Ofelia is ready for Halloween


Altocumulus shawl

I'm thrilled to have another pattern in Twist Collective! Here are some details about the design process and inspiration for Altocumulus, a lace shawl.

(Photo above copyright Carrie Bostick Hoge; all other photos taken by me.)

Triangular shawls are almost always shaped by increasing (or decreasing, depending on whether working bottom-up or top-down) along the center of the shawl, resulting in a mitered construction, where the two halves of the shawl stitch pattern angle toward each each other. It's no accident this shaping is popular-- not only is it a logical way to create a triangle, it can yield really gorgeous results. But when I created the design for Altocumulus, I was in the mood to try something different: a triangular shawl worked straight up from the bottom edge, with the triangular shape coming from rapid increases worked into a lace stitch pattern. 

I knew I wanted to use a lace pattern based on the "half drop" principle, where pattern repeats are staggered (many leaf- and diamond-motif laces are constructed this way). At left is an example of a simple diamond/leaf stitch pattern (NOT the stitch pattern used in Altocumulus), constructed on the half drop principle: the full repeat is outlined in red, and the staggered half repeats in blue. This staggering often causes a diagonal flow to the lace, which I thought would adapt perfectly to the angled edges of a triangular shawl. 

I found a lovely base stitch pattern in the Japanese "Knitting Patterns Book 300," a swirling design that reminded me of flames or peony petals. Each repeat was 20 stitches, and although the total repeat was 24 rows, that 24 rows was really made up of two sections of 12 rows each, with the stitch pattern simply staggered in the second section. So I knew that to create a repeatable increase along the bottom edges of the shawl, I would have to increase a total of 20 stitches every 12 rows: this would result in one repeat added every 12 rows, so that the repeats could be stacked on each other like bricks in a wall.

Then it was just a matter of trial and error, attempting to add yarnovers and sprinkle in judicious decreases so that I could get enough stitches increased while still maintaining as much of the movement of the original lace pattern as possible. 20 stitches every 12 rows is a rapid rate of increase, so while I had plenty of yarnovers to work with, I had to be choosy about where I placed my decreases. Once I had an edge increase repeat that I liked, I submitted the idea to Twist, and was delighted when they accepted it.

One major issue presented itself once I began working on the pattern sample: I realized that even with the rapid rate of increases along the edges, the edge stitches would have to be stretched to their limit while blocking, while the center of the shawl would be stretchier than the edges, tending to form a convex curve along the top edge of the shawl-- not the most shoulder-friendly shape for the wearer. To counter this tendency, I added decreases and a narrow ribbing along the top edge.

I pinned out the yarnovers along the edge while blocking (see above), but once unpinned, the edge did contract a bit, so I ended up with more of a swirled, textured edging than an open one (see below). I actually like it this way, and I also like the fact that the lace stitches on every row pull strongly on the fabric, giving it a slightly three-dimensional quality. 

And the name? Altocumulus clouds are the type of clouds in a mackerel sky, and once I saw the shawl knitted up in the gorgeous gray-blue Acadia yarn (from the Fibre Company), that is what the fabric reminded me of. (It also reminded me of William Morris wallpaper, but I don't like the name William Morris so much....)


Ferrovia patterns are finally done!

After many months from concept to execution, the patterns in the Ferrovia booklet are finally finished and ready for purchase.

It was while we were living in Como, Italy that I started to take note of the many examples of decorative wrought iron around the city: gates, fences, transoms, railings; many were simple or oft-repeated, but occasionally I would spot a unique and/or particularly striking specimen. However, the inspiration for this first booklet came from the Exposition des Arts Decoratifs, an exhibition of architecture and decorative arts held in Paris in 1925, and which gave rise to the term "Art Deco;" after my interest in wrought iron was piqued by our time in Como, I found a book which included photos of many of the unique wrought iron pieces from this exhibit.

I confess that much as I love the results of stranded knitting, for me it is a slow process, as I have not yet learned to carry a color in each hand, or two colors in one hand; I pick up and drop the separate strands of yarn each time there is a color change. So I decided very early on to use stranded motifs as accents rather than an allover pattern.

Technically the stranded portions of the two sweaters are a bit challenging; although the swirls within the motics do mirror each other, they are linked in such a way that the overall designs are asymmetrical. The hat motif is simpler, and clearly symmetrical. The longest floats span 7 stitches in the Renee Pullover, 6 stitches in the Quotidiana Hat, and 8 stitches in the Brandt Cardigan.

The Renee Pullover, Quotidiana Hat and Brandt Cardigan can be purchased as separate patterns (all patterns are sold in the form of downloadable PDF files); each individual sweater pattern is $7, and the hat pattern is $4. But the Ferrovia booklet, at $12, is a substantial savings (33%) over the total price of the individual patterns.

Now that these patterns are finished, I can turn to an extensive library of photos of wrought iron I took around Como for further inspiration; and then there is all of the wonderful Art Deco ironwork in New York City; Paris; San Francisco; the gorgeous Niagara Mohawk building in Syracuse, NY (where I grew up); and then I can envision not only stranded, but cabled and textured designs using wrought iron as inspiration... so perhaps someday I will get around to Ferrovia booklets II, II, IV....

Menemsha Pullover: Interweave Knits Summer 2012

I have a pattern in the new Summer 2012 issue of interweave Knits: the Menemsha Pullover. The lace cable pattern I used for the yoke is one of my all-time favorites. It was created by Norah Gaughan for the "Open Rib Cable Pullover," first published in VK Summer 2005. I loved this pullover's vertical lines, and when I spotted the lace cable stitch pattern again, in the VK Stitchionary 5, I knew that if I were to include it in a design, I would have to come up with a very different way of utilizing it. So I played with several ways of using it sideways as a sweater yoke, and while swatching, discovered that openings could be gracefully incorporated into the stitch pattern. 

I was lucky enough to meet Norah Gaughan in person at the last VK Live, and told her I had incorporated her original stitch pattern into one of my designs. I wasn't sure how she would respond, but she told me that she feels that once a garment pattern has been published, stitch patterns used in that garment may be utilized in other designs. Good to know, for any Norah Gaughan fans like me!

I also was lucky enough to meet Stacy Charles at VK Live-- yes, that Stacy Charles, of Tahki Stacy Charles and S. Charles Collezione yarns (producers of Solaris, the lovely linen/rayon blend yarn used in Menemsha). Unfortunately when I mentioned to him that I had just used one of his yarns for a design for Interweave Knits, he asked me which yarn it was, and I couldn't remember. Duh.

Anyway. I noticed that in the IK photos, the neck opening looks extremely wide. I think it was photographed like that so that the edges of the neck opening are straight. But as you can see in the above photo, the sweater also looks very nice with the neckline draped slightly, and in fact the sweater sits more naturally this way-- and then the ends of the neck opening are not so close to slipping off the shoulders. 

By the way, Menemsha is a fishing village on Martha's Vineyard; the interwoven cables and netlike panels within Menemsha's yoke reminded me of a fisherman's nets and lines, heaped on a dock and bleaching in the sun.

This is how I want to remember school vacation..., back to work!

Sneak preview of the last design in the Ferrovia series

Here is a sneak preview of the Brandt Cardigan, knit in yummy Frog Tree Meriboo (merino/bamboo). I'm hoping to have the pattern done sometime in May. (As usual, my seasonal timing in releasing patterns is perfect...perfectly off, that is.)

Puppy's first Easter

 (No knitting content today!)

Ferrovia series: another sneak preview

Here is a sneak preview of the Quotidiana hat, the next design in the Ferrovia series, inspired by wrought iron architectural accents. The large-scale stranded border was patterned after a wrought iron grille from the Exposition of the Decorative Arts in Paris in 1925. I added garter stitch earflaps, spiraled tassels, and a contrast rolled edge-- but these can also be easily omitted for a simpler cap. Pattern coming soon! 

Contest winner, plus a sneak preview

 And the winner of Connie Chang Chinchio's Textured Stitches is Misty! Misty, please email me with your mailing address (I also sent you an email using the address on your blog).

In other news, I am trying to finish up a project that I've been repeatedly placing on the back burner for months now (as other, more urgent deadlines have come and gone). I rather ambitiously pictured this collection of three patterns as the first in a series, inspired by wrought iron architectural accents, especially Art Deco. The patterns are for a pullover, a hat, and a cardigan, all incorporating stranded motifs inspired by wrought iron designs from the Exposition des Arts Decoratifs in Paris in 1925 (the exhibition which gave rise to the term "Art Deco"). I plan to offer the patterns for sale both together and individually, and hopefully they will be finished within the next month or so. (And as for future installments in the series-- who knows?!)

So here is a sneak preview of the Renee pullover, the first pattern in the Ferrovia series. An Italian word, "ferrovia" is a combination of "ferro"-- iron, and "via"-- way or route; although "ferrovia" is used to mean "railroad" in Italian, for my purposes I have chosen to interpret it in a more literal way.

Ides of March giveaway

Why beware the Ides of March when this might be your lucky day??* If you leave a comment telling me your favorite warm-weather knitting project (I'm always trying to work in a little market research!) you may be the winner of Textured Stitches, the lovely new book of patterns by Connie Chang Chinchio (all photos copyright Interweave Press).

These patterns exemplify Connie's talent for combining classic, wearable silhouettes with original, carefully placed details. Most of the designs combine various textured accents with smooth stockinette-- a great combination both while knitting (to stave off boredom while still allowing speedy progress), and while wearing (to elevate the finished project above the ordinary, and to call attention to areas such as neck, shoulders and wrists).

The majority of the patterns are sweaters, but there are also a number of accessories. Some of my favorites are pictured, including the two I test-knitted: the Professoressa Cardigan and the AnnaMaria Cardigan. I found the directions for these two patterns clear, logical, and easy to follow. 

I also thought the photography was done very well, and with the knitter in mind: not only were the photos nicely composed and well-lighted, there are photos of almost every project from both front and back, AND photos of important small details such as collars, cuffs, side seams, and textured stitch patterns.

By the way, if you are already familiar with Connie's designs, you may be aware of her preference for finer gauge yarns-- but there are also several patterns using worsted weight yarns in this book.

Altogether a great addition to anyone's pattern book library! 

(At left, detail of the Olivia Shawl).

*Comments may actually be left until midnight March 18th (Sunday).