Great Northern – Twin Peaks Knitwear!

Only 9 days left to back Great Northern on KickStarter!

I was 14 years old in 1990. It was my first year of high school. The wallpaper-esque florals and highlighter bright fashion of the 80’s were beginning to give way to the flannel and chunky soles of the next decade, Milli-Vanilli embarrassed themselves into oblivion (c’mon, was it really THAT scandalous?), and Twin Peaks was by far the weirdest thing on television. Before we had Netflix in our pockets, before DVRs even existed for goodness’ sake, we made plans to watch our favorite shows at the time they aired. We walked to our living rooms bare footed in the snow and uphill BOTH WAYS just to witness the genius that was David Lynch’s bizarre dreamworld of Twin Peaks. And it was

Since becoming a knitwear designer, I have often thought a Twin Peaks inspired collection had tremendous potential, so I was super excited to learn that my fellow designers and friends, Leah Coccari-Swift and Teresa Gregorio are teaming up to create Great Northern, a book of women’s sweaters, accessories, and housewares inspired by the cult-television show.

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The show’s discordant atmosphere and unusual characters inspired both designers to create a collection of vintage-inspired knits infused with a wearable, modern sensibility. They’ve been busy working on the designs and sharing peeks on their Instagram feeds lately. As a long time fan of the show I love seeing the process from inspirational concept to finished pieces, and I can’t wait to see this book happen!

While the designs are well underway, the funds for photography, tech editing, graphic design, printing, and shipping, are being crowd-sourced through their KickStarter Campaign going on right now! There are some fantastic incentives for backers to choose from such as book pre-orders, patterns and collections from other designers (including me!), and so much yarn! Go check it out right now – there’s only 9 days left to fund this project and know you had a part in bringing this collection to life!

And I would be remiss not to pay respects to the late Catherine Coulson, the actor who played Log Lady on Twin Peaks, who passed just two days ago. Thank you, Catherine. You are forever missed.

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Western Auto Shawl & Cowl Patterns

(HINT: Giveaway & flash sale details are at the bottom of the post 😉

I have a tendency get hung up on stitch patterns like a high school crush. I’d seen Jacquard Stitch around and I liked it, but I didn’t, you know, LIKE like it. Then one day it walked out of Barabara Walker’s Second Treasury and into my life… and suddenly it. was. everything. We played together in different fibers of different weights using various tensions to explore its personal versatility. We were totally getting to know each other and having a great time… and then I striped it… and it was love. When you change color in this stitch pattern, stitches from the previous color are still slipped for two more rows creating this fantastic effect of the two colors being woven together. Killer.

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I immediately needed a striped sweater from this stitch (and I made one), but it wasn’t enough. I was daydreaming about this pattern in a heavier wool for winter accessories.

Malabrigo Twist is a go-to yarn for my personal winter accessories. It is always soft and warm, wears great, and comes in a ton of gorgeous colors. I grabbed three skeins from my stash and worked up the sample for Western Auto Cowl on a road trip with my family.

Western Auto Cowl uses the same construction as my best-selling Zuzu’s Petals cowl. It begins with a garter tab cast on, like a top-down triangular shawl, and is knit flat until the selvedge edge is about 22″ long. Then it is joined and knit in the round to the bottom edge where it ends with a purled bind off on the right side for a very clean finish.

As Western Auto Cowl was born at a time when I was neck deep in Midwestern Knits I thought it right to give it a proper Kansas City name. This is a photo of its architectural namesake, the landmark Western Auto building in downtown KCMO. Using the colors for inspiration and the circular, chevron points, I think the name was done justice. (Above photo of the historic Western Auto building is by Ryan Estes Photography)

Of course Jacquard wasn’t done with me yet. All the while knitting the cowl I was imagining what it would be like in earthy tones of a rustic wool that would hold the scent of a campfire long after the fall weekends were over. Western Auto Shawl is knit from three sheepy colors of Blackberry-Ridge Woolen Mill 2 ply Worsted. The thickness of the color blocks are slightly varied from the cowl (where the last two blocks are of equal thickness) into a pattern that emphasizes the ombré color arrangement. Notes are given in the pattern on how to adjust the thickness of the color blocks to suite your own taste or yarn amounts. The icing on the cake of the sample shawl is the Noro Kureyon fringed hem. It takes this shawl from something simple to something really special. You could achieve a similar effect with small amounts of a special handspun or variegated yarn added to the edge of a neutral shawl. I can’t wait to see your personal interpretations of these pieces.
But as much as I have enjoyed my time with Jacquard Stitch, its quirks I used to find charming are now on my nerves and our infatuation is a thing of the past. Autumn is upon us and this summer fling is over. I will fondly remember what we made together as I wear my knits for years to come because crushes are fleeting but good wool lasts forever!

I’m giving away a copy of both these patterns on Instagram! Please follow me on Instagram @carinaspencer for all the details and because fall knitting is in full swing, use code HELLOFALL for 15% off any of my self published patterns on my site or at Ravelry all weekend long!



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Midwestern Knits is real!

cover_webThe book project I took on with co-editor Allyson Dykhuizen has come to fruition and Midwestern Knits launched in print and e-book formats yesterday! We are so excited to share with you what we’ve been working so hard on for the past year. Allyson has organized a blog tour in which each day you’ll get to hear from one of our contributors, and today I’m kicking it off with some details about my patterns for the book and a info about our upcoming knit-alongs!


First up, is my Midtown cardigan knit in scrumptious Bare Naked Wools’ Kent DK. Midtown is a mid-weight, openMidtown-promo2 front, cocoon sweater with fitted, three-quarter length sleeves. It features a chevron texture pattern set on end with ombré color transition at the hems and cuffs, and graphic intarsia motif at center-back. I designed this sweater as my love letter to Kansas City, MO and in the book you can read more about that. As is my habit, I became obsessed with the slipped stitch pattern used on the fronts and hems of this sweater and you will see it make another appearance in a different weight for a self-published accessory pattern this fall. If you are thinking of giving this one a go, Kim Russo (of Kim Dyes Yarn) will be hosting a knit-along for Midtown in the Midwestern Knits Ravelry Group starting September 14th and we’d love to have you with us!


RiverWalk-promoFor Midwestern Knits, I did something I’d never done before and co-designed a mitt(en) pattern with Allyson. These are the River Walk Mitts knit in a colorway that was created especially for us by Nerd Girl Yarns and is inspired by the bridges and waterways of the Midwest. I designed the mitt with stitch patterns to reflect the waves of water and arch of a bridge. I then passed the pattern on to Allyson who finished it off with an optional flip top.  This was a great experience in collaboration – a little scary for two people whose usual process is so solitary, but luckily it all went well and the finished pattern is fun to knit and totally practical to wear. The River Walk KAL starts September 14th in the Midwestern Knits Ravelry Group. Come knock out  pair or two for holiday gifting!



Lastly, I will be hosting a KAL for the Storm Cloud Tee by Laura Hulslander! I photographed this sweater for the book and knew I’d have to have one for myself. The sweater design is that perfectly elusive blend of whimsy and simple sophistication. I’ve been having a ball picking out potential color palettes and have narrowed it down to two choices. This is Quince and Co.’s Chickadee in ombré shades of green and orange. Feel free to cast a vote for your favorite set in the comments below! The Storm Cloud Tee KAL starts October 5th in the Midwestern Knits Ravelry Group.



MMKAL-240sqAlong with the KALs I mentioned here there will also be hosted KALs for every.single.pattern in the book and prizes to win for those who play along. These patterns are exclusively available only in Midwestern Knits right now, so pick up your print or digital copy today and join us for the fun!


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Tell your friends about Midwestern Knits and win prizes!

Our Midwestern Knits kickstarter is down to the LAST 4 DAYS of the campaign and we need your help in the final push to get this project funded! Here’s how you can help:

BACK US ON KICKSTARTER – For just $25 you can preorder you copy of the print book to be published Fall 2015! When you preorder you’ll also get the digital copy of the book to read on your favorite device, and early access to two exclusive patterns from the book months before it comes out! The book preorder is our most popular incentive, but of course all levels of support are welcome! If $25 is too much for you, donate $10 and get a free pattern of your choice from any Midwestern Knits designer and there are some extra special incentives for those who wish to give more!

SPREAD THE WORD & WIN! Enter the sweepstakes below for a chance to win one of 22 prizes and share/tweet/pin to tell all your friends about Midwestern Knits for extra chances to win! The sweepstakes only runs as long as the kickstarter does, so enter now! You could win one of two Brush Creek Cowlette Kits with Brooklyn Tweed LOFT yarn just like the pictured sample!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Odd ends…

Colorways are Bookworm (grey/gold) and Dazzle.

In winter of 2010 I received these beautiful samples of Twisted Fiber Art Evolution colorways in orders of club yarns.  I always wanted to wear them somehow, but I could never figure out what to make with them — they are only a few yards long.  Finally, one moody evening, they decided they wanted to become cuffs, and so was born Odd Ends.


The cuffs are knit in one piece featuring an i-cord cast on and i-cord selvedge edges.  If you have never done an i-cord cast on, this is a great way to learn the technique without a large commitment.  There are detailed instructions included, but if you are a visual learner, I found this great youtube video to help.


Pattern includes written and charted instructions and takes about an hour to make.  It has been test knitted, but not tech edited.  My girls and I are always here to help if you run into trouble.

You can download the pattern here, or it is available on Ravelry as well.  I would love to hear from you and see your projects  if you use the pattern!  Enjoy!

PS – If you’re on a Mac and have trouble with the download, try right clicking on the link and select “Download Linked File”.

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spots of lots of things.

Wow, entering 2012 has been like being dropped onto a running treadmill… so far I am still upright and running, but I’m hoping for a second wind soon!  I’ve got lots of knitting news to share with you and then a little bit about my home life as well.

Nixie Shawlette

Photo © Knitscene

On the fiber front, January brought my first magazine published design, the launch of my self-published pattern line with Deep South Fibers, and the re-release of my self-published patterns with updated branding and layouts!  Nixie (pronounced nik-see) is a shawlette I designed for the Spring 2012 issue of Knitscene magazine.  It is a top-down, triangular shawlette worked in a stripe pattern with a decorative ribbed ruffle.  Nixie can be worn several ways as shown in the pages of the magazine, however, my favorite way to wear this design is backwards around the neck — bandana style with the ribbed ruffle sitting in front of the right shoulder. I shared some photos styled this way on Ravelry.

I have recently partnered with Deep South Fibers to make my patterns available to knitting shops worldwide.  All of my self-published designs are now available on their website so if you’d like to see them at your local yarn shop please send them to my website or to DSF!

Also, this month, I finished updating all patterns with the new look.  All known errata was corrected and some new options were added to some designs.  Charts were upgraded for readability and lots of new photography was added.  Pattern updates were sent automatically via Ravelry’s system.  If you have any trouble downloading your updated pattern, or if the link in the update notice takes you to the wrong pattern, please follow these directions:  Go to your Ravelry library, find the pattern you want to update under the PDF Files tab, click on the “UPDATE AVAILABLE” link below the pattern.  That will update the pattern in your library and automatically save it.  You can then download the file to your computer and print it if you like.

Zuzu's Petals

Before January comes to a close I will have a new pattern for you!  More details later, but for now here it is knit in The Plucky Knitter‘s MCN Aran in Bohemian Blue or in other words, my new favorite thing…

On the home front, I have a recipe to share.  In my home half of us deal with pretty significant food allergies.  The main three are gluten, eggs, and dairy, but there are at least a dozen more including cane sugar and almost all nuts.  All family meals are made so that everyone can eat them — as if mealtimes weren’t enough of a chore, right?

One especially challenging task has been coming up with a decent gluten, egg and dairy-free dinner roll — and by decent I just mean one that resembles food more than masonry. Lately, I have been doing baking trials to develop a good roll, and I’m really pleased with the ones we had this week!

Gluten, Egg, Dairy-Free Herbed Dinner Rolls

Gluten-Free Herbed Dinner Rolls – makes 12
3 1/2 cups GF Bread Flour ( I used Pamela’s Bread Mix & Flour Blend this time)
1 1/4 cup warm water
1/4 cup flax seed egg replacer*
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon onion granules
1/2 teaspoon dry basil
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 packet or 2 1/4 teaspoons dry yeast

use an ice cream scoop to put the dough in the tin

Combine all ingredients in a heavy duty stand mixer and blend with whisk attachment on medium/high for 3 minutes.  Scoop by 1/4 cup (I use my ice cream scoop) into an oiled muffin tin.

after resting

Cover with plastic wrap or wax paper and let rest for 1 hour in a warm, still place.  I set my oven to 120 degrees and let them rest in there.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes or until the rolls are golden and crusty on top and sound hollow when tapped.  I leave the rolls in the oven and just turn the temp up — this makes the bottom nice and crusty.

*Flax seed egg replacer is made by cooking a 3:1 ratio of water:flax seed over med heat until it thickens to the consistency of raw egg.  Cool before using in baking.  I keep some in my fridge all the time — it last about 2 weeks.

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A fresh start and a new pattern…

Welcome to my new home on the net! You may be may be familiar with me under my former business name of Sweet Mama – Small Sugar, but for those who are not, please let me introduce myself. I began SMSS in 2006 as a handmade baby boutique specializing in knit heirloom layettes, original applique designs, and boutique baby garments (you can still see some of my favorite work here on Flickr). For years it was my honor and privilege to create custom sets for some of the kindest and most generous customers one could wish for. To this day I continue to call many of them friends. As my life and business evolved, and I continued to follow its path, I realized my true passion was for design rather than construction and for more for knitting than sewing. In 2010 I moved solely to knitwear pattern design and it soon became clear that I had outgrown Sweet Mama – Small Sugar as a name for my business. So, it is with a bittersweet sentiment that I close the door on that chapter of my life and open this new one with a new name, a fresh look, and (maybe too many) exciting plans for the future!

Over the next few weeks all of my patterns that were self-published under the SMSS name will be updated with the new look.  This has given me a chance to add some fun options to some of them and fix errata if necessary.  Updates will be distributed automatically through Ravelry’s system.

I will use this blog to share insight about my design process, works in progress, and tutorials and occasionally more personally with posts about family life, recipes, and projects to do with the kids.  And with that in mind, allow me to introduce you to my newest yarnbaby, Dovetail.  This reversible textured cowl was  inspired completely by my overwhelming desire to wrap myself up in this kitten-soft, curry colored alpaca yarn.  I found these skeins while visiting  Klose Knit in Urbana, Illinois.  Unlike other alpaca yarns, the long fibers in Royal Alpaca have been removed making it far less “sheddy” while maintaining the softness and warmth alpaca is loved for.  It is next-to-skin soft and a complete joy to knit and wear.  Also, did you see the color palatte??  This will definitely not be the last time you’ll see me using this yarn in a design.  I am a forever fan.


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