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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I grew up watching my mom knit on her collection of eight knitting machines. I often thought I would have liked to play with them and explore their possibilities. I never got that opportunity. A while back, a customer popped in the store, set an old knitting machine on my counter and said, “If you want this, it’s all yours. We’re downsizing.” I happily accepted and until about two weeks ago, it sat waiting for me to be ready to play.
When I resolved that it was time, I opened the case and carefully removed it. There were envelopes in the bottom of the case. The newsletters in them were dated 1958 from “Knit King”. I grabbed a coffee and curled up on the recliner and began to read. Each newsletter contained short info-bites about clubs that were popping up all over Canada for the knitting machine enthusiasts who wanted to share their excitement with others. I could feel the passion!
Each newsletter contained a pattern. Very few had photographs or sketches. The instructions were precise as to what yarn to use, and economically written. I was fascinated. In the rare edition that had photos the styles were definitely of another era. One in particular was a matching vest for father and son, reminiscent of Bing Crosby’s wardrobe. The ladies’ tops were decidedly vintage. It was a fun glance into another time.
I came across one with “kids’ mittens” hand written across the front. I was baffled as to how you would even do that on a flat bed knitting machine.
I was game; but first, I had to get the basics down.
This particular machine can only work yarn up to DK weight. I pulled out the manual and carefully worked out how to cast on. I unsuccessfully experimented with some DK yarn and then switched to sock weight. That was better. After a number of false starts, I made a piece of fabric out of leftover sock yarn and decided that I could turn it into a little purse for one of the grand kids. I took it off the machine and bound the edge off. That was fun! And it went fast. So I thought I’d try out that mitten pattern next.
It required three colours. They suggested 3-ply yarn which is a little thinner than sock yarn but I figured it would give me an idea and I could adjust the pattern later if the size was off.
It was quite interesting. Moving needles in and out of holding positions as directed in the pattern, I had no idea what to expect.
I watched stitches collect on the holding needles. When the holding needles went back into action, the yarn was pulled through all that accumulated yarn and the pattern began to form. I felt a little bit like a kid opening gifts on Christmas morning. I ended up with some dropped stitches. Because I didn’t yet comprehend how the machine was actually making the pattern, I had no idea how to fix them yet. I hoped I could eventually anticipate what issues might happen so I could prevent or fix dropped stitches as I went along.
As the mitten started to take shape, I began to see how making everything flat requires a different mindset. What a paradigm shift for someone whose preference is to knit everything in one piece and avoid any seaming at all!
When I felt confident I chose some leftover yarns and cast on. That first “for real” mitten had a lot of starts and stops. I would notice a dropped stitch and realize that I had gone too far in the colour work to wrap my brain around how to fix it. I frogged it back and started over. In the process, I began to notice the nuances of what led to the issues. As I became better able to anticipate what might go wrong, I checked each row and sometimes manually worked the hooks to make sure all the stitches were right.
Then the pattern said, “turn as for heel”. Ummmm… thankfully there was another envelope with a set of tutorials. One of them was for sock knitting. I read that and quickly turned the top of the mitten. I was delighted to watch the little thumb appear as I faithfully followed the instructions. It would need to be seamed later, but with its own little “heel turn” at the top, it was a quick and slick way to get the job done.
This machine only does knit stitches.
The ribbing was made by leaving out every third hook and the cross threads spanning between the adjacent knit stitches gave the impression of ribbing. When it was all done, I really hated the way the ribbing looked. Especially once seamed. So, I frogged it off, picked up the stitches and knitted the cuff by hand.
Took some doing, but when the first mitten was done, man, I felt like I had learned a lot. The second mitten worked up more easily. I was able to prevent and repair the issues as they came up. I didn’t bother with the rib, just did that by hand afterward.
I stitched up the first one with yarn like a good girl. But remember, this is the president of the “I hate stitching my knitting together” club talking. I don’t like doing it, and so I never really put a lot of energy into getting good at it. I was unhappy with my results. After stitching one side of the second mitten in this way, I decided to sew the thumb and the other side on the sewing machine. Hey, if Arne and Carlos can sew their Norwegian sweaters together on sewing machines, I’m in good company here!
I’m very happy with the result and I’m feeling inspired to continue to play! Whatever your creative passion, I wish you joy in pursuing it!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.”
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…
I have been hearing lovely things about ChiaoGoo premium stainless steel knitting needles for some time now. My rep knows I’m a sock knitter and he has been encouraging me to test out the wee sock needles for over a year now. A few weeks ago, I had someone ask me about 40cm circular needles in fine gauges. Since Knitter’s Pride Dreamz (the main brand I carry) don’t come in those sizes, it leaves a gap; that sent me hunting. Today’s blog is part one based on the results from that search and a review of what I found.
ChiaoGoo makes those in-between needles that fill the gap that I just mentioned. So I figured I would order in the wee sock needles to try, as well as the sizes of 40cm circs to fill in the fine gauges that are not available in Dreamz. I figured I would test them out to see how I like them. I’m still in the process of testing the 40cm ones and I’ll fill you in on them in my next blog.
Today I want to talk about the sock circulars.
These needles are surgical stainless steel circulars. They have a smooth, satin-sheen finish and memory-free, multi-strand, steel cable cord coated with red nylon allowing yarn to slide right over the cord with ease. (…mostly a quote from ChiaoGoo)
I have a sock knitting customer in particular who brought in her Dreamz sock needles (the wee circs) to show me that she is actually wearing grooves into them. She knits a LOT of socks. I was astounded; I haven’t worn any of mine down so it surprised me to see this. I brought her in some Knitter’s Pride Nova Platina in the same style and she wore off the silver finish. That’s been floating in the back of my mind for a while. When I was looking at these ChiaoGoo needles it occurred to me that they may just fit the bill for her. Surgical Stainless Steel ought to be enough to stand up to this avid knitter. If she is wearing out wood needles, chances are other folks are as well. I haven’t called her to say these are in yet since they only just arrived. So I don’t have feedback from her yet.
Today is about my impressions of ChiaoGoo 23cm sock circs.
I cast on “Distraction” by Michelle Leanne Martin using Camel Sock yarn by Katia. The cast on was just what I would expect on this style of needle. It’s always a little awkward. No surprises there. They are very smooth. When I’m doing a complicated pattern with cables, twists and traveling stitches, I like to knit the socks one at a time on a wee circular. (Especially if they have a different chart for the front and back of the sock.) It’s just less confusing.
I truly have only good things to say about this needle. I used the 2.5mm. The cord is supple and moves nicely. The stitches never caught on the junction between needle and cord. I was anticipating that the stitches might slide a little too easily on the metal needle, but that was not the case. I did find the cord a little grabby on the yarn and maybe that’s why I didn’t find them to be as slippery as I expected. I was doing a lot of traveling stitches and I like a nice sharp tip when I’m doing this type of knitting. These were perfect for that. The length of the needle tip was what I expected for a product of this type. It was an absolute joy. I completed the sock on that needle and cast on the second one. Obviously, stainless steel needles don’t have the same warmth that wood needles have. I’ll continue using my Dreamz and I’m definitely adding this little beauty to my tool box!
Whenever I do complex geometric socks, this will be my new go-to.
Distraction is a well written pattern. It’s available on Ravelry as a free download. It is straightforward and easy to follow. As with any pattern of this complexity, I was grateful for my KnitCompanion App which allowed me to slide my vertical marker along as I worked the foundation rounds until the pattern began to emerge. Of course since I was knitting in the evening, that didn’t stop me from missing the cables in the ribbing on the first sock. Oops… I realized my error when I started the second sock. There’s no way I’m going back to change it. I figure: do like the Amish quilters who leave a mistake in their hand stitched quilts since after all, “Only God is perfect”. 🙂 I’m enjoying this project enough that I was inspired to check out Michelle’s other patterns. She’s got a lot to offer and I encourage any sock knitters to check her out.
Katia Socks – Camel is a blend of 55% wool, 25% polyamide and 20% camel. It comes in 100g balls with a gauge of 42 rows by 30 stitches in a 10cm square. It comes in a range of neutrals including grays, browns and blue. I chose gray (colour 74) for this project. I brought this yarn in because these are all the classy basic neutrals that you could want for men’s hand knit socks in one line of yarn. Katia yarns have never disappointed me and this yarn is no exception. It’s smooth, easy to knit and strong. The stitch definition is excellent and it gave me the result I expect from a high quality sock yarn. I love the resulting fabric. It has depth and personality despite being a neutral. And it’s soft. It feels so good. Full marks on this yarn!
A big thumbs up to this entire project. The needles: 2.5mm x 23cm Chiao Goo premium stainless steel circulars. The pattern: Distraction by Michelle Leanne Martin. The yarn: Katia Socks – Camel by Fil Katia of Spain.
I hope I have inspired you to try something new. See you again in 2 weeks. 🙂