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Today we welcome Marnie MacLean to the blog to share some of her thoughts on creating Sunapee

It’s been quite a few years since I designed a garment instead of a shawl. I love designing garments and still wear many that I’ve published in the past, but shawls allow me to dream up large and complex stitch patterns that would be hard to work into a design that needed to fit a range of sizes.

A few months back, though, Kate asked if I could do two pieces for the edition and I suggested I do a warm-weather top. BC Garn Bio Balance is the type of yarn I love for garments. The cotton makes it comfortable to wear next to the skin while the wool gives it some resiliency, allowing for a more fitted piece than 100% cotton would allow.

I started by picking a stitch pattern and swatching as though I were going to knit a shawl. I played around with increasing every other row, and three times for every four rows and I took to my dress form to see if anything looked promising.

Playing with swatches on my dress form

This is the brainstorming stage where I don’t worry too much about the practicality of an idea, I just try to visualize how these swatches might become part of a garment design.

Once I had played around with the swatches, I moved to my computer. Designers Nexus offers a really great set of Fashion Sketch Templates that designers can use to turn their ideas into flat sketches. I find these helpful not only for ideas I’ve fully thought out but also as a reminder of other types of garment details I might want to consider. So taking my brainstorming a bit farther I tried to see how my dress form ideas might look in a completed garment.

Fashion sketches incorporating swatches

Now’s the point where I have to have a real talk with myself about whether or not any one idea is suitable for a pattern in an array of sizes. Is there a good solution for reproducing the effect I want? Will the smallest and largest sizes look visually consistent with the sample size? Can I write a pattern that doesn’t require a unique chart for every size? Will the design allow people to wear a supportive bra underneath?

In the end, none of these ideas felt like the one. I went back to my dress form and just started moving the swatches around when it hit me, the every-other-row increases form right triangles that would make attractive raglan seam lines. Additionally, the other swatch worked nicely as a flutter sleeve. The fact that I wouldn’t need a lot of extra seams or biasing fabric to incorporate the swatches into the final garment, sealed the deal for me.

 

The swatches assembled to create a raglan sleeve and neckline

From there, the design came together easily, and I think the final piece is really fun to wear, too. The neckline can be adjusted to be higher or lower, and the sleeves are entirely optional, making this a great project to customize for your own taste.

 

If you think this project is right for you, BC Garn Bio Balance comes in lots of great colors. I can’t wait to see how knitters make this piece their own.

You can find Marnie on Instagram, Facebook, and her website
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Today we welcome PRISM Yarns to the blog talk about how they came to create the Merino Mia Private Palette Pack - Exclusive Colorway for WEBS - America's Yarn Store!

Welcome to spring! Here in Florida we are on the verge of our long hot summers (mind, I’m not complaining), but I can easily cast my thoughts back to the 38 years I spent living in Michigan and then Buffalo, New York. Spring holds a special place in the hearts of all winter survivors, and New England Spring aims to capture that sense of renewal and excitement.

I’m sure you have heard of custom colors; many hand-dyers do them and many stores take advantage of having unique hand-dyed colors that reflect their image. Last year, I decided to take those custom colors a step further and create Private Palettes. A range of seven colors (one multi-color, three sandwashed tonal solids, and three tonal layered colors) are carefully calibrated to allow successful mixing and matching of any colors: all seven, any two or as many as you like. Kathy Elkins of WEBS and I began talking about what I might do for WEBS many months ago, and finally decided that creating a New England palette for each season made perfect sense.

 

Weeks of exploring images of New England in the spring resulted in the palette that you see here. We wanted to capture the gray skeins turning to steely blue, contrasted with the deep greens of coniferous trees and craggy mountains; all enlivened by spring green as new buds burst forth. The palette becomes its own little landscape, and Marnie MacLean’s semi-circular lace shawl captures that landscape feel perfectly. From the bright greens of new buds and grass, through the far-off gray mountains and low-level clouds, up to the brighter promise of blue skies, New England Spring becomes a reality.

Show us how you interpret New England Spring! We’d love to see your creations!

Check out the Montpelier shawl here, and purchase the New England Spring exclusive colorway here.
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Today we welcome Angela Hahn to the blog to share her process and thoughts on creating Prickly Pear

The Prickly Pear sleeveless tank pattern is now available at Twist Collective! It's a great quick knit for warm weather, and can be worn on its own or layered over another top. The hem hits just above the hips, but since there is no waist shaping, it is easy to change the length. The stitch gauge of the lace is smaller than the stockinette stitch gauge (fewer stitches per inch), which means that for most sizes, the bottom edge of the top is 3-4 inches bigger in circumference than the bust. According to the Craft Yarn Council Woman Size Charts, this means that Prickly Pear can be lengthened to hip length, and the hem will still be wide enough to clear the hips with well over 2 inches/5 cm of positive ease in every size except XS (1/4-1"/.5-2.5 cm positive ease).

The yarn chosen for this project, Classic Elite Hanako, is a blend of cotton and linen that works wonderfully: it has great stitch definition, showing off the lace nicely, and has some drape but also some body, so that it doesn't cling. It should also get softer with wear.

The lace pattern is an adaptation of the "Candle of Glory" stitch pattern from Barbara Walker's Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns. For maximum impact as a border, I made each "candle" bigger, and set them in a single row instead of staggering them. The construction of each lace motif is interesting: on one row, eight stitches are increased in a single stitch, and then on every right-side row after that, two stitches are decreased, until the original number of stitches is restored. Theoretically, the size of each motif is limited only by the number of stitches you can squeeze into a single stitch on the increase row!

The other main feature of this top is the scooped neckline. I decided to make one side a shallower scoop than the other, so you can wear the deeper scoop in the front or in the back, which adds a little versatility. The shoulders are shaped with short rows and the shoulder straps are wide enough for bra coverage. 

(Surprising how different the color of the yarn looks in my photo; the true color is somewhere in-between the bright yellow-green of the first three photos and the pea green of the fourth.)

But even if the shoulder straps of a tank are wide enough to cover bra straps, that doesn't guarantee that the bra straps will stay covered! I have a few tops that came with bra strap holders on the inside of the shoulders, which I think is a great idea. They are simply snaps where one side is sewn to the inside of the garment, and the other is attached to a short cord or tape, so that it can be closed over a bra strap, holding it in place.

Sometimes I use a small safety pin as a DIY strap holder: I pass it through the inside of the shoulder seam, making sure that it doesn't show on the right side, and then close it so that it encloses but doesn't pierce my bra strap. It actually works well enough that I just leave the safety pins in place on a couple of my tops, but the bra strap does tend to catch on the safety pin closure, so I'm thinking I should sit down one afternoon, and just make bra strap holders for a few of my favorite knitted sleeveless tops. 

Today we welcome Kate Scalzo to the blog to share her process and thoughts on creating Harlow

Y'all hate to swatch, yes? I used to hate swatching. When my boys got to a certain age and I was able to spend a little more time designing, I learned that about 80% of my knitting time would be spent swatching, experimenting, blocking, and measuring. I've learned to really really LOVE swatching now as an uncomplicated, low pressure way to do what I enjoy in the first place. Knit. 

So, what does a serial swatcher get really excited about? New stitch dictionaries! Hitomi Shida's "Japanese Knitting Stitch Bible" arrived in my mailbox and I knew I had to dive in ASAP. As they say, though, "work smarter, not harder," so I wanted to swatch with a design in mind. Twist Collective's call for submissions was the right framework through which to peer at these beautiful new knit fabrics. The mood board suggested "[c]arefree, warm-weather knits that are timeless and beautiful," and invoked the terms "fearless," "accomplished," and "effortless." LOVE. I'm in. 

I sat down at a cafe down the street from my sons' preschool and got out my sketchpad. Thinking of the fearless, accomplished women out there, I was remembering the story of Minna Hall and Harriet Hemenway, the founders of the National Audubon Society. They were disturbed by the decimation of birds at the hands of the feather trade and used their social capital to gather support for an (unfashionable) anti-feather movement, which culminated in the formation of the National Audubon Society and the passage of the Migratory Bird Act in 1913. 

As I thought of these inspiring women, I thumbed the pages of Shida's book. It is a wealth of inspiration, providing countless geometric and feathery stitch patterns. I settled on a selection of arrow-like and chevron style patterns and worked up a long swatch in Juniper Moon's Zooey. I like to pin my swatches to my mannequin just to see the stitch pattern in a different way and they ended up looking beautiful as a set! I submitted my knitted tank, "Hall," in honor of Minna, as well as a companion piece called "Hemenway." Hall was accepted by Twist Collective and renamed "Harlow" (equally beautiful!).  

Little did I know what a task I had signed for! The shaping on the top and the ever-changing gauges and large range of sizes required a series of mental gymnastics I had not yet attempted. These are the BEST kinds of projects, though. There's nothing like a "how the heck do I do this?" moment to demonstrate your own fearless (well....maybe not entirely without fear) accomplishments. With the help of TC's editorial staff, Harlow turned into a sleek, precise, sampler-style top for the spring and summer months. I hope you find your power in Harlow, too!

 

Follow Kate on Instagram, her website, Facebook , and Twitter

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Today we welcome Sandi Rosner to the blog to share some thoughts on creating Esplanade

Esplanade was born out of the desire for a casual, everyday sweater that would be easy to knit and a pleasure to wear. An esplanade is a long, open, level area, typically beside the sea, along which people may walk for pleasure. I envisioned a sweater to wear while walking with the sea breeze against my face and the cry of gulls in the air.

 

While I love knitting lace, cables and intricate textures, I find that the things I most often wear tend towards simple and classic. But if I'm going to spend my time knitting a sweater, the last thing I want is generic! It must have enough detail and craftsmanship that it doesn't look like I bought it off the shelf at a department store. With its diagonal side seams wrapping the stripes from the back around to the front, Esplanade is anything but ordinary.

I love stripes. Wide stripes, narrow stripes, two-color, many color – you'll find them all in my wardrobe. And stripes are the simplest sort of colorwork for the knitter. Just switch colors every other row and you've added interest to what once was plain. With Esplanade, the diagonal intersection between the striped and solid sections is particularly attractive.

Esplanade is a project within reach of adventurous beginner knitters.  For the most part, it's simple stockinette stitch with regularly spaced increases and decreases at the beginning and end of rows. The only fiddly part is the bottom. The back and front are started with a provisional cast-on. Once the pieces are sewn together, stitches are recovered from the provisional cast on and worked downward for the lower ribbing. This creates a smooth, seamless lower edge.

I've been asked about reversing the colors – using the darker color for the front and the lighter for the sleeves. Honestly, if I were making Esplanade for myself, that is probably what I'd do. I have what could be described as a generous bosom. Using the lighter color for the sleeves would visually emphasize the shoulders and draw attention away from my bust.

I love Esplanade in the classic gray and cream combo Kate chose for the magazine, and I think it's beautiful against the green pants and bright pink background in the photos. But this design lends itself to lots of interesting color combinations. Esplanade was made with Hikoo Sueño, a delicious DK weight blend of Superwash merino wool and viscose from bamboo. I played with the great range of Sueño colors to make some mock-ups of alternative color combinations. Do you have a favorite?

Find Sandi on Ravelry and Facebook 

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