Category Archives: Knitting Books

Kate Oates ‘Knits for Boys’

As I watch Kate’s family of boys grow I’ve been amazed at how much she’s been able to do while they were still all so small. Her family has had such a big influence on her design career; with a large number of her designs for little boys I wanted to pick her brain about knitting for boys. My own 4 fall in and out of love with knitwear as their personal tastes and style change and I wanted to get her perspective on knitting for boys.

Her newest book ‘Knits for Boys, 27 Patterns for Little Men + Grow-with-Me Tips & Tricks’ is beautifully laid out, the tutorials are clear and easy to follow, a new-to-me method of installing a zip was included. The first chapter also has tips on knitting for children, how to allow for growth. The patterns come in a range of sizes from ages 4-12 with a big variety of styles.

Caden Vest

Caden Vest

I think that the Caden Vest is my personal favorite but my youngest I think would go for the T. Rex Graphic Pullover!

T-Rex Graphic Pullover

So now for a few questions for Kate:

1.     What is your own experience of sizing for children? How much extra growing room do you include for your children? Any tips to ensure that they don’t just look over-sized?

This is sort of the basis for the Grow-With-Me section of the book!  I really am not a fan of giant over-sized look so that’s what led me to start exploring and learning about how to get extra wear time but in a better way.  I learned that children tend to grow up much more quickly than they grow out so you’ll be surprised at the bonus longevity you can get out of a garment if you can manage to add some length.

2.     In the 80s the style for children was really wide and short. Fortunately children’s knitting patterns seem to be in more realistic sizes now! With adult garments the amount of ease depends on both the style and personal preference. What amount of ease do you think works well for children’s clothes?

My personal preference is between 2-4 inches and this does depend on the age of the child. A baby’s chest circumference is much smaller than a 10 year old’s…so 2 inches works a lot better proportionally.  If its too huge, it’s hard for them to move.  I lean more towards 3 inches as they get older.

3.     Do your boys get much of a chance to wear the knits in everyday wear? If they do, what do they enjoy wearing every day? When you were designing the book did they have some input (helpful or otherwise!).

Ugh. My kids LOVE wearing handknits.  Unfortunately we kind of have the cobbler’s kids thing going on right now in my household.  You would think they own closets full of knits but sadly, so much of what I knit now goes to trunk shows that they don’t often get new stuff.  This summer though I have decided they are getting some new stuff.  However, for the 1-2 items they do each have, they pretty much wear it at every opportunity.  It’s quite hot where we live most of the year, so that’s one reason why I have designed some knits that work for warmer weather too.  With regards to their input, YES they love giving me direction!  They can be brutally honest about colors or fit.

4.     Somewhat tied to the last question, they go for colors or texture?

Both!  My oldest is more into color and kid number two is extremely tactile and loves a squishy texture pattern. Fortunately for them, I love working both cables and colorwork so I’m happy to do both of these techniques!

5.     In my experience children love comfort in their clothes. Any hint of scratch and they’ll refuse to put it on, even if it’s a badly inserted clothes tag. How do you suggest knitters choose children’s yarn so it’s both comfortable and durable for children?

I totally agree with this. There are so many nice and cozy yarns out there right now, so many options that my kids are pleased with. I was really picky about the yarns I used in the book and highly recommend all of them for wearabilty.  To really get an idea for how the finished project is going to turn out, work up a swatch and wash it the finished piece will be laundered.  Then, see how nice and soft it is!  A lot of yarns will soften up a bit after blocking.

6.     I love your colorwork designs for children, they’re bright and fun and feel like they’re made for living. Do you have some favourite color combinations that you used for this book?

Orange is one of my favorite colors.  I really had fun with the entire Imagination Sweater, using tons of different combos.  I love Navy and Orange and also Purple and Orange (though I admit this could be influenced by my alma mater, Clemson University). The other thing I really like doing is putting unexpected colors together.  I like putting shades of colors that are next to each other on the color wheel together, like blue and green or orange and yellow.  I don’t think it always has to be high contrast.

Imagination Sweater

7.     When knitting sweaters do you have a construction type that works best for kids? Is it easy to modify for different children shapes?

I think a top down raglan is probably the easiest.  It’s easy to add an extra increase just in the sleeves if a child has larger arms or just wants more room there. And it’s also very easy to add length anywhere it is necessary.

8.     You’ve got a great size range for the knits in the book from 4-12 years. You’ve opted to not include smaller sizes, was the baby/toddler sizing range has a different number of design considerations?

This is a great question that I don’t think I have answered yet!  There were definitely design considerations–I find that baby sizes often need to include instructions for buttoned necklines because the head proportion to the body is a bit different. Also in a lot of my super extended size range patterns, there are lots of “baby sizes only” or “child sizes only” instructions that are separated out.  Since the book really was geared to BOY rather than BABY, I chose to keep the instructions more simplified and really focus on the book’s main audience, who I tend to think is underrepresented compared to baby boy.

9.     When knitting the book what design did you enjoy knitting the most? And what one did the kids not want to hand back!!

Oh gosh there are a few of these.  Probably my favorite to knit was the Imagination Sweater.  A friend of mine actually worked up the Jesse Half-Zip sweater sample, otherwise that probably would be up there also.  I love cables. Oh and the Houndstooth Vest, loved that one also.  As for the kids, The T-Rex Graphic Pullover, Imagination Sweater and Jesse Half-Zip are all favorites…they must take after me.  We seem to share favorites!

Ok everyone, now that you’re drooling over all the little boys knits, what would you knit for your son (or daughter?) first? Give your choice in the comments and I’ll pick a winner of the giveaway on Monday 30th March. (US residents only I’m afraid on this giveaway.)

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.

Stranded Knits

Time seems to be moving very quickly for me and I’m going to assume that I’m not the only one who feels this way! Back in 2011 I taught in London for Knit Nation and my good friend Ann Kingstone took two of my classes; Short rows and Seamless Sweater Construction. She checked with me before the class that I was ok with her being there but I must admit that having a friend and fellow designer in the class was a little intimidating! (Plus by the time I was teaching my last class I had almost lost my voice…)

At that time Ann felt like a sponge, absorbing and thinking about knitting techniques and constructions and figuring out the way she liked to put her garments together. That’s what makes her books interesting; she takes standard construction methods and tweaks them until she is happy with how they fit together. This innovative approach to construction as well as her prolific rate of design over the last year (Stranded Knits, Born & Bred and A Time to Knit) really leaves me in awe of her.

Note: All photos in this post are copyright Verity Britton.

In this blog post I’m taking a look at Ann’s newest book, Stranded Knits, which she has produced in conjunction with Rowan Yarns. As the name would suggest this is a book of stranded knits, 16 designs in total; 8 garments for women, 1 for men and 2 for children as well as 5 smaller projects. The first 47 pages of this book are devoted to techniques; including stranded colourwork, steeking, splicing, increases, short rows, applied I-cord and grafting. These techniques are nicely laid out with big illustrations with easy step-by-step descriptions.

So I decided to dig into the garment construction a little bit to see how Ann’s mind ticks.

I’m primarily going to look at some of her shoulder construction, there are 4 different shoulder constructions used in the book; set-in sleeves, raglan, circular yoke and modified saddle shoulder.

In the seamless class I teach I discuss top down set-in sleeves. The body is worked first, using short rows to slope the shoulders, then when the body is finished sleeve stitches are picked up around the sleeve opening and the sleeve cap is shaped using short rows from the top down.

In the class I discuss a little about how this type of sleeve construction as suggested by Barbara Walker (Knitting From the Top) is an approximation for the standard set-in bell shaped sleeve cap. It works because knitting is inherently flexible and moulds itself to the shape desired.


Ann used this construction method for Rosebud, Skipper and Snowstar. However to create a truer ‘bell curve’ at the armhole she has modified the short rows sleeve shape.


From Ann: “I wanted to emulate the curve at the top of a seamed set-in sleeve. In a standard top-down sleeve cap the ‘increase rate’ (ie the rate at which picked up stitches from the armhole are joined in) remains the same throughout the sleeve cap, starting with approximately a third of the armhole stitches and adding one more armhole stitch at the end of each short row. I’ve noticed that this can result in a visible bump in the sleeve cap where the short rows begin. However, in a traditional sleeve cap, ie one that is worked flat from the cuff up, towards the top of the sleeve cap the decrease rate increases, creating a gentle transition between the more steeply inclined sleeve cap edges and the final straight edge at the top. To create a similar look when working top-down using short rows, the ‘increase rate’ (the rate at which picked up stitches are worked into the sleeve cap) must be greater in the first few rows. So my sleeve caps begin with approximately a quarter of the armhole stitches (which is close to the number of stitches in the final cast-off of a traditional sleeve), and take in two armhole stitches at the end of each row until the number of stitches in play is approximately equivalent to a third of the total armhole stitches. Then I switch to taking in just 1 armhole stitch at the end of each short row.”


I also personally love using short rows to shape knits; if you want to see this method of sloping shoulders and creating set-in sleeves in action go take a look at my free Craftsy Short Row Class that walks you through it.

As with me Ann also likes to use short rows in her garments:

“I’ve used short rows in some way in most of the garments, for shoulder shaping, scooping front necks, and for top down set-in sleeves.”

Ann has full tutorials for both the ‘wrap and turn method” as well as “Japanese Short Rows”.

In fact I suspect that the Japanese short rows are her favorite as she’s described them being use in most of the book patterns!

The next construction method I’m curious about is Ann’s modified Saddle Shoulder Construction. I first came across this with Elizabeth Zimmermann (Knitting Workshop) and I’ve used it a couple of times in Knockmore and Woodburne. I’ve made some modifications when I’ve used it so that the yoke depth, sleeve size and neck size are all what I want them to be.

The basics of Elizabeth Zimmermann’s construction method are as follows:

You work the body and sleeves from the bottom up to the underarm. Here they are joined in one piece for the yoke, and then every round you’ll decrease each end of the body stitches until the body reaches the width of the shoulder. Next the sleeve stitches are decreased every round until you have 8% of the body stitches for the sleeve. Now finally you begin decreasing the body stitches for 10 more rounds.

The final step works each of the shoulders in turn back and forth using short rows and decreasing/consuming the body stitches until you have only neck stitches and top of saddle stitches remaining.

I think this is a very elegant construction method but I like to tweak it for a few reasons, I want to control the yoke depth by fitting the decrease rounds in the way I want them to fit and I also want to make sure that my saddle shoulder width and depth are where I want them to be.

Field Study

In Stranded Knits Ann has used this method for Field Study and Sylvia. Both designs are worked from the bottom up and then joined for the yoke. Ann has worked full raglan yoke decreases at the underarm area, first every round and then every other round. Then she works sleeve cap decreases first every round and then every other round. Now finally Ann works the Saddle Shoulder shaping but rather than completing one shoulder at a time she works back and forth on each side within the round.


From Ann: “In Elizabeth Zimmermann’s saddle method (which is a bottom-up method) for half the width of the shoulder the body and saddle shoulders are worked together with decreases ‘eating up’ body stitches as you go. Worked this way each row adds height to the body so that the shoulder slopes upwards. Then for the second half of the shoulder width each shoulder is worked separately, still eating body stitches, but without otherwise working across the front and back stitches. Thus the second half of the shoulder width is flat – it does not slope upwards.

In a bottom-up ‘contiguous’ shoulder the body stitches are worked in every row throughout, with body stitches decreased in every row throughout. There is one row of shoulder width for every row in the body. This adds a lot of height to the shoulder, creating a more steeply inclined shoulder than is usual in sweaters with set-in sleeves.

My method adds three rows to the shoulder for every row in the body, so covering the shoulder width with far fewer rows added to the body. After working each saddle you turn and purl back across the saddle, then turn and knit back across it again before continuing across the body stitches. Decreases eat a body stitch at the beginning and end of the first pass across the saddle, then at the end of each of the ensuing two passes across it. Thus each full row (including six shoulder rows – three at each shoulder) eats 8 body stitches in total. This creates a much more standard shoulder slope than either the Elizabeth Zimmermann or the contiguous method. The slope is continuous across the full width of the shoulder, yet has a gentle incline.

I’ve referred to it as a sort of ‘hybrid’ of the contiguous method and the Elizabeth Zimmermann method because it uses a saddle (like EZ), but has a continuous slope (like contiguous).

I’ve worked this method bottom-up in Field Study and Sylvia, but the method can be adapted for working top-down by working increases instead of decreases next to the saddle.”

I’m always curious about designers choices so I wanted to find out from Ann why she wanted to combine and modify these two methods:

“I’ve seen many comments from knitters on Ravelry saying that sweaters with a set-in sleeve construction suit their body type much better than raglan constructions. I believe this partly relates to the steep level of incline in a raglan construction. The contiguous shoulder is essentially an adaptation of a raglan shoulder construction, with an increase rate (top-down) or decrease rate (bottom up) of 8 stitches every 2 rounds. So it replicates one of the problems that irks knitters who dislike raglan constructions. I wanted to create a seamless sweater construction that more truly reflects the shoulder slope in a traditional set-in sleeve sweater – a continuous shoulder slope with a gentle incline. The Elizabeth Zimmermann saddle shoulder method isn’t continuous, and contiguous shoulders are too steep.”

Just in case you have forgotten that this book’s primary topic is colourwork rather than garment construction:

“The primary motivation for creating a better seamless shoulder construction was to do as little purled colourwork as possible in sweaters with set-in sleeves. I needed a method that I could combine with a simultaneous set-in sleeve for sweaters with colourwork sleeves. I used top-down short row sleevecap method in the set-in sleeve sweaters that only have colourwork in the body (Snowstar, Skipper, and Rosebud).

Purled colourwork is very difficult for all kinds of reasons! :o)”

So in conclusion, I want to thank Ann for thinking and unventing for all of our benefits!

To get your hands on the book:

In the UK Stranded Knits  costs £17.50 – look for ISBN i978-0-9569405-6-8

Stranded Knits is available from Rowan stockists, which will also include US Rowan stockists by the end of the month.

Book is available for purchase online from McA Direct.

Knit Notes

Last week this pretty arrived in the post…

(Disclaimer: This journal was sent to me for review purposes by the publisher)

It is called Knit Notes Journal and is designed for knitwear designers to keep details of their projects in.  I do think it would make a great journal for any knitters also who tend to make a lot of modifications to patterns, this would be a good place to keep all those details in one place.

As a designer I often find myself sketching and calculating on any available paper.  If that happens to be in the car I’ll grab envelopes and waste paper or anything I can find.  That works fine until I try to find those notes when I’m writing up the pattern!  I think that keeping this journal in my handbag might be a lifesaver.  There are pages for swatches/notes/charts:

Extra pages at the end if you need larger graph paper

And even some standard measurement charts for designing on the go.

My only problem is that the journal is so pretty that I’m almost afraid to actually begin writing in it!  Pattern writing has a tendency to be messy so it will very quickly have a ‘lived in’ look.

Artemisia Sweater blog tour

A few months ago Mercedes launched a new Craftsy class, designed as a KAL for her Artemisia sweater. The sweater immediately caught my eye, it’s got great lines and lovely delicate details. When she was looking for stops on her class blog tour I volunteered and asked if she’d write a little bit about her class so here she is:

This summer,, an online learning platform, asked me to teach a knitalong class with one of my original sweater designs. Craftsy is an online learning community that hosts expert instructors teaching fun, innovative classes. I filmed a series of short videos over the course of 3 days, which were edited into easy-to-access lessons that my students can stream anytime. You can fit in your learning time on your schedule, and once you enroll in the class, you always have access, your enrollment never expires! The site has cool features such as a personal notes section, where you can take notes on the class and your project, and 30 second replay, so you can watch my hands on instruction on repeat until it clicks with you.

I designed a class that would have fun new techniques to try, but not be too overwhelming for a newer knitter. The Seamless Artemisia Sweater class is now going strong, with more than 2,000 students knitting away on their sweater projects. Craftsy is an excellent, cost-effective way to learn new skills and meet other crafters, while getting expert help on your project. Many of you may be familiar with the Craftsy learning platform if you’ve taken Carol’s Celtic Cables or short row classes! I answer students individually several times a week, often every day, helping them as they get stuck, have questions, or want advice. Many times, they just check in to let me know how they’re doing, since the videos are designed to be as thorough as possible.

I love interacting with my students in the class space online. It’s been much more like teaching in a real life classroom than I would have thought! Whenever students have questions while watching the video content, they can bookmark that spot to ask me a question, sort of like getting my attention during a troublesome spot in class. Then I can answer the student’s question individually, and like a real classroom, other students can read the answer, so they can benefit from it, too. If a student has a question about their sweater in progress, I can have them upload a photo to the class space so that I can “diagnose” the trouble, and then advise them how to fix it, or make a change. Once they’ve completed their projects at their own pace, they can post photos to the projects section to show off their great work to the group!

Like Carol, I love to design flattering, feminine sweaters. Artemisia is a relaxed fit sweater, designed with a leaf lace panel, set-in, top-down sleeves, seamless construction and hourglass shaping, and knit-in pockets. Many students are modifying their projects to alter sleeve length and detailing, changing shaping for a custom fit, and modifying the length and pockets. What could seem like an intimidating sweater project is broken down into baby steps with lots of guidance and wiggle room, so my students have been able to approach the sweater one technique at a time. You’ll be able to watch and knit from cast on to finishing, right along with me and your fellow students!

I’d love to see you in The Seamless Artemisia Sweater class! Sign up today for discounted enrollment.

Boys’ Knits Blog Tour & giveaway

A few months ago I was asked by Katya Frankel to write a few lines for her new book.  Writing about this particular book seemed very appropriate for me considering it was a book of boys’ knits!  The title, very fittingly, is Boys’ Knits.  I was very happy to see a book being released that was devoted just to boys.  The garments are all seamless (you can make sure they fit as you’re knitting), and are subtle enough than boys of all ages would love to wear them.  Boys are amazingly hard to knit for.  If you use yarn that is too scratchy they won’t wear it (no matter how much you tell them that it will keep them warm!).  If you knit something very complex you are also almost guaranteed that they won’t wear it either.  Katya has got it just right with this book, enough knitting interest that you’ll have fun while your knitting but nothing over the top that little (or big) boys will refuse to wear!

There are even several pages devoted to getting the fit right at the start of the book with suggestions on good places to make different modifications.  This is something I’ve never seen in a children’s book before.  Katya gives a size chart at the beginning that shows the ‘assumed’ sizes for each age category.  Now we all know that every child is built differently so you can then go and make any adjustments you need for your child’s size based on this information.  The fact that there is a uniform construction technique used throughout the book means that the information on making adjustments is valid for every single pattern.

So a little about the details; this book has got 16 different garments which includes pullovers, jackets, hoodies and a few sleeveless tops.  All of the garments are knit seamlessly from the bottom up in the round but there is a variety of different shoulder treatments.  If you want to see each of the garments in detail you can view them directly on ravelry here (can be digitally downloaded here also) and to buy a  hard copy directly from Cooperative Press click here.

My favorite part about being part of a blog tour is asking the author questions.  I get a chance to find out how the project started and what the book writing experience was like for them.  So without further ado here is my brief interview with Katya:

Was your son excited about you writing this book?

Not about me writing a book per se, but he was excited about being able to wear some of the jumpers, yes. I am enjoying their appreciation of hand knits very much too!

How long were you working on the book, did you give yourself a fairly long lead-time?

Time wise it was a rather long process. From the very beginning to the time I submitted the manuscript and the photos it took around a year. However, I am a generally slow person, totally believing that procrastination is good for you and so it was the planning for the book and each single design that took almost for ever. I can’t possibly start making something before every conceivable option for shaping or stitch pattern alignment has been examined, over and over again. But the actual knitting was finished in a couple of months. I have had an amazing knitter help with the samples, she was great and the sweaters were virtually flying off her needles.

Looking through the book you’ve used the same basic construction technique for each garment, seamless and bottom up.  Is this one of your favourite techniques?  What advantages does it have?

When I start planning the pattern, I always begin at the underarm and work on its yoke first. Figuring out sleeve caps, armholes, necklines and shoulders is where I perfect the fit and settle down on stitch patterns. Personally, I think working from the bottom up lends more ways to customising sleeve cap shaping through a variety of decreases. I did entertain the idea of mixing it up with top down knits, of course, but in the end it was simply a call for consistency.

Dax, one of my favorites.

You’ve got a great set of models for the book; they all look so happy and natural in the photographs! Were you involved in the photography and model selection for the book?

In a way they did, prior to putting the designs together I polled the boys to find out what kinds of sweaters they like or would like to wear. But the good weather and the half-term break were to thank for the smiles. The photoshoots coincided with the sunniest Autumn week we had after a rainy Summer and the boys were genuinely happy. Which was super helpful of course because I wanted to make sure that the photos don’t appear to be modeled or rigid, just kids having a good time at the park, doing what they do best. It worked out to be all very casual. Albeit for exactly this reason our very first photoshoot turned out to be a disaster, I completely overestimated how much can be physically achieved in a park with kids bouncing about. I certainly wasn’t prepared to run around as much as I did trying to photograph them :-)

My two favourites from the book are probably Dax and Baley.  I’m always a sucker for orange on boys!  Do you have a favourite from the book?

That orange one is fab, such a vibrant colour! My favourites are more to do with the construction than the colour, Runaround for example was extremely pleasing to work on because of the way the scale of the stitch pattern changes through its yoke. I love that! And Baley, the very first jumper in the book I worked on. It’s knitted in a buttery soft Malabrigo singles that was perfect for a simple style sweater with a little interest in its ribbing.


Would you like to win your own digital copy of this book?  Leave a comment below and I’ll pick a winner on Saturday 12th of October.

Runaround, one of Katya’s personal favourites due to the scaling of the stitch pattern on the yoke.

Classic Woolly Toppers blog tour & giveaway

Over the summer my eldest son began knitting again. This was primarily prompted by his love for hats so it seemed a fairly natural extension that he would love Woolly Wormhead’s designs. In fact it was only a few weeks ago that I blogged about Aeonium that he had just knit for a friend!

During August he was looking around at hat patterns online and came across the Camden Cap and loved it. Then, almost as though it was meant to be, I got an invitation to the Classic Woolly Toppers blog tour. Blogging about my son’s hat knitting progress seemed like a perfect blog tour stop for us – I even got him to write his own thoughts on the knitting progress.

(c) Woolly Wormhead

Before I start talking about specifics of the Camden Cap I’d like to tell you a little about the book. Classic Woolly Toppers is a book of classic hats  with a Wormhead twist! There are 44 pages with 10 designs and the start of the book also includes multiple pages of illustrated tutorials for techniques you may not have previously used.

(c) Woolly Wormhead

Woolly is really a designer after my own heart, she likes to design hats that are just a little quirky, with elements that make sense from a construction point of view. It is an interesting process working through a pattern with my son. We found some Cushendale DK wool in my stash that he liked the colour of and got started.  He hasn’t come across a lot of the techniques before but I’m just teaching him each one as we reach it. We’ve now done the provisional cast on, short rows, picking up wraps and undoing the provisional cast on. We’re currently working on the blocking and moving on to the joining of the hem. The patterns are all so well written that once the technique has been explained he’s well able to go from there to working through the remainder of the hat.  I’m afraid thanks to the imposition of school he hasn’t finished the hat yet but that will be another blog post :-)

Now here, in Caelen’s own words was his experience knitting Camden:

“I discovered this hat when investigating the website of wooly wormhead. I was intrigued by the peak of this hat, as I had never encountered such a design in a piece of knitware before. After expressing this interest to my Mum, I discovered how it worked. As the blog tour of C.W.T. was taking place, I decided to give it a go and show my results. The hat has a very interesting design, I have just moved on from the peak to the brim, and should finish it soon. Knitting together two pieces of wool around a piece of constantly slipping plastic was a first for me, I can confidently say. This hat is by far one of the more challenging knits I’ve done, and I’ve enjoyed and learned a lot knitting it so far. I look forward to seeing how it turns out!”

Knitting in the plastic

Close up of plastic in peek

Finished peek

Starting the brim in the round

For any of you out there who would like to join my son knitting Camden it’s actually Woolly Wormhead’s September KAL!

If you want to check out some of the blog tour stops before me, Subway Knits was the previous stop and the next stop on the tour will be on the 21st of September with Tot Toppers.

And now for the giveaway!! If you’d like a chance to get your hands on a digital copy of this book just put your ravelry name in the comments below with your favourite hat from the book.  I’ll pick a winner on Saturday 22nd of September so get your comment in by then!

Book details:

Classic Woolly Toppers is authored and published by Woolly Wormhead Published July 2012
Print edition:44 pages, full colour, 7.75in x 7.75in, 120g ISBN/EAN13: 1477610952 / 9781477610954 RRP: £12/$17/€15
Digital edition:PDF: 46 pages, full colour, 150DPI, 5MB Product no.: WW204BClassicWoollyToppers RRP: £9/$15/€12

Woolly Wormhead Bambeanie’s Blog Tour

I’ve very happy to be the next stop on Woolly Wormhead’s Bambeanie‘s blog tour.  Woolly Wormhead is probably synonymous in most peoples mind’s with hat design; and rightly so!   Her design style is so distinctive that you can usually spot when a design is her’s before you even look at the name.

I met Woolly several years ago when she just happened to be passing my house in west Cork.  Her mum was planning on buying a plot of land further west so they kindly dropped in.  Since then her mother has moved to Ireland and we’ve had the pleasure of having Woolly and her family over for dinner during the summer when they were in the area again.  It is so rare to get a chance to talk in person with fellow designers that we tend to get a bit carried away, I think we bored everyone (but ourselves) to tears talking about designing and publishing.

While we were talking I began asking her about her exclusive design of hats.  She described her love of the sculptural/3D quality of hats which means that designing them never loses interest for her.  When she picks up yarn she sees hats!

The book that she had just released is ‘Bambeanies’; available both as an ebook for £10 and a print book for $23 both options can be found here.  This book has 82 pages and 20 hat designs for kids.  Woolly is always good though about providing a wide range of sizing on her patterns.  This is very unusual in hat design where frequently 2 sizes would be the norm.  Looking through the book I can see that most designs have at lease 4 sizes (a single one, Rocketeer, has 3) but Tricable has 6 and Loops has 5!  Being able to grade a wide range of sizes is important to Woolly, she has been know to abandon a project if it’s not gradable.  For the knitter this means that you get to have a perfect fitting hat, and even though this book looks like it just has designs for kids, many of the sizes go up to adult sizes (do check though, some would be small adult head)!  The designs are not just standard bottom up construction, there are several that are knit from side to side, and one (Bimple) is knit from the top down.  Changing the direction that a hat is knit in can really help you look a hats in a whole new way.

I’ve just finished a blog tour for my own book Contemporary Irish Knits and I knew from personal experience how many interviews you end up writing.  So I decided to give Woolly a break and instead of an interview on my leg of the tour I’ll talk through my own experience of knitting one of her hats.  Now as a fellow designer I rarely get much time to knit designs by others but quick baby knits and unusual construction techniques drew me in!

I needed a quick baby knit for a new baby in Dublin and decided to give the pattern Moochie a go.  It was for a little girl and I had some bright pink Cascade Eco + sitting in my stash that would be perfect!

Woolly loves to turn design on it’s side, and that’s how this hat starts.  You begin working what looks like a straight strip…but it’s not!  Increases on one side and decreases on the other end creates a biased fabric so you end up with a parallelogram.  So when you’ve finished the length of knitting you undo your provisional cast on and graft the start and finish together.  As the ends are sloping you are grafting on a diagonal which gives you a tube you see below with the rows of eyelets twisting around the tube.

Once I had this tube, while it was pretty it still didn’t look like a hat!  So next step, once you’ve got your tube grafted is to seam the top together……starting to look like a hat!

Some of the designs (such as Tipper) finish here with a cute little square hat.  This design goes a step further…next you go and add some little I-cord ears to the sides, how cute is that!

Then finally, you tie the I-cord together and ta-da…a HAT!

So anyone out there who want some cute, fun and unusual takes on your humble hat go give this book a go (might even be able to squeeze my head into the largest size of Nupkin!)

The book is available directly from  Woolly Wormhead here and the next stop on her blog tour is on the 26th of October with Babylonglegs.

Ambroso Mittens & next blog tour stop!

A few months ago I sat looking at a lonely skein of Manos del Uruguay ‘Silk Blend’ on my shelf.  I loved the yarn and the color was one of my favorites but  for some reason it had been sitting there for quite a while.

I took it down and started swatching, I wanted to knit it at a nice tight gauge and experiment with cables.  I started out with a very elaborate cable sketch that morphed into a tulip at the top but it looked really silly when I went to knit it up!  Instead the combination of the single sideways cable that crossed over ribbing really captivated me.  I began working with just that and the zig zag cables began growing out from there. And so the Ambroso mittens were born, they’re available right now on the current Knitty Deep Fall 2o11 issue.

Working these mittens uses several different cable types, to make them very visually easy to pick out I would suggest color coding them so you can see at a glance where you are at, you can just use highlighter pens or markers of different colors for different cables:

Ambroso left mitten colored chartI also got a  lovely surprise in this issue of Knitty, Contemporary Irish Knits made it to the top of ‘Cool Stuff’! I had no idea that Amy had such a soft spot for Ireland (she’s actually going to be teaching a class at This Is Knit in Dublin very shortly!)

My blog tour is now well underway, and you can find the latest review and interview with Shannon Okey (aka knitgrrl).  She had some fun interview questions so it should make for a good read!

Busy days

The pace of life seems to have picked up in the last few days. Spent 24 hours in hospital with my youngest after a sever reaction to his final set of shots. Luckily he seems fully back to normal now!
Over on ravelry my Gilligan KAL (knit along) got started a few days ago. Several knitters seem to be speeding along, having finished the bottom edging and already moving along up to the waist shaping!  If you want any help along the way with the pattern just jump right in and ask.

Next week I head to Columbus, Ohio for my first TNNA.  As the time gets closer I’m finding myself very busy pulling a display folder together and packing my trunk show.  In the next few days I’ll have some more details to share with you about this so stay tuned.  One of the trunk shows I’ll be doing will be for my new book ‘Contemporary Irish Knits‘.  It will be the first public airing of the garments so I’m looking forward to it!  For anyone in Ireland, I’ll be heading up for This Is Knit’s 5 year anniversary on the 30th of June and I’ll have the full trunk show from the book with me, so come along for a look.

Next week I’ll have some news for you also about Knit Nation in London in July so stay tuned….