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January 6

Do you have my Reversible Scarves book, and wish that you had accessories to match the scarves?

The new year will bring new designs that will do just that. I will be releasing mitten, hat and/or sock designs that will go with the lovely scarves you’re making. The accessories will not be reversible (after all, who needs reversible socks, right?) but will complement the reversible scarves.  Here’s a sneak peek:

Anybody want to guess which scarf pattern these mittens and hat go with?

Photography by Gale Zucker

How Buttons Become Vests

December 22

It all started with buttons. My friend Katy and I were playing in the button section of our local yarn shop in Cambria, the Ball & Skein & More, when we fell in love with the same buttons. She had a penchant for the green and gold version, while I liked the red. Katy, being brilliant and creative, immediately latched onto the Heliopath Vest as the perfect pattern to show off our buttons.

knitting, vest, Harry Potter knitting, Heliopath Vest

I thoroughly enjoyed making the Heliopath Vest. I wanted the vest to look holiday-ish, so picked a white Cascade 220 yarn. It gives wonderful stitch definition.

 Heliopath Vest, Harry Potter Knits

Heliopath Vest, Harry Potter Knits

I did make a modification to the pattern. Where it calls for dropped stitches in the purled sections between sets of cables, I used all purl stitches (5 to get the same gauge):



The Unofficial Harry Potter Knits 

Heliopath Vest on Ravelry

Cascade 220 Yarn

Holiday “Aran” Scarf

December 9

I’ve been saving this one for the holidays – the deep red color is perfectly festive! I used Swans Island Natural Colors in the fingering weight to make the “Aran” pattern from my Reversible Scarves book. This is one of my favorite patterns, as the cables are truly reversible. The scarf took me less time to make than I would have thought. The pattern looks complicated, but is actually very easy to memorize.

knitting pattern, reversible, reversible scarf, cables, reversible cables

I’m not usually a fan of using tone-on-tone yarn in a cable pattern. The Swans Island color variations were so subtle, though, I love the end result.

Another Pair of Lockhart

November 4

I wish I were better at photographing red. If I was, you’d be seeing the true gorgeous ruby color of my latest pair of Lockhart fingerless mitts. The design is by the talented Leila Raabe.

This was my first time using Baah Sonoma yarn, and I am smitten. It is soft as can be, but doesn’t lose its oomph during blocking. The lovely ply makes for great stitch definition in the twisted stitches.

fingerless mitts, Baah yarn

I made a few little modifications. I made the short version of the pattern, but wanted a bit more wrist coverage. I added two rows to the beginning and two rows to the end of the cuff chart. I bound of all stitches purlwise, since I like the way it blends into the rows of garter.

I love this pattern. It is well written, and fun to make!


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

Spring palette photo from book by Caro Sheridan



Surprise Stripes Scarf

October 8

As the October air takes on a chill, I’m reminded to start knitting scarves for the upcoming winter.

One of the patterns I have the most fun knitting from my book Reversible Scarves: Curing the Wrong Side Blues is the double-knit “Surprise Stripes”. Here, I chose Universal Yarn’s Classic Shades in the Grapevine colorway. I love how the colors blend from one to the next. For the solid, I grabbed some white Rowan RYC Cashsoft DK from my stash.

knitting scarf reversible

Everyone who sees the pattern expresses delight when they realize the stripes are horizontal on one side of the scarf and vertical on the other. How can that be?!

knitting scarf reversible

This is one of those designs which looks complicated but is actually very easy. It’s simple to memorize, making it excellent for social or travel knitting. And it’s fun to try different kinds of yarn.

Steller’s Jay Shawl

September 26

I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek of Stephannie Tallent‘s newest addition to her Wild West design series, Lace 2. I couldn’t wait to get the Steller’s Jay shawl onto my needles! I love the colors in the fingering weight Baah “La Jolla” yarn, Blue Iris colorway. They perfectly evoke the colors in the Steller’s Jay which lives in Arizona (and other Western regions) and that Stephannie took her inspiration from.

lace shawl, Steller Jay shawl, Baah Yarn

I wanted just a bit more depth to the back of the shawl, and so added a few more short rows than the pattern calls for.

lace shawl, Steller Jay shawl, Baah Yarn


Here it is on the blocking board:

lace shawl, Steller Jay shawl, Baah Yarn






Stephannie’s Sunset Cat Designs blog

The Wild West: Lace 2

Baah Yarn

Read more about the Steller’s Jay

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Some Little Lace Tricks

September 2

I recently found myself away from home for several weeks, hence the dearth of posts here.

When life hands you lemons make a shawl, I say!

Fortunately I was armed with a pattern (more about that in future posts), yarn and stitch markers.

 shawl, lace tips, lifeline

I always put lifelines into my lace knitting, and I’ve never regretted that yet. Although I usually like to use a thin cotton yarn as my lifeline, some on-the-road dental floss was the perfect substitute. If you’ve never used a lifeline, its a thinner yarn in a contrasting color that you thread through the live stitches on your needle. That way, if (in my case WHEN) you drop a stitch, the lifeline will catch it and keep it from running an alarming number of rows. I like to mark the pattern’s chart or text at the point where I put the lifeline in so I know where to resume from if I have to rip all the way back to the lifeline. Another thing I learned the hard way about lifelines…be sure to go around – and not through – stitch markers.

It’s hard to tell in this photo, since they’re hidden inside the curled-up work, but I love to use stitch markers between a given number of repeats. In this case, the pattern repeat was 8 stitches, so I placed a marker every three repeats for a total of 24 stitches between markers. Here’s my philosophy…either I am going to take a little time to count stitches between stitch markers as I go, or I am going to find out at the end of a row (or even further along in my work) that I’m off by a stitch or more and spend a lot of time tracking down the mistake. There may be some superhero knitters out there who do not make errors in their lace, but I am not one of them. Given that I am going to goof, counting between stitch markers every time limits my mistakes to just those stitches between markers. All that counting pays off in peace of mind.

Before I flew out the door for my unexpected trip, I had the presence of mind to toss a pad of Post-It notes into my bag. If you’re new to charts, you may like to use this popular method for keeping track of the row you’re working. By placing the Post-It above the row I’m working, I can see the rows I’ve already worked. It allows me to “read” my work, so I can verify that the yarnovers, decreases or plain stitches are lined up as they’re supposed to be.


If you’d like to read more about working charts and other tips, you might like to check out my Tips & Techniques page.


Gnarled Oak Cardigan Progress

July 15

For me, one of the greatest pleasures in knitting is working a particularly beautiful pattern and motif. That’s how I felt when I finished the oak leaf motif in the yoke of Alana Dakos’s Gnarled Oak Cardigan The photo shows a small bit of the detail.

I’ve wanted to make this sweater for forever! I’m using Tosh DK in the Grove colorway.

Aren’t these leaves brilliantly designed!

Gnarled Oak Cardigan, Alana Dakos, Coastal Knits, Tosh DK

All I have left to do on the sweater is the neck and button bands. The pattern calls for a garter neck edging to be worked right after the leafy motif. Instead, I am going to bind off, then pick up stitches to make the edging. This will give the neckline stability.


Gnarled Oak Cardigan pattern, from the book Coastal Knits by Alana Dakos and Hannah Fettig.

Madelinetosh Tosh DK

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:


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.:


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:


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:


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:


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



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:



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.



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.






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:



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!


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).


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.



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