Sweater 101 – Drop Shoulder Sweaters

I am a child of the 80’s and thus very familiar with drop shoulder sweaters. It is the easiest way to knit a sweater – if you will: two squares plus two trapezoids make a sweater. If you want to get fancy, you add a front neckline.

The drop shoulder sweaters in the 80’s were very over sized, and the sleeves were huge. Fortunately, for the newbie knitter, drop shoulders are back in fashion, however, thanks to modern aesthetics, the sleeves are a much smaller size than thirty years ago. (Wait, what? It has been thirty years? How did that happen?)

Advantages of the drop shoulder sweaters next to being an easy knit, are also that since most of them are still boxy and over sized, one does not have to worry too much about the actual size of the project. You can choose to knit the pieces separately and sew them up – this, as with other styles, gives more structure to the finished piece. If you please, you can pick up the stitches for the sleeves on the body and knit them top down – this works really well, especially when the sleeves are rather tight in fit and do not have any decreases. Then again, decreases are not hard, and it really depends on the pattern you pick.

A drop shoulder sweater can also be knit in the round from the bottom up. Once you reach the underarms, you divide front and back and knit them separately. If you forgo any shoulder shaping, you can even use the three-needle bind-off instead of sewing up the shoulder seams.

As a first sweater this is a good pick – though maybe a bit more knitting than a raglan or a sweater with set in sleeves due to being over sized!

Happy Knitting, as ever!

– Mona

Sweater 101 – Raglans

If you are new to knitting sweaters, the sheer amount of choice out there can be daunting. Where to begin?

I’ll tell you. That is, I am going to talk a bit about the different styles, knit in pieces or in the round and will try to explain the good, the bad and no uglies.

Let’s start with the Raglan sweater. Any kind of sweater that has the sleeves attached diagonally to the front and back are called Raglan sweaters. They can be knit in pieces, from the bottom up or from the top down.

When knitting a Raglan sweater from the top down, there are usually only two little seams at the underarm to sew. If you do not like sewing pieces together, this one is for you. Knitting them bottom up is almost as good, however, while knitting top down you can try your sweater on to see if the length of the body and sleeves are the perfect length, whereas when knitting bottom up you just follow the measurements of the pattern. It is of course possible to adjust the length bottom up also.

As with all sweaters, seams add structure to the sweater. If you choose to knit the sleeves a different color than the body – Baseball Tee style, for example – you are going to have to knit your sweater in pieces, seam it and finish it off with a collar.

Stripes are easily added when knitting raglans in the round, both top down and bottom up make it easy to align the stripes of the sleeves with the stripes of the body – if so wanted.

When knitting a Raglan sweater, no matter how, you are going to have to pay a bit of attention to either increases or decreases. Stitch markers make this easy for sweaters knit in the round. If you are new to the Raglan sweater, have a look at the schematic in the pattern, make yourself familiar with the construction and what the different parts of a sweater are called.

You most probably will find talk of ‘neck’, ‘yoke’, ‘sleeves’ and ‘body’. The neck is straightforward, the yoke is the part with all the increases/decreases. Body and sleeves are also easily assigned.

Some Raglan sweaters have the same neckline on front and back – those are very easy to knit in the round. Sweaters with a deeper front neckline (be it crew, round or v) are worked back and forth before completion of the neckline, after that you’ll join for knitting in the round. Some patterns add short rows on the yoke, others rely on the increases only. When knitting bottom up, you knit the body in the round first up to where the yoke begins, knit the two sleeves and join the three pieces together to knit the yoke with the according decreases. If the front neckline is deeper, you are going to knit back and forth after starting it – which essentially means that bottom up is worked like top down just in the opposite order. If you are knitting a cardigan, the wole body and yoke part is knit back and forth, of couse, only the sleeves are knit in the round up to yoke.

I especially like knitting raglans in one piece for babies and kids. No bulky seams to be seen and no hassle with small pieces to sew together.

As with a lot of things in knitting, this style is a question of personal preference – some like it, others don’t. Find out by knitting one!

Happy Knitting, as ever!

– Mona

Interchangeable Tips

I have a thing for interchangeable knitting needles – especially when they look so very  pretty as the Marblz do. I also enjoy knitting with the Symfonie Dreamz from Knitter’s Pride, specifically when I knit with cotton or linen.

There are things you can do with an interchangeable knitting needle set that you cannot with your regular fixed circulars. Today I have a few pointers in that direction, maybe you’ll even find something that you did not know before or never thought about.

First of all though, when attaching your interchangeables, please always use whatever little implement is included in the package to securely tighten them. The Kntter’s Pride sets have a little key that needs to be inserted in a hole in the cable which gives you a better grip when screwing on the needle, thus making it tighter. The Hiya Hiya kits include two little rubber pieces, one to hold the cord, the other to hold the needle with – again, to provide better grip and a tighter fit. Addi clicks do not need to be screwed and tightened so there is no gadget included, however, you want to make sure the cable actually clicks into position, and thus cannot detach itself.

I do not want to go on about how to generally use an interchangeable set, you know that it is possible to attach cords of different lengths, etc etc. What I am rather going to talk about is the stuff you do not think about at first, but will work nicely using your interchangeable kit.

There are a lot of useful things included in a kit – if not included, you often can buy them in addition. End caps, for example, are very useful. I never worry if I have the right size in use or not, if I do an want to start something else with the same size, I just detach the needles and screw on the end caps to make the cord into a stitch holder for my work in progress. To not forget which needle size you used, there are little tags with the needle size you can include on the cord, just to be sure!

You probably already know that when you knit a cardigan or sweater top down you can try it on during knitting. That’s really great – especially when you are indecisive about the length and need help to decide. I usually use a 32′ neelde to knit sweaters, which is too short to try on a sweater – in that case I just unscrew a needle, attach the cord extender, screw on another cord and an end cap or the needle with a needle stopper. This way I can securely try on my knitting on the go and see how much I yet have to knit.

I also like to use the shorter cables as stitch holder for the sleeves, since I prefer malleable holders to the metal rigid ones for sleeves. Don’t get me wrong, these have their uses and I do have quite a few of them, but for sleeves I prefer the cords.

Did you know that you can make two sets of the same size with just one pair of tips? When knitting in the round you always knit with the needle in your right hand. While we usually have the same size on the left hand needle, you can totally get away with using a tip a size smaller. This way you can knit two projects at the same time – only in the round though!! It does not work for flat knitting, because then we use both needles alternately. You can also knit very small circumferenes, instead of using double pointed needles, use the two circulars.

There are projects out there that ask to knit one row with a big needle and the next one with a much smaller one. Just attach the adequate size to your cable and go – no need to swith needles every row.

One thing you want to keep in mind in regard of interchangeable kits: keep them organized! I keep a good number of the keys to tighten the cords on a amall key ring as not to loose them, but have one or two in my notions case that I usually carry to work and one in my notions box in the living room. It is best to place the tips and cords back into the needle case when you are done with your project, otherwise you can loose track of where the needles are – and you might need the cord for another project. (No worries, if you need extra cords, you can buy them separately.)

Interchangeables are also the perfect travel companion. You always have a variety of needle sizes on hand contained in a neat little package.

What’s not to love?

Happy Knitting, as ever!

– Mona

One For My Fellow Sock Knitters – This Is How I Do It

Hi there. Today I have something to show to my fellow sock knitters – it’s a little trick I do and that I teach in my sock class, so nothing special, unless you had to deal with those pesky holes before and want to try to avoid them. When you knit socks and just finished the heel, you get to pick up the stitches for the gusset. Which is to pick up one stitch into each selvedge stitch you created on the heel flap. I cheat a bit when I do that. Let’s have a look:

IMG_9854I pick up the stitches as usual, except for the last one.

IMG_9861For the last one, I skip the selvedge stitch and look for the regular stitch in the row below – see the beige one with the circle.

IMG_9864See? That’s where you want to pick up the last stitch.

IMG_9870When you have knit the stitches of the top of the foot, it is time to pick up the stitches for the gusset on the other side of the heel flap. Look for the corresponding stitch on this side and pick up there, not in the first selvedge stitch.

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See? The arrow shows the little gap that is made by skipping the first selvedge stitch. When you are done that, you pick up the rest of your stitches as you would.

This way, there will be virtually no holes between the the heel flap and top of the sock, and the slightly larger gaps are closed neatly on the next row. This is how I do it!

Dear non-sock-knitters, please forgive the lack of information for you today, yet this is something I have wanted to share for a while. Now, if you feel like you want to become a sock knitter, guess what? There is a class coming up. Starting May 25th I’ll be teaching how to knit a sock – with double pointed needles and cuff down.

Give us a ring if you want to join, there are a few spaces left!

Happy Knitting, as ever!

– Mona

WWMD*

Today another edition of *What Would Mona Do.

As  you might have heard me say, I do love knitting with linen. I do like the crisp fabric – often called ‘scratchy’, however, I don’t think it is – of 100% linen. Everything that follows is valid for 100% linen, not mixes, not cotton, I am talking about LINEN. We have a variety of 100% linen at the store:

Euroflax Sport from Louet – it is wet spun and very crisp

Sparrow from Quince – spun from organic flax in Belgium

Kestrel from Quince – a ribbon yarn, also from organic flax

Linen from Shibui – a chainette, which makes it extra crisp

Don’t get me wrong, linen is not soft as cashmere or silk, but, and this is a big BUT, it gets softer and softer with wear. Every time you wash your linen it softens up more – up to a point when you cannot imagine it was ever really ‘crisp’ because all that is left is softness.

One way to get your linen softer sooner – and yes, that is the WWMD part of the post – is to wash it in the washing machine. On cold, if that makes you feel better, however, I am of the opinion linen is linen and can take warm water.

If you want to be sure that nothing untoward happens to your sweater (or whatever it is you want to soften) take your swatch and throw it into the next color wash you have to do.

This way you will figure out if the mechanical wash does impact your knitting – makes it grow or shrink lengthwise. It happens more to knits that are worked in a looser gauge, because there is just more leeway to do one or the other. When your item comes out of the washer, just pull it into form and lay flat to dry as ever.

Disclaimer: What follows is not for the faint of heart and I am not saying you should do it, all I am saying is: I did it.

I dried my Quince Sparrow sweater in the dryer on low. When I got it out it felt like it compacted a bit, but with wear it expanded again. If you do that,  you do not have any control about pulling it into the shape you want it, because when it is dry it is dry and the shape cannot be changed – until the next wash, when you get another chance to pull it into form when wet.

Happy knitting, as ever!

– Mona

Mesh It Up

If you have paid attention to the knitting scene for a while, you might have realized that knitted mesh or net turns up every once in a while in a design. That could be interpreted as knitters being fashion forward – it is apparently a trend right now (see pic) or one could think that knitters really do not care and do/knit whatever they feel like. What it definitely shows is that you cannot go wrong with knitting some mesh, especially this Spring/Summer season.

Mesh

From Lucky magazine, May 2015

To help you out I have been searching ravelry.com for suitable projects and have found quite a few that I think would carry you over the warm season nicely.

Angelina Cardigan – picture from here.

This cardi is a one size fits all – it is oversized and makes for a great ‘throw-on-and-go’ piece in warmer temperatures. There is a wide variety of yarns you could use, Cascade Ultra Pima and Butterfly Cotton for the utilitarian look, if you are going for something special why not use Habu Tsumugi Silk double stranded, or Habu Wrapped Silk?

For the kniters who want mesh but a bit more structure, here is a more traditional short sleeved cardi.

Picture from here.

The original pattern uses a worsted weight yarn, however a slightly lighter yarn works well also. Rowan Creative Linen is definitely an option, as well as Rowan Pure Linen,  there is also Drops Bomull-Lin.

The Siesta Tee is just that – a t-shirt you can wear on many occasions. Personally, I would like it oversized, thinking that I definitely would have to wear a cami underneath. (D’uh. Mesh!!)

Picture from here.

I would go all out with the yarn on this one. It is originally knit in a DK weight yarn, but I am seeing Shibui Twig, Quince Sparriow, Habu Wrapped Merino, and Habu Tsumugi Silk with an added strand of Silk Stainless to give it body. Again, this makes for a versatile piece of clothing for summer, dress it up or down.

We have added Berroco Captiva to our range of summer yarns this year and I have found a design for you that fits into the trend of mesh.

Void by Norah Gaughan. Picture from here.

I have concentrated my search on garments, however if you feel rather like knitting an accessory, there are plenty to be found on ravelry also. Just enter ‘mesh’ or ‘net’ as keyword into your pattern search and you’ll find a large variety of designs.

Happy Knitting, as ever!

– Mona

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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.

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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

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

 

 

Take Good Care Of Your Stash

If you consider yourself a serious knitter, building a stash is unavoidable, really. I cannot explain it. It just so happens. You’ll buy yarn that you won’t use right away – and that is called ‘stash’. Granted, some stashes are larger than others and some contain only left over yarns from projects, but they all have something in common: they need to be stored.

I have yarn that I like to have on display, because I do love looking at it and it inspires me. Then there is the yarn (sweaters’ worth of yarn) that cannot be displayed in a pleasing manner and that needs to be stored or ‘stashed’ away.

Over the years I have tried several methods to store my stash. Sorting it by colours turned out to be a desaster (at least for me) because I was always looking for another colour of that particular yarn and somehow it did not make as much sense to me as I thought it would. So I have settled on sorting my stash by weight. That works well for me. It really depends on your sense of order how to arrange or organize your yarn – I do have a couple of tips, though! Most of these come from my personal experience, a lot is what I choose to do – so remember, if you have different preferences, do it however you like! 🙂

Yarn likes to breathe.

Have you ever noticed how loosely yarn is usually wound into a skein? (There are exceptions, I have to admit. I have one skein of Wollmeise Sock yarn that is so tightly wound that I am sure you can knock someone out if you had to!) This is most important for natural fibers like wool, alpaca, any animal fiber that has elasticity, actually. If you do not plan to use the yarn soon, you better leave it in skeins. If your sense of order requires the yarn to be wound, make sure you do not wind it too tightly. If you wind elastic fibers to tightly, they’ll stretch while they wait to be knitted. Now, please do not misunderstand me: this does not hurt the yarn itself, once washed it bounces right back. However, if you knit with yarn that has been stretched during storage, your gauge will change significantly after washing! If it is too tightly wound the yarn flattens out and thins during storage, knitting with that might be quite different from knitting with a properly stored yarn. Cotton, Linen and non-stretchy fibers are – if not excluded – due to their rigid nature not in too much danger of changing a lot.

However, plastic bins for storage are fine.

Yes, I know, I said yarn likes to breathe – but I explained what I meant with that, and apart from winding it too tightly, yarn stored in plastic bins will be just fine. That is what I do. Sometimes I even put the pattern together with the yarn in one of those extra large zip-loc bags. So I won’t forget what I had planned to knit with it. Plastic bins keep the dust out, so do plastic bags.

There is no SPF for yarn.

Remember that when you have yarn in your living room or any other room, come to that. If there are spots in that  room that get hit by the sun, try to avoid putting yarn there. Especially cotton and silk, but wool also if always exposed from the same side to direct sunlight, will fade – even when in a plastic bag. Your yarn will stay pretty if not exposed to direct sun light.

Avoid snags.

Are you a fan of baskets? I am. Very much so. When it comes to storing yarn, you definitely want a basket that is covered in fabric on the inside, or even plastic, if need be. If it is not, there will be snags – and they are not pretty! If there is no fabric cover to be had, make sure there are no pieces sticking out, meaning that the insides of the basket are smooth, otherwise you can damage your yarn.

Make sure you get no unwanted visitors.

Some of us do not have a big space and no generous closet or big shelf to put all of our yarn. This often means that some of the stash is relegated to the basement. To avoid getting visitors we do not want, you can put Lavender sachets in the plastic bins, cedar blocks are good for yarns that are mostly wool – and then I recommend to check every once in a while if everything is in order. (I brought some yarn from Germany when coming to the US and later Canada and learned the hard way that it doesn’t have to be moths that damage the yarn. I do not know what kind of bug it was, but my 100% wool yarn was damaged and not usable anymore.)

Revisit, revise.

Yes, I know. There are some yarns we bought years ago and we would have just such a hard time letting go. Or so we think. When I find a yarn like that, I try to find a project for it that I would really love. If I can’t find one, I usually let it go. It depends on how long it has been sitting in my stash. This is the hard part, I know. But I have also learned long since that letting go can be very liberating, and also, I make space for more, newer stash…

Happy knitting, as ever!

– Mona

Back To School

The days are still hot and summery, however you already can feel the breath of Fall in the morning air. Getting ready to leave for work you might need a light jacket to make up for the lack of warmth until the sun catches up.

I don’t know about you but our family is in the midst of preparations of going back to school – all the supplies are bought and marked with her name (very important, as you might now), and my daughter is very excited to start first grade next Thursday.

Just before the summer is truly over and we go back to the regular schedule – with classes starting up at Espace Tricot soon also, watch out for the new program to arrive soon! – I have a plethora of information for you. This time around not put together by myself, rather a link to a very useful website.

The Craft Yarn Council’s website offers such a multitude of guidelines and standards relating to the needlearts that you are most proabably going to need more than one day to get through all of them. The information about yarn weights is also available in French.

Standards are very useful to unite knitters all over the world – it is good to know that the symbol you see in a pattern chart written in English means exactly the same as the one you found in the German knitting magazine, don’t you think?

Happy Knitting, as ever!

– Mona

I Need To Talk About Yarn

If you think ‘well, that is nothing new’ you’d be right. However, yours truly has been selected to be a member of the Shibui Spark program and we are suffiently encouraged (free yarn, need I say more?) to talk about the yarns we are knitting with. And you know how much I love to talk about yarn!

Incidentally we have received a delivery of Shibui Staccato at the store last week, finally put up on the shelf this week after doing inventory at the weekend. I say incidentally because, you might have already guessed it, that is what I am knitting with – double stranded with Silk Cloud. This mix has elicited a lot of ‘oooohs’ and ‘aaaahs’ when first met at TNNA this year, it was therefore a reason we thought we just had to have the Staccato in the store, just to be able to combine it with the Silk Cloud.

Having said that, the Staccato on its own is a wonderfully soft yarn and lovely to knit with. At a fingering weight I can see a lot of shawls being knit! I have difficulty choosing just one colour, there are so many pretty ones. I am sure you’ll agree wholeheartedly once you’ve seen and touched the yarn. It is made from 70% superwash merino and 30% silk, and silk/wool blends are forever on my favourite list.

Yes, I am fully aware that I am gushing – but it is the truth and nothing but the truth. I even schlepped my knitting to the park in almost 30° C heat. If that is not love, tell me what is!

photoOh, you want to know what I am actually working on? It is the Mix 34 – a textured cowl with an entertaining pattern.

(picture from here)

Apart from the Staccato and Silk Cloud we also have the Pebble (new colours!) and Linen (I am knitting a sweater with that) in store – come check it out, I am sure you won’t regret it!

Happy Knitting, as ever!

– Mona

Those Pesky Sticks

Also called Double Pointed Needles.

As I have mentioned before, and probably more often than you might want to hear, I do love knitting socks on dpns. Love it. Can’t get enough of it.

Having said as much, when I got started I had most certainly the same issues that you have when you get started knitting with five needles at once. Well, you don’t really. You still only knit with two, the other three just hang about. And that is the issue.

The result are often extra yarn overs, weirdly twisted stitches, a hole in your finger…nah, the last one never really happened! I am not saying you cannot poke a hole with dpns, I am just saying I have never encountered my students hurting themselves like that, maybe it is only me who thought it was a good idea to sit down on the couch while not paying attention to the sock on the go and thus ramming a needle in my thigh…(It stuck, I had to pull it out. That was gross. And it hurt.)

Teaching how to knit socks on dpns has taught me a lot, also. The most important fact – and the one I am sharing today – is that the order of the needles, meaning which one is on top and which is below, is very important. In fact, it is so important that your enjoyment of knitting with dpns depends on it.

Hence this post. So let’s get to it.

If you have ever tried to knit in the round with dpns you are sure to have experienced the frustration that goes on while working on the first few rounds. All the needles seem to be in the way, the knitted fabric does not look like anything and the sticks, well the sticks seem to stick out all over and are in every which way in your way. Yeah, I feel you.

Being a Continental knitter I have figured out a system that works for me – and not surprisingly this system is going to work for you also – if you do the opposite of what I do, because most of you carry the yarn English style, meaning with your right hand.

What I am going to tell you is probably going to sound a bit confusing – once your sit down and you are doing, or actually trying it, all will become clear. (Isn’t that often the truth?)

The trick is to keep the needles in the ‘correct’ order, in this case deciding which needle is ‘under’ and which is ‘over’.

To make it easier for you to understand what I am talking about, I have put my just started sock on four different colored needles. 

IMG_9653Please pay attention to how the needles are arranged: The orange needle lies on top of the pink one where you start to knit, meaning once you start knitting the pink one will be below the orange one and hence out of the way and the chance of getting your yarn tangled around it practically non-existent. (I do the opposite. If it was me knitting, I would hold the orange needle below the pink.)

IMG_9652

When knitting, it looks like this:

(Sorry for the weird angle, it is hard to photograph this!)

IMG_9656

The most important thing is that the orange working needle in the right hand is above (here rather: behind) the pink one.

As long as you pay attention to that order, knitting with dpns will be much easier than expected, and most probably improved if you were doing it differently.

I know. Small change, big difference.

Happy knitting, as ever!

– Mona

Playing Favourites

We have a lot of nice yarn at the store (d’uh) – however, if you ask me about my favourite yarns at this time (it keeps changing, due to season, novelty, personal obsession…) I have an easy top three to offer:

1. Quince Sparrow – 100% organic linen in great colors in a fingering weight

I knit a sweater and the Harpswell Apron by Pam Allen with it and Lisa also knit a sweater and designed the cute little bag you probably saw on Melissa’s last post. We also have a shawl knit up and I am currently trolling ravelry to find something else to knit with Sparrow – I just adore it!

2. Habu Tsumugi Silk – 100% raw silk in a light fingering, almost lace weight, knit up either double stranded or single

Well, yes, my Ombre Tank design is of course on the top of that particular yarn list, then there is Paulina, our version features Tsumugi combined with Habu Silk Stainless Steel, and the Age of Brass and Steam. Not to forget Insouciant by Julie Hoover – a timeless tee for many occasions.

3. HiKoo CoBaSi – a fingering weight yarn in a mix of Cotton, Bamboo, Silk and Elasthan, to give it bounce.

Any pattern you find knit up in a finer gauge works well with this yarn – it is soft, summery and easy to knit with. I am working on a little something for my daughter and am impressed with the texture and softness of the fabric. I do not have a picture, but to feel the texture come to the store and feel up some socks!

What are your favourites for summer? ‘Cause as Melissa said, not knitting in summer just doesn’t make any sense…

Happy Knitting, as ever!

Mona