Bahamas and Back Again

More notes from the Bahamas!

Internet faded in and out, but I did take advantage of my free time to check out StitchMaps, the new charting site developed by tech editor and author of Charts Made Simple, JC Briar. In the world of charting, it’s a revolutionary idea,where the stitches actually change the direction of the knitted fabric like they do in real life. Look at the beloved Feather and Fan chart in StitchMaps format! I joined and am excited to be able to use some StitchMaps for a couple of upcoming patterns, where I think they’ll really make the stitches easier to understand.


photo: jcbriar for StitchMaps

 A Bit of the BahamasIMG_2495[1]

…And then there were the shoes. I’m a practical, Midwestern gal most of the time, and my list of summer shoes stops at #2, but the sensible Land’s End ones I’d purchased for the trip gave me instant blisters. Mike lost his glasses in a big wave, and they don’t just make him look distinguished, they help him see everything beyond his arm’s reach, so we took a scenic trip to the optician.

It just happened to be near a store with a shoe sale. I wanted to find something that we couldn’t get at home, an island shoe, and the prices were well within range. Something about the shiny and the strappy really got to me. Maybe Tim Gunn would mention the taste level, and truth be told, they gave me more grief than the first ones. I had to tape the straps and band-aid my toes to wear them, but I didn’t care, because these plastic, shiny, glittery shoes captured my shoe heart. Such was my lurve for them. I’m wearing them even today, when the Wisconsin temperature gets up to a balmy 66 degrees F.

Back at Home

Speaking of balmy weather, let’s talk about what won’t be: Opening Weekend for the local Little League baseball season. Little Buddy’s home opener on Sunday is expected to be forties and (hopefully not) rainy. I’m putting my podcast experience to use as the announcer for the game. (Haven’t told Little Buddy this yet, but I’ll need to give him some time to get over the embarrassment). Cross your fingers the rain holds off so we can cheer on our fave Boys of Summer!


photo: west madison little league

In the Lair: Custom Orders!


eat, pray, knit

Chris was busy while I was gone, and thank goodness for her keeping track of orders and getting yarn ready for dyeing! If you placed a Come What May order, you can be sure it’ll be dyed up within the next couple of days, and look for the rest of the Gradient Club packages next week before we leave for TNNA!



maple leaves

She’s also been busy listing things in the store, including a brand-new Dyed-to-Order option for many of our most popular colors! Choose your set (Matching Socks or single gradient) and your yarn base and we’ll dye it up for you!



mermaid lagoon

I’m also working on developing a couple of new gradients that we’re pretty excited about and looking forward to sharing them with you soon!

Hope everyone is enjoying the spring and that you’re seeing green and growing things,








Finished Objects and a Travelling Circus

Hi, Knitters,

Super Sewing Winners

Thanks  to everyone who entered the Sewing Giveaway! The winners are: Mollie Make Woodland Friends: Valerie, 50 Pincushions: Nancy, and Super Stitches: Carmen. The lucky winners have been notified.

Finished Objects

Spending so much time dyeing up yarn has cut into my knitting time! Not that I’m sad about that, but it doesn’t give me time to knit so many projects, and we wanted to see how the yarn behaved in some popular patterns. Generous knitters from the Knitcircus Ravelry Group volunteered to knit up some patterns with Knitcircus Yarns and we’re so grateful that they did! Check out this lovely FO Gallery.


Orange Flower Yarn’s Brass and Steam, worked by Kristahyde on Ravelry; she spurred us to create the gradient Brass and Steam, which is now one of our regular repeatable colorways. Thanks so much, Krista!


Magrathea, by Martina Behm

Designer Martina Behm has given us so many wonderful shawl projects! Here’s Magrathea knitted by Lindaran on Ravelry, using a skein of Thrilling in the Lemon Meringue colorway.



More Martina Behm, with Hitchhiker, by Bassoongrlspam, in a Khione double gradient.



And a third Behm: Leftie, by knotjusthats, in the Fashion Week gradient with undyed yarn for contrast.



Monkey Socks, by Somesylvie, pattern by the delightful Cookie A. This knitter worked the Matching Socks Set in color Eat, Pray, Knit, from opposite ends!


Travelling Knitcircus

Knitcircus Yarns’ Business Manager, Chris, has been keeping track of your orders lately. Her curious mind wanted to know where the yarn is travelling, so she made this fun map of where all of you wonderful Knitcircus Yarns fans live. Here she is:

Hi everyone!

It’s been about a month since I’ve joined the team, and I’m having a lot of fun listing new things Jaala dyes, ensuring the photos of them are as accurate as possible, labeling them, packing them, and sending them out to you. I’m impressed by all the exciting places that you live, so I’ve been creating this Google map to visualize where we’ve sent yarn in the last three months. Don’t worry, we’re not listing any names or addresses, just city names. I hope you find this as much fun to play with as I found it to make!

google map

Google maps: Knitcircus!

Make Your Own Gradient Sweater

I’ve been working on own version of the 30-Day Sweater Challenge sweater, and am making a gradient with several complementary skeins!  Learn more about it, the Sweater Challenge and some Knitcircus Yarns prizes to win on the skype segment Johnny from NSAD recorded! I wanted to share this technique with the 30 Day Challenge knitters and anyone who would like to make a gradient or striped sweater using whole skeins.

Make Your Own Gradient Sweater


Use skeins that shade from light to dark to create your own gradient top-down sweater! Match arms and body stripes with the ratio below.

Yarn for your sweater, wound into cakes or balls
food/postal scale
chosen pattern or 30-day sweater guide


First, figure out how many yards are in a skein of your chosen yarn. Say you’re using a sport weight and one skein is 100g/3.5 oz and 300 yards.

Calculate your total number of skeins. For example, if I’m doing a sweater for a  size 36″ bust, I would want 1500 yards total, or 5 skeins. Note: this number comes out even, but there may be some waste yarn involved in getting all of the stripes to come out exactly even, so when it doubt, buy an extra skein!


The first skein is easy; usually you will use at least one complete skein for the neck/yoke of your sweater before you split off the arms. So your first skein will be knit just as usual following the 30-Day guidelines.

Arms and Body:

Here’s where it gets a little more tricky. You’ll need to do an extra calculation for the parts where the arms and body are knit separately.

Use your chosen pattern or the 30-Day Sweater materials to find out what your Body both Front and Back total number of stitches are:___________

Find out what your total Arm stitches will be once you have split them off and cast on extra stitches (add both sides):_________

Let’s say for our example that our knitter’s sweater calls for 140 stitches around the Body and 60 total stitches for both sleeves.

You need to make a ratio of the numbers, putting the sleeve number on top and the body number on the bottom.


Our example is:


You need to simplify the fraction (remember 5th grade math?): our example would simplify to 6/14ths, or 3/7.

Then divide your yarn into those fractions. (A cheater’s tip; if you don’t feel like crunching a lot of numbers, most of these numbers will come out fairly close to 25% for each sleeve, 50% for the body. If you want to divide this way, you may just need to pull back slightly on your Body knitting so that your sleeves will have enough yarn to match the Body when knit).

If each skein is 100 g, then 1/7=approximately 14 grams (round up or down to the nearest whole gram). So for our example sweater, the total gram weight for the sleeves will be: 42 grams per skein for the sleeves.

Yours is:    _______grams/skein

Use a ballwinder and swift, if you have one to create a ball for the sleeves (if you wish, divide this number in half to make a cake for each sleeve as I did for my sweater). To find out how much you have left in the Body ball, weigh the Body ball from time to time, not the smaller one, so you don’t have to take it off your ballwinder!

For my sweater, I decided to just knit the sleeves straight down, to minimize calculation, But if you are knitting an A-line sweater whose body increases while the sleeves decrease, simply repeat the same process above for each successive skein.

Using your Body yarns, knit away until your Body is all done, then use your Arm cakes to knit your arms to exactly match the color change rows in your body. If you’re knitting the sleeves one at a time, I recommend jotting down how many rows you needed for each color so you can easily remember next sleeve.

Keep on stitching, and soon you’ll have a one-of-a-kind gradient sweater designed by you!

Knitcircus Podcast #34

Amy reveals knitting nuggets from Camp, Jaala can’t take her eyes off Dave the sheep shearer and everyone’s gearing up for serious fall knitting.

Listen on Libsyn or iTunes

Mentioned this podcast:

Amy’s Ireland Trip

Donegal tweed

Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival

Jennie the Potter

Green Mountain Spinnery

Argyle Fiber Mill

Kimmet Croft

Bleating Heart Haven

Sun Valley Fibers

Fiber Optic

Briar Rose Fibers

Trek Bicycle

Erik’s Bikes and Boards

The Fiber Factor


Modern Topdown Knitting, by Kristina McGowan

Knits at Home: Rustic Knitting for the Modern Nest, by Ruth Cross

The Art of Seamless Knitting by Simona Merchant-Dest and Faina Goberstein

Knitcircus YarnsMatching Socks Club and All Wrapped Up Club




Using Gradients: Socks


Stripy Socks

Making stripes in socks can be a challenge, unless you’re very familiar with the jogless jog technique, so clever knitters and yarnmakers have come up with lots of ways to create stripes using the yarn itself! Different yarns are made to give different striping effects, from just a few stitches of each color to long-striping yarns with just a few color changes.  We’ll focus on long-striping yarns in gradients today.


The short answer for gradients and socks is: yes! A long-striping gradient (with say, 4-7 color changes over the whole sock) will show off any pattern just fine.  The length of the color blocks within the gradient should make it possible to see lace, cable or other patterning without visually breaking it up too much. Any repetitive stitch pattern  responds well to gradients.

Some favorite sock patterns to try:

Hermione’s Everyday Socks, by Erica Lueders

Monkey, by Cookie A.

Jeck and Zora, by Regina Satta, available as free Ravelry downloads

Nutkin, by Beth LaPensee,  from

Spring Forward, by Linda Welch, from Knitty, Summer 2008

BFF sock, by Cookie A., from Knit.Sock.Love

Cuff-Down Socks

Because gradients themselves are so much fun to work, you may want to just stick with a basic, vanilla sock recipe to watch the colors unfold.

Sock recipes:

How I Make My Socks, by Susan B Anderson (on her blog)

Sock recipe: A Good Plain Sock, by Stephanie Pearl McPhee, from Knitting Rules

Basic Sock Pattern, by Ann Budd, in The Knitter’s Handy Book of Patterns

Choose Colors to Highlight Your Pattern

As with any yarn, the more subtle the stitch pattern, the better it will respond to a light color. Part of the reason textured Aran sweaters looks so great is their traditional cream color! So, if your heart desires a subtle knit-purl textured diamond pattern, you would be well-advised to choose a pale-blue-to-gray gradient over a maroon-to-black gradient.

Loving Lace

Very deep browns, blacks or navy are a hard sell for any textured pattern, but a graphic lace pattern will make any color look great.

Patterns to try:

Hedera, by Cookie A., from Knit.Sock.Love

Cadence Socks, by verybusymonkey, available as a free Ravelry download

Embossed Leaves, by Mona Schmidt, from Favorite Socks

The Secret Fan, by Adrienne Fong, from Bellybuttonknits Designs

Blackrose Socks, by Suzi Anvin, from Knitty, Winter 2008

Duckies, by Samantha Hayes, from Aquaknits site

Toe-Up Socks

Many of you are more familiar with cuff-down sock construction, but toe-up socks allow you to knit until all of your yarn is gone, which helps gradients tremendously.  If you’ve never tried toe-up socks before, I urge you to give it a go! You can try them on as you work, no grafting is needed, and you’ll get to enjoy every stitch of your gradient.

Patterns to try:

Gusset Heel Basic Socks, by Wendy D. Johnson, Socks from the Toe Up

Diagonal Lace Socks, by Wendy D. Johnson, Socks from the Toe Up

Serpentine Socks, by Wendy D. Johnson, from Socks from the Toe Up

Skew, by Dana Holden, Knitty, Winter 2009

Mojo, by Donyale Grant, Some Knitting Required site

Socks on a Plane, by Laura Linneman, from La La’s Knits

Crimple, by Michelle Hunter, from Knit Purl Hunter

Firestarter, by Yarnissima, from Yarnissima site

Afterthought Heel

If you do a sock pattern with an Afterthought Heel, your heels will be the same color as the toes of your sock, so you’ll have a gradient with contrasting heel.

Patterns to try:

Afterthought Heel Socks, by Laura Linneman, available as a free Ravelry download from La La’s Knits

Sweetheart Socks, by Nikol Lohr, Knitty Winter 2011

Frick-N-Frack, by Jenny Lee, from Jenny Lee Knits

Watching the colors change makes knitting with gradients go really fast. Have fun!


Using Gradients: Triangular and Crescent Shawls

gradients shawls blogheader

Gradient Yarns look so enticing in a cake with all of the pretty colors showing, but sometimes it’s hard to picture how they’ll knit up. Here are some tips for
getting the most from your gradients with different shawl shapes.

Long-Striping vs. Short-Striping Yarns
Yarns like Knitcircus or Freia Fibers gradients have long stripes, approximately 75-100 yards in fingering weight skeins. Other yarns, like Noro Sock, may have shorter stripes that last a few rows, then change color.

Short-Striping Yarn
For a short-striping yarn, choose a plain or very predictable pattern. Short-striping yarns, like handpaints, tend to obscure complicated stitch
patterns, since they only last a couple of rows and most lace patterns need four or more rows to visually finish a repeat. For this kind of stripes, the yarn itself is the pattern; shown it off with a simple stitch pattern!

Patterns to Try
Silk Moon Crescent Shawlette, by Jaala Spiro
Boneyard Shawl, by Stephen West
Hitchhiker or Lintilla by Martina Behm
Simple But Effective Shawl, by Laura Chau
The Age of Brass and Steam, by Orange Flower

Long-Striping Yarn
Long-striping yarns look great in simple patterns as well, but because each color lasts longer, they can be paired with many lace/cable/texture patterns and look stunning. You should be able to see several repeats of the lace pattern per color, so it’s perfect for simple lace, but maybe not for a complicated knit-purl image of a windmill, for example. If the gradient gets darker, rather than

staying in approximately the same value, it will visually mask some of the complexity of the stitch patterns in the dark color. Using a pattern that begins simply and becomes more complex works perfectly when you begin with the darker portion of the gradient and let the lace emerge in the lighter sections.

Gradient Triangle Shawls
Most triangular shawls begin with a few stitches, and work their way up to two-three hundred. Depending how your shawl is constructed, it will either begin or end with she shorter rows. The most important gradient yarn consideration comes here; wherever the shorter rows are, that end of the gradient will appear longer than the other. A loose rule of thumb would be that the first half of the gradient will look much bigger and will seem to form the “ground” against which the other gradient stripes look more dramatic. An example: A four-color gradient used in a top-down triangular shawl will visually appear that the first color takes up half the shawl, while the second takes up 25% and the last two seem to be decorative ribbons at the edge. A bottom-up shawl will, of course, look the reverse. There is no right or wrong answer here, so choose the direction you would like to go!

Triangle Shawls
These are fantastic ways to use gradient yarns. You can begin at the bottom tip or at the top neck edge, and your gradient will slowly spread outward from the center or upward from the bottom. Any pattern with a repeated/predictable lace pattern works perfectly for gradients, and, as above, any pattern with a simple lace/cable pattern will look stunning in a gradient, especially if you make sure to work the more complex lace sections in the lighter stripes.

Patterns to Try
The Tehachapi Project, by Michelle Miller

Juniper Lemon Shawl, by Jaala Spiro

Haruni, by Emily Ross
Holden Shawlette, by Mindy Wilkes
Ishbel, by Ysolda Teague
Multnomah, by Kate Ray
Henslowe, by Beth King
Water Dragon, by Michelle Miller
Mystic Light, by Anna Dalvi
Traveling Woman, by Liz Abinante
Aranami Shawl, by Olga Buraya-Kefelian

Knit-on Edging
Patterns like Michelle Miller/Fickleknitter’s designs make wonderful candidates for gradients. The top-down portion of the shawl will look very similar to any other triangular shawl, with one main color forming the base triangle, and others getting progressively narrower as the triangle expands. With knit-on edgings, though, you do have to be aware that the color will most likely change while you work your way across the bottom edge, which means that any color changes will appear to be horizontal, contrasting with the vertical color changes of the first part. Some people may like, some people may hate the result, which will have a color shift highlighting the difference in construction between the body and knit-on edging.

Patterns to try:

Flambe, by Michelle Miller
Limestone, by Michelle Miller

Crescent and Half-Pi Shawls
Crescent and half-pi shawls look wonderful in gradient yarns, and will appear similar to triangular shawls. Half-pi shawls and crescents usually start with a few stitches or a smaller cast-on and increase through the body of the shawl so that gradient will appear more exaggerated in the section with the smaller number of stitches.

Patterns to Try:
Summer Flies, by Donna Griffin
Annis, by Susanna IC
Citron, by Hilary Smith Callis
Northern Lights, by AnneM

Have fun experimenting!

Play Ball, Wind Yarn, Yarnover

Things have been hopping in the Lair, with Yarnover and two Yarn Clubs  not to mention spring springing…


Last night, our plum tree began blossoming; this morning, the cherry tree joined in the fun.


Yarnover was a blast; driving ninja Amy D got us safely to Minneapolis and back, and we stayed with her sister, the perfect hostess in every way (and by ‘perfect,’ I mean she got up at 5 am to make us coffee for the early setup on Saturday morning. Not only did she make the coffee, she gave us insulated coffee mugs–to keep). Yarnover knitters loved the Matching Sock Sets (two smaller gradient yarn cakes); they were all gone within an hour of the event’s start. So I’m dyeing up more in the Lair as fast as I can, and will let everyone know as soon as they’re up in the shop.

It was an amazing group of knitters all in one place, and we got to meet and chat with Mary Scott Huff, Annie Modesitt, Stephanie Pearl McPhee, Sivia Harding, and many more wonderful knitters. Of course, Amy mostly chatted with them, while I tried to cover my star-struck-ness by selling yarn or fluffing things in the booth. A huge thanks to the organizers of the event; everything went very smoothly and we had a great show.

I don’t have any photos, because  as someone with the same device said, “I have the dumbest smartphone in the world,” and it doesn’t take pictures (well, it does, but they do not resemble any recognizable objects or people). It was Little League Opening Weekend, so I left the camera with Mike, thinking I’d sadly miss the games.

Thanks to Amy’s determination and mad skillz, I actually got home in time to catch both boys’ games!


There’s Li’l Buddy, ready for anything in the field.


And Buddy D, being announced for his Little League debut! He walked once, struck out once, and hit the ball once, so experienced some of everything. ;)

We recently found out that Buddy D will be with us all summer, so are very happy. He’s playing flag football with Li’l Buddy, and will soon add swimming to his list of sports!



Of course, it’s been very busy in the Lair, with packages going out last week for the Spring Sparkle Yarn Club, and this week for the Gradient Yarn club, but no photos of that until everyone has their treats in hand!


Happy Spring, everyone!