IACS Knitting Group

Last year, my son started 5th grade at IACS.  About halfway through the year, his homebase teacher invited students and parents to teach a weekly class during homebase time.   Last year’s classes included ASL, Crime Investigation, Greek Mythology (my son was in that group!), and I offered to teach knitting.  My little group did well! Some of the kids switched to loom knitting when they found needles too unmanageable, but all the kids were able to produce something.

This year, Mrs. K asked for volunteers again, but with the added requirement that we find some way to make our class a community service project as well.  I hemmed and hawed quite a bit — I think we can all agree that first projects from beginning knitters are not always something to inflict on the needy — but then one of my friends suggested a perfect solution: make little blankets for the cat cages at the local MSPCA.  Kitties don’t care about dropped stitches, uneven edges, or holes.  I know from experience how quickly they go through linens and blankets — they always need more.  So off we went, mad knitters one and all: some used needles, some used looms.  The kids made six little blankets, and also collected donations (toys, supplies, money, etc.) for the MPSCA.


Last week, we brought the kitty blankets and all the donations to the MSPCA, and took a tour.  We were joined by another of the groups, who sold the art they made and donated the funds to the MSPCA.  We got to see all the farm animals first. They said they had been flooded by horses this year, primarily because of the economic depression. Horses cost a lot to keep fed, housed, and healthy. It’s sad, but at least Nevins can give them a second chance.



The chickens were not impressed, but the geese really seemed interested in us. They followed us as we walked past their enclosure, and honked loudly as we left.



Our guide did a good job balancing the realities and sobering statistics of shelter life, with allowing the kids to simply enjoy being around animals. Inside the bunny room, she handed out greens so the kids could feed the bunnies. She also let them hang with the loose kitties in two different cat hang-out rooms. The light was better in the bunny room, so please admire these lovely creatures… I love the hairdo on the second one!



I was very proud of our group of kids — they learned something new, and used their skills to help others. It was a pleasure to teach them how to knit!


Cast-On Monday: C-ATCH William

On Friday night, I realized I really, really wanted to make my friend Julie an itty bitty knitted Scottie dog from “Knit Your Own Dog.”  Her (real) Scottie, William, was up for a big agility title this weekend.  I cast on late Friday, and after a busy day at agility on Saturday I knit for about 8 hours to finish.  William earned his C-ATCH on Sunday — hooray! — and I was able to give Julie a mini-Scottie to celebrate the accomplishment.  I’ll give more details in another post, but here’s a little preview:



New Pattern Release: Flurry Sweater

Introducing my latest pattern: the Flurry Sweater! This two-color pullover features a band of colorwork snowflakes at the waist and elbow, waist-shaping, flared sleeves and hem, and i-cord finish on all edges.

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Pattern: Flurry Sweater

Designer: Rachel Henry (that’s me!)

Available: for $3.99 through Knit Picks IDP

Yarn: Knit Picks Wool of the Andes Tweed

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Inspiration: I have this old sweater, a favorite that I’ve had a long time.  It’s pilled and felted from incautious laundering, but I still love to wear it. I picked the things I liked best about it (grey on top, blue on the bottom, colorwork band) and improved it a bit too (more fitted waist, set-in sleeves).

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Design/Skills Needed: The body is knit in-the-round until the armholes, after which the front and back are worked flat, separately. The sleeves are also knit in the round until the sleeve cap, which is worked flat. Knitters may select their preferred in-the-round method (DPNs, one circ, magic loop, two circs, etc.) throughout.

For the colorwork section, I recommend going down one needle size, as many knitters find their colorwork to be looser than their stockinette. However, it’s possible that you may need to stay with the same needle, or even go up a size, to maintain consistent gauge between the stockinette and colorwork portions. Please work a gauge swatch in both stockinette and the colorwork pattern to determine the best needle size for you, for each section.

When working stranded colorwork, take care to keep the floats loose behind the work. When gaps larger than 5 sts must be bridged, catch the float halfway through the gap to keep things tidy. The colorwork sections are charted.

Yarn: Almost any worsted-weight yarn will work with this pattern. I recommend the darkest color for the bottom, a medium value for the top, and the lightest for the snowflakes.

I would be delighted to answer any questions or help any knitters working on this project.

New Pattern Release: Cadet Cropped Cardigan

Introducing my latest pattern: the Cadet Cropped Cardigan!

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This stylish little cardi is my first sweater design project, so I am especially pleased that it has been released into the world.  The pattern is available through your local yarn store as part of Plymouth Yarn’s new fall pattern line: ask for Pamphlet #2325.  Photo credit for the modeled shots in this post all go to Plymouth Yarns — thank you for letting me blog with these awesome pix!

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Pattern: Cadet Cropped Cardigan

Designer: Rachel Henry (that’s me!)

Available: in Pamphlet #2325 at your local yarn shop

Yarn: Plymouth Yarns Worsted Merino Superwash Solids

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Inspiration: This is one of the first projects I did after deciding to carry around a small sketchpad, everywhere.  I saw a commercial on TV for an adorable fabric jacket that I thought would translate well to knitwear, and starting drawing little ideas madly. That’s as far as it went, until one of the designers at Plymouth (for whom I had been doing a lot of sample knitting) asked if I had any designs that might suit their fall line.  I worked up a proposal and it was accepted — I was thrilled!

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Design/Skills Needed: This cardi is worked flat, in pieces.  The all-over diagonal lines are formed by knits and purls; the vertical lines on the front, center back, and sleeves are right twists and left twists. The sleeves begin wide deep turned-hem cuffs, and have set-in sleeve caps. The center plackets are worked from picked-up stitches and are also deep turned hems.  The cardi is finished with i-cord at the neck and bottom edge.  The button loops and faux epaulets are also made with i-cord, then sewn in place.  It’s worth noting that there is a lot of “finishing” work on this cardi — some of my test knitters found it a bit daunting to complete the basic pieces, and then still have so much work to do.

Speaking of test knitters … check out this AWESOME use of the Cadet Cropped Cardi as part of a steampunk costume!

2130 cropped cardi

2126 cropped cardi

I would be delighted to answer any questions or help any knitters working on this project.

New Pattern Release: Marilla’s Very Practical Shawl

Introducing my latest pattern: Marilla’s Very Practical Shawl! This Danish-style tie shawl is worked from the bottom up in worsted-weight yarn.

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Pattern: Marilla’s Very Practical Shawl

Designer: Rachel Henry (that’s me!)

Available: for $1.99 through Knit Picks IDP

Yarn: Knit Picks Swish Tonal

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Inspiration: I read the Anne of Green Gables series several times over while I was growing up (and at least once as an adult).  It’s easy to like Anne—we’re meant to like her–but I always had a soft spot for Marilla Cuthbert. Prickly, practical, and tough, she protected a tender heart with a convincing façade. I like to think Marilla would have liked this shawl. It’s warm, knits up quickly, and the long Danish-style ties allow you to wrap and secure the shawl around your shoulders and waist. But, there’s just enough lace to make it pretty, too.

I made a shawl in this style a couple years ago, and I wore it all the time last winter. I loved how the ties held it in place, and allowed several different ways to wear it.  For cool days, I wore the shawl over my shoulders with the ties going directly under my arms and tied behind — like a shrug.  On frigid days, I crossed the shawl over my chest, wrapping the ties around myself before tying them behind. Both ways allowed great freedom of movement while staying warm, and pretty too!  I even wore this shawl to dog agility events.

My interpretation of this type of shawl is larger overall, with longer ties. I used worsted-weight yarn to make it warmer and faster to knit. I tried to streamline the construction to eliminate as many loose ends as possible.

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Design/Skills Needed: The shawl begins with the bottom edging, worked from right tip to left tip, with a short-row corner halfway through. Stitches are picked up along this bottom edge, leaving 8 repeats at both tips to form the ties. The body is worked from the bottom edge, with decreases to form the spine and top edge. After the body is completed, the neck edging is worked from right tip to left tip and joined to the body as you go.

It’s worth noting that the bottom edging uses about 40% of the yarn … so even though it takes a long time, you are nearly halfway done when you finish it! The pattern includes some charts; however, all charts are also completely written-out, for knitters who prefer to work from written directions.

Yarn: Almost any worsted-weight yarn will work with this pattern.

I would be delighted to answer any questions or help any knitters working on this project.

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2640 Marilla shawl (corner)

Fantasy Queue: Fall 2011 Interweave Knits

I received my Fall 2011 issue of Interweave Knits over a month ago, and although I read it right away, I’m only just now getting around to making up my fantasy queue.  Let’s make this interactive though — tell me true, dear reader, which pattern would you make from this issue, and out of what yarn?

Things I want to try (from articles and ads):

#1 — Strobilus Pullover (p.31)

Mostly I’m intrigued by the construction on this top — biased lace, knit in the round for the body, then split into shoulders that go up and around. I’m not sure if I could pull it off — big chested and all — but I do really like it, at least in theory.   I’d be sorely tempted to try it in KnitPicks Chroma … I guess after my Zaubershawl, I’m on a color-crazy mood.  Maybe Galapagos, or Fossil? Failing that, I might go with the suggested Classic Eliete Ariosa in gorgeous Balsam.




#2 — Dahlia Cardigan (p.76)

I think I’m in love! What a neat way to include lace in a garment! I love the pattern, the construction, the color — everything. This one made it into my for-real queue, and I’ve been right on the edge of buying yarn for it several times. The main thing that’s held me back is the recommended yarn — Serena is an alpaca/cotton blend, something that’s a bit hard to come by. There’s some shops near-ish that may or may not have it, but no indication of what I might have to pay.  I like to peruse online before showing up in a shop and getting hit hard by sticker shock. Provided I could convince myself that all-alpaca yarn would work, I might go with Knit Picks Andean Treasure in their new Royal Heather colorway.


#3 — Wheeled Lace Shawl (p.81)

This looks like it would be a fun lace pattern to knit. The edging is put on after blocking … intriguing! I think it would be extra-dramatic in a bold colorway, like Eggplant Aloft (from Knit Picks).


#4 — True North Mittens (p.98)

This mittens just want to be made in Knit Picks new WotA Tweed! Colorwork mittens are fast and easy in worsted-weight yarn, and I love the reindeer. I think I’d follow the “customize it” suggestion and swap plum out for deep red.  My palette choices: Down Heather, Rabbit Heather, and Barn Door Heather.

Cast-On Monday: Maluka, Steek This, and Kumara Two-Color Cowl

I weathered a bout of castonitis this week, starting three new projects.  Fortunately for my WIP list, they are all smallish projects. In fact, one of them is already done, and another is an i-cord bind-off away from completion.

Last week Monday I cast on for my Maluka, the August KAL in the Lace Knitters group.  This pattern falls directly into my current favorite category: one-skein fingering-weight lace shawlettes.  This one begins with a sideways-knit lace edging, with the body picked up along the full length.  The gently curve is achieved with short-rows.  I used a skein of Three Irish Girls McClellan Fingering that I had left-over from a design project.  I am in love with the pattern AND the yarn for this project, so it’s no surprise that I’m almost done.  I started binding off this morning, and plan to finish tonight.

2682 Maluka in progress

I also cast on for a new design project: Steek This, a colorwork coffee-cup cozy for a steeking class I’ll be teaching in the fall.  My idea is that it will be less scary to cut a teeny-tiny colorwork project like a coffee-cup cozy, instead of making a whole colorwork cardigan and then taking scissors to it.  I used Palette held double to simulate worsted-weight yarn, and a classic Fair Isle pattern from a stitch dictionary.  I finished the knitting, steeked, and put on the button bands in a single evening.  Alas, the prototype is a smidge too small, and the button band flares.  I’ll fix both those problems in the next prototype.

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2683 Steek This (inside)

My third new project this week is another design project: Kumara Two-Color Cowl. I’m upgrading my son’s Two-Color Cowl to adult size, using gorgeous soft Kumara from Classic Elite.  This pattern is destined for the CEY Web-letter — look for it in the fall.  I’ll be looking for test knitters in a week or two.  If you want to learn how to knit flat in the round with cables …. post below!

2681 Kumara Two-Color Cowl

FO Friday: Diplodocus Sweater

I recently had the good fortune to test knit this adorable sweater for Kate Oates (of Tot Toppers). If you like this pattern, think about joining her KAL (starting August 1st).  If you buy the pattern before the KAL starts, you’ll get it for a mere $4!

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2451 J's dino sweater

Project: Dino Sweater Test Knit

Pattern: Diplodocus

Designer: Kate Oates

Available: discounted to $4 until August 1st, buy now and save! 🙂

Yarn: Knit Picks Wool of the Andes Tonal in Blue Yonder, Deep Waters, and Springtime

2450 J's dino sweater

Like every single other thing I’ve test knit for Kate, this pattern is well-written and thoughtfully designed.  Simple things like adding a button to the neck on the smallest size (baby heads are big!) make all the difference.  The sweater begins with the neck, and short rows are worked across the back to make the neck scoop down in front.  The colorwork dinosaurs are worked without increases (thank goodness).  After the dino yoke is complete, the sleeve stitches are held while the body is worked in stripey rounds.  Although Kate provides a gorgeous striping chart (I followed it exactly), she also encourages the knitter to be inventive — stripe as you like! 🙂

2449 J's dino sweater

You can see how much my 6yo son likes his new sweater … he wore it in June, in Massachusetts, for several days in a row.  The size 6 did come out a tiny bit big for him — but then again, he is a smallish 6yo, so please blame the knitter (not the pattern).

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2447 dino sweater


2446 dino sweater (closeup)


2444 dino sweater

Cast-On Monday

While on vacation I finished several projects, which meant I could cast on new projects! I brought several yarn+needle combinations with me, including leftover Swish DK in Hollyberry and Marble Heather that my youngest son picked out for his requested cowl.  He wanted it to be “half red and half grey,” and I wanted it to be cabled (so it would stand up better). I conjured up a way to knit it without seaming ….  and it was so fast and easy I finished it while on vacation! I’ll write up a pattern and test knit it later, but here is the prototype of my Two-Color Knit-Flat In-The-Round Cabled Cowl:

2524 two-color cowl

I also had with me yarn and needles destined to be Bertha’s Mad, Mysterious Mobius, but then the Beginning Lace Knitters chose Rough Seas as there July KAL, and I couldn’t resist!  My Stroll Tonal in Gypsy was too perfect for words, so I gave up the mobius (at least for now) and cast on my Red Seas Shawl:

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As of today, I’ve finished the body and done three repeats of the lace edging (I’m weighting my yarn after each repeat — I’ll make it as big as I can). I have to say, there are a LOT of problems with this pattern — confusing parts, mis-count stitches, missing rows, poorly-formatted charts with several different types of errors — BUT, the finished shawl is so pretty, it’s worth the effort to muddle through the pattern + helpful notes to figure out how to get it done.

FO Friday: Silky ZigZag Shawl

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Last week I finished my “purse project” — a portable project that I carry with me and work on in tiny increments when I have time on my hands. I bought a skein of Tonos Pima Silk after reading a review in Interweave Knits, and I totally love it.  The hand-painted colorway is subtle and intriguing. The soft, soft yarn is lovely to work with and lovely to behold in the finished item.  I’ll talk more about the yarn in an upcoming yarn review post.

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Project: Silky ZigZag Shawl

Pattern: ZigZag Shawl

Designer: Marion Bulin

Available: FREE! on Ravelry

Yarn: Misti Alpaca Tonos Pima Silk

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I let the yarn determine pattern choice for this project. I wanted something with a lot of stockinette and uncomplicated structure so that the hand-painted colors could take center stage. However, it couldn’t be TOO boring to knit, or it would never get done! I also wanted a pattern that was flexible, so I could use as much of the skein as possible.

The ZigZag Shawl fit all my requirements! It is worked from point to point, and is easily adapted to be larger or smaller. I knit until my skein was half gone, then decreased down. I have a tiny bit leftover, which is perfect. The wide swath of stockinette is beautiful, and the garter-stitch edging helped speed the knitting along and helped me keep track of the increases and decreases.

2419 Zig Zag