NOT A LAZY SUZEN

ain't got no idle hands 'round here!

FULLBRIGHT: fast, fluorescent & fingerless

suzenComment

Early spring is pretty grey. The streets are dusty with the remnants of winter and the grass is brown with snow mold. The only good thing about spring in this part of the country is the quality of light during the twilight hours - the air still has an Arctic bite and anything that isn't brown, grey and drab glows with a vibrating incandescence.

Inspired by early evening bike rides and long walks through inner city neighbourhoods, Fullbright is a fitted fingerless mitten intended to catch every headlight and keep you glowing all night. Featuring bold geometric motifs in high contrast colours, Fullbright is everything but dull. 

FULLBRIGHT: a new pattern available on Ravelry

Fullbright in Small [Large]. Shown in Purple Panic and Neon Yellow [Electric Blue and Glowing Orange].

FULLBRIGHT: The Details

Sizes: Ladies' Small [Large]

Needles: 3.5mm & 4.0mm DPNs

Gauge: 5 sts per 1 inch in salt & pepper pattern with larger needles

Yarn: Universal Yarn Uptown Worsted [100% Premium Acrylic; 180yds/165m; 100g/3.5oz]. Two colours, 1 ball each.

Techniques: Knitting in the round on DPNs; stranded colourwork; increasing; picking up stitches; reading a charted pattern. 

Purchase from my Ravelry store for $4.50 CAD!

Socks in repose.

suzenComment

As an avid sock knitter, I'll admit that it's a little surprising I haven't tried the whole "two-at-a-time" thing, especially considering my predisposition to Second Sock Syndrome. I think the main reason I haven't bothered with this technique is because it often uses toe-up construction which is not my preferred way of working up a sock. I can't seem to ever get the heel quite right. Or the toe. Or the fit. It's just much easier for me to do a Plain Jane cuff-down with a simple slip-stitch heel.

Y'know -- Cast on 64 sts over 2.25 needles, work a cuff, knit a leg, do the heel flap over 32 sts until it looks like a slightly square rectangle and then turn the heel with 8 sts in the middle of the short rows, pick up the heel flap and k2tog/ssk until it's back down to 64 sts and keep going straight until the foot reaches just past the baby toe and start decreasing until 12 or 16sts remain and kitchener closed. I can do that shit in my sleep! The trick is making two of them. Heh.

Truth be told, it can all get a little tiresome after a while. I've cast on numerous single socks only to turn the heel and put the entire project in the "Forgotten Project Drawer" until I need the needles for something else. And despite all the new sock yarns that are coming out this season, I haven't been inspired to pick any of it up because the idea of knitting just another Plain Jane sock is bo-ring. At least the way I've been doing it.

Which is why I decided it was finally time to give the two-at-a-time thing a try. 

What you see above is the beginning stages of a pair I cast on over the weekend. I'm knitting them toe-up, referring to Wendy D. Johnson's basic toe-up pattern from her book Socks from the Toe Up which I downloaded from the public library's eBook catalogue. Wendy's patterns are really well written, the plain language that makes learning a new technique a lot less daunting when you're the type of person who refuses asking for help out of sheer stubbornness. Though her patterns aren't specifically written for doing two-at-a-time, it's really easy to adjust the pattern accordingly. 

Now, with toe-up socks the big thing is getting a great provisional cast on for the toe. When I first started working at knitting shops, toe-up socks were just becoming all the rage and all the staff/clients at the shop were doing this crazy short-row toe thing that always felt way more complicated than it needed to be. There was all this math involved depending on the gauge you were knitting at and the short rows always yielded holey toes if you weren't careful with your wrapped stitches. I knit a few socks in this way and while they look great, they've never fit all that well.  

A pair of toe-ups knit with Colinette Jitterbug back in 2007.

Don't even get me started on how stupid the cuffs are on these things. If you're not casting off with a picot-edge or doing a sewn cast off, the elasticity pretty much disappears no matter how loosely you try to do it. Ugh. When I made the Jitterbug socks pictured above, I didn't really know how to cast off the cuff when I was finished so there's no stretch. Plus, there's no stretch over the instep either because there is no gusset to add that bit of room. These socks looked so great when I was finished but they weren't that practical. The end of their life was marked by me accidentally sending them through the clothes dryer where they shrank into dense little felt booties. This also marked the end of me using anything BUT superwash yarns for socks. Heh.

Anyway! The cast on technique I'm super fond of right now is the amazing Judy's Magic Cast On. This cast on creates a seamless join without having to do any short rows. Sure, there's a bit of finger aerobics involved at first - the yarn is looped around two needles in a sort-of figure-8 fashion - but the result is a perfect, no hassle setup for increasing the toe box. I've had an immense amount of luck with this cast on and I really recommend it for any projects that require provisional cast ons.  

It will be a little while before I get to the heel of these neon babies and I'll update you with photos and techniques once I get there. So far I can tell you that doing magic loop with a 32" circular needle is possible but not ideal, however I gotta work with what I've got on hand. And it's a total happy fluke that I divided up the 100g ball of ONLine Supersocke 4 Ply Neon Colour so perfectly that the socks are striping in the exact same place on both (the self-striping yarn gods are smiling down on me). Woo!

Hats and hats and hats and hats!

suzenComment

If you've been following me on Instagram, you've probably noticed that I've been knitting a whackload of hats lately. Quick, punchy projects that keep me busy in the evenings after I have finished work. This is all in preparation for the opening of my Etsy shop, NOT A LAZY SUZEN: The Shop, which officially opened last week. It's been a lot of work to get all these guys photographed and posted in the shop - lots of trial and error and researching other shops to see what works and what doesn't. It's by no means perfect right now but it's a start.

I'm currently working on a commissioned hat based on a recent one I finished which I'm going to be calling the Lightning Bolt.  

The Lightning Bolt - slightly slouchy toque featuring vertical zigzags.

Based on a diagonal striped toque I made last week, the Lightning Bolt is inspired by a striking two-colour pattern I found on Pinterest. The zigzags are more like an interrupted diagonal stripe and work their way all around the hat in a swoosh. 

The commissioned hat I'm working on is pretty similar to this but is being made for a charming English gentleman who happens to have a massive head. I had to adjust the pattern a little bit to increase the size, plus double the brim so it can be folded up as needed. Unfortunately, they didn't have any of the original paprika colour yarn at the shop so I've had to substitute with a viciously bright red-orange. I'm really loving how it pops against the grey-blue - definitely a happy alteration that works in the favour of the pattern.

And with that I will leave you to go back and knit. I'm just finishing up a weekend-long binge marathon of The Guild - perfect nerdy knit-a-long television. :)

Bulky yarn economy - a project in threes.

suzenComment

The thing with doing any kind of Fair Isle or stranded colour work is that you need to have a huge variety of wools around you, like a painter's palette. If you're the type of knitter that doesn't have a massive stash of bits and bobs then doing any kind of extensive colour work can be a big investment. And even if you're the type of knitter who happens to be waist-deep in random skeins of yarn, trying to find a selection that matches in weight, texture and palette can be a pretty tall order. It's just easier to have an entire line of yarn at your disposal in a selection of colours - it cuts out the guesswork.

Which is why I recently went on a spending spree, scooping up every colour they had of Inca over at Stash. I really love this yarn. Here's why:

A tiny selection of yarns in the following colorways: Fandango, Ecru, Black, Pewter and Corn Yellow. 

  • It's 100% Superwash Wool which means you can throw your finished work in the washer without worrying about shrinking. I'd still avoid the dryer but being able to machine wash is a huge plus.
  • As a light bulky weight yarn, Inca knits up really great on needles anywhere from 6.00mm to 7.5mm or 8.00mm if you want something rather airy. This means that you get the speed of 3 sts per inch without the super chunky-monkey bulk of something bigger. 
  • The colours are fantastic! Sure, they may be a little subdued because of the Superwash treatment but everything coordinates perfectly. Every colour work project you do with this stuff looks well matched without having to do too much thinking about colour theory.
  • At 100g, each ball has a generous 106 yards/97 metres. You can easily get one hat out of one ball (sans pompom, of course).
  • And best of all, it's reasonably priced at approximately $10CAD per ball.

I absolutely LOVE this yarn. Though, if you're looking for it's closest equivalent you may want to take a peek at the Brava Bulky over at KnitPicks. The gauge is pretty much the same but instead of being wool, it's easy-care acrylic - great for those projects that will get lots of wear and tear.

Since stocking up on the entire line, I've been working pretty steadily designing patterns that push what's normally done with this yarn. Usually, because it is a bulky weight, knitters will grab a ball or two to knit a cowl or hat in a simple or lightly textured pattern. Inca looks pretty snazzy in a rib or a cable or even as plain garter stitch. However, I get pretty bored with solid colours so my tactic was to introduce bold, geometric motifs that are often reserved for much smaller gauges. I did a bit of research on Ravelry and discovered that they aren't that many stranded colour work patterns for this big of a gauge. What designs there are seem to use the colour work as an accent rather than fully committing to an all-over pattern. 

Which brings me back to what I was saying at the very beginning. I think the lack of colour work patterns for this gauge of yarn is directly related to the monetary investment involved to have all the colours needed for something fantastic. While it takes way more fingering/sport weight yarn to knit traditional Fair Isle patterns, I think people approach that kind of project knowing that every bit of that yarn is going to get used up so it's worth the money and time to take on. Doing a small colour work project with bulky weight yarn means that you're going to have a ton of partially eaten balls leftover and unless you have another project waiting in the queue, you're going to be stuck with those odd little balls for a while. And unless you're into making the same thing over and over again, those little odd balls are probably going to hang out in your stash for-ever.

And that's when I came up with an idea:

How far can I stretch 5 balls of Inca?

The answer? I can comfortably get three intensely patterned hats out of 5 balls of Inca. That's including the massive pompoms that eat up like 35g of yarn. I still ended up with a few bits and bobs of the Corn Yello, Ecru and Black but it wasn't really much to do anything with aside from make a bunch of alternate pompoms for different hats.

These hat patterns are pretty much based on the same template but vary in height and brim depth. The broken zigzag hat, pictured at right, is probably the smallest of them all due to the amount of stranding involved. Even when you're weaving the yarns every two stitches, the fabric will still pull in a certain amount. The spiral hat, pictured at left, is the slouchiest because it's a few rounds taller than the other two but still sits snug across the head (my fav kind of hat).

This was a crazy fun exercise to do and I'm curious to try working the same patterns with an entirely different palette. All in shades of pinks and oranges or maybe greens and blues... Ah, the possibilities are pretty endless (and that's the most inspiring part!)

I'm working on a pattern pack that I will release in a few weeks that will walk through making these hats, as well as a tutorial for choosing the best colours for this kind of project. Would this be something, dear readers, you'd be interested in? Let me know in the comments or shoot me an message through the contact page!

Throwback Thursday: The Sea Cowl

suzenComment

So, I thought for this week's Throwback Thursday I'd focus on some past knitting projects that don't exist outside of photo documentation. This week I present a project that represents a wonderful part of my early studio and knitting career:

THE SEA COWL

This cowl was made sometime in 2006, right when the term "cowl" was still in its trendy infancy. I was nearing my last year of art school and had purchased my first spinning wheel. I wasn't the best spinner - all my yarns were lumpy, unbalanced and over-spun. Man, how I wish I could still make yarns like that! There is definitely something to be said about the beauty of the naive hand. Sigh.

The yarn I used for this necklace/cowl/kerchief was spun from hand-dyed and carded fleece that I made during a self-directed studio class. Back in 2006 I had these big dreams of creating an intense dye book filled with samples for future projects (maybe even my own yarn line!) but the actual outcome now sits in a binder covered in dye splatters on my bookshelf. I loved dyeing wool - it was pretty much the only time in my life when basic algebra ever made sense to me. I would spend hours calculating percentages to get a perfectly balanced cram-pot dye bath, anticipating the way the acid dyes would react to each other. It was incredibly gratifying. 

The Sea Cowl, as I called it back in 2006, was knit flat in one piece. While it kind of looks like I used plain stockinette, part of me thinks I attempted something else. Maybe a stockinette version of a cellular stitch, if there is such a thing. I shaped the cowl with increases and decreases on one side to create the drape that sat so beautifully on the chest. I then stitched the ends together to create a circular piece, using buttons to embellish the join but no actually serve any practical purpose. The fringe (I was SOOOO into fringe back then) was looped, braided and knotted through the fabric. I look at these photos now and I realize that this was totally an attempt to simulate having long hair. Ha!

I'm not entirely sure what happened to this cowl. I think I may have sold it or given it to my mother one year for Christmas. I used to make a lot of decorative things like this, selling them at the student show and sales in art college, back before Etsy and Market Collective. Then I started making sculpture and a lot of the practical, fashionable, wearable stuff fell to the wayside. 

I'll leave this Throwback Thursday post with a funny little photo of the tiniest little hat I ever made and actually wore without irony. Oh, the Suzen of 2006 was a quirky one! 

Happy Thursday, everyone! <3

The Bobblehead - a new pattern!

suzen1 Comment

I'm really excited to share with you my first hat pattern that is available for purchase through my shop: Meet THE BOBBLEHEAD!

THE BOBBLEHEAD is a super fun, quirky and fast project to take on. I designed it to work with bulky weight yarn, utilizing both bobble making craziness AND two colours which isn't always the norm for most projects at this gauge. The pattern features two sizes - a small-medium (featured in brown) and a medium-large (shown in the blue). Both versions incorporate a killer plush pompom and a wide brim. So whether you like a form-fitting toque or a slouchy cap, THE BOBBLEHEAD is there for you :)

Here are some detail shots...

You can find this pattern on Ravelry - add it to your queue! 

It is also available for purchase in my online shop as a digital download in PDF format. BUY IT NOW!

It's all about the bobble.

suzenComment

1960s vintage knitting pattern for super trendy bobble pullovers. Pattern for sale over at VintageKnitCrochet.

I've been thinking a lot about colour and texture lately, incorporating stranding techniques with surface motifs and textures like cables, ribs, and bobbles. Actually, this came about when I was rummaging around a bead store trying to find beads big enough to be thread onto bulky weight yarn, a task that left me with a very limited (and heavy) selection. I've been wanting to bring some kind of textured element to the designs I've been working on and I thought that beads would be the answer, and then I remembered: BOBBLES.

Bobbles have to be one of the more under-utilized knitting techniques, usually kept for heavy aran sweaters and matched with dense plaited surfaces. They are, more often than not, used to accent a pattern but every so often you find entirely bobbled surfaces like these sweaters pictures at left. These pullovers are hilarious to me for a lot of reasons, the best of which is just the sheer number of bobbles that must make sitting in a hardback chair pretty uncomfortable. And the fact that it looks as if the sweater is covered in blisters just waiting to pop. (Sorry, that was kind of gross. Heh.) It's bizarre, kind of alien-like.

Now there are lots of ways to use bobbles that won't make your knitting appear diseased. Using bobbles in a repeated pattern for something like a baby blanket will give a great surface texture perfect for little hands to grab and play with. Or using smaller bobbles to create a delicate fabric that is as stylish as it is bumpy, like the Medusa Gloves & Hat pattern available over at Ravelry. Or you can have your bobbles deliberately placed to accentuate the arms of sleeves, like the bobble pullover from Kim Kotray featured in the Winter 2006 Vogue Knitting Magazine. 

The big thing about bobbles is that size does matter. You can really up the quirk factor of a project by upping the size of your bobbles - especially if you are knitting at a larger gauge or introducing colour. Tiny bobbles are great for subtle surfaces but I've never been one for subtlety. 

Which brings me to what's currently on my needles - an extreme bobble toque that looks more like a cupcake than a hat (pictured to the right). I've been lovingly calling it my "pustule hat" which, I realize, is more gross than cute. Heh.

Making Bobbles

Introducing colour with textured bobbles is really fun. All you need is two colours - one for the background (Colour A) and a contrasting shade for the bobbles (Colour B). The bobble itself is knit over two rounds. The first round is the setup - I knit along with both colours, weaving my yarns as I go. I knit 3 sts in Colour A and 1 st in Colour B the whole way around. The second round is when the actual bobble happens. 

Knit in pattern until you reach the first stitch knit with Colour B. With Colour B, knit into the front and back of this stitch 2 times, creating 4 new stitches. Turn your work and purl those 4 stitches, still using Colour B. Turn your work and knit those same 4 stitches again. Then, turn your work and purl back. THEN turn your work and knit those 4 stitches once more. What you will have left is a strange little triangle that has appeared in the middle of your row. Using your left needle, pass the 2nd, 3rd and 4th sts over the 1st sts as if you are casting everything off. Now just 1 st remains.

Pick up Colour A and continue knitting in pattern until you reach the next Colour B stitch and start the whole process over again!

Here's a visual walkthrough of how it's done:

The one downside about knitting a surface that is entirely covered in large bobbles is how much yarn this technique eats up. I think it's pretty safe to awesome that you'd need about 50% more yarn than you'd usually use just to accommodate all the individually knit bobbles.

How I used bobbles to make something super ridiculous:

Pictured above and in my little demo photos is the beginnings of a hat I made featuring an extensive surface of knobby bobbles. This hat was such a joy to knit and as my colleagues over at Stash can attest, I totally was beside myself with hilarious happiness when I finally cast this guy off. As soon as the pompom went on I knew I had something pretty special. Here are some pics!


Productive creativity!

EverydaysuzenComment
Hat knitting and pint drinking over at Broken City - best happy hour in town!

Hat knitting and pint drinking over at Broken City - best happy hour in town!

I've been keeping myself super busy over the last few weeks. Mostly with knitting. Lots and lots and lots of knitting. I hit a stride during a sick spell, knitting furiously through a fever instead of sleeping the whole thing off (no rest for the weary). It's been a really long time since I've been totally engrossed in something. Actually, if I'm being honest, I haven't felt this inspired and excited since the early days of grad school when the only struggle was not having enough time to do everything I dreamt of. The best part is that this is a productive kind of inspired - the creative energy that drives me to conceive, design, knit and finish an entire idea without getting distracted halfway through. And man, it feels awesome. 

What have I been toiling away at, you may ask? Well, I've been up to my eyeballs in hats

A trio of toques with pompoms in a slight variation of size - toying with pattern and playing with colour!

A trio of toques with pompoms in a slight variation of size - toying with pattern and playing with colour!

One of the neat things I have picked up since working at Stash is using an Excel spreadsheet to map my knitting habits. At first I thought the entire procedure was rather awkward but after knitting a few sweaters and mittens using this technique of charting every little thing out, I realized fairly quickly that this method has amazing potential for customization. Rather than keeping scant notes about gauge, cast on stitches and random little graphs of pattern repeats, I developed a pretty stellar chart that I have been using again and again to create consistent, well fitting hats. I'm stoked.

Variations on a theme. My new pattern technique makes colour changes easy and delightful!

Variations on a theme. My new pattern technique makes colour changes easy and delightful!

I can't get  enough of making hats and I find myself turning out at least 1 hat every two days (in between shifts at work and other life things). They have to be the most gratifying thing to knit - quick and instantly wearable. It's my plan in the very near future to offer these hats for sale, as well as a pattern kit that will come with a variety of designs and colour ideas. Keep your eye out for updates on that soon :D