Pickford Bandana

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Pickford was one of the most fun and satisfying patterns I’ve designed. Back in November, I started noodling around with the idea of a bandana cowl. Looking around at Ravelry at some of my favorite designs like Zuzu’s Petals and Starshower, I was surprised at the construction; they all start by knitting flat, then joining for knitting in the round once the shawl-in-progress is wide enough to fit comfortably around the neck. This creates basically shawls that  are fastened in the back, which is exactly what they were going for.

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That construction creates a shawl-like project that starts low on the neck and lies flatter on the chest. My neck is always cold and feels vulnerable, so I wanted my design to go up a little higher, keeping the neck warm, but not being tight. Even though I like my neck warm, I can’t stand anything tight, which makes me odd, I know.

Starting from a cowl construction instead of a shawl construction seemed like the best angle, and would be much simpler to knit. But it needed to get wider at the bottom for comfort and to create the bandana shape I wanted.

The first iteration of the pattern featured increases at the “point” every round, which made it pontier. I liked that one, and it’ll be coming out as a new pattern soon, but I wanted to try something subtler (if you visited us at Vogue Knitting Live New York, it was a sample in the Impressionist section of the booth). The next try increased every other round, and I liked that, too, (it’s the Over the Rainbow cowl I wear pretty much every day, and at the Knitting Pipeline Retreat), but the Pickford version made just the bandana cowl shape I envisioned for a worsted-weight cowl.

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This created just the warm, yet drapey and easy-to-knit cowl I had hoped for all along!

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Test knitter Alane made a darling Pickford  and gave me excellent pattern feedback. Thanks, Alane!

I love this construction so much, I’ve already got a lacy spring version on the needles. I hope you enjoy it, too!

Happy knitting,

Jaala

 

Japanese Stitch Dictionaries

IMG_5596[1]For my birthday, the thoughtful Mr. Knitcircus gifted me this Japanese Stitch Dictionary, and I’ve been poring over every page! This is my second Japanese Stitch Dictionary; the first contains 300 stitches. It’s been one of my most treasured possessions since I got it a couple of years ago.

So what’s the fuss about Japanese Stitch Dictionaries, you may ask. Why get a book in a language you can’t even read? Why are these books sought after by designers even though they’re way more expensive than perfectly good stitch dictionaries like these? It’s true, there are wonderful books out there, starting with Barbara Walker’s Treasuries on up to Melissa Leapman’s recent volume The Knit Stitch Handbook. Well, my knitting friends, I’ll answer all these questions and more!

First, the wonder of Japanese Stitch Dictionaries is that you don’t need to be able to read Japanese to learn how to work the stitches. They include detailed and ingeniously understandable illustrations of every single symbol used in the charts. My first book has them all in their own section at the back, and the new one even more helpfully starts with knit and purl, then groups the whole book so that every section including a new symbol is grouped together so that you can add understanding as you go. The instruction below shows you how to work a lifted stitch.

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The charts in Japanese knitting books are the envy of designers everywhere. According to designers I’ve spoken with, whole country has a standardized chart system, so every chart uses the same symbols the same way. How much easier would it be if we could do that?! They have also come up with representations that, by and large, show how the stitch will look when finished.

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One thing I found fascinating about this new book was discovering that the slanted stitches shown above aren’t k2tog and ssk as they normally would be in the US. They indicate that the presence of a decrease causes those stitches to slant in a certain direction, making it much clearer from the chart what your knitted fabric will look like.

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You can really see the herringbone pattern this stitch will make!

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As a designer and a medium-to-advanced knitter, I love getting inspiration form the stitch patterns. Japanese knitters clearly aren’t afraid to follow charts, do decreases on wrong-side rows or add a number of stitches together to form one repeat (as with the cable stitches above). They’re also much bolder about mixing textures, cables and lace together in one repeat.

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They also have pretty creative ideas about wrapping and lifting stitches as shown in the pattern above and do a lot more with adding and subtracting stitches and working from the rows below to add textures than we normally see here.

IMG_5602[1]Here’s a fun combination of lace, cable and texture into one stitch pattern!

Some other fun elements that expand my mind when I read these books is the willingness of Japanese knitters to purl, leading to some very interesting stitches with purled backgrounds, to drop stitches on purpose, and to put patterns next to and even inside of each other to form complex knitted fabrics. If you want to challenge yourself to try, or at least think about, new ways to knit, I definitely recommend one of these stitch dictionaries!

For more stitch dictionaries, check out my search list on Amazon.

Happy knitting,

Jaala

 

WIP Wednesday

Hi, Knitters,

This week, Katie and I wanted to make some quick-knit gifts, so we each laid claim to some 50g cakes of worsted for gifty satisfaction.

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I’m working on a Barley hat in Ringmaster Worsted for my niece. She’ll look adorable in this rainbow! I’m a big fan of Tin Can Knits; I love their simple patterns. This hat was cast on yesterday and should be finished by tomorrow.20151209_100838

Katie took her 50g cakes in a different direction; she’s designing her own mitten pattern! She’s using our new manly color, Mithrandir, to make some teen-sized mittens. The pattern will give you options for teen and adult sizes too!

Amy’s go-to gift knitting is Cat Bordhi’s Moebius Cowl pattern.

What gifty goodies are you knitting? We’d love to know..

Happy knitting,

Jaala

 

Design Inspiration Revealed: Kirsten Kapur

Kirsten Kapur has built a successful business with her knitwear designs, Through the Loops. She has had patterns published in many knitting magazines and contributed to books The Joy of Sox, Brave New Knits, Knitting it Old School, Knit Local, My Grandmother’s Knitting, Craft Activism and Weekend Hats.

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Kirsten’s lovely textured Frozen Lake Shawl in the Knitcircus Fall Collection uses unusual shaping and a slip-stitch color pattern.

1)      How did you choose the kind of project you designed?

I have been obsessed with Knitcircus’s gradient colors since I first laid eyes on them. They lend themselves beautifully to shawls. So when Jaala approached me to create a design for the collection a shawl was the first thing that came to mind. I had seen a similar stitch pattern in a museum I visited in Denmark last April, and when the yarn arrived for the design I immediately set to work swatching versions of the stitch pattern to see what worked best. 

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2)      What was the biggest challenge of designing this project?

Getting anything else done. I had so much fun knitting this one that I pretty much neglected all of my other responsibilities. 

3)      What was your favorite part of the process?

Watching each color emerge from the gradient. I loved seeing the different color combinations as the gradient mixed with the solid colored yarn

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4)      Your favorite thing about the finished piece?

I actually like the back of this design as much as the front. The stitch pattern looks different on the reverse, but just as interesting, so I think of the shawl as reversible. It was unexpected, but as the piece started to grow I kept stopping to admire the back as well as the front. I think this is due to the use of reverse stockinette on the right side rows.

–Kirsten Kapur

Links:

Through the Loops Designs

Frozen Lake Shawl on Ravelry

Frozen Lake Kit in the Knitcircus Store