Summer Projects: Crochet Market Bags

I don’t know what the weather is like anywhere else, but here in Revelstoke, BC, it’s been a very wet season so far. After a record snowfall this winter, I suppose I can be thankful that you don’t have to shovel rain. Whether you are at the lake or in your living room, this is a great time of year to work on light and airy projects. How about some shopping bags, now that we are allowed to bring them to the store again.

If you follow this blog, you’ll know that my first love is knitting. I’m very aware that there are a lot of folks for whom crochet takes that place of priority. So today’s blog is primarily for you beautiful crochet-lovers. 

I love that our little community cares deeply for this world and works hard to do all those little things that add up to make a difference. Having your own reusable shopping bags is just one way that we can do that.

I have two kits available in the store. The first is a Katia product from Spain. The beautiful Jasmine B of Ocean Peak Designs was kind enough to crochet up a sample of this kit for the store. It’s available in a number of colours and it comes complete with everything you need to make it, including the handles and the crochet hook!

The other kit uses jute. It’s a simple crocheted bag, no fancy stitches or designs, just straight to the point. I like that. Of course, jute is very durable so this bag will be very serviceable.

If you want to have the option of doing multiple styles, how about a book with multiple patterns to choose from? We have this fantastic book from Annie’s available. It has eight different crochet patterns for bags. From simple to stylish.

If you’re using a book or you already have a pattern, you’ll want some durable yarn for it. I have a few yarns to tell you about that would be excellent contenders for this type of project.

Ricco Creative Natur

This yarn is a 100% hemp, DK weight yarn. Although it has a limited colour palette hemp is a strong fibre that will give you a sturdy and beautiful bag.

Nako Fiore

This is a blend of Cotton, Linen and Bamboo. It is much softer than the hemp yarn and both the linen and the bamboo give it considerable strength. We have a pretty good colour selection and a decent amount of stock. Once this yarn is gone though, we won’t be able to bring any more in.

Kilim

This blend of Jute and Acrylic yarn is put up in 100g skeins with about 65m. This appears to be in the neighbourhood of chunky weight, so it will definitely work up quickly. This will definitely give you a sturdy bag that you can load up.

Cobasi Hikoo

This is a sock weight yarn that is a combination of Cotton, Bamboo and Silk. It has a little bit of nylon in it as well that gives it some bounce-back. Both bamboo and silk are strong fibres that will give the cotton that little extra boost. We have a huge colour selection of this one. They are put up in 50g skeins with typical sock weight yardage.

Wollmeise Twin

This super strong, super soft sock yarn is hand dyed using only plants and foods. The skeins are huge with about 150g in them so they go a long way. It washes up beautifully and it is exceptionally strong for a wool and polyamid blend. You don’t want to try and break this yarn with your hands, you’d likely damage your tendons!

Sudz Cotton

This worsted weight cotton yarn is our staple for making dishcloths. If you’re looking for a good quality, well priced cotton yarn, this is the one. We have a plethora of colours available and we keep this one stocked up all the time.

I’m waiting on a new product from Estelle Yarns that will fit the bill. Watch for Colourbraid soon. 😀

Whether you’re making bags for yourself or for a gift, or whether you are inclined to make other projects entirely, my wish is that you find joy in your creative expression through yarns and fibres.

Happy Crocheting!

4 Fantastic Sewing Box Must Haves

I like a good gadget as well as the next person. But I have to be honest, I really have to be able to anticipate that it’s going to save me time, effort or money before I’m likely to nibble. I tend to be a bit skeptical of trendy things in favour of the tried and true, old-school stuff. But I have to be honest there are some really amazing products out there that are well worth considering for your sewing tool box.

Wonder Clips

I have seen these in my suppliers’ catalogues for a long time. Honestly, I thought they were a bit gimicky. After all, I’ve been using pins to baste things together for over 40 years now and they work just fine. Well, except when you are sewing leather, or vinyl, or heavy coated nylon fabrics…

A couple of customers specifically asked me to bring in some of these clips for them. I brought in some extra packages thinking that someone else would likely want them. Then I took on a sewing job that was exclusively heavy industrial grade waterproof fabrics that you couldn’t stick a pin through if you tried… (and you shouldn’t use pins on them anyway). I remembered the Wonder Clips and thought they’d be easier to handle than the bulldog clips I generally use for such jobs. I was skeptical that they would be strong enough for what I was working on but figured it would be a good test.

They surprised me. I used the regular sized ones. There were some places that I had to use basting tape because you simply couldn’t put the clips on those areas, but on anything else, they held strong. I came away feeling like I could truly get behind this product. I put the box in my drawer and there they sat for about a month. I started to wonder whether I really needed them after all. Then in the last week two jobs came in that once again were made of fabrics that you really can’t pin. I was really happy to be able to pull out my box of Wonder Clips to baste those projects. Even if I don’t use them all the time, Wonder Clips have earned their spot in my toolbox. Here’s Clover’s “Tool School” video link for Wonder Clips.

Clover Hot Ruler

The next product I want to talk about is Clover’s Hot Ruler. Again, I brought this product in as a special order for one of my customers. This is a ruler made of nylon fibre board. It’s thin, and measures 2-1/2″ x 10″. It has a grid marked on it with 1/2″ increments. Along the edges it breaks down to 1/8″ markings. There are a lot of different rulers on the market. I have a collection of quilting rulers for cutting and use with my grid mats. This is different.

This hot ruler is designed to be used with an iron. Let’s say you want to turn a nice even 3/8″ hem around a piece of fabric. You can place the ruler onto the fabric, fold the fabric up to the 3/8″ marks and press the fabric with the ruler still in the folded edge. Because the ruler remains between the fabric and the turned edge, you can confidently press that edge without having to constantly re-check the measurement. You can see it clearly at a glance. This also allows you to easily press mitered edges. The ruler has marks at 45 degrees from two of the corners to allow you to press your miter in place with ease. Even when you just had a hot iron on it, it will be warm to the touch, but not hot. It doesn’t slip and slide on the fabric, but it also doesn’t grab it.

Clover also makes a similar product called the Hot Hemmer. It has a curve (and a cut out to help measure button placement) as well as straight edges to accommodate many pressing applications.

These two hot pressing products are truly handy. Especially for some of those fiddly pressing jobs where you really want a nice crisp edge without a fight. I’m quite impressed with them.

Here’s Clover’s Tool School video covering these two products.

Precision Tools Wool Pressing Mat

Yet again, I bow to the wisdom of my customers. I recently brought these into the store. I have a few customers who rave about them. I haven’t had a chance to try one out yet but since I am on the topic of pressing, I thought I’d include this demonstration video so you can see how it works. Looks impressive!

Gotta say, it feels good to be doing a blog post again. Times have been pretty strange lately. I sincerely hope that you and the ones you love are doing well and staying safe and healthy. We’re hanging in there. I have reduced the hours that the store is open to the public in order to strive for better balance. I have a drop-off & pick up station in the entry way. This area is open Mondays through Fridays from 9am to 5pm and Saturdays from 11am to 5pm. The store itself is open Wednesdays through Saturdays from 11am to 5pm. Tuesdays are reserved for fittings and are by appointment only.

It’s been lovely to be able to sit outside in the morning with my coffee and my knitting. I’m grateful for the warmer weather and the lush plant-life with all its colour and scent.

Happy Crafting!

Steeking: Bottoms Up!

A few blog posts ago I told you about my first encounter with steeking. That was a top down cardigan based on the recipes in Tin Can Knits’ Strange Brew book. In Strange Brew, they offer instructions for both top down and bottom up sweater knitting. Today I will tell you about the bottom up cardigan I made.

Gotta say, it feels a little weird writing this with everything that’s going on. I’m really trying to find ways to do things that feel “normal” in this very far from normal circumstance. I decided that this might be a good place to do that.

It was really fun to make the two little cardigans. When I started on the second sweater, things were just starting to get weird with the whole Covid-19 thing. As such, I didn’t take photos as I was knitting it. So unfortunately, I only have one lonely WIP photo to share. Sorry about that.

Bottoms up:

You start off knitting the sleeves up to the armpit. I knitted the sleeves on the short little circular needles that I usually use to knit socks. That worked really well although it was a little bit tight for the cast on and the first four or so rounds of ribbing. I just took my time and persevered and it was fine. The increases for the sleeve are done a little differently compared to the top down sweater. I assume that’s because if you choose to change the length of the sleeve overall, it would get too complicated to work around those changes. Simple is good. Because I was knitting for toddlers, I didn’t want to do any colourwork in the lower portion of the sleeves. It’s too easy for them to catch their little fingers in the floats when they put it on. That’s no fun for them. So I kept it really simple. Once the sleeves are knitted up to the armpit, you set them aside.

Next you start at the hem of the body of the sweater. I found that for some reason, the body ended up longer on the second sweater. Maybe the measurement is more accurate when you are knitting bottom up. Maybe I just measured wrong. There is definitely no doubt about where to start and stop your measurement when doing it from the bottom up. On the top down sweater, it can be tricky to determine where to measure from. I was sure that I measured the same amount for each. It’s possible that my tension was a little softer in the second one. That could account for it. I didn’t count rounds to determine how long to make the body; I used a tape measure.

Once the body is long enough, you join the sleeves to the body. You do a little shaping so that the back of the neck opening sits higher than the front. Next you begin the colour work and the decreases for the yoke. I took advantage of the orientation of the knit stitches to make a pattern with hearts in it on this one.

The yoke was straightforward until I got to the bind off.

I tried binding it off using three different methods. Because I make a lot of socks, it’s my default setting to do a stretchy bind-off. Don’t do that here. I ended up doing the least stretchy bind-off I know in order for the neckline to lay nicely.

I applied what I learned from the first project to doing the steek and it went very smoothly. The zipper went in easily and I’m very happy with the result.

The only thing I would do differently is to make the sleeves longer than suggested. The sweaters fit well. (The body lengths ended up being perfect for each grandchild respectively. YAY!) The sleeves could have been a little longer to allow for a some growth.

I had so much fun making these cardigans.

I’m glad that I started with small sizes. I still want to make one for myself out of sock weight yarn, eventually. I really want to be thoughtful about the colour choices and the pattern. I don’t want to rush into it. Especially if I’m going to use sock weight yarn for it! That’s a lot of knitting time to invest.

Moving forward, I have a couple of WIPs that I want to complete before I decide what large project I want to start next. I have a few ideas in mind. I have a couple more sweater technique books that I recently brought in to sell in the store and I might try one of those projects to see how I like those books. It’s always good for me to have a solid understanding of this type of book so I know whether they are worth the money and so I can offer support to customers who invest in them. They can be quite an investment. I ordered one that retails for around $100. I only brought in one to see whether it’s worth it. It’s a completely new all-in-one construction method that looks really exciting. The more carefully I read it, the more I think it will be worth every penny. I look forward to trying out one of the patterns to see how it goes. I’ll keep you posted.

On a side note: Ricasso — our shop cat — says “helloooooowwwwww”. With the physical distancing rules in place, it’s kinda lonely for him. (I’m sure y’all can relate!) The other night, we had to actually get him from the store (he has a cat door between the store and home so he can come and go as he pleases) and bring him home after 10pm because he was patiently waiting for customers to come and cuddle him.

Ricasso will be fine. LOL We’ll all get through this together, at a distance.

In the meantime, stay safe, stay healthy and stay creative!

Happy Knitting!

An Update

During these unprecedented times, it’s so important that we look out for each other and do our utmost and best to be responsible. Here’s an update on what we’re doing at Judy’s Designs to do our part.

First off, I want to thank my amazing customers who have all been courteous, careful and respectful across the board. Thank you so much for that. Thank you for continuing to support my business through these uncertain times. Thank you to those of you who are calling ahead and allowing me to gather what you need, take your payment by E-transfer and offer you a non-contact purchase option. It is my preference to use this option as much as possible.

Here’s What You Need to Know:

Social Distancing

Thanks to the expansion of the store, we have lots of room for customers to shop and easily maintain a distance of 6 feet around them. We have lots of yarn and supplies inventory on hand. To keep everyone safe, we are limiting the number of customers in the store to 3 at a time. So far, we have not needed to keep anyone waiting (to enforce this) but I ask that you respect this protocol should we need to ask you to wait.

If you have any concerns, call me. 250-837-2870

Sanitization

I am keeping the store clean. I am disinfecting counters and the debit machine after each transaction. I am wiping down the doors and door handles regularly. All customers will be expected to use hand sanitizer before touching anything in the store. (there’s a bottle on a table in the entryway and one on each counter at the front of the store).

Contactless Transactions

If you want, need or are able to employ a non-contact transaction, please call me and we’ll figure out a solution that will give you what you need. At this time, I need payments for these to be done as Interac E-Transfers.

If you are housebound and want supplies for projects, call me. I can send you photos of the yarn or other supplies you are interested in so you can choose what you want, and we can sort out a safe way to get your purchases to you. Then, at least you can have something enjoyable to do while in isolation.

Completed Sewing Work

If you have sewing work to pick up I’d appreciate it if you are able to send an E-transfer to make payment. Call me to get your balance and make arrangements for pickup.

New Sewing Work

If you would like to drop off sewing work that does not require fittings, I have a station available in the entryway for these jobs to be deposited in. Instructions are posted. Bags, forms and pens are available. Please use the hand sanitizer before you fill in the paperwork. (When I’m ready to work on your order, I’ll call you and check in regarding specifics.) ALL SEWING JOBS WILL BE PLACED IN ISOLATION FOR A MINIMUM OF 3 DAYS BEFORE AND AFTER WE WILL HANDLE THEM. This policy will be in place until further notice.

Store hours

I have not changed our posted hours at this time. I live above the store and the business phone rings at home. I’m not going anywhere. When you want to come down, please call ahead. I’m happy to be flexible within reason.

These are very difficult times. All of us are doing what we can to stay afloat while remaining safe and cautious. Each and every one of us is experiencing some degree of impact. No matter how unsettling things may be, we want to continue to extend kindness and good service to everyone we connect with.

Stay well, friends. We’ll get through this together.

Judy

Covid-19 Stuff

Hey folks; strange and challenging times right now, eh? I want to connect with you about what is happening here and how I’m responding to the current situation in regard to Covid-19 and the current British Columbia state of emergency.

Yes, the store is open. For the time being, I will do my best to have the store open regular hours, however, I may shorten my days to allow myself time for the extra cleaning and disinfecting that I will be doing and to be sure that I am able to get enough rest. I will post any temporary changes to our schedule on my website judysdesigns.ca, as well as on Google and Facebook. I’ll also put a sign up on the shop window.

What I need from my customers:

As recommended by the Minister of Health, I ask that anyone coming into the store during this time allow appropriate space between them and others. …Sorry, no hugs until further notice. (You know who you are! And you know that we love you!)

I have hand sanitizer at both counters; please use it when you enter the store to protect yourself and to protect me and Irene. I have an autoimmune disease that does put me in a higher risk category and Irene is over 80 years old. I need to be able to keep my store open and stay healthy. I appreciate your cooperation in this regard.

If you have symptoms that look anything like a respiratory issue, I respectfully ask that you not come into the store. If you need something, call me. I can put your order together for you, take your payment by e-transfer or credit card and you can have someone pick it up for you. If you don’t have anyone to pick it up for you, we can figure something out.

If you are one of the people who will have to return to your home country in the next ten days and there is sewing work here for you, call me. If it isn’t done yet, I can get it done for you right away so you can have it in time for your flight home.

What I will be doing:

I will be disinfecting the doors, counters, debit machine and other surfaces typically touched by people frequently throughout the day.

The virus only lasts for a few days on soft surfaces. Because of my backlog of work, by the time I work on garments or gear, even if they were contaminated when dropped off, any risk to me will be gone.

I will continue to sanitize my hands and the counter after handling each new job that comes in. Those will be stored away from any areas the public can access long enough that they will not present any risk. I will be using hand sanitizer between each sewing job, just to be safe.

If you need a fitting, I would like to do this by appointment only until further notice. Please call ahead. Also, if you feel ill in any way, please postpone your appointment. I will be sanitizing my hands before and after each fitting.

We are doing our best to keep a positive attitude and outlook. However we also want to do our part to reduce the spread of Covid-19. If you are sick, please stay home. These are trying times. We need to look out for each other.

Judy

Adventures in Steeking!

I have been looking forward to learning how to steek. Steeking is a knitting technique in which you knit a sweater in the round, and then turn it into a cardigan. Yes, you have to cut your knitting to do it; yes that sounds terrifying; yes it’s pretty cool! My first dabble in this new endeavour is well underway and I’m excited to share what I learned so far.

My interest in steeking led me to a book by Canadian design company, Tin Can Knits. They put together a “recipe book” that breaks down sizes for top down and bottom up seamless yoked sweaters. Their charts include sizes from new born up to big-man sizes. But that’s not all! They give you stitch counts for Sock weight, DK and Aran yarns. Talk about an incredible value. It’s a gorgeous book in full colour. I purchased the book to try it out and I have them in my store now.

I started with a child sized cardigan in Aran weight.

I reasoned that if I missed things or misread things or straight up just messed up, it wouldn’t be such a big deal to frog it back and fix it. I decided to do one from the top down and one from the bottom up. I am not all that far along on the bottom up one so I’ll leave that off for today’s blog and catch up with you next time around. The long term goal is to make myself a couple cardigans, first one in DK and then one in Sock weight once I feel really comfortable with the method.

Now, the book gives very clear instructions on how to knit the sweater. Of course in my enthusiasm, I didn’t read very carefully and missed a few things. I ended up knitting to the point of preparing for the sleeves when I realized that I was short a whole bunch of stitches; I had looked at a smaller size for one of the increase rounds by mistake. Instead of immediately frogging it back, I just increased at the point where you divide to add the sleeves… yeah, don’t do that. It’s really important that you increase exactly as they lay it out in the pattern. I almost finished the sweater and realized that because my increase was below shoulder level, the slope of the shoulder would not comfortably fit a human. (I was blissfully in denial up until then… sigh.) I did frog it right back to where I had made that initial mistake and reworked it.

I used a variety of needles in this endeavour.

I cast on the neck onto a 40cm fixed circular. (I used Knitter’s Pride Dreamz for the whole project.) I switched to an interchangeable with a 60cm cord when it started to feel really squishy on the 40cm. I started the sleeves on 40cm’s and then switched to 25cm fixed circulars once the decreases made it so the stitches were being stretched on the 40. This worked very well for me.

Strange Brew doesn’t give a lot of information on the specifics of steeking. They suggest some online videos as reference. They talk about holding stitches sacred at the centre front of the sweater as you knit, to preserve them for the steek. I had stitch markers on either side of those stitches. I did find that there were times when I struggled to wrap my head around how to do the increases and still keep those 5 stitches sacred between my markers. It was worth the time and effort to carefully plot out how to do that. Keeping those stitches isolated means a straightforward process once you actually do the steek. The benefit is that you can hide all sorts of things in that steek column. Starting a new ball of yarn? Add it in the middle of the steek. I started my new rounds in the middle of the steek to avoid having a jog in the colourwork.

Sadly, I was impatient. I had watched some steeking videos a couple years back and relied on my memory. Again, being impatient, I just flew at it. I stitched up on either side of the steeked stitches with my sewing machine… rather recklessly began cutting and then realized that I was cutting a stitch width too far to one side. Oops! I repaired that and did another row of machine stitching closer to the centre where I needed to cut. I cut it the rest of the way and that went well.

Then, I figured I’d use my serger to finish the edges. Bad idea. It stretched the edge so far out of shape that I had a whole new challenge to work with. I continued my “bull in a china shop” approach and threw a zipper in it, sat back and immediately felt disgusted with myself. After a few days of timeout, I picked it out and started over.

I cut 2 pieces of wide bias binding to about an inch longer than the finished size of my zipper. I stitched the ends inside out to create clean finished ends. I then carefully aligned it to the edge of the vertical column of stitches on either side of the opening (with the bias open; but stitching at the folded outer edge of it). Once that was done, I carefully contained the edge stitches inside the bias and pinned it on the inside of the cardigan. I stitched that with the sewing machine. Once I had the first side complete, I aligned the second piece of binding on the other front. Being careful to align the colourwork pattern to match the completed side, I pinned it and stitched it in place finishing it as I did on the first side.

I aligned the zipper with the knitted stitches beside the bias binding and installed it using the sewing machine. I then hand stitched the binding to the inside of the cardigan. Although my colourwork didn’t line up exactly, it was close enough that I came away feeling proud of my first steeking attempt.

I encourage you to tackle a new technique that kinda scares you. It feels so good!

Happy knitting!

Keeping it Local

Today, I want to tell you about a local designer. Her name is Jasmine, and she’s the maker and designer behind Ocean Peak Designs (formerly Kicheko Designs). She opened her Etsy store to sell handmade items quite a few years ago, and has really poured herself into her business over the past couple of years.

“I saw it as a great opportunity to be able to work from home, while raising my two young children, who are 2 and 4.”


I asked Jasmine about how she got
started on this road to design

“This journey as a maker has really evolved a lot over the past couple of years. 2019 was my first proper market season, and I was so surprised and excited at the success of those. I’ve always LOVED trying new patterns, pairing those with the perfect yarn, choosing colours and combinations, learning new techniques and stitches, and combining all of that together in to the art of crochet.”


I asked her how she evolved from making
market items to pattern testing

“I’ve loved making finished products to sell, but when I discovered pattern testing, it was a new avenue to challenge myself and continue to learn. I can clearly remember my first ever pattern test. Honestly, initially I was motivated because it meant I got a free pattern. Being quite active on Instagram, I was able to connect and follow some incredible designers. These designers would put out pattern tester calls for their up and coming patterns, and I figured I’d give it a shot. I’d never crocheted a cardigan before, but I applied to test it, and to my absolute delight, I was chosen. It was such a fun experience, and have since fallen in love with pattern testing. I’ve done countless pattern tests now, and have taken away so much from each one.”

“To pattern test is a lot of work. You’re not just making an item for pleasure – you’re grammar checking, spell checking, checking stitch counts, critiquing the flow and usability of the pattern, writing notes and relaying them to the designer, you’re taking photos in good lighting and highlighting the designer’s pattern, you’re chatting with other testers, you’re modelling the item, checking the fit, investing in yarn for it, checking gauge and doing swatches, measuring as you go and measuring once it is complete. It’s quite a full on process, but having a pattern tested really insures the best possible outcome. While it’s a lot of work to test, I really love it. I joked over the winter, that if I could be paid to pattern test, I would. It’s such a challenge and it’s so fun working with other people and designers. I’ve met some incredible people through this process, and feel constantly challenged creatively.”


Clearly, the experience of pattern testing
was an inspiring one for Jasmine

“In the fall of 2019, it started getting to the point where I would find myself envisioning what I wanted to create. I personally never thought I’d end up designing anything. I was so happy to test and purchase patterns, because wow, are there ever talented and creative people out there. I would spend hours searching Ravelry, Etsy and Instagram for patterns that caught my eye, or were what I was envisioning. The designing happened when I couldn’t find what I was exactly what I was looking for.”

“I’d sit down with my trusty old notepad, and write everything down as I was crocheting. The whole process of creating was so invigorating. In the midst of market season where I was preparing and making the same thing (sometimes over and over), it was so freeing to be able to have another avenue for creativity. It was really essential, so that I continued to love what I do, and I didn’t get lost in the production of market season.”

“Since the new year, I’ve released 2 hat patterns. I have another pattern being tested right now, and have been so blessed to collaborate with an incredibly talented indie yarn dyer, with that pattern set to release in March. I also have a few other designs that will come to life pretty soon.”

“To start pattern designing was actually incredibly daunting. I had so many questions, and it felt like such a big scary world. The fears were real – would anyone even want my pattern? Would I accidentally copy others? Would others copy me (oh how heartbreaking)? I mean the list goes on and on. But thanks to friends who are currently designing, and an incredible community online, I’ve been able to push through and just do it, while asking for much needed direction and help. I can say that with each pattern that has been designed, tested and released, it really has gotten easier. I’m continually growing and changing as a maker, and discovering what I really love to do. This is my journey at the moment, and I think if you have ever made something without a pattern, then you’re a designer too.”


You can find Jasmine’s handmade items on

oceanpeakdesigns.ca | Etsy

Or catch them in person at The Trading Post and The Wax Bench; both retailers are located in the downtown core of Revelstoke, BC.

Jasmine’s crochet patterns are available on Ravelry

I love seeing people’s creativity shine! I encourage you to check out what Jasmine has to offer.

Happy Creating!

Review: ChiaoGoo part 2 and a Slouchy Colour Story too!

Have you ever stood by a wall of hand dyed skeins of yarn and found yourself staring at one skein, thinking “Wow, that’s kinda ugly.” I probably shouldn’t be admitting this, but that’s how I felt about one of the Estelle Colour Story colourways when they first arrived in my store. And you know when your parents told you not to judge a book by its cover? Yeah… I’m going to talk about that today.

And, as promised, here is part two of my ChiaoGoo review!

So let’s start with the ChiaoGoo premium stainless steel 40cm x 2.5mm circular knitting needles. I was very excited to try these out. I allowed myself a little extra time for this one because I wanted to knit a toque with sock weight yarn on this needle. I used the Sockhead Slouch hat pattern by Kelly McClure, downloaded free on revelry. The yarn is Estelle Colour Story in Bubblegum.

I cast on 160 stitches since I was using a finer needle than recommended in the pattern. I wanted something denser than the suggested gauge. I’m not accustomed to working with bent circular needle tips, so it did feel a little strange at first. The cast on was fine, nothing out of the ordinary. I found the nylon coated cord a little grabby when I was sliding the cast on along it. Joining in the round was a little awkward and I found myself fighting with the reach a little bit. However, knowing that the first few rounds are typically awkward, I persisted and tried to reserve judgment. By about round four the resistance from the needle stopped and it felt good. I did find that I had to stop frequently to move the stitches out of the way on the cord on the right hand side. If I were competing, this would bother me. That bit of resistance from the slightly grabby cord is not necessarily a bad thing. Your work is not going to slide off when you don’t want it to. With a larger gauge needle this would be a non issue.

Once I got accustomed to them, I liked the fact that these needle tips are on the longer side for this short of a circular.

It gives you something to anchor your hand to as you knit. For some people this can minimize fatigue. It didn’t take long until I stopped being aware of the bend in the tips. The tips are nice and sharp; this wasn’t really an issue for this yarn or the pattern. I personally like them this way; I feel like it gives me better control. Also, I usually grab a handful of the left hand stitches and slide them along the needle to progress my work. I don’t typically use my fingertip to push the needle further into the left hand stitches to do so. Therefore, a sharp tip doesn’t give me a sore finger as it does for other knitters.

I really enjoyed this needle.

I typically knit a lot of socks, so I am happy using fine needle and yarn gauges. I love that the work slides effortlessly over the junction between the needle and the cord. Catching stitches on a dying junction point is something that irritates me when my needles begin to show their wear. It will be interesting to see how the junction stands up over the long haul. I definitely recommend this line of needles. They are pretty darn fabulous. I probably wouldn’t use them for all my knitting, but I will definitely be using them in my complex fine gauge pattern work.

So, on to the pattern and the yarn.

Sockhead Slouch Hat by Kelly McClure of Boho Knits was my pattern of choice for this test. I wanted an easy, straightforward hat pattern in sock weight yarn. The pattern was super easy to follow. I’m not a huge fan of the slouchy hat, so I didn’t make it as long as the pattern suggested. I love that there was a quick start pattern option with very brief instructions for those impatient experienced knitters who want to just get down to it. It’s a great basic pattern. Kudos to whoever formatted the pattern. Nice job! If you have a gorgeous skein of hand dyed sock yarn that you can’t bear to make into socks because no one will get to see how pretty the yarn is, this is a great alternative to knitting it into yet another shawl. Top marks here. I used finer needles because I wanted a nice dense fabric. So I did modify it a little. I’m very happy with the outcome. Kelly has a whole bunch of patterns to offer and you can find them here.

And on to the yarn…

Okay so I confess I can be a little judgy when it comes to colourways. The truth is that we don’t all like the same things and that is not just okay, it’s a wonderful thing. I know what I like. That having been said… yeah… the book-cover thing I mentioned earlier. So, the yarn I chose for this project is Estelle Colour Story in the Bubblegum colourway. This hand painted sock weight yarn originates in Peru. I specifically chose to knit this colourway because I was feeling bad that I desperately wanted it to prove me wrong. It was the one I stared at, thinking it was ugly. I SO wanted it to prove me wrong. And I’m delighted to I tell you, it did. I’m so happy that I tried this yarn.

The Estelle Colour Story yarns do just that. They tell a story.

This one took me back to my childhood in a delightful and unexpected way. It reminded me of Bubble-Yum, Bubblelicious, Double-Bubble and more! Oh my, as every colour showed its little piece of personality I couldn’t help smiling. Every colour of every bubblegum I ever chewed as a kid was represented. Score! Happiness meter: maxed out! My inner child was seriously satisfied by this yarn. (Go ahead and laugh, but I suspect you know exactly what I mean.) And my conscience is now clear! 😀

I hope you’ll take a look at Kelly’s designs and see what she has to offer.

Hey, I love a free download, but I also respect the amount of work in getting a design from inside your head into pattern form. So, shout out to Kelly at Boho Knits! If you’re looking for a great needle in these shorter lengths, I do recommend what ChiaoGoo has to offer. And finally, in all humility, here’s a shout-out to the yarns that look better knitted up than on the skein. You just never know…

Happy Knitting!

Review: ChiaoGoo part 1 plus Distraction in Katia Camel Sock Yarn

I have been hearing lovely things about ChiaoGoo premium stainless steel knitting needles for some time now. My rep knows I’m a sock knitter and he has been encouraging me to test out the wee sock needles for over a year now. A few weeks ago, I had someone ask me about 40cm circular needles in fine gauges. Since Knitter’s Pride Dreamz (the main brand I carry) don’t come in those sizes, it leaves a gap; that sent me hunting. Today’s blog is part one based on the results from that search and a review of what I found.

ChiaoGoo makes those in-between needles that fill the gap that I just mentioned. So I figured I would order in the wee sock needles to try, as well as the sizes of 40cm circs to fill in the fine gauges that are not available in Dreamz. I figured I would test them out to see how I like them. I’m still in the process of testing the 40cm ones and I’ll fill you in on them in my next blog.

Today I want to talk about the sock circulars.

These needles are surgical stainless steel circulars. They have a smooth, satin-sheen finish and memory-free, multi-strand, steel cable cord coated with red nylon allowing yarn to slide right over the cord with ease. (…mostly a quote from ChiaoGoo)

I have a sock knitting customer in particular who brought in her Dreamz sock needles (the wee circs) to show me that she is actually wearing grooves into them. She knits a LOT of socks. I was astounded; I haven’t worn any of mine down so it surprised me to see this. I brought her in some Knitter’s Pride Nova Platina in the same style and she wore off the silver finish. That’s been floating in the back of my mind for a while. When I was looking at these ChiaoGoo needles it occurred to me that they may just fit the bill for her. Surgical Stainless Steel ought to be enough to stand up to this avid knitter. If she is wearing out wood needles, chances are other folks are as well. I haven’t called her to say these are in yet since they only just arrived. So I don’t have feedback from her yet.

Today is about my impressions of ChiaoGoo 23cm sock circs.

I cast on “Distraction” by Michelle Leanne Martin using Camel Sock yarn by Katia. The cast on was just what I would expect on this style of needle. It’s always a little awkward. No surprises there. They are very smooth. When I’m doing a complicated pattern with cables, twists and traveling stitches, I like to knit the socks one at a time on a wee circular. (Especially if they have a different chart for the front and back of the sock.) It’s just less confusing.

I truly have only good things to say about this needle. I used the 2.5mm. The cord is supple and moves nicely. The stitches never caught on the junction between needle and cord. I was anticipating that the stitches might slide a little too easily on the metal needle, but that was not the case. I did find the cord a little grabby on the yarn and maybe that’s why I didn’t find them to be as slippery as I expected. I was doing a lot of traveling stitches and I like a nice sharp tip when I’m doing this type of knitting. These were perfect for that. The length of the needle tip was what I expected for a product of this type. It was an absolute joy. I completed the sock on that needle and cast on the second one. Obviously, stainless steel needles don’t have the same warmth that wood needles have. I’ll continue using my Dreamz and I’m definitely adding this little beauty to my tool box!

Whenever I do complex geometric socks, this will be my new go-to.

Distraction is a well written pattern. It’s available on Ravelry as a free download. It is straightforward and easy to follow. As with any pattern of this complexity, I was grateful for my KnitCompanion App which allowed me to slide my vertical marker along as I worked the foundation rounds until the pattern began to emerge. Of course since I was knitting in the evening, that didn’t stop me from missing the cables in the ribbing on the first sock. Oops… I realized my error when I started the second sock. There’s no way I’m going back to change it. I figure: do like the Amish quilters who leave a mistake in their hand stitched quilts since after all, “Only God is perfect”. 🙂 I’m enjoying this project enough that I was inspired to check out Michelle’s other patterns. She’s got a lot to offer and I encourage any sock knitters to check her out.

Katia Socks – Camel is a blend of 55% wool, 25% polyamide and 20% camel. It comes in 100g balls with a gauge of 42 rows by 30 stitches in a 10cm square. It comes in a range of neutrals including grays, browns and blue. I chose gray (colour 74) for this project. I brought this yarn in because these are all the classy basic neutrals that you could want for men’s hand knit socks in one line of yarn. Katia yarns have never disappointed me and this yarn is no exception. It’s smooth, easy to knit and strong. The stitch definition is excellent and it gave me the result I expect from a high quality sock yarn. I love the resulting fabric. It has depth and personality despite being a neutral. And it’s soft. It feels so good. Full marks on this yarn!

A big thumbs up to this entire project. The needles: 2.5mm x 23cm Chiao Goo premium stainless steel circulars. The pattern: Distraction by Michelle Leanne Martin. The yarn: Katia Socks – Camel by Fil Katia of Spain.

I hope I have inspired you to try something new. See you again in 2 weeks. 🙂

Happy Knitting!

Two Knitting Reviews in One

This winter I brought in Estelle Superwash Merino DK; it’s here in all of the 25 currently available colours. My goal — when bringing in an entire line — is to make up a sample project so people can see how it works up. This time I made up a Sople cardigan and I’m excited to tell you all about both.

The yarn

Estelle Superwash Merino DK currently comes in 25 colours, in 50g balls with 125m. This very soft and smooth yarn is perfect to knit stranded colourwork sweaters. You don’t have to commit to 100g balls of each colour for just that bit you need along the yoke and cuffs. The suggested gauge is 22 stitches on 4mm needles over 10cm.

It was a joy to knit. I was able to see my stitches easily. The texture of the yarn looks a little cable-like as you are knitting it up. I found that was less noticeable once I washed it. As with most superwash yarn, I found that I had to be careful not to stretch it while blocking. It washed beautifully; came out soft and gorgeous. It did end up a wee bit bigger after it dried. (I plan to knit up a little swatch, measure it, run it through the laundry and see how it fares before I risk putting the sweater in the dryer.) There was almost no colour in the rinse water at all.

The pattern

I knitted up Sople by Justyna Lorkowska. I purchased and downloaded it from Ravelry. You may recall me writing about her pattern “Alicia Beth” about a year ago (that project is in time-out because I changed my mind about the colours and need to make a decision). This great little Sople sweater is fitted, with 3/4 sleeves and all-in-one, top-down construction. Although mostly stockinette, there is enough pattern to keep from getting bored. Since I don’t speak Polish, I had no sense of what might have inspired this design. It looked like calla lilies or maybe candles to me. Turns out Sople translates to “icicles”.

This may come across as a bit of a rant. Bear with me, please.

There are so many badly written patterns in this world. I see customers who get stuck because of either poorly written or poorly translated instructions. I spend a lot of time going over such patterns with them to help them to continue. It is exceedingly frustrating when patterns are difficult to follow, have poor (or worse, no) legend or glossary and are just confusing. I often wonder whether some designers are so highly skilled and capable that they forget that not everyone knows what they know, or can do what they do. Let’s face it. We knit (or crochet or sew or whatever) because it brings us pleasure. A poor pattern can take all the joy out of a project. Now, in all fairness, there is always a little bit of a process to familiarize yourself with a designer’s particular way of explaining things. But that aside, when you find a really good designer, it is such a wonderful thing.

Forgive me if I gush here. Justyna is an excellent designer and I don’t know whether she writes the patterns herself or has a team to help her. Whatever she’s doing though, she does it well. Obviously, I worked off the English pattern that was a translation… an excellent translation! My hat’s off to whoever made that happen. My only criticism was that because the PDF paper size was European and simply would not shrink to our North American letter size for me. I had to I open it in Adobe Acrobat Pro, resize and save it as a new PDF before I could print on letter sized paper. I like to have one copy on my tablet in Knit Companion, and a printed paper copy that I can scribble notes on. (I did message her and mention the page size issue). And hey, if that’s seriously the worst criticism, that is a fantastic pattern.

The sweater is constructed in one piece from the top down.

You start with a provisional cast on; knit the fronts first to the armpit, then the back down to the same point, put all the stitches from fronts and backs onto one long circular needle (don’t twist a front, like I did though) and complete the body. You pick up stitches for the sleeves as you go and knit them directly into the sleeve opening. It’s a pretty clever construction method. I love me a seamless sweater!

The front gets a button band; I chose to add 8 buttons on mine because I liked the look of it. The neck is finished with an I-band edge. There is a lovely pattern knitted into the fabric as I mentioned above. I did get a little complacent when I was knitting the second sleeve and I missed the point where you start the icicle above the cuff. I had to frog it back and rework it. That was on me though. I just got lazy and tried to go by my memory instead of checking the pattern. I used a stretchy bind off and I would use that again, except for the bases of the cables, those I would use a regular bind off to keep them from going twiddly.

Clearly the construction method is not typical.

I would encourage anyone working this pattern to take the time to read through the entire pattern a few times before starting. I think I read it three times. I generally find that I need to do that with this sort of unique pattern to wrap my brain around what to expect. That having been said, you may not immediately understand how it will all come together and you do (at some point) simply have to trust the pattern. You can trust this pattern though.

I adore the way this sweater fits me and before I completely forget what my notes mean, I plan to tidy up my pattern scribbles so that I could potentially use the pattern again, and perhaps do the whole thing in stockinette. I’m stoked with my new cardigan! I apologize that I don’t have any photos of me wearing it. No selfies here. I’m not photogenic and I’m quite self conscious about that. Maybe I’ll add some later when I have someone who can take a nice photo for me. 😀

Meanwhile… Happy Knitting!