July 30, 2015
by Emma

Playing with Color: Polonaise Cardigan

Welcome to another edition of Playing with Color! Today we’ll take a look at the Polonaise Cardigan. Let’s just start by saying TGFM–thank god for Malabrigo! Or actually, thank god for Malabrigo’s well-designed website that often puts perfect color combinations right next to each other. I mean, check out the page for Silky Merino. Hnnnngggghhh!

DSC01020Photo by Kate Broderick

You’ll need to pick three colors for this baby: one main color, and two coordinating colors for the bow detail. The idea is to pick two similar shades for the bow, one light and one dark, to be the body of the bow and its shadows. This is another occasion where shopping in-person is SO helpful. Failing that, if you can somehow get your hands on a Malabrigo color card or if you know someone with an extensive Silky Merino stash who can provide input, you’ll be much better served than going in blindly and guessing.

I used Spring Water for the MC and Tatami/Topaz for the bow, as I was going for a cloth-of-gold bow look and thought the Spring Water would provide nice contrast. Here are some other fun suggestions! The first color on the left is the body color and the other two would be the bow colors.

capecodgrey camote coralCape Cod Grey, Camote & Coral for a fresh, modern take

pollen raspberry jupiterPollen, Raspberry & Jupiter for an unexpected hint of sweetness

wisteria acorn redwoodbarkWisteria, Acorn & Redwood Bark for the sophisticate’s closet

Do any of these color combinations inspire you?

July 22, 2015
by Emma

Tour de Fleece

As a relatively new spinner with an ahem, already growing fiber stash, I decided to participate in Tour de Fleece this month as a chance to get more comfortable with my spinning skills and maybe work through some of that stash. I joined Team Webs and set myself three goals for the event.

  1. Spin from stash only, no new fiber purchases allowed.
  2. Spin at least one woolen-spun yarn.
  3. Spin at least one 3-ply yarn.

Unfortunately, my eyes were bigger than my stomach! There’s only 4 days left and I have yet to finish my first skein. I had only spun thicker singles previously, so I didn’t realize how much longer it takes to spin nice, even fine singles. I’m trying not to get discouraged seeing everyone else’s massive accomplishments because I am having fun spinning my gorgeous Falkland fiber from Gynx.

So pretty! This is an experimental colorway and I wasn’t sure if I would like how it turned out but my fears were for nothing–it’s spinning up beautifully and I can’t wait to work with it. The plan is to make a 2-ply and hopefully I’ll have enough yardage for a September Circle or similar cowl.

I’m halfway into my second bobbin at this point, so it’s a race to see if I can finish the second bobbin and ply it by Sunday!

July 15, 2015
by Emma

Playing with Color: Dreamer’s Braided Pullover

I know I know, it’s July and you don’t even want to THINK about touching a long-sleeve wool pullover. I’m sorry. (Not really.) You might not be ready to start knitting but why not start playing with color options for your future Dreamer’s Braided Pullover? Spend the summer months picking out colors and then begin knitting once fall hits!

This design was originally published by Valley Yarns in their Sheffield, which is discontinued, so I was given the rights back to publish it myself and I reknit it in Cascade 220. As such, we already have two color combinations of this sweater floating around. I’m going to focus on options in Cascade 220 since it’s such a versatile and affordable yarn. For the sample, I chose a palette of grey and aqua/teal leaning blues.

IMG_6545smallestPhoto by Lindsey Topham

One of my favorite things about 220 is the mix of solids and heathers in the color range. Just like mixing in a warm color with cooler ones adds dimension and visual interest, mixing solids and heathers can really spice up the look of your color palette.

You’ve got lots of options to tackle color for a sweater like this! In all the pairings shown, the center color is the main body color of the sweater. You can choose either accent color to be used for the corrugated ribbing in the hem and cuffs, though in my sample I used the darker color. Of course, you could always work plain ribbing in the MC and have the colorwork be contained only in the yoke of the sweater. (All photos below from Webs.)

Option 1: Neutral MC, two different pops for the CCs

2425 8013 9341From L to R: 2425 Provence, 8013 Walnut Heather, 9341 Garnet Heather

Option 2: Neutral MC, two tonal coordinates for the CCs (same approach as the sample sweater)

9641 8010 7807From L to R: 9641 Purple Tourmaline, 8010 Natural, 7807 Regal

Option 3: Non-neutral MC, two tonal neutrals for the CCs

8686 2429 8012From L to R: 8686 Brown, 2429 Irelande, 8012 Doeskin Heather

For the sake of covering all our bases and bringing these options back to full circle…

Option 4: Non-neutral MC, two different pops for the CCs–this one’s for the adventurous!

7824 9452 8886From L to R: 7824 Burnt Orange, 9452 Summer Sky Heather, 8886 Italian Plum

Luckily, there are a ton of colorwork sweater patterns out there, so you can always browse other people’s projects on Ravelry and get inspired by their choices! My favorite method is to head to my LYS and start playing with the skeins on the shelves. I always come up with new and unexpected combinations that way and it continually surprises me to see what works together.

June 29, 2015
by Emma

Holla Knits Summer 2015 Blog Tour

Hello Holla Knitters and welcome to today’s stop on the Summer 2015 issue blog tour! My contribution is a tutorial article ‘Deconstructing the Knot Stitch’ where I guide you through decreasing in pattern while knitting the knot stitch, seen in Annapolis by Kristen Jancuk.

In the article, I break down the specifics of staying in pattern while working the Knot Stitch and include some helpful tips you can apply to future lace and texture patterns. I know I’m guilty of writing “decrease while continuing to stay in pattern when possible” (ahem, Holla Back Tank!) so it’s a great skill to be able to master.

If my exclusive article doesn’t sell you on purchasing the issue, what about the designs? As usual, our fearless editor Allyson has selected a group of fresh and innovative pieces that take warm weather knitting to a whole new level. My two favorites are Beach House by Teresa Gregorio and Backbone by Kirsten Singer.

I’m dreaming of a Beach House in HiKoo Rylie, a super gorgeous alpaca/silk/linen blend that I pet almost everytime I’m at work. I love the bright citrusy colors and this would be perfect in a pop of coral.

beach houseThe two color option of Backbone is GENIUS. I would use two coordinating colors of Manos del Uruguay Serena for an ombre effect. The only problem is choosing which color to be the main color!

backboneWhich design from the Summer 2015 issue is your favorite? Comment before end of day (EST) Friday, July 3 and I’ll pick one winner on July 4 to receive a copy of the pattern of their choice!

Check out the rest of the Holla Knits blog tour for styling tips, behind the scenes info on the designers and more giveaways!

June 15: Holla Knits Summer 2015 Launch
June 16: The Sweatshop of Love – pattern giveaway
June 17: Klever Knits – pattern giveaway
June 18: Canary Knits – Travel knitting & mag giveaway

June 22: MediaPeruana – pattern giveaway
June 24: YarnGasm – Knitting with Voolenvine Podcast – magazine giveaway
June 25: Cosmos and Cashmere – pattern giveaway
June 26: Midwest Yarn – pattern giveaway

June 29: Emma Welford – pattern giveaway
July 2: Canary Knits – Beach House styling & giveaway

June 3, 2015
by Emma

On the Topic of Stash

Remember my big ‘stash stats‘ post, when I cleared out my stash and sorted it all? Of course I wasn’t entirely motivated by the need to clean–I was doing research for my article in the Holla Knits Warm Weather Accessories issue!

rainbow stashRemember this?

I feel like my relationship with Holla Knits has truly come full circle. I contributed my Holla Back Tank to the first issue ever, Spring/Summer 2012, and here I am with an article in the first issue of the new Holla Knits now featuring articles! I love seeing what Allyson has built and I’m so happy to be involved, no matter what form it takes. In this case, it’s my article titled Conquering Your Stash: Musings on Yarn, Organization and Letting Go. The article is exclusive to the magazine, so here’s a short excerpt from it to wet your whistle.

Having a stash is a fantastic tool to have at your disposal as a knitter, especially if you don’t have a LYS within easy distance or prefer to buy most of your yarn online. Stash is great for last-minute gift knits, swatching stitch patterns before committing to knitting a whole sweater in a p5tog pattern, and for queuing up your next project without having to shop for more yarn. As time went on though, I found my stash had become a proverbial ball and chain. My stash yarn guilt-tripped me from its storage bins and my tastes evolved, making a portion of it no longer appealing or useable. In becoming a designer, I now viewed my stash in new light; thus, the Great Stash Clean-Out was born.

The piece is personally introspective but offers some of my advice on how to manage your stash (and in a way, the emotions tied to it!) I’m really happy with it because I feel like it perfectly encapsulates my writing voice to an extent that I don’t think I’ve achieved with any of my previous articles. I love all my written children equally of course though!

Check out the issue to read my article, see the lovely accessory designs and take the fun Knitting Spirit Animal quiz. Here’s to the new incarnation of Holla Knits!

May 8, 2015
by Emma

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

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

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

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.