Choosing Colors for the S’mores Cowl

The S'mores Cowl, a handknit cowl featuring classic Fair Isle X's and O's

Now that the S’mores Cowl has been released as an individual pattern, I wanted to share some tips on how to choose colors for colorwork knitting. I designed the S’mores Cowl to be a good pattern for knitters who are new to colorwork. I chose two simple motifs and just three colors, varied the background and foreground colors and pattern placement to achieve a more complex look without being intimidating to knit. The pattern achieves variation by first switching the background color while keeping the same color in the foreground, and then going back to the original color combination but switching the background and foreground colors.

I’ve knit two sample cowls, one in more neutral colors (above) and one in brighter colors (below), to show different options. Although the final look is quite different, I used the same process to choose both sets of colors.

The most important thing you need to look at is the contrast in your color choice. Both sample cowls use two darker colors for the background and a lighter color for the foreground. This is more obvious in the neutral sample (let’s call it Sample #1), but if you look at the colors for Sample #2 in black and white, you can see it’s true for that one as well. Although they are all ‘bright’ colors, the yellow appears lighter in the black and white photo. You could also reverse this and use lighter colors for the background and a darker color for the motif.

What if you want to knit a pattern with more than three colors? I used four colors in my Rionnag Cowl and Hat (below) patterns and varied the contrast levels a bit within motifs. In that case, I paired two lighter colors as either the background or motif colors, one dark color, and one brighter color – the brighter color is in between the light and dark colors in grayscale, so can be paired with either one. Another trick I used to choose the colors for the Rionnag samples is that I essentially used only three colors – three hues in color terminology, but for the fourth color I picked a different shade of one color. So in the blue and yellow sample, I chose light gray, yellow, and two shades of blue. For the other sample, I choose a warmer light gray, orange and again light blue – and for the fourth color I chose a brown, which you can think of as being a darker shade of orange. By keeping two of the colors in the same family you can keep the pattern from looking too busy. You can see this in traditional Shetland and Fair Isle colorwork – using many shades in the same color family to achieve the subtle gradations that style of knitting is known for.

I hope these tips help to make choosing colors less intimidating. Please share your projects using #BullockOzkanDesigns and #SmoresCowl or #RionnagHatAndCowl. I’d love to see what you create! For more tips like this subscribe to my newsletter below. You’ll also receive a discount code for 30% off an individual pattern in my Ravelry shop.

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Announcements: Fasten Off YAL and a New Shopping Option

A handknit cowl, hat, cardigan, and socks.

A quick post with a couple of updates. First, when I released the Winding Stream Socks pattern, I decided to test out a new purchase option using Payhip. I’m happy to report that I am now slowly adding my other downloadable patterns to my Payhip site. This offers another option for purchasing my patterns off Ravelry, in addition to Etsy and LoveCrafts. I’m also hoping this will offer a way to easily purchase patterns through my website – it won’t be a full web shop, but you’ll be able to click through from the website straight to the pattern you want to purchase.

Second, the first ever Fasten Off YAL kicked off on Wednesday, and runs through December 5th. I am participating along with 90+ other knit and crochet designers. The Fasten Off YAL is taking place entirely off Ravelry, with community discussion being hosted on Discord. Click the button below to get all the details and join the fun. There will of course be prizes, and they’ve also created a special playlist on Spotify and there is even a bingo card. Through December 5th most of my participating patterns are 25% off with the code FO2020 on Etsy, Payhip, and Ravelry. Most of my patterns available as individual patterns are included, and you can see the full bundle in my Etsy shop.


How To Work a Cable Pattern Without the Chart

One of the things I love about knitting cables is they look much more complicated than they actually are. Yes, you can create really complicated cable charts, but at their most basic, cables are simple stitches knit out of order so that they cross over one another. You either hold a set of stitches to the front or back on a cable needle; or, if working without a cable needle you simply rearrange the stitches on your working needles.

The Winding Stream Socks have a cable chart that, with only 10 stitches, is simple enough you may not even have to look at the chart once you’ve worked through it once. All you need is to be able to ‘read’ the knitting, and you can anticipate what comes next. If you look closely at the chart, you can see that it breaks down into a series of just six steps, repeated over and over again. Let’s look at the chart for the left sock.

The cable chart starts with 3 columns of knit stitches, separated by purl stitches. I’ve color-coded them in the charts below: red, blue and green. These columns ‘travel’ toward each other and then cross over and under each other to form the pattern, and you only have to worry about one or two crosses at a time. The steps are as follows:

Step 1. The red and blue columns travel toward each other, crossing in front of the background purl stitches between (left and right 2/1 purl crosses). Meanwhile the green column simply continues on it’s merry way.

Cable Illustration Step 1

Step 2. The blue stitches cross in front of the red. (2/2 left cable cross)

Cable Illustration Step 2

Step 3. The blue and red columns now need to move apart again; this time the blue continues moving to the left and the red is on the right. (2/1 left and right purl crosses)

Cable Illustration Step 3

Step 4. Now the red column continues straight ahead and it’s the green column’s turn to join the dance. The blue and green stitches move towards each other, again crossing in front of the purl stitches between (more left and right purl crosses).

Cable Illustration Step 4

Step 5. The green stitches cross in front of the blue stitches. (2/2 right cable cross)

Cable Illustration Step 5

Step 6. The green and blue stitches move away from each other, crossing in front of the purl stitches between. (left and right purl crosses)

Cable Illustration Step 6

Now even thought the colors have switched around, the order of knit and purl stitches is the same as at the beginning, and we’re ready to start the repeat again.

I’ve created a little animation of this to show the flow of the stitches across the work (full disclosure – I wrote this post just so I could have an excuse to play with animation):

It helps to remember two ‘rules’ for this chart: 1) There is a ‘rest round’ in between every round with cable crosses. On those rounds you simply knit the knits and purl the purls as they present themselves; and 2) Knit stitches always cross over purl stitches.

The chart for the right sock works exactly the same, only you work steps 4-6 first and then steps 1-3. Once you understand how the cable works, you can start to anticipate which cable cross occurs next. It may seem difficult at first, but with a bit of practice you can get into the flow and work the pattern without the chart!

Please do leave a comment if you found this helpful, and let me know what other tips and tricks you’d like to see.

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Kerry models the blue Winding Stream Socks while wearing cuffed jeans against red brick stairs.

New Pattern Release – Winding Stream Socks

I’ve finally released a pattern that has been on the back burner for some time – the Wandering Stream Socks. I had a skein of hand dyed yarn I bought as a souvenir on a trip to Estes Park, Colorado (as one does). I wanted a pattern that would be a bit more fun to knit than plain stockinette or ribbing, and that would show off the variegated yarn without overwhelming it. So I decided on a simple cable pattern offset by purl stitches, with a short-row heel to avoid interrupting the flow of the colors. The socks are knit toe up, with both charted and written instructions for the cable, and are sized for toddler through adult XL feet.

Close-up of the left sock showing the German short row heel.

The Winding Stream Socks pattern is 15% off until November 8th. Newsletter subscribers – keep an eye on your inbox for a 30% discount code.

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Thoughts On Sustainability In Crafting

This past weekend I had a chance to listen to a panel on ‘Sustainability in the Crafting Community’ during the virtual NY Sheep and Wool Festival. The panel was presented by Merritt Bookstore and included Kathy Hattori, Clara Parkes, Sonya Philip, Katrina Rodabaugh, Adrienne Rodriguez, Hannah Thiessen, and Kristine Vejar. A wide range of approaches was discussed, and I thought this would be a good time to reflect further on my thoughts around this topic, which is one of my core values as a crafter and business owner.

Topics on the panel ranged from mending to mindful use of materials to thrifting and natural dyeing. Here are some ways I personally try to be more sustainable in both my crafting and my design work:

  1. Being mindful about what I make and how much material I purchase and use. I love to make (and design) sweaters, but honestly I’m not sure how many sweaters I personally need right now. So maybe this year I will make other things that I need or that I can gift. I also don’t stash a lot of yarn, and I try to buy a project quantity of yarn so that I don’t have all those odd single skeins no one knows what to do with. I generally have at least an idea whether I might actually make socks with that yarn I’m eyeing or whether I will need a sweater or shawl quantity, and I purchase accordingly.
  2. Designing and knitting things I will wear for a long time. This means being less trendy and more timeless in my style choices, and choosing details and finishing techniques that will help a garment to wear well. For me it also often means knitting with finer yarn on smaller needles. Not everyone enjoys knitting sweaters with fingering weight yarn on US #3 needles, but it has the added benefits of giving me more hours of knitting enjoyment per project and is often more economical as well, since finer yarns contain more yardage per skein.
  3. Using (mostly) good quality, natural fiber materials. This is probably one of the first aspects most people think about when they think about sustainability. Not only do these materials last a long time, but when they’ve reached the end of their life they can be more easily broken down. That doesn’t mean I never use sock yarn that contains nylon, or superwash yarn for a gift meant for someone who throws everything in the wash. (My sister-in-law is notorious for shrinking sweaters.) And I won’t judge you for using acrylic yarn if it’s what you’re going to wear for a long time. If there was one main takeaway from the panel, it’s that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to sustainability. It’s about making mindful choices. I personally happen to love wool and linen especially, so that is what I use.
  4. Using local and breed-specific yarn. This is something I am really passionate about – there is an astonishing variety of wool textures and natural colors available if you look beyond large scale commercial processors, and as a designer it keeps me endlessly inspired. I can find some really nice yarn from farms that are local to me, and buying yarn from different sheep breeds helps keep those breeds from dying out, maintaining genetic diversity. It also means I can find wools that are suited to a variety of purposes! There are definitely supply chain issues with producing these yarns affordably, as was discussed in the panel, and and I encourage you to read Clara Parkes’ book Vanishing Fleece to learn more. It can be a challenge to design with yarns that aren’t widely distributed and may vary from year to year, but despite these issues I am hoping to design more with local yarns in the near future.

What are your favorite tips for being more sustainable with your crafting?

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