About Knitcircus

When not knitting at Little League games, Jaala can be found knitting at beloved LYS The Sow's Ear, a Madison Knitters' Guild Board meeting or her own living room. She's taught both her kids to knit, and even to make tuna sandwiches for the rest of the family, so feels pretty good. If she could only figure out how to knit while typing, she'd be golden.

Make Your Own Magic Yarn Ball

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Here at Knitcircus, we use a many-step process to create self-striping gradients that change colors effortlessly as you knit. It’s all one continuous yarn, with no knots ever! But there’s a fun and easy way to create your own special color-changing balls of yarn at home. A Magic Ball uses smaller lengths of yarn joined together to make one fun color-changing skein! Another way the term “Magic Ball” is used is to describe a yarn ball with little treats wrapped inside, so the recipient gets little gifts and surprises as they knit.

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Today, I’ll show you how to make both!

Make Your Color-Changing Magic Yarn Ball

Magic Yarn Balls are about the best stashbuster ever. The first step is to find all of those beloved balls left from previous projects, mini-skeins, even scraps a couple of feet long. It will be easiest to knit with your Magic Ball if all of your yarns are a similar weight (fingering, sport, worsted, etc). So you may want to organize by weight first, then play with color groupings you like. This should be fun, so take some time to place different colors together and see what you like. The way the colors interact may surprise you!

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organizing by color

Some tried-and-true palettes are:

warm colors: reds. purples, yellows, oranges

cool colors: blues and greens

jewel tones: deep, saturated versions of red, blue, green, teal, purple

neutrals: browns, beiges, grays, cream, undyed

rainbow: crayon-box brights

tropical: yellow, green, peach, orange, pink, magenta

earth tones: browns, grays, deep greens, pale blues

Once you have your yarns and colors, start joining them together to make your Magic Ball! I like to vary the lengths so it’s a surprise, but you can also have fun by making all of the yarns the same length (say, 5 yards) to create stripes for planned pooling projects, etc. Just start winding your yarns onto a ball-winder or wind by hand (if you want to put treats inside, read the section on Adding Treats before you start winding). To make your yarn ball look extra special, you can wind each section going in a different direction, as Susan B. Anderson describes in her Everlasting Yarn Balls video tutorial.

Fancy Joins

You can use an overhand, square knot or whatever you usually use for knotting when knitting to join your lengths of yarn together. If you want to get fancy and make your ball knot-free, here are some techniques to try.

Spit Splicing: This joining method works well on yarns with some felting potential. It probably won’t work as well on superwash or synthetic fibers. Originally done by using spit and rubbing the two yarn ends together in the hands to felt them together, it can be done with plain water as well. :) Very Pink Knits has a video tutorial on Spit Splicing here.

Russian Join: If you want to make near-seamless transitions in your Magic Ball, you can use the Russian Join method shown in the Knitting Any Way tutorial here. This takes significantly more time than simple knotting, so recommended for a yarn with relatively few changes.

Adding Treats

You can make a Magic Gift Ball by using any existing yarn and re-winding it so that surprises are hidden inside. Carla Krantz has a great Pinterest board with different ideas. You can take small objects and wrap them almost invisibly inside the yarn, or make wrapped packages so many that the yarn can barely contain them! If you’re winding up your magic Joined Ball, you can add the treats as you go.

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Some examples of knitting-related treats are shown here, but of course, you can tailor your special ball to the passions of the intended recipient. A good strategy is to wind the ball around the largest gift, adding the others as you go.

Note: lots of people add things like teabags, small figurines, etc to their yarn balls; your imagination is the limit! But don’t add perishable food items, especially things like chocolate, that can melt. Your friend in California may be very sad when she gets the now-sticky yarn you sent from frozen Nunavut.

You can also decorate your yarn ball with easily-removable pins, buttons, ribbons and other treats for a delightful presentation. Ellen Bloom made this adorable one for the book Knitalong:

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Making Magic Balls is a fun and creative way to make something one-of-a-kind and usable out of those special small amounts of yarn in your stash. If you make some, please let us know in the Knitcircus Ravelry Group so we can ooh and ahh!

Have a great weekend,

Jaala

Cables and Lace Video, New Colors and Mitts

Hi, Knitters,

It’s getting cold here, tea-drinkin’, stew-makin’, bundle-up cold. I’ve got a hot mug of Chai Spice tea  on my desk as I write. As you know, this is the time when handknits come in handy…

Aran Lace Video

I’ve been a little obsessed with cables and lace lately (for about the last two years). An expert at combining these two techniques is  designer, teacher and tech editor and my friend, Stephannie Tallent. Stephannie has a new video out from Interweave Knits unfolding all kinds of useful tips for combining these two knitterly techniques: Aran Lace Knitting.

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In a step-by-step format, Stephannie explains and demonstrates techniques like using a cable and/or lace chart, picking the right yarns for showing off your lacy cables, using a cable needle, cabling without a cable needle, swatching, blocking, and all kinds of other techniques to keep you on top of beautiful charted patterns like the one below.

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The video also includes a pattern for a gorgeous cables-and-lace cowl. Stephannie really knows her stuff, and this video is definitely a winner!

Aran Lace Giveaway

One lucky reader can receive this video for their very own. Just leave a comment telling us which of Stephannie’s beautiful patterns you would knit first! Giveaway runs through Monday evening.

Gradient Eye Candy

Wow, how exciting! Jess/Frecklegirl on Ravelry put together a Gradient-themed Community Eye Candy page and our yarn is featured!!!!!!! See the adorable pink baby dress? Talented knitter Greenfiber made her Mia’s Dress out of our Wild Rose Corriedale Sock yarn.

Ravelry Gradients Page

What an honor. Everything on the page looked gorgeous! Thanks so much, Jess!!!!!!

New Gradient Stripe Socks Colors

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Speaking of thanks, a million to the wonderful Susan B Anderson for hosting a Gradient Stripes giveaway on her blog! She sent a lot of new customers our way and we’re very grateful. Check it out, because right now, you have a chance to win some Manos yarns on her blog! Susie was the very first to knit with the Tropical Sunset colorway (above) and it’s officially released now!

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The next new yarn is Blue Skies Ahead, an optimistic mix of cloudless white and saturated blue.

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We’re excited to present the next in the House Colors series: Cunning Folk, representing Slytherin with pure silver-gray to aristocratic emerald green.

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Last, but certainly not least, Brew Crew! The sunny yellow and cheerful blue works for many school colors, but for a Wisconsin baseball fan, they have to represent the Milwaukee Brewers.

If you’ve ordered Gradient Stripes yarn, we’re making many of them every day, so you should get it soon! If you’ve already got your stripes in hand, please do join us in the Knitcircus Ravelry Group for a Gradient Stripes KAL! (Don’t worry, you can use the original Matching Socks sets too).

I had gotten half of a sock done, then I was leafing through a magazine and saw some lustworthy striped armwarmers. My DH, looking over my shoulder, remarked,”You could make some of those.”

He was right! I could make some just as stripy with the new Gradient Stripes yarn! So I have frogged the sock and re-started a pair of Gothy Gauntlets. I can’t wait to see how they turn out, and I’ll post progress pics in the KAL group.

Happy knitting,

Jaala

Podcast #51: Castle TV Show Fan Podcast

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Amy is back from Ireland, and Jaala has an exciting yarn announcement!

Mentioned this episode:

Listen on Libsyn or iTunes.

New Stripes, New Shop, New KAL

Wow, Knitters,

I’ve got so much that’s new and exciting to share with you! it’s hard to know where to start.

New Shop

First, and very big news to us: we have our own Knitcircus Yarns web store now! You can purchase 100g Gradients, 150g Gradients, Matching Socks Sets and Gradient Stripes Socks right from our site now. Whooo! Big props to Webmistress Cindy for her hard work getting it all prepared for you.

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New Stripes

The new Gradient Stripes socks are flying off of our virtual shelves, and I’m dyeing them up as quickly as I can so that you can start playing with them! We sent many, many packages out the door in the last two days, so if you live nearby, you may have your sock sets in hand soon! More are heading out today because we really want you to be able to knit with them.

New Knitalong

We can’t wait to see what you’re knitting, so we’ve started a KAL in the Knitcircus Group to bring everyone together to share and enjoy progress on their Gradient Stripes socks. We’ll have weekly prizes and surprises, and Webmistress Cindy is putting together a list of good sock patterns to use. Just post progress pics in the progress thread to be eligible to win! Note: if you would like to work the KAL with original Matching Socks Sets gradients, of course you can!

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Webmistress Cindy has already knitted most of her first sock! She knits fast. She’s using a prototype for the Sand Castle colorway that has a little less contrast in the blue section than the for-sale colorway will.

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Susie Anderson’s finished sock so intrigued me that I wanted to try the Tropical Sunset colorway for myself.

Gradient Stripes Giveaway!

Speaking of Susan B Anderson, she’s doing a fun giveaway on her blog right now, in fact, two giveaways for the new Gradient Stripes Socks! She talks about the yarns and shows her finished sock on her video podcast, and has a really creative idea for the giveaways. It’s so fun that she’s doing videocasts now, because Susie’s personality just shines and she’s one of the dearest people I know. I’m so lucky to live near her, but now knitters in far-flung places get to be charmed by her, too!

Bye, Bye, Baseball

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In kid news, Lil Buddy’s fall baseball season wrapped up; unfortunately, he hurt his hand right before the last day of play, but still had a blast with his fall tournament team. What a talented and fun bunch of kids.The World Series starts next week, so that will be the last hurrah. I can’t wait to make the traditional homemade caramel corn….

It warms the cockles of my heart that he still wears my handknits in public; above he’s sporting two-years-ago’s Gryffindor hat. :) Belle has a new hat, a variation on the Valentina I made for her last year, but I haven’t gotten to snap a pic yet.

Happy Friday Pet Pics

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Of course, I couldn’t have a blog post without including some cute pet pics! Sasha and Squeak are good friends and enjoy napping together when they’ve worn themselves out chasing and play-fighting.

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Buppa purchased an early holiday present for Lil Buddy; new ski boots! And Squeak got the box.

Podcast #50

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Today Jaala and Amy reveal their experiences with the dogs in their lives.

Tips for publishing patterns:

  • get a tech editor and a test knitter
  • for paid patterns, write multiple sizes
  • have kids model patterns for kids
  • photography tips: use outdoor lighting and have multiple images, highlighting construction and stitch patterns, making mood shots for extra credit
  • use Ravelry, Craftsy, or Patternfish to sell your yarns
  • look at magazine standards to develop style guides
  • look at established designers for pattern writing direction and what information to include

Mentioned in this episode:

Listen on Libsyn or iTunes.

Announcing: Gradient Stripes Sock Yarns!

Hi, Knitters,

Have I got some big news to share with you! We’ve been working on this for weeks and weeks and finally get to tell you about our brand-new Gradient Stripes Sock Yarns!

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Mulberry Street Gradient Stripe; photo by Elizabeth Morrison

Sock knitters have told us that they really enjoy our long-striping Matching Socks gradients, but they wished for something that would move along a little faster, so we listened. We’ve developed a unique dyeing process to bring you the enjoyment of long-striping gradients paired with short, fun-to-knit stripes. Sock knitters asked for a gradient sock with shorter stripes, and we’ve delivered!

Our office manager, Chris, identified a new approach to dyeing and with many different experiments, I figured out how to make it work. The main color of the sock will slowly change as you knit, from almost completely one color to almost completely another.

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Come What May Gradient Stripe; photo: Elizabeth Morrison

We’re really excited about this, and are pretty sure we’re the only ones offering a sock that both stripes every few rows and changes color over the life of the project. The yarn does it all for you; no having to change yarns or weave in ends or slipping stitches at the beginning of the round.

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photo: Elizabeth Morrison

Of course, so many ideas started hopping around in my head like little chicks as soon as we got the technique in place, because the new medium allows me to present highly contrasting colors and play with just a few shades as well as subtle shifts between many colors as in our usual Matching Socks Sets.

Just like our original Matching Socks sets, all of the Gradient Stripe Sock Sets come as two separate 50-gram cakes, already wound and ready to use. Just like their counterparts, every single stitch and stripe will be mirrored exactly in both socks. We’re offering them in our two most popular fingering yarn bases, Opulence (Merino/nylon/cashmere, 420 yards in the set) and Greatest of Ease, (Merino/nylon, 400 yards in the set).

Now, to introduce the colors!

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Andromeda Gradient Stripe; photo: Elizabeth Morrison

The Andromeda Gradient Stripe sock above translates the popular Andromeda colorway from the Corrina shawl into a gradient stripe. The smaller stripes slowly and subtly shift from sapphire blue to lake blue and end with a teal green. As we ramp up the Gradient Socks over the next few weeks, we’ll offer interpretations of all of our regular repeatable colorways.

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Candy Cane Gradient Stripe; photo: Elizabeth Morrison

The Candy Cane stripe was one of the first ones I tried. Last year around holiday time, I really wanted to make a candy-striped sock, but didn’t succeed; now my peppermint-sock dreams came true!

It doesn’t have to be Christmas-related; the color works very well as a team color, too; of course, in Madison, Wisconsin, the UW colors are red and white. So this one also looks very much like Go, Bucky to me. As more colors roll out, we’ll showcase lots of different team colors so you can make socks to cheer on your favorite school or pro ball team.

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The Great Pumpkin Gradient Stripe; photo: Elizabeth Morrison

The Great Pumpkin was lots of fun to dye, with such deep, contrasting colors. There’s just enough time to work these up before Halloween, and they make great team colors all year round (the Sow’s Ear’s town, Verona, sports orange and black).

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Hummingbird Gradient Stripe; photo: Elizabeth Morrison

Hummingbird is a fun one, and perfectly autumn-toned. The stripes work their way from moss green to steel blue to a deep plum.

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Mr. Tumnus Gradient Stripe; photo: Elizabeth Morrison

If you prefer subtlety or want to knit for a fashion-shy man, Mr. Tumnus will do the job perfectly; the stripes keep your knitting flying along, but the finished product looks nicely understated.

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Just and Loyal Gradient Stripe; photo: Elizabeth Morrison

Our next color isn’t understated at all! Just and Loyal is the first in our line of Harry Potter Hogwarts-house-inspired socks. We can’t wait until the others are ready for you!

Just and Loyal also works great to put  zip in your day if you simply like bumblebees or the fun of a high-contrast stripe.

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Mulberry Street Gradient Stripe; photo: Elizabeth Morrison

Our headliner and a very pleasing colorway to knit: Mulberry Street. Mulberry Street features a pink-red changing to Cabernet and then a gorgeous, saturated blue. Inspired by one of my favorite books as a kid; we had a mulberry tree in our yard growing up, and I always thought that Dr. Suess must have known about that. Knitting these stripes will definitely remind you of the magical possibilities all around if you  “keep your eyelids up, and see what you can see.”

Knitalong

We can’t wait to see what you knit with the Gradient Stripes, so we’re hosting a Gradient Stripes Knitalong in the Knitcircus Ravelry group. The KAL thread is open now, and you can start as soon as you receive Gradient Stripes to knit with! I’ll be dyeing them as fast as I can to get you started. :) We’ll be talking about different toe-up and cuff-down patterns that work well with striping yarns. And, of course, there will be weekly prizes and surprises.

I’m so excited to finally get to share our new yarn line with you, and hope you’ll enjoy knitting with Gradient Stripes as much as I enjoy creating them!

Have a lovely weekend,

Jaala

I Love Yarn Day, Kung Fu Knits and Secret Yarn

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I Love Yarn Day is this Friday! As part of the Yarn Group with TNNA, we’ve been looking forward to this for months. And we’ve got a big, big announcement coming out this Friday, so stay tuned. Here’s a spoiler: it has to do with a new kind of yarn and a totally unique dyeing process.

If you check out the I Love Yarn Day Facebook page, there’s a contest and all kinds of other events going on, including yarny Flash Mobs. (local knitters: do we have one? It seems like the Sow’s Ear might cook something up…)

Kung Fu Knits

As the mom of a sixth-grade boy, I know how hard it is to both knit for, and find great patterns for, kids this age. My son recently requested a hat; plain. And black. I talked him into a gray-to-black gradient, but it was a tough sell. Designer and Dark Matter Knits podcaster Elizabeth Green Musselman specializes in high-quality knits for men and boys. I love her men’s Dawson sweater, boys’ Langstroth (from the Cuteboysezwhat e-book)  and the super-fun Frankenfingers mitts. My daughter and I would both wear those in a hot second.

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photo: Cooperative Press

Elizabeth has written a new pattern collection, Kung Fu Knits, which ingeniously combines comics and martial-arts-themed knitting patterns for kids. The official synopsis:

It’s a familiar scenario: it’s freezing outside, and a nine-year-old boy wants to go out to play. His mother keeps piling him into more and more knitwear. Groaning ensues. Until that glorious moment when the boy realizes that knitting just might save the day.

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photo: Elizabeth Green Musselman

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photo: Elizabeth Green Musselman

Author Elizabeth Green Musselman says: The book is aimed particularly at boys aged 4–12 and the poor people who try to knit for them. It can be so hard to get kids this age to wear handknits.The comic book storyline at the beginning ties knitting into one boy’s martial arts adventure in the backyard. His mom just wants him to be warm, but these knits are also the tools for pure fun.

Knitted nunchuks! And throwing stars! A backpack to carry them in! And an entire kung fu uniform. (My son has declared these The Most Comfortable Pants Ever, and refuses to take them off when it’s cool out.)

The illustrations are by a local artist / kung fu teacher. All projects use Berroco Vintage.

The martial artist in our family is my daughter, and she would definitely wear every one of these garments, because she loves to be warm and comfortable. I can also totally see my five-year-old nephew rocking the adventurous outfit and knitted nunchucks.

You can order the Kung Fu Knits collection from Cooperative Press as either a print book or downloadable pdf.

Sasha’s New Look

We took Sasha to a real groomer, Tabby and Jacks, where they gently and patiently clipped her with scissors because the clipper panicked her.

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Now we can see her little face, instead of just a big pompon. I have to admit, I did love the big puff, but she can actually see what she’s doing now.

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What she’s doing now is napping. ;)

Oh, local knitters, The Knitting Tree is celebrating its Grand Opening tomorrow afternoon! They’ll have cheese and snacks and a chance to win prizes from 4-6pm. If you haven’t seen the beautiful new space, it’s definitely worth stopping.

Have a lovely Tuesday, knitters!