May 8, 2015
by Emma
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Let Them Knit Cake

At the end of April I released Let Them Knit Cake, a Marie Antoinette inspired pattern collection as part of the Malabrigo Freelance Pattern Project!

coverFrom the introduction of the ebook:

“Let Them Knit Cake is a pattern collection exploring the intersection of history and fashion viewed through my personal lens as a knitwear designer, a source of inspiration I’ve begun to explore recently. Here I turn my focus to Marie Antoinette, the iconic French queen who is remembered by the public at large for her beauty, glamorous style and perceived superficiality. I’ve interpreted rococo fashion for the modern knitter by examining portraits of Marie in addition to reading accounts of her sartorial choices.

The phrase “let them eat cake” has been falsely attributed to Marie; while an agreed upon fallacy in the academic community, pop culture holds tight to the wrongful association regardless. So as a historian-cum-knitting designer, why not use it as the basis for this collection’s title? I wanted to play upon our familiarity of the phrase and make a reference to the usage of the terms ‘cake’ and ‘frosting’ in the sewing community. ‘Cake’ refers to basic foundation garments in one’s wardrobe (plain tanks, versatile jeans), and ‘frosting’ means fun, maybe frivolous clothing (party dresses, maribou trimmed nighties). The four pieces shown in this collection appear to be frosting on the surface—due in no small part to the saturated and exhilarating colors of Malabrigo Yarn—but I hope that they will take the place of cake in your handknit wardrobe, as essential pieces you wear day after day.”

Let’s take a closer look at each piece, shall we?

DSC01018The Polonaise Cardigan, shown in Malabrigo Silky Merino in size 36″, is knitted bottom up in one piece starting with a wee lace hem. No shaping in the body, but a small pleat on the upper back (in addition to armhole shaping) helps narrow the silhouette through the bust. I worked the bow with a combination of intarsia and stranded knitting, but you could easily work the whole bow in one color with intarsia, and use duplicate stitch to add the ‘shadow’ accents instead of stranding that color. After the body is complete, stitches are picked up around the armholes to work short row sleeve caps, and the neckline is finished with an I-cord edging.

DSC00924The Coronation Tank, shown in Malabrigo Arroyo in size 34″, is also worked from the bottom up in one piece. Large cables gradually shift from the center of the tank to the outer edges following princess seam lines as the stockinette center of the front expands. Waist shaping takes place on the back of the tank creating subtle corset lines, and a smaller cable detail decorates the chest. I love the versatility of tanks that can be layered as vests in the fall and winter, which is why I showed it here over a blouse.

DSC01067The Fargeon Mitts, shown in Malabrigo Silky Merino in size S, are quick mitts that you can easily make using the leftovers from your Polonaise Cardigan. Knit from the bottom edge up, they feature a ruffled edging that transitions into a wide ribbed pattern and a thumb gusset.

DSC01097The Dauphine’s Stockings, shown in Malabrigo Sock in size M, are knit toe-up with a short row heel. The lace pattern on the tops of the feet continues up the shin and repeats on the back of the leg, but grows to accommodate leaf motifs for the calf shaping.

Since the goal of the collection was to do ‘modern Marie Antoinette’ and not ‘recreation-level authentic costumes’ I made sure to style them with modern clothing, though with a few nods to the original inspiration. Those shoes, for example–exactly what I had in mind and I nabbed them at the Salvation Army! What do you think? Would you be able to work these pieces into your current style?

You can find the patterns on Ravelry by following the links throughout this post. The Polonaise Cardigan and Coronation Tank are available for $7 each, the Fargeon Mitts and The Dauphine’s Stockings for $5 each, and the ebook is available for $18.

April 23, 2015
by Emma
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Momo’s Amazing Modifications

Momo is a fantastic knitter with a droolworthy project page on Ravelry. She tackles difficult colorwork projects quickly with ease, has great color sense and almost always uses fabulous hand-dyed yarn. I was beyond thrilled to see how she creatively translated the charts from Elektrocute into a full pullover!

16690603128_a0ceb06268_zAll photos by Momo

In addition to expanding the charts to fit the length of the sweater, Momo made the background a gradient progression of grays which I think would look great in the cowl too! According to her project page notes, the pullover is top-down, uses the contiguous sleeve method and the zipper facing is steeked.

16878199865_62b5ca3704_zSuper creative–thank you for letting me share this, Momo!

If you love a colorwork chart but don’t like the item it’s intended for, why not modify? A cowl chart can be turned into a full sweater, a mitten motif can become the motif of a circular yoke cardigan, or a full sweater chart can be scaled down to a hat if you are dipping your toes into stranded knitting and want to test out a smaller project first. Knitting is full of limitless possibilities if you are open to making modifications and coming up with creative solutions to get the projects you want. Go forth and modify!

April 1, 2015
by Emma
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Welcome Spring (and Galicia!)

Back in January Manos del Uruguay released their spring line of patterns. I contributed Galicia, a lightweight pullover, but it just felt wrong to taunt you with warm-weather goodness while still embroiled in the depths of winter! Well, the snow is (mostly) melted ’round these parts and I feel like it’s finally time to turn our knitting attentions to greener pastures.

galiciaDressmaker’s photos by Fairmount Fibers Ltd

Galicia is knit in Serena, a really nice alpaca and cotton blend which is smooth, drapey, and just perfect for lighterweight garments. I decided to try out a new construction method that I’ve knit before on personal garments but not designed in until now. You start by working the upper back flat from the neck down to the armholes, then those stitches are set aside and the front shoulders are picked up from your cast on edge so you can work the chest from the neckline down to the armholes. From there, the halves are joined and the body is worked downwards in the round. Stitches for the sleeves are picked up to work a short row sleeve cap before continuing knitting them downwards in the round. In a nutshell: seamless, knit flat AND in the round, and lots of fun!

Just like the Holla Back Tank (how I’ve come full circle!), the back steals the show here with a lace panel and garter stitch upper back section. The front has a slight A-line shape thanks to evenly placed increases, to keep the fit breezy and relaxing. Here you can see a close-up shot of the front in the official pattern photos, and a casual one of me that shows how it looks on a person.

galicia collage

I think it would look great in Natural paired with denim or patterned shorts, or maybe Green Tea–one of my favorite Serena shades! A short sleeved or sleeveless version would also be killer for the intrepid modders among us. Any which way they turn out, I can’t wait to see more versions popping up.

March 18, 2015
by Emma
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Stash Stats

One of the fun things about being part of the knitting community on Instagram are the Instagram equivalents of ‘chain letters’, so to speak, where one person tags others to share a particular type of photo or factoid about themselves. Yesterday I was tagged by fellow designer Andrea Rangel to share what color dominates my stash and I admit, I wasn’t sure going off of just memory! I decided to cure my curiosity and take some time to reorganize my stash, which has been on my to-do list for awhile. I started with the konmari method of emptying all of the possessions in question (yarn) out on the floor so you can see them in their glory–and maybe so you can be shamed by how much you actually have? Whatever works!

Then I got inspired and arranged my stash by color:

rainbow stash

ALL THE PRETTIES! This photo (and the corresponding data in the rest of the post) includes my unused stash and any mostly-full balls I intend to keep. There is a whole pile not shown of yarn I am destashing and leftover bits I am tossing out. Remember: I am coming up on 5 years of being an employee at the largest yarn store in America, so not only do I have access to a lot of yarn I also have a sweet employee discount. Sowwy! I would estimate that I paid full retail price for less than 10% of this, what with that awesome discount plus there is some free yarn support for upcoming designs in there. (Design yarn gets stored in a separate bag but joined the rest for this photo!)

I’m not really a stats person but I decided to play around with some numbers after seeing my stash laid out like this. Here are two ways to process that picture: stash by color and stash by weight! For both I counted individual skeins, not by potential project.

Stash by Color ChartGreen is my favorite color so no surprise that it takes the top spot with 21%! Grey is next with 14%, followed funnily enough by natural and pink at 12%–both colors which I like but don’t particularly feel are favorites of mine. If you asked me what my favorite colors are, after saying ‘almost everything’ I would settle on green, yellow and orange. Yellow is in the middle of the pack at 9% and shockingly….no orange yarn! Though I do already have an orange sweater, I guess it filled my orange yarn urges well enough that I didn’t buy anymore. (And I have an orange purse.) I’m not surprised at blues, purples and reds making up the bottom of the pack since I don’t feel a strong attachment to any of those colors. Seeing as there is no clear majority (I don’t even have a color with 30% or more hogging my stash) it’s obvious from this photo that I am rainbow-friendly. I feel this is an accurate representation of my openness to colors in my yarn stash and by extension, in my personal wardrobe!

Stash by Weight ChartSorting my stash by weight surprised me more than the colors did. While I’m not surprised that worsted holds the majority share at 34%, I’m surprised to see fingering come in at second place with 27%. I am not a huge shawl or sock knitter, though I do like knitting and designing both. When examining the fingering weight pile more closely, however, a trend emerges–I stash sweater quantities of fingering weight faster than I design/knit fingering weight sweaters. Oops. Guess I gotta get on that for 2015! I feel like I knit with DK weight a lot but quite possibly I wound up using all the yarn for those projects, or they were for outside publications in which case I don’t get to keep any leftovers. I have two sweater quantities of bulky weight which drives that up to 13%, and since I rarely use laceweight I’m not at all shocked that comes in last place with a measly 5%.

What does all this mean? Well, odds are that if you reach into my stash at random you are most likely to pull out green, fingering weight or worsted weight yarn! Aside from that….I have too much yarn! Keep an eye on my Ravelry destash page this week if you want a chance to get a piece of this pie.

February 26, 2015
by Emma
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Playing with Color: Stripe Quartet

Let’s dive into another color-driven design, shall we? Stripe Quartet is a great simple, stripey cardigan using Baah Aspen. Mira (of Baah) and I picked out the colors together at TNNA last May and it was wonderful that we had similar thoughts. I’m super pumped she let me throw that orange in there because I love orange!

There are two ways to approach a project like this, in my opinion. First is to use two neutrals and two color pops, which is what I did with my sample using two greys, hot pink and orange. There aren’t many neutrals currently in the Aspen color line, so let’s pick out a few different color pops that could be subbed in using the same greys as I did, Shadow and Grey Onyx.

coralreef sirenaClockwise: Shadow, Coral Reef, Grey Onyx, Sirena

I’m really digging that Coral Reef color! But how does it look with other ‘pop’ colors?

coralreef pecheClockwise: Shadow, Coral Reef, Grey Onyx, Peche

coralreef fuchsiaClockwise: Shadow, Coral Reef, Grey Onyx, Fuchsia

Sirena and Fuchsia are the more startling/weird color combinations with the Coral Reef but come on, I like weird! If you’re going to do a four-color striped sweater I say have fun with it and go outside your comfort zone. :) Peche and Coral Reef is a tonal, more muted version of the original sample. Each of these combinations has a mix of warm and cool colors, which I think is important to consider when knitting multi-color designs. (Shadow, Grey Onyx and Sirena: Cool; Coral Reef and Peche: Warm; Fuchsia: Debateable.)

Another way to approach this project is by picking 4 shades in the same color family for a more gradient effect with less contrast. This option is dependent on your yarn of choice having lots of colors in the color family of your choice, and Aspen is somewhat limited here–you can’t do an all-yellow Stripe Quartet, but not many dyers offer a multitude of yellows anyway!

bluetopaz sirena navy skyClockwise: Blue Topaz, Sirena, Navy, Sky

These four blues create a balanced pairing since the top row features warmer blues with turquoise/teal influences and the bottom two colors are straight blues, almost a little greyed out. A great example of warm/cool mix while staying in one color family.

amethyst fuchsia aubergine violetClockwise: Amethyst, Fuchsia, Aubergine, Violet

Another beautiful and subtle palette that combines warm and cool purples of all hues!

Which way do you prefer your stripes–funky and off-beat or tonally united?

February 4, 2015
by Emma
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Playing with Color: Gilt Sweater

One of my favorite things to do in my part-time gig as LYS employee is to help customers pick out color combinations for multicolor projects. I feel like I have good color sense and my coworkers ask for my opinion on colors which helps reinforce this idea, even if it is all in my head! I tend to go by instinct and don’t follow a strict set of rules, though I do keep the varying values of the colors in mind when picking 3 or more for a project. Since I love color, a good number of my designs feature multiple colors and as far as I’m concerned, the quirkier the better! I know a lot of people don’t trust their color sense or can have a hard time envisioning a design in other colors, so I thought I’d introduce a mini series on playing with color. Each post will examine a colorful design of mine and I’ll showcase some other potential color combinations that I think would work along with tips on how to approach choosing colors for that particular project.

Up first is the Gilt Sweater! Since this design relies heavily on an ombre effect, you really need to pick two yarns that are closely related in order to duplicate this same effect. If you always order your yarns online, this can be really hard to do! I would suggest picking out several possible color combinations and then looking at other people’s projects on Ravelry in those colors to see how the color reads across multiple cameras and lighting situations. I definitely suggest using a hand-dyed yarn to enhance the color blending, which also means that you have variation across dyelots to contend with. If at all possible, I’d visit a LYS or two and check out colors in person to find the best combination.

Let’s take a look at Malabrigo Lace, the yarn called for in the pattern. Malabrigo arranges their colors by family, which really helps in choosing for this project since all the blues are next to each other, the yellows in a separate section, etc. Take a look at the blues.

blues

Often you’ll see a perfect combo right next to each other, like Blue Surf & Jewel Blue, Bobby Blue & Tuareg or Tuareg & Azul Profundo (for a darker usage of Tuareg). Other times you’ll want to mentally rearrange the colors to find a better pairing, but you can also do so in a computer program like Photoshop or Paint if you’re having trouble seeing the two together. Stone Blue & Paris Night are separated on the website and look great together!

stoneblue parisnightStone Blue & Paris Night

Try identifying the primary hue in a color that draws your eye, and then look for a lighter or darker version of a color that carries the same hue. IE, if you’re attracted to blues that lean green/almost teal, look for another blue that contains green rather than a purpley blue.

Here is a rainbow of color combinations for a rainbow of Gilt Sweaters!

apricot tigerlilyApricot & Tiger Lily

cactusflower mollyCactus Flower & Molly

verdeesperanza cypressVerde Esperanza & Cypress

jacinto purplemysteryJacinto & Purple Mystery

cognac marronoscuroCognac & Marron Oscuro

Notice that I chose the semi-solid, less crazy colors of Malabrigo. While I think you could successfully make a Gilt Sweater using a more variegated colorway and a coordinating semi-solid, it will be harder to pull off (especially without buying the yarn in person) and the end result will likely be a different looking sweater. That’s ok! Just be aware of what look you are creating and swatch heavily, especially if you are trying to avoid an obvious transition line between colors.

Now go out there and show me some fabulous ombre color combinations of your own!

January 31, 2015
by Emma
4 Comments

An Open Letter to the Fiber Factor

Dear Fiber Factor,

I was very excited to hear that you were coming back for a second season. I wanted to apply for the first season, but at the time was in the process of interviews for an exciting job (that didn’t pan out, as luck would have it) and didn’t want to risk the two events colliding. The second season is coming at a perfect time for my career, I thought. I am a better designer now. I can work faster. I have worked within specific frameworks to satisfy clients (yarn companies) which would serve as valuable practice for the challenges. So I waited, and I refreshed your website multiple times on multiple days until the official rules for Season 2 were posted.

Unfortunately, the new Fiber Factor is no longer advantageous to an indie designer. I realize that you are in this to make money (as Skacel), and you needed to adjust the process to create more revenue for yourself. It’s a business and I get that. But I am also in business and I need contracts that respect my needs and my ability to make money. I saw that you responded to one knitter on Twitter who expressed dissent and asked her what she thought the contract for the winner should include. This is my perspective as a designer.

I think putting the challenge patterns on Ravelry is a great, fresh idea that helps the designers get more attention for their participation in the competition and helps you by catering to the wishes of the viewers. However, I feel that you have greatly underestimated and undervalued the time and effort it takes to prepare a pattern for purchase. Writing and grading a pattern alone takes hours, and that’s before the knitting even starts. Then of course, you are requiring financial investment on the part of the designer by requesting that the contestants cover the costs of tech editing and photography (unless the contestant is already a skilled photographer and can photograph their own work, but not all of us are so lucky.) Tech editing and good photography are essential investments that drive pattern sales and help preserve a designer’s reputation for quality patterns, so it’s best not to skimp here. If you’re not the one person to win $500 per challenge, you might be able to win $100 but depending on the rates one receives from their editor and photographer, that $100 might not result in any profit for the designer after those expenses. And we are doing this all for 20% of sales for the majority of 18 months? The only arrangement I currently know of where a designer agrees to 20% of sales is one of the digital revenue options with Interweave–and the designer has already received a flat fee for first publication rights AND can sell the pattern themselves at the same time as they receive the 20% of sales made through Interweave’s digital store.

The grand prize for the winner of the competition is a $10,000 design contract which sounds generous until it’s broken down. $500 per design, for 20 designs to be completed in 20 months. Now I have little issue with the first half of that statement, since $500 per design is in line with current fees for garment first publication rights and is more than is usually paid for accessories. (Though I assume you are keeping all rights in perpetuity, which is a slightly different game and thus worth more.) 20 designs in 20 months…is almost laughable and a little insulting. If I was able to work at that rate, I would probably already being doing so for myself wherein I keep 100% of the profits. Many of us are indie designers because we WANT to be indie! I’m not interested in working at that pace which is why I work for myself and not someone else. That timeline may be the norm for yarn companies’ in-house designers, but those individuals are getting paid a full salary with benefits in return for producing large quantities of designs in a condensed timeline. $10,000 doesn’t wind up staying $10,000 after self-employment taxes are paid, after all. Assuming the designer knits all of the 20 design samples themselves, they likely won’t have much time to focus on producing for their own business in this time period. The alternate option is to hire sample knitters which cuts further into that $10,000.

Essentially, the competitors (and then the winner) will be putting their personal businesses on the backburner to enter this competition. Do you think your terms are worth that sacrifice? 9 months is a long period of time to not produce work; 29 months is even longer. The promise of exposure alone has no proven financial value, whereas indie designers have noted multiple times that more designs=more sales, new releases=more sales (of the new release and older work.) I can’t imagine that seasoned indie designers–the type of talent you want in your competition, the type of talent that already has fans, an Internet presence and can create amazing designs–will be interested to enter. How many of the Season 1 contestants would be willing to accept these terms? I’d be interested to find out, wouldn’t you?

Fiber Factor, I hope you can take this as constructive criticism and maybe think about how you can improve this season to make it equitable for all: designers, viewers and yourself. I trust that a better balance can be reached.

Respectfully,

Emma

December 27, 2014
by Emma
0 comments

Golden

The Spring 2015 issue of Knitscene will be out shortly and I have two contributions this time around. One is a fun article about warm-weather knitting projects and the other is the Gilt Sweater.

Gilt-Sweater_medium2All photos by Knitscene/Harper Point Photography

This was sparked by the ‘golden’ color story on the mood boards. As I’ve mentioned before, sometimes I have ideas that just come to me rather than being drawn from specific photos or references and this sweater was one of those lightbulb ideas. I wanted to create a relaxed layering sweater, a transitional piece that was cozy like a sweatshirt but a little more refined. Hence my working title–Luxe$hirt! I think I said to Amy in my proposal that ‘the $ is like Ke$ha’, ha. It also explains my seemingly random designer blurb at the end of the pattern. I’ve been having fun with writing those lately, and I at least laugh at myself even if no one else finds them funny!

comboThe most striking part about the sweater is the gradient color transition, made possible by two gorgeous colors of Malabrigo Lace held double. The bottom is two strands of Color A, the middle is one strand each of Color A & Color B, and the yoke is two strands of Color B. It created a super luxurious fabric that’s warm without being heavy–like a golden cloud! Extra deep ribbing on the sleeves, a boxy cropped fit and the raglan sleeves are all meant to keep it casual and sweatshirt-like. The small lace detail at the collar is supposed to mimic old school sweatshirts with the triangle insert at the neckline.

Knitscene-Spring-2015-Golden-0068_medium2The styling and setting for these photos is super cute and I couldn’t be happier!

November 20, 2014
by Emma
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Cats Cats Cats

As promised, the second sweater from the caboose photo shoot: Cables ‘n Cats!

IMG_1215 (2)smPhotos by Lindsey Topham

This sweater has no particular inspiration, which is how I work sometimes. I was playing around with juxtaposing various cable and texture patterns together and fell upon this combination which I really liked. It’s a classic, simple shape overall but very flattering thanks to the waist shaping and the large cables which sit at a princess seam orientation. And then you turn around to reveal….cat buttons!

IMG_1353smestThe sleeve cuffs are also buttoned and each button features a different kitty! I love this style of buttons–I used them in my Brooklyn Bridge Mitts, and I have robot buttons in my stash waiting for the perfect sweater.

blogThe construction is a little interesting towards the end, but nothing crazy complicated. The body is worked in the round until the armholes, then the sleeves are worked separately (also in the round) and joined together with the body to work the yoke in one piece….at first! Once stitches are bound off at the center back for the button placket, the yoke is worked back and forth in rows. Then as the neckline shaping begins, you work back and forth on one side of the body at a time (going from the front neck across the shoulder to the center back.)

You can snag Cables ‘n Cats on Ravelry now for $7.00.

November 13, 2014
by Emma
0 comments

Let’s Get Stripey

I recently released a new cardigan pattern….and never posted about it here. Oops! In case you missed it on Ravelry, this is Stripe Quartet!

IMG_1598smallestAll photos by Lindsey Topham

Knit in four colors of the gorgeous Baah Aspen, Stripe Quartet is a top-down raglan cardigan that lets the stripes take center stage. There are a few special touches, like eyelet raglan increases and a curved hem finished with an I-cord bind off.

blog

I was super excited to finally use this location! I am constantly making note of potential photoshoot locations and I had mentally bookmarked this one ages ago. These amazing blue cabooses reside just behind Green Valley Produce, a farm stand in Deerfield, MA. The owner Jon was nice enough to allow us to shoot there and I have another sweater coming soon that we took photos of here as well.

I’m a huge fan of orange and pairing it with hot pink and greys was a dream color palette for me. What quartet of colors would you get stripey with?