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A Few New Things…

I’m trying to be better about posting new designs… The design world is similar to the magazine world (and so often we work in conjunction with each other so that only makes sense) whereas we design and knit something, send it off, forget about it and appears months later in print or online. It’s akin to seeing an old friend after a long absence or cleaning out a closet and finding the shoes you’ve been looking for for months.

I design a pattern every other month for Imperial Yarns. You may recall that Imperial Yarns was featured in my Knit Local and Knitting Architecture books and they also supplied Ralph Lauren with the yarn for the US Olympian Athlete sweaters. What I like most about working with them is they are family owned and operated, they work the land themselves, raise the animals, keep everything in the US and are good people. The Wrapped Lace Hat is knit in 1 hank of their Anna yarn, a textured, fun knit with wrapped stitches, lace, reverse stockinette and garter in the round, topped off with a pom pom. Download the pattern here.

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Everyone knows and loves Webs. If you’ve never found yourself in western Massachusetts, I highly recommend visiting. They have a very nice storefront, but then you go through the double doors in the back and WOAH. A warehouse full of yarn. It’s like Costco for knitters, filled with discontinued colorways, yarns, OMG the YARN. So. Much. Yarn.

Webs is celebrating their 40th anniversary this year and I adore the husband and wife team that run it. I have been on their podcast a few times and they’re good people. I was honored to be asked to design a special knit for their anniversary. I knit a lace cowl, the Nikiya Cowl. Webs will carry it for 6 months, then it will be available through TanisKnits in October. Download the pattern here.

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40thannpat05.05pdf.zoom.3_mediumThat’s all for now. Stayed tuned for a giveaway next week!

 

 

From Mama, With Love

I hope that long after I’m gone, as my grandchildren and great-grandchildren make their way through this world, that they will be wrapped in hand knits made with love from me to them.

I have a few knit and crocheted things I’ve inherited from my grandmothers and they mean so much to me. Snuggling under one of Grandma Myrt’s afghans is the closest I can get to getting a hug from her. Holding a bright pink hat Grandma Irene made for me brings back snowy afternoon childhood memories. Handmade things are left behind when those we love are gone and knowing how they were made and taking care of them until they are passed to the next generation is an honor.

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I had an idea many, many months ago to put out an ebook of baby knits as a group project among friends, including myself, Kate Gagnon Osborn, Connie Chang Chinchio, Melissa LaBarre and Margaux Hufnagel. The knitting design world is a small one, with most of us being female, many of us mothers and many of us friends. I so admire these women… Working moms, wives, creative minds, yarn lovers… These are my people and I love them fiercely.

The idea was rather simple – we’d each design 3 garments, have our children be our inspiration and models and gather these 15 designs together in an ebook. We all work in the knitting field, whether we’re running a yarn company and taking care of our daughter (Kate), designing feverishly while awaiting the birth of our second daughter (Melissa), designing while flying across the country for work and missing our daughter and son (Connie), designing while chasing after our son (Margaux) or designing late into the night while editing knitting books and making knitting class lesson plans while my son sleeps across the hall (me). I have spent time with all these incredible, talented, wonderful women in real life and having us all work on one big project like this together in the virtual world was an example of mom power. This book is a labor of love for our children, for each other and for ourselves as mothers.

I have 2 garments and a baby blanket for my 3 projects:

antonia3_medium2The Antonia Blanket is a cable-lovers dream. Knit in Tanis Fiber Arts Green Label Aran Weight (superwash), it brings to mind sunny days walking in the woods with my son, Callum.

ronan2_medium2The Ronan Pullover is my favorite of my 3. Fair Isle knitting is my favorite technique and I love the bold, bright Scandinavian motifs marching across the mid-section and sleeves. Knit in the round from the top down in Alchemy Yarn’s Temple (superwash), this would be easy to put the wearer’s favorite colors into the design.

vest1_medium2The Callum Vest is a surprisingly quick knit. Knit in Sublime’s Extrafine Merino Wool DK (superwash), the back is all stockinette. It’s knit from the bottom up in the round, then splits for the armholes and v-neck. I love the wrapped stitches and “manly lace” panel climbing up the front.

Some of my other favorites in this book…

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Melissa LaBarre’s Sid Scrappy Hat (who doesn’t love a kid in stripes? AND it’s a great stash buster!)

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Kate Gagnon Osborn’s Bluebell Pullover (I started knitting this for my son in darker colors. LOVE that “envelope” technique at the shoulders!)

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Margaux Hufnagel’s Boppy Cover (everyone has a Boppy but no one has been clever enough to design a hand knit cover for it until now!)

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Connie Chang Chinchio’s Velvet Hoodie (every little girl’s dream is in this adorable flared pullover!)

That’s just a taste of the 15 unique designs in this ebook.  You can see them all and purchase the collection here. Be sure to join our From Mama, With Love group on Ravelry. We’re kicking off a KAL very soon!

I am so proud of this collection, of these women, of what we banded together to work on and create for our children.

The collection is going on an exciting blog tour, won’t you follow along?

Friday, April 4th, Carol Sulcoski of Black Bunny Fibers
Monday, April 7th, Melissa LaBarre of Knitting School Dropout **Designer of FM,WL!
Tuesday, April 8th Tanis Gray of Tanis Knits **Designer of FM,WL!
Wednesday, April 9th, Connie Chang Chinchio, **Designer of FM, WL
Friday, April 11th, Susan B. Anderson
Monday, April 14, Kate Gagnon Osborn of Things for Charlie (And KW) **Designer of FM, WL!
Wednesday, April 16, Vickie Howell, Host of Knitting Daily
Friday, April 18, Carol Feller of Stolen Stitches
Monday, April 21, Kate Chioccio of Dragonfly Fibers
Wednesday, April 23, Julie Crawford of Knitted Bliss
Friday, April 25, Katie & Kara of Nice & Knit
Monday, April 28th, Ysolda Teague Guest Blog Post!
Tuesday, April 29th, Karida Collins of Neighborhood Fiber Co.
Friday, May 2nd, Cecily Glowik McaDonald of Winged Knits
Monday, May 5 - Carrie Bostick Hoge of Maddermade
Wednesday, May 7th - Thea Colman of Baby Cocktails
Friday, May 9th - Kate & Courtney, of Kelbourne Woolens
Tuesday, May 13, Jessica Correa, of Dream in Color Yarn Co.
Thursday, May 15, Kristen Kapur of Through the Loops
Tuesday, May 20, Tanis Lavalee of Tanis Fiber Arts
Friday, May 22, Alana Dakos of Never Not Knitting

 

 

Zimbler Cowl

Congratulations to reader photogmomma on winning Amy Gunderson’s new book! Check your email for further instructions…

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When I was 6 years old, I feel off the top of a jungle gym and shattered my elbow. I was taken to the local hospital, who told my parents my injuries were so severe that my arm would not recover. The doctors there believed it would stop growing, wither and be rendered useless. They recommended amputation.

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My parents refused to believe that and took me to Boston’s Children’s Hospital. There, Dr. Zimbler was able to perform surgery on my elbow with positive results. He set it with titanium pins and after many months of painful physical therapy, my elbow was fully functional. Many years later, no one would ever know anything happened to my elbow just by looking at it. Even the scars have faded to almost nothing.

To this day I think of Dr. Zimbler. He saved my elbow and therefore, my entire arm. I would not be able to write or knit without his help, two of my favorite activities.

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100% of the pattern proceeds from the Zimbler Cowl will be donated to Doctors Without Borders.

While the doctor that saved my arm was not part of this amazing program, it is an incredible organization that delivers independent emergency medical care to victims of armed conflict, brings relief in the aftermath of natural or man-made disasters, and fights deadly epidemics in more than 70 countries around the world.

Dr. Zimbler is one of thousands of talented doctors who change the lives of people for the better. Being a doctor is a calling, and an important one at that. How many people have a career that can literally save lives?

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Thank you, Dr. Zimbler.

The Zimbler Cowl uses 3 hanks of Blue Sky Alpacas Worsted Hand Dyes, or about 300 yards of any worsted weight yarn. Pattern available for download here.

 

An Interview with Amy Gunderson & Giveaway!

Greetings, dear readers!

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I was lucky enough to be given an advanced copy of Amy Gunderson’s new book, Knitted Mitts & Mittens from Stackpole Books. My first knitting obsession when I was a kid was knitting mittens for everyone I ever met (and I do mean everyone). I do love a good knitting book about mittens and Amy’s didn’t disappoint.

Amy was kind enough to sit down with me and answer a few questions…

 

Tanis (TG): Can you give the readers a little background on you? How long have you been knitting?
Amy Gunderson (AG):I’m one of the newer generation of knitters raised by Ravelry. I’ve been knitting a little over 5 years and joined Ravelry in my first couple of months. I’ve always loved to make things with my hands; that is nothing new. I dabbled in hand-sewing in my early teenage years. After acquiring a sewing machine I began quilting and sewing clothes. Enter crochet about 15 years ago, and then weaving at some point after knitting. I think weaving is something every knitter and crocheter should have the capacity to do – it’s such a great way to use up odds and ends!
I attended the University of Iowa as a violin major as a 17-year-old but dropped out on a whim and moved to NYC and Boston for a couple of years. After a few years of waffling and being a lazy 20-something, my husband and I opened a pizza place and operated it for 8 years in Iowa City. It was there that I learned to knit. This was a really great way to learn, actually. When I would be learning a new skill and a customer would call, I had to be prepared to drop everything in an instant. It taught me to “read” my knitting very quickly because I could be interrupted at any time and would lose my place.
After I’d been knitting for a year or so, I started writing patterns and selling them on Ravelry. Knitscene published my first couple of designs outside of Ravelry in summer of 2012. Before these designs were even published, I answered an ad for a design coordinator position with Universal Yarn. To the surprise of my poor husband who had said, “um, sure, I’d move to North Carolina”, I was hired in early 2012. Now the creative lead for Universal, I feel lucky to be doing yarny things all day long, get paid for it, and have health insurance!
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TG: Why focus on mittens? Do you have a particular love for them or reason why you gravitated towards that subject? Tell us about your book and why it’s special.
AG: Honestly, this book idea did not originate with me. Pam Hoenig, editor of Stackpole Books, contacted me last year regarding the concept. She had seen a couple of my fingerless glove patterns on Ravelry and wondered if I’d be game to do an entire book of them. Because I’m more sweater driven, I hesitated at first. But after pondering the thought of all these small projects, the more excited I became about doing the book. The book is special to me because it’s my first and because I’m sincerely proud of it.
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TG: While it’s a bit like asking someone whom their favorite child is, do you have a favorite pair?
AG: I’m kind of wishy-washy, really. Ask me the same question tomorrow and I might have a different answer. My tastes are constantly changing. Today, I’d have to say Boutros the Beetle. I once adapted an earflap hat pattern to include both triceratops and beetle motifs. I’m closer to 40 now than I am 30 but I still love quirky things that I did as a kid. The idea behind these was basically, “Beetles on fingerless gloves for adults? Why the heck not?”
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TG: What is your favorite knitting technique?
AG: This is harder to choose than a favorite glove pattern. I usually say fair isle or intarsia for design, but I love everything. I do.
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TG: You’ve got some really interesting takes on the “modern mitten.” how did you go about deciding what would make the cut?
AG: I have to really “be feeling it” to want to put effort into taking a design beyond sketching and initial swatching. But sometimes I’m surprised. I wanted to do a pair of colorwork mittens and just cast-on without really thinking about it or sketching. About halfway through the first mitten I threw it aside and decided it was too blah. After a few weeks and a few more pairs were done, I noticed the half-finished mitten laying there and decided to give it another try. That’s when I decided that what they needed was a little extra pop of color. After adding the little embroidery wraps and doing an impromptu double layer cuff, Swedish Mittens happened. But yeah, knitting is just as much about ripping and tossing work aside as it is about productivity. Sometimes ideas are just garbage and shouldn’t be bothered with. And that’s okay! It’s about realizing that and just moving onto the next thing.
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TG: What was your thought process for the book? Did you sit down and write out techniques you wanted covered, or think about what’s missing from existing mitten designs? Did you sketch or make a list?
AG: Even though Pam approached me about the book, I still had to put together a proposal for Stackpole. In that proposal I outlined a number of generic ideas I had -colorwork mittens for men, long lace mitts, etc. I’d had a few ideas kicking around in my head that I was sure I wanted to do, so that’s where I started. Boutros the Beetle was the second pair because I knew I wanted some quirky colorwork. Little Bow mitts came early because I knew I wanted a felted element somewhere in the book. But beyond the first few pairs, I really just did what I felt like doing. I would refer back to my initial proposal from time to time making sure most of those items were covered. But mostly, I’d just take it day by day, sort of reevaluating the collection as I went.
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TG: What is your advice for people about to make the transition from first scarf or hat to the world of mitten knitting? What would be the best pair in your book to start with?
AG: Big and Little Bamboo would be a great beginner pattern. They use pretty straightforward construction, worked from the cuff up, incorporating a thumb gusset and a simple textured pattern.
The biggest put-off for a newer knitter might be the use of double pointed needles. They’re not as tricky as they look, they just take a little practice. And it’s fun to use them in public around non-knitters; they’re always so mystified by what look like 12 small skewers surrounded by yarn.
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TG: It must have been so much fun to choose the color palette. Can you tell us about that?
AG: Again, it was really the same way I did the designs, totally on the fly. Universal Yarn’s sister company is Premier Yarns, which is the company whose yarn I used exclusively for the book. If there happened to be an odd skein of something sitting around the office I would often just use that color because it was what was handy. That was another way of adding restrictions to the designs, which is something I like in doses; it can be a fun challenge!
TG: Do you have any advice for someone wanting to try their hand at designing their own mittens?
AG: If you have an idea, any idea, simple or crazy, just do it! Mittens don’t have to be knit in one direction. They can go top down, side to side, inside out, etc. But above all, do what’s fun!

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Thanks, Amy! My favorite pair in the book are definitely the Slouchy Mitts (pictured above in gray).

One lucky reader will win a copy of Amy’s book of their very own! Be sure you subscribe to the blog and leave a comment with the answer to this trivia question:

In what country were the oldest pair of hand knit mittens found (HINT: There are a few different answers to this question online, but the answer I’m looking for begins with an “L”)?

One lucky winner will be chosen at random on Monday, April 7th.

Relentless

I love a good winter, but a winter filled with endless snow in a city full of people not accustomed to driving in it? No, thanks. Here it is, April 1 and we got snow 2 days ago! Our backyard is the perfect scene for a mud wrestling competition and all the bulbs and seed packets I bought in anticipation of the elusive season called “spring” look sad and pathetic waiting for their due. When. Will. It. End?

Because this winter has been the gift that keeps on giving, I’m offering up a new free hat design, the Miss Rachel hat. I’m wondering if reverse psychology will work with spring, as in, “Here, I knit this hat because I’m LOVING this winter and wish it would never END! I love wearing 54 layers every time I set foot outside!” So then winter would naturally relent and let spring make its way in. Silly? Very much so, but at this point I think we’re all grasping at straws.

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Cascade recently introduced a new yarn called Elysian with a smooth blend of 60% superwash merino wool and 40% acrylic. Keeping in mind my love of being able to create knits with minimal caring fuss, I can throw this little beauty in the washing machine, then tumble dry. This blend makes for a really springy, nicely plied yarn with the perfect stitch definition for my favorite knitting technique – Fair Isle. I like a crisp stitch when I’m doing stranded color work. The stitches need to be able to hold their own and not look mushy, therefor losing their place in the design. Each stitch plays an important part in Fair Isle knitting and if you use colors that are too similar or mushy yarn, suddenly your great idea will turn into a half knit project thrown into the corner.

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With over 30 colors to choose from (thank you, Cascade!) I chose a stormy blue, a hopeful brown that reminds me of digging in the garden, and a crisp winter white. Picking the right shades was tricky, since I had so many I wanted to knit with. I’m a sucker for corrugated ribbing on a hat and having those few rounds of brown going through the middle of the brim keeps things interesting. I designed a Fair Isle pattern that reminded me of plants making their way up from the hard, frozen ground and reaching towards the sky. A subliminal message for spring, telling it to hurry up so I can plant things? Absolutely!

Just shy of 220 yards in each skein means I had a fair amount of yarn leftover and would easily be able to get another hat out of what remained. I topped it off with a happy tri-colored pom pom after doing the crown decreases and voila! My Miss Rachel hat was complete.

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If spring happens to come upon us in the next week or so, you can totally thank me for using reverse psychology on winter.

Download the free Miss Rachel hat pattern here.

In Like A Lion, Out Like A Lamb

March is a tricky month, a bit of a wild card.

As I type this, I’m dreaming of spring. A have a seed catalogue open on my desk and informed my husband last night that we need to have a serious discussion about the garden and what we’re going to plant this year. I daydream about afternoons spent running around the backyard without coats, pounding my way down the running path without a hat, or gloves, or extra layers, of just a morning cup of tea for the sake of a cup of tea, not a half-dozen cups downed just trying to get warm.

Spring is elusive and when it’s finally here, fleeting.

I always loved the expression “In like a lion, out like a lamb” used to describe March. Even as I contemplate that, the forecast for northern Virginia is not looking promising, with wild accusations from the weatherman of a foot of snow today. In like a lion, indeed.

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Yet even as I warily push my snow boots aside when I come inside, or prop the snow shovel against the back door just in case, not quite ready to banish it to the shed, or hold off a few more days before ordering my seeds, I know spring is coming. My neighbor’s crocus have bloomed in a purple slash across their yard, a reminder that the winter I love, yet have grown tired of this year, is coming to a close. There are less and less hats worn by the kids at the playground, and while I ran without gloves last night and regretted it halfway through my 4-mile run, it felt a bit rebellious and springlike.

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Who doesn’t love a good knitted washcloth? I have a knitting friend who knits washcloths by the dozens. Dropping by to say hello? Take home a washcloth. Do a favor for her? Take 6 and put them in your pocket. She gives them away like it’s going out of style. I love the idea of washcloths, yet found 100% cotton to be a bit harsh on my young son’s delicate skin. I contemplated a blend and when I came across Cascade’s Avalon, knew this was the perfect worsted yarn for a washcloth. A blend of 50% cotton and 50% acrylic, the acrylic makes it softer and pliable. It makes me happy because I can throw it in the washer and the dryer (regular readers know that’s a must in our house!) and I know it will get softer with each washing. With 175 yards per hank, I was able to knit 3 out of 1 hank, so I grabbed another in a cheerful yellow and knit another 3. 6 clothes out of 2 hanks? Love it! There are just shy of 30 colors and these are great on-the-go knitting projects knit on US 7s. I can see getting a handful of bright colors (this yarn is incredibly affordable) and knitting cloth after cloth (they have some GREAT purple shades just like the crocus in my neighbor’s yard). Can you ever have too many?

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The fun thing about this pattern is the designs are completely reversible. If you’re familiar with sculpture at all, you’re heard the term “relief” used to describe sculpture usually done on a flat surface such as a wall, with 3-dimensional elements. Same with these 3 washcloth designs! I knit up a lion, a lamb and a tulip. Flip them over and what popped out on the front now recedes into the back. Cool!

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March may come in like a lion and out like a lamb, but the tulips are coming, the snow shovel will go live in the shed soon and I’ll eventually get to put the snow boots away. In the meantime, I’m going back to dreaming about my seed catalogue and the bounty to come.

Free In Like A Lion, Out Like A Lamb pattern available here.

Football Head

I love Charlie Brown.

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When I was a kid and my dad and I would be the only ones awake on Sunday morning, he’d go out to the mailbox, get the newspaper, we’d have breakfast together and he’d hand me the comics. I’d flip quickly to Peanuts, read it first, then make my way through the rest of the section.

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I think everyone can find a character in Peanuts that they can relate to. The messy kid, the bossy kid, the intellect, the brat, the kid with security issues, the musician… I often felt akin to Charlie Brown himself and learned a lot of life lessons from reading Charles Schultz’s cartoons each Sunday morning at the table with my dad.  A few of my favorite quotes:

“Sometimes I lie awake at night, and I ask, ‘Where have I gone wrong’. Then a voice says to me, ‘This is going to take more than one night.”

“I think I’ve discovered the secret of life — you just hang around until you get used to it.”

“Stop worrying about the world ending today. It’s already tomorrow in Australia.”

“In the Book of Life, the answers aren’t in the back.”

Pretty deep stuff coming from a comic strip. To this day, I cannot walk by, flip by or see a Peanuts comic without stopping to read it. Charlie Brown feels like an old friend, coming in and out of my life, offering up words of advice that always seem apropos to the situation I find myself in. In honor of Charlie, I’ve designed a “modern-day” version of his classic zig zag shirt.

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Knit in Cascade’s 220 Superwash Aran, this is an incredibly soft pullover meant to keep the wearer snug and philosophical. As always, I love to knit in superwash yarn when knitting for a child. After all, Charlie Brown himself stated that, “All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” A pullover covered in chocolate can be thrown easily into the wash on cool, then put in the dryer for endless wear when knit in this yummy yarn. I like this particular yarn especially because it screams “KNIT CUDDLY GARMENTS WITH ME THAT WILL LAST AND WASH UP WELL!!!” I think I found my new go-to yarn for snuggly knits. I’ll admit to being a little jealous that I can’t fit into this pullover.

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Coming in over 40 shades of plied goodness, 220 Superwash Aran is a hearty 150 yards per hank, economical, washable and one of my favorite things about Cascade’s yarns – they offer a color for everyone. The stitch definition for the fair isle pattern is perfect and when my young model friend, Brynna put it on, she squealed in delight at both the squish factor of the yarn and the color combination.

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A simple top-down raglan construction knit in the round with a placket opening, garter details and simple Fair Isle patterning on the body and sleeves is a wardrobe staple for any Peanuts fan. You only need 4 hanks of the yarn and with all the colors, have your wearer “help” by choosing colors. I learned how to knit when I was 8, just about the same size as this pullover is designed for (28″ chest circumference). Why not get an extra hank and begin teaching the recipient how to knit?

I feel like Charlie Brown himself would have said something like “It’s never too early to learn how to knit. Let’s grab some needles and some yarn, go find Snoopy and get to work.”

Free Charlie Pullover pattern available here.

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