Making eyes at you

French knots are a very simple way of adding detail to your crocheted and knitted things. And what would Elijah do without his appealing wee eyes?

So here’s how to do a French knot in pictures. To start with, thread a tapestry or crewel needle with your chosen contrasty yarn or thread, and weave it in on the wrong side of your work (in fact, the start is exactly like the start in this button post). Then bring it through to the right side just where you want your French knot to be.

With the tip of the needle, take a tiny little nibble of yarn:

Don’t quite pull the needle all the way out from under the nibble yet:

Now, holding the end that’s closest to the fabric (rather than the end that’s through the needle), wrap the yarn a few times round the needle.

How many wraps you give it depends on how plump you want your French knot to be, so you’ll need to experiment a little here. We went for a buxom result, so we used six or seven wraps.

Holding the wraps against the needle with finger and thumb, start to pull the needle out through them with the other hand…

…and hold them in place until you’ve got the yarn pulled away to its full extent. The wraps will tighten up around the strand, making a knot that sits against the surface of your fabric.

Now all you have to do is anchor your little knot in place by bringing the yarn back through to the wrong side of the work right at the root of the knot:

Weave in your end neatly on the wrong side, and that’s it. For inspiration, you can see Lisa’s darling little Elijah peeping out at the world here. Awww.

Cuteness

This little charmer is Cute as One Button, one of This Is Knit’s most popular patterns. It’s easy to see why – it’s a simple little garment which comes in two sizes and which knits up really fast.

It’s designed for Aran weight or worsted weight yarn, and this one is made from Malabrigo Rios – soft as a cloud and machine-washable, and just look at the bright happy colours it comes in! Both sizes take just one skein, and when you buy the yarn, the pattern’s free.

What’s more, there’s no seams at all in this wee cardigan, because it’s knitted from the top down. So it’s the simplest thing ever to customise to fit that dotey wee recipient. It’s a good thing that there are always babies to knit for, because it’s really, really hard to make just one Cute as One Button!

Delicious

Excitement’s been high in the shop over the last few days, because we got a delivery of wonderful Fyberspates yarn – luxury fibres with beautiful artisan dyeing.

The skeins in the picture above are Vivacious 4-ply. It’s a 100% merino fingering weight, with a crisp ply that gives fantastic stitch definition. It comes in a gorgeous range of jewel colours, and the sample we’ve made for the shop is in a colourway called Tweed Imps!

How could you not love a pattern called Piewhacket? It’s a quick short row shawlette, angular and geometric, and a bucket of fun to knit. Tweed Imps Piewhacket – it was meant to be!

The other Fyberspates offering is Scrumptious 4-ply, and it’s 55% merino and 45% silk. The colour saturation in this yarn is astounding.

This was pounced on avidly for a Color Affection this week (our Knit A-Long‘s still going strong), and we’ll show you the result as soon as we can (we have high hopes for it).

Loosening up

Over the weekend, we had a query in the shop about how to loosen up a cast on. While sometimes you want a nice tight edge, more often you want your cast on to stretch at least as much as the rest of the knitting, and we all have memories of the hat with the overtight brim or the blanket squares with rigid unhappy seams.

There’s many different ways to cast on, of course, and you may very well find that a different one may be just the ticket. But we’ve one surefire way of getting a relaxed supple edge which always works, regardless of method.

Very simply, you cast on over two needles held together – and here’s how. In this demonstration, we’re using the cable cast on, but if your favourite is different, then by all means use that.

Take two needles (here, we’re using two of the same size, but you could go smaller or larger for the second one if needed) and hold them together. Your initial loop goes around both:

Then work your cast on as normal, with your new stitches accumulating on your doubled needles. It’s always the destination needle that determines the size of the stitch, whether you’re casting on, working a row or casting off.

Continue until all your required stitches are cast on. We’re demonstrating with just eight here.

Then you simply slip the additional needle out of the stitches…

…and as the picture at the top of this post shows, you’re left with even, generous stitches which will stand up to any amount of stretching, and which you just knit as normal. And you didn’t even have to learn a new cast on method to get them!

Home

Looking for truly Irish yarn, made from the fleece of native sheep and entirely processed in this country, using centuries-old spinning methods? We’ve got just the thing. It’s Studio Donegal Homespun, and it’s what’s used for that excellent hat.

It will knit to Aran or worsted-weight tension, and it’s made from 100% Irish fleece. It’s mule spun, so it’s made by a process which dates back to the eighteenth century and which was a major component of the industrial revolution in textile production.

In fact, you can see the very machine in action at this youtube link. The short film on wool production there is partly in Irish and partly in English, and gives a fascinating insight into how fleece gets transformed, with the spinning starting at 1.43.

Studio Donegal Homespun is a robust yarn which will work best for outer garments and accessories. The hat above is a sample from the manufacturers, but there’s plenty of patterns on Ravelry that will produce something very similar. A short search found Declan’s Hat, which would work beautifully with garter stitch substituted for the rib, and Fortnight which has the garter stitch already in there.

The other thing that we love about this yarn?

The colours! We’re used to nubbly Aran yarns in oaty undyed colours, but there’s only one word for these colours: funky! Every skein is unique, with happy contrasts and one-of-a-kind graduations.

So if you’re looking for something Irish that’s both traditional and bang up to date, this is it. It’s the perfect souvenir of a visit to Dublin, and we’ll be wearing it with pride.

Silken

We’ve already shown you that Debbie Bliss Luxury Silk DK works beautifully in accessories. We’ve now got evidence that it makes gorgeous garments, because this sample just went on display in the shop. It is Delfina, from the Luxury Silk DK pattern book.

The yarn’s a delight to work with, and the smallest size takes six balls, with the largest taking just nine.

And just look at those wonderful summery colours! A beautiful garment in the most luxurious fabric imaginable – what more could you ask for?

Well, decent summer weather, obviously, but we can’t help with that part.

Pretty things

Looking for a quick and unusual gift? We might have just the thing: we’ve just started stocking kits by Crafted In Ireland for making these charming earrings. There’s two styles: the double linked rings that you see above, as well as a single ring design.

The kits are the work of Crafted In Ireland. In the clever packaging, you get everything you need to make the pair – all the findings you need, including that lovely plump Swarovski pearl, ample yarn and the pattern instructions. You just need to supply a 2.5mm crochet hook and some jewellery pliers. The findings are silver plated and nickel-free, too.

If your intended recipient is a crocheter, then the kit would make a lovely present, and if not, then you get the pleasure of making them before giving them. And with a range of eight colours, there’s sure to be one that’s the perfect accessory for summer.

Smile

It’s not possible, we’ve found, to look at this wee cardigan without smiling. The happy colours, the smart Argyle pattern on the fronts, the gently gathered shoulders – ah, just the charm of it.

It’s the Pia cardigan, from MillaMia’s Little Rascals pattern book, and it’s made in their Naturally Soft Merino. Unlike a lot of children’s patterns, MillaMia’s designs come in a wide range of sizes and ages (this cardigan has instructions from 1 year to 5 years), so they’re versatile as well as lovely.

The yarn’s machine washable for convenience and comes in a wide range of colours. It’s perfect for children’s clothes, and that’s what most of MillaMia’s pattern books concentrate on. Recently, though, they’ve branched out into grown-up garments, so the rest of us don’t need to feel left out – we’ll talk about them soon too.

One last thing about our Pia: if you find that you can’t decide which colour to use for the buttons, use all of them! As you can see, it never fails. And it makes people smile.