Choices, Choices….Yarn Selection

My big 2013 knitting book project is complete. Well, let me amend that. My initial responsibilities are complete, meaning that I:

~designed twelve – yes, twelve! – flattering and comfortable new garments (I can’t reveal much, but here’s a sneak peek of one cardi with a vintage mother-of-pearl button from my collection):













~chose a lovely palette of fantastic yarns for them,

~wrote up all the patterns.

The physical book layout, photography, and production are starting in mid-January, and the file will go to the printer by early March. The book’s target release date is early June, 2014.

With a three-week window wide open before me, I’ve begun selecting yarns for a new book project because god forbid I should have nothing to do between now and mid-January. This new secret project has an exciting theme, a gorgeous color palette, and a bit of a bias toward luxury yarns in small, affordable quantities (although many of the featured yarns will have user-friendly price points). I’m stoked!

Here’s a peek at the prototype for one of the projects already nearing completion:

















I haven’t seen much of this lacy cable design out there, and really wanted to try something new to me that would be easily memorized but would also develop a satisfying pattern reveal as it grows on the needles.

I’ll leave you with a few images of Chicago’s holiday attire:

















For a couple of frigid days, new snow covered every surface, and holiday lights were the only things warming the view at night.













A little dusting of icy “confectioner’s sugar” on the rooftops:













Even the river began to ice over, but as soon as it warmed up ju-u-st slightly, these mini ice floes broke free and skimmed down-river.


















Rainy Day Knitting

Outside my windows, today is like one of those Italian cookies called “bruti ma buoni,” which translates to “ugly but good.” It’s gray, raw, and drizzling, and I understand that out in the suburbs there are even snow flurries.

But this unpleasant weather makes staying indoors all the more cozy. What could be better than a mug of steaming, sweet herbal tea (or in my case, an extra-hot, large and frothy latté) at my elbow and my latest knitting project on my needles?

Ok, if I’m being honest, maybe a plate of homemade cookies to nibble between rows could make it even better…

I just finished and blocked a quick little birthday gift for my husband. He chose the yarn for this cowl from my stash; Madelinetosh Vintage in Tart, one of my absolute favorites, and a gorgeous color on him.














Here’s a close-up of the chevron stitch pattern. It’s simple but visually effective, and addictive once you get going with it:














I love the way it plays up the color subtleties in Vintage’s semi-solid colorway.

Tah-Daaah! Gyroscopic Cardigan Pattern…

Thank you for your patience! The Gyroscopic Cardigan pattern has been uploaded to my Ravelry Pattern Store and is now available for sale. I’ll also upload it to my Pattern Store on this site in a week or so.

I appreciate all the comments this design has already generated, including those that mention its generous range of sizes (up to a 56″ bust), and those expressing surprise to discover that a cardi worked in bulky weight yarn can still be so flattering and drapey.

The yarns used for the two samples have different properties. The Queensland Collection Uruguay Chunky (blue version) has a tighter twist. Although the recommended needle size for this yarn is a US #10.5, I worked the project on US #10 needles to achieve the gauge of 4 stitches to the inch. That made all the difference in adding depth and definition to the cable design.

The resulting fabric feels a bit denser and has slightly less drape (but is so soft and cozy that I won’t want to take it off this coming winter) than the yellow version worked in Lana Grossa’s Bingo.

Bingo is a looser ply and although the recommended needle size is smaller (US #9), the gauge on the label is the same 4 stitches to the inch. It has a loftier, lighter feel than the Uruguay Chunky, but shows off the cables equally well.

I’d love to see finished versions of Gyroscopic as readers complete theirs. Enjoy the pattern, and please feel free to share your results!

Blue Pleated Cardigan

Every once in a while, I remember something I forgot. The Blue Pleated Cardigan is one of those.

After I finished making it in 2009, I wore it to death for at least a year. Then, for reasons I no longer remember, I consigned it to the top shelf of my closet. That is to say, the shelf I can reach only if I stand on the kitchen step stool and reach up as high as my arms will go because that damned shelf is really high. The things that wind up there often don’t see the light of day ever again, or at least not often.

But the other day, I was fishing around up there looking for something else, and I rediscovered my old friend the Blue Pleated Cardigan. Tried it on and wondered what I could have been thinking when I put it up there, because I still love it, it fits me just fine, and the yarn (which I’m pretty sure is Shaefer) is so soft and warm – perfect for this time of year.

As detailed on Ravelry, this project evolved out of my desire to create a classic button front cardigan that combines supreme comfort with stylish design details.

Seed stitch ruffled “pleats” fall gracefully over the hips and taper up into a bobble, from which point they carry up into the body of the sweater as widely spaced ribs. These pleats result in a feminine and flattering peplum effect that eliminates the need for any additional waist shaping.

It is knit in pieces from the bottom up, with set-in sleeves that bell out at the ends due to the pleat detail. The seed stitch collar and button placket add texture that does not compete with the lovely shades of teal, green, and purple in the yarn.

Gleaming art glass buttons were the finishing touch of which I was most proud; the colors in the glass are dead-on against the colors in the yarn.

Not intending to self-publish this design, I never wrote up the pattern from my notes. I could probably recreate the notes now and devise a pattern, but I kind of like the idea that this cardigan is one-of-a-kind!

Orchid Thief Stole My Heart

The Orchid Thief Shawlette  pattern stole my heart from the moment Ysolda Teague proposed it for my book, Brave New Knits. Eventually, I knew, I would have to make one of my own.

There were exactly two skeins of Sundara Yarn’s (sadly discontinued) Silk Sport in my stash, with 225 yards in each – just enough to complete the project. The Basil Over Buttercup colorway is a glowing, vibrant green so rich it’s almost iridescent. I’ve seen some gorgeous orchids that are close to this shade of green, so although it may not be the first color one thinks of when contemplating orchids, it definitely worked for me.

I’m glad I didn’t attempt this project sooner, because the transition from Chart #3 to #4 would definitely have stumped me without Ysolda’s corrections. But now it works – and so beautifully! Thankfully, both friends and Ravelers with more courage than I were kind enough to post their experiences to help the rest of us overcome our trepidation.

Given how quickly the project went (I’m not an especially fast knitter, so less than two weeks from start to finish is pretty speedy for me) I think I’ll have to make another.

Finally… An Ishbel To Call My Own

Although it seems that lately I don’t have much time to knit other designers’ patterns, Ysolda Teague’s Ishbel shawl made a great plane project a few weeks ago.

Everywhere I go, I run into a knitter who tells me with great excitement that she has knit up four Ishbels, or sometimes five, or maybe even as many as eight, no lie! So finally, I just had to try it for myself.

And I have to admit it is a very satifsying project; simple stockinette concluded with a simple lace border repeat. Great for a long plane or car ride. A wonderful way to show off a beautiful skein of laceweight or sock yarn.

Mine is in Malabrigo Sock, color #809, Solis. Mmmm… the scrumptious yarn in that divine colorway was as lovely to work as the project itself. I even had quite a bit left over of the single skein, leading me to believe I should have made the large version after all. Next time. I guess I might just become one of those serial Ishbel knitters….

So Behind It Looks Caught Up To Me

The latest radio silence is attributable to nothing more serious than travel and then more time needed to catch up on life.

But I couldn’t let my new pattern release go entirely unheralded.

Please say hello to Sonja, a rectangular stole and bonus scarf pattern in a total of three sizes. After much test knitting and pattern tweaking, she is finally ready for her close-up. Two simple but satisfying lace patterns are combined to create a wonderfully soft and warm wrap that will keep you cozy on a winter day.

Should you desire a Sonja of your own (and why wouldn’t you, she said in a shameless plug), you have the option of making her in one of three sizes: Large – 17″ wide x 84″ long for a truly sumptuous wrap, Small – 17″wide x 66″ long for those of us who tend to get warm a bit too quickly and often these days, and Scarf – 8 3/4″ wide x 66″ long, for anyone who just wants a wrap around her neck rather than her entire torso.



Fingering or laceweight yarns are recommended for Sonja; the large red version is worked in about 2 2/3 skeins of Madelinetosh Tosh Sock; the small teal version is knit up in slightly less than two 400-yd. skeins of Fearless Fibers Laceweight Merino Wool, and the scarf is made from less than one skein – 500 yds. – of Sundara Yarn Fingering Silky Merino.

Whichever yarn you choose, all were made on US Size 6 needles. Obviously, in the laceweight the resulting wrap is a more open, airier lace than in the fingering weight choices.

Sonja is offered for sale in my Pattern Store right here on this site, and on my Ravelry Designer page.

Designer Spotlight #9 – Jennifer Hagan, Figknits

When Jen Hagan of figknits offered to make the Global Cable Coat for Brave New Knits, I had to pinch myself. The sketch she sent me was promising, but it was impossible to imagine how much more gorgeous this sweater-coat would be in real life.

Knit with bulky weight, hard-wearing Beaverslide Dry Goods McTaggart Tweeds & Heathers, this is hand-knit outerwear at its finest; wam and elegant, stylish yet practical. Although it would probably be too warm for all but our chilliest California winter days, I am sure that the Global Cable Coat will be a big hit in parts of the country that have a real winter (though I have to make it anyway… because Resistance. Is. Futile.).

Its simple cable repeat set off with garter stitch borders gives a luxurious texture to the project, yet in terms of difficulty an adventurous beginner could make it. Beautifully rustic, hand-crafted wood buttons by Jay Beesmer of Wooden Treasures are ideally suited to the hearty texture of this wool.

In the year since I interviewed Jen for the book, she has started a new pattern line adventure called “Mirth.” As Jen tells it, “For my newer line, Mirth, I am working on a “Learn to Crochet” pattern and a “Learn to Knit” pattern complete with step-by-step photos and clear instruction. I have gotten very good feedback about the clarity and look of the Mirth patterns and this makes me very happy. Mirth is my adventure in digital publishing, as it is available only in PDF download.” (Her Figheadh pattern collection is sold in hard copy through yarn shops nationwide.)

In addition, she is working on an e-book of glove patterns for Mirth as well. “There just isn’t enough out there about glove knitting, especially as it compares to what’s out there for sock knitting. I’m going to try to get gloves more attention!”

After taking a much-needed break this summer, Jen is back at work with renewed focus as we move into fall. She is blogging again and trying to do it more regularly. She has also put business pages on Facebook for both the Figheadh and Mirth pattern collections, and is trying to be more present and attentive on Ravelry.


On the freelance front, she is still working with Ravenwood Cashmere (a U.S. cashmere goat farm… when can we get some of THAT, I’d like to know?!) as she continues to promote local fiber.

She was thrilled to see Pam Allen’s new business Quince & Co., because sourcing fiber domestically sets a great precedent for what Ravenwood Cashmere is trying to build on. As knitters and crocheters learn about the domestic fiber options becoming available for their knitting and crochet projects, she hopes more will make the effort to track it down and use it in their projects.

In addition to Brave New Knits, she has a chapter on blocking in DRG’s new The Perfect Finish coming out in September. It will be offered as both a hard copy and as an e-book. Other books with her designs in them are in the works and are thus the dreaded “secret knitting projects” that cannot be talked about yet. No doubt, all will be well worth the wait!

Baby Love

Although none of my friends are having babies anymore, at least their own kids are. It’s so nice to have an excuse to knock out an adorable baby knit! This sweet little sweater, based on a free pattern from Jimmy Beans Wool, is called the Presto Chango (by Valerie Wallis) and took one week to work up. Seriously, it almost took me longer to choose the buttons than to knit it. These oak leaf and acorn buttons were a trial run, but ultimately determined to detract from the center lace panel.

My friend’s daughter-in-law was gratifyingly appreciative when she unwrapped it at her baby shower last weekend, making me even more glad that I had made the effort. My friend, Suzy (the mother-in-law), is an amazing knitter herself – an absolute perfectionist who has never met a technique or fiber she couldn’t turn into something gorgeous. These vintage mother-of-pearl buttons were the winners:

I don’t know the mother-to-be very well, so I almost did it more for Suzy because I knew she would appreciate it and make sure that it is cared for properly. That’s something we all hope for when we labor over hand-knits; there’s no joy in seeing it worn some months later by the baby’s toy teddy bear because it shrank in the wash, right? I try to include a label from one skein of the yarn (and in this case, the project required only two skeins of Elann’s Peruvian Collection Highland Wool in color #1004: Pumpkin. Now that’s what I call a cost-efficient project!). 

Designer Spotlight #1: Grumperina

Designer Spotlight #1

Meeting Kathy Veeza, better known in the knitting blogosphere as Grumperina, was an incredible thrill.

And with that introduction, this post kicks off my Designer Spotlight series, airing twice a week (or thereabouts) until I have shined the light on each designer who kindly agreed to participate in the making of Brave New Knits. With the book’s release just a few weeks away – and I get shivers down my spine just writing that! – I thought it was high time to check in with each designer beyond our regular communications, and find out what each one has been up to since we originally did his or her interview for the book.

For someone as brilliant and talented as she is, Kathy is also down-to-earth and sweetly modest about her gigantic talents. And she’s an absolute perfectionist, too. Perfectionism is a quality that can be hard to take in people who are already more gifted than seems quite fair, but in Kathy it just comes across as design integrity. In her day job as a research scientist she’d never settle for less than perfection, so it makes sense that her knitwear designs manifest the same scrupulous attention to detail.


Since we met over a year ago, Kathy’s knitting has taken a dynamic turn. I like to think that the beautiful saturated color of her BNK project yarn had something to do with this when she says, “… my knitting has shifted from texture and lace to color!  I find that nowadays, more than before, I’m likely to use bright and cheerful yarns, and see what I can make with them.” This tiny peek at Kathy’s project for Brave New Knits demonstrates both her way with lace AND her newfound love of bright colors:

The single skein of Fingering Silky Merino (50% silk, 50% merino wool) yarn required for her project was generously donated by Sundara Yarn.

With the creation of several adorable baby garments during the past year, Kathy now finds that “… it’s hard to keep away from saturated greens, purples, and blues when knitting for little ones.”

An Embarrassment of Fiber Riches 

Another factor accountable for the shift in her focus is “… the ever-growing yarn industry in which companies large and small continually entice us with their new wares.” I think we can all agree on that! When I consider the yarns that were available 20-odd years ago when I first learned to knit, compared to what is now available in yarn shops and on the internet, the quantum leap forward is astounding.

Blog Loyalty

Kathy still considers her blog her “main method of staying in touch” with the knitting community. ” As long as I have something on the needles, I don’t find it too difficult to write a blog post once a week, which is a good pace for me.” With a demanding 9-to-5 job that competes for her time and attention, Kathy is nonetheless a prolific designer who even manages to find time to test-knit the occasional project for other designers.

The last year has also seen her experiment with other hand crafts; crochet and quilting projects have both shown up on her blog, with characteristically accomplished results. But knitting was her first craft love – her BNK interview explains how that came about – and clearly holds pride of place in her heart.

Habu Goddess Tunic, Part 2

Habu Goddess Tunic: Versatility is her middle name.

When we left off at the last post, the Habu Goddess Tunic’s possibilities were beginning to reveal themselves.

We saw what a bit of pinning, ruching, and draping could accomplish. Transparent became translucent. Flat became dimensional. Loose became fitted. And Blah became Wow.

And now, plain-and-simple becomes simple-but-versatile. These Habu yarns are a delight to work with, creating fabric that is light as air, yet allows itself to be molded to suit any knitterly purpose. The Goddess Tunic can be draped and seamed more than one way, as demonstrated below.

Again, strategic pinning and draping reveal a new way every knitter can become the Goddess. Panels that start out sheer at the shoulder cross over to form a double layer over the bust. The even bordered hem in Version #1 becomes pleasingly asymmetrical in Version #2 below.

Which Goddess are you? Which version do you prefer?

Habu Goddess Tunic

Earlier in the week, we took a look at the unassuming beginning of the Habu Goddess Tunic. Two long pieces of stockinette in Habu‘s Tsumugi Silk, bordered at each end with deep swaths of Wool Stainless Steel carried with Kusaki Zome Silk. Each length measuring 60″ long by 18″ wide when blocked, they could easily be repurposed as a pair of ephemeral scarves.

But look what happens when we begin adding definition to these simple lengths of stockinette by pinning them strategically together. Gathers at the shoulders add delicate ruching and lend a hint of modesty to the fabric’s sheerness. Flattering shapeliness and drape begin to take form. Our curiosity is aroused; how else will these two pieces of fabric come together?

Suddenly it becomes clear. The gathers and pins work together to create a classic silhouette. The deeper-toned border gives the design a bit of weight, a feeling of substance that plays nicely off of the body’s transparency.

A delicate ribbon tie under the bust provides just the right touch of embellishment to make this tunic appropriate for dinner out, or an evening at the theater. Greek tragedy, anyone?

Vacation Knitting Results

What Knitting Do You Pack for Vacations?

Aside from an extra bathing suit, flip flops, and a couple of outfits, there wasn’t much I needed for my family vacation in Mexico besides yarn and needles. Sure, I brought a book (Kate Morton’s The Forgotten Garden, which I loved) , but mostly I knew I’d be knitting. Wouldn’t you?

The Best-Laid Plans

I planned to concentrate on the “Knitting While Reading” project mentioned in earlier posts. But on vacation, plans are subject to change, right? Instead, I worked on a new rectangular stole design that I’m calling “Corazon” for its vibrant shade of cherry red (and because I made such great progress on it while in Mexico!). The yarn is Madeline Tosh Sock, and the color is Scarlet (boy, is it ever!).

While Corazon is technically a lace stole, its design is intentionally more solid and less open lace. Although it will have a pretty lace edging, as you work toward the center of the stole, the solid Stockinette ruched sections are spaced closer together for extra warmth around the neck. This will be a warm stole, the kind you’ll want to wrap yourself in when the wind is really howling.

I got nearly half way through while my family was doing things like this:

They had fun and so did I!

A Little Reading With Your Knitting?

A few posts ago, I posed this question: Are you a knitter who enjoys reading while you knit? Do you take your knitting to the movies and click away in the dark while the film rolls? When you go out for a meal with friends, are you knitting even as you wait for your food to arrive?

Stockinette Rules For Knitterly Multi-Tasking

For knitting under these circumstances, I’ve always preferred an easy project that doesn’t require too much of my attention. Stockinette is in many ways ideal; on its own with no multi-tasking, it can be the ultimate bore. But when my attention is divided and I need to focus visually on something else, stockinette is just the thing.

Habu Love

These gorgeous fibers from Habu entered my stash at Stitches West this February. Tsumugi Silk with its slubbed perfection, Wool Stainless Steel in all its tensile glory, and Kusaki Zome  with its gorgeous sheen and dry, crunchy hand. Oh, how I love them. The clean orchidacious colors are the icing on the cake.

The fibers themselves are so interesting that I didn’t want to use them in a project with complicated stitches or texture, although they would certainly work well enough for those pursuits. As I thought more about my Knitting-While-Reading project, the Habu yarns captured my imagination and wouldn’t let go. I decided to work with them on a larger needle than their fine gauge might suggest; in this case, a US size 6. With yarn so fine, the airy openness of the Stockinette stitch is lovely.

Simple But Effective

Elegant Simplicity became my mantra. I wanted a simple project, but not quite as straightforward as a scarf. The photo below might suggest that this is exactly what I wound up making, but that assumption would be wrong. With enough of the Habu yarns to make a garment, I set my sights a bit higher. Taking advantage of the knitted fabric’s wonderful soft drape, I settled on the idea of gathers. Simple construction to be sure; the tunic will be made up of only two pieces cleverly assembled with seaming and ruching that takes advantage of the fabric’s best qualities.

Stay tuned! This is a vacation project that I’m knitting while reading, and it will be completed upon my return next week!

Knitting While Reading

Or should that be reading while knitting?

A group of us were sitting around the other evening talking about knitting (what else?), and one member of the group asked if anybody had figured out how to read a book while knitting. Now, most of us already watch TV while we knit and don’t think anything of it. Easy-peasy, right? But reading seems to require a whole new level of multi-tasking proficiency. It turned out that I was the only person sitting around that table who has been known to read and knit simultaneously.

Here’s my secret:

In a word: Stockinette. In another word: Garter. If the knitting project on my needles is worked predominantly in either Stockinette or Garter stitch, I am perfectly capable of reading a book at the same time – probably because I could do those two stitches in my sleep, so reading doesn’t feel like much of a stretch. Anything more complicated or demanding such as cables or lace, however, and I have to close the book and concentrate on the knitting.

The miraculous thing about knitting a long stretch of Stockinette or Garter while reading a good book is that by the time I finish a chapter and take a look back down at my knitting, a huge amount of progress has been made. It always astonishes me that the muscle memory in my hands can take over like that. Makes me wonder what else my hands might get into while my attention is elsewhere… such as the cookie jar, the chocolate stash, etc.

The Single Most Important Tool for Reading-While-Knitting Success:

In my opinion, this simple hands-free bookmark is your insurance policy against books that seem hell-bent on slamming shut all by themselves, thereby losing your place just when you were getting to the good part. A friend gave me one of these years ago and it is still my favorite bookmark ever. Yes, you do have to stop knitting momentarily to turn the page, but it’s worth it.

A Project To Facilitate Reading While Knitting:

We all want them; those projects requiring so little attention that we can focus without worry on our favorite TV program, or keep our hands busy on a long car trip but still be able to make conversation with the driver, or occupy us during a long flight (but allow us to ignore a snoring seatmate).

As it happens, I am working on one of those right now, made out of this gorgeous laceweight slubbed tsumugi silk from the geniuses at Habu:

I’m picturing something drapey and fluid, a tunic perhaps. Knit on large-ish needles (US size 6 or 7?) to render the finished garment translucent and cool. Gathers or ruching or smocking; whatever the fabric demands to create a sense of movement and simple elegance. Let’s see what I come up with.

I’ll be on vacation next week, and have already warned my family that I might not join them for every single activity: the zipline tour/swim with dolphins/sunset cruise (well, maybe just not the zipline tour…) kinds of things, so that I can simply relax (now there’s a novel concept). Lie around, free up my imagination, play with this silk, and see what happens.