Sally Melville Winds Me Up!

Sheep sweater yarn

Oh, wow.

I had a life-changing email exchange with knitting guru Sally Melville yesterday – (Hiya, Sally!)

You can read our exchange on her blog here: sallyknits – jumping the fence

The short version is that I wrote her to ask a question about a knitting design drafting issue that I haven’t been able to find an answer for in any book – including Sally’s awesome new book, Knitting Pattern Essentials. Not being able to find the answer to this particular question (how to draft a portrait collar in knitting) has stopped me from starting to design my own garments. It’s a goofy thing to be stopped by, I know, but there it is: “I don’t know how to do this one thing, and nobody can tell me, so I can’t start designing yet.”  Yeesh.

Sally essentially told me that she didn’t have the answer for me, but she knew that I was perfectly capable of figuring it out myself, if I simply gave myself permission to make mistakes and do some ripping out along the way.

Well. She blew my mind. OF COURSE, I’m perfectly capable of figuring it out myself. I’m a smart cookie. I can do ultra-complex, mind-blowing alterations to sewing patterns without batting an eyelash. I have made commissioned quilted wall art and copied designer wedding gowns based on a mere photographs, or often simply my clients’ abstract ideas.

For example, I made this fabric wallhanging from a photograph of a painting for some friends:


I’m amazed at myself to this day for having figured out how to duplicate an abstract painting in fabric. And I loved the challenge of it at the time.

Therefore, clearly I can work out knitted designs myself. I have the skills – I simply need to stop making excuses and asking to be spoon-fed by someone else.

I really really want to design. Like I told Sally in one of my messages, I’ve searched hundreds, if not thousands, of knitting designs and have yet to find one that’s exactly what I want. Then I scratch my head and wonder why is no one designing the sophisticated, interesting, wearable things that I see in my head. Um…perhaps because they only exist in my head…and I need to get off my sorry butt and do what needs to be done to get them out of my brain and onto my back (and front) – and onto some paper, so other people can knit them too, if they want.

Now my head is positively spinning (like a top – cuz I’m wound up…get it?) with possibility – to the point where I feel like frogging all my WIPS (work-in-progress) and starting from scratch…allowing myself the time to swatch and test and plan and frog and PLAY!! Yahoo!

Stay tuned.

Cheers, Nicole

P.S. – Love ya, Sally 🙂

Knit it. Love it. Wear it. Part One

How do I know I’m going to love – and wear – what I’m knitting?

A bit of trial and error over the years, but I’ve also learned to LOOK IN MY CLOSET. Right. Duh. There are clothes you love, and wear the most, hanging in your closet or resting in your dresser drawer. Knit them.

Writer, teacher, designer, Sally Melville’s motto:  Wear what you knit and knit what you wear (or is it the other way around?) Either way, it means that once you’ve figured out what your wardrobe staples are, there’ s no need to get all fancy, just find (or design, or modify) knitting patterns that duplicate those garments and you will find yourself blissfully wearing your knitting.

(p.s. I love love love Sally, so click on her name up there and check her out! I will be talking about her…a lot)

For example, I have concluded that a fitted knit vest over a dress shirt is a fast, professional, no effort way to dress myself for work. I have a handful of store-bought knit vests in my closet that I wear often – so, why the heck haven’t I knit one???  An excellent question – and a situation that I am remedying as you will see a little further along.

This is a sweater I made a couple of years ago from Vogue Knitting magazine. It’s the closest example I have to a knitted vest over a shirt. You can find all the details and my modifications on Ravelry here:  NicoleKneedles – Eyelet Blouse

See what I mean?  Comfy, yet stylish and office-worthy. This pattern would work quite beautifully modified into a vest…hmmm…I smell a new project….


Vest – I will knit, love, and wear.

This is the start of a fitted vest called “Vestpa” by Samantha Roshak – Check out her website…lots of well-designed and wearable patterns.

The photo below is of the back in progress, which is being worked from the bottom up. The cast on row is still “live” – the stitches are waiting patiently on a spare circular needle. When the front and back are complete, the side seams are joined and then the live stitches are picked up and the ribbing is knit from the bottom edge down in the round. The original pattern is plain knitting front and back. I explain my modifications below.

The original pattern has some really cool cabled twisted ribbing detail, but it’s too plain in the body for my taste, and I need something entertaining in the middle of all that stocking stitch, so I’m modifying the pattern by carrying a few repeats of the ribbing pattern up the center front and back. This was a bit tricky at first because the ribbing pattern is a twisted rib cable designed to be knit in the round and has only 5 rows between the repeats, which means that I had to do the cable crosses on the wrong side on every second set of cables.

After doing this for about 6 sets, I finally got smart and figured out that if I did 6 rows instead of 5 between the cables, I could do them all on the right side.

If you look very closely at the second pic below, you can see a very slight difference between the 5 row sets and the 6 row sets, but you really have to look closely.

Here’s the link to the pattern info on Samantha’s website: KnitQuest – Vestpa


Sidebar: I’m also training myself to lever knit while doing this project, so it’s coming along a bit more slowly than normal…but, if what the claims about lever knitting are true, the next project should be done in a flash!  I’ll go into more detail about lever knitting later – if you’re really curious, just google “lever knitting” and you’ll see many videos and blog posts on the subject. The Yarn Harlot calls it “Irish Cottage Knitting,” so you might look that up too.


Cardigan – I will knit, love, and wear.

I also have about a half-dozen light cardigan sweaters in my closet – again that I wear over dressy shirts or tees for work.

So, here is an interesting and very wearable cardigan pattern I’m working on – although it’s sitting dormant right now while I decide whether to start over in a smaller size – more on that below.

Below is the back of the Rivel Cardigan by Miriam Felton – You can see it on her website here:  Miriam Felton – Rivel Cardigan

(P.S. Miriam also designed the Rill Scarf which you can see on my first post)

The reason I’m contemplating frogging this baby and starting over is that I’ve lost 20 lbs and counting since I started this sweater…

I know! Go me!

…However, this yarn is waaaay too delicious to “waste” on a garment that I could be swimming in by the time it’s finished.  I really like the fitted look of the photo on Miriam’s website, and that’s how I want mine to fit.  Sooooo…the painful decision is… do I rip it out and wait until I’m at goal weight to start over…or…do I carry on and live with a beautiful sweater that’s oversized?

Comments?  Help me out here, people, if you are so inclined.


Okay, stopping now, because the knit-what-you-wear thing is a multiple-post topic.  Next time I’ll show you some knits from my closet that I intend to copy.

Until then – take good care…and Knit! It’s good for you.