I'm really excited to be presenting my first live web seminar for Interweave.
I wrote an article about death head buttons for their July/August 2013 issue of Piecework. The story is so fascinating and there is such variation in the beautiful buttons that can be created with this technique that we'll be delving in depth. I'll tell the captivating history behind these buttons (tales of industrial espionage, female assasins, murder and ingtrigue).
I'll also review the basics of making your own buttons, and teach you techniques for creating many variations of beautiful death head buttons. You'll learn tips and tricks, discover traditional methods and materials and explore
new ways to use these lovely buttons.
Come join us! Interact live, and ask questions. March 20, 2014
4 p.m. Eastern
There's a lot of news here at CogKnits. The loan for building my knitting studio was approved and plans are in full swing! I've created a 3D floorplan and am waiting on bids from the contractors. I'll be renovating a barn on the property of our new house. It's a solid building in a great location overlooking the river, but it needs a complete transformation to turn from a drafty barn into a cozy knitting studio and welcoming guest house.
On the wish list are under floor heating, a big sink and stainless steel countertop for washing and blocking knits, a small wood burning stove, a toilet with shower, upstairs guest room, an atrium with skylights to make the most of natural sunlight, French doors to replace the metal barn door, and dormer windows in the guest room to create more headspace. And let's not forget the unglamorous bits that make a space comfortable; connecting to the sewer, running water, electiricty, lighting fixtures, heating system, ventilation... It's not a little project.
On my personal to do list; builidng custom shelves and storage for yarn and building drawers under the staircase to store tools. Here is an idea of what I have in mind...
It's a lovely story, but quite a long one, especially for those of you who have been following from the very beginning. I'll give you the short version. Carol Jayne's daughter, Josephine, found the picture at left online and asked her mom, "Can you knit this for me?"
Carol Jayne searched in vain for a pattern. At a loss she turned to the helpful community at Knitting Paradise and asked on one of the chat boards, "Does anyone recognize this pattern?" Hundreds of knitters joined in a month long search for information about the cardigan to no avail. A knitting pattern for the sweater didn't exist.
Knitting designer, Erica Patberg, was intrigued by the design, and excited by the challenge of writing a pattern that captured the spirit of the original sweater.
I hope you love it and enjoy knitting this cardigan as much as I've enjoyed creating it. To purchase the pattern, simply click on the "buy now" button.
I haven't known knits to be very controversial, but this particular cardigan in knit.wear's Spring 2013 issue
has prompted some surprisingly strong reactions. People seem to either love it or hate it. Of course, I'm happier if people love it, since I put a great deal of time into thinking about the design, planning it out, knitting it, and writing and grading the pattern. BUT, after I got over my initial surprise at the few vocal folks who believed the sweater was extremely dangerous, I was pretty pleased. In this day and age, when everything seems to have been done before, I'm thrilled to have come up with something new. In a centuries old craft, how awesome to create something that gets people talking about knitting!
Just a little note about the Dropped Stitch Cardigan
, it was certainly not intended to harm anyone; knitters, non-knitters or innocent bystanders! I love interesting design, things that are unique, novel, thought provoking, clever, smart. I think it's just the way my brain works. It gets bored easily, and the twists in the expected and hum drum make me smile. It all began when I won a scholarship to go to Interweave Knitting Lab
in Manchester, New Hampshire. I needed something to wear. Perhaps like a lot of knitters, I've got more yarn than I have stylish garments, and I desperately wanted to wear something unique and striking, something interesting to Manchester.
I hit on the idea of a cascade of unraveled stitches, maybe inspired by a trip to the Unravel exhibition
of knitwear at the Mode Museum in Antwerp. I usually lay in bed and think about stitch construction or design puzzles before I can drift off to sleep. One night, as I was thinking about unraveling stitches and cascades and columns of dropped stitches, it all came together; a masterpiece of deconstructed knitwear, an homage to knitting mistakes, my opus of dropped stitches. A waterfall of unraveled strands down the back, dropped stitch loops used to link the raglan seams together, a ladder effect of dropped and twisted stitch columns to create a non-curling front edge, collar and cuff. It was exactly what I would create to wear to the Knitting Lab. It was unique, quirky, pretty; a perfect conversation piece for a knitting designer to wear to a knitting conference, and a little bit tongue in cheek. I make my living with sticks and string. I absolutely LOVE what I do, but I can't take myself too seriously.
So for those of you that love it, cool. I love it, too. For those of you that really hate it, at least I have you talking and thinking about knitting. Score!
Eeeek!!! I need to get my knit on! In exactly 3 weeks time knitters from around the world will gather in Manchester, New Hampshire for an absolutely incredible event; the very first Interweave Knitting Lab New England
For many of us this is a rare opportunity to learn, share, be inspired and surrounded by people who love this craft as much as we do. (By the way, I use the word craft in the sense of "master craftsmen" and not "arts and crafts". Just had to clarify.) It is not often that I find myself in such esteemed company, and boy am I excited!
The one little hiccup, is that I've spent the last 2 months in searing tropical heat, and it's been a little hard to find the motivation to work with wool. I've got a tableful of unfinished projects spread before me as I begin to assess what I can accomplish. If I'm going to be appropriately swathed in knits for this event I'm going to need focus and dedication.
I have exactly 21 days to:
- Block a wicked cute pair of cotton lace pajama shorts. Maybe find a nice ribbon for the drawstring. A girl's got to have cute knitted PJ's, right?
- Block and weave in the ends of a "Summit" shawl, knit in a taupe colored silk.
- Fix the graft on my Shaped Capelet and weave in the ends.
- Knit the second half of a Frost Flowers shawl in the most delicious teal angora (hand dyed by the extraordinary Blossom Fibers). Graft together, and block.
- Here's where the crazy comes in: Design, knit, and block a cardigan in sock weight Madeline Tosh merino. I've got a great idea for the design, can't wait to try it out, swatches have been on my idea board for ages... but 3 weeks for a complete sweater? Hummph... That lovely photo at the top of the blog? That's the wool that still needs to be balled (by hand as the ball winder and swift didn't fit into my suitcase).
I promise I'll wear the "new" sweater at Interweave Knitting Lab at some point. If you see me sporting a one sleeved cardigan, know that it's not my take on the new asymmetrical trend, but that I'm living up to my promise to do my darndest to finish this sweater in the next 3 weeks, and wear it no matter what!
See you in Manchester!
My Dutch has finally improved to the point where I can read Dutch knitting patterns! I've spoken Dutch for some time, but knitting has it's own language. Even in English it takes years to become fluent in some of the trickier abbreviations and manipulations required to translate the hieroglyphs of a complicated lace pattern into an actual garment! Now, try doing that in a second language! No small feat.
My persistence in learning the language of my adoptive country has a surprising reward; a treasure trove of hand knitting patterns previously unintelligible to me can be explored. To the hubby's dismay my knitting library is expanding with musty, old, antique patterns. And since knitting is certainly not as hot in Holland as it is in England and the US, I'm picking up some gorgeous antique pattern books for a song. Or perhaps I'm just a knitting nut and nobody else wants these dusty old pages.
Winding it's way to me by post now is "Manual in Women's Crafts - Instruction in Knitting" "with more than 120 illustrations between the text". It doesn't have a printing date, but I'm guessing around 1895-6.
Hmmm... I see some research into the social history of knitting in Holland in my future.
I'm working on a little project for EFN (European Fiber Network
). Are you brave enough to wear a doily on your head? If things work out to plan, this lovely "knitted rose" from The Encyclopedia of Knitting compiled by Thérèse de Dillmont in the 1800's is being fashioned into something more hip than the lovely but dowdy knitted lace bedspreads and tablecloths popular in the 19th century. That said, the craftsmanship and symmetry of these old designs are just beautiful. My goal is to find ways to make them work in a modern aesthetic.
I have a pattern in the new knit.wear
! Interweave has done it again; beautiful styling and gorgeous modern knits. Here are my Big Twist Legwarmers. They're cute and quick and very cuddly. I think the gentle twist is simple and elegant, but take a closer look and they're really intriguing.
The twist isn't a cable. The legwarmer is actually a rectangle, but the edges intertwine to create a tube and the flowing twist! I know! Pretty neat, huh?
If you page through the magazine, tucked in among 25 beautiful and flattering designs, you'll also find my in depth article on short rows, "The Long and Short of it." It covers the most common short row techniques and most importantly how to use them to completely customize your knits for a bespoke fit.
I recently purchased a vintage pattern in Dutch for a Damesbedjasje, literally translated "Ladies little bed jacket." I wasn't able to find much about the original, but it was reprinted with some modifications in the Reformatorisch Dagblad (The Reformist Newspaper) in 1979.
I've been recreating it since I found the construction of the pleats intriguing. As I was knitting swatches for this garment it struck me, when does one EVER need a jacket in bed? Granted, Holland is often damp and chilly and in old days probably even chillier in the predawn hours when the ashes had grown cold in the fireplace. But despite the sweet picture and interesting design this seemed an inordinately unpractical garment.
So, if you know me, you know I research any and every thing. According to Wikipedia, The bed jacket is a woman's garment; a waist-length robe worn to cover the chest, shoulders and arms while sitting up in bed. Its short length and cape-like cut allowed it to be put on (or removed) while in bed. Often made of sheer or lacy fabrics and displaying very feminine trimmings and details, it was often used more for seduction, rather than warmth or modesty. It was popularized in 1930s Hollywood films featuring glamorous settings and glamorous stars lounging languorously in their silken bedrooms. Ostrich feather tips, swan’s down, pleated tulle and shirred lace were just a few examples of the extravagant materials that could be used in creating these confections."
With that little history, this garment makes a lot more sense. In my happily married, mother-of-two, get up at 6am life; where hubby is equally amorous if I'm wearing La Perla or a jogging bra and cotton undies, the notion of knitting for seduction didn't even cross my mind! But for those of you that have room for a little glamour in your boudoir, keep your eye on this space for a pattern. Since the bed jacket is all about seduction, I think it calls for a yarn with angora that begs to be touched.
If you're curious as to what to pair it with, I'd suggest a full length, clingy silk nightgown and a pair of mules bedecked with ostrich feathers. Of course the look isn't complete without smoky eyes and a good dollop of lip gloss. You might also need a chaise lounge to drape yourself across.
My mother-in-law and I don't always see eye to eye. She tends to share her opinions freely. I have a ridiculously hard time keeping my mouth shut if I don't agree. Add to this interesting dynamic that all communication is in a foreign language and tact and diplomacy are a sought after but not often reached goal. That said, she's got a heart of gold, is fantastic with the kids, and has only once accused me of making her violently ill with my cooking. In my defense, I whole heartedly insist she had the stomach flu.
She surprised me recently with a gift that was so sentimental and touching, that I'm willing to completely forgive and forget the accusations of food poisoning. This lovely women handed me an antique tin filled with her collection of buttons.
I've had my eye on my own Grandmother's button collection for years. It's now in the safe possession of my Aunt Cindy and I hope one day I'll be entrusted with it. It's filled with mother of pearl, cut glass, pressed glass and colored celluloid buttons; little baubles pretty or special enough to be clipped off of their garments and saved. There are buttons from my great grandmother in the box, old buttons, newer buttons. It's like a living history of my family. I sewed five of my grandmother's little tiny pearl buttons onto a hand knitted cashmere cardigan for my cousin's baby boy. Newer buttons are added, some older buttons are reused. The collection changes, albeit slowly. It's strangely mesmerizing to run fingers through the stash, watch them shimmer and hear them click, to think about the generations that have kept and passed on the button box.
Recently, I was researching for an article in Piecework
about a specific sort of historic button and shared some of the interesting bits of social history of buttons with my mother-in-law. She disappeared into the attic and came down a little later holding a green tin filled with buttons. Then she gave it to me. That sort of gift... that says you're not just married to my son. You're family.