valley yarns

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.

Something Magical

Last year a sub call came out that I instantly squealed over. I was already swimming in work and did not need another project added to my pile--but this was a theme I could not resist. I have always been a big reader with a special attachment to fantasy, mythology and science fiction. One of my favorite books as a child was D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths, a book I loved so much that I covered the paper dust-jacket with contact paper so it wouldn't become torn. (I still have that book and it sits on the upstairs hallway bookshelf.) I wasn't limited to Greek mythology though and devoured books based upon legends and fairy tales from all cultures. As an adult, my single favorite book not from a series is Enchantment by Orson Scott Card, which mixes Russian fairy tales with the modern world. So when the call was released for Enchanted Knits...I couldn't help myself. It was my dream call. comboKitsunetsuki is a foxy red cardigan inspired by the Japanese mythology of the kitsune. While kitsune is the Japanese word for fox, in this context it refers to the fox spirits who frequently appear in their stories. Kitsune possess the ability to shapeshift between fox and human forms, often taking the form of a beautiful young woman. They can act as a trickster figure (akin to the wily coyote of Native American tales), have romantic dalliances with humans, or offer wisdom. Kitsunetsuki refers to the state of being possessed by a kitsune's spirit.

I wanted to create a garment that was flattering, wearable and inspired by the myth rather than being too obvious. The front features a traveling cable across the chest which imitates the shape of a fox head, and also serves the purpose of demarcation between the reverse stockinette body and the stockinette yoke. The simple front allows the large unique cable on the back to stand out. Each individual cable is meant to represent one of the kitsune's tails, as the stories hold that older and wiser kitsune are capable of earning more tails, and they join together to form a fox tail shape.

I have to admit the extent of my cats are named Kitsune and Tsuki.

2 kittiesKitsune (left) was the first, and I named her as such because she's gingery and has a big fluffy fox tail and as it turned out, is wily, manipulative and kind of a bitch. But I love her with all my heart because she's unabashedly herself, no holding back. As I like to joke, "Like mother like daughter!" Tsuki (right) came second, and I wanted them to have coordinating names because I am a dork. I tossed around a few other ideas based on Japanese words/mythology but none of them sounded pretty.

If you're interested in reading more about kitsune, I recommend the following:

  • Foxwife by Hiromo Goto, a short story found in The Fairy Reel
  • The Fox Wife by Ellen Steiber, a short story found in Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears
  • Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio by Pu Songling - technically this is Chinese, not Japanese, and as such the relevant stories are about huli jing. There are many similarities though, and I studied this particular book as part of my focus in Chinese History when I was in college.

Happy knitting AND happy reading!

Fresh Valley Pattern Goodness!

My oh my, more new patterns?! Welcome my newest contributions to the Valley Yarns pattern line: the Bricklayer Set and the Chandelier Shawl! (Photos thanks to Webs.) Warm yourself with the Bricklayer Set from Valley Yarns. This easy color work set is worked using slipped stitches and only one color per row. Sideways garter stitch bands are a fun change from ribbing and add an extra layer of construction intrigue!

This accessory set works up super fast and (I think) is also super fun. I swapped the colors between the mitts and the hat for that extra special dose of ~why the hell not~ but you could of course match them. And think of how beautiful it would be with a color changing or hand dyed yarn for the background color, like Noro Silk Garden or Madelinetosh anything!

The Chandelier Shawl from Valley Yarns is a sweeping, cozy, cable-and-lace shawl for chilly days.

So this is one of those samples that I wish I could keep. It's gorgeous and SO WARM! But I don't have the time or inclination to re-knit a worsted weight shawl for myself, even if it is on the speedy side compared to a fingering weight shawl. Sheffield has a really nice halo because of the angora content, though I think this would look equally good in a mohair blend, or maybe even something shiny to jazz it up!

Publishing with other people is always kind of a wild card, you never know how they are going to style it and when they are going to release the patterns. Case in point--if I were self-publishing these two, I would have spaced them out and not piggybacked onto the Brooklyn Bridge Mitts release. The upside though is that Webs always does a great job with the photography and location for Valley Yarns pattern shoots and this is no exception. Always a pleasure to see your designs being showcased beautifully!

Gettin' Beachy With It

Ahh, I love the smell of a new pattern release!

Yarn Hollow Gemini

It's been a year since I first contributed to Holla Knits and I'm back again, full circle with a design in the Spring/Summer 2013 issue: Just Beachy!

I love super-fitted, body-conscious knits. But who wants all that cling when it’s hot out? I’m letting go and relaxing with a comfortable colorblocked tee! Just Beachy has identical fron and back pieces, so it’s perfect to throw on over a bikini or when running out the door–no second glance required. Mesh sides let in a cool breeze and show off your perfectly contrasting tank top underneath…or maybe even some bare summer skin!

Valley Yarns Goshen

Check back next Tuesday the 23rd to see my post for the Holla Knits blog tour, with more sweet deets on Just Beachy and the other fabulous summery designs in the collection!

2012 In Review

Goodbye 2012, it's been a blast! Above are my projects finished this year (I technically started my Holla Back Tank in the end of 2011 but finished it in January.) 10 total, 5 of which are my own designs--very cool! I started designing in the fall of 2011 so I really took off this year. I already have designs lined up for 2013 and can't wait until I can share them all with you!

Some other great moments of 2012:

  • Started this blog and joined Twitter, both of which have helped me make new awesome online friends and develop my relationship with existing ones. I love knowing that I'm connecting with people all over!
  • Continued to grow my animal herd by taking in Tsuki, our second cat, and Josie, a lady bunny friend for Mr T.
  • Discovered the paleo/primal food community. I'm not always 100% with it but I'm really happy that it's helped me be more mindful about what I eat and it's increased my creativity in the kitchen.
  • Shot the Shit Knitters Say video with work, which was SO MUCH FUN and snowballed into a much bigger hit than I had expected.

See ya next year, world! And watch out, I'm planning to OWN THAT MOTHER.


Since Webs is so graciously giving away the yarn to make my Wallpaper Cowl,  I thought I'd post a few other color combos I picked out to give you some ideas! Photos by Lindsey Topham for Webs/Valley Yarns.

Northfield in Camel & Deep Water, Huntington in Arctic

Northfield in Natural & Avocado, Huntington in Harvest Orange

Northfield in Stone Blue & Chestnut, Huntington in Mustard

Northfield in Mauve & Haze, Huntington in Porcelain Blue

For the dreamers

Remember the sneak peek I showed you a few days ago? The Dreamer's Braided Pullover is here!

All photos by Lindsey Topham for Webs/Valley Yarns

I am super excited that this pattern is finally released since as you can see, I was able to do a really gorgeous photoshoot wearing it! All the clothes and styling choices are my own so this is truly how I would wear it--I wanted to show an option aside from jeans which (as we know) go with everything, and I love this look.

I had a dream about this design several months ago (hence the 'dreamer's' part of the name!) My dream was about a pullover sweater with a colorwork yoke flanked by Latvian braid details. Hmm...where have we seen those recently? :P I wrote down the idea when I woke up and filed it away for when the time was right. The yoke pattern in my dream was more geometric, but didn't look right when I swatched it and I really liked the look of this curved stitch pattern. It's actually straight knitting with slipped stitches, so the only time you're knitting with two colors in the same row is when you're working the braids and the corrugated ribbing. The body is worked in one piece to the yoke, then set aside as the sleeves are knit. Once sleeves and body are joined you work the yoke and are done! My favorite element is the few rows of raglan shaping I did in the yoke before the colorwork section is started--it snugs up the underarm area to eliminate too much bunching from extra fabric and gives it a really clean fit.

We also decided to do something different and I hooped for some funky action shots!

Valley Yarns Sheffield is a cozy, snuggly, shut-the-world-out blend of merino, silk and angora with just enough of a halo to soften the edges of the colorwork without completely blurring out the design. I think it's warm enough to warrant the cropped sleeves, especially in transitional fall weather, but it would look super cute layered over a long sleeve shirt in the middle of winter. All you have to do is dream up your favorite color combination and cast on!

Let there be sleeves!

One down, one to go! I'm aiming to have it finished, blocked and dried by next Saturday so I can wear it to Rhinebeck. It's my first time going so OF COURSE I have to have a Rhinebeck sweater. And why not make it one that I designed?

I'm extremely pleased since it's coming out exactly how I pictured it when I first thought of these mods. Obviously I've modded other sweater patterns before when I knit them, but nothing to this extent. I had to:

  1. Calculate a new size based on my different gauge with this yarn (6sts/1" instead of 7sts/1") and because I wanted a 34" finished bust size.
  2. Adjust the instructions for working in the round (not that hard.)
  3. Do fewer decreases at the neck and armhole so I would have wider straps and so the body would be shaped more like a pullover. I kind of winged this part but my instincts turned out to be perfect, no frogging required.
  4. Work short row sleeve caps for the first time! My first attempt was too big so I had to rip it out and start again

I've got a week and a few days left, then yarn heaven! I'm also working at the Webs booth at Stitches East this Friday, which is definitely a change of pace from my office. I did a stint there last year and managed to meet a lot of the suppliers I work with, so I'm looking forward to catching up with some of them and maybe finally meeting some others. If you happen to be attending, stop by and look for me!

I also did a photo shoot for work a few weeks ago. Here's a sneak peek...

Photo by Lindsey Topham for Webs/Valley Yarns

I wonder who designed that lovely sweater I'm wearing....? ;)

Quick links

Just a little drive-by linkage here. I have a Tuesday's Tip on the Webs blog about converting flat patterns to knitting in the round, check it out!

And I will be at the Valley Yarns Trunk Show tomorrow night (9/20, 6-8pm at Webs), more details are here. I'll be talking about two of my designs, one of which is a never-before-seen sweater for the upcoming Holiday catalog!

Gravy, baby!

Introducing my newest Valley Yarns pattern, with possibly the most ridiculous name ever: Wavy Gravy Mittens!

All photos in this post by Lindsey Topham.

These were the little (okay, bulky) mittens that could! My original plan was to do nautical themed mittens, with an anchor on the back of the hand accented by wave motifs. I ripped out and re-knit three or four variations on that idea, desperately hoping to make it work. Then I remembered KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid! I realized I needed to pick something that would really suit Northampton Bulky instead of fighting against the nature of the yarn.

I wound up modeling the mittens for the catalog shots which was an added bonus! I get to play model often at work and I enjoy it. Ok, not going to lie--my vanity enjoys seeing beautiful professional quality photos of myself, but it's also fun to live out my America's Next Top Model-fueled fantasies while helping out Webs when they need photos on the fly. Since I'm not video-camera-shy either, Lindsey and I shot this short video about the mittens earlier this week.