Eclectic Closet Litblog, Book Reviews & Knitting Designs

A litblog dedicated to book reviews/recommendations, as well as literary and publishing news. Now enhanced with knitting designs.

Experimental Cowl

February17

Close up of Experimental Cowl
It’s been incredibly cold the past week in Ontario. Plus -30 Celsius could (including wind chill)! When it’s that cold you need lots of layers and really warm pieces to protect your skin from freezing. With temperatures dipping as low as they have, now seemed like the perfect time to release the Experimental Cowl.

I designed this cowl mid-January as an experiment. I was curious what cables would look like in super bulky yarn and I had this idea in my head. I wanted to do a centre cabled panel and then pick up off that to make a cowl in garter stitch. I had the perfect buttons from Melissa Jean (bought at Rhinebeck a few years ago) in my stash and I was sure the scale of the buttons would work well with the super bulky yarn.

Experimental Cowl showing alternate method to button it

I also wanted to create a stash busting pattern. The sample was knit with three strands of aran weight and one strand of worsted weight yarn held together, but any configuration of yarn that gets gauge would work. The pattern as written makes a fitted cowl but the pattern can easily be adjusted by working additional garter rows to make it longer.

P.S. Thanks Jen (model) and Shawn (photographer) for braving the cold temperatures to capture these amazing photos!

Tiling Twists Cowl

February15

Tiling Twists Cowl in Simplinatural
It’s a cold, cold night here, -34 degrees Celsius with wind chill. Brrrrrr…..

How to stay warm in these frigid temperatures? A cozy cowl made with alpaca that you can pull up around your ears to protect from those breath-stealing winds. With that in mind, I’m happy to release Tiling Twists Cowl. The elongated basket weave and mini cables of this stitch pattern combine to create a reversible fabric with two distinctly different, yet attractive, looks.

Variations on a Theme

February9

I suspect many designers do it. We create a design and then, much like a composer does, we continue to work with the stitch patterns over time – putting them together in different ways. Essentially, variations on a theme.

Sometimes this is because we aren’t done with a stitch pattern, it still has us in its grasps. Like a melody that haunts a composer, this stitch pattern isn’t ready to let us go. For me, that haunting stitch pattern is the one used in my Cartouche series (Cartouche Shawl, Cartouche Stole and Cartouche Slouchy Beret, if you’re curious). I’m pretty sure I’m not done with it yet.

Designs using cartouche stitch pattern

Cartouche Stole, Shawl & Beret

As I mentioned in the blog post announcing the release of Twisted Circles Cowl, the idea for it was sparked in early 2013, after I saw a picture of a stitch pattern that creates the illusion of circles, reminiscent of op-art, by the simple use of blocks of reverse stockinette stitch. I knew instantly that I wanted to use it in something but didn’t have an idea yet. Fast forward a year to a doodle made while I was on the phone and I suddenly found the inspiration to use the stitch pattern. I had been doodling hour glass shapes and it suddenly came to me – alternate sections of this circle pattern with a densely cabled pattern to create the hourglass shape. Do this multiple times in a circle to make a unique infinity cowl!

Twisted Circles Cowl, showing wide and narrow sections

Figuring out the shape I wanted essentially determined the construction. The cowl begins with a provisional cast on and is knit flat back and forth. The piece is finished by grafting the two ends together. The gently scalloped cable edging provides a beautiful frame to the face. All that was left was to figure out what yarn to use. I knew I wanted it to be a worsted yarn that had spring and loft and I love knitting with Indigodragonfly Yarn’s wonderful yarns and colourways. So I turned to Kim for advice and she pointed out the rich green colourway – “Is the Money Okay? Did they Hurt the Money? (Buffy)” – in their MerGoat Worsted base.

Twisted Circles Cowl

Twisted Circles Cowl

I had thought that would be the end of working with these stitch patterns until a friend presented a challenge – could I use the same stitch patterns to create a long, shallow shawl. The quick answer was yes, of course I could, but to make it something that would be attractive, wearable and yet could be written up as a pattern would be the challenge.

The shape was already determined what I had to do was determine how to put the stitch patterns together that would showcase the best qualities of each design. The added challenge was the differences in gauge between the two main patterns. In the cowl where the two stitch patterns alternated, these differences wouldn’t matter. In a longer piece, those differences could be significant, depending on where the stitch patterns were place.

Twisted Circles Shawl cover shot

Twisted Circles Shawl

During the design phase, I considered multiple shawl constructions methods; top down, bottom up, and even working the body first in the circle pattern followed by an attached edging of the dense cables. None felt quite right until I looked at the piece from a different angle and decided the construction needed to be worked from tip to tip. That way all three stitch patterns could be knit at the same time with periodic short rows are worked in the densely cabled sections to compensate for row gauge differences.

Twisted Circles Shawl, back view

I already knew this shawl was going to be published in Knitty and that it would be done in the luminous Clematis shade of Miss Babs Yowza – Whatta Skein. On to the knitting!

Thus ends the story of the Twisted Circles variations. Now I’m curious to see what variations the knitterati choose as they knit these patterns!

Twisted Circles Shawl

Twisted Circle Shawl

January20

Twisted Circles Shawl
I was lucky enough to have one of my earliest designs (Cartouche Shawl) published in Knitty magazine. So it is such an honour to have my newest design featured as one of their Winter 2014 surprises.

Introducing Twisted Circles Shawl, the companion piece to Twisted Circles Cowl which I posted about yesterday. Coming soon – a blog post about utilizing the same stitch patterns to such different effect in these two pieces.

Twisted Circles Cowl

January19

Twisted Circles Cowl
Today I’m introducing my newest design, Twisted Circles Cowl. The idea for this cowl came to me in early 2013, after I saw a picture of a stitch pattern that creates the illusion of circles by the simple use of blocks of reverse stockinette stitch. Once I saw the rich green of Indigodragonfly Yarn’s MerGoat Worsted yarn, I knew I had found the perfect yarn for this cowl.

The cowl begins with a provisional cast on and is knit back and forth. The piece is finished by grafting the two ends together.

Interview: Elizabeth Elliott

January6

Today’s interview is with Elizabeth Elliott of e.elliott knits.

Note: It’s the last of the GAL interview series and, despite my well-meant intentions, did not get published before Christmas. Rather than have it get lost in the holiday season, I decided to hold off and post the interview today.

Firenze Mittens

Firenze Mittens

How did you get started designing?
I’d been playing around with structure and stitch patterns for a while, and came up with an idea for a reversible baby blanket with an integrated short-row hood (the Sweet Lullaby Seamless Hooded Blanket). My mum suggested that I write the idea down and submit it to Knit Picks’ Independent Designer Program, which had just started up. I sent it in, they accepted it, and they were so supportive and encouraging that I just kept going.

What inspires your designs?
To be honest, I don’t always know. Sometimes it’s a particular yarn or combination of colours; sometimes I want to play with a technique or experiment with structure; sometimes I’m just falling asleep and an idea will come seemingly out of nowhere, and won’t let me sleep until I get up and sketch it. The Firenze set started out as a scarf that needed a border. I was going for a Renaissance look, so I went to the library and looked through books of paintings from that period. I fell in love with a detail from Andrea del Castagno’s painting, Pippo Spanno, which it turned out worked better on its own than with the main pattern of the scarf, so I used it for mittens and a cowl, instead. I’m still looking for a border for that scarf.

Backroad Scarf, Aran weight

Backroad Scarf, Aran weight

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
It could be either. The Backroad Hats started with the yarn: Michelle at Widdershin Woolworks asked if I’d test out a new yarn she was thinking of carrying, and I tried to come up with a stitch pattern that would show off the variegated colourway and work well with the yarn’s sproinginess. The wrap I’m working on now started with an idea for a lace border; I tried several yarns before finding one that clicked. I’ve been working on some more colourwork ideas using the Sunday Knits 3-ply yarns: the colour palette is so huge, there’s lots of room to play around with colour combinations.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
Since I started spinning a few years ago, I’ve become more and more interested in suiting the yarn to the purpose: wooly wools for outer layers, tightly plied yarns for items that will see a lot of wear, lofty yarns for large projects like blankets. I try to come up with designs that are interesting to make, so that the process is as enjoyable as the final product.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
That changes all the time, but overall I’d say stranded colourwork. I like the mathiness of it — the challenge of coming up with attractive designs within the grid format — and it gives me a chance to play around with colour combinations.

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
I think it would be Sunday Knits yarn. It’s soft and pleasant to knit with, with a good plying structure, so it’s very versatile. The colours are just lovely, too.

What’s your “comfort knitting?”
Socks. I used to be into fancy socks, but I find that I really like working on plain, 3×1 rib socks, especially since I’ve done enough of them that they’re mindless knitting for me now. When I’m working on one of those socks in self-striping yarn (especially in handspun), it feels like my hands just know what to do, while the stripes keep it interesting with no extra effort from me.

Jazz Age mitts

Jazz Age Mitts

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
I kind of feel like the Jazz Age mittens don’t get the love I thought they would. They’re getting more attention with the Gift-A-Long, especially since I changed the main photo (it’s so hard to choose the right photo sometimes), so hopefully more people will see them now.

Which three GAL designs are top of your list to cast on?
Well, I finished Laura Chau’s Orbital Ornaments and Birch Hollow Cottage’s Little Fox Mittens, both of which were a lot of fun. Next up is Marnie MacLean’s Cercis sweater for me.

Continental or English?
English. My English grandmother taught me to knit, so that’s how I learned. I’d really like to learn Continental, though. My stitching-and-coffee friend knits Continental, and it’s amazing to watch her go.

Gimble Mitts

Gimble Mitts

What’s the best thing about knitting?
Always having something productive to fill slack time. I recently had to fly to Alberta from Birmingham, and without knitting, those flights would have been mind-numbingly tedious. I like having a way to keep my hands busy while reading, watching movies or tv shows, sitting in waiting rooms, and so on, and at the end you have something you can use.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Don’t be afraid to try new things. The worst that will happen is that you’ll have to rip out your work and try again, and even then you’ll have learned something.

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
I don’t really do resolutions, but I think next year I’ll finally try to learn Continental knitting. I’d also like to be designing sweaters by the end of next year.

View all of Elizabeth’s patterns here. All images copyright Elizabeth Elliott and used by permission.

Changes in EU VAT rules and how it affects your purchase of my knitting patterns

January6

If you’ve been following the discussions of the new EU VAT rules that went into effect on January 1st, 2015, then this is probably old hat by now. For those that haven’t, I thought I should post a note about the new legislation and what I’ve done to comply – and of course, how this will affect your shopping experience.

Customers who don’t live in the EU won’t notice a change at all. Your shopping experience in my Ravelry store (or in Patternfish) will function as normal.

My prices have never been VAT inclusive, so EU customers shopping via Patternfish will see slightly higher prices that include their local VAT rate. EU customers shopping via Ravelry will be redirected to LoveKnitting to check out, at which time VAT will be applied to their purchase.

Interview: Tania Richter

December22

Tania Richter is a both an artist/illustrator and a designer. Her illustration style clearly influences her knitting design work.

Tania Richter

Tania Richter

How did you get started designing?
I mostly got into designing by accident. About a year ago I was playing around with the Cloud Dragon Scarf pattern and showed it to the Double Knitting group on Ravelry to see what people thought. Turns out there was a large number of people who really liked the pattern, so I decided to release it as a Mystery Knit-along. Everything grew from that!

What inspires your designs?
I’m really inspired by fantasy art and nature.

Cloud Dragon Scarf

Cloud Dragon Scarf

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
Typically, the inspiration. I get hit by an idea, sketch it out, and hunt down the perfect yarn to fit the idea. Sometimes the yarn decides it wants to be something else, so there can be some mixing and matching at times

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
Unique motifs you can’t find on most knitted pieces. I try to think of designing as doing fiber-based pixel art.

Rise from the Ashes Shawl

Rise from the Ashes Shawl

What is your favourite type of item to design?
I love making scarves. They’re one of the best vehicles for showing off double-knit patterns.

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
Malabrigo Finito.

What’s your “comfort knitting?”
Big squishy scarves.

Kitsune Nine-tailed Fox

Kitsune Nine-tailed Fox

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
The Winter’s Ward Double-Knit Dragon Cowl seemed to fall a little flat.

Which three GAL designs are top of your list to cast on?
Due to some time constraints, I only get to cast on Kate Hepell’s Through the Woods this GAL, but I also want to do Kimberly Golynskiy’s Debra Peacock Tail Shawl and Annie Watts’ Neck Kraken.

Continental or English?
A weird mix of both.

Drachen Jaeger sweater

Drachen Jaeger sweater, to be released in January 2015.

What’s the best thing about knitting?
Getting to wear the finished product!

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Never be afraid to try new techniques.

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
Finish the Drachen Jaeger and Sekiryu sweater patterns, actually release a hat pattern.

View all of Tania’s patterns here. Rise from the Ashes photo copyright Jessica Troy. Remaining photos copyright Tania Richter. All images used by permission.

What is the Gift-A-Long? The GAL is a big knitting and crochet designer promotion with prizes and more than 5,000 people participating in a giant KAL/CAL. Come join the GAL group on Ravelry!

Interview: Sara Peterson, Knotty Gnome

December19

Today’s interview is with Sara Peterson of Knotty Gnome Designs. Sara designs both knit and crochet patterns.

Sara Peterson, modeling Tilt Shift Shawl

Sara Peterson, modeling Tilt Shift Shawl

How did you get started designing?
I started knitting around 2003 and by 2007-ish I had enough skills to start figuring out how make the designs that were dancing in my head like this Pringle of Scotland-inspired cardigan. Not long after that, I started writing my own patterns.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
I’m usually inspired first by a stitch pattern or something I see (a shape, a texture, or maybe a RTW item of clothing). Then I search for the right yarn. I also design quilt patterns and I approach it the same way–I almost always come up with a design first and then choose fabric.

Nicke's Hat

Nicke’s Hat

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
As a knitter, I have to be in the right kind of mood to focus on something really dizzying and I’m often distracted by my dogs and cats, so I like to design what I like to knit–simple designs with just a bit of flare. Nothing super boring but also something I can put down at a moment’s notice without losing my place. I love lots of different types of knitting–lace, cables, colorwork, and I design crochet patterns too.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
I really like to design hats. They’re a nice blank canvas with so many potential shapes and possibilities but they can be finished quickly.

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
I love me some Madelinetosh. If I had to stick with one yarn, I’d probably pick Tosh DK.

Naughty or Nice

Naughty or Nice

What’s your “comfort knitting?”
Definitely socks. If I’m busy or frustrated with other projects, I can always knit a row or two on a pair of socks.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
Probably the Snowcone Mittens.

I personally love them and they’ve gotten a lot of favorites, but they weren’t a big seller for me. My guess is that stranding multiple colors might seem daunting, even though you only work 2 colors at a time.

Snowcone Mittens

Snowcone Mittens

Which three GAL designs are top of your list to cast on?
Oh, the Gift-a-long. I purchased so many patterns that I’m itching to make. The ones I’m most excited about are Cable Bunny by Julia Trice, Fuego Hat by Justyna Lorkowska, and the Swift River Cardigan by Mary Annarella. But I’m not officially allowing myself to cast-on personal knits until I finish the sweaters I’m making for my nieces and nephews (Jane and Ziggy by Georgie Hallam and Little Fisher Pullover by Andrea Sanchez).

Continental or English?
I’m a thrower.

What’s the best thing about knitting?
For the most part, it’s very soothing and relaxing for me to come home from a long day at work and knit. It’s a great way to unwind.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Don’t be afraid to deviate from the pattern. As a newer knitter, I was terrified to go off-book and I ended up with a lot of ill-fitting sweaters. Modifying patterns isn’t so scary and it usually results in a much more flattering garment.

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
I’m not big on resolutions but I would like to publish at least one design per month in 2015, and I’d also really like to focus on adding to my crochet catalog.

View all of Sara’s patterns here. All photos are copyright Jennifer Dassau and used by permission.

What is the Gift-A-Long? The GAL is a big knitting and crochet designer promotion with prizes and more than 5,000 people participating in a giant KAL/CAL. Come join the GAL group on Ravelry!

Interview: Katherine Matthews, Purl Diving

December18

Today’s interview is with Katherine Matthews of Purl Diving, a friend and design colleague.

Dulce - Scarf and Shawl

Dulce – Scarf and Shawl

How did you get started designing?
I’d always played around with making changes to things and doing things my own way a little, but when Knitters magazine had their first sock designing contest, I realized that I had knit enough socks to have totally absorbed the mechanics of the basic shape, and that all I had to do was figure out how to plug in a stitch pattern and tweak some design elements to make things pleasing. I entered two pairs in the contest: Tipsy Knitter socks, and Ribble socks, and both of them made it into the Socks, Socks, Socks compilation. Then a sweater I’d designed for my niece made it into their collection of baby patterns. Even after that, I mostly just designed things for myself, until my friends at the LYS (Shall We Knit?) encouraged me to start publishing patterns for what I was doing.

What inspires your designs?
Lots and lots and LOTS of things — it can be a phrase in a book I’m reading, or something from a movie I’ve watched that will set an idea in motion. I love museums and art galleries, so sometimes the exhibits I see will spark something off. Or, I can just be walking down the street and see an interesting pattern or shape. So many different things can be an influence.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
I’ve had it work both ways — bought a yarn and then worked an idea around it, or had the inspiration and gone searching for the yarn. But I think, most often, the inspiration comes first, and then I search for the yarn.

Breakwater Shawl

Breakwater Shawl

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
I like minimalistic garments — those are what I wear most often, and those are what I enjoy designing most. I love garter stitch, and it finds a place in many of my designs.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
I love to design shawls and scarves — again, they’re what I use most often on a daily basis, and I like to wear what I design.

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
I don’t think I could pick one yarn, especially with all the beautiful ones out there these days — however, I do know that it would be fingering weight. That’s what I love to design with most.

What’s your “comfort knitting?”
Socks — plain socks. I generally only knit socks for my husband Rob, and I’ve got his socks down to a science. I know exactly how many stitches to cast on, how many rows to work, I just put the yarn on the needles and go.

Tide

Tide

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
I have to say that I wish there had been a little better reaction to Tide — though I think I understand why there hasn’t been. I’ve recently started working with a photographer and model for my pattern photos, and Tide was the design that was, essentially, our learning process. Also, the day we chose to shoot was incredibly bright, and I don’t think the colour shows up as nicely as it might have otherwise. But it’s a pattern I love, and I’m looking forward to knitting it again and maybe re-shooting the photos at some point.

Which three GAL designs are top of your list to cast on?
I’ve already cast on Ananke by Shannon Squire — that pattern was just so “me”, with the garter stitch and ribbing. I suspect that’s the only one I’ll have time for during the GAL, sadly. I have the yarn set aside to make Linda Choo’s Kawartha Morning Mist, which is such a pretty shawl. And I need to brush up my almost non-existent crocheting skills, but I would really love to work one of Beth Graham’s crochet patterns, maybe the Swirly Blanket or her Chained scarf, at some point.

Continental or English?
Mostly English, but I can knit Continental, and use it for two-handed colourwork.

Dulce - Scarf and Shawl

Dulce – Scarf and Shawl

What’s the best thing about knitting? What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
I kind of see these two as related — for me, I love the fact that you can rip something out if it’s not right or it’s not working — and I’d tell knitters not to be afraid to do just that. Nothing is a waste, and you can always learn something from the experience. And sometimes, ripping out a project that just isn’t what you want is incredibly freeing!

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?

Oh, too many! But I’ve got several projects that I’ve left percolating, and I think it’s time to see if I can make some progress on them in 2015.

View all of Katherine’s patterns here. All other photos were taken by John Meadows Photography, with modeling provided by Jennifer Santos Bettencourt. Photos are used by permission.

What is the Gift-A-Long? The GAL is a big knitting and crochet designer promotion with prizes and more than 5,000 people participating in a giant KAL/CAL. Come join the GAL group on Ravelry!

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