It’s a Plaid, Plaid World

 Fashion, FOs, Random Thoughts  Comments Off on It’s a Plaid, Plaid World
Sep 252013

Plaid is everywhere for fall, and I’m officially obsessed.

fall fashion 2013 tartans | The Knitting Vortex

Americans use the words “plaid” and “tartan” interchangeably, but a tartan is a woven textile pattern historically identifying Scottish Highland clans and military or political allegiances, while a plaid (“pledd”) is a length of this woven wool thrown about the body, for example to stay warm on the moors.

Tartan in fact has a long history; the earliest examples of this sort of woven textile were found on mummies dating from around 2000 B.C. in the central Asian Tarim desert basin. In The Mummies of Urumchi, archeologist and textile historian Elizabeth Wayland Barber investigates the link between these Indo-Europeans and the Celts. A branch of the Celts gave rise to the Scots, and to the practice of local clans adopting certain woven color patterns, which became identified with their wearers. The materials and aesthetics of the weavers first determined what patterns were available, and where. The system of colors and patterns coalesced throughout the 17th century, sometimes becoming associated with military regiments. In a political move, tartan and other distinctive Highland dress was later proscribed by an Act of Parliament in 1747 to 1782 to punish the Jacobite uprising and wipe out the Highland way of Life.

In 1842, the alleged royal grandsons of Bonnie Prince Charlie, Jacobite Pretender, created the Vestiarium Scoticum, a pictoral compilation of historical tartans purported to be a reproduction of an ancient manuscript. Although discredited early on, the book is influential in moving many of the supposedly traditional tartans into the realm of official clan representation.  Tartans entered popular fashion in the 19th century with their enthusiastic adoption by Queen Victoria. During this time, the advent of chemical dyes made possible vivid reds, greens and blues, and pushed the popularity of bold color combinations that are still modern today.

Oversized, small scale, balanced, asymmetric, muted, bold . . . so many choices. When I was designing Plaidscape, I was inspired by the iconic Burberry plaid; however, I needed something simpler, and I knew I would have to factor in the stitch vs. row gauge. Enter the fabulous Scotweb Tartan Mill, online purveyors of woven tartan. You can order a kilt from them, yes – but the super cool thing is their online tartan designer. Easy and free, you can use it to design your own tartan; should you be so inclined, you can then order fabric in your pattern from their weaving mill!

I used the designer to replicate, then recolor, my inspiration plaid. The side effect was also to get sucked in and go crazy making other plaids (and storing them in my library!)

Plaidberry tartans

more plaids


Obviously Plaidscape alone cant fulfill my mad, mad, plaid desires, so I’m making a tartan cowl and investigating more accessories. Hat and fingerless mitts are not far behind.

Tartania cowl


Sep 182013

Plaidscape in Wooly Wonka Fibers  Plaidscape in Knit Picks | The Knitting Vortex  Plaidscape in Knit Picks by Holla Knits | The Knitting Vortex

Several months ago, the lovely Allyson of Holla Knits pinned a technique on Pinterest called Easy Knitted Plaid, from the WEBS blog. I spend as much mindless time trolling the Pinterest eye candy as any other procrastinator, and like to take note of interesting knitterly techniques, among other things. This plaid concept really intrigued me, and I immediately thought about designing an overscaled plaid something. What could it be? Accessory? Nope, too small. Gigantic squooshy wrap? Maybe, but too much exposure of the wrong side. Sweater? Getting closer, but anything with much shaping at all would interfere with the unbroken drama of the plaid. Then poking around runway photos and fall fashion forecasts, I noticed the unapologetic presence of capes as an emerging trend.

Now, I had thought my involvement with this sort of thing ended with the rectangular poncho I knit as a new knitter a long time ago – but, no! Cape, poncho, cloak, pelisse, mantle, tabard . . . exactly the silhouette for a big, bold plaid. I thought about calling it a swing coat for a while, when I got nervous, but instead plunged fearlessly on and embraced the cape-ness.

And I’m glad I did; this shape is an easy topdown knit, and the raglan increases allow the plaid to radiate outward for a geometric, eye catching look. It has a subtly shaped hemline, which visually echoes the round shoulder line that appears when it’s worn on the body. It’s knit one color at a time, in a simple wide rib, just like knitting stripes. It has an asymmetric, double breasted front closure, made from I-cord frogs that match the applied I-cord front edging. And it allows you to play with color, from high-contrast to gently tonal.

But the plaid, you say? What about the vertical plaid? Well, that’s put in last, using a crochet hook to pick up a line of stitches in the purl ditches of the ribbing. Those stitches nestle in there, nice and flat after a friendly blocking, looking just like they belong. I made a video tutorial to show exactly how.

I can see making lots of plaid in future, and meanwhile I’ll be sporting around in my fashionable cape; it’s outerwear and accessory all in one. I’d like to inspire everyone to embrace this bold shape, so I’m giving away a free copy of the Plaidscape pattern.

Leave a comment on this post telling me your thoughts about capes; are they fierce, flirty, frightening? What colors would you use to make this trend your own? Deadline for comments is wednesday September 25 at midnight EDT. One entry per person EXCEPT: for an extra chance, pin an image from this post on Pinterest, tweet a link, or like The Knitting Vortex on Facebook (dont forget to come back and leave your second comment if you do!) I will announce the winner, drawn by random number generator, right here on thursday September 26. May the odds be ever in your favor!

Cant wait? Plaidscape is available for download from Holla Knits, either individually, as part of the Holla Knits Fall/Winter 2013 Collection, or part of a Holla Knits subscription.

Take the Holla Knits Blog Tour, and check out the other fabulous designs and fantastic yarns from the Collection:

Sept 17: The Sweatshop of Love
Sept 18: The Knitting Vortex
Sept 19: Unplanned Peacock
Sept 20: Knit York City
Sept 23: masi|knits
Sept 24: Wooly Wonka Fibers
Sept 25: Knittery with Doog
Sept 26: Dyeing to Knit with Yarn Love
Sept 27: Dirty Water Dyeworks
Oct 1: Rohn Strong Designs
Oct 2: Knits in Class
Oct 4: Cosmos and Cashmere

Sep 162013

Plaidscape | The Knitting Vortex

Capes are the new coats for fall, and Plaidscape features a topography of colors knit seamlessly from the top down in bulky weight wool. Choose classic colors, or indulge your rainbow fantasies, and learn a new skill for making plaid without stranding. The horizontal colors are knit as stripes using one color at a time per row in a wide rib, then the vertical stripes are added at the end with a crochet hook in the purl columns; no crochet skills are needed – it’s as simple as picking up dropped stitches.
Plaidscape is worked seamlessly from the top down in a horizontal plaid pattern to the end of the wide elbow-length sleeves. The sleeves are then divided from the body, which continues to grow in an A-line shape to a curved hem. Full written instructions are included, as well as charts for the raglan increases. Applied I-cord neatly finishes the front edges, and the double-breasted front closes with I-cord frogs and knots. Interesting to knit and fun to wear, Plaidscape is a coat with a difference.

Yarn: Knit Picks Swish Bulky, 100% Merino; 137 yards/100g: Silver (MC) 5 (8) skeins, Stormy (CC1) 2 (3) skeins, Rouge (CC2) 1 (1) skein.
Yarn: Wooly Wonka Fibers Brigit Bulky, 100% SW Merino; 106 yards/100g: Forest Primeval (MC) 7 (11) skeins, Little Miss Firecracker (CC1) 3 (4) skeins, Wheat (CC2) 1 (2) skeins.

Needles: Size 10.5 (6.5 mm) 60” circular needle or size to match gauge; Size 8 (5 mm) 24” circular needle for applied I-cord; 2 Size 8 (5 mm) dpns for I-cord frogs. Adjust needle sizes if necessary to obtain the correct gauge.

Notions: Stitch markers (8); stitch holders (2); size 10.5 (6.5 mm) crochet hook; yarn needle; 1 size 4 ¾” sew-on snap, optional; matching sewing thread and needle.

Gauge: 12 sts and 18 rows = 4” (10 cm) in St st on larger needle; 12 sts and 22 rows = 4” in garter st, after blocking. One plaid repeat is 4” wide and 4 7/8” tall.

Plaidscape in Wooly Wonka Brigit Bulky  Plaidscape in Knit Picks Swish Bulky  Plaidscape closeup | The Knitting Vortex

Plaidscape is part of Holla Knits Fall/Winter 2013, and may be purchased individually or with the entire 6-sweater Collection.

And as always, you can see Plaidscape on Ravelry.

Sep 102013

Not of knitting; that’s a relatively new thing – the real longevity is 20 years of married bliss with my lovely husband Gary, fondly referred to by me as DH on the interwebz. We were white label even back then, not the types who wanted chicken & green beans amandine in the ballroom at the local fancy venue. We had our ceremony on the deck at the old Shanghai Red’s in Weehawkin, New Jersey (now the Chart House), with the amazing view of the NYC skyline. It rained all day, then cleared up in the late afternoon, perfectly timed for our evening event.

wedding couple on the deck | The Knitting Vortex

We had an awesome party on the deck, then moved inside for dancing, snacks and of course the toast.

wedding party wedding toast | The Knitting Vortex

People were freaked out at first, because there weren’t assigned tables; but they all sorted it out and ended up mingling with the perfect mix just like we envisioned. DH always says “I loved your wedding!” and I have to agree. So 20 years later, here we are, going out for a nice dinner. Then and now:

wedding | The Knitting Vortex

20th Anniversary

We walked across the bridge to dinner at the Black Bass Inn in Lumberville, Pennsylvania.

20th Anniversary bridge | The Knitting Vortex 20th Anniversary restaurant | The Knitting Vortex 20th Anniversary Inn | The Knitting Vortex 20th Anniversary table | The Knitting Vortex

Great food, and another fab view – I suspect that’s our theme.  It only gets better,


 New Release, Patterns, Sweaters  Comments Off on Koa
Sep 032013

Koa | The Knitting Vortex

Koa is a shapely cardigan jacket with short sleeves, knit using the contiguous method all in one piece with absolutely no picking up stitches or seaming. Smooth stockinette stitch graces the body, while the fitted stand up collar, hem and cuffs are garter stitch, with additional texture in the broken rib and garter button band, worked simultaneously with the body.
Acacia koa is a species of flowering tree endemic to the Hawaiian Islands, which has rich golden brown wood; its name in the Hawaiian language, koa, also means brave, bold, fearless, or warrior.
Be fearless and fabulous in this chic little jacket.

Techniques & Skills Used: contiguous construction, long-tail CO, knit/purl, short rows, increasing/decreasing, simultaneous shaping.

Size: 32 (34, 36, 38, 40.5, 44, 47.5, 50.75)” bust. This fitted cardigan is designed to be worn with some positive ease; shown in third size with 1” ease.

Yarn: Madelinetosh Vintage (100% Superwash Merino; 200 yards/183m); 4 (4, 4, 5, 5, 6, 6, 6) skeins, shown in Glazed Pecan.

Other Materials: US 7 (4.5mm) 32” circular needle or size to match gauge; Stitch markers (7); Stitch holders (2); Yarn needle; 7/8” buttons 9 (10, 10, 10, 10, 10, 10, 11); Matching sewing thread and needle.

Gauge: 18 st and 24 rows/4” in stockinette stitch; 18 st and 28 rows/4” in Broken Rib, 18 st and 40 rows/4” in garter stitch, measured after blocking.

See it on Ravelry to read more or purchase the pattern.    

Koa | The Knitting Vortex | arm detail  Koa | The Knitting Vortex | left front view  Koa | The Knitting Vortex | neck and shoulder detail