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Web-Letter, Issue 111 – Kumara Arm Warmers

Knitting offers great fodder for the creative process. A good knitwear designer takes familiar stitches and techniques and uses them in unaccustomed ways to create new and imaginative garments. Laura Zukaite’s book Luxe Knits: Couture Designs to Knit and Crochet (Lark Books, 2009) is a lovely example of how a gifted creative thinker can make an old craft modern and exciting. Read on…

Pam Allen

The Story:

“In Luxe Knits I wanted to show how design evolves: from an initial inspiration to an interpretation of technique; from technique to fashion sketches; and from sketches to an actual garment.”

So begins the introduction to Laura Zukaite’s new book, a collection of 26 sweaters and accessories. The ‘luxe’ part has to do with the fibers she chose to work with—silks, cashmeres, handpainted linen, etc. But even if you can’t afford to treat yourself to an expensive skein of yarn, Laura’s garments are well worth working up in more affordable fibers. And her creative exploration of tried and true knitting moves make this book well worth investing in.

For example, the first chapter explores knitted folds in stockinette stitch—the technique in which you knit a few rows then pick up a previous row of stitches to create a horizontal tuck. Laura uses delicate rings of sculpted tucks to trim the cuffs on sleek cashmere gloves and to embellish a simple striped hat. In other projects, tuck-folds help an attached scarf fold and drape and on a simple rectangular shrug, they make a striking design element

In subsequent chapters, Laura explores the possibilities in smocking, cables, combining yarns of different colors to create tonal effects, honeycomb patterns, and freeform crochet. (A perfectly plain stockinette sweater with a crocheted butterfly to fill in the cut-out back is one of several truly knockout pieces.) Bags, gloves, mitts, even jewelry find a place in Luxe Knits, as well as sweaters, wraps, and two very wearable skirts.

Not least of the pleasures in Luxe Knits are Laura Zukaite’s fashion illustrations. It’s fun to see the imagined piece in counterpoint to the photo of the final, realized sweater. And knitters will appreciate the book's layout. Instructions for each design are shown with multiple photos of the garment. As you knit, you can check the instructions against the pictures.

Learn more about Laura Zukaite, her book, and her job at Polo at

The Yarn:

85% extrafine merino, 15% camel

Kumara is a blend of extra-fine merino and baby camel hair. Merino is a warm and buoyant fiber that takes dyes beautifully; camel is a super soft, luxurious fiber that, because of its short staple length, adds a lovely halo. The merino component is dyed before it’s spun with undyed camel hair. The blend of dyed and undyed fibers makes soft, muted colors. Kumara’s six twisted plies yield great stitch definition.

Kumara is available in 15 soft and dreamy colors.

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The Pattern:

Here is the free downloadable Kumara Arm Warmers pattern (updated December 2, 2011).

If you have difficulty downloading or printing the PDF pattern above, try these: page 1, page 2

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The Stitches:

Laura’s mitts have thumb gussets formed by increasing stitches between two markers. Once the required number of stitches have been increased, these stitches are bound off. On the next rnd, the Backward Loop Cast-On method (aka Single Cast-On method), is used to cast on stitches to close the thumb opening and the piece is joined to continue working in the round.

Learn more about casting on mid-row.

On Ravelry? Find this design.
If you do not yet have access to Ravelry, add your e-mail to their list, and check back once you've received your invitation.

If you like the design above, you'll like this too:
Inca Alpaca Fair Isle Mitts
Pattern available in Web-Letter Issue 32