Quick Last Minute Gift

I have a tendency to overdo it with presents. I get it from my mom, “Just one more little thing to open, you know…just cause.” Which means even though I think I am done with my Christmas presents, I’m really not. But who wants to go out into the madness of the shopping malls and centers at this time of year? Not me! You know what that means. Yep, I am casting on something.

I found this pattern for mini socks in a past webletter. They are small, quick and simple. Perfect!

Each “sock” only takes about 20 yards, so you can get lots of socks from a single skein of Alpaca Sox (available in Solids, Kettle Dyes or Hand Dyes)  or Liberty Wool Light.

I hoped over to Ravelry to see what some of you have done with this pattern in the past and there are lots of great ideas. I saw it used as a gift tag with the person’s initial on it, as an ornament on trees, as an advent calendar on a garland and even as doll socks.

Although there are only 3 knitting days left to Christmas, you still have time to make a few of these.

Shawls, Wraps & Scarfs

Classic Elite Yarns and Sixth & Spring Publishing have teamed up to create Shawls, Wraps & Scarves.  This book features 20 ideas for shawls, wraps and scarves, each one done three different ways, which equals 60 possibilities.

The book features patterns by 17 different designers including Susan Mills, Nitza Coto, Carol Sulcoski, Linda Medina, Anastasia Blaes, Carolyn Noyes, Holli Yeoh, Brooke Nico, Jean Moss, Tonia Barry, Jacqueline Van Dillen, Jill Gutman Schoenfuss, Irina Poludnenko, Angela Tong, Cheryl Murray, Helen Bingham and Anniken Allis.

One of the great things about these ‘small’ projects is chance to learn new techniques without committing to a huge project.

Looking to learn cables? The Power Cables patterns incorporate a reversible cable to make a scarf, cowl or shawl. Using different yarns (Woodlandand Pirouette), each project has its own character.


How about lace? The Cream & Sugar patterns include a cowl, a rectangle wrap and a triangle shawl. Using lighter weight yarns (Pirouetteand Vail), these lace projects create great layering pieces that can be worn year round.


The words Fair Isle can strike fear in many knitter’s hearts. But using the Nordic Star patterns you can incorporate as little or as much as you would like.


Shawls, Wraps & Scarves is available in local yarns stores now. You can also purchase a copy online here. It would make a great gift for any knitter in your life, whether they are a new knitter or an advanced stitcher.

All photos courtesy Sixth & Spring Books; photography Jack Deutsch.

Lowell Cowl

It happens every year. There is someone who you don't normally exchange gifts with, but they pull the ultimate surprise on you while having lunch or at a holiday get together. I like to have a backup plan in place at all times and keep something already wrapped in my desk or in the car for such occasions. Our Lowell Cowl is the perfect solution.

The recipient will be so impressed that you knit them something. They don't need to know that the cowl is made of a simple 'mistake' rib and garter stitch in the round on larger needles. 


The Lowell Cowl is made with two different colors of Silky Alpaca Lace held together. It is sophisticated and practical at the same time. The silk in the yarn gives it a beautiful sheen, while the alpaca will give it a nice halo and lots of warmth. It will be an accessory the recipient (or yourself) can wear year round. 

The cowl can be worn several ways - a single loop, a double loop, as a shrug or even as a short scarf. With lots of solids and multi-colors available, the possibilities really are endless.


Click here to download the free pattern.

Shadow Toque

The days are getting shorter and with a chill in the air, it can mean one thing only...the holidays are closing in on us and our knitting time is running out.

So what is a knitter to do? It has to be fast and yet dramatic. The answer is simple. Hats, and in a chunky yarn.

The Shadow Toque from the Fall 2011 Interweave Knits is the perfect solution. Knit in Tobbogan at 3 stitches per inch on US 10 ½ needles it works up quickly.  The cable detail makes it special without making it too difficult.

Tobbogan is a wool and alpaca blend, so you know it will be very soft to work with and keep the recipient’s head warm during the winter months to come.

Taking only 1 skein and available in 21 colors, you can knit one for everyone on your list, whether they were naughty or nice this year. A second skein will enable you to make a big fluffy pom pom for the top, the design detail of the season.

Purchase your copy of the pattern on Interweave’s website here.

Photos courtesy of Interweave Press, Carmel Zucker, photographer.

Designer Spotlight: Laura Zukaite

We had such fun hearing from Laura Zukaite in October of last year that we thought we'd let you read about her design process again. Look for another great design from Laura in this week's Web-Letter.
--CEY, December 2012.

Laura Zukaite is an independent knitwear designer with an impossible-to-miss style and yen for luxury fibers and sophisticated looks. Her patterns are often thoughtful and well designed, with feminine details and a touch of the unexpected. Take a look at the Magnolia Swirl Cowl, a free pattern published in our weekly Web Letter. It is a tapered cabled strip that is joined in a coil of sorts, not with regular seams, but with a spiralling silk ribbon, integrating the finishing into the design.

Laura is already familiar with Magnolia, having used it in her Golden Girl Cardigan, another clever, feminine piece from her independently published collection at LauraZukaite.com.

She is the author of two books, Luxe Knits and Luxe Accessories, both featuring sophisticated designs in luxury yarns, and is also a frequent contributor to various online and print magazines, like Knitting, Vogue Knitting, and Knitty. She was kind enough to do an interview with us here at the blog.

How long have you been designing?
I have been knitting since I was five. All of my knits and later sweaters came out of just my imagination. Back then I never thought of what I was doing as "designing". But now when I think about it- I was designing all along.

How did you get started? 
Actually, I do not remember. As far as my memory goes, I have always been knitting. My mother is an excellent knitter, so I assume that she taught me somewhere along the way. But I do not have a recollection of my first project or yarn that I used.

What's the first piece you ever designed (not necessarily for CEY)?
I think that the first piece that I have intentionally designed was when I was about 14 or 15. My mom bought me a cone of a beautiful Gray Heather Alpaca yarn and I knit myself an Aran Turtleneck. I still have it and wear it to this day: it became my favorite skiing sweater.

What pieces did you design in the Fall Collection?
For CEY Fall Collection I have designed two pieces in Kumara: Afternoon Light (off-shoulder top) and Landscape (ribbed hat), a piece in Ariosa: Glacier (ribbed cardigan), and an accessories set in Giselle: Merry and Bright (Hat and Cowl).

What is the timeline for one of your designs, from swatch to pattern to sample?
Depending on a complexity of a design- it could take anywhere from one to three weeks to turn around a sweater piece.

Approximately how many patterns do you publish a year?

Do you use test knitters?

What is your "design process"?
I usually start with the yarn and swatch. After I have the fabric created- then I move into sketching. I usually sketch-up a few ideas for one swatch and then pick my favorites. After that, I select colors and start the knitting process. I like to take notes as I knit and write the pattern afterwards.

Where do you do your design work? What does your "creative space" look like?
I usually design at home and execute “on-the-go”. But sometimes I would come up with ideas while just walking around and then only put it on paper when I get back to my studio. I knit pretty much anywhere (subway, train, waiting for doctor’s appointment…etc) but rarely at home.

What is your favorite piece you designed for the Fall Collection? What was your inspiration? My favorite piece is Afternoon Light (off-shoulder top) in Kumara. I remember at that time I was obsessed with subtle little ways of exposing the skin- and the piece just came to life naturally.

Designer Spotlight: Kathy North

Today's Web-Letter is another enjoyably-easy pattern from Kathy North. Her designs have been featured in the Web-Letter in the past and there will be more to come. When I asked Kathy to share her designer story on the blog, her response was immediate and essentially, "Really? Me on the CEY blog?!" "Of course," I said. 

Kathy designs because she loves her craft and was brave enough to be bold when she began publishing patterns. I think Kathy's story is one many can relate to – be sure to read her advice to budding designers at the end of her interview! -MM

How long have you been designing?
Since the early 2000’s. I had been doing a lot of charitable-cause crocheting & knitting, and was a subscriber to a few charity group newsletters. My first contribution was a patriotic mini-sock pin published in Joan Hamer’s Pine Meadow Knitting News (the pin was designed in remembrance of the events of 9/11.) 

Patriotic Mini-Sock Pin – Kathy's first original design 
After that I contributed some baby item patterns to the Care Wear Volunteers newsletter. Around the same time, I was invited by an online crochet community list owner to submit a couple patterns to a database of free patterns she was assembling.

How did you get started?
First of all, I have to thank the group owner of the online crochet community for the initial invitation to submit patterns. Later, we found out we lived only 20 miles away from each other! From that early chance meeting, a friendship and business-partner relationship evolved which continues to this day (she maintains the “Designs by KN” pattern database at www.piece-by-piece.net).

I had also been invited to participate in local craft fairs and gallery venues, selling handmade hats and other small accessories. Through that experience I gained insight into what types of items buyers were interested in. Hats and baby items that I could whip up quickly in inexpensive yarns, that were well-made, unique, and priced at $10 or less, sold like hotcakes.

But I can truly say that it all started with the UPS man’s gloves! Seriously. In 2003 a yarn shop opened in our small town. One day I got up courage enough to go in and hand the owner a homemade business card, offering my services in knitting & crocheting. She asked “Can you fix these?” and showed me a pair of badly-worn gloves.

Before and after – fixing the UPS man's gloves

They had been a gift from the UPS man’s grandmother and he didn’t want to part with them, so he brought them in, hoping someone could repair them. Not knowing if I really could fix them or not, with a touch of bravado I said “Sure!”

The repair job led to more requests from the shop, for samples to showcase the yarns they carried, for class projects to teach, and for customers requesting custom-made items, which led to a part-time job there on weekends (besides my full-time job at the library during the week).

At the LYS, I was repeatedly asked the question “Do you have a pattern for ______?” eventually leading to a fledgling collection of self-published patterns. I was repeatedly asked for the pattern for My Grandmother’s Slippers. To me, this was one of those patterns that everyone in the world knew how to make because their mothers/aunts/grandmothers had made them in their day. Finally, I wrote down the version I remember my own grandmother making, even though I was sure there were patterns galore for it already out there. To this day, it remains one of the most popular patterns in my line!

My Grandmother's Slippers
One day a customer, when she found out I had designed the patterns on display, vigorously shook my hand and said “Thank you! Thank you for designing crochet patterns!” But it got better.

One very lucky day I received a call from the LYS owners that a yarn sales rep had stopped in and wanted to rep my patterns to yarn shops throughout his western states territory. In September 2004, I officially launched my sideline business “Designs by KN.” My self-published patterns (printed at home on a laserjet printer) were wholesaled to shops. The rep introduced me to a local wholesale distributor which increased the visibility of the patterns. As with my online crochet community friend, I thank that first sales rep for invaluable knowledge gained about the pattern business.

Did you start with crochet or knitting, or have you always done both?
I started as a crocheter in the early ‘70s while in college (I may have inherited a crochet gene from my paternal grandmother, whose home was drenched in thread and ripple crochet masterpieces.) I taught myself from the Coats & Clark “Learn-How” booklet. My roommate was a knitter. She would sit on her dorm bed and knit while studying, reading for an English degree, and I sat on my dorm bed when I didn’t want to study (I was a psychology major) and taught myself to crochet.

I never “got” knitting until the early ‘80s when I found myself helping out part-time in another needlework shop. I was the lone crocheter in a group of master knitters. Again, I taught myself from books and practice through trial-and-error. By working on easy projects for charitable causes such as Christmas-at-Sea (the basic watchcap and garter stitch scarf were excellent teaching tools) my knitting skills eventually improved, enough so over the years that I knit sweaters galore for myself, family, friends and co-workers.

What is your design process, start to finish?
It varies. I don’t have any formal training in fashion design (being a secretary/admin asst/catalog librarian all my life) so concepts like sketching and swatching were not part of my process from early on. For the first 30 years of my knitting & crocheting life, I was a blind-follower. When I finally took the giant step of creating something from scratch on my own, I learned that I’m more of a freestyler, who prefers to just start on something and see where it takes me, and not too fussy about details until the pattern-writing stage.

Firefly Diaphanous Shawl – CEY Web-Letter 252
Much of the time I work out ideas on the needles or hook, although I may have somewhat of a plan in mind. Sometimes I have a clear picture and get the burning desire to put it down on paper. Inspiration sometimes comes from a specific yarn or a color combination. I have journals full of notes, some of which never get any further than sketchy doodles. Once I’m stitching away with a vision, I write down every step as I work it out because it may become a finished pattern and those notes are essential.

Projects that turn out well are photographed and saved in photo files on the computer, awaiting their future appearance in public. If an idea turns out as imagined, I decide if it’s good enough to either:

            a) prepare a design submission and send it “out there” in response to submission calls,
            b) write it up as a self-published pattern, or
            c) use it as a gift or charitable-cause contribution.

Sometimes I work in spurts of design fever, coming up with several satisfactory ideas at a time. During lulls in creativity when fresh ideas are lacking, I spend hours paging through my journals, or reading books from my personal library of knit/crochet titles (one source read over and over again to re-energize is “Crocheting for Fun & Profit” by Darla Sims.)

Slouch Hat crocheted in Majestic Tweed – CEY Web-Letter 268
How long does it usually take?
Some design ideas “click” immediately and are quickly completed, photographed, written-up and self-published in a few days. Others may take weeks or months, if it is a design submission for a publication where the wait for a response requires patience. I routinely submit in response to calls for designs, record them in an Excel spreadsheet, then forget about them and move on to the next idea. If a response is positive, then happy day! If there is no response, I reconsider the idea several months later and decide what to do with it then. (The title of one of my hat designs, “Better Late Than Never Beanie”, says it all. This one sat in my journal in scribbled-note form for a couple years before I finally got around to writing it up formally.)

Better Late Than Never Beanie

Is there a particular challenge you encounter when designing?
Gauge can sometimes be a challenge, when yarn choices sent by publishers may not match exactly with your original plan. I take the time to refine, rewrite, recheck and rework elements in a pattern to match the materials I have been assigned.

Although I could probably produce more complex designs if I set my mind to it, my intent when starting “Designs by KN” was to produce easy, well-written, fun-to-work patterns for useful items. I have been fortunate to have found an audience for my work, as plain and simple as it is.

Kathy's Web-Letter Designs
Provence Summer String Bag, Montera Cob Toque and Sunscreen Stripes Cap

Through the years I have learned that whatever I enjoy making for myself most likely will be enjoyed by other knitters and crocheters. Therefore I continue to focus on designs that have an inherent, soothing rhythm to the stitching, that keep you interested but are easy to execute, and that result in something practical at the end. Until retirement from 20 years at the full-time day job last year, my time for design work was limited so I deliberately kept ideas simple so as to be able to successfully complete commitments to publishers and meet deadlines.

Approximately how many patterns do you publish a year?
Let’s see, Ravelry is showing that I’m up to 266 designs overall since I started this crazy idea in 2004! I suppose about a dozen each year. Self-publishing has slowed a bit lately as I am finding new avenues for collaboration with yarn companies and publishers that has fit in well with my interests.

What does your creative space look like?
This is where I play with yarn

and this is where I work (pattern prep, email, Photoshop, blogging)

What is your favorite design? What was your inspiration?
For knitting, the Tasseled Earflap Hat that appeared on the cover of Knit Simple, Fall 2007, because it was the first design submission I ever sent to a magazine, and it became a “cover girl” (another very lucky day!). Earflap hats were becoming a popular style at the time, so I created one in my own way. I still have the scrap of paper with a rough doodle of the idea and my scribbled notes on how it was made.

Kathy's first submitted design – on the cover!
Photo by Paul Amato, copyright Knit Simple/SoHo Publishing 

For crochet, the Provence Summer String Bag in the CEY Web-letter, Issue 139. Market bags were all the rage at that time, so again I figured one out that I really enjoyed working on. Thanks to the CEY Web-letter team for choosing it! I was overwhelmed at the response and subsequent interest in a CAL for this project on Ravelry.

Provence Summer String Bag – CEY Web-Letter Issue 139

What advice do you have for someone who is interested in designing?
Go for it! If this is something you really want to do, believe in yourself and just keep working at it. You never know what will happen or what opportunities will open up along the way. Take it slowly (yes, don’t quit the day job), work hard, and be patient. Read, read, read, take advantage of the vast knit/crochet community resources online (what did we ever do for networking opportunities before Ravelry?) and send your ideas “out there.” You just never know! 

Follow submission guidelines to the letter and when you do get that first big break, be professional in all your dealings with those who have selected your work. Be prepared for time-intensive brain-work, challenges, negative feedback and zillions of questions along the way, but if this is something you really enjoy, stick with it and don’t give up. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of being called a “cover girl!”

To keep up with Kathy and her designs, find her on Ravelry, visit her website and blog (she writes often and includes plenty of pictures), and browse Kathy's pattern database.


We had a dusting of snow overnight. So pretty! (We were lucky that it is just enough to be pretty, but not so much that it is annoying or disruptive.) It made me think about the holidays and how quickly we go from Thanksgiving to Chanukah to Christmas and New Year's. It gets so busy this time of year, but I still want to knit - for myself as well as for others. The cold weather and snow also made me think about decorating the house - I love these stockings using MillaMia's Naturally Soft Merino. Find the patterns - FREE - on the MillaMia website.
MillaMia Stockings - pattern free at MillaMia.com
 We're also knitting for charity these days. There are so many people who need help; providing hats, scarves and mittens is just a little something we can do.

What are you knitting for the holidays?

Guest Post: Rohn Strong

It has been an indie-designer week here at CEY. On Monday we highlighted our favorite designs in the new fall magazines and then Tuesday our Web-Letter featured indie designs available online. 

Today we celebrate indie designers with a guest post from Rohn Strong about his new book, The Heritage Collection: WWI & WWII. The book not only has 20 vintage-inspired designs (enough to pique my interest!), it also includes essays and stories about the period. Four of Rohn's designs feature our yarns, read on to learn about how he made the pairings.

When I began writing my book, The Heritage Collection WWI & WWII, I had a vague idea of who I wanted to represent as a designer. You see, as a knitwear designer, the yarn companies are my partners. I love working with yarn companies and showing off their yarns, and having the ability to do that is truly a blessing.

As the knitting process began, my assistant and I sat down to figure out who we wanted to use, and what of theirs would be best represented. The first company I said I wanted to work with was Classic Elite Yarns.

Marshall, knit in Inca Alpaca

We agreed and began looking for yarn that we could use that would fit perfectly. The color palette was solid. I would not budge. We would have military colors such as maroon, khaki, olive drab, grey, and blue. I was unwilling to go outside of this color range. I was able to lean toward colors of the same group but nothing too outlandish.

With that, the task became a bit more difficult. However, I dove in headfirst. The first yarn I chose was Classic Silk. The vintage look and feel lent itself perfectly to one project I had in mind, Bess, a knit cardigan, classic in construction and technique, but modern in the overall look. I knew Classic Silk would be perfect and the colors matched perfectly. I was sold.

Bess, knit in Classic Silk

The next yarn I chose was actually my favorite to work with, Inca Alpaca. A luxuriously soft alpaca that would make you want to live in a box of it. The hand is astounding and the colors allowed every design to come together perfectly. The first project I finished was Marshall, a pair of wonderful gloves inspired by a photo my grandfather had of himself. They were perfect, not the normal choice for gloves as alpaca tends to have little to no stretch. However I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

The next project was Pappy, a simple stripped watchman’s cap perfect for warm winters! I love it! The two colors of alpaca sit perfectly together and the softness is astounding.

Pappy, knit in Inca Alpaca

Lastly I had the opportunity to add a project to the book based on a design by my Grandmother. A simple stripped baby sweater, knit in both Classic Silk and Inca Alpaca. The three shades of green truly add to the wonder and beauty of it all. The softness and durability make it perfect for any child. And it’s a super quick knit!

Ann, knit in Classic Silk and Inca Alpaca

I am so proud to be part of the Classic Elite designer family. To use their wonderful yarn in my book was a great experience, and I hope to work with them again. Maybe on the next book?!

We are thrilled to have Rohn join the Classic Elite designer family! More information about The Heritage Collection, including how to buy the digital and paperback editions, can be found here. To keep up with Rohn's designs and day-to-day happenings, follow him on Twitter or visit his blog.