Category: process

Extra! Extra!

The Destination collection was released by Blue Sky Alpacas earlier this summer and I was happy to contribute to this curious new series with my own adventure. I’ve got to think of my design and play with the new yarn while still in Japan. And even though I’ve traveled a lot and seen so many landmarks and architectural wonders that inspire me, somehow I ended up with the image of Tokyo Tower to remind me of my life in Japan. Particularly the last months of my residence I have gotten to greet the tower as my old friend over coffee and a baked treat while en route to teaching my classes. Painted in brightest orange red, my favorite color, it feels soothing and majestic at the same time. In earlier days we’ve visited the landmark and even went up it, but also once going up Mori Tower observation deck in Roppongi Hills, it presented a great view of my “friend”. It’s also hard to miss, Tokyo streets are quite easy to get lost at as there are no street names or numbering system that might make sense to a westerner, so Tokyo Tower saved us with its beacon several times.


Once folks at Blue Sky Alpacas supplied me with a challenge of presenting a design reflecting Japan, I didn’t have to think long that it would be the favorite landmark. Then it was onto the task which technique to use and how I would portray it. I’ve chosen lace on a solid knit fabric to give the outlines of the Tokyo Tower simply that it was one of the ways using only 1 skein of yarn of new scrumptious Extra and produce a wearable quick accessory. But also since I don’t get to see my “friend” anymore every week, it almost looks like a fizzing image in my head.. it’s there, but so far far away! It was a beautiful memento, which makes me think of Japan every time I put it on.


New yarn – EXTRA – comes in an exciting palette to satisfy probably the pickiest knitter with tons of neutrals (I’d take all the greys, please!) and vibrant brights that are always great for quick gifts and bigger garments. The yarn comes in hefty 150 gram skeins which is enough for almost any accessory and the nice tight twist is great for exploring the range of various gauges. I would go from US 8 (5mm) to US 11 (8mm) and it will still render beautiful fabric once washed. The baby alpaca content gives the slight fuzz and extra warmth while merino provides a great drape and structure. Tokyo Tower Bandana compiles elements of a cowl and a triangular shawl in one. Worked top down, first in the round, then flat. It still might rank among TV knitting, but only in the beginning, the lace part is custom and quite tricky so might require more concentration on that part.

TokyoTower-6_960x1281photography © Blue Sky Alpacas


photography © Blue Sky Alpacas

And now onto even more fun part of this post! A giveaway and a Knit-A-Long announcement! I understand that getting your hands on new and exciting yarns and patterns is not always that easy, thankfully team at Blue Sky Alpacas understands that and  kindly sponsored this giveaway! I am giving away 2 skeins of Extra accompanied with my Tokyo Tower Bandana printed pattern in a cool new format that includes photography of the details and beautiful layout and packaging.

Just leave a comment below, making sure to link to your contact information, letting me know which is your favorite landmark that you might have grown up around or encountered during your travels by end of Sunday, August 17th. And I will announce the winners on Monday, August 18th.

Concurrently, starting Monday, August 18th I will also run a week long Knit-A-Long in Friends of Blue Sky Alpacas group on Ravelry. So please join me as we knit our Tokyo Tower Bandanas in which mine will, of course, be grey.


linen bird

As I mentioned in the last blog post the urge for something new and linen-y has been eating at me for a while. Since I do not have much time to knit for myself these days, I was looking through my extensive linen yarn collection and trying to decide what can I make quick enough yet create one of those garments that I have been missing from my wardrobe. I do have quite a bit of Louet Euroflax which is a good staple wet-spun linen, but for being Sportweight I had to move onto something thicker…


I remembered that just recently Quince & Co released their new bird – Kestrel – into the wild. At first sight this yarn is not what it seems, it is absolutely not what one would expect it being knit up. I do not have much experience with the tape yarns, but most of them that I tried earlier in my knitting years ended up not in my favorite pile. Kestrel is quite thick and a chainette construction yarn, that is flattened into tape. I was skeptical that the yarn might be too novelty looking when knit up. And I was wrong! First seeing garments from the Kestrel Collection and then seeing Jamie of Fancy Tiger knit on her Kestrel tank at TNNA in May gave me a chance to look closer and touch and assess that the knitted look of Kestrel is what I want right now, right this minute! Malleable, soft, textured, yet not into dangerous territory for me. As we know, plant fiber based yarns tend to grow after wash and wear but the construction that this yarn has I am pretty sure it will do the its best and keep it in shape much better! As more and more projects started appearing online I was certain my only problem would be picking the color… I really love Rosehip colorway, but I chose Pebble for my Davis pullover by Pam Allen from Quince & Co Kestrel Collection. I see it as a in-between seasons, late summer nights sweater, a minimalistic luxurious sweatshirt, which I can wear every day if I please.



I don’t think there is a more gratifying knit! I got to 75% of the said sweater within just 2 days. Since this has been chosen to be my reward sweater after doing all the work in between, I have now set it aside simply that I get to enjoy knitting it longer… I am a result knitter, but with this I want to learn to become more of a process knitter, it’s just this good. And I can say it has already paid off, since I came up with an idea for a new tutorial. And I cannot say enough of the pleasure it has been working from a pattern that is already written and I just need to blindly follow instructions. Even designers need a break from designing from time to time, but it doesn’t mean I have to stop knitting.

summer knitting

I must admit I have missed blogging these past couple of months! So many travels and so many happenings are afoot and I am looking forward to telling you all about them. I don’t remember when I have spent such travel intensive months last but I am certainly very happy to be back home, so I can catch up on all of my work knitting and try to squeeze a new thing to wear for myself! Afterall, I need to enjoy making things for myself from time to time. While traveling the increasing temperatures in Japan and here, in the Northern Hemisphere, got me thinking that I do miss wearing and having more linen clothing and knits. Linen, ramie, cotton, bamboo – these plant fibers have been on my mind a lot as of late and desire to knit something out of yarns with either inspiring me to fill those holes in my summer wardrobe. Honestly, I do have quite a bit of linen yarns in my stash and I can certainly put them to good use.
I did remember my favorite shirt from last summer, Irokata Tee below which really saved me in some extremely humid weather. In fact, I am considering next color combination to make! So many possibilities… White certainly seems to be the “IT” color for summer this year and I am thinking to switch the dark and light sections this time, just for fun!


And if you are trying to put your linen to good use and get the most out of it  you may want to take a look at this Transform Garment – Sanagi Dress. It’s created on a thicker needle and worsted weight yarn or in this particular case 2 strands of Shibui Linen yarn held together. Linen is amazing when it comes to drape, cool flowing and playful during wear. Plus it  wicks moisture, that is why linen is still among top fibers in woven cloths or knit for summer. Sanagi’s versatility provides you with over 10 styling ways that are hip and suitable for many occasions. Here is the styling video for it that I made when the pattern was published a while back. Imagine you having all that fun in one garment!


Knit skirts are often overlooked for summer, but I love wearing them. They are fun to make and to wear, especially if you wish to add more texture in your outfit. Heichi Skirt is knit sideways and uses smart placing for waist darts by working those as short rows and the dropped stitches are created in the very end. It is A-line silhouette which suits most and it is seamless which means that regardless how thick the yarn you are using – it will look perfect around your hips. It has been knit in Shibui Heichi yarn which unfortunately is being discontinued but fortunately for you Knit-Purl is having a massive sale for it right now in store and in their online store. To remind you as well, Francis , a popular summer top I have designed for Shibui Silk several years back that has gained over 5 thousand faves was also knit using Heichi and it can be your chance to make it with the original yarn without the large price tag attached to it, with it still being 100% silk from Japan!


While I was away the industry did release new linen “birds” into the wild and I am quite excited to try those new linen yarns. Some I have even gotten my hand on already and might have cast on for that one sweater for myself this summer. Some I have been even lucky to preview as they are being prepared to flee the nest next year. But more about it next time!

Now tell me which are your favorite items and yarns to knit with in summer?

suke-suke cowl

During almost 4 years of living in Japan I have tried to garner as much inspiration as possible and it was not hard at all – it’s all around us. I think when it comes to designing, I have found some ways to organize the actual process for me that helps me to trace back to my thought and the origins of it.

So to go back to the beginning of this new design – Suke-Suke Cowl – I must tell you about its inspiration.
Yokohama Bridge spans across several small islands actually consists of 2 bridges, Yokohama Bay Bridge and Tsurumi Tsubasa Bridge and both feature cool steel cables that form a linear pattern but differ on the top. Tsurumi Tsubasa actually looks “pinched” on top and it looks especially cool when you are on the bridge. The first time I have seen the bridge was from the top of Yokohama Landmark Tower, which was the tallest built structure in Japan before Tokyo Sky Tree was opened several years ago. This is the bridge that we had to take to get to the airport and back, so every time I was on the lookout trying to snap some images. Unfortunately, Japanese drive rather fast on Japanese roads, so all my attempts were futile. But thanks to the internet, here is a good image of it, taken from the water.

Tsurumi_Tsubasa_Bridgephoto credit

The way I saw those lines, I envisioned them as pleats or as lines from dropped stitches, so it was more about doing the research and swatching several times before getting to a certain point that you know if the stitch works and is relevant to your inspiration. Swatching can be tedious and more of a trial and an error process, but a lightbulb might spring to mind during most random moments like dinner and you just know you need to drop everything and test the theory out. I even tried to work the idea out on a machine knitting swatch which didn’t render any plausible effect. So hand knitting it was the way for me.


Last October, while teaching in Portland I have shown some of my earlier experimenting with this stitch pattern to my students during my 3D Knitwear class and how cool it was beginning to look.  To work a juxtaposition of something rigid and fluid, positive and negative space to create interesting patterning, surface design even only through knitwear. I have received great feedback about it which only inspired me to press on and keep working on it to perfect the make up and the finished result which you see here today.


When it comes to yarn choice working these type of stitch patterns it can be quite grueling. I know as one might think – which yarn to use, First World problems? But to allow the stitch pattern show best the yarn had to be perfect for it. The Plucky Knitter Primo Aran was my choice for it. The pattern and the yarn compliment each other on every level and give the desired result, at least to me. The way that it’s dyed as a semi-solid with a subtle over dye and because of the different fibers inside the yarn, the dye shows differently which  helps to make this patterning even more dimensional. As a result you see below, the larger size cowl that I worked in the beautiful Narragansett Grey color is reversible. The stitch pattern has different impression on each side and the larger version allow you more ways to play around with styling this accessory. The whole process took about a year, from the inspiration to testing, to swatching, to swatching some more and then finally the resulting design and pattern, but I hope you like it as much as I do.


The pattern is completely written out  and it comes with 2 different size options – 24″ and 45″ in circumference, both have same height of 8.25″. When I had my test knitters working on this pattern some of them were actually surprised that it is not as complicated as it might seem at first sight. I did rate this pattern as one for an intermediate knitter simply for the time it takes to work through. Some of the joining rounds for the pleats and that you need to pay special attention to pick up the exact stitches or in the end you might discover the dropped stitch ladders not willing to align correctly.  Otherwise, it’s really more of an advanced beginner type of a project.

There are several versions of it knit up on Ravelry already. So which yarn would you choose? HAPPY KNITTING!!!

Queue On Ravelry

$ 6.00


This new home is all shiny and cosy, so please come in and make yourself comfortable as I hand you a virtual cup with a warm drink to take a moment with me and enjoy the new digs as I settle in. And if you wish to know, I can tell you all about it. But anyone who have worked building a website before you must know that it is not a speedy process, especially when so many creatives are involved. The same can be said about this one, has been long time in the making and went through some challenges and dilemmas, the ups and downs and changing concepts – just as the ever evolving market we live in. I was looking forward to a new platform that would inspire me to write better and more often. In my old blog it felt the walls were closing in and regardless the updates, I felt constricted.
The new colors make me happy, they are me and words are easier to share. And with the first day of Spring today it is only appropriate to have feelings of renewal and fresh inspiration.
Here is the new RSS feed if your reader cannot pull it up.
Even though the weather has been completely erratic – one days it’s snowing, the next the the birds are singing of imminent Spring and you just want to hide all the winter coats away, but as for the knits, they will be sticking around for a bit longer I am sure.

Earlier this week I have released a new design for a cabled hat, Kemuri Hat, the design that I’ve scrupulously poured over and have re-knit several times before it reached perfection in my eyes. I have scored the last skein of The Plucky Knitter Sweater from the shelves of Fibre Space last fall and knew right away it was destined for a hat. I have noticed that the abundance of hats that I own and ones I actually wear steer more towards the neutral colors, silvery and medium grey in particular, with lots of texture.


And as you can see, there has been a recent addition to our family – meet Squirrel, another grey cat who we got from shelter when she was just a tiny 2 week old kitten. She has grown so fast and proved to be quite a character, just as most of the grey cats I’ve known. Example #1 – highjacking my photo op. She is cute, so I’ll let her have this moment of fame since my Instagram feed has been subjected already to too many cat pictures (is there such a thing as too many cat pictures?)

Kemuri  Hat features 2 voluminous cables running aside the hat, beginning almost at the cast on edge. The two cables are similar, but each twists at different intervals and that bit of texture helps to create a more dimensional look. And with the hat being worked in the round you can actually choose how to display this cable when worn. To have this hat look even more polished I have included the technique for Tubular Cast On for 2×2 ribbing within the pattern that you can learn if you like or you can just skip it and go with your preferred method of cast on and proceed with the rest of the instructions.


Knowing that knitting is such a personal thing for everyone, just like hand-writing, this time I have included instructions for both – written and charted. So whatever your preference might be or mood you are in, you have that choice within the pattern.

Queue Kemuri on Ravelry

USD 6.00

Happy Knitting!


Continuing in the New Year with a resolution to blog more, yet again. And actually having a lot to share, but not quite having a lot of time to write all I want to say about a certain process here and there. Thoughts are fleeting and majority of the time they want to become sketches and stitches instead of words…

Today I want to take you through my process of designing a really fun accessory, that actually have started the triangles theme for me last year while still in Japan and as the inspiration continued catching on, it gave life to Sankaku Shawl, but here is what it all started.

I admit I have not always been good at or admired geometry. In my younger years math was a bit of a struggle, maybe that is why I sought out education as a linguist and a teacher, but as time goes by I get more and more intrigued how I found my way back to math and geometry through my love for knitting, bit backward I am sure, but it now excites me just like solving riddles of creating a new stitch pattern or puzzles of construction that I like to take on.
In my recent posts, I have described that I have discovered a really cool dot grid notebook from Muji that is really versatile – you can draw using dot grid as visual markers or join those lines to create square grid for drawing a stitch pattern idea as well as for flat sketching of your schematics. Since I prefer doing it old school vs drawing directly into a computer program, notebook and my erasable pen are now a ritual.
On one of those rituals I took these tools to “town” having fun drawing out some geometric shapes.


Once I spend a certain amount of time thinking about this patterning, I feel my mind becomes more and more open and I start noticing it in various incarnations around me. Fractals are actually nature’s geometry at work! But my fascination with them was simply enhanced..

Here is my favorite piece of architecture in Tokyo, Prada Building in Aoyama. Every time when I was in the vicinity I would try to walk by it. It is truly inspirational!


And my friends, knowing me now so well surprised me by getting me this Baobao clutch for my Birthday (aren’t they amazing!!!), which is basically triangles adhered to fabric, but allows movement, so every facet helps transform the shape of the bag. And I heart it so much!


A WONDERFUL find which is this silk fabric, that got procured with the help of a friend in Australia and which I turned into the scarf and it makes me utterly happy when I wear it!


I really miss taking trains everywhere in Japan, the trips were quite lengthy and here is the prototype being worked on in fingering weight yarn.



Nature of fractals is that it is a set pattern and altering it a tiny bit in the beginning would be very hard to adjust for later on and still stay within pattern.
So I had to design my hat with the right yarn weight and needle size! And this entire process was very much worth the result.


See more images here

I have picked a very new to me yarn, Anzula Cricket, which is merino and cashmere with a dash of nylon. Being colorwork, it worried me for a second if my yarn choice was right, but after washing my swatches, I didn’t doubt that the result will end up what I was needed it to become. The yarn really bloomed, evening out colorwork and transformed into luxurious bright hat.

I have always loved grellow color combination (maybe obsessively so), but recently I have been really enamored with camel and pink together. It is such an unusual combination, yet very fun!

And the result is Fractals hat  comes in 2 sizes, has charted and written instructions and my now favorite tubular cast on. So find your favorite Sport or Dk weight yarns and fall in love with geometry all over again!

Find Fractals Hat On Ravelry



Back to school

Or rather I have been back to teaching knitting since last November.

And I meant to talk about it sooner, but just never got to it because of packing, moving and all the fuss. Last November I was introduced by Marianne Isager to textile artist and textiles designer Reiko Sudo. If you know something about Japanese textiles, you may know that Reiko Sudo and Jun-ichi Arai started NUNO back in early 80ies. Reiko now is the directior of NUNO and NUNO textiles are known all over the world on their novelty and mind-blowing texture. Meeting Reiko was an extremely humbling experience for me since I have been doing research on NUNO while writing Ori Ami Knits. And I was lucky enough to visit “Fabrics of Feathers and Steel: The Innovation of Nuno” exhibit back in 2009 in The Textile Museum in Washington DC prior to our move to Japan and admire those textiles in person. Imagine my awe when upon our meeting Reiko became so fascinated with my work in knitwear that she asked me to teach her and several NUNO members. I know I was questioning myself whether that was real life or some illusion! At the time of our meeting I had only 7 months left in Japan and she wanted to start classes immediately and every single Saturday I would travel to Tokyo to share my knowledge with one of the most revered Japanese textile artists. Below is the photo of our last class. Reiko’s apprentices have become textiles artists of their own and they are NUNO members as well.

Left to Right: Gaku Masui, Yuki Abe, Kazuhiro Ueno, myself, Reiko Sudo, Yumi Yasue and one is missing – Bun-chan!

After our last class my students gifted me this funny drawing of ourselves drawn by Yuki-san.

Reiko is also a professor at the Tokyo Zokei University of Art and Design in Japan. Last spring I was invited to give a guest lecture along with Reiko who also helped to interpret. The lecture was for her 4th year weaving students and the subject of it was 3 dimensional knitwear, explored through a variety of my designs that they continued on working.

And this morning I found out that those students completed their projects and then some! The students took their own approach with creative modifications of the existing pattern designs. But what is even cooler that their finished knits were turned into exhibit and are now on display at Tokyo Zokei University and Reiko named it creatively after my book title “Ori Ami Knits”!!!

This is such honor and these images are truly heartwarming, just like when I see photos of newly finished projects of others knit from my patterns!
I am really missing Japan this crisp Fall afternoon… And winter is coming soon, so time to be knitting away on those woolies and get ready. But it’s also time to get excited for my classes in the States are coming soon!



I was planning to publish this design much earlier in the summer, but silly me for thinking that with major knitting deadlines and international moving I could keep up with all of my designated plans. Alas, making things works little by little! Finally got our furniture 2 days ago, and most excitingly my yarn and knitting chair. Would be nice not having to MacGyver things around the place on everyday basis.

I find, however, that a lot of my creativity thrives under pressure, so nothing like creating 7 new designs before taking that international move to keep one’s goals straight!


That time in April when things were warming up finally, I have started dreaming of wearing linen again and all the great benefits of it during a really humid summer as we have been having here on Atlantic coast. And keeping a close eye on fun color blocking trend of t-shirts, shoes, knits and everything popping in stores I decided to get my hands on some more of Shibui Linen. I have been looking forward to using that yarn again every since designing Sanagi dress previous summer, but using it as a single strand. Most of color blocking in my mind comes with a scary word to some – ” intarsia”, but this time I have decided to take a different approach.

Irokata – 色形 – from Japanese meaning “color form” or “essence of color” – is a great light summer tee that is designed to be worked flat and then utilizing some short rows for shaping and color direction, but nothing more complex beyond that. And in the end it is only 2 spots to graft and 2 mattress stitch seams that complete this summer tee.


The color placement lines are well thought-out as one can pick to do lighter front and darker back for a more visually slimming effect. Or the other way around, just like in the original to bring more attention to one’s shoulders and help to balance out body proportions.


Personally, I love to pay attention to every single detail and believe me there is a lot of deliberation and choice making goes into something as simple as why this increase method was used and not the other. To me, every design, however simple and minimal looking, needs to have that something special that any knitter can enjoy learning or doing with their hands for the sake of a perfect result. Maybe you can even spot the incorporated I-cord running along the sleeves’ edge. Quick and neat!


Irokata knits up fast even on US 4 needle, you start with less stitches and then you progress.
I now need one in a brighter color combination as well! Suitable really for any fingering weight linen or cotton or bamboo blends yarns that would provide enough drape and keep you cool with your favorite bottoms.

Queue IROKATA TEE on Ravelry


To fit bust sizes
30-32 (34-36, 38-40, 42-44, 46-48, 50-52, 54-56, 58-60)”

Finished measurements
Bust 32 (36, 40, 44, 48, 52, 56, 60)”

Shibui Linen (100% linen; 50g, 246yds/225m)
MC – color Tar 2 (2, 2, 2, 2, 3, 3, 3) skeins
CC – color Ash 2 (2, 3, 3, 3, 4, 4, 4) skeins

USD 8.00



Thinking of Fall

Even though it’s August, many stores have started getting their Pre-Fall and Fall 2013 collections in already. There are some interesting trends and seeing all the knits certainly is exciting, inspirational and makes me look forward to cooler temperatures and maybe, just maybe wrangle up a new sweater for myself?! I am dreaming of knitting cables when the weather outside my AC bubble is trying to sky rocket to 100s again…  But maybe I will skip cable this year for in me favor of a big ribbed or loose pullover with oversized collar?

Reed Krakoff

Alexander Wang


Gabriele Colangelo

Gabriele Colangelo