Two handknit cabled hats, in shades of cream and green wool, nestle among leaves and rocks.

Choosing a Yarn for the Towline Hat

I recently released my Towline Hat pattern as an individual download. The original hat was knit in handspun yarn, and since not everyone can (or wants to) spin their own yarn, I thought I’d give you a few tips on choosing a commercially-spun yarn for your project.

The yarn I spun for this project isn’t likely to match any millspun yarn exactly – that’s the nature of handspun yarn. But it has a few characteristics I think are important for a successful cable project.

What To Look For In a Yarn

To start with, I recommend using a 3- or 4- ply yarn for this project. The roundness of multiple plies makes the cables pop. I rarely spin a yarn with more than 3 plies, because for my purposed 3 is usually enough to give me a nice round yarn. I added extra twist in plying my handspun to make it extra round and bouncy. Commercially, however, 4-ply yarns are more common, and that will work perfectly.

I also recommend choosing a wool or wool-blend yarn for this project, one with some bounce. Tunis wool is a medium-staple wool with some spring, which, again, helps to make the cables stand out.

Choosing a Commercially-Spun Yarn

For my handspun version (the cream version in the image above), I was working from roving, which is a woolen preparation, and I also spun it with a woolen draft. So I chose to use a woolen-spun commercial yarn as well. You can substitute a worsted-spun yarn, but the result will be somewhat different. Worsted-spun yarn is smoother and has less air, so your cables will have a smoother surface and be denser overall. If you want to see the difference, check out my Golden Hour hat and cowl, which is knit in Valley Yarns Valley Superwash, a smooth worsted-spun yarn.

My handspun always tends to be a bit denser that a similar-weight millspun yarn. In other words, the grist – or yards per pound – is lower than the commerical yarns I chose. It’s always a good idea to try and match the grist when substituting yarn, but that was difficult in this case. Brooklyn Tweed Ranch 02 (above, left), while not the same grist, has a similarly dense feel to my handspun yarn. Brooklyn Tweed Tones (above, right) while it knits to the same gauge, results in a lighter weight fabric. If you want a lighter weight hat that is still lofty and warm, or you live in a warmer climate, Tones is a good choice. In fact, the Tones sample is the one I wear most often here in Central North Carolina; I save my handspun version for our colder, snowy days.

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New Pattern Release – Towline Hat

The Towline Hat is now available as an individual download. Originally published on the Spin Off website, Towline is a cozy cabled hat that harkens back to classic Aran sweaters.

The pattern includes instructions for two adult sizes, and spinning notes for those who would like to make their own handspun version. For the non-spinners, I’ve also included commercially-spun yarn recommendations, and I’ll talk about choosing your yarn in a future post. For the individual pattern I’ve also added an option for a beanie version in addition to the original folded brim, watchcap version. The cables can be worked from charted and written instructions, and all of the cables can be worked without a cable needle. In a worsted/ Aran weight yarn, this hat will knit up quickly and have you ready for fall in no time!

The Towline Hat is available on Ravelry, Payhip and Etsy.

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Fall Knitting Inspiration

We’ve had a spell of cooler weather this week after a period of very hot summer weather, and that has me thinking about fall. I write a lot about knitting and design, but I’ve realized I haven’t written much about where my design inspiration comes from.

I get a lot of my inspiration from my materials – which, after all, is the reason I spend so much time talking and writing about all the wool breeds. I love when a yarn tells me what it wants to be. But I also enjoy looking at other sources to inspire color combinations, silhouettes, and design motifs. Plus, I’m a child of the 80s and early 90s, and I spent a lot of time clipping images from magazines and trying on different clothing combinations.

Given the above, it’s surprising that I’m a bit of a latecomer to the idea of mood boards. I was a bit resistant to them when I first started designing. But for the past couple of years I’ve been using Pinterest to make a fall and spring mood board. It serves as both personal inspiration and inspiration for my designs – I also keep a general inspiration board, which you can see here. Below is my current fall/ winter mood board – it’s still a work in progress, and I won’t really consider it done until I’ve moved on to the next season. (If it doesn’t load for you, follow this link to view.)

I also went through my closet and had a try-on session, testing which items still fit, which I still want to wear, and what I need to set aside for mending or to donate. That helps me to decide what gaps in my wardrobe I want to try to fill, and informs my design planning.

Here are some things that are inspiring me right now:

  • I’m still loving the rich, warm fall colors, as you can see in my choice of palette.
  • Charcoal gray is always a favorite, but I’m especially drawn to it just now.
  • V-neck sweaters – there’s something so classic about them.
  • Turtleneck sweaters – there’s nothing more appealing on the coldest winter days.
  • Cables and texture – these just scream ‘cozy’.
  • More fitted silhouettes – not extremely fitted, but not boxy. Just a relaxed, but streamlined, look.
  • Denim and chambray, paired with the aforementioned fall colors. I’m especially into light- to mid- tone denim washes rather than dark rinse denim just now.

What’s inspiring you right now? Do you enjoy planning your knits for the season ahead? And finally, what would help you to get more joy out of wearing your knits? Hit reply and let me know.

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Wear Your Knits: the Rule of Thirds

In a couple of recent posts (here and here) I shared examples of how I create outfits with my handknit garments. In this post I want to share a tip I often use when putting together outfits with handknits: the rule of thirds. This rule of thumb is based in a concept called the golden ratio.

The golden ratio, is a concept that is used frequently in art, architecture, design, and photography. Here is an illustration, using what is known as a golden rectangle. The golden ratio occurs when the ratio of side a to side b equals the ratio of the total length a+b to side a. (In case you’re interested, the golden ratio is also closely related to the Fibonacci sequence of numbers, which converges toward the golden ratio.)

Numerically, the ratio is equal to approximately 1.618. So proportions of 1/3 to 2/3 are close to this ideal ratio, but so are proportions of 2/5 to 3/5. This means you can also break an outfit into fifths (even though we call it the rule of thirds). Any proportion that is near the golden ratio will appear harmonious to the eye, and the asymmetry creates more movement for the eye than an outfit that is divided in halves.

Using the Rule of Thirds in Outfits

Here is an example of how I use the rule of thirds in my outfits, using the Suora tee. The top is about 1/3 the total length, and the pants about 2/3.

The rule of thirds doesn’t have to apply to every garment in an outfit. If I were to add a cardigan or jacket to this outfit, which I frequently do on cooler mornings, it could be longer than the top and your eye would still register the underlying top-to-pants proportion. You can play with this proportion by tucking in your top, or wearing a cropped sweater over a longer layer underneath. If you’d like to see some other outfit examples, check out this post.

I also use the rule of thirds in designing garments. Below is a photo of my Campus Cardigan sample. As the arrows show, the length of the lower dark gray section of the body is approximately 2/3 the length of the upper medium gray section, or 2/5 of the overall length. The sleeves are the reverse – the dark gray section is approximately 2/3 the length of the sleeve. (The medium gray section is the same length as the medium gray section from the armhole to the top of the stripe on the body, so that the stripes line up when the sweater is worn. But I digress.)

The rule of thirds applied to sweater design. The lower dark gray section of the sweater body is approximately 2/3 the length of the upper medium gray section.

It goes without saying there are no hard and fast rules. Wear whatever looks good to you. But if your knits are stuck in your closet because you can’t figure out how to pair them up with your other garments, the rule of thirds can be a handy trick to help you create outfits you’ll be confident wearing.

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Wear Your Knits – the Suora Tee

This is the second post in my series on how I style my handknit garments. In the first post I wrote about styling my Composure Cardigan. Today, I’ll show you how I wear my Suora tee.

Suora is knit in 100% linen yarn, and makes a versatile T-shirt type wardrobe piece. It can also be worn with a variety of ease, depending on your preference. In the photos I am wearing the sample size (98 cm / 39 inches), which is about 4 inches of ease in my upper chest and 0 inches of ease in the full bust. One of these days I plan to knit myself a larger version to wear more oversized.

How I Wear the Suora Tee

My favorite way to wear Suora is with wide-leg linen or linen-blend pants.

Another favorite outfit is Suora with a midi-length skirt.

Choosing Colors

If you’ve been following this series you may have noticed that I have a lot of denim and chambray in my wardrobe. They make a perfect neutral to wear with many different pieces. I tend to prefer wearing neutrals with a single piece in a bright or rich color or print. One trick I use is to keep a pretty consistent color palette, so that I can easily mix and match pieces. I have just a few pieces in other statement colors to make it interesting.

Stay tuned next week for some tips on how to put together an outfit using your handknits. I hope to continue adding to this series in the future. In the meantime, I’ve started a Pinterest board with handknit outfit ideas.

Would you like to be the first to hear about new patterns and updates? Subscribe to my Monthly Musings newsletter below. As a subscriber, you’ll also receive my free Diagonal Rib Cowl pattern.