Very first

It’s with some pride that we present this lovely cardigan. It’s the first ever garment made by Jen, its delighted owner, and it’s an overwhelming success.

The pattern is Golden Wheat, and it’s yet another Veera Välimäki pattern. If her name seems familiar, it’s because we can’t stop making her designs: Folded, which we blogged here, is another of her cardigans, and she’s also the designer of the marvellous Color Affection.

If you’re looking for a hassle-free, seamless cardigan, then we can’t recommend this one enough. It’s made from the top down, so you can try it on as you go to ensure a good fit, and it’s surprisingly light on yarn: this one took just over three skeins of Malabrigo Rios in Teal Feather.

The pretty buttons came from our neighbours at A Rubanesque. Even though it was a first garment, Jen did a little customisation: she left the pocket out and made the waist section shorter (it fitted her better that way). She made the sleeves a little shorter and a little wider than the original, and the result is a cardigan tailored to her exact specifications.

Feeling inspired by Jen’s success? If you fancy a go at top-down construction (easy as pie and seam-free!), then there’s a couple of spaces in the Winterberry Shrug class this Saturday. We’ve also got some room in our introduction to lace knitting class on the same day, where the class project is the Party Lace Scarf. Both classes can be booked online at this link, or just give us a call to reserve a place.

Ahead of the curve

Our impromptu Color Affection Knit-Along has been going on for a while now, and there’s fantastic finished objects popping up all over the place. As with every knitted or crocheted item, they all look even prettier if they’re blocked.

And so we were faced with a bit of a dilemma. Blocking wires work beautifully for straight lines, as we showed you in this post. Scalloped points can be enhanced by pinning them out singly as we did here. But if you want to block a curve without scalloping, then you need an awful lot of pins, each very close to each other and each taking up time.

Convinced that there was a better way and that we probably already had materials to hand, we thought laterally. And we came up with this:

That’s an ordinary Knitpro cable threaded through the edge of a Color Affection.

The original shawl was worked on 4.00mm needles, but to minimise stretching of the edge, we used a 3.00mm tip to weave the cable through the edge. We worked through every stitch of the last row before the cast off, but every second or third stitch would probably work just as well.

When the cable had been worked all the way along the curve, we took the needle tip off and replaced it with a cable cap. One of these at each end makes a handy anchor point for the pinning later on. Now the knitted item is ready for a good soaking with the cable in place (it’s easier to do things in this order than to thread the cable through a damp piece of work).

Pinning out the item is then very easy indeed – you’re pinning the cable, not the edge of the knitting itself, so there’s no risk of pulled stitches, and since the cable holds the curve, you need a much smaller number of pins. Fewer pins also means much less time!

Color Affection is quite a long shawl, and the longest cable we stock is 150cm. That’s not a problem, though, because one cable can be connected to another to make a single very long one with cable connectors (there’s three in a pack so you’ve got scope for quite some distance).

We can’t wait to try this technique on other curves – any circular or semi-circular shawl will be a candidate, as well as the tops of set-in sleeves, or the swooping short-rowed curve of Carol Feller’s Ravi. We’re sure you can think of other applications – do let us know in the comments.

In the picture at the top of this post, you’ll see what we’re convinced is the Littlest Color Affection. It’s a scaled down version to fit a very stylish two year old. It’s the dotiest thing ever, and you can admire it whenever you drop in to the shop.

Together again

We’ve been a little stunned at the success of our Color Affection mini-Knit-Along. The last time we tried to count, there were more than fifty of these gorgeous things in progress, all over and outside of the country. There’s lots more about our Color Affection exploits, including the extended deadline, in the Ravelry thread.

We love AoibheNí’s brilliant Tunisian Lace crochet designs very much, and we’ve got a reason to celebrate right now, because the final pattern in her Legendary Shawls collection is just about to be released. We can’t wait to see it, and there’s such fervent interest in her Tunisian Lace technique that we’ve decided to have a Crochet-Along.

This time, though, you get to decide which pattern to do. We’re having a vote over in the This Is Knit Ravelry group to choose one of two lovely shawls.

The first option is Venus.


(Image © Julie Matkin, www.halfadreamaway.com)

Worked in laceweight, Venus takes 750-900 metres of yarn, and Aoibhe recommends a 5.5mm hook. It’s got a beautiful open texture, with a stunning cockleshell border.

The second option is Phoenix.


(Image © Julie Matkin, www.halfadreamaway.com)

This is worked in fingering weight, and uses 770-1000 metres. It’s snuggly and cabled, with a lovely ruffled edge.

You can find the voting for the CAL pattern by clicking on this Ravelry link. Voting ends on the 27th of February at midnight. Then we’ll start on March 1st, and end by April 30th 2013.

You know the very best thing about both of these lovely shawls? They’re far easier to make than they look. Aoibhe’s techniques are simple to master, and there’s really good help available both in her Ravelry group and on her youtube channel. What’s more, we’ll all have each other’s support and cheerleading to spur us on. So if you can crochet even a little, it might be time to learn something new and make one of these stunning projects. Our fingers are itching to start.

And there’ll be a prize draw at the end!

Aoibhe’s Tunisian Lace workshop on April 6th has been fully booked for ages, but we’re hoping to offer another with her soon. And we can’t wait to see Bel, her new pattern.

Casting off in style

So you’ve got to the stage of a bottom-up cardigan or jumper where you’re going to cast off the shoulders. Later on, of course, you’ll need to join the shoulders together. Two jobs to do. Wouldn’t it be useful to be able to do both of them at the same time?

It’s useful, and it’s also a very good idea, because joining the two pieces as you cast off gives a firm, pleasing and very stable connection – ideal to bear the weight that the whole garment will place on the seam.

The technique in question is called a three needle cast off, and here’s how you do it. You need the live stitches for both parts of the “seam”, so put the last row of your front on a stitch holder while you complete the back or vice versa. The two final rows must have the same number of stitches. And you’ll also need a third needle, the same size as the ones you used to knit the pieces, or maybe a size larger if you tend to cast off tightly.

Put the needles that hold your two pieces parallel, with the right sides of the knitting facing each other. Then insert your third needle into the first stitch on each needle, so you’re poking it through two stitches at the same time. Wrap the yarn around your right hand needle, and knit the two stitches together.

Then repeat this knitting two together, so that you have two stitches on the needle in your right hand.

The next step is exactly the same as a standard cast off – using the tip of the left hand needle (either of them!), leapfrog the rightmost stitch over its neighbour to its left. One stitch cast off!

Then knit two more stitches together, one from each needle, just as at the start, and repeat the leapfrogging. That’s all there is to it!

When you’ve done a few, stop and admire your handiwork: a neat little seam which has accomplished your goal of casting off and making your seam in one easy step. Turn the work to the right side, and you’ll see the seam we showed you at the top of this post.

So, are you ready to give it a try? If you’d like to learn more fun and impressive finishing techniques then pop along to our shop in Dublin for our regular “Finishing School” workshop. You can view our class schedule online here.

Lovestruck

We’re big fans of Valentine’s Day in these parts – it gives us a chance to wax romantic and think of hearts and flowers, at least for one day out of the year.

This year’s no exception, and we’ve got something rather special to celebrate it. We’ve got some skeins of an exclusive laceweight in a colour called, suitably, “Valentine”, from the talented hand-dyers of the Dublin Dye Company. It’s a very limited edition, though, so it won’t be here for long.

It’s 800 metres of wool and silk, with the sweetest silver sparkle brightening it up. This is a yarn to fall in love with and to spend long hours with – with meterage like that, you can plan a lengthy project.

So if you’re thinking of a Valentine’s Day gift for a knitter or crocheter you love, this would be the perfect choice. Lovingly hand-dyed sparkly laceweight – oh my!

Today is also Pancake Tuesday, and our wonderful neighbours at the Pepper Pot Café are serving pancakes, with bacon, maple syrup and pecans, with lemon, with Nutella and cream…. Like Valentine’s Day, this happens only once a year, and we love it too.

Fuzz

Or rather: getting rid of it. Everyone’s got a garment or two, handmade or not, which has pilled sadly and no longer looks its best. Well, we’re pretty sure that we’ve got the answer.

It’s called The Gleener, and we got a delivery this week. Above you can see a picture of it in use – you simply brush the fabric with it. There’s no power leads and no batteries, and here’s the results of a small experiment we conducted earlier.

We started with a garment made of Louisa Harding Thistle – it’s a beautiful garment, but its sleeves were, as you can see, looking a little worse for wear.

The Gleener comes with three heads, each appropriate for a different fabric. We chose the medium one and went to work. A few strokes later, it had removed this amount of fluff and pill.

When you’ve brushed off the pills, they clean easily off the head. Here’s what we retrieved from it after our gleening:

And this is what our sleeve looked like after our few seconds of tender loving care. It’s like new.

This is the best pill- and fluff-remover we’ve ever seen. And now that we’ve seen to all our hand-knit garments, we’re starting to think of other things that need a good gleening. There’s that lovely pink tweed coat, for instance…. In other words, this is a tool that’s not just for your hand-mades – it’s for maintaining your entire wardrobe.

If you want a demonstration, then you’re absolutely welcome to bring in your pilliest garment to the shop and see how the Gleener copes. We’re confident you’ll be amazed. You see, we were.

Spring

Spring officially started on Friday last, and it’s really beginning to feel like it. There’s light in the sky after five, there’s daffodil leaves poking insistently up from the soil, and we’re starting to think of new season colours and yarns.

So the timing of yesterday’s delivery from Hedgehog Fibres couldn’t have been better timed. It was a big box filled with the most gorgeous yarn in colours that lit up the day.

That’s some of the pure cashmere lace – 400 metres of the softest, lightest fibre imaginable.

And there’s new Hedgehog Fibres sock yarn in stock too – 350 metres of vibrant, smoothly plied knitting or crocheting delight.

And up at the top of this post you’ll see something that we’re very very proud of indeed: the “Powerscourt” colourway in sock yarn. This is a collaboration between Beata Jezek, the very talented dyer behind Hedgehog Fibres, and This Is Knit. It’s exclusive to us, and we think it’s rather special.

Carol Feller’s workshops went down an absolute treat on Saturday, and we can now report an upsurge in both charted cable and short row knitting as a result. People came from all over Ireland to attend and they went away with lots of neat new tips and tricks under their belts!

We’re also very happy to be able to tell you that Aoibhe Ní will be giving a full day workshop in This Is Knit on Saturday April 6th on her marvellous Tunisian Lace techniques. Aoibhe designs stunning crocheted shawls in the some of finest yarns available. Places at the workshop are limited, but you can nab yours at this link.

So onwards into spring! (Pay no attention to the falling snow.)

A book of delight

When we heard some time ago that Kate Davies was writing a book, we knew we could expect a rare treat. We are, after all, some of her biggest fans. We’ve been reading her blog for years. We’ve loved her talks and classes here (and we’re very much hoping she’ll be back soon). We’ve knitted her designs with gusto. Even so, we weren’t entirely prepared for what she has delivered.

Called Colours of Shetland, it’s simply beautiful. It’s a very handsome book, amply illustrated with stunning photography by Tom Barr and John Moncrieff. It contains ten patterns for lovely garments and accessories, all using Jamieson and Smith 2-ply Jumperweight. (As soon as we heard that the book was coming out, we just ordered all the colours Kate uses in it, so they’re here and oh my! they’re lovely.)

There’s stripes and stranded colourwork here, and there’s clever techniques like top-down construction and steeking, and there’s cunning ruses such as the Stevenson Gauntlets, which are lovely in their own right (they’re in progress in the picture above) but also function as the tension swatch for the Stevenson Sweater. There’s hats and mittens and cardigans, with full colour charts and generous size ranges. You can see the full range over on Ravelry at this link.

The layout of the patterns is perhaps the clearest we’ve ever seen. The stages of the work are laid out under numbered headings (“1: cast on, work turned hem; 2: divide for pockets, and waist shaping to fronts and back” and so on), each introducing clear, unhurried instructions. If only all patterns were set out thus. And for once, the techniques section isn’t a catch-all “how to knit” chapter, but tells you how to work specific techniques such as steeking, corrugated rib and short rows. There’s even a couple of pages on how to make your own buttons from yarn.

So far, it’s a knitting pattern book, with charming patterns and lovely colour. It’s so much more than that. This is a knitting book in the sense that Elizabeth David’s or Claudia Roden’s works are recipe books. Colours of Shetland is a hymn to the Shetland Islands, divided thematically into five sections, each examining a different aspect of the islands. There’s history, there’s geology, there’s archaeology, there’s dialect geography, there’s botany. And there’s puffins.

Kate’s written a book which is deeply suffused with love and respect for a culture that reaches back four thousand years, at the crossroads of Northern European trade and travel. Buy this book, and you may find yourself planning a trip. You could even stay in a lighthouse.

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Colours of Shetland is now available to buy from our online shop here.