Posted in knitting

Farewell to Craftsy

Two years ago, NBC Universal purchased Craftsy, the on-line service offering classes in all sorts of arts and crafts disciplines. It re-branded the site as and continued to make Craftsy classes available on a subscription basis. I resisted buying the subscription for a while. But eventually I did, and was very glad to have it. About a week ago, I, along with other subscribers, was notified that would be closing its doors and winding down business. This is quite a blow for me. Over the past year I have taken dozens of classes. While working in my studio, Craftsy has been my daily companion. So many talented instructors have shared their valuable knowledge, allowing me to master skills as I need them and when I need them.

Today I want to pay tribute to the Craftsy knitting instructors. Knitting was the first craft that grabbed my attention nearly twelve years ago. I knew from the start that I wanted to be the kind of knitter who designed her own patterns. And it was by watching Craftsy classes that I gained the necessary knowledge and skills to reach this level.

Let me introduce you to four women who helped me get here.

Shirley Paden

It’s just my way to start at the complex and work my way back to the simple. Shirley Paden is a NYC based knitwear designer whose work has appeared in Vogue. I took her class “Handknit Garment Design” during my first year as a knitter. Her careful, thorough and detailed design process dazzled me at first. This class was not for the casual viewer. Eventually I mastered her technique and was freed from the tyranny of purchasing patterns every time I wanted to knit something new.

Clara Parkes

Getting to know your materials is a crucial step for artists and crafters. Clara is the guru of yarn. Her class walked me through the many characteristics of both protein and plant fibers, and what to expect from the resulting yarns. I learned about staple, crimp and ply. This knowledge is so important when purchasing yarn. And when you live in the middle of the country, forty miles from the nearest yarn shop, on-line shopping is a necessary evil. I avoided many poor choices because of what I learned from Clara.

Eunny Jang

No knitter can avoid lace stitches forever. Well, she can, but if a knitter wants to master the craft, lace is part of the story. This lady gave me the information I needed to succeed with lace patterns. Okay – here is the biggest tip Eunny taught me about knitting lace: Never, ever attempt to knit a lace pattern that has a repeat longer the four stitches and four rows from written-out instructions. ALWAYS USE A CHART. There were several more important bits in Eunny’s class. But the chart was the break-through moment for me. After taking this class I proceeded to chart out all of the lace stitches that I wanted to try.

Laura Nelkins

Now that you know how to knit lace, what are you going to do with it? Laura is the one who gave me the key to making amazing lace shawls. In addition to offering four different patterns, she also taught me how to produce many different styles and shapes of shawls. By using Laura’s shawl shapes and any charted out lace stitch, I can design my own shawl patterns with ease.

I hope you enjoyed meeting these instructors. The links I embedded to their websites, (when they were available), will allow you to learn more about them without relying on the now-defunct Craftsy platform.

Posted in knitting

Finally using the Black Yarn

A few months ago, I blogged about working with black yarn.

After months of fiddling around with the luxury blend, coal colored yarn my daughter gave me, I finally settled into a shawl design. Fellow blogger Deb Gemmell has unvented an improvement to the basic triangle shawl which she calls Wedges Shawl. Her goal is to increase the length of the shawl ends without making the body section excessively long. You can read about it on her blog:

I thought I would give this concept a try. I started out normally, with a garter tab cast on. After increasing four stitches every other row for awhile, I began to insert wedge-shaped sections. These are created with short rows. To make a nice contrast with the black yarn, I chose a beige singles yarn and used the classic eyelet pattern of k2tog, yo. I also tossed in a couple sections of garter lace pattern with the black yarn.

After I worked up about 290 stitches, I switched back to the black yarn for one more eyelet row and bound off. Here is a blocked shawl.

I couldn’t quite fit the whole shawl into one photograph.
So I folded it up and took another picture.

It came out rather well. With such neutral colors, it should be a versatile addition to my winter wardrobe. Thank you, Deb, for your improvement!

Her patterns can be found on Ravelry:

Posted in knitting

July Knitting

The wild storm that blew through here Sunday night left behind the most glorious, cool and dry air. With early morning temperatures in the upper 60’s, it’s just fine for knitting en plein aire. What better project for summer knitting than baby sweaters?

The knitting you see in the photo is the body of a sweater for Baby L. By the time real sweater weather arrives, she will be one year old. So I have sized this sweater in the 12-18 month range. This design is a yoked and button cardigan with a very full body slightly gathered at the chest. Here is my schematic.

I feel excitement at my future of making many knitted garments for a little girl. So many design elements to choose from – the head spins. I would call this one a vintage style, which is built upon a 12-stitch lace pattern sourced from Barbara Abbey’s The Complete Book of Knitting (1971 by Viking Press.) I will use Elizabeth Zimmerman’s percentage system and instructions for the Fair Isle yoke sweater found in The Opinionated Knitter (Schoolhouse Press) to fashion the yoke. The sweater is constructed from the hem up. As Elizabeth writes, “Body to underarm, sleeves to underarm, UNITE, which … sounds rather like a rallying call.”

Below please note the instructions from Abbey’s book and accompanying chart for the baby fern lace pattern: FYI, my gauge in pattern is 20 stitches = 4 in.

Now what to do with the sleeves? I decided that they would be bloused sleeves, not tapered, so as to match the body. In studying the lace pattern, I noticed that the lace panels are separated by a 3-stitch mini pattern of garter – stockinette – garter. If I expand this slightly and add two more garter stitches between the stockinette, I will have a 7 stitch pattern that works well with the lace. Here is how it looks:

Knitted outdoors this morning, enjoying sixty-seven degree air.

So that’s all the major decisions made. I will use the same 7-stitch pattern on the yoke. I only have two balls of this Berroco “Comfort” yarn. If I run low of yarn at the yoke, I will throw in some contrasting color rows. Oh, this is going to be fun!

Posted in knitting

Black Yarn

I try to avoid knitting with black yarn. It is difficult to see what is happening with your stitches as they are built on your needles. So when my daughter gifted me with these skeins of Shibui yarn, I was not particularly inspired. They languished for a few years in my stash. To be fair, the color is not exactly black – more of a deep charcoal gray. And the fibers, a blend of baby alpaca, baby camel, and silk, are extremely soft. Make that slippery soft. Hmm…… Maybe I can combine them with another color?


This is an epic fail. The coral and rust colors do not work with the black, and the lace pattern is too bland to show off the texture of the yarn.

What I needed was a lace pattern with bigger holes. Enter blogger Naomi Parkhurst, who writes under String Geekery. She creates lace knitting patterns and shares them on her site. I found the stitch Lace Crescent Rib Vs. 2 to be promising. Each repeat is only eight stitches and there are only four rows to complete the pattern. Better still, it features a double yarnover. Here is a link to her pattern: Let’s do it:

Swatch with the first set of four row repeat

And here is the swatch after blocking. Love the open look and the central rib.

So friends, what shall I make? I am considering a triangle-shaped scarf with a central motif and the lace crescent ribs radiating out on both sides. And Thanks, Naomi.