Archives for category: Tips and Tricks

Since the launch of BT Fall 14, we’ve been getting some great questions streaming in over e-mail and social media. We thought it would be great to present a short Q&A today to answer some of the more common queries we’ve heard so far.

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BT Fall 14 Q&A

 

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The fashion world loves oversized sweaters these days, and we at BT appreciate their coziness (and also the extra large canvas for beautiful handwork). That said, we also know that these garments can be tricky to wear/style for many – so we’re focusing on that topic today (as well as the big question we’ve been getting from our male knitters!)

Q: I like my sweaters to have just a few inches of positive ease, creating a more classic fit. Which of the designs in BT Fall 14 can I knit, and how should I make adjustments if I need to?

A: Spinnaker, Docklight, Backbay, and Crosby are all designed for a standard fit bust circumferences down to 32-35”, which should allow even petite women a slim silhouette. Wake is also intended for 2-4” of ease, though we chose to show it worn with 6” for a more casual effect.

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Classic Fits from BT Fall 14

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Bellows and Zenith are styled in our lookbook with a lot of positive ease—9 or 10”. But again, the smallest sizes given are 35-36”, so even very slender knitters should be able to work up a sweater with a more traditional 4-5” ease. Keep in mind that both designs are intended as outerwear, with room for other layers beneath. If you are knitting a smaller size than is usual for you, consult the schematic closely to determine if you’ll need to add length, particularly in the sleeves.

Only Rowe is really intended for pure oversized drama; the smallest size in the pattern is 40¼” with the fronts touching…but don’t forget to picture those fronts overlapped and snugly bundled around you before you start plotting to scale it down even farther.

Q: I’m curious about oversized sweaters, but I’m not sure they flatter my body. How can I wear them?

A: Whenever you are increasing the scale of one garment, it’s usually a good plan to keep the rest of the outfit slim: pair wide-leg trousers with a tailored sweater or a boxy pullover with skinny jeans. Likewise, choosing a garment with slim sleeves and shoulders that fit you well will help keep a wide silhouette from looking simply baggy. Hawser and Ondawa both use this principle.

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BT Fall Styling Tips

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If you’re petite and large clothes tend to swamp your frame, consider an open-front cardigan like Rowe that can swing to reveal your slender shape within.

A few pitfalls to avoid: A garment that ends at the widest point of your body usually won’t be flattering. If, like many women, your hips are your widest point, make sure the hem falls at your high hip or extends to mid-thigh. Split-hem styles like Crosby may be flattering for you, too.

Q: What, no garments for men in a collection inspired by fisherman sweaters?!

A: Stay tuned – BT Men Volume 2 is in the works! In the meantime, Bellows is handsome for either sex, as are the scarves and hats in the Fall collection. And a variation on Wake could integrate into a contemporary masculine wardrobe with ease.

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We hope you enjoyed today’s Q&A session – please feel free to keep the questions coming. We love hearing from you!

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On Tuesday we talked about some of the fundamental “rules” of color theory as it pertains to knitting stranded fabric with multiple colors of yarn. Today I want to share some of my own design swatches for the Atlas pullover/cardigan that illustrate these concepts.

When I begin a new design, the first major block of time is spent making several swatches. This is never truer than when I am combining color (where swatching may comprise over 50% of the entire design process!). Knitting stranded colorwork is a very specific applied use of color, and it takes a lot of practice to begin understanding how colors work together in this format. More often than not, a color choice you were sure would be perfect doesn’t come together the way you thought it would, or better, a combo that you didn’t feel too terribly excited about ends up working beautifully. The only way to know for sure is to knit up your motif and see what happens! (Bonus: Knit your swatches on varying needle sizes to test what kind of fabric options you have; remember that stranded knitting is virtually twice as thick as single-color stockinette, so a more relaxed gauge is often preferable.)

For Atlas, a total of seven colorwork swatches were made (6 of which are shown in the following image; the 7th is used as an example below to illustrate what doesn’t work).

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swatches_01.

Atlas’s yoke motif requires the use of 3 colors and is intended for use with three contrasting values of color: Light, Medium and Dark. For me, the choice of value is the first and most important step in choosing a trio of color, followed by the selection of hues. In this case I chose triads of color that live in similar color families (browns, blues, greys, etc.), but you can just as easily mix hues from all parts of the color wheel, as long as you keep the value relationship in place.

Swatches 04 and 06 were eventually chosen as final colorways for the knitted samples (click here to see the final result for each colorway), though most of these options would have made perfectly adorable finished garments for children.

Looking at the six swatches above – one of them jumps out at me as being slightly less successful than the others (at least relative to what my original goal was). Care to venture a guess? In my opinion, Swatch 05 is the least successful (though not a failure). Do the “squint test” at all 6 of the swatches above and see how the motif on Swatch 05 fades to darkness more readily than the others, particularly in the upper “elongated diamonds” section. This is because Colors 1 and 3 are closer in value to one another in Swatch 05 than they are in the others.

Another interesting item to note: in all six swatches, I prioritized the darkest value for Color 3, since it held the most “heft” in terms of defining the overall yoke motif. For Colors 1 (sweater color) and Color 2 (yoke contrast color), however, I played around with swapping the position of the Light and Medium values. For example, swatches 02 and 06 use the Light value as the sweater color, and the Medium and Dark values for the yoke motifs. The other swatches use the Medium value as the sweater color and have Light and Dark contrasting in the yoke. Both results are pleasing. The take-away: when your value structure is solid, you’ll find success in just about any configuration of Light, Medium and Dark (and! even more swatching possibilities)!

Below is an example of how quickly low-contrast color combos can turn muddy; I encountered this situation when I was swatching with shades of brown:

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hi_lo_contrast

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The upper swatch was my first attempt combining browns from our palette. Tuesday I mentioned that you’ll sometimes be surprised at how similar values can appear in the finished knitted fabric, even when they seemed sufficiently different “in the skein”. When you work two shades onto a “grid” of knitted fabric, mixing color stitch for stitch, the colorwork fabric puts the value relationship to the true test. In this case, “Nest” (color 1, which would be the body of the sweater) appeared plenty different from “Truffle Hunt” (Color 3, the darkest shade) when I held the skeins together, but looked much less so when knitted. (Try the Squint Test here too.) So, it was back to the drawing board.

The second brown swatch shows how dramatically different the motif is when just a single color was swapped out for a darker value. The High Contrast swatch subbed “Pumpernickel” for “Truffle Hunt”, a much darker shade of brown. The results speak for themselves!

I’d like to make one final comment about all of this before wrapping up today’s post. When it comes to design and color, I don’t mean to insinuate that there are hard and fast “rules” for success. As in any creative endeavor, that author/artist/designer’s vision and intention are what should guide the decision making process from start to finish. In some cases, a lower-contrast, tonal colorwork palette might be your goal and in that case, choosing colors with similar values can get the job done (in this case, I recommend choosing wildly different hues with similar values, which can result in some very interesting combinations). I’ve structured this post with a more traditional approach, assuming that the goal is to easily see and decipher the graphic motifs featured on Icelandic yokes – and with that goal in mind, a “light-medium-dark” approach will automatically give you a strong foundation to begin your color pairings.

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alt_atlas_colorways

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Though only two colorways made it into the final BT Kids collection, I wanted to post a few more options here for anyone who may have seen a combo featured today on the blog that they might want to run with – on Atlas, or any other 3-color stranded project you might be planning. We’ll also be posting these alternate colorways on Atlas’s pattern page for reference as well.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little soirée into color theory for knitters! It’s a subject I love talking about — many thanks for letting me indulge!

– Jared

 

 

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I always jump at the opportunity to design a new Icelandic pullover or cardigan. After returning from my summer trip to Iceland in 2012, my love of the traditional Lopapeysa has been at an all-time high. My first swing at a traditional Icelandic sweater design was Grettir in our BT Winter 13 collection, with a more recent follow-up design – Atlas – in BT Kids.

One of the most enticing aspects of Icelandic sweater design is the opportunity to play with color. It’s truly amazing how a wide range of results can be produced from a single colorwork chart, based solely on the use (or abuse!) of hue and value. Choosing yarns for colorwork, however, can be discouraging if you aren’t familiar with a few fundamental rules about color theory. This week I wanted to share some tips with you that every colorwork knitter (or designer) should have in their arsenal.

In today’s post (Part 1), I’ll talk about the difference between hue and value and how these two attributes of color are intimately linked to the success of your final project. On Thursday (Part 2), I’ll show you how these theories were applied (with varying degrees of success) during my own design process for the Atlas pullover and cardigan. My hope is that these simple colorwork rules will keep you from the heartbreak caused by muddy, hard-to-see colorwork motifs in your knitting.

Hue & Value

When talking about color, there are two important terms to understand: Hue and Value. Every color under the sun (with the exception of  pure black and pure white, depending on who you ask) has a hue and a value. These two words describe the two basic “ingredients” of color, and understanding their distinction is key to successfully combining color in knitting.

Hue refers to the attribute of a color by virtue of which it is discernible as red, green, blue, etc. The word “hue” is often used interchangeably with the word “color”.

Value refers to a color’s relative degree of lightness or darkness.

The easiest way to think about value is by visualizing color on a greyscale spectrum. Remember that every color has a value – though it may sometimes be difficult to discern depending on how saturated a color’s hue is. The diagram below shows a range of values from pure white to pure black, with equal intervals in value from one shade to the next.

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Value Scale

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Why is value important? Because it helps our eyes discern between colors by way of their contrast. The greater the difference between two colors’ values, the more contrasting they appear to our eyes and hence the easier they are to “read”.

Using Value When Choosing Color

With stranded knitting, value is especially important because colors are “mixed” as the fabric is created, with single stitches of one color neighboring single stitches of another. (Value is less of an issue with broad stripes or colorblocked fabrics because the surface area of a single color is large, making it easy for the eyes to distinguish between even subtle shifts of hue and value. Not so with stranded colorwork. If your value structure is not sound, all your careful handwork may result in a muddy motif that is difficult to see (and appreciate!).

Your best course of action is to “value test” your colors before you begin knitting. The easiest way to test your values is with the squint test. Place your potential colors on a flat, well-lit surface and huddle them next to one another. Squint your eyes and study how squinting causes the colors to become more or less similar in value. When squinting, values are easier to recognize. If – once squinting – your colors become MORE similar, you likely are working with colors that are too similar in value and should consider pulling in something with more contrast.

The second, more high-tech method, is to take a snapshot of your colors on a digital camera (smartphones are wonderful for this purpose) and convert the image to greyscale. A black and white image removes all hue information and leaves only the values of each color to compare. This is a fantastic trick that takes all the guesswork out of the equation. 

Below, I’ve shown two different color schemes for a 3-color Icelandic yoke. The photograph on the left shows the colors as they appear to our eyes; the photograph on the right has taken all hue information away, leaving only values to be contrasted. It’s pretty easy to tell right away which of these two color groupings would make a more successful finished piece:

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Value_01

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Value Combination 1 uses colors “Woodsmoke”, “Tent”, and “Artifact” and represents a true light-medium-dark value relationship. (Squint at the screen and look at the greyscale image on the right – the values become even more obvious than they are to the naked eye).

By contrast, Value Combination 2 uses three colors that look beautiful together upon first glance (“Thistle”, “Wool Socks” & “Homemade Jam”), but when the hue information is stripped away, these colors look virtually the same. (Squint again to double-check.)

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Value_02

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If both color combinations were used to knit the same colorwork motif, you would quickly notice  a drastic difference in the overall effect on the finished fabric. Combination 1 would have a graphic effect that enhances the angular motifs found in Icelandic yokes, while Combination 2 would cause the motifs to fade into a much less discernible configuration.

When choosing colors for colorwork patterns, the assessment of value should always be your starting point. I keep a trusty snapshot of our BT Shade Card – converted to greyscale – readily available. When I begin a new colorwork design and start pulling potential color combinations, I assess their value before deeming them worthy of swatching.

You can see below how quickly the palette separates itself into light, medium and dark values with a simple black and white conversion:

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Shade_Card_01

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In the next post, we’ll take these fundamental rules for a test drive by looking at my design swatches for Atlas – examining why some are more successful than others due to their internal value relationships.

Stay tuned for more colorwork geekery later this week!

– Jared

 

This morning we’d like to introduce you to three of the colorwork designs in BT Kids: Jared Flood’s Atlas, Véronik Avery’s Magnus, and Julie Hoover’s Carson. These very different garments offer a chance to sink your teeth into techniques you may not have tried, so we’re glad to have the chance to talk about them in more detail. We thought you might also like to learn about the designers’ inspiration for these pieces.

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BT Kids: Colorwork Spotlight

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A visit to Iceland two summers ago cemented Jared’s love for the lopapeysa, the quintessentially Icelandic patterned yoke sweater, and led him to design Atlas. The lopapeysa tradition isn’t as old as you might imagine—it was invented in the 1950’s as a vehicle to bring the distinctive Icelandic wool and bold design sense of Icelandic artisans to an international market. The sweaters are so beautiful and useful that they quickly became iconic. Viewed from above, the yoke creates a sunburst effect that lets the designer play with simple combinations of shape and color. Jared loves how effortlessly lopapeysa sweaters come together—they’re seamless, with a lot of meditative stockinette, and just when you start feeling you could really handle something a little more interesting, along comes the glorious colorwork yoke, which is neatly finished before you feel overwhelmed by it. The lopapeysa is traditionally worked with bulky-weight wool, though Jared has always wanted to try one in a fingering weight. BT Kids seemed like the perfect opportunity, especially because the yoke motif could then be scaled back up for larger sizes just by substituting heavier yarns.

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Atlas by Jared Flood

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Atlas is offered as a pullover for knitters who want a seamless garment that’s quickly finished, but Jared added a cardigan variant for those who prefer more versatile styling options. The knitting process doesn’t change, but if you’re working the Atlas cardigan, you’ll cast on extra stitches to form a steek at the center front and then cut the fabric open when the sweater is complete. This clever shortcut is part of the knitting tradition across Scandinavia, the Shetland Islands, and Iceland, and it lets knitters create stranded color patterns while always looking at the right side of the work and never having to carry floats in front while purling—a slower and more awkward process for most of us.

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Magnus by Véronik Avery

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Steeks can be used to open the whole front of a sweater, as in Atlas, but they can also be used for shorter spans like armholes and neck openings. That’s how Véronik employed them in Magnus, her handsome interpretation of traditional Scandinavian handknits. If you’ve never tried a steek before, Véronik recommends cutting a swatch of your project yarn—it doesn’t even have to be a stranded swatch. If you’re nervous about the cut edge unraveling or if you’re using a non-wool fiber, a line of machine stitching ensures that nothing will come undone. (Tip: Place a piece of tissue paper under the knitted fabric for stability so the machine’s feed dogs won’t stretch out the seam.)

Véronik thinks the design quality of Scandinavian knits is particularly well suited to children, being both modern and traditional. Magnus is intended to be truly unisex, perfect for handing down through the family. The hood is a modern touch, added for the simple reason that kids love hoods!

Carson by Julie Hoover

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And if you’re too impatient to wait until the yoke for your colorwork, try Carson. Julie had been playing with this diamond motif for a long time, auditioning it for at least two different collections before it found the perfect home in BT Kids. She cleverly placed the colorwork at the hems and cuffs of the pullover so knitters can work it in the round without worrying about steeks, and all that eye-catching detail in the lower portion of the piece invited some special treatment at the top for balance. Julie’s answer was to expose the seams where the sleeves are set in, which makes the seam visually prominent, and that drove her decision to work some unusual shaping through the yoke as well. She used a combination of full-fashioned decreases and a sloped bind-off to create a saddle shoulder in the front and an innovative hybrid shape in the back. She says it does take extra care to ease the sleeve into the front yoke correctly—you may want to use safety pins or split-ring stitch markers to secure at least the seam ends and the point of the shoulder before you start to sew. Julie also advises wet-blocking both the individual pieces and then the finished pullover for the most successful result.

Thanks for stopping by today to meet Carson, Magnus, and Atlas! Jared will be back next week with a post on choosing colors to help you take the next step if you’re considering any of these designs.

Today, guest author Sarah Pope shares some special tips on making the most of knitting for little ones – we hope you enjoy!

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Reveling in the delights of the new BT Kids’ collection, my mind went right to casting on—Berenice for my daughter in Blanket Fort or Postcard! Arlo in Hayloft or Button Jar for my son!—I expect many of us dove straight into fantasies of seeing our own little ones at play in those beautiful garments. Some of us may even have experienced an alarming itch to produce or “borrow” a child just for the pleasure of knitting these designs. But even though I have a pair of recipients at the ready, I’m going to take a moment for some savvy planning, because knitting for kids is an investment of time and capital and also something of a gamble.

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Saavy Knitting for Kids

 

Children are notoriously fickle giftees. The garment may be too hot. It may be too scratchy. It may be the wrong color—some kids let their favorites box the compass, while others remain faithful to purple or green for years at a time. The older they get, the more many children tend to fall in line with trends amongst peer groups. A child’s willingness to wear handknits may be utterly squelched for a few years if popular fashions have strayed in another direction.

The fact is, gifting a handmade item always means letting it go. It may be cherished or abandoned to the thrift shop. You’ve had the pleasure of the crafting it; this must be enough. But there are some clever moves you can make to position your handknits for a happy ending.

The best tactic I know is to involve the child herself in the planning and execution of the knitting. Let her hold the hank of yarn to her neck and judge the itch factor. A worsted-weight sweater may simply prove too warm for an active child in a temperate climate, so talk with her about the garments she likes to wear and make notes on their properties. She’ll probably be frank about style preferences.

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Savvy Knitting for Kids

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You’ll need to accept that a kid may not want to wear what you’d most like to knit. If your youngster lives in hooded sweatshirts, you’ll probably have to make him a plain zippered cardigan with a hood. It may bore you to tears, and your reward will be to see it dropped at the muddy sideline of the soccer pitch. But if your sweater receives this shockingly offhand treatment, you can pat yourself on the back. It has passed muster; the child has adopted it into his wardrobe and made it his own.

If the child is close by and old enough to learn, why not let him actually knit on his sweater during a plain stockinette section? Most children become deeply invested in things they’ve had a hand in making and will be proud to point to their wool-clad tummies and announce, “I knitted this part right here.” If they’re too young to knit, let them help wind the yarn, or give them a none-too-precious ball from your stash and some blunt needles to stab at it as they make believe they’re knitting alongside you.

Knitting for children—like pretty much every other aspect of life with them—involves ceding a certain amount of creative control. That can be hard for those of us with strong creative visions. (If I can’t sell my almost-four-year-old on the idea of Berenice, I’m just going to quietly cast it on for myself, in Shelter rather than Loft.) But seeing what strikes her in the collection, watching her form her own taste, is part of the fun of knitting for her. If I can produce something she really loves, my happy ending will be to listen to her bragging at preschool, “My mama made this for me!”

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JF: Hi Carol! Thanks for joining us from Ireland!

CF: Delighted to be here, it’s always so much fun to be part of Wool People.

JF: You began self publishing your own designs in 2007 and have amassed an impressive amount of design work in the 5 years to follow. Can you tell us a little more about what your day-to-day process looks like as an independent designer?

CF: My day is divided between designing and parenting. After dropping kids to school I start my workday at home with my mornings devoted to design work and social media. It’s hard to get a balance between the two; marketing and design occupy very different headspaces so I’ll often need a walk with the dog to switch gears. I usually don’t have time to knit in the mornings, that comes later in the day. My afternoons are filled with children’s activities. With 4 boys who are involved in more things than I can list there are some days that I could spend 3-4 hours driving in circles. Fortunately knitting is portable so an hour waiting in one place is a luxury!

Once the driving is over and the youngest in bed I get to have my knitting time. I’ve got a spot on the corner of the sofa that’s got all my projects lined up in different bags and a pile of stitch dictionaries on the coffee table that are threatening to tumble.  I knit almost all of my own samples (unless I’m very short of time) as I find that some of the best design ideas happen on the needles. Watching your work as you knit allows you to modify a good idea and turn it into a great one.

JF: I agree – it seems that the best design revelations happen when your ideas are taking shape in your hands.  

 Producing the amount of work you do while also mothering 4 boys is amazingly impressive! I would imagine you must be pretty organized to pull it off. How important is organization in your work, and can you share any tips for keeping on track and getting things done?

CF: Organization is very important to me, Im a big list maker! Before I finish at my desk each day I try to create a new to-do list for myself for the next day so that I can jump right into work rather than trying to remember where I was. This also helps with time management as my time is often broken up into small chunks; if I know I’ll be waiting in my car for an hour I’ll check my to-do list for a portable job that can be done in that length of time. It does mean that I’ve got overflowing lists everywhere, my desk, phone and even random notebooks in my handbag. I also try to break down my design work into all the steps that have to be done; so I’ll start with swatch/sketch, then move on to sizing and the basic pattern. Once that’s done I’ll knit the sample, rewriting the pattern as necessary. Finally, after blocking gauge is double-checked I finalize the pattern and draw the schematic. Each of these steps is written down and crossed out when done. This is extra important when working on a book so you can see at a glance if some step has been forgotten.

This organization doesn’t always come naturally to me. My desk is a towering mountain of paper and yarn and I eventually gave in this year and got some help with cleaning. I’ve come to accept that there are so many hours in the day and there is physically no way to do everything so you need to prioritize and get help when necessary.

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JF: How has your work changed since you began pursuing this career? What lessons have you learned that you might like to share with younger designers who are just starting out?

CF: I think my basic design aesthetic hasn’t changed dramatically over the years, although I am finding myself drawn increasingly to cleaner lines with interesting construction methods.

JF: (That certainly shows in your newest Wool People design.)

CF: The art of pattern writing is learned by trial and error. When I began designing there were sometimes ideas I had to abandon, as I didn’t yet have the pattern writing skills to write them as a multi-sized garment. This is something important to realize as a new designer, it takes a whole lot of practice! This means writing and re-writing patterns frequently.

Tech Editors are fantastic; they can really help you improve your pattern writing. Test knitters can also help in this, when a knitter is giving you feedback as they work through your pattern you see it through another persons eyes. So it is a constant process of evolution, learning from past mistakes and figuring out better (and clearer) ways to write.

JF: I definitely agree – whether it’s a tech editor, or a test knitter, once you are far enough along in the process you need a few pairs of fresh eyes to look at the work and give you feedback. After writing (and especially grading) a pattern, it’s easy to miss the forest for the trees, as the saying goes.

CF: Writing for different publications helps with this as well. Every publication has a different style guide that you need to work with. While it’s time consuming it can also be a learning process, potentially improving your own self-published style guide.

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JF: Pente” is your third contribution to our Wool People series (Hathaway from Wool People 4 was your first, and Carpino from Wool People 6 your second, last Fall) and everyone here really loves this cardigan. Where did your inspiration come from for Pente?

CF: Over the past year I’ve been fascinated with biased fabric. It started with Vertex Cardigan for Interweave last Spring. The increase line at the center of the back creates an arrow effect with the lightly variegated yarn but I wanted to explore it further. The next biased garment I did last summer was Nishibi which used a biased central panel in ribbing that created a diagonal effect again with just increases and decreases. The idea for Pente came after that; I wanted to create a dramatic front drape on a cardigan primarily using biasing.

JF: The construction of the garment also makes this cardigan special – I love that you chose to use a subtle striping sequence to highlight the directionality of the fabric.

CF: The subtle color striping in the fabric really helps to emphasis how the direction of the fabric shifts from front to back; it makes it easy to see how the use of increasing and decreasing dramatically shapes the fabric.

JF: Can you give our readers a brief explanation of the overall garment construction? 

CF: I love seamless designs; to me they really utilize the flexibility of knitted fabric. This design is worked seamlessly in one piece from the bottom up. It starts with a clean turned hem at the bottom, which allows us to echo the stripe color. From here the front panels (which are extra wide to allow a flowing front drape), are biased using increases and decreases along the side seams. The stripe sequence is worked in subtle colors which make it quite understated. It would be very easy, though, to change the colors used for a more dramatic effect, even blending from one color on the bottom to a different one on the top for an ombre effect.

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JF: (That would be a beautiful variation!)

CF: Once the body is complete the front and back of the yoke are worked separately. I’ve used short rows to create shaping for the sleeves, so that both the cuff and top of shoulder fit well. Short rows are also worked along the front so that the biasing doesn’t impact the fit at the top of the front.

Finally this cardigan is finished using a Joinery Bind Off across the top of the shoulder in the contrasting color. I love the crisp clean line it gives that really feels like it finishes the garment off perfectly.

JF: It’s very smart and well thought out – in my mind, that is always the mark of good design – bravo! 

What is next for you? Any future projects you can share with us?

CF: Ive just recently signed a contract with Potter Craft for a new book that will be released in Fall 2015. The complete book is due in August this year so I’m very busy right now! I’m so excited to see this project in its finished form; it’s a topic I’m very passionate about and it should make a great book.

In a shorter time scale, I’m also getting ready for a Summer KAL with Briar Rose Fibers. I did a KAL with Chris in the Fall of 2012 and she was just lovely to work with so I’m really looking forward to the KAL. Now I just need to get time to write the clues between book projects!

JF: Sounds exciting – best of luck with your upcoming projects and thanks again for taking the time to chat with me today!

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When I first began knitting sweater patterns, I never felt completely sure of myself when choosing which size to work. Quite a disconcerting feeling to experience at the very beginning of a marathon knitting project – when choosing the wrong size can mean the success or failure of all your hard work.

Over the years – mostly from trial and error – I learned about the importance of ease when making (and more importantly, wearing) garments. Ease refers to the difference between a given measurement on a finished garment and that same measurement on the wearer’s body. Most commonly ease is discussed in reference to the chest/bust, since this is the measurement that most patterns are built upon – at least for traditional shapes and construction types.

True, there are “rules” about how much ease is recommended for a given style and fabric weight (a very important factor to remember), but I’ve also found that individual ease preferences significantly vary from person to person, depending on their own personal style and what they are comfortable wearing.

In our garment patterns at BT, we like to list a recommended ease amount – given by the designer – but also share how much ease is shown on the model in the photograph as a reference point for knitters to consider when making the fateful decision about which size to knit.

This week on our Facebook page, we’ve been sharing side-by-side images of a selection of the garments from Wool People 3 photographed on both of our models. Aside from having very different personal styles, Tessa and Hannah have different body shapes and sizes as well, so I thought it might be fun (and instructive) to share these images with specific fitting information, to help give knitters a better idea of how these small changes in size and fit effect the overall look of a garment. Below is a recap of those posts with this information – I hope you find this helpful!

Reine Cardigan by Alexis Winslow: shown here dressed up on Hannah (left) with 1″ of negative ease, worn over a light, summery dress. Tessa (right) dresses it down with a sleeveless top and jeans, with 2″ of positive ease. Because the fabric is knit with Loft, a fingering weight yarn, designs with negative ease are more wearable than when worked with a heavier fabric/yarn (worsted weight, etc.) Cardigans are often easier to wear with negative ease as well, since the open front allows fluid movement and versatile styling.

Breckon Cardigan by Amy Christoffers: Tessa (left) wears it relaxed over a light shirt dress with 3″ of positive ease. This comfortable fit is casual but not messy. Hannah (right) wears a more fitted style with zero ease (wearer and garment bust measurement is the same) over a collared shirt and pencil skirt.

Boardwalk Shell by Heidi Kirrmaier: This cap-sleeve garment is a versatile wardrobe item. We styled Tessa (left) with a denim shirt and skinny jeans. Tessa’s bust measurement is 2½” smaller than the garment. Remember that the addition of the shirt effects the final ease amount slightly. Hannah (right) wears Boardwalk alone with ½” of negative ease (her bust measures just slightly larger than the blocked garment).

Öljett Hat by Jenny Gordy: Hats are generally worn with 1-2 inches of negative ease at the brim measurement. Tessa’s head circumference is 1½” smaller than Hannah’s, so the hat fits in a “slouchier” way. Hat sizing is less of a mystery than garment sizing, but I threw this one into the mix, just for fun.

I’m off to Iceland for 10 days – one of my knitting “bucket list” destinations – for a much needed vacation, and to give my camera a workout. The best part is that it’s definitely sweater weather up there, so I can rouse my wool garments from their summer hibernation. See you in a couple of weeks!  –Jared

There was a lot of interest in the textured throw from my last post, so today I’m here with more details! I ended up having a bit of extra time over the holiday to work up a pattern for it, which is now available.  In a classic color, I think it makes a great addition to any living room, although in my case it’s been acting as extra bedding during this wonderfully cold weather we are having.

Umaro combines a little bit of everything — cables, lace, and knit-purl patterns — to create a veritable symphony of texture.  The throw is made using super-bulky yarn, which helps amp up the stitch architecture nicely.

I recommend a nice round yarn that has great stitch-definition for best results. I knit mine with Cascade Lana Grande on size 15 needles — talk about instant gratification! Lana Grande is a super bulky 3-ply wool with a very round shape as a result of its plying structure.  I think it was a good fit for the textured fabric.

The pattern is written for finished measurements of approximately 48″ x 57″ after blocking — a nice size for a generous one-person throw, or even a top blanket for a full or queen-size bed.  Instructions are included in the pattern for simple adjustments to make a larger size, as needed.

A conscientious blocking job is the key to making this throw look its best. (I sound like a broken record with all my blocking talk month-in and month-out, but it really is the Knitter’s ace-in-the-hole!) Because of its large size, wet-blocking is not completely reasonable (although it is possible for the adventurous among you!) — I took this beast down with a good steamer and a lot of T-Pins.  Beginning with a gentle steam over the entire piece to relax it, I then pinned it out so that the fabric was slightly stretched and laid flat.  When using pins on straight edges you have to take care to keep your edges very clean and orderly so as not to create unwanted scallops or points in the finished piece.  In general I use blocking wires for this type of job, but with such a heavy yarn and light blocking wires it wasn’t a good match, so the T-Pin route was adopted!

After pinning, you’ll want to give the fabric a very slow and generous steam to get moisture into all parts.  After this is complete, let the blanket air dry before unpinning.  The blocked fabric will have better movement, drape and overall behavior than its previously unblocked self.

The pattern is available now as a PDF download at Brooklyn Tweed or via Ravelry.  Enjoy!

I travel a lot, but rarely for the express purpose of vacationing. My considerations for travel-knitting, in general, are designs that are in-process works that are at a point where a significant amount of mindless, or at least not-difficult-to-record knitting is in store. This way, I get ‘work’ knitting done without having to sit in front of Illustrator or InDesign, activities which I prefer to do only on the Homefront.

So, when a true Vacation came along I thought my travel knitting should reflect this change, and I decided to bring simple, 100% pleasure-knitting that required no pattern, no notes, and very little brainwork. I wanted projects that were geared towards my hands and allowed enjoyment of the simple act of knitting. And oh how wonderful it was!

I took small amounts of two special yarns that were both worthy of a special occasion. First, one beautiful skein of Buffalo Gals Yarn — a very special 2-ply Bison/Merino yarn, hand-dyed by Fiber Sage Judith MacKenzie McCuin — which I was fortunate enough to acquire directly from the source (Judith’s hands) and have been savoring ever since. The other, my recently spun Romney 2-Ply, which is as light as a feather and wonderfully woolly.

I fell deeply in love with Judith’s dye work, and this rust orange skein stole my breath. Bison, as it turns out, takes dye incredibly well and this skein seemed to almost shimmer with some other-worldly presence (again, I attribute this to Judith’s sage-like energy.)

Buffalo Gals

Armed with one beautiful skein, I threw a prized set of Ebony needles into my luggage and started thinking of the possibilities for something luxurious and simple. A feast for the fingers! I ended up deciding to knit a top-down hat in a simple waffle-stitch pattern. The yarn is a sport weight and creates a beautiful, light-weight and butter-soft fabric. A perfect companion for being in the passenger seat of a car for miles of Italian Autostrade.

Romney Kerchief

Alternatively, the skein of Romney created just enough variety to keep me constantly entertained, bouncing between two projects from day to day. For this, I began work on a simple, almost-garter-stitch triangle. Because I had limited amounts of both yarns, I decided to work both projects from the top down (in the triangle’s case, from top-center, opposite of Triangle Tip) and work mindlessly until I used up all of my yarn. I love working in this way — armed with a simple kitchen scale, you can always be sure of using as many yards as is possible without having to spend the last 20% of your knitting time biting your nails, wondering if you’ll have enough yarn to finish.

I didn’t complete either project on my trip, which was a good lesson toward learning that I often need less yarn than I think I will while on the road. I have, since being home, just about finished both projects with very satisfying results.

Also, upon return, I was stricken by an incredible urge to have some Unspun Icelandic yarn back in my life (this is what happened the last time), and ordered yarn for a new lace project in this lovely stuff. It reminds me of a chocolate layer cake.

Layer Cake

Unspun Icelandic Wool ranks high on my list of favorite yarns, largely because it is so unique and unlike anything else out there for knitters. The majority of the yarn is air, after all!

So, it turns out that I ended up learn something important from vacationing — keeping it simple, even though my instincts were screaming to bring more yarn, was absolutely the perfect choice for enjoying knitting every day and savoring every stitch of these special yarns.

I’ve been doing a fair bit of traveling in the last two weeks and have committed to finishing a gaggle of small projects that I have lying around the house half-done. Knowing that I’ll want to tackle lots of large, woolly projects in the very near future (hello, Fall weather!), I feel the need to do a little bit of project-house-cleaning. Consider yourself warned – you may see a few baby knits and old, forgotten accessories cropping up around here in the next couple of weeks. And today – the first one!

Baby Leggings

I put the finishing touches on the baby leggings last week and finally got around to shooting them this morning. Oh how I love those rich, golden colors! Seems fitting for those ghostly hints of Fall crispness that are taunting me these days.

Baby Leggings

Pattern: A modified version of Shibui Knits Baby Leggings by Heather Saal [Rav Link]

Size: 1 Year Old

Materials: Shibui Sock in “Honey”

Amount: 98g — skating in at just barely under 2 skeins (Pattern Size calls for 3)

Needles: US 3 Circulars

I made a small number of modifications to the pattern. The original is written to be knit flat and seamed up at center front during finishing. That wasn’t gonna fly around here, so the first item of business was to convert the pattern to in-the-round knitting, which wasn’t hard at all. I didn’t change any stitch counts, just ignored the back and forth instructions in favor of joining the end of the row to the beginning and working circularly.

Baby Leggings

I also opted for twisted stitch ribbing at the waist band and ankle-cuffs – a choice made to achieve a bit more elasticity – a great little perk of knitting things through the back loops. Since babies have stumpy little limbs, I figured the more elasticity the better.

Baby Leggings

The rest of the pattern is sweet and simple — sizing for both 6 mos. and 1 year are given. I like to knit the larger sizes so the little growers can wear them longer. Plus, how cute is a 6 month-year-old in oversized baby pants?

The “diaper shaping” as I like to call it incorporates short rows and increases down center back to create an extra pouch-like space for baby ‘bulk’ (See Above Photo). The cord running through the eyelets at the waist band is crocheted (nice and firm but still elastic due to the nature of this bouncy, bouncy yarn) — I tied two small knots on either end to keep it from slipping out of the holes.

Baby Leggings

All in all, a simple pattern with a charming result. You know I’m not a huge fan of The Superwash, but sometimes you gotta do it for the kids (and the parents, too)! And they really do suck up those saturated colors brilliantly, so there’s plenty of hypnotic stitching to be had.

Baby Leggings

If you’re interested in knitting a pair, be sure to check out Shibui’s Pattern Page – lots of great patterns there to peruse if you have a few minutes! Now… time to send these babies back to Portland, from whence they came!