New Pattern: The Dalmayr Hat

This hat has been a long time coming. It’s something I started ages ago as a little side indulgence for myself, then eventually became the seed for a teaching pattern for my Bavarian Twisted Stitch Knitting classes. In class, we learn the technique on a cowl so that we don’t have to be worried about gauge or shaping, but I wanted to have a next-step project for anyone who finds themselves smitten with those Bavarian stitches.

Bavarian cables are small, nimble and light on their feet and a hat crown is an ideal place to show off their ability to wend their way towards a decrease point.

Bavarian Knitting can look entirely different depending on the yarn used. This version knit with Brooklyn Tweed Shelter really lives up to the yarn’s name; it practically stands up by itself like a little house. The sponginess of the woolen spun yarn makes for a truly lovely knitting experience and the toothiness of the wool means that the stitches stand up and wait for you as you are cabling. With a woolen spun yarn, what you may lose in stitch clarity you more than make up for with sculptural qualities. I love how the stitches look carved from stone.

This brown version is knit with Woolfolk Tov and is blocked as a tam. Tov’s high twist and multiple plies (12 in all) combined with the crimp and softness of the merino make for a shimmering surface and crisp stitch definition, but more drape than the version made with Brooklyn Tweed Shelter. Both lovely, but entirely different.

Once you get into the rhythmn of Bavarian Twisted Stitch patterns, they have a bouncey, acrobatic lilt all their own, like a miniature ballet on your needle tips, and it makes for some of the most addictive and ultimately satisfying knitting out there. Hope you enjoy!

PATTERN INFO

Find the pattern here

Dalmayr is worked in the round from brim to crown. It features panels of Bavarian Twisted Stitch cables and the crown shaping is integrated into the patterning. Hat can be blocked as either a beanie or a tam. This hat can be worked to great affect in a variety of yarns, but something with a high percentage of wool and good elasticity will work best. Choose a smooth, worsted spun yarn for superb stitch definition or a lofty, woolen-spun yarn for three-dimensionality and exceptional lightness.

YARN 
Approximately 180 yards of worsted weight yarn 
Brown sample used 1 skein Woolfolk Tov (100% Extra Fine Ovis Ultimate Merino; 173 yards/100g). Photographed in color 04, size Small. 
Gray sample used 2 skeins Brooklyn Tweed Shelter (100% US Targhee-Columbia Wool; 140 yards/50g). Photographed in color Sweatshirt, size Medium/Large.

NEEDLES 
Main Fabric Needle: One 16″ circular and one set of double-pointed needles (DPNs) in size needed to obtain gauge 
Suggested size: US 7 (4.5 mm) 
Ribbing Needle: One 16″ circular in size two sizes smaller than main fabric needle 
Suggested size: US 5 (3.75 mm) 
Adjust needle size if necessary to obtain correct gauge

GAUGE 
26 stitches and 27 rounds = 4″ in twisted stitch pattern, in the round 
26-stitch Twisted Cable chart measures 4” wide, after blocking 
Fabric is extremely stretchy and can be stretched to greater width if desired though the motifs will appear is lower relief.

TOOLS 
Blunt tapestry needle, stitch markers, cable needle

FINISHED DIMENSIONS (after blocking): Small (Medium/Large) 
Brim circumference (unstretched): 19″
Length: 7 ¾ (8 ½)”
Fabric is very stretchy and will fit a range of head sizes. For a larger hat, knit both the ribbing and main hat on a size larger needle than indicated.

Advertisements
Posted in Accessories, Bavarian Twisted Stitch, Cables, Knitting, Patterns, Twisted Stitches | Leave a comment

Manos del Uruguay: Fall Collection 2018

This gallery contains 4 photos.

Fairmount Fibers, the U.S. distributor for the Manos yarns, was one of the very first companies to give me a chance as a new designer and you really don’t forget things like that.  Shortly after I did my first patterns … Continue reading

Gallery | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Crown Jewels

 

IMG_7170I know that this is usually a fairly sweater-centric place, but the last few months I finally took a break from making one sweater after the next and allowed myself the time to experiment with hats.  I thought I was just going to dip my toes in and bring a few ideas I’ve had to life, but that never seems to be the way it goes with me.  I started one hat and suddenly there was a flurry of hat ideas and I had to get them all out into the world.  And for some reason I’ve settled into working in batches of three.  First I did three for Interweave publications, two of which have just come out in Knitscene’s new Accents Collection:

The Midnight Cap in Harrisville Designs Nightshades.  This yarn is really unlike anything else I’ve worked with before.  It’s a woolen-spun blend of American Cormo and other (unspecified) wool in a palette of near-black colors.  The color shown here (called VCR), is black with a haze of dark green.  The yarn is both soft and crisp at the same time.  I absolutely loved working cables and rib with it; I do so much work with lanky fibers (which I love) but it was just so lovely to work with good old dependable wool that does exactly what you want it to––hold its shape, make a dense, springy rib, sculpt a beautiful cable.  Nightshades did all of that and more and since each skein is a generous 250 yards I was able to make this doubled-brimmed, densely cabled hat with just one skein.

 

From the same collection, here’s the Snowy Peaks Hat in Jones & Vandermeer’s Ethos yarn, a blend of 50% cashmere and 50% recycled cashmere.  This pattern conjured itself up when J & V generously gave me some of this yarn to swatch with and around the same time I was in need of a teaching pattern for some upcoming colorwork classes.  It was kismet.   The pattern is intended to be a placid introduction to stranded colorwork; easily memorizable repeats with no long floats to worry about.  This yarn is extremely light and has lovely drape.  It’s rather thin looking in the skein but puffs up and blooms beautifully once it’s had a bath.  The extreme lightness of the fabric it creates allowed me to pull off a somewhat unusual combination of decreases and gathers in the crown which gives it an elegant poof. Even though the fabric is very light, it is exceptionally warm for its weight so it’s a wonderful hat to keep in a coat pocket and have at the ready to pull out when the weather turns chilly.

 

Then I did three for mYak for Indie Untangled:

Burr in mYak Chunky.

Little Burr in mYak Medium

and Posey in mYak’s Natural Dyed Tibetan Cashmere.  I really went wild with this one.  Ordinarily I feel that design is largely about restraint for me but this time I just made something pretty and then thought about ways to make it even prettier.  I started it as a whim in a March snowstorm when one of my classes was cancelled and I suddenly had a few hours to do just what I liked.  I had to put it down for several months to finish many other projects so I finally finished that flowery crown on a burning hot July 4th afternoon.  It was a delight painting in the motifs with the plant-dyed colors, though I’m tempted to try it again in something like Jamieson’s and really play with the palette.  But I’ll probably have to wait for another snowstorm to try that.

My last batch of three were released a couple of weeks ago at the Northeast Handspinners Gathering.

DolcettoDSC_4461

BrumeDSC_5718

Lamplight

DSC_5781

These ones I affectionately refer to as my Crown Jewels.  There’s something about the extraordinary depth of color and the brilliancy of the fiber that makes them glitter like gem stones.  This little collection was a new collaboration for me, with PortFiber of Portland, Maine. The  PortFiber shop is a paradise for spinners, knitters, felters, dyers and weavers and it’s run by one incredible fiber-loving person, Casey Ryder.  Casey’s newest venture has been to become the distributor for Cashmere People Yarns.  This is a big undertaking for a one-woman business and I wanted to lend a hand in getting the word out about the yarn in the best way a designer can; by showing what you can do with it.  Cashmere People yarns are made in Afghanistan and Tajikistan by women’s co-operatives and they are hand-spun and hand-dyed from locally produced cashmere and cashgora fibers.  Both of these fibers are stunning, but I chose to focus on the cashgora for my first designs, partly because it’s a fiber that is so rarely seen commercially available, but largely because those luminous colors were calling to me,

The cashgora produced in the Pamir Mountains of eastern Tajikistan is the result of crossing Russian fiber goats with local cashmere-type goats.  The micron count is slightly less fine than cashmere and the staple length is longer, which gives strength and durability.  To me, the fiber combines the softness of cashmere with the sheen and strength of mohair.   One of the reasons the color palette is so striking is because some of the colors are dyed over the natural brown goat fiber, rather than over the natural white.  It really shows you what we’re missing in the fiber world when almost everything is dyed over white. Over-dyeing on the brown fiber gives a rare warmth and depth to the color.

Each skein features a photo of the woman that spun it and a little bit of information about them.  There are also more extensive bios on the Cashmere People website.

DSC_5230

What I like most about this yarn is how alive it is.  The fiber itself has a spring and vitality to it and that, combined with the inherent energy of hand-spun yarn, makes for a truly unique knitting experience.  Before I had knit with hand-spun yarn, I quite honestly did not understand what people were talking about when they referred to its “energy.”  But the first time my Mum and I knit up some handspun swatches I became fully evangelized.  It’s really as if you can tell that your yarn was made by human hands, rather than machines.   The first hat I knit in this collection was Dolcetto in the color Borscht spun by Mohira (pictured above) and I’ve never had such a connection to a skein of yarn.  I really felt as if Mohira had made it just for me and I was quite literally enjoying every stitch..  And even in the finished hat there is something in the fabric that is quite unlike commercially spun yarn, a combination of extreme softness and delicacy combined with strength and elasticity.

A bit about the design concept for this collection.  I wanted to create one-skein projects that would introduce knitters to the yarn and the mission of the company.  This yarn is perfectly suited to lace and a collection of one-skein cowls would have been an equally good use of the yarn, but something about the colors and the warmth of the fiber just made me crave to have it on my head.  Plus, you guessed it, using the yarn for hats presented a design challenge, since goat fibers lack the elasticity of wool and have a strong tendency to drape and spread out.  And as you may have gathered by now, I enjoy a design challenge.  Or rather, I am incapable of making things easier on myself.  Or a bit of both!  So for each hat I tried a different construction method to add structure (to the brim area especially) in order to guarantee a hat that would keep its shape over time.

DSC_5187Dolcetto features a triple brim construction.  It’s really just a regular hem with an added rolled hem beneath it.  The traditional hem adds the necessary structure and the rolled hem creates an extra layer of warmth as well as a soft frame for the face.  I sometimes find close-fitting hemmed hats a bit severe looking on me, so I liked the idea of the face-framing extra layer.

IMG_7166_medium2For Brume, you knit the hat from a provisional cast on to the crown in a cabled texture which makes it very dense and warm.  You then finish the hat bottom with an i-cord bind off.  Then a band is picked up from that edge and knit in the same pattern as the rest of the hat and ends in the same i-cord bind off for a matching finish.  Getting the ratio of stitches and needle size right at each stage of the process took some figuring, not to mention shaping the crown in pattern, but the result is a densely knit hat in an enduring stitch pattern that provides extra protection for your ears and is designed to keep its shape over time.

 

IMG_7165_medium2 (1)Lamplight was percolating the longest in my mind.  I saw this color and immediately connected it with this cable but my original idea for the shape simply wouldn’t work in such a drapey yarn so I started planning a long slouchy cap that would allow you to see as much of the cabled scrollwork as possible.  For the band I wanted to use rib and have the pattern flow out of it (always a challenge but a rewarding process once you’ve gotten it figured out).  But I decided to use stockinette inside the band partly because it feels so delightfully soft on the forehead and partly to lend more structure once again.  It took quite a bit of experimentation (done under auspicious conditions in my hotel room during Meg Swansen’s Knitting Camp last summer) but it came together in the end and I simply love the result.  This color (Tabac) seems to cast a spell over all who see it and for very good reason; it has a mercurial quality that makes it appear different in every change of light and keeps your eye drawn to it, like a bright spot in a dark painting.

Now that I’m fully acquainted with the cashgora yarn I have plans for more hats and cowls and maybe even a glorious sweater, but I’m also looking forward to trying the Cashmere People cashmere yarn as well, as it too seems to have very unique properties that I’m anxious to uncover in my next bout of fiber sleuthing.  It really is an interesting process, getting to know a yarn and deciding what to do with it, learning to listen to what it wants to be or compelling it to be what you want it to be.  In this case I feel that the cashgora and I struck a bargain that keeps us both happy.  The yarn can bloom and shimmer exactly as it wants to and my unobtrusive band structures keep everything tidy and in its place.

I’ll be doing a trunk show displaying these samples and the entire gorgeous palette of cashgora colors at Annie & Company on the Upper East Side of Manhattan tomorrow night so if you happen to be in New York City here are the details:

Wednesday, December 12th from 5:00-8:30 pm

1763 2nd Avenue, SW corner of 92nd St. & 2nd Ave

This truly is a yarn that you need to see and feel in person and I’ll be sure to have a piece of knitting on the needles so that you can even try knitting with it if you’re curious. When it comes to yarn, feeling is believing.

IMG_7076

Posted in Accessories, Cables, Events, Knitting, Pattern Spotlight, Patterns, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Design Spotlight: KOBOLT

 

WF_Luft-1670-1_lores-04_medium2

Picking up the thread, as it were, after a long hiatus and diving back in with what I hope will become a series of design spotlight posts.  As I mentioned in my previous post, so much about the designer’s decision-making process is never shared with the knitter.  Obviously, the pattern needs to stand alone and if the directions are followed it should yield the correct result, but one of the things I like about knitters, is that we are questioners, always wondering why something is done a certain way, and just a moment later wondering if it could be done better!  There’s no shame in it, rather it should be a point of pride, a testament to our desire to be inventive and self-sufficient.  All this questioning is what got me designing in the first place.  In fact I remember it with perfect clarity; I was knitting the Laurel hat by Jared Flood and I thought, “there’s got to be a better way to make a bobble…”  That was the beginning of what I like to think of as The Greatest Bobble Experiment Swatch of All Time, undertaken by me and my equally curious/daft mother.  I think we achieved upwards of 20 bobble variations.  Were most of them awful? Yes.  But they were bobbles and we’d tried them all and by the end we KNEW which ones we liked. Sometimes you just have to know for yourself.  This was also a clarifying moment because, ahem, if you find yourself rethinking a Jared Flood pattern (the gold standard for thoughtfulness), you really know you’ve gone off the deep end.  But that’s just the way we knitters are; we continually think of something different/better/more suited to us that we HAVE to do.  So we do it.  Sometimes the result is wonderful, sometimes less so, but we keep on trying, indefatigably, to make things our own.

So now that I’m on the design side of things, I can’t very well expect knitters to blindly follow instructions when I certainly never did.  Much better to give you the explanation and the tools and let you decide for yourself.  This won’t be possible for every design I make but I’m hoping that a little insight into the decision-making process will help you in your own decision making.  You can trust that every decision in the design process was something that I considered and very often tested before choosing and that the pattern is written to obtain the same results as I did in the sample.  But it doesn’t necessarily follow that you will want to do everything the exact same way.  You are always free to alter a pattern, as you might alter a recipe, so long as you accept that the results you get may be different.   The purpose of explaining the design process will hopefully illuminate the reasoning behind certain choices and clarify whether you might want to change something or not.   After all, as the great Elizabeth Zimmerman would say, you are the boss of your knitting.

The Seed of a Design

So now to KOBOLT.  A lot of my sweaters start as a design challenge to myself.  This one was an exercise in simplicity and ease.  As Bristol Ivy said so beautifully, “the best sweater is the one that looks like a million bucks and feels like a sweatshirt.”   I wanted this sweater to be all about ease; ease of execution, ease of wear, and the right amount of positive ease in the garment itself to give it a luxurious silhouette.  To me, what makes a garment look luxurious is the combination of beautiful yarn with a silhouette that stands away from the body with just the right amount of ease and makes the wearer look relaxed, almost nonchalant.  Comfort and fit are key in looking at ease; if a sweater doesn’t fit well, it doesn’t matter how nice the yarn is or how beautifully you knit it; you won’t look comfortable in it.  So I want to make a silhouette and construction that will flatter a lot of body types.

And of course, every design truly starts with the yarn and what stitches show it to best advantage.  The yarn itself has a complex appearance; it’s a white cotton sheath with colored merino fiber blown through it and it has a shimmery, watercolor appearance.  So to my mind, the stitch patterns needed to be simple in order to show the yarn at its best.  The yarn is large gauge but light and I wanted to emphasize the lightness as it’s often one of the hardest things to achieve in hand knits, which tend to be heavier than their ready-to-wear counterparts.  So I want simple stitches that look good at large gauge.

Now the design goals have been outline–– I want a relaxed but tailored look, in a flattering shape, using simple stitches.

The Silhouette

So now that the goals of the sweater have been established it’s time to look at how I chose to execute them.  I chose a length that hits at the low hip, somewhere between the length for a sweater and the length for a tunic, again, in an attempt to flatter a lot of body types.  The sweater has a slight A-Line shape since most people get a little wider in the hips and in order for the sweater to skim gracefully over the lower half of the body we need a bit more fabric there, but just enough to make the line of the sweater look natural, not exaggerated.

Keeping in mind the idea of a relaxed yet tailored fit I chose a raglan sleeve–– I love the neckline you can achieve with this construction and the opportunity it gives for decreasing details in the yoke.  What makes this sweater special is that it is a compound raglan.  When I first started designing it was very rare to find this construction among hand knitting patterns, but of course it was extremely common in ready-to-wear.  A compound raglan has a shorter raglan depth in the front body and a longer one in the back and each side of the sleeve cap is knit to match these different angles.  This involves having two different shaping sequences for the front and back body and for the sleeve caps and the effect is that it raises the back and drops the front (the way we usually want to in a sweater) AND it can also allow for a wider neckline and a variety of shaping options in that area.  This can be tricky to achieve in a more complicated pattern but I thought a very simple sweater would be a good way to showcase the beautiful fit you can achieve.

Once you decide on a silhouette, there comes the alchemy of deciding exactly how much ease you want in various parts of the sweater and the somewhat mystical process of sculpting the neckline.  I have to admit, much of this part of the process is built on experience.  I make an effort to try out slightly different things in each pattern, building on what was successful about the sweaters that came before, and that’s usually how I arrive at a particular fit.  This often means that my measurements don’t fall into happy numbers that make for easy sizing and is probably the reason you see certain constructions less often.  Almost any fit is achievable in knitting, but whether it lends itself to sizing is a whole other matter.  When designing for multiple sizes you have to keep that in mind every step of the way and make compromises accordingly.

Kobolt Pic

The Question of Ease

So what is the right amount of ease?  This is so personal and honestly, I don’t think any designer can make every design to flatter every size.  In addition, every designer has their own ideas about fit that make their patterns distinctive and you might find yourself gravitating to one person’s patterns because they always fit you well; but that simply won’t be true for everyone.  The advantage of a simple but carefully planned silhouette like this one is that it will flatter a great many people; but still, nothing is universal.

A little digression about fit and sizing.  My personal fit aesthetic tends towards wider necklines and cuffs, sleeves that are not necessarily increased evenly but increase so as to make a smooth line from underarm to cuff, raised back necks whenever possible, dense ribs that are often wider than the main stitch pattern and shaping within collars if necessary.  There’s a lot more but these are some of the things I had to struggle with when trying to get sweaters to fit the way I liked and I’ve incorporated them into my designs.  When I started designing, a big hesitation was that I wouldn’t be able to fit everyone perfectly; in fact, it was actually paralyzing for a while.  But I’ve realized (with the help and encouragement of other designers) that no one person can do it all and if I wanted to share my designs with other knitters I would have to accept that sizing has its limitations.  This is where being able to interact with other knitters as a teacher has been so rewarding.  As a designer, I can share my aesthetic, writing the pattern for a standard range of sizes, and hopefully connect with knitters who share that aesthetic; in some patterns, like this one, flattering a lot of body types was the goal and I think it’s proven quite successful, whereas in other designs the patterning of the sweater can be at odds with a large size range.  Luckily, as a teacher I can talk to knitters about how to actually adjust patterns when the standard sizing doesn’t work for you.  It’s sometimes complicated and it takes time and quite a lot of knitting, but if that’s your focus as a knitter, it is achievable.  However, sometimes you just want to knit something!  And you want it to look good when it’s done without bashing too many brain cells in the process.  So that was the goal of this sweater; ease of execution, ease of wear.

Construction Overview

The sweater is knit flat in pieces, from the bottom up, and seamed together beginning with the raglan pieces and followed by the underarms and side seams.  The collar is picked up and knit from the neckline stitches.  A piece at this gauge can easily look sloppy if care is not taken so the use of seams, particularly in a soft, malleable yarn like Luft, is another critical element that contributes to the elegant silhouette.  The fabric is knit loosely enough to drape but the seams provide some necessary structure to keep the piece looking trim.

In Praise of Pieces

This is really part of construction but I find this concept so important I thought it deserved its own heading.  I’ve been kicking around an idea for a class of this title so it may one day be a reality but for now I’ll just give a brief list of reasons of why I like piecing in knitted garments. I invoked the name of Elizabeth Zimmerman earlier; EZ was a consummate master of seamless shaping in knitting and I can’t help but imagine her gasping at this section title.  I love her work, revere her ideas and stand in awe of her;  but she said I was the boss of my own knitting and that’s the biggest part of her teaching that I took to heart. Like all things in hand work it is very personal and since you’re the one going to do the work, you should probably enjoy the process; in this case my preference for pieces worked flat and seamed is partly based on my experience of how the knitted garments will wear over time, partly on how I like them to be finished and partly on how I personally like to produce knitted fabric.

When working with 100% wool I feel that all sorts of garment construction possibilities are open to you since the fabric is so stable (and I think it’s important to note that wool was all EZ ever worked her amazing three-dimensional knits in––very wise!).  However, since I frequently work with fibers other than wool, I find that my best chance of creating a structurally-sound garment that will hold its shape over time is to employ pieces and seams.  I’ve tested this theory on fibers like cashmere silk, 100% alpaca, 100% yak and others and consider the longevity of the garments I made to be a testament to the method I employed.

When it comes to finishing I often feel like this is truly where the magic happens in knitting. Philosophically, I love the idea that we need no seams in knitting and that everything can be made in one incredible, organic piece.  It’s marvelous and inspiring but most of the time for me, it’s something that other people do:-) When it comes to making knitted things myself I enjoy taming the fabric at the end of the process with seams and edgings.  Actually, truth be told, I don’t even think about it as enjoyment, I think of it as some sort of imperative.  I like imposing controlling edges and seams on my sweaters.  I like making garments that can stand up to the hard wear that I will give them and I make things with the intention of wearing them for a very long time, so longevity really matters to me.  This doesn’t have to be as important to you but it is an underlying principle for my designs and it’s nearly impossible for me not to consider that when I make something.  So you’ve been warned:-)

The last chorus in praise of pieces is more personal still––I have an old injury in one forearm and it makes knitting entire sweaters in the round a very taxing process.  Supporting the weight of the sweater and churning it around an enormous circular needle can feel like actual work to me, compared to the ease and comfort of knitting flat, so I reserve it for special design reasons like yoke sweaters.  In addition, I lead a rather itinerant existence, much of it spent on the subway on the way to classes or lessons, and I like being able to carry a manageable portion of a sweater in my bag and being able to happily work on it on the train without taking up to too much room or having too much weight to carry around all day.

Design Details

Since the sweater is comprised of the most basic elements of knitted fabric, stockinette stitch and ribbing, the details in this design are rather few but that’s all the more reason to make them count.  Since the raglan area and neckline are the focal points of the sweater I chose full-fashioned decreases to emphasize the line from underarm to collar.  These decreases are placed several stitches inside from the selvedge and lean towards the seam they flank; in general, these decreases are more conspicuous than decreases that lean in the same direction as the angle they follow.  On plain sweaters this is my default decrease as it really brings so much to the appearance of the fabric with so little effort.  The only decision for me really is exactly which type of enhanced decrease to use to best suit the yarn in question.  Part of this is first determined by the gauge of the fabric; a smaller gauge sweater might allow you to do double or even triple decreases to achieve the desire shaping, whereas a sweater of this gauge only requires single decreases.  The exact decrease used involves a slipped stitch that ultimately lies across the fabric like a cross hatching and is very pretty when used in a series.  In fact, getting to use decreases in a decorative fashion is another reason I’m such a fan of knitting from the bottom up.  I almost always prefer the appearance of decreases to that of increases.

A word about the selvedge stitches.  Although invisible in the finished sweater, selvedge stitches contribute to the stability of the edges on each piece and can affect the ease of the blocking and seaming processes.  Because of the large gauge of this yarn I opted for a slip stitch selvedge that would reduce bulk in the seams.

Choosing a Size

 

The pattern lists the sizes as follows:

SIZES
To fit bust 32 (34, 36, 39, 42)”

FINISHED MEASUREMENTS
41 (43.5, 45.75, 48, 51.5)“ bust circumference

In the case of this particular pattern, the “Sizes” were added by the publisher of the pattern in an effort to help knitters choose a size.  According to the way this is written it means that the finished dimensions of the sweater are intended to be 9–10″ larger than your full bust measurement.

But once again, the choice of size is still personal.  For example, I am a 36″ and personally I find that the second size (43.5″ at the bust) is plenty roomy for me.  I have large shoulders and for me I think there might be such a thing as too much ease, so for an oversized garment I generally like to stick to the range of  6–8″ of positive ease, unless the garment is in a very light yarn.   That being said, the next size up would be perfectly wearable for me and I might choose to make that size at some point.  I’ve knit enough sweaters by now to know that for most occasions I will prefer the 43.5″ but it really is difficult to know with a certainty how the larger size will look on me without actually trying it.  This is the part of the equation that you do have to discover for yourself and that can honestly take making a few sweaters.  This murky area of “what size to make” used to drive me completely crazy when I was a new knitter, so if you’re fuming in your chair right please believe that I sympathize most sincerely.  I can only repeat what more experienced knitters told me at the time; you really have to make a few sweaters to learn what it is that you like and feel comfortable in, so consider it a necessary part of the learning process.  Everything about knitting is slow, my friends;  you just have to accept that it’s a long game and that things will become clearer over time with more experience.  In the meantime, a pattern like this is aimed at getting you a reasonably good fit with minimal effort on your part.  The oversized silhouette eliminates a lot of the need to worry about the exact amount of ease and at the very least, you should end up with a cozy sweater that will hopefully become a wardrobe staple.  I’ve certainly gotten a lot of use out of my own personal KOBOLT and it’s now difficult to imagine a chilly winter weekend without it.

One more word about those of you who share my obsession with fit.  I’ve said that learning about what size suits you is a process that can take some time but there are ways to speed up that process.  What worked for me when I was learning about fit was to make a sweater, assess what I did and did not like about that sweater, and then make it again with a small number of adjustments.  It’s simply amazing how much better something can get the second time around and usually for me that’s all it took to refine the fit to my satisfaction.  You don’t even literally have to make the second version in the same yarn or the exact same stitch pattern (though don’t go too wild with too many changes at first), just be judicious in your choice of change.  Of course, if you knit the same exact sweater in the same exact yarn that will give the best possible chance of success as you will already know all of the relevant data for that yarn and that pattern.  Think about trying to master a pie crust recipe––it makes sense to repeat the same recipe several times exactly as written in order to get the hang of it.  But sweaters take longer to make than pastry and most of us seldom feel like we want to knit the same exact sweater twice.  That decision is entirely up to you, but the comparison to pastry making is still true.  Repetition is vital in the learning process. For myself, repetition combined with making small changes satisfied my need to try new things while still be fairly well-assured that the finished product would be something I liked.

My last word on this is: keep notes.  I have a Pie Diary and countless knitting notebooks and they serve the same purpose; to record exactly what I did and to assess the results.  It can sometimes be a habit you have to form but you will never be sorry you took notes.

I hope this little window into my process has been helpful.  I started knitting with the single-minded purpose of knitting sweaters that I love to wear and I want to make that same incomparable pleasure accessible for as many people as I can.  I think it can be interesting and instructive to see how other people go about things but in the end, this is about using your own two hands to make something that please only you, so take what you can from this, then go forth and find your own way!

Ok, enough chatter.  Time to knit.

Posted in Finishing, Full-Fashioned Shaping, Knitting, Pattern Spotlight, Patterns, Sweaters, Techniques | 4 Comments

Taking Stock

As the New Year gets into swing I thought it might be a good time to take stock of what I’ve done since my last post, oh so many moons ago.   So here are the patterns and samples I’ve published in the last 18 months.

 

 

With the exception of one sample and one pattern, every single one of these was written and sized by me and knit by either me or my (sainted) mother.  Through every holiday, all summer long, nights, weekend, and on every subway ride, the knitting, the swatching, the calculating has never stopped.  When I haven’t been designing, I’ve been teaching classes and writing articles for various knitting publications–my eighth article, a profile of the online craft emporium Jones & Vandermeer and their involvement in the fight to protect the gravely endangered wild Bactrian Camel, just came out in the Fall/Winter issue of knit.wear.  Is it any wonder that blogging has been completely abandoned?

But seriously, this taking stock is a good thing.  It’s good to stand still for a minute and look at everything you’ve done.  It’s helpful for seeing where you want to go.  And one thing I’d really like to do is slow down in general.  I got into hand knitwear design because I like slow things; I like taking my time and doing meticulous work.  I like being removed from fast fashion and its wastefulness and making considered choices about the materials I use and the things I make.  However, working as an independent designer there is enormous pressure to keep producing new work and always having to look to the next project means that I’ve hardly had the chance to enjoy each pattern as its been released, let alone talk about it at any length.

A recent message from a knitter on Ravelry really crystallized this for me.  A lovely woman took the time to tell me that she had made one of my sweaters and that she had actually thought there was a mistake in the pattern because the raglan decreases leaned towards the seam instead of away from it.  Then she read my blog post on full-fashioned shaping and realized that this was a design element of the pattern and should be followed as written.  She followed the pattern and said she was extremely happy with the results.  Her sharing this experience with me was the reminder I needed that there is a still a lot of explaining that can be done about the design process; why certain choices are made, how best to work certain techniques, when you might want to makes changes, etc.  Designing is really nothing but making decisions and even the simplest sweater actually involves dozens and dozens of choices, and because of the brevity of most publication styles, most of this underlying thinking remains completely unexplained to the knitter.  A lot of knitters are questioners and want to know the why and the wherefore of what they’re doing.   I certainly was like that when I started knitting and I  still am.  This letter from an appreciative knitter made me realize that I can go deeper with each pattern and unite my two loves of design and craft education by opening a window onto the design process.

In the last few years I’ve been teaching more and more and it’s been a wonderful experience. I find teaching to be enormously fun and rewarding, and for me it is the perfect complement to designing.  As a designer you are alone with your thoughts and your swatches and your numbers.  There’s a portion of it that is a pleasant dreamscape of playing with yarn but a fair amount of it feels like toiling in a mine of your own making, especially when you’re working towards someone else’s deadline.  But teaching allows me to come up into the light and spend time with other string-loving folk and share all those things that I’ve been mulling over during the design process.  I have met so many lovely people who, like me, enjoy a challenge and trying something new.  Seeing the enthusiasm of knitters in a class setting has really deepened my commitment to craft education, both for myself and for others.   I’ve taken a lot of classes over the years and I make a point of continuing to do so.  I think it’s important for me as a teacher to be put in new and challenging situations and to be reminded of the frustrations that students can face.  It is also always instructive to see how someone else leads a class and most important of all, the more you know and have experienced yourself, the better the resource you can be to your students.

Teaching is a wonderful complement to designing, but it is by no means a less involved undertaking.  Developing classes is a lengthy pursuit in its own right.  For me, the foundation of a good class is the years of knitting, and reading about knitting and experimenting with knitting; that’s what allows you to improvise and field all sorts of questions,  But then there’s the knitty gritty of actually designing the class, planning its architecture so that people have the best possible experience.  Making a comprehensive handout; devising a project or a swatch than can be completed by a variety of skill levels in the time allotted; involving just the right number and combination of skills so that the knitter’s focus can be on a manageable number of challenges; ; planning for use with specific yarn and needles; planning for use with ANY yarn and needles; one-session classes; multi-session classes…there’s a lot to it!  Just like planning and writing a design that will guarantee a good result, class planning takes time.  Having to switch gears all of the time between the two very different modes of thinking (designing v. teaching)  is sometimes a challenge but I think it has stretched my mind and the two worlds have influenced one another for the better.

These two worlds are about to collide at Vogue Knitting Live New York this weekend.  It’s been a highlight of my year for quite a while now.  For many years I signed up for classes there, but this year I am delighted to say that I’ll be teaching two classes of my own; Full-Fashioned Shoulder Shaping and Roadmapping a Sweater.  These classes are dear to me because they do exactly what I’ve been talking about in this post; illuminate the design process and share some tools to allow knitters to take control for themselves.  Both of these classes encompass topics that have been central to my knitting since the very beginning (check out this post on full-fashioned shoulders and other lovely details) and I’m really looking forward to sharing these ideas.  AT THE SAME TIME (get it? a little knitting humor:-) as I’m putting the finishing touches on my handouts, I’ve been designing a new pattern with a very special yarn to be released this same weekend.

The LILIA HAT is knit with three colors of  mYak’s new plant-dyed cashmere fingering weight yarn which is being debuted at VK Live.  I hope to write more about my growing relationship with this wonderful company in a future post but if you’re interested in learning more about them check out my article in the Spring/Summer 2017 issue of knit.wear magazine or read about the yarn itself in Clara Parkes’s latest review.

The sample will be at the mYak Booth (911) for you try on.  These colors really do need to be seen in person for the full effect.DSC_4200DSC_4300DSC_4311

 

Summing it all up.  As someone who’s always looking outward, trying to gather new information to use in my designs, to use in my writing, to use in my teaching, I often find it difficult to shine the light on my own work, especially in the virtual world.  But I’m hoping to take what I’ve learned from a very intense few years of designing and teaching and share a bit more of that with a wider audience.  In my next post, I’ll be focusing on the sweater that inspired the kind Ravelry message, KOBOLT.

WF_Luft-1670-1_lores-04_medium2

 

 

 

Posted in Articles, Classes, Events, Full-Fashioned Shaping, Interweave, Knitting, News, Patterns, Sweaters | 2 Comments

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.

Knits-Fall-2016-0102

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.

Knits-Fall-2016-0114

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.

Knits-Fall-2016-0172

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.

Nuthatch side

Nuthatch Front 1Nuthatch FrontNuthatch looking down

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!

Posted in Alterations, Interweave, Knitting, Magazine, Patterns, Sweaters | Leave a comment

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.

Day for Night Top_2

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.

DSC01910DSC01906DSC01902DSC01899DSC01893DSC01889

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.

 

DSC01924DSC01917DSC01914

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.

DSC01864

Posted in Accessories, Alterations, Interweave, Knitting, Patterns, Techniques, Tutorial, Uncategorized | 2 Comments