did you win?

Before I announce the winner of the Tower of Yarn, I thought I'd show you one of the swans I made for the New Year's Eve party we attended.  We were invited to a swank sit down dinner for 12 and I offered to bring dessert.  I knew it needed to be special, and was thinking since I make a pretty mean Buche de Noel, maybe I'll make one decorated with a winter forest theme.  But my girlfriend whispered in my ear, "psst, swans, make the swans!"  So swans it was!  Swans are not as difficult as they look.  For each swan you'll pipe a pate a choux eclair shape for the body, and an S shape for the head and neck.  After baking, you'll cut the top layer off the eclair and cut that top in half lengthwise to use for the wings.  Fill the bottom cavity with chatilly cream and stick the neck and wings into the cream.  The swan needs to swim in a pool of either chocolate or caramel sauce, or in this case, ollalieberry sauce.  It made quite a showy show on New Year's Eve and seemed to be just the right ending for a big meal. You can read my original post about swans here and how and why I began to make them, also the how-to.  

Now, on to the winner of the lovely tower:  Congratulations to Kristie from Cultus Lake in BC, Canada!  I've had quite a few Canadian winners for past giveaways so I think Canadians must be lucky!  I've contacted Kristie and as soon as she sends me her address I'll pop the tower in the mail.  Thank you all for entering, and if you didn't win this time, don't give up!  I have 2 other giveaways scheduled for February and another in March.  I love giveaways, love to enter them and love to have them on my blog.  Also coming up, another free pattern that is in the works.  I really appreciate and value your readership.  Cheers to knitting!

an FO, more words on yarn and needles, plus a tip!


First, let's start with the pattern: this is Brisk from Kim Hargreaves book, North.  I made quite a few modifications for fit such as adding length and waist shaping.  I made the smallest size and it really is more fitted than the photo lets on.  I know I've said this before, but I used to make sweaters that show off my crazy mad knitting skills, but I am over that.  I now just want sweaters that are complimentary and easy to wear and are made with yarn that feels great to knit with and makes beautiful fabric.  I also tend to go for the simple shapes, nothing too fussy.  I love this neckline very much and think it's pretty trendy and flattering too.  I've seen a few of these necklines lately and see that Kim has used this neckline in her last few books.  

But this sweater isn't all about fit, it's also about the fabric.  I used the new Rowan Mohair Haze, a fingering weight blend of extra fine merino wool and super kid mohair.  (When you see words such as extra and fine and merino in front of wool, or super and kid in front of mohair then you are purchasing some of the softest and finest fiber available.)  Mohair Haze is floaty and downy soft.  The fabric is fuzzy, cushy, lightweight, next-to-the-skin soft and cozy warm.  The stitches neatly palsy walsy next to each other and surround themselves with a little halo of mohair fuzz.  I found it very easy to knit, and could easily "touch knit", in fact I could go for rows and rows with nary a glance.  But as the fabric grows, you'll want to stop and admire it, cuddle it, caress it.  It's that pretty.  The fabric has a very slight sheen, just enough to make it look fresh and dewy.  Can knitted fabric look young and fresh and dewy?  Yes, I think so!  I did find it to knit a bit "fast" and used Clover Bamboos to slow it down a bit, see below.

I know I always carry on about how lovely a yarn is, and I know a lot of that yarn I carry on about is Rowan, but I have to say, over the many years I've been knitting, yarn manufacturers have really raised the bar.  They've gone out of their way to seek out the finest fibers and create blends that are supreme.  Yarn companies are proud of their new offerings and they should be, so many of the new yarns I try are simply fantastic.  I do my due diligence of course; I know my fibers and I read the labels.  I rely on my local yarn store to steer me in the right direction and also read reviews when I can find them.  Ravelry and knitting blogs are a good source for up-to-date reviews.  I know that reviews, like this one, are often more anecdotal than scientific, but if a knitter can tell me why she does or doesn't like a yarn, it does give me a clue whether I'll want to knit with it.  Because knitting is such a popular hobby these days (and it doesn't look like it's slowing down), yarn companies are popping up all over and want to make us knitters happy.  Lucky us.   I very often get my hands on yarn before consumers and I always try to review them here and spread the word.  Bottom line, Mohair Haze is fantastic.

Educate yourself!  If you would like to learn more about fiber and yarn,  I  highly recommend Clara Parkes books, The Knitter's Book of Wool and The Knitter's Book of Yarn.  If you want to hear her reviews of the latest yarn I would recommend following her excellent blog, The Knitters Review. The more you educate yourself about yarn, the less mistakes you'll make with your purchases and the less mistakes you'll make with matching pattern to yarn. 

So you all know I am fiber fussy, but if I am fiber fussy I am also needle fussy.  Sometimes you may dislike a yarn, but it really may not be the yarn's fault, sometimes you can blame the needle you are using!  Change it!  If you find a yarn is knitting too fast (slipping off your needles) or too slow (sticking and dragging across your needles), it's time to switch needles.  If the yarn is new to me I always cast on with the most perfect all around needle and the one I recommend most often, KnitPicks Caspian or Rainbow.  Both are exactly the same needle, just different colors and both come in circulars, straights and dpns.  They are heavenly, with a nice point, a warm touch, and excellent joins on the circulars.  If after a few rows my knitting feels too fast or slippy, I'll switch to the basic Clover Bamboos.  They have a bit of stick and will slow the yarn down a bit.  They also come in circulars, straights and dpns.  (I have noticed that the cords on the circular will coil up on you a bit.) But if I feel that the knitting is too slow going and draggy, I'll use the super slick and speedy Addi Lace needles (love the lace tip).  They only come in circulars which have a nice flexible cord and a smooth join.  If after all that and you're still hating the knitting experience, do what I do: donate it or sell it!  Your trash may be someone else's treasure.

Now on to the great tip I learned from Sarah Hatton when I took a class from her last year.  In the picture below you can see my original sleeve had ribbing and a little band of pink.  After pinning it together and trying it on I decided the pink stripe was too much, and also, the ribbing was a bit much too.  I wanted something more simple, like a rolled stockinette hem for my sleeve.  So I set about to change it.  If this sweater was knit top down it would have been easy to rip the ribbing back, catch the live stitches and finish with a hem that suited me.  But this was knit from the cuff up so that option was not open for me.  Here's what you can do:  Decide what row you want to rip back to, then pick up the row of stitches just above that row.  Get out your scissors and cut below that row being careful not to cut into the soon-to-be live stitches on the needle.  After cutting, you will have to pick away a few straggling pieces of wool.  Now re-attach your yarn and knit down the hem or cuff you want.  This is also the way you could lengthen a sweater that was knit bottom up.

In this case I didn't want a rib after all.  I caught a row of stitches, cut off the cuff, re-attached the yarn and knit down.

Have you entered my latest giveaway?
Go here to enter the TOWER giveaway!
I'll announce the winner on Thursday or Friday.

You could win all this, yippee!

Goodbye for now from sunny California but please don't envy our sunshine too much.  The west is sufffering from a terrible years-long drought and our sunny skies are a constant reminder of the water restrictions we face.  It's hard enough for private homes and businesses but devastating for our farmers.  We are the nation's top agricutlture state and without rain we are in big trouble.  Pray for rain!

The TOWER giveaway!

(Edited 1/25, a winner has been selected and this giveaway is closed.)  I'm honored and humbled over the small acclaim my knitting blog has received over the last few years.  Thank you so much for your readership and your comments, it has meant so much to me.  I love connecting with like minded people (you!) from all over the world, and without this blog, I don't know how that could have ever happened.  This blog has helped me to grow in more ways than I could have ever imagined, and I have to admit, it's been an awful lot of fun.  Knitionary is celebrating a few milestones this week.  I had my largest ever views last week as I had a few of my free patterns go viral, plus I hit 5,000 likes on my Facebook page.  I'm thrilled.  As a thank you for your support, I'm offering another awesome TOWER of YARN giveaway! Go ahead and enter, it's easy! (For the record, I enter every imaginable giveaway I possibly can, and hey, sometimes I win!) To enter, be a follower of my blog and make a commment on this post.  For a second chance, go to the Knitionary Facebook page and leave a comment under the post that has the picture below.  Please make sure I know how to get a hold of you if you win.  Your email address or Rav. ID will work.  I'll announce the winner at the end of the week.  Good luck!  This is open to international readers.

First let me tell you a little about this yarn:  

It's all Rowan, because that's the brand I love and trust the most.
I love fine fiber that is well priced, and they do that the best.

It's all currently available; and three out of five are new realeases for Fall/Winter 2014/2015. 

These are all yarns I've used and loved, and imagine you'll love them as much as I do.

Sitting at the bottom and holding up the tower is a big, fat skein of Big Wool Colour.  Colour is the newest member of the popular Big Wool family, a new release for 2014/15.  Shown in the jazzy Carousel, it knits up as a super bulky. 

Brushed Fleece comes next and is also a new release for 2014/15.  Knitting with this is bliss and wearing it is bliss.  It's a super soft blend of fine merino wool and baby alpaca.  Even if you don't think you care for chunky weights, I can't imagine anyone not loving this.  I knit a coat with it and I swear, it's beyond gorgeous.  Shown in the dark blue, Cavern.

It's funny to call such an elegant yarn a basic, but I think Kid Classic would qualify as one of Rowan's  basic yarns.  It's been around for many years and remains one of their most popular yarns.  It has excellent yardage, wears like iron, almost refuses to pill, and has a lot of pattern support.  If you have tension problems, this yarns eliminates that look of uneven tension that can spoil the look of stockinette.  I love it for outer wear and have used it countless times.  I still have the first sweater I knit with it and it must be 10 years old, worn hundreds of times and it looks new.  Really.  Kid Classic is a blend of lambswool and kid mohair and is shown in the gray/blue Nightly.  I recently knit Poetry with KC.

Resting on top of KC is the feather light, lace weight Fine Lace.  Many people use Fine Lace to knit lightweight lacy shawls.  Check out this amazing shawl my friend Konrad knit for me!  I am still in shock over the generosity of this gorgeous gift.  You'll also find many patterns that teams Fine Lace with another fine yarn.  I've knit it combined with a strand of Kidsilk Haze and it was a beautiful knitting experience, plus made a lovely fabric.  Fine Lace is a blend of baby alpaca and fine merino wool and feels like a cloud.

Floating on the top is a little bit of magic aptly named Rowan Finest.  Now THIS is why I love Rowan so much: they blend luxurious fibers together and give us knitters a bit of heaven to work with.  Finest is a blend of extra fine merino wool, royal alpaca (the finest and rarest of all alpaca grades) and cashmere.  It's easy to knit, makes a lovely matt fabric that is next to the skin soft and is very well priced.  Newly released for 2014/2015, Finest is fingering weight and is shown here in the mid blue Star.

I hope you enter.
The winner will have tons of fun playing with this tower for sure!

I've got an appointment with my in-house photographer tomorrow.
Keep us in your thoughts and prayers.
I know you understand.


high hopes

Hello!  Thank you all for entering my last giveaway.  For the record, I enter every single giveaway I can possibly enter.  Sometimes I win!  I figure someone has to win and it might as well be me!  The winner of the Brushed Fleece skein and companion book is Katinka (Rav. ID).  I've just contacted Katinka via Ravelry and as soon as I have an address I will put them in the mail.  I have at least 3 more awesome giveaways in the works, including another awesome Tower of YARN, plus my favorite de-piller and some more surprises.  Also, I'll be sharing some spring/summer previews.  In the meantime, have a peek inside in my work basket:  

This is the one that has my atttention at this moment (although that is as changeable as the wind), Gemma by Sarah Hatton from the Rowan Loves book.  I'm knitting it with a strand each of a subtle KSH Stripe with a neutral KSH and it's creating the most luminous fabric.  Totally in love with this.  The picture doesn't give the fabric or color justice.

My LYS had KSH Glamour half off, it's the one with the sequins, and so bought enough to make Jamie again.  Honestly, I've barely been able to take it off, I love it so much.  This time around I'm knitting it single.  I think it will be pretty for my Easter sweater.  I've had a tradition of knitting something special for Easter Sunday for many years now.  This blue is heavenly, in fact, Heavenly is the name, so that seems appropriate for an Easter sweater!  Too bad you can't see the little sequins in the photo but they are there and they are subtle and sweet.  The yarn has been discontinued and is lovely, so if you can find it on sale, grab it.  I also bought some in white.

I always have a grab and go travel project, one that does not require my attention or my eyes.  This garter stitch baby sits in a bag by the front door ready to go anywhere, anytime!  I'm using the  lovely Alchemy Temple, super soft superwash wool for a simple striped lap blanket.  This has only been to two movies and look how much is done!  We saw "Into the Woods", don't bother.  Yesterday we saw "Big Hero", pretty cute.

Alrighty, how would you like a wee sneaky peeky?  There is an absolutely gorgeous yarn coming your way (mid January for the European market, or the beginning of February for North America)  One of the three new Rowan spring/summer yarns is this 100% cotton fingering weight called Summerlite 4-Ply.  It is by far, the softest and most well behaved cotton I have ever knit with.  It is 100% Giza cotton, and for those of you who love tiny needles and are looking for the perfect summer yarn, here 'tis.  I'll tell you more about this and Martin Storey's beautiful companion book in a future post.

Here is another pattern from Martin's new book.  I love the dainty cables sandwiched between eyelets.  I have this gorgeous mid blue Fine Art in my stash and think it will be beautiful.  Martin is some kind of genius, the designs in this  book are breathtaking.

When I was in Quebec in September I purchased this lovely local wool with a great story behind it's development and  manufacturing.  I'll share that story in another post.  I love to bring home wool souveniers, don't you?  I've always wanted to make Antler, and glad I have the perfect yarn for it.

Spreaking of that trip to Quebec, we flew to Boston, rented a car and traveled for 10 days through Maine ending in Quebec.  We were blessed with an especially beautiful trip as we hit the fall leaves perfectly.  This was my knitting project for that trip, a large EZ Pi Shawl knit with Rowan Yorkshire Tweed 4 Ply.  A very easy knit for the back seat, uncomplicated enough so I could still visit with my fellow passengers and look out the window at the pretty scenery.  I haven't looked at it since I got home, but I am on a mission to finish some of my UFOs and hope this will be one that gets finished!

And here is yet another one that needs to be finished, Rhyme from the Essentials section of Rowan Mag 56.  I could almost knit every single item from that section and in fact have sticky notes all over the book.  I can't believe Mag 57 will be out soon and I'll be sharing my favorites from that in a future post.  But in the meantime, this needs some attention!

An FO!  This is lovely Goldie from Kim Hargreave's Honey book.  It's so much prettier in person, unfortunately my iPhone picture cannot show the glow of the yarn.  It's knit with one strand of KSH Eclipse (the one shot with a skinny strand of sparkle) and one strand of Fine Lace held together.  I will make an appointment with my photographer soon and post it modeled.

I wish I could say that was it for my on-going projects, but that wouldn't be true.  I make no apologies for my excess of projects, heck, you should see my stash, then you would realize I'm showing restraint. There are at least 3 others that I know are needing attention, but sometimes I shove things so far out of sight, it's like they don't exist anymore.  Then one day, out of the blue, I WANT IT and go tearing through my closet to find the precious precious.  Then I'll get cracking on it and it's done.  I really don't understand the caprice that rules my knitting hours, I just go along with it.

My heart is aching over the tragedy that occured in France today.  Heartbreaking, hideous, shocking.  To my readers in France, I hardly know how to offer condolences.  I'm sure you already know that the entire free world is mourning with you, and feeling angry.





I love everything about this sweater:
the Downton Abbeyesque teal color of Trance,
(Lady Mary would look divine in this color!)
 the lucious fabric of Rowan Kidsilk Haze knit double,
(oh, sigh!)
the split hem that's shorter in the front,
(it's nice, right?)
and the awesome slash neckline that's so easy yet so effective and flattering,
(and is my new favorite neckline.)

Wearing Jamie is like wearing a big teddy bear hug.  KSH knit double is so fantastic to knit, and wearing it is just as nice.  It's light and warm, yet somehow it's rarely too warm. Perhaps the silk content helps it to breathe?  I don't have to tell you that KSH is my go-to desert island yarn, I've praised it often enough on this blog, and the minute I cast off for this I started another project from the same book using using KSH double again.  I always have to have at least one KSH project going at all times, I miss it too much if I don't.  With all the knitting I've done over the years I couldn't possibly need another sweater, but I knit for the experience; the touch of something so soft, the cadence of the needles softly clicking, the lovely zen of it all, and this sweater was all that.  You've probably guessed that many of my sweaters very often find homes in other closets, and that makes me happy.  But this one?  This one is staying with me!  My husband keeps saying how it's a pretty color on me, but added, "It's a little baggy, isn't it, hon?"  Then I had to explain how this sweater has positive ease and what that meant, and how it was the look.  (He also alerted me to the fact that it was longer in the back.) The pattern is by Sarah Hatton from the awesome new book, Rowan Loves.  It has a dozen or so patterns that can be knit with different options including yarn choices.  It's a fantastic book that I'll be using several times over the next year or two.

I just discovered Shameless that airs on Showtime.  Does anyone else watch that?  Tell the truth.  That family!  At first I was horrified but a friend told me to stick it out and I would get addicted, and it's true!  I worry about them and cheer them on to do the right thing, but they rarely do, still I love them.  I think season 5 starts this month, so I have some catching up to do as I'm only half way through season one.  After hectic December it's been heaven having some time to veg and knit with the TV as company.  However, I got a Fitbit for Christmas and that little thing is keeping me honest.  I check it about 4PM and scream, "Waaah, only 3,500 steps?".  I immediately hop up for the mandatory hour-long walk. Without a walk this knitter would never ever hit 10,000 steps.  I love that when I'm heading home I get a little buzz on my wrist to tell me I've met my goal, then I come home to a congratulatory email!  Today we had a busy day and didn't get home until after dark, so no walk.  I was dreading the last sync of the night but just now checked it, and hey, not so bad, 8,154 steps with no walk, just moving around, but only 2 active minutes!  Ugh!  Does anyone use a Fitbit?  Do you use it for anything else besides counting steps?

I rarely make new year resolutions, but do have something I am committed to:  Finish up those UFOs (unfinished objects) and wear the lovely things!  I have two that I have sitting out right in front of me that stare at me as if to say, what is your problem?  It will be a quick finish for both, just necklines and the sewing up, not a big deal, so quit procrastinating Kristen!  As a Raveler and a blogger I am committed to taking a picture of EVERYTHING I do.  (I can barely thread a needle these days without documenting it with a picture and a tutorial.)   And it's that picture taking that my photographer and I dread. Why didn't you tell me I was slouching?  Couldn't you see that my hem was crooked?  I hate my smile!  Now we have to take a hundred more!  I actually had jeans on but changed into a skirt, because I think I'm modeling (I say that tongue in cheek) too often in jeans, but it's what I mostly wear.  My husband said, "Why bother changing?  Do you think anyone really looks at your pictures?"  Seriously honey, how insulting!

the links

Rowan Loves book by Sarah Hatton
my book review is here
Jamie Ravelry project page