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Sweater Inspiration

Alto DK weight yarn

Have you started your Rhinebeck sweater yet? If not, think about using this wonderful yarn for your next sweater. It is our Alto. The yarn is DK weight and is a blend of superwash BFL wool and silk. It is very shiny and it has a wonderful drape. You can find it in our webstore.

This sweater was knit with Alto in the Lightning colorway. It was designed by Corrine Walcher of Gingyknits. It is great to wear. It is so soft and has a great drape-y hand. There is a cabled lace on the side seams and down the sleeves. The pattern is available here on Ravelry. It is called The Land of Silver Birch.

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Advice for the Slowest Knitter in the World

Socks from sock blank
Knitting Advice Taken

I consider myself the slowest knitter in the world. When I say this, others say I can’t possibly be the slowest because they are. 

I do “throw” my yarn in the English way and that is slower than “picking” your yarn in the Continental way.

But I also have a pair of socks that’s been on the needles for over 2 years and another that I cast on maybe 6-8 months ago and I have about 2 inches of the cuff knit so far.  I have a tank top that I started a year ago. That tank is nearly complete. I am at the neck on the front. I have so little left.  But I haven’t picked it up for several weeks. 

My knitting mentor, Ellen, is perhaps the fastest and most prolific fiber artist I know. Several years ago, when I was marveling at her production, she gave me this advice: Knit (substitute spin, crochet, draw, paint, etc) 10 minutes every day. You can find 10 minutes and each day that work of art will come into being.  10 minutes a day. I can do that.

Slow, Slow Socks

Her second piece of advice was that you can knit anywhere. You can knit in line at the DMV. You can knit while you are in the bleachers of your child’s sports game or practice. You can knit on vacation. You can knit in the car….but not while driving! You can knit in the dental or medical office while waiting for the doctor to see you. Do you think that would work for you? I do. That will be my goal for the week. I hope you’ll let me know how it works for you.

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Is it Too Hot to Knit?

I hear all the time from people who can’t think about knitting in the summer time. Have you heard this too?  Maybe it’s just me and maybe it’s just my job, but I knit when it’s cold and I knit when it’s hot. But I don’t knit outside, in fact I don’t do much outside in the summers of Maryland. It’s been really hot and muggy here during summertime. It is hard to breathe when you’re outside. And there are gnats and mosquitoes. Sounds great right?

Knitting at the library during a presentation

Instead I stay inside and I will watch a movie or binge watch a TV series. And I find other places out in the “wild” where I can knit. The local coffee bar, my library branch, at the doctor’s or vet’s offices, at a restaurant. So even if you don’t have air conditioning, there are places you can go to get a little knitting done.

Knitting at a restaurants while waiting for our orders.

Why? Because my good friend Ellen once told me her secret to high knitting production and this is it: Knit a little bit every day. Knit for 10 minutes. Knit while you’re in line at the MVA. Knit during a staff meeting. If you knit a little every day, you will be finished with your sock, hat or sweater rather soon. If your project just sits in your knitting bag or your yarn bowl, it isn’t getting finished.

So in the past few weeks, I’ve been out knitting in public, mostly at the vet office because Chester is having chemotherapy.  I have had some great conversations with people because I had my knitting out.  People are curious and people have questions or reminiscences about their grammy or aunty.  I know that sometimes this can be annoying….I just want to knit in peace. It also brings up a feeling of community.  That has been a bright ray in the midst of an otherwise dreadful day.

Knitting at the vet office

So my advice to you is to go out and knit in public, even if it isn’t the official knit in public day. You will get make more progress on your projects and maybe you’ll have a good conversation with someone new.  Let me know where you are knitting and how it’s going!

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Sock Blanks: What Are They? Why Would I Use Them?

Hot Fuschia Sock Blank

Let’s talk about sock blanks.

What are they?  A sock blank is a pre-knit fabric that is then used in an entirely different way than it’s first rendition.  It is not a sock. It is not in the shape of a sock. It is a rectangular shape.  Does that make sense?

Why are they call “sock blanks”? I think this name was originally coined by the manufacturers of these fabrics.  They were made with sock weight yarn for the hand dyer to dye, paint, or print onto.  And there simply hasn’t been a change in name and really there should be. I think there would be less confusion that way.

How do they come? There are “double” sock blanks and “single” sock blanks.  Doubles are made with 2 threads in each stitch. Singles have just 1 thread in each stitch.

What can I do with a double? With a double you can knit Two at a Time socks. This way you will get matching socks. You can also just reknit the blank, holding the yarn double to make a cowl or scarf.  If you don’t know how to make socks TAAT,  then you can knit with one of the threads and you will ball up the other one as you go along.  And if you do this you can make socks, scarves or shawls with the single thread.

What can I do with a single? You can reknit this fabric into anything you desire; a cowl, scarf, shawl or even a cardigan.

How do I work with the blank? There is a “live” end that unravels and the cast on edge that doesn’t unravel.  So work from the live end. Unravel the stitches as you knit your new garment.

Why would I do this? I hate to rip out knitting!  Well the fun part about knitting with sock blanks is that it is a mystery. Your finished product will NOT look like the original.  If the sock is dyed in a gradient fashion, it will stay a gradient but will have some striping in it. If it is printed or dyed with a pattern, that pattern will not be maintained.  You will have a more spreckled, freckled look to your finished product.  What I love about these fabrics is that as I knit, the new fabric is coming into focus. It is becoming its own new fabric. This mysterious nature keeps me knitting.  I want to see what will happen next.

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Correcting Mistakes

Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again,

this time more intelligently.

Henry Ford

It was brought to my attention that one of our patterns had a couple of flaws in it. Thanks Anja! That pattern has been out in the world for a couple of years. I wonder why I’m only hearing about it now. I hope people have it in the knitting queue, rather than in their trash heap.  I’m so glad that I was able to find out about the error and fix it.

I left out a stitch in 2 rows. An incorrect number of stitches is a fatal error. The cowl would get smaller and smaller. Not a great design for a cowl, right? Now it has been fixed.   And it is ready to be released out into the world.  

Click here for revised pattern for Rivulet Cowl. Yes, even if you don’t already own that pattern, you can click too and get a fun cowl pattern to knit. Think of it as a great Valentine’s gift!

  Click here to buy Zephyrette, our exclusive luscious blend of alpaca, silk and cashmere, for this pattern. 

 

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What’s Your Preference? Cowl or Scarf?

I am a cowl girl. Yes, I spelled it right.  I prefer cowls over scarves.

Collection of cowls made in Zephyrette

Where does that preference come from? As a weaver, I made a TON of scarves. They are linear. They are finite. They are fun. They can show off your dyeing, your yarn choice and your skill at a weave structure.  But they fall off. They are always slipping to one side or the other. They are like snakes in the way that they can just slide off your neck and the next thing you know they are on the floor, under your seat, around the corner you just turned.  

Handwoven scarves

Cowls are like close friends. They envelop you. They warm you. They comfort you. Some may say that they can strangle you or be too cloying.  But I think they are the best.

And I like to knit in the round. I prefer it actually to the monotonous back and forth, back and forth that knitting flat requires.  Even when knitting flat, I use circular needles. They are comforting. They seem more secure to me. Not once have I lost stitches off the end of a circular needle.  So for all those reasons I’m a cowl girl.

What about you? Cowl or scarf? What is your preference? 

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Is swatching a dirty word?

Do you do it? Or do you just dive right into a project?

Newest swatch for handspun sweater made with BFLXCormo lamb fleeces

As many of you know, I started this journey as a weaver.  How closely you set your threads is the key to getting the fabric that you want.  And once you know that you can build the rest of your calculations and get your yarn on the loom.  But knitting isn’t quite like that is it?  Most of us try to match the yarn in the pattern and if that yarn isn’t available in your collection or in your yarn store? What then? Some of my friends, and you know who you are dive right in with enthusiasm and the dream of a great new garment, but as they knit they realize, hey this is just too big or this is just too small.  A shawl, a cowl or a scarf can be very forgiving. They don’t have to be a particular size.  But what if you want to make gloves, mittens, socks or a sweater, fit does matter.  

I’ve been having yarn spun for me for several years now. And one thing I know for sure is that a small mill spun yarn is very hard to get spun in those classic sizes of DK or worsted or sport. I can get a yarn that is on the line between DK and worsted. I can get a yarn that is between sport and fingering.  So how are you supposed to use these yarns to make a published pattern?

You need to swatch! And you need to swatch any particular stitches that are in your pattern.  If your sweater has a cable, swatch it. If your sweater is in a basket stitch or a double moss stitch, swatch it.  What I hear people saying is, it takes time!! It takes extra yarn!! And you may be perfectly lucky and your garment may turn out the right size and shape without it. But what if it doesn’t? Then how much time have your wasted? How much material have your wasted? Will you rip it out or will you just set it aside in disgust?  

Here is my current long term project. I want to make my first handspun sweater.  I have a pattern in mind. It is a cardigan. It has double moss stitch as the body and the sleeves are cabled.  I am using 2 lamb fleeces from my Blue Faced Leicester/Cormo crossed ewes.  And I need to figure out if I want a 2 or 3 ply yarn.  So I need to sample the yarn AND the sweater.  And I need to determine the best way to process this fleece, whther to card or comb.  This past Crafternoon, I knit my swatch out of 3 ply. I was also able to really get a grip on how to spin these fleeces to minimize the noils and bits of chaff. I am combing the wool and then spinning off the combs.

Fleece on the combs ready to be spun

And as you can see, the resulting yarn (on the right) is turning out more lustrous and smooth than the carded yarn on the left. 

left side is carded fleece and right side is combed fleece

So please, spend the time to swatch. You will be a happier knitter.   
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The Health and Wellness Benefits of Knitting and Crochet

colorwork mittens

It’s a proven fact. There is research. Yes, knitting and crochet does in fact enhance your health and well being.  I know that when I am feeling low and tired, but still feel the need to “do” something, I take out my project bag and knit a few stitches or rows or repeats. I also take my knitting to meetings. Keeping my hands busy with knitting does keep my mind focused on during this meeting.  Thankfully my boss is not bothered by this, in fact she does put out crafts and fiddles to keep hands busy and minds available for learning.  I do have to say that I usually take “brainless” knitting that I can do without following a chart or thinking too much about what is being made. 

I’ve noticed an uptick in the number of women, children and men who are knitting and crocheting, especially in the age range from 25-35. We even had a young man (13?) search us out at 3 fiber festivals this fall to buy yarn and roving. I can’t wait to see what he makes with his collection. So you can imagin how really happy I am to see a great article and a new book on the subject. 

 

Here is what I’ve learned so far:

  • Repetitive motion induces a kind of relaxed state that is similar to the deep relaxation you feel after meditation or yoga
  • Knitting and crochet, after learned, will decrease your heart rate and blood pressure.  It also reduces your level of cortisol, which is the hormone that gets released when you are under stress. 
  • Studies are now showing that knitting and crocheting may reduce your chances of suffering from dementia. 
  • An added benefit is that you are making tangible object so that your feelings of self esteem and accomplishment are increased.  
  • Knitting and crochet are now being used in therapy programs for eating disorders and smoking cessation. These therapies work because of the relaxation and because your mind is focusing on something other than your addiction.  
  • Knitting and crochet groups are popping up all around as the number of fiber crafters goes up. The benefit of adding social interaction while knitting is another added benefit.
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Yarn Weights and Measures: What Do They All Mean?

grist1
I’ve been thinking a lot about what all those ways that yarn manufacturers, including myself, categorize the yarn.  There are so many ways of speaking about the size of the yarn. The standard yarn weight information is set up in a table with discreet squares. But I’ve been studying this lately and I’ve noticed that there is overlap,  a lot of overlap among the yarn weights. So it seems to me that this is really a continuum. Just look at the info about YPP, yards per pound, the overlap here is really large. Why is that? It has to do with the spinning process.

yarn weights

Was it spun in a woolen way with lots of air and softly spongy and so it has a bigger diameter? Or was it spun in a worsted way which compacts the fibers and aligns them all in one direction and so it appears thinnner. These two yarns could have the same YPP but a different grist or appearance and they will behave very differently. So use these as a guide, but the ultimate test is your own swatch. These two yarns were both supposed to be a DK weight. But the diameter is SOOOOO different. They knit up differently too. The green one knits like a lace weight yarn. It is our Heritage BFL yarn. And the turquoise yarn is Fingal’s and truly knits like a DK yarn. It is also made with BFL wool and both were made at the same mill.  Go figure!!

grist2

This really comes into play when you are wanting to make that special sweater. You are wanting to use yarn from your stash, not go out and buy the yarn that the designer used. Or maybe that yarn isn’t available anywhere near you. This is when those standard yarn weights become important. And even more important than that, is to knit up a swatch. Not only a stockinette swatch but also a swatch in pattern.

 

But is a swatch important when it is for a garment that doesn’t fit your body, like a shawl or a cowl? Well, I think getting the gauge close is important so that the stitches look the same. You may not need to get it “exactly” right if it isn’t going to “fit” your body. What is important to do is to check the size of the finished project, because many times the photographs used in the pattern, may be on a mannequin and not a person. It may be made for an extremely small or large person, someone whose body is vastly different than yours.  Sometimes making a swatch seems like wasting your time and a waste of yarn. You will probably only need 25-50 yards for a swatch. It will reduce the chance that you would need to frog your project.  I think it is important to make sure that the stitches look right. You may be a looser knitter than the designer or vice versa. So changing your needle size will be just what you need to get your swatch to look like the picture. Those are important questions to answer and it is worth the time to figure this out before you jump into your garment.