Category Archives: Design work

A day in my design life

I’m frequently asked how I get everything done and the answer is that I don’t!
There are so many things that drop off my to-do list due to lack of hours in the day, or if I’m honest lack of desire. Some things I’m getting better at getting help with; I now have a cleaner every few weeks so we don’t get swallowed up in mountains of dog hair and the wonderful Nadia has started helping me out with some social media promotions and general organisation.

Every day is short and I want to make sure I get what’s most important and what I enjoy done every day. I love answering knitters’ questions, whether it’s on my boards, in a KAL or in my Craftsy classes. This means that a good chunk of my time is spent just chatting online. This does mean that it can be a bit more difficult to find time for bigger jobs like writing blog post, patterns and newsletters. I won’t even mention my inability to do longer term planning!

One thing that almost never drops off my daily to-do list is knitting. That might seem obvious but running a knitting business actually makes it very difficult to find knitting time. While knitting is still obviously a big part of my job it easily gets side-lined for computer based work. However if I’ve reached the evening without having picked up my needles I start to get a bit twitchy. After all these years I still find knitting relaxing and comforting.

When I grab my knitting and sit on my sofa spot (we’ve all got our special spot…mine has a stack of cushions, a standing lamp, table and of course Lizzie) its instant relaxation. When the boys were younger I knit more on the go, I had bigger stretches of time in the car waiting for people. Now with 3 different schools I only get a few minutes knitting time between each collection.

So how does my design and knitting day look?
My youngest is already 10 and we’re on our last 2 years of primary school. This ends earlier so it keeps my workday short. In the morning after drop offs and dog walking I have computer time. This is what allows me to relax with my knitting later on. I plan as much as I can on paper; first from the swatch I measure my gauge and put it into my spread sheet. From there I calculate the stitches and rows I need for each section of the pattern that I’m working on for every size. Next I write a bare bones pattern to work from including all charts I’ll need. This means that as I’m knitting I can effectively test the pattern out as I go, rewriting as I work so that the knitting flows more smoothly.
Obviously there are only so many hours in the day and knitting is a relatively slow process. Over the last few years I’ve started working with a few sample knitters here in Ireland that are just worth their weight in gold. They are all fantastic knitters and always watch out for anything that doesn’t work in the knitting. This means that even for the samples I’m not knitting it’s as close as I can get :-)

As a designer I follow a process with each design. In case you were curious this is the basic process that I try to follow:
Step 1: Swatch
Step 2: Put numbers in spreadsheet
Step 3: Write the basic pattern
Step 4: Draw up any chart necessary
Step 5: Knit
Step 6: Rewrite pattern as necessary
Step 7: Block and re-measure finished piece
Step 8: Draw up schematic
Step 9: Print pattern and do full number check
Step 10: Final pattern revision
Step 11: Send pattern to tech editor
Step 12: Photo shoot
Step 13: Complex patterns sent to test knitters
Step 14: Give pattern to husband to do layout
Step 15: For book or collection repeat from step 1!
Step 16: For stand alone pattern enter onto ravelry
Step 17: Create page on website
Step 18: Blog, instagram, tweet, facebook, newsletter to the world

There are probably more steps then you had imagined but they’re all needed to get a pattern professionally ready. Obviously this becomes much more complex if you’re working on a book as there is also a lot of non-pattern writing, illustrations and photos.

So here are a few of the computer tools I use when I work:


In terms of software I use, for drawing schematics I use adobe Illustrator. It took a little while to figure it out but now I’m able to use enough of the basics to do what I need to do. I know it’s got a lot more functionality that I use but it does the job I need.

For charts I usually use Stitch Mastery. If the charts use standard symbols then this program works really well. If I’m doing something a bit more complex I’ll do the chart in Illustrator. My son put a set of symbols together for me so I’m not drawing everything from scratch. It takes a bit longer but the charts it produces are beautifully crisp and sharp.

I’ve been talking about my knitting and designing for quite a while but if you want to do some relaxing pre-holiday knitting of your own come join our Wrap Up Winter KAL. Have fun knitting and finish some wonderful winter accessories for friends and family! Until the 1st of November I’m offering 20% off all the patterns in this bundle with the code WRAPUP2016. Come get some KAL encouragement on the board here and when you’re finished post your FO here to be in with a chance of winning a prize on the 31st of December.

Which accessory is your favourite? Come tell me in the comments!



Iced Iced Baby

Hello everyone, I’m Nadia and you will see a little bit of me here on Carol’s blog in the future. Some of you may know me from putting very nice yarn in your hands in This Is Knit or from gushing about gardening and crafts on Ravelry as Bunnyt. I’m more than a little excited to be here and this week I have an autumnal inspired post for you.  

I was having a look through the Stolen Stitches patterns on Ravelry and I really wasn’t surprised that Iced has the highest number of projects of Carol’s on Ravelry. This time of year with the cold air seeping in, this is exactly the type of garment that I would choose to knit, just like the 1,749 of you that also reached for it!


Iced in Garnstudio Drops Ice

So I asked myself, why is this cardigan popular?

Is it the relaxed ease of knitting a garment on chunky needles for a satisfying quick knit? Or the ease of a top down knit with raglan increases? Or the flattering waist shaping that gives a bulky garment a touch of feminine class? I fear, I may never know what all of you were thinking! But it was appealing and approachable enough to become some knitters first or second try at a knitted garment – I bet Carol is so pleased! Just have a look at this Iced by HHorncastle on Ravelry. It was her first raglan and I happen to know she’s over the moon with it and it matches her car too. Double win! 

HHorncastle's Iced

HHorncastle’s Iced

Iced is also a good introduction to short rows and top down knitting.

Never knitted a short row? Well we have you covered!

The tutorial section explains how to do these garter stitch short rows and you can access it whenever you are ready to approach them!

Wait, you say you have tried short rows but you want to take it to the next level? Then the Craftsy class on Essential Short Row Techniques is the place to be. The best thing about these classes is you can take them at your leisure and referencing back to them is easy and you have access forever. If you want to check it out, you can see the free short row class here.

I hear you, it’s a popular pattern but I only knit for the smaller humans among us. The Iced pattern was so popular, there is even a teeny tiny sized Iceling, this time in Aran weight for the smaller bodies. A perfect quick knit for those little arrivals this time of year and topped off with a toasty little hat, I mean just look at these happy faces:

carols iceling

TheaPurls' Iceling

TheaPurls’ Iceling

Tricoternana's Iceling

Tricoternana’s Iceling

I hope I’ve inspired you to pick up your knitting in the way that Autumn has inspired me to knit all the things! Wondering what’s going on here in the land of Stolen Stitches? The Luwan KAL has just been released for pre-sale and you can check that out over on Ravelry. There is also a dedicated group for the KAL and now is the perfect time to pop in and make some introductions.

The Knitting with Rainbows is just finishing up on October 10th, so those of you with wips on the needles, I foresee a busy weekend ahead! You can check the current FO’s out here. If you just want to hangout and have a chat with us, you can do that over in the Ravelry group or drop a comment on the blog. We really do love chatting to all of you, in fact stop what your doing right now and head on over there and drop in and say hi!

See you next week!

Psst – Are you hosting a KAL with one of Carol’s patterns? She would love to see them, so try and tag all your wips, FO’s, Instagram posts with #stolenstitches so we can all see too and you never know what might happen!



Luwan KAL coming soon

It’s almost time for our next KAL! Luwan sweater KAL will be on pre-sale October 5th and the first clue will be released on the 5th of November. This gives lots of time to order yarn, swatch and pick you size.
I really enjoy running sweater KAL’s (knitalongs) as there is always a few knitters working on their first garment. The KAL process is perfect for new garment knitters; you walk slowly through each step of the process and the encouragement of other knitters is very helpful. You also get to see that everyone makes mistakes; new knitters, experienced knitters and me the designer. As you become more experienced these mistakes don’t go away but they do become less. What’s most important is how you deal with them. Rather than tearing your hair out with support you can approach the problem thoughtfully and figure out a solution that you’re happy with. It really is true that you learn more from your mistakes if you acknowledge them and learn!


So then the question is – what will you learn in this KAL?

Luwan is a top down sweater with set-in short row sleeves. I love this type of construction as it makes it really easy for knitters to modify. To start with you cast-on your shoulder stitches, then you use German Short Rows to shape the shoulders and work down from there.


This sweater has got a very subtle textured pattern stitch that is fast to knit but really allows the soft single ply yarn to bloom. Blue Moon Fiber Arts Single Silky Targhee is lightly felted which is important for durability in a singles yarn. I’ve used a semi-solid colour but the texture would look great with a bit more colour variation as well.

Once you’ve finished the upper body the next step is the lower body. In the sample I’ve worked it straight down with no increases or decreases allowing the short row back hem shaping to take centre stage.

Finally the sweater is finished with top down short row sleeve caps and sleeves worked in the round. I worked 3/4 length sleeves but as they are top down it would be easy to modify them to be longer.

So in this KAL what kind of modifications can you try?
In the pattern tips I’ll give suggestions to adjust the shoulder width for your size, give some tips to add or reduce length and some pointers to make the body a-line. I’ll also have some sleeve modification suggestions to change the size and length. Most importantly you’ll have support and help from other knitter (and me also!) in the ravelry group to give you the best chance of finishing your sweater!

More Manos Pretties!

Well I’ve had a busy week adding new patterns! Until the end of September all of these 3 patterns (whether you purchase on my site or ravelry) have an automatic 15% discount.

Earlier this week I shared the first of my Manos Del Uruguay patterns, Clypea which is a striped hat using a slip stitch pattern between the stripes.
The next day I released a fun shawl, Mylio.

This shawl is knit from the top down and uses extra increases along the edges to create a wide wing effect. The central increases work along each side of the lace panel, stepping out a full repeat every time you’ve completed a lace repeat for an interesting stepped effect. Outside the lace panel this shawl is worked in garter stitch and has a delicate, fun ruffle at the bottom edge.

The final one of this pattern trio is Strombus.

This is a top down cardigan that uses short row set in sleeves and has a double-breasted front panel that buttons across itself. This cardigan is knit more loosely to allow it to flow and swing, the side panels are in garter stitch and widen as you go down the body to create a swinging a-line. I’ve show this cardigan with several inches of positive ease but it will also work well a little more closely fitted if that’s how you like to wear your cardigans!

Back to school

For everyone with children we’re in the back to school mode here. I had children starting school last week on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and on Saturday my oldest went up to college in Dublin. Add to that an envelope packing marathon to get all the Knitting With Rainbows pre-sale orders out last week and it seems strangely calm this morning.

The 2 dogs are snoring on the sofa near me, birds are tweeting outside and there is no one in the house but me. It feels very strange after a summer filled with people. Normally in August I’m counting down the days until I get peace again. But this year feels different. Instead of quiet the house actually feels empty. Perhaps this is because the boys aren’t very young any more so instead of constant demands for my attention they go about their own business a lot of the time. I’m also increasingly aware of how fast time goes – within 8 years my youngest will be finished school so I have to be careful not to wish that time away.

So now that my house is quiet again – what will I get up to?
You may have noticed that Knitting With Rainbows is now available digitally as well as in print (which comes with a download code).


I’m so happy that this book has been well received. It was a very different book from my usual self-published ones. Instead of just patterns this book has a lot of information on gradient yarn, stitch patterns and suggestions for how to use gradient yarns to full advantage. The print book turned out amazing, the colours are bright and vivid and it’s a pleasure to flick though!

If you want to see any of the samples in person, get a book signed or chat about yarn options come along from 3 to 5 this Saturday 10th September at This Is Knit.

Over the next few weeks I’ve got a few more big projects that I’m working on that I can’t reveal yet. Keep checking back though as I’ll let you know about them as soon as I can :-)

A week of sunshine & a giveaway!

So we’ve got a rare week of sunshine here in Ireland and it feels good!
Its making me want to knit all the summer yarns. Right up on the top of that list is linen. Linen is a fantastic fiber to wear in the summer and best of all it just improves with use.
The most recent design I did with Linen was Nouri for pom-pom quarterly. (Print & digital version here). This uses Quince & Co Kestrel which is a heavy worsted organic linen that is spun using a ribbon structure.

© Nicole Mlakar

If you want to knit a version of Nouri for yourself I’ve got a great giveaway courtesy of Quince & Co! They will give a sweater quantity of Kestrel to the winner of the giveaway.
In the comments below just let me know what color of Kestrel (there are 17!) that you will knit your version in. Only comments on my blog will go into the raffle. I will draw a prize on the morning of the 10th of June (Irish time).
Note: If you live outside of the US you will only have to pay shipping costs, yarn costs are free.

The Book of Haps

There’s a very exciting launch today –  Kate Davies, The Book of Haps! Just in case that wasn’t exciting enough I’m also on the cover :-)

Over the next few days Kate will be revealing the other designs in the book. I haven’t seen them yet so I’m eagerly awaiting them as well! To preorder your copy go to Kate’s website here. And keep an eye out on ravelry for each day’s reveal!

Copyright Tom Barr

Last year Kate Davies asked me to be part of this very special project where she wanted to explore the concept of a Hap as an everyday piece of clothing. Each of us used this as a starting point to design a shawl that we would like to use for everyday wear.

As I started thinking about the concept I began to realise that my surrounds needed to be my inspiration. There is nothing I enjoy more on a daily basis than walking my dogs in the Irish countryside. Kate has put my essay on the topic up on her blog here.

IMG_1444 This is how the colours and shapes of the shawl came together. The cream and green curves across the top of the shawl echo the hills and crazy green countryside during an Irish summer. As I was designing the road outside our house was littered with Monbretia flowers. They grow wild everywhere here along with blackberries. So the orange welts and bobble edging finish the full shawl concept out.


Fortunately for me one of the most amazing dyers in the world works within 30 minutes of my house, so using yarn from Hedgehog Fibres helped keep the full shawl concept local! I used her Sock Yarn; Silence for the light colour, Swamp for the green and Copper Penny for the bright orange pops. Copper Penny has got some green running through it as well so it blends particularly nicely with the Swamp.

I’m so very honoured to be part of this project, keep watching out for the upcoming shawls and fantastic designers!

Making Lists

So it would appear I’ve got a lot going on. Between family commitments, travel (both me and my husband), teaching, book, magazine and yarn company projects I’m stretched pretty thin.

However, I do appear to be just about holding it together. Certain things (such as regular housework!) aren’t always getting done but I’m staying on top of everything.

The only reason I’m actually still sane is lists and reminders. Every day I write and rewrite lists. I break projects into short lists and cross them off as I go. At the end of the day all unfinished business gets scooped up and rewritten into the next day’s list. That’s the theory at least. Some weeks my head is much more in the game and I go charging through lists, other weeks the list looks the same at the end as it did at the start.

Combining that with calendar/reminder apps means that I don’t forget stuff. If I get a text from school that someone is finished early – pop it into the calendar with a reminder far enough in advance that I can deal with it. Putting all these little things in as automatic reminders has saved me so much mental space. It’s such a relief to not have the worry of forgetting about something hanging over me!

My lists extend into projects as well – my Gradient book list is getting shorter by the minute… just take a look at my growing pile of finished samples. Just a few more left to go and we’re ready for photography :-)


My biggest job now is expanding on the book text and getting the remainder of the illustrations done. My ‘Painting with Rainbows’ class from the Edinburgh Yarn Festival class has formed the backbone of the book structure. The divisions I’ve used for different types of gradients in the class will form each section of the book with pattern examples of each type. It looks like it’s shaping up to be a really useful, pretty little book!

In other work, I’ve got 2 new published patterns to share with you!

© Nicole Mlakar

The first is from Pom-Pom magazine, issue 17. I was so proud to be part of this magazine, and very flattered to have my pattern, Nouri, on the front cover. It’s a simple but effective design; the great linen yarn is just perfect to get the drape and heaviness that it needed. Knit in the round from the bottom up there is a large lace detail up one side. At the armholes you divide for the front and back, each side is knit separately and short rows shape the sleeves and shoulders before they’re rejoined. The yarn used is Quince & Co, Kertrel – watch out for a giveaway here for some yarn to make your own Nouri sweater very shortly!

The second pattern I’ve had published recently is Parcel.

© Crissy Jarvis

This is a pattern that was first published in the Twist Collective in Winter 2010 using Classic Elite Magnolia yarn.
They have reknit it in Black Trillium Fibre studio Sublime for a completely different look that gives it a great update. This yarn really makes the delicate twisting cables in this sweater pop, plus that scooped neckline is so flattering to wear. To get some inspiration on different yarns and shapes in this sweater take a look at some of the projects that knitters have added to ravelry.

Just in case you think that’s not enough check back here on Thursday for some very exciting news I’ve got to share with you :-)


Winner & new pattern!

Announcing the winner – Whistle Stop – thank you Jennifer, there’s a pattern winging it’s way to you :-)

If you want to get your own copy of the pattern you can find it’s pattern page on my website here or on ravlery here.

It’s time to give you a few details on the construction now. The cardigan begins at the center of the saddle on the back with a provisional cast-on. First you knit the saddle for the right side and hold the edge/sleeve sts and then you go back the the cast-on and work the left saddle out the other way. If you check your skeins at the start you can find 2 that are fairly close together in color and use one of each to work the saddle for each side. This will help give as close a match there as possible.

Now each of the saddles are held to be worked with the sleeves at the end. I marked each of the saddle skeins as right and left and kept them to work the sleeves when the body was finished. That way I could ensure that the color from the saddle would match up when I began the sleeve.

Once the saddle is finished you begin work on the back – stitches are picked up along the saddle and rows are worked (with increases) all the way to the underarm. When this is finished you will do the same for both the right and left front sides. Once they are all complete to the armhole you will join them with underarm stitches and work the whole body together flat. The yarn from the left front will be used to work the full row – but it can be a bit tricky for all 3 sections to be at the same place with the color run!

Dyeshavi on Ravelry:

I wound off some yarn to try color-matching the fronts to the backs. It didn’t quite work, because of the long color repeats and the fronts using less yardage than the back. But I also don’t mind that they’re not an exact match and love that long stretch of acid green on the back.


The pattern was such a fun knit and I really liked the construction. The yarn/color I chose turned out a little different from what I expected – less muted, more color variations, and more regularly striped – but worked well with the pattern in the end! Because the yarn had so many different transitioning colors, the only color management I did was continuing the arms with the skeins I had used for the saddles (I had 4 x 100g skeins to be on the safe side – used only about half but from all 4 skeins).Cardigan](

New April patterns

So even though it’s only 11 days into April I’ve already got 2 patterns to share with you :-)

The first pattern, Kompeito, is the April installment of the Irish Yarn Club 2016.

I wanted a bright, speckled yarn from Hedgehog Fibres and she delivered a fantastic yarn with pops of colour. The challenge for me now was to design a pattern that enhanced the yarn.

I decided on a drop stitch pattern as that works really nicely to distribute and break up the colour. I started at one tip, increasing slowly to the back width. Here I’ve included an optional armhole before working the back. There are a few short row wedges worked across the back to give it a little width at the bottom and then the other side is decreased at the end. A few width options are given so it’ll fit a wide range of shoulder widths. If you work the armholes and want to wear it as a shawl/scarf just turn it around and use the opening as a spot to hold the shawl tails!

The next pattern is a tank top, Jessica Tank, from Knit.wear Spring/Summer 2016.

I just love the photos of this top, I think they’re just stunning!

This tank uses a simple cable wave up each side to create a slinky hourglass shape by working waist shaping inside it. The clean lines would make this a great top for workwear under a jacket. The sample is knit in MillaMia merino but if you wanted a lighter weight top you could swap to a cotton or linen yarn for a very different look.