La Gran, la grande dame of Classic Elite

Clickety Clack
Station Master

La Gran is one of the original yarns produced by Classic Elite, and is our signature yarn. With mohair gaining popularity this fall and Vogue Knitting's huge Magic of Mohair contest linked to VKLive in New York this winter, we thought we'd take a look at this warm, versatile and stylish fiber. But first, a history lesson...

La Gran Intarsia Pillow
La Gran 456 Mittens
Though we no longer produce yarn on site in Lowell, Classic Elite got its start as a yarn mill, manufacturing many of the yarns right here in Massachusetts. Ernest Chew started working in the mills at the tender age of 13 in 1925. After 20 years in a mill in Rhode Island, he was offered a partnership in Warley Worsted Mills, the predecessor to Lowell Worsted Mills, Classic Elite's manufacturing division. As the legend goes, he decided that to build his profits, he had to make a yarn that his competitors couldn't duplicate. Thus, brushed mohair was born, what was then considered a specialty or novelty yarn.

Fair Isle Pillow
Chew designed and built special equipment for brushing the mohair, eschewing any patents to keep the process proprietary. The yarn, La Gran, was first sold in 1982, and was a runaway hit. Early 80's sweaters were often oversized and dramatic, and what is more perfect for creating drama than mohair?

Rio de Janeiro Jacket
Holly Golightly Sweater

Uma in Intarsia!
Nowadays, one is not as likely to see oversize Intarsia sweaters in mohair (though Irina Shabayeva's work in the latest Vogue Knitting is proof positive that colorwork techniques are stunning in mohair) but there are many reasons mohair remains one of the fiber world's most popular choices. Mohair, which comes from angora goats, is durable, strong, and takes dye brilliantly. It also has a subtle luster that is stunning in a knit garment. Classic Elite currently produces 46 colors of La Gran, a rainbow of shades ranging from muted and ladylike to brilliant and jewel-toned. Its versatility is clear in our Fall booklet #9123, Depot, a pattern from which, Boxcar, is available for instant download through Patternfish.


What will you craft in mohair this fall?

k1-b/r Increase

So I cast on for the beautiful Elizabeth cardigan (or Magic Sweater, as we've been calling it around the office) just the other night, and I couldn't be happier with the yarn and the pattern so far...

I got home, indulged myself in a delicious beer and got to knitting. It is worked from right cuff to left cuff, so you cast on anywhere between 41 and 47 stitches to start. Okay, one by one rib, that's easy enough. Then I got to the point where I begin increasing and noticed a notation I wasn't familiar with--k1-b/r. Huh? A flip to the back page of the book brought me to the Abbreviations section where that increase is explained this way:

Slightly twist work on LH needle towards you so that WS of work is visible. Insert RH needle from top down into next stitch on LH needle one row below. Knit this st then knit st of LH needle (1 st increased).I was a little baffled by this, so went to the Stitches section of the Classic Elite website, a page with photo tutorials of a wide range of techniques, from cabling to crochet and embroidery stitches to casting on. You'll find many of the techniques used in our patterns explained here, so when in doubt, refer to this page. The increase was explained a little more articulately and the question I was asking myself, "Why not just use a m1 increase?" was answered.

This is the abbreviation that we came up with to describe my favorite way to increase stitches without leaving a hole. It is worked by knitting into the stitch in the row below the next stitch on the needle and then knitting the stitch on the needle. Because you are knitting into a stitch and not pulling up a strand, as in a m1, the new stitch does not disrupt the tension of the previous row nearly as significantly. This increase is very easy to work and the new stitch fits in neatly and snuggly with the ones surrounding it.

Another thing that I love about this increase, when you work two k1-b/r next to each other, specifically when working raglan shaping, a neat straight line of slightly raised stitches is formed.

The pictures, though they were extremely useful, still didn't cement the deal for me and I found myself wishing for a video.

So I decided to make one! If you can excuse the absence of a manicure and questionable resolution of my digital camera, I hope you find it helpful. Let us know if you like to see techniques explained here on the blog!

Video no longer available. 

For the first time in the HISTORY of Classic Elite!!!

Classic Elite Yarns is, for the first time EVER, making current season patterns available for digital download online! With the explosion of digital resources available to crafters (blogs, websites, YouTube, and the now-indispensable Ravelry...), we are used to information at our fingertips. Traditionally, our current season patterns have only been available to those who have booklets in hand, but you have asked for instant access and we are delivering!

Have you heard of Patternfish? It's a third party website that sells patterns to knitters and crocheters around the world to buy and download! Patternfish takes no advertising, has no editorial voice, and is fully invested in their mission to digitize and make available all the patterns they possibly can, even including print patterns from predigital days...

These are not the first Classic Elite patterns on Patternfish... Many of our older patterns, most of which are now out of print, have been digitized and are available for purchase. A search for Classic Elite as the publisher yields almost 500 patterns, sortable by gauge, size, knit style, category or difficulty level. You can even specify "No Seaming"! You'll find designs from Kristin Nicholas, Norah Gaughan, Annie Modesitt, Margery Winter, and our very own Susan Mills, now creative director of Classic Elite! You'll even see a few shots of a young, stunning Uma Thurman, 17 year old knit model...

Six of our Fall 2010 patterns are now available on Patternfish for download, which means you can keep them forever and ever and ever (spoken like a true product of the digital age...)

Corona in Giselle
Spinnaker in Inca Alpaca
Birch Leaf in Montera
Haven in Wool Bam Boo
Boxcar in La Gran
Encore in Fresco
The format of the downloadable patterns is our new and improved layout, featured in the blog just a few days ago. You'll see bigger text, bigger charts and schematics, wider columns and more pictures. Visit the e-Patterns page on our website to download one today, and don't forget to browse our classic patterns at Patternfish!

New e-Pattern Format!

Do you all know Meg? She is our desktop publishing and layout guru here at the office. She's also a knitter and knit designer! You may remember her introduction via Webletter a couple of months ago.

Anyway, Meg has overhauled our downloadable pattern sheets completely, and I think you'll be pleased. Here's the old pattern format...

Web-Letter patterns

The new layout definitely packs a visual punch! The first thing I noticed were the pictures. Multiple views of the garments give the reader a ton more information, especially useful for those who knit visually. Then there are the color blocks, used to differentiate pattern information from the actual pattern. It breaks up the page and makes getting the information you need easier to acquire in just one glance.

Thanks Meg! And to our readers, thanks again for looking us up. Let us know what you think about the new layout!


The word "Shopatron" evokes images of armies of retail robots, programmed to do our bidding...Oddly, it kind of is a robot designed for just that very thing. Classic Elite Yarns is a direct-to-retailer company, selling wholesale to the lovely brick-and-mortar and online stores you know and love. However, what if you see something on our website that you really like? Or that you haven't seen at your LYS?

When you click on a product on our website, you will see a "Buy Now" button on the left side. That button is powered by the aforementioned Shopatron.

Your order is sent along to them, where a sophisticated algorithm designates the closest retailer with your product in stock, and that retailer fills your order! You can either have it mailed to you or even pick it up in person.

For consumers, Shopatron is a great way to connect the experience of browsing through Classic Elite's full line of yarns and patterns on our website and receiving our actual products by mail at home. It also means you're receiving orders from an LYS near you, so you're supporting the stores that are the lifeblood of our industry. For us, it gives us a direct way to support our retailers by filling orders through actual brick-and-mortar stores and to connect directly to our consumers through our website. For retailers, you can benefit from the promotion we give our products through in addition to what you are already doing on your own website; and it's completely free to sign up! It's a win-win. You can find more information on Shopatron through the Classic Elite section of the Shopatron website.

Happy shopping!

Webs! Part 2

Ok. Where were we? Oh yeah, The Magic Sweater... Here she is--Elizabeth, the side-to-side cardigan!

And the best part is? She looked good on everybody...

The women above are all different heights, weights, and body shapes, and the sweater looked dynamite on all of them. I even tried it on myself (and I wish I had a picture, but alas, thus is the onus of the photographer.) Here's the thing, I'm almost 6 feet tall and a size 12, this sample is the smallest size published in the pattern!

We couldn't quite figure it out, but I think its the 1x1 rib that comprises much of the sweater, it looks like stockinette, but has incredible stretch, thus making its wearer look thinner. The stripes also contribute to the lengthening effect. The back is constructed side to side, and there is a gathering right at the lower back, taking in the fabric and giving it a tailored look. I love this sweater! It was designed by Cecily Glowik MacDonald (you rock!) and knit in the star of the show, Liberty Wool Print. I'm casting this on in a solid as soon as I get the yarn, and will be sure to post some pics!

This scarf is also Liberty Print, done in mitered squares in just one color of the Liberty Print! This one got ALOT of oohs and aahs...It was designed by our very own Andi Clark, you might remember her beautiful napkin edging for the staff Allegoro project?

The crowd was very engaged, asking questions and fondling all the garments, getting a sense of the feel of our yarns.

That last young lady is feeling Jared Flood's Cinder in Ariosa. The green hooded sweater is Connie Chang Chinchio's Alley Cat also in Ariosa, and the red sweater is Cecily's Dayspring. The lovely and gracious model is Cara of WEBS. Some people just wanted to try it all on--why not all at once? Who is this mystery woman? It's Melissa LaBarre!

Check out the crowd. Who is that blonde? Why, it's the woman who taught me how to knit! Thanks, Amy!

We also had giveaways! WEBS is so generous and always gives something away at their events. This time there were gift certificates! And Betsy brought along a kit to make our beautiful vest, Forest, in Woodland, including the pattern book and all the necessary yarn. You can see the vest on the left below. Congratulations, Miss Martha!

Altogether, an amazing time was had by all! There were refreshments, modeling, giggling, picture-taking, girl talk, and inspiration for all. I wish you could have all been there. The garments are traveling out to trunk shows all over the US, perhaps to a LYS near you?

I have tons of pictures! Let me know in the comments if you'd like to see a slideshow...Thanks for reading!

Fall Looks-Colorwork!

Colorwork is a skill that I have yet to master, which is a major source of frustration. I find I'm often intimidated by all the choices and have trouble developing my own color stories. However, it's possible that this Fall's lineup of beautiful Fair Isle, striped and slip-stitch knits may be just the thing to jumpstart my ambitions...

WEBS! Part 1

What a day we had at WEBS! The fall fashion show was a huge success, thanks in large part to the amazing staff of Webs and the enthusiastic Northampton knitters! Northampton is about as adorable as a New England town can be. Walking down the cobbled streets reminded me of visiting Smith College as a high school student and then later as a college sophomore. If only I had knitted then! Perhaps I wouldn't have delayed my trip to America's Yarn Store until now. (So cute!)

I arrived there at around 1:30, just in time to miss Betsy taping the podcast. Looks like I'll have to wait until it's released, just like everyone else. I did manage to sneak this grainy, paparazzi-style shot of Betsy though...Sketchy? Maybe.

As a listener of the "Ready, Set, Knit" podcast, I often wondered what the Elkins looked like. Well, here they are! They're usually smiling though...We were lucky enough to have Kathy as a sort of MC for the fashion show, introducing Betsy and Heather, trying on the garments (as you'll see later), and just chatting happily with the attendees, her customers. Seeing her work the garments and crack jokes so comfortably in front of the crowd reminded me of what a good podcaster and LYS owner she is. As Betsy said in the car on the way home, "Yup, she's a pretty remarkable woman." She and Betsy actually worked together before, about 15 years ago, for a shoe company! Talk about a small world...

Anyway, after we left the radio station, off to WEBS we went! And I'll tell you, it definitely met expectations. I posted a picture of their warehouse on our Facebook page, without even a caption, and got twelve responses from people who recognized it right away! Amazing, the power of the Yarn Mecca. Who is the first person I ran into there? Melissa LaBarre of New England Knits and fame! Turns out she works there part-time! She was also gracious enough to model some of the garments.Then it was off to see the Fall garments laid out after the staff meeting...Its always an interesting experience to look at sample garments, almost like the fascination of seeing someone from TV walking down the street (Oh! You do exist! And you look so different!) They are all gorgeous, and like every knitter, I immediately examined the stitchwork, and of course, the finishing. Flawless! The picture below is our backpack knit in Chesapeake.

Then we began setting up for the show, and unveiled The Magic Sweater...but you'll have to wait until tomorrow for that...