Design Inspiration Revealed: Wendy D. Johnson’s Maple Leaves Gradient Cowl

Designer Wendy D. Johnson is a multitalented sock-knitting guru, the author of Wendy Knits Lace, Socks from the Toe Up, Toe Up Socks for Every Body and Wendy Knits.

Fall patternsShe designed the amazing Maple Leaves Gradient Cowl for our Fall Collection, which graced the cover!

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

Lately I have been all about colorwork cowls. Being a woman of “a certain age” a stranded colorwork sweater is just too warm for me to even consider wearing, but I love knitting stranded colorwork. Cowls are the perfect solution, because they are incredibly handy and versatile in the winter. I like them better than a scarf for outdoor wear because they stay put better, and they are easily popped on indoors if the room is a little chilly.


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

My biggest challenge was charting the large leaf motif so that it actually looked like a maple leaf!

3)      What was your favorite part of the process?

I love, love, love knitting colorwork with a gradient and a semi-solid because it makes the finished piece look far more complex than it really is. Watching the pattern emerge as I knit is always my favorite part of knitting colorwork, and it is why I can knit it so quickly: I’m so eager to see the design come to life that I knit faster!


4)      Your favorite thing about the finished piece?

I love how perfectly suited the yarn is to the design. The finished cowl has an almost velvet look to it because of the depth of color in the yarn.


Here’s a snippet of one of the charts that reveals my dark secret: I chart all my colorwork designs using an Excel spreadsheet and a dingbat font! I never sketch with pencil and paper first, I always start with a blank spreadsheet!

–Wendy D. Johnson


Wendy’s website Wendy Knits

Maple Leaves Gradient Cowl pattern on Ravelry.

Maple Leaves Gradient Cowl Kit on the Knitcircus website.


Cables and Lace Video, New Colors and Mitts

Hi, Knitters,

It’s getting cold here, tea-drinkin’, stew-makin’, bundle-up cold. I’ve got a hot mug of Chai Spice tea  on my desk as I write. As you know, this is the time when handknits come in handy…

Aran Lace Video

I’ve been a little obsessed with cables and lace lately (for about the last two years). An expert at combining these two techniques is  designer, teacher and tech editor and my friend, Stephannie Tallent. Stephannie has a new video out from Interweave Knits unfolding all kinds of useful tips for combining these two knitterly techniques: Aran Lace Knitting.


In a step-by-step format, Stephannie explains and demonstrates techniques like using a cable and/or lace chart, picking the right yarns for showing off your lacy cables, using a cable needle, cabling without a cable needle, swatching, blocking, and all kinds of other techniques to keep you on top of beautiful charted patterns like the one below.


The video also includes a pattern for a gorgeous cables-and-lace cowl. Stephannie really knows her stuff, and this video is definitely a winner!

Aran Lace Giveaway

One lucky reader can receive this video for their very own. Just leave a comment telling us which of Stephannie’s beautiful patterns you would knit first! Giveaway runs through Monday evening.

Gradient Eye Candy

Wow, how exciting! Jess/Frecklegirl on Ravelry put together a Gradient-themed Community Eye Candy page and our yarn is featured!!!!!!! See the adorable pink baby dress? Talented knitter Greenfiber made her Mia’s Dress out of our Wild Rose Corriedale Sock yarn.

Ravelry Gradients Page

What an honor. Everything on the page looked gorgeous! Thanks so much, Jess!!!!!!

New Gradient Stripe Socks Colors

tropical sunset best

Speaking of thanks, a million to the wonderful Susan B Anderson for hosting a Gradient Stripes giveaway on her blog! She sent a lot of new customers our way and we’re very grateful. Check it out, because right now, you have a chance to win some Manos yarns on her blog! Susie was the very first to knit with the Tropical Sunset colorway (above) and it’s officially released now!

blue skies 2

The next new yarn is Blue Skies Ahead, an optimistic mix of cloudless white and saturated blue.

shy slytherin

We’re excited to present the next in the House Colors series: Cunning Folk, representing Slytherin with pure silver-gray to aristocratic emerald green.

brew crew 2

Last, but certainly not least, Brew Crew! The sunny yellow and cheerful blue works for many school colors, but for a Wisconsin baseball fan, they have to represent the Milwaukee Brewers.

If you’ve ordered Gradient Stripes yarn, we’re making many of them every day, so you should get it soon! If you’ve already got your stripes in hand, please do join us in the Knitcircus Ravelry Group for a Gradient Stripes KAL! (Don’t worry, you can use the original Matching Socks sets too).

I had gotten half of a sock done, then I was leafing through a magazine and saw some lustworthy striped armwarmers. My DH, looking over my shoulder, remarked,”You could make some of those.”

He was right! I could make some just as stripy with the new Gradient Stripes yarn! So I have frogged the sock and re-started a pair of Gothy Gauntlets. I can’t wait to see how they turn out, and I’ll post progress pics in the KAL group.

Happy knitting,


Yuletide and Teal Door

Pattern and Kit Release!

Designer Elizabeth Morrison and I have teamed up to offer you a new pattern and kit! Elizabeth is known for her beautifully-written classically-inspired patterns. For this cowl, she was inspired by an ancient teal portico with wrought-iron scrollwork.


The Teal Door Cowl is worked in Knitcircus Yarns’ Spectacular, a new fingering-weight superwash merino singles.

Teal Door Cowl

You can purchase the pattern from Elizabeth’s Ravelry store, or the Teal Door Kit with printed pattern, Quoth the Raven yarn (black) and  Olden Door yarn (teal), a colorway designed just for this project. The yarn knits up with a wonderfully soft-drapey hand and the two-color technique means it’s doubly warm!

Charlie Brown or Wild and Woolly Tree?


We finally got our tree!


My family has cut a tree at Summers every year since I was five. You come in and are greeted by hale and hearty farmers in their Carhartts, climb the snowy hill and then take the track leading to your favorite trees (we usually get a fir).

This year, it’s been bitter cold, so we wanted to get the closest pretty tree we could find and get back quickly for hot cider and donuts. Unfortunately, everyone else had the same idea, so the closer-to-home fields were pretty well picked over. Then Li’l Buddy spotted an unusual tree on the next ridge; a pretty tree on top, with branches cut off below so it  appeared to be sitting on a big column. Mike and Lil’ buddy sawed away, we carried the tree down.


One thing I love about Summers is that they put your tree through the baler (always fascinating to watch) and tie it to your car for you, leaving us free to check out the cider donuts and cider-soaked brats.


Note: these dedicated guys were going to be out all day long. After a half hour in the seven-degree weather, we were done!

Then the tree project went sideways. We had made the classic mistake; the tree that looked perfectly reasonable in the outdoors turned out to be 12 feet tall. When we trimmed one foot off the top and three off the bottom, it turned out that all that was left were branches inexplicably pointing straight up, giving our tree a sad, skinny look. Li’l Buddy’s disappointment knew no bounds. So while he went out skating with friends, Mike and I tried to save Christmas.

I thought it might look better with our pretty tree skirt and some presents under it. Mike took a more direct approach. He fetched the cut-off branches from the garage and secured them into the tree, making a very wild and bushy but not sad and skinny tree. We didn’t think they would hold, but they did, and Lil Buddy was so happy when he returned that he ran right downstairs for the boxes of ornaments.

happy tree decorators with their finished project

Even though it may not be the Perfect Tree, we’ve grown fond of our wild and bushy one (and there are more branches in the garage if they need substitutes).

Holiday Baking

The Yarn Harlot’s gingerbread post made me want to get a hedgehog cookie cutter!

We read Christmas in Noisy Village every year, where the most prized cookie cutter is a little pig.  Pippi Longstocking makes great quantities of pig-shaped Pepperkakor, which I promised the kids we would try this year. So purchasing a little pig cookie cutter is next on my list!

Our whole family is taking vacation next week (whooo!!!!) so it’ll be time to rev up the oven for some serious cookie baking. We’ll be making gluten-y and gluten-free treats like gingerbread from my mom’s recipe, GF and regular sugar cookies, GF peppermint pinwheels, regular chocolate/vanilla pinwheels, low-carb gingerbread with cream cheese frosting, GF banana bread (not necessarily Christmas, but we have three bananas that need using). Mike and the kids make homemade caramels, and getting the wax paper wrapping line going is one of my favorite projects of the season. We’ll make a second (and maybe third) batch of peppermint bark, a second batch of gingersnaps (all gone already!), and some kind of white chocolate bark inspired by this Martha one with dried apricots, cranberries and pistachios.

Happy holiday season to all of you wonderful knitters,


Snowy Weekend; Perfect for Handknits!

Over Groundhog Day, we watched the wonderful Bill Murray movie of the same name, and Belle watched it with us for the first time. And, just like those radio announcers said, “Don’t forget your booties, ‘cuz it’s cold out there!”

ImageOur snowy street

We did a photo shoot for a new hat-and-cowl set I’m working on; should be out soon!


ImageIt’s a super-easy  set I developed for my wonderful Van Hise Elementary knitters, who are just learning all about knit, purl and work in the round. 😉


Happy Monday, and stay warm, everyone!


Snow is Glistening

…Not quite sleigh bells in the lane yet, even in Wisconsin, but we’re ready!


Every year for Thanksgiving, the kids and I decorate the windows with snowflakes, with hopes for big drifts this winter.


In the past, we always used big, circular coffee filters, but this year, we used templates from Belle’s class. They’re based on real snowflake crystal structures. Unfortunately  they appear to have come from a book, and I can’t find the same thing online, but did find this site with info about snowflake crystal structures and some cool photos of snowflakes by Ken Lebo.

Some similar and fun snowflake templates are on Marcel’s Kid Crafts or Curbly Essentials (free download if you like their Facebook page).


We used ordinary white paper and put them under the dictionary to flatten for a couple of hours after cutting. To make the garland, take three yards of red rickrack and paper clips; the wire tips can punch nice little holes in the snowflakes, then work the snowflake to the inner oval, and hang from the outer.

Maybe the next step is these beautiful 3-D snowflake decorations from Ellinee!

We’re getting in holiday gear; last night after dinner, my mom, Grandma and I pored over mom’s file folder of favorite holiday ideas. Since our family has Jewish, Protestant, Catholic and Serbian Orthodox branches, we get to pull from a lot of traditions!


I can’t wait to try some of these gift tags, decoration ideas and homemade treats to give…

In knitting news

Eight wonderful knitters joined me yesterday at Stitcher’s Crossing for a Cowls class; I spread out all of the samples from the Knitting Recipes book, and they tried on and measured and all decided which size cowl would fit their style and their favorite yarn. They even gave up their Packer game knitting time to learn the knitted cast-on, stretchy bind-off and simple twisted infinity technique; that’s devotion to a craft! Thanks so much to Sharon and the Stitcher’s Crossing crew, who had everything so well-organized for us!

Have a great Monday,


Knitting Recipes Sneak Peek

Our wonderful graphic designer, Anneliese, just gave me a flash drive full of photos from our last Knitting Recipes shoot, and I’m so excited to share them with you!

We had such a good time shooting at Mother Fool’s Coffeehouse on Madison’s eclectic East Side.


Sarah relaxes in a two-color cowl…


Lookin’ fresh next to the lovingly-restored vintage wall ads in the Willy Street neighborhood.


Reversible lace in Blue Sky Alpacas!

Can’t wait to share the patterns with you. Soon!

Keep cool,


New Knitting Recipes Pattern: Grand Avenue

Introducing the latest addition to the Knitting Recipes: Hats and Cowls e-book: Grand Avenue! Named after a favorite place from my childhood, Grand Avenue knits up super-fast on Size 15 needles with Blue Sky Alpacas‘ wonderful Bulky yarn.

I just had so much fun working with this yarn, and the color makes you feel energetic and happy!

Find it as part of the Knitting Recipes e-book or on its own.

Good for knitting indoors in the heat, looking forward to the gift-giving season. 🙂