…and relax!

Well, Christmas is upon us: the shopping’s done, the wrapping’s almost done and the rest will be done tomorrow. That picture’s a fair idea of what we’ll be up to until the New Year begins. Unsurprisingly yarn, festive food and armchairs will feature prominently.

So we had a quick survey of what we’re relaxing with, patternwise. Lisa’s going for Golden Wheat with Malabrigo Rios in Jupiter – you might remember that she did Folded by the same designer earlier this year and loved it (we blogged about it here).

Jacqui’s making the dotiest little toddler’s baseball jacket from Debbie Bliss’s Baby Cashmerino Book Four. It’s the top right picture here (awwww….). There’ll probably be a shawl or two as well – watch this space!

Nadia’s making an In Leaf cardigan, also in Malabrigo Rios. There’s at least one Pax shawl planned as well, and the Portulaca cardigan whose sleeve you can see above will be finished (oh yes it will!). Portulaca’s a lovely example of the magic that Carol Feller works with cables, so we can’t wait for her workshop on charts and cables in February.

That’s a lot of crochet and knitting, so we’d better buckle down. A mince pie and a big pot of tea will help as well, of course. But before we go, season’s greetings to every one of you – we hope it’s all you could wish for and more.

Baby’s first Christmas

The shop’s been echoing in the last few days to one sound: “Awww!”. The cause, you won’t be surprised to learn, has been this baby jacket, made recently by Lisa.

It’s a present for a little baby called T, whose mother is herself a fantastic knitter (we’ve marvelled at her projects on these pages before). It’s a free pattern on Ravelry called Snug, and it knits up fast in plump squishy yarn (Debbie Bliss Rialto Chunky is perfect, and comes in lots of happy colours).

It’s a terrific little knit – it’s entirely made in soothing garter stitch, but it’s kept interesting by an unusual sideways construction. It’s almost entirely seamless, with that cosy hood grafted to avoid an uncomfortable seam against a little head. So if you’re looking for something dotey that’s also fun to knit, then you couldn’t do better than Snug.

So welcome, baby T – the world is a better place now you’re here!

A final note to say that we’re open on December 22rd with our usual Saturday opening hours (10.30am – 5.30pm), and on Sunday 23rd from 1.00pm to 6.00pm. We’ll reopen at noon Wednesday 2nd January, ready for a whole new year.

Flurry!

We’ve been hit by a sudden dusting of snowflakes here! They’re all over the place, and they’re the simplest and most festive things.

It’s all because of this excellent book, which we’ve just got back into stock in time for Christmas. It’s called 100 Snowflakes to Crochet, by Caitlin Sainio, and it’s just that: a hundred pretty, easy to crochet and versatile patterns for six-pointed charm.

The patterns are both charted and written, and they use the UK terminology that most Irish crocheters are familiar with (though if the UK/US distinction needs any clarification, we talked about it last year in this post).

The book includes many ideas for using your snowflakes – in mobiles, appliquéed to accessories or as home décor, joined together to make stunning lacy scarves. There’s also seasonal uses on gift tags or greeting cards.

But we’ve got a wee trick to show you: how to make one of these beauties into a very simple decoration that would look splendid on the Christmas tree, or make a sweet last-minute gift.

All you need is your small crocheted snowflake, a simple wire bangle (we got ten for €1.50 in a chain store), plain white sewing thread and a sewing needle. For our flakes, we used Petra No. 5 crochet cotton in pure white, but they’d be so pretty in bright colours too.)

Thread the needle and run the thread through one of the points of the flake, and then round the outside of the bangle:

Continue like this, lashing the snowflake to the bangle. We found that twelve attachments to the bangle worked better than six, but this probably depends on which snowflake you’ve chosen.

When you’ve attached your snowflake, pull the thread tight enough to hold the flake firmly in the centre of the circle and fasten it off. And there you are: the small start of a blizzard.

Actually, we mean this last part. It’s really, really hard to make just one. And then it’s hard to make just ten. They’re fast and they’re easy and we just don’t want to stop!

But here’s some important news to finish: we’ll be closing at 6.00pm on Sunday next, December 23rd, and re-opening at 12 noon on Wednesday January 2nd, all ready for another year of crafty and fibery fun! So make that list and check it twice….

The perfect gift

It’s so easy to get dazzled by choice at this time of year – either by what to buy in the first place or what colour to get. Well, we’re on the case, and the answer, we’ve found, is kits!

Whether you’re buying a present for a loved one or for someone else, we’ve got convenient little packages all ready for you to give. Each of them contains the yarn and the pattern for one of our very own designs, in a sturdy little gift bag which could go on to be a project bag in its own right.

There’s the Ringend Cowl, in luxurious Malabrigo Silky Merino – a simple piece of straight knitting with an ever-so-easy frilly edging:

We’ve got several versions of the Party Lace Scarf, in a variety of Debbie Bliss Angel yarns, and some of them even come with beautiful Swarovski crystals to sparkle along the edge (we have a handy tutorial for beading the edge here).

Debbie Bliss’s lovely mohair/silk blend gets used again in the Slushy Cowl with Louisa Harding’s delicious Grace:

A perennial This Is Knit favourite is the Scribble Lace Stole – it’s been featured on TV, it’s been knit all over the world and it’s had pride of place in many wedding outfits. We have kits for it in yet more Debbie Bliss Angel with Noro Mossa providing the flash of contrast.

Just room for one more: we’ve got the Glenties möbius cowl in Mirasol Api, a soft-as-anything alpaca/wool blend.

If you’re considering a present for a knitter who would like to expand his or her skillset in 2013, then we have lace and möbius knitting classes in the New Year, as well as beginner and intermediate classes. What would make a better gift than the materials and the class together? You can find details of all our classes over on our booking page.

And if you’re looking for a gift that will keep giving long into 2013, may we suggest a subscription to the Irish Indie Dyers’ Lace Club? Exclusive, hand-dyed yarn from Irish craftspeople: what could be better?

(Of course, if you’re a knitter looking for a gift, then you might want to leave this web page open on the monitor….)

Scurry!

There’s a lot of gift knitting going on just now, and most of it has been carefully planned for ages. But it happens to all of us: the need for a last-minute yarny present hits, and we look around for something that is fast and lovely (with particular emphasis on the “fast”).

It’s with this in mind that we bring you Scurry. It’s a scarf that you can knit in a few hours, and the result is simply gorgeous. The lovely pair in the picture above are both made from Malabrigo Rasta, which is stunningly cosy and has an amazing colour palette, but any superbulky yarn will work as well. And when we say that Scurry knits up fast, we mean it: each of the scarves in the picture were knitted by different knitters in two evenings. This thing goes like a rocket on 12mm needles, and takes just two skeins of Rasta.

In keeping with the season and with the tradition set by the Rivendell hat last year, this pattern is our Christmas present to you.

Scurry Scarf

Cast on a multiple of 3 stitches, plus another 2. (In other words, 17 will work (15 + 2), as will 20 (18 +2).) As long as you use this formula, you can make Scurry as wide or as narrow as you like. The red/purple scarf used 17; the orange used 20.

Row 1: *knit 2, purl 1, repeat from * until only 2 stitches remain, knit 2.
Row 2: knit

Repeat these two rows until a metre or so of yarn remains, and cast off.

And that’s it. Two simple rows of mistake rib, and a truly delicious result.

We hope you enjoy knitting Scurry, and we’d love to see your finished projects when you’ve made them, please. Now, if you’ll excuse us, there’s more Christmas crochet and knitting to do, and we’d better get onto that right now.

Home again

Last week we promised you a look at some lovely accessories designed by Carol Feller that are currently on display in the shop. Well, it turned a bit colder in the meantime, so what could be better for keeping warm than two of her beautiful designs?

So it came about that in the picture above Jacqui’s wearing both the Mayu hat and the Maenad shawl. Although they weren’t designed to be worn together, they suit each other very well. The hat is a beautiful piece of colourwork, which works up fast in DK weight yarn. If you’ve been waiting for a first colourwork project, then this would make an excellent one.

Maenad is an elegant and cosy crescent-shaped shawl, made in sock-weight yarn on satisfyingly large 4.00 and 4.5mm needles. You knit the central panel in garter stitch, and then the lovely lacy border is knitted on parpendicularly. It’s just enough lace to be special and just enough garter to be TV knitting – the perfect combination for this time of year.

And if you’re in the mood for a touch of easy lace, then may we recommend Carol’s Centrique?

This beautiful example is made from a single skein of Malabrigo Sock (this is the Persia colourway). It starts with a very easy stocking stitch panel before easing you into those lovely lace leaves, and the instructions are both charted and written.

All of these lovely things are in the shop right now, so if you’re passing, drop in and have a closer look. We’re very proud to be able to showcase the work of such a very talented Irish designer.

End to end

One of the questions that we get asked most is “what’s the best way to join in a new ball of yarn?” Well, as with many questions, it depends. It depends on the yarn, mostly, and on the project. So we thought it might be a good idea to talk about it here.

Today, we’re looking at splicing non-superwash wool. Given particular circumstances, it will felt, and you can exploit this to give a completely knotless join with no ends to weave in. Those circumstances are moisture, agitation and heat.

The three are usually deliberately applied to knitting to felt (or more properly, full) the fabric, but here we’re going to show you how to apply them all just to the ends of your yarn. All you need is a little water (we borrowed a very pretty saucer for ours from our friends at The Pepper Pot).

To avoid unnecessary bulk in your join, reduce each end by a few plies (we’re using Soft Donegal here, which is a 2-ply construction, so we just halved the ends). You’re aiming for three inches or so of halved plies that will overlap later to give you full thickness.

Immerse both ends in your water and poke them around well to get them nice and wet.

Remove them, and squeeze out excess water. Then lay them across your hands so that the damp ends overlap.

Then rub your hands together briskly as if you were trying to warm them up – in fact, you are: you’re providing the heat part of the equation.

After a few moments, test the yarn. When it’s done, you’ll be able to tug on it and the join will hold.

Then you can just continue crocheting or knitting with your yarn. The join will be completely invisible, there’ll be no ends to weave in, and you don’t even need to place the join in an inconspicuous place.

This technique won’t work on yarn that isn’t (mostly) wool, and superwash wool has been treated to ensure it won’t felt. So for these other fibres, it’s better to choose a different technique – we’ll talk about them in the future.