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!

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Wow! Too Easy! More Gift Ideas

Anyone who crafts or sews will likely own a rotary cutter. These handy tools come in a few different sizes ranging from 28mm to 60mm. The size I find most popular is 45mm. The round blades are razor sharp and allow for nice clean cutting of fabrics and other craft materials. The newest style of blade opens up a whole vista of crafting possibilities.

The regular rotary cutter blade is simply a razor sharp disc that makes a solid clean and straight cut. You can also purchase wave blades that give a gently zig-zagged edge, like you would expect from pinking shears.

What I am excited to tell you about is the new skip cut blade. The skip cut blade has gaps around the cutting edge of the disc. It has many short cutting edges with equal spaces between them. When you use this blade, it gives you small cuts at regular intervals. For the creative individual, the possibilities for this blade are exciting. I just want to talk about two applications.

Quick and Easy Fleece Blanket with a Crochet Border

You start with a piece of Nordic/Polar Fleece fabric. With the edges cleanly cut, corners rounded off and the selvedges removed, use a ruler and rotary cutter fitted with the skip blade and cut an inch in from the outside edge all around the piece of fabric. It’s important to do this in one pass. Press firmly so that you are sure you are cutting all the way through. You now have a series of holes evenly spaced an inch in from the edge of the fabric. This gives you a place to easily crochet into so you can create a crocheted border all around your blanket. The edge folds in half, so you have a double layer of fabric contained within the first round of your crochet edge. I found two different links that show how to do this. Both are relatively long, however they give the necessary information well. The second one is more thorough a demonstration than the first.

 

Fleece Lined Blanket

The next project I want to share with you is a fleece lined blanket.

You can start with either a crocheted or a knitted blanket that you have already completed. You can either measure your blanket and use those measurements as a guide, or you can lay the blanket on the fleece to mark its size instead. Either way, you want to end up with a full inch all the way around the blanket. In other words, if your blanket is 45″ x 60″, you will want to cut a piece of fleece that is 47″ x 62″. As with the example above, you will use the skip cut rotary blade to make your nice tidy row of holes around the edge. You will have to take some liberties with how you align what you are crocheting with the existing stitches in the crocheted or knitted blanket. I would personally pin the edge profusely before beginning the process of crocheting the fleece to the edge of the blanket. Below is a link to a video in which this technique is demonstrated. This video is very thorough and assumes that you are a beginner.

I was introduced to skip cut blades by a customer who was traveling through Revelstoke. She stopped in my yarn shop and asked whether I carried them. I had never heard of them. While we chatted, I looked it up online through my supplier and found them. I brought them in for her and mailed them to her when they arrived. At the time, I brought in the packs of 5 as they are more cost effective than the individual blades. I have a couple packs still in stock. My next notions order will include some singles, so that if people want to try one out without committing to 5 of them, they have that option. I have a variety of solid colours of fleece in stock and many options for yarn that could be combined with it to make it special. What a great, easy gift to make someone’s life just a little more cozy.

As always, if you like the videos I have linked to and you want to see more from the folks who took the time, effort and care to create them, show them some love. Give them your likes, share the link or subscribe to their channel. Let’s support those amazing creative people in our world. 🙂

Happy Crocheting!

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!

Let’s Show Designers Some Love!

Designing is both a skill and a creative art form. Whether the designer’s work results in a building, a chair, a garden or a garment it’s important that we respect it. Not just anyone can create a design. Today I want to celebrate designers.

Designing requires more than just coming up with a cool, innovative or creative idea. It takes a lot of trouble shooting, math, trial and error, frustration and perseverance. There are probably a zillion design ideas that will never see the light of day. And it’s because it’s a lot of work to take it from idea to item.

Truly original ideas are very rare.

Generally, anything that is designed is going to have similarities to existing items. If we focus on knitting patterns as our example (since that’s my daily focus) let’s face it, a cardigan or a sock have to be a certain way or they won’t function as required. So you have your basic structure that immediately limits how creative you can get. If it isn’t essentially a tube with a 90 degree turn in it and one closed end, it won’t be a sock. (I know, you can have a tube sock without a heel… you get my drift, though.) Obviously, there’s a lot that a designer can come up with to create a beautiful sock that is different than others. That’s where the talent, vision, skill and perseverance come in!

Recently I started looking for local knitting designers. I want to support them by selling their patterns in my store. So far I have purchased patterns from Raquel Oliveira of Squamish, BC and Knox Mountain Knit Co. from Kelowna, BC. Their designs are lovely. I encourage you to check them out on Ravelry or come and see them in my store.

Raquel Oliveira

© Knit It Out

Joy     Cocoon     Shannon     Stawamus

Knox Mountain Knit Co.

© Knox Mountain Knit Co.

Cedar Creek Cowl     Biggie Hat     Granby Mitts     Fintry

I have personally been inching away at a cardigan design for small children using a particular construction technique. After spending months of all my spare time, (obsessively) I have one size completed (using chunky weight yarn). I used three different yarns respectively, abandoned one of them, knit and frogged many, many times. I tested the pattern more than once and had another person test the pattern as well. It was revised multiple times to correct the errors we found. That was only one size. Yeah, I can “math” the others to some extent, but they still all have to be test knit to be certain that the proportions will be correct. The math in knitting is not exact. It’s a lot of work.

I already have a full time job (being a knitwear designer is not a particularly lucrative way to make a living! cough, cough… LOL) so all this happens in my down time. It takes care and focus to write a good pattern. Often when I have down time, I am too tired to have the focus needed. Often, I’ll get the bones of the design down so I can go back to it later and write it out properly. I have a collection of those, waiting to be finished. I still absolutely LOVE designing. I truly love the actual writing of the pattern every bit as much. And that (as any knitter knows) is an art form too. A well written pattern is worth a thousand poor ones. Once the actual written pattern is created, it requires photos and formatting. That takes a whole other set of skills and a particular eye.

What I’m trying to say is that designers who create beautiful patterns that we can follow to make practical and lovely items deserve our respect and support.

When you find a design you like, show that designer some love! Buy their pattern.

We can protect designers by avoiding those sites that take you down a rabbit hole for the promise of a free pattern. Those sites often don’t even own rights to the patterns they are giving away and it means that they take away from legitimate designers the means to support their creative endeavours.

Next time you are scrolling Pinterest or Ravelry take a moment to really appreciate the endless hours designers have spent turning inspiration into a tangible pattern.

Follow the designs all the way to the designer’s actual page; respect their copyright. Or purchase them from a brick-and-mortar yarn shop that purchased hard copies directly from the designer. The prices we pay for patterns are a pittance relative to what it takes to create them. If a designer is really lucky they might sell enough of each pattern design to cover the cost of producing it. There are so many designs available that competition is fierce. We need these amazing, creative individuals in our world. Let’s show them some love!

Happy Knitting!

 

To Stock, or Not to Stock…

In small town retail, deciding what to stock (and how much of it) is an ongoing process and an inexact science.

  • Trends come and go;
  • supply lines change;
  • economies change.

Discerning what to keep or not can be challenging. One of the things I love about having a store is that I can decide what I want to buy to put on the shelves. A lot goes into that decision-making process.

The Base-Line Stuff

There are certain staples that I just have to have on hand.

  • Basic sewing notions;
  • knitting and crochet tools
  • and accessories;
  • a good cross-section of elastic;
  • scissors…

you know, all those fundamental things that sewing and fibre arts enthusiasts need for their projects. These no-brainer items are easy to recognize and you simply have to have them… whatever your small business niche happens to be.

Direct customer requests

A lot of what I have on my shelves is there because a customer special ordered it.

Most of the time if one person asks for it, others will want it too. Often customers will ask me for something and it’s a product that should be a staple in my store… I just didn’t think of it before they asked.

Sometimes they introduce me to new products that I didn’t even know existed.

Minimums

With many products, suppliers require that you purchase a minimum number.

Each colour of yarn comes in bags of either 5, 6 or 10, for instance. Other products have different prices depending on how many you buy. If you buy singles, you pay more; yet hey, in a small town, I can’t say that I need to buy 1,000 or 10,000 of anything! So the higher singles price it often must be. With a lot of the little items, (like sewing notions) they give you a small break if you order multiples of either 3 or 5. It may not be a lot, (often it’s only pennies difference) but it all helps. This can make a difference as to whether I decide to order it or not.

Colour Choices

With yarn in particular, each line has a variety of colourways.

Although some only have 6 or 8 colours available, some of them can have between 60 and 70 different colours each. It’s unrealistic for me to carry every colour of every yarn I have in the shop.

Choosing the colours can be both fun and frustrating.

I would love to have them all. Shortlisting from 60 to 8 can be tough! When I bring in a new line of yarn, I usually go through what is available and start with neutrals and basics. I might start with 6 or 8 colours to begin with. Once I get some feedback from customers I can then decide whether to continue carrying that yarn and to expand the colour selection, or to sell it off and focus on something different. Then, if I’m placing an order and I don’t have quite enough to make the minimum order, I may look to see what new colour I’d like to carry in an established line to top up the order.

Supplier Rapport

Each supplier has its own personality.

Their energy can range from feeling like family to quite formal to downright frenetic. If a company is going through changes (like implementing a new computer system; or was just bought out) there can be a lot of chaos going on for them. Orders can be mixed up or lost. Ordering from a company that is chaotic can be stressful… and can make the difference between deciding not to bother with their product and just ordering from someone else.

  • If the people who answer the phone are extremely difficult to understand, orders can end up incorrect.
  • If the staff is constantly changing it can be difficult to sustain a good rapport with the company. If a company makes promises it can’t keep, it affects me. Especially if those promises involve special orders.
  • Websites that are not maintained can create unrealistic expectations regarding product availability.

All these factors come into play. If ordering from one company is stressful and I can get what I want from a different company with whom ordering is friendly and easy, I’ll go where the least stress is. Over time, you build relationships with your suppliers. They get to know what your business needs and they can often make helpful suggestions regarding new products or programs that they offer.

The Cool Stuff

And yeah, there’s just some stuff that is so cool, you gotta have it on hand.

It may be a funky take on something from the basic tools category. It may be a more luxurious version of something basic. Sometimes I just really like something and I can’t resist ordering it.

Shifting Times and Trends

Once you have a bunch of stock on the shelves there comes a point when you also have to decide whether you enough of it moves to justify the real estate it takes up.

As a trend starts to inch toward its end it can be hard to know when to sign off on it. I have made the mistake of reordering when I should have cleared off the shelf. And that can be tough to discern. You win some, you lose some.

Cash Flow

And isn’t that the biggest determining factor for most things?

At the end of the day, you have to be able to pay your bills. It’s easy to get carried away buying stuff. I don’t know any small business owner who hasn’t had that moment when the feeling in the pit of their stomach makes them pray that their buying choices will pay off. It usually works itself out though.

At the end of the day, choosing the stuff to sell in my store is the best part of my job. And when the parcels arrive, it’s like Christmas! What’s not to love?

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!

When Starting isn’t Straightforward

Sometimes you get an idea in your head about something you want to knit or crochet.

When inspiration hits, perhaps you’re like me and you are determined to get at it… right now! Whether the yarn inspired you, or a pattern did, or you saw someone walk past wearing something amazing, sometimes getting all you need to start a project is easier said than done.

One of the things I do is help people to “get the ducks in a row” so they have everything they need to get that project underway. I often see people who know exactly what they want to make, but they can’t find what they need to get there.

Here are a few suggestions

to help you muscle through the frustrations so you can get on with what you love: to knit or crochet something wonderful!

Follow The Inspiration:

So, where did the inspiration come from? Did you see someone wear what you want to make? Did you see it on Pinterest, Ravelry or Instagram? No matter what got your creative juices flowing, you’re going to need to track down a pattern (or at least some guidelines; unless you are a pattern-making guru already; and if you are, you probably won’t be reading this). Sometimes following a Pin just leads you down a rabbit hole of frustration. Just because you can see it on Pinterest or Instagram doesn’t mean that you are going to be able to track down a pattern from that post. And even on Ravelry, sometimes photos of a finished project are posted with no indication of what pattern was used or if a pattern was used. Sometimes you can see something you want to make online, but it’s only offered as a ready to purchase item.

If your local yarn shop doesn’t have what you need and if using the sophisticated search filters on Ravelry got you nowhere, try searching for a group on Ravelry that specializes in the type of knitting or crochet project you want to make. Whether it’s socks or sweaters, hats or mittens, see what groups already exist. Join up and ask questions. Chances are, someone will be able to point you toward a pattern (or a couple patterns you can mash up) so you have a place to start. Or you can ask around in your local community of knitters and crocheters. Often someone will know someone who can connect you with a pattern or can teach you what you want to know. Who knows, you might make a new friend while you’re at it. 🙂

Gathering Your Materials:

Sometimes getting the pattern isn’t the issue. Sometimes you already have a pattern but you just can’t seem to find the right yarn. Oftentimes patterns are designed to be used with a very specific yarn. They will ask for a specific brand and line of yarn for which the pattern was originally meant to be used. That’s really nice and all, but it’s not always helpful.

The reality is that patterns outlive the production life-time of yarns.

Yarn is very much a fashion product, just like fabric is. The trends come and go; yarns come and go. And the truth is that even though a yarn may be labeled with a particular gauge, that doesn’t mean that it’s always exactly accurate, or that you can transfer that information seamlessly to any pattern with the same term. Add to this that there are a lot of different names for gauges. The US uses different names than Canada or the UK use; translators may not understand the nuances that English-speaking Yarnies take for granted. At the end of the day, the actual finished measurements and the gauge numbers (how many rows by how many stitches), are what will matter.

Of course, not every pattern gives you that information in a clear, concise way. The pattern might just say, “Sport” weight. Well, as a yarn shop owner I can tell you that “Sport” is not a universal or standard term. I have seen yarn that they call sport weight that is closer to a lace weight, and other sport weight that looks suspiciously like worsted. It all depends on the manufacturer.

Don’t you just love it when it isn’t straightforward?

So get what information you can from the pattern. Does it give you a gauge count? If it does, compare that to the labels of the yarns that you hope to use. It’s unlikely that they will match exactly. But if it’s pretty close, you should be okay. You may be able to adjust by changing the needle size.

Are gauge swatches for sissies? Well, many expert knitters will tell you that they are. The reality is that when you have a non-straightforward pattern, sometimes it’s the gauge swatch that will save you from insanity. I know, I know! You want to get going on your project already. But for the time it takes to make up a couple swatches with a couple different sizes of needles, it beats the heck out of casting on 184 stitches, knitting 20 rows and having to frog it all because the gauge is out of whack! (Can you tell that I speak from experience?)

Impatience is not your friend here.

It may be a frustrating road, but once you gather all that you need and get started, it will be worth it. And even if the project doesn’t live up to your original inspiration, it will have taught you a lot of things that you would not have learned otherwise.

Happy Knitting!