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!

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!)

* * *

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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Yarn support: that’s the way to do it

ImageRarely have I encountered a business relationship that’s as kind and respectful as that between knitting designer and yarn company. When you design a sweater, yarn companies typically provide gratis the yarn that you need to knit the sample – which in and of itself is a pretty sweet deal. But on top of that, I have had universally good experiences dealing with yarn companies, from Malabrigo to Cascade to Berroco to KnitPicks. (Stacey, who runs KnitPicks’ Independent Designer Program, is a particular standout.) All have responded quickly and courteously and have even offered great ideas.

Even so, few can compare to Yarns of Italy, a relatively new yarn distributor that develops and purchases yarns in Italy and then sells them in the US for great prices. They have been selling on Etsy for a while, but more recently decided to go more big time. If you have been to TNNA in the last year or so, you have probably seen them.

In fact, to fill out their TNNA booth, the company held a design competition not long ago, asking designers to create something with each of their yarn lines. I was lucky enough to get to do the design for their Volute line, a gorgeous cotton-acrylic blend. (And let me tell you: gorgeous and cotton-acrylic blend are not phrases I typically put together.) The zippered cardigan above, called Velluto, is what I came up with.

All along the way, Kim (one of YOI’s owners, and the creative director) was a delight to work with. She has a whip-smart sense of humor and an easy manner, but is also very professional at all those times where that’s needed.

During the most recent TNNA, Kim even posted a photo of their friend, a handsome Sicilian gentleman, wearing my sweater. In all, I got the overwhelming message that these people love good design and want to do whatever they can to support it.

And then yesterday, I was looking at their just-launched web site, and saw that they had named one of the colorways in their Innamorata line after me! Innamorata is a luscious merino that comes in two weights and a gorgeous palette. Each color is named for a woman that the YOI owners like, and I got to be on the list! In fact, I’m light gray, since that’s the color of the sweater I designed for them. It is such a lovely and generous gesture. (My mother immediately ordered a sweater’s worth, of course. 🙂 )

You’ll definitely see me designing more with their yarns….

New hat pattern! or, another way to cable without a cable needle

There are some great tutorials out there about how to make knitted cables without using a cable needle. The hat above represents a completely different way of thinking beyond the cable needle: use colorwork to create a faux cable. The next photo shows the effect even more clearly:

See how the sage green sections look like cables crossing over each other? I think it would be lovely on socks, too. If you have Luise Roberts’ wonderful little colorwork stitch dictionary called 1000 Great Knitting Motifs, you will find this stitch pattern on p. 105.

I just made this hat pattern available on Ravelry, and it will soon be up on the KnitPicks web site as well. It’s a quick knit, so if you’re looking for something last-minute for the holidays, this might just be the ticket.

On an unrelated note, I would just like to note that we here in the Land of the Large Eyebrows do not believe in trimming our eyebrow hair. No, we do not.

Sizing up

As a designer, you never really know which of your creations are going to grab the most attention. In my case, one of my earliest designs is also one of my most popular: this kids’ pullover called Langstroth, as worn by our resident cutie pants.

The sweater has a really simple construction — easy stitch pattern, raglan shaping, all in the round. I knew I had to eventually add some men’s sizes, too.

Et voila, Langstroth Sr, as worn by Cutie Pants Sr.:

(Gorgeous photo taken by my brother-in-law, Danny DeAngelis.)

One of the many pleasures of working up this new version of the design was working with the test knitters (ComradeYarnman, AntBee, and amhart on Ravelry). Their ages ranged from teenager to middle aged, and both men and women were represented. Each handled the job so conscientiously and each gave me great suggestions for clarifying the pattern. I really appreciate their help.

I’ve got more in the works, including a kids’ scarf and a men’s cardigan – stay tuned!

New teaching module: magic loop

Teaching is really hard work. I should know — I’ve been doing it for twelve years as a college history professor. Although teaching a knitting class is not nearly the same commitment in terms of time and mental energy, it still requires a great deal of thought and preparation to teach a good class. There may be a class project sample to knit and techniques to learn (or re-learn).

But you also have to think through the whole class through the eyes of different kinds of students. Where is the beginner knitter going to get tripped up? What did I struggle with when I learned how to do this? How can I keep the more advanced knitter engaged? How long will all this really take to teach? Do I want to hurry them along or let them learn at a leisurely pace?

With this in mind, I am gradually developing a set of teaching modules for knitting teachers. These modules are guides that walk a teacher through the whole process of preparing for and teaching a knitting class. I tell the teacher what to prepare, give a detailed lesson plan, provide a pattern that students can knit as a class project, and a handout that students can take home to help them remember what they learned.

I posted a module on “How to Teach Stranded Knitting” previously, and now “How to Teach Magic Loop” is available, both in my Etsy shop. The magic loop module includes the pattern for the pixie baby hat above.

If you’d like to see some testimonials from people who bought my stranded knitting module, you can find them here.

If you have taught a knitting class before, what was the most difficult part about it for you?

Don’t you step on my Blue Sage Shrug

Recently, one of my favorite knitting designers, Teva Durham, asked her fellow designers what kind of Myers-Briggs personality they had, and how that personality type appeared in their design work. While I’m skeptical about how much any such test can reveal about each of our complex characters, I do think there’s some value in thinking about how in broad terms we can act according to type. There is such a thing as thinking we’re too unique.

In response to Teva’s question, I chimed in that I tend to take an engineers’ approach to knitting design. More than anything, I love a structural challenge: some way of building up a garment that hasn’t been tried, that perfect marriage of stitch pattern and garment shape, the kind of schematic that makes you want to pick up your needles and give it a try.

My latest pattern is a perfect case in point. This is called the Blue Sage Shrug, and it’s available now through Ravelry and Hill Country Weavers. This garment has two features that satisfy my inner engineer: fingerless mitts for cuffs and a lace pattern that automatically creates a shoulder cap.

First, the mitts: I have long coveted this shirt my friend Eileen wears. (Well, I have long coveted many things in Eileen’s wardrobe, but let’s just stick with the shirt, shall we?) It has a little reinforced hole near the bottom of the sleeve so that you can stick your thumbs through. For someone who is both fidgety and constantly having to tug at their sleeves, this seemed like genius to me. So I wanted to build it into a sweater design. Easy as pie: you just make the sleeves longer, knit the first 6″ or so in a contrast color to highlight the effect, and add what is basically a large buttonhole about an inch into knitting the sleeve.

The shoulder shaping was trickier and — initially, at least — accidental. On this shrug, I wanted all of the increases on the sleeves to be hidden inside the lace. (As they say about climbing mountains: Why? Because it’s there.) I tried this out and noticed that in this feather-and-fan lace pattern, those increases tend to heighten the vertical arch of the lace as much as they widen the sleeves. At first I thought this would kill the increases-in-the-lace idea, but then I saw how much that heightened lace arch looked like a shoulder and voila: the sleeve not only widens toward the top of the arm, but also makes a kind of natural cap for the shoulder.

Now, if I could just figure out the engineering feat that would make this garment look good on me.

Rivet the Robot

Remember back in March when I told you about working up a robot sweater design concept with a group of knitters on an online “Knitting for Boys” forum?

Well, the pattern is finally ready! It’s Rivet the Robot sweater, and is designed for kids sized 2T-10.

Now, you may be thinking to yourself, “Elizabeth, that’s a hoodie with Dalek arms,” and you’d be right. That’s it’s subtle, incognito look by day.

But look what happens at night:

… super Tron action! The white areas of the sweater are covertly knit in glow-in-the-dark yarn, and those are light-up LED shoelaces tucked into the front “control panel” pocket.  (The LED lights can easily be removed when the sweater needs washing.)

So, you can knit the hoodie for Halloween, and still get a lot of wear out of it during the rest of the year. Go go gadget hoodie!