My current work in progress:

Moth Cardigan, designed byAmy Christoffers, knit from Rowan SoftYak DK in the Plain colorway, using U.S. size 3 and 5 needles.

Insane Cowl Posse

The other day, Monica posted this blog comment:

Would love to read an article or blog about how you knit the complex patterns you design, like the Stained Glass Cowl.  Do you design the printed pattern and then follow-it?  Or, do you decide row by row or groups of rows by groups of rows as you go?  Are you able to knit do your colorwork knitting and watch TV, listen to an audiobook, or carry on a conversation at the same time?

Good questions!

You may have noticed that lately I’ve been keeping myself entertained with Insane Cowl Patterns. It all started a couple of years ago with my Leftovers Cowl. Shortly after that I designed a smaller cowl, the Nordic Cowl. The next one I designed was the Sanquhar Cowl. Then came the Maple Leaves Gradient Cowl (designed for KnitCircus), and after that, my Crazed Scandinavian Cowl. This was followed by my Nordic Border Cowl, and then my latest published cowl pattern, the Bogus Bohus Cowl. And now I’m working on the Stained Glass Cowl, to be published upon completion/testing/editing. So clearly, I am a fan of the cowl.

So what’s my process? It usually starts with an idea in my head about some theme, motif, or style of knitting I want to showcase.  After thinking about it for a while, I start charting. My favorite pattern charting tool? Microsoft Excel.

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I set the columns and rows in Excel to make graph paper, and I start doodling. When I am doing a colorwork cowl, I use a dingbat font. The “Wingdings” font works nicely — the letter “n” in wingdings makes a solid block, perfect for use in colorwork charts.

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So I doodle along happily in Excel. I like being able to cut and paste so I can see how multiple pattern repeats will look side by side.

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Once I have my pattern set pretty much the way I want it, I either knit a swatch, or start knitting the pattern. For the Stained Glass Cowl I started with a swatch, because I wanted to make sure there was enough contrast between the foreground and background colors. It turns out there wasn’t, so I selected a different colorway for the foreground color.

As I knit, I can make adjustments to my chart on the fly.

I am almost never just knitting. I usually watch tv or read an eBook while knitting. I find I can do this even with pretty complex colorwork. It helps that I mark pattern repeats with stitch markers. Say my pattern repeat is 24 stitches. As I come to a stitch marker in my work, I can glance back over the 24 stitches just worked and confirm that I worked them correctly. If I get to stitch 24 and I’m at the wrong place in the repeat, I know I made an error somewhere  in the repeat, so I can tink back and fix it right then.

Aside: Another useful way to fix small errors is via duplicate stitch. A few days ago I was knitting on this project in a low-light setting, so I had difficulty telling the two colors apart. In the cold light of day I found a spot where I had reversed colors on three stitches and it was about ten rounds down in the pattern. I simply duplicate stitched over these three stitches to correct them and went on my merry way with no one the wiser. Except you all now know.

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Also useful for colorwork as part of multi-tasking is that I have a great memory. I can glance at a chart once and remember the pattern for the entire round without having to check back. If a chart is made up of geometric motifs I can memorize multiple rows. For cable knitting I almost always memorize an entire pattern repeat before I’ve finished knitting the first repeat. This is extraordinarily useful when I want to knit and watch a movie at the same time. Or if I am in a speed-knitting contest with a friend (cough::L-B and the Inishmore Challenge::cough).

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The only thing I find hard to do is to watch a movie in a language I do not know and have to rely on subtitles. Because I do need to look down at my knitting from time to time, I can miss some of the dialog on screen. I recall getting thoroughly confused while watching Abre los Ojos in Spanish with English subtitles while knitting a Dale of Norway Olympic design. I was very confused by the end of the movie . . . but then I probably would have been anyway.

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My current WIP is not terribly conducive to reading subtitles.

Winners!

I have a couple of book giveaways that ended today!

The winner of my review copy of Creature Feetures: 30 Crochet Patterns for Baby Booties, is Karen.

The winner of my review copy of 60 Quick Cowls: Luxurious Projects to Knit in Cloud™ and Duo™ Yarns from Cascade Yarns® is Frankie.

Both winners have been emailed.

I’ll be drawing the winner for 60 Quick Cotton Knits: The Ultimate Cotton Collection in Ultra Pima™ from Cascade Yarns® on Sunday.

Since I’m not reviewing a book and doing a giveaway today, let’s do something else. In the comments, tell me which of the following of my cowl patterns you would like to own:

Include your Ravelry name in your comment and I’ll arbitrarily send some free copies of those patterns to some of you, picked at random. Post your comment by noon on Sunday (April 10) to be eligible to win a pattern.

Loki can’t come to the blog today. He’s busy.

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60 Quick Cotton Knits

In my ongoing quest to excavate my desk, I found this (the book I was actually looking for last week):

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This is 60 Quick Cotton Knits: The Ultimate Cotton Collection in Ultra Pima™ from Cascade Yarns® from Sixth & Spring Books. Just in time to start planning your summer knitting!

Cascade Ultra Pima is a 100% pima cotton yarn, dk weight, put up in 100 gram skeins with 220 yards per skein. It comes in a dizzying array of fabulous colors.

This book has patterns for a little bit of everything: summer sweaters, wraps, shrugs, headwear, fingerless mitts, and bags. There is texture, there is lace, there is colorwork. You can preview all 60 patterns on Ravelry here.

I’ve picked out a few of my favorites.

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I love the Tiered Shell because it’s different, and it looks like it would be so cool and comfy to wear.

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Look at the beautiful Sunray Wrap — perfect for an over-air-conditioned office.

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This is the Bubble Shrug — one of several shrug/bolero patterns. I think it would be perfect to turn a sundress into office wear.

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Look at this cute Cables & Lace Headband. Not only would it make a great quick gift, but it’s a good project for someone new to cables and to lace.

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and the Checkerboard Tank looks like a good introduction to colorwork. It’s a little more challenging than stripes, but a lot easier than complex colorwork.

So . . . a lot of great patterns for a very reasonable price. The price on amazon for this book is $12.62. Divide that by 60 patterns, and that’s 21 cents per pattern! Many of these patterns would work just as nicely in other yarns — you don’t have to limit yourself to pima cotton. You can get yourself a whole library of patterns for a very good price.

I’m tempted to keep my copy, but I have only so much space on my bookshelves, so who’d like my review copy?

To be entered in the drawing to win my copy of 60 Quick Cotton Knits: The Ultimate Cotton Collection in Ultra Pima™ from Cascade Yarns® , leave a comment on this post by noon next Sunday, April 10, 2016.

Meanwhile back at the ranch . . .

My Stained Glass Cowl is progressing nicely.

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I am now working on the second half, the lining of the cowl. I’m doing a smaller all-over pattern for the lining.

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Loki sez:

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Thanks for all the nice comments about my Momma’s blogiversary!