Category Archives: skills

VIDEO TUTORIAL ‘Oh the Places You’ll Go’ Crochet Blanket

I’ve been working on an “Oh the Places You’ll Go” Blanket and I made up a simple hack to make the increases and rounds look beautiful and seamless! In the video I show you how to make the blanket from the start … and there’s a special treat at the end!


I’m using 6 colours of Amano Yarns Chaski – the yarn is lovely but it’s fingering weight and taking FOREVER to finish. I highly suggest using a thicker yarn than I did, the pattern uses a Worsted weight yarn and I recommend Berroco Modern Cotton (for a baby blanket you’ll need 1 skein of each of 6 colours, for a throw you’ll need two skeins of each colour, for something even larger try three skeins of each colour, and you may want/need an extra skein of yellow, that’s the colour I used the most of/ran out of first):

Other Materials

You can find the details for this project, all our other videos, and other recommended video support on our website in the main menu under VIDEO. We’ve included project ideas, links for skills, and more!

Q & A Choosing a Size (Fit & Measurement)

I received some really good questions this week after posting about Men’s sweaters, and since I love sharing I thought some of you might also want to hear the answer …

This would be my first time making a sweater and I am not sure how to measure the finished chest dimension?

1. Measuring

Great Question! We often understand how our own body relates to clothes and fit, but it’s harder with someone else, even when they are close to you. The most important place for a sweater to fit, especially for women, is in the shoulders. For women you can adjust the bust size, but you can’t change the shoulders. For men, the chest measurement is an anchor. Use a measuring tape and with a t-shirt on (or whatever the recipient will be wearing under their sweater) measure the circumference of the widest part of their chest, just under their underarms. Here is a short article about how to take a chest measurement:

Amy Herzog also has good little videos on how to measure:

If you really want to learn more about this, check out Amy Herzog’s Knit to Flatter class on Craftsy. FYI: Knitwear designers use the measurements from the charts from the Craft Yarn Council (picture below) – we’ll talk about those next.

Image: Craft Yarn Council: Standard Body Measurements/Sizing

2. Choosing a Size

Choosing the right size also involves ease. Ease is the amount of space between a sweater and the body it is on. Positive ease is extra space, so the more positive ease, the looser the garment will be. Negative ease is the lack of space between a body and the garment, so the how much the garment will be stretching around you. zero ease means the garment is the same size as the body. After measuring, you need to decide how much ease you want in your sweater; for example, in the size section a pattern might suggest the garment be worn with 2″ to 4″ of positive ease. Ease is the amount of space between a sweater and the body it is on.

You need to make an executive decision and decide how loose or tight a fit you want (see below for a Measurement Hack that can help with the decision making process). If you want a fitted look, make sure the size is around 2″ bigger than the body size you measured above. In this case, if you have a person with a 38″ chest then you may want to choose a size that’s in the 39 to 41″ range. If you want a looser fit you can choose a size with 4″ of ease. For your person above, you might go for a size in the 43 to 45″ range.

For more on ease and measuring you can go straight to the source, the Craft Yarn Council’s directives on Fit, Measurement and Size. They show you the basics of how to measure all the body parts, what different fits mean, and links to all the size charts are in the list on the right side of the screen (here’s a link to the men’s size chart).

There are a couple things to also keep in mind, that may throw a wrench in your plans

  • Different fibres behave differently, and some work better with less ease. Fibres like linen, silk, some cottons, alpaca, camel, cashmere, some superwash yarns, etc … they don’t have a lot of memory and do better with less ease. To make things more complicated, how a yarn will behave also depends on the spin and construction of the yarn.
  • The yarn you choose takes up physical space in the sweater; the thicker your yarn is, the more ease you need. 6″ of ease might be roomy with a worsted weight yarn knit on 4.5mm/US7 needles, but it’ll be closer to a classic fit with a Super-bulky weight yarn knit on 10mm/US15 needles. This is why the sizing might look a bit large in patterns designed with thick yarns.

If you’d like to read more from anothre author, check out this article from Tin Can Knits on Fit and Size and Measurement (they’re great designers, their patterns are very reliable, I recommend them frequently).

Babies & Kids Sizing Hack

By the way, the size charts from the Craft Yarn Council are EXTREMELY helpful when choosing a pattern size for babies and kids. Here’s the scenario: the child you’re knitting for is a ‘size 4’, but the pattern only gives sizes in chest measurements. So, you can check the children’s size chart, and under size 4 it lists the average chest size is 23″ (the charts give the average actual body measurements, not garment measurements). So you would want to choose a size that around 25″ to fit a size 4 child.

Measurement Hack

If you don’t have an actual body to measure, or you don’t know what kind of fit they like, try to find a sweater or sweatshirt that’s approximately the same thickness as your yarn (don’t use a thin cashmere sweater to measure for a thicker worsted weight yarn – your ease will be off). Lay the sweater out on a hard, flat surface (like a table or the floor, not the sofa), and take a measurement across the chest at the underarms. This gives you half of the full chest measurement you’ll be looking for in the pattern.

SKILLS Tension/Gauge

I’m so sorry, but I feel like it’s time for us to have ‘the talk’ …. about tension and gauge. Seasoned knitters can probably skip to the end, but over the last half year there have been a lot of new knitters coming into the fold, and they could use a little support.

What is Tension and/or Gauge?

Tension or gauge is the way knitting and crochet is measured mathematically. It represents the relationship between the size of your needles and the thickness of your yarn. It is math, and we check it to try and figure out the size and proportions of the garment we want to make. If your needles are too small in size for your yarn your tension will be too tight, the fabric will be too tight and rug-like, and the garment will come out smaller. Similarly, if your needles are too large in size for your yarn, your tension will be too loose, the textile will be too loose, open and floppy, and the size will be too large.

Why Can’t You Skip over it or Estimate it?

Primarily, tension is numbers, math, as in the bones and sinews of the universe, the laws of nature. You can’t cheat nature … well, you can try, but you will *not* like the results. An accurate tension swatch gives you the information you need to make an informed decision about how to proceed with your sweater. If your number of stitches is smaller than the one given in the pattern, your sweater will be too big, and if it is larger than theirs it will come out too small. Major bummer.

Secondarily, tension varies from person to person, everyone holds their yarn a little bit differently, so even if you are using the same yarn and needles as someone else, your work may not come out at the same tension. Furthermore, peoples’ tension can change from time to time, depending on their emotional and psychological state. Unsurprisingly, when you’re in a tense place you knit tighter, when you’re relaxed you knit looser. For example, my tension has always been fairly consistent, but after I took up meditation my tension loosened up. Another good example are my “Haley Special” sweaters – over the years I’ve made 6 iterations of the same sweater using the same yarn, pattern and needles and I’ve noticed that the tension on each is a little bit different.

Thirdly, if you want to get really niggly, the tension on balls of yarn can vary from colour to colour and dye lot to dye lot. Some times the milling process changes and the yarn is slightly different. The tension on an older ball of yarn may not be exactly the same as a more current version of itself. This doesn’t happen very often, but I’ve seen it happen.

How NOT to Measure Tension

Most people start off knitting their tension swatches incorrectly, but IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT, it’s the system! This is because knitting patterns are kind of like cooking recipes – they’re a set of directions and they assume that you already know how to do the techniques they are directing you to do. Much like a cooking recipe doesn’t teach you how to crack an egg, a knitting pattern will most likely not explain how to knit a tension swatch.

Most people learn about tension the hard way … on their first sweater. They find a pattern and the ‘yarn people’ tell them to knit a tension swatch before casting on. The pattern says the tension is “18 sts & 24 rows = 4″/10cm” in stocking stitch, and so they cast on 18 stitches and knit away. Maybe the swatch comes out 4″, and maybe it doesn’t. (I usually hear about it when it doesn’t, and that generally leads to a mini-intervention.) Unfortunately, this is NOT the correct way to measure your tension, because it doesn’t give you the accurate information you need to make sure your garment will fit.

How to Measure Tension (Properly)

Swatching is an expedition in information gathering, and you need to make sure that your recon is accurate, otherwise it isn’t going to help you.

  1. You need to make a larger piece of fabric, ideally something around 6″ x 6″. To find this number take the suggested tension of the yarn ball-band (ex. 18 sts = 4″) and multiply it by 1.5. If the yarn label gives you a number in one inch, multiply that by 6.
  2. Work your swatch in the stitch pattern described in the pattern’s gauge information. If a pattern calls for a K2P2 rib working your swatch in stocking stitch won’t give you the information you are looking for.
  3. Wash your swatch and dry it in the way you will launder the finished garment.
  4. Measure the number of stitches and rows over 4 inches/10cm on the INSIDE of the swatch. The stitch tension on the edges is wonky, try to avoid them.

Other Useful Things to Know

  • Try to swatch with the needles you expect to be knitting with. Different materials and needle lengths can result in different tensions. For example, I find I knit tighter on metal needles than I do on wood. Also, any time I use 16″ circular needles or shorter my tension tightens up, and it is not the same as when I knit on the same size, longer circumference needles.
  • If you are swatching for a garment made in the round you need to swatch in the round. This is because your knit and your purl stitches don’t have exactly the same tension. A demo of how to swatch in the round is HERE, the technique starts at 2:56.
  • Swatches are a good source of extra yarn if you need to mend your finished sweater. I often label mine, pack them up in a little ziplock bag and throw it in my sewing basket just in case.
  • I label my swatches with the pertinent information, because I will inevitably immediately forget what it is, the size needle I used, and the tension measurement. Sometimes I also take a photo and upload the details into Ravelry for potential later use (because I’ll probably misplace my swatch too).

Swatch Demo

Above is some swatching I recently completed. I wanted to know how a new yarn, Drops Melody, would knit up on different sized needles and holding multiple strands together, so I swatched it. Whenever I changed needle size I worked a purl row to differentiate the two sections.

Here’s a section of my swatch being measured. The ruler is in the centre of the piece, the green line represents 4 inches, and I tired to highlight the stitches with the yellow “V”.

Thats about all I’ve got for you for now, but in my next post I’ll share with you the projects that inspired my swatching – hint: they’re soft, fuzzy, easy, and fast!

xox Haley

Stitch ‘N Bitch: Superstar Knitting

Go Beyond the Basics $21.95

Finally, the next installment in the Stitch ‘N Bitch series is here! This time Debbie Stoller holds your hand as she takes you through a fun lesson on  the more technical and daunting techniques in knitting.  Part 1starts with colour knitting, moves into cables (which I personally think is easier than colour), then lace, embellishments,  and closes with miscellaneous useful technical stuff. Part 2 is all about designing your own pattern, starting with the basics, them moving into DIY drop shoulder sweater design, then raglan and yoke, set in sleeves, and finally teaches you about finished and estimating the amount of yarn required.

The technical illustrations, as always, are easy to understand and follow, and the little pictures illustrating the techniques as a metaphor are super cute.  I worship Debbie Stoller for her ability to write a technical book that reads like a long letter from your best friend.  Seriously, people who learn with her books have a very fast learning curve, we recommend her first book, Stitch ‘N Bitch, to all or our beginners. 

The patterns are in section 3, conveniently located at the back so it’s easy to find them.  There are some truly fun patterns, my favorites include:
  • Steeks and Stones, a fair isle skully cardigan
  • The Aquatic Life, a cute fair isle pullover with fishies (gotta love fishies!)
  • Skull Isle Socks, fair isle socks with skullies
  • Gretel Tam by Ysolda Teague, a gorgeous cabled beret (I made it a few years ago)
  • Saxon the City, thigh-high stockings with a full celtic motif up the sides
  • Beatrice Gloves, I don’t normally go in for beading, but these are like vintage, blingy Isotoners
  • Dress to Impress, an adorable baby tunic/dress using the very easy slip stitch colour technique
Even if you don’t like the projects, the books is wonderful for the instruction alone (it would make a great gift for someone who wants to move up the skills ladder). 

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