Love lace!

You’ll probably have noticed that at This Is Knit, we love lace rather a lot. So we’re tremendously excited to be organising the first ever Irish Indie Dyers Yarn Club!

The Club will run from January to March 2013, and each month, the members will receive a completely exclusive colourway of a stunning lace yarn from a different Irish indie dyer.

We’re very proud that the participating dyers are Coolree Yarns, the Dublin Dye Company and Hedgehog Fibres. The exact yarns and colours are a secret (shhh!), but these craftspeople produce stunning yarn like the alpaca lace used in the Cold Mountain stole at the top of this post, or like this delicious cashmere laceweight from Hedgehog Fibres…

…and just look at the colour intensity that Coolree Yarns achieves….

This club will have elegance and luxury in spades: from sparkles and silk to cashmere and alpaca, we’ll have beautiful bases in delicious shades, dyed with care and skill expressly for the Club.

The Club is limited to just twenty memberships, so if you fancy a treat for yourself or if you’re looking for a very special gift for a knitter or crocheter, why not visit the This Is Knit booking page from Saturday next, December 1st. We have specific packages inclusive of postage to anywhere in the world, so be sure to select the option for your region (and if you like, you can choose to pick up your lovely lacy surprise in person at the shop each month!).

Even warmer

A few weeks ago, we shared the revamped Glenties Cowl with you, made in light and lovely Mirasol Api yarn. Well, the weather’s taken a turn for the chillier, and we’ve got another snuggly cowl for you today, this time a brand new one.

It’s the Silver Ridge Cowl, made from the inspired combination of Katia Hechizo and Katia Illusion, so you get both subtle sparkle and subdued elegancet in the one cosy project. Add some contrast buttons, and you have a unique accessory to keep you warm all winter.

As with Glenties, the pattern for Silver Ridge is free with the purchase of the yarn and available right now. Just the thing now it’s got a bit colder, and there’s time to knit one or two as Christmas gifts.

This is the end

One of the commonest technique questions in the shop is how to finish off the ends on a piece of crocheted or knitted work. So we thought it would be useful to provide a tutorial for this (all those carefully worked Christmas presents deserve it!).

A neat and careful finishing-off starts right at the very beginning of the work. Leaving nice long ends – about 15cm or so – makes the process much more comfortable (though if you haven’t done so, you’ll find a hack for dealing with short ends at this link). Generally speaking, putting your weavings-in along seams or edges works best, so plan to have your ends there.

The best tool for the job is a yarn needle with a blunt tip, such as the Chibi being used here. Sharper needles can catch unpleasantly on the yarn.

Rather than going over and under stitches, it’s a good idea to go through them. In other words, use the needle to skim the end right through the centre of the yarn that makes up the knitted or crocheted fabric.

This has two purposes. First, it makes the weaving in invisible from the other side of the work. Second, it means that subsequent stretching, washing and wearing of the finished object will hug the end ever tighter within the stitches, holding it firmly and stopping it from escaping.

Continue weaving in through the stitches until you’ve gone about 4 centimetres. At this point, one might be tempted to declare the job done, but why not take a moment to make the finish even more secure? You see, there’s some chance that the pesky end might wiggle its way back out along its path, but we can circumvent that.

Turn the work, and skim again for 4 centimetres (or so) in another direction. This could be perpendicular, diagonal or parallel to the first pass – here, we’ve opted for parallel.

The pesky end is most unlikely to wiggle its way back out along its path, turn a corner, and then wiggle its way back right to the start, and that makes for neat secure ends.

When you’re done, it’s time to snip off the end up close to the work…

…and admire the neatness of the finished result – pretty as a picture even on the wrong side:

And on the right side, the finishing off is completely invisible:

And that’s how you can treat all your ends – the cast on, the cast off, all your joins from new balls of yarn, all your ends from sewing your garment together. What’s more, if you ever need to undo one, they’re easy to find and easy to unpick.

To the rescue

Here at This Is Knit, we’re very big fans of Ravelry. It’s useful in choosing patterns, it’s useful for substituting yarn, it’s useful for asking advice (after all, where else can you find thousands of crocheters and knitters eager to answer your every question?).

But there’s many other ways in which the combined wisdom of the Ravelry crowd can be helpful, so we thought we’d mention a few of them that you mightn’t have thought of.

The pretty little shawl above is an example of one. This is Stephen West’s Lakedale, designed for Malabrigo Sock. In the original printed version, there was a problem: some of the pattern was missing. But the designer, via Ravelry, came to the rescue. If you look at the pattern page for Lakedale, you’ll find the needed corrections. This sort of aftercare is simply invaluable and Ravelry provides a place where it can be provided free to us all. Indeed, before you start a pattern, it’s always a good idea to check out its pattern page to look for errata and see what comments other Ravellers have left.

A couple of years ago, a tragedy was averted. One of our customers embarked on the Print o’ the Wave stole. It’s a beautiful piece of lace, but it’s not a very quick project. The central panel is knitted first, with the lovely waving border knitted on around the edge. In total, there’s about five metres of border, made from easy repeats of a sixteen-row pattern. It takes a while, but it’s great fun.

Until the yarn ran out, ten centimetres short of the end. Ten centimetres out of five metres. You can see a picture of the gap by scrolling down right here, though it makes for heart-rending viewing. Since some months had passed since the yarn had been bought, the dye lot had changed, and the colour of the new one was strikingly different. (That advice to check your dye lots? That’s in deadly earnest.)

So the knitter posted a thread in the This Is Knit group, asking for scraps of the original dye lot. You can read what happened here, but suffice it to say that a fellow Raveller invetigated the posted stashes of others and found the single ball of yarn that completed the project. And so the Big Pink Pretty was saved, which would have been impossible otherwise. And lo! there was much rejoicing.

But what if you run into an issue with a pattern or have some question you’d like to ask a designer? In pre-Rav days, it was hard to get in touch, but now many, many designers are members themselves. What’s more, there are designer-specific groups, set up by fans or by the designer in question.

For example, there’s Kate Davies (Love), a group devoted entirely to Kate’s delightful patterns. Or there’s Aoibhe Ní’s group, called simply Aoibhe Ní, where you’ll find advice on her exciting new crochet lace techniques, news about her workshops and notifications of new patterns and crochet-alongs.

Then there’s special events like the knit-along for Carole Feller’s 100th pattern, Ravi. (That’s Jacqui’s one above). You’ll find the group here (though we’re happy to see that it’s turning into a group for other KALs of Carol’s new releases too).

So if you’re not already using Ravelry, or if you’ve just dipped your toe in to look for a pattern, there’s lots, lots more to the place, so come join the fun. You know, the best thing is this: it’s the users that make it what it is. And that means you.

Peace

Aren’t these the prettiest needles? They’re made by Peace Fleece, and we’re recently got a new delivery. They’re made of smooth and strong birch wood, with ends hand-painted in the brightest, cheeriest colours.

They come in two lengths, 10″ and 6″. The 10″ needles come in two sizes, 4.00mm and 5.00mm while the 6″ ones are 5.00mm. The shorter ones are perfect for a child’s hands, and they’re very popular as a beginner’s knitting gift. But really, when they look as splendid as these, it’s no surprise that they’re as popular with adults as with children.

If, like us, you’re beginning to think about gifts, then these needles would delight any knitter: useful lengths and sizes in beautiful materials. They’re already cheering November up nicely.

New and old

One of the best things about the Autumn/Winter season here at This Is Knit is discovering how well the new yarns work with well-loved existing patterns. So imagine how delighted we were to make this connection: our Glenties möbius cowl and brand-new Mirasol Api. We’ve added a few stitches to the pattern (it’s free with the purchase of the yarn) for even more snuggle, and it’s so soft and cosy. And just look at the colours…

Api is a lovely blend of alpaca and Highland wool, and this cowl takes just two skeins. Cowls make splendid and rather economical gifts, too, if you’re pondering Christmas knitting.

The pattern’s a true möbius, starting at the centre with Cat Bordhi’s clever cast on, and it’s free with the purchase of the yarn. If you’d like to take a class on this method of construction, then we’ve got one coming up at the end of the month, and you can make a booking at this link.

There and back again

You know when you’re knitting away happily, only to look down and see, several rows below, a stitch that should have done differently. A purl bump interrupting your smooth expanse of stocking stitch, for example, like in the picture up above.

There’s a few ways to deal with this. You could use an afterthought lifeline to rip back down, or you could tink back down all the intervening rows stitch by stitch. (You could also put the entire project in a plastic bag and stuff it at the back of the wardrobe, but let’s assume that’s not an option, shall we?)

If you only have to fix a single stitch, though, probably the best option is to drop down just at that place, fix it and then work back up. This involves dropping the stitch and making a ladder, and this sometimes makes knitters nervous, but here’s how to do it with confidence.

The only tool you need is a crochet hook. (You can also do this fix without one, but even if you’re not a crocheter, a hook makes a very useful addition to your knitting bag.)

Work across to the stitch that you need to drop…

…and just let it pop off the needle. Don’t worry about it dropping – after all, that’s what you want it to do. You might need to encourage it to head downwards if your yarn is at all sticky…

…and let it ladder down until it’s reached the place you want to fix. (There’s something rather liberating about this!)

Now pop your crochet hook though the loop of the stitch. We’re ready to effect the repair.

Find the lowest rung of the ladder made by the dropping stitch – that’s the strand of yarn that makes your corrected stitch. Pull it through the loop, from the back of the work to the front, without twisting it. That’s the repair done, and now you only need to get back up to where you started.

To go back up, find the rest of the rungs of the ladder, and starting with the lowest, make new stitches back up, with each rung becoming a loop, which gets a rung through it, becoming a loop, all the way up.

When you’ve reached the level of the row you started on, all you have to do is pop the remade stitch back onto your needle, and continue as if nothing had happened.

See? There’s nothing to indicate that this piece of knitting was ever any different, and if you don’t tell, we won’t either.

Completing a repair like this imparts a wonderful sense of warm smugness. You realise that, in Elizabeth Zimmermann’s words, you are the boss of your knitting. And that feels very good indeed.