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Newsletter - March 2016
March certainly came in like a lion for much of North America. Wouldn’t it be knitterly for it to go out like a lamb?
We are featuring Stephannie Tallent as our March Designer of the Month. The Collection is all knits for babies and you’ll more find designs for them in Here’s Crochet! Take a look, too, at Up Your Knitting Game - Without Going Anywhere for technique ebooks.
Isn’t this an amazing statement about knitting? Norah Gaughan’s Barnyard Guernsey was designed in 1991. That’s 25 years ago but it looks like it could have been designed last month, and it could easily be worn for the next 25 years. The Guernsey body and chevron border patterns are both charted and it’s a comfy, loose knit in 3 sizes from 44” to 52”.
Annie Dempsey rightly describes her West Side Raglan, designed in 2004, as “modern and chic…great for wearing to the office or on weekend getaways.” What else is there to say except — this is a terrific first sweater for beginners; sizes range from 36” to 54” bust, and the pattern includes the choices of worsted weight or bulky yarn. I think silk, like the original, or linen, would be excellent for spring and summer.
It’s not surprising to find that designer Cristina Ghirlanda lives in Italy. Her Rainbow Trail has a certain "je ne sais quoi" that makes its European heritage quite unmistakable. Ghirlanda has chosen a long-gradient yarn, contrasted with a dark colour yarn called Raven, for a knit that will be fun to see grow on your needles.
I liked this pattern the minute I saw it—I thought it was knitted but it’s not. Antique Armor is crocheted in modules of rib and star stitches. As one is completed, the next one is begun, so when you’re done, you’re done. So handsome! It might be fun to choose different yarn colours for the contrasting star stitches in each segment.
What a terrific idea for a blanket — a great big granny square. It has much of the old time charm of a traditional granny square blanket like this one, but there’s no sewing. The big square is worsted weight for speed, although this pattern could be crocheted in any weight yarn. You just keep going until you run out of yarn or the baby has arrived.
You’ll see, in the Collection of the Month, that I have been on the hunt for baby knits. This is one I chose, Annie Dempsey’s Jelly Bean Suit. Slip stitches in four different colours are used for the colour blips and garter stitch bands, but I’m going to find a variegated yarn instead — fewer ends to weave in.
My friends know that I love dogs, and I’m a knitter, so I love sheep, too, although not in quite the same way. When these two patterns appeared from the clever crochet hooks of Knot*Sew*Cute, I was smitten. Puppy Love and Woolly Lamb are 5” tall with crocheted and felted heads and legs, and crocheted bodies. Great gifts and just adorable!
Baby garments are wonderful in crochet and take less time to make than knits. If you’ve procrastinated (and who hasn’t) these are a fast way to create a treasure for the little treasure. If you are a crocheter with a little more time, a blanket might be a good choice.
Designer of the Month: Stephannie Tallent
Although she doesn’t use the word to describe herself, ‘passionate’ describes Stephannie Tallent very well. She immerses herself in projects, learning everything there is to learn, and she tells excellent stories with the words she uses, the photographs she chooses, and the designs she creates.
The California Revival Knits ebook demonstrates those skills beautifully. Even someone not especially interested in knitting would find this book a treasure. Tallent explored the architecture, tile, wrought iron, and colour of the Spanish Revival Architecture of the 1920’s. It’s fascinating to read how she got from “a tiled Persian rug to socks with bi-colored cables”.
Most knitters have favourite techniques and some they absolutely will not touch. Talent is a designer who seems to be captivated by all of them. There doesn’t seem to be a technique that’s out of bounds. In The Wild West ebooks she expresses the flora, fauna, geology, and history of Arizona in five volumes: Lace 1, Cables, Stranded, Textured, and Lace 2. Click on the slide show on each page to see all the desert-inspired designs.
Here’s more from Sunset Cat Design’s Stephannie Tallent.
It takes commitment, passion, and discipline to become an established designer. What drove you in the beginning? What drives you now? I'm what I consider a laid-back type A personality (though friends and family may disagree with the laid-back claim!). I've always liked tackling a project, figuring out all the different components, and ending up with a finished product or completed task (that was true of me even when I was an Army officer, I enjoyed it more and did better at jobs that were goal-based rather than maintaining a system).
I tend to get excited about something and to throw myself into learning as much as I can about it. With designing, I haven’t run out of things to learn (can you?), so it's constantly exciting. That includes knitting techniques, but also all sorts of things ancillary to knitting, but important to being a designer at this time.
Also, I love making things, and hope that I'm creating a bit of beauty that will last.
What inspires you? Big picture? Nature, architecture, a sense of place. The Wild West ebooks were inspired by the flora, fauna, and geology of Arizona where I lived from 5th grade through high school.
Little picture? I really love playing with stitch patterns and color, so I'll often start by thinking I want to do a particular sort of design using specific techniques, stitch patterns, and so on. A lot of my shawls and cowls are more inspired by stitch patterns and the yarn rather than by big picture influences.
What did you have to learn or unlearn to be a designer? Were there things in your life you needed to change to accommodate it? I'm still working on work/time-off balance. I find it very hard to let myself not work on something design-related when I'm home. There's always something that should be done. This also means that other interests get set aside, like sewing and learning to play guitar.
What are your best selling designs? Ravens in Snow Fingerless Mitts sells well. It's one of my personal favorites as well. The Mittens! ebook, and the associated mittens as single patterns, are popular; the cuffs are fun to knit, and the patterns, for both fingerless and full mitts, are offered in both worsted and Aran weight.
Which designs are your personal favourites? I'll admit that living in Southern California I rarely get to wear what I design! However, I really love Cactus Wren, from The Wild West Lace 1 ebook, and I do get to wear it. I love the surf boards and the thumb gusset palm trees of the Surf's Up fingerless mitts. With Alongshore, I enjoy the interplay of lace, cables, and color.
I designed the Ravens in Snow Fingerless Mitts after the Ravens in Snow Mitts, and I liked refining different aspects of that pattern. Tricho from the Wild West Lace 2 ebook is just lush and romantic.
You may see all of Stephannie Tallent's ebooks and patterns here.
Our Newest Designers and Publishers
In February, Patternfish welcomed two new designers.
Buzybee’s Pat Evans describes her designs this way, “Simple, modern, unfussy knits are my passion for babies and toddlers.” Her Noah Baby Cardigan and Pixie Hoodie, both in easy garter stitch, demonstrate her passion classically.
Check out Pat’s Collection to Date for a pretty pinafore, rough and tumble dungarees, and other easy knits for babies. Pat’s items for the home are simple, unfussy knits, too, including tea cozies, egg cozies, and a cushion cover.
Designer Linda Courtney creates designs that are beautiful, fun to knit, and offer something to engage the knitter. Her intriguing Tidal Cove Scarf, inspired by the rhythm of the ocean, certainly achieves those design objectives. The flattering Jo-Jo’s Vest, with waist shaping and vertical ribbing at front and side panels, is knit all-at-once (no picking up stitches at all). The pattern offers detailed instructions on customizing so you can make this wardrobe staple fit you very well.
See Linda’s Collection to Date for an eclectic variety of patterns for all ages including her popular Sock Lover’s Socks, with socks on them.
Up Your Knitting Game - Without Going Anywhere
Attending classes at needlework festivals, local yarn stores, and retreats is a terrific way to learn new techniques, but it’s not an option that’s available to everyone. Location, funds, and mobility are a few of the impediments, but that doesn’t mean we can’t experience the best lessons from some of the best teachers in the knitting world and have them on-hand forever.
Classes that frequently sell out fast are ones featuring finishing. Lucy Neatby's ebook, Cool Knitters Finish in Style, is a 175 page tome that covers the all important skills of reading your knitting and evaluating your pattern, seaming, short rows, steeking, bands, buttonholes, blocking, and so much more. The ebook ends with the Challenge Cardigan described by Lucy as “not a serious method of making a cardigan but rather an exercise in knit domination.” That’s what the book is all about — being the boss of your knitting.
Stranded knitting is another option that lots of knitters sign up for and Deborah Tomasello has it covered in Stranded Knitting: It’s Easier Than You Think. Tomasello was a knitter convinced that she just wasn’t capable of knitting the gorgeous multi-coloured stranded designs, but a knitting group friend convinced her it wasn’t hard, so she jumped in. Her book contains everything you need to know to begin: holding the yarns, choosing colours, how to read charts, achieving the right tension, plus 5 patterns —socks, 3 hats, and a bag.
Another colorwork option that has knitters fascinated lately is double knitting. Cat Bordhi, a technique genius herself, describes Alasdair Post-Quinn’s Extreme Double Knitting as “a delicious guide to the subterranean wonderland of double knitting.”
While it is a treat to attend one of Kate Atherley's classes, Beyond Knit and Purl is the next possible best thing. Kate is a popular teacher and in-demand as a technical editor, so she knows the roadblocks that knitters sometimes face and just how to overcome them. Plus, 24 of Kate’s patterns are included.
If learning to knit true Moebius patterns is a wish, Cat Bordhi’s A Treasury of Magical Knitting is the definitive guide. You’ll read about the history of moebius and find instructions to master it in both words and photographs. Bordhi details the problems you will likely encounter and offers solutions, just like an in-person teacher does. There are patterns for lots of different cowls, hats, and even moebius cat bed.
And how many knitters and crocheters are secret designers who do not have the information (or courage, perhaps) to launch their designs into the knitting universe. Shannon Okey’s The Knitgrrl Guide to Professional Knitwear Design is an insightful and entertaining way to learn about it and gain confidence.
Collection of the Month
Suddenly there seem to be lots of births on my gift knitting horizon — daughters of friends, relatives, and young friends, so I thought I’d share the results of my searches for baby gifts. Most of these patterns are sized for toddlers and children as well as babies, so the patterns will be useful for years to come.
I am inordinately fond of Aran sweaters on little ones and moms are often over the moon when they receive them. Happily, most moms are over the moon when they receive any hand made gift. Super wash yarns in just about every weight are now available, so fear of a knitted gift being ruined in the wash is reduced.
From the Ambassador's Desk
- Gayle Clow
There is lots of anecdotal evidence about the benefits of knitting and crocheting. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone in a knit night meet-up or at a local yarn store who didn’t have lots to say on the subject. I went looking for some hard evidence and found an interesting article on the CNN website called, “This is Your Brain on Crafting.”
The article quotes a study published in the British Journal of Occupational Therapy of over 3,500 knitters from all over the world. 81% of the respondents with depression reported feeling happy after knitting and over half reported feeling very happy.
And here’s an article that many of us will find an enticing read, “The Aging Brain: Why Getting Older Might Just Be Awesome.” The part that grabbed my attention was support for greater creativity and innovation as we age. Our brains simply have more in them the older we get, so there is more material available to make connections. And making connections is what creativity is all about.
Take a few minutes to read these articles, or just focus on this thought, “The link between creativity and better mental and physical health is well established by research. Creating helps make people happier, less anxious, more resilient and better equipped to problem-solve in the face of hardship”, from A Creative Life is a Healthy Life.
The Exakta Cowl, from Designer of the Month Stephannie Tallent, offers an opportunity to stretch your creative wings. It has motif windows, within the cables, for you to complete as you please. She offers 8 stitch pattern choices, but you could create your own, or choose a favourite stitch from a knit pattern book.