Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Final Installment

The journey's over! Or it's just begun depending on your point of view. Mom completed her very first knitting project, which was nothing other than a shawl. Pretty ambitious and daring for a first project huh? She did a really really good job, as you can see in the photo. Below the photo is what Mom had to say about the final stage in her project.

Anyone who followed my earlier posts knows I was knitting a shawl -- my very first shawl AND my very first knitting project. I said I would have it done by the end of October and I am happy to report I met my deadline. After all the initial excitement, I kind of fell behind in reporting how I was faring, though, mostly because of Hurricane Sandy. We didn't have any major damage at our house -- we were very lucky -- but we did have a few large trees come down and lots of branches and twigs, all of which needed to be chopped and bundled and dragged down to the street for pick up. No sooner had we cleared it all up then Winter Storm Athena (since when do they name Nor' Easters??) decided to come roaring into town. The rain and wind was almost as bad as the hurricane, and at times actually seemed worse. Opportunities for photographing the shawl were slim with everything else that needed getting done, so my shawl sat on the rocking chair where I could exclaim "Aren't you proud of me?" quite loudly several times a day to anyone within earshot. I tried the shawl on everyone (except the cat, but including my husband) and admired my handiwork. I milked the compliments as much as I could because, well, I'm pretty darn proud of myself. I always thought knitting was sort of impossible to learn. Kind of like trying to learn a foreign language (at least for me). It was some mysterious thing that made my eyes glaze over whenever Erica tried to explain it before. I'm not sure why it sunk in this time, but I sure know my knit and purl stitches now. How amazing is that? Anyway, the shawl was actually finished in mid-October, after which Erica kindly took it home and blocked it for me making it nice and even and oh so pretty. While she was blocking it, I looked through a bunch of my crochet books for an edging. I crocheted the edging on and was completely done with the shawl a few days before the hurricane. Then things got a little crazy for a bit. But today was absolutely gorgeous and I was determined to get Rick to take my picture. Had Erica been around she would have had me changing my clothes and brushing my hair, making a big to-do of this very important moment. Rick was more into getting a good shot of the shawl and didn't notice my outift or disheveled hair. After 33 years of marriage I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not. Does it mean he loves me no matter how I look, or that he ignores me? Hmmm . . . anyway, I suppose I should be happy I've lost twenty pounds -- another amazing feat I can't believe I accomplished! -- but I looked quite ridiculous. I looked, gasp, like Dopey. But here I am, wearing my very own mystery shawl. Too bad you can't see my happy grin, but know it's there. I've already gotten another skein of yarn from Erica (I think it was Zombies Ate Barbie, love the name) and am happily in the beginning stages of knitting a cowl. I also didn't return her Knit Picks circular needles. I may hold them permanently hostage. Well, off to knit a few rows!!

Friday, November 9, 2012

A Hobbit's Journey: A Knitting Collection

So who's excited for the hobbit movie that's coming out in just a few weeks? Me! The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings have been among my favorite stories since my mom first read me LoTR when I was probably about 8 years old. When I was 9 I read The Hobbit to myself for the first time. Since those days I've read both books and listened to the audiobooks numerous times, I can't even remember how many. It has been a few years (maybe 3) since the last time I listened to either on audio book (ever since I learned how to knit it's been all audiobooks for me). I'm super excited to see the Hobbit and see how wonderful and magical it's all made to look. I know it's inevitable that the story will be changed a bit (hopefully not too much...) to suit the movie screen. For this reason I've been fighting the urge to listen the the audiobook until after I watch the movie. I figure this way I won't have the correct story stuck fresh in my head and it will minimize the agony of some details being changed or eliminated.

All that introduction was to say that I decided to release a knitting collection with The Hobbit as my theme. I have to thank my wonderful fan/customer/online friend Taru for getting this notion stuck in my head. She wrote me an email saying how she was knitting one of my shawl designs and her husband said it looked like dragonscales, so she was calling it "Smaug". Then there was a discussion about my Blood Orange colorway being a perfect Smaug colorway. That was it. Something had to be done about this despite everything else on my to-do list. And so A Hobbit's Journey was born.

I'll be releasing one pattern a week until they're all out. It will start next Friday, November 16. You'll be able to purchase each design as it comes out, or buy the whole collection as a kind of "mystery collection" and receive each pattern as it's available. It will be all accessories and will consist of items like cowls, hats, mitts, and shawls. Nothing will call for more than 2 skeins of yarn.

One of the first designs in the collection will be a shawl. I'm contemplating turning it into a quick little mystery KAL. What do you think? I figured 3 parts to be released on November 23, 30, and December 7. This way you could be done with it in time to wear to the movie! The design takes one skein of Aria (438 yards fingering weight). I'd love to be able to offer kits with yarn and pattern like I did for Fantasia, but the start date is way to close, so there's not enough time for me to take orders, get the yarn, dye it, and ship it before we'd be casting on. Anything in the shop that's already dyed would get to you in time though (assuming you're in the US, international is always iffy).

I thought about starting a mystery KAL on the movie release date, but that means it will fall right across Christmas. That would be fine with me, but I figured other folks might be too busy. Then there's always the option of making the last design a MKAL and having it begin right after Christmas. (Then you could not-so-subtly drop hints that you'd really like a KAL kit for Christmas.) So how about 2 KALs? One as pattern only and another as a kit? (Purchasing the entire collection next week when I offer preorders will get you all the included shawl patterns that may potentially be KALs) So much to think about! If you have any thoughts I'd love to hear!

Sunday, November 4, 2012


Ionian modeled by dad, Rick Jackofsky

The Ionian beanie pattern was released on Friday, November 2. I designed this one last year, but held it in my queue to be released this Fall. Eventually it will be part of the In The Mode collection along with Dorian and Lydian. I'm not making any projections as to when that collection will be ready in full. However, at some point there will be 7 hats named after 7 musical modes.

Ionian is worked in worsted weight yarn. I used Karabella Aurora 8. A smooth solid color is a must for this design otherwise the cables will disappear into the yarn. The pattern provides written and charted instructions. No mater which set of directions you choose to follow I always suggest taking a look at both before you begin. Sometimes you may be surprised to find that even though you generally prefer one type of instruction there will be a part that makes more sense to you the other way. A read through before casting on never hurts!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Vail Yarn Review

Vail shown in Charcoal (Left) & Parchment (right)
Rating: ***** (5 out of 5 stars)
Classic Elite Yarns Vail
Content: 70% baby alpaca / 30% bamboo viscose
Weight: Fingering
Yardage: 236 yards
Grams: 50 grams
Care: Hand wash cold / Dry flat

Knitting Gauge: 6.75 sts = 1”
Recommended Needle Size: 3 / 3.25mm

Number of Colors: 8 naturally undyed colors
Price: $9.95 per skein

Purchase Online: Classic Elite Yarns

Manufacturers Description: "Like its namesake, Vail is pure luxury; unlike its namesake, it won’t cost you a fortune! A light fingering designed to be used for garments and accessories, Vail is 70% baby alpaca and 30% bamboo viscose. The bamboo gives it the most delicate luster and drape, while the alpaca contributes an ethereal softness."

My Thoughts
My first thought when I opened the package was, wow, this stuff is gorgeous! Then I took it out of the bag and touched it. And pet it. And then held it to my face and considered never putting it down. It's been a while since I stumbled across a yarn that made me this happy. 

Knitting with Vail yarn is like knitting with butter. It's so soft and just glides through your hands.

This yarn does have a fine halo from the alpaca fiber that will slightly blur your stitches. If you're looking for something that produces a crisp look then this isn't the yarn to pick. However, for dreamy looking lace you've hit the jackpot. It also makes stockinette look amazingly elegant. 

The bamboo content gives the yarn a faint sheen. Not too much. I've seen merino/bamboo blends that also have 30% bamboo that shine a lot more. I think the fine halo of the alpaca fiber helps tone it down. 

Vail is beautiful in its naturalness. According to the label it's undyed fiber. Instead of having a rustic, fresh off the farm look that some natural colored yarns can have, Vail is elegant and soft. An understated beauty.

Because of Vail's fiber content (alpaca and bamboo) the yarn doesn't really have any natural stretch to speak of. It will drape wonderfully across your shoulders for a shawl, cowl, or scarf, but I'm not sure I would ever use it for a garment, hat, or anything that needed to retain it's exact shape and size. Alpaca is notorious for stretching out over time.

Jack O'Lantern

My Great Pumpkin
We were kinda late in getting our pumpkins carved, but Chris and I finally sat down and did it Halloween afternoon. It was definitely by far the most intricate pumpkin I've ever carved. Ever. And it took 2.5 hours from start to finish. I was a little nervous that I'd knock part of the pumpkin out while I was carving and ruin the design. Now that's it's over, and I didn't screw up too bad, I'm looking forward to choosing a design for next year.

Chris's Pumpkin