weekend prep.

Quince & Co. Lark Yarn
Library
Log Cabin Socks

This week, I spent a little time prepping for my weekend knitting projects:

First, I finally learned how to hand-wind a center-pull ball of yarn, which will be used on my secret WIP. I actually used my Beauty Blender container to start the ball, after seeing someone on Instagram use an old film canister. Sometimes the strand catches and needs a little extra tug to release, but overall, it works! I think I just wound those first few rounds a little too tightly, so next time, I'll try relaxing my tension. This is the first new skill I've added to my repertoire this year!

On Wednesday, I stopped into my local library to photocopy the Log Cabin Socks pattern out of the book, Handknit Holidays. (Question: does anyone else visit the library for knitting patterns?) Inspired by Jared's gorgeous version, these cozy slipper socks will be a (very late) Christmas knit for my very patient niece. Since the pattern calls for bulky weight yarn, I'm hoping these are a quick, satisfying knit.

What about you? What are you working on this weekend? 

yarn love | my very first knits

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My love of fiber and all things woolen runs deep--and grows deeper each day. Today, I couldn't imagine a day without knitting, but when I think about how it all started, I marvel at the small chain of events that had to occur in order to bring knitting into my life. 

My first cast on occurred in a hospital waiting room over nine years ago. You see, my mother has battled severe health issues over the past decade, and when her illness was first discovered, my younger sister and I spent hours and hours, days upon days, sitting in drab-beige hospital waiting rooms bored out of our minds. One day, my sister casually turned to me and said: "You know, while I was out in Oregon visiting Mom Jodie (her mother-in-law), she taught me how to knit. How about I bring in some yarn and needles tomorrow and I'll show you? It'll at least give us something to do while we sit here." I said yes, and so she did. 

The next day, she arrived at the hospital with two, long bamboo knitting needles and a skein of Red Heart Super Saver acrylic yarn in the brightest shade of turquoise I'd ever seen. Sitting in the peach, pleather-covered chairs, she patiently showed me the long tail cast on, then, slowly demonstrated the four movements that would forever impact my life.

Tip the wooden needle into the tiny loop of fiber, wrap the yarn around the working needle, tuck the tip back through the loop, then slip off the completed stitch!

I was mesmerized. My stitches were tight at first, but slowly, as I became more confident in the movements, they began to relax and even out. Row after row, a soft fabric began to form, and at that moment, I knew I was a lifelong knitter. The funny part of this story is that my sister never took to knitting; she only knew the one stitch. She couldn't teach me how to purl or bind off, so from that day forward, I became a YouTube-watching knitting junkie--devouring videos about stockinette, tension, and weaving in ends. 

The very next week, I went to my local yarn store and picked out two skeins of Brown Sheep's Lanaloft Aran wool in a beautiful red and pink ombre, and cast on my first scarf--bravely--without a pattern. It was my first time knitting with wool, and I fell in love with the sheepy characteristics of the fiber. How it felt in my hands, so warm and responsive. I was proud of myself for 'conceptualizing' a scarf with garter edges and smooth, center stockinette panel. I took my time with the scarf, counting my stitches after each row, checking to make sure the loops were perfect before moving onto the next. I didn't know it at the time, but I was learning to read my knitting--a skill that's come in handy as my projects have grown in complexity. Despite its curling edges, I felt an immeasurable sense of pride when the scissors cut the working yarn from the finished object.

With my hands, two sticks, and some wool, I had made an article of clothing. Knitting felt like a gift, and I never looked back. 

So today, on this St. Valentine's Day, I celebrate my love for this craft. Sometimes I wonder if my sister didn't take that trip to Oregon, and didn't have a knitting mother-in-law, and and if my mother hadn't come down with an incurable, lifelong illness, would I be a knitter today? It's possible. However, when I think about how much joy, happiness, and connection that knitting has brought to my life, it's unimaginable what life would be like without it. 

growing up.

The busy season at work is finally over, which means holiday knitting projects (and blogging) are back in full swing! Three projects are already off the needles, and this weekend, I happily cast on for project number four — the Bray Cap by Jared Flood. Part of the BT Fall 2013 collection, it's the right amount of 'cool' for my 13-year old niece. Every year, she gets a new Christmas woolen — usually, a classic stockinette cap. This year, since she's becoming a little more responsible with her belongings (meaning: less prone to losing things), I thought it was time to 'move her up' in knitwear — both in quality of wool and complexity of pattern. 

Bray Cap by Jared Flood

The yarn is Shelter, in the Soot colorway. As if you don't already know, this wool is a true joy to knit with. I'm hoping that she thinks of this hat as her first heirloom piece — the one she'll reach for time and again; the one she'll send back to me for mending one too many times. These are things I like to think about when I'm making. 

p.s. Yarn purchased online from the charming Loop Yarn in Philadelphia — thank you again for shipping the yarn so quickly!

september things

It's hard to believe September is already here, isn't it? Every year, the months just seem to fly by, one quicker than the next. For me, the month of September officially marks the transition to the 'cozy' months--I'm content knowing that wool blankets, apple cider, and changing leaves are all just a few short weeks away. September also marks the beginning of our busy season at work, which we refer to as 'Peak.' It's during this time that I have to really have to consciously work to maintain a work/life/craft balance. The next twelve weeks are bound to be long and chaotically productive, so I'm really looking forward to this final, leisurely summer weekend. 

What are you up to this weekend? We're heading up to Atlantic City, NJ to spend some time relaxing poolside. I plan on casting on for my new cowl pattern on the car ride up and knitting while lounging under an umbrella.  

For those of you riding shotgun on the way to your holiday weekend adventures, here's a little #knitpiration for you to peruse:

No. 1 :: Ysolda released her lovely Inglis Mitts pattern as part of the new Wool Tribe 2016 Festival Companion book. I love the thought she puts into her designs; the way she curves the cable from cuff to thumb is a pretty flourish. Ysolda's Rose Red pattern was the very first hat I knit for myself,  way back in September of 2009. I remember being so proud of knitting lace in the round and learning how to read a knitting chart! The photo of me wearing the hat is still my Ravelry Avatar, even after all of these years... 

No 2 :: I've been doing a lot of sketching lately--my sketchbook is large and heavy and filled with swatches of wool that I've knit up over the years. It might be nice to have a few lightweight sketchbooks to throw into my knitting bag for when inspiration strikes on-the-go. I'm a long-time fan of Rifle Paper Co. products, and these Vintage Blossoms Notebooks are the perfect size for my knitting tote. [set of 2--on sale for the holiday weekend!]

No 3 :: Purl Soho's shelves are newly stocked with skeins of Sno by Woolfolk Yarn. This moody, black/green twist reminds me of the beautiful forests we drove past during our trip to Germany last September. 

Enjoy the last of the summer sun & have a safe holiday weekend!

 

swatching

Tosh Vintage swatch

This past Saturday, I had the entire house to myself, which is a very, very rare treat. Besides eating nothing but carbs  all day, I spent a considerable amount of time parked on the couch watching cheesy, made-for-TV movies and swatching my Tosh Vintage yarn. When I spotted these midnight-colored speckles on a shelf at Loop, I knew right away they wanted to come home with me.

Tosh Vintage in Optic

How perfect would they be worked into a cowl to go with my winter coat?

Madeline Tosh Vintage in Optic

This yarn is super hardy--I kept going back and forth on the stitch pattern that flanks the lace panel, and must have ripped out my knitting at least four times. The yarn held up extremely well and showed very little evidence of my woman-handling. Can we all agree that this Optic colorway is pretty amazing? I could stare at those tiny flecks of rust and aqua nestled into the fibers for hours on end. This yarn is just a delight to knit with, and, as Steven West would say, #specklesaresohotrightnow

 

the pondhopper hat

I was pretty excited to be a part of Alicia Plummer's test knit team for her latest hat pattern, Pondhopper! This was such a quick and fun knit--perfect for those last-minute holiday gifts. The combination of cables, ribbing, stockinette, and purling added just enough variety to keep things interesting for easy, evening knitting, and resulted in a rustic, woodsy-looking hat that's perfect for walks in the woods: 

The yarn is Swan's Island Organic Washable Merino DK in the (perfectly named) Eucalyptus colorway. It's crazy soft and beautifully variegated. I ordered three skeins directly from the Swan's Island website and three different dye-lots arrived in the mail. While normally this would incite panic, I decided to just roll with it. I selected the two that were the most similar in color and alternated skeins every row, carrying the strands along the back of the piece to minimize any pooling or striping in the finished knit.

Alicia's instructions were very clear--she wanted us to "...attach the biggest pom pom you can find!" to our hats, so I whipped out my Clover pom pom maker and made this fatty:

What's great about this hat is that it's the perfect knit for beginners looking to add some new skills to their repertoire. There's a little bit of everything here, and Alicia's instructions and chart make it very easy to follow along. In case you're wondering, here's a peak at the brim, unfolded:

I'm thinking of sewing the edge of the brim to the inside of the hat so that I don't have to worry about keeping it straight, and so that you see more of the hat pattern...I'm pretty sure that's how Alicia styled it in her photoshoot. Pre-blocking, I was a little scared that the hat was too small for my head, but after a nice long lavender bath, the yarn bloomed gorgeously and fits just right. I'd really, really love to knit a cardigan out of this yarn one day...

This was a fun little project and I'm glad to finally be able to share it with you! You can grab your copy of the Pondhopper Hat pattern on Ravelry for $4. Be sure to join the Pondhopper knitalong and be on the lookout for the matching fingerless mitts pattern, too! Have a great week!

Project details on Ravelry

test knitting

swans island washable organic merino

I'm pretty excited to be a part of the test knit team for Alicia Plummer's new hat design! The pattern called for a DK weight yarn, so I knew right away that I wanted to try Swans Island Washable Wool Collection. Hand-dyed in small batches in Maine, this 100% organic merino wool is completely machine washable. Unlike traditional superwash yarns, which are stripped through a chemical process and coated with a plastic polymer that prevents felting in the washing machine, Swans Island coats their fibers in a certified organic compound using the Eco-Wash process. You get the ease of machine-washable wool without the guilty feeling. 

test swatch

Before my Sunday morning coffee was finished, I knocked out a small swatch in the larger needles, just to make sure I met the pattern gauge, which is 20 stitches x 24 rows = 4" in stockinette. I cast on 24 stitches, and knit the first two rows and the first/last two stitches of each row. This way, I had 20 stitches in between the garter border. Once I knit 24 rows, I finished off the swatch in a couple of garter rows. This gave me a nice, crisp measurement markers, both row and stitch-wise. Pre-blocking, my stitch gauge was spot on, however, my row gauge was a little short. Into the bath it went!

drying wool

Post soak, I lightly blocked the square to measurements:

Pattern gauge was met! The whole process took about half an hour from start to finish, which is pretty awesome considering how much time goes into knitting a piece. It makes me feel confident that the finished garment will fit just right. 

Alicia Plummer Hat

Off we go!

The Barnwood Hat

The Barnwood Hat Alicia Plummer
Barnwood Hat 2

Last weekend, my second attempt at the Barnwood Hat finally came off the needles. The first one that I knit was gigantic because I was too lazy to check gauge, so for this version, I went down to size 5 needles for the ribbing and size 7 for the lace pattern. This one fits much, much better! Lesson learned: always. check. gauge.

The pattern calls for the alternate cable cast on, which I've never done before. Now that I know how to do it, I don't think I'll ever do a long tail cast on a ribbed edge with a long tail cast on ever again! Wooly Wormhead has an easy-to-follow tutorial here. As per the instructions, after casting on my stitches, I worked the first row of the hat flat before joining in the round. The alternate cable cast on gives the hat a nice, stretchy, neatly-ribbed edge. It appears as if there's no cast on at all—as if the 1x1 rib simply manifested. Clever. 

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The Fibre Co. Acadia Yarn

The hat is knit in The Fibre Co.'s Acadia yarn in the Mountain Ash colorway. The fiber's a soft, drapey, DK-weight blend of merino wool, alpaca, and silk. I'm so in love with this yarn. It would be absolutely gorgeous knit into a classic crewneck sweater. The silk noil (the short fiber left over from combing wool or spinning silk) gives the yarn a slight tweed effect, adding to the rustic feel of the hat. It ever-so-slightly camouflages the leaf pattern until the hat is worn. 

knitted lace hat
knit lace hat

It's still a teeny-bit slouchy, but I think that's because my noggin's a bit small at 21". If I were to knit this for myself, I'd probably cast on for the teen version. I'm excited to pack this one up and send it out to someone very special this week!

Visit Ravelry for full project details

Beautyberry blanket

Purl Soho Beautyberry Blanket
Purl Soho Beautyberry Blanket 2
Purl Soho Beautyberry Blanket 3
 (Left side of photo shows the 'right side' of pattern) 
Purl Soho Beautyberry Blanket 5
Purl Soho Beautyberry Blanket - marine
Purl Soho Beautyberry Blanket 6

This chunky beauty is for my niece, age 13. Whenever she visits the house, she heads straight for the couch and my hand-knit Montauk blanket. She's been asking for a blanket of her own for months now, and the minute I saw Purl Soho's Beautyberry Blanket pattern, I knew it was the one for her. 

I really wanted to use the Gentle Giant that the pattern called for, but at $418 for the throw size, it was just a teeny bit out of my budget. After a little research, I decided on Knit Picks Tuff Puff, a lovely super bulky alternative that worked out to a very reasonable $71. 

The Tuff Puff yarn is super soft and a delight to knit with—it almost reminds me of sturdy roving. I originally started out pairing the White (color A) with the Marina (color B), a beautiful peacock green/blue. However, after knitting a few rows, I decided to swap it out with Silver—partly because I'm a neutrals kind-of-gal, but also because teenage girls' tastes quickly change and I wanted to knit something that would transition with her well I nto adulthood. (The Marina has now been set aside for this gorgeous cowl.) 

The pattern is pretty spectacular... The front side has a beautiful honeycomb effect, the creamy white stitches framing the silver yarn in tidy, geometric outlines. The stitch pattern combined with the large gauge of the yarn resulted in a warm, lofty knit that's perfect for midday nap sessions.  

Things got a little tricky when it came to picking up and knitting stitches for the attached i-cord border. I wish I had used a lighter hand when knitting the i-cord, as the edges of the blanket curled in a little bit once the ends were grafted. After a bit of gentle hand blocking, this seemed to resolve itself. 

Even though I calculated 13 skeins of white and 9 skeins of silver for yardage, I only ended up using 10 and 6 skeins, respectively. When joining new balls, I did a simple wet felt join, which eliminated the need to weave in all of those pesky ends. The yarn does develop a soft halo after extensive handling, but I think that just adds to the charm of the finished knit. 

Overall, this is a showstopper of a piece and I couldn’t be more thrilled!

Full project details on Ravelry

Weekend #knitspiration

Hello, weekend! Do you ever have one of those work weeks where all of the small things keep piling on top of each other, keeping the real work from getting done? That's what this week felt like to me. Luckily, I have a rocking chair and knitting basket in my office, so I made a conscious effort to step away from the constant emails, office visits, and meetings and just sit and knit for half an hour each day. This mid-day fiber break really helped to clear my mind and refocus my energy, which definitely improved my afternoon productivity. I think I'll make this a daily practice...

What about you? What do you do during the week to stay sane?

To get you out of the workweek mindset, here's a little weekend #knitspiration:

No. 1 :: Twig and Horn Wood Yarn Bowls | These Maine-crafted yarn bowls are perfect for keeping your precious balls of wool from rolling off of rickety lakeside docks this summer. Available in Maple and Red Oak. 

No. 2 :: Purl Soho's Close Knit Washcloths | This is the perfect sitting-by-the-bonfire knitting pattern. Knit in Purl Soho's newest yarn, Cotton Pure, an unmercerized Pima cotton that comes in 43 gorgeous colors. Their carefully-curated yarn bundles provide enough yardage for nine washcloths! Bonus: you'll have something to wash your face with before tucking yourself into bed!

No. 3 :: Bailey Island Mitts Pattern by Kirsten Kapur | Knit with Swans Island light fingering-weight merino on teeny-tiny size 2 double pointed needles, these cabled beauties will be a welcome treat once the cool autumn days finally arrive...

Have a lovely weekend, everyone!   

p.s. Here's a New York Times article on the health benefits of knitting

A quiet weekend.

lace knitting
my knitting perch
the dining room
blocking knits
blocking knits
Cable knit stitches

This weekend was everything I hoped it would be—a weekend spent in my knitting room with row after row of lace knitting, hot coffee, and binge-watching TV. I finished Orange is the New Black and started The Americans. How awesome is Keri Russel's 80's-style wardrobe? On Saturday, there were Martinis with blue-cheese stuffed olives, and on Sunday, we enjoyed some Dark & Stormy cocktails while catching up on the DVR. My two hats had a nice soak in some lavender-scented lanolin wash before they were blocked, and I'm sad to say that I'm going to need to completely frog the Barnwood Hat—it's gigantic! I think I'll move down to a size US 5 circular needle in order to make the pattern work with the Fibre Co. Acadia yarn. Unfortunately, this means the recipient is still weeks away from receiving her gift! 

How about you? Did you enjoy a nice, lazy weekend full of knitting? 

ready for blocking

Last night, the Barnwood Hat came off the needles, and as expected, it definitely has that hipster slouch. The pattern recommends that you block the lace over a balloon, so I'll have to inflate it just enough to set the pattern but not make the hat any larger. I'm debating putting it in the dryer on low heat for a very short amount of time to slightly shrink it, however, I'm afraid of felting those beautiful leaves. If any knitters would like to impart some advice, I'm listening!

Knitting lace is pretty magical, isn't it? Fresh off the needles, it looks like a mess, but once it's out of its lanolin bath and blocked, it's completely transformed. I can't wait to share the after pictures with you. The blue hat in the background is the Purl Bee's Classic Cuffed Hat, one of my go-to patterns for quick, cozy knits. I'm still deciding on whether this one's getting a pom pom...  

The case for swatching.

swatching barnwood hat

Swatching. Some knitters love to take the time at the beginning of a project to test and make sure that the combination of yarn, needles and knitting tension all add up to the perfect gauge. After all, good gauge means a well-fitting garment. Other knitters, like myself, tend to dive head-first into new projects, eager to get that new skein of wool onto the needles—gauge be damned. As long as we're using the right size needles and correct yarn weight, we should be cool, right? Not so much. 

I'm currently knitting the adult size of Alicia Plummer's beautiful Barnwood Hat, in The Fibre Co.'s luminous Acadia yarn. First, let me just say how much I love this pattern and the yarn—the lace motif is easy-peasy to remember (especially while you're catching up on OITNB) and the yarn has such a soft, light hand thanks to the addition of alpaca and silk. 

The pattern says the hat should fit a head circumference of 22" once blocked. I'm afraid that while I have the yarn weight and the needle sizes correct, my tension may be a little loose for this project. I'm almost to the crown and the body circumference seems a little bit wider than it should—it's already measuring 9" across. Knowing how much lace grows once it's blocked, I'm pretty sure this is going to be one of those cool, slouchy hats vs. a knitted cap. 

lace knit hat

I think next time I'll swatch. What about you, knitters--how many of you really swatch?

 

hello!

brooklyntweed knit lace wrap

Welcome to Thornwood Knits! Some of you may remember me from back in the day at Sorella & Company…it seems like many moons ago that I was a stay-at-home mamma with lots of free time to knit, bake and indulge in all things domestic. Since going back to work over 5 years ago, I’ve really missed having a creative outlet and connecting with this little fiber community of ours.

I’ve decided it's time to carve out a small space to indulge in all things cozy—a place to share my works-in-progress, my love of yarn and notions, and glimpses into my domestic puttering. You’ll probably see a few cocktails as well, because nothing pairs better with wool on needles than a perfectly mixed drink. [The Sellwood is the house favorite.] My head is swirling with plans for this site, so don't miss out on the fun—check in often! 

I'd love it if you'd take a moment to introduce yourself in the comments! Oh, and let’s also meet up on Instagram and Ravelry too, ok?

-Jenny

p.s. Pattern :: Brooklyn Tweed's Topiary Lace & Cable Wrap | Yarn :: Knit Picks Comfy Worsted in Ivory...more to come on the project later.