Feb 11, 2024

My daughter and Knitdarling, Alexis Winslow, has allowed me a guest blog to introduce my special project, the Beaver Scarf.

Of course, it is a riff on the Pussy Hat which was replicated in the many thousands in 2017. (Do you have a Pussy Hat in your hand-made archive?) It's main attribute was that it was pink, readily recognizable and conveyed a message of solidarity and kindred feeling. It was fun and passionate. If you marched in or witnessed a Women's March during that tumultuous year, you know what I'm talking about…

The main concept behind the Beaver Scarf regards the important function beavers play in their environment. They are known as nature's ecosystem engineers by their industrious building of dams that create wetlands allowing many other plants and animals to flourish.

We too are ecosystem engineers who create environments around ourselves: among our family and friends, our schools and workplaces, our neighborhoods and social groups.

At a time when many people have anxiety about climate change and social change, it is easy to feel hopeless about the challenges facing us. But if we feel that our individual efforts can add up to meaningful, positive collective action, perhaps the outlook will improve for all of us. Our everyday choices and interactions determine whether our lives generate happy outcomes for ourselves and others.

In this important year, I am hoping we can do a group project together that conveys that we see ourselves as ecosystem engineers, creating environments in which we ourselves and others can thrive. The Beaver Scarf should express our intentions to live in ways that diminish harm to our environments and also expresses kindness and support to others. In this election year, I believe there are many, many people on all sides who are concerned about the changes in our climate and communities that could be detrimental to others' well-being. I am hoping we can make ourselves visible to each other and to our elected leaders when they see someone wearing a gorgeous green Beaver Scarf.

The main attribute of a Beaver Scarf is that it is green. It can be a simple project or a more elaborate depending on one's skill and inclination. Knitdarling has designed three scarves that are available free for beginner and intermediate knitters. I am hoping that creative crafters will make many different versions of green Beaver Scarves. As a project, it won't take long to make and also gives us the opportunity to share our hand-crafting skills with others.

The pdf linked here explains more about the concept and includes 3 free patterns designed by Alexis. The scarves are Baby Beaver, Busy Beaver and Brave Beaver. All are fun to make and need only one or two skeins of yarn.

Brave Beaver Pattern:

Busy Beaver Pattern:

Baby Beaver Pattern:

One other element: I hope that people try to knit with someone else. Even better, create or find a group of people to do handwork with. At a time when so many of us are spending hours alone online, spending a relaxed time with other people is good for our mental health and well-being. Remember, our goal is to create environments that will help others to thrive.

Please share your version of the Beaver Scarf on Ravelry and Instagram. I hope many of you will participate in this group project, expressing your intentions to live sustainably and supportively in community with your family, friends, neighbors and fellow citizens. Make yourself seen in green: #GreenBeaverScarf

The Vikkel Braid, also called a Lateral Braid, or Estonian Braid, produces a beautiful decorative braid effect. It's gorgeous, the only problem is that if you're working in the round, it leaves a pretty hideous jog at the beginning/end of the round.

I've used this method many times in my design work and each time I have tweaked my instructions slightly to deal with the jog problem. I recently used this technique on my Arquette Pullover to add a decorative border at the bottom of the neckline ribbing. After some small nudges from my pattern test knitting group, I decided to once and for all settle the issue.

I researched dozens of methods and did a *ridiculous* number of practice swatches to come up with the perfect mash-up of techniques. I'm going to demonstrate a few methods for working the Vikkel braid in the round without a jog (!)—an “easier method", a “harder method", and a modification to make them both work if you are doing the braid in a different color than the row below. I'm also throwing in the holy grail perfect method, but I'm telling you it's probably not worth it (but maybe it is).

If you're more of a video person, you're in luck. Check out my abbreviated video below, which describes both methods and the 2-color mod.

Before we can talk about how to deal with the jog, I should explain the basic technique for creating the Vikkel braid, which works either flat or in the round.

How to work the Vikkel Braid Stitch:

1. Switch to smaller needles – about 4 sizes smaller. The resulting stitches after working the braid tend to become extremely loose. The smaller needle keeps this in check

2. Work a “Braid Stitch" as follows:

a. Skip the first stitch, tilt the work forward slightly, knit into the back loop of the second stitch—do not drop the stitch;

b. Knit into the front loop of the first stitch

c. Drop both sts from the left needle.

d. Slip the last st on the right needle to the left.

3. Repeat step 2 to the end of the round but don't slip the last stitch over to the left needle.
4. Work either method below to close the braid.

Joining the Braid—Method 1:

(The Easier Method)

This is a very tidy join, and probably all you really need. Work the Vikkel braid instructions to the end of the round, but don't slip the last stitch back to the left needle

a. Identify the first braid stitch;

b. Insert the right needle behind the first braid from the top to the bottom;

c. Lift first braid stitch onto left needle;

d. Knit into the back loops of the braid stitch treating both legs as one. —1 st increase

e. Eliminate the new stitch by passing the second stitch on the right needle over the first.

You may switch back to the original size needles as you work the next round.

Joining the Braid: Method 2

(The Harder Method)

This is truly an almost perfect join, but it involves a crochet hook which adds a slight layer of complexity. Just as with Method 1, work the Vikkel braid to the end of the round, but do not slip the last stitch back to the left needle.

a. Insert a crochet hook (similar size to needle) behind both legs of the first braid from top to bottom.

b.Turn the hook counter-clockwise so that the hook aligns with the left needle; hook the first stitch on the right needle;

c. pull the stitch off of the needle;

d. Pull the loop all the way through the braid stitch

e. Place the stitch on the left needle and remove the crochet hook.

f. Insert crochet hook through the top leg of the last braid stitch from top to bottom;

g. Hook the first st on the right needle and

h. Pull the loop through the last braid stitch; place the st on the right needle.

You may switch back to the original size needles as you work the next round.

Vikkel braid in the round with a new color:

Work either the “easier method" or the" harder method" above, but at the beginning, knit 1 st with the new color, then replace the stitch just worked back onto the left needle before proceeding with the instructions as written. This will leave a tiny gap below the braid, but it's hardly noticeable.

If you want to knit the braid as a stripe of contrasting color, there is yet another special technique that requires working both colors across the round. Here is a great tutorial on the knotions blog.

The "perfect" method for Vikkel braid in the round

What's that you say? You won't settle for anything less than perfect?

I understand. Perfectionism is an affliction that I too suffer from. So okay yes, there is still yet another method that looks absolutely perfect, but it involves cutting the yarn, which is not ideal in my opinion. This technique also works if you are working the braid with a new color of yarn (no modifications necessary).

Start by creating a knitted-on increase at the beginning of the round—you'll have one new stitch at the beginning of the round. Then, perform all the same maneuvers from steps 1-4 at the beginning of this post. Cut the yarn with an 8" tail. Drop the last stitch off of the right needle and pull on the dangling loop, elongating the loop until the tail comes through. Thread the tail onto a tapestry needle. Insert the needle tip behind both legs of the second braid stitch, then into the center of the last braid stitch, pull the yarn through. Adjust tensions on all the various loose ends until it looks perfect. You'll have two extra ends to weave in—was it worth it? Maybe.

There you have it—my compendium on the Vikkel braid in the round. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention another excellent method that I came across that uses an entirely different technique for creating the braid (I call this one the “k2tog method"). It certainly produces a sturdy looking braid, but it's a bit too bulky for my taste. You can learn more about that over on Wooly Wormhead's blog. If you have another favorite method, I'd love to hear about it in the comments below.

Thanks to Hudson & West Co. for providing the beautiful yarn for this post: Forge Worsted Weight 70% U.S. Merino / 30% U.S. Corriedale

Ladder Back Jacquard, where have you been all my life?

Many of the special hand knitting techniques that I have adopted over the years were discovered through desperate necessity. Late at night, absolutely exasperated and muttering to myself, “There's got to be a better way!" Then turning to Google or YouTube to compose a series of clumsy search queries.

Some of my favorite go-to methods were discovered like this—slip-knot cast on or the icelandic bind-off, for instance. Occasionally, this has lead to me “unventing" something unique, like my method for vertical stranding or 2-row jogless stripes in the round.

I recently found myself in a desperate moment like this while designing a colorwork motif for my new design, the Arquette Pullover. The Fair Isle motif requires a series of very long floats and the good ol' “Catch the Float" method just wasn't cutting it.

Enter, the Ladder Back Jacquard technique—a very cool method for invisibly managing long floats in stranded colorwork. I went on a deep-dive and learned everything I could. And now, I'm going to pass on my learnings in a long and rambling blog post. But if you'd rather just watch the video, this one's for you:

What is the Ladder Back Jacquard Method?

The Ladder Back Jacquard method is used in Fair Isle colorwork knitting to turn a series of long floats into a “ladder" of interlocking stitches on the back side. This neatly secures the floats and gives the piece impressive elasticity.

The term “jacquard" refers to any kind of fabric that has a layer of floats on the back. This method turns those floats into columns of stitches (ladders) that are only visible on the back side—hence, “Ladder Back Jacquard". It's actually a simplified version of double knitting.

Why would you use the Ladder Back Jacquard Method?

There are three related reasons why you would choose the Ladder Back Jacquard method to manage long floats in your color work—elasticity, tension, and stitch distortion.

1. Long floats are more susceptible to getting caught on things like fingers or jewelry. Snags can seriously distort the beautiful design that you've painstakingly knitted.

2. Also, it can be difficult to maintain a loose, even tension when managing long floats. If you aren't careful, your knitting may become tighter and tighter with every progressive row. This will cause puckering in your knitting and make it extremely in-elastic. To even out the puckering, you may have to stretch the floats in blocking which will cause the stitches to distort.

3. The longer your float is, the less elastic your knitting will become. If you need to stretch your knitted garment, like to get it over your head or ankle, you may end up pulling the long floats beyond their natural limit and distorting your motif. I've even heard of people accidentally tearing their colorwork because of this problem.

Ladder Back Jacquard Vs Catching Floats:

There is another much more common technique called “catching a float" or “trapping a float" that addresses some of these same problems, but it has drawbacks, especially if you're using it many times in one piece.

The catching floats method is not nearly as elastic as the Ladder Back Jacquard—it's about the same as doing nothing, in fact. It can be difficult to maintain a loose tension and it can still be slightly visible from the front side.

For these reasons I mainly use the “catching a float" method when I have an odd long float here or there within a fair Isle motif.

If you want to see my method for catching floats without getting your yarns in a tangle, check out my video.

How to Knit Ladder Back Jacquard

The Ladder Back Jacquard method is especially suited for sections of circular colorwork that have multiple rows of long-floats stacked on top of eachother or if there are especially long stretches between motifs that require carrying the unused yarn great distances (more than 10 stitches). Later in this post, I'll explain how to identify where to place the ladders.

Create the Initial Ladder Stitch:

a. Bring the main color to the front of your work first, then bring the float color to the front.

b. Do a M1L increase and...

c. Purl into the back loop with the float color. You can actually use any increasing method here, but I prefer either using the lifted increase or a M1L increase because they are invisible and anchor the ladder to the fabric.

d. Move both yarn strands to the back side at the same time.

This new stitch is the “Ladder Stitch". This extra stitch will live on your needle for all subsequent rows until you are done with the section that has long floats.

Continue the Ladder Pattern:

a. On the next row, work to the Ladder Stitch

b. Move the working yarn to the front of the work between the needle tips, then move the float color to the front, in that order. This keeps the ladder floating neatly behind the work. If you mess up the order it will be obvious after a row or two. You can fix it on a subsequent row by using a crochet hook to rework the layers.

c. Purl the Ladder Stitch with the float color.

d. Move both strands to the back of the work and continue working the motif as normal.

Continue working the ladder stitch on every row as described until the width of the float is 5 sts or less. I usually continue the ladder until the motif no longer requires a float in that column of stitches.

End the ladder:

a. On the next row, work to the ladder stitch.

b. Knit-2-together using the color indicated in your motif.

c. Continue working as normal. The ladder stitch should be invisible from the front side.

A few extra notes about the Ladder Back Jacquard technique:

  • • You can identify where you want to put your ladder stitch on the fly, but personally, I like to plan it ahead of time and mark my chart so that I don't get confused. You want to place your jacquard stitches so that you never have a float longer than 5 stitches, or 6 stitches max if you must. I've already done this work for you on the chart for my Arquette Pullover, which you can see below.
  • • You could do a knit stitch instead of a purl for your ladder stitch, but I think purling is easier and looks prettier on the back.
  • • The Ladder Back Jacquard technique is really best used when knitting circularly, but it is possible to perform all the same steps when working flat, just reverse everything when working the back (purl) side.
  • The Ladder Back Jacquard technique can enable you to knit intarsia motifs in the round, but this conversion is really only feasible if only 2 colors are used in one row.
  • • If your motif has many areas of long floats on every row, consider extending ladders beyond small sections to span the larger motif area. You could create an even mesh of ladders that covers the entire back side of your work. You would set up ladders evenly spaced—say 5 sts apart— on the first row of your work and then maintain all the ladders throughout, switching which color you knit the ladder with when the motif dictates a change, until you finish the last row of colorwork. On the back, the ladders would make long, tidy columns spanning all the way from top to bottom.

You can see this technique in action in my new knitting pattern, the Arquette Pullover, available on my site, my Payhip shop and Ravelry Shop. Using the Ladder Back Jacquard method is optional in this project, but I made it easy by including handy symbols on the color work chart to help you plan where to place the ladder stitches, which you can see pictured below.

I hope that you had fun learning and will incorporate the Ladder Back Jacquard method into your knitting projects.

Striving for the “perfect pattern" is the goal– the road to get there is often long, winding and fraught with frustration. At the end though, the satisfaction of the glorious finished sample and the perfectly elegant instructions of how to create it, it's simply sublime. The path that led to my newest pattern, the Vallo Cowl, is no different. Through many experiments, false starts, and a lot of head scratching, we got there!

I created the design concept about a year ago. I hardly remember making the first swatch. What I can recall, was that it was easy and I was very excited to bring this idea into the world. I shared my idea with Quince & Co. and they too were very excited to help me make the Vallo Cowl a reality.

Months roll by. I created samples and patterns for the *Leonarda Socks, the *Strozzi Cowl, the Motta Hat, and not the least of which, the Judd Pullover. Vallo waited patiently.

Finally, just before Christmas, it was Vallo's turn. I wound up the gorgeous Phoebe yarn from Quince and Co. and pulled up my chart files, ready to go! What I remembered was that it was practically done already. However, reality did not align with this recollection.

What ensued was a ridiculous perfectionist's fever dream. The cowl, as I had envisioned it originally and also how it is now, was constructed from the bottom up. I'm generally not a fan of bottom-up constructions, especially for items that may need length alterations. I became doggedly determined to recreate the design with a top-down approach.

Many nights went by where I knitted swatch after swatch, hours past bedtime, trying to perfect a top-down double central decrease in colorwork that approximated my original swatch. I bought patterns from other designers to research how they did it. No dice. I invented a new—and very unexplainable—way to create a double central increase. I was never satisfied.

Sometimes you just have to give up on an idea, even if it breaks your heart a little. Bottom up would have to do.

So, I went back to my original thought and knew that this time, I was on the true, easy-going path. I cast on all 270-odd stitches for the border and got to work.

Then the math problems started. I won't bore you with those details—this post is long enough, but suffice it to say that there was some frogging.

By New Year's Eve, I had managed to knit about half of the cowl. That's when I started to become aware of that annoying little perfectionist that lurks within me, again.

She would make snarky little comments from the corner of the room.

“Eww, that part isn't very pretty."
Or, “This is not your best work, Alexis."
Or even, “People want to knit something special. This isn't special."

With every passing row, she became increasingly difficult to ignore.

Deep sigh. She was right. I ripped back to the beginning once more so that I could create this dazzling little detail on the back of the cowl. The back SHOULD be as pretty as the front. It's little details like this that make hand knitting so special.

I will always be proud of my Vallo Cowl design and all the work that I put into creating it. In the end, the last iteration of the pattern was an absolute delight to knit. The momentum of the funnel shape made it impossible to put down. The colorwork was easy to memorize and engaging. The finished piece is so luxurious and soft in the Quince and Co. Phoebe yarn. It's fun to wear and easy to style. It will become a staple of my 3-season wardrobe, certainly.

I hope you'll pick up a copy of the **Vallo Cowl and see for yourself. I've offered an introductory discount for my newsletter subscribers (check your email!) which also includes a generous discount from Quince and Co.for the glorious Phoebe yarn.

*The fine print:
• Leonarda Socks and Strozzi cowl were exclusive to the Quince & Co subscription box until April 2022-- keep your eye out for the public release soon!

• I should also note, I am linking to my PayHip store because I get a greater percentage of sales from that platform for this particular pattern. If you would like to see what other knitters are doing with their projects, visit the Vallo Cowl Ravelry page, which is maintained by Quince & Co yarn company.

• First three photos and last photo: © 2022 Quince & Co; Photography: Regan Kenny

Today, I'm excited to launch a knitting pattern that is years in the making. It took a deadline and an intrepid group of test knitters to bring it into the world and I think you'll agree, it's worth the wait. The Judd Pullover, shown here in Purl Soho's Cashmere Merino Bloom yarn, combines all the best elements of my work—graphic motifs, addictive (knitting), and many small, special details that elevate the design beyond just a basic sweater and pattern.

The design features a large intarsia motif (perfect for newbies), modified drop shoulders, a vented hem, and a funnel neck with a lovely Vikkel braid detail. For more details about the construction of this garment and additional photos, visit the Judd pattern page here on Knit Darling.

The general concept for Judd has been kicking around in my head in one form or another for at least a couple of years, just waiting for the right moment. When that moment came, I was laying in bed pondering a serious problem—I didn't have any new sweaters to wear to the Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool Festival, only about a month away. Inspiration struck, as it often does at inconvenient moments, and I suddenly knew the time had come to create this glorious sweater. I quickly sat up to turn on the light and grab the closest thing I could find to a piece of paper—an old envelope—and furiously began sketching. And, Judd was born.

The next day, I refined my sketches and began researching yarn options. I quickly settled on a most luxurious yarn called Cashmere Merino Bloom from Purl Soho. Within a couple of days, the yarn arrived and I got to work. With only one month to go, there was no time to lose.

I managed to knit the sample and write the pattern all in 3 weeks, which is pretty darn fast for me. I finished and photographed the sample with only a few days to spare before the festival. I felt triumphant and so proud to wear my new creation.

Pictured here at the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival (AKA Rhinebeck): @kehleycovi @woodsyandwild @emilywools @alexiswinslow @emilygreeneknits

Immediately after the festival, I sent the pattern out for tech editing and organized a test knitting group. The process of editing and test knitting is so incredibly valuable to the end result of the pattern. It was almost unbearable to set the publish date in 2022, but with every improvement I made through the testing process, I grew even prouder of this pattern.

Here are some of the beautiful finished test knits and the wonderful knitters who helped me with the test:


I can't thank these brave knitters enough for generously lending their talents and time to my project over the past few months—a spectacular bunch, indeed! They've helped me take this pattern to the next level. It's probably my best written pattern to date, thanks to them.

The yarn I chose for the sample is Purl Soho's Cashmere Merino Bloom. This yarn is so incredibly soft—it's like wearing a hug. It was easy to work with and tolerated a little ripping out and reworking well. I didn't find any clumps of fiber in my hand as I knitted, which makes me think this yarn will resist pilling to some degree–the destiny of many soft, fuzzy yarns in my experience.

It's difficult to fully capture the coziness of the yarn in photos so you'll just have to trust me. Or, maybe you can trust the look of pure joy on my toddler's face, pictured here as he thoroughly snuggles this sweater. He loves anything soft and just can't resist a good cuddle.

It was quite hard for me to pick colors, especially because this yarn is offered in such a gorgeous palette. I settled on a monochrome color combo because most of my wardrobe is black or neutral. Purl Soho just released an extension to the colors they offer for this yarn line including a particularly gorgeous color called Warm Honey, which I am already scheming to use for an upcoming project.

To help knitters imagine the possibilities, I included a coloring page in the pattern, along with yardage estimates for each little section of color in case you want to really mix things up. Please, have some fun with this! :)

I hope you've enjoyed learning a little background about this design. I'm so excited to share this pattern with the world. The pattern is available here on KnitDarling, Ravelry and Payhip for $9 USD. I'm offering the pattern at 15% off for the first week with the code GETJUDD—hurry to get your copy now!
(Offer expires Jan. 27, 2022 at midnight ET)

I'm so happy to announce the release of my new knitting pattern, the Motta Hat. The pattern pdf is available here on my website and also at Quince and Co for $7.00 US.

The design is full of fun knitterly details– bold stranded colorwork, popcorn texture and Vikkel braids. Top off your hat with an optional pompom– or don't, because the colorwork on the crown shaping is extra pretty, too! The pattern includes links to tutorials for all the special techniques, making this project accessible to knitters at every skill level.

When I initially designed this hat, it was part of a submission for the Quince Quarterly subscription box. They ended up selecting two different designs from that submission—the Strozzi Cowl and the Leonarda Socks, which won't be publicly available until April 2022 (but you can peep them on the Quince site here and here). Thankfully, Quince didn't want to let this hat design go, so they commissioned it separately. I'm so glad they did because it was one of my favorite designs from the bunch. Below is my original design sketch from that submission:

I really loved this initial sketch, but when it came time to add the giant pom pom that I had proposed, I just couldn't do it. I spent a lot of time perfecting the crown shaping. Below are some test swatches I did while I was working out the design. I'm pretty proud of how it turned out. I definitely regret not getting a nice photo of the top before attaching the pom pom, but you can see glimpses of it in some of these photos. It absolutely pained me to hide all that hard work under a silly pom pom, as much as I love them.

Even so, a wee pom was made, and set atop the hat, only covering a small portion of the crown motif. I do love how it balances the contrasting color of the brim so nicely, so it really couldn't be skipped.

The motif has a great rhythm to it that is really fun to knit. I had been kicking this motif around for a while before I landed on this hat design. I briefly thought it would make a cute baby sweater, maybe with some extra colors, perhaps with some cool Spincycle Yarn as the contrast? I even developed the motif a little further and submitted it to another yarn company (Hudson + West Co.) as a sweater, but without all the textured stitches. They ended up choosing a different design from my submission-- the Kuffel Pullover-- which is one of my all time favorites, so no hard feelings there :) You can see how those two designs kind of jive.

The gorgeous yarn, Chickadee, of course is from Quince & Co and pictured here in Honey, Petal and Slate. I absolutely adore this yarn! It's very soft and warm and it drapes well, perfect for a hat. I also love all the colors that this yarn comes in-- you could hardly go wrong with that palette! I would love to knit another one in an inverse colorway, perhaps with the background and brim in darker Gingerbread and the foreground in Camel. I've been really into warm earth tones lately.

I really hope you'll pick up a copy of the Motta Hat knitting pattern! With all those details, a fun time is guaranteed! If you cast on, please post some pictures on Ravelry. I'd love to see what everyone is working on.

Photo credit for first and sixth images: Regan Kenny © 2021 Quince & C

Jan 31, 2020

Meet my latest design— Kuffel, a wonderfully cozy, effortless, swingy new pullover sweater pattern with all the knitterly details that a girl could want.

She's a top-down, seamless beauty. She's also a snap to knit, worked in Hudson and West Co's Forge yarn, a soft and lofty WORSTED weight wool. Pick up a digital copy of the pattern here at KnitDarling (via Ravelry), or a paper printed pattern at Hudson and West Co.

The pattern features 6 sizes, from 42" to 70" bust, and is intended to have a loose, boxy fit with about 8"-14" of positive ease for a swingy silhouette. Top-down construction makes it easy to adjust the length and fit as you go.

The sweater has a slight high-low profile achieved by working periodic short rows between the colorwork sections. The bold, graphic colorwork is super fun to knit from easily memorized charts. I've included some clever chart shenanigans that will make your beginning of rounds almost completely disappear. Just try to spot it—prominently displayed in two of these photographs! It's little details like this that make my knitwear-designer heart swell. Efforts that, I'm sure, you will appreciate as well.

Below is my initial design sketch. I originally intended for the colorwork to be in reverse-- dark pattern on a light ground. The gals over at H+W suggested it the other way around and I could not be more pleased with the results. The beautiful navy ground that you see in the photos is their “Midnight" colorway and the cream contrast color is their “Aspen" colorway.

I worked a tubular cast-on for the neck, and did a Kitchener bind-off at the cuffs and hem, which effectively looks exactly like a tubular bind off. I've written about this lesser known bind-off technique before--check out my post if you're unfamiliar. It's my favorite 1x1 rib bind-off and I think more people should know about it.

The pattern is part of Hudson and West Co's Deep Winter 2020 collection, which is chock full of cozy, colorwork stunners. I'm honored to be included in this talented bunch. My favorite design from the collection is Wildhaven by Jesie Ostermiller (@knitty_jo on instagram). I might have to make this for my husband!! (but no promises, Brian!)

Jun 19, 2018

When I was a young girl growing up in Oklahoma, my parents loved to take me and my brother on road trips to New Mexico to visit Santa Fe or Taos. This was a marvelous contrast from my ordinary suburban life — seeing a different culture, pueblo pottery and Navajo rug weaving, and most importantly a glimpse of the New Mexico art scene. This is when I first became aware of Georia O'Keeffe, and first had an inkling that I wanted to be an artist when I grew up.

The Okeeffe Shawl from my new book, Homage, honors this amazing woman and her influence on my life. Georgia O'Keeffe (1897-1986) has been called the “Mother of American Modernism", and is famous for her paintings of enlarged flowers and New Mexico landscapes, and her radical feminist views (for the time). But to me, she was an inspiring pioneer, blazing a path for little girls with big dreams like me.

This project definitely took some twists and turns. I started out with a completely different design actually. It was still a shawl, but it featured some rather intense geometric lacework. I was having some trouble settling into the design, and put off starting it for an absurd period of time. I procrastinated to the point where I would have to push back my book's publish date if I waited any longer. Mainly, I was struggling to find the right yarn in the colors I wanted, and was resisting compromise.

Around that same time I had the pleasure of meeting Alice O'Reilly, the amazingly talented dyer of Backyard Fiberworks. I took a look at her yarn line, and discovered that it included some fabulous gradient kits and colors that I had not previously seen before. This sparked an idea for me—I asked Alice if she would be interested in collaborating on a palette for one of her kits that I could use for my new shawl design. We began texting back and forth, and in no time I had this beautiful yarn in my hands.

The design changed quite a bit in the process, and in the end it reminded me of the rolling hills in an O'Keeffe painting. Alice suggested that we expand the concept into a limited edition line of O'Keeffe inspired yarn kits for the book launch party.

The palette for the sample pictured is called Pedernal after Gorgia O'Keeffe's painting by the same name.

This shawl was so much fun to knit! There is something about it that just begs you to keep going. I could hardly believe how fast I got to the end. I used a special technique called the Icelandic Bind-Off, which makes a beautiful, super-stretchy edge for garter stitch. It's pretty easy to do (instructions), but I made a video to fully demonstrate the technique, and linked to it in the pattern pdf.

The pattern is part of my book, Homage (Knit Darling Book 2), but I'm also selling it individually here on my website and on Ravelry for $6.00. It's finally perfect shawl knitting weather, so I hope you'll pick up a copy!

I had pretty low expectations when I released my Cabled Dad Hat knitting pattern in 2014, but for four years it has remained one of my most popular designs. To date, I've sent over 10,000 copies to people all over the world—I can hardly believe it! It's been an inspiring, and humbling ride.

Today, I'm adding another twist to this adventure (cable joke, anyone?). I'm thrilled to announce the release of a coordinating pattern: the Cabled Dad Mittens. The pattern includes instructions to knit three unisex styles: classic mittens, fingerless mitts, and convertible gloves—choose your own adventure! The three styles are also at three skill levels; fingerless mitts easiest; mittens slightly harder; and convertible gloves the hardest because there are so many parts. See more info and pics on the pattern's page here.

It has been amazing to watch the Cabled Dad Hat projects proliferate on Ravelry over the past few years. I love looking to see what people are doing with my pattern, especially when they modify it into something a little different. Every once in a while, I stumble upon someone who has created a complete spin-off—a matching scarf, a mini hat for their daughter's doll, or something like that. This is one of my favorite things to find! To see that one of my ideas was a source of inspiration for someone else who designed something original makes me so proud!

My Cabled Dad Mitten design was created in that same spirit. I wanted to make a coordinating pattern that would be super accessible (hence three styles in three sizes). My hope is that someone will buy this pattern because they want to make one style for themselves, a different style for their boyfriend, and maybe yet another set for a gift.

I chose Magpie Fibers Domestic Worsted yarn to knit this design. This yarn line has a really wearable palette, which is always a consideration for me, but it's also a really great work-horse yarn, perfect for these mittens. It's 100% domestic Merino wool, soft yet sturdy, and has incredible stitch definition. I chose smaller size 5 US (3.75mm) needles to produce a dense fabric that will keep your hands very warm.

I hope you'll pick up your own copy of this super fun mitten pattern! Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Dec 16, 2017

Can an ordinary knitting project possibly be considered conceptual art? Well, maybe—meet the Hilla Hat from Homage: Knit Darling Book 2.

Time for some art history, yay! All the patterns from my new book, Homage, honor a different pioneering female artist from history. This design honors Hilla Becher (1934-2015), conceptual artist and photographer. The Hilla Hat design reflects Becher's most famous works—a series of gelatin silver printed photographs depicting industrial architecture arranged into a grid. Becher's work has influenced generations of photographers, and has impacted Minimalism and Conceptual Art since the 1970's.

Almost like collage, Becher arranged her photographs depicting similar objects to create motifs of repeating structures. The arrangements make her otherwise straightforward photos quite visually interesting. However, as a conceptual artist, Becher's work is rife with meaning and should not be considered merely decorative. Becher's presentation of her work pits objectivity against subjectivity, depicting a pattern of sequential experiences that is connected in a network.

Though her message was more about the human experience and the evolving/decaying characteristics of nature, I rather liked this idea as it relates to a knitting pattern, repeated endlessly with slight variations, and also more specifically as it relates to the process of creating knitted fabric that is composed of a single strand of yarn. Also, in the broader context of my book, which is all about gratitude for my predecessors and my followers, I love the idea that I am forever connected to the knitters who make my designs through our shared experience of creating the same object.

On a less conceptual level, this adorable hat is my new favorite accessory! I've already knitted it 3 times, and I might go for a fourth soon. The hat features an easy geometric Fair Isle motif and a wide brim that can be folded up for extra warmth, or left down for a slouchy look. The pattern is part of my book, Homage, but I'm also offering it as an individual pdf.

If you want to learn more about Hilla Becher, check out the links below:




Did all this talk of conceptual art inspire your inner critic? I'd love to hear what you think in the comments below.