Who’s ready for a fun hat KAL?

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Yesterday, the yarn company Knit Picks released its 2015 Spring Accessories Collection, and I’m proud to say that I have a hat design (pictured above) in this lovely, 26-pattern book.

The hat is called the Bloccare Cap (direct Knit Picks link / Ravelry link). The name comes from the Italian word for block, since the overall effect is of color blocking.

This is a really fun knit that involves a number of interesting but not complicated techniques. The main body of the hat starts with a provisional cast on and is worked flat and sideways, using short rows to shape the crown. You join the whole thing by using a three-needle bind off and then pick up stitches from the bottom edge to work the ribbed brim.

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Does this look and sound like something you’d like to try? I’m getting quite an enthusiastic response to this pattern on the various social media, so I thought I’d schedule a knit-along (KAL) to begin March 1 (ending April 15).

Why join a KAL? You’ll be able to …

  • show off photos of your hat-in-progress (and admire others’)
  • ask questions if any step of the pattern confuses you
  • get links to tutorials that can help you with any unfamiliar techniques
  • enjoy the camaraderie of other knitters working on the same project you are
  • potentially win a prize if you finish by the closing date and your name is drawn!

What will you need to participate? Gather these things by March 1, and you’ll be ready to go!

  • A copy of the pattern. It’s available as an individual download on the Knit Picks website and on Ravelry, or as part of the 2015 Spring Accessories Collection (available in PDF or print format).
  • Sportweight wool yarn in 5 different colors. The photographed samples use 1 ball in each of five colors of Wool of the Andes Sport. For the largest size, I used about 110 yds of the main color (gray in the sample above); about 70 yds each of the 3 contrast colors that are used in both the hat body and brim (burgundy, blue, and yellow above); and about 50 yds of the last contrast color that is only used in the hat body, not the brim (white above). Knit Picks makes it easy to order kits if you order the pattern from them (and the entire project costs less than $25 including shipping).
  • 16-inch circular needles in US 3 (3.25mm) and US 2 (2.75mm), or the size you need to get a gauge in garter stitch of 21 stitches and 45 rows = 4″/10cm in garter stitch worked flat, blocked.
  • A Ravelry account and membership in the Dark Matter Knits group, both of which are free and fabulous. 🙂

I’ll leave you with a final photo of me wearing my own prototype of the hat. As you can see, there are near-infinite color possibilities. For more variation possibilities, I include instructions on how to make the hat fit more like a traditional beanie instead of as a slouchy hat as shown here. The sizing and styling make it possible to knit this for just about anyone, male or female, child or adult.

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What colors will you choose? Come play with us!

Men’s knitting roundup #9

Many of you in the northern US are blanketed under snow right now, so it’s a good moment to check in on the world of men’s knits. As it happens, most of my favorite recent patterns for men are for your neck, so let’s warm up that throat!


First up is another fantastic shawl pattern by Josh Ryks, called Tailspin. Originally knit with Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light, this would make a great project for sock yarn scraps, as you only need one full skein of one of the colors. The remaining colors only require anywhere from 50–200 yards each.

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If you are as charmed by Josh’s style as I am, you should also check out his video podcast, Sword of a Knitter.


Speaking of keeping your neck warm, here is an unusual but very wearable style for your next men’s cowl. This is the Neckwarmer Cowl with Toggle by the prolific British designer Ruth Maddock. The toggle can be tightened to snug the cowl up around your neck for extra warmth.

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The original uses an Aran and DK yarn held together, but you could also substitute a bulky yarn.


If you’ve got some handsome buttons burning a whole in your craft drawer, check out the luscious Garfunkel cowl by Polish designer Justyna Lorkowska. This piece requires about 250 yards of a worsted-weight wool. It buttons just at the bottom so that you can wear it either buttoned and scrunched around your neck, or open and spread out to protect any part of your chest not covered by your coat. Very stylish.

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I’ve published a new pattern for men as well! My husband (pictured below) has a very handsome, but often chilly, shaved head, so when Bijou Basin Ranch sent me a skein of their delicious Lhasa Wilderness yarn, I knew just who was getting a hat. Lhasa Wilderness blends yak down and bamboo, giving the fiber an incredible softness and luster that are perfect next to the skin.

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My Aftershave Hat pattern uses a simple textured pattern to show off the drape and luster in the yarn. You’ll need 160–180 yards of a sportweight (depending on which size you make), and any drapey luxury fiber such as alpaca or cashmere would make a fine substitute.

Gift-along with me

Just in time for holiday knitting and sudden cold snaps, I’ve just released a new pattern: the 30-Round Rasta Hat.

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(Podcast fans: you may recognize the gorgeous Dianne from the Suburban Stitcher podcast, who so kindly agreed to model the hat for me at Rhinebeck!)

Yup, not kidding: it really takes only 30 rounds to knit this hat, thanks to the squish-i-lumpcious Malabrigo Rasta yarn. It was really fun for me to see what happened when I scaled this delicate leaf lace pattern up to super-chunk size.

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All you need is 65 yards of a super-bulky wool, and you’ll have a hat in an evening. Perfect for that last-minute gift or that night—like last night here—when the temperature suddenly drops 20 degrees and you’re left wondering why you haven’t knit yourself any new hats yet….

The pattern has been fully test knit and tech edited and includes a link to a dedicated video tutorial that explains how to work the “make 3 below” stitch called for in the pattern. (It’s the kind of thing that’s much easier to show than to describe in words!)

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If you’re gearing up for full-on gift knitting, you should know that there’s a mondo pattern sale and knit-/crochet-along that’s about to begin on Ravelry. About 300 indie designers are each offering up to 20 patterns for 25% discount between 8pm EST on November 13 (this Thursday!) and midnight on November 21.

It’s the second annual Indie Designer Gift-A-Long (GAL), and it’s both a great way to pick up a bunch of patterns for gift knitting/crocheting at a great price, and also a fun make-along with tons of prizes and games. Participating designers are listed here, and each of us has our eligible patterns in a Gift-A-Long bundle. My bundle of 20 patterns includes designs for boys and men (my stock-in-trade), as well as a bunch of great accessory patterns for women as well.

The 30-Round Rasta Hat and the hunting gloves I’ll be releasing in a couple of weeks are unfortunately a little late to join the 2014 GAL party, but I hope you find them useful as you plan your gift knitting nonetheless!

Kung Fu Knits book trailer!

Book trailers—that is, videos that give potential readers a peek inside a book—have become all the rage these days. For my first pattern book, I decided to create a book trailer of my own, especially since it helps me to better explain what this funny pattern collection / comic book hybrid is all about. Hope you enjoy watching it!

And while we’re on the subject of how to get a peek inside Kung Fu Knits, I’ve got a tour of some great reviewers lined up for the next couple of months. On the dates listed below, you can find each of these bloggers / podcasters reviewing my book! There are other reviews on the horizon beyond this list, but this will give you a great start in figuring out whether Kung Fu Knits is right for you.

Kung Fu Knits blog/podcast tour

22 September | Mixed Martial Arts & Crafts blog | http://www.mixedmartialartsandcrafts.com
24 September | Fibretown podcast | http://fibretown.blogspot.com
28 September | Must Stash podcast | http://muststashpodcast.com
29 September | Through the Back Loops blog | http://throughthebackloops.wordpress.com
2 October | Through the Looking Glass blog | http://noirbettie.com/blog/
5 October | The Knitgirllls podcast | http://theknitgirllls.com
10 October | Makewise Designs blog | http://makewisedesigns.com
15 October | Sunset Cat Designs blog | http://www.sunsetcat.com/blog/
17 October | Joeli’s Kitchen podcast | http://www.joeliskitchen.com/the-podcast/
22 October | Slate Falls Press blog | http://www.slatefallspressbooks.com
3 November | Wattsolak blog | http://wattsolak.com
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Available now on Ravelry and Cooperative Press’s website.

Kung Fu Knits preorders are live!

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So excited to share with you that my knitting pattern collection / comic book Kung Fu Knits just went up for preorders!

The book will be released on September 15, 2014, and is available in two formats:

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The book includes six patterns: a kung fu jacket, pants, and belt, nunchuks, throwing stars, and a backpack to carry cool stuff in. The hilarious comic book storyline will make your kid plead with you to knit ALL THE THINGS!

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Kung Fu Knits book launch and prize giveaway

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Today I have very exciting news to share with you: on September 15, I’ll be releasing my first-ever knitting book, Kung Fu Knits, published by Cooperative Press.

Read on for more info about the book and how you can win a copy (and other prizes) in my pre-launch giveaway.

The book features six kung-fu-themed patterns for kids’ sizes 4–12 and a comic book story designed to light up your kid’s imagination and make them want ALL THE THINGS. (Honey, I knit for boys. I feel your pain. You have to make them want it, and this book will make them want it.)

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The patterns are:

  • an entire kung-fu uniform (gi): jacket, pants, and belt (shown in photo above)
  • nunchuks (also shown in photo above)
  • throwing stars
  • a backpack to hold all the things

I’ll share more photos and information about how you can get a copy soon. For now, though, I want to tell you about my Kung Fu Knits pre-launch prize giveaway!

From now (August 7) through September 11, 2014, enter to win prizes by posting your favorite photograph of a child wearing one of your knitted or crocheted creations. Doesn’t have to be your child; can be a baby, or even your own child grown up. I just want to see your favorite photo of a kid wearing something you knitted or crocheted.

Post the photo in any of the following ways:

You may post one entry per social media site. (For example, you can post once on Ravelry, Facebook, and Instagram—you just can’t post twice on Ravelry.) I’ll draw for prizes from all the entries on September 12.

Here’s what you can win:

  • Grand prize: Signed paperback copy of Kung Fu Knits (which also comes with the digital download in your Ravelry library) and four skeins of Berroco Vintage (the yarn used for the patterns)
  • 3 digital/PDF copies of Kung Fu Knits
  • fantastic ninja project bag from Kicks and Giggles
  • equally fantastic ninja stitch markers from Bead Passion

Good luck—let’s see those photos!

Podcast Episode 8: Bind Off Loosely

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WATCH NOW:
http://www.podcastgarden.com/episode/bind-off-loosely_16265

We’re often exhorted to “bind off loosely,” but sometimes that can be hard. Today, I talk about how knitting helped stay calm and loose through some alarming medical news; how I almost completely blew it while having a shawl that I designed test-knit; and how to work Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off without it ruffling at the edges.

Mentioned in this episode:

Behind the scenes: Hitch, Vertigo, and the San Juan Bautista Shawl

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Today, my blog is the 12th stop on the blog tour for Hitch: Patterns Inspired by the Films of Alfred Hitchcock, edited by Stephannie Tallent. Since I both designed a shawl for this book and also did the page design and layout for the book itself, I thought I’d take you behind the scenes on both parts of the process.

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In addition to my love for designing for men and boys, I also have a penchant for designing garments with unusual constructions. I’ve loved unusually constructed garments ever since I first knit Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Baby Surprise Jacket – an ingenious design that looks like a malformed jellyfish until you perform the origami maneuver at the end that transforms your jellyfish into a perfect little sweater.

When I saw the call for designs for Hitch, I knew this was another perfect opportunity to design against the grain. As a director, Alfred Hitchcock reset all the cinematographic rules, so I wanted my design to be similarly off-kilter.

My direct inspiration came from this iconic movie poster that Saul Bass did for Hitch’s film Vertigo. (Bass also did the poster for West Side Story, The Shining, and many other great films, by the way.)

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I decided to translate that wonderful spirograph shape into a two-color shawl. The colors were easy: an orange-red and a light gray, kindly provided by Shibui Yarns. I experimented with several different combinations of stripes and stitch patterns, until I hit upon a simple, two-row, knit-and-purl stripe with yarnovers that fit the bill. The yarnovers run in one direction and the stripes in the other in a way that I thought was quite reminiscent of the original poster.

All that was left was to mimic that dizzying spiral shape. I found that if I cast on a certain number of stitches at the end of every so many rows (more detail available in the pattern, obviously), then the shawl grew outward in an intriguing spiraly way:

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In the end, I had a shawl that is simple to knit and did not feel over-designed – but that has maximum graphic impact:

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I’ve called it the San Juan Bautista Shawl after the old Spanish mission where Hitch filmed the climactic bell tower scenes. It turns out the bell tower was a complete fabrication created as a movie set – the actual mission’s tower had burned down decades earlier – which I thought was a fitting tribute both to Vertigo‘s own deceptions as well as the fact that this shawl is deceptively simple to knit.

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Once I had finished designing my piece for the book, I had the pleasure of laying out the book for Cooperative Press, where I’m the art director. The editor, Stephannie Tallent, had done an exceptional job of choosing garment designs that complemented each other well, and she had also smartly limited the color palette for the yarns to red, black, gray, and white. Even though more than 25 designers contributed to the book, the collection looks as cohesive as if one designer had done them all.

Our photographer, Nick Murway, specializes in dramatically lit shots, and CP’s editor/publisher, Shannon Okey, selected an elegant vintage wardrobe kindly loaned to us by Deering Vintage. The combined look was very Hitchcock. (By the way, the model pictured above is one of my former students, Marie Draz, who is a brilliant doctoral student in philosophy and just happens to have a classic Grace-Kelly-like beauty.)

It was my lot, then, to pull together all these striking elements into a book. Stephannie and I perused through various Hitchcockian fonts, finally settling on Filmotype Kingston for its elegance and legibility. (The body text is all in Century Schoolbook, a font used frequently in the 1950s.) For the book’s color palette, I of course adhered to the same black-and-white-and-red-all-over look of the garments. The rest of the book design was relatively straightforward, but I did add a few fun elements like using a small Hitchcock silhouette as the icon that you click on in the digital version when you want to return to the table of contents.

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Do check out the 28 other gorgeous patterns in this book. As someone who designs mainly for guys, I should point out that there are some patterns in here for you as well: the Robie Sweater, the Exakta Hat, and the Kentley socks.

And if you enjoyed reading this post, try these others stops on the Hitch blog tour!
9/28/2013: Sunset Cat Designs
10/5/2013: Knitting Kninja
10/7/2013: Herrlichkeiten
10/8/2013: Knit and Travel
10/9/2013: Knit & Knag Designs
10/10/2013: Wooly Wonka Fibers
10/11/2013: Verdant Gryphon
10/15/2013: Impeccable Knits: Shifting Stitches
10/16/2013: Rewolluzza
10/21/2013: Knitwear Designs by Carolyn Noyes
10/22/2013: Peacefully Knitting
10/23/2013: Dark Matter Knits (You are here! Thanks for stopping by. Come back, won’t you?)
10/24/2013: Turnknit: Dani Berg Designs
10/25/2013: SweetGeorgia Yarns
10/28/2013: doviejay knits
10/29/2013: Triona Designs
10/30/2013: Tactile Fiber Arts
11/2/2013: A B-ewe-tiful Design
11/4/2013: A Knitter’s Life
11/5/2013: Catchloops
11/6/2013: Yarn On The House
11/07/2013: Ramblings
11/12/2013: Hazel Knits
11/13/2013: Knitcircus
11/19/2013: indigodragonfly
11/9/2013: Fyberspates
11/25/2013: knittingkirigami

Men’s knitting pattern roundup #2

Let’s check in again on the world of men’s knitting patterns.

(If you missed the first men’s knitting pattern roundup, you can find it here, along with an explanation of what these roundups are about.)

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Interweave Press just released a delicious magazine of Harry Potter-themed knits, a full third of which are suitable for men. My favorite of the bunch is Hagrid’s Sweater by Anne Podlesak. Like the other two men’s garments in this collection, this one is beautifully cabled and comes in a good range of sizes (34.5-50.5″ finished chest in this case).

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Such a thoughtful use of cabling, including some strategic yarnovers that will keep this pullover from getting pulled off an over-heated body.

But what really sells this for me is the fact that it’s modeled by a bearded, handsome bear of a man. You know how excited we plus-sized women get when we see actual, plus-sized models? Same applies here. Big men like sweaters, too, and it’s great for a change to see how the finished garment would actually look on said big men.

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While we’re on the subject of magazines, the new Cast On (Aug-Oct 2013) focuses on men’s designs — 11 patterns in all, including sweaters, vests, socks, hats, and scarves. (Not all of them are listed in Ravelry yet.) I’m particularly fond of this scarf by Jennifer Donze.

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Finally, the supremely talented Veera Välimäki (the genius behind the Color Affection Shawl) just published in Finnish the pattern for this well-tailored men’s sweater. In this garment, Veera does what she always does best: takes a few simple elements (basic knit and purl stitches in this case) and combines them in a new, stylish way that is utterly appealing. That neckline is not quite cowl and not quite yoke. And those buttons! An infectious shot of color on what is already a gorgeous neutral backdrop. Those patches of reverse stockinette complement the texture of the hand-dyed yarn. Gorgeous.

Veera’s Ravelry page promises an English translation at a future date.

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Oh, and not that he needs any help from me, but in case you haven’t heard, Brooklyn Tweed has recently issued a men’s collection as well. It’s classic and beautiful in the way that all Brooklyn Tweed productions are.

Men’s knitting pattern roundup #1

If you’ve stumbled across my blog, then it’s no doubt because you are searching for men’s knitting patterns — and you’ve probably also noticed that they can be hard to find.

If you’ve been around my blog for a while, you know I sympathize … and that I frequently write knitting patterns for men myself.

The patterns are out there, so I thought it might be time to do a little curating of my own — bringing you weekly roundups of some of my favorite patterns for men that I’ve found around the interwebs.

I’ll favor new patterns, but will probably include some older patterns each time as well. Your tastes may not be the same as mine, and my reach is not perfect, so please feel free to share your own favorites in the comments.

(I’ll also start doing a weekly boys’ pattern roundup — stay tuned for that in a few days.)

Let’s get started, shall we?

First up are the fabulous Rock Strata fingerless mitts by young, up-and-coming designer Josh Ryks ($6 on Ravelry):

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The unusual shaping in these great-looking mitts is created modularly — easy to execute but much more fun than your average brown mitt. I always say that the biggest challenge with designing men’s knitwear is to create something wearable while still providing the knitter with something fun to make. Josh’s design hits that sweet spot perfectly.

If you’re looking for more graphic accessories for men like this, check out Josh’s other designs as well.

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If you’re looking to get a headstart on sweater season, check out this beauty from Kirsten Johnstone:

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This design, Sankai Man ($8 on Kirsten’s website), is worked in the luscious yarn Brooklyn Tweed Shelter. The designer’s architectural training shows itself in this sweater’s impeccable construction. Don’t you just love that yoke? (The pattern also comes in boys’ and women’s versions.)

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And finally for this week, I can’t resist including a shawl. We largely have popular knitwear designer Stephen West to thank for making the geometric shawl a cool menswear piece. So while the Nangou shawl by Melanie Berg (€3.90 or about $5 on Ravelry) may be modeled by a woman in the photos, I can readily picture this on a man as well, especially worn scarf-like as it is in the photographs. These simple, classic knits can be a real pleasure.

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