knitting

From Japan with love: Hanami

Hanami is the second pattern in the “From Japan With Love” pattern bundle. Additional patterns in this bundle will be released throughout the year.

The design:

I've you've been following me for a while, you probably know that I have a special fondness for swingy garments for little girls. While the yoke and sleeves are designed to be relatively fitted, the skirt portion of Hanami flares out rather dramatically for a good dose of whimsy. Let's just say that this particular dress is sure to be a hit with twirly dress enthusiasts ;) As always, it's also a practical, comfortable garment that looks really special with its neat finishing touches.

The stitch pattern featured in the front yoke produces a rich and visually striking texture that is reminiscent of blossoms or snowflakes (I actually think Hanami would make a fantastic winter dress! It would be stunning in white, red or speckled yarn). The wide skirt is intended to have a gauzy feel and float about in the breeze.

The inspiration:

As I explained in the blog post I wrote about Sagano, another Japan-inspired design, my recent trip to Japan brought back so many memories and emotions.

One of the most special experiences that I had there as a teenager was to take part in Hanami, a traditional Japanese custom that involves sitting under cherry-blossom-covered trees in the Spring, and watching the exquisite, fragile blossoms fluttering away. There's something bittersweet, almost poignant about it, and it's in my view very reminiscent of those beautiful, fleeting moments of childhood. I tried to capture this mixture of excitement and nostalgia with this design, imagining little girls twirling about in the sun, in an exuberant explosion of joy and life.

This wonderful photograph was captured by one of my test-knitters,  Raveler Flerpy . She knit the "top" version and I think it's just delightful. (photo used with permission)

This wonderful photograph was captured by one of my test-knitters, Raveler Flerpy. She knit the "top" version and I think it's just delightful. (photo used with permission)

About the yarn:

I used Leizu fingering by Julie Asselin for the sample, which is a merino blend containing a small amount of silk, creating a lovely stitch definition and subtle sheen. The soft pink colorway is called Romance and I find it perfectly evocative of delicate cherry blossoms. 

While this design calls for a fingering weight yarn (by the way, a "sock yarn" should work great and be durable, too!), I would steer clear of "light fingerings," which might produce a fabric that is a bit too loose. Actually, the gauge would allow you to get away with using a slightly thicker yarn, such as a sport, but in that case, the garment wouldn't be as breezy/floaty, it would end up being a bit "denser", so, warmer and more structured. Just a matter of personal preference ;)

From Japan, with love: Sagano

My latest release, Sagano, is the first of a series of Japan-inspired designs, which will be released throughout the year. It's a truly unisex, everyday sweater that looks great on babies and bigger kids alike. I've added a size to my usual range for this one, with sizes going from 3mo to 10yo.

Sagano sweater by Frogginette Knitting Patterns

The design:

The fit is comfy, slightly roomy, which is also a bit of a departure from the close-fitting silhouettes I usually favor. The pattern is worked top-down, seamlessly, and some short rows can be worked after the yoke increased are done, to raise the back neck and ensure a nicer fit. In the pattern, I suggest using German short rows with a variation on how to work the last double stitch when resuming work in the round. The unique textured bands that run down the shoulders and sleeves are very intuitive to work, although a chart and written instructions are provided.

My inspiration:

A so-called "third-culture kid," I lived in several different countries as a child, and Japan was one of them. I lived in Tokyo for a couple of years as a teenager and hadn't been back since I was 16 years old, so it was quite emotional to be back when my husband and I took a trip there last Fall. It was a great opportunity for me to rediscover not only my favorite hang outs (well, the ones that still exist... The house we lived in and my old school have both long been torn down) but also to explore places that I had always dreamed of seeing.

One of these was the Sagano bamboo forest:

Sagano Bamboo Forest

I had not expected my trip to Japan to yield so much design inspiration but it was truly magical. I had to quickly start sketching as every thing I saw evoked a texture, a silhouette, an emotion.

The Sagano sweater was the first design that I sketched in my notebook. My husband and I had just visited the beautiful Sagano Bamboo Forest near Kyoto. We were walking through a quiet residential area, with the feeling of awe still lingering after exiting the forest, when my eye was caught by this humble but beautiful woven fence:

Sagano woven fence

I loved how the strong horizontal lines of the large bamboo stalks helped bring out the woven texture, so I decided to translate that idea and came up with this variation on an existing stitch pattern that I had seen floating around on Pinterest, which I bordered with twisted stitch columns. I had to experiment quite a bit with it until it was just so, but I am SO happy with the result. It turned out exactly the way I wanted:

Sagano sweater texture

I used Leizu DK by Julie Asselin for the sample, which is a merino blend containing a small amount of silk, and the stitch definition really brings out the texture, and this gorgeous nuanced grey captured the moody vibe of the forest.

I hope you love this design as much as I do! You can purchase it here.

German short rows in the round: video tutorial

Have you gotten super frustrated with the look of your short rows when knitting in the round? Specifically, the look of that last W&T (or double stitch if you use German Short Rows) when you pick up the wrap (or knit the two legs of the double stitch together) to resume working in the round?

Me too! I got so annoyed that EVERY technique I tried seemed to leave a stretched out stitch, a gap, or both. I tried varying tension, and redistributing any slack to neighboring stitches from the WS, and to be fair, sometimes that helped a lot. But the result I was able to get was still not invisible enough for me. After many online searches, and fiddling around with lots of other people's tricks, I was still not quite satisfied. 

Finally, when using German Short rows (the easiest, most foolproof method I think) i tried modifying the pick up method of that last double double stitch. And lo and behold, I liked the result. It's not completely perfect but I think it's quite close:

Important caveat: I think that getting a good result when it comes to the look of short rows has a lot to do with individual tension, which explains why some people will rave about a technique, and others can't seem to replicate the results. So I encourage you to use a swatch (in the round!) and try a few different methods and see what works best for you.

Here's a few more tutorials I found and tried that I think were good, if you want to give them a try. Please feel free to suggest anything else you think is great, and I'll add it to the list:

Japanese short rows tutorial by Ysolda Teague (Please note: her explanations for modifying the technique for knitting in the round is in the Notes section under the video)

This technique, which I randomly stumbled upon.

 

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?

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!

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