Designer Spotlight: Lars Rains

Sorry it’s been a bit since I last posted.  Busy period at work… a 40+ hour work week leaves less time for knitting and writing.

Now, yes, this is “Confessions of a Male Knitter.”  But today I don’t really have any confessions to make, except perhaps that I didn’t knit a stitch the past 4 days… I think that’s a record.  OK yes, I’ll confess something — I don’t feel “right” if I don’t knit at least an hour every day.  I know, an hour isn’t much (trust me, I usually will knit 8-12 hours a day on weekends).  So this week, I’ve been out of sorts a bit.  But here’s something to cheer me (and you) up a bit:  a Designer Spotlight.

Lars Rains
Lars Rains | Photo Credit:  Gale Zucker

If you haven’t heard of Lars Rains, you will.  His design work is taking off, and I hear rumors there’s another book in the pipeline.  I first “met” Lars through a men’s knitting group on Facebook.  We messaged, we shared posts and I have to confess, I enjoy meeting so many men who knit, even virtually.  I feel like I belong to a loving community.  So supportive!

As fate would have it, I had the great good fortune to meet Lars in person, or as they say on Twitter, IRL, haha.  Stitches West, an enormous knitting/crochet show held annually in Santa Clara, CA is a great outing for those of us who tend to be reclusive.  Lars attended SW this year to sign copies of his first book, Modern Lopi:  One.  I spent a lovely hour or so chatting with Lars (not always about knitting — all that was lacking was a nice cocktail and some good music and it would’ve been a great night out for friends!).  For the first time, I got to feel some traditional Icelandic wool.  Now, I know the stories:  Icelandic wool is very scratchy against the skin; it’s hard to get in the US; it’s expensive, yadda, yadda, yadda.  Well, Lars clued me in on several of these.  Icelandic wool will soften up with washing and wear… And let that be a lesson to you who don’t bother to block your pieces (yes, I’ve talked to way too many knitters who never block!) — WASH YOUR KNITTING!  Give it the full-soak with a good wool wash made for handknits.  That Icelandic wool will soften up nicely (remember, don’t agitate it — it will felt).

Now, finding Alafosslopi, Lettlopi, etc. in the US is not a quick run to your LYS (unless you’ve somehow convinced your dealer to carry it).  However, you CAN order these great fibers from stockists in the US and Canada (couldn’t really tell you about other countries, but that’s what Google was made for).  Istex in Iceland will ship to the US.  Yes, international shipping/postage is pricy, but isn’t your knitting worth it?  I ordered my first Lopi book directly from Istex and it arrived very quickly and if I recall, was reasonably priced.

Spotlight

Lars has been knitting 20+ years.  Terrifying to think that his very FIRST knitting piece was a Lopi cardigan!  In his words:

I had no ideas you weren’t supposed to start with something so complicated; I just figured that all I had to do was follow the instructions and I’d be fine.

Confession time:  How many of us have done the same thing at the beginning of our knitting careers?  I know I did.  Knit 3 swatches and sin no more.

loki-custom-made-icelandic-sweater
I don’t know which I love more:  the sweater or the model!

We’ve all seen those gorgeous Icelandic sweaters (and the hunks who wear them).  But damn, don’t they look complicated?  Now, if you haven’t ever attempted one of these, make a vow to yourself to give one a try.  Lopapeysa is probably one of the EASIEST sweater constructions to knit!  If you can knit in the round, do the basic shaping stitches, and do stranded colorwork, you can knit a lopapeysa!  I knit one up about a year ago (my first time doing stranded colorwork and first time working a sweater in the round) — let me tell you that was the most fun I’d had knitting at the time!  That sweater flew off my needles, and I finished it up in record time.  Now, if I didn’t work full time and could devote myself to just knitting, I could’ve finished that sweater in a couple days or so.  So don’t panic when you see some gorgeous lopi sweater pattern.  Dive in and fall in love!  I should mention that I knitted that first lopi in a superwash wool.  I get more compliments on that sweater, and more offers to commission one like it, than any other sweater I own (purchased or made).

Modern Lopi designs by Lars Rains
Hildur by Lars Rains|Photo Credit:  Gale Zucker

Lars has divided Modern Lopi:  One into 4 sections; each section containing designs using one of 4 weights of Icelandic wool (Léttlopi (worsted), Alafosslopi (chunky), Bulkylopi (bulky), and Einband (Icelandic version of lace weight).  There are beautiful designs for men and women, as well as accessories.  In my opinion, some of his “women’s” sweater designs would work just fine and dandy as a man’s sweater.

AudKnits snowflake scraves
Hornstrandir by Lars Rains|Photo Credit:  Gale Zucker

All of the pieces in the book are modern takes on traditional Icelandic designs and constructions.  There are construction notes for the garments and any special techniques have their own section.  I loved the designs, of course, but having any special techniques (and some very common things as well) explained clearly and thoroughly is a special bonus.

There are gorgeous color photos by Gale Zucker throughout the book (not to mention, gorgeous models), and full-color charts for the stranded colorwork.  In my humble opinion, this book will make your first lopapeysa easy and fun; a great introduction to the world of Icelandic knitting.

modernlopi1_coverdraftTo Purchase Modern Lopi:  One visit www.modernlopi.com

Lars Rains is a retired New York City police officer, now working as a special education teacher in Queens, NY, and teaching knitting.  He can be found on Ravelry as ModernLopi.

But Wait!  There’s MORE!

As a special gift to one of you lucky devils, Lars has offered to gift a digital copy (PDF) of Modern Lopi:  One.  To enter, simply comment on this post (or if you like, ask Lars a question and I’ll send it to him) by JULY 31, 2016.  Please include your Ravelry ID in your comment.  Winner will be chosen at random from all comments.  And while you’re entering to win, be sure to follow this blog.  Keep up with all the latest confessions, techniques and tips, and some humor too!  And if you like these ramblings, please share with your knitting friends, or the knit-curious in your life.

Until next time, Keep Knitting!

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18 thoughts on “Designer Spotlight: Lars Rains

    1. Thanks, Andre! If there’s a topic you’d like me to explore, let me know. I hope to be able to help men embrace their knitting and enjoy the journey. Let’s all inspire and encourage each other on our knitting journeys!

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  1. This is very cool, I’ve been trying to modernise the traditional lopipeysa by making some funky colour choices. I’ve only made a few peysas (mostly for kids, to get the hang of it. One I tried making for myself turned out way to small, which is heartbreaking). I’ve wondered about doing them with other yarns than the traditional lopi, just to have a wider variety of colours and styles. Ravelry id: JesperGreve

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    1. Jesper, experiment with yarns you have available and that you enjoy working with. I knitted my first lopapeysa in Cascade 220 Superwash (I wanted to be able to toss it in the washer). Any fiber you like would probably work just fine, though I will say wool is the best bet for stranded colorwork. Just be sure to swatch your colorwork in your chosen yarns before beginning the project and I predict you’ll be happy with the results!

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  2. Awesome blog post! I too feel off if I don’t knit everyday. I have loved seeing Lars’ work on Facebook, and look forward to hopefully knitting one of his gorgeous patterns! Rav name is Mikiejr

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  3. These sweaters and models are both lovely. I have never knitted a sweater but these have really caught my eye to try one, since it is on my list of things to do. Thank you for the great read and nice project ideas!

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  4. Thank you for the wonderful new project ideas. Sweaters have been on my list to do for some time but I have been afraid to start one. The sound easy enough with a bit of practice. The models are just as lovely to look at as the project itself. Thanks again.

    Capricorey on Ravelry

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    1. Do give these a try! I think you’ll find that the construction is very easy to understand, the sweater knits up fast (and who doesn’t like increased productivity?), and the colorwork and construction details spice up what could easily turn into a boring stockinette sweater. Most common techniques I’ve seen in Lopi designs are stranded colorwork, knitting in the round (no or very little purling to be done), simple shaping (mostly I’ve seen M1R, M1L, and Kfb), kitchener stitch grafting (so easy once you get the hang of the flow). Cast-ons and bind-offs vary from a simple long-tail cast on, to Channel Island Cast On, Provisional Cast On, Picot cast on, Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off, Estonian Bind Off, and Icelandic Bind Off. Don’t be overwhelmed… take whatever recommended method by your pattern and use it!

      Be sure to do yourself the favor of swatching first before starting the project. If you need a good swatch technique, see my previous posts on Gauge. Nothing sucks more than getting through a project to the end and finding it doesn’t fit. SWATCH!!

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  5. Ravelry id: emperorskeeter
    Can these be sized up to 3 or 4 X?

    From Lars: Women’s fits from 34 to 54″ and men’s goes from 36 to 56″ chest.

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    1. Thank you so much April! If there’s a topic you’d like me to explore in the future, please let me know. I hope to help inspire men who knit, men who WANT to knit, and women who love to knit men’s garments/projects. I’m sure at some point in the future I’ll do some women-centered posts too. Welcome!

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  6. smalltownknitguy (Rav ID) here. Lars is an amazing knitter and teacher. Enjoyed his company at the Southeast Men’s Knitting Retreat 2 years ago.

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