quote

While good tools are not the key to becoming a masterful knitter, you can certainly improve and ease a project along with the right accessories. We gathered a few of our staff members’ recommendations up for you to explore. After all, what would a workspace be without tools?

Keli:

This is my new favorite space to knit. Like Cait (see her blog here), I adore my Lantern Moon interchangeable needles. I’m excited that we’ve started carrying Fix-A-Stitches again – they make fixing garter and seed stitch so much easier!

lantern

Marcia:

My favorite knitting tools are my handmade stitch markers and my new Stella light. I make the markers from old sock yarn remnants, to fit a variety of needle sizes. They’re colorful, soft, and don’t get in the way of my stitches!

stella

Sandy:

Like Marcia, I too love my Stella light! I knit under it daily – I love the fact that it doesn’t put off any heat. I’m actually saving for another one to go in the sewing room. Another favorite tool is a pair of Addi Turbo Rocket needles, while my favorite double-pointed needles are still the Lantern Moon hardwoods.

turbo

Darcy:

I love the Knitter’s Keep from Julie Wiesenberger (CocoKnits). It’s beautifully designed.

keep

Hannah:

I have to admit that I love knitting tools, so I have accumulated quite a few. I have a pretty large lampwork stitch marker collection. There’s something about beautiful, beaded stitch markers that I love. Another thing I always have on me? A tapestry needle for weaving ends. You can never have enough tapestry needles!

Chibi

 

This month, we’ll be sharing our spaces with you, letting you into our world, to see our tools, accessories, and little studios.

IMG_4203

My little office space is in the living room. My desk, bookshelf, side chair, and tote bags full of yarn are nestled behind the couch.

IMG_4170

My vintage side chair and bonsai (it’s alive, just not in bloom!) are behind my desk, and close to the record player, which makes for cozy weekend knitting.

Craft and knitting magazines, and some favorite books, occupy my shelf. It also holds some art, as well as a lot of books about the sea—one of the loves I inherited from my dad.

IMG_4189

The chair, and my desk, face out a large, northern-oriented window. It overlooks a busy street, but there are big trees behind that, and a pleasant breeze in the evening.

IMG_4209

My favorite tools are my sketchbook and graph paper. I love designing colorwork, even if I don’t knit it! My pencils and colored pencils—as well as some DPNs—are stored inside some old cocoa jars.

IMG_4218

Other supplies, like scissors, tapestry needles, stitch markers, T-pins, and stitch counter, are in an old cigar box. The stitch maker is called “Kacha-Kacha,” which is Japanese for “click-click.” I love the onomatopoetic nature of Japanese, as well as the bright red color. The coilless bulb pins make really smooth stitch markers.

I have a set of Lantern Moon circular needles, as well as matching cable needles and a repair hook. They have definitely been worth the splurge, although they don’t go below a US 4. For smaller needles, I prefer the Addi Lace tips. The fine points make for quick knitting, especially when I’m working on lace fair isle.

My little work space can get a little messy (I need a dresser for all of my yarn and art supplies, instead of tote bags and boxes), but it is relaxing and organized, and well-suited to creative work.

Keep checking our blog this month for more shared spaces!

PinterestContest_pinterestgraphic_Thankyou-01We were thrilled with the response to our #knitspiration Pinterest contest. We had local entries, national entries, and entries from all over the world! Seeing all of the pins, and even the boards, was particularly moving for us, so naturally it was hard to choose our favorite.

We decided on this shell photo that was pinned by Linnea Pearson. To quote her, “Neutral graded color, perfect symmetry, beautiful texture and depth. I strive to create something this perfect one day.”

We couldn’t agree more. The natural movement and elegance of the shells, and the rich color that is deeper than white, spoke to us as much as a skein of yarn of the shelf would. Naturally beauty is a great source of inspiration for us at Knit Purl, and we try to recreate it whenever possible.

We asked Linnea to share a little more on her inspiration as a maker, and in her life in general. This is what she had to say:

I’m a marine biologist by day, and a crocheter by night. It’s my creative outlet. I can sit, relax, and crochet, but not feel guilty because I am still being productive. I think I’m drawn to fiber art in general because it still requires thought and precision, but allows for such a personal touch. It gives you the opportunity to express yourself in something tangible. Recently, I started sharing my work through my Etsy store, Sea and Sky Creations. It’s a collaboration between myself and my good friend, Veronica. Together, we hope to offer unique, beautiful, handmade items. It’s scary and exciting to put your work out there, since it’s really an extension of yourself.

I take a lot of my inspiration from the natural world. Color, texture (I’m a huge fan of texture!), intricate design—look no further than out the back door! Living in Alaska definitely helps that last part. Nothing is more profound or beautiful than nature and the complex evolution that led to that particular instant.

When I was thinking about inspiration after reading about Knit Purl’s #knitspiration contest, the image of the shells struck me in particular. It embodied everything that I love about nature—complex designs, colors, texture—that looks so effortless. I hope to express even a tiny part of this in my work.

In my projects, I tend to bounce between large, lace projects and quick easy instant gratification headbands and hats. It’s good to keep a balance.

We want to thank all of our #knitspiration participants, and we invite you to continue sharing your inspiration on Pinterest, and with us in person. Please check out all of the pins, and the boards that you created!

guest authored by Amy Herzog

This week, Amy Herzog joins me for an informative post about modifying and creating your perfect sweater. As an accomplished designer with more than 40 published patterns in both books and magazines, Amy has dedicated her design career to building the perfect sweater and can be found teaching her Fit to Flatter method at various shows and conventions around the world. Recently, she launched Custom Fit, a web-based design platform that helps you create your perfect sweater from the ground up.

Sweaters may not be the most technically difficult projects out there (if you can cast on, bind off, increase, and decrease, you can make one,) but they’re arguably the most intimidating. We’re often afraid that we’ll spend so much money and time on a single project, only to end up with a garment that gets relegated to a shelf.

The good news is, it’s possible to demystify the whole process and feel good about the modifications you’re making—without having to try the sweater on in the process! All sweaters, no matter how they’re constructed, are essentially 3 cylinders joined together at the top with some math:

The shoulders are the single most important part of sweater-fitting, and the good news is that if you start by selecting a size that fits the shoulders well, the rest of your modifications will be pretty simple. (They’ll also be worked in essentially the same way no matter what the construction style is – a definite bonus since they’ll be second nature by the time you knit your third sweater!) As you can see below, shoulder fit makes a big difference:

dualsweaters

Sweaters are sized for the fullest part of the bust, though. So how to pick a bust circumference that will fit your shoulders well? Essentially, you need to figure out a circumference on your own body that “matches” your shoulders, but can be treated as if it were your full bust for size selection. I call it the “upper torso”:

aherzoguppertorso

Measure the circumference of the very top of your torso, in your armpits. On me, this looks like a high bust – but for those broad-shouldered, smaller-busted figures out there, take note! It’s really important to ensure that the measuring tape is as high in your armpits as it can possibly go since you’re essentially trying to measure those shoulders.

Add some ease to this number, based on what kind of fit you like in the shoulders, and select the the closest finished bust circumference to the result, without going below your actual upper torso.

• For a close fit, add between 0 – 1’’ (0 – 2.5 cm) to your upper torso.

• For an average fit, add between 1 – 2’’ (2.5 – 5 cm) to your upper torso.

• For a relaxed fit, add between 2 – 3’’ (5 – 7.5 cm) to your upper torso.

Voila! You’ve now selected a size that will fit your shoulders well, and you can forget about adjusting the pattern in this area. Of course, that still leaves the rest of the sweater! Don’t worry, the rest of the sweater is easy-peasy. The key is to recognize that the widths on the front and back of the sweater at the bust, waist, and hips don’t need to be the same. There’s no magic in those pattern numbers! And you can make them what you need to be.

Here’s an example of my own “base size”, with the numbers that are incorrect for my figure crossed out and corrected:

aherzogmeasure

Once you’ve selected your own base size you can do the same thing! Compare your body’s own measurements to the measurements of the base size, and then disregard any stitch (or row) counts in the pattern that are wrong for you, substituting your own instead.

For example, I need some extra width in the front of my sweater, to accommodate my larger bustline. I’ll use the pattern’s stitch count at the front waist, since it fits me well. But instead of going to the pattern’s stitch count for the bust, I’ll add enough stitches to make a 22’’ (58 cm) front instead of the written 19’’ (46.5 cm) front. This might mean I need to work 8 increase rows, for example, instead of 2 as written in the pattern.

To determine what your own widths should be, I recommend the following ease ranges for bust, waist, and hip:

• The garment’s finished bust circumference should be within -2’’ to +2’’ of your own (that’s -5 to +5 cm). If your sweater is tighter than 2’’ of negative ease, you’ll have problems with the front of your sweater riding up at the hem as the knit stretches to accommodate you! And 2’’ of positive ease in the bust is a pretty slouchy and relaxed feel, when worn.

• The garment’s finished waist circumference should definitely be larger than your own, by at least 2’’ (5 cm).

• The garment’s finished hip circumference for an average-length sweater should be within the same range as the bust: -2’’ to +2’’ (-5 to +5 cm). A smidge of negative ease in the hips won’t feel tight, but it will help the garment anchor itself properly. There’s a reason we use ribbing in the hips! (Longer sweaters that reach below your bum need to have substantial positive ease in the hips. I recommend 4 – 6’’ (10 – 12.5 cm). This helps them stay nicely away from your body as you move.)

Correcting any measurements that are wrong in your base size represents your modification list – with no try-ons required!

With the right approach and understanding, calculating what parts to edit and modify from a sweater pattern you like can result in a garment you love to wear. The next step in sweater modification is to build your own pattern from the ground up—join us in next week’s follow-up blog with Amy Herzog to discuss her newest project, Custom Fit, which takes the work out of custom sweater construction. (Think of it as hiring an architect to design your dream garment!)

photo courtesy k.johnstone / eco edge architecture

photo courtesy k.johnstone / eco edge architecture

It really comes as no surprise that so many knitting designers and yarn companies have developed from other creative industries. If you attend a trade show (say, The National Needle Arts show, which happens every year) and ask almost anyone on the floor how they started working in the yarn industry, chances are they are from some other creative field originally. Some jumps are easier to make than others (textile specialists, fine artists, and tailors seem to be in abundance.) Architecture might seem like a surprising connection at first, but after interviewing two architects who have branched into wool and yarn, it becomes easier to understand.

Antonio Gonzalez-Arano is the creative director and production team lead at Malabrigo Yarns, a favorite yarn brand famous for bright color and ultra-soft merino wool. Kirsten Johnstone, one of our favorite designers, is known for her simple and well-constructed garment aesthetic. I was able to ask them some questions about the parallels and process in transitioning from constructing buildings to creating garments and yarns.

How did you get started in the knitting industry, and how did you transition from being an architect?

Antonio: I went to school in Montevideo, Uruguay to study as an architect—at UDELAR (Universidad de la Republica), the Facultad de Arquitectura (School of Architecture.) My wife, Carla, and her family have a long history in architecture and are all active architects. I was looking for something different to add into my work. At the time, I didn’t know it would be yarn. When I started to join the yarn world I couldn’t find all of the colors and textures I was looking for. I knew Uruguayan wool was of the highest quality, but didn’t see it very often—it wasn’t being used to it’s full potential. So I started using it and dyeing it.

Kirsten:  I have always sewn my own clothing and have created my own sewing designs for years. When I took up knitting in 2007, it was only a matter of months before I was creating my own knitting patterns. Initially, it was purely to create knitted garments for myself. My first design was my Paper Crane cardigan, using Habu Textiles’ Linen. I sent a photo of my design to Takako at Habu Textiles, and she was extremely enthusiastic about it. It wasn’t a huge leap to realize that I could get the patterns profesionally sized and technically edited, and then release them as a self-published design.

How are architecture and knitting related/similar?

Kirsten: I’m laughing here as I’m sure some might suggest being anal with a meticulous attention to detail! And I am sure elements of this are indeed beneficial! However, in all seriousness, I personally prefer to seek an appropriate design response to the particular materials I happen to be using to provide an elegant yet timeless design that can be enjoyed for years to come, regardless of the design field. In addition, I always aim to stretch myself creatively each time I embark on a new design.

Antonio: The design process has a very important step, which you really don’t realize is happening until it does—you evaluate without all the elements in front of you, because it’s not finished, so it’s a more intuitive process, a moment of decision making without all the pieces. That part is similar—but the technical problems that arise are still very different.

For Antonio, what is your architectural style, and what is the Uruguayan architectural style?

Antonio: My style used to be minimal. Architecture, in my opinion, is a very unique problem, in which you have to solve a multitude of problems within the same action. Buildings need to be functional, structurally sound, and fulfill many needs—aesthetic, economic, and environmental, to start. Uruguay has a very rich and varied cultural heritage when it comes to architecture. There are more European influences than anything else—Spanish Neo Colonial, Art Deco, French Academic, Neo-Renaissance, Art Nouveau, Modernist and Modern are all found in buildings around Montevideo and Uruguay. My favorite style is Modern architecture. It is the best way to solve the whole of human architectural problems. It has a consistent aesthetic and it focuses on sustainable development.

In the end, materials are at the heart of any construction decision. In many ways, knitting is similar—while Antonio builds the yarn, choosing materials and colors that will entice use, designers like Kirsten are almost the “architects” of the industry, building blueprints that can later be used by the knitting “craftsmen” who will create finished garments with them.

Do you feel that your business history also influences your work as a designer and the way you approach building a garment?

Kirsten: I believe it does, yes. I keep a sketch book and magazine clippings/photos for my Architectural designs and another for my knitting ideas. I work hard to nut out the sketch design similarly to a building with sketches, drawings and sometimes mini paper models in addition to the swatching component. I draw up my knitwear design using Autocad, the same Architectural drafting program on my desktop computer. At this point, I sometimes print out the design at a full scale and make a prototype using fabric and my trusty old sewing machine. This helps with fit and proportion for my innovative garment designs. Only then will I cast on and get busy with the needles!

Do you choose building materials and knitting materials in a similar way?

Kirsten: To some degree, yes, I think I probably do. I really enjoy exploring a material or a yarn in ways to enhance or perhaps celebrate it’s own unique and inherent features or properties. And it feels like I give the yarn or building an integrity or honesty—not by being showy or flashy, but quietly considered. I want my designs to not necessarily be “of the moment” but transcend time or a current fad.

I prefer to use high quality materials that are natural with beauty and timeless features or characteristics. I am currently exploring more environmentally conscious materials to also limit the environmental impact of my choices. My recent travels have confirmed my desire to use quality over quantity in all areas of my professional and private lives. I abhor waste and try to make my own buying choices based on the old “less is more” principle. And in terms of knitting, I design garments I genuinely want to wear myself and as I know I develop such an attachment to things I have made, these are going to be in my wardrobe for many years so they need to be able to go the distance in both quality and style.

Do you seek yarns that are structural or determine structure based on stitches?

Kirsten: I would say usually the latter. I explore garment design options after swatching and the subsequent consideration of both the stitches and the knitted fabric these stitches have created. That said, I am genuinely intrigued by structural yarns and the challenge to provide a garment that can utilize this property but in a wearable way.

mosaicshort

new patterns from the Monochrome collection

Occasionally, a project comes along that seeks to combine both architecture and knitting. For Antonio, this project was Malabrigo Book 4. While the garments were varied, all of the images were taken in front of various architectural elements found throughout Montevideo. Antonio’s expertise and knowledge of various types of architecture throughout the city aided in selecting the best location for each garment.

Kirsten’s architectural background comes out often in patterns she constructs, including those that have been included in several recent Shibui Knits collections. Geometry, a collection that focused on the angles and construction of garments, features Radii and Trapezoid. And the newest collection, Monochrome, was entirely constructed by Kirsten, featuring a variety of structured and angular shapes offset by softer lines and materials.

Neither talent has walked entirely away from the architectural field. Antonio shared that whenever he misses creating beautiful buildings, he simply stops by his wife’s studios (located in the same building as Malabrigo’s order offices.) Kirsten still works as an architect, and has a current project, Eco/Edge.

Kirsten: My own Architectural practice originally began from a dissatisfaction with working in Architecture. Not from an ideological perspective; more because after 6 years of study and another 2 years to become a Registered Architect, I felt creatively dry. Working for myself allows a direct connection with the Clients and an exploration of their design needs and then my design response. I strive to provide a hands-on service, with a focus on elegantly modern Architecture. This means a very personal design response that is tailored and unique to each project.

It’s no wonder that architecture and knitting have so many parallels. While it’s interesting to delve into the past of both Malabrigo Yarns and Kirsten Johnstone’s work, like all architects (and knitters), our interest also lies with the future. I’m excited to keep following the development of both of these talented individuals and the brands they represent—and to see what they keep building for many years to come.

 

 

We’re really excited about our upcoming workshops with Julie Weisenberger and Takako Ueki. We asked Julie for a few words on the classes she teaches.

“My favorite class to teach is European Tips and Techniques. Everyone learns little tricks they didn’t know before and I love hearing the Ahhs and Ohhs as the class proceeds! Knitting should be fun and relaxing, and the results should be clean and professional­looking. What surprises many people is that often the best results are also the easiest! Much of what I share came from working with European knitters from the ready­-to-­wear industry where some things are done differently than in the hand-­knitting world. Other techniques I have picked up or invented over the years.

“What Not to Knit is always a blast! We get people trying on tons of sweaters, so be sure to wear something basic as a base layer because we’ll get you stripped down and trying on! You might be surprised by sweater shapes you would not have thought to try!

“Seamless Construction is a three-­part class. We cover a lot of ground, so whether you use all three concepts in your knitting, or even one or two of these ideas, it will expand your knitting.

“Can’t wait to get to Portland—Knit Purl customers are always fantastic!”

And here’s what a few of Julie’s former students had to say…

Untitled-1-01

Untitled-1-02

Untitled-1-03

kpsweatersAfter a long winter, the temptation to simply stuff your winter wardrobe away and embrace the sunshine can be overwhelming, but when your favorite pieces are wooly hand-knits, a little extra care is needed while ‘summering’ them in the off-season. I’ll guide you through the steps for making sure your sweaters and accessories are instantly wearable when it’s time to pull them back out this fall.

kpsweaters2I like to start by taking inventory. A lot of my sweaters use vintage buttons, so I begin the process by evaluating which buttons can go through the wash (and removing any that can’t, or are too loose and need to be re-sewn.) Any button with metal backing should be taken off, since it could tarnish, or, if it’s a button with a metallic flake coating, it could peel off when wet! Now is also a good time to weave in any ends that are poking out.

The next step is to wash your pieces in a gentle, warm-water bath with some wool wash. We love Eucalan at Knit Purl, and you can get it both scented and unscented (although the lavender scent is great since it can help repel moths!) Let your knits soak until the water is cool, then drain the tub and squish any excess water out. Take advantage of the sunshine outside and hang your knits on drying racks. I love to use these – they’re collapsible for easy storage and portability, and you can find them at almost any chain store.

kpsweaters3After your knits are dry, get to removing any pet hair and pills that didn’t come out or off in the wash. I have a deep, abiding love for my Lilly SOS brush, which does both in one easy step. Plus it’s reusable, good for the environment, and unlike my sweater shaver, doesn’t bite into the fibers and damage all my hard work.

kpsweaters4On to the final step! Stores that specialize in garment storage (Bed, Bath & Beyond, Ikea and The Container Store) often have sweater boxes available. They’re breathable and have a zipper or lid, and stack easily in closet space. I have to admit that most of the time, I simply wrap my knits in tissue paper (to keep them from rubbing against one another) and stack them in a rubbermaid tub. Pop in a few cedar blocks or lavender sachets if you’ll be storing in your unfinished attic or garage — nothing is worse than finding out your project fed an army of moths over the summer!

The natural world seems an endless source of inspiration–flora, fauna, and stunning landscapes can all contribute to creating a beautiful project, or, in the case of many yarn producers, result in a beautiful yarn. Some hand-dyers take this step further, actually using elements of the natural world to create unique colorways. Sincere Sheep’s Brooke Sinnes took a moment to chat with me about the magic of natural dyeing.

sinceresheep2

 

What got you started with using natural dyes?

Initially it was because my spinning teacher was a natural dyer, so a part of taking classes included learning how to dye your yarn and fibers. As time went on, I stuck with natural dyes even though they’re a bit more labor-intensive, because of a few different reasons. One, I just love the palette. Natural dyes result in a beautiful, wearable palette—the colors work well on most people, and combining color is easy since it all comes from the natural world.

I also really love the history behind natural dyeing—it’s this connection to our past, and speaks a lot to the tradition of adornment in various cultures. Creating color isn’t something that is taught a lot in school, but it’s a huge part of history! Many expeditions were based on the allocation of dyes and spices. Cochineal, one of the biggest exports for the Americas was second to silver and had this huge impact on fashion in Europe. Logwood, which creates these stunning grays and blacks, was used to dye the black suits shown in paintings from the 17th century — it’s from Belize. These dyes are important to the history of countries’ development, and you can find similar stories for countries all over the world.

As a modern-day dyer, I also like knowing that my business doesn’t just benefit me or a big chemical company, it benefits agriculture—farmers and dye suppliers based in other countries. I am very careful to work with companies that are conscientious in the trade process, too, so that I know that the harvesting and production is actually helping instead of hurting the environment and agricultural communities.

Speaking of environmental impact, there’s a common misconception that natural dyes can actually be harder on the environment than synthetics, since they use metals in the dyeing process. How accurate is this?

Most of the concern does surround the mordants, yes, but it’s more about individual health concerns that environmental ones. Mordant is a metal-salt, there are various options to choose from (chrome, copper, tin, iron). Different metals can result in different colors, sometimes too. The most commonly used mordant is alum, which is aluminum sulfate. You can buy it at the grocery store—people use it for pickling, and I also use food-grade alum for my dyeing. It’s not completely benign, but it isn’t a scary product, either—it’s moderately safe. Some people are using more harsh metals, but I mostly use alum, sometimes iron as a modifier (since it gets different colors). Copper, tin and chrome especially can be hard on the body, with lots of negative side effects, so it’s important for natural dyers to be judicious and careful. I wear a respirator, gloves, and re-use dye and mordant baths as much as possible to limit water usage (a big deal here in California). It’s also important to note that many synthetic dyes also contain metals and are a byproduct of oil.

In addition to alum, what materials do you use to create color on your yarns?

I predominantly use plant-based dyes, although I do have two insect-based dyes—cochineal and lac. These insects are scale insects, parasites that feed off of plants. Cochineal feeds on the Nopal cactus, and will kill the plant if not culled and harvested. Lac is from India and southeast Asia. Both produce beautiful shades of reds and purples. There aren’t many reds available to us as natural dyers, so these are very valuable.

I use madder root and osage for orange-red tones, and weld, a plant easily grown in a home garden, for this bright highlighter yellow. A lot of colors come from trees—Logwood, for dark purples and grays, Sustic, for yellows, and Quebracho, for a pink color. Indigo comes in several varieties and I use it for blues, greens, teals—you can get so many color combinations.

photo by Brooke Sinnes

photo by Brooke Sinnes

I’ve heard of people using beets and onion skins — do you use any food based dyes?

Not really—because they aren’t as light-fast as some of the other dyes available to us. Onion skins will give you a really pretty golden color, and it’s great if you want to experiment at home. Berries are popular but they’re stains, not dyes, and will fade or even turn brown after they’ve been on the fabric awhile. I try to use natural dyes that won’t fade, since customers have this thought that natural dyes don’t have good ‘staying’ power—but it’s simply not true. There are old tapestries, a good example is the Unicorn Tapestry made in 1500. Some of the yellows have faded but for the most part it’s still really beautiful, and it was dyed completely with natural dyes. They’re just as durable as synthetics as long as you take care of them!

Do you feel that working with natural dyes limits your options or guides colorways for you?

One thing that can be hard about natural dyeing is that you’re not working with pure pigments, so you aren’t just mixing red and blue and getting purple—a little more chemistry has to go into it. You can’t fight the chemistry aspect, especially with finicky dyes like indigo. Each plant has multiple colors in it already. People tend to think there’s a magic involved, and there kind of is—it’s not 100% science all the time though. A lot of it is patience and knowledge you build about the process over time. Year to year, even the most reliable colors can change due to growing season, drought, or even what’s in the water the plants consume. You definitely learn to be flexible.

What kind of setup do you have?

All my dyeing is done outside and my winding and prep station is in the side yard and garage. I have a lot of friends who are dyers and we are always amused at what we do with such small spaces—very few dyers are working out of anything bigger than the average garage. Occasionally someone has the most perfect space, and we all get jealous!

Take a look at some of Brooke’s yarns at Knit-Purl here! 

seasaltcowl

My new cowl pattern, debuting tomorrow, was inspired by a bagel chip. But let me back up. It’s now very clear to me why creative inspiration is often described as a spark. A new creation can burst forth in what seems like an instant. Looking back, you realize you’ve been collecting ideas—like kindling—for months.

I had been thinking about the ocean. On some level, I’m usually thinking about the ocean. After spending my twenties on the Pacific coast—Santa Cruz, Mendocino, Arcata, San Francisco—its rocky, foggy beaches feel like home. Not having a car, I spend nearly all my time within Portland’s city limits, but I can feel the ocean’s pull from here.

One thing Portland does have is a thriving foodie culture. I visited The Meadow for the first time this year. Their Fleur de Sel de Noirmoutier forced me to reconsider what I thought was a simple mineral. It also made my buttered toast twice as tasty.

Add to this Portland’s unusually snowy winter. In February, after a long, delightful day of exploring neighborhoods transformed by snow, my husband and I—both California kids—stood in our front yard and tried not to squeal as we watched perfect little crystals of ice land on our coat sleeves.

Sea-Lace_Crystalline_withsalt

And then there’s the fact that I’ve now spent the better part of three years immersed in the colors and textures of Knit Purl, contemplating patterns like Encadré, Song of the Sea, 100 Diamonds, and Cold Mountain. The store needed a new lace pattern, and I took on the task, aiming for something inspired by nature, yet fresh and unexpected. I had glimmers of ideas, but nothing grabbed me, and I prepared for a long slog through possibilities.

It turned out all I needed was a snack. I found myself standing in my sunlit kitchen about to eat a bagel chip studded with salt. Not flecks of table salt—tiny hollow pyramids of sea salt. They filled me with visions of the coast, of the harvesting process, of those snowflakes on my sleeve, and of all the exquisite little forms coalescing and disintegrating around me. I knew I wanted to knit a delicate loop that would speak to these cycles, and I knew that elegant salt-like squares would form the basis of my design. As I worked out the details¹, I had the privilege of working with Hand Maiden to develop the perfect coastal color, on a yarn that contains seaweed, no less. The finished Sea Salt Cowl is light, cool, and shimmery, almost like a soft necklace. I sincerely hope you enjoy making it and wearing it as much as I enjoyed dreaming it up.

 


1. I highly recommend Susanna E. Lewis’ Knitting Lace if you’re interested in designing lace. I found a copy at the library.