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Newsletter - August 2015
With August the start of the new knitting year is upon us and we are delighted to have Cat Bordhi as our Designer of the Month. Amy Gunderson shares the full story of creating Patternfish’s 20,000th pattern, her All Colors Sweater. Our Collection of the Month is patterns featuring the venerable feather and fan stitch.
August is a good month to evaluate our knitwear wardrobes and make decisions about the basics that we really need, and want, for fall and winter.
This is a basic v-neck cardigan made special with the deep ribbing and glorious marbled DK yarn. It would be as happy over a pencil skirt as with jeans.
This gorgeous cabled scarf in the Aran tradition makes me think warm. With the added double moss stitch, you, or the lucky person on whom you bestow it, will have impervious protection next winter.
Look closely to discover the secrets of this henley for men and women. The three cable panel is repeated on the back and the ribbed raglan sleeves are beautifully defined. Make it to fit or skim your body, as you choose.
From the talented Barbara Selesnick, a ruana with glorious dimensions to take us into Fall. The diagonal knitting begins and ends with one stitch. Find a terrific pin to close it or add button loops on the shoulder. It will become a go-to basic.
It’s the design on the left that caught my attention in this pattern. What could be more basic and necessary than a twin set, traditional in name only, with eyelet detail and angled rib? Just lovely and in worsted weight yarn, not a fine weight like those in the last century.
If baby basics are in your knitting life, this sweet smock coat and beret would be elegant options. The twisted rib is wonderfully easy but impressive.
This Aran jacket has all the appeal of something much more complex, but is rated an easy knit. There are cable crosses, if it’s time to learn those, just 4 buttonholes, and bulky weight yarn at 14 stocking stitches to 4”. It will be a pretty quick knit.
Cozy fingerless mitts are now a necessity. What I especially like about this pair from Glenna C. is the folded ribbed cuff contrasting with the delicacy of the lace.
20,000th Patternfish Design
Amy Gunderson, creative lead at Universal Yarns, has a terrific story about creating the All Colour Sweater. If you think you’ve had deadlines that challenge you, read this and be amazed at what Gunderson accomplished in a few weeks.
And to see just how much a design can be changed by using different colours, here are the photos of both the original All Colors Sweater, and its sister sweater in just 3 heathered colours.
In the weeks before the summer TNNA show in 2014, I decided we needed a fun way to show off all the many colors of our Deluxe Worsted wool. (For those of you who aren't familiar with The National Needlearts Association's twice yearly shows, they are instrumental for fibre industry companies to show their new products to local store owners. Designers and other industry folks are there to go to meetings and strengthen and make new business relationships. It's a fun place to be!)
In addition to doing knit and crochet design, I work for Universal Yarn as creative lead. Among my many job duties is designing with our plethora of yarns, planing our TNNA booths, and plotting out which garments we'll show to best display the yarns. For the 2014 winter show, I had made up a wreath that showed all 140 of our Deluxe Worsted colors. It was pretty and showed all the colors, but it was a little boring. I decided I needed to one-up the wreath, and planned to knit a garment using each and every color for the next TNNA.
To begin, I had to locate a hank of each of these 140 colors. Luckily, our warehouse is just steps from my office. Once I filled a giant box with the yarn, I got set to winding it, a few hanks per day between other tasks. After a week or so I realized that TNNA was just weeks 5 away. I needed to speed things up. I still didn't have a plan for what I was actually going to do with this yarn. As I stood winding, stacking up my new wool cakes in groups of corals, aquas, greens, browns, etc, I figured I would just do a simple striped raglan. It would be pretty and easy enough. But the more I thought about it, the more bored I became with the idea. I had been spending hours winding yarn for a design I hoped would show off our range of colors in a striking way.
When it comes to designing knitwear, fair-isle is my default. I love knitting it; I love charting it. I had knit enough with Deluxe Worsted, including fair-isle, that I know most any attainable gauge off the top of my head. I ran the numbers and realized that for a standard-length adult sweater, 140 rows (1 row for each color) would work out darn-near perfectly.
With that information in mind, I set out to design a sweater. I knew I wanted it to be steeked. If I was going to be changing colors every single row, spit splicing was going to be a must. By splicing in the center of the steek, the transition of color appears continuous and unbroken. Once I had the yoke charted, I started arranging my colors. I had just a general plan before diving in and casting on.
Once I was close to being done with the yoke, I knew I needed to figure out what I was going to do with the body. The lines of the yoke made me think of architecture and cathedrals and curves, and I just knew there needed to be some shaping in the body. After playing around with some charts, I decided I could work shaping into the pattern and create princess lines for a flattering, waist-shaping effect.
Over the next 2 weeks, I finished up the knitting, steeked it, and added the edging and buttons. Everything worked out fine!
Aside from my charts, I had not actually written out my pattern. It was supposed to be a promotional piece but I never imagined anyone else would want to make one. But I was wrong! There was a lot of interest in the design, so I went back and graded the sweater for 5 sizes. Because of the nature of the yoke design, I decided I would need to create a separate motif for each size. It took a lot of work and charting, but I came up with full charts for each portion of the sweater for each of the 5 sizes.
A couple of months after knitting the All Colors Sweater, I decided it needed a makeover in heathered colors and thus, the Three Colors Sweater was born. Both sweaters are the exact same design, with the exception of the color choices.
From the Ambassador's Desk and kCDesigns
Patternfish now has 400 kCDesigns that enable us to just start knitting as soon as we’ve completed our swatch. You do make a swatch, right?
The latest are from Jennifer Dassau and Pam Powers.
Let’s crochet cardigans for fall. I must admit it was the dynamic colours that drew me to these patterns. And I do love crochet for little ones that doesn’t look babyish (not that there’s anything wrong with that!).
Designer of the Month: Cat Bordhi
To read what Cat Bordhi writes is to visit a mind teaming with creativity, a heart full of compassion, and a mission to embrace knitters and share the joys of learning and accomplishment.
Bordhi is first of all a teacher but her lessons go beyond new techniques and designs. She wants us to know that just as we create a beautiful garment one careful stitch at a time, we can make significant change in the world, one small, personal action at a time. Bordhi points out the power that each one of us has in her stories about saving local yarn shops and supporting the work of cancer researcher, Dr. David Krag.
Editor’s note - This is the longest Designer of the Month article we have ever published; every word is worth reading. Cat Bordhi has been a treasure to the knitting world since 2000 and she has graced Patternfish by writing so candidly about her life, her designs, and her passions. She is fascinating.
Over to Cat Bordhi…
How did you become a knit designer? I didn’t actually set out to become a knit designer. It all started in 2000, when I was teaching middle school on San Juan Island, where I still live, just south of the British Columbia border in Washington state. I was teaching humanities, which included ancient history, and twisted fiber is actually the basic technology of early civilization (think rope, sails, textiles, tents, etc.) and my principal gave me permission to integrate knitting into my lessons so long as I didn’t ask for money for supplies. I put out word on the island that we needed yarn and needles, and very quickly we had enough for the whole year. I had all my kids knitting, which erased classroom management challenges as well as the pubescent social hierarchy so that our classroom was a peaceful, nourishing environment.
One day a grocery bag stuffed full with Addi circular needles—I still can’t believe anyone gave them up—was delivered to my classroom, and this changed my life. At that time Addis were the only good circular needles in the world but as a frugal single mom I had not been able to afford them. I took one look at that bag and decided it was my reward for teaching the kids to knit. Knitting socks on 2 circular needles, or on 1 long one, was unknown at that time—DPNs had been the only method used by sock knitters for seven centuries, and I was not fond of DPNs. Now that I had a deluxe supply of circular needles with flexible cables and smooth joins, it occurred to me that it ought to be possible to substitute 1 circular needle for every 2 DPNs. I tried, but thinking along DPN lines, used a third circular needle to act as the free DPN. So for a week or two I actually knit socks on 3 circular needles. And then it dawned on me that this was ridiculous, because each circular needle had 2 ends and could take care of itself. And so the technique of knitting socks on 2 circular needles was born, and I wrote and self- published my first book, Socks Soar on two Circular Needles. I asked Ingrid Skacel, who brought Addi needles to this country in the mid-1980’s, if she would be interested in such a book. She was, and Skacel Knitting, her family’s company which is the North American distributor of these superb needles along with many wonderful yarns, became my book distributor. Thanks to Skacel, in a flash my book was in just about every knitting shop on the continent, and knitting socks on 2 circular needles quickly grew to be very popular. A few years later Sarah Hauschka figured out the Magic Loop Method, using 1 long circular needle, and so after 700 years of only using DPNs for sock knitting, knitters were suddenly able to choose between 3 needle arrangements. Within the year it became apparent that Socks Soar could provide me with enough income to switch from teaching school to becoming a knit designer, author, and teacher, which I have done ever since. I am unfathomably lucky to have this as my life and thank everyone who is reading this for making it so for me and for so many of my talented design colleagues.
How was your creativity nourished during your childhood? When I turned twelve, my parents offered me a clothing allowance, with the option of sewing or knitting clothing, which if it was successful, they would reimburse beyond my allowance. Delirious with the thought of being able to make things and have all that money to spend on Beatles albums, I proceeded to make everything but my shoes, and would have done that too if I could’ve figured out how.
My parents’ brilliant plan turned me into a confident and skillful seamstress and knitter. Very soon, giddy with my new-found freedom, I decided to design a blouse. I rode my bike down to the local fabric store and showed the proprietor my sketch. She was impressed enough to tell me that I was a designer, which quite startled me.
Sometimes an adult’s genuine positive reflection can strengthen a natural tendency in a child, and it catalyzed my belief in myself. I stopped following directions, always altering patterns to produce the designs I dreamed up. I was very lucky that my mother was an expert seamstress and a good knitter, and had the patience to hold me to very high standards.
Do you have a particular customer in mind when you start a design? Because I was a schoolteacher, I want “no knitter left behind” and am used to offering diverse paths to understanding. I strive to make my patterns very clear, with helpful illustrations, and often include video tutorials for greater visual clarity. I also try to imbue my patterns with a warmth that embraces each individual as a kindred friend. It’s hard to explain how I do this, but I consider it an honor to welcome my readers in this way.
Do you have established goals for your business other than selling patterns and books? My goal is to inspire and satisfy the knitters who are drawn to my work, and to deepen their confidence and comprehension of how knitting works.
I find that making the well-being of others my priority allows all the business-like elements to cooperate with me so that I can continue to respond to what seems to hold the greatest human value. Knitting is a vehicle for the goodness that streams through us as our hands fall into rhythm with needles and yarn and it is this blessedness that I treasure most of all. It is the motor of my work.
Can you tell us something about your legendary island knitting retreats? I live on San Juan Island, about a hundred miles north of Seattle and an hour and a half by car ferry out into the Salish Sea. It’s as close to a paradise as I can imagine and an ideal setting for our 5 nights and 4 days of deep relaxation, community, and learning. It’s the only teaching situation where I can bring endless samples from home to illustrate questions students have, so the teaching is very rich. The week is deeply satisfying for everyone, myself included, with peaceful interludes of knitting together in silence, many small lessons in response to the desires of the individuals and the group, and much laughter and camaraderie. As a community of returnees we love having newcomers join us, like sparkling river water that runs into a lake to keep it fresh and lively.
Tell us about taking groups of knitters to Peru. These trips are basically my island knitting retreats taken on the road. My brother Jim “Pecos” Petkiewicz and his family lived and worked in Peru, Bolivia, and Mexico for many years, and he and I lead the trips together. We are able to draw on his decades-old friendships with innkeepers and artisans, and bring our travellers into intimate shared experiences with indigenous knitters, weavers, and spinners, as well as travel through Peru’s magnificent landscape and profound culture. Pecos is fluent and my Spanish is functional and growing. Being a knitter in Peru essentially means that you have a magic wand in your hands that causes strangers to recognize you as family and welcome you with open hearts and shared stories.
Do you take groups of knitters anywhere else? We also lead trips in Mexico, and in 2016 will have trips to Guatemala, Ireland, and Iceland, with Cuba coming along soon, and Poland/ Czech Republic and New Zealand also in the works. If you’re an adventurous traveler, we’d love to have you (and we welcome non-knitting companions… most of whom have spontaneously asked to learn during the trip, hurrah!).
What are your best selling designs? My all-time best-selling design is my Anemone Hat. I knit the first one about 6 years ago and have not worn any other hat since. Beware, if you are shy, don’t wear it out of the house because stranger after stranger will grin at you and say something friendly. It is a happy hat that makes everyone look as if you are having a good, if strange, hair day. And it’s a joyful knit—I have two friends who have each made over 30 of them as gifts, and show no sign of stopping. And it is lovely for chemo patients who have lost their hair.
My best-selling sock book is Cat’s Sweet Tomato Heel Socks. I don’t think I can improve on this heel, so it may be my final sock book. It’s quick and easy to learn, you can knit toe up or top down, and fit any foot without calculations. I am gratified that so many long-time sock knitters have switched to this method, and that so many new sock knitters have started with it.
My latest best-selling book is Versatildes: a New Landscape for Knitters. Versatildes are a marriage of ribbed elements in the shape of fins and fields, which intersect with reversible rivers to create scarves, wraps, and vests. When I teach this class there is an explosion of creativity and freedom to create original designs that has made it my current favorite class to teach.
Which designs are your personal favourites? Whatever I am working on tends to be my favourite. At various times in my designer life (since 2000) that has been socks, Moebius knitting (I wrote 2 books on the subject, A Treasury of Magical Knitting, and A Second Treasury of Magical Knitting), then my Versatildes (my most recent book), which I shall be knitting and wearing with a passion for years to come. There is no end to the creative possibilities that capture my passion.
How did you come to the decision to list your patterns with Patternfish? I first met Julia Grunau (ed. - Patternfish’s Prime Minister) many years ago at an industry convention and liked her immensely. She made me laugh and her passion for the knitting world is intense and genuine. She provides a wonderful service for knitters, and treats designers honorably.
See all of Cat Bordhi’s books and patterns here.
Not all of Cat Bordhi’s patterns are books. If you would like to get a taste of her creativity with a single pattern, here are a few to check out. Dardanelles is an easy-to-knit and easy-to-wear springy shawl with enough going on to keep you interested but suitable, too, for your knit night. In First Felfs for Families you’ll learn to knit simple Felfs in any size. Warm All Winter was especially created for January in New York City so it will suit the coldest climates.
If you are interested in Cat Bordhi’s workshops and want more information about Dr. David Krag’s research, visit http://catbordhi.com.
Help Cat Bordhi Support Cancer Research
Here’s Cat’s story about her generous support of Dr. David Krag's research into a non-invasive method to cure cancer.
“I am fortunate to have had breast cancer twice and uterine cancer once and be completely healthy. When I met Dr. David Krag some years ago and learned about his research, I did a benefit Moebius workshop to help raise funds for him. For years I wondered how I might provide more than a drop in the big research bucket—and The Art of Felfs: Felted Footwear for Families was the answer.
Dr. Krag’s research team is ready for clinical trials of a procedure that may replace chemo and radiation and I feel fantastic directing so much of my income to support this. The non-invasive procedure amplifies a cancer patient’s immune system to circumvent the factors that normally block it from eliminating the tumor. I am confident he will see this through and save millions of lives, and want him to be able to move full-speed ahead—which means getting him enough funding to do so. The Art of Felfs has so far raised $60,000. Except for Paypal’s fee, all proceeds from the sale of the ebook, the full $20.00 purchase price, goes to Dr. Krag’s lab. Please join us so that someday, chemo and radiation are history, and Dr. Krag can tell the world that knitters were a powerful force in making this happen. One by one, like stitches on a needle, there are enough of us to speed this research forward so that you or your loved ones can be saved by it.”
Solution to the Demise of Yarn Shops
When we asked Cat Bordhi if she thought the internet was harmful to the knitting and crochet community, she said she is worried about local yarn shops facing demise in the same way independent bookstores have, and she has a solution.
“When you want to buy yarn online—because you can’t find what you want locally—please seek out a distant brick and mortar yarn shop that has the yarn and will ship to you. It is these courageous hybrid shops, that invest in and serve their local communities as well as online customers, that will save knitting as we know it, if you will help them do so by seeking them out. You can contact the yarn company to ask for names of shops; many have this information on their website. If we lose most of our brick-and-mortar yarn shops, there will be fewer new knitters, we will have nowhere to go to see and touch yarn or try on samples, and nowhere to mingle with other knitters at whim. Local yarn shops are the cardiac system of knitting; we must keep it healthy.
“If you think what you do doesn’t really matter because you are just one person, think of it this way: taking care of each stitch, one by one, is how you create a beautiful garment. Together we can commit to the honor system of taking care of our local yarn shops so that what we love endures and thrives.”
Our Newest Designers and Publishers
We are happy to welcome three new designers to Patternfish.
Deb Buckingham is justifiably famous for her Dishcloth Diva book, but we are doubly happy to have her baby blanket patterns. They are both elegant and timeless. Be sure to use a yarn that will wash and last because these blankets will be passed on. The grey one is reversible for knitters who prefer that characteristic.
Laurel Emery is a fan of dogs in all shapes and sizes and the name of her company, StyleHounds Handknits, wonderfully reflects her vision for the dogs she loves - be just as stylish as your walker. And for maximum style, Emery has created wristwarmers and scarves that coordinate with the dog coats. Knit Reindeer in the Woods and Hounds Tooth in colours that suit both of you.
Is there a better name for a child’s scarf than Mud Season? Who knew that in addition to the 4 seasons the rest of us are familiar with, Vermonters have mud season? And to keep a little guy toasty warm in that season, Roth has created the Ellingham Vest. Roth doesn’t create only for children’s needs. Her Asymmetry Tank is a striking design for women.
Collection of the Month
The old stitch patterns can be comforting and feather and fan is beloved. This month’s collection features patterns that could have been created a hundred years ago and others that bring the stitch into the 21st century with new variations and current yarns.