Recently in Family Trunk Designs Category

Introducing the Saint-Exupéry Hat

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Everyone! I am scandalously late getting a blog post together for this, but I have a new pattern up, and it comes with a special deal (for about another week). Introducing the Saint-Exupéry Hat, a design I worked up in collaboration with Sundara, of Sundara Yarn. And for the rest of this month, anyone who buys the pattern ($4.50) will automatically get a coupon for 10% off a skein of Aran Silky Merino: enough to make the pattern!

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This is a little design that leapt to mind after my recent trip to France, and in particular the portion of our trip we spent in Toulouse, adoptive home town of Le petit prince author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. In addition to possessing a truly heart-wrenching knack for childrens' fiction (seriously, I still cannot read the part about taming the fox without tearing up), Saint-Exupéry was an aviation pioneer, and wrote his second-most-famous novella, Vol de nuit, about piloting night airmail planes in late 1920s Argentina. Toulouse is proud of its (adoptive) native son, and there are murals (like the one below), statues, and plaques commemorating the time he spent there. Knowing I was a big fan of Le petit prince, our friend and awesome hostess Marie Christine took us on a tour of relevant sites in the short breaks between feeding us amazing food and escorting us to book and tea shops. Tough trip, I tell you. Edit: I'm reminded that Saint-Exupéry was originally from Lyon, not Toulouse, but traveled to Toulouse to work for the Aéropostale. Thanks, MC!

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Anyway, when Sundara got in touch with me about the possibility of designing something out of her gorgeous Aran Silky Merino yarn, this hat design emerged. It's a tribute to old-school aviator caps of the 1920's and 30's, complete with fitted "darts" at the back of the head mirroring the seams you might find in the leather versions of these hats, and an optional chinstrap to prevent the thing flying off your head in an open cockpit. I find this also comes in useful when crossing the bridge on my way to work some windy autumn mornings.

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When initially brainstorming about color options, I envisioned something a little bit darker than the Porcini Mushroom shade Sundara eventually came up with, but I ended up loving it: it evokes well-worn, faded leather and is light enough to show off the textural and shaping elements that make this pattern interesting. Better yet, my test knitters and I were all able to squeeze a hat out of a single skein of ASM.

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Saint-Exupéry is worked from the top down, in a compact "close stitch" pattern that varies garter stitch just enough to create a subtle vertical stripe. The crown is increased and the body of the hat are worked in the round, with the back flap being worked back-and-forth and the whole edge of the piece finished in i-cord. Full design details are on the pattern page, but my favorite parts? The satisfying v's of decreases at the back of the head, the retro silhouette, and the smooshy, dense and pretty ASM fabric. I hope you enjoy the pattern, and the limited-time discount!

Book signing + new sock pattern!

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I'm so excited finally to be able to introduce you to a project that's been sitting in the wings for over two years! Meet My Grandmother's Knitting, a new knitting book by Larissa Brown that features both a pattern by me, and a profile about the Family Trunk Project.

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It's been a long time coming to see this in print, but the end result is something to be proud of: Larissa and the folks at STC Craft did a beautiful job. The first half of the book consists of profiles on seventeen knitwear designers and the relationships between our families (and/or a specific family member) and our artistic practices. It's a little daunting to find myself in such august company: there are pieces on Meg Swansen's memories of her mother Elizabeth Zimmerman; on the backyard art pieces made by Jared Flood's father; on the knitting and violin-making of Ysolda Teague's grandfather; on Norah Gaughan's artist parents. The profiles are accompanied by vintage shots of the ancestors or relatives under discussion, and it's so cool to learn about the geneses of the knitting practices of so many fellow designers!

Family Trunk Project profile

The second half of the book includes patterns. Many of them are by the designers profiled in the first half, although there are both stand-alone profiles and patterns. When I was first talking to Larissa about the book, she stressed that she wanted the full gamut of patterns from very "serious" (Kristin Spurkland's Norwegian-inspired yoked colorwork Rose & Cross Pullover, for example), to the smaller or more whimsical (Robin Melanson's lovely Vintage Gloves design, or Hanna Breetz's Storm Cloud Shawl)—and I think that variety ended up being a real strength of the finished product. Jared Flood and Ysolda Teague both do lovely, delicate colorwork with the Tilden Hat and Fiddler Mitts, and I like David Castillo's fraternal-twin Conover Mitten design. My own contribution is the 'Olina Socks pattern:

'Olina Socks photograph

Rather than being inspired by any particular family member, as the Family Trunk Project patterns proper are, these socks are a general homage to the Hawaiian islands where Jessie Lambdin and Charles Victor Morine moved, and where my mother and her brothers grew up. The "Blossom" colorway reminds me of guavas and guava juice, and the twisting vines and wide leaf motifs of tropical vegetation.

I'm super-excited to be included in this book, and to see the end results of all Larissa's hard work and that of the many others involved. If you're in the Portland metro area tomorrow, many of us who live in the area will be doing a signing and book release party out in Gresham; please stop by and say hello.


Andersen Fiber Works
20 NW 3rd St
Gresham, OR
6:30 - 10:30pm (signing at 7pm)

They tell me there will be appetizers, beer, wine, and karaoke (!). I hope to see you there. (And to listen to you sing, as I do not do karaoke regardless of the quantity of wine available.) If you aren't in the Portland area, be sure to take a gander through My Grandmother's Knitting at your local yarn shop (it's also available to order through Powell's and Amazon). I'm eager to hear what people think.

Andres: July + August

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Hello, long-lost blog friends. After another bit of a work-related slog, I'm finally ready to show you an actual knitting project. I know. Shocker.

It's something I've been working on in between secret projects, sending off proposals, and so on. Something a little more casual; I don't think there will be a pattern, and it's not something I need to plan out fully ahead of time, or fit to a body. But it is something I think will be appreciated: a wedding present for my cousin Andryce and her long-time partner Tyler, who were just married in July.

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When David and I had our Partnership Celebration last year, Andryce organized an amazing collaborative gift for us that would last a whole year after our event: for each month of the year, she recruited one or two of our friends or family to send us something in the mail, or take us out for some kind of event. It was so much fun waiting for the surprise of the month, which ranged from a delightful picnic in a Victorian graveyard courtesy of our friends Devon and Abraham, to a flourless chocolate cake recipe from my mom's cousin Jan, to a book of addictively silly verse from our friends John and Katherine. For Andryce and Tyler's wedding, I knew I wanted to do something to replicate the small-gift-every-month-for-a-year idea, but since my skills lie elsewhere than in the organizing of other people, I thought I would make them something instead.

As you may have guessed, I came up with the idea of a blanket. It will eventually be composed of fifteen large squares, all made up in Malabrigo Chunky in one of three colors. My goal is to send a square per month for fifteen months, then to re-collect all the squares, sew them together, and present the couple with their cozy new blanket just as the weather is turning chilly next autumn. (The bride and groom met in South America, so not only is the Malabrigo soft and warm, but it's also vaguely thematically appropriate. Though they met in Bolivia, not Uruguay.) I knit the center square (below) ahead of time, but before I gave it to them I had Andryce and Tyler free-associate words based on the months of the year, which I'll be using as inspiration for all the other squares.

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The above square is the first I gave them, and though I tore it out and re-knit it about sixteen times, I'm still not all that pleased with it. Which seemed an inauspicious beginning for a wedding present, but the time came to just let go. They both seemed to like the square when I gave it to them, but I'm sure any knitter can relate to the disappointment of failing to realize the vision you originally had in mind. I was designing this square based on a piece of Viking metalwork that David and I saw when we were briefly in Iceland on our way back from France. Here's an oblique shot of it, which is the best I could do with my long lens:

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In the original metal piece, the different "vines" are all of slightly different (and changing) thicknesses, which lends overall balance to the asymmetrical composition. It's an effect I tried many times to duplicate in knitted form, but ultimately didn't manage to capture. Still, Andryce and Tyler seemed to be touched when David and I gave them the first square, and to enjoy petting and gazing at it. So all is not lost.

The couple's free-associated words for August were "green" and "lush," and the top photo is my interpretation of those words in knitting. (Can you tell we all live in the Pacific Northwest? Green, lush August. Well, that's what you get when June and July are both near-constant drizzle.) I'm more pleased with this second square, which recycles a cable motif I designed for a sock pattern which will be available (and blogged here) very soon. I was lucky that this bright, spring green (Malabrigo's "Lettuce" colorway) was one of the three shades David and I had already chosen for the blanket, and the tropical motif communicates "lush" pretty well, I think.

September's phrases are "crunchy leaves" and "smell in air." My third color suggests the crunchy leaves, so I'm thinking about a cable motif that will suggest the wafting odor of woodsmoke. The only problem is that summer seems to have arrived late to Portland! We're finally getting those 96-degree days that were so conspicuously absent from July and August, and it's hard to think about cabling in a heavy wool. Still, I'm not complaining; I know that all too soon we'll be huddled against the rain again with our sweaters and scarves.

Casualties: the Jo Aakre Jacket

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Now that I've unloaded some of my design-related angst, I'm ready to show y'all the projects that have unintentionally gone by the wayside the past few months while I've been trying to figure out what I wanted from life. :-)

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First up is a cardigan/jacket project based on my paternal great-grandmother, Jo Johnson (née Aakre), universally referred to in my memory as "Grandma Jo" or "Grandma Johnson." Translating Jo's character into a garment is a challenge because I think of her as rather un-ornamented, both in her own clothes, and also in her manners. I want the final product to look "plain" but somehow still attractive. Walking the line between "classic" and "frumpy" is always a challenge, especially when Grandma Jo's character keeps inspiring me to veer to the frumpy side! (No disrespect meant, Johnson relations!)

A few months ago I became very enamored of the brioche family of stitches, which combine yarn-overs and k2togs to make a lofty, reversible ribbing that's slightly more visually interesting than a regular 1X1 rib.

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Perfect for my goal here: plain and functional, but interesting enough to knit. I knew I wanted a longish cardi/jacket, with pockets (something about Grandma Jo has suggested "cardigan with pockets" since I first started thinking about her design), so I started work on this, which is knit in one piece, back and forth from the bottom up. At some point I started worrying if potential buyers would find the brioche stitch too boring for such an extensive project, but HA HA HA I needn't worry about that anymore! Ahem.

So, that said, there are a few things that I'm going to rip back and revise. You can see a rough sketch of my thoughts here:

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My major gripe with Jo Aakre version 1.0 is that the placement of the front decreases is not ideal. At the moment they're right over the pockets, a position based on the princess-line seams in my favorite leather jacket. However, by the time I add a band of knitting to the top of the pocket to hide the lining (indicated by the peach rectangle, although of course the real pocket band will match the rest of the sweater), the first set of decreases will be almost obscured. Given that the architectural lines of decreases and increases are the primary visual interest in the sweater? This is not a good call. It also leaves the front of the sweater looking kind of blocky, an unflattering silhouette for most people.

I'm thinking I'll rip back to just above the pockets, and move the line of decreases and increases over to one of the two locations indicated by the peach V's. I'm leaning toward the right-hand set, since it will coincide with the vertical line of the bust, although the left-hand set of lines might give more of an impression of a narrow waist when the sweater is viewed from the front. Either one will be a lot better than what I currently have, will also create the same kind of long lines I have going on in back:

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I may also increase the distance from the first set of decreases to the second, further lengthening the lines. I may also spread out the back decreases more evenly; the benefit of having knitted so much of the bodice already, is that I can position my markers just where I want them, ready to direct me as soon as I get this back on the needles.

So, a fair amount of ripping and soaking is in my future with old Jo here. A good project for a movie night, perhaps. When that's done, and the sleeves are knitted (I was most of the way done with Sleeve 1 when I bogged down on this project previously), I'll just have the raglan yoke remaining. This sweater is one of the top contenders for what to work on after I finish my current project, as it's been sitting on my dress form for months and I've been fitting other sweaters around it!

Blakeslee pattern is up!

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I'm blowing the dust off the ol' blog to note quickly that the Blakeslee pattern is up and available for purchase!

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A big thanks to all my great test-knitters; I think the pattern turned out great due to their smart, timely feedback.

Obviously, I've been in a blogging lull lately, but I'm still alive! Just sort of hibernating; working on many projects that I'm not quite ready to expose to the light of day. Hopefully I'll be back in the blogging saddle soon.

Monami pattern is up!

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Thanks for all the lovely comments on the Blakeslee top, everyone! Test-knitting is in progress, which is very exciting.

To let you know, the pattern for the Monami Cardigan is now available here or on Ravelry. Details on the pattern, including sizing, yarn requirements, and more, are up on the pattern page.

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Introducing Blakeslee

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Friday afternoon was beautiful day—sunny and crisp, lovely cirrus clouds with just a hint of fall in the air. David and I seized the opportunity to head out to Sauvie Island and take some finished shots of the Blakeslee top, which knit up so fast that I barely had time to snap some in-progress shots of it.

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This little top is dead simple, but it hit that sweet spot for me—I managed to come up with exactly the project I wanted to be knitting, and knit the whole thing while I was still in the mood for it. (It helped that the design is plain enough that I could do it even while watching foreign-language films.) I was actually still SO in the mood for this pattern when I finished it that I contemplated casting on for another right away, maybe in the robin's egg/cocoa combination I mentioned in my last Blakeslee post—an impulse I ended up resisting only because the yarn store where I "casually stopped in" didn't carry the robin's egg sock yarn of my dreams.

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I was beset by a sudden lust for stripes before I started knitting Blakeslee, and I love the way this stitch pattern, borrowed from Barbara Walker after a simple conversion to working in the round, combines tweediness and stripiness into some kind of ideal mashup of classic designs. It alternates rounds of plain knitting with rounds of slip one, knit one, and the resulting texture and pattern does so much with those very simple moves. I love the way the slipped stitches create a dashed line—it reminds me of a decorative running embroidery stitch, or the center line in that handwriting paper from elementary school.

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Other details on Blakeslee: worked from the top down, at a largish gauge for a light fingering-weight yarn, which means it's light and airy, with lots of give. The yoke has raglan increases, and there is a minimal amount of waist shaping. Mostly it relies splitting the difference between negative ease at the hips and positive ease at the waist to create a flattering yet relaxed look. The short sleeves consist of an inch of 2X1 twisted ribbing to match the boat neck and the bottom edge, finished off with a double row of the contrast color.

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We'll have to see if the test-knitters can replicate my results here, but I was surprised that one skein of each color in Malabrigo Sock was enough to finish this, with quite a bit of the Natural left over, and just a bit of the Boticelli Red. Hopefully that will make it a fun little project to use up some of those single skeins of light sock yarn we all have lying around.

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I hope everyone's having a lovely end-of-summer!

Charles Victor is up!

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It's amazingly embarrassing that this has taken so long, but the Charles Victor Morine Tunic pattern and essay are finally up and available for purchase and reading, respectively!

Charles Victor is an unusual pattern, and I don't anticipate it being a huge seller, but I have received the occasional poke from an interested party and I'd like to apologize for the long wait. It's amazing what changing jobs and planning a commitment ceremony will do to a person's schedule!

I also hope that even those not interested in buying the pattern will check out the essay, because it was one of the most interesting thus far to research and write, and I hope that shows in the final product. My great-grandfather lived such an interesting life, over such a long stretch of time, that it really sparked my imagination to think about it. Imagine registering for the draft in 1917 and living to see Hawaiian statehood and the era of super-computers—or learning about Model T engines as a kid in 1910s California, and living to see men walking on the moon and giant satellites taking photos of nebulae. It's pretty amazing.

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Because Del Monte employee Robert Kehlor took it upon himself to write/compile a history of the company in the Hawaiian islands, there is almost a whole book-chapter devoted to Charles Victor's inventions, which is pretty cool. Not that the book is a literary masterpiece or anything, but it was still interesting to get acquainted with a time and place of which I would otherwise have NO knowledge. What was it like farming pineapples in turn-of-the-century Hawaii? The answer was more intense than I realized. I had no idea, for example, that the industry was so young when Charles Victor entered it in 1924, and that the newly-transplanted farmers faced so many obstacles. Piqued your interest? There's lots more over here. For those interested in buying the pattern, it's available on the same page, or through Ravelry, for $6.50 or three pages of your own family story.

Aloha, friends!

Comfort knitting

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Oof, how time does fly, doesn't it? We've been hard at work over here, getting the Monami test-knitting well underway, and prepping the Charles Victor pages for release at last! (It should go up August 1, and I think the essay is one of the better ones I've written, as well it SHOULD be after so much time). This may be the dorkiest thing I've ever written in a blog, but I just bought a new task management software, and whether it's actually helping me be more organized and motivated, or whether it's just a shiny new toy that's provided a much-needed kick in the bum, I've been more productive over the past few weeks than I have been since the Partnership Celebration. I always scoffed at those people who go crazy over Getting Things Done (and let's admit it: most of that system is just plain common sense) but maybe they're on to something after all. Well, well.

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A week ago, though, we hit a snag when Mr. Bingley the dachshund came down with a nasty intestinal issue and had to be hospitalized overnight with IV fluids. The little guy is now fully recovered, but these ordeals are always stressful and expensive, as I'm sure all the pet owners and parents out there can attest. I'm working on another project, a fairly complex black lace shawl, but I needed something simpler, some therapy knitting to worry away at between the hourly trips outside with the dog and the subsequent anxiety over his condition. Combine that desire with a sudden craving for stripes, and you have the beginnings of Blakeslee, my new design-in-progress.

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Fairly shapeless-looking laid out flat (my dress form is currently covered in pattern pieces for a sewing project I'm working on), but pretty darn cute when worn, I think. I wanted something simple and stripey, but with a slightly different take on stripes, and this tweedy two-color slip-stitch pattern was just the right combination of visual interest and mindlessness. Add on a top-down, in-the-round raglan shape, and you have some excellent dog-recovery knitting which is also, I hope, a bit sporty? A bit boat-y? I'm going for clean, simple lines and classic preppy patterning. I was aiming for collegiate with the color combination, so hopefully it doesn't look too much like Christmas; I'd love to see it in a more hipster-ish combo as well, like brown and robin's egg. It's growing pretty quickly; I'm envisioning just a bit of matching ribbing at the armholes for a fresh cap-sleeves-at-the-seaside feel, so it shouldn't be too long before I can wear the thing!

The yarn is Malabrigo Sock (in Boticelli Red and Natural), a present from David's parents on the occasion of my trunk show at the Windsor Button, in Boston. Blakeslee is David's middle name and the maiden name of his maternal grandmother, who was a Smith-educated Boston-area preppy of the old school: monogrammed towels, post-college trips to Europe on steamliners, boating in the summer, skiing vacations at epic old-fashioned resorts in the winter. I think the design has a bit of that feel, albeit with a somewhat updated silhouette, and I love that the yarn is from the correct geographical area, and a gift from the family. Thanks, Anne & Steve!

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Influence: Part 5 (Meet Monami!)

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Large-amplitude, synchronous waving of terrestrial grasses has been termed 'honami,' (Japanese: HO = cereal; NAMI = wave) and has been shown to dramatically alter aerodynamical conditions within and above the grass canopy. We suggest that 'monami' (mo = aquatic plant) is important in coastal hydrodynamics and has major implications for larval settlement and recruitment.
R. Grizzle et al., Taylor University

A huge, heartfelt thanks to everyone who chipped in suggestions for the new cardigan design—there were so many awesome possibilities, and they were ALL better than the ideas I'd come up with myself. At the last moment I was blown away by Natalie's contribution: "Monami" adapts the idea of a current (like my inspiration, Kim Hargreaves's "Breeze") but transfers it into a different medium, water rather than air. As she points out, this plays nicely with things I've been thinking about throughout the Influence Series: it's not just about the current itself, but about that current's effects on objects around it (which may, according to the excerpt above, be to attract and further other growth). The water element goes nicely with the nautical feel of the cardigan's cables, and I also get a dorky little thrill out of the way "monami," though derived from the Japanese, is so similar to the French phrase "mon ami": my friend, my love. AWWWWW!

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As for the cardigan itself, I'm quite pleased with the final result. The fit, while not exactly the same as my Breeze, is just the kind of relaxed, easy-to-throw-on yet flattering style that I know will get a ton of wear. (In fact, our June and July here in Portland have been so chilly up until yesterday, that I was quite glad for the sweater during our photo shoot down at the Eastside Esplanade wharf.) Photos by David, as always.

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I think the textures here are my favorite thing about wearing the finished product. As much as the combination of garter stitch, chunky cables, and a ribbed, turnover collar gobbles up yarn at an indecent rate, it really is worth it when I get to wear the cushy, smooshy end product. I'm wondering how I never managed to fall in love with garter stitch before now. Maybe it was too obvious; I'm forever going in search of a complicated solution to a simple problem.

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As usual, Jodi of Green Ray Productions was a great help in finding the perfect buttons. I can't explain the story behind these Viking-looking chips being navigated by what appear to be cherubs (?) holding a paddle with a giant goat's head (??), and if any of YOU can I will be very impressed. But I do love the way they extend the textural and nautical themes while contrasting enough with the rest of the sweater to hold their own visually.

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I posted last time that I was disappointed at having to make my sleeves skinner than I would have liked. I was actually pretty bummed about it for a little while there, but with a little bit of wear they've relaxed substantially, and I like them better now—especially the way the transition from ribbing to cables becomes more pronounced when there's actually an arm inside the sleeve. This photo is a good shot of both the main cable and my simplified, smaller sleeve-friendly version; you can see some of the shared motifs pretty well.

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Overall, a happy, practical end to an interesting thought experiment. I liked spending some time digging into how the process of influence works (at least for me), and what kinds of considerations come into play during that process. I never stressed about modifying elements of Hargreaves's pattern so that it would be "different enough," but the combination of a different yarn, different dyeing method, and different cable motif led of their own accord to some pretty significant differences. To recap, I started on the left...

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...and ended up on the right. Pretty cool! I think the influence is visible, but not overtly apparent if you didn't know the story behind the sweater.

Multi-sized pattern almost ready for test-knitters; I'm hoping to release this sometime in September, for some satisfying autumn or winter knitting.

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