My color journey

I have a secret. My design aesthetic tends towards quick knits, with simple details that add a lot of punch and sometimes look more difficult and involved than they actually are, like the change of direction in Mossy Bells or the colorwork in Freckles & Ruffles.

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That’s not the secret, obviously. The secret is that I have a deep longing to design an intricate stranded colorwork sweater for Lexie, with colorwork adorning the circular yoke, and maybe the hem and sleeves. Something like this or this.

One thing that has been holding me back is picking out colors. Now, I love color – the more the better (and that’s just my design stash). And I do have a colorwork design planed that uses variegated yarns. But that’s not what I wanted here. I wanted traditional style, with updated colors and nontraditional patterns. Feminine and modern, like my girl.

So I was pretty excited when Katie of Yarn Love started talking about doing a free color class on her blog. Week one of her Color Journey has been posted, and I’m diving right in.

Step one is to choose a goal. You don’t have to be designing a colorwork sweater – you can be choosing colors to knit someone else’s pattern. Doing a color study. Picking out color accessories for your living room. Katie will be taking us through her process to choose colors for a cowl via Ravelry, a Pinterest board, and her blog, where she’ll be providing feedback for those who want to learn along with her.

So, my goal is that colorwork sweater. I pulled up Google images and started searching – all I entered was the name of a color I wanted to look for, and then I went through the images that came back, sometimes refining my search (for example, I narrowed down to “lime green” and “butter yellow”). But I didn’t want to get too specific to start; I wanted to see all the options and figure out what inspired me. My current Pinterest board shows you what colors spoke to me.

I took it a step further than that; I like playing with colors and use Paint.net (a free program) to literally pull them out of images. This was the result of my first attempt:

First color combo

I’m looking forward to seeing what Katie has to say about it, and what we do next. If you’d like to follow along, I’ll continue blogging about it, but will also be working on the Pinterest board linked above, and on my Ravelry project page. Let me know if you’re taking the journey with us; I’d love to follow yours too!

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Remembering your first

Jeffrey has a baby book that I got him and put together when he was about 8 months old – it’s part “first book to read” and part “me as a baby,” with slots where I can put pictures in of him: with a favorite toy, in his stroller, having his first bath, etc. He’s 8 years old now, but still has and loves the book. Lexie loves it too, and now that she’s learning to read, she likes to practice reading it and looking at the pictures.

Which led the the natural question: “Mommy…where’s my baby book?”

Uh…that’s a good question, honey.

When Jeffrey was a baby, I took pictures of everything. I think that tends to be typical of first time parents – it seems the first child has every moment of their babyhood closely documented, whereas the second, third, etc., don’t get quite the same obsessive detailing of those months. But also, when Jeffrey was little, I did things with all the pictures I took, more than just storing them on my computer. Before Lexie came along, scrapbooking was one of my hobbies.

And then, shortly before she was born, I got interested in knitting. Which kinda took over my life.

I still took lots of picture of Lexie, I just didn’t do anything with them. So, now that Lexie wants a baby book of her own, I pulled up the folders on my computer to check for pictures I’d want to use.

I found this: Lexie’s very first handknit sweater.

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I had no idea I had a picture of that sweater. Heck, I’d completely forgotten knitting it, until I came across this. If it wasn’t the first thing I ever knit, it was one of the very first. I’d knit it from some very soft (and sparkly – there was a shiny thread that ran through it) acrylic yarn that I’d bought at my local Hobby Lobby. At the time, I wasn’t yet a member of Ravelry (Lexie was born in November 2007; I joined Ravelry on March 31, 2008) and hadn’t yet learned of those mystical places called “yarn stores.” I couldn’t remember anything about the pattern, but I did remember that I added the additional color on my own – the pattern had called for just one color but I wanted to liven it up. I guess in retrospect I was destined to design someday, if I couldn’t even knit my first projects without modifying the pattern.

I wanted to put up a project page on Ravelry for this, as I had for Jeffrey’s first sweater, but wasn’t sure where to start. The picture certainly didn’t give me many clues. But I did remember that one of my first sources of patterns was Bev’s Country Cottage. So I went back, clicked through to the baby sweaters, and the first one that caught my eye was called the 5 Rectangle Baby Sweater – I knew I’d knit that. Sure enough, when I looked, it looked just like what I could see of Lexie’s sweater, completely with the ribbon tie at the neck. It had looked like the perfect pattern for one of my first sweaters: it’s literally 5 rectangles – 1 back, 2 fronts, 2 sleeves – that you knit and seam. A few clicks in the Ravelry pattern search, and I found the pattern in the database and was able to create a project page (even though the yarn is still a mystery…)

And now, I should probably create that baby book. Derailed by knitting again…

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A new design collaboration…

…with my son.

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He of the scary shark t-shirt.

It all started with a recent weekend trip to Mt. Rainier to do a bit of hiking. This is something Steve’s been dying to do since we moved out here, but which was hard to do when he’s been deployed pretty much since we moved out here. But we got a chance to do a nice short hike recently at Hurricane Ridge and the kids loved it, so we decided to go just a bit bigger.

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Just a bit.

Ok, we weren’t hiking up Mt. Rainier, much to Lexie’s disappointment. Instead, we set out on a trail that would take us to Snow Lake. It was a nice, easy hike that took us up some hills, through forest, across a meadow – lots of variety.

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However, about halfway there, we discovered we were going right past Bench Lake…and my knees decreed it would be the better turn around point. Once we climbed down to it, at least, which was a bit precarious.

It was worth it, though.

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We walked around the edge of the lake, taking in the view, with the kids chattering away. I called them over to where I was standing and told them to try standing as still and as quietly as they could. After the inevitable questions of “Why?” they did, and eventually realized they could hear birds calling to each other, wind blowing through the trees, the water rippling against the shore…and a buzzing noise that was zooming past us and back again.

The local dragonflies (which looked a lot like these) were interested in us, and we were still and quiet enough for them to feel it was safe to approach. The kids watched in wonder as the dragonflies would zip up and then hover for a bit, looking us over, before zipping away. We quietly discussed how beautiful they were, and how wonderful their coloring was, and then it was time to hike back out.

As we were heading back to the trail, Jeffrey said, “Mom? You could design a dragonfly sweater.”

I looked over at him. “Tell you what, buddy. Why don’t we design one together?”

He was instantly intrigued by the idea, so much so that less than 24 hours later I got the first question as to when we were going to the yarn store so he could pick out his yarn. He had very decided ideas on the colors he was looking for.

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We worked on some rough sketches together as I explained the difference between stranded colorwork and intarsia (using a sample at the yarn store for demonstration purposes, much to the bemusement of all the ladies there), so as soon as we’ve got all the yarn, I’ll start working up some swatches. I know I’m excited about this.

And it’ll be a great memento of a perfect day.

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Mossy Bells

This was the yarn that told me rather emphatically what it wanted to be. “I want to be a cardigan.”

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No problem.

“I want to have cute details.”

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You got it.

“I want to be knit in 2 different directions and be done bottom up, but still seamlessly.”

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…Uh, what?

Well, if you’re wondering if I always do what the yarn tells me to do…

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Yes. Yes I do.

Mossy Bells is a departure from my usual design style – I tend towards top down and seamless, so I found this design a fun challenge. It really started with the desire to use short rows to add some interest to the hem of the cardigan, which required me to knit the bottom sideways. I experimented a bit, and the result was the bell shapes (together with the colorway I used, they give the pattern its name) that appear to be dangling from the single row of purl stitches.

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Since I was trying something I’d never done before, there was some frogging along the way. I’d get part of it done, not like it and rip it back and fix…and then a different part didn’t look right so I had to rip that back and fix it. The good news is that I was able to get exactly what I pictured in my head to come off the needles – and I can vouch for the sturdiness of the Eweneek Boo-Yah! yarn!

The only problem I foresaw with the end result was getting Lexie to model it. She’s started to branch out from her everything-must-be-pink-or-purple, preferably-both, stage, but not yet into green. I’d bought the Moss colorway because I loved the color, so I was prepared to offer great inducements for modeling. Sure enough when I first showed her the yarn, she turned her nose up and reminded me firmly that green was my favorite color, not hers. But as I got further into the knitting, Lexie started hanging around to watch from time to time, and ask, “That’s for me, right?” Once it was done, she was charmed and couldn’t wait to put it on.

Couldn’t get a better compliment than that!

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Mossy Bells is available for purchase below, or on Ravelry, Craftsy, and Patternfish.

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Freckles & Ruffles

I loved my freckles when I was a kid.

They’re still there on my arms, but when I was younger, I had a swath of them across my nose and cheeks. You had to look closely to see them in the winter, but they popped right out under the summer sun. I miss them now that they’re gone, but was delighted to look at Jeffrey one day and see that they lived on.

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While Jeffrey’s freckles weren’t the inspiration for my latest pattern, they did give me half of the pattern name – the lines of colored dots across the yoke reminded me of the strip of freckles across Jeffrey’s nose.

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Those bright spots of color also appear in ruffled splashes at hem and sleeves. This element was directly inspired by one of my children – this time by Lexie, who would be my model. She’s both a dirt-grubbing, sword-carrying tomboy and the girliest girl with a love of embellishment I’ve ever known, and ruffles were perfect for her.

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Put them together, and you get Freckles & Ruffles:

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The original inspiration for this design was a single skein of variegated yarn that I’d fallen in love with and just had to design with. There was only one skein of that colorway available, so I knew I’d have to combine it with something else, and found a couple skeins of semi-solid to go with the variegated. Then I started playing with stitch patterns and it occurred to me that a pattern like this would be the perfect one for someone who loves the colors in variegated yarns but not enough to make a whole item with one, or for the knitter who has single skeins of colorful yarn and no idea what to do with them.

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Originally, the pattern was going to be published by a yarn company, but there were publication issues and the rights were returned to me. Unfortunately, that meant I didn’t have a working sample for photography – which is when Sarah of Oh!Loops offered yarn support. I’ll be honest, I was a little giddy at my first unsolicited offer of yarn support, more so when I started going through their store to find the perfect colorways. I selected some of their 2-ply Merino High Twist Sock in a purple semi-solid and a yellow/green/blue variegated called Junebug.

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I already had a different design on the needles when I got the rights back to this one; as soon as I finished that one, I began knitting away with my new yarn. About a week and a half later, I was done.

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The shirt is knit top down, starting with a circular yoke. Bands of colorwork (which are not nearly as involved as they might look, as they’re done with slipped stitches and increases) alternate with plain rows down to the body, where a colorwork “belt” gives the impression of an empire waist. A colorful flirty ruffle is added at the end, which is echoed on each sleeve with ruffles shaped using short rows. Best of all, once you’ve bound off the last stitch and woven in the last end, all you need to do is block – it’s seamless. There are schematics and additional pictures included at the end of the pattern, so you can choose whether to print them or not.

Freckles & Ruffles is available for sale on Ravelry, Craftsy (Patternfish publication pending), and Patternfish. I hope you love it as much as Lexie and I do!

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Photos taken at Anna Smith Children’s Park in Bremerton, WA.

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