My Favorite FO of 2016: Tinder

This was a long-haul kind of knit, but SO WORTH IT! I started it in January 2016 and finished on December 31st. 


Tinder has been one of my dream wardrobe pieces since it first came out. I stashed the yarn for it back in...2012 I think? It's Valley Yarns Greenwich, which was a limited edition run of 2-ply wool. It's a little too heavy for this design but I forced that round peg into a square hole! By purposely knitting it at a different gauge, that is. You can read more about that from my post when I started the project.


So as a knitting designer, why knit other people's patterns? Certainly I have enough of my own work I could focus on. Andrea Rangel calls this 'professional development' and she is SPOT. ON. Jared Flood packed lots of tricks into this that I would have never thought of on my own, like seaming the raglan seams with a half-stitch seam allowance so you wind up with a single stockinette stitch delineating those lines. I also like to see how other people write and layout their patterns.

I continued to follow the sage advice of Karen Templer and made damn sure everything was to my satisfaction with this baby. That included such fun as seaming the sides twice, when I didn't like my first go at it, and unseaming the raglan seams to reknit the sleeve caps with a different rate of decreases when they pulled too much across my shoulders the first time. It was maddening but utterly, completely, worth it. 

I love this sweater. I think I've worn it at least once a week since finishing it, which is really noteworthy for me. The combination of this, plus my EmSweWeMo experiment has made me so much more aware of what I'll actually wear. There are several pieces I planned to keep that now I think I'll offer up in a future sweater auction because clearly I need more easy going long cardigans in my life. GAME CHANGER.

2016 Retrospective

I'm back from my self-imposed 'winter vacation' (reduced social media presence and less design knitting), which was great! I really enjoyed the extra time to relax, work on some personal projects, and play Rise of the Tomb Raider. I know, I'm behind in my video game releases. I don't even try to play things right when they come out, I just get to them when I get to them! Like Fallout 4, which I still haven't finished... Any gamers in the audience, by the way? Comment and tell me your faves!

Ok, back to knitting which is what most of you are here for! At the beginning of 2016, I was working part-time in order to devote more time to my design business in hopes of growing it. Then I was offered a promotion to a full-time position and I decided to take it, which threw quite the wrench in my business plans for the year. Ultimately, I'm really satisfied to be back in the workforce and I'm proud of what I was able to accomplish this year as a nights-and-weekends-only designer.

  • I released 11 self-published designs and saw 11 designs released from third parties for a grand total of 22 new designs!

Self published designs:

Third party designs: 

  • I ran another successful Instagram KAL in conjunction with Spun Right Round in the fall.
  • I started my weekly newsletter.
  • I grew my Instagram following to 1k.
  • I hired Knit Fitch to design my beautiful new logo & brand package.
  • And I came up with some great creative content this year, like EmSweWeMo and hosting my first ever sweater auction for charity.

I have a bad habit of never feeling like I am doing enough, but looking back at 2016: I did enough. I did MORE than enough.

What are you hoping to see from me in 2017? I have some ideas up my sleeve, but I'm also open to suggestion! 

Ramblers Way Sustainable Wool Clothing Review

The clothing I review here was provided to me free of charge, but all opinions are my own. There are no affiliate links.

Last month I was contacted by Ramblers Way asking if I wanted to review their ethical 100% wool clothing line. To date, the only non-yarn or knitting related item I've reviewed are Allbirds Merino Wool Sneakers because well, they're wool. While I occasionally get emails about reviewing random products, I've always held the policy that I will only put content on this blog that's potentially interesting to knitters. Ergo, more wool wearables.

As a Massachusetts girl who is perpetually cold, even indoors in a sweater with the heat on and a blanket over her lap (don't judge me), I was intrigued to see if wool clothing was the missing link for my body temperature issues. I chose three different pieces from Ramblers Way in order to get the best overview of their line and have the most woolly variety. All are made from 100% Rambouillet wool, woven into a jersey or ribbed fabric.

Karen Templer's numerous posts on ethical fashion as part of her Slow Fashion October movement do a far better job at engaging with the subject of ethical, sustainable, slow fashion than I ever could, so I recommend jumping down that rabbit hole if you want to learn more or need a refresher course. Ramblers Way chooses to focus their efforts on using organic wool and dedicating themselves to a 100% US manufacturing process. You can learn more of the specifics on their Our Company page which primarily talks about wool, though they have Pima Cotton garments as well. In regards to that, my contact at the company said, "90% of Rambler's Way Pima Cotton is grown in California's San Joaquin Valley using pesticide-free and low water growing methods."

Shown in Black, Size Small

I've looked at a good number of ethical, sustainable, US made/sourced clothing companies before and most stick to basic silhouettes. While it makes sense financially, it's a little disappointing for someone like me who wants some extra pizazz in their pieces. I was really excited about the Women's Cowl Neck Swing Dress for this reason! I'm 5'3", and I can get away wearing this as a mini-dress with tights as shown here, though for wearing it to work I'm sticking with leggings or skinny jeans for a tunic look. Their site calls it knee-length, which it's definitely not for me, so I'm not sure what they based that on.

I like that it doesn't gap at the armholes and that the armholes aren't so deep that my bra is exposed. I will note that it picks up and shows cat hair LIKE A MOFO. Also because of that, I probably shouldn't have worn it with a white sweater but I'm obsessed with my Tualatin and can't stop wearing it, sorry not sorry.

The fabric is thin and doesn't feel much different from traditional t-shirt cotton jersey fabric, though there's a little more texture to it. I think I expected 100% Wool jersey to feel, well, woolier! Combined with a sweater I felt warm and cozy, but due to the length and the open-ness of the silhouette, I don't feel like it's exceptionally warm on its own.

Tank shown in Charcoal, Size Small & Leggings shown in Grey Heather, Size Small

Tank shown in Charcoal, Size Small & Leggings shown in Grey Heather, Size Small

Let's start with the Women's Wool Leggings. I am not showing you modeled shots for two reasons: 1. You can see my underwear through them, and 2. Unflattering waistband/crotch area. I'm okay with that since based on the style of the waistband, it appears like these are meant to be long underwear or pajama style pants rather than leggings-worn-as-pants. They would be fine under a dress or skirt too, but these are not the leggings you let your butt peek out in.

I like these a lot for lounging around the house. They are comfortable and warmer than I expected since the fabric is thin, but they're not the warmest leggings I have ever worn. Occasionally I felt like they were prickling my legs a little, or maybe that was my leg hair stubble pricking the leggings. (It's winter. We all know leg shaving is low on the priority list.) I wore them under jeans to help Mark shovel out the car during Saturday's snowstorm, and that combination was really great. I don't do outdoor wintertime sports, but I'd hedge that these would be a good layer for those of you that do.

I like that there is only one leg seam (shown below right), and it's overstitched? Totally covered with thread? I don't know what this kind of seam is called and Google didn't help me.

Tank back seam, left, and legging seam, right

Tank back seam, left, and legging seam, right

The Women's Wool Tank with Center Back Seam is my favorite of the three. It's shown in the first photo lying face-down so you can see the center seam detail that runs up the back. It fits like a standard tank top, but oh man! The other two pieces are jersey fabric while this is ribbed and somehow the ribbing makes all the difference. This feels warmer, softer, and more luxe.

As a knitter, a wool tank top is the BEST IDEA EVER. If you're like me, you have a bunch of handknits that for whatever reason, look best with only a tank top underneath. But then it's cold and a tank top isn't enough to cut it under that sweater, so you wind up not wearing those sweaters and they lie fallow. A wool tank top + wool sweater is so stinking cozy. I want more of these!

This might be TMI, but I've worn the tank top and the leggings multiple times without washing and they have yet to be smelly or gross. Ramblers Way does list this as a benefit of wool on their website, and I definitely don't wash my sweaters often (or ever), but I also rotate those more frequently and they're not right next to the skin, so I was pleased at how well these are repelling odor so far.

The eternal question: Are they worth the money? I would give a resounding YES to the tank top. It's eternally useful and it just feels good on. I want to pick up some other colors when they have a sale (and when I have some free funds for clothes) because let's be honest, this stuff is pricey. It's not out of line from other sustainable/ethical clothing companies though. While I like the cut of the swing dress, the fabric doesn't feel special enough, doesn't scream "I'M MADE OF WOOL!", and isn't warm enough to justify that level of financial investment. I am really enjoying the leggings for lounging, though I wouldn't need more than one pair and it seems indulgent to spend $$ on another pair of leggings that I'll mostly wear at home. If you'd wear them as a layer for winter hikes, skiing, or snowshoeing, I can see these being a smart buy.

You can browse Ramblers Way on their website or at one of their retail stores if you're in Maine or New Hampshire.

Would you try 100% wool clothing?

EmSweWeMo Week4

The final installment of my November experiment to wear every sweater in my collection is here!

Day 14, 11/24/16

Day 14, 11/24/16

For Thanksgiving, I decided to rock my Dark Rainbow Sweater for a comfortable, food-baby-friendly look. I really like this sweater. It's cozy, the length of the body and sleeves is good for me, and it's not boring! The only downside is I'm a little nervous on how this single ply yarn will wear. I feel like I haven't worn this often, yet the elbows seem a little thin and it's got a lot of pills already. Fingers crossed it holds up okay!

Verdict: Keep.

Day 15, 11/28/16

Day 15, 11/28/16

EmSweWeMo made me realize how much I wear this tunic-y top, so much so that I bought a second one during Modcloth's Black Friday weekend sale in a berry color that will look great with this sweater if I want to go more matchy-matchy. This is Stripe Quartet, which is more suited to transitional temps and early fall, but it works this time of year with accessories on standby in case I get cold (a cowl and long fingerless mitts, primarily.) I really like this and need to remember to pull it out sooner in the season!

Verdict: Keep.

Day 16, 11/29/16

Day 16, 11/29/16

In case you couldn't tell, I was running out of weather-appropriate garments for this which is why there are some random tees and other pieces thrown in! I knit Watershed ages ago but don't wear it much because well, it's kind of useless for a New Englander. It's pretty, but it doesn't offer any warmth. Good thing it's really pretty, because that's why I'm keeping it, but I'd like to wear this more often!

Verdict: Keep. Make an effort to wear this damn thing though!

Day 17, 11/30/16

Day 17, 11/30/16

Why not end the month with a sparkly bang, eh? As my one and only Rhinebeck sweater (for 2012) I modified my Holla Back Tank pattern into a Holla Back Pullover.

I haven't decided how I feel about this yet and would love your thoughts! I'm undecided if this would be better if I continued to knit the sleeves so it would be long sleeved. To be honest, it looks cute here but I feel like this is one of the only ways to wear this piece (the other being with just a tank underneath, which doesn't work for winter.) I also don't know if I'm a sparkly yarn girl after all.

Verdict: Potentially on the chopping block!

Phew! So what's next? I'm going to stew a bit on the thoughts that came up during EmSweWeMo, but I'd like to have a final decision on my handknit wardrobe before the end of the year, so I can start 2017 fresh! 

EmSweWeMo Week 3

It's time to take a look back at the third week of my EmSweWeMo experiment! If you've been out of the loop, you can catch up on Week 1 & Week 2.

Day 9, 11/15/16

Day 9, 11/15/16

You probably recognize the Heliopath Vest. While Interweave styled this with a skirt for the Unofficial Harry Potter Knits photos, I tend to rock this in a more androgynous look when I wear it. I love how textural Imperial Yarn Columbia is, and the gold color goes with so many options in my wardrobe. I pretty much consider gold a neutral!

Verdict: Keep, duh!

Day 10, 11/16/16

Day 10, 11/16/16

I posed this question about the Eastbourne Sweater on my Instagram to mixed results, so I'll ask it again here: unravel the sleeves into cap sleeves, or keep it as is? Honestly, I can't decide! I don't wear this much because in my head the sleeves are weird, but in this photo I think I look pretty cute.

I did realize throughout this experiment that I need to pull my 3/4 length and shorter sleeved sweaters out of my wardrobe sooner! I wait until November-December to throw on real wool sweaters, and by then it's too cold for abbreviated sleeves. Meanwhile, the rest of fall I'm wearing the same boring storebought cardigan with 99% of my outfits.

Verdict: Keep. With or without sleeve alterations though?!

Day 11, 11/17/16

Day 11, 11/17/16

This is one of my favorites, if not THE FAVORITE outfit of this whole experiment. I love this vibe! It's comfortable, it's modern, it's still knitterly, and it's interesting. I am going to repeat this exact combination a whole bunch and just switch out different shoes.

It's an altered version of the Short Row Sweater from Purl Soho, and up until this photo I would have told you it was an impulse, dumb knit that I never wore because well, it's kind of odd. It was an excuse to knit something fast and find a use for Madelinetosh yarn in Spectrum. (Because: gorgeous.) But I super love this look!

Verdict: Keep, all because of EmSweWeMo!

Day 12, 11/18/16

Day 12, 11/18/16

Yay, crochet! I didn't make this sample of the Cirro Tee, I just happened to model it for Webs originally and then bought the sample later on when it was on sale because I liked it so much. 

Obviously this is a spring/summer garment, but I like to try and push myself to use those types of handmade garments out of season as well! This was a fun 'casual Friday' look (even though every day is casual at work) and I quite enjoyed it.

Verdict: Keep.

Day 13, 11/21/16

Day 13, 11/21/16

While I love my Praline Pullover, I feel like it doesn't fit into my wardrobe anymore. The super cropped length isn't flattering on me with pants, which is what I wear 99% of the time. I think it looks great with high waisted pencil skirts or fit and flare dresses with a high waist, but I almost never wear those.

Verdict: Storage. This is a design sample in great condition and I've used it in all the trunk shows I've done (...all two of them...) so I want to keep it around for that, but I don't think I'll wear this much.

We're almost at the home stretch, just one more week of outfits to finish musing over!

Indie Gift-A-Long 2016

The Indie Gift-A-Long has begun! Through 11/30, you can use coupon code giftalong2016 on Ravelry to save 25% on designs from myself and hundreds of other indie designers. Shop indie to support small businesses and kickstart your gift knitting with the events that follow after the sale period! Until the end of the year, there will be prizes, contests, and fun in the Indie GAL Group.

You can see all of my eligible GAL offerings here, but I wanted to showcase a few that I thought were particularly good for gift knitting...and a few that are good for selfish knitting!


Got time to crank out another gift or two? Aventail is the perfect use for a single skein of fingering weight, and knits up quicker than you'd expect despite the fine yarn. The brioche is addictive and rhythmic, and the eyelet lace edging doesn't require following a complicated chart.

If you want to wow your recipient with a giant wrap, check out the Millers River Shawl. Thanks to bulky weight, this baby is super warm! It's knit from end to end and mostly in garter stitch, so you can zone out while you work on it and you won't be struggling with hundreds of stitches on your needles at once.


Oops! So you just found out that Cousin Sally is coming to your holiday event. Or maybe your coworker hinted he's got a gift for you. Either way, if you need to bang out a gift fast you can count on these two projects to fit the bill! Shock Star Slouch uses a skein of DK weight yarn (assuming average yardage), and the mix of textured stitches plays nicely with solids, tweeds, hand-dyeds, speckles, and more. If your giftee isn't a hat wearer, why not whip up a pair of Brooklyn Bridge Mitts? To ensure it knits up even faster, choose the short wrist length and nix the individual fingers in favor of the easy whole-hand opening. 


Look to these showstoppers if: a) your recipient isn't looking to receive their handmade gift until the 2017 holidays, or b) you need to spoil yourself with a fresh new project come January. Stripe Quartet is all stockinette, all stripes, and a whole lot of fun! If your New Year's Resolution is stashbusting, you can use those remainders up in a crazy, stripey cardigan. Sport weight yarn knit up at a slightly loose gauge means you won't go crazy struggling with size 3 needles.

If you're ready to challenge yourself next year, go all-in on a lace pi shawl like Papelillo. The patterns are given in written and charted form, so you can ease yourself into reading charts or attack them from the beginning like the beast that you are.

Happy Gift-A-Long!

EmSweWeMo Week 2

Let's get on with the experiment!

Day 5, 11/8/16

Day 5, 11/8/16

I have mixed feelings on my Haubergeon Sweater, though the reaction at work was very positive. (Except when I got cold and put on a really big shawl on top my co-worked dubbed it very Stevie Nicks which is...not my jam, let's just say.) Anyways, I love this yarn and the general look, I just have some misgivings with the shoulder and underarm area. I am not sure if the shaping for the saddle shoulders is too far over to be flattering, it feels like there might be a bit too much fabric in the underarm area, and the sleeves are a tad tight on me. I don't think anyone notices this other than me, I'm being nitpicky!

Verdict: Keep on probation. If I wear it regularly it's a keeper, if not it's getting culled from the sweater herd.

Day 6, 11/10/16

Day 6, 11/10/16

I can't not love my Gilt Sweater. It's so cheery! This is a new way to style it for me and I'm happy with the combination. I've been trying to push myself this month, partly because I am taking selfies all the time and partly because I want to get out of the rut of jeans + tee/tank + sweater. I like a challenge!

I need more laceweight-held-double garments in my wardrobe because the fabric on this is amazing. So light and floaty but surprisingly warm!

Verdict: Keep.

Day 7, 11/11/16

Day 7, 11/11/16

The Cirriform Cardigan is another one that's tough to style. I like it with a longer tunic top, as shown here, but I think it would work with dresses as well. I'm ok with this piece not being super versatile because it's really just a great big yarn hug. It's a sweatshirt in disguise; if I'm having a blah day and don't feel like putting much effort into my outfit I can wear this instead of a sweatshirt and still feel...sweatshirt-y. You know, warm, comforted, enveloped. 

Verdict: Keep.

Day 8, 11/14/16

Day 8, 11/14/16

My Turners Falls Cardigan is another difficult piece to style. I designed it because I loved seeing cropped sweaters on other women, then realized once I had one of my very own that many people wear these with skirts or dresses and I'm more of a jeans/leggings person. Floaty tunic top to the rescue! (Sense a theme with this experiment?) It looks good buttoned as well, but I need to reinforce the button band with ribbon since it gaps and the buttons slip out. I made the buttonholes too large I think!

Verdict: Keep, but reinforce button band.

EmSweWeMo Week 1

As from my Knitted Wardrobe Assessment post:

Instead, this November will be my personal EmSweWeMo, Emma's Sweater Wearing Month. I'd like to wear every weather-appropriate handknit garment in my wardrobe at least once in November, and journal how I feel about wearing the item. I'm hoping that this will help me better assess how much of my knitted wardrobe I could actually use if I kept it more visible, and how many pieces I'm holding on to for the wrong reasons or a vague 'someday, maybe.'

Here are the results of Week 1!

Day 1, 11/1/16

Day 1, 11/1/16

I was home sick on Day 1, so I chose a cuddly, somewhat raggedy sweater. This is the Victoria Buttoned Raglan, a now-discontinued Valley Yarns design I bought at a Webs sample sale. I almost feel like it 'doesn't count' since I didn't make it!

While this sweater is close-fitting, there's enough room for me to comfortably wear long sleeves underneath as I am doing so here. I wish the body was a few inches longer and it would be nice if the split neckline was engineered as more of a cowl neckline so you could button it up when cold. It needs a good sweater shaving though!

Verdict: Keep, but attempt to shave the pills off. If unable to salvage from pilling, I'd keep this as a home-only lounging sweater.

Day 2, 11/2/16

Day 2, 11/2/16

Acute-ly Preppy was an ambitious statement piece, and for me, that's all it's going to be. I love the concept of this sweater but don't like it on my body. Something about where the ribbing ends on my body and where the hem hits, combined with the lack of waist shaping, really does me no favors. TMI: I also feel like it makes my boobs look weird. I don't know! All around, I don't feel confident or cute wearing this, and I have too many sweaters to waste time wearing one I don't feel right in.

Verdict: I haven't decided what I'm doing with the rejects. Either sealing them in one of those vacuum space saver bags just in case I ever need them for anything, or possibly auctioning them off and donating the proceeds. I'd love to hear ideas if you have them!

Day 3, 11/4/16

Day 3, 11/4/16

My notes on the Tea Leaves Cardigan say it all: "Got 3 compliments!"

I knit this gem 6 years ago and this outfit is a testament to holding onto pieces long enough for them to seem fresh to you again. I was really over this sweater and this type of silhouette, which blew up in the knitting world a few years back. I usually wore it with a regular t-shirt & jeans, so the sweater framed my stomach and it wasn't always flattering if I had a post-lunch food baby or what have you. I thought I wanted to get rid of my Tea Leaves, but I tried it with this flowy top on a whim and I love this look!

Also, Tosh DK is insane. This is barely pilly and only a tiny bit loose around the elbows, not bad enough to be called saggy. 

Verdict: Keep. Take time to make the effort pairing this with slightly dressy and/or more fashionable outfits.

Day 4, 11/7/16

Day 4, 11/7/16

My Idlewood is also 6 years old! Clearly, I had excellent taste in 2010...which was the year I started working at Webs so that explains it all.

Overall, I'm really happy with this. The pockets are sewn on a little poorly, it looks very handmade, but I'm okay with that. I do wish it was a little longer, I clearly remember getting impatient knitting this and binding off too soon because I just wanted it to be done. I really need to learn to curb that urge because it's haunted so many of my FOs. Either the body isn't long enough or I did short/three quarter sleeves instead of long sleeves. Learn some damn patience already Emma!

I would like to figure out how to make this more versatile, it's great for super casual looks but I'd like to work it into more polished outfits as well.

Verdict: Keep. Wash before wearing it again, something I meant to do last winter and never got around to...

I'll be back with Week 2!

How to Start (& Keep Up With!) A Regular Email Newsletter

"You put together fantastic newsletters EVERY WEEK!! How do you do it!?" - Teresa

I received this question in my inbox this week and realized it would make a great blog topic! Obligatory disclaimer: This is my method, this is what works for me. Maybe you can find some helpful info here and maybe you'll be shaking your head at me if you're a seasoned email marketer!

Decide what your goals are.

I'm looking to build a stronger relationship with my customers and potential customers. I enjoy having this blog for my long-winded thoughts, but it's more of a time and energy investment to update it and I realize that not every customer wants to read blog posts. I see my newsletter as a quick way for my customers to better get to know me, my designs, and my brand. Obviously I'm looking to make money from my designs, but I'm personally against sales-y emails that only push, push, push products or services. I want to offer content that's interesting whether or not the readers wind up buying one of my patterns.

I also am hoping to use my newsletter to convert some of my Instagram followers into customers and dedicated fans. I'm always mindful of the advice that any social platform can be taken down, so if you're counting on Instagram (or Facebook, or Twitter) as being your link to your customer base, you'll be in trouble if that platform is suddenly taken offline for good. An email list connects you directly to your customer AND you don't have to worry about losing your following.

Knowing your goals will help determine the type of content you share, how frequently you send your newsletter, the tone of voice you use, how you promote your newsletter, and so on.

Choose an email service and format.

I use MailChimp because it's free until you have 2,000 subscribers, so you can get your feet wet and figure out if you'll really commit to a newsletter before committing to a paid service. You can create a generic template for your newsletter and edit the content in it as you compose emails (called campaigns in the MailChimp universe), which helps save you time and keeps a consistent look across your emails. I chose to use fonts similar to what's on here for consistency's sake. I'm in the middle of a logo design and branding process with Knit Fitch, so once that's complete I'll likely change my website and my newsletter template to fall in line with that.

I send weekly newsletters since I believe it's important to keep a regular line of communication open with my customers. I would have longer newsletters if I sent them less regularly, and I prefer to keep things short and sweet. I ran a quick survey a few weeks ago asking my newsletter subscribers what their preference was, and overwhelmingly they also preferred weekly newsletters. Always nice to have some reassurance that your audience is in sync with you!

Content, content, content.

This is probably the hardest part and I'm guessing what Teresa was most curious about! I definitely have weeks where I struggle with this, especially if I'm working on the same project for weeks on end. In my newsletter survey, I asked people what they liked to read about and learned they were most interested in knitting tips, behind the scenes, and photos. Of course, your customer base might be different--ask them what they like!

My default template includes several regular sections, and I will admit I was heavily inspired by Andrea Rangel's awesome weekly newsletter. (Pro tip: Subscribe to other people's newsletters in your industry to see what they do!)

  • My newsletter opens with a photo, anything that I've photographed recently that I think is visually interesting or relevant to the content of the first section. 
  • My first section is general chit-chat. I might talk about something in my personal life I've been doing, a project I'm working on, a struggle I'm having, or hint at a new project. 
  • The middle section is the longer meat-and-potatoes portion of the newsletter. In the past I've: showcased my progress on a design WIP, talked about a new release, provided a knitting tip, spotlighted designers, patterns or links I'm currently into, or announced a KAL or event.
  • After that I always include Instagram of the Week, which is the photo with the most love from the last week on my Instagram account.
  • The final section is a wildcard. Regular themes include Q&A and a color story mini mood board, but I've also shown off finished FOs of my designs from customers. 
  • It finishes with a link to the Weekly Newsletter thread in my Ravelry group and my signature.
The opener of a past email.

The opener of a past email.

Having a template makes it easier to plan ahead week-to-week. I like to let the chit chat flow naturally, so I don't plan that ahead unless I have something I REALLY want to say. I know I only need to come up with a good topic for the central chunk of the newsletter, and the rest is much easier to let fall into place.

Figuring out ways to recycle and re-purpose your content is a really easy marketing hack. I really enjoy photography and try to post to Instagram once per day, so in order to save time during the week I do mini photo shoots where I'll shoot a bunch of stuff for Instagram posts for the following week. Those photos can be used in blog posts, to open my newsletter, or in the main content section if it relates to what I'm talking about. Similarly, I'll include a blurb about this blog post in my next newsletter and include a link to it, so those who are interested in reading the full piece can check it out if they want to.

When I'm stuck on what to highlight in my next newsletter, I'll refer to my list of newsletter ideas that I have on my desktop. Whenever I have an idea that I could use in my newsletter or turn into a fully fleshed out blog post, I add it to the list which definitely helps when I'm not feeling super creative.

The master list

The master list


Aside from promoting your newly formed newsletter across your social media platforms, you can encourage people to sign up by offering some incentives. Free products, coupon codes, or useful information like free PDFs/ebooks are some tried-and-true methods. I've also seen some designers encourage would-be test knitters to sign up for their email list since they open testing spots to email subscribers first. 

Hard Mode: Data

I'm not going into this because I'll be honest, data analysis is not that fun to me. I do it in my day job, but I'm not at the level in my design business where I feel I need it and I'm not about to voluntarily start doing data analysis for funsies! If you do geek out on this kind of thing, MailChimp automatically reports on your open rate and click rate so you can see what newsletters took off and which ones flopped, as well as more detailed stuff like who opened your newsletter how many times and what links got clicked. You can also integrate your Google Analytics account with it which is great if you want hard numbers on where your revenue is coming from. (IE: Does Pattern A sell well on customers coming from Instagram, while it sells poorly with your newsletter audience?) Google Analytics is super cool and they have free training videos to figure out how to use it, should you desire to travel down that path.

Once you set aside time in your schedule to create a regular newsletter, like any other habit it quickly becomes second nature. If you can commit to a few months at first, you'll soon develop a rhythm of making time for your newsletter while developing your voice and style. 

Knitted Wardrobe Assessment: A Continuation

Check out my wardrobe analysis by the numbers here first.

When I was writing the last post, I had these two exact sweaters in mind as pieces I'm definitely not into anymore. They have several features in common, can you spot them?

L: Dreamer's Braided Pullover; R: Cables n Cats

L: Dreamer's Braided Pullover; R: Cables n Cats

They have more of a cropped, high hip length and they're super fitted. For a while I preferred clothing with negative ease but in the past few years, I've come to appreciate the ability to layer and the comfort of clothing that's not quite so skin tight. Both of these sweaters are so fitted, especially in the sleeves, that I can only wear tank tops under them. I've also discovered that no matter how well my pants fit, even if they're not going to give me plumber's butt when I bend over, I really prefer a longer sweater with more coverage. So while they look fine in the photos, they're really no fun to wear. Now that I've pinpointed I don't like this silhouette, I'm going to make sure to avoid it in the future no matter how cute it looks on someone else. I definitely still fall prey to that trap from time to time!

As I dug through my sweater stash, I was anticipating pulling out piece after piece I wanted to get rid of. Instead, I found myself rationalizing a lot of my handknit pieces despite the fact that I don't wear them very often. Not exactly the climactic triumph of me vs my sweater stash I was imagining!

I'm okay with having stuff as long as it doesn't become overwhelming, which is where the problem is starting to lie with me as a maker. I have three under-bed storage containers set aside to house my knitted goods and they're almost bursting. Arguably, I could just buy more storage but am I utilizing my knitwear to the best of my ability? Is that extra storage space going to be worth it?

I love this blog post from Tanis (of Tanis Fiber Arts) and this part in particular: 

Here is the thing, approaching this week's topic, I had mixed feelings. I thought that I was going to sit down and hash out my struggles with my need to make, both on a personal level - I can't not make! - but also on a professional level - it's my job to make! - and the reality of the realization that I currently have enough sweaters to last me an entire lifetime. I absolutely do not need any more sweaters.

I can't not make.

I can't not make.

I can't not make.

Therein lies the rub. I have an almost pathological need to make. Even if I was not a knitwear designer, I would still be producing knitted items at the same frantic pace, or at least regularly enough to amass a collection close in size to the one I have now. I wear a small fraction of what I've made on a regular basis. There's just not enough days in the year, and since I do still have a non-handmade wardrobe full of items I love, my pool of available clothing items to choose from is even more inflated. Often I choose store-bought items over handmade because I don't want to 'ruin' my hard work or spill something on it. But leaving my hard work in a plastic bin tucked under my bed is just as much of a disservice as loving it and wearing it until it gives up, perhaps even more of a disservice.

I think I'm going to set myself a challenge next month. November is NaKniSweMo, National Sweater Knitting Month. Instead, this November will be my personal EmSweWeMo, Emma's Sweater Wearing Month. I'd like to wear every weather-appropriate handknit garment in my wardrobe at least once in November, and journal how I feel about wearing the item. I'm hoping that this will help me better assess how much of my knitted wardrobe I could actually use if I kept it more visible, and how many pieces I'm holding on to for the wrong reasons or a vague 'someday, maybe.'


Slow Fashion October & Knitted Wardrobe Assessment

Not familiar with the concept of slow fashion or haven't heard of Slow Fashion October? You can get up to speed on Slow Fashion October over at Fringe Association (here's the overview post), on Instagram at the @slowfashionoctober account, or by browsing the IG hashtag #slowfashionoctober.

I haven't sorted out my thoughts on slow fashion. I'm all for it as a concept, but as an individual with a finite amount of time, money and resources I find it hard to put into practice 100%. I don't buy a ton of new clothes (though the ones I do are from problematic retailers most of the time, I can't quit you Gap/American Eagle!!), I thrift regularly and of course I'm always knitting. Sometimes I feel like this has resulted in a disjointed wardrobe, which is partially fueled by my disjointed fashion preferences. I don't have a neat, encapsulated style. I knit and enjoy knitting a lot of things I don't wind up wearing much, so I often find myself reaching for store-bought sweaters more than my handknits. Case in point: my most beloved cardigan is this number from Madewell.

Let's be honest: sometimes store-bought is pretty useful. While I'd love to eventually knit a me-made version, my desire to knit a fingering weight, extra-long black cardigan is smaller than zero. The recent shift to colder temperatures had me digging in my sweater wardrobe and I realized my lack of hand-knit long sleeve cardigans. That's right, my FAVORITE layering silhouette is practically absent from my handmade wardrobe. I have exactly 2, and neither is a classic, easy-wearing piece. Cirriform Cardigan has asymmetrical fronts and Turners Falls Cardigan is cropped, so they only work with certain outfits. Fortunately, my potato brain somehow subconsciously realized this wardrobe gap because I have two long-sleeve cardigan WIPs, my Tinder in go-with-everything grey and a cabled design number in natural Ashland Bay Dakota.

Part of my lack of long-sleeve, long-silhouette pieces is my laziness. I have designed a surprising number of sleeveless, short-sleeved and 3/4 sleeved sweaters because I get really bored knitting long sleeves. Of course, now that I use sample knitters I've started pitching more designs with long sleeves since I don't have to knit them myself! And knitting a body that's 17-19" long from the underarms? No fun either.

In order to ascertain just how unbalanced my knitted wardrobe is, I classified my FOs by type, leaving out the pieces I plan to trade or sell in the near future because I don't like how they fit or just don't plain wear them.

To no surprise, accessory categories take the top 3 spots (hats, cowls, shawls).  They're just so fun and bite sized! Then it starts to get weird. For someone who A) lives in New England, B) works in an overly-air conditioned office, and C) is always cold, I have more tanks/vests and tees than anything else. PAST KNITTING ME IS DELUSIONAL. Granted, I do like to argue that these pieces can be worn well into fall and winter if layered appropriately (which is a blog post for another day) but COME ON. 

In case you were thinking that maybe I sensibly had knitted a whole bunch of long sleeve would be wrong. I have 2 of those as well.

I have several sweater quantities in my stash that I'd like to use up, and armed with this data I'm going to spend October acknowledging some hard truths and making some long-term plans so I can knit sweaters I WILL wear, and not just sweaters I will enjoy knitting.

I'll check back next week with a catalog of what I'm purging and why to help me nail down what I need to be mindful of in my future knits. Unflattering photos and all!

Mirth Tunic in Knitscene Winter 2016

I have a new design in the latest issue of Knitscene! Meet the Mirth Tunic.

Sleeveless seems kind of weird for a winter issue, doesn't it? I proposed this piece as a design in a winter issue that includes people knitting in warmer climates who don't need full ski sweaters. I'm also partial to tank top-y shells being worn as vests, and I think this one will look just dandy with a button-down beneath it, or a blazer layered over it.

It's hard to see in the photos, but all the waist shaping takes place on the back in the same formation as princess seam shaping. It helps bring a nice tailored shape to the tunic without distorting the edges of the front cable and lace pattern.

The lace and cable panel is simple to knit, yet it creates a big visual impact in worsted weight yarn (more on that later.) If you prefer a cowl neck with more drape, pick up more stitches or increase until the neck is the width you want. You can knit it shorter for a roll-neck look or go extra long for a really dramatic cowl!

So...about that yarn. It's Mountain Meadow Wool in Salem, a springy wool yarn wrapped in silk thread. As my sample knitter worded it, "In swatch form, the yarn looked rather rustic, but I was pleasantly surprised as well at how well it worked in the garment." If you choose to use Salem, have some faith! It does appear very wooly and naturally textured at first, but it relaxes gorgeously when blocked revealing a hidden elegance. However, Mountain Meadow Wool calls this a DK weight which I disagree with. Both my sample knitter and I were able to achieve a worsted weight gauge on a US 6 without any struggle. When compared next to other worsted weight yarns I had handy, you can see how the yarn works at such a gauge.

From L to R: Salem; Valley Yarns Northampton; Fibre Company Cumbria

From L to R: Salem; Valley Yarns Northampton; Fibre Company Cumbria

I would suggest swatching with a light worsted, worsted or aran weight yarn for this project. Throw the label of 'DK weight' out of your mind and go with a yarn and needle combination that will give you the listed gauge without creating an overly loose or overly tight fabric. I held a small swatch of the lace panel up to the window so you can attempt to judge the tension of the fabric.

If the tunic was completely stockinette and didn't have the lace panel in front, I would feel comfortable wearing it without a layer underneath (ie, I don't find the stockinette fabric inherently open or revealing.) If I had a stockinette swatch to demonstrate this alongside the lace swatch I would have, but it's not anywhere I can easily find! What can I say, my office is not entirely as organized as it should be.

You can find the Mirth Tunic here on Ravelry to add to your queue, or to purchase the individual pattern from Interweave, a new option they've started offering for magazine patterns.

Playing with Color: San Drea Shawl

Recently I released my San Drea Shawl, a stripey garter stitch and short row shawl that uses 4 different colors.

The sky is truly the limit here, as exemplified by my amazing beta knitters and their creations!

Clockwise from top left: Jamie, Julia, Barbara, Andrea

Clockwise from top left: Jamie, Julia, Barbara, Andrea

Jamie combined a modern grey background with bright contrast colors and did fewer lace repeats.

Julia used an eye-catching trio of bright colors, including a variegated, which are set off by the white main color.

Barbara broke out tweed yarn for the background, and added some stripe action to the lace border.

Andrea modified the colors sequence of the stripes to her liking, and finished with a simple garter stitch border instead of lace.

I used yarn I had in my stash, which dictated my color combination and fibers (ie, using a single ply yarn for my main color and a plied yarn for the contrasting colors.) I quite like the combination of textures in my shawl, especially since the single ply Manos del Uruguay Fino has great drape, but you can go crazy here!

If you need more inspiration, check out the following color combinations I put together. For these combos, I followed my formula of single ply main color, 2 solid plied contrast colors and 1 variegated plied contrast color.

Top to bottom: Manos Fino in Antique Lace; Manos Alegria in Cactus Flower, Antigua & Thistle

Top to bottom: Manos Fino in Antique Lace; Manos Alegria in Cactus Flower, Antigua & Thistle

Top to bottom: Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light in Cloud Dweller; Madelinetosh Tosh Sock in Arctic, Prairie Fire & Blue Nile

Top to bottom: Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light in Cloud Dweller; Madelinetosh Tosh Sock in Arctic, Prairie Fire & Blue Nile

The best way to find a color combination for this kind of project is to go to your LYS or your stash and just play! Have fun putting color combinations together, no matter how weird they seem. You never know where you'll find magic.

Announcing the Aventail KAL

This has been spread all over the rest of my channels, so it's only fair to bring the blog in on the action! On 9/5, I'm kicking off another Instagram KAL collaboration with Spun Right Round: Aventail.

Side note: Proud of the fact that I took all these photos successfully on a nearby bike path, despite the morning joggers & bikers!

Side note: Proud of the fact that I took all these photos successfully on a nearby bike path, despite the morning joggers & bikers!

Just like the Shock Star Slouch KAL, I'll be releasing the pattern in pieces on my Instagram the week of 9/5, but this time you can also get the full PDF on Day 1 by signing up for my weekly newsletter. (See the signup box over there ----> in the sidebar!)

I decided to do this again for several reasons. The Shock Star KAL was an experiment--would people actually knit a pattern posted on Instagram? (Yes.) Would anyone buy the pattern in the months that followed, despite it still being available for free if you dug back in the KAL hashtags on Instagram? (Also yes.) I felt like it was a big success, and I really enjoyed the sense of community! I still have people who tell me they found my designs through that KAL, and I like the feeling of creating a community and giving something back to it. 

I wanted to try out a different base from Spun Right Round this time around, and I knew I wanted to knit something that was not a hat. I'd seen cowlettes before--shawl/cowl hybrids--and really dug the look. As I said in my last post, I had a lot of struggles getting the yarn where I wanted it. Ultimately,  I settled on a combination of brioche and eyelet ridges. This was my first time EVER knitting brioche! So if you've never tried it either, I know you can pull it off.

You can let Aventail hang down in front like a circular shawl wrapped around your neck, or pull it down over your shoulders poncho-style when cold. I've been test-driving it in my air-conditioned office at work and it's a great piece to throw in my purse on my way out the door, especially since it's smaller than a large shawl.

Will you be joining the KAL? Chime in over at the Aventail KAL thread!


You remember this skein of SpunRightRound 80/20 Sock?

Colorway: Crybaby

Colorway: Crybaby

I luuurhve it. It's the perfect balance of pastel and neon, speckled and not, wearable and artistic.

It also put me through the wringer figuring out what to do with it!

Left: First attempt; Right: Second attempt

Left: First attempt; Right: Second attempt

I really had to struggle to figure out how to best showcase this yarn. At first, I thought mostly stockinette stitch would be best to let the colorway dominate, but it wound up looking boring. I took inspiration from the brioche + speckled yarn trend and tried a different shape, and a different direction. Once I was done with the brioche section, however, I couldn't decide on another stitch pattern that would work harmoniously. Even more rips and reknits commenced!

I can't remember the last time I had this much trouble with a design, but I'm so glad I took the time and patience to keep trying with this one. It all became worth it in the end when I bound off, though I still had some reservations about how blocking would change the fabric.

After a quick blocking....I luuurhve it. It's beyond perfect and so worth the effort. Luckily Renee at SpunRightRound picked a hardy sock base, because even with all the frogging the yarn looks gorgeous and like new. Can't wait to share it off to you soon!

The Journey

As I briefly mentioned on Instagram earlier this week, I've been struggling with some wrist/forearm pain and haven't been knitting much. It's from computer use at work, especially the Photoshop-heavy days, but my desk at home isn't ergonomic either. A keyboard tray for my work desk arrived at the end of day on Friday, so I've got that to install on Monday, and I ordered a new computer desk for my home office that is shorter, more compact, and has an included keyboard tray. I also availed myself to my doctor, who advised I wear wrist braces to sleep in and has referred me to a physical therapist. Fingers crossed that I get sorted out soon, but I'd love any words of advice or encouragement from others who work 8+ hours a day on a computer and have dealt with similar issues! Luckily, I don't have any immediate deadline knits lined up so I'm not actively sabotaging my work, but you know, I really want to knit.

I've been trying to keep myself occupied with other things, and am using the new computer desk as the impetus to move into Stage 2 of the home office organization/set-up. I was sorting through a big pile of papers that needed to be filed and in the process decided to clean out my file folders. I found a bunch of documents from my original designing days and wowee! A) What a walk down memory lane and, B) I'm like, a really professional designer now in comparison. Sometimes I feel like I'm still muppet-flailing my way through this whole thing so that was a nice moment.

Before I got comfortable with writing patterns in full before knitting them, I wrote it out as I knitted the sample, line by line, and then graded it afterward. (In front, the Dreamer's Braided Pullover and in back, the Holla Back Tank on pink Hello Kitty notebook paper!) That's problematic for grading purposes, since you can easily make design decisions that fit one size but don't scale up and down nicely, but also omg, so much work writing it BY HAND ON PAPER.

I definitely prefer to do things on paper when I can, but I've made myself transition to digital because it makes more sense in the long run. At this stage, I didn't have charting software available so I used graph paper to figure out colorwork and cable charts. (Above is the Free Cecily Hat and below, Wavy Gravy Mittens.) The thumb on the left mitten was erased and re-drawn multiple times as I tried to figure out how I wanted to handle it!

And of course, hand drawn schematics to round it out, seen here as the Praline Pullover! I actually still do this sometimes, even though I use Inkscape to draw schematics, because Inkscape is really annoying to use. (Just sent off a pattern's final materials this morning with a hand drawn schematic!) I use several free, open source programs and thus have had to teach myself how to use them. At times like this when I'm trying to rest my hands as much as possible, drawing it by hand is faster than messing with Inkscape. Now though, if I draw my schematic I will scan it and add the dimensions in Photoshop so there's no concern with my handwriting causing confusion.

It's cool to see how far I've come, but I still have plenty of ways to grow! I don't use InDesign like many designers do and I don't use Excel spreadsheets to grade my patterns. (Which I'm a little embarrassed to admit, I feel like I'll be made fun of for that one.) I just never got around to setting them up! It's a future goal of mine for sure but in the meantime, I'm enjoying tweaking my system as I go and being grateful for the ways I've already streamlined my process.

Rip, Reknit & Rewind

I took yesterday off as a vacation day from work, planning a magical, 4-day weekend bursting with creative accomplishments and getting so! much! work! done!

Hahahaha. I should have known that my anticipation was inviting folly.

I spent all of Thursday night and much of yesterday knitting and ripping out swatches for design submissions that just weren't working. I finally got one success, then decided to revisit my yellow Fyberspates Vivacious DK summer WIP. I pulled it out, knit two rows, then looked down and realized: what the fuck am I making?

There's nothing WRONG with this, I just...don't like it.

If you get my weekly newsletter, this week's was about wardrobe planning. I've been reading as many resources on this as I can get my hands on, because I do want to have a more thoughtful, cohesive wardrobe (including the handmade elements.) I quoted Karen Templer who said:

I’ve long followed that rule about not buying anything if I can’t immediately put together three outfits with it, using only things I already own. And yet that has never applied to my knitting.

Lightbulb lightbulb lightbulb! I have a lot of handknit pieces, design samples included, that I just don't wear because they're I love the idea of them but I don't love wearing them.

I started this yellow number before that lightbulb moment and well, I'm just not going to wear a short sleeve open front cardigan with a chevron and bobble hem detail. No matter how cute it looks above, or how cute it will look when I'm finished. I have not gone through my wardrobe and thought, "I need a short sleeve wool cardigan." That gap doesn't exist.

I consider myself to be a happy marriage between a process knitter and a product knitter. I have to like the process enough to stick with it, but I also need to want that FO to keep my going as my carrot on the stick. The yarn looks great knitted at this firm gauge, but I'm not enjoying working stockinette at this gauge, with this yarn and these needles, and I really have no use for this style of garment.

So I'm putting this in time out until I decide what's a better use for the yarn. Knitting as a business means I don't get much time to knit for pleasure, so I want my business knitting to be as pleasurable as possible. It's taken me a few years to get to this realization. I would kill myself knitting things I hated process-wise for the sake of the deadline, and yeah, the end result would look amazing in the magazine photos. But then as a result, I hated knitting.

I don't want to hate knitting.

Double New Pattern Release

I've had to keep this under wraps for what seems like forever, but they're finally out! I designed two patterns for Yarnbox's June Classic Box, both using Dragonfly Fibers Pixie.

Photos by  Lindsey Topham

Photos by Lindsey Topham

Yarnbox is a subscription service that offers monthly boxes in various flavors (Classic, Sock, Luxe), each containing yarn and corresponding knit & crochet patterns designed for those yarns. For this box, I was asked to design one accessory with Pixie held singly and another accessory with Pixie held double. I hadn't used any Dragonfly Fibers yarn until this project and oh my, it's GORGEOUS.

Hemiboreal is a hat and fingerless mitts set worked with the yarn held double. The stitch pattern on the cuffs of the mitts and the body of the hat is a mix of cables, eyelets and reverse stockinette for a lot of fun texture. The subtle color changes of the Winter Woods colorway are perfect for holding two strands together, as it really helps them blend into a cohesive look. You could always make this with one strand of a DK weight yarn if you don't like working with two strands at once.

If you get my weekly newsletter, several weeks ago I teased with a shot of the tiny scraps of yarn left after binding off a large secret project. That was the remainder after I finished Papelillo. I mentioned in that same newsletter that this project made me fall back in love with knitting again! This was my first time designing and knitting a pi shawl, and I'm so thrilled with it. The lace patterns are all fairly basic, so the combined effect is of a complicated, lacy shawl that's actually not too hard to make.

Lindsey and I stumbled on this perfect nook by total accident, and have dubbed it 'The Magic Spot.' The light is just gorgeous, and it's tucked away behind buildings so there isn't much foot traffic or curious onlookers hanging around.

Both patterns are available on Ravelry now, even if you aren't a Yarnbox subscriber!

Yarn Porn & A Sneak Peek

Yes. Just yes.

That is Fyberspates Vivacious DK, and I'm working on a garment planned for late summer release. Should everything go according to schedule, that is!

I'm going to TNNA this weekend and wanted to bring a new project with me for my travel knitting. My stripey shawl is almost complete, and it's become unwieldy at this point. This is the only other planned warm-weather design I have, so I figured why not get it started! I've had the yarn in my stash for a bit and am pleased as punch to finally be working with it. That sunny yellow is so cheery and I love the crisp stitch definition. Happy yellow summer knitting!

Breckenridge Sweater

This year's special issue of Knitscene is called Knitscene Handmade, and it's full of all kinds of projects! Usually they drop the Accessories issue this time of year, so the Handmade issue is a nice change of pace. I designed the Breckenridge Sweater for men.

Photos by Harper Point Photography for Knitscene

Photos by Harper Point Photography for Knitscene

My working title for the piece was 'Urban Woodsman' which I have to admit I am SUPREMELY disappointed they did not use. 'Breckenridge Sweater' is a little generic for my taste, but oh well. At least they chose a male model with a big, woodsman-y beard!

The yarn is Beaverslide Dry Goods Fisherman Weight 3-Ply, which I had heard of before but never felt. It's rustic, sheep-y and lanolin-y, and makes a weighty sweater. My proposal was for a versatile layering piece, something that a man could wear as an outer layer instead of a jacket or sweatshirt, so the character of the wool fits that goal perfectly. It's meant to have plenty of room to fit over multiple layers. If you or your intended recipient wants to wear it next to the skin or over just a thinner layer like a t-shirt, I'd choose a less heavy yarn and size down a little for a closer fit.

I don't usually design for men and this was a fun change of pace! I took advantage of the scale of this design and the fact that I wouldn't need to add body shaping to show off a large cable and garter pattern. The body is knit in the round up to the armholes, and set aside while the sleeves are knit. Everything is joined together to work the yoke in the round, then back and forth in rows after the placket shaping begins. Short rows shape the shawl collar. Huge thanks to my sample knitter Alison who rocked this out for me!