of ceremonies at a convention of state politicians where she had to think on her feet with a microphone in her hand (she was magnificent!), and recently a debate judge. We are all so terribly proud of her and I'm so happy to be able to brag about her to you! She loves my hand knits and looks gorgeous in everything. We have picked out a new coat pattern and yarn for her, something from We Are Knitters that I'm loving knitting.

Annie is wearing Whitehorse by Caitlin Hunter, a great transition piece that hovers between summer and autumn and graces both so beautifully. This was a super fun knit with an easy-to-follow lace repeat. It might look complicated but don't let that fool you--I think a confident beginner/intermediate lace knitter will be able to nail this. It goes pretty fast too because the gauge is 18 stitches per 4 inches. I love the new heavier lace knits that are so popular right now. The trend toward deep lace bodices with worsted weight yarn is fun. I knit the smallest size and made it smaller by having a smaller gauge (20 sts. per 4 in.) and did not add stitches at the sleeve separation. Caitlin does a great job with pattern writing so it was easy to follow and a pleasant knit all around.

The yarn is Rowan's Cotton Cashmere, a light worsted weight yarn made mostly with cotton and a dash of cashmere. It's lovely to knit with a great hand and scrumptious fabric, and for me, goes in the washer and dryer. The ball band does not recommend it but I have had no problem doing this: turn inside out, put in a mesh bag, wash in cool water and gentle cycle, remove sweater from bag and dry in a low temperature dryer. This yarn is a winner.

My Whitehorse details on Ravelry
Purchase the pattern
Rowan Cotton Cashmere

Read about Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia here.

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library 

is a must-see destination when visiting Southern California. One of the highlights is the retired Air Force One. When President Obama retired Air Force One and acquired a new plane, President Reagan asked for the retired plane for his library and got it! It has been returned to the Reagan era and is housed in a beautiful rotunda along with one of his presidential limousines and a secret service Suburban. The library itself sits in the beautiful coastal range of the Santa Susanna Mountains and is definitely worth a visit. To get an idea of where it is, Simi Valley is less than an hour from Santa Barbara to the north and also less than an hour to Los Angeles to the south.

A few readers have told me they don't go on Ravelry and would like to see the details on my blog post. I will try to remember to do that going forward. 

Needles & yarn

20 stitches and 28 rows = 4 inches
in reverse stockinette (worked inside out)

7 skeins = 959.0 yards (876.9 meters), 350 grams

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I've been dying to share this with you but have been waiting for the pattern to be released. This was one of those sweaters that was sincerely fun to knit. Everything was just right. The pattern was a test knit for Libby Jonson of Truly Myrtle and there were no glitches. The designer was helpful and kind, the testing team folks were jolly and supportive, the pattern was a breeze to follow, and the yarn was heaven. I love the fit too! So of course I want to knit another one. Right away.

I know I sound like a broken record when I talk about mosaic stitch, but I love it so much I want you to try it. I think you'll love it too! It is a type of colorwork, but unlike traditional stranded colorwork, you use only one color per row and slip stitches to create the pattern. That makes it EASY (and pretty). The pattern is knit top down in the round, uses short rows to raise the back neck, and has a row of tiny bobbles in the middle of the colorwork section. 

Wavecrest pattern by Libby Jonson of Truly Mrytle
Purchase Wavecrest here

Wavecrest is part a collection of patterns from a collaboration by Libby Jonson and Marie Greene. You can see the entire collection called Pacifico Knits here.

As this was a test I kept good notes. I put them on my Ravelry page but will add them here too:

Blocked measurements: 

Neck circumference: 18” 

Bust: 35.5” 
Sleeve length from underarm: 17” 
Body length from underarm: 16”
My gauge was off (somewhere between 24 and 25 per 4” instead of 26) which accounts for my making the smallest size AND adding less stitches at the sleeve separation then arriving at a 35.5” bust which has a good amount of positive ease--just the right amount for me for this sweater.
I made the neck opening wider by casting on for next size up then compensating for that after the ribbing on the first increase round: increased only 68 to arrive at 180 sts. I also blocked it wide.
I was “creative” with the last increase round 4 (increasing less) and because of this my stitch count was off and I could not follow the pattern directions for splitting the body and sleeves sooo…I found my center front and counted from there and found where my sleeves, back and front should be.
I casted on less stitches at the sleeve and body when separating the body and sleeves. My sleeve stitch count was 70. After two inches I started my decreases until 15” and 48 stitches. Then 2” of 1x1 ribbing on smaller needles. I omitted the colorwork pattern at the sleeve.
I made no waist or body shaping and added length to body.
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how to fold and store sweaters

Sweaters. You can knit them, now learn how to fold them and store them. You'll save space and they'll stay nice and neat!

I am a huge fan of Marie Kondo and have used her folding and storage method for every single thing in my home. The kitchen, bathrooms, bedrooms, and every item in every closet, cupboard and drawer is neatly folded and easy to find. Before you can even begin, you must first clear out unused and unloved items; that's huge, but in her book she gives you pointers and courage on how to be practical and even ruthless if necessary. I took my time, two years actually, but now that it's set up, it's been very easy to keep on top of it. This system does not allow you to overbuy or hold onto things you don't use: when I add a new pair of jeans to my jeans drawer, I first have to let go of an old pair of jeans. Plus, there is no more searching around because when folded and stored properly, you can view everything in your drawer at one glance.

For Kondo's storage method you'll need plenty of boxes. I have used mostly shoe boxes, but Target, Dollar Tree, and the .99 Store have inexpensive storage boxes. The boxes below are from Dollar Tree and they slip nicely into a drawer or shelf.  I highly recommend Kondo's book and her method of organizing and storing everything. I can't argue about the title, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. It really is just that, life changing. The book is now in every public library and book store and of course, Amazon. I re-read it when I'm about to tackle a big project.

Taking good care of our precious hand knits not only honors our hard work and their beauty, but also honors the entire hand knitting industry from the sheep on up. From the very beginning--purchasing the yarn, deciding on a pattern, the knitting of course, the wearing and the caring of the garment--all of it connects us to a lively little industry that has given me so much pleasure. 

For us knitters, storing sweaters has always been a challenge. I have so many sweaters that I forget what I have or can't find what I'm looking for. Kondo's method allows you to find them easily, plus eliminates the deep creases down the center front and back; only faint fold lines on the sides remain which are easily smoothed out. Below I demonstrate her method with a child's sweater, but the method is the same for an adult sweater, thin or bulky, it works for all. If it has a hoodie attached, fold the hoodie down first, then proceed as below. Begin by placing the sweater front side down.

Start with front side down. Imagine a line down the center. Fold the sweater into thirds, sides meeting at that center line.

Fold into thirds again.

Coming soon--my method of organizing my sweater collection.
Now that we know how to fold them, we've got to organize them too!

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colorful and free, Flax wins again

The beloved Flax has captured my heart again. It's such a well written pattern that it's hard to believe it's free. Listed as a great beginner pattern with handy tips tucked here and there throughout the pattern, advanced knitters love it too. It's sized newborn to 4XL so the entire family can have one. I made the 2-4 yr. size for Carter using oddments of Unicorn Tails left over from an abandoned project. Unicorn Tail is the charming name for mini skeins of Tosh Merino Light. It is machine washable but doesn't appear to be a super-wash. Anyway, it behaves way better than a super-wash in that when wet it does not stretch too dramatically. I have used it before and it can go in the dryer or will succumb to being patted into shape to dry in the shade. Those attributes, plus lovely colors, next-to-the-skin softness and minimal pilling make it a great yarn.

My little Flax Light started out with the gray/brown and pink color scheme above, but as the project grew it became apparent that the paler pinks in my selection didn't have a place with the brighter shades. I had to abandon about half of my colors as many of them were too pale. When I ran out of my reds, bright pinks, and purples I added a rich, rusty gold. Here's how I did the fade: Gather colors and place them in an order that is pleasing, allowing that you may have to abandon and/or add colors as the knitting progresses. Knit until you are approximately two-thirds through the first color. Then at the BOR, add color #2 alternating every other row until color #1 is done. Knit with color #2 until it is two-thirds finished and then introduce color #3. Continue as before. I did the sleeves last: take the remaining yarns and weigh each and divide them in half. In this way you'll be able to have matching sleeves. Fades and stripes are a good way to use up wee bits of sock yarn too and combined with the Flax pattern, let your imagination will soar and you'll end up with a free sweater! I'll get some modeled pictures soon.

Pick up your copy of Flax Light

Do you remember last year's Flax Fade? Same yarn, different colors, and Carter looked adorable in it. He's grown a heap so it's short and tight but still in really good shape even though he wore it often. That yarn has held up well!  

There's still plenty of beauty and color to found in the end-of-summer garden. The roses are still bravely blossoming in the late summer heat, the zinnias are holding their own, and the dahlias are at their peak.

dahlias, above and below

My husband was watering the garden this morning and I called out, "bring in any tomatoes that look ripe!"
Holy cow, I was not prepared for this!

Climbing Blaze

Just a month ago the hydrangeas were a shocking pink.


Knock Out rose
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Hello! I have a quiet morning waiting for the plumber to fix a leaky pipe, bummer, and also wait on the carpet installer to install new carpeting in two back bedrooms, yay! While I'm waiting there's chicken stock bubbling away on the stove and tomatoes roasting in the oven for sauce. So while those mellow things are going on in the background of my morning I thought I'd snap some pictures of my new and very beautiful sweater, Etude by Ririko. Before I rave about the pattern, I have to tell you about the yarn, Yoth Yarns Little Brother, a fingering weight wool comprised of 80% superwash wool, 10% cashmere and 10% nylon. The whole idea of superwash is that it is meant to be easy-care, but in reality it does require it's own type of specialty care. I've always found that superwash wools must go into the dryer no matter what the ball band says. After washing either by hand or by machine, a superwash wool ends up drapey and soupy and if you ever want it to get back into any kind of shape at all it has to be put in a dryer. Here's what I did: Gave the finished sweater a soak in cool water for 20 minutes, then scooped it up in my hands and gently smooshed out some water. Next I plopped it on a few fluffy towels and rolled it up to remove more water, gently, gently. Then I carefully laid it on a table outside in the shade and let it dry until it was almost three quarters dry. I didn't even try to pat it into shape because no way will superwash be patted back into shape ever! When I felt it was almost dry, I popped it into a dryer on medium heat with a few other clothes to add to the volume of the dryer, then crossed my fingers and checked on it every five minutes. When it was 95% dry, I was confident that I could now pat in into shape. I took it back outside to the shaded table and patted it into the exact measurements I wanted. It worked like a charm and I have in my possession a lovely sweater. The yarn is super soft and is very similar to Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino. Little Brother is definitely super soft and perfect to wear right next to the skin but needs its own type of superwash care. The color is Rosemary and is more accurate in the first photo. 

Now on to the pattern. Etude was so very fun to knit. I'm afraid it might look complicated, but as with so many well written lace patterns, it actually looks harder than it is so please don't let that stop you. I think a confident beginning lace knitter with a little experience could knit this successfully. It is meant to be knitted in an A-line style with positive ease. I knitted it with less ease than the designer suggested and made the smallest size a little smaller by not adding on as many stitches after the sleeve separation, made less A-line increases, and did not make the sleeves as puffy. I'm very happy with it. The lace is charted and written out row by row. Do remember to put markers between each lace repeat. 

Here is the link to purchase Etude by Ririko of Hand Knit Life.
I bought my yarn at Purl2 in Walla Walla, WA.

I purchased this yarn last year when I was visiting my girlfriend in Walla Walla, Washington. If you ever find yourself in that beautiful part of the country (it’s the wine country for Washington State) you are in luck! The downtown is filled with friendly shops and great restaurants plus there's also beautiful vineyards to visit. But for us knitters there is a fabulous knit store, Purl2, on the main street in town. They have a beautifully curated selection of yarns and the gorgeous shop is right next door to an equally gorgeous quilting shop. 

I've got a few lazy things on the needles right now while I'm waiting for a test knit pattern to be ready that I've signed up for. One knit that has my attention right now is a second Flax Light in the next size up for my grandson who has outgrown the last one, this time in grays, browns, rusty and neon pinks and some purples. Don't be alarmed at my using pinks for a boy. Luckily my kids don't care about rules of color for boys and as long as it's not entirely girly, I can get away with knitting just about anything for my little guy. It's mostly scrappy leftovers and if I run out of pinks, I'll fade it back into some grays again; I have plenty of those.

On the gardening scene, the summer garden is fading fast but our routine is the same: weed, water, deadhead. The flowers remain steadfastly beautiful but close up you can see they are past their prime. The vegetable harvests are getting smaller; I think we may pick and eat the last of the green beans tonight and the cucumber and tomato harvests have both slowed down. I made what I'm sure was the last crock of pickles and I'll be saving that for my brother's visit next month. Our summer garden is a tremendous amount of work for us at our age, and as much as we love it and look forward to it each spring, it's nice when fall arrives and the whole shebang slows down. Oh, and that magnolia blossom below is from our big tree in the front yard. Two days after picking, it turned a gorgeous mahogany color. The next day the petals were on the table. Fleeting beauty.

This is Flax Light, a free pattern from TinCan Knits. It's perfect for a fade.

Last week Carter picked the last orange. He knows he needs two oranges to make a glass of orange juice and while he doesn't show it here, he was a little sad that he could not find any more. We showed him all the baby green oranges on the tree and promised him that next spring he could have his fill of orange juice again.

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