Making a Shawl with Handspun Yarn

Making a Shawl with Handspun Yarn

One of the most common questions I encountered when I used to do shows was what can you make with hand spun art yarn. Rarely is there enough yardage in a skein to make anything more than a hat. But if there were a lot of any given hand spun art yarn, I don’t think a large project of art yarn is the best way to show show it off. I have written many an article on how to use art yarn along with complimentary and contrasting yarns to best show off your most prized skeins. And when it comes to what to make, I find the best patterns are usually the simplest to knit.

A Little Patience by Christiane @ Three Ravens Fiber Art

A Little Patience by Christiane @ Three Ravens Fiber Art

Last spring while in the thick of all things house sale and moving, I purchased this lovely skein of yarn from one of my favorite fellow hand spinners. I tucked it away to revisit in my new studio when we moved across state. That day was yesterday. Yesterday was the first actual day of our new routine in our new lives. I came into my studio, coffee in hand and went right for my new skein. One of my favorite things to knit using hand spun is a very very basic triangle shawl. 

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For this project, I am using just this one skein of yarn (so far…that could change…).. But this pattern is written to help guide you in mixing yarns for a stash buster that will open up your creative eye to color combos and textures.  It is like painting with yarn. Enjoy!

Here is the Ravelry link to the free download.

What are your favorite ways to work with hand spun art yarn? Leave me a comment below.

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How to Read Japanese Crochet Patterns

How to Read Japanese Crochet Patterns

We all know how popular boho crochet is right now. Did you know some of the best boho crochet patterns are actually Japanese crochet patterns? Yep.

 Some of the most gorgeously crochet patterns I have seen are from some of my favorite Japanese pattern books

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I mean look at these

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How cute is this

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or this

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OMG this

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And who can’t resist these über cute amigurumi?

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Do I know how to read Japanese? Nope. But luckily these patterns are super easy to figure out.

For the most part they are charted. And you can easily get away with only knowing a few easily memorized Japanese characters. I am such a big fan of these patterns. Many of them also contain quite a few knitting patterns as well. It seems the pattern books lump crochet and knitting into the same categories, so it is not unusual to find both in any pattern book. The knitting patterns are charted in the same fashion. I know a little odd at first to be knitting from a chart like this, but honestly if you have ever done any color work it is very similar.

So here are some of my favorite resources for reading Japanese patterns:

There is a huge active Ravelry group. This group is wonderful for finding pattern resources, charts for reading the symbols and a super active forum to help you with any questions you might have.

Pinterest boards. First…set aside a full afternoon to get stuck in the Pinterest rabbit hole. Grab your coffee, and go here. Your welcome.

I have bought most of my Japanese pattern books on ETSY.

Here is a great chart for some of the basic terms translated along with some wonderful tips for reading the chart.

Japanese needles are not metric, they are a whole different thing altogether. Here are charts for the needle and hook sizes.

The measurements ARE metric. I use this conversion app for my iPhone. You can also use this site to convert the measurements.

Here is a great tutorial on reading crochet charts if you have not tried it before.

Here is another excellent tutorial series on reading Japanese patterns.

When in doubt just do what seems logical. Yes, there will be areas that you do not quite understand the pattern. Yes, you may have to rip out a few rows. Just breath. Embrace the wabi sabi. Ask questions in the Ravelry group. Trust that you will know how to proceed, regardless.

Have you tried Japanese patterns? Do you have a favorite resource? Please share it in the comments below or in the FB page. If you like this post please please please share it with your friends.

 

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5 sweaters I must knit in this lifetime

5 sweaters I must knit in this lifetime

Fall in Asheville, this year is a little bittersweet. The leaves are about to hit their peak color and the weather is just cool enough for a light sweater. If it all goes as planned, this is the last fall living in Asheville. It is such a great season to be in the mountains, but unfortunately everyone else thinks so as well. Holy cow the tourist season is full tilt right now.

Fall usually has me turning to my big knitting projects again. While I do spend an obscene amount of time painting with yarn, to make freeform, intuitively created sweaters, I do have a Ravelry queue filled with meaty, complex larger projects that I crave when a full 3 seasons of knitting time lies before me. I also love the idea of tackling a complex pattern, stretching my left brain to decipher techniques. So this week I am posting some sweater p0rn for the left brain knitters out there.

Here are my favorite Five big-ass projects from my Ravelry queue.

1. The #11 Wrap Front Pullover. Don’t you just love that sexy name (<–sarcasm alert). I only say that because it in no way describes the absolute beauty of this hoodie. I fell in love at first sight years ago when I saw this project in Vogue Knitting. I finally found the perfect yarn at my LYS a few years ago and have actually finished the back panel. I have high hopes of one day finishing this thing before it goes completely out of style.

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via Francoise

2. Dale of Norway’s 7901 Polar Bear. I covet this pattern hard. It is long out of print and hard to find for under $75.00. Well, I could get a kit for about $200, but I am not sure I want to use the Dale of Norway yarn. And chances are I would mess with the design just a bit (collar, maybe length). So, this is on the some day list…as in I get lucky finding the pattern for cheaper.

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via Acornbud 

3. The Portland Sweater. I have actually worked about 7 inches of the body in the round…that I need to rip out {{wimper}}. The gauge is right, but knit too loose for cables. I have big plans to actually make two of these. One with commercially spun yarn and one made from a tri-color finn fleece that I have been hoarding for this very sweater.

via Mårten Ivert

via Mårten Ivert

4. The Acorn Sweater. This sweater begs to be knit in an agora blend. And maybe even made with a complimentary short sleeve sweater to turn it into a classic sweater set…to be worn with pearls…to the library…so not me, but I love love love it for some reason. I do have the angora blend yarn in a dove grey ready to go.

via Doodle

via Doodle

5. Sant’Angelo. ::::Drool:::: I envision this sweater made with my loft sock yarn in something outrageous and Frida Kahlo-esc color combo.

What is on your dream sweater list? What big sweater projects doe you swear you will tackle one day? Leave me a comment below. Hey if you like this post, please share it on your favorite social media (I added some buttons below to make it easier to share)

Don’t buy yarn from me, but here is a free pattern.

Don’t buy yarn from me, but here is a free pattern.

Yep, you heard that right, I just told you to not buy my yarn. I know it sounds crazy but let me give you little backstory.

 

 

 

This year I’ve been taking Alena Hennessey’s A Year Of Painting class. On January 1, I was so excited to receive ny first lesson. A quick browse through my acrylic paints, and I realized that I had a really lousy selection of colors. A lot of cheap little containers of paints from the dollar store in colors I would’ve never picked myself had they not come in a set. But eager to sit down and work on my first painting I decided to just use what I had. And was thrilled with what I made that New Years Day. I have gone on to buy tubes of paint in colors I love, but I have to admit the first paintings were some of my favorites.

 

 

 

 

One of my favorite creative exercises is creating with found objects. I find the same principles applied on that New Year’s Day. I was forced to work with what I had on hand. I was forced to look at new color combinations, stretching my imagination with how I would combine these colors. Embracing some of those colors that I absolutely thought I hated.

I find when I use colors I hate with colors, the results are always amazing.

The contrast usually pumps up the colors I love to a new level and the colors I hate become my new favorites.

 

I know were still in the heat of summer.  Here in Asheville, in the evenings, I can feel the edges of fall in the air. I find myself drawn to my art journal sketching ideas for for beautiful new sweaters, diving into my yarn stash. Granted, I have an obscenely large yarn stash. Chances are your stash may not be as big as mine, but if you’re reading  you probably indeed have a stash.

So, here’s my challenge to you, as you are planning your fall projects, and quite possibly in the middle of knocking out your Christmas knitting.

I invite you to challenge your creativity, and use what you have in your stash.

Paint with your yarns, trying new combinations. Contrast textures, play with alternating needle sizes. Don’t be afraid to challenge your creativity. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. I dare you to rethink you personal rules of what your fiber art is. One new skein of yarn will not make the work better. You are enough.

 

Need to warm up? Here’s a really super simple stash buster scarf.

It is a super quick knit (I bet you can knock it out in one episode of Bachelor in Paradidise) to practice your yarn combinations. Also makes a great quick Christmas gift.

Using a #15 (or larger) 24 inch (or larger) circular needle, cast on 140 stitches. Knit all the rows, changing yarn as you see fit. Knit until your scarf is as wide as you want, 8 inches is a good basic width, But you may find a couple of inches smaller or larger would be best suited for you. Bind off loosely, and fringe.

Check out my stash buster shawl pattern. It’s a free download on ravelry.

 

What are you working on?

Shoot me an email, send me some pix. I love geeking out over all things yarnish, and you guys inspire me more than you know. xo

 

 

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Actually, it is totally awesome if you buy yarn from me.

How to knit a basic cowl with awesome yarn

How to knit a basic cowl with awesome yarn

One of my favorite quick knits projects is cowls. For the most part, cowls can take as little as one skein of yarn(100g/3.5 oz). They are the perfect palette to highlight a new knitting technique, or a beautifully textural art yarn. Cowls are just awesome, they can totally keep your neck snuggly warm without the cumbersome scarf ends. And it is so easy to just whip up several of these to layer with your wardrobe. Given the right simple stitch I love working this kind of mindless project at Stitch and bitch, or when I am relaxing with a glass of wine while knitting (ie…I need to not have to worry about messing up) You do not really need a pattern to get started, you can make it up as you go,. But here are just a few tips to help you get started.

UrbanGypZ’s Basic Cowl Theories

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For the most part, you will not need to work a gauge when knitting a cowl. Cowls are somewhat forgiving when it comes to sizing. You might want to knit a gauge to make sure your needle size will produce a fabric that will be drapey. You will want your cowl fabric to be soft, so if you are not sure go with the larger needle.

A good rule of thumb is do not make your cowl any smaller than the circumference of your head. You want to be sure you can fit your noggin through it.

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Knit an a super long cowl that you can wear like a scarf or double (or triple ) wrap it for a super bulky cowl (this picture is of the herringbone cowl from the purl bee. Check it out, it is a free pattern!)

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If you are using a highly textures yarn, stick with simple stitch patterns like stockinettegarter, or reverse stockinette stitch. Simple stitches will highlight the texture of your yarn better.


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If you are making a stockinette cowl, work a couple of rows of reverse stockinette stitch to keep the edges from rolling. When the edges roll, the width of the cowl becomes way shorter. You will use less yarn if you keep the edges from rolling.

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Try painting with yarn. Have some languishing yarns in the stash leftover from you favorite project? Try  making a stash buster cowl. Don’t worry if your yarns are not bulky, you can either hold two thinner yarns together, or knit them  as a single with your thick needles to make a lacy like section in your cowl.

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Another good rule of thumb, is to knit your cowl to be at least a length a little longer than your neck. Measure the distance from the bottom of you lip to the little spot at the base of your throat between your collarbones. Longer is better. Heck, knit until you run out of yarn.

Have fun, play with your yarn, and don’t be discouraged if you have to rip out your knitting to rework your cowl. The way I see it is every “mistake” is more knowledge under my belt. I get a little closer to knitting pieces that I know I will love. Do you have a cowl knitting tip to share? I would love to see it. Leave a comment below, post it along side a picture of your favorite cowl on the UrbanGypZ Facebook page.

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What I am knitting Fall 2015

What I am knitting Fall 2015

It is so freaking hot out, but I am thinking yarn thoughts regardless. Because August happens this week. That time when back to school is nearing for kiddos. New seasons always makes me think of new clothes. And I am starting to get the urge to plan out my new knitting projects with dreams of a perfect must have sweater or two.

I have to admit, I do not get on Ravelry that much.

It certainly has been a while since I spend some serious time browsing patterns and ideas. I have been living in the design your own, incorporate intuitive knitting kind of bubble.

This article was going to be some of my favorite sweaters that I found that will be a joy to knit, look great with my entire wardrobe and work with my favorite handmade yarns in the stash. After surfing the latest 64 pages of patterns, I have to say there were not very many awesome sweaters that fit the bill. Don’t get me wrong, there were some great patterns, but many were just not a style I would wear or look good in the yarn I wanted to use. GRRRR…

I found myself back in my just design your own, intuitive knitting head space.

Rather than list the handful of patterns I did find, I am going to share with you my top 3 projects to fill out my sweater wardrobe, and my plans for how to execute them.

Here is what is in my queue:

 

 

 

Lacy Boho Underslip

So two weeks ago I wrote this article about Boho crochet patterns. I am obsessed with crocheting some cute layering pieces. Last summer, I found a cute little lace edge under shirt/tunic thing. It was layered with a tunic and so the lace edge was peeking out from underneath. Over jeans it looked awesome. And of course they did not have my size. I decided I could totally make that. I am determine to do it this fall. No pattern, just my favorite over the top crochet lace edging on the bottom of a sewn longish camisole top. I think it will look good in contrast to some big bulky sweaters as well.

 

 

Remake my very favorite linen tunic.

But using some hand painted sock yarn. it is an awesome layering piece. I am literally going to measure it against the sweater I know fits me, shaping it as I go.

 

Sheep to Sweater

Okay this is something I have been trying to do for the last few years, and by gosh I am scheduling time in my calendar to do it. I have been hoarding a beautiful tricolor fin fleece for this very project. Have made a series of sample yarns to see if I like the blending and hand. And rather than find a great cabled sweater pattern, I am going to use my favorite knitting book of all time, Knitting in the Old Way, and make it up as I go. Yep I am going to dive into some ancient history of how sweaters were made decades ago and use the same methods to create my own handspun cabled sweater. This is like a bucket list kind of a project and I am determined to check this off that list.

So there you have it. My not too loft to knit list. Stay tuned. Hopefully now that I written it on the internet, I will feel accountable to following up.

What are you planning to knit this season?

Leave me a comment below or on my Facebook page.

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Check out my handprinted yarns. I love using them in my weaving.