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.

rastahat_dianne_web

(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.

rastahat_flat_web

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!

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

hitch_cover1-270x350

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.)

vertigo-movie-poster-saul-bass

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:

Vertigo Shawl swatch

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

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.

Sneaky way to get your pattern in Interweave Knits

Someday I would love to have one of my designs appear in Interweave Knits, and in fact, I just mailed my first submission to them last week.

For now, though, I am enjoying the fact that a design of mine already does appear in their pages. It’s in an ad on p. 25 of their new “Weekend” issue.

That’s my shrug down there in the corner, knit in the delectable Madelinetosh Tosh DK. The entire collection is stunning, and includes about ten patterns. Hill Country Weavers strikes again!

I’ll post some more photos and information once the pattern is available – it’s still undergoing a little post-production work….

Martha wrap

Now here’s one that has been in the works for a while.

I completed this design, called the Martha Wrap, back in October, and it has finally appeared in print! This is my first knitting design to appear in a magazine — to be specific, the inaugural issue of UK-based Knit magazine (formerly Yarn Forward).

This is also my first design for women. Getting the fit right on a women’s sweater is a lot more challenging than getting the fit right on a boys’ or men’s sweater. Women tend to like their sweaters more fitted, so you have to get the shaping just right. Plus, this magazine requires all designs be sized for 30-50″ bust sizes, so that just ups the challenge.

The sweater looks pretty good on the model that the magazine chose, though I have to say it looked even better on the very kind college student who let me fit this sample on her. (No photographic evidence, unfortunately.) If you have a fuller chest or broad shoulders — or both, this is definitely the sweater for you.

The main idea behind this sweater was to feature handspun yarn. When I first thought up the idea for this wrap, I had just taken a class on spinning and dyeing from Martha Owen at the John C. Campbell Folk School. (Yes, the wrap is named after her — I loved her class, and her.) It takes so long to hand-dye and hand-spin yarn. I wondered how I could make the most out of the precious, small amount that I got after hours and hours and hours of dyeing and spinning.

I have always liked sweaters with oversized, overlong cuffs, so that was my starting point. Then I thought of the collar that becomes a belt. The rest of the sweater needed to be in a different yarn, and I liked the idea of a strong contrast in weight and color. So I chose a sock yarn and a simple lace pattern to help break up the monotony of doing a whole sweater in fingering weight.

The magazine — ahem — chose the colors. Not my choice. I think my next move is to make one of these for myself in colors that I like. I’m thinking a semisolid mustard yellow for the main color and a handspun that has lots of earthy fall colors.

Lace love/hate

Here’s the latest thing off my needles, the Alhambra scarf, designed by Anne Hanson of Knitspot. (I can show it to you because I didn’t design it — weird how that works, isn’t it?) It’s knit out of some lovely KnitPicks Shadow that a thoughtful former student gave to me.

Like so many of Anne’s designs, Alhambra hits that sweet spot where complex-looking lace meets actually-not-so-difficult stitch pattern. Just enough repetition that you don’t have to be a slave to the chart, but just enough variation that you don’t want to cut yourself to death ever so slowly with your thindly thinny little laceweight yarn.

Here’s the thing, though: I’m not a fan of lace, generally speaking. It would seem that in the universe of knitters, this makes me the inhabitant of a remote planet, population 4. Knitters get FREAKY for lace. Even women in their 20s are churning out lace shawls as if they had actually come back into style.

Don’t get me wrong — I kid you lace lovers because I love. And I get the delight in the technical challenge that is lace. My tastes just run on the other end of the spectrum from Super Femme.

But this scarf? It has a different quality that isn’t quite so…. lacy. I think it would be possible for a man to wear it, too. What do you think?

A soft fuzzy

All done!

It has been cold, cold, cold here in Texas…. OK, wait, now everyone on the east coast of the U.S. is going to want to strangle me because “cold, cold, cold” is not quite the same thing as “buried alive under 5′ of snow.”

But considering that usually in mid-February the highs get into the 70s, this year’s highs of 40s are quite a shock to the wardrobe. I simply do not have a lot of winter clothing, because normally I use it for about 10 minutes of the year. (Before you again reach to strangle me, let me remind you that for six months out of the year, you could bake a cake on my front lawn. Without an oven.)

So this year I’ve had a taste of what it’s like to be a knitter in colder climes, where you decide to knit things based on “what you need to keep your body warm,” rather than “what you are willing to sweat in because damn it, you’re going to wear knitted garments for at least a few days before summer hits.”

This scarf is a happy. It is soft and toasty and light on my skin. It does not tickle my nose, nor make my skin itch. It’s purty. It’s a nice change after once again failing to knit a sweater for myself that I like.