Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Metalwork collection

Metalwork is new a subscription-based pattern collection featuring five accessory designs, each full of rich, textured stitches and knitterly details.

The idea for the collection began with a hat I designed for The Woolen Rabbit's 2014 Yarn Club. The interplay of textures that came together for Into Gold reminded me of details found in metalsmithing or fine jewelry. What's more, Kim's Emma yarn, a blend of Polwarth wool and silk, gave the piece a fantastic burnished-metal look. By the time the hat was finished, I knew that some coordinating accessories were in the offing.

First to be released is Copperline, a fingerless mitt pattern that uses the same Coin Cables and Woven Stitch pattern found in Into Gold.

When the club exclusivity period is up in February, Into Gold will become part of this collection. At least one other piece will coordinate with that design, but there are some surprises in store, too.

The collection is available for subscription here. When you subscribe, Copperline is available for immediate download. The remaining 4 patterns will be delivered to your inbox over the next six months, each approximately six weeks apart, ending in May 2015.

Hope you'll join in the fun!

Thursday, October 9, 2014


Can I tell you a secret? I don't own a ball-winder. Nope. I wind my yarn by hand. I know what you’re thinking—really, I do. But I consider it pure pleasure. Want to know why?

To begin with, there’s the tactile experience. Whether I’m knitting with it or just holding it, touching yarn makes me happy. When you wind a ball by hand, the strand is continually running through your fingers. If it’s a yarn you’ve never used before, it’s sort of like a first date. You can begin to get a feel for how it will behave on the needles, how it will drape, and how it will feel next to the skin. If there are knots, you can deal with them. And because the yarn is moving more slowly through your fingers, if there are any small slubs or bits of vegetal matter, you can easily tease them out as they go by.

Then there’s the movement. Some people like to place the loose hank of yarn around their knees to wind from. Others use the back of a chair. There’s even the time-honored method of getting a family member to hold the yarn on outstretched arms—but I like to take my yarn for a walk. Here’s what I do: I put the yarn on my swift. If it’s a nice day, I’ll set it up out on the back deck. Holding the end of a strand, I walk away from the swift as far as I can go without the yarn dragging on the deck. Then I walk back toward the swift, gently winding the yarn around two fingers, making sure to keep it very loose. The idea is to create a fluffy, open pocket at the center of the ball. When I get back to the swift, I pull my fingers out of the center, and repeat the process, winding the next length of yarn crosswise to the previous bit, still keeping it loose. Winding on the return trip allows any tension created by pulling out the strand to be released, creating a soft, squishy ball.

There’s a lot of sitting in knitting, and winding yarn this way allows me to get up and move around a bit. I’m not sure I’d say it was exercise exactly, but if I wind enough fingering-weight yarn for a cardigan all in one go, I’ve walked the better part of a mile on my out-and-back trips.

There’s also the aesthetic consideration. I love the look of a tidy round ball, whether sitting in the palm of my hand or dancing around my yarn bowl as I work. When I have a travel project, I place a small plastic bowl in the bottom of a project bag, and let it spin happily away in there.

Then there are the yarns that prefer to be wound by hand. Airy woolen-spun yarns don’t always appreciate the rough treatment that a mechanical ball-winder can dish out. Toothy yarns like linen, and fibers that are haloed like mohair and qiviut can be challenging to work with from a center-pull cake because the fibers latch onto each other, creating tangles. Working from the outside of a ball that is free to spin eliminates these problems, and gravity helps to separate the fibers that want to grab.

Yes, winding by hand is a little bit slower, but on the whole, knitting is not a very fast business. I can spare a few minutes.

I know I’m not alone in my love of the hand-wound ball. How about you?

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Into gold

There are times when a design just comes to you, fully formed. When Kim, the talented dyer behind The Woolen Rabbit yarns invited me to contribute to her 'Once upon a time' themed club, I saw my design in an instant. I'd been swatching a stitch pattern that made me think of woven straw. Combining that texture with a coin cable was a bit of a literal take on Rumpelstiltskin, but once I'd imagined the two together, it was irresistible.

Into Gold starts with the cabled band. It is cast on provisionally, worked from end to end, then joined in the round. Stitches are then picked up along one edge, and a horizontal braid is worked, separating crown and band. The textured crown is worked in the surprisingly simple Woven Stitch with decorative decreases that pinwheel gently to the center. To complete the play of textures, the bottom of the band is given a smooth I-cord edging.

For the photo shoot we had fun styling things uber-romantic/fairy tale. My friend Nicola was the perfect model. But I'd wear the hat paired with clean, modern lines. The tam style flatters many face shapes, and Kim's gorgeous Toadflax colorway is a rich gold that works well with a lot of skin tones.

The pattern is currently available exclusively to Woolen Rabbit 2014 Yarn Club subscribers. It will be available for purchase in late February 2015.

For more information, visit the Into Gold pattern page on Ravelry.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Welcome Summer!

What better way to celebrate the long holiday weekend and the return of warm weather than with a pattern sale?

From now through Tuesday May 27th, all independently published Blue Bee Studio designs are 20% off. Just click the 'use a coupon code' link in the Ravelry shopping cart, and enter welcome_summer.

Happy, happy Summer!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Wrong side tracks, part two

In my previous post I discussed how needle angles can affect the size of knit and purl stitches and lead to rowing-out. Here's a video that shows what I'm talking about, as well the changes I've made to correct my own rowing-out issues. Hope you find it helpful!