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The Spacey World of Hilary Smith Callis

May 15, 2013

One of my favorite things about Knitscene is its featured designer profile each issue. I love learning about designers and their inspiration. This time, it's Hilary Smith Callis, the designer of the Knitty smash hit, Citron, who's designed three special pieces for you. Here's writer Robin Shroyer to tell you more:

The Wavelength Tank
Stitches and Supernovas

Comet ISON, scheduled to appear in November, has scientists predicting that it will be the "Comet of the Century," but while it could dazzle, it could just as easily fizzle out before it arrives.

Comet ISON may have the scientific world waiting with bated breath, but astronomically inclined designer Hilary Smith Callis will do anything but disappoint in 2013. Hailing from San Francisco, Hilary boasts a career background that every dreamy eight year old-and adult for that matter-would lust after. As a project scheduler for NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, Hilary works alongside some of this country's brightest minds and is at the forefront of astronomical observation and, admittedly, a whole lot of design inspiration.

Hilary burst onto the knitting scene in 2009 with her now famous Knitty design, Citron—a shawlette with over 10,000 projects on Ravelry. "I sort of submitted Citron to Knitty on a whim. I created it by just playing around and didn't have high hopes for it being accepted," said Hilary. "I was shocked when it hit 100 projects in the first week . . . but even now, I still have a hard time thinking of it as a big deal since it was just something I whipped up for fun." Thankfully, Citron's rave reviews pushed Hilary to design more projects with publication in mind, and she began submitting her ideas to magazines. Hilary has since been featured in four different publications.

You can now find her knitting and designing during her long commutes to NASA or on her days off while taking care of her two-year-old son.

The Saturn Cardigan
The Eclipse Top
You'll find an ease about her designs but also something that doesn't let you look away. Lingering between her common use of stockinette stitch is delicate shaping, rolled edges, feminine eyelets, and flattering cables. Hilary is this issue's Knitscene designer, and you'll find hints of her iconic style in featured in the three pieces she created for this issue.

The Wavelength Tank, inspired by the electromagnetic spectrum, is perfect for stargazing on a warm summer's night. The rolled hem, scoop neck, and waist shaping give the piece a soft, feminine look that simultaneously allows it to drape with ease. The strategic use of increases and decreases throughout create a fun wave pattern that mimics the range of light.

Inspired by an annular eclipse, the Eclipse Top uses an eyelet pattern to give the illusion of little eclipses moving across the pullover's front panel. The clean, A-line design of this piece makes it a perfect sweater to transition from summer to fall.

Hilary uses a few adaptations to make the Saturn Cardigan different from your standard button-up. Knitted top down, this cardigan features a yoke neck with rings reminiscent of Saturn and three-quarter length sleeves that make it perfect for throwing over a cotton summer dress.

Can't get enough? Visit—Hilary's "epic" knitting blog that's named after Homer's Iliad and features projects past and present, as well as her patterns.

—Robin Shroyer, from Knitscene Summer 2013

The Saturn Cardigan is just beautiful. I love the rings of Saturn that circle the yoke. The color combos are endless; how about chocolate brown and mustard yellow? Or sky blue and coral? Or the gray and green that's shown here? I love the versatility of this cardigan knitting pattern.

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P.S. Have you knit Citron or any other designs of Hilary's? Leave a comment let us know about it!

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fionnrua wrote
on May 18, 2013 6:26 AM

yes I knit Citron last autumn and wore it throughout winter, For such a light fabric it''s   incredibly warm,

maiziemaizie wrote
on May 17, 2013 11:10 PM

I knit the Citron last year and loved how it turned out. Several women at my LYS knit the citron and each one was beautiful. The pattern is easy to follow.

29ways wrote
on May 17, 2013 6:30 PM

I have ordered a very special double skein of hand dyed yarn by an independent yarn dyer to make the Citron. I can't wait to knit it up when I finish the shawl I am working on now. I started it in a knitting class in 2007!

on May 17, 2013 9:12 AM

Today's email has me thinking about the many benefits of knitting for the brain especially as it is developing.  Waldorf School educators know this and keep knitting in the curriculum.  The rest of us need to take every opportunity to pass on the skills that we can.  In my local paper today there is a lovely photo of an 85 year old gentleman and his wife celebrating a milestone birthday showing him with his knitting in hand.  I am of the opinion that knitting is also very good for the aging brain.  There are also in my aquaintance folk with the music/maths/knitting connections....interesting.

Wendy Leigh-Bell

Hamilton, Ontario

on May 15, 2013 9:43 AM

I'm completely fascinated by all the scientists, mathematicians who design sweaters, shawls, hats in their spare time...and you see all that chemistry, math, biology love in their work. It's so interesting. Funny how I knew instantly of "Citron" when I read this blog post...even if Hilary's name was secondary. Goes to show you how popular Citron is in the knitting world! One day I'll make it too. One day!