Constructing the Zen Variations


I’m visiting the family in Seattle this week, but I am not neglecting the Zen Variations knit-along while I am away! As I mentioned in a previous post, my travel knitting is the Enso sweater, knit in Kettle Yarn Co. Islington DK.

It’s all the rage to knit seamless, top-down sweaters and it is a construction I really love for a few good reasons.

With top-down, you can try as you go, checking the fit at the crucial junctures, making the armhole deeper if you want to, or shorter, and of course making the sweater body and sleeves as long as you want them.

Today I want to begin a step by step tutorial for knitting a Zen Variation sweater, which starts with the upper back:

Zen Variations by Renée Callahan back

In this schematic, we are looking at the Back from the right side, and working from casting on at the top down to the underarm/bottom of the sleeve opening.

1. Cast on the number of stitches required for both shoulders and back neck (the red line).
2. Place markers (m) to mark shoulders.
3. Work short rows to create shoulder slope: knit across Right Shoulder and Back Neck to Left Shoulder, wrap and turn (W&T) the next st; purl back to Right Shoulder, W&T the next st; knit back to the 1st wrapped st, k3 (wrapped st + 2 more) W&T, purl back to 2nd wrapped st., k3 (wrapped st + 2 more), W&T, etc.
4. Work straight until the back armhole is as long as necessary.
5. Work increases (+) at the underarm edge until the full back measurement (minus the stitches that will be cast on for the underarm) is reached.
6. Put Back sts on waste yarn.

I will continue the tutorial with the Fronts in a couple of weeks.

If you are interested in learning more, I will be teaching a several workshops in and around London, and further afield, leading students through understanding the construction as well as all the techniques associated with the design (working the wrapped short-rows, picking up stitches for a beautiful set-in sleeve, a perfect finish for ¬†your new sweater) as well as choosing the right size, making modifications, and more. I’m teaching Zen and Art of Sweater Construction in several places this Autumn:

25 September  the Village Haberdashery.

1 October I will have the whole Zen Variations collection at Wild and Woolly for a trunk show and little party to celebrate sweater season!

6 October Wild and Woolly

16 October A Yarn Story. 

Mon, Oct 24 to Fri, Oct 28 I will be in Romania teaching a number of knitting classes at the Taking a Moment in Time  Weaving, spinning, knitting and photography retreat.

12 November The Yarn Dispensary

For a more complete list of classes, including Brioche Stitch Basics among others, please sign up to the newsletter here.

Happy knitting,


It’s (almost) knitting season: Let’s knit together!


Regardless of the temperature, September brings out the student in me, and I’m nostalgic for those crisp Autumn mornings at the beginning of the school year. This year, I’m embracing the nostalgia with a knit along to kick start the knitting and learning season. I’ll¬†focus on the Zen Variations because although each sweater is quite simple and clean in terms of design, there are several techniques that¬†might not be obvious to inexperienced sweater-knitters.¬†I will make some tutorials and explanatory blog posts which I hope will encourage knitters to make¬†sweaters they will wear forever.

Zen Variations Knitting pattern by Renée Callahan

The knit along will run from 1 September to 31 December in the EastLondonKnit Ravelry group. Cast on any EastLondonKnit design on 1st September and post a photo of the finished object in the thread before the 31st December (bonus points if it is modelled on a person:) and I will pick a number of winners in the early hours of 2017.

To sweeten the pot, I have put together a few fantastic prize packages to tempt you into joining the fun!

Llovely Llama prize from EastLondonKnitThe first prize is a Llovely Llama ‘un courtesy of Kettle Yarn Co. Linda who has generously gifted one of her popular LlamaLlamaLlamaLlama bags to the prize pot. I am pairing it with 3 gorgeous skeins of the Fibre Company’s Acadia yarn for some lucky soul…¬†

I have also organised A Very Tweedy Prize of a woollenflower notions bag¬†with 3 matching skeins of Acadia by The Fibre Co., because everyone knows you should coordinate your notions bags and yarn…
EastLondonKnit tweed prize

My final offering is a Woodland Zen prize: a cute foxy notions pouch and three more skeins of yarn among other presents: a beautiful skein of Acadia, a hand-dyed beauty from Dirty Water Dye Works and a lovely, crunchy skein of indigo blue Skudde Wool from Natures Luxury.

EastLondonKnit prizes: woodland zen

I hope to see you in the EastLondonKnit Ravelry group for encouragement, help and a chance to win some wonderful prizes!

You can browse the Zen Variations and all the other EastLondonKnit patterns here.

Happy knitting!


Wisteria Blossoms


Thursday I will publish Wisteria Blossoms! I am really pleased with how this cardigan has turned out.Wisteria Blossoms by Ren√©e Callahan sea Wisteria Blossoms Cardigan by Ren√©e Callahan backIt began life long ago and far away… on a Mexican beach¬†last year….

It happened that I didn’t have a project to travel with, and, in a panic, I decided to take yarn and a sketch book and hope that I could work something¬†out as I went.

This meant that I had to make the construction and design simple to follow because there was no clever spreadsheet to do the work for me, and I had to be able to be able to put it down and pick it up without thinking too much.

The yarn turned out to be the perfect choice; I had purchased a sweater quantity of Quince and Co. Kestrel from Tolt Yarn and knitting while visiting Seattle last year.

Kestrel linen yarn

Kestrel is worsted-weight, 100% linen yarn, chain-plied into with a flat tape. The linen was excellent for the beach‚ÄĒno chance of accidental felting, although as I was knitting, I was twisting the yarn and felt the need to untwist it every so often which was a drag. That said, I really like the fabric it produced, which has loads of drape and, being linen, is super breathable and perfect for a warm summer evening.

Wisteria Blossoms knitting pattern by Renée Callahan

I am offering an introductory discount on Wisteria Blossoms for subscribers to the EastLondonKnit newsletter‚ÄĒplease do sign up for both the discount code and for the Brioche Twister knitting pattern, a free gift for subscribers.

Finally, I will be hosting a knit-along beginning 1st September in the EastLondonKnit Ravelry group, and running through the end of the year. I’ll be posting tutorials and information specifically about the Zen Variations collection, but you can knit any EastLondonKnit design you would prefer, including Wisteria Blossoms!

Happy knitting,


Yarniacs and Yamas…


Although I aspire to knit all the things,¬†realistically¬†I have to constantly work on design projects or I’d never publish anything. I have a huge number of designs that I am dying to see in real life¬†and¬†so the queue for my needles is always pretty long.¬†But everyone needs a break sometimes, and as I was catching up on podcasts, I heard about The Yarniacs Colors of Fall KAL.¬†As I am almost always knitting on a design I can’t share right away, I normally can’t really participate in KALs, but I would like to make some of the Zen Variations designs with added, well, variations, so I decided I could justify knitting the¬†the Yama cardigan in a single colour for the ultimate wardrobe basic. I’m using¬†Galway Sport from Plymouth Yarn that I got in the amazing sale at Stitch House Dorchester in Boston. The ball band may say that it is color 702, but I am calling it ‘sharkskin’, and Gayle and¬†Sharlene are kind enough to let me get away with it.

Instagram has been great for documenting the progress so far:

I would love to work up some of the other designs with variations as well, maybe Kaizen with cable panels running up the front instead of pockets, or Enzo with stripes of eyelets or some simple lace pattern…. I need so many more arms…

Happy knitting,


New to me


I am pretty sure that travel is good for me. It is just healthy to occasionally get out of the routine, right?

My trip to the Squam Art Workshops in June was wonderful for so many reasons; because I travelled to a beautiful part of the world and spent time with my people, but also because I had the chance to meet new people who are doing exciting things on the other side of the pond, a few of these I would like to share with you today.

In addition to the full day workshops that attendees sign up for, there are several shorter, drop-in activities going on, including¬†Tierney Barden‘s Fairy Tales and Paper Cutting, which was incredibly fun! My efforts from that afternoon:

I also had the pleasure of meeting Marce, aka BrownBerry, who documented her time in Squam with this sweet podcast:

Marce was accompanied by Nancy, who I met at Squam last year. I’ve been following Nancy Instagram posts of her yoga practice and fitness regime which I find really inspiring; have a look if you enjoy watching superfit people get more fit.

Finally, I was incredibly lucky to have the wonderful Amor from Crave Yarn¬†as my roommate, who allowed me to run off with this¬†gorgeous skein of her Thoreau yarn, a fingering/4 ply yarn of 50% yak, 50% silk in the Stolen Seas colourway (the photo really doesn’t give an accurate impression of the subtlety¬†of the blue).

Crave yarn Thoreau

It is so soft and luxurious that I don’t even want to wind it into a cake. I am more than happy to admire it in the skein until I have time to pay some proper attention to it!

Happy knitting,


Buji Tunic


Happy weekend to you! Throughout the last week and a bit, I have shared the inspiration behind each design in the Zen Variations collection: Takumi, Yama, Intoku, Enso and Kaizen. Today I give you the final installment of the Zen Variations series: Buji.

BUJI is the Japanese word meaning ‚Äėall is well, no trouble‚Äô. The tunic¬†features short sleeves, a boat neck and patch pockets that play with the¬†colour blocking on the body.

Zen Variations Knitting pattern by Renée Callahan-3

The concept of buji is one of perfect freedom from trouble or hindrance, and while it can veer toward carelessness, in the most generous understanding, it evokes a playful freedom. The Buji tunic felt like a playful garment to me–the longer length, short sleeves and particularly the geometric colour blocking with the patch pockets all added up to a grown-up version of a smock.

Zen Variations Buji Knitting pattern by Renée Callahan-6


79.5 (83, 89, 92.5, 96.5, 102)(110.5, 114.5, 120, 125.5, 129.5)¬†cm or 31.25 (32.75, 35, 36.5, 38, 40.25)(43.5, 45, 47.25, 49.5,¬†51)‚ÄĚ
The sweater is intended to be worn with 5cm / 2‚ÄĚ of positive¬†ease.

Buji schematic by Renée Callahan


The Fibre Company Acadia (60% Merino Wool, 20% Baby Alpaca, 20% Silk; 145 yds/133 m per 50 g skein) in main colour: Driftwood, 6 (6, 7, 7, 7, 8)(8, 9, 9, 9, 10) skeins, contrast colour: Cranberry, 2 (2, 2, 2, 2, 3)(3, 3, 3, 3, 3) skeins.

Acadia is a DK weight yarn. Buji uses approximately:

276 (296, 312, 327, 343, 362)(386, 401, 421, 440, 460) MC grams
79 (84, 88, 93, 97, 103)(109, 114, 119, 125, 130) CC grams

805 (860, 910, 950, 995, 1055)(1120, 1165, 1225, 1280, 1340) MC yards
230 (245, 255, 270, 285, 300)(315, 335, 345, 365, 375) CC yards

735 (785, 830, 870, 910, 965)(1025, 1065, 1120, 1170, 1225) MC meters
210 (225, 235, 245, 260, 275)(290, 305, 315, 335, 345) CC meters

Zen Variations Knitting pattern by Renée Callahan-48

The Zen Variations patterns are for sale individually for £5 and the collection of all 6 sweater patterns can be purchased for £15.

The Buji Pattern 
The Zen Variations 

Happy knitting,


Note: The Zen Variations were beautifully photographed by Tommy Martin for The Fibre Co.

Intoku Sweater


There is Sunday morning sunshine and I am off to take Karie Westermann’s Nordic Traditions workshop at Wild and Woolly today. So far, I am having a wonderful day! ¬†Today, I would like to introduce the Intoku sweater.

INTOKU is the Japanese word, meaning ‚Äėgood works performed in¬†secret‚Äô. The pullover features a deep V-neck and integrated pockets¬†finished with knit-as-you-go i-cord.

Zen Variations Intoku Knitting pattern by Renée Callahan-16

As a tenet of Buddhist practice, the idea of intoku is pretty deep; do good works, but abolish the ego by not telling anyone or displaying those deeds. Admittedly, my interpretation is much less deep: I have designed a sweater in which pockets are integrated into the knitting of the garment so as to create a secret place for keeping your good works.

After knitting the sample, I changed my mind about the pockets and re-wrote the pattern to accommodate a pouch pocket that stretches the entire width of the front to allow for a more generous pocket space.

Zen Variations Intoku Knitting pattern by Renée Callahan-17

The deep V-neck of the Intoku pattern makes it a flattering silhouette for larger busts.

Zen Variations Knitting pattern by Renée Callahan-18

79.5 (83, 89, 92.5, 96.5, 102)(110.5, 114.5, 120, 125.5, 129.5)¬†cm or 31.25 (32.75, 35, 36.5, 38, 40.25)(43.5, 45, 47.25, 49.5,¬†51)‚ÄĚ
The sweater is intended to be worn with 5cm / 2‚ÄĚ of positive¬†ease.

Intoku pattern schematic by Renée Callahan


The Fibre Company Acadia (60% Merino Wool, 20% Baby Alpaca, 20% Silk; 145 yds/133 m per 50 g skein) in main colour: Blue Heron; 7 (8, 8, 9, 9, 10)(10, 10, 11, 12, 12) skeins.

Acadia is a DK weight yarn. Intoku uses approximately:

345 (370, 390, 410, 430, 455)(485, 500, 530, 550, 575) grams

1005 (1075, 1130, 1190, 1250, 1325)(1410, 1455, 1540, 1600, 1675) yards

920 (985, 1035, 1090, 1145, 1210)(1290, 1330, 1410, 1465, 1530) metres

Zen Variations Knitting pattern by Renée Callahan-43

The Zen Variations patterns are for sale individually for £5 and the collection of all 6 sweater patterns can be purchased for £15.

The Intoku Pattern: 
The Zen Variations:

Happy knitting,


Note: The Zen Variations were beautifully photographed by Tommy Martin for The Fibre Co.