“My tension is terrible.” It’s a phrase we hear in the shop a lot. Too much, actually, because so often it is based on a simple misunderstanding.
There are two main reasons people tend to feel this statement applies to them, and I’d like to tackle one of them today. Often people say this when they start a beautiful new project and then get disheartened when their work-in-progress doesn’t look like the beautiful fabric photographed in the pattern. Let’s take this shawl for example:
This beautiful wrap was knit by Deirdre, a talented TIK customer, as a special gift for a bride-to-be. The stitches are crisp, the pattern is clear, and the fabric drapes elegantly. And her tension? So even! So perfectly smooth and neat. It’s almost machine-like, right?
Well, erm… nope.
Let’s take a look at two progress pics, shall we?
You can imagine a knitter, particularly one new to lace knitting, being terribly disheartened looking down at their needles. Having taken the leap in to a new technique, and perhaps struggled with charts or new stitch patterns, they might abandon the project in frustration because it simply does not look like the pattern picture.
So what’s the missing link? Blocking. We’ve covered the process of blocking before, if you’d like a break-down of the how-tos. Essentially you let your project take a long, relaxing soak and then smooth, shape and pin it while it’s still damp. Once dry, the fabric will retain the shape it was pinned to, and your stitches will have relaxed to a smooth and even finish. Here’s the same piece of knitting, pinned to Deirdre’s yoga mat:
It’s a process that is easy to overlook, especially if you’ve never knit anything like this before. It’s mentioned in all good patterns, but generally in one quick line at the end, without explanation as to the process or any emphasis on how essential it can be. In this project the elegant lace pattern is opened up and revealed, but you can also see the simple stockinette sections have benefited too: the fabric is smoother and the stitches have become more even.
Any project made from predominantly natural fibres will appear to have a neater tension after blocking, so it’s worth doing even for a simple scarf or hat. (Check out our bonus tip for hats that are knit in the round.) Why not just try it on a small swatch, and see what you think of the results. Trust us: your tension isn’t terrible.
Thank you so much for Deirdre for the images, and for allowing us to use her stunning shawl as “Exhibit A” in our fight against the concept of “terrible tension”.
If you’d still like more evidence, then try this epic thread on Ravelry, with before-and-after blocking pictures from thousands of members!
How would you like to win this gorgeous set of goodies? Follow us on Instagram, and join in our photo challenge, and this prize pack could be all yours!
We are re-launching our Instagram Challenge today, as the “how to enter” side of things wasn’t as clear as we had hoped. (Sorry about that!)
We would like to inspire you all to craft and share images of your fibre adventures, and your everyday life, using a series of photo prompts. There are other challenges out there which give a prompt every day, but we decided on a more relaxed format: post 8 pictures over the course of 4 weeks, in whatever order suits you best.
How to enter:
Of course, you’ll need to be on Instagram. If you don’t have an account there already, then this is a great excuse to sign up (and to come indulge in all the beautiful yarn-related images to be found there).
Post your pictures to your feed and include the hashtag #tikinstacomp in the caption/comments below the image.
If your account is set to “public” then we will be able to see your entries automatically. For private accounts you will need to be sure we are following you (please message us with your details and then approve our request to follow you).
The new closing date is the 31st of July. We’ll then draw one winner at random from all completed entries.
So what’s in the prize pack?
A full pack of hand dyed Sock Minis from S Twist Wool
A nifty new needle gauge from Townhouse Yarns
A selection of beautiful etched coconut colour-coordinating buttons from Textile Garden
The wonderful “Inspired by Islay”, full of gorgeous designs by Kate Davies and stunning images taken by her partner Tom Barr.
And a pair of our favourite stork scissors (the perfect size for your project bag).
Are you ready to get snapping? We can’t wait to see what you share with us!
It’s been a blur. These past few weeks have whizzed by in a whirlwind of special guests, trunk shows and visiting tour groups. There has been a sprinkling of knitting in scarce moments in between. It hardly seems possible that June is on the horizon, but on ticks the year, carrying us with it…
The “uninitiated” might assume that, for knitters, these summer months are idle, clicking needles stilled in to silence. Thankfully there’s absolutely no reason to press the pause button on our favourite activity. If anything, longer days and better light present only more opportunities to indulge! Instead we see project bags filled with finer yarns and Instagram feeds filled with golden light.
These longer days are also providing more time to share and to learn, as the students at the Playful Day workshops did just this past weekend. Kate fostered such a supportive atmosphere in these sessions while sharing her plentiful expertise, and the assembled makers and creatives brought so much to the table themselves with their insightful questions and discussions. We very much look forward to seeing how each of the students will grow and develop their online spaces, and we have a little Instagram challenge planned to build on everything we learned.
On that note, if you’ve a languishing project that needs seaming then the longer evenings are ideal for the task. Not sure where to start? Take our once-off Finishing School class, and we’ll get you on the right track.
Speaking of finishing, there’s the small matter of a certain Spring KAL to wrap up. In case you missed it, we’ve extended the deadline to this weekend. That means that if you post a photo of your finished project in the Ravelry thread before midnight on Sunday 21st May then you will be in with the chance to win some of the fantastic prizes we have on offer.
So. Let the grass grow… there’s knitting to be done.
We all know that moment. It might happen when you are idly browsing Ravelry and the design jumps out at you. Or when you bump in to someone at a knitting event. Or even when you spot a random someone on the street. They’re wearing a handknit and you simply *must* know… “What pattern is that? Ooooh, what’s that yarn? I absolutely *have* to knit this!”
Your queue may be long, your time may be short, but this design is heading straight for your needles! Such was my own experience with Tsumuzikaze (which means “whirlwind” in Japanese, in reference to the swirling hem).
I spotted the design on Ravelry, tried it on in Edinburgh, and was consumed by it since. Thankfully we now have our very own version in the shop, as modelled above by Jenny. It’s an incredibly clever and flattering design, worked in Fibre Co “Meadow” which is considered a 3ply (or heavy laceweight) on 4mm needles. The entire garment uses less than 200g of yarn for all but the largest size* and the resulting fabric is light and airy, with a beautiful drape.
If you haven’t had that feeling in a while, and you’d love to discover your own “must have”, then come along and join us on the evening of Saturday 13th May. From 5.30pm to 7.30pm we are hosting a Fibre Co. Pop Up Yarn Tasting and Trunk Show. That’s quite an event title actually, so here’s a breakdown of what it entails:
Getting up close and personal with some absolutely breathtaking finished garments and accessories. Inspiration will be everywhere, with designs from Norah Gaughan, Melanie Berg and Helen Stewart, among others.
Learning a little more about each yarn and project from Kate O’Sullivan, brand manager of The Fibre Co and the voice behind the A Playful Day podcast and blog.
Great company, light refreshments and an all-round-good-time…
Tickets are €10, with a €5 credit redeemable on the evening against any Fibre Co purchases. Each of the sample yarns will also be 10% off for the event.
We had a truly wonderful weekend earlier this month with Melanie Berg’s fabulous trio of shawl workshops. Knitters from far and wide came to learn more about Shawl Construction, Colourwork Shawls and Mosaic Knitting. Over the course of both days the students around Melanie’s table were simply blown away by the many beautiful samples she brought with her as project inspiration. Her projects are a treasure trove of subtle texture, exciting colour pops and clever construction.
If you missed out on a place at the workshops then we have some good news for you: Melanie’s Trunk Show of shawls will be in our shop until the end of the month. We hope you can pop in to see, feel, and try them on yourself. If not, then let us share with you just a few of our favourites here before they make the trip back home…
A firm favourite of the weekend, this generous wrap is knit in Woolfolk Sno and it is indescribably soft. A project of this size and yarn provenance is a pure, unadulterated luxury, but several if not all the students uttered the words “so worth it…” We are not currently stocking Sno, but we are happy to take special orders for the yarn if you love this shawl as much as we do!
An intriguing geometric stitch pattern, achieved through slipped stitches alone, so that you are only ever working with one colour per row. Care to see how it’s done? Then download “The Girl in Me“, chose two strongly contrasting shades and cast on. The original was knit in a sport weight yarn, and is a sizeable project. We think you could easily change down the needle size a bit and go for a 4ply instead. The result would be a lighter weight, but still generously sized, shawl.
Melanie’s eye for colour is impeccable, and this design shows off that talent perfectly. The base is a subtle two-tone canvas, interspersed with a warm burnt orange highlight. And that final pop of bright yellow? Genius!
Play around with your own “blank canvas” of light and medium grey, and be inspired by some of the beautiful versions on Ravelry. Moonraker is the perfect shawl to use up some leftover yarn from previous projects too.
That little yellow pop? It could be the leftovers from a wild pair of socks, a colourful kids sweater or a statement scarf… Take a little stash dive and see what inspiration you might find. When you’re ready to cast on we’ll be happy to fill in the gaps with a base yarn to match.
We hope you have enjoyed this short preview. Remember that these shawls, and many more from Melanie’s collection, will only be with us until the end of the month so be sure to stop in to view the full range if you can!
The knitting internet has been abuzz with reports from the Edinburgh Yarn Festival these past two weeks. You may well already have read about the amazing atmosphere, the inspiring classes and the wonderful products on offer. But we just had to add our own voices to the chiming chorus of praise for a truly spectacular event and, of course, to let you all know a little bit about some exciting new things that will be coming to TIK as a result of our research trip!
While we took lots of photos of the stands and pretty knits, this one of Jenny seems to sum up the weekend the best… Walking in to the marketplace on Friday was literally a jaw dropping experience. It’s difficult to describe in words the impact of so many beautiful yarns in one place, alongside the buzz of the (massive) crowds of knitters and the energy of the many enthusiastic stallholders.
We dove right in to the melee and spent a wonderful afternoon immersed in colour, texture and creativity. Frequently our eyes were caught by a stunning garment or accessory passing by. Many hardy knitters disregarded the rising heat levels among the crowds and continued to proudly display their wares. My own Cameo was packed away after the first hour, but those wonderful knitters have placed “Breathing Space“, “Enchanted Mesa“, “Epistrophy” firmly at the top of my queue. This gorgeous Carpino also made me delighted about my choice of project for our Spring KAL!
Speaking of Carpino, Carol Feller was just one of the many familiar faces we spotted. She was at EYF to exhibit her own exclusive yarn line, called “Nua“. If you haven’t had a chance to check it out yet then pop on in to the shop for a peek when you can! We also got the chance to catch up with some of our previous guest tutors, including Woolly Wormhead and Justnya Lorkowska. Justnya will be back at TIK this coming July (details very soon) and we’re hoping to nab Woolly for a return trip to Dublin later in the year too.
So back to the pretties then. If you’ve been following our social media these last few days you will know we have already had a delivery of yarns from The Fibre Co. Their stand was really special, filled with truly stunning yarns, fresh flowers and fabulous samples. Among them was Tsumuzikaze, which I had been eyeing since it’s release and just had to try on. It is wrong to order a whole line of yarn based on a love for one project? If so, I don’t want to be right… 😉
Keep an eye out for more fabulous new lines coming to our shelves in the coming months, and not just yarns either. How about these quirky cards from Tilly Flop? Top picks from her range for me were: “Casting on Means You Believe in Tomorrow” and “Congratulations on your new yarn storage facility home”. These will be in stock very soon, so you’ll be sorted the next time there’s a special occasion for the other knitters in your life.
Beyond the research and the networking, EYF was also a really fun weekend away. Edinburgh is a stunning city, and somewhere I’d very much like to go back and explore further some day. There was knitting, prosecco, dancing, selfies, silliness and lots and lots of wonderful people under one roof.
Thanks to Jo and Mica for making it all possible, and congratulations to you both on an absolutely stellar event.
It’s an exciting time to be part of the independent, creative world. There has been a worldwide resurgence in the appreciation of craft and we’re seeing a growing recognition of the power of collaboration and support within the creative industries. This sense of community and collective momentum was evident in spades at the recent Edinburgh Yarn Festival, where Kate from A Playful Day took a few minutes out to tell us more about her own journey in the online sphere.
When and why did you start the “A Playful Day” podcast and blog?
A Playful Day began as a blog in 2010 when I was struggling with my job. I felt suffocated and was ill a lot of the time. I used to commute for hours a day and while I did, I listened to knitting podcasts. At the weekends I devoured blogs and I felt like I wanted to be a part of that world. I began A Playful Day as a reminder to find a playful moment in everyday and it kind of grew from there. People responded to my photography and writing as I documented simple pleasures like curling up with a knitting project or my new favourite soup recipe. The idea of dwelling on life’s little moments is something we all need to remember from time to time I think.
What doors have been opened for you as a result of the “A Playful Day”?
My whole life changed because of A Playful Day! At first, the blog and podcast were something I did alongside a job I desperately wanted to escape from but soon it began to lead me to new spaces. Magazines, designers and yarn companies began to take notice of my writing and the community I was creating. I started freelancing, helping these businesses put their best foot forward online by managing their social media accounts, developing campaign plans or helping with press releases. I didn’t really know what I was doing at first but realised I was developing skills every day that online businesses desperately needed to excel at to stand out. I’m a curious person so I stuck with it to see where it would lead me.
Over the years, the blog and podcast became a place brands wanted to collaborate meaning it began to support my daughter and I financially. APD was a portfolio and I began taking bookings as a photographer, writer and content creator. One day, I travelled to Dorset for an interview and fell head over heels in love with the landscape. When I stumbled across a sweet little thatched cottage, I jumped. Packing my daughter, myself and what possessions I could move in a van, we switched city life for the country. Now I am a regular contributor at Project Calm magazine and am the Brand Marketing Manager for The Fibre Co. All this happened because of a blog that began with a cookie recipe for friends; I am constantly grateful!
Have there been any key milestones along the way – when you felt you were taking your online presence to the “next level”? What led to these developments?
Having been doing this online thing for 7 years, I often say that when you start building an online presence, there are milestones in growth. At first, you just share and are amazed people find you. Just putting it out there feels like a big step. Soon you start to realise you might need to find a more strategic way of sharing if you want to grow an audience or community, especially if you’re doing it for business. This is the stage that often leads a lot of people to do more: more tweets, more blog posts, launching a new challenge….. it can get a bit much and burn out isn’t uncommon.
I think for me, the moment I realised I was ‘doing it’ was when I did less, more strategically. I slowed down and looked at what my audience consistently responded to and then I used that to shape what I did. Increasingly, press requests came without any effort on my part- my content was out there and being shared in ways I wasn’t controlling anymore. I looked at my website and thought about what it said to a new visitor. Could people find what they needed? I shared from the heart and I spoke directly to people and then I carefully went about putting myself out there in such an unguarded way. This is a tricky balance and defining my boundaries so I could be myself was a big personal milestone.
2016 was the year everything came together. I was flying to international events, speaking in front of rooms full of creative people and collaborating with some of the most inspiring businesses I know. My work was been shared on so many prestigious platforms that I sometimes have to hide a bit or I get overwhelmed! At the core though, I was a single parent who worked freelance and those things were what I needed for my daughter and I to have the beautiful life we now have here in Dorset. You know you’re doing it right when you’re living your life and your heart sings. If you’re too tired and strung out to enjoy it? It’s time to regroup. I
What can your workshops offer to people who are sharing their creativity online for purely personal reasons?
I’ve called myself a story teller for years. When I write, photograph or shoot a video I start with a simple question, “What is the story here?” For me, chasing a story has led to a complete life change- the possibilities are endless! You can escape into a creative life, or you can heal. You can find yourself or you can explore the idea of a business you didn’t imagine months before. Unleashing that creativity will wrap you in a community that responds to what you are creating. Even if you’re doing it just for fun- how good does owning your identity feel?
You have written recently about the importance of slowing down and taking a step back sometimes. How do you think people can approach their online presence more thoughtfully?
The online world gets a lot of stick for being fake, too fast, too critical, too much. I am a strong believer that you can find your place online and use it to nurture your sense of self and your creativity. You can try on an identity that you might not be brave enough to in your everyday life. Women aren’t restricted by childcare or glass ceilings online. Yes, these issues exist but there are so many women forging paths online and they’re doing it as they hold hands with others around them. You can choose the path you want online because the possibilities really are endless. I’ve made friends for life thanks to our worlds colliding online. Without this creative world, I’d be a much less developed person, I’m sure of it.
Would you like to know more? You can catch Kate here at This is Knit over the weekend of the 13th and 14th of May, as she teaches a series of workshops on writing, smart phone photography & social media skills. Pop on over to those links and book now – this creative community is going great places, and we’re going there together!
We had a fantastic afternoon in the shop on Saturday, when we officially kicked off our Spring KAL with a bunch of lovely knitters and a healthy dose of sugar and caffeine!
For many of us swatching was the order of the day, and there was some cajoling, coaxing and convincing to be done about the merits of the task. My own swatch showed just how crucial an exercise it is – on the recommended 3.5mm needles I was no where close to hitting the 23 st tension required. My own version of Carpino will now be knit on 4mm needles.
There were a number of other techniques discussed and demonstrated during the afternoon so, for the benefit of those who couldn’t be there, here are some helpful links to tutorials on the topics that were raised.
By the way, it’s not too late to join in the KAL antics. Anyone who completes their KAL Sweater in TIK Yarn before Saturday 13th of May will be in with the chance to win some of our fabulous prizes. Thanks again to everyone who came along and we hope to see you at our next meet up on Saturday 1st April, if not before!
Today at 3pm we’ll be hosting the official TIK Spring KAL Cast On Party! We’ve a lovely afternoon of tea, cake and knitting planned. We’re looking forward to welcoming our KAL knitters in to the shop for a few tips and tricks on their chosen pattern and for a bit of a general natter too.
If you’re just learning about the KAL today, or if you’ve been following our posts and are still undecided about joining, then rest assured you don’t have to be casting on today. We’ll be delighted to welcome new members over the course of the Knitalong and everyone who completes their project in TIK yarn before Saturday 13th of May will be in the running for our fabulous prizes.
We posted a fun graphic during the week, showing the relative popularity of the four sweater designs. Here’s the very latest update:
As you can see “Ravello” is proving the most popular so far, and we’ve been putting together some lovely colour combinations for this design over the past while. We thought we’d share a few suggestions today, just in case there are a few of you still seeking inspiration…
Can you tell that we got a lovely delivery of Malabrigo Yarns during the week??? Don’t forget that you’ll receive 10% off your KAL yarn, using the code SKAL17 …
We have another gorgeous finished shawl to share with you today – Jenny’s version of Stephen West’s “The Doodler“. This design has been getting a lot of attention in the shop, and it’s easy to see why. The unique construction and clever use of colour both draw the eye, and the beautiful drape and butter-soft texture of Clarendon Sock create a wrap that you would never want to take off.
Jenny used “Toffee Pop”, “Mustard Seeds” and “Velvet” for her version and the effect is really striking. There are so many stunning versions on Ravelry for colour inspiration too. We’re particularly in love with bronze, teal and grey but there’s no limit to the options really!
It’s fair to say that Stephen West is a truly unique knitting pattern designer. He embraces colour and texture wholeheartedly and his designs are created with a true sense of fun and adventure. He frequently encourages knitters to push their boundaries and to see yarn as something to be played with. And if you love this approach then his latest music video is sure to make you smile!
If all that pop is a little too much for you though, then we would still encourage you to look at some of Stephen’s designs in a more pared back light. A case in point is Enchanted Mesa – a stash busting sweater design, with short rows and funky eyelets that draw attention to the changes in colour and texture.
Then look again at versions by MelleChou and KatiWoolF, and suddenly we are using words like “refined” and “elegant”, rather than “wild” and “eye-catching”. One approach may suit you more as a knitter, or you might love both. Either way, you can’t argue that Stephen’s designs are clever and versatile and more than worth paying attention to…
Have you knit any of Stephen West’s designs? Check out Stephen’s latest Mystery Knitalong here. (If you’re not too busy with our Spring KAL, that is!)