FO Sightings: Junko’s patchwork shawl

FO Sightings: Junko's patchwork shawl

Ran across this lovely Japanese knitter the other day, Junko, and can’t stop thinking about this shawl from her feed. (Here’s another shot of it.) It’s a totally delightful patchwork quilt of granny squares and garter stitch squares — such a perfect combo. As so many of you recently noted, making little squares and such is the perfect warm-weather way to knit, and a wrap is more achievable (at least for me!) than a whole blanket. Not to mention a great stash-buster …

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Pretty spring scarves: Or, what to knit for Mother’s Day

Pretty spring scarves: Or, what to knit for Mother's Day

Whether you’re barely beginning to thaw out or already thinking about concerts in the park on a cool summer night, a lighter, leaner scarf might be just the thing to keep your knitting needles (and crochet hooks!) happy and your neck cozy in the weeks to come. Or your mother’s, for that matter — Mother’s Day is right around the bend:

 1. Kozue by Kirsten Johnstone, lace for minimalists

2. Spring Lace Infinity Scarf by Linda Thach, lovely mix of textures, knitted in linen (free pattern)

3. Trellis Scarf from the Purl Bee, nice transitional piece (free pattern)

4. Celes scarf by Jared Flood, full-on lace I could imagine wearing myself

5. Striped Cotton Cowl from the Purl Bee, how to make a cotton cowl fantastic (free pattern)

6. Claudia Scarf by Rebecca Jackson, an elegant slip of crochet (free pattern)

7. Spring Tuck by Rose Anne, love that strip of lace in the gossamer stockinette

8. Kelly’s Frothy Crocheted Scarf by Kelly Jahraus, super-simple single crochet on a big ol’ hook

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Knit the Look: Or, make that crochet?

Knit the Look: Crocheted wrap with fringe

Crochet the Look? I love the pretty fringed wrap on this unidentified model after the latest Margaret Howell show — especially right now, since it’s the perfect seasonal transition piece. As is often the case, the details are hard to discern from Vanessa’s street-style photo, but it sure looks like crochet to me, so I called on Cal Patch for a consult. Cal agrees, and had the same thought as me: that it might very well be a triangular shawl with fringe along the two sides, wrapped in scarf-like fashion. Maybe even as simple as a big half-granny square, with fringe added. Another great option would be Cal’s Wingfeathers Shawl pattern, crocheted in a worsted or heavier yarn. If you prefer a rectangular scarf, you could also follow the Purl Bee’s Granny Stripe Blanket instructions and just change the dimensions to a wrap-sized (rather than bed-sized) rectangle, then add fringe along one long edge. Wrap and go. Whichever you choose, it would be lovely in the Purl Soho Worsted Twist in that Heirloom White I love so much.

See Vanessa’s post for an additional view.

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PREVIOUSLY in Knit the Look: Marte Mei Van Haaster’s perfect grey pullover

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

Someday vs. Right Away: Deluxe knit-purl combos

Someday vs Right Away: Deluxe knit-purl combos

When I finish my Tag Team sweater, I know I’m supposed to get back to my Slade shawl-collar cardigan, but I’m having so much fun with the simple knits-purls-and-nupps combos in the Trillium yoke that I can’t stop wishing I was knitting something really complex next — namely Jared Flood’s Channel Cardigan. It would be super slow going for me, so it may be someday or it may be never, we’ll see. But I could certainly satisfy that knits+purls craving more readily with Jared’s beloved  Guernsey Triangle or with the new Keirnan scarf by Shannon Cook.

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PREVIOUSLY in Someday vs. Right Away: Bobbles (Hey, that last Someday is today!)

Best of the best of Pre-Fall 2014

Best of Pre-Fall 2014

New York Fashion Week for Fall 2014 is in full swing but I’m still processing the international Pre-Fall looks. It’s been an interesting set of collections, knit-wise. Where the past few seasons have relied mainly on ultra-basic sweaters, creatively worn, Pre-Fall 2014 has been full of all kinds of bright and bold sweaters, under and over everything, such as the retro stripes and varsity pullovers at Gucci and Jonathan Saunders.

They’re fun and all, but my very favorite sweater look is the Chloé ensemble above — one of only two knits in an amazing collection. A killer Moroccan-ish printed (I think) crewneck over a tie-neck blouse (I guess), spotted waterfall-ruffle skirt and the only thigh-high boots I’ve ever wanted. (The only thigh-high boots I’ve ever seen that have not a single whiff of street-walker about them.)

As a yarny collection, though, I think my favorite is Thakoon Addition:

Best knits of Pre-Fall 2014

The collection is packed full of swants, soopa scarves, fringed skirts, crop tops, exposed floats — all of it highly covetable and super inspiring. So Thakoon gets both best and worst this time around.

I can’t tell exactly what’s going on with the pullover below, but I can tell you that I want it

Best knits of Pre-Fall 2014

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.