Comfort & Joy by Melynda Bernardi

December, 7th, 2016

Christmastime is my favorite time of year. Hands down. Without comparison. I just love it. I go crazy with decorations inside & outside of my house. I throw cookie parties. I build gingerbread houses. Traditions abound! For years I have looked in awe at photos my friend Melynda has posted of the stockings she has made for her family members.  When I started talking about Grown, Melynda told me about her own book project and I was so excited to see it and basically was ready for Christmas back in October or whenever it was that I first got a glimpse :)

I interviewed Melynda about her process putting this book together. I love hearing backstory! I hope you will enjoy hearing her perspective.

K: What design from the book was most challenging for you to create?

M: Honestly, the plain stocking was the most difficult!  I designed “Tannenbaum” first so I could find my ideal stocking shape.  Because of this, it was knit a couple times, with lots of ripping and tinking back involved.  Once I had this pattern written, I based all the other stockings (stitch numbers, heel, toe, etc) on it.  Plus, I really enjoy the process of knitting colorwork, so this one just seemed like it took me a while to get through!

K: How long did it take you from conception to print copy in hand? 

M: Every year I get many questions from knitters (and others who are stocking shopping) about my family’s stocking collection.  I’ve always wanted to release a stocking collection, so the idea has been with me for a while.  About a year ago I quit my full-time job in order to be home with my kids.  My grandiose plans for knitting and designing daily were quickly squashed after a few weeks home with the little ones.  My husband made a career change to become a teacher, and the first year was very tough.  He works about an hour from home, so between the commute and work, we weren’t really seeing him,  But, then summer hit- yay!  My husband was home the whole month of July, and the layout, patterns, and charts were all done during this time.  Because I was self-publishing, I was able to do things on my own time (a blessing and a curse), and the book was in my hands by early October.

K: Did you do all the knitting yourself? 

M: Yes!  Like I mentioned, I love colorwork, and my favorite part of the design process (if time allows), is when I can listen to an audiobook while sitting and knitting.  With the exception of the first stocking that I re-knit a few times, all of the stockings were knit as part of the Ravellenic Games!

K: What is your top tip for knitters new to stranded colorwork? 

M: Keep doing it.  It might not be pretty at first, but do what feels natural to your hands.  When I teach colorwork, I encourage students to use both hands to carry both colors.  But, if that really isn’t working for you, just find a way to work it that your enjoy.  I started 2-color knitting with yarn in both hands, but now I throw both colors with my left hand.  It feels natural, so I enjoy it.  You may have issues with tension, twisting, and other general awkwardness- but soldier on.  With anything, practice makes (almost) perfect!

K: What was your favorite part about self-publishing your first book? 

M: I guess the timeline.  I liked being able to work on a project on my own terms with my own deadlines.  There were many times I thought it wouldn’t happen within my self-imposed deadlines, but it all seemed to come together!

K: How about your least favorite part? 

M: There were so many times I wished that there was someone else to consult.  Sometimes you get so in to a project that you can’t look at it with fresh eyes.  In the future, I may try to work on more collaboration projects!

There is something about Christmas that makes me just want to do everything myself.  We don’t currently have handknit stockings hanging on my mantle…but I am SO tempted to try and make it so.  This collection is inspiring and modern and just beautiful.  Would you like to win a copy of Comfort & Joy?

Head on over to the book’s Ravelry page, give a heart to at least one of the stockings in the book, then come comment on this post (include your Ravelry ID please!) to be entered to win my giveaway of this fabulously festive collection. A winner will be announced next week!

 

Within // Blog Tour

November, 21st, 2016

The warmth from a handknit is multifacted.  First, as a creator, we delight in watching each stitch turn into each row and finally into a garment. Once your project is done, it provides physical warmth amongst the elements.  Shannon and Jane have tapped into the true cozy of knitting with their new book, Within.

The first part of the book is a visual journey through a cold winter day. Beautiful photos are uninterrupted to bring you into a charming story that begins with sunlight smiling into a cup of coffee and concludes by the fire.

The second section includes patterns and more photos of the garments laid flat. These images are so helpful for the details you want to see as a knitter.

There are six patterns in Within (each of the photos here link to Ravelry pattern listing).  You can really knit this entire book.  Jane & Shannon have outdone themselves with the details and have even created a full trailer of the book which I just think is such a lovely and original idea.

You can purchase your copy of Within here, or from your local yarn shop, or you can get the e-book only.  All the print copies of the book include a download code so that you have access to both versions.

Living in a milder climate, this book made me feel like I got a glimpse into real winter!  Although I don’t quite have the same necessity for these cozy garments as some of you might, these patterns are really appealing.  I just wouldn’t have to layer them up quite as much :)

I do have a copy of Within to give away and we are going to play a little game! I have a mini Scavenger Hunt for you to learn a little bit more about the book.  Here’s how you play:

1. E-mail answers to the first 5 questions to contest@tottoppers.com

2. Post your answer to the final question here as a blog comment

3. You can play along all this week and I’ll announce the winner early next. I’ll come back and close the post so if you’re reading this you can still play!  Congratulations to Leah our winner!  The game has come to an end.

This is Jane and Shannon, they are so adorable I had to share this photo! You can join their ongoing knitalong for Within at any time on Ravelry.

And now for the game! Remember, e-mail answers 1-5 to contest@tottoppers.com and post the answer to number 6 as a comment.

Scavenger Hunt Questions

1. How many different yarns are featured in Within?

2. Which design has the most projects on Ravelry (as of 11.21)?

3. How many sizes are available in the Fireside Pullover?

4. When is the knitalong for Within?

5. How much yarn do you need to knit the Entwine Scarf?

6. What special person in your life might you like to knit from Within for this holiday season?

 

Jesse’s Girl // Grown

November, 18th, 2016

Photo Cred: Erica B. Studio + Design

The following post is mostly a copy of my guest post over on the Anzula Blog!  You can read the original post here. I wanted to include a lot of the info here, too, so that I could link up to my Ravelry project for this design :)

 

This is Jesse’s Girl.  It was inspired by Jesse Half-Zip, a sweater that was part of my Knits for Boys book and is also now available as a single pattern. My husband and my oldest son share the name Jesse. My son is the 4th generation actually, so the name has been in the family for quite a while. He modeled the Jesse Half-Zip, of course.  And so, I decided it was fitting for me to wear the Grown version.  I openly admit that I made Erica spend WAY more time shooting this piece than the others because I knew I was going to have trouble looking at these photos of myself, ha!

Both sweaters share a central cable pattern and utilize Anzula For Better or Worsted.

I can’t help it.  Sometimes I accidentally have a favorite and from Grown, Jesse’s Girl is it.

It has all of the things I love. Squishy yarn with incredible color and depth. Textured fabric with cables that pop.  Flattering lines. A scoopneck that I can accent with big sparkly jewelry. Purple.

I had a “knitting disaster” with this sweater.  I knit the entire body and then realized I needed to make an adjustment to the cable pattern.  For a day or two I sat on it, trying to figure out a way around ripping the whole thing out.

NOPE. I had to do it. Frogged the entire thing.  It was painful. So painful. I had been petting those cables for several weeks.  I forced myself to get right back on the horse and reknit it quickly before I had time to get more frustrated. As has happened every time I have made this kind of decision, I don’t regret it.  All in the name of perfection!

This sweater is worked from the bottom up with raglan-style seamless sleeves. Shaping at each side flatters.  I am a mom of four.  These things are important. The shaping occurs outside of the underarm stitches in a sweet spot that works whether you are trying to create some curves or nicely accent those that are there without messing with either of the stitch patterns in the body.

I have already had several comments from folks who would like to see this design in a cardigan version.  I don’t have any immediate plans to do that, but I am happy to share a few instructions on how you can accomplish this modification!  It is really nothing fancy.  It will be easiest to follow along with the Jesse’s Girl pattern while reading these notes, but the principles are definitely applicable to other designs as well.

First, adjust the cast-on to remove width for the buttonband. For this design, I suggest you CO 6 fewer stitches.  This removes the center front cable only while providing for 2 selvedge stitches (one at each edge).  The selvedge stitches make it easy to pick up for your buttonband.  In this design, it is important to set up the Ribbing properly, so that your side Ribbing matches with the hem. With this in mind, set-up your Ribbing like this:

Row 1 (WS): P1, k1, *p2, k2; rep from * to last 4 sts, p2, k1, p1.
Row 2 (RS): K1, p1, *k2, p2; rep from * to last 4 sts, k2, p1, k1.

After you work the hem, and this is the only tricky part, map out your cable set-up row since the end-of-round for the pullover is not in the center front.  The easiest way to do this is to draw yourself a little picture like so:

Using the information in the existing pattern, fill in stitch count numbers for each section.  During the following row, you should be able to establish the stitch patterns properly and then you can knit back and forth for a while without thinking too hard. Do not forget to leave your first and last stitch as selvedge sts (that is, work them as knit on the RS and purl on the WS throughout the entire project and don’t include them in your cable set up). You won’t need to modify the sleeves or the sleeve join.

Next, determine your new center front neckline numbers. Subtract 6 sts (for the width you left out in your CO) from the total front neck stitches that are slipped to hold in the pullover  and divide the remaining sts in half.  The example below shows the smallest size. 22 stitches are slipped to hold for the front neck in the pattern.  After subtracting 6 and dividing by 2, 8 stitches should be put on hold for each side.

Work the remaining shaping just like for the pullover, taking into account that your end of row does not match the patterned end of round.  Your stitch counts both in total and in each section should match up at this point.  When you’re all finished, pick up a multiple of 4 stitches plus 2 along those neckline stitches and use the same Ribbing pattern I provided for the hem.

Finish up with your buttonband, once again picking up a multiple of 4 sts plus 2, including along the vertical edge of the neckline.  This time, establish your Ribbing slightly differently…

Row 1 (WS): *P2, k2; rep from * to last 2 sts, p2.
Row 2 (RS): *K2, p2; rep from * to last 2 sts, k2.

Your buttonband should be about 1.25″ wide; place buttonholes as you like, with the top and bottom buttonholes about an inch away from each edge.  If you need help placing the buttonholes, use the Scholar Cardigan instructions as a guide. Buttonhole instructions are included in the Technique section of Grown.

I hope that sharing some of these notes with you is helpful! Grown is full of lots of tips and tricks to help you personalize your knits. After all, if you’re making your own clothes, they might as well be just right.  For more details about the entire collection, check out this post. Click here to buy it now.

All the sweaters from Grown will be touring around in a Trunk Show next year, which is wonderful but kind of a downer for my closet.  I would really really REALLY like to knit myself this sweater.  Along with several others.  But I’ve already admitted this one is my favorite so yeah…  first up!