Musings

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There’s something rather nice about the very final stages of a project – the last few ends to weave in, the buttons to sew on, a waft of the steam iron, and then it’s done, ready to take its place beside the other finished objects. Years are like that: the planning, the execution, the modification on the fly, and then the accomplishment after.

So before we get started on a fresh and shiny 2013, let’s have a look at what we’ve just finished. You might, as with the best projects, want to sit down with a cup of something while we look back.

The big news early in the year was the launch of the new online shop. This involved a lot of lists and a lot of pictures of yarn and a lot of computer code, and the result was a huge improvement on what it replaced. So we have happy memories of shooting beautiful yarn (that’s definitely Noro in the foreground, and isn’t that Studio Donegal Soft Merino ready for its close up?).

Judging from what you’ve been saying, you like it too (and we still want your feedback if we can make it better for you).

But really soon, it was spring, and our thoughts turned to garments that would be useful right through the summer. The Spring Knit Along kicked off in February, with a choice of two cardigans – it was enormous fun, with new skills learned and new yarn tried out and a wonderful supportive Ravelry thread. The result, in Lisa’s case, was this: a Fan Jacket that’s pretty and vibrant:

So keep an eye out for our next KAL – and spring can’t be far away now.

Over the course of the year we had the privilege of welcoming a lot of illustrious visitors to teach at This Is Knit, some old friends and some new. Carol Feller gave an excellent workshop on seamless garment construction, and one result of that was several of Carol’s pattern centenary cardigan, Ravi.

Kate Davies came back to This Is Knit in April and gave us the world premiere of her Steek Sandwich workshop. There was a lot of trepidation, and then a lot of triumph, as the steeks were cut and the stitches behaved:

We love Kate. We hope she comes back soon.

We were also very proud to host Aoibhe Ní to give a number of her clever Tunisian Lace crochet workshops – it’s been an amazing year for her, and we can’t wait to see what she does next.

Woolly Wormhead came to give a fabulous class on making the perfect hat in August, and goodness, there were so many to be inspired by: an entire table covered with clever, flattering headwear:

In September, we took over the theatre upstairs in the Powerscourt Centre for the annual Yarn Tasting. It was a lovely night, and Ysolda Teague and Carol Feller were our special guests for the evening.

There were exciting garments to try on…

…there were piles and piles of samples to rummage gleefully through…

and there was tempting new yarn to go home with. What more could you want as the evenings drew in?

Carol’s coming back in February to give us some more workshops, this time on short rows and on cables and charts – you’ll find details here.

In fact, that’s something else that was new in 2012: we started using a new booking system, the one that we blogged about back in April. It makes finding out what’s coming up and then seizing your place very convenient. A word of advice, though: events can book out very fast indeed when they’re announced (Woolly Wormhead and Ysolda’s workshops were full in a day or so), so the sooner you hear about them the better. The best way to keep up to date is to follow us on twitter – we’re @Thisisknit, and we announce sales, events and all sorts of things there, so keep an eye on our feed.

Indeed, if you were following us back in October, you’ll have found us live tweeting from the Blog Awards – we’re very happy to have been finalists, and we’d like to say a big thank you to everyone who nominated us, as well as a big Congratulations! to the winners. It was a fabulous night, and thank you to everyone who worked so hard to organise it.

Right in the middle of the year, we had the worldwide spectacle of the Ravellenic Games, with Team This Is Knit marching proudly into the stadium behind a small but appealing alpaca. Impressive feats of skill and daring were on display, new techniques mastered, new patterns deciphered, and in one case, a cardigan finished and then entirely frogged during the Olympic Closing Ceremony (it didn’t fit, and both the knitter and the yarn are much happier with something else). To everyone who took part, or cheered, or provided tea, salutation, and to our tireless Team Captains Jacqui and Nadia, thank you!

We’ve said many times that our favourite thing ever is when the yarn comes back into the shop, all made up into your finished object, so we can admire both it and your skill. This was a particularly good year for us, then.

Back in May, Clare, who’s clareblove on Ravelry, brought in her outrageously lovely steeked Latvian Garden Baby Blanket. Knitted in the round and then cut open before being backed with cotton fabric, this is a knitting tour de force.

It’s still on display in the shop, and not a day goes by without someone exclaiming over it in wonder. It’s all of that and more. Come see it.

Sometimes we get to see beautiful things that aren’t knitted, too. Late in the year, we made two new friends, Catherine and Annabel, who are visiting Dublin from Mauritius. It turns out that although knitting isn’t that big there (one can easily imagine why not!), other crafts certainly are. One day, Catherine brought in some of her ribbon embroidery to show us, and we gasped:

That’s the house where Catherine grew up. Such three-dimensional beauty, with the flowers spilling out of the frame, and every one of those flowers a little yellow ribbon French knot. And there’s more.

This one’s still in the embroidery frame, and it’s a riot of exuberant flowers in all the colours. We were simply charmed by it – thank you, Katherine, for showing us your lovely, inspiring work.

For all-round knitted delight, though, one event stood out this year. In April, Jenny, one of our customers, married Rossa. The wedding was one of the most beautiful and original we’ve ever encountered – a lavender theme, hand-made stationary, a wee knitted bride and groom on the top of the cake, and the loveliest Echo Beach shawl, all alight with Swarowski crystals.

The wedding photographer was Julie Matkin of halfadreamaway.com, and a very good friend of ours. All of these wedding pictures are her work (used with permission, of course), and if you want to see more, then go over there and look through the gallery, or click through to onefabday, which this week featured Jenny and Rossa’s day as one of their highlights of the year.

A lavender theme, you see! There’s more, much more, on the crafting of this delightful and touching wedding on Jenny’s own blog Crafty Tails. Go have a look – you’ll be glad you did. Jenny and Rossa, our very best wishes for a long and happy life together!

Finally, there was yarn! Boxes and boxes of it arriving through the door and leaving in smart paper bags – new brands, new ranges, new colours to show you. This year we added Coolree Yarns to the mix, hand-dyed in County Wexford by the very talented Alex McLeod:

And if you want to see it knitted up, here’s a shawl of Jacqui’s (looking back over these pages, she made a staggering number of shawls this year, including the Cladonia right at the top of this post) – doesn’t the colour work beautifully with the stitch pattern?

Also new this year were Jamieson and Smith Shetland wool in jumperweight and laceweight (we’re avidly awaiting Kate Davies’ new book), lovely soft Aran merino by Rico, MillaMia sportweight in those lovely bright shades and soft and colourful yarns from Katia. So much to crochet and knit, so much to plan….

Well, we’ve come to the end of the year – that’s the last end woven in, the last blocking wire removed. Time to fold up that project and cast on a new one. Knitting? Crochet? Spinning? Earthy cabled Aran or delicate lace (from the Irish Indie Dyers’ Lace Club, perhaps)? Oh, why choose – let’s do all of it!

Happy new year!

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.

Bunnies!

May we introduce Animal? Animal is an angora rabbit whom we had the opportunity to meet earlier today – she’s currently on holiday at Shauna’s Pet Shop on Capel Street, and since we don’t often get the chance to meet fibre animals in the city centre, we jumped at the chance.

Angora rabbits (and angora goats and angora cats) are named for the city of Ankara in Turkey, and they’re one of the oldest domestic breeds, though they’ve only been widely known in the West for a century or so. They produce extraordinarily fine hair which can be spun into the softest yarn imaginable.

They moult several times a year, and they need to be groomed several times a week to stop those gorgeous coats from matting. Unlike cats, they can’t get rid of hairballs and can become seriously ill without a good brushing every day or so. Luckily, they enjoy the process hugely – or at least, Animal did. She sat there on her special cushion and clearly loved being groomed with the big red grooming mitt.

And grooming produces quantities of the softest fluff – a couple of passes of the brush yielded this, which disappeared into a bag to be spun and knitted later by a fortunate craftswoman:

We’ll be stocking not only angora blends over the coming season, but also some pure angora, so we’ll all have reason to be thankful to Animal and her relations. Watch this space for details.

And we’re also very grateful to Shauna and her wonderful shop – you’ll find the Facebook page at this link. As well as bunnies and tropical fish, she’s got wonderful exotic creatures like iguanas and pythons and axolotls. You can’t get yarn from an axolotl, though.

Classes at This is Knit

Are you passionate about fibre crafts and enthusiastic about sharing your skills with others? Here at This is Knit we’re on the lookout for new teachers and workshop leaders to host classes with us this coming Autumn/Winter.

If you’d like to join us then please contact us with the following details:

Which crafts would you like to teach?

How would you rate your skill level in these crafts?

Do you have teaching experience?

Are you available to teach on evenings and weekends?

Why do you knit / crochet / felt / spin…?

All applications will be reviewed in the next few weeks and we’ll get back in touch with you as soon as possible. Thanks for your interest!

You know how it is: you’re looking round the web, and you find a picture of the perfect lace edging (or garden bench, or veneer effect), and only later realise that you should have noted it down. But you didn’t. Oh dear.

Did you know there’s a place on the web where you can put all those little bits of information? It’s called Pinterest. It’s mostly used for squirrelling images away, but you can also store any sort of information that comes associated with an image.

When you click on an image stored on Pinterest, you’re brought immediately to the website where the image appeared to start with. This means that if you find, say, an ideal crème brûlée recipe with a picture attached, and you pin the picture, clicking on it later will whisk you straight to the recipe. (Just as if you were using a noticeboard on your wall, storing an image is called “pinning”.) And then it’s roll on with the eggs, the cream and the blowtorch.

Pinterest has enormous usefulness for knitting, crochet and crafts in general. You can store references to techniques, patterns, design ideas and so on, and then find them with a mouseclick. You can also browse through what your friends are pinning and get inspired that way. (If you’re curious, here’s what people have pinned from this very site.)

Organising your pins by category makes them easier to browse – here’s a bit of a board devoted to photography…

…but your categories could be anything at all that’s useful to you.

There’s a little bit of code that you can download to make pinning even easier. It’s called a “Pin It” bookmarklet, and it puts a little button on your browser toolbar. When you come across something you’d like to pin, just click on the button and it does the rest for you. You’ll find information about it under the “About” tab at the top of any Pinterest page.

Talamh on Ravelry

And while we’re on the topic of useful buttons, Ravelry has one too. If you click on the Patterns tab and then scroll all the way down the page, you’ll find a link for getting a “Ravel It” bookmarklet. Then, when you see a lovely crocheted or knitted pattern online, just click on the button and as if by magic, you’ll be brought to the Ravelry page for the pattern (if it has one, but then, over two hundred thousand patterns do).

Review Winner

And we’re very happy to announce that we have a winner to our product review draw! Gillian, who’s Poppylillious on Ravelry, won with her review of Blue Sky Alpaca Silk. Congratulations, Gillian – we’ll be in touch about getting your goodie bag to you (it’s got a skein of each of our newest yarn ranges in it – Shetland 2ply, MillaMia Merino Soft, Petra Crochet Cotton and “Powerscourt“, our exclusive shade of Hedgehog Fibres Sock yarn).

Your reviews are useful to everyone that visits the site, and they help us more than you could imagine. You’re helping us build a resource for crocheters and knitters all over the world, so thank you all. We couldn’t do this without you.

PS: Did you see we were shortlisted in the “Best Blog of a Business” category of the Bord Gais Social Media Awards? We’re delighted!

We must have some of the fastest keyboardists on Earth, you know – no sooner was Woolly Wormhead’s Hat Design Workshop announced than it was booked out. It’s on Sunday August 12th, which is some time away, and a lot can happen in four months. So we’re talking a little about it here, and encouraging those of you who weren’t lucky enough to nab a place to put your names on the waiting list (this worked out very well for Kate Davies’ workshop – a few spaces came free and were made available to the entire waiting list on a “fastest finger first” basis!).

Woolly Wormhead is a terrific designer, specialising in hats: traditional, quirky, show-stopping (often all three together), and all cleverly designed and a delight to knit. But rather than tell you all about her in our words, we thought it would be better to read her own. So here’s our interview with her:

TIK: When did you start designing and why?

WW: I started self publishing my designs in 2005 through my old blog, as a way to not only record what I was doing, but also to see if there was any interest in what I was doing. At the time I was a full time Art/Textiles teacher and was struggling with health issues, and found that writing my designs in pattern form helped keep my brain active, as well as provide another creative outlet for me to explore. I’d always made and designed my own clothes, whether sewn or knitted, that’s something I’ve done since I was a child, but writing them down to share, and grading them for different sizes, made everything more real. The response to those first designs provided the encouragement I needed to continue.

TIK: Why do you design hats?

WW: There are many reasons why I like to design Hats!

They are portable, and as we travel a lot and live in a relatively small space, portable is a must. They are perfect for learning and practising new techniques, as they don’t need the same commitment that a larger project does, and they’re relatively quick to make and reknit. I have a short attention span and get bored very quickly knitting larger projects, so Hats make perfect instant satisfaction projects. Let’s not forget circles and spheres; a Hat builds on these shapes and allows for some pretty amazing patterns and structures. Hats are expressive and fun to wear – they can dress up or dress down a mood, the most versatile of accessories. Finally, to me, Hats are little wearable sculptures. My specialism is 3D Textiles, and Hats are as good as it gets when it comes to mixing fashion and sculpture.

I did say there were many reasons, right?

TIK: What’s the most important characteristic for a hat to have?

WW: Good fit is pretty important – one size doesn’t fit all – sure, knitting stretches, but stretch it too much and it distorts. In my mind, it also needs continuity between the brim and the body and the crown – that’s pretty important for a good design.

TIK: What’s your favourite knitting technique?

WW: Hmm… not sure I have a favourite technique! There are several I like to use, such as kitchener, provisional cast-on, short rows. I’m especially loving short rows at the moment! I think any technique that allows me to create a seamless 3-dimensional construction is going to be a winner with me. I don’t like seams or picking up stitches, and would much rather graft something or find another way around the construction that, while it may seem a little challenging at times, will overall produce a neater finish and provide continuity in the design.

TIK: What do you say to people who claim that hats don’t suit them?
WW: There’s a Hat out there for everyone, they just haven’t found the right Hat yet.

You can read more from Woolly Wormhead and browse her designs at her website at this link. We can’t wait till August, when we get to find the right hat, and design it, and make it!

(All images in this post are (c) Woolly Wormhead)

Traditional

For a bit of novelty for the weekend, we thought we’d pass on a family recipe. This porter cake, made with Guinness (or other stout of your choice), turns out moist and not too sweet – rather grown up, in fact. A generous slice and a cup of tea makes most days better.

The fact that it’s called porter cake might mean that it’s a rather old recipe – Guinness Extra Stout was called Extra Superior Porter prior to 1840, though the word has been colloquially used for stout, especially in Dublin, much later than that. It’s a cake that keeps very well, though in practice this is hard to test empirically.

The recipe’s been passed down through a couple of generations (using lined copybooks, letter paper, obsolete word-processors and now WordPress); due to its provenance it’s unapologetically unmetrificated. If you like it, leave us a comment to tell us, and pass it on.

Porter Cake

½ lb butter or margarine
½ lb brown sugar
1 lb flour
3 eggs
½ pint stout
1 teaspoon mixed spice
4 oz glacé cherries, halved
grated rind of 1 lemon
½ lb currants
½ lb sultanas
½ lb seedless raisins
4 oz mixed peel
1 level teaspoon baking soda

Cream fat and sugar, add flour and well-beaten egg alternately till all the egg is added, then add remaining flour and enough stout to make a soft dropping consistency which shakes easily off spoon. Stir in other dry ingredients and lastly add soda dissolved in a teaspoon of milk. Mix well after adding soda. Put in a lined tin and bake in a moderate oven for 2½ hours.

We’d all like to wish you a very happy St Patrick’s Day weekend. The shop will be closed over the weekend, but we’ll be open again at 10.30 on Tuesday March 20th.

A few posts ago, we talked about Valentine’s Day knitting for men. But many of you are looking for romantic knitting or gifts for women too. So we thought we’d showcase a few ideas today.

First of all, this romantic piece is the Poetry cape from Louisa Harding’s Three Graces pattern book, made from luscious Grace Wool and Silk. A lovely thing to receive, whether as the raw materials or a finished article.

If you’re looking for something pretty and practical, then the Whither mitt kit would be an excellent choice – a quick knit in Mirasol Tuhu, the softest blend of llama, merino and angora. And since knitters and crocheters can never have too many project bags, this Pretty Cheep bag will be welcome (while this one has a theme-perfect bluebird, other birds are available):

It’s been colder the last few days (which gives us a chance to wear cosy yarny things), but we’ve got very warm hearts.

The print in the first image above is another lovely exclusive from Article, where you will also find dainty little cupcake cases with hearts on. No, we couldn’t resist them.

Conspicuous frugality is big these days. Up-cycled clothes, soothing casseroles of less popular cuts of meat, holidaying at home – the press is full of these.

Yarn crafts are no exception. We’re all wondering how to maintain our craft with smaller budgets. Well, we can share the secret with you – work finer.

The economics of this is simple: the wholesale yarn industry works by weight. 50g of yarn is going to be a similar price, regardless of whether it’s spun as laceweight or 4-ply or DK or Aran. But the difference in the spinning spells an enormous difference in the amount of enjoyment you get from that 50g – the Aran will be around 80 metres long, the DK around 100 metres, but the laceweight can go as high as 400 metres, which means five times more knitting or crochet for you.

To put this in concrete terms, the lovely piece of lace at the top of this post (the Cold Mountain that’s on display in the shop) used 56g out of a 100g skein of Dublin Dye Company Alpaca Lace. That’s less than twenty euro for three months’ worth of knitting pleasure.

So if you want to make the budget stretch a little further, use finer yarn. But this doesn’t mean that you’re stuck making only shawls. One skein of sockweight yarn will make the All Seasons Cardi, which is also less than twenty euro for most yarn options.

And ten euro will provide all the yarn you need to make a lovely Swallowtail shawl like Jacqui’s, if you choose Rowan Fine Lace:

With fine weights and beautiful projects, you can have luxurious yarn in generous amounts, without breaking the bank.

The Christmas knitting over, the mince pies eaten, we thought we’d take a deep breath and recall some of what we’ve been up to for the last year. There was an awful lot of it!

We had visitors! In a summer and autumn stuffed with special events – one-off visits, workshops, our fifth birthday party, the yarn tasting – we were lucky enough to welcome Laura Chau…

…Debbie Bliss (and our Chicago friend Skippy)…

…Aoibhe Ní…

…Carole Feller (launching Contemporary Irish Knits)…

…Kate Davies, here with Yvonne of the Dublin Dye Company…

…Amy Singer… (this picture demonstrates how lucky we are to have our own resident “yarnographer” and also how unorganised we are when said yarnographer is actually taking part in one of our events… Incredibly, we completely forgot to get a snapshot of Amy in the shop! If you attended this workshop and have one you’d like to share then we’d be eternally grateful.)

Amy Singer

and this was Louisa Harding when she came for our official opening at the end of November:

What an impressive roll-call! We’re so happy they came, and we can’t wait to see them again.

While we’re on the topic of the new shop, what huge excitement the move was:

Even better than all of this was the projects that you made with yarn from This Is Knit. We were delighted at frog blankets…

…and christening shawls…

and contented little polar bears:

…and right at the very end of the year, the most elegant cardigan from the Spring Knit ALong:

In a particularly lovely piece of timing, roseofskye posted her finished Clam this very week. She took that picture to show one of the cleverest things we’ve seen all year: to echo the cabled cuff of the cardigan, she made a beaded bracelet with twisted lines. Isn’t it lovely? It’s a Wendy Turri design called “Over and Under”.

From Nikki’s crocheted wedding dress to a a treeful of decorations, we’ve been delighted and astonished all year with the beauty, ingenuity and fun that you all conjure with bits of yarn.

So we’d like to wish you all a very happy 2012 – we can’t wait to see what happens next!

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