Ready Player One, a shawl with mosaic and lace

I’m not really sure how it came to this. I just published my 81st design and if I am counting right it is the 28th shawl that I have designed. That number kinda overwhelms me, but it is beside the point. The point I was trying to get to is that this is the very first traditionally shaped top down triangle shawl that I have designed! Who’d of thought it would take me this long to get around to it?

Ready Player One, by Barbara Benson. A hand knitted top down triangle shawl with slip stitch colorwork and lace.

But I am quite pleased with it, even though the math was considerably more difficult than I had anticipated. You see, figuring out the yarn usage and determining the perfect spot to start the slip stitch colorwork took a whole spreadsheet. I wanted to use up just enough of the Burgundy in the texture portion of the shawl so that I would have the right amount of that color to complete the mosaic. After the mosaic was finished I continued with the Hazlenut color for the lace. But the math! Oy! I got it eventually.

A soft shawl wrapped around the neck featuring mosaic colorwork and lace.
The classic kerchief wrap!

This yarn? Sport weight Aspen from Baah! Yarns. It is a Merino/Silk/Cashmere blend and I just want to wrap up in it and snuggle. It’s one of the reasons the majority of this shawl is solid. It works beautifully in the lace, but I wanted the comfy factor to be very high! I think that the color combination feels very rich and indulgent, but I also cannot wait to see what other color combos y’all knitters dream up! Please come share it with me in my Ravelry Group!

Ready Player One, by Barbara Benson. A hand knitted top down triangle shawl with slip stitch colorwork and lace.
A different approach to styling the shawl.

Finally, the name? Well, when I was knitting up the mosaic colorwork I could not shake the feeling that the crescent shapes looked like a little row of Pac Man’s chasing after one another. The more I looked at it the more I saw them. That led me to select a lace pattern with angles and linear motifs that I hope evoke a maze-like feeling representing the board around which Pac Man dashed! Of course – you can see in it whatever you want. I can also visualize the colorwork motifs as hearts and I am curious to know what y’all see?

Favorite 5 Linear Lace Knitting Patterns

For this month’s Favorite 5 video I found myself drawn to Linear Lace patterns. I’m pretty sure that isn’t an official term for these but it was what was drawing my attention. These lace patterns, where the lines of yarn overs march along in tidy rows or on the diagonal really soothe something in me. My need for order maybe? They are elegant and modern and unlike what we typically think of as “lace”. So I thought they deserved their time in the spotlight too!

If you want to know why I picked all of these patterns I explain it all in the video above, but everyone likes to look at pretty pictures so you can see them below too. Please know that these are not in any sort of “ranking” order. Click on the photos to be taken to each pattern’s Ravelry page if you want to purchase the pattern.

Photograph © Jennifer Dassau

To start things off I chose this beautiful cardigan called Avix from Jennifer Dassau. It is knit in the worsted weight yarn Yowza! from Miss Babs and it is a knockout.

Photograph © Stitch Definition/Jen Lucas

This is Hogmanay from Jen Lucas and I love how it manages to be very angular and swoopy all at the same time. It’s magic!

Photograph © Simone Kereit

These Spiral Lace Mitts from Simone Kereit are the perfect example of how a small amount of perfectly placed lace can elevate a pattern to sophistication.

Photograph © Amy van de Laar

And as usual, I couldn’t resist another shawl. I bet you can see why I chose this one; Silverwing from Amy van de Laar. The movement in this shawl is stunning and it evokes an outstretched wing precisely as the designer intended.

Photograph © Andrea Rangel

And we wrap things up with this loose and lovely Passages cowl from Andrea Rangel. It manages to be fine and lacy without being fussy. The chevron points keep your eye moving right along in their delicate tracks.

And I had a shawl that I felt fit in with this theme. This is Irulan and I think that the combination of garter, stockinette, and linear lace all come together to create an elegant but totally wearable shawl. And of course knitting it up in the super luxurious Ultraluxe Light from Sunshine Yarn was a treat.

So, is there any theme you would like me to do a Fave 5 on? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Favorite 5 Beaded Knitting Patterns

The theme for this month’s Favorite 5 video is Beaded Knitting Patterns. This theme was suggested by one of my YouTube viewers named Denise and I was happy to oblige! The most difficult thing about this particular task was narrowing it down to only one pattern per designer. It seems that when a knitwear designer is bitten by the bead bug they frequently fall hard. And honestly, who can blame them. In perusing beaded patterns on Ravelry it gave me the urge to design once again with beads. I can feel it coming on…

 

If you want to know why I picked all of these patterns I explain it all in the video above, but everyone likes to look at pretty pictures so you can see them below too. Please know that these are not in any sort of “ranking” order. Click on the photos to be taken to each pattern’s Ravelry page if you want to purchase the pattern.

Celaeno by Romi Hill © Rosemary Hill

First off is Celano by Romi Hill. This is one of many beautiful beaded pieces from Romi. I chose this one because it is actually the very first beaded pattern I ever knit.

Beaded Button Bracelets! by Sivia Harding © Sivia Harding

If you want to try out several different beading techniques in a small format then these beautiful bracelets from Sivia Harding are just the thing. Sivia is another designer with oodles of beautifully beaded patterns.

Gledholt by Ann Kingstone photo © Wooly Wormhead

A more subtle but stunning approach to beading can be found in this sweater from Ann Kingstone.

Faberge by Laura Aylor © Laura Aylor

I couldn’t resist another shawl, but this one has the beads against interesting texture as opposed to lace.

Peacock Cowl by Stephannie Tallent photo © Kathy Cadigan

And this cowl – what can I say about this cowl? It is a work of art that includes beading, intarsia, embroidery, and duplicate stitching. I want to knit this one day.

And to round things out I show off my pattern BitterBlue in the video. What do you think should be my next beaded pattern? Maybe another shawl? 😉

 

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Favorite 5 Shawl Patterns with Elegant Edgings

The theme for this month’s Favorite 5 video is Shawls with Elegant Edgings. For the purpose of this particular adventure I looked for shawl patterns where the edging was a significant or the significant design element of the piece. Sometimes an amazing edging is really all you need. Several of the techniques that I am highlighting are ones that I have struggled with in the past and that I wish I could figure out. So this list falls somewhere between admiration and envy.

 

 

If you want to know why I picked all of these patterns I explain it all in the video above, but everyone likes to look at pretty pictures so you can see them below too. Please know that these are not in any sort of “ranking” order. Click on the photos to be taken to each pattern’s Ravelry page if you want to purchase the pattern.

Furinji by Angela Tong Photo © Miss Babs

I love the extended picots on this shawl. They are unusual and beautifully integrated into the pattern.

Cumberland by Tabetha Hedrick Photo © SweetGeorgia Yarns

The loopy, scalloped edging on this shawl brings the whole piece together. I brings a lightness to the piece that elevates the entire feel of the shawl.

Radiant Aura by Xandy Peters Photo © Xandy Peters/EPS Photography

I love how the edging is somehow just an extension of the whole but distinctive in and of itself.

Brunswick by Mindy Wilkes Photo © Mindy Wilkes

A completely different approach to picots with a picot hem actually occuring within the body of the shawl! Brilliant.

Short Beach Shawl by Kirsten Kapur Photo © Gale Zucker

The fringe on this piece is so inviting I want to run my hands through it. It is the definition of elegant. If you are looking to knit this shawl it is part of the book Drop Dead Easy Knits! (affiliate link)

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Sandpiper Socks

If you happened to be wondering why crazy variegated yarn was on my mind in my last post, well, I have been working on a pair of socks for the last few weeks. This is my very first sock design and I am both excited and nervous to release it.

And it is made to highlight variegated yarn. Specifically the amazing yarn from The Fiber Seed. After developing something I called the Sandpiper Stitch for my hat Luidia I just had to see what the stitch looked like with variegated yarn. Luckily the lovely Lindsay who is the dying genius at The Fiber Seed was willing to send me some swatching yarn, but it was in fingering as opposed to the DK that used for the hat (both yarns are awesome and 100% made in the USA).

After I swatched it in sock weight yarn it pretty much demanded to be a sock. I had a discussion with it. I explained that I don’t actually design socks. But it refused to listen. I mean, I’ve knit socks before and it was all like – you need to step up and design some socks.

Here you can see the contrasting heel/toe!

So I did. And I love them.

With the combination of slipped stitches and lifted bars the color dances across these socks. And as usual with slipped stitches you are just knitting stripes so there isn’t any yarn management. I chose to start toe up so that the stitch would orient in the correct direction (no upside down stitches for me) and went with an afterthought heel so that I could do a contrasting heel/toe. There’s no good reason for that other than I really like the look of a contrasting heel/toe.

The sock on my left foot scrunched down a bit, but I was trying not to fall off the wall.

I had to tinker with the stitch a bit. For the hat I dealt with the contraction caused by both techniques by going up a needle size. That doesn’t work with socks because you need a dense fabric so that they will wear well. So I built in some yarn overs that are dropped to provide slack to the slipped stitches. And the yarn over falls behind the other slipped stitches so you get one extra stitch of length in the bar that you will later lift. I know this sounds confusing but it will totally make sense when you read the pattern.

The bottom of the foot is stockinette because who wants to walk on slipped stitches?

I cannot wait to see what other amazing color combinations that people choose. The Fiber Seed has amazing variegated yarns and solids to go with each one. Go crazy, it’s socks!

Favorite 5 Patterns for Crazy Variegated Yarn

When I can do anything I want I sometimes find that I can’t figure out what to do. To solve this problem I find it helpful to build structures for myself to work within. One example of this is how I am approaching creating content for my YouTube channel Watch Barbara Knit. After a year of trying to come up with stuff on the fly I decided that what I needed was a schedule and for the schedule I am thinking in “series” for lack of a better word. On the first Thursday of each month I will upload a Vlog (video blog). Today is the second Thursday and is the launch of a new series that I am calling Fave5.
Top 5 Patterns for Variegated Yarn
Fave 5 is my favorite 5 patterns centered around a theme that I cook up. I have a list in my planner where I write down ideas for themes and the first one is Patterns for Crazy Variegated yarn! The idea is that I look through Ravelry and pick out 5 patterns that meet my parameters and share them with you! It gives me the opportunity to really look through beautiful knitted pieces and showcase some of the amazing work out there by other designers. And of course if I have a piece that fits the theme I am going to sneak it in at the end as a bonus 6th piece.

If you want to know why I picked all of these patterns I explain it all in the video above, but everyone likes to look at pretty pictures so you can see them below too. Please know that these are not in any sort of “ranking” order. Click on the photos to be taken to each pattern’s Ravelry page if you want to purchase the pattern.

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Vittorio by Corrina Ferguson Photo (c) Corrina Ferguson

A beautiful side to side shawl that is perfect for a single skein of sock yarn.

Circumvolute by Hunter Hammersen Photo (c) Hunter Hammersen

This hat has so much wonderful motion it will move your colors around in amazing ways.

Merope by Jen Lucas Photo (c) Martingale & Company/Brent Kane

Available in Cozy Stash-Busting Knits these mitts have slipped stitches that will help break up any pooling you might get with crazy yarn.

Moromorio by Heather Zoppetti Photo (c) Heather Zoppetti

I had to include another shawl and this one tames the variegation by striping with a neutral. Perfect if you want a larger wrap.

Krewe by Lee Meredith Photo (c) Lee Meredith

Using both striping with a neutral and all kinds of stitch manipulation this cowl is totally amazeballs. I would love to see it in the craziest of variegation.

Roller Coaster Cowl by Barbara Benson

And from me, this cowl uses lifted stitches to distort the fabric and create deep texture that allows the crazy colors to shine.

If you have any suggestions for future Fave 5 themes I would love to hear them! Please let me know in the comments.

Rejection / Re-purpose

I just read a couple of blog posts that have inspired me to write my own. It started with Dealing with Rejection by Heather Zoppetti on the Stitch Sprouts blog which lead me to the Design Your Biz: Rejection post by Jen Lucas on Knitting Like Crazy. And of course I have a very similar story to tell. Whenever you start submitting you have to be prepared for the big nope. My first magazine acceptance was actually a proposal that had already been rejected by another magazine!

You work on a proposal and if you don’t fall in love with it a little then I think maybe it really isn’t meant to be. But if you fall in love with it then you are willing to fight for it. You have to have the confidence to say “This is good” even if a rejection makes you question your own judgement. I once had a crazy idea (I’ll wait for you to get over being totally shocked) …. that I could make two color cables using slipped stitches. I spent a lot of time swatching and came up with something that I really thought rocked out. And I sent it in as a proposal to a call from a major yarn company.

A sketch of a proposed two color cable hat.
The original sketch for the proposal.

And it bombed. No thank you – not gonna happen. And you know what, the more I thought about it the more I realized that maybe it wasn’t a perfect fit for that particular yarn. The owners of the yarn company definitely know their own yarn better than I and they saw something that didn’t quite work. So I set about trying to decide who did make the perfect yarn for the design. And I reworked my proposal and sent it in to the better-fit yarn company and they loved it! And being the color geniuses they were we worked together to pick out the perfect color combo for the pattern.

 

Cables are Cook: a two color, slouchy cable hat with slipped stitch color work by Barbara Benson

Now, if I hadn’t been able to suck up my sadness from the original rejection then Cables are Cool would have never seen the light of day. And I think that would be a different kind of sadness that I’d rather not deal with. (Also, can I just take a moment of pride to point out how much the sketch resembles the finished piece. I’ve never really looked at them side by side. I nailed it!)

Earthbound Misfit

I love collaborating with other independent business people in this wonderful industry and I am always amazed how much more I can achieve when I work with other brilliant creatives. This new shawl is a prime example of my point. I decided to call it Earthbound Misfit (after my favorite Pink Floyd song Learning to Fly) and it features beautiful custom gradient sets from The Unique Sheep and perfectly matched beads from earthfaire.com.

The first step is that I drew up an idea I had and took my sketch to SAFF because I knew that Kelly (from The Unique Sheep) was going to be there. My drawing skills aren’t the greatest, but I thought y’all might like to see where things started:

beadedbandsketch

We start with images and art that have caught our eyes for their color combinations. Once we have narrowed down the candidates Kelly from The Unique Sheep works her magic developing custom colors. Occasionally the colors need to be tweaked until we are all happy – but they are always stunning from the get go. Then the yarn travels to Ellen at earthfaire to be matched up with the perfect beads.

threeatatime

For this shawl I asked her to put together a “bead soup” of multiple different colors that matched the colors that the yarn gradients pass through. By placing these colorful beads on the contrasting color stripe the beads have a big impact with a relatively small number of beads (compared to the size of the shawl). I also wanted to challenge myself to place the beads randomly. I’m not much of a “random” person – but sometimes you just need to loosen up!

stitches-3
Speaking of size, the pattern is designed to have some wiggle room in the amount of yardage you need. We worked with three different fingering weight bases and they each have slightly different yardage. I planned the color changes to occur in the large textured bands and you can fudge the transitions by a couple of rows here and there to match your yarn. The end result is a shawl that takes between 900 and 1000 yards. The resulting shawl measures 24″ X 55″ (61 X 140 cm) but due to the curving shape it wraps around as if it were much larger.

earthboundmisfitmodeled-2
If you are in love with one of these specific color combinations you can get them in kits exclusively from earthfaire.com. You can also pick out your own gradient set from The Unique Sheep in their Luxe, Verve, and Tinsel Toes bases. Just let them know you are making an Earthbound Misfit and I am sure that they can make sure you have the right amount of yarn and a great contrast color. I cannot wait to see all of the different versions of this that might come about. Seeing the three that we created amazed me in how changed the pattern appeared in the different color combinations!

earthboundmisfitmodeled-6

Come learn to fly.earthboundmisfitmodeled-3

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Unwind Getaway April 2017

Every year a group of knitters get together in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina for a weekend of knitting, learning, and fun! This event is called the Unwind Getaway and I am beyond excited to be able to announce that I will be one of the instructors for 2017. The event will be from April 28 through May 1 and registration opens today.

I am one of four awesome instructors that will be teaching classes over the weekend, you can see all of our bios here. If you are interested in the full list of class options you can find them here. I will be teaching three classes over the weekend and the rest of the time will be for hanging out, knitting, and making friends. I cannot wait!

The classes I will be teaching are Elongated, Lifted, and Cinched, Mosaic & Lace, and Tips & Tricks for Knitting with Variegated Yarn. While the last one is pretty self explanatory the first two might require a little elaboration. Elongated, Lifted and Cinched will be a technique class where we will explore the world of weird stitches that are found in Japanese stitch dictionaries. There are a variety of unusual techniques that crop up that really have to be seen (and knitted) to be believed.

Golden Lion Throne
Golden Lion Throne

Mosiac & Lace will be focused on teaching the technique I have been developing combining mosaic style slipped-stitch color work with lace. More of a project based class, we will be learning all of the techniques you will need to successfully go home and cast on for Golden Lion Throne. Golden Lion Throne is the shawl that started me down the path that has lead to my book Mosaic and Lace, which will be coming out on March 1st, 2017.

Oh, have I not mentioned that? 😉 Yes indeed. Beginning in February of 2015 I have had a secret project that I have been working on, a book! It is now available for pre-order through Amazon and the official title is Mosaic and Lace Knits: 20 Innovative Patterns Combining Slip-Stitch Colorwork and Lace Techniques. As I said, the publication date is March 1st and if you would like your Local Yarn Store to carry it you should give them a heads up. My publisher is Stackpole Books and most distributors of knitting books should be carrying it! You know that there will be much, much more showing up on this here blog about this – you might even get sick of it. But for now I can share with you what the cover will look like!

coversmallI hope y’all are as excited about this as I am, but I’m not sure it’s possible. But, if you are the kind of person who learns better in person and you want to hone your skills to be able to take on all of the patterns in this book – well you can come join me in North Carolina at the Unwind Getaway.

An Interview with … Me!

As with (I am guessing) many knitters, I have read a lot of knitting blogs. I meant a lot. My feedly feed is full of them. And I have been reading many of them for years. Ever since I had the inkling that I might want to pursue knitting design as a calling I have been following one called “How to Become a Professional Knitter” by Robin Hunter. She posts weekly interviews with professionals in the knitting industry and I have probably read a couple hundred by now.

Imagine my surprise when I received a request to do one of these interviews?! You could have knocked me over with a feather. But interview I did and it was posted today. If you would like to know more about my design process and maybe peep into how my brain works please click over and check it out.

Secondly, I am super behind in blog posting. I have found that I am much better at talking to a camera than getting my thoughts out with the keyboard. The best way to keep up with me is to check out my YouTube channel Watch Barbara Knit. But that is not to say I am giving up on blogging. I just need to get better. Mostly it’s the fact that the Fall festival season is upon us and time has just flown!

I went to Wisconsin Sheep and Wool and had a grand time!

And I went to New York Sheep and Wool and had even more fibery fun.

I have released some new patterns along the way and will be writing up posts about them soon!