For the Love of Socks

For anyone who follows my blog, you will know that I love sock knitting.

Anyone who knows my store will know that I have a weakness for sock yarn. Skeins and balls of sock yarn must easily outnumber all the other yarns in the shop. One of the things that has been a little frustrating for me is that there aren’t enough hours in my evenings to knit samples of the sock yarns so people can get a visual on how they knit up. For a long time, I was drooling over Erlbacher Gearhart circular sock knitting machines. This winter, my DH finally got fed up listening to me go on about it. “Just order one already!” He said. So I did!

My brand new CSM arrived early in January. The folks at Erlbacher were lovely; their service was excellent. These machines are custom built to order. I purchased two cylinders and two ribbers, 60’s and 72’s respectively (that’s the number of stitches). They sent me links to lots of YouTube videos and cautioned me to expect it to take about three weeks to begin to feel like I was getting the hang of it. They were right! It’s been quite the learning curve.

An overview

The way this works is that you attach stitches from a “cast on bonnet” onto the needles of the machine. You cast on with a waste yarn. (I learned the hard way why it is really important to use a solid colour yarn that is a dramatic contrast to your working yarn.) you knit a bunch of rounds to create a separation from the bonnet, and then bring in your working yarn. You knit however many rounds you want for your hung hem (I use 10) if you want a picot edge you do that and then another multiple of your original half of the hung hem (10 for me). Then you pick up the original first round stitches and pop them onto the needles that correspond to that column of stitches. Once those are picked up, you keep knitting around for the leg. Next comes a short row heel, then the foot, then you make the toe exactly the same way you did the short row heel. Once the toe is done, you switch to the contrast waste yarn again and knit about 8 or 10 rounds. You can then start the next sock or you can remove it from the machine. Close up the toes using Kitchener, remove the waste yarn and “Ta-DAH”! You have yourself a sock.

I found the videos and advice from Steve Ashton (the Wizard of BC) incredibly helpful. I messaged him and he immediately responded with a video call to me. He asked me to show him how I had set up the machine and then offered me guidance on what to change to make it work better. What a kind, generous and lovely man! He’s got a wealth of knowledge of these machines and it shows. When I contacted him I was trying to use the ribber for the first time and was getting very frustrated. He explained what I needed to take into consideration and how to set it all up. He also suggested that I take some more time to get really comfortable with just knitting stockinette socks until I felt more confident before tackling the ribber. So that’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve got to the point where it only takes me about half an hour to complete one sock now. Doing the heels and toes is almost automatic. I’ve had a pile of socks that were ready to have the toes closed up so I curled up at the TV and finished them all off in one evening. These will be displayed in the store; they are samples of yarns I have in stock. Time to cut up some cardboard to make me some sock blockers to display them on.

I truly love this machine.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still knit socks by hand too. But I can see that it will be worth the investment in the long haul. Being able to knit up samples of the new sock yarns as they come in alone will make it worth it. Eventually, once I am more confident, I will likely make socks to sell. But that’s down the road a ways… perhaps if things are quieter in the summer, I may play with that possibility then. It will take some doing to determine what sizes I want to make up and what I need to do to be sure that those sizes will be consistent.

There are a lot of videos on CSM’s when you start looking. Many of them suggest doing toe-up to avoid the Kitchener stitch closure of the toes. What I found was that it means you have to make the stitches bigger for the toes so that you can pick up the stitches and stretch them across the cylinder once the toe is complete. Otherwise they just don’t reach and you have to start over. I really hate a sloppy, loose fitting toe. Also, if you do that, you have to take a lot of energy to bind off the cuff. I find it far quicker to close the toe with Kitchener stitch than to bind off the cuff. Using a hung hem, you don’t have to do anything fussy with the top of the sock. Steve advised me that he even uses a 2 round hung hem on ribbed socks. It’s really quick and easy to do. It does take a bit of practice to be able to see which loops are the right ones to pick up to do that hung hem, but practice makes that easier. Using a highly contrasting waste yarn in a solid colour makes it easy to see the stitches for this.

Perhaps in another month or so I’ll revisit the ribber and face that learning curve. As samples go, it’s nice for them to be stockinette so you can see the patterns in the fabric easier. For now, I’m happy making up my stockinette samples. I like the feeling of satisfaction that comes with a successful pair of socks.

Happy Crafting!

Looming Joy!

Man, what with Covid-19 cases rising… it’s easy for life to feel really heavy right now. It puts such a strain on everyone’s mental health and emotional well-being. It’s so important during stressful times, that we take charge and make sure we have ways to de-stress. Whether that looks like long walks, yoga, meditation, fibre arts or some other activity, it’s up to us each to reach for what will keep us feeling balanced.

My kids’ paternal grandmother was a weaver. Rag rugs were her thing. She had two looms that were usually loaded with projects at all times. She passed away, years ago (within months of my own mother’s passing). Recently, I was entrusted with one of her looms. Her husband built it for her in the 1990’s. It had been in storage and although the structure of it was in good condition, the heddles and the cording that supported the harnesses, treadles and shafts didn’t fare as well.

I was so excited to be able to bring this loom back to life. I had observed my mother-in-law using the looms, but had never used them myself. Weeks before I received it, I began researching. Once we had it all structurally set up, I ordered heddles for it and restrung the rotted out cording.

My sweetheart built me a warping board, which I found leaning up against the loom on a Sunday morning. I felt like a five year old child waking up to shiny things on Christmas morning. By the end of the day I was well into my first project (despite having to work part of the day).

It was wonderful. I felt so much joy measuring the warp, sleying the reed, threading the heddles and anchoring that yarn to the apron rods. Every step felt so satisfying. I filled my bobbins for my shiny new shuttle and began weaving. The joy welled up in me so much that at one point I had to just sit back and weep. Perhaps that sounds melodramatic, but it didn’t feel that way. It just felt wonderful. Since the pandemic began back in early spring, there has been so much emotional and mental stress building up everywhere. I feel like this was an opening of the gates that allowed me to release a big wave of emotion that was stuffed down and out of the way so I could keep on keeping on. I didn’t realize how much I needed that.

Over the next three days, I sat down and wove whenever I had a chance. Ten minutes here, thirty minutes there. By the time I opened the store that Wednesday morning, I had finished the entire warp. I made 3 dish cloths, 3 table runners and 2 scrubby cloths (I used Rico Creative Bubble for those, it’s the yarn you use to make scrubbies for your dishes). When I got a chance throughout the day, I finished up the ends of those items on the sewing machine, serger and ultimately with some twill binding. It was so satisfying. I learned a lot in doing that first warp’s worth of weaving. The most important thing I learned was that I love to weave. It also really impressed upon me how important it is that I make the time to do things that bring me joy, that pull me away from the stress inducing aspects of life.

Since then I’ve completed another warp’s worth of weaving projects and I’m now on my third one. This batch will be placemats. It’s proving to be very satisfying. I have a couple of knitting projects on the go, but they are both pretty complex and require a degree of focus that I just haven’t been able to sustain for the past month. I’m picking away at them and I’ll get them done, little by little. The loom is (for now) taking over the place that I usually fill with a “no-brainer” knitting project. It’s nice to have options.

For me, fibre arts offer a healthy way to release the mental and emotional stress that (daily life, let alone) the pandemic has us all under. Dr. Bonnie Henry’s mantra of “Be Calm, Be Kind, Be Safe” is not just about how we are with others, but about how we are to ourselves too. If crochet, or knitting, or embroidery, or felting, or weaving help you to cope with all… well… that stuff… you are in good company. And it’s a bonus is that you end up with something tangible out of the deal when the crafting is done. A hat, a pair of socks, a dishcloth, a sweater, a Christmas ornament… all happy results of a fibre arts hobby. But the best side effect of all is the joy.

And with that in mind, I wish you JOY!

Happy crafting!

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!

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!

Keeping it Local

Today, I want to tell you about a local designer. Her name is Jasmine, and she’s the maker and designer behind Ocean Peak Designs (formerly Kicheko Designs). She opened her Etsy store to sell handmade items quite a few years ago, and has really poured herself into her business over the past couple of years.

“I saw it as a great opportunity to be able to work from home, while raising my two young children, who are 2 and 4.”


I asked Jasmine about how she got
started on this road to design

“This journey as a maker has really evolved a lot over the past couple of years. 2019 was my first proper market season, and I was so surprised and excited at the success of those. I’ve always LOVED trying new patterns, pairing those with the perfect yarn, choosing colours and combinations, learning new techniques and stitches, and combining all of that together in to the art of crochet.”


I asked her how she evolved from making
market items to pattern testing

“I’ve loved making finished products to sell, but when I discovered pattern testing, it was a new avenue to challenge myself and continue to learn. I can clearly remember my first ever pattern test. Honestly, initially I was motivated because it meant I got a free pattern. Being quite active on Instagram, I was able to connect and follow some incredible designers. These designers would put out pattern tester calls for their up and coming patterns, and I figured I’d give it a shot. I’d never crocheted a cardigan before, but I applied to test it, and to my absolute delight, I was chosen. It was such a fun experience, and have since fallen in love with pattern testing. I’ve done countless pattern tests now, and have taken away so much from each one.”

“To pattern test is a lot of work. You’re not just making an item for pleasure – you’re grammar checking, spell checking, checking stitch counts, critiquing the flow and usability of the pattern, writing notes and relaying them to the designer, you’re taking photos in good lighting and highlighting the designer’s pattern, you’re chatting with other testers, you’re modelling the item, checking the fit, investing in yarn for it, checking gauge and doing swatches, measuring as you go and measuring once it is complete. It’s quite a full on process, but having a pattern tested really insures the best possible outcome. While it’s a lot of work to test, I really love it. I joked over the winter, that if I could be paid to pattern test, I would. It’s such a challenge and it’s so fun working with other people and designers. I’ve met some incredible people through this process, and feel constantly challenged creatively.”


Clearly, the experience of pattern testing
was an inspiring one for Jasmine

“In the fall of 2019, it started getting to the point where I would find myself envisioning what I wanted to create. I personally never thought I’d end up designing anything. I was so happy to test and purchase patterns, because wow, are there ever talented and creative people out there. I would spend hours searching Ravelry, Etsy and Instagram for patterns that caught my eye, or were what I was envisioning. The designing happened when I couldn’t find what I was exactly what I was looking for.”

“I’d sit down with my trusty old notepad, and write everything down as I was crocheting. The whole process of creating was so invigorating. In the midst of market season where I was preparing and making the same thing (sometimes over and over), it was so freeing to be able to have another avenue for creativity. It was really essential, so that I continued to love what I do, and I didn’t get lost in the production of market season.”

“Since the new year, I’ve released 2 hat patterns. I have another pattern being tested right now, and have been so blessed to collaborate with an incredibly talented indie yarn dyer, with that pattern set to release in March. I also have a few other designs that will come to life pretty soon.”

“To start pattern designing was actually incredibly daunting. I had so many questions, and it felt like such a big scary world. The fears were real – would anyone even want my pattern? Would I accidentally copy others? Would others copy me (oh how heartbreaking)? I mean the list goes on and on. But thanks to friends who are currently designing, and an incredible community online, I’ve been able to push through and just do it, while asking for much needed direction and help. I can say that with each pattern that has been designed, tested and released, it really has gotten easier. I’m continually growing and changing as a maker, and discovering what I really love to do. This is my journey at the moment, and I think if you have ever made something without a pattern, then you’re a designer too.”


You can find Jasmine’s handmade items on

oceanpeakdesigns.ca | Etsy

Or catch them in person at The Trading Post and The Wax Bench; both retailers are located in the downtown core of Revelstoke, BC.

Jasmine’s crochet patterns are available on Ravelry

I love seeing people’s creativity shine! I encourage you to check out what Jasmine has to offer.

Happy Creating!

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!

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!

A One Day Pop Up Store – Here on Saturday!

I raised my kids out in the country. For seven years of that time we home schooled. I ran a home based business that allowed me to supplement the family income using my creative talents. It takes a lot to build a home based business. At that time, of course, there weren’t the same opportunities to get your products or services known that we have now. It’s a very different landscape these days. Social media, online platforms like Etsy, Craft markets and Pop up Stores give home based makers a variety of ways to let people know what they have to offer.

Online platforms are fantastic. You can definitely get traction using them. Lots of people order yarn and other fibre related items online. (It’s one of the big challenges to brick and mortar fibre shops, to compete with the effortlessness of buying online.) And yet for those of us who love the oh-so-very tactile nature of fibre arts, there’s nothing like seeing those items in person. After all, isn’t it really all about the squish factor and seeing the richness of the colours in person? I don’t know anyone whose computer screen gives that true sensory experience. 😀

The first time I heard of a pop up store was about a year and a half ago. What a creative idea. Boy, that would have been such a wonderful thing back when I was doing my home based thing all those years ago. To be able to show up, just for one day, in an established business location to offer my wares to the public. To be able to take advantage of their debit machine so people could pay in whatever way they chose to. To have the benefit of extending my reach to include the customers of that sponsoring business. To not have to commit to a full season at a farm and craft market. Yeah, that would have been fantastic. What a great idea!

A while ago I was chatting with the owner of another yarn shop and the topic of Pop up Stores came up. I mentioned that I thought it was a great idea and when she was approached, she shared my contact information with some interested folks. I have a soft spot for makers facing the challenges associated with working from home. There are so many brilliant and creative people designing so many gorgeous things in the fibre arts arena right now. What a wonderful way to bring something a little different into my store. It’s a win-win. I’m so excited!

Judy’s Designs’ first ever Pop Up Store event is coming up this Saturday, October 26th from 10:00 am to 3:30 pm, We’ll be hosting Fat Marmot Knits of Kelowna. How cool is that?

Fat Marmot Knits is a small batch yarn and fibre dying company based in the colourful Okanagan. Nikki first started experimenting with dying wool in 2012. At first it was just a curiosity, but it quickly turned into an obsession. In 2018 Fat Marmot knits was born and Nikki was able to start sharing her passion with the world. Everything is hand dyed in small batches in her kitchen located in the beautiful Okanagan valley. Nikki has developed some repeatable colourways, but often gets distracted by all the possible colour combinations resulting in unique one of a kind skeins and fibre. Fat Marmot Knits was born out of a desire to play with colour on a medium that Nikki has loved for many years!

I love that a lot of what Nikki does is truly one of a kind. There is something refreshing about that. Let’s show her a big warm Revelstoke welcome on Saturday, October 26th!