Artistic Differences

Early in 2014, those of us at Classic Elite Yarns began talking about a different way to work with independent designers. We hadn't quite figured out what that "different way" would be when Talitha Kuomi approached us, asking if we had thought about working one-on-one with an indie designer. The time was right to jump in and figure out the details, and Tal's vision of Artistic Differences* was born!

You may be familiar with Talitha's work through The Fiber Factor's first season. You can read more about Talitha here. Tal has also contributed many designs to CEY pattern books and I love her creative style - her ability to make a simple garment or accessory unique and different, by just adding small details.

Squishesse in Chalet, Cedar in Firefly and Lana in Color by Kristin (all available on Ravelry)
Her concept for Artistic Differences, taking one design and altering the details to make it fit your style, inspired by her two muses - an edgy rock 'n rock chick, and a more dreamy bohemian, hippy girl - seemed a perfect way to showcase her creativity and design aesthetic. Below are just a few of my favorites from the ten projects in Artistic Differences, each shown two ways.

Forte is a pullover knit in Blackthorn, with a unique drop stitch V-neck. The Boho version (left) has a higher V, and is shown worn with a wide beaded belt. The drop-stitch V-neck on the Rocker version is much deeper (right). Both are standard fit - a couple of inches of ease - but would have even another look if worn more oversized.

Forte pullover in Blackthorn
I am in love with the Tensity bag! The only reason I haven't cast on yet is that I can't decide which color of Wynter to use. 

Tensity bag in Wynter)
Both versions are knit exactly the same. The difference is in the hardware, which is available as a kit from JUL Designs. Choose from a classic shoulder bag or a backpack-type shoulder sling bag. The cabled outer layer and the lining are knit in one piece for a bag with more stability than most knitted bags. Tal suggests the option of knitting the lining in a contrasting color.

Terva pullover in Magnolia
The lacey Terva pullover is shown oversized (Rocker version - left) or in a more fitted silhouette (Boho version - right) Both are shown hip length but could easily be knit to tunic length

What I love about Artistic Differences is that by showing more than one way to knit and wear a sweater or accessory, it gives the knitter even more ideas for options in making each project perfectly suited to her own particular style.

* The entire collection and individual patterns will be available January 1, 2015!

A New Way of Thinking

Knitters today have more pattern choices than ever before! A quick look at Ravelry shows the ever-expanding variety of designs and designers. 

In CEY’s monthly pattern anthologies, we aim to showcase our yarns at their best, and each collection is a compilation of many designers, styles and perspectives. We strive to show a balanced collection each month with something for everyone – accessories and garments; trendy pieces and more classic styles; projects for beginners as well as experienced knitters.

But we also imagined a new and different way to present pattern support: 


What if we created a more in-depth and focused way to work with designers? By giving a talented indie designer the freedom to tell a story with a themed collection of their designs, we could present their favorite CEY yarns in a different light. And that's how VIEWPOINTS was born. It represents an open collaboration between the indie designer and the experience and resources at CEY. No restrictions, no seasonal deadlines. Just the designer's imagination brought to life and sent out into the knitting world.

The first two collections in this on-going series will be available January 1, 2015, and we couldn't be more excited!

Artistic Differences pattern book, by Talitha Kuomi
Talitha was inspired by her musical and performing background to create ARTISTIC DIFFERENCES. She imagined one design altered to be knit and styled two unique ways - a bohemian acoustic style and an edgier rock n roll look.

 Setto, a cabled pullover in Inca Alpaca, is shown as a high hip length on the Boho girl.

Each of the 10 projects is shown twice giving the knitter ideas to customize for their own particular style.

  For a different look, the Setto pullover is shown cropped on our rocker chick.

FROM FOLLY COVE, by Julia Farwell-Clay
From Folly Cove pattern book, by Julia Farwell-Clay
Julia's FOLLY COVE collection was inspired by block prints created by a mid 20th century design guild founded by artist Virginia Lee Burton on the north shore of Massachusetts. 
Iarrobino Vest in Fresco 
The arts and craft feel of the The Folly Cove Designers blends well with Julia's signature style resulting in fresh, modern designs with a vintage feel.
Lanesville pullover in Liberty Wool Light
As with all our monthly books, the two new VIEWPOINTS collections are available many ways: visit your Local Yarn Store to purchase a printed book (it includes a code to also download an eBook version); purchase the eBook online; or buy individual PDF patterns. 

A more in-depth preview of each VIEWPOINTS collection is coming soon - stay tuned!

CEY & Indie Designers

Do you receive the CEY weekly Web-Letter? If so, you know this week we’re featuring independent designers who have self-published patterns that feature our yarns. If not, you can view our independent designer feature here and sign up for the Web-Letter here.

CEY’s partnership with indie designers goes beyond our Web-Letter features. Our monthly pattern books include a mix of indie designs and those from our in-house designers (both of them). A few of us contribute to the books but can only find time to design during nights and weekends, so we follow the same process as the indie designers, except we hand-deliver our submissions.

Talitha Kuomi
Cathy Payson
Julia Farwell-Clay

Tonia recently blogged about the long process every design in our collection goes through before we publish the final pattern. For indie designers, it starts with a design call from Susan. After the submission deadline, Susan selects the pieces that fit with our theme and we send yarn (and a deadline) to the designers we’re going to publish.

Alison Stewart-Guinee
Laura Zukaite
Therese Chenoweth

The designers themselves usually knit the pieces, although I have also met people who enlist the knitting help of their friends and family to make sure their pieces are knit in time for our photoshoots.

Apple Cider
Deborah Helmke
Therese Chenoweth
Jill Wright

We are proud to support independent designers and showcase their talents. The varied design perspectives they add to our in our pattern books ensures there are patterns for every skill level and type of knitter.

Cooking With Yarn

Knitting/crocheting patterns have a lot in common with recipes. They both tell you how to create a wonderful product with your own two hands. But both have downfalls if you don’t prepare properly. And we’ve all been there.

First piece of advice? Read the pattern/recipe. So many people don’t do this and end up in trouble. Run out of eggs in the middle of your cooking? Don’t have the proper tools (don’t know what the proper tools look like)? Do you have to stop to figure out how to do something (tempering eggs anyone?) All this can affect your dish and your project. Isn’t it better to read through before you start so you can have all the tools you need at hand and know how to use them?

Works in cooking, works in knitting. Read the pattern through before you pick up needles. You’ll find out what kind of needles you need (circulars, dpns), what your gauge needs to be, what the pattern is, and give yourself an opportunity to learn the pattern if unfamiliar (brioche? what’s brioche?) Look at the sizing and determine what size you want to make, then circle or highlight that size as you read through the pattern. Read it like a book. If you take the time to read it through, there won’t be any surprises as you knit and you’ll have a great FO at the end. And maybe some cookies to munch as you knit.

What’s on your needles?

Guest Post: Talitha Kuomi on Sydney

Today's post is from Talitha Kuomi, a Massachusetts-based designer that CEY has had the good fortune of working with for the last few years. Her most recent design for CEY is Sydney, knit in brand new Tiverton Tweed.

To learn more about Tal, visit her website, view her designs on Ravelry and read more about Tal's design process in this post on the CEY blog. 

Tweed, to me, is a chameleon. It makes me think of snooker halls (think American pool halls), potatoes fresh from the field and the smell of coal hanging heavy in the misty air. That’s odd, right? But the year I lived in the riverside town of Drogheda, Ireland was full of all of these. Tweed is a staple there. I wore a tweed coat, I knit in tweed flecked wools, and I passed countless tweed caps on my daily walk to town.

When CEY created Tiverton Tweed, I was excited to work with it. My heart holds so many different memories of tweed, I wanted to design something that could be different things to different people, too. Instead of starting by sketching this time, I wrote scribbled down phrases and adjectives trying to capture the overriding feeling of safety and comfort that tweed was to me the year I was so far from things that were familiar and dear to me. Written lines about ‘keeping the raw chill in the air at bay’ and ‘staving off the deep ache of homesickness’ became this textured scarf/cowl called Sydney.

 A slight modification is to wrap the scarf around your neck one and a half times. Use a shawl pin to secure one end to the center of the scarf, while tucking the other end inside the loop.

Adding a simple I-cord opens up other possibilities. With the ends lain flat, and overlapped by a few inches, and tied together it’s a cowl. With the ends pulled to the front and allowed to hang, you get a funky, flower-like bloom.

With the ends smoothed flat, dramatic little flares are created that add interest and texture to the cowl. I like it with the flares worn asymmetrically in front.

 With the flares slid around to the center back, they become a surprise. From the front it still looks like a regular double wrapped cowl.

I’m sure there are more ways for Sydney to be worn. I saw knitters last weekend at a local fiber fest wearing their scarves in so many clever ways. These are just the ones that came to my mind, along with the warm memories that the tweed stirs in my heart.

Peace, Tal

Love what you see? Stay tuned! Talitha has been busy designing a collection in collaboration with CEY that will debut in January. We can't wait share more as Tal's book nears publication.

Life of a pattern

Have you ever wondered how a knitting pattern comes to be published? It’s a lengthy process!

For Classic Elite Yarns, it all starts with a design team meeting. They get together to discuss a theme for the collection, which yarns to feature, and the overall “feel” for a book. Each designer then goes off to create! Sketching; swatching; researching; designing. They meet again and choose from all the ideas, and a plan emerges.


Once the collection is determined, the individual designers write draft patterns, which are then passed along to sample knitters, who take the preliminary work and make it into a real-live completed garment or accessory. Assigning draft patterns to sample knitters is part of the creative process too; some sample knitters are better at lace, some prefer complicated patterns, others are better at wool instead of cottons, and so forth. And each knitter is part of the team, working closely with the designer to work out any “bugs” in the design as it goes from concept to final product. CEY has a lot of great sample knitters.

While the knitting is happening, planning for the photoshoot is also underway, which is Susan’s job. She coordinates all the people involved, picks the models’ wardrobes, and finds the perfect location. Then it’s photo shoot day!

But back to the pattern’s instructions: once the designer finalizes her work, the instructions, schematics, and charts all go to technical editing. That’s where more of the magic happens: ensuring there are no math errors; making sure the language is accurate and easy to understand; putting all the pieces together. Each set of instructions goes from tech editing, to proofing – usually twice. We want to make sure there aren’t any errors!

With instructions ready to go and photography completed, the patterns are put together into one cohesive collection – and that’s done via desktop publishing! The layout takes a lot of thought – it’s a little bit like putting together a jigsaw puzzle: all the pieces have to fit. More proofing, dotting all the I’s and crossing all the T’s. Now to the printer.

Most importantly, when it’s all done, each pattern and its collection goes to shops and to knitters as it begins its next life – as inspiration and a roadmap for each knitter as she dreams of what the piece will look like when it comes off of her needles – or his. Woman, man kid, senior: we’re just happy when knitters are happy with their end result!

Five Questions for Susan

Susan Mills is CEY's Creative Director and also our most prolific designer. After adding designs from the new North River collection to Ravelry, I noticed she had 505* patterns in her portfolio. To mark this milestone, I asked her five questions about designing.

What was your first design?

My first published design was pattern 437 Catch Of The Day for Classic Elite in 1993. A family of pullovers in a basketweave stitch with cables.

What is your favorite stitch or technique to use in designs?

My favorite stitch or technique changes all the time but I always love colorwork, and I never get tired of Garter stitch. Right now I've been thinking and swatching cables.

Your most popular design is Molly – the Liberty Wool scarf knit with short rows  – why do you think it struck a chord with knitters?

I think knitters like  the ruffle-y edged effect without casting on or increasing to a hundreds of stitches. The 4 row repeat makes it easy to memorize and it's a great knit for self striping yarns like Liberty Wool.

Do you have a favorite design?

That's like Sophie's choice - but three of my designs on the top of my queue right now:

Lure of the West in Crestone    Cinnabar in Chesapeake
 Lure of the West in Crestone • Dunlow in Mohawk Wool • Cinnabar in Chesapeake

What are your 5 favorite CEY yarns and why?
1. Mohawk Wool – my new favorite yarn – has a wonderfully soft wooly hand with great stitch definition.
2. Fresco, for colorwork. The color range is great and the angora haze blends the colors and makes your tension look perfect (even when it isn't).
3. La Gran because I love how fast it works up, how warm and lightweight it is and how great mohair takes color. I definitely need to knit myself a new La Gran sweater this winter.
4. Alpaca Sox – my favorite yarn for scarves and wraps.
5. Soft Linen – I love the unique blend of fibers for colorwork and texture.

*make that 506 with the addition of this week's Web-Letter: a free mesh scarf design in brand new Tiverton Tweed!

LYS Yarn Tastings

One of the best parts of my job is interacting with shop owners. I get to meet many of them at our bi-annual trade show, TNNA, But I also have been fortunate enough to attend several industry small business conferences. I love my time there! I enjoy getting to know many of the attendees and it’s a great chance to brainstorm ideas for their stores, especially ideas for events.

Events are always fun! They can be planned around books signings, designer appearances and trunk shows and yarn tastings. I love hearing about the creative ways that many shop owners expand on our yarn tasting kits.

Our yarn tasting kits include mini skeins of five yarns, a door prize, a knitting/crochet related game to play, as well as information sheets and free pattern suggestions. I love to hear how they build on this kit and make it their own. Often wine and food tastings are incorporated. I heard of one shop having the yarn tasting at a new local soup restaurant where both soups and yarns were sampled. And another where there was a sampling of teas, cookies and yarn!

Many shops now plan retreats at locations away from their stores. Who doesn’t need some time to get away and have a change of scenery?! At these getaways a yarn tasting may be the opening event to the retreat or maybe part of their welcome goodie bag.

Have you ever attended a yarn tasting? I would love to hear about your experience. Do you have an idea for a store event that you would enjoy?

Please let us know in the comments below.