Surprises in store 12/23/2014

With the arrival of 2015 and the long-awaited start to Season 5 of Downton Abbey, I’ve been busily designing a special treat – a brand new 1920s-inspired hat patterns that would do Lady Mary (or perhaps the ever-stylish Cousin Rose) proud!

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Although I’m not prepared to share all the details yet, suffice to say that there might be a fabulous vintage button, and it just might be securing the lavish folds of a knitted bow.

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Part of the fun for me in creating this mysterious Roaring Twenties topper was choosing the colors – reminiscent of the 1920s to be sure, but eminently wearable today. More clues coming soon!

Alice Cap Launches in Knitty – Dec. 11, 2014

Now I truly understand the meaning of “twofer.”

In the new issue of Knitty, my latest design – the Alice Cap – is featured. Can we say THRILLED? I loved designing this hat, with its modern-day Roaring Twenties-inspired appeal. 

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I’ll confess that I’ve not designed a lot of cables (although I love including them in my designs), yet I wanted a dramatic cabled crest at the front of this hat. In addition, I had to invent a knitted interpretation of the pleated detail that is a notable Art Deco element of so many hats from the 1920s. Finally, I wanted a bit of sparkle – blame it on my lasting case of “Ooh, Shiny” syndrome.

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Setting myself these tasks required a bit of trial and error before I found exactly the look I was after, and exactly the right button for the “ooh, shiny” detail.

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The Plucky Knitter’s Traveler and Bello Worsted were sumptuous yarns to work with, and the colors (Morticia – the black, and Old Copper – the green) have a richness and depth that make them sing. Plus, the generous cashmere percentage?  It can’t be beat for warmth. You won’t hear me complain.

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The second thrill in this twofer is that in the same Winter issue, Knitty also reviewed my newest book, A Head For Trouble. You can read the entire review here. To paraphrase Sally Field when she won her Oscar, “They like it! They really like it!”

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Nov. 15, 2014 Murderous Musings

Recently, I was invited to be a guest blogger on Murderous Musings, one of the blog homes of Carola Dunn, a mystery series authors whose lady detective character (the charming Daisy Dalrymple, shown in her emerald green cloche below) is featured in A Head For Trouble:

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As a generally peaceful knitter who whiles away many hours on my craft of choice, I don’t dwell on the possibility that knitting could be in the least unsavory. As the tongue-in-cheek saying goes, “I knit so I don’t kill people,” but I knit so that I don’t even consider killing people. However, Murderous Musings afforded me an unusual chance to think outside the project bag, and here is my guest post:

It’s a quirky theme, I admit. But the opportunity to combine my profession as a knitwear designer with my twin passions for Roaring Twenties fashion and period mystery novels was simply too tempting to resist.
 
A Head For Trouble: What To Knit While Catching Crooks, Chasing Clues, and Solving Murders is my latest knitting book.
 
 
It draws on fictional 1920s lady detectives for inspiration, and the result is a collection of 20 hand knits that combine vintage glamor with a modern sensibility. And throughout its pages, murder and mayhem lend a dangerous edge to the traditionally gentle image of knitters with the quiet clicking of their needles and their skeins of soft and colorful yarn. Ten fashionable crime busters from popular period mystery novels swan through the book’s pages, wielding binoculars (the better to spot a villain from a distance), tipping back flasks of Prohibition-era gin, inspecting poison bottles, and of course, wearing the knitted designs with great panache.
 
 
Let’s consider these lady detectives, and examine their place in the world of traditional mysteries. Agatha Christie’s deceptively sweet little old lady, Miss Jane Marple – a knitter herself – is among the early female detectives to achieve lasting fame in the genre. In several modern mystery series that look back to the 1920s and ‘30s for inspiration, their authors capitalize on both the skills that women bring to the art of detection, and the societal shifts and contradictions of the “between-the-wars” era that made it a viable career option.
 
Detective work became possible for women only once they had achieved the independence brought about by WWI, when many served as volunteers, munitions factory workers, nurses and ambulance drivers. After the war, women lived independently in greater numbers than ever before, owned and drove their own cars, and continued to work in professions previously open only to men. 
 
Like these fictional lady detectives, whose sleuthing skills are usually undermined or dismissed outright by their male counterparts in the local police force or Scotland Yard, the knitting needle itself has been given short shrift. Its potential as a murder weapon should not be underestimated. While its true that knitting needles are traditionally employed in the creation of baby blankets, tea cozies, and tweedy cardigans, few realize that sharp-tipped metal needles are in almost every knitter’s project bag, and that they’re positively lethal. And then there are circular needles: two sharp points joined by a length of strong plastic cable. Perfect for garroting one’s intended victim, wouldn’t you say? 
 
 
And let’s not diminish the role of yarn as an accessory to murder. A ball of yarn makes an ideal gag when stuffed into the victim’s mouth. An unwound skein, with its tremendous tensile strength, is just the right length to loop around a victim’s throat for quick, neat, and fail-proof strangulation. And yet whenever I travel by plane with several of these potential weapons in my carry-on bag, not once has a TSA agent either confiscated them or even pulled them out of my bag for inspection. As a knitter, I appreciate their trust – but if I had murder in mind, it would be another story!
 
 
In fact, I’m hoping someone will write that story. Already I can imagine the opening scene; a demure-seeming woman sits quietly knitting under the warm glow of a lamp in her living room. Her needles click softly, yarn spooling out of the ball at her feet into the beginnings of a new sweater for her husband.
 
But wait; downstairs, her husband lies crumpled in his ‘man cave,’ light from the televised football game playing over his frozen, startled features. A small, circular wound in his chest glistens with blood, but that’s the only sign of what transpired.
 
 
Who will take it from here?

Nov. 12, 2014

Lately it seems that my regularly scheduled knitting program is routinely interrupted by – well, life.

First up was a memorable afternoon at Sheep’s Clothing in Valparaiso, IN for last weekend’s Head For Trouble trunk show and book signing with owner Paula and friends.

IMG_0194 IMG_0187Then on Sunday, I was fortunate to attend a book signing at the Spice House in Old Town for Dorie Greenspan, a James Beard-award winning chef, cookbook author, and all-round adorable person.

Her books Around My French Table and Baking From My Home To Yours are in heavy rotation in my kitchen, and now that I have an autographed copy of her new book – Baking Chez Moi – it will undoubtedly become one of my favorites as well. As delicious as her recipes are, I’ve always found her writing style approachable, her recipes inventive yet based in the classics, and her book production consistently a feast for the eyes.

IMG_4485I’m looking forward to Hannukah all the more knowing that her new book will be waiting for me!

This week is all about celebrating a slew of November birthdays – my husband’s is today, my mother’s is Friday, and my mother-in-law’s is next Monday.

But even lots of gift-wrapping and cake-baking hasn’t kept me from knitting the extra samples I’ll need for a workshop I’m teaching on the 22nd. In between, I’m trying to finish a secret project for my daughter when she comes home to visit in late December. So some knitting is getting done after all!

Nov. 10, 2014

Saturday’s Head For Trouble trunk show and book signing at Sheep’s Clothing in Valparaiso, IN was so much fun! Owner Paula has such a lovely and knowledgeable staff, and wonderful customers, that I felt immediately at ease.

IMG_0188With lots of space at the front of the fabulous shop, there was room to display every one of the projects from the new book, as well as the cool, drapey garments from Knits That Breathe.

IMG_0183Staffer Debbie was kind enough to model several of the hats from A Head For Trouble, including the one inspired by detective character Maisie Dobbs, which was her absolute favorite:

IMG_0189It looked absolutely perfect with her bobbed hair style. In addition, she wore her version of one of the garments from Knits That Breathe – the Zephyr tunic – in an alternative fiber. Lovely!

Paula wore her versions of both Iced Frappuccino and Zephyr throughout the day, which definitely encouraged customers to try making their own.

IMG_0194All in all, a very fun day!

11/1/2014: A Head For Fashion Release

It’s here! In plenty of time to knit yourself a little something cozy and special for winter (or to knit a holiday gift for an equally special someone), please say hello to A Head For Fashion: my new mini-collection e-book that features six stylish accessory patterns inspired by fashion designers of the Roaring Twenties.

AHFF-front-coverYou may purchase the complete collection for $14.95 either in the Shop section of my website, or in my Ravelry store.

If only a couple of these vintage-style projects inspire you to grab those knitting needles and raid your stash for that precious skein of luxury yarn, you may also purchase each of the patterns individually for $5.00. Here they are:

Jane Slouch Cloche

Jane Slouch Cloche

Simone Cloche

Simone Cloche

Coco Fingerless Mitts

Coco Fingerless Mitts

Caroline Toque

Caroline Toque

Coco Cloche

Coco Cloche

Suzanne Toque

Suzanne Toque

Suzanne Toque

Suzanne Toque

Suzanne Toque

 

Price: $5.00
 

Suzanne Toque

From “A Head For Fashion

Suzanne Talbot, considered one of the most important style-makers of the early 20th century, designed couture millinery and clothing.

Original in her artistic vision and innovative in her use of materials, her creations were anticipated with great excitement each season by the fashion press.

She was known for designing hats that were wider at the crown than at the brim, a perfect example of which is this toque with its textured rise and dramatic jeweled dragon accent brooch.

 

 

 

Simone Cloche

Simone Cloche

Simone Cloche

 

Price: $5.00
 

Simone Cloche

From “A Head For Fashion

Rising from poverty to the height of success, Simone Mirman began her training with an apprenticeship with one of the leading Parisian milliners of the 1920s and ’30s. There, she developed her talent for designing hats to flatter even the most
‘challenging’ faces. Eventually, she launched her own business, designing hats for the British royal family, aristocrats, and celebrities.

This chic and comfortable cloche features a deep Art Deco-inspired color work rise and appliqué embellishments in full bloom.

 

 

 

Jane Slouch Cloche

Jane Slouch Cloche

Jane Slouch Cloche

 

Price: $5.00
 

Jane Slouch Cloche Pattern

From “A Head For Fashion

Jane Blanchot’s couture millinery atelier, the Parisian Millinery Co., was active throughout the 1920s and until 1949.

Known for her pursuit of artisanal perfection in fashion design, she brought her discerning eye to the creation of avant-garde jewelry as well as unusual hats. A textured color work band sets off the delicate lace cap and aureole crown in this
creation, resulting in a slouchy cloche design that is as lovely as it is practical.

 

 

 

Coco Fingerless Mitts

Coco Fingerless Mitts

Coco Fingerless Mitts

 

Price: $5.00
 

Coco Fingerless Mitts Pattern

From “A Head For Fashion

These cozy yet stylish fingerless mitts feature a slip stitch texture up the back of each hand as well as charming rose and leaf appliqués at the wrist.

The sporty texture of the contrast color wristbands is balanced by mother-of-pearl buttons, in homage to the high-low mix that was a trademark of designer Coco Chanel.

 

 

 

Coco Cloche

Coco Cloche

Coco Cloche

 

Price: $5.00
 

Coco Cloche Pattern

From “A Head For Fashion

Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel’s reputation as an arbiter of chic was cemented during the 1920s and ‘30s, when she designed the most freeing and comfortable garments women had ever worn.

Naturally, she designed and wore the iconic hat of the Jazz Age – the cloche. This example, with its narrow, down-turned brim worn low over the forehead, a textured and embellished band, and a sophisticated color combination of charcoal, orchid, and lilac, is inspired by the legend herself.

 

 

 

Caroline Toque

Caroline Toque

Caroline Toque

  

Price: $5.00
 

Caroline Toque Pattern

From “A Head For Fashion

Known as the “Queen of the Milliners,” Caroline Reboux did some of her best work during the 1920s.

She is credited with creating the cloche, and popularizing a new version of the toque. In this example, the unique shape relies on Short-Row shaping for the abbreviated brim, I-Cord trim, and applied fabric leaves for sculptural interest.

On a blustery autumn day, its stylish warmth will flatter the modern knitter as much as it would the most fashion-conscious flapper.

 

 

 

10/30/2014 – A Head For Trouble and VK Live

The pre-order promotion for A Head For Trouble will expire at 5:00 PM CST tomorrow, Oct. 31.

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If you’ve been too busy to place your order and take advantage of the free bonus patterns that are available, now’s the time to give yourself a moment to treat yourself to a book that you’ll enjoy and use for years.

Here are some of the options for your free bonus pattern:

Simone Cloche  Suzanne Toque  Coco Cloche

The Head For Trouble launch at VK Live was fabulous; many copies of the book went home with many wonderful knitters who are excited about the Roaring Twenties-inspired projects.

Some of my favorite moments from the event included a meet and greet with Barbara Walker at the Gala Dinner on Saturday night:

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With great forbearance, she signed a copy of her Fourth Treasury of Knitting Patterns for me – it’s the only one I didn’t already own.

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As if I wasn’t rendered starry-eyed enough by this brush with knitting celebrity, who should be sitting next to BGW during the photo op below, but Meg Swanson. These two brilliant knitters are literally larger-than-life, and it shows here:

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10/28/14 – VK Live Re-Cap part 1

While I certainly hoped the launch of A Head For Trouble would include a warm reception, I was truly astounded at the number of knitters who snapped up a signed copy of my new book at VK Live last weekend at the Palmer House Hilton here in Chicago.

a-head-for-trouble-coverIt was wonderful to spend time with indie yarn dyer friends from around the country, and share the book’s knitted samples made from their lovely yarns, including Tess from Tess Designer Yarn on the left below, with her best friend and helper, Shereen.

VKL with Tess and Shereen 10 25 14

Also spent time signing books and fondling the yarn at Black Bunny Fibers with Carol Sulcoski and Brooke Nico,and at Dragonfly Fibers with co-owner Nancye Bonomo, below:

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The Palmer House Hilton is a gorgeous venue, and I look forward to any opportunity to visit – but especially the ones where knitting and yarn are the main event. More to follow!

10/20/2014 – It’s He-e-e-re: A Head For Trouble Launches

Thought I’d surface for a bit to report on the launch of A Head For Trouble last week.

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After all, it’s important to come up for air now and then, even during a very busy time. The enthusiasm that greeted the release of this new book has been truly wonderful to behold.

It seems to have struck a chord with knitters who watch shows like Downtown Abbey, see the amazing 1920s clothing designs worn by Lady Mary and the rest of the family, and wish they could own knitted versions of them. I don’t know about you, but I can imagine Mary heading off in the cloche below to manage the latest estate crisis.

It was inspired by Carola Dunn’s lady detective character, Daisy Dalyrymple, who never left home without her “emerald green cloche” in the first few books of the series.

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And can’t you just picture Downton’s newly chic Lady Edith swanning off to London in the cap below? It was inspired by Agatha award-winner Catriona McPherson’s series featuring the lady detective Dandy Gilver, who is a proper lady only when it suits her. Sound like anyone else you might know?

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It’s also been so interesting to see the countries from which knitters are ordering the book; the U.S and Canada, of course. But also France, Denmark, and the U.K., where the e-book has been especially popular, probably because mailing a paperback to Europe, I recently learned, costs $23.50 via Priority Mail International – almost as much as the book itself!

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A Head For Fashion, the bonus collection with six additional Roaring Twenties-inspired hat and accessory patterns, has been equally well-received. The Coco Cloche, above, has been a favorite.

Here’s the deal: Anyone ordering both the paperback AND the e-book of A Head For Trouble together will get the bonus collection PDF for free until Oct. 31. Anyone ordering either the paperback OR the e-book of A Head For Trouble will get the single pattern of her choice from the bonus collection. Either way, it’s always a treat to get something free!