Elinor Brown Knits

Knitting Designs by Elinor Brown

Category: gifts


New stripey sweater

My thrumming adventure has been partially interrupted by a striped, stashbusting sweater for Beatrix that I started over a month ago. I decided to pair up some Knit Picks Merino Style with the Debbie Bliss Merino Aran that Nova sent me last year to make a toddler cardigan. Sadly, I had to set this aside for a few weeks because I ran out of yarn – both colors, in fact (yes, that was great planning). Unfortunately, I only needed a few yards of each new skein so you will likely see these colors again soon in some hat or another.

"stwipey sweatah", complete with cwazy hair

Pattern: Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Seamless Yoke Sweater from Knitting Without Tears

Yarn: Knit Picks Merino Style in Hollyberry and Debbie Bliss Merino Aran in #06

Needles: US 6 (4.0 mm)

New stripey sweater

I regret that the severe yoke decreases show in spite of my careful blocking. I used three evenly spaced decreases to form the yoke and if I were to do it again, I would probably place four less aggressive decrease rows in there. Also, I skipped the back neck shaping and ended with a 2×2 rib collar. The knitting was terrifically mindless, the yarn was soft and I feel certain Beatrix will outgrow this far too soon for it to pill. I would neither recommend KP Merino Style nor DB Merino Aran for any project one expected to last, however. These are soft and fuzzy yarns, categorically not durable ones. Still, I am happy with the results.

Stashbusting sweater, done

Its initial reception was not good, unfortunately. Beatrix maintained, “I don’t wike stwipes!” Fortunately, a two-year-old’s preferences seem to change as quickly as her moods and this morning, she deemed it acceptable attire.

Returning to the thrumming activities, I happily report the mittens are done!

The last of the thrumming

And what a lot I have to say about them. I decided to go overboard on these to create the most densely packed, tightly knit, wind-proof mitten ever.

This is what 600 thrums looks like

Contrasted against the Yarn Forward mittens I made for Aaron last winter, these mittens pack an incredible amount of sheep. I made the 2008 pair with Lamb’s Pride Worsted on US 6 (4.0 mm) needles and each mitten contained 161 thrums. Of course I counted, you wouldn’t have? My only complaint about them is that the wind cuts through them on the coldest days. Consequently, I knit the 2009 pair with Ram Wools Selkirk on US 2.5 (3.0 mm) needles and nearly doubled the number of thrums. Each mitten contains exactly 300 thrums. I hope they will be sturdy enough to protect my aunt Therese from the bitter cold of watching early morning ice hockey practices and games.

Sheep explosion

Yarn: Ram Wools Selkirk with who knows how many ounces of Blue-faced Leicester

Needles: US 2.5 (3.0 mm)

For the cuff, I cast on 32 sts, worked 3” in 1×1 rib. I increased to 42 stitches, thrummed every three stitches, every fourth row. After a few rows of thrums, I added one pattern repeat below the thumb to make a little more room. There are 252 thrums in the mitten body and 48 thrums in the 24-stitch thumb. I worked three K1, K2tog decrease rows at the mitten top and one at the thumb top.

Now with twice the thrums!

The sheer volume of material stuffed inside is astounding to me. You can see the contrast with the old pair. On the whole, I cannot say thrummed mittens wear well. As you can see, Aaron’s pair (oh, who are we kidding? they’re really mine) is in dire need of a shave. They pill and fuzz all over everything. They also grow with time, as the wool inside packs down.

Last year's mittens, for comparison

I cannot so much as turn a door handle wearing thrummed mittens, much less wrangle a toddler. However, I do not fear for my extremities when it’s -10 degrees during my 5:30 a.m. runs. That’s really all that matters, right? Therese will only be able to wave and clap with her new mittens but isn’t that all one needs to do at a hockey game?

Mitten torpedoes

Day projects

Top view, XOXO hat

In a blaze of stash busting this week, I whipped out two hats, one for my brother and the other for his girlfriend. I had almost forgotten the thrill of seeing a project to completion in less than a day. I love knitting hats! Why do I not knit hats exclusively? Perhaps if I wore hats myself, I would knit more of them. Still, they are so much fun to make.

XOXO hat

About once a year, I knit my brother a nice, warm hat in a dark color. However, single-color hats are so dreadfully boring to knit! And since I only wear hats when it is really, really cold, I find hats with a single thickness of wool utterly insufficient. The only solution worth my time is, of course, a stranded project. When I saw Tuulia’s beautiful Alise Mittens (Ravelry link), I decided to use a similar XOXO pattern in a hat. You may find a link to my free hat pattern here but really, all you need is the 8 stitch x 8 row pattern repeat and a little common sense.  Alternating gray and black provided enough visual interest for the knitter while the overall effect is dark and subtle. After all, my brother does not need a hat that screams, “My sister made this!” I also knit a 2.5″ lining to be tucked inside the brim for extra warmth around the ears.

XOXO hat for my brother

Pattern: XOXO Hat (Ravelry link here)

Yarn: Approximately 200 yds of worsted weight for each color; I used Bemidji Woolen Mills Original Homespun (in some shade of dark gray) and Knit Picks Wool of the Andes (in “Coal”)

Needles: US 6 (4.0 mm), either DPNs or DPNs and 16″ circular

XOXO hat

My scrap bag is rife with browns: coffee, taupe, chocolate, mocha, chestnut, tan, you name it, it’s brown. All year, I have been meaning to put my scraps to good use and knit a Chevron Love Hat by Knitterly Things’ Julia. The chevron mittens Julia made for Maritza at our October mitten swap only further convinced me: I need to knit zigzags. Finally, with the array of brown scraps in front of me, it was time. I knit this one up for my brother’s girlfriend last weekend. I could not be more pleased with the result! It’s a good thing I have plenty of brown left over because I see another chevron hat in my future! Julia’s pattern is easy and fun and the knitting flies by! I heartily recommend this one to anyone interested in using up leftovers!

Chevron Love Hat

Pattern: Chevon Love Hat (Ravelry link)

Yarn: a mix of Rowan Magpie Aran, Knit Picks Wool of the Andes, Top of the Lamb Lionspun, Plymouth Encore Worsted.

Needles: US 6 (4.0 mm)

The fiber content is not entirely pure: this hat has some acrylic blends in it. I doubt it will be much of a problem; after all, winter hats are not routinely tossed in the dryer, are they? These zigzags are my favorite! Thanks for the wonderful pattern, Julia!

Brown chevrons

Well? What are you waiting for? Go stash busting and knit some quick hats!

For the record book

Several weeks ago, I wrote about an afghan I finished for my husband’s grandmother, Laura Belle, who died last fall. I told you about her knitting but I probably should have started with her quilting. After all, Laura Belle only threw herself into knitting and crochet to keep her hands in shape once she moved into an apartment and gave up quilting. After she died, my father-in-law gave me several boxes of her crafting supplies. In them, I found a book I treasure more than anything else: her quilting records. Although she certainly made more in her life, Laura Belle began this log at the age of 60. The record book spans nearly thirty years of avid quilting and includes works she sold as well as ones she gave to family and friends.

Laura Belle's quilting records, 1972-2001

In some years, she turned out almost one quilt per month – all, of course, by hand. Each entry identifies the name of the pattern she used, the number of quilts she made with the pattern, the recipient, and the year she completed the work. In all, 113 quilts, crib-size to king-size, recorded on a mere five pages of notebook paper. It amazes me to see what amounts to a life’s work of quilting represented in such a small amount of space.

A life's work

One thing that remains constant throughout the book is her evident generosity as a hand crafter. Many times, she listed a quilt as one she made for herself but then later crossed that out to indicate the name of the person to whom she gave the work. I smiled to myself as soon as I noticed the pattern. How many times do we do this as knitters?

“What? You like my scarf? Why, yes, I made it. Why don’t you have it? After all, I can always make another one!”

We all know the joy of sharing a handmade gift with someone who will appreciate it. In many ways, I find knitting for an appreciative audience far more satisfying than knitting for myself. After all, I could always make myself that pair of socks, couldn’t I?

1975 and 1976 were busy years - nearly one quilt per month, completely by hand

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about Laura Belle and her quilts since I have been working on two gift quilts of my own this year. I completed the first one earlier this week.

What a Bunch of Squares quilt top

Pattern: I loosely followed the “What a Bunch of Squares” pattern from Quilts by Denyse Schmidt

Fabric: Squares are made from scraps of blue and orange prints and framed by Kona Cotton; the back is muslin with a long strip of randomly pieced leftovers

Size: Approximately 80″ x 108″

This was a housewarming present for a man known for his collection of really ugly ties. When I saw this fabric at a sidewalk sale this summer, I knew I had to try to use ugly tie-like fabrics.

The ugly tie block

My goal was to pair mismatched fabrics to yield a pretty quilt, regardless of how loud or peculiar the individual prints were. I am quite pleased with the result!

Irregular squares

For the backing, I collected remnants from two of the many prints and sewed them together at random to form a stripe to run the length of the quilt.

What a Bunch of Squares quilt back

Because a quilt of this size would never fit on my little sewing machine, I sent this to my local fabric store to be machine quilted.

What a Bunch of Squares quilt

With time, I grew more and more amazed by the enormity of Laura Belle’s five pages of records. This project took me five months to complete, although I sewed a seam or two here and there when I found a few moments of free time. Selfishly, I wish I could still show her my work. At the very least, I think she would laugh about the inspiration for this one! Regardless, I hope my quilt will provide as much joy to its new owner as Laura Belle’s quilts offer me and Aaron. Perhaps it is time for me to start a record book of my own, short and paltry though it will assuredly be!

Vest for Ida

Last fall, my cousin Ida asked me to knit her a long wool vest. With the help of Ravelry, she picked out Bryant’s Slipover. I decided to use Brown Sheep Nature Spun Sport instead of DROPS Alpaca. Ida wanted a sturdy vest so a light alpaca yarn would have been inappropriate.


It took me a whole year to cast on but less than two weeks to knit. It was a great project to bring with me to Boston because the stitch pattern was very easy and required little attention. Furthermore, at a gauge of 30 sts/4″, there was a lot of mindless knitting to do so it was perfect for long travel delays. As of this morning, Ida’s vest is ready to mail!


I hope I will be able to post pictures of Ida wearing this in the near future. Until then, you get me.


Yarn: Brown Sheep Nature Spun Sport, 3 skeins each color

Needles: US 4

I made many modifications to this pattern. The only elements that remain of the original design are the stitch pattern and plunging neck. The pattern called for knitting the pieces separately and then seaming them together. Since the stitch pattern is essentially a two-row stripe of each color, I felt seams would be unsightly; indeed, some examples on Ravelry bear this out. Instead, I altered the stitch pattern to knit the vest in the round. Had I not wanted to try the vest on Ida over the weekend, I would have steeked the armholes and neck just to avoid having to knit back and forth. As far as I am concerned, it would be foolish to knit this any other way but in the round.

The pattern called for 5×5 ribbing in the main color; however, I decided to use a 3×1 corrugated ribbing because I thought it would look better with the tension of the stitch pattern.

Although I love how the vest looks, I found the pattern difficult to wrangle. For example, the gauge was reported to be 8 stitches and 12 rows/inch and the armhole depth I chose was 7″. Normally, I would divide my stitch gauge by my row gauge to determine approximately how many stitches to pick up at the edges. In my case, I planned to pick up two stitches for every three rows and then all of the bound off stitches across the back and front, adding a few here and there at the corners to close holes. Next, I would look at the pattern to see how many decreases I would need to do to arrive at the requisite number of stitches. This is where I ran into trouble. At perfect row and stitch gauge, I picked up 244 stitches for the neckline. The pattern called for 150. I decreased down to 180 but I wish I had only cut down to 200 stitches. The armhole and neck edging actually shortened the armhole depth by a full inch. I was able to stretch it back when I blocked the garment but it would have been better to pick up more stitches.


The result is that the neckline will not be as deep as Ida had hoped, I’m afraid. I am a little concerned about the armhole being too shallow for her. It fits me perfectly but she’s taller so I don’t know if it will work for her. I will rip the edgings and redo them if the armhole is too constricting.


With any luck, this vest will be on its way to Berlin tomorrow! If it fits, there may be some modeled pictures in the near future!