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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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!