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!

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!

Let’s Get Worsted, in Kettle Valley!

This year, I finally felt ready to hunt for local hand-dyed yarns and patterns to sell in my store. I believe strongly in supporting local small business whenever possible. Now that I have built up my inventory of staple yarns I really wanted to offer something a bit more luxurious. I had a small selection of hand-dyed yarns in solid colours, but I wanted something with really interesting colourways. I found it.

Black Cat Custom Yarn is located in Chilliwack, BC (Canada).

I was excited to have the opportunity to meet the owners this fall and to see and feel their yarns in person. A customer told me about them and I was not disappointed. I brought in a modest selection of two weights of Black Cat yarn. It has been a hit.

I have already placed another order and they are dying it now. Once it arrives it will expand the selection to 17 colourways of “Let’s Get Worsted” and 15 colourways of “Everyday Sock”. The price point is typical of hand dyed yarn.

I recently made up a project using the “Damsel” colourway of  Black Cat’s “Let’s Get Worsted”. The pattern was the Kettle Valley Shawl from Knox Mountain Knit Company out of Kelowna, BC.

So first of all, I should have done a gauge check. I didn’t and my gauge was a bit soft. I ended up using three and a half skeins rather than the three that the pattern called for. That was definitely on me. I’m confident that it could be done with three if the gauge is matched.

The Pattern: Kettle Valley Shawl by Knox Mountain Knit Co.

knox-mountain-knit-coKnox Mountain Knit Co. patterns are inspired by landmarks of the Okanagan Valley in the interior of British Columbia, Canada. I love that each has a short write-up describing what inspired the pattern. They are beautifully printed on sturdy paper and priced reasonably. They all come with a Ravelry code that allows you to have both the hard copy and a Ravelry download to access on your devices. I now have hard copies of all their designs for sale in my store. (The patterns are displayed in two binders; if you’re in the store ask me where to find them. You can also view them on Ravelry.) The photographs are beautiful. They offer sets (hats, mittens and cowls) that are sold separately but made to coordinate. This is a wonderful option if you are making gifts… especially for those individuals whose birthdays land near Christmas.

The instructions were clear and easy to follow. I loved the twisted stitch method used. The first few times I did it, I had to check the instructions but once I comprehended what was happening and why it worked, I was off to the races. It’s a nice big shawl without being so large as to feel like a blanket. It was my first worsted weight shawl and I had my doubts because I like lace shawls and I love to knit with sock weight yarn. I think I may have been converted. Yes, by the final row I was knitting 357 stitches. However, I finished this, knitting leisurely in front of the TV in the evenings over the course of 10 days. I didn’t even knit every evening. It is made up of sections that when viewed as a whole mimic the trestles of the historic Kettle Valley Railway in the vicinity of Kelowna, British Columbia. I found that with each section, it took very little time to get a sense of the pattern so I could just knit away without checking the reference. That’s how I like it! I’m delighted with the outcome and so is the person who received it as a gift.

The Yarn: Black Cat Custom Yarn; Damsel; weight “Let’s Get Worsted”

This yarn was an absolute pleasure to knit. It was soft and smooth. The stitch definition is fantastic. All the effort I put into creating those trestles stood out and made the pattern proud. It reminds me of Malabrigo yarn. Sometimes when I make a larger project I get a little bored of looking at the yarn by the end of the project. Not with this yarn! There is just no getting bored of this yarn. The colourways are so fun and the names are nerdy and sometimes a bit cheeky. It definitely has personality. I washed it with Eucalan and blocked it. I thought it was soft before I washed it. Washing it softened it even more. I sat there squishing it between my hands and against my face for ages! I guess you figured out that I highly recommend this yarn.

Because it is dyed to order, it takes some time from when I order it until it arrives. That’s probably the only real drawback to this yarn. Once I get a sense of how much and how frequently I need to reorder, that will be less of an issue.

I encourage you to take the time to check out Black Cat Custom Yarn and Knox Mountain Knit Co. Both of these small BC businesses offer a high quality product for a reasonable price. If you want to make a special gift for someone you care about, I recommend combining the two for something truly memorable.

Happy Knitting!

Gearing up for Winter: New Products

Every day as I fill in work orders, I look at the calendar. I am surprised (though I shouldn’t be) at how quickly October is disappearing.

The snow is creeping its way down the mountain and there is a definite chill in the air. In my store, I’ve been busy stocking up on the products that I know my customers will be looking for, what with cold weather coming on.

It’s always exciting to see new things. As I do every year at this time, I find myself either feeling really excited about the new things I’m bringing in or hyperventilating about the cost of doing so. I just never know for sure whether customers will be as excited about the new things as I am. I’m pretty sure it will be worth it, though.

So, here’s what I’m really excited about.

Estelle Chunky Yarn

estelle worsted and chunky

I’m being either brave or insane, but I am bringing in the entire colour line of this amazing, gorgeous, super-soft yarn. I initially brought it in only in the heathered colours by special request for a customer who wanted to make a Chunky Fair Isle sweater. When it came in, we both went crazy for how exquisite this yarn is. With the taxes in, it’s a $10 bill per 100g skein. You just can’t beat that price. It’s a blend of wool, acrylic and nylon; an excellent combination for long wearing and easy care.

47 colours, my friends! I’m STOKED!

Estelle Worsted Yarn

Okay, all those things I just said about the Chunky apply here but in worsted weight. I’m bringing in 40 colours of this one as well. These are set for a ship date of November 1st. (Keep breathing, Judy!)

Estelle Bulky Yarn

This one, I only ordered in Hudson’s Bay colours. I feel blankets coming on!

King Cole Big Value Baby DK

40 colours of this lovely yarn as well. I don’t remember specifically where the price point lands on this, but it will make customers happy!

King Cole Comfort Kids DK

I just brought a few colours of this one in. It’s already here. So soft, such an excellent value and lovely colours. I brought in a few solids to go with the multi colourways as well.

King Cole Drifter DK for Baby

this one is really cool. The colours are a little more sophisticated. It gives a sort of Fair Isle effect. The balls are 100g.

Rico Creative Bubble

SCRUBBY YARN! This is the actual yarn for making scrubbies for doing your dishes. How cool is that?! I have 3 colours on hand right now, the others are on back-order. They will get here when they get here. I brought in a pattern for pot scrubbers that look like emoticons. I also have a pattern on order to make scrubbies that look like watermelon slices. Too cute!

Black Cat Custom Yarn

I’m bringing in a selection of both their sock weight and their “Let’s Get Worsted” (British Columbia dyed) yarns. If you know and love Malabrigo yarn, you will adore Black Cat Custom Yarn! I can hardly wait!

I ordered other new yarns, but they get to be a surprise. 😀

Nostepinnes

Now, other new things include Nostepinnes. Noste-whosie-whatties, you say? Nostepinnes. These are beautiful turned wooden tools that originate (from what I’ve been able to gather) in Norway. You use them to hand wind yarn in such a way that it gives you a centre pull ball. Here is a link to how you do it. I haven’t had a chance to try one out yet, but I will.

Needle Keeper

Next up on the new items list is the “Needle Keeper”. If you knit with circular needles, you need this amazing little gizmo. I don’t believe I ever lived without it. It protects your needle tips and connections from breakage while also preventing stitches from falling off the needles. They also help to keep your knitting bag tidier. Your needles won’t get tangled with all the other stuff in your bag. If your cat likes to chew on your wooden or bamboo needle tips, you can foil their evil plans with a Needle Keeper! There’s no way your cat will chew through this puppy! This is my favourite new thing. Here is a link to the video that the inventor has up on YouTube:

DPN Tubes

Another cool product along the lines of the Needle Keeper is Knitter’s Pride’s DPN Tubes. These do for double point needles (DPN’s) what the Needle Keeper does for circular needles. I found a review of this product. Here’s the link:

Eucalan

After all the endless hours of knitting or crocheting your beautiful garments with exquisite yarns, you need to be able to take care of them. Eucalan makes a lovely rinse-free wash for delicates. I brought in 4 scents of this in 500ml bottles: Grapefruit, Jasmine, Lavender and Natural. If there is enough demand, I’ll bring in jugs to allow us to refill your containers. A little bit of this product goes a long way. It contains lanolin, which acts as a fibre conditioner and keeps your items soft and lovely. Here is a link to Eucalan’s demo of the product.

With all these new products coming in, I guess I’d better get busy rearranging the store!

Happy Knitting!

Needles: Old, New, and Different

The final stage of Tour-de-sock features a very unusual sock pattern by Kirsten Hall called Sidetracked. I am determined to complete this round, despite my flagging motivation. I have tried a number of different needle combinations hoping to stumble on the ideal combination. I’ve tried some old, some new and some very different.

To put it into perspective, here’s a picture of this round’s socks.

 

The pattern dropped last Saturday at 4:00 am, my local time. I was printing off the pattern and had my first sock underway by 4:20. We planned a trip to visit grandchildren for the long weekend. I was determined to get as much done as possible before we hit the road around 11:00 am. I was grateful that the construction, although strange, was actually pretty fun.

I had the sock on a 60cm circular needle to start and worked the 12 active stitches with a DPN. It was awkward. I ended up with one circular and 4 DPN’s at one point. It was a very strong reminder of why I really prefer not to knit with DPN’s. It’s so easy to drop stitches off them. You don’t want to drop stitches on this pattern! By 4pm, I was feeling pretty done. With one sock barely half way done, I set the project aside and watched the scenery go by until we arrived.

I really struggled to determine how far to knit before beginning the heel and I have to say that I should have stopped a full wrap earlier than I did… which I couldn’t have known until after the heel was complete. By then, there was absolutely no way I was frogging anything. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t take the wind out of my sails. They’ll take longer to finish but they’ll fit my very tall son when they are done.

 

I came home to a big pile of work. I’ve been plugging away in the evenings. I still haven’t finished the first one. I’m ready to begin the cuff, so I’m on the home stretch and the second sock will go easier since I’ll know what to expect. I have until Thursday at 10:00 am to finish.

So yesterday, I was feeling pretty desperate to come up with some way to infuse some fun back into this project. I had a shipment of needles come in and in that order were 25cm circular needles. My supplier was a bit short on numbers and there was one lonely 2.25mm needle among them. That’s the size I’m using for these socks. I’ve had customers tell me that these teenie tiny circulars are God’s gift to sock knitters. (I wasn’t convinced.) What with all the new stock, I had to rearrange the wall in the store to accommodate all the new stuff. In the process I stumbled on the sets of curved DPN’s I had all but forgot I brought in. I figured I’d try these out too.

I pulled out the Neko curved DPN’s. I was immediately disappointed. They are plastic. Sigh. So bendy! I am not crazy about bendy needles. I took a deep breath. I was determined to give them a fair shake despite my initial feeling. I looked at my Sidetracked sock-to-be: didn’t even pick it up. My daughter had requested a pair of socks out of some Lana Grossa Scandic yarn and I had that ball handy. I figured I’d cast one on to try the bendy needles out. These needles look like someone took their DPN’s and tried to bend them to 90 degrees. They are definitely different.

I began my Twisted German cast on, over two of the three needles; I usually cast on over two needles. It was awkward, although in all fairness, it takes getting used to something that is this unusual. By the time I had 15 or 20 stitches cast on, it got easier. It was challenging to get started on these. I found that no matter what I did I kept jabbing myself in the palms of my hands with one end or another. I’ve been knitting long enough to know that the first few rounds are always a bit of a pain and then it’s fine after that. So I continued. My yarn kept getting caught on one of the ends. I really don’t like bendy needles and found that the flexibility of these really irritated me. I assume that the point of these needles is to be an improvement on DPN’s. I’m not convinced. But bear in mind that I abandoned DPN’s for sock knitting a long time ago in favour of circulars. I got about 4 rounds of twisted rib knitted and I had to set it aside. I tried having the tips of the passive needle above the active needle, then below; I tried flipping it toward the back. I don’t know. I didn’t see any videos with continental knitting on curved DPN’s. Perhaps that’s the issue. I will pick it up again after the Tour is finished and see if they’ll grow on me. For now, the jury is out on these.

20180907_085945

I then picked up the Knitter’s Pride Dreamz 25cm circular and transfered my Sidetracked sock onto it. The sock fits nicely. The needle tips are short. I thought they’d put up resistance as I’d knit with them because the cord is so short, but honestly I didn’t notice once I started to knit. This needle is a huge improvement over what I was doing. Heavens! What a relief. I like a longer needle tip so I can use my pinkies to anchor my movements against the needles. These tips are too small to do that without scootching my fingers close together. That will take a bit of getting used to. But you know,  I was quite surprised, but I really do like these… a lot. The only downside is that they’re too small to try the sock on, unless you were to use two of them.

Happy Knitting!

CoBaSi and Alecia Beth

A couple years ago, a friend introduced me to a wool-free sock yarn called CoBaSi (HiKoo).

The name represents three main fibres in it:

  • Cotton;
  • Bamboo
  • and Silk.

At the time, I looked it up, hoping to bring it into my shop but until recently couldn’t find a Canadian distributor for it. I have since brought in the full colour line of this beautiful and interesting yarn.

CoBaSi is put up in 50g skeins, (201m) which to me is ideal. With a gorgeous array of solid colours (and coordinating multis) you can purchase it for stranded colour-work without buying loads more mileage than you need. Most sock yarns are in 100g skeins so you can end up with a lot of leftovers when doing colour-work.

It’s wool-free. The fibre content is

  • 55% Cotton,
  • 16% Bamboo,
  • 8% Silk and
  • 21% stretchy Nylon

All those folks that can’t or won’t wear wool have another option with this yarn. It comes in

  • sock weight,
  • DK and
  • Worsted as well.

(At this time, I only brought in the sock weight.)

From the moment it arrived in my shop I was chomping at the bit to knit something with it. My original thought was to have it arrive in time for the beginning of Tour-de-Sock (July 7th). I thought I would use it for a round of the Tour. I might still do that. However, it arrived in plenty of time before the beginning of the competition.

An overwhelming case of “Startitis” had me casting on a summer cardigan last Saturday evening.

My impression? I am in love with this yarn. It has a great twist to it and it knits very smoothly. I am finding that I’m actually knitting faster with it than I usually do. Very rarely do I split the yarn as I go. I am enjoying it so much that I can hardly wait to finish up the “must do” things in my life just to get back to my project… even when I’m feeling very tired. The more I knit it, the more I want to knit. As a result, I have made a lot quicker progress than I expected. When I set it aside at the end of the night yesterday, I was ready to separate the sleeves stitches from the body stitches already. For me, to be that far in less than a week is bordering on the magical and miraculous!

cobasi yarn sweater
Here is a photo of my progress on the Alecia Beth cardigan.

The colours are vibrant and the stitch definition is excellent. I have not washed it, but it is rated as machine washable.  I have knitted with a blend of cotton, bamboo and linen and that yarn (Nako Fiore) stood up to washer and dryer beautifully. After all the work in a cardigan made of fingering weight yarn, the jury is out as to whether I will risk the dryer on this project.

I want to do a shout-out to Polish designer, Justyna Lorkowska.

The design in and of itself is stunning. But just because someone is a wonderful designer doesn’t mean they can write a good pattern. Pattern writing is an art form completely separate from the design process. This is a beautifully written, thoughtfully laid out pattern. She has tables in each section with anticipated stitch counts between each set of markers. This allows you to see at a glance (no matter what size you are knitting) what you need to know so you can move along. She gives an overview of each section before giving row by row instructions. So you can go into each section anticipating what you need to pay attention to… rather than figuring it out after you’ve frogged a section in frustration. I’m excited to make more of her designs.

If you want to buy her patterns, you can find them here:

stores/justyna-lorkowska-designs

The first pattern for Tour-de-Sock drops on Saturday morning, so I will have the cardigan on hold while I’m knitting the competition socks. I’ll likely work on it as a “tweener” project. I’m so excited to wear it, I can hardly wait to finish it.

When you happen to find a pattern that is a pleasure to follow, of a design that you adore and you add in a fantastic yarn, you get BLISS!

Happy knitting!

 

With This Ring, I thee Strand!

Sometimes you see something and your immediate reaction is: “Well that’s hokey.” Sometimes you’re right. But sometimes you need to set your first impression aside and give it a chance to prove itself. My “Well that’s hokey” moment was with a ring designed for use in stranded knitting. I gave it a very skeptical try, and now I wonder how I ever lived without this clever little device.

A year ago, I entered the 2017 Tour de Sock competition.

The warm up pattern was my first experience with stranded colour knitting. In the chatter thread on the forum, people were talking about devices they used to manage their yarn. Some people used rings or springs to separate the strands, yet hold them in one hand. They swore by them. I looked for these products but my catalogues never had them. Then one day, I got an email from my supplier about new products they had brought in and the “Boye Finger Guides” were among them. I ordered them thinking that at least I would be able to offer something of this nature to my customers. When they arrived, it was busy. So I didn’t think about them much; I just got them into the inventory and onto the shelf. I then promptly forgot about them.

Tour de Sock 2018 is in now underway (registration ends July 7, 2018). I’m working on this season’s warm up sock; a stranded project. I got to the point that I was ready to turn the heel, and I remembered about the finger guides I had brought in. I took one out of the package, took a good look at it and I will be completely honest. I was fully prepared to expose this stranding ring for being silly.  It comes with no instructions. There is a photograph on the package that shows someone combining 3 strands of light yarn together to make one strand of thicker yarn as they knit a project. Of course, the image is set up to make the yarn look pretty. So you can’t use that image as any guide to how you should hold your yarn or use the product (in the real world).

First off, my preference is to knit in continental style. I tension the yarn with my left hand and I pick the thread with my right hand. Up until now, when doing stranded colour work, I carried my main or dominant colour in my left and my contrast colour in my right. I picked the main colour from my left hand and I threw the contrast colour with my right hand.

When I first learned how to strand, it took me a little while to get past the awkwardness of carrying two yarns at once.

Throwing the yarn with my right hand was very cumbersome at first.

Once I got accustomed to it, I found that I was almost as fast knitting with two colours as I was with one. Remembering this, I gave my attitude a shake. Trying anything new is going to be awkward and I really did want to be fair in my assessment of this product. I decided I would keep on trying long enough to get past the awkwardness of it being new to me.

So the ring itself is rubbery. It stretches and I would guess that it should fit most adult hands. The top of the ring is flat with a couple little holes.

There are three platforms that each have 3 hooks.
These are designed to accommodate

  • light,
  • medium or
  • heavy yarns.

Now, the heavy one looks to me like it would accommodate a worsted yarn. It might be okay for a chunky, but definitely nothing heavier. On the bottom of the platforms are a couple pegs that fit nicely into the holes on the flat top of the ring.

20180614_091747[1]

I selected the platform that was right for my yarn. I had to fuss around with it to figure out how to hold my yarn and which direction to have the hooks facing to get a sense of what would actually work and not end up slower than what I was already doing. I spent about half an hour with very poor results before I had a brain-wave. I won’t bore you with the details of all the things that failed.

In the end what I found to work well for me was to have the hooks face toward my left wrist. I brought the two yarns together, wrapped them around my pinky (as I always do to manage the tension),  and then I hooked the yarns in from opposite directions. So the main (dominant) colour I brought from the front of my hand over the top of the ring and into the far left hook. The contrasting yarn, I brought from behind my index finger, across the top of the ring and into the far right hook. I hold my index finger relatively high. Some folks hold it lower. I don’t expect that this would make much difference. This puts your index finger between the working yarns. You can easily choose the one you want from the correct orientation.

It’s important that you always keep the two yarns in the same position relative to each other in this type of knitting. One will always be taken from the left, the other always from the right.

Inconsistency results in sloppy colour dominance in the finished work.

On this particular pattern, the heel turn requires stranded purling. I am delighted to report that it was just as easy to purl using this ring using this set up, as it was to knit. Although it was very awkward to figure out what would work, once I found it, it was great, and fast. I love it!

Happy Knitting!

Foot Loose – Knee Socks

Diamond Luxury Foot Loose is a fun, hand dyed, 4-ply yarn. At 75% super-wash merino and 25% polyamide, its fibre content is pretty typical of sock yarn. It is put up in 100 g skeins/ 396 m. The label lists a gauge of 30 stitches to 42 rows producing a 10 cm swatch on 3 mm needles. I personally wouldn’t use 3 mm for socks with this yarn. If I were making a shawl or a sweater, I probably would. The price point is lower than you would expect for a hand dyed yarn.

This yarn is very soft. I used 2.5 mm needles and it knitted up to the gauge I expected for any sock yarn. The colourways are interesting and fun. The result is a random-ish speckly fabric, absolutely lovely to the touch.

I used it to knit a pair of knee socks for my daughter. I used the Bintje pattern by Jatta Pauliina. The pattern is lovely. I have had it in my library on Ravelry for a very long time so I was happy to finally knit it up. I feel that the instructions assume that you have knit socks before. Other than one typo it was straight forward. In the heel turn, when you are knitting on the right side, where you normally slip the first stitch it says to k1.

I had to read the calf shaping section a few times to fully comprehend what I was supposed to do. That may have been because it was my first pair of shaped knee socks, though. It may also be that the designer’s first language is not English. This pattern is a free Ravelry download. I made the socks taller than the picture and I probably could have made them one or two pattern repeats shorter than I did. I had to start a second skein to complete them. My daughter has small feet (ladies 6.5 – 7) so the feet look a wee bit disproportionate to the legs. The photo has them stretched onto a large sock blocker. It distorts the heel a little but I wanted to show them off.

socks-lace-tall

I worked a yarn-over hole into the outside of each cuff to pull elastic through. I tied the ribbon around the elastic. I love the look of the Foot Loose yarn. It’s quite beautiful.

I look forward to using it again in a different colourway.

Sirdar Gorgeous Review

Have you seen those images of blankets knitted with crazy thick yarn on the internet? Sirdar Gorgeous is a single ply Ultra Super Chunky yarn. Doesn’t that alone make it sound amazing? Ultra Super! If we were talking comic books, that would be like having an Ultra Superman… Well today I’m going to talk about this Ultra Super Chunky Gorgeous Yarn. Even just typing that felt like a mouthful!

To start it all off, the specs on this yarn are as follows: 51% wool; 49% acrylic. They recommend 20mm  needles to obtain a 10cm swatch with a gauge of 5 stitches by 6 rows. The skeins are 150g and sell for around $22.50 each.

I have to be honest. I was very reluctant to sell single ply yarn in general.

Back when I was a kid, we raised sheep. We would send the fleece off to have it processed and would get some of it in the form of cakes of a roving-like yarn that could either easily be spun or was typical of what people made Cowichan style cardigans from. My memory of working that was that because of my typical tension, it would just come apart unless I spun it first. When my rep showed Gorgeous to me, I looked at him sideways (the look you would give a snake-oil salesman that you see through) and said,

“Uh, seriously? People actually WANT this stuff?” He laughed out loud and said that it was proving to be quite popular.

The first thing to acknowledge is that when you either crochet or knit with any thick yarn, because of the actual girth of it, mileage is relative to its weight. The thicker the yarn the less the mileage.

You’ll get less mileage from a DK than a fingering yarn; less from chunky than from DK or worsted and so on.

Gram for gram, you are going to pay about the same as you do for any other yarn. When you look at the mileage (okay, “yardage”) on the package you can see the difference. For instance, 100g of fingering yarn usually gives you 400m of yarn. Sirdar Gorgeous is 150g and 50m. So out of 100g of it you are going to get around 33m. That having been said, in fingering weight yarn you will cast on around 34 or 35 stitches to make a 10cm swatch in comparison to the 5 stitches in Gorgeous. Yes, it works up at light speed. Man, you can put a blanket together in no time flat with this stuff. But it takes a lot of skeins.

Sirdar has provided a number of patterns to support this yarn.

In addition to a number of single-skein projects (hats, cowls…) there are also patterns for throws and for an ottoman-like cushion. Of course, you can also just wing it and make a blanket or a poncho or whatever your heart desires. 🙂

sirdar-gorgeous-patterns

I started out crocheting this yarn. The first thing to note is that you need to have a very light touch with it. I found that where I normally guide the yarn with one hand to control tension, I really had to simply guide it to be sure it wouldn’t catch on anything. I barely held any tension on it at all. I am a knitter at heart. I can crochet and for some things crochet works best. With the size of this yarn, I just really didn’t care for the size of the holes between the stitches. After a while, I realized that I wasn’t going to be happy with the result. I unraveled enough to cast on 60 stitches on 20mm circular needles and continued to take the crochet apart as I knitted. I didn’t want to take it all apart and run the risk of tangling it all up. Now, if you love crochet, you may have loved it the way it was. I’m not saying you shouldn’t crochet it. It’s all about preference.

For me (sock knitting is my happy place), this yarn felt GINORMOUS to handle. It took me a bit to just get used to it. I normally knit continental style, carrying the yarn in my left hand and picking the yarn with the right needle. I am finding that with this yarn as thick as it is, I just naturally started throwing the yarn with my right hand instead. Again, it requires a very light touch. If you tend to pull hard on your yarn, you’ll have to back way off on your tension to avoid tearing the yarn apart as you go.

I played around with changing colours in a couple ways. I don’t like knots in my work if I can avoid them.

With this yarn they would be way too obvious.

First, I pulled away about half the yarn from the last 4 inches or so of each colour and then twisted the two together. But that (although it worked) gave me a candy-cane effect for the stitches that contained the join. If joining the same colour, it works fine. Then I did something like a Russian join instead. So, I still pulled away about half the bulk of the yarn for the first 6 inches or so on each. But, instead of laying them onto each other and twisting, I folded them around each other (like links of a chain) and then twisted on either side of the link respectively. This gave me a clear divide between the two colours, no knots, and I was able to be very precise about where the colour change occurred.

Sirdar recommends a cold hand-wash and to lay it flat to dry; shaping as necessary while it is still wet. I have not washed it yet, but I would be terrified of what a washing machine would do to it. So, bathtub it is for my blanket.

The resulting fabric is so thick, soft, fluffy and cuddly that I suspect you’ll have to fight everyone else off to be the one who gets to snuggle under a Gorgeous blanket!