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!

Sheltered: Introducing Modern Tartan

c Meg Kelly 2010

Hello, all. I hope you are each encased in human and yarny love today. Here in Austin, it’s 55 degrees and pouring rain, but tomorrow we’re headed to Baltimore from a more traditional winter wonderland.

I got an extra Christmas present this year: today, Hill Country Weavers released its pattern line featuring Shelter yarn: and the men’s sweater pictured above is my contribution. Hill Country Weavers is the big local yarn store here in Austin, and is one of nine flagship stores carrying Shelter, the beautiful new yarn designed by Jared Flood, aka Brooklyn Tweed.

Jared, of course, has his own beautiful line of patterns for his yarn. A group of designers here in Austin decided to try our own hand at the yarn, seeing what it would do under an Austin influence, thanks to some prompting from HCW’s owner, Suzanne Middlebrooks. The whole pattern line is gorgeous — and gorgeously photographed.

c Meg Rice 2010

This men’s pullover, called Modern Tartan, looks complicated, but is actually quite simple to knit. Not just simple, but also fun, since you start at the top and knit down, leaving very little seaming. You do have to cut a little — that zippered neck there comes from a steek that you cut down from the collar. But do not fear the steek, dear knitter — especially when the steek is to be cut into such a lovely, sticky wool like this one. This yarn wants to hang onto itself like so much velcro.

There is another way that the yarn and design marry well together: Shelter is so lofty in its construction that the sweater stays quite light — a good feature for the average hot-blooded male.

Design-wise, the trickiest thing to figure out on this sweater was how to make the raglan increases play nicely with the stranded color work. I finally landed on an easy explanation for how to do the increases that I think makes the final product look much more polished.

c Meg Kelly 2010

If a men’s sweater in five different colors of Shelter is too spendy for you, there are certainly viable alternatives. The wool you use needs to be worsted-weight, pretty sheepy (no super-softy, drapey wools), and relatively light. Berroco’s Blackstone Tweed or – even cheaper – Shepherd’s Wool from Stonehedge Fiber Mill would be great alternate choices.

Really, most classic worsted-weight wools would work — like Cascade 220 (ooh, I’d love to see this in a bunch of their tweed colors) — but just be advised that those heavier wools would make a warmer sweater. Seriously warm and toasty might be just the sort of thing you’re looking for right now.

Merry Christmas, and warmest wishes to everyone, whether this is your holiday or no.

A modeling career begins

Look who I found grinning at me when I opened the October KnitPicks catalog:

The cute little guy in yellow is my son, Liam, modeling a sweater that I designed for KnitPicks’ Independent Designer Program. I was thrilled to see that they featured the design in the catalog.

I still need to write to you all about Fiber College, an absolutely gorgeous event in Maine that I attended two weekends ago. Soon, my sweets, soon. Meanwhile, a girl’s gotta grade.

A honey of a sweater

I’m so excited! This Thursday, my latest knitwear design — the sweater you see above — will be posted onto the KnitPicks web site. KnitPicks, one of the major U.S. yarn companies, has a new Independent Designer Program through which independent designers can sell patterns that are made in the company’s yarns.

I approached them with this idea and they liked it. Earlier this week, the completed pattern was officially approved. This is exciting for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that KnitPicks gets hundreds of thousands of hits. For a novice designer like me, this kind of exposure is invaluable.

KnitPicks also lets designers sell their patterns elsewhere simultaneously, so I’ve already posted the pattern to Ravelry. In the six hours since I posted the pattern, it has already received more love than either of the first two patterns that I posted. I feel like I’ve finally hit it this time.

The design is just what I usually shoot for — something that looks more complicated than it is. The honeycomb stitch pattern is actually just a simple combination of knit, purl, and slipped stitches. The sweater is also worked together in one piece so that little sewing is required at the end.

I’ve named it Langstroth after the man who developed some of the modern techniques used in beekeeping. Get it? Honeycomb? Beekeeping? Yuk yuk yuk.