Barn Sweater, “mendfulness” and Taproot 11

Barn Sweater, "mendfulness" and Taproot 11

If you’ve seen this perfect lazy-Saturday sweater design by Carrie Bostick Hoge, the Barn Sweater, and have been wondering where on earth Taproot 11 is, I’m happy to report that it’s now waiting for you at Fringe Supply Co! I got a glance at the sweater and ordered an extra-huge pile of this issue … which then went to California before getting rerouted to Tennessee. My fault. But the important thing is: It’s here now! Of all the Taproot issues so far, this is the one I am most yearning to sit down with for an uninterrupted expanse of time. Among the many great home and skincare potion recipes and knitting and sewing patterns (this time for a Hauschen Doorstop made from old quilts) is an essay on “mendfulness” — such a fantastic word! — by Katrina Rodabaugh (who you may remember from my account of that rather moving “Boro and embroidermending” class I took last spring). It’s a great issue.

I’ve also restocked the bentos, added a smattering of Bookhou large pocket and oblong pouches, and did you get your copy of the new Pom Pom yet?


Turning a sweater into an adventure

Tag Team Sweater Project update

To no one’s surprise, I’m not in the best shape on my Tag Team Sweater Project sweater. One week from today, I’ll be in Seattle, where I’m supposed to have a finished sweater. What I should have had by Monday, when my beautiful sweater body arrived from Anna (thank you, Anna!), was two sleeves to attach it to. Instead, I had one sleeve. One very wretched sleeve, plagued with ladders, which is a problem I’ve never struggled with before. (Except for that one time I attempted to knit a hat on four DPN’s, but that was sheer foolishness.) So instead of having one more sleeve to knit, I have two more sleeves to knit. And I also have a total loss of patience for knitting sleeves. The last thing I knitted before we started all this was Casey’s mitts, so I’ve been knitting nothing but stockinette tubes for as long as I can remember.

I can’t take it anymore!

I had originally envisioned being done with my four sleeves well before the appointed parts exchange date and had daydreamed about starting the yoke as a separate piece, with the completed sleeves and body grafted onto it later. So that idea was lingering in my mind, even as the sleeve due dates came and went. Since I can’t deal with the sleeves right now and am desperate to move on with the FUN PART — and after consulting Instagram and Michele Wang — I’ve decided to take the approach Felicia describes on her Craft Sessions blog. To wit: I separated the body into fronts and back and, as of last night, am working the phantom arms upwards from provisionally cast-on stitches. And just like that, this sweater went from feeling like a chore to an adventure! Wish me luck as I try to make great progress on it this weekend.


Speaking of Seattle next week, I don’t think I’ve officially announced this: I won’t just be at VK Live taking classes and making the rounds. Instead I’ve taken Brooke up on her offer to share her booth again, so the Cabinet of Curiosities is going to Seattle! What this means, most significantly, is lots of drive time to work on my sweater.

New at Fringe Supply Co

In shop news for the weekend, two new things have arrived: Taproot 9, which includes a Carrie Bostick Hoge shawl pattern, Lola, that made me gasp out loud, and … cookies! My favorite cookies (to put it mildly), which you can read all about on the cookie page. Also, great news, the wildly popular repair hooks are back in stock in all sizes, in both bone and ebony. So you can find all that and more at Fringe Supply Co.!

Have a great weekend, everyone! As always, I’d love to hear what you’re working on—

A tale of two sleeves

Tag Team Sweater Project progress report

There’s good news and bad news about this Tag Team Sweater Project. The good news: I get to knit with an amazing yarn I’ve never knitted with before. It’s Swans Island Pure Blends, undyed merino and alpaca, and it is heaven. It’s knitting up into a sleeve so luscious I can’t stop pausing to pet it and slip my forearm in there. The bad news: I don’t get to keep it! Anyway, here’s where things stand on my end:


You guys know I like to let the sleeve be my swatch, so I cast on the prescribed number of stitches on US6 and knitted the first cuff. My garter gauge for this puts the cuff at 8″ circumference instead of 8.75″, but Anna and I agreed that’s a good thing — especially with garter’s tendency to splay. So then I forged ahead into the stockinette on US7. Two inches in, it was abundantly clear I’m a tighter knitter than Anna and Carrie Bostick Hoge, whose pattern Lila is. The pattern gauge is 19 stitches per 4 inches. I was getting 21. Anna is getting 19 on 7s, and I’m now knitting loosely on 8s to match it. Interestingly, I thought the fabric was a little loose at 21 sts, but seems perfect at 19. Go figure.

So now I’m obsessing a little bit over sleeve length. The hardest part of a bottom-up sweater is getting the sleeves the exact right length. It’s always a bit of target practice: You’re knitting up to the underarm, but you don’t know exactly where that underarm will be. You’ve got a pattern schematic with a yoke depth measurement, but that depends on your row gauge matching the pattern’s row gauge. Thankfully, Anna and I are both matching row gauge here. So last night while she was trying to write her blog post and put her kids to bed, I was pestering her to measure a sweater she likes the fit of. (I wish you all could see this string of texts.) It had an armhole depth of 7 inches and a sleeve length of 18 inches. Since her row gauge matches Carrie’s, we can have faith that her yoke will match the pattern’s armhole depth of 7.25, which means I’ll knit her sleeves to 17.75. And hopefully that will hit the mark. I really don’t want to be responsible for her having a sweater with sleeves that are the wrong length!


Pattern gauge for Trillium is 20 stitches per 4 inches. Anna swatched and got 19 stitches on 7s and 21 stitches on 6s. My gauge for Acer using Shelter and 7s was 21 stitches, and I’m pretty reliable about that — see above, for instance — so we decided to knit this sweater at 21 stitches instead of 20. (For both sweaters, we’ll be knitting on different size needles to get the same gauge as each other.) The size we’re knitting is about 4 inches of positive ease on me, so there’s some wiggle room. And there’s always blocking.

I cast on my first sleeve as well, to make sure all is well at the outset as she’s starting on my body. And all is not well. This is the first time I’ve ever had the benefit of having tried on the sample garment before knitting from a pattern. Apart from the sleeve length (my arms are really long) I loved the way it fit. So I went into this thinking it would be a no-brainer — just knit the sample size and stick to the pattern. But the surprisingly big cast-on count got me scrutinizing the schematic after all. Turns out the cast-on count makes sense with the schematic: The pattern is for a 10.5″ cuff. But that’s not the sweater I tried on. My wristbone is 6.25 inches. You can see in this photo (and another taken that day) that no way is the cuff 40% bigger than my wrist. What gives?

There’s no problem adjusting the cast-on count for the cuff dimension I like, but it’s unsettling. If the sleeve cuff on the sample doesn’t match the pattern, does the rest of it? We shall see.

Meanwhile, there’s another matter on which Anna and I agree: This twisted broken rib is the slowest thing on earth! Dear Anna, let’s only knit 3 inches of it instead of 4 — deal?


Colorwork patterns for first-timers

Colorwork knitting patterns for first-timers

OK! Picking back up with the Beginning to Knit series, let’s talk about colorwork — specifically, stranded or “fair isle” knitting. (I’m not going into intarsia in this post.) Just like cables, stranded knitting is a great thing to try when you’re still fairly new to knitting. But even or especially if you’ve been knitting a long time and have never done it, it’s time! Both seem really difficult and amazing and impressive but are actually insanely simple. In the case of stranded knitting, it’s just stockinette and it’s almost always done in the round, so you’re only ever working from the right side of the fabric. You can handle knitting in the round, right? There are only two tricks to knitting multi- rather than single-color stockinette:

1) Holding the yarn.
If a pattern row has you knit two white stitches, then two black stitches and repeat that to the end of the row, you could literally knit the two white stitches, drop the yarn, pick up the black yarn and knit two stitches, drop it, etc. Nothing wrong with that, but it would slow you down a bit. Depending on how ambidextrous you are and which hand your normally hold your working yarn in, you could hold both yarns in your left hand, both in your right, or one in each hand. (That’s my preference.) There are copious videos on the web demonstrating all the options.

2) Minding your floats.
Imagine what I described above: putting one yarn down and picking up the next one. On the wrong side of the work, that new yarn has to reach across the two (or however many) stitches you just worked in the other color, and that little bit of yarn carried behind the work is called a float. (You’ve seen floats on the back side of fair isle knitting before, no doubt, but here’s a pic for you.) The reason most people’s stranded work winds up being tighter than single-color work is that their floats are too short and it pulls on the back of the work. So for one thing, you have to be careful to keep your floats even — the same width as the stitches they float behind. And for another, when the floats get very long — longer than a inch or so — you need to “trap” them by simply twisting the two yarns in back.

Sample colorwork chart from Pine Bough Cowl by Dianna Potter WallaThe other key difference is that when you’re working stockinette in the round, the last thing in the world you need is a chart — you’re just knitting every stitch! But for colorwork, you pretty much always need a chart showing you which stitches are worked in which colors. As long as you’re knitting in the round, you read the chart exactly like you knit: from right to left, starting at the bottom and working your way up. If a chart seems daunting, keep in mind that you only knit one row at a time. Block out all but the first (bottom) row on this sample chart and you’ll see that all you need to do is knit 1 green, 1 blue, 1 green, 7 blue, then repeat that 10-stitch sequence to the end of the round. You can do that, right? Then take the next row as it comes. I borrowed this sample chart from Dianna Walla’s free Pine Bough Cowl pattern, which was a huge hit with you all in the big cowls roundup a few months ago — it would be a great introduction to both colorwork and charts for the moderately ambitious among you. (Note that in some cases on a colorwork chart you’ll see black dots in some of the squares. Those dots are just there to emphasize the motif that’s being created — chevrons or triangles or whatever it may be. It’s just a visual aid; you still just knit every stitch.) [See UPDATE below about Dianna and charts.]

So, in my mind, the ideal projects for first-timers are those that A) are knitted in the round, B) never use more than two colors within a single row and C) don’t involve any long floats. Some suggestions, pictured above:

left: Dessau Cowl by Carrie Bostick Hoge — super-simple triangles pattern, maybe slightly long floats (See also: Flying Geese Cowl, Tolt Hat and Mitts)
center: Netty Cowl by Ien Sie — polka dots worked in a tube and grafted into a loop (See also: Herrington and Empire State)
right: Amira pullover by Andrea Rangel — just a little colorwork around the circular yoke (See also: Willard, Stasis, slightly more intricate Skydottir, or the Altair hat)

left: Harpa scarf by Cirilia Rose — tube scarf with long ribbed ends
center: Muckle Mitts by Mary Jane Mucklestone — my first colorwork project, includes both 2- and 3- color versions (either way just two colors per round) (See also: the more ambitious Seasons hat)
right: Vega hat by Alexis Winslow

left: Gloaming Mittens by Leila Raabe — there’s a slight chance there may be some 3-color rounds in here but I don’t think so
center: Selbu Modern hat by Kate Gagnon Osborn — like delicate Art Nouveau wallpaper for your head (free pattern)
right: Funchal Moebius by Kate Davies — clever play with lights and darks in a tube that’s grafted into a moebius (or a loop if you like)


I personally put off trying colorwork for two years, and then decided to take Mary Jane Mucklestone’s beginner class to get me off my duff and so I’d be sure to learn good habits right from the start. If you’re at all nervous about trying stranded knitting, then by all means sign up for a class. As I always say, you never know what else you might learn.


UPDATE: Dianna Walla left a comment below about her chart. She just did a post on her blog about working from colorwork charts, which you should definitely take a look at. See also her recent post about color dominance.

New Favorites: Carrie’s Uniform

Uniform cardigan — one pattern, many ways to knit it

I’ve been waiting so patiently for this, and then it almost got lost in the wake of last week’s BT release.  You may have been waiting patiently, too. Remember when it was Carrie Bostick Hoge’s turn in Our Tools, Ourselves? She said, “Right now I am working on finishing up a pattern called Uniform Cardigan. It is one pattern with several variations, so the knitter can build their own cardigan.” Well it finally released last week and it’s as good as I had hoped. The truth is, any basic sweater pattern is endlessly adaptable — you can always make the body and/or sleeves longer or shorter, wider or narrower, add or remove shaping, work the collar differently, etc. (As well as adding/removing all the embellishments, textures or stitch patterns there are in the world.) Carrie has simply boiled the endless options down to a few very smart and basic ones — plain or shawl collar, slender or bell sleeves, long or cropped body, pockets or no — and written out the pattern in a way that allows you to put them together however you like, without having to do the math for yourself. Oh, and it’s written for worsted weight, which is timeless and universal. She even tells you how much yardage to add or subtract based on which options you choose. But the key thing is how refined and useful a cardigan it is, whichever way you go.

Uniform cardigan — one pattern, many ways to knit it

PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: Ebony and ivory

New Favorites: Earflap hats

Earflap hat knitting patterns

I know nobody feels sorry for me when I complain about being cold. I see your web pics of your ice storms and blizzards; I know it’s colder where many of you live. I also see your Bean boots, woodstoves, down coats. My point being: You’re equipped for cold. We, my friends, are not. While it’s perpetually arctic in my studio (year-round!), it’s generally much nicer outside. But lately it’s just bloody freezing everywhere. 32-degree nights; 38-degree days. I’ve become a person who wears a hat all day, every day. Even to bed! Which I thought was rather funny until I remembered the grand tradition of the nightcap.

I’ve always thought earflap hats seemed like overkill in our climate (however cute they may be), so I have shockingly few of them marked anywhere. And yet suddenly they’re all I can think about, so please point me to your favorites!

LEFT: Basic Hats for Everyone, with garter brim and ear flap variation, from Purl Soho

RIGHT: Cozy Ear Flap Hat from the Purl Bee (free pattern)

See also: Carrie Bostick Hoge’s Hats for All from issue 8 (the current issue) of Taproot. The earflap variation wasn’t knitted or photographed in an adult size, apparently, but the pattern covers all variations in all sizes.


Our Tools, Ourselves: Carrie Bostick Hoge

In Our Tools, Ourselves, we get to know fiber artisans of all walks, ages, styles and skill levels, by way of their tools. For more on the series, read the introduction.

Our Tools, Ourselves: knit designer Carrie Bostick Hoge

Yay, Our Tools, Ourselves is back! Sorry for the unintended hiatus, but I’ve got lots of great makers lined up for the coming months, and I’m so pleased to be able to get things going again with none other than Carrie Bostick Hoge. You may know Carrie as an independent knit designer, as the photographer and art director of Quince and Co., or as the woman who does all of the above under her own brand, Madder. Carrie was one of the first people whose work I gravitated toward when I took up knitting, and I’ve always enjoyed the glimpses of her barn-studio on her blog. But having now seen the images she sent for this interview, I’m wondering if there’s some way I could secretly take up residence in there, like the kids in the “Mixed-Up Files.”

Be sure to follow Carrie’s blog, Swatch Diaries, and find her as “madder” at Pinterest and as “maddermade” on Twitter and Instagram. And thank you so much, Carrie, for this:

Do you knit, crochet, weave, spin, dye, sew … ?

I am a knitter and beginner sewer. My mom gave me several knitting lessons in my teens, but it wasn’t until my early twenties that knitting finally stuck and I became obsessed. I played at sewing even before I held a pair of needles. The birth of my daughter in 2011 reignited my desire to learn for real. I want to sew little clothes for her! I’m determined to become a more confident sewer.

Swatches and baskets of knit designer Carrie Bostick Hoge

Tell us about your tool preferences and peccadilloes.

I am very attached to my straight wood needles. (Although my cats love to chew on them—so naughty!) In fact, it was a pair of wood needles that changed my view of what knitting could be. My mom had plastic or metal needles, so that’s all I knew in regards to knitting tools. But one day I saw my boss-at-the-time’s wife knitting some raw single-ply wool with wood needles. This resonated with me — from that day on I knew I wanted to commit to learning to knit. I will use metal needles depending on the project, but I always begin with my wood straights if possible.

How do you store or organize your tools? Or do you?

I have a basket for my circulars and fabric organizers for my DPNs and straight needles. But, honestly, the fabric organizers quickly become unorganized because my daughter is drawn to them like magnets and is constantly pulling the needles out and using them as drum sticks. Between my cats and my kid, it’s very hard for me to preserve order with my needles.

How do you store or organize your works-in-progress?

I’m a basket lover, so there are lots of baskets in my studio and at my house. In the basket I usually store the project in a plastic bag to keep it protected. My barn-studio, sadly, has mice so if the plastic bag doesn’t seal, I might still be in trouble. I recently found a bag of yarn with acorns in it! Not good.

Buttons, needles and tools of Carrie Bostick Hoge

Are there any particularly prized possessions amongst your tools?

I have my grandmother’s sewing machine and a lot of her sewing notions that I treasure. I have a tin of her buttons, too, that I relish.

Also, I feel a little funny saying this, but I like knitting bags. I splurged on a tote that my friend Karen Gelardi designed and sold on Quince earlier this year. I also have a vintage bag that my mom used as her knitting bag and she passed it down to me. This one is really dear to me. I also have a small project tote that I made in a sewing class that I like.

Do you lend your tools?

Yes, I’m happy to share what I have with others.

What is your favorite place to knit?

I’ll knit anytime of day, anywhere. My favorite place to knit is at home on my couch, or in bed is nice, too. I love that knitting is portable — it’s one of the aspects of knitting that really sealed the deal as I was learning. Coming from photography, where you need expensive equipment and a darkroom with chemicals, it was such a relief to find the simplicity of knitting. You don’t need much — a pair of needles and some wool. So I try to make the most of knitting’s portability as much as possible. It makes me less anxious, too, when waiting, for instance, at the dentist’s office.

In Carrie Bostick Hoge's barn-studio

What effect do the seasons have on you?

I do a lot of planning, dreaming, thinking and playing in the spring and summer. This past summer, I collected quite a bit of fabric. Fabric inspires knitwear design ideas — I try to imagine the perfect handmade sweater for the piece of apparel I’m planning to sew. (Or dreaming that I’d like to sew.) With the first hint of cool weather, I’m usually back on the needles working on the ideas that brewed over the summer. I love Autumn; it’s my favorite time of year. And winters are quiet and meant for knitting.

Do you have a dark secret, guilty pleasure or odd quirk, where your fiber pursuits are concerned?

My guilty pleasure is fabric. Definitely fabric. And yarn, too, I have an enormous yarn stash that is quite overwhelming at times. Yarn that I’ve had for years from past jobs, from past Rhinebeck trips (!), and some hand-me-down yarn from friends and family. But, this coming year I’m going to try to knit and sew with what I have and will try, try, try not to accumulate any more for a while. I’ve run out of baskets.

What are you working on right now?

I’m working on so many projects for Madder at the moment! Right now I am working on finishing up a pattern called Uniform Cardigan. It is one pattern with several variations, so the knitter can build their own cardigan. Hopefully I’ll be able to release this in a couple weeks. In January I hope to release a small collection of sweaters for Ladies and Little Ladies. I’m pretty excited about this project and look forward to sharing more in the new year.

Desk and yarn of Carrie Bostick Hoge

PREVIOUSLY in Our Tools, Ourselves: Kristine Vejar


Photos © Carrie Bostick Hoge