My current work in progress:

1. Hats!
2. Myriad stealth projects.

Stained Glass Cowl and Other Things

Loki thank you for the birthday wishes and he is delighted that so many of you have downloaded the Catnip Mouse pattern (free through the end of April with the code LOKI). He would also like all the kitties out there to know how much he loves his new Cat Ball. He highly recommends this: two paws up.

Stained Glass Cowl

In other news, my Stained Glass Cowl is done!

OutsideCowl042016 240x235 Stained Glass Cowl and Other Things

I knit this from 2 colorways of Wollmeise Pure: Schwarz and Tiefer See, and used two skeins of each color. Actual yardage: 1000 yards Schwarz and 800 yards Tiefer See. The resulting cowl is just under 80″ in circumference and approximately 9″ deep. The inside is worked in a simpler pattern than the outside.

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The pattern is now available for sale in my Ravelry shop, and for a limited time, it is $3.00. It will go back up to the regular price of $5.00 at the end of the month.

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You could knit one that is half the circumference and there are many many color combinations you could use. I think it would be lovely in a pink variegated with a brown solid. Or how about a gradient set with black? Or black and white? The possibilities are almost endless.

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Books, Books, Books

The winner of my review copy of Highland Knits, Knitwear Inspired by the Outlander Series by Interweave is Melanie J., who has been emailed.

And, I have another book to review:

Cover042016 182x240 Stained Glass Cowl and Other Things

This is The Beginner’s Guide to Writing Knitting Patterns by Kate Atherley, new this month from Interweave. Not a book of patterns, but a book to teach you how to write patterns. Note only is Kate a knitting designer, but she is Knitty’s technical editor, so I firmly believe that she knows what she is talking about when it comes to writing good patterns.

I’ve been told by many who knit them that my patterns are well-written and easy to follow. I firmly believe that this is because I spent a number of years working as a technical writer, documenting complex software systems. I think there is no better preparation for writing knitting patterns — you don’t leave out a step in a user guide for an online acquisition system without disastrous consequences!

So I was pleased to read in the introduction of this book that before becoming a knit-design professional, Kate spent 15 years in the technology industry as a tech writer, documentation specialist, and marketing communications expert.

I feel vindicated.

This book covers pretty much everything you need to know and think about when writing patterns: what needs to be included in a pattern, sizing, schematics, charts, abbreviations, etc. It’s a lot to cover in 300 pages, but after reading through it, I think that anyone who has created an original knitted item and has copious notes could take the advice in this book and turn those notes into a clear pattern that others can follow.

Throughout the book there are snippets of information and advice from other knitting designers, and there are also many callouts from knitters Kate has interviewed titled “Don’t Just Take It From Me” — these are knitting pattern likes and dislikes from real knitters. One of my favorites was from a knitter who said not to describe your pattern as beautiful or exquisite — let her be the judge of that! But seriously, there is a lot of great information in those little callouts — knitters’ pet peeves and things they like to see and things they wish designers would include in patterns.

I’ll tell you right now — I’m keeping this book. While I pride myself on being a good pattern writer, there is always room for improvement, and this book will be a great resource to use for future pattern writing.

If you are a designer or a designer wannabe, you need this book!

Loki Sez:

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I lead such a tough life!

Happy Birthday Loki!

Yesterday was Loki’s fifth birthday! In celebration, Loki would like you to have a free copy of my Nose-Up Catnip Mouse. Enter the code LOKI at check-out to get the pattern free of charge. The code is good through the end of the month.

I got Loki a cat ball for his birthday and he loves it!

Loki041716 217x240 Happy Birthday Loki!

Book Giveaway

The winner of my copy of Brooke Nico’s More Lovely Knitted Lace is Gail, who has bene emailed.

Squares

I haven’t reported on the Martin Storey Afghan KAL lately. Here are the first 6 squares (there are 8 total).

Squares041716 240x141 Happy Birthday Loki!

Highland Knits

Are you a fan of the Outlander series on Starz? Then you might like this book:

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This is Highland Knits, Knitwear Inspired by the Outlander Series by Interweave. It’s a collection of 16 patterns that, as the subtitle indicates, are inspire by the costumes in the series. You can view all the patterns here on Ravelry.

And you can download one of the patterns, the Sassenach Cowl, free, here.

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You can purchase the book in paperback or in ebook format. If you buy from the Interweave store, you can get a 20% discount on the price through the month of April by entering the code OUTLANDER20 at checkout.

The patterns are all for accessories: cowls, shawls, handwarmers, socks, boot toppers. Some are very quick knits since they are worked in bulky yarns.

This sock pattern, Standing Stones Socks are knit in aran weight yarn:

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They’d make a nice pair to wear around the house in the winter — aran weight socks would definitely keep your feet warm.

And I like these Herb Garden Gauntlets, knit from worsted weight yarn:

Herb041316 160x240 Highland Knits

These would also work up quickly and make a nice quick gift.

So who’d like my review copy?

To be entered in the drawing to win my copy of Highland Knits, leave a comment on this post by noon next Wednesday, April 20, 2016.

Meanwhile at home, I am still plugging away on my Stained Glass Cowl. No photo until I am done!

And I’m playing with sketching apps for my iPad. Does this little guy look familiar?

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Brooke Nico Does It Again

She’s back with a new book:

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This is More Lovely Knitted Lace by Brooke Nico, newly published by Lark Crafts. It has sixteen patterns that are organized by basic shape: circle, square, triangle, and rectangle. You can view all the patterns here on Ravelry.

I’ve picked some favorites. From the “Circles” section, I love the DeBauliver Top.

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It is knit from Heaven’s Hand Silke, a 1005 mulberry silk yarn. In the book they say it is DK weight, on Ravelry it is listed as worsted. It’s a multidirectional knit and I can only imagine how fabulous the drape is in the 100% silk yarn.

In the “Triangles” section, my pick is the Peony Tam.

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The sample is knit from SMC Extra Merino, a dk weight wool and it is knit from the center out.

In the “Squares” section, the Holly Shawl really stood out for me.

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It’s knit from Schoppel Wolle Leinen Los, another DW weight yarn that is a wool/linen blend. (I’m picking all DK-weight projects here — not done on purpose!) While labor-intensive (look at all those nupps!) I think the results are well-worth the effort expended.

And finally, in the “Rectangles” section, I love the Primrose Tunic.

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Knit from Debbie Bliss Angel, a laceweight mohair/silk blend (it looks like it’s comparable to Rowan Kidsilk Haze), each panel features a meandering vine pattern and the sample is knit in three different colors. You could use different colors or do a smashing monochrome version!

The patterns are clearly written with nice big charts and the photography, by Carrie Hoge, is exquisite.

Who’d like my review copy?

To be entered in the drawing to win my copy of s More Lovely Knitted Lace, leave a comment on this post by noon next Sunday, April 17, 2016.

Winners!

The winner of my copy of 60 Quick Cotton Knits: The Ultimate Cotton Collection in Ultra Pima™ from Cascade Yarns® is Kari M., who has been notified.

And the following people, identified by their Ravelry IDs have won cowl patterns from me: Sophy0075, PickleSoup, jdnrob, Ismenecat,Uny, SassyFrass, BCGramma, bufknitter, Swakins, knitandfiber, liso, monibknits, jdnrob, HLMauera, KaisaWM, Philhellene, brendac, and ccfan. Thanks everyone for weighing in on your favorites!

Excel for Knitting Charts

There were a number of questions in the comments after my last post, regarding using Excel for creating knitting charts. I do make the squares in my charts wider than they are tall so they more realistically resemble a knitted stitch. The ratio varies depending on the gauge of the item I’m working on, so rather than describe how I do it, I’ve uploaded a sample Excel Workbook that you can download, save, and use. I put a small chart in the corner and entered a few squares, using the Dingbat font, so you can see how to get started. Download here.

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Now, you are on your own to figure out how to use it and make changes to it.

There was also a question sent to me about how I deal with the “jog” in colorwork when knitting in the round. For some of my cowl patterns, the ones knit “vertically,” I have a plain stripe of color at each side, so the jog is not visible. For the “horizontally” knit ones, it doesn’t seem to matter too much either. Here is my current cowl-in-progress shown at the beginning of the round:

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Loki

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Loki is showing off his toe-hawks.

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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