Monday, November 29, 2010

Knit Simple Winter 2010/11

Meet the "coatigan." It's a piece I designed for Knit Simple's Winter issue which will be on newstands in a few weeks. Rose Callahan took the beautiful photos for this issue. Carla Scott, editor-in-chief, has put together an amazing issue, These are pieces I'd love to knit, if only I had the time!

The sweater coat is something I love to wear. This particular piece has a really simple elegance, while being fun -- to knit and to wear. I especially like the bold ribbing and the easy-to knit i-cord closures. It's knit in one piece from the top down, seamlessly, with raglan sleeves.

This is the first time I've done a top down piece and I had an interesting time doing it. I had to make my brain think "upside down." I guess it's kind of like learning to use your other hand to write. It is a completely new way of thinking about a piece. Usually, when I design bottom-up in pieces, crossback numbers are subtracted from bust numbers, and those numbers become the decreases, evenly divided between the two edges of the front or back. When designing top-down, in the round, the crossback and bust numbers are still critical, but you're adding in the upper arm measurements and increasing in multiples of 8, for each side of the front and back "seams" of the raglan sleeves, and in multiples of 4, for each side of the side "seams." Multiples of 8 and 4, of course are another "something" to think about. The things I absolutely LOVED about this way of knitting and designing is that I could try it on as I knit, and that when I was finished knitting, there were NO SEAMS.
(My submission sketch)

Am I a convert to top-down knitting? Not yet, but I wouldn't say never. Seamless knitting? You bet. In fact, I'm designing another two somethings seamlessly, bottom-up; one with set-in sleeves and the other a yoke sweater -- both to come out sometime in mid- to late January.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

At last…

The pattern I wrote about last month, Jamberry, is finally being published today. It was a long time coming, since I began writing this pattern back in September and it is a small piece of knitting as knitting goes.

jamberry Pro8

My inspiration for this was some yarn I purchased in the city in August. It’s Trensetter’s Vigna. I admired it at Gotta Knit and had to have it, although I had already spent more than enough at another yarn shop earlier in the day. When the owner asked what I was making with it, I said without thinking, “a little girl’s dress.” I don’t know what made me say it, since my “little girl” is now 17, but I believe in fate, so it had to be. The pattern is named after one of my children’s favorite books (when they were littler, of course) by Bruce Degen.

I’ve always admired Debbie Bliss children’s patterns because they’re so roomy. I wanted to make this dress comfortable for the wearer because I remember fussiness in clothes and small children rarely go together. I also wanted to make it pretty without being “overdone.” The dress has lace at the hem, bodice band and sleeves. Other than that, it’s all stockinette. It’s a quick knit, so why the delay?Jamberry Pro2

The dress is knit from the bottom up, in the round to the armholes – easy. The sleeves are just lace rectangles with no shaping – easy. The tricky part for me was working out the calculations for an odd number of stitches to be split (twice) after the bodice band and for dividing the back bodice to be split for the button opening. (In addition, I was in the middle of changing my full-time job and working out the logistics of that, too. It’s been worked out satisfactorily now, but was touch and go for awhile.)

The delay also comes because this is the first time I’ve used a tech editor AND test knitters. I’ve been reading a lot on Ravelry these days about tech editors, but didn’t think I could afford one. Now I don’t think I can afford NOT to have one. Jaya, who was wonderful, did the tech editing for me, and looking at her spreadsheets, got me to bite the bullet and sit down to use Excel myself for my patterns. She was well-worth her fee. I also used a fantastic group of test knitters from Ravelry – Amy, Beverly, Carina, Courtney, Heather, and Rose. They were enormously helpful and caught mistakes that I didn’t, as well as kindly letting me use some of their beautiful pictures. Some designers say they use either a tech editor or test knitters. I think both for me.

Thjamberry Pro9is comes to the final reason Jamberry was delayed…no 2-year-old to model the dress. All of my friends have children around my daughter’s age. I don’t have grandchildren and the one 2-year-old girl in my extended family is extremely tall for her age. Enter my good friend, Sima, who happened not only to have a two-year-old in her neighborhood, but an extremely talented photographer, Lauren, living nearby as well. (Check out Lauren’s website.) Meet the beautiful and talented Samantha K. Isn’t she gorgeous? She did an awesome job and don’t you love the pink, Dorothy-esque shoes? Big thanks to her mom, Karen, for allowing her to do this.

Jamberry Pro5

The pattern is available through Ravelry. Specs below:

Finished sizes

To fit baby/child’s sizes 12 months (18 months, 2, 4, 6).

Finished measurements:

  • chest: 22¾ (22¾, 24½, 26, 28¼)”
  • length: 16½ (18, 19¾, 21¾ , 24)”


5 (5, 7, 8, 9) balls Trendsetter Yarns “Vigna” color 540 (Grape Jelly) – 95 yds/50 g or 442 (468, 615, 725, 860) yards worsted weight yarn


  • Size 7 (4.5 mm) circular needle, 16” long (for sizes 12 mo., 18 mo. and 2) or 24” long (all other sizes)
  • Size 9 (5.5 mm) circular needle, 16” long (for sizes 12 mo., 18 mo. and 2) or 24” long (all other sizes)
  • Size I (5.5 mm) crochet hook


  • stitch holders or waste yarn
  • stitch markers
  • tapestry needle
  • one ½“ button


  • 19 sts and 27 rows = 4”/10 cm over stockinette stitch with size 9 (5.5 mm) needles
  • 20 sts and 27 rows = 4”/10 cm over branching lace with size 7 (4.5 mm) needles

Skills needed: working in the round, increasing and decreasing.

(All photos in this post © Lauren Shay Lavin 2010)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Spectacle Lake

Just a quick post on a tiny new design -- the Spectacle Lake Mitts.

The mitts are named after one of my very favorite places, a short walk from my home. Although it's surrounded by private homes, there is a quiet bridge from which to observe its beauty, especially during autumn.

This yarn Prism's Merino Mia warranted something beautiful and elegant. The color, Moss, is the loveliest gold-ish green. Just let me say, I love mitts in general, not only for how quickly they work up, but also because at this time of year, I am always cold, particularly hands and feet. I love having something soft and lovely wrapped around my hands.

Thanks to Joe for the photography and to Sima for the yarn enabling on our last trip to String.
Update on Jamberry: Just waiting for final modeled pictures before this pattern goes live as well.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Party Dress

Today I feel lighter -- not physically, mentally. There have been many new things happening in my life which I will share when I can sort it all out in my head, but until then, the new thing that I can share is this ~ Jamberry. It's a little girl's dress, designed in sizes from 12 months to 6 years.

This time around I am going to see about having it tech edited as well as test knit. I'd like to streamline the process once I get the ball rolling on coming out with more self-published patterns.

There was something about this yarn, Vigna by Trendsetter Yarns. When I saw it at Gotta Knit this August, I immediately envisioned the dress. Even though I don't have a little girl who could wear it, I had to make it. I'm hoping to have it ready for publication by the end of the month, just in time for the winter party season.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Exotic Wood and Chinaberry, a New Pattern

When I was a girl, my dad worked as a machinist in a lumberyard in the Bronx. He used to come home smelling of sawdust. I loved that smell -- maybe it was dad, maybe it was the wood.

Every once in a while he would bring home a special bag. Inside would be small blocks of the exotic hardwoods that the lumberyard handled. There would be babinga, ebony, mahogany and teak. There were so many, I could never keep track, but it was a great lesson in geography because he used to tell us where each tree grew, and we would find it in the atlas. I don't think he ever brought home any wood from the Chinaberry tree, but it sounds exotic enough that he would have. It grows in China (of course), as well as Australia and India. The tree yields small purple or yellow flowers that look like bells. These bells remind me of the lace on my newest pattern, Chinaberry.

This pattern took some time to develop. I wanted to take the leap into self-publishing and I had some ideas, sketched out. I decided on one. Chinaberry started out as this sketch:
As you can see, it was originally meant to be sleeveless, and it still may have an incarnation as that, but for this piece I wanted sleeves. After the pattern was written and the prototype was knit (see post from July 25th), I had some lovely women test knit the pattern. A huge thank you to Deb (jstdt3t), Liz (oddlizard), Rose (rosejulia1), Connie (faeriesandpixies), Louise (louiseclsc171260) and Elly (iknitcupcakes) for the many, many hours they took to not only knit the pattern, but find my errors and keep me grounded in reality. Without their support and encouragement, I'm not sure I'd ever have had the courage to self-publish.

Then, of course, came the pattern layout. I'd been working on parts of the design layout all summer. I knew what I wanted my patterns to look like, but it took me the better part of this month to tweak it down to what I envisioned.

Yesterday, my husband and I took a ride to the beach on the Long Island Sound near where we live for the photoshoot with out new camera. The day was fantastic for late September -- 80's and sunny (and just a little bit sad because you know you won't be getting many more like it). I love the light in the autumn. Although my hair leaves much to be desired (appointment next week, Nicole, are you listening?), I think the pictures were wonderful. So, thanks Joe for being so supportive.

Chinaberry is an elegant, easy-to-wear, three-season lace pullover in five sizes (S, M, L, 1X, 2X). It features set-in sleeves, high jewel neck and center front placket. Simple lace adorns the yoke, cuffs and bottom band. All pieces are knit flat, bottom up and seamed. The pattern is written in table format for ease in following directions.

It's available to download now through Ravelry.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Kidney Pie and the End of Summer

Today is unofficially the last day of summer -- in all possible ways. I always try to pack in all the fun I can between Memorial Day and Labor Day. This year we did the "'burgs." Williams in July with good friends and Gettys in August with husband and sons. I spent serious time in the city (NY), yarn-shop hopping with a good friend. We beached, picnicked, lolled around the pool, walked, ran, played ball, bbq'ed, movie'd and assorted other things. Unfortunately there were many things we wanted to do, but didn't. There's always next year, but...

as they say, all good things come to an end...

Today is the end. Tomorrow we all start school. I'm changing grades, sons (both) are moving up to different schools and daughter is a senior. As much as we all have something to look forward to, no one wants to leave summer behind.

Yesterday we spent the day at our cousins' beach house in Mattituck. It was a beautiful day, weatherwise and otherwise. Today we tried to have fun with a family bbq, but we all kind of moped.

To cheer myself up, I finished a new pattern, the Kidney Pie Cap.

Beautiful daughter is modeling. (It was hard to get her to laugh today, but we managed. She even managed to get me to laugh when she did this "supermodel?!" face.) The pattern is free on Ravelry. It was the first time I worked with Tahki Torino Bulky and I loved it!!! It feels so lightweight for a bulky. I bought two skeins when I was at Gotta Knit in NYC in June. My friend, Sima, laughed because I'm forever buying yarn to swatch with, but I have to try it out, y'know? I knew I wanted to make a hat with this. Unfortunately for me, I think this sample has now disappeared into one of daughter's drawers. The pattern is super stretchy because of the ktbl nature of the ribbing. So even though this measures a mere 15" around, when worn it will fit a variety of sizes, my head (22 1/2" - watermelon) or daughter's (20 1/2" - macintosh). There might be another one in the works for me.

The cap is relatively simple to work. Both the cables and the lace are easy repeats. However, when it came to shaping, I knew I didn't want to interrupt the cables or the lace too much. The decreases are not stacked in this one, but my goal of having the pattern follow through to the top of the cap was met.

The short version of how this cap got its name: My grandfather used to call a brain, kidneys. Of course he knew the difference, but it had something to do with a comedy act he had heard or seen. The running joke among my family is to say "use your kidneys" if you're doing something stupid for which you should think more carefully, thus -- Kidney Pie -- a cap to warm your brain!

Friday, August 27, 2010


I don't like secrets. I don't like having them. Most of the time, I wish I didn't know them. Sometimes, I think if I don't tell them, I'll explode. But, in this case, I have to keep it

For the last 23 days I have been writing the pattern for and knitting a design for a magazine. I originally submitted the idea in the winter of 2009. (Yes, that is not a typo -- '09). My submission book was out there, and I didn't ask for it back until this spring. When I did, they sent it back, but, with my permission, made copies of the sketches and told me that if the ideas were taken by another publication, then, of course, they would understand. Within the next few weeks, they called me to ask about using one of those designs.

I'm really excited about this sweater, in particular because it's the first one I've designed and knit completely from the top down and seamlessly. If you read my post from June 6, 2010, you'll remember that I was doing my own top down work. I was excited, but found it difficult to "think" upside down.

Well, I'm happy to report that it wasn't as hard as I thought. Maybe it's the pressure of a deadline or maybe it's just that I NEEDED to do it, but it really worked out! And, I'm quite pleased with the results. Unfortunately, I can only tease you with this... and this...

I've knitted sweaters seamlessly before, but they've been bottom up. I enjoyed knitting this (even though I only had a few weeks to do it) and can definitely see the advantages of knitting top down. As far as the design process, it still requires the same sets of numbers, and you really need to think about how you want to handle increases before you set out. I think that these were my two stumbling blocks back in June. All in all, I think I learned a lot and I'm happy with the finished piece. I have a funny name for this piece, which I will reveal if the editors choose not to use it.

In other news, I was able to get some help for my Chinaberry pullover in the form of 6 wonderful test knitters. They are a lovely group of women. I am having a lot of fun working with them. I'll be posting more about the whole experience when the pattern is released through Ravelry in late September.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Penmanship Cowl

As an elementary school teacher, the end of August is always a sad and exciting time. Sad because summer is truly the best season of all for me. I love everything about it including this summer's sweltering temperatures. I know that autumn is coming, bit by bit, tiptoeing into our evenings. It's also exciting because I get to begin a new year, with plenty of eager minds to enjoy -- a fresh start, just as the earth is rounding its way toward its final quarter spin around the sun.

In honor of the beginning of school, I have a new (free) pattern on Ravelry - the Penmanship Cowl.

In 4th grade I had what was then known as an "open" classroom. Two teachers, 50 kids, and a huge physical space. I didn't like it, but I liked Mrs. Falsone. She taught us penmanship. By the 4th grade we were eager to write in "script." The curlicues of the cables reminded me of those curved lines we looped all over the page. The openwork is reminiscent of the dots that filled the paper showing you where you were to begin and end each letter and word.

Monday, August 9, 2010

EZ @ 100

Perhaps this has been said thousands of times before but, Elizabeth Zimmermann changed my life for the better. Dover Publishing which published Knitter's Almanac is located in Mineola, Long Island, not far from where I grew up and this book was the first of EZ's that I purchased. I think I drifted into the Dover facility and noticed the "Knitter's" in the title and picked it up. I'd never heard of EZ before. It was (and still is) unlike any other knitting book I had read. It is a novel, with patterns inserted into the narrative. I fell in love with Elizabeth. My maternal grandmother was the only member of my family to knit. She passed away when I was 3, so I never had a chance to learn from her. Elizabeth was the grandmother I was missing -- not only for her knitting talent, but for her spirit, her energy, her sense of humor, and most of all, her attitude -- the "do what you want and see what happens." I felt like she was writing just for me.

I went on to Knitting Without Tears. This book is a liberation of the mind (and needles). Her EPS system is revolutionary -- the Newtonian principles of knitting. Finally when I began designing, I purchased the rest of her titles** -- Knitting Around and Knitting Workshop. The latter is my all-time favorite Zimmermann book. If you have the opportunity to view/purchase the DVD that goes along with this book, DO IT. It is more entertaining than most feature films and you will learn more in those few hours (about knitting, about life, about family) than you will in years of living. I could watch this DVD twice a month and never grow tired of it. I feel like I know her. I miss her -- isn't that strange -- missing someone you've never met?

Anyway, today would have been Elizabeth's 100th birthday. Happy 100th, Elizabeth!

"Knit on, with confidence and hope, through all crises."

** Also, read "The Opinionated Knitter" -- even though Elizabeth is listed as the author, it is Elizabeth's daughter Meg Swansen's homage to her mother. Wonderful!

Sunday, July 25, 2010


This is the Chinaberry Pullover. I have been working on this pattern for the last few weeks. As usual, it takes me almost as long to write the pattern as it does to knit it.

The original design idea started out as a sleeveless pullover in linen or silk and it may still become that, but I wanted something a little more versatile for the fall (when the oppressive heat of June/July '10 will be just a memory). I wanted to try it on, but it is closing in on 100 degrees in the Northeast today. I just can't.

I also want to have this test-knit before the pattern goes public. This is the Medium (36"), but I would like to have it checked for accuracy in the other sizes (33, 39, 42 and 44"). I am going to use a Ravelry group that I heard about through another designer. The issue is -- I will be away this coming week with spotty internet service. Do I just go for it or do I wait until I come back? I'm a little apprehensive....

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Love is a drug

Pssst. Do you need a fix?

This is the absolute truth. I have NEVER used an illegal drug. I'd like to say that up front. I'd like to say the reason is because I am a completely law-abiding citizen. In truth, the reason is because I like to have my wits about me. I don't like to think about not being in control. However, yarn is quite a different story. I am not in control around yarn. I don't know what it is about the stuff, but today I knew I needed to buy some. It needed to be the good stuff. I have enough good stuff. I needed more.

Over the past days, I'd been cruising the area looking for a dealer. I hit a couple of local places, but everything was ordinary. Today, however, I found IT. It was definitely not ordinary for these parts!

Everything was lovely. I left in a mind-altered state. I was high on yarn. Although I only bought 5 skeins of Madelinetosh Vintage and a skein of Lamb's Pride Bulky (for a contrast I'm doing on a pair of mittens), I'll definitely be back. Ann was so warm and friendly. It turns out, she and her partner, Katy, are people I've "met" through their blogs, which I've been reading since the pre-Ravelry days. They are my new enablers.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Studying Knitwear Design

One of the things I believe about designing is this: Knitting other people's designs is good for you.

I make a real effort to think about what the designer was thinking when I knit the pattern. There's usually a lot you can learn, especially if you're knitting the work of a good designer. Take Anne Hanson, for example. I have been reading her blog, knitspot, for quite a while. When I saw her latest design, les Abeilles, and noticed that it could be knitted in a "mini" version, I knew I had to try it, even though I'm in the middle of a design of my own.

Anne's design is a work of beauty, both in elegance and simplicity. The lace at the neck is added at the edges as you work up from the bottom edge to the neck. The lace in the body of the shawl forms an organically delicate bottom edge. What I learned about my own design work from Anne's is that simple is often better -- not only because it makes the knitting more enjoyable, but also because it makes the finished piece more beautiful. Sometimes I get bogged down in complications and the solution is to simplify.

I knit this up in Shibui sock in the seaweed colorway. I love this yarn, but one of the two skeins I used had so many sections that were unevenly spun. This has never happened to me before with this yarn, but because of this, there were a lot of joins.

I'd definitely knit this up again and I'd like to try it in a slightly larger size (there are two others -- petite and tall).

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Still me

I have finally decided to take a leap -- new name, new logo (which took me the better part of the day to create). After contemplating where I want to go with my design work, I came up with a list of things I should do. This was one (actually two, if you count the logo).

I'll be back when this "paint" headache goes away.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Friend + Yarn + NYC + Summer = Happy

I spent the day Wednesday with my knitting friend, Sima. We met 7 years ago at a design class with Shirley Paden. Sima and I have been in sporadic contact over those last 7 years as both she and I were published, however we reconnected at the launch party for Shirley's book earlier this year.

We decided to meet up in Manhattan which is a mid-point for us -- she lives in New Jersey, I live on Long Island. We had the loveliest time at lunch talking about design ideas and projects that each of us is working on. Unfortunately I didn't bring a camera. (I always forget my camera!)

After lunch, we decided to walk downtown to the new store location of Purl Soho, which opened in April. Both of us had been to their tiny original store. It was a 3 mile walk, but since the weather was gorgeous and we were chatting, the time passed quickly. When we arrived we spent some time looking around. I was impressed at the books they had for sale, which were a collection of both newly published and classic knitting books.

Sima suggested we head uptown to two yarn stores she frequents -- Knitty City on West 79th and The Yarn Co. on Broadway and 82nd -- so we hopped on the C train. It was my first time at both of these stores. I loved them both. Knitty City had a beautiful selection of yarn and was "hopping." The stores work table at the back was a lively group of women. However, Sima knew there would be sales at The Yarn Co., so we walked the few blocks farther uptown. It was quieter there, but Sima was right, there was a great sale. I ended up with a few balls of each of three yarns to swatch, two new "Rebecca"s and a circular needle holder that I had been eye-ing forever. The Yarn Girls -- Julie and Jordana were both lovely. We planned to go back to Knitty City, but I was pressed for time and needed to get home.

Sima and I made tentative plans to meet up again in August for something similar. We also talked about heading to Rhinebeck in October. Thanks, Sima. I had a great time!!!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Lace Pullover Chart

It seems that when this pattern was published, there was no chart. For those who would like the chart, here it is:

Lace Pullover chart

Hope that helps!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

I am not apologizing...

...but 3 years is a long time between posts.

I finished reading Wendy Bernard's book, Custom Knits about a month ago. It was a great read and I'm fascinated with working from the top down. Her designs are beautiful, inspirational. So, I decided to try designing my own top-down. The idea is for a short sleeve raglan tee, with a v-neck and some colorwork in Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece. I've just passed the armholes and am deciding on the placement of the colorwork bands. I have to say, I love the idea of not having to seam, and the raglan detail is beautiful, but...

I keep turning the thing right-side up (or upside-down) depending on how you think of it because my brain is so unused to working this way. I keep thinking of that film they showed us in high school biology where they fiddle with a person's vision so that he's seeing everything upside down. This is after they've taught you that the eye actually sees everything upside down and the brain flips it so that your perspective is correct. (I think that's what I learned, anyway.) I wonder if I knit this way long enough if I will eventually learn to "see" the sweater in it's correct perspective.

Anyway, I'm not liking it. It's like learning to write with your non-dominant hand. Uncomfortable. But I totally can see why it could become someone's preferred way of knitting.

In other news, I have a design in the current Vogue Knitting, Early Fall 2010. Eyelet. V-neck. Pullover. The eyelet pattern was easily memorized. I finished writing the pattern quickly -- Vogue is now only requiring the pattern be written in the sample size. The sweater was knit up in about 3 weeks. These are my photos of the sample before it was packed off to Soho.

Rose Callahan did a beautiful job photographing the sweater for Vogue, but I think the model was a little too broad-shouldered because the neckline in my photos is more what I intended -- a narrower v-neck that notches at the top to form a scoop.

I'm tweaking my Ravelry page and have made a mid-year resolution to try to be "good" about keeping things current.

It's almost summer vacation and I have plans for knitting/designing in the works.