Designer Spotlight: Heidi Gustad of Hands Occupied + Winner

Heidi Gustad of Hands Occupied
wearing the Faux Woven Cowl
This month, we are proud to have sponsored YarnCon, Chicago's Indie Fiber Festival. To celebrate, we're featuring another Chicago-based knitwear designer, Heidi Gustad of Hands Occupied. 

Heidi is a part-time librarian with a passion for all things crafty. On the Hands Occupied blog, you'll find knitting and crochet patterns and tutorials, project ideas for other yarn crafts, and plenty of inspiration, too! Crafters of all skill levels will find lots of useful information, from the Knewbies tutorials to tips and tricks geared towards more advanced knitters and crocheters. 

How long have you been knitting, and how did you get started designing
I first learned to knit at age 8 from my grandma who saw in me an anxious kid who could benefit from a relaxing hobby. Plus, I was a total freak for crafts as a kid - it made perfect sense. While I didn't fully latch on to knitting regularly until I was in high school, I have technically been knitting for almost 20 years, despite being 27.

I started designing my own patterns for myself in college, but it didn't occur to me to start sharing my patterns, let alone start publishing my patterns, until a couple years ago. I ultimately became a designer because of my blog, Hands Occupied. I started the blog when I was 23 as a way to more actively participate in the online crafting and DIY world. What I wanted to do from the beginning was really start a knitting blog, but I was too chicken. I blogged about general craft tutorials and inspiration for the first couple years of my blog. During those years I learned how to code so I could make my own changes to my site as needed, I learned how to take decent pictures, and I learned how to market my content online. What was missing from the equation those first couple years was the level of passion I feel for knitting and crochet design.
The Long John Cowl, a free pattern from Hands Occupied

About 18 months ago, I started blogging knitting patterns since, dammit, that's what I wanted to do. I think I just had to get to a certain age to get the confidence (and skills) I needed to finally take the plunge into design. The blog gave me a chance to put patterns out there for free, which gave my readers the chance to share what they liked or didn't like about a given design and let me know if I made an error in my pattern, which was a really effective way to learn quickly what pitfalls to avoid in designing! It was interesting how much my experience marketing general craft DIYs like Mod Podging fabric on a shelf helped in marketing my patterns. The photography experience and social media network have proven especially useful.

Where do you get inspiration?
I like to make patterns that are practical. Of my free blog patterns, the most popular have both been cowls that I designed during the deepest, coldest days of Chicago's last two winters. One, the Faux Woven Cowl, was designed to be virtually windproof for my husband's daily walks to and from the train he takes to work. And the Long John Cowl was inspired by my need for extra warmth on my own way to work, but it also rolls down to be worn as a neck warmer when my workplace is freezing. 

Outlander Chevron Shawl,
a free pattern from Hands Occupied
Since I like to design with an eye toward practicality, I'm often inspired by the yarn I'm working with. I love getting my hands on a new-to-me yarn, swatching with it, and having a spark of an idea when I understand how the fiber would behave as a garment. Sometimes I'll swatch with a laceweight and notice a fluidity to how the swatch lays/handles, and I'll know just the right type of garment to design with it. (Maybe this makes me sound crazy/artsy fartsy or doesn't make sense, but for me, there's just this gut feeling thing that happens with certain yarns that's super inspiring for me as a designer.)

How do you balance your own design/blogging career with your part-time job as a Librarian? Do you have any helpful hints for ways to maximize crafting time for those who are pressed for time? 
Pardon the pun, but at this point I could write a book about how complicated balancing my job as a Librarian and balancing my creative career is. (For a short version of the anxiety and compromise and whatnot that leading a dual career lifestyle entails, check out this post I wrote on the subject.) Most people assume I do all of my blogging and design work on top of a full time Librarian gig, but it's not the case. I chose a couple years ago to take a part time job that still required my library science Master's degree in order to achieve a better balance between my creative career and being a Librarian. That's the key. I still work way more than 40 hours a week, but based on what I can tell from friends' careers and my husband's most of us work way more than 40 hours a week. I just try to keep my Librarian job to around 20 hours, and design with the rest of it. Luckily audiobooks exist to help me keep up with all of the reading required of my bookish job. :)

The first few years I blogged, I was working full time in libraries and attending grad school. I also got married and moved to Chicago from Michigan in there one year too. That was shenanigans. I thought that it was necessary to be sleep deprived and ultimately a little unhappy in order to pursue any career, especially a creative one. I don't recommend that.
What I do recommend for finding more time to create, even if it's just for yourself, is this:
  • If you get a full hour for lunch, bring something you can eat in 15 minutes. Then plug in some headphones to zone out with your craft for the other 45.
  • If you can take transit or carpool, do! I bring knitting and crochet on the train all the time. I recommend avoiding DPNs since those can drop and roll away from you, but circulars and crochet projects can be your commuter crafting BFF.
  • If you get frustrated by a never-ending project, consider alternating working on those with an easy-to-finish project like a chunky hat or socks or mittens. Switching up your routine can help you feel more productive and avoid frustration, particularly when time isn't on your side.
  • Use a calendar. When I was in grad school, working full time and blogging too, I would schedule myself time to create, even in just half hour chunks. I'd try to create for a little while after work but before I shifted to homework time to help give myself a mental break.
  • If you're in school, particularly if you're taking online classes, knit while you watch your lectures. Crochet while you get reading done via audiobook. It takes some balancing, but you can find little bits of creative time without losing sleep!
Vintage Checked Mittens,
a free pattern from Hands Occupied
What are you most looking forward to in 2015?
I'm going to my first needle arts industry conference in May, and I couldn't be more pumped! I hear I will come away with some excellent design inspiration and lots of new friends.

Do you have any knitting horror stories/mishaps?
The first time I designed a baby blanket, I completely took for granted that what I thought was a piece of cake to make could just as easily be translated into a written pattern. That was a big, facepalm-inducing moment for me that helped me really understand the process behind designing and proofing a pattern. Nothing feels worse than when a dedicated reader and internet knitting friend ends up confused when they trust you and your work as a designer. Luckily, my blog readers are amazing and ended up teaching me a lot the first few months I released patterns on my blog. Nowadays, I've published a few patterns in print, have signed with a book agent and am opening my own indie pattern shop online, and thanks to the feedback from readers, I know what they like about my designs and how to work with a tech editor and test knitters!

April Blog Giveaway Winner
Congratulations to AnnBan, who won a Waves Crochet Set in this month's giveaway. We will get in touch with you to arrange for the delivery of your prize. Be sure to visit the Hands Occupied blog for another chance to win a fabulous prize from Knitter's Pride!

Olek in India

Olek is a polish-born fiber artist. She is best known for covering large pieces, including people, buildings, statues, and more with crocheted pieces. One of Olek's recent projects has been a collaboration with St+art India foundation to create India's first ever crochet installation.

AllKraftz has partnered with Olek and St+art India foundation to cover an entire women's shelter in crochet pieces. AllKraftz, the Indian retailer for Knitter's Pride and KnitPro products, donated crochet hooks for the entire project and sent 14 women from the KnitPro factory to work full-time on this project.

Olek also visited the KnitPro factory where all Knitter's Pride and KnitPro needles and tools are crafted.

Olek was a pleasure to work with and our team in India greatly enjoyed their experience working with her. In India crochet is seen as a craft done by women in more remote areas and at home. She told the women to crochet freely and make whatever pieces they'd like--she didn't want to dictate patterns but wanted each woman to express herself. She told stories about her experiences working with people in different countries and the crafty women of KnitPro also enjoyed sharing their stories with her.

The final project to cover a women's shelter in Delhi took 60 people 3 weeks and around 90 kilometers (over 50 miles) of fabric!

You can also read a wonderful article about the project that was featured in the Huffington Post here and see more photos in the article from Juxtapoz Magazine here.

This month we're giving away a Waves Crochet Hook Set to one lucky blog reader. To enter to win share with us what inspires you to craft. Don't forget to leave us your Ravelry ID so we can contact you if you're one of our lucky winners!

Winner + Vintage Pattern Inspiration

We're excited to sponsor a new contest which is happening now through April 15, 2015: the Revive a Vintage contest hosted on the Roving Crafters website. This challenge is open to knitters, crocheters, tatters, and other crafters across the globe with the ultimate goal of keeping the traditions of crafting alive. Source patterns or images should be from 40 years ago or earlier to qualify for this contest; you can read the full list of requirements here.

We're looking forward to seeing what folks create based on these guidelines; below are a few of our favorite vintage knitting and crochet inspirations which we've spotted over on Pinterest to get you started in the right direction:

For site links and other information for the above images, click here to visit our Vintage Inspirations Pinterest board!

It seems like many of the vintage knitting patterns we've come across are knit flat and then seamed, as you can see in the vintage illustration and advertisement below:

It will be interesting to see if contestants will choose to update such designs for knitting in the the round, favoring circular needles or DPNs, or if they will continue the tradition of knitting with single-pointed needles as many crafters in the past have used.

There are some great prizes up for grabs, and Knitter's Pride has donated two needle sets for to prize pool (pictured below). When selecting needles for this (or any!) project, we recommend watchingour new "Find your Needle" video series which features Staci Perry of Very Pink Knits to ensure that you have selected the perfect Knitter's Pride needle for your next project; crocheters can get a closer look at our many crochet hook options by watching this short YouTube video!

Speaking of prizes, our lucky winner in this month's blog giveaway is Kathy Trunzo! We have contacted Kathy to arrange for the delivery of the prize, a Knitter's Pride Knit Blockers Set. Be sure to check out our tutorial featuring this time-saving project here on the Knitter's Pride blog & share it with a friend!

Tutorial: Block a Cowl in 3 Minutes Or Less!

Today on the blog we'll be using some of our favorite Knitter's Pride blocking tools to block a cowl in  3 minutes or less! Note, this assumes that you've already soaked your cowl in warm water and pressed the water out.

Once your cowl is ready to be blocked you'll need three tools: Knitter's Pride Lace Blocking Mats, Steel Wires, and our new Knit Blockers.

Next, insert through the opening of the cowl, with one at each end. 

Secure the wires into place with two of the smaller Knit Blocker combs in the corners of the cowl. 

 Use the larger combs to pin the top and the bottom of the cowl into straight lines. 

 And voila! Now you just need to wait for your cowl to dry, unpin, and wear! 


Enter to win your own set of Knitter's Pride Knit Blockers! To enter to win leave a comment telling us why you need Knit Blockers in your life. We'll choose one lucky winner on Friday, March 27th! 

Project Inspiration

Small projects are a great way to take a break between larger more involved projects. We like to think of these as little knit and crochet snacks--small, satisfying, quick and easy. A good small project will cleanse your palette and leave you feeling successful and ready to take on a bigger more challenging project.

Today we have rounded up some of our favorite quick and easy knit and crochet patterns. And better yet, all of these patterns are available for free on Ravelry!

Knit Patterns
A lovely simple shawl recipe perfect for using up stash!
Textured Shawl Recipe by Orlane
Hats for the whole family!
Barley by Tin Can Knits
A perfect gender neutral scarf in linen stitch. This pattern is great for variegated yarns.
Cerus Scarf by Hillary Callis Smith
If you're a spinner or have a skein of thick and thin knit up this quick and easy cowl.
Through Thick and Thin by Mari Chiba
Crochet Patterns
Washcloths are useful and also make great gifts.
Oh So Soft Baby Washcloths by Theresa Grant
While warmer weather is still yet to arrive in most places keep your hands warm with these lovely cabled hand warmers.
Cable Wrist Warmers by Julee Fort

This crochet hat is perfect for transitioning into spring. Get a head start on the warm weather with this hat.
Easy Peasy Women's Winter Hat by Mary Englar

Have you knit or crochet any of these patterns? Or do you have a favorite quick and easy pattern you'd like to share? Leave a comment telling us!

Congratulations to Cheryl G, you're our lucky winner! We'll be in touch to arrange delivery of your Karbonz Midi Interchangeable Needle Set. Thanks to everyone who participated.

Designer Spotlight: Allyson Dykhuizen + Giveaway

Allyson Dykhuizen is an American knitwear designer  and knitting teacher based in Chicago, IL. Her patterns have been published in Interweave Knits, Knitscene, and knit.wear magazines, among others. Her fun, fashion-forward approach informs both the design she self-publishes and blogs on her website The Sweatshop of Love, along with those of Holla Knits, an online knitting magazine which she created and edits.

Knitter's Pride has donated prizes to the Holla Knits KAL which is currently underway; you can follow Allyson on Twitter @AllysonKnits, the Sweatshop of Love on Facebook, and AllysonDykhuizen on Instagram, and email her at

New Girl, from Holla Knits
Fall/Winter 2012
How long have you been knitting, and how did you get started designing? I learned to knit when I was a senior in high school, so 13 years ago now! I learned and just never wanted to stop knitting. I started teaching in 2006 and quickly discovered I wanted to design patterns to make it easier to teach my students certain techniques and skills, so that's what inspired me to start designing. From there I started designing for magazines and independent publishing. 

Where do you get inspiration? I love looking at fashion-y pieces and trying to figure out how to make that piece with knitting. I also like to take a challenge, like working in drop stitches or horizontal cables, and building a sweater design around that. I rarely go a day without searching for inspiration and other knitwear designs around the internet! Other designers are a great inspiration for me, too. 

How did Holla Knits come about? The knitting industry doesn't think you can be an advanced knitter without having been knitting for 30+ years. I've been knitting for 13 years so I know what I'm doing, but all the 'fashion forward' or more youthful designs are easy patterns. So I started Holla Knits to fill that hole in the industry. It's fashion forward, challenging knitwear design with a focus on building that community. 

Fire Opal Tee, from Knitscene
Spring 2014
How do you balance your own design/teaching/blogging career with curating Holla Knits? Umm I don't really! But I think that's ok. It all kind of goes together and builds and thrives together. I put too much into building Holla Knits, so I was having a hard time just worrying about my own designs and working on my own stuff. 2015 will see me taking a small step back from being so wrapped up in Holla Knits and a small step forward with my independent design, and teaching. 

Speaking of time addition to knitting, you also crochet, embroider, and sew (are we leaving anything else out?). Do you have any helpful hints for ways to maximize crafting time for those who are pressed for time? Hahaha no I think you got everything! I do embroidery, cross stitch, and sewing as hobbies, where knitting and crocheting are my job because they help me make money, and this is an important distinction for me because I'm a workaholic who is constantly working on finding a work/life balance. I know I can't sit and do nothing. I just can't! So when I need to take a break from working I pick up a cross stitch or embroidery project - something I can do just for me. Sewing I LOVE but it's impossible just to pick it up for a little while! I clear a weekend and sew my face off for 48 hours. 

Block Island Sweater, from Knitscene
Fall 2014
A helpful hint about maximizing crafting time would be to just take the pressure off yourself! I feel like a lot of crafters get focused on PRODUCING, when crafting is about the process, and taking time to do something for yourself. It's not your job to produce, it's your job to take the time to do something you enjoy to make yourself happy. Craft make yourself happy, and do it at your own pace.   

What are you most looking forward to in 2015? So much! I'm getting back to teaching and will have not only my own classes but other teachers on board to help create a full class schedule for crafters in Chicago. I've got how to videos coming out with I'll be the featured designer in the Knitscene Summer 2015 issue! 2015 is so young, but there is already so much to be excited about for me. 

Do you have any knitting horror stories/mishaps? Daily! This knitting and designing thing is hard and I'm always screwing up. I mess up a lot with Holla Knits, publishing patterns that aren't popular and choosing the wrong colors and styling. It's great when you are your own boss and when something is successful, it's successful because you made it that way, but the flip-side of that is when someone isn't successful, it's unsuccessful because you made it that way, too. I learn ALL the time. I mess something up, I think about it and try to learn something, and I try again. 


This month, we're giving our blog readers a chance to win a Karbonz Midi Interchangeable Needle Set! To be eligible, make sure you like us on Facebook, then leave a comment telling us what's on your needles or hook right now! Be sure to also include your email address or Ravelry ID so that we can contact you if you win. We will randomly select a winning comment to announce on Friday, February 27. Good luck! 

Free Pattern: Fingerless Mitts

Today we're excited to bring you a free pattern from designer Jessica Anderson for a pair of simple and easy fingerless mitts.

Finished Dimensions: 6.5 inches/16.5 cm

Gauge: 32 sts = 4inch/10 cm

Yarn: Baah! La Jolla, 100% Superwash Merino Wool, 400 yards (365 meters)/100 grams, color: My Sweet Valentine, 1 skein

Needles: Set of size 2 DPNs

Supplies: Tapestry needle, measuring tape, scissors, stitch marker.

CO cast-on
dpn(s) double-pointed needle(s)
k knit
m marker
p purl
pm place marker
rnd(s) round(s)
St st Stockinette stitch
st(s) stitch(es)

Texture Stitch
Rnd 1: Knit.
Rnd 2: K1, *p1, k5, p1, k1; rep from * once more.
Rnd 3: K1, *p2, k3, p2, k1; rep from * once more
Rnd 4: K2, p2, k1, p2, k3,p2, k1, p2, k2.
Rnd 5: K3, p3, k5, p3, k3.
Rnd 6: K4, p1, k7, p1, k4.

K2, p2 Rib
Rnd 1: *K2, p2; rep from * to end of rnd.

CO 52 sts, pm and join to work in the rnd, being careful not to twist your sts.
Work in K2, p2 Rib for 8 rnds.
Inc Round: *Knit 12, Kf/b; repeat from * to end of rnd. (56 sts)
Knit 1 rnd.
K6, pm, k17, pm, k to end of the rnd.
Pattern Round: Knit to m, sm, work in Texture Stitch to m, sm, knit to end of rnd.
Continue to work the Pattern Round until piece measures 3.5”/ 9 cm from CO edge.

Left Mitt
Work in pattern to last 4 sts, knit next 7 sts with waste yarn, place sts back on left needle, and knit these sts again using working yarn. Continue working in pattern until piece measures 5”/12.5 cm from CO edge.

Right Mitt
Work in pattern to 3 sts after second m, knit next 7 sts with waste yarn, place sts back on left needle and knit these sts again using working yarn. Continue working in pattern until piece measures 5”/ 12.5 cm from CO edge.

Both Mitts
Knit 1 rnd.
Dec Round: *K12, k2tog; rep from * to end of the rnd. (52 sts)
Knit 1 rnd.
Work in K2, p2 rib for 8 rnds.
Bind off in pattern.

Carefully remove waste yarn. Pick up 6 sts on top and 7 sts on bottom.
Reattach working yarn, pm, knit across the top 6 sts, pick up and knit 2 sts, knit across bottom 7 sts, pick up and knit 2 sts. (17 sts)
Knit 3 rnds.
K2tog, knit to end of rnd. (16 sts)
Work in K2, p2 rib for 4 rnds.
Bind off in pattern.

Weave in ends and trim. Wash and block lightly.

Learn more about Jessica and her designs on her website:

Giveaway Winner
Congratulations to Ravelry user Mikaiyawa, you've won a copy of Silve from Artistic Differences and a Nova Platina DPN Set! We'll be in touch to arrange delivery of your prize.