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.
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.)
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It took me about 6 to 7 months from swatching to finished pattern, but the idea for the Dragon Lace Pullover first germinated 6 or 7 years ago. When I first started designing knitting patterns, I purchased all four of Barbara Walker's stitch dictionaries, and in the fourth one, I spotted a lace stitch pattern ("Leaning Ladders" that to me evoked the body of a dragon--that is, minus the head, limbs and tail. So I made a mental note to return to that stitch pattern one day, and try to develop the rest of the dragon, outlined in eyelets and decreases.
Well, 2012 was the Chinese Year of the Dragon, so it seemed like an opportune time to work on my lace dragon. I had already created a pattern, the Bunny Yoke Pullover, for the Year of the Rabbit in 2011, and I thought I would just keep going.* So I perused Google images for sketches of Chinese dragons, made my own sketches, and swatched away; the tail turned out to be fairly easy, but the limbs were a bit trickier (one claw? several claws? where to attach them to the body?)...and the head, not surprisingly, was trickiest of all. I sketched big, bug-eyed heads like the ones on dragon costumes for Chinese New Year parades; fire-breathing heads; heads in profile; finally I decided that the head that seemed to translate best into lace was a narrow one, turned to look straight at the viewer, with a long snout and a couple of horns. It took me several more swatches after that, but I finally arrived at a head that sat properly on the neck, and utilized carefully placed decreases to add a bit of fierceness to its gaze.
I had already decided that the best placement for the dragon would be on the upper back; since it was going to be a good 8-10 inches high, I didn't want it to obscured if the wearer sat down, and I didn't want to have to worry about placing it so that a claw wasn't grabbing at a nipple (yes, knitwear designers have to think about that sort of thing!). And I knew I was going to use a cotton-based yarn, for comfortable three-season wear. The last decisions before beginning on the sample were about the rest of the sweater: more lace? shaping? raglan or set in sleeves? I ended up going with a classic hip-length slihouette with waist shaping, set-in 3/4 length sleeve, V-neck, turned hem, and lots of stockinette.
I wasn't quite finished with tinkering with the dragon, though; after I completed the sample, I decided that the tail had to be lengthened to better balance the neck and head, and I also decided that the bother of wrong-side lace stitches to curve the talons wasn't worth it, and went back to an earlier, simpler version. (So the final lace dragon only has wrong-side eyelets on a couple of rows, in the head/neck area; the final version of the tail is shown in the detail photo, while the earlier version appears in the top photo; both photos show several versions of the limbs, with the final version of the claws shown on the lower limbs).
The pattern is also available as a Ravelry download!
*I'm presently at work on a design for 2013, the Year of the Snake-- stay tuned!
Please purchase my patterns from Ravelry.com until I get download link issues resolved! And do not use the "Contact Me" Link--it is not working! Email me at email@example.com with any questions or comments.
Featured pattern: The Treccione Pullover features a wide cabled yoke, worked sideways, then grafted; stitches for the body and sleeves of this classically shaped pullover are then picked up from the edge of the yoke, and worked down in the round. See more patterns