Saturday, December 14, 2013

Wrong-side tracks

Next to garter stitch, stockinette is the simplest sort of knitting you can do. At the same time, it can be the most difficult to do really well. Just work back and forth for a while in a smooth, solid-colored yarn, and you'll get a lesson in which aspects of your technique are wanting.

Personally, I've always rowed out. Pretty badly. If you aren't familiar with the expression, 'rowing out' describes the tendency that a lot of knitters have to create different sized stitches on the knit and purl sides of the fabric when working back and forth in stockinette stitch. You can often see it most easily on the purl side of the knitting: there'll be little horizontal furrows where the stitches are looser on one row, and tighter on the next.

I've tried a lot of things to fix the problem, from using a smaller needle on the purl side – to adopting the Norwegian purling technique where the yarn stays at the back of the work all the time – to pure avoidance, disguising the problem with semi-solid yarns and lace or texture stitches. I'd been able to improve the issue somewhat, but it continued to be a problem.

Handily, knitting gives you a lot of time to think about, well, your knitting. It's right there in front of you, all the time. Lately I've been trying to carefully observe the way that I form stitches. In doing so I think I've discovered not just a solution to rowing out in my own knitting, but the reason why it happens in the first place.


Are you ready? Here it is: The angle of the working yarn – relative to the right hand needle as the new stitch is being transferred over – has to be the same, when knitting and purling, for the stitches to be of equal size.

I'm a continental knitter. When I make knit stitches, at the point where the new stitch is being taken up by the right hand needle, the working yarn is at pretty much 90 degrees to the needle, ensuring that the stitch will be snugged up as fully as my tension dictates, and gauged to the size of the needle.

When I purl in my usual way, because my needle is entering the stitch purlwise it's most natural for me to hold my needles at a wider angle, and as a consequence, the angle of the yarn relative to the right hand needle is always greater than 90 degrees. This provides slightly more resistance to the small force that I'm applying with my tension, et voila! a looser stitch is born.

For me, the answer is simple: Make sure that at the point of transfer, the angle of the working yarn is consistent. In my case, this means perpendicular to the right hand needle. That's it. All I have to do is to close the angle between my needles, and the purl stitch is able to snug up just like a knit stitch. So simple.

Here's what the wrong side of a recent swatch looks like:

Is my knitting perfect now? No, and I don't need it to be – but it's so much more even than it was. And if there's a looser row now, it's just as often a knit row.

Will this work for anyone else? I really don't know. There may be other differences in your knitting style that introduce changes in tension when knitting and purling. But I'd love to know if it does!

Thursday, October 31, 2013


Starting today, a group of indie designers is throwing a huge party on Ravelry that we’re calling Gift-A-Long.

What’s it all about? Well to begin with, it’s a sale. Participating designers are offering 25% off selected patterns through November 15th. Just enter the coupon code ’giftalong’ at checkout to receive the discount.

And there's more! Through December 31st, CAL/KALs will be running in the Indie Design Gift-A-Long group, with hundreds of prizes being given for finished objects made from Gift-A-Long patterns.

All of my self-published patterns on sale. You’ll find them in the Blue Bee Studio store.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Grass River

Near our house there's a wide wet meadow that we call the grass river. It's a shallow swale that runs with snow-melt in early spring, then drys out as the summer comes on. A place of subtle, quiet beauty – you might think it rather plain – unless you see it in early spring when the violet-blue Camassia are blooming, or better yet, in the golden glory of early fall.

The Grass River Tunic is kind of like that. A bit plain, no lace, no cables, just clean simple lines. But once you slip it on, its charms become more apparent.

Knit in the Woolen Rabbit's delicious single-ply fingering-weight Airy, Grass River is light, soft, and so easy to wear. A flattering empire line and a bit of waist shaping make for a figure-skimming fit. The deep surplice neckline layers beautifully over a tank or tee. And decorative welts at the bust, neckband and cuffs add a little polish.

You can find the Grass River Tunic pattern in the Blue Bee Studio Ravelry store.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Summer joy sale

Celebrate long days and lush colors with 20% off all patterns in the Blue Bee Studio Ravelry store! From July 1st through July 5th, use the code 'summer_joy' in the Ravelry shopping cart to get your discount. Happy Summer!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


©2013; photography: Jane Heller
I know it sounds funny, but I do a lot of designing on my bicycle. I live in a mountainous place, and no matter where I ride, there are always hills and more hills. To keep myself from thinking about my legs on those endless climbs, I pass the time working out the details of new designs.

On some rides last summer it was a cardigan design that kept me diverted. The idea was to create a modern shape that would skim the figure and be easy to wear, but with a bit of elegance…something feminine, but not girly…with lace details, but a geometric motif rather than a floral one…on and on it went, to the top of the hill.

The result is Floriston, just out in Twist Collective's Spring 2013 issue. It's an airy, open-front cardigan with clean lines and a little surprise – a sweet inverted pleat at the back.

©2013; photography: Jane Heller
Some more details:
  • A wavy eyelet-and-rib pattern forms the cardigan's front bands and is repeated on the inside of the pleat.
  • A bit of waist shaping keeps the silhouette sleek.
  • The sweater fronts widen slightly at the bottom for some subtle draping without an excess of fabric.
  • The bracelet-length sleeves have a little vent detail that echoes the back pleat.
  • The sleeves and hem have a crisp I-cord edging.
I love the way that Twist styled the photos of Floriston. The model has such grace and charm, and that floral-print skirt is adorable. But I'm not a very girly girl, so when I had one made for me, I indulged in a lovely charcoal grey. So far I've only worn it with jeans and a tank, but I'd also wear it with some dressier ankle-length pants and short boots, or with a slim sheath dress. Pretty sure I'll steer clear of the bike shorts, though.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

A new Millrace

Ever since the Millrace Scarf pattern came out last year I've been itching to use the same tip-to-tip construction and edging motifs in a shawl design. So here it is: the Millrace Shawl.

With a 14" depth at center back and a generous 76" overall width, Millrace stays nicely on the shoulders and can be styled in a lot of different ways. The shawl begins and ends with just 4 stitches. The garter stitch body and lace edging are worked all in one go, so there is no long cast-on or bind-off, and no stitches to pick up. And while the garter body makes the knitting fly along, the flowing lace motif provides just enough interest to keep it fun.

The sample is worked in Quince and Co. Tern in the Sea Grass color. Tern is a lovely yarn that marries 75% American wool with 25% silk for great stitch definition and beautiful drape. Perfect for this design.

Both Millrace patterns can be found in the Blue Bee Studio Ravelry store.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Another Alewife

Here's the latest in my ongoing love affair with herringbone patterns, the Alewives Hat.

A companion design to the Alewives Cowl, the slightly slouchy hat features a wide swath of herringbone texture amid panels of garter ridges. The pattern is easy enough for advanced beginners, but the texture stitches keep it fun for knitters of all skill levels.

The Alewives Hat pattern is available individually, or as part of an ebook collection containing both the Alewives Hat and Cowl. You can find the patterns in the Blue Bee Studio Ravelry store.

A bit about the yarn

Friends who have seen the Alewives cowl and hat in person always remark on the incredibly deep and rich color. The sample is worked in Swans Island Natural Colors Merino Worsted, in Bittersweet.

When I asked how they produce these glorious colors, Swans Island's head dyer Jackie Ottino Graf sent me a lot of great information. To read her full description of the dye process, check out this thread in the Swans Island Ravelry group, but here it is, in brief:

All Swans Island yarns are dyed in the skein, using traditional natural dying methods. After scouring with a mild unscented detergent, the yarn is soaked in a mordant bath overnight. The mordant, a mixture of alum and cream of tarter, creates a bond between the dye and the fiber. The fiber is then placed in the dyebath and can remain there for anywhere from a few hours, to overnight – depending on the color and shade that's desired. Swans Island uses a variety of natural dyestuffs including indigo, cochineal, madder, logwood, and weld. Some colors are dyed one shade and then overdyed with another.

The result is luminous layered color that is full of life. Pretty sure I'll be working with this beautiful stuff again sometime soon...

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


I love herringbone patterns. So simple to work – just knits and purls – but such a rich and fascinating result. Perfect for adding textural spice to an easy knit like the Alewives cowl.

The idea behind Alewives was to create a simple cowl using easily memorized stitch patterns, but to make it interesting enough to be fun and engaging. The design features panels of herringbone and panels of garter ridges moving together around the cowl in a rhythmic sequence that keeps the knitting galloping along.

Worked in the round, Alewives is written for two sizes: a 24" / 62 cm diameter single loop, and a 49" / 124 cm loop that can be worn as a long infinity scarf, or doubled around the neck for more warmth. The smaller cowl uses approximately 250 yards of a light worsted yarn. About 500 yards is needed for the longer version. Stitch patterns are provided in both charted and written form.

The sample is worked in Swans Island Natural Colors Merino Worsted, in the Bittersweet color. This glorious organic Merino yarn is spun and hand dyed in Maine using natural dyestuffs and traditional dyeing methods. Their processes create deep, layered, tonal colors that glow with life and subtly enhance stitch patterns. It was a great fit for Alewives.

Okay, so what's an alewife? It's a fat little fish that looks a lot like a herring…. You can find the Alewives cowl pattern in the Blue Bee Studio Ravelry store.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013


A new year calls for a new pattern, and with all the snow we've gotten over the past few weeks, nothing fits the bill like a cozy cowl.

Greenwillow features a dimensional lattice texture accentuated by crisp linear edge details. The pattern is written for two lengths, a simple 21.5" loop, and a 43" loop that can be worn as a long infinity scarf or doubled around the neck for extra warmth.

Knit in String Theory's Blue Faced Sport in Jade, the yarn's subtle tonal variations and incredible luster perfectly complement the latticework pattern.

Greenwillow can be found in the Blue Bee Studio Ravelry store.