We’re skeining, dyeing, labeling and packing as fast as we can to get ready for Yarn Con in Chicago this weekend! Belle will be accompanying me and we’re really looking forward to the sweet organizers and meeting/seeing Chicago knitters.
YARN CON COLORS
The Yarn Con people had a great idea and they asked a number of indie dyers to collaborate on a fun project before the show; custom Yarn Con colorways! The yarns will be sold at the show as a way to help sustain the event, which has been getting bigger and better every year! (You certainly can’t beat free event parking in Chicago).
We got a little excited and I may have actually designed three colorways, including a whole new dyeing technique I’ve never tried before! The yarn above is a brand-new Speckle colorway inspired by the current Yarn Con logo colors. Everyone in the Lair loved it, and I couldn’t resist naming it Put Me in the Zoo, after the beloved children’s book.
The Speckle technique was so much fun, I’ve designed a number of colorways which will debut this Friday at 10:00 cst as part of the new Late Spring Yarn collection!
More Yarn Con Colors: I designed a gradient using the deep red and pale blue from the Yarn Con logo. These are two colors I’ve always wanted to work with, so it was a lot of fun.
Then we have a handpaint focusing on the deep red. This is a cousin to the popular Ruby Slippers colorway from the Wizard of Oz collection.
Over the last 11 years, Jaala has knitted a fair bit, and Amy has been knitting for decades! Some tricks, when we learned them, made that flashbulb go off in our minds, and some we learned by sad trial and error. Once you’ve ripped back half a sweater, you find the motivation to change your knitting habits!
Come closer, because we’re about to share some of our best knitting tricks for faster and more successful knitting, and most of them don’t even require picking up your needles! Some preparation beforehand will save you time and trouble no matter what style of knitting grip you use.
Tips for faster knitting
Much of successful knitting is a mental game; preparation is key! If you plan for a few research steps before you cast on, you’ll save a lot of gnashing of teeth in the long run.
Check Your Pattern
1. Research: Cut
Have a gorgeous sweater in your mind’s eye, maybe one you spotted in a store or on a passerby? Scan available databases to find the right one; Ravelry is your best friend here. First, check the basic cut and construction. A key question: Will this look good on me? for example, an empire waist may draw attention to the bust and away from the stomach, which is great for some people (me!–Jaala).
If you find a sweater pattern you like, look on Ravelry project pages to see how other people look in the project, watching especially for people with your body type. (To find that, click on the Patterns tab in Ravelry, click on the photo of the pattern you like, and then click on the Projects tab that will come up third from the left in the navigation tabs.)
Look at the successes and the failures and decide for yourself whether your 100+ knitting hours will make you (or your intended recipient) look spectacular in that pattern. Don’t commit until you can answer with a resounding yes!
2. Research: Construction/Writing
Do you fear steeking, shy away from Contiguous necklines or hate the Kitchener stitch? Look at the Ravelry keywords for each project to decide without purchasing the pattern whether that one is for you. If there is a construction method you favor or would like to try, like top-down, in the round or triangular shawl construction, you can search patterns using that keyword.
Does the pattern have errata, or is the designer dependable? Look on Ravelry or the designer’s or publisher’s website to see if other knitters have found mistakes in the pattern. Taking a chance an a new or unknown designer can be exciting, but for peace of mind, it may be better to go with a pattern that 400 people have successfully completed than to the be the third one to try it.
Prepare for Success
Once you’ve chosen your perfect pattern, with just the right amount of lace or a body hugging fit, rally your materials!
3. Choosing the Right Yarn
Depending on your knitting personality, getting the right yarn for your project can be a bit of a challenge. If you are determined to use the exact yarn specified by the designer, you know it will act just as the pattern promises, but you may have to budget in advance. And you don’t want to be caught short with only one sleeve and no more yarn, so for a sized garment, going up a skein is usually the best bet. You can always make a matching hat with the extra, but trying to match a dyelot that’s been discontinued to finish that last bit can be a bummer. If you’re knitting a pair of socks or shawl, usually fingering-weight yarns can be substituted fairly easily. Just check your yardage compared to the yardage called for in the pattern and make a gauge swatch if you’re not sure.
If you’re a dyed -in-the wool (sorry, couldn’t resist) stasher, you may be determined to make that bag of alpaca yarn from 1993 fit your sleek, modern silhouette. Before you make that thrifty move, check again on Ravelry to see what kinds of yarn people have used successfully with the pattern. Will your yarn do what you want it to do? Stretch and drape, hold firm?
If your yarn content varies significantly from the pattern , so may your garment from the finished product. You may want to re-check your stash for something with the same or at least similar fiber content to make sure the project does what you want it to do. If you have an experienced knitting friend, this would be a great time to have her help you identify some key aspects of the pattern, like whether it’s meant to drape, be knit tightly to keep out the wind or hold architectural details like cables to show off stitch definition.
4. Prepare Your Yarn
Once you have your perfect yarn in hand, don’t just wind one skein into a ball, wind them all, and put them all together in a safe (but not hidden) place. You don’t want to slow the flow by having to clear off table space for your ball winder whenever you reach the next skein.
5. Pattern Wrangling
If it’s in a book or magazine, make yourself a copy so you can haul it around with you and doodle on it. If it’s a downloaded pattern, make sure you know where you stored it so you can find it again if needed! Then, once you purchase the pattern, read it. All the way through. Mark your size with a highlighter every place the stitch counts differ, if a hard copy. Mentally note all the places where you will have to do shaping and, say, lace at the same time. If you think you may need to alter the pattern (adding more or less inches through the trunk, for example) get that all figured out and marked in your pattern beforehand.
6. Choose Your Tools Wisely
Check which needles the pattern calls for and make sure you have them safely stored with your yarn, including both circulars and dpn’s or whatever the pattern calls for.
If your pattern has increases, decreases, short rows, remotely complicated stitch patterns or gussets, do yourself a favor and locate (or even better, treat yourself to) a set of stitch markers. Many a time, we have both thought we could easily remember where the stitch patterns changed or where the bust increase was only to learn several rows later that we’d chugged right past it. Regular safety pins, tiny slices of plastic straw or little loops of waste yarn can work fine in a pinch.
7.You Knew it Was Coming
Every single person that gives you knitting advice, be it your neighbor or Vicki Howell, is going to tell you to do a gauge swatch. They may even try to convince you it will be fun. Look, it probably won’t be, but you know what’s even more not fun? Frogging your beautiful completed sweater back because it would fit a porpoise or a preschooler or ripping out your would-be shawl that’s stiff and watertight.
For something that needs to fit, this is crucial! If you skip this step, you may have to start over after two days of knitting. There’s a reason everyone says to do a gauge swatch, and it’s because we knitters are infinite. The gauge for the pattern just happens to be the gauge gotten by the designer or the sample knitter that week. That’s the beauty of handknitting!
And your gauge may change over time. I (Jaala) always considered myself a loose knitter, until a test knitter trying to match my gauge had to go down two needle sizes. I guess I changed my approach over the years…
Exceptions: shawls, cowls or hats can get away without a swatch most of the time, but if you’re substituting yarn, it can still be a big help. Shawls and scarves are meant to drape and have a looser gauge, while hats generally need some structure. It wouldn’t hurt to do a gauge swatch where you try a couple of different needle sizes to find your perfect fabric.
So pull out those needles (and a glass of wine if needed) and cast on and work a nice gauge swatch, at least six inches wide and tall. Wash it, block it and then measure your gauge. And then tell everyone around you how important gauge is and how virtuous you were.
8. Study up on Cast Ons – do you need it to be firm? Loose? Provisional? Don’t hesitate to step out of your own comfort zone!
Here’s one of our favorites: the Cable Cast-On
While the Long-Tail Cast-On can be awesomely used for almost anything, the Cable-Cast-On means you don’t have to estimate how much yarn you’ll need for the CO row and fall short (done this many times). Also, unlike a Long-Tail Cast-On, it creates a Right-Side row, so will blend seamlessly with stockinette stitch. See a lovely article on how to do the Cable Cast on on Knitty (it’s the second method described). As the author mentions, Elizabeth Zimmerman says it “looks equally well on both sides”.
As with most cast-ons, make sure to cast on loosely enough that your finished garment won’t have a tight, uncomfortable edge on hat brims, sleeves or sock cuffs. See a nice video of this technique by Gingerly4it on You Tube.
9. Bind Off
When it’s time to finish your piece and you’re eager to cross the finish line, make sure to choose a bind-off that will do the job nicely. For a nice, firm edge, a regular bind-off is fine, but in general, you want to make sure your bind-off isn’t too, well, binding. A tight sweater cuff or hat brim can make all of your beautiful work a bear to wear.
For any kind of cuffs, lace projects or shawls, her’s our go-to bind off:
Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-Off. This bind-off uses an extra yarnover with each cast-off stitch to ensure a stretchy edge. You can watch the Knitting Blooms tutorial, or see the original article in Knitty.
There you go! Now you’re equipped to set sail on your next knitting project armed with practical tools to keep you going full speed ahead.
We’d love to hear any of your favorite knitting tips! Please comment and let us know what tricks get you through your knitting day. 🙂
This weekend, my dad is going to fulfill his dream of taking Li’l Buddy and some friends skiing up north, “While I can still ski!”
This knitter isn’t a big skiier, but I’m more than happy to come along for the ride to keep the party going, cook, organize and stand by with extra warm clothes if anyone’s forgotten anything. Mike and Belle get to stay home and enjoy a relaxing weekend with the pets.
We didn’t plan for this, but due to a Lair snafu, we ended up with a 300-g ball of yarn! I figured, what the heck, I’ll dye it rainbow, because that’s fun.
At first, when it was all wound up into a cake, we all just laughed, but then we started to like it. A lot.
Our Big Rainbow has three full repeats of the Over the Rainbow
Then we started thinking, you could make a whole small adult sweater, baby blanket or three-skein shawl with this baby!
What do you guys think? Would you use or love a huge skein, or is it just too crazy-big? Please tell me your thoughts!
This week, I made Snickerdoodles for the kids as an after-school treat. The best part was that Lil Buddy’s nearly-silent friend piped up when I asked what kind of cookies they wanted and clearly stated, “Snickerdoodles!”
That name is so fun to say, it can bring out even the shyest.
we always use the Betty Crocker cookbook recipe for these and they turn out great. Except no cream of tartar, because they make it taste a bit tinny in my opinion.
These were gone within 48 hours.
Light the Lights
Speaking of fun, the new color of the month is up, and it is delightful, if I do say so. We named it “Light the Lights,” from the Muppet show theme song, because these colors reminded us of their high-energy hijinks. Gonzo blue, Kermit green and Miss Piggy pink, anyone?
Hey, I’m sure it’s just me, but I hate when my inbox gets flooded with messages for people vying for my business on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. But I do love my customers and we do have some very special, limited-edition prices going on, combined with a way to help families have more to eat this holiday season. So here goes!
We’ve got some beautiful kettle-dyes and handpaints in the store, and all are 30% off! We’ll be adding new ones every day this week.
And every single ready-to-ship yarn in the shop is now 10% off!
And, because it’s the holidays, we’ll donate $1 to Second Harvest Food Bank for every order we receive between now and December 23rd. One dollar is three meals, so three people get to eat every time you buy yarn. That’s something we can all feel warm and happy about!
The holidays approacheth! I love hosting, getting out the good china, and making pumpkin pies (I think I might need to practice that one this weekend so the T-day ones are perfect…)
Here’s wishing all of you US knitters safe travels, enjoyable times with family and friends and plenty of time to knit over the holiday.
Cold Weather; Knit Faster!
Look at this awesome t-shirt my mom got for me! This pretty much sums it up…You can find it at Northern Sun. If you’re more girly, this is a unisex style, but I think it’s perfect for layering in the Lair. 🙂
On My Needles
During this latest cold snap, I realized that the handknitter has no knits! I love wristwarmers and wear them all winter whenever my hands aren’t in buckets of rinsing yarn. I’m working on a pair of the new Gradient Stripe Handwarmers for myself in Hummingbird.
I’m also working up a quick textured hat and cowl set for myself to keep out the winter wind. Patterns coming soon.
Over the long weekend, when I’m not hosting, feasting and playing indoor mini-golf (new family tradition) I’m thinking about whipping up Kirsten Kapur’s One Day Beret for my sister-in-law and trying some simple ornament designs to surprise the kids…
What are you all knitting? Lots of holiday gifts?
Let It Snow
It’s been very January-like here, with a couple of inches of snow staying on the ground.
Sasha was excited because the whole backyard was covered with something she could eat. She kept bounding around, snuffling at the ground, then licking her muzzle.
Sale Yarns and Holiday Orders
More knitters have ordered yarn from us in the last two months than ever before, and we are immensely grateful! I’m dyeing up yarn as fast as I can (including on weekends) and if you’ve ordered yarn, you’ll still get it by Christmas.
We’re making sure to put up ready-to-ship yarns every day between now and December 21st, and to help your holiday jingle,we’ve added many Sale items to the store; just as soft and knittable as all the rest, but unusual colors, or with small color spotting, one knot, etc.
Wow, 293 independent designers are participating this year! This is a great chance to get literally thousands of wonderful patterns on sale, and they’ve got tons of activities, KAL’s and chances to win goodies in the Giftalong Group on Ravelry.
You can tell I’m a geek at heart! The next striping sock set is The Shire: Beautiful, springlike colors evoke the gardens of a peaceful land. Colors slowly change from pale to ripe peach to pale and ivy green.
The next: Autumn Forest. This was September’s popular color of the month, now translated into Gradient Stripes. We could never match Mother Nature’s paintbrush, but this is our homage to it. Autumn Forest begins with a cheerful leaf green, before striping to warm chestnut brown, then passing through a brilliant orange to a golden yellow.
Finally: Over the Rainbow. Rainbow stripes! Yellow, orange, red, hot pink, purple, blue, and finally green stripe with each other. Whoo!!!!
I’m having so much fun creating these new colors and knitting up socks of my own! I can’t wait to see what you all do with them. 🙂