Playing Photographer for a Day

Posted on | May 31, 2010 | 5 Comments

This post is long overdue, but I’m finally getting around to writing about this gorgeous cardigan Melissa Wehrle released several months ago. Melissa’s husband and photographer was unavailable for several weeks so she asked me to photograph her modeling her Cohansie Cardigan (available on its own and as part of her first collection).


Because it was still winter in NYC, we decided to photograph her in the Metropolitan Museum of Arts. With Maurizio in tow, we quickly scouted locations in the huge museum and quickly settled on The Charles Engelhard Court, a garden court with architectural and sculpture pieces (and a fair bit of natural light), including several examples of Tiffany glass pictures.

I think I did a serviceable job of capturing a fraction of the beauty of Melissa’s cardigan, but I certainly gained a new-found appreciation for how difficult it is to take good photographs of handknits. The various concerns the photographer must juggle — compositon, light, showing the unique elements of a design — all while trying to take a good photograph from an artistic point of view…let’s just say that I made sure to take many many photos in the hopes that among them lurked a handful that Melissa could use.

It was a fun day and I think the Metropolitan Museum is a great venue for a handknit design photo session. Other places we considered were the Frick and the Whitney; but both museums seemed to prohibit photography on the premises, a fact that surprised me a bit. I know that generally museums don’t allow photography in their special exhibits, but I thought most permitted it in their permanent collection; especially if no flash is used.

On a personal note, I was excited for Melissa to release this pattern. It’s an in-one-piece raglan with the button bands knit at the same time and the sleeves worked in one piece. Plus, Melissa invented a cool stitch pattern that bands the sweater throughout. It’s one of the most interesting handknit sweaters I’ve seen and yet as always with Melissa’s designs, it’s very wearable.

Sanguine Gryphon’s Dye Camp 2010

Posted on | May 28, 2010 | 7 Comments

This past weekend, I was a participant and teacher at Gryphon’s second annual SG Dye Camp Retreat in Easton, MD.  I was so honored that Gryphon asked me to teach at her retreat, especially given how popular it is.  She limits the participant list to 30 and holds a lottery to determine who gets to go, but as one of the teachers (joining Gryphon herself as the dye teacher and Lauren Haiken as the spinning teacher), I got an automatic “in” to the camp.

This was my first knitting class, so I was more than a little nervous.  I’ve taught physics (mostly classical mechanics, but some atomic physics and electromagnetism too) as a TA in grad school to a variety of undergrad audiences — from engineering majors to premeds, but I’ve never taught a knitting class.  And since my class was an introduction to lace sweater design, I was worried it would get too lecture-y; so I tried to include some hands on activities. But I think the students enjoyed it and I tried to cover a variety of topics such as choosing a yarn, the importance of gauge, essential sweater (and body) measurements, and some simple shaping examples. I didn’t quite realize how exhausting it would be to talk to a group of students for 3 hours! As a TA, most of my classes were 50 minutes; except for the lab sections — but for lab, other than a brief 15 minute introduction to the concepts in the beginning, I mostly was present for questions while the students went about their activities.

In turn, I got to attend Gryphon’s 4 hour introduction to dyeing where we learned 5 types of dyeing (solid color, nearly solid, variegated, very variegated, and handpainted) and were given 2 oz skeins of Eidos (!) to practice on. And I took Lauren Haiken’s excellent and informative spinning class — I loved how much of a geek she was about yarn, definitely a woman after my own heart. And here is where the pictures come in…

Here we are, choosing from the line of reference mini-skeins which color of dye (both Jacquard and Dharma dyes were available) to use:

Next, we stir our potent mixture of dye, hot water, vinegar, and handtied skeins:

Here is my lovely dye-mate Linda (we teamed up into groups of 3 with similar color tastes since we’d be sharing the same dye pot for all of our skeins) pulling out one of our skeins from the rinsing bin:

And here’s Elissa, one of Gryphon’s elves (note, Gryphon has several elves who help her with various aspects of her business and they’re all lovely and kind people), putting our skeins into the spinner to get rid of excess water:


And finally, our skeins, fresh from the spinner and hung out to dry overnight (the mint green skeins on the right represent the first efforts of my dye team):

Gryphon demonstrates the last dyeing method, the labor intensive and difficult handpainting yarn:

Along the way there were cute kittens and even cuter kids (Gryphon’s daughter Lia, holding one of 3 grey kittens):

All in all, it was a very fun, very stimulating weekend. I was so thrilled to finally meet Gryphon. We’ve been email buddies for years and it was great fun to have the opportunity to interact with her in person. She’s such a charming, creative person with a wonderful sense of color and style. I hope we’ll get a chance to meet up again soon.

A parting shot… what came home (well, to the office anyway) with me… In addition to my handdye experiments (which are hidden away in the paper bag to the right in the photo) are several skeins of Skinny Bugga (for a future indie design) and some skeins of Bugga, Skinny Bugga, and Eidos for me to play with. We were given a few moments each day to shop, but really, it was just overwhelming to the senses. I kept turning skeins over and over in my hand. Asking me to choose a particular color or yarn base was an impossible task.


To see photos other campgoers took, go to the Flickr pool here.

Knitting on the Brain

Posted on | May 18, 2010 | No Comments

One of the things I find myself invariably doing these days is visiting malls.  The town where I work has two huge ones and after I leave the office, it seems a bit depressing to go back to an empty hotel room, so I spend a few minutes each day windowshopping.

Yesterday, I passed by J Crew and saw this fanciful display of scarves:

Don’t they look like skeins of yarn? I’ve always loved J Crew’s color palette – so bright and cheerful – and very preppy of course!

Speaking of yarn, I’ll be teaching a lace sweater design course this weekend at Gryphon’s Dyeing Retreat. I hope I’ll get some great pictures to share… though I am hampered somewhat by the limitations of my camera phone. I’m traveling light these days and the thought of lugging around a camera isn’t too appealing. Maybe I can convince one of the retreat goers to share some photos with me.

Angela and NYC

Posted on | May 18, 2010 | 3 Comments

On Friday, my friend Angela and her husband were in town and they very kindly let Maurizio and me crash their group outing – a boat trip around the harbor in Manhattan. Although we’ve lived in this area for the past 3 years, it’s still quite stunning to see Manhattan from the vantage point of the water.

Me and Angela in the interior of the boat:

And Maurizio and me outside. Since Maurizio’s notoriously camera shy, I’m going to respect his privacy and post one of the photos where he isn’t directly facing the camera:


It’s always good to catch up with Angela, who I met 3 years ago when her family was still living in Como and Maurizio and I were out in Milan to visit his folks. At the time, we both were working on projects for the winter 2007 issue of Interweave Knits and we compared in-progress knits. It was my first design with them so I was giddy with excitement and Angela’s second.

Contemplating Yarn

Posted on | May 14, 2010 | 12 Comments

I’m already thinking of the next indie design and I’m trying to match it up with a good yarn.  First up on the table, a bevy of beauties from Sweet Georgia – light green is silk crush sock, dark green is cash silk lace, orange is tough love sock, turquoise is merino silk dk, and the the already wound sea blue cake is merino silk lace.

Other possibilities I’m considering are the always popular Madelinetosh and Sanguine Gryphon, at whose dye workshop retreat I’ll be teaching this coming weekend in Maryland.

I have two ideas I would love to work out. One is a little something to throw over yourself in a chilly, over-air conditioned office, a situation I find myself in a lot these days. The other is a cardigan in a lightweight yarn (can you tell I love cardigans?) for the summer.

More Austin Hoodie

Posted on | May 7, 2010 | 6 Comments


austinmosaic1. Austin Hoodie, 2. Sleeve detail, 3. Sweater Detail, 4. Hood Detail. All photographs courtesy of and property of Parikha and Hemal Mehta.

Ysolda thought I was being a bit stingy with the photos on the last post and suggested I post a few more; a request I’m only too happy to comply with. Again, the lovely Parikha served as both model and photographer, and she couldn’t have done a better job with either. I’m so thrilled with how the photos turned out. There’s a very calm, yoga-like quality to her poses and photo composition, which complements well with the feel I was aiming for with this hoodie cardigan.

I contacted Amy last fall, a couple of months before the Knitscene where I’m profiled was due to come out. I had really enjoyed creating the Geodesic Cardigan and I wanted to design a companion piece to it. I’ve long admired Madelinetosh’s colors in the Ravelry photos of other people’s stashes and Amy’s base yarns were the perfect combination of classic knitterly fibers and special, one-of-a-kind treats. Originally, I was thinking of her Prairie or Tosh Lace to create a drapey fabric similar to the Geodesic. But Amy mentioned that she was developing a new yarn, a lighter version of her very popular Tosh Merino, that she was very excited about and would I be interested in using that instead. I had barely finished reading her description of it before I hit the reply button.

Fortuitously enough, Amy was scheduled to visit NYC before Rhinebeck to give a talk at Knitty City; so I got to meet her, fondle some of her gorgeous yarn, and talk to her in person about my indie design. To my delight, I discovered that Amy’s sweater sensibilities aligned pretty closely with mine — we both prefer comfortable sweaters we can lounge around in; so she was on board with my idea of a casual hoodie cardigan with just a smattering of detail.

I’ve written a bit about my first impressions of Tosh Light before, but I’ll expand on it a bit more now that I’ve worked with it. I’ve always liked the look of single ply yarns, but hated their tendency to pill. I don’t know how it’s possible, but Tosh Light doesn’t seem to pill and it’s sturdier than your average single ply yarn. But it’s the color that really sets Tosh Light apart. Somehow, Amy has managed to make Tosh Light glow. I would have guessed there was some silk content in there, but nope, it’s 100% merino.

I’m really thrilled at the reception that the Austin Hoodie has already gotten. Thanks to Amy for donating the yarn for this project. And of course to Parikha for her gorgeous photos.

One more note about the yarn… Tosh Merino Light isn’t widely available quite yet. Amy included it in her Magolia Society yarn club and has been posting batches of it on her etsy site, but from what I understand, you have to be quite vigilant and ready to pounce as soon as an update goes up. She’s debuting it at TNNA in June and I believe it should make its way to your local yarn shop shortly thereafter.

A few more parting detail shots:



Austin Hoodie available.

Posted on | May 2, 2010 | 26 Comments

My newest indie design, the Austin Hoodie, made with Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light, is available. For a limited period of time, I’m offering the pattern for a promotional price. This promotional period will end on Friday, May 7, midnight EST.


Photos copyright property of Parikha and Hemal Mehta.  Please do not distribute.

It’s a classic hoodie that’s easy to wear. Simple, with small details to make it special, the Austin Hoodie is worked in Tosh Merino Light, a rounded single ply yarn dyed in Madelinetosh’s exquisite and subtle colorways. The main body of the hoodie is worked at a larger than called for gauge to create a light fabric, while the woven slipped st band is worked doubled to play with sheerness and opacity. Great for layering and easy to knit, the Austin Hoodie is made in one piece up to the armholes with set in sleeves that are picked up directly from the body of the sweater and worked down to the cuffs. Minimal finishing ensures that once this project is cast off, it’s ready to go.

Finished Size: 32 (35½, 39, 43¼, 47¼, 51½)” bust circumference. Sample measures 35½”.
Yarn: Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light, 100% merino wool, 440 yards/100 gram skein – 3 (3, 4, 4, 5, 5) skeins. The second size uses most of the third skein, so if you intend to do extensive swatching, get an extra skein to make sure you have enough yarn.
Needles: Body and sleeves – US size 6 circular needles. US size 5 needles for doubled, woven band at bust. Adjust needle size if necessary to obtain the correct gauge.
Notions: Tapestry needle; stitch holders.
Gauge: 23 sts and 32 rows = 4” in Stockinette with larger needles. 23 sts and 38 rows = 4” in woven stitch with smaller needles.


Bay Ridge Trek, Spider Mitt Swap

Posted on | April 10, 2010 | 3 Comments

For the first time since I joined the Spiders, I had to miss out on the annual Bay Ridge trek to Marie’s. But I had already signed up for the mitts swap, the sequel to our cowl swap from the year before. Fortunately, my swapmate, Colleen, was very gracious; and although I hated to disappoint her by not giving her the mitts I knit for her in person, we managed to work out a side swap. Since our husbands work at the same company, I gave the mitts I made Colleen to Maurizio, who gave them to Sven, who gave them to Colleen. I got a bit of a kick out of the idea that we were using our husbands as yarn mules. I was pressed for time and Colleen didn’t have any mitts or gloves in her Ravelry queue, so I opted to make her my Cayuga Mitts, in fingerless form (a very simple modification). I used Classic Elite’s Kumara, my favorite aran weight yarn.
In return, my swap mate Jess, mailed me the mitts she made, a lovely rendition of Ysolda’s Veyla Mitts, which had jumped to my queue as soon as she released them. Jess has small hands like me, so her mitts fit me perfectly! Thanks, Jess! I hope I won’t have to miss next year’s Trek.

Spring in DC

Posted on | April 6, 2010 | 10 Comments

Sorry for the drive by posting, but I wanted to mention that Maurizio joined me in Virginia this weekend (rather than me returning home to him) and we went to the Cherry Blossom Festival in DC. As warned, it was super crowded (even the lines to buy metrocards were long!); but totally worth it. The weather was pleasant and accomodating, the trees were in full flower and thanks to my aunt, who’s lived in the area for the past ten years, no one got lost.

Some photos from the day:


The Jefferson Memorial hiding behind the heavy branches of a cherry blossom tree:

And I particularly loved the darkness of the tree trunk against the pale pink of the flowers in this shot:

Alexandria Considered

Posted on | April 5, 2010 | 15 Comments

Alexandria’s pattern page with specs and more info.

Well, the promise to post more about Alexandria went from “later today” to “later two weeks from now”…one of the hazards of a full time job I guess (especially one that requires travel to Virginia 4 days out of the week for the foreseeable future).
1. Alexandria, photo copyright Parikha and Hemal Mehta, 2. Alexandria, shoulder detail, photo copyright Parikha and Hemal Mehta 3. Alexandria, front neck detail; photo copyright Parikha and Hemal Mehta, 4. Alexandria, sleeve detail; photo copyright Parikha and Hemal Mehta,

I’m super excited about this pattern. After stubbornly resisting for years, I decided to try my hand at making a nearly seamless sweater. Knit from the bottom up in one piece, then separated at the armholes for the fronts and back, the only seam this sweater has is the 3-needle BO at the shoulders. The sleeves are picked up directly from the armhole and short rows are worked to shape the set in sleeve cap before the remainder of the sleeve is worked down to the cuff in the round. Like several other designs of mine, Alexandria was done in conjunction with the wonderful folks at One Planet Yarn and Fiber, who donated the lustrous Woolie Silk 3 ply the sweater requires and on whose website you can find the kit.

The path to the cardigan started out a little rocky. Originally, I was going to work this in the DK/Sport weight Sheep Shop 3. But after working up a swatch and knitting halfway up to the armholes, the company abruptly closed up shop, and we were forced to find an alternative. The Woolie Silk is a little heavier gauged than the Sheep Shop 3, but some quick swatching confirmed it would still be possible to work the rather large texture and eyelet motif and not have it swallow up the entire sweater. I had used the Woolie Silk in my Varese Hoodie and loved it. It’s a subtly dyed yarn, available in nearly solids (for those who like their yarn color conservative like me) and in more variegated palettes. But best of all, I love how the Woolie Silk, with its 30% silk content, really glows while at the same time retaining all the wonderful properties of wool.

I started working on the Woolie Silk version of this cardigan while visiting Gudrun in October. The fabulous Ysolda also happened to be visiting and both she and Gudrun were absolute lifesavers when it came to figuring out the collar.

In my head, I wanted a cardigan with wide bands that flowed into a generous scoop neck. The focus of the sweater would be on that dramatic band and collar (and cuffs); with the rest of the body in plain Stockinette. But I hadn’t thought through exactly how I would ensure the collar wouldn’t be too floppy. Obviously, I couldn’t just pick up sts for the collar and knit straight to the width desired and then bind off. Since the lower edge of the collar would have a much greater circumference than the topmost edge, decreases had to be worked somehow. Ysolda and Gudrun suggested mimicking the decreases you’d make for a yoked sweater (a garment I’ve never attempted before and therefore was a little leery of). But they were so clear with their description of how yoked sweaters generally worked as well as some specific suggestions pertaining to the stitch pattern I was using; that when I got home, it just took a little bit of geometry before a plan was hatched.

The other little wrinkle that happened around this time was that my model, the lovely Jess, became pregnant and I wasn’t sure when she’d be up for modeling for me again. I had grown so reliant on her and her husband’s unfailingly excellent photography and modeling (at one point, I was even thinking of roping Vitaly into modeling a men’s design for me); that her sudden unavailability left me in a slight panic.

Several emails later, Parikha was kind enough to agree to model and photograph my knits for me; and from the results, I think it’s quite evident that I really lucked out big time. I’ve long been an admirer of Parikha’s photos on her blog and her flickr stream. She has a keen eye, a talent for composition, and as a knitter, she really knows how to photograph knits to show them off to their best advantage. Plus, she’s a rocking stylist. Just look at the gorgeous photos of her completed Demi or Central Park Hoodie, the latter piece inspiring Eunny Jang to tap her for a modeling gig in the Summer 2008 issue of Interweave Knits.

I’ll leave you with a few more of Parikha’s wonderful photos. Used here with her permission.

1. Alexandria; photo copyright Parikha and Hemal Mehta, 2. photo copyright Parikha and Hemal Mehta

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