Dropping The Ball Stitch

Dropping stitches is usually a stressful event since under normal circumstances we do not want stitches to drop. However, there are stitch patterns out there that make you drop stitches on purpose. Yes, you read right. On these occasions you really want to drop the stitches (or, as you will see, yarn overs) to achieve an airy, loose pattern that you can use to create different effects.

One pattern that makes use of this technique is the ever so popular “Clapotis” by Kate Gilbert which celebrates its 10th birthday this year.

Picture from here. Close up of dropped stitches.

Another example for achieving an interesting fabric using dropped stitches is the “Harpswell Apron” by Pam Allen. Stitches get dropped after a certain number of rows alternately.

Picture from here.

Both of these designs are in spite of the dropped stitches structured knits, yet they have an airy feel due to the gaps that are created.

Another way to use dropped stitches is to achieve a deconstructed look, meaning yes, it is a garment but looks quite different from what we usually expect.

Picture from here.

“Les Miserables” by Cynthia Parker uses exactly the same technique, yet the deconstruction is enhanced by slightly felting the knitted fabric.

Picture from here.

The “Dropped Stitch Cardigan” by Erica Patberg makes excessive use of dropped stitches with a quite dramatic effect. Another example for a deconstructed look.

The other way of ‘dropping stitches’ is to work elongated stitches by dropping yarn overs from the row before. One can achieve an even row of long stitches or a wavy pattern depending on the number of yarn overs worked.

Picture from here.

#13 Drop Stitch Scarf by Laura Bryant (published in Vogue Knitting Spring/Summer 2009) makes use of both techniques – you drop stitches and have dropped yarn overs forming elongated rows which results in a light, airy fabric that makes for a lovely summer scarf when knit in a light summery yarn.

As you might have seen, Melissa just finished a design making use of the dropped stitches also. Shibui Twig gives it a textural quality, yet it is also light an airy.

1SS15 | Tier by Shellie Anderson. Sample is now in store!

I am currently knitting the “Spring Lace Infinity Scarf” by Purl Avenue – knit in Shibui Linen the lace pattern combined with dropped stitches makes a for a delicate fabric.

A class for this particular pattern starts on Monday and there are a few spaces left, if you feel so inclined!

Picture from here.

I have chosen only a few from a wide selection –  check out ravelry.com for any number of possible designs and make your pick as you please!

Happy Knitting, as ever!

– Mona

Do You Give A Damn?

About the “Color of the Year”?

Well, this is it.

Just in case you feel like whipping up a summery design in that particular colorway, I checked on our inventory to see if we could oblige.

Shibui Linen, Bordeaux

Classic Elite Yarns - Firefly, 7727 Sangria

Classic Elite Firefly, Sangria

Quince Sparrow, Port

Rowan Creative Linen, Raspberry

As with every color, there are different interpretations. But these come as close as possible. Four out of, well, I don’t really know, but a lot of colors and summer yarns we have in stock.

It seems yarn companies do not bow to fashion trends much, I rather think they develop colors true to the owners/creative designers taste.

I, for one, wish the yarn industry cared a bit more for what is in fashion to be able to cater to our customers, however, having worked in the business, I do also know that the cycle of yarn is much different from the short lived trends in the fashion world. Then again, do we knitters really care that much? Knitting a sweater is like cooking ‘slow food’ – instead of going out buying whatever is available (i.e. ‘fast food’) we choose a design and put time and love into creating it. Meanwhile the fashion devotee is on to the third trend of the season and has to hurry to keep up. Which is really not what I personally am about.

So I have to ask myself: Do I give a damn, really?

Happy Knitting, as ever!

– Mona

Sheer Spring

‘Sheer’ as in ‘nearly.’

‘Sheer’ as in ‘diaphanous’ (no one tell me I do not make an effort with the English language) also.

Diaphanous is big this year – especially for Spring and Summer. It is not new, the sheer, see through fabrics usually turn up around this time of year, yet I find some or other new idea that I feel drawn to.

Pictures courtesy of eileenfisher.com

These two sweaters are just an example – there are so many possibilities for us knitters to get inspired.

I will admit that knitting a sweater like that is usually a bit of work, since you want to use a fairly thin yarn on slightly larger needles than you would use normally – but the effect is worth the effort.

Lets face it: There is rarely a summer knit I feel comfortable wearing without a tee or a cami underneath, this way I make at least the most of it.

You might be surprised how much pops up by just entering ‘sheer’ into the pattern search on ravelry. However, you can just look at all the designs and imagine them in a thinner yarn that would make them light, airy and summery.  Here are some of my front runners:

The Silken Straw Summer Sweater by Purl Soho. Picture form here. Think Habu Tsumugi Silk, for a special kick Silk Stainless held together with the Fine Merino or Handmaiden Lino (which is available in store, and we just got new stock!).

Yes, I know, this one (Sweet Jane) does not look diaphanous. It is knit up at a gauge of 25 sts with a fingering weight. Now imagine this knit up with Handmaiden Lino, a fantastic linen/silk mix in a lace weight and there you go! Picture from here.

linier5

Yes, indeed. This is one of our newer store samples, the Taiyo Linier Top in Shibui Linen and Silk Cloud. I tried it on and quite like it! Imagine it also in Quince Sparrow, Shibui Twig or Classic Elite Firefly. At a gauge of 18 stitches this one knits up in almost a flash!

One designer who has this look down to a tee is one of our all time favourites: Cocoknits. Check it out and pick your shoo-ins!

Now, wasn’t this inspiring and ‘sheer entertainment’?

Happy knitting, as ever!

– Mona

WWMD*

It seems like Spring is slowly creeping upon us – finally! At the store we have new stock of summer yarns, including a few new ones I am itching to knit with like Quince Kestrel (a linen ribbon yarn) and Shibui Twig (a mix of recycled silk, linen and a bit of wool with a cool texture). I just have to find the right patterns.

What I am working on right now is a store sample worked in Drops Bomull Lin, a cotton linen mix in a worsted weight. This particular Drops pattern asks to knit the yarn quite loosely – as often with summer sweaters – and this in return opens up a whole box of questions about finishing.

I get them quite often at the store. Most of the times I am able to give you tips, other times I am not sure because it is quite tricky to advise something I haven’t done myself.

So here is another part of *What Would Mona Do.

First of all, when knitting summer yarns loosely, do not freak out about how uneven the knitting looks. Mine does too. Sometimes more so, sometimes less, usually not very pretty.

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Don’t fret – just steam! After a good steam blocking the sleeve looks like this:

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Much better, right?

Now, this particular sweater is knit in pieces that need to be seamed.

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Not so pretty either with all these ends hanging about. There is a good reason for it, though. In this case I have decided I am going to seam the sweater first and then ‘hide’ the ends in the seams, this way they won’t show. I could have woven the ends into the edge first, however that would make seaming a bit more difficult – so, seam first, weave after.

I might have mentioned it before, but here I go again: If you put a bit of thought into what comes after the knitting (finishing!) then you might be able to prepare that during knitting. It makes things usually easier and less daunting.

That is my morsel of WWMD for today.

Happy Knitting, as ever!

Mona

So Much To Do, So Little Time

As I type this, two men are busy fitting two new windows in the front of my house. I already have a new back door and a new front door. The side door is in place but incomplete because they delivered the wrong frame. (Also, apparently it is a must to bang the door every time the leave or come back into the house. Very annoying.)

My house is a mess. It doesn’t look like it but it is covered in a layer of dust.

No time for knitting today – gotta go clean…

I’ll be back next week with more interesting stuff, or at least I hope I will!

Happy Knitting, as ever!

– Mona

Dos And Don’ts

Sometimes it is really hard to decide what to do and what to don’t – but hey, maybe I can help you to figure it out when it comes to your knitted/woolly things!

Soon will come the time to put away your warm, wintery knits (yes, soon!) and as with everything else it is better to put them away clean. Winter coats get cleaned or washed before stashing them away, and so should your scarves and hats and whatnots.

After working for almost five years – yes, it has been that long! – at Espace Tricot I have added to my knowledge of how to wash knitted items, which I have been trained to do by my Mom since I was a kid.

All I can say is: You are so lucky! Nowadays hand washing is so much easier! Growing up with hand washing sweaters and things I never had an issue with yarn that is ‘not washable’ (meaning machine washable), on the contrary, mostly I prefer how those yarns feel and I am ready to do the extra work. Hey, wait a  minute. What extra work?

Let’s compare the praised machine washing with the hand washing:

  • place your laundry in the washer
  • put the detergent in the washer
  • start washer
  • when done, place laundry in the dryer, or if necessary, on drying rack/clothes line

What do you think how long it takes to do that? From beginning to end (not included the work the washer does), maybe 5-10 minutes, right?

Ok, now to the hand washing:

  • fill sink (or plastic tub, bucket etc.) with tepid water
  • add no rinse soap like Soak or Eucalan
  • place knitted item in water, squeeze out air
  • let soak for 10 minutes
  • empty sink and squeeze out water as much as possible (without twisting the knit), you might have to use and old towel to squeeze out more
  • lay flat to dry

How long do you think that takes? I’d say the longest part is waiting until the sink is full and then empty again, everything in between, maybe 5 minutes, maximum 10, waiting for the item to soak does not count.

What we have established now is that hand washing is really not that labour intensive. There is only one reason for that: no rinse soap!

When I started to wash sweaters, it was a labour of love. Same as now I’d fill the sink, add detergent (organic liquid soap, usually), wash my sweater, and then rinse. And rinse again. Sometimes up to four, five times. With cold or maybe tepid water. No fun. But my knitted sweaters lasted for a long time, because I took good care of them.

As you can see, the not so secret ingredient is the no rinse soap. I learned about Eucalan about 10 years ago, and happily added Soak later on. We have both at the store, and if you haven’t tried either, I do think you will want to!

Let’s talk about the dos and don’ts now:

Do

  • use tepid water for wool, warm/hot water makes wool felt
  • be gentle, squeeze the knit to get the air and then dirt out, too much movement will felt/full the wool
  • use the spin cycle on your washer to get the water out of more than one sweater or blankets ect. (the spin cycle does not hurt the wool, but it gets a lot of extra water out!)

Don’t

  • twist, wring the knit to get water out
  • rub the knit to get dirt out
  • use conditioner; yes, you could start a debate on that one, and, wool is nothing but spun hair, yet all conditioner does is add a layer of stuff onto your knits, just as it does to your hair
  • use Woolite; after a few experiences at the store with running colors even on machine dyed yarn, I ask you to avoid it for hand washing, it just seems too aggressive — and you’ll have to rinse
  • let the wet sweaters sit in the sink without water, the dye might just run a bit more (ask me how I know!), put them out to dry right away; this is especially important for hand dyed yarns

All of these recommendations for hand washing are based on my experience. You are perfectly welcome to do it differently if you prefer. Also, if you have any tips to add, leave a comment!

For superwash items I like to use the hand wash cycle in spite of being able to use the gentle cycle, and I use cold water. I also use my regular detergent, which has been fine so far. After all, in the machine the items get rinsed. I don’t have to add much here, except for ‘lay flat to dry’, of course! Oh, and maybe: don’t let them sit in the machine too long, when wet some dye might still leak – again, especially with hand dyed superwash yarns.

Happy Knitting, as ever!

– Mona

Not Long Now…

And Spring will be here. At least that is what the calendar will say. We Montrealers know better, of course. That doesn’t keep us at Espace Tricot from getting new Summer yarns to tempt you to knit for the warm season also. Before we get to what I have to say, I just wanted to show you a picture of my finished pouf:

20150223_153649

I used three IKEA Fjädrar inner cushions (65×65 cm/26×26″) to stuff it – plenty of volume for little cash!

Now back to business: Once again you’ll get to choose cotton, linen, silk, and various mixes of yarns that will give you a cooler fabric than wool. And once again I’ll get to hear things like:

“This yarn splits.” – It is true, a lot of summer yarns do not hold up or together as well as wool or hairy yarns. That is just the nature of things. My recommendation in this case is to use blunt tipped knitting needles, so that the tip is less prone to help splitting the yarn even more – avoid lace tips!

“My, I had so much trouble with it being slippery.” – Again, yes, cotton, linen and the like are slippery suckers on metal needles. You’ll have more control about them when using bamboo or acrylic (Marblz!!) because these materials are more grippy and less slippery in combination with a slippery yarn.

“This yarn is so hard to knit with.” – This can mean anything from the yarn being slippery, having no elasticity to having a tendency to split. I’ll encourage you to switch up your tools – if you knit with metal needles, try bamboo. If the tips are too pointy, use blunter tips. “Hard to knit with” can mean a lot of different things – if you complain about that I can try to help, but you need to explain further.

“I think this is hard on the hands.” – This is a complaint I often get from tight knitters. Due to the fact that there is little elasticity in summer yarns, tight knitters might have a problem. The only advice I can give here is: Let loose. (Yeah, I know. I wish it was that easy.)

These remarks come together for various reasons, however there is one fact that cannot be denied: Summer yarns rarely have elasticity.

Unless it is added, cotton, silk, linen and the like do have little if none elasticity, that is just in the nature of these fibers. That is also a reason why summer knits are often knit at a larger gauge than recommended on the ball band. Apart from getting a lighter fabric, it is more pleasant to knit at a looser gauge.

Personally, I do love knitting with linen. I like the crunch, the crispness of the fabric – and then, oh wonder, once you wash your sweater it becomes softer and softer. With each wash it becomes more like your favourite t-shirt you keep wearing even though it might have holes and needs to be replaced. (No, my sweater does not have holes. This is an analogy to make a point.)

As with our ‘hairy’ yarns we consciously choose natural fibers for summer. 100% cotton, linen and silk are very pleasant to wear and I encourage you to take the plunge into summer knitting, maybe with one of the designs Melissa put together this week?

Summer is definitely for knitting – I won’t stop, that is for sure!

Happy Knitting, as ever!

– Mona

Inspirationally Renewed

This is how I feel after a weekend with Stephen and Steven. It was much fun, if you were there I hope you enjoyed it also!

Looking with a fresh view at my stash, I got out some yarn I have had no plan for but found something to do with – and knitting something I wanted for a while now!

Pouf

It’s the Marshmallow Pouf by Drops.

I am using 5 strands of Lopi on a 15 mm (US 19) needle to get the gauge of 5 sts/4″. It is huge, it is getting heavy and I yet have to find something to stuff it with, but I am sure I’ll be very happy with the result. I do not have enough of any colour in my stash, so I’ll be varying the colour combo as I go. I might even have to use some Lett Lopi to fill in some gaps…

I am embracing the “YES Knitter” in me!!

Are you looking at your stash with new eyes? Finding possibilities you haven’t seen before your Stephen and Steven experience?

Don’t forget, have something bright and something sparkly in your knitting bag for emergencies…  ;-)

Happy Knitting, as ever!

– Mona

Are They Going To Freeze?

Indeed, that is the question that was and is running through my head whenever I am thinking about the big event this weekend with Stephen and Steven. Somehow I feel this winter has been extraordinarily harsh, and the snow that fell last night just enhances my conviction. Really, I wanted to crawl under my blanket and stay there all day when I heard that there was more snow.

You might be wondering why it feels like I am complaining about winter – I live in Montreal, after all. Well, every year about this time I am getting thoroughly sick of the snow, and also of the arctic air that seems to have made our lives miserable for so long this year. On the bright side: Look at the Maritimes. They got it way worse!

Did you see Melissa’s Silk’N Scribbles here and maybe you’ve been to the store and saw Lisa’s version? Here is my own – after seeing how it turned out I could not resist. And, after knitting a few of Stephen West designs I thought it only right to knit a StevenBe!

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I think I need to make tassels, don’t you agree that it really asks for tassels? BTW, there are some kits left should you feel tempted like I did!

I don’t know about you, but I cannot wait for the events happening this weekend! Two days of entertainment, learning and lots of fun with Stephen and Steven – let’s just hope they are not going to freeze…

Happy Knitting, as ever!

– Mona

Random on a cold Thursday

The mitten liners are growing slowly. I have been distracting myself with other projects, so it is my own fault that I still cannot line my mittens. One of my distractions was the Garter Gaiter – so squishy and cushy, I just could not resist knitting it up myself.

IMG_9818

Madelinetosh ASAP in Grasshopper and Silver Fox.

Have you heard of the big event next weekend yet? If your are a regular blog reader, it is not news to you, I am guessing. We are very excited to welcome Stephen and Steven to the shop and to have them teach as well as entertain us with two trunk shows! I think there are some spaces left in the trunk shows, so if you want to meet them give us a call for a ticket.

Which reminds me that I do want to block my “Exploration Station” before the big event, so I will be able to wear it.

You can imagine that I, as an avid sock knitter, possess a lot of double pointed needles. A lot in the same size even. Then we got the addi FlipStix in. Will you believe me when I confess that I am still pondering getting a set? I think I might like them a lot. A feeling that crept up on me after trying them on Sam’s knitting.

I have chosen my colors for the “3 Color Cashmere Cowl” I blogged about. I wanted to use yarn from my stash, and I managed to find a combo that I like.

Cashmere Cowl Colors

Madelinetosh Tosh Light in Grey Garden, Edison Bulb and Antler.

I haven’t started knitting yet, because I want to finish a few projects that have been lingering first. Soon!

Random, as promised.

Happy Knitting, as ever!

– Mona

Trying To Keep Warm

It is cold here in Montreal. D’uh, you think, it is the end of January – of course it is cold. So all you can do is trying to keep warm. With hats, scarves and mittens. Like the Basic Mittens I wrote a pattern for last winter.

How to knit a basic mitten part 1

How to knit a basic mitten part 2

They are great mittens. I do like them a lot – once I got around to knit a pair for myself and wear them, I mean.

Imagine my surprise when I realized that when it is -18 degrees centigrade they are not warm enough. Not at all. That needed a solution. And Sock yarn. And very small double pointed nedles.

Now let’s start this:

How to knit a mitten liner.

Like these:

Those are Melissa’s. You could have a pair, too. (Though you do have to knit them yourself)

Mitten Liner:

You want to have your mitten handy when knitting these. They help you to know how long to knit the different parts.

This will be my pair.

With 2 mm needles CO 64 sts. Distribute them evenly onto dpns and close to round, careful not to twist sts. Knit until piece measures about 1″ longer than your mitten from edge to where the thumb starts. (to measure, unroll the edge.)

For right hand mitten:

Next rnd: K11, then place these sts onto holder, work to end of rnd.

At beg of next rnd, CO 11 sts with backward loop method, work to end of rnd. Work until piece measures same length as mitten just before the top decreases start.

Next (dec) rnd: If you have knit a sock before, this will sound familiar. If not, here goes: *On needle 1, k1, ssk, then work to end. Needle 2, work to last three stitches, k2tog, k1. Repeat from * on needle 3 and 4.

Work 2 rnds even.

Next rnd: Repeat decrease round.

Work 1 rnd even.

Repeat last 2 rnds until there are 8 sts left on each needle, then repeat decrease rnd every rnd until there are 4 sts left on each needle. Graft stitches together.

Thumb: Place 11 sts from holder onto needle. Knit 11, pick up and knit 1 sts into gap between sts and cast-on edge, pick up and and knit 11 from cast-on edge, pick up and knit 1 more st from gap 24 sts.

Work until thumb is 1/2″ shorter than thumb of your mitten.

Next (dec) rnd: *k1, ssk, k7, k2tog; rep from * once more – 20 sts. Knit 1 rnd.

Next (dec) rnd: *k1, ssk, k5, k2tog; rep from * once more – 16 sts. Knit 1 rnd.

Next (dec) rnd: *k1, ssk, k3, k2tog; rep from * once more – 12 sts. Knit 1 rnd.

Next (dec) rnd: *k1, ssk, k1, k2tog; rep from * once more – 8 sts.

Graft remaining sts together.

For left hand mitten work as for right hand, but place last 11 stitches of rnd on needle.

Weave in ends. Steam block lightly.

Wear inside your Basic Mittens to keep your hands toasty.

Happy Knitting, as ever!

– Mona

D’you know….?

That is the question I have to deal with at least 10 times a day – it seems more acute since my daughter started knitting. Yep, she did. About two weeks ago. Ever since then I get asked questions that are not really questions like

“D’you know that I really love Samantha’s yarn?”

“D’you know that I really love knitting?”

“D’you know that I looooove the yarn you gave me?”

Those are just samples of the apparent deep love for knitting my daughter has discovered. Well. The love of talking about knitting. And the love of accumulating knitterly things. And having a list of projects to the moon and back. Though I do have to admit that she knits a few stitches per day, sometimes even a row on the scarf she is working on now.

Egg knits

I am thrilled.

Now, do you know that I am also not done talking about knitting?

Today we’re still working on the fine-tuning. This time we’re fine-tuning selvedge stitches. Or selvage stitches. (I do not know why there are two spellings, but if you encounter either of them, it is the same thing.)

When I knit a garment in pieces, I do not knit specific selvedge stitches, I keep the first and last stitch in stockinette – this makes seaming much easier.

The reason is that selvedge stitches only get knitted every second row, and otherwise you slip them. I do find that produces holes when seaming. Picking up stitches is also much easier if you have all the rows to work with and not only half. However if you have a piece of knitting that won’t be seamed (scarf, etc.) you might want to use a selvedge stitch.

When working a selvedge stitch starting with a knit stitch, you want to slip it knit wise with yarn in back (see, we’re kind of picking up where I left off) and work to the end of the row. If you slip this one purl wise it will be loose and does not look good, in short: it really does not do what it is supposed to do. So make sure you slip it knit wise.

If the first stitch is a purl stitch, you want to slip the stitch purl wise with yarn in front and then do whatever you do to the end of the row. I am not saying it is impossible to slip this one knit wise, but it sort of works against the knitting when you try to do that.

I hope this helps with cleaning up your edges – when you feel like it.

Happy Knitting, as ever!

– Mona

Fine Tuning

Let’s talk a bit about VHS tapes. Yes, I am aware that ‘VHS’ is not what comes to mind first when hearing the term ‘tuning’ but since I am more familiar with VHS tapes than cars, this analogy will have to do. Do the lot of you even remember VHS tapes?

My VHS remote control had two buttons, side by side, that said ‘tune’ above them. With those you could try to improve the picture, if you thought it was off. Mostly it worked, other than DVD’s and Blueray discs that you pop in the player and hope that it will run properly and none of the digital data is corrupt since there is not much you can do.

I bet you are wondering now what VHS tapes have to do with knitting. Well, nothing really, apart from the tuning. There are a few things you can do to fine tune your knitting – or, if you will – your knitting knowledge.

Today we are going to learn about ‘sl1′. Easy, right? ‘Slip 1′ is the explanation when you look it up in the legend. Let’s pretend you have never slipped a stitch. How would you go about it?

Slipping a stitch means essentially moving a stitch without knitting it. Okay, that you get. But now you start thinking. Or not. Maybe you just go ahead and slip it as if to knit, meaning you insert your needle knit wise and slip it over to the other needle. There. Slip 1. What you missed here is that when you slip a stitch knit wise, you twist it. If you look at it closely, you will see that the ‘legs’ of the stitch are crossed. And they are not meant to be crossed, they should be open, so when you pull the stitch, the stitch opens up more widely.

I am going to fine tune your knitting now. Get this:

If a pattern says ‘sl1′ you always slip purl wise, unless the pattern says otherwise, i.e. knit wise.

When you slip a stitch purl wise, it just gets moved from one needle to the other. Sans twisting.

So from now on pay attention if the pattern just says ‘sl1′ (i.e. purl wise), or if it says ‘sl 1 knit wise’. It seems a small thing, but it is important.

On that note, happy knitting, as ever!

– Mona

Still Here, It Is Cold, I Got Nothing

This really sums it up.

I do not know about you but now that the Holidays are over and we are back to our regular lives, I am left a bit empty. I was busy before Christmas, had a lovely time with my family and then went back to work on the 30th. Not that I do not understand, but the store was buzzing like there is no tomorrow. Every day until on Sunday the nasty weather hit. I mean, seriously? (The weather, not that the store was busy.)

Snow, rain, ice, slush – everything covered in one day and then Monday – do I even have to talk about Monday? (And yes, I did fall down on my a$$ once, even though I tried very hard not to).  This morning I walked my kid to school and thought my eyelashes were sure to break off because they felt frozen. Shortly after that I spoke to my Mom on the phone and told her how cold it is here. (For those who were not here: Minus 24 degrees, and it felt like minus 32). There was a long silence and then she said “maybe I shouldn’t mention that it is 8 degrees here, it kinda feels wrong”. Then this afternoon before picking my kid up from school I checked the temperature and I caught myself thinking “oh, only minus 14 degrees”. Only.

Anyways. I am thinking about knitting this. I don’t have cashmere, but I do have lots of Madelinetosh Tosh Light to use for it – and I might use some more Edison Bulb. As I said, thinking about it.

What about you? What is your first project for the new year?

Happy 2015 everyone and happy knitting, as ever!

– Mona

Something Other Than Knitting

The Holidays are near, and I do not know about you but I am all knit out. Looks like I am going to get all my gifts done on time (hopefully) and with luck everyone who gets something I made is going to like it.

So,  with the knitting all dandy, there is something else that I have been trying to get a grip on  and never really managed: Cookies! Baking cookies for Christmas is a big thing in Germany and I used to bake with my Mom all the time, here I just seem not to be able to actually do it. However, there is usually some holiday baking going on and last year I discovered a recipe that is already a staple in my kitchen.

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Cranberries are such a North-American thing, they are not well known in Europe, if at all. Not to speak of buying them fresh at the market. I do love them, though, and this recipe is another one of the reasons why. I love it so much that I thought I’d share:

Recipe from here at thekitchn.com

Cranberry Cake

Makes one 10-inch springform cake. Alternately: Four 4-cup loaves or 24 to 30 cupcakes.

3 large eggs
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter, cubed and softened at room temperature for 1 hour
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract, optional
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups cranberries (12-ounce bag)

Optional pecan topping:
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup pecans, unroasted

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 10-inch spring form pan (or a collection of smaller pans. This make 10 to 12 cups of batter.)

Use a stand mixer or hand beaters to beat the eggs and sugar until very smooth and increased in volume. If using a stand mixer, beat on medium speed for 4 to 7 minutes, using the whip attachment. If using hand beaters, beat on high speed for 6 to 8 minutes. The egg and sugar mixture will double in volume and turn very pale yellow, leaving ribbons on top of the batter when you lift the beaters.

Beat in the butter, vanilla, and almond extract, if using. Beat for 2 minutes or until the butter is smoothly incorporated.

Use a spatula to fold in the flour, salt, and cranberries. The batter will be quite thick. Spread gently into the prepared pan.

To prepare the optional pecan topping, heat the butter in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the sugar and stir. Add the pecans and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring, until the butter and sugar mixture is shiny and smooth and the nuts are well-coated with the butter and sugar. Spread over the cake batter.

Bake 60 to 80 minutes for the springform. For smaller pans, start checking after 30 minutes, but expect small loaves to take at least 40 minutes. Tent the cake with foil in the last 30 minutes of baking to keep the top from browning (this is especially important for the pecan topping).

Cool for 20 minutes then run a knife around the inside edge of the pan and remove the cake. Cool for an hour before serving.

The cake keeps and freezes well. To store, wrap the fully cooled cake tightly in plastic wrap and leave in a dry, cool place for up to 1 week.

To freeze, wrap the fully cooled cake in plastic wrap and then foil. Freeze for up to 2 months. Thaw overnight at room temperature, still wrapped.

 

I have made this cake a lot last Christmastime, and then at Thanksgiving again – practically whenever I can find fresh Cranberries at the store. I have also made it with frozen ones, it works well if you just throw them in the batter frozen. I have never tried the pecan topping, I like this cake without it so much that every other addition would not improve the experience, but I do insist on the almond extract, it adds a lot of flavour.

I do not have any picture, mostly because the cake was eaten before I remembered to take one….

Happy Knitting Baking, as ever!

– Mona

 

Thoughtful Gifting

This is not a blog post about choosing thoughtful gifts, this is a blog post about how give knitted gifts thoughtfully. I am not talking about you deciding if giving a hat or mittens or a cowl – I am talking about how to give a knitted gift in a way that you and the recipient get the most out of it.

I have made different experiences with knitted gifts. As mentioned before, I do like to bestow knitted gifts onto worthy recipients. I do enjoy knitting for others, but when I am done I want to be sure that my work is appreciated. It is way more satisfying that way. For the knitter and the giftee.

So, make it easy on yourself and the clueless, non-knitting recipient. Tell them how to treat your work, so it will last longer than one wash in the machine or toss in the dryer – accidentally or not. Tell them that ‘hand wash’ does not mean hours of rinsing soapy suds from wet woolly things, but minutes of TLC if using a no rinse wash. Tell them that even though “Woolite” has the word wool in the name it is not necessarily the best solution for their hand knit woollies. Tell them that if they want to enjoy the gift for a long while they should take good care of them – and, most importantly of all, tell them how.

IMG_9756

And yes, these and a variety of other tags of this kind are available at the store!

I, for one, like to use gift tags to do exactly that. Like a label in clothes they have the care instructions printed on the back, and you only have to circle the appropriate ones. I also usually add a sample of no rinse soap in the mix, with the explanation how to do it, if it is not already written on the sample itself. This applies only if you did not use superwash yarn, meaning yarn that is not suitable for machine washing.

Last but not least: even if you used superwash yarn, tell them how to treat the knitted item anyways. Suitable for machine wash does still imply gentle care, so explain about the gentle or hand wash cycle on their washing machine. Tell them to please not use the dryer, unless the yarn label – or rather: your instructions – specifically says they can. Most of all, try to assure them that your work is worthwhile the effort, and maybe mention if they do take good care of their woollies you might be inclined to knit some more…

After all this is said and done you might find anyways that some of your giftees have lost, shrunk or sold (just kidding!) their knits  – I guess the degree of your generosity will decide if you knit for them again, and again, and again…

Happy Knitting, as ever!

– Mona

Not Epitomizing The Notion

Thank you for your comments on my last post – it feels good to know I am not procrastinating on my own. Fingers crossed that I have at least my gift knitting sorted for this year!

After giving it some thought and reading your stories, I have to say that I could not chose one but threw all 10 of your  names in a jar, closed my eyes and drew one. There.

Patricia King was the lucky one. Congrats! I have a little something for you, and if you cannot come by the store to pick it up, please do drop us an e-mail at info@espacetricot.com and I’ll get it on the way – and I’ll try hard not to get distracted!

If you are still trying to figure out the knitting or not knitting gifts thing – read what I had to say last year about it. I might help – and keep you from a knitting overload, procrastination or no!

Happy Knitting, as ever!

– Mona

 

Here Goes The Queen…

Today I am talking about something I know a lot about. It is something I have to deal with every day, sometimes more and sometimes less. Also, it is a big deal before the upcoming Holiday season. Well, no. I am not talking about knitting – I am talking about Procrastination. Ever met the lady? (Funny, the word procrastination seems feminine to me, it could be a guy also, if you disagree.) I am the Queen of Procrastination. Yes, with a capital P because her greedy little hands have me in such a tight grip that it deserves a big P.

I am a planner. I can make plans until I have smoke coming out of my ears. Every year I plan to start earlier, make a list, figure out what to knit for whom – and every year around December 15 I get hit in the face with the fact that I am nowhere near where I wanted to be and have to cut short my holiday knitting. It has worked out so far, but the stress is getting to me and it really should not.

December 2014It is big P’s fault. It doesn’t even take a lot to give in and succumb to her lures. She is always lurking in the background and reaching out – and she gets to me more often than I like to admit. The reasons? I am easily distracted. On my way down from the second floor to the basement to do the laundry I can find a lot of things that make me veer off and find myself 15 minutes later in the kitchen/living room doing something that has absolutely nothing to do with laundry. (Why,  yes, I do not like doing laundry. In case you wondered.) I am also not fond of ‘having to do’ things. And, as everyone knows, having a family and a house and a job – there are always ‘having to do things’ to do. So I put them off. I don’t really know how I manage that, because I wake up every morning and make a ‘plan’ for the day, I know what to do when – and yet I find myself often not doing the things I ‘have to do’. I also think I do work really well under pressure. (Probably because I don’t have a choice by then!)

I hope you can relate, because if not, this whole blog post will just seem to be a confession that I might be a sloppy housewife. I might be, but not with intent. It just so happens. And it just so happens that even when I have a list for Holiday knitting I still manage to procrastinate until I have no choice and ‘have to’ knit. Ironic, isn’t it?

This year, this year I swore it would be different. So when I talked to a customer in the store last week about how satisfied I am that I have ‘already’ started with  my Holiday knitting I was very surprised to find that she thought it was already late. Maybe my viewpoint is skewed, but having one gift done, working on another – I can’t believe it isn’t even December yet!

How about you? Do you procrastinate? Ever?

Write me a comment with the best (or rather: worst!) procrastination of your life and I am going to crown a new Queen next week because, you know, this year I will be all done with knitting by the 24th of December – and then probably decide that I can definitely squeeze in another pair of mittens until the next day since there’s for sure another person who deserves a pair of hand knit mittens for Christmas…no, that is not procrastination, that is just knitter’s mania.

There will be a reward for outing yourself and your big P, a little surprise and thank you for indulging me!

Happy Knitting, as ever!

– Mona

The Humble Garter Stitch

IKEA has a sale on rugs. They are 20% off right now. I do not know if you are interested in this information, I am only telling you because I spent most of the day driving to IKEAs – plural, yes, I had to go to two of them since even though the inventory online said my rug was in stock, I had not called to verify this and hence was informed that I really should call if the stock is low and, well, first come, first serve and no rain checks – getting my coveted rug on sale. This involved driving in unknown territory, thankfully mostly on the highway – I do get lost easily.

Now (aobut 2.45 pm) I am back here in front of the computer and trying to make sense – you might wonder what my rug has to do with garter stitch? Well, to put it simply: Nothing. Apart from the fact, maybe, that it is made of wool and I like knitting with wool…there, I tried.

Are you participating in the Stephen West Mystery KAL? How about all of our colour choices? Were you suprised? I, for one, am pleasantly surprised that I managed to finish the first clue, really, it was fun to knit! See, I am not good with those knit-alongs, whenever you tell me that I have to knit on a certain project, I rather knit anything else. So far I do not feel that way, let’s see how it goes. If you are curious about our progress, you can check it out here. (As of now I yet have to post a picture of mine. I will, promised.)

I am talking about the KAL because the project is actually knit in garter – very clever garter, but garter nonetheless. Meaning, even though garter stitch means essentially ‘just knitting’ there are ways to make it up to date and happening. Stephen West has this down to a T, as you can see in his other designs like the Batad (which has some stockinette, but knit in the round) or Smooth Move.

Garter is often underestimated, in my opinion. I love a squishy garter knit – especially when you can let the yarn do the work, meaning you use something soft and scrumptious like Baby Alpaca, or the Ultimate Merino (as in Woolfolk!). It doesn’t have to be cashmere, but hey, why not!

Here are a few projects from the Espace Tricot project page – check it out:

Shawls

four shawlsTop to bottom clockwise: Red Label Color, Moody Street, Drachenschwanz, Giant Luxury!

Hats, Scarves, Cowls etc:

hat scarves cowlTop to bottom clockwise: Mega Katy, Rocketeer, Color Tipped Scarf, Basalt

Garments – full garter or partly garter:

garmentsTop to bottom clockwise: Flax, Weekend Wrap, Lottie in Lark, Fall Coat,

Baby blankets:

sc_blanket1_medium2Left to right: Koigu Love, Super Happy Baby Blanket

As I have said, these are just a few picks. It appears we love garter! And I do know for a fact we are not alone in this. How about you?

Happy Knitting, as ever!

– Mona

 

 

Vermonter Mods

After posting the picture of the ‘little’ Vermonter last week I received some requests for the modifications I made. Well, here they are: (Everything I have done differently is written here, otherwise I worked as pattern says!)

CO 39 sts. (Rest as pattern says.)

Brim: As pattern says.

Crown:

Rounds 1-3: knit

Round 4: purl

Rounds 5-7: knit

Round 8: purl

Rounds 9-11: knit

Round 12: p2tog, purl 18, p2tog, p to last 2 sts, p2tog = 35 sts

Decreases: Please read carefully, decreases are not evenly spaced and happen also on a purl round!

Rounds 1 and 2: knit

Round 3: *k2tog, k5; rep from * to end of rnd

Round 4: purl

Rounds 5 and 7: knit

Round 6: *k2tog, k4; rep from * to end of rnd

Round 8: *p2tog, p3; rep from * to end of rnd

Round 9: knit

Round 10: *k2tog, k2; rep from * to end of rnd

Round 11: *k2tog, k1: rep from * to end of rnd

Round 12: *k2tog; rep to end of rnd – 6 sts.

Rest as pattern says!

And here is a picture of the size difference:

IMG_9750

As you can see, a tad smaller – just right for a kid!

Tomorrow starts the Westknits Mystery Shawl KAL – I for one am excited! Let’s for the moment forget about the fact that I don’t really do well in KALs, the mystery factor makes me totally want to participate. Also, the secret of the colour combos is out! Have you guessed some right? I bet there were a few surprises…

Happy Knitting, as ever!

– Mona

 

 

My Mind Is Made Up

Hello everyone and thank you for participating in my little poll (which is now closed, I might add)! I do appreciate your versatile comments on the two choices.

I have been following the votes and looking for the result all week long, and from the beginning it seemed clear the “The Vermonter” was and is a front runner. There you have it, that is the hat I am knitting. Which does not mean I won’t knit the Earflap hat at all, that one might follow since I have shown my daughter the choice of hat patterns and she asked for both (greedy little 6 year old that she is, as well as: understandably so, it was also suggested by quite a few readers).

Today it feels really weird to knit a bulky winter hat, since yesterday and today the temperature was more like late Summer than Fall. Very warm and humid, people were out and about in shorts and sandals here in Montreal. The thing is, I know that we are going to need it, if not soon then soon enough. With Canadian Thanksgiving gone it is custom (or rather: recommended) to switch to Winter tires now (our car is having them installed as I write this) and this seems even weirder to me today. It is the reverse experience of knitting a linen sweater in March in Montreal, I guess.

IMG_9735Still Life with yarn.

Since the hat of the original pattern would be too large for a kid, I have adapted the numbers. Fewer stitches cast on and fewer rounds will be knit. Come back for a look at a complete hat soon!

Happy Knitting, as ever!

– Mona

 

 

Your Opinion Is Requested

There are so many patterns out there that the dilemma of which one to knit is frequently upon me. This time around I want to knit a hat and I have narrowed it down to two – either one will look cute on my daughter – but I can for the life of me not decide which one to make.

That is why I am going to let you make up my mind.

The choices:

“The Vermonter” by Abi Gregorio (I made that one for me last year and it was my favourite hat to wear all Winter!)

Picture from here

 OR

The Amelia Earflap Hat by Lion Brand

Image of Amelia Earflap Hat

Picture from here

At least the yarn I have decided on! I am going to use “Magnum” by Cascade – of course!

The poll will be open until my next post – so go ahead, tell me what to do – for once…

Happy Knitting, as ever!

– Mona

Let Me Tell You…

My Mother is visiting. She is usually visiting around this time of year to celebrate her granddaughter’s birthday with us – which is a special treat for us as well. My Mom is a knitter, but at home – even now retired – she does not knit that much (she says). When she sets foot into our house, this is totally changed. It is like the knitting needles never leave her hands and she produces one FO after the other. This year she is kinda obsessed with something I have also knit, but I think she decided she had to knit it after she saw a customer in the store wear it.

IMG_9704This is my version. If there is one tip I’d give you, it’s this: DO NOT STEAM/BLOCK THE CLINCHER! You want the rows to scrunch up. Too late for mine.

Now, what you have to understand is that my Mom does not speak English, so most of my patterns are really quite useless, unless they have a chart or are set up in a way that the repetition can be figured out and no actual reading of the pattern is necessary, and me explaining a bit how it goes works usually out. Which is why she did not wait for me to find my pattern but just grabbed some yarn, my sample and got started with her version of the “Clincher”. 3 and some clinchersShe’s knit three and is on the fourth. She used yarn I had at home, so some of them are worked in a heavier yarn than the original but it worked out really well! (On the sly she is sneaking in two pair of socks, you know.)

My Mom is a lifelong knitter and has taught me a lot. However, the way my life has turned out knitwise, meaning first knitting samples for a designer, then working for a yarn company and now in a yarn store, I have also  accumulated a lot of knitting knowledge. Not to say I know more, but I do know different things. She is also a crocheter, and when my daughter has requests like: “Oma, make me a pony robe, please! With a hood!” she sits down and whips it up in a way that I could not. (Sadly, I cannot show you a picture of it today since Rainbow Dash is off to Papa’s office, as my daughter tells me.) Coming back to what we know: She can construct clothes – no matter for whom – like no one else I know. I, on the other hand, have collected a lot of technical knowledge, which helps with that but is quite another story.

When she arrived at the point in the pattern where you switch to the contrast colour, she was stumped. Turning the piece over and from one side to the other she offered solutions how to knit it that were all, well, not doing the trick. Indeed, it is not hard at all, but as with a lot of things you have to know how to do it. I admit I let her steam just a little bit before I told her. As with almost everything knitting she got it right away – no long explanation necessary, as knitters we just click. (I won’t tell you about the time when I tried to show her the tubular cast-on, something she thinks she can well do without…)

I was thinking since she was so taken with the pattern you might like it also, and have a few yarn suggestions if you feel like knitting one!

The pattern asks for a fingering weight and we do have a lot of that in store.

For the main colour I used Madelinetosh Tosh Light in Astrid Grey (on the left you can see some sample colours). (Psst, we’re expecting a huge new delivery of Mad Tosh Light – keep your fingers crossed that the customs officer do not take forever to clear it…!) Tanis’ Red Label is also a perfect yarn to wind around your neck (pic in the middle), as is Sweetgeorgia Cash Luxe Fine (not pictured). Talking about Sweetgeorgia, what about the Merino Silk Fine (right side)?

3 yarnsNow to the loopy part:

IMG_9686For some punch try a neon – I used “Edison Bulb” by Madelinetosh in Tosh Light. The pink is Koigu KPPPM and the orange is Regia Sock yarn.

IMG_9688This is the Lange Mille Colori Baby – a bit more colorful.

IMG_9696And never ever forget about our Wall of Koigu, which is actually perfect as MC and loopy border!

Those are just a few picks, we do have more fingering weight yarn in store. How about it? Feel like knitting a Clincher, too? I’ll let my Mom know she’s not alone…

Happy Knitting, as ever!

– Mona

Measure Once…

Today I do not have much, but what I want to talk about is one of the tools I use often. If I may say so myself, I am pretty good at knowing the size of a knitting needle just by looking at it. Most of the time I am right. Sometimes I am not. Those are the times when you want to use your needle gauge. Don’t worry. This gauge is way less hive inducing than the stitch gauge can be, it is downright harmless. And useful at the same time. Also, if your needle size is American and says “8” – do you know the equivalence in mm? The needle gauge will tell you.

I for one have a really (really) hard time to read the printed or engraved numbers on the needles, sometimes they rub off, and when the size is marked on the cables (whoever thought that was a good idea?) I can only guess. Well, no more guessing. Use a needle gauge! (Most of them include a little ruler to measure the other gauge, but maybe I shouldn’t mention that today…)

IMG_9675Just look at the needles in the picture. Most of them seem to be the same size, but surely they are not. Stick’em in the holes to find out!

When using the gauge, the needle should just fit into the according hole. If there’s a gap between needle and gauge, it is not the right size, if only the tip fits in, it isn’t either! Not forcing the needle is especially important if you are using a metal needle gauge and want to measure a wood or bamboo needle. Always insert needle straight, avoid angles.

Happy Knitting, as ever!

– Mona