inspiration

Indie Gift-A-Long 2017

It's time once again for the Indie Gift-A-Long, an annual coordinated sale and KAL by indie designers. As always, you can save 25% on any patterns in the GAL with promo code giftalong2017 through 11:59pm EST on 11/28. Of course I have a selection of designs available in the sale:

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But enough about me--you already know I exist, because you're here! The GAL is all about community: designers supporting designers, knitters supporting indie designers, and so on. Here are some of my favorite GAL picks that I'm contemplating adding to my queue.

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Knit Me With Your Best Shot by Mary Annarella. I had the pleasure of trying this sample on at a trunk show and it was gorgeously flattering. I am definitely feeling pullovers more than cardigans this year (forever cold club!) and I think this classic style would work well in my wardrobe. However, I don't think I have any stash suitable for this and I'm trying to use up a good chunk of my stash before I buy any new sweater quantities.

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Rib Run by Jennifer Dassau. This simple cable and ribbed hat is super appealing to me. I already have an extensive hat collection, but there's always room for one more, right? Most of my hats are worked in hand-dyed yarns, and this looks like a good excuse to play with a beautiful solid color.

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Calentito by Kristen Jancuk. These adorbale slipper socks have been in my queue since the day they were released, so I'm definitely snapping this one up! I have quite the stash of sock yarn and some partial skeins, both of which will be perfect to use up in several pairs of Calentitos. 

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Wheatly Socks by Kerri Blumer. Can you tell that I really, really need to knit more socks? I would love to have an overflowing handmade sock drawer, and a long-term goal of mine has been to work on knitting more socks! I love this simple textural stitch pattern, it would be perfect for some subtle semi-solid skeins I have.

I'd love to hear what you're stocking up on during the Indie GAL and what project you're planning to cast on first!

Summer Shawl Bundle

For the month of August, I am offering a Summer Shawl Bundle: 4 shawl patterns for $12!

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All four patterns use fingering weight yarn, and are great options for stashbusting or cranking out one last sweet summer project. Clockwise from top left, they are:

Advice From a Caterpillar, a triangle shawlette with a ribbed and cabled stitch pattern. This is the smallest shawl of the bundle and requires the least yardage. Shown in Gynx Yarns Single Merino, it requires 400 yards and measures 39" x 15.5".

Klystron is an asymmetrical shawl knit on the bias in two colors. It's knit mostly in garter stitch, with brioche stripes, and you'll need to understand intarsia to knit this. Shown in Shalimar Yarns Aerie, it requires 700 yds (420 yds MC & 280 yds CC) and measures 72" x 21".

Papelillo is a lace pi-shawl, worked from the center outwards. The lace patterns are both written and charted. Shown in Dragonfly Fibers Pixie, it requires 950 yards and measures 34" in diameter.

San Drea Shawl is another asymmetrical shawl, this time with stripes, short rows, and a lace border. This one is definitely a good stashbuster! Shown in Manos del Uruguay Fino (MC) and Shibui Knits Staccato with Nylon (CC), it requires 850 yds MC and 110 (120, 130) yds of CC1 (CC2, CC3) and measures 80" x 24.5"

Which one would you knit first?

My Making List

I recently discovered The Craft Sessions and fell down the rabbit hole of her Stash Less blog post series. Ever since I stopped working at Webs, my yarn consumerism has been way down and even before I left there, I was starting to be more mindful about my stash. I've done several purges of yarn, leaving me with a full yarn cabinet (rather than an overflowing one!) of prized skeins that I'd like to work though over the next few years. Coupled with my new budget, my eye is on using what I have and working on projects I've been pondering for awhile rather than heading off into new directions.

Thus, I decided to follow her challenge of creating a Making List. I'm leaving myself free to remove items from this list if I decide it no longer appeals to me, but if I want to add new things to the making list, I need to have completed something or removed something in its place. Note that this isn't my dreaming, wishful thinking list, but rather projects that I am committed to making because I already own the materials and in the case of some, they're already in progress. Designs for self-publishing are included, but contracted third-party obligations are not.

WIPS

  1. Miss Babs cardigan (design in progress)
  2. Fibre Co Stripey Raglan
  3. Saturday Matinee Socks--a finished FO as of Sunday night! Currently blocking.
  4.  Rainbow Leyburn Socks
  5. Charlemont Thermal

The cardigan will be set aside shortly as I have a sweater design I need to start working on. #2 just needs sleeves! Items 3 through 5 are long-standing WIPs, and I'm excited to close those projects out. I am definitely going to finish the Leyburn Socks, but I might change my mind on the thermal and rip it instead--need to dig that one out and take a long, hard look at it!

CAST ON

  1. Brookdale Vest
  2. Lopi Pullover
  3. Anzula Ava Set (design idea)

I have the yarn for all three of these, and the patterns for 1 & 2 to boot!

SPIN

  1. Romney fleece
  2. White British wool
  3. Spun Right Round fiber
  4. Malabrigo Nube.

Spinning is the most long-term of the categories, and I do need to get back into my spinning groove with some practice before tackling these fibers, especially the fleece. I'll likely do some practice spins with stash fiber I have expressly set aside for that purpose. In all honest, I'm not anticipating getting to spinning until the fall, or at least until I finish my current sewing list as that is more important to me.

SEW

  1. Fen Dress
  2. Watson Bra
  3. Wiksten Tank 2
  4. Serger projects

'Serger projects' in this case refers to the stash of knit fabric I have and any possible projects I want to do with it. I've been thinking of some jogger-style pants, pajama shorts for lounging around the house, and a casual tee or two. But first I need to learn how to use my serger!

Here are my tentative rules for the near future:

  1. Projects in the Making List take priority over random flights of fancy. (Exceptions: Any design obligations, duh.)
  2. $50/month budget for craft supplies. For now, I see that going to patterns and notions rather than yarn or fabric since I have a good stash to work from. I can roll any unspent $ over from month-to-month if I want to save up for something bigger than $50.
  3. If I'm avoiding a Making List project or not enjoying it--frog mercilessly, give away to a friend to finish, whatever, but no wasting time on things I don't love.

It may seem weird to put this much effort and structure into my hobbies, but I feel SO MUCH better for having done this. Getting my ideas out of my head and onto paper has cleared up brain space and made me decide what is actually a priority to me. I love having a good plan and I'm excited to get more crafting done the rest of this year! If you made a Making List, what would be on yours?

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.

Playing with Color: Eucalipto

Imagine my surprise and delight when I was browsing Instagram earlier this week and came across this with no warning:

Yahoo! Kitterly's enthusiasm for this design, and their fun color combinations, inspired me to create another installment of the Playing with Color series.

Like the Gilt Sweater, Eucalipto mixes two colors of laceweight yarns to create a gradient effect. You can always travel back to the Gilt Playing with Color post to see those color combos as a jumping off point, and to read my original points about how to best choose colors for this type of project. TLDR for those of you not interested in reading that older post: Easy approach is choosing 2 color similar to each other, hard mode is choosing 2 different colors & seeing if they will blend.

Here are a few easy mode palettes in Manos del Uruguay Lace:

L2349 Gelsey & L2439 Yokai

L2349 Gelsey & L2439 Yokai

L2183 Gloriana & L2121 Dryad

L2183 Gloriana & L2121 Dryad

Getting a little spicier:

L2196 Okiku & L2605 Tennin

L2196 Okiku & L2605 Tennin

L2590 Natural & L2040 Puck

L2590 Natural & L2040 Puck

Supa dupa spicy!

L2552 Yosei & L7088 Enenra

L2552 Yosei & L7088 Enenra

L2354 Dolia & L9622 Nixie

L2354 Dolia & L9622 Nixie

There you have it! I hope these color palettes inspire you to pick out a fresh and exciting color combo for your very own Eucalipto. I look forward to seeing them!

Yarn Porn: Chester Farms Pride of the Flock

One of the many perks of working in a yarn store is we all put our destashes up for grabs in the kitchen, which is how I wound up yesterday with 9 skeins of this:

Oh HELL yes! That beauty is Chester Farms Pride of the Flock. According to Ravelry it's discontinued, and Chester Farms rebranded to Cestari. It's made in the United States which is an extra bonus! I'm finding as time goes on, I am appreciating more and more these natural, woolly, old school yarns. Of course I still love me some hand dyed superwash, but this type of yarn just FEELS like sheep. I like sheep.

The label only gives the weight of the skeins, but if Ravelry's database is correct I have 1890 yards to play with in color Dark Opal. I'm thinking a gorgeous cabled textural oversized sweater from Brooklyn Tweed. Going clockwise from top left: Cordova, Larus, Stonecutter & Ondawa.

Fall sweater goals! Just got to finish my Tinder before I can allow myself to cast on for another selfish sweater project aka professional development.

Neon Neutral Triangle Club

The tweet that started it all. Over a year and many yards of neon yarn later, Sarah, Teresa and I are pleased to present Neon Neutral Triangle Club to you all!

Our awesome logo created by Kirsten Hipsky!

Our awesome logo created by Kirsten Hipsky!

The theme is pretty straightforward: neons, neutrals and triangles. We each designed one accessory and one garment based on our interpretation of the theme, and enlisted some killer yarn companies to support them. Because let's face it: when you are doing a collection about neon, you need some NEON.

My accessory design is Triangle Inception and it features some fancy-pantsy yarn from Rain City Knits.

Photos by  Lindsey Topham

Photos by Lindsey Topham

I wanted to showcase a bright variegated colorway since I feel like those types of yarns are often neglected. They're definitely harder to design for and knit with, but they're beautiful too! I met Krista at TNNA in 2014 so she was fresh on my mind when I was thinking of neon yarn options. I love supporting indie dyers!

You can tell these photos were taken awhile ago because my hair is totally different now!

You can tell these photos were taken awhile ago because my hair is totally different now!

It's a really simple triangle shawl with a garter stitch body and knit-and-purl triangle border. The white spokes are formed by slip-stitch surface crochet after the shawl is complete, and it's easy to get the hang of even if you aren't a crocheter! Plus the RainCityKnits Super Sock MCN base is lush and very pettable.

Acute-ly Preppy is my garment design and ohmygod I'm SO HAPPY that we managed to get a jumping shot during this photoshoot!

I've worked with the folks at Fairmount Fibers before (the US distributors of Manos del Uruguay yarns) and they are just fabulous, so I was really happy when they agreed to support this venture. Maxima is a great squishy single-ply merino that has punchy neon colors, making it a no-brainer choice.

I will warn you--this is a labor of love, product knitter type sweater. It's knit flat in pieces and seamed, which a lot of people already dislike, but that means the front panel has both right side AND wrong side colorwork going on. I personally didn't find it bad at all, though since I designed it I'm clearly crazy and my opinion can't be trusted. Essentially, the front panel is stranded so you're carrying your colors across both RS and WS rows, but it's set within a larger piece intarsia-style. You knit across the front to the beginning of the panel, twist the yarns around each other when working intarsia, strand both accent colors across the panel, and then twist around a separate ball of the MC to finish working the other side of the front.

Since the front is so complicated, there's no shaping and everything else is straightforward. The back neck is shaped the same as the front for a cute V-neck back. So if you wear a bright tank underneath, you'll have a little neon surprise back there!

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I also want to thank two special people that contributed. First is my friend Elisabeth who graciously lent me some of her handmade triangle-themed jewelry (see above) for the photoshoot as the perfect accent. You can see her work at metal & rocks. The other person is Kirsten Hipsky, who created our ebook layout for us and did a fantastic design job. If you buy a copy you'll see what I mean!

Neon Neutral Triangle Club is available on Ravelry as a full 6-pattern ebook for $24, or you can purchase the patterns individually.

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!

Photo 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.

Cape Cod Grey, Camote & Coral for a fresh, modern take

Pollen, Raspberry & Jupiter for an unexpected hint of sweetness

Wisteria, Acorn & Redwood Bark for the sophisticate's closet

Do any of these color combinations inspire you?

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.

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!

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From 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?

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DSC01018

The 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.

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DSC00924

The 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.

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DSC01067

The 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.

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DSC01097

The 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.

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!

Playing with Color: Stripe Quartet

Let's dive into another color-driven design, shall we? Stripe Quartet is a great simple, stripey cardigan using Baah Aspen. Mira (of Baah) and I picked out the colors together at TNNA last May and it was wonderful that we had similar thoughts. I'm super pumped she let me throw that orange in there because I love orange! There are two ways to approach a project like this, in my opinion. First is to use two neutrals and two color pops, which is what I did with my sample using two greys, hot pink and orange. There aren't many neutrals currently in the Aspen color line, so let's pick out a few different color pops that could be subbed in using the same greys as I did, Shadow and Grey Onyx.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Playing with Color: Gilt Sweater

One of my favorite things to do in my part-time gig as LYS employee is to help customers pick out color combinations for multicolor projects. I feel like I have good color sense and my coworkers ask for my opinion on colors which helps reinforce this idea, even if it is all in my head! I tend to go by instinct and don't follow a strict set of rules, though I do keep the varying values of the colors in mind when picking 3 or more for a project. Since I love color, a good number of my designs feature multiple colors and as far as I'm concerned, the quirkier the better! I know a lot of people don't trust their color sense or can have a hard time envisioning a design in other colors, so I thought I'd introduce a mini series on playing with color. Each post will examine a colorful design of mine and I'll showcase some other potential color combinations that I think would work along with tips on how to approach choosing colors for that particular project. Up first is the Gilt Sweater! Since this design relies heavily on an ombre effect, you really need to pick two yarns that are closely related in order to duplicate this same effect. If you always order your yarns online, this can be really hard to do! I would suggest picking out several possible color combinations and then looking at other people's projects on Ravelry in those colors to see how the color reads across multiple cameras and lighting situations. I definitely suggest using a hand-dyed yarn to enhance the color blending, which also means that you have variation across dyelots to contend with. If at all possible, I'd visit a LYS or two and check out colors in person to find the best combination.

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

blues

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

stoneblue parisnightStone Blue & Paris Night

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

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

apricot tigerlilyApricot & Tiger Lily

cactusflower mollyCactus Flower & Molly

verdeesperanza cypressVerde Esperanza & Cypress

jacinto purplemysteryJacinto & Purple Mystery

cognac marronoscuroCognac & Marron Oscuro

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

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

Armored

Now that the Winter issue of Knitscene is hitting newstands and mailboxes, let's take a look at my featured designer collection! Because oh yeah....if you didn't notice, I'm the featured designer of this issue. :) Yay! From the beginning I decided I wanted to design thematically as opposed to separate pieces--partially for that Project Runway, fashion designer type experience but also because it excited me to create a body of work meant to be shown together. I really like thinking thematically, it turns out, so I have several collections in the works for the future (aka, stay tuned!) The inspiration for this collection is medieval armor and the story of its inception is interesting. Last year I spent a lot of time online dating and as it was the first time in my life I was actively dating and not relationshipping, I purposely set the bar low in terms of who I would accept dates from in order to expose myself to as many different types of people and experiences as possible. I had my general standards, for sure, but I wanted to avoid falling into the trap of only dating my 'type' (men similar to those I had previous relationships with.) Anyways, I wound up accepting a date with a guy and we went to the Higgins Armory Museum, which is now closed so I'm glad I had a chance to see it then! We took a swordfighting workshop and looked at the collection, wherein I got really excited about all the details on the armor and took a bunch of pictures with the express purpose of turning them into designs and he probably thought I was a freak. (But that's okay because for reasons that had everything to do with him and nothing to do with my knitting freakiness, there was no second date.)

haubergeonAll fancy photos by Knitscene/Harper Point Photography, armory photos by me

The Haubergeon Sweater is most directly inspired by a specific piece I saw at the Higgins Armory, this suit of armor featuring a lattice-like pauldron (shoulder armor). I instantly saw a lattice cable pattern! I played with different shoulder placements of a cable design but threw some of them out the window for being too bulky, or for encroaching too much on the chest which I knew had the possibility of looking weird on someone with a larger bust than I. Ultimately I mashed up the idea of cabled arms/shoulders with the silhouette of a haubergeon (or hauberk), which is a chain mail shirt, giving this sweater its longer tunic length and the cropped sleeves.

gloves2

I played more fast and loose with the Gothic Gloves, historically speaking. They aren't directly linked to a specific style of armor, though I drew inspiration from more decorative, mixed-metal pieces and jousting gloves. The cuff shape is very recognizable as being medieval-ish and I approached the mixed metal aspect with two different colors, some stripes and a small colorwork motif. I want to thank Carina Spencer for her Sugar Maple pattern--knitting that piece, with its paired increases and decreases to form the pointed hem without increasing the overall number of stitches, helped me figure out how to shape the point of the cuffs and keep the stitch count consistent.

cuirassiers copyThe Cuirassier's Cardigan is another more artistic rendition, if you will. I saw several lovely cable-like details on suits of armor at the Higgins Armory and sought to create a simple, everyday cardigan with a few special touches. Something that was less Ren Faire than perhaps the gloves! As such, the only tie this piece has to armor are the flowing lines and small cables which grow out of an otherwise plain background. I-cord edgings are among my favorite because of how clean they are, and I felt that paired with a zipper closure instead of buttons, they helped keep this from looking too knitting-y (where a ribbed buttonband would have taken it away from the original intent.) I like the jacket/blazer feel of this piece, which was entirely unintentional!

greaves2And now, my absolute favorite piece of the collection: Ornate Greaves! Greaves (leg armor) could be quite plain but I followed in the footsteps of more decorative pairs with the kneecap cable design and purl ridges along the calves. This was extra special because I used my friend Laura's yarn, Gynx Yarns Merino DK. I love the above-the-knee length for these, partially because of my love for thigh high socks and stockings! Practically speaking though, it's a great choice for extra warmth and it gave me more space to play with the cable design.

In terms of yarn choice, I had two purposes. The first was to pick companies that represented something to me as a designer, and the second was to create a cohesive color story.

  • The Haubergeon Pullover is knit in The Fibre Company Organik, as I used another of their yarns for my first ever Knitscene pattern (the Mountain Nettle Shawl, in Acadia.)
  • The Gothic Gloves are knit in Brooklyn Tweed Loft, a company on my knitting bucket list to design for--maybe this will be the first step towards a future collaboration? ;)
  • The Cuirassier's Cardigan is knit in Valley Yarns Colrain, as a thank you to Webs and the Elkins. Without my job there I might not be a designer at all, let alone the one I am today with the friends, fans and industry connections I can directly attribute to Webs.
  • And the Ornate Greaves are in Gynx Yarns Merino DK, because Laura deserved to be in Knitscene for taking a chance on me in our multiple collaborations, and I wanted the world to be exposed to her beautiful yarn.

When I first envisioned the collection, grey was the color that popped to mind because duh, metal. While a monochromatic, all-grey collection would be really beautiful, I am first and foremost a person that loves color and I wanted to showcase something more 'me', and an all-grey palette would not be fitting. The gloves use a neutral oatmeal and a gold for a warmer play on the silver and gold of mixed metals, and the copper of the cardigan is to represent a different metal--the warmer half of the collection. On the cooler side, we have grey legwarmers because I HAD to have one grey piece and felt a neutral color was more wearable for an accessory like this. The pullover color is a bit of a reach, but I was looking for a cool, elegant color that fit with the rest of the palette rather than being a bright pop. Purple was a sought-after color in medieval Europe, after all!

My biggest goal for the collection was to draw inspiration from armor while creating modern and wearable pieces as opposed to costume items. Because of that, it's not a 100% historically accurate look at medieval armor but I am beyond pleased with the end result. What do you think--did I pull it off? Can you see yourself or someone you know wearing these pieces?

(Many thanks to Amy Palmer at Knitscene for accepting my proposal, the other folks at Knitscene for the fabulous styling of these garments, the yarn companies listed above for their excellent yarn support, and Robin Shroyer for writing a great article about me and for creating possibly the best interview ever!)

Balance

balance and progressFinally nailing my shoulder mount (left); handstand progressions & improving form (right)

So far, the best thing about my new gig is that I have time to enjoy being me. That includes extra pole sessions, late night Fallout 3 marathons, and the luxury of spending an afternoon reading--something I haven't done in years because of the guilt of not constantly forcing myself to be productive, to do something 'worthwhile.'

When I imagined my new life I thought I would be ten times more productive, because I assumed I would spend all my spare time knitting and doing the myriad assortment of related designer tasks (as I had done previously in every spare moment I had outside of work). More spare time=more work, right? Instead, I'm taking time to live...and my designing isn't suffering.

This is your regularly scheduled reminder to strive for balance. I'm a couple years late to the message though!

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 nerdery...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!

Adventures in Wonderland

IMG_5376smAll photos in this post by Lindsey Topham unless stated otherwise

I've once again teamed up with Gynx Yarns to bring you an amazing accessory collaboration! Meet Advice From a Caterpillar, my contribution to Laura's Alice in Wonderland themed kit she is debuting at SSK this month.

Laura contacted me asking if I could whip up a one or two skein accessory design to fit her planned theme and of course I had to say yes. She is always a joy to work with--not only is the yarn beautiful, but she trusts me as a designer and lets my imagination run wild. Laura dyed up three exclusive Wonderland inspired colorways just for the kits (my shawl uses 'Wonderland') and asked Little Skein in the Big Wool to contribute a matching project bag. Take a look!

kit collagePhotos by Gynx Yarns - yarn colors from L to R are Wonderland, Cheshire Cat & Caterpillar

I happen to have one of those project bags myself (advance perks y'all!) and the construction is FABULOUS. Really sturdy and the fabric is adorable.

In case you couldn't guess it from the name, my shawlette drew inspiration from the Caterpillar. I have to admit, I am a bigger fan of Through the Looking Glass but I wanted to go with the original book for this one. I was imagining the cables as wriggly caterpillars at first, then I realized the cables' transition to ribbing and back again was an apt metaphor for metamorphosis. Caterpillar to butterfly, Alice to Big and Little Versions of Herself, and so on. Pretend you're an art student and fill in with your long-reaching explanation of choice.

blog collageAs luck would have it, this turned out to be the most perfect photoshoot yet! Lighting, location, styling--everything was on point to create a magical mood.

If you're not attending SSK, look for kits/preorders to appear in the Gynx Etsy Shop around July 22nd. I'll make an announcement when the pattern is available for individual sale. Til then, beware of the Jabberwocky, eh?

Hooker's Startitis

I am a pretty newb crocheter. My most notable project to date, a cute summery tee, is currently languishing half-done. (Oops.) I enjoy the rhythm of crochet, but my excuse is the same one for selfish knitting--I don't have time! 98% of my knitting time is devoted to design work and at most, I manage to squeeze in a small accessory project to break up the monotony of creating beautiful things you then have to send away instead of showing off. It's a hard life, this designing. Cue violins. Anyways, last night I tried the crochet chain provisional cast on for the first time instead of the usual provisional cast on with waste yarn I use when knitting. LOVE it, so much easier. Unfortunately, picking up a hook made me start daydreaming about all the crochet projects I'm dying to start. What better way to spend a snow day than fantasy yarn shopping?

decodaisiesThe Holla Knits KAL* just kicked off this week and I wish I was right there with everyone working on a Deco Daisies of my very own! I love this sweet and flowery cowl, which I think would be perfect in a color changing yarn with long repeats like Knitting Fever Painted Desert. I'm thinking something pink and purple-y for the ultimate feminine neckwarmer.

fallfieldsI loved this sweater so much that I bought the issue of Interweave Crochet as soon as I saw it. Once I have time, it's waiting for me! Of course, as a Tosh addict I couldn't resist dreaming of Madelinetosh Tosh Sport color combinations for this. I love Heuchera but have yet to use it in any projects and would make it the main color of the Fall Fields Cardigan so it can take center stage.

sugarsparklesMy coworker and crochet design maven Sara once said that hand-dyed yarn looks great in crochet and I couldn't agree more. I love Fable Fibers' colorways and couldn't pick just one! This yarn sudden death match comes down between Orchid and Lucky Penny, both in Fable Fibers Story MCN. Each would give the Sugar Sparkles Shawlette a different vibe and I can picture either color at home in my wardrobe.

I'd love to grow my crochet queue, so share your favorite patterns or designers with me!

*There are tons of cool prizes in the Holla Knits KAL, including my self-published patterns and the Pantonal pattern collection--incentive to join in if you've been waiting to whip up any Holla Knits patterns!

Spring, Spring, Spring

I couldn't resist that bit of nerdiness, now you know my secret love for musicals. SORRYNOTSORRY.

Spring is a fever dream right now in New England. Warm weather? Exposed arms? Dafuq?! But you too can dream that fever dream by checking out the great spring looks that have just been released as part of Louet North America's Spring 2014 Collection. If you start knitting now, you'll be prepared by the time the snow melts! In theory...

This is a very well rounded collection, featuring tanks, tees, a long-sleeve pullover, two shawls and a skirt. All use either Gems Fingering, Gems Sport or Euroflax Sport. The first two are smoothly plied merino yarns and the last one is 100% Linen. Yarn store employee confession time--Euroflax Sport simultaneously intrigued and terrified me when I worked in the store. If a customer wanted 100% Linen yarn, Euroflax Sport was one of the only ones we had. In the hank it's stiff and wiry but we kept a blocked swatch nearby to prove how well it softened once washed. LIKE MAGIC. I never got a chance to try it but still hope to someday!

I decided to style my three favorite items from the collection. First up is Selway by Karen Marlatt. (All photos of the collection by Caro Sheridan, who is a fountain of awesomeness by the way. Took a photography class of hers and it was amazing!)

BFF Afternoon

I love oversized, airy layering pieces and Selway is perfect for that! You can add a different colored tank top under it to change your look completely and have it fit right in with your wardrobe, especially when knit in a neutral like white. I made it pop with yummy coral jeans and cute kitschy shoes from Modcloth but you could easily work Selway into a more ~grown-up look. I think this would be perfect for an afternoon of shopping with my BFF--comfortable and still fashionable!

Summer Date Night

Niobrara by Jairlyn Mason features an elegant pleated neck detail and a flattering shape. I dressed it up for a summery date night out with a look that's put-together but not stuffy. A mini and flats put all the attention on your legs (one of my favorite parts to highlight) and a cardigan is a must-have when braving overly air-conditioned restaurants. Just don't forget to roll the cuffs back to show off that sweet stack of bracelets!

Lazy Sunday

For days when you need a quick layer but want something more polished than a sweatshirt, Camulet by Anne Podlesak is perfect. I'd let a bright tee peek through this lacy number for a lazy Sunday spent knitting, running errands and doing whatever else strikes my fancy. I'm a huge fan of long sleeves with shorts--I think of it as the less-popular cousin of short sleeves with pants--and as I've mentioned before on this blog I am a diehard Converse fan, so there's no contest in the footwear department! Add a geometric necklace and you are golden for spending a day on the couch without looking like you're spending a day on the couch, ifyaknowwhatImean.

Now that I've unfairly whey your appetite for warmer weather, go forth and knit! Or check out the other stops on the Louet North America Spring 2014 Collection blog tour to explore these great designs further!

January 13: Louet North America January 15: Mari Knits January 17: From the Desk of Molly Purlz January 20: Fiber Dreams January 22: Nik’s Knits January 24: Emma Welford Designs January 27: Guest Post by Patty Nance on Louet Blog January 31: Wooly Wonka Fibers February 3: Kangath Knits

Catching Inspiration

I am one of those annoying diehard book fans who sit through a movie adaptation and think "But she said that line different in the book! And he completely changed the original intent with that facial expression! Gah!" I remember leaving the theater after seeing either the 4th or 5th Harry Potter movie with my friends and line-for-line QUOTING the book and pointing out the difference in wording. #buzzkill This all to say, I saw Catching Fire last night and was extremely pleased with it. As my favorite book of the trilogy I was most looking forward to this one--I can still nitpick things that weren't ~omg the exact same as the book~ but on the whole I found the mood to be a lot more suitable to Collins' original work than the first movie. And the clothes, oh the clothes! Super inspiring for both knitting and sewing purposes. I spied some great knitwear, shall we take a gander together?

catchingfire11.3-1024x682The eponymous shrug/cowl/one sleeved vest thing everyone is in love with. Hella cool but less than practical for my everyday wardrobe. I'm sure I could come up with a look for it but all I forsee is the thing bunching up one side and annoying the hell out of me--you can already tell in the photo above how it's sliding to Katniss' right. The post-apocalyptic version of your pants falling down your ass and having to eternally pull them up; not practical for killing people while wearing. Verdict: Costume (except for a few brave fashionista souls.)

439932_600Finnick can has sweater?! Adorbs! Side note: I didn't get involved in the Sam Claflin bash-fest before the movie premiered, since I didn't know who the hell he was until now, but I have no gripes with his performance as Finnick or his looks. Great choice in my opinion. Ok, on to the sweater. My favorite detail is the cables that transform into part of the ribbed collar, so inspirational and reminds me of other pieces that use the same effect like Bristol Ivy's L'Acadie Cardigan. Meh on the weird closures that make me think of binder clips, they fit the movie but are too costume-y for real life and I hate the way they pull the fabric out of whack. Liking the almost faux-lapel look of the collar. Verdict: Wearable, with buttons subbed in for the binder clips.

tumblr_mgdugzIPg51qabk4ho1_1280Katniss' mother's cardigan and Prim's sleeveless vest, not any different from patterns we already know and love! I wanted to put this here to show that it isn't all crazycakes anarchist sweaters. Verdict: Beyond wearable. Almost boring.

hq-scan-catching-fire-calendar-1This sweater shown in a tiniest fraction of the movie is AMAZING. The directional knitting and modular look to it instantly make me think of Norah Gaughan, and of course colorblocking is in like whoa lately. I think it really highlights J.Law's waist and I love the higher hem at the front. I see this being a lot of fun to recreate, and think of all the color combinations! You could go all Effie Trinket on it and do something crazy like orange, purple and pink. (Not really. That might be overkill.) What I really dislike is that awful shirt underneath it--not only does it ruin the cool high-low hem of the sweater but it looks like a dickey for your crotch. I know it's all the rage in the Capitol right now but Just Say No to crotch bibs. Verdict: @%&*^(@! LOVE IT. Kill the underlayer with fire.

8686-LA_Hunger-Games-Catching-Fire_Red-carpet_400x400_V51I walked out of the theater thinking about this cowl. I thought it was knit but upon looking at pictures now it looks like it's woven (closer look here.) Still a fiber art, still cool! I bet this could be really easily recreated with a rigid heddle loom and some Noro yarn. I can also imagine a knit version using strategic basketweave/cabling to create a similar look. Slight tangent to make a point--Do you ever look at something, figure it out to look one way and then realize you were completely wrong and it looks totally different? I don't know if this happens as often to non-glasses wearers but this happens a bunch, especially when I don't have my glasses on. And usually what I THINK I saw is more interesting than what is actually real. In this case, I'm digging the woven look but I thought this cowl was completely different and it sparked some cool ideas for me. And that is movie magic. Verdict: Wearable. Weavers, feel the love!