CustomFit Basics: Winter/Spring 2015 Collection.

I’ve always felt that our knitting should be worn.

One of my great passions in life is to change the fact that sweaters suffer from the “closet curse” more than any other kind of knitting. That’s why I created CustomFit — to help all knitters make sweaters they love to knit and to wear. This fall, my inner restlessness and focus on great clothes combined into a somewhat-obsessive desire to re-imagine our “Classic” CustomFit silhouettes into something less static. Through the process, I kept coming back to this concept of basic wardrobe fundamentals.

You know the kind I mean, right? Those sweaters you wear all the time. That you want in 17 different colors. That go with everything in your wardrobe. That feel current, but that you also know you’ll wear for years to come.

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I thought about what those sweaters have in common. And decided that our “classic” CustomFit sweaters needed to be an evolving series of the most versatile things that will ever fly off your needles. I sketched, and chose sweater yarns that I believe in on a number of different levels, and I swatched. Then, the knitting began…

…and today, I’m presenting the first in a line of CustomFit Basics collections: twice-yearly presentations of the classics of our time. Those fundamental, wear-every-day sweaters we can’t wait to throw on. Ready for you to interpret – in your own materials, for your own wardrobe.

For Winter/Spring 2015, our inaugural collection, we’re presenting a mix of timeless, tried-and-trues and updated interpretations of the garments we wear every day.

CustomFit will create them in your own gauge, and your own size. So think about what you’d like to wear, grab your favorite yarn, and play around. See where your hands take you while you look through the collection.


And then, share with us! What styles appeal to you? What materials? What three things in your closet would you want to wear with your new sweater? When you’re ready, click here to get started on your very own wardrobe fundamentals.

Catching up: The Talcott Cardigan

It’s a week of catching up on sweaters here, and today I’d like to talk about a sweater I worked up as an exclusive design for the new website Kitterly.

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Do you know about Kitterly yet? It’s a website that helps you find a project that matches your tastes and skill level, and then packages up everything you need for that project, in one easy bundle. (I spent a fun time over coffee last week, clicking through all of the buttons on their project match tool.) Some months ago now, they were reaching out to designers to collaborate on exclusive kit designs.

I was super happy to be invited to play along, and then even happier when they sent me one of my very favorite yarns to work with – Rowan Felted Tweed Aran. I love this yarn – it’s delightful to knit with, it wears well over time, it comes in a wonderful selection of wearable colors, and it shows stitch patterning beautifully. I’ve worked with it many times over the years, and always enjoy designing for it.

This time, I knew I wanted to work it up into something cabled and cozy, but with a nod to more modern sensibilities. That, and a doodle of Jacob’s, was how Talcott started. I’m super pleased with how it turned out, and I hope you are too!

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Want one of your own? For now, it’s available exclusively through Kitterly. You can find out more details, and get your own, there. Happy knitting!

Catching up: Harrisville

Well, hello there! Long time, no see…

2015 has been incredible in many ways, but not so much on the sitting-in-front-of-the-computer front. Between my travel, the snow days you’re almost certainly sick of hearing about (or experiencing, depending on where you live!), and school vacations, this is one of the first days I’ve been able to just… work… in forever. So there’s lots of catching up to do! For instance, I don’t think we’ve talked about any of these things:

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And I think I’ve knit 5 sweaters during the current KAL, none of which I’ve talked about…

…but first, let’s start with a few more sweaters I’ve been knitting that I don’t think I’ve mentioned. I want to start by talking about my design partnership with Harrisville Designs.

My own journey with Harrisville actually started when I was a kid – we mostly worked with the absolute least-expensive (acrylic) yarn that could be found when I was young. But my mom always had a little savings fund going for “the really good wool”, and every so often would make a very special garment out of it. Harrisville projects were my favorites of that smaller collection of items. While I think they’re gorgeous in the hank too, the true beauty of these yarns doesn’t fully come through until the items made with them are worn, day after day, and year after year.

Over time, the things you’ll make from these yarns will soften, bloom, meld, and relax, the way a really good pair of shoes will. (You know the ones I mean.) Except that unlike the shoes, they’ll continue to look just as good – if not better – than the day they were knit. Of all of the sweaters in the giant set I bring to my classes, Acorn Trail (out of Highland) gets the most love. It still looks as good as the pattern photo, and it feels even better.

So needless to say, when Harrisville first approached me to design for them I was thrilled.

I’ve done 3 sweaters with them now, the latest of which was released just last week. Can I show them to you? (By the way, Caro Sheridan gets the credit for all of these incredible photos.)

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Leatherleaf (here’s a Ravelry link, too) was released in Harrisville’s “Spring Thaw 2014″ collection. It’s a flirty little thing, knit out of their Silk and Wool blend, a wonderful, nubby yarn that I’ve used several times now. (I like it sooo much.)

While I originally intended for the sweater to be worn with a couple of inches of positive ease, I think it looks great when worn more fitted, too. It’s a fairly quick and simple knit, and I keep meaning to knit one for myself – it’s a nice blend of the classic and sporty styles I’m personally most comfortable in. I can imagine it with several of the skirts hanging in my closet that are just waiting for warmer weather.

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Bennington (here’s that Rav link) was my chance to design for Harrisville’s Autumn collection, using their glorious WATERshed yarn. WATERshed is a light, medium-twist woolenspun yarn, similar to Shelter but more structured and durable. I found it to be a joy to work with, and for an Autumn collection, knew that I wanted to work with some deliciously cabled pattern. The front of this cardi is quite plain, and intended to be worn open. (Be sure to choose a size that’s large enough to let the cardigan fronts hang nicely!)

In fact, Harrisville is running a KAL for Bennington – and I can’t wait to see the sweaters! (It’s okay to be dreaming of autumn before winter is even done, right?)

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And finally, there’s Hemingway, which has just been released as part of Harrisville’s winter collection. (Here’s a Ravelry link.) I can’t say enough good things about FLYwheel, the yarn I used for this cardigan. It’s a completely exquisite yarn – a sport-weight relative of WATERshed, except that description can’t convey how perfect a sweater yarn this is. It’s warm, it’s light, it’s the perfect size and tweediness for stitch patterns.

And so, I designed a sweater that I wanted to wear (badly). Cabled, relaxed, comfortable, with just a bit of shaping. The kind of thing that will work with my jeans, my cord skirts, my fall dresses. With boots, with clogs, with an old pair of converse. Know what I mean?

I hope you like it. I’m ridiculously excited about it.

Want to see another picture for good measure?

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(And is that sweet dog not the most adorable thing ever?) So that’s that – another stop in the line of pinch-me-experiences I’ve had since leaving my day job to pursue the fiber arts full-time. What’s on your needles these days – and what sweaters are you looking forward to making this year?

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!

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!