Monday, November 20, 2017

Test Knitting and Holiday Gift Ideas

I am officially a Test Knitter!  I feel special.  As if I've achieved a new level of knitting proficiency.  When in truth anyone can be a test knitter.  All that it requires is that you be willing to boldly go where no man has gone before.  Beam me up Captain Kirk I've acquired a taste for exploration.

Kidding aside there are a few aspects of test knitting that I hadn't considered prior to being one myself.  For example when you agree to test knit you must follow the instructions exactly.  This might not be a problem for most knitters but I generally like to adjust patterns to better fit my figure.  This issue is obviously more of a concern with a sweater as opposed to a cowl or hat.  Note that I chose to test knit a cowl.

You must also commit to a time table, which isn't a problem for me as I'm a pretty fast knitter.  But it also occurred to me (while I was in the middle of this test knit) that I might be blithely knitting along only to find the pattern had a major error in it.  Which would require that I frog back.  And I must do so with a cheerful countenance as that is part and parcel of being a test knitter.  I was happy to discover there were no errors in this pattern.  Which makes me wonder if I really am cut out for test knitting.

Prepare yourself the compensation is meager. You will receive a final published version of the pattern and a thank you.  But I'm going to posit that the real reward is that by test knitting we all support the indie pattern designers who have made knitting today the vibrant, fun and exciting time that it is with a wealth of excellent patterns for the hand knitter.  I remember as a young woman visiting yarn shops that simply had a few baskets filled with yarn books and a few pattern leaflets to choose from.  The internet and the indie pattern designer has revolutionized knitting  in a way that is hard to comprehend for those who did not experience it as it was.

For my first test knit I lucked out with the Eureka Cowl.  I knew as soon as I saw it I wanted one.  As much as I love the modern designs a large part of my heart is firmly rooted in the rustic styles of the frontier and the 1800s.   It was also a pleasure to work with Jessica Gore and knit her wonderful design that is warm and cozy and easy to wear.  And, as a plus, it knits up fast in a worsted weight yarn!  I love it and will wear it often on my morning hikes with Simcha.  If you are interested in test knitting for Jessica then I suggest joining her Ravelry Group, The Sweater Collective, where she posts upcoming test knits.

Particulars:  Eureka Cowl; designed by Jessica Gore (website The Sweater Collective); 3 skeins Mostly Merino Vermont Wool - discontinued - (worsted weight wool/mohair blend ) 300 yrds total; US 8 needles.  My gauge swatch was dead on but the wool I used is slightly heavier than the yarn it is designed for and as a result I used more yardage and the length of my cowl is slightly longer.  My finished blocked (relaxed) measurements are: 17.5" (length) x 19" (widest point); 9" (top opening).  My advice for knitting this cowl is that you use a yarn that is warm and will have a good drape when blocked.  The yarn I used for this project was left over from my Cabled Riding Jacket.


Thanksgiving and the holidays are a fun time of the year with lots of decorating, baking, and gift giving opportunities.  Personally my oven barely has a chance to cool down the entire season!  To get you in the spirit here's my list of gifting ideas which are all items that I've bought or received myself over the years.  Nothing is over $75 and a few are stocking stuffer priced.  If you are looking for big ticket splurge then I recommend you consider a yarn club or a sweater quantity of yarn but that's a risky gift in my opinion because it's highly dependent on personal taste so I've not included them on my list.

Gift Ideas for Bakers
  1. Designer Apron.     If you enjoy entertaining or baking in style then these are a must!  I have a number of aprons but my favorites come from a small shop in San Clemente, California, called Just B'Cuz.  In the picture above I'm wearing an apron from their shop. A big plus is that these are reversible.  
  2. Sourdough Start Kit.  If you have never tried baking with a sourdough starter or know someone who would like to try then this is good place to begin your adventure. This is the very same kit that I purchased from King Arthur Flour 30 years ago and I've been enjoying wonderful breads ever since.  Incidentally, in the picture above I'm holding a loaf of Sourdough filled with Apricots and Oats.  For a more experienced sourdough enthusiast I recommend the Tartine Bread cookbook.
  3. Lame Bread Slashing Tool.  A handy tool for all bread bakers.  The black walnut one is on my wish list.
  4. Bake From Scratch or Sift Magazine Subscription.  I really love both these magazines and have made many wonderful treats from both including lots of cookies from the recent Bake from Scratch Holiday Cookie issue
Gift Ideas for Knitters
  1. Magic Yarn Ball. These are really fun to make and receive.  Basically you buy a skein of yarn and then rewind it wrapping within the ball small gifts such as buttons, ribbon, lip gloss and anything else you can think of.  It's like a stocking for knitters.    
  2. Project Bag.  Knitters can never have too many project bags.  Because I knit a lot of socks I have a number of the smaller single skein bags that I purchase on Etsy that are hand sewn and beautifully made.   
  3. Progress Keeper.  I never thought I would use or want a progress keeper until I had one.  Now I love using them and add them to all my projects.  I linked to the Etsy vendor that I purchased from but there are many options on Etsy.
  4. Signature Knitting Needles.  These are lovely needles.  I have a set of their 5 DPN stiletto point sock needles and I love using them. Monogramming is an option.
  5. Kidsilk Yarn.  This is a fun yarn with excellent yardage that there are a million uses for and everyone loves (although it is tricky to learn to knit with).  I always have a kidsilk haze project lined up and these shawls and scarfs are my favorite knits to wear.  I've linked to ColorPurl who I most recently purchased this yarn from and she has several kits that include this yarn.  But there are many indie dyers who carry kidsilk in their inventory and of course Rowan yarns made it popular.  
  6. Needle Case/Cozy.  If you knit socks then you probably have sock needles rolling about everywhere like I do.  These cute needle cases are on my wish list.
Don't forget to shop for deals online on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  Jodie the editor at Knit Like Granny has published a helpful guide to online shopping (including some excellent knitting discounts) in her article Ultimate Guide to Black Friday and Cyber Monday Knitting Deals!  


Until next time be well and love well and from all of us at The Knitting Blog by Mr Puffy the Dog we wish you and yours a wonderful Thanksgiving and holiday season!  Notice how Simcha's ears perk up at the mention of Thanksgiving.


Anonymous said...

Beautiful cowl, Claudia. Normally I'm not a fan of bobbles but they really add to the coziness of this cowl. Maybe Jessica could add instructions to her pattern on how to knit backwards which makes bobble-knitting easier and more efficient. And also love the knitter gift suggestions - which I can pass on to my family as inexpensive gifts for ME (really hoping for some of that Kidsilk Haze):-). Happy Thanksgiving! Chloe

Mereknits said...

Claudia, the cowl is gorgeous. The color is perfect. I have never test knit and can't fathom ever having the time to do so because of the time restrictions but I applaud all of you who do. You make it so that patterns can be tweaked and ready for publishing. Happy Thanksgiving!

Claudia Bugh said...

That's an interesting idea Chloe. I've never heard of knitting backward to make a bobble. When I was following her instructions at first I didn't like the bobble method she used and almost suggested that she use a different one. But as I continued on I could see why she used it because it was very simple to make and gave good definition without the bobble sitting on top of the fabric, if you will. I do hope you get some kidsilk haze!!!! If you can't find any pattern you like I'll give you a few suggestions. The skein I purchased is going to be a very simple bias scarf that I can knit while visiting my folks over the holidays wihout worrying about counting. Wishing you a very happy Thanksgivng Chloe ~

Claudia Bugh said...

Thank you Mereknits! Because my job has various hours and isn't always predictable I won't be doing a lot of test knitting either for exactly that reason. Wishing you and your family a very happy Thanksgiving!

Anonymous said...

Thank you Claudia for explaining the advantages of Jessica's bobble technique. Looks like it trumps backwards knitting in terms of style and beauty, at least in her very appealing pattern. If I can remember where I heard about using backward knitting for bobbles I will send it to you. May have been on you tube. Chloe

Anonymous said...

Happy Thanksgiving Claudia! I'm up early before everyone else so I have time to write this Comment. Can't find the original source where I learned about backward knitting but has an excellent tutorial. It can also be very helpful with entrelac and short rows. It is often recommended but not required to do them English/American style - even for a Continental knitter. I agree. Much easier. But still requires practice. Not hard, but not all that intuitive either. Thank you for the bias KSH scarf suggestion. I would like to see how yours turns out. I am looking to make a long, fairly wide scarf in subtle very wide, block-like stripes for a particular giftee. Something simple because I've heard this yarn can be tricky to knit with. The bias idea sounds interesting. Simple but with a twist. And any other ideas would also be welcome. I've perused Ravelry but so far nothing exactly right. Thank you so much, Claudia!

Claudia Bugh said...

I'm up early too Chloe! Thank you for the info on bobbles - who knew there could be so many different options for this stitch? lol I think it's also interesting how they created a different effect and I think it's a great idea to swatch for bobble construction - I may just borrow this idea and your help for a blog post one of these days :) My tips for knitting with Kidsilk is to use a needle with a very sharp tip and to also use a needle color that contrasts with the color of the yarn itself. If I happen across a pattern that sounds like what you are looking for I'll flag it. Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving Chloe to you and your family!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Claudia! By now I assume you've had your own wonderful Thanksgiving. I needed the reminder about sharp tips. In knitting, I run aground so easily:-). Chloe

Jodie said...

Hi Claudia

Hope you and yours had a lovely Thanksgiving.
What a beautiful cowl, I can imagine this will be a favorite part of your wardrobe :)Thank goodness for all those fabulous indie knit designers out there. Love all your ideas for gifts for bakers and knitters. I particularly love the Magic Yarn Ball. Thanks so much for sharing my guide. Happy Knitting :) Jodie

Willow said...

I've never been a test knitter -- I knit left handed, so I am not a good candidate. However, I'd love to try some time.
I too love the more heritage driven knits-- sweaters and shawls and I love to use my handspun yarn to make them.
I hope you had a great Thanksgiving! I am visiting my daughters on the east coast but am keeping a very very close tab on the fires in Ventura County. The Professor says all is well at our little cottage.

Claudia Bugh said...

Willow I hope your home continues to be safe and away from the danger zone. I thought about you and if I recall correctly your son is a firefighter. My thoughts and prayers are for all those battling the flames and the poor animals in its path and of course for those who lose homes. There's a new fire up in Carpinteria which is threatening my sister's home and of course we are watching the Skirball fire very closely.

Anonymous said...

Have been thinking of you, Claudia. Chloe

Claudia Bugh said...

Thank you Chloe, that is very sweet of you. It has been very stressful the past few days but last night around 10 pm the wind dropped and I knew then that the danger had past and I was able to finally sleep well. The winds in our canyons had been so strong it was hard to stand up outside and a wind fueled fire is impossible to stop. I appreciate your nice note and concern but all is well now! Have a wonderful weekend and happy knitting Chloe ~