March 22, 2016

Designer Spotlight: Woodhouse Knits

Jennifer Wood of Woodhouse Knits has created some unique designs in Blue Sky Alpacas yarn over the years. Last December, the Evelyn cardigan pattern in Extra yarn caught our eye in particular; featuring interesting construction elements, the resulting cardigan is not only fun to knit, but flattering to wear as well. Jennifer shares her design process and some of her best sweater knitting tips with us in the following interview.

How did you learn to knit?
I have my daughter to thank for my learning to knit: when she was in middle school, she read The Witch of Blackbird Pond. The descriptions of colonial women knitting captivated her, and she begged me to teach her how to knit. So I bought a book, some needles and yarn, and we both learned how to knit together. I fell in love! Something about this age-old craft captivated me immediately and I have hardly put the needles down since then.

When did you begin to design your own patterns?
I started designing in 2009. At the time, I did not know how to knit sweaters, so I was doing mostly scarves and hats. I learned about sweater construction by reading books and playing with designs for them – it was definitely a trial and error process at first! Little did I know how much I would enjoy designing sweaters later down the road. I love to get an idea and then figure out how to make it work. It fascinates me.

Evelyn, knit in our Extra yarn, has some interesting design elements. How did you come up with this concept, and what was the process like to bring it to fruition?
I really like braided cables and wanted to do something interesting with them. So I thought, what would it be like to start out with a braided cable and have it move into single rope cables which form a pleat on the back of a garment? Since I knew I would be using Extra for this design, I decided that I wanted it to have more of a jacket feel to it. I added the reverse Stockinette to the top and a peter pan collar and made it form-fitting through the shoulders and lots of ease around the bottom, making it like a vintage swing jacket. Extra’s excellent drape was perfect for a swing coat! This is one of those designs that came together fairly quickly: what was in my head worked out quite nicely on the needles!

What are some of your best tips for knitting sweaters?
Definitely make swatches and block them. Making sure you have the correct gauge is crucial to fit. It also helps you know how your yarn will work for the stitch pattern in the design.

Pick a yarn that has the same qualities as the yarn used for the sample, especially for designs that have cable or lace details. If the sample yarn has good stitch definition, pick a yarn with good stitch definition. If calls for both good stitch definition and drape like Evelyn, pick a yarn that has both – I recommend a wool blend like Extra.

Know how you like your sweaters to fit your particular body type. For example, if you are making a sweater that has set-in sleeves like Evelyn, how it will fit you across the back is important. You can adjust the bust while working on the sweater, but the across back can not be adjusted once you begin the sweater. A good approach is to measure a sweater you have that fits you exactly the way you like it, a method you can also use to figure out other measurements such as arm hole depth, upper arm, neck circumference, etc. This will help you to get a better fit.

Use the schematic to help you determine what size to make. Again using Evelyn as an example, check the back measurements on the schematic and pick the size that best matches your desired measurement. Then, if some of the other measurements are different from what you need, you can usually adjust them along the way. If you are not sure how to do this, you can always contact the designer – most are more than happy to help.

Finally, enjoy the process! It’s incredibly fun to watch a sweater come together on your needles.

Jennifer Wood began Wood House Knits in 2009. Her designs unite classic and modern styling with beautifully detailed patterns for a contemporary romantic feel. Most are created with top down construction that is easily adjustable, making them wearable and elegant.

Refined Knits (Interweave, 2016), Jennifer’s first book, showcases 18 of her beautiful designs. She also sells patterns through Ravelry and her own website: woodhouseknits.com. For Jennifer, designing knitwear is a wonderful adventure, allowing her to express her creative impulses and drawing her closer to the Creator of all. The creative process—watching and feeling abstract ideas take on a tangible form—continues to amaze her.

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March 8, 2016

Blue Sky Alpacas Knits for Eddie

Recently, knitting made big headlines when the folks at Jimmy Beans Wool yarnbombed at the Sundance Film Festival to promote a new movie starring Hugh Jackman and Taron Edgerton called Eddie the Eagle – but it didn’t stop there! Eddie mania quickly swept the social media world as knitters everywhere shared photos and videos from the event, and continued to engage in Eddie antics such as this video of the film’s stars coaching two “stitching athletes” in a thirty-second knitting competition!

The Jimmy Beans crew designed two free patterns for fans to knit or crochet their own version of the Eddie hat, which was inspired by the actual sweater worn by Eddie’s mom. We decided to knit our own version using the free knitting pattern and a skein of our Certified Organic Worsted Cotton yarn in #614 Drift; using a size 7 needle, we knit the Adult size M.

After knitting the hat, we used duplicate stitch to add the E and the wings using small amounts of #619 Tomato, #632 Mediterranean, and #638 Dandelion and the chart below.

You can learn more about Eddie the Eagle and the #iknitforeddie contest here.

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February 23, 2016

Chic Knits

Simple stitches and luxe yarns are always a winning combination, and in Simple Chic Knits, there are plenty of knitworthy patterns that fit this description. Karen Miller and Susan Ritchie of the online yarn store Mrs Moon have collaborated to create this collection of beautifully simple modern knits; we’re pleased to share three of the must-make patterns featuring Blue Sky Alpacas yarns in this exciting new book.

Knit with Blue Sky Alpacas Worsted Certified Organic Cotton yarn, the Checked Baby Blanket makes a sweet welcome gift for newborns. The deceptively simple stitch pattern is knit with three colors of yarn, shown here in #606 Shell, #608 Lemonade and #607 Lemongrass to create an heirloom-quality blanket with a modern twist.

The College Scarf can be knit in any color combination of Blue Sky Alpacas Worsted Hand Dyes to match any school or sports team colors you wish (shown here in #2013 Midnight Blue and #2026 Petunia). The simple garter stripes create a squishy fabric that’s perfect for warding off chills while cheering your team on from the stands.

Fans of quick knits will enjoy the Neck Ruff, which is worked in Blue Sky Alpacas Bulky yarn, shown here in #1002 Silver Mink. This big-stitch project is designed to keep your entire neck warm without sacrificing softness for next-to-skin wear!

Simple Chic Knits is available here on Amazon.
Click here to find your nearest Blue Sky Alpacas stockist.

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February 9, 2016

Customer Project: Metalico Wedding Dress

Recently, a project on Ravelry caught our eye: an exquisite wedding dress knitted with our Metalico yarn by Amy (Raveler knitpurlspin). When we got in touch with her, she agreed to share some of the photos from her special day and the details on how she created this stunning garment.

I had always been that person who looked at women who made their wedding dresses as though they were a bit crazy, but when my husband and I got engaged, the prospect of shopping for a dress filled me with dread. Eventually, I remembered someone’s beautiful knit wedding dress and came to the conclusion that I should knit my own dress, too (especially since I’m not a particularly experienced seamstress).I’ve always been one to modify or make up patterns, so I spent a lot of time researching on Pinterest and Ravelry for inspiration and pattern ideas; in the end, I combined three patterns to create the dress.

Next, I had to find the perfect yarn: it had to be shiny because I didn’t want to look like I had knitted a giant, lacy sweater dress; and it had to be soft, since it was going to be close-fitting. It also had to be undyed, but not bleached white ( I look a bit silly in white), and my final requirement was that the yarn was thin enough to go through beads, because I intended to cover it in sparkles. I came across Blue Sky Alpacas’ Metalico yarn and fell in love with how soft it was and how the silk in it made it gleam. The natural color was perfect, so I bought a skein and took it to the bead store and found that Delica beads slid easily onto a loop of the yarn. I ended up using twenty skeins of Metalico and over 3500 beads and Swarovski crystals.

It took a lot of improvising to put the three patterns together; the skirt was worked from the top down using a provisional cast, allowing me to work the top part of the dress later. I learned that you can add beads as you go with a crochet hook instead of threading them on before knitting, which allowed me to add beads at whatever interval I wished. For the hem, I wanted an odd number of crystals with the largest dangling off of a center point, so I had to modify the pattern to accommodate this element. The holes in the crystals were small and fragile, so I bound off the hem with one strand of Metalico and one strand of silk beading cord to attach them securely. I picked up stitches at the waist and continued to add beads as I worked. I decided to replace the nups in the lace pattern with beads and bound of with beaded picots at the sleeves and the super stretchy bind off at the neck.

I’m quite proud of and happy with the end result. Although there is 1 kg (about 2.2 lbs) of yarn in the dress and more weight from beads, it felt light and airy to wear – and it never felt hot or itchy. My mother made me a midnight blue dress and a tulle skirt to wear under the knitted dress to make the lace pattern stand out. All of the beads and crystals made it sparkle when I moved, and the skirt fanned out really nicely when I spun during our first dance. If you’d like to know more of the nitty-gritty details of my process, or see more making-of pictures, please visit my Ravelry project page. I also post photos of my current projects and experiments on instagram @knitpurlspin. Photos by Stuart Axelbrooke and Wesley Bratt.

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January 26, 2016

Inside the Industry: TNNA

Earlier this month, we headed to San Diego, California to attend our twice-yearly industry trade show, TNNA. While Minnesota hunkered down for a chilly weekend a -12 degrees, we couldn’t help but enjoy the sunny skies and 65-degree weather just outside of the convention center. Since many of our fans don’t get a chance to attend trade shows such as this one (which is closed to the public), we wanted to share a little peek behind the curtains on today’s blog!

TNNA stands for The National Needlearts Association, and it is a professional organization which has a diverse membership of wholesalers, retailers, designers and teachers from the needlepoint and fiber arts disciplines. Its main goal is to advance our community of professionals through education, industry knowledge exchange and a strong marketplace.

The Winter and Summer trade shows are widely attended by companies who display their latest product lines, as well as retailers (also known as your local yarn store) who are there to place orders for their shops. These shows are also a great opportunity for the members of TNNA to come together to share new ideas, network, and make new discoveries. Above, you can see our booth at this month’s Winter show, where we exhibited the latest yarns and patterns from both Blue Sky Alpacas and Spud & Chloë. We had a fantastic time and look forward to the Summer TNNA show this June in Washington, DC!

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