So you spend all that time knitting your beautiful piece of lace (in these pictures, it’s Jacqui’s Swallowtail shawl knitted in Rowan Fine Lace), and then you set out to block it.

Pins. Lots of them. If the lace has points, then it’s easy, though fiddly – a pin through every point. But the straight edge is another thing. Even if you thread a length of string through the edge and then pin that, it’s really hard to avoid scalloping.

The answer is simple and quick: blocking wires. They make blocking neater and tidier, and they’re so much faster to use than a forest of pins.

They’re made of stainless steel, so your dampened knitting won’t get rust marks. They’ve got gentle rounded ends so they won’t snag the fabric. And they’re easy to use. Just thread them through the edge of your lace – through the points if there’s points, through the straight edges if there’s straight edges…

…and then pin out the wires. Because they’re stiff, they need a fraction of the pins you’d usually need for the distance.

Once you’ve used blocking wires, it’s really hard to go back to the forest of pins. They make blocking lace a simple task, and they’re also perfect for getting your non-lace pieces all shipshape. So if you’re thinking of a gift for yourself or for a knitter of your acquaintance, these are sure to be greeted with delight.

And then there’ll be fewer pins stuck into the carpet, which has to be a good thing.

All wrapped up with a bow

Last Friday, the Christmas lights were switched on in the Powerscourt Centre. It’s a bit of a special year here, because the Centre’s thirty years old. Over the last couple of weeks, our friends in A Rubanesque have been working astonishing hard decorating every possible surface – there’s a Nutcracker theme this year, so there’s ballet shoes, boughs and bows everywhere. It’s simply beautiful.

At this time of the year, we start to get non-knitters and non-crocheters through the doors, looking for gifts for yarny loved ones. Happily, we’ve got lots of suggestions – luxurious yarn, like Hedgehog Fibres pure cashmere, pretty Peace Fleece needles, hand cream for softening you up, sweet stitch markers to keep your place, adorable keyrings with woolly sheep to guard your keys. We’ve got books such as the Barbara Walker Treasuries and the genius of Elizabeth Zimmermann – and so much more that there wouldn’t be room to list it all.

So whether you’re a lurking present-seeker or a subtle hint-dropper, we can help! There’s even a thread in the Ravelry group for your wishlist (with added poetry!).

Divided by a common language

Once upon a time in Dublin, there was a little crocheter. A lady called Kathleen taught her how to chain, and how to do doubles and trebles, and she made lots of things from patterns. She had heard that in America they used different words for the stitches. But that didn’t matter, because she was living in Ireland and America was a place on TV. When was she ever going to be using an American pattern?

Then they invented the internet.

It’s like petrol and gasoline. The things are the same, but the words are different. When you know what the equivalences are, then you can use any pattern from anywhere in the English-speaking world and your crochet horizons widen greatly. But if you don’t know how to navigate the two systems, patterns using the unfamiliar one just won’t work. So here’s how to translate from one to the other.

Let’s call the two systems US and UK, though the latter includes Australia, South Africa, Ireland and so on. Put very simply, the stitch that the UK calls a double, the US calls a single, and the stitch that the UK calls a treble, the US calls a double. A UK double treble is a US triple. There’s absolutely no difference at all in how the stitches are made, though – the only difference is the names.

Any stitch whose name is made up from these will also differ. So an UK half treble will be a US half double, and a UK linked triple treble (like those in the Dublin Bay shawl) is a US linked triple double.

That’s the easy part. It can seem a bit complicated when you’re trying to find out which system’s being used. So here’s some tricks that might help if the designer doesn’t tell you (some like Aoibhe Ní do).

The first thing is to check where the pattern’s published. If it’s published in the US, it will use US terminology; if in the UK, it’ll be UK. The spelling conventions can help you too: look for words like “color”. Spotting UK spellings like “colour” isn’t foolproof, though, because Canadian English hass them but increasingly uses US crochet terminology.

If there’s a picture of the stitch pattern, that will help hugely. Doubles and trebles differ so much in their appearance that it’s very easy to see which is which. The smaller green swatch at lower right above is UK double, the larger pink one is UK treble.

But what if you’ve downloaded a pattern from the web with no picture and no indication of where it was written, what can you do? There’s two big clues that will tell you. You can use the first clue if the pattern states its tension over either doubles or trebles. UK doubles (US singles) are almost as tall as they are wide, so if you come across a stitch/row ratio which makes a 10cm square with numbers like, say, 17 stitches and 20 rows or 20 stitches and 22 rows, then you’re dealing with UK doubles. (Actually, if the pattern’s talking about tension rather than gauge, it’s probably a UK pattern in any case, though this isn’t foolproof.)

UK trebles (US doubles) are much taller, so the ratio of stitch to row is very different. If your pattern states a tension over doubles with half(ish) as many rows as stitches (19 stitches and 10 rows, for example), then it’s talking about US doubles, or UK trebles.

If the pattern doesn’t mention tension at all, then you’re still not stuck. Since the actual stitches don’t differ, UK doubles/US singles are the same thing and need the same number of turning chain (1 chain). In the same way, UK trebles/US doubles need 3 turning chain. So if you come across a row instruction that reads “Ch 3, sk first dc, dc in each ch across, ending with dc in third chain of turning chain”, the three turning chain tell you that you’re dealing with UK trebles/US doubles. Similarly, an instruction that tells you to “ch 1, 1 dc into 1st st, 1 dc in each st to end” is telling you to make UK doubles/US singles, because of that one turning chain at the beginning.

Now, if there were only enough time to make all the crochet patterns we want to….

One more thing to mention: last week we announced next Thursday’s Opening Party and Louisa Harding’s Drop In Workshop next Friday. Both of these are now up on the booking system and bookable. The booking page for the party is at this link – there’s no charge, but it would make the Health and Safety people happier if we had an idea of how many of you to expect, so please register to tell us.

Louisa’s workshop is bookable at this link. Though it’s from 12.00 noon to 3.00pm, you can drop in for as little or as much time as you like, and the cost is just the price of the skein of yarn for the project.

We’re looking forward enormously to both events – it would be lovely to see you there too!

Deck the tree!

This year, we’ve got room for a Christmas tree! We’re as excited as, well, a kid at Christmas about this, because it means that we get to decorate it!

So we’re having a Christmas Decoration Competition! To win a very special This Is Knit prize, drop a yarny decoration in to the shop before December 13th – each one will be a separate entry in the draw, and together they’ll make the dotiest tree in Dublin.

If you’re sending your dotey object by post, please remember to enclose a contact phone number. And keep en eye on the blog over the next few weeks – it’s unlikely that we’ll be able to resist showing you some of the entries.

Let’s celebrate!

It’s just over a month since we moved to our new premises, so we think it’s time to celebrate!

We’re having an Opening Party, and Louisa Harding is coming to perform the Ribbon Cutting! It’s going to happen on Thursday 24th November, at 6.00pm. It’s not formal and it’s not fussy, but if you’d like to come along and join us for a glass of wine and a bit of a frolic, it would be lovely to see you.

The next day, Louisa’s giving a workshop on her Grace gift bag, concentrating particularly on her lovely signature embellishment techniques. This will again be quite a casual affair, as you can drop in for assistance any time from 12.00 noon to 3.00pm on Friday 25th November. This will be bookable from next Monday and the cost will be just the cost of the skein of Grace Hand-dyed needed for the bag. What a lovely opportunity to learn from a renowned designer, and what a lovely thing to make as a gift for the coming season (or just to keep gleefully for yourself!).

The Knitting and Stitching Show opened this morning, and it’s lovely to meet so many of you in person. If you’re at the RDS this weekend, make sure to drop by and say hello!

Kitted out

We have been carefully avoiding any mention of the upcoming Christmas and New Year season so far. But it’s now well into November, and there’s increasing talk of gift knitting at the counter.

We’re generally in favour of starting your gift knitting in January. Jacqui does this, and remains calm and relaxed in December. There is amongst us one knitter who decided to knit all the presents one year, starting at the beginning of December. Calm and relaxed were not applicable terms by Christmas Eve. This Is Knit does not recommend this strategy.

But if you have room in your schedule for one or two small projects, then we have two ideas for you which are fast and pretty.

The first is a pair of very easy garter stitch mitts, the Bread and Buttoned Mitts. They’re knitted with Louisa Harding Thistle, a deliciously soft Aran weight yarn made from merino and alpaca. They’re the simplest pattern imaginable (a beginner could make them in a couple of evenings) so they’re a very effective emergency gift.

The second is a pair of soft-as-air mittens, made from Araucania Tepa, a bulky yarn made from wool, mohair and silk. With the long range forecast still predicting a hard winter, they’ll keep you, or that lucky recipient, warm as toast. Again, they’ll knit up in no time. We’ve called them the Blueberry Hill Mittens.

Both of these designs are available as kits containing the yarn and the pattern, so they’ll also work as gifts for any deserving knitters you know. The kits will be available (along with lots of others) at the Knitting and Stitching Show this weekend, as well as in the shop.

We’ve got Mark Grehan to thank for the botanical specimens in these pictures – he runs the beautiful flower shop in the entrance hall of the Powerscourt Centre. When you walk in from South William Street, you’re suddenly surrounded with the most beautiful things – you can see more at his site. There too, wintery decorations have started to nudge out autumn over the last week or so.

Speaking of the Knitting and Stitching Show, we have two pieces of news to tell you. The first is that the Random Number Generator picked out Elaina as the winner of the ticket to the show which we offered in last Tuesday’s post! We’re looking forward to seeing you, Elaina, and we hope you have a fantastic time at the show (including lots of lovely patchwork)!

The second piece of news is that as of this morning, the DART line between Grand Canal Dock and Sydney Parade has reopened, so you can now get to the show via Sandymount DART station from both north and south. It’s about a ten minute walk from the station to the Simmonscourt Pavilion, where you’ll find us on stand K13. Please drop by and say hello – it’ll make our day!

For a beautiful wedding

Last March, we had the opportunity to admire a wonderful piece of knitted lace: the wedding lace that wittyknitty had made for her extremely lucky friend, C.

Well, wittyknitty’s done it again. She dropped in to the shop a couple of weeks ago to show us this wedding shawl, which she had just finished knitting for C’s sister, M.

This time, Brigit Freyer’s Flamenco shawl was the starting point. When it came to the border, though, she added an even more elaborate border, adapted from Elizabeth Freeman’s Aeolian pattern:

Usually, the border of a shawl goes around the two shorter sides, leaving the hypotenuse plain. Not in this case: here the Aeolian border continues along the neckline, entirely enclosing the body of the shawl in wonderful Estonian lace:

What’s more, the border glitters with the loveliest copper-coloured glass beads, so it sparkles in the light – the perfect contrast with the natural colour of the Dublin Dye Company alpaca laceweight:

You can read more about wittyknitty’s modifications on her project page.

It’s an honour to be able to show you this beautiful object and to wish C and her new husband every happiness in the years to come. This is another heirloom piece, to be cherished by generations.

It’s show time!

It’s less than two weeks to the Knitting and Stitching Show, the country’s biggest textile show, and we’re looking forward to it hugely. It’s a chance to meet a lot of you, particularly those of you from outside Dublin whom we usually only talk to on the phone or online. It’s also an opportunity to see things we don’t see every day – the astounding work of the guilds, the quilting exhibitions, demonstrations and classes in a huge variety of textile media.

So we thought it would be a good idea to give you a few practical hints here, drawing on our experience over the years.

This year, the show’s taking place from November 10th to 13th in the Simmonscourt Pavilion of the RDS rather than the Main Hall of recent years. This means accessability improvements, because the entire show is on one level. It also means that the public transport options are a little different.

If you’re planning on coming to the RDS by public transport, bus is your best option. Because of the torrential rain last week, the DART isn’t running between Grand Canal Dock and Sydney Parade. Dublin Bus is honouring DART tickets to the areas in between, but really, you’d be as well to get the bus all the way. The 4, 7, 45 and 47 all go through Ballsbridge, and the best stop for the Simmonscourt Pavilion is the one by Bewley’s Hotel at the junction of Simmonscourt Road and Merrion Road. Alternatively, get the 46A or 145 to Donnybrook Church and walk down Anglesea Road to Simmonscourt Road.

There’s parking available if you’re driving to the show. There’s information and links for booking parking in advance here.

If you don’t have a ticket for the show yet, you can book online at this link. The group tickets offer very good reductions if there’s a number of you that want to visit (you don’t even have to come as a group, or even on the same day).

Once inside, we will be on stand K13. We’ll be accepting credit cards as usual, but it’s likely that many of the exhibitors won’t be. There will be an ATM inside the hall, but in previous years there have been long queues for it. To avoid frustration, you might want to bring cash with you (but please carry it safely), or use one of the ATMs at bank branches in Ballsbridge.

There will be food and drink on sale inside the Pavilion, but Ballsbridge has plenty of other places to eat. There’s hotels with cafés, there’s pub grub, there’s restaurants, there’s a number of well-known chain coffee bars, there’s an old-fashioned chipper.

We probably don’t need to remind you to wear comfortable shoes, do we?

You know, it’s entirely fitting that the show happens in Ballsbridge. The area has been associated with textile industry for centuries, depending on the fast-flowing Dodder for power. The Forty Acres, now occupied by Herbert Park , were used for bleaching linen in the nineteenth century, and it was in this area that linen was first printed in Ireland. Beaver Row, just up the road in Donnybrook, was named for the felted beaver hats made in Mr Wright’s factory from 1811, and the row of single-storey cottages there was built for the factory workers.

Fancy winning a ticket to the show? If you leave a comment below, we’ll get the Random Number Generator to pick out a lucky winner. We’d love to hear about previous K&SS experiences and about your own inside track advice for getting the best from it.