Charlotte's Web Mittens

It all started last year. My son was in first grade and a note got sent home that his class would be attending a one hour local theater production of Charlotte’s Web. A few things went through my mind… How were they going to condense this beloved book down to an hour? Were 6-year-olds equipped to understand Charlotte’s death? And finally, how quickly could I get a copy of this book so we could read it together before the play?

 
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Each night we read a chapter or two (I only had to duck out once and sob quietly in the bathroom after Charlotte died) until eventually we finished. We talked about life and death, the changes that come with time passing, unconditional love, trust, faith, new beginnings, of the importance of reading. I sent my son off to the play confident that he understood the story to the best of his ability.

 
 

This event marked a big switch for my son and I. We went from reading story and picture books off his shelf to reading chapter books for bigger kids. Those old books were moved into his little sister’s room and right now we are working our way through the Indian in the Cupboard. Thanks to one of my students who is a juvenile librarian with many excellent recommendations, we have a whole stack of books to read together and I look forward to this ritual each evening before bedtime.

When you mention Charlotte’s Web, people tend to get nostalgic. It was the first ballet I was in when I was 4 years old! I think almost everyone has read or has had this book read to them. It reminds us of childhood and is one of those books that we carry with us always, like Anne of Green Gables, The Little Princess, or my favorite, The Secret Garden. I went online to find some Charlotte’s Web mittens and was astonished not to find any. So began my quest.

 
 

Introducing the Charlotte’s Web Mittens, a true labor of love. I wouldn’t say designing is easy, because it certainly isn’t, but some designs are easier to work up than others. These mittens were not one of those easy designs. For months I tweaked this design knowing I wanted certain elements - Charlotte and Wilbur of course, her babies, the barn, Templeton the rat, fencing, and a web. I would work on it while on the phone, over lunch, here and there, constantly moving, altering, deleting, and futzing. It just wasn’t right. I wanted to do this wonderful book justice and my design simply wasn’t cutting it. I would text back and forth with my BFF asking her what she thought - something I never do in regards to designing. When a design is done I just know that it’s done. It’s a feeling. My artist mom and I talk about this often - how do you know when to step away from a finished design and leave it be? How do you reign it in so you don’t overwork it, yet get it to a finished enough state so it doesn’t look incomplete? One day I opened my office curtains to find a huge web had be spun outside my window, complete with a giant spider in the middle. I opened the file, worked on it a bit and I just knew it was done.

 
 

My knit design career started back when I was very young in the form of mittens. I’ve written here about it before - everyone under the sun got a pair of hand knit mittens from me whether they wanted them or not. I’ve found myself back on this mitten kick lately and am embracing it fully. Handknit mittens are like cradling a treasure in your hands with endless opportunity with both a front and back to design, a cuff, and a thumb. Go crazy on the inside and plain on the outside, add texture with Latvian braids or picot hems - the work surface may be small but it’s surprising how much can be packed in there.

 
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Made with 2 colors of Spirit Trail Fiberwork’s Birte (my favorite Spirit Trail yarn) in a squishy DK weight blend of superwash merino, cashmere, and silk, these beauties are knit on US 2.5 circulars. DPNs or magic loop can be substituted, but that is my preferred method of knitting in the round in a small circumference. Worked in the round from the bottom up, the thumbs are made in a gusset style with the remaining stitches kitchenered together at the top. DK weight is a great weight for mittens and the luxury blend feels like butter.

 
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This past summer during our annual trek to New Hampshire on my favorite hike, we walked through the woods just past dawn. We do this particular hike every single year and I’ve been walking that path since I was a child. We walked quietly through, watching the world wake up. There were dozens and dozens of spider webs and the light hit them just right. What is it about spider webs? Maybe spiders are the closest thing nature has to a knitter. I hope you enjoy this design and hold this incredible book close to your heart and on your hands.

Download the Charlotte’s Web Mittens here.

100 Knits Giveaway

I’m a sucker for a hefty knitting book. When I wrap my hands around it and feel the weight of it in my lap, I know if it’s heavy that it’s going to be full of information, patterns, tip, and hopefully lots of things I want to cast on for.

Over the years I’ve done quite a bit of work for Interweave - patterns, online classes, Knitting Daily TV, and a live lecture on fibers. I was delighted when they announced their new 100 Knits (Interweave, 2018, $45.00) book coming out today, October 2nd. I’ve been waiting to do a giveaway and I’m thrilled to be part of this eclectic collection. My Badge Cowl is featured on page 92 and it’s always been one of my favorites for its simplicity and wearability.

 
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100 Knits is a massive book comprised of Interweave’s most popular patterns. It’s chock full of sweaters, shawls, accessories, you name it. Nestled into this all-star collection of knits is their 5 most popular patterns of all time. With over 500 pages of knitting instruction, this is a book that is ideal for when you’re in a “what should I knit?” funk. I really enjoyed paging through it and recognized things in my queue that I want to cast on for, as well as a few I hadn’t seen before. There are so many sweaters in this book that I need to make for myself!

The book is organized in chapters like “hats & socks,” or “pullovers.” It makes it easy to find what you’re in the mood for, rather than just going by the pattern names (I don’t know about you, but I don’t always remember the names of the things I want to knit, there’s too many). Lots of compilation books have only a handful of sweater designs, but this book is generous in its sweater patterns and doesn’t overly rely on smaller knits as filler. It’s a well-rounded collection.

 
 Badge Cowl by Tanis Gray

Badge Cowl by Tanis Gray

 

Let’s give away a copy, shall we? Correctly answer the below trivia question in the comments on this post for a chance to win a copy of this book directly from Interweave. Contest open to USA residents only.

Ever the eccentric, Dumbledore has a scar above his left knee that is a perfect map of what?

A winner will be chosen at random on Friday, October 5th, and I will contact you for your mailing info. Happy contesting!

Outpost Mitts

I listen to a lot of podcasts. When we’re out for a walk and my daughter is passed out in her stroller, I’m alone in the car driving to teach a knitting class, cooking, or when I’m knitting, chances are I have a podcast playing. I even have a few that I listen to with my son and it’s a fun way to get lost in a story together if we’re on the road. There are many I enjoy listening to, but one of my favorites is called The White Vault.

 
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The White Vault takes place in Outpost Fristed, a place that exists in real life in Svalbard. While it brands itself as a horror podcast, it’s of a psychological nature rather than gore and blood. I don’t do gore or blood, but I do enjoy an addictive story that comes together like a puzzle and makes you nervous by using your own mind against you. I got my neighbor and a few of my friends hooked and the second season begins in a couple of weeks. I can’t wait to start listening!

 
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Svalbard is a Norwegian archipelago north of Europe halfway between Norway and the North Pole in the Arctic Ocean. Remote and dangerously cold, I’d imagine there’d be a lot of knitting going on while this fictional exploration took place if I was part of the team. That got me thinking - if I was traveling to a remote corner of the Earth and could bring very little yarn with me, what would I pack and what would I knit? Sock yarn is the perfect answer with it’s generous yardage in each skein. It’d be easy to get a few projects out of a couple balls of yarn and the needles would be small. If I was stuck indoors in an icy wonderland, I’d be knitting fingerless mitts for everyone while figuring out how to get home in one piece.

 
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I’m thrilled to introduce my new pattern, the Outpost Mitts. This color combination is one of my favorites, and it’d be easy to get multiple pairs of mitts out of 2 hanks. Combining The Lemonade Shop Simple Sock yarn with Hedgehog Fibers Sock (both merino/nylon blends) and knitting up on US 1.5 needles, this was a highly addictive knit.

 
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Knit in the round from the bottom up (the pattern is designed to be knit on 2 circular needles, but magic loop or DPNs can absolutely be substituted), the easy Fair Isle patterns show off the speckled yarn. Dimension and texture is added with Latvian Braid and garter stripe detailing on each mitt, and the afterthought thumbs make it easy to adjust the length if you have longer fingers.

 
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These mitts are so cheery and bright! With the first few official days of fall under our belts, I am excited to get to wear these soon once the temperature drops. Fingerless mitts are perfect for fall and winter, especially when driving or walking up to school. No matter how many pairs I have, it’s never enough!

Download the Outpost Mitts here.

Talas Cowl

The Shenandoah Fiber Festival is coming up soon here in northern Virginia from September 28th-30th. I look forward to this wonderful festival every year both from a professional point of view and a personal one. The business side of me enjoys finding new yarns and companies to work with that are local, scoping out the latest yarn I’ve been stalking on instagram, talking shop with companies and other designers, and being there as a professional knitwear designer, seeing many of my designs borrowed by companies and hanging up in booths. The other part of me looks forward to angora bunnies that I need to pet, apple cobbler to wolf down (seriously, what is in it that makes it so GOOD?!), seeing old friends, taking my kids and husband to roam around looking at yarn and animals as an anonymous fiber fan, looking for gifts, and enjoying the festive atmosphere. The festival gets bigger and better each year and it’s worth the trip.

 
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At this very festival last year, I finally got to meet Aimee from Little Fox. I had been an admirer of her yarn - particularly her color palette - and was delighted to pick up some of her fibers to play with. Aimee is a local dyer and interior designer with a talent to make all her colors magically go well together. I am delighted to introduce one of two new patterns I’ll be releasing this season in her yarn.

Meet the Talas Cowl, a cabled, lacy, feather and fan delight. “Talas” means “wave” in Bosnian (we have a family friend who is Bosnian), a motif evident in the feather and fan portions of this generous cowl. Using tonal pinks in petal and pixie dust (how great are those color names?) on US 5 and 7 circular needles, this cowl combines two techniques I love to see together - lace and cables. The juxtaposition of cables - a clumping of stitches building a section up - with lace - a pulling apart of stitches leaving negative space - is something I don’t see often but is quite lovely.

 
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I like my lacy cowls to have heft to them and this cowl is nice and tall at 25” high x 34” circumference when blocked. Add another rep in a third color, or just do one if you prefer something shorter. Little Fox’s Mere, a 100% superwash fiber, creates excellent stitch definition with perfect bounce. I will definitely use this yarn again! Lacy cowls are good for year-round wear, whether you’re combating an over-zealous air conditioner, or the winter chill. Cowls are harder to lose than shawls, and as I mentioned in my last post, excellent gifts.

 
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Download the Talas Cowl here and be sure to check out the Shanendoah Fiber Festival! If you see me there, please say hello!