Knitting outside the lines aka Flax Light Modifications

If you’ve read any of my previous posts you’re already aware that I have a tendency to modify whatever I’m working on. Sometimes the modification is small, like in my second Stonewall sweater, where I removed the waist shaping, or my Wish and Hope baby cardigan where I gave up on the lace panels. Other times I remake the original object and it still looks like the original object, like my Azalea top. And sometimes you look at something that I’ve made and think “I mean the basic shape is the same but I’m not really sure you captured the original pattern”, like my Warp Speed sweater. The point I’m trying to make here is that sometimes I set out with the intention to modify and other times it just happens as the project progresses. Which sort of leads to the question: am I creative or just coloring outside the lines?

Sometimes, I think I’m creative (re: Winter Moss Hat). Most of the time, I think I take pieces of things that I like and put them together. This would lean the answer to the above question heavily to the side of coloring outside the lines. While not trying to discredit myself, I genuinely don’t think that I have the vision that a lot of my favorite designers have. I feel a strong appreciation for what they do and they inspire me, but that ah-ha moment that I imagine happens when they sit down to knit doesn’t happen for me. When I design, I design something that I want but can’t find elsewhere.

Enter Flax Light and my current pandemic knitting habits of the baby sweater. There seriously could not be a better free pattern out there for knitting outside the lines. I’ve added three more Flax Lights to my project page and tried out some new yarn with each.

A teal baby sweater with a waffle texture throughout.
Jo Flannel Flax Light, Knit by iswimlikeafish

Justin’s Flannel Flax Light, knit with Boss Sock by Junkyarns in Jo is perfect. I love the way that the colors and texture look like the ocean. Alicia Plummer is currently working on a children’s version for her flannel series, so I do feel a little bad that I’ve done the modifications required to knit a baby sweater, but I also can’t help but loving the final result. Boss sock was nice to work with as well, soft and silky as it slipped through my fingers. Not a lot of blooming during blocking, but that doesn’t really surprise me because of the general springiness of the yarn.

Jo Flannel Flax Light, literally named for each component because this is my 8th flax light (according to Ravelry), knit up in five days and the only thing I changed about the pattern was adding the texture to it. This version, and all of the other versions I have knit, does not take advantage of the short row options that have been added. This version is one that I can see myself knitting again, partially because I’m obsessed with the textured stitching of Plummer’s Flannel series and partially because it was so much fun to knit.

A lime green knit baby sweater with purl rows every fourth row to create a textured stripe.
Kryptonite Flax Light, Knit by iswimlikeafish

The next flax light I started was knit using Birch Dyeworks 80/20 Sock in the color Kryptonite. When I chose the colorway for this sweater, my goal was for something fun and gender neutral. AKA something that wasn’t pastel or gray. If the color alone didn’t get me excited, the name of the colorway (Kryptonite) did. Is it wrong to love the idea that a baby is wearing a sweater in a colorway named after Superman’s one weakness? How can you not appreciate the idea that the bundle of joy being wrapped up in this sweater brings the strongest of the strong to their knees?

If I compare Birch Dyeworks 80/20 Sock to Junkyarn’s Boss Sock, and am honest, there isn’t a huge difference in the way that they knit up. This comparison is particularly interesting because I haven’t knit the same project with slightly different yarn back to back like this before. Even considering the amount of time I spend knitting socks in graduate school, I tended to bias my purchases towards a particular brand of sock yarn (*cough cough* Alegria). This observation either means I’m not enough of a yarn snob to notice the difference (entirely possible!) or that the fibers are similar enough that purchase comes down to color (slightly more likely). Both yarns should hold up well during machine washing and I anticipate just a little bit of shrinking.

A light blue, dark blue and grey stripped baby sweater with orange cuffs.
Sunfish Flax Light, Knit by iswimlikeafish

In terms of sweater modification, I purled a row every 4th row to give the sweater a textured stripe. Honestly, not as interesting a knit as my Jo Flannel Flax Light — I hit the first sleeve and started wondering why the project wasn’t done yet. The second sleeve involved a lot of “you’re almost done!”, which ultimately implies that I felt the sleeves should have knit up faster.

Flax light number three (or number 10 according to Ravelry) is the least gender neutral if you’re focusing strictly on the idea that blue is for boys. Knit in Woolens and Nosh Targhee Sock, the body of the sweater is blue and gray stripes with the ribbing boasting a bright orange color. When I think of a sock yarn, Targhee sock is what I think of. This yarn feels durable and soft, which probably means that the final result will be a stiffer (less drapey) sweater. Though still superwash, Targhee Sock feels more like a wool than the merino yarns above (I’m not sure why that’s a thing for me these days, Merino is wool too!). Please don’t make me pick a yarn that I enjoyed the most, I can see myself buying all three again!

The only modification I made in this sweater was to eliminate the sleeve garter stitch panels. The stripping felt like enough of a design element on this tiny sweater.

Three folded baby sweaters, the top left is a lime green knit baby sweater with purl rows every fourth row to create a textured stripe. The bottom left is a teal baby sweater with a waffle texture throughout. The final sweater is folded to the right and in the middle of the previous to, it is a light blue, dark blue and grey stripped baby sweater with orange cuffs.

Mars’s Flannel

A mustard yellow sweater wet blocking in a white bathroom sink.
Justin’s Flannel Blocking

While this post doesn’t mark the first sweater I ever made my partner (See: writers block cardigan and Flax), it does mark the first time that I’ve ever used Julie Asselin’s yarn and the first time that Alicia Plummer designed a men’s sweater. Test knitting Justin’s Flannel was so much fun, that I can’t help but see it in every color.

For starters, Justin’s (Mars’s) Flannel is the perfect combination of mindless knitting with a little bit of texture thrown in to keep it interesting. When you combine that with the fact that it’s easy to read your stitches to see where you are in the pattern, this sweater makes for excellent TV, knit night, podcast listening, reading etc knitting. In fact, I had so much fun with it I manipulated the pattern to make a baby sweater for a friend out of fingering yarn (more on that later when it’s finished, also I have it on good authority that Alicia is working on a children’s version as well)!

The next thing I love about this sweater is that it’s actually unisex. While I love Plummer’s designs, I often skip knitting the waist shaping. Though large, Mars’s flannel is a sweater that I could grab and curl up in.

Naturally, even with all my warm and fuzzy feelings I couldn’t help but change a few small details of the sweater. If you like the way the sweater hangs on my partner, you would need to knit the body a total of 16 inches before the ribbing (that’s an extra three inches) and the sleeves 19 inches before adding the ribbing (an extra 1.5). There is also a LOT of positive ease in his sweater, thought it’s been a little while since he’s been measured it’s safe to say that it’s about 5 inches.

Five hanks of Julie Asselin's Nutured yarn in Miel (yellow)
Julie Asselin’s Nurtured in Miel

Speaking of curling up in something, I cannot stress enough how warm and cozy Nurtured by Julie Asselin is. The photo below of my partner shows him in 30 degree (F) weather without a coat. This is particularly noteworthy because he’s from New Zealand and usually has two – three additional layers on compared to what I have. I, as the photographer, am behind the scenes wearing my winter jacket loosely zipped. What a difference! The bloom of Nurtured is also beautiful, meaning that the yarn has an almost felted look to it until it is wet blocked.

One downside of Nurtured is that with the extra warmth comes extra weight. I tend to be someone who knits more with Fingering – DK weight yarns in the interest of my hands and wrists not being the limiting factor while I knit. It sometimes felt like I was knitting with cotton, the yarn doesn’t seem to have a lot of elasticity and the project was heavy. 100% worth it, but worth mentioning because I couldn’t spend a lot of consistent time working on the sweater because my hands needed breaks. Despite this, I would use it again (although I would probably use Nurtured Fine instead, light weight yarn biases and all). Also, doesn’t bother me, but this yarn isn’t machine washable.

All in all, highly recommend both the yarn and the pattern!

A man walking his hound in the woods wearing a yellow textured knit sweater.
Walking on the local snow mobile trail during melt season is the best time to grab a knit sweater.

Warp Speed Sweater

My family has a wonderful habit of buying me gift cards to yarn shops for the holidays and 2020 was no exception. Instead of filling my basket with yarn, I ended up using most of the gift card to purchase supplies for my cricket loom (another heddle and a pick up stick). Included in this order was some red valley yarns Amherst — I “needed” a new cowl and headband to match a pair of fingerless mitts that I made last winter — and some superwash merino sock splash by Cloudborn Fibers in black sea (no link, sorry the yarn has been discontinued). My intention with the Cloudborn was to weave a thick and long wrap, so I only purchased 2 skeins. By the time I received the yarn and fell in love with it, Webs had completely run out of the black sea colorway. Womp. Womp.

Body of a stockinet sweater knit to the waistline without sleeves. The black yarn has dashes of bright pink and blue.

The thing is, this yarn screamed to be a top of some kind. Before realizing I couldn’t get any more, I thought it would look perfect as a V-Neck Boxy. After realizing that compromises needed to be made, I began searching for the perfect t-shirt pattern. Spoiler alert: Whatever I was looking for doesn’t exist.

Noni, by Megan Nodecker is a beautiful short sleeve pattern that had been sitting my queue for at least six months. There is beautiful texture along the neckline and it seems to look good on everyone who made it. Combine that with it was the correct gauge and yardage and we had a winner!

Body of a stockinet sweater with the bottom ribbing being knit. The black yarn has dashes of bright pink and blue.

Now I tried, in good faith, to knit the pattern exactly as it was written. The lace would have been beautiful if I hadn’t gone cross eyed while knitting the first row. Then I decided to knit the body shorter (12 inches instead of 17) and add ribbing along the neckline. There were fleeting thoughts of adding sleeves with any extra yardage that were thrown out the window when I decided that I needed to wear the garment asap. Honestly, I think I’ll be making it again with the texture and love this top so much that I don’t feel bad for the changes that I made.

In the end, I made myself the top that I was hoping to — even if it wasn’t my original plan. This project also helped me come around to the way that drop sleeves look (I always thought the style would make my shoulders look extra broad).

A young woman wearing a short sleeve black knit sweater. There are dashes of bright blue and pink throughout the sweater.
Warp Speed Noni

Shoe Insoles (Free Pattern)

L.L. Bean Duck Boots with red crochet insoles
L.L. Bean Duck Boots with red crochet insoles

I purchased my first (and only) pair of duck boots while living in Boston during the 2015 snow storms because that’s what I noticed that everyone was wearing on their walk to work. It seemed like everyone had the same idea, actually, because they immediately went on back order and I wasn’t able to start wearing them until the following winter.

While I understand that leather boots take time to break in, I cannot express how uncomfortable I found these boots. It honestly seemed like the reason they received their name came down to the way that they force their wearer to walk like a duck. The other problem that I had was that my feet would sweat and then freeze, which meant that long walks were still uncomfortable when I finally broke the boots in.

Rainbow crochet shoe insoles laid flat.
My Dad’s slipper insoles

Winters of grudgingly wearing these boots later, I found myself eyeing a leftover skein of Valley Yarns Amherst and remembering a gift that I made for my dad several holiday seasons ago. His knit insoles prevented his feet from sweating and getting cold, perhaps that’s all I needed!

Hikes and dog walks later, it’s safe to say that it worked. In the interest of helping others keep their feet warm, I’m sharing what I did:

Shoe Insoles Pattern

Materials Needed:

Close up of a rainbow crochet square lightly felted
Rainbow crochet square
  • 100-150 yards of 100% wool (or alpaca) worsted weight
  • 6mm hook or needles
  • Scissors
  1. Place your boots on a piece of paper and draw a square around them that’s a 3-4 inches larger on all sides.
  2. CO until your stitch count lines up end to end with your square.
  3. Knit/Crochet until your square until it fills the square that you made around your boots. Note: It’s ok if the square ends up being a little bigger or smaller. Gauge is not critical because we will be cutting the square.
  4. Gently felt the square. Note: It does not need to be perfectly felted, the square will continue to felt as you wear your boots.
  5. Lay your boot’s insoles on top of the square and cut around them.
  6. Slide them into your boots and enjoy!
Red crochet shoe insoles that have barely been felted next to a pair of red handled scissors.
These are barely felted — just enough so that the stitches don’t come out when I cut into the square.

Winter Moss Hat Pattern (free)

Winter Moss Hat without pompom and brim folded over twice.

Jump to pattern.

Last October, I applied to be a Blue Sky Maker for Blue Sky Fibers and was invited to join the team. If you’ve been following me on Instagram for a while or have read any of my previous posts before reading this one (see Camp Loopy 2019 and Camp Loopy 2020) you’ll know that I have a special place in my heart for Blue Sky Fibers, especially their Woolstok line. Woolstok has a way of screaming out to me whenever I’m wondering a yarn shop or perusing an online store, and when I come across it I find myself distracted by all things colorwork. How could I not be excited when they sent me one of their cool bundles in the mail?

Winter Moss Hat with Pom-pom

Seven colors, that’s how many colors come in a woolstok bundle. I can’t tell you how many hours I spent pouring over Pinterest looking at blue and green images or Ravelry looking for inspiration. One of the Strange Brew knits came to mind, but I wanted to make something that wouldn’t need much more than the one bundle and didn’t find inspiration in the charts found in Anthology. The colors on my table looked so beautiful together, the more I stared at them the more I thought about my fiancé’s homeland, New Zealand.

It’s worth noting at this point, that I have never been to New Zealand unless you count viewing the Lord of the Rings trilogy that was filmed there (I don’t). Despite looking at many pictures of gorgeous scenery, it’s safe to say that there is a little bit of the Shire in my eventual design. It probably took me four or five hours to develop this chart, all the while I was wondering if I would come to hate myself for having more than two colors within the same line.

Winter Moss Hat without Pompom

Chart done, I started swatching to develop the fabric that I wanted and then started playing around with numbers in order to get fit vs fabric that I was hoping for. The final result is this hat! I love how the colors come together to show a sunny mountain day from the side and a snow flake or flower when looked at the hat from top down.

For those of you who are not feeling up to holding more than two colors at a time, I recommend using a duplicate stitch. Honestly, I found holding multiple colors at a time a fun challenge – it helped that you don’t have to hold them together very long!

Now my fiancé and I have different head sizes, but we are both able to wear and enjoy the hat. Since I knit the brim long, when he wears it he folds it over twice and enjoys extra warm ears. When I wear the hat I tuck the brim in, so that about two inches are showing, which makes the hat feel smaller while also keeping my head nice and toasty. Can you tell that our winters are cold?

Please use the hashtag: #wintermosshat so I can see your project!

Hat Pattern

Winter Moss hat with out Pompom and the long brim unrolled.

Sizing: One size fits most adults, decrease or increase stiches by multiple of 20 for a different size.

Recommended yarn: Woolstok Bundle (cool, neutral, or warm), 1 skein of 150g solid color Woolstok

Recommended Gauge: 22 sts x 28 rows per 4 inches

Suggested needle size: US 5 and US 6

Note on sizing: Decreasing your stitches per inch will result in a larger hat, increasing your stitches per inch will result in a smaller hat. My fiancé and I can both wear this hat (I usually wear an adult S/M and he usually wears an adult M/L) due to the brim construction. I push the extra brim inside the hat and he doesn’t need to.

With smaller needles and the Italian Tubular Cast on, CO 120 sts

Join in the round, being careful not to twist

Work 1×1 rib for:

  • 6-8 inches (double fold brim, I did 6)
  • 4 inches (regular fold brimg)
  • 2 inches (no folding)

Switch to larger needle, Knit 1 round

Work 48 row chart (below), changing to double pointed needles or magic loop when needed.

Cut yarn leaving about a six inch tail. Thread the tail through the remaining 12 stitches.

Optional make a pom pom with your leftover yarn.

Chart Key:

  • / k2tog
  • \ ssk
  • ^\ s1k2psso
Pattern chart, see written version below.

Chart Written Instructions Key:

K: Knit

MC: Main color

CC 1-7: Contrast Color (7 total)

SSK: Slip Slip Knit

K2TOG: Knit Two Together

S1K2PSSO: Slip One, Knit Two, Pass Slip Stitch Over

Chart Written Instructions:

To be repeated a total of 6x around

Row 1: [K1 CC1, K9 MC, K1 CC1, K3 MC, K1 CC1, K1 MC, K1 CC1, K3 MC]

Row 2: [K2 CC1, K7 MC, K2 CC1, K2 MC, K2 CC1, K1 MC, K2 CC1, K2 MC]

Row 3: [K3 CC1, K2 MC, K1 CC1, K2 MC, K3 CC1, K1 MC, K3 CC1, K1 MC, K3 CC1, K1 MC]

Row 4: [K1 MC, K3 CC1, K3 MC, K3 CC1, K1 MC, K3 CC1, K3 MC, K3 CC1]

Row 5: [K1 CC1, K1 MC, K3 CC1, K1 MC, K3 CC1, K1 MC, K3 CC1, K2 MC, K1 CC1, K2 MC, K2 CC1]

Row 6: [K1 CC1, K2 MC, K2 CC1, K1 MC, K2 CC1, K2 MC, K2 CC1, K7 MC, K1 CC1]

Row 7: [K1 CC1, K3 MC, K1 CC1, K1 MC, K1 CC1, K3 MC, K1 CC1, K9 MC]

Row 8: [K20 MC]

Row 9: [K5 MC, K1 CC2, K7 MC, K1 CC2, K1 MC, K1 CC2, K1 MC, K1 CC2, K2 MC]

Row 10: [K20 MC]

Row 11: [K5 MC, K1 CC2, K7 MC, K1 CC2, K1 MC, K1 CC2, K1 MC, K1 CC2, K2 MC]

Row 12: [K4 MC, K1 CC2, K1 MC, K1 CC2, K6 MC, K1 CC2, K1 MC, K1 CC2, K1 MC, K1 CC2, K2 MC]

Row 13: [K3 MC, K1 CC2, K1 MC, K1 CC3, K1 MC, K1 CC2, K5 MC, K1 CC2, K1 MC, K1 CC2, K1 MC, K1 CC2, K2 MC]

Row 14: [K2 MC, K1 CC2, K1 MC, K1 CC3, K1 MC, K1 CC3, K1 MC, K1 CC2, K11 MC]

Row 15: [K1 MC, K1 CC2, K1 MC, K1 CC3, K1 MC, K1 CC4, K1 MC, K1 CC3, K1 MC, K1 CC2, K10 MC]

Row 16: [K1 CC2, K1 MC, K1 CC3, K1 MC, K1 CC4, K1 MC, K1 CC4, K1 MC, K1 CC3, K1 MC, K1 CC2, K2 MC, K1 CC4, K1 MC, K1 CC3, K1 MC, K1 CC4, K2 MC]

Row 17: [K1 MC, K1 CC3, K1 MC, K1 CC4, K3 MC, K1 CC4, K1 MC, K1 CC3, K4 MC, K1 CC4, K1 CC3, K1 CC4, K3 MC]

Row 18: [K1 CC3, K1 MC, K1 CC4, K5 MC, K1 CC4, K1 MC, K1 CC3, K2 MC, K2 CC3, K1 CC4, K2 CC3, K2 MC]

Row 19: [K1 MC, K1 CC4, K3 MC, K1 CC3, K3 MC, K1 CC4, K4 MC, K1 CC4, K1 CC3, K1 CC4, K3 MC]

Row 20: [K1 CC4, K9 MC, K1 CC4, K2 MC, K1 CC4, K1 MC, K1 CC3, K1 MC, K1 CC4, K2 MC]

Row 21: [K20 MC]

Row 22: [K2 CC5, K1 MC, K4 CC5, K1 MC, K4 CC5, K1 MC, K4 CC5, K1 MC, K2 CC5

Row 23: [K20 CC6]

Row 24: [K2 CC5, K1 MC, K4 CC5, K1 MC, K4 CC5, K1 MC, K4 CC5, K1 MC, K2 CC5

Row 25: [K20 MC]

Row 26: [K6 MC, K1 CC7, K1 MC, K1 CC7, K1 MC, K1 CC7, K1 MC, K1 CC7, K7 MC

Row 27: [K2 MC, K1 CC7, K2 MC, K1 CC7, K2 MC, K3 CC7, K2 MC, K1 CC7, K2 MC, K1 CC7, K2 MC, K1 CC7]

Row 28: [K1 CC7, K3 MC, K1 CC7, K2 MC, K1 CC7, K3 MC, K1 CC7, K2 MC, K1 CC7, K3 MC, K1 CC7, K1 MC]

Row 29: [K1 MC, K1 CC7, K1 MC, K1 CC1, K2 MC, K1 CC7, K1 CC3, K1 MC, K1 CC3, K1 MC, K1 CC3, K1 CC7, K2 MC, K1 CC7, K1 MC, K1 CC7, K2 MC]

Row 30: [K2 MC, K1 CC7, K2 MC, K1 CC7, K2 MC, K1 CC3, K1 MC, K1 CC3, K2 MC, K1 CC7, K2 MC, K1 CC7, K3 MC]

Row 31: [K4 MC, K1 CC7, K2 MC, K1 CC3, K1 MC, K1 CC3, K1 MC, K1 CC3, K2 MC, K1 CC7, K5 MC]

Row 32: [K1 MC, SSK MC, K1 CC7, K4 MC, K1 CC3, K1 MC, K1 CC3, K4 MC, K1 CC7, K2TOG MC, K2 MC]

Row 33: [K1 MC, K1 CC7, K4 MC, K1 CC3, K1 MC, K1 CC3, K1MC, K1 CC3, K4 MC, K1 CC7, K2 MC]

Row 34: [K1 CC7, SSK MC, K1 CC3, K1 MC, K1 CC3, K5 MC, K1 CC3, K2TOG MC, K1 CC7, K1 MC]

Row 35: [K3 MC, K1 CC3, K7 MC, K1 CC3, K3 MC, K1 CC7]

Row 36: [K1 MC, SSK CC3, K1 MC, K1 CC3, K5 MC, K1 CC3, K1 MC, K2TOG CC3, K2 MC]

Row 37: [K6 MC, K1 CC6, K7 MC]

Row 38: [K1 MC, SSK MC, K2 MC, K3 CC6, K2 MC, K2TOG MC, K2 MC]

Row 39: [K3 MC, K5 CC6, K4 MC]

Row 40: [K1 MC, SSK CC6, K5 CC6, K2TOG CC6, K2 MC]

Row 41: [K2 MC, K5 CC6, K3 MC]

Row 42: [K1 MC, SSK MC, K3 CC6, K2TOG MC, K2 MC]

Row 43: [K3 MC, K1 CC6, K4 MC]

Row 44: [K1 MC, SSK MC, K1 MC, K2TOG MC, K2 MC]

Row 45: [K1 CC2, K4 MC, K1 CC2]

Row 46: [K1 CC2, S1K2PSSO CC2]

Row 47: [K2 CC2]

Row 48: [SSK CC2]

Top down view of hat pattern.