New Favorites: Julie Hoover’s insta-classic pullovers

New Favorites: Julie Hoover's insta-classic pullovers

I need to find a good way to update my Pullovers for first-timers post from time to time. Because, for instance — in addition to being super appealing to anyone who loves to knit and loves a good go-everywhere pullover — Julie Hoover’s two new patterns are both great first-sweater candidates. One of the bottom-up seamed raglan variety, and one in the drop-shoulder group. And both being Julie patterns, they’re guaranteed to be not only well-written but to teach you the best way to do things, even if you’re not new to sweater knitting. But if you’re an advanced beginner, comfortable working simple stitch patterns and decreases, and looking for a first sweater to build your skills and your wardrobe around, definitely take a look at these.

TOP: Martine is written for DK-weight cotton knitted on US8 needles with a lovely allover textured stitch pattern and gently arced raglan seams

BOTTOM: Wintour is written for two different strands of fingering held together on US6 needles (I’ve felt this fabric and it’s to-die-for), drop-shouldered and split-hemmed, with the sleeves worked downward from stitches picked up around the armholes

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PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: the tanks of Pom Pom

Our Tools, Ourselves: Julie Hoover

In Our Tools, Ourselves, we get to know fiber artisans of all walks, ages, styles and skill levels, by way of their tools. For more on the series, read the introduction.

Our Tools, Ourselves: Julie Hoover

Julie Hoover has been one of my favorite designers from the very beginning of my tenure as a knitter, and I’m happy to have learned from her and developed a friendship with her over the years. In October of 2013, I asked her if she’d be interested in answering my Our Tools, Ourselves questions and giving us a peek into her world, and she responded that she’d love to … in six months or so. She and her husband were embarking on building their dream home, most of her things were in storage, and it would be better, she thought, if she could show us the new space when it was done. We all know construction projects never go as planned, but this look into Julie’s space and process is well worth the wait!

You likely already know Julie’s designs for Brooklyn Tweed and under her own name, but make sure you’re following her on Instagram, @jgourmet, where she is a constant source of awe and inspiration! She’s also half of the team behind the Kniting with Company retreats. (Which I sorely hope to attend one of these days!) And if you haven’t listened to her Woolful interview, make sure you check that out, too.

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Do you knit, crochet, weave, spin, dye, sew … ?

Being a fiber addict (with a BA in clothing & textiles), I’ve tried just about everything you can imagine at least once. I didn’t develop the skill until 2008, but knitting is my first love—hands down. I was living in Anchorage, Alaska, transitioning from a being a full-time art director (ad agency) back to freelance work and had recently given birth to my 3rd boy. I needed something selfish. My sister-in-law is a knitter and we scouted out the local yarn shops during a visit she made that summer. I picked up some baby llama and a pair of lovely wooden needles, and proceeded to knit a blanket. The rest is history.

Given my love for thread-weight yarns, I suspect I could easily go down the rabbit hole of weaving.

I also love sewing. For the past few years we’ve had most of our belongings in storage (due to moving and building a new home), including my sewing and overlock machines. I haven’t felt the immediate urge to start any sewing projects, but I suspect I will. My time is limited these days so I stay focused on knitting — and I’m good with that!

Tell us about your tool preferences and peccadilloes.

The needles I love most are my Lantern Moon straight needles in a mix of Rosewood and Ebony. I also have a full range of their circular needles. I absolutely love the feeling of the wood in my hands, but I found my tension wasn’t always perfectly consistent. In my design work gauge is critical, so I began using Addi circular needles instead and have come to rely on them. My favorite are the Rockets which have a wonderfully sharp tip.

Besides needles, my list of essential knitting tools is pretty simple: a swift and ball winder, cable needles and mini crochet hook for repairs (also Lantern Moon), blunt tapestry needles, scissors, tape measure, collarless/bulb pins, metal stitch markers (sourced from Fringe Supply Co.), t-pins, blocking wires and EZ-Sew blocking boards.

Other tools I consider essential in my design process are: sketch books (dot grid and Fashionary are my favorite), fine tip mechanical pencils and pens (.3mm or less are my obsession), Adobe software (I couldn’t live without Illustrator, inDesign, Lightroom, Photoshop), and of course the workhorse that they run on—my iMac. My Nikon and iPhone are also never far from reach.

I’m a minimalist at heart, so if there’s something not in use, it will get donated or given to someone special.

Our Tools, Ourselves: Julie Hoover

How do you store or organize your tools? Or do you?

Uh oh, here’s where I have to confess I’m a total organization neat-freak. Ideally, the more I can put out of sight when not in use, the better. I have a generous storage room downstairs from my studio space where I keep my back stock of patterns, shipping supplies and yarn/fabric stash. In my studio, I keep things in drawers or in bins. My needles are organized in DellaQ cases in natural muslin (and kept in a drawer). I don’t mind having things out and handy as long as they’re neatly arranged on a shelf, in a basket or in various wooden trays that I’ve collected over the years. I can’t stand dust collecting on things and there’s nothing worse (to me) than having to constantly move things out of the way to clean This practice applies to my entire home, not just my work space.

How do you store or organize your works-in-progress?

If I have something on the needles and know I’m not coming straight back to it, I will keep it in a project bag and tucked into a tote bag so I can easily grab it on-the-go. I’m currently using a few favorites: a leather Baggu zipper case and a couple of Ambatalia Bento Bags.

For me, part of “works-in-progress” means swatching, and I have piles of them. I organize them in containers labelled by yarn brand, so I can easily dive in and check on a gauge or reference a particular stitch pattern.

Our Tools, Ourselves: Julie Hoover

Are there any particularly prized possessions amongst your tools?

Hmm, not particularly amongst my knitting tools. I might categorize my Pfaff sewing machine that way, not because it’s unusually special but because of the memories it evokes of living in Germany during the time I purchased it. And I still treasure the Gingher dressmaking shears and tailor’s point scissors I purchased in college, decades ago.

Do you lend your tools?

Not generally, no. I am happy to lend them to someone I trust, but I’m hardly ever asked. I suppose it’s because I don’t do a lot of social knitting, and the people I do knit with are very well-equipped!

What is your favorite place to knit?

Obviously, I spend a lot of time in my home workroom/studio, but I do everything except knit in there. My favorite place to knit is definitely at home, and preferably when I’m home alone!

If I can tune out everything and everyone, I’m most happy and productive. I have two places where I usually camp out for knitting. One is in my living room in a chair by the windows (also happens to be close to the fireplace). That room is a big open-concept living/dining/kitchen area and is surrounded with floor to ceiling windows. I love the open/airy feeling of being in that part of my house, especially when I have it to myself. You can be sure I have music coming through the speakers, too. The other place I often find myself knitting (usually late in the evening or a lazy weekend day) is my bedroom, which is located next to my studio. I have a chair in that room as well, but I’m more likely to stretch my legs out on the bed. My dog Amando likes it when I choose that spot as well.

Our Tools, Ourselves: Julie Hoover

What effect do the seasons have on you?

I’m definitely a four-season person. I love each one almost equally, and thankfully living in Michigan gives me the best of all of them. If I had to choose a favorite season (the one I most look forward to), it would be Autumn.

There’s no season that keeps me away from working with wool, which is a good thing because the busiest production time is during the summer months, preparing for Fall and Winter publications.

Do you have a dark secret, guilty pleasure or odd quirk, where your fiber pursuits are concerned?

That’s a great question, and I wish I had a scandalous answer!

I do have a serious guilty pleasure for linen fabric. Aside from just collecting yards of it off the bolt, I have a ridiculous amount of vintage linens (sheets, table cloths, giant napkins) I collected from flea markets around Europe during the years we lived in Germany. I would get up at 3am and drive many hours to scour around, and I was rewarded with the most beautifully crafted linens you can imagine … hand-hemstitching, hand-monogramming, etc. For the most part, I don’t often use them — I just love having them.

Quirkiness comes with the territory, and I don’t know if this counts as odd, but after I knit a few rows/rounds, I can’t resist stopping and feeling the fabric with my fingers. (I can’t imagine I’m the only one who “pets” their fabric!) The other thing I’m very particular and methodical about (quirky or not) is wet-blocking my projects. I let pieces soak forever and use blocking wires on every single edge/corner possible. I treat my swatches in the same way. No short cuts.

What are you working on right now?

The “actively knitting” list isn’t too long at the moment. Currently on my needles is a second sample I’m knitting of my Cohle turtleneck in Shibui Pebble. A few of my Instagram followers are doing a very low-pressure #CohleKAL with me, and anyone reading is welcome to join in. Also on my needles is a design I’m working on using mYak. I should have two patterns in that yarn (100% baby yak heaven) ready for publishing by March.

Lots of other things are in progress, in different phases. I’m hoping to self publish 3-4 designs in Shibui yarns around TNNA [the trade show in June]. There’s plans for some Woolfolk and another yarn brand (not at liberty to say just yet) I’m going to dive into, and of course my Brooklyn Tweed designs are always high on the list, as well!

Our Tools, Ourselves: Julie Hoover

PREVIOUSLY in Our Tools, Ourselves: Victoria Pemberton

Photos © Julie Hoover

Best new hat patterns

Best new hat patterns

There have been so many outstanding hat patterns published in the last few months, I thought it was time to highlight my favorites. I’m crazy about all of these:

1. Fractals Hat by Olga Buraya-Kefelian — striking geometry and a great crown

2. Hickory Cap by Veronik Avery — great pillbox shape, clever construction

3. Boyfriend Hat from the Purl Bee — a total classic (free pattern)

4. Magnolia beanie by Maria Socha — simple lace-stitch chart, fantastic crown (free pattern)

5. Wissahickon beanie by Meghan Kelly — top-down and all about the crown

6. Garter Ear Flap Hat by Purl Bee — sized for the whole family (free pattern)

7. Walsh head scarf by Julie Hoover — I want it as is and also at kerchief or shawl size

8. Lara’s Hat by Susan Ashcroft — previously mentioned, now available (free pattern)

9. Muckle Toque by Mary Jane Mucklestone — the hat version of her great Muckle Mitts

10. Quadrifurcus beanie by Rililie — great woven texture and shaped back/ribbing

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SHOP NOTE: So pleased to report that the sold-out buttons have been restocked!

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MORE GREAT HATS: A hat for every head / Beautifully textured hats / All star crowns

New Favorites: Ebony and ivory

New Favorites: Ebony and ivory knitting patterns

There have been two new knitting pattern photos this week that have made my eyes widen and my mouth fall open. Both happen to be near-black and off-white, which is a combo I find irresistible. And in both cases, used to exquisite effect. First came Joelle’s Diagonal Pinstripe Scarf, a simple garter-stitch scarf (free pattern at the Purl Bee) knit on the diagonal with randomly placed single-row stripes, which creates a sort of ticking effect due to the garter stitch. Or as she says, “in Heirloom White with fine lines of Dark Loam, the effect is like a graphite drawing on cotton rag paper, loose and mysterious.” Then came Michele Wang’s Alloy, part of the latest Brooklyn Tweed collection, BT Winter 14. It’s classic Michele — an impeccable set-in-sleeve pullover with contrasting textures — but in this case she’s added color-blocked panels in the sleeves and sides. Had it been knitted in anything other than Fossil and Cast Iron, it wouldn’t have been the same. As is? Want.

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By the way, I know there are several of you who’ve been studying my Pullovers for First-Timers post, trying to decide what you want your first sweater to be. If you’re leaning toward a drop-sleeve pattern (i.e, no sleeve-cap or armscye shaping) there are two great options in that new BT collection: Abbott by Michele Wang and Benton by Julie Hoover. Both manage the proportions well.

Pullovers for first-timers: Or, an introduction to sweater construction

Idlewild blueprint

I’ve been promising this post on sweater patterns for beginners — or first-time sweater knitters at any level — for quite awhile, and it’s turned out to be a bit of a monster! But let’s get one thing clear right up front: There is nothing intrinsically hard about knitting a sweater. Don’t let the size of this post scare you! As I’ve said before, if you can knit a mitt, you can knit a sweater. Depending on the type of sweater, it may involve some combination of increases/decreases, casting on or binding off stitches mid-stream, picking up stitches, possibly even some short rows — some or all of which you’ve most likely done by the time you’re thinking about a sweater. It’s just knitting. But given the potential investment of time and yarn money, a sweater represents a bit of a mental hurdle for lots of knitters. I’ve met people who’ve been knitting for decades, who have all kinds of fancy knitting skills, but who’ve never felt confident about knitting a sweater.

I feel like in addition to the time and money, another hesitation for people is just not knowing how sweaters are made — what it is you’re signing up for. It’s less daunting to dive into a pair of fingerless mitts, say, without really knowing what it will entail. Embarking on something as big as a sweater when the process is a mystery can be doubly daunting. So this post is a set of patterns I think are good starter patterns, but which also provide an overview of the four or five most common* ways a pullover is constructed — along with some pros and cons for each — to help you decide which might be the best place for you personally to start. (Coincidentally, Hannah Fettig and Pam Allen just did a podcast on basic sweater types at knit.fm, so I’d suggest listening to that for their thoughts as well.)

NOTE: Since everyone’s skills are different, I’m suggesting one basic/beginner pattern for each construction type, along with more ambitious alternatives. If you’re perfectly comfortable with cables, lace, colorwork, or whatever, there’s no reason your first sweater has to be plain stockinette. But if you’re newer to knitting and doing your first sweater, you might want to keep it simple in that regard.

OK, here we go:

Drop-shoulder and dolman sweater knitting patterns for first-timers

DROP-SHOULDER AND DOLMAN SWEATERS

suggested pattern:
My First Summer Tunic — not pictured, but see this Knit the Look for more on this one (free pattern)

or if you’re feeling more ambitious:
Relax by Ririko — a bit of a hybrid with some eyelet interest
Idlewild by Julie Hoover — dolman with cables and shaping (see blueprint above)
Mix No. 13 by AnneLena Mattison — drop-shoulder with allover lace

The trickiest part of sweater design and construction is the “armscye” — the shaping of the joint where the sleeve meets the body. Drop-shoulder sweaters avoid the issue altogether by consisting simply of four rectangles (front, back and two sleeves) sewn together, with the body pieces being wide enough that the sleeves can just be a pair of tubes stuck on at the opening. Dolman-sleeve sweaters, similarly, are basically two big T shapes, one front and one back, seamed together, with an opening for the neck. Both are necessarily oversized to account for the lack of a sleeve cap.

pros: No armhole shaping to worry about; anyone who can knit a rectangle can knit four
cons: Drop-shoulder won’t really teach you any new skills (other than mattress stitch) or anything about true sweater construction

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Top-down sweater knitting patterns for first-timers

TOP-DOWN SEAMLESS SWEATERS

suggested pattern:
Ladies Classic Raglan by Jane Richmond — ultra-basic top-down raglan

or if you’re feeling more ambitious:
Basic Round-Yoke Unisex by Hannah Fettig — or even the colorwork version, Willard Fair Isle
Portside by Alicia Plummer — boatneck tunic shape with pockets

With top-down, your cast-on edge is your neckline. You knit the yoke in the round, shaping it via increases, and it can be raglan, round-yoked, saddle-shoulder, or a simulation of a set-in sleeve. Once the yoke has reached your desired armhole depth, you set aside the sleeve stitches on waste yarn, join the back and front in the round and keep knitting the body downward from there. Then you put those sleeve stitches back on the needle and knit each of the sleeves in the round. So you literally knit the entire sweater in one piece, seamlessly. (For step-by-step photos illustrating the process, see the Ravelry page for my top-down-tutorial sweater.)

Sweaters knit in the round — whether top-down or bottom-up — have their detractors. But I consider them the gateway to sweater knitting. With top-down, you can literally try on your sweater as you go, giving you absolute control over the fit. Whether you’re knitting from a pattern or making it up, you’ll find lots of information about how it works — and how sweater shaping works in general — in my top-down tutorial. Understanding the basic concepts will allow you to modify any pattern to fit your particular shape.

pros: No seaming; lots of control over the fit
cons: None of the structural support that seams provide (less durable); with certain yarns, the sweater may twist on you over time, having been knitted in a spiral, which is what “in the round” technically is; less portable; the one big piece may feel more cumbersome to work on as it grows into a sweater.

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Bottom-up sweater patterns for first-timers

BOTTOM-UP SWEATERS

suggested pattern:
Sweatshirt Sweater by Purl Bee — with or without the kangaroo pocket (free pattern)

or if you’re feeling more ambitious:
Bedford by Michele Wang — simple cables on the body only
Stasis by Leila Raabe — colorwork and a round yoke

Seamless pullovers can also be worked from the bottom up. In this case you knit three tubes starting at the hem: the body plus two sleeves. When all three of those pieces reach armhole height, they’re joined together on a single long needle, and the yoke is worked seamlessly upward from that point, shaped by decreases. It can be raglan, round-yoked or saddle-shouldered.

There’s also a hybrid category of bottom-up sweaters, where the body and sleeves are each worked and shaped separately all the way to the top, then seamed together at the arm joint, which can be either a raglan or a set-in sleeve.

pros: Can be seamless; the three separate pieces are relatively portable, and sleeves are always a nice place to start
cons: If seamless, same cons as for top-down, above; not as much control over the outcome as with top-down; no way to try it on until the body and arms are joined, so adjusting the length requires ripping back/un-joining.

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Seamed sweater patterns for first-timers

CLASSIC SEAMED SWEATERS

suggested pattern:
Breton by Jared Flood (with or without the stripes)

or if you’re feeling more ambitious:
Redford by Julie Hoover — unisex! sweatshirt detailing, including side panels
Belesama by Michele Wang — ribbing plus textured-stitch panels on front and back

There have been sweaters for centuries longer than there have been circular needles, so traditionally sweaters were knitted in flat pieces** — just like you cut pattern pieces when sewing a garment — and seamed together with mattress stitch. Lots of people hate (or think they hate) the act of seaming. But I believe people’s increasing preference for seamless sweaters is as much to do with the control issue as with the actual seaming. I could be wrong, who knows. A seamed sweater typically has set-in sleeves, but can also be raglan or saddle-shouldered. With thoughtful shaping, a seamless sweater can actually be sculpted to fit a three-dimensional body, but the conventional wisdom (and the reality of most patterns) is that a set-in-sleeve sweater will conform to the human shape better than, say, a raglan. Obviously, there’s a lot of room for nuance and debate there.

In some cases, the sleeves of seamed sweaters are worked in the round up to the armhole, then the sleeve cap (the upper part of the sleeve) is worked flat. That eliminates the need to seam the arms.

pros: long-lasting, as seams provide structural support; pieces are portable; no painfully long rows/rounds to knit; a long history of published patterns to draw on
cons: you don’t know how you did until you seam it all together

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Whichever type of sweater you start with, fit is always a concern. Nobody wants to spend a month or more making a sweater, only to have it not fit in the end. So taking measurements — of your body and also a garment that fits the way you like — is critical. Any good pattern will include a schematic, detailing the finished measurements of the sweater. (Which presumes your gauge is the same as that listed on the pattern. If your stitches are larger or smaller, your sweater will be larger or smaller.) Picking the right size is the first step toward a successful outcome.

Questions? Disputes? Let’s talk about it—

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*There are infinitely more than four ways to construct a sweater but we’re sticking with the basics here!
**I’m being corrected on this in the comments. Read on for further info

Scarves to start now

Scarf patterns to start knitting now!

So about that growing scarf obsession. I’m not talking about any skimpy little rectangles to flick around your neck; I’m talking about big, dramatic, shoulder-hugging scarves, bordering on “wraps” or “stoles.” Scarves that involve some serious knitting. So whether you want to be wearing one this fall or are thinking about knitting a few for the holidays, these are scarves to start now!

1. Wheaten by Anne Hanson, exquisite cables and lace (See also: Topiary and Afton)

2. Nathalie by Val LNU*, simple and effective rib-and-seed-stitch combo  (free pattern)

3. Kirkwood by Julie Hoover, love those classic cables

4. Doux by Julie Hoover, luscious yarn combo and lovely textured stitch**

5. Falmouth by Alicia Plummer, on-trend chevrons (and there’s a matching hat)

6. Isla by Carrie Bostick Hoge, good old knits and purls, even better with another repeat or two each direction

7. February by Beth Weaver, pure cable beauty with tallllll ribbed ends

8. Vermeil by Wencke Lucas, my life won’t be complete until I cast on this crazy stitch combo (in Pom Pom 6)**

9. Caribou by Pam Allen, curvaceous grid of welts (maybe?) and ribs

10. Snowflake by Joelle Hoverson, bulky with allover texture, this is probably the quickest knit on the list (free pattern)

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*LNU: That’s cop-speak for Last Name Unknown. Don’t ask me how I know.

**I know, I know, I’ve featured these two before, but this list wouldn’t have been right without them.

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Knit the Look: Elin Kling’s little black turtleneck

how to knit Elin Kling's little black turtleneck

Apart from being an irredeemable minimalist, I’m a great lover of sweaters paired with lighter-weight clothes and some bare skin. It’s one of my favorite things about living in the Bay Area: We get to do that all year. Elsewhere, of course, this is what’s known as transitional dressing. All of which means I’m obviously gonna love Elin Kling’s minimalist, trans-season ensemble of a little black turtleneck sweater with Audrey-style trousers and flats. Of course, a little black turtleneck (LBT, anyone?), being a timeless wardrobe staple, isn’t generally expensive or hard to come by in stores, but by knitting your own you can customize the fit and use whatever fiber you like. I’d suggest a pattern that has a tiny bit more interest (both in the knitting and the wearing) such as Julie Hoover’s Hudson, which you could knit in anything from the hardworking Brooklyn Tweed Shelter in Cast Iron to the luxe Jade Sapphire Mongolian Cashmere in La Nuit.

See Vanessa’s recommendations for the rest of the outfit.

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Street style photo © Vanessa Jackman; used with permission