Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Picea - A Cardigan and a Tree

It's warming up here in the Cowichan Valley, and I got a chance to go for a hike in some stunning wilderness today.  Because so much of this region has been logged, it can be hard to find big trees, but we went to an area off-limits to loggers and got to spend time with some really ancient beauties.

It's still chilly enough that early in the day I was happy to have my hand knits, especially under the canopy.

These trees are called the Three Sisters, and they're all of the genus Picea.  I was really excited when I read the little plaque that said "Picea" because it's the name I gave to the cardigan I was wearing today!  I named my cardigan that as an homage to the Christmas tree farm where we did much of the photo shoot.  One of the main trees growing there was Spruce, which is also from the genus Picea.

The sweater is currently in testing and should be published next month.

Thanks for a beautiful day, Pacific Northwest!

Sunday, March 30, 2014


This past month has been spent swatching.  I made a baby hat yesterday, but really I haven’t actually completed anything of substance in so long and I’m aching for a full knit - something I can do from start to finish - from design concept to knitting to pattern creation.  I’ve been working on design concepts for lots of secret things, but I do have something I’m excited to share that’s no secret.

At the end of May, my husband and I are headed off to Northern Europe for a month-long trip that will include riding our bicycles around the Netherlands and Denmark, camping, and looking at lots of yarn, textiles, and art.  Of course this is really exciting in lots of ways, but it’s also a perfect excuse for me to make myself the perfect touring sweater.

I generally think that wool is the best fiber for active pursuits in chilly weather, though I’ll admit I do wear bike shorts (under my wool jersey skirt) and a technical rain jacket in heavy downpours.  For most things, though, wool is more comfortable, warming, breathable, and water resistant than technical fabrics, not to mention being less likely to hold onto odors.  In woolen spun form, it can also be incredibly lightweight for its warming ability.  So of course, rather than bringing along a synthetic fleece for those early morning rides and evenings around the campfire, I’m going to make sweater that’s exactly what I want.

It didn’t take much thought for me to decide on Brooklyn Tweed Loft as the perfect yarn.  Since we’ll be traveling by bicycle, I’ll be hauling every piece of clothing and gear that I bring along.  So I want the lightest sweater I can get.  Loft, as a woolen spun yarn, weighs almost nothing, but it blooms beautifully into a cohesive fabric that’s quite cozy.  It also comes in an incredible palette of colors.

In order to decide on which colors I wanted, I really just looked in my closet.  I tend to wear leggings with skirts as my everyday outfit, so I wanted a sweater that would match as many of my skirts as possible, while still being sort of bright and bold.  Bright colors (particularly orange) put me in a good mood, so I like to have a colorful wardrobe.  The purple-y navy, Old World would go will all of my skirts, so that’s going to be my main color.  But with so many great colors, I wanted to have color work, so I picked Embers, a rich rusty orange, and Woodsmoke, a very pale taupe, to go along.   

And here’s my first swatch!

Since I’ll be biking in this sweater, it’s important that it’s good for layering, so I’m going for an oversized fit with drop shoulders.  I really prefer a loose fit when I’m riding my bike since it helps keep the sweater from getting stinky too quickly, and there’s nothing worse than felted underarms.  To add to the versatility, I’m going for a cardigan, which will allow me to open it up for venting or button it up to keep out the chill.  I'm actually a bit ambivalent about this, as I tend to wear pullovers more and am generally more drawn to making them, but a cardigan seems like the practical choice.  What do you all think? Cardigan or pullover?

This is my cardigan concept and I have to say, it has me pretty excited.

I’m calling it Dutch in honor of our main country of travel, and, after finishing the sketch, I realized that my colors are sort of sophisticated versions of the colors in the Dutch flag, making it even more perfect!

I’ll be working on this in the coming months and publishing it after I get back from my trip.  I’ll be logging my progress here, so check back to see how it goes!

I’m also currently running a test for a different cardigan - check out the call for testers in my Ravelry group.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Ume Shawl & Clochán Socks

This month I’ve got two new patterns to introduce: Ume, a crescent-shaped shawl, and Clochán, a pair of toe-up lace socks.  They’re both part of a collaboration with KnitCrate, a subscription service that sends yarn, patterns, and other good stuff in the mail, and Hazel Knits, my favorite indie dyers (and of course, full disclosure: good friends!)  

Working with others can be an adventure totally different from designing independently.  The small pieces of guidance I get from my partners inevitably sends me off in directions that I wouldn’t have thought to go in my own head.  

In the case of Ume, the featured design in the March Indie KnitCrate package, I was asked to create a crescent-shaped shawl maybe with some lace things going on.  I also knew that I would be working in a glorious and saturated PINK, and would have two skeins of sock yarn to work with.  (I put pink in caps because it’s just about the pinkest pink I have ever seen.  I may have mentioned before that I’m very fussy about which pinks I like, and this one is just too pretty.  I wanted to object to its overwhelming pink-ness, but it just completely won me over.)

When I designed Flow, a shawl with a very similar construction, I remember thinking up the idea on my yoga mat, finishing my practice, and knitting and designing the whole thing without a single snag.  Ume, on the other hand, took much more effort.  I swatched and I swatched.  My first idea had subtle cables in it - something with no purls and only twisted knits.  But nothing I tried worked out as planned.  I tried more graphic cables - winding vines and leaves - but they were too literal.  Finally, I tried this lace pattern that ended up looking so three-dimensional, like flowers or a honeycomb.  I chose an edging pattern that was small and delicate, and, in a subtle way, mimicked the main lace pattern.

The shawl is worked sideways with simple increasing and decreasing creating the crescent shape, and it’s a generous size so you can wrap it around multiple times and snuggle up.  The lace edging and garter body are worked at the same time, so that when you’ve completed the knitting, the only finishing is weaving in ends and blocking.  I definitely recommend using blocking wires along the top edge to keep it straight and pinning each lace point to open up the lace.  But don’t stretch this one too severely while blocking - the lace pattern maintains it 3-d look best when it’s laid out gently.

Since the lace patterns include double yarn-overs, I'll give a quick hint here in case you've never dealt with them in lace before.  When you come to the double yarn over on the following row, treat them as separate stitches, and knit the first one, then purl the second one, creating an extra-large hole.

My other new design, Clochán is included in this month’s KnitCrate Sock package.  I used Hazel Knits Entice MCN, a Merino/Cashmere/Nylon blend that makes color shine.  (The color shown in Lochness.)

The lace pattern is original and has this solid, geometric feel about it, while also flowing organically from the pointed toe up the arch of the foot and around the ankle and calf.  I used a short row heel that I love the fit of.  It creates this little pocket that sticks out a bit just like thee heel on our feet do.

If you’re not sure about toe-up socks, I have tutorials on both Judy’s Magic Cast-On and Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off.  They’re both fantastic techniques to have under your knitting belt!

Both pattern are now available as downloads through Ravelry, my website, Craftsy, and Patternfish.  I also hear that there will be a few extra kits available from KnitCrate if you’re not a subscriber.  That incredible pink, Cherry Blossom, is a KnitCrate exclusive, so get it while you can!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


I had a wonderful trip to The Knitting Boutique in Baltimore this past weekend, where I got to teach lace, color work, and sweater knitting!  The weather was mild and lovely in Baltimore, but on my way home, I discovered that things were a bit more exciting here on the Island.  It snowed and wouldn’t stop snowing.  Though it caused me a little trouble getting home, it is beautiful to see and fun to play in!  The only other place I’ve lived in that got snow like this was in Jordan, and it’s pretty rare around here, so I’m taking the time to enjoy it a bit.

I've got an exciting announcement too - the folks at Knit Social are hosting a spring retreat at the Honeymoon Bay Lodge & Retreat May 16-18, and I'll be the guest teacher for the weekend!  I'm really looking forward to having knitters come visit me here in the beautiful Cowichan Valley.  I promise there will be no snow in May.  If you're in Seattle, the Victoria Clipper is a wonderful way to come north to the Island.  Please join me!

In unrelated news, I've got two new patterns that will be coming very soon!  

Saturday, February 15, 2014


My recent design process has had an aspect of restraint about it.  I’m very tactile and I have this love of color and texture that leads me to want more of all of it.  I want all the lace patterns, plus stripes, and can I have some cables in that as well?  

Lately, though, I’ve been admiring the work of some designers who have the ability to create objects of simple genius.*  They utilize shape and clean lines to create garments that I badly want.  A sweater that was a great inspiration was Hayward, by Julie Hoover.  (I blogged about it last summer.)  Knitting that sweater really got my hands accustomed to the rhythm of knitting a row, then purling a row.  Plain Stockinette stitch became a joy, a relaxation, a pleasure.  

So I’ve been thinking outside of my creative box.  I’ve been thinking about what would happen if I only used a tiny bit of lace.  What if I just focused my energy on making the smallest details perfect?

Photo © Kathy Cadigan 2013
This task was made easier by some silvery-gray Knitting Boutique Susquehanna Lace yarn.  It’s a blend of Polwarth and silk that shines and drapes, and has a semi-solid color that gives depth and richness to the fabric. 

Though I was very tempted to add a diamond lace motif somewhere on this sweater, I held myself back.  The result is Luxa, a sweet and simple tee with lovely details.

Photo © Kathy Cadigan 2013
The neckline lays a bit below the collar bones in the front, but 
scoops deeply in the back.  The hem is embellished with a delicate lace ribbing pattern and the neckline and sleeve caps are finished off with slender I-Cord, one of my favorite finishing touches.

Photo © Kathy Cadigan 2013

The design is worked as two separate pieces (front and back), which are seamed and then the sleeve caps are picked up and worked using short row shaping.  I chose to work it in pieces for several reasons:

1. I chose to work the fabric at a relatively loose gauge (for the yarn) in order to create a softer, more draping fabric.  Susquehanna Lace is on the heavy side of lace weight, but any time you work a yarn at a particularly loose gauge, seams can be helpful for reinforcing the structure of the garment.

2. The yarn has a significant silk content.  Because silk is somewhat slippery, the resulting fabric is likely to grow in length.  Seams can help prevent some of that growing.

3. I like the clean, finished look that seams can offer.

I hope you like the result as much as I do.

Photo © Kathy Cadigan 2013
I'm also looking forward to teaching a class on this sweater next weekend at The Knitting Boutique in Baltimore.  The class will cover all the techniques used in Luxa, like working lace, I-Cord bind off and attached I-Cord, as well as short row shaping, seaming, and blocking.  I'll also be covering how to choose the right size and how to modify the sweater in case your measurements don't match the "standard."  

I'm offering two other classes as well:
- Flow: A Lace-Edged Shawl
- Ablaze: A Color Work Cowl

I'd love to see you there!

If you can't make the classes, Luxa will be available from The Knitting Boutique website on March 1.  In the meantime you can see the pattern listing on Ravelry.

* Some designers whose simple genius work I've been loving are Dianna Walla (one of the models for Luxa!), Julie Hoover, and Churchmouse Yarn and Teas.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Pembroke XL

Pembroke is a great chunky lace triangle that takes less than 300 yards to knit up.  It’s been one of my most popular patterns, and I’m sure part of the reason is that it’s such a quick knit - my original sample took me about 3 hours to make!  With a wingspan of 46 inches, it’s really in the shawlette category, and while lots of knitters have wanted to make it larger, it isn’t a straightforward process of repeating one of the charts an extra time.  

However, teaching a class on Pembroke at Tolt Yarn and Wool was the perfect excuse for me to re-knit the shawl in a larger version and create charts that could seamlessly take the knitter through the process of making a big one themselves.  Though my students were the first to get access to the new charts, I’m happy to now be offering them to all buyers of the Pembroke pattern through my Ravelry store and my website.  

I’ve uploaded the charts as a companion pdf file to the main pattern.  Customers who have already bought the pattern through my Ravelry store or website now have access to the supplementary charts through their Ravelry libraries.  (You should have recently received an update notice to let you know about the addition.)  Unfortunately, the charts are not available if you purchased the pattern through other sources such as Interweave, Craftsy, or Patternfish.  

Because of the addition of the new charts, I’ll be raising the price of the pattern from $6 to $7.  But, for  one week, you can get the pattern and the new supplementary charts for $6.  So if you’ve wanted to make a larger Pembroke, now is the time to snag the pattern and get the supplementary charts free before the price goes up on February 4.  

I knit my Pembroke XL using Brown Sheep Burly Spun in a rich green called Oregano.  It ended up with a wingspan of 56 in and took about 340 yards of yarn. 

Get it on Ravelry
Get it on my website

Thursday, January 23, 2014

See You at Tolt!

I’m so looking forward to going to Tolt Yarn and Wool this weekend.  Not only will I get to teach classes on a couple of favorite subjects (color work and lace!), but I’ll get to party with knitters too!  

Pembroke Wrap
We’ll kick it off with a class on my Pembroke Wrap on Saturday afternoon from 1 to 4.  In preparation for the class, I made myself and extra large Pembroke and I’ll be sharing the charts with students in the class.  This one has a 56 inch wingspan and a 32 inch depth at the center point.  Whether you knit the classic version or the large one, Pembroke is a great pattern for learning how to work lace from charts and the traditional triangle construction for a shawl.  

From 5-7, come by the shop to celebrate with knitters!  If you completed a Tolt Hat or set of Mitts, bring them along to show us, but whether you’ve got show-and-tell or not, we’d love to see you there.  I’ve heard a rumor that some amazing yarnies are going to be there too, so don’t miss this party!

On Sunday, I’ll be teaching a class on color work using my Ablaze cowl pattern.  I made an alternate version of the pattern especially for this class out of Madelinetosh Tosh DK in Silver Fox and Graphite. 

Lots of samples will be at the shop for you to see and try on.  I’m especially excited to bring my brand new shawl knit in Spincycle Yarns Dyed in the Wool, Sunlight on the Forest Floor.  Tolt carries this incredible yarn too!

Sunlight on the Forest Floor
To register for classes, call or stop by the shop.  For the party, please just show up!

4509 Tolt Ave, Carnation, WA
(425) 333-4066


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