Villanella Cowl – A New Crochet Pattern


My newest crochet pattern, made with just 1 ball of Good for Ewe Chord yarn, just went live yesterday. It’s the Villanella Cowl:

Crochet the Villanella Cowl to adorn your neck in cozy style. Worked from the bottom up, the upper edge is trimmed with jaunty picots. Openwork fans are graphically bold without being overly warm. Made with just 90 yards of worsted weight yarn, this project will fly off your hook in no time. For your convenience, the Villanella Cowl pattern includes both written instructions and stitch diagrams.

I had a lot of fun with this pattern because I had a Test-a-long with testers in my Ravelry group. They made some awesome cowls don’t you think?

crochet cowl

Photo courtesy of mmscott on Ravelry

Photo courtesy of synapticimpulse on Ravelry

Photo courtesy of synapticimpulse on Ravelry

crochet cowl pic

Photo courtesy of Cindi120 on Ravelry

crochet cowl

Photo courtesy of debspugs on Ravelry

You can find the pattern and the tester’s project notes on the Ravelry pattern listing for Villanella Cowl.

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Sneak Peek

Check out the new knit pattern and new crochet pattern coming soon:

Photo copyright Vivian Aubrey Photography

Photo copyright Vivian Aubrey Photography

Photo copyright Vivian Aubrey Photography

Photo copyright Vivian Aubrey Photography

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Knits for Boys and Guest Interview with Kate Oates

I’ve known Kate Oates for a while, and I was super excited when the offer came to review her new book Knits for Boys.

oatesbookcoverKnits for Boys has 27 patterns for sweaters, tops, vests, and more. It includes a special section on how to knit for kids, including how to make a sweater “grow with” your child. Kate was kind enough to “stop by” for a little Q&A about her new book:

In Knits for Boys you share a lot of great tips about extending the amount of time a child will be able to wear a handknit garment. What’s the longest use you’ve gotten out of a handknit?

This was the third winter in a row that my 7 year old was able to wear his Gramps Cardigan! I added lots of length in the sleeves when I knit it for him, and I will admit that we were pushing it this year, BUT, he totally pulled it off.  So that’s ages 5, 6 & 7 for him and he has gone up 3 pants sizes in that time frame so I was pretty happy.

Photo courtesy Kate Oates.

Photo courtesy Kate Oates.

The colors and textures in the Grow-with-Me projects are so appealing. Do you have a preference for colorwork or cables?

It depends on when you ask me!  Seriously-I go through phases.  I love them equally but my mood changes :) I definitely prefer both of these to stockinette or other textured stitches, and I am NOT a lace girl.

My own son tends to be a magnet for dirt. What process do you use when you have to launder handknits?

Even though I often use superwash fibers, I still am really gentle with them. I just want them to last as possible, and since I have so many boys, they get handed down!  If something is really dirty, I will soak it for up to a couple of days before using the “handwash” cycle on my machine. So far, I haven’t lost a knit to my machine.

Photo courtesy Kate Oates.

Photo courtesy Kate Oates.

In the book you provide great information about finishing techniques and modifications such as adding zippers, pockets, and hoods. What do you think people struggle with the most when it comes to finishing?

Well-I think zippers are definitely intimidating.  When I stumbled on the no-sew method a couple of years ago, it changed my world!  So that was one thing I really wanted to steer folks to.  Making the zipper “knittable” means that even if you screw it up, you can rip it out and try again.  But if I had to pick one thing that I think people struggle with, it would probably be patience.  Good finishing takes lots of it.  You’re at the end of a project and you just want to be done already! BUT–the finishing can really make or break your project and its usually that final step that determines just how awesome it looks.  I took a finishing course from Margaret Fisher years ago and wow did it change my process.  I recommend weaving in loose ends as you go so that you have a little less finishing to do, and if you have significant finishing, don’t rush it. Put it away until the next day if you need to but go slow & easy and be meticulous!

Photo courtesy Kate Oates.

Photo courtesy Kate Oates.

Do any of your kids knit?

Not yet! I really am hoping this summer to see if the older two are interested. They talk about it now and again but they love running around outside and playing and our climate is quite suitable for that!

Photo courtesy Kate Oates.

Photo courtesy Kate Oates.

Anything else you want to share?

Thanks so much for having me! It has been so exciting to hear everyone receiving their books and loving them…couldn’t have hoped for better.

I really enjoyed reading through my reviewer’s copy of Knits for Boys. Kate’s Grow-with-Me advice has me thinking that maybe it’s time to pull out the knitting needles for my own kids. Check it out, and grab your copy today.

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Weighing Yarn Part 1

The most accurate way to tell how much yarn you’re using up or will need for a project is to measure the length. Unfortunately, this often isn’t practical. In order to accurately determine the length of yarn used, many designers use a work around by weighing the yarn. Even if you aren’t a designer, you’ll probably find weighing your yarn to be useful.

Why you might want to weigh your yarn:

  1. Because you want to know how much yarn you’ve used up and how much you have left. If you use 80 grams of yarn for the first sleeve, and you know you only have 70 grams left, then you know you don’t have enough. Yes, it’s depressing, but it’s better to find out now, BEFORE you knit almost all of that second sleeve and run out with only 10 rows to go.
  2. Because you want to know how long you can work even. A lot of patterns have a shaped beginning, a work even middle, and then a shaped ending that matches the beginning. By figuring out how much yarn you used for the beginning, you can estimate how much you need for the ending (I add 10% for safety), and then you know how much yarn you can use for the middle. This lets you get the biggest shawl or longest scarf possible.
  3. Because you want to know how much yarn to buy. If making one 9 inch motif square takes 25 grams of yarn, then making a baby blanket with 25 squares requires about 625 grams of yarn.


  • Always weigh your yarn before you start. The weight of yarn listed on a label is almost always the weight BEFORE being dyed. Once the yarn soaks up dye, it’s heavier. You’ll often find that a skein of darker yarn weighs more than a lighter yarn because the darker colors require more dye.
  • Always weigh the yarn you’re actually going to use. Let’s say you make a motif in 25 grams of yarn A. That weight is only accurate for that yarn in the colorway. If you want to make the motif in another yarn or another color, you need to change that gram measurement to yards first. How? Grab a calculator.

Step 1: Multiply the weight of one motif times the yards of yarn in the whole skein (you get that info off the label).

Step 2: Divide your answer from Step 1 by the weight of the whole skein from before you started.

That’ll give you the yardage.

  • I recommend using an inexpensive postal scale to weigh yarn. I purchased mine for $15 at target, but you can buy a similar one like this online. The best kind can give measurements in both grams and ounces.

In Part 2 of Weighing Yarn, I’ll discuss why I prefer to weigh in grams rather than ounces. If you have any questions about weighing yarn, comment with them here so I can answer them in my next post.

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Something to be Proud of

I’ve survived yet another clock switch. If you’ve know me long enough, you’ve likely already heard my mini rant about how Daylight Savings Time is the ultimate sign of the hubris of man. It’s too hard to change our schedules, so we’ll just change time.

coffee mug minnin mouse

Front and back views of my favorite LARGE coffee mug. Because clock change.

I was talking to my mother-in-law on the phone yesterday, and she asked me how the crochet and knit stuff was going. She asked if there was anything particular I was proud of that she could brag about. I replied with a “not really”, and the conversation moved on.

It started me thinking about what I’m doing lately that I can be proud of. Most of my fiber-related energy right now is going in to technical editing. It’s easy to be proud of what you do when you design a piece, but technical editing feels like more of a support role. I can’t take credit for the designs I’ve tech edited other than to say “yes, I removed some errors” or “I reworded a section to make it clearer”, and hopefully that will make some crocheters and knitters lives go a little bit smoother. I’m proud of the work I do, but I don’t feel like it’s anything to brag about. As a technical editor, I’m part of a TEAM that sees a project through from beginning to end. I’m proud to do my part, and do it well, but I can’t take credit for the whole thing. I’m always flattered when clients list my name as tech editor in their patterns and/or publications.

As I continued to mull over her question, I checked my email. Nothing too out of the ordinary: a reply from an editor, confirmation from a independent designer client, a request from a yarn company. I think that’s when it hit me about what I’m proud of. I’m proud that all these people trust me. They trust me to do what they need done, by the deadline, in a professional manner. They trust me to do my job, in whatever capacity they need me, and do it well. That’s what I’m proud of- earning and maintaining people’s trust. I’ve said before that what makes me feel good is not when a publication or client hires me for the first time; it’s when they hire me the second time, because that means I did a good job.


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News and Tidbits

Today’s post was supposed to be of a recent stitching related drawing I did, but so many interesting things have popped into my social media feeds lately, that I thought I would share:

What happens when an author puts out a new knitting book and someone complains on twitter that it’s too expensive? A great blog post about both the merits of the book as well as what constitutes a fair price.

I don’t wear a lot of jewelry, but I’m coveting this sterling silver knitting needle gauge ring. That is definitely one piece I would wear regularly!

Oh, and the Poetry in Yarn newsletter is out for March. Did you get it in your mailbox? Sign up here to make sure you don’t miss out.

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Jumbo – A New Yarn Weight

News hit last week that the Craft Yarn Council is amending their standard yarn weight classifications to include the new, larger category of jumbo. Apparently this is in response to newer, larger-than-bulky yarns that are coming on the market.

CYCA new yarn symbol and category

CYCA new yarn symbol and category

Americans have a reputation for going for bulkier yarns over the thinner stuff, and it’s easy to feel like we get looked down on a bit because of this. Ok, maybe not outright made fun of, but I definitely feel like there’s someone out there making a face over this.

I would've expected this reaction from Aunt Violet, but never you, Tom.

I would’ve expected this reaction from Aunt Violet, but never you, Tom.

While I do love a good fingering weight yarn or dk, there is something fantastic about working with bigger yarns. They tend to be high on the cooshy quotient, and give (nearly) immediate gratification. A hat or full length scarf in an afternoon? Yes please.

In celebration of welcoming Jumbo to the yarn family, I’ve put together a playlist of 3 videos that celebrate being big. Enjoy.

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Book Review: Knitting Fresh Brioche

Book: Knitting Fresh Brioche: Creating Two-Color Twists & Turns

Author: Nancy Marchant

Publisher: Sixth & Spring Books

I was very excited to receive my reviewer’s copy of Nancy Marchant’s newest book, Knitting Fresh Brioche: Creating Two-Color Twists & Turns. It’s equal parts brioche step-by-step guide and stitch dictionary, with a focus on two-color designs.

Knitting Fresh Brioche is packed with information. There are step-by-step photo guides for the basic brioche stitches, increase, decrease, cast-on, and bind-off. Marchant even shares her trick for maintaining tidy edges on brioche fabric as well as help on how to handle mistakes. I love Marchant’s note calling a brioche knit stitch (abbreviated brk) a “bark” and a brioche purl stitch (abbreviate brp) a “burp”. I’m adding those to my list of favorite knitting slang. After explaining how to read two-color brioche charts, the book moves into the stitch patterns.

Knitting Fresh Brioche has 75 unique stitch patterns, written and charted, that use only basic two-color brioche fabric with increases and decreases. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the lovely variations that can be made with just these stitches. While Marchant encourages you to use these stitch patterns in your own creations, you can wet your palate by trying out one of the lovely scarf or wrap designs included in the book. I love Sister Janie and the light and airy Miss B.

brioche knitting book

© Sixth&Spring Books/Nancy Marchant

brioche knitting book

© Sixth&Spring Books/Nancy Marchant

Overall, Knitting Fresh Brioche is a great book for Brioche newbies and enthusiasts alike. Beginners will find that using two colors makes it easier to tell if they’re doing things right, while experienced brioche knitters will enjoy exploring the stitch patterns as a spring board to their own designs. I definitely recommend it.

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Travel Knitting and Mickey Mouse Bling

One of my favorite parts of traveling is picking out a knit or crochet project to take with me. Traveling gives me some time to focus on a selfish project- something just for me. After making a Rickenbacker over our Thanksgiving trip I was eager to pick out a project for our longer family trip we took this past month. We managed to escape the snow (So. Much. Snow.) for two weeks in Florida. It was fantastic being in warm weather again.

Outside without a coat!

Outside without a coat!

For this trip I picked Ambah O’Brien’s Shawl of Destiny pattern. The two color pattern is so pretty. When I was debating what colors to use I thought back to the knit Ravenclaw scarf I started ages ago. Long story short: I started the knit scarf 1 week before the opening of the last Harry Potter film. I knit through 1.5 skeins of Cascade 220, went to see the movie, and quit. It’s been sitting in a bag ever since. The idea of picking it back up again didn’t appeal to me, but as I looked at the Shawl of Destiny, I kind of thought of it as a grown-up Ravenclaw- you know, something Luna Lovegood would wear in school colors as a mature adult, showing some house pride AND awesome style sense.

Photo courtesy Ambah O'brien.

Photo courtesy Ambah O’brien.

For the yarn I went with Holiday Yarns Flock Sock in mitternacht and Silver Sock in grey. (I’ve used Holiday Yarns a lot and it’s a consistently good yarn. I’m happy to spend my money on it.) The Silver Sock yarn has a strand of silver sparkle going through it- perfect for that magical touch.
holiday yarns flock sock

I finished 2 pattern repeats on the trip. The garter stitch portions were great for all the waiting in lines at theme park attractions, plus the two times the attraction we were on (Carousel of Progress) got stuck. (Yes, I got stuck on the Carousel of Progress twice. I’m sure there is some message the universe is trying to send me, but I still don’t get it.)

The various Disney World parks were selling these little charms for girl’s bracelets, but when I first saw them my instant thought was “Stitch Marker!”. I have blinged out my knitting with Mickey Mouse. That’s how I roll.

mickey mouse stitch marker

In addition to the Disney Parks I snuck out to Universal Studios and got to enjoy the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It was a perfect place to take my knitting.
wizarding world harry potter

wizarding world harry potter gringotts

Stopping at the bank.

I’m sad that I have to put this aside now to focus on some work projects, but I’m definitely going to pick it up again soon!

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On Vacation

Everyone needs a vacation and vacation knitting sometimes…


I’ll be back next week with new news and updates. In the meantime, all PDF patterns are automatic downloads, so even though I’m away you can still enjoy a new pattern almost immediately.

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