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!

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

Technique: Knitting Increases

Recently I have had a number of novice knitters come in for help on their projects. Each of them were working on a pattern that was stretching their skill levels. I thought it may be helpful to do a few posts with specific information regarding knitting technique. Today, I’ll focus increases.

Increases are used in most shaped knitted items: tops, hats, socks, mittens, pretty much anything that is more than just a rectangle. Yet, there are several methods of increasing. For anyone who is new to “more than just a rectangle” knitting, it can be confusing to be faced with a pattern that assumes you know what to do and how to do it. I hope to take the mystery out of it for you today.

The first thing to mention is that not all knitting terminology is fully standardized. Although it is mostly standardized, you will still see variations within patterns. This often comes down to the country where the pattern originates and/or whether the pattern has been translated from another language. Sometimes, a self-taught knitter/designer will use the terms differently than expected as well. You will always be wise to check the legend and any overview the pattern designer has given to see whether they specify how they interpret the specific terms.

Make One Increases

The “make one” increase is typically abbreviated M1, M1L or M1R. This is a very common form of increase. You will make a stitch out of the horizontal yarn between two stitches from the previous row or round (the running yarn).

If you were to simply reach your needle below that running yarn and pick up your working yarn to make a stitch, you would end up with a hole in your knitting. We generally don’t want holes in our knitting unless we are making lace. Typically, if they simply ask for an M1 stitch, they actually want an M1L stitch.

In order to make one stitch without creating a hole, essentially you want to twist that running yarn and pull your working yarn through the resulting loop. You lift the running yarn onto the left needle first. Whether you are doing an M1L or an M1R is determined by whether you pick up that running yarn with the left needle from the front or the back. One will lean toward the left and the other will lean toward the right. Thus: M1L and M1R.

To complete an M1L: direct the tip of the left needle under the running yarn from the front to the back. Knit through the resulting back loop. This will result in a left leaning bar at the base of the stitch.

To complete an M1R: direct the tip of the left needle under the running yarn from the back to the front. Knit through the front loop, as you normally would. It’s a bit awkward. It results in a right leaning bar at the base of the stitch.

Yarn Over or Yarn in Front

This increase is intended to create a hole in the work and is typically used in lace. This requires you to grab the working yarn with the right needle as if you were going to pull it through a knit stitch. It is unstable until you complete the stitch next to it.

Lifted Increases

Abbreviated as LLI and RLI, These work an additional loop into an existing stitch on the left or right side of the stitch respectively. One leans left, the other leans right.

To make an RLI, (right lifted increase) using the right needle, pick up the right leg of the stitch immediately below the stitch on the left needle. Place that leg onto the left needle, without changing its orientation. Knit it and then knit through the original stitch separately.

To make an LLI, (left lifted increase) you will be increasing into the stitch on the right needle, adding a loop to it. Knit the stitch you will be increasing into as normal. Using the left needle, pick up the left leg of the stitch a row below that last stitch on the right needle. Using the right needle, knit through the back loop of the stitch you just picked up. Make sure that you are picking up from a full row below or you will end up with a yarn over instead of a proper increase.

Here is a video that demonstrates Purled Lifted Increases.

Knit Front and Back or Purl Front and Back

The names of these describe exactly what you do to make them. For a KFB, you knit into the front of the stitch, leave it on the left needle and then knit into the back loop of the stitch, thus increasing by one stitch.

To PFB or purl front and back, you purl as you normally would, but leave the stitch on the left needle. Then purl into the back loop as well to complete the stitch.

Finally, the backward loop is yet another form of increase. It’s very easy to do. Here’s a video to show this in both Continental and English methods.

These are the most commonly used increases. As you can see, each one has its own look and “personality”. Being able to identify them and comfortably knit them makes following advanced patterns much easier.

I hope this was helpful and that it will give you the courage to take on a pattern that you might otherwise have been intimidated by. I will be offering 2 hour evening workshops and 4 hour weekend workshops beginning this fall to provide in-person technique instruction. Increases will be one of the evening workshops. I hope to have a calendar mapped out by the third week of August, 2019.

Happy Knitting!

Macrame, Anyone?

If you feel like doing something knotty, you may just fall in love with Macrame. And how in the heck do you say that? MA-crah-may, where the MA is like you would say in mast or macaroni. This textile art can be traced back to the 13th century when Arab weavers are said to have used macrame knotting techniques to finish the edges of their textiles.

It was a big thing back in the 1970’s. Plant hangers, wall hangings, bracelets and many other items were constructed or adorned with these knotting techniques. It’s a fun and easy-to-learn activity. The aesthetic is returning, and interest in macrame is on the rise.

I recently brought in Katia “Scuby Cotton” yarn for the folks showing an interest in Macrame. I’m in the process of putting together a workshop to teach the basic knots used in Macrame and this yarn will be featured. I thought I’d offer up some links to videos that teach macrame knots to give you a taste of how it works. At first you might find it a little confusing. Like anything, watching someone do it and getting your hands on it are two different things.

There are really only a few basic knots to learn in macrame. They include the Lark’s Head; the square knot; the open square knot; the picot knot; the twisting or spiral knot; and the half hitch. That may seem like a lot, but they are all pretty simple once you’ve done them a few times. No tricky stuff here.

As with so many fibre arts, seeing how it is done on a video is truly helpful and offers the opportunity to rewatch segments repeatedly as needed. Sometimes, our perception of what we watch can turn a simple thing inside-out and no matter how many times we watch that video, we just don’t quite get what it is that we’re missing. That’s where it’s really helpful to take a workshop in person, or even book a one-on-one session with a teacher to work through those things that confuse you. A teacher can watch what you’re doing and spot that one thing that has you bumping into a wall of frustration.

We are so fortunate to live in this technological era. To have instructional videos available at our fingertips is something we have come to take for granted. When I started my search for videos regarding macrame, I was delighted to see how many there are. Here are a few links for you to check out.

This video is a demonstration of the basic macrame knots:

Here is a nice basic plant hanger tutorial:

I included this next link to show some nice variations in plant hangers:

Here’s a lovely example of a macrame wall hanging. (I love this girl! Chelsea is such a hoot to watch…)

There are so many different applications for these knotting techniques. I encourage you to dive down the YouTube “rabbit-hole” and check it out. Some folks are even making jewelry using macrame knots (wrapping semi-precious stones; making beaded bracelets).

In case you’re interested, here’s a link to a history of Macrame.

And there you have it, a little taste of what you can do with macrame. I’ll have a sign up sheet in the store for anyone interested in an introductory macrame workshop. I’m imagining something simple that can be done in a single evening. If you are interested in a full on “let’s make a plant hanger” workshop; it only takes one ball of Scuby Cotton yarn to make a simple plant hanger. I would be happy to do a Sunday afternoon class for locals.

Happy Crafting!

It’s Here!

One of the things I love about owning a business is that I get to choose what goes on the shelves and racks. In February I met with the rep from Katia Yarns of Spain to take a look at what they have in their Spring and Summer line. It’s exciting that their entire line of yarn and fabric is now being distributed in Canada. This is exciting! The yarn I ordered just came in and as of today it is on the shelves. As much as I really wanted to order a whole lot more, I resisted temptation and limited my order to three different yarns. I’m excited to tell you about them though!

Fair Cotton Craft

This fair trade organic cotton is DIVINE! It’s put up in 200g balls and the “mileage” is superb at 620m! Katia has a number of patterns for this yarn as well; gotta love that. It creates a striped border to a lovely neutral colour. It’s available in four colourways and I have them all in stock now. With a single ball you can make a large child’s sweater. You could get a small to medium ladies’ top out of one ball if you made it with wee cap sleeves or sleeveless. They have a lovely baby blanket pattern and it takes a single ball to complete it.

The price does reflect the fact that it is fair trade and organic. And when you feel it and you see what you can make with a single ball, you won’t care about the price. It’s worth every penny. Since it arrived, I’ve been obsessing over what I want to make with it… as soon as I clear off some of my currently occupied knitting needles. If you scroll down on the link below, you will see the patterns they have for this yarn.

See them here

Scuby Cotton

I have had a lot of people ask me about macrame supplies. My sisters and I did macrame back in the late 1970’s. It’s a lot of fun and easy to get the hang of. Over a year ago I spoke to my suppliers and at that time, they told me this “flash in the pan” fad was on its way out and all they had in supplies were the colours no one wanted any more. Yet, I still had people asking me for macrame supplies. I kept hounding my suppliers and clearly other people did too. Katia’s answer to this demand is Scuby Cotton. They even have a free pattern for a plant hanger that you can download off their website! They have patterns for bags and purses, pillows, a lamp shade and an artistic wall hanging. I am working on carving out time to put together a macrame workshop. (It is likely to be toward the end of May.) This yarn is available in a large range of colours. I only brought in six, and I started with neutrals. If I get enough people interested, I will expand the selection to include other colours. Here’s a link to the yarn and again, if you scroll down, you’ll see all the patterns available. (The free plant hanger pattern is called Kayseri.)

see them here

And last but definitely not least is the Rainbow Big rug kit. Oh MY! This is just so fantastic, I’m bursting with excitement! This gradient yarn comes in a kit with one 700g ball of yarn (YES, you read right!) It seamlessly shifts from one colour to the next. A crochet hook and an easy pattern that will result in a 48″ rug are included with it. That’s a decent size. The yarn is presented in a clear zippered pouch with a grommet in the centre so you can leave the ball in the bag and pull it through the hole to minimize risk of tangling. (If you’re anything like me, you’d be hanging onto that zippered pouch when the rug is finished, to use with other projects.) Think about it. No need to change colours; no big pile of skeins or balls of yarn to manage; an easy crochet pattern; the colourway shifts without any effort and just two tails to weave in when the project is done. It will make anyone look like a genius! I only brought in four of these to begin with, each in a different colourway. If enough people get as excited as I am about these, I’ll happily bring in more. Here’s a link.

At the end of April I’ll be attending Katia’s open house to view and pre-order yarns for next fall and winter. I’ll be checking out their fabrics and sewing patterns too. We’ll see whether or not I’ll dive into that pond when the time comes.

Happy Crafting!