Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Vogue Knitting Fall 2012 30th Anniversary Issue

I know I have said this before, but I am always excited when the new issue of VK is about to hit the news stands.  The sneak peek is up on the Vogue Knitting Website. This is the 30th anniversary issue and it looks fabulous!

My sweater, the "Striped Turtleneck" is part of the Wanderlust Collection.  The sweater is a short sleeve standard fitting turtleneck with a mesh top, eyelet band, and center cable.  The yarn is the lovely and soft Brae Tweed by Knit one, Crochet Too. The yarn is smooth and has a nice drape, but still shows stitch definition and cables nicely. I love the heathered colors they chose. The weight is such that you could wear the sweater by itself in the autumn, and layer it for the winter. It is a relatively quick knit that could be finished just in time for the cooler days ahead.
What is on your needles now? Are you knitting with an eye towards the fall, or you enjoying crisp cotton and silk as the temperatures are still so high? Please share; I love your stories!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Optimal Outcome Part 2

I hope everyone is enjoying their summers.  It is so hot around here, and I am still pulling out my shawl from time to time- in the air conditioning, not outside. :)
I just wanted to share another tip that I recently started to implement.  Anything to make our finished work look better!

As I mentioned in this post, I am a row counter.  I also am a locking stitch marker addict (more on that later!) and use them religiously to keep track of increases and decreases. 
Clover Markers

Knit PicksMarkers

 Does that seem like too much effort?  Maybe, but nothing is worse than trying to backtrack and figure out how to  make 2 pieces match later. Trying to count rows to match shaping on dark or intricate fabric is so hard.
I used to place my markers at the beginning of an increase or decrease row. 
The more shaping, the further in you need to go to find an unbroken column of stitches
If you look at a piece that has shaping elements- decreases, bind offs, or increases, such as a waist, underarm or collar, you will notice that it is jagged or slanted and hard to tell later where the adjoining row begins.
I now place my row marker about 10 sts in from the edge, on each shaping row. This way, as I continue to shape the piece, I can isolate a column of stitches far enough away from the edge that I can keep track of rows easily. 
   See how the straight line of markers is easier to count.
So simple, but  such a time saver later.  What do you do to make sure your pieces match?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

A Knitter's Daydream

Nantucket Island is the epitome of an American needlework paradise.  Nantucket is historically rich with traditions in crafts such as basketweaving, knitting, rug hooking, and  needlepoint.  It is no wonder that needlework legends Claire Murray and Erica Wilson chose to open their successful businesses on this gorgeous island. From the scent of the salty air intermingled with the  fragrance of  abundant  cottage garden flowers, to the breath taking views of the turbulent Atlantic Ocean, Nantucket is singularly inspirational. I would love to be there right now, relaxing and pulling  my knitting project out of my bag ...

Knitting in Nantucket

 Perfect summer weight yarn  Allegoro by Classic Elite  Verde Collection

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Rib and Bobble Vest, VK Early Fall 2012

The Vogue Knitting Magazine Early Fall  2012  preview is now online. I am always excited to get my first glimpse of a new issue, and this issue has some lovely pieces that would make great summertime knitting projects.
VK Early Fall 2012

   I designed and knitted  Garment # 21, the “Rib and Bobble” vest.  This vest is really a simple knit as there is minimal shaping, and the seed stitch edgings are knit at the same time as the vest, so there is almost no finishing at the end of the project.  Much of the vest is knit in stockinette which is perfect for an “on the go” project.  The waist area ribbed section looks far more complicated than it really is!  The yarn I used was Blue Sky Alpacas Sportweight, and it is so soft.   

Rib and Bobble Vest    Vogue Knitting Early Fall 2012, photo by Rose Callahan

My vest is shown as part of a feature on  “twin sets” and it is paired with a turtleneck designed by the brilliant and multi -talented Lori Steinberg.  I love her juxtaposition of delicate and bold geometric openwork patterns.  I always find that "longer" short sleeve length to be very flattering, and I think that the ribbed turtleneck provides a nice contrast to the airy lace.
#24  Lace Turtleneck Vogue Knitting Early Fall 2012, photo by Rose Callahan
Don’t be afraid of the bobbles. They are not difficult, and add such wonderful texture.   I used my favorite variation in this pattern- really more of a popcorn than a bobble.  I find this variation is the easiest for most knitters as the bobble is completed immediately instead of on the next row.  Because the loops are pulled over each other one at a time, it is easier than trying to knit through 5 loops at once.  
Thistle bobble design

As much as I love to knit heavy, complicated, stranded  wool sweaters, I like to have a lighter project to work on during the summer. Vests, like tank tops are great multi- season wardrobe boosters.  They are quick to knit,  use relatively little yarn, and are portable to knit.  Perfect for those stolen minutes at the beach or pool!
What are you knitting this summer? Please share- I’d love to hear!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Optimal outcome - Knitting Pieces that Match

Sometimes it is the easiest things that make a knitted project successful.

Have you ever tried to sew 2 pieces of knitted fabric together only to find that they don’t match, or picked up a piece of knitting and been unable to figure out where you left off?  Yikes.  

  I am  a confirmed row counter. Logically, it is easier to mirror the shaping on the back and front of a garment if you start decreasing or increasing on the same row.  The same goes for pattern elements like cables.   Keeping track of where you are is important enough in an easy pattern,  but is  imperative in a more complex one. And, trust me, “eyeballing” your work in progress will never give you a perfect measurement!   
Unfinished Dale of Norway sweater . The white stitches on the left are "row counting" stitches.
   When I first started to knit, I remember using bulky cylinders with rotating numbers that fit on to the ends of straight needles.  The objective was to advance the number 1 time each time you completed a row.  The problem was, I could never remember whether or not I had actually turned the wheel at the end of the previous row! And, I could never get used to the feeling of having something hanging from the end of my needles.  The constant uncertainty and the fact that I have not knit with straight needles in years led me to try other methods.  I have a very methodical friend who carries a memo pad and writes tally marks down for each row.  I know knitters who swear by the invention of another friend, the row counter bracelet.*

Basting to mark your stitch count
    Simple basting works the best for me.  I use a large tapestry needle and a piece of smooth mercerized cotton yarn that contrasts in color with my knitting. Cotton will usually not leave fibers behind and “shed” onto my knitting.  I try to use a light color for visibility, and colorfastness.  I actually often keep the basting thread in when I wet block my work, although of course I would be careful not to leave strong cotton  in if my work was fuzzy, felting or delicate!  I attach the yarn at the bottom of my work and use a large tapestry needle because the blunt tip helps minimize the risk of pulling and split stitches. I use the tip of my needle to count up 10 stitches, and run a stitch under the 10th stitch. 
Each line indicates a group of 10 rows
    I continue in this manner until I am finished counting.  When I am finished basting, I always re count to confirm that I have blocks of 10.   Even though this may seem like an added step, at least I always know that the underarm will be in the same place on the front and back of a garment, and that the sleeves will be the same length.  (Don’t ask me how I know this!)  
    Since I always have a tapestry needle in my knitting bag, it is easy enough to do. And, when you unearth that unfinished object you had forgotten about(blushing!)it is much easier to continue if you know exactly where you left off.  How do you keep track of your stitches?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Knitter's Daydream

Lysoen was the summer residence of famed violin virtuoso Ole Bull.
Knitting in Art by Annemor Sundbo at Schoolhouse Press
Dale Falk yarn at Woolybaabaa   
*Syttende Mai, May 17th is the day Norwegians celebrate the signing of their constitution. 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Just in time for Mother's Day!

Happy Mother’s Day everyone! 
 I was really excited to get a surprise in the mail the other day.  It contained my copy of 60 More Quick Baby Knits, published by Sixth and Spring books. 
Photographed by Jack Deutsch
 I have 3 designs in the book.  I couldn’t wait to peek.  I love to see how the garments look photographed, and I always love the way the pictures are styled.  It takes quite a bit of time from the time I submit the garments until the books are published, so I always feel like I am looking at the sweaters for the first time.  I LOVE knitting for babies,and my boys are well out of the baby stage so this project was so much fun.  Baby clothes are a terrific way to try out new techniques, or new yarn without spending too much time or money.  I have to say I was so pleasantly surprised with the Cascade 220 Superwash sport yarn that was used in the book, that I tried to track some down recently for another project.  The colors were rich and varied, and the yarn had a smooth, almost cottony feel. None of these sweaters would ever make a baby feel “itchy".  My patterns are #29 Apple Tree Sweater, #32 Parisian Cardigan, and #46 Argyle vest.  
Photographed by Jack Deutsch
 The Apple Tree sweater and the Parisian Cardigan both have some duplicate stitch embellishment, which is an easy way to liven up plain stockinette. The Parisian Cardigan has a Peter Pan collar.
Photographed by Jack Deutsch
 The Argyle Vest is actually not constructed as a “true” argyle which is intarsia knit with bobbins. Instead the diamond pattern is made in a fair isle technique so that there are only 2 colors used in each row.  Much simpler.  I also deliberately placed a few plain stitches in between the front and back of the vest, so that extra stitches could be added to increase the width, without having to worry about the continuity of the argyle.
Photographed by Jack Deutsch
Photographed by Jack Deutsch

 Do you enjoy baby knitting? Let me know- I'd  love to hear about your tiny projects!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Knitter's Daydream

from Vogue Knitting, Spring/Summer 2011
*Not only is the bag great looking, look at this...

Jordana Paige will donate 10% of the suggested retail price of The Knitter’s Satchel™ in Pink to the fight against breast cancer. Detect breast cancer early. For more information visit

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Unwound part III

Your mother/ grandmother/ yarn store owner/ Elizabeth Zimmerman was right- always make sure you have purchased enough yarn in the same dye lot…
I am sure that most knitters reading my previous posts about running out of yarn  wondered why I didn’t follow that simple rule and buy enough yarn  to finish my blue Icarus  shawl  to begin with.
Honestly,  it was so long ago, I don’t remember.  I think I bought all the yarn that came in the “Beach Fog” colorway.  I thought I checked the pattern and planned accordingly, although, at the time, I was not that experienced at lace shawl knitting. I definitely had a large tangle of unusable wool left.  For whatever reason, I ran short.

When I looked last week at the Ravelry page about the Icarus shawl I laughed when I saw the following sentence...
 Please note that the yardage in both of Interweave's printed versions is underestimated for the average knitter.
Is that what happened? I don’t recall, but maybe it lets me off the hook!

© Vogue Knitting/Rose Callahan
   As a designer, I know how important a precise yardage measurement is.  I carefully track the yarn that I use as I knit a project, and write down how many balls/skeins I go through as I am working. 
But, yardage can be a grey area.  When I design a sweater I always knit at least one gauge swatch in stockinette, and one for each pattern that is in the garment.  Sometimes I knit the swatches using more than one needle size.  I make relatively substantial size swatches, and block them.  So, when I account for how much yarn I use, I am accounting for the project and the swatches, as well as any mistake knitting ; ) that occurs along the way.  Generally speaking, the amount of yarn I record should be generous enough for most knitters to easily finish a project.  

Even so, problems still arise.  More than once I have had to break into a new skein of yarn to finish a project that is only missing a few rows.  That is not usually a significant problem if the yarn is sold in small skeins. But, what happens when the yarn is a lace weight thread sold only in 700 yard hanks, or a pricey yarn like cashmere?  I know that when I designed the LILY PATTERNED MITTENS for the Vogue Knitting magazine Winter 2011/2012 issue, I literally used up every bit of the beautiful yarn* and actually unraveled my swatch to complete them.  VK made mention of that fact in the  printed directions.

Sometimes yarn manufacturers even repackage and change the amount of yarn put up in a skein. 

So now I try to buy extra, I check pattern pages for errata, and I cross my fingers…

 *Jade Sapphire Exotic Fibers Mongolian Cashmere 4-Ply  in #43 classic purple

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Unwound Part II

The story of a forlorn mess of yarn and a happy ending.
While on vacation* 4 or 5 years ago  in  North Myrtle Beach , South Carolina we took a drive to Pawleys Island.   Despite the groaning from my boys in the backseat I naturally had an ulterior motive - a yarn store!    Island Knits is a lovely store, and I was immediately smitten by the gorgeous Dream in Color Baby wool. I purchased all of the yarn they had in the colorway "Beach Fog" and it was just enough for my project. The blue and aqua hand dyed colors were the perfect reminder of a great family vacation at a beautiful shore. The shawl- Miriam L. Felton’s Icarus was one of my first forays into the world of lace knitting.  
©Interweave Knits

 It took many false starts and a ridiculous amount of ripping and re-knitting.  But, I persevered and finished much of the easily memorized pattern with in a relatively short period of time. (Sometimes I think it is good to try a new technique  while on vacation because I don’t usually have anything other projects with me, so I force myself  to work with what I have.) Icarus is a great beginner lace pattern because it is reasonably simple and the construction becomes apparent within a short period of time. By the time I was back at home, I only had a little left to knit.
Ball "Collapse"
That was when I experienced my first incident of “ball collapse”. I had a snarled mess of yarn and only a few edging rows left. **
 I called around to all of the local stores and internet stores I knew, and none of them carried the yarn.  Don’t you hate that heart sinking feeling?  I then went to my local yarn store to see what I could do.  Sharon, the owner of CreativeKnitworks calmed me with great news.  Apparently there is a way that shop owners can fulfill orders from each others inventory.  Within days, and for a very reasonable cost, the yarn was on the way to me. 
Now, this was a hand dyed yarn, and I knew the dye lots were not the same, but I was happy to take anything I could get. 
You may not be able to tell that there are a variety of colors in this yarn.
 It didn't photograph very clearly.
The yarn ranges from blue to soft gold to violet and aqua.  Lovely.
If you look at my shawl, you will see that the edging is absolutely not the same color as the body of the shawl.  
 At first, this bothered me because, of course, a mismatched edge was not part of my original plan for this piece.
But, I’ve come to appreciate the contrast, and now even think it adds a little life to the shawl.

Now if I could only go somewhere important enough to show it off!

*Please don’t think that I travel all over, buying awesome lace yarn from beautiful destinations and whipping up lovely shawls regularly.  I wish. ; )
** I tried for hours to no avail to unsnarl the yarn, but it was getting frayed and felted and I finally threw in the towel.

Valuable lessons learned:
 Never pull laceweight yarn from the center of a skein.
 Your mother/ grandmother/ yarn store owner/ Elizabeth Zimmerman was right- always make sure you have purchased enough yarn in the same dye lot…
(more on that later!)

Sunday, April 22, 2012


A ball winder and umbrella swift have been high on my wish list for many years.  Is there anything more inspiring than seeing perfect little yarn “cakes” lined up ready to become something wonderful?
So beautifully wound! 
 I love the way yarn streams smoothly from a center pull skein, and that the skein does not roll around the way a ball of yarn does. Stranded knitting is also easier because the skeins don’t tangle as much.
When I purchased the lace weight Jaggerspun Zephyr  that I am using for my Queen Silvia’s wrap I was captivated by the perfectly put up skeins.  I knew the white yarn would stay cleaner because there was no risk of it rolling around.  I also find that intricate patterns are easier to work with a center pull skein, because the yarn comes out so evenly.
Ready to pull center thread...

Delighted with my purchase, I quickly went to Ravelry to read all about my new yarn. ( Do you do that? I learn so much...)
     Good thing I did.  Ravelry is such a font of information.  I stumbled onto a thread which was discussing something I now call the “ball collapse” syndrome.  A center pull skein in very fine yarn unwinds well at the beginning but can deflate and tangle once the center yarn is used up. That sparked the memory  from a few years ago of another fragile merino lace weight yarn  that became so hopelessly tangled that I finally had to snip the yarn and purchase more. The merino fibers literally stuck together, and could not be  separated with out damaging the threads.  I did not have the time or patience to use any tried and true separating methods!
You would think  that I should have remembered,
especially because I clearly kept this as a warning!

   Needless to say, this time I tucked the center end of yarn back in the middle and started working this shawl with the yarn end from the outside of the skein.  I keep it in a Ziploc bag so it is protected as it rolls around. It is working out pretty well.  But, I have to admit, every time the yarn tightens up a little bit as I am working one of the countless nupps (bobbles)in the pattern and I have to unwind the ball to keep the yarn slack, I have to restrain myself from giving into the temptation of  using the yarn from the center of the skein.
Have you ever had a pull skein of fine yarn collapse?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Plan B

I always have a back up project ready for the times when I am in between designs and gift knitting, or unable  to give an intricate project my full attention.

Embroidered bag and unblocked lace
 I try to select a pattern that is challenging enough to capture my interest, yet rhythmic enough to not require deep concentration.  It needs to be portable, so that it complements my peripatetic lifestyle.   I always enjoy selecting the bag that will house this project, because it will travel with me everywhere, and I am delighted by bags that are the ideal mix of form and function. 
Cotton lawn lining

 My current  back up project is the lovely Queen Silvia Shawl by Nancy Bush.  I prefer to call it a wrap, because of its rectangular shape.  I love to work on lace shawls and have knit a number of them, but I have realized that I truly never wear them.  
Queen Silvia Shawl    Interweave Press 2008

I find the lure of hand dyed yarns irresistible, and as Elizabeth Zimmermann famously put forth in A Knitters Almanac, a shawl is perfect vacation knitting.  Fetching triangular shawls do not seem to fit into my daily wardrobe so I chose this pattern based on its shape and simplicity. I am knitting this wrap in a neutral creamy white that I can foresee wearing over formal wear year round  , or as a scarf with my dress coat in the winter.  I purchased the yarn, Jaggerspun  Zephyr on a scenic New England vacation from the Elegant Ewe in Concord, NH.  I had the foresight to bring my copy of Nancy Bush’s Knitted Lace of Estonia book with me, as well as my compact selection of 24” inch circular Addi Turbos needles.  I started the wrap in August, and have it ready to bring with me to every destination, from  a lunch break to basketball practices to weekend trips.  I work on it sporadically, and is often the case with my “travel knitting” I often knit happily while conversing, only to have to rip some of it out when I go home. It is a pleasure to work leisurely, with no deadline in sight, and I am enjoying this pattern tremendously.  The bag is a tote I designed, sewed and embroidered years ago.  It was packed away for ages, and when I recently came across it, I realized that it was the perfect size (7.75 x 9 inches) to tuck in my pocketbook. I have my project and yarn in a Ziploc bag for protection, and carry a crochet hook and a laminated copy I have made of the pattern. I also carry Post It notes to highlight the row I am working on. Although I have not made much progress, I always look forward to completing a row or two.
Do you have a Plan B project?

Thursday, April 5, 2012

My Constant Companion

Mr. Bennet:  "You mistake me, my dear. I have the utmost respect for your nerves. They've been my constant companion these twenty years.." *

    Absolutely, my husband would concur.  However, he would replace nerves (I think!) with the word knitting. As my knitting  has been my constant companion, so by default has it been my husband's, and my sons'.   Every car trip, no matter how small, begins with me asking where someone  has placed my knitting bag.  By now, they are all resigned to the fact that my knitting bag has a permanent place of honor at the foot of the front seat passenger, regardless of who that might be.

    Packing my knitting bag is a pleasurable task that is an integral part of my daily ritual.  Will it be a quick trip (small bag, no book, travel knitting) or an extended vacation ( large bag, 2 projects, laptop and books, and needle assortment)?  Might I have a break at work and be able to squeeze in a few rows (makeup bag, folded pattern, travel project and crochet hook) or a child's dentist appointment (makeup bag, folded pattern, travel project, crochet hook and design notebook)?
    Each trip requires planning and thought.  Hot weather- cotton, or washable fine wool.  City vacations- simple cables, as there is always time, but rarely good light. Sporting events- rhythmic mindless patterns. And, there must, of course, be room in the bag for any knitting treasures I may be fortunate enough to unearth in the delightful new stores I discover along the way.  My favorite use for the GPS, and  the iPhone is scouting out both a great restaurant and a  great needlework/yarn shop immediately.  I have perfected the art of packing my knitting for travel.  
Wouldn't this be a marvelous time for a knitting trip?

Bergere de France
Hotel de Crillon, Paris
Laduree, Paris
Louvre, Paris
Chanel, Paris
* Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Monday, April 2, 2012

My Latest Design

The Spring/Summer 2012 issue of Vogue Knitting is available in stores and online.  I love summer knits, and especially enjoy making and wearing tank tops.  They are so quick to finish and I wear them all year round, on their own or under a jacket.  My Lace Insert Tank, garment # 21 is part of  VK's  beautifully photographed  "A Midsummer Knit's Dream" story.  It was a surprisingly quick knit, partially because the back is plain stockinette, and also because the sweater is worked at a comfortable 21sts and 28 rows to 4"/10cm. gauge.  
Lace Insert Tank

 If you visit the Vogue Knitting site, you can preview this sweater  in the VK360 window.  VK 360 is an absolutely amazing  video feature that shows the garments on live models and highlights every  possible detail.  The Lace Insert Tank looks quite different on the VK 360, as the model is wearing a solid color camisole under the sweater.  

Although the lace inset may look somewhat daunting, I can assure you that it is simple enough if you break it down into "digestible" pieces.  I try to stack the odds in my favor before making any sweater. I always enlarge any graph I am working on, and make a few portable copies that I can mark on with a pencil or highlighter.  Highlighter tape is especially wonderful for keeping track of rows.   Post-its work well too.   I also use stitch markers-I prefer the rubbery bendable type- to separate pattern repeats while I knit.  I also find that knitting the pattern while I am making my gauge swatch helps me understand a graph better.  It always takes a little bit of practice for me before the pattern feels logical.  But, the finished lace project always makes all of that practice worthwhile.
If you like my latest project, you can view it (or favorite it, or queue it!) on Ravelry.
I love to see pictures of both works in progress and finished objects. Summer will be here before we know it, and a simple tank is a great and versatile piece.