It took me about 6 to 7 months from swatching to finished pattern, but the idea for the Dragon Lace Pullover first germinated 6 or 7 years ago. When I first started designing knitting patterns, I purchased all four of Barbara Walker's stitch dictionaries, and in the fourth one, I spotted a lace stitch pattern ("Leaning Ladders" that to me evoked the body of a dragon--that is, minus the head, limbs and tail. So I made a mental note to return to that stitch pattern one day, and try to develop the rest of the dragon, outlined in eyelets and decreases.
Well, 2012 was the Chinese Year of the Dragon, so it seemed like an opportune time to work on my lace dragon. I had already created a pattern, the Bunny Yoke Pullover, for the Year of the Rabbit in 2011, and I thought I would just keep going.* So I perused Google images for sketches of Chinese dragons, made my own sketches, and swatched away; the tail turned out to be fairly easy, but the limbs were a bit trickier (one claw? several claws? where to attach them to the body?)...and the head, not surprisingly, was trickiest of all. I sketched big, bug-eyed heads like the ones on dragon costumes for Chinese New Year parades; fire-breathing heads; heads in profile; finally I decided that the head that seemed to translate best into lace was a narrow one, turned to look straight at the viewer, with a long snout and a couple of horns. It took me several more swatches after that, but I finally arrived at a head that sat properly on the neck, and utilized carefully placed decreases to add a bit of fierceness to its gaze.
I had already decided that the best placement for the dragon would be on the upper back; since it was going to be a good 8-10 inches high, I didn't want it to obscured if the wearer sat down, and I didn't want to have to worry about placing it so that a claw wasn't grabbing at a nipple (yes, knitwear designers have to think about that sort of thing!). And I knew I was going to use a cotton-based yarn, for comfortable three-season wear. The last decisions before beginning on the sample were about the rest of the sweater: more lace? shaping? raglan or set in sleeves? I ended up going with a classic hip-length slihouette with waist shaping, set-in 3/4 length sleeve, V-neck, turned hem, and lots of stockinette.
I wasn't quite finished with tinkering with the dragon, though; after I completed the sample, I decided that the tail had to be lengthened to better balance the neck and head, and I also decided that the bother of wrong-side lace stitches to curve the talons wasn't worth it, and went back to an earlier, simpler version. (So the final lace dragon only has wrong-side eyelets on a couple of rows, in the head/neck area; the final version of the tail is shown in the detail photo, while the earlier version appears in the top photo; both photos show several versions of the limbs, with the final version of the claws shown on the lower limbs).
*I'm presently at work on a design for 2013, the Year of the Snake-- stay tuned!
Awhile ago I started holding comments for approval before posting them. I was reluctant to do this; I don't attract nasty comments as a rule, but I was getting lots of spammy ones, and I really didn't want to give spammers a place to post links to what were probably pretty iffy websites.
In the last few months, most of the spammy comments have been hawking essay-writing services (should I be insulted?), but before that, it was mostly websites offering varous types of loans, with a few Viagra pushers thrown in to spice things up. I was reading through the loan-related ones, and found myself chuckling, so I thought others might also find them amusing. I've added a few comments (in bold type), but otherwise these are copied verbatim (except all links to iffy websites have been removed). Enjoy!
I had a desire to start my own firm, however I did not have got enough of cash to do this. Thank goodness my close dude recommended to take the loans. Thence I used the college loan and realized my desire.According to my monitoring, billions --billions!!-- of persons on our planet get the home loans from various banks. Therefore, there's good possibilities to get a financial loan in any country. All people deserve good life time and home loans or just short term loan would make it better. Because freedom depends on money. Interesting assertion.Discuss. Every one understands that life is high priced, nevertheless different people need money for different issues and not every man --nor woman-- earns enough money. Thus to get some mortgage loans or short term loan will be a proper solution. Some time ago, I did need to buy a good car for my firm but I didn't earn enough money and could not purchase anything. Thank God my brother adviced to try to get the mortgage loans from trustworthy creditors. So, I acted that and was satisfied with my financial loan. Mortgage loan...for a car?
The Aria Shell is an unusual design for me-- no lace, texture or cable stitch patterns, just stockinette stitch! It does, however, have some unusual construction details. It has a mock-wrap V-neck; the wrap look is achieved by working at attached I-cord trim around the neck edge, then (without breaking the yarn) working an additional length of free I-cord, and sewing it to the front of the shell. The I-cord at the waist is worked as an attached I-cord.
The lower panels overlap at the sides (this shows better in the second photo). They are worked flat, with increases shaping the curved lower edges, and then the ends are overlapped, and the stitches of the overlapping portions are knitted together to connect the panels at the sides. The bodice is then worked in the round to the armholes.
Finishing involves a fair amount of attached I-cord-- not only does it edge the neck opening and define the waist, but also edges the lower panels and the armholes. But I do like the nice clean look it gives.
The Interweave editors chose Berroco Linsey yarn for Aria; it's a cotton/linen blend and well suited for warm weather wear, with a slight sheen, nice drape, and a dry, comfortable hand, perfect for wearing next to the skin. I thought it was interesting that Interweave styled it over another layer for the magazine, and I also noticed that they chose the same color dress as the skirt I used in my photos; brown and aqua is one of those color combos that may seem that it wouldn't work, untll you try it. (Last photo, copyright Interweave Press.) Unfortunately the overlapping panels don't really show in any of Interweave's photos, because those are really my favorite part of this design.
I think I may have to make one of these for myself!
Chinese New Year is tomorrow, which means that the Year of the Dragon is ending, and the Year of the Snake is beginning...and which means that technically, I have successfully completed my design for the Year of the Dragon on time! (The sample is done anyway, even if I still have to write up the pattern).
For 2011, the Year of the Rabbit, I designed the Bunny Yoke Pullover. It was kind of a labor of love, in that I, my mother, my friend, and my friend's baby (born in March 2011) are all rabbits (born in a Year of the Rabbit), and it was fun, even if I spent way too much time fiddling with the bunny design! And it was completed, pattern and all, in fall of 2011.
Like the Bunny Yoke Pullover, the Dragon Lace Pullover also took up way too much time. I first had the idea years ago: when I saw the stitch pattern "Leaning Ladders" in one of Barbara Walker's stitch dictionaries, I immediately thought that it looked like the body of a dragon. But I've been busy, so I didn't get around to designing the rest of the dragon until the Year of the Dragon arrived, motivating me to finally get to work on creating a lace dragon.
Among the tags I have for blog post content are "Design Process" and "Problems;" can we all just assume that the latter goes with the former? In this case, it took me a number of tries to figure out how I wanted to picture a dragon's claws and head in eyelets and decreases-- and in the end I went back to one of my first attempts for both, with a few refinements to the dragon's face. Then, I did several swatches trying to create a lace pattern that looked like stylized clouds, for around the hem of pullover; I ended up deciding they were all too busy, and scrapping that idea in favor of a simple stockinette body and sleeves. And finally, I started out with the idea of an empire waist, defined by a band of bound off stitches, with the dragon beginning slightly above the waistline, but after I had the body and back finished, I didn't like the way the vertical line of the pullover was interrupted by the waistband, so rather than re-knit the whole thing, I cut it, unraveled the waistband, and then grafted top and bottom back together. And now I am wondering if the body of the dragon should be longer betwen his last leg and his tail. Aargh!!
In the last photo, you can (sort of) see the view out my office window; Blizzard Nemo is just winding down, so hopefully our internet, phone and cable will be restored fairly soon-- in the meantime, thank goodness for generators, laptops, batteries and aircards.
I am definitely getting an early start on my Year of the Snake design! (May involve cables....)
I recently designed several patterns for a new yarn company called Our Back 40. They sell gorgeous 100% alpaca yarn sourced from American farms and produced in mills in the U.S. This yarn is really a luxury to work with and to wear, and it's perfect for accessories such as the Cabled Winter Headband (2nd photo), Cabled Infinity Scarf (3rd photo), and the Cabled City Mittens (shown above). Unfortunately the patterns are available only as part of a kit (yarn + pattern) at the moment-- although the kits are a lovely indulgence, should you be inclined to treat yourself (or someone else)!
And during the process of developing the headband and scarf patterns (the scarf is just a longer version of the headband), I discovered the "duplicate stitch" or "contrasting color" method of grafting, which I am super excited about! As you can see in the above photo (first 3 photos copyright Our Back 40), the headband has an allover cabled stitch pattern. What might be less obvious is that the stitch pattern is actually worked not quite sideways, but on a diagonal, with the band shaped by increases along one edge and decreases along the other, so that the finished band before seaming is actually a trapezoid. The problem with this was that the seam would not be a short vertical one at the back of the band, but a longer diagonal one that would be harder to hide or ignore.
And I have never liked grafting and never been good at it; I'm not a sock knitter, and so any grafting I've done has usually involved either fixing a nasty mistake or seamless sweater underarms, along with unsightly beginnings and endings, excessive amounts of time, and muttered chanting. And I had heard that grafting of ribbing was especially daunting, and maybe even impossible to do perfectly (and the cable pattern is based on a 2X2 rib).
A recent post by Techknitter about the contrast color/duplicate stitch method of grafting pointed me in the right direction. This method immediately made sense to me, because you use a row of stitches formed by contrasting waste yarn as a guide for your grafting yarn. There are no knitting needles in the way, and no trying to remember or figure out how each stitch should relate to the loops of yarn around it, and once you are done, you simply remove the waste yarn. When I decided to try this technique, I also added a 2nd color of waste yarn, so that the line of stitches you are trying to follow with your tapestry needle stands out very clearly. To summarize the set-up briefly, you cast on using one color of waste yarn, work a row or two (these rows just hold your contrasting yarn loops in the proper position), switch to your contrasting waste yarn, work for one row in pattern, then switch to your main yarn. You then work along (on your cowl or whatever) to the end of your piece, leave a long tail for grafting, join contrast waste yarn again (on the SAME pattern row as the first row of waste yarn, if you are doing any kind of stitch pattern), work one row, then switch to your other waste yarn, work a row or two, and bind off. You then graft away (see below for more on that).
After carefully perusing Techknitter's posts on grafting, I realized that even though she (and others) stated that it was not possible to graft ribbing without a half-stitch offset (without heroic measures and/or sacrifice of stretchiness, anyway), this was only because she (and others) were talking about end-to-end grafting, where the two pieces of knitting are going in opposite directions-- the kind of grafting you do for a sock toe. If you are talking about grafting the ends of a continuous loop, where the knitting is going the same direction on both ends, you can theoretically graft ANY stitch pattern perfectly. And while for ribbing or lace, this would be a painful and frustrating (and MENSA-worthy) activity using the traditional Kitchener stitch, with the duplicate stitch method, it becomes... well, maybe not easy, but doable. (You don't see a seam on the headband, do you? It's not just out of sight in the photo; there isn't one!)
So at this point I've tried it on the above cabled stitch pattern; 2X2 rib; and "true" lace (lace stitches every row, that is). And WOW! I'm even enjoying it! So I've made my first ever technique videos (written descriptions and still photos just didn't seem sufficient) and posted them to YouTube. Note that the videos form a 3-part series, and the first one is at the bottom of the page. I suppose there's a way to embed them here but I haven't figured out how.
I'd like to post better photos soon, but here are a couple of photos of that lace pattern ("Milanese Lace") I was talking about: the first halfway done, and the second with graft almost finished.
In my last post I wrote about "knitted" iPad and iPhone covers that I created on Redbubble: they are made of hard plastic, but printed with very high-quality photos of knitted fabric, making them both practical and cool (if you are a knitter, anyway!).
Here are the iPhone cases from Redbubble (left) and from Zazzle (right), side by side. I think the cases are both pretty well represented in the photo. The image quality of the Redbubble one is definitely higher: detail is better and the colors are brighter.
However, the Zazzle case is a bit smaller and lighter, and a few dollars cheaper, than the Redbubble one, and it does have a matte finish, which is less slippery and seems a better choice (for a photo representing knitted fabric) than a shiny finish. Plus I noticed that on Zazzle there is also an iPhone case with an actual fabric back which can be printed with a photo. So I am thinking of also creating an account on Zazzle with "knitted" products. If anyone clearly prefers one or the other of the above cases, please let me know! It would help me decide whether a Zazzle account is worthwhile.
In any case (haha) I'm getting ready to go to VK Live in New York tomorrow, so any decision on a Zazzle account will have to wait for a few days. If you'll be there, let me know! Always fun to meet other knitters in person.
I hope I won't insult anyone when I say I have never quite seen the point of knitted phone or tablet or laptop covers. Maybe a knitted cover would provide a little cushioning and a dose of cuteness, but it would seem to me to be quite impractical: having to take the cover off the phone or tablet to use it, and if you drop the device-- well, not much protection there.
Well, a couple of months ago I saw an iPhone cover that looked like the Tardis, probably in a blog post photo from The Bloggess. (This may seem like a digression, but it is a very short one.) And since I am a Dr. Who fan, I immediately Googled "Tardis iPhone cover' to see where I could get one. That is how I found Redbubble. And yes, Redbubble has several cool Tardis iPhone covers, but as I looked around the site, I realized that the point of the site is that artists and designers can use their art to create their own items--prints and clothing as well as iPhone and iPad cases.
And that is how I got the idea of creating cases that looked like knitting, but were actually made of hard plastic-- decorative AND functional. I searched the site and was surprised to find only a few "knitted" cases, so I added a few of my own, then ordered a couple of them to see how they looked in person.
I waited to write this post until I received the cases, and I was quite impressed with their quality: the images are very clear, and the iPhone case works well- I've been using it for over a month now. (The iPad case doesn't fit my iPad--whoops! It is for an iPad 2, and I have the relatively ancient iPad 1. Anyone need an iPad 2 case?) I have one minor criticism: the finish is glossy. After I received the cases, I searched for a matte finish custom case, and found one at Zazzle, but the image quality is really inferior to the Redbubble version (I will post comparison photos soon).
So if you want to create your own cool "knitted" iPhone or iPad cases, I recommend Redbubble-- or you can buy one of my designs! I will say that it took a fair amount of work to line the photos of knitting up with the cover templates, so that the various ports and cutouts fit nicely with elements of the knitted stitch patterns. In fact I took a bunch of new photos because I felt the ones I already had weren't high res enough, or weren't lighted ideally to create the effect of knitted fabric. And I have to replace the photo for the Dragon Skin iPad case, because I realized that there is a mistake in the stitch pattern (which I never noticed before!); if you look at the 2nd photo, it is visible as a jog in the edges of the "scales," almost exactly halfway down.
On the final decrease round before top ribbing, the * at the beginning of the sentence has been omitted. Should read: Next Rnd *[K2, p2] 5 times, k1, k2tog, p2, k2, p1, p2tog, [k2, p2] 2 times; rep from * one more--72 sts rem.
Just in time for holiday knitting, the MacMahan Collection of three cowl patterns is now available! In late September I spent a weekend on MacMahan Island, in Boothbay Harbor, Maine, and in the company of three of my college roommates (but that's another story!). The cowls in this collection were inspired by the island's rugged coastline.
The Boothbay cowl is worked in the round from the top down, and uses a variation of the feather-and-fan lace stitch pattern (minus purl ridges) to suggest gently rippling waters. Increases and ribbing shape the cowl so that it flares slightly at the bottom, and narrows at the top; increases are carefully set up so that the ribbing flows nicely into the main stitch pattern. For this cowl I used Madelinetosh Tosh Chunky, worked on US size 9 needles, in the "Well Water" colorway, a lightly variegated spectrum of steely blues that nicely suggests the ocean's surface on an overcast day (unfortunately, the sun showed itself for a total of about 10 minutes that whole weekend--no exaggeration!).
The Rockweed cowl is named after a type of brown seaweed which is ubiquitous in that area of Maine. Also known as bladder wrack, the clumps of rockweed I saw were not just brown, but also included a wide range of other hues, from olive to pistachio to gold-- a color spectrum almost perfectly captured by Madelinetosh colorway "Filigree." And when I found the stitch pattern “vines and eyelet rib,” in the Vogue Knitting Stitchionary Volume 1, its waves and and eyelets reminded me, not of vines, but of clumps of rockweed. I modified the stitch pattern by removing the columns of faggoting, making the fabric warmer and denser (yet leaving the appearance of the stitch pattern virtually unchanged). Madelinetosh Tosh DK yarn is held doubled for this cowl, which is worked in the round with self-finished edges.
Finally, the Schist cowl was inspired by the rocky ledges along the island's coast (formed largely of, yes, schist). To create the layered look of this cowl, I experimented with different combinations of knit and purl stitches, finally hitting upon a pattern of wide, shallow knit/purl triangles that creates natural folds. This cowl is knit flat and sideways, and then seamed; the pattern gives directions for a provisional cast on, so that the seaming can be done via three-needle bind off, but a conventional cast on and seaming technique could easily be substituted.
Madelinetosh Tosh DK yarn was also used doubled for this cowl; the "Whiskers" colorway, a combination of different shades of beige and light taupe, suggests the color variations in the sections of rocky coastline which lie above the high tide mark.
The Boothbay and Rockweed cowls each use less than a skein of yarn, and the Schist cowl uses just about one skein; all three work up quickly, with a difficulty level of advanced beginner. The collection is priced at $7.00 for the trio of patterns, and includes both written directions and charts for all three. Cowl patterns are also available individually, for $3.50 each.