Guest Blog By Karen Of Karen Hanlon Cohrt Knit Designs.
Hi everyone and welcome to the first guest blog post at Woolly Castle. Big thanks to Vicky for the invite.
Firstly, a bit about myself and how I became a knit-addict! I’m Irish (from Tullamore, Co. Offaly) and have been living in Denmark since 2011 with my Danish husband and two boys who are now almost 6 and almost 1 years old. I knitted way back in primary school – you know, on long 4 mm steel needles, doing 1 row plain, 1 row purl and always ending up with way too many or way too few stitches! I could neither cast on nor off but with a bit of help I managed to knit a few handbags, purses, headbands and scarves. My childhood knitting ‘career’ stopped though after I knitted a chunky cerise pink jumper that was wider at the neck than the waist LOL. Needless to say, I never wore it!
Knitting is a huge passion for me and I could go on about it for days if allowed. But for now, I’ll restrain myself and talk about three main topics here - my knitting journey, unfinished objects and how I cope with them, and finally a bit about pattern design and where I’m at now.
Back on the Knitting Horse - Nesting and Knitting
After a 20-year long break, I got back into knitting in 2013 when expecting my first son. I was very conservative and Ravelry was my saviour. Most patterns searches went like this: >knitting, >with photo, >free, >4 mm needles, >DK, >easy, >worked flat. This didn’t leave me with many choices, so I ended up knitting a lot of mittens, bonnets and cardigans that were knitted as individual flat pieces and later sewn up. But I was never happy with my finish. I always found that the sewed seam was too obvious.
I really wanted to improve my knitting skills but had little interest in the sewing part. This led to many unfinished objects (more about this later!) and some frustration for me. But then I discovered two things that changed my knitting style forever! These were the round needle and raglan shaping. If you’re not familiar with raglan shaping you should check out Drops Design’s website. They have some really great video tutorials on all aspects of knitting. Here’s a good beginner tutorial about raglan.
Until about 3 years ago, I actually only used round needles to knit back and forth which might sound counter-intuitive, but it allowed me to work many patterns with raglan shaping without having all my stitches scrunched together on a straight needle. With this setup, I knitted some really nice cardigans and dresses and I certainly didn’t miss the sewing. Some of my favourite designs from this time are Autumn Leaves Cardigan by Nikki Van De Car and Lottie Dress by Suzi Sparkles and Tiriltunge Newborn Onesie by Shja quickly became my new favourites.
First picture ; Autumn leaves / Second picture; Lottie Dress
Most of my knits are for babies and young children and I am a big fan of natural fibres such as merino wool, alpaca (which is even more lush with some silk thrown in) and pure wool. In Denmark, babies sleep outside in their prams during the day wrapped up in cosy clothes and a good duvet, and for this hand-knits are just invaluable. Good yarn doesn’t have to break that bank and much of what I have knitted for my boys as babies has been in Baby Merino, Merino Extra Fine and Baby Alpaca Silk, all from Drops Design.
First picture; Tiriltunge Newborn Onesie blue in DROPS BabyAlpaca Silk / Second picture ; Pink in DROPS Alpaca / Third picture ; Trousers in DROPS BabyAlpaca Silk.
The Dreaded UFOs
I’m actually a bit conflicted when it comes to unfinished objects. On the one hand, I want to finish one project before I start the next but it’s also nice to have something else to go to when I get stuck with a hard project. So to keep myself from getting overwhelmed with a house full of UFOs, I try to have one main project on the go and then something that doesn’t require too much concentration for when I’m tired, which is almost permanently these days!
I keep all my UFOs in one place and if they are not finished after about 3 months I actually frog them (rip them back up). I motivate myself to do this by finding new things I want to knit with the yarn! It’s a win-win for me and keeps my to-do list long.
But I do have one exception to the 3-month rule, and that is my never-ending UFO patchwork blanket that I started for my oldest, Johannes, back in 2016. He was mad into Shaun the Sheep at the time and I found an amazing free pattern. I order 36 balls of Drop’s Karisma and got started quite quickly but I never managed to finish. And then the guilt set in so I hid it somewhere where even I couldn’t find it!
I eventually came across the blanket (which was a bag of patches at the time!) when moving house and gave it a mad burst last autumn as I wanted to give it to Johannes as a present when Frederik was born, and before he completely grew out of watching Shaun the Sheep! I did manage to have something to give him (still not finished but he didn’t know!). And I’m finally getting there. I’ve made a deal with myself to get it finished by this Christmas. I’ve 6 squares to go and then I’ve to embroider the words Shaun the Sheep across the green stretch. And I’ll probably put a felt backing on it to hide all the ends!! So many ends but it’s been worth it!
Shaun the Sheep blanket made with DROPS Karisma.
In the early days I had a tendency to wing parts of a pattern that didn’t make sense to me. As time went on and my skills improved, I found myself trying to simplify or improve certain aspects of patterns that I thought could be better and eventually I realised that I wanted to take a stab at designing something myself. Even though there are thousands of fabulous patterns on Ravelry and elsewhere I often find myself struggling to find exactly what I have in mind.
So, in June this year when looking for a baptism outfit for Frederik (who would be 8 months old at the time), I decided to take the plunge. I was looking for a simple yet elegant summery pattern that had all the design elements I like – knit from the top-down (makes it so easy to try on for sizing along the way) raglan arm shaping, and seamless. After a few attempts and a lot of frogging and multiple rounds of calculations Frederik’s Romper was finally ready. I since altered the design to include buttons at the legs (changing a nappy in the white romper was not easy!). The pattern is now available in sizes newborn to 1 year, but I’m actually thinking of extending it over the winter as Frederik has outgrown the largest size and I’m not ready for the romper stage to be over. It’s actually really cosy and cute with tights on underneath. In Denmark, boys and girls wear tights and rompers to keep warm in winter.
First picture ; Frederik's romper original (white), Second picture ; Frederik's Romper pattern
I’m really enjoying the design process so far. The design ideas come easily and are usually inspired by the things I’d like to make but can’t find a pattern for. The knitting is actually the fastest part of the process and I usually do this at night. Calculating the pattern for bigger and smaller sizes, writing the pattern down in an explicit way that others can follow and going through test-knitting (where other knitters test each size), and then pattern editing based on tester feedback takes a lot of time but is so important to ensure that the pattern makes sense and that the garments fit well.
My latest design is a Christmas jumper for babies and children. It’s currently going through testing and all going well it will be ready by the first week in November. It’s still missing a name though and I’m open to suggestions to feel free to shout if you have an idea!