I almost feel like I don’t need to introduce Pinglewin, but I realize you might not have met her yet. If you’re lucky, you might have met one of her friends.
Perhaps, Jacob, who Jeni has made using her handspun from a single fleece.
Or Lady Pennyspotter, who has been on a cruise with her maker Leslie, for whom she was the first toy she’d ever made. You can follow her adventures at #ladypennyspotter
Or Winona, who lives at Fluph with Leona and really likes to be social. (And contrary to what Jacob sometimes says, she is not a runt at all).
Or Kristin’s Pinglewin, who’s getting good and cuddled.
Or Ellinor’s who has gotten to hang out with Kristin’s. (FYI, the blond one is Kristin, not a penguin.)
I can’t wait for them all to meet one day. It would be so dreamy to get to actually all be together and share a glass of wine and maybe something fishy for the birds.
You see, a wonderful gang of test knitters all made their own little penguin and we had a whole lot of lovely communication online. For a brief moment, I thought it’d make a fun Mystery KAL, as there are very distinct sections to the pattern that are a little well, mysterious at times as to how they will link up. I trailed it on a little group and we all decided it was too fun to know it was a penguin to keep it a secret. But hang on a minute, is that a penguin?
The thing is Pinglewin lost her family in an oil spill. The shock of it turned her permanently white. She doesn’t always fancy dealing with the curiosity of others, who stare at her because she is an all-white penguin, and so she has knitted herself a tuxedo hoodie. Wearing it helps her blend in when she doesn’t feel like answering questions. On other days, depending on her mood, you might see her wearing a pink, chartreus or violet one.
So, firstly you will knit a little single colour penguin in the round on DPNs or circular needles (your choice) and then make her little outfit. The reverse stocking stitch tuxedo hoodie is knitted separately, inside out, so you can knit the whole thing, rather than purl.
Making your own Pinglewin will be a little adventure encompassing a range of techniques you may or may not be familiar with. If you have them down pat, it’s a great opportunity to apply your skills. If they are new to you, you’ll find them a joy to have in your arsenal for next time. All of the techniques come in small doses, so if one takes a little practice or requires a redo, you’re not frogging a sweater or even a socks worth and you’ll have that skill at your disposal for future projects.
As penguins are very social creatures, I love the idea that the Fleece White and Charcoal SnÃ¦ldan 3-Ply comes in the right size skeins to knit yourself two Pinglewins. That way they can keep each other company or one can go live abroad. Or you could split the skein with a friend, so you can each make one. You’ll need a very small oddment of the Viking Gold (approx. 5g required), so I’d suggest borrowing that from another project, like the Rockhopper shawl (only a 1-Ply, so you’d have to use 3 strands to equal a 3-Ply) or the Flower King hat or Antifreeze socks (the weight of Navia Trio is an easy substitute). You can get all the yarns from The Island Wool Company and Get your copy of PENGUIN: A Knit Collection HERE!
I sort of couldn’t believe there was only one other pattern called Antifreeze on Ravelry. I was inspired to call these socks Antifreeze because somehow penguins’ feet don’t freeze on all that ice, but you’ll need these socks to help you. I suffer from serious cold feet and spend my winters in two pairs of socks – thin cotton underneath and a thick wool pair on top. I’m not much of a sock knitter, so I wanted to design a pattern that I could return to again and again. I think it’s good to remember that if I like it and it works for me (or don’t like it and it doesn’t work for me) I am probably not alone in that, so I put the pattern in Penguin: a Knit Collection.
They are basic top-down socks. The trickiest they get is making sure your cast-on is stretchy enough (so your foot can get in) and an afterthought heel (which isn’t tricky at all). You decide if you want to DPN or magic loop them. They’re comparatively quick to make and extra warm as they are knitted in Navia DK weight wool. Navia Sock and Trio are the same weight, but Sock contains a strengthening 20% nylon. I’ve used it for the areas that experience the most wear: heels and toes basically. Trio is used for the cuff and foot of the sock as it comes in a wider range of shades, including the pale pink and bright yellow of penguin feet. I got both from The Island Wool Company.
These fine penguin feet are photographed by Chuck Graham. He and Lori let me use some of their amazing photographs of penguins in my book, which really made it for me. They meant I could actually show my inspiration points, not just allude to them.
As for the socks, they are thick and stripy, who could ask for more? To avoid stripes that jog, a vertical ‘seam’ runs down the fully ribbed leg – something I worked out when designing the Humboldt sweater. The first pair I knitted didn’t have the seam down the back. I’d used the jogless stripes technique I picked up from tech-Knitter. If you use that technique, you could ditch the seam, though the seam is the whole fun of these socks. You could also pass up on the stripes altogether.
I specify 2 balls of each colour to play it safe, but certain pick ‘n’ mix combos can be done using just a single ball in each colour if you don’t mind playing yarn chicken (or should that be yarn penguin?). To play it slightly safer, you can use 2 balls of yarn A and 1 ball of yarn B for the stripes, heels and toes. Safety wise, 2 balls of each colour is like wearing a helmet, knee pads, elbow pads and teeth guards. (Unless you are tweaking the pattern to make anything bigger or longer…)
The ribbed cuffs are there to help keep the socks in place by giving some more elasticity. The foot is worked in stocking stitch – you wouldn’t want ribbing under your foot. That would be tempting blisters like nobodies business. One of the reasons socks are knitted to a tighter tension (than say sweaters), is to avoid giving you blisters – your delicate footsies won’t be able to discern the individual stitches which might otherwise cause irritation.
The pattern is given in 3 widths, with 3 suggested lengths, which you can mix as you wish. That first test knit pair I made went straight on to Adam’s feet. His feet are so wide as to almost be square. Trips to the shoe shop always end up leaving him in a sad disappointed mood because none of the cool ones fit him. I’d planned to keep that first set as a sample for a bit, but he was so absolutely thrilled and excited to have had a pair of socks made just for him, to fit his flappers, that I didn’t have the heart to make him wait. He uses them all the time now. They are his cosy socks.
We had so much fun modelling these socks for the images in the book. I say we, but really I should probably say I (and the other women present – Elle with her camera and Ania making us look good) had so much fun, but Adam might have suffered just a little. This may have added just a teensy bit to the hilarity of the situation, not to mention when Giovanni (whose bedroom we were shooting in), walked in to find us in our smalls, legs entangled, on his bed. I think we succeeded in coming up with a way to shake up the usual sock pattern poses. And really, in honesty, no partners were harmed in the filming of this book – last night I heard Adam tell his parents about it in a who’d-have-thought-I’d-ever-be-a-sock-model kind of way with a distinct note of pride.
In the introduction to the Antifreeze sock pattern in the book I talk a lot about my English grandmother who was technically neither English or my grandmother. She passed away this summer at a ripe old age, but sadly Alzheimer’s didn’t allow her to enjoy the last bit very much at all. She certainly forgot she used to knit all my winter socks for me, in fact, she forgot she had known how to knit at all. At the onset of her Alzheimer’s, I remember my mum reminding her how to knit each time they got together. The last time I saw her, she flat out refused to believe she knitted the socks I was wearing over a decade before and now heavily darned. It’s been a funny summer – 3 funerals and a cancer scare, balanced out by only one wedding and bookended by babies being born and now a book!
I sort of think of this set as the wallflower of my Penguin: a Knit Collection book. While the other patterns are busting out some crazy moves in the middle of the dance floor, Pinglette Set it watching from the side lines: the quiet hot chick.
You can magic loop or DPN this baby round the dance floor, it’s up to you. The fun of it is you get to use a lot of different needle sizes. In the book, I use this as a moment to reflect on how much we have grown and how far we have come during this current knitting renaissance. Just imagine if I’d suggested a hat pattern using 4 sizes of needle a decade ago? Some might still balk, but many of us have them in our quiver of needles and I wanted to provide a good opportunity to get them out. I see it as a total celebration of the fact that this wave of knitting seems to be rolling and rolling with no shore in sight. And that’s truly a reason to get up on the dance floor.
The deep cowl and matching beret are knitted from a single skein of Snældan 2-ply (which is like a 4ply/sport weight in 100% wool which gives you 360m / 394yds per 100g). You will need approximately 35g of yarn for the hat and 65g for the cowl. I was a little torn whether to suggest knitting the beret or the cowl first. If you knit the cowl first, it will allow you to get the rhythm of the stitch down, before you need to work decreases in it, BUT then you wouldn’t be able to engage in the utmost satisfaction of knitting the cowl as long as you can until you have just enough yarn left to cast off, which you can only do if you have already knitted the beret.
There’s something really supple and springy about the stitch/tension/yarn combo that is just dreamy and quite unexpected and it feels really appropriate that the shade of grey is called, Cloud. It’s one of the joys of Snældan yarn that it comes in 5 natural, undyed greys. You can get them all from The Island Wool Company. Both beret and cowl are fully reversible if you are neat about how you sew in the two ends you’ll have for each (one from casting-on, the other from casting-off). I highly recommend spit-splicing if you come across an unexpected knot in your yarn or are working from smaller balls/skeins. It’s nicest to not have any unnecessary ends poking out to disrupt the flow, especially since they reversible. Reversible, not because the stitch is identical on both sides, but because it is interesting on both sides – little ‘v’s and dashes on one side, moss stitch-esque on the other. Held up to the light and stretched a little, it looks a bit like honeycomb.
For the beret you start with smaller needles to achieve the density you will be used to seeing Linen Stitch in and work up in needle size to uncharted lace territory (hence I’ve called it Expanded Linen Stitch). You might recognise that it’s a method I’ve used for my Treble Linen Cowl, a cowl with totally different proportions and suggested fibre, because, yes, the Treble Linen is made in linen. It is long, so you can wrap it twice (or even more), whereas the Pinglette Cowl is more like a long funnel.
Pinglette is my made up word for a baby penguin, because there isn’t a specific one, unlike, say, swans who hatch cygnets and geese hatch goslings, while ducks hatch ducklings. The top of the hat is a bit like a sea urchin, which I bet a penguin wouldn’t turn its beak up at as a snack.
And to end again with my wallflower analogy, the Pinglette Set is photographed against the amazing, geometric, black, white and yellow mural just off Columbia Road on the side of Clutch, a posh chicken joint. Just after I did the photoshoot for the Pinglette Set – they were the last knits to be captured for the book (with a sick child in the car and fading light) – I found the exact same wall being used as a backdrop for another beret, this time in crochet, in another craft manual type book, by another Anna… spookey.
I had so much fun working out the unusual construction of this shawl. When I say fun, let me qualify what sort – the sort of fun that comes from trying to puzzle something into existence that isn’t already a standard and isn’t immediately clear that it’s possible. I wanted a shawl with a jagged edge in a different colour that intersected with stripes travelling at a different angle and I didn’t want to use any sort of stranded colourwork or instarsia.
I cut and folded a lot of pieces of paper (recycled envelopes from dismal bank statements, to be precise) to work out how to do it. Folding paper really helps me to understand how I need to manipulate stitches to get a particular shape. The shawl is triangular, made up of a series of descending steps created by mitred corners. The contrast edging hops along them for an extra-bright pop of colour in a zigzag of triangles that fills in the gaps between the steps. The shawl is knitted flat, in loose garter stitch, using three colours. The idea was that the construction would be entertaining to work while the garter stitch is very soothing.
In what Stephen West has described as my signature move, I’ve placed eyelets at the transition between the two main colours. It’s a trick I picked up while learning machine knitting. This technique perfectly disguises the change between colours, adding interest and making the shawl reversible. I’ve used it in both my Diagonapples (below) and Kermis patterns.
The Rockhopper shawl is named after the rockhopper penguin, not the bicycle brand (though I imagine both penguin and bike were named after the fact they can hop between rocks). It comes in one nice big size. The joy of shawls is the flexibility of the yarn and tension you can work them in. You don’t have to work out what size will fit you and they tend to encourage people to throw caution to the wind and cast on without swatching. I’m a bit finicky with my tension and like it just so, even for garter stitch. On this occasion it needed to be quite loose to make it drape nicely and knit up quicker than a dense garter stitch. Garter stitch is always denser than a stocking stitch or lace, because of the way the rows snuggle together.
I used 3 colours of Snældan 1-ply for the shawl pictured in the book. That’s equivalent to a laceweight, but not a superfine one. It’s a lovely mix of Faroese and Falkland wool, spun at the one mill on Faroe. I absolutely adore this yarn and am so happy The Island Wool Company stock it in the UK and supported me making this book.
I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover and equally it’s wrong to judge a yarn by it’s label, but I love the fact that the Snældan labels have remained virtually unchanged since the company started in the 1940s. I know Karina Westermann is an equally big fan and designed her whole Doggerland collection using it.
It’s good to note that the natural colours of Snældan are sold in 100g skeins which gives you 720m / 787yds and dyed colours in 50g skeins (so that gives you half the length). If substituting colours or yarns you will need about 380m / 415yds in colour A (that’s pictured in Charcoal), 350m / 382yds in colour B (pictured in Natural Fleece) and 200m / 219yds in colour C (pictured in Curry).
The Rockhopper shawl is one of 10 other patterns from Penguin: a Knit Collection – my new (and first) book. I’ve tried to pack it as full as possible with photographs, illustrations and stories, all inspired by penguins. You can find the Rockhopper pattern details on Ravelry and soon purchase it from your LYS (you might need to ask them to order it in, if they haven’t already arranged to stock it).
I’m going to tell you about my Teenguin pattern from Penguin: a Knit Collection today, because it has a party feel to it and today is the day I launch the book with a celebration at Wild & Woolly in Clapton. I’m hoping to see some of you there.
This pattern was the one that had bobbed around in my head for the longest, even before the teenage penguin link became apparent. I love the first version, Indigo Loops, that I made for myself without a pattern and still wear a lot. There were various issues I wanted to address, when it came to making a pattern. Mainly the squareness of the yoke, where the loop section is a bit too long and the fact I knitted the white bottom-half in Wensleydale Longwool, which sadly means I can’t wear it while cooking, cause it sheds like a fancy Persian cat.
I do think the semi-solid indigo hand-dyed merino I bought in Brooklyn years ago worked perfectly for the top half. It was my way of combining a real fancy treat yarn that was a holiday souvenir with something more local and affordable. I really like working elements like that into my patterns. By having two distinctly different zones, you can use two different yarns without where they meet being an issue. This is great either as a way of stash busting or to spread costs – splurge on the shoulder zone and save on the body.
I also felt like I could up the lace game from simple butterfly eyelets to something more grown up. The loops however were there to stay. They’re so fun to do! I’m a really taken with loop stitch and like the challenge of working it into garments without having you look like a 1950s poodle gin bottle cosy or a 1970s muppet.
I love gin poddles, but for gin! This one is made by Tanis Smith, who goes by the moniker of GinPoodle and you can meet its other gin poodle friends on instagram and etsy.
I’ve been having a hard time remembering exactly when the plan to make a collection of penguin patterns solidified, but I think it was when I discovered images of moulting teenage penguins and realised that was the answer to this cardigan. It made the colours fall into place and I could choose a perfect lace stitch that would mimic the the structure of penguin feathers.
Pictures of teenage penguins as they moult from chicks into adulthood ending up being an elegant knitted garment so appeals to me. It feels like the Ugly Duckling story additionally proving that even penguins have an awkward teenage phase. I think the result is totally contemporary, yet vintage feeling. Susan Crawford has, on occasion, referred to this as “my cardigan” when offering encouragement and checking in on the progress of Penguin: a Knit Collection. I’m so excited she has been one of the first people to pre-order the book and I know this is the pattern she is looking forward to knitting.
Teenguin is worked in two colours of heavy DK weight yarn, the gorgeous Snældan 3-Ply, which you can get from The Island Wool Company. I think it’s the perfect occasion to use two of the beautiful colours it comes in, perhaps even 2 of the 5 greys in the undyed part of the range, but you could stick with just one. The body and sleeves of this cardigan are worked flat in a lacy chevron stitch incorporating an unusual amount of garter stitch. This means the delicate lines of lace don’t need to be disrupted by ribbed cuffs, as the stitch sits flat of its own accord.
I felt like Kay wrote her recent post to Ann on Mason Dixon Knitting (about working the sleeves of her Monomania cardigan flat rather than in the round as specified) was written for me. Or maybe the flat knitted sleeves of the Teenguin were made for her? I know there has been a mass embrace of the circular needle, but I would encourage people to get out their old straights on occasion, whenever you can really, as I think it’s good to mix things up for your posture and wrists.
Teenguin is designed to be worn with zero or slight negative ease (allowing the stretch of the fabric to give the space needed for movement). Belinda Boaden and I had many a good chat about the dispensability of shaping in knitwear. We agreed that for the most part, the stretch of the fabric can provide the shaping you need, or rather, your body provides the shape and the knit will fit to it. If you prefer more ease, go up a size.
I’m thrilled with how this one looks on all sorts of body types. If you really crave bust or waist darts, add them in where your actual bust and waist is, rather than where I, as the designer, think they might be based on my own body and standardised measurements. I miss Belinda so much: she was always filled with constructive critical opinions, humour and care. The book is dedicated to her, in loving memory.
So yesterday, something very exciting and unexpected happened, Clara Parke’s put Penguin: a Knit Collection on her 2015 Gift List for The Knitter’s Review. Turns out that a penguin was her high-school mascot and I’m her favourite instagrammer – high praise indeed from a woman I have utmost respect and admiration for. That feels momentous enough that it could be the only thing I tell you today, but there are patterns to introduce you to!
I love stranded colourwork and yet it’s not featured highly in my book. Only 2 of the 11 projects in Penguin: a Knit Collection are stranded: the Fledgling mittens and this, the Flower King hat. (Mind you, only 3 patterns are shown in a single colour.) I started the #fairilsefriday hashtag over on Instagram about 2.5 years ago now with a very inclusive and welcoming understanding of what constitutes Fair Isle. Therefore it feels right to share this stranded project today, on a Friday, regardless of the fact it doesn’t feature any remotely traditional Shetland motifs. It is stranded, and to many folks, correct/blasphemous/misguided or not, Fair Isle is still the catch-all term for knitting two colours in the same row. And really, what an honour – that one little island gets to lend its name to a whole approach to knitting that has it’s origins and use spread all over the place!
I also hope it’s becoming clear by now, that though united by a deep fascination and appreciation of the penguin, the majority of the patterns in my book do not actually look like one. They were the jumping off point or perhaps more correctly, the diving in point. When I was looking at the king penguin for inspiration, things took on an unexpectedly floral twist. King penguins have what looks like a large yellow inverted petal on each side of their face. In using this shape to form the colourwork patterning on the crown of this hat, I found myself with a flower. This of course means that a pompom was compulsory, as it becomes the heart of the flower – a treat for those with an aerial view.
The hat is worked in the round from the brim up, starting with 1×1 ribbing. The colourwork chart is repeated around the hat 5 times. There are undeniably long floats, so there are tips to advise where and why to manage these. Unlike the other patterns in the book, this hat is given for a single size only – a good middle ground adult head size of 56-58cm / 22-22¾”. Guidance is given for creating different sizes. Changes in the yarn you chose and your tension can make the little tweaks you might need and adding repeats of the colourwork chart can make more dramatic adjustments, as would removing them.
You’ll want 3 colours to knit with and another one for the pompom. All the patterns in the book use Faroese yarns from The Island Wool Company. This hat uses Navia Trio, a Faroese 3-ply yarn that is equivalent to a DK/worsted weight. It’s 100% wool, spun from a mix of Faroese, Shetland and Australian fleeces. You’re looking for a tension of 20 sts x 24 rows = 10cm / 4” over colourworked Stocking Stitch on 4.5mm needles, or whatever needle you need to get that tension.
I’m really excited to see this pattern knitted up in more classically floral colours. Maybe a green background with darker green “Vs” and a hot pink flower with a yellow heart. I’m also experiencing a distinct desire to knit one using a specifically ombré yarn to make shaded petals. For example this one, from The Wool Kitchen:
The knitting pattern includes a lengthy section on making successful pompoms, something I couldn’t resist putting in. I am known to wax lyrical about making pompoms. (I do write a regular column for PomPom Quarterly, which, contrary to what the name might suggest, isn’t about making pompoms at all, though they do occasionally appear on the gorgeous knits you will find in there.) Speaking of which, I’ll be signing copies of the book and showing off the samples at the PomPom Xmas party on Friday, 11 December. Clara Parke’s will also be there and I will finally get to meet her in person!
This hat was inspired by not one, but two types of penguin, the adélie and the chinstrap. The adélie influenced the plain version and the chinstrap, the striped. Chinstrap hat doesn’t have quite the same romance and ring to it. In fact, it would have been a really unappealing name for a hat, no matter how cool a penguin they are, so I settled on Adélie.
The shaping of this hat is based on old-fashioned baby bonnets, but without the forehead peak (which tends to be a tricky look for adults to pull off). Those baby hats were generally knitted flat and this one is knitted in the round, so it has no back seam. Markers are placed at regular intervals to help you keep track of what you are doing and instructions are given row-by-row. In effect, it’s like knitting a large set of chevrons in the round, so that the hat fits just-so.
Knitted all in black, it has something of a Louise Brooks bob about it. I wanted a hat that frames the face and keeps my ears warm. I’d also been on a futile search for a hat that fitted under my bike helmet in such a way that it kept my ears warm. This was my solution. I’m tempted to knit one in safety yellow with that reflective tape stranded in.
Instructions are given for both the plain and striped version in three adult sizes. If you are knitting it in one colour, you can use a single ball of Navia Trio (DK/worsted weight; 100% wool; 120m / 131yds per 50g) which you can buy straight from The Island Wool Company and a selection of their lovely, local, brick and mortar stockists. If you want to get stripy, you’ll need an extra ball of colour or roughly half/half with a bit more of colour A. You’re looking for a yarn that gives you 19 sts x 32 rows = 10cm / 4” over colourworked stocking stitch after blocking. This is quite heavy for a UK DK, but it isn’t quite yet an aran. It’s right on the borders of a worsted and a light worsted. Yarn categories are so flexible and have so much variation – it’s insane. Navia is a nice standard, traditional Nordic 3-Ply weight. You could experiment with knitting in an aran weight as Helen of The Wool Kitchen did (with great results) when she tested it for me. Mandy has made a few of them, one in handspun, another in special reserve, stashed angora and a third in a marl.
We had an immense amount of fun during this part of the the photoshoot. We did it outside Fin & Flounder on Broadway Market. They were slightly bemused, but totally accommodating. I’ve never had so many puns hurled at me by passing strangers. “Are you sure you’re in the right plaice?” “Looks fishy to me!” “Hats off to you!” “Can’t pull the wool over your eyes!” And a bunch of others I can’t recall, but apparently, the combo fish, wool and knitting is a rich vein. With all that going down, we just decided to channel Abba.
The best compliment Kristin and I have received about our cardigan design collaboration has been from Joy, aka The Knitting Goddess, who described it as not looking like a knitting pattern at all, instead like something that came from a cool boutique. It made us quite giddy and we can’t wait to see Joy’s version, knitted in her hand-dyed yarn, but let me backtrack a little and put this pattern in context.
Kristin Blom and I met via Instagram a few years back and our online friendship has morphed into a very real one. Since she lives in Uppsala and I live in London, this means travelling quite a distance to visit each other, but we’ve done it a number of times now. Meeting in person for the first time included all the same nervous feelings as going on a first date – what will they think of me, what will I think of them, will it spoil the lovely online relationship that has blossomed, will they smell?
We’d planned she would pick me up from the train station where my bus would arrive from the airport. We were diving straight in – I was going to spend the night! When we located each other, she talked ten to the dozen and I had a brief moment of thinking “oh gosh, oh no, what have I let myself in for?”, before realizing that that was probably her way of compensating for her own set of nerves in the situation. Who knows what weird behaviour I was displaying.
Our friendship had worked its way beyond Instagram when she offered to test knit my Archipelago hat design for me. I don’t much recall whether she caught any dire mistakes in my instructions. What I remember was her casually asking me at the end of the process whether I needed help laying out the pattern and turning it into a PDF. It was a little bit like the heaven’s had opened and a giant light shone out. I heard a little chorus of chipmunks or maybe rats singing. I remember thinking “how the hell did she know that?” I quickly said yes, please.
There’s a lot of work involved in making a pattern and it’s so nice to share that. Kristin is a communication designer, but importantly, alongside that, she is an ardent knitter. She and I made Penguin: a Knit Collection together. She was the one who made it possible, making it look good on paper and be a joy to knit from, aside from all the patterns she tested. I couldn’t have done it without her. We have spent hours and hours on the phone together, well, Skype actually, working through edits. Our own little work rhythm and system of interacting has developed and I think I am going to suffer from serious Kristin withdrawals now the book is done.
The Aptenodytes cardigan is a design collaboration between her and I. She cooked it up – the shape, the stitch and cool use of a loose tension. She turned up at my house with the first sample for a knit evening we’d organized to celebrate the fact that a bunch of international knitters were coincidentally in London at the same moment and we had to gather to knit together. We all tried it on and fell in love, regardless of the fact that a couple of us weren’t usually inclined to such flow-ey garments.
I was excited to be able to test knit her first big pattern. It felt like reciprocating for all the testing she does for me. Soon, to feel-out her reaction, I hinted it that the cardigan was quite penguinish (the rounded fronts that drape down like wings, the luxurious collar, the slimline sleeves…) I’d been worried I had penguins so firmly on the brain that I might be seeing them everywhere, even where they weren’t. When she agreed, I asked her if she’d have it in the book and she agreed to that too. I helped make it work as a pattern, adding the sleeve-and-back-into-shoulder construction and the grading for a good range of sizes.
Its drape-frontedness makes it flattering on a full range of body sizes. Because of the open style of this cardigan, we recommend erring towards a smaller rather than larger size, so the sleeves fit snuggly. It goes up to an XXL and I think it will look great on the big boobs I don’t have. The shaping also works particularly well for penguin mamas: whether pregnant or breastfeeding. Kristin was just pregnant when she started designing it and wanted something to wear that would see her through that time and well beyond: something that wasn’t maternity wear in any way, but did have that flexible fit. She’s made the cutest baby in the time we’ve made the book.
Sometimes row tension isn’t as important as stitch tension, but for this pattern it’s worth keeping a close eye on both, because the fronts are worked sideways and need to work with the vertically knitted sleeves, back and collar. Also the sleeves are knitted in the round and the body flat, which means it’s good to check how your tension differs between flat and circular knitting. Many knitters find their tension can change significantly. Mine does OK between circular and flat, unless I’m working magic loop and then it diverges quite dramatically. If this is the case for you, make sure to check your tension carefully between sleeves and body and adjust your needle size accordingly. This may mean you need an additional needle in a different size.
On the subject of needles, if you are choosing ones specifically for this project, I would chose ones with nice pointy tips, such as Addi Lace or Chiaogoo. A nice pointy tip makes it easier to insert the needle into 4 stitches at once, which you will need to do for the daisy stitch. The engaging stitch pattern alternates rows of daisy stitch with eyelets and purl feature rows on a base of stocking stitch. The stitch pattern is written and charted and is nice and easy to remember and see where you are.
Have fun picking the yarn. There’s a lot of flexibility. I’ve used a single colour of Navia Duo in the book, which is a 4ply/Sport weight, knitted on larger needles to get a heavy DK/worsted tension with drape. You want to look for a yarn that indicates 22-23 sts to 10cm on the label and adjust your needle size to obtain the Aptenodytes tension which is 19 sts and 26 rows = 10cm / 4” over stocking stitch on 5mm (or whatever needle size you find you need). Generally this means you will knit on larger needles to achieve fewer stitches than specified on the ball band. Alternatively, use a DK weight yarn if you want a warmer, more densely knit garment. Navia Trio would work great and both are available from The Island Wool Company.
You could even use two colours to pick out and feature rows of the stitch pattern.
It is fastened with a button on either side of the neckline (one hidden button and one larger feature button) with the option of two different buttonholes on either side for a variety of ways to wear it, so that’s another part you can have fun choosing – the buttons AND how to button it up!
I know we tend to shy away from all-black knitting projects, they’re not always the easiest to keep track of in low-light situations and from a designer and photographer perspective, it can be hard to communicate the details that shine in the actual knit. But, it had to be black for the book shoot in order to emphasise the penguin nature of it and beyond that, think how much you would wear it!
The Aptenodytes cardigan is one of the 11 patterns in Penguin: a Knit Collection. You can find the pattern details on Ravelry and, soon, purchase the print book from your LYS (you might need to ask them to order it in, if they haven’t already contacted me to stock it).
The Fledgling mittens are baby emperor penguins for your hands. They are one of the 11 patterns in Penguin: a Knit Collection and the first I am properly introducing you to. I’ll share the others, one a day, till they’re all covered.
Cute, as well as practical, these colourwork mittens are knitted in the round with afterthought thumbs. They start with a ribbed cuff and progress to simple 1×1 checkerboard colourwork. The tops of the mittens (the little emperor penguin chick faces) are charted separately for each of the 3 sizes. The densely knitted wool fabric has the added bonus of floats (from the colourwork) at the back, which make them extra warm.
Fledgling is the generic name for baby birds after they have gained their flight feathers, but penguins can’t fly (unless you count how they travel through water). Birdies tend to buck the trend of baby animals being adorable straight off the bat. They are often bald and pinkish red (not in a cute way) with dark blue grey bulbous eyes that shine through their thin skin even when closed. Not to mention their cavernous beaks. Hatching pre-feathered, penguin chicks get to skip that phase and be instantly can-I-keep-it? cute. They need those feathers to equip them to withstand intensely cold temperatures and wind (though they still have to snuggle on the feet of their parents for additional warmth).
Knitted in three shades of Navia Trio, a DK/worsted weight yarn that’s 100% wool and which you can purchase from The Island Wool Company, you’re looking for 28 sts x 30 rows to measure 10cm / 4” x 10cm / 4” over the checkerboard pattern. This is significantly tighter than you would knit a DK/worsted sweater in, where you would look for a tension of 19sts to 10cm/4” from the same yarn. That makes it a heavy DK for us in the UK and somewhere on the borders between a worsted and a light worsted in the USA. Navia is a Faroese yarn and comes in the traditional Nordic weights of 1-Ply, 2-Ply and 3-Ply, hence Uno, Duo and Trio. These equate loosely to laceweight, 4ply/sport and DK/worsted.
I have indicated the places in the pattern where you might want to make adjustments to tailor your mittens to your specific hands (or whoever is going to be the lucky recipient): at the cuffs, the length of hand before the colourwork face and the length of the thumb. I designed them to have nice deep cuffs of 6cm / 2¼”, which in combo with the ribbing should hold them on your hands snuggly. Regardless, I’d be tempted to sew a long length of elastic between them and thread that through my coat sleeves like my mum used to do with my gloves and mittens when I was little. I’d hate to lose one of these! They have faces on, which means they have characters and should have names.
Lynn Manderville did me the honour of test knitting them for me. She knows a thing or two about colourwork mittens (just look at her Weeds pattern). As well as tech editing the pattern, Rachel Atkinson couldn’t resist knitting a pair. She is still settling on what to call hers. Archie and Isaac, Milo and Steve or Pete and Petunia are in the mix. Any further suggestions welcome. What would you call yours?
OK, so I could bang on about Marlisle for days. I’ve had so much fun cooking it up and teaching it. Sending my students off, buzzing with ideas for their own designs using this method is so satisfying. This might be partly because they are forced to – I hadn’t published any Marlisle patterns until now. This is the first one. The term is a mash-up of “marl” – two noticeably different shades of yarn plied or in this case, held together – and the “isle” from Fair Isle. Regardless of geographic origin, Fair Isle is often used as a catch-all for stranded colourwork. Marlisle allows this circular knitted sweater to have small patches of pure white on the front, but not the back without working intarsia, yet spread over distances that would be unworkable using regular stranded colourwork (because the floats would be epic).
To achieve this, a strand each of charcoal and white yarn are held double and worked in garter stitch for the majority of this bottom-up sweater. The white yarn is separated out where required and worked akin to stranded colourwork in stocking stitch to produce that pop of single colour. Because you are always carrying A&B colours around, you have both colours available to use individually at all times. The density of the fabric changes little, as the yarn is always double thickness thanks to the floats behind the colourwork sections.
The sweater used for the photoshoot was knitted combining a strand of Snældan 3-Ply in Fleece White held together with a 2-Ply in Charcoal. These are traditional Nordic weights of yarn as Snældan comes from the Faroe Islands and is a mix of Faroese and Falkland wool. I fell in love with all the Faroese yarns thanks to The Island Wool Company making them available in the UK. These two weights are equivalent to DK/worsted and 4ply/sport. In combination you are looking for a tension of 16 sts x 28 rows = 10cm / 4” over garter stitch using one strand of A and B held together, after blocking.
The resulting fabric is intentionally dense with definite structure thanks to the yarn and the garter stitch combo. Using two same-weight yarns or an aran/worsted with a heavy laceweight to achieve the required tension when combined is also an option. If you prefer a lighter fabric, you could try stranding two 4ply/sport yarns or even a DK/worsted with a heavier laceweight. I think you get the idea – dive into you stash and see what you have. It might be the perfect time to use a laceweight skein with many many metres/yards on it in combo with something heavier. Do keep an eye that you use the thicker one for the main colour in the rib and the motifs, or you could run into tension issues.
I promise I’ll bang on about Marlisle here a lot more in the future, not just on Instagram, but you know, gotta start somewhere and I am so excited about the possibilities of it. Also, you might notice that the photoshoot I did with Elle (fate that she trades as Yellow Bird Photography?) totally references my #yarnandoldcars habit.
The Humboldt is a graphic, cropped sweater with a boxy body balanced out by fitted sleeves. It is one of the 11 patterns in Penguin: a Knit Collection. I give instructions for sizes from XS to XXL and you should pick a size that allows the bust measurements to fit with 20-25 cm / 8-10” positive ease. You can find the pattern details on Ravelry and soon purchase it from your LYS (you might need to ask them to order it in, if they aren’t already stocking it).
If you’re lucky, you might win the giveaway that’s happening over on Mason Dixon Knitting which will get you a copy of the book AND the yarn to make your own Humboldt.
I’ve made a book. Penguin: a Knit Collection will arrive back from the printers this week. I know some of you have been waiting for it patiently and that has really helped the process along. The responses I’ve gotten when giving sneak peeks at places like To Gather DTLA, AVFKW, Unravel, Stephen & Penelope, Ja, Wol and Yarndale were totally encouraging. It’s the summation of well over a year of work in collaboration with many amazing people and their skills. I am beyond excited to finally be able to share it with you.
It’s 80 pages of full colour, printed on a proper, huge, Heidelberg press in London. It was great to be able to hop on public transport and go and see it be printed last Monday (and bring my dad and editor, Amelia Hodsdon along). In addition to being local, Park Communications take the environment seriously in their print work, which was important to me. The uncoated paper we decided on for the book has good environmental credentials, making it even coooooler. It also means on you can write on it with pencil (or pen) to keep track of where you are in the pattern, make notes of any personal adjustments or just draw some of your own penguins in the margins. They were so generous about satisfying our curiosity about, well, everything.
Here are my Dad and Amelia having the Heidelberg press explained to them by Michael.
There are 11 knitting patterns in the book, all inspired by penguins – 2 cardigans, a sweater, 2 hats, a beret and cowl set, a shawl, a pair each of socks and mittens and a cuddly penguin called Pinglwin, who wears a removable knitted tuxedo hoodie (because otherwise she is all white and she gets fed up explaining why). The whole collection is tied together by a strong palette of black and white, with a smattering of greys, mustard yellow, soft brown and pale pink. Only Pinglewin and the Fledgling mittens are noticeably penguinish. For the other knits, the inspiration link is much more subtle.
The book is filled with little stories and a long introduction essay explaining how and why it came about: my love of knitting, fun, community and… PENGUINS! It’s crammed with photographs of the 10 garments photographed around my neighbourhood of London Fields in Hackney, East London. I had the most wonderful photoshoot with Elle Benton. Ania Grzymajlo did double duty as model and doing hair and make-up, so it’s not only my face you’ll see in there. Thijs groot Wassink did a great job coaxing a slightly shy Pinglwin into be photographed while knitting. There are photographs of real penguins from Chuck Graham and Lori ann Graham, hand-drawn schematics (by me) and the most glorious watercolour endpapers and illustrations from Narangkar Glover.
I had an amazing tech editing team checking things over and a couple of great general editors keeping an eye on the flow, style and clarity of all the stuff I really wanted to tell you. (One of the hardest things about making the book was limiting it’s size to be manageable to print and post, then read and knit from.) And my test knitters were the BEST. I am not going to go into everyone in detail, because I do it in the book, but I also think it might be a nice idea to tell you about them even more extensively here, at a later date.
This is a small view of the Aptenodytes cardigan, mainly so I can show you the penguin nails.
It has kept me immensely busy and now I’m ready to celebrate. I hope you’ll join me. If you can make it to London, please come say hello at the launch next Saturday, 5 December, at Wild & Woolly from 2pm. Dress like a penguin or at least in black, white, pink and yellow. I’m cooking up a prize for the most penguin-y of you and I’ll give penguin manicures to the first few through the door. I’ll also be at the PomPom Xmas Party on December 11th at Foyles. I have a growing list of LYS who I am thrilled will be stocking it. (Do drop me a line if you are interested in stocking it or have a favourite LYS you’d like to recommend I contact). And of course, you can Get your copy of PENGUIN: A Knit Collection HERE!.
See you soon. I’ll start introducing each pattern over the coming week.