Is it still Cardipalooza if we’re not knitting cardigans?

It’s a busy time at AHD! In addition to the Knitter’s Toolbox app coming out very, very soon, we’ve got a lot going on behind the scenes. Amy is traveling for a few big events in a row and meeting a lot of knitters. Jackie and I (Lauren) are nailing down final details for the Make. Wear. Love. Retreat next week. And everyone is knitting, of course!

But despite the fact that it’s Cardipalooza right now, both Amy and I are madly knitting away to finish pullovers. Amy’s got a very full design plate this spring, and it started with a whole slew of pullovers. She’s into cardis now, though — and here’s a sneak preview. (And if you’re at Yarnover this weekend, ask her about the sweater on the needles!)

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As for me, I’m kind of a mint green aficionado. I acquire items in mint green like they’re going out of style: a rain jacket, my favorite pair of shoes, 5 colors of nail polish… and of course, yarn:

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Lucky me, I’m knitting this Anzula Squishy (in Minty Unicorn, the Yarnover Truck’s exclusive colorway) up into a lacy pullover you’ll see very soon. Unlucky for me, it’s at 7.5 stitches per inch on size 2 needles. With a deadline.

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(Now you see why it’s been so quiet around here!)

Amy’s working on a lacy pullover as well, as part of the same collection. I haven’t seen it in person yet, but here’s a little sneak preview to share:

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This design will be released around the same time as the one I’m knitting. I think most of you will be very surprised by this design … it’s something new from Amy that you haven’t seen before. Look for both of these sweaters plus one more in mid-May!

In the meantime, if you’re looking for a new Amy sweater to knit and you simply can’t wait, you’re in luck! The most recent Twist Collective features Seawillow, a boatneck. The yarn is delightful — Manos del Uruguay’s blend of cotton and alpaca, in a springy light pink that’s perfect for layering over a sundress. (Or under a raincoat, if your weather is anything like mine right now…)

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Are you playing by the #cardipalooza rules? Or are you a #pulloverpalooza rebel like us? Share with us in the KAL thread on Ravelry!

Coming Soon, to an App Store near you

This weekend, I’m teaching at Vogue Knitting Live Pasadena (will I see you here?). So I’ve traded my barely-there crocuses and thinking-about-budding trees for the relatively lush Southern California landscape.

These teaching weekends are wonderful and frenetic and jam-packed. And some of the best things I’ve done have been born from spending a few hours getting personal with a couple dozen knitters. It’s especially wonderful to be able to get a sense of where knitters get hung up – their descriptions of that point where they just decided to give up, and knit something else. Or put down their knitting entirely.

As some of you may know, but many probably don’t, before I quit my day job to launch and run this small business, I worked in tech for more than 15 years.

…Actually, I should say I worked only in tech for that time, pursuing knitting as an ever-growing hobby and then side business. Because in this new phase of my life, I get to combine those passions. I still work in tech – CustomFit makes us a small tech company, even if we don’t look like one in some ways – but the blending of my passion for knitting and my understanding of what can be solved with computers is more personally rewarding than anything else I’ve done.

Into every knitter’s life, a little math must fall.

It’s a fact, even if you’re knitting a scarf or baby blanket. And even if math doesn’t make you shudder, your hobby isn’t math, it’s knitting.

As someone who has been solving problems with computers for decades, it gives me great pleasure to be able to take some of the pencil-and-paper out of that math, and help knitters spend more time knitting, and less time calculating.

Soon, in the Apple App Store**, you’ll be able to get another tool in that arsenal:

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The Knitter’s Toolbox is exactly what the picture says – an app we’ve written that contains four super-useful, general-purpose knitting calculators:

  • A buttonhole spacer, which will space a number of buttons easily over a number of stitches;
  • A multi-purpose gauge widget, which will take any two of the following, and tell you what the third must be: row/stitch gauge, row/stitch count, and length;
  • A shaping placer, which will tell you how you must space your increases or decreases to get as smooth a line of shaping as possible while keeping the number of “even” rows the same;
  • A pick-up calculator, which will tell you not only the total number of stitches to pick up along a vertical edge, but what that translates into as a ratio.

Want to see it in action? I made a short video:

Naturally, I’m crazy excited about this. I hope you will be too. Over the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing some videos on how to use Knitter’s Toolbox to make your knitting life easier, and we’ll definitely let you know when release date comes, too!

**(In the interest of transparency: Yes, for the moment the app will only be available on Apple devices. We absolutely plan to make an Android version too – it just isn’t as simple as clicking a “make it available everywhere!” button. We’ll need to rewrite the whole thing from scratch to support Android. It’s in our plans, but since we’re a one-developer shop, and CustomFit will need a little attention first, I can’t promise a specific timeline yet.)

But I felt like VKL was the perfect weekend to let you know about it, since the app grew directly out of me being able to sit with knitters, and ask them about their least favorite parts of knitting.

Happy weekend to you & yours!

–Amy

Book Review and Awesome Thursday: Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns

I’ve been following Alabama Chanin for years. It’s a small, cottage-industry-based studio that makes exquisite hand-made garments. Their pieces always grab my attention and fashion daydreams.


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(The pictures above are credit Alabama Chanin and used with permission.)

More than anything else, I’m enchanted by the way Natalie Chanin pursues her vocation. She has done an extraordinary thing by bringing us all into a reverence of our maker roots, and then turning that passion into an incredibly successful business. And she’s at the forefront of our growing sense that sustainable materials, crafted with care by artisans we compensate and respect, produce the best that clothing has to offer. Garments that not only look great and last well, but which also wrap and nurture and enfold us in good things.

(It doesn’t hurt that her garments, while on the fringes of my own personal style, are absolutely stunning.)

Her ready-to-wear pieces are totally out of my reach, but I snapped up all of her books with alacrity the second they came out. And when I saw that she was offering DIY kits a few years back? I grabbed some of those, too.

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If you don’t own Natalie’s previous 3 books: The Alabama Stitch Book, Alabama Studio Style, and Alabama Studio Sewing + Design, you should. They’re fantastic books to read in and of themselves, they’re incredibly visually inspiring, and they give a wonderful introduction to her techniques.

…that said, despite regularly poring over them and fondling my kits, I haven’t actually ever made anything from them beyond the basic home-type projects.

Don’t get me wrong! I grew up a decent seamstress, stitching at my grandmother’s knees. But that was a long time ago. Alabama Chanin’s garments are so exquisite – I really wanted to “do it right”. And while I’m comfortable making modifications while knitting — inserting darts to fit my bust, waist, and hips, and lengthening sweaters as I go — modifying a sewn garment is a different matter. Accommodating my long torso and short legs, as well as my bust, in a dress? Daunting!

Kind of ironic, isn’t it, coming from someone who spends their life helping others get over their fear of fitting?

The new book, Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns, solves my hesitance.

It’s easily as gorgeous and inspiring as the others, but is also full of action.

It provides proper sewing patterns that are much more explicit than previous guidance/sketches, not only for the garments from all previous books, but also for three new patterns: Their A-line dress/tunic/top, their Classic coat/jacket/cardigan, and (most excitingly to me) their Wrap Skirt. All of them can be extended with any of the embellishment techniques Alabama Chanin is known for, in a wide range of colors and patterning styles.

But what’s better is that after the patterns, Natalie includes an entire chapter on fit and customization. It’s meaty and wonderful, covering everything from darts to princess seams to perimeter vs. internal alterations to mix-and-match sizing and more. Everything is discussed clearly, with great illustrations, and the book even comes with a CD of all of the patterns, in all of the sizes. It’s incredibly helpful and thoughtfully put together.

My own personal issue with garments like these, especially pants and skirts, is that I have extremely short legs – my inseam is just 27” despite my 5’6″ height. And although I’ve definitely gotten used to it over the years, hemming ready-to-wear is often a problem! The easiest way to alter – simply cutting length off of the bottom – tends to change the proportions of patterning and silhouette. So I was especially grateful for the detailed guidance on different ways to approach length alterations.

The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. Although I didn’t create this garment (major thanks go to the incredibly talented Alabama Chanin team), it was created to fit my own unique body, using the techniques described in the book. And I can’t even tell you how excited I am about it.

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This is the gored skirt, with paisley reverse applique, shortened properly to my preferred knee length of 20”. The patterning is intact and lovely, and I think it looks fantastic. In Knit Wear Love parlance, I’d say my style is fairly Sporty – though I have a few fave Classic and Bohemian pieces I wear a lot too. The pictures above show how I’ll wear the skirt in my daily life.

…But I couldn’t help playing around with the Knit Wear Love sweaters, and I noticed that the skirt looked phenomenal with the Avant-Garde bolero too! So I pulled a very-unlike-me outfit together to show you:

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(Custom buttons by Jennie the Potter, yarn by Sweet Georgia, bolero pattern is my own.)

In short: This book is a fantastic resource. Clearly and thoughtfully written by someone who has lots to teach us about dressing ourselves, actionable and useful, and visually inspiring. What more could a maker want?

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Pattern (and yarn!) Release: Foyle’s Sweaters

So if you head on over to Clara Yarn today, you’ll notice a breathtaking new offering:

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This is Shetland 1.0, a naturally-colored Shetland woolen-spun yarn. DK weight, blooms like nobody’s business, a sweater yarn to end all sweater yarns. As Clara herself said:

“Don a sweater out of this yarn and you’ll be driving a World War II ambulance in no time.”

To say that I was excited about working with this yarn is something of an understatement. I was lucky enough to have time to luxuriate in my swatches, and let me tell you – EVERYTHING looked great. Cables? Stunning. Texture? Perfect. Small-scale lace?

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There we had my winner. The crazy bloom of this yarn made the lace look almost like a texture. I was instantly in love. I came up with the notion of offering two variations on the same sweater pattern – something for pullover people, something for cardigan people. I wanted allover texture on the front, but plain sleeves and back to facilitate shaping. Keeping the front straight meant that the sweater could have an old-school, comfortable, slightly-slouchy feel while not being super boxy.


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Foyle’s Cardigan and Pullover will take you to the grocery store, on a hike, to work, to the library, all while making you feel as though you’re surrounded by the heather of a Scottish moor. Knit up in Shetland 1.0, they’re the kind of sweaters that turn people into sweater people. They wrap you up in woolly comfort, and remind you of what clothes can do for us when they’re made from thoughtful materials and created with care and pride.

Both designs feature an allover-patterned front and Stockinette back and sleeves. The pullover sports a wide, slightly-deep crew neck; the cardigan, a comfy deep V. Waist shaping is located on the back only for the ultimate in casual comfort. Want some more pics? Of course you do!


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You can get the yarn here, at least till it’s gone – and I urge you to do so. It’s like the culmination of all of my yarny dreams, in 3 great colors.

(I may have tripped and fallen on a sweaters’ worth in each of the other colors, too.)

Once you’ve gotten your yarn, head here to create your own Foyle’s sweater:

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Click for the cardigan!

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Click for the pullover!

And tell us about your sweater nirvana. Are you a cardigan or a pullover person? Average fit, like my sweater – or relaxed, like Clara’s? Where would you wear your Foyle’s, and what will you wear it with?

Happy knitting!

The best kind of Monday

I know that Mondays are some people’s least favorite day. But I love them – they always fill me with promise and excitement for the week ahead. This week, there’s a little more than usual to be excited about!

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The handy knitting calculators app we’ve been writing is finally almost ready to submit for approval. So be looking for videos and more fun stuff in the weeks ahead – in addition to posting here about them, I’ll be updating this page with screenshots, details, and other fun stuff.

Tomorrow, at noon(ish) Eastern, something pretty spectacular is going to happen. It’s a great idea to be near a computer then.

Thursday, I’ll be sharing a bit about what’s at the bottom of that pile – and how I love it with all my fierce fashiony heart.

In the meantime, I’m going to keep knitting, finalizing retreat details, and preparing for all of the travel I have coming up later this month. Speaking of – there are actually a few spots open in a couple of my Vogue Knitting Live classes. I believe there’s still room in the short Knit to Flatter class, my Sweaters, Deconstructed class (which is an excellent class all about fabric, stitch patterning, style, and other sweater considerations), and my Modifications class. You can view all classes and sign up here – I hope to see you there!

(Or at Yarnover, where I’m speaking and teaching.)

(Or in this gorgeous place, where I CANNOT WAIT TO BE, although the weather has been giving us a much-loved break here in New England lately.)

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What will your week hold?

Drumlin Cardigan

How is your Cardipalooza cardi coming along? I’m pretty excited about the one I just cast on, but I’ve actually already got a couple of cardigans to share with you!

The first is the Drumlin Cardigan:

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Cardigans are such essential sweaters for most of us, aren’t they? The design for this one started when Clara Parkes and I were discussing what makes for a quintessential cardigan. I’d just received a sweater quantity of her (then-new) Cormo 2.0**, which is such a fantastic sweater yarn. We started bouncing around thoughts and descriptors:

Great indoors and out. Comfortable, but not baggy. Shaped, but not tight. Versatile in terms of layering. Pockets a plus.

I spent some time sketching, and swatching, and fiddling with my sketches a bit. The design is pretty simple:

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But I’m also finding the sweater to be pretty much infinitely wearable. Our weather has warmed up a bit this week, and I’ve been wearing this every day instead of a jacket. I’ve worn it with a long-sleeved T-shirt, as in the pattern photos. I’ve worn it over a thin henley store-bought sweater that I love. I’ve worn it over a giant cowl-neck tunic, and over a button-down. And it’s risen to the challenge most admirably. (Also, the fabric is looking lovely even after so much hard wear – a little fuzzed, but not a pill in sight.) And by the way – I worked the edge shaping on this sample 3 stitches in from the edge, slanting against the edge being shaped – but of course, you can shape however you’d like.

I’ve built Drumlin right into CustomFit, so you can get your own perfectly-suited cardigan without having to worry about fit modifications or matching anyone else’s gauge.

If you were not able to purchase Cormo 2.0 while it existed, any worsted-spun, traditional wool yarn will make a great substitute. For a commercially-available yarn that will produce an extremely similar final product, try Imperial Yarns Tracie Too.

The exquisite buttons on this sweater were created by Melissa Jean Handknit Design and are highly recommended.

Are you cardi-inspired? What will you use to make your own Drumlin?

**(P.S. – in re: another sweater I’ll be sharing with you shortly, you probably want to sign up to be notified when Clara releases new yarn. Link here. Just sayin’.)

Knit Wear Love – Release Day!!!

There seriously aren’t enough exclamation points in the world for how I feel today.

Knit Wear Love is finally available!

The patterns are described on Ravelry and here on this site, the blank pattern worksheets are available to help make your sweater knitting more brainless and easy, and I can finally start wearing the sweaters.

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(The cozy in today’s studio brought to you by: The Casual Cardigan.)

You can get the book from Amazon, directly from my publisher, or from your favorite independent bookstore. Or better still: Visit one of our wonderful CustomFit yarn stores to pick up your copy.

As you knit from the book, or daydream about knitting from the book, we’d love to keep track of what you’re doing! Use the hashtag #knitwearlove so that we can see all of your sweater awesomeness.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more sweater talk, but for today – I’m going to celebrate, and knit, and breathe a huge sigh of relief. It’s here!!!

Swapping out Shaping

One of the benefits of the interstate move I mentioned is that I now live just a few doors down from my best friend. Obviously this is awesome for about a million every day reasons, but since this is a knitting blog let’s talk about the knitting-related ones. Beth was an occasional knitter for about a year, and she’s certainly kicked things into high gear since we moved.

In fact, she’s now knitting her first sweater!

One of the great things about that is that I’m getting to see, first-hand, in a context where I can pester her with questions, what it’s like to approach sweater knitting as a relative newbie. (Because let’s face it, it’s been a long time since I (or any other designer you’re likely to meet) were in that stage of our sweater-knitting journey.)

I’m fascinated by the fresh slate with which she approaches patterns themselves. I had no understanding of how much context and custom we (pattern writers) assume on the part of the knitter – she’s mentioned several times how vague knitting patterns are. In most cases when a pattern is vague, there’s a reason – different choices exist that you can make entirely based on your own taste, and will probably want to make differently for different sweaters.

So today, I’m starting a series of posts on the options and freedoms you have when you’re knitting any sweater pattern. Things you can do this way, or that way, and still get a great sweater. The first topic is edge shaping.

When shaping on an edge, you have a variety of options that will all produce different looks.

The actual pattern instructions for edge shaping often look something like this:

“Decrease 1 st at each edge every RS row 7 times.”

And as long as you’ve gotten rid of those 14 stitches over the 14 rows specified, you’re pretty much good. So what are your options, and what look will they produce? There are two different parts to how you’ll work your shaping, and they’re independent of each other. So let’s break things down that way.

The first thing to decide is where you’ll work your shaping.

Shaping Placement

Edge shaping should typically be carried out within the 4 or 5 stitches at the edge of the piece, but you can work the shaping wherever you want within that range: Either right at the edge, one stitch in, or more than one stitch in.

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Shaping at the edge means that the shaping itself is going to be hidden within the finishing you’ll do – whether you’re going to be seaming that edge, or picking up stitches within it.

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Shaping one stitch in means that the shaping will be just outside the seam of whatever finishing you’ll do. It will be visible, but fairly unobtrusive.

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Shaping more than one stitch in from the edge means that the shaping itself will become a visual element in the piece. This is sometimes called “fully fashioned shaping”.

Shaping Slant

Wherever your performing the shaping, you can either choose to have it slant with the edge being shaped, or slant against the edge being shaped. All of the images above have shaping that slants with the edge being shaped:

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Slanting the shaping with the edge, for example using left-leaning decreases on the right edge and right-leaning decreases on the left edge of the armholes of a sweater back, will make the shaping slightly less eye-catching.

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Slanting the shaping against the edge, for example using right-leaning decreases on the right edge and left-leaning decreases on the left edge of the same armholes, will make the shaping slightly more eye-catching.

Putting them together

Putting them together, you’ve got a range of shaping options from completely unobtrusive (shaped at the edge itself, slanting with the edge being shaped):

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To fashionably eye-catching (shaped 3 stitches away from the edge, slanting against the edge being shaped):

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Which should you choose?

Truly, it’s up to you.

I personally prefer a clean look on sleeve caps most of the time, and on necklines when the yarn itself is somewhat busy, and fully fashioned shaping on neck edges when the yarn and design are more plain – as seen in the new CustomFit Basics sweater Firth:

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…but really, truly, it’s a matter of taste. What look do you like, given the rest of what’s going on in the sweater?

We have a winner – and a new KAL!

You all did such a wonderful job commenting in the contest to win Knit Wear Love – thank you!!! I always love reading comments, but this time especially I had such a great time hearing about your style challenges and loves. Thank you for such an excellent and thought-provoking group of observations.

I was glad to have the random number generator to help me choose a winner, for sure! And out of 402 comments, it chose Deb’s:

I love cables, textures and color knits with a scoop or vneck or henley and i like raglan. comfort is the key. I love textures that evoke nature. I really love a sweater with a beautiful lace pattern as well.

Deb and everyone, thanks again for commenting! As soon as my own copies of the book arrive, one will be on its way to you.

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Even though it’s tough to tell from today’s weather, winter is winding down, and with the warmer (?!) temperatures comes the end of the Deep Winter KAL.

As I mentioned when we kicked it off, Deep Winter is my favorite sweater time. And I’ve been heartily enjoying my favorite of the 6 sweaters I knit during this KAL:

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…but I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a hint of spring fever around here. And let’s be honest, those of us in the Northeast still have a couple-three months of wool-weather before we pack it away until fall.

So it’s time to come full-circle in the Year of Sweaters KAL, and once again get a little punchy with the thought of wearing sweaters-as-outerwear:

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So many beautiful sweaters were finished during the first Cardipalooza that we kicked off a whole series of Year of Sweaters KALs. Let’s do it again! The rules are as usual for these KALs – knit a cardigan, and finish it before May 31 for a chance to win a prize (beyond your fab sweater, of course!).

Want to play along? There are a number of ways:

  • Our CustomFit Ravelry group is a great place for inspiration and sweater-y chatter.
  • Use the hashtag #cardipalooza on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest so that we can all keep in touch. As usual, we’ll set up inspiration boards and share our own cardi progress with you.
  • Comment here on the blog! We always love to see and hear about what you’re knitting.

We’ll be setting up an FO thread for the Deep Winter KAL in our Ravelry group early this week to choose the Deep Winter winner, and I’ll be kicking Cardipalooza off with a bang early next week with a brand-spanking-new cardi pattern.

Until then, grab some yarn you love, see if any of CustomFit’s cardigans strike your fancy, and stay warm!

Catching up: The book (and a chance to win it!)

So in addition to an inter-state move, running my own small business for the first full year, many many teaching trips, and trying to spend as much time with my family as possible…

…I wrote a book in 2014.

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And I haven’t really had much time to tell you about it yet! Knit Wear Love has an official release date of March 17, so you’ll be hearing and seeing more about it as the month goes on, but I didn’t want to get too much further without at least introducing it – and giving you a chance to win a copy!

Knit Wear Love grew out of the same place that birthed CustomFit:

I want to help you use your knitting skill to make your own favorite clothes.

Wearing garments that are made for us is such an amazing feeling. It’s something we hardly ever get to experience anymore, in this quick-fashion, ready-to-wear world. And it’s an amazing enough feeling that I want to help make the whole shebang as easy as possible for you. The first step is knowing what kind of silhouette you like on your own fabulous self. That’s what Knit to Flatter was all about.

But even once you’ve got the silhouette down, how do you create a sweater that matches your life? That looks good with the clothes you already have? That’s practical for the things you need to do each day?

As a designer, I’ve got dozens of sweaters that fit me well, with flattering silhouette. Why do I wear 4 of them, and leave the rest on the shelf?

Knit Wear Love answers those questions. This book, CustomFit, and Knit to Flatter work together to give you a great set of sweater resources:

  1. Knit to Flatter tells you what kinds of silhouettes you are most likely to love.
  2. Knit Wear Love tells you what kinds of materials and flair you’d like to add to that basic shape.
  3. CustomFit creates a pattern where all the numbers match your gauge and body.

In addition to having patterns (I’ll write more about those later), I wanted Knit Wear Love to be a great reference book for the kinds of changes and alterations you should feel empowered to make to a pattern so that the sweater is uniquely you. So there’s a whole chapter on things like how to swap out stitch patterning, yarn choice, and basic silhouette pieces to create a look that’s very you, rather than one that’s like the model.

Want a sneak peek at some of the samples?


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(24 sweaters is a lot of knitting!)

Giveaway time!

I’ve got a series of posts planned that will give you an inside look at the choices behind some of the samples I created for Knit Wear Love, and a few more about technical sweater topics – but I wanted to take few minutes for a quick introduction, first. Knit Wear Love forms the backbone of what I’m thinking, designing, and teaching right now. It informs the way I use and design for CustomFit, it gave rise to some of my most favorite classes, and I’m so tremendously pleased with the way STC’s wonderful team brought the whole thing together.

I hope you like it as much as I do. I’ll have more giveaways as release time gets closer, but since books are such special things, I’d love to kick off this introduction with one too. Knit Wear Love starts off with a question:

What’s your personal style?

So, for a chance to win a signed copy of the book, tell me something about your style. It can be anything: What kinds of colors, materials, fabrics, or shapes do you like to wear? What’s your very favorite piece of clothing? What thing have you made that you wear all the time, or that goes with nothing in your closet?

I’ll take comments until midnight EDT on Thursday, March 12, and choose a winner randomly on Friday morning. I can’t wait to read your comments!