Sunday, March 30, 2014


This past month has been spent swatching.  I made a baby hat yesterday, but really I haven’t actually completed anything of substance in so long and I’m aching for a full knit - something I can do from start to finish - from design concept to knitting to pattern creation.  I’ve been working on design concepts for lots of secret things, but I do have something I’m excited to share that’s no secret.

At the end of May, my husband and I are headed off to Northern Europe for a month-long trip that will include riding our bicycles around the Netherlands and Denmark, camping, and looking at lots of yarn, textiles, and art.  Of course this is really exciting in lots of ways, but it’s also a perfect excuse for me to make myself the perfect touring sweater.

I generally think that wool is the best fiber for active pursuits in chilly weather, though I’ll admit I do wear bike shorts (under my wool jersey skirt) and a technical rain jacket in heavy downpours.  For most things, though, wool is more comfortable, warming, breathable, and water resistant than technical fabrics, not to mention being less likely to hold onto odors.  In woolen spun form, it can also be incredibly lightweight for its warming ability.  So of course, rather than bringing along a synthetic fleece for those early morning rides and evenings around the campfire, I’m going to make sweater that’s exactly what I want.

It didn’t take much thought for me to decide on Brooklyn Tweed Loft as the perfect yarn.  Since we’ll be traveling by bicycle, I’ll be hauling every piece of clothing and gear that I bring along.  So I want the lightest sweater I can get.  Loft, as a woolen spun yarn, weighs almost nothing, but it blooms beautifully into a cohesive fabric that’s quite cozy.  It also comes in an incredible palette of colors.

In order to decide on which colors I wanted, I really just looked in my closet.  I tend to wear leggings with skirts as my everyday outfit, so I wanted a sweater that would match as many of my skirts as possible, while still being sort of bright and bold.  Bright colors (particularly orange) put me in a good mood, so I like to have a colorful wardrobe.  The purple-y navy, Old World would go will all of my skirts, so that’s going to be my main color.  But with so many great colors, I wanted to have color work, so I picked Embers, a rich rusty orange, and Woodsmoke, a very pale taupe, to go along.   

And here’s my first swatch!

Since I’ll be biking in this sweater, it’s important that it’s good for layering, so I’m going for an oversized fit with drop shoulders.  I really prefer a loose fit when I’m riding my bike since it helps keep the sweater from getting stinky too quickly, and there’s nothing worse than felted underarms.  To add to the versatility, I’m going for a cardigan, which will allow me to open it up for venting or button it up to keep out the chill.  I'm actually a bit ambivalent about this, as I tend to wear pullovers more and am generally more drawn to making them, but a cardigan seems like the practical choice.  What do you all think? Cardigan or pullover?

This is my cardigan concept and I have to say, it has me pretty excited.

I’m calling it Dutch in honor of our main country of travel, and, after finishing the sketch, I realized that my colors are sort of sophisticated versions of the colors in the Dutch flag, making it even more perfect!

I’ll be working on this in the coming months and publishing it after I get back from my trip.  I’ll be logging my progress here, so check back to see how it goes!

I’m also currently running a test for a different cardigan - check out the call for testers in my Ravelry group.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Ume Shawl & Clochán Socks

This month I’ve got two new patterns to introduce: Ume, a crescent-shaped shawl, and Clochán, a pair of toe-up lace socks.  They’re both part of a collaboration with KnitCrate, a subscription service that sends yarn, patterns, and other good stuff in the mail, and Hazel Knits, my favorite indie dyers (and of course, full disclosure: good friends!)  

Working with others can be an adventure totally different from designing independently.  The small pieces of guidance I get from my partners inevitably sends me off in directions that I wouldn’t have thought to go in my own head.  

In the case of Ume, the featured design in the March Indie KnitCrate package, I was asked to create a crescent-shaped shawl maybe with some lace things going on.  I also knew that I would be working in a glorious and saturated PINK, and would have two skeins of sock yarn to work with.  (I put pink in caps because it’s just about the pinkest pink I have ever seen.  I may have mentioned before that I’m very fussy about which pinks I like, and this one is just too pretty.  I wanted to object to its overwhelming pink-ness, but it just completely won me over.)

When I designed Flow, a shawl with a very similar construction, I remember thinking up the idea on my yoga mat, finishing my practice, and knitting and designing the whole thing without a single snag.  Ume, on the other hand, took much more effort.  I swatched and I swatched.  My first idea had subtle cables in it - something with no purls and only twisted knits.  But nothing I tried worked out as planned.  I tried more graphic cables - winding vines and leaves - but they were too literal.  Finally, I tried this lace pattern that ended up looking so three-dimensional, like flowers or a honeycomb.  I chose an edging pattern that was small and delicate, and, in a subtle way, mimicked the main lace pattern.

The shawl is worked sideways with simple increasing and decreasing creating the crescent shape, and it’s a generous size so you can wrap it around multiple times and snuggle up.  The lace edging and garter body are worked at the same time, so that when you’ve completed the knitting, the only finishing is weaving in ends and blocking.  I definitely recommend using blocking wires along the top edge to keep it straight and pinning each lace point to open up the lace.  But don’t stretch this one too severely while blocking - the lace pattern maintains it 3-d look best when it’s laid out gently.

Since the lace patterns include double yarn-overs, I'll give a quick hint here in case you've never dealt with them in lace before.  When you come to the double yarn over on the following row, treat them as separate stitches, and knit the first one, then purl the second one, creating an extra-large hole.

My other new design, Clochán is included in this month’s KnitCrate Sock package.  I used Hazel Knits Entice MCN, a Merino/Cashmere/Nylon blend that makes color shine.  (The color shown in Lochness.)

The lace pattern is original and has this solid, geometric feel about it, while also flowing organically from the pointed toe up the arch of the foot and around the ankle and calf.  I used a short row heel that I love the fit of.  It creates this little pocket that sticks out a bit just like thee heel on our feet do.

If you’re not sure about toe-up socks, I have tutorials on both Judy’s Magic Cast-On and Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off.  They’re both fantastic techniques to have under your knitting belt!

Both pattern are now available as downloads through Ravelry, my website, Craftsy, and Patternfish.  I also hear that there will be a few extra kits available from KnitCrate if you’re not a subscriber.  That incredible pink, Cherry Blossom, is a KnitCrate exclusive, so get it while you can!

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