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.

Northern Landscapes, part 1

June22

Burnt Cape Guernsey Stole in Bare Naked Wools Ghillie Sock

For the past 10 months I’ve been working on a semi-secret project, my first pattern collection! I shared the first details on the collection in an interview on the Knitspot website, whose fantastic Bare Naked Wools provide the foundation of the collection.

About the collection:
This past summer (2014) I traveled to Newfoundland, to the arctic coastal tundra region where the Vikings had the first European settlement in North America. Such gorgeous landscape! It’s inspired a collection focused around the landscape of this area of Newfoundland and its geological cousins in Iceland and coastal Ireland. I’ve been lucky enough to visit all three places over the past 10 years. I find the remote and stark landscapes inspiring – nature has such beautiful lines and movement.

Secret Society in Mrs. Lincoln's Lace

Secret Society

The first part of the Northern Landscapes collection will be released mid-August but the first “teaser” pattern, Secret Society, will be released on July 6, 2015. For now, please visit the pattern page on Ravelry and favourite it.

Secret Society in Stone Soup Fingering

Knitting in the Garden

April25

I’m not one who makes many resolutions at New Year’s but I knew that for 2015 I wanted to spend more time doing activities in my garden – my oasis – this year rather than just plant things in it.

View of my garden

View of my garden

I want to spend time simply being in it and enjoying the serenity with my cats, a cup of coffee and my knitting. While it may not be super warm yet in the most of the city (today’s high is 11C/56F), the sun lays in my garden all afternoon raising the temperatures significantly and making it an amazing place to knit in cooler weather.

Finley checking the garden for interlopers

Finley checking the garden for interlopers

In the height of summer I can’t knit here in the afternoon without shade or I risk heat stroke, but today, as I sit and enjoy the warm sun and singing birds, I’m reminded of what a treasure my garden really is. The tulips and daffodils are blooming, the cats are enjoying a nap in the sun and the neighbour’s wind chimes are playing in the breeze. For now I’m ignoring the weeding and clean-up and just enjoying my second Saturday afternoon in a row spent knitting in the garden.

Dwarf tulips

Dwarf tulips

It’s difficult to believe it’s been two months since I posted anything here or released a pattern. I have several that are almost ready to be released, they just need formatting and to be uploaded to Ravelry. So stay tuned for pattern releases coming soon. Most of my attention has been focused on this year’s large project, a collection of my designs being released in three stages. The first part of the collection will be released in August and a lot of the pieces are ready for photography. I’m very excited and will post in the next week to share more details. For now, I’ll leave you with this teaser photo, a pattern slated for release in July as a teaser for the collection – and today’s garden knitting project.

Any guesses what it might be when it's done?

Any guesses what it might be when it’s done?

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.

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.

Herzblut Scarf

December14

Herzblut Scarf glamour shot

I’m thrilled to finally release Herzblut Scarf. This scarf has been ready for a while but I was saving it to release during the Indie Designer Gift-A-Long 2014. This scarf is perfect for chasing away winter blues. Select a brilliant jewel tone like the deep red shown in the sample or something that will make you smile on a grey day. The scarf is designed to take advantage of the generous yardage of Wollmeise ‘Pure 100% Merino Superwash.’

Interview: Marnie MacLean

November27

Today’s interview is with Marnie MacLean, a prolific designer whose pieces are not only eminently wearable but also classically beautiful.

Marnie MacLean, modeling Willowherb

Marnie MacLean, modeling Willowherb

How did you get started designing?
My mom is a knitter and dad used to crochet so I grew up in a house filled with yarn and pattern books. I’ve been knitting and crocheting most of my life, though I didn’t really get serious about it until after college. When my now-husband and I moved from Boston to the Los Angeles, in 2001, I picked up my knitting needles more seriously and never really looked back. I started knitting things for myself and writing down what I did. Some of those first few patterns are a hot mess but online patterns were still really rare so I had the freedom to experiment and find my style. Once I started publishing with Twist Collective in 2008, I really started seeing my designing as more than a side hobby. It’s very much a job for me and it’s one I truly love and hope I am improving on, each year.

What inspires your designs?
This may sound strange but I actually think that people put too much value on “inspiration” when it comes to designing. Certainly, that’s what got me started and that is what fueled my first designs, but when you publish regularly, and on deadline, the need for inspiration can be the enemy of getting things done. I design things I want to wear, and sometimes I have a strong vision that drives the end product, but it’s not uncommon for me to simply sit down with some yarn and needles and a stack of stitch dictionaries and just push myself to create. I’ll swatch a bunch of ideas, pull out a sketch pad and try to fit the swatches into something that I would want to wear. Of course, there are other times when something really does feel like an inspiration, and those can come from anything. When I feel like I need some ideas and jumping off points, I’ll look up textures and patterns in nature or historical costumes, and see what little details interest me.

La Cumparsita

La Cumparsita

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
Either. Sometimes, yarn companies or even publishers will send me yarn for an as-yet undefined or loosely-defined project. In that case, I construct a finished piece around the qualities of the yarn. Other times, I have an idea for a project and then I seek out the right yarn for the finished piece.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
Well, I’ve been designing for a little over a decade and I have over 100 patterns under my belt, designed for men, women, and children and for knitters and crocheters of all levels. I’m not sure there’s any particular characteristic I consciously work into all my designs. Part of keeping designing interesting is feeling like I’m doing new things so while I might have a recognizable style, I hope that there’s enough variety in my portfolio to please a lot of people. What matters more to me is writing patterns that knitters and crocheters find clear and accurate. I’m constantly assessing the feedback I get and working to make my patterns better.

Astoria

Astoria

What is your favourite type of item to design?
Well, I love bigger projects like sweaters and shawls, and I think that’s reflected in my library of patterns. While there’s something to be said for designing pieces that a person can knit or crochet in a weekend or with just a single skein of yarn, I find designing those sorts of patterns almost anti-climactic. They are just done too soon for my taste.

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
Who could pick? Yarn is like food. If you were to eat the same thing for every meal, every day, you’d grow tired of it quickly. Some foods are best kept for special occasions or are wonderful in moderation, others are basic staples that can appear in most meals but would be unsatisfying in isolation. Yarn is the same for me. I love the variety and the right yarn changes from project to project.

Uchiwa

Uchiwa

What’s your “comfort knitting?”
I love working stockinette stitch, especially in the round, and good quality metal needles and yarn that doesn’t split. I can happily knit it while carrying on a conversation or watching a show in the evening. It’s mindless and calming and unobtrusive. Perfect for times when I don’t want to think too much.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
I would have loved for Jamison Square to have done better. It’s the sort of garment I love to wear, but it never really resonated with knitters.

Jamison Square

Jamison Square

Which three GAL designs are top of your list to cast on?
This is almost as hard as the desert island yarn question. There are so many amazing designs in the GAL. I can count on one hand the number of designs I’ve knit by other people, since I’ve started designing but if I had time to knit other people’s stuff, I think I’d choose:
1. Carol Sunday’s Cambridge
2. Julia Trice’s Elia (full disclosure, she’s a close friend of mine, but that pullover is the bee’s knees) and
3. Natalia Sha’s Elderberry

Continental or English?
I’m a combination knitter and I knit continental. When I do stranded colorwork I hold one yarn in each hand which I guess means I’m knitting continental and english.

Arctium Shawl

Arctium Shawl

What’s the best thing about knitting?
I always tell people that I like that I am being productive while vegging out in front of the tv.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Try new things and don’t expect perfection the first time.

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
I don’t make resolutions. I think that we are either ready to do something or we aren’t and that moment has nothing to do with the day of the year. I do hope that I’ll only design for as long as it brings me joy and that I continue to find ways to make my designs and patterns better. That’s something I have to work on all year round.

View all of Marnie’s patterns here. All images copyright Marnie MacLean and 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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