About Woolly Wits

I am a hand-knitting designer and teacher. See and purchase my published designs on Ravelry.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

My BlueSand

The table is set.  The wine is poured.  Crow is served.

Yes, I confess to breaking my own rules.  Sometimes the temptation is just too much.  So what design flirted so hard with me that I succumbed to its horizontal stripes?  BlueSand from La Maison Rililie. 

I loved the easy shape.  I loved the big, bold front bands.  But, most of all, I loved the pockets.  I was a goner.

When I was asked to step in as leader of an existing knit-along at the shop where I teach, I knew our first project had to be a design with near-universal appeal.  But, also one that would be flattering on a variety of figure types.  BlueSand fit the bill.  The stripe pattern also allows for much individual creativity, which always makes a project more fun.

So, how did I play with those terrible horizontal stripes to play them down?  I turned them on ear to create a ombre effect.  Since my body has wide shoulders and a broad chest, and relatively narrower hips, I placed the darkest colors on top and worked my way down to the lightest.  (BlueSand is knit top-down.)  For most of you who are more pear-shaped, you would reverse the direction with the lightest colors closest to your face.  I also chose a brighter, but mid-range, color to create the front bands and make a strong vertical line to lengthen the body.

How do I feel about the results?  I love it!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Even More Summer Cardigans

So, we've been checking out ideas for summer cardigans - little sweaters to throw over a tank top/camisole or summer dress to dress it up a little, add a little warmth in an overly-air conditioned room, or, most importantly to me, cover those upper arms to which genetics or gravity has not been kind.  As I was coasting through Ravelry, as I am want to do from time to time (if defined as several dozen occasions per day), I happened across a great new pattern - Myrna by Andi Satterlund.  
Myrna by Andi Satterlund

Myrna has a vintage vibe with it's close curve-enhancing, waist-hugging fit.  And the sassy pin-up girl styling certainly enhances that look.  Love, love, love the deep V-neck.  It is extra-sassy here with the exposed cleavage, but would be equally charming, and definitely more modest worn over a garment with a higher neckline.  The sleeves are a perfect length with full coverage, but stopping just short of the elbow.  Since it appears to have zero to negative ease, wearing Myrna open would cause it to hand nicely to the side. 

Miette by Andi Satterlund
Andi Satterlund is a name I should have had on my initial list of summer cardi designers, since she is also the brains and hands behind the super-popular Miette - 1,400 projects and in over 4,000 queues on Ravelry.  Like Myrna, there's a flattering neckline (a more modest scoop neck here), lace detail around the borders, cropped to waist length and close fit.  Miette's sleeves are to a 3/4 length, but, I imagine, could be easily shortened to just above the elbow as Myrna.  Miette's shaping creates a definite focus to the bust, so take that or leave it dependent upon your own cup size and modestly level. 

So, Myrna or Miette, either lady would be another great summer cardi choice.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Crochet Chain Applique Tutorial

Vogue Knitting's
The Ultimate Hat Book

A quick review of my designs makes it clear that I have a passion for plaid.  I am not sure why since I don't bear a Scottish heritage.  And, the private school uniform typically causes a life-long aversion to plaid.  So, I suppose it is due to my love of color, but the opportunity to use it in a controlled manner.  My interest may also be that I've learned a few tricks to simplify plaid patterning, and I am willing to share my favorite with you.
The key characteristic of plaid is the crossing horizontal and vertical stripes.  In knit fabric, horizontal stripes are a beginner-level pattern - just change colors for one or more rows.  Vertical stripes are a whole different challenge.  Traditionally that problem was resolved by working intarsia.  In my mind that might be fine for a wide stripe, but narrow it down to just a few stitches - or even one stitch - and it becomes a disruptive step that often results in uneven stitches. 

Knitted base fabric, crochet hook and accent yarn

A better approach is to work the verticals after the knitting is complete with an applied crochet chain stitch.  This creates strong, clear vertical lines one stitch wide.  And it is much faster to work a crochet chain stripe than to knit it into the fabric in intarsia. 
You'll need a crochet hook matched to the size of your knitting needle.  Translate each to a mm measurement to find your size, find a reference chart on the internet, or pull out your needle gauge (most have the conversion since they can also be used to size crochet hooks). 

Insert hook thru fabric at base of purl channel

It is easiest to work an appliqued crochet chain into a column of purl stitches for a couple reasons.  First, it is much clearer where to work, and your stitches won't wander across columns.  But also, the depression caused by the purl channel allows the ridge of crochet chain to sit nearly flush with the surface of the stockinette fabric.  You can certainly work a crochet chain on a plain stockinette base, but your chain will sit above the fabric. 
Ready to give it a try?

Putting slip knot on hook on wrong side
Slip knot pulled thru to right side

Begin with the right side facing, and starting at the cast on edge, insert crochet hook through the fabric at the base of the column of ladders of the purl stitch groove.  With your other hand and working yarn on wrong side, place the slip knot on hook and pull through to right side. 
Inserting hook for first chain stitch
Continuing on with chain
*Advance hook over next yarn ladder up in vertical column and insert through fabric.  Wrap yarn around hook and pull new loop through to right side of fabric and through loop on crochet hook.  Repeat from * until you reach the last ladder before the top of the groove at the bound off edge. 
Making progress

Be careful not to work tightly, as that will draw in fabric and shorten the piece.  Every couple inches stop and give your work a tug along the vertical axis to check that it is not too tight and that the fabric remains elastic. 
To finish your chain, remove the last loop from hook and, inserting hook from WS at top of purl column, pull loop to WS.  Cut yarn and pull through.  Repeat for all vertical purl stitch grooves.
If you are working several closely spaced chains, the yarn ends from your completed chains may tangle with your working yarn.  If this happens, stop and weave in your ends. 
Gait's Haire Cowl

Speaking of weaving in ends, there will be quite a few.  To weave them in most invisibly, work the end back into the backside of the crochet chain.  The chain is much tighter than the surrounding knit fabric and will hold it secure.  This method also works well to hide the ends when your knit fabric is sheer, as in my Gait's Haire cowl or wrap design. 
Picture Perfect Plaid
from 60 Quick Baby Blankets
If you'd like to give this technique a try on a smaller project, I suggest my Cuthaig Plaid Mitts.  Another smaller project is the plaid tam pictured at the top of the post.  On a larger scale is my plaid baby blanket.

Cuthaig Plaid Mitts

I also have a couple new plaid garment designs using the applied crochet chain appearing in publications later this year, so keep an eye out. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Queen of the Summer Cardi

Abria from Chic Knits
Yesterday I hinted that there's one designer who owns the category of summer cardigans.  She owns more than just this category, but this is one where I think she really shines: Bonne Marie Burns of Chic Knits.  Her latest design, Abira, is an example of a perfect summer cardi.  Very refined with a trim fit and just a tiny bit of lace detail.  She offers a long list of yarn options, including Classic Elite Firefly, pictured in the sample here.  It's a top-down design, which is not my favorite, but it is for many knitters, and I will say that the technique's flaws are less evident in a short little cardi.  My only change would be to shorten the sleeves to above the elbow, since I feel they look a little awkward just below.  
Brynna from Chic Knits

Last year's summer cardi pattern was Brynna.  This is also a very refined design which is all lace - body, hem and bands.  Again, Bonne Marie offers a number of options for yarn, including one of my favorites, Elsbeth Lavold's Hempathy.  

Cece from Chic Knits
Cinnie from Chic Knits
Cece is an older pattern, but a goodie.  It also features an all-over lace pattern, v-neckline and 3/4 sleeves like Brynna, but is a bit more refined since it sticks to one lace pattern.  The single button closure also gives it another wearing option.  

Cinnie is the last of the summer cardis I'll mention before sending you off to the Chic Knits Ravelry shop for other great options, both summer and winter.  It's another great all-over lace short cardi.  But, you know I am going to mention the sleeve length.  As pictured, it would cut right across the widest part of my quite wide arms, which is not flattering.  I would extend the ribbing for several more inches to take the sleeve much closer to the elbow.  Check out the projects photos to see how other real-sized knitters resolved this dilemma.

In the past three days I've rounded up my current favorite summer cardi options.  Did I miss your favorite?  Let me know . . . 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

More Summer Cardigans

Yesterday we started exploring options for summer cardigans - little sweaters to wear over a tank/t-shirt to give a little more polish to your outfit.  They also do the handy job of covering covering the upper arm, a spot to which gravity is often unkind.  Choose the right one, and it can also cover other problem areas, as we'll see.
Chance of Showers by Heidi Kirrmaier
A lovely option is Chance of Showers by Heidi Kirrmaier.  The model is worked in a mostly merino wool yarn, but look at the other projects to see the beautiful drape in summer fibers - linen, cotton, bamboo, etc.  While it features lace, this design doesn't go overboard with it, so it doesn't turn too girly.  It's a top down design, which works for me since this is a lightweight garment.  The range of sizes could be better - it only goes up to a 51 3/4" bust - but a clever knitter could be able to size it up from there, if needed.  This design does call for a little positive ease, but not more than a couple inches so that it is still trim.

Equador by Joji Locatelli
A very similar design is Ecuador by Joji Locatelli.  While is is a little funkier than Chance of Showers - for good or bad, depending on your personal style - it has much stronger horizontal lines and a greater excess of fabric.  Neither of those is as flattering as Chance of Showers.  I also love the elegance of the collar draping in Heidi's design.

Camber Cardi by Jessamyn Leib
Another design I really like is the Camber Cardigan, designed by Jessamyn Leib.  This lightweight cardi is modeled by a, thankfully, unwaif-like real person who looks great in it.  It is shown with a full row of buttons down the center front, but leave them open for warm weather wearing.  The yarn in the sample is a 50/50 merino and tencel blend, but I think this design would work just as well in a 100% plant-based yarn.

Flyaway Cardi by Jenise Reid
My last option for today is less popular, but I think exactly what I would want to wear on a hot summer day - Flyaway Cardi by Jenise Reid.  Look at the other pics on Ravelry to see how sheer and lightweight this design is.  This featherweight fabric is the reason that I like the gathered skirt here.  In the designs with a heavier weight fabric gathers can look awkward and add bulk.  I also love the swoop of the skirt and how the point it comes to in the back accentuates the booty - if that's a feature you'd like to emphasize.

The next summer cardi post will be all about the designer who owns this category.  No hints now.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Summer's Best Third Piece

Adding a third piece to an outfit - either a jacket or cardigan - instantly makes you look more polished and pulled together.  (And as a knitter, my preference is obviously for the latter.)  In warmer weather, a short cardi with sleeves also does the job of covering up the upper arms.  Mine have always been beefy, but add the effects of gravity to middle age, and I do the world a favor by hiding them from view.  (The exception to this is 85 degree plus weather, when I can barely stand to wear the tank, let along the third layer.  But at that temp, I figure the world is more distracted by everyone else's exposed flesh than mine.)  So, let's review some good options for knitters:
Wispy by Hannah Fettig

Wispy is one super popular pattern.  And, I can see why.  It's a quick, fun multi-directional knit.  You start with a shrug worked horizontally from sleeve to sleeve.  Then you pick up around the circumference and work ribbing.  Most of the stitches are bound off, but one side continues on to make the skirt.  So, it's a lovely design, but not for me.  Why?  The angle of the shrug section, as well as the reverse angled skirt draw visual focus to the bust.  This is fine if you are an A-cup waif like the model.  But, on a well-endowed person, it's a lot of attention.  (Unless that's the kind of attention you are looking for.)
Gyre by Norah Gaughan
More to my taste is the hot new pattern, Gyre, by the genius designer, Norah Gaughan.  You'll find it in the Spring 2014 issue of Interweave Knits.  This is another fun knit, especially for the shawl knitters, because it is essentially a circular shawl.  The center of the shawl is located at the nape of the neck, with openings created for armholes as you work your way outward.  With its longer length, this design is a little more of a statement than just a throw-it-over-a-tank-and-capris piece, but, oh, what a gorgeous statement it makes!

There are lots more good options for a summer third piece cardi, so I'll continue posting on them this week.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Some Vintage Distraction

In order to avoid writing a multi-size knitting pattern provide historical context to my readers, I am sharing with you a vintage pattern booklet I recently found at a rummage sale.  I invite you to 'Discover The Excitement of Hairpin Lace'!  Unlike most pattern booklets which are published by yarn manufacturers or distributers, this undated booklet was issued by Susan Bates and her now unknown sister, Marcia Lynn.  These are not an elderly lady and her dear departed sibling, but a flourishing knitting needle/crochet hook/needlecraft tool business (Susan) and the apparently now discontinued product line (poor Marcia). 

Of special interest is the cover photo of the (apparently) nude model seated overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.  (Photo location identified as Morocco.)  Some gals have all the luck, although they may also have some funky tan lines.

My favorite photo is not of hairpin lace at all, but knitted or crocheted granny square ties/ascot.  (So why are they in what is clearly labelled at a hairpin lace book?  Evidently there were no truth in labelling laws in this by-gone time.)  These designs are handsomely modelled by a gentleman styled to appear as three gentlemen, aka Tom, Dick and Harry.  What amuses me most about the photo is that Tom and Harry's labels hover above their heads, but Dick's sits at the bottom of his very long dangling accessory.  Could that be why he is smirking?