29 April 2015

Slow Fashion: A Rant #slowfashion

I was going to tell you about another one of the Unicorn Tapestries, vol. one patterns today, but you are going to have to wait on that because I have to rant. I will return to our regularly scheduled programming with a quick + purly on Friday (any category requests?) and more pattern info next week.

If we are friends on Facebook, you may have already seen some ranting from me inspired by the hilarious and sadly-all-too-true story John Oliver aired Sunday night (go, watch it, it's very good - I'll wait).

 My rant-y highlights include:
The thing is that we are all paying a LOT for those lower prices. Skilled workers can't get jobs and have to go on unemployment and welfare. Then they can only afford "cheap" clothes and food (don't get me started on cheap food) that put small companies out of business.
I am as guilty as anyone of buying cheap clothes, especially for my kids, since I am in no position to buy $500 Burberry dresses for them. (And let's not even get into the fact that those ridiculously-priced dresses are ALSO made overseas because the diffusion and kids' lines of Big Name designers are the parts of the lines that support the high-end stuff that might actually be well-crafted. Oops, kind of just did get into it.)

But stop and think about it: People who don't have jobs still have to wear clothes, but they can't afford to buy Made in America, even if they could find it. Because everyone wants cheap clothes, even the people who don't need them. Except more people need them because they can't find jobs they are qualified for. Every single major retailer constantly pushes down on their supply chain to make things cheaper, so that WalMart and Target and Amazon can sell you lots of stuff for very little money (a dress for $5?!). Because America has been edumacated to want cheap stuff and lots of it. Because quantity now trumps quality. Because you're nobody unless you have ALL the stuff.
And all the people who feel they need a new outfit every week so they can be "in". And all that trickles down in the worst possible way to poorer countries where the work force is disproportionately made up of women and children making clothes they can't afford to buy out of cheap, disgusting fabric that will shortly fill our dumps. Crap.
Why isn't this a bigger deal? We've gone from 50% of our clothes being made here in America (many of them in the Fashion District I so adore here in Manhattan) to 2%. Two percent!?!

I am a #slowfashion queen - creating one of my designs can take weeks (sometimes even longer). And I wear all my work. But not everyone can (or even wishes to) do that. Knitting (and crocheting and spinning and dying and weaving) and sewing have become rarified arts. Most people don't even know how to sew on a button. Because we can pay someone a pittance at the dry cleaners to do it. Or we throw that thing out (or donate it, which creates its own set of issues, I'm sorry to say) and go buy another cheaply-made-because-it-has-to-be shmatte to fill that gaping maw of desire.

I'm not saying that knitting yourself a sweater will solve the world's problems, but I do think pausing a moment to reflect on where your clothes come from is a good thing. We all wear clothes. Every day. Ask yourself why you need 50 pairs of jeans or 72 cheap t-shirts or 100 pairs of shoes of questionable quality and durability. Does it make you a better person? Are you more important that way? The one who dies with the most stuff does NOT win. They just leave more stuff to be dealt with (ask me how I know).

Of course, the other side of the coin is that it is increasingly difficult to find well-made clothes. Period. Even mid-level brands put more and more money into sales and marketing than production. Know why cropped trousers are such the thing? Because they seem like there is more design/thought in them, they can charge more money, even though you are getting less fabric (with my long legs, I'm always in danger of wearing too-short trousers so am hyper-aware of this cheap, annoying trick).

And that "silky" blouse that Kathie Lee fingers in John Oliver's piece? Ooh, a silk-poly blend that feels like silk. Stuff and nonsense. Silk is silk. And extruded petroleum-based fibers are not. Don't try to pull the wool over my eyes. Or the poly blend.

When I got divorced, I had to leave most of my stuff behind. And it made me realize that most of it was unnecessary. And after the divorce I had almost no money. Whatever there was went for necessities, and seven identical t-shirts are not necessary. I am grateful to have an improved perspective on all my stuff, and I still have plenty of it (I'm SO far from perfect). But we shouldn't all need a crappy life situation to open our eyes.

Clearly, I don't have the answers. But we do need to be asking the questions and thinking about what we are doing, not just to our over-stuffed closets, but to the world and her people.

Thanks for stopping by, and happy knitting!
xoxo, Kathleen
P.S. Let me know what you think in the comments, my dears.

27 April 2015

New pattern: Thistle Leaf Pullover

Thistle Leaf Pullover

Thistle Leaf Pullover $7 on Ravelry (no account required)

Are you looking for a Springtime project? How about a Thistle Leaf Pullover? With a pretty lace body and stockinette sleeves, it's a lovely project in fingering-weight yarn to wear almost any time of year. My testers (and their friends) all went crazy for this one, and I must confess that when I wear it, I feel like a million bucks!

What you'll love about knitting your Thistle Leaf Pullover:
  • worked in the round - always having the right side facing you makes it easier to see where you are in the pattern and means hardly any finishing work (weave the underarms together, darn in your ends, and you're all set)
  • body is worked without shaping (no increasing or decreasing in lace - whew!) - put the stretchy quality of lace to work for you and your curves
  • sleeves are worked straight from the elbow - no shaping, just knit around and around (and if you decide to make the sleeves longer, do the same and you'll have pretty flared sleeves with no more work)
  • my three-motif-wide chart of Thistle Leaf Lace can be used to mark off your raglan decreases for the yoke - since I don't know where you will be in the lace pattern, I can't provide a definitive chart for the raglan decreases, but you can do it! Feel free to ask me for help - my contact information is on the pattern - or check in with fellow knitters in the forum.
  • lace pattern is provided in both chart and written formats - I know that not everyone can read a chart (some folks just can't process visual information like that) and others cannot make their way through written instructions - use what works for you
  • somewhere between two and four skeins of sock yarn will give you a pullover to wear almost any time of year (with a t-shirt underneath, I wore mine on all but the coldest days this Winter, and layered with a tank or camisole you're ready for Spring or Fall, maybe even Summer depending upon your weather

And what you'll love about wearing your Thistle Leaf Pullover:
  • the curvy hem from beginning the lace pattern right away
  • crisp, turned-hem cuffs on your sleeves - turned hems are a great way to deal with the curling nature of stockinette
  • how the lace follows and flatters your curves, even though you didn't have to mess with shaping in lace
  • the raglan lines, where the stockinette sleeves meet the lace body, drawing attention up to your beautiful face
  • the delicate rolled neckline which doesn't distract from the lace and puts that stockinette curl to use

Size/Finished Measurements 
Women’s XS {S, M, L, 1X, 2X, 3X} (shown in size M with 4 inches negative ease)
Chest circumference: 28 {32, 36, 40, 44, 48, 52} inches/71.1 {81.3, 91.4, 101.6, 111.8, 121.9, 132.1} cm

madelinetosh tosh sock (100% Merino; 395 yds/361 m per 3.53oz/100g); color: Ms. Taylor; 2 {2, 2, 3, 3, 3, 4} skeins {approx. 575 (680, 790, 930, 1050, 1170, 1290) yds}
US6/4.0 mm 29-inch circular needle
Set of US6/4.0 mm double-pointed needles (DPNs)
Waste yarn
Stitch markers
Removable stitch markers
Tapestry needle

20 stitches x 28 rounds = 4”/10 cm in Stockinette Stitch

Skills Needed 
Casting on
Binding off
Working from charted or written instructions

Technical Editing: Rachel Brown
Test Knitting: BillS25, frankiepaige, jessicakunttu, jgeorgieff07, puddinknits

Pattern is provided in both charted and written formats professionally formatted (by me!) to ensure you have everything you need to create your own beautiful Thistle Leaf Pullover.

Thistle Leaf Pullover is part of a bundle of four patterns inspired by The Unicorn Tapestries at The Cloisters in New York City. Inspiration for this design came from the magnificent tapestry known as The Unicorn in Captivity, where the Unicorn lounges amidst mille-fleurs, including a single white thistle just in front of the right side of his fence.

I hope you enjoy this pattern! There are two more new patterns and one re-release to share with you this week, so stay tuned :)

Thanks for stopping by, and happy knitting!
xoxo, Kathleen

24 April 2015

quick + purly: 5 men's vests

There are lots of knitting patterns for us ladies (and I'm doing my part to bring more of them into the world - more on that next week), but there's good stuff out there for the gentlemen, too, if you know where to look.

Today I found five handsome colorwork vests that any man would be proud to wear. I have yet to steek anything I've knit, but these might tempt me over to (eek) cutting my knitting. What do you think?

  1. Abbey Mill Farm Vest by Anne Podlesak (Wooly Wonka) $5.50 USD (looks like Interweave is having a sale at the moment, so this pattern is currently available for $3.85!) 
    I love Anne's pattern and color choices!
  2. Eastlake - Revisited by Varian Brandon $8 USD 
    Varian TOTALLY knows what she's doing!
  3. Wartime Farm Sleeveless Pullover by Susan Crawford £6 (GBP) 
    TV show-inspired, comes in ALL the sizes...
  4. Windsor Waistcoat by Lorraine Condotta $9 (USD) 
    Isn't this an eye-catching pattern/color combo?
  5. Kelebek by Elizabeth Morrison $6 (USD) 
    I'm entranced by the color pattern!
All images from the patterns' Ravelry pages. No copyright infringement intended - I just want to share the love!

There were a few more stranded vest patterns (including some beauties for the ladies) but not nearly as many as I would expect. Do you have a favorite to share? Even more importantly, do you have any advice on working stranded patterns like this and then steeking them? Let me know in the comments.

Thanks for stopping by, and happy knitting!
xoxo, Kathleen

22 April 2015

Video: 2tLTCO

How do you cast on when you have lots of stitches? Do you find yourself running out of yarn before you've cast on enough? Or do you end up with a long-long-long tail of yarn, when you only have that one precious skein? Me, too! Well, "me, too" before I unvented* the Two-Tail Long-Tail Cast-on (2tLTCO, for short).

2tLTCO is excellent because:

  • you won't run out of yarn
  • your yarn tail won't be too long
  • you won't have to measure or guess how much yarn you will need
  • when blending two skeins of yarn (hand-dyes, especially), you'll be ready to start alternating skeins right away

Next time you're casting on more than a handful of stitches, give this one a try, and let me know what you think in the comments below.

Thanks for stopping by, and happy knitting!

*Mother of modern knitting, Elizabeth Zimmermann, used the term "unvented" quite often as she turned her brilliant engineering brain to the wonders of knitting. There is no way I invented the 2tLTCO, but I have not seen it mentioned in any of the usual places. It grew out of the provisional LTCO that I like to use: Why not use the sameyarn for both strands of the cast-on? Ta-da! Ooh, I just realized it would be great for single-row stripes, too.

P.S. I shared this video with newsletter subscribers last week. Subscribe to the weekly newsletter and get the good stuff first.

21 April 2015

FO-tastic: Sotherton

Sotherton is a favorite of mine because it really shows what a knit can do for your figure. There are many lovely examples on Ravelry - here's a small sample of what beauties people have created...

lanismom looks lovely in hers - she used short rows to create a neckline that she preferred to the original boatneck.

AnnemarieErbel's version is so delicate, perhaps thanks to her color choice. Super-flattering.

Not only did ucagranduca make a lovely short-sleeved version, but she had a charming photo shoot complete with blooming roses.

How gorgeous is sewfancy in hers? And the addition of colorway-matching flowers takes these pictures to the next level.

In case you can't tell from her RavID, mandyandbingley is a serious Janeite. And her Sotherton is seriously flattering - love the extra-long sleeves.

All images from the projects' Ravelry pages. No copyright infringement intended - just want to share the love and appreciation!

In case you want to check out the rest of the fabulous Sothertons in existence:

Thanks for stopping by, and happy knitting!
xoxo, Kathleen
P.S. Have a finished object (FO) you'd like to share? Let me know in the comments (just click on that little pencil right down there) or by sending me a message on Ravelry.

17 April 2015

quick + purly: 5 cowls

Spring spring springspring SPRING! Now that the weather is improving, I'm starting to look for portable projects that I can work on outside. Cowls (a.k.a. circular scarves) seem like a great option:

  • worked in the round = less likely to lose a DPN
  • one skein of yarn = squeeze it into a bag
  • repetitive pattern = easy to remember
Circular scarves continue to be part of the uniform for so many people, at least here in NYC. They add a touch of flair to your outfit and make temperature fluctuations (inside and out) more bearable.

  1. Appia by Hilary Smith Callis $5 USD 
  2. loggia by Asa Tricosa €4 
  3. Dandelion Days by Chrissy Prange $4 USD 
  4. Jemma Cowl by Carolyn Kern $4 USD 
  5. Apollo and Daphne Cowl by Katie Carmack $4 USD 
All images from the patterns' Ravelry pages. No copyright infringement intended - I just want to share the love!

Do you have a favorite cowl I missed? There are so many pretties! Oftentimes I wear a wide-triangle shawl bandit-style around my neck, but the cowl has one significant advantage: no ends to wrestle with.

Thanks for stopping by, and happy knitting!
xoxo, Kathleen

15 April 2015

Mother's Day ideas: Upon the Spanish Main

Are you planning to knit something special for Mother's Day? How about Upon the Spanish Main - a pretty, wide-triangle shawl with a deep lace border (charted and written versions included). You will only need one skein of sock yarn (maybe that special one? the one with some cashmere and/or silk? you know the one) to create your own version of this lacy beauty.

Upon the Spanish Main is worked from the top-center out. The deep border of Spanish Lace (often called Frost Flowers) is worked on both sides, but the pattern is easier to master than you might think. I was intimidated by this one for years, but once I started working it, I realized that it made a lot of sense and the rows flowed from one to the next with only one big change when you switched from the leafy part to the openwork part. I promise that you can knit this one! I've even charted and written it out, so you've now run out of excuses. Go get that special yarn and get knitting ;)

Thanks for stopping by, and happy knitting!
xoxo, Kathleen

P.S. Looking for something not-so-lacy? Find more shawls here.

13 April 2015

Meet me in the Forum

Are you on Ravelry? My RavID is Purly - go ahead and "friend" me. (Do you ever marvel over the effect the internet has had on the English language? "Email" and "friend" are verbs, "like" is a noun...)

I have a forum over there, too, which is a great place to chat. Come say "hello", meet other knitters, and have fun. Some of us are knitting-along on the Kellynch Cardigan, and test-knits are wrapping up for some patterns I'm very excited to share with you later this month.

Now that two weeks of Spring Break plus having Good Friday off is behind me (I love my kids, but it is hard to focus on knitting work when they are home), I could use some interaction with other adults. Come tell me what you're working on or share a yarn you've fallen for (I'm always looking for new yarns to work with).

Happy knitting!

P.S. With all the friend-ing and like-ing, don't forget to sign up for my newsletter. I share exciting announcements with you there first.

10 April 2015

quick + purly: 5 pullovers

Are you still in the mood for lace but looking for something a little quicker? Perhaps a worsted weight pullover with a smidge of lace would fit the bill.
  1. Levina by Laura Chau $7 CAD 
    pretty and flattering use of Ostrich Plumes
  2. Indian ocean pullover by Ayako Monier $6.50 USD 
    streamlined use of lace
  3. Tracery by Norah Gaughan $6 USD 
    simple lace produces an intriguing sweater
  4. Peabody by Leila Raabe $6 USD 
    just the right amount of interesting lace
  5. Mailin by Isabell Kraemer €5.30 EUR
    simple lace for a cozy knit
All images from the patterns' Ravelry pages. No copyright infringement intended - I just want to share the love!

Once a week I share five patterns that have caught my eye. If there is a category you'd like me to explore, let me know in the comments.

Thanks for stopping by, and happy knitting!
xoxo, Kathleen

08 April 2015

Two sticks and some string | TEDxYouth@TheSchool

Last Fall I spoke at TEDxYouth@TheSchool about knitting (what else?) and creativity. While it was live-streamed, I hadn't tracked down the archived video until now...

How do you think about knitting? Let me know in the comments.

Thanks for stopping by, and happy knitting!

xoxo, Kathleen

06 April 2015

Easter Egg Yarn Dying - DIY

As a knitter, how do you choose your yarn?

I am drawn to its fiber, its twist, its weight. But the first pull is always its color. The first yarn I ever fell for was kettle-dyed Manos del Uruguay, and I always fall for beautiful hand-dyed yarn over the uniformity of yarns dyed in the wool. (That said, there are times where a uniformly-dyed yarn brings out the best in a design.)

My Kids Knit-ters tried their hands at dying yarn after Easter last year, when buying Easter Egg kits was pleasantly thrifty (even at full-price the PAAS tablet kits are quite inexpensive). We created single-color mini skeins in an approximation of kettle-dying. I gleaned this approach from lots of Pinterest browsing and some make-do use of my kitchen supplies (we have gone through a lot of Bonne Maman Raspberry preserves over the years, and I always save the jars for storing buttons or vinaigrette).

  • undyed wool (Lion Brand Fisherman's Wool, which comes in half-pound skeins)
  • crochet cotton (or other waste yarn) for tying skeins to prevent tangles
  • PAAS Easter Egg dying kit (the big one with nine tabs, IIRC)
  • microwave-safe glass jars
  • white vinegar to lower the pH of water
  • water
  • spoons
  • oven mitts
  • oil cloth (to protect table)
  • large stainless steel bowl (or sink)
  • colander
  • microwave
  • hanging rack

  1. Wind up undyed wool into mini skeins that will fit in your jars (in our case each mini skein was about 1oz, so eight minis per original skein)
    mini skeins tied to prevent tangling and twisted up
  2. Prep skeins by soaking in tepid water with some vinegar (3:1 water to vinegar) in bowl or sink for at least 30 minutes and up to two hours 
    a good soak with acidulated water
  3. Prep dye jars by placing one tab* in each jar and following directions on box for adding vinegar (or not, depending on tab), then add water to dilute dye being careful to leave room in jar for yarn 
    dissolving the tabs in water or vinegar

    follow package directions on what to dissolve tabs in
  4. Drain yarn in colander and squeeze out excess water
  5. Submerge skeins in dye jars, stirring to make sure dye is dispersed throughout (alternatively, if your lids are secure, cover and shake jars gently) 
    gently stirring the dye into the yarn
  6. Remove lids if used and place jars in microwave for one minute on full power, then let rest for one minute; repeat three more times
  7. With oven mitts carefully remove jars from microwave and allow to cool - water should be clear, since the dye has been absorbed into the yarn 
    clear water = exhausted dye bath

    nine pretties with clear water
  8. Soak cooled skeins in bowl or sink full of water to remove vinegar smell and any loose dye (optional: add a little wool wash to the water) 
    a final soak and rinse to make sure everything is clean
  9. Drain yarn in colander and squeeze out excess water
  10. Hang skeins to dry from rack 
    IKEA octopus helps with skein drying

    a bottom-up view of drying skeins
  11. Enjoy your colorful mini skeins 
    a pile of wool pretty enough to eat

*I found it difficult to determine which tab was which color in tab form, so I made a little grid of the tabs (and numbered our jars using a wax pencil), then did dip tests with strips of paper towel. You can see the wound-up skeins arranged in the grid in the last photo.

tabs in grid - which one will give which shade?

dip tests in grid - who knew that orange-y tab was apple green?

final skeins in grid - so much color!

As you can see from our finished skeins, gentle stirring makes for a more uniform yarn (in this instance, the yellow and green, especially). We also found that the purple (made up, of course, of red and blue dyes) tended to split if not stirred thoroughly. We rather liked the final effect of letting it sit.

This year I'm thinking we will try hand-dying skeins rather than kettle-dying, so after picking up a bunch of PAAS kits today, I'm going to ponder the best (read: cleanest) way to apply the dyes to sections of a skein.

Have you experimented with dye? It was lots of fun! Why not hop out and grab a dye pack today? They're probably on sale. If you do, be sure to let me know in the comments.

Thanks for stopping by, and happy knitting!
xoxo, Kathleen

03 April 2015

quick + purly: 5 triangle shawls

Spring! Spring. Come on, Spring. What better way to keep warm than a pretty triangle shawl? We are finally getting to those days where it is heavenly in the sunshine, but it can still be chilly in the shade. And for that I love a little shawl, preferably lacy. In an attempt to narrow things down, the focus is on top-down, lace triangle shawls using just one skein of fingering weight yarn. I waded through eight pages of gorgeousness this week to find some treasures for you. Enjoy!

  1. Mercury in Retrogade by Deborah Frank $6 USD 
    We Virgos need this shawl to protect us
    when Mercury goes retrograde

  2. Woodland Spring Shawl by Christina Wall $4 USD 
    Love the story of Christina's motif choices

  3. Vestland Shawl by Anne-Lise Maigaard k4.50.00 SEK (approx. $5.94 USD) 
    Spectacular and unusual lace motifs

  4. Sunray Shawl by Henna Markkanen $4 USD 
    Reversible and a perfect combo of geometric and organic motifs

  5. East Gable Shawl by Judy Marples $6 USD 
    There is something beautifully verdant about this lace
I have designed a number of triangle shawls, and my Springtime favorite is Upon the Spanish Main $7USD
Love this lace motif

All images from the patterns' Ravelry pages. No copyright infringement intended - I just want to share the love!

I hope Spring is springing where you are. Do you have a favorite triangle shawl I missed? Let me know in the comments.

Thanks for stopping by, and happy knitting!
xoxo, Kathleen