Category Archives: Knit Hack

KNIT HACK Sweater Lab Prep

 

 

Sweater Lab TONIGHT

Our inaugural Sweater Lab ( in collaboration with Your Fiber Intake) starts TONIGHT! Since it’s a bit of an experiment for us, we don’t know what the result will be, but I think everyone will have fun, so it should be a success. For those of you who have already made a sweater, you don’t really need any prep, but for the uninitiated, I’d like to offer a bit of guidance. For more info on Sweater Lab, follow this MAGIC LINK (or click on the picture or any of the other links).

So You’ve Never Made a Sweater Before ….

DON’T PANIC … You don’t need to be afraid. It’s just a garment, and the pattern tells you how to do it, step by step. When you don’t know what a term or abbreviation means you can look it up on the internet. If you are old skool, you can look it up in a book, like The Principles of Knitting by June Hemmons Hiatt, The Knitter’s Companion by Vicky Square, or The Ultimate Knitting Book by Vogue Knitting.

Choose a Pattern

You need a pattern. I suggest going for something basic, something vetted, and something worked in the round.

BASIC … seems obvious, and yet many people make their lives difficult by taking on something more involved. Why do they do this, they get caught up in the *idea* of the finished product; they want it to be perfect and ideal for their taste. Let go of that, it’s your first sweater, not your last. It doesn’t need to be ideal, it just needs to be a sweater. Moreover, I have found that people are less likely to complete their projects when they contain a lot of barriers. Newbies with simpler projects tend to learn faster, have more success with their project and ENJOY THE PROCESS.

VETTED … this means a pattern that is written by a professional designer and has already been made by many people. For the following example, I’ll use FLAX by Tin Can Knits.  You can find the latter on Ravelry; go to a pattern, and click on the PROJECTS tab at the top of the page. It will show you all the projects people have made with the pattern. If you go to the drop-down menu that ways FILTER THESE PROJECTS you can refine your search to ALL HELPFUL PROJECTS. The little life preserver at the top right of each project indicates the number of people who found this project helpful. Presently, it is not possible to sort the projects by ‘Most Helpful’, so you have to troll through the projects to find one that is useful.

IN THE ROUND … I primarily prefer sweaters worked in the round (top-down) for newbies because they usually have minimal finishing, especially seaming. For newbies, seaming tends to be a barrier to actually finishing a project, and a bad seaming job decreases satisfaction with the project. Now, I’m not saying *never* make a seamed sweater, quite the opposite, there’s nothing sexier than old-fashioned set-in sleeves. You do not need to be afraid of or avoid seaming, but on your first sweater making a project in one piece tends to end with more Joy and less frustration. This goes back to our first principle, go for Basic andENJOY THE PROCESS.

TENSION … choose a pattern that is worked with a yarn that is a worsted to chunky weight (between 20 to 14 stitches over 4 inches/10cm). Going thinner or thicker seems to make life difficult, and decreases the success of the project.

Suggested Patterns

The following are all basic garments, are written by professionals, have clear instructions, and are worked in the round, from the top-down.

 

Choose a Yarn

A few considerations on choosing the yarn for your first sweater …

TENSION … make sure your yarn matches the stitch tension in your pattern or is close (within one stitch over 4″/10cm).

DURABILITY … you may be ripping back your work a few times, DO choose a yarn that has some durability and won’t get mucky with a lot of handling. Single ply yarns do not tend to wear well, no matter the price-point, they end up looking mungy very quickly. Multi-ply yarns tend to fare better. Super scratchy wool yarns tend to be very durable, super soft yarns tend to start pilling WHILE you are knitting. My best advice is to find something in-between. By the way, durability is also beneficial once you’re finished and will add to the longevity of the garment.

FIBRE …DO choose a fibre you enjoy, but DO NOT choose a fibre that is hard to work with. A 100% wool like Cascade 220 Superwash or Cascade Eco are ideal; they work up easily, wear well, and are cost effective. Wool blends are also suitable, like Berroco Vintage or Berroco Vintage Chunky; both knit well, wear well, and are machine washable, and people are rarely allergic to it. If you need a cooler yarn, try a cotton/synthetic blend like Cascade Avalon.  Fibres that are unpredictable or hard to work with include alpaca (and other camelids), linen, pure cotton, mohair, viscose (and other cellulose plant-based fibres like bamboo), and 100% synthetic yarns.

COLOUR … choose whatever colour makes you happy (solid, heathered, tweed, variegated, self-striping), but don’t choose something that is very dark. Dark colours will make it hard to see what you are doing, and this could prove to be a very bad thing on a project where you don’t really know what to expect.

PRICE … this is a touchy subject, especially since I’m the one selling the yarn and you are the one who has to actually shell out your hard earned cash. You don’t need to lay out a ton of money for a good yarn, but when it comes to cheap yarns, you get what you pay for. Actually, you often get less than what you paid for. The retail garment industry has decreased our awareness of (and exposure to) good textiles, and as a consequence, many people aren’t familiar with quality textiles or their market prices. Quality textiles are more expensive than you expect, you’re might experience a little bit of sticker shock. From my perspective, I’ve found that people who use a decent yarn enjoy their project more, it is more successful, they actually finish it, they like and use the finished product, and they enjoy the process.

Suggested Yarns

 

I think that’s about all I can handle writing (and you can read) right now, but I promise to follow this post up with a very exciting discussion on SWATCHING! (No, seriously, it’s REALLY important. You need to swatch, and you need to swatch properly).

FREEBIE & HACKS & FINISHED Noro Striped Scarf

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Noro Striped Scarf

Yup, I did it, I made ANOTHER Noro Striped Scarf. My creative juices have been syphoned off by other tasks lately, and I just needed a project that’s simple, brainless, but also tactile and lovely. Plus I has some Noro Silk Garden in my personal stash that really, really, really needed to get used.

I used a total of 6 skeins (3 of each colourway) and my scarf is VERY long, it wraps around three times. 4 skeins will make a normal length scarf. I haven’t bothered blocking the scarf, but Noro Silk Garden always enjoys a little bath in Eucalan.

NORO STRIPE HACKS

As far as striping Noro goes, you’ve got a few options:

  1. Alternate the two colours of self-striping yarn. This is what the original pattern does.
  2. Alternate one colour of self-striping yarn by starting it at different parts of the colourway. When you do this you can guarantee that your colours will always match.
  3. Alternate a solid or semi-solid colour with a self-striping colour.

I went with option number 3, using a neutral colour that contrasts with the self-striping yarn. The neutral is Noro Silk Garden 269, so it is technically a self-striping yarn, but the colour shift is so subtle that it is barely noticeable used in this way. Cream is also a secret fix for when you can’t find the right contrast colour, it always makes the other colours ‘pop’.

By the way, you are absolutely allowed to edit the colourway. If there’s a colour in your ball that you absolutely loathe (or just modestly dislike) cut it out and move on. The same thing goes if the colours start to blend together and you lose the stripes, cut one colour and move on up to the next. Life is short, don’t be afraid to jettison recalcitrant colours!

NORO LEFTOVER HACKS

If you’ve got little bits of Noro Silk Garden left-over and possess DPN (double pointed needles) skills, they make excellent little ornaments and decorations. I made a PILE of them last year, they use about 12g of Noro Silk Garden.

Materials

  • Noro Silk Garden: 2 to 3 skeins in each of two colours (a total of 4 to 6 skeins ), we used colour 269 (cream) and a contrasting colour colourway which has been discontinued, colour 381 is the closest to what we used.
  • 4.5mm/US 7 needles
  • tapestry needle
  • FREE Pattern

 

FREEBIE & FINISHED & HACKS Manhattan Cowl

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Manhattan Cowl

I thought this cowl would make a great one-skein gift idea, so I gave it a try and I think it worked out really beautifully! I used one of my favourite bulky weight yarns, Diamond Luxury Baby Alpaca Sport, and the end result is SUPER soft and cozy! I had to make some modifications to make this project come out to it’s fullest potential, so please read the notes below before starting (and maybe print them off and keep them with your pattern instructions).

HACKS & Modifications

I made some changes to the pattern because let’s face it, you often get what you pay for with a free pattern.

  • For the ribbing, I went down to a 5mm/US8 needle for the ribbing. 2×2 rib is normally a looser tension than other stitches, and you need to go down a needle size to mitigate this and prevent the ribbing from fanning out later.
  • For the cable section, I went up to a 6.5mm/US10.5 needle, because the yarn is very fluffy and airy. If you are using a denser yarn with more definition (see suggestions below) you can stick with the prescribed 6mm/US10 needles
  • Because my yarn is big and fluffy, and has a lot of aura (haze), the cable from the original pattern was not showing up or working well, and I had to switch it out for another type of cable that would show better. I went with a simple braided cable that I was already familiar with, Chart A from Lopi Braided Hat & Mitts. It is the same number of stitches as the original cable, so I just did the new cable instead of the old. If you use a yarn with more definition (see options below), you can do either cable.
  • I worked 6 rounds of ribbing at the top and the bottom (to conserve yarn).
  • I worked 4 pattern repeats from Chart A of the Lopi Braided Hat & Mitts, and changed to the ribbing after finishing row 6 of the chart.
  • I don’t usually bother using a cable needle. Making cables without a cable hook is not a skill for the novice, but if you are feeling intrepid and are comfortable with retrieving dropped stitches and are good at ‘reading’ your stitches (recognizing where and what they are), you should definitely it give it a try, it can save you a lot of time and effort: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-6DB6WhAKvY
  • If you need to conserve yarn or change the size of the pattern, you can omit the first 4 sts of the pattern (the single rib at the start doesn’t really do much for the design). In *my project* (yours may be different), based on the total number of rounds, each stitch represents about 40 sts in the scheme of the entire pattern. Omitting 4 sts from the cast-on will give you about two extra rounds. Each cable represents 8 stitches, so you can increase or decrease the pattern in a multiple of 8 sts. If you want to modify this for a child you’ll definitely want to omit stitches, it fits an adult comfortably.

 

Materials

 

Other Yarn Options

We chose to use a fluffy, warm alpaca yarn, but you can use something firmer, which will give your cables more definition and your cowl less slouch – just use 6mm/US10 needles.

Diamond Alpaca Sport Manhattan Cowl COMBO BLOG.jpg

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FREEBIE + HACKS Paloma Cowl

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Paloma Cowl

I like simple, loose cables like this cowl; they create great texture and interest without too much effort.

Yarn Options: Super Bulky (10 to 12mm needles)

Yarn Options: Bulky (8mm needles)

Materials

HACKS

  • Because all of the yarns we’ve suggested (above) bloom beautifully, you can try pushing your needle size up to a 12mm/US17 and omit a ball of yarn.
  • The yarn suggested in the pattern is super-bulky, so expect your cowl to be too. If this is too much for you, consider substituting a slightly thinner, bulky weight yarn, and smaller (8mm/US11) needles. If this seems too narrow, add a second cable pattern repeat.
  • The pattern is knit flat and seamed in a circle, but if you want to do something more knitterly like a 3 needle bind-off or kitchener stitch, you can cast on using a provisional cast-on (casting on with scrap yarn).

FINISHED & CHART HACKS Rosebud

Donegal Soft Rosebud Hat

ROSEBUD

I really wanted to get my needles into some of our new Studio Donegal Soft Donegal, and of course it is hat season, so I decided to try a new pattern that I’ve been eyeballing for a number of years.

The pattern is Rosebud, and it worked up extremely well with the Soft Donegal! The yarn softened up and bloomed after blocking (I washed it in Eucalan and laid it flat to dry). It’s a really nice tweed, a good compromise – it has the body and most of the memory of a traditional tweed, but it’s MUCH softer.

The pattern is only written for one size, and I made the slouchy version. I found that it is a size large, it should fit a 22″ to 23″ head comfortably – the hat is much too large for my little 21″ head. If I were to do it again for my little noggin I would omit about 20 stitches from the pattern. Most of the hat is knit in a plain garter stitch, so playing with the numbers is pretty easy.

Materials

CHART HACKS

Sometimes people find working from a knitting chart a little bit hard, but there are hacks you can use to make your life easier!

  1. Sometimes the symbols all kind of look alike in the grid. To make things a bit easier to read, I colour in my chart with coloured pencils. Each symbol gets its own colour, no two are alike (I don’t bother colouring in the plain knit or purl stitches).
  2. I generally keep my chart & pattern in a plastic sleeve (I get them at an office supply store, they’re cheap and plentiful). This keeps it clean, and none of my papers get lost, banged up, or accidentally waterlogged.
  3. Keeping track of two sets of instructions at the same time can get me off track, so if I have other things to do in the pattern at a certain point in the chat, I make a note on the chart reminding me before I start. For example, If I have to start a bunch of decreases at row 37, I’ll make a little note “Dec” next to that row. This is especially useful if your other pattern instructions are on another page.
  4. To keep track of which row I am on, I use a conventional row counter, but I also use Highlighter Tape to help keep my eyes focused on the right part of the chart.

 

KNIT HACK Nuvem Needles

Nuvem

We’ve made a Nuvem for the store before (see our last Nuvem), and I thought it would be a good travel project for my holiday in California. After I wound up the skein I looked down and thought: “Oh crud, what have I done?! That is a dump-truck sized ball of skinny yarn, how am I ever going to get through it?” Well, I’m happy to report that my moment of project panic abated once I started knitting, I got used to working with the skinny yarn fairly quickly, and it was a good travel project. I’m not a laceweight kind of person, but the Wollmeise Lace has a lot of body to it and is easy to hold on to and work with. The colour is beautiful too, I choose a saturated teal blue (Neptun).

Materials

Notes

If you want to you can make a Nuvem with fingering weight yarn. To make a smaller, thicker version of the wrap, you can use about 800m of fingering weight yarn and 4mm/US6 needles.

 

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Nuvem Hack

Nuvem is a fairly simple project, there are just a few obstacles to getting it set up. The first is the cast-on, which is unusual, but not hard once you watch a video or follow a tutorial (which are included in the pattern, so not to worry, no hack needed). The second is the needle situation. The project is worked from the center out, but it’s knit in an oval, so you need to use TWO circular needles to do this. It’s the “two circulars at the same time” technique, which some people use instead of the magic loop technique. Don’t worry, it isn’t scary, when you use this method you only need to work with one needle at a time, the second is just hangin’ out, on hold. Normally people use the two circulars method to knit things with a small circumference, like a sock or a hat, and it’s easy to distinguish the two needles from each other. With a larger project like the Nuvem, it’s a bit harder to see what you are doing.

Normally people use the two circulars method to knit things with a small circumference, like a sock or a hat, and it’s easy to distinguish the two needles from each other. With a larger project like the Nuvem, it’s a bit harder to see what you are doing, and which needle is which. The pattern suggests you use two different types of needles (ie. one wood, one metal), but I don’t love this solution because I find that my tension is different on different types of needles. Additionally, you can’t take the exact size of you needles for granted, the manufacturing of each company is different. My solution was to use two sets of the same needle (Addi Click interchangeable bamboo – always great for flying) and I colour coded the needle tips. How does one colour code Knitting needle tips? Our method has to be bright, customizable, easy to see, sturdy, resilient, and also removable – I used Nail Polish.

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Life Hack: I keep a cheap collection of bright, distinct colours of nail polish around the house and/or office. Mine came from the dollar store and cost $3. They don’t have to be good polishes, you’ll never use them on your nails, and you don’t have to take special care of them, but they are extremely useful for labeling and organizing things. I am especially fond of colour coding my keys with them, and you can also write on white polish.It’s removable with nail polish remover, which can also be obtained cheaply at the dollar store or drug store. 

Blog Nuvem 3

Painting Your Needles

  • Paint your needles FIRST. Do not cast on until after you paint.
  • Use bright colours that are easy for you to distinguish from each other. I used Pink & Orange, but you might be better with a higher contrast like Green & Red, or Blue & Orange.
  • I painted on the METAL portion of the needles, not the wood (you won’t be able to remove polish from the wood without ruining the finish on the needles). If you don’t have a metal portion on your needles you can paint the plastic cord.
  • Paint on BOTH sides of the needles for maximum visibility.
  • Make sure your paint is dry before starting to cast on. Tap it and check t make sure there is no paint on your finger. If there is, wait longer.

 

Blog Nuvem 2

Ta-Da! The pink goes with the pink, and the orange goes with the orange. I have to say I’m extremely pleased with this hack; I was constantly looking to reorient myself (especially when taking my project out of the bag) and finding the other end of the needle was using was a SNAP!

KNIT HACK & FREEBIE & Store Hours

Cozy Weekend

Since we’re looking towards the Labour Day Long Weekend (how did THAT happen so fast?!) I thought it might be a good theme. This sweater is super cosy and a VERY quick knit on 10mm/US15 needles with affordably priced Cascade Lana Grande.

KNIT HACK: A Note on Ease & Thick Yarns

When choosing a size in a sweater made with a very thick yarn you should always account for a good amount of positive ease (the space between you and the sweater) for it to fit properly. This extra space sounds like it will make the garment too large, but it is actually eaten up by the thickness of the fabric itself. 4″ to 6″ of positive ease is not uncommon. Another thing to consider is that garments made with thicker yarn require space for you to move comfortably in. Looking at the finished measurements of this sweater, a 41″ bust circumference for a size small is not unheard of, especially since the style is a little oversized and casual.

Materials

  • Cascade Lana Grande: 7(8, 9, 10, 10, 11) skeins
  • 10mm/US15-29″ circular needles
  • 9mm/US13-29″ circular needles
  • 9mm/US13 double pointed needles
  • FREE Pattern

Sizes

  • S (M, L, XL, XXL, XXXL)
  • Circumference at bust: 102(112, 120, 128, 138, 152) cm or 41(45, 48, 51, 55, 61) inches

Labour Day Long Weekend Hours

We will be closed from Sept 2 to Sept 4 for the Labour Day holiday.

  • Saturday Sept 2 Closed
  • Sunday Sept 3 Closed
  • Monday Sept 4 Closed
  • Tuesday Sept 5 11am – 6pm

Return to Fall/Winter Hours

Starting September 18 We will return to our regular Fall-Winter store hours (open Sundays) and our SnB groups will return to their regular dates (Tuesday 12-4, Wednesday 5-8, Sunday 1-5).

Haley Takes a Holiday

I’m taking a week off before the fall rush hits, and Liane will be minding the store from Monday Aug 28 to Friday Sept 1, so please drop by and keep her company! We won’t be shipping anything from August 27th to September 4th, but you can still pick up your online orders in store. I’ll try and post during my R&R, but if I don’t please don’t feel abandoned, it only means I’m very busy relaxing.