Cosmos Chullo

My new “Cosmos Chullo” earflap

hat knitting pattern pdf gives you

a choice of two motifs for a super

warm, quick-to-knit hat. The new

MadTosh Triple Twist TML chunky /

Aran weight superwash merino I

used worked beautifully!

You can find the pdf for sale on

my online shop,, or

on Ravelry.

I found the Triple Twist TML

at JimmyBeans.

Posted in Blogroll, Fair Isle Knitting, Knitting, Mary Ann's Designs, Norwegian Knitting, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gazania Hat

My new “Gazania Hat” design, knit in 5 shades of Shetland Spindrift.

Knitting pattern PDF and yarn packs are available on my online knitting shop,

The PDF is also available through Ravelry.

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Centifolia Hat

My new “Centifolia Hat”, a close-fitting ladies’ hat knit in traditional Fair Isle technique using nine colors of Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift fingering weight yarn.

I hope this finds you well and that, somehow, you’ve found bits of joy amidst the World’s sadness lately.  Today, I’ve released a new design, a nine-color extravaganza of a hat, to brighten my “lockdown”.  I hope it brightens your day, too.

“Centifolia” is an old-fashioned heirloom rose hybrid, known not only for its sweet fragrance and captivating beauty, but also for its hardy nature and disease resistance.  May Centifolia’s blessings be your blessings, too!

The Centifolia Hat knitting pattern pdf is available either through my website or through Ravelry.  The 9 x 25g ball yarn pack is available on my site here.

Posted in Blogroll, Fair Isle Knitting, Knitting, Mary Ann's Designs, shetland wool | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to get 25% off on Ravelry for ALL of my mitten PDFs through February 2020

Mitten knitting patterns by MAS on sale through Ravelry this month

My colorwork mitten knitting pattern designs, all on sale this month in support of The Woolly Thistle’s 5th Annual Colorwork Mitten KAL.

I’m thrilled to be a participating designer in The Woolly Thistle’s 5th Annual Colorwork Mitten KAL on Ravelry.  I’m giving a 25% discount on all of my colorwork mitten knitting pattern PDFs all month long (Feb 2020) to anyone participating in The Woolly Thistle’s KAL and using their KAL discount code for Ravelry purchases.  You can join their KAL through their Ravelry group, “The Woolly Thistle”, where you’ll see all of the details on the KAL, including the KAL discount code.  My Ravelry ID is “TwoStrands” and you’ll find all of my PDFs available through Ravelry on my Ravelry designer’s page.  (Be sure to use the KAL’s discount code to get 25% off through February 2020!) I’ll also be giving away any one PDF from my designs (any type, your choice) to three lucky KAL winners.  There will be plenty of others prizes, plenty of gorgeous colorwork and – best of all – plenty of new stranded knitting friends to be made.  Have fun!!

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Polar Pizazz + Sonoran Christmas

Here are a couple of particularly popular, recent highlights from my Instagram page:

Pullover knit using Polar Chullo motifs and colors.

Recently, this lovely and very talented customer – “swissmissdenise” on Ravelry – posted her delightful Polar Chullo variation FO. (Her photo shown here with her permission.) After she knit my Polar Chullo hat pattern for her husband, she took her favorites among the Polar Chullo charts, grabbed her leftovers + six more hat-size Spindrift yarn packs, centered everything over a basic, dropped-shoulder silhouette using a sweater-appropriate Spindrift gauge (not sure of the exact gauge she used, but I’d shoot for somewhere around 7.5 sts/inch myself) and *poof* – magic! What a fantastic job she did! Isn’t she adorable in her new pullover?!  Thanks for sharing your magnificent work, Denise!! 

"Kilim" knitted Christmas ball ornaments on a Cholla cactus in Arizona.

I knit these using my “Kilim” design, one of many free Christmas ball patterns you’ll find on my website, . I sent them off to Jamieson’s of Shetland last week for their Christmas appeal to help raise funds for an MRI machine for Shetland. Imagine the terrible accidents and painful conditions that regularly require MRI scans for proper diagnosis. Now, can you imagine having to take a boat or flight to the mainland while in that painful condition before a diagnosis is possible? Heartwrenching!! Knitted Christmas baubles of all types, from devoted Fair Isle knitting fans from all over the world (even from the Sonoran Desert in Tucson, AZ 😉 ) will decorate the Christmas tree in their Lerwick, Shetland shop window this holiday season. Eventually, they’ll be auctioned off and the funds will go to #mrimaakers, the group that’s spearheading the MRI campaign. For more information, see my Instagram page, and visit . Jamieson’s shop address is: Jamieson’s Of Shetland, 93-95 Commercial Street, Lerwick, Shetland, Scotland ZE1 0BD

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Timbers Hat, updated

Timbers Hat in blue with Aran weight yarn

Timbers Hat, first released in 2006, now reworked in Jamieson’s Shetland Heather Aran yarn. Colors shown = Horizon (lighter)+ Cosmos (darker).

My Timbers Hat design, first released in 2006, has always been a favorite. The worsted weight Dale yarn I used for it originally was discontinued years ago, so I’ve upped my game, updated the pattern to my now-usual format and reworked it in some wonderful Jamieson’s Shetland Heather Aran for a slightly denser, warmer, more durable hat.  The plaited trim is a lot easier than it looks and only takes a few rows,  making it super-quick, along with the rest of the hat that’s knit at 19 stitches over 4″ / 10cm.  I love that, even with this relatively heavy weight gauge, I can still fit in some beloved, traditional Fair Isle / Norwegian motifs.  Bonus: It’s unisex, so it makes for some perfect gift knitting.  Hope you enjoy it!

Timbers Hat in Heather Aran blues on Mt. Lemmon

The usual suspect, sporting the updated Timbers Hat in Heather Aran, up on Mt. Lemmon, in Tucson, AZ.

The updated pdf is available for purchase at the same, old $5 price, on either my online shop or on Ravelry.  I also have the Jamieson’s Shetland Heather Aran yarn packs on my site, available here. The old pattern worked fine, no mistakes, didn’t need corrections, only a fresh, and currently available, look. If you already purchased your Timbers Hat on Ravelry any time since 2006, I’ve already sent out Ravelry notices offering you the chance to download the updated version.  If you bought it directly from me and would like the updated version, just message me, letting me know the email you would have used for your order, along with the approximate date of purchase, and it’s all yours.

Happy Quick Knitting!


Mary Ann

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Rose Arbor Hat

ladies' Fair Isle knit hat with twisted stitches on brim

My new “Rose Arbor Hat”, knit in Jamieson’s of Shetland’s DK 100% Shetland wool yarn. PDF and yarn pack in colors shown available through my online shop.

This hat was inspired by the upcoming “Rose City Yarn Crawl” in Portland, OR. The last couple of years,  Jamieson’s US distributor, Simply Shetland, a sponsor of the yarn crawl, asked me to donate some of my patterns to go along with their magnificent yarn to become kits for Rose City Yarn Crawl door prizes.  It was a sweet, little way to show my support of Jamieson’s, Simply Shetland and Portland knitters, so I was happy to share.  When I was asked for a donation for this year’s yarn crawl, thoughts of “Rose City” inspired something a bit beyond my existing archives; hence, the birth of my “Rose Arbor Hat”, which Simply Shetland will be generously putting up as kits and sharing as door prizes in Portland for this year’s event.

flower formed on top of Fair Isle knit Rose Arbor hat

I was really pleased with the smooth fit and resulting blossom on the crown of Rose Arbor Hat.

The Rose Arbor Hat is a close-fitting ladies’ hat knit in 6 colors of DK yarn. The brim’s twisted stitch trellis is capped by bands of Fair Isle roses and leaves that run to the top, forming a crowning blossom. Instructions for knitting an alternate, simple ribbed brim are included (although I think you’ll find the chart and notes for the “trellis” to be friendly and fun.)

For those of you who can’t wait, or can’t make it to Portland (or figure your luck with door prizes is about the same as mine), here’s a link to the pattern PDF page on my site, here’s my yarn pack page and here’s the pattern PDF on Ravelry.  You can also get previews and updates about my designs by following me on Instagram.

I hope you have great fun knitting the Rose Arbor Hat.  Wear it in health and happiness while you “stop to smell the roses”!


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More on downloading my newly-free Hedgerow pattern

This morning, a message was left for me in the Ravelry comments for my newly-free Hedgerow design, making it clear that the author of the message did not like my solution of directing folks to my regular, for-sale pattern page for them to get the free gift of my Hedgerow design because getting my PDF for a grand total of zero from my for-sale patterns page still necessitates leaving addresses.  I’m always a bit baffled when people feel compelled to complain about something that has been offered to them for free.  If I don’t like something about a free offer, I simply pass it by and get on with life.  But this commenter has made not only a negative supposition, but also a fair point.  If any of you might feel the same, I want you to know the solution (at least I hope it’s a solution) I’ve come up with to address what I dearly hope will be no more than a few cases of this scenario.  Here’s the comment and my reply:

Free pattern response in Ravelry comments

Another way to get my newly-free pattern.

Posted in copyright, Fair Isle Knitting, Free Knitting Patterns, Knitting, Mary Ann's Designs, Norwegian Knitting, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Canyon Wall Vest

My new “Canyon Wall Vest”, in four adult sizes, using nine colors of Spindrift, seventeen 25g balls in all.  Circularly knit in traditional Fair Isle style without any type of steek reinforcement.  Pattern includes not only the usual text and motif charts, but additional layout charts, too, making color + motif tracking throughout the shaping process a piece of cake. Sizes are: 36 (39 3/4, 42, 46 1/4)” / 91 (101, 107, 117) cm.

PDF on my website.      Spindrift yarn pack on my website.      PDF on Ravelry.canyon-wall-vest-seated-square-close-smile

Fair Isle Vest / Slipover knitting pattern using Jamieson's Spindrift Shetland wool yarn

Canyon Wall Vest in progress in Ventana Canyon, Tucson, AZ


Back of Canyon Wall Vest, 39 3/4″ finished chest size shown.

Posted in Fair Isle Knitting, Knitting, Mary Ann's Designs, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Baby Elephant Blanket

baby elephant blanket knitting pattern

My new “Baby Elephant Blanket” design, available through my new website,

I’m not too big on marketing.  I’d much rather be designing or knitting.  So, in case you just follow me here, through, and missed my lone post over the summer about moving my home, business and website…

Here’s a link to my new website.

Here’s a link to my new blog on my new website.  (Be sure to sign up for updates!)

Here’s a link to the pattern page on my new website, where you’ll find my new elephant blanket, shown above.

And don’t miss my yarn clearance page, where you can still find fantastic deals on what’s left of my discontinued Dale yarn inventory.

Happy knitting!


Mary Ann

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New site, new home, same old TwoStrands

Hi Knitters!

It’s been a while! We moved over the summer – all the way from New York to Arizona! We knew it would take a while, not only to get to AZ, but to get settled in, too. Knowing my old retail site was in desperate need of a makeover, we shut it down before we left.

I’ve started a new retail knitting site, (catchy name, no?) As of now, it sells downloadable pdfs for several of my designs (which you can still also get here on Ravelry) and yarn packs for my Jamieson’s Shetland wool projects. Eventually, I hope to have all of my pdfs there (including a few free ones and, of course, new ones as they come along) and to have more projects in other yarns. It’s a work in progress, but if you get a chance to take a peek, let me know what you think.

I hope you’ve all had a wonderful summer (or winter) and that there’s joy and contentment growing on your needles!

Happy knitting,

Mary Ann, aka “TwoStrands”

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Kilim Pillow

Kilim Pillow knitting pattern

“Kilim Pillow” by Mary Ann Stephens

Information on the Kilim Pillow design is now available through Mary Ann’s new website,  You can also find this pattern on Ravelry here.

Unfortunately, Hubro was recently discontinued. The suggested gauge on Hubro’s ball band was 10 stitches to 4” / 10cm.  You can substitute for Hubro with any other solid-colored, super bulky yarn that has a similar ball band gauge – anywhere from 9 to 10 stitches over 4” / 10cm would make sense. As we did with the sample, you’ll want to knit your pillow at a tighter-than-ball-band gauge (see below) to end up with a sturdy fabric. This link takes you to a search that shows currently available, solid-colored, super bulky yarns.

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Cholla Blossom Fingerless Mittens

My latest:

Fair Isle fingerless mittens, "Cholla Blossom"

Cholla Blossom – Ladies’ Fair Isle fingerless mittens designed by Mary Ann Stephens. Knit in six different shades of Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift 100% Shetland wool fingering / jumper weight wool yarn. Spindrift yarn packsdownloadable Cholla Blossom pdfs are available through the designer’s website, The pdf is also available for through Ravelry.

Posted in Fair Isle Knitting, Knitting, Mary Ann's Designs, shetland wool | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Free Knitting Pattern: Mittens in a Blink

free knitting pattern for quick mittens with yarn purchaseUPDATE, September 2018:  This free pattern has been moved to my new knitting website,  Here’s the link to my new free knitting patterns page.  Below, you’ll see more of my designs using super-bulky yarns:

Supernova, a Fair Isle super bulky wool hat

Supernova Hat in Hubro

Earflap Hat with Fair Isle detail knit in Dale of Norway Hubro

Nomad Earflap Hat in Hubro


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Calling Scotland

Calling Scotland, a Fair Isle style hat and fingerless mittens set knitting design by Mary Ann Stephens

“Calling Scotland” is my new Fair Isle style ladies’ hat and fingerless mittens set knitting design, knit in Jamieson’s of Shetland “Shetland Spindrift” jumper / fingering weight 100% Shetland wool yarn.  The PDF for the set is available from me, here and the Spindrift yarn pack for it is available through my shop here. It comes with six balls of Spindrift and an emailed PDF link.

Calling Scotland fingerless mittens

The mitts cover everything but the tips of your fingers, providing both warmth and access.  Both the hat and the fingerless mittens can be knit from the one yarn pack.

Have fun!


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Catalina Highway Pillow


Fair Isle Catalina Highway Pillow in Jamieson's Shetland Spindrift yarn

Catalina Highway Pillow, a Fair Isle style pillow cover designed by Mary Ann Stephens, knit with twelve colors of Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift 100% Shetland wool yarn, doubled for a DK -weight gauge.  Yarn packs with twenty balls of Spindrift plus the emailed PDF are available through the designer’s online shop.

The inspiration for my Catalina Highway Pillow:

Down in America’s Southwest, up in the northeast corner of Tucson, AZ, you’ll find the Catalina Highway. At its base in the Sonoran Desert, the landscape is punctuated by the lively reds and oranges of ocotillo and cholla cactus flowers alongside the dusty greens of the stately saguaros, with their big, creamy white blossoms. As you zigzag your way up the highway, you’ll leave the desert behind as you climb Mt.Lemmon, passing rocky outcroppings, towering evergreens and one breathtaking view after another. In one of the country’s loveliest 30-minutes rides, you’ll travel from the warm, blooming, high desert to America’s southernmost ski mountain. Hope you brought a sweater! 😉

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Christmas Ball FAQs

Here’s a compendium of info and links for all of the Christmas balls I’ve designed over the years:

These are my five, free Christmas Ball knitting patterns, below…


…and here is my Christmas Eve Collection, which is available for purchase through Ravelry:


All of these ornaments were knit in DK / sport weight wool yarn scraps.

I definitely want to be helpful and answer your questions about any of my patterns.  But, as you know, it’s a very busy time of the year, especially for those of us who celebrate Christmas.  Double that, for those of us in the knitting business.  So, before emailing or calling with questions about these patterns, please read through the following information.  I think it addresses the vast majority of questions that might pop up.

Today, I received this customer email, below, which included the two most frequent questions I get about the Christmas Balls’ construction:

I am confused about how to read your pattern- please can you help me since I absolutely love your Christmas ball patterns and want to make some!
I am unclear about why I need to “cast on 12 stitches” first (among my double pointed needles) when the first row in the chart has only two stitches which, when repeated four times, makes eight stitches- not twelve!  
Also, why do your directions say to “work rows 1 through 34” when there are 39 rows given on the chart?


Later this morning, after I sent her my reply, I’m happy to report that this is what she wrote back to me:

Thank you so much for your reply and for your clear explanation! Yes, it all makes sense now. The needles will fly today. 🙂

So I thought you might like to read that reply of mine:

Nice to hear from you!  I’m glad you like my Christmas Balls.
I can answer your second question quickly:  If you knit the entire chart, rows 1 through 39, all in one stretch, you won’t have access to the inside of the ball – it will be closed on both ends.  If you pause at row 34 (or thereabouts) you’ll be able to turn your ball inside out and neatly weave any loose ends in on the inside, where they won’t show.  If you read just a couple of lines further in the pattern, I think you’ll see it takes you through those steps.
Now, for your first question:  Take another look at the chart…the whole chart.  Don’t miss that shy, little column of stitches on the far right!  That counts as #1, and then you have the two stitches that are right next to each other, making stitches #2 & #3.  With four repeats of those three stitches, you’ll get your 12 starting stitches.
It is possible to build the chart so that all three starting stitches are contiguous; but, that’s not the best idea.  Once you get over not noticing that shy column on the right, in the end, there are several benefits to doing it my way: The motifs are centered between the increases and decreases; all increases and decreases occur on either side of shy Column #1, so Column #1 becomes a helpful guideline as you knit along – if your shaping is done correctly, it will be one straight line from the bottom of the ball, up to the top, just as it is on the chart; in the end, having the increases and decreases centered around Column #1 and having Column #1 as a straight line makes for a more balanced, aesthetic result.
Visit the techniques page on my site for an old blog post of mine in which I further explain the Christmas ball shaping. (Read “On Flat Charts for Round Shapes”)
I hope that helps and that you have a wonderful Christmas.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
If you’re still not 100% certain about the shaping, you should definitely click through on the flat-charts-for-round-shapes link, above.  That old article of mine is quite helpful for some folks!
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Here are links for each of my Christmas ball patterns:


The Star of Bethlehem pattern uses Heilo (or Falk ) and Gullfasan yarns.
 The Two Strands Christmas Ball uses worsted weight yarn.
Everything in the Christmas Eve Collection uses Falk yarn.
My online yarn shop =
My PDFs on Ravelry
Posted in Christmas, Fair Isle Knitting, Free Knitting Patterns, Norwegian Knitting, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

On Swatching for Gauge

A knitter wrote to me this morning, wondering if she had misinterpreted something or done something wrong because she could not get the 32 x 38 stitches per 4″ gauge for a Dale Baby Ull pattern (Peace Sweater).  Her stitches, and resulting swatch, were too small.  She was surprised because she had even tried needles one size larger, but that didn’t change things appreciably. As she had said, “Usually my gauge is only off 1-2 stitches regardless of yarn/needles I use.”

I was happy to respond to her because it gave me the chance to write up something to share with all of you regarding one of the most important steps in all of Knitting.  Here’s my response:

I don’t think you’re doing anything “wrong”, per se and it’s great that you’re checking your gauge. You just need to keep testing and adjusting accordingly. And that’s perfectly normal and good.  In fact, it’s so good that I’m going to share your question (anonymously) and my answer on my blog, for this really gets at the most important question knitters can ask about getting a satisfactory fit from their projects.
If you could take any given yarn on the planet and ask all knitters on the planet what size needles they ended up having to use to achieve one pattern’s gauge (or one ball band gauge), you’d end up with a very wide range of needle sizes.  The majority of knitters would typically fall within a range of four or five needle sizes; but, as with any large, statistically significant population, there could be some real outliers, too. When you look at the big picture, you see that there are myriad variations, not only in any yarn’s characteristics and any available needle sizes, but also in knitting methodologies and personal knitting tensions, and it’s helpful to remember that those disparities arise both on the pattern publisher’s and the pattern user’s sides. Even for an individual knitter, one’s own knitting tension can vary over time.  Not only is it possible that two different needles marked as the very same size can have slight variations, it’s also possible – indeed, common – that knitters can get considerably different gauges when using the very same needle size, but in different materials.  For instance, the drag on wooden needles frequently produces a noticeably looser gauge than the slickness of metal needles of the very same size.
Sadly, it’s not uncommon to hear some knitters say, “Oh, I’m an ‘average’ knitter – I never have to check gauge!”, but that’s simply a senseless notion. When you think of all of the possible permutations of the many variables involved, no matter how experienced any knitter might be, it’s impossible to predict exactly where any of us might fall in the perfect needle size selection game.  If we have predetermined dimensions in mind for our projects, unless we’ve used the same, specific pattern/yarn/needle size/needle type combination within the recent past, not only should we do a gauge swatch before diving in, as you’re doing; we should keep testing different needle sizes until we find the best match for us, whether we’re using the finest wires or giant tree trunks.  The “right” needle size is nothing other than the size that works for you.
I can share a couple of time-saving observations from my own experience:
#1, take good notes!  Keep a file showing the date, project, yarn, needle size, needle make, needle material, stitch type and your resulting gauge for every swatch you make.  While I eternally advise swatching before diving in, at least by checking where your gauge fell the last time you used the same variables, you can usually narrow the swatching experience down to one or two tries. (Or not.)
#2, consider the other person’s / project’s viewpoint!  Maybe your dear friend A is the world’s greatest sock knitter.  If so, he probably uses an extra small needle size, since he probably wants his socks extra warm and durable. Maybe he’d tell you to use a needle size smaller than you want. On the other hand, maybe your dear friend B is the world’s greatest lace knitter.  She probably uses an extra large needle size, to make her lace airy and fluid. Maybe she’d suggest a needle size larger than you want. Similarly, the yarn labeler &/or pattern writer at yarn manufacturer X might use the Continental / “picking” method of knitting; maybe at manufacturer Y, the American/British “throwing” method dominates.  By just turning the wrist an extra degree or two, folks at manufacturer X (let’s call them “Dale” 😋) can significantly loosen up their gauge versus what the very same yarn/needle combination might get for the designers (and yarn labelers) at Y.
I hope you’ve found this helpful.  *Happy swatching…and note taking!  (Repeat from *! 😊)
Mary Ann


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The Flourishing Scarf

Scarf,knit, knitted, Fair Isle, Norwegian, stranded, wool, alpaca, Flourishing, Dale, floral, fringe

The Flourishing Scarf, designed and knit by Mary Ann Stephens using Dale ECO Baby Wool (espresso / background) and Dale Alpakka (mist blue / motif).

UPDATE: This design is now available through Mary Ann’s new website,  You’ll find the pattern here.

Posted in Fair Isle Knitting, Knitting, Mary Ann's Designs, Norwegian Knitting | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Baby’s 1st Fair Isle Cardi

fair isle sweater for babies

Baby’s First Fair Isle Cardigan, a new, circularly-knit, stranded and steeked Fair Isle knitting design by Mary Ann Stephens. Available here as a PDF from Mary Ann’s online yarn shop,  Also available as a PDF through Mary Ann’s store on Ravelry.  The design uses four shades of fingering weight yarn.

It’s been an awfully long time since we’ve had a baby in the family.  Right now, our “baby” is my youngest son, who’s 16 already!  (Although he’d probably tell you the “baby” in our family is Gracie, below:)

Gracie, our baby, a golden retriever

Gracie with her friend, Mr. Roosevelt.

One of my wonderful nephews, and his very sweet wife, recently announced that they’re expecting a girl in July.  We’re so excited for them!  The glowing Mom-to-be told me that she’d like “something different”.  I’ve heard that a lot lately – so many soon-to-be parents want “something different”.  But how different is their “different”?

Some of you might be surprised to hear that one of the most common threads among today’s “something different” seekers has been a preference for something grey for their babies.  That’s definitely different than the traditional pink or blue!  But,  I think it can also turn out to be be pretty cute, and often unisex, too.  So, I knit this little grey cardi with the latest wave of “different” in mind:

fair isle sweater for infants

Baby’s First Fair Isle Cardigan, in the grey colorway, with classic straight-sided shaping.

At least I’ll be covered if it turns out that the sonogram technician missed something! 😉

Asking my nephew’s wife a bit more about her color preferences, it turns out she wants something “Girly…but not too girly.  More purple than pink.”  So maybe not quite as “different”as the latest trend seekers’ “different”.  Maybe something more like this:

baby girl's fair isle sweater

Baby’s First Fair Isle Cardigan in the mint colorway, with a bell-shaped, gathered body.

Of course, there are countless combinations that would be suitable for a design like this.  Which colors would you use?

Posted in Fair Isle Knitting, Knitting, Mary Ann's Designs | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Knitting’s many health benefits

Don’t miss Jane Brody’s article on the health benefits of knitting in yesterday’s New York Times:

Posted in Knitting, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Another Shetland Spindrift Shipment

Fair Isle knitting kits

Mary Ann’s Fair Isle style knitting designs, using Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift 100% Shetland wool yarn. Available as kits through her website. Links below.

Yippee, another dearly-awaited Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift shipment just waltzed through my door last night! A couple of  colors for some of my Fair Isle knitting kits have been missing in action the last few weeks.  If you’ve been wondering when your kits will ship, now you’re in luck – today’s the day!  If you’ve been hemming and hawing, wondering when to order, here’s your chance, while the elusive Spindrift colors for my kits are all in stock.  Here are links to the details on the individual kits:

Polar Chullo:

Polar Chullo by Mary Ann Stephens, in the Winter '09 Twist Collective, a fair isle polar bear ear flap hat

Tulip Mittens:

Tulip Mittens copyright Mary Ann Stephens

Amaryllis Hat:


shetland natural version of the Amaryllis Hat, a ladies' tam

Allamanda Hat:

Fair Isle hat with embroidery, Allamanda Hat, by Mary Ann Stephens, copryright 2012

Sagebrush Chullo:

Earflap hat knitting pattern

Shamrock Mittens:

shamrock mittens knitting pattern, perfect for st. patrick's day

Spice Route Gloves:

Spice Route Gloves, a Fair Isle knitting design




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Top 10 Tips for Machine-sewn Steeks

steek cutting

UPDATE:  My post on steeking has been updated, formatted as a free, downloadable PDF and moved to the Technique page on my new website,

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Ivy Headband

My new, warm, soft, stranded, braided, purpled, ivy-covered headband:

Ivy Headband, a knitting pattern by Mary Ann Stephens, knit with Dale Garn Alpakka yarn from her shop.

Ivy Headband, a new knitting design by Mary Ann Stephens

I used five different shades of sport weight alpaca yarn.  You could use merino, superwash wool, cashmere – whatever type of DK / sport weight yarn knits to the right gauge, has five colors that play nicely together and feels wonderful around your head. You’ll want about 40g out of a 50g ball of the main, background color – the dark purple in this case – since it’s also used for the solid-colored lining.  Aside from that one most-of-a-ball requirement, this is a great project for using up scraps.  The $5 PDF is available through my shop here.  Have fun!

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The Christmas Eve Collection

The Christmas Eve Collection – Three new Christmas ball ornament designs, making new Christmas memories for little ones; bringing back sweet, sugarplum memories of our own:

Christmas balls knitting patterns

The Christmas Eve Collection – 3 new Christmas ball knitting designs by Mary Ann Stephens.

The $6 PDF, which includes instructions for all of the designs pictured, is available through my Ravelry PDF store.  The Dale Falk yarns used are available through my Kidsknits online yarn shop.

I hope they help to make your Christmas extra special, for you and your family, for many years to come.


Mary Ann

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Free Knitting Pattern – Sports Fan Hat

free knitting pattern for unisex knit hat with fold up ribbing and stripes

“Sports Fan Hat”, a free knitting pattern.

UPDATE: This free “Sports Fan Hat” knitting pattern has been moved to the free knitting pattern page on Mary Ann’s new website,

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Free chart for "Thank You" cards or needlework

Posted in Mary Ann's Designs, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Sagebrush Chullo

Earflap hat knitting pattern

Sagebrush Chullo, a new Fair Isle knitting design for an adult’s earflap hat, by Mary Ann Stephens.

That’s my new Sagebrush Chullo, knit in seven shades of Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift fingering / jumper weight wool.  As I did with my old Polar Chullo design, I knit Sagebrush  at an extra warm and highly detailed gauge of 9 stitches/inch.  I added some textured/purl stitches here and there, for a little fun – but, they’re entirely optional…as are the pompoms…kind of…Oh, come on!  You NEED those pompoms!  😉

The yarn pack comes with 7 balls of Spindrift is available here.  The PDF is sold separately here.  Here’s the Sagebrush Chullo page on Ravelry.

Have fun!

Sagebrush Chullo Fair Isle knitting kit and knitting pattern

The usual suspect.

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Littlest hat, biggest honor

Infant's sunhat knitting kit sport or DK weight cotton yarn from PDF thru Ravelry.

Littlest Fisherman’s Hat in 3-6 month size, knit in Lerke merino+cotton DK weight yarn.

OMG!  Sometimes I get the sweetest reports back from my customers! I think today’s might top ’em all:

sweet dreams hat email

Isn’t it wonderful, what we can do with sticks and string?!

The pattern was originally written for sport weight Terne (newborn size) or DK weight Lerke (3-6 month size) kits, but this customer used my PDF with some stash worsted weight yarn to create her “Bigger Fisherman” toddler’s hat.  The Dale worsted weight yarns which you might use for a toddler-sized hat would be Freestyle (superwash wool) or Cotinga (merino+alpaca=tremendously soft, gorgeous stuff…but hand wash!)

Have fun…and sweet dreams!

Baby's sunhat knit in sport weight or DK cotton yarn from PDF thru Ravelry.

The Littlest Fisherman’s Hat, in Dale Garn “Terne” 100% cotton, 0-3 month size.

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Après Ski Wine Cozy

So, now I take requests.  Well, at least I took this one.  A particularly nice person who just so happens to be an absolutely wonderful knitter (funny how those two pop up together so often) asked me to design a Nordic wine cozy.  Here you go, Debbie!  Cheers!

Après Ski Wine Cozy knitting pattern

My “Après Ski Wine Cozy” – a ski sweater for your wine bottles – was knit in Dale Garn Heilo.  The PDF is available directly through me on my online shop; it’s also available through my Ravelry store.

May thoughts of deep, sparkling powder keep everyone cool this summer!

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NY Nordic Hat

fair isle hat knit in dale yarn from

NY Nordic Hat, knit in Dale Garn Freestyle washable wool from, sized for teens / adults & XL adults.

It’s not easy for an old knitter to capture the interest of a frenetic teenage boy. But, when a few bags of Dale Garn Freestyle came through my door, sporting unmistakably neon colors, my youngest son, Mikey, practically pounced on them.  He promptly let it be known, “You have no choice; you WILL be making me a neon hat!”  I promptly replied, “Love to! And YOU have no choice; it WILL be stranded!”

As it turns out, he loves it.  (And, don’t let him know this, because he thinks his hat is oh-so-cool, and this would really ruin everything for my sweet little hipster, but I think it’s pretty great knowing that I won’t lose him in the crowd. 😉 )

Teen wears NY Nordic Hat knit in neon Dale Freestyle yarn

The NY Nordic Hat is a fitted beanie knit in three contrasting shades of Dale Garn Freestyle worsted weight washable wool, one ball for each shade.  Two sizes are given – teen/average adult and XL adult.  Both sizes use the same instructions – just tweak your gauge, as indicated, to target your size.

norwegian / fair isle knit hat "NY Nordic Hat"

I think it’s a nice pattern for experts and novices alike, for each section has something interesting going on, without complications – all short floats, no weaving in necessary;
never more than two colors at once; all decreases are kept within the solid-colored section. A fun knit for all!

neon fair isle hat NY Nordic Hat

Here’s a link to the $5 PDF on Ravelry.  And here’s a link to my Freestyle yarn page.   Choose any three favorite, contrasting colors that your heart desires.

yarn colors for fair isle / norwegian knit hat NY Nordic Hat

Colorway I = neon green, neon yellow & grey heather. Colorway II = orange, natural & red.

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Ladies’ “Spice Route Gloves” knitting kits

My ladies’ Spice Route Gloves Fair Isle knitting design, to be knit in Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift 100% Shetland wool yarn, is available as both a PDF and yarn packs in two different colorways through my online shop, PDF format is also available through Ravelry.

Fair Isle knitting pattern for gloves

Ladies’ Spice Route Gloves, in the Ginger colorway. A Fair Isle knitting pattern using Shetland fingering weight wool.

And yes, as always, feel free to request custom colors.

Happy knitting!

knitting kit for ladies fair isle gloves available at

Orchid colorway for the Spice Route Gloves

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The Littlest Fisherman’s Hat

Baby's sunhat, "Littest Fisherman's Hat", knit in sport weight or DK yarn for 0-3 month or 3-6 months sizes, respectively.  Yarns and pattern available through  PDF available through Ravelry.

The Littlest Fisherman’s Hat in Dale Garn “Terne” 100% cotton, 0-3 month size.

The inspiration for this hat is eighteen years old.  Back in March ’97, my now-hulking son Alex was a newborn.  Waaaaay too much of that spring was spent in a frustrating search for a sunhat for my bald-as-a-cueball little fellow.  No luck at all!  Tons of frilly, flowery, flouncy affairs in every shade of pink for all the little Alexandras of the world, but there was not a single sunhat to be found that was worthy of my Alexander the Great Baby’s sweet, shiny pate.   Why the heck didn’t I come up with this back then??

Who knows?!  But here it is now, to shade the sweet little one in your life today, be they Alexander, Alexandra, Zachary, Zoe or anyone in between.

Littlest Fisherman's Hat, a knitting design from  Yarn and pattern available through Kidsknits.  PDF available through Ravelry.

Littlest Fisherman’s Hat in 3-6 month size, knit in Dale “Lerke” merino+cotton DK weight yarn.

Littlest Fisherman’s Hat PDF for $5 on  (And here’s my Ravelry PDF store.)

Dale Terne 100% cotton, used for the navy+white 0-3 month size, available through my on-line yarn shop,  (Get 2 different-colored, 50g balls. If you prefer the sheen of 100% mercerized cotton, use Dale Vipe – same gauge!)

Dale Lerke 52% merino / 48% cotton (used for the blue+yellow 3-6 month size) available through Kidsknits, too.

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I Spy a Crocus

After the brutal winter we’ve endured, I got up out of bed this past Saturday morning – our last weekend in March – hoping that maybe, finally, we’d have a decent, spring-like weekend.  I had this silly notion that, “Oh, wouldn’t it be nice, to spy a sweet little crocus peeking out at me from somewhere in the yard?”  Rather, overnight, my greening yard became buried under yet another blanket of ice and snow.

Fortunately, when Mother Nature disappoints, all we have to do is grab our knitting needles!

It’s true -necessity really IS the mother of invention.  And, boy, did I ever need to see some flowers!  Hence, my new “I Spy a Crocus” hat.  It was a quick, easy, stranded knit in Dale Garn’s new Cotinga, a heavenly blend of 70% merino / 30% alpaca.  Wonderful, wonderful stuff!  You’ll need three different-colored 50g balls of Cotinga, or your favorite, soft, compressible worsted weight yarn.

UPDATE: While Dale yarns are no longer available in North American, you still have hundreds of options for knitting your own version of “I Spy a Crocus” out of  your favorite worsted weight yarns.

Here’s a link to the $5 knitting pattern PDF on my online shop, and here’s a link to the PDF in my Ravelry store.

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Val’s Tiger Lily Jacket

Yesterday, I received a delightful email from another one of my immensely talented customers, Val.  It’s always a big thrill for me, to see the face behind the emails and phone calls.  Turns out, not only is Val bright, funny and talented, but she’s lovely, too!  Here she is in her glorious rendition of my Tiger Lily Jacket design:

ladies' norwegian cardigan knitting pattern

Val knit her version of my Tiger Lily Jacket in Dale Heilo yarn.

Lucky Val is on the slender side, so she made some sizing tweaks to her version.  Here’s what Val said in her email about Tiger Lily:

“What an amazing pattern! Fabulous detailed instructions! Knitted in Small, lengthened by 1/2 pattern, narrowed sleeves.”

I knit the original Tiger Lily Jacket in Dale Heilo yarn, quite a few years ago.  Dale has made umpteen changes to their yarn color selections since then; so, my original, autumnal color combination (below) is no longer available.  But, between their two sport weight wool yarns – traditional Heilo or superwash Falk  – we still have countless color combinations to choose from.

Norwegian knit cardigan

My original TLJ, also knit in Dale Heilo. You can knit yours in any four shades of either Heilo or Falk that your heart desires.

If you’d like to knit Tiger Lily in Heilo, you can order your kit directly through my online yarn shop, If you’d rather use superwash Falk, which offers more than twice as many colors, email me – masATkidsknitsDOTcom – or call the US toll-free line and we’ll set that up for you. Either way, as soon as I see your order come through, we’ll discuss your favorite colors and how they’d work together in a design like this.  We can even play around with colorizing some chart snippets so you’ll get a good idea of how your favorite colors all “play together” in Tiger Lily.  Once we’ve zeroed in on your favorite combination, your kit will be on its way.

Val's Tiger Lily's neckline detail.

Val’s Tiger Lily’s neckline detail.  Both Val and I used Dale’s “Vestland” pewter buttons, also available through me at

If you’re already knee-deep in sport weight wool and you’re happy to fly solo, here’s the link to the Tiger Lily PDF, which is available through Ravelry.

How ’bout a big round of applause for Val?!  Thanks for sharing your lovely work with us!

Happy knitting!

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Nordic Easter Egg – reminder

free knitting pattern PDF with purchase; PDF available for $5 thru Ravelry.

UPDATE, March 2017

My “Nordic Easter Egg” pattern is still available through Ravelry.

Here’s the link to the $5 PDF.

Happy Easter and Happy Knitting!

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Nordic Easter Egg knitting pattern

It sure has been one long, hard winter!  But, if you can believe it, we’re just two weeks away from spring.

snow on deck

This morning’s view of my deck.

While Mother Nature is apparently still enthralled with winter, someone else has been busily focusing on the colorful, lively season to come:

Free Easter Egg knitting pattern with yarn purchase

Nordic Easter Egg, a knitting pattern PDF by Mary Ann Stephens. Available directly through the designer’s online shop.  Also available through Ravelry.

The pink version of my new “Nordic Easter Egg” knitting pattern uses two shades of Dale Baby Ull yarn: off-white and fuchsia. The purplish-blue version uses off-white Baby Ull for the background and lupine Mulberry Meadow, a new, variegated superwash merino / mulberry silk blend, for the motif.  Of course, you can use any two colors your heart desires. Each egg is about 3″ tall.

Nordic Easter Egg by Mary Ann Stephens

Off-white Dale Baby Ull + lupine Mulberry Meadow.

Have a very HAPPY EASTER!!


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Searching for Spring

The thermometer outside my kitchen window reported a bone-chilling two, count ’em,  two sorry degrees this morning.  So, I checked the weekend forecast, hoping for a sunny reprieve.  Snow and ice starting on Saturday afternoon, lasting into Sunday.  Not exactly what I was hoping for, but par for the course around here this year.

Yet, even with this bleak forecast, as in life, there’s always a ray of sunshine somewhere; sometimes, we just have to look for it a bit further down the road than we’d guessed.  “Wintry Mix” – innocent enough words on their own; one monumentally nasty affront, as a team.  If we can just get through Sunday’s “wintry mix”, there’s a chance – mind you, it’s just a chance – but there’s a real, bonafide, 100% maybe-almost-reasonable chance that my poor, downtrodden thermometer might actually get revved up all the way into the 30’s for a little bit of…you guessed it…rain – glorious rain!  Yes, kids, before too terribly long, things might actually warm up around here.  One of these days, the black-brown mountains of frozen roadside nastiness really will give way to tender little tufts of green.  Really!

Until then, if you’re as starved for spring as I am, at least we know we can count on our knitting to lift the doldrums.  Here’s a little dose of green for you, to warm you up and tide you over:

Shamrock Mittens

Ladies’ “Shamrock Mittens” by Mary Ann Stephens. Knit in Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift 100% Shetland wool yarn. Downloadable PDF available through the designer’s online shop here.  Also available through Ravelry.  Spindrift yarn packs available through the designer’s shop here.



Shamrock Mittens kits using Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift available through the designer’s online yarn shop.


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Chevron Fingerless Mittens – knitting kits, colorway ideas

We’ve just added a new kit page for my Chevron Fingerless Mittens.  You can select your three favorite Dale Alpakka colors from the three little pull-downs, right there on the kit page.  But, how do you choose three favorites shades?  And will they behave themselves and play together nicely in the design? Here are some of the countless possibilities, to get your wheels turning:

chevron mittens colorways

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Free Knitting Pattern – North Shore Hat – UPDATE

Free knitting pattern for an adult's earflap hat, knit in bulky weight wool.

Free knitting pattern for a quick, warm, adult-sized earflap hat – North Shore Hat by Mary Ann Stephens.

February 9th, 2015 – Today, I’ve updated my old North Shore Hat free knitting pattern PDF with a new version which includes a bunch of explanatory notes which will hopefully clarify the earflap joining process. 

Since most of my work involves colorwork, I often hear knitters complain when they have to weave in loose ends. So, with the original version of this pattern, thinking I was writing it for my usual, relatively experienced customers, I tried to avoid loose ends, when possible.  But, doing so required a shift in direction at one point and a partial round on one side.  Not ideal, especially when so many other websites started sending folks here, referring to this pattern as a “beginner’s” pattern!  I wouldn’t call it a beginner’s pattern, but I’m happy to help lure advanced beginners into the joys of charted knitting. To that end, I’ve changed the process slightly: Now, you’ll make one extra cut in the yarn and you’ll shift your stitches around a bit to get back to the beginning of the round. But, as I hope you’ll agree, doing so makes the layout much clearer.  And, hopefully, the notes will further encourage those of you who are new to charted knitting.

UPDATE:  The North Shore Hat has been moved to the free pattern page on Mary Ann’s new knitting website,

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Interview on “How to become a Professional Knitter”

Robin Hunter recently interviewed me for her blog, “How to become a Professional Knitter”.  It’s up there now, right…over…HERE!

Posted in Fair Isle Knitting, Knitting, Mary Ann's Designs, Norwegian Knitting | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Fair Isle “Gentle Hat” kits now online


Fair Isle Hat

Gentle Hat

Ladies’ Fair Isle “Gentle Hat” kits are now available through my store site.  The kits come with my pattern (printed or emailed PDF, your choice) and seven different shades of delightful Dale Garn “Alpakka” (aka “Royal Alpakka”) 100% alpaca yarn.

If you’re the type who loves using up leftovers, you’ll be glad to know that the Gentle Hat design is laid out so that the seven shades are quite evenly distributed.  So evenly, in fact, that by adding just one extra ball of off-white to the one-hat kit, you’re able to make three, count ’em, THREE identical hats.  So, in addition to the printed/PDF pattern choice, you also have a 7-balls-for-one-hat OR 8-balls-for-three-hats choice.

And yes, as always, you’re welcome to request color substitutions.  I carry all of the Alpakka shades right…over…here!

fair isle hat knitting kit with alpaca yarn

Ladies Fair Isle “Gentle Hat” with simple, short, “peerie”repeats, knit in exquisite Dale Garn 100% alpaca.

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Andrea’s Spice Route Gloves

Spice Route Gloves knit by Andrea McKinnon

Andrea’s “Spice Route Gloves” project, as shown on Ravelry.
Photo copyright Andrea McKinnon 2015.

I thought you’d like to see the lovely result, above, that my customer, Andrea, shared on Ravelry.  She knit my “Spice Route Gloves” design to a “T”, but in her own choice of colors.  As a designer, I think it’s a very special thing, to see one of my own designs knit in the same yarn, but in an entirely different colorway.  It’s a little like having my own, brand new baby handed to me, without having to go through pregnancy and labor.  Of course, I LOVE it! Thanks so much for sharing, Andrea!

excerpt from Ravelry designer's activity page

Nothing makes me happier than seeing someone’s happy result on Ravelry!

If you’d like to see the details on Andrea’s color choices, here’s a link to her project on Ravelry.  And here are my original Spice Route Gloves, from last year:

Spice Route Gloves

Spice Route Gloves, a knitting design by Mary Ann Stephens copyright 2015

ladies fair isle gloves knitting pattern

“Spice Route Gloves”, by Mary Ann Stephens copyright 2015

Haven’t lost one yet! 🙂



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Knitted Hem Fine Points

Fair Isle knit "Dianthus" top's knitted hem

Sewing the hem on my “Dianthus” knit top.

Happy 2015!  I hope you all had a wonderful 2014 and are ready for an even-better 2015.  Now, it’s time to get to work on those resolutions!

One promise that I made myself for 2015 was that I’d stop letting some worthy designs languish on the shelf, unpublished.  So far, I probably publish only about half of the knitting projects that I complete (and, being constantly surrounded by more yarn than I could ask for, I don’t complete ’em unless I feel they’re worth publishing.)  It’s not that I don’t like finishing them – actually, that’s one of my favorite parts!  It’s that so many distractions arise in that lull between the finished knit and the finished pattern.

And so, my friends, I’m going to use your kind attention to bolster my resolve.

I knit my “Dianthus” top to wear to a dear nephew’s wedding that took place…I’m ashamed to say it… last August.  That’s the inside, bottom hem of it that you see in the photo.  I happen to love that top, yet here we are, five months later, and I haven’t shared it with you yet.  But now that I’ve taken this first, tiny step in debuting it, I know that I’ll get busy finalizing the pattern shortly.

In the meantime, Serendipity gave me a great photo for answering some of the questions knitters often ask me about the knitted hems on their Fair Isle / Norwegian knits.  Usually, any close-up photo of a Norwegian, or especially a Fair Isle, knit is apt to be blurred by the fuzz of wool yarn.  But, there’s no way in the world I was going to wear wool to a steamy August wedding in Boston.  And there was no way I was going to knit a boring, monotone top.  (Those of you who know me know that it had to be stranded!)  So, as it happens, we’re looking at a Fair Isle / Norwegian knit done in clear, sharp, 100% mercerized Egyptian cotton Dale Garn “Vipe” yarn.  And, it seems my camera was even behaving well that day!  So, here you have it, my tips for hemming your stranded knits, complete with an ulterior motive that…hopefully…you’ll see the results of here before long:

hem on a fair isle knit top

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Polar Chullo Shetland Spindrift Back in Stock

Shetland Spindrift Naturals

Polar Chullo, knit in five shades of Shetland Spindrift “naturals”, in stock today at

It’s baaaa-aaaack! Yippee, we just received yet another big shipment of wonderful Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift.  In addition to several colors for some new designs that are “in the works” (stay tuned) I ordered a large amount of the five popular-but-elusive “natural” colors used for my Polar Chullo design.  So, if you’re one of the several who ordered your Polar Chullo yarn pack within the last week, when we ran out, rest assured, your Spindrift will be on its way to you today.  And, if you’ve been sitting on the fence, wondering when to pounce, it’s time to strike and order yours up today, while all five “naturals” are here, playing nicely together on my shelves.

Oh, one last point! The yarn pack page on my site directs you to Twist Collective, where my Polar Chullo pattern was originally published. I know some of you would rather not have to deal with printing your own pattern.  If it’s better for you, just send me an email (mas “AT” kidsknits “DOT” com) with your request and I’ll send you a PayPal invoice for the yarn pack + printed pattern.  Whatever works!

Happy Knitting!

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Gentle Hat

At 85 years old, most every day for almost three years now, my mother has driven nearly an hour each way over rough, winding, often-icy, upstate roads.  Her mission?  To spend as much precious time as possible trying to eek smiles out of my dear, dying father.  If anyone ever deserved a pretty, soft, comforting Christmas gift to tell her that she’s loved, well, she’s the one.

She just received her “Gentle Hat“.  She called to say “I love it!”  I’m one happy knitter. 🙂

Merry Christmas to all!

Fair Isle hat design, "Gentle Hat"

Gentle Hat, modeled by the designer.  It uses seven different shades of Dale Alpakka, available through the designer’s online yarn shop,  If you get a 2nd ball of off-white (total of 8 balls) you’ll be able to knit three identical Gentle Hats.


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Christmas Balls – A Brilliant Blocking Idea

Free Christmas Knitting Patterns

My FREE Christmas Ball knitting patterns, all right here, on the Two Strands Blog.

I’m so lucky – I have the coolest, most talented customers!  Here’s a nifty blocking idea that one of my brilliant customers shared recently on Ravelry:

block your free christmas balls with balloons

She’s been using my free Christmas Balls patterns. Before she stuffs and closes up the top of one, she runs scrap yarn through the live stitches (if you’re doing the “Magic Loop” technique with a long enough circular needle, you can probably skip that step): then, she inserts a balloon into the opening, blows it up, ties it off, washes the ball, lets it dry, removes the balloon (*pop*), stuffs the ball and finishes off the top.

Here’s her photo of her nice and even balls drying happily:

Copyright Marji 2014

Copyright Marji 2014   Here’s her project on Ravelry!

Thanks, Marji, for that neat idea!


Posted in Fair Isle Knitting, Free Knitting Patterns, Knitting, Mary Ann's Designs, Norwegian Knitting, Technique | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

On Flat Charts for Round Shapes

This popular post on using flat charts to knit rounds shapes has been moved to the “Technique” section of Mary Ann’s new website,

Posted in Fair Isle Knitting, Free Charts, Free Knitting Patterns, Knitting, Mary Ann's Designs, Norwegian Knitting, Technique | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Sparkling Scrunchie, a free crochet pattern

Another early Christmas present for you – the “Sparkling Scrunchie”:

Free crochet pattern for a holiday hair tie

Sparkling Scrunchie, a free crochet pattern.

It’s made from Dale Garn’s lovely Gullfasan metallic yarn.

free pattern ingredients

I used Gullfasan in light silver #4911 for the scrunchie at the top of the page and I used dark silver #9861 for this one.

Hopefully, the Sparkling Scrunchie will solve some of those last-minute stocking stuffer quandaries.  Have fun!

Click this link to download your own, personal-use copy of the FREE crochet pattern for my Sparkling Scrunchie

Click this link if you need to buy some sparkling Gullfasan yarn.

Click this link to see more of my designs.

"Oooooh, niiiiiiice!"

“Oooooh, niiiiiiice!”

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Ethereal Diamonds – a free lace scarf pattern, introducing “Erle”

mohair silk wool yarn

Dale Garn’s new “Erle”, a heavenly kid mohair / silk / wool blend.

I had lost count of all the projects on my needles.  Sanity warned “Don’t you dare cast on one more stitch until 2015!” But, if you could just hold one soft, little cloud of Dale Garn’s new “Erle” in your hands, you’d understand why I couldn’t resist adding an Erle project to my epic list.

Erle yarn

Mohair, silk and wool work magic together in Dale Garn’s new Erle yarn. It’s amazingly light and soft, yet surprisingly warm and stury. A delightful new luxury knitting experience!

Actually, from what I’ve seen, no one just holds Erle – they smoosh it, they pet it, they caress it.  Erle is an incredibly soft, featherweight blend of kid mohair, silk and wool.  Thanks to its diaphanous nature, just one 50g / 1 3/4 oz ball of Erle gives you a surprising 325m / 355 yds.  Amazed when they see the yardage, knitters ask me  “So what can I make with a ball of this?”  Well, lots of things!  Here’s my first idea – my Ethereal Diamonds Scarf.

Dale Garn Erle mohair, silk and wool yarn in Ethereal Diamonds, a free knitting pattern from the Two Strands Blog

Well, a scarf swatch.  It’s only a little over one foot long at this point, but I’ve only used up a tad under 10g.  Eventually, once my epic project list allows me some more time with it, I’ll have a 60″ long cloud of sweet, soft luxury to wrap around a favored neck.  In the meantime, who knows how much perfect scarf-sporting weather will come and go?!  Since I’m so pleased with my Erle scarf so far, I’ve written it up as an early little holiday treat for you. If you like simple lace scarves, I think you will be pleased with it, too.  Aside from the usual increases (yo’s) and decreases (k2tog, ssk, s2kp – all detailed in the pattern), it’s predominantly garter stitch, so it’s about as close to reversible as scarves like this get.

Those of you who are familiar with my knitting business know that pretty much everything I do is charted knitting; so, of course, this pattern centers around a chart, too.  But, I’ve included the text translation of each row of the chart, too.  If  you haven’t tried charted knitting yet, I’m hoping this will be just the perfect little bridge for you to cross on your way to charted knitting bliss.

(Yes, of course you can use this pattern with all sorts of yarn, in all sorts of fibers.  But if you want something exquisite, give “Erle” a try.)

Click this link to download the PDF: Ethereal Diamonds, a free knitting pattern for a lace scarf

Visit my online yarn shop for Erle and countless other goodies from Dale of Norway / Dale Garn.

Happy knitting!

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Supernova Hat

Supernova hat, seen from above.

Supernova Hat, bird’s eye view.

Supernova Hat, a Fair Isle / Norwegian knitting design by Mary Ann Stephens

Supernova Hat, waiting to be knit in your two favorite shades of Dale Hubro.

Thirty, count ’em, thirty quick rounds of short repeat, short float bliss, then *poof*, you’re done.  Should fit most of the adults on your holiday list.  It seems a shame to knit just one, no?

Knit yours in any two favorite shades of Dale Garn Hubro 100% pure new wool.  Just one ball of each color will do the trick. Printed pattern available through Mary Ann at Kidsknits; PDF available for purchase through Ravelry.

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Ode to Heilo

Wintergarden Pullover by Mary Ann Stephens, knit in Dale Garn Heilo

The original Wintergarden Pullover, ten years later.

Going through some of my files this morning, it dawned on me that, oh my gosh, my Wintergarden Pullover is ten years old!  It’s been a hectic decade of adventures for Wintergarden – skiing, hiking, knitting, scrambling, chasing, knitting, lounging, loafing, knitting – and yet it still looks like new.  Reason #947 why I love, love, love Heilo yarn.

Dale just recently discontinued quite a few colors of Heilo. 😦  I swear, I mourn the passing of every discontinued Heilo color!  Thankfully, they’re still offering most of the core “traditional” Heilo colors, as you’ll see in their latest color card, below.

Heilo Color Card 2014

My Heilo page on my online shop

Wintergarden on Ravelry.

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Shepherdess Cloche

My “Shepherdess Cloche” hat design, sized for adult females, knit in Dale Garn Monjita, Hegre and Heilo or Falk, now available as a knitting pattern, PDF or kit:


Knitting pattern for ladies' hat with Fair Isle detail.

Shepherdess Cloche, a knitting design for a ladies’ hat.

Dale Garn’s new, wonderfully soft, Persian-lamb-lookalike, Monjita, is held together with a strand of Heilo (or Falk, if you prefer) through the main portions of the hat,  so you end up with one very warm, very speedy project – perfect for your holiday list, no?!  I used four colors of Hegre for the Fair Isle band.  Of course, if you’re not quite ready for Fair Isle -style knitting, you could simply knit stripes for the colors in the band. But, the longest float on the Fair Isle band is only 3 stitches long, so this just might be the very “first Fair Isle” project that some of you have been asking for.  Hope so!  The pattern includes colorway suggestions for brown, camel and off-white hats, in addition to the black version, shown.  Check out the color cards, below – I can’t wait to see your version!

Monjita Color Card 2014

Hegre Color Card 2014

Heilo Color Card 2014

Falk Color Card 2014

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Camissonia Mittens

My new “Camissonia Mittens“, sized to fit the average adult female hand.  Knit in standard Fair Isle knitting technique, then (optionally) embroidered, using Dale Garn Alpakka throughout:

Ladies' Camissonia Mittens, knit in Dale Garn Alpakka 100% alpaca yarn

Ladies’ Camissonia Mittens, a hand knitting design by Mary Ann Stephens

The knitting kit is available through my on-line yarn shop,  It includes five different-colored balls of Dale Garn Alpakka (the default kit gets you the colors shown, but feel free to request your five favorite shades of Alpakka) and your choice of the printed pattern (yep, there are plenty of pages to this baby!) or an emailed PDF.

Mittens knit in Magic Loop technique

I used the “Magic Loop” technique for mine.

And, of course, the downloadable PDF is for sale through Ravelry, too.

mittens knit with alpaca yarn

Love, love, love 100% alpaca for mittens!

Embroidered knit mittens

Embroidery hint: When you’re working the embroidery, roll them up from the bottom to access the tips.

Palm side of mittens

Hello, friend!

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Fair Isle Cowl in 60 Quick Luxury Knits

60 Quick Luxury Knits” has just been released and it includes my reversible fair isle cowl, below:

Fair Isle Cowl by Mary Ann Stephens

Photo Copyright Sixth&Spring Books

The publishers had me use Cascade’s “Venezia Sport” 70% merino wool, 30% mulberry silk sport weight yarn.  (In fact, all of the designs in the “60 Quick” series use Cascade yarns of one type or another.)

I wish they had taken a photo of my cowl on a model, so you could get an idea of the fit and drape. I would have, but I figured that I’d better leave that to the professionals.  Bummer!  😦

I can tell you that the shaping, scale and fit of this new cowl in Cascade Venezia Sport are quite similar to my old Riverside Cowl, which I knit in Dale of Norway / Dalegarn Royal Alpakka . (See below.) But, the silk in Venezia makes for an extremely fluid drape, so it won’t “stand up” quite as much as my alpaca Riverside Cowl did. That could be good or bad, depending upon your perspective…and your weather.  As always, choose whatever sport weight yarn sings to you.

Riverside Cowl knit in Dale Alpakka

Riverside Cowl, Knit in Dale of Norway Royal Alpakka.

For the color junkies among you (count me in), here are my original color charts for the fair isle cowl design submission (below).  The businesswoman in me told me it’s always a good idea to provide variations upon the theme, whenever submitting an idea to be published elsewhere. So, as you’ll see, I did the same chart using two, three or four colors. I guess that was a good move, despite my continual preference for “as many colors as I can get”. But, for the life of me, I can’t relate to their preference for the two-colored version.

What do you think?

Fair Isle Cowl options

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Chevron Fingerless Mittens

fingerless mittens knit in alpaca yarn

Chevron Fingerless Mittens by Mary Ann Stephens

My “Chevron Fingerless Mittens”, sized for the average adult female hand, with fitted cuffs and gusseted thumbs. Knit in luxurious Dale of Norway Royal Alpakka.  Use any three shades your heart desires.  I used 19g of Slate 0007, 32g of Off-white 0010 and 13g of Beige 2642 – one ball of each color.  (If you want to make two pair, you’ll only need to get an extra ball of the off-white – you’ll have enough left over from the other two colors to knit a second pair.)

The PDF is available for $6 from my Ravelry store.

fingerless mittens in alpaca yarn

Chevron Fingerless Mittens knit in Dale of Norway Royal Alpakka 100% alpaca yarn.

fingerless mittens

Well-fitted, with full range of finger movement.

I liked the idea of having some fingerless mittens with full finger mobility, so these are a bit shorter than some of my other fingerless mittens. But, they don’t have to be! If you’d like to lengthen the upper section, so that your fingers have more coverage, it’s as simple as can be – right above the thumb opening, merely add some more repeats of the plain chevron motif (the plain grey + white zigzag section in the middle) before starting that upper striped motif.  The shaping has been worked so that you can fit entire horizontal repeats of the chevron motif in the top, for as long as you’d like.

Happy knitting!

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Free Knitting Pattern – North Shore Hat

Free knitting pattern for an adult's earflap hat, knit in bulky weight wool.

Free knitting pattern for a quick, warm, adult-sized earflap hat – “North Shore Hat”.

Here’s a free pattern for a super-quick, adult-sized earflap hat I made for my winter beach hikes.  I used wonderfully soft and warm Dale Hubro 100% pure new wool.  It’s “bulky” weight, so it knits up in a blink.  (I made this hat in one day, and I’m really not a very fast knitter.) Hope you have fun with it!

UPDATE, September 2018: This free pattern has been moved to the free pattern page on Mary Ann’s new knitting website,

February 9th, 2015 – Today, I’ve updated the PDF with a new version which includes a bunch of explanatory notes which will hopefully clarify the earflap joining process.  Since most of my work involves colorwork, I often hear knitters complain when they have to weave in loose ends. So, with the original version of this pattern, thinking I was writing it for my usual, experienced customers, I tried to avoid loose ends, when possible.  But, doing so required a shift in direction at one point and a partial round on one side. Not ideal, especially when so many other websites started sending folks here, referring to this pattern as a “beginner’s” pattern!  I wouldn’t call it a beginner’s pattern, but I’m happy to help lure advanced beginners into the joys of charted knitting. To that end, I’ve changed the process slightly: Now, you’ll make one extra cut in the yarn and you’ll shift your stitches around a bit to get back to the beginning of the round. But, as I hope you’ll agree, doing so makes the layout much clearer.  And, hopefully, the notes will further encourage those of you who are new to charted knitting.

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Blendoku – a great game for Fair Isle fanatics

What’s Blendoku?  It’s an intriguing free app that sharpens your color management skills.  Should disaster strike and you find yourself without your knitting (gasp!) it’s a fun way to sharpen your skills for setting up smooth color gradients for your stranded knitting projects while you wait for the cavalry to arrive with your yarn.

Blendoku - a great game for practicing color placement skills needed in Fair Isle knitting

Handheld color gradient practice that can translate into Fair Isle knitting skills

Be warned: Okay, yeah, it’s also a black hole for time – too much fun!!

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Knitting’s Cerebral Side

CNN’s very interesting article on knitting’s cerebral benefits:

(But from the tips of our fingers, to our hearts, to our minds…we knew that! 😉 )

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Steek stitches – how many???

Someone just posted an interesting question in my Two Strands group on Ravelry.  It’s one I’m often asked regarding Norwegian steeks, so I’ll share it with you folks here, too. She’s thinking about knitting the Dale Sirdal design from their new Book 267 and she’s wondering just how many steek stitches she should use.

Dale Sirdal Setesdal Fana

Dale Book 267 Traditional Designs for the Family, available through my on-line yarn shop.

Dale instructs her to set up the steek with four “cutting stitches” (steek stitches, to most of us.)  That’s not a bad approach, but I like 5 stitches better.  Here’s my reply, below, or you can visit my Two Strands group on Ravelry for the whole story:

Regarding the # of steek sts: It’s your call! If you’re machine-reinforcing your steek, as they direct (I would), it’s a question of how much sewing and cutting leeway you want to give yourself versus how many extra stitches you’re willing to forsake to the steek. Personally, I like 5 steek sts: steek_stitch_layout.png

The outermost blue columns belong to the body of the sweater.
The red lines indicate where you’ll pick up stitches for the button band.
I like to alternate the colors for each steek stitch, and I keep that stitch patterning vertically consistent, so that my steek stitches form clear sewing (yellow) and cutting (center blue column, #3) lines.

The Dale patterns use 4 stitches (think of my diagram, above, without the center column #3) and they simply instruct you to sew two double lines within the 4 steek stitches and cut the steek open between the pairs of lines. In truth, there’s nothing wrong with that approach at all; but, adding the 5th stitch for the center cutting line does a couple of nice things for you:

1) There’s no guessing as to where to cut – a very nice thing for those of us with less-than-perfect vision! A mistake in the cutting can ruin everything, so I think the one extra stitch column is well worth the effort.

2) As long as you keep your machine stitching within those (yellow) guidelines of columns #2 & #4, you can trim away as much (or as little) of central column #3 as you need to get a nice, straight edge. That can work to especially nice effect if you do a “covered steek”, as I often like to do on my cardigan designs. (I have more info about covered steeks on an old steeks article I put up on my site ages ago:


Gracie, our Golden Retriever, my knitting companion

Uh oh, I wonder what she’s doing with those scissors??

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Free Chart – Happy Valentine’s Day!

A “little something” to show my love for my dear customers.  Use this free chart in the next few days, to brighten up your Valentine’s gift wrap, or use it in your stranded knitting, down the road.  Either way, I hope you have a wonderfully happy Valentine’s Day!

free chart for Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine’s Day from Mary Ann Stephens.  Visit her at and the Two Strands Blog.

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Free 2014 Chart

Needlework chart with 2014 date.  Can be used on knitting, needlepoint, cross-stitch, name it!

Free 2014 date chart for creating special memories on all of your someday-heirlooms.

Whether you work “2014” into some wonderful chart work you have planned for this year, or embroider it in with duplicate stitch, once you’re done, may it someday spark sweet, sweet memories of the many fine times you had “way back” in 2014.

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Free Knitting Pattern – Twist and Sprout Hat

Free knitting pattern for the Twist and Sprout Hat by Mary Ann Stephens.  Sized for the whole family!

Twist and Sprout Hat, sans fleur

The middle of January…yuck!  Here in the Northeast, you wouldn’t want to face January without a cozy hat nearby.  Not a dreary hat, mind you – there’s more than enough of that dreariness in the skies these days. So, here’s something to brighten things up a bit: a free  PDF for an old favorite – my Twist and Sprout Hat design, sized for everyone, updated with a choice of brims.

I wrote this pattern ages ago, and have sold kits to go with the original, flower-bedecked version, for a long time, too.  You can still get the kit – it saves you a little pocket change, since it comes with remnants for the flower – and you can get it in any shades of Dale Freestyle your heart desires (just add a note to your order, or email me at “mas” AT “kidsknits” DOT com.) Or, take a little dive into that legendary stash of yours and see what worsted weight wonders you come up with.


Click this link to download your own, personal-use copy of my Twist and Sprout Hat for the Two Strands Blog

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Shetland Spindrift Naturals are back in stock!

Yippee!  I just received a big box of long-awaited Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift in the natural shades I use in my Polar Chullo design (among others.)  Normally, they’re a mainstay of my selection – foundation shades that I can’t bear to be without.  And normally, I don’t have to.  But, they’ve been on back order for a while now, as some of you know.  Of course, it’s great that there’s been a resurgence of interest in all things Fair Isle.  But, it was strange, having their shelf nearly empty for the last several weeks, and  I’m so glad to have them back here, next to me – they’re like old friends!

Shetland Spindrift yarn with Polar Chullo

The Polar Chullo sits atop its five best friends: Natural White, Mooskit, Sholmit, Moorit & Shaela.

If you’re already awaiting your Polar Chullo yarn pack, it’ll be there shortly.  If you’ve been thinking about getting one – now that you’re done getting everything in the world for everyone else – now’s the time!

Gracie, our dear Golden girl

Gracie contemplating her list for Santa.

“Happy Christmas to all, and to all, a good night!”


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Free Knitting Pattern – Lace Scrunchie

Free knitting pattern - Lace Scrunchie

Lace Scrunchie, a free knitting pattern from Mary Ann Stephens

Need a last-minute, low-budget gift idea for a long-haired lovely on your list?  If you have a stray elastic band somewhere, plus a few extra ounces of Lerke yarn lying around, you’re in luck!  (And if you don’t, well, you’re still in luck: That’s all the excuse you need to visit my shop!)

Merino / cotton yarn

Dale Lerke is a DK weight merino / cotton blend.

There are plenty of free scrunchie patterns out there, but they all seem to be simple tubes with elastic run through, and plenty of hand-sewing to be done, before you’re done. There’s nothing wrong with that super-simple solution.  But, if you’re interested in using your knitting skills to create something a bit nicer, and you’re happy to trade in the annoying sewing for a fun little bit of lace knitting along the way, click this link to download your free Two Strands “Lace Scrunchie” knitting pattern PDF: Lace Scrunchie

Have fun!

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Happy Thanksgiving – a free chart

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!!

Click on the image to see a larger, clearer version.

(Originally published here on Two Strands for Thanksgiving 2010.)

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Free Knitting Pattern – Two Strands Christmas Ball

Free Knitting Pattern for Two Strands Christmas Ball

Two Strands Christmas Ball

An early Christmas present, to say “Thank You!” to all of my dear customers.  I hope it brings cheer to your home, year after year.

UPDATE:  This free pattern has been moved to my new website,  Here’s a link directly to my free pattern page.

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Circular knitting intro for use with Christmas Balls PDF

Christmas ball free knitting pattern by Mary Ann Stephens

When I wrote my “Christmas Balls” free knitting patterns last year (and my free “Star of Bethlehem” pattern this year) I had my “typical” knitting customer in mind.  Not that any of you are typical – you’re all special and wonderful! But,  since I specialize in yarns that work especially well with Norwegian and Fair Isle knitting, many of the people who seek me out are already pretty familiar with those techniques –  some are truly world-class experts!  Nonetheless, I’m happy to report that the irresistible call of my favorite four-letter word, F-R-E-E, apparently works wonders to inspire newcomers to take up Norwegian & / or Fair Isle knitting, too.  I’ve gotten quite a few emails from folks who want to try the Christmas Balls out, but have never knit circularly, or have never followed a  colorwork chart. I’m adding my response to their most common questions here, below.  It’s not a comprehensive class in circular knitting – just a walk-through for the first several rounds of the “Kilim” ball –  but I’m hoping it will work well to entice more first-time stranded knitters into the fold.  If you’re already familiar with circular knitting, please pass it along to friends that you’d like to share some stranded knitting love with.  If it’s all new to you, give it a try and feel free to post your questions / comments here.  Have fun!

free christmas balls knitting chart by mary ann stephens,

Page Three from my “Christmas Balls” free knitting pattern PDF.

This link, , takes you to a few videos for various ways to knit in the round.  Scroll down the page to their “Small Diameter Circular Knitting” videos to view the 3 methods they describe, all of which will work with the Christmas Balls.  Although they indicate that double-pointed needles are the “most common” way to knit circularly, I’d say that’s rapidly changing; dpns are the traditional way, but if they did a survey today, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if “magic loop” were to win the “most popular” way prize.

Each Christmas Ball has 4 panels, with each panel consisting of one instance of the chart.  You start by knitting on the lowest row, at the far right (don’t forget that 1st column, off to the right!) always reading right to left, knitting the color shown for each stitch and stranding the unused color behind your work. I’ll give you row-by-row instructions for the first few rows of the Kilim ball, then I think you’ll catch on:

Round 1: Simple!  Three k sts in white (A), repeated 4 times = K 12 sts in A.  (At the end of the 4th repeat of each chart row, don’t turn your work, just keep knitting around in the same clockwise direction, as shown in the videos, and begin reading the next chart row from right to left.)

Round 2: * K 3, M1, repeat from * 3 more times (i.e., to the end of the round, which will give you 4 repeats in all, with all stitches still using white. See chart legend for “M” description. Since you’ve added one stitch to each of the 4 panels, you’ve gone from 12 sts to 16 sts.)

Round 3: Same idea as Round 1, although it’s now K 4 x 4 = 16 sts in A.

Round 4: * K 1 in A, m 1 in A, K 1 in A, K 1 in B, K 1 in A, M 1 in A, repeat from * to end of round. * (Now you’re adding 2 sts to each of the 4 panels – 1 m, 1 M – so your stitch count goes from 16 to 16 + (2 x 4) = 24.)

Round 5: * K 2 in A, K 3 in B, K 1 in A, repeat from * to end of round.

I think that should help.  Give it  a try. Have fun!

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Spice Route Gloves

…or, “What I Did Over My Summer Vacation”:

Spice Route Gloves knitting pattern

Ladies’ “Spice Route Gloves” knit in Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift, by Mary Ann Stephens

Knitting Pattern for Ladies' Fair Isle Gloves

Spice Route Gloves with a bit of optional duplicate stitch embroidery on the cuff.

My “Spice Route Gloves” design, knit in 4 shades of Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift.  Finished palm circumference of 8″, so they’re sized to fit average adult female hand.

Five 25g balls of Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift were used:  2 balls in the (dark) background color, and 1 in each of the other 3 colors.

Colorway #1
2 – 25g balls of A = Shetland Black #101
1 – 25g ball of B = Eucalyptus #794
1 – 25g ball of C = Chartreuse #365
1 – 25g ball of D = Ginger #462

Colorway #2
2 – 25g balls of A = Mulberry #598
1 – 25g ball of B = Chartreuse #365
1 – 25g ball of C = Orchid #547
1 – 25g ball of D = Rouge #563

Compare the cuffs on the two colorways and you’ll see there’s a tiny bit of optional duplicate stitch embroidery done on Colorway #2.

These gloves are switchable, i.e., you can wear either one on either hand.  Yet, the motifs are all placed symmetrically on each side.  I’ve adjusted for the varying finger widths by sneaking some extra stitches in along the sidelines.  So, it’s still important that you make one “right” glove, one “left” glove…*NOT* two of the same!

Hope you like ’em!

The personal-use PDF is available for purchase and download through Ravelry.  The kits should be up on my on-line shop shortly. Don’t hesitate to write or call with questions.

UPDATE: Here’s that kit link.

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Free knitting pattern: Christmas Ball – “Star of Bethlehem”

Dale of Norway Heilo or Falk plus Gullfasan were used to knit this Christmas Ball, the Star of Bethlehem, by Mary Ann Stephens

Star of Bethlehem, a knitted Christmas ball ornament 

UPDATE:  This free knitting pattern for Mary Ann’s “Star of Bethlehem” Christmas ball has been moved to the free knitting pattern page on her new website,

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Tiger Lily, in the pink

Reason #352 why I love knitting:  Merely by changing the shades of yarn we’re using, we can give an entirely new look to beloved, old designs.

It’s true, I do lament when an “old favorite” shade is discontinued by the manufacturers – How dare they?!  But, it turns out there really can be virtue in having an updated color palette.

Today, a customer wrote to me, asking for color guidance in creating a “pink” version of my Tiger Lily Jacket design, in either Heilo or Falk.  Over the years, I’ve put together  countless different colorways for that 4-color design – tons in blues, greens, reds, naturals, but few, if any, in pinks.  Although I’ve loved pink ever since my very first (and last) tutu, I was never really wild about too many of the pinkish possibilities within Heilo or Falk for Tiger Lily.  It gets complicated!  You have not just one, but two backgrounds to think about, and they have to play nicely together.  You have to balance the contrasts both between and within the main and the trim sections.  You need “pop” from a few different angles. So, I needed more than just one pink to love and those pinks needed well-behaved playmates.

Recently, a few new colors have been added to both Heilo and Falk, nicely expanding upon the possibilities for pinkish colorways. Last year, they added new purples and plums everywhere!  Within both lines, they’ve just recently added “Prune #4263”, a beautiful, deep “oxblood” type of shade – a perfect foil for so many colorwork motifs, offering more warmth and depth than we typically get from the usual cast of characters from The Dark Side, like black, grey or navy.  (And it’s as gorgeous for menswear as it is for floral cardigans.)  With the help of some of these newer shades, I quickly put together two different takes on a pink Tiger Lily that I’m happy with.

On the left, the muted “plum smoke” from Heilo lends depth to the lighthearted rose, while maintaining a light, girly appearance overall. (Okay, I have to confess, ever since bagging the tutu and heading for some higher branches way up in the trees, or scrambling low under the fence, or catching pop flies, or tackling brothers, or…well, you see, I’m not exactly the “girly” type.) On the right, pink gets some serious depth, thanks to “Prune 4263” in the upper background, “magenta” below, and lively “creme” and “moss green” for the details.  (Now that’s more my speed.)

Are you a pink fan?  What do you think?


knit details

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Stranded Knitting Presentation at LI Knitting Guild

I’d like to send out a big, warm “Thank You!” to everyone at the Long Island Knitting Guild.  This past Friday, I presented my talk to them, “Stranded on Long Island – Tips and Tricks for Developing Your Very Own Stranded Knitting Obsession“.  I really had a wonderful time.  Every single one of those knitters was as sweet as sugar! Hopefully, I won a few new stranded knitting converts, too.

Sorry you couldn’t all be there.  Maybe next time!  For now, I’ll share just a few of my slides, to give you a taste:

"Stranded Knitting", Copyright 2013 Mary Ann Stephens

“Stranded Knitting”, Copyright 2013 Mary Ann Stephens

knitting color value placement

The placement of color values – light motifs on dark backgrounds, or dark motifs on light backgrounds – can be simply a matter or taste…or, with some motifs, it can make a huge difference!
Copyright 2013 Mary Ann Stephens


Row gauge can be crucial in stranded knitting

“Goldilocks, get those Three Bears juuuuuust right!”



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“More monkeys, please!”

monkey hat colors

A common request around here lately: “More monkeys, please!”

Today’s answer: “Coming right up!”

You’re just one click away from one dozen new colorway ideas for my Monkey Hat using Dale of Norway Baby Ull yarn, our hands-down favorite for the newborn & toddler sizes.

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Shamrock Mittens

shamrock mittens

My new Shamrock Mittens, knit in Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift.  Sized to fit an 8″ adult female palm circumference.  The  PDF is available for purchase and download through Ravelry.  The Spindrift yarn (in natural white and…you guessed it…”leprechaun”) is available through  Kit link coming shortly.  (Call my US toll-free 877-631-3031 to order in time for St. Patricks Day.) UPDATE: Here’s the kit link!


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Free Crochet Pattern – The Quickest, Easiest Hat

free crochet hat pattern

The “Blizzard of 2013” (the first one, at least) swept in this past Friday, bringing 30+ inches of snow to our area, along with frantic cries of “Ahhhh, what’s your quickest, easiest hat?!?!?”  I was tempted to pull out some newspaper and get folding.  Nah, that won’t do!  Want something reeeeeeally quick?  Time to break out the old crochet hook.  Add to that some super bulky Hubro, maybe a few scraps of Heilo, if you want to get fancy, and in no time at all – presto – one pretty fine looking chapeau!

Here’s the free crochet pattern as a downloadable PDF: QE1

Stay cozy!

flower from free crochet pattern

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More Riverside Cowl Colorways

Riverside Cowl knit in Dale Alpakka

Riverside Cowl, Knit in Dale of Norway Royal Alpakka.

Some alternate colorway ideas for my Riverside Cowl design:



Riverside colors

Got a favorite?  Get the customizable kit here.



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Free Knitting Chart – Numerals

Here’s a happy way to make your 2013 knitting special:

free knitting chart with numbers

Use this free knitting chart for adding the date to your knitted thumbs, cuffs, hems – anywhere you’d like. Have fun!

Posted in Free Charts, Free Knitting Patterns, Knitting, Mary Ann's Designs, Miscellaneous, Norwegian Knitting | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Tiger Lily Jacket Color Substitutions

I think putting together new colorways can be a lot of fun. But, it takes a lot of time, too – something I’m finding in short supply these days.  In an effort to stop wasting time on duplicated effort (okay, and to lessen my urge to cry when I think of some of my favorite discontinued colors) I came up with the hopefully-bright idea of showing you new, substitute colorways for some of my older designs here on the blog.  As always, you’re still welcome to request any color combinations that your dear heart desires.  But, hopefully, this will save you a bit of time, too.

We’ll start with my Tiger Lily Jacket design:

knit details

The original (above, shot in bright light, and in the background, below, shot indoors) was done in four shades of Heilo: Light Heather 2931, Burnt Orange 3418, Lava Rust 3727 and Bronze 9834.  All of those shades have been discontinued in Heilo, except for the Light Heather.  (Sniff…whimper…sob!)

Original with subs and text

But, we still have several options for putting together a very similar colorway.

If you want to stick with Heilo, 100% Norwegian wool (my personal favorite), as you can see, the new “red orange” #3237 is really a dead ringer for the old burnt orange.  They’ve recently added a wonderful new shade, “prune” 4263 that’s a bit darker and more saturated than my old lava rust, but to tell you the truth, in stranded knitting, where contrast is key, I think that this new prune is actually an improvement over the old lava rust.  While those 3 shades are easily selected, the 4th one is the trouble-maker.  In Heilo, your only option for something anywhere near the old “bronze”, used for the motif in the border, would be “sunglow” 2126 – a noticeably lighter, brighter soft yellow. Bronze was muted and earthy; sunglow is clear and bright. And with a deeper background provided by the new prune shade, sunglow will become even more pronounced.  Perhaps a good thing – some would prefer the livelier combination – but it definitely depends upon your own inclinations – some prefer earthy and muted.

If you move over to Falk, the same, first three colors are essentially the same.  But, we’re still missing that old, beloved bronze. Falk “gold” 2427 is a bit deeper and warmer than the Heilo sunglow.  It’s nice on top of the new prune background (even if does make me think of Harry Potter’s Hogwarts scarf.) Like Heilo’s sunglow, it will make for a livelier, more pronounced border motif. Falk “citron” 9725 is definitely the closest substitute for bronze in Falk, but it’s lighter and brighter than the old bronze and it is a bit more greenish, too.  Really, any of the currently available border motif choices will result in a brighter, more pronounced border.  You’ll have to decide for yourself whether you like that idea.  Yellows and yellow-greens are funny – they’re quite flattering for some people, yet they make others look like they have a liver complaint.  You’ll know best where you fall in that camp with these choices.  Please do consider that point for this design, for whatever you use as the bronze substitute, it will be the color closest to your face:

tigerlily back neck closeup

(well, my rusty old shirt was the closest color to my rusty old face here, but you get the idea.)

Now, here’s where the REAL fun begins:  there are tons of other current color combinations that are possible for this (and most any colorwork) design.  Here are a few that went out over the last week for Tiger Lily:

TLJ snippets for blog

There are probably about thirty different Tiger Lily colorways that I have on file, but many use discontinued colors. (Sob…again!)  I’ll be adding to the above collection when I can.  In the meantime…got your own combination in mind?  Let me know!

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Catching long floats on the Polar Chullo


Polar Chullo, sized for adults, knit in Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift. Click photo for details.

I know quite a few of you are working on your Polar Chullos, hoping to get them done in time for the holidays.

I’m reposting a response I just sent to a knitter in Ravelry who is working on her Polar Chullo bears.  Maybe you’ll find it helpful, or maybe you’ll have other helpful tips for her, and other new, stranded knitters:

Every stranded knitter eventually develops their own philosophy regarding their stranded technique, especially when it comes to float tolerance. I’ll tell you my philosophy used for managing my bears. Please don’t think you have to do what I did, but hopefully, you’ll find something helpful among my following tips:

Don’t strand too tightly – always leave a tiny bit of slack in the strand.

Don’t catch long floats too frequently. Snagging long floats is not much of an issue with hats, since we don’t run our fingers through them. And when a hat is knit out of Shetland wool, there’s even less concern about snags, since the wool felts to itself. Floats under an inch long will never be a problem with such a hat. But, those bears are indeed extra long, and after all that work, I want them to live extra long “lives”.

Although I tend to allow some pretty long floats, I caught the floats at a few points on my bears. I tried to do it so that any resulting indentation at the catching point would occur along a naturally occurring line on the bear, if he* were more of a line drawing than a solid-colored fellow: the neckline, shoulder line (behind & above the front leg), the hip line (in front of and above the hind leg – see below.) Where possible, I staggered those catch points, too, so that I avoided having the catch points stacked up directly above each other on consecutive rounds – stacking them really makes them show up far more obviously. * (My bears, like my children, are boys – yours may differ!)

Hope that helps!

Mary Ann

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Hubro Mittens – free knitting pattern with yarn purchase


I’m happy to report that my “Mittens in a Blink” ladies’ super bulky mitten pattern, introduced to you a few weeks ago in Malabrigo Rasta 100% merino, works beautifully with Dale of Norway Hubro 100% wool, too. (See above, in “Ruby” Hubro.)  Same great fit, in no time flat. Just remember that while the Rasta mittens took one 150g hank, the Hubro mittens will need two 100g balls.

The PDF is still available for purchase through Ravelry, but as a little inspiration for last-minute holiday gift-giving, I’m extending my offer for a FREE “Mittens in a Blink” pattern PDF whenever you purchase either Malabrigo Rasta or Dale of Norway Hubro.

Have fun!

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Hurricane Sandy Report

We’re all here, post-Sandy, and I’m very thankful to report that we came through essentially unscathed. We’re up on a hill, a mile or two from the Long Island Sound and several miles from the ocean, so fortunately, no flooding. Several neighbors lost trees, but we were lucky in that regard, too: We have lots of trees in the yard, but while there are plenty of leaves and twigs to clean up, not a single branch came down.

We did lose power until late last (Tuesday) night. All three of the boys are home, along with the oldest one’s sweet girlfriend. When the power went out Monday afternoon, groans of electronic-dependent misery filled the air. Fortunately, we have a gas stove, and I was able to light the burners by hand, so food was not a problem. Between our big stash of board games, an early dive into the Halloween candy and a bit of candlelight, we really had a fine time. For me, it was a good time to knit some simple ribbing on a new design – potentially boring in good light, but both fascinating and comforting in the dark. Truly, our only loss was a refrigerator full of food. And, with three teenage boys, that’s a pretty regular occurrence around here, anyway! 😉

The only remaining issue here is the phone service. Apparently, Hurricane Sandy has wrecked phone service for most of Long Island. We’re not sure when that will be restored; but, in the meantime, we’re endlessly thankful to have internet service. If you need to contact me, you can always email me at mas AT kidsknits DOT com. (So much for the idea of Cell Phone = Safety! Apparently, those smart phones aren’t so darn smart after all!)

Our thoughts, prayers and hugs go out to the countless dear folks in the Northeast that weren’t as fortunate as we were.

ETA: The land line phone service is back, but it looks like shopping for both food and gas will be challenging!

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Riverside Cowl

My “Riverside Cowl” – knit in Dale of Norway Royal Alpakka yarn.  Fair Isle and garter stitch on the outside, solid stockinette stitch on the lining, luxurious warmth all over.  The kit is available through my on-line store,  It includes either a printed or emailed knitting pattern and 4 x 50g balls of the discounted Royal Alpakka yarn in any 3 shades your heart desires.  And, if you’d rather have some stash-diving fun, the PDF is available through Ravelry, right over here.

Riverside Cowl knit in Dale Alpakka

Riverside Cowl, by Mary Ann Stephens.  Knit in Dale of Norway Royal Alpakka 100% alpaca yarn.  Kit available through designer’s on-line store,  PDF available through Ravelry.

Riverside Cowl, a Fair Isle knitting design in Dale of Norway Royal Alpakka, 100% alpaca yarn, available through the designer's retail website,

No sewing, no cutting, no long floats = great project for novice stranded knitters and beyond.



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Mittens in a Blink

mittens in a blink, a free knitting pattern with malabrigo yarn purchase

“Mittens in a Blink” – a few little details in just the right places give these super quick adult-sized mittens a super comfy, highly useful fit.  Available as a free knitting pattern with any Malabrigo Rasta yarn purchase at Kidsknits, or use your own super bulky yarn and get the PDF for $5 through Ravelry.

“And now, for something completely different…”

I’ll always love fussing over fine-gauge, stranded designs. But, I gotta tell you, being able to make these cushy, comfy, colorful babies in a blink definitely has its own rewards.  Knit a complete pair of adult-sized mittens in a day – gee, there’s a new concept!  (For me, anyway. 😉 )  Okay, so maybe that Christmas knitting list doesn’t look so daunting after all!

These were made with just one 150g skein of Malabrigo “Rasta” yarn, a super-bulky, slightly felted, hand-dyed, single-ply merino yarn with a label gauge of…are you ready for this?…2 to 2.5 stitches per inch.  I smooshed it down a bit – to 3 sts per inch – to make the mittens extra warm and windproof.  Usually, when I think of super bulky knits, I think of clunky things with poor fit.  So, I played around with both the large, lower thumb gusset and the upper mini-gussets and I’m really pleased with how ergonomically they turned out – a perfect, flexible fit!

mittens in a blink

I juuuuust started carrying Malabrigo.  Being a stranded knitting geek, with my opening order, I gravitated toward their famously gorgeous, fingering-weight sock yarn.  (More to come on that front – you can count on it!) Of course, everyone likes worsted weight – especially with winter around the corner – so I grabbed a handful of their beautiful worsted colors, too.  (Super soft hats in the works; stay tuned!) Just on a last-minute whim – as much out of curiosity as anything else – I decided I’d try some of this super-crazy, mondo-bulky stuff and, boy, am I ever pleased!  Soft as can be, glorious colors, and blizzard-proof mittens in no time flat.  I think you’re gonna love this stuff!

Let me know!

PDF for $5 on Ravelry

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Sirdal design from Dale of Norway, knit in Heilo yarn by Karin

Dale of Norway Sirdal, knit in Heilo yarn, by Karin

I’m very fortunate to have some tremendously talented customers.  This past week, a charming coincidence arose: two of my wonderful customers showed me their very special renditions of Dale of Norway’s beloved “Sirdal” design, a traditional Norwegian knitting classic (which, by the way, is available for FREE at Kidsknits, with the corresponding Dale yarn purchase – more about that below.)

Karin from Fort Worth, TX is a delightful woman with a gorgeous garden and a beautiful family.  That’s a close-up of her Sirdal vest that you see above.  Karin knit it for her son, Rob, in charcoal heather 0083 and natural 0020 Heilo.

Sirdal Vest in Heilo yarn

The Dale cognoscenti  among you may be scratching your heads, thinking “I’ve never seen a Sirdal vest pattern?!” Along with her Heilo yarn purchase, and with Dale of Norway’s approval, Karin received the Sirdal cardigan pattern from out-of-print Book 147.  She knit the body straight up, as usual; then, she sewed her armhole lines on the side, cut them open, closed the shoulders, picked up around the armholes, worked the ribbing, shifted the ribbing for the fold, worked a facing and hemmed it all in place.  It even looks great on the inside:

Steek finishing on Sirdal vest

Such a great idea and such beautiful work!! Rob must be so thrilled! Thanks so much for sharing your photos with us, Karin – everything you do is always so lovely!

* * * * * *

Lynda from Gwynedd, PA certainly knows how to show her love for her dear friend, Charlotte! Here’s lovely Charlotte in the Sirdal Pullover Lynda made for her,  using black 0090 and natural 002 Heilo yarn:

Sirdal on Charlotte

Now, this is not just any old Sirdal, either!  Check out the center of the collar – Lynda worked Charlotte’s initials into the diamonds – isn’t that a sweet idea?!

Lynda is chock full of wonderful ideas.  Look at Lynda’s idea for a coordinating hat:

Sirdal with fur hat

Isn’t that magnificent?! Thanks so much, Lynda, for sharing your wonderful work with us! And thanks, Charlotte, for letting us see how great you look in your new Sirdal.  I hope you always have fun in it.

Points to consider:

First of all, the Sirdal design is not mine to give away, it’s Dale of Norway’s design to do with as they, as copyright holders, please.  As I’ve mentioned here before, their policy allows Dale dealers (like me) that are interested in supporting old, out-of-print Dale designs to give FREE copies of their out-of-print patterns to knitters when they purchase the corresponding Dale yarn.  If you’d like to see other out-of-print Dale designs that would be available under the same policy, I’ve listed most of the old Dale books that I have in my library on Ravelry, here.

Second, sweater silhouettes change over time.  Thankfully, traditional designs never change radically.  But, realize that the armhole depth on an old, medium-sized Sirdal Pullover was 11″ – fashionable in its day, but that day was quite a while ago!  On the newer (reworked) cardigan from Book 147, it was 10 1/4″ – more moderate, as they go.  Now that silhouettes have gotten even slimmer, on the brand new Oslo design in Book 228, it’s down to 9 1/4″.   As you might guess, Lynda narrowed the sleeves on her Sirdal considerably.  Thankfully, with dropped shoulders and Norwegian steeks, that’s a pretty easy thing to do.  If you need details, you know where to find me!

ETA:  I’ve gotten permission to add the measurements and yarn requirements – see below!

Sirdal from Dale of Norway

Dale Sirdal, from out-of-print booklet 6007.

Dale of Norway Sirdal design for the whole family in Book Nr 147 from

Sirdal from Dale of Norway Book Nr 147.

Dale of Norway Sirdal for babies and toddlers, available through

Sirdal for babies and toddlers, from Dale Book Nr 147.





Posted in Free Knitting Patterns, Knitting, New From Dale of Norway, Norwegian Knitting | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Allamanda Hat

Allamanda fair isle slouched tam with embroidery

My new Allamanda Hat design.  It’s easier than it looks.

Allamanda Hat, an embroidered Fair Isle knitting design by Mary Ann Stephens

It’s first knit in typical Fair Isle style (no more than two colors at once.)  When the knitting is done, you have the option to get carried away with some simple embroidery: nothing too fancy – I just used duplicate stitch, straight stitch and a few French knots. (But I’d love to see any of your renditions, plain or fancy.)

Fair Isle knitting with embroidery, the Allamanda Hat, designed by Mary Ann Stephens+

The pattern includes greyscale and colorized charts for both the multi-colored, embroidered version and a two-colored, unadorned version.  There are separate charts for the band and the main portion of the hat, so you can do one part multi-colored, one part two-colored, if you’d like.  Of course, in addition to all of the usual knitting info, the embroidery instructions are included, too.

I chose Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift 2-ply jumper weight 100% Shetland wool for mine.  Between its glorious color range and its helpful “sticky” nature (quite the asset, when it comes to managing loose embroidery ends), it was an easy choice.  (Yarn pack or kit available here.) But, especially if you’d rather do the two-colored version, sans the embroidery, there are myriad fingering weight yarns that could work nicely.  Dale of Norway Baby Ull is a personal favorite – it will definitely highlight the lines of the motifs. Of course, narrowing down color choices can be tricky…

Color alternatives for fair isle embroidered hat Allamanda by Mary Ann Stephens.

(Proof that I spend too much time goofing around with photo editors.)

Anyway, I hope you like it.  If you have any questions, you know where to find me!

Fair Isle hat with embroidery, Allamanda Hat, by Mary Ann Stephens, copryright 2012

Happy knitting…and embroidering!

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Christmas Balls – a free knitting pattern PDF

It’s Christmas at Kidsknits!  Oh, okay…it’s still August.  But, I’ve been busy making Christmas presents, and the first one is for…YOU!

Christmas ball free knitting pattern by Mary Ann Stephens

Around this time last year, the red and white Heilo was flying off the shelves, as fast as we could stock it.  So many knitters were having a blast, making the wonderful Arne & Carlos ornaments.  I got in on the fun, too.  But this year, I decided I would make my ornaments my way.

Free Christmas ornament knitting pattern by Mary Ann Stephens, copyright 2012

My Way = Color + Symmetry + Detail + Function

Color: The more, the merrier, baby!

Symmetry:  While I’ve kept the total # of stitches nearly the same as the Arne & Carlos balls (so that all of your Christmas balls can play nicely together), I’ve shifted the increases & decreases around so that the motifs are centered.  I’ve also used a different type of  increase, so that my stranded motifs are not visually disturbed by lower stitches.

Detail: Of course, my motifs are different, and I’ve added an extra bit of duplicate stitch embroidery in one, some nupps in another.  Those fussy bits are optional, but I think they’re fun…hope you do, too!

Holly Ball Christmas ornament, a free knitting pattern by Mary Ann Stephens at

Function: Whether knit, glass, crystal, wooden, sterling or gold, no ornament on Earth will ever mean as much to me as the glue-soaked, glitter-laden, cardboard wonders that my boys brought home to me from nursery school and kindergarten.  I’ve kept every one of them and they’re still the first ones I hang on my tree.  Thinking back to when my boys proudly toddled over to hang their Christmas creations, it occurred to me that little fingers sometimes have a hard time with skinny, crocheted loops; a shorter, chubbier hanger would be more kid-friendly.  I’ve made I-cord hangers for my new ornaments, but I’ve included the common crochet option, too, in case that’s your favorite.  Little kids will be able to hang the I-cord loop directly on the branches; some of us big kids might want to run a loop of dressy ribbon through the I-cord first.

Function…again:  Once the little ones have over-loved their Christmas balls, those poor babies are going to need a very good bath (the kids probably will, too! 😉 )  So, although I’m a die-hard wool junkie, I’ve filled my ornaments with – gasp – the ubiquitous poly stuffing that clogs the aisles in most any craft store.  For decorative keepsakes, you can’t beat wool, but for quick washing and drying (and less heartache, once Junior does his darnedest) the poly works just fine.

Anyway, I hope you’ll have fun making them your way and that you and your family have a splendid Christmas, full of all of your favorite things!

UPDATE: You can now find all of my free patterns, including Christmas Balls, on the “Free Patterns” page of my new online shop,

P.S. If you’re wondering why some of the chart rows have empty spaces in them, don’t miss my popular article, “On Flat Charts for Round Shapes”, freely available on the “Technique” page of 

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Monkey Hat

monkey hat knit for babies

My new Monkey Hat design.  Knit in Dale of Norway Baby Ull yarn for newborn and infant sizes.

Monkey Hat knit in Dale of Norway Falk yarn for youth and teen / adult sizes

Knit in Dale of Norway Falk yarn for youth and teen / adult sizes.

Kits with printed patterns available through  Personal-use PDF available for purchase and download through Ravelry.

Designed to coordinate with my “Sleepy Monkey Blanket” design which was published in the Spring 2009 edition of Twist Collective.

Posted in Knitting, Mary Ann's Designs, Norwegian Knitting