Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Little Red Mittens

Card design (c) 2008 by Hannah Six

I've always had a love for little red mittens. I must have had a beloved pair when I was a kid. Though I don't remember much need for mittens in San Francisco, I did spend a winter in Spearfish, SD, when I was about six-years old. And that's a place where mittens are de rigeur.

So maybe it's not surprising that, when I decided to make my own Christmas cards a few years back, I chose a little red mitten to symbolize "Comfort and Joy." Honestly, is anything cuter than a child's warm, woolly little hand on a cold day. There's your Joy. And the Comfort? Well, I think that's pretty self-explanatory.

I loved these cards, so I'm probably going to resurrect the design again this year. Deciding to send cards isn't easy these days. Postage costs a fortune, but then so does everything else!

And the joy (there it is, again) of opening your mailbox to find a handful of warm holiday wishes from your loved ones makes up for the time and energy spent writing and addressing your own batch. To me, at least. I LOVE receiving Christmas cards. Or cards for any other holiday we celebrate in December.

Actually, this year, I might actually pursue my life-long dream of printing some of my cards so I can sell them locally and on my (recently neglected) Etsy store. My head is bursting with design ideas. (BTW: If you think you or anyone you know might be interested, let me know; this really is about as close as I ever get to "Market Research" -- ha ha!)

On the other hand...If you decide to make your own cards this year, for whatever reason, take a few moments to consider what brings you comfort, what adds joy to your life during these long, cold months. That will make coming up with a design a little easier. After all, why not share these personal symbols, and what inspires them in you, with those you love?


On another note, I have some toasty green mitts coming off my needles today...

Cozy Mohair Mitts by Hannah Six

A few years back I made a red pair, with long, long ribbing at the end of the hand so you could fold it down over your fingertips when it's bitterly cold, then fold it back when you need to use your hands.

Knit on US#3 needles from Dale of Norway's worsted-weight Sisik, the red mitts ("Red Hot Mitts" on my Ravelry projects page) are virtually wind-proof! And the garter rib stitch creates little pockets to trap warmth. Cozy!

Well, this past summer, I set up a table at a local arts market. Even though it was closing in on 100 degrees outside, I decided to put the Red Hot Mitts on my table to fill in some space... (production knitting is H.A.R.D.!) And? Someone I know was so enamored of them that she actually bought them--in July! And she loved them, and I loved that.

Soon afterward, and this was a surprise, she asked me to knit a few for her to give to friends this Christmas. Thanks to some lovely Ravelers who had a few balls of the now-discontinued Sisik in their stashes, I managed to collect enough yarn to make several pairs, all in different colors. This is pair #1: Spruce. Next up? Maybe Eggplant. Or Cranberry.

Holiday knitting. The pressure. The pleasure. Is there anything like it?


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Take it Easy

Now and then you just need some mindless knitting. A project you don't have to think about at all. One that you don't have to rush to finish, because it's for you.

I find this to be especially true during mid-winter and mid-summer, when you're often "trapped" in one place because you're traveling, or because it's freakin' freezing or bloody boiling outside.

Enter the humble sock. This isn't a fabulous look-at-me lace sock. It's not a startling crazy-colored sock. It's modest, yet warm. Comfortable, like your favorite jeans. And oh-so-easy on a tired brain...

Yarn: Shalimar Yarns Zoe Sock; needles from KnitPicks

The stitch pattern is a double-garter rib (you'll find it in most stitch dictionaries and in the fun Blueberry Waffle pattern). It's stretchy and allows some air to be trapped in the little "pockets," keeping your feet nice and toasty.

This sock has no secrets. It's a plain old cast-on-64-stitches-and-knit pattern, allowing your hands to fall into the rhythm and your mind to wander. No need to urge yourself to relax, to focus, to hurry, to do anything. No need. Just hang out with your knitting. Just take it, as The Eagles advised, easy.

Why not grab a skein and give it a try -- use plain old stockinette stitch or K2 P2 ribbing, if you want. All I'm saying is, give yourself permission to cast on something easy once in a while. Like now. Go with it. See where it takes you.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Mittens for Knittin' (Free Pattern!)

About a week ago, I found myself with some knitting time on a Saturday morning. As always, plenty of unfinished projects lurked about the house. But that day, they didn't tempt me much. I wanted to knit mittens.

During the previous week, Afghans for Afghans sent out an e-mail update asking for mittens, ASAP. So I gave myself permission to cast on yet another new project and went stash diving.

When I surfaced, I had in hand a skein of heathery-raspberry Peace Fleece (appropriate, no?) and another of Knit Picks Telemark (in green, which, according to A4A, is "the beloved color of Islam"). I grabbed some DPNs and tuned the radio to hear two of my favorite shows: Car Talk and Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me! The sun was shining, the heater was blurbing and glugging (it's an old house), and I was happy.

Off I went, knitting without much thought to the hows and whys of mittens. They're pretty simple, after all...Nothing more than a cuff, a simple gusset, and a toe-like tip. If you've ever knit socks, you can knit up a pair of mittens, no problem!

Once they'd been blocked and had dried through (with a bit of assistance from my air purifier), I packed them up and shipped them off to San Francisco, where Afghans for Afghans was tallying up an impressive mountain of mitts. In about three weeks, they received more than 1,000 pairs!

In my enthusiastic state, however, I'd failed to take a photo of the finished mitts! So, until I make another pair, I've photographed my sketch for you (a reasonable facsimile, I think). Together with the notes I jotted down after finishing the second mitten, I managed to create a pattern I call "Knittin' Mittens!" and I'm posting it here, free, for your knitting pleasure. Happy stitching!

Knittin' Mittens
  • Yarn: Two colors (approx. 150 yds main color [MC] and 20 yds contrasting color [CC]) of Peace Fleece or other worsted/heavy worsted-weight yarn (I used Peace Fleece for the MC, and double-stranded KnitPicks Telemark for the CC)
  • Needles: Set of five US#6 DPNs (or circular needle, if you prefer)
  • Notions: scrap yarn, tapestry needle, scissors, stitch markers
  • Size: Child's Medium (but very easily customized by adding length to hand/thumb)
  • Gauge: 4.5 sts per inch in st st
CO 32 sts with MC and join to work in round; place marker (PM) to mark beginning of round.

Work two rnds K2P2 rib.
Join CC and work K2P2 rib for four rnds, carrying MC up side.
Break CC and continue with MC for ten more rnds.

Start Thumb
Rnd 1: K to end.
Rnd 2: K7, PM, M1R, K1, M1L, PM, K to beg of rnd.

Alternate these two rnds until you have 11 thumb sts between markers.
Knit around, placing thumb sts on scrap yarn as you go.

Next rnd: K6, work RT* on two sts immediately above thumb opening, K to end.

K three rnds.
Join CC and K six rnds, carrying MC along inside edge as you work.
Break CC and pick up MC.
K three rnds.

Decrease @ Fingertips
Rnd 1: [K6, K2tog] four times (28 sts).
Rnd 2: K to end.
Rnd 3: [K5, K2tog] four times (24 sts).
Rnd 4: K to end.
Rnd 5: [K4, K2tog] four times (20 sts).
Rnd 6: K to end.
Rnd 7: [K3, K2tog] four times (16 sts).
Rnd 8: [K2, K2tog] four times (12 sts).
Rnd 9: [K1, K2tog] four times (8 sts).

Break yarn leaving at least 8" tail. Thread yarn on tapestry needle and draw through rem 8 sts two times, pulling tightly to close hole. Insert needle into center of hole and draw yarn through to inside. Weave in yarn end on inside of glove.

Here's a little intra-pattern cuteness just for you!

Make Thumbs
Place sts from scrap yarn AND two new sts directly above thumb opening and one new st on either side (between thumb and hand) on 3 DPNs [15 sts].

Divide these sts as follows:
N1: first 5 sts from scrap yarn
N2: next 5 sts from scrap yarn
N3: last st from scrap yarn and the 4 new sts picked up where thumb meets hand.

1) K one rnd.
2) Next rnd, K to N3; on N3, K2 tog, K3, K2tog (by knitting last st on N3 with first st on N1) [13 sts].
3) K one rnd.
4) K2tog, K to N3, K2 tog, K to end [11 sts].

Work even in st st for 11 rnds or desired length.
Next rnd: [K1, K2tog] around.

Break yarn and, using tapestry needle, draw through rem sts twice. Draw hole closed tightly, then thread yarn through to inside of thumb.

Turn mitten inside out and weave in ends.

Block by soaking in lukewarm water with a bit of cleanser. Rinse gently unless you used a rinse-free wool wash. Be careful not to agitate the mittens as you wash and rinse them or they'll felt and shrink (unless you used superwash wool).

If yarn color bleeds, soak in lukewarm water with a bit of white vinegar to help set dye. Blot dry with towel, lay flat, pat into shape as desired, and allow to dry thoroughly before wearing.

Just one request: If you use this pattern, please consider making a pair for the charity of your choice. And, as always, do let me know if you spot anything that needs clarification.


* To work RT: Insert tip of right needle into next two sts on left needle and K2tog without letting either st drop off; insert right needle into first st on left needle and K this st again; drop both sts off needle.


Sunday, November 16, 2008

New Twist Collective and Knotions

Did you notice that the Winter 2008 edition of Twist Collective is live? Isn't it beautiful? A treat for the eyes. And the needles, I'd say.

Knotions' Winter issue is up, too. Lots of cool designs and articles...

Hmmm...Good reading, inspiring patterns...Where to start?

Happy knitting ;-)


Friday, November 14, 2008

Hannah Six Designs Six Shalimar Yarns Exclusives

Over the past couple of months, I've designed six patterns for Shalimar Yarns. It's been a whirlwind of creating, swatching, ripping out, revising, writing patterns, and having them test knitted. In other words: It's been a blast!

In total, I did six designs for Shalimar Yarns, inspired by their delicious colors, by the scrumptious base yarns, and by Kristi, who owns both Shalimar and Eleganza Yarns, a Frederick, Md.-based store (which is well worth a side trip if you're in the area!).

One of the designs, the Clover Honey Shawlette, was particularly popular, with 20 copies sold in just a few days! Clover Honey is knit from just one skein of Shalimar's Zoe Sock (each skein has an ultra-generous 450 yard put-up!) on US #5 needles.

With a bit of shaping to ensure it hugs your shoulders and a fun beaded cast off, it's both practical and unique. What an amazing (and affordable!) holiday gift this would make! If you're interested in buying the yarn and pattern, just visit the Shalimar Yarns Web site or contact Kristi at Eleganza Yarns.

Swatching for the Shenandoah Capelet

In the coming days, I will post more info about my other patterns, which include:
  • The Rotunda Baby Blanket, a Rococco-inspired confection in Honey Worsted, with an intruiguing pattern ever-increasing cables...
  • The Shenandoah Capelet, knit in Missy Bulky, with soft and lofty braided cables and unique twisted-I-cord button loops...
  • The Freesia Socks, inspired by the glorious Iris colorway and my memories of a freesia-filled garden at my Northern California high school...
I've even created a special pattern, named Schuylkill Punch (in honor of Philadelphia's World Series Championship), for the Shalimar Yarns sock club! So stay tuned for more photos, more pattern information, and more about Shalimar's wonderful yarns and colorways...

And meanwhile? Happy Knitting (of course)!


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Yarns from Stitches East!

As promised: Fun stuff about the yarn I brought home from Stitches East...

Cottage Craft 2-ply Wool in Spruce Green (Aran weight/272 yd skein)
Cottage Craft, purveyors (what a fun word!) of exclusive knitting yarns, handknit wool sweaters, handwoven tweed coats, boasts a rich history. Founded in 1915, the company is located in St. Andrews-by-the-Sea, in New Brunswick, Canada.

One of my last stops before leaving Stitches--they were located along the far wall, in a booth lined with a dizzyingly colorful display of utter sheepy bliss. In fact, my excitement about Cottage Craft yarns literally made me forget my oh-so-tired feet!

One note before I continue--especially to those seeking the ultra-buttery-soft experience modern knitters seem to crave: This is WOOL. It has "tooth," and feels scrunchy and real when you squeeze it. I happen to adore that feeling. How it behaves when washed and blocked will be interesting indeed, so I'll be sure to keep you posted as I swatch and play.

Cottage Craft 2-ply Wool in Plum (Aran weight/272 yd skein)

My two skeins of two-ply wool can hardly begin to represent the company's mouth-watering colors. This tempting palette
, according to the Cottage Craft Web site:
"...reflect(s) the beauty of the landscapes and seascapes surrounding our seaside town. Many of our shades were created by Miss Grace Helen Mowat, a forward thinking lady who began the business in 1915. Each shade reflects rich heather tones, which blend beautifully."
I chose the two-ply wool (with its generous 272-yard put-up) for swatching, playing, designing, and/or knitting some holiday gifts. But Cottage Craft also offers a single-ply, lighter weight wool. With plenty of energy, the single ply is hardly a "dead," over-blocked yarn. It knits up into pretty lace on larger needles, and would make a warm and comforting wrap for the colder months ahead.

Honestly, if you can't trust Canadians to bring you lovely wool and woollen products, who can you trust? Just joking. But it does get cold there! And this Canadian company specializes in the most texturally tantalizing, fabulously woolly, inspiration-inducing yarns I've encountered in a long time. Please, if you enjoy real wool, do yourself a huge favor and buy some. Actually, it's such a great value and amazing product, go ahead and buy A LOT!


Maple Creek Farm Fine Wool Merino (Worsted weight/200 yd skein)

Discovering Maple Creek Farm yarns was another unexpected treat. The fibers and colorways are dangerously, pocket-emptyingly beautiful. It was hard to leave with only one skein, but the skein I did buy is really lovely.

Spun at a mill in Taos, NM, of fleece from Maple Creek's own sheep, this is a soft, spongy Merino with a delightfully quirky texture. It reminds me of handspun yarn, round and elastic, begging to be knitted or crocheted into something special.

Maple Creek Farm started in 2002, with "yarn from our own Merino sheep, a couple of pots, a few burners and a dream," according to the company's Web site. Now, just six years down the road, Maple Creek boasts 25 hand-dyed yarns, eight of which are also available online: three weights of silk/Merino blend; four sock yarns; and one Merino/Mohair blend.

Clearly, this small company is based on a grand love affair of color, fiber, and texture. I can pretty much guarantee that you won't be disappointed with their products.


One last note: If you do try yarn from either of these companies, do let me know what you think of them...Comparing yarn experiences is half the fun of knitting--to me, at least.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Cat's Eye

This is my brain...

Well, actually, this is more like my brain...

And this is my brain on kitten...

Remember: When in doubt, play with fiber.


For anyone wondering how Katja and Charley get along,
here's some feline body language for you...

Don't be fooled. This is probably less innocent than it appears.

A cat's eyes are windows enabling us to see into another world.
- Irish proverb

Wishing you all a peaceful Tuesday!


Monday, November 10, 2008

Knittin' and Kitten

Meet Charley...
He's the newest member of our little household. After Maggie died last January, we couldn't even think of getting another kitty. But over the months, Chris, Katja, and I found ourselves grieving less and then, suddenly, feeling like it was time for a new kitty...a playmate for Katja.

Enter Charley -- about two pounds of 24-hour-a-day, nonstop Kitten. When I saw his picture, with his little newborn blue eyes and apricot-cream coloring, I knew he was the one.

My friend Elaine rescued him, along with his siblings, near her home in upstate New York. We waited for him to grow up a little, and then, last Thursday, he arrived in style, chauffered by Elaine and her husband (who were on their way to DC for the weekend). Have no doubt: You'll be hearing about his antics for years to come!

Shalimar Yarns Missy Bulky

Speaking of the weekend, I stopped by Stitches East in Baltimore on Saturday to see how my designs for Shalimar Yarns were doing. I created the following five patterns for the Frederick, Md.-based company:
  • Shenandoah Capelet
  • Clover Honey Shawlette
  • Freesia Socks
  • Rotunda Baby Blanket
  • Heart in Hand Fingerless Gloves

Shalimar Yarns is owned and operated by the delightful Kristi, who also owns Eleganza Yarns, in Frederick, Md. Her line of hand-dyed yarns includes some of the softest bulky-weight Merino I've ever had the pleasure of knitting.

The worsted-weight knits up with a nice drape on US #6 - 7 needles, and is next-to-the-skin gentle. Then there's the new Zoe Sock, a fingering-weight from a terrific source. It's not only soft, it "has tooth," if you know what I mean. The colors are fab, and the yarn just plain feels good to knit with.

Apparently, the Clover Honey Shawlette (see a photo of the yarn and the very beginning of the shawl in last Tuesday's post) was the hit pattern of the show for Shalimar. I have to say I was happy with the final product: a lace and garter stitch shoulder shawl with a sweet beaded edge.

Kristi tells me my other patterns also generated a good amount of interest. This is SO exciting to me!!! As I learn more, I'll share any info that might be of interest -- including photos of the garments.

Chris and I also chatted with Kristin Nicholas, who is so down to Earth you couldn't be star-struck if you wanted to, met tons of yarn vendors, and went for a walk around the market.

At one point, I stopped in to say hello to my friend Karida, owner of Neighborhood Fiber Co., in D.C. Along with her yarn, she had some gorgeous roving, which she was generous enough to share. Thank you, Karida! So here are some initial photos of my Stitches loot...

Neighborhood Fiber Co. Silk-Merino Roving (above and below)

We also spent a few minutes with Sharon, owner of Three Irish Girls and co-owner of Yarn Love. I was glad to introduce her to Chris, so he could put a face with the name when I mention her. She's lovely, as is her yarn...Check out her online stores!

By necessity, I was very good and didn't splurge, but I did come home with a few goodies. Photos are awaiting editing, and will arrive shortly. As will links to my patterns, which will be on sale soon at Shalimar Yarns' new Web site.

Hope everyone had a great weekend!


Tuesday, November 04, 2008


Vote for the future.
Vote for the past.
Vote for hope.
Vote for peace.
Vote for yourself.
Vote for your true love.
Vote for your children.
Vote for your neighbors.
Vote for your parents.
Vote for no reason at all.

But...whatever you do...PLEASE VOTE!

(Then pull out your knitting and watch the returns tonight...)

PS> Thank You for Voting!!!!