I was absolutely delighted to see that my Chrysler Cardigan design is featured on the cover of the new Interweave Knits Summer 2015 magazine. It was a real challenge to design, but I could not be more proud of the result.

I began working on this cardigan last October on the eve of my big West Coast book tour. The editor of IK, Lisa Shroyer, reached out with a challenge: design a Cowichan style cardigan inspired by my hometown.

I'm an Oklahoman transplant to NYC, so I felt I could draw inspiration from either locale. I sent Lisa 3 design concepts and she thought my New York inspired Chrysler Cardigan idea would be the best fit. Here's my original sketch for the sweater.

The design is inspired by the ornate decorations of a gleaming architectural icon in New York City, but the story behind the cardigan is really about a hike I took on the opposite side of the country in California.

Just one week after Lisa reached out, I had my contract and a big bag of yarn. With only 6 weeks left to write the pattern and knit the sample, I was really eager to get started! I was about to embark on a month long road trip, and so excited to have a new design to keep my fingers occupied.

As you can see from my initial sketch, I planned out the design motifs pretty well before I began writing, so I naively thought the pattern would be a breeze. I also thought I would have a ton of time to knit on my book tour. I could not have been more wrong!

Of course I should have known this by now, but it turns out pattern writing is work—difficult, thought intensive, time consuming work. Knitting is something you can do on your vacation—pattern writing is something entirely different.

Finding time to work on the road turned out to be one of the biggest challenges in completing this design. Book promotion efforts took up most of my time, and the few moments left were spent planning our route for the next morning. I managed to squeeze in an hour of work here and there, but it was very slow going.

The technical aspects of this design took much, much more time than I anticipated. I became very frustrated, and even wondered if I had gotten in over my head. I spent weeks working out the math, starting over, and reworking the math.

It was that beautiful yoke that gave me all the trouble. I wanted to create a single chart that would work for every size, but would also be straightforward enough for any knitter to follow. I could easily figure it out for one size, but the math proved to be extremely difficult for a one-size-fits-all approach, because of course I also wanted to achieve a beautiful fit for everyone.

It was challenging, but I was determined. I remember it all came together in a sort of epiphany moment. I realized I might finally have a solution, furiously adjusted the figures in my spreadsheets, and jumped to my feet. Bingo! After weeks of frustrating, tedious pattern writing I could finally start knitting— just a couple weeks before my deadline, yikes!

I finally began knitting the sample as my husband drove our giant rented RV to Yosemite for a little break we planned into the middle of the book tour.

Yosemite is the most beautiful place I've ever been. It was wonderful to finally begin working in earnest on such a hard fought project in the majestic shadows of those giant granite cliffs. It was spectacular and humbling. Feeling so tiny in that monumental landscape, thinking about the millions of years it took to create those incredible formations, beholding the Milky Way in the absence of city lights, sitting around a fire all night with the person I love most in this world—all this put my teeny tiny problems into perspective.

Our trip to Yosemite was very emotional for me. It was definitely the pinnacle of our trip, but it also seemed to symbolize something more for me. Since 2012, every extra moment had been devoted to my book, especially leading up to the tour. It was a great crescendo of anxiety and sleepless nights—what if they don't accept my book proposal; what if I can't make the deadlines; what if the book doesn't sell; what if no one comes to my book signings; what if we crash the RV and fall off a cliff?!! My difficulties designing the Chrysler Cardigan seemed to accentuate my feelings of self-doubt and doom. Yosemite was my turning point.

There was one especially significant and poignant moment for me when we hiked to the top of Nevada Falls. It was a difficult hike, 8.5 miles with about 1900 feet in elevation gain (that's 2 Chrysler buildings tall). The last 300 feet or so were a real challenge for me—panting, it seemed like the air was thinning with every step up. It took hours to get up there, my legs were very tired and I knew it would take hours to get back down.

When we arrived at the top, we unpacked our peanut butter sandwiches and took in the incredible views. I sat there for a while, knitting on the hem of my Chrysler Cardigan, and felt extreme satisfaction. I looked out on the valley so, so far below and felt powerful, triumphant that it was my own two legs that brought me up there. Soaking up the sunshine and with the wind in my hair, the experience felt like a metaphor for the last 2 years of my life. Finally getting to work on my troublesome Chrysler Cardigan seemed like the most appropriate thing for me to do.

I could hardly walk for a couple of days after that hike, but I didn't regret even one step. My Chrysler Cardigan trials were no different. My experiences have made me stronger and smarter, and for that I am grateful.

I actually missed my deadline by 2 weeks—something I never dreamed I would do, but sometimes it just takes a little longer to do a thing right. And now, every time I look at my Chrysler design I beam with pride.

I hope you pick up a copy of the Summer 2015 issue of Interweave Knits and knit yourself a Chrysler Cardigan. And I hope you see all the care and love I poured into writing the pattern to make it an absolute delight to knit and wear.

For more information about the design, visit the pattern page here. And I'd love to hear what you think about it in the comments section below.

Apr 23, 2015

Do you ever wonder what lurks in the nightmares of a knitwear designer? The villain that haunts my dreams isn't a vampire or werewolf. No, this is a different kind of monster—silent, almost invisible, and completely harmless. It's the common clothes moth. I've battled this tiny but formidable foe, at times felt powerless, but eventually took my place atop the evolutionary ladder.

To commemorate my trials and triumphs and to perhaps help a few of my darling readers, I declare this last week in April Clothes Moth Awareness Week here at Knit Darling. Whoo hoo! So pull out all your woolens, and let's get down to business.

Why should I care about clothes moths?
Moths will eat your clothes, and that should scare you. Well probably not all your clothes, just the ones made from silk, feathers, and animal fibers (i.e. wool, alpaca, angora—all my favorites). They will also eat your yarn, which should be even more terrifying if you're a knitter.

Who is at risk for clothes moths?
Desert folk, mountain folk, city folk, and prairie folk alike—almost everyone except for sterile bubble folk are at risk for a moth infestation.

How can I protect my garments from moths?
Simple: keep them clean and store them in plastic. Personally, I love travel size Space Bags for accessories, and vinyl zippered bags for sweaters.

When the weather gets too warm for sweaters, it's time to take action. Carefully inspect any at risk items for signs of moth damage or eggs. If you suspect moths, wash or dry clean the items before storing them away. It also helps to keep your house really clean because hair and food crumbs can attract moths. Moth eggs are kind of like dry sand, and are easy to vacuum away.

How do I protect my yarn stash from moths?
Like garments, I recommend storing yarn in plastic gallon(ish) size bags. Smaller bags like this help organize your yarn collection, as well as quarantine an infestation that might have come with the yarn. Inspect every skein of yarn you buy for evidence of eggs or damage. Damaged yarn will be frayed in areas, and the eggs look kind of like cookie crumbs.

What do I do if I suspect my yarn stash has moth eggs?
A few years ago, while I was working on my book, I experienced a small moth infestation in one of my (many) decorative yarn baskets. This was especially horrifying because I had been spending every waking/non-day-job-working hour knitting samples for my book. At the time I wasn't really storing ALL my yarn in sealed containers, so I felt a little like moth eggs were covering every surface of my apartment—a moth time bomb in a decadent wooly smorgasbord. Whether or not this was actually the situation, is beside the point.

Of course I couldn't easily wash every skein of yarn, so I had to find an alternative. I did a ton of research, and learned that I needed to interrupt the moths' lifecycle. Unfortunately, Moth traps only catch adults. To really be effective I also had to kill the larvae and eggs, which can lay dormant for years. Here are some methods that I recommend:

1. The fastest, easiest solution is to bake the skeins in a warm oven—about 2 hours at 150º F. This is so low, that you don't even have to remove the yarn labels. Be warned, your house will smell like hot wool while you do this, so think twice before inviting your MIL over for lunch.

2. Similarly, if you live in the south and own a car, on a really hot day you can throw the yarn in the back seat to bake in the sun for a few hours.

3. Freeze the skeins for several days at 0º F, remove for one day, then freeze again for several days.

4. Vigorously shake and brush the skeins to destroy fragile larvae and eggs. Though, if you find larvae in your yarn, it's way too late. That yarn is pretty much garbage.

If this hasn't scared you enough, check out my Moth Facts graphic below, and share it with your friends! They will think you're really cool for doing this, trust me.

I wish these little creatures didn't scare me anymore, but they most certainly do. I literally have had nightmares about them—in the past week. Writing this post has been cathartic for me, but I also hope it will inspire you to take moth-preventing measures. There's almost nothing sadder than tossing skeins and skeins of beautiful yarn, or worse yet—a hand-knit sweater, into the garbage.

Do you have any great tips for managing these pesky creatures? Well that's just wonderful! Please share your wisdom in the comments section below.

The magic loop method for circular knitting one of my favorite skills to teach. Not only is it easy to master, but it can actually save time and money, and perhaps even help you get a better fit in your hand knitted garments.

Here is a handy illustrated cheat-sheet I made showing how to get started with the magic loop method for circular knitting. I print this and give it to my students in class, but I thought my blog readers might also get some use from it.

If you follow my blog, you probably saw my experiments exploring how different needle materials can affect stitch gauge. This little discovery really changed the way I made swatches. I began diligently recording which needles I used for each of my swatches, and also began using circularly knitted swatches for my circularly knitted garments.

These circular swatches really improved the success of my designs because I also discovered that my purl stitches are a slightly different size and shape than my knit stitches. It turns out that this variation in stitches is actually pretty common, so I strongly encourage everyone to adopt a habit for swatching circular patterns too.

There are a few different ways to make circular swatches. One is kind of like knitting an i-cord on steroids. You work every row from the right side by pushing your stitches to the opposite end of your dpn or circ at the end of every row, and then kind of drape a long loose strand of yarn across the back to bridge the gap. Later you can cut the strands like I did in the picture below, but you don't have to do that if you need to use the yarn for your project.

A decidedly less awkward method is to make a small tube about 6" in circumference. When it's time to take gauge measurements, you can cut the tube with scissors so it will lay flat, or just leave it intact, which requires greater care when calculating your gauge but might save you in a pinch if you run low on yarn in your project.

I much prefer the small tube method, but this presents a bit of a challenge if you insist on using the very same 30" circular needles you plan to use for an adult sized size sweater. That's where the magic loop technique comes in handy. This method is so versatile, that you can use a 30" circular needle to knit circumferences as small as 1". This is why the magic loop technique can save you some cash–it eliminates the need to buy an extra set of dpns to knit sleeves, neck bands, or to close up a hat.

I didn't use magic loop much until I became such a stickler for swatching with the right needles, but now I've grown to love it as my go-to technique for all my small circumference projects. These days, my once beloved array of dpns is gathering dust somewhere beside a jar full of long straight needles in the depths of my studio.

So many of my designs utilize circular knitting, including 4 out of the 5 designs in my new book. Speaking of, if you haven't seen Homage: Knit Darling Book 2 book yet, go check it out! The collection features 5 gorgeous new knitting patterns inspired by Modernist art and design, each piece honoring a different pioneering female artist from history. I could not be prouder of the collection!

Mar 23, 2015

I'm so excited to announce the release of my newest pattern, The Mitsy Mittens. Originally I was only going to use this pattern in a new class that I am teaching, but I had so much fun making all the samples that I just couldn't resist releasing the pattern publicly as well. The mittens are for toddlers, but the pattern also includes modification instructions to make them in adult sizes or for a miniature ornament.

The class I've been developing is really more of a workshop on the Mitsy Mitten pattern. I wanted to teach a class that combines the Magic Loop method for circular knitting and an intro to stranded colorwork knitting skills like shaped chart reading and handling multiple colors of yarn. I also wanted the workshop to be under 3 hours so I could teach it all in one session. After designing the curriculum, I realized that I needed the class to focus on a very small project that used all these skills, and idea for Mitsy was born!

The pattern is really fun to knit because each section is so short, and not too challenging. I can complete a mitten in about 2 hours. Over the past few weeks, I've been completely obsessed and have made at least a dozen mittens! There's something super addictive about this colorwork pattern, but also the third season of House of Cards came out, sooooo yeaaah

After I designed the mittens to fit a toddler (2T-3T), I thought if these were just a little smaller, they would make a really adorable ornament. So I dug through my stash and found some beautiful fingering weight Cascade 220 yarn and got to work with my size 1 needles.

So cute, right?! I'm absolutely in love with this teeny-tiny version! I thought you might be too, so I added instructions for the mini mittens to the end of the pattern. Wouldn't it be cute to alter the motif to say the year? Or maybe add a new baby's initials and give it as a gift?

Then, I taught the class for the first time, which was probably more of a learning experience for me than for my students. The students were friends from my knitting club, so they knew what they were getting into. For the class, I prepared some in-progress examples worked on large needles with chunky yarn so everyone could easily see my demonstrations. The large-scale mittens were actually kind of awesome, which inspired me to write even more mods to make Mitsy for an adult.

I made these adult sized mittens out of Cascade Baby Alpaca Chunky yarn, and they are just so soft and delicious! You may recognize the yarn from my Finch Cardigan pattern.

My next workshop for the Mitsy Mittens will be at a wonderful little shop in Austin, TX called Guage on Saturday April 11, 2015 from 12-3pm ($40; pre-registration is required). Guage is also hosting a trunk show for my book, Graphic Knits, and I'll be there signing books immediately after the class from 3-4:30. If you're in the area, I hope you'll come by to say hello. Call Guage for more details (512) 371-9300.

Creating the Escher Cardigan design was kind of an adventure for me. When I finally finished, I felt like I had created a masterpiece–or maybe I was just feeling a little woozy from relearning all the high school trigonometry required to grade out this pattern. Whatever the case, the unusual shape of the garment was definitely exciting uncharted territory. I had to knit, and then reknit, almost every section until I got it just right.

Escher Picture 1

Escher Picture 2

Escher Picture 3

My initial design sketch actually looks pretty similar to the end result, but the way it all came together differs a lot from my original idea. The most striking difference is that bold V-shape I added to the back. After knitting the whole body section according to my original proposed idea, I tried it on and realized the fit would be much improved if the arm holes angled down a bit. I went back to the drawing board and came up with this solution. It was a real doozy to figure out, but well worth the effort.

Escher Picture 4

Before Brooklyn Tweed assigned this cardigan an official name, I affectionately nicknamed it the #blobsweater because of the somewhat amorphous appearance of my original design sketch. But as the design progressed, “Blob" seemed less and less appropriate. Like when I added the V-stripe, I kept seeing all these wonderful opportunities to incorporate unusual shaping details. By the end, all the missteps, self-doubt and subsequent recalculation had transformed my blob into an elegant, flattering garment suitable for a fancy lady….

Escher Picture 5

… like this one. I think it should be noted, that this model is probably pretty tall and broad shouldered. I never met her, but I think I'm at liberty to make a reliable guess. If you're anywhere near average height, Escher will probably look more like my design sketch on you, falling somewhere around or just below your elbows. I'm about 5'10", and this is what the exact same sweater looks like on me:

Escher Picture 6

One of my favorite details in Escher is the shaping in the ribbed edging around the shoulders on the back. The shaping mirrors the bold V-stripe on the back. This shaping helped refine the fit but also visually balances the design. This was definitely not in my original plan, but I just couldn't help myself. Its little details like this that make my little designer heart flutter.

Escher Picture 7

One of my goals with this design was to make it entirely seamless. This created a few challenges for me. The biggest problem was in the rib section, because if I worked it in one long round, it would require a mind-blowing number of stitches on the needle. I have no desire to keep track of 600+ stitches, and I don't expect anyone else to find joy in that either.

After much experimentation, I figured out that I could construct the edging in two flat pieces, and still keep the cardigan seamless. The lower part is formed from picked up stitches that are worked straight out from the body. Then the upper section is formed from stitches that are picked up from the body and the sides of the lower ribbing section.

Escher Picture 8

Another little thing you may not have noticed is the knitted covered button that I made for this cardigan. If you recall my Knitted Covered Button Tutorial post I did last year, you know how much I love this technique.

Escher Picture 9

I love how the button just looks like it belongs–a compliment to the design instead of a distracting focal point. Unfortunately, Brooklyn Tweed didn't get a photo of the cardigan buttoned, so I feel like it's my duty to shout about this detail from the rooftops! YES, it buttons and it's adorable! Button! B-U-T-T-O-N!

Escher Picture 10

This was my fourth Brooklyn Tweed “Wool People" contribution, and the third design I've done with their Loft yarn. The fact that I keep going back to this yarn is a testament to how great it is. I hope you'll pick some up and knit yourself an Escher too. I can hardly wait to get the sample back. It's sure to be one of my signature pieces and a much loved wardrobe staple!

Since I released the Caring Cowl pattern in 2011, I've donated all the proceeds to the American Red Cross. From time to time I like to issue a report for my blog readers, and the start of a new year seems like the perfect time to do it.

Last year, there were about 50 kind folks who purchased the pattern, so I was able to make another donation to the ARC for $150. This brings the total donations generated by the pattern up to $1,550. Nice work everyone!

I'm always humbled by the kindness and generosity of knitters. It seems ubiquitous throughout the community. There must be something special about our craft that cultivates compassion. I think anyone who has ever taken the time to knit something for another person understands selflessness on some level. Regardless of the reason, I'm just thankful that there are so many caring folks our there. Thanks again!

My Danae Mittens design was the 14th pattern I wrote for my book, Graphic Knits.

This design was not part of my original book proposal, but when I had the idea I knew it would be a perfect addition. From the beginning, I felt a little unsure of the title "Graphic Knits" that the publisher picked for the book because my original design proposal included so many classic looking, decidedly un-graphic pieces. I really loved the title though, and I wished that I had been working with the concept in mind the whole time. Even though I was very busy working on other designs from my proposal, I was constantly having new ideas. Inspiration always seems to strike when I'm too busy to do anything about it, but this idea was just too perfect for the book for me to ignore. I emailed my editor and immediately got to work.

If you've kept up with my "Meet Graphic Knits" series, you probably remember that I love knitting Fair Isle on air planes. That's why I saved this design for a big trip I had planned to the island of Crete in Greece, which required 22 lovely hours of travel time from New York City to Chania, Greece.

Traveling to Crete was pretty brutal, but once we got there it was something like heaven. I have such fond memories of sitting under a flower covered pergola with a cup of coffee, looking out on the Mediterranean Sea, knitting away on my little color work project.

This was the most relaxed I had been in probably 2 years. Before the book, before my Winsome Knits collection, before I had an inkling of my future career ambitions, something terrible happened. My dear much-loved father-in-law passed away suddenly from a freak illness.

Dealing with the death of a parent is one of the hardest things a child will go through. For me and my husband, the way we dealt with it was to keep busy–very, very busy. My husband closed himself off for a full year, and all I could do for him was keep the status quo. We were at the funeral when Knit Picks offered me the opportunity to create my Winsome Knits collection, and before I even sent in my first draft for that, I was already working on my Graphic Knits book proposal. It was an emotionally difficult and extremely hectic period, but by the spring of 2013 we had come out the other side.

My mother-in-law proposed a family trip to Crete, and even with everything going on, it was a great opportunity to pull ourselves together again as a family in an uplifting way. We had a really wonderful time and I think it was rejuvenating for all of us. When I returned I found myself more focused and driven than ever before. I still had the second mitten to complete, but every stitch reminded me of the wonderful time we had on the island.

Here I am working on my second Danae mitten on the 19th-floor rooftop garden at my friend's Manhattan apartment building. I'm not sure I will ever look this relaxed again!

On the trip, I took a lot of time to focus on the details of this design. I love to use stripes of color on the edges of my mittens and gloves. It's such a nice way to frame the design, and provides a wonderful place to add decoration to the thumb gusset. Notice how nicely the stripes meet at the point of the mitten.

Also, I'm particularly proud of the fit on these mittens. The base of the thumb features some pretty nice shaping details within the color-work pattern that make my little designer heart sing with delight.

For more information about this design, check out the pattern page here.

Nov 18, 2014

The Sweetness knit-along is finally over. Thanks to everyone who participated over in the Ravelry forums, and congrats to the dedicated knitters who completed their KAL projects by the final deadline! All participants who completed their sweaters in time will get the Knit Darling pattern of their choice. I'll reach out personally via Ravelry to arrange the prizes.

The grand prize winner is TeaKnitPurl, who will also receive a signed copy of my Winsome Knits collection and some fabulous yarn from my gigantic stash.

Below are some pictures of the completed sweaters from the KAL to inspire you.

If you're still working on your project, I hope you'll continue posting in the forum. There's also been some chatter of starting another knit-along, perhaps for the Rook Pullover or Rockling Cardigan, so please chime in if you're interested in something like that.

Once again, thanks to everyone who participated! I had so much fun leading my first KAL, and can hardly wait to start another one.

Sweetness KAL'ers, you're almost there! By now, you should have finished the yoke, body, and one of the sleeves. I hope you're having as much fun as I am!

Your mission for Part 6: Finish knitting your sweater by Monday, November 17. This is my birthday, and seeing your finished sweaters is the best gift I can think of!

I've been working on my Sweetness KAL sweater while on my Graphic Knits Book Tour through the Pacific Northwest. My husband and I rented an RV, and we're having a blast! My job as the navagator has been pretty demanding, but I've managed to squeeze in a little knitting time here and there.

If you've followed along with the KAL schedule, you only have the second sleeve, weaving in ends, and blocking left to do. If you're rusty on your “finishing" skills, here are a couple videos that I made a while back explaining how I do it.

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I finished my sweater a little early so I could display it at a book signing event I did at Knit-Purl in Portland, Oregon. It was really down to the wire and I didn't finish until the night before the event. It pretty much rained the whole time we were in Portland, and the sweater just didn't dry out in time. I actually had to employ a blow dryer in order to finish drying the sweater minutes before we left for the event!

I'm delighted to see participation has really picked up over on the Ravelry thread. Here are a few progress pics from the group:

We're in the home stretch now, and I'm cheering everyone on! I've seen some truly amazing progress so far. Remember, to win the prize, you need to finish your sweater and post a picture on the Sweetness KAL Ravelry thread by midnight on November 17, 2014. You can do it!

The Liwi Top was the 13th pattern I wrote for my book, Graphic Knits. When I began in late April, 2013 I was really getting in the groove of writing my book, and relaxed a little about my "knitting schedule".

For the first half of the Graphic Knits patterns, I made a calendar to help me figure out my design pace. I had six months to finish half the book, or to put it another way, 180 days to create patterns and samples for 6 garments and 4 accessories. I figured I had about 24 days to design/knit each of the garments, and 8 days for each of the accessories.

This schedule was frightening, to say the least! Somehow I pulled it off for the first half, so I was confident I could do it again. I was so confident that I didn't even make a schedule for the second half. I just picked up whichever design sketch I felt like, and got to work at my usual pace. Also, I had come to realize that it's impractical to work on only one thing at a time, and working on several projects at once could be much more efficient.

When I began working on Liwi, I was still finishing Orly, and had already begun swatching for the next three patterns (Danae, Trilogy, and Sweetness). Even with all that multitasking, the pattern and sample only took about 3 weeks to complete.

This is the sketch I made for my book proposal. You might notice that the shoulder detail with the buttons looks a little different from the sample. I had planned all along to close the shoulders with a row of buttons on either side. When I finished knitting the sample, I pinned the shoulders into place with three sewing pins and slipped it on to see what I had wrought.

Of course sewing pins rarely stay-put in a hand knitted garment, and instantly one of the pins fell to the floor. My pointy freckled shoulder poked right through the gap in the middle of one of the shoulders. There was something delightful about the 'cut-out' effect this created so I decided to alter the design. If this isn't exactly your style, you could sew the shoulders shut as I had originally intended.

This was one of the few designs in the book that I had picked a yarn for before I began. I did a lot of my yarn research at my LYS, La Casita, and always had my eye on the delicious strawberry colored balls of Rowan Baby Merino Silk DK they had there. The yarn was really great to work with and was perfect for this tailored design. I loved how the stitches came out so smoothly and mesh looked so crisp.

The yarn has different colors twisted into it, giving it a slight heather effect which I love. The heather effect makes this design a little more casual, but if you used a solid with a bit of sheen this could really be a dressy piece. I also think it would be very cool to use two different contrasting colors of lace weight yarn held together for more of an interesting marled effect. What yarn would you use?