DMK Podcast, Episode 26: The Design Process



As I’ve been spending more time on my own knitting designs lately, I thought it would be fun to talk about some of the process that goes into creating a pattern. For me, that process is slightly different each time, so I’ll talk about both how wildly things can vary and about the steps that I always visit when I’m designing. The process is both invigorating (really gets the creative juices flowing!) and challenging (grading for different sizes is HARD).

The technique segment in this episode gives you some tips for joining into the round without twisting your stitches.

Mentioned in this episode:

Watch me not mess up on Knitting Daily TV!


See me in this photo looking all casual and relaxed with the lovely Vickie Howell on the set of Knitting Daily TV? That was just before we filmed my segment for episode 1408, which will be airing next month!

Despite the entire colony of butterflies I had swarming in my stomach, the taping went very smoothly. On the worktable in front of us—which I, remarkably, did not even throw up on at all—you’ll see the Bag! For Things! design from my Kung Fu Knits book. On the show, I demonstrate how to do a few of the techniques you need for the bag, such as working a knitted cast on in the middle of a round and a simple method for sewing in a zipper.

I don’t have an exact air date yet, but I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, you can either click here to find out how to watch Knitting Daily TV in your area (in most parts of the US, the show airs on a PBS station) or click here to order the entire season on DVD.

DMK Podcast Episode 22: Design on with Confidence


My all-time-favorite knitting hero (perhaps yours, too?), Elizabeth Zimmermann, famously exhorted us to “Knit on, with confidence and hope, through all crises.” I felt like I needed a little EZ Jiminy Cricket on my shoulder this week, telling me to design on with confidence. We’ll talk about a designing disaster—hopefully finally averted—and a great new book by Kate Atherley that can help you design on with confidence.

Today’s technique segment explains the two most important measurements to pay attention to when choosing a sweater pattern and which size to make.

Mentioned in this episode:

What to do when you have a problem with a knitting pattern

c Meg Kelly 2010

c Meg Kelly 2010

I’ve been contacted twice this week by knitters who were struggling with some aspect of one of my patterns. In both cases, the knitters explained to me very clearly what problem they were having and were extremely pleasant and helpful in their communication with me. As it turned out, in one case the knitter was having problems because her gauge was wildly off, and in the other case the knitter found some legitimate errors in the pattern that I am now working with the yarn company to correct. Both knitters are now on the path to projects they’ll be happy with.

These positive interactions got me thinking that it might be a good idea to post, from a knitting designer’s point of view, some of the ideal ways to get in touch with a designer about a problem you’re having with one of their patterns.

Before you contact the designer, double-check that you’ve not just made a simple error. It happens to all of us (me included!): you’re knitting away happily on a pattern, suddenly the stitch count is off, or the lace pattern isn’t matching up, and you think, “there’s something wrong with this pattern.”

Sure, maybe there is. But before you head off to the computer to email the designer, do double-check your math and look carefully at your knitting and the pattern—it could well be that you just made a mistake in a previous row or missed something in a previous paragraph.

Try to contact the designer directly by email. A good pattern, in my opinion, lists an email address that you can use for pattern support. Barring that, many designers have web pages that list their email address or have contact forms. This is the surest way to reach your target directly. Some designers don’t check their Ravelry messages every day, though this is a good second option if you cannot find an email address.

You can even write a post on the designer’s Ravelry forum (or any relevant forum if they don’t have one). One of my favorite new features on Ravelry is that if you hot-link to a pattern name in a forum post, Ravelry will ask you if you have a question about that pattern. If you say yes, a note pops up in the designer’s user activity feed that someone has a question about one of their patterns.

Start from a position of respect. When you compose your message to the designer, write from the assumption that the designer is neither dumb nor evil. Start from the position that you may have found an error … or, at least, that you’re having a hard time getting the result you’re supposed to get when you follow the instructions as written. Personally, I answer every request for pattern support that I receive, but if you come at me swinging with both fists, my instinct is to go into defensive, not helpful, mode.

Give as many relevant details as you can. Tell the designer what yarn you’re using, where the problem started happening, whether the technique you’re having trouble with is new to you, at what exact point the stitch count went off, or anything else that might help the designer figure out where the problem is. Include a photo of your project if that would help clarify things.

Please share your own advice or responses on this topic in the comments!

Pictured above is one of my favorite patterns that I’ve designed, the Modern Tartan. To date, no errata have been found. 🙂

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 |
24 September | Fibretown podcast |
28 September | Must Stash podcast |
29 September | Through the Back Loops blog |
2 October | Through the Looking Glass blog |
5 October | The Knitgirllls podcast |
10 October | Makewise Designs blog |
15 October | Sunset Cat Designs blog |
17 October | Joeli’s Kitchen podcast |
22 October | Slate Falls Press blog |
3 November | Wattsolak blog |
Available now on Ravelry and Cooperative Press’s website.

What I mean when I say Kung Fu Knits is “for boys”

I’ve spent many years trying to figure out what men and boys want in knitwear. Do they want soft? baggy? close-fitting? neutrally colored? what everyone else is wearing? something different?

When I first dreamed up the idea for Kung Fu Knits, my goal was to try a different approach. If boys are reluctant to wear hand-knit garments, maybe we need to think instead about what they DO want, and knit THAT. My son had been studying kung fu for a little more than a year at that point—he’s now nearly a black belt—so that seemed like a great theme to hang this idea on.


As I began to work out the designs—a whole kung-fu outfit! oooooh! nunchuks! throwing stars!—it dawned on me that this wasn’t really just a book for boys. Lots of girls I know would love this stuff, too. Heck, would have loved this stuff as a kid. For that matter, not all boys are into kung-fu fighting. I began to talk about the book as a book of kids’ knits rather than boys’ knits.

And that’s when my lovely tech editor, Joeli, intervened. There are so few knits for boys, she said; why try to hedge your bets? Just call it what it is: it’s a book for boys. The girls who are interested will find it anyway. (Or words to that effect.)

She had a point. I knew I didn’t agree with her entirely, but I’ve been thinking about what she said ever since. She’s right that boys need more patterns, and that the whole ethos of this book is going to appeal to more boys than girls.

But, as I say, there are lot of girls who love this kind of stuff, and I was one of them.


That’s me at age nine, circa 1980, rocking my Dorothy Hamill haircut and my favorite outfit—including my Mork suspenders, which just makes me sad all over again about Robin Williams. (I have no idea what the pin said. And yes, that is a VW van—our neighbors’.)

My point is that this is not the face of a girly girl. All of my friends at this point were boys. I found it so confusing that there were girls in my grade who liked to wear makeup and do cartwheels during recess just to impress boys. Foursquare (the game, not the app) and riding bikes were MUCH more interesting.

You may have noticed from the other photo above that my son doesn’t fall into easy masculine categories either. His hair is even longer now than it was when we did the photo shoot for Kung Fu Knits. And not all of Liam’s tastes run toward smashing and crashing and tearing things up.


Here he is a few weeks ago about to blend up some strawberry mousse, which he learned how to make during a five-hour cooking class while we were in Italy. Because that and a pasta maker were what he wanted for his tenth birthday.

What I’m trying to say is that I don’t think boys and girls are simple, and I don’t think there are or should be clear boundaries of acceptable behavior or dress for either one. You knit what you want to knit, and you wear what you want to wear. I’m going to call Kung Fu Knits a book of boys’ knits as shorthand, but it’s really a book for any kid who wants adventure.


Kung Fu Knits is now available for preorder at Cooperative Press and on Ravelry. The book will be released on or before September 15 and is available either as a digital download ($9.95) or in paperback ($15.95), which also comes with the digital download.


Men’s knitting roundup #5

It’s hotter than blazes here in central Texas, and it will be for a while. Still, we knitters have to knit into the future, don’t we? This year, I’d really like to be that knitter who has made the mittens before they’re needed.

In that spirit, let’s take a look at some of the newer men’s sweater patterns for this fall….


Ann Budd is a master of the classic design, and her new Goat Herder Pullover showcases that talent perfectly. There’s just enough texture here to please the knitter, while still maintaining an unfussy look that will appeal to many men.

I also appreciate how well fitted this sweater appears to be around the shoulders. (On both men and women, sweaters are much more flattering if they fit snugly but not tightly across the shoulders.)

This is originally worked in Brooklyn Tweed Shelter, but you could readily substitute a less costly worsted-weight wool if you wished.

Plus: hello, adorable floppy mohawk. Good to see some variety in the modeling.

Speaking of a well-fitted garment: look at what happens when you make the ease on a men’s sweater 1″ instead of the standard 4″ …


Meow, that’s what. This is Ann Weaver’s James Dean Verdant Pullover, published in the recent collection Silver Screen Knits: Volume Two, edited by Kathleen Lawton-Trask. The book includes 11 other luscious designs—two more for men and nine for women—all inspired by classic film stars.

The genius of Ann’s pullover is all in the details. The shaping is impeccable, with an emphasis on PEC. If you’re knitting for someone with a muscular chest—perhaps it’s yourself?—this will look fantastic. The fitted sleeves and not-too-deep V-neck also emphasize a muscular shape. Some nice twisted ribbing details at the cuff and hem elevate the design further. You’d want to take the wearer’s measurements carefully before knitting this, because fit is everything here.


I have a new sweater pattern for men out as well! This one, called the Colonel Henley (Ravelry link), was commissioned by the lovely people at Spud & Chloe, and designed with Sweater, a cozy blend of wool and cotton that’s perfect both for transitional weather and for the warmer internal temperatures that men often have.

I’m especially proud of the construction on this garment: it starts at the neck, building out the saddle shoulders and working down from there in one piece. The instructions include some waist shaping, and the overall effect is slimming. I was going for a kind of “updated retro” look. Finished chest sizes range from 35–55.5 inches.

Podcast Episode 8: Bind Off Loosely



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:

Meet Laura Patterson, lace designer extraordinaire

Here’s a fun change of pace: today, I’m interviewing fellow designer Laura Patterson of Fiber Dreams. You can find her at her website and on Ravelry.


(There is Laura’s lovely, smiling face!)

This post is part of the Indie Design Gift-a-long blog series. The GAL is going on through the end of December on Ravelry. There are hundreds of participating knit and crochet patterns by many of your favorite indie designers, all perfect for gift knitting. There are games and tons of prizes as well. Come join the fun!


It looks like you and I have both been knitting for many decades. The knitting world has changed so much in the last 15 years or so—what are the most exciting developments for you?

The easy access of knitting-related information is astounding these days. I remember getting a pattern pre-Y2K, and it using an abbreviation that I hadn’t seen before, one that the designer didn’t include in her meager abbreviations list. It took many hours of looking in a huge assortment of knitting books before I was able to track down the meaning: sm = slip marker. Oh! Then “rm” must mean remove marker. Oh. I get it. These days it’s super easy to find answers to almost any knitting question online in just moments. What a time saver!

For many years I didn’t know anyone else who knit. I had to figure out everything myself. At times, I felt like the only knitter left in the world. I worked a lot of overtime back then, knew only a handful of people in town, and the people in the knitting stores I went into were less than welcoming. When I first got online there were just four, yes four, knitting related websites. Can you imagine? The online communities that have grown and evolved from that have served to bring knitters everywhere closer together. I no longer feel so isolated, alone in my passion for playing with my two sticks and a piece string.

What kind of knitters do you picture in your head when you’re designing your patterns?

I design for knitters who want something to keep their interest while knitting, and that provides something that is enjoyable to wear when done … something that can add a bit of interest, charm, or femininity to whatever else they are wearing. I love thinking of women tossing on a beautiful lace scarf with their business suit, wearing a lacy little cardigan with their jeans and T-shirt, or tossing a delicate lace shawl over their shoulders when going out for an evening out with friends.


Birdsfoot Fern

How would you describe the style of your patterns? 

I definitely don’t design for beginners, though at the same time I do try to include information to make the knitting as easy as possible. I add little notes about using markers, shaping, whatever, whenever I think a knitting tip would be helpful, and there’s room for it in the pattern.

For patterns with charts, which is most of them, there is a key on every page where a chart appears that includes the symbols used in the chart(s) on that page. Several years ago I began making my charts with Illustrator, and so the squares in all of the charts in all the patterns I’ve released since then are all the same size. I never re-size a chart to fit a page by shrinking it. I can’t speak for anyone else, but neither I nor my eyes are getting any younger, and I have a very hard time these days reading charts that have been shrunk up to nothing so the whole thing will fit on one page. I realize that some people will still need to have my charts enlarged, but I do try to minimize that.

Which patterns did you enter into the gift-a-long (GAL), and have you been surprised by which designs have gotten the most attention?

I only entered nine patterns in the GAL: Lalique, Raspberries, Birdsfoot Fern, Cirrhosa, Lazy River, Clarine, Clematis, Domus Aurea, and Ione. (All are pictured below—click on the image for links to the individual patterns.)


So far I’ve only seen two projects using any of my patterns in the GAL: one Cirrhosa and one Birdsfoot Fern. This surprises me. I would have thought that more people would have at least started one of my other GAL designs by now. Most of them knit up relatively quickly, especially Ione and Lazy River. Birdsfoot Fern and Cirrhosa are also quicker to knit than one might think. With both of those designs, the lace is knit before the garter stitch shaping section is worked, and the lace rows are quite short: a maximum width of 31 stitches in Cirrhosa and 35 stitches in Birdsfoot Fern. This helps to make the lace portion easier to manage, faster to knit. Once established, the shaping is pretty mindless on both patterns, and so though the rows grow long, it’s all just knitting, so it gets done in no time.

Any particular design(s) that you’ve got in the GAL that you’d like to say more about?

Lalique continues to surprise me. Not only is the sweater all-over lace, but it requires a number of harder techniques: provisional cast on, applied border, grafting, adding beads….


Even relatively new knitters have successfully knit the pattern—a fact that both surprises and delights me. Lalique was released almost three years ago, and has done quite well the entire time, and it was my top seller for the GAL sale in early November.