A Head For Trouble

Knit something special for your inner flapper!

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

2014-06-07 04.40.00-2


















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.

2014-06-07 05.05.35


















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.














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. 


2014-06-08 03.06.52-1


















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. 

2014-06-07 03.24.48


















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.

2014-06-08 02.30.39-2


















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.

Pitter Patter

Friends of ours had a baby last week – a little boy. As if I needed an excuse, I whipped up a little something because, well,  I love knitting baby gifts. They work up so quickly!













They’re so adorable! So tiny! Ergo, they use so little yarn… making them perfect stash-busters.

And this yarn from Black Bunny Fibers, a hand-dyed worsted weight from my friend Carol Sulcoski, is the perfect mix of cheerful but not too sweet. The most accurate color example is in the top photo; a true crimson with bits of burgundy scattered throughout.













I’m a sucker for that little I-cord fillip at the top of baby hats. It’s cute, but not as gimmicky as hats with ears (although they can be mighty cute, too!).













Most of all, knitting baby gifts reminds me to be grateful that I’m not the sleep-depraved deprived one changing diapers and trying to function through the fog of baby-brain (Although, secretly, it does make me just a tidge nostalgic for my daughter’s own infancy. She was such a little peanut.).

Do you have a favorite baby gift to knit? What is your go-to hat pattern, bootees, or baby blanket? The bootees you see above are from 50 Baby Bootees to Knit, by Zoë Mellor. There are some wonderful, quick patterns in her book – well worth adding to your knitting library shelf if you don’t already own it. The hat is probably one of the most basic designs in existence, and I love it for two solid reasons:

~ it never fails to please the recipients, and

~ it can be embellished and modified in limitless ways, so it’s really never the same hat twice.

I worked it up using Ann Budd’s Knitter’s Handy Book of Patterns for the template.

Like A Kid In A Candy Store…

There’s an infinite variety of things to do in the city, but a very finite amount of time and money with which to do them!

In the past week alone, I’ve attended the holiday party at my mother’s assisted living facility, finalized more of the material going into my new knitting book and started designing patterns for the next one, hosted a holiday party for my neighbors in our building, made a return trip to Chicago’s new Eataly to meet friends there for dinner (and definitely won’t go back until after New Year’s as it was a complete and utter madhouse), and decorated our little holiday tree:

















It looks a bit sad and lonely on the windowsill, but it suits us: I like the simplicity of the manzanita branches and the mix of ornaments we’ve collected over the years. It has the added advantage that it doesn’t have to be taken to the curb after New Year’s (although the ornaments do have to be returned to their boxes). And Shadow, for some reason, leaves it alone. This is the same cat who used to bat at the glass ornaments and try to eat the pine needles in the years when we still brought home a “real” Christmas tree!

Among the events I look forward to every December is Chicago’s One Of A Kind Show and Sale at the Merchandise Mart. This year’s was as terrific as ever; packed with people, but full of lovely gift ideas. This gigantic wreath constructed of yarn balls definitely made me smile!

















It seemed that there were fewer painters and other fine artists, and many more jewelry vendors than in past years, but jewelry was not on my shopping list. Instead, I found an adorable monster doll for friends who are expecting their first child this month:
















There were also several clothing and hat vendors. I haven’t seen such imaginative – but wearable – garments and accessories outside of exclusive little boutiques, and it was fun to try on things that I admired but wouldn’t necessarily wear.













Confession: In the category of things I most definitely WILL wear, I did find a hat that practically leapt into my arms and demanded to go home with me. I’m a sucker for great millinery, and Karyn Gingras of Lilliput Hats had such a gorgeous, elegant collection that I Could. Not. Resist. Photo to come…

Holy Hat Weather!

Finally stopped equivocating about the button choice for my Lucy Hat, and decided just to get on with it. Of the three options I wrote about recently, I went with one simple vintage black glass button, 1 1/2″ in diameter, enhanced with knitted leaves in the same charcoal gray yarn as the hat’s woven stitch band:

















Ignoring the fact that I look like a total dork in the photo above, let’s examine the details:













The leaves clearly refer back to the hatband, and the glittery button has its own simple impact. Wanting it front and center, I tucked the base of each leaf underneath the button’s edge when stitching it into place.













The staggered placement of the leaves also subtly accentuates the curve of the short-rowed hat brim, another element of the Lucy Hat that really appeals to me. All in all, I’m pleased with the end result.

Now, back to my Monomania cardigan! I’ve started the armhole sections, and will have photos soon!
















More December Happiness

With a pot of our family’s favorite “turkey carcass soup” simmering on the stove and the rest of the Thanksgiving leftovers winnowed down to manageable size in the fridge, I have a few free moments.

The hat swap is complete because now I am the recipient of my very own “Selbu Modern” cap, the pattern for which is available for free on Ravelry:


The yarn is superwash Fingering Merino from Sundara Yarn, in Midnight Sky and Red Roses (from my stash). I adore the way little sparks of lighter blue illuminate the navy and black of the background, and the lovely warmth of the red against them. As usual, Sundara is brilliant when it comes to color.

IMG_1829 The palette was selected to go with my winter coat, and I couldn’t be more pleased!

My friend W. also gifted me with the most wonderful additions to my owl collection, one of which is this pair of lovely cherry wood knitting needles in US size 7 (one of my most often-used sizes) from Indian Lake Artisans.

IMG_1818 The wood needles are turned to form a hexagonal shape, which is supposed to be more comfortable for the knitter. They are available in 14″ and 10″ lengths. I can’t wait to take them out for a spin!

Happy December

It’s astonishing how quickly this year has flown by… December already! Thanksgiving is already in the rear view mirror, meaning that this:













has been consumed in multiple forms, from roasted root vegetables (original Thanksgiving dinner), to Leftover Thanksgiving Pie (Post-feast casserole), to what will soon be a pot of our family’s favorite, Turkey Carcass Soup.

This was also the first year I made “Mama Stamberg’s Cranberry Relish,” described by NPR’s Susan Stamberg as “atrociously pink, like Pepto-Bismol,” but delicious. Evidently, Craig Claiborne invented the original recipe back in 1959, but Ms. Stamberg popularized it beyond either’s imagining. And it is amazing, adding just the right degree of horseradish-y zippiness to the holiday meal.

IMG_0118 See what I mean?

I also completed my first Lucy Hat, by Carina Spencer, the pattern for which is available for sale on Ravelry. My unreasonable love for cloche-style hats adds fuel to my suspicion that I was born into the wrong era, fashion-wise. Having made one Lucy Hat, I now feel ready to experiment with alternative cloche styles, brims, and embellishments. Stay tuned.



However, I can’t decide which button(s) to use on this one as a simple adornment, despite many attempts. These are the three finalists. What do you think? Please help me choose! The first two options are antique carved black glass, probably Czech.













The final option is the large antique brass button shown above. If the winner is either button #2 or button #3, I will also probably add some simple embroidery in the charcoal gray yarn to encircle the single large button. The three small buttons, however, can stand on their own with no additional embellishment.

Hat Weather

A couple of weeks ago, my friend W. and I agreed to do a hat-knitting swap. She’d been admiring a lace and appliqué one that I’d made for myself last winter and I, likewise, coveted a color work one that she had whipped up for herself.

We each provided the other with the necessary yarn, and off we went. She gave me two skeins of worsted weight tweed yarn, squashy and deliciously rustic in subtle gray and stormy blue.

I finished mine for her last week, and couldn’t resist trying it on:

















Naturally, it looks better on her, and fortunately she is happy with the end product:

















It looks darling on her, don’t you think? She wears a lot more gray than I do, so this hat will be the perfect accessory to her winter coat. Bonus – there’s enough yarn left over from both skeins to make herself a pair of matching fingerless mitts.

And with the temperature topping out at 26 degrees today, they’ll be good to have!



Handwork Mitts, Interweave Knits Holiday Gifts 2011

I received a copy of Interweave Knits Holiday Gifts 2011 last week. Lo and behold, my ongoing desire to design fingerless mitts patterns continues to bear fruit.

Designed to fit into the section titled “A House With Gables” theme (for the projects’ ornate embellishments), I LOVED creating the Handwork Mitts design. Not only do these mitts include a feminine picot bind-off, but they feature a simple but effective lace cuff as well.

Add to that the knitted and appliqued blooms that adorn the back of the hand. And, there are two options for those pretty little leaves that anchor the blossoms in place. IK shows both – very nice of them!

My original prototype (seen above) had tiny knitted leaves, worked on US Size 1 needles. The version of this project that made it into the magazine features wired-edge ribbon leaves, snipped into 3″ lengths and folded the long way, then stitched to create a center seam, as shown below. Charts for the knitted leaves are also included.

Below are the photos showing how IK modeled the mitts. So delicate and pretty, no? I’m always thrilled by how they photograph and style my projects.

The mitts themselves are easily a weekend project, and the knitted flowers work up, literally, in minutes (and are a fantastic way to use up those little remnant lengths of luxury fiber that we can’t bear to throw away). The leaves take a bit longer, but not much. So if you have a girly-girl on your holiday gift list this year, these Handwork Mitts should elicit the appropriately joyful squeal of happiness~!

Early Fall: Introducing the Fan-cy Fingerless Mitts

This design has been incubating in my pattern file for a while, just waiting for the first cool evening of early fall to make its debut.

The Fan-cy Fingerless Mitts take their name from the fan-like lace and bobble motif that graces the back of each mitt, as well as the dressed-up picot edging that gives them a little extra touch of elegance.

Ribbing on the inside of each cuff ensures a snug fit, and flows organically up from the picot cast-on. Malabrigo’s Super Rosa DK was a great choice for the test project (love, love, LOVE the semi-solid rosy colorway here), and on US size 4 dpns, they went quickly – this is really a weekend project if you have a couple of TV shows to catch up on.

I love mitts that feel warm and cozy on my hands yet have a light, non-bulky appearance – lace motifs without too much openwork usually do that for me! I’ll wear these in my office while I work on the computer this fall and winter – it gets chilly in here. And once we relocate to Chicago (as soon as we sell our house in California), I’ll get even more use out of them.

My fabulous test knitter, Glenna, worked up a pair of these mitts in Sundara Sport Merino in the colorway Harvest Festivities, which to me makes the fan motif resemble Gingko leaves as they turn golden in the fall. See what I mean?

These mitts are made from an earlier version of the yarn; the current batch on Sundara’s website is called Sport Merino II.

Glenna agreed that the fan-like lace and bobble motif is easily memorized. Directions for this motif are both written out AND charted in the pattern, so you’ll have easy-to-follow instructions whichever is your preference.

For now, the pattern is up and available for $4.00 in my Ravelry pattern store.

I will try to get it up into the pattern store on this site within the next week or so, but with realtors bringing their clients over to see our house at unpredictable hours, my time is hardly my own at the moment.

Hope you enjoy this little fall surprise. Following my design inspirations keeps me from dwelling too obsessively on the big changes ahead!

Baby Caps – On An (Endless?) Roll

I’ve been on a lot of car trips lately, and I’ve been watching Lark Rise To Candleford among other long-running BBC television series. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. There’s something satisfying about completing one of these:

… while a passenger on various trips hither and yon, or while watching some very fine actors on tv as they maneuver through Victorian daily life. And since the girls’ baby caps were so well received, I decided I’d better get busy making some for boys, too, because a couple of my friends have recently become parents of sons.

And now that Upstairs Downstairs is on – for one more week, at least – I foresee a couple more of these little stash-busters in my near future.

How many people realize that Claire Foy, the actress playing impetuous and headstrong Lady Persie:

is the same person who played Little Dorrit with such heartbreaking sensitivity and intensity?

Baby Caps: Gilding the Lily

Those baby caps were looking just a bit too plain to me. Back to the stash for inspiration I went… and came up with the following solution:

These pink crochet flowers are worked in some 100% wool that has been in my stash literally since I first learned to knit 30 years ago. Obviously, the passage of time has done nothing to compromise its thoroughly girly pinkness.

Whipping up the flowers was the work of less than 2 hours total. The exploration of my button stash for the right center buttons took almost as long!

These are vintage plastic buttons from around 1930, in pristine condition, that I scored from Jodi at greenrayprod on Etsy.com. She always has a wonderful selection so I seldom leave the site with an empty shopping cart.

I stitched the buttons VERY securely to the center of the blossoms, in hope that the new mommas won’t consider them a threat to their little ones’ safety.

Pre-blooms and buttons, these caps felt a little blah to me. Now I’m really happy with them. Sometimes a little extra effort pays off in a big way.

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….


When the fun folks at Interweave Knits gave me a creative challenge, I did my best to rise to the occasion. And now that the Holiday 2010 issue is on its way to your mailbox and local yarn shop, I can share what they asked me to do.

It was a fun little project; knitted embellishments that are suitable for holiday gift-giving. Four different little leaves, to be precise, with the designs charted out to make them really easy-peasy. And oh, the magical ways in which to use them:

Little Pleated Clutch, Hana Jason, Interweave Knits Holiday Gifts 2010

I can see them tied to holiday packages, topping a length of I-cord for use as a bookmark, or lots of them gathered to make a wreath, or bulky weight versions pressed into service as coasters…

Looking through all the great projects in this issue, it is clear that the IK editors had a blast putting it together. I was happy to be included, as this project gave me a great excuse to browse again through a photography book by Karl Blossfeldt, a truly fabulous little book of inspiration that features sharply-detailed black and white photos of seed pods, leaves, and flowers.

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.