Embracing My Outer Conservative

I'm a conservative gal. And I don't mean politically, I mean fashionably. My mother is a children's wear designer. Last time I visited her in Manhattan, she invited my boyfriend and me to a hip restaurant in Soho and, on calling her as we approached, leapt from the doorway of the restaurant in a pair of shearling-topped Eskimo boots and a short, like, floofy, patterned dress, glittering bangle-laden arms waving overhead. I'm pretty sure Andy was wearing a canvas Carhartt jacket and I was in black Converse and a white T-shirt.

She thinks I'm in a permanent gray and beige fashion purgatory and once bought me a hooded sweater ornamented with what seemed like a hundred tiny mirrors.
"Wow, it has...mirrors....all over it."
"Well, you know honey, I'm sure its you, just give it a chance. For such a young girl, you're in a real fashion rut."

Anyway, my conservatism affects my knitting in the following ways:
1. I love stockinette and garter stitch.
2. I love to knit cables, but I can't tell you the last time I wore them.
3. Colorwork gives me agita. It has nothing to do with the technique, but when it comes to picking colors, the room spins.
4. I've only ever used variegated yarn for socks. I tried a hat once, but got too nervous and frogged it.

That being said, let's examine the Elizabeth cardigan. I tried it on at WEBS and could have been toppled with a feather I loved it so much. The stockinette! The side-to-side construction! Oh, the 1x1 rib! I swooned. But the striping was too much for my delicate constitution. In the car on the way back, I said, "Man, I love that cardigan! But is it weird I want to make it in a solid?" To my endless gratitude, Betsy responded, "I really want to make it in black for everyday wear, actually!" And thusly, two solid colored Elizabeth cardigans were born--Betsy's in black, and mine in a lovely gold hue.

Knitting Elizabeth in a solid takes it out of "statement" realm and straight into "regular day". The slip-stitch pattern at the lower back has a tailoring effect which makes it look a bit more formal, but the open front and squishy wide ribbed collar makes it the perfect jeans and a t-shirt sweater. For any who were skeptical of striping yarns, take a second look at Elizabeth in color #7846, deep teal. You can find the color card on our website.

Who knows, when I'm done maybe I'll put on some bracelets for you, Mom.

Happy Friday!

I love this video--a young girl vanquishes a fiber monster with her knitting needles!

I've definitely found comfort in disappearing somewhere with a mess of yarn and some needles and losing myself...This video is such a great metaphor! Thank you to one of my favorite blogs, the Fiber Arts blog at the Times Union in Albany, NY for posting it first.

Happy Friday!

Technique Post: Duplicate Stitching

Another technique post for you! Our Web-Letter this week features a beautiful scarf and mitten set knit in Inca with light and medium blue embellishments added after the pieces are complete.

Duplicate stitching is an invaluable technique with multiple applications for knitters. I've used it to cover up mistakes, to embellish plain stockinette, and, did I say to fix mistakes? Simply put, duplicate stitching is the process by which one uses a separate strand of yarn threaded through a needle (I prefer a duller-tipped tapestry needle) to mimic the stitches on a piece of knitted fabric. You may already be doing duplicate stitch when you weave in your ends!

When done in large sections, the resulting "stitches" look like they were knitted there to begin with, intarsia-style. When done stitch-by-stitch, as they are in the Web Letter this week, the resulting look adds a delicate touch of color to a formerly plain knit. You can use it to add monograms or lettering to your knits also. One of my favorite applications comes from Elizabeth Zimmermann, who used duplicate stitch to add names, years, or messages to the inside turned hems of sweaters. Be sure to write it upside down so the wearer can peek at it!

Before beginning, examine your knitting. On the knit side, there are rows and columns of V's. You will be inserting your needle through the bottom of the V from back to front.
Then take your needle under the V of the stitch above and back through the bottom of the V where you started. That's it! When duplicate stitching horizontally, your next step is to bring your needle through the V from back to front on the stitch to the left (or right) and repeat the process. For vertical stitching, bring it through the V of the stitch above...

The video below shows duplicate stitch in action from right to left and then into the row above. As always, thanks for reading!

Farewell Summer...

For some, the cool mornings, shortened days, and leaves tinged in gold and russet are the death knells of summer. As children, those omens meant a return to structure, cracking the spines of new textbooks and buffing jet-black oxford shoes. For me, there were uniforms to be starched and taken in and knee socks to be purchased. Now, as an adult, they move me to say goodbye to the lightheartedness of summer and prepare myself for the gravitas of the winter season; I'm often eager to see the hot weather and blockbuster movies replaced by "serious films" and woolly sweaters. There is one thing I'm always sad to say goodbye to...

This weekend marked my last of the season at the summer cottage where I learned to knit.

Lake Blaisdell is a tiny lake (158 acres to be exact) in Southern New Hampshire where my boyfriend's family has spent every summer for over 60 years, maybe even 70. It's where his parents met as children summering together (they recently celebrated their 51st anniversary together). The families in the other cabins also summered there as children and the atmosphere is familial to say the least. Andy often calls it "the commune", only half-jokingly because we're all family there--even me, a relative newcomer. Andy's sister taught me to knit at the lake, and my days are often winnowed away on the beach, surrounded by three generations of knitters sharing laughs, gossip, and licorice from the endless candy supply brought along "for the children". Every time I pick up my needles, I'm reminded of the tradition we as crafters keep alive, not only in my family, but in the world at large.

Until next summer, Lake Blaisdell...

Who taught you how to knit? We want to hear your stories!

The Magic of La Gran

This is not our first post about La Gran here on the blog, but we thought, with all the swatching and planning around the Magic of Mohair, that we could revisit our flagship yarn...Here's what Clara Parkes had to say about mohair in her excellent Knitter's Book of Yarn:

Mohair has all the wonderful qualities of wool: It is flame-retardant, soil-resistant, and can absorb moisture without feeling damp or cold. It is also warmer and stronger than wool, with larger, flatter scales that contribute to an overall silky-smooth appearance. The fiber absorbs dye readily and, thanks to the smooth surface, reflects it back brilliantly.

With that endorsement, who wouldn't want to knit with mohair? Also, the best thing about knitting with mohair in general, and La Gran in particular, is that it works up quickly and is very forgiving to uneven tension. The haze camouflages uneven stitches beautifully.

La Gran is an aran weight yarn composed of 76% Mohair, 17% Wool, and 6% Nylon. The recommended needle size is a US 9. The strands of yarn feel significantly thicker than Giselle, so its designation as an Aran weight yarn tells us that its meant to be knit at a denser gauge than Giselle...and rightly so! A look through the Patternfish archives and Ravelry show La Gran knit in intarsia and fairisle, cables, and elegant stockinette. Mohair before its brushed has a loopy quality; though La Gran is brushed, there's a sort of fluffy crimpiness in the yarn that reminds me a little of bouclĂ©. 

Mohair, in the appropriate weight, can actually be used  for almost any technique or stitch – the one thing to keep in mind is that bulky mohair is inelastic and will grow and stretch over time. For this reason,  use a smaller needle (maybe even 2 sizes smaller) for mohair ribbed edges even though in wool, one would usually use the same size needle for ribbed edges. Also, because mohair is so light and lofty it’s great for bulky knits and is extremely warm too. Hey, you can even bead it. Go nuts! This is Vogue Knitting after all...

You'll find La Gran inspiration in the Saturday Afternoon, Winter Whimsy, Winter, First Edition, Luxe, Curvy Knits, vol. 2 and Depot booklets. Happy swatching!

The Magic of Giselle

Vogue Knitting's Magic of Mohair contest is in full swing! Vogue Knitting is holding a design competition this fall for all aspiring designers and design students. The rules are simple: submit a handknitted women's fashion garment in yarn that is at least 25% mohair and you could win! Prizes vary from gift cards and knitting supplies to the GRAND PRIZE, an all-inclusive weeklong trip to South Africa sponsored by Mohair South Africa to learn firsthand about the mohair industry, including a tour of a working mohair farm and processing center near Port Elizabeth! Also, the winner's design will be featured in a future issue of VK and will be displayed at the VKLive event this winter in New York.

With such extravagant prizes in the balance, we thought we'd give out some mohair ideas for you budding designers to get your creative juices flowing.

The objection I hear most often about mohair is, "It's scratchy." While I've felt my share of scratchy mohair, it's important to understand why some may be scratchy and some soft enough to keep next to your skin. Have you ever seen the term "kid mohair"? Mohair varies in softness depending on the age of the animal: the younger the goat, the softer the hair.

When I picked up the ball of Giselle to swatch for this post, I was mesmerized not only by its jewel-like color, but also by its softness. I rubbed it between my hands and then, curious, against my face and neck. It's a blend of 66% kid mohair (hence the softness), 23% wool, and 11% nylon; the nylon acting as a binder, holding in all the beautiful fluff that's particular to the fiber. When looking closely at my peacock-blue ball of yarn, I noticed the thin nylon ply holding it together and was delighted to see that it's green! The contrasting nylon binder adds dimension to the already brilliant, prismatic color.

Giselle is a "bulky" yarn, the recommended needle size is a US8, though the yarn itself feels quite thin. Why the beefy needle size? Because Giselle is meant to be knit as a soft, airy fabric, with plenty of space between the stitches. Last week was hot, hot, hot and I knit my swatch with my ceiling fan on--the strands are so light I had to wrangle them out of the air beside me.

I love Giselle in stockinette stitch and delicate, ladylike lace and eyelets. I swatched it here in a horseshoe eyelet pattern from Barbara Walker's Treasury of Knitting Patterns, and I have to admit, I couldn't get a good picture of it to save my life...I hope this one shows off the pattern and the beautiful haze.

See it in our Fall collection on our website and get inspired by our Heavenly and Weekend booklets! Stay tuned for a La Gran post tomorrow. Thanks for reading!

CEY Takes on the White Mountains!

Maybe it's the voyeur that lurks within, but I love seeing photos of photoshoots. I love watching photographers working in their medium: coaching, maneuvering, and creating beauty out of what seems unremarkable to my untrained eye. And the subterfuge of photographing clothing that's not entirely weather-appropriate but making it appear so is doubly fascinating. Our Fall garments are often shot in the springtime, but luckily for us, this is New England and one can find any weather condition on any given day, just get in the car and drive!

Meg was lucky enough to attend one of our fall shoots in the White Mountains of New Hampshire earlier this year and shares her thoughts and photos with us here. The snapshot posted here ended up as the cover of our Waterway booklet. Can you identify what other Fall garments were shot on this trip?

For this photoshoot, the forecast was for rain and it was a grey drive the entire way--we were all on edge about this because Susan chose the location, somewhere in the White Mountains in New Hampshire, specifically for the many outdoor locations we could shoot. The rain did hold off, but there were a few precarious moments of juggling umbrellas to keep the models and the camera out of the drizzle

This snapshot was from the very first part of the shoot. The river behind our photographer and model, I imagine, would usually be a small creek. However, we were there only days after the record-setting March rains in New England, and the creek was roaring. That afternoon we shot Waterway (get it?), Woodland and Prairie.

That first afternoon we worked until dark and spent the night in a small cabin on the hill. In the morning we woke up to a fresh dusting of snow, which could not have been more perfect! It gave us a completely different setting for the next day of photography. The little red barn in the photo below is the same barn where we shot many of the Portland Tweed/Prairie photos, but it looks like a whole new place in the snow.

Unlike the drizzly day before, it was frigid and very, very windy. I couldn't get enough layers on to keep feeling in my fingers and toes (after all, one can only put on so many wool socks and still squeeze into a boot). The snow continued to fall, just enough to show up on close-ups. That second morning we shot Liberty Wool and Cabin. Cabin was shot on the steps of the same cabin we spent the night in, with the models taking turns on the porch while the other warmed up inside.

Being a transplant from the Rockies, I particularly enjoyed a night away in the mountains while getting to see some New England scenery tucked away in the mountains. The white trees all looked like strange aspens to me, but now I know they're birches. And now I also know what a sump pump is, and that it isn't a "sub" pump.

(It took me years of living in Boston to know what a "sump pump" is. You are not alone...)

We love showing you the inner workings! Once again, thanks for reading!