Happy Easter

It’s wonderful to see the crocuses, daffodils and tulips begin to emerge through the soil as the snow melts away. Although this winter was mild as our winters go, I’m very happy to have blue skies and sunshine and the promise of warm weather again. I find that the first quarter of the year always flies right by for me. Here it is, the beginning of April already. Easter is this weekend; how did that come so fast? We find ourselves in that “in-between” time when it just seems too nice to stay indoors, but isn’t really warm enough to get busy in the garden. What to do? Well there’s always more knitting, or crochet, or embroidery, or felting, or quilting… (shhhhh…. I don’t want to hear you say spring cleaning!)

I thought I would write a quick blogpost just to say hello and happy Easter. I was looking through Ravelry.com and found a few really sweet Easter patterns. I thought I’d share them and hopefully they’ll make you smile the way they made me smile.

Easter bunny!

Sweet little chick!

And Easter eggs!

Once the Easter weekend is over, it’ll be time to book in for our vaccinations. That feels like a light at the end of the tunnel to me. And in the meantime, I hope you have a lovely weekend as we hang in there through what I truly hope will be our last provincial lock-down. The store will be closed from Good Friday until the following Wednesday and then we’ll be back to regular hours.

Happy Crafting and Happy Easter!

Fair Isle: Goodbye Long Floats

I absolutely adore stranded colourwork. Fair Isle and Scandanavian knitting patterns are beautiful and satisfying to create. Managing floats (the yarn that is carried in the back of the work while you are working the other colour) can be a challenge. Handled poorly, they can result in puckered work, long finger or toe traps, or contrasting yarn showing out of place on the front. Let’s dive into this topic today.

I have posted in the past about Fair Isle techniques.

In that blog, I linked to videos that show different ways that people do this as well as how people trap floats.

It’s quite common to do colour work by using Continental (picking) to manage one colour and English (throwing) to manage the other colour. (Typically patterns only use two colours per round.) You can get pretty quick using this method and it does make it easier to keep the working yarns from tangling around each other. It’s easy to keep track of which colour yarn is dominant, since you carry each colour with left or right hand respectively and consistently. To me, trapping floats in this context feels awkward, especially with the right hand yarn.

Typically it is suggested to trap floats every 3 to 5 stitches. And if you are using fine yarn that’s great. Five stitches isn’t that long of a stretch for lace or sock weight yarn. But the thicker the yarn, the longer those three to five stitch floats become. In a sleeve knit from chunky or bulky yarn, you now have finger traps to drive you crazy every time you wear the sweater.

Puckering occurs when your floats are too tight.

As you catch the floats, it’s really important to make sure that they don’t squeeze the stitches together in your project. You want to observe as you go, always striving for consistency. I have heard of people working their project inside-out as one way of helping to manage the tension on their floats. By having the floats on the outside of the arc of the work, it naturally keeps them from getting too tight. I’ve tried doing that on socks and I found that I would always revert back to right-side-out. Hats off to you if you can do it.

Little by little I have been working on managing both colours in my left hand using continental method.

I would wrap the yarns around my pinky to tension them. I would have to stop frequently to refresh my tensioning because the second yarn would ride up the first yarn. So I would start out all on one hand and revert to using two. (In the video I have linked below, they also tension both over the pinky.) It bothered me enough that I started experimenting to find a way that was easier for me. What I found was that I could tension one yarn on my ring finger and one on my pinky. This almost eliminated the riding up and twisting of the two yarns as I worked. Getting my hand set up was a little confusing to start with but the more I did it the easier it became.

As I knit, I then focused on weaving the floats as I went along (as shown in the video I’ve linked to). I struggled to manipulate the strands of yarn with a finger on my right hand as they do. I found that I really had to use the middle finger of my left hand for this. After fighting with it for a while, I discovered that for me, the key was to focus on the fact that I was knitting the working yarn alternately one stitch with the other yarn in front of it and one stitch with it behind. Obviously the the float sits behind the stitch. When I shifted to thinking about it that way, it was easier to keep from becoming confused. I would chant, “yarn in front, yarn behind” as I knit long stretches of the same colour trapping the other yarn in this way, as I went along.

The project I’m making is definitely not perfect.

But I specifically left it like this because I want to be able to show what to watch for. When using two highly contrasting yarns, no matter what you do, there will be a shadow of the darker one behind the lighter one. You’ll see hints of it between the stitches. That’s absolutely normal. What I don’t like is when you end up with a solid vertical line of the float yarn sitting between two stitches. This seems (from my experimentation) to be a result of the tension being too soft in the float yarn. It takes a bit to get the tension of the floats consistent.

Find the Ravelry pattern here

I found that in order to minimize any trapped contrasting yarn showing through to the front of the work my tension needed to be tighter than I expected. The big downside of this is that you are left with little to no stretch in the finished project. As long as you plan for this, it doesn’t need to be a big deal. Practicing on small projects is a good way to figure out what works for you. All that said, if the contrast between my colours isn’t as extreme as in this project, I would err on the side of softer tension to allow a bit more stretch.

I like how tidy this way of catching floats is. Clearly, it’s up to you to decide, project by project, how frequently you trap the floats. I suspect that weaving them in this way is going to result in a stiffer fabric by nature. If you are only trapping on every second or third stitch it would allow you to leave the floats just a bit looser. I did find that I got a more consistent result on my high contrast project by following the method in the linked video.

Every project is a learning opportunity.

Happy Knitting!

Knitting Machine Shenanigans (or: Being a Newbie Can Kinda Suck)

In my last blog I talked about some of my first (fumbling) experiences with my antique knitting machine. Since then, I made a baby sweater on it. Today, I want to talk about what I learned in making that baby sweater.

Even more, I want to talk about how hard it can be to be an adult Newbie.

If you’ve followed my blog long enough, you’ll have a pretty good idea that I was raised in a household that valued productivity and efficiency above all else. I live with the pros and cons of that childhood environment for good or bad or both. Typically, I like to see results, yesterday!

Starting any new hobby (or skill, really), you do actually have to give yourself permission to be a beginner. Well, that is, if you don’t want to feel like an abject failure before you even know what you’re doing. It requires an appropriate mindset. I have to deliberately remind myself that I don’t know WTF I’m doing yet… and that it’s okay.

I run a small business so, I have plenty to do. And any sort of hobby I spend time on tends to be a bit sporadic since I don’t always have the mental energy to focus on something new in the evenings. I’m pretty stoked to become proficient using my knitting machine, but yeah. There’s only so much energy to go around. I’m determined to be gentler with myself. There are days when my inner newbie wants to forge ahead but my “it’s been a long day” self says, “uh, yeah, not right now”. I take a lot of long deep breaths to exorcise that productivity gnome that natters on, in the back of my mind. Mostly it’s shaming me for not feeling up to doing this new thing in that moment. (I imagine I’m not the only person that experiences this.)

That’s been the biggest battle in all of this, to be honest.

The way I’m trying to approach this (and maybe set up a new habit in regard to learning new things), is to be really deliberate about my mindset. I take a few deep breaths just to settle myself in. I close my eyes and I focus on the feeling of “child-like wonder”. I sit with that feeling and I name it for what it is. When I am filled up with that sense of wonder and any remnants of hurry, impatience or mind chatter have been set to the side, I begin. Over the course of the project, I’ll notice those things creeping back in. When they do, I close my eyes and bring my focus back to that sense of wonder and curiosity. It’s really helping to make the learning process a zillion times more fun and relaxing.

As for the baby sweater. I took a basic cardigan pattern in the smallest size and adapted it as I went along. This was an exercise in how to think about existing hand-knitting patterns and transferring them to be used on the machine.

Here’s what I learned

DK yarn needs more room than sock yarn. You only cast on every other needle. The tension has to be set softer. On this machine that means a higher number on the dial. When it knits, the cross threads spanning the knit stitches make it look weird. After you finish knitting, you pull it and stretch it and all those cross threads become incorporated into the stitches and disappear. The knitting looks normal.

The needles on a knitting machine are actually latch hooks. If you’ve never seen a knitting machine up close, it really is pretty cool. Once set up, the existing stitches sit just behind the latch of the open hook. You lay the yarn across the open hooks and draw the cam across the hooks. The cam’s job is to move those hooks so that the latch closes over the new yarn, pulls it through the existing stitch and places it back in the ready position with the stitch behind the open latch. If you feel resistance in the cam, you need to check the needles. Make sure that all those stitches are behind the latches and that none have dropped. The end stitches on the right and left are more likely to have issues than any of the others. If you’re doing a pattern, then anywhere the pattern transitions should be checked on each row.

You can knit multiple pieces at the same time. I did the fronts and the sleeves together respectively. What I learned here is that the tension dial on the cam isn’t the only thing that determines the actual tension of the stitches. When you draw the cam across the needles, you are holding the working yarn in the other hand. It takes a bit of practice to get a feel for how firmly to hold the yarn. Even though you are knitting two pieces (using two yarn sources, obviously), the tension can end up different on each if you vary how you hold the yarn. Consistency is key.

I am still unhappy with my machine bind off. I took to simply removing the pieces and binding them off by hand to control how tight or loose that bind off is.

Last but not least, I think it’s time for me to concede that it’s better to finish knitted garments with yarn by hand. I would likely still seam mittens on the sewing machine. But this little sweater, as cute as it is, is pretty much unwearable because the seams are too rigid. It’s time for me to put some energy into becoming proficient at hand seaming my garments with yarn. Stay tuned for that!

I haven’t done the neck and button band on this little sweater yet. It’s just going to be a display piece for on the wall. Still, I’m happy with what this little sweater taught me about my knitting machine and more so, about myself.

Happy Crafting!

Summer Projects: Crochet Market Bags

I don’t know what the weather is like anywhere else, but here in Revelstoke, BC, it’s been a very wet season so far. After a record snowfall this winter, I suppose I can be thankful that you don’t have to shovel rain. Whether you are at the lake or in your living room, this is a great time of year to work on light and airy projects. How about some shopping bags, now that we are allowed to bring them to the store again.

If you follow this blog, you’ll know that my first love is knitting. I’m very aware that there are a lot of folks for whom crochet takes that place of priority. So today’s blog is primarily for you beautiful crochet-lovers. 

I love that our little community cares deeply for this world and works hard to do all those little things that add up to make a difference. Having your own reusable shopping bags is just one way that we can do that.

I have two kits available in the store. The first is a Katia product from Spain. The beautiful Jasmine B of Ocean Peak Designs was kind enough to crochet up a sample of this kit for the store. It’s available in a number of colours and it comes complete with everything you need to make it, including the handles and the crochet hook!

The other kit uses jute. It’s a simple crocheted bag, no fancy stitches or designs, just straight to the point. I like that. Of course, jute is very durable so this bag will be very serviceable.

If you want to have the option of doing multiple styles, how about a book with multiple patterns to choose from? We have this fantastic book from Annie’s available. It has eight different crochet patterns for bags. From simple to stylish.

If you’re using a book or you already have a pattern, you’ll want some durable yarn for it. I have a few yarns to tell you about that would be excellent contenders for this type of project.

Ricco Creative Natur

This yarn is a 100% hemp, DK weight yarn. Although it has a limited colour palette hemp is a strong fibre that will give you a sturdy and beautiful bag.

Nako Fiore

This is a blend of Cotton, Linen and Bamboo. It is much softer than the hemp yarn and both the linen and the bamboo give it considerable strength. We have a pretty good colour selection and a decent amount of stock. Once this yarn is gone though, we won’t be able to bring any more in.

Kilim

This blend of Jute and Acrylic yarn is put up in 100g skeins with about 65m. This appears to be in the neighbourhood of chunky weight, so it will definitely work up quickly. This will definitely give you a sturdy bag that you can load up.

Cobasi Hikoo

This is a sock weight yarn that is a combination of Cotton, Bamboo and Silk. It has a little bit of nylon in it as well that gives it some bounce-back. Both bamboo and silk are strong fibres that will give the cotton that little extra boost. We have a huge colour selection of this one. They are put up in 50g skeins with typical sock weight yardage.

Wollmeise Twin

This super strong, super soft sock yarn is hand dyed using only plants and foods. The skeins are huge with about 150g in them so they go a long way. It washes up beautifully and it is exceptionally strong for a wool and polyamid blend. You don’t want to try and break this yarn with your hands, you’d likely damage your tendons!

Sudz Cotton

This worsted weight cotton yarn is our staple for making dishcloths. If you’re looking for a good quality, well priced cotton yarn, this is the one. We have a plethora of colours available and we keep this one stocked up all the time.

I’m waiting on a new product from Estelle Yarns that will fit the bill. Watch for Colourbraid soon. 😀

Whether you’re making bags for yourself or for a gift, or whether you are inclined to make other projects entirely, my wish is that you find joy in your creative expression through yarns and fibres.

Happy Crocheting!

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!

Review: ChiaoGoo part 2 and a Slouchy Colour Story too!

Have you ever stood by a wall of hand dyed skeins of yarn and found yourself staring at one skein, thinking “Wow, that’s kinda ugly.” I probably shouldn’t be admitting this, but that’s how I felt about one of the Estelle Colour Story colourways when they first arrived in my store. And you know when your parents told you not to judge a book by its cover? Yeah… I’m going to talk about that today.

And, as promised, here is part two of my ChiaoGoo review!

So let’s start with the ChiaoGoo premium stainless steel 40cm x 2.5mm circular knitting needles. I was very excited to try these out. I allowed myself a little extra time for this one because I wanted to knit a toque with sock weight yarn on this needle. I used the Sockhead Slouch hat pattern by Kelly McClure, downloaded free on revelry. The yarn is Estelle Colour Story in Bubblegum.

I cast on 160 stitches since I was using a finer needle than recommended in the pattern. I wanted something denser than the suggested gauge. I’m not accustomed to working with bent circular needle tips, so it did feel a little strange at first. The cast on was fine, nothing out of the ordinary. I found the nylon coated cord a little grabby when I was sliding the cast on along it. Joining in the round was a little awkward and I found myself fighting with the reach a little bit. However, knowing that the first few rounds are typically awkward, I persisted and tried to reserve judgment. By about round four the resistance from the needle stopped and it felt good. I did find that I had to stop frequently to move the stitches out of the way on the cord on the right hand side. If I were competing, this would bother me. That bit of resistance from the slightly grabby cord is not necessarily a bad thing. Your work is not going to slide off when you don’t want it to. With a larger gauge needle this would be a non issue.

Once I got accustomed to them, I liked the fact that these needle tips are on the longer side for this short of a circular.

It gives you something to anchor your hand to as you knit. For some people this can minimize fatigue. It didn’t take long until I stopped being aware of the bend in the tips. The tips are nice and sharp; this wasn’t really an issue for this yarn or the pattern. I personally like them this way; I feel like it gives me better control. Also, I usually grab a handful of the left hand stitches and slide them along the needle to progress my work. I don’t typically use my fingertip to push the needle further into the left hand stitches to do so. Therefore, a sharp tip doesn’t give me a sore finger as it does for other knitters.

I really enjoyed this needle.

I typically knit a lot of socks, so I am happy using fine needle and yarn gauges. I love that the work slides effortlessly over the junction between the needle and the cord. Catching stitches on a dying junction point is something that irritates me when my needles begin to show their wear. It will be interesting to see how the junction stands up over the long haul. I definitely recommend this line of needles. They are pretty darn fabulous. I probably wouldn’t use them for all my knitting, but I will definitely be using them in my complex fine gauge pattern work.

So, on to the pattern and the yarn.

Sockhead Slouch Hat by Kelly McClure of Boho Knits was my pattern of choice for this test. I wanted an easy, straightforward hat pattern in sock weight yarn. The pattern was super easy to follow. I’m not a huge fan of the slouchy hat, so I didn’t make it as long as the pattern suggested. I love that there was a quick start pattern option with very brief instructions for those impatient experienced knitters who want to just get down to it. It’s a great basic pattern. Kudos to whoever formatted the pattern. Nice job! If you have a gorgeous skein of hand dyed sock yarn that you can’t bear to make into socks because no one will get to see how pretty the yarn is, this is a great alternative to knitting it into yet another shawl. Top marks here. I used finer needles because I wanted a nice dense fabric. So I did modify it a little. I’m very happy with the outcome. Kelly has a whole bunch of patterns to offer and you can find them here.

And on to the yarn…

Okay so I confess I can be a little judgy when it comes to colourways. The truth is that we don’t all like the same things and that is not just okay, it’s a wonderful thing. I know what I like. That having been said… yeah… the book-cover thing I mentioned earlier. So, the yarn I chose for this project is Estelle Colour Story in the Bubblegum colourway. This hand painted sock weight yarn originates in Peru. I specifically chose to knit this colourway because I was feeling bad that I desperately wanted it to prove me wrong. It was the one I stared at, thinking it was ugly. I SO wanted it to prove me wrong. And I’m delighted to I tell you, it did. I’m so happy that I tried this yarn.

The Estelle Colour Story yarns do just that. They tell a story.

This one took me back to my childhood in a delightful and unexpected way. It reminded me of Bubble-Yum, Bubblelicious, Double-Bubble and more! Oh my, as every colour showed its little piece of personality I couldn’t help smiling. Every colour of every bubblegum I ever chewed as a kid was represented. Score! Happiness meter: maxed out! My inner child was seriously satisfied by this yarn. (Go ahead and laugh, but I suspect you know exactly what I mean.) And my conscience is now clear! 😀

I hope you’ll take a look at Kelly’s designs and see what she has to offer.

Hey, I love a free download, but I also respect the amount of work in getting a design from inside your head into pattern form. So, shout out to Kelly at Boho Knits! If you’re looking for a great needle in these shorter lengths, I do recommend what ChiaoGoo has to offer. And finally, in all humility, here’s a shout-out to the yarns that look better knitted up than on the skein. You just never know…

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!

Social Saturdays are Back!

The season to curl up with your favourite fibre art projects is back. YAY! Since the frost hit, I’ve had many people asking when we would be starting up our Social Saturdays Stitching Circle. As of this weekend (November 30, 2019) we’ll be back at it.

If you are new to Revelstoke, or if you are just visiting and you aren’t familiar with Social Saturdays, here’s the scoop.

Social Saturday is a free, drop in group that meets every Saturday throughout the winter months (until around the middle of April) at Judy’s Designs at #103 – 217 Victoria Rd. East in Revelstoke, BC.

Feel free to bring any portable fibre arts related project. It could be anything from cross stitch or embroidery to knitting, crochet, needle felting or needle punching, hand quilting, you name it. We will have the coffee on and a kettle nearby if you prefer to drink tea.

These are not classes, just gathering opportunities so you can hang out with other fibre enthusiasts and spend some social time while making some progress on your projects. (If you are looking for actual instruction, pop in and ask Judy about signing up. There will be classes offered in January, 2020.) However, if you have hit a bit of a snag and you need some fresh eyes to help you figure out how to continue on, we’re happy to help you. Judy is experience in most fibre arts and can usually help you if you are stuck and need some help.

Social Saturdays start at 10:30 am and run to 3:00 pm on all Saturdays that Judy’s Designs is open. (We close on the Saturdays of long weekends and between Christmas Eve and New Year’s.) You don’t have to call ahead and you don’t have to hang out all day. Pop in for the day or for an hour, whatever works for you. We’ll be happy to see you.

Hope to see you!

November Knitting Classes

Growing a business takes time, energy and a lot of hard work. It’s been five years now that Judy’s Designs has had a brick and mortar store front in Revelstoke, BC. Isn’t it funny how it can feel like something only started yesterday and yet feel like it has always been at the same time? It’s been pretty hectic since I got back from Germany. Our new expanded and renovated section is open and all the new product is out on display. The cold weather has prompted a whole lot of sewing jobs to come in the door and life is good.

Despite being down for a while with pneumonia, I’m on the mend now and feeling so much better. I’m still working on getting my energy level back up to normal but it improves every day, a little bit. Now that all the new stuff is out on the shelves and racks, and the anniversary celebrations are over there’s a sense of routine returning (for which I’m very grateful). I hired new staff to help out with the “front counter” work to take some of the pressure off me.

I had hoped to have a schedule of classes up by the beginning of October, but falling ill put a monkey-wrench into that plan. With staff in place, I will be freed up to offer classes. Originally, I planned to do an 8-class beginner workshop, but I have decided instead to offer those concepts as individual stand-alone classes. I’ll see how it goes and maybe in the future I’ll do it differently. But for this season, I will set it up as separate classes for each technique that I will be covering. Depending on how quickly the attending students pick up, I will adjust the amount of information to accommodate what they need and are up for.

In November I will focus on Knitting Technique. All classes require advance registration. Classes will be an hour and a half long. Fees will be $25 per class per person plus any materials required and taxes. Minimum of 4 students per class, maximum of 6. Class times 10:00am to 11:30am and/or 6:30pm to 8:00pm. This will be determined by what fits best with each group that has registered.

So here’s what I am offering:

Wednesday, November 13th
Knitting Basics: Casting On (Beginner) Non-stretchy and stretchy methods.

Thursday November 14th
Knitting Basics – The Knit and Purl stitches. I will demonstrate both continental and English techniques. (Beginner)

Friday November 15th
Knitting Basics: Knitting in the Round – (Demonstration will include: DPN’s; Magic Loop; 2 circs; 1 circ). You’ll begin knitting a hat.

Wednesday November 20th
Knitting Technique Builders: The Art of the Decrease. I’ll cover as many techniques as possible in the time allotted. There are a lot of methods.

Thursday November 21
Knitting Technique Builders: The Art of the Increase. I’ll cover as many techniques as possible in the time allotted. There are a lot of methods.

Friday November 22
Knitting Basics: Binding off. I’ll cover both stretchy and non-stretchy methods.

Wednesday November 27th
Knitting Basics: How to Read Patterns. This will focus on how to approach different styles of written patterns, what to look for and pitfalls to watch out for.

Thursday November 28th
Knitting Basics: Chart Reading (Cowl Project) Learn how to read a chart within a pattern for flat knitting.

Friday November 29th
Knitting Basics: How to Read Patterns: Chart reading (Hat Project). Learn to read a chart within a pattern for knitting in the round.

The reality is that December gets exceedingly hectic for most people. I don’t plan to run any classes in December. If there is enough interest, I may run a needle felting class between Christmas and New Year’s. I will definitely need to have people let me know if they want to commit to that as I would be bringing someone in to run that class for me.

I’ll get a schedule up for classes for January, February and March. Included in those will be 4-session workshops both on Toe-up Sock knitting and Mitten knitting. Stay tuned for details on those. Embroidery basics, crochet and other fibre arts classes will begin in January. I will have sign up sheets available November 1st. Be sure to get signed up as soon as possible. What I offer will depend on whether I have enough interest. It takes a great deal of effort to organize a class and I have a lot going on. I don’t want to spend a whole bunch of time setting something up if there isn’t enough interest to justify it.

I’m excited about this! Come on out and build your skills!