Ok, not really... I swear, they aren't bad!
Today, I'm sharing about my latest adventure into the magical realm of steeking. This technique is featured in one of my upcoming designs, the Study Break shawl, which will be published in the November edition of Knotions--just a few days from now. (Be sure to sign up at Knotions for all the details when the issue goes live on Saturday!)
I know lots of knitters stay far, far away from steeks, but I find them super cool. I mean, you cut your knitting and it doesn't come apart. How cool is that?!
I had a 'hit-the-ground-running' kind of intro to steeks a few years ago. I'd knitted a lovely raglan-sleeve sweater, that was supposedly to gauge, only to find that once it was finished, it was 8" too big. And 8" too big everywhere--bust, arms, waist. Well, on my petite frame, and since it wasn't meant to be oversized, it wasn't going to work. The yarn was just sticky enough to be a bear to try ripping it back, and so I decided to give steeking it a chance.
A knitting mentor and good friend of mine gave me lots of pointers on how steeking the sweater should go, since I had absolutely no clue. (She LOVES steeks.) I was intimidated, but willing to give it a shot. I really, really wanted to wear that sweater.
Now, I hadn't knitted this sweater with any extra stitches that would be steeked, or any twisted stitches or anything to get it ready... it was just way too big. Because my sweater was knitted from the top-down, I knew I could take the bind-off at the body out, and do the same with the sleeves, and twist some stitches from there. (The steek method I was using at the time required twisted stitches on either side of where you cut the steek, and then you further reinforce with crochet.)
I took out the BO edges on both sleeves and the bottom edge. I unraveled the specific stitches that I needed to twist, and pulled them back up, twisting as I put each stitch back on. It took hours. Once I finished that, I reinforced further with single crochet.
When I cut up the sides of the sweater and the underside of each sleeve, I wasn't sure what to expect. I was hoping for decent results, and that maybe I would be able to seam it so it'd be wearable.
Sure enough, it worked perfectly. I cut down the seam of stitches, and between the twisted stitches and crocheted reinforcements, the yarn didn't budge. I seamed the sweater back together with mattress stitch on the outside of all of the twisted stitches and crochet portions, which created a hefty seamed edge for the wrong side of the sweater. But, it worked!
The sweater fits, and I'm proud to say that I am no longer intimidated by steeks.
So, for this upcoming shawl design, when I was working on the preliminary sketches and concept, my first thought was to steek it.
But, which steek method? Crocheted? Sewn? A hybrid, something like what I did with my sweater?
I initially ruled out the crocheted steek because I wanted a minimal edge, nothing bulky. My design already called for worsted/aran weight yarn, and I didn't want to make the edge of the shawl any larger than necessary. I figured a sewn steek would be the best option.
I had swatched with appropriate yarn and needles as I was ironing out the details of the design, and I actually used the crocheted steek. It was bulky then, and that was part of why I decided to change to the sewn steek for the sample itself.
However, I wanted to practice on a swatch before the actual shawl, because after all, you don't want something to go wrong with the entire project, right?!
I worked a swatch with two repeats of the chart across, and one full repeat of depth. I added extra stitches, just for the steek panel, and marked them with safety pin stitch markers so I could easily reference them for sewing. A bind-off later and a bunch of ends woven in, I was ready to start sewing.
I ran some waste yarn through the line of stitches that would be cut so I could easily tell which stitches needed to be sewn. Carefully, I put some tissue paper underneath the swatch, changed the settings on my sewing machine so that the stitches would be very short, and ran the swatch through the machine.
I put two lines of sewn stitches in each line of knit stitches that needed reinforcement. One on each side of the stitch (each 'half'), so it would be clearly caught. Technically, you only need one sewn line of stitches since you are using a sewing machine... but I'm extra cautious...
Next, came the sharp scissors (and good light). I cut the line of stitches, one stitch's 'ladder' at a time.
I spread out the swatch, and it turned out exactly like I'd hoped: the stitches stayed put, the yarn was where it should be, and it was sturdy without being too bulky at the edges.
Do you love steeks? Comment below with your favorite steek method and if you have or haven't steeked before, tell me about it!
Thanks for reading,
Next week's post: read more about how I finished up the edges so they look pretty and polished!
PS: Don't forget to sign up at Knotions for the entire issue and be sure to follow me on Instagram for pics of the completed shawl!
Fall is finally here and so is a new sweater! (Well, in Baltimore it's sorta getting colder... but I'll say it's finally fall since the leaves are changing colors...)
I'm so proud to introduce the Pinefeather Pullover. It's been a journey of brioche and shaping and I'm pleased with the results!
This sweater was a lot of fun to design and knit. My original sketches featured curving lines in brioche, and paired with increases and decreases to create the curves, the silhouette was longer at the sides than the middle portions of the front and back.
I sketched a few times for this one, but the main difficulty was getting it to match the sketch! It took a few tries, but once it finally fit the sketch... boy, was it perfect.
The knitting is pretty fast, considering it's brioche. Worked all in one color, it's great for a semisolid, tonal, or speckled yarn.
Now, about the yarn!! This beauty was a collaboration between Spirit Trail Fiberworks and myself, and how cool is that! Jen is a dream to work with and brought our collective ideas to life with more vibrancy and dimension than I ever would have dreamed. When the yarn arrived, I couldn't believe how gorgeous it was!
The color way is called Painted Hills. You can read more about the designing of the color at Jen's blog here.
And even more, the yarn is yummy. And I mean, YUMMY. Get yourself some of this stuff ASAP and knit it right on up into some brioche. You can thank me later. :)
The wool and silk content is delicious for brioche--a lofty and soft fabric that is perfectly warm and balanced. Not too heavy, not too lightweight. Just right!
Oh, and guess what! The sample? It'll be on display at the New York Sheep & Wool Festival next weekend, in Spirit Trail's booth. The yarn will be available then, too--and in this color. Stop on by to say hey and pick up some yarn while you're at it!
I am literally speechless that Jen wanted to work with me on this, and even more so that she wanted my sample to display. It's truly an honor! Thanks for such a great collaboration, Jen!
Well, that's all for now... as always, make sure you're signed up for newsletters for coupons etc (as there's one that'll be going out for this sweater if you can't make it to Rhinebeck!), and be sure to follow me on Instagram... there's a giveaway for a copy of this pattern coming!
PS: if you want to grab the pattern now, check out this link!
This weekend, my latest pattern, the Stoneleigh hat, was published in the August edition of Knotions. I'm honored to have another pattern published through Knotions! Today, I'll share a bit about the behind-the-scenes design process for this hat.
Combining two of my favorite things, short rows and sock yarn, this hat builds upon the same concept of a few of my sweater designs (Assateague, Baton Rouge, and Loch Raven). What I call short row 'wedges' alternate between your main color and contrasting color to provide an interesting knit and a unique shape. Before you know it, the body of your hat is complete and you're at the crown shaping. (Yay! I love it when hats go quickly.)
For my sample, I used two great yarns, Colinette Jitterbug and Spincycle Yarns' Dyed in the Wool. I love how the long color changes in Dyed in the Wool really highlight the construction of this hat, and paired with the rich solid color of Jitterbug, it makes a gorgeous knit.
If you follow my designs at all, you might have noticed that I don't knit hats very often--nor do I often design them (this is my first published hat design). I enjoy the challenge of sweater construction in particular and usually find hats a little less fun to design. However, this one was definitely not the norm for me! It gave me a little trouble when I got to the crown shaping (fourth time ripping is a charm, right?!), but when it was done, I was soooo pleased with how it turned out. I think I don't enjoy hats as much as other projects since I don't wear them much, but this one will be a definite staple for me this fall and winter.
Neither too slouchy nor too snug, this little hat is a quick knit for this transitional time as we move into fall. I'm ready for more sweaters, for sure, but may make another one of these before we get into chilly weather...
If you'd like to make this hat, check out the full pattern at Knotions at this link. I'd love to see your finished project--if you share on social media, feel free to tag me (@emilyconnell_designs), use #emilyconnelldesigns and #stoneleighhat, and I'll be sure to see your photos!
Thanks for reading, and happy knitting to you all!
best wishes for happy crafting,
If you're like me, there may be some stitch patterns that you avoid. This is the problem of ribbing.
I've been knitting for a good many years at this point, but for whatever reason, some of my transitions between knits and purls for ribbing just look sloppy. My gauge is even when I knit, and so why should I have sloppy stitch lines?! This problem has irked my perfectionist brain since I noticed it about four years ago, and up until now, I haven't had the interest in fixing my ribbing (or finding a solution to fix it) until recently.
Long story short, I have a project that I'm working on that requires some ribbing. I'd done some research on Ravelry and around the internet a few months back, hoping to find an answer and a solution to the question of ribbing tension issues. Sure, enough, I found a few blog posts that talked about how to fix the stitch change from a knit to a purl in ribbing to make ribbed stitches more even. Did I try the recommended fix instantly? Of course not! But, I should have, especially since it would have changed my knitting life overnight.
Now, you may be thinking that I'm going a little overboard with how ecstatic I am about my ribbed stitches-fix, but trust me, when you see the difference, you will understand why I'm so excited.
In the beginning of my yarn- and knitting-filled days, my ribbing looked something like this:
This shawl is the Shibui Mix No. 4 shawl (link) with Silk Cloud and Baby Alpaca. It's a dream to knit and it's gorgeous, but I can't bring myself to finish it, knowing that my ribbing looks a little imperfect. But to be honest, the more that I look at it, the more I think it may just be me being overly critical of my own work. We're all our own worst critics, right?
After I read this article by Ysolda Teague (link), I decided to give the technique a go. For my first purl stitch following the knit section in ribbing, I worked the purl going the opposite direction with my yarn, making the stitch tighter. I found that this was the only way that worked for me, but other articles suggest that you can simply knit/purl tighter for better tension.
Here is my resulting ribbing:
Look how much neater it is! The transitions between stitches are nearly perfect, the ribbing is nice and springy on each side, and it looks fantastic.
I'm now wishing that I'd tried this out sooner, and I'm ready to give ribbed stitches a second chance for my knitting. Ever noticed that my sleeve cuffs don't use normal ribbing, but broken rib? That would be why! Now, I can start transitioning back to normal ribbing...
Off to dream up some new patterns with ribbed stitches! And to finish up this adorable little sweater for a very lucky and stylish pup.
happiest of knitting,
2017 has arrived, and that means a new design is almost here! The Loch Raven Sweater is fresh off my needles and currently in testing. Today, I'm going to share some of the 'behind the scenes' for you on this pattern.
Why 'Loch Raven'?
I've chosen the theme of place names for this collection of sweater patterns. The Assateague, Baton Rouge, and now Loch Raven sweaters have all had large portions either worked at each location--whether that means knitted or sketched. The first of the three, the Assateague Sweater, was originally inspired by the shape that waves leave on the beach when the tide goes out. The Loch Raven Reservoir and Dam is a beautiful area near my home in Maryland, and the colors of the water and trees were coincidentally reflected in my color choice.
Why these colors? Green/blue and brown aren't always put together....
I love putting colors together that catch my eye, even if they aren't especially traditional combos! I happened upon these two by chance, and when they both arrived in my mailbox, I knew they had to be put together. The subtle hues of the brown complement the warmth of the green/blue... it's quite captivating in person, and I hope that the pictures can do it some kind of justice!
What about the design process? How did this design come about?
This wasn't my first design using the concept of short rows to shape a cirulcar yoke (see Assateague and Baton Rouge). However, after working up both of those sweaters and patterns, and a few other sweaters in between that used many different types of short rows, I decided to try a new approach to the same concept.
This pattern uses the basic idea of both the Assateague and Baton Rouge sweaters, but simplifies a few key points: the wedge shaping, yoke increases, and short row. The wedges are simplified with the numbers used for shaping, which (theoretically) makes for a nicer knitting experience. And, the first and third wedges include front/back shaping to shape the neck--so now, you can tell which side is the front and which is the back! The yoke increases are now over 4 rounds throughout the yoke instead of over 8, so you have a bit of a breather on your 'off wedges' (every other wedge has the increase round). This pattern uses German short rows, instead of wrap and turn, to eliminate any holes.
Finally, this pattern also includes some optional waist and hip shaping, unlike the other patterns. I am so pleased with the results that I may make another! I hope that you, too, are intrigued by this pattern and find colors that speak to you.
This pattern will be published in a few short weeks around mid-February--stay tuned for more info on the exact date and promotional info!
Happiest of knitting, and may we all find a cozy sweater for the cold winter months...
Introducing two freshly-published shawl patterns, ready for download!
Fruit Loops and Spiderwebs (the larger one) and Winterbird have been two designs in the works for almost two years (!!) at this point. Originally, I knew that I wanted a teardrop/buttonhole-esque shape to create the waves of the shawl, but after dozens of swatches--both knit and crochet--and dozens of different patterns, I still wasn't finding what I'd wanted.
Then, quite suddenly, it appeared out of nowhere. It was like my brain had settled on what it wanted to make and POOF! there it was!
So, Fruit Loops and Spiderwebs was born first. Before I blocked this beauty, it was actually significantly smaller. It grew a TON once I blocked it!
So much so that I decided to remake it with less mesh to get a size closer to what I'd originally wanted. And so, we had the Winterbird.
Both of these designs are currently priced at half off! If you're buying Winterbird, use code NEWPATTERNWB, and if you're buying Fruit Loops and Spiderwebs, use code NEWPATTERNFLSW. But hurry! Only valid for first 50 customers!
What colors will you use to make these lovelies? Let me know in the comments, tag me on Instagram (@emilyconnell_designs), use the hashtags #fruitloopsandspiderwebs and #winterb irdshawl.
Happy hooking, everyone!
You may think that grading is something that only teachers do for their students' assignments... but you may be surprised to know that grading is an essential term for designing garments!
In knitwear, grading refers to the calculations a designer has to make to adapt a pattern for multiple sizes. I'm given to understand that the same term applies to sewing patterns, also, though I'm no expert in sewing so don't take my word for it :)
Back to grading. Aiming for an A+, right?
Not exactly. When I write a pattern, I typically work it up so that it will fit my size, somewhere in the S-M range. Yet when I prepare my patterns for testing and publication, they include sizes ranging from XS-3XL...which is 6 more sizes than the single size I originally wrote the pattern.
Up until recently, I wrote my patterns as I knit them. The reason for doing it this way was mainly because I didn't have a fully-formed idea of what I was doing until I actually did it.
It sometimes worked.
I realized somewhere around my twelfth pattern--and somewhere around the 18th version of that pattern--that there had to be a better way to do grading. So I read up on some discussion threads about different ways different designers grade their patterns to get some ideas. It seemed that the consensus for the best method of grading was to write the whole thing out first and then to knit the garment. Duh!
I decided decided that I'd give it a try.
Sure enough, despite my eagerness to jump right in to knitting my new design, it worked. And what a difference it makes! My pattern looks much better, I'm designing and even editing with much more ease than ever before, and I'm even able to simplify as I go. It's a win-win.
Curious us to see how well it worked? I'll be posting soon about the test for the newly updated Baton Rouge sweater and also for the Westminster cardigan--both of which have followed my newly discovered method of drafting and grading :)
until next time...
It's Labor Day weekend! Time for some vacation knitting... and even better? a post about vacation knitting!
Vacation knitting can truly be one of the most inspiring and recharging ways to work on a knitting project. Some of my favorite designs were incubated, born, drafted, or even created in knit format while on vacation. Two of them have the honor of a name that is the location of where they were made: the Assateague and Baton Rouge sweaters.
What makes them special?
First off: the yoke shaping is very unique as the circular portion of the yoke is worked using short rows and strategically placed increases to reach the full bust and shoulder measurements.
Second, the colors! This pattern allows for so much flexibility with the colors that you can choose. For the Assateague sweater, I chose three colors; the Baton Rouge only has two. You can use anywhere from 2 to 10 (or however many you like) to make either of these sweater patterns.
These two sweaters have been published for a good number of months now. As I've been watching the feedback from my test knitters and the group of knitters who have begun to make these sweaters since purchasing the pattern, I have a list of things to improve, per their comments.
Back to the drawing board? Not necessarily. The general shape and idea of both will be the same, but the new versions will have:
I'm about to get started with my new sample of the Baton Rouge sweater... with some new colors that I don't use very often! Want to see what I choose? Follow me on instagram @emilyconnell_designs to find out!
If you like these sweaters, you can save $4 by purchasing them together on Ravelry! Follow the image links for either sweater for more information.
Stay tuned for more updates on the latest addition to the location-inspired sweater collection!
Until next time,
Happy belated New Year! Even 13 days into the New Year, I still find myself writing this refrain to many people. Nonetheless, here's to a good start to 2016!
I promised in 2015 to start a blog, and alas, it has only just begun today... so that makes me late, technically. Oh well! Here's to new beginnings.
So, let's recap. What happened with Emily Connell Designs: Mina Knits in 2015?
1. Publication of my first pattern!
In February 2015, I published my first pattern (first one!!) on Ravelry. If you haven't already seen it, check it out here.
2. The launch of this website! Started in September 2015, this website is still pretty new. Apologies in advance for the site under construction!
3. More patterns! I published, again on Ravelry, three more patterns from February to December in 2015. The Rainy Day Scarf, Where Earth Meets Sky, and Assateague were the three new designs to grace the pages of the interwebs. Check out the photos below! Each photo will take you to the pattern page on Ravelry, too.
4. On that note, new lessons about designing were learned! (Yes, the passive voice was intentional here, sorry grammar nerds.) With the testing and consequent publication of Assateague, I learned a great deal about how I design, how NOT to design, and pattern drafting in general. From the do's and don't's of pattern drafting (check every single calculation 18 times before your testers begin knitting is definitely at the top of the list), I was humbled by the grace of my wonderful testers and their amazing feedback. Shout out to all of you who tested for me!!
With all of that out of the way, what's in store for 2016?
1. New designs! My goal for 2016 is to have 21 patterns published by the end of the year. So far, with four already published and 7 more in the works, it seems like a doable goal... Maybe we should check on that in November.
2. The Tuesday sweater has just begun its testing on Ravelry and so far so good! I put to use all the invaluable lessons learned from Assateague's testing for this one, and I anticipate that my lovely testers will have no problems with this beauty :).
3. Semi-regular blog posts about knitting and the knitter's life! With a new planner on the way, I will be scheduling, and HOPEFULLY writing and publishing blog posts semi-regularly throughout 2016.
So many designs to finish...I should get to work!
Hi, I'm Emily, nice to meet you!