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Stripes for Fall

October 20

 

I had a blast playing with color combinations to come up with a Fall variation for the “Bold Stripes” scarf from my Reversible Scarves book.

reversible scarf, Rowan Felted Tweed DK

 

As you can see, I had a Spring color palette in mind when I designed the original “Bold Stripes” scarf for the book. Quite the transformation, isn’t it!

Bold Stipes, reversible scarf, knitting pattern

 

 

I love Rowan Felted Tweed DK. In case you’d like to make one of your own, here are the colors I used to replace the ones called for in the pattern:

A: 154 Ginger
B: 150 Rage
C: 151 Bilberry
D: 161 Avocado
E: 145 Treacle
F: 160 Gilt

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Spring palette photo from book by Caro Sheridan

 

 

Stabilizing Tea Leaves

July 7

If you follow my blog, you’ve read about my experiment to add stability to top-down seamless sweaters (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3). Here’s how I’m applying my experiment to the Tea Leaves Cardigan, shown here in a photo from the pattern; note the gathered yoke pattern, which is where I’ll hide the shoulder seams:

tea_leaves_macro_low_res_medium

The first step was to cast on partway down into the neck edging pattern, so future picked-up stitches would reinforce the neckline. Then I identified where the fake shoulder seams would go, increased one stitch before and one stitch after each seam, and marked the seam with markers.:

MarkSeams_Sml

I worked the pattern as written, except that I knit between the seam markers on the RS and purled them on the WS.

Here’s the seam in progress:

WS_Seam_Beg_sml

When the seam got to be about 2-1/2″ long I ended it. If you look closely at the top of the seam you can see that I used a ssk and k2tog to decrease away the seam stitches so may stitch count once again matched the pattern:

RS_Seam4_sml

The next step was to use the mattress stitch to sew up the seam. On the WS it looks like this; you can see how it will prevent the shoulders from stretching out:

WS_SeamSewn_sml

I was happy to see that from the RS, the seam is undetectable:

RS_SeamSewn_sml

 

Here’s what the piece looks like now that I’ve worked the yoke and some of the body. There’s no seam in sight, and you’d never know the stitches around the neck had been picked up and worked upward. The neck and shoulder treatments should give me a nice stable sweater that won’t stretch out:

TeaLeavesNeck_First2_sml

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Resources:

Super-pretty stitch markers are made by my friend Laurie. They are great because the don’t catch on the yarn, like some stitch markers do. Plus they are fun and sparkly. She sells them through her Lima Pop Shoppe.

Tea Leaves Cardigan by Melissa LaBarre.

Stabilizing Seamless Sweaters, Part 3: Neck Edging

June 17

If you follow my blog, you’ll remember that I’m on a quest to put stability into the top-down seamless sweaters that I make. Too often, I’ve watched my beautiful sweaters grow droopy around the shoulders and ever-larger in the neck as time goes by.

As you may remember, I’ve been wanting to make the Tea Leaves Cardigan for forever. I’ve been working on a swatch to develop techniques I hope to carry forward into other top-down patterns as well.

In Part 1 of this series, I explained how I placed the cast-on edge a few rows down into the rows of garter in the beginning of the pattern. In Part 2 I showed how I added seams to the shoulders. Now in Part 3, I’ll explain how I finished the neck. (I’m using a contrasting color just to show you how I put this together – it’ll all be one color when I make the sweater.)

Fortunately, the beautiful Tea Leaves Cardigan pattern starts with several rows of garter stitch at the top, making it easy to hide a cast-on edge and subsequent picked up stitches into a knit row between two purl rows.

tea_leaves_macro_low_res_medium

 

In 5 rows of garter, I used what would have been a right-side knit row (row 4) for my cast on edge (see the Part 1 post for details). Here you can see that I picked up stitches just above the garter row of purls (which is the last row – row 5 – of garter called for in the pattern). I learned (the hard way, of course) to be careful where I pick up the stitches. Because I’m adding rows from the bottom up, I need to pick up stitches into the right-side-up “V”s in the row below the cast on. Otherwise, the orientation of the added garter rows is wrong.

PickUp_Sts21

 

 

Picked_Up_Sts1

 

This means I can pick up stitches and then add the garter rows 1-3 back in, working it as I would a bottom-up sweater. By doing this, I have a super-stable neck that will not stretch out and that will support the weight of the sweater’s back. The result is nearly identical to what the sweater would look like if knitted from the top down as written, starting with 5 rows of garter:

 

 NeckEdging3

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Putting it all together

Here’s the game plan for my Tea Leaves Cardigan, then. The back of my swatch shows the modifications I’ll make to add stability to this top-down seamless sweater. First, I’ll work my cast on several rows lower than what the pattern calls for. Then to prevent the shoulders from stretching, I’ll insert seams along the shoulders. And finally, after the seams are done, I’ll add picked-up stitches to lend stability to the neck. Perhaps you’ll be inspired to try this on your next top-down seamless project yourself!

Back31

Ok…I’m off to start my Tea Leaves Cardigan now. I’ve been gazing longingly at my beautiful Tosh Vintage yarn, and can hardly wait to cast on!

Stabilizing Seamless Top-Down Sweaters, Part 2: Adding Shoulder Seams

June 11

In my first post about adding stability to a seamless top-down sweater, I described how I strengthened the neckline by casting on a couple of rows into the pattern, then picking up stitches and finishing the neckline as you would a typical seamed sweater. The picked up stitches prevent the neckline from stretching out.

Now that the neckline piece of the stability puzzle is solved, what about the shoulders? Without a seam to hold them in place, they tend to stretch out, making them look droopier the more times they’re worn. The challenge was to figure out how to incorporate a seam into a top-down seamless construction. I experimented with a swatch and came up with a technique that I think will work for the next sweater I’m going to make, the Tea Leaves Cardigan. I’ll add “seam” stitches right into the work, then seam them up using the mattress stitch.

The most difficult part of the whole experiment was figuring out where the seam should go. On the typical seamed sweater, half the stitches are allocated for the sweater’s front and half for the back. I couldn’t just divide the cast on stitches by two, since the Tea Leaves sweater has a button band which had to be taken into consideration. From the swatch I made on the smaller needles used for the button band, I know that the button band will be about 1″ wide. That translates to about 5 stitches. The size I’m going to make calls for casting on 96 stitches. Adding the 1″ (5 stitch equivalent) to the cast on, I get a 101 stitch equivalent, which I’ll round to 100 so it’s divisible by two. If this were a pieced pullover sweater, there would be 50 stitches in the back piece and 50 stitches in the front piece. But this being a cardi, I’ll leave out the button band stitch equivalent.  Going back to the cast on instructions, I’ll take the 96 cast on stitches and subtract the 50 stitches which will be allocated for the sweater’s back. This leaves 96-50 = 46 stitches for the front. Since this is a cardigan I’ll need to divide that 46 stitches by 2, leaving 23 stitches for each front.

Now I can figure out where to place the shoulder seams. I’ll work 23 front stitches, insert two stitches that will act as a seam, work 50 back stitches, insert 2 more stitches for the other shoulder seam, then finish with 23 stitches for the other side of the front. As for the length of my seam, I know that from my own neck to the point of my shoulder is about 4.5″. I see from the pattern’s photo that the neck is rather wide. So I’m going to estimate that seam should be about 2.5″-3″ in length. I can also look at the photo and see that there’s a garter area between the pattern’s stitch motif, so it might be good to end the seam just before the final stitch motif (in this case, some ruching).

tea_leaves_macro_low_res_medium

Whew – with the math part out of the way, I can start the knitting. At this point, I only  have the cast on stitches on my needle (and in my first post I describe that the cast on is a few rows into the garter neck trim, so I can go back and pick up stitches later for added neck stability). I know I want to increase stitches by 2 for each seam, but I do not want to put the increases adjacent to each other or they’ll distort the fabric. I knit 22 stitches of the first front side, then increase 1 stitch using a M1. I place a marker for the seam. I knit 2 seam stitches and place a second seam marker. I increase again, then knit 48 of the back stitches. I work another increase (which brings the back stitch count back up to 50), then place a seam marker. I knit two seam stitches, then place another marker. I work another M1, and finish with the last 22 stitches of the second front. From here out, I’ll knit the seam stitches (between the markers) on the RS and purl them on the WS. When the seam is long enough, I use decreases to end the seam and get the stitch count back to normal.

Here’s how my swatch looks, with Step 1) add sts, Step 2) maintain seam sts for length of seam, Step 3) use decreases to get rid of seam sts prior to using mattress stitch to seam the seam sts:Seaming

 

 

Once the seam is long enough, I use the mattress stitch from the front of the work to seam the two seam stitches together. I weave under the bars between the seam stitches and the pattern’s regular knitting. (If I were seaming pieces instead, this would be the equivalent of weaving under the bars between the selvedge and the next stitch in.) Here’s what the seam looks like from the back when I’m done:

seam back

I used a different color yarn to illustrate the seaming on this swatch – for the sweater of course I’ll use the same color yarn as the rest of the sweater. Another detail is that I did not use the usual figure 8 at the bottom of the seam since I will be picking up neck stitches along that edge.  I’m pleased with this seam, since I can’t see it from the front side at all, yet it will add all the stability I want to the shoulder.

In Part 3 of this series, I’ll show you the last step for adding stability to the seamless top-down sweater: finishing the neck edge.

 

 

Stabilizing Seamless Top-Down Sweaters, Part 1: Casting On

June 3

I love knitting seamless top-down sweaters. But I don’t always love the way they wear over time. With no seams to support the neck and shoulders, they have a tendency to stretch and look droopy. Some people crochet an edging around the neck to add stability. There is also a way to crochet a chain along the inside of the shoulder, which can help.

I’ve had a different sort of experiment rattling around in my brain for a while now, and am finally getting the chance to put it into practice. I want to add a firm neckline and shoulder seams to my next top-down seamless sweater. The little bit of fiddling I’ll need to do will be worth it in the end, when the neck and shoulders of my sweater look good, wear after wear. No more sagging, I hope!

I hope that by following my blog posts about the process, you’ll get an idea of how to customize your favorite top-down seamless sweaters too. You’ll just need to adapt my technique for your particular pattern. So, let’s get started…

I’ve wanted to knit the beautiful Tea Leaves Cardigan for the longest time. This is not to imply that this particular pattern would sag or stretch – it’s just the right one for me to try my stability experiment on. The ruched stitch pattern on the yoke is fairly straight-forward, with no interruptions (like horizontal cables) to worry about, so adding shoulder seams should be no problem. Here’s a photo from the pattern:

tea_leaves_portrait_low_res_medium

 

Based on the pattern, I originally tried a swatch where I made little versions of a back and two fronts, then seamed them together. It dawned on me that while this worked great in a solid color, it would be a mess in the hand-dyed Madelinetosh I’ll be using; the colors would work up differently in each section.  That means I had to figure out how to build in shoulder seams that allow the yarn’s colors to flow along with as little interruption as possible.

Ultimately, I settled on a three-step process to add the stability I want. First, I cast on the neck several rows down in the pattern’s neck edging; second, I added two stitches at each shoulder which allowed me to create seams; third, I picked up stitches along my cast on and added the pattern’s neck edging back in. I’ll address each of these steps in separate blog posts, since the instructions are detailed.

The first quandary – Step One – is how to add stability to the neckline. Even though it isn’t a very firm cast-on, I’ll use the long tail method in anticipation of picking up stitches later. (Later in Step 3, I’ll be using picked-up stitches around the neck to add firmness to the neckline.) I need to work the cast-on into the neck edging in a way that stays true to the pattern, so it needs to start several rows down, then be finished as if it were a bottom-up sweater. Another way to look at it is this: Imagine a bottom-up construction; the neck is bound off and then the neck edging is added. In place of the bound off row is my cast on. It starts within the neck edging, like a bind-off would, and is then worked upward to finish the neck edging. I whipped up a little swatch that I hope will give an idea of how I planned the neck:

GarterSwatch3

Fortunately the Tea Leaves Cardigan starts with several rows of garter stitch, so it’s easy to figure out where to place the cast-on. By placing the cast-on a few rows down into the garter edging on a knit row, it blends in beautifully. I can later come back and add the rest of the garter, just as I would on a bottom-up cardigan where the edging is added after the bind off. In this case, rows 1-5 are garter in the pattern, so I’m counting the cast on as row 4 (a right-side knit row). I’ll be able to add the three missing rows of garter back in later, by picking up neck edge stitches, so it will look exactly the same as the pattern.

The garter neck edging is an easy one to work the cast-on into. I’m sure I’ll have to work new swatches for other stitch patterns in order to work out the best placement for the cast-on/picked up stitches/neck edging.

Resources:

For an excellent discussion on the value of seams, check out Sandi Rosner’s article in Twist Collective: “In Praise of Seams

Tea Leaves Cardigan pattern by Melissa LaBarre

Madelinetosh Tosh Vintage yarn

 

 

Spring Scarf

March 28

Here’s the just-right-for-Spring version of the Mistake Stitch Rib scarf from my book Reversible Scarves: Curing the Wrong Side Blues. What I love about this simple stitch pattern is how well it lends itself to variation. The book covers everything from sport weight to mohair to bulky versions, with this one being my favorite for this time of year.

 reversible scarf, mistake stitch rib, sport weight

Gaugefy App

February 27

You may remember I’ve been working on the second level of the TKGA Master Hand Knitting Program. I’m learning to be a stickler for gauge (oh dear, I’ve become one of those people). In Level 2, we have to write instructions for our swatches, including gauge.

A tool that I’m finding to be helpful is the Gaugefy app for Apple devices. It’s very easy to calculate gauge, since it lets you enter any measurement for your swatch – you’re not stuck with 4″ x 4″ for example. It then takes the stitches and rows in your swatch and calculates stitches per inch.

app, Gaugefy, gauge

You can then hit the “Create” button to go to a page that allows you to to use your stitches-per-inch calculation in a number of ways. I like using it to get the 4″ gauge to put into the gauge section of my patterns. Or you can you can estimate the measurements that you’ll get using a certain number of repeats. Or go the other way and figure out how many repeats you’ll get in a given measurement.

app, Gaugefy, gauge

This handy app has a free version which I use all the time. For $1.99 you can get a version with even more features. It will store your gauges for you for future reference.  As a designer, this is really handy. I can have at my fingertips the gauges for yarns I use in design work, or gauges for specific stitch patterns.

app, Gaugefy, gauge

Gaugefy seems like such a simple little app, yet is very handy!  You can check it out for free in iTunes and upgrade to the paid (but still really inexpensive) version if you’d like to be able to save the results of your swatches, including yarn and needle size.

Kellie Fingerless Mitts

March 18

My nephew and niece-in-law (I call her our “nice-in-law) are avid photographers. They love catching early morning light, but it can be mighty chilly! Fingerless mitts are just what they need to keep their hands warm, while their fingers are free to move the controls on their cameras.

I adapted my Kellie Fingerless Gloves pattern, replacing the fingers with ribbing at the tops.

Kellie Two

The good thing about having a big stash of sock yarn (well, my husband might call it “justification”) is that I had some great jacquard patterned yarn on hand. My nephew and his wife each picked the color that appealed to them for the hand section, and I chose some solids to match for the ribbing.

Kellie fingerless mitts, free pattern

Kellie fingerless mitts, free pattern

Resources

Kellie Fingerless Gloves patttern

Lang Yarn Jawool Aktion Color

Regia 4-Ply solids

 

Knit Picks IDP: Page Turner Throw

October 25

I’ve been snuggling up under my Page Turner Throw as the evenings turn cool. I think (and I admit I’m totally biased, here) it has the perfect combination of qualities – the worsted wool gives it warmth and a bit of heft, while the pattern lends a soft appearance.

This version of the pattern can be found in the Knit Picks Independent Designer Patterns.  It’s made of Wool of the Andes Worsted, which comes in 100 colors!

Knit Picks, IDP, Wool of the Andes, throw pattern

The throw is framed by icord, which reflects the cabling between the Calla lily motif.

I want to thank Knit Picks for including another of my patterns as part of their Independent Designer Partnership program!

Resources:

Knit Picks IDP Page Turner Throw

Wool of the Andes Worsted

Fall Colors

October 17

I love being in Ohio for the fall colors.

fall colors, treesGates Mills Bridge

 

 St Christopher’s church

 

deer, fall

 “Hey, what’s this human doing in my woods?”

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To celebrate fall, I’m using Rowan Felted Tweed to make the Bold Stripes pattern from my book, swapping the book’s bright spring palette for muted fall colors

 

 

 

 

 

Two New Patterns for Fall

September 24

My newest patterns explore texture.

hat, calbles, knitting, hat pattern, knitting pattern, twisted stitches, Debbie Bliss

knitting pattern, Quince & Co, Lark, throw pattern

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Featuring twisted stitches and winding cables, Emmalina provides plenty of variety to keep the knitting interesting. The pattern uses sport weight yarn, shown here in Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Baby.

 hat, knitting pattern, twisted stitches, cables, Debbie Bliss

Knitters will appreciate little details like cables that grow out of the ribbing, and the flower design formed by the crown’s clever decreases.

hat, knitting pattern, twisted stitches, cables, Debbie Bliss

 

hat, knitting pattern, twisted stitches, cables, Debbie Bliss

 

Emmalina Hat – $3.99

 

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Snuggling up in a hand-knit throw is one of the best things about winter. How do you like to use a throw? Maybe to wrap around your shoulders as you fumble for that first cup of coffee in the morning? Maybe as a lap robe while watching TV or posting something funny online? Me, I love books and use my Page Turner Throw to complete my favorite nesting spot where I cozy up to read. When winter wears out its welcome, the pretty calla lily motif is there to remind me that spring is not so far off.

 knitting pattern, throw, Quince & Co, Lark

The finished piece measures approximately 44″ x 54″, just right for warming a lap or pulling around the shoulders. The throw is worked across the width and finished with an attached I-cord border. The pattern calls for worsted weight, shown here in Quince & Co.‘s gorgeous Lark.

knitting pattern, throw, Quince & Co, Lark

Page Turner Throw – $4.99

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Do you love Knit Picks? Both Emmalina and Page Turner Throw are availble throught the Knit Picks Independent Designers Program, using Knit Picks yarns, of course! I’ll be blogging about these versions of the patterns in a future post, but in the meantime you can find them here

 Knit Picks, hat pattern, Independent Designers Program, Wool of the Andes

and here

Knit Picks, hat pattern, Independent Designers Program, Wool of the Andes

 

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Photos by Colleen Rosenthal and John Kieger

 

 

 

Book Sneak Peek – Sprouts

June 11

You may remember my post showing a bit of the design process for a pattern in my upcoming book, Reversible Scarves: Curing the Wrong Side Blues. When you get my book, you’ll see that one of the chapters offers designs using double-knitting. Each pattern uses the slip-stitch technique, so knitters don’t have to learn any new skills – they can just jump right in and start knitting. My friends of course saw the bits of test knitting I worked on as I developed the patterns. They were always amazed at how simple the slip-stitch method is.

Here is one of my favorites from the book. May I present “Sprouts” in it’s final form, made pretty by the fantastic photographer, Caro Sheridan!

 reversible scarves, Reversible Scarves:Curing the Wrong Side Blues, double knitting

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