March 2011

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One of the most satisfying aspects of crochet and knitting is the possibility of getting a project exactly the way you want it. Sometimes that’s a matter of following a pattern exactly, with the recommended yarn and even the colour from the photograph. Sometimes the published pattern is the jumping off point for something different.

We have two beautiful pieces to show you, both built on the same foundation. They’re both heirloom pieces, which can be confidently expected to be treasured by generations. They’re astounding feats of knitting, and we’re proud to be able to show them to you.

The starting point for both of them was the Laminaria pattern, free from Knitty. It’s a stunning thing in itself, and much easier to knit than it looks (Estonian lace is like that – it looks difficult, but it’s delightfully not). What’s particularly exciting about these two projects is how they start from the same place and go in different directions.

To celebrate the birth of baby A E, KittyKahBoom took this pattern and doubled it to make a square. The result is a stunning christening shawl.

She started with a circular cast on, eliminating the stitches for the selvedge and replacing them with centre stitches. The entire shawl was knit in the round, with every alternate round adding increases.

This is stocking stitch lace the no-purl way – since it’s knit in the round, the rest rows in between the lace row aren’t purled. As the fabric gets larger, the lace becomes more and more ornate, until it reaches this:

Baby A E is a very lucky baby indeed.

Another very lucky person is C, who got married last weekend (our very best wishes to you both, C!). She has a friend, WittyKnitty, who offered to knit her a wedding shawl, with Laminaria as the starting point once again. Here’s the end point:

Although large portions of this are straightforward Laminaria, another very lovely Estonian lace shawl was also called up for duty. The Echo Flower Shawl contributed the border and the edging (you can find complete details of the modifications here on the shawl’s project page). As written, the original Laminaria has neither nupps nor beads, but with the Echo Flower nupps and a champagne-coloured bead nestling beside each one, isn’t the result stunning?

Here’s the section, common to both shawls, where the lace transitions from a simple 3-out-of-3 pattern to the Blossom pattern:

These two pieces of work deserve to last for hundreds of years. They’re testament to the skills and generosity of two amazing knitters, and they’re articles of great beauty.

But you know, there’s many, many people like this. We know, because we meet them in the shop every day – people who change the direction of a decrease or add a flounce or use a different colourwork pattern, for the best of all reasons: because they prefer it that way.

The chances are you’re one of them, and we’d like to hear about it. If you post in the comments below before midnight (Irish time) on the night of Sunday April 3rd telling us about something you modified and how, and we’ll enter you in a draw for a copy of Knit Edgings and Trims edited by Kate Haxell.

Last Friday, we looked at swatching to match tension on flat knitting. What if the piece is knit in the round? Can we just assume the same tension for both?

Here’s the answer, at least for one knitter. This is a swatch knitted with the same yarn as the flat one last week, on 3.75mm and 4.00mm needles. It’s made along the same lines: cast on enough to give five or six inches to measure across, work garter stitch for a few rounds, change to stocking stitch, and so on. The same time-saving strategem of making two swatches in one with a garter stitch division between them was used here too.

You’d expect that the same knitter with the same yarn would get stitches of the same size, but that’s not what happened. The 3.75mm needles gave 23 stitches to the inch in the round, but 22 to the inch knit flat. 4.00mm gave 22 stitches to the inch in the round, but 21 when knit flat.

In other words, if this knitter were to swatch flat and then knit the garment in the round, the finished article would come out smaller than intended. So what’s different about the two swatches? Same yarn, same knitter, remember?

There’s a clue in the fabric that was knitted flat. Here’s a closer look at it:

Those pictures show the stocking stitch and reverse stocking stitch sides of the swatch. See the way there are faint lines every couple of rows on the stocking stitch side, and how the purl bumps cluster in pairs on the reverse side? That’s called rowing out, and it’s what you get when you knit more loosely than you purl or vice versa, so that every second line is looser than the preceding one. While blocking will even up the odd loose stitch across a row, it won’t fix rowing out, and if you’re knitting with cotton, the lines will be even more noticeable.

What’s clear is that this knitter rows out. But when she knits in the round, she’s not purling to get stocking stitch, so the difference between her knits and purls is irrelevant. Since it’s her purls that are looser, the stitches overall are smaller, and so she gets a tighter fabric in the round. Sure enough, when you look closely, the telltale clumping is gone:

Do you knit more loosely than you purl? One way to find out is to try swatching in the round – if your in-the-round tension comes out larger your knits are bigger than your purls; if it’s smaller your purls are bigger than your knits.

If you find you row out and you want to change this, then TECHknitter has an excellent post here addressing the issue.

For the record, the knitter who made these swatches generally finds that using a needle one size down to purl in the flat works (interchangeable needles make this easy), though she knits in the round any chance she gets, thus avoiding the problem entirely.

Sunshine and tree blossoms… Longer days and knitting in the park…

Springtime to Knit

For us at TIK that all calls a Spring Knit-a-Long!

Previous KALs (Knitalongs) have included the Annis and Luna Moth Shawls. We’re going for garments this time (who doesn’t need a cotton cardigan in their Spring/Summer collection?) and we’ve been absolutely enchanted by the new Louisa Harding “Ondine” patterns. There are two cardigans in particular that we’d see as being staples in anyone’s wardrobe:

Breaker:

Breaker

and Clam:

Clam

So, rather than choose, we’re opting for both!

Here’s how it will work:

The start date for the KAL will be Wednesday 6th of April.

Pop in to the shop (or email/phone us) on or before that date and choose one of the cardigans and your shade of Ondine yarn. Buy the yarn and get the pattern book *completely free*.

The KAL will run until Weds 18th May and everyone who finishes their cardigan by that date will be entered into a draw for a great goody bag prize. Just look at the great selection Julie won last time around…!

Knitting assistance will be available every Wednesday lunchtime at the shop and virtually (24/7) through the dedicated thread in our TIK Ravelry group.

We’re also going to experiment with Twitter, and take KAL questions every Wednesday lunchtime from those who can’t make it into the shop in person. Twitter users can follow us by clicking here.

Great yarn, free pattern book, sparkling support, fabulous camaraderie and a completely-untested-fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants-Twitter element. This KAL should be a lot of fun! :)

There’s nothing as nice as new yarn, unless it’s new yarn and dotey new patterns to make from it, and we have both in spades at the moment.

We’ve recently started stocking Sublime yarn. We’ve got both 4-ply and DK weights, in a variety of colours from very dainty pastels to vibrant primaries.

It’s the pastels that are the star today. They’re perfect for small people, and here’s some garments that prove it. These patterns are all from Sublime booklets, each of which contains several patterns.

The Little Henry car coat, which would suit boys and girls equally well, takes 4 balls of Baby Silk and Bamboo DK.

The same yarn is featured in the Little Sophie cardigan (one for little girls, this). It’s a useful layering piece, but it’d also be adorable over a party frock or for a summer wedding.

For a special occasion, here’s a really lovely cardigan. It’s called Sunday Best, and it’s made with three balls of Baby Cashmere Merino Silk DK.

It’s an unabashedly indulgent garment, but the basic shape is uncomplicated. With a different closure, it would make a very practical everyday cardigan.

There’s much, much more to our new Sublime stock than baby and toddler garments. It wouldn’t all fit into one post, though, so we’ll be back soon with more.

At the top of a knitting pattern, there’s a little paragraph that a lot of us find puzzling or ignore. This paragraph is either of little practical use, or vitally important.

The information in question is the tension requirements. It’ll say something like ’22st and 30 rows to 4″ using 4mm needles’. To further complicate matters, some of what’s in that quote is of very dubious value indeed.

The first thing that knitters need to be aware of is what tension is. It’s not about being a good knitter or a bad one. It’s more like being tall or short. Just as we come in a whole range of heights, we all knit slightly tighter or looser than other people. If we’re not following patterns, then any difference between our tension and someone else’s is irrelevant.

But when we start to make things designed by other people that need to come out a particular size, the size of our stitches matter. That’s what the tension information is: it’s the designer telling you how big his or her stitches were, so you can get yours the same size.

So how do you check what size yours are? This is swatching, and it’s a simple process. Cast on enough stitches to make a piece about six inches across, and work six or eight rows of garter stitch. Change to stocking stitch (or whatever stitch pattern the tension is given in) and work a square, keeping four or five stitches on each side in garter stitch. When you’ve made a square, work six or eight rows of garter stitch at the top and cast off (or not – see below).

Place your swatch on a flat surface and use a ruler to measure 4 inches across the fabric. Place a pin at each end of the measurement and count the number of stitches between the pins.

So why make a swatch larger than the 22 stitches and 30 rows? Knitting stitches get distorted at the edge of the row, so going wider and longer than those numbers gives you a more accurate measurement. And since stocking stitch curls at the edges the garter stitch border means that you’re not trying to measure round corners.

If your garment is going to get bigger or smaller when you wash and dry it, the time to find out is right at the beginning. So the next thing to do is to wash and dry your swatch exactly as you will the finished garment. Then remeasure, with the ruler and the pins, and that’s your tension.

If you’ve got the measurements the pattern calls for, then you can cast on in some confidence that you’re going to end up with the size you want. But if you haven’t, then the process needs to be repeated, with a different size of needle.

If you have fewer stitches and rows than called for, then your stitches are bigger than the designer’s and you need to make the smaller, so swatch with smaller needles. If you have more stitches than the designer, try again with bigger needles to make yours bigger. After a while, you’ll notice if you typically knit looser than most patterns call for or tighter, and you can start swatching on smaller or larger needles to save some time.

The reason for the large, three-decker swatch in the picture up above is simple: the knitter that made it is looser than most and has learned that a few attempts may be needed. So instead of dealing with a succession of swatches, it’s quicker to make a square with one size, work a few rows of garter stitch, change needle and make another, and repeat, all in the same piece. All the measuring, washing, drying and remeasuring is then done at the same time.

For the record, this swatch, knitted with Knitpro interchangeable needles with Debbie Bliss Cashmerino DK, gave 23 stitches and 32 rows with 3.5mm needles, 22 stitches and 31 rows with 3.75mm and 21 stitches and 30 rows with 4.00mm. Those differences are enough to make a woman’s jumper two inches too small, two inches too large or just right.

Why, you ask, make two sets of measurements? The second is your definitive one, but the first is what comes off the needles as you knit. As you make your garment, you can check that you’re still getting the same straight-off-the-needles numbers as you work, and change needles if needed. Sometimes you relax as you get used to the project and loosen up, or sometimes stress in other parts of your life can tighten up your stitches.

But swatching tells you other things as well as the size of your stitches. This is why it’s a first date with your yarn. Do you like working with it, enough to spend weeks with it? Does it bleed in the wash? Does it split? Does it make you sneeze? These are all things it’s good to know at the outset.

On the other hand, sometimes tension doesn’t matter at all. If your finished article doesn’t need to come out a particular size, then there’s no reason to be concerned about tension at all. How can a scarf not fit?

In this, swatching is exactly like measurements in cooking. A lot of the time, we don’t need to measure our ingredients (when was the last time you weighed the eggs or measured the milk when making scrambled eggs?) – but measurements really matter if you’re baking. That’s what swatching is: it’s setting the right oven temperature, weighing out your butter and using a quarter teaspoon of baking powder rather than a teaspoonful.

So you want to give a present to a knitter. Or you’re visiting Dublin and you’d like a souvenir for yourself or someone else back home.

You could spend a lot of time trying to find a pattern and some yarn that work together. We can help with this, of course, but we can speed the process up with our exclusive gift packages.

Three combinations that we’ve found very popular are Cutie Booties in Sublime Baby Cashmere Merino Silk DK (we’ve put a sachet of Soak in there for even more softness), the Mulberry Gift Bag which uses a combination of Louisa Harding Sari Silk and DK wool, and our star of radio and TV, the Scribble Lace Stole in Debbie Bliss Angel with a number of contrast colour yarns.

We also have gift kits that come in handy project bags. Again, there’s a variety to choose from.

There’s a kit for the Cuddles and Cables baby blanket knit from Debbie Bliss Cashmerino which we featured here a few weeks back, and one for the Ringsend Cowl, a möbius cowl knit flat and then joined, in Malabrigo Silky Merino.

We also have kits for the Glenties Cowl in Debbie Bliss Glen, and for Braidheart, which can be knitted either as a cowl or a scarf.

All of these kits feature original This Is Knit designs, and include the pattern, the yarn to complete the project and a gift tag to attest to your knitting prowess.

So if you know a deserving knitter (or are one yourself), what could make a better treat?

Local colour

With St Patrick’s Day next week, it seemed a good time to look at our Irish products. We have quite a range of excellent yarn and tools that are produced here, and many of them are exclusive to This Is Knit.

If you’re looking for an Aran yarn, then Studio Donegal is perfect. It comes in a fantastic range of colours, from the traditional to the vibrant – you can see some of them peeking out from behind the sign up above. It’s also a great yarn for felting.

If you’re a spinner (or want to be), then we can offer you a range of fibres from LHogan, including Blue-faced Leicester and superwash merino in amazing colours like this:

When it comes to finer yarns, we’ve got some treasures to show you. At the moment we have beautiful sock yarn from The Dublin Dye Company, Gaeity Girl Fiber Arts and Hedgehog Fibres.

There’s some Hedgehog Fibres laceweight that sneaked into that last picture too. Speaking of lace, here’s some Dublin Dye Company laceweight:

The background to that photograph is Irish designer Kieran Foley’s Cold Mountain stole. His work is beautiful and, like most lace, much easier than it looks. If you’re looking for other Irish-designed knitted lace, then here’s Carole Feller’s Centrique:

Stitch markers are awfully useful for keeping track of where you are, in lace and in other work, and we have some lovely handmade Irish ones for you.

We’re looking forward to seeing you whenever you drop into the shop. Our opening hours are as usual next week, except for St Patrick’s Day itself, when we’re closed. We’ll probably be at the parade.

We found the shamrock in The Garden, the beautiful florist in the front hall of the Powerscourt Centre. Mark Grehan offers exceptional flowers and plants, as well as a complete garden design service. His shop is one of the things that makes the Centre such a special place.

With an alleged average consumption of four cups a day, the Irish are apparently the world’s greatest tea drinkers. We’re picky about how it’s made (loose or bag? china pot or metal?), about how we drink it (milk first or second? cup warmed or not?), and even if we bring tea away with us, it just tastes different abroad.

There’s something grounding in a pot of tea, something that reaches back into our collective childhood, when the kettle was always on and the biscuits were always digestives. Perhaps this is why we’re so fond of tea cosies – what could be more comforting than a knitted coat to keep the tea warm?

Tea cosies come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. There’s felted ones and striped ones and completely mad ones with feathers. Cables are good, because they act like ribbing to hug the pot. Easy to put on is good too, so buttons make sense. So the Little Cupcake Tea Cosy (Rav link) has both.

Why, you ask, the lemon? One reason is that this Ravelry pattern was just too tempting. The other is that it’s Shrove Tuesday, when lemon-and-sugary pancakes issue stickily from kitchens all over the country.

You don’t have to have lemon on your pancakes, of course. Some favour orange, and there’s a vocal and persuasive Nutella lobby. We’re not going to make any suggestions for the flavour, but here’s a pancake recipe that’s a little unusual. Apologies for the lack of metric quantities, but this is from family archives.

Austrian pancakes

4oz sifted flour
2 eggs, separated
pinch of salt
generous half pint of milk
½ teaspoon sugar

Combine flour, salt, egg yolks and one third of the milk, stirring until smooth. Gradually add the rest of milk to make a batter the consistency of heavy, sweet cream. Beat egg whites stiff but not dry, and fold into batter. Stir again before the making of each pancake.

These should be baked one at a time on a very hot skillet. Grease with unsalted butter before baking each pancake. Pancake should be very thin. Brown the pancakes only lightly. If you’re keeping them warm for any length of time, an extra pancake over the dish of rolled ones will keep them moist until served. Remove the extra one before serving.

We make no claims as to how Austrian these really are, but they’re very good. Ah go on, go on….

Less than a year ago, Nikki (nixx on Ravelry) taught herself to crochet. Like many new crocheters and knitters, she had a particular project in mind.

Having learned the stitches, she started looking at patterns, but none of them were exactly right, so as the project took form in her mind, a number of different patterns were melded together to shape it.

She ordered the yarn: 20 balls of Louisa Harding Mulberry pure silk DK. At 2487.2m, that’s quite a lot of yarn.

And then she made this.

The detail is breathtaking.

See those sparkles? That’s seven hundred Swarovski crystals.

The entire dress is lined with silk.

Nikki brought these pictures into the shop to show us a couple of weeks ago. Remember what we said about loving to see what the yarn grows up into?

A final view of the whole dress.

Nikki, it was a privilege to be associated with the making of your dress. Thank you for letting us post about it, and for sharing these beautiful photographs.

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