New Design in Interweave Knits 2oth Anniversary Issue: The Botero Pullover

The 20th anniversary issue of Interweave Knits has just been released and it includes my first Knits design, Botero.  When I was a new knitter and discovered Knits, I ordered an immense stack of back issues and would spend hours pouring over them.  At that stage, I was thinking about whether I would ever be able to knit any of the beautiful patterns in those pages and now it’s hard to believe I have a pattern of my own being published with them.  I’m particularly pleased to be in this anniversary issue along with a long list of designers I really admire.

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Harper Point Photography

Botero is knit in Brooklyn Tweed Loft and is intended as a companion for a walk in the woods.  I always have a working title for my designs and usually when a design goes to a magazine those titles are changed, but it might add something to this particular design to know that my name for it is Nuthatch.  Nuthatch conjured up the light, fleet little birds in the woods and the colors of the understory in autumn, all of which served as inspiration for this sweater.

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Harper Point Photography

As with most of my designs, the sweater is as much about how it feels as how it looks.  If you’ve never knit with Brooklyn Tweed Loft before you are in for a treat.  In fact, it’s a delight both to work with and to wear.  It produces the lightest possible fabric and provides a warmth that is more akin to having a fluffy cloud around you than to wearing a sweater.  Loft is magical to use in colorwork and the transformation that occurs during blocking with this yarn never ceases to amaze me.  It’s hard to resist actually massaging the sweater in the water, that’s how eager I am to experience it blooming and softening.

My love affair with Loft began when I knit Stasis.  Last winter was so mild, it proved the perfect sweater to wear; so much so that I could hardly bear a day not wearing it.  So I knew there had to be another Loft sweater in my future.  I spent a lot of time walking through the changing trees and thinking about the soft, understated colors of the woods and about a sweater that would celebrate the season, that would make you feel warm but light on your feet and ready to go out and explore.

The sweater is a relaxed raglan with a hint of waist shaping, a long, lean silhouette and a split turtleneck collar for added warmth options.  I am a devoted fan of the split turtleneck as I think it creates a flattering frame for the face and it gives some flexibility over how warm you are.  I have a few split turtlenecks in my collection now and when I’m feeling temperate I leave the neck splayed out around my shoulders and when I’m chilly bunch it up closer to my neck.  This works particularly well in Loft which holds its shape beautifully.  If I’m really feeling cold, I like to tuck a small cowl into the neckline.  The virtue is that the turtleneck is there if you want to fold it up inside your coat for added protection but when you get somewhere overheated you don’t immediately start clawing at your neck in a desperate attempt to ventilate.

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Harper Point Photography

Continuing my “Bit of Perspective” segment, I thought I would share what the sweater looks like on me.  These were taken literally minutes before I sent this sweater off to the magazine so it’s not exactly photo shoot quality stuff here but at least it will show what the sweater looks like on another body.  The sample size is 38 3/4″; the magazine model is wearing it with 4 3/4″ of ease and I am wearing it with 2 1/4″ of ease.

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If you find that your desired fit is between the written sizes, here’s a little secret about Loft that may prove useful; this yarn is extremely malleable in the blocking stage.  Although I haven’t done a great deal of experimenting with this, when I’ve worked with Loft in the past I have found that I can really stretch and mold the wet fabric a quite a lot, so if you find yourself between sizes you might consider pinning the wet sweater to your desired dimensions, even if they are bigger than the schematic suggests.  This might work for a small adjustment of perhaps 1 – 1 1/2″ in added width, which is really all you need to put you between the written sizes. You could also consider going up a needle size to increase the dimensions proportionally but remember that a needle size change can affect row gauge as well as stitch gauge, so definitely do a swatch before going down that path.

I should caution knitters that these methods are no substitute for choosing a size and knitting it as written; knitting patterns are designed based on specific materials using a specific gauge and the only way to guarantee accurate results is to follow the pattern at the specified gauge. If you change any aspect of the pattern you are venturing off into uncharted waters.  But since I usually find myself monkeying around with just these sorts of things when I knit someone else’s pattern, I thought I might as well give those who wish to experiment a sign post in the right direction:-)   I happen to think these sorts of adventures are what knitting is about for a lot of us so the real key to success when altering a knitting pattern is what I describe to my students as “mental preparation.”  You must be mentally prepared for unexpected results and not be distraught if your little scheme backfires.  After years of altering knitting and sewing patterns, with some successes and some failures, I can honestly tell you that you won’t always be happy with your results– I have definitely been laid low by a crafting misadventure.  But somehow I’m always spurred on to try again because the quest to improve my skills and try new things is fundamental to my enjoyment of making things.  There aren’t many aspects of life where we can experiment with so little worry about the results, so why not make the most of that.  And just remember, if your sweater doesn’t come out exactly as you hoped, unless you actually set fire to it in rage, your yarn is still useable!  Frog that sweater and try again!

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Let’s Get Some Perspective

A few months back I posted about my patterns in the Spring/Summer issue of knit.wear.  Today I thought it might be interesting to have a look at those same pieces on a different model.  In fact I’m hoping that this might become a little series here on the blog.  When we make clothes for ourselves we are trying to make something that will flatter us.  But in most cases we end up choosing what we’ll make based on how it looks on the model.

Here’s the Day for Night Sweater as seen in knit.wear.

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Day for Night Top–Photo Credit: Harper Point Photography

I think this photo is gorgeous and dramatic.  As a designer, getting to see how your piece will show up in the photo shoot is part of the fun, but it’s also a complete unknown.  You are asked to create a sample for a certain bust circumference, you send it off to the magazine and then it gets put on a model, styled with other garments and photographed in the context of a story, so the end result is a total surprise.  Part of that surprise is how the garment will actually fit the model.  The sample might be knit to a common bust size but we all know how different individual proportions are.

When I designed this garment  I envisioned the fit being somewhere in between relaxed and fitted –– that middle ground where the garment follows the lines of the body but skims over them.  The idea being to create a sweater that was nonchalant, chic and attractive.  A subtle garment that brings the focus to the person inside the sweater.

Here is the same sample being modeled by a very obliging friend, styled as she would wear it, caught on the fly, no fancy hair, no makeup, just her and the sweater.

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I love these too! I think it shows the versatility of such a simple piece.  Dress it up or dress it down, it all works.

One big difference you’ll notice is the sweater length on each model.  The length to the underarm is 14 1/2″.  I’m rather short waisted and on me this hits at the hip and would definitely cover the waistband of most pants.  But personally, if I looked at either of these photos I would probably question whether the length was right for me.

My first assumption would be that model 1 is much shorter waisted than model 2, but then when you look at what they’re wearing you see that there’s more to it. Model 1 is wearing a high-waisted skirt with the sweater sort of tucked up at the waist and model 2 is wearing low-slung pants, and that affects how you perceive the sweater.  Whether you saw one or the other of these photos would give you drastically different ideas about how the sweater fits and whether you would want to knit it or not.  Anyone who has ever combed over the finished projects of a sweater on Ravelry knows how difficult it can be to tell what a sweater looks like, or more importantly how it’s going to look on you.  If you look at a few more pictures of model 1 you see just how much the sweater has been bloused in the photo.  Whether it’s done to fit the model or the stylist’s idea of how the sweater should be worn, the end result is that we think that’s how the sweater is supposed to look and we immediately start evaluating whether it’s right for us based on that one image.

 

So how do we really know?  The best method I have for analyzing how a sweater will look on me is to examine the schematic.  Sleeve and body length are not usually very difficult to adjust and can go a long way towards how the sweater looks and feels on you.  First, get familiar with what sort of length you think flatters you.  Measure successful sweaters you’ve knit or items in your closet that have a similar fabric or weight to them.  Just be sure they are a similar construction (raglan, set-in sleeve, dolman, etc).

Measure the sleeve length from cuff to underarm and the body length from hem to underarm and record those numbers.  It is also important to measure the armhole depth (from underarm seam to where the shoulder meets the sleeve cap) and the garment’s total length (from where the neck meets the shoulder seam to the hem)–on a schematic this would equal the body length plus the armhole depth plus any shoulder shaping.  The reason to take these measurements as well is that the armhole depth can affect where the sleeve and side seam hit on your body, so it’s a good idea to compare these measurements to the schematic to insure that the two sweaters you are evaluating have similar overall dimensions.  The sleeve on both the sweater you’re measuring and the schematic may be 18″ but if the armhole depth is 7.5″ on one and 8.5″ on the other, those sleeves could actually end at a different part of your arm.

If you find you need to add length you can probably do so at the beginning or end of the body piece or sleeve (or divide the extra between both sections) without affecting the overall shaping aversely.  If you need to subtract length or if you need to add or subtract a significant amount, you may need to recalculate the rate of increase or decrease for the body shaping.  So how do we do that?

If your sleeve increases are what needs to be recalculated and you’d like a little help with the math, check out this terrific calculator for increases (along with many other useful knitting tools.)  This program will take some basic information from you and then calculate evenly spaced increases over the number of rows you specify using the Magic Formula.

If you’re interested in getting a detailed explanation of how to make shaping calculations yourself, I highly recommend Shirley Paden’s book, Knitwear Design Workshop.  This book is an invaluable resource for anyone looking to delve further into the world of knitwear design and a good place to start taking control of your knits is with shaping sequences.  Paden’s book uses a formula based on the “More or Less Right” Formula in Cheryl Brunette’s book Sweater 101 (another valuable resource) and she explains variations of the formula that can be used for calculating sleeve increases, stitch pick ups, body shaping, raglan shaping, v-neck shaping and buttonhole placement.  Paden also includes a variation that will place decreases only on right or wrong side rows.  If you’re interested in the math and planning that forms the foundation of sweater design, this book is for you.

One thing to be aware of if you are altering an existing pattern; this formula will space your increases or decreases evenly but the results of your calculations may not exactly match your written instructions.  Don’t panic–this doesn’t necessarily mean that either you or the designer are wrong (although checking your math or drawing out the sequence on graph paper never hurts).  There is usually more than one way to shape a piece so even if you calculate based on the same numbers as a pattern you have, the resulting sequence exactly as it’s determined by the formula may not be what you see in the pattern.  The designer may have chosen to alter the shaping sequence so that it’s not perfectly even either to control the shape of the sleeve or to accommodate a stitch pattern.  For example, I often like to begin my sleeve shaping after 4 or 5 inches of sleeve has been knit and then have more frequent increases towards the bicep.  It creates a flattering shape to the sleeve and I like the way it looks.  If you compared my shaping sequence to one generated by the “More or Less Right” Formula you would be struck by the difference, but as long as you get to the right number of stitches in the right number of rows, you have some flexibility on how you get there.  As you become more experienced with playing around with these sequences it can be helpful to draw yourself a little schematic on graph paper to see how the same number of increases placed at different intervals create different shapes.  Then you can take even more control of your knitting, placing waist shaping exactly where you would like it or creating a sleeve that suits the shape of your arm.

Just to round out this post let’s take a look at the Phryne Beret from the same issue of knit.wear.  I just want to show how different it looks in the two sets of photos. Fierce v. demure.

 

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And just for one more perspective, here it is on me.  I can’t wait to get this sample back actually.  I think it’s going to be a great piece for fall.

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Talking About Technique

The Fall issue of knitscene has just been released and I’m delighted to say that it includes an article I wrote on methods of decreasing in garments.

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Knitscene/Harper Point Photography

The is the second technique article I’ve done for knitscene ––the first one, featured in knitscene Summer 2016, covered the most common decreases used in lace knitting and how to work them (including some alternate methods and shortcuts).  This latest article covers the appearance of different decrease methods and how they function when shaping a garment.

It was interesting for me to revisit this topic from the standpoint of a designer and teacher.  When I learned to knit, instead of finding a pattern and following it, my Mom and I analyzed sweaters in my closet and she taught me how to identify which decrease was being used where.  Looking at ready-to-wear highlighted the decorative function of decreases, since machine-knit sweaters are often rather plain and use decreases as much for their appearance as their function.  So when I set about knitting my first plain, stockinette sweaters, I used high twist merinos with loads of stitch definition and spent a lot of time playing with decreases and observing how much they changed the appearance of a garment.  The article uses swatches to demonstrate the slanted appearance of the most common decreases and then discusses how the choice of decrease and its placement affects the look of the garment.    Here are a few garments that show some of the possibilities.

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Decreases leaning in the same direction as the raglan.

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Full-fashioned shoulder shaping featuring enhanced decreases.

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Decreases that oppose the raglan angle.

I wanted this article to give knitters two things: first, an appreciation of the design process.  Sweater design involves making literally hundreds of practical and aesthetic decisions and I think the work that goes into that process can be mysterious to most knitters.  As someone who puts a LOT of thought into even the tiniest details of a pattern I wanted knitters to understand that when they are reading a pattern, even something as simple as the type of decrease used and where it’s placed within the garment, has been thoroughly considered by the designer.  This satisfied the part of my brain that designs and writes patterns.  I wanted to shed some light on this very solitary process and I thought this might be a good place to start.

The other part of my brain, the part that made me become a designer in the first place, is what drives me to question everything I read and decide for myself.  I’m actually quite incapable of knitting a pattern exactly as it’s written.  In fact, apart from when I was working as a sample knitter and it was absolutely required of me to do so, I can’t think of a time when I’ve followed a pattern to the letter. I ALWAYS have a question –– is that the cast on I want to use, can the decreases lean the other way, should I cast on more for the rib, should I change the shaping sequence?  This constant questioning is what made me realize that I might just be better off writing patterns from scratch.  And then of course, when I started doing that I realized how incredibly difficult it is to make all of those tiny decisions! So it was very eye-opening and it gave me a real respect for the designers and tech editors out there who produce clear, accurate patterns.    The part of me that is the questioner remains, however, and I think a lot of knitters are the same way. So I wanted to explain how decreases actually function so that if you want to replace them you know how to do so.  Know the rules, know what’s most commonly used, then decide when you want to do something different.  It’s part of the joy, freedom and challenge of making something yourself.  You can make it exactly as you like.

So I hope the article lends a hand to some fellow questioners; I know you’re out there!

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knit.wear is back!

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I’m tremendously proud to have two patterns in the triumphant re-issue of knit.wear magazine.  knit.wear came on the scene with its premiere issue in 2011.  I remember being struck by the clean aesthetic, the modern appeal of the patterns and the thoroughness of the technical articles.  It continued for several more issues but back in 2014 it took a departure and morphed into knit.purl magazine.  Now knit.wear is back with a makeover and a new editor at the helm.  I have to admit that I haven’t actually seen the whole issue yet so I’m tingly with anticipation but in addition to the cover stories there is an article by Michele Wang about design process which provides a really fascinating glimpse into the mind of the designer.   Design process is something that’s rarely discussed and difficult to explain so I really applaud the idea of opening a window into that world for knitters.

And now, some photos.

The Day for Night Top, knit in Lang Nova.  I first encountered this yarn at TNNA in June and I was smitten.  It’s a chainette blend of wool, camel and nylon.  It’s spongy and luscious, knits up elegantly on a size 7 needle and won’t break the bank–win, win, win:-)

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Day for Night Top/ Harper Point Photography

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Day for Night Top/Harper Point Photography

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Day for Night Top/Harper Point Photography

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Day for Night Top/Harper Point Photography

Day for Night is a very simple sweater knit in pieces with a self-finished double v-neck.  The allure of a self-finished neck is the clean line and the fact that once you sew up all of your seams, your sweater is done.  The silhouette harkens back to sweaters from the classic film era but is designed to fit and flatter modern body types.

The second pattern was inspired by one of my public television muses, Phryne Fisher of Miss Fisher’s Mysteries.

Miss Fisher Beret

I’ve always been fascinated by clothes that work well in multiple situations, and if you know Phryne Fisher, you know that she likes to dress up, dine out and break and enter.  In my design notes I referred to this hat as Cat Burglar, and I like to think that it’s an accessory that moves well from an evening out on the town to scaling a wall and forcing a window.

 

 

 

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Phryne Beret/ Harper Point Photography

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Phryne Beret/Harper Point Photography

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Phryne Beret/Harper Point Photography

The Phryne Beret is knit in Malabrigo Finito which is made from a special batch of super-soft merino that is purchased specifically for this yarn every year.  I discovered this yarn when I saw someone knitting with it and mistook it for cashmere–naturally, I had to try it for myself and now it’s one of my favorites.  The hat begins with a double hem and the body is worked in a slip stitch pattern for structure and added warmth.

Thanks to editor Meghan Babin and to the stunning model @ellewags for these gorgeous photos.  So many people are involved in the production of a magazine and it’s been a wonderful experience being part of a group effort where the result is more than the sum of its parts.

The patterns are available as individual downloads from the links above.  To get your own copy of the whole issue, here are the relevant links:

 Digital edition: http://www.interweavestore.com/knitwear-springsummer-2016-digital-edition

 Physical copy preorder: http://www.interweavestore.com/knitwear-springsummer-2016

Posted in Accessories, Interweave, Knitting, Magazine, Patterns, Sweaters, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Spring Patterns

Spring is in the air but the wind continues to claw at our necks.  Two new cowl patterns for Manos del Uruguay were released today and they are both FREE!  Here’s hoping they satisfy the need for an infusion of spring color and some protection from the elements.

Tejido Cowl

This cowl is knit with one skein of Manos del Uruguay Fino and one skein of Alegria and worked in a woven stitch pattern.  Watch the magical process that is knitting with a semi-solid background and a wildly colorful foreground.  This double long cowl can be worn many ways and provides a good deal of warmth without being at all bulky.

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Racimo Cowl

Knit out of one skein of Alegria this is a quick project that works up into a heavenly soft, pillowy texture.  The stitch pattern breaks up the colors of the hand-dyed yarn to produce a painterly, spattering of colors.

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Thanks to Fairmount Fibers for the beautiful photos.

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Reentry

It’s been a very busy few months but finally the fruits of many labors will begin to see the light of day so I thought it was a good time to return to this blog and start sharing them.   It’s been a bit of a designing frenzy since early fall so there have been many days with a desk that looks like this:

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And thus the amount of available brain capacity for activities like blogging was greatly diminished.  I was also developing and teaching a number of new classes at Gauge + Tension which took my mind in an entirely different direction.  Between swatching, sketching, pattern writing, charting, grading, sample knitting and generating teaching materials, the months have flown by at a remarkable clip.

I did manage to have a few days of rest with my family over Christmas in beautiful Maine. We made some very fine food and took some splendid walks.

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And I spent as much time as I could with this guy.

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And then it was back home again and back to work.  So, having spent the past several months with my head down it was a pleasant discovery when the Spring Collection from Manos del Uruguay arrived and with it, my Envira Cowl.  February and March are often big inspiration months for me.  The lengthening days drawn me out on more walks but the wicked winter wind that continues to claw at my neck usually spurs on the need for a new form of throat armor.  So why not a bright, cheery, double-thickness, colorwork cowl.

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Envira is knit in Manos del Uruguay Silk Blend and it was a really eye-opening experience for me to create colorwork using such a luxurious yarn.  I most often use woolier wools for colorwork (I love Shetland wools and Brooklyn Tweed Loft) but the rich and varied Silk Blend palette led made me to this idea and I’m so glad it did.  Silk Blend is lovely to knit with and it was a joy to see the colorwork motifs emerge from such a smooth, pearly surface, so different from the way colors behave in fuzzier wools.  Everything about Silk Blend affects how colorwork looks––the fact that it’s a single ply, the presence of silk, the subtlety of the dyeing process.   There’s a richness and clarity to the way the colors play off one another and of course the resulting fabric, even before blocking, is delightfully soft with a sheen that practically makes it glow.  It makes me eager for further experimentation.

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New Pattern: Burning Love Earwarmer

I’m back from a wonderful trip to Columbus, OH for The National NeedleArts Association trade show and I’m feeling exceptionally energized by all the fascinating, talented people I met.  When so much of your work is solitary it’s really nice to get out and mix with other people who do the same solitary thing.

Now that I’m home, it’s back to the solitary work.  I’m so pleased to finally have this piece ready to share.

The Burning Love Earwarmer takes its name from that of the traditional Bavarian motif used at the center of the piece.

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This pattern is a re-envisioning of something I created a number of years ago, when I was really quite new to knitting.  While trolling the Schoolhouse Press website for interesting books, I came across Maria Erlbacher’s Twisted Stitch Knitting.  This was my first encounter with Bavarian Twisted Stitch Knitting and I was immediately taken with its repertoire of striking, sculptural motifs.  I ordered it straight away and for many weeks I paged through it again and again.  Around the same time I offered to knit something for a dear friend and she requested a headband that would keep her ears warm and her hair out of her eyes when riding her bike to work.  I thought back to the impressive calf-gussets on the stockings featured in my new book and an idea was born.  Why not create a headband that availed itself of the Bavarian concept of growing the pattern organically along with the shaping of the piece?  I chose the Burning Love motif for the center of the pattern, surrounded it with motifs commonly used in the calf-shapings shown in the book and added a seed stitch border to keep the piece looking tidy.  I made a version for my friend in a green cashmere/merino single and one for myself in a gray.

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We were both very pleased with our headbands and mine has been in and out of my various bags and pockets for years–it takes up almost no room and it’s exceptionally warm so I find it to be a very useful accessory when you might need a little extra protection for your ears.

When I set out reknit this piece, I wanted a yarn that would be very soft but which would still have sufficient stitch definition.  After a great deal of experimentation, I chose Woolfolk’s fingering weight merino, Tynd, and I couldn’t be happier with the result.  In fact, the process of knitting this sample turned out to be one of my most enjoyable knitting projects in recent memory.

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I have to admit that when I thought about working Bavarian twisted stitch patterns in flat knitting, where stitches twist and travel on both right AND wrong side rows, I was more than a little daunted.  I tried to cast my mind back and imagine how I did that as a relatively inexperienced knitter.  I even thought about rewriting the piece for knitting in the round, adding a plain back side.  But then I sat down to knit the piece with a glossy strand of Tynd and some super-sharp Addi lace needles and I was immediately hooked.  The piece is so small and the pattern so engrossing that I found myself wanting to see what would happen next on each successive row.  And like all stitches in knitting, your hands and brain adapt to become more efficient the more you repeat the same actions.  You most certainly have to pay attention to your work but the piece grows quickly and the result is incredibly pleasing.  It’s like re-reading your favorite passage in a book or skipping to the last five minutes of Mahler’s Second Symphony–a short, intense burst of some of the most beautiful stitch patterns in the history of knitting worked into a piece that I hope you will find as useful as I do.

I must say, the Tynd was pure pleasure to work with.  Be sure to wet block or treat the headband with a generous shot of steam to reveal the full halo and luster this yarn has to offer.

It was my mother’s brilliant idea to try the pattern in Zealana Performa Rimu DK, another favorite of mine.  This came out beautifully as well so the pattern now includes instructions for both a fingering weight and a dk weight version of the piece.  The Rimu is designed to be durable as well as soft so if you use your headband for outdoor exertions (I often wear mine while running in nippy weather), then Rimu could be a good choice.  My mother experimented with knitting back backwards for this project so that she was working flat but always looking at the right side of the work.  She was very happy with the result and I plan to try it on my next one.  Here is her lovely sample:

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I hope that part of the appeal of this pattern will be as a way to incorporate Bavarian Twisted Stitches into an everyday item.  These stitch patterns take time to work and they deserve to be included in a piece that will actually be worn–given contemporary fashions, I think that most people will probably find themselves using a headband slightly more often than, say, traditional Bavarian knee-high stockings.  (Full-disclosure, I knit these legwarmers for myself and a friend and we both wear them all the time in the winter.  I think they are a very successful modernization of traditional stockings and it was certainly a very satisfying pattern to knit.  And trust me, if it’s cold enough to need that much wool around your legs you’re not going to worry too much if you stand out in a crowd).

So here it is at last, the Burning Love Earwarmer.  I knit mine sitting outside in the spring sunshine–I hope some of you might do the same.  Get the pattern here.

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