Westknits 2016 MKAL: Building Blocks Shawl

For the second year in a row, I found myself leaping into the wildly popular Westknits MKAL (Mystery Knit Along). If you are as yet unfamiliar with Westknits, where have you been–locked up in a basement? The host of the MKAL and face behind Westknits is the sensational Stephen West, whose patterns are almost always cutting edge and at the top of the knit fashion industry. You often see shots of him sporting mascara and modeling his flashy knits, or on Instagram alongside excited knitters in various yarn shops he visits as he goes about his travels. Stephen is adored by the global knitting community, and wherever he goes he makes a splash.

Like many knitters, I am drawn to sensational knits, and I cannot always resist the urge to participate in a MKAL–certainly not a Westknits MKAL. Accordingly, with about a week to spare, I scrambled onto Jimmy Beans Wool and picked my colors for the 2016 Westknits MKAL. (I went with Madelinetosh Tosh Sport yarn.) I am not a big fan of red, but this year I decided to work outside of my comfort zone and selected four colors that coordinated nicely, though I was not crazy about all of them. Below are my colors, in order from left to right: Optic, Heartbeat, Havana and Leopard.

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At first I was unsure how this MKAL would go–but that’s the essence of a MKAL, right? The MKAL consisted of four clues with one clue released each week, and I tried to work each clue in its entirety before the release of the next clue, but I got a little behind. Here are a few Instagram pics highlighting my progress:

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Each clue instructed to increase stitches and add strips (or blocks) of yarn knit up in different ways, including striping, garter, stockinette, reverse stockinette and brioche. Eventually, I finished working all the clues for the Medium size, although I did run out of yarn for the final strip of Optic. (Imagine a sad, devastated-looking emoji here.)

dsc04082In the end I fell in love with this project, especially after seeing so many fabulous results on Instagram. However, I knew the red was not me and that I would be reluctant to wear my shawl, so I decided to gift my Building Blocks to my good friend Adriana (@nanoadri on Instagram) because she loves red and loves the shawl, and most importantly, I think the world of her!

Another Young Einstein Baby Cardigan

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When I knit my first Young Einstein cardigan back in August, my friend Amy saw the picture on Instagram and asked if she could commission me to make one for her friend’s baby. Not only did I immensely enjoy knitting the first one, but the pattern’s author, Julia Stanfield, had made the Young Einstein pattern license free for small scale sales, so of course, I said yes!

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I have to hand it to Amy for her yarn choice because in my experience with commissions people tend to select boring colors and schemes. I had directed Amy to the Tosh DK selections at Jimmy Beans Wool, and just look at the color she picked! The colorway is called Yoko, and the buttons are from Purl Soho.

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I hope Amy’s friend loves this cardigan as much as I do. As my husband said, “Give that baby a newspaper to read!” Because the cardigan is so intellectual-looking. ;o)

Young Einstein Baby Cardigan

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If you’re a knitter nerd like me, then you too must find the Young Einstein pattern by Julia Stanfield irresistible. That over-sized collar makes any baby look like a studious little adult, and what’s cuter than that? The pattern is incredibly versatile, with options for edging, sleeve, collar/hood, and the sizes range from newborn to ten years to boot!

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Needless to say, when my dear, intellectual friend Nicole informed me that she is having a baby boy, I jumped right into this project, which has been patiently resting in my queue for some time now. The yarn is Tosh DK in the woodsy-academic colorway “Plaid Blanket,” which I have been oh so eager to use.

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If I can ever get caught up on all my WIP’s I’d like to knit one of these for my son, or daughter, or anyone else I can think of. It was a true delight to make!

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Dotted Rays for Days

Typically I like to keep my knitting projects planned and orderly. This project, however, sprang from the sheer impulse to join the Dotted Rays KAL on Instagram. Not wise. But who wants to be wise ALL the time?

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I started the Dotted Rays shawl (pattern by West Knits) with the naivete that I would use only yarn from my stash (below). Tosh DK in Citrus would segment my double wedges, and all would be perfect. Right? Not quite.

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The beginning was quick and fun, and the rays sprouted like weeds as I moved from one color to the next–even though I had decided to knit two rays/wedges per color. From the center out (below) the yarns are Tosh DK in Citrus and The Flying Kettle Blimp DK in the colorways Ice Faerie, Dobby and Bees Knees. I then added The Flying Kettle Pokeberry but had to blend in some Tosh DK Lepidoptera, as the former was a mini skein.

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The wedges continued to knit up quickly, and a friend even complimented the shawl so sweetly that I told her she could have it. So the shawl became a gift for Karen MaCall–a master knitter, designer and spinner also known as @karenmacalldesigns on Instagram. She quickly decided she’d knit me a shawl as well, so we agreed upon a shawl exchange. Fun! Little did I know, Karen would throw together one of her beautiful shawl designs in what seemed like minutes and ship it my way in a flash, along with some of her delicious homespun yarn and several Agate stitch markers that she also made. (Seriously, my jaw dropped when I opened the package.) In the meantime, I tried to knit furiously on her Dotted Rays. Coffee helps! Below I have added Tosh DK in Modern Fair Isle blended with some Malabrigo Worsted in Natural, followed by Tosk DK Fathom and Mare, which I had to blend together as well.

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Finally I reached the final color (the last two wedges of the pattern), which ended up using over two-and-a-half skeins of yarn! The colors are Tosh Vintage Glass Bottom Boat blended with Havirland Lexington DK Butterfly Garden. These last two wedges were VAST, and then there was a 10-mile I-cord bind-off, so I had to grab some more GBB and Citrus.

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But at last, here we are! All EIGHT FEET of this massive shawl–the Dotted Rays for Days, as I’ve named her–blocked and finished and glowing in the afternoon clouds. Alas, there was no sun but enough light to see the well-placed holes. Kudos to my husband Andy for climbing trees and threading rope through the branches, just so the holes could be displayed properly.

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Now she’s on her way to Karen’s house, where she can be enjoyed as a shawl or blanket. As with all West Knits patterns, it was an incredible journey.

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Blended Rollers

Over the past year I have seen several versions of the Rose City Rollers pattern floating around on Instagram. Whether knit in a solid color, with speckled, striped or pooling yarn, or with several yarns blended together, these socks are spunky!

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Naturally I went with the blended–arguably most difficult–route. Diving headlong into my stash I pulled out House of A La Mode Fancy Fingering in ‘O’de to Anthro,’ Hedgehog Fibres Sock in ‘Banana Legs,’ Spun Right Round SW Sock in ‘Chirpy’ and Madelinetosh TML in ‘Mandala’ (arranged in order from left to right, below).

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I had witnessed the blended technique mostly in the rollers knit by Mara Catherine Bryner, the pattern’s author. Attempting to mimic her technique, I slowly faded the four colors from ankle to toe. It was a little tedious but well worth it. Now I have a work of art! (Even with one yarn, though, these would be a work of art…)

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A Cardigan for Mother’s Day

Last summer I decided to knit my mom a cardigan. Having already knit a Mini Rock Rose Cardigan (pattern by schneckenstrick) for my daughter (below), I knew it was a fabulous pattern and thought the adult version would be lovely for my mom.
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She agreed! So I set to work knitting a Rock Rose Cardigan (again, pattern by schneckenstrick) for her for Christmas. I helped her select a yarn, and she went with Madelinetosh Tosh DK in Fathom. Blue is a stunner on my mom, and as you can see, this colorway is a gorgeous deep blue. In fact, it is so deep it was difficult to photograph. Sometimes it even felt like I was photographing a black hole.

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Christmas came and went with all the knitting gifts that come with it, including a blanket for my mom, so the completion of her cardigan was put off. It’s a stunning and flawless pattern with a timeless design, and the bobble work maintains interest and focus. Still, it’s a cardigan, so every other row is a purl row, and unfortunately I’m a slow purler. Needless to say, I assigned myself the deadline of Mother’s Day, so here we are. The JHB buttons are almost an identical match, so I am pleased. I can’t wait to hand it over to Mom next Sunday! (As of now she is unaware of my blog, so don’t worry–we’re safe.)

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