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Retrotastic Baby Blanket

I’m just home from teaching at Knitter’s Day Out in Harrisburg, PA. While my voice is a bit worse for the wear after 9 hours of teaching, I always come home from retreats feeling energized. I love meeting new students, watching people sit down apprehensively in a lace or Fair Isle class, then leave bursting with confidence. There was a wonderful marketplace and a few hanks of minimally processed, undyed wool ended up in my bag for some personal knitting. Using the natural colors of the sheep for colorwork is sometimes referred to as “Shetland knitting,” and I’m excited to get that going on my needles.

I’m an equal-opportunity colorwork knitter. While Fair Isle will always be my first love, and I’ll only knit intarsia when forced, I’ve really gotten inspired by mosaic or slip-stitch colorwork lately. What’s the difference? With Fair Isle or stranded colorwork, you carry both yarns across each round with you, making a double-thick fabric that strands along the wrong side. Intarsia is worked with wrapped bobbins over a small portion, and mosaic or slip-stitch has multiple colors, but only one is worked at a time while the other is slipped. This makes a less-dense fabric than Fair Isle, but the elongated stitches that were slipped create an interesting illusion, and in my opinion, it’s faster than the others and creates a unique texture.

Since I assumed we’d be getting into the full swing of autumn around here because it’s October (boy, was I wrong – the heat and humidity just won’t leave) I wanted to design a slip-stitch baby blanket that could double as a “lapghan” – bigger than your average baby blanket but smaller than an afghan. On cool fall evenings, we like to sit outside and watch our son run around the yard, playing on his swing set, the baby cuddled up against one of us and perhaps even a fire going in the fire pit. The leaves are falling, the air is crisp, and we have a lot of critters back there to watch – turtles, chipmunks, squirrels, and snakes. I like the idea of a blanket designed to keep the baby warm, but have it be big enough that I could wrap myself up a bit also and really trap that heat and warmth in.

I’ve knit with the Fiberists Audubon Worsted before and enjoyed the softness of the 100% superwash merino fiber, the bright colors, and the crisp stitch definition. I particularly like working with local dyers and Reggie and Spencer are just a few towns over. Armed with a throwback palette from my childhood – bright pink and purple – the Retrotastic Baby Blanket knits up quickly. Knit on US 8 (5mm) needles and a little over 600 yards of each color, this blanket is worked back and forth in the mosaic or slip-stitch colorwork technique. Each color is worked for 2 rows, then switched with the other. The result is a garter stitch diamond motif with plenty of contrast and texture to keep baby happy. Garter stitch motifs block out well and with a finished size of 31″ x 40″, there’s plenty of room with everyone with this brightly patterned blanket.

With a simple chart and only knits, purls, and slipped stitches, this is the perfect fall blanket (if it ever gets cold, that is). Imagine it knit up in black and white, red and pink, green and yellow… The possibilities are endless! The weather this time of year can turn on a dime, and I can’t wait to wrap my daughter and I up and have a retro-colored snuggle fest.

Download the Retrotastic Baby Blanket here.




Little Lungs & RSV – Crafting for A Cause

October is RSV awareness month. While my son never had RSV during his time in the NICU back in 2011 (read about his story here if you missed it), I was amazed at the lack of knowledge of NICU procedures in the general population. People were surprised that we couldn’t hold our son when we wanted to, that we had to scrub down every time we went in, that only 1 visitor was allowed in at a time, and that it is a very sterile environment. I’m hoping the below interview with the folks at the Little Lungs Initiative helps educate and spread knowledge, as well as get our crafty hands going for a great cause.

Tanis Gray (TG):What is RSV? As the mom of a preemie, most people don’t know what RSV is and why it can be deadly.

Little Lungs Initiative (LLI): RSV is a virus that can cause severe breathing problems and even lead to hospitalization. In fact, RSV is the #1 reason babies are hospitalized within their first year of life. While most children will get RSV by the age of 2 and will only experience cold-like symptoms, sometimes it can be more serious, especially in vulnerable babies. Premature babies are 2x more likely to be hospitalized with RSV disease. Babies with certain heart and lung conditions are also at higher risk for complications like pneumonia or bronchiolitis.

TG: October is RSV Awareness month! Tell us about your organization and about yourselves.

LLI: We are raising awareness with new and expectant parents and family members so they learn about RSV and can protect their families. We’re doing this through our facebook community, online through other media outlets, and in hospitals across the country. We’re also asking knitters to participate by knitting/crocheting items for preemies that will be delivered to NICUs throughout the country.

TG: I think knitting and crocheting for a good cause is so important. How can we knitters and crocheters get involved?

LLI: We are reaching out to knitters everywhere to lend their time and materials to knit or crochet preemie items – hats, booties, blankets, etc – and send them to us. Knitters are welcome to knit or crochet individually or hold their own “knit-ins” with a group. Knitters should take a picture of their knit-in or creations and post online with the hashtag #LittleLungs. There are also social media badges on our website to take and share on social media platforms/blogs for participating. Then just send us the baby items and we’ll take care of the rest!

TG: What kinds of knitted projects are you looking for and in what materials?

LLI: Knit or crochet infant clothing (blankets, hats, booties, etc) with your friends and family, using peach and/or mint green yarn if you can. Please use machine-washable materials and avoid wool if possible. Consider the smallest pattern size possible for these little babies—some suggestions or ideas for patterns can be found here.

TG: Can non-knitters do anything to help, too?

LLI: Yes! We’re asking everyone to share 2 things out to their social media networks so that we get the word out about RSV:

  • Our Knit Bit for Little Lungs initiative – ask your social media network if they would consider knitting or crocheting preemie items and sending to us so they can make their way to NICUs. These items will provide some love and comfort to those vulnerable infants and their families who are spending extra time in the NICU this winter. They can also share this flyer about the initiative that provides all details.
  • Our Thunderclap “social media wave” initiative – On October 23, we want our collective Thunderclap message to populate all across social media to help raise awareness for RSV! Please sign up for it here and then share the link on your social media platform of choice so that you can encourage your friends/family to sign up. It’s quick and easy and we need to reach a goal of 500 people in order for it to work, so every supporter counts.

TG: You’ve had crafty folks from 12 states participate in the program so far. What’s your goal?

LLI: Our goal this year is to double our participation across the board. We want knitters from 25 states to participate in our initiative. Last year we received ~250 knitted/crocheted items. This year, our goal is to receive 500 knitted/crocheted items to be able to deliver some love to preemies and their families in NICUs.

TG: I spent about a month in the NICU with my first born who arrived 2 months early. The NICU is a scary place where time stands still and you wait for news. It was the most harrowing time of my life and the people that helped me through it were rock stars. A lot of people didn’t realize when they came to visit that they were not allowed in the NICU and all the precautions that are taken both there and when you finally get to come home. That’s why this initiative matter to me. Why is RSV near and dear to your hearts? 

LLI: RSV is the #1 reason babies are hospitalized within their first year of life, yet most parents don’t know it exists until it happens to them. It can be frightening for parents when they aren’t prepared. The RSV virus is easily spread and lives on surfaces for up to 6 hours. Serious RSV infections have been associated with asthma and wheezing later in life. But there are some simple steps you can take to help protect your family. We want to make sure every new and expectant parent knows what to expect and talks to their healthcare provider about how to protect their baby.

TG: Where can people go to find more info about Little Lungs and RSV?

LLI: Please visit our website here for more information about Little Lungs, RSV, and our Knit Big for Little Lungs initiative. Please join our facebook community here of parents and supporters who raise awareness and education about RSV and also share personal stories and advice.

TG: People can also check Ravelry and find any pattern for preemies to knit and donate. I found some cute options here. Happy knitting and please help spread the word!


Emilie Flöge

My mom is a wonderfully talented artist working mostly in pastels and oils. We send a lot of emails back and forth about interesting stories we come across online – many of them having to do with art. The below story is courtesy of her (thanks, Mom!) and I found it absolutely fascinating.

My husband and I visited Prague and Vienna 8 years ago and I stood in absolute wonder in the Belvedere Museum in Vienna where they showcased their collection of art by Gustav Klimt. We’ve all seen his stunning work printed on tote bags, pillows, mugs, umbrellas, and my friend from high school even had The Kiss poster above her bed. The thing about art is that it never translates as well as the real thing when reproduced. I find this especially true for Klimt’s work due to the texture and metallics he used.

Loving color work knitting as much as I do and always paying attention to patterns, I just assumed that Klimt had created the fabulous garments worn by the people (often women) he painted, and that they didn’t actually exist. Boy, was I wrong! Reading this article gave me instant knitting inspiration and Emilie’s story must be shared. Original article found here.

Dressing the Woman in Gold: The Unknown Bohemian Designer behind the Paintings


Even though you might not have his name on the tip of your tongue like Van Gogh or Monet, you know a Gustav Klimt painting when you see one. His gold leaf Japanese-influenced portraits of women, one of the most famous of which was recently the subject of a major Hollywood film (Woman in Gold), dressed in vibrant, multicolored and almost psychedelic prints, saw him become one of the most prominent painters of his era. His works sell today for hundreds of millions of dollars, some of the highest prices ever recorded for individual works of art.

But were those mosaic-like dresses real? Who was behind the designs worn by the beautiful Viennese society women in Klimt’s paintings?


Yes, they were real dresses, created by a woman called Emilie Flöge, a name forgotten in the shadows of time. And here she is modelling her creations, the real dresses behind the “Women in Gold”…




Emilie Flöge began as a seamstress in turn-of-the-century Vienna, working at her elder sister’s dressmaking school. Together, they won a dressmaking competition in 1899 and were commissioned to design a piece for a prestigious exhibition.


From there, they managed to establish themselves as successful businesswomen, opening an haute couture fashion salon they called the Schwestern Flöge (Flöge Sisters), situated on one of the major Viennese thoroughfares.


As her own salon rose to become one of the leading fashion addresses for Viennese society, her contemporaries over in Paris were innovators like Coco Chanel and Christian Dior and she watched them closely. Outside of her haute couture salon, Emilie had a more rebellious taste for fashion that conventional society wouldn’t and couldn’t understand at that time.

A certain bohemian painter Gustav Klimt however, did.


Emilie pictured with Klimt

They had met when Emilie was just 18 years-old. Her younger sister Helene had been married to Gustav’s brother, Ernst Klimt, but died only a year after the wedding. Gustav was made Helene’s guardian in his brother’s absence, and became a frequent guest at Emilie’s family summer home at Lake Attersee.


They became instantly close. Some say they were lovers and that the couple portrayed in Klimt’s The Kiss is actually a self-portrait of he and Emilie. Lovers or friends, she became the life companion of the painter. She mixed in his circles, bohemian and high society alike, and he sent her prosperous clients from both.

Emilie Floge-dress-1


Like Klimt, with his provocative style and erotic art, Emilie Flöge had a penchant for creating something revolutionary. Her true signature dresses were worn without corset and hung loosely from the shoulders with comfortable, wide sleeves.


Often pictured with Klimt in these old photographs, the pair of them could pass as stylish hippies, time travelling from the late 1800s!


Her designs were influenced by the early feminist movement which proposed a more practical and comfortable style, but also inspired by Klimt’s bohemianism. Klimt also designed alongside her, for her, and vice versa.


One of Klimt’s portraits of Flöge. 


But the dresses didn’t sell. They were too revolutionary, too ahead of their time. While her conventional dresses continued to do moderately well at her haute couture salon in Vienna, Klimt was painting the upper echelons of Viennese high society in Emilie’s avant garde dresses. In 2006, Klimt’s iconic “woman in gold” Adele Bloch-Bauer I (1907), sold for a record $135 million in New York.

Klimt’s paintings should have been better than any VOGUE advertisement for a budding designer, but Flöge’s breakout success story would never come and she would not live to see recognition for her originative designs.


Fast-forward to the Valentino Fall/ Winter 2015 show in March however (the same fashion show that the Zoolander cast infamously crashed), and Emilie Flöge-inspired designs began making their way down the catwalk one after another.

The show’s pamphlet quoted her as an inspiration for the collection,”Valentino FW 2015 x Emilie Louise Floge”. Most attendees of the show probably had no idea who this “Emilie” was.


In the wake of World War II, Flöge lost most of her customers following the Nazi invasion of Austria and was forced to closed her salon.


From then on, she worked from the top floor of her home, but at the end of the war, a devastating fire destroyed the building, including her collections and valuable objects belonging to her lifelong friend Gustav Klimt.


Despite inheriting half of Klimt’s estate, Emilie had perhaps also lost her inspiration to continue creating and innovating after the untimely death of Gustav at the age of 56 from a stroke in 1918.

His last words reportedly were, “Get Emilie”. 


Further reading about the life of this unsung talent: Emilie Flöge is the first-person narrator of the historical novel The Painted Kiss by Elizabeth Hickey.

Photos via the Klimt Museum.

Ziggy Stardust

I am a sucker for rainbows. One of our bedroom windows faces east and is covered in prisms so when I pull the shade up in the morning, the room is bathed in color. I have a lot of rainbow socks, self-striping rainbow yarn, and when my son asked for a rainbow cowl for the fall, I was happy to indulge him. The internet tells us, “A rainbow is a meteorological phenomenon that is caused by reflection, refraction and dispersion of light in water droplets resulting in a spectrum of light appearing in the sky. It takes the form of a multicoloured circular arc. Rainbows caused by sunlight always appear in the section of sky directly opposite the sun.” Science aside, I love seeing color in the sky after a good rain, a wobbly chalk rainbow drawn on our driveway by my son, kids with their faces painted in the full spectrum at festivals, and walls of rainbow yarn at my LYS.

I’ve been working a lot with Freia Fibers yarns lately. I love the slow change of the colors in the ombré and the addictive nature of knitting until the next color appears on the needles, making me work just one more round, then maybe another round, and just let me knit through one more… You get the idea. We all do it! One of Freia’s ombré colorways, Dirty Hippie, runs through the full spectrum and I’ve been wanting to pair it with a solid for a while in a simple Fair Isle cowl.

Introducing Ziggy Stardust, an easy colorwork aran weight cowl designed to show off your inner glam rocker! Paired with a neutral semi-solid, I love how the single ply provides such perfect stitch definition and creates a thicker, more plush knitted fabric. This was one of those designs that flew off the needles, each new color making me more and more happy. Let the rainbow do the work!

David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust

And why “Ziggy Stardust?” Wikipedia tells us, “David Bowie’s alter ego Ziggy Stardust is a fictional rock star who acts as a messenger for extraterrestrial beings. Bowie created Ziggy Stardust while in New York City promoting Hunky Dory, and performed as him on the Ziggy Stardust Tour through the United Kingdom, Japan and North America. The album, and the character of Ziggy Stardust, was known for its glam rock influences… Considered Bowie’s breakthrough album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars peaked at number 5 on the UK Albums Chart and number 75 in the US Billboard 200 chart, and has sold 7.5 million copies worldwide, as of January 2016. Upon release, the album received widespread critical acclaim and has been considered one of the greatest albums of all time,  being deemed ‘culturally, historically, or artistically significant’ by the Library of Congress.

Flanked by colorful corrugated ribbing and knitting up on US 8 circular needles, this is an intuitive design, making it perfect for “bystander knitting” – the kind of knitting we do while waiting in a waiting room, waiting for school to get out, waiting for the movie to start, you get the idea. Easy and quick is the name of the game with these recent patterns and this is the latest from the same vein.

Download the Ziggy Stardust cowl here and rock on!



Extinct Bird Costumes

You know I love to share craft-related articles I run across with you, dear readers. I’ve always had a thing for birds (I grew up with a pet cockatiel, Ralphie, whom I adored and would whistle with for hours). Check out these cool pigeon suits crocheted by Laurel Roth Hope! While the craftsmanship itself is colorful and playful, read the article for the true meaning behind her work and the comment it makes on extinction. Original article found here.

Biodiversity Reclamation Suits: Extinct Bird Costumes for Urban Pigeons Crocheted by Laurel Roth Hope

When first engaging with these crocheted bird suits by artist Laurel Roth Hope it’s not without a bit of whimsy and an immediately appreciation for her skill with yarn and needle. The colorful one-of-a-kind sweaters are each designed to fit a standard urban pigeon, complete with a hood retrofitted with eye and beak holes. While the project isn’t without a bit of humor, its warning is particularly dire: each suit represents an extinct bird species and highlights the futility of restoring lost biodiversity. The works are purposely displayed on hand-carved pigeon mannequins to suggest that animals we most abhor are often the ones most capable of thriving within a human-made environment.

Hope has worked as a natural-resource conservator and park ranger, both of which have deeply influenced her artwork that explores themes of environmental harm, extinction, and consumerism. You can see many more of her Biodiversity Reclamation Suits in this gallery.

Concord, 2008. Cotton, silk, bamboo, wool, and acrylic. Blended yarn mannequin: basswood, acrylic paint, gouache, glass, pewter, and walnut.

Seychelles Parakeet, 2015. Crocheted yarn, handmade pigeon mannequin, walnut stand.

Urban Pigeons: Dodo II, 2014. Crocheted yarn, handmade pigeon mannequin, walnut stand.

Passenger Pigeon II, 2014. Crocheted yarn, handmade pigeon mannequin, walnut stand.

Carolina Parakeet, 2009. Crocheted yarn, hand carved pigeon mannequin, walnut stand.

Carolina Parakeet (detail)

Bachman’s Warbler, 2015. Crocheted yarn, handmade resin pigeon mannequin, walnut stand.

Kings & Thieves Cowl

Earlier this year at the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival, I stopped by to see my friends from Dragonfly Fibers at their booth. It was our first big outing with the baby and we look forward to the festival each year. My son loves seeing and petting the myriad breeds of sheep, my husband finds the different types of fibers and processing fascinating, and of course, I go to see my knitting friends, yarn company friends, and to scope out new yarns for future projects.

It’s become a tradition to stop by and see Kate and Nancye from Dragonfly, have them show me their new fibers and colors, catch each other up on the goings on with our families, talk about future work, and snuggle some of their yarns. When I asked what was new, I’m pretty sure I squealed with delight when Nancye put some Selkie Sport in my hands to squish. An absolutely delightful blend of 70% Bluefaced Leicester and 30% mulberry silk, I don’t normally gravitate towards sportweight, but immediately made an exception when I held this yarn.

What’s so special about Bluefaced Leicester? Our friends at Wikipedia tell us, “The Bluefaced Leicester (BFL) is a longwool breed of sheep which evolved from a breeding scheme of Robert Bakewell, in Dishley, Leicestershire in the eighteenth century. This breed is raised primarily for meat, but their fleece is becoming increasingly popular for handspinning. Bluefaced Leicester sheep may also have brown on their face and have curly, fine, rather lustrous wool which is one of the softest of the UK clip. The fleeces are not very heavy, only weighing 1 to 3 kg (2.2 to 6.6 lb) and are recognisable through their Roman noses, which have a dark blue skin which can be seen through the white hair, hence the name.” All that aside, it’s one of my favorite breeds to knit with and I find myself knitting with it again and again.

I came home with a hank of Purple Haze and Red Bud, knowing that lace would be part of the plan. I know – shocking that I didn’t turn it into Fair Isle! Meet the Kings & Thieves Cowl, a mix of jogless stockinette stripes in the round with lace. Starting with a provisional cast on, then kitchenered up at the end, this cowl really shows off the beauty of Dragonfly’s dyeing, the wonderful drape of the knitted fabric due to the fiber content, and uses just a hank of each color. Knit on US 5 circular knitting needles, this is yet another of my new patterns designed for a knitter on the go. I love the color quality that you can only get with a hand dyed yarn. Stripes, band of color, and blocks of lace make the yarn the star in this pattern. Add additional yardage to make a longer cowl and double loop it around your neck!

If you find yourself at the Shenandoah Fiber Festival September 23rd and 24th (another one of our favorites we hit year after year as a family), stop by the Dragonfly Fibers booth to see the cowl in person and drape it around your neck! Word on the street is there will also be kits available at their booth. If you see me wandering around the festival with my family stuffing our faces with the out-of-this-world apple cobbler the Boy Scouts sell there, be sure to say hello!

Download the Kings & Thieves Cowl here.


Lovequist Baby Blanket

When we’re planning our yearly summer trek to New Hampshire, one of the first things we do is make a list of the hikes we want to accomplish. They have to be family friendly (our 6-year-old son, Callum, declares himself “the navigator” and likes to lead), no more than 5 miles, not too far off the beaten path in case of emergency, and bonus points for a waterfall or spectacular view. My husband is a master of finding gem after gem and we’ve had family hikes that I tuck away into my memory that I pull out often throughout the year until it’s time to go back the following summer.

We found a new one this year that started off with an impressive gorge complete with a raging river thanks to the heavy rains, a cool suspension bridge, then finished off with a trail that looped us around a gorgeous lake. Tucked in our hiking back pack was a new baby blanket design I had recently finished that needed to be photographed. It didn’t have a name yet and I was hoping to be inspired on this hike.

Meet the Lovequist Baby Blanket, a stroller blanket designed to be a rectangle rather than a square to keep baby’s legs and feet warm while in the stroller or car seat. I used one of Dragonfly Fiber’s lovely yarn kits in their Midcenturey Modern gradient made up of 2 different blues, greens, and reds. I really love their Traveller yarn, a hand dyed 100% superwash merino DK weight that’s both light and bouncy. I’ve used this yarn a lot for baby knits and colorwork, and it washes up beautifully and has nice stitch definition. I go back to it again and again and was immediately drawn to this collection of colors when I first saw it at the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival.

Lace is ideal for babies because it offers ventilation and texture for them to play with. I went with a retro lace pattern to go well with the retro color theme and the result is a blanket that knits up quickly and in keeping with the theme of my recent pattern releases, designed for a knitter on the go. This blanket came with me to a lot of different places, and all I needed was the current color I was knitting with and if I was feeling ambitious, the following color. Worked one stripe at a time on US 7 (4.5mm) knitting needles, the yarn kit provides enough yarn to get 2 stripes of each color, totaling 840 yards. The pattern is simple enough for a beginner lace knitter, yet interesting enough for someone who often has lace on their needles. There will be an edge that scallops on its own due to the nature of the increases and decreases of lace knitting.

I was disappointed when the yarn ran out and the blanket was bound off – I found this to be a very fun and fast knit! And check out the beautiful shadow it casts!

An ode to that wonderful afternoon we spent walking through the woods and climbing rocks around the gorge, the Lovequist Baby Blanket will put a smile on my face every time I drape it across my baby daughter. Each design I do has a certain memory attached to it, but this one was extra-special. We are raising our kids to appreciate nature, appreciate what their bodies can do, installing a love for hiking, and time spent together without electronics – the only sounds being our feet crunching on the trail, the call of a bird, or the whoosh of a waterfall. This was our first summer in New Hampshire as a foursome and last summer we hiked some of these same trails while I was pregnant. I thought about summer 2017 and there being a new member of our family to continue on the tradition of daily hikes, rain or shine. It was everything I hoped it would be.

I hope someday this blanket will be throw in another hiking backpack, the next generation getting ready to hike this same trail.

Download the Lovequist Baby Blanket here.