Mar 23, 2015

I'm so excited to announce the release of my newest pattern, The Mitsy Mittens. Originally I was only going to use this pattern in a new class that I am teaching, but I had so much fun making all the samples that I just couldn't resist releasing the pattern publicly as well. The mittens are for toddlers, but the pattern also includes modification instructions to make them in adult sizes or for a miniature ornament.

The class I've been developing is really more of a workshop on the Mitsy Mitten pattern. I wanted to teach a class that combines the Magic Loop method for circular knitting and an intro to stranded colorwork knitting skills like shaped chart reading and handling multiple colors of yarn. I also wanted the workshop to be under 3 hours so I could teach it all in one session. After designing the curriculum, I realized that I needed the class to focus on a very small project that used all these skills, and idea for Mitsy was born!

The pattern is really fun to knit because each section is so short, and not too challenging. I can complete a mitten in about 2 hours. Over the past few weeks, I've been completely obsessed and have made at least a dozen mittens! There's something super addictive about this colorwork pattern, but also the third season of House of Cards came out, sooooo yeaaah

After I designed the mittens to fit a toddler (2T-3T), I thought if these were just a little smaller, they would make a really adorable ornament. So I dug through my stash and found some beautiful fingering weight Cascade 220 yarn and got to work with my size 1 needles.

So cute, right?! I'm absolutely in love with this teeny-tiny version! I thought you might be too, so I added instructions for the mini mittens to the end of the pattern. Wouldn't it be cute to alter the motif to say the year? Or maybe add a new baby's initials and give it as a gift?

Then, I taught the class for the first time, which was probably more of a learning experience for me than for my students. The students were friends from my knitting club, so they knew what they were getting into. For the class, I prepared some in-progress examples worked on large needles with chunky yarn so everyone could easily see my demonstrations. The large-scale mittens were actually kind of awesome, which inspired me to write even more mods to make Mitsy for an adult.

I made these adult sized mittens out of Cascade Baby Alpaca Chunky yarn, and they are just so soft and delicious! You may recognize the yarn from my Finch Cardigan pattern.

My next workshop for the Mitsy Mittens will be at a wonderful little shop in Austin, TX called Guage on Saturday April 11, 2015 from 12-3pm ($40; pre-registration is required). Guage is also hosting a trunk show for my book, Graphic Knits, and I'll be there signing books immediately after the class from 3-4:30. If you're in the area, I hope you'll come by to say hello. Call Guage for more details (512) 371-9300.

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!

Since I released the Caring Cowl pattern in 2011, I've donated all the proceeds to the American Red Cross. From time to time I like to issue a report for my blog readers, and the start of a new year seems like the perfect time to do it.

Last year, there were about 50 kind folks who purchased the pattern, so I was able to make another donation to the ARC for $150. This brings the total donations generated by the pattern up to $1,550. Nice work everyone!

I'm always humbled by the kindness and generosity of knitters. It seems ubiquitous throughout the community. There must be something special about our craft that cultivates compassion. I think anyone who has ever taken the time to knit something for another person understands selflessness on some level. Regardless of the reason, I'm just thankful that there are so many caring folks our there. Thanks again!

My Danae Mittens design was the 14th pattern I wrote for my book, Graphic Knits.

This design was not part of my original book proposal, but when I had the idea I knew it would be a perfect addition. From the beginning, I felt a little unsure of the title "Graphic Knits" that the publisher picked for the book because my original design proposal included so many classic looking, decidedly un-graphic pieces. I really loved the title though, and I wished that I had been working with the concept in mind the whole time. Even though I was very busy working on other designs from my proposal, I was constantly having new ideas. Inspiration always seems to strike when I'm too busy to do anything about it, but this idea was just too perfect for the book for me to ignore. I emailed my editor and immediately got to work.

If you've kept up with my "Meet Graphic Knits" series, you probably remember that I love knitting Fair Isle on air planes. That's why I saved this design for a big trip I had planned to the island of Crete in Greece, which required 22 lovely hours of travel time from New York City to Chania, Greece.

Traveling to Crete was pretty brutal, but once we got there it was something like heaven. I have such fond memories of sitting under a flower covered pergola with a cup of coffee, looking out on the Mediterranean Sea, knitting away on my little color work project.

This was the most relaxed I had been in probably 2 years. Before the book, before my Winsome Knits collection, before I had an inkling of my future career ambitions, something terrible happened. My dear much-loved father-in-law passed away suddenly from a freak illness.

Dealing with the death of a parent is one of the hardest things a child will go through. For me and my husband, the way we dealt with it was to keep busy–very, very busy. My husband closed himself off for a full year, and all I could do for him was keep the status quo. We were at the funeral when Knit Picks offered me the opportunity to create my Winsome Knits collection, and before I even sent in my first draft for that, I was already working on my Graphic Knits book proposal. It was an emotionally difficult and extremely hectic period, but by the spring of 2013 we had come out the other side.

My mother-in-law proposed a family trip to Crete, and even with everything going on, it was a great opportunity to pull ourselves together again as a family in an uplifting way. We had a really wonderful time and I think it was rejuvenating for all of us. When I returned I found myself more focused and driven than ever before. I still had the second mitten to complete, but every stitch reminded me of the wonderful time we had on the island.

Here I am working on my second Danae mitten on the 19th-floor rooftop garden at my friend's Manhattan apartment building. I'm not sure I will ever look this relaxed again!

On the trip, I took a lot of time to focus on the details of this design. I love to use stripes of color on the edges of my mittens and gloves. It's such a nice way to frame the design, and provides a wonderful place to add decoration to the thumb gusset. Notice how nicely the stripes meet at the point of the mitten.

Also, I'm particularly proud of the fit on these mittens. The base of the thumb features some pretty nice shaping details within the color-work pattern that make my little designer heart sing with delight.

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

Nov 18, 2014

The Sweetness knit-along is finally over. Thanks to everyone who participated over in the Ravelry forums, and congrats to the dedicated knitters who completed their KAL projects by the final deadline! All participants who completed their sweaters in time will get the Knit Darling pattern of their choice. I'll reach out personally via Ravelry to arrange the prizes.

The grand prize winner is TeaKnitPurl, who will also receive a signed copy of my Winsome Knits collection and some fabulous yarn from my gigantic stash.

Below are some pictures of the completed sweaters from the KAL to inspire you.

If you're still working on your project, I hope you'll continue posting in the forum. There's also been some chatter of starting another knit-along, perhaps for the Rook Pullover or Rockling Cardigan, so please chime in if you're interested in something like that.

Once again, thanks to everyone who participated! I had so much fun leading my first KAL, and can hardly wait to start another one.

Sweetness KAL'ers, you're almost there! By now, you should have finished the yoke, body, and one of the sleeves. I hope you're having as much fun as I am!

Your mission for Part 6: Finish knitting your sweater by Monday, November 17. This is my birthday, and seeing your finished sweaters is the best gift I can think of!

I've been working on my Sweetness KAL sweater while on my Graphic Knits Book Tour through the Pacific Northwest. My husband and I rented an RV, and we're having a blast! My job as the navagator has been pretty demanding, but I've managed to squeeze in a little knitting time here and there.

If you've followed along with the KAL schedule, you only have the second sleeve, weaving in ends, and blocking left to do. If you're rusty on your “finishing" skills, here are a couple videos that I made a while back explaining how I do it.

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I finished my sweater a little early so I could display it at a book signing event I did at Knit-Purl in Portland, Oregon. It was really down to the wire and I didn't finish until the night before the event. It pretty much rained the whole time we were in Portland, and the sweater just didn't dry out in time. I actually had to employ a blow dryer in order to finish drying the sweater minutes before we left for the event!



I'm delighted to see participation has really picked up over on the Ravelry thread. Here are a few progress pics from the group:


We're in the home stretch now, and I'm cheering everyone on! I've seen some truly amazing progress so far. Remember, to win the prize, you need to finish your sweater and post a picture on the Sweetness KAL Ravelry thread by midnight on November 17, 2014. You can do it!

The Liwi Top was the 13th pattern I wrote for my book, Graphic Knits. When I began in late April, 2013 I was really getting in the groove of writing my book, and relaxed a little about my "knitting schedule".

For the first half of the Graphic Knits patterns, I made a calendar to help me figure out my design pace. I had six months to finish half the book, or to put it another way, 180 days to create patterns and samples for 6 garments and 4 accessories. I figured I had about 24 days to design/knit each of the garments, and 8 days for each of the accessories.

This schedule was frightening, to say the least! Somehow I pulled it off for the first half, so I was confident I could do it again. I was so confident that I didn't even make a schedule for the second half. I just picked up whichever design sketch I felt like, and got to work at my usual pace. Also, I had come to realize that it's impractical to work on only one thing at a time, and working on several projects at once could be much more efficient.

When I began working on Liwi, I was still finishing Orly, and had already begun swatching for the next three patterns (Danae, Trilogy, and Sweetness). Even with all that multitasking, the pattern and sample only took about 3 weeks to complete.

This is the sketch I made for my book proposal. You might notice that the shoulder detail with the buttons looks a little different from the sample. I had planned all along to close the shoulders with a row of buttons on either side. When I finished knitting the sample, I pinned the shoulders into place with three sewing pins and slipped it on to see what I had wrought.

Of course sewing pins rarely stay-put in a hand knitted garment, and instantly one of the pins fell to the floor. My pointy freckled shoulder poked right through the gap in the middle of one of the shoulders. There was something delightful about the 'cut-out' effect this created so I decided to alter the design. If this isn't exactly your style, you could sew the shoulders shut as I had originally intended.

This was one of the few designs in the book that I had picked a yarn for before I began. I did a lot of my yarn research at my LYS, La Casita, and always had my eye on the delicious strawberry colored balls of Rowan Baby Merino Silk DK they had there. The yarn was really great to work with and was perfect for this tailored design. I loved how the stitches came out so smoothly and mesh looked so crisp.

The yarn has different colors twisted into it, giving it a slight heather effect which I love. The heather effect makes this design a little more casual, but if you used a solid with a bit of sheen this could really be a dressy piece. I also think it would be very cool to use two different contrasting colors of lace weight yarn held together for more of an interesting marled effect. What yarn would you use?

The Orly Cardigan was the 12th pattern I wrote for my book, Graphic Knits.

I began working on Orly shortly after the "half-deadline" for my book. I was six months in, and had six months to go. I had made so many sacrifices to hit that deadline, and felt like I had really accomplished something.

When I began six months before, I had no idea how to tackle a project of this magnitude–I mean whoa, twenty patterns in one year?! I was a little crazy to agree to that. But I was infinitely more prepared for the second half and felt confident I could meet my final deadline. The slate had been wiped clean, and it was time to think strategically about my knitting schedule.

Orly was at the top of my list to include in the book. Knitted at a fairly fine gauge, and with a very tailored fit, I knew this project would be pretty time consuming. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, I finally felt like time was on my side, so I settled-in with a box set of Sex In The City, and cast on for Orly.

Everything went smoothly with the design, and I was very happy with the result. I thought the cardigan fit so beautifully, and even suggested it as a contender for the front cover.

Months later, when I finally saw photos of this cardigan on a model, my heart sank. While the girl is very beautiful, I thought she was so thin that it made the cardigan look bad. I knew how great it could look, and thought, "No one would want to knit this."

Like a total diva, I demanded a re-shoot, but unfortunately there wasn't a budget for that. Of course looking back, it's clear that I was being a WAY over-dramatic. The photos actually look pretty good.

Even so, if I could go back and do it all over, I would have requested the addition of a model with some curves just to show off this beautiful design the way it was intended.

Even if I'm not 100% happy with every photo, I still love how Orly came out. The main design element is the bold offset stripe patterning. To achieve this effect, I constructed the body in two pieces which are sewn together right down the center of the back.

The three-quarter length sleeves are worked seamlessly in the round from the top-down, so the knitter can easily try on the cardigan to test for appropriate length.

One of my favorite details is the reverse stockinette border. It's worked from picked up stitches all around the edge, then sewn into place for a crisp and tailored finished look.

Here's a swatch I made to test out this border. I show it from the wrong side so you can see how neatly the edging turns out.

I wanted the look of a knitted-on icord edge, but when I tested it out I didn't like how the icord seemed to be sitting on top of the fabric, and the backside was really ugly (in my opinion). I tried a number of different techniques, before I settled on this one.

This technique definitely reveals my seamstress background. I love using binding to finish the edges of things in my sewing, and if this technique had a name, I would probably call it “reverse knitted binding". The natural backward curl of the fabric elegantly encases the bumpy selvage, resulting in a beautiful, smooth line on all the edges. It's just so pretty to me. I'm in love all over again!

What I love is that there's something ambiguous about the reverse stockinette texture. The horizontal grain of the reverse stockinette fabric transitions so beautifully to the vertical grain of the attached icord tie

I chose a wonderful Quince yarn called Finch for this design. It perfectly compliments the tailored look of this cardigan because of its soft smooth finish and the beautiful stockinette fabric that it produces. I had a hard time picking colors because the palette seems to be made just for me!

Orly is definitely one of my favorite sweaters in the book, and I hope you like it too. For more info about the design, visit the pattern page here.

The Tanager Shrug was the 11th pattern that I wrote for my book, Graphic Knits. I was contractually obligated to produce 20 patterns for the book, so this meant that I was officially over the hump. Yay!

I knew Tanager would be a challenging shape to design, but I had a huge head start. It was the only design that I worked on before I got my book deal. In fact, I came up with this idea about 2 years before and never dreamed I would see it on the pages of very own book someday.

I first sketched this out when I was hot on the heels of my first hit design, the Delancey Cardigan. I was a little obsessed with the triangular “center spine" shawl shape as a device to make interesting diagonal stripes inside a garment. I can hardly believe I just typed that–top 10 geekiest things to admit. I was really into it though. I could not stop thinking about directional knitting, and that's when this design made it's way into the pages of my sketchbook–way back in the spring of 2011.

This is precisely why I save all my sketches. This design fit perfectly into the theme of Graphic Knits. I was really excited to work on it again. I actually knitted most of a sample two years before, but put it aside for whatever reason. I started over when I made this for the book because I wanted to tweak a few things, but the experience making the first one was still hugely valuable.

The piece starts out as a triangle that grows out from the top center of the back. You could definitely keep knitting and knitting if you wanted to turn this into a shawl. To make this into a shrug I needed kind of a crazy winged octagon shape, which I achieved using increases and decreases on the edges.

The shape is really interesting, but my favorite thing about this design is definitely the eyelet transition between the color-changes. When you look up close, you can see the marvelous texture this adds to the stripes.

This was the second design in the book that I used Malabrigo's Silky Merino yarn for. I'm such a huge fan of this yarn! It's so soft and light, and has a really beautiful sheen from the silk content. The colors have wonderful depth and a slight variegation due to the kettle dye technique that they use.

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

Welcome to Part 5 of the Sweetness Knit Along! Last week we finished the body, which is a huge accomplishment! Pat yourself on the back, lady! Now all that's left are the sleeves.

If you're like me, you're about 30 hours into your project. I don't usually keep track of my knitting time, but I thought it would be interesting to do just once. It's amazing how all that time adds up–1 hour here, 45 minutes there. I love knitting to relax, so looking at my time sheet I'm wondering why I'm not more relaxed!

This week, we are going to finish one of those sleeves. The pattern is written for 3/4 length sleeves, but since it's worked from the top-down, it will be very easy for you to adjust the length. I've been really into 3/4 length sleeves for a sweater lately. I love to wear sweaters like this layered over a button-down shirt, because the cuffs poke out from the short sweater sleeves. I also think the 3/4 length sleeves help to make it more of a 3 seasons garment.

The trickiest part of this section is at the very beginning. To start the sleeve you will transfer the held stitches from one side of the yoke onto a set of dpn's. Then you will pick up some stitches from the underarm, knit across the held stitches, then pick up some more stitches from the underarm. The rest of the sleeve is pretty straightforward. You will work regular decrease rows to taper the sleeve toward the cuff, then there is a short section of ribbing similar to the lower edge of the body. Like I suggested for Part 4, I encourage you to try the Kitchener Bind-off here, but a loose 1x1 rib will work just fine too.

As always, if you want to join in on the KAL fun, visit the Ravelry thread and say hi! Even if you're just starting, I would still love to see your progress pictures.

Check back next Friday, November 7 for the sixth installment: Sleeve #2 and Finishing!