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AlterKnit & Giveaway!

UPDATE 9/5/17: Apologies! I drew the winner and forgot to post! congratulations to Christiana Vance! Christina, check your email.


I recently got my hands on a copy of AlterKnit (Interweave Press, 2017, $26.99), a stitch dictionary with 200 modern knitting motifs. I really liked this book because it had a wide array of patterns (200!) covering both traditional and very geometric, to more organic and funky motifs. Some people are under the impression that Fair Isle always means straight lines with traditional patterning, and while there are some of those, there’s also zombies, monkeys, and cactus! The swatches shown showed multiple repeats (always important for a stitch dictionary so you can see how to motif looks when repeated) and used nicely contrasting shades of yarn. There’s also a handful of projects in the back providing pattern support for some of these stitch patterns and it’d be easy to swap in another motif from the book if you wanted.

Being obsessed with Fair Isle and any sort of colorwork, I knew I had to check it out and have author Andrea Rangel answer a few questions….

Tanis Gray (TG): There are a lot of stitch dictionaries on the market for knitters. What is it about this one that makes it a must have for our book shelves? 

Andrea Rangel (AR): AlterKnit Stitch Dictionary is different because it focuses entirely on original stranded colorwork motifs. Most stitch dictionaries include just a few color patterns, or may focus on traditional motifs, but this one is unique in that it offers 200 new color motifs to inspire knitters! It also has a technique section to help knitters get started and improve their colorwork, and five new projects so knitters can see some examples of how the motifs can be used in design. It’s an all-around great knitting resource!

TG: Something unique about this book is that it was a team effort. Your husband conceived the stitch patterns while you swatched and refined. How was it working like that? Did you have veto power?

AR: Every motif that’s in the book is there because we both agreed it works. We did a lot more work than was published and it was a process of weeding out. He’d create a chart and we’d both decide if we liked it. If yes, I’d swatch it. Once I had a pile of swatches, we’d go through them and pick out the best ones, taking out any that either of us didn’t love. There wasn’t really any need for anyone to veto because we only wanted the very strongest motifs to be included, so if we didn’t agree, we just didn’t use it. Mostly we worked well together, though there were a few times when he was talking as an illustrator and I was talking as a knitter, and we weren’t quite speaking the same language. And it was an intense amount of work in a very short time, so it was definitely stressful. But overall, we’re both just sort of delighted that we actually made a book together!

TG: If you had to chose your 3 favorite stitch motifs in your book, which would they be?

AR: That’s so hard! I’ll say Hippos still makes me laugh every time (it’s the round butts!), Amplitude is so visually mesmerizing, and I think Long Stitch just works perfectly. But ask me on a different day and I might give three different answers!

TG: Fair Isle is my absolute favorite knitting technique! Do you tend to focus on colorwork or are you an equal opportunity technique knitter?

AR: I love almost everything about knitting, so as much as I love stranded colorwork, it’s only one of the many techniques I use all the time. The nine months I spent working on AlterKnit was almost all colorwork though. Every day. All day. Right now I feel like I’m in a Stockinette phase, but then I knit up some lace and the rhythm of that is so enthralling and reminds me of colorwork, so I’m back there again. Can’t stop knitting.

TG: I teach Fair Isle often and the thing I hear most frequently is “that wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be.” What advice would you give someone who wants to learn this technique but hasn’t mustered up their courage yet?

AR: I recommend just playing without judgement. Even if a thing seems hard, just try it and you may love it! I included a bunch of tips for improving your colorwork in AlterKnit because there are lots of practical ways to make your work look better, and every time you practice, that’ll make it better too! Swatches are great for knitting play time. I know a lot of knitters want to make a project, but embracing swatching can be a really fun, low-risk way to learn something new. And I always recommend practicing reinforcing and cutting a steek on a swatch before trying it on a real project. Steeking is a technique that’s so empowering and once you’ve done it once, it’s not quite so intimidating.

TG: What is your dream Fair Isle project?

AR: I have too many dreams! I find myself constantly wanting to make all the things. For traditional Fair Isle, I’m pretty excited about a current WIP – Ysolda’s Bruntsfield vest I’m knitting in Uradale Farms yarn, a farm I visited while in Shetland this summer. I really like less traditional colorwork too though, so I think I’ll probably use some of my Shetland yarn to design another sweater with one of the geometric motifs from AlterKnit, maybe incorporating the many-colored look of Fair Isle with the more modern look of the new motif.

TG: How can people use this book?

AR: Our hope is that knitters use AlterKnit as a jumping-off point for their own creativity. Anyone can use the motifs for their own original patterns whether for sale or for fun. It isn’t necessary to give credit, though I would absolutely love to see what folks make using the motifs, so tagging #alterknitstitchdictionary would be awesome. The book can also be used for reference – it’s got a techniques section in the front with info on how to hold your yarn, catch floats, pick colors, steek, and a lot more! I included five projects too so folks can get some examples of how to use colorwork. I’m looking forward to seeing knitters make those projects as they’re written, but I also can’t wait to see what different motifs they use instead of the ones I picked. There’s a section on how to use motifs in design (with specific examples and math!) so I hope knitters swap out motifs to get a project that’s just right for them. And I hope that just flipping through the book makes knitters want to do colorwork! If I see a bunch of new colorwork designs and projects in the world, I’ll be happy that my job is done.

TG: I like that you have a handful of projects in the back to get people going. What is your favorite kind of project to knit with colorwork?

AR: I adore a good colorwork sweater, especially if I get to cut it open at the end! It’s so satisfying!

TG: Color is a very important aspect to this kind of knitting. What advice would you give knitters who have trouble choosing colors?

AR: My number one tip is to start with colors that have high contrast – one should be light and one dark. It can be hard to tell if your colors are contrasting enough, so an easy trick is to just take a photo with your black and white filter on. That’ll show the value (relative brightness/darkness) of the colors. If they still look different, go for it! If they look exactly the same, they probably won’t read very well in colorwork, so pick a higher contrast.

TG: What’s on your needles now?

AR: It’s actually all personal knitting, which is delightful and unusual for me! I’m currently knitting Woolen Explorer from my first book, Rugged Knits, and two patterns by Ysolda – Bruntsfield for me, and Wee Liesl for my niece. I also like to have a sock on the needles in case I need something simple to throw in my bag, so I just cast on an Okanogan Sock.

Thanks, Andrea! Let’s give away a copy of the book, shall we? Answer the below trivia question in the comments correctly and be entered in to win a copy of this book. A winner will be chosen at random on Friday, September 1. Open to US residents only!

How many islands make up the Shetland Islands?


Nakia Cowl

When my second child, Astrid, was born in March, I hardly picked up knitting needles for the first couple of months – I was too busy getting my baby snuggle on. As she started getting a smidge bigger and my healing was well under way from my second c-section, the yarn and needles came back in full force.

Fall is definitely in the air and for many folks who tuck their project bags and knitting away during the summer months, whether due to lack of time, not wanting wool in their laps (weirdos), or other crafts taking center stage, we get almost a power surge to the system to get the needles going again once school begins. We just came back from our annual trek to New Hampshire and on our daily hikes through the White Mountains, I noticed many trees already showing off their fall colors of orange and red. Here in northern Virginia we have a ways to go until we get there, but with school starting next week, final playdates being squeezed in, last evenings spent lazing by the community pool, and shouts across the neighborhood of “I’ll see you in class!,” there’s definitely that feeling of summer coming to a swift close.

I’m delighted to begin to roll out a dozen patterns I’ve designed and knit since Astrid’s birth. Mostly cowls – because cowls are versatile, squishy, one-size-fits-all, wonderful stash busters, and an always welcomed gift, I feel that crisp sneaking into the air at night and I am anxiously awaiting the time that my morning checklist is, “keys, phone, wallet, cowl, diaper bag.”

First up is the Nakia Cowl, an easy Fair Isle cowl worked seamlessly in the round from the bottom up. Flanked by corrugated ribbing, this colorful beauty is what I like to refer to as “Faux Isle.” By using a gradient yarn as the background color and a solid for the foreground, it looks like you used a lot more colors and did a lot more work than you actually do! I love working with Freia Fibers for so many reasons, but I love, love, love a single ply gradient and Tina Whitmore dyes one up like no other. A single ply offers a thickness that allows the cowl to stand up rather than flop down, showing off all your hard work.

This aran weight cowl knits up on US 8 circulars and is a quick knit once you power through the ribbing. I’ll also be teaching this cowl at my LYS, Fibre Space, towards the end of October as a beginning Fair Isle project where we cover Fair Isle techniques for English, Continental, and Combination knitters, chart reading, corrugated ribbing, and finishing over 2 classes spanning 2 weeks.

While I’ll miss the last lazy nights of summer where we stay up too late, walk around barefoot, and gorge ourselves on  strawberries and cherries, I welcome autumn in with open arms, (almost always Fair Isle) knitting in hand.

Download the Nakia Cowl here, and stay tuned for a lot of new patterns coming your way this season from TanisKnits!

Figural Lace Sculptures

You know I love when people do clever things with traditional materials, yes? This crazy talented Hungarian artist, Agnes Herczegby, is no acceptation and when I saw her work it stopped me in my tracks. With string and branches she creates mind-blowing art. Enjoy! Original article found here.

Figural Lace Sculptures Attached to Found Wood by Agnes Herczeg

Hungarian artist Agnes Herczeg creates figural lace works of female forms, capturing figures in moments of contemplation or work. In one piece the subject stands at a loom, appearing to weave herself from the included fibers. In each of her works Herczeg uses all natural materials, incorporating small pieces of wood or other found materials to serve as a sculpture’s bed frame, hair accessory, floating vessel, or small shelf.

Herczeg studied textile conservation at the Hungarian University of Fine Arts, and over the years has gathered several methods of embroidery and lace-making to use in her work such as needle lace, pillow lace, macramé, and more. You can purchase her lace sculptures directly from her website, both attached to found natural objects and as individual lace works.

Today Is the Day!

Greetings, dear readers! Today is the day! I’m so pleased to announce that my latest Craftsy class, Fair Isle Holiday Ornaments goes live today!

A few months back I travelled to Craftsy studios in Denver, CO to film, suitcase bursting with Fair Isle bits and notions. I love working with their crews, their sets, and the company. They embrace the lifestyle of us crafty folk and know that no matter how much knowledge we possess, a true crafter never stops learning.

I’ve been on both sides of a Craftsy class – filming and teaching one, and taking many from the comfort of my own home. What I like most about Craftsy classes is they are 100% satisfaction guaranteed, can be watched anytime, anywhere (a class I can watch in my pajamas at midnight while eating ice cream? Sign me up!), and the instructors are truly wonderful about responding to all student questions. They have the best of the best and I am honored to be part of their instructor team.

My previous class – Fair Isle Fundamentals – was an in-depth Fair Isle technique extravaganza with a supporting hat project. I covered all things Fair Isle and threw enough knowledge at the viewer to release them into the wild and knit any kind of stranded color work project they wanted. This class is a little different. Designed to be just under an hour, Fair Isle Holiday Ornaments covers Fair Isle technique without the extra frills of color theory and psychology, fiber info, and blocking and finishing tips. You end up with a fantastic holiday ornament designed by Sunne Meyer.  Think of it as down and dirty Fair Isle! If you’ve wanted to learn about Fair Isle but not get involved in a bigger project like a hat or sweater, an ornament is just the project for you and very manageable. You can also gift the class to a friend who you know wants to add Fair Isle into their knitting life! Click here to watch the trailer.

With a dozen or so charts to choose from and two different ornament shapes, Fair Isle Holiday Ornaments lets you decide which one to knit, while following along with me to get the technique down. Knit one or knit enough to fill an entire tree, this is a class designed for all, no matter if you’re celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, or Festivus. You’ll leave feeling confident in your Fair Isle knowledge to go out and knit all those projects you have queued up but weren’t ready to cast on for. Of course, if you want to submerge yourself even deeper into stranded color work, you can check out my other class as well.

As a special for you, dear readers, this class will be 25% off through Friday. Use the link here to take advantage of this offer (you will see the regular pricing listed, but once the class is added to your cart the discount will be reflected at checkout). Happy (almost) holidays and happy Fair Isling! 🙂