My current work in progress:

Seaforth designed by Alice Starmore, knit in British Breeds 5-ply Guernsey Wool on US 3 needles.


Q & A Day

More questions from yesterday’s comments:

Gail asked:

I’m probably an early intermediate knitter – I can follow pattern shaping, moderately intricate patterns, and things like stripes or mosaics. But I can’t even figure out how to start working on even simple colorwork – what do you recommend to get started? I’m pretty good at learning from a book, but would I be better off taking a class?

If you’re pretty good at learning from a book, maybe that would be a good place to start. I learned to knit from looking at pictures in a “how to knit” book. I was four years old and could not yet read.

But I know for some people, there ain’t nothing like seeing a technique demonstrated. Not knowing you, it’s hard to judge.

From Roi:

Question for the “Queen of No Swatching”: Is this true even when you are substituting yarn – like the Kimono Shawl you did in Koigu? I’ve been having trouble getting gauge, especially with lace stole patterns (but was OK doing the Kimono Shawl in Koigu using #6 as you did). I tend to knit tight and usually have to go up one needle size with sweaters; however, some lace patterns, like the Linen Lace Shawl (Euroflax Linen) in “Knitted Shawls, Stoles, & Scarves” I go up 3 or 4 sizes and then I don’t enjoy how the lace looks. Any comments would be appreciated.


I never, ever swatch for lace. I very, very rarely swatch for anything else. Even if I’m substituting yarn. I’ve been knitting for ages and can pretty much tell if one yarn is going to sub well for another. If it doesn’t look right to me, I won’t use it.

I remember years ago I taught a girl in my office to knit. After completing a couple of simple projects, she wanted to knit a cardigan from a Rowan book. She bought a heavy worsted weight wool for a design that called for sport weight, but insisted she had to use that yarn because she loved the color. She agonized and ripped out, agonized and ripped out for months before she finally gave up and admitted she couldn’t get the gauge.

I did manage to refrain from saying “I told you so” even though I did think it. Repeatedly.

Some people are just not trainable.

Lisak asked:

What is your favorite ribbing? I’m looking for one that is pretty straight and doesn’t add bulk, i.e. doesn’t pull in the knitting.

Well . . . I can’t say that I really have a favorite ribbing because I detest ribbing on principle. (How’s that for being helpful?)

If you want something that doesn’t pull in too much, try a simple k1 p1. Or do a garter stitch bottom band instead of ribbing. Or a facing.

From Beth in Richmond:

Thank you for the info concerning the difficulty of Beadwork. I love it and thought it woud be beautiful for one of my daughters. But I think I need to start with something more simple.(I’m just used to the more simple cardigans/pullovers). But I really want to get into the beginnings of things which you knit. *What would you suggest?? Have never done anything Aran or Fair Isle – boring huh……..Please just suggest a beginning project for the such.

My choice for an easy aran is Starmore’s Na Craga, from Aran Knitting. For a fair isle, try my Fearless Fair Isle. Anyone else have any ideas they wanna share?

Baby Dale

You get another photo today, just because I think it’s pretty.


Surreal Moment du Jour

I was in a meeting in our conference room at work yesterday and noticed that the framed photo of George W. was missing from the wall. (We have framed portraits of the Pres., the Vice Pres., and the Secretary of Labor leering down at us while we try to conduct business.)

One of my coworkers asked, “Hey, where’s George?” Come to find out, the portrait was removed because “we are getting an updated portrait.”

Aren’t you glad you glad the American taxpayers are footing the bill for new portraits of George W. for all government conference rooms? But hey! They are economizing. They are using the same frame for the new portrait.


Lucy is not amused.


  1. I love it, ADORE it that you don’t swatch. For years I’ve been getting flak from people who think it’s blasphemous that I don’t ever do it. Just can’t stand wasting the time. I’m confident enough with my knitting that I know pretty well what my gauge is, and when I turn out to be wrong, I have the perfect gift for the friend/relative who’s smaller/bigger than me! Yay for non-swatching-and-hoping-it-works!

  2. For beginner Fair Isle, I would suggest the Rosemarkie vest, if one can fnd Celtic Collection. Yes, the yarn specified are no longer made except for fog, but there are shetland yarn colors that closely match those used originally in the vest.

  3. vanessa says:

    love the new pink baby sweater 🙂

  4. I have to admit, especially since I’m currently working on Na Craga..that it is an easy texture pattern. I have the pattern pretty much memorized, I just look when I get to the end panels on either side to make sure I do those right..and I’m sure by the time I get a few more inches in I’ll have that down without looking.

    That Dale sweater is making me want to run to my LYS and get the yarn..since i don’t have the pattern right in front of me, is that for more infant sizes or does it go to toddler sizes too? It’s very pretty!

  5. The Dale pattern goes up to size 18 months, I believe.

  6. I’m surprised you didn’t mention your Fair Isle baby sweater on the Knitty site as a good beginner’s project!
    That gets my vote because that’s a great attempt to work through the finishing without being nervous about losing a huge investment in time or materials. Besides, it’s such a cute sweater!

  7. Lucy is so gorgeous. I love seeing her little face every day.

  8. I think Lucy wants her own photo on the wall! For the sake of my fellow loose-knitters, I’ve had to go down to size 0 needles to get the gauge for Beadwork with the yarn called for. Well,if I knit socks on 0s, how bad can a sweater be? (Don’t answer that,Wendy!)

  9. I can’t resist…

    When W was selected president (not a typo), they began the portrait replacement process at our agency. They took down the first ones (in our lobby) because they were “too small” for the space(they were the same size as the previous presidential portraits). They replaced them with pics about 2x the size, and our lobby looks like something out of a Mao Tse Tung rally. (I try to use a different entrance as much as possible now.) I’m with Lucy!

  10. Karen Berglund says:

    I’m restraining myself from running out and purchasing the Dale book for the baby sweater. Wendy, it’s so darling!

  11. Thanks for the gauge comments. Since I’m using the yarn the pattern called for, and I saw the linen lace shawl beautifully knit up in the lys in Sedona where I bought the yarn, I guess its worth the 3 hr rt drive to get some help as to why I can’t get gauge without my pattern swatch looking loose and ugly(:

    I was also sold a faroese shawl pattern with Helen’s Lace and size 8 needles. I ended up with 10s to get gauge and hated it – threw it in the corner in disgust. So now I know to buy/try patterns that call for smaller needles – my preference.

    As for the portrait, I’d much prefer today’s “unamused” pose of Lucy. Even with her crossed eyes, she looks more intelligent than dubya:)

  12. I am such a lemming. My best friend just had her first little one (we’re 32). I’d never paid attention to baby stuffs before not having any of my own and not have any close friends (that don’t knit themselves) with munchkins. Now I’m really enjoying looking for patterns for baby knits. And I’m wanting to check out the Dale patterns because your little sweater is just precious!

    Snort and “Good lord” to the Shrub portrait/frame. Too funny! Well, sort of funny since it is tax dollars paying for it all. ANYway….

  13. Beautiful pink knitting & I love seeing your frequent kitty pictures! She’s lovely.

  14. On facings, I have decided to work the edges of a vest I am designing using facings rather than ribbing. Do you prefer to keep the stitches live (either provisional cast on or no bind off, depending) and tack them down, or to sew down secured stitches? Does it make a difference in the finished garment? Thanks

  15. Jo in Boston says:

    Roi, it seems to me that if you’re knitting a shawl where the final size is not as crucial as in a sweater and where it’s easier to alter the size of the piece you’d be better off knitting with the size needle that makes the swatch look good and not worrying about getting the correct gauge. I agree about dubya, Lucy’s catnip mouse looks more intelligent than he does.

  16. Suzanne says:

    In answer to Beth in Richmond, who asked about a good Aran knitting pattern for a first try, I used a pattern from Plymouth Yarn’s A Collection of Arans, pattern book # 616. The pattern I used to make a cardigan for my daughter was #10/11 Saddle Shoulder Cardigans. You can also make it in an adult size. It is a written pattern, no charts, but that was good for me since I have no experience with charts yet. I would say that it was challenging for my first try, but I was able to do it with only a minimal amount of help. If you can’t get a copy of the Starmore book, this pattern book might be good for you.


  17. Suzanne says:


    I forgot to mention in my last post how much I enjoy reading your blog every morning! It is the highlight of my day. Your work is beautiful and is a constant inspiration to me to keep learning.


  18. I think Lucy is right. Saving money with one hand and tossing it out with the other. Ugh! BTW Wendy, I am a true admirer. I know that some time ago you commented on your way of doing fairisle. I believe you said it was one-handed. Can you describe it a bit more, or is there a past blog I could reread?

  19. Chandra says:

    Maybe you should sneak in a picture of Lucy and hang it, Wendy–it would certainly be an improvement over Dubya. Karl Rove probably got some good ideas from seeing all those Saddam Hussein murals on CNN, and we’ll all be getting life-size photos of the Top-Gun-wannabe in full flight gear instead of tax refunds this year.
    Sorry. Couldn’t resist.

    Wendy, I’m about to cast on for Galway from the Celtic Collection, but noted that the pattern is written to be knit flat. I prefer to knit round as much as possible–not to mention seam as little as possible–so I usually knit round to the armpits and then flat above that (which is kind of a pain, but better than all-flat). Do you steek your textured knitting projects to knit them round? Or do you knit them flat?

    Thanks for your sage advice.

  20. Irene from Toronto says:

    Hi Wendy! I have been enjoying your website for months now (ever since I started knitting again) and thank you for all the inspiration you are giving all us knitters, beginners and otherwise.
    In response to Gail and to Beth, IMHO a good starter fair isle project would be the Hillhead slipover from Ann Feitelson’s Art of Fair Isle Knitting. Without sleeves, it’s a pretty fast knit and the pattern repeat is simple. The yarn is easy to obtain (either Jamieson’s or Jamieson’s & Smith will do) and I find the instructions in that book quite clear.
    I agree with you that a good starter Aran is Na Craga. I would have started with that one as my first Aran except my greedy significant other wanted to wear St. Enda instead! In any event St. Enda wasn’t too difficult to knit so long I kept organized with all my charts laid out.
    By the way your list of knitting tips from your readers has been absolutely invaluable to my own knitting. What a great idea!

  21. Thanks for the suggestions. I’m in the middle of knitting a sweater in a huge gauge – 3 stitches to the inch in something that feels like cord, and its almost all stockinette, so I’m looking forward to a challenge.

    I found the The Art of Fair Isle Knitting for 23.99 here:

    They also have a ton of knitting books in general. Amazon has the same book for 34.95.

  22. I don’t swatch either. Like you I look at what the specified yarn looked like, I particularly look at the needle for the specified gauge & work from there. I’m fortunate in that I knit to gauge in commercial patterns. For a while now, I have been suspecting that US knitters are looser than british ones.

  23. I noticed that one of your current WIP is a baby sweater using Baby Ull. Do you have problems with that yarn splitting ? I’m knitting a baby sweater with Baby Ull as well and not only does it split like mad, but the lacy sections look fuzzy, not crisp. Any suggestions or hints on what to do ?


  1. adnohr blog says:

    This just gets me

    Regarding Wendy’s Wendy Knits!: Q & A Day: Surreal Moment du Jour… That’s just the kind of thing that really