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!

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!

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!

Ooh! Christmas Ornaments to Knit!

Do you have a bunch of pretty leftover yarn that isn’t really enough to do much with? It’s just so nice you hate to get rid of it? Well, this very addictive little project will have you digging for all your leftovers and knitting up loads of Christmas tree ball ornaments. Once you start, it is really hard to stop!

Okay, so I’m all for full disclosure and so I want to give the back story to my newfound addiction. A few years ago, I started following Arne and Carlos’ YouTube channel. I love these guys. They are so creative and talented and skilled. If you aren’t following them and you love fibre arts, I encourage you to check them out.

They did a video on Christmas Balls back in 2015 and then again in 2017. They do the traditional stranded colourwork designs typical of Norway (that’s where they live). At the time I saw it, it was after Christmas and I just didn’t have the time or motivation to try them out. Since then, they have been hovering in the back of my mind, calling out,

“Knit me, Judy… you know you want to!” Yeah, since 2016 New Year’s!

So this year, I went hunting for the free pattern link so I could make some up out of my leftover yarn. The downloads are simply the colourwork charts and that’s it. I downloaded them and made a couple. As I was digging through my odds and ends I realized that I have a lot of bits of self patterning sock yarn leftover from socks I have knit. I thought, “why not just simplify and eliminate the colourwork and just let the yarn do the talking.

So I did.

After I made a bunch it occurred to me that this simplified version of balls is just too fun not to share with everyone out there. So I wrote up a really simple pattern for it. My understanding is that this pattern has been around since the dawn of time and isn’t anyone’s property. I am offering it as a free download (with no intention of every charging money for it).

Download the pattern

So let me give you a quick overview.

You have to do them on DPN’s (double point needles). You can use any weight of yarn, but you just adjust the size of the needles to accommodate it and realize they will be larger with larger yarn. I would encourage you to knit them a little on the dense side. So if you knit tight just do what you usually do; if not, go down a size with your needles from what the yarn suggests. I would stick to a finer yarn for making the little hanger thingie at the top though.

You’ll definitely want to use a set of five DPN’s as these are made up of 4 equal and repeating sections and that means you can have each section on its own DPN. I think dividing them onto three needles would take a lot of the ease and fun out of them… just saying.

I love the size you get from sock yarn. Also, the whole thing for me was to use the self striping yarn so it would give me an interesting result with little effort. I did one up in worsted weight. multi coloured, hand dyed yarn. It looks gorgeous. I’m not crazy about how large it is as I kinda just like my ornaments to be smaller. Arne and Carlos appeared to be using DK weight and I think I’d still be okay with that size. I personally wouldn’t want them any bigger, but if you like them bigger go for it!

A little tip. When you get about half way done, you might want to already take the time to close up the bottom opening with your cast on tail. It makes it really easy. Thread the tail onto your needle, pull it through each of the cast on stitches twice, put the needle through the centre hole. Turn the ball inside out and pull the needle through. Tighten it up really nice and fasten it off on the inside of the ball. You can just leave the tail there without trimming it. Or, you can do that at the end with the other finishing steps.

It takes very little yarn to make one of these. The ones I made using sock yarn weigh under 5 g before I start any of the finishing work.

A note about increases and decreases.

The charts that you can download from Arne and Carlos do not indicate any specifics regarding the type of increases or decreases to use. They do talk about it a little in their video. I played around with several different options on the first few balls I did. My pattern reflects the ones that gave the smoothest transitions and nicest overall look in my opinion. I found that using the exact same increase stitch all the way around (and the same decrease stitch all around respectively) actually gave a better appearance than doing opposite leaning ones on either side of a centre. So yes, this is on purpose. If you don’t usually knit projects with a bunch of shaping and that was confusing to you, just ignore it and trust the pattern. 🙂

Now, a note to locals in Revelstoke

As Social Saturday is up and running again, I invite you to gather up your leftover yarns, throw them and your DPN’s in your knitting bag, download this pattern and come on down to Judy’s Designs on Saturday, December 7th to make Christmas Tree Ball Ornaments with me. It takes me around an hour and a half to knit one (if I don’t get interrupted). Oh, and if you have the Knit Companion app, you might want to set the pattern up as a project. If you don’t have Knit Companion… why not? (No, I’m not a representative of them. I just love the App.) Feel free to print out the pattern. I include a grid that allows you to keep track of your rounds as you knit them and there is room to track 9 balls or something. 😀 You’re welcome! I hope to see you on Saturday.

Happy Knitting!

Tips for Tardy Gift Makers

Every year I have good intentions that I’ll start making gifts early in the year; you know, so that there isn’t a grand panic when fall shifts into winter. (Now what was it my dad always said about good intentions?) There have been one or two years when I managed it. Sadly this year isn’t one of them. Let me share with you some ways I have found to be more efficient at this gift making time of year.

As we sail along the rails of the Pinterest and Instagram inspiration rides, it’s important to be more than just a little ruthless in your search. Personally, I have found that sticking to Ravelry.com is more efficient. There will almost always be a pattern available for the search results. At this time of year, you really have to have a clear mission in mind.

First off, you have to know what your end-game is. How many gifts do you want/need to make. Being clear will save you resources on every level. As I search in Ravelry (using the advanced search function), I like to open each project that catches my eye in a new tab. I’ll systematically do this first, working through my search results. Then I’ll go through all those tabs and eliminate the ones that don’t live up to my current needs. I bookmark the ones I’m seriously considering by adding them to my favourites or immediately downloading the pattern.

Make notes and keep them in one place.

What is it, who is it for, what materials do you need, when does it have to be done, what’s the budget?

I see people getting lost in their phones trying to find the information they need so they can buy their supplies. Often, they are unable to find the pattern at all. I like to use a free app called Knit Companion to organize my patterns. Minimally, this allows you to have those patterns all in one place for easy access on your devices. Printing out the patterns can also be helpful.

Stash-bust before you go shopping.

Once you have that list, go through your stash to see what will work for those projects. Bundle the pattern and supplies together and label them so you don’t have to try and remember what you did. Check those off your list and make a note of what you decided to use. Spending a little time to organize this information will save you a lot of time, money, energy and frustration later.

Keep it simple.

As much as the intricate patterns with amazing detail are attractive and dazzling, be honest. You don’t have time for that! It’s the end of November. But, that doesn’t mean that your gifts have to be boring. For instance, let’s say you are making a scarf or a cowl. You can make a plain knitted or crocheted long rectangle, put a knot in it and then attach the ends together. Presto, you have a funky cowl and all you did was knit or crochet a rectangle. Use chunky yarn and it will work up quickly. Funky buttons, simple embroidered motifs, tassles, pom-poms, using a mini stuffed toy instead of a pom-pom, “hand-made” labels, adding a crocheted rosette or square in a complimentary yarn are all ways to take a simple design up a notch.

Sticking with the super simple theme, there are all kinds of self-patterning yarns available that come with instructions. The yarn does the work for you. For instance, Magic Diamonds from Katia will give you an argyle (diagonal plaid) design and with one ball (and a bit of a contrasting yarn for the border), you can make a cowl. Katia Big Paint is a self striping yarn that comes with a pattern to knit or crochet a hat or to make a scarf. One ball makes a hat with a pom, whether you knit or crochet it. The knit scarf takes 3 balls, but the yarn is thick and works up fast. How cool is that? Cascade Curiosity is typically used for shawls, but, you can get three toques (beanies for non-Canadians) out of one ball. The colours shift subtly and each hat is different. Throw a faux fur pom on there and you have a gorgeous gift that is easy to make while you’re watching television.

But, you don’t necessarily have to do it all yourself. If your recipient is crafty, why not consider giving them a kit? Got a friend that loves to knit? Pick out a knitting pattern and the yarn to go with it and bundle it up with a “some assembly required” note card. Has your sister been talking about how much she’d love to learn how to needle felt? Buy a kit that has everything that you need to make it. Got a crafty niece or nephew? How about a knitting loom and enough yarn to make a hat or a scarf? I brought in crochet kits that include the hook, yarn, instructions and finishing notions for making bags. We have rug kits from Spain that include all the self patterning yarn, the pattern and the crochet hook. There are lots of options. Ask for help from the staff in your local yarn and craft shop.

And then, you can also check out the craft sales. Take advantage of the many talented makers who have already created hand crafted items. The nice thing about this option is that the items are ready made; you know exactly what you have. Makers pour their heart and passion into each piece they sell; and you get to give a hand made item without having to make it.

Every year I think I’ll start earlier, but I don’t. And that’s okay. The main thing is to remember that the whole point of making gifts from scratch is to have fun and give gifts that come from the heart. So keep it simple and keep it fun. Put up your feet and enjoy every stitch and you can’t go wrong.

Happy Crafting!

Assessing the WIP Basket

If you’re anything like me, you’ll have a bunch of work-in-progress projects that have piled up in a corner or a basket or maybe on the chair in the bedroom. I find that at this time of the year I start to feel those unfinished objects (UFO’s) calling out to me. Unfinished projects have a way of pulling at my energy. It may not be a very big pull, but whenever I walk by them I have that subtle sense of “oh yeah, I should finish that”. And that takes a little bit out of me, every time. Maybe it’s time to make a plan to tackle some of those.

Going into the fall and winter, I really want to be able to work on new and exciting things that will inspire me: new yarns, new patterns, new challenges. I want to knit up samples with the new products I’m bringing in. But I also know that I really need to minimally assess my pile of WIP’s and come up with a plan to make that pile smaller.

Over the next 4 weeks, I want to pick through those things and determine whether there are some things that I know I simply won’t finish. Off the top of my head, I can think of a couple started pairs of socks that are most definitely too small. They were both really complicated patterns and I knitted a lot on them. I just couldn’t bring myself to frog them even though I knew I should. I think I need to sacrifice them. Time to sit down at the yarn winder and just wind them into a new ball with fresh potential. I won’t get back the time I knitted either way. So instead of feeling sad every time I see them, I can think about using that yarn for a new project. There, that wasn’t so bad. That’s two projects that can leave the basket and go back into the stash.

I have at least one project that I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to change colours part way through, or if I should order more yarn and just finish it in the colour I started with (before the yarn isn’t available any more!) I guess the fact that it has been sitting for a whole year is a good sign that I’m not going to change colours. Best get that yarn on order. Maybe that will motivate me to get back at it and finish it. 🙂 That’s one more that can move forward!

Then there are the ones where I lost the pattern, or the pattern had mistakes and continuing on will be more headache than fun. That should eliminate two or three from the pile in the corner of the living room… More frogging ahead!

I know there are a couple that really won’t take that long to finish if I just got back at them. I just kind of got tired of looking at the yarn; or the yarn wasn’t as nice to work with as I’d hoped and I lost interest. I’ll have to make a decision about those. It’s only a few, I can decide on those.

Funny, just thinking it through, I feel a little lighter. I feel like maybe thinning out the WIPs won’t have to be as hard as I was thinking it would be. I’m already feeling more motivated to take action and get some things done. Isn’t it amazing what a plan can do?

With all the new yarns coming in, it will feel good to clear the slate and make room to knit up some samples. I think I can maybe alternate between finishing an old project and making a sample out of something brand new. Little by little I’ll get that pile under control.

How about you? Are you ready to tackle your pile of UFO’s?

Happy Knitting!

Keeping out the Evening Chill

Heading to the lake? Evening barbecue in the backyard? Camping for the weekend?

It may be hot during the day, but when it cools off in the evening (if you’re anything like me) you’ll be reaching for something to throw over your shoulders to keep the chill away. Summer wraps are the perfect thing! With all the gorgeous patterns available to hit every skill level and every taste, add in all the lovely yarns… and the possibilities are endless.

I love shawls, wraps and ponchos. They fill that gap when you need a little something to throw on, but a sweater or a jacket are just a little too much. They are practical, cozy and can be as casual or as fashionable as you want. With the help of a shawl pin, you can clasp it to keep it right where you want it. No fuss or bother required.

Depending on the design you choose, you can challenge yourself, you can “Zen out” with something “brainless”… or you can hit the scale somewhere in between the two. As much as there are some highly complex lace shawl patterns out there, there are just as many easy ones that allow you to sit back and relax as your hands auto-pilot you to a lovely summer wrap.

Some of the designs that are referred to as cowls nowadays are really more like mini-ponchos, or capelets. These are really cute and don’t need any fasteners. If you’re going for an evening walk, they are just enough to keep you from getting goose bumps from that chilly breeze. Ponchos are a great and easy cover-up option too. Look for a pattern that starts at the neckline so you can simply keep on knitting or crocheting until it is as long as you want it to be.

Triangular shawls can be made in any weight of yarn and usually, you can simply keep on adding to them to make them as large as you would like them to be. You can tie them or use a shawl pin to fasten them where you like them. You can wear them in a few different ways so that they cover more or less of you.

Rectangular wraps are essentially just a really wide and long scarf. Using bamboo or cotton and a very simple stitch pattern can turn something we normally associate with winter into our “go-to” cover up through the summer months and during the “shoulder” seasons (pun definitely intended).

There are some lovely summery yarns available that can give you the perfect texture and weight for your shawl or poncho. Whether you prefer cotton, viscose, bamboo or linen blends, or you are a die-hard Merino lover, we are fortunate to have access to many options in a vast array of colourways. If you work up something in a worsted weight, it comes together quicker than you might think. I have a lovely gradient cotton/wool blend in DK weight (Rainbow Autumn) from Estelle Yarns that makes a gorgeous cover up that would be perfect for summer evenings at the campsite or beach. Looking for something with a bit of shine? Cotton/Viscose blends are what you are looking for. Bamboo is very strong and durable. CoBaSi gives a gorgeous summer fabric comprised of Cotton, Bamboo and Silk. The possibilities are endless!

I adore Knox Mountain Knit Co’s patterns; that’s why I sell them in hard-copy in my store. Her patterns are gorgeous and easy to follow. Once I start one, I can’t put it down. If you’re local, pop in and check out my binder full of Knox Mountain shawl patterns. If not, here’s the search result for her shawl patterns on Ravelry.

Here are a few pretty crochet designs I found on Ravelry:

Secret Paths by Johanna Lindhal (© Johanna Lindahl)

Shawl for Rachel by Hilda Steyn (© Hilda Steyn 2015)

Maple Leaf Shawl by Kirsten Ballering (© Kirsten Ballering)

Klaziena Shawl by Kirsten Bishop (by mola1971)

Striped Poncho by Crochet – Atalier (© Luba Davies Atelier)

These cover-ups make great projects to knit or crochet at your campsite. After all, that is what camping is for, right?

Happy Knitting and Crocheting!


Cobasi

Rainbow Autumn

Summertime

Tropicali

Mulberry

Nako Fiore

Baby Bamboo

Review: Katia Fair Cotton

After a significant time drooling over this yarn, (trying to decide what I wanted to make out of it) I finally started a project. This gorgeous cotton yarn comes from Katia Yarns of Spain. It is organic, fair trade cotton. It is very soft and comes in 200g balls with a self striping section and a solid neutral section. The mileage is fantastic at 620m! The colours are summer-yummy.

One ball goes a very long way. The sample Katia sent with my yarn order is a long sleeved child’s sweater. I would say it should fit a 10 year old. That only took one ball. Katia has other patterns on their website for this yarn as well. One is a child’s dress (also 1 ball) and a ladies’ dress (2 balls).

I decided I wanted to make a tank top out of it. Now, there isn’t a tank top pattern specifically designed for this yarn so I knew I would have to wing it. After some trial and error I settled on a 165 stitch cast on. I knitted the hem in garter stitch for 8 rows flat and then joined it in the round. (In hindsight, I would have been better to just do a couple rows; just enough that it was easy to avoid having a twist when joining it.)

I started with the striping section of the yarn at the hem and I’m working my way up from there. Although the label suggests using a 3.5mm needle, I wanted something just a little looser so it would be a bit breezy without being holey. I am using a 4.5mm needle and I’m very happy with the result. The gauge is working up much like a DK for me with these needles.

I divided it to knit between the armholes at the back and actually completed the back, but I was not happy with my division of stitches. I had overestimated how many I needed for the front. Also, it wasn’t as long as I like it. I weighed the yarn I used for that section after I frogged it and it was about 17g. So I figured I’d keep knitting until the ball weighs 45g and then work the sections between the armholes. But that would have made it longer than I want. I kept checking the weight and thinking, “wow, this ball goes on forever!” Amazing yield!

I kept this project really simple so that I could fly through it. Also the yarn is so pretty and the stitch definition is so nice, I figured I would just let the yarn do the talking. Anyone who knits a lot of cotton knows that just like with Bamboo, it can have a tendency to split as you knit with it. That is just the nature of the fibre. It’s better than some of the cottons I’ve worked with in that regard. It’s knitting up very fast and evenly.

I was hoping to have the top finished for this week’s blog but I’m not quite there yet. I will try and add photos to this post as soon as the top is done.

Katia Fair Cotton is a lovely summer yarn. If you are thinking about making yourself a little top or a wrap I would encourage you to. You won’t be disappointed.

Happy Knitting

Keeping up Traditions

Did you know that the oldest knitted artifacts date from the 11th century? And, the complexity of the knitting in those socks (colourwork, knit, purl and short rows) makes it pretty obvious that knitting had been around for some time before that. How’s that for being able to call knitting an ancient tradition? And you can be sure that if knitting has been around since then, people have also been mending their knitting since then too.

Anyone who knows my shop will know that a huge part of what I do is mending. Now obviously, most of that mending is on clothing, outerwear and outdoors related gear and it’s done using my various specialized industrial sewing machines. It is all mending (and alterations) none-the-less. I grew up in a family that couldn’t afford to be wasteful. My parents were hard-working, practical people. If we kids wanted to watch TV, we had to be mending something while we watched. The job I most commonly took on as my TV-toll was mending socks. Back then, I used an old lightbulb to hold the shape of the heel so I could carefully weave a new heel or toe with needle and yarn.

A long-time customer brought me a gorgeous Norwegian wool sweater, at least 30 years old. Other than the ravaged cuffs and a relatively small hole in one elbow, this beautiful lined garment was in excellent condition. It’s a testament to Norwegian craftsmanship. She asked me what I could do. I told her that there were a few ways to approach it, but that I really felt that it should be restored, as opposed to being repaired. I asked her what her budget was. She was willing to pay a fair bit, and although I knew it would not cover the time it would take to reknit the cuffs and graft a repair to the elbow, I just really wanted to restore it. I told her that I would be working on it in the evenings when I wasn’t too tired, in front of the television. It was not going to fall within my normal wait time for repairs.

I completed it this week and I thought I’d share how it went and show some photos of it. Now, please understand. I can’t afford to make a business out of restoring old sweaters for people. When she picked it up, she said, “I suspect I’m only paying about $2.00 per hour for all the work you did on this sweater!” She’s not far off! This was a labour of love on my part.

I began by choosing a row of knitting that would be easy to distinguish at the beginning of the cuff. There was a single round of green stitches that made it easy to know that I was getting the stitches from just that round. The sweater was knit with what appeared to be 2-ply yarn. The yarn I was using for the cuffs was 4-ply. So I had to decide how many stitches I would ultimately need and math my way through how many decreases it would take to get me there. I settled on 76 stitches and once I planned out how best to evenly divide up the decreases I set to work.

With the stitches picked up, I carefully cut through a single layer of the double cuff. I picked out all the bits of yarn from the old cuff, down to my needle full of stitches. Then I began to knit the cuff. I kept it simple with a 1×1 rib. After 30 rounds I did a purl round to make it easy to fold the cuff and did another 30 rounds before binding it off. I have to be honest, the sweater sat in a heap, mostly ignored for weeks at a time. I would knit a few rounds here and there. I finally repeated that process on the second cuff.

I picked out the stitches that held the lining fabric to the cuff and using the sewing machine, I stitched the lining fabric to the very end of the cuff. Once that was complete, I folded the cuff and very carefully pinned through the layers where the ends of the cuff lined up. Being sure to tuck any exposed fabric into the seam, I stitched through all the layers to secure the cuff layers with the lining in between. I used a herring bone stitch to make sure that it would be able to stretch without popping any threads.

Next I set to work on the elbow. There were several rows that were simply unraveled; the yarn itself was intact. I picked up stitches below and as wide as necessary so that I could create a patch for the other areas and comfortably cover the areas where the yarn was worn away. Using the existing yarn I knitted up until I got to a row where the original yarn was not intact. I then separated the 4-ply yarn so I could work with only 2 plies and knitted back and forth until I had a patch to cover the damaged area. Using a darning needle and more yarn, I grafted that patch to the sweater. It’s not the most elegant patch in the world, but it wasn’t bad. I spritzed the elbow patch and then pressed it with an iron to “block” it. It worked well.

This was a very satisfying project. It felt so good to be able to bring this gorgeous sweater back to life. I feel proud that I was able to be part of a host of traditions by taking on this one project. The sweater may be too warm out now to wear it right now, but I’m confident that it will be back to active use next winter. I’m sure that its owner will get another 30 years of snuggly warmth out of it yet.

And now that this project is complete, maybe I’ll get to some of my other WIPs.

Happy Knitting!

Scrub-a-dub-dub!

For years, knitters and crocheters have been making cotton cloths for kitchen or bathroom use. Besides the obvious facecloths and dishcloths, many are also making reusable makeup pads. These are small but relatively thick crocheted or knitted circles around 2 to 3 inches across, specifically for removing makeup. Others also make pot scrubbers; the new yarns available mean you don’t even have to cut up any tulle to do so! Trivets, potholders, tea-cozies, placemats… whether a kitchen-specific bundle of goodies, or a spa-related combination of items, these make fantastic gifts that are quick, easy and inexpensive to make. Add to this that they are small projects that won’t make you sweat as the weather gets warmer and you have a recipe for some fun, satisfying, warm-weather crafting.

Around the time when I brought in over 50 colours of “dishcloth” cotton yarn, I also brought in a yarn that is specifically designed for making pot scrubbers. It’s a Rico product called Creative Bubble. It’s available in 23 solid colours and 5 multi-colours. (I don’t have all the colours in stock, but I’m happy to bring other colours in if people want them.)

Rico has a number of patterns to go along with this yarn. The pattern that we did up includes a watermelon slice and a pineapple. You could simply crochet little circles if you wanted to, but these are so cute that I challenge you to resist them! We were able to get two pineapples out of one ball of yellow and three watermelon slices out of one pink ball. The only thing was that the third watermelon slice was one round smaller than the pattern said. You’d never know to look at it. Clearly green was also used for these. (Oh and a quick note: The Rico patterns use UK terminology. Be sure you know the difference if you are used to North American terminology. It makes a difference!)

Each of these scrubbies are as big as my hand. I have been using a pineapple scrubby at home to get a sense of how it behaves and I’m loving it. They are double thickness; they feel soft and cushy under your hand and they are large enough that you can really get some work done with ease. My husband commented that he thought they felt softer than the puffs we use in the shower. Speaking of shower puffs. You know when you put body wash onto those puffs and they get nice and lathery? Well that’s what the scrubbies do when you put the dish washing liquid onto them. They are fabulous!

I did a quick search on Ravelry and found a few easy patterns for scrubbies. The first one is just a nice basic pan scrubby. The second one combines a dishcloth with a scrubby. I’ll be bringing in more patterns from Rico, including a doughnut with sprinkles. How fun is that? If you are inclined to do a search, you may want to try with each of: scrubby, scrubbie and scrubber.

Pan Scrubber

Dish Scrubby

As winter makes way for spring you don’t have to abandon your crochet or knitting. You can always just shift from wool blends to cotton, linen and bamboo yarns. Choosing smaller projects means you won’t be roasting under an in-progress afghan in the height of summer’s heat.

If you are tired of making plain old dishcloths, a quick search on Ravelry will bring up a plethora of designs to choose from. If you want to find some really lovely ones, do a search with the word “spa” and see what comes up. I suppose that technically these would be considered facecloths. You can use any of the dishcloth cotton yarns available to make up spa sets. You could include a headband (to hold your hair out of the way while you wash your face), small round make-up pads, facecloths and shower puffs. The puffs could be made of either cotton, or a yarn like Rico Creative Bubble. Pair all that with your favourite luxury soap, maybe a candle, a bottle of wine, and you have a fantastic gift for someone who deserves to pamper themselves. I’ve included links to ravelry pages to offer some inspiration:

Aubrey Spa Set

Spa Day Set

Mini Almost Lost Washcloth

Extra Luscious Bath Puff

Easy Face Scrubbies

I don’t know about you, but I’m always on the lookout for gift ideas that won’t break my budget, whether that be in relation to time, money or brain power. If you’re looking for projects that you can do in front of the television in the evenings (or in the back yard, when the weather is nice), any of these will fit the bill.

The other nice thing about these is that you can make them up in no time, in advance and stockpile a bunch of them. Make up some in classy neutral colours and others in fun and vibrant combinations. When you suddenly need a gift, you can put together a nice little package to fit the need at the time, effortlessly. Tie it all up with a pretty ribbon or some hemp cording and you’ll look like a genius.

Happy Knitting… and Crocheting!