wip (work in progress)

WIP: Hermosita Tee

Soon after my Hermosa Tee came out, I had lunch with my brother and sister-in-law.


I wore my prototype of the t-shirt and brought along my copy of Vogue Knitting’s Spring 2016 issue in which Louet had placed an ad for the pattern collection that included my design.

It’s just an ad, but probably the only time my name will appear as a designer in Vogue Knitting.

My SIL really liked* my new design, and my brother asked me to knit one for her.

In my stash is every color of yarn in the known universe (even lime green)—except, of course, the particular shade of purple she wanted, so I had to order some.

I knew that Knit Picks had lots of shades of purple in the fiber I wanted to use (cotton blend) and yarn weight I needed (sport), so I sent them three to choose from.

Three strikes.

What other purples are there, they wanted to know.

Nope, nope, and nope.

Not quite what they had in mind, they said. Anything else?


“One more,” I wrote, “but it’s 100% acrylic. It will be soft, but not as soft as the other two that are cotton blends.”

Knit Picks Brava Sport in freesia.

Soft shmoft, acrylic shmacrylic. That’s the color she wanted.

When the yarn arrived, I was in the midst of swatching for a new design, and I ended up knitting an entirely different this-exact-color-purple t-shirt for my SIL.

But the skeins of Brava Sport are so generous and my SIL is so tiny that I had enough yarn left over to knit her a this-exact-color-purple Hermosa Tee.

The back.

Well, almost enough yarn.


*By “really liked” I mean that she saw it and said, “That’s nice.” She’s not one to gush.

To Ponder: Character is woven quietly from the threads of hundreds of correct decisions. When strengthened by obedience and worthy acts, correct decisions form a fabric of character that brings victory in time of great need. |-Richard G. Scott-|


How a Giant Ball of Yarn Came Out of a Sailing Class

The first thing that happened is that I read a post on the Classic Elite blog about making a magic ball of yarn.

The idea is to make your own variegated yarn by tying different yarns together. They suggest that you get a bunch of friends together who bring their yarn leftovers and odd balls—they called it a “magic ball party”—and swap out yarns.

Introverts don’t need parties or believe in magic, but I liked the idea.

The second thing that happened is that I had bunches of lengths of yarn from the zillion projects I’ve knit over the past few months. I snip them off, then pile them on the table next to my knitting loveseat with the intention of walking them over to my kitchen trash can at some point.*

The third thing that happened is that I took an intro to sailing class at the local yacht club. I’m not very good at sailing, so we’ll skip over that part.

After all the talk of sheets and lines, jibs and jibes, and tacks and booms, we learned how to tie a few knots—a cleat knot, a figure eight, a bowline, and a square knot. I was especially interested in the last one because you can join two balls of yarn using a square knot.

Well, most people can join two balls of yarn that way. I tried a few times, but could never get the hang of it, so I usually do a spit splice.

After the class, though, I’m a master square knot tyer (tie-er?).

And 1+2+3=

200g of yarn.

After crossing and re-crossing my left and right brains while designing my Icelandic sweater, I needed something mindless to knit, so I picked up some US9 needles, cast on 50 stitches, and started the most mindless of all knitting: a garter stitch scarf.

I hope this looks better when I’m finished.

I’ll have to leave the ends poking out for the simple reason that there’s no way I’m going to weave them all in.

*See? Sometimes good things come from procrastination.

To Ponder: We waste so many days waiting for the weekend. So many nights wanting morning. Our lust for future comfort is the biggest thief of life. |-Joshua Glenn Clark-|

Knit WIP: Inspira Cowl

Yes, I should be working on The Sweater.

Yes, I should be knitting inventory to sell at the farmer’s market.

Yes, I should be creating new designs to self-publish or submit to magazines.

Yes, I should be getting my yarn stash under control.

But all of those shoulds are boring and they would take time away from my new obsession: binge-watching CSI and knitting an Inspira Cowl.

Truly one of a kind.

I favorited this free pattern on Ravelry a while back, but didn’t have the right yarn for it. Given the size of my stash, you might think I was pulling your leg, but this pattern calls for—and needs—a gradient yarn, and I tend to favor solid colors.

I love multi-colored yarns in the skein, but I they never live up to their promise when knitted, so I just stay away from them.

And then fabric.com had a serious sale on the very yarn Inspira calls for—Lion Brand Amazing—and I spent an entire morning looking at projects on Ravelry, assessing and comparing the various color combinations other knitters had used, adding skeins to my cart until I had enough to get free shipping and knit a few Inspiras.

For my first cowl, I chose the Mesa and Arcadia colorways.

They look more complementary in person.

The whole thing is staggered bands of corrugated ribbing, knitting two stitches with one color and purling two with the other. The cool thing about this cowl, and what keeps you knitting for, say, five consecutive hours on a Friday night, is watching the color changes and seeing how they work together in each band.

And you can’t judge the whole by the parts, or I would have frogged it after that rasta band showed up.

You just have to keep on knitting, which helps you deal with all the story lines they never tie up on CSI.

To Ponder: We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all that we need to make us really happy is something to be enthusiastic about. |-Charles Kingsley-|


The Color of Aran

Aran sweaters of the type I’m designing are traditionally knit in natural, cream-colored wool.

Each type of stitch on a traditional Aran sweater is said to have a particular meaning, which symbolizes the life or clan of the person for whom it is knit. For example, cables represent fishermen’s ropes; diamonds represent small fields, and symbolize wealth; honeycombs represent hard work; etc.

Purists believe that cream is the only color they should come in, and while I’m a purist about a lot of things, this is something I care not about. Partly because it’s hard for me not to think of the 1970s when I see a cream cabled sweater, partly because I intensely dislike most of those types of cables, and partly because I chose the stitch patterns for my sweater just because I think they look cool.

Also, in this second decade of the 21st century, anything goes.

Even the Aran Sweater Market located on the Aran Island of Inis Mór sells authentic Aran sweaters in colors other than cream.

I’m knitting my prototype sweater in Valley Yarns Northampton in the Golden Heather colorway, but I ordered a different color for the final version.

It doesn’t look like mud in person.

So, which of these colors did I choose?


















The reason for this color will be revealed in the fullness of time.

To Ponder: The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook. |William James|


220 x X* = Insanity

*Where X is the number of times I’ve counted to 220.

I started a new knitting project—Lucie Sinkler’s #23 Sleeveless Top from Vogue Knitting’s Spring/Summer 2003 issue. I like the shape of this top (which is not sleeveless, but rather has cap sleeves) and the fact that it’s seamless. I don’t like the air vents at the sides, so I’ll be leaving them out. (If you had seen the chart for those things, you’d do the same.)

I’m using Knit Picks’ slippery Shine Sport in Currant and slippery Addi Turbo needles. (Don’t ask if I swatched because I didn’t.)

Only one thing is better than yarn the color of Pinot Noir.

I cast on 220 stitches using my favorite Chinese Waitress cast-on (which took 45 minutes), joined for knitting in the round checking several times that I didn’t twist the line of stitches, and began knitting. It starts with three garter ridges, which means three rounds of purling 220 stitches.

I finally got to the stockinette rounds and added a little cable detail that’s supposed to continue up and along the raglan decreases.

After about six hours and 12 rounds, I had this:

3,960 stitches, 660 of them purled.

After I realized that I had twisted the line of stitches and would have to start over, I had this:

And then I had this**:

Zero stitches.

And then I had this:

The only thing better than yarn the color of Pinot Noir.

And then I had this:

My knitting hubris will prevent me from doing this next time.

You’ll notice that my cast on has little binder clips on it. This tip to clip your stitches in place so the slippery yarn on the slippery needles doesn’t deceive you into believing that they’re lined up properly is from the surprisingly helpful book Knitting Tips & Trade Secrets.

I again cast on 220 stitches and again joined for knitting in the round, absolutely certain that I had not twisted the line of stitches. I worked one round, counting each stitch as I knit it, and came up with 210.

Can someone please subscribe me to a wine-o-the-month club?

**To rub a little salt in my wound, when I tried to frog the yarn onto the ball winder, it kept knotting itself because of the twist, so I had to hand-wind it.

Design WIP: Cabled Sweater > Sleeve Decisions

I’m quite picky about a lot of things in my life. I don’t like 3/4 length sleeves. I don’t wear logo t-shirts or necklaces that hang lower than my collarbone. (A squash blossom necklace—only turquoise and silver and not the needlepoint style—would be an exception, but I don’t own one yet.) I never sit on the bedspread in a hotel room. I hate getting my hands dirty. The sound of a mockingbird “singing” for hours on end makes me want to commit a felony. And yoga students who hang their head in paschimottanasana after being corrected a million chicken pluckin’ times heat my internal organs.

In knitting, I don’t like drop sleeves or ribbing knit on smaller needles than the main body to make it tight. (I never did get that in the first place. The nature of ribbing is to draw in, so why knit it on smaller needles?) I don’t like lace and I don’t knit shawls. Ribbing must naturally flow into a cabled design. I’ve already outlined how I feel about asymmetry and particular kinds of cables. And I’m a lazy knitter.

Traditional Aran sweaters crowd several of my knitting quirks. They were originally knit for men who did physical work in the outdoors and elements. Nothing should restrict or bind their arms and shoulders, so the sweaters had raglan sleeves or drop/modified drop sleeves—effectively square shapes with no fitting and lots of bulk around the resting arm.

Raglan (l) and drop (r) sleeves, along with the extra ick of diamonds, honeycombs, and abrupt ribbing.

This sweater I’m designing is not for working men, but rather fashionable women with curves. They might wear the sweater to meet a friend for coffee in the city or they might wear it to muck out horse stalls as a volunteer at a Boy Scout camp. Whatever we do, we should look like women, not hand-me-downed little sisters.

The drop-sleeve Aran sweaters also sometimes use a saddle shoulder, which is a little strip of knitting that continues up from the sleeve to the neckline to add a little bit of shaping to the shoulder.

Saddle shoulder and honeycomb cables.

To me, a saddle shoulder says “more work.” Instead of two shoulder seams to deal with, you have four, plus the extra maths of measuring, plus the drama of working the saddle strip into the neckline. Knitting and designing are already a lot of work, so I didn’t think I wanted to saddle myself with this design element.

I love raglan sleeves, and that was my default direction with this design, but I know that a lot of knitters don’t like them even a little bit, so for this sweater, I’m working on a compromise—a little bit of raglan shaping to reduce bulk at the underarm, then work straight up for a little bit of a square armhole, then a saddle shoulder. (Yes, I decided to do the work.*)

That’s the intent anyway. I’ve knit the front of the sweater to the armholes and started the raglan shaping.

Raglan shaping in a pasture of seed stitch**.

Cool cable continuation along the decrease line, yes? I had to dance a little to make it work for all sizes.

*I was forced by laziness to do the work. (An irony that has forged many parts of my life.) After knitting that far, I thought that the raglan decreases were happening too quickly and I needed to slow them down, which meant ripping and reknitting. But because I don’t want to start over, my only other option is to leave the decreases as they are and change the sleeve.

**If you think you might want to knit this sweater when the pattern is available, start falling in love with seed stitch (rice stitch for you Brits). There’s lots of it.

Design WIP: Cabled Sweater > The Ribbing of My Discontent

After I found the main and supporting cables I wanted for my Aran cabled sweater design, I swatched a few others individually just to be sure there wasn’t another, better, more flattering cable combination to be made. (Plus, I’m in the briar patch swatching cables.)

The few that made it.

A lot of cables were frogged after the first repeat, and some didn’t even make it that far, but I kept going with several of them. I laid each new cable on my large initial swatch, trying them out like characters in a novel, squinting and turning my head to see how they worked with the others. They were good, and I liked them (otherwise I wouldn’t have given them a full audition), but none of them worked with the story I’m trying to tell. So, I decided to proceed with my first cast.

I was quite pleased to have the main plot worked out and set to work on the beginning, which on a sweater knit from the bottom up, is the ribbing. I went searching for what others had done and was fairly surprised shocked to see that lots of Aran/fisherman/Celtic sweaters (knit in Ireland by Irish knitters) use a plain 1×1 or 2×2 ribbing. That’s like starting a story, “Once upon a time….”


Some didn’t use a ribbing at all, starting the cables right away, which is something I like.

Raw diet, raw edges.

But after considering that option, I decided I needed a ribbing, and that ribbing would have to flow into the main cables.


I swatched a few and found one I liked. Loved, actually. It was part of an all-over cable design that I singled out for stardom. It’s base was 2×2, but it had a little something special that elevated it to interesting.

Another swatch later, I discovered that my darling ribbing, as-is, could not begin the story. It flowed into some of the cables, but not all of them.

Not on my sweater.

See how the center cable up there flows out of the ribbing? But see how the outer two side cables don’t? And those outer side cables are stradling half a cable and half the 1×1 ribbing. What a mess. (That’s not my sweater with all those diamonds and horseshoes. Plus, it has sleeves, which makes it a sweater, and I’m not there yet.)

That’s how my ribbing was acting.

I was going to have to stand on my head to make this work.

After three days and many hours of researching and figuring and charting and recharting, and a few words unbecoming a lady, I started to tell myself that I couldn’t do it. What made this ribbing interesting also made it difficult. It needed special treatment around some of the other cables, but that treatment wouldn’t work with all of the other cables, and why should I keep trying anyway? If no one else, not even authentic Irish cottage knitters, cared about boring or dammed up ribbing, why should I? There’s nothing wrong with, “Once upon a time….” People like, “Once upon a time….”

But then I tried one more idea.

And we all lived happiliy ever after.

The End.

Knit WIP: Stormy Cables > Yoke Broke

So even though I’m in the midst of designing the most awesome cabled sweater, I’ve been knitting along on my Stormy Cables, in the evenings, when my brain isn’t at peak perfermance. Sort of like feeding the little grey cells a main diet of Shakespeare to keep them strong and limber, then treating them to a delightful snack of Ogden Nash.

I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to follow the pattern and make it a V-neck, even though I love the center cable that’s maintained up the center on both sides of the decreases for the sleeves and neck.

Skinny mannequin model.

That detail is designed to emphasize the mammaries, which I do not need or desire.

I also just don’t like V-neck sweaters. Not sure why. Maybe the preppiness rubs the nap of my boho style sense the wrong way.

I think I’ve mentioned that I’m a supremely lazy knitter, so I’m all about minimizing finishing (which is why I decided to knit this sweater in the round). A V-neck requires joining a second skein of yarn, then knitting both sides at the same time. More yarn joins mean more ends to weave in. And because I’m knitting this in one piece, I would have to change to knitting the yoke back and forth. Ugh on multiple levels.

So, the neckline will be ballet or funnel depending on how soon I run out of yarn, and I’ll still have some nice cables running along the raglan seams.

Neckline TBD.

I didn’t shoot a man while robbing his castle, but I did run into a great big hassle with the raglan decreases. Specifically, decreasing into a cable.


Can you see how the cables are elongated near the raglan seam?

How about now?

(Remember that this is evening snack knitting, so I’m paying more attention to what’s going on in Cicely, Alaska than to what’s on the needles.)

I’m not sure if I can live with it, but I don’t think I could bear to start over with the yoke. It’s only a few rows, but it represents quite a few hours and a lot of wrist pain. I know how to fix it—maintain the cable crossings when possible, but cross two stitches over one stitch instead of two over two, but, man, that’s a lot of cables to frog and redo.

To distract us from that dilemma, here’s a poem.

I tried to write like Ogden Nash
But very soon began to crash
Were I the Bard
I’d be in charge
Of spending words like cash

Design WIP: Cabled Sweater > The Swatching of Elimination

My clean, humorous Poppy Markham: Culinary Cop amateur sleuth mystery series.

When I was writing my Poppy Markham: Culinary Cop amateur sleuth mystery series, all three books developed from a different seed.

With the first one, If You Can’t Stand the Heat, I didn’t really know what I was doing, so I started with Poppy’s job—a health inspector—and the fact that her family owned a restaurant, and built a story around that.

In the second, Stick a Fork In It, I had the death-themed restaurant setting in mind and let the story come out of that.

And in the third, Out of the Frying Pan, my vision was to put all of my main and recurring characters in the same place at the same time, say at Eeyore’s Birthday Party (a real Austin event), and let the plot and subplot happen from that. As it turns out, the third books takes place at a dinner at an organic farm, and some, but not all of the recurring characters are there. (Stories rarely do what you want them to do.)

All of that to say that a creative work can start from anywhere. It has taken me many years, but I’ve finally learned to trust the process and keep feeding the noodle until something starts to firm up. In the case of writing, I brainstorm and mind-map. In the case of knitting, I swatch.

In our last episode, I showed you a couple of swatches I had started with. I liked them as cables, but I knew they wouldn’t be the main character that’s front and center and would drive the story of the sweater. They could be ribbing or supporting cables, though. (Had I liked one of them enough, I would have used it as the seed and searched for a main cable that would work with it.)

I don’t like having too many choices (for anything), and with the history of knitting going back centuries and the talents of Melissa Leapman, there are a lot of cables out there, so I needed some way to narrow my options. I don’t particularly like diamonds or honeycombs, so those were out. And I didn’t want to use a plait cable for this sweater. I do love them, but they aren’t different enough for my vision of this sweater. I really dislike asymmetrical anything, so I could skip those kinds of cables, including anything described as “drunken.” And then there are the drapey horseshoe-type cables. Nope.

Nope. Nope. And nope.

You might be wondering if there are any types of cables left. Yes, bunches. Ropes and braids and XO and snakey.

Yes. Yes. Yes. And yes.

Back to the dictionaries I went, looking for something else to speak to me. I looked at side cables and main cables. I looked at all-over cables. I even looked at pieces of cables, knowing my design could spring from any of them.

When designing with multiple cables, row count is more important than stitch count, so I decided to make things easy on myself and establish the main cable, then look for cables that go with it, both row-count-wise and overall feel.

(The Harmony Guide 220 Aran Stitches and Patterns is the only stitch dictionary I’ve seen that understands row count importance, helpfully sorting the cables by number of rows. But it offers only 220 cable patterns, which isn’t a lot when you’re trying to design the world’s most awesome Aran sweater, so I had to hunt down row numbers from the charts or instructions in my other stitch dictionaries.)

I swatched one that I liked, but it didn’t seem important enough. So I found another bigger one that was similar and changed it* to include the seed-stich element I liked from the first cable, which means that this particular cable is entirely unique.

The new cable is 27 stitches wide and 48 rows high. Pretty substantial. So my selection of supporting cables is now limited to ones with a row count multiple that is evenly divisible into 48—3, 4, 6, 8, 12, 16, 24.

I found an 8-row cable that had the same feel as the main cable (8×6=48), and a 12-row cable that used seed stich (12×4=48). Then I created a chart in Excel with the sequence I wanted to test.

Part of a chart with my design shorthand.

I cast on 67 stitches (in prettier yarn this time), and a couple of hours later, I had this.

A jolly good start.

I can already see a glitch, but I need to finish the swatch to a) better understand the design and how to fix it, and b) decide if I want to keep going with this combination of cables because it’s really hard for me to believe that I nailed so much of the design on my second swatching attempt.

*Changing a cable is not as easy as it would seem from that short statement.

Design WIP: Cabled Sweater > Swatching

Even though I have read Deborah Newton‘s many articles on design, and I own her books Designing Knitwear and Finishing School, in which she recommends not only making a swatch, but making a significant swatch that includes design elements like sleeve and neck shaping to create a silhouette, I usually start my designs without swatching.

Sometimes, if I’m trying to rework instructions for a stitch pattern from flat to in-the-round, I’ll swatch that pattern, which later becomes a hat I can sell to feed my yarn habit. But usually, I have an idea, I figure out stitch counts, then I cast on and start knitting the prototype, taking design notes as I go.

What if I did this?

Or this? (Without the ugliness, of course.)

Indulging the impulsive and impatient six-year-old knitter inside me has bitten me in the hind end a few times, forcing me to swatch in medias res, but I still mostly go from idea to needles.

I knit my designs more than once, so let’s call the prototype a big swatch, okay? But for this cabled Aran sweater, I’m going to grow up. I’m going to listen to Deborah Newton and do it right.

I gathered a few of my stitch dictionaries and started paging through them.

A portion of my knitting library.

I was anxious to get started, so I started swatching the first cable that spoke to me. (With, yes, the most boring yarn, but it was what I had at hand. Why did I have it at hand? Because I had just finished knitting the most boring prototype sweater from it.)

I like the cables in the upper right, but two cable needles are required to execute them.

This wasn’t a hardship because I love swatching cables. Stitch dictionaries are my bedtime reading, and on nice mornings, I’ll sit on my porch and knit up a cable or two that I bookmarked the night before just to see what it looks like.

Very often, I create designs around those aimless cables. A banjo cable became my Arcadia Scarf. A criss-cross cable accented my Very Blackberry Pullover, which I then used as the main event of my Irene Adler Pillow.

But this time, I’m swatching with a purpose, and I’m feeling a little pressure to choose the right ones right away (even though I know that isn’t the way my designs come about). I want a cable combination that’s familar, but different. I want my finished design to be recognizable as a traditional fisherman’s sweater, but with a unique interpretation. I want it to be so spectacular that someone at Rowan takes notice and asks me to be an in-house designer. (I would politely decline.)

And I want it to be easy for me to design.