From Mama, With Love – review and giveaway

A few weeks ago Tanis Gray (who I met in DC last month) asked me if I’d be interested in review a new book she was involved with, ‘From Mama, With Love’. This e-book is a collaboration between 5 amazing designers; Tanis Gray, Connie Chang Chinchio, Kate Gagnon Osborn, Margaux Hufnagel and Melissa LaBarre.

from mama, with love
All 5 of these designers have young children that they never find time to knit for. I can very much sympathize with this! When you design for a living all of you knitting time gets sucked into sample knitting so family knitting is a luxury that’s hard to find time for. The inventive solution these designers found was to design for their little ones. This makes the book extra special, the knits were designed specifically with their own children in mind, and they’re also modeled by their own children. Every designer has even added their own little parenting tip to the book.
There are a big variety of knits in this book; 2 blankets, 3 hats, a boppy cover and 9 garments.
If you’ve got young children it’s a great time to knit for them; they’re still young enough to wear what you give them (most of the time) and they are nice and small so you can knit them really quickly.

Sidscrappy hat

Sid Scrappy Hat

With small ones the most important thing to bear in mind is comfort. They hate tags, rough edges or scratches so make sure you pick a yarn that is comfortable next to the skin. Ideally it should be hard-wearing and easy to wash. As with adult garments make sure you take care with the size. The patterns in this book give finished measurements as well as suggested ages. Children come in a wide variety of sizes so check the measurements of favorite garments you already own and compare them to the schematics.
Most of the garments in this book have a size range from 6 months up to 4 or 5 years (although there is one that goes up to 10 years) so it’s a great book for the younger age set. The garments all have nice big neck openings so it’s easy to take them on and off. Wide button plackets (such as in Lulu vest, Ronan Pullover or Velvet Hoodie) and cardigans (Viviane Cardigan, Kyle Vest and Ferris Vest) make life very easy.
I think I must be obsessed with colorwork lately. While I love all the projects in this book the two that stood out for me were Isadora Lopapeysa and Ronan Pullover. Both have colorwork details that I just love, they are not specifically ‘child knits’ and both pattern would look great on an adult garment as well.


Isadora Lopapeysa is a traditional Lopi Icelandic sweater, knit from the bottom up in the round. The sleeves and body are joined at the yoke and a subtle stranded colorwork is then worked. It is a simple sweater that looks great on kids and the color choices are just beautiful.

Ronan Pullover

Ronan Pullover  from Tanis also used colorwork but it’s a much more graphic bright design. This sweater is knit from the top down, the yoke is initially knit flat until the placket is finished and from that point it’s joined in the round. Again I just love the color choices; they’re bright but not overwhelming. Plus I just love orange in boy’s garments.

There are several more stops on this blog tour, so follow along with the remainder of the tour:

Monday, April 21, Kate Chioccio of Dragonfly Fibers
Wednesday, April 23, Julie Crawford of Knitted Bliss
Friday, April 25, Katie & Kara of Nice & Knit
Monday, April 28th, Ysolda Teague Guest Blog Post
Tuesday, April 29th, Karida Collins of Neighborhood Fiber Co.
Friday, May 2nd, Cecily Glowik McaDonald of Winged Knits
Monday, May 5 – Carrie Bostick Hoge of Maddermade
Wednesday, May 7th – Thea Colman of Baby Cocktails
Friday, May 9th – Kate & Courtney, of Kelbourne Woolens
Tuesday, May 13, Jessica Correa, of Dream in Color Yarn Co.
Thursday, May 15, Kristen Kapur of Through the Loops
Tuesday, May 20, Tanis Lavalee of Tanis Fiber Arts
Friday, May 22, Alana Dakos of Never Not Knitting

Would you like to win your own copy of this book? Let me know your favourite pattern from the booklet and your rav name in the comments below and you’ll be entered in the raffle!

Raffle prize will be drawn on Sunday 20th April so get your name down by then!

Berry Creek

A few months ago a DC yarn store, Looped Yarn Works, approached me to do a design for them. This design was specifically for the Metro Yarn Crawl. Impressively this area boasts an amazing 11 yarn stores, coming from an area where yarn stores are thin on the ground the idea of having enough to do a yarn crawl made me rather envious!

Looped Yarn Works is one of Quince & Co’s flagship stores so they sent me on some lovely Chickadee to do the design in. The resulting pattern that I created was Berry Creek. This pattern was initially exclusive to the store for the duration of the yarn crawl but now I get to release it for everyone else :-) There’s a automatic $1 discount on the pattern until April 21st!

berry creek

I wanted to design a cardigan that was a perfect spring/summer layer. It has been designed with short sleeves, a ribbed lace pattern and smooth a-line side shaping. The ribbed lace flows straight into the ribbed bodice with raglan shoulder shaping and a v-neck. I’ve shown it styled over a longer top (it’s still really cold here in Ireland!) but you could wear it buttoned over a tank for a summer style.

If you like your cardigan with longer sleeves all you’d have to do is start your sleeves separately and then add them instead of casting on your sleeve stitches at the start of the yoke. It wouldn’t be a hard modification to make.

berry creek

So get knitting and let me know on my board what modifications you’re going to make.

Berry Creek

Book review – Toasty

Rachel Coopey has just released a new book, Toasty. This is her third book (previous books are A Knitted Sock Society and Coop Knits Socks).This book is a little different, it’s her first break away from sock books so I wanted to ask her a little about the experience. As Rachel is a wonderful sock designer I was very excited to see what she would do with a different canvas to work on. This book was done in conjunction with Baa Ram Ewe using their locally created yarn, Titus, it’s not a yarn I’ve worked with yet (although they’ve done some beautiful samples of a few of my patterns using it for Akoya, Huevos and Autumn Whispers) so I really wanted to hear what the yarn was like to work with.


Rachel you’re probably sick of being asked about this but I’m going to go ahead and ask it anyway :-)
Up to this point you have focused primarily on sock design, however in this book ‘Toasty’ there isn’t a sock to be seen. What inspired you to branch out in another direction?

I wear a lot of hats and I wanted to design some!
I really wanted to change direction a little bit for a while, I met Verity from Baa Ram Ewe last year at TNNA (with you!) and I wanted to use their lovely yarn. I think there are similarities in my approach to these designs and my sock designs but it really was nice to expand my horizons a bit!

What did you find challenging about this change of direction?

Balancing the different types of accessories, making sure it wasn’t all hats or all mittens – that isn’t something you have to worry about with a sock book!


What did you enjoy about it?

The increased stitch count! When I’m designing socks I’m limited to a much smaller canvas than hats or cowls or scarves. It was nice to do something different, think about things in different ways, a change is as good as a rest!


‘Titus’ yarn is used throughout this book. Did you enjoy working on an entire book in a single yarn? Did it give you a chance to explore it in different ways?

I did! The thing i enjoyed the most was that the palette was already in place and it was so well put together and beautiful. Putting colours together can take a long time and a lot of thinking so it was really nice to have that already in place. Working with the same yarn at different gauges is interesting too, it’s definitely something I would like to do again!


Can you tell us a little about what makes Titus special?

It is a lovely yarn! It has the halo from the alpaca, the silkiness from the Wensleydale and the woolliness of the BFL, it’s spun in Yorkshire using British fibre, I think it’s important to support the fibre industry locally.

What is it like to knit with?

Really nice, I like knitting with wool more than any other fibre and this is a wool-lovers yarn! The drape for looser gauges is fantastic and the definition for cables and twisted stitches is great.

In ‘Toasty’ you’ve got some amazing names for the patterns. Where did they come from?

They are names of places around where my mum lived in North Yorkshire when she was growing up, she lived there until she got married and some of my extended family still live there, I have made many trips there over the years. As the yarn comes from Yorkshire I thought I would name the patterns for MY Yorkshire.

Do you have a favourite item in the book, one that suits your personal style?


I think the Bedale hat is my favourite, it was the first pattern I made a second version of so I could wear it, I made the larger size because I like to wear slouchy hats, thats kind of theme for the hats in this book! They all have more that one size and information on how to make a less (or more) slouchy hat if slouch isn’t your thing!

There is a wide variety of knitting techniques used in this book; several stranded projects, plus a few with cables and lace. Do you have a favourite knitting technique?

I really like working with cables but I think for this book the stranded pieces were my favourites, the colour combinations were so much fun to come up with and yarn works so well in colourwork. I think stranded knitting seems to grow quicker than other techniques, it’s difficult to stop once you see the pattern forming!

Thank you so much Rachel for answering all my questions, I hope the book does really well for you. And now for my favourite, I think it would have to be Ripon, I love the cables and the colour is one of my all time favourites :-)


Note images shown here are courtesy of Rachel Coopey and Verity Brition.

Knitwear Spring 2014

At the end of last summer I began working on a couple of designs for the Spring/Summer issue of Knitwear. This is one of my favorite knitwear titles, they focus on clean lines, interesting constitutions and very wearable contemporary garments. It’s an offshoot of Interweave and has only be around since 2011.
The first design I completed for this issue is the Short Row Vest.

Short Rowo Vest

(c) Interweave

As you can probably see from this vest, I’m still loving short rows. The only limitation to what short rows can do is your imagination :-) This vest starts simply with the back and left front worked in one piece from the bottom up. After that the front left panel is worked from the left side in a series of short row wedges – striping the two colors as you go to create a dramatic effect.

The next design for this issue is the Ruched Yoke Sweater.

Ruched Yoke Sweater

(c) Interweave

This sweater is so nice to wear. The a-line shaping gives it a really nice swing and the deep yoke creates sleeve caps without any additional work. The basic design is fairly simple, but the front pocket detail, ruched yoke circles and standing neck make a great statement piece.

Picking up stitches

Last month when I was teaching several classes I had many knitters ask me about picking up stitches. This is very relevant for the style of knitting I do, frequently I will pick up stitches from the edge of the knitting rather than seam. I find that once you perfect picking up stitches it can be an easier way to join knitting than seaming – and very importantly it can easily be redone several times until you get the stitch distribution you want.
If you want to watch me picking up stitches while I talk you can take a look here.

To start with you need to decide where you’re going to pick the stitches up from. You can take the ‘loop’ right at the edge or my preference is to go a full stitch in and knit ‘through’ the knitting. I find this gives the cleanest line when you pick up stitches; you are moving back from the looser edge stitch to a more stable column of stitches. This does however give you a more noticeable ‘seam’ on the inside so keep this in mind for your knitting.
Once you have decided where you’re going to pick your stitches up from the next step is to decide how many you will pick up. If it is a cast on or bound off edge this is easy, pick up one stitch for each stitch in your knitting – a 1:1 ratio. However what happens if you’re working along the edge of your knitting? You are picking up stitches along rows and 1 stitch is NOT equal to one row. The exact ratio will in fact depend on your own gauge. If you are working stockinette along stockinette edge then you may be picking up around 3 stitches for every 4 rows (a gauge of 18 stitches and 24 rows gives you this ratio 18/24 = 3/4 so 3 stitches every 4 rows).
So how do you know if you’ve got the ratio right? If you begin knitting a few rows and it is splaying out then you know you have too many stitches and you’ll have to rip back and either pick up again or alternatively decrease in the first row. If your knitting is pulling inwards as you work then you have too few stitches and you’ll have to go and increase or pick up more stitches.
If you’re working with a pattern that specifies an exact number of stitches to be picked up then you can divide the knitting into sections with safety pins and make sure you pick up the correct number of stitches within each section as evenly as possible.
Alternatively you can do as Ann Kingstone does, she picks up one stitch for every row and then decreases to the number of stitches she wants in the next row.

I’m working on a book!

Anyone who knows me personally has heard me talk about my new book for many months. I wanted to do a full length book again, but I was having a very hard time deciding how to publish it! I kept swinging between the merits of self-publishing and going with a publisher.

I have self-published two books before (Scrumptious Knits and Among Stones) but both of these were shorter books which meant less time and money was involved. The new book I want to do will be bigger, a full technique book complete with a big collection of patterns. However the time and money commitment were only one part of the equation. When you put that much into a book you need to spend just as long selling and marketing it. This is what swayed me towards a publisher. Within a few months of publishing a book I want to get stuck into something new. I’m just one person and the sole caretaker for 4 children so realistically it has to be one or the other, I can’t design and market full time. And I can’t stand still long enough to do a substantial book investment justice by myself.

After some work I think I’ve found the perfect publisher for the book, Potter Craft. The quality of the books they produce is fantastic and being a division of Random House there is a considerable marketing team behind them. So last week I took the plunge and the papers were signed! Even though I’ve done this before signing a book contract always fills me with equal parts excitement and fear. It’s the start of an adventure but there’s always some little part of your brain that’s terrified you won’t get everything done in time. I’m going to be on a pretty tight deadline with this, the manuscript (edited!) and photographs are all to be submitted by the 1st of August. So if I seem a little quiet over the next few months perhaps you’ll forgive me :-). However it will be a little after that before you get to see the book – it’s planned for Fall (Autumn) 2015, so be patient.

I’ve been working behind the scenes on this project for several months already, sketching ideas, gathering yarn and knitting some of the samples. I don’t like to be under pressure designing so I started planning early. I want to give a big thank you to all the yarn companies who sent me yarn before I knew how I was going to publish, Cascade Yarns, Malabrigo, Lorna’s Laces, Blue Moon, Fyberspates, Miss Babs, Sweet Georgia, Berroco, Noro, Knitspot, Anzula, Harrivsville Designs, Shibui, Manos, Hedgehog Fibres, O-Wool and Green Mountain Spinnery. Here’s the yarn/sample mountain in all it’s glory, you’ll have to wait to see any more than this though!

yarn pile

Home from DC

Last week I was visiting Washington DC and several yarn stores. I had such an amazing time and met so many people that I’m still processing it all!

yarn haul

My first stop was at Fibrespace, which is in the heart of Old Town. I haven’t been here in over 20 years, my husband went to college here and I visited once for a week when he was starting his final year in college. Danielle who is the store owner is a whirlwind of activity….while mothering her little girl. I love watching babies being fit in around life, its not easy to do but so very worthwhile. That’s one lucky little girl!

While I was there Dragonfly Fibers gave me some fantastic yarn, Pixie (color: Springtime in Washington), I also got to meet Tanis Gray, thanks for calling in to say hi Tanis! The store also had a huge collection of Neighbourhood Fiber Co. yarn so I picked up some ‘Capital Luxury Sport’ in colour Cooper Circle while I was there!

After a few days here I move a little outside DC to Maryland to visit The Yarn Stop. I met two of the three owners here, Victoria and Lee. Both who went out of their way to make me welcome. I was staying with one of their friend’s Debbie and her husband and their generosity was out of this world, so a big thank you to both of you :-)

As there was so many hand dyers in the area I felt it was my duty to sample as many as possible so I came home with Susquehanna Knitting Company ‘Susquehanna Sock’ in colour ‘spicy brown’ from there.

Before I came home Debbie brought me to two more stores, Second Story Knits (Cephalopod Traveller came home) and Looped Yarn Works (Quince Owl tweet, and Wandering Wool Ausable sock).

Here you can see a close up of the yarn and labels. Now just to get a chance to knit it. I was blown away by the number of yarn stores and hand dyers in the area. It makes a great yarnie destination if you get the chance to visit. They’re even having a yarn crawl next months that would be worth a visit…

yarn details

BTW anyone following me on twitter will see that I just signed a book contract with Potter Craft. I’ll give a few more details in my next blog post..but not too much, wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise!

Knitting Styles

Recently I was asked about my knitting style by someone who wanted a tutorial on it. It’s actually something I don’t think about too much, I learned to knit with my yarn in my right hand and until a few years ago I didn’t know there was even other ways of knitting! This knitting style is sometimes known as ‘throwing’ or ‘English style’.

Now I’m not sure if my knitting actually fits the ‘throwing’ style as I never take my right hand off the needle. I lift my right index finger only and my working fabric sits on my right thumb to balance it. I keep my stitches very close to the tip of the needles also to increase speed. This knitting style developed organically for me over the years. I wanted to reduce the number of motions to make knitting more comfortable and also to increase the speed. Often Continental knitters (with yarn in left hand) claim that their knitting style is much faster, but for me personally I never got to grips with yarn tensioning in my left hand and I hate doing the purl stitch!

Shiny new website!

Come take a look around my shiny new website, it’s been totally updated this week thanks to my oldest son, Caelen. He has been working with me this week for work experience and began by learning the inner workings of wordpress. I’ve been seriously impressed with how hard he’s working, now if I could just figure out how to hang on to him :-)

So what’s new? We updated the theme of the website to begin with which involves a lot of tweaking in order to get it to work correctly. The benefit of this new theme is that it’s now mobile enabled so you can actually read the website without the text folding over on itself. The biggest visual change though is the front page. I’ve now got a one stop shop for you to see all the latest things happening; new patterns, blog posts and tweets. A little less visible is the addition of a ‘contact us’ form. I’m not sure how we managed to omit this before but it’s up now so you have a direct way of contacting me.

To celebrate all this newness, I’m giving you all a 25% discount code to use until Saturday 8th of February. When you checkout on the checkout, click ‘use coupon code’ and add the code ‘NEWWEBSITE’ for your discount. It applies to all my self-published pdfs.

So now that the website is up and running again, I’ve got Caelen working on learning Illustrator maybe I’ll have a design apprentice before I know it!