Where did January go? (a little giveaway!)

January hit us hard here at Amy Herzog Designs! After we got back from TNNA, I came down with a killer cold that laid me out for nearly a week. I could barely knit, which is the worst kind of sick. And just a few days later, my fiancé and I packed up our apartment and moved to a different neighborhood. Sadly, packing (and then unpacking!) boxes is not conducive to finishing a Deep Winter KAL sweater… but I’m trying my best. photo

Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, the flu hit Amy’s kids hard. I won’t go into detail, but let’s just say there’s been some puking. The one good thing (?) about sitting with sick children is that you get a lot of knitting done… she’s on track for several sweaters this KAL!

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As for Jackie, she’s been working hard to wrap up everything before her little one arrives sometime in the next month or so.

We’re still getting a bit of knitting done, while planning for the next sweater too.

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How’s your Deep Winter KAL Sweater? Have you made good progress? Lots of folks have already posted sweaters in our Ravelry group, and there’s some great in-progress shots under the hashtags #wintersweaterKAL and #makewearlove on Instagram!

Even though January’s got us under the weather, we’re looking forward to February. Want to know why? All of us are big football fans, and there’s a little something going on the first of February …

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To thicken the plot, we’re rooting for opposite teams. Being from New England, Amy and Jackie are die-hard Patriots fans. And you know I live in Seattle — home of the defending champions, the Seahawks, my favorite team since my junior year of college.

We’re upping the stakes! Amy and I have decided to make a bet on the winner of the game — and the winner of our bet will be one of you. Post a comment predicting who will win the Super Bowl, and what you’ll be knitting while you watch it (or while you don’t watch it).

(Hint: the right answer is the Seahawks.)

(Amy would like to note she disagrees!)

We’ll pick a lucky knitter from one of you who chose the winning team, and the loser of our little bet will send the winner a sweater quantity from her stash, plus one coupon for any CustomFit sweater. Let the games begin!

Who’s going to win, and what will you be knitting?

Deep Winter Travels

I always forget how much back-to-back extended travel weekends trash my productivity in other areas. Email, blog, laundry, the code… all of it falls by the wayside when I’m gone 10 days in a row.

But our travels to TNNA were great (did you see Lauren’s video of me seeing Knit, Wear, Love for the first time?), and I’ve taken my quick one-day laundry/kid-hugs break, and now I’m off again!

This weekend, I’ll be in New York for Vogue Knitting Live NYC, which is one of my absolute favorite events each year. I hope to see you there! In addition to my classes and lecture, I’ll be speaking at a panel on design on Sunday at lunchtime in the marketplace. It should be a blast.

And in addition to a wonderful TNNA, those cross-country flights are great for knitting productivity: I have already finished the knitting for my first Deep Winter KAL sweater.

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(Not shown: Sleeves that have not yet been seamed on.) How are yours coming?

Charlie’s Cardigan

Jackie has said about me, more than once:

“She’s a compulsive designer. She literally cannot stop.”

And it’s true. I can’t touch a hank of yarn without thinking about what it wants to be. I’ve taken three pauses in my work today, just to pull some yarn and needles down and play around with them, and it’s only barely lunchtime. And in all of my design work, I try to be true to what the yarn needs. I strive to make sweaters that are infinitely wearable, and which fit seamlessly into a wardrobe.

…But oftentimes, I’m not actually knitting sweaters that fit comfortably into my wardrobe. I have a pretty strongly-developed style: my outfits tend to be a blend of sporty and preppy, with a few bohemian, modern, and/or romantic touches thrown in now and again for flavor. So as much as I love all of the sweaters I design, I wear them less than you might think.

Which is why, when I decided to use some of the utterly-phenomenal Swans Island All-American yarn for my FFKAL sweater, I decided to stick close to my own wardrobe roots.

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Charlie’s Cardigan is a kinda-sporty, kinda-preppy crew neck cardigan that slips quietly into wardrobe heavy rotation. It looks good with button-downs and a skirt, and is equally at home with a long-sleeved T and your favorite pair of jeans. Its lace chevron pattern is interesting to knit and looks great, but is not so eye-catching that your whole outfit has to be about the sweater.

The Swans Island All-American Worsted is a wonderful partner for the classic lines of Charlie’s Cardigan. It’s a worsted-weight, woolenspun 2-ply blend of soft Rambouillet wool and alpaca, both sourced within the US and blended & spun at a mill in New England. It’s soft (though not smooth), light, warm, and incredibly beautiful. Swans Island’s All American Collection celebrates centuries of American textile tradition, and I’m thrilled to use it for a garment that’s getting so much daily wear already.

The best part? Charlie’s Cardigan is built right into CustomFit, so you can create one in your very own gauge, for your very own self.


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So there you have it – some closure to my FFKAL sweater, and a new design for you, just in time for the Deep Winter KAL.

Stay warm, and happy knitting!

Make, Wear, Love: Online Sweater Class (spring session)

In conjunction with the Deep Winter KAL, I’ll be running another session of my make, wear, love online sweater class:

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I so enjoyed the first two sessions, and I’m thrilled to offer this course again. You can read a bunch more detail on this page – here are the basics:

  • The class is great for beginners and more advanced knitters alike, and covers:
    • CustomFit itself – what it can do, what it can’t, and how to use it
    • Body measurements and Fit to Flatter principles
    • Sweater fabric – how to get the best fabric for your sweater
    • Finishing – how to get professional finishing results
    • Advanced CustomFit topics – mash-ups, stitch patterns, and more
    • One-on-one instruction – You’ll have two 15-minute personal sessions with me as part of your course fee.
  • The sessions are run live by group video chat. Amy has multiple cameras and can draw on a whiteboard and/or share her screen with you – so everything is super visible and clear.
  • This session runs on Monday evenings at 8:00pm Eastern. The dates are 01/19, 02/02, 02/23, 03/09, 03/23, and 04/06.
  • The cost for the entire class, including one CustomFit pattern, class sessions, and the one-on-one sessions, is $125

I really hope you’ll join us! You can sign up by clicking here. You’ll get confirmation email right away, and we’ll be in touch within 24 hours with more information.

So: Are you ready to knit a fantastic sweater with me? Here’s a sneak peek of the one I knit during our last class sessions:

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Happy knitting!

Year of Sweaters: Deep Winter KAL

Happy New Year, everyone, and welcome to 2015!

Congratulations, if appropriate, for making it through the knitter’s toughest season of the year. Gifts have been given (and a week of mopping up “loose ends” completed), to-do-lists have been placed aside for the next holiday season, and your needles are your own again.

So we think January 1 is the perfect time to begin the penultimate KAL in our first “Year of Sweaters”:

Deep Winter KAL

Knitters get very excited about fall knitting, that time of the year when the temperature first dips low enough to consider a long-sleeved garment. And I definitely love all of the other sweater seasons too! Transitional cardigans, a snuggly vest for my best friend, a sleek shell in a futuristic non-wool blend…

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…but my heart belongs to the winter sweater.

 

Winter is when we need our sweaters most.

 

It’s cold (or colder than usual anyway). It’s dark. The holidays are over and everything is quiet and still. The entire season begs for us to look inward, care for ourselves and our loved ones, and cuddle up until the spring warms our faces again.

It’s the perfect time to envelop yourself in the care and warmth of your own craft. But winter sweaters are my favorites for another reason, too:

 

The best winter sweaters are simple, functional, and wearable.

 

Winter is the time when we pull on our time-tested, tried-and-true favorites. The ones that might not be loaded with fancy stitch patterns, that might not have the most unique construction, but which snuggle us in cozy warmth and match our entire wardrobes.

So we’re packing this session of our KAL with a celebration of all things cozy, starting with a pretty jam-packed week:

  • With the start of the Deep Winter KAL, the Gift KAL has closed. We’ve got an FO thread on Ravelry here – post your gift sweater for a chance to win this KAL’s prize – a 30-minute private sweater consultation with me. Now that you’ve knit your gift sweater, it’s time to talk about what makes your sweater-loving heart sing. We’ll chat over an online meeting, and discuss anything you like. Afterwards, I’ll send off a grab bag to you of favorite yarns from my own stash.
  • Tomorrow, I’ll be posting sign-ups for a new session of the make wear love online sweater class to dovetail with the KAL.
  • I’ll be releasing a cozy new design on Monday.
  • Before Lauren and I head to the winter TNNA show, I’ll share tips on making sure your fabric and your sweater’s design live in perfect harmony.

The rest of this KAL will feature a series on creating the perfect cardigan, more single-session online classes, and the release of our first CustomFit collection.

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So grab a cup of something warm, snuggle yourself into your favorite knitting chair, and create something cozy with us. We’re excited to be knitting with you!

(Of course, as usual for these Knit-A-Longs, join us on Ravelry! And use the hashtag #wintersweaterkal on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest so that we can all keep in touch.)

In review, looking ahead

Happy holidays, from our little team!

We hope your knitting has been gifted, and you’re now luxuriating in family, friends, and a shorter to-do list than in early December. And while we’re still snuggling with our loved ones and enjoying a little family time of our own, I wanted to take a few minutes to thank you for being here, and reflect a bit on 2014.

My family experienced 2014 as a pretty tumultuous year, honestly. A good year in many ways, to be sure… …and a challenging one in others.

2014 was my first full year working for myself (and with an incredible team). It included more trips than I’d like to think about (16 before summer, which is when I stopped counting very carefully, even though I love teaching with all my heart). Our family made a huge move to a much less expensive place to live (but yay for continuing to be able to work on my passions!), with all that entails: new schools, new surroundings, exploration of this place we now call home. And more than that, it included a lot of introspection: What would we like our lives to be like? How much of that is under our control, and what can we change to bring ourselves closer to the family we want to be?

I feel incredibly lucky that we were in a position to make some big changes, and we’re ending the year in a place that (while still more tenuous than we’d like) is filled with light, and joy, and love. Even the bad days are easier, here.

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(Family out-take time!)

Ravelry tells me that I also knit 25 sweaters, though you can’t see most of them until the spring:

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(Knit Wear Love is coming this spring to a location near you!)

And lots of other work that has been keeping us busy this fall is under wraps until spring-time, too. All in all, 2014 left me feeling hopeful, more centered than I have in a long time, and very very excited about 2015.

How did you feel about 2014?

However your year went: Happy New Year, to you and yours. May this night be filled with light, knitting, and wonderful company. See you on the flip side!

Finishing & Advanced CustomFit online seminars

Hello good knitters! Lauren here.

Did you finish your holiday gift knitting? You’ll be happy to hear that I did, and even got it mailed in time to make it to my home state for Christmas! My Gift Sweater KAL recipient may have been spoiled by some photos I posted on our Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, but even if she has seen them, I hope she’s delighted. In the meantime, I’m trying to decide what knitting to bring on the plane for my Christmas travels… At least I have a lot of options?

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Amy loved teaching the first Make. Wear. Love. series for new sweater knitters — and I loved helping out too. Now, we’re excited to bring you some brand new online classes! The more advanced sweater knitters have spoken, and they want online classes too. And so we’re closing out 2014 with two Advanced Seminars with Amy.

First, finishing! Knitting sweaters is the fun part, but many of us dread putting them together. Let Amy help you set in sleeves, pick up buttonbands, and match mattress stitch seams. Amy will fully customize the class to the students’ questions and interests. The Finishing Knits Seminar will take place on December 27, from 11 am – 1 pm EST. The cost is $40To sign up, fill out this form.

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Next, Advanced CustomFit. This class might be for you if you’ve made your first CustomFit sweater and you’re ready to take it to the next level. Do you want to add cables to your sweater, but you’re not sure how many stitches to add? Maybe you have a favorite pattern by another designer that you’re dying to adapt using CustomFit. Or if you just want an overview of the steps beyond basic custom sweaters. The Advanced CustomFit Seminar will take place on January 3, from 11 am – 1 pm EST. The cost is $40To sign up, fill out this form.

We know the holidays are upon us, and you may be busy at these times. Not to worry — we’ll run these seminars again soon. Since it’s such a busy time of year, each class will only run if we get 8 students or more. We’ll send confirmation with 1 business day, unless we don’t get enough students — in which case, we’ll let you know as soon as we decide.

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Finally, you may notice a bit of a delay in our response time over the Christmas holidays, as most of the team will be traveling, spending time with our families, and snuggling up with a mug of tea (like Jackie below, from last year!). Thanks for your patience, and we’ll get back to you as soon as we’re back in the office! We’re so thankful to be part of your sweater journeys every day. ❤noanet-peak-finals-smaller-5

Practical tips on Swatching

I’ve talked before about why we swatch, the importance of fabric, and the things that can sometimes go wrong. I’ve even talked about how to accurately measure your swatch (and provided videos, for CustomFit!).

But I don’t think I’ve spoken practically before about how to keep your swatches from lying to you. Which should definitely be fixed. So:

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Practical tips for making your swatches tell the truth about your gauge:

  1. Swatch “normally”. Your swatching goal should be to predict, rather than match, your gauge. So be predictive in your swatching! If your knitting time comes between 8:30 and 10:00pm, while you’re watching Sherlock and having a glass of wine, that’s when your swatching time should come, too.
  2. Make your rows long enough so that you ‘knit normally’. Many of us have different knitting motions when we’re faced with 75 or 100 stitches on the needle, vs. 20. Cast on enough stitches that you’re knitting the way you’ll knit a garment. I always cast on 42 stitches, because I am a big ol’ dork, but you can use whatever number you want. Just make sure it’s over 35, okay?
  3. Swatch for long enough to ‘get into your groove’. None of us get into our regular knitting motion within the first inch or two, so you should knit your swatch until it’s tall enough to give you good data. You’ll need at least 5” / 12.5 cm, and I recommend between 6 – 8” (15 – 20.5 cm).
  4. Don’t “block” your swatch. Wash it. It doesn’t matter what gauge you can pin your swatch to. What matters is the gauge your swatch has when it’s been washed and laid flat to dry, because that’s how you’re going to treat your sweater. So don’t pin your swatch. Wash it, and lay it flat to dry. Really dry.
  5. Measure the “good data” parts of your swatch. You went to so much trouble to get into your knitting motion thoroughly and truthfully – don’t pull your gauge sample from the bad part of your swatch. Measure your stitch gauge and row gauge closer to the top of your swatch than the bottom (though not all the way to the edge), and you’ll be sampling from data that’s more likely to match the way you knit your sweater.

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    So there you have it: Five simple ways to make your swatches tell the truth. Let me know how they work for you – and share your own tips in the comments, if you have them.

    What am I swatching right now? Something for a project I’m pretty freaking excited about

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    Stay warm, and happy knitting!

All things new and bright

The winter holidays are upon us again, and as the days get darker and colder we snuggle up and fill our lives with as much light and joy as it’s possible to soak in. (And a happy Hanukkah, to those who are celebrating tonight!)

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And to those of you who are still gift knitting, hang in there! You’ll totally make it. No panicking – take some deep breaths and solace in the fact that Lauren’s there with you:

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(She’s almost there on the Featherweight gift sweater!)

I’m celebrating two things in particular today. The first is that I finally got around to weaving in those final ends and wore my own CustomFit Featherweight out tonight:

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I love it fiercely – the set-in sleeves help keep this worn-open style anchored on my body, the fabric is wonderful (I used Quince and Co. Tern in “Barnacle”), and I just adore the design. Hannah did such an amazing job of pulling together simple elements to make an incredibly classic piece, with this sweater.

The second celebration is that this site has gotten a much-needed overhaul! If you’re reading via a feed reader or your email, please click on through and poke around. We’ve re-organized things around here to make key posts and design info easier to find, and to be (much) prettier. We’ll be making more additions to the site throughout the next couple of months, too, but I’m already so thrilled with how things are looking.

A new sweater, a new look, light, and warmth. Bring it on, winter!

Comings and Goings

I’m writing this in the midst of our very first “AHD Summit”, which is our fancy way of saying that this usually bi-coastal company is working together for a whole week.

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It’s been pretty glorious, I gotta say! And in between working like crazy on lots of sweater-related goodness, the team has been unwinding and chit-chatting over yummy baked goods and football. It doesn’t get much better, truly.

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(I’ve been so thrilled to get back into baking since we moved. It’s one of the many passions I just couldn’t reliably keep up in the bustle of our Boston life. I feel so grateful that I’m able to manage it, again.)

The prizes for the FFKAL have been mailed, Thanksgiving was a glorious mix of family and warmth and music and laughter, and knitting has been plentiful. I have a number of sweaters I’m dying to share with you all…


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…but until they’re a bit further along, I wanted to give you an update on the CustomFit Featherweight KAL – remember that? It was theoretically supposed to end on November 30. I had my sweater pretty much finished by the deadline:

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But that one-month time period wasn’t really sufficient for a “featherweight” sweater! So we’ve extended the deadline for the KAL through the end of the month – join us in the Rav group if you’d still like to participate! Hannah just completed a lovely version in Quince Owl, and Lauren’s joined the fun, too:

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I’m working on some modeled shots for my own Featherweight, which I hope to share with you before the week is out — along with some practical tips on swatching for gauge.

Until then, the entire AHD team says: Happy knitting!