Merida Mittens

I’ve been talking a lot here about how much I love teaching at the Magical Fiber Fantasy Retreat in November in Disney World with The Ross Farm and Four Purls! One of the things I do for the students is to introduce new Disney-themed designs and build my classes around them using all sorts of exciting techniques. Nothing gets you in the mood for a magical retreat than new magical designs to knit!


Over the past couple of weeks I’ve shared the Elsa Cuffs, the Heirloom Braid Cowl, and the Briar Rose Cowl. Today I’m happy to finally get my favorite from this retreat out there and available to all - the Merida Mittens.


Merida is my one of my favorite Disney princesses from the movie Brave. She’s a bit rough around the edges, a tomboy, shuns her princess status and balks at the thought of marrying. She rides horses, shoots arrows, climbs mountains, chases will-o-the-wisps through the Scottish forest, attempts to wrangle her little brothers, and is struggling with leaving her childhood behind and growing up. She has fiery orange hair and wears a deep teal dress. This isn’t my first Brave-inspired design. Back in 2015 I introduced the Chase the Wind & Touch the Sky beaded lace shawl, inspired by my favorite song from the movie. This is one of the Disney films that didn’t get the attention it deserved and has a strong and willful female lead. If you haven’t seen it, get your hands on the DVD!


With Merida and her firecracker personality in mind, I set about designing these mitts, working closely with Queen City Yarn to have the perfect orange and teal yarn to work with in their Biddleville DK. I knew I wanted a picot edging as a nod to her struggles with femininity, Scottish thistles in the cuffs, Celtic cables twisting their way up the front, and Scottish tartan on the palm side. That may be my favorite element - a tartan surprise in the palm of your hand! This design was tricky with so many elements and I worked and reworked the charts dozens of times until it clicked. It also gave me an excuse to watch the film again with my son and get one of my models with gorgeous natural red hair on standby.


Knit from the bottom up in the round on 2 circular needles (DPNs or magic loop can be substituted if preferred) using stranded color work on DK weight, these mittens have traditional Nordic shaping and a thumb gusset. It was fun trying them on as I was knitting them and watching them come to life on my hands. I LOVE THESE MITTENS. I love everything about them and am delighted at how they turned out. It was wonderful to see the sold out class packed with Fair Isle knitters, all working in different color combinations and talking about the film!


Let’s give away a copy of the pattern! Answer the below Brave trivia question correctly and you’ll automatically be entered to win. Be sure to leave your Ravelry name in the comments and I’ll gift the pattern to you directly. A winner will be chosen at random on Friday, November 30th.

What are the names of Merida’s mischievous triplet brothers?

Download the Merida Mittens pattern here, purchase a kit from Queen City here, and enjoy the picture below of my kids meeting Merida in Disney World!


Elsa Cuffs & Heirloom Braid Cowl

The holidays have a way of sneaking up behind you, catching you totally unaware like a little kid who jumps out of a doorway to scare the heck out of you. The transition between Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanuakah, Christmas, Kwanza, and New Years gets shorter each year. I know it’s coming, but that doesn’t seem to matter.


I was teaching at the Magical Fiber Fantasy Retreat last week in Disney World. We surprised our kids and brought them along for a family trip before I taught and kept it a secret until we were about to board the plane! Seeing the magic of the parks, the rides, and the characters through the eyes of a child was better than any ride I’ve ever been on! While our daughter won’t remember the trip, our son had a wonderful time and I was sad to see them go. The parks were in complete holiday mode with Christmas music in the air, wreaths and trees everywhere, and while it caught me off guard for a minute, I found myself humming along in no time.


This is the second year in a row I’ve taught at this wonderful retreat. Whether you’re a Disney fan or not, there’s something magic in the air (pixie dust, perhaps?), you feel a spring in your step, and you can’t help but embrace the whimsy. The retreat is on Disney property and I enjoyed seeing familiar faces and many new ones. There’s a well-curated marketplace with excellent yarn, notions, and other knitting treats, a banquet, excellent class options, impromptu knitting groups popping up, and it’s great to be with “my people.”

I designed 4 new projects for this retreat, one of which I released before we left for Orlando, the Briar Rose Cowl. Today I’d like to share the Elsa Cuffs and the Heirloom Braid Cowl!


Using Elsa’s door in Frozen for inspiration (if you haven't seen Frozen, Anna spends a lot of time outside her sister Elsa’s door, begging her to come and play), the traditional Norwegian star motif appears in beaded form. I love beaded cuffs for many reasons, but I find them particularly useful for keeping that bit of skin warm between where your mittens begin and where your coat cuff ends that always gets hit with an icy blast. The beads are prestrung (I’m a big advocate for beading as you go with a crochet hook, but prestringing is unavoidable when working garter otherwise the beads get hidden in the ridges) in a fingering weight colorway designed exclusively from Emma’s Yarn called “Elsa’s Door.” The garter allows these to be one size fits all and they work up swiftly and would make a great gift for the holidays. The pattern is written with 2 options - start with a provisional cast on and kitchener together at the end, or long tail cast on and whip stitch the ends together. Either will work and kits are available here.


For my braids class, I wanted to design a project that had both Latvian and Estonian braids sharing the spotlight. The Heirloom Braid Cowl features Latvian braids going in both directions nestled right up to Estonian braids. The solid bands between the braided sections are simple knit and purl patterns to add texture and interest. The pattern is written for a shorter, squishier aran weight version in The Ross Farm Aran and a longer, slightly narrower worsted version in Neighborhood Fiber Co Studio Worsted. The Ross Farm puts on the Magical Fiber Fantasy Retreat and it was an honor to use their yarn for this cowl. They specialize in rare breeds and both Amy and Scott are good people. I also like to idea of a superwash, brightly colored version in the Studio Worsted. They look completely different and it’s nice to have both a neutral and a technicolor version!


There’s still one more pattern from the retreat that I’ll be introducing soon!

Download the Elsa Cuffs here and the Heirloom Braid cowl here. Use the code DISNEY for 25% off each pattern now through November 20. Magical!

Briar Rose Cowl

I loved watching the Disney version of Sleeping Beauty when I was a kid. The classic Disney films would start with an ornate storybook opening and you’d dive right into the story, watching it unfold with the magic of animation. This film in particular was visually stunning and a true masterpiece. The forest backgrounds reminded me of ancient tapestries, and who could forget Aurora’s gorgeous dress that changed from pink to blue, or the toxic spinning wheel that put her into a deep sleep? I was never a huge fan of her being a damsel in distress that needed a kiss to wake up, but the aesthetics of this film was one of the reasons I studied animation at RISD.


I’m packing up this week and getting ready to head off to Disney World to teach for my second year in a row at the Magical Fiber Fantasy Retreat. Knitting and Disney World? Sign. Me. Up. I’ll be teaching Fair Isle 101, Fair Isle 2.0, Beaded Cuffs, and Latvian & Estonian Braids. This retreat truly is magical being on Disney property, enthusiastic students, a great knitting marketplace, and excellent fellow teachers. This year I’ll be teaching alongside Kirsten Kapur, Alana Dakos, and Jillian Moreno. It was such a blast last year and I’m thrilled to be going back!


While I’ll be releasing my retreat-debuting patterns after the retreat has wrapped up, I wanted to introduce a new Sleeping Beauty-inspired Fair Isle design, the Briar Rose Cowl, to get into the spirit. I worked closely with Queen City Yarn to develop a brand new worsted colorway called Briar Rose, a mix of pink and blue with white, just like Aurora’s dress! The cowl features rose, spinning wheel, dragon, and crown motifs, all nods to this classic fairy tale and favorite parts of Briar Rose/Princess Aurora’s story.


Knitting up on US 7 (4.5mm) circs with Queen City’s superwash Wesley Heights Worsted, this addictive cowl is a must for all Disney fans! A companion to my A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes Cowl, which was a project that debuted at last year’s retreat, this corrugated rib and stranded color work combo is the perfect travel knit (especially if you’re on your way to Disney World!). If you’re at the retreat, there will be kits available for the cowl there!


Hope to see some of you at the retreat, and stay tuned for a couple more Disney-inspired patterns coming your way soon! Oh, boy!

Download the Briar Rose Cowl here and use code DISNEY for 25% off until November 5. There are also yarn kits available from Queen City here.

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?


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.


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.


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.