New pattern! Maryjane

Published in the Spring/Summer 2017 Knitty

Lots of people slow their knitting in summer. Not me. Warm weather is the time to try out great alternatives to wool and see what they’re like. Ever since I picked up a hank of hemp, I’ve been looking forward to trying this fiber. Hemp is funky, a little bit twiney and stiff when knitting, but the finished fabric is wonderful. Similar in texture to linen, the drape is dreamy and makes a cool fabric on a hot day.

Yup, hemp is the same plant as marijuana—but fiber farmers only use certified low-THC (the psychoactive component) varieties of the plant. For thousands of years hemp was used to make products like paper, rope, canvas, and textiles. Hemp is so old, it’s new again.

Like most of my designs, this top began as something created to fill a need in my wardrobe: an interesting summer top. By interesting, I mean one that is not a black t-shirt, which seems to be all I wore last summer.

At the same time I realized that I had these hanks of AllHemp6 that landed in my stash from an impulse purchase. You know the kind of shopping: I was in the wonderful Churchmouse Yarns and Teas and saw the hemp that I had wanted to explore for so long and impulsively grabbed a few hanks of colors that made me happy. When I got home I had no idea what I was going to do with them.

After I knit a swatch of two different striping patterns and asked my best pal, Ellen, which stripes she liked better, she said, “use both!” So that’s how I began.

The top uses two different stripe patterns: Thin Stripes alternate between Blue and Orange; Wide Stripe repeat is Blue, Tan, Orange, Tan. AllHemp6 comes in a wide palette of great colors, anyone could have a great time making their own selections.

I know that stripes are not considered the most flattering, most especially on women “of a certain size” (me) but I can’t help designing with them — they are so much fun to knit! However I know that Maryjane would also look great in a single color.

I am wearing Maryjane with 2 inches of positive ease (above). My lovely girl Tamara is wearing the very same with 5.5 inches of positive ease (below).

This simple A-line structure make this very flexible in sizing, and since it’s knit top down, its easy to fit as you work by trying it on as you go.

Here are a few more tips for best success with Maryjane.

• Hemp is a bit twine-like and splitty, but so worth it in its drapey and funky fabric. Really unique and interesting. And softens each time you wash it.
• Cakes from a ball winder won’t hold together while you’re knitting, the fiber is too smooth to cling — wind the cake into a ball by hand.
• Fun fact: two of the hanks I used did not have a start/end, they were knotted in one big loop! Just cut the knot to begin to ball up the yarn.
• I used braided joins to create a good looking join and I believe will hold better than weaving in the ends because of that smooth fiber quality.
• Try the top on a few rows after you’ve joined the body and see what you think.
• I like to use a ribbon instead of waste yarn for trying on the top as well as holding the sleeve stitches. Ribbons keep the stitches more open and they slide nicely around the needle.
• Don’t even think about cutting the colors as you work! Just twist colors around each other as you go. I didn’t do any kind of jogless color striping, I just switched colors.

If you haven’t knit a top down raglan before, you’re in for a treat. So easy, so fun! You start with a circle, place markers to delineate the front, the sleeves, and the back. Then you’ll work a little short row shaping for the back of the neck. Next you’ll be making increases around each marker to grow those four different sections. When you’ve done your increasing, you’ll continue by putting the sleeve sections on holders and knit all stitches to join the front to the back. Then keep knitting down to the bottom edge adding a few increases at each side to make the A-line shape. At any time, pop the top on a ribbon and try it on! After the body is done, you’ll put each sleeve on a needle and knit those in the round for just a few rows. Quick and easy. I hope you try it!

Link to free pattern

New pattern: Variations on Chart 429 in Knitty!

4mf_0340l
A slighty odd name, right? But Knitty liked it anyway and it’s up with the new Winter 2016 issue. Hooray! I’ve loved Knitty my entire knitting career, and I’m so glad they like my work too. This pattern really helped me to grow as a designer and pattern maker—I do think of it as my masterpiece.

As I wrote for the pattern notes, this sweater began as an experiment: could I create a sweater with an all over pattern in stranded colorwork, which I love, without steeking, which I do not?

Skipping the steeking means that I could choose this soft and delicious yarn, in a fiber that is springy enough to make all the stitches look great and comes in so many wonderful colors. Gems is aptly named—it is a gem of a fiber.

The quest began when I discovered some great geometric patterns in the pages of an old book. I’m not sure what they were meant to be, the book is incomplete and written in a language that I don’t read, but I fell in love with the strong graphic quality of those old charts.

To make the project a bit easier—I chose a design (no. 429) that did not require much float trapping. I also created a smaller variation of that pattern that would be tolerable to purl on the reverse side. An extra bonus is that it’s easy to memorize.

img_0366

So I’ve got some helpful hints—that will hopefully show how uncomplicated this pattern really is. And thanks to the most excellent tech editor, Ashley, it will also be a whole lot of fun.

Sizing
I meant the design to be a bit oversized. On me, in the photos, it looks rather fitted. So I must come clean and tell you that I started Weight Watcher’s at about the same time that I started designing and knitting the sweater. I was overly optimistic about the speed of my weight loss goals. On the Plus Side (see what I did there?), know that the range of sizes is extensive enough so that the knitter can choose a size with lots or little ease, and it will look great. Dropped shoulders also make it easier to fit and knit.

There was also the small matter of a broken finger which completely derailed my summer gardening and cycling. And knitting. Ouch!

brokenfinger

Yarn choice
I can’t recommend Louet Gems Fine/Sport Weight enough. The yarn needs to be nice and springy and I’ll always go for a fiber this soft. This yarn is also superwash, though to be honest, I rarely put my hand knits in the washing machine, but its nice to know that the finished garment will not felt or shrink. Gems comes in so many color combinations. I also considered these colors and think there are at least a million more.

combo

How to Work Stranded Knitting (a.k.a. Fair Isle)
I could write about this all day—but a little YouTube and blog searches will explain and demonstrate it much better. I carry a color in each hand, using the background color in my right hand (throwing it English style), and the foreground color in my left hand (picking it Continental style). But there are also these great little yarn guides to try. Look it up and try the different methods when you swatch.

Swatch!
That’s right. Do a swatch. You won’t be sorry. Swatchless knitters—whether feckless or crazy optimistic, that’s where choosing the right size to knit can go all to wrong. Knitting without a swatch is a trapeze act without a net!

Floats
When you work Stranded Knitting, the colors that are not being used “float” behind the stitches that are in play. Those strands are called floats. If they travel too far or get too tight, they can get ungainly and pull in your work, so you must trap them to keep them shorter. At this gauge, if a color was more than 5 stitches in a row, I trapped the other color. Again, an internet search is so very helpful.

Working Stranded Knitting on the Wrong Side
Not too hard and I’ve kept the pattern complications to a minimum. Purl instead of knit—it’s really that easy.

I do hope you try this pattern–do let me know if you have any questions or comments, I would love to hear!

I’m Teaching!

newsletter

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m quite a talker–so teaching is pretty natural for me. But this time, instead of teaching sleepy college students, I’ll be working with eager Yarn Shop and Yarn Company folk to help them learn to create great graphic designs for their businesses!

I will be teaching, Make Your Newsletters Pretty: Graphic Design 101 at the TNNA Winter Trade Show, held in San Jose, California. San Jose in January–makes my Minnesotan heart  so happy.

For those interested in my class, we’ll be covering a whirlwind of great graphic design practices. For each topic I’ll give you some pro tips and also some rookie pitfalls to avoid. Though I will focus on newsletters, these topics will also help you with your Class Schedules, Patterns, Business Cards, Postcards or anything else you’d like to create. Join me to learn about design layout, typography, photography, good use of color and much more. We’ll be working with Microsoft Word, but these strategies will work with most word-processing or design software. Comment, or email if you have any questions at all.

I can’t wait!

New pattern: Inhabit Cardigan

As soon as I finished creating my Inhabit pullover, I knew that linen cardigan would be nice to have as well. So here it is, the Inhabit Cardigan.

BackView

Same easy to knit design, this time in Quince Sparrow–also a wonderful linen, though just a teensy bit lighter than Euroflax, so your fabric will be a bit more open. I love the nice drape with linen. Now, if it would only get to be summer!

FrontView

SIZE
XS [S, M, L, 1X, 2X, 3X]
(Shown in size L with 10 inches of positive ease)

FINISHED MEASUREMENTS
Bust circumference: 41[45, 49, 52, 57, 61, 65] inches
Length: 22[23, 23.75, 24.5, 25.25, 26, 26.5] inches
at center back

GAUGE
24 sts/29 rows = 4 inches in stockinette stitch after blocking

MATERIALS
• Yarn: Quince Sparrow [100% Organic Linen;
168 yd/155 m per 50g skein]
[MC] Moon; 7[7, 7, 8, 8, 8, 9] skeins
[CC1] Blue Spruce; 1[1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1] skeins
[CC2] Fundi; 1[1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1] skeins

$4.99

Block me on this

Knitters need to block their finished knits–I think everyone can agree on this.* I take a strong stand against steam or press blocking, I just don’t think it does a good enough job and hand knits often need a little cleaning up when their done. Wet blocking is the way to go. I don’t feel inclined to write out my steps on how to do this; there are a ba-zillion pages on the internet to tell you how.

unblocked knitting

unblocked knitting

 

blocked knitting

blocked knitting

 

You might want to read some of Mason-Dixon Knitting’s tips, I love these women: smart and sassy. I want to be them. And then there is Soak School (love that name) brought to you by the creators of Soak, a rinse-free laundry soap.

I do have one personal take on the subject: block with a towel and pins even if it’s not a shawl.

 

This is my alpaca version of Inhabit. I'm waiting for my model to come home from school, and then I'll show it to you.

This is my alpaca version of Inhabit. I’m waiting for my model to come home from school, and then I’ll show it to you.

I’ve been avoiding purchasing a blocking board. We live in a smallish house already full to the brim with Stuff. Stuff everywhere. I take adding another piece of equipment very seriously. But I really need to pin this sweater. An alpaca version of Inhabit, those edges really want to curl. It will loosen up when hung, alpaca has been a favorite fiber for a long time, I have confidence that when dry, it will be fine. But this means that my usually method of patting and laying out to dry is not enough. I must pin. Enter a big fat stripey towel (a fabulous value found at Marshall’s).

Be sure your pins are stainless, I cannot stress this enough. Unless, of course, your knitted piece is rust-colored. Then you’ll be fine. (kidding!)

Lay out the wet sweater, measure at the critical point and smush or stretch to match your desired size and pin down those curls. Let the air do its job. If you like, put a fan over it to keep the furry beasties at bay and encourage quicker drying. There. You’ve blocked your sweater and it is now ready to show the world.

*Blocking, the final step of finishing your knits. In the simplest terms, hand washing your piece and laying it flat to dry. It will do wonders for evening out your stitches, opening up your lace, spreading your piece to the proper size. Blocking will make you happy. Always block.