Scarf Weather

Now that we’re past Labor Day, the weather SHOULD be getting colder–sorry West Coast and Southwest US, y’all might skip fall entirely for summer conditions–it is a great time to talk a little about scarves!

Right, cause who DOESN’T know how to make a scarf? Pick a stitch and go nuts!

Well, there’s is a LITTLE more to it than that. Besides, if you aren’t careful you’ll end up with striped scarf that looks like this guy’s:


Now, that is probably the most popular accident a knitter has made in all of television history (for those of you who don’t know the story, in the early 1970’s, a woman by the name of Begonia Pope was asked to make this for The Doctor and had been given no instruction on how long to make it. She used all the wool given to her and wound up with basically this beauty. The studio ran with it and used various lengths of similar scarf as filming required–at one point in the series this scarf is 24 feet long!), but you may not want to walk around with such a LONG scarf!

So what do you need to do when you’re making a scarf? Remember four big questions:

  1. Who is it for?
  2. How long is it?
  3. What stitch(es) am I using?
  4. What colors/pattern am I using?

Who is it For?

Making a scarf for yourself or no one is very different than making a scarf as a gift. If you’re trying to make a gift scarf (Christmas is just over 100 days away!), it is better to use a stitch and style of yarn you are comfortable with already. Mostly to keep the project lower stress and to keep from having messy stitching or ruining yarn. If you’re making a scarf for yourself (and don’t mind if it’s messy) or just for fun, it’s a good time to try a new stitch or stitches and go nuts with whatever yarn you can find.

How Long is it?

Maxi scarf? Infinity Scarf? Baby scarf? Kid scarf? Dad Scarf? Dog scarf? That may seem more like a list of who is it for, but since you already answered that question, all of those things refer to the length of the scarf. Generally speaking, you’ll want to make a scarf that is as long as the wearer is tall. So if you’re 5 foot nothing, you’ll want a 5 foot scarf. That will give you an average length scarf for the wearer. A Maxi scarf will generally be about twice as long as the wearer is tall, so that 5 foot nothing person from earlier would need a 10 foot maxi scarf.

An infinity scarf can be a little tricky because it depends on how many wraps you want out of it, but generally about 1.5 times the wearer’s height is a good start (7.5 feet for that 5 foot person), just tack the two ends together and test it before you sew the ends to finish.

Trying to fit for a pet can be a little tricky as well. Measure your animal’s front leg from floor to shoulder and double that to get a (usually) accurate length. Very short animals (like tiny and small dogs) may need special adjustments for length so the scarf goes around their collar and doesn’t drag on the floor.

DISCLAIMER: Please, please, please, if you are going to make a scarf for your animal remember that it is ONLY a decorative item. Scarves should NEVER be tied tightly around anyone’s neck and should never take the place of a collar or leash for an animal. Do NOT leave an animal loose outside while they have a scarf on. It can become tangled in fences or native landscape (trees, bushes, rocks, etc…) and choke the animal.

What Stitch(es) am I Using?

Very much like asking how long the scarf should be, there is a little bit of thought that should go into which stitch you are going to use. If the scarf is for practice, this is a great way to try out new stitches new ways to blend stitches (like switching from double crochets to crocodile in the middle of the work or knitting cables). If you want to do the scarf up as a gift, it may be a better time to stick to something tried and true, or at least something you’re comfortable with.

You can pull out any stitch encyclopedia or just check out a random stitch on New Stitch a day to make a scarf with. They’re a great way to practice if you don’t mind being a little messy sometimes. The real reason that you may not want to pick  a new stitch for a gift is because undoing the work can hurt the yarn and unfamiliar stitches (especially cable work for me) can lead to a lot of “re-dos.”

What Colors/Pattern am I Using?

Wait, I thought this wasn’t about using a pattern?

You’re right. But in this case, I mean something more like a checkerboard pattern or stripes or basket weave or something of that nature, not a pattern that tells you every step like you would find in a pattern book.

When you’re choosing colors and patterns there are really only a couple things to consider:

  • Will the person I’m making this for like it?
  • Does the pattern work with the color?

If you’re going to make your husband a scarf in the colors of his favorite sports team, make sure that you get the RIGHT colors. I’m sure that he’ll wear that neon yellow and maroon scarf, but Barn Red and Gold were probably better choices for your Bay Area football fan. In the same fashion, if your little girl loves pink, don’t make her a mostly green scarf. This seems like a lot of common sense, but it needs to be said.

I have more than once gone into the store for yarn and found a yarn I REALLY want to work with, but the colors just aren’t what I need. There is a real temptation to just buy the yarn anyway and think “oh, they won’t care…” but don’t. Instead, remember that this is a project for someone and that what they would like is more important than that cool yarn. Again, it seems silly, but I’VE done it, so I want you all to learn from my mistakes.

When it comes to mixing patterns and colors the BIGGEST thing to watch out for is making people dizzy! Mixing a variegated yarn with a basket weave pattern might not be the best idea if the variegated is a busy set of colors. There is such a thing as TOO much going on, even when it comes to something so simple as a scarf.

The final thing to think about is how many colors you’re going to use. When it comes to stripes like the picture above, you can use almost an infinite number of colors (that actually a really good way to clean up your scraps collection), but if you’re doing colorwork, you may want to stick with two or three colors instead.

Ultimately scarves are a great way to just go nuts! Have fun with it and if you don’t like it, pull it out and do something else!


I need a…(Part 3)

Y’all remember that dress I was working on in Part 1 and Part 2 of this set a few months ago?


I had some time to work on it and I finally did get it done!

mannequinWell, sort of… I used some leftover yarn I had to make a “quick” concept version too see (a) if it would work and (b) if I liked it.


I DO like the idea, but I’m thinking it needs a few tweaks. First and foremost, solid on solid feels too plain for me, so I’m definitely going with a variegated yarn for the top. I’m thinking something springy would be fun, so I’m gonna try this out

variegated top

For the skirt, I thought something in a coordinating color might be nice so I think I’m going to go with this green. It is a little olive drab, but I think that with the top being so colorful something a little plain on the bottom is ok.

solid skirt

Take a look at them together and see what you think:


Now, you might be noticing that the pictured yarn is a lot thinner than the yarn I used for my test. That’s the second thing I want to changed about it. I don’t like how big the stitches are on the test and the worsted weight is just too heavy for Texas, so I’m going to go with a sock weight yarn to help keep the stitch small and keep from overheating.

That poses a small problem however….the gauge I’m working with was written for worsted weight yarn and an 8mm needle. Keep that gauge with a sock weight yarn and you’ll have a lovely bit of lace, but not a very practical dress.

So we’ll have to change the gauge right? That’s a lot of math and figuring and this is starting to sound like way more work than necessary when there exist perfectly good patterns. Well, again, sort of…. I have a hypothesis.

If you use a needle that is half the size required and a yarn half the size required then when you make a gauge swatch, you SHOULD be able to double the stitches called for and get the same size square.

After some not so extensive testing, I found that, yes, to some extent that holds true.

For me, working with a 4 mm needle and sock weight yarn (1) rather than a fine (2) yarn–keeping in mind worsted is (4)–I was able to successfully double the stitches and rows to get the same size gauge square for this project.

Now, that does mean I have my work cut out for me. For each row in the two patterns I’m trying to join up, I’ll have to have two rows. And for each stitch called for I should have two. There is going to be a bit of trial and error to this I think, but I’m really excited to get underway.

If you need me, I’ll be working with pencil and notebook to get the math worked out before I get rolling….see you all later!

Design it Yourself: The Dark Side of Design

Up until now, you all have seen the happy fun, well thought out side of designing. Projects that work out flawlessly or at least theoretically, but what happens when design isn’t so happily ever after?

Alright, alright, I admit, it’s not that dramatic of an answer. The answer is you start over, adjust, or roll with it.

The last time we were talking design, I shared a couple of patterns that I was going to be working on for Knitting 101 and Crochet 101:

The Crochet pattern is going well, but the Knitting pattern did not go so well…..

One of the problems with starting ideas from drawings is that you don’t know the gauge of your work and you don’t know how many stitches you’re really working with.

Now, if I had been clever I would have made a gauge swatch and then started designing, but since I was in a hurry (mom of two under 4, not EXACTLY got a lot of free time) I figured I’d do it on the fly.

Designing “on the fly” doesn’t work very well.

The first mistake I made was casting on 52 stitches. Casting on 52 stitches got me to the 7 inches across I want to be at for the stocking, but 52 divides into two sets of 29. What’s wrong with 29? 29 is both an odd number and a prime number. I mentioned the math in Top Down Socks that allows for the k2,p2 pattern to work out well. Turns out, that same math is best when trying to work colorwork in a round like I am doing for this stocking. As you can see from the charts, I wound up with some spare stitches:

Chart BChart C

Well, if 29 is an odd number, why can I just stretch those cute little dots into an odd number? 29 is also prime which means it’s divisible by 29 and 1 without remainder. No matter which way you slice that one it won’t evenly divide into any more than 1 or 29. Trying to fit 8 dots around this was going to have a remainder no matter what I did with it.

Wait a minute, what happened to the snowflakes we were working on?



They kind of ended up being a hot mess.

No matter how I sliced it, they just kept coming out in a way that was either too small to get “snowflake” from it or they were kind of just weird and boxy. Given more space to work with, the would be pretty fun, but being limited to working around and wanting to work a stripe in, I just couldn’t make it work this time.

That of course means I’ll have to find an excuse to make it work now, so keep an eye out for something involving snowflakes coming from me. I’m not one to let a “this is awesome” project get the best of me. They do have to wait sometimes, but it’ll happen.

So what happened to the rest of the little designs?

Well, by the time I had gotten through this mistake, I realized that I was trying to make this too complicated for what I needed. The other cute little patterns will be set on the shelf for another project.

If you’ve ever watched one of those “Next Star” shows, you’ll know that the WORST thing you can do as a host (or in this case, a blogger) is to admit that you’ve made a mistake. I think in this case though, it’s warranted. I hope that you’ve learned from it, at least a little and I hope that you’re encouraged when you make your own mistakes. It’s not the end of the world, it’s an opportunity to learn something.



Happy Christmas!

Ok, so it’s July. Just Trust me, if you don’t start NOW it is very likely that your idea to make socks for everyone in the family as Christmas (or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or Ramadan or whatever you choose to celebrate) presents is NOT going to be done on time (or at least not without much chaos and many late nights). The Holiday season is hectic enough by itself without adding craft deadlines.

In order to avoid that craziness, let’s get started on our holiday project. You should have enough time to design and create your stocking before December rolls around and if you’re particularly happy with it and particularly quick, you may even have time to do enough for the whole family!

The first step–of course– is going to be designing your stocking. There are several directions you can take your stocking. The “Ugly” Christmas sweater trend has been popular for a few years now, but you may want something a little more traditional. If you haven’t popped on Pintrest already, take a look at my boards for ideas, follow those links to take a look or hop on and do a search (Set a timer! I end up on Pintrest for WAY too long sometimes).

Once you have a general idea of what you want to do, grab out your graph paper and pencil (or a digital version if you’d rather) and get sketching. You may want a simple colorwork pattern that you can work into your sock like this:


Or you may be interested in something a little more complicated like these I found on Pintrest:


I’ll be working on both a knit and crochet stocking for our coming tutorials. Since I just covered fair isle knitting, I think for my knit sock I’ll be doing something with that. Just something fun and simple to get started with. Maybe like this:

knit design

With something fun for the top. Maybe some of the bauble yarn from my post on “fun yarns” or maybe some faux feather yarn. I promise, it’s a LOT easier than it seems to be once you have the hand of fair isle knitting.

For the crochet sock, I think we’ll go a little more in the “ugly” direction may something like this:

crochet design

We’ll get a chance with this design to look at appliques and how they work. Appliques are pieces that are added on after the work is finished. You crochet (or knit) the pieces and then sew them onto the main work just like you would with any other fabric.

Whatever way you choose to work, remember that you are only designing for one sock (they don’t have to match!) and that you are designing in the ROUND. As you work your designs, make sure that they are repeating designs that will line up nicely in a circle. Notice in the Pintrest photo above that each stripe of the pattern are geometrically arranged to match up seamlessly.

These seamless geometric patterns are often created using vectors (in which a series of mathematical statements dictates the placement of color and lines in the design). Vectors often look like wall paper and can range from the highly intricate to the extremely simple. One look on Google images can give you a broad sample of what I’m talking about.

These patterns can also be created by using simple fractals (“…infinitely complex patterns that are self-similar across different scales.”) to create a stripe or section of the work. I’m very specifically calling out SIMPLE fractals here because as cool as patterns like this are:


they don’t led themselves to knitting and crochet quite so well as something like this would:


I’m not saying you CAN’T use that first one, just that you are going to need more patience than I have.

You can also create a simple repeating pattern using white space to separate your work so that the round wraps into a blank space. If this is your first go a designing in the round, this is really the best way to have the smoothest success. You can take something like this:


and, taking out the brown side boarder, create a round of 60 stitches to accommodate two of these trees. You may want to design something slightly smaller in order to get more into the round you’re working. Keep in mind too, depending on the gauge you’re using, you will have more or less stitches to work with. And that you’re not making this stocking to fit a foot. There’s not really a problem if it’s too big or too small.

So what’s the take away?

We already know that when we’re designing you need to know how you’re working (knitting or crochet?), what you’re working with (hook/needle size, yarn weight, gauge). For this project you also know the first part of what you’re making (stockings). So, your job (after reading this post that is) from there is to grab your graph paper and pencil and figure out the second part of what you’re making (pattern).

Keep in mind that you’re designing a round pattern that needs to hook together in a seamless way. Have fun with it and (as long as you really are starting straight away) you’ll have plenty of time to play with the design before you need to REALLY get to work.

All Those “Fun” Yarns

Ruffle yarn, lace yarn, feather yarn, pom pom yarn, Christmas lights AS yarn, glitter yarn, and every other yarn you can think of!

Walk into the national chain craft stores these days and you’ll find a HUGE variety of yarns that are NOT your mamma’s acrylic yarn. But what on EARTH do you do with these things? How do they work? and WHO THOUGHT GLITTER WAS A GOOD IDEA?

—It was me. I thought glitter was a good idea. It wasn’t. It never is. I’ll be finding glitter until I’m 110. NOTE: adding glitter to the dye for acrylic yarn works, with mixed results, but is EXTREMELY messy and not advised.—

Glitter aside, there are some seriously cool things that you can do with these yarns if you have the time and patience to learn how to work with them. The best part? They ALL work for knitting AND crochet (never mind what the labels may say). So, let’s get to know these yarns and some of the really cool things you can do with them.

First (and probably most common at this point) are the ruffle yarns. If you haven’t seen them, they look like this:

ruffle yarn

They’re about as wide as a thick shoelace to start with and open up to reveal a wide mesh. Originally, these yarns were used almost solely for scarves:

ruffle scarf

Now that they’ve been around for a while though, people have gotten REALLY creative. Making shawls, bags, skirts, and more, and not always sticking to the prescribed use of the yarn

Another relatively common yarn is the pom-pom yarn. It had a thin string running between fluffy baubles, like this:

bauble yarn

When I first saw this yarn I thought “What in the world am I going to do with this?” It had come in a bargain bag with a couple of other things that I thought were interesting. I happened to have a red and a green skein, so I thought Christmas something or other, but never really came back to it until I started thinking about the Christmas stocking project that will be coming up on the blog here.

I thought it would be a fun edging piece for the top of the stocking. But I KNOW there’s more to to with it than that…

Of course there’s the standard scarf (EVERYTHING can be made into a scarf), and anything that can be a scarf can also be a blanket, but I wanted to find something more creative. I stumbled across this site that shares a creative, “Alien Pillow” pattern for this pom pom yarn, and I think so far that is the most creative use of the yarn I have seen. I’ll be sharing more about this yarn as we work our Christmas stockings, like I said above, I think I’m going to use it for an edging or cuff on my stockings.

Ribbon yarn is a fun yarn that I don’t see as often in the store, but I do see a LOT of cool projects calling for this yarn. There are actually a couple of kinds of ribbon yarn. One kind looks like the ribbon you might add to a dress or tie in your hair. The other kind looks like a cross between the ruffle yarn and a ribbon. The two I have pictured here are less common forms of ribbon yarns:

lace yarn.png

They are still fun to work with and have their own uses when it comes to patterns. Of course, scarves are one of the most common patterns for any kind of yarn, but taking a look on Ravelry or this site I found on Google you can see there there is everything from shawls to bags to hats that can be made using ribbon yarn.

See a running theme yet? Yarn is yarn is yarn. You can pretty much use all these yarns for anything and any pattern that you have as long as you know how to work with them. Sometimes you need to be a little more creative, gauge a little bigger (or smaller), or think a little harder when you’re working with the “fun” yarns, but really you just need to be adventurous enough to go for it!

There aren’t any special rules or places that you can or can’t use a yarn. Use what you like, and like Ms. Frizzle says:


Designing Socks

Now that we have the basic terms of socks down (and a couple of patterns to start with), let’s talk design.

The best place to start when it comes to designing socks is “where?” No, that’s not an irritating teaching question, I mean where on the sock do you want your design? Does a sock with lots of colorful stripes appeal to you? Some extra fancy colorwork? Or perhaps something simple, with just the toe and heel highlighted? Maybe you’d like to add an applique or some beads?

Make sure that you keep the where in mind as you think through your design. Bead work is fun, but make sure you’re not putting beads on the bottom of the foot will not be nice to walk on. Appliques are super fun, but do you really want to cover them up with your shoe? Make sure as you’re designing that you know how the sock will look not only on the foot, but also in the boot (or shoe, or whatever). If you’re designing socks that are meant to be slippers (or worn only without shoes) you have a little more freedom of design than if you’re designing socks that are meant to be worn with shoes.

Once you have an idea of where, you’ll want to look at how the design will effect the length of the socks.

I had the idea of making some Fibonacci socks, using the number pattern as a guide for the stripes. While I’m not fond of the colors I worked them in, using a mathematical pattern as a guideline works fairly well. I would probably work them backwards (with the small stripes at the toe) next time or use brighter colors like the stripes above–maybe both. That’s part of designing though, sometimes you make something and look at it when you’re done and just get a better or different idea.

Fibonacci sock

Getting back to the point though, the Fibonacci pattern gets into very wide stripes very fast. The wider stripes lend themselves to longer socks so the pattern is easier to see. If these were knee high or thigh high socks, the pattern of ever increasing stripe width might be a little more obvious. Working a pattern like this over baby socks–for example–wouldn’t make much sense.

If you do want to work stripes on baby socks, working them across the foot might be a better idea.


You may have noticed a theme in this post so far….

I’ve been focusing on stripes because, being honest, they’re one of the easier patterns to design and they are one of the easier patterns to create. They also happen to be EVERYWHERE in sock patterns. Nature can inspire stripes, mathematics can inspire stripes, your kids three (or twelve) favorite colors can inspire stripes. They’re just really easy to deal with.


They are also NOT the end all be all in socks and neither is colorwork. Take a look back at the Designing with Texture post for a few ideas on what to use to make textured, interesting socks. Maybe try a broken weave with a variegated, or a faux crochet cable in a creamy wool. Maybe work some baubles or purled picture into your socks. For those of you who are a little more advanced, cables can be worked into socks in a variety of ways. For those of you who have already worked mittens (we’ll get there), you might want to consider toe socks.


To help you along, and give you a little food for thought, I’ve made a Pintrest board for socks  to help get you started.

OH!! And don’t forget about your yarn needle! When we get to designing our Christmas Stockings, you may want to add bells or buttons or other notions that can be sewn on with a piece of yarn or thread and a needle.

Have a design you wan to show off? Email me at or visit my contact page.

Designing with Texture

We’ve taken a look at how to choose colors for your work, but what if you just want a solid color with a design in it?

The good news is there are TONS of books with THOUSANDS of stitches that you can dig through to get some AMAZING ideas. The bad news is that you still have to be the one to figure out how to make that work for what you’re doing, and sometimes picking from SO many stitches can be overwhelming.

So, what to do?

How about following these easy steps to help you decided which kind of stitch to pick:

First: Are You Knitting or Crocheting?

Knowing which art you’re working with will help you to narrow down the choices. You can’t Astrakhan on knitting needles and you can’t use purl texturing with a crochet hook.

I do have to say about this step, that I have sometimes looked at this and said, “I really want to crochet” then found some REALLY COOL knitting stitch and changed my mind. This is NOT a locked-in-neve-can-change-end-of-the-world choice. It’s a guideline, to help you get started….like the pirates code in Disney movies.

Second: What Are You Making (And Who Are You Making it For)?

This is the step that will really narrow it down. Don’t get me wrong, you can make any stitch into anything, but there are somethings that work

better than others. For example The Astrakhan stitch mentioned above would make a really cool bath rug, but maybe not such a great baby blanket.



Not because the stitch CAN’T be usedthat way, but because you have to consider that baby will probably wrap their hands and fingers into the stitching and could easily twist the work around their hand and get stuck. ESPECIALLY when it comes to kids items, please, think safety first.

If you’re making something for a child or infant, look for stitches that don’t have a ton of holes  or stitches with regular, structured holes (like crocodile stitch) that are less likely for the child to get snagged on or caught in. The older the child, the less this is an issue, so keep in mind how old and able the child is that you’re making the item for. When in doubt, solid stitching is best.

round-3-grannyIf you’re making clothing of any kind, be aware of areas that you want to be covered.  It’s all well and good to make that “super simple shells dress” to wear to a summer function but if you end up with your ta-ta’s showing through the shells it’s not going to be a good thing. The same thing goes for shorts or pants or anything really. I know there was a bit of a fad going around to have granny square shorts for guys, and gentlemen, I am going to tell you now: if you want to make and wear something like that you will probably want to either put something on underneath or stitch in a modesty panel. EVERYONE can see through the holes.

Now, as a form of disclaimer, I will say that I am a very modest person when it comes to being covered. If you aren’t, take to heart what I’ve said so you have it in mind when working for others, but stitch what makes you happy and comfortable.

Italic Nesting basket 9.5 inch bath towels1

The last thing I’ll address here is “housewares.” Blankets (for adults or common areas), rugs, towels, baskets, anything you’ll use around the house for all comers. All of these things (along with things like purses, headbands, wrist/leg warmers etc) are really very cool because they’re sort of anything goes. Still be aware of the place they will be used (I have cats and you can’t put ANYTHING ruffly in their space or it WILL get ruined) and who will be using it (mom might like that 70’s granny stitch, but husband might prefer a more masculine pinwheel or basket weave). Other than that, just remember what Ms. Frizzle said “take chances, make mistakes, and GET MESSY!”

Third: How does it fit into your design?

Since we know what we’re stitching and how we’re stitching it, all that’s left is how to USE that stitch in the pattern we’re making. Crocodile stitch may be REALLY cool, but if you’re trying to make a skirt or shirt for work or nice occasions, it may not REALLY be the best choice (not that it CAN’T work, just be mindful of your dress code/situation).

pink-dressThink about these things when choosing a stitch for your design:

  • Where do I think this item will be used most?
  • Is this item going to be used for a specific occasion or is it multipurpose?
  • Will the stitch I want to use cover what needs to be covered (see the second step for more on this one)?
  • Will the stitch I use snag or catch? Is it safe for my purpose (see the first step for more on this one)?
  • Is this stitch appropriate for the person who will be wearing/using this item?
  • Is this stitch worth the time/effort needed to make my item?


Thinking about these things in advance won’t stop ALL disasters, but will certainly help to guide you as you go through the designing process. It will be REALLY helpful if you are able to draw out your pattern on paper or on a digital program to see what the stitch might look like in your pattern. Even if that means just making some curly lines or cross hatching marks to indicate changes, it may help you to see what “too much” or “not enough” looks like.

Designing With Color

Now that we know what color work is, how do we know what colors will go well together?

Well, there are a LOT of ways really. For those of you who have a good feel for color already, head down to the yarn shop and see what strikes your fancy. Even those of you who may need some help in this area should go and take a look. Sometimes just seeing certain yarns in certain colors helps to decide what direction you want to go or help to provide you with some inspiration.

For those of you who are less confident in this area, head on down to your local design store, art supply store, or big box home improvement store. We’re going to need somethings.

Don’t feel like you have to design using just one tool either, you can you one, two, or all three of these together to help you find what works best for you.

Color Wheel

Some of you might remember color wheels from art class or grade school. They’re those turnable rounds of color that help you to match up primary, secondary, tertiary, and complimentary colors.  They usually look like this:


The color directly opposite is the complimentary color. For example, looking at this wheel, if you were to take yellow green and look for the opposing color, you would get red-violet. Knowing that simple trick is wonderful for all kinds of crafts because it is an at a glance way to find coordinating and contrasting colors. To learn more about color coordination and how to pick a color scheme, I suggest checking out this home design blog from They take you through more of the basics than I will be able to cover here.

A color wheel can be purchased at any art supply store, some home decor stores, during school supply season almost anywhere, and most online retailers. They aren’t terribly expensive and if you have kids not yet in school or just starting school, they’re a great way to teach the kids about colors too!

This tool is best for color beginners or those of you who may struggle identifying or separating colors. As you are designing your work, use this as a starting point to pick out which basic colors you want to work with. When you go looking for yarn, maybe take it with you to help match shades as you pick out what weight, material and amounts of yarn you’ll need.

Paint Sample Cards

Paint sample cards are the small cards found in the interior paint section of your local mega-mart or big box home improvement store. They can also, of course, be found at paint specialty stores–but those can be a little harder to find. They look like this:


And come in more colors that you will probably EVER need. The BEST part about these is you can usually take two or three with you for FREE.

I would recommend these for people who are a little more comfortable with color, but not yet wanting to “wing it.” They give you almost endless possibilities (which can be a bit overwhelming for beginners and those who are indecisive) and also give you something to match against when looking for yarn.

What these will NOT do is show you complimentary colors or explain the primary, secondary, and tertiary colors. You’re on your own for that part. Luckily google can help you with most of that. If you DO need help with complimentary colors, I would have to direct you back to the color wheel.

Again, this is a good place to start before you buying yarn. Pick out a few and take them with you to match shades as you pick out your weight and material for your yarn.

Design Books


A design book is–much light the name–a book full of designs! Usually you’ll find them where wall paper or custom furniture is sold. If you are lucky enough to have a home design store nearby they have shelves of design books that contain coordinated pallets with fabrics, flooring, paint, and other things all matched together. Some libraries have these as well.

The idea behind using a book like this rather than using just the color wheel (which looks only at broad color categories) or paint samples (which look at specific solid colors) is that these will give you multicolored, coordinated patterns to draw inspiration from. You’ll be able to see how colors match up together and maybe even find some surprises that you wouldn’t have thought worked well.

I love to go through these to see what’s new in the world of color design as well as to find new and interesting geometric or abstract patterns to work with. They can be a little overwhelming for beginners, just make sure as you’re looking that you focus is on the COLORS, not on trying to incorporate the patterns into your work.

This is a good place for those of you who are already familiar with colors and just want some inspiration. The downside to these is that usually you won’t be able to take a sample with you. You will probably be able to take a picture with your phone or camera if you thought to bring it.

Online Resources

If you don’t have time to head out (I COMPLETELY understand), there are also some great resources online. As convenient as just looking online is, I am unable to recommend this as a first option.  The color resources that you view online will only be as good as your computer (or device) screen. For MOST things this isn’t an issue, and the screen quality has gone WAY up in recent days, but when you’re looking at the difference between colors called Lemon and Lemonade, in person is REALLY the way to go.

So, having finished with the disclaimer, here are a few online resources to help you out:

Here are a couple of color wheels for you. More can be found on this Google search.

Paint sample cards are a little harder to find online, but there are some REALLY cool color visualizers from paint manufacturers that let you look at colors together in a room. Here’s a list of those:


Behr ColorSmart

Sherwin Williams ColorSnap


Behr ColorSmart (pick a color to get started then click preview on the right)

Benjamin Moore Color a Room

Sherwin Williams ColorSnap

Color pallets and design boards like these can be found ALL over the internet. I find that Pintrest really is the “it” place (I just dated myself I think ^_^;;) to find a good variety of these. Just for you, I put together a design board so you guys would have a few of these to start from and some terms to look for.

You might notice in these boards that a lot of them have stencils, photos, and even plants! While you’re designing your own creations, it may help to put a board like this together to help you get all your ideas into one place. Then you can pare down any extras and you’ll have just what you need.

I need a…(Part 2)

Last week, we found two patterns that we’re going to use to design something new. I’m working on combining a skirt and a sweater to make a dress (that’s still not going to be finished in time for this post, sorry). But how exactly do we DO that? The sweater goes up to a 42 inch bust and the skirt goes to a 24 inch waist!

I think it would be fairly obvious that we’re going to have to add a few stitches to get to two to line up.We will also need to pay attention to the gauge on the two patterns. The skirt is written for two types of yarn, using different needles to obtain a gauge of 20 sts=10cm (4in) or 22 sts =10cm (4in). The sweater pattern is using MUCH bigger needles, so you need to align the two gauges so they  match up with what you want. In this case, the bigger needles work to our advantage because the skirt is so much smaller. JUST having bigger needles may not do the trick though, let’s pull out our calculator again.


Remember that guy? I told you we would need it at some point. This time, we’re going to look at the pattern repeats for the skirt and calculate out exactly how many EXTRA repeats we will need to line up with the amount of stitches that are already on our circular needles. If the math doesn’t work out to an even number, you may have to add or lose a stitch or two. Don’t get too wound up in the math, or you’ll drive yourself crazy trying to make it perfect.

The next thing you’ll need to do is grab that drawing back out and get your measurements (if you need to re-do them, that’s ok too). Decide how long you want the skirt to be and add it into your drawing. I am fairly tall and like a bit of a longer skirt, so I’m going to make mine about 30 inches long (remember I’m measuring from the waist too so it may sound really long, but it’s not exactly). This skirt has a little ruffle, so I’ll do about 3 inches for that and the skirt should hit me about mid calf (which I like).


Before we move on, I’m going to sketch out the dress on a model to see what it will look like. For those of us who are not skilled at drawing the human body, it may be helpful to grab a paper doll printable  you like and print out the doll to sketch on. I like this one, so that’s what I’m working with. At this point in the sketch, color isn’t too important, just pick something in the general range that you’re looking at.

So, now that we have our sketch and know our measurements,  let’s look at the first instruction for the skirt, which is the cast on portion. Since I already have stitches on circular needles for the sweater at this point, I am going to use those stitches rather than casting on any stitches. However, this pattern calls for a provisional cast on (something I’ll cover in the Knitting 101 blog once we get to more advanced skills) so we need to take a close look to see WHY.

In this case, the provisional cast on is being used to create a space for an elastic waist band which is something that I don’t need to worry about because the sweater will be attached at the top to keep the skirt on. That means I can move on to the next instruction.Which will be the section labeled “Skirt” since I don’t need the waistband at all.

Remember, this pattern is written for two different gauges and neither one of them is the one I am using, so I need to pay attention to how many repeats of pattern I am using as well as how many inches I need to add as I go. Luckily the first thing to do is to continue in stockinette stitch for several rows, which I can do regardless of gauge. What I will need to do is to figure out exactly how many rows I should go before starting my increase row.

Unfortunately, she doesn’t list how many rows for her gauge to be square, so we’ll have to figure that part out on our own. The best way to handle this will be to grab a set of 4.5mm (US 7) needles and some worsted weight yarn and make a gauge swatch to match the pattern’s gauge where 20 stitches = 10 cm (4 inches). That will tell you how many rows is four inches and from there you can be on your merry way. By my count, it was about 22 rows to make 4 inches, but don’t take my word for it, you should be doing your own gauge swatch!

Now assuming I’m right, that means 14 rounds should be about 2.5 inches. We are already working with more stitches and a bigger gauge, so I’m going to leave the increase rounds about 2.5 inches apart, whatever that works out to be in rounds. The wonderful thing about A-line skirts is that they are basically circle skirts, so you want them to increase evenly. If the skirt starts to ripple or fold up on itself, you’ll know that you need more space between increases and if it looks too tight or too straight, you’ll need less space between increases. Just play with it until you like how it’s coming out.

When you DO get to the increase round, remember that it may not work out perfectly in pattern. If you’re short a stitch, you can make one. If you’ve got one too many, you can decrease. If you end up with WAY too many or too few, you’ll need to either, increase or decrease evenly around OR just leave a few extra stitches at the end of the round and catch it up when it works out to be the right number. NOTE: This will not work for CREATING a pattern to share with others, but it works for making one item.

Once I have the length I want on the skirt, I’ll be able to move on to the ruffle at the bottom. Working this portion will work almost exactly the same as working the skirt. I’ll follow the first three rounds of the ruffle and then knit about 3 inches (per our gauge). Then I’ll work the next line and another inch or so of stockinette stitch to finish it up.

It’s simple enough right? So get out there and start seeing what YOU can combine! Have fun!

I need a……(Part 1)

I think just about everyone who has ever picked up a creative art has gotten to a point where they need to do something or want to make something and just CANNOT find a pattern for it. So what do you do when you can’t find that perfect pattern?

Well, if you’re name is Stephen West or Doris Chan, you just sit down with a sketch pad, but if you’re a little newer at this than she is, try combining two patterns to make something new!

Almost always, there are two patterns in the world you can stitch together if you are clever enough to find them and can read them well enough to know where to start, stop, and adjust. I’m not going to tell you this is easy (I’m going to tell you it’s hard actually), but I AM going to tell you that it will save you time in the long game and be worth the effort when you’re done. And BONUS, once you’ve done this a few times, you’ll be old hat and it won’t be hard anymore!

So…where do we start?

The first thing you’ll need to do is decide if you’re knitting or crocheting. Then you can start with or if you prefer or anywhere you can find some free patterns to practice with (grabbing your favorite pattern book off the shelf works too!). I have a sweater pattern that I LOVE, but I want to make it into a dress. Being a bit on the heavy side myself (never mind the pregnant part! Just a few more weeks!!), I prefer an A-line (think poodle skirt) or Empire waist (think ancient Greece) on my dresses. So I’ll be looking for a skirt or dress that I can attach to my sweater.




The sweater I want to use is a pattern called Alexandra Ballerina top out of a book called Fitted Knits 25 Designs for the Fashionable Knitter by Stefanie Japel that you can buy on Amazon if you’re interested. She shows it in a gorgeous pink variegated yarn from Lion Brand (color 271).




Since I know what the top will be, I will just have to find a skirt that I like to go with it. All free knitting didn’t have anything for me, so I did a Google search to find something that would work for me. I found four that I think might work:

(if you would like to view these patterns, there are the links: 1. Spring Belle 2. Skirt 1507-08 3. Twirly Girl Skirt 4. Hip in Hemp) Unfortunately the finished product will NOT be ready in time for this post, so we’ll have to go with design pictures today.

Before we can REALLY get started with the design drawings though we’ll have to take some measurements. Either the measurements of yourself or the person you are making the garment for. If you’re making any kind of garment you’ll need to know exactly where to stop for EACH section you’re working on and exactly how big to make the garment. If I just follow the pattern for that Twirly Girl Skirt, there is NO WAY I will EVER fit into it! If you need help with how to measure, there are some great online resources that can help you through tailor measurements for men and women. Whoever you’re measuring, you’ll need a flexible tape measure which are readily available at most stores (even the grocery store, check the laundry aisle).


I know that I will not make the sweater full length, because I want to stop at the waist (since all the skirts I found and liked were A-line this time). Now, one of the things I LOVE about Stefanie’s books is that she includes pictures of the garment with the bust and waist measured as well as the full height of the garment you’re working with. As a designer trying to combine two patterns, this shows me where to stop! That takes some of the hard work out of it for me. So here’s my start:


I don’t have any sleeves on the design picture because I will not be altering the sleeves at all. So what you’re looking at above is just the bodice of the dress.

Now I’m going to look at a few factors. Do I want the dress to be one color or multiple colors? Do I want the Cable to continue down the skirt? To I need a defining waist pattern or texture? Am I working in the round?


Don’t worry though, a lot of them are going to be personal preference. You get to decide most of those. The first REALLY important one is “Am I working in the round?” That is the question that determines whether you bind off the sweater and sew the skirt on or whether you just keep going and move right into the skirt pattern. The sweater pattern I am using IS worked in the round, so now I have to see what my skirt options are.

Having looked at all four patterns, I can immediately rule out Skirt 1507-08 for this project because it is worked from the bottom up. It’s not impossible to flip that pattern around, but it’s more work than I want to do for a skirt that is only “ok” on my scale of  “bleh” to “this is gonna be awesome.” Upon looking at more pictures of the Hip in Hemp skirt, it’s a little straighter than I want for this dress, so I’m going to rule that one out too. The Spring Belle skirt is cute, but also quite plain, so I think that I’ll be trying to work with the Twirly Girl skirt. So now we have it, this top with that skirt and we can finally pull them together:

How in the world are we going to take a pattern that is designed for up to a 42 inch bust and match it with a skirt that is designed for up to a 24 inch waist? Becoming Barbie is not the answer.

Remember all those measurements I had you take? We’ll need them next week, so DON’T LOSE THEM.