Portrait of a knitwear designer: Marie Greene of Olive Knits

I've been getting to know more of my fellow knitwear designers lately, and I am fascinated by the person who exists behind the designs. People have such diverse motivations, personal circumstances, backgrounds, stories, insights! Knitwear designers are definitely an interesting and thoughtful bunch. So I've decided to do a little interview series of my favorite people!


First up: Marie from Olive Knits and her wonderfully sleek, super wearable yet sophisticated designs:

Marie wearing her Southwell Cardigan

Marie wearing her Southwell Cardigan

  • What are 5 random things people might not know about you?

-My kitchen is my zen space. I love to cook - it's a great way to unwind after a long day. 

-I like to binge-watch moody Scandinavian crime shows while I work. 

-I love secondhand and vintage shops. 

-I am an early riser to the extreme (this morning it was 3:30 AM), but it also means that I go to bed ridiculously early most nights. My friends tease me if I'm up past 9:30 PM because they know I'm dying inside. 

-When I was first married I worked as a contract seamstress for the Navy Reserve. 

  • What is your style in a nutshell?

My style continues to evolve. In my early days I was still finding my footing as a designer, still trying to tap into the ideas that resonated with the style story I wanted to tell, but I feel like I'm reaching that place a little more each day. My goal is effortless, beautiful design that is as fun to knit as it is to wear. I hate to use the word 'practical,' but in reality - that really has a huge influence on my work. I want to create pieces that people want in their closets. 

  • What is your favorite technique?

Goodness, it's hard to pick a favorite. I don't know if I can pick just one, but two of my favorites are Japanese Short Rows and the Horizontal Stitch, and you can see both of those demonstrated here

  • What is/are your go-to yarn(s)?

Ooh, another tough one. I love yarns that lean toward the more natural style, and often the "crunchy" yarns really call to me - Sherwood Yarn, The Fibre Company and Rauma Finnulgarn rank high on my list. I also love supporting the work of Sincere Sheep for her commitment to sourcing and her use of natural dyes, and The Farmer's Daughter Fibers because I not only love her gorgeous colorways, but really connect with the way she draws upon her heritage and homeland for inspiration. When I need something with crisp, brilliant color, I go for Knitted Wit; I especially love her rich solids and her personal commitment to supporting meaningful causes through her business. 

  • Do you have a favorite designer? Or any particular design you think is genius.

I have a couple of favorites that span opposite directions, but the one that comes to mind first is Norah Gaughan. She's been one of my design heroes for years. It's funny because my design style is nothing like Norah's, but her designs remind me to think outside the box. I've met her a couple of times and she's genuine and gracious - a true professional. 

  • What is the most important thing you've learned since becoming a designer?

Compassion. Becoming a designer has really opened my eyes to the immense amount of work, love, time and resources that go into the pattern design process. Those insights have translated into a deeper appreciation for the work of my peers, and for the work of small business owners across creative genres; I'm more keenly aware of the person behind the screen/email/storefront who's hustling to make the magic happen.

Behind the scenes!

Behind the scenes!

  • What is your best-selling pattern? Why do you think that is?

Gosh, I had to go look at the numbers. I have two best sellers that are almost tied for first place: Brookings and BeckettI think these pieces are both incredibly versatile and wearable, and flatter a range of body types

  • What is the design you are the most proud of? Why?

Eek, another hard one. I'm really proud of most of them, to be honest, but I think River Light Tee is one I was especially proud of because I challenged my usual construction process, and I think the stitch transition to the lower hem was beautifully strategic. 

River Light Tee by Olive Knits

River Light Tee by Olive Knits

  • What is your favorite quote or saying?
My candle burns at both ends; it will not last the night. But, ah, my foes, and oh, my friends, it lends a lovely light.
— Edna St. Vincent Millay

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my very nosy questions with such thoughtful answers Marie! I wish you the very best on your designing journey! You can find Marie's designs on her website (be sure to check out her blog!) as well as Ravelry. She is @oliveknits on Instagram.


Are you curious about what it takes to be a knitwear designer? What the daily routine might look like? Would you like to get to know your favorite designer? Please let me know in the comments if you'd like me to reach out to anybody in particular, and whether you'd like to me to ask any specific questions!

Wearing your knits: 5 lessons I've learned

Every month of May for the past eight years, Me-Made-May has been a big movement in the crafting community. It's not really a make-a-long per se, it's more about actually wearing the things you've made.

Tatie cardigan -- Pattern by NCL Knits

Tatie cardigan -- Pattern by NCL Knits

I have to admit, I don't wear my knits consistently.

I have phases where I will wear something I've made over and over, like this Old Growth cardigan by Tin Can Knits. When my daughter was little and still nursing, I barely left home without it (and wore it around the house as well!)

Old Growth cardigan by Tin Can Knits

Old Growth cardigan by Tin Can Knits

Love that side buttoning!

Love that side buttoning!

I actually tested the pattern for them way back when, and I love how comfy and easy to wear it is. 

Meanwhile some other gorgeous hand-knits have been languishing for years at the back of my closet. Wondering why exactly that is, I studied them carefully and thought about each one's perceived shortcomings. And I had a few epiphanies:

Wearing Your Knits: 5 lessons I've learned by Frogginette Knitting Patterns
  • The sleeve shaping type: I've realized that raglan generally works well for my shape. I like set-in sleeves but I am very particular about the way they should fit on my body, and I'm often disappointed in the way my hand-knits sit in the shoulder area. Very often I feel like the top of the sleeve cap is too narrow, and the seam where the sleeve attaches to the body is placed too far on the outside, towards the very edge or the shoulder or even beyond. (I have pretty square shoulders, too!) This results in the garment constantly feeling like it's slipping, not sitting well, and just not comfortable to wear.
  • The sleeve ease and length: I've learned that I shouldn't just follow directions when I knit sleeves. Instead I should study the schematic a bit more carefully make sure the sleeve ease and length will work for me. I have yet to knit a sweater where the sleeve didn't turn out a bit too tight or a bit too wide. To be fair, I think I'm quite picky there as well. And perhaps I have non-standard arms :D
  • The color: Have you ever noticed that the colors you are attracted to at the yarn store are not necessarily the ones that look the best on you? I love very muted hues, greys, faded lilacs, soft blues... (I mean... just look at that pile of knits above!) Yet I notice that I look much better when I wear jewel tones, deep or bright greens or reds. 
  • The buttons: I have more than a few cardigans that just don't get worn because I made the wrong button choice. Annoyingly heavy buttons for a comparatively thinner yarn. Too-small buttons that slip through the buttonholes easily (this happens too if the yarn is slippery, for example if it has silk content). Cute or fancy buttons that end up distracting from the knit itself.
  • The choice of yarn: Selecting the right yarn for a sweater is no small feat. I've noticed that if the yarn is too precious and delicate, I will simply not wear the garment for fear of damaging it during my day-to-day activities (my kids LOVE to yank on my sleeves to get my attention and they routinely attack me with spiky toy dinosaurs. Ouch!). On the other hand, if I'm going to invest lots of time knitting a sweater for myself, I want the yarn to be special enough. So there has to be a balance. For me, that means using a relatively rugged yarn: Malabrigo Rios, which I used for my Old Growth above, or perhaps Madelinetosh Vintage or Cascade Eco... 

What about you? What are your tips for creating wearable knits?

Entrechat hack: two-colors

Over the years some of my favorite projects that knitters have made from my Entrechat pattern were ones involving two or more colors.

Two-color Entrechat by Frogginette Knitting Patterns #malabrigo

I think using two colors works so well for my Entrechat pattern: it underlines the unusual construction and makes the textured band really pop.

I decided to make a two-tone Entrechat using two Malabrigo Rios colorways: Water Green as the main color and Teal Feather as a contrasting color:

Here's a basic how-to:

First, a word of warning: you have to be willing to weave in a few ends! I made this using intarsia, which means that for the rows where I had contrasting color on both ends of my knitting, I used two separate balls of contrasting color yarn, one on each end, and the main color yarn for the middle.

- So before you start, wind up a small ball (about 1.5 to 2 inches - that's about 4-5 cm in diameter) from your main contrasting color (CC) yarn ball, which you'll use for the intarsia bits.

Two-color Entrechat shrug by Frogginette Knitting Patterns #malabrigo

- Cast on your project using the larger ball of CC yarn and follow instructions until you have your 4 garter ridges from the cast on edge. Cut CC yarn.

- On next RS row, switch to the main color yarn (MC) and follow the pattern until the sleeve stitches are bound off. Cut MC yarn.

- Join CC (larger ball) to pick up the stitches along the raglans and until you are ready to start the "Work Body" section.

- To work the textured band:

RS: K4 in CC (from the larger ball), join MC and work as explained in the pattern to 4 sts from end of row, leave MC hanging at the back of your work and join CC from the separate small ball, k4, (it will seem like you have a big gap where you joined the yarns but this will be fixed later when you weave in the ends).

WS: K4 using the smaller ball of CC, then leave CC hanging and pick up your MC (crossing/wrapping it around the CC to close the gap) and work to 4 sts from end of row, leave MC hanging and pick up CC from the larger ball (crossing/wrapping it around the MC) and k4.

- Keep working the textured band rows in this way -- you might need to untangle your three balls of yarns once in a while -- oh the joys of colorwork ;)

- When you reach the part in the pattern where you are given the length of the textured band, work the following RS in CC using the two balls of CC yarn and leaving the MC hanging (you can "carry it" at the back of your work, just twisting it with your working yarn as you encounter it).

- When you have worked the two garter ridges and you are ready to work the increase row, work the first 4 sts in CC using the larger ball of yarn, then pick up your MC to do the increases and switch to the CC from the smaller ball for the last 4 sts. Continue in this way using the three balls of yarn until you reach the given measurements, but instead of ending on a RS row as instructed, end on a WS row. Cut the MC yarn and the CC yarn from the smaller ball of yarn.

- On the next RS: using the CC from the larger ball of yarn, knit one row. Then work the ridges with the buttonhole according to the pattern.

- Last but not least: Weave in all those ends neatly.

TA-DA! A lovely two-color Entrechat!!

Two-color Entrechat shrug by Frogginette Knitting Patterns #malabrigo

By the way... I will be hosting an Entrechat KAL in June! I will announce the details soon.

My week in knitting

Hi knitters! It's Monday! What is on your needles this week? 

Over here, things are transitioning into Spring/Summer knitting. I'm preparing a few samples for my Entrechat KAL. It will start in June and I thought it would be fun to feature so-called pattern "hacks," which are just fun mods that you can do using my pattern as a jumping board. I always like to encourage creativity and I can't wait to see what everybody comes up with.

So: here is my bicolor Entrechat, which is blocking nicely as I write. Can you guess which button I ended up chosing? Do you tend to agonize over button choice too by the way? It's kind of ridiculous how much hemming and hawing was involved in this small decision.

Entrechat by Frogginette Knitting Patterns

This week, knitting-wise, I'm planning on focusing mostly on this little number: a Colorplay Dress for a friend's soon-to-arrive baby girl. I might just do some stripes or very simple colorwork for the body, and then do the flower motif at the chest only. But I'll probably be figuring it out as I go along :)

What are you working on this week?

Knitting for a new baby by Frogginette Knitting Patterns

Here are the winners of the Easter / Spring Dress knit-along!

The Easter/Spring Dress KAL that I hosted in my Ravelry group came to an end earlier this week. Many participated, and it was so fun to see everybody's little sweet little dresses pop up in the thread. As promised, prizes were awarded for the following projects:

SpinnyGonzalez won one of the two grand prizes! I selected her Tutu Top because her choice of colors was just so fresh and spunky. I think this bright green paired with acid yellow is the perfect combination for a Spring tunic that's just the thing to wear while exploring nature:

Tutu Top by SpinnyGonzalez on Ravelry

Tutu Top by SpinnyGonzalez on Ravelry

I also chose this pretty Broderie as the recipient of the second Grand Prize! I think that Dye2Knit's project is beautiful in this classic blue with subtle tonal variations. Very romantic and sweet:

Broderie by Dye2knit on Ravelry

Broderie by Dye2knit on Ravelry

Pennster managed to whip up THREE Honey Pie dresses during the KAL! Impressive, right? Two of her projects were randomly selected and she won two of my patterns :D

Honey Pie by Pennster on Ravelry

Honey Pie by Pennster on Ravelry

Honey Pie by Pennster on Ravelry

Honey Pie by Pennster on Ravelry

Another winner was Angeldogknitter, who came up with this really gorgeous combination of colors for her Tutu Top. While the body of the sweater is purple (you know that tends to be a winner for little girls!) I love that she paired it with a more subtle powdery mauve, it really gives a nice sophistication to the project.

Tutu Top by Angeldogknitter on Ravelry

Tutu Top by Angeldogknitter on Ravelry

Another really sweet version was Alisa01's Honey Pie. I love this shade of Malabrigo Rios (Archangel), an unusual red/purple hue. And look at those sweet flower buttons she picked out!

Honey Pie by alesa01 on Ravelry

Honey Pie by alesa01 on Ravelry

Last but not least, Kimzboyz made this beautiful, bright blue Honey Pie with really special buttons:

Honey Pie by Kimzboyz on Ravelry

Honey Pie by Kimzboyz on Ravelry

So that's all for this KAL folks! Are you ready for another one in June? I am planning to host an Entrechat-hack knit-along so if you know of (or are envisioning) any fun variations of my best-selling design, chime in in the comments!

What length circular needle do I need?

I just received an email from a customer today asking me which length her circular needle should be for her project.

Usually I'll specify this in the pattern (this length is meant tip-to-tip by the way), but there are times when this info isn't included, or, you may only have a particular length circular needle at home and you want to know whether you can get away with not buying a new one ;) 

Note: For the purpose of this blog post I'm leaving aside other techniques such as using the magic loop technique, double-pointed needles, or more than one circular needle.

Blog post about circular knitting needle lengths

The first thing to consider is whether the garment is knit in the round or not.

  • Garment is knit flat

As most of you probably know, even when a garment is knit flat (when you alternate knitting the right side and the wrong side of the fabric, also known as knitting "back and forth") you may still need to (or choose to) use circular needles, especially if the garment is seamless.

This is because you will at one point or another, end up with many stitches on your needle (for example, if the back and the two fronts of a cardigan are worked in one piece) and it could be unwieldy to use long straight needles -- though some people prefer to do this, or use double-pointed needles (it's all about personal preference.)

Another case where circular needles may be more comfortable to use when knitting flat is when you need to knit along a shape that has a curve to it, like a seamless cardigan's yoke, or the front band of a hoodie. For example, the textured band of my Latte Baby Coat is knit in one piece in a U-shape, along both fronts and the edges of the hood. Since it's difficult to knit along an angle with straight needles, the flexibility of the circular needle's cable is helpful.

In either case, you will need to figure out by quickly scanning through the pattern the maximum number of stitches that you will have on your needles for the size you are knitting and convert that to inches (divide the stitch count by your per-inch-gauge). Thankfully, most good patterns include stitch counts and this shouldn't be too difficult to locate.

In a seamless, top-down cardigan like my Hyphen cardigan, this maximum number of stitches will be right before you divide for the body and sleeves.

In a seamless, bottom-up cardigan like my Silverfox cardigan, it will be right when you start working the yoke, i.e. after you join the body and the two sleeves.

There are some exceptions: for example, my Tiered Baby Coat is constructed seamlessly and top-down, but in this case, there is a significant flare at the bottom of the garment, created by two increase rows, and the max number of stitches will be reached after those increases are completed, so you'd have to look at the length of the hem to determine your circular needle size in this case.

Once you have this max number of stitches, you can translate it into inches (by dividing it by your per-inch gauge). Let's say this number is about 30" (or 76cm). Does this mean that your standard, 24" (or 60cm) needle is too short? Well, not necessarily! A circular needle can hold 30-40% more than its length so you have some leeway. This is when it comes down to personal preference: how crammed do your stitches need be on your needles before it starts bothering you?

You start getting a feel for these things: I find that unless I'm knitting a seamless dress or flared out cardigan, a 24" circular needle will work ok for most kid's garments (at least until sizes 6yo to 8yo). After that, a longer cable, like the 36" (or 91cm) may be preferable.

  • Garment is knit in the round

In this case, there is less margin for error. If you are knitting in the round, the circular needle length cannot be greater than the smallest circumference of your project.

So, if you're knitting a 3 month garment that is knit in the round, like my Tutu Top for example, a quick look at the schematic will tell you that the finished garment's chest circumference (the smallest part of the body) is 17.5" or 44cm. So, you cannot use a 24" circular needle to knit the body. You need to go down to a 16" or 40cm needle. Otherwise there simply won't be enough stitches to "populate" your too-long cable.

Here's an example in the photo below: can you see that my stitches are a little stretched out? My circular needle was a bit too long for the project but I decided to forge ahead, as I was about to start a series of increases:

Stitches are stretched out on a too-long circular needle

For some projects, you may need to start out with a short circular needle or even double-pointed needles (for instance, if knitting a neckline in the round) and then switch over to a longer one as you work your yoke increases and your needle starts getting too crowded.

If you're knitting a hat, you are pretty much going to be fine using a 16" or 40cm circular needle to work the brim (unless you knit a tiny size in which case you may need something even smaller -- again look at the finished project circumference) but will likely need to switch to a smaller length, or use dpns as you work through the crown decreases.

I put together this quick chart as a reference, so that you can see the minimum number of stitches that you need to be able to knit comfortably in the round on a circular needle, without stretching your stitches.

Chart to select Circular Needle length

So, if the recommended gauge for your project is 4 stitches per inch, and you need to knit 80 stitches in the round, you'll be better off using the 16" circular needle. The 24" won't work well, because for that length, you need at least 96 stitches.

Blog post about selecting circular knitting needle lengths

 

Here's an overview of the most common circular needle lengths that are out there and what they may be typically used for:

  • 8" (20cm) to 12" (or 30cm): These are a bit unusual, (using dpns or the magic loop method is more standard) but they can be used to knit narrow tubes in the round: baby hats, socks, sleeves, mittens etc...
  • 16″ (40cm): These are mostly used to knit the brim portion of hats or the body of baby sweaters that are knit in the round. 
  • 24" (60cm): This is probably the most versatile length, especially when it comes to knitting flat or knitting children and smaller women’s sweater bodies.
  • 29" (74cm): Same as above except that it gives you a bit more room. Also good for baby blankets.
  • 36″ (91cm): Generally used for flat-knitting, it's a common size used for adult cardigans as well as shawls or blankets.
  • Longer length circular needles are usually used for large shawls and blankets, in particular the ones that are knit in the round.

So there you have it! I hope this info will prove useful to you. I have to confess that I'm a bit of a "knitting McGyver" myself, always trying to make do with what I have -- sometimes beyond what is reasonnable ;) What can I say? I can never seem to locate the circular needle length I need when I need it!

What about you? Do you try to make do with the needles you already have? Or are you fully prepared, with all cable lengths neatly organized and at the ready?

Tutu Top Hack: ties instead of button closure

My daughter is three. At this age, she is naturally verrrry particular about many things, not the least of which is clothing. She loves purple, pink, and black. She has a fondness for tights and rain boots. All pretty par for the course. But the one thing that has been a real challenge is that she is deathly afraid of buttons. Not on other people's clothing (she loves playing with my own buttons) but on her own clothes, it's a huge no-no. I think maybe her hair got tangled up in one at some point, and she is now firmly anti-button. 

I knew I wanted to make her a Tutu Top for the Easter / Spring Dress KAL (you can still participate by the way! Here's where it's happening). It's such a quick and comfy design. It's very play-friendly, lasts forever (you can make it with a bit of room to grow, and still use it as a tunic many months down the line), and IT TWIRLS!! So, a no-brainer. 

BUT, it was designed to close at the back with a button (fastened with an I-cord loop closure.)

Tutu Top knitting pattern closure hack

I knew that wouldn't fly. Thankfully it's extremely easy to turn this type of closure into simple ties.

Tutu Top closure hack

The way I did it is I started off creating a 3-stitch regular I-cord:

Cast on 3 stitches using two dpns (of the same size as used in the pattern for the attached I-cord of the neckline), slide these 3 sts to the other end of the dpn without working them, then, without turning your work, knit them (make sure the first stitch you work is nice and tight). Slide the 3 stitches again to the other side of the needle without turning your work and knit the stitches once more, keeping things nice and tight. Keep going until you have an I-cord that's about 8 inches or 20cm long.

Then start working the attached I-cord along the neckline as explained in the pattern (naturally skip the "cast on 3 sts" part). Then, work the unattached I-cord on the other of the back neck opening, as explained in the pattern, but this time make it 8 inches or 20cm long, so that it matches the other side. And of course, no need to form a loop or anything :) Voila! Easy-peasy:

And here's a happy girl in her new Tutu Top!

Tutu Top by Frogginette Knitting Patterns
Tutu Top by Frogginette Knitting Patterns
Tutu Top by Frogginette Knitting Patterns

If you'd like to make your own Tutu Top, you can find the pattern here.

For mine, I used Malabrigo Rios in the Lotus colorway for the body, and the "tutu" part is made with some fuschia-colored Lana Grossa Silkhair (which is a bit too thin, but it worked out fine).

My project for the Easter / Spring Dress KAL

Have you selected your project for the Easter / Spring Dress knit-along yet? I have! 

I've decided that my girl needs a new Tutu Top! The last time I made one for her she was just a tiny tot... look how adorable: 

Tutu Top by Frogginette Knitting Patterns
Tutu Top by Frogginette Knitting Patterns
Tutu Top by Frogginette Knitting Patterns

So after thinking long and hard about what in my stash might appeal to her (she's 3 and has strong opinions about everything), I thought some kind of purple-ness was a safe bet. And some fuschia mohair for the tutu part. I'm super excited to see how this Malabrigo Rios colorway knits up: it's called Lotus and it's got purple and aqua, which is so pretty. 

Malabrigo Rios in Lotus and Lana Grossa Silkhair in Fuschia

I will have to modify the back to get rid of the button closure; my daughter has a strict no button rule (don't ask). So I think 2 I-cord ties should do the trick. 

Easter / Spring Dress KAL knitting pattern ideas: Summer Into Fall

Are you looking for the perfect knitting pattern to join the Easter / Spring Dress Knit-a-long? This little pinafore dress is a great option.

Ok so right now the name of this pattern makes more sense for Southern Hemisphere knitters ;) This pinafore dress is what I'd call a "vêtement de demi-saison" (you didn't know you'd learn some French reading this blog, did you?), which basically means something suitable for either Spring or Fall, not-too-warm, not-too-light. A great layering piece that can be used as a tunic as the child grows, a fast and fun knit, what's not to love?

This design is all about the lovely details: the side tabs, the straps and the sweet ruffles.

For the sample, I used Gilliatt by De Rerum Natura, which is light but warm with a rustic feel. I wanted a slightly nostalgic, timeless, schoolgirl look and I think Gilliatt conveys this perfectly, but any other worsted weight yarn (including superwash options such as Malabrigo Rios) would work well, too. For a warmer weather garment, a cotton/acrylic blend would be perfect.

You can buy the Summer Into Fall pattern here, then take part in the Easter/Spring Dress KAL here on Ravelry. Don't forget to use the hashtags #easterspringdressKAL and #frogginette on social media so we can follow your progress.

Easter/Spring dress KAL!

In case you missed it I just kicked off a KAL over in my Ravelry group!  There will be amazing prizes so don't miss out and join in on the fun :) To participate you just have to tell us which dress, tunic or pinafore pattern of mine you want to knit, and post some nice WIP photos in the KAL thread. Once you are all done, take some nice photos of your finished project and post them in the "KAL FO only" thread in my group.

Be sure to use the hashtag #easterspringdresskal and #frogginette on social media so we can follow along.

Here are some ideas of patterns you could knit (from top left clockwise): Tutu Top, Colorplay Dress, Summer Into Fall, Claudine, Honey Pie, Broderie.

Which one will you knit??