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

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 Kidsknits.com

Sirdal from Dale of Norway Book Nr 147.

Dale of Norway Sirdal for babies and toddlers, available through Kidsknits.com

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

sirdalrequirements

 

 

 

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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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Gullfasan, a metallic yarn

This week, quite a few knitters have asked me “So what’s this Gullfasan?” It’s a new DK- weight 90% viscose / 10% polyamid metallic yarn from Dale of Norway. It’s also what I used, along with Falk, a sport-weight wool, in the Holly Ball, below. (See the free pattern in my previous post)

Knit in stockinette stitch at its ballband DK weight of 22 sts over 4″ / 10cm, it makes a surprisingly comfortable, drapey fabric:

metallic yarn(my gullfasan swatch)

If you love bling in your knits, your ship has come in!

metallic yarn

But, remember, this stuff is super-slinky!  That’s definitely part of its appeal, but remember: After you let out a few yards of it, keep the rubber band that comes with it around the ball while you’re working (as our friend Paulie has so nicely shown us, above) so that it does not all slink off the ball at once.

Have you been in a department store lately?  Metallic knits are all the rage, and the price tags on the better ones can be sky high.  Here’s my answer to that:

http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/search#craft=knitting|crochet&view=captioned_thumbs&weight=dk&ratings=5|4&availability=free&fit=adult&sort=favorites&pc=shrug|sweater|tops

Have fun!

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

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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 Dale of Norway 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 Kidsknits.com

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!

Christmas Balls free downloadable PDF

Links to more of my PDFs

P.S. If you’re wondering why some of the chart rows have empty spaces in them, this blog post of mine should clear that up for you: https://twostrands.com/2014/12/02/on-flat-charts-for-round-shapes/

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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 Kidsknits.com.  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.

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Two new hat designs in Hegre

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Recently, a knitter wrote to me, saying “Mary Ann, I’m thrilled with my Two Strands Headband- thanks! You’ve turned me into a real stranded knitting nut! What can I knit next that won’t be too challenging, but will help to develop my skills further?”

The headband she knit (it’s a free pattern here on the blog) has a short, uniform repeat with no long floats and no shaping, so it’s an ideal stranded knitting starting point.  I think her next level in building some mad stranded knitting skills should focus on two things: simple shaping and irregular motifs. I’ve just designed two new “next level” projects that will hopefully lead new stranded knitting nuts a bit further up the ladder.

The Macadamia Hat has very simple shaping atop and a decidedly less-uniform motif below. So, the chart work definitely requires a bit more attention, but it’s easy to focus on each new aspect entirely, since the shaping and color work areas are separate.  There are a few things I especially love about this hat:  The motif is a little unusual – a bit quirky, rather nutty (yes, like me!)  The gauge is a bit heavier than what I usually use for my stranded work, but the Hegre takes to colorwork nicely and rewards me with an FO in no time!  Last, but not least, I am madly in love with this wonderful, huggable, new Hegre.  It’s so soft, I was certain it must have a fair dose of cashmere or alpaca in it; imagine my delight as I read the ballband: “100% pure new wool”! If I have my way, you’ll be seeing a lot more in Hegre from me soon!

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Macadamia Hats knit in Hegre.  Cerulean + Light Sheep Heather on left; Deep Olive + Light Sheep Heather on right. You just need 1 ball of each of the 2 colors per hat.

One of the things I love about more irregular, organic motifs like this is that the pesky, end-of-the-round jog that drives me nuts with geometric motifs nearly disappears here.  The hat as worn was photographed with the end of the round showing, but far less than usual, dead center.

* * * * *

The North Star Hat combines some simple shaping with simultaneous chart work, yet the motifs are traditional, old favorites that are easy to track.  As soon as I completed the one you see here, my rowdy boys were clamoring for North Star Hats of their own, so I guess we can call them “unisex”, too.

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North Star Hats in Hegre, using 1 50g ball of medium sheep heather #3841 and 1 50g ball of light sheep heather #2931.

I’m hoping they’ll both make great “next step” projects…and awesome gifts… for any stranded knitting nut…or their nutty friends and family:

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I knit the boys’ must-be-machine-washable hats in Dale of Norway Freestyle yarn – again, just 2 50g balls total; 1 each of 2 contrasting colors.

There are three sizes within each design – youth, average adult and extra large adult – the different sizes are achieved simply through different gauges. Let me know if you have any further questions.  Happy knitting!

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Old and new, from Dale Baby

We’ve recently added Dale of Norway’s sweet new book of baby designs, Book NR 247.  The real Dale aficionados among you might notice a few reprises of classics from many years ago; plus, there are several new, delightful designs to discover. It includes a few new yarns which we’re carrying, too (more on them shortly!)

(The instructions in Book 247 are entirely in English.)

We’ve also just received a wonderful old Dale Baby pattern that’s long out-of-print, #8105.  It’s an adorable reindeer set knit in Baby Ull in sizes 3, 6, 12, 18 & 24 months. You can request a FREE copy of this pattern with your Dale yarn purchase for the corresponding project.

Dale of Norway NR 81 baby reindeer sweater knitting pattern

Below you’ll see the original yarn requirements.  Some of the colors have changed a bit, but there are current equivalents, and countless other possible combinations.  If you’re unsure about which colors would work best for you, post here or give me a call and we’ll work it out.

yarn requirements for out of print baby 81 reindeer pattern

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Return of the Vikings

Waaaaay back in ’06, I made these Viking Hats for my dear son #2, Alex.

Viking hat with horns, knit in Dale of Norway Falk or Heilo yarn

Viking Hat by Mary Ann Stephens

Back then, to the casual observer, Alex was a mild-mannered, studious sort; hence the relatively tame, blue version.  But even in those early years, those of us who knew Alex well hailed him more appropriately as “Alex the Barbarian”; hence, the horned version.

Viking hat

A LYS called me yesterday, asking where they could get the pattern for this old favorite of a hat.  It’s been on the Kidsknits site for years, but only as a kit, using either Dale of Norway Falk (superwash**) or Heilo (handwash) yarn.  I was happy to set it up as a PDF for them.  In fact, it gave me a chance to rework the pattern a bit, simplifying it with a fully-detailed chart and an easier-on-the-eyes layout.  And, of course, it gave me a chance to show off my hopefully-nearly-full-grown, delightful barbarian in his well-worn, much-loved, yet still good-as-new hat.  (Reason #386 why I love Dale yarns.  Ha!  Try that with some cheap Chinese knock-off!!)

If you’re interested in the new PDF, you can find it here, through Ravelry. It’s also available through Ravelry’s in-store LYS program. Here’s the Ravelry project page.

Hope you have fun with it!

P. S.  Official Disclaimer: While Alex is definitely part Viking and God knows that lovable fellow is largely Barbarian, any close resemblance these hats may have to historic Viking hats &/or helmets would be oh-so-highly-unlikely and purely coincidental. We extend our sincere apologies to all mild-mannered Viking historians. 😉

** Yes, you know I love Heilo, but of course the Barbarian’s hats were made in superwash Falk – are you kidding?!?!?!

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Hedgerow Fingerless Mittens

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My Hedgerow Fingerless Mittens require only two 50-g balls – 1 light, 1 dark – in your favorite shades of either Heilo or Falk. The instructions offer sizing for average adult & extra large adult.

The PDF is available for $5 through Ravelry.

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Fishy Booty

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…Or, how to get maximum cuteness from one tiny pile of sock yarn scraps…

The Fishy Booty design is knit circularly and seamlessly, using mainly garter stitch, with a few priceless little rounds of stranded garter stitch (which is explained in the pattern).  The pattern has 2 sizes, newborn-to-3 months and 6-to-9 months.  The sample you see here used Dale of Norway Baby Ull merino yarn scraps (I’m only knee-deep in Baby Ull), but you can use most any fingering weight sock yarn. You can see the colors used in my sample on my Ravelry project page.

Happy fishing…er, knitting!

Knit booties with fish motif knit in Dale of Norway Baby Ull merino wool yarn

Fishy Booty

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The Nomad Earflap Hat

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

That's my oldest son, Christian, in his "Nomad" hat

Fair Isle style earflap hat knit in Dale of Norway Hubro bulky weight yarn

Now all he needs is some snow!

Knit in Dale of Norway Hubro yarn at a super speedy, yet oh-so-cozy  3 sts/inch.  Choose any 3 contrasting shades of Hubro; you’ll need 1 ball of each.  (If you have some Hubro on hand, you’ll want an entire 100g / 3.5 oz ball of the main color, but you’ll only need 1 ounce or so of the 2 contrasting colors.)  The PDF is available for $6 through Ravelry.

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New Dale Kits page added for out-of-print goodies

Dale of Norway / Dalegarn Book NR 147

One of the many out-of-print Dale designs available in kit form

At the top of this page, on the far right, you’ll see a new “Dale Kits” tab.  Click it and you’ll land on a new page here on the Two Strands blog where I’m building the long, and growing, list of glorious Dale goodies in my library that are available for DofN’s wonderful out-of-print free pattern service.  There’s a lot to show you, so it will be a work in progress for quite a while.  But feel free to check it out, peruse the Ravely links and don’t hesitate with the questions / comments.  Have fun!

 

 

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Two New Knitting Classes – Stranded Mittens and Circular Booties

Please note: These classes took place in 2011; they are not offered currently.

I had a wonderful time teaching the Fair Isle Hat class at Keep Me In Stitches a few weeks ago.  In fact, I think everybody had a lot of fun, for I’m now signed up to teach two more classes there:

The first one will be a stranded mittens class, centered around my Chrysanthemum Mittens design.

Chrysanthemum Mittens, knit in Dale of Norway sport weight yarn, a free knitting pattern by Mary Ann Stephens

Ladies’ Chrysanthemum Mittens

Skills covered will include:
Circular knitting
Chart reading
Stranded swatching
Stranded braids
Stranded purling
Stranded knitting
Mitten shaping
and, of course, any questions that pop up along the way.

There will be two sessions, with 3 weekly classes in each:
Wednesday 1-3pm: January 18th, January 25th & February 1st, OR…
Saturday 1-3pm: January 21st, January 28th & February 4th.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

The second upcoming class will center around my recent “Booties for a Special Day” design:

Booties for a Special Day, a knitting design by Mary Ann Stephens for Kidsknits.com

Booties for a Special Day, a knitting design by Mary Ann Stephens for Kidsknits.com

Skills covered will include:
Circular knitting (see Note, below)
Hemming as you knit
Basic lace knitting
Bootie shaping, with picking up sts and with decreasing
Decorative and symmetrical decreasing
I-cord
and, of course, any questions that pop up along the way.

Note: While it’s possible to knit these booties on circulars, I think dpns make the layout of this project easier to manage.

Booties for a Special Day, circularly knit

Booties for a Special Day, circularly knit with no internal seams

(You can also see more info about this design on my Kidsknits.com site, here.  But, remember – if you’re planning to come to either class, our host, the sweet-as-can-be Rebecca will get you set up with yarn through her store.)

Again, there will be two sessions, with 3 weekly classes in either session:
Wednesday 1-3pm: February 29th (Now really, how often do you get to take a knitting class on 2/29?! 😉 ), March 7th & March 14th, OR…
Saturday 1-3pm: March 3rd, March 10th & March 17th.

Hope to see you there!

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Perfect Mitten Blockers, on the Cheap

Right about now, I’d guess quite a few of you are finishing up Mitten #2, and you’re looking forward to that sparkling moment when you present your beautiful work to a (hopefully deserving and endlessly appreciative) special someone.  Before you wrap those dear mittens up and hand them over,  don’t make the common mistake of skimping on blocking – it’s a simple step that can really elevate even problematic knitting from “homemade” to “exquisite”.  If you’re wondering “How the heck do I block mittens?”, step right this way!

how to block mittens

Homemade blockers for exquisite mittens

Okay, they’re not exactly fancy, but I’ve used the above homemade blockers to give the finishing touch to every mitten of mine that you’ve seen over the last several years and they’ve worked out perfectly.  I just cut 2 identical mitten shapes out of corrugated cardboard, sandwich them together with packaging tape (which has the side benefit of being waterproof), wash my mittens, blot any excess water out of them and then let them dry overnight with one of these blockers tucked inside.  I usually want about an 8″ circumference mitten, so I draw an outline with a width that’s just slightly narrower than half that amount, i.e., about 3  7/8″. (Remember, the thickness of the 2 layers of cardboard will contribute to the circumference, too.)

8" blocker

Check circumference before taping

The length is not crucial. In fact, if you have a straight, Latvian-style mitten, like Amaryllis, it won’t even matter if your blocker extends out below the cuff.  (See blockers on the far right.) If you’re doing something with tapered cuffs, like my new Zinnia Mittens, it’s easy-peasy to just trim the sides a bit near the bottom to get a custom fit.  (See blockers on the left.) I haven’t had to worry about blocking the points at the top of my mittens – any fiddling needed there can usually be taken care of simply with a few pokes from a dpn.  But you could definitely use pointed tops on your blockers, if you prefer. As you can see, sometimes I think a pointed thumb blocker comes in handy.

Once you’re happy with your cardboard shapes, be certain to cover every bit of cardboard with packing tape, so that your blockers are waterproof and will last for years.

Happy blocking!

zinnia mittens

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Zinnia Mittens, Twist Collective Winter 2011

Yippee, the new Twist Collective is out!  There are so many beautiful designs in this issue! I’m honored to have my Zinnia mittens among them:

Zinnia mittens by Mary Ann Stephens, Twist Collective Winter 2011

"Zinnia", my knitting design for Twist Collective Winter 2011

fair isle Zinnia mittens from Twist Collective Winter 2011

"Zinnia", front and back, knit for Twist Collective in Tunney's O-Wool Classic 2-ply

Zinnia mittens knit in Dale of Norway Baby Ull yarn, Mary Ann Stephens 2011

"Zinnia" mittens knit in Dale of Norway Baby Ull yarn

The links:

Zinnia on Twist Collective, main pattern page

Zinnia on Twist Collective, detail page

Zinnia on Ravelry

Baby Ull yarn for Zinnia on Kidsknits.com (get 2 balls of the background color, 1 of the motif color)

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Snowbird Hat

Snowbird Hat, a chunky knit cabled knitting pattern design by Mary Ann Stephens

Snowbird Hat

My Snowbird Hat, knit in Dale of Norway’s Hubro, a tremendously soft, chunky 100% wool yarn which knits up in a blink.  The PDF for this design is sold through Ravelry.

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I’ll be teaching a class for my Vogue Knitting hat

Fair Isle Hat Vogue Knitting Fall 2011

Fair Isle Hat from VK Fall 2011

Please note: This class was offered in 2011; it is not offered currently.

I’ll be teaching a class for my Vogue Knitting Fair Isle Hat #08 this November / December with the wonderful folks at Keep Me In Stitches, here on Long Island. They’re setting up the details (they do all sorts of great things over there 🙂 ), so if you’re interested, contact them through their website, or email them at: info AT kmisyarns DOT com or call them at 631-724-8111 for details.

Hope to see you there!

Mary Ann

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Creating Knitting Pattern PDFs

I’m often asked “What special software packages do you use to create your knitting pattern PDFs?” and the apparently surprising answer is “Nothing special, really!”  Ninety-nine percent of my work is done in Microsoft Excel (for charts) and Word (for text). (I’m using the 2010 versions of each, with Windows 7.) If you’re already familiar with the basics of using Word for your documents and Excel for your spreadsheets, follow along and you’ll soon see that you really have some of the best “knitting software” possible, right at your fingertips.

Shrink your Excel column widths to about “2” and format your cell borders with a solid line and you’ve got instant graph paper (“How to” notes, at the end of this post).

Fill in your cells with the colors &/or symbols that represent your swatches; then copy, cut and paste to your heart’s content.

knitting charts for colorwork in excel

charting a snowflake in excel

If you do lace, cables or twisted stitches, I do suggest adding a knitting font package to your Excel setup, so that you can seamlessly add knitting symbols to your charts, just as easily as inserting any other symbols from the pull-downs in Excel.  Now that’s gonna set you back some… a whole $6!  Well worth it! (No affiliation, but I’m very happy with it.)  ETA: Actually, this knitting font set is nice, too, and it’s free (to individuals), too!

I used to use PhotoShop, to hide my inept photography skills and my crimes against Aestheticism.  Still do, once in a blue moon.  But, if you have Microsoft Office 2010 running, you already have some great, built-in utilities at your fingertips for refining digital images for use in patterns.

PDFs, or “portable document format” files, have become the standard vehicle for transmitting knitting patterns, and countless other documents, on-line so that they remain unchanged. Prior to updating to the 2010 version of Word, I did use a separate utility for converting my Word document files into fixed, final pdf format.  You can find such utilities for free on-line.  However, it’s far nicer  – and way easier – to avoid the unnecessary uploading and download required for having a 3rd party format your PDFs. If you’ve updated to Microsoft Word 2010, I think you’ll be very pleased to find that converting a Word document to a PDF is as simple as saving your file. This will work beautifully, not only for creating knitting pattern PDFs, but for saving any sort of document that can be shared but must stay unchanged – everything from recipes, where you really don’t want that “1 tsp salt” to inadvertently become “10 tsp salt”, to financial and legal documents.   Here are all the details you’ll need for converting your Word files into fixed and transmittable PDFs:

Rather than the standard “Save” command, use the “Save As” command. Click on the arrow at the far right of the “Save as type” bar near the bottom (the bar will default to “Word Document”, but you’ll be changing that option) and scroll down to “PDF”; click on PDF and you’ll see that the file type has changed from “Word Document” to “PDF”. Now, just click “Save” and you’re all done!

Excel notes:

You can fiddle with that column width size, if you’d like, to get proportions equal to your knitting gauge.  To set your column size, just drag your mouse across the letters at the top of the columns to highlight the area you want to format, right-click your mouse, click on “Column Width”, type in 2 and hit return (or click “OK”.)  Right-click and select the “Format Cells” menu. You’ll see the “Border” tab near the top; it will get you into options for darkening the gridlines for your graph paper (be sure to select a solid line option you like and then apply it by clicking on both the “Outline” and the “Inside” little windows.)  The “Fill” tab will offer you a palette of colors &/or patterns for your chartwork.  Click on “More Colors” if you’d like to customize your palette further.  (Someday, we’ll have to talk about all the fun you can have getting really carried away with setting up customized color themes through the “Page Layout” / “Color” options at the top left of the main menu. ) Use the Insert / symbols commands to place those knitting font symbols wherever your heart desires.

There are, of course, many more details you can get into for managing charts within Excel, but these are the basics that you’ll need to get started.  Happy Charting!

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Snow Day Hat…

…or “How I Survived A Sweltering September With One Easy Project”:

Snow Day Hat, a stranded knitting design

Snow Day Hat

And all it took was 2 balls of Dale of Norway Freestyle yarn (plus a lot of wishful thinking.)

Are you starting to “Think Snow”, too?  Here’s the PDF, for sale on Ravelry.

 

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Dale Book NR 235: “Julevott Adventkalender”

Advent calendar book from Dale of Norway

Dale of Norway's Book 235 IN NORWEGIAN ONLY!!

That’s Dale of Norway’s Book NR 235 and it’s in stock (for now) at Kidsknits.com.  It includes instructions for several winter and Christmastime gifts to knit, such as hats, mittens, scarves, afghans, ornaments, etc., including the “Julevott Adventkalender” (mini-Christmas mitten advent calendar) you see on its cover.

All of the other Dale books we carry include knitting instructions in English, but this one does NOT.  This one is only available in Norwegian and if you’re lucky enough to speak Norwegian, great, you’re all set.  However, even if you can’t tell your “garn” from your “pinne”, you’ll still be able to make the mini-mittens, for all of the mittens’ charts are included in the book and they’re really pretty universal.  (Plus, if you have questions, you know where to find me!)

 

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How to make a tassel

Tassel from Fair Isle Hat

The tassel from my "Fair Isle Hat"

A few folks have asked me how I made the tassel on my Fair Isle Hat that’s in the Fall 2011 edition of Vogue Knitting.  Not too surprisingly, to save space and to fit more designs into their biggest issue of the year, VK trimmed away any pattern info, like tassel instructions, that some might consider unimportant.  What, the tassel is important to you?  Me, too!  So here are my original tassel instructions for you, thanks to the roomy nature of the internet:

Tassel

Wrap MC and CC together approx. 30 times around width of a credit card. Insert tapestry needle threaded with approx 10” of CC under all wraps; tie wraps together tightly. Remove card.  Wrap one end of approx 16” of MC 10 times tightly around loops, approx ¾” from tied-off top; thread loose end of MC through tapestry needle; feed needle from top of wraps down through middle of tassel.  Thread both tied-off ends at top of tassel and end of I-cord down through top of tassel; tie ends  together tightly inside tassel. Trim bottom of tassel evenly.

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Ruth’s Tiger Lily

I want to share with you a wonderful photo I recently received from a very talented customer:

Tiger Lily Jacket in a green colorway, knit and worn by Ruth

Ruth in her green version of the Tiger Lily Jacket

That’s Ruth modeling her green version of my old Tiger Lily Jacket design.  Isn’t her knitting just beautiful?!  And I love those Falk greens together; they work so nicely with the floral motifs in Tiger Lily.

If you have the Tiger Lily pattern (printed pattern or kit available through above link; also available now as a PDF through Ravelry) the Dale of Norway Falk color substitutions for this green colorway are:

A = Spring green / moss green #9133

B = Natural #0020

C = Dark Olive #8972

D = Citron #9725

I did my original Tiger Lily Jacket, years ago, in Heilo, reflecting the orange and rust shades of the Tiger Lilies in my yard:

Tiger Lily Jacket by Mary Ann Stephens

The Original

Not everyone wears a whole lot of orange.  Not every Heilo shade stays around forever, either.  So, whether by choice or lack thereof, quite a few different, yet lovely, Tiger Lily colorways have been knit up over the years.

So what colors would you like in your Tiger Lily?

 

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Fair Isle Hat in Vogue Knitting Fall 2011 – chart errata

Fair Isle Hat Vogue Knitting Fall 2011 errata

Fair Isle Hat from VK Fall 2011 – See chart errata below

There are few things I enjoy more than bumming around bookstores, so I generally prefer to pick and choose my knitting magazines from my favorite stores, rather than to receive them all via subscription.  Recent events might force me to change that strategy a bit, though.

Somehow, a wonderful Ravelry knitter already has her Fall 2011 VK before the bookstores around here do. So she’s seen it, she’s even knitting away with my pattern, before I’ve even seen the VK rendition myself. Thankfully, she was kind enough to post a couple of comments on the design’s Ravelry page, mentioning errors she found on the VK chart. Not only that, she was extra-super-sweet-with-a-cherry-on-top; she scanned the chart and sent it to me so that I could see where the misprints were.  And, they are:

1) There’s an extra white stitch showing in the upper right quadrant of the lower snowflake.  Column #9, Row #14 should be worked in the Main Color (MC), black.

2) See the vertical line of smaller diamonds that goes between the snowflakes? There are extra white stitches showing (just to the right of the top) on the 3rd and 4th diamonds (counting from the bottom up.)

I haven’t been able to go over the text yet, but naturally, if you have any questions about it, please don’t hesitate to post any questions here.  Once I finally get my copy, I’ll let you know if I find anything further.   I hope you’ll get a chance to see the Fall 2011 VK; there really is an especially nice collection of stranded work in this issue!

ETA: Now that I finally have the magazine in hand and can read their full text, I see they have a mistake in the text, too. Their row #’s are off by 1 in the “Beg chart” and “Crown shaping” sections. The first S2KP symbol on their chart is on the first st of Row 34. For it to be centered over that first st column, the text instructions should tell you to work it over the last st in Row 33 + the first & second sts from Row 34. Given the row #s in their chart, be sure to work straight through rnd 32, work to 1 st before the marker (at end of rnd) in rnd 33, then work your first S2KP decrease.

ETA: Vogue Knitting has corrected their chart and published it on their site. The new chart is fine…as long as you begin your decreases one round earlier than indicated in the text of the original (printed magazine) version, as explained above.

I’ve been told that the corrected chart and the corrected text will be in the upcoming PDF.

ETA: Link to PDF available for purchase through Vogue Knitting.

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Fair Isle Hat, Vogue Knitting Fall 2011

Fair Isle Hat from Vogue Knitting Fall 2011, Mary Ann Stephens

ETA: Link to PDF available through Vogue Knitting.

That’s my “#08 Fair Isle Hat” that just came out in Vogue Knitting Fall 2011.  While I was waiting for the black and white Cascade 220 Sport to arrive from Vogue Knitting (seen above),  I made up the prototype in charcoal heather and natural Dale of Norway Heilo, for my oldest son, Christian, below.

Christian's Fair Isle hat in Heilo yarn

Christian’s Fair Isle Hat in Heilo

ETA:  If you choose to knit it in Heilo, you’ll want 2 balls of the background color (charcoal heather, in this case) and 1 of the motif (natural).  If you want to knit it in Falk, I did one that took  every last little bit of 1 ball of the background (you might want 2 balls, to be safe) and 1 of the motif.

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A few Heilo shades added to the Yarn on Sale page

Check out the updated Yarn on Sale page – I’ve added 4 discontinued shades of Heilo – yep, H-E-I-L-O –  to the clearance page!

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Dale’s Ladybug design in my Girlybug colorway

Dale of Norway has an extraordinary number of beloved designs for children, but I guess the most beloved of all would have to be their “Marihone”, or “Ladybug”, sweater.

knitting pattern for ladybug marihone baby sweater from dale of norway at kidsknits.com

Dale of Norway's "Marihøne", aka "Ladybug", baby sweater knitting design

I have more than a few customers whose first reaction, upon hearing that someone is expecting a baby, is to order up yet another batch of Dale Baby Ull yarn for yet another baby-shower-show-stopping Ladybug sweater.  The original lively colors and adorable motif work well for any little lovebug, male or female.  Yet lately, as more mothers happily broadcast the sex of their little bundle months before the stork makes his delivery, I’m getting more requests for girly colorwork Dale designs.  Actually, they have quite a few of them, but I really liked the idea of combining an all-time favorite with some of their more girly shades of Baby Ull to come up with my own “Girlybug” colorway.

knitting for baby - pastel colors for Dale Marihone Ladybug baby sweater

My pastel "Girlybug" colorway for the Dale of Norway Marihøne, or "Ladybug", baby sweater

I’ve charted these pastel shades out so that they correspond with the colorway color numbers in the Dale of Norway “Marihone” pattern.  If you’re using one of the original, out-of-print patterns, you’ll see they number the shades “MC, CC1 thru CC6”; if you’re using the current Book 8102, you’ll see they number those same charted values as “color 1 thru color 7”.  Either rendition will work with my colors, below:

yarn for knitting ladybug baby sweater in girl's shades of Baby Ull

Baby Ull yarn colors used in my pastel version of the Marihøne, or Ladybug, knitting design

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Booties for a Special Day

Booties for a Special Day from Kidsknits.com

Booties for a Special Day

OMG, these were so much fun to make!  I’ve done so many adult-sized things lately that I had nearly forgotten the thrill that comes from the quick turnaround of knitting little babies’ things.  Of course, I wasn’t looking for lightening speed – that plain old chunky knit, do-it-all-during-a-commercial kind of speed.  No, that wouldn’t do; there had to be some fussing.  And I had to put myself through the usual bit of mind bending to get things “just so”.  But I got there.  And here’s the result, my “Booties for a Special Day” which offer some special features to please fussy babies, fussy parents and fussy knitters, too.

Booties for a Special Day, circularly knit

Booties for a Special Day, circularly knit with no internal seams

For us knitting fusspots, I worked things out so that there’s not a single stitch of seaming to be done and I did it in beloved Dale of Norway Baby Ull, which is always a treat to knit with.

Of course, the moms (and maybe even a few dads) will appreciate that Baby Ull can be tossed in the washing machine.  Plus, there’s a “stay put” lace cuff that is guaranteed to sit still and behave itself all day long.  Isn’t it great to have special little touches that don’t require all-day fixing, flattening, folding…fussing?

For those dear, fussy little sweethearts, I worked the joins so that the ridges are on the outside, where they’re actually decorative, rather than on the inside (where most designs put them) right where they can irritate those sweet, tender, delicious little footies.  Can’t have that!

Anyway, I hope you like ’em!  Happy knitting!

Oh, and one personal note: See the lace dress in the background of the photo, above?  That’s my christening gown!  Actually, it was my brothers’, too…and my sons’…and…hopefully, another sweetheart’s, someday waaaaaay down the road from now.  You know, like once my boys reach 30 or so, when it might occasionally be acceptable to like a girl besides Mom. 😉

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Wintergarden now available as PDF through Ravelry

I have two quick bits of news for you.  First, I’ve finally gotten around to formatting my ladies’ Wintergarden Pullover as a PDF and it’s now available through Ravelry.

stranded knitting pattern pdf for fair isle panel style ladies sweater

Secondly, it turns out Gracie is a knitter!  (I guess that explains her smile.)

A while ago, we were out on some errands and got home later than expected.  In the meantime, poor Gracie was left home alone to entertain herself. And that she did!  She found my knitting basket in the family room, selected some favorites and apparently proceeded to make six separate, determined trips back and forth from the family room to the front door to gather her supplies and begin her new project.  When we returned, Gracie danced with immense pride, right next to one impressive mound of snarled, scrambled, slobbered Noro, along with six shredded – but matching!! – ball bands.  I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry.  I wish I had grabbed my camera, but I was too shocked by thoughts of the $$$ her new WIP represented.  My husband and boys mercifully cleared the remains.

Now that my knitting basket is safely tucked way beyond her reach and we’ve invested in some heavy duty chew toys, I’ve decided to be favorably impressed. And I’ll share with you this sweet photo taken today:

the dog loves yarn

A golden dog with an eye for color!

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Links to the 3 new Dale books on Kidsknits.com

Oslo 2011 Book 228

Baby Book 229

Kids Book 230

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Yarn on Sale

I’ve just made a bunch of updates to the “Yarn on Sale” page.  (See also top right of menu.) Definitely check it out – there are some beautiful deals here!  Since they’re predominantly discontinued yarns, email me at mas “AT” kidsknits “DOT” com or call the toll-free line, 877-631-3031.  Happy knitting!

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New Dale Books: Oslo 2011 NR 228, Baby NR 209 and Kids NR 230

We’ve just received a shipment of three brand new Dale books, with instructions in English.  Hopefully, they’ll be up on the website before long. But, in the meantime, click on the links below to see gorgeous full screen PDF photos of the designs.  If you’d like to order any of them, or if you have any questions, feel free to call or email. (mas “AT” kidsknits “DOT” com or 877-631-3031 toll-free.)

Dale of Norway Book NR 228 Oslo 2011

Oslo 2011 NR 228

Dale of Norway Knitting Book NR 228 Oslo 2011

Our price for Oslo 2011 is $12.95 + s/h.

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NR229 Baby book from Dale of Norway

NR 229 baby PDF

Dale of Norway Knitting Book Baby NR 229

Our price for Baby 229 is $18.95 + s/h

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Dale of Norway Kids Book 230

Dale of Norway Kids Book 230

Dale of Norway Knitting Book Kids 230

Our price for Kids Book 230 is $16.95

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Tulip Mittens, a Fair Isle / Norwegian / Turkish stranded knitting design

Tulip Mittens, fair isle ladies' mittens knit in shetland spindrift yarn

I knit my ladies’ Tulip Mittens in 3 shades of Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift jumper weight wool –  two 25g balls for the medium blue, “Merlin”, one ball of the light “Natural White” and one ball of the dark “Prussian Blue”.  If you’d like the kit (printed pattern plus 4 balls of Spindrift in colors shown), you can find it here on my Kidsknits.com site I think there are countless possibilities for other color combinations, too, so if you’d like to play around with some light, medium and dark shades in your stash, here’s the link to the pattern PDF ($6) on Ravelry.com.  Hope you like ’em!

fair isle style tulip mittens

Put your own secret messages inside those stealth thumbs!

fair isle style mittens with hidden thumbs

Palm side with stealth thumbs

mitten knitting design with floral motif stealth thumbs date and initials on thumb

Palm side showing thumb messages

The pattern includes the charts for the numbers and the alphabet so that you can customize your thumb messages.  Have fun!

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Happy Thanksgiving – a free chart

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

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Rosalia Encore: the longer version

I used Dale of Norway Falk for my original Rosalia, mainly because of the great range of colors available in that line.  But there are plenty of other sport weight yarn options you could use, like Dale of Norway Heilo (the one yarn I’ll pack with me the next time I’m banished to a desert island.)

As for colors, of course, you could knit your Rosalia in whatever 5 colors strike your fancy.  (Actually, you could get away with just 2 colors, if you’re so inclined.) Me, although I love the vivid colors of the original, I kept imagining a little voice – with a heavy New York accent – saying “Dahlink, you need this in neutrals!”

There are 3 sleeve length options in the pattern and you can easily change the body length, too.  I really wanted to show you some of these variations on the Rosalia theme, but after knitting my original, my arthritic hands weren’t quite as thrilled with the encore idea.  Enter Debra Thayer, the most wonderful  test knitter I could ever ask for.

Debbie knit “Rosalia Encore” for me in Heilo, using charcoal grey for the background, mist for the motif, grey heather for the zigzag, and light steel blue (which I always think of as “sea green”) and petrol for the accents.  She used the full-length sleeves with only 1 shoulder stripe and she added 1 extra repeat in the length.  She used the middle size (as I did for my original) and, interestingly, she told me her variations upon the middle size ended up taking exactly the same amount of yarn as is called for in the largest size.

fair isle style knit kimono back

(That’s my husband’s shadow, to the right, and no, thankfully, he doesn’t really look anything like that!)

Rosalia knitting design worn by designer Mary Ann Stephens

The original with 3/4 sleeves:

knitting design Rosalia on designer Mary Ann Stephens

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Rosalia: a Fair Isle / Norwegian / Asian design

My “Rosalia” is now out in the Winter 2010 edition of Twist Collective.

blocked knitting, drying in the sun

"Rosalia", by Mary Ann Stephens. See Twist Collective Winter 2010.

knitting design Rosalia on designer Mary Ann Stephens

The usual suspect in "Rosalia".

Steeks finished off inside stranded knitting jacket "Rosalia"

The departing view. Check out the neat finish on the covered steek!

For those of you asking “What was she thinking?!?!?!?!”, I offer the following excuses:

knitting inspiration from Imperial China

What the heck is that thing???

When I was a child, unless it was Christmas or Easter, we simply were not allowed in the living room.  Period!  My mother’s living room housed all manner of fascinating treasures that were not at all suited to inspection by a tree-climbing, rope-swinging, ball-playing tomboy like me.  And so, naturally, I could often be found there, inspecting.  Among my favorites were her pieces of Rose Medallion, a type of 19th century Chinese export porcelain awash in roses, depicting all manner of captivating scenes from imperial life.  (Plus a few mysteries, too.  The above bowl is probably not the highest quality specimen, but it has always been a most confounding one. Can anyone tell me why this bowl features a belt stuffed in a pastry bag?  Or is that a hacksaw sheathed in a diaper?  Or…?  What the heck IS that thing?! And who knew we needed so many of them?!)

As a busy breakables investigator, it was obvious to this child that everyone who was anyone had a kimono.  I vowed that someday, I would have one, too.  Hopefully, it would be one with plenty of deep, rosy pink in it! (Is there anything that little girls love more than the color pink?)

These days, whether I’m standing over the stove, stirring dinner,  or shifting into drive, zipping kids around, the last thing I want to worry about is tripping on my sleeves…and I’m just the girl to do it!  Over the years, my full-length dream kimono’s silhouette, informed by an overactive imagination completely unencumbered by the petty strictures of reality, morphed into the shape of Rosalia: it became, in a word, Practical.

I’ll leave it to you to imagine some of the illustrative pitfalls that arose along that morphing journey. 😉 Fortunately, the internet provides a wealth of not only safe-from-a-distance inspiration for our wildest dreams, but a good dose of practical information, too.  Search around for kimonos and, eventually, you’ll find happi coats – short,  practical variants of kimonos, made for festivities and adorned with mons, or crests, on the back, to identify the festival goers.  I guess you could say Rosalia lies somewhere between a traditional Nordic cardigan and a traditional Happi coat, complete with its very own mon.

embroidery and knitting close up on Norwegian, Fair Isle and Asian influenced knitwear design

Most of the motifs I knit are  either purely geometric or floral; Rosalia’s main motif is a combination of the two.  As I sat at my desk, pixel wrangling charts in Excel (yep, I always do my charts in plain old Excel) it occurred to me that the motifs I was favoring reminded me of two things: pomegranates, with all of those tiny seeds within a circle…

pomegranatepomegranate top

…or stained glass windows, with circle upon circle inscribing diamonds in between.  More thoughts of stained glass brought to mind rose windows, the magnificent blossoms of stained glass that highlight the main entrances of many Gothic cathedrals.

It’s funny how the mind works when designing something: propelled by the excitement of an idea, we forge madly ahead, certain we’re creating something brand new, something entirely original, inspired from within, something never seen before.  That’s how I felt as I charted out the crest for the back of Rosalia.  It was my one-of-a-kind idea, never-seen-before motif. Until later, when I googled the images for rose windows.  See the one that’s most like Rosalia’s?  Yep, that’s it!  The one from the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, nor far from here, right up there in upper Manhattan.  The rose window this New Yorker has seen the most.  LOL!

Now, for a name.  Between the Rose Medallion and the rose windows, obviously, it should be called “Rose-something”.  So, I named it “Pomegranate”.  Kate Gilbert, the wonderful creative director of Twist Collective, was kind enough to point out that the knitting world is already awash in “Pomegranates”.  And so, it is named “Rosalia”, in honor of my Danish great-grandmother. LOL again!

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The dearest beast is dead, long live the dearest beast!

Ah, autumn, at last!  I hope you all had wonderful times this summer.  We did, too, although the summer began with great sadness: we lost our dearest beast, Bubba.  He was 14 1/2 years old – downright ancient for a Golden Retriever – yet every second of his long life held nothing but sweetness.  Here’s the dear old fellow in his heyday:

Our first golden retriever, Bubba

Bubba, the dearest beast

After he passed, everyone had the same question: “Are you going to replace him with another dog?”  It took a long time to answer.  Bubba was not just another dog and he could never be replaced.  But the family had a hole in its heart that just had to be filled again.  And so, after due consideration of myriad possibilities, we decided that it really didn’t matter that the vacuum trembled in fear whenever a Golden passed by; their dear nature could excuse anything.

And so, let me introduce you to my new baby, “Gracie”:

Golden retriever, Gracie

Gracie. the dearest beast.

Adorable, no?!  That was taken just last Saturday, when we brought her home.  It’s been quite a sleep-deprived week, but we’re all madly in love with her.  And, she’s quite inspiring, too:

Golden Retriever Chart by Mary Ann Stephens, copyright 2010

Golden Retriever Chart by Mary Ann Stephens, copyright 2010

Click on the chart to see a larger, clearer version. Right click on the larger version to download a copy.

Please feel free to use this chart wherever it might make a dog lover smile.  Personally, I’d do it in duplicate stitch, to turn plain hats and sweaters from dull to delightful.  You could also do it in needlepoint, cross stitch, whatever works!  Have fun!

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“Norwegian Sweater Techniques for Today’s Knitter” by Therese Chynoweth

Norwegian Sweater Techniques by Therese Chynoweth

Norwegian Sweater Techniques by Therese Chynoweth

I’ve been looking forward to getting my hands on “Norwegian Sweater Techniques for Today’s Knitter” by the wonderful Therese Chynoweth. At last, it made its merry way to my desk last week.  What a treat!  I’m so delighted by this book!  But, I knew I would be.

As some of you may know, Therese was the yarn director at Dale of Norway US for several years.  While there, she wore many hats: editing patterns, marketing yarn, teaching classes and, somehow, even finding time for some of her own designing.  Over the years, I got to know her as the sure-bet lifeline I’d call upon whenever any thorny Dale pattern questions arose.  Usually, she knew the precise answer off the top of her head. When that wasn’t an option, she had the most practical work-around at her fingertips. When a new approach was required, she could explain every detail of any needed technique brilliantly. And in great humor. So, it comes as no surprise that her book is a lovely, invaluable guide for any knitter interested in learning the elegant-yet-practical details behind the Norwegian knitting techniques that helped to make Dale sweaters famous.

All of the designs in the book feature some use of “cutting stitches”, as Norwegians tend to refer to them, or steeks, as they’re typically (albeit not officially) known.  I love that they’re all displayed together in little thumbnails in the front, for a quick, one-glance  reference.  (Why don’t more books offer that?!) Dale aficionados will be happy to learn that “Norwegian Sweater Techniques for Today’s Knitter” includes three designs that are updated versions of some old Dale of Norway beauties. The rest are Therese Chynoweth originals.  There are about 100 helpful little “action shots” illustrating the steps taken in knitting Therese’s projects. Twenty designs in all are included – mostly ladies’ sweaters, but several nice things for men and kids, too.  You’ll also see a pillow, a purse and even a shawl.  Yes, a steeked shawl!  It’s great that Therese has included some of these smaller projects, for they’re the perfect way for beginners to get their feet wet with some of these techniques, while still being appealing quick gift projects for the pros.  Only seven of her designs feature colorwork, which I thought, at first, was surprising for a book so centered around the sew-and-cut approach.  But, it’s also very interesting to see how Therese broadens the use of steeks into some lovely, single-colored, modern silhouettes.  Whether a knitter favors colorwork, textures, cables, lace or plain old stockinette, there are projects in this book to show anyone how to beautifully (and sensibly) take scissors to knitting.

Nicely done, Therese!

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Amaryllis Hat knitting pattern PDF added to Ravelry

Amaryllis Hat in Baby Ull

Amaryllis Hat in Baby Ull

Amaryllis Hat in Shetland Spindrift

Okay, okay, I give up! I’ve just added the PDF for my ladies’ Amaryllis Hat to my Ravelry store.

It just kills me to say “No!” to knitters! When the Amaryllis Hat debuted on my Kidsknits.com site a few months ago, I issued it only as a kit, hoping that knitters who had invested in the kit would be less inclined to spread illicit copies of the pattern.  Actually, it seems that approach does more to punish the countless wonderful, honest knitters out there than it does to dissuade the copiers.

Several people have asked about getting just the pattern itself because they want to use some magnificent handspun yarn they’ve just worked up; I’d love to see that!  Some just want the pattern because they’re allergic to wool and can’t use the kit; I’d love to help them!  Some want it because they have the perfect colors to match their favorite coat, right there in the stash; been there myself! (Yes, that is the “usual suspect” in those photos, those hats do strategically match my coats and, yes, I do get “matchy-matchy” whenever possible.)  Of course, some feel it’s all they can afford; these days, that’s something we can all understand.

And so, to all of you who promise you “really, really, really” won’t pass around any copies of my hard-wrought pattern, I happily release it “into the wild”.  Thanks a million to all who buy the PDF and give it a whirl.  If questions or comments pop up, you know where to find me!  Happy knitting!

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A blue by any other name

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I get all sorts of interesting emails from my customers.  This morning, I received an interesting question that sparked off a delightful inquiry.  I hope you’ll enjoy the results as much as I did.

The question: “On the Falk Dalegarn yarn, what blue should I use if I am knitting a hat with the Dutch flag colors?”

The inquiry: As usual, it starts out at Google.com. Searching for “Dutch flag”, I’m promptly led to the Wikipedia page “Flag of the Kingdom of the Netherlands”  (thank goodness for redirection) where I find exactly what I was hoping for – the RGB (red/green/blue) numbers used to generate the “official” Dutch blue.  For all you die-hard do-it-yourselfers out there, it’s 33-70-139.  Microsoft has a nifty tool for customizing colors in its Excel spreadsheets and I used Excel with that Wikipedia RGB recipe to generate a swatch of this allegedly  “official” Dutch blue.  Then, I pulled out a ball of each of the Falk yarn blues that looked like close contenders, held them each up to the swatch on my monitor, scratched my head in disbelief, changed the lighting around, tried it again, more scratching, printed out the swatch, held it and the yarns up to the light, shook my head, took everything outside into natural light, came back inside and had a good laugh.

The nominees for the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Colorful Role were: Electric Blue, Deep Blue, Navy Blue, Norwegian Blue and Indigo…and the award for a perfect portrayal as the official Dutch Blue goes to…surprise…Norwegian Blue!!

Dutch Blue per Wikipedia

Dale Norwegian Blue #5744 portraying the official Dutch Blue

Of course, now that Dale of Norway’s Norwegian Blue is in the spotlight, aren’t you dying to know the whole scoop on the real Norwegian Blue of the Norwegian flag, too?  Back to Wikipedia, this time for the RGB numbers for the Norwegian flag’s blue:  00-28-68.  And just which Falk yarn color do you suppose matches the Norwegian flag’s blue?  Norwegian Blue?  Oh, come on, you know better than to fall for that!  Okay, here’s a hint:

Norwegian Flag on Wikipedia

Sorry, folks, but it looks like the Falk (or Heilo) color that’s the closest match to the blue of the Norwegian flag is Navy blue #5563.

Naturally, it’s tempting to wonder “Why the heck can’t they get these simple things right?!”  I’ve often thought it would be nice if yarn companies and, really, anybody else who’s selling anything in an array of colors, would provide a standardized way of letting us all know precisely what colors we’re seeing, whether it’s on-line or in the store, before something entirely unexpected shows up in our closets. RGB, CMYK, Pantone, I don’t care – just let me know what I’m looking at!  Then again, it’s those subtle differences from one shade to another that can make one yarn (or fabric, or paint, or just about anything) “just the ticket” and another one just so-so.  Surely, no company wants to give away the secrets behind a successful color range.  Can’t blame ’em!

And, it’s not just the yarn companies that have trouble keeping their colors straight.  Thinking a little further into my customer’s Dutch flag color question, I figured  we needed a much better name for the Dutch blue than “Norwegian blue” (yikes!)  The same Wikipedia article mentions that the Dutch blue, which you will remember is RGB 33-70-139, is “officially” called “Cobalt Blue”.  But if we know anything at all, we know to be skeptical of any of these labels…right?  So, what does the Wiki page on Cobalt Blue give for the RGB number?  I know, it would be sensible to think that it’s the same “official” Cobalt Blue number referred to on the Dutch Flag page, wouldn’t it? But, yep, you guessed it, it’s something a bit different!  Dale of Norway would call this Cobalt Blue “Electric Blue!”

Cobalt blue per Wiki RGB

Cobalt Blue equals Electric Blue

The moral of the story?  Stick with the numbers! And that’s “official”!

😉

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Answering the dreaded PDF question

I like knitting pattern PDFs.  I’ve bought a few myself.  In fact, even though I’m usually more inclined to relish diving into a long, deliciously-complicated, painstakingly drawn out design process for most anything I knit, I needed to knit a shawl pronto for an upcoming event and I  found something that fit the bill perfectly just a few days ago on Twist Collective.  I love Twist Collective – for the wonderful designs and articles, for the top-notch-yet-sweet-as-can-be folks who run it, for the valuable and greatly appreciated outlet it gives us indies for getting our work to a broader audience.  But, as wonderful as Twist Collective, and many of the other on-line and printed outlets, are for us indies, they don’t entirely supplant the need for our own, independent, individual outlets.  In fact, doing so would sort of kill the whole “indie” concept, wouldn’t it?!  And so, while I love being a part of such endeavors, I also keep plodding along, doing “my own thing”.

“My own thing” is stranded knitting;  stranded knitting with unusual motifs; unusual motifs that demand large repeats, often with a limited number of size possibilities. Hopefully, my own thing is occasionally your thing, too.  But I know it’s not most knitters’ thing.  And, it’s not most magazines’ thing, either.  But, without meaning any disrespect, I have to say that I really don’t care, for it’s what I love and I’ve (gratefully) been able to do it, through a combination of my own self-publishing and through partnerships, like Twist Collective.  But recently, a problem has surfaced.

Yesterday, I posted my latest design, my Amaryllis Hat, here (see post below), on my Kidsknits site and on Ravelry.  Apparently, it’s acceptable: within 1 day, it received 149 Ravelry “favorites”…and counting.  Thanks!  But, not a single sale. Yet, quite a few folks contacted me with inquiries about a PDF.  The short answer to the PDF question is “No, I’m sorry, but I can’t put so much work into something, only to get pennies out of it.”  Here’s the long answer, posted in response to the typical PDF question, this particular one posted as a comment on my pattern on Ravelry:

The question, as asked on Ravelry:  “Just wonderful! Can’t afford the kit, though. Do you think the pattern alone will be available at some time?”

My long answer, also posted on Ravelry:  “I always hate to say “no” to any knitter, so I’ll say that I might sell the pdf for the Amaryllis Hat someday; then again, if things continue as they have been, I’m pretty sure that I won’t. Truthfully, I’d really like to be able to offer everything as a pdf – it’s easier for both of us. But, as I hope you can understand, while I design and knit because it’s my passion, I sell my designs because I hope to make a little bit of money that way. Lately, I’ve seen overwhelming evidence that sales of pdfs by little independents like me do not make much money at all.

Originally, I sold my Amaryllis Mittens just as a kit. I always try to price my kits very competitively. As you’ll see from comments on my Ravelry page for my Amaryllis Mittens, folks were thoroughly pleased with the Amaryllis Mitten kits they purchased. I was thoroughly pleased, too, for I made a (small, fair) bit of money selling the yarn, in addition to the pattern, and that helped to justify the considerable amount of time I put into designing, knitting, publishing and supporting the mittens. Then, feeling mounting pressure, I published the Amaryllis Mitten pdf. Granted, I have sold a few of those pdfs, and I’m very grateful to each knitter who has bought it. But, I have not sold many. And sadly, sales of the somewhat more profitable kits have come to a screeching halt.

As you’ve probably noticed, many yarn stores hardly sell any knitting books or patterns at all these days. Little yarn store businesses, both brick-and-mortar and on-line, cannot compete with Amazon, the major knitting magazines and e-zines for pattern sales. Neither can I. Furthermore, the market for advanced stranded knitting designs is a small fraction of the entire knitting market. However, for each pattern to be knit, one does need yarn. Truthfully, there’s not a lot of money to be made selling yarn, either, but since designing, knitting and chatting with knitting customers are all things I just love doing, the little bit of money made from yarn sales (when they occur) is enough, to my mind, to justify continuing the business.

But, there’s a problem: I have a toll-free number for my business and I plaster my email on everything I publish. I really believe in being as helpful and informative as I can be about any of my products. And the fact is, it’s really enjoyable for me! But lately, I’ve received quite a few phone calls and emails from knitters who have the Amaryllis Mitten pdf, are planning to knit the mittens with their own yarn, but they are new to stranded knitting and whoever sold/gave them the pattern &/or yarn (not me) cannot (or will not) tell them anything about stranded knitting. Actually, there are a few problems with that scenario: Several of those folks did not purchase the pdf at all; they received (illicit) copies. Perhaps unbeknownst to them. Some of those copies were from stores that profited by selling yarn with (illicit) copies of my design. While I feel it’s important that I support my designs, I also feel it’s important that I not become a complete chump, helping other folks make money selling yarn while they steal from me.

Now, of course, I realize that there are some thoroughly wonderful folks who would like the pdf simply because they want to use their own stash yarn, want to use less expensive yarn, want to use different colors of yarn, want to use a different fiber, just want to read it the pattern but really don’t want to knit it…the list of perfectly plausible scenarios goes on and on. On one hand, it hurts me to not be able to give those dears folks everything they’re asking for. But the fact remains that, between all of the work that goes into a design like this, the relatively few knitters that are even interested in knitting something at this skill level, the time I (happily) spend helping knitters with questions and the many exasperating phone calls and emails I’ve received that were sparked by illicit pdf copies/sales, the only way for me to publish my designs independently and still have enough economic inspiration to keep doing it as an ongoing business is to sell my designs as kits.”

Mary Ann

Posted in Mary Ann's Designs, On Twist Collective | 9 Comments

Amaryllis Hat, a Fair Isle / Norwegian knitting design for a ladies’ hat

Amaryllis Hat by Mary Ann Stephens

My new ladies’ Amaryllis Hat coordinates with my old Amaryllis Mittens.  Kits for the hat and/or mittens are now available through my Kidsknits site.

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Vancouver – Back at it!

I had a little time this weekend to finally get back to my Vancouver v-neck.  Dale of Norway Vancouver v-neck knit by Mary Ann Stephens

The solid portions make for great spectator knitting but, boy, am I ever happy to be back into colorwork!

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Vancouver V-neck 21302 – errata

I’m plugging along happily on my Dale of Norway Vancouver V-neck. However, I have stumbled across a couple of minor errors in their Vancouver V-neck #21302 pattern that I thought I’d mention, since I know many of you are just starting out on your own versions.  If I encounter any other glitches along the way, I’ll post them here.

1) The ribbing on the sides is decreased a bit below the armpit. It’s done by working p2tog’s through the P2 sections of the ribbing on one round, then working k2togs through the K2 sections of the ribbing on the next round. You’ll find the typo right above the only boldfaced word, ”Note:”, in the Front Neck Opening section. Although it says ”p 1 st, p2tog”, be certain to make that: p 1 st, k2tog.

2) There’s another, related typo just a few lines below that. They’re giving optional instructions for working everything above the neckline base back and forth, rather than steeking. (Personally, I’m steeking mine, for a few really good reasons.) But anyway, they tell you to do the p2tog decreases on a RS (right side) row (and that part is fine) but then, they erroneously tell you to “work dec as K2tog on WS for second dec row.” Of course, if you’re working this part back and forth, whatever you see as a K st on the WS is really a P st on the front. By the time you’ve done your first dec row, the backside of the ribbed section will look like K1, P2, K1, P2… Their instructions to work dec as K2 tog on WS won’t work because you just finished decreasing your P2s on the front (same sts as the K2s on the WS) down to P1s on the front (K1s on the WS). Obviously, they should have written that part as “work dec as P2tog on WS for second dec row.

HTH!

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Polar Chullo on Winter ’09 Twist Collective – a Fair Isle earflap hat design

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

Polar Chullo, sized for adults, knit in Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift

That’s my Polar Chullo design which you can now find in the Winter 2009 Edition of Twist Collective.  The pattern, either printed or as an emailed PDF,  yarn packs and kits (pattern + yarn pack) are all available here, on my retail site.

A lot of thoughts of movement went into this:  The natural colorway moves back in time with a retro feel.  The bears move their legs from one motif to another as they amble around.  Some of the bears get just a bit leaner as they wander around toward the top.  They’re “stranded” – they can’t help it!  But it’s just by a stitch – can you find it?

If you’re moved to knit the design but want different colors, I’m busy putting a few alternate colorways together.  At 9 sts/inch, I’d recommend either Spindrift or Baby Ull (which I used for my Postwar Mittens, which were knit at exactly the same gauge.)  Here are some colorways to consider and I’ll add more as they become available:

Some traditionally-inspired Spindrift possibilities:

Polar Chullo by Mary Ann Stephens copyright 2009

My delight with Spindrift at 9sts/inch has prompted me to start carrying it at Kidsknits.  Both of these colorways are available and I’ll post more as my Spindrift stock expands.  (Link to be posted shortly.)

Some Baby Ull options:

Polar Chullo by Mary Ann Stephens copyright 2009

Just the tip of the iceberg, my darlings!

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A dpn bag with a pedigree

Remember “Home Ec” class?  If yours was anything like mine, maybe we shouldn’t even dredge those dreary memories up.  Fast forward to 2009 and I bet you’ll be impressed with some of the ideas that are swirling around the “Family and Consumer Science” (no kidding!) classroom these days.

Son # 2 came home the other day with a mission: He had to make something useful out of garbage.  He was so excited!  Not that I’ve sold the dear boy on  “Waste Product Re-engineering”, but he does enjoy a creative challenge.  Check out what he came up with as a present for his knitting-obsessed mom:

Double-pointed needle bag made from a recycled dog food bag

Does that sweet, beastly face look familiar to you?  If you spend much time cruising the Pet Food aisles, it might.  Check out the back of the dpn bag:

#2 son, our own dear beast and the back of the bag

Yep, it’s made from a large size dog food bag.  Turns out those suckers are made with some pretty tough, reinforced stuff.  By the way, that’s an old Dale of Norway zipper you see there at the top.  You might also consider recycling an old zipper from a unwearable pair of jeans.

#2’s process was pretty simple: Outline a rectangle on the bag, around the dog’s face, that’s about the same width as the zipper.  Cut it out.  Find another interesting portion of the bag; cover it with your first rectangle; trace around your first rectangle and cut the 2nd rectangle out.  Wash and dry both rectangles.  Fold about a half inch seam allowance down along both top edges of the rectangles and pin those edges on either side of your zipper, with the right sides of everything facing up. Sew those top edges in place over the zipper.  (#2 used a sewing machine with a zipper presser foot.) Fold the bag in half, with the right sides together, zipper at the top,  and sew around the 3 loose sides, using a similar seam allowance.  Trim the corners close to the stitching.  Turn it inside out.  Voila!  A dpn bag with a pedigree!

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Vancouver Progress Report #2

I’m just past the base of the neckline now.  I think it really helps to put a marker on either side of those steek stitches so that you know exactly where to make your decreases:

Neckline Steek on Dale of Norway Vancouver 2010

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Transatlantic Name Calling

Last week, all eleven new Heilo colors arrived.  What fun! Delving into that colorful pile of woolly goodness brought back memories of leaping into piles of freshly-raked leaves and revelling in nature’s colors or filling goodie bags from the candy store’s long bank of jelly bean bins and delighting in all the tasty combinations. Oh, the colorwork possibilities!

Two of the “new” colors are returning friends: you’ve seen white 0010 and wine 4246 before.

heilo wine 4246

heilo wine 4246

They’re old favorites which were discontinued for a while, only because they were so beloved that they were sold out.  Now, they’re back; hopefully, for a nice, long stay.

Some of the allegedly new colors will seem very familiar – even suspiciously familiar!

Heilo yarn at Kidsknits.com

Heilo yarn at Kidsknits.com

From the top left, we have the new orange red 3237 – a slightly less saturated version of old, discontinued burnt orange 3418, to the right.  In the middle, on the left, we have the new sunglow 2126 – again, a slightly less saturated version of old, discontinued gold (aka goldenrod) 2427.  On the bottom, that’s the new asparagus 9145, which is – you guessed it – slightly less saturated than the old fern green 9155.  Smart cookies like you see a pattern developing here, yes?

So, why move to the softer, less saturated colors?  First of all, they’re more wearable.  For instance, if you walk down Park Avenue in a sweater knit entirely out of the old gold 2427, people might try to flag you down for a ride; make it out of the  softer sunglow and not only will folks stop calling you “taxi!!!!”, but you’ll also have a more flattering sweater that will go with more things. Plus, the sunglow, orange red and asparagus are still lively enough that they’ll happily “pop” in your colorwork.  And, they’ll even play nicely with some of the truly new, more muted colors, below:

Heilo yarn at Kidsknits.com

Heilo yarn at Kidsknits.com

Here we have petrol 7062 (above left), light steel blue 6642, (bottom left), plum smoke 5062 (top right) and orchid 5042 (bottom right).  Wonderful, wonderful colors, but rather odd names.  Yes, that really is a photo of yarns that really do have those official Dale of Norway color names.  But, if you’re surprised by how much green there is in light steel blue, or you’re wondering if all the orchids in Norway are as greyish looking as this orchid, you’re not alone.   Apparently, these colors were given their English names many months ago, by someone who had only seen a pdf of a digital photo showing these colors; it was much later that the actual yarns hit the American shore and American eyes.

Which brings me to the ultimate “great color, weird name” mismatch:

Heilo yarn at Kidsknits.com

Heilo yarn at Kidsknits.com

On the far right, at the top, we have…drumroll, please…dark salmon 4624.  Oh, yes we do!  Whadyamean, it’s there, really, it’s right there, right above the ever-popular blossom pink 4203.  Oh, okay, so that color might have a lot more in common with your raspberry sorbet dessert than your (dark) salmon appetizer. And, yes, you would be entirely in the right to return any Norwegian salmon that showed up at your table looking that pink.  Perhaps it’s more the color of that lovely rose between your date’s teeth?  Anyway, it really is a beautiful color.  Just stick with the numbers and you’ll do fine.

When they don’t have to rely upon distorted, third-hand, transatlantic photos, it seems the folks at Dale US can quite adeptly  name their colors. The middle color on the left is their new mist 2425, which came out last year in Baby Ull so, apparently, they had a better peek at that one before naming it, for it truly is reminiscent of the lightest grey seen in the mist on a foggy morning.  Just for comparison sake, it’s sitting between the old standby, light sheep heather 2931 (top) and the classic sand heather 0004 (bottom).  For further comparison, in the middle, we have natural 0020 on top, off-white 0017 (newly discontinued) in the middle and the happily-returning white 0010 on the bottom. “White” – hmmm, now there’s a color name we can agree upon!

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Vancouver V-neck progress report #1

Mary Ann Stephens' "Vancouver" by Dale of Norway

Mary Ann Stephens' "Vancouver" by Dale of Norway

All three of my sons play football,  so I’m a very busy spectator, this time of the year.  Vancouver is the perfect project for my purpose – simple enough that I can blast through the stockinette portions without missing any action on the field, yet interesting enough at some points to make it appealling to a geeky knitter like me (or you, perhaps?).  And, it gets me into the Olympic spirit…even if I am just lollygagging on the bleachers.

I’ve read the pattern through and it seems pretty straight forward.  However, there are little things here and there that I thought I’d mention to you; things I’ll tweak a bit in mine that you might want to consider, too.

First, as always, we need to consider what needle sizes we’ll use.  Patterns really never tell you this, they merely suggest a starting point for testing as many needles sizes as you find necessary until one of them finally gets you the precise, indicated gauge.  Really, these needle size suggestions in patterns, although a standard step, are really misleading, at best.  I think there could be many more happy FO’s if we entirely did away with needle size suggestions in patterns.  If you want to end up with a sweater made to the specified dimensions, try various needle sizes – not merely the suggested size – out in your own, personal knitting tension until you find the right ones for you.  (Hint: I’m using different sizes.  I might even use a third, different size for the stranded work, too…we’ll see!)

Obviously, my yarn color is different, too.  Had to be! (BTW, that’s Daletta “mist” 2425 you see there.  Nice, huh?!

I’ve also made one minor change in where I put my markers, but I’d like you to consider it, too, for I think it makes things a good bit more foolproof.  I know it will save me from a fair bit of frogging!  The pattern has you place one marker right in the middle of each side.  Actually, with the ribbed panels going up the side, it’s super easy to see right where the middle of each side will be.  The real issue, to my mind anyway, is knowing immediately when to switch from stockinette stitch to ribbing and when to end the ribbing and revert back to stockinette.  It would really be nice to know that in real time, rather than several rounds after I goofed! Rather than use one marker at each side, I use two – one on each end of the ribbing.  Plus, I color code them – red (ok, magenta) means “Stop the stockinette!”, green means “Go back to stockinette!”.   And, dahlink, I just know you love my high-end stitch markers, yes?!

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Boggled by Toggles

Have any of you seen the ready-to-wear version of the Dale of Norway Vancouver sweater? You can see a great photo of it here.  Now compare that one to the handknit version shown in DofN’s Vancouver 2010 Book 213 here.  Notice anything unusual?  Yes, exactly!  The ready-to-wear one has that funky black toggle that’s lined up on the v-neck’s diagonal, interrupting the horizontal motifs.

Of course, it does have a practical purpose: it keeps the v-neck closed up and cozy.  Plus, I suppose toggles are quite *de rigueur* these days. I’ve been told it’s quite the “upscale”, leather (oooh, leather!) toggle, too.  But honestly, even though I really do like some toggles, you’ll never see me wearing a black, cockeyed toggle smack dab in the middle of a pastel sweater!

Okay, now that I’ve gone way out on that limb, I suspect that some of you might really like that toggle.  Come on, don’t be shy – speak up!  I’d love to know what you think of it, either way.  Interestingly (okay, surprisingly) I’ve already had a couple of customers ask me if they can get it for their handmade versions. I’m looking into it with folks at DofN and I’ll let you know, either way. If it makes some knitters happy, I’d be happy to get it for them (if I can.) I do know many knitters are determined to make exact replicas of the DofN ready-to-wear sweaters, and if that’s what makes it fun for them, I’m all for it.  But for my own knitting, I’m the exact opposite (as you probably could have guessed from my Vancouver virtual swatching, a few posts below ) – mine simply *must* be different!

So, there are two things I wanted to discuss with you guys:  First, just what do you think of that toggle?  Am I just blind to the sartorial splendor of cockeyed toggles? Could be.  Second, what will those of us who have nixed the toggle idea do to effect a similar, practical type of cozy closure on our v-necks?  Well, a few ideas come to mind.

The first thing that popped into my mind is probably the cheapest and the easiest:  a snap, maybe two snaps.  Simple and unobtrusive, yet tasteful and effective. Too simple, perhaps?  Okay, how ’bout a mini I-cord toggle loop worked into the edge of the v-neck at that same point and a (hopefully tasteful) button… even a toggle button, if you’d like…right there on the other side of the neck edge, so that you’d get that same amount of closure, but in a less visually interrupting way.  Of course, you could always just sew the darn toggle on straight.  Other ideas?

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Birds of All Feathers – a stranded and felted knitting design

Birds of All Feathers Bag, by Mary Ann Stephens, copyright 2009

Birds of All Feathers Bag, by Mary Ann Stephens, copyright 2009

The “Birds of All Feathers Bag” pattern is for sale as a downloadable, personal-use PDF through Ravelry.

The first time I was out in the world on my own, I encountered one particular problem: Apparently, I was too friendly.  I had grown up in a medium-sized upstate NY town where it had always seemed perfectly normal to smile and wave “Hello!” to anyone who walked by, whether you knew them or not.  Invariably, they’d at least wave back. Often, they’d stop to chat and we’d end up sweetening each other’s day, if just by a bit.

As I moved from my safe, sleepy hometown of Binghamton to my bustling college town of Baltimore, I was stunned to see peoples’ reactions to a simple “Hello!” Most anyone who had been leisurely strolling down the street, eyes on the horizon, suddenly quickened their pace, focused narrowly on their shoes and gave me a wide berth.  Some were terribly confused and asked “Do I know you?” And some definitely got the wrong idea altogether!

Eventually, I caught on, reigned in the “Hello!”s a bit and now even manage to live happily in frenetic, anonymous metro NY.   But I’ve always missed the open-hearted nature of Binghamton.  Since last April, that friendly hometown attitude has seemed a fading relic from a very distant past.

It was shocking to read the headlines of April 3, 2009: “Shooting Rampage Ends with 14 Dead in Binghamton”. It was such sad irony to see that this horror occurred at the American Civic Association of all places, a spot where birds of all feathers would regularly flock together. Recent immigrants of myriad backgrounds had been taking English classes at the ACA – some while they held down multiple jobs – as they worked to fit in and contribute to the local fabric. They were killed by a fellow student who had obviously lost his mind. It was so unfair!  More than that, to me, it became absolutely heartbreaking as I read that their slain teacher was none other than dear Mrs. King.

I think every Binghamtonian of my vintage knew Mrs. King.  She was mother of 10 bright, active, wonderful kids, including my old friend Beth, and you really couldn’t go anywhere around Binghamton without seeing Mrs. King’s van zipping here and there as she took the kids, and plenty of the rest of us, one place or another.  I first met her because she was my Girl Scout leader (and a wonderful one, at that!) Oddly enough, as busy as you’d think she must have been with 10 kids, she was also the one you were most apt to run into as substitute teacher here, volunteer there, chaperone yet again.  She was intelligent, enthusiastic and famously patient. She had a phenomenal memory, too. The last time I saw Mrs. King was at an old friend’s wedding.  Mrs. King hadn’t seen me for at least a decade, yet she reminded me of umpteen sweet, silly things from my childhood that I had entirely forgotten.  She even recalled and giggled with glee over some minute details of the fabulous (well, we thought so) department store diorama Beth and I had made for French class. I remember the delightful time we had building it, with Mrs. King’s abundant support and encouragement.  I suspect she remembered every project every one of her 10 kids ever did.  I wouldn’t have been the least bit surprised if she had remembered countless details of all of the thousands of us she touched – she cared that much! We’ll certainly always remember and be inspired by her.

No one could ever have more enthusiasm for a fun project than Mrs. King, and my old hometown could definitely use some enthusiastic support, so it seems only fitting that a portion of the proceeds from the sale of my hopefully-tons-of-fun “Birds of All Feathers Bag” project will be donated to the Broome County United Way fund for the ACA victims in Mrs. King’s memory.  I hope you’ll join in the fun.  Thanks!

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Decisions, decisions…Fun with choosing yarn colors

I really want to make the new Vancouver v-neck, but I’m not the copying type. As much as I like the light blue model…

Vancouver 2010 V-neck by Dale of Norway

Vancouver 2010 V-neck by Dale of Norway

I feel the need for a different colorway. So…

My custom Vancouver colorways using the same Daletta yarn

My custom Vancouver colorways using the same Daletta yarn

I’ve been playing around with some possibilities. Whadyathink?I have some favorites in mind, but I haven’t narrowed it down to just one.  Which one do you like best? (And will someone please get that nice girl a decent pair of shades?!)

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Vancouver 2010 is in!

Vancouver 2010 Book 213

Vancouver 2010 Book 213

Just a quick post to let you know it’s here; I’ll post links as soon as Phil gets a chance to add it to the site. (BTW, it’s $13.95 + s/h)

Update:  here’s the link to the Vancouver book on Kidsknits.com.

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Two Strands Headband, a free knitting pattern

Two Strands banner for the Two Strands Headband free knitting patternSome folks in my Two Strands Ravelry group recently asked me to recommend a great project for a first try at stranded knitting.  I could point out a few  fine places to start but, to tell you the truth, I couldn’t think of a  perfect stranded starting point.  So, I decided to create one.  And I didn’t have to look too far for my inspiration, either – check out the banner on my Ravelry group, Two Strands, and you’ll see what I mean.

There are several virtues which I think are important for a first-time strander’s project: First, it should be a simple motif with consistent repeats and no long floats. Of course, it should be something useful and attractive.  It should be unisex and it must be free, to openly welcome anyone to give it a try.  And “fun” would be nice!  I think I’ve squeezed all of those virtues into my Two Strands Headband, below.  Give it a

Two Strands Headband, a free Norwegian knitting pattern, great place to start in stranded knitting

Two Strands Headband

try and tell me what you think!

Two Strands Headband

Average adult size; finished circumference = 20”, allowing for 1 to 2 1/2” negative ease.

Suggested yarn:

3 50-g balls of Dale of Norway Falk washable wool yarn, each in a different color.

Colors used in sample:

A – Deep blue #5545; B – Purple #5036; C – Lavender #5224

See more colorways below.  All shades of Dale of Norway Falk yarn are available through the designer’s retail knitting website, Kidsknits.com

Suggested needles:

Either a 16” long circular or a set of double-pointed needles may be used.

Two different sizes of needles are required – larger for the outside of the headband, smaller for the headband lining. To get the main gauge which is used for the outside of the headband, most knitters will want either US 4(3.5mm) OR US 5(3.75mm); however, those who tend to knit quite loosely might want US 3(3.25mm) and those who tend to knit quite tightly might want US 6(4.0mm).

USE WHATEVER SIZE YOU NEED TO OBTAIN THE GAUGE, BELOW!

Once you know which size needle produces the correct main gauge for you, drop down one or two sizes smaller for the inside of the headband. (The smaller the size used on the inside, the snugger the fit.)

Gauge: 24 stitches and 28 rows = 4”/10cm in stockinette colorwork on larger needle.

Abbreviations: K = knit; P = purl; rd(s) = round(s); st(s) = stitch(es).

Instructions:

Using A and SMALLER NEEDLE, cast on 120 sts.  Place end of round marker and join work circularly. K 11rds.  P 1 rd. CHANGE TO LARGER NEEDLE.  K 3 rds.  Work Star Chart, below, according to notes in box:

Star Chart:

Star chart for the Two Strands Headband, a free knitting pattern using Norwegian and Fair Isle stranded knitting techniques. Designed by Mary Ann Stephens and knit in Dale of Norway Falk yarn, available through Kidsknits.com

copyright Mary Ann Stephens

Different colorways for the free knitting pattern, Two Strands Headband

Two Strands Headband Alternate Colorways - The Tip of the Iceberg

Work Star chart as follows:  Begin at lower right, i.e., row 1 / column 1. Read all rds across right to left. Each square = 1 st to be K in color shown. Once you have K the 12 sts of a chart row, repeat columns 1-12 of that row 9 more times for a total of 10 instances to complete each rd. Complete rds 1 through 13 of Star Chart.

Using A, K 4 rds. CHANGE TO SMALLER NEEDLE. P 1 rd. K 10 rds. Bind off all sts.  Fold upper and lower linings to the inside on the purl lines and sew together each respective cast-on and bind-off st.

If you want to get really fancy, you can cast on using scrap yarn, then K 1 extra rd at the end, don’t bind off, remove your scrap yarn and graft the beginning and end together for a seamless effect.  For notes on grafting, see this article on my blog:

https://twostrands.wordpress.com/2007/06/07/grafting-911/

As always, post away with any questions/comments.  Happy knitting!

Find my Two Strands designer page on Ravelry

See my Ravelry designer's page!

Two Strands, a stranded knitting group on Ravelry, led by Mary Ann Stephens

Join my Two Strands group on Ravelry!

Oh, wait!  Hey, don’t go yet!  I forgot to show you something.  You know, I can’t resist goofing around with endless color possibilities, so take a peek at the first few that jumped out at me…and let me know what you come up with!

Two Strands Headband Alternate Colorways - The Tip of the Iceberg

Two Strands Headband Alternate Colorways - The Tip of the Iceberg

twostrandsheadbandworn300x3

Posted in Blogroll, Free Knitting Patterns, Knitting, Mary Ann's Designs, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

First Glimpse

Although the US pattern booklet for Dale of Norway’s new Olympic design won’t be released until mid to late August (whaaaaa!), they’ve sent out a peek at some of their new designs for Vancouver:

Another Dale men's Olympic design from upcoming Book 213

Dale of Norway Olympic design for men in Heilo or Falk from upcoming Book 213

The new Olympic design for ladies in Daletta; book to arrive Aug '09

The new Olympic design for ladies in Daletta; book to arrive Aug '09

Dale kids' design for Vancouver, from Book 213, due in US in August '09

Dale kids' design for Vancouver, from Book 213, due in US in August '09

And finally, Dale's designs for the littlest Olympians

And finally, Dale's designs for the littlest Olympians

Of course, there will be the requisite accessories, too.  And, yes, we will be getting that groovy looking patch in, along with the booklet, just as soon as we possibly can.  (You KNOW all the cool kids will want that patch!)

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Marisa brings Høxbro to the nursery

Once in a while, I’m lucky enough to receive photos of some of the truly gorgeous work my customers do.  Here’s one showing a magnificent baby blanket, knit by Marisa from Portland, OR.  Marisa used Dale of Norway Baby Ull for this wonderful modular knitting design from Vivian Høxbro’s book, “Knit to Be Square”. Pretty neat, huh?!

Marisa of Portland, OR knit this wonderful Høxbro quilt in Dale Baby Ull
Zooming in on Marisa's gorgeous blanket

Zooming in on Marisa's gorgeous blanket

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Like the blog? Join the group!

Two Strands on Ravelry

Two Strands on Ravelry

I’ve just started my own Ravelry group, “Two Strands”.  I’m hoping it will grow into a fun place to discuss stranded knitting in general and my work in particular.  You’re all welcome to join in the fun, talk about whatever stranded work is on your needles and ask about whatever is on your mind.  Check it out!

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Vancouver 2010 in Fall 2009!

I’ve just hung up from a conversation with folks at Dale of Norway US and, boy, do I ever have good news for knitters!  There will be a Vancouver 2010 Dale of Norway sweater for the Olympics.  It’s scheduled to come out some time this fall.  It will be available in both ready-to-wear and…yep, you guessed it…hand knitting.  Woohoo!

Last year, many of us were very disappointed when we were told there would not be an Olympic sweater for 2010.  We heard that there were issues surrounding Olympic licensing and that we’d have to console ourselves with the designs from the Commemorative Collection booklet, which features 6 designs inspired by North American venues.  While the Commemorative Collection certainly does have some great projects, I think it would have been a shame for Dale of Norway to break their long-standing record of providing the perfect blend of traditional knitting technique, exemplary design, venue inspiration and Olympic spirit, all rolled up into one intruiging project.  It’s great to hear that whatever hurdles were impeding things last year have now been cleared.  I’m really looking forward to seeing what they come up with.  I’ll let you know as soon as I hear anything further.

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Free Knitting Patterns from Dale on Kidsknits

Dale of Norway has just issued several free – yep, you read that right…”free”  – knitting patterns as PDFs for ladies’ summer knitting.  We’ve just put them up on my Kidsknits site. You’ll find them here. Have fun!

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Sleepy Monkey Blanket, a reversible stranded baby blanket knitting design

Monkster has something he’d like to show you:

Sleepy Monkey Blanket by Mary Ann Stephens 2009

Sleepy Monkey Blanket by Mary Ann Stephens Copyright 2009

That’s my Sleepy Monkey Blanket which I designed for the Spring 2009 edition of Twist Collective.

Sleepy Monkey Blanket - yep, it's reversible!

Sleepy Monkey Blanket - back Copyright Mary Ann Stephens 2009

No, that’s not a second blanket – it’s reversible!

Sleepy Monkey Blanket

Sleepy Monkey Blanket Copyright Mary Ann Stephens 2009

Nifty, huh?

My 3 boys aren’t babies anymore.  These days, they’re far more apt to take a touchdown pass than a nap.  But as I was knitting this blanket, it was fun to think of how they would have enjoyed it when they were little.  I imagined naptime, when they might have “read” the blanket as they sat on my lap: “Look!  There’s that silly winking monkey!  And there’s that sweet little kissing monkey!  But where did my sleepy monkey go?”  Surely, they would have named each of those monkeys.  Hopefully, they would have picked a favorite – a funny little friend to guide them off to Dreamland.

We’re still not sure if those are Life Savers, Jelly Rings or Fruit Loops on the back.  But, I am pretty sure it would have been fun to pretend my monkeys and I were gobbling them up.

With any stranded project I do, one of the hardest things to get past is picking just one colorway to knit first.  Since this was designed for a publication, there were other opinions to consider, too.  First and foremost, it seemed only right to start with a unisex colorway.  I’ve always adored monkeys and I kind of suspected there might be some calls for some more “girly” options.  (I think the first one came about 15 minutes after the new edition went live!)  So here are a couple of my favorites:

Two of many alternate colorways for the Sleepy Monkey Blanket

Two of many alternate colorways for the Sleepy Monkey Blanket

The final, chosen colorway used Valley Yarns Superwash Merino.  The “virtual swatch” on the left used colors from Valley Yarns Sugarloaf Merino/Acrylic.  Both of those yarns are available through WEBS.  The “virtual swatch” on the right used colors from Dale of Norway Freestyle 100% washable wool.  That yarn is available from…hey, that one’s from ME!

Wow!  In no time at all, I’ve had quite a few requests for more Freestyle colorways.  So, at the bottom of this post, I’ve added a few more “virtual swatches” (colorized charts, not knit samples) based on Freestyle colors.

If you like to knit in the round, you might like to steek your blanket, as I did.  (There’s a mini-tutorial on this topic within the blanket pattern.  You can also read my detailed article on steeks here.)  If you’re using a soft, superwash yarn, you’ll want to machine-sew your steeks – soft yarns are too slippery for crocheted steeks.  If you’re using the same motif layout shown in the example, you’ll want to use worsted or aran weight (4 to 4.5 sts/inch) yarn so that your squares’ circumferences will be large enough to wriggle through the machine. (Of course, if you add a(n) extra repeat(s) of the monkeys across your blanket, you can get away with steeking a finer gauge yarn.)  If you choose to knit your squares flat, by machine or by hand, there’s no circumference to reinforce and open up, so you can use any gauge your heart desires.

Whatever your choice, I hope you and your mokeys have endless fun. And in case those rings on the back turn out to be Jelly Rings, save some for me!

Aubergine, Neptune, Fuchsia, Red & Orange

Aubergine, Neptune, Fuchsia, Red & Orange

Aubergine, Shamrock, Wildflower, Fuchsia and Horizon

Aubergine, Shamrock, Wildflower, Fuchsia and Horizon

Dark Taupe, Neptune, Petal Pink, Fuchsia and Horizon

Dark Taupe, Neptune, Petal Pink, Fuchsia and Horizon

Dark Taupe, Spring Green, Natural, Poppy and Horizon

Dark Taupe, Spring Green, Natural, Poppy and Horizon

Navy, Shamrock, Pastel Blue, Red and Cornflower

Navy, Shamrock, Pastel Blue, Red and Cornflower

Aubergine, Shamrock, Yellow, Red and Orange

Aubergine, Shamrock, Yellow, Red and Orange

Aubergine, orange, pastel blue, red, cornflower (Freestyle equivalents of original colorway)

Aubergine, orange, pastel blue, red, cornflower (Freestyle equivalents of original colorway)

Posted in Blogroll, Knitting, Mary Ann's Designs, Norwegian Knitting, On Twist Collective | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Postwar Mittens on Winter 2008 Twist Collective – a stranded knitting design

Woohoo! The Winter 2008 issue of Twist Collective is out and guess who got a chance to join in the fun:

Postwar Mittens on Winter 2008 Twist Collective

Postwar Mittens on Winter 2008 Twist Collective

Click here to go straight to my mittens. (Thankfully, they’re infinitely better with the camera than I am. And wait ’til you see who’s wearing them!!) Here’s a little more detail:

Postwar Mittens - optional date on thumb; see Twist Collective for pattern

Postwar Mittens - optional date on thumb; see Twist Collective for pattern

Postwar Mittens by Mary Ann Stephens, Twist Collective Winter 2008

Postwar Mittens by Mary Ann Stephens, Twist Collective Winter 2008

The absolutely wonderful watercolor illustrations you see on Twist Collective were done by the very talented Eloise Narrigan. You can also see the Postwar Mittens on Ravelry. Need the yarn? You’ll find it here.

Stay cozy!

Posted in Blogroll, Knitting, Mary Ann's Designs, Norwegian Knitting, On Twist Collective | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Steeks

A number of knitters have been looking around this blog, wondering where the heck I’ve hidden my steeks article. Actually, it’s on my Kidsknits store site, right where it’s always been. You can get to it through the menu bar on the top of the Kidsknits index page, or you can click right here. Have fun and happy steeking!

Posted in Knitting, Mary Ann's Designs, Norwegian Knitting, Technique | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Chrysanthemum Mittens – a free knitting pattern for ladies’ Norwegian mittens

Chrysanthemum Mittens, knit in Dale of Norway sport weight yarn, a free knitting pattern by Mary Ann Stephens

Ladies’ Chrysanthemum Mittens, a free knitting pattern – see below

You are welcome to copy this free knitting pattern for your personal use. You are warmly encouraged to use this pattern for charitable purposes.  Knitting instructors may use this pattern for classes.  However, this pattern is not to be sold and it is not to be used for commercial endeavors unless accompanied by a design credit to Mary Ann Stephens.

Please feel free to post any questions or comments regarding this pattern here on the blog. You can also reach me through my retail knitting website, Kidsknits, where you’ll find more of my patterns and kits – some for kids (obviously) but plenty for adults, too, including these other ladies’ mittens:

Amaryllis Mittens with norwegian, latvian and fair isle influences

Camellia Mittens with latvian, norwegian, fair isle and asian influences

Camellia Mittens

Tulip Mittens knitting design by Mary Ann Stephens with latvian, norwegian, fair isle and turkish influences

Tulip Mittens

Postwar Mittens, latvian-style colorwork in Dale of Norway Baby Ull yarn

Postwar Mittens

Chrysanthemum Mittens:

Chrysanthemum Mittens

Free mitten pattern, Chrysanthemum Mittens, a stranded Nordic design

Chrysanthemum Mittens, knit in either Heilo or Falk, available at discounted prices through the designer at Kidsknits.com!

Although I designed, knit and happily wore these last winter, I couldn’t bring myself to put them out on my site to sell the pattern and/or kit. It’s not that I didn’t want to share them with you. It’s just that, after I made the first (black) pair, I ended up with only 4 feet of the “natural” left and felt we had too close a call for making everyone happy with the kits. To allow for the potential gauge and yarn consumption differences across the population, I’d need to put an extra ball of natural in the kit. Unfortunately, I can’t do that for free. So, raise your hands if you think you’d like to pay 33% more for a kit, only to have a full ball of yarn left over. No one? Yeah, that’s what I thought. Me neither. Now, raise your hands if you don’t mind running out of yarn with just a couple of rows to go before completing a project. What, still no hands? Yep, that’s what I thought…me neither. You see the dilemma? So, what better way to solve such a dilemma than to turn the problem into a freebie, right? So, here it is, below. I’m leaving the yarn requirements in your lap. The cautious &/or loose knitters among you will want 2 balls of color “B” (the off-white / natural shown in each case here); the brave, daring and rather tight knitters out there might give it a shot with just 1 ball of “B”. Either way, I hope you’ll let folks here and on Ravelry know your thoughts and experiences.

By the way, if you haven’t seen it yet, you might want to read my previous blog post about these mittens. I used Hauk for that first pair. I had so little room for error at the end that it prompted me to think/write out loud about the possible reasons for the near-shortfall and to hypothesize about the same scenario using Heilo. I ended up making the teal/grean ones in Heilo. Interestingly, I did have about one foot more yarn left over with the Heilo, but I hardly think my little experiment with just two pair of mittens really constitutes a decent statistical sample. I tried weighing umpteen different balls of both Hauk and Heilo. They both really weigh in as pretty much the same, although each type occasionally has a ball with very minor variations (100ths of a gram)- variations that could, I suppose, translate to an extra foot or so of yarn here or there, but nothing more than that. Those little differences I encountered between the 2 yarn types could be either entirely diminished or greatly magnified by differences in other knitters’ tension. “Never mind!”

Since I made the Chrysanthemum Mittens (and blabbed about how much I love Hauk yarn), folks at Dale of Norway have decided to …hmmm, how should we say this…let Hauk “fade away out of production”. The folks at Dale US resisted using the D word (“discontinue”) with me. In fact, when I asked them about this last Spring, they were adamant that Hauk would be around, for it’s very successfully used in their ready-to-wear line. But more recently, it has become apparent that Hauk for knitters has not taken hold nearly as well as Heilo or Falk (superwash version of Heilo) and it’s a goner. It’s hard to compete with Heilo! So, I’ve been told Hauk will be (or has already gone) out of production. I’ll keep trying to stock it until the last ball is gone, but if you’re hoping for some, do try to get it while you can. But if you can’t, don’t despair: Anything you can make with Hauk can be made at exactly the same gauge with Heilo or Falk. Have fun and happy knitting!

Chrysanthemum Mittens
Sized to fit an average adult female hand; palm circumference = approximately 8 ½ “

Suggested yarn: (see my blog articles – you may want a 2nd ball of color “B”)
1 50-g ball of Dale of Norway “Hauk”, “Heilo” or “Falk” in Black 0090 for background color “A”
1 50-g ball of Dale of Norway “Hauk”, “Heilo” or “Falk” in Natural 0020 for foreground color “B”
1 50-g ball of Dale of Norway “Hauk”, “Heilo” or “Falk” in Barn Red 4137 for cuff detail color “C”
Suggested needles:
One set each of 5 double pointed needles in US size 2(3.0mm) and US size 4(3.5mm).
USE WHATEVER SIZE YOU NEED TO OBTAIN THE GAUGE, BELOW!
Gauge: 28 stitches and 28 rows = 4”/10cm in stockinette stitch with colorwork on larger needles.
Note: The ball band gauge for this yarn is 24 sts = 4”. That’s great for a sweater, but mittens call for extra warm fabric, so we’ll tighten the gauge up slightly to 28 sts = 4”. If you’re shooting for the same size, be certain to use whatever size needles get you the targeted 28 sts over 4”, or 7sts/ inch.
Abbreviations:
A, B & C = yarn colors; EOR=end of round; K = knit; K2tog = knit 2 stitches together; P = purl; rd(s) = round(s); rem = remaining; rep = repeat; SSK = “slip, slip, knit” i.e., slip 2 sts individually knitwise, then K those 2 sts together; st(s) = stitch(es)

Instructions: Using smaller needle(s) and A, cast on 60 sts, preferably using a cable cast on, although a long tail cast on will work fine, too. Place marker. Join and work circularly. *K 1 in A, K 1 in B, rep from * to end of rd.
Braid on right mitten: *P 1 in A, P 1 in B, continually crossing yarn for current st OVER yarn for previous st, rep from * to end of rd. *P 1 in A, P 1 in B, continually crossing yarn for current st UNDER yarn for previous st, rep from * to end of rd. Braid on left mitten: *P 1 in A, P 1 in B, continually crossing yarn for current st UNDER yarn for previous st, rep from * to end of rd. *P 1 in A, P 1 in B, continually crossing yarn for current st OVER yarn for previous st, rep from * to end of rd. Continuing for either mitten: K 1 rd in B.

Checkerboard trim:
Round #1: Break off A, join C, *K 2 in C, K 2 in B, rep from * to EOR. Round #2: *P 2 in C, P 2 in B, rep from * to EOR. Round #3: *K 2 in B, K 2 in C, rep from * to EOR. Round #4: *P 2 in B, P 2 in C, rep from * to EOR. Repeat rounds 1-4 two more times. Repeat rounds 1&2 one more time.
Change to larger needles.

Main body of mitten:
K 1 rd in B. K 1 rd in A. Work Main Chart, starting at lower right corner, always reading from right to left and knitting circularly. Each square equals 1 st to be knit in color shown, unless otherwise indicated (see chart legend.) Read “Thumb details” section BEFORE working thumb indicators on chart.

Thumb details: Once you’ve knit up to your desired thumb placement indicator on the Main Chart,
break off an approximately 18” long piece of scrap yarn, K next 11 sts with scrap yarn, slide 11 scrap
sts back to left needle, K same 11 scrap sts with colors indicated in Main Chart.
Mitten thumb stitches marked with temporary red scrap yarn
Complete Main Chart. Break off yarns, pull ends through remaining sts, tighten, pull ends inside and weave ends in place. Weave in any other loose ends except for scrap yarn used for holding thumb sts. With scrap yarn still in
place, using 1 dpn, pick up 11 thumb sts immediately above scrap sts by inserting tip of dpn under right
side of “v” formed by each st. Using another dpn, pick up 11 thumb sts immediately below scrap sts in
same manner.
Carefully remove scrap yarn. Working circularly, starting at lower right of Thumb Chart,
using colors indicated in Thumb Chart, pick up 1st st in Thumb Chart from right side of thumb opening
(option: twist base of side st before picking up to lessen any gap at thumb base); pick up next 11 sts in chrysanthemumchart
Thumb Chart from lower dpn; pick up 1 st at left side of thumb (same option applies); pick up remaining
11 sts in Thumb Chart from upper dpn. (Thumb sts can be distributed around as many dpns as you like.)
Continue with remaining rows of Thumb Charts, always working circularly and following Thumb Chart
indicators for shaping thumb top. Break off loose ends, pull ends through remaining 8 sts, pull ends to inside
and weave in place. Make 2nd mitten in same manner except be certain to work the 11 scrap sts and the
thumb on the OTHER side!! (Yes, that is said from experience!) Wash finished mittens and block, if necessary.

CLICK ON THE CHART TO SEE A LARGER, CLEARER VERSION!

Chrysanthemum Mittens knitting pattern by Mary Ann Stephens

Find my Two Strands designer page on Ravelry

See my Ravelry designer’s page!

Two Strands, a stranded knitting group on Ravelry, led by Mary Ann Stephens

Join my Two Strands group on Ravelry!

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Fair Isle Repeat Offenders – managing motif layouts in Fair Isle knitting

We all learned at a very young age that even numbers split nicely and odd numbers create those troublesome leftovers, remainders. For some, that thought alone is the only seed needed to sprout an appreciation for optimal knitting design layout. For others, while the math might be easy, visualizing the concept’s application to knitting design can be difficult. Read through this article, ponder the diagrams and, if the layout of Fair Isle or Norwegian knitting motifs has confounded you in the past, hopefully, this will help.

As one gets into any type of stranded knitting, one learns that motifs can be lined up, shifted around, staggered, split, reflected and, indeed, transmogrified in countless ways to create an endless variety of enchanting designs. So I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised by the many e-mails I’ve received from readers in response to my post about sticking with an even number of repeats (and thereby limiting the sizes available) for my Rosy Outlook Vest design. Folks have written to tell me, some quite adamantly, that I’m wrong, that one need not be limited by an even number of motif repeats, that as long as the motifs are shifted over a bit, they’ll still produce a perfectly symmetrical Fair Isle design, whether the number of motifs is even or odd.

Um, no!

Then again, although I’m not inclined to use it (for reasons you’ll soon discover) there might be a wee bit of leeway for allowing odd-numbered repeats, in one special case. Whether or not you’ll choose to use it will depend upon your own take on “perfection” and “symmetry”.

There’s an interesting article on symmetry on Wikipedia. It discusses both the aesthetic and mathematical meanings of symmetry, both of which are important in knitting design. Aesthetic symmetry focuses on the visceral sense of balance in a design, allowing for artistic preference, while the more clear-cut mathematical sense of symmetry demands mirror images and leaves little room for argument.

For my all-time favorite exemplar of perfection, I give you the great Mary Poppins who, as we all know, was “practically perfect in every way”.

mary-poppins.jpg

Let’s think about laying out our knitting motifs so that they’re “practically perfect in every way.”

My Rosy Outlook vest is a variation upon the ubiquitous “OXO” Fair Isle theme. An “OXO” theme is simply a display of alternating X’s and O’s which can be either lined up above one another like this:

OXOXOXO
OXOXOXO
OXOXOXO

or

XOXOXOX
XOXOXOX
XOXOXOX

or staggered, so that the motifs shift back and forth, like this:

OXOXOXO
XOXOXOX
OXOXOXO

or

XOXOXOX
OXOXOXO
XOXOXOX

You can start the design with either a whole X or a whole O, or you can shift it a bit and start with half of an X or half of an O.

My Rosy Outlook design is a variant of the 2nd, staggered layout with a shifted starting point so that we begin and end with half O’s and half X’s. Despite the “OXO” name, the repeat actually consists of either “OX” (or “XO”) and it can be measured from the beginning of an O (or X) to the start of the next instance of O (or X), or from the middle of an O (or X) to the middle of the next instance of O (or X). In either layout, the horizontal sequence is the same: …one O, one X, one O…or …one X, one O, one X; who starts first is irrelevant. In fact, the Xs and Os are irrelevant, too. You could have an *#* design with an *# repeat, or a tree-wombat-tree design with a wombat-tree repeat. (Say, there’s an idea!) You get the picture, yes?

wombat2.jpg “Hey, nice vest!”

The confusing point for many seems to be: Just how many – oh, let’s just call them “XO repeats” – can you use and still produce a symmetrical design? This question often arises when the size a knitter desires lies between or beyond the sizes offered in a pattern. If a pattern has 2 sizes that differ by two repeats, why can’t we just shift things over a bit, fit in one more repeat and end up with just the right middle size in the very same design? And with all the beautiful knitters to be found in every conceivable size, why on Earth would anyone offer a design in only one size?

If you’re only concerned with achieving an aesthetically symmetrical design AND your take on “practically perfect” emphasizes “practically” over “perfect”, as I mentioned, there is a bit of room, and I mean just one teeny, tiny bit of room, in a very limited number of applications, for an odd number of repeats. For instance, if you’re knitting motifs go around the bottom of your sweater or vest, but end before they get anywhere near the top, you might not really need to bother with striving for the ultimate in symmetry. In such a case, as long as you center either an X or an O at the center back and the center front, you might be perfectly happy.

XOXOX layout on front with an odd number of repeats
OXOXO layout on back with an odd number of repeats

So, in this simplified layout, above, we have a total of 5 repeats going around our sweater, with the X centered on the front and the O centered on the back. What’s wrong with that? Granted, it’s not mathematically symmetrical, for the front and the back obviously differ. But, certainly, there is a fine sense of balance and aesthetic symmetry here, for we do have mirror images around the center front and the center back. If it’s just going around the bottom of your sweater and it ends before the armholes, there’s really nothing wrong with this layout at all. However, once you get into the armholes with an odd number of repeats, you’re headed for trouble.

Picture the sides, where the X’s from the front meet up with the O’s from the back. Well, that’s rather nice, isn’t it? The X’s and O’s are whole, they continue in sequence and everyone’s playing nicely, right? So where’s the problem? Let your imagination wander up those sides to the armholes. Naturally, you’re using steeks to manage those armholes with perfection Poppins would be proud of, right? If so, I know you’d much rather avoid the X on one side of the steek, the O on the other. If you had either an X or an O centered on the side line, in addition to those already centered on the front and back, the sides of the armhole steeks would be mirror images of each other. Oooh, wouldn’t that be nice?! That extra bit of symmetry certainly makes for a far more pleasant knitting experience. Knowing that the far side of your steek will be a mirror image of the near side you just knit goes a long way toward simplifying the chart reading you must decipher and remember as you knit along. It also produces a project which is one important step closer to being “practically perfect in every way.” (I know, just the thought of it makes you want to go sliding up a banister, doesn’t it?!)

The thing is, to have an OXO design that is centered at the front, back and on the sides, the only way to do it is with an even number of repeats.

And now, for my diagrams, proving once and for all that there is at least once case in life where I don’t instinctively leap to blind allegiance for all things “odd”:

Fig. 1:

oxorepeats.jpg

Think of my Rosy Outlook Vest, or any other OXO garment, opened in the front and laid flat. Now check out the diagram, above. Each of these cases shows an OXO example that has been centered over both the front and the back. The solid red lines at either end of each case represent the center front (CF) closures. The dotted red line down the middle of each case represents the center back (CB). The dotted green lines at the midpoint between the center back and center front represent the armhole / side lines (S) of the garment. These vertical lines mark off the four sections which represent the left front, left back, right back and right front of a garment. The variable R represents the # of XO repeats across one of those 4 sections. Unless you’re knitting for Quasimoto, you definitely want those 4 sections, and their corresponding R values, to be equal.

The uppermost example shows you a simplified 4-repeat OXO layout which is symmetrical around CF, CB and S. As you can see, between each of its equidistant vertical lines, we have one full repeat (2 half X’s = 1 X, and there’s 1 O), and around every vertical line drawn, the motifs form those beloved mirror images.

In the middle case, I’ve added one more repeat, or more precisely, half of a repeat to each end, to get an odd-numbered repeat OXO design, as so many of my e-mailing friends have been suggesting I do. What happens now? We can still center the motifs at the center back and center front. We can still draw the vertical lines so that every section between them has the same number of repeats (R = 1 ¼, in this case) so we know our design is evenly distributed. So what’s wrong? Look at the S lines. You won’t have that nice mirror image around your armholes. Granted, I’m sure some of you are saying not only is that not the worst thing in the world, it may be the last thing in the world you’re apt to care about. I have to admit that, knitting efficacy aside, it’s probably better not to get too fixated upon other’s armholes. 😉 But let your imagination travel a bit further up the armholes to the shoulder joins. Here is a great example of what happens when one trades mathematical symmetry in knitting design in favor of squeezing in more sizes. That’s the great Alice Starmore’s wonderful Oregon Autumn design which was reprised in six, count ‘em, six sizes in the Holiday 2007 edition of Vogue Knitting. Each consecutive size has one more repeat than the last, so we know that 3 of them have an even number of repeats, and 3 of them have an odd number of repeats. Uh oh!

Fig. 2:starmoreproblem.jpg

In my first diagram, Fig. 1, I showed you what happens when you add an extra repeat to an even numbered OXO design by keeping things centered on the same motif elements, but you add one more repeat, or more specifically, half of a repeat, to each end. The resulting odd number of repeats gives us mismatched shoulders. Fig. 2, above, shows you the problem with the odd-numbered repeat sizes (every other size) in the Vogue version of Alice Starmore’s Oregon Autumn. Here, rather than keeping the centers on the same spot by splitting the extra repeat at the ends, one whole repeat is just added at one end. In either case, the odd number of repeats results in the same problem: whether you shift or split your added repeat, if the rest of the design is centered on the front and back, using an odd total number of repeats will always lead to mismatched shoulders.

I can’t imagine there’s anyone in the world better schooled in Fair Isle design than AS. I also can’t image that, with such a popular design, any magazine editor would want the flood of disgruntled readers that would ensue if they’d didn’t offer such a masterpiece in their entire readership’s range of sizes. Hence the dilemma. Some people might not mind mismatched shoulders. Perhaps they think it’s a small price to pay to have the pattern in their size. For some of us, the design imperatives that limit the perfect result outweigh the marketing goals of offering everyone’s size. Personally, I’d be mad as a hatter if I put all of that time into knitting such a complicated design, only to have mismatched shoulders. I’m not comfortable with expecting others to do it, either. None of us is perfect, but why not shoot for perfection in our work, and come as close as we can? The magazines understandably prefer to offer the full readership’s range of sizes, even if not all of those sizes are created equally. For me, it pays to be on the internet and independent, so I can happily offer my even-numbered repeat designs, despite their limited range of sizes, without compromise. For you, before you delve into any OXO pattern, I think it will pay to grab some paper and pencil, scribble out your Xs and Os, chop up your four sections and find out just how symmetrical that design you’re thinking of spending so much time and money on really is.

So what can be done for those who would dearly love to knit Oregon Autumn, or Rosy Outlook, or any other Fair Isle design, but the even-numbered repeat patterns don’t come in their size and they rightly insist upon matching shoulders? Try swatching to see if you can knit the motifs a bit more tightly to get a smaller size, or a bit more loosely to get a larger size. Or try using a different gauge of yarn. You might have to lengthen or shorten the design by a motif or so, but you can do that and still keep the other design imperatives intact.

Does this mean that odd-numbered repeats are to be entirely avoided? Actually, no, there are some cases, in some different types of Fair Isle designs, where they’re worth considering. Look at these examples:

oxoshifted.jpg

The top case shows a staggered OXO design using 4 repeats. Although it uses an even number of repeats, there’s a problem. The problem is, it has not been centered, so we have mismatches all over the place. Some folks might put this around just the bottom of a sweater and it would certainly be passable. But I’d rather see even that centered, as it was in the first diagram. Just shifting it ¼ of a repeat would do the trick, as we see in the middle case here (which is the first case from the first diagram). The bottom case shows the one rare case in which I’d use an odd number of repeats, with some important caveats. As you can see, the repeats are vertically staggered. I wouldn’t do this without vertically staggering the motifs, for, as you can see, since it’s not centered, we have O’s and X’s opposing each other all the way up the center front. As long as you vertically stagger motifs, and as long as there are plenty of rows in which the staggered effect goes back and forth, to visually distribute the motifs, I think the overall effect, while not mathematically symmetrical, is arguably aesthetically symmetrical, and it could work. As I prove daily in so many ways, there is joy to be found in being not-quite-so-practically perfect!

messy-poppins.jpg

So why didn’t I do that in my Rosy Outlook design? I had my reasons – two, in fact. First of all, notice that the “O”s in my vest, which are really roses, are much weightier design elements than the “X”s. Furthermore, there are only 3 rows of them that line up in the buttoned section. So, if you shifted things over to fit in (or remove) a repeat, you’d end up with one side of the button placket having two heavy roses and one light X; the other side would have two light Xs and one heavy rose. If you stared at it long enough, you’d start listing to one side, and you might even topple over. We could be causing accidents all over the place! And, oh yeah, it wouldn’t be symmetrical. By now, I suspect you all know how I feel about symmetry, right?

rosyoutlookvestmed.jpg

So here’s a recap of my Fair Isle layout guidelines:

1) For a perfectly symmetrical OXO design, whether the motifs are staggered or stacked, use an EVEN number of repeats and CENTER them, so that either an X or an O is split at the front, at both sides and in the back.

2) For a potentially aesthetically symmetrical OXO design, you might get away with using an ODD number of repeats and staggering them, splitting either an X or an O at the sides and having whole Xs meet whole Os at the front, but don’t try this unless you have enough vertical repeats to create a well-distributed, staggered effect.

3) Remember, these are guidelines, not rules. There are no rules in knitting! While beloved traditions and strong opinions abound, the best advances come from breaking the “rules” set by those traditions and opinions.

Psst – did I mention that the swirls in the center of roses are not symmetrical?

For more of my designs, symmetrical and otherwise, click here.

Happy knitting from Mary Ann Stephens
wombat2.jpg

If you’re wondering “Where in the world did she find such a handsome wombat!?”, look here.

Devastatingly handsome wombat appears with permission of Tom Dempsey / photoseek.com

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Chrysanthemum Mittens and the Mystery of Hauk vs Heilo

SkiKnits “Chrysanthemum Mittens”

Like ’em? I’ve just finished my Chrysanthemum Mittens, above. I designed these to be knit in Dale of Norway Hauk yarn, which is essentially good old Heilo 100% Norwegian sport weight wool that’s gone high tech with a Teflon infusion to make the yarn especially water and stain resistant. The Teflon even makes the yarn slightly softer. And it knits at exactly the same gauge as Heilo. So Hauk is a perfect alternative for stain-prone comfort seekers like me. It’s great stuff – I love it!

By using needles a couple of sizes smaller than I’d normally use for sport weight yarn, I ended up with especially dense, warm fabric that I’m really happy with for mittens. But just how much of this yarn we need for these mittens is another question.

I used 1 ball of each color (black, barn red and natural) and ended up with a generous bit of the black left over, tons of barn red left over and a downright stingy four feet of the natural left over. It was a close call, too close for my taste. It’s all too easy to imagine knitting just a wee bit looser and running out of the 1 ball of natural before finishing up. I’m figuring kits to make 1.999 mittens might not be terribly popular 😉 . So, it’s time to look further into a question that’s been bothering me for a while now: Do Hauk and Heilo really have the same yardage???

According to the ball bands, they do. Like all Dale yarns, both Heilo and Hauk are put up as 50g balls. Both say they provide 100 meters. But I wonder if that’s precisely true, or merely an approximation, or…perhaps, not even so approximate an approximation.

Given: Heilo + Teflon = Hauk. Assume the 50g does truly stay constant. I’m no chemist, but last I heard, Teflon is not weightless. So, as Teflon is infused into the yarn in the dye bath, it increases the wool’s weight, right? So I’m betting there’s a proportionate decrease in the yardage per 50g ball. Is it so slight a change that there’s no sense in changing the yardage numbers? Or is there more to it?

Having made the first mitten in my second pair ofChrysanthemum Mittens, this time in Heilo, I’m taking a look at what I have left so far in the natural and it seems that I’ve got considerably more natural left with the Heilo than I did with the Hauk. Granted, I’m just going on memory at this halfway point. I’ll report back to you when the second one is done. It will be interesting to see just how much more, if any, of the Heilo natural there is to compare with my 4 feet of Hauk. Any guesses? Stay tuned!

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How to knit a hem

hemslipstitched.jpg

A few knitters have asked me lately how I finish a knitted hem. I just came across the above old photo and thought it might be useful in answering that question.

This photo shows how I slipstitch the hem inside my hats. After I cast on and join my work circularly, I knit a couple of inches for the inside hem. Then I purl 1 round to create a foldline. (You’ll see a brown purled foldline to the right of the mostly solid grey hem.) Right after I purl the foldline, I change to a larger needle size. By using the smaller size on the inside, I know I’ll create a smaller concentric circle for my hem and that it will sit nicely inside the hat without pushing on the outside and making the bottom of the hat flare unnecessarily.

Rather than changing needle sizes, some folks might choose to stick to one needle size and increase several stitches immediately before or after the purl foldline to get the same nested circle effect. That can certainly work, but I prefer avoiding potentially unsightly increases which can rumple my foldline. I let the needle change do all the work for me on the sly. Just how different my needle sizes would be depends upon just how different the nested circles must be. For example, with heavier gauge yarn, we need more of a difference, so the needles might differ by two, even three sizes (for the really bulky stuff); for fingering weight yarn, one size difference will do.

Once I’ve worked the entire outside of my hat, I’m ready to slipstitch the hem in place. I started by tucking the hem inside, right on the purl stitch foldline. Once I’ve figured out just which round of knitting on the outside is the same distance from the foldline as the cast-on edge, one loop from each stitch on the cast-on edge (solid grey) gets joined with the purl bump from the same stitch column on the inside of the hat. It’s well worth double checking that the purl bump you’re scooping up is indeed from the same stitch column as your cast-on stitch – otherwise, your hem will be skewed. (Yeah, ask how I know! 😉 ) If you carefully match the first stitch you hem, you’ll be set for the whole round. Loosely join a few consecutive stitches, then snug up the tension, checking the right side of the work to make sure that you’re not pulling so tightly that you create a demarkation line.

I don’t really enjoy hemming on any sort of fiber. It’s not creative; it’s drudgery at best. Back in my days as a corporate slave, the scotch tape dispenser on my desk was probably accessed as often for hemming as for any legitimate office purpose. Same with the stapler. Of course, anything I knit is far more important to me than any old corporate get-up, so I don’t skimp when it comes to knitted hems. It’s well worth taking care to join every single stitch in the knitted hem. Short cuts on hems show up badly. (Okay, maybe not as badly as staples and scotch tape, but forget the shortcuts and you’ll be happier in the long run.)

I know some people like to knit their hems in place as they go by knitting stitches from the cast-on edge together with those from the equidistant round on the outside as soon as that round is encountered. No doubt, there are some folks who have perfected that method. But from what I’ve seen and what I’ve tried, that method is more apt to lead to a tight ridge that can show up unattractively. It’s easier to adjust the tension a few stitches at a time with this hand sewn method you see above. Especially on hats, a tight ridge squeezing around our heads is probably the last thing we need. Ouch! Give this slipstitched hem a try and tell us how it goes!

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Monkster Gets Stranded – Free Knitting Pattern for a Fair Isle style teddy bear sweater

monkstergetsstranded.jpg

I’ve just added the free knitting pattern for these Norwegian Teddy Bear sweaters to my Kidsknits.com site. You’ll find links to this and a few other free knitting patterns I’ve designed on the left-hand side of my homepage, Kidsknits. You can also get to the pattern for the above sweaters by clicking here: Monkster Gets Stranded.

I’ve had a free pattern for a similar, but plain, Teddy Bear sweater (aka Monkster’s Sweater ) out there for a while:

monkster1.jpg
Both of these wee sweater patterns use essentially the same construction method, with a few minor differences. The old one was made with worsted weight yarn; the new pattern uses sport weight yarn. The old sweater was solid-colored, (but you can add any motif your heart desires); the new sweaters, obviously, use “stranded” knitting technique, (but you can create your own Nordic motif, opt for stripes, or keep it simple and solid-colored, too.) Both patterns are worked circularly, from the bottom up, with raglan shoulders, in this fashion:

monkstertopdown.jpg

The fully-fashioned decreases in the old version were chosen to highlight the points at which the raglan shoulders were mitered. That method is especially nice for solid-colored knitting – the decreases form an interesting feature on an otherwise blank canvas. The decreases in the new version were chosen to minimize the visual disturbance of the raglan miters. I typically opt for subtle decrease methods for multi-colored, Nordic knitting so that my shaping and my motifs don’t visually compete with each other.

The new sweaters, at top, both use the same technique you’d find in most any life-sized raglan sweater: a few stitches at the base of the armholes are put aside on stitch holders while the yoke is worked as one circle. Once you’re all but done, those few held stitches are grafted together at each armhole base. This helps in two ways: it provides more flexibility at the underarm for the wearer (although I’m not sure guys like Monkster really appreciate that fact) and it makes the joining round, wherein the sleeves and body become one, a good bit more manageable. But, it also leaves a little bit of grafting work to take care of at the end. (See my “Grafting 911” post, under “Technique”.)

In the original, plain sweater, I did not cast off any stitches at the base of the armhole. So, the joining round for that version has to be worked with the “circular” knitting flattened for a round or two, and it’s a bit trickier to wiggle your yarn and needles in and out of the flattened work. The most saintly among you may find yourselves cursing like sailors at that point, but it does save you a good bit of finishing work. It’s a nice shortcut for a quick toy sweater, but it’s not something I’d recommend for the opinionated, comfort-seeking, self-propelled types. Personally, I prefer the method in the new, stranded design.

At the bottom of the new pattern, in addition to the charts for the above motifs, you’ll also find an empty chart awaiting your own design. I’d love to see what you come up with, and I’m sure others would, too. Send a photo of your finished sweater and I’ll share it here. Have fun!

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Svale Tank Book 172

And now, for something completely different!

svalelacecloseup.jpg

Ordinarily, if I want to produce wonderful effects with color, 99% of the time, I prefer stranded knitting over other methods. It’s a very rare day that I’m working on a monochrome project, such as you’d often find in lace knitting. Yawn! For color interest in lace knitting, I know you can use variegated yarns, but while many of the variegated yarns do provide plenty of color interest, they often do so while diminishing the impact of the lace’s texture. The Svale tank top on the cover of the new Dale of Norway Book 172 shows magnificent blending of colors and the color gradient produced actually highlights the lace’s texture. It’s all done in pretty common lace stitches using only 1 color per row/round – it’s not stranded at all.

I was lucky enough to snare a model of that Svale tank, so I thought I’d share the wealth, above and below. FYI, the tank instructions are in ladies’ XS – XL. A large size takes 6 balls of the main color (buttercup 2005) and 2 balls of each of the following: powder blue 5812, jade 7432 and lime 9425. BTW, Book 172 also has instructions for several other summer tops for all girls from 2 to 102! As always, feel free to write or call with any questions. Happy knitting!

svaletankkit.jpg

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Rosy Outlook Vest – a Fair Isle style knitting design

I’ve just finished my new Rosy Outlook Vest. It’s made in 7 colors of Dale of Norway “Daletta” 100% washable wool. It’s knit at a gauge of 27×27. That’s slightly looser than the ball band gauge of 28×38 – the gauge Dale uses on most of their Daletta jackets (like Ingeborg, for you Dale aficionados out there.)

I wanted something a bit lighter, somewhat more fluid, more Fair Isle than Norwegian. It worked out that, by going up one extra needle size, I hit the 27×27 gauge. I wouldn’t recommend Daletta at 27×27 for a jacket, but it’s perfect for a Fair Isle-type vest. And symmetrical, too! (I’m forever delighted by symmetry.)

There’s very little weaving-in to be done with this vest. The color changes are all done mid-front so they can be secured with machine-sewn covered steeks, using the same technique I developed for my Tiger Lily Jacket.

Halfway through, the “Rosy Outlook Vest” was almost headed for the Hefty bag. The folks at Dale of Norway had just decided upon a major shift in the Daletta color range. The colors in my vest were headed for Discontinuation Station. Sure, it’s fun to conjure up new colorways, but, I loved those colors together with the rose motif! I decided to forge ahead and complete it. I can’t promise these colors will be available for long, but there will soon be other colorways, too. Here you have the original:

rosyoutlookvestmed.jpg

Whadyathink? Alas, it’s not for everyone – there’s only one size. Boo, hiss, I know, but I had my reasons.

The finished chest circumference is about 45″; the finished length is about 26″. The rose motif has a 30-stitch repeat. To be symmetrical (as we must 😉 ), we’d have to add or subtract 2×30=60 sts, or almost 9 inches, to get to the next size. So a smaller size, finished, would be about 36″ around; a larger size, about 54″. If you figure 4 to 6″ of ease, we’re talking about bodies that have chests as small as 30″ or as large as 50″. I know such folks are out there, and I apologize for excluding them. However, figuring yardage requirements for 7 colors is not an easy task with multi-colored, stranded projects unless each size is actually knit. That’s not a task my tired hands are up to. So, I’m sticking with this one size, which would be a ladies’ large in some labels, ladies’ extra large in others.

If you’re interested, here’s a link to one of my sites for buying the Rosy Outlook Vest. As with all knitting projects, before you dive in, I recommend comparing the finished dimensions to those on a comparable piece you already have. That’s the best way to preview fit. And as always, don’t hesitate to write or call with any questions. Happy knitting!

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Grafting 911 – How to save your knitting with kitchener stitch

graftdonethumb.jpgKnitting patterns start with the presumption that we will all follow every direction to a “T”. Experience teaches us that none of us is perfect, and, no matter the skill level, we will all eventually make some mistakes. Furthermore, it seems there is some perverse law of Nature that dictates that a fair amount of those mistakes will go entirely unnoticed in the making, yet they will become glaring blunders right about the time we think we’re done.

Certainly, none of us relishes the idea of unraveling most of our beautiful work just to get back to our old missteps. But as we bind off the last stitches, hold up our masterpieces for inspection and feel our hearts sink, is it really time for the Hefty bag? Not so fast! Grafting to the rescue!

Grafting (aka kitchener stitch) is often used for joining shoulders invisibly. It’s also the preferred method for joining the bottom of raglan sleeves to sweater bodies. Most knitters familiar with grafting learned the technique by following patterns with one or both of those applications. However, the most valuable use of grafting may be the one no pattern will ever recommend: rescue from the dreaded Hefty bag.

Having heard far too many stories of 99% gorgeous creations being banished to the purgatory of a Hefty bag, I’ve decided to share a lesson on grafting that will hopefully inspire some of you to rescue, perfect and proudly wear those hidden near-masterpieces. The steps below show you how to use grafting to repair isolated areas within one row of knitting without having to rip out any extra rows of stitches. Many of those previously-invisible-but-now-glaring mistakes can be essentially erased this way. You can also use the same technique to insert or delete rows to repair, lengthen or shorten your work and then rejoin it, effectively splicing your work and editing it to your taste, without undoing any of the good parts. Phew!!!

Note: In hope of showing a visually- friendly example, I searched my stash for the closest thing I had to solid-colored (yawn) knitting. I used red, contrasting yarn so that you’d easily see what was done, but of course, I suggest you use matching yarn. The “mistake” in these steps is imaginary; the stripes are irrelevant. But don’t worry, I have plenty of bona fide blunders to share with you – see bottom!

Find a well-lit table and spread your work out flat. For mistakes isolated within one row, pick up every stitch in the rows immediately above and below the row you intend to repair. The problematic row lies untouched, in the middle. Pick up the stitches by inserting the tip of your needle under just the right side of each stitch’s “V”.

graftpickup1.jpg

In the steps below, notice that the work is done between the 2 knitting needles – not below the lower one, nor above the upper one.

Carefully snip a stitch in the middle of your problematic row. Unravel as many stitches within that row as needed to “erase” your mistake, leaving enough yarn length on each side for weaving in later.

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Grafting Step #1: Thread a blunt yarn sewing needle (SN) with your yarn. Insert SN right-to-left through the first stitch on the lower knitting needle. Let that stitch slide off your knitting needle, then pull SN and the grafting yarn through that stitch, leaving a couple of inches of tail to be woven in later.

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Grafting Step #2: Bring SN up and insert it right-to-left through the first stitch on the upper knitting needle. Let that stitch slide off the upper knitting needle and onto SN. Pull yarn through loosely. (If the next stitch on the upper knitting needle is a different color than the one you just pulled through, see notes on stranded grafting, at the very bottom. Otherwise, go to Grafting Step #3.)

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Grafting Step #3: Insert SN left-to-right through the next stitch on the upper knitting needle. Pull yarn through loosely. Let that stitch stay where it is on the upper knitting needle.

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Insert SN front-to-back through exactly the same spot the grafting yarn came out of in Step #1.

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Okay, let’s see that again! Here’s Step #1 again. Remember, once we scoop up that first stitch, we take it off the lower knitting needle.

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Here’s Step #2 again. We’ll take that stitch off the needle, too.

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In Step #3, it’s important that we remember to insert SN from the left to the right and pull our yarn through but still leave it on the upper knitting needle.

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Now here’s Step #4. See, SN is going from the front to the back, right into the middle of that stitch we had dropped off the lower knitting needle in Step One.

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1,2,3,4,1,2,3,4,1,2,3,4…ta-da!graftdone.jpg

As you can see below, I really am woefully familiar with that heart-sinking feeling at final inspection. “Oops” was easily remedied with 1 row of duplicate stitch – a small price to pay for knitting in poor lighting and selecting the wrong color for 1 row. But, “yikes” shows a real head-banging blunder: three rounds entirely forgotten. Doh!

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These sleeves were a fair amount of work and I really did not want to frog the second one. I decided to use long circular needles to pick up each entire round immediately above and below the point of the missing rounds, leaving one round in between for cutting. I snipped the sleeve open all the way around. On the bottom half, I reknit the cut row. Then, I knit the 3 missing rows. Finally, I grafted the new & improved bottom back on using the above technique, keeping in mind the special consideration for stranded knitting mentioned below. Fortunately, the 3 missing rows were not affected by increases. (Regrettably, splicing and shaping don’t mix.) As you might imagine, you can use this technique to shorten or lengthen all sorts of work, as long as there is no shaping within the spliced section.
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In a case like this, where we want to pick up the entire circumference, it pays to use extra long circular needles that can be looped back on themselves. If you do this with double-pointed needles, you might want to secure the ends with rubber bands or some other sort of stopper.
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Special consideration for any stranded grafting: Look closely at the photos on the simple striped swatch, at top. Notice that the work on the bottom needle joins the adjacent sides of two different stitches and the work on the top needle joins the two sides of one single stitch. Since you’re dealing with two different stitches on the bottom (in Step #4, then the following Step #1) you may or may not encounter different colors, depending upon your Fair Isle patterning. In any case, it really won’t matter for the bottom needle – Steps #4 and #1 for Fair Isle grafting are worked in exactly the same manner as in the above example. Since both elements joined at the top (i.e., Step #2, then Step #3) form one single stitch, they should always be the same color. With Fair Isle grafting, after you’ve done Step #2, the next stitch on the upper knitting needle may be a different color. Well, that just won’t do! If the loop for Step #3 is a different color than that for Step #2, once you’ve slid off your Step #2 stitch, notice that its other half has become a strand/float going to the left behind that differently-colored Step #3 stitch. Forget about that different-colored stitch we’d normally use and pick up the same-colored left side that becomes a strand/float. Now you can proceed with Step #4 as above.

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