New Favorites: Alicia Plummer’s clever summer cowl

New Favorites: Alicia Plummer's clever summer cowl

You may have picked up on the fact that the striped linen sweater-in-progress seen in a couple of recent photos (here and here) is my hybridization of those two Pam Allen linen tanks I recently fawned over. I’m using Quince and Co’s new Kestrel yarn. It’s my first time knitting with linen, plus it’s an unusual linen yarn: a worsted-weight, chain-plied tape. It’s quite odd, yet compelling, and I’m eager to knit more with it when this is done. The heft of it is peculiar, and I find myself wondering what it would be like to knit a summer shawl out of it. (I think it could work well for something like my beloved Orlane’s Textured Shawl.) Or what it would feel like to wear such a thing. But for the pattern collection that launched Kestrel, Alicia Plummer designed a cowl called Hudson — just a simple little spring/summer neck accessory — and that’s pretty clever, given the nature of the yarn. It also looks like fun: There’s a little mosaic panel that — as I understand it — is knitted flat and then joined into a tube, and from there you pick up stitches along each side to extend the short tube into a longer one. Quick, seasonal and gratifying, plus I know exactly who might like to have it.

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PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: Pam Allen’s linen tanks

 

New Favorites: Helga does it again

New Favorites: Helga does it again

My lack of Pinterest time is showing. How else to explain that Helga Isager released a new collection of knitting patterns in December and I’m just now seeing it? The Map Collection doesn’t quite leave me feeling faint like some of her previous designs have, but it’s great stuff nonetheless. It’s very ’80s — some of it maybe a little too ’80s for my comfort — but I am in want with these four pieces.

Top to bottom: The Normandy Sweater, Shetland Cowl, Siberia Anorak (love those pockets, not sure about the funnel neck), and Himalaya Sweater.

You can browse through the whole collection on her site. Doesn’t look like it’s been printed in English yet, but there’s cause for hope.

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PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: A bit of mesh

New Favorites: Colorwork without the work

New Favorites: Uncommon colorwork

There’s a way to do colorwork that doesn’t involve stranded knitting (i.e., alternating between different yarns within the same row/round) or intarsia (changing colors mid row and then changing back again later). It’s basically just stripes — anyone can knit stripes, right? — except you jumble them up by knitting into the row below here and there instead of knitting straight across. So it’s colorwork without the work! I’ve long been intrigued by it but have never done it, and in the past couple of weeks, two tempting patterns have hit the airwaves.

The one above is the Midwinter scarf by Wendy Baker and Belinda Boaden of True Brit Knits (for the Quince and Co. Scarves 2014 collection) and looks almost like crochet! It’s a stitch pattern that is apparently called English Rose Tweed, which I only know because it’s also one of three stitch patterns artfully combined in The Purl Bee’s Stitch Block Cowl (free pattern). Worked at a slightly smaller gauge than Midwinter, it looks a little more like weaving. Even more so for the Checked Rose Fabric stitch pattern it’s paired with. (My favorite might be the one-color part of the Purl Bee pattern, the Rambler stitch.) But it’s fun to see what a difference the change of scale makes, and makes me want to play with this stitch pattern at an even wider range of gauges.

New Favorites: Uncommon colorwork

IMPORTANT SHOP NOTE: I’m in a van today on the way to Seattle for this weekend’s Vogue Knitting Live event, and will be gone through next Monday. (Don’t worry, I have blog posts lined up!) But the very capable Anie is here to take care of your orders*, and I’ll still be checking email as much as possible while at the show. I have several things with me that are new, and I’m excited to announce them after I’m back! Meanwhile, there are a few more Bento Bags on the webshop shelves (more, including more XL’s, coming soon — I promise) AND there’s a new size of the beloved Doane Utility Notebooks. It’s 5×7 and feels so right and great in the hand, I’m completely in love with it. Check it out!

*With the exception of international orders — those will ship next week when I’m back.

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PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: Rosa Pomar’s blanket hat

Colorwork patterns for first-timers

Colorwork knitting patterns for first-timers

OK! Picking back up with the Beginning to Knit series, let’s talk about colorwork — specifically, stranded or “fair isle” knitting. (I’m not going into intarsia in this post.) Just like cables, stranded knitting is a great thing to try when you’re still fairly new to knitting. But even or especially if you’ve been knitting a long time and have never done it, it’s time! Both seem really difficult and amazing and impressive but are actually insanely simple. In the case of stranded knitting, it’s just stockinette and it’s almost always done in the round, so you’re only ever working from the right side of the fabric. You can handle knitting in the round, right? There are only two tricks to knitting multi- rather than single-color stockinette:

1) Holding the yarn.
If a pattern row has you knit two white stitches, then two black stitches and repeat that to the end of the row, you could literally knit the two white stitches, drop the yarn, pick up the black yarn and knit two stitches, drop it, etc. Nothing wrong with that, but it would slow you down a bit. Depending on how ambidextrous you are and which hand your normally hold your working yarn in, you could hold both yarns in your left hand, both in your right, or one in each hand. (That’s my preference.) There are copious videos on the web demonstrating all the options.

2) Minding your floats.
Imagine what I described above: putting one yarn down and picking up the next one. On the wrong side of the work, that new yarn has to reach across the two (or however many) stitches you just worked in the other color, and that little bit of yarn carried behind the work is called a float. (You’ve seen floats on the back side of fair isle knitting before, no doubt, but here’s a pic for you.) The reason most people’s stranded work winds up being tighter than single-color work is that their floats are too short and it pulls on the back of the work. So for one thing, you have to be careful to keep your floats even — the same width as the stitches they float behind. And for another, when the floats get very long — longer than a inch or so — you need to “trap” them by simply twisting the two yarns in back.

Sample colorwork chart from Pine Bough Cowl by Dianna Potter WallaThe other key difference is that when you’re working stockinette in the round, the last thing in the world you need is a chart — you’re just knitting every stitch! But for colorwork, you pretty much always need a chart showing you which stitches are worked in which colors. As long as you’re knitting in the round, you read the chart exactly like you knit: from right to left, starting at the bottom and working your way up. If a chart seems daunting, keep in mind that you only knit one row at a time. Block out all but the first (bottom) row on this sample chart and you’ll see that all you need to do is knit 1 green, 1 blue, 1 green, 7 blue, then repeat that 10-stitch sequence to the end of the round. You can do that, right? Then take the next row as it comes. I borrowed this sample chart from Dianna Walla’s free Pine Bough Cowl pattern, which was a huge hit with you all in the big cowls roundup a few months ago — it would be a great introduction to both colorwork and charts for the moderately ambitious among you. (Note that in some cases on a colorwork chart you’ll see black dots in some of the squares. Those dots are just there to emphasize the motif that’s being created — chevrons or triangles or whatever it may be. It’s just a visual aid; you still just knit every stitch.) [See UPDATE below about Dianna and charts.]

So, in my mind, the ideal projects for first-timers are those that A) are knitted in the round, B) never use more than two colors within a single row and C) don’t involve any long floats. Some suggestions, pictured above:

TOP ROW: BASIC GEOMETRY
left: Dessau Cowl by Carrie Bostick Hoge — super-simple triangles pattern, maybe slightly long floats (See also: Flying Geese Cowl, Tolt Hat and Mitts)
center: Netty Cowl by Ien Sie — polka dots worked in a tube and grafted into a loop (See also: Herrington and Empire State)
right: Amira pullover by Andrea Rangel — just a little colorwork around the circular yoke (See also: Willard, Stasis, slightly more intricate Skydottir, or the Altair hat)

MIDDLE ROW: ZIGS, ZAGS AND CROSSES
left: Harpa scarf by Cirilia Rose — tube scarf with long ribbed ends
center: Muckle Mitts by Mary Jane Mucklestone — my first colorwork project, includes both 2- and 3- color versions (either way just two colors per round) (See also: the more ambitious Seasons hat)
right: Vega hat by Alexis Winslow

BOTTOM ROW: GETTING INTRICATE
left: Gloaming Mittens by Leila Raabe — there’s a slight chance there may be some 3-color rounds in here but I don’t think so
center: Selbu Modern hat by Kate Gagnon Osborn — like delicate Art Nouveau wallpaper for your head (free pattern)
right: Funchal Moebius by Kate Davies — clever play with lights and darks in a tube that’s grafted into a moebius (or a loop if you like)

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I personally put off trying colorwork for two years, and then decided to take Mary Jane Mucklestone’s beginner class to get me off my duff and so I’d be sure to learn good habits right from the start. If you’re at all nervous about trying stranded knitting, then by all means sign up for a class. As I always say, you never know what else you might learn.

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UPDATE: Dianna Walla left a comment below about her chart. She just did a post on her blog about working from colorwork charts, which you should definitely take a look at. See also her recent post about color dominance.

FO Sightings: Süsk’s “mantastic” cowl

Hand knit cowl and hat, man style

I feel like the best thing I can do here is say as little as possible and just leave you alone while you stare at these photos.

(Or I could whisper for the few of you who want to listen a little while staring: Süsk and Banoo is a blog I should have known about a long time ago but only recently discovered by way of having shipped her a nice pile of Fringe Supply Co. goods — to Helsinki! — and then seen her nice blog post about it. She posted the top shot on Instagram the other day and then I saw that there were more on the blog. It’s the Purl Bee’s Lovely Ribbed Cowl knitted in some gorgeous charcoal wool, along with a matching improvised hat — a gift for her father, as modeled by her boyfriend. Husband? Whatever. Check the blog for the whole story.)

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PREVIOUSLY in FO Sightings: Z’s coveted closet of handmade clothes

Holiday knitting cheat sheet: Cowls all around

Holiday knitting cheat sheet: A cowl pattern for every girl on your list

Gift knitting is stressful, ain’t it? The good news is, everyone loves a cowl. (Girls, anyway.) So just like with last year’s holiday hat knitting cheat sheet, I’ve put together a little gift guide for you: fabulous patterns, and the ladies who’ll love them:

1. the academic: Inkling by Dianna Walla, a stately, timeless and seamless striped tube

2. the victorian lit lover: Imogen Cowl by Carrie Bostick Hoge, exquisite grafted lace

3. the city mouse: Warren Street Cowl by Michele Wang, understated geometric texture (See also: South Paris)

4. the country mouse: Big Herringbone Cowl from the Purl Bee, squishy textural bliss (free pattern)

5. the grande dame: Lowbrow Cowl by Thao Nguyen, a million times more elegant than its name

6. the vintage junkie: Pine Bough Cowl by Dianna Walla, truly amazing colorwork in another seamless tube (free pattern) (See also: Ticking Cowl)

7. the bon vivant: Hamanasu Cowl by Olga Buraya-Kefelian, the master of mind-bending stitchery

8. the globetrotter: Bogolan by Elizabeth Davis, a trio of two-sided, mud-cloth inspired patterns (thanks, Meg)

9. the traditionalist: Chalet Cowl by Yarn Garden, simply beautiful cables (See also: Cabled Cowl — free pattern)

10. the sophisticate: Kennebec by Dawn Catanzaro, beautifully proportioned brioche

Actually, that last one could work for anyone, depending on your yarn and color choice. So that might be the one you make a spare of, just in case.

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PREVIOUSLY in Holiday knitting cheat sheets: A hat for every head

The Morse Code Cowl’s big London adventure

Karen Templer's Morse Code Cowl on Stephen Fry's QI

I’ve been keeping a really funny little secret for several months now, and can finally unburden myself of it. Last spring I got an email from a producer at Stephen Fry’s UK quiz-comedy-panel show “QI.” He said they were working on an episode with a knitting theme and wanted to know if I’d let them use the images of my Morse Code Cowl for the show. I told him I’d send him the whole cowl if he liked, and shortly thereafter the little cowl boarded a plane and flew off to hobnob with Stephen Fry and friends in London, while I sat jealously at home. (I was invited to attend the taping, but being in California made it difficult to take them up on it.) And then I waited. The very nice producer I’d been working with apparently moved on over the summer, and his replacement didn’t respond to my query, but the internet led me to believe the “Knits & Knots” episode would be airing on October 4th. Alas, a nice fellow called @MikeLikesCheese alerted me on Twitter that it aired Friday night!

It’s on BBC 2, will be airing again this evening (right now?) and is also available online, but you have to be in the UK to view it. Which is killing me. Past seasons have been on YouTube — I know because I watched quite a bit of it after that initial contact — so maybe this will wind up there at some point as well? (Pirated versions are being quickly pulled.) But if you’re in the UK, please, I beg you to watch and give me a full account. Does the cowl actually make an appearance? In what context? And what else goes on? I need to know!

UPDATE: Thanks to @helloyarn I’ve now seen it! Screengrab above. And Rachael in the comments linked this YouTube version which so far has not been removed. If you’re watching it online, the knitting segment starts around the 10-minute mark, and he holds up my cowl around 11:15.

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