Category Archives: mentors

describes my knitting mentors

Barbara Walker update

As I mentioned a week or so ago I am, at least for now, embarking on a project to use the stitches in Barbara Walkers A Treasury of Knitting Patterns. Here are this week’s entries.

My friend Sarah Hood gave me some doll house furniture last weekend, so I got out my skinny yarns and needles and started making some stuff.

To be accessorized....

To be accessorized….

I made a couple of bedspreads from some laceweight alpaca I had kicking around. I used 2 mm needles for the most part, but I had to go down to 1.5 mm needles for the ruched bands on the first one of them. This uses the first stich in Chapter 7 ‘Fancy Texture Patterns’. I crocheted an edging round it before blocking to try to make the stockinette stitch behave itself.
purl side

purl side

knit side

knit side

The second bedspread uses the Double Broken Rib stitch from Chapter 2 ‘Simple Knit-Purl Combinations. I did some garter stitch top, bottom and edges to offset the stitch a little bit.
knit side

knit side

"wrong side"
I also made a hat (surprise, surprise) using Twisted Knit-One Purl One Ribbing from Chapter 7 Ribbings and Broken Rib stitch from Chapter 2 Simple Knit-Purl Combinations. I used Patons Classic Wool (for a change–ha, ha) and cast on 100 stitches using 4.5mm needles. I used 6 points of decrease (sl 1, k2 tog, psso), but only decreased in 5 places the first time to get down to the right number of stitches.
twisted and broken rib watchcap

twisted and mistake rib watchcap

An ode to Stan Wawrinka’s shirt

2015 Australian Open - Day 2

A while ago I was watching the Australian Open tennis and there was a match between Stan Wawrinka and Novak Djokovik. The courts were blue, and both men were wearing blue shirts, a symphony of blue. Being big on colour, I loved the look of the whole thing, but was especially captivated by Stan Wawrinka’s shirt. As you can see, it is deep blue at the bottom, transitions through a light blue in the middle, and into white at the top. Since that day, three of the hats I have made have been trying to capture the feeling of this colour shift.

ribbing folded under

ribbing folded under

These three views show my first attempt. I was just going on the impression I had in my memory of the shirt.

BTW, I will show you more of these sculptural hats I have been doing over the next few weeks. I have been on quite a knitting binge and have a lot of hats in the back of my car getting frozen in case moths may lurk in the house. Did I mention the freezer I bought to keep the hats in…lets just call the car the overflow catcher…freezer is getting full. |I guess I should have bought a bigger one.
This is attempt number 2. I googled Stan (aka my good buddy at this point) and found a picture of the shirt. I thought that while I was happy with the first hat as a hat, I wasn’t sure I captured the colour change. On this hat I got quite literal. I analyzed the colour changes in the shirt from the internet images and recreated them as best I could on the hat. It is hard to get a good impression of the hat because it looks very different from different angles, but it is not really worth looking at too much, because, in my opinion, it doesn’t work. Which brings me to the one I finished yesterday. I put the second hat on the hat form on my coffee table for a couple of days and thought of how I might capture the the colour changes but make it work as a hat. This is what I came up with:

sampler hat

sampler hat

This is the last hat in my ode to Stan Wawrinka series, but my first in the tribute to Barbara Walker series. I have decided to do a kind of Julie/Julia thing with Barbara G. Walkers first book, A Treasury of Knitting Patterns. It has over 500 patterns in it, so I decided to put a whole bunch in the first one. This hat is actually a stitch sampler. From the bottom it covers garter stitch, stockinette stitch (three variations-plain, twited and crossed), seed stitch, moss stitch, double seed stitch, dot stitch, sand stitch and knit 1 purl 1 ribbing. I thought the hat might be a good way to get a lot of the boring stitches over with in one fell swoop. And I am even happy with it as a hat…bonus points!

The rules of the challenge will be that any project must use the next pattern that appears in the book, the caveat being that I can use the next one in any one chapter or several chapters together. This will hopefully give me a modicum of artistic discretion.

Mentors I’ve never met….Charlene Schurch

hatsonMost of what I learned from anyone else about knitting hats, I learned from Charlene Schurch.  I used to own her book Hats On and, before I started making up my own hat designs,  I spent a good year or so knitting and re-knitting hats from it.  In this book, she has a wide variety of hat shapes and sizes.  She uses both colour work and pattern stitches very effectively.

I knitted almost every hat in the book at least once and one particular hat (one that you knit the persons name in), I made over and over again for all kinds of different people.  I know I made that particular hat at least a dozen times.  This is really the only hat book I ever used much.  I think if anyone was going to own only one hat book, this would be a very good choice, even though it was written quite some time ago.   I lost my copy years ago and never actually replaced it because I don’t use patterns anymore myself.  I ordered it from the library so I could write this post and I realize I am still very influenced by her.

Using this book,  I got a really good feeling for how hats work and, after a while, I gained the confidence to strike out on my own and make up my own hats.  I have figured out a lot about hats myself since I started making my own.  I have noticed that she has moved on to socks and other knitting pursuits.  I am still mostly all about the hats myself…

Mentors I’ve never met…Meg Swansen and Elizabeth Zimmerman

I am sure almost every serious knitter who read the title said to themselves ‘how original…they are everyone’s mentors’.  I love what this mother and daughter team has done for the knitting community.  I appreciate the intellectualism that they, together and individually, have fostered in the world of knitting.  My husband Alan bought me Meg Swansen’s book ‘A Gathering of Lace‘ for Christmas because I usually knit a couple of lace shawls a year, mostly from 1860’s patterns to put in the fall fair at work.  The reference pages and construction notes throughout this book are total gems.  Want to know how to knit backwards (entrelac anyone?)…its in 164.  Want to know how many stitches you need to increase to keep your knitting flat?…its in there too..Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Pi Shawl 38.  I used this math formula to keep the brim of my witch’s hat flat.  Worked like a charm…

lace hat from A Gathering of Lace.

lace hat from A Gathering of Lace.

This book contains the pattern for the only hat I have made from someone else’s pattern in several years. Here it is being blocked.  In case you are wondering, that is a 3″ high, 7″ diameter styrofoam cake form blocking the main part of the hat.  These would normally be used for fake wedding cakes and are available anywhere cake decorating supplies are sold. I taught cake decorating for many years and this was kicking around the house.  I thought it would work well for this purpose. This gives you a 22″ hat diameter, which is good for most women.  You could always cinch it in a bit with a decorative ribbon or a hatband if you want.

The hat in the picture and the witch’s hat both have real problems with floppy brims which I need to solve at some point.  But they both look great on a table….Maybe some old fashioned starch will do the trick.  I put some in this hat when I wet it for blocking, but maybe not enough,  The brim sagged almost immediately.

I thought I remembered, back in the 80’s, a show called ‘Knitting with Meg’ on PBS, but I can find no reference to it.  I used to organize my Saturday mornings around it.  I remember being totally psyched that there was actually a show about knitting on TV.  I hope it was her.

Mentors I’ve never met…Barbara Walker

Why knit plain when a pattern stitch will do?

Ist treasury pg 117

A Treasury of Knitting Patterns,  pg 117

A 2nd Treasury, pg 56

A 2nd Treasury of Knitting Patterns, pg 56


(slightly modified from) A 2nd Treasury of Knitting Patterns, pg 138

This is the first of a few posts I plan to write about the women who have influenced me most as a knitter,  I think first and foremost it would have to be Barbara G. Walker.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with her she wrote, among other things, the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Treasuries of Knitting Patterns.  All these books are (deservedly)  still in print even though the first treasury was originally published in 1968.  I bought my first copy of A Treasury of Knitting Patterns back in the 70’s.  It is now in two pieces and quite dogeared.  Even though it is thankfully made with sewn signatures, so will not drift apart page by page, I have purchased a pristine backup copy that stays on the bookshelf JUST IN CASE.   I rarely start a hat without opening at least one of her books, and when nothing is coming to me, I browse through her books and find a pattern stitch to jump off from.  I long ago gave up tagging designs to use in the future…I always had too many bits of paper in the books, and when I went to the page I couldn’t decide which of the stitches the tag was for anyway…

The 3rd treasury is also called Charted Knitting Designs. If you are an avid knitter, even if you are not familiar with the book, you are familiar with her concept of charted designs. The great thing for me about using this book, when I do, is that I don’t have to chart out the designs myself.  When I use the 1st and 2nd treasuries, I always have to translate either into charting or in my head so that I can knit the pattern stitch in the round.  The instructions in the first two treasuries are for knitting back and forth on straight needles.

I am sure it will take me the rest of my life to plumb the depths of these books.  Thank you Ms. Walker for writing them.