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Creating the Escher Cardigan design was kind of an adventure for me. When I finally finished, I felt like I had created a masterpiece–or maybe I was just feeling a little woozy from relearning all the high school trigonometry required to grade out this pattern. Whatever the case, the unusual shape of the garment was definitely exciting uncharted territory. I had to knit, and then reknit, almost every section until I got it just right.

Escher Picture 1

Escher Picture 2

Escher Picture 3

My initial design sketch actually looks pretty similar to the end result, but the way it all came together differs a lot from my original idea. The most striking difference is that bold V-shape I added to the back. After knitting the whole body section according to my original proposed idea, I tried it on and realized the fit would be much improved if the arm holes angled down a bit. I went back to the drawing board and came up with this solution. It was a real doozy to figure out, but well worth the effort.

Escher Picture 4

Before Brooklyn Tweed assigned this cardigan an official name, I affectionately nicknamed it the #blobsweater because of the somewhat amorphous appearance of my original design sketch. But as the design progressed, “Blob" seemed less and less appropriate. Like when I added the V-stripe, I kept seeing all these wonderful opportunities to incorporate unusual shaping details. By the end, all the missteps, self-doubt and subsequent recalculation had transformed my blob into an elegant, flattering garment suitable for a fancy lady….

Escher Picture 5

… like this one. I think it should be noted, that this model is probably pretty tall and broad shouldered. I never met her, but I think I'm at liberty to make a reliable guess. If you're anywhere near average height, Escher will probably look more like my design sketch on you, falling somewhere around or just below your elbows. I'm about 5'10", and this is what the exact same sweater looks like on me:

Escher Picture 6

One of my favorite details in Escher is the shaping in the ribbed edging around the shoulders on the back. The shaping mirrors the bold V-stripe on the back. This shaping helped refine the fit but also visually balances the design. This was definitely not in my original plan, but I just couldn't help myself. Its little details like this that make my little designer heart flutter.

Escher Picture 7

One of my goals with this design was to make it entirely seamless. This created a few challenges for me. The biggest problem was in the rib section, because if I worked it in one long round, it would require a mind-blowing number of stitches on the needle. I have no desire to keep track of 600+ stitches, and I don't expect anyone else to find joy in that either.

After much experimentation, I figured out that I could construct the edging in two flat pieces, and still keep the cardigan seamless. The lower part is formed from picked up stitches that are worked straight out from the body. Then the upper section is formed from stitches that are picked up from the body and the sides of the lower ribbing section.

Escher Picture 8

Another little thing you may not have noticed is the knitted covered button that I made for this cardigan. If you recall my Knitted Covered Button Tutorial post I did last year, you know how much I love this technique.

Escher Picture 9

I love how the button just looks like it belongs–a compliment to the design instead of a distracting focal point. Unfortunately, Brooklyn Tweed didn't get a photo of the cardigan buttoned, so I feel like it's my duty to shout about this detail from the rooftops! YES, it buttons and it's adorable! Button! B-U-T-T-O-N!

Escher Picture 10

This was my fourth Brooklyn Tweed “Wool People" contribution, and the third design I've done with their Loft yarn. The fact that I keep going back to this yarn is a testament to how great it is. I hope you'll pick some up and knit yourself an Escher too. I can hardly wait to get the sample back. It's sure to be one of my signature pieces and a much loved wardrobe staple!

Rook was the third pattern I wrote for my book, Graphic Knits. I chose the lovely Blue Sky Alpacas "Alpaca Silk" yarn for this design because it comes in such a fantastic palette of colors. As soon as the yarn arrived, I could hardly wait to get started on this design.

Rook is one of my very favorite patterns in the book, but it probably gave me the most trouble design-wise. It was a little bit of a nightmare, actually. I started work on this pattern as Hurricane Sandy approached New York City in October 2012, and didn't finish until four months later at the end of February 2013. To put that in perspective, I was trying to design, and knit about 1½ to 2 new things every single month to make the seemingly impossible August 2013 deadline I had for my book.

I had a grand vision for Rook. I would invent a new shoulder construction just for this design–my very own method for a top-down seamless sweater with a simultaneous set-in sleeve cap. It's a lot of fun to knit, but boy it was a doozy to figure out!

Of course, I rarely get anything right on my first try, and this new shoulder construction was no exception. I knitted the whole body of the sweater, and half a sleeve before I realized that my original design had some serious problems. The armsyce was just too long and the top of the cap was strangely boxy. The long armsyce introduced a whole heap of other issues that I won't even bore you with.

It was clear I had to start over. I knew the concept had great potential but my time limitations were forcing me to consider scrapping the whole design. I was so sad, because I thought it was one of the very best designs in my whole book proposal.

After taking a little (two month) break from the project, I decided to give it another try. I refigured the math for the sleeve cap and got to work re-knitting the top portion of the sweater. Version 2 was everything I hoped it would be! An all around perfect fit.

Thankfully, most of the color-work in the lower portion of the sweater could be salvaged, but I would have to graft it by hand to the new top–not an easy task! And lucky you, I documented the whole thing, for your future blog reading delight.

The graft became 100% invisible after I blocked the sweater. Since the new shoulder section was shorter by a couple of inches, I was able to add a little more of that lovely Fair Isle pattern to the bottom, which made me really happy.

I think I look a little triumphant in that picture. What do you think?!

Of course making the decision to rip out weeks of work is not easy, but I've never regretted it once. It was my expectation that as I became a more experienced designer, that there would be many fewer of these kinds of harrowing experiences, but that is just not the case. In fact, I start over on things much more than I used to. I think I hold myself to an ever-higher standard, because I know that every new design can be a masterpiece. It might not look like a Rembrandt, but completing Rook was one of my proudest moments.

For more information about the design, check out the pattern page here.

Recently, I needed a button for a new cardigan I knitted for an upcoming Brooklyn Tweed Wool People collection (sorry, no pictures allowed yet). The button needed to be sort of plain, because the design is very clean and modern, but also compliment the warm coziness of the BT Loft yarn I used. Of course, I have some of the very best button stores at my disposal here in NYC, but why bother when I have the power to make the perfect button, right here in my living room?!

KnitDarling-Knitted-Covered-Button1

If you've never made covered buttons before, you've been missing out. It's kind of amazing because they open up a whole new world of interesting button possibilities--including of course, hand-knitted buttons.

Covered buttons are especially great for using with lightweight hand knits that require larger buttons. Big heavy buttons can pull on delicate hand knits and distort them over time. I learned this the hard way, of course, so I'm very sensitive to gravity's effects. Covered buttons are pretty much hollow, making them more lightweight than standard plastic buttons. This is exactly what I needed for my BT cardigan.

As I created my buttons, I thought this is just the kind of thing my Knit Darling readers would love to learn about! I’ve made a great number of covered buttons over the years, so I have a lot of knowledge I can share. Before I get into the instructions though, I have a few things you should consider.

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ONE
I’ve never successfully made a tiny knitted covered button. Because of this, I suggest you use a medium to large sized covered button kit. I like to use the kind of covered buttons that feature comb-like teeth on the underside because they are perfect for grabbing the edges of knitted fabric. I've used Dritz brand half-ball covered button kits with great results.

TWO
Select a very lightweight yarn–fingering weight works best. Most covered button kits are designed to be used with thin woven fabrics. Thicker yarn doesn't work because it prevents the back plate from snapping into place properly.

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THREE
Use a smaller needle than suggested to create a very dense fabric. This is more of an aesthetic thing. The piece of fabric you knit has to stretch over the shiny metal button, and any little gaps between your stitches will become very obvious. I always use size 0 needles.

FOUR
Contrary to the kit instructions, make your knitted piece only barely larger than the button itself. This will reduce bulk inside the button, which will make snapping the cover into place much easier. Again, the kits are designed to be used with woven fabrics that fray near the cut edges. We won't have that problem with our custom made knitted covers, so ignore the pattern on the back if the package.

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INSTRUCTIONS
You will be making a little octagon that is just big enough to wrap around the top if the button. You might like to measure the button to determine this size, but I've also done pretty well just estimating it as I go.

Cast-on about 4-8 stitches, depending on the size of your button (about 1/3 the width of the button). Begin knitting the piece in whatever stitch you like, and cast-on one extra stitch at the end of every single row until the piece becomes a little wider than the button itself. At this point, it should be about 1/3 of the total length that you need. Now, knit straight without shaping until the piece is about 2/3 of the total length that you need. Then, begin decreasing one stitch at the beginning of every row until the piece is the right length and bind-off.

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ASSEMBLE THE BUTTON
Look at your knitted piece and determine if the fabric is dense enough to hide the shiny button to your liking. If not, it's okay to paint the button with a matching color (use nail polish, acrylic paint, or enamel spray paint).

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Now, place the knitted fabric with the right-side facing down on a table. Position the top of the button, rounded side down over the fabric. Pull a bit of the fabric around to the back so it catches in the teeth. Take a bit of fabric from the opposite edge and stretch it so it catches on the teeth on the other side. You want the fabric to be tight across the top of the button, but not stressed, if that makes sense. Make adjustments to center the fabric now, because it becomes practically impossible later.

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Continue attaching small bits of fabric from opposite sides until the fabric is completely secured. Trim the ends about 1/8" from the fabric.

Then, the only thing left to do is snap the back cover plate into place. Refer to the package to see which side is "up" on the back plate. This maneuver is always a little tricky, and occasionally I find it necessary to employ a hammer, but usually I can just use the edge of a table to press the plate into place.

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Of course, there are lots of opportunities to get creative with your covered buttons. Try different stitch patterns or stripes. I think it could also look cool to paint the button cover a contrasting color, and let that show through a lace stitch pattern.

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Do you have any cool ideas, or maybe some tips of your own? Please share in the comments section below!

 

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Below are 5 tips for weaving in ends on your hand knits that are beyond a simple "how-to"  (here's my "how-to" video, if you're looking for that). Everyone does it a little differently, and there are probably 100 different techniques. My favorite way is to thread the end onto a yarn needle and use the duplicate stitch on the wrong-side, but obviously there are many variables that effect the way I do this and contribute to the success of the outcome.
weaving-in-ends-01

 

1. Do a little planning. With garments that involve seaming, you can easily hide ends in the selvage, stitching up along the edge then backstitching a little to secure the end. For this reason, it's best to join new yarn at the beginning of a row. Try to pay attention to the amount of yarn that is left as you begin each new row. Also, if you will be sewing a seam, you can strategically place a very long end and use it for seaming, which eliminates two extra ends, and leads to the next tip.

2. Leave long tails. whether it's at the beginning middle or end of a row, you always want to leave enough of a tail to thread one of those giant yarn needles, plus a few extra inches. 8 inches is usually enough. Use your long tails to attach embellishments, sew seams or for closing the top of a hat.

3. Block your knits after weaving to smooth everything out.  It's not always easy to weave ends into smooth fabric textures. Some of your stitches might end up looking a bit distorted but a little blocking can work wonders. Wet-blocking will yield the best results. I cannot stress the importance of blocking enough.

4. Split plies for bulky yarn. This is one of my favorite tips. If you are using a bulky weight yarn, it can be difficult to hide your ends. If your yarn is plied, you can split the plies apart and weave them in separately. Similarly, you can grade, or taper the yarn as you weave it, trimming the plies as you go.
Splitting Plies of Thick Yarn

5. Fake the duplicate stitch by doubling your yarn when you join a new
ball. This is a great time saving technique for finer yarns, and especially useful when working in the round. When you have about 10" left on your ball of yarn, join the new ball leaving about a 6" tail. Work 8 stitches holding the old and new yarn together, then drop the old yarn and continue the round (drop the ends on the backside). On the next row, work the doubled stitches normally. When it comes time to weave in these ends, all you need to do is trim them close. For extra security, I usually run the tail through a few purl bumps to keep the ends from creeping out on the right side.

BONUS TIP: SPLICING
Sometimes it is possible to avoid weaving in ends by splicing the ends of two strands together. This works best with especially fuzzy yarns that are able to felt.
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TO KNOT, OR NOT TO KNOT
Someone recently asked me why they shouldn't just tie a knot, trim the ends, and call it a day.

Knots aren't terrible, but they don't always stay tied and can be uncomfortable to the wearer. Also, they have a tendency to float to the right side. Knitted fabric can be very fluid, especially if you're using slippery yarn.  Over time, the knot can pull and distort the stitches around it. If you weave in your ends, a knot is totally unnecessary.

SPECIAL CASES
Cotton yarn- It's especially difficult to hide the ends of cotton yarn, but you can almost always split the plies as in tip #4 and get a nice looking result.
Chunky Single ply yarn- You might still be able to divide the ply in two, but if not, you can weave the end in tightly, trim the end at a long angle to taper it, and then stretch the fabric to pull the end into the stitches. Some people actually secure the ends of very chunky yarn with sewing thread and a sharp needle. I've never had cause to try this, but it's worth mentioning.

Do you have any little tricks you’ve picked up along the way? I’d love to hear them in the comments below.

This is part of my ongoing “5 tips” series. Future topics will be swatches, and substituting yarn, and reading a pattern. Please let me if there is another topic you would like to see me write about.

The simplest definition of "blocking" is the application of moisture to your hand knits to effect some kind of change. The process might also include heat, steaming, and stretching, but at the core, it's just wetting then drying. The most important thing to know is that blocking will often result in a change of gauge and a smoother fabric texture.

Below are 5 tips that might not be obvious if you're new to the block (pun absolutely intended)
Five tips for blocking your hand knits from Knitdarling.com
1. Block your swatches the same way you block your finished thing. Write down the gauge measurements before and after to establish a working gauge. This lets you know if you're on track as you knit your garment. I also like to use small swatches to try out different blocking techniques. If you're knitting with a superwash yarn, and you intend to wash and dry your finished thing in a machine, no blocking is necessary, but you should absolutely wash and dry your swatch to determine the correct gauge for your pattern.

2. Wait until its totally, completely, bone dry. If you try on a garment before its dry, you might accidentally stretch it out or deform all the shaping you did in the blocking process. Blocking sort of locks the stitches into place, but not until all the moisture evaporates.

3. Use a fan. Some fibers are very absorbent, and can take forever to dry. It's absolutely legal to speed the process by placing the piece you're blocking in front of a fan.

4. Block to your own measurements. Your knits become very malleable when they are wet. Use this as an opportunity to further tailor your garment. Use pins to shape and stretch areas that could use a little more room.

5. Use different blocking methods for different purposes. I use wet blocking for most everything, but sometimes all you need is a little bit of steam from your iron to get your stitches to lay flat. It's also possible to combine the two methods if you really want to stretch out your stitches, like maybe for a lacy shawl. Applying a little extra steam to something that you are wet-blocking seams to lock the stitches into place better. It should be noted that applying steam or heat to your fabric will drastically reduce it's elasticity, and shouldn't be used on areas like ribbing. If you never intend to wash your finished thing, a light spritzing of water from a spray-bottle and a few pins might be just the ticket.

Do you have any little tricks you've picked up along the way? I'd love to hear them in the comments below.

This is part of my ongoing "5 tips" series. Future topics will be weaving-in ends, swatches, and substituting yarn. I would love to know if there is another topic you would like to see me write about.

Jan 31, 2020

Meet my latest design— Kuffel, a wonderfully cozy, effortless, swingy new pullover sweater pattern with all the knitterly details that a girl could want.



She's a top-down, seamless beauty. She's also a snap to knit, worked in Hudson and West Co's Forge yarn, a soft and lofty WORSTED weight wool. Pick up a digital copy of the pattern here at KnitDarling (via Ravelry), or a paper printed pattern at Hudson and West Co.



The pattern features 6 sizes, from 42" to 70" bust, and is intended to have a loose, boxy fit with about 8"-14" of positive ease for a swingy silhouette. Top-down construction makes it easy to adjust the length and fit as you go.



The sweater has a slight high-low profile achieved by working periodic short rows between the colorwork sections. The bold, graphic colorwork is super fun to knit from easily memorized charts. I've included some clever chart shenanigans that will make your beginning of rounds almost completely disappear. Just try to spot it—prominently displayed in two of these photographs! It's little details like this that make my knitwear-designer heart swell. Efforts that, I'm sure, you will appreciate as well.



Below is my initial design sketch. I originally intended for the colorwork to be in reverse-- dark pattern on a light ground. The gals over at H+W suggested it the other way around and I could not be more pleased with the results. The beautiful navy ground that you see in the photos is their “Midnight" colorway and the cream contrast color is their “Aspen" colorway.



I worked a tubular cast-on for the neck, and did a Kitchener bind-off at the cuffs and hem, which effectively looks exactly like a tubular bind off. I've written about this lesser known bind-off technique before--check out my post if you're unfamiliar. It's my favorite 1x1 rib bind-off and I think more people should know about it.


The pattern is part of Hudson and West Co's Deep Winter 2020 collection, which is chock full of cozy, colorwork stunners. I'm honored to be included in this talented bunch. My favorite design from the collection is Wildhaven by Jesie Ostermiller (@knitty_jo on instagram). I might have to make this for my husband!! (but no promises, Brian!)

I had pretty low expectations when I released my Cabled Dad Hat knitting pattern in 2014, but for four years it has remained one of my most popular designs. To date, I've sent over 10,000 copies to people all over the world—I can hardly believe it! It's been an inspiring, and humbling ride.

Today, I'm adding another twist to this adventure (cable joke, anyone?). I'm thrilled to announce the release of a coordinating pattern: the Cabled Dad Mittens. The pattern includes instructions to knit three unisex styles: classic mittens, fingerless mitts, and convertible gloves—choose your own adventure! The three styles are also at three skill levels; fingerless mitts easiest; mittens slightly harder; and convertible gloves the hardest because there are so many parts. See more info and pics on the pattern's page here.

It has been amazing to watch the Cabled Dad Hat projects proliferate on Ravelry over the past few years. I love looking to see what people are doing with my pattern, especially when they modify it into something a little different. Every once in a while, I stumble upon someone who has created a complete spin-off—a matching scarf, a mini hat for their daughter's doll, or something like that. This is one of my favorite things to find! To see that one of my ideas was a source of inspiration for someone else who designed something original makes me so proud!

My Cabled Dad Mitten design was created in that same spirit. I wanted to make a coordinating pattern that would be super accessible (hence three styles in three sizes). My hope is that someone will buy this pattern because they want to make one style for themselves, a different style for their boyfriend, and maybe yet another set for a gift.

I chose Magpie Fibers Domestic Worsted yarn to knit this design. This yarn line has a really wearable palette, which is always a consideration for me, but it's also a really great work-horse yarn, perfect for these mittens. It's 100% domestic Merino wool, soft yet sturdy, and has incredible stitch definition. I chose smaller size 5 US (3.75mm) needles to produce a dense fabric that will keep your hands very warm.


I hope you'll pick up your own copy of this super fun mitten pattern! Let me know what you think in the comments below.



Jun 19, 2018

When I was a young girl growing up in Oklahoma, my parents loved to take me and my brother on road trips to New Mexico to visit Santa Fe or Taos. This was a marvelous contrast from my ordinary suburban life — seeing a different culture, pueblo pottery and Navajo rug weaving, and most importantly a glimpse of the New Mexico art scene. This is when I first became aware of Georia O'Keeffe, and first had an inkling that I wanted to be an artist when I grew up.

The Okeeffe Shawl from my new book, Homage, honors this amazing woman and her influence on my life. Georgia O'Keeffe (1897-1986) has been called the “Mother of American Modernism", and is famous for her paintings of enlarged flowers and New Mexico landscapes, and her radical feminist views (for the time). But to me, she was an inspiring pioneer, blazing a path for little girls with big dreams like me.

This project definitely took some twists and turns. I started out with a completely different design actually. It was still a shawl, but it featured some rather intense geometric lacework. I was having some trouble settling into the design, and put off starting it for an absurd period of time. I procrastinated to the point where I would have to push back my book's publish date if I waited any longer. Mainly, I was struggling to find the right yarn in the colors I wanted, and was resisting compromise.

Around that same time I had the pleasure of meeting Alice O'Reilly, the amazingly talented dyer of Backyard Fiberworks. I took a look at her yarn line, and discovered that it included some fabulous gradient kits and colors that I had not previously seen before. This sparked an idea for me—I asked Alice if she would be interested in collaborating on a palette for one of her kits that I could use for my new shawl design. We began texting back and forth, and in no time I had this beautiful yarn in my hands.

The design changed quite a bit in the process, and in the end it reminded me of the rolling hills in an O'Keeffe painting. Alice suggested that we expand the concept into a limited edition line of O'Keeffe inspired yarn kits for the book launch party.

The palette for the sample pictured is called Pedernal after Gorgia O'Keeffe's painting by the same name.

This shawl was so much fun to knit! There is something about it that just begs you to keep going. I could hardly believe how fast I got to the end. I used a special technique called the Icelandic Bind-Off, which makes a beautiful, super-stretchy edge for garter stitch. It's pretty easy to do (instructions), but I made a video to fully demonstrate the technique, and linked to it in the pattern pdf.


The pattern is part of my book, Homage (Knit Darling Book 2), but I'm also selling it individually here on my website and on Ravelry for $6.00. It's finally perfect shawl knitting weather, so I hope you'll pick up a copy!

Dec 16, 2017

Can an ordinary knitting project possibly be considered conceptual art? Well, maybe—meet the Hilla Hat from Homage: Knit Darling Book 2.

Time for some art history, yay! All the patterns from my new book, Homage, honor a different pioneering female artist from history. This design honors Hilla Becher (1934-2015), conceptual artist and photographer. The Hilla Hat design reflects Becher's most famous works—a series of gelatin silver printed photographs depicting industrial architecture arranged into a grid. Becher's work has influenced generations of photographers, and has impacted Minimalism and Conceptual Art since the 1970's.

Almost like collage, Becher arranged her photographs depicting similar objects to create motifs of repeating structures. The arrangements make her otherwise straightforward photos quite visually interesting. However, as a conceptual artist, Becher's work is rife with meaning and should not be considered merely decorative. Becher's presentation of her work pits objectivity against subjectivity, depicting a pattern of sequential experiences that is connected in a network.

Though her message was more about the human experience and the evolving/decaying characteristics of nature, I rather liked this idea as it relates to a knitting pattern, repeated endlessly with slight variations, and also more specifically as it relates to the process of creating knitted fabric that is composed of a single strand of yarn. Also, in the broader context of my book, which is all about gratitude for my predecessors and my followers, I love the idea that I am forever connected to the knitters who make my designs through our shared experience of creating the same object.

On a less conceptual level, this adorable hat is my new favorite accessory! I've already knitted it 3 times, and I might go for a fourth soon. The hat features an easy geometric Fair Isle motif and a wide brim that can be folded up for extra warmth, or left down for a slouchy look. The pattern is part of my book, Homage, but I'm also offering it as an individual pdf.

If you want to learn more about Hilla Becher, check out the links below:

https://www.moma.org/calendar/exhibitions/95

http://www.artnet.com/artists/bernd-and-hilla-becher/

http://www.tate.org.uk/research/publications/tate-papers/01/photographic-comportment-of-bernd-and-hilla-becher

Did all this talk of conceptual art inspire your inner critic? I'd love to hear what you think in the comments below.