Dec 042014
 

As part of this year’s Indie Designer Gift-A-Long, I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing one of the participating indie designers, Selina S,, from Kitchener, Ontario.

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My Little Slug pattern by Selina S

Selina’s store includes patterns for some of the more adorable softies I’ve ever seen!  Making them even more adorable are her cute models – – I don’t know who I want to squish more, the softies or the ferrets!

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My Little Blowfish pattern by Selina S.

Jennifer:  Selina, thank you so much for your time!  First of all, what is your favorite thing to knit?

SelinaMy little slug is my comfort knitting. I know the pattern by heart and it is easy enough for me to knit even during a meeting. I like to make a slug from left over project yarn and have a little collection stuck to my dryer. Some day, I’d like my house to be overrun with them :).

My Little Slug

My Little Slug

Jennifer: The little slugs are so adorable and I love how you’ve done the eyes – – they have so much personality!  And I’m always looking for ways to use up my leftover bits of yarn.  So, how did you first get started designing?

Selina: I suspect it is like most designers, looking and not finding the perfect pattern and deciding to have a go at making it up. It didn’t occur to me to write these efforts down until a local dyer asked my knitting group for designs, and I had just finished a hat I thought would look good in a variegated yarn.

Jennifer: Your designs really are ADORABLE! What is your inspiration?

Selina:  Thank you! A lot of it is actually problem solving for me, like Platypus, where I was inspired after weaving in 20 ends from a pair of gloves I knitted with sock yarn held double. For my little blowfish, the story is a bit longer. My brother didn’t want me to buy stuff for my niece when she was born, so I knitted her some toys, and started a collection of little octopuses (variation of my little slug) for her. I thought it would be fun if she had hundreds (well, maybe tens!) of the same stuffy in different colours. Then niece #2 was born and I quickly realized asking a child to share toys with their sibling isn’t going to work. So I set about trying to come up with a similar size and shape toy that I can knit with minimal finishing. The round shape was very important as my younger brother had been juggling the octopus for my nieces. Niece 1 (~5yr) has 17 octopus and Niece 2 (~2yr) has 7 blowfish, with more on the way. I tell people I’ll keep making these till they are 18, and I’ll either be the best or worse aunt ever ;).

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Platypus pattern by Selina S.

Jennifer: I can imagine that having a family of little slugs and blowfish would be so much fun for a child.  They could be piled up, lined up, and thrown about.  Okay, so pick one of your own designs that you think makes the perfect gift and tell us why.

Selina:  I’d have to go with my little slug. Who doesn’t love a silly little alien creature? You don’t have to worry about fit. Mistakes aren’t as big a deal and they’ll be hidden if you felt your slug. It doesn’t take long and you get a lot of smiles out of it.

Jennifer:  I completely agree!  From your profile, I see that you love ferrets… Do these cute animals influence your designs at all?  :)

Selina:  They don’t really influence me in my designs, but I’m always trying to think of a way to fit them into my pattern photos! My favourite ones are definitely those of my partner playing a trumpet harmonica to one of my girls.

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Ferret sings along with the trumpet harmonica! Also, the rand() sweater pattern by Selina S.

Jennifer:  Oh my goodness, that is so cute!  So, what is your favorite and/or least favorite thing about designing?

Selina:  I love seeing other people make my patterns and add modifications that made them even cooler! One customer made a 2 colour version of my Platypus mitts and I just had to try that modification myself! My least favourite part would probably be writing the pattern down.

Platypus with colorwork

Platypus with colorwork

Jennifer:  Ooh, I love it!  I also feel so happy when I see people modifying my patterns and making them uniquely their own.  As a programmer, do you notice any parallels between this work and designing?

Selina:  I love problem solving with programming, and I approached some of my designs the same way. So far, I have a small obsession with regards to how to make a complex object with no more than 2 ends. In one case, for my sweater rand(), I actually wrote a python program to generate all the random sequences needed based on gauge and sweater size. I really should comment that program and put it alongside the pattern pdf…

Jennifer:  Wow, that is so cool!  Besides knitting, what do you enjoy doing?

Selina:  I love cooking, reading and gardening. My partner and I also brew homemade soda and kombucha, and we started keeping bees about a year ago. I tried growing mushrooms for a while and would like to get back into it. So many fun things to do and so little time!

Jennifer:  Oh, geez, I am completely obsessed with gardening, reading, and cooking!  And I have been THIS CLOSE to starting a mushroom garden and have entertained the idea of keeping bees.  I agree, there are so so so many fun things to do and not nearly enough time!  Well, it’s been wonderful interviewing you – – thank you so much for your time!!!

Selina S. is also known as littlesplines on Ravelry and you can also find her Shop there.  And just a reminder that the Gift-A-Long is continuing through the end of the year.

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Nov 132014
 

With an “Arctic Blast” happening around my home right now, I am suddenly reminded that winter is approaching fast and, with it, opportunities for my loved ones to appreciate my knitting hobby, in the form of handknit gifts.  Some of you may remember last year’s Indie Designer Gift-A-Long and may be excited that it is happening again this year!

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The Gift-A-Long  (click on the above logo for more details!) starts tonight (Nov. 13th) at 8pm EST and kicks off with a pattern sale and a knit or crochet gift-a-long.  And there are TONS of prizes.

The pattern sale starts tonight at 8pm EST and goes through the 21st.  Participating designers are offering a selection of their patterns at 25% discount using the promotional code “giftalong2014″ when checking out on Ravelry.  For a list of participating designers, click here.  Even though most of my patterns aren’t very “gifty,” I do have a bundle of things on sale – – click here to see my sale bundle.

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I’m planning on casting on for several gifts and participating in the A-Long!  I’ve so far managed to whittle my wish list down to about 400 patterns, so I need to spend a bit more time making my list a bit more achievable.  Cast on starts at 8pm tonight, so I still have several hours to decide on what pattern to start with and select my yarn…  And to be clear, the pattern sale ends on the 21st, but the A-Long goes until the end of the year.  So, plenty of time to make gifts, win prizes, and have fun with the chatting and various games being offered!

 

Oct 292014
 

My obsession with socks has recently rekindled, not coincidentally with the arrival of cooler weather and the need to warm up my feet.

A new pattern for me but with over 10,000 projects on Ravelry, I figured there must be a reason that this Jaywalker pattern is so popular.

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And now I know.  If you are like me and you enjoy patterns that are fun to work and result in socks that are well-fitted but easy to don and doff, with possibilities for fun and exciting details, then this pattern is for you!

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I modified these to be toe-up - notes on Ravelry.  And I intend to make one hundred million more pairs.

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Oct 212014
 

I’ve been receiving some questions about the Umbra & Penumbra pattern and decided to setup a Pattern Support Page.  This is something I’ve thought about doing for other patterns and I will pilot the idea with this pattern.  My intention is to keep this page updated with errata as well as ‘frequently asked questions’.

Errata

The yarn quantities for Yarn C should be: 3 (3, 3, 3, 4, 4, 4, 4, 5, 5).

In Gradient 4, the pattern should read:
Work in pattern established by Rows 1-2 above 1 (1, 2, 2, 3, 3, 4, 4, 5, 5) times total, then work Row 2 once more.
Transfer remaining 0 (0, 4, 6, 8, 12, 14, 18, 22) sts from spare needle to working needle.

Round 2 of Yoke Increases (Gradient 4): (P1, slwyif) to 1 st before m, k1, sm.

Frequently Asked Questions

 Increases: Can you clarify the instructions for the increases for m1r, m1l, m1r-p, m1l-p?

Below are some tutorials and videos for how to work the increases.

M1L/M1R: Lifted Increases
M1L-P: Video
M1R-P: Video

Seam: Why is the seam at the front of the sweater?  Can I modify the pattern to have the seam at the back?

The seam is only at the front during the neckband and short row portion of the yoke.  After the short rows, the seam will move to the side and should be hidden by the raglan increases.  A good blocking should help to smooth out the stitches of the seam

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Yoke – Short Rows – Can you explain the start of the short rows across the yoke?

The short rows are worked back and forth (rather than in the round).  At the end of the neckband section, the pattern instructs you to slip a certain number of stitches onto a spare needle.  That spare needle is basically acting as a stitch holder while you work the short rows across the working needle, gradually incorporating the stitches of the spare needle onto the working needle.  Below is a diagram of what your setup should look like.  At the beginning and end of the odd numbered rows, you will be slipping one stitch from either end of the spare needle to the working needle.

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Yoke – Short Rows – What does it mean “p together with loop one row down”?

When the instructions direct you to “p together with loop one row down”, the intent of that is to close the hole that would otherwise be created across the short row. You won’t be increasing or decreasing. After slipping one stitch from the spare needle to the working needle, if you were to just start purling across, a hole would be created – – however, if you also pick up the loop from one row down from your recently knit stitches, and purl that one with the recently slipped stitch, that will help to avoid the hole.

Oct 022014
 

Greetings, everyone!  It’s been about a month since I last posted about my knitting and sewing progress and I wanted to give you a quick update.

First of all, the sweater that was in progress last month is all knit up and I’m delighted with how it turned out! I’m hoping to release the pattern soon so I’ll tell you more about this sweater then.

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Speaking of knitting patterns, for those of you working on the Umbra & Penumbra sweater, I’ve been receiving some questions about the  yoke and am putting together a FAQs post which I hope to publish here on my blog soon.  If you are someone who has been confused by any part of the instructions, please know that I always WELCOME anyone to email me with questions.  Alternatively, in the comments of my original blog post about the sweater, I’ve answered a few questions.

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Anyway, here is my current knitting project, another sweater, which I anticipate having done in about a week.

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As for sewing, I’ve made good progress on my winter coat and am hoping to have it finished it time for the cold.  There is still quite a bit to do – – the collar, facings, lining, and lots of finishing.  But, so far so good.

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I’ve got the main shell constructed as well as the fleece underlining.  The outer fabric is a nice boiled wool and combined with the fleece should make a very warm coat.  I will be adding a green taffeta lining, which I’m excited about.  At this point, I can tell that this coat is going to fit me exactly the way I want.  Because I tend to be very sensitive to the cold, being able to combine many layers is important to me.  In these photos, I am wearing two sweaters underneath the coat and it fits nicely.

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Anyway, that’s what I’ve been working on, slowly but surely.

Sep 172014
 

With autumn right around the corner, I have been ramping up my knitting, in anticipation of adding more pieces to my fall and winter wardrobe.  Today, I’m excited to show you a knitting pattern that I finished a while ago.  This is the Ebb & Flow cardigan.  I started sketching out the idea for this cardigan in January when I was on a family vacation at the Florida coast, where I watched the sun rise over the rolling waves of the ocean each and every morning.  That was a view I could not get enough of!  Back home, far from the ocean and surrounded by parched earth, I miss those ocean waves.  I love the desert, but places that receive regular rainfall seem almost exotic to me.  This is my ode to those beautiful rolling ocean waves.

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Here is my reminder of what the ocean at sunrise even looks like.   Sigh…

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While basic, this cardigan shape is one of my favorites.  It’s simple, effortless (doesn’t need any special styling), and flattering.  I prefer lightweight cardigans over any other heavier weight sweater because they are easier to layer with if it is particularly cold but can also be plenty warm on their own if it is not too cold.

And while the shape might be basic, I’m continually drawn to interesting details.  Ebb & Flow features a simple feather & fan lace pattern along the center fronts, made more eye-catching with gradient stripes, which are worked seamlessly with the body using a simple intarsia twist.

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The cardigan is worked seamlessly from the bottom-up, starting with a provisional cast on.  After the main body and sleeves of the cardigan are completed, the ribbing is worked all around, with mitered corners, and finished with applied i-cord and i-cord buttonloops.  The pattern is sized from 30” / 76 cm to 60” / 152 cm bust, with sizing increments every 2” / 5 cm and waist shaping to ensure a flattering fit.

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I worked this sample using Knit Picks Palette, with Pool as the main color, and Bluebell and Jay for the contrasting colors.  I tend to be overly excited about playing with color and this sweater provides great opportunities for color play.  This version of the sweater has a rather bold color combination, but I am daydreaming of knitting up a more muted one, with perhaps white or light grey as the main color and a warm gradient of soft reds up the front.  The colors for the gradients don’t require much yarn, so a person could even dive into their remnants!

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Find Ebb & Flow on Ravelry

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Sep 052014
 

Waking up to chilly 42F temperatures this morning, I had to remind myself that it is still, technically, summer.  A few more weeks until the official start of autumn, my favorite season.  My garden continues to produce in abundance though I probably should start covering my tomatoes at night.  Soon, my daily haul of eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes will be replaced by winter squash and leeks.  Yum!  Of course, a major lifestyle transition that happens to me is spending less time toiling in the garden and more time with my sewing machine and knitting needles, as the cooler weather approaches.

This past weekend, I started working on a cozy winter coat.  The pattern is Simplicity 5930, a vintage pattern.  I’m making the version pictured in green – – knee length with deep patch pockets, a shawl collar, and a belt tie.

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I’m feeling rather proud of myself, as I’m using fabrics that I already had in my stash!  The main fabric is a nice purple boiled wool and I’m adding a fleece underlining (blue chevrons – – that won’t be visible) for additional warmth, with a green taffeta lining.  With all those layers, it took about 4 hours to cut out the fabric pieces.  Then I was able to sew the underlining to the main fabric and have started work on the pockets.  I improvised some topstitching that I thought would look nifty.

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In the way of knitting, my needles are clicking away on a cozy wool sweater, similar but different to one I finished last month.

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I’m hoping to finish this sweater over the weekend.  I’m working on the edging right now and then will have about a million ends to weave in, before adding the buttons and blocking.

Once I finish each of these projects, I’m excited to work on more projects.

Despite, my intent to sew from my stash, I did recently buy some fabrics from Mood  to sew some blouses and shirts.   Below is my haul along with my ideas for pattern pairings.

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For upcoming knitting projects, I’m obsessed with legwarmers right now.  I love the chunky textured ones as well as those  stranded with bold colors.  Definitely with boots.

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Is anyone else excited for the cooler weather to arrive?  Summer always feels so uninspiring, style-wise, for me because I just end up wearing jeans and a tshirt everyday.  Fall and winter are when stylish sweaters, coats, scarves, and boots shine.

 

Aug 262014
 

Greetings Readers, long time no blog!  I have been SO BUSY for several months and sewing has really taken a backseat on the priorities.  The garden is going bananas (see here), the Day Job is bananas (I’m transitioning to a new role and that makes it extra bananas), my knitting has been bananas, and then I also try to ride my bike and do yoga everyday, so there is just no time for sewing.  I’m hoping that once the weather stops being nice, I won’t feel as inclined to putter in the garden or ride my bike as much, so maybe I’ll hunker over the sewing machine more regularly.

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These two projects took me about a month to complete, even though the total time I spent working on them was maybe 3 hours.  This is a Renfrew tee that I made with some fabric in my stash, modified with a peplum that I drafted based on a skirt pattern.  I used the rounded neck version of the Renfrew and cut a few sizes larger to give it some extra ease and I think it turned out very nice.

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Using the gray knit fabric, I also drafted a maxi skirt.  It’s really nothing fancy. I measured the width of my hips and basically cut two rectangles half that width with a bit of flair towards the bottom.  The waistband is 2″ less wide than the total width of my hips, eased into the waist of the skirt.

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Really, so simple.  But I love the result!

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And I love my top!  I know that I’m pretty late to the party on both the peplum top and the maxi skirt, but I’m so pleased with both of them.

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The top just feels so effortlessly flattering.  I actually really like having several inches of positive ease on this – – it’s so comfortable but still has a nice shape.  Obviously, I used contrasting fabric for the peplum and bands for the sleeves and neckband, which I think adds some interest.

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Despite having no time, I have felt very inspired to sew lately.  There are some new Vogue patterns in the latest fall collection that excite me and I’ve identified several pieces that could really enhance my fall wardrobe options.  Coming up is a four day weekend away from the Day Job and I’m hoping to spend some time with my trusty Singer.

What about you, Readers?  Any excitement for fall sewing???

 

Aug 072014
 

Knit Picks has recently announced the released of their fall collection of knitting patterns, Burnished.  The collection includes patterns from several independent designers for sweaters and accessories that are both visually stunning and sure to provide warmth as we transition into the cooler seasons of fall and winter.  I am particularly excited about this collection because I have a pattern included!

Meet Umbra & Penumbra.

Umbra & Penumbra is a top-down pullover exploring the effects of light and dark in an “ombré” style. Typically used to describe celestial shadows (such as solar eclipses), umbra and penumbra refer to two parts of a shadow and may also be used to describe levels of darkness.  The umbra is the darkest part of the shadow and the penumbra is the lightest part of the shadow.  In an umbra, an observer would experience a total eclipse whereas in a penumbra they would experience a partial eclipse.

Featuring a mock turtleneck, Umbra & Penumbra is worked seamlessly in a slip-stitch pattern, using the effects of color dominance to showcase color gradients.  In using two colors for each stripe of the slip-stitch pattern, one color will be dominant (or, more pronounced) and by alternating which yarn is dominant, more color gradients may be achieved in subsequent stripes.

Below is a detailed photo of the slip-stitch pattern and color gradients.  There are six stripes of color gradients visible below, but only 3 colors of yarn were used (just in this bottom half of the sweater).  If you look closely, you can see that different colors are dominant in each stripe.

Here is another detail of the patterning as well as the neckline and fit across the yoke.

 

This pattern would be appropriate for an adventurous beginner or intermediate level knitter.  Techniques include slip stitches, increases and decreases, and knitting in the round.  Short rows are worked at the yoke and shaping at the waist to create a better fit.  The slip-stitch pattern produces a stretchy fabric that is well-suited to both a relaxed fit and a more fitted fit.  The model in these photos is wearing the sweater with 2″ of positive ease, but zero ease or a bit of negative ease would flatter as well, depending on the preference of the wearer.

For fit comparisons, below has 2″ of positive ease.

And here is the version that I worked, with 1″ of negative ease.

Back view, 1″ of negative ease.

(As a side note, this was actually my prototype and includes 2 additional colors that I decided to remove because I felt the additional colors didn’t provide any benefit and were more cumbersome to stay organized).

The pattern calls for six colors of yarn, resulting in 16 gradient stripes.  Combining a sport weight yarn and the slip-stitch pattern, the fabric is lofty without being bulky or dense.  Wool of the Andes is a great workhorse yarn that will keep you warm without needing special treatment.  As a pullover, Umbra & Penumbra would be an ideal sweater for a fall hiking and camping trip as well as a cozy fireside sweater.

Another advantage of Wool of the Andes is that it comes in a wide variety of colorways.  If brown isn’t your favorite color, there are many alternatives!  I worked a second version in a selection of purple colorways.

(From top to bottom: White (25269), Haze Heather (25657), Sprinkle Heather (25659), Amethyst Heather (25304), Blackberry (25300), and Coal (25268)).

Below are some ideas for colorways I might use if I were to knit either a green version or a blue version.  The basic idea for finding color combination would be to start and end the sweater with white and coal, and then find four additional colors to create the gradients from light to dark.

 

Umbra & Penumbra is sized from 32″ – 64″ bust:  32 (35.25, 40.25, 43.5, 47.25, 51.75, 55.75, 60.25, 64)”.

Needles: US 5 (3.75mm) 24″ or longer circular needle and set of DPNs, or size to achieve gauge.

Gauge: 25 sts and 48 rows = 4″ over slip-stitch pattern worked in the round.

Yarn: Knit Picks Wool of the Andes Sport (100% Peruvian Highland Wool, 137 yards / 50 g)

  • White (25269) – 1 (1, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2) balls
  • Oyster Heather (25276) – 3 (3, 4, 4, 4, 4, 5, 5, 5) balls
  • Camel Heather (25277) – 3 (3, 3, 4, 4, 4, 4, 5, 5) balls
  • Chestnut (25273) – 3 (3, 3, 4, 4, 4, 4, 5, 5) balls
  • Fedora (25272) – 3 (3, 3, 3, 3, 4, 4, 4, 4) balls
  • Coal (25268) – 3 (3, 3, 3, 3, 4, 4, 4, 4) balls

Lastly, but most definitely not leastly, I would like to give a HUGE thank you to Knit Picks and their extraordinarily talented team for their work on this pattern collection.  When I first saw the photographs they took of my sweater design as well as the finished book, I was BLOWN AWAY.

Burnished and Umbra & Penumbra are both available from Knit Picks.

On Ravelry, find them at:

Jul 072014
 

Do you ever wonder why some knitting techniques get a bad rap?  Or are you one of those bad rappers who rap before you wrap?  Sorry, wow, bad pun!

I have been a bad rapper about intarsia in the past, assuming it to be overly cumbersome and annoying to manage all of the yarns.  In my knitting history, I have worked one project using intarsia and the experience was totally fine.  Still.  Whenever I see a pattern that uses intarsia, I always write that pattern off as something I wouldn’t want to knit because intarsia = blech!

For some time, I’ve been mulling over a few different ideas for designs I have but have stalled on them because they all would involve the dreaded intarsia.  I tried to brainstorm alternative construction methods but ultimately decided that the optimal method was with intarsia.

So I took a deep breath and cast on.

About four days later, I am over halfway done with the body of the sweater, having been blowing through the knitting of this project at lightning speed.  With this project, I am managing six different yarns and I am surprised to discover that the cumbersomeness of managing multiple yarns is overstated.  Yeah, so there are a bunch of yarns that sometimes get tangled.  And yeah, I have to spend approximately two seconds twisting them at the back of the work to join the colors.  Big whoop!

I’ve experimented with a few different yarn management techniques but my preference is to simply divide my yarns according to where in the work they will be used and then not really worry if the yarn tangles.  A big plus for my current intarsia project is that it requires little attention whilst knitting, and is great for kicking back with a beer and a friendly conversation, or my latest bing-watching program, whatever my druthers.  I have even successfully brought my intarsia project to public establishments and have worked on it with ease.

What about you, Readers… any crafting techniques that you avoid for possibly no good reason?  How do you feel about intarsia?