Grown: Sophisticated Sweater Designs

10 sweater designs from a trusted knitwear designer? Yes. Let's get into THAT because it's cold and my knit fever is strong right now. 

Grown by Kate Oates

I've known knit designer Kate Oates of Tot Toppers for a few years now. I've read her blog and smiled at each new design as it released. I like her tendency to design things that don't need much finishing. Some would say that I'm a lazy knitter but I just like to say energy efficient and if it looks good, I'm ok with keeping it fuss free. In my mind Kate has always been a childrenswear designer but all that changed recently when she wrote an email, inviting me to be a part of the Grown blog tour. 

Grown is a collection of 10 raglan-style sweater designs with very little finishing and sewing. Each design was inspired by an original Tot Toppers pattern which means you could knit something for your entire family if you wished. The designs have been thoughtfully 'matured' so that they are flattering for adult figures and include options for customising. The collection is beautifully shot on a range of models so you get a different flavour with each design. I like this method actually as it means I don't get stuck on a collection only working for one particular person. It helps me to visualise how it might work for my knitting needs. 

My top pick from the collection is the Scholar Cardigan. I have a thing for these deeply collared, ribbed sweaters for men, children and women alike. This just ticks all the right boxes for me. I'm not going to lie, I want a slightly unisex version with elbow patches. Those elbow patches should be leather if you're wondering. 

Scholar Cardigan by Kate Oates of Tot Toppers
Scholar Cardigan by Kate Oates of Tot Toppers

Is it ok to say I'm completely in support of how preppy this pair are? I have a sudden urge to swap out my usual boxy style and get college cute all over again. If I wasn't in too big a rush to do that though, I'd probably play it safe with a sweater that I think was designed just for me, the Sidewalk Sweater. 

Sidewalk Sweater by Kate Oates

This is a great collection with plenty of options for different body types and if you're a hand dyed yarn fan, this will help you scratch that itch in terms of yarn suggestions. Here's all the important links if you want to check out more:

With thanks to Kate for kindly sending me an ecopy of her new collection for review purposes. Opinions and ideas expressed here are my own. 

Art Inspired Knitwear {Guest Post}

On the last podcast episode I introduced Renee Callaghan's latest knitwear release, 'The Klee Collection' and promised a guest post sharing all her inspiration. Here it is and I love how much detail and form that Renee has captured from her time spent gazing at Klee's beautiful work. 

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I have always been attracted to the arts. Long before it ever occurred to me to make things myself, I studied and loved things that other people made; paintings, drawings, sculpture. When I began to study art history, it was the very uselessness of the fine arts that attracted me. These objects seemed like tangible proof that the need to create aesthetically pleasing things transcended the basic necessities of survival such as food and shelter. As long as people have existed, they have created objects and made marks above and beyond what was strictly useful. 

And yet… 

When I came to the decision that designing and making things was just too important to me to do anything else, I felt an overwhelming urge to make useful things that people would use—hopefully—every day. I felt, and continue to feel we live in a world full of stuff, much of it mass produced, and that the making of a thing with your own hands is valuable both as an act of creation and as a tiny defiance of the disposable nature of all that stuff in our world. 

This all sounds very worthy, but it is more than that. It is also about pleasure. The pleasure in making things by hand. The pleasure in seeing something beautiful. The pleasure in seeing something beautiful, and then following it into another act of creation…. 

Inspiration is a nebulous thing. A couple of years ago, the Tate Modern put on a wonderful exhibition of Paul Klee’s work and after going to see it, I was inspired to be more creatively ambitious and pursue my hand-knitting design with a collection. I choose a few of Klee’s paintings and started to extract little bits of beauty from them and try to make them my own. 

It was not a smooth or direct path. Sometimes it was a single colour, as the shocking red of Angel in the Making.

Angel in the Making

Sometimes it is a more subtle thing, such as the title of the painting. I took this concept into knit with the idea of an evolving lace stitch, a lace in the making beginning with a single eyelet, evolving as the eyelets multiply and resolve themselves into pretty lace patterns. The Angel in the Making shawl and Angel in the Making sweater were the results.

Angel in the Making Shawl & Sweater

Sometimes a metaphor morphs into another shape in the mind, as did the idea of graphic arm/wings in Angelus Novus.

Angelus Novus

Isn’t she a beauty? I imagined the arms wrapping around the body and turned into a wing-like pattern that envelops the body. There is joy in the simplicity of the shapes, something both childlike and elegant. My interpretation produced the Angelus Novus cardigan

Angelus Novus Cardigan
Angelus Novus Shawl

Twilight Flowers was painted just a few months before Klee’s death in 1940. I love the flat, patterned aspect of the simple geometric shapes and the pops of colour among the muted palette.

Twilight Flowers

Each design features unique geometric lace knitting inspired by the strange and wonderful shapes that run like a language through Klee’s work, and the Twilight Flowers Mitts…

Twilight Flower Mitts

…and Twilight Flowers pullover designs in particular focus on the beauty of simple repeats, and incorporating my inspiration and love of Klee into wearable garments that knitters will make and wear for years to come.

Twilight Flowers Sweater

The Klee Collection is available here.

Blog Tour: Short Row Knits

I had a feeling Carol Feller knew how much I needed her latest book, Short Row Knits, when she sent me the blog tour invitation a few months ago. When I opened the book and saw the first line, that pretty much confirmed it....

"Have you ever avoided a pattern when you saw that it included short rows?"
Short Row Knits by Carol Feller

Short Row Knits by Carol Feller

Carol Feller has been demystifying short rows for knitters for some time. Her Craftsy class 'Essential Short Row Techniques' (affiliate link) is incredibly useful so I was delighted when I heard the news that she would be releasing a book exploring the technique. Released by Potter Craft this month, Short Row Knits joins the 'essential knit books' collection on my shelves. 

Riyito  by Carol Feller

Riyito by Carol Feller

Inside the book, you will find 20 patterns, each featuring different short row techniques. For me though, the most impressive part of the book is the in depth focus Carol gives to different ways in which to work a short row.  First, Carol starts by working a flat example and explaining what is happening when you create a direction change or wedge with a short row. There are four different types used and Carol works this in the simplest way with good image and illustration support so you can fully understand each technique. 

Short Row Knits techniques in focus

Short Row Knits techniques in focus

Equipped with this understanding, you can then move on to variations such as working in the round or in a specific stitch pattern. These particular portions are between patterns so you could work from cover to cover should you wish to take a learning journey or pick and choose to suit your knitting needs. 

Short Row Knits Garment Section

Short Row Knits Garment Section

The really great part is the sections Carol gives on using short rows in garments to support construction and fit as well as an section teaching you how to apply all this knowledge. The information here is so useful that you could go on to design and create your own pieces or heavily modify the patterns Carol provides. 

This is a superb example of a knit designer who has developed a very sound understanding of a technique and using it to create a collection of beautiful knitwear. I've always loved Carol's pattern writing- thoughtful, intelligent and educational. 

Pin me for later- Short Row Knits Blog Tour via A Playful Day

Pin me for later- Short Row Knits Blog Tour via A Playful Day

To pick up your copy, ask at your local yarn store or check Carol's website for more information. With thanks to Potter Craft for sending this book for review. Views expressed here are entirely my own. 


Blog Tour: The Boardwalk Collection (and a giveaway!)

In a month celebrating Women as Makers, I was delighted to see a new pattern collection released that showcases an all female team. The Boardwalk Collection has been produced by Linda of Kettle Yarn Co to showcase her new base, Islington DK, and includes 5 female knitwear designers in a collection that includes 6 designs that will work well from Summer right though to Autumn. The fact the collection was shot by Juju Vail (who you might know as the talented photographer at Loop and Pom Pom Quarterly) and has been strongly supported by Allison Thistlewood (professional multiple hat wearer) shows what magical things can happen when women support one another to put out a great product. 

Linda kindly took some time to answer some questions I had about the collection as part of her blog tour celebrating the collection. Tomorrow, you can see one of the designer's, Isabell Kraemer, discuss her pattern contribution, Arcade (see below). 

Can you explain how you chose these female designers to collaborate with?

"The choice was an easy one as the designers are people whose designs I admire and with a similar aesthetic to my own! I admit that several of the designers are friends, so I knew the high quality of the work I'd be getting from them and that I'd love whatever they created!"

The Boardwalk Collection  (c) Juju Vail

What does the word collaborate mean to you?

"Collaborating is something I've always enjoyed when creating and feel it brings a richness to projects you'd never expect. There is something so joyful and rewarding in working with others - bringing something beautiful into the world together that is made better by working together!
In a way I feel that way about seeing what people make with my yarns as well...that it is a collaboration. I always get chills of delight when people bring their Kettle Yarn Co. projects to the booth at festivals to show me what wonders they've made in my blends! Fantastic!"

Arcade  in ISLINGTON DK  Verdigris , by  Isabell Kraemer   © Juju Vail for Kettle Yarn Co.

Arcade in ISLINGTON DK Verdigris, by Isabell Kraemer © Juju Vail for Kettle Yarn Co.

How did you go about commissioning the pieces, communicating aesthetic to each designer and tying separate design ideas together?

"It all started with Isabell Kraemer's beautiful Arcade design, which was designed as a stand alone project. When I received it I was so blown away by the gorgeousness of it that I decided to go ahead with the idea for a full collection that I've been kicking around for some time!
I decided to showcase the new bright colours I'd just created in my new weight of Islington, which is a lovely rounded DK."

ISLINGTON  - 55% British Bluefaced Leicester/ 45% Silk     © Kettle Yarn Co.

ISLINGTON - 55% British Bluefaced Leicester/ 45% Silk  © Kettle Yarn Co.

"The brief for the designs centred around the historic Hastings pier, which I've been fascinated with since we moved here. The light and views under the pier are amazing, so I knew I wanted to somehow incorporate the feeling I get when I am down there into the collection."

Pavilion  in ISLINGTON DK  Marigold , by  Renée Callahan   -  © Juju Vail and Kettle Yarn Co.

Pavilion in ISLINGTON DK Marigold, by Renée Callahan -  © Juju Vail and Kettle Yarn Co.

"I sent the designers a rather specific design brief about linear lines, lace and a link to the The Drifters 'Under the Boardwalk' so they could get a sense of the fun, breezy, seablown feel I was after!"
 

What did you learn from each other during this process?

"During this process I was reminded how important it is to be explicit in what I was after to make things easier for the designers. I knew this from teaching but it was so clear in this group how everyone approaches creating differently and how vital it is to let that bloom in its own way! "

Jetty  in ISLINGTON DK  Purple Reign , by  Linda Lencovic   © Juju Vail for Kettle Yarn Co.

Jetty in ISLINGTON DK Purple Reign, by Linda Lencovic © Juju Vail for Kettle Yarn Co.

"Pattern designing can be such a pressure-cooker as time constraints made it difficult for discoveries to grow organically and I am always astounded at how designers create beauty under such pressure. The designers in this collection really outdid themselves with talent!"

Bagatelle Cowl  by Rachel Brown in ISLINGTON DK,  Peony   © Juju Vail for Kettle Yarn Co.

Bagatelle Cowl by Rachel Brown in ISLINGTON DK, Peony © Juju Vail for Kettle Yarn Co.

The mood is free, seasonal and feminine. How did that help you style and present your collection?

"I had a style and mood in mind from the conception of the collection and new exactly what I wanted from the designs and final photos, so it was really quite simple in the end! Especially as all the designers did such a brilliant job interpreting the brief!"

I spy real life friends as models! This struck me as a piece made stronger by friendship with fellow female makers. Would you say that's true? 

"Absolutely! I am SO lucky to have such talented friends and it is always a pleasure working together. None of us are that comfortable in front of the camera but we had the amazing Juju Vail take the photos for the collection and the women knows how to make you laugh...what a talented photographer!"

Seaward  in ISLINGTON DK  Padparadscha  by  Rachel Coopey      © Juju Vail for Kettle Yarn Co.

Seaward in ISLINGTON DK Padparadscha by Rachel Coopey  © Juju Vail for Kettle Yarn Co.

"Another huge thank you to Renee Callahan and Michelle Zimmer for agreeing to model for the collection."

Promenade  by Maria Magnusson in ISLINGTON DK  N  eckinger ,  © Juju Vail for Kettle Yarn Co.

Promenade by Maria Magnusson in ISLINGTON DK Neckinger© Juju Vail for Kettle Yarn Co.

Like what you see? You can find out more on the Broadwalk Collection Blog Tour on this next few stops:

Isabell Kraemer

Curious Handmade

Renee Callahan

Maria Magnusson

Shinybees blog/podcast

Rachel Brown

Knitted Bliss blog

Coopknits

Win a skein of Islington DK!

Islington DK

If you want to get your hands on a skein of Islington DK Padparadscha, (as shown above in Rachel Coopey's Seaward design) all you need to do is leave a comment below telling me which pattern you would most like to knit from this collection. Be sure to leave your answer by 20th July 2015 as I will be announcing the winner on the blog on the 21st July. Good luck!
 

Under the Same Sky

This sponsored blog post is brought to you by Swiss Wulle. Opinions and views expressed here are my own. To find out more about sponsorship opportunities, please email me using the envelope icon on the bottom left of your screen. 

Under the Same Sky by Nadia Crétin-Léchenne

Under the Same Sky by Nadia Crétin-Léchenne

Almost anyone who knows me will tell you I get the WORST decision paralysis. If you put an endless number of options in front of me, I freeze, barely able to compute them all and definitely incapable of making any actual decision. Yes, I am that irritating dinner companion who looks longingly at your steak after choosing the salad. This is one of the many reasons that ordering a side of chips has become my default because chips are like a decision regret buffer which I'm clearly in need of. 

So imagine my delight when I was presented with a two colour shawl by one of my favourite knitwear designers and the yarn to knit it with. It's like the universe heard that I was restless for a new cast on and also knew that I would spend hours trying to come to a decision. The universe has thrown me a bone and I have gladly grabbed it. 

I now have in my possession the first heady hit of a new kit that's just launched for pre order. The kit has been created in order to celebrate the forthcoming Swiss Wulle Festival. Organised by Fides of Siidegarte yarns, I was kind of hooked from the moment Fides explained that it will take place in Zug, a beautiful lakeside town with all the medieval charm that continental Europe does so well. In my mind there shall be knitting, alfresco meals by the bucket load and great scenery. So far, I'm sold. 

Under the Same Sky by Nadia Crétin-Léchenne

Under the Same Sky by Nadia Crétin-Léchenne

Under the Same Sky is a collaboration with native knitwear designer Nadia Crétin-Léchenne and is a crescent shape shawl that combines lace and garter stitch, using two colour’s of Siide-Fideel, a 50/50 Silk and Merino fingering weight yarn that is hand dyed and sourced locally by Siidegarte.  The shawl features a knitted-on border with a beautiful wave edging that lets the silk and handdyed colours really shine. 

The kits have just been launched, ready for a knitalong to celebrate Swiss Wulle's love of the fibre arts, the festival’s beautiful location and all the friendship this event has already created. The knitalong is open to everyone and there will be prizes for finished, photographed shawls (see further KAL details here). Kits are now available for preorder from the Swiss Wulle website, and cost 62 SFR. Each kit contains:

- 2 skeins of Siide-Fideel 

- A printed copy of the pattern (available in English, French and German)

- A Swiss Wulle Festival Tote bag (keep an eye on the Swiss Wulle instagram account for  sneak peek of what to expect very soon)

Orders will ship in mid July, ready for the 1st August cast on date. Available colour options are:

Under the Same Sky Colour Options

My colour options are Silberdistel and Himelsröösli which will surprise no one I'm sure. I'm getting ready to cast on once I'm finished here so you can get a sneak peek of the yumminess in progress over on Instagram (where I'm @aplayfulday) very soon. 

Under the Same Sky colour options: Silberdistel and Himelsröösli on Siide-Fideel

Under the Same Sky colour options: Silberdistel and Himelsröösli on Siide-Fideel

No chip regret buffer needed for this knitter!