A Head For Trouble

Knit something special for your inner flapper!

Pre-order promotions start on October 15, so stay tuned!

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Just in time for holiday gift-knitting, A Head For Trouble is nearly ready to launch! It has been really, really hard to keep this big project a secret, but the wait is nearly over. In fact, the pattern basics are now up on Ravelry, so you can decide which to knit first.

I hope you’ll feel moved to pull out your treasured skeins of luxury yarn, and work up some of these special designs.

I got a few advance copies of the book last week, and couldn’t be more excited about the way it turned out.

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The theme is quirky, I know. But how better to combine my passion for 1920s fashion with my love of literary mysteries that feature strong female crime-busters?

As a knitwear designer, nothing gets my creativity more fired up than a challenge like the one I set for myself with A Head For Trouble.

A HEAD FOR TROUBLE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For all of us who adore Downton Abbey and similar period TV shows, we know that it’s the fabulous fashions as much as the compelling story lines that keep us tuning in week after week, and season after season.

And again, as a knitwear designer with a penchant for period fashion, it was a thrill to set myself the task of interpreting the Roaring Twenties for today’s knitter. 

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The 1920s was a time of unprecedented change for women. Also known as the “between the wars” period because WWI had ended and WWII was not yet even a distant rumble on the horizon, in the 1920s women enjoyed freedoms that had previously been exclusive to men.

Without getting too lecture-y here (but I do love history!), for the first time women were holding jobs in traditionally male professions. They owned and drove their own automobiles. They sought higher education in greater numbers, and the right to vote became a lightening rod issue of the day. 

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We see all of these forces at work in period dramas like Downton Abbey, and fashion was perhaps the most visible manifestation of the new freedoms that women demanded.

No more corsets, bustles, or “dressing” one’s hair into an elaborate coiffure. Skirts were shortened and tops became loose and drapey to allow for freedom of movement. Women bobbed their hair into a short, manageable style known as a “shingle,” or an “Eton crop.” These new hair styles necessitated new hat styles to complement them, and that’s where A Head For Trouble comes in.

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As you’ll soon see, A Head For Trouble includes all the hat styles popular during the Jazz Age, along with the most important accessories to accompany them. And I can hardly wait to share them with you.

8/6/14

Here’s a question: how many books can one author sign in 7 minutes?

Answer: 42 – a full case (and a cramped hand, but that’s another story).

And how do I know this? In preparation for book signings at Stitches Midwest this coming weekend, I signed lots (and lots) of copies of Knits That Breathe. Hope to see you there!

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On another note, I can’t wait to share the details of this new design, coming for fall:

IMG_4139Meanwhile, summer in the city is in full swing, with all its most compelling distractions on display. For example, these new temporary sculpture exhibits at Millenium Park:

IMG_4041Concerts at the Pritzker Pavilion, the perfect picnic venue:

IMG_4126The “living” art fountain display at Millennium Park:

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IMG_4036And the majesty of several spectacular summer storms, complete with dramatic cloud formations, lightning strikes on the tallest antennae in the city, and claps of thunder that send the cat scurrying for her “safe place” in the apartment, otherwise known as “under the dining room table.”

IMG_4101That is, when she’s not helping me knit:

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8/4/2014

Working on new swatches all week, in preparation for some fantastic surprises this fall:

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Experimenting with new stitches and embellishments, which are always fun to audition before stitching them oh-so-carefully onto the final project. I was irrationally pleased to find a home for a cherished vintage button from the stash:

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A little bit cross-eyed from this working up mini-landscape of cable crosses:

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It’s always a challenge is finding the best foundation textures for a new project. Sometimes it falls into place quickly, when the *perfect* stitch pattern leaps out at me from the pages of one of my stitch dictionaries. More often, though, I’ll swatch four or five different stitches to discover the best one for a particular yarn. Here’s one example:

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8/2/2014

I’m excited to be gearing up for Stitches Midwest, which takes place in Schaumburg, IL next weekend (Aug. 7-10). Lots of preparation to do between now and then.

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Four of the garments from Knits That Breathe will be in the event’s fashion show, so attendees will be able to see these cool, drapey tunics and tees in action!

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If you don’t already have your own signed copy of Knits That Breathe, I’ll be doing several book signings at Stitches on Saturday afternoon. Here’s the line-up so far:

Yarn Barn of Kansas: 12:00 pm

Fine Needle: 1:00 pm

Fine Point: late afternoon

See you there!

7/24/2014

The knitting happening here these days is mostly of the secret variety, and awfully exciting despite the fact that I can’t discuss it. For example, today I got a FedEx package from my printer containing digital proofs for the next book! I’d like nothing better than to show you those photos, but I’m working on my secret-keeping skills and this is a perfect opportunity to practice saying, “My lips are sealed.” Although I haven’t figured out how to say it and do it at the same time!

I can, however, offer a sneak peak of a new project in the works:

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It’s related to the next book, but it won’t spoil anything if I share the photo above. The Plucky Knitter yarns (Traveler in Morticia and Plucky Bello Worsted in Old Copper) are a joy to work with. There’s nothing about rich, saturated colors and heavenly soft fiber that I don’t like!

In addition, I’ve added a new recipe to my culinary repertoire this summer: mini-frittatas that make a fabulous quick breakfast or lunch on the go. The following recipe is not terribly precise, but is detailed enough for you to make your own, equally delicious, version of these frittatas.

Before you do anything else, you’ll need to preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Now for the recipe itself:

First take several (I used 8 large ones) farm fresh eggs, break them into a large bowl, and mix them with a generous splash of milk and a shake of salt and pepper:

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Then, dice a small onion and sauté it in 1 TBSP of olive oil until it softens. If it turns a little brown at the edges, too, that’s ok. While the onion sautés, cut a smallish head of broccoli florets into bite size pieces and steam them for a minute or so, or until just tender.

If you haven’t already turned on the oven, go do that now.

Let the broccoli cool along with the onion, and then add both of these ingredients to the bowl of eggs.

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Dice about 1/2 a cup of hard salami (leave this ingredient out if you’re a vegetarian or just want a lighter mini-frittata), and grate or shred about 3/4 cup of the cheese of your choice. I used sharp Cheddar, but Monterey Jack, Gouda, parmesan, or crumbled feta would also be delicious.

Mix these ingredients into the bowl with the eggs and everything else.

Add some fresh herbs. I picked and then tossed in about a TBSP each of lemon thyme and parsley from my little herb garden. Add another dash of salt and pepper.

Mix everything one last time; you should have enough of the egg mixture to fill 2 pans – 12 of the muffin top forms.

Now you’re ready to bake them!

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Spoon the mixture into “Muffin Top” pans. Their shallowness will allow the mini-frittatas to puff up slightly, resulting in round, personal sized frittatas-to-go. Bake for approximately 15 minutes (but start checking on them after 10-12 minutes), until the tops have puffed up, the cheese is melted and bubbling, and the eggs have set.

They should smell pretty delicious when you crack open the oven door to check on them.

To serve, I put mine in the microwave oven (which keeps them from drying out) for 1 minute to heat them up for breakfast, but you could also heat them in a toaster oven, or try them at room temperature. Enjoy!

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7/13/14 – Bastille Day Promotion

Starting tomorrow and in honor of Bastille Day – July 14th – if you order a paperback copy of Knits That Breathe on my website,  you will be able to score a free download of the electronic version with its wonderful interactive features!

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This promotion will run for a limited time, so take advantage of it while you can. As the French would say, *”Le jour de gloire est arrivé.” Only where Knits That Breathe is concerned, there will be several jours de gloire when you can obtain your very own copy.

 

*Translation: The day of glory is here!

7/3/2014

The positive reviews of Knits That Breathe keep appearing, much to my delight and everlasting appreciation. Herewith, two more, the first from Jimmy Beans Wool blog post last week,

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and the next from Carol Sulcoski’s Black Bunny Fibers blog.

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Carol and my friends at Jimmy Beans Wool are among the knitting world folks whose work I most admire. Their creativity and business acumen are qualities I emulate to the best of my ability, and achieve with, at best,  mixed results.

I enjoyed being interviewed for the review by Jimmy Beans… Kristen asked thoughtful questions, most of which were different than those I’ve been asked before.

And when Carol writes one of her “no bull book reviews,” it’s often the final push I need to add a new book to my knitting bookshelf – so I can only hope that those who read her review of Knits That Breathe will be similarly motivated!

Off to enjoy a relaxing Fourth of July weekend, and hope you will do the same! I leave you with several colorful blooms from my recent visit to the Chicago Botanic Gardens that resemble booms – that is, exploding fireworks!

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6/30/2014 – Review: Knitters Curiosity Cabinet III by Hunter Hammersen

Up for review today is the prolific Visionary author Hunter Hammersen‘s final addition to her Knitter’s Curiosity Cabinet trilogy, KCC III:

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For those of you who may be unfamiliar with either this self-published book series or with Hunter’s prodigious knitting talent, let this be your introduction. I apologize in advance if this sounds like a girl-crush — but in a way it is.

Hunter is the real deal; a multi-talented designer whose intellectual curiosity  is surpassed only by her wide-ranging creativity. She’d probably say that her ability to keep her finger on the pulse of our knitting community’s zeitgeist is just a bonus.

Taking its theme from curiosity cabinets (holding collections of the marvels of natural science) and history, the patterns in KCC III are inspired by antique marine illustrations that date back to the 17th and 18th centuries.

Hunter is an inspired sock knitter, and the projects in KCC III showcase that talent. Here are two lovely examples:

Planorbis corneus Sock

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Fucus asparagoides Sock

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Each sock pattern has a companion project, and these are pretty evenly divided among shawls, hats, and mitts. All are graceful, use only a skein or two of yarn, and are very wearable. Some of my favorites include the delicate Fucus asparagoides Shawl, made from The Plucky Knitter’s Plucky Single:

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Each one features yarn that seems to have been spun and dyed specifically for that project, so beautifully do fiber and end product work together.

PELAGIA NOCTILUCA Hat

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In addition to the projects themselves is ample evidence of Hunter’s affinity for History with a capital ‘H.’ She shares the history of curiosity cabinets as a cultural trend, describing the artifacts people collected in them hundreds of years ago, and weaves a seamless, fascinating tie-in with the knitting.

Zostera marina mitt

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Hunter is a staunch proponent of charted directions for lace, cables, and the like. In fact, there are no written row-by-row instructions for the projects in KCC III. But she facilitates the user-friendliness of her charts – and every pattern in the book includes at least one – with detailed stitch keys and careful explanations of every stitch that might give the chart-phobic knitter pause.

I’ve heard that knitters challenge themselves to get comfortable using charts specifically so they can make Hunter’s patterns, and having seen the effort she makes to keep them accessible, I’m not surprised.

Limneus stagnalis cowl

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I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk a bit about production values here. Hunter’s books are, without exception, right at home on the knitter’s bookshelf next to any volume from a major mainstream publisher. In terms of layout and design, photography, and styling, her books are generally more attractive than those from some of the major craft book publishers.

Even details such as paper quality, and whether the cover has a glossy or matte finish, do not go unconsidered. The end results are beautiful, substantial, and uncompromising. All attest to the effort Hunter expends to ensure the quality of her ‘product,’ and make them worth every penny.

Serpula contortuplicata mitt

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For the accessory knitter looking for whimsical but wearable projects, for the history and science buff, and for the aesthete who revels in pure beauty for its own sake, The Knitter’s Curiosity Cabinet III is a gorgeous capstone to the 3-volume set.

Padina pavonia Sock

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6/23/2014 – Knits That Breathe

Here’s the thing about writing a new knitting book: you work feverishly for months to source the perfect yarn for each project, and stretch your imagination to design all the wonderful, drool-worthy  projects. This is when you keep a little notebook on your bedside table, because inspiration tends to strike in the middle of the night. And your cat gets cranky because she’s not getting enough attention… or so she’d have you believe.

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Next, you spend hours and hours with calculator in hand drafting the patterns (and sometimes redrafting them, because of course you want to be inclusive and provide grading for several sizes…). This is when you might want more than one glass of wine with dinner because if you’re not math-oriented, at the end of the day your brain is fried. Distracting yourself with something really pretty is restorative, too.

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Then you focus on the book’s physical details like the font, the tech-editing content and style, the layout, and the project photography. You take pride in your work, so you want it all to be perfect. Your name is going right there on the cover, after all! This is when you trust your instincts, and try not to second-guess yourself.

And finally, one day, you get to write this:

Many cases of Knits That Breathe copies are on their way to Amazon this week. It makes me sooo happy to be able to write that last sentence, you can’t imagine. Or maybe you can.

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The wait has seemed long – and to someone not known for her patience, I’ll admit the wait has seemed impossibly long. But at last, it’s nearly over. Several additional cases of Knits That Breathe are on their way to me so I can send out copies to those of you have waited so patiently.

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I have a feeling the postal carrier and I are about to become very good friends!

6/21/2014 – Summer Solstice

As we slog into Chicago’s typical hot and sticky summer weather, I’m getting wonderful use out of the sample knits from Knits That Breathe. Local yarn company/indie dying wizard Beth at Lorna’s Laces put up photos on Facebook today of the designs using her yarns; the luxurious silk and bamboo blend Pearl,

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and the wool and high-tech Outlast blend, Sportmate.

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Now that my recent spate of house guests have all scattered to their respective homes around the country, I’m getting back to work. I’ve begun to ship hard copies of Knits That Breathe to the very patient folks who pre-ordered their copies here. It’s quite a process – and a new one to me – but as I get comfortable with the various steps, it’s going more and more smoothly.

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Quite soon, Amazon should be shipping out copies ordered there, and the LYS owners who placed orders at TNNA should receive their shipments around the end of June. Lots of time yet for summer knits, so I look forward to seeing the finished projects popping up on Ravelry!

After waiting far longer than I would have liked, I finally planted the summer garden out on our balcony a couple of weeks ago. Now that the plants have settled in and seem happy in their containers, they’re ready for a few close-ups.

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Trader Joe’s hibiscus is positively ravishing! The plants’ glossy emerald green leaves set the stage for the daily appearance of fresh vibrant blooms that appear in time to brighten every morning as I sip my first cup of coffee in their company.

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Must admit I’m a sucker for spotty, veiny leaves… not sure I want to know what this says about me, other than the variegation resonates. Perhaps these dramatic plants remind me of the infinite variety we have in yarn colors these days.

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As soon as my tender young basil plants put out some flowers, I’m dying to try a yummy-sounding iced tea recipe that my friend Hunter recently posted on her blog.

Of course, Hunter has far more exciting news these days. Her newest book, Knitter’s Curiosity Cabinet Volume III is out! I’ll be reviewing it next week, so come on back soon, y’hear?

6/18/2014

This is for those of you who’ve procrastinated about ordering your copy of Knits That Breathe: 12 Breezy Projects To Keep You Cool. I know how it is; it always seems like there’s plenty of time… and then suddenly, time runs out.

But now, you’re excited about the project photos you’re seeing up on Ravelry and you just want to start knitting already! And I understand, really I do.

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The pre-order special offer of 10% off the combined purchase of both hard copy and digital download has been extended through this Saturday, June 21st. That means you can still have both for $39.50 (plus shipping of the hard copy). Your patience has been rewarded.

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It seems only fair, since the shipment of books took its time arriving, and has only now reached port. Pre-ordered copies will be available to ship quite soon – wish I could be more specific than that!

Thank you for your understanding!

6/17/2014 – Mental Knitting

It’s been mentioned on Facebook, but until now I haven’t brought it up here; I’ve had a torn rotator cuff since the beginning of this year. I managed to do it at the gym, in spite of my careful attention to form and my complete lack of competitive or show-off behaviors.

How did this happen, you ask? Why, lifting weights, of course. The household’s power-napping fur ball doesn’t understand I’d want to lift anything heavier than a bite-sized piece of chicken.

IMG_0954I took a few weeks off, then went back to the gym and, paying even more attention to careful form and lifting even lighter weights, I pulled it all over again. And despite several months of physical therapy and exercises, it really doesn’t feel much better. Not even with liberal applications of this well-known, expert-endorsed icing treatment:

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The physical therapist made me promise that as soon as the samples for my next knitting book were complete, I’d take a full month’s hiatus from knitting. You read that right – a full month. Now halfway into that month, my suffering is silent but profound (get out your violins…).

Knitting is like breathing to me, I’ve come to realize. It’s difficult to wait on any line without knitting a few rows to make the wait go faster. Long car trips with no knitting to make the miles speed by? Boring. Watching TV at night without knitting in hand seems pointless, no matter how enjoyable the program. And no soporific knitting before I turn out the bedside light at night? Insomnia!

To her credit, the household fur ball keeps me honest, fixing me with her unblinking yellow eyes as if to say, “Don’t even think about it!”

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But I can still think about knitting. And I certainly do.

Sketches of ideas for future submissions? Check.

Perusal of my knitting books to “refine” the collection? Check.

Fondling my yarn stash under the pretext of tidying and sorting? Check.

But to be honest, halfway into my self-imposed knitting moratorium, I’m feeling just a wee bit prickly.

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6/13/2014 – A Podcast and A Book Review of Solefull Socks

To hear my podcast interview on Yarn Thing with Marly Bird, and our discussion of the projects, fibers, and inspiration for Knits That Breathe, just click on her name above. Read the show notes here for all my pertinent data.

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Marly is an interviewer’s interviewer. She puts her guests completely at ease (at least, this one certainly was!), and asks thoughtful questions that keep the conversation going effortlessly.

On the new books front, I’m loving Betty Salpekar’s Solefull Socks: Knitting From the Ground Up. Betty and I met at a Visionaries self-publishing workshop earlier this year, and I was enchanted when I took a look at her book.

And what a gorgeous book it is. In a large format hardcover, Solefull Socks contains beautiful, tempting photographs of the projects, painstakingly detailed charts and diagrams, explanations of the sock architecture, and useful tips and hints to make your own journey into Solefull sock-knitting as enjoyable as possible.

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Betty has completely re-imagined sock-knitting, devising a method that should please even the most sock-averse knitter. Her technique builds up from the sole, wrapping the sock around the wearer’s foot and up from there.

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But make no mistake; this is not like any other toe-up sock knitting you’ve read about. In fact, it’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen before in the world of socks. Amazingly, Betty’s invention lends itself equally well to lace that traverses the foot and ankle:

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and colorwork, such as this diamond pattern:

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as well as textured stitches:

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It seems that no matter what pattern one incorporates into this technique, the end result will be wearable, comfortable, and attractive on the foot. This is a book worth seeking out and adding to your knitting library, whether or not you consider yourself a sock knitter. The technique is so unusual, yet so practical and visually appealing, that every adventurous, curious knitter will want to give it a try. I know I will!

6/11/2014 – Coming Up: Podcast Interview with Marly Bird!

Tune in tomorrow to hear my podcast interview with Marly Bird on her Yarn Thing:

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Really excited about this one – I met Marly at a recent trade event (TNNA), and she’s absolutely delightful! Not to mention, I love her logo! So charming:

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6/10/2014

A couple of days ago, an article appeared online that got me thinking again about yarn substitutions and cast-on methods for the projects in Knits That Breathe. This article was by Pam MacKenzie, who recently reviewed the book for her column in My Central Jersey.

This time, Pam was going full-speed ahead, casting on for her personal favorite book project, the Iced Frappuccino tunic. Her yarn of choice is a luscious turquoise UltraPima cotton yarn from Cascade, so clearly she’s already working the yarn substitution angle.

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It sounds like Pam is already familiar with the Cascade yarn and knows for certain that she’ll knit to gauge with it, because she immediately cast on to start the project… not a swatch in sight.

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For her, the issue was more in the choice of cast-on method. Using the Long Tail, Pam experienced the very problem that originally turned me off that method; in other words, she ran out of yarn several stitches short of the number she needed. Here’s my sympathetic “Aarrrgghhhh!” Despite my best efforts to calculate the necessary length of yarn for the correct number of cast-on stitches, I often experience the same heartbreak; it’s the “day late and a dollar short” of yarn woes. And Pam had this happen to her not once, but twice.

Then she tried something new for her: Cable cast-on. All I can say is, great minds…

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I use the Cable cast-on for almost everything these days. Its neat finished edge appearance (especially on the right side) combined with its relative stretchiness, often makes it the ideal choice. And for the projects in Knits That Breathe, that’s often just what you’ll want.

In case you’re not already familiar with this technique, here’s a brief tutorial:

First, put a slip knot on the needle, and knit a stitch into that.

Put that new stitch back on the left hand needle without slipping the first stitch off.

Knit the next stitch in between the first and second stitches, and transfer that stitch back onto the left hand needle.

Continue adding stitches in this manner until you have enough for your pattern on the needle!