Episode 45: Knitting Men!

Hello folks! It’s field trip time! We’re heading to the prison bus to talk to Metaspencer about knitting–men’s knitting patterns, men who knit, and some special hat designs! Then, it’s back to the yarn room for a couple of finished objects: LB Handknits’ Nordsee Jacke and the Phoenix Pullover pattern launch! I have giveaway winners to announce and a NEW GIVEAWAY from LB Handknits: her new collection, Facing North!

Come hang out with all of us–including Tink and Millie on the bus!

If you want to help out puppies and kittens, I’m donating all sales from Nov 2-10 of the Phoenix Pullover pattern to the Parke Vermillion Humane Society! You get a pattern, and some animals will get extra care!



Posted in Better Sweater, community, Denali sweater, discount code, episode, Facing North, giveaway, knitters, knitting, knitting podcast, LB Hand Knits, LB Handknits, men knitting, metaspencer, Nordsee Jacke, sweater, sweater design, video | 3 Comments

Patterns for Puppies!


Our newly adopted Millie is settling in nicely. We are so happy to have her and Tink join our crew . . . and I got to thinking: how can we help more pups and kitties? Well, with a pattern launch, of course! From Nov 2-Nov 10, I’m donating all of the pattern sales dollars from the Phoenix Pullover to their shelter, the Parke Vermillion Humane Society. You can find the pattern here and buying it means that you’re sending $5 to help animals who need care, love, food, and shelter. If you’re feeling the love, but you’re not a knitter, you can donate to the shelter directly and maybe share a comment here 🙂 Thanks to everyone for your support! I feel like passing on the love is always the right thing to do ❤

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Posted in community, donations, knitting, pattern, patterns, Uncategorized | 11 Comments

Ask a Designer w/ Kephren Pritchett & Albina McLaughlin –Part 2!

This past summer I asked you all what questions you have for knitwear designers . . . You all came up with some great ideas–so many, in fact, that I had enough left over for a PART 2 in this Ask a Designer series! Once again, two of my favorite designers, Kephren Pritchett and Albina McLaughlin, agreed to answer your questions. This time, the topics are about Timing, Sizing, and Pattern Choices!

Kephren is the mind behind Kephren Knitting Studio. You have likely ooh’d and ahhh’d over her patterns in Interweave KnitsKnit Picks, and Knit Scene; you have also heard me wax poetic about her beautiful indie designs, such as the Sand Shawl, the Peony Shawl (immediately below), and the Storm Clouds Shawl (also below). She has just published new patterns in Knit Scene (Lake Geneva Sweater) and Knitting Traditions (Tree Line Henley)–I LOVE THIS ONE!

Albina is the one-woman show behind LB Handknits. You have heard me talk all about her many, beautiful designs, including Scéal Gra (first image below), Sunny Every Day, and Laítis. She has helped to bring Irish indie yarns to the fore and has an incredibly intuitive mind for knitting all the things. Her new book, Facing North, is due out in early November; you can check out the individual patterns on this Ravelry page. I’ve completed some test knitting for this book and the sweaters are very wearable and very gorgeous!



How do you calculate the time you will need to go from start to finish? —Dee Raines

Kephren: When I work with a publisher they usually give me 4 to 6 weeks to finish the pattern and sample, so I make a spread in my bullet journal and break the project down into smaller tasks according to how much time I have until the deadline. This works great when I know that a publisher is depending on me to finish the project on time, but I’m not as good with my own deadlines!

It takes me about a week to write a pattern, but before I can do that I have to have a sketch of the design and a swatch of the fabric to measure the gauge, and that can take anywhere from a week to a year. I’m a pretty fast knitter, but I still need to sit down and do it, so I’ll binge watch podcasts or tv series and get a lot of knitting done at once. I might be able to finish a shawl sample in a weekend, but a sweater could take 2 to 4 weeks. When the sample is finished it’s time for photography, and I like to take my pattern photos outside, so I have to wait until the weather and light is right. I try to give my test knitters 4 to 6 weeks to finish their projects, and then the tech editing process can take a week or two.

Albina: Haha. Conservatively! Or at least I try, having learned the hard way over the past year that things tend to take up to twice as long as they ‘should.’ Ultimately, pattern design is a creative process and even ideas that seem solid and straightforward do not always work out on first try. There can also be unforeseen glitches or complications at the tech editing stage. And finally, between getting the weather right and finding people to model, photography can take some time. So basically I estimate the time it takes me to draft a pattern, knit a sample, go through the tech editing process, take photos, and arrange for pre-knitters, then double that estimate. And then maybe add another week just in case!


SIZING: Adjusting a Pattern

I would like to know: does a garment designer knit a small, industry standard size first, then adjust for larger sizes, or do they knit to fit themselves and then adjust for smaller/larger sizes after? How do you write for different sizes? —missyrutherford

Kephren: I start thinking about grading for different sizes right from the beginning of the design process. After I’ve made my swatch and checked my gauge, I plug that gauge into a spreadsheet containing a range of industry standard sizes, then I narrow down which sizes work best with the stitch patterns and amount of ease. I try to grade patterns in 3 to 4 inch increments, beginning with about a size 32 inch bust up to about a 56 inch bust. I also think about how I am going to write the pattern to work for all the sizes. Sometimes the smallest and largest sizes require different sets of directions, but I try to avoid that.

I like to write the pattern in all the sizes before I even start to knit the sample, but I do make changes along the way. The size sample I knit depends on who it needs to fit. Magazines usually ask for a sample to fit a 36 inch bust, but if I’m self publishing I’ll make the sample to fit me.

Albina: These days, either the client (i.e. yarn company) will request a specific sample size, or the sample size I knit will depend on the model I have in mind for the photoshoot. But in a general sense, I try to envision all the sizes simultaneously at the earliest stages of design. This is particularly important when working with elements such as colourwork yokes, lace or cable panels, and distinctly stylized necklines. Will the proportions of the design element to the rest of the garment look off in some of the sizes? For example, will the single cable panel get lost in the largest size or look over-domineering in the smallest? Then it may not be a workable design unless I can adjust things to look similarly across sizes.


SIZING: Body Types

When you design a sweater, when do you take into account how your design will look on various body types? Often I see designs that are spectacular on tall, thin, young models, but not so much on average bodies. The ones that seem to become popular are the ones that flatter regular bodies. So, how do you do that? —Susan Lopez

Kephren: I don’t think there really is an average or regular type of body. There are sizing standards, which provide a consistent starting point for pattern sizes, but once you know how your body size relates to the standard sizes you can modify patterns to make them uniquely yours. Successful sweater knitters know what they’re comfortable wearing, and what looks good on them, and choose patterns that fit their style or can be altered. I think seamless construction methods also give the knitter more control because they can try the sweater on as they go and adjust accordingly.

I try to include as many sizes as possible in my patterns and give the knitter enough information to make adjustments. I include a schematic on the Ravelry pattern page and offer fitting advice in the pattern. I’ll also point out where adjustments can be made in the pattern. One of the best things about knitting is that you are making a one of a kind garment to your exact specifications. Don’t be afraid to change a pattern to fit your body and your style!

Albina: The problem is, there is no such thing as an average or regular body. Sizing would be extremely easy if everyone had the same basic proportions, and it was only a matter of shrinking them for the smaller sizes, and increasing them for the larger sizes. But the reality is, thin figures are thin in different ways; heavy figures are heavy in different ways; curvy figures are curvy in different ways. We tend to think of size in terms of width and height, but when you make clothes for individual people (which I did before I designed patterns) you realize there is so much more to it. There are endless factors such as hip to waist ratio, spine curvature, neck length, shoulder slope, torso depth, even bone density and muscle tone, which have nothing to do with size as most of us conceptualize it, yet play a huge role in how a garment will look on a person.

Consider that my size 34” model has wider shoulders than my size 44” model. The same garment design, no matter what size it is, cannot possibly accommodate both of their figures, and it’s because of the difference in their proportions. When designing a garment, I am expected to size it according to a set of industry standard measurements, which are based on ‘average’ proportions. Unfortunately, average proportions are the exact opposite of real proportions, since most of us will deviate from the average in one way or another. The reality is, that the only way to truly flatter a specific individual’s figure is to design a one-off pattern for that individual’s body, with all its wonderful nuances. In leu of that, it is essential that the knitter takes matters into their own hands, and learns to modify patterns to suit their own figure.


PATTERN CHOICES: Top Down or Bottom Up?

What determines if a sweater will be knitted top down or bottom up? —flourchylde

Kephren: Set-in sleeves shaped with short rows, and drop sleeves picked up from the arm holes are worked from the top down, so I will usually pair them with top-down sweater bodies. Raglans and round yokes can go either way, depending on whether I want to shape the yoke with increases or decreases. Most of my sweater patterns are worked from the top-down, but when I started designing all my sweaters were worked from the bottom up. By the time I started writing patterns I had already tried a lot of bottom-up sweater techniques, and I wanted to try out different top-down techniques, so that’s what you see in my designs.

Albina: Unless there is a compelling reason to do otherwise, for me the default is top-down. There is no fancy technical reason why, I just prefer it that way and enjoy the knitting process more in the top-down direction. There is something about starting small, then watching the knitting grow and spread in all directions, that I find absurdly satisfying!

How do you decide what kind of sleeves to use? Are the specific occasions where raglan is appropriate more than set in, for example? Or can you plug in whatever sleeve construction you prefer? —mrcraftalot

Kephren: Whether I want to knit the sweater from the top down or the bottom up is one factor, but the neckline, the stitch patterns, the amount of ease, and the size range can all contribute to that decision. Round yokes and drop sleeves are probably the easiest to grade in a wide range of sizes. Raglans will probably require different rates of shaping for the largest and smallest sizes, which can make the patterns difficult to write in a wide range of sizes. I think set-in sleeves can look very sophisticated when done right, but one of my pet peeves is set-in arm holes that are too wide and hang off the shoulders. Lately I’ve been playing with drop shoulders shaped with short rows and saddle shoulders, and that’s been a lot of fun. They work best with casual sweater styles with some ease, and that’s what I like to wear. Round yokes have become very popular lately, and I haven’t designed a pattern for one of them yet, so that is definitely on my list for the future. I don’t really have a favorite sleeve/shoulder construction, but I like to experiment with them all.

Albina: To my eye certain neckline styles and sleeve styles go together. For instance, a V-neckline looks best with raglan sleeves, because of the vertical lines. And a scoop neckline goes with set-in or contiguous sleeves, because of the similarity in their curvature. Aside from that, I select sleeve style based on how I want the garment to sit on the body. And as far as the process of knitting them, I like pretty much all the sleeve styles – as long as they are worked seamlessly.


Thanks so much, Kephren and Albina for sharing your ideas and expertise! And thanks to everyone who submitted a question for the giveaway that inspired this Q & A interview! Happy knitting! 🙂

Posted in design, designer, designs, interview, Kephren Knitting Studio, knitters, knitting, LB Hand Knits, LB Handknits, seamed sweater, sweater, sweater design, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Episode 44: Picking (Good) Patterns

Hello everyone! Welcome to the weekend 🙂 Episode 44 is now up on YouTube and I’m so excited to announce a giveaway from the Woolly Thistle–one of my favorite places to buy knitting related books and magazines, and, of course, yarn from around the world. In this episode, I spend some time talking about tips and tricks that may help you choose good patterns from the sea of infinite options. I also have two FOs: another Vary the Gate and an East Neuk Hoodie! Plus, Sarah Anderson visited our guild and  . . . have you seen Jenice Hope’s latest colorwork blanket?? Show notes are below with lots of links!

Looking forward to catching up with all of you!



Corinne Claire of the Woolly Thistle has sent a lovely giveaway package for me to share … and I want to select 3 — yes 3!–winners! To enter, please comment here, on the blog, or on YouTube Episode 44 answering the following question:

What is your favorite yarn from Corinne’s shop? OR what would you like to see her import next? Is there a hard-to-find-yarn out there in the world that you simply must have? https://www.thewoollythistle.com/

I’ll close all of the threads and choose 3 winners in two weeks time. Two winners will win a pack of yarn and a Woolly Thistle Pin and 1 winner will win a beautiful Woolly Thistle tote! Good luck!



Posted in Uncategorized | 17 Comments

Episode 43: Cologne, Cashmere & Conservancy

Episode 43 is in three parts: a trip to the yarn shops of Cologne, Germany; sample knits revealed(!) for June Cashmere; and a discussion about conserving knowledge, yarn, sheep, and even foodways! I also introduce our new pup, Millie!!! It’s always a fun time to hang out . . . won’t you join me for a spell? ~Melissa



Ravelry group: https://www.ravelry.com/groups/knittingthestash

Posted in Cologne, Germany, conservancy, episode, Garn Store, Knit in public, knitting, knitting podcast, Old Crow Art Yarns, puppies, soulful stash, travel, Uncategorized, variegated yarn, video, yarn, yarn crawl | 4 Comments

Apple Oak Fiber Works Discount Code!

Hi everyone! Many of you know that I have been busy test knitting for LB Handknits new book, Facing North–it’s a collection of patterns for bulky weight yarn: 4 sweaters and 4 accessories. I love my Fisherman’s Muse sweater that I was showing off on the podcast!

Well . . . the book is a collaboration with Apple Oak Fiber Works, a husband and wife  duo in Ireland producing beautiful yarn with natural dyes. Jennifer and Tristan are big supporters of many cottage industries local to them in Ireland and their yarn is just beautiful! And all of their yarns are dyed using plant-based dyes. The bulky weight yarn for Facing North is from their Stockholm line.

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After watching the latest podcast, Jennifer got in touch and I am happy to say that if you are interested in pre-ordering yarn for any of the projects in Facing North, you can do so at a discount! Use the code FACINGNORTH10 for 10% off of your order! They ship word-wide and estimated shipping for North America is only 3-5 days! And they have special postage rates for international shipping–all great news!

So if you fancy a bulky sweater for the coming fall and winter, this might be your chance to get in on a cool new collection and a great soulful-stash yarn straight from Ireland!

See you in a couple of weeks for another episode–likely from the prison bus 😉 ~Melissa


Posted in Apple Oak Fiber Works, bulky yarn, community, discount code, Facing North, fiber artist, Irish yarn, LB Hand Knits, LB Handknits, natural dye, unicorns, yarn | 1 Comment

Episode 42: Competition and Creativity

Episode 42 finds me at the crossroads of competition (Sheep to Shawl) and creativity (how do I get it all done?!?) I can also reveal one of the secret test knits I’ve been working on for LB Handknits–including her book release Facing North! I announce the winners of the Purl & Ply giveaway and show off my new Vary the Gate shawl–including my i-cord bind-off modification. And there is plenty of talk about and video of the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival’s inaugural Sheep to Shawl competition–at the end of the cast. Come hang out a while?


You can find me:
On Ravelry as knittingthestash
and via email at knittingthestash@gmail.com

Ravelry group: https://www.ravelry.com/groups/knittingthestash

Show Notes:


Posted in Casapinka, challenging, Champaign Urbana Spinners and Weavers Guild, community, competition, giveaway, knitting podcast, LB Hand Knits, LB Handknits, podcast, Purl & Ply, Sheep to Shawl, spinning, sweater, sweater design, Vary the Gate, weaving, Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival | Leave a comment