October 2011

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In the news!

There’s nothing quite like sitting down quietly with a magazine and a mug of tea – and all the better if it’s a craft magazine. We’re happy to report that this gentle indulgence has just got easier, because we’ve started stocking a range of magazines covering a number of crafts.

We’ve got knitting magazines like Designer Knitting, The Knitter, and Knit. We’ve got Inside Crochet. We’ve got general craft publications like Martha Stewart Home and Mollie Makes.

We’re also particularly pleased to have the most recent issue of the Debbie Bliss magazine in stock, because of what’s on page 20:

Imagine how thrilled we were to see that page! It’s Debbie’s report on our birthday party back in June, with the pictures of some of our lovely customers modelling the Wrapover Jacket from her Paloma pattern book.

We were so impressed with that jacket – warm, versatile and gorgeous on lots of different body shapes – that Jacqui cast one on straight away. It’s on display in the shop at the moment.

It’s a very straightforward pattern – knitted from the bottom up in lovely bulky yarn, it goes like lightning. It’s an ideal first pattern – in fact, it features the same stitch pattern that we recommend for a very first scarf in our beginners classes.

And it’s started to look as if the weather’s going to be right for wearing cozy knitted garments. We can’t wait!

Finally: the clocks go back on Saturday night, so we’ve got an hour’s extra yarn time this weekend. The shop will be closed on Monday because of the bank holiday, but we’ll be open on Tuesday at 10.30am GMT!

We’ve been getting a lot of new tools into the shop recently. There’s some new knitting equipment to talk about in time, but today we wanted to talk about crochet kit.

We’ve got standard crochet hooks in a wide range of sizes, of course, but we’re particularly excited about some of the other sorts of hooks.

First of all, we’ve got the double ended hooks that are needed for cro-hooking. They’re 30cm long with a hook on either end, but since cro-hooking is a variety of Tunisian crochet, you could use just one end if you wanted.

We’ve also got single-ended Tunisian hooks. Tunisian crochet techniques are the basis of AoibheNí’s stunning new lace work, so if you fancy trying your hand at it, we’ve got the equipment for you.

We’ve also got Knitpro interchangeable hooks. These are very clever and versatile things, and even if you don’t crochet, they’re a useful item for knitters. One end of each interchangeable has a hook as normal, while the other has the screw connection for linking it to a cable. Of course, this is useful if you want a very long and flexible hook (for cro-hooking or Tunisian crochet again, perhaps). But it’s tremendously useful for a knitter who needs to pick up a large number of stitches – maybe for the buttonband of a cardigan or for the edging of a shawl.

You simply attach the cable to the hook and use the hook for picking up, and when you’re ready to knit your new stitches, you can attach a Knitpro knitting needle tip to the other end and merrily knit straight off that end.

If you want to give yourself a real crochet treat, or know a crocheter who deserves one, then what about some bling? We’ve got a deluxe set of Knitpro hooks at the moment…

…with Swarovski crystals set into the handles! They’re light and comfortable in the hand (they’re made from the same rosewood effect birch as Knitpro deluxe knitting needles), and they’re a little bit of crochet luxury.

If this has piqued your interest in picking up a hook, we’ve got both beginners’ classes and intermediate classes in our current teaching schedule. Why not learn a new skill or brush up on a old one this winter?

Winter warmth

Now that we’ve got a sofa upstairs in the shop, we can display lovely and large things like this blanket, which is Jacqui’s newest design. She’s called it Cois Tine, because there could be no nicer object to snuggle under by the fire.

It’s knitted from Mirasol Ushya, so it’s astoundingly warm and soft.

If you’re looking for a project that will keep you warm both as you knit it and after you’ve finished it, then might we suggest this one? The pattern’s available from the shop and takes eight skeins of Ushya. Jacqui knitted it with 15mm acrylic Knitpro tips on a 120cm cable.

And if you’re in the shop, make sure you give our Cois Tine a squoosh.

Knitpro interchangeable needles are one of our best-selling lines. This is really no surprise, because they’re a delight to work with. The points are nice and sharp, the materials are pleasing to the touch and the flexibility of the tip-and-cable system is hard to beat. We sometimes get asked to demonstrate how best to assemble them, so we thought it would be useful to blog it.

Your first pair of Knitpros will probably be a single cable and one pair of tips – just what you see in the picture above. Also pictured are the little Allen key and a pair of maroon plastic discs which come with the cables. A lot of people ignore the key and the discs, but they play an important part, as we’re about to see.

The cable screws into the tip. You can get it reasonably closed using nothing but your fingers, but there’s no need to try for complete tightness:

You see, this is what the Allen key is for. Near the end of the metal fixing on the cable, there’s a little hole right through. Put the key through it, and the hold that it allows makes it much easier to get a very tight closure between cable and tip – so tight that you don’t need to worry about it unscrewing by itself.

If you’re using wooden or acrylic tips, take care to hold the tip by its metal cuff. Twisting the tip by holding it further from the join can weaken the join. If you’re using metal tips, there’s no join so you don’t need to be so careful.

So what are the two plastic discs for? Well, supposing that half way through the project you wanted to take the tips off that cable to use for something else, those discs mean you can do it safely. They screw onto the ends of the cables, so that your precious stitches can’t make a bid for freedom.

You could also use them if you wanted to construct a pair of long flexible single-pointed needles – a tip on one end of the cable and a disc on the other, and you can have a pair of needles up to a metre and a half long! (If you used the connections that join one Knitpro cable to another, they could be even longer, but one struggles to imagine why you’d need them longer!)

This is also a good place to mention that Knitpro needles have a five year guarantee – if something awful happens to your tips or your cable, get in touch with us.

On Saturday, the most charming testimonial was delivered to the shop. It’s in the picture above – a crocheted postcard from a recent attendee at the Beginners’ Crochet course. It made our day. It was also really fortuitous, because we were just about to announce the class schedule for November and December.

The full schedule is now up on the website. As usual, we’ve got beginners’ classes in both crochet and knitting – and we’ve got an additional beginners’ slot on Wednesday mornings from 11.00 to 12.30 if our usual hours don’t suit.

Over on Ravelry, we’re happy to say, Aoibhe Ní’s Dublin Bay Shawl is causing quite a stir. You can learn the technique for this shawl straight from its originator on Sunday November 6th. If your garment finishing could do with a little help, we’ve got two Finishing Schools coming up, one in each month.

If you’d like to tackle Möbius knitting, there’s a class featuring the Glenties Cowl on November 26th, just in time for quick Christmas present knitting. And if you need a very rapid Christmas present project at short notice, we have a Garter Stitch Mitt class which will save the day.

There’s plenty of other technique-specific classes on the schedule. Click on over there and see what takes your fancy. And you never know, there might be surprise classes announced as we get closer to Christmas, so keep an eye here and on the newsletter.

And Ciarán, thank you again for the card. We love it!

Show the world!

There are many reasons why working in This Is Knit is exciting, but one of the biggest is the sheer creativity of our customers. You come in through the doors every day and show us what you’ve just done: you’ve devised a new pair of booties, or you’ve combined two yarns that no-one’s thought of combining before, or you’ve invented a new way of making lace. We get to see crochet and knitting design fresh and new, all the time. And there’s so much of it!

Of course, this has always happened. In Ireland we have particular reason to be aware of this, because of the overwhelming evidence that the entire Aran knitting tradition was the invention of a few extraordinarily talented knitters within living memory (and if you believe Alice Starmore, the invention of just one knitter). Tradition is being made by all of us all the time, because that’s what happens when we think “I wonder what would happen if…?” and we take up tools and yarn to find out.

We live in a much more fortunate time than the knitters that developed Aran jumpers or the crocheters that had developed Clones lace a century before. Along with other Irish designers like Carol Feller and Kieran Foley, we can access the world through the medium you’re using to read this. The internet can show your clever idea to millions, and there are millions who want to see it.

There’s several ways of spreading the news about your pattern idea: there’s self-publishing as a designer on Ravelry or through your own website or blog, or in an online magazine like Knitty. This is why we’re looking forward impatiently to Amy Singer’s workshop on getting published – the most important things to do and the most important things to avoid, as well as how to make sure our patterns stand out. There’s still a few places left for it, and you can make a booking here.

Knitty, Amy’s own magazine, is a particularly interesting place to publish, because of the range of patterns it covers. There’s classic cardigans in there, like Tempest, and astoundingly popular sock patterns like Monkey, but there’s also lovely things for the home like the Lizard Ridge afghan and sweet characters like Sheldon the turtle.

What all of these patterns have in common is their popularity – as the project tabs on those pages show, they’ve all been made hundreds or thousands of times. What’s more, when they were published, not all their designers thought of themselves as “designers” – see the short bio at the bottom of the Lizard Ridge page (she was, happily, wrong).

So much beautiful, funny and clever innovation comes through our doors. It would be a shame for it not to get out there. And you know, there’s no feeling on earth like seeing someone’s finished object of your design.

Speaking of our doors, this is a good time to mention that the shop won’t be open on Sunday November 13th, during the Knitting and Stitching Show. (Goodness, is it that time already?)

Back in August, we posted a tutorial on directional decreases. In the comments, Laura asked if we could do one on directional increases. So here it is. We hope it’s useful.

There’s actually a couple of ways of making increases directional. The ones we’re going to concentrate on are called lifted increases, because they involve lifting up a strand of yarn from the previous row and working into it. They’re straightforward to do and they give a really neat, practically invisible result.

Here’s a picture of the lifting – the strand connecting two stitches on the row below the current one is lifted up with the tip of the left hand needle.

It’s possible to work into that strand exactly as it presents itself. This will give you an extra stitch all right, but it will also give you a hole. If you want a hole in your knitting at that point, then knit the loop as it is (this is a great fix if you’ve forgotten to make a yarn over on the previous lace row). In the picture below, you can clearly see the hole developing.

But most of the time, you don’t want holes in your knitting when you’re increasing. Indeed, this issue was what Laura most wanted to avoid. So for the rest of this post, we’ll concentrate on how to make directional lifted increases without any holes at all.

The secret is to pay attention to how you lift the strand, and then to twist the strand as you work it.

To make a right-leaning increase, pick up the strand from the row below by moving the tip of the left hand needle under it from front to back, just as in the first picture, which you can see again here:

But instead of working the front leg, put the tip of your right hand needle through the stitch from right to left, so you’re ready to work its back leg.

Wrap the yarn as usual…

…and complete the stitch. At this point, it becomes clear why this is a right-learning increase, because the new stitch is coming out to the right of the loop it’s made out of:

And here’s the new stitch, neat as you please and with no hole:

The corresponding left-leaning increase starts out very similarly, with the strand from the row below lifted over the tip of the left hand needle. But this time, lift it by moving the tip of your left hand needle from back to front. This gives you a strand lying over the left hand needle that looks like this:

Again, you make the new stitch by twisting the strand. Since it’s oriented the other way, though, you need to work its front leg. This is fiddlier than the right-leaning version, but it just needs a little wiggling:

Wrap the yarn as usual…

…and complete the new stitch. And now it’s clear why this one’s left-leaning, because it emerges from the left side of the twisted loop.

When it’s completed, the left-leaning increase looks like this – again, no nasty gaps:

Directional increases are useful because they can be paired – imagine the thumb gusset of a glove with all the increases right-leaning on one side and left-leaning on the other. These little touches make your knitting look neat and professional. And to show what the two look like when they’re paired, here’s the same swatch knitted on a little further, with matching increases three stitches apart four rows below the needle:

They’re practically invisible, there’s no holes, and they sprout off in different directions.

Laura, can we say thank you for suggesting this as a topic – we hope you find it useful. And if there’s any other techniques we should include, please tell us in the comments. We love the feedback!

With the heat of the last week or so, it’s hard to imagine that winter’s even possible, but the party season is peeking over the horizon. Before we know it, we’ll be reaching for things with a little sparkle.

New in this week are two yarns that hit that mark perfectly. First, we’ve had our first delivery of Debbie Bliss Party Angel. Like Angel, it’s a silk and mohair blend, but with a little bit of metallic sparkle. It’ll work in any pattern that uses Debble Bliss Angel or a similar yarn, and at 200m a ball, it goes a very long way.

Our other new luxurious offering is Louisa Harding Simonetta. This is also a mohair blend, with a striking gold or silver accent through it:

There’s a Simonetta pattern book as well, with lovely patterns for garments and accessories, all with Louisa’s characteristic flair for luxury.

We have big plans for these yarns over here, as well as all the other new stock that’s appearing. So much more room, so much more yarn!