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Katama Tank

The Katama Tank pattern is now available for purchase! With its slightly cropped length (the hem hits slightly above the widest part of the hips), body-skimming fit, lace yoke, and not-quite-halter styling, this tank makes the most of a relatively small amount of yarn. The lace yoke and garter stitch edgings may be worked in a contrasting yarn, thus utilizing a luxury and/or hand painted yarn to great advantage. (For more details on sizing, fit, yarn requirements, and construction, see the pattern page on Ravelry.)

This pattern came about because I gifted 2 skeins of Lorna’s Laces Pearl to an advanced beginner knitter, and the recipient then requested a pattern it could be used for-- something other than a scarf or shawl! I suppose if the length was cropped another few inches, this tank might come in at under 2 skeins for size M, but in the end I compromised by writing the pattern for a more standard length, and adding instructions for using a lovely yarn like Pearl for the yoke and edgings only.

The lace yoke actually does a great job of getting the most out of a small amount of yarn; in all sizes, just one skein of Lorna's Laces Pearl (silk/bamboo, 220 yds/100g) is enough for the yoke and the garter stitch edgings. I was playing around with working decreases into lace stitch patterns when I came up with the idea for this yoke; the decreases along the sides of a variation of the "feather and fan" stitch pattern made nice diagonals that seemed tailor-made for a racerback or halter-type yoke. 

Problems? Always, but then I enjoy a bit of a challenge. The main issue turned out to be grading the pattern for a wide range of sizes while keeping the essential design elements, specifically how to keep the lace at a decent level (meaning just above the girls) for all sizes, while still bringing the back lace panel high enough in all sizes so that the modified racer back had the right shape and bra coverage. A strapless bra works just fine with this top, by the way, but I don't like them, and wanted to provide coverage for other undergarment options! (And yes, I'm old school enough to prefer that bra straps be covered.) In the end I compromised by providing both a high back and a low back (back same as front) option, because in some sizes I think the low back option will actually cover normal bra straps. The high back version is shown at top and below, and the low back version is above, on the mannequin.

As for the name, Katama Bay separates the island of Chappaquiddick from the rest of Martha’s Vineyard. For at least 20 years I've been visiting Martha's Vineyard regularly, most often staying on a boat in Edgartown Harbor, which lies at the northern end of Katama Bay. When I first started going there, the harbor was known as a safe, usually calm spot to anchor, because the other end of Katama Bay was closed off from the ocean by a barrier beach, but in 2007, during an April storm, the ocean broke through the beach, and now a very strong current flows through the bay and the harbor. Not necessarily a bad thing, and not for the first time: over the last 250 years, the beach at the southern end of Katama Bay has been breached, and re-closed, a number of times. I took the photo below in August 2008; the breach is shown in the upper right, and Edgartown Harbor in the lower left.

 


Oscilla Wrap

I'm running behind on posting about new patterns: in the last couple of months, I've released the patterns for the Fiamma hot water bottle cover (free!), Nerodia cardian for women, and now the Oscilla Wrap, all available on Ravelry, and also the Interweave Knits Spring 2014 issue has come out, with my Zephirine Cardigan and Plumage Wrap. So I will try to catch up with a few posts about the design process for all of those, but for now, I'm excited about the Oscilla Wrap (as is almost always the case with my most recently completed design!): 

I designed this wrap at the request of Julia Trice, a very talented designer I have known since around 2007, when she invited me to be part of the Create Along (CAL); my Dayflower Lace camisole was a product of the CAL. Marnie MacLean was another designer who took part...but I digress. Anyway, Julia contacted me about being part of ShaliMarch, a promotion/celebration for the 7th anniversary of Shalimar Yarns. I had never used any of their yarns before, and I was delighted with the Enzo Worsted I used for this wrap: it is a blend of extrafine merino with cashmere and nylon, shows stitches beautifully, holds up well to frogging (yes, a bit of that was necessary), and the "stonewashed" Silver Sage colorway was just how I like it, with enough variegation to be interesting, but not so much that it overwhelmed the lace pattern.

I swatched quite a few stitch patterns for this wrap, before finally returning to one of my faves (something I don't do that often), a modification of the Chinese Lace pattern from one of Barbara Walker's Treasuries. To me it looks quite different when running horizontally instead of vertically!

From the pattern intro:

This generously sized wrap sets a wide lace panel alongside simple stockinette. Increases and decreases sculpt the edge of the stockinette panel, allowing it to echo the natural curves of the lace. Oscilla is a perfect match for lightly variegated yarn: the swirling shapes of the lace pattern soften the variegations, harmoniously merging color and texture, while the stockinette panel reveals them, adding interest to an otherwise plain surface.

Originally I planned to design a crescent-shaped wrap with tapered ends, but then I fell in love with a particular look I noticed in several different photos and store windows: an oversized rectangular scarf, worn with ends hanging free in front and back, and the body of the scarf appearing to have been tossed carelessly about the shoulders, with the upper edge falling in perfect folds around the face and neck.

Of course, this sort of artfully casual style takes a fair amount of fiddling to get it just right, so to make Oscilla easier to wear (and to decrease the bunching and folding along the upper edge), I used short rows to curve the simple rectangular shape so that it wraps around the shoulders. The short rows are grouped into four wedges, which vary in size with garment size, and are meant to lie on the front and back of each shoulder (centered over where raglan seams would be located); this is why the pattern has been written to fit different sizes. However, sizing is quite forgiving, and the ends of the wrap are worked straight, so their length can be easily changed. One end is purposely longer than the other, so the wearer can choose whether to place the longer end over the back, or over the front.  

While working the pattern sample, I found that the short row wedges shape the wrap more gradually than a raglan seam, and need not be placed as precisely in relation to the shoulders. For this reason, directions are included for a simplified version, in which the same number of rows is worked straight between each wedge of short rows. In this version, the number of rows was chosen simply to construct a wrap of the same overall length as the main version. However, since the lace pattern is worked independently from the short rows, any number of rows may be worked before, between and after the short row wedges, and an additional wedge (or two) can even be added for a more fitted wrap (OR the wedges may be omitted for a straight rectangular wrap)-- AS LONG AS the final row of the lace panel (before ribbing) falls on a specific chart row (more about this in the pattern instructions). This ensures that the stitch counts on both ends of the wrap will be the same, and the lace panel ends will be symmetrical.

In addition, the width of the wrap can be changed by adding or subtracting an even number of stitches from the stockinette stitch panel, or by adding or subtracting repeats of the lace pattern.

Remember to purchase extra yarn if you are considering a longer and/or wider wrap! See the pattern page on Ravelry for notes on choosing the correct size.


Interview by Robin Hunter

Robin Hunter (knittingrobin on Ravelry.com) blogs about the business of knitwear designing, and is a designer herself; on her website you will find posts about different knitting techniques, other items of knitting related interest, and a series of very informative interviews with knitwear designers (inlcuding Carol Sunday, Shirley Paden, and Kate Gilbert, to name a few). She gives the same set of questions to each interviewee, so I found it very interesting to compare different designers' answers to the same questions. 

A few weeks ago she contacted me about being interviewed for this series, and I was quite flattered, and happy to accept! It actually gave me an opportunity to think a little more deeply about how I approach the business of knitwear designing. Interested readers can find the interview here

Thanks Robin!


Two Patterns in Cozy Knits

Cozy Knits, pulbished in November 2013, includes 50 "fast and easy" projects collected by Tanis Gray and using Cascade Pacific and Pacific Chunky yarns. These yarns are a washable, affordable blend of superwash merino and acrylic, come in lots of colors, and are perfect for easy-care winter accessories or kids' garments. My "Tiptoe Through the Tulips" cowl is described as a lace pattern, but in fact it is richly textured rather than lacy, even though the stitch pattern includes yarnovers. I worked decreases into the stitch pattern at bottom and top of the cowl to shape it slightly. The cowl is worked in the round, and a good choice for a knitter who has dabbled in lace and wants to try something a little more advanced (but not too difficult).

My Chain Gang Cabled Mittens are also richly textured, this time using a background of garter stitch to set off the unusual chain cable.The fact that the row gauge of the cable is larger than that of the garter stitch has the interesting effect of creating a convex curve along the back of the finished mittens, which helps them conform nicely to your hand. I suggested the name "Nessie" for these mittens, because the cable reminded me of those blurry photos of the Loch Ness monster's body emerging from the water.

One hint if you knit these mittens: I found it impossible to keep the stitches between dpns from being looser on the purl rounds, I think because the yarn travels on the outside of the work on those rounds and thus has to travel farther (rather than on the inside of the work on the knit rounds). To avoid this, use two circular needles or the magic loop technique.

And finally, the book is filled with many other great quick projects: my favorites are the Slip-Stitch Two-Color Neck Gaiter by Lynn Wilson (unwieldy name but cool 2-color effect); the Sweater Girl Raglan by Melissa Goodale (creative and adorable); and the Silver Plates Dragon-Scale Cloche by Robin Melanson (maybe because I love that dragon scale stitch pattern!). 

(All photos except 2nd one of mittens are courtesy of Joe Hancock/Interweave Press.)

 

 


Wrought Iron Tote

Tanis Gray's recent book Knitting Architecture includes one of my patterns, the Wrought Iron Tote. The book contains a lot of great patterns over a wide range of styles; some of my favorites are the King's College Pullover by Mari Muinonen, the Fisher Building Mittens by Jane Dupuis, and Tanis' own Bird's Nest Shrug.While the sidebars on architectural inpirations are fun and informative, this is not primarily a book about the architecture and construction of knitted garments, but rather includes garments inspired by classic or well-known examples of architecture and architectural ornament.

I created the stranded motif for the Wrought Iron Tote when I was working up a number of stranded patterns for use in my self-published collection, Ferrovia. Like the motifs included in the Brandt Cardigan, Renee Pullover and Quotidiana Hat, the motif I used for the tote was inspired by wrought iron designs from the Exposition des Art Decoratifs in Paris in 1925 (the exhibition which gave rise to the term "Art Deco").

This project was really the first of its type for me (the only other bag I had ever designed was the Rose of Sharon bag, which is very different!). So I was very conscious of practical considerations, such as the ideal size of the bag (roomy, but not so wide it couldn't fit comfortably under the arm), how to stabilize and reinforce the bottom, and how to make sure the strap did not stretch out with use. I thought about felting the fabric (the yarn was Brooklyn Tweed Shelter, which can be felted), but when I felted a swatch to see what happened, the stranded areas felted unevenly, and after talking it over with Tanis, we decided to use a non-stretchy lining instead. So the interior and strap are lined with canvas, and the bottom is reinforced with a plastic needlepoint canvas panel, sandwiched between the knit fabric and the lining. You could also add feet to the exterior of the base to prevent scuffing; another handy addition would be to add an interior pocket or two to the lining.

(All photos courtesy of F+W Media.)


Treccione Pullover

The pattern for the Treccione Pullover is now available on Ravelry! I worked with the Dream in Color yarn company to design this pullover; they kindly allowed me to pick any of their yarns and the colorway, and provided yarn and photography (1st and 5th photos courtesy Dream in Color yarns). I decided to use the worsted weight Classy with Cashmere, and it wasn't easy to pick a colorway among so many gorgeous options, but in the end I chose Magic Orchid, a rich blend of plums and burgundies; the color is most accurate in the photos taken outdoors.

I actually came up with the idea of using short rows to shape a sideways-knitted cabled yoke at least two years ago, did a swatch using the bulky cable I ended up using for Treccione, and submitted the design proposal for publication at least once (and maybe twice). I thought it was a cool idea, and so it was one of those times when I was a lttle surprised that it wasn't accepted (there are times when I'm not sure it's exactly what the publication is looking for). But you never know whether a design proposal will be accepted or not, and one of the nice things about self-publishing patterns is that I know I can always publish one of my designs myself! 

Of course, with a sideways-knitted yoke, the sweater must either be a cardigan, or the ends of the yoke have to be joined somehow. Having never had great success with Kitchener stitch (the ends of the graft in particular always looked funky) and not liking the idea of a visible seam, I was delighted to come across a post by Techknitter on grafting using the duplicate stitch or contrast color method. For me this worked perfectly, even across the knit-purl transitions between the cables, and even on both ends of the grafted seam! (The safety pin in the above photo marks the grafted row; for more on the duplicate stitch grafting method, see this post.) 

The next challenge in writing the pattern was figuring out how to write the instructions for the short rows, and how many short rows to insert to make sure that the top and bottom of the yoke were the right size. I was able to insert the short row instructions into the instructions for the cable repeat, and by working with the desired finished measurements for the neck opening and the bottom of the yoke, I was able to figure out how many short rows were needed per cable repeat. (Not that there was only one answer to the the question of how many short rows; by inserting more short rows, I would have ended up with a more flared yoke, which could have been pulled down farther over the shoulders.)

The rest of the pullover was straightforward; I wanted to keep it simple to focus attention on the yoke. So there is some waist shaping, and rolled hems, and that's about it! There were only two issues that came up: First, I realized I was going to run out of yarn if I did full-length sleeves. Totally my fault-- I told Dream in Color how much yarn I thought I would need, and I didn't realize that the cabled yoke would gobble up so much yarn. So I went with 3/4- length sleeves. (If you want to do full length sleeves, buy a skein or two extra, then figure out how long you want the sleeves and how many more stitches you need to decrease to end up with your desired cuff circumference. You may have to recalculate the decrease frequency, OR you may even be able to keep the sleeve decreases at the same frequency. Then just keep going until sleeves are the desired length.)

Second, I realized when I was almost done with the yoke that there was noticeable variation in color between skeins (see photo of back of sweater, which shows a darker patch in the center of the yoke). So for the rest of the pullover, I divided the skeins into two groups, with the skeins within each group similar to each other, and used one skein from each group at all times, alternating between skeins every few rounds. For the sleeves I divided two skeins into two balls each, and used one ball from each skein for each sleeve. Since there were no seams in which to hide the transitions between skeins, I switched yarns in the underarm area (sleeves ) or the side (body), and by twisting the yarns once around each other every time I switched, and making sure the yarn carried over several rounds was the correct tension, I found that the switches were virtually invisible. And yes, working from two skeins was a nuisance, but for me it was worth it, to avoid having slight color variations between skeins show up as thick stripes on the finished pullover. The top photo at left shows the side with the yarn switches, the next shows the side without switches, and the last shows the wrong side with switches.


Bingham Hill Scarf, Interweave Knits Holiday Gifts 2013

I love this scarf! (Pattern now available in Interweave Knits Holiday Gifts 2013.) It was fun to design and fun to knit; plus, it is easy to customize (by changing width or length), and can be worn in several different ways (as can be seen in the photos).

The design process started, as it does so often for me, with an intriguing stitch pattern I spotted in a stitch dictionary (in this case, one of the Japanese Knitting Pattern books). During the course of swatching, I noticed that the reverse side was very attractive (and later on, while flipping through stitch dictionaries again for something else, I realized that the reverse side had been used as the right side for another stitch pattern, and charted completely differently-- interesting!)

Since I have a bit of a pet peeve about scarves that are not reversible (especially if they are carefully arranged and photographed so you only see one side-- how the heck are you supposed to wear them like that?!), I immediately started wondering about how this stitch pattern could be used in a scarf. My general policy is that I will not publish a design for sale that simply plugs a stitch pattern, alone and unchanged, into something like a scarf (and a publisher like interweave is unlikely to accept that sort of thing), so I started looking for ways I could adapt the stitch pattern and turn it into something unique. More swatching ensued, and I realized that I could work decreases into the stitch pattern (and both sides looked good-- hooray!), and create lovely tapered ends for the scarf.

At this point I sent a design submission off to Interweave; the proposal included working the scarf in two halves, and then grafting or seaming them together in the center, so that the tapered ends would be identical.

After my submission was accepted, and Interweave sent me the gorgeous Manos del Uruguay Fino yarn, I realized that I would not be totally happy with the scarf if it were worked in two halves and then grafted or seamed: if grafted, the ribbing-based portion of the stitch pattern would be off by half a stitch (I go into some detail about grafting end-to-end vs. grafting in a continuous loop in this blog post). And if seamed, well, there would be a seam.

So before knitting the sample as I had proposed it to Interweave, I decided to invest a bit of time in trying to come up with a way to work the scarf in one piece, by starting at one end with just a couple of stitches, and working increases that were integrated into the stitch pattern, and then doing the decreases I had already worked out, to taper the other end. It was definitely helpful to have the decrease end already worked out, so I could use it as a guide, and in the end, I did it! 

The only other question was whether to add tassels, and I decided to do so simply by making a tassel and attaching it to one end, and seeing how it looked: for me, the tassels are a definite YES (but of course, they can be omitted!-- last photo is sans tassels).

Notes on the yarn: first, the color ("corsage")-- the photos courtesy of Interweave (the first two) are bit too pink, while my photos tended to be too blue; I tried to Photoshop mine to achieve the most accurate color, which includes a range of purples, but the color does look different in different lights. And second, this scarf took up most of one skein, so any customizing which involves lengthening and/or widening would require two skeins. 

Edited to add: I just realized that the Manos del Uruguay Fino yarn comes in both 50-gram and 100-gram skeins. The single skein used for this scarf was the 100-gram one.


Nerodia Cardigan for Babies and Children

The pattern for the Nerodia Cardigan (baby/child version) is now available! I created this design in honor of the Chinese Year of the Snake (although it would also be appropriate for a member of Slytherin House!). 

The Chinese zodiac is a 12 year cycle, with a different animal for each year; in addition, each year is also associated with one of five elements (wood, fire, earth, metal or water). 2013 is the year of the Water Snake, and since water snakes belong to the genus Nerodia, I thought this would be a good name for this design.

I also have a good friend who had a baby boy this spring, so I designed the cardi with him in mind (it is meant to be suitable for boys OR girls). After using stranded colorwork for my Year of the Rabbit design (the Bunny Yoke pullover), and lace for my Year of the Dragon design (the imaginatively named Dragon Lace Pullover), I decided that the Year of the Snake would be a great opportunity to get creative with cables.

The basic idea of the snake cable is that the cable crosses alternate in direction, so that one cable is always on top, and appears to be undulating. But there are many variations, including how many stitches to cross, how often to cross them, and background (whether the cable crosses over another cable, or simply over a reverse stockinette stitch or other background). I sketched vertical snakes, horizontal snakes, and coiled snakes, and then I started swatching. After multiple swatches, I decided the most snake-like version was a 3-stitch single cable, crossed over reverse stockinette. Then I experimented with the snake head and tail, and finally with how many snakes, and how to arrrange them; eventually I hit upon a staggered repeat that seemed more...slithery...than a bunch of perfectly synchronized snakes!   

To keep the focus on the snakes, I kept the rest of the pullover fairly simple, with stockinette body and sleeves and no waist shaping. The only refinement I added during knitting was the beaded eyes and embroidered tongues. I just decided that the little reptiles needed a bit more realism (but those embellishments could certainly be omitted).

And it's only partway through the Year of the Snake, which means I still have time to finish the Nerodia Cardigan for women (working on it right now), and maybe even start planning my Year of the Horse design for 2014.


Barnard Raglan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I haven't blogged much in awhile, partly because I've been busy designing and knitting! And I've just had a number of designs published, so this will be the first in a series of FIVE posts about newly available patterns.

The Barnard Raglan, a top-down, in-the-round, A-line pullover, is available in the Interweave Knits Fall 2013 issue (the first three photos are from Interweave Knits), and I am very fond of it-- in fact, I kind of wish I had negotiated to get the sample returned to me. It uses a wonderful yarn, Dream in Color Everlasting DK (100% merino), which is springy and soft and a joy to work with. And the colors are gorgeous. When I first saw the yarn for this pullover, I was afraid that (though lovely) the colors would be too dark to photograph well. But I think the true colors come across nicely in the photos.

Simple in line and relatively simple to knit, this pullover was not so simple to design (and a bit tricky when it came to writing up the instructions). Early on I decided on an A-line silhouette, relatively deep raglan armholes so the sweater would be easy to wear over another layer, and sportswear-inspired pockets, at both the hips and on one upper arm. When I hit upon the idea of using cables to accent the sweater's shape, and hiding the pockets behind the cable edges, the design really came together.

At least as a sketch!--when it came time to figure out how to keep those cables moving on a consistent diagonal from neck to hem, I realized that best way to do this was to make regular increases between the cables on front and back, but when I plugged these increase numbers and then the raglan increase numbers into Excel, I couldn't get the yoke, sleeve and bust dimensions of all the sizes to work out properly. That's when I added the point-of-shoulder (POS) increases-- which turned out to have the advantage of helping to shape the shoulder and to remove bulk from the underarm area.

I did realize that having three kinds of increases going on at once was going to be tricky to describe AND tricky for knitters to figure out, so I tried to keep it as simple as possible by making the A-line increases every 10 rounds, on the same pattern row as the cable crosses. And I kept the POS increases every 4 rounds-- only the raglan increases change in frequency. 

Even though the increases happen simultaneously over the course of working the yoke, they don't all start at once, so it just takes a little patience to go round by round, figuring out which increases happen on each one*, and it does get easier as you go along, because the POS increases end fairly quickly. So hopefully knitters won't get discouraged by this part, because the body and sleeves are easy! Well, except for the pockets.

I do love pockets, and they are actually not that difficult, but it takes a good chunk of the pattern to explain how to work them, and yes, if you've never knitted pckets before, it may take reading through the instructions a time or two to picture in your mind how to proceed. 

Will it be worth the trouble to figure out the yoke and the pockets? I think so! The Barnard Raglan flatters many body types, and is so versatile, as a layering piece in the winter, or as an outer layer in the fall or spring: tuck a couple of bills, a key and a cell phone in the pockets, and you are ready to walk the dog or run a quick errand! 

*There is an app called Jknit which does this for you-- that is, you input the pattern info somehow (I have never used it, but I know other knitwear designers who love it), and then it gives you round-by-round instructions. 

Also, I've been considering putting a chart together for the yoke, for all sizes, which goes round by round and tells you which increases occur on each round. If anyone thinks this would be helpful, please leave a comment, so I know how much interest there is in such a chart.

Edited to add: Click here for a chart showing which yoke increases occur on each round, for all sizes. To use the chart, look at each yoke round # for your size (numbering begins with first round AFTER transition round from neck ribbing); if charts says, "R, SS" it means for this round you must do both raglan and shoulder shaping increases.

 


Notice to my customers

Due to ongoing problems with my customers not always receiving the email with download link after purchasing a pattern, I have decided to make ALL of my self-published patterns available for purchase on Ravelry. in addition to a (hopefully) more reliable purchase process, buying a pattern from Ravelry has the added advantage of allowing you to add the pattern to your Ravelry pattern library, and if the pattern subsequently needs to be updated, your library version will also automatically be updated. 

You will still be able to buy patterns from this site if you prefer. I repeat that this applies to my SELF-PUBLISHED patterns, not to patterns designed by me, but published by Interweave, Twist Collective, or Vogue Knitting.