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.

 

My word for 2018: explore

After reviewing what last year brought, I've listed some things I'd like to accomplish, or direct my attention to in 2018, and I've noticed that they all revolve around the theme of "exploration":

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1. Explore my craft: I want to explore more things related to knitting and expand the breadth of my knowledge, as well as challenge myself to not always rely on old recipes. That means: 

- Working with yarn dyers that I admire, learning more about what they do and how they do it.

- Trying out techniques and trying to compile a definitive list of the ones I like the best, instead of wasting time trying out a million cast ons, decreases etc. every time I design something. This might be a good opportunity to come up with some tutorials of my own, instead of linking to other designers' videos!

- Allowing myself to be creative and not censoring myself. This is not to say I want to do crazy out-there origami garments, just that I want to give myself permission to choose what seems right for the garment (if this means foregoing top-down, seamless raglans in favor of less popular techniques and constructions, so be it!). But at the same time, rest assured that I will always strive to find the simplest, most elegant solution to a particular design problem. Fussy is not me.

- Spending time reading other designers' patterns and studying them. I'm still in the mindset of buying only patterns I might one day knit, and at this point I should view patterns more as study materials.

- Learning more about knitting traditions around the world and keeping an eye on what's happening on the runways knitting-wise.

2. Explore a particular inspiration more fully:

- Instead of doing mini collections with motifs or stitch patterns carried over different garments , which I've done a couple of times, I want to spend some time diving into a particular inspiration or a particular aesthetic and let that be my guide for a while.

- Try to dissect the emotion or the mood that I'm trying to convey, be more intentional about color and texture.

- Keep prioritizing function and comfort. Never forget that these garments should be loved by the little humans they belong to, and worn out in the world.

3. Get to know my community better:

Listen to more knitting podcasts (any suggestions?? I had compiled a list a while back but I need more ideas!) That might means laying off true crime podcasts for a while... Oh no!... ;) 

- Attend at least one fiber festival this year. Perhaps reach out to local-ish yarn stores.

- Start a Facebook group where people who love my patterns can meet, chat and get inspired (Done!) 

[When I started my Facebook page a couple of years back I didn't realize that only a small fraction of the people who like the page would be able to see what I post unless I paid Facebook money. Unlike a page, a Facebook group seem to be pretty straightforward algorithm-wise: if I post something there's a good chance the group members will see it.]

- By the same token, share more of myself: Truth be told, I am getting increasingly bored with the Instagramming of life; all the "inspiring," carefully curated and interchangeable flat lays, blooms and cups of coffee. It's all fine and good for a quick scroll, but there's something to be said for more in-depth and reflected-upon content. And on a more personal level, writing more regularly can only be good for my poor scattered brain!

 An Instagram-worthy stock photo!

An Instagram-worthy stock photo!

4. Explore another craft as a hobby:

Because it's important to take a break from knitting! I want to do more sewing for the kids this year. The only sewing patterns for kids that I'm familiar with (and that are suitable for my skill level) are Made By Rae's. Any other recommendations? I also would like to get better at embroidery. I've rediscovered it recently and I would love any suggestions you might have of books, online resources etc...

5. Redo my studio!

I've already started a Pinterest inspiration board (click on the image below to check it out)! Baby steps ;)

 

What about you? Do you have any knitting goals for 2018?

6 years lived the German way

Today is January 15th. That means that it's now been 6 years [6 YEARS!!!] since we arrived in Germany.

 This stroller got me so many looks... Apparently babies this age need to be horizontal (preferably asleep) in an old-fashioned pram with a million blankets on top of them at ALL TIMES.

This stroller got me so many looks... Apparently babies this age need to be horizontal (preferably asleep) in an old-fashioned pram with a million blankets on top of them at ALL TIMES.

Coming from the US with a 6 month-old in tow, we were a bit bewildered at first to find ourselves in such a seemingly remote and... dark part of the country. We live in the North-Eastern part of Germany, in the former DDR, on the Baltic Sea (just across Denmark). So the dead of winter took a bit of getting used to. But even in the winter, there are still good times and incredible surprises to be had, like that one time the ocean had frozen over:

 The Ostsee, frozen over.

The Ostsee, frozen over.

Then, a few months later, we discovered the joy of Scandinavian summertime near the sea. A 20-minute bike ride along a wonderfully pretty canal takes you to the beach, where the still and shallow waters mean that you can (almost) leave the kids splashing around unattended. We've had so many beach picnics followed by lazy, slow afternoons.

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And this small town just happens to have kid-friendly everything: great playgrounds, ice cream at every corner, playing area in many restaurants and coffee shops, lots of daycares (relatively speaking, compared to many places in Germany where they are scarce), the most wonderful little zoo, old sailboats along the canal...

So we've settled into a very wholesome, family-centric, relaxed way of life. Pool or bikes rides to the forest on Sunday mornings, or walking to the coffee shop for some fresh pretzels and cappuccinos. Racing bikes down slopes, scaring many a duck and passerby... In the summer, barbecuing or gardening on our deck, perfecting cookie and key lime pie recipes... Ingesting a good amount of Sekt and pistachios. Finding bugs and snails, collecting dead leaves. Dreaming of unearthing dinosaur bones.

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Of course it hasn't been all puppies and rainbows. Learning to navigate things when there were (at the time) so few expats around to guide us (thank you to the few who did!!) and without the benefit of a proficient German speaker in the family (oh, how my high school German felt inadequate!) has at times been painful and peinlich... Building a successful business with such a language barrier for all things administrative wasn't easy. Figuring out what's done and not done, said and not said was an everyday learning experience -- but that's what all expats and immigrants (should) do.

Another hard thing: juggling three languages every day. And the myth of the multilingual kids who absorbs all languages equally, rapidly and with sponge-like passivity (propagated mostly by non-trilingual-kid-having people)... This myth led to much anxiety during the first few years of language struggles for our eldest, which came with a side of behavioral issues, due to language-related frustration and insecurity. We were almost going to throw the towel in and leave, feeling that we had failed him by hampering his communication and learning skills with all these difficult languages to be learned AT THE SAME TIME.

But then... things sort of clicked (with a LOT of effort and family involvement). The trilingual thing is no longer a source of worry. We had a second child here (who had none of her brother's language difficulties), bought a place, got a car (after years of riding bikes everywhere!). And just like that, we're home. For now ;) 

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On New Year resolutions

Lately, I've noticed that it's become fashionable to look down on new year's resolutions. They are an artificial habit that we almost superstitiously maintain, as we yearn to finally be that better version of ourselves. These unrealistic, lofty goals, that we neatly list in our pristine yearly planners or diaries, inevitably fail and becomes another source of self-loathing. Right? 

 This is not my bullet journal -- just a stock photo ;)

This is not my bullet journal -- just a stock photo ;)

Not necessarily. 

I think it can be useful to channel that surge of hope and energy we get as a new year begins into creating positive and sustainable changes in our lives (if we want those changes of course!) 

But don't get me wrong. I am not going to be resolving to "lose weight" or "support cause A" or "run more" in 2018. As written, these goals are either too vague, too generic for me (do I really want to do X? Why? Are things around me convincing me that I * should * want X?) or too removed from my actual life and natural tendencies. Also, a year is a long time, and for me, a bit more planning and breaking down into tasks is necessary in order to accomplish any substantial goal.

So what I will do is set a handful of specific to-dos that I know I can complete in the next few weeks. These will be attainable and very precise, for exampl:e "Schedule physical with doctor XYZ", "Download Couch to 5K app" or "take the stairs instead of the elevator."

As these are being completed, I'll pat myself on the back and write new, simple tasks, perhaps a tad more challenging this time (depending on my level of motivation) for the following few weeks. These tasks will be the incremental steps that will take me closer towards my goal(s). 

So, while the goal is still on the horizon, what I focus on daily is only the (manageable) task at hand, making progress tangible and measurable. Each time I reach a milestone on the way to reaching my bigger goal(s), I try to:

1) recognize that I've passed that milestone

2) mentally give myself a high five for having gone this far.

What do you think? Do you do dislike new year resolutions? Or do you think they are useful? If so, what are your tips to make them stick? 

 

Looking back at 2017: consolidation

Before I set some goals for the new year I wanted to take stock and look back at 2017, see what I accomplished and what I could have done better. Overall I think the word that defines this year is "consolidation:"

 Isn't this mug really cute? Too bad this is a stock photo, I have no idea where to find it!

Isn't this mug really cute? Too bad this is a stock photo, I have no idea where to find it!

-PATTERN RELEASES: I've released 10 patterns in 2017, still going slow and steady and trying to be very intentional about each design that I release. Half of the patterns I published in 2017 were based on my best-selling pattern Entrechat: two extra versions of the designs, written for DK and for fingering weights, and three matching accessories: the Entrechat bonnet, available for three different yarn weights: worsted, dk and fingering. The rest of the releases were: Em Dash (the grown-up version of my Hyphen cardigan), two gender-neutral cardigans (Merci and Miel) and two dresses (Honey Pie and Aubade).

While I felt a bit frustrated that consolidating my porfolio (the different weight versions for Entrechat and the matching bonnets) meant less time spent exploring new designs, I think spending time giving my customers what they asked for was the right thing to do :)

-STYLE: 2017 is the year that I have consciously looked within to find and express into words the source of my inspiration. I feel that I have solidified my own style and my designs reflect the sweet spot where my creativity and my customers' expectations intersect.  

-SOCIAL: in 2017 I ran the first-ever Entrechat Knitalong and while I spent a lot of time planning it and gathering sponsors and prizes, it was a real thrill to see so many people participate and have fun with the design. Earlier in the year I also ran an Easter/Spring dress KAL, which was also great. I think I still have to do better and fight my introvert tendencies in order to connect with my lovely community even more. Overall, though, I feel like I'm on the right path in consolidating these ties. I've been posting regularly on Instagram and although my Newsletter is currently mostly about pattern releases and discounts, the number of subscribers is growing rapidly and I am planning on sprucing up the content this year.

-IN-PERSON EVENTS: This is an area that definitely could use some improvements: I had intended to attend both Berlin Knits and Rhinebeck in 2017, but a trip to Japan (which was so much fun and so inspiring! I'll post about it soon) conflicted with those dates, so I ended up missing out on both events. I really want to meet more knitters in person, and it's a bit frustrating to live far away from big cities and always feel like I'm in a bubble. 

-WORK/LIFE BALANCE: This year was one of steady business growth. My revenue grew 25% in 2017, which I'm very happy with. I've spent more effort where it matters and hired help here and there so I wouldn't get bogged down by easily-outsourced tasks.  I also tried to aim for a good work/life balance: I tried to be focused and disciplined during work hours and avoided working when my family was home and on weekends. I also prioritized sleep -- the kids now sleep beautifully and so do I! I also took advantage of our kids growing more independent to take longer trips with my husband (thanks to the help of dedicated grandparents!). I even basically took December off, knitting other designers' patterns, which was so enjoyable:

 Christmas Stockings by Ukeeknits:  link to Ravelry pattern

Christmas Stockings by Ukeeknits: link to Ravelry pattern

 Berlin Soft Cardigan by Meiju Knits:  link to Ravelry pattern

Berlin Soft Cardigan by Meiju Knits: link to Ravelry pattern

-PERSONAL: A big chunk of my year was taken up by the need to pass my driver's license again. I live in Germany, and my New Jersey (expired!) license isn't valid here. So I had to go through the very lengthy and expensive process of taking hours and hours or theory and driving lessons -- all in German! (Not to mention a first-aid certification, eye test etc... prior to even getting started.) Long story short, I passed the test in September and can now finally USE OUR CAR!! That's been a relief because as much as I enjoy riding my bike, the kids are starting to be in that tricky phase where they're too young to ride their own bikes to school and almost too old to be in the bike seat and trailer. Plus when it rains or snows it's nice to have a more comfortable option ;)

The focus on this has taken away from spending time trying to improve my German and I fear that my skills have taken a nose-dive. Same with running/exercising. I did ok early in the year but then the driving lessons in the early morning interfered with my efforts. One good thing I did thanks to the break I took in December was to finally set up my sewing machine and start sewing again as a hobby! For now it's baby steps, just sewing some dolly clothes, but it's a good start to getting my sewing skills to an acceptable level ;)

 Tiny doll clothes for my girl!

Tiny doll clothes for my girl!

-FAMILY: The kids made tremendous strides in 2017: I now consider them fully trilingual: their French skills have really blossomed because of time spent with my side of the family and they are now starting to express themselves relatively well. It's great to finally be able to have conversations with them in French.

They have become very chatty and social and say the funniest thing. They are joined at the hip, love being read to and they draw a lot. A. also learned to swim this year! When I think about how nervous he used to be in the pool, it's a real wonder. They also both have started attending a music class and they love it. Finally, A. has just recently passed the German Schuluntersuchung, the test all school-aged kids have to take before they can start school. I have to say, this was a lot more involved than what I was expecting: one hour of medical and cognitive testing... So that means he'll start "real school" this summer! Hard to believe...

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We also added two member to our family in 2017: two kitties, Jacko and Stella! They are a bit naughty, making messes wherever they go, but they are incredibly snuggly. Sharing our flat with them is still an adjustment sometimes, but the kids are so happy about these two furry friends!

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What about you? How did 2017 treat you? I wish all of you a fantastic 2018!

Entrechat KAL Sponsor: Kunibag

I first met Judit online when she came up with this incredibly stunning version of my Hyphen cardigan (click on image for the Ravelry project page): 

Stunning isn't it? I had never really thought of using knitting as a canvas for embroidery before! I had to find out more about her (she lives in Hamburg, not too far from me!) and I started following her on  social media.

Her creativity and eye for colors are just brilliant. She has a particular love for colorwork and I love just about everything she comes up with. Her Instagram feed is so inspiring, full of the most enticing photographs of wooly goodness. AND she doesn't just knit, she also spins and sews beautifully, and even sells THE coolest project bags  (she calls them Kunibags) online, in shops around Hamburg and at yarn festivals.

I am so delighted that she agreed to donate one Kunibag as a prize for our Entrechat KAL

One lucky winner will soon receive this beauty! I have to admit I'm a bit jealous ;)

I love the combination of fabrics she picked out, it's super elegant and modern, with a retro twist, don't you think?

Judit has been super busy lately in her studio and will soon open an Etsy shop. In the meantime, make sure you follow her on Instagram and Ravelry so you don't miss any of her beautiful creations. Thanks again Judit!

Entrechat KAL Sponsor: Unwind Yarn Company

Another one of our lovely indie dyer sponsors is Dana from the Unwind Yarn Company.

Unwind Yarn Company

I've been following Dana on Instagram for a while now, and I love having that window into her day-to-day as an indie dyer and business owner, and seeing her adorable little girl grow. 

As an indie dyer, she comes up with absolutely wonderful colorways full of happy bright colors, which come in a wide variety of bases, from fingering to worsted weight. Each one of her colorways is inspired by something very personal, either a meaningful song, a memory, a photo... Dana also makes the cutest notion pouches and project bags in covetable fabrics. Be sure to check out her store! She really pours her heart and soul into her work, and with each new product she shares a bit of herself with the world.

Dana is also one of the organizer behind the Into The Wool Fiber Retreat, which has been taking place for the past four years and looks oh-so-heavenly. 

Are you curious to see the prize that Dana has prepared for our Entrechat KAL? It's the loveliest yarn and bag kit!

This fabric is just perfect, no? And how wonderful is this yarn!

Here are some more details:

The project bag is made from organic cotton print fabric with a white organic cotton lining. It measures approximately 11" wide x 7" tall with a 4" gusset.  It is interfaced with batting and is soft but will stand up on its own. It has a zipper top and coordinating colored stitching.

The yarn is Unwind Yarn Company's Round Trip Sock, a lovely high-twist super wash 100% merino single that blocks beautifully and shows stitch definition extremely well. It was dyed in Dana's repeatable colorway Black Magic Woman, a tonal pink with splashes of navy. The skein is 400yds/100g. Gauge: 7-8 sts = 1” on #1-3 needles. Hand or machine wash cool, lay flat to dry.

I am so excited on behalf of the lucky winner who will receive this wonderful kit! Want your own? You can find the Unwind Yarn Company here:

Shop: Unwind Yarn Company

Instagram: Unwindyarncompany

Facebook: Unwind Yarn Company

The KAL is still going strong, with new participants still joining us every day, so don't be shy and join us! There's still plenty of time to make one Entrechat... or five! I'll announce the winners on July 1.

Entrechat KAL Sponsor: Sewhappyjane Hand dyed yarn

When I had a call for sponsors for the Entrechat KAL back in May, Heather from Sewhappyjane was one of the first ones to offer a prize, and given how gorgeous and special her yarns are, I was more than thrilled! 

How pretty is this?? It's called Lavish and you can find it it, along with all of Heather's offerings here

Here's a close up of the donated skein, Lavish in DK weight, for your viewing pleasure. You are welcome :)

Heather's hand-dyed yarns are inspired by the world around her; tiny songbirds, majestic skies, sand and stone, and all things bright and beautiful. Heather creates sewhappyJane yarn in the kitchen of her century old music teaching studio. She uses only the finest, professional grade materials and dye in small batches of 2-4 skeins at a time. Each skein of yarn is unique and made to infuse your projects with life. 

Thank you so much, Heather, for being a sponsor! And for taking part in the KAL of course!

Heather can be found the following places:

Shop: sewhappyjane.bigcartel.com

Instagram: sewhappyjane

facebook: sewhappyjane

Ravelry: sewhappyjane

www.sustainmusicstudio.com