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.

Balinese Cardi and Snowshoeing


Guess what, talented designer Elizabeth Green Musselman just released her Balinese Cardi pattern, making ingenious use of our gradient and kettle-dyed yarns!BalineseCardi_main1 (2)

We’re so thrilled about her design. Using the gradients on the sleeves and yoke makes a lovely  and unusual garment, especially with the handkerchief hems and gorgeous lace inserts. And, if you purchase the Balinese Cardi pattern on Ravelry, you’ll get a special secret code for free shipping on the Balinese Cardi kit in the Knitcircus store.


Check out that sleeve detail; wow! This is truly a flattering design for all figures, and Elizabeth wrote it for bust sizes 32-54″, so everyone can cast one on.

BalineseCardi_collar (2)

Making Tracks


A bit ago, Buppa, Li’l Buddy and a couple of his pals and I went up north for a weekend ski getaway. It was delightful, rustic and just enough adventure for all of us.


We got to see near-frozen waterfalls, hike along the otherworldly frozen landscape of Lake Superior shore,


and for me, try snowshoeing for the first time.IMG_1963

I’m not usually a sporty girl, but hiking through snow-covered woods is about my speed. My DH, being the lovely man that he is, gifted me a set of snowshoes, so now I can do it on our home turf! As soon as it’s above 0 degrees F,  I can’t wait to try…

Have a great weekend, and stay warm,


Brand New Bag(s), Dr. Who and Curls

Hi, Knitters,

First of all, thank you for such a wonderful response to the newsletter on Friday! We’re excited to put all of our new Lair improvements to work on your orders. Yesterday, with our new system tweaks and with Assistant Dyer Erin aboard, we dyed more yarn than ever before in a single day.

Weekend Update

I hope you all had a lovely weekend. Ours was pretty chill. Lil Buddy had a Futsal game both days. If you’re like me, and had never actually heard of Futsal, it was developed in the 30s-40’s in Brazil, and is basically soccer played with a smaller, heavier ball on a gym floor.Here he is in Saturday’s game.


Sunday’s game was during the big Packer football match. We left my parents and 92-year-old Grandma glued to the game, drove to Verona and walked in to the gym just before 4:00….only to find the futsal game was at 3:00. In my history as a soccer, baseball, basketball and judo mom, we’ve never blown a game before. Totally embarrassing. Lil Buddy was a good sport about it.

But I got to give my grandma her Sunday manicure, so definitely a silver lining there.

Brand New Bags

I asked in the Knitcircus Ravelry Group for advice on where to find a more structured project bag, and you guys really delivered! After checking out the wonderful shops you recommended, I purchased not one, but two new project bags, and I’m thrilled with both!


This one is by Birdlegbags. Mostly, I just can’t resist matryoshkas, but when it arrived, I was very impressed with the quality handmade product. It has a beautiful Millefiori bead on the closure,the strap was fussy cut to produce a perfect row of smiling faces and it has a little clip on the other side (not shown) with a carabiner for attaching to your belt! IMG_1901[1]

It’s also lined with a beautifully-sewn lining with rainbow-colored knit stitches. I’m a big birdlegbags fan now!

The second box project bag came from Zigzagstitches; look at that delightful graphic print! This bag was also very professionally-sewn, with a grosgrain ribbon tab you could put a carabiner in and a pretty contrasting lining.


I’m so happy to have found these two stores. We’ve got a ski trip coming up this weekend; hack, no, I’m not skiing, I’m knitting and making big pans of lasagna! Can’t wait to use both of these.

Wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey

We’re very excited about the new Dr. Who yarn club (so much so that Wet Processor Lena spends much of her break time searching for the perfect gifts for the Club members). It’s three packages/6 months of yarn inspired by the many regenerations of The Doctor and his plucky human companions.


The Doctor may have an enlightened view of the nature of time, but for Earth purposes, the Club membership is only open until tomorrow, so please hop on over and sign up if you haven’t yet!


I’m a huge fan of all of Hunter Hammersen’s patterns, and her new book shows a whole new side to her design talents. Curls uses a unique shawl construction Hunter developed to create versatile cowl/shawl pieces. Once you’ve grasped the idea, the pieces are very achievable, and she includes a variety of designs from very simple repeats to the deluxe lace wrap shown on the cover.


Chris gifted me with a gorgeous skein of handspun for my birthday, and I’m going to show it off with either Hunter’s Caesious simple wrapped-stitch pattern or the cozy cables of her Icterine shawl.

Well, off to dye up more yarn, have a wonderful Tuesday,


Knitting in the New Year

Happy New Year, Knitters!


paper chains made by Belle

After a very busy holiday yarn season, we all took a week off to enjoy the holidays with family and friends.


With Christmas and Hannukkah so close, it was a whirlwind, with matzo ball soup and candles at my parents’ then  our family’s traditional homemade Swedish Meatball Christmas Eve dinner here. Every year, we make up a new 12 Days of Christmas song to reflect the events of the year, so this one included “nine baseball players,” “three weeks of clouds,” and “A Sasha under the tree.”


this little hat was a gift from my mom, handknit and fairly traded

After The Best Christmas Ever(tm), with brunch at our place and dinner at Mom and Dad’s, we took a whirlwind trip to Michigan to check out Mike’s dad’s tree, 12 feet tall with more than a thousand ornaments. Little Buddy found the pickle.

Then two days and two cakes of celebrating Li’l Buddy’s birthday. German Chocolate cake is a family tradition, and it’s an old-fashioned one, with egg separating both for the cake and the frosting. But man, is it worth the time. The kids who came over for a sleepover (just a few this year) got homemade chocolate cupcakes with ganache.

And then it was New Year’s Eve, and frankly, my dears, we were partied out. I snuggled up in our new flannel sheets with a laptop and Dr. Who (season 3, David Tennant, now my favorite Doctor) while Lil Buddy hung out with friends and MIke and Belle puzzled the evening away.

IMG_1703 If you’re puzzlers, I highly recommend this particular one, the Fairytale Fantasia. I have never seen a more intricate, detailed picture, though its complexity isn’t for the faint of puzzle-heart.

And now it’s 2015! Today we’re back to work in the Lair for one big day before the weekend, doing exciting end-of-2014-things like inventory and taxes. But we’ve got a new year of yarn creating and knitting!

Knit this Year 

I took a few luxurious moments to revisit my favorite projects on Ravelry, and though my knitting time is limited these days, a girl can dream! Here’s what I’m hoping to work up this year:


Moyen Age; this is my dream sweater to knit for myself this year. I just find this delicate design by Hada Knits captivating, and it looks good on all of the Ravelers who’ve posted photos.


Knotted Pine, by Alicia Plummer; love these cables, with just enough texture and changes to keep it interesting.


My mom loves the Manly Scarf in progress Mike, so she requested a version for herself using the 100% cashmere Trapeze yarn I dyed for her for Christmas. A (Wo)manly scarf! This pattern uses a classic texture pattern for a timeless effect and it’s perfect car or waiting room knitting.


Olga Buraya-Kefelian’s patterns always intrigue me, and I’d love to try the unusual stitch in her Moko-Moko cowl.


Of course, Susie Anderson is on the list, with her 50-Row Shawl I’ve been itching to try. A worsted-weight shawl would be so comfy in the winter.


Dandelion Days cowl; big surprise, I love the combination of cables and lace in this compelling cowl.


In fingering, I’m going to try the Ici Paris Beret for my mom; she loves Paris, and I’ve been curious about the Eiffel Tower Stitch for years.


I want the Zag-Edged Scarf for myself; the combo of garter stitch and a nice edging looks like a sure winner for the actual knitting time I have, which is usually while playing Big Bang Clue or watching Modern Family with our own family.


Et Frais would make a perfect use for our gradient yarns in the 25g balls. That texture looks super fun.


The Accelerating Stripes mitts, of course, would make a perfect canvas for some Gradient Stripes action. Belle would love a pair of these.

For socks, I always use Susie Anderson’s How I Make My Socks or Wendy Johnson’s toe-up basic slip-stitch heel pattern, but this year I’d like to try the Fleegle heel with the Time Traveler Socks and some nice patterning with RPM, like Cindy did in our KAL earlier this year.


Kirsten Kapur creates lovely patterns and I’d love to knit up her Snow Drops and Snap Peas shawl, as well as my perennial favorite, Cladonia.


What are you knitting this year?

Have a great one,


One More Gift For You and Second Harvest Fundraiser


Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of your wonderful knitters. I hope you’re all having a lovely day, and I have one more gift for you!


Silk Moon Crescent

This community means so much to me. You’ve been there for me through thick and thin, through the rise of Knitcircus Magazine, loss of the magazine and rebirth of the business as an independent yarn studio.


Industrial Revolution

Dyeing self-striping yarn for all of you is truly the best job I could ever have, and your reception of the Gradient Stripes yarns was more than we hoped for. Knitcircus has grown tremendously in the past year, now employing six people, and it’s all thanks to this wonderful community.



As a token of my appreciation, please use the code merrymerry to download any pattern in the Jaala Spiro Ravelry store. Feel free to share with your friends!


Balm to the Soul Shawlette

Thanks so much to everyone who ordered from the store during the Second Harvest Foodbank fundraiser November 23-December 23rd! You donated enough for 150 meals, which made me so happy and proud yesterday when I gave them the funds.


Hibiscus Shawl



Gradient Stripes Mitts

I hope that you are all having a lovely holiday season and wish you all the best for a fantastic new year full of new hope, new opportunities and old friends. So please check out the Jaala Spiro Designs store and use the code merrymerry at checkout to download any pattern you’d like.

Take care and happy knitting,



Chicago Loop Cowl



Hat and Cowl Knitting, Sale Yarns and Holidays Yes

The holidays approacheth! I love hosting, getting out the good china, and making pumpkin pies (I think I might need to practice that one this weekend so the T-day ones are perfect…)

Here’s wishing all of you US knitters safe travels, enjoyable times with family and friends and plenty of time to knit over the holiday.

Cold Weather; Knit Faster!

2014-11-20 018

Look at this awesome t-shirt my mom got for me! This pretty much sums it up…You can find it at Northern Sun. If you’re more girly, this is a unisex style, but I think it’s perfect for layering in the Lair. :)

On My Needles

During this latest cold snap, I realized that the handknitter has no knits! I love wristwarmers and wear them all winter whenever my hands aren’t in buckets of rinsing yarn. I’m working on a pair of the new Gradient Stripe Handwarmers for myself in Hummingbird.

november 14 2014 027


I’m also working up a quick textured hat and cowl set for myself to keep out the winter wind. Patterns coming soon.

Over the long weekend, when I’m not hosting, feasting and playing indoor mini-golf (new family tradition) I’m thinking about whipping up Kirsten Kapur’s One Day Beret for my sister-in-law and trying some simple ornament designs to surprise the kids…

What are you all knitting? Lots of holiday gifts?

Let It Snow

It’s been very January-like here, with a couple of inches of snow staying on the ground.

2014-11-20 010

Sasha was excited because the whole backyard was covered with something she could eat. She kept bounding around, snuffling at the ground, then licking her muzzle.

Sale Yarns and Holiday Orders


More knitters have ordered yarn from us in the last two months than ever before, and we are immensely grateful! I’m dyeing up yarn as fast as I can (including on weekends) and if you’ve ordered yarn, you’ll still get it by Christmas.

We’re making sure to put up ready-to-ship yarns every day between now and December 21st, and to help your holiday jingle,we’ve added many Sale items to the store; just as soft and knittable as all the rest, but unusual colors, or with small color spotting, one knot, etc.

Indie Gift-a-Long

Wow, 293 independent designers are participating this year! This is a great chance to get literally thousands of wonderful patterns on sale, and they’ve got tons of activities, KAL’s and chances to win goodies in the Giftalong Group on Ravelry.

Have a lovely weekend and stay warm,


Favorite Knitted Gifts

November is here, so the knitting world is experience a giant virtual cast on party for gifts! Whether you’re trying to create a sweater for your dad, dishcloths for everyone in your book club, or a shawl for a friend, you’re probably experiencing the excitement of choosing patterns to knit.  Now may not be the time to experiment wildly; I know I like tried-and-true patterns if I’m on a deadline.

Cindy and I have compiled lists of our favorite go-to patterns for giving to loved ones.

Silk Moon Crescent Shawlette

Silk Moon Crescent Shawlette

Of course, the first is my own Silk Moon Crescent Shawlette pattern; the garter stitch and easy-to-predict increases make this an easy knit to complete. It’s 400 yards of any weight yarn.

Wendy D Johnson’s Toe Up Sock Patterns. Anything by Wendy Johnson is going to be a solid hit. Her toe-up slip-stitch heel vanilla sock is my go-to sock pattern anytime.

Wendy Johnson's Toe Up Socks

Wendy Johnson’s Toe Up Socks

Grandmother’s Favorite Dishcloth

This one’s a classic for a reason! The first knitted dishcloth I ever saw was actually this pattern made by Mike’s grandma, so the title in my case is literally true! After you make one, the pattern is so intuitive that you can basically take this along anywhere and turn out lovely dishcloths surprisingly fast.

tropical sunset best

How I Make My Socks by Susan B Anderson. You all probably know by now this is my very favorite top-down sock pattern. Susie has knitted a drawer full of socks with this pattern, and many happy knitters have used it for perfect socks.


photo: susan b anderson

I also love her Tiny Tree and Waiting for Winter Mittens/Mitts.

Tiny Reindeer by Anna Hrachovec

Tiny Reindeer by Anna Hrachovec

Anna Hrachovec’s Mochimochi Land patterns; I’ve knit many tiny adorable toys for my kids from Anna’s patterns. Pretty much any one can be turned into an ornament, from snowmen to desktop computers!


Of course, hats and cowls make great winter gifts, and for a limited time, I’m offering the Wisconsin River Valley Cowl – a super easy pattern perfect for gift knitting – free to kick start the season! This works up quickly with just one 100g skein of your favorite worsted-weight yarn.

Cindy’s Picks

Knitcircus web, finance and outreach expert Cindy can knit up a storm. She’s famous around these parts for knitting a pair of socks for everyone in her extended family one year.


She loves Koolhaas by Jared Flood; works for men or women!



Gaptastic Cowl by Jen Geigley; chunky and stylish knit!

Some of Cindy’s other favorites include:

Autumn by Jane Richmond

Marram Hat by Mimi Codd

Storm Warning by Liz Corke

Indie Gift-a-long

Have you heard about the Indie Gift-a-long? This is an awesome event for knitters; starting on November 13th, many talented independent designers are offering patterns on sale, and if you join the Ravelry group for the Giftalong Knitalongs, you can win prizes, too! Wonderful designers like Stephannie Tallent, Lee Meredith, Adrienne Ku, Dani Berg, Corrina Ferguson, Alicia Plummer, Laura Chau and many more are participating! You can see a list of all 293 designers here.

Happy holiday knitting,