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.

Untangling the Knit Petite Project

Those of you who have seen me in person know that I’m a little on the short side — 4’9″ to be exact. I barely reach Stephen West’s shoulders. So, when I heard about Teresa Gregorio’s Knit Petite Project, I knew I had to reach out.

Teresa is a designer under the name Canary Knits, who has published patterns for Knit Picks as well as in Knitscene, so she knows a thing or two about construction. Her project has started a fascinating conversation about petite sizing, common issues that petite knitters run into and altering patterns to get the best fit.

I chatted with Teresa about what she’s learned and what her goals are for the project.

What inspired the Knit Petite Project?

I started this project because, being petite myself, I’ve found there’s a lack of clear, centralized resources and discussion about the petite person and knitwear.

I love that in recent years the knitting community has opened up conversations about different sized individuals in a body-positive manner. We have a number of great resources that talk quite specifically about, for example, the plus sized woman’s body and options she has for knitwear from aesthetic choices to more inclusive size ranges.

A likewise petite-specific conversation about height and vertical measurements can create a community that knitters can go to and learn more about fit. I think it’s a conversation worth having, and that’s what I’d love for the #KnitPetiteProject.

What do you hope to achieve with the project?

I want us all to take the power into our own hands to shape our clothes to suit our tastes. We’re all makers, and that puts us in a fantastic position to achieve the modified fit we want.

To do that, I thought it would be great to have a thorough, in-depth discussion about sizing and its history, how we do or do not accept the sizes available to us, how petite people are catered to, what we want to change and how we can change it.

Ultimately, I think the most practical application of the Project is a community built around supporting each other through suggestions, conversations, a thorough online resource, and (hopefully!) a KAL later on this year.

If you feel you fit into the petite knitter category, join us! And please remember, for the #KnitPetiteProject, petite is a vertical concern and includes women of all ages, body shapes, and weights.

What have you learned so far and what has surprised you?

There has been SO much I’ve learned already! I’ve been quite careful in selecting resources, and have been steeped in scholarly papers over the last few months regarding sizing in clothing design. For example, the book Sizing in Clothing: Developing Effective Sizing Systems For Ready-To-Wear Clothing is filled with information from the history of “standardized” sizing (which isn’t that old of a history!) to specifics on grading and serving modern populations through computer-aided design software and 3D scanners that can produce data for a more representative, accurate fit.

I’ve also learned so much from discussions with other knitters about sizing; there’s a lively thread on Ravelry that in part inspired me to start a Ravelry group specifically for the #KnitPetiteProject. Hearing from others who have such deep expertise and first-hand experience has been very rich and rewarding! I appreciate their generous sharing.

Photo on left ©Knit Picks

How tall are you and how has that affected your sweater knitting

I’m 5’1”, and have been since I was 10 years old. I actually hadn’t given a lot of thought to my height (outside of those flares I used to wear in high school ALWAYS dragging on the ground and getting ripped up). I began considering fit a number of years ago when I started to design knitwear and sew garments for myself.

Seeing something I knit in “my size” on a person of the “same size” was VERY illuminating. My most recent post (May 2) for the #KnitPetiteProject gives a number of examples of how vertical measurements can affect the fit of a knit sweater.

For example, yoked sweaters extend a bit too far down my upper torso. This is a great example of how my shorter vertical measurements don’t line up with what the sweater assumes I’m measured, with results that I’m not happy with and are a bit more complex to alter than simply making it shorter.

I notice you reference Amy Herzog’s Custom Fit software. Have you used it? What do you think? (I’ve done a few Custom Fit sweaters and one “mashup” with Amy Christoffers’ Acer, and I have been very happy with all of them, but mashups can be tricky when using a particular design. A friend of mine Custom Fit Thea Coleman’s Ommegang, but she has a huge list of notes.)

I haven’t yet used Amy Herzog’s Custom Fit, but I love what I’ve seen of it and her Craftsy class on the topic. She’s thorough and body-positive, which is very important to me.

What I would really love is, if people are keen, we can hold a #KnitPetiteProject KAL later on this year. In it, we can each pick a sweater and work with each other through conversation and sharing online to consider what we would like to modify, and how we could achieve what we want. Amy Herzog’s Custom Fit software is perfect for this! And I’m very happy to hear you’re pleased with the results you’ve had from it.

What do you think knitwear designers can do better to accommodate a range of sizes? As a designer yourself, how is this a challenge?

Knitwear designers need size charts, and any size chart functions by averaging and assuming a body shape. So that’s a big challenge for designers. Creating a petite sizing chart would require thorough anthropometic data collection, which is a huge undertaking. I’ve been able to find size charts for petite women (up to a bust size of about 42”), but not beyond that. One size group that I’ve had a heck of a time locating detailed charts for is petite plus women.

A suggestion that’s come up during #KnitPetiteProject discussions is for designers to add, when appropriate, suggested lengthen/shorten notes within the pattern. Sort of like a sewing pattern would.

That said, row gauge and stitch gauge are tied to each other and sometimes it’s quite complicated to separate out, depending on the design elements and construction involved in the pattern.

What is crucial for knitters to know about fit and modifying patterns?

First, there’s NOTHING wrong with your body. Any fitting issues are simply a result of the fact that the shape of human bodies is very complex, and we are all going to differ from a sizing chart in one way or another.

And second, I want to encourage people to feel empowered to modify modify modify for THEIR own tastes, preferences, and body. This can be daunting, because sometimes I think it may be difficult to know why you dislike the fit of something, or why it’s fitting you in a displeasing way. It’s YOUR knitting, so change what you want, whenever you want to!

My hope is that the #KnitPetiteProject will help with this, as a resource and community filled with talented, kind, thoughtful, supportive, and body-positive individuals.

What to knit with a single skein of fingering — other than socks

When the weather (actually) starts getting warmer, you don’t really want to be knitting out of the A/C with a big pile of fabric in your lap. While I’ve certainly worked on a sweater at the beach, it’s not ideal. Neither is traveling and worrying about losing one of those six mini skeins.

I see summer as the perfect time to pick out that single skein of fingering in your stash that you really love and knit up a little something to drape over your shoulders or around your neck when you start wanting to put wool on your skin again.

I’ve long said that shawls, and infinity scarves, are potato chip knitting, because they are easily addictive and tend to cause less consternation than socks — there’s no such thing as Second Shawl Syndrome.

Here are some new designs and a few old favorites for that prized skein.

Shawls

Old Favorites

Janina Kallio has a whole bunch of single-skein shawls, but my favorite has to be Drops of Honey, above, which she designed especially for the 2016 Indie Untangled Where We Knit yarn club. It’s simple enough to be mindless, with just enough interest with the eyelets.

Zilver by Lisa Mutch

Pebble Beach Shawlette by Helen Stewart

Country Song Shawl by Gabrielle Vézina

What’s new

Little Black Shawl by Laura Aylor

Cubetcha by Casapinka

Abeja Shawl by Kristen Jancuk

Aperture Shawl by Ambah O’Brien

Cowls/Infinity scarves

Shared Rib by Anne Hanson

Another Where We Knit pattern that’s now available to the general public, this is also fairly easy knitting, with a twist (pun intended) from the cables.

Brighton by Veronica Parsons

Spice of Life Cowl by Louise Zass-Bangham

Starshower by Hilary Smith Callis

What’s new

Daylight Savings Cowl by Mary Annarella

Mora Dune by Virginia Sattler-Reimer

Dodging Rain Drops Cowl by Vanessa Ewing

Chehalem Cowl by Kelli Slack

See more of my favorite single-skein shawls and cowls on Ravelry!

What to stash this week: Another shawl in the sweater box

The latest design from Casapinka, called Another Brick In the Shawl is everything I love about shawls: it uses multiple colors and has plenty of mindless stitches and nice non-lace visual interest with mosaics. Bronwyn used a trio set of Yummy 2-ply from Miss Babs, but the color possibilities are endless.

Kayleen, the latest IU newcomer, transitioned over the last year from selling crocheted items to dyeing yarn out of her home in Marblehead, Massachusetts. For her new biz, Littlebean Loves Yarn, the bright speckled colorways, as well as semi-solids and self-striping sock yarn, are inspired by pop culture, with an emphasis on Harry Potter. She generally has shop updates at 1 p.m. on Saturdays, so head on over to see what’s outta the dye pots.

If you missed out on sign-ups for the 2017 Where We Knit Yarn Club, you’re in luck! A couple of spots have opened up, one of which includes the latest collaboration from Eden Cottage Yarns and Mindy Wilkes! Please fill out this form if you’re interested in snagging a spot.

Slipped Stitch Studios has stocked the shop with an awesome selection of craft-themed bags and supplies. The first 10 customers get a glitter ball stitch marker!

Untangling: Anne Hanson

When I first started knitting, Anne Hanson’s patterns were some of the first that I came across. I found that she had a talent for creating designs that look incredibly complex, but are simple enough for beginner knitters. The Aria Delicato I knit for my mom was stunning, but also easy TV knitting.

In 2014, when I was organizing the first Rhinebeck Trunk Show, I knew it was a sign that the event was going to be a hit when someone from Anne’s bespoke yarn company, Knitspot, asked if they could be a vendor. Anne has since gone on to collaborate with Kim of The Woolen Rabbit for the first installment of the 2017 Indie Untangled Where We Knit yarn club. Her club pattern, Shared Rib, is set to become available for sale to the general public.

When and how did you learn to knit?

I learned to knit from my grandmother when I was 4 years old. Before that I would hang around and watch her knit and ask her to teach me (as far back as I can remember, I loved exploring knitted fabric with my fingers). She told me that when I could write my name, she would teach me. So I enlisted my older brother to teach me to write in the afternoons when he got home from school. I thought I’d be able to knit everything on the first day and was a little disappointed when knitting turned out to be hard and I couldn’t make cable stitches right away, haha. Those were my holy grail at the time…

Tell me about your work as a a patternmaker/draper, technical designer and costumer in NYC and how that influences your design work today.

I learned so much during my years working in the fashion industry, it’s hard to distill it all down to a few lines! But I think the most important thing I learned was to think beyond my own experience about how a design is worn and used by a broad cross-section of people. A good design not only expresses the voice and artistic vision of the designer, but is useful and flattering to people with a variety of lifestyles, body types, and preferences. Precision at the beginning is also essential as a design goes through production and is interpolated into a range of sizes, then cut and sewn. And finally, I learned the importance of being a good problem-solver, using my creativity to envision shapes and mold fabrics to get the results I wanted. I am so grateful to the designers, technicians, manufacturers, and stitchers who I was privileged to learn from and work with during those years!

How did you move into knitwear design?

I actually started designing knitwear as a teenager, well before working in the fashion business; it was something I did on my own, applying what I knew from sewing and tailoring, which I had also learned at a very young age. During my years in the fashion industry, many people encouraged me to “do something” with my knitwear design, but I didn’t really have access to the right outlets through my existing work. Once the internet became a more common tool, I was able to begin publishing my design independently and turn my “side” passion into a career option.

Tell me about what inspires your designs.

Oh, I really get inspiration from many directions… Obviously nature contributes a lot to the surface design in many of my pieces, especially in lace work. But I am equally inspired by the human form, by fabric behavior, and by the tactile/emotional effects of texture. Some inspiration is more abstract and some is more concrete. But all of it seems to funnel into knitted expression; it’s not unlike other of my artistic pursuits, such as painting and photography.

In the case of the Shared Rib cowl for instance, I was working from a desire to knit a particular cable that I had my eye on. But when I also realized that the pattern would be released near Valentine’s Day, I thought “hmm, shared rib has a kind of Adam and Eve theme and is very vine-like.” I brought up the idea of doing a color with the dyer that would be like dark red roses, which brought the concept back to the place I had chosen for my inspiration: the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. So many disparate threads came together in the concept for this simple cowl, but the knitter doesn’t need to know any of that for it to be appealing and knitworthy. The design would work equally well in any rich color with depth.

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

I almost always start by swatching; getting to know the materials and their limits, feeling the fabric they will make, and working out which stitches and textures interplay well with the fiber is essential to figuring out the geometry, shaping, and detailing in a design.

You seem to design in a variety of colors. Which are your favorites?

Color is truly relative — how a color “behaves” or appears really depends on what you put next to it and what fabric it will become. Of all the full spectrum colors, I really don’t have a favorite for that reason — they all change and become different with varying applications and moods. That said, the neutral range is endlessly fascinating for me; grays will always have a special place in my heart!

How did your Bare Naked Wool line come about?

When I became a hand spinner, I was exposed to a whole new world of variety in fleeces; I quickly gained a new appreciation and awe of the range of natural colors available. I started the Bare Naked Knitspot club to celebrate the knowledge I was gaining and it was through the club that I began producing bespoke yarns. One thing led to another and before we knew it, we had a full palette of single breed yarns and luxury blends on offer. I was excited to meet small production farmers and millers, then marry their talents. It just seemed that there were gaps to fill everywhere for knitters seeking a fresh, pure, and unique yarn product, beautifully prepared and free from dyes and chemicals. Farmers and millers had unique fiber and yarn to offer; knitters were ripe for knowledge and new yarn experiences — I wanted to bring them together!

What does designing those yarns entail?

Designing yarn is very interesting; one has to know about the individual fibers involved and how they behave to end up with a yarn that makes the most of their strong points. It’s important to put time and energy into research and development, testing it in stages with the mill to get just the right yarn structure. Many times the mill owners and operators are not knitters so working closely with them, communicating observations and results clearly is key. Another challenge is communicating to knitters how lovely a yarn can be without dye; unadulterated fiber is just softer, bouncier, with a natural sparkle that often gets lost when dye and chemical treatments are applied — even natural and organic ones. We are constantly working on educating our community and offering pattern support that inspires, to help make our customers’ experience the best it can be!

Where is your favorite place to knit?

We have a sofa in our dining room, which is a very quiet part of the house. I do a lot of knitting there while listening to audiobooks. I also knit while watching TV late at night; staying up long into the wee hours and knitting is my favorite thing, especially when my husband knits alongside me.

What to stash this week: Fetch this yarn ball

I’m excited to debut these custom IU stitch markers! Crafted by Maria of A Needle Runs Through It out of San Jose, California — who I discovered last year when she released Gilmore Girls stitch markers — these wooden accessories are the perfect way to show off your love of indie yarn.

IU newcomer Long Dog Yarns is named for, as you might suspect, a dachshund, specifically a wire-haired dachshund called Rufus. Dyer Brandy started dyeing a year ago after publishing her own designs and her yarns are of the bright, speckled variety that we’re all crazy about these days. She’s just restocked her shop, so head over for your summer knitting needs. 

Wingpoint, Pam’s latest design, is a bias triangle shawl with a twist. It’s decorated with stripes and bunting-like marled triangles that are a fun way to combine your main color and accents, whether they’re 75-yard mini skeins or scrap yarn. Best of all, it’s 25% off through May 31 with the code madmay.

In honor of Mother’s Day, Wildflower Button Studio is offering free shipping on any domestic orders over $25 through May 16 with the coupon code HAPPYSHIP.

A glimpse into knitting designer Kirsten Kapur’s inspiration

Kirsten Kapur is one of those designers who consistently impresses me. I marvel at her use of texture and color, particularly her color combinations. While I’ve knit only three of her more than 250 simple and elegant patterns, I have several more in my favorites. So, when I heard that Kirsten, a fellow New Yorker, had been invited by Paola Vanzo, the owner of mYak, to give a talk on her design inspirations over tea and knitting in the West Village, I RSVPd faster than you could say yarn.

The event took place in the library of the Trace Foundation, a nonprofit that promotes Tibetan culture where Paola is managing director, and which houses an appointment-only pop-up shop for her yarn line. It was through her work in Tibet that Paola came to create mYak in 2011, working with a cooperative of nomads from the Tibetan Plateau to harvest and mill the super soft, Cashmere-like yarn from the underbelly of the baby yaks that they herd. It’s a story that deserves its own blog post.

Kirsten recently collaborated with Paola on two designs using mYak yarn: The Wave Hill brioche cowl, named for the estate and public gardens in Riverdale in the Bronx, and a lacy two-color shawl called Acorns and Arches, crafted with colors created using a natural mushroom dye. The two patterns set the scene for Kirsten’s inspirations, essentially knitted interpretations of the natural world.

Before becoming a knitting pattern designer a decade ago, Kirsten worked as an apparel and textile designer in the garment industry in New York City, where she also lives. While the city may not seem like an immediately obvious place to get natural inspiration, there’s plenty.

“In this city we have some pretty amazing places we can go,” Kirsten said. “We have some fabulous parks, like the New York Botanical Garden, Central Park. I go to these places and find inspiration for color, texture, obviously the shapes of the plants.”

She also uses the Brooklyn Botanic Garden (near me!), Hudson River Park, Rockaway Beach in Queens — particularly in winter — and the aforementioned Wave Hill. After taking photos, Kirsten returns home and starts playing around with the yarn in her healthy stash, drawing on the colors from her images of flowers and leaves, water and animals — even seaweed.

Kirsten then pores over stitch dictionaries and then plays around with charting software, making the patterns work for the look she’s trying to achieve. A lot of her design work also happens once the yarn gets on the needles, with changes made when stitch patterns aren’t working.

While some of Kirsten’s design names are obvious, many are particularly clever. Her Reynard Socks, for example, are named for the fox character in fables, and feature a fox-like lace pattern when viewed upside down. Cladonia, one of Kirsten’s best-known patterns, is named for the lichen on a rock she photographed it on.

The photographs are also what draws me to Kirsten’s patterns, and she recounted what it took to capture this view of A View From the Hill, on Rockaway Beach on a freezing, windy January afternoon.

After Kirsten’s talk, and after we finished up our tea and pastries, there was also the opportunity to shop the mYak pop-up, which had such a beautiful display.

Of course I wore my own Cladonia to the event and Kirsten was nice enough to pose for a photo with me while wearing the sample!

Whipping your WIPs into shape

I’ll admit that I’ve never been a truly monogamous knitter. But, since moving, rearranging my stash and dedicating a box just to WIPs (I’m an optimist, so I don’t like referring to them as UFOs) I’ve realized that I have more than a couple. These were projects I plunged into headfirst and then another shiny pattern caught my eye, or I got to a point where the project became a little more complex. So, in an effort to get them back on track and the box under control — my stash has already migrated into another bin and I don’t want my WIPs to — I’ve decided to create a little strategy that I hope will also help you.

Getting realistic

First, I got realistic about what I was going to finish. That Rock Island I started a few years ago in Spirit Trail lace, only getting through seven repeats of the beginning edging? Frogged, getting a much-loved project bag back in return. I know that mostly lacy shawls, especially in dark, laceweight yarn, are just not for me. I wasn’t far enough in that frogging was painful, and I figured if I wasn’t getting joy from the project right from the beginning, it wasn’t worth continuing. Maybe one day I’ll knit it, but not now.

Something mindless

Then, I found a project that was still in the mindless garter stage — my Marrakesh shawl pictured above — and designated it as a subway/knit night project. Until I get to the lace egding, it is forbidden to be a knit-at-home project. I’m limiting those to my latest sweater, Mary Annarella’s You Wear It Well, which is up to the sleeves and no longer very portable, and Anne Hanson’s Shared Rib cabled infinity scarf. Both make for good TV knitting, ensuring I’ll finish them soon-ish.

Prioritize

I’ve decided to prioritize finishing one languishing WIP before casting on another project. When I finish Marrakesh, my plan is to cast on a 3 Color Cashmere Cowl with my Vintage No. 1 from Middle Brook Fiberworks.

Create deadlines

I’m also creating general deadlines — ideally, finishing one WIP every month or two months, depending how far along I am. I plan to actually write these deadlines down in a fancy journal, so I can hold myself to them and not keep changing them in my head.

Ideally, I will end up in a place where I have a good mix of mindless, complicated and/or non-portable projects so that there’s an ideal WIP for every activity. Because we all know that knitting — and FOs — make everything better.

What to stash this week: Kitted up

Over the weekend, I decided to get creative and put together some kits with The Woolen Rabbit’s newest bases. I have three pairs of Silky Biffle, a blend of BFL and silk, in three different colors that are available with Laura Aylor’s Pennant shawl pattern. I also have a few skeins of Kim’s new Dove base, a Merino/yak/silk blend that I just started using for Anne Hanson’s Shared Rib. Anne designed this clever ribbed cable pattern — which comes with short cowl, scarf and infinity ring options — for the first installment of the 2017 Where We Knit Yarn Club. I love it so much that I’ve decided to include Anne’s pattern at a discount, and before it goes on sale to the general public May 15, with the purchase of a skein.

Visit The Woolen Rabbit shop on Indie Untangled to get your hands on one of the kits. As a reminder, you also get 10% off through April 30 with the code IU3.

It’s finally beginning to feel like spring, and Kim Dyes Yarn is ready with a bunch of new colorways, including the beautiful Peaches pictured above. Her shop update, which takes place at noon Eastern Time today, will include new shawl length skeins on Croissant sock, a 100% Superwash Merino fingering yarn and bulky Cream Puff Superwash Merino.

There are only a couple skeins of the exclusive Berry Colorful Yarnings Indie colorway left! It comes on her self-striping sock yarn, perfect for socks, obviously, but also accessories — cowls, hats — and baby items. You also get 10% off through April 30 with the code IU3.

Beautiful Mess Yarn Works will be having an update of sock yarn inspired by Willie Wonka and his chocolate factory tomorrow.

Pandia’s Jewels has opened preorders for her 12th Doctor Who-inspired sock kit.

Go Knit Yourself is having a weeklong challenge exploring different dyeing techniques via newsletter.