Untangling Mindy Wilkes

When designer Mindy Wilkes first posted to my site in January of 2016, I was thrilled. I of course knew Mindy from her Holden shawlette, which was one of the first shawls I considered knitting (it’s still in my Ravelry favorites to knit… someday).

I was also thrilled when Mindy agreed to be one of the four designers for the 2017 Where We Knit yarn club. I decided to pair her with Victoria of Eden Cottage Yarns, and I knew she would make Victoria’s soft colors sing. Her design for the club, The Magic Hour, is now available for sale. I still have to block mine, but it is the perfect spring/summer shawlette, and would look great in either a subtle color or a bold semisolid yarn. I recently spoke with Mindy about how she became a designer and what inspires her elegant accessories:

Your first design, Holden, was actually recommended to me by an LYS owner when I first started knitting! Can you tell me how the design came about and how it took off?

I designed Holden because I wanted to knit a shawl that was mostly stockinette with a wavy edge at the bottom. I searched Ravelry for almost a year thinking that someone had designed something like what I wanted, but I couldn’t find it. I ran across an online class called “Design Your Own Shawl” that was taught by Stephanie Japel, and Holden was the result of that class. I had no idea the pattern would become as popular as it did and that it would result in me working as a designer. I’m still kind of in shock now, almost seven years later, that the pattern took off like it did.

When and how did you learn to knit?

I taught myself how to knit from Debbie Stoller’s Stitch n’ Bitch book back in 2004. I had an odd work schedule with days off in the middle of the week, and I was looking for something to fill my time during those days and ran across the book one afternoon at a bookstore. I initially passed it by, but the next week I ended up buying the book. I had some old acrylic yarn and needles tucked away on a shelf already so I just started following the instructions in the book. I learned to knit and purl by knitting endless swatches. Swatch after swatch after swatch. I wouldn’t let myself start an actual project until I felt like I had “perfected” everything so I knit garter stitch swatches, stockinette swatches, ribbed swatches, moss stitch swatches, and on and on for several months.

What did you do before becoming a knitwear designer and how does that inform your work?

After graduate school, I worked as a microbiologist in a consumer product testing laboratory for five years. When my son was born, we decided that I would stay at home instead of working at an outside job. I designed Holden when my son was not quite 3 years old. Writing a pattern is a lot like scientific writing. It’s all a form of technical writing, and I use those technical writing skills every time I write a pattern.

Tell me about what inspires your designs.

It depends. Inspiration can come from a color or a picture. It can come from a TV show. Sometimes it comes from a stitch pattern in a stitch dictionary; one that I might have passed by a hundred times becomes just right the very next time I see it. Everything I do always has some draws from where I’m from. I’m originally from the Huntington, West Virginia, area, and I’m really inspired by and connected to Appalachia. There’s a very unique culture and tradition of handcrafts in Appalachia, and I’m exploring that more and more in my work.

What’s the first thing you do when you start designing a pattern?

I usually start with the charts. Sometimes it’s as easy as charting the pattern and casting on. More often than not though, I play around with the charts, switching up stitch patterns, altering shaping, until I think it will work. I might jot down a few notes on construction, yarn choices, and colors as I go, but charts almost always come first.

What are your favorite colors and have they changed at all since you started designing?

My favorite colors for knitting are always changing. When I first started designing, I loved deep jewel tones. I remember a short phase where I was really into dark greens. Right now, I can’t get enough pastels — light pinks, peaches, mint green. I like almost all colors, though. There are a few shades of yellow and orange that aren’t my favorite, but I’ll work with anything as long as it works for the design.

Do you have any plans to design sweaters or other garments, or do you prefer to stick with accessories?

I’m not much of a sweater knitter. I never have been. Accessory knitting has always been my preference so I’ll probably only do accessories. However, there is a sweater quantity of Green Mountain Spinnery Alpaca Elegance sitting next to me on my desk, and there’s a sweater idea that’s been hanging out in my head for a while. So never say never.

Where is your favorite place to knit?

I usually knit in the evening on the couch while I’m watching Netflix. That’s my everyday reality. My favorite place to knit is on the front (or back) porch, with a cup of tea, visiting my family at home. At my mom’s house, I try to knit on the back porch where you can hear the coal trains coming and going. I’d give anything to knit on my Grandma’s front porch in the evening, totally surrounded by the hills.

What to stash this week: Mountains, valleys and legends

Here’s look from above at the Pigeonroof Studios colorway for Knitting Our National Parks. There are only 14 skeins left of this limited run as of “press time,” so act fast!

If you have a soft spot for medieval legends, then you’ll probably fall hard for this new colorway from Karen of Round Table Yarns. Called The Wooing of Isolde, this icy blue with subtle streaks of silver is inspired by the love affair between Tristan and Isolde.

The Highland Thistle Cowl pattern from Mouse House Fiber Co. is now available on Ravelry, as well as through kits.

What to make with Pigeonroof Studios Mountains & Valleys

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I always find it a fun challenge to find the perfect projects for variegated yarns like the Pigeonroof Studios Mountains and Valleys colorway for Knitting Our National Parks. I didn’t have to look too far to find some great options, particularly from designer and frequent IU poster Casapinka.

Here are several options, whether you want to use a single skein or pair it with a semisolid. You can also check out the ever-growing bundle I’ve created on Ravelry.

One color

One and Done by Casapinka

Hitchhiker Beyond by Martina Behm

Bingham Hill Cowl by Daniela Nii

Wave by Kristen Finlay

Strathcona by Jane Richmond

What to stash this week: Knitting on the South Rim

Preorders for the Pigeonroof Studios Knitting Our National Parks colorway are now open! Mountains and Valleys is inspired by this gorgeous photo of the Grand Canyon taken by photographer Kelsey Hilgers. It is available, appropriately, on American Sock, a skein of 100% Superwash Merino completely grown and spun in the U.S. Krista is dyeing a limited number of skeins, and they will be available to preorder through August 18th or when they sell out.

Another Knitting Our National Parks colorway means that Vicki of That Clever Clementine is releasing a new POP Thru The Parks souvenir! Starting today, preorder a SNAPdragon notions pouch with fun fabric from Amy Peppler Adams’s Soda Nation Collection. The pouches are available for preorder for two weeks or until the limited edition of 24 items is sold out (which they did last time, so act fast!).

Rebecca of Fuse Fiber Studio, one of Indie Untangled’s newest dyers, has a new website stocked with plenty of skeins of fingering and DK. Her fun dappled colorways are inspired by places she’s traveled, favorite books, funny family memories and her favorite things in nature. 

Ewe want to knit more sheep? Well, Melissa Kemmerer has you covered! Are Ewe Feeling Sheepish?, a worsted-weight unisex pullover, has joined her flock of sheepy patterns on Ravelry. Melissa has more adult sweaters coming and three baby sweaters, with a fourth on the way. Join her for a sheep-a-long on Rav. 

Robyn of TeenyButton Studio has released a new Harry Potter club color and she is dyeing up more to celebrate! There will be eight Harry Potter colorways for sale, including the newly-released April 2017 club colorway, Beauxbatons, and a new Halloween colorway called Dementor’s Kiss. The shop update is today at 5 p.m. Central Time.

Laura of Slipped Stitch Studios is allowing customers to make their own custom tiny Tot project bags and waiving the custom fees. There are tons of awesome fabrics to choose from and, as a bonus, you can add on a custom lanyard for $5 or use a special $6 off coupon code to mix and match with an existing lanyard.

Christine of Skeinny Dipping had her last shop update before the Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

IU newcomer Mouse House Fiber Co. has a new kit out called the Highland Thistle Cowl Kit.

What to stash this week: Faster than a knitter on a deadline

If you’ve been inspired by the summer blockbuster of 2017 to knit the awesome Wonder Woman wrap, then you definitely need a the perfect project bag and accessories for it. Today, at 9 a.m. Pacific Time, Laura of Slipped Stitch Studios is releasing Wonder Woman project bags and other “club extras,” as she refers to her fun accessories, like zipper pulls and notions tins.

“Fun, but not too hard” is Pam of Stillwater Designs’ designing mantra, and her newest shawl, Watch Hill, definitely falls into that category. The shawl is knit sideways with garter and slip stitch sections and uses two contrasting colors of fingering weight yarn — perfect for those wild skeins you just had to stash.

Pandia’s Jewels has released the fourth edition of her Regency Collection of yarns inspired by the world of Jane Austen.

Bijou Basin Ranch has project kits for the most luxurious (and adorable) teddy bear.

What to stash this week: Are ewe knitting me?

If you’re looking for your Rhinebeck sweater, I may have found it! The cleverly-named Are Ewe Knitting Me? is a top-down, seamless sweater in fingering weight yarn with an adorable colorwork sheep yoke. It also can be knit “faded” if you want to utilize the latest trend. Designer Melissa Kemmerer is also doing an SAL, or a Sheep-A-Long, which will include a few more soon-to-be released sheep patterns.

Baad Mom Yarns isn’t a new dyer, but a rebranding of Go Knit Yourself. Melanie has moved away from her original business of selling knitting kits and is focusing on creating her Celtic-inspired colorways, like the slightly speckled Siobhan above.

Friend by Spruce Lane Designs is an asymmetric triangular shawl consisting of garter stitch stripes, simple lace and slipped stitches that’s a perfect match for your favorite two-color pairing. It’s shown here in Dragonfly Fibers Dragon Sock.

Share your love of yak yarn with Bijou Basin Ranch’s new enamel pin, the second in its ongoing series of custom-made, exclusive pins. BBR is also giving away pins to five of its newsletter subscribers on July 31.

Rhinebeck Trunk Show vendor Tuskenknits has created some gorgeously earthy Fade kits.

Another trunk show vendor, Gigi Bonin Hand Dyed Yarn, has her shop stocked with popsicle-inspired yarny treats.

Early shopping tickets for October’s fourth annual Rhinebeck Trunk Show went on sale today, but unfortunately have sold out.

What to stash this week: Game of Color

If you’re crazy about medieval literature (no, I don’t mean a certain yet-to-be-finished-before-the-TV-show-spoils-everything series of books) then you must order Karen of KarenDawn Designs/Round Table Yarns’ new book, A Parliament of Cowls. Based on Chaucer’s Parliament of Fowls, the book’s eight cowls represent various birds who are debating which suitor the female eagle should choose as her mate.

While I have Rhinebeck on the brain, remember that it’s still summer (though seeing feels like 99 on Weather.com did the trick for me). The latest installment of the Bijou Basin Ranch Master Color Series features a palette of hues inspired by refreshing warm-weather treats in the Lhasa Wilderness yak/bamboo blend. There are two kits featuring patterns for breezy summer garments. 

Color Craze Yarn & Fiber has expanded from fiber to yarn, with braids of all colors along with fingering-weight sock skeins.

What to stash this week: Leave your heart in your knitting

Julia of Pandia’s Jewels has kits for her gorgeous I Left my Heart in the Highlands Wrap available to preorder until until July 16. Each Highlands Knit Kit includes five skeins of her Aran Tweed yarn, a shawl pin and a copy of the pattern, with a big, smooshy cable. There are two different kits available: The Highlands, which moves in a gradient from gray to dark green and Heather on the Hills, which is various shades of green and pinks.

Stephanie of Three Fates Yarn has many new awesomely-named miniskein color sets available. They include Science Is Real, which you They Might Be Giants Fans may be familiar with, and I Remember California, which goes out to my fellow REM lovers.

Jennifer of Spirit Trail Fiberworks has stocked the shop with tons of new yarn and products, including new sock blanks in bold colors and a new “market” section with stitch markers from Katrinkles Knitting Jewelry, project and notions bags, mugs and more. If you’re starting to think about your Rhinebeck sweater (it’s time…) there’s some Brigantia (DK weight Polwarth/silk) and Zalti (100% U.S. grown and processed Targhee), as well a Birte and Verdande (both Superwash Merino, Cashmere and silk) in stock.

I’ve been on the hunt for the perfect draped front sweater and Windswept by Melissa Kemmerer looks to be The One. This top-down seamless sweater is knit with fingering-weight yarn and offers the option to customize, with either subtle or wild, speckled stripes.

Add some flowers to your summer with Laura Patterson’s newest shawl design. The lovely Vervain, knit with 525 to 1,825 yards of laceweight yarn, uses two different Estonian flower stitches, one with clusters and another with double yarn overs.

Lara Smoot has released her new sock pattern, Shark Bite II: The Revenge, into the wild.

What to stash this week: Say goodnight to North Cascades

Today is the last day to get your hands on the debut Knitting Our National Parks colorway from Backyard Fiberworks! Preorders close at midnight Eastern Time tonight.

Krista of Pigeonroof Studios is celebrating more than 10 years in business by updating her shop with Greatest Hits. They include Electric Rose (pictured above), Ricochet, Ghost Orchid and Pansies, dyed on American Sock yarn as well as Polwarth/silk and Superwash Merino spinning fiber. As a fellow Indie Untangled fan, you can get 10% off until July 8th with the code INDIEUNTANGLED. 

The yarn from IU newcomer Old Rusted Chair is much more colorful than its rustic name implies. Dyer Lauren hails from Nashville, and has a great line of semisolids, along with a ton of fun variegated and speckled yarns. She recently added some new sock sets, which include a 100g skein of speckles plus a 20g mini skein of a complementary tonal color. 

SpaceCadet’s SpaceMonster Mega Yarn Club, a yarn club devoted to worsted and bulky weight yarns, is now open to new subscribers for a limited time. Subscriptions are either six months or 12 months and include a gift along with the yarn.

What to make with North Cascades Night: multicolored shawls

Backyard Fiberworks’ North Cascades Night for the Knitting Our National Parks project looks stunning on its own, but one of the things I love about Alice’s colorways is how well they work together. She often says that Melanie Berg is her brand’s spirit animal, because Melanie’s multicolored designs show off her coordinating skeins beautifully.

So, I asked Alice to give North Cascades Night some friends from her current line of colors and paired them with some of my favorite multi-skein shawls from Melanie, as well as Andrea Mowry and Francoise Danoy. You can order the other colorways on the sportweight Terrain base directly through Backyard Fiberworks. (The skein amounts on a couple of Melanie’s shawls are padded so that you don’t run out of yarn.)

Perhaps, Perhaps by Melanie Berg. From the top, North Cascades Night is paired with Stormcloud & Pollen and Blackberry & Alpine; you will need one skein of each color.

Eifelgold by Melanie Berg. From the top, North Cascades Night is paired with Stormcloud and Hosta; you will need three skeins of the main color and one skein of the contrasting color. (I like either Stormcloud as the main with North Cascades and then North Cascades as the main with Hosta.)

Drachenfels by Melanie Berg. From the top, North Cascades Night is paired with Blackberry & Alpine and Stormcloud & Pollen; you will need two skeins of Colors A (the brownish purple in the sample) and C (the red in the sample) and one skein of Color B (the lilac in the sample).

The Girl In Me by Melanie Berg; From the top, North Cascades Night is paired with Stormcloud, Walnut and Hosta; you will need three skeins in the main color and two skeins of the contrasting color. (I like either Stormcloud as the main with North Cascades as the contrast, Walnut as the main with North Cascades as the contrast, or North Cascades as the main and Hosta as the contrast.)

Goldfinch by Andrea Mowry. From left to right, North Cascades Night is paired with Stormcloud & Pollen and Blackberry & Alpine; You will need one skein of each color.

Fields of Lavender by Francoise Danoy. From the top, North Cascades Night is paired with Stormcloud, Hosta and Walnut; you will need two skeins for the main color and one skein for the contrasting color.