embracing summer

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Montreal is in the midst of a serious heat wave at the moment (along with a lot of other places both near and far), but in a place with a winter as cold as this one’s, I find it hard to complain about the heat. I spent so many months looking forward to the arrival of summer, so I’ve been doing my best to embrace it now that it’s here, heat wave and all. I can’t remember the last time I wore jeans, since I’ve been living in shorts instead, along with a constant rotation of dresses and skirts that I rarely wore in Tromsø, where 20ºC / 70ºF constitutes a “hot” day. There’s so much that I miss about the Norwegian summer, but Tromsø’s been having a particularly chilly and rainy one so far, and I have to admit I’m not sad to miss that this year.

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There’s a lot of things to rejoice in during the summer in Montreal. The return of the farmer’s markets with their local produce (and to my particular excitement right now, local strawberries), the opening of the (free) public pools, the lush, verdant tree-lined streets with their buildings covered in ivy or other greenery. The flora in general, in fact. I love seeing all the window boxes and plants on balconies, and the tiny gardens in front of the multiplexes of the Plateau. The summer here is full of festivals, and I got to see a bit of Montreal Jazz Fest last weekend when my parents were in town. The experience of being in this city in the summer is a little bit like living in a photo where the saturation has been dialed up a few notches. The hardest thing, in fact, is to try to find a little bit of peace and quiet, since the city’s pretty chaotic at this time of year (as you might expect when a couple million people in a relatively small space all want to get outside at the same time).

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And even though I’ve got a lot of work knitting on my needles, since summer is the time when many designers are preparing releases for the fall, I’ve managed to cast on some summery knitting for myself, as well. We recently started carrying BC Garn Bio Balance, a blend of organic wool and organic cotton, at the yarn store where I work and I decided to cast on for a Tarmac tank, a pattern by Anna Maltz from the summer issue of Pom Pom Quarterly.

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There’s a lot to love about that project, even if it’s slow-going at the moment since I’m knitting on so many other things. I’d love to get it finished in time for Twist Festival (and more on that soon, in another post), but we’ll see how I get on. How are you enjoying your summer, if you’re in the northern hemisphere like me?

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things I’d like to knit

September always brings a slew of new pattern releases and this year’s no different. Here are a few I’m excited about at the moment.

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I’ve knit exactly three shawls in my life, all of which were relatively small (and one of which was a gift for someone else). I’ve never considered myself a shawl knitter, and yet I can’t stop thinking about this new release from my friend Cory of Indie Knits. It’s called Lupine, and those garter ridges combined with the little yarnover clusters is such an appealing combination for me. I’d love to knit it up in a solid or a heather, which would feel quite different than the variegated. I’ve been thinking about small shawls a lot since the move, so my new climate may actually turn me into a shawl knitter after all – and if it does, this will likely be the first.

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Karie Westermann is releasing The Hygge Collection over the course of this month, and while only the first pattern has been released so far and the second previewed, I love them. Karie lives in Glasgow but is originally from Denmark, and the collection centers around the Scandinavian concept of hygge – “a feeling of comfort, cosiness, and happiness.” The collection will feature five patterns, and the first pattern, Fika, is another shawl (who am I?!), simple and beautiful, and I love that textured edge. The second pattern, which she’s previewed, is a wonderful looking pair of fingerless gloves (you can see them here on Instagram). It seems like there’s already a color story in place and I like where it’s headed.

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I’m also daydreaming about cardigans a lot these days (still). At the moment I’m pretty keen on Abram’s Bridge by Mer Stevens from the gorgeous new issue of Pom Pom Quarterly (the autumn issue does always seem to be the best one). How beautiful is that stitch pattern all over the back, and how gorgeous is that color? If I had all the time in the world, I’d love to be casting on for this. This issue of Pom Pom is great from front to back, too – they’ve dubbed it The Wool Issue, and there’s a focus on small yarn producers who can often trace their wool back to the sheep it came from. I love the encouragement to seek out small producer yarns that are local to you (and often domestically sourced and produced), and to support the work they’re doing. Abram’s Bridge is knit up in Fancy Tiger Heirloom Romney, a perfect example: Amber and Jaime from Fancy Tiger went out west earlier this year to meet the sheep their wool comes from.

None of these patterns are in my immediate queue, but when the weather changes, it is nice to daydream, isn’t it? What are you daydreaming about casting on for?

very shannon’s tops, tanks, and tees KAL

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Today is the official start – cast-on day – of Shannon’s annual Tops, Tanks, and Tees KAL. I learned about this KAL last year during the Vasalong, as many folks knitting a Vasa were including it in both KALs. I was pretty stoked to learn about the TTTKAL, as it’s ideal for spring heading into summer, and if I can swing it, I’d love to participate this year (though I’d better get going if I want to have something finished by the June 3rd deadline).

I’ve got a solid garment’s worth of Shibui Linen in my stash that I’ve been wanting to use for ages, but I haven’t landed on the right pattern yet. I’ll also admit that part of why it’s been languishing in the stash for so long is that once I fell in love with Quince & Co. Sparrow, the Shibui Linen seemed less appealing (while they’re both fingering weight and 100% linen, the Shibui is a chainette yarn, so it yields a more textured fabric than the Sparrow). Absolutely nothing against Shibui, who make wonderful yarn I enjoy knitting with – I just have a rather giant soft spot for Quince & Co. in general. Still, I’m determined to start knitting more from my sizable yarn stash, so I’d love to use this yarn for the TTTKAL. I have three skeins of grey, and two of navy, so stripes seem like the best use of the yarn. Because of the way the Shibui knits up, the fabric has some texture already and textured stitches might compete with it, so stockinette also seems like a good way to go. Here are some patterns I’ve been considering:

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Top row, from left:

1. The duh-totally-easy way to go about things would be to knit yet another Vasa – I love my linen Vasa (in Sparrow) and it actually gets a lot more wear than my wool version, so another linen Vasa would be a bit of a no brainer. I know I’d wear it. But on the other hand, I’ve already knit two Vasas and I don’t often knit garments more than once. I can feel myself itching to knit something different.

2. Saco Stripes, by Pam Allen. I’ve loved this pattern ever since I first saw it, and part of me still really wants to knit it. But as far as knitting things that will actually become wardrobe staples, I’m not sure how it would do. My hips are wider than my shoulders, and tanks tend to emphasize that with the narrow shoulder width. A top that extends beyond my shoulders tends to make me look a little more balanced, which means I may only wear a tank like this if I’ve got something to wear over it. I love it, but this probably isn’t the best choice for me right now.

Bottom row, from left:

3. A host of things from the new issue of Pom Pom Quarterly, that cover sweater Greco in particular. The summer issue of Pom Pom contains several patterns that would be perfect for this knitalong, and I was entertaining the idea of a Greco in plain stockinette – the lighter weight linen would lend the whole top an open, summery feeling, and the V-neck in back is a nice touch. The cropped length is cute, too, but again I’m not sure how regularly I would wear that. I suppose adding length would probably be fairly simple, though.

4. Dubro, by Michiyo, for Quince & Co. I think I’ve settled on this one – the finished garment is something I would definitely reach for and wear a lot, I don’t have anything like it in my wardrobe already, and Michiyo is one of my favorite designers. I love the use of blocks of stripes with a plain yoke – a little bit of a Breton sweater, but with a twist. Proportions are tricky to nail down with stripes, but I love the proportions of these! I might have to get a little creative with yarn here based on my yardage – the sleeves may need some modifications – but I think I can swing it.

Are you taking part in the Tops, Tanks, and Tees KAL this year? I’d love to hear what patterns you’re working up!

swedish pancakes (pom pom spring 2015)

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The preview of the spring 2015 issue of Pom Pom Magazine went up today, and I’m thrilled to have a design in this issue! When the call for submissions was first posted, I have to admit I got pretty excited. “Clean lines and shapes and Scandinavian minimalism” were the key words, so I was all over it. I had time to put a couple of submissions together, and fortunately one of them made it in! Here’s Swedish Pancakes:

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I’m so happy with how these sweet little mitts turned out. One of my favorite things about working with third parties like Pom Pom or Brooklyn Tweed is that they often push me to work outside my comfort zone with colors (leave it to me and I’ll work with blue, grey, and green forever). My swatch for this stitch pattern was worked in white and blue, which is very typical for me, but I think the subtle pink and warm silver are a beautiful combination and I love the effect of the softened colorwork.

To explain the name of the mitts, we have to turn to the pattern motif. I’ve wanted to work with this colorwork stitch pattern for quite awhile – it’s very directly inspired by the exterior of a building here in Seattle: the Swedish Club. It’s a box of a mid century building which was completed in 1961 (around the same time the Space Needle was nearing completion, the year before the Seattle World’s Fair in 1962), and situated on the west side of Lake Union with a beautiful view of the lake and city. I first encountered the club when a friend suggested we try out their Swedish pancake breakfast back in 2010. Once there, we learned that the pancake breakfast is a monthly event that brings a thousand people through the doors in the space of a few hours, complete with folk bands and people of all ages, and it’s bucketloads of fun. I joined the club that very day. My relationship with the club goes beyond pancake breakfast, though – it’s also a pretty special building to me because it’s where I got married. If you’re in Seattle, I highly encourage you to check out the rather large calendar of events and find an excuse to go to the club. (Seriously – weekly happy hour, fiber arts open studio time, and dinners, movies, Swedish classes, car shows… there’s a lot to choose from.)

The south and east walls of the building feature an exterior layer of metal latticework in a geometric design of overlapping circles. It’s one of my favorite things about the building and I’m so happy to finally feature it in a colorwork pattern.

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You can check out more views of the building on Flickr.

I also thought it would be fun to share a bit of memoribilia from the club. My husband Chris and I picked up this plate at one of their antiques & great finds sales:

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It’s hard to make out in this photo, but I love that the plate features the original signage on the front of the building over the doors.

We also have a handful of these vintage swizzle sticks, which were handed down by Chris’s grandmother:

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Pretty swanky.

Thanks for indulging my love of this Seattle institution, and I hope you’ll feel inspired to check out the spring issue of Pom Pom! It’s available for pre-order now from the Pom Pom website, and you can check out the rest of the patterns on Ravelry. (I especially love Joji’s hat Vitsippa and the adorable Elske socks by Merrian Holland.)

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a quadrillion stitches

I remember moments from before I was a knitwear designer, particularly when I was in college (and probably putting off writing a paper), when I would be knitting something and think to myself, Wouldn’t it be awesome if I could just knit all the time? Wouldn’t it be great if that was my job? I don’t think I’m alone in that, but it’s the minority that actually decides to turn knitting into their job. It probably takes a certain amount of crazy, and I guess I’ve got that.

Of course, the reality of being a knitwear designer, even for the handknitting industry, involves a lot more than just knitting. It involves a lot of math, for example (that’s okay, I like math). Pattern writing, photography, formatting, editing, pattern support, teaching and putting together tutorials… the list goes on. Still, for most of us, it also involves a lot of knitting. One of the things I didn’t realize before I started working professionally in this industry was how my relationship with knitting, and my own skillset, would change. I was a fast knitter to begin with, but I got faster. The sheer amount of stuff I’m technically able to crank out is kind of mind-boggling. For me, this has led to a tendency to have too many projects going at once – like, twelve or more – because the faster I knit the more things I want to cast on. In theory, it sounds like a great ability, to be able to fly through projects, but I think it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. The more things I knit, and the more it feels like my own personal production line, the less special each knitted item is. I don’t always have time to get to know the piece as I work with it.

And then there’s work knitting vs. personal knitting; even when I’m publishing a pattern in-house and the sample will be staying with me, it feels very different when I’m knitting a piece for work than when I’m knitting a purely personal project (which may be for me or for some other recipient, but it’s not for work). I certainly wouldn’t claim that all designers feel this way – I have no idea how most other designers feel about it, really – this is just my experience. And so it’s important for me to have personal projects to work on or I  start to forget why I love knitting in the first place. And as I’ve come to this realization in the course of the last year, I’ve realized that many of my favorite knits are the ones I’m forced to go slow with: big projects without deadlines that might get set aside for awhile. Other knits may come and go, but that kind of project is always there for you (corny, I know, but true). Not only do those projects require patience, but they won’t end up in a trunk show winging their way around the country at any point. While it’s incredibly fun to think of one of my samples traveling the country, and I’m incredibly proud of the work that I do, at the end of the day, my favorite knitting is the knitting that isn’t work.

All of that was a wordy, rambling way to introduce a recent FO that I’m pretty enamored with. When the autumn issue of Pom Pom Quarterly came out last year in 2013, I immediately fell in love with Quadrillion by Meghan Fernandes. I knew I wanted to make myself one, but I was right in the middle of getting my F/W collection ready, in addition to prepping for my booth at Knit Fit and getting ready to promote my patterns in Wool People 6 and the winter issue of Pom Pom. I knew it would have to wait a little while.

Meghan’s version is knit in a beautiful vibrant blue from The Uncommon Thread, a light DK-weight Blue Faced Leicester which is probably lovely to work with, but I realized at some point in January that I already had the yarn I wanted to make this with. My booth at Knit Fit last year was right across the walkway from Jorstad Creek, and there was a great big pile of beautiful grey wool that kept catching my eye. Sometime during the second day of the marketplace, I walked over and purchased a sweater’s quantity of undyed Finnsheep wool yarn, a sport weight, without having any idea at the time what I would make with it. Two or three months later I had figured it out. Woolly cables! By March, I’d swatched and cast on for the front.

Cables slow me down anyway, so perhaps this project was destined to be a slow one. Eight (!) different cables run up the front (not quite a quadrillion, but it felt like it at some moments), with different repeat lengths requiring judicious use of post-its or washi tape to keep track of one’s place. The front was the slowest, and it got pushed aside at several different points when projects with deadlines cropped up, or I was traveling, or I was working on my Svalbard, or I just got tired of cables. I finished the front in September, and then I had the back and the sleeves knit within the next two months. But then it was done! And I’ve been wearing it nearly nonstop ever since.

A lot of the knitting that I do doesn’t challenge me anymore, which is great from the standpoint of needing to get samples knit by deadlines, and that kind of thing, but not as great when I consider what I like about the act of knitting, and about learning about knitting. In a technical sense, this sweater wasn’t necessarily a challenge, but it challenged me in other ways, particularly in my patience and commitment. My investment was greater, and I think that’s part of why the reward of wearing it is so sweet.

The work/life balance is still a constant struggle for me, as it is for many who are self-employed or working on a freelance basis, but I’m working on it. Special thanks to my friend Lee for the photos!

Pattern: Quadrillion, by Meghan Fernandes
Yarn: Jorstad Creek Finnsheep Wool
I made the second-smallest size, and other details like needle sizes used and modifications can be found on my Ravelry project page. The hat I’m wearing is Fjordland, from Pom Pom Winter 2013.

lately

It always seems hardest to keep up with blogging when I’m at my busiest, and it’s been a busy fall so far! But there are many, many things of note happening in the craft world at the moment as well as in my own world, so I thought I’d mention a few things here:

– I’ve been sewing some more, in free moments. I finished my first Deer and Doe pattern two weeks ago, the Airelle blouse, and you can see my version here. I’m not sure if I’ll make it again (I prefer a straighter cut and narrower sleeves in blouses, I think) but the pattern itself was great and I’m very pleased with how it turned out! I’m looking forward to more sewing, and I recently picked up some lovely light grey fabric for the Chardon skirt, also from Deer and Doe.

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– Felicity Ford’s new book, the Knitsonik Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook, has been making the rounds of the craft blogosphere and it’s become obvious that I need to pick myself up a copy! For anyone who’s ever wanted to get into stranded colorwork but struggled with choosing colors or finding inspiration, or if you’re the kind of knitter who wants to break free from patterns, I think this book will be a huge help. If you’d like to learn more about it, I’d hop over to this post by Kate Davies or this one from Ysolda (or, for that matter, check out the whole blog tour which begins today – the list can be found at the bottom of this post), and the book itself can be ordered right here.

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– Speaking of Kate Davies: Kate is wrapping up work on her forthcoming book, YOKES! I am beyond excited for this book: featuring 11 patterns for yoked sweaters of all different sorts, it will also feature quite a bit of history in the form of essays and other short pieces of writing. Having been a follower of Kate’s work for years, I’m beyond thrilled that I was able to aid Kate in her research for certain sections of the book. Isn’t that cover sweater a stunner? I’ll be sure to post when it’s available to order.

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– The preview of the Winter issue of Pom Pom Quarterly is up, and it’s beautiful! I love the cozy cover sweater by Bristol Ivy. The whole issue is full of cozy knits, soft and warm tones, and I love the pub where they did the photoshoot (especially that portrait of Queen Victoria).

– I’ve really been enjoying the #fringeandfriendsknitalong, the cabled-sweater knitalong begin hosted by Karen Templer of Fringe Association. I’m not participating, just following along, but it’s a great place to be a fly on the wall. Check out all the KAL-related blog posts over at Fringe.

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As for me, I’m furiously working away on wrapping up a few new patterns. One of those is Seven Stars, the pair of fingerless mitts pictured above, featuring Spincycle’s beautiful Dyed in the Wool. These will be the basis for a colorwork workshop I’m teaching at Knit Purl in Portland, Oregon on November 15 (I believe there are one or two spaces still available; more on that here). There will also be a Paper Tiger trunk show, so if you’re in or around Portland, you should stop by! Seven Stars is almost ready for publication, so I’ll have more info for you on those next week!

I’m also going to be stopping by Knit Fit! in Seattle the weekend of November 8-9. I won’t be vending this year, but I’m taking a crochet class (!) and I’ll definitely be stopping by the marketplace as well! If you see me there, say hello!

pom pom 8 & cookies

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The spring issue Pom Pom has been winging its way to subscribers all over the world this past week. Mine showed up yesterday, and I’m pleased as punch to once again be a contributor! One of my favorite things to do if I’m not knitting is baking, and I’ve been nerding out a little bit because this is the first time I’ve had a recipe of my own published. When the spring call for submissions went out, it was clear that botanicals were going to be a theme in this issue, and it felt like the perfect fit for the chocolate bergamot cookie recipe I’d been working on.

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Bergamot is the citrus that gives Earl Grey tea its flavor, and I have to admit I have a pretty big soft spot for it. The recipe uses the essential oil, and while I purchased mine at Dandelion Botanical Company here in Seattle, my local grocery store also carries it (you’re more likely to find it in the herbal remedies section among the other essential oils than you are near any baking supplies). Essential oils are potent, so the recipe only takes a few drops, and the smallest bottle you can find will be more than enough for many batches of cookies.

These cookies have become my go-to recipe if I need to whip up a dessert, because they’re relatively quick and easy. I like them plain, and I also like them with dark chocolate chips if I’m in the mood for something extra decadent.

If you’d like to grab a copy of the spring Pom Pom for yourself, it’s available on the Pom Pom site here (the digital version is coming soon).