knitting retreat: painting on knits and vest design

I met a great group of knitters earlier this month at the Riverwools Winter Retreat where I taught 2 workshops: painting on knits and vest design.



The event was held at a quilting retreat center in Danville, Illinois. Attached to a beautiful quilt shop, the facilities included 3 well-equipped kitchens and large work areas with cutting boards and walls to pin projects on. In a former life, the building was a nursing home, so provided the perfect set up for overnight stays. It seemed to be a very popular place. There were people working away at all hours of the night! Definitely check this place out if you’re looking for a place to hold a retreat of your own. The staff was very gracious, too.


Painting on Knits was our ice-breaker- as if this group needed one! As they sipped their after dinner wine, they dipped their brushes into fabric inks and worked with stencils on their swatches. I immediately recognized them to be a creative group of knitters! Even simple stencil designs came alive with their imagination. More than one tried their hand at free-hand and came out with some amazing results.


Next morning, we dove into vest design. It was an intense day of planning and swatching. There were some very accomplished knitters in the group that incorporated complex cable designs. While most had an idea of what they wanted to tackle before they came, others quickly discovered the most important features to them and began to work those into a design. I’ve asked them to keep me posted on their progress and hope to show that here.

It’s always a lot of fun to get a group of like-minded people together for a length of time. I loved seeing the energy and creativity that came from the weekend. Designing Knitwear is one of my favorite subjects to teach. I’ll be scheduling the 2015 workshops at the studio soon, so stay posted on sign up for the newsletter!

how much yarn do I need?

Knitting Calculator at Jimmy Beans Wool

Have you ever started a project and worried that you don’t have enough yarn? Unless you’re very new to knitting, I’m guessing you have. Isn’t that just the worst sort of feeling?

I like to pride myself on not being a worrier, but I gotta say- running short to complete a project fills me with anxiety. It takes all the fun out of knitting. And if it’s not fun…

So how do you determine how much yarn you need for a project? One way is to compare other projects that are similar in size and patterning. Ravelry is a great resource for this kind of research. They even have an advanced search based on yarn amounts, so if you know how much you have you can search for other projects with the same yardage.

There are also various yarn calculators floating around on the internet. Most are limited, showing only socks, hats and scarves. Or just a few sizes in sweaters. The most thorough one I found was on Elizabeth’s Fiber and Yarn Store’s website. It shows socks, hats, mittens, scarves, afghans, vests, and sweaters all in various sizes and fingering to bulky weight yarns. The one from Lion Brand also has a wider choice, but not quite the range- although they do show crochet amounts, too.

I also found a nifty yarn calculator on the Jimmy Beans website that you can embed on your own website! As you can see, I did it here! You just enter in your gauge and size; it calculates how much yarn is needed. Pretty cool.

Of course, there are software programs that have this built in to them, too. But with the software usually comes a hefty price, so unless you’re looking for sweater design software, you probably don’t want to make the investment just for the calculator.

And I’m sure there are also a lot of knitting apps that do this, too. The one I most recently became aware of is Knit Handy from Ann Budd of Interweave. For those of you not familiar with her books, do take a look. She is known for creating basic patterns in a range of gauges and weights. It takes a while to get used to the format, but once you do, you have hundreds of patterns in one book. And, of course, I can’t forget to mention her Knitter’s Handy Guide to Yarn Requirements.

All of these aides will give you a rounded off amount. For more accuracy, there IS a hands-on method. It involves swatching and measuring and math… more on that next time.

I’d love to know what method you use!


Introducing Beachcomber, from Coastal Knits

The Coastal Knits Collection is now ready for purchase! With names like Driftwood, Ocean Lights, Inlet, Beachcomber and Abalone, the designs conjure up images of beaches, waves, and summer breeze. Walking the coast and combing for treasures.

beachcomber from coastal knits

Beachcomber is just one of the five new spring 2015 designs in my Coastal Knits collection. It’s an easy cardigan to make with flattering drape fronts that move and swing with your body. The stitch pattern may look complicated, but it’s really quite easy. All these factors make it a perfect addition for your knitting wardrobe. Plus it’s a great year round sweater to wear, too!

Even though it’s been labeled intermediate, I would urge any confident beginner to take the leap. I think of it more like an “intermediate beginner” rating! It is knit in 5 pieces with very little shaping. The fronts and back are simple rectangular shapes. With a modified drop styling, it only requires a bind off where the armholes are. The modified drop is easy to work and takes the excess bulk out of the armhole that a drop shoulder style would add.

Remember I said very little shaping? That brings me to the sleeves:  no “keeping in pattern” when increasing the stitches, which is a real worry for those not as experienced. The increased stitches are worked in stockinette stitch until 4 stitches have been increased. Because the stitch pattern is a repeat over 4 stitchess, after the 4 increased stitches are added, you just begin the pattern as before.  Plus, if you knit the back and both fronts first,  you should have the pattern memorized by the time you get to the sleeves and it will be easier to deal with the added stitches.

Mrs Hunter's Pattern

That brings me to the stitch pattern. This is an old favorite of mine, called “Mrs Hunter’s Pattern” that I discovered in Barbara G Walker’s “A Treasury of Knitting Patterns.” If you’re wondering who the heck Mrs Hunter was, Barbara explains she “was a member of the famous Hunter family of the Isle of Unst. The Hunters began and developed the art of Shetland lace knitting…” Pretty impressive! It is a beautiful mesh-like stitch. I love it because it adds texture and interest to an otherwise stockinette stitch base by simply slipping every 4th stitch and passing it over the following three. The next row replaces the passed over stitch with a yarn over.

Here it is: Give it a try and then you’ll be all ready to cast on for Beachcomber when you’re ready!

Cast on a multiple or 34 sts. It needs to be a multiple of 4 plus 2, but if you go with 34 sts, you’ll have a nice swatch when you’re finished to check your gauge for Beachcomber!

Row 1: (RS) Knit

Row 2: Purl

Row 3: K2, *sl 1, k3, psso the 3 knit sts; rep from *to last 2 sts, k2.

Row 4: P2, *p3, yo; rep from * to last 2 sts, p2.

Repeat these 4 rows for pattern.

Note: Abbreviations used in pattern above:  K or k: knit; P or p: purl; psso: pass over; rep: repeat; RS: right side; st(s): stitch(es); WS: wrong side; yo: yarn over. Psso might stump a beginner, but it’s really just a matter of picking up the slipped stitch with your left needle and pulling it over the 3 sts just knit. It creates a little “necklace” around the 3! For a yarn over, take the yarn over the right needle and then between the needles to the front again. This creates an extra loop on the needle, replacing the stitch that was passed over from the previous row to restore the stitch count.

If you’d like to purchase Beachcomber, or any of the collection, they’re available now in my ravelry shop.