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The Force Cowl

“Use the Force, Tanis.”

Ok, maybe that’s not exactly what they said in the films, but I may or may not mutter that to myself when trying to open difficult jar lids, lifting something heavy, prepping for a speaking gig or starting a new book. It’s one of those all-encompassing phrases that any Star Wars nut should have as part of their everyday language.

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I won’t go into how much I love Star Wars again (if you read this previous post from Force Friday you know that already), or how when we were talking about baby names 5 years ago before we knew if we were having a boy or a girl Leia was definitely on the list, or how I have lengthy discussions with other kids when I take my son to the playground about which movie, character or droid is the best one, but know that Star Wars and I go together like unicorns and sparkles. An ideal combination.

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I’m giddy to introduce the second installment of the TanisKnits Star Wars themed pattern trilogy, The Force Cowl. I’ve been wearing this little bit of fandom around my neck for a couple of weeks and it makes me downright gleeful when another Star Wars fan gives me the silent nod of acknowledgment, like we’re in the super secret awesome knitting club for knitting Star Wars groupies. Fair Isle, Star Wars, knitting and great yarn? Show me the way and I’m never coming back.

Knit in the round with corrugated ribbing and worked in the traditional stranded colorwork technique, this cowl will make you feel extra omegaAxl (see the Wookipedia if you don’t know what that means). I love Tanis Fiber Arts (shout out to my fellow Tanis up in Canada – no we are not the same person) Yellow Label DK yarn, a delightful, hand dyed, squishy 100% superwash. Knit on US 6s, I found this pattern addicting because I wanted to keep knitting the letters until I had a full line of text! With the classic “May the Force be with you, always” phrase looping around your neck, this is an easy way to show which side of the Alliance you fall on.

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Designed for fellow addicts fans, I hope you enjoy knitting this up as much as I did!

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Stay tuned for the final installment of the TanisKnits Star Wars pattern trilogy coming in November and remember, may the Force be with you, always.

Download The Force Cowl here.

 

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KAL Countdown

Knitting is a very solitary act, yet we knitters often find ourselves in groups, happily knitting away on our individual project, all working different techniques in different yarns and talking about different things. I love this about crafting – quilting circles, knitting groups, photography clubs – you name it – some things are just more fun when you’re in a group.

new_logoWith the spirit of working together, I’m happy to announce a project I’ve been working on with String Yarns in New York City… Over the course of a year, I’ll be designing six projects and hosting a virtual Knit-A-Long (KAL) in their Ravelry Group for each one. I love teaching and you’ll find me a few nights a week at my LYS, happily spreading the knitting word and continuing on my quest to help everyone become the knitter they wish to be. While I go off and teach retreats in other cities and countries, I also enjoy virtual KALs because they bring knitters together from all over. Virtual KALs break down all sorts of barriers – it doesn’t matter where you live or what language you speak – at the end of the day, we’re all knitters who love our craft, coming together to knit the same project as a group. There’s strength in numbers!

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Commencing November 10th, then every-other-month following that, I’ll introduce a new project exclusively for String Yarns. Up first is the Charles Wristers, cabled fingerless mitts knit in the luxurious 100% cashmere String Classica from String Yarns. Over the course of a month we’ll learn how maneuver our way on DPNs, work mirror-imaged cables, how to fix a cable that perhaps got crossed the wrong way, how to do a gusset, get comfortable reading cable charts and at the end, we’ll have a beautiful pair of cashmere mitts (it’s up to you whether you’ll be keeping them for yourself or gifting them, but my vote is to do both!). I’ll be there every step of the way posting tutorials, photos, offering support, tips, tricks, knitting along with you and leading us on our first ever String KAL event!

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This first pattern will be available on Ravelry for anyone who wants to join our KAL, with subsequent KAL patterns available through String Yarns. Kits are available on String’s website here with dozens of color options and another option to add needles to make a complete kit (a nice stocking stuffer, no?). Use the online code NovKAL15 for the kits and receive a 15% off discount! If you’re local to NYC, pop by the shop (see hours and address here) and pick out a kit in person and get the pattern through the store (discount also applies to the kit in the shop).

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Grab your cashmere, get your pattern ready and get yourself organized for November 10th in the String Yarns Ravelry Group. I’m excited to be at the helm of six great KALs hosted by String Yarns. Join me, won’t you? Let’s get our cashmere on!

Enver Baby Blanket

Late August found us in the mountains of northern New Hampshire, enjoying one last hurrah before the close of summer.

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One of our favorite walks in the woods is Diana’s Baths, a place my parents took my brother and I a lot as children. My brother Patrick and I would run through the woods and suddenly the treeline would open up and we’d be surrounded by beautiful waterfalls. Some of the pools were deep enough to swim in and although the mountain water was freezing, we’d swim until our lips were blue then come back out for a picnic lunch. Over the years Diana’s Baths have become more commercial with paved paths, hand rails and an actual parking lot and while it’s certainly gotten much busier and less rustic, these additions have made it more accessible to those who may not have been able to enjoy it before.

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While my husband, son and I enjoyed a final stroll through the woods to get to the Baths, I tucked a knitting project I had just finished in my backpack along with my camera in case I got a chance to shoot. With the boys occupied with throwing small stones in the pools and watching for bugs, I waded out into the water to shoot my latest design, the Enver Baby Blanket.

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getting the perfect shot

Enver appeals to the quilter in me… A patchwork-style blanket that can be made with as few as 24 blocks like the one shown for a baby blanket, or as many as it takes to create a full-sized throw, this is a pattern that is designed to be knit on-the-go. Knit a square on your commute home on the train, knit a square while you are watching the game on TV or knit another square while you’re hanging out with your knitting group. The squares are small and meant to be easy to tuck in your bag to grab a row here or there. I’m on a small project kick lately because the holidays are coming up and will be here before you know it!

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The real fun begins when your squares are complete! Lay them out the way I have to create a diamond pattern with the garter ridges, or randomly place them as you wish. If you’ve ever made a simple patchwork-style quilt, the magic happens when you’ve done all the cutting and it’s finally time to decide how the squares will play off one another. Once you have your layout down, seam them up, add the attached border and voila! You have a blanket!

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Knit on US 5 needles in the delightful Zen Garden Serenity DK (a yummy blend of 90% superwash merino and 10% cashmere) I’m loving the color combination of the rusty orange, the blues and the gray. Zen Garden is known for their great color ways and this is one of my favorite yarns from the Canadian company. This yarn feels great as you knit with it and blocks out beautifully (plus, cashmere!) and needs only one hank each of 3 colors and 2 hanks of the MC. What I liked most about this project is that it’s a no pressure knit – you knit up a square whenever and eventually you have a lovely little pile of squares waiting to be placed and seamed. I seamed it up while watching a movie and before I knew it, I had a knitted version of a classic patchwork quilt.

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I love that this baby blanket came on a small adventure with my family and I. I got plenty of interesting looks from hikers as I waded into the cold water and draped a blanket across rocks and fallen trees and happily snapped away with my camera. This blanket seemed to belong there, out in the falls, hanging out in nature. It certainly kept me cozy after my feet got too cold and I had to come back out of the water!

blanket5Let’s give a copy of the pattern away, shall we? Answer the below trivia question in the comments section correctly and you’ll automatically be entered in to win a copy of the Enver Baby Blanket pattern. A winner will be chosen at random on Friday, October 23rd and will be contacted by me via email. Contest open to readers worldwide.

What is the most visited park in the National Park System?

Download the Enver Baby Blanket pattern here.

The Starry Night

I’ll always have a special place in my heart for Van Gogh’s The Starry Night.

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Arguably one of the most recognizable works of art in the world, this painting is what inspired my mom as a child to become an artist. We see it on mugs, posters, t-shirts and notecards… What about an embroidered version? The below article (original post here) just goes to show that this image from Van Gogh’s brain is just as beautiful in its fiber version as it is in paint. Anyone up for a knitted version?

Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’ Rendered in Thread by Lauren Spark 

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Self-taught embroidery artist Lauren Spark was asked by her mother to create an embroidery of Van Gogh’s Starry Night. Over the next month, Spark spent almost 60 hours working on the piece, using the Google Cultural Institute’s website to explore extremely high resolution views of the iconic painting to better mimic the strokes of paint, stitch by stitch (double-click the painting on Google’s site, the level of detail is incredible). The final piece is a surprisingly faithful interpretation, full of motion and color much like the original.

Curry Buffet

I hereby declare October “the month that got away from me.”

It’s difficult getting back into the groove of fall. The signs are all there – school buses on the streets, evil squirrels doing their best to eat our pumpkin on the stoop, leaves beginning to turn color and fall and knitwear being grabbed and wrapped around my neck in the chilly mornings, then discarded quickly in the afternoon because it’s back to being 80 degrees. I love autumn – such a beautiful season, but it often seems to sneak up and get away from me.

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Between designing and knitting like a mad person to meet my October deadlines, my knitting friends and I lament that this is the season to get started on gift knitting. Perhaps “lament” is not the proper word, after all, giving a hand knit gift to someone is a wonderful feeling. Finding the perfect pattern for someone and going to your LYS to match it up with the ideal yarn is special. When I gift knit I try hard to imagine that person as something knitted. New-Agey and maybe a little weird, certainly, but I do try to conjure up what they might be… Are they cabled? Lacy? Fair Isle or even trusty garter stitch? What colors do they wear, what fibers do they love, how can I make this project unique for them? What we knitters often lament about the gift knitting season is that usually means there is no time to knit anything for ourselves.

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I find that women struggle with this notion of “put everyone else before me” especially. Maybe it’s the caretaker thing a lot of us have, who knows? We could dedicate years worth of blog posts and not come up with an answer. When I was teaching at Squam last month I asked a lot of people (almost all women) why they came. The answer I got most? Something along the lines of, “I do this once a year for ME. I take away the distractions and my routine, know that my kids and significant other will be fine for a few days, ignore thoughts of laundry, deadlines, emails and carpools, turn off the mobile and listen, learn and focus on me.” And why not? Our creative souls need to be fed just as much as our bodies do.

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Keeping that thought of focusing on ourselves, I’m happy to introduce Curry Buffet. A hat with a few different cables, a riff on a traditional ribbed brim and a star-shaped center top, this hat was designed with the intention of being what some people refer to as “selfish knitting.” A relatively quick knit on US 7s, I again reached for the luscious Shalimar Yarns Paulie Worsted (a delicious blend of cashmere, camel, superwash merino and silk) in the aptly named “curry” color way. Designed specifically to be able to be set down and picked up and know right where you left off, this is a hat meant to be snuck in-between gift knitting for your friends and family, for you.

Have a few minutes before picking up the kids? Knit a few rounds. Waiting in line at the supermarket? Knit a few more. Waiting for the dentist? Knit. I grab at any time I can to knit something for myself, even if it’s just for a couple minutes. It’s a rare treat (ok, and I have a knitted hat addiction) that I try to take advantage of. I encourage you, dear readers, to carve out a bit of time between all the holiday knitting you plan on committing yourself to and make something for you. After all, giving a gift to yourself is a pretty special thing, no?

Download Curry Buffet here.