Interview with Larissa Brown, designer of the Bubbly Stole


It’s Month of Lace here at Knit Purl! All month long, we’ll be sharing our favorite lace yarns, patterns, tips, and tricks. For this year’s Month of Lace, we invited local knitwear designer Larissa Brown to design an exclusive shawl pattern for us.

Larissa designed the Bubbly Stole, a modern colorblocked stole featuring a beautiful zig-zag lace design. Curious about her design process, we spent a few moments chatting with Larissa about knitwear design, lace knitting, and more. Read on to get to know a little more about Larissa.

 

How did you get into knitwear design?
Thanks so much for asking! I’m really excited to be working with Knit Purl and Shibui yarn, because the store and yarn company actually played a fun role in how I got into designing.

I started by knitting improvised personal projects and sharing what I did on my blog Stitch Marker in the early 2000s. Knitty.com was a fairly new magazine, and I decided to send in my idea for a bath pouf made of giant nylon yarn. “Bonbon” was my first published design. Not long after the bath pouf, I entered a scarf design contest at Knit Purl, and the “Eden Scarf” became my second published design. I was overwhelmed to see my pattern for sale in the store. My very next project was a 22-design book—a steep learning curve! Knitalong: Celebrating the Tradition of Knitting Together came out in 2008 and includes the Eden Scarf in Shibui Sock. I’ve used Shibui yarns for patterns in Knitty and in both my books.

 

What was the design process for the stole like?
When I had the opportunity to design with Twig, I drew out my old notebook, because I knew that this yarn was perfect for a project I’d been doodling for over a year. I wanted to create a big, wide stole with a lace pattern that meandered along, ending at varying lengths. Twig yarn creates a perfect fabric for summer evenings sipping cool drinks, and the idea emerged for a lace pattern that mimicked the bubbles in a champagne cocktail. After all the dreaming and drawing, it turned out to be quite a challenge to find a lace pattern that would reflect bubbles rising in a glass, and the process ended up consisting mostly of making a lot of swatches.

 

What was the most fun part about designing the stole?
The most fun part was re-watching An Affair to Remember. They drink pink champagne cocktails on their cruise.

 

And the most challenging?
The most challenging part was discovering a perfect edge treatment. To me, a neat, pleasing edge really makes a project complete, and I have my own preferred method of slipping edge stitches in my designs. But Twig wasn’t having any of it. I tried several kinds of slip stitches until I came up with one that works with Twig’s beautiful, rustic texture.

 

Was this your first time working with Shibui Twig? How did you like working with it?
Yes, this was my first time, and I love it. The fabric is amazingly light, the lace is airy and yet the design holds its shape so that you can appreciate the geometry of the pattern. This yarn would be beautiful worked in basic patterns, too, like garter stitch. It would create a gorgeous, rough-hewn-looking stripe pattern.


What do you enjoy most about knitting and designing lace patterns?
To me, the most enjoyable part of lace knitting is the moment when you take the project off the blocking board and it comes to life in three dimensions. You can finally feel how incredibly light it is, see how it drapes and how the light filters through.


What projects are you working on at the moment?
Today, I’m working on several shawl designs that all use garter stitch in eye-catching shapes and stripes. They’re made to feature highly variegated yarn, and I’m having fun using many of the hand dyed skeins I’ve collected over the years. In fact, I just finished a prototype that mixes fingering-weight yarn with a skein of Shibui’s cloud-like Cima that I’d been hoarding in my stash.

I'm also working on my second novel. The first one, Beautiful Wreck, is a time travel story that takes place in 10th century Iceland and does feature sheep shearing and spinning. I'm currently writing a companion book that will come out...hmmm, I don't know exactly when. Find out through my e-news! :)


Where can readers find more of your designs?
My designs can all be seen at http://www.ravelry.com/designers/larissa-brown, and more about my knitting and my fiction writing can be seen at www.larissabrown.net. I also send out a newsletter about once a month with new designs, freebies and news about my writing, too. You can sign up for my news here: http://eepurl.com/Y9N4T

 

Thank you for your interview, Larissa! The Bubbly Stole is absolutely stunning.

You can find the Bubbly Stole kit on our website here.

July 01, 2015 by Oleya Pearsall
Tags: Designers

Knitting Experiments with Inkodye

When I was a child, I always looked forward to the summer. It meant long days, no homework, and my favorite thing of all, summer camp. While I was fortunate enough to attend a few different types of camps, I always enjoyed science camp the best. My favorite part about science camp? Definitely the experiments.

Even though I love the idea of experimentation, I find that I don’t experiment nearly enough with my knitting projects. I am trying to change this now, but knitting is usually an un-experimental process for me. I find a yarn I like, choose a pattern (or vice versa), and get started. Other than changes in gauge, yarn, and a few modifications here and there, I largely stick to projects that will give me predictable results.

A product called Inkodye has opened my eyes up to a whole new world of surface design and experimentation. Inkodye is a UV light-activated dye which allows you to print images on fabric. It is a innovative way to add color and pattern to your knitting without relying on traditional methods like stripes, stranding, and intarsia.

The Inkodye process is fairly simple and user-friendly. All you really need to get started is fabric, Inkodye, image-making materials, and sunlight. You can make images by using photographic inkjet paper, or a technique called shadow printing.

We used the shadow printing technique to create our swatches. For our experiment, we gathered plant materials around our yards and then placed them over swatches of Shibui Cima in Ivory. Covering parts of the swatch with opaque objects blocked out the sunlight, resulting in negative images kind of like a photogram.

The hard part about experiments is that there is usually a little room for improvement. While I had fun with the process, there are definitely a few variables that I would change next time. Next time I would try flattening the leaves/petals out so they left behind a more defined shape, and seeing if leaving the swatches out longer in the light would result in deeper, more saturated colors. I also can’t wait to experiment with photographic negatives.

There is so much more you can do with Inkodye—you can try mixing different colors of Inkodye together to get new colors, you can fold and dye your fabric in the Shibori manner, and you can draw on transparency film and make up a hand-drawn pattern repeat! There are all sorts of project ideas in the Inkodye gallery.

Experimenting with Inkodye has made me realize that there is so much to explore in the world of knitting and surface design. Even if you don’t use Inkodye this summer, there are multiple ways to experiment with your knitting that you might not have considered before. Try combining two different yarns together. Knit freestyle, without a pattern. Go outside of your usual color comfort zone. Combine several techniques in one project. You just might be surprised at what you come up with!

June 24, 2015 by Oleya Pearsall

Swatch Sketchbook: Banded Agate

Last week, I explored combining plant-based sources of inspiration with swatching. This week, I'd like to explore the possibilities that lie in the world of minerals.

Ever since I was a child, I’ve been fascinated by gems, rocks, and minerals. I enjoyed collecting them in variety of colors, textures and patterns. I remember my favorite piece being a small rock of Fool’s Gold (pyrite). I thought it was something magical.

As an adult, I no longer collect rocks and minerals, but I still love to look at pictures of them on the Internet. One of my favorite sources right now is http://mineralia.tumblr.com/.

There is so much inspiration out there in the world of rocks and gems that it’s hard to know where to when deciding on a design. After lots of scrolling, I decided that banded agates were a great match for with my affinity for knitting striped items.

I love all the color combinations that nature comes up with in the layers of these agates (seriously, there is not a bad one in the bunch!), and the undulating effect is quite beautiful.

There are many stunning banded agates out there, and it was hard to choose one for my design inspiration. Here is the inspiration photo I used for the swatch: http://www.d.umn.edu/~mark0524/Project/Fall/LagunaAgate1.jpg

For my banded agate swatch, I decided on Shibui Pebble for the yarn (appropriately named!), and a basic ripple knitting pattern for the undulating stripes.

Since the rippling effect is not uniform in the agate, I decided to only do the rippling effect on certain rows, working across the rest of the row normally. One row stripes created with random increases and decreases created just the effect I was looking for.


Charts are a lot more fun when I get to use my colored pencils! Here is the knitting chart I made in my Knitters Graph Paper Journal.
June 17, 2015 by Oleya Pearsall

Swatch Sketchbook: Dandelions

The plant world is full of wonderful textures, color palettes, and shapes for knitters to draw inspiration from. Recently I have been finding myself drawn to dandelions, the invasive weeds that have been appearing on my front lawn this past spring. Even though they can be a nuisance, I do think that their white fluffy heads are beautiful and inspiring.

I wondered how I could translate the characteristics of a dandelion to a small knitted swatch, perhaps for future use in a shawl design. I decided to sketch out my idea in my Knitters Graph Paper Journal, which is full of blank charts to use for all sorts of knitting purposes.

For this particular design, I knew I wanted to create the appearance of a dandelion quite literally—capturing both the long, skinny stem and tufted head. After a few false starts, I decided the stem would look best as a twisted knit column on a background of reverse stockinette stitches.

Finding a way to make the seed heads was probably the trickiest part of the swatching process. I started by knitting rays of slipped stitches going in multiple directions, but the result wasn’t quite what I’d hoped for. After spending some quality time with the Internet, I was lucky enough to find a stitch pattern called dandelion stitch, and I worked that pattern into my swatch so that it stacked on top of the stem design.

After finishing the design, I experimented with a few different yarn combinations. I settled on Shibui Silk Cloud held together with Shibui Cima in Ivory. I thought Silk Cloud’s halo would nicely mimic the fluffiness of the dandelion, and the Cima would give the swatch a bit more structure.

Here is the resulting swatch:

While I like the end result, next time I might experiment with making more loops to fill out the dandelion head a bit more. Overall, it was a fun experience, and I really enjoyed combining natural inspiration and my Knitters Graph Paper Journal to create a design.
June 10, 2015 by Oleya Pearsall

World Wide Knit in Public Day

The days are getting longer and the weather is beginning to warm up. It feels like the perfect time of year to sit and knit outside with friends. Knitting’s portable nature lends itself well to outdoor events, and it just so happens that there is actually an entire day dedicated to the act of knitting in public. It’s called World Wide Knit in Public Day, or WWKIP Day for short. It takes place the second Saturday in June every year, and there are events worldwide. This year, Knit Purl will be taking part.

On Saturday, June 13, from 11:00 am–2:00 pm, Knit Purl will host a WWKIP Day event in downtown Portland’s Director Park. We’ll have fun demonstrations, activities, and more, including a rope demo from our Structure of Knitting class!

World Wide Knit in Public Day is the largest knitter-run event in the world, and it’s run solely by the help of volunteers. It was started 10 years ago by Danielle Landes, a knitter who wanted to find a way to bring the often solitary act of knitting out in the open. Taking part in this event is a great way to meet other knitters and share the activity of knitting with the public.

Even if you’re not in Portland, you can still join in on the fun. The World Wide Knit in Public Day website has a list of events taking place all around the world. Even if there isn’t an event listed in your neighborhood, you can always start up your own informal gathering. Whether it’s a group of two, or a group of fifty, knitting in public is a fun way to get out and show off your craft to the world!
June 02, 2015 by Oleya Pearsall

Warm-Weather Knitting

For some, knitting is strictly considered a cold-weather activity, bringing to mind thoughts of warm, cozy sweaters and thick, cushy scarves. Thoughts of knitting in hot weather might be too much to bear. But there’s no reason to put your knitting needles down for a season. Knitting during the summer can be fun and rewarding. Here are a few reasons why:

Wool lovers, rejoice! For those who might think twice about knitting a wool t-shirt, think again: wool can actually help you stay cool in the summer. Wool’s breathable qualities can regulate body temperature, absorb and evaporate moisture, and help reduce sweat and odor.

For those who just can’t bear the thought of working with wool during the summer, think of it as an excuse to try out a new type of yarn. There are quite a few plant fiber options to explore, in a variety of textures and weights. Some staff favorites include Joseph Galler Inca-Eco, and Juniper Moon Farms Zooey. Plant fiber yarns perform beautifully in lightweight accessories, like Shibui’s L.1 scarf in Shibui Linen (pictured above) and the Sea Salt Cowl in Hand Maiden Lino.

Consider knitting smaller projects, like toys, socks, and jewelry. In addition to being a lot easier to manage when it’s warm, they are great to take on summer trips, whether you’re going on a road trip or trekking across the globe. Best of all, they can be instantly gratifying!

Knit sleeveless tops! A vest or sleeveless top can be a quick project (no pesky sleeves to worry about) and a great entry into the world of garments if you’ve never made a sweater before. Vasa is one of my favorites, and I’ve just started one in Shibui Twig. Some other sleeveless options are Shibui Mix. No. 15 and Shibui Slope.

Take advantage of the abundant natural light and longer days, and take your knitting outside. Portable projects can be packed up and taken to the beach, out camping, or at the park. For those seeking a more social experience, World Wide Knit in Public Day is June 13th, which is a wonderful time to knit outside in the company of others.

I can’t imagine setting my knitting aside when the mercury rises. Even during the warmer months, there is still something soothing about the clicking of needles and creating fabric.  With all the sunlight, outdoor knitting opportunities, and project options available, I find more reasons to knit during the summer than not. Warm weather knitting is a great excuse to continue to indulge in your favorite hobby, so why not give it a try?

May 27, 2015 by Oleya Pearsall

How to Make a Yarn Tassel

Looking for a new technique to help spice up a finished object? Why not try making a tassel? Tassels are fun to make, and are a great way to add an extra bit of flair to a project. Our tutorial will show you how to make a removable tassel out of a Unicorn Tail, perfect for adorning the ends of the Loop Shawl. Let’s get started!

We’ll start by making the cord the tassel hangs from. The cord allows the tassels to be removable, and eliminates any extra dangly ends. Once finished, you can attach the cord to the end points of the shawl with a simple lark’s head knot.

To make the cord, measure out a length of yarn about two yards long, and fold it in half. Then you’ll want to twist the cord. There are many ways to do this, depending on the tools you have available. Essentially, you’ll want to loop the end of the yarn around something, like a doorknob or chair post. You can also twist the cord by using your lap, by rolling the yarn toward your knee on your left and away from your knee on the on the right.

Keep twisting until the yarn begins to kink up on itself. When it’s ready, you’ll want to pinch the middle so the yarn can be folded in half. It’s helpful if you have a friend to do this part. When you let the yarn go, it’s going to look like a kinked-up mess. There’s no need to panic. Gently coax and smooth the twist down the length of the cord. Once the entire length has a uniform amount of twist, set the cord aside.

Now comes the actual tassel-making part! You’ll want to create a bundle of yarn that will form the body of the tassel. To make the bundle, wrap the yarn around a piece of cardboard or another sturdy object that is a uniform size and shape. We used a 4” tall piece of cardboard for our tassels. The width doesn’t matter too much, as long as it is wide enough to accommodate the bundle of yarn.

For the Loop shawl tassels, we wrapped the yarn 24 times around the cardboard. More wraps will result in a thicker tassel, fewer wraps, a thinner one. After completing all wraps, cut the yarn. Repeat the entire wrapping process again for the second bundle.

Now that the bundles are done, you’ll want to cut one more piece of matching yarn, just a little longer than the bundles. This piece of yarn will tie everything together.

Make a cross with the new piece of yarn and the cord you set aside earlier, like this:

Then place one yarn bundle above and one yarn bundle below the cross section. Fold the cord down and out of the way, into an upside-down “u” shape. You’ll want to make a very tight square knot with the yarn.

After the square knot has been made, tie the ends of the cord together in an overhand knot. For our tassel, we left about six inches of cord remaining above the knot.  Snip and unravel the ends of the cord.

Now you’ll make the shank. The shank is the wrapped portion that binds the top of the tassel. To create the shank, you will be using a nautical technique called “whipping the end of the line.” Cut a new strand of yarn about 30" long, and using the technique shown here, wrap the tassel from bottom to top. Then hide the end of the yarn shank inside the top of the tassel.

 

There’s just a bit of finishing work left! Wrap a piece of waste yarn around the tassel and cinch it tight near the bottom. The ends will puff out and you can then trim the ends to an even length.

Fluff out the end of the tassel and admire your handiwork! You’re all done!

 

 

May 20, 2015 by Oleya Pearsall
Tags: Tutorial

The Woman Behind the Wool:Interview with Kristin Ford of Woolfolk

Kristin Ford was one of the first people I met when I moved to Portland five years ago. I remember stopping by the store to get some needles for a project, and she was working the sales floor. I enjoyed her upbeat personality and sense of humor. I worked alongside her several years while she was at Knit Purl and Shibui Knits, and it’s been an absolute pleasure watching her evolve from my fellow co-worker to independent yarn producer. Her company, Woolfolk is one of my favorites, and I couldn’t be prouder or more inspired. I am delighted to share her interview with you today.

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May 13, 2015 by Oleya Pearsall

Tried & True

When we knit for other people, forming each stitch by hand, I think we all hope the finished piece will be special to the recipient. When my Grandma Pat knit a baby blanket to welcome me—her first grandchild—into the world over 36 years ago, I wonder if she imagined that rectangle of fabric would become one of the most meaningful objects in my life.

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May 06, 2015 by Keli Hansen

Our Favorite Finished Objects

Many of us have created several projects over the course of our knitting careers. No matter how many projects we make, each finished object should be considered an achievement. Lots of thought, time, and energy go into the act of creating cloth from a simple length of string. Hundreds of tiny stitches represent hours, days, and perhaps even years of work.

And yet there are still certain pieces that hold a deeper place in our hearts. Maybe they’re the projects we labored over intensely for several months, or the pieces that complete our wardrobes in a satisfying way. Perhaps they’re the projects that are a spectacular match of a pattern and yarn, or the stunning projects we admire from afar, created by others.

Here are our favorite projects that we’ve either made ourselves or lovingly admired:

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From the process of choosing beautiful yarn to completing a favorite finished item, we hope you have enjoyed learning about our staff favorites. Here’s to ten more years of knitting beautiful things!

April 29, 2015 by Oleya Pearsall