DMK Podcast Episode 21: Wanderlust



Ever get that itch to wander, to try something new? Or are you the more the type to settle in to the comforts of the familiar? Or maybe you feel a tug of war inside between these two competing tendencies? In today’s episode, I start with a TED talk that a friend shared with me and then see where the urges to wander and settle lead us in the knitting world.

Today’s technique segment shows how to use a crochet hook to pick up dropped stitches … wandering little buggers that they are.

Mentioned in this episode:

DMK Podcast Episode 16: Yarn Memory



Yarn has a memory: memory of what it once was, what you’ve knit it into, and even where you bought it. Today’s discussion focuses on several kinds of memories tied up in yarn: I review SilverSpun yarn, talk about my trip to Arkansas Fiberarts Extravaganza, and marvel at the incredible gift given to me by the now-defunct Yarn Harvest company.

For the technique segment at the end, I talk about how to get a skein of yarn back into near-mint condition if you’ve already knit with it, need to frog it, and want to knit with it again.

Mentioned in this episode:

DMK Podcast, Episode 14: Taking Stock



We’ve pretty much all been there: for a while you keep careful track of your stash—probably on Ravelry—and then slowly it slips away from you, and you have no idea what you’ve got anymore. I just re-cataloged my entire stash, and in this episode talk about what I learned from it.

For the technique segment at the end, I explain several ways to measure and keep track of partial skeins.

Mentioned in this episode:

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.

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.

If you love it so much…

Overheard from my son, to his best buddy, Max, on their way to our house from a long day at summer camp (imagine this said as sardonically as a six-year-old can possibly muster):

“My mom loves yarn. I mean she loooooooves it. She goes out to the movies with it on a date and she buys it popcorn, and they looooove each other.”

Both boys fell into peals of hysterics. It would be funnier if it weren’t so damned true.

What?! Yarn isn’t the superior medium for every design?

Here is a statement that will shock you: I love yarn. To me, it is the most amazing artistic medium. It was once a collection of living animal or plant cells that have been coaxed into a long strand of magic. You can twist, loop, and knot it into any shape that you desire. I believe it could cure cancer if only scientists would pay more attention to it.

But apparently, some things simply cannot — or should not — be done with yarn. Anyone who has read blogs like this will immediately agree.

Today, though, I’m not here to speak to you about Yarn Crimes. I’m here to talk to you about how yarn simply cannot create everything.


I know.

Let’s take this as an example:

In a sweater design I was doing recently, I wanted to replicate these gears onto the chest and back. I envisioned them spilling around the left bottom side of the sweater, reaching up toward the chest in one long steam-punky chain.

My original idea was to do this in two colors, but if you know anything about knitting with two colors, you can see how complicated that would get. That’s OK if you’re just making something for your bestest, bestest friend, but not a wise choice for a pattern you’re trying to write for other people. Not unless you want knitters with pitchforks and torches crowding around your door.

Then, I thought I could do it with knits and purls (purls for the pattern, knits for the background — didn’t work — tried the other way around — also didn’t work).

This exercise in futility occupied a couple of weeks of knitting and ripping… and knitting again. Finally, I had to admit defeat and — literally — head back to the drawing board.

If you see a solution to this design problem, please do not write to me. I do not own a pitchfork, but I know where to find one.