Thinking ahead

Photo Jul 19, 8 14 38 PMThe past few weeks have been marked by some pretty warm days here in Toronto. With no AC in our apartment the heat waves can lead to Andy and I enduring pretty toasty (not in that holly jolly way, either) temperatures that make you want to abandon all things wooly and never set foot in the kitchen again (except maybe to grab some ice out of the freezer for a refreshing cocktail).

Even though the heat has made progress slow on knitting lately, it has also inspired thoughts of cooler fall evenings and prime knitting season. So when the knitting needles aren’t clinking, I’ve been dreaming up some new design ideas and fall/winter inspired colorways for Long Dog Yarn.

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Most of the ideas are still that at this moment, just words on a page and thoughts in my head, but this week I dyed up some beautiful deep rusty orange to pair with Lichen, a speckled green colorway, and began knitting away on a new shawl design with a splendidly fall-inspired leaf motif for the border. The lace chart was a little tricky to get the hang of at first, having to remember to switch the symbols between right-side and wrong-side rows (you know, knit on the right side becomes purl on the wrong side). But after working a repeat or two of the lace, things are sailing smoothly along. My absolute favorite part of the lace is the asymmetry on the edge where the leaves stick out a bit and create a wavy edging. It just adds a bit of whimsy that I always enjoy finding in a knitting design.

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The color combination just screams autumn to me. Greens and oranges are not colors I tend to gravitate towards normally. Both my wardrobe and my stash are almost completely devoid of these colors, but every once in awhile it’s fun to take a step out of my comfort zone and see what other exciting possibilities lie out there in the unknown. And so far, I’m really digging this possibility and enjoying watching it grow.

Linking up with Ginny and KCCO.

 

Finding that groove

Pearls on a String Socks by Brandy Velten

To put it lightly, the past couple of months have been bonkers. It’s been a roller coaster ride of anxiety, accomplishment, uncertainty, opportunity, growth, self-doubt, and success. It is very much the beginning of a big period of transition for Andy and I as we both work fiendishly to finish our Ph.D. theses (thesi?) this summer / early autumn and move on to the next things life has in store for us.

After a lot of hard work and a little frustration, I finally had my thesis approval meeting last week and was approved to move on to the big final oral examination. All of this means that for now, my thesis is complete and will be sent off to be assessed and critiqued by experts within my field. I still have a few more steps in front of me before being awarded my degree, but it really feels like the major hurdle is past me – my supervisory committee is confident that I am prepared to defend my research and prove my expertise within the field. So while I feel great about what I’ve managed to accomplish thus far, I’m already feeling the next wave of anxiety about my final defense at the end of August.

Pearls on a String Socks by Brandy Velten

While all that was happening, I felt like I was suffering a bit of a crisis of confidence creatively. I consistently felt like every idea I had for a new design just fell flat. Everything I had on my needles failed to satisfy that primal part of my creative being. Nothing clicked. Nothing provided that little magic glow that drives my passion for design. And each time I ripped out a design, I just felt the weight of the pressure I had placed on myself to succeed grow and grow. It just wasn’t working on the design side of things, so I channeled a lot of that creative frustration into Long Dog Yarns hoping that the color and yarn would spark that inspiration within me again and move me past this design block.

Pearls on a String Socks by Brandy Velten

I’m not sure I’m entirely there yet, but I’ve been knitting and dyeing and just being kinder to myself. With a bit more spare time on my horizon, I’m hoping things will click back into place a bit more and I’ll get my knitting mojo back. I am trying to take that self-imposed pressure off of my shoulders and remind myself that if it’s not fun, then it’s not worth my time. And I’m starting to feel the simple pleasure in turning my ideas into a design coming back. I’ve been working on a new design using my line of yarn, Sock (colorway pictured is Freshwater Pearl), that also utilizes the speckled yarns that I love to both dye and knit. One sock down and one to go…

Long Dog Yarn

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In the past couple of weeks, I’ve been having a lot of fun setting up a new online shop for my very own hand dyed yarns, so I’m very excited to introduce Long Dog Yarn, available now online.

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I had been thinking of trying out yarn dyeing again this summer using acid-fast dyes after the small trials I had using food coloring to dye yarn. Sitting in bed one night, a thought suddenly popped into my head of a label that has a dachshund that stretches around the circumference of the label and the idea of Long Dog Yarn was born as I drifted off to sleep. That next weekend I picked up my first starter dye kit, some blank hanks of yarn, and started reading everything I could find online about mixing colors and hand dyeing yarn. And things really just took off from there. More yarn and more color and more fun.

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Everyday I’m working with my yarns I learn something new, and then I have to try it out. Having all this blank yarn around is very dangerous. My favorite part of the experience is having absolute creative control over the process. My goal is to have Long Dog Yarn supplement the design side of my business, allowing me to imagine a design and create the perfect yarn to compliment it. Plus, it’s just really fun and creatively satisfying in a completely different way to the design side of things.

Ysabel Knit-a-long

Ysabel shawl by Brandy Velten

I am hosting my very first knit-a-long to celebrate the release of my latest shawl design, Ysabel. Full disclosure, I’ve never actually participated in a KAL before, so it’s a new experience for me all around. But I’m very much looking forward to working up this shawl with all the other knitters who have joined the KAL so far. The KAL runs until June 30th and everyone who signs up and completes the shawl (including project page with finished photos) within that time frame will be entered for a prize package including a skein of yarn from Long Dog Yarn, my new yarn line (more on that later!). If you’d like to join in, you can find us here in my Ravelry group and receive a special discount on the pattern, too!

Ysabel shawl by Brandy Velten Ysabel shawl by Brandy Velten
 

I’m trying to narrow down my choice for my next Ysabel. I know I want to use the skein of Republic of Wool Twisted Fingering in Goober Patrol that I bought when I was visiting Portland in January, but I’m having trouble finding a color to go with it. I have a pink and a black in my stash that might work. Or maybe I need to go do a little yarn shopping?

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Pattern release: Nix shawl

Nix shawl by Brandy Velten

My latest design, the Nix shawl, is now available on Ravelry. Continuing my obsession with shawls this spring, Nix is an asymmetrical triangle shawl featuring alternating panels of squishy garter stitch stripes and bright lacey diamonds. Nix is the perfect project for digging through your stash and experimenting with some super fun, unexpected combinations of colors. I used one of Miss Bab’s Trios in Yummy 2-ply for my shawl after I totally fell hard for the combination of two shades of grey, one light, one dark with the eye-popping spicy papaya colorway. The trio was originally intended for a different design altogether, but that didn’t quite work out as planned and I just couldn’t get these colors out of my mind. And Nix was born. During testing, my test knitters came up with some wonderfully spectacular combinations that I just love.

copyright Birgit2202 Copyright helloloodle
 

I just love the muted tones of Birgit’s Nix with the pops of colors in the stripes. It brings in a touch of color, but keeps it from being overwhelming so the shawl can be worn with almost anything. Lauren’s Nix is just about perfect in my eyes. Isn’t that blue used for the lace panels drool worthy? And I absolutely love how she also incorporated a variegated colorway into her stripes to produce one beautiful shawl. It really was a fun test knit to see everyone’s unique color choices take life.

If you find yourself feeling a little inspired to knit up your own fabulously colored Nix, you are in luck! I’m offering a 20% discount on Nix until the end of the day on Sunday, May 8th. I may just have to go stash diving to find my own wonderful combination for another Nix of my own.

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Finding balance

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It has been a busy time for me lately, contrary to what it might seem like around here. I’ve been struggling a bit lately to find time to devote to the blog beyond some drive by pattern release announcements. We can blame this all on the dreaded disease known as Thesis Writing Syndrome (TWS), which has become a full-blown inflammation. The deadline for getting my thesis approved in time for me to defend by the end of the summer is looming large, so writing has become my main focus, even to the point of infiltrating my dreams.

Now, more than ever, I have to work hard to make time for the things that make me happy and help me relieve stress (because those two things are not descriptors I would use in the context of the thesis writing process). I am a strong believer in establishing a balance in life between work and hobbies, especially because sometimes, graduate school can feel like a giant contest to see who spends the most late nights/weekends in the lab. (On that topic, I had an actual conversation with a fellow Ph.D. student who said to me, “Who has time to go to the movies in graduate school? I honestly cannot remember the last time I saw a movie in the theater.” when I mentioned that it was something I enjoy doing in my spare time. No one was impressed.) Throughout school, I’ve found that it takes little effort to complete my work and still enjoy my free time on the nights and weekends if I just put the effort into keeping myself organized and plan ahead.

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Lately, my knitting has also been a balancing act between a deadline project and a new design inspired by spring, which has finally arrived here in Toronto. For this design, I’m flying by the seat of my pants much more than I generally do when I create a pattern, just happily chugging along and making decisions on the fly just by how I’m feeling at that time. It’s a liberating feeling to just go with the flow, follow my gut, and not feel obligated to stick to a specific outlined plan. I’m knitting the sample in a couple of skeins of Ancient Arts 3-ply fingering. I used Ancient Arts yarn for the first time earlier this year for a design sample that will be released at the end of this year, and I immediately loved it. It has quickly become one of my favorite brands of hand-dyed yarn, and I love that they are a Canadian company, so I can support a Canadian business. I definitely look forward to my knitting breaks working with this lovely yarn. And I keep telling myself that soon, all this hard work will pay off, the thesis will be finished and submitted, and the next exciting adventure in life will be awaiting me. But until then, a nice glass of wine and a bit of knitting helps keep the anxiety at a manageable level.

Twist Collective Spring 2016

Zellige by Brandy Velten

Here in Toronto, April began with more snowfall than we had in the months of December and January combined. But this week, we have finally seen the snow melt and the temperatures begin to rise. Is that you, spring? (Please, please be spring.) And if the arrival of spring-like weather (finally!) wasn’t exciting enough, this week also saw the arrival of Twist Collective‘s spring 2016 collection, which means I can finally share my latest design, Zellige.

Zellige by Brandy Velten

Zellige features a stranded circular yoke that was originally inspired by the beautiful floral motifs found in many henna designs. I originally had designed the colorwork for a hat last summer, but when I saw that Twist Collective was looking for middle eastern-inspired designs for their spring collection, the cap I was working on became a tiny yoke prototype for my submission. I have never designed a circular yoke sweater before, so it was a bit of a challenge getting this design together. Any sane person who looks at my notebook pages where I worked (and reworked… and reworked, again) the numbers for all the different sizes would probably run quickly in the opposite direction (I felt that way myself a few times trying to get the math to work out). But the challenge also made this pattern very rewarding when it finally came together (and for that I send a HUGE thanks to the tech editors at Twist).

Needless to say, I am beyond thrilled to be included in this beautiful selection of designs. Here are just a few of my favorites from the collection.

Anyolite by Quenna Lee Anyolite by Quenna Lee
 

To me, Anyolite by Quenna Lee is the perfect knit tee. With a pinch of lace, a touch of texture, and polished turned hems, I am in love. My favorite part? The ingenious textured panels on the sides which narrow as you work up the body. I am always a sucker for hidden details like that. Also, the construction of this seamless tee seems very unique and I always love exploring new ways of working knitted items.

Bosquet by Emily Ross

Bosquet by Emily Ross comes in two fabulous flavors, and I love them both. But I am particularly smitten with the pink, four-panel version. There’s just something about a lace wrap that screams, “Spring is here!” and Bosquet perfectly captures that feeling. Plus, with two versions, you can knit one as a gift and keep one for yourself – you’ll be a fabulous friend and look fabulous at the same time.

Cedri by Elizabeth Mak Cedri by Elizabeth Mak
 

First of all, you must check out the photography for the Feeling Fresh pattern series because it is guaranteed to put a smile on your face. Second, while you are there, check out Cedri by Elizabeth Mak, which is just a fabulously fun cropped lace tee. When I close my eyes, I imagine myself wearing this tee while spending the afternoon searching for shells on the beach (I really could use a vacation…). I just love the wide lace panels of chevron lace – simple but bold. Just the perfect tee to pair with shorts and sunglasses to stylishly escape any day of the week.

What are your favorite designs in the new issue of Twist?

Pattern release: Feyre shawl

Feyre shawl by Brandy Velten Feyre shawl by Brandy Velten
 

For many, spring signals the start of shawl season, and while we still have temperatures in 30’s here in Canada (Fahrenheit, of course – you can take the girl out of the US but you can’t take Fahrenheit out of the girl), I’m so so so ready for spring. So to celebrate it’s arrival, I’m releasing the pattern for my Feyre shawl, which is now available on Ravelry.

Feyre is named for the main protagonist in Sarah J. Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Roses series. It is a take on the Beauty and the Beast story interworven with fairy lore – what’s not to love? Feyre is a tough girl with a soft side, dreaming of one day being a painter, when she is taken away to the Spring Court of the Fae, where love and adventure ensues. So it seems perfect to celebrate her with a bright, colorful striped shawl with a lace border that reminds me of spring blossoms.

Feyre shawl by Brandy Velten

I knit Feyre in some delicious Knitted Wit fingering single yarn I picked up when I was visiting Portland in January. I’ve made it a habit to pick up some yarn my local dyers whenever I visit a new place, and the beautiful, bold colors in the Knitted Wit yarns just called out to me. You know I can’t resist a speckle-dyed yarn, but I tried to go a little out of my comfort zone when choosing a coordinating color and went with a golden-hued shade of green. I can’t wait to get another chance to work with this beautiful yarn again.

Feyre shawl by Brandy Velten Feyre shawl by Brandy Velten

Hope you are enjoying some beautiful weather in your neck of the woods. What are you looking forward to casting on this spring?

Pattern release: Lagom

Lagom shawl

I’m super excited to finally be able to share this design with you. My Lagom shawl is one of 10 new patterns available in SweetGeorgia’s bright and refreshing spring collection. Lagom is an asymmetrical, triangular shawl knit with a squishy garter stitch background and  contrasting, playful bobble stripes.

The little bobble stitch produces a fun texture that looks complicated to produce, but is actually a simple three-stitch repeat that quickly becomes quite addicting to knit (I went through a phase where I wanted to add them to everything I was working on).  I originally designed the shawl around the fun little bobbles stripes, knitting up my prototype shawl in some Madelinetosh tosh merino light with punch of some bold bobbles striping across a splatter dyed background. I have been enjoying my prototype shawl for what seems like ages, but just wasn’t able to post any photos until now. I actually knit my personal Lagom way back in August when I was still waiting to hear about my submission (that’s how excited I was about the idea – I just had to cast on right away).

Lagom shawl by Brandy Velten

After teaming up with the SweetGeorgia team, we reworked the original idea to make use of the beautiful Party of Five gradient sets they offer. My sample shawl was knit in the stunning Swell gradient set, which transitioned from a pale, icy blue to a deep, gorgeous teal. I have never used a gradient set before, but not for a lack of love. But honestly, they just flumoxed me a bit. I just didn’t have an idea of the best way to make use of these sets. So I’m very excited to have a design that highlights these fun yarn sets and adds to the growing number of pattern that uses them. And, like all of SweetGeorgia’s yarn, her gradient sets on the Tough Love base are a delight to work with.

Lagom shawl

But enough about me. The Spring with SweetGeorgia collection has some beautiful patterns by many other indie designs. My personal favorites are the wonderfully lacy Taveas shawl by Mone Dräger and the spectacular Sonder cardigan by Fiona Ellis.

Taevas by Mone Drager; copyright Tabetha Hedrick Sonder by Fiona Ellis; copyright Tabetha Hedrick
 

In the beautifully bold colors of SweetGeorgia yarns, these designs just pop out to me in a way that makes me want to cast on both of them immediately. They both capture the spurt of growth and light playfulness that comes with a perfect spring day. I’m delighted that my design is in such great company in this beautiful collection – check out all the wonderful designs on Ravelry or at sweetgeorgiayarns.com.

Third time’s the charm

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Sometimes, it just takes time and a few missed shots to figure out what exactly yarn needs to become. And these poor skeins have been through their fair share. But they are being good sports (although, technically, they are fingering weight. Har. Har. Har.)

I originally intended for this trio to become an intarsia-striped wrap, but the physical item wasn’t quite materializing the way I had originally intended. There were little details I just couldn’t quite wrangle to fully reproduce the wrap as I had intended. So it sadly got frogged and set aside until I could work out the kinks in the design.

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But the poor balled up skeins kept calling to me from my “yarn warzone” pile of items that shall someday, somehow be finished. So I picked them back up intending to go at it with a slightly different idea. This time using short rows are large lace panels to produce the asymmetry. And yet again, the little things just weren’t right. Sometimes, things just look better as an abstract thought than as an actual physical object. And it can be so infuriating when you hit a wall where your technical ability limits your capability to actually transform your concept to an item. I suppose it comes with the territory of trying to design your own patterns. But that doesn’t make it much less frustrating. Perhaps acknowledging my limitations is the first step towards working to correct them, but it sure doesn’t seem to make my poor pile of “you’ll figure this out… someday” items/ideas/hopes/dreams decline at any substantial rate.

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So, here’s to hoping the third time is the charm. It may not be entirely what I intended, but I think working through the process has actually forced me to better define my exact desire sfor the item. I wanted smooshy, mindless garter stitch. I wanted a bold pop of contrast color. I wanted asymmetry. I hope and pray think I’ve finally worked out a way to get (most of) what I want and still feel satisfied with the design process rather than feeling confined by it.

And I really, down in my bones, just needed a comforting knit to come home to at the end of the day. And this is really hitting the spot right now. It feels… right.