Friday, April 7, 2017

Spring Knitting...Lots of Projects in the Works

Spring is here!  After about two weeks of off and on rain everything looks beautiful again in Kansas City!  Last weekend I cut a few branches off the Royal Raindrops Crabapple trees in our backyard.  They only lasted for a couple days in the vase but I loved how they brightened up my messy studio table.  (In case you are wondering, I purchased the vase at IKEA in March 2017.)

Cuttings from our crabapple trees.
We've been working on a lot of projects at our house this past month...knitting, sewing, woodworking, gardening...and more.  Something about spring arriving really gets us motivated to do projects and make things!

For about two weeks I have been working on a chunky cable blanket design.  First I did a test knit using some leftover yarn.  It's Lion Brand Wool-Ease Thick & Quick in 'Glacier'.  I love using this leftover skein over and over for testing out pattern ideas because it's one of my favorite colors...and the lighter color really shows off the pattern details well as the design comes together.

Test knitting with Lion Brand Wool-Ease Thick & Quick 'Glacier'.
After I established a plan for this big chunky cable blanket I cast on with the dark gray yarn I picked for the blanket. The photo below is from last weekend when I was working on this big blanket. I finished knitting the blanket yesterday...so watch for an announcement about this pattern in the next couple of weeks.  (It takes a while to finish the final steps...block the blanket, let it dry, photograph the blanket and finish all the details writing the pattern...and then the pattern can be published!)

  

I love how the pink Crabapple blossoms look with the rich dark gray yarn! The yarn is Lion Brand Hometown USA in 'Chicago Charcoal'.  This yarn is incredibly soft and I love how it worked with this chunky cable blanket design.  More details coming soon!

A few weeks ago my in house woodworking team (husband & daughter) built a headboard for the guest room at our house. They painted it a medium/dark gray....Sherwin Williams 'Software'...and it looks fabulous next to the white bedding (from IKEA).  I love how my Westport Blanket adds texture to the room!  (And...that's my Peace Pillow knitting pattern adding a comforting message.  The design includes felt applique letters.)

Westport Blanket knitting pattern - along with new headboard!
When my daughter was on spring break we pulled out the sewing machine and dug through all the fabric in the house and made a big stack of dinner napkins.  We love how they turned out and the assorted fabric patterns remind us of past projects.  And...we're using a lot fewer paper napkins!

We used the directions from this Craftsy tutorial.  Learning to do the mitered corners was the trickiest part of this project but my daughter figured that out!

Homemade dinner napkins made with stash fabric.
It took a lot of hours to make this stack of napkins!  The first challenge was finding stash fabric with big enough sections to cut 18" x 18" squares for each napkin.  We washed, dried and ironed all of the fabric because some had been stored in plastic bins for a long time. We wanted it all to smell fresh and clean.  Then we cut fabric, marked fold lines, sewed the tricky little corners for a professional border (this part took a little practice), used a knitting needle to poke out the corners carefully, ironed folds again and sewed down the final edges.

Marking fold lines.

A knitting needle is helpful for adjusting the corner seams.

All of the fabric was from our stash - leftover from quilting, sewing class projects, etc.
We worked on this project for several days!  It was a fun project to do together and the finished napkins look really cheery at dinner time.

Earlier this week I stopped in at Yarn Shop & More....a LYS in Overland Park, Kansas.  This cute shop is located in Downtown Overland Park....or some call it "Old OP".  It's a quaint, small town feeling shopping district in a suburb of Kansas City.  Yarn Shop & More has a beautiful assortment of yarns!  It's fun to step in the door and see the yarns arranged by color on the shelves...like a rainbow...

Yarn Shop & More in Overland Park, Kansas

Even though the bright colors were very tempting, I ended up purchasing a lovely neutral colored yarn by Blue Sky Fibers...it's Organic Cotton Worsted in the color 'Drift'.

Blue Sky Fibers - Organic Cotton Worsted in 'Drift'
I splurged on this gorgeous yarn to knit a blanket for our house. I tested a few stitches with the yarn and I fell in love with how it looks in a simple garter stitch.  So...this new blanket design will definitely have a wide garter stitch border...


Look for more photos on this project in a future post. :)

Thanks so much for reading.  Hope you have a fabulous day!

Happy spring!

Mary Lee
Fifty Four Ten Studio

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Summer Sidewalk Blanket - New Easy Knitting Pattern

I'm so happy to announce my new Summer Sidewalk blanket knitting pattern.  This easy to knit pattern is designed for use with DK or worsted weight yarn.

Summer Sidewalk blanket knitting pattern.
Summer Sidewalk is the light weight, summer version of my popular chunky blanket knitting pattern...Where the Sidewalk Ends.

The Summer Sidewalk blanket knitting pattern is available on Raverly, Craftsy and Etsy.

As of March 2017, I have designed twelve chunky blanket patterns which all use super bulky yarn. Often I hear from customers who like one of my chunky blanket designs but would prefer to work with lighter weight yarn or want to knit a light weight blanket for a summer baby.  This new Summer Sidewalk design is the first adaptation of one of my chunky blanket designs.  I enjoyed knitting this blanket very much and plan to add additional lighter weight blanket designs in the future!

This new blanket design started with six skeins of Tahki 'Cotton Classic' that I discovered in my stash back in February.  This beautiful dark denim blue is labeled as #3832...which appears to be discontinued.  However, this yarn is available in over 125 beautiful colors!


The Summer Sidewalk blanket knitting pattern may be used with many DK or worsted weight yarns.

If you are knitting this blanket for a baby or child, look for a machine washable, easy care yarn.  There are many easy care yarn options available including: Lion Brand 24/7 Cotton, Berroco 'Comfort' DK or worsted weight, Knit Picks 'Shine Worsted' and Knit Picks 'Comfy Worsted'...just to name a few!

Tahki 'Cotton Classic' is usually classified as DK weight yarn.  I used US size 7 knitting needles when I knit this blanket. My gauge was about 18 stitches to 4 inches.  However, exact gauge is not essential for this pattern.

To pick a needle size...I would suggest picking a DK or worsted weight yarn that you like and doing a small test knit in garter stitch (knit every row) plus a few rows of stockinette stitch.  Test knit with a couple needle sizes.  Pick the needle size that gives the best appearance with your yarn and your knitting tension. I would suggest trying for stitches that are not too tight and not too loose.  Of course, if you have a different gauge that will mean a slight difference in the overall size of your blanket...but probably not a huge difference if you stick with DK or worsted weight yarn.

The Summer Sidewalk pattern includes instructions for five sizes:

Baby blanket (infant): 27" wide x 27.25" long
Small blanket (crib/lap size): 29" wide x 31.25" long
Medium blanket (toddler/crib): 31" wide x 35.25" long
Large throw: 35" wide x 41.25" long
XL throw/afghan: 41" wide x 49.25" long

Finished size may vary depending on differences in yarn weight and gauge used.  However, as I said above...don't worry about gauge too much...pick the needles size that gives the best appearance for your yarn!

Any of the blanket sizes may be made longer by adding pattern repeats.  Each pattern repeat adds about 2" to the length of the blanket.  In the pattern instructions there are estimates of additional yardage needed make each blanket size longer.

Summer Sidewalk - easy blanket knitting pattern for DK or worsted weight yarn.
This blanket pattern is very easy but I still like using two stitch markers to remind me where to make the easy changes as the pattern progresses.  That way I don't have to worry about counting stitches!


I loved knitting this blanket!  The pattern is simple and easy to remember.  And, I especially love the results!  

Easy to knit blanket - Summer Sidewalk
For best results, I recommend blocking the finished blanket. It really is worth the extra effort!  With this cotton yarn it only took about one day for my little blanket to dry.  I have written about blocking several times here on my blog....find some tips on this post and this post.

If you like knitting with super bulky yarn...you may like the chunky version of this design...Where the Sidewalk Ends.  You can read about it here on my blog.

Where the Sidewalk Ends - chunky blanket knitting pattern.
And here's a comparison to the lighter weight version...Summer Sidewalk...

Summer Sidewalk - easy blanket knitting pattern.
The Summer Sidewalk blanket knitting pattern is available on Ravelry, Craftsy and Etsy.

Thanks so much for your interest in my knitting patterns!  Happy knitting!

Mary Lee
Fifty Four Ten Studio

Monday, March 13, 2017

Winter Returns: Get out all the hand knit blankets!

For weeks we have been experiencing a very early spring here in Kansas City.  But, this last weekend...winter weather returned!  On Saturday we even had a little snow for the first time since December.  The only thing to do is get out all the blankets!  

We keep our house pretty cold so we keep blankets in every room of the house.  No reason to turn the heat up when you can bundle up in a cozy hand knit blanket. My daughter humored me by posing for this photo as the snowflakes were falling...you can see a few white specs in the photo! 

When winter returns...get out all the blankets!
In case you are wondering...here's the blanket patterns shown in the photo from top to bottom...click on each name to read more about these designs on my blog:

All of these blanket knitting patterns are easy to knit with super bulky yarn.

We only received a dusting of snow but it was enough to make things look pretty for a day or so...a few flakes dotted the daffodils in our backyard...

A few March snowflakes in Kansas City.
Of course, cold weather means it's a great time to stay inside and knit!  I have three projects going right now and I'm making plans for a fourth project.  Lots of knitting going on around here!  

I found this beautiful blue yarn in my stash a few weeks ago and I'm so happy that I was finally able to put it to use....details on a new design coming soon.  The yarn is Tahki 'Cotton Classic'.  I have had it for many years and it looks like this color is now discontinued.  This DK weight yarn is still manufactured and comes in over 125 beautiful colors!

Tahki ''Cotton Classic' yarn from my stash.
Here's a little taste of a new design coming soon...

New design coming soon!
It's spring break for my daughter this week.  No out of town plans for us but we are fitting in some fun things like a visit to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art here in K.C. to see the newly remodeled Bloch Galleries that include a phenomenal collection of Impressionist paintings (I can't wait to go back!), going to a couple restaurants and a bit of shopping at the book store.  And, this week we'll be cheering on all the Kansas basketball teams in the NCAA tournament. I'm a huge college basketball fan and I hope to get a lot of knitting accomplished while watching the games.

Watch for new pattern announcements in late March or early April.

Have a great week!  Happy knitting!

Mary Lee
Fifty Four Ten Studio

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

"A Bit of Good Luck" Easy Shawl Knitting Pattern

I'm excited to announce my new shawl knitting pattern - "A Bit of Good Luck".  This shawl is knit with super bulky yarn so it's quick and easy to knit.  

This pattern is available on Ravelry, Craftsy and Etsy.

"A Bit of Good Luck" shawl knitting pattern - quick & easy to knit.
This shawl is easy to knit and would make a lovely gift...to wish a friend or loved one "a bit of good luck".

I made several test shawls before I finalized the design for this simple shawl pattern.  My goal was a design that would be very easy to knit, could be made at a low cost ($10 - $20 depending on choice of yarn), had a classic, timeless style and was easy to adapt to multiple sizes. (See info below about three size options.) After trying several ideas I think I achieved all of my original goals!

The shawl is knit side to side with a seed stitch border.  The main center section is stockinette stitch with balanced increases and decreases to create a gently curving shape for the lower edge of the shawl.  A tutorial for the M1L increase used in this pattern is available on here on my blog.

Easy to knit shawl pattern.

The pattern includes instructions for three sizes:

Small/Petite: 51" long x 13.5" wide (at widest point)
Medium: 55" long x 14" wide
Large: 59" long x 14.5" wide

All of the shawl sizes are about 7" wide at the ends.  It's also easy to make any of the shawl sizes longer by adding rows in the middle (back) portion.

The size shown in the photos is the small/petite version.  It's about 51 inches long and about 13.5" wide at the widest point.

"A Bit of Good Luck" shawl knitting pattern - it's easy to adjust the length.

This shawl is knit with super bulky yarn which makes it chunky, warm, cozy...and quick to knit.

"A Bit of Good Luck" Shawl shown in 'Vermont Green' Lion Brand Hometown USA
Blocking of the shawl is highly recommended!  Blocking makes a huge difference in the final appearance as it sets the shape of the shawl.

I have written about blocking several times.  For more tips and photos on blocking you might want to check out this blog post or this blog post.

A couple key things...after soaking the shawl for several minutes in a sink full of water, carefully set it on an old towel to allow excess water to drain off.  Handle your knitting with care...do not wring or twist!

Handle wet knitting with care - do not wring or twist.
Another important part of blocking is to carefully arrange the knitting on the blocking surface.  The reason to block is to train the knitting to be neat and tidy with even edges...in the exact shape desired.  For this shawl, make sure the stockinette stitches in the main body of the shawl are straight from one edge to the other.  The photo below shows the straight stockinette stitches for the main body of the shawl, with the increase band curving gently to the right.

"A Bit of Good Luck" shawl - block carefully to shape.
Use T-pins to set the knitting in place after carefully arranging the knitting.

Use T-pins to hold knitting in place for blocking.
Of course, I picked green to go along with the pattern name..."A Bit of Good Luck"!  With St. Patrick's Day coming up soon it seemed like a fitting choice!  (If you are wondering...I'm about 3/8ths Irish.)

I used Lion Brand Hometown USA in the color 'Vermont Green'.  I love this rich forest green!  If you have not used Hometown USA you might want to give it a try...it's very soft to the touch and very enjoyable to knit.  If you are sensitive to wool this could be the perfect choice for you as it has no wool content.  Also, this yarn is a very economical choice...I spent about $12 for the yarn to make this shawl. (As I said above...my goal was to design a classic shawl that doesn't cost a lot to make.)

When I was looking for green yarn I found that there are a lot of choices!  Of course, you can use any color for your shawl but I thought it would be fun to share the choices of greens that I found for a few super bulky yarn options:

Lion Brand Hometown USA - these colors are available on Craftsy:

'Vermont Green': dark forest green (shown above in shawl)
'Green Bay': true kelly green - bright St. Patrick's Day green (see photo below)
'Oklahoma City Green': avocado green (see photo below)
'Saint Louis Sage': soft grayish, slate green
'Grand Rapids Green': bright green
'Montpelier Peacock': dark, rich, slightly bluish green
'Savannah Sage': light, soft green

'Green Bay' in Lion Brand Hometown USA is perfect for St. Patrick's Day!

'Oklahoma City Green' in Lion Brand Hometown USA
Other sources may carry a few other greens in Lion Brand Hometown USA including 'Key Lime' and 'Galveston Green'.

If you like a woolish texture for your yarn, try Lion Brand Wool-Ease Thick & Quick.  It is available in a few green shades including: 'Grass' and 'Cilantro' (an earthy green),

Another yarn option is Loops & Threads Cozy Wool.  Cozy Wool is a blend yarn that includes a bit of wool...but it's softer than Lion Brand Wool-Ease Thick & Quick. This yarn comes in several green shades including 'Spearmint' (bright aqua green), 'Thunder Blue' (dark teal), 'Moss Green' (earthy green), 'Sweetgrass' (light avocado green).  This yarn is sold only at Michael's Crafts.

This pattern would also work well with variegated or multi-colored yarns, including hand dyed yarn.

An easy to knit chunky shawl - "A Bit of Good Luck".
Since this shawl was specifically designed for use with super bulky weight yarn, I am unable to assist with questions regarding how to adapt this pattern for lighter weight yarn.  This pattern could be adapted for lighter weight yarn but that would require writing a whole new pattern!  Thanks for understanding!

"A Bit of Good Luck" shawl knitting pattern is now available on Ravelry, Craftsy and Etsy.

You may have read on my previous post that I have been participating in the #YarnLoveChallenge on Instagram during the month of February.  Since this blog post has been filled with green I thought I would share my photo from day 16 when the theme was "happy color".

My favorite color has always been blue!  I have used various shades of blue yarn for several of my knitting projects in the last couple of years.

my 'happy color' = blue
Patterns shown in the collage are listed below.  Click to read more about these patterns on my blog.
The Parkway Pillow (top left)
Belleview Blanket (top right)
The Boulevard Blanket (lower left) - always free pattern
Third Street Blanket (lower center)
Felt Applique Mitten Ornament (lower right)

Thanks so much for reading and for your interest in my knitting projects!

Wishing you a bit of good luck in the days to come! :)

Mary Lee
Fifty Four Ten Studio

"A Bit of Good Luck" easy shawl knitting pattern.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Knitter's Questions: Clean Edges, Right & Wrong Side of Garter Stitch, and Knitting a Blanket with Circular Needles

Today I thought it would be fun to share some tips based on a couple questions that I received from knitters in the last few weeks.  I especially enjoy being able to help beginning knitters gain more confidence in their knitting.  Some of these questions might seem 'basic' to experienced knitters but I suspect other beginners might find these notes helpful.

Here's the three topics covered below...

1. How do you get such 'clean' edges in your patterns?
2. How do you identify the right and wrong side of garter stitch?
3. How do you use long circular knitting needles to knit a blanket?

How do you get such 'clean' edges in your patterns?


I tend to obsess about the edges! Here's the three things I focus on for the edges:

1. Pull the first stitch of each row a bit tighter: When I am knitting I pull the yarn a bit tighter when I work the first stitch of each row.  Some knitters like to slip the first stitch or the last stitch of a row...but I don't...especially on blankets or scarves that do not have seams.

Pull the first stitch of each row a bit tighter for a clean edge.

2. Change skeins of yarn mid-row: When I am knitting a blanket or other project where clean edges are important...I make mid-row transitions from one skein of yarn to the next. When a project doesn't have seams I would rather hide woven in ends in the middle of the row.

Weaving in ends on back of project...in the middle of rows.

3. Careful blocking: Taking the time to carefully block a finished blanket or other knitted object is essential. It's really important to carefully pin the knitting in exactly the shape desired with very straight edges so that the knitting will look the best when dry. I have written about blocking several times here on my blog including on this post and this post. (Scroll down a bit in both posts to find the step-by-step tips about blocking.)

Careful blocking includes pinning the edges in place.
In case you are wondering...the pattern shown in the photo above is my Third Street Blanket. Read more about the pattern here on my blog post.

How do you identify the right and wrong side of garter stitch? 


A couple of my blanket patterns have garter stitch edges.  For me, deciding on the right and wrong side when working with garter stitch is determined by my cast on row.  I use a basic long-tail cast on method and one side always looks better than the other.  I pick to have the "nice looking" side of the cast on edge be the right side (or front) of my knitting...and the side that doesn't look as nice is the wrong side.  Here's a couple close up photos:



Once you decide which side is the right and wrong side of your knitting, it can help to pin a marker on the knitting to help remember.  For example, in my Where the Sidewalk Ends and Westport Blanket knitting patterns, it is important to keep track of which side is the wrong side because that is where the main stitch changes are made. Pinning a marker or tying a loop of contrasting color yarn to the wrong side of your knitting will make it easy to remember which side is the wrong side.  (I need to use this tip because several times I have had to rip back several inches of knitting when I realized I had mixed up the right and wrong side!)

How do you use long circular knitting needles to knit a blanket? 


A few weeks ago I received a nice email from a knitter who was confused about the concept of using long circular knitting needles to knit a blanket. She had only used straight needles for knitting...and I think she realized that she would not be able to fit enough stitches on the straight needles to knit a large blanket. She said that she had a hard time visualizing how to use circular knitting needles to knit a blanket.  I'm so glad she emailed me...she said the info below helped her understand the concept!

Here's what I shared with her about knitting a flat piece with circular knitting needles...

To use circular needles for a big blanket you are really using them like super long straight needles...that happen to be connected by a long wire.  Cast on stitches the same way you do with straight needles.  Start knitting the same way you do with straight needles.  When you get to the end of the row of knitting...just turn your knitting around the same way you would with straight needles.

Circular needles are often used to make hats and knitters just keep knitting around and around and around so all of the rows are connected.  This is called "knitting in the round". Circular knitting needles can also be used to work "flat" knitting (as described in the last paragraph) and are especially helpful when working with a lot of stitches...such as knitting a blanket.  The other benefit of using circular knitting needles is being able to spread out and view your knitting as it progresses.

Using circular knitting needles to knit "flat" - it's easy!
In case you are wondering...the pattern in the photo above is The Parkway Pillow.  Read more about it here on my blog.

If you have not tried knitting with circular knitting needles, give it a try!  Many knitters, including me, use circular knitting needles almost all the time because you don't have the ends of long straight needles to manage.

Knitting flat...back & forth...on circular knitting needles.
If you have a question when working on one of my patterns please feel free to contact me. The best way to reach me if you have a question is to use the email address provided in the pattern.  I usually check my email multiple times a day and try to respond in a timely manner.

I love hearing from my knitting customers! It's so fun to hear how knitters plan to use my patterns as gifts for others including...knitting blankets to donate to a charity that is meaningful to them, making a blanket for a grown child moving into their first apartment or a grandchild going off to college, or knitting a blanket in anticipation of welcoming a new baby to the family.  It means so much to hear that knitters are using my patterns to commemorate milestone moments in their family's lives!  And...I am often touched to tears when I read about the meaningful charities where my customers are donating their hand knit blankets.

Thank you for sharing your stories with me. I love hearing from you by email (my email address is in all of my patterns and it's the best way to reach me with questions!), comments here on the blog, or through Ravelry or Etsy messaging. Drop me a line anytime!

Happy knitting!

Mary Lee
Fifty Four Ten Studio

p.s. Here's one more tip...I just finished reading "A Gentleman in Moscow" by Amor Towles.  It's very good!  This author also wrote "Rules of Civility"...also a great book! (Blanket in photo below is my Westport Blanket.)

A good book & a cozy, hand knit blanket go together!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Knitting Tutorial: M1L & M1R Increases

There are several ways to increase stitches when knitting.  

This tutorial focuses on the "make one" technique which can be used to make a left leaning stitch or a right leaning stitch.

This tutorial is for increases made with knit stitches (not purl stitches)...working knitwise.

How to: M1L = make one stitch left leaning (knitwise)

Make one (1) stitch by picking up the ladder stitch from the front and knitting through the back of the stitch. 

Step by step instructions...

1. Separate the needles slightly to locate the ladder between stitches:

Step 1: locate ladder between stitches
2. With the left hand needle, pick up the ladder by inserting needle from the front towards the back.

Step 2: pick up ladder stitch from the FRONT
3. Knit this picked up stitch by inserting the right hand needle through the back of stitch.

Step 3: insert right hand needle through BACK of stitch
4. Wrap the right hand needle and complete as for a knit stitch.  One new left leaning stitch made!

Step 4: wrap right hand needle & complete as for a knit stitch

How to: M1R = make one stitch right leaning (knitwise)

Make one (1) stitch by picking up the ladder stitch from the back and knitting through the front of the stitch.

Step by step...

1. Separate the needles slightly to locate the ladder between stitches:

Step 1: locate the ladder between the stitches
2. With left hand needle, pick up the ladder by inserting the needle from the back towards the front.

Step 2: insert needle from the BACK to pick up ladder
3. Knit this picked up stitch by inserting the right hand needle through front of stitch.

Step 3: knit by inserting right hand need thru FRONT
4. Wrap needle and complete as for a knit stitch.  One new right leaning stitch made!

Step 4: wrap needle & complete as for a knit stitch

Here's an example of completed M1 stitches: