Simple Linen Stitch Cowl

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have been cataloguing my yarn stash and came across some hidden gems of yarns purchased long ago and with no plan for their use, and I decided to design a simple cowl that would use them up. This pattern is part of my Love Your Stash Challenge for 2019, in which I aim to use yarn from stash for a series of simple accessories.

The yarns are Louisa Harding Grace Hand-Dyed, a DK weight yarn, in two colours. I have two skeins each of Coastal, a gorgeous bright turquoise, and Festive, a rich purple. Both yarns are tonal, and provide a total of 404 metres (440 yards), which is more than enough for a good sized cowl; in fact, I only needed one skein of each for the cowl, using virtually every scrap, so the rest will make a matching hat.

For this cowl you will need:

101 metres (110 yards) of DK weight yarn in colour1 and 101 metres (110 yards) of DK weight yarn in colour2

4 mm (UK/Can size 8, US size 6) circular needle, at least 40cm long (as long as you like if using magic loop)

5 mm (UK/Canadian size 6, US size 8) circular needle, at least 40cm long (as long as you like if using magic loop)

A stitch marker to mark the beginning of the round

A tapestry needle to weave in the yarn ends

The PDF version of the pattern can be downloaded from my Ravelry Pattern Store. Have a look through your stash, gather your tools together, and happy knitting!

Three-Needle Bind Off

Three-needle bind off is a very useful technique for joining two pieces of fabric. It can be used to create a firm shoulder seam on a sweater, to close the toe of a cuff-down sock (if you don’t want to use Kitchener stitch), or to complete a folded cuff or hem.

It is important not to stretch or pull the stitches too much, and to this end I am using 3 different sizes of needle: the inner cuff has been knit on a 3mm circular needle (brass); the purl bumps are picked up on a 2mm circular needle (dark wood); and the casting/binding off is performed with a 3.75mm double-pointed needle (light wood). The 2mm needle stops the picked up stitches being stretched out of shape, and the 3.75mm needle ensures that the cuff bind off lies flat and is not ruffled.

I shall illustrate the technique using the cuff of a mitten. The mitten has been knit top down, with a patterned outer cuff and a plain inner cuff, the inner cuff has been knit to the correct length for folding under, and the mitten has been turned inside out.

First, you need to pick up stitches around the beginning of the cuff. In the example mitten, these are purl bumps and are quite clear, being the background (white) stitches along the lower edge of a Latvian Braid.

The number of purl bumps to pick up should match the number of stitches to be bound off – in this case, the inner cuff has 60 stitches, so I have picked up 60 purl bumps. Beginning at the start of the round, place the tip of your 2mm needle into the purl bump as though you were purling a stitch, and lift the bump onto the needle; repeat for the second stitch, and so on until stitches have been picked up all around the cuff and you have the correct number of stitches on your 2mm needle.

Next, fold your cuff along the  edge line (this is a round of purl stitches at the fold point, designed to help the folded cuff lie flat) so that the live cuff stitches meet the picked up stitches.

In this photograph, the purl bumps are on the back dark wood needle, the live cuff stitches on the front brass needle. Take your largest needle, in this case 3.75mm (light wood), and put it through both the front and back stitch to knit them together.

Knit these two stitches together, and repeat for the second stitch on both needles. Then pull the first stitch you knitted over the second stitch, as you would do when performing a normal cast/bind off.

Repeat for the third stitch pair, and so on, until all pairs of stitches have been cast off. I like to neaten the join between first and last stitch, by placing my needle through the first stitch bound off, wrapping the yarn around it and pulling through to create another stitch, then passing the last stitch of the bind off over this stitch. Cut the yarn and pull through the last stitch on your needle.

The cast/bound off stitches lie flat and the fabric is unruffled. This gives a nice neat professional-looking finish.

This last photograph shows the right side of the cuff completed, with the Latvian Braid. The join at the first row below the Braid is undetectable.

 

Love Your Yarn Stash

I have been spending some time this Autumn reviewing and cataloguing my stash of yarn, as I have so much now acquired over so many years that I am not fully aware of what I do have. It has been a very worthwhile experience, and has already produced several parcels of yarn donations to Knit for Peace. If you don’t know of Knit for Peace please do check them out, they are a fantastic charity collecting knitted and crocheted items, yarns, and tools, which they distribute all around the world to those in need. Even if you have no items to donate, you can still Sponsor a Sack, perhaps in memory of a friend or loved one, to meet the cost of sending those parcels.

A tiny selection from my Ravelry Stash

I have been using the fabulous Ravelry stash tool to build my online catalogue of yarns, and it has really helped me view my stash in a new light. I already have lots of new ideas for using items from stash, both for impromptu knits and for using my Ravelry queue to suggest yarns to use. If you have not used this function then you really should as it is an excellent stash-busting tool. Here’s how it works:

Part of my Ravelry queue

Ravelry knows which yarns and how much yarn a pattern requires, and if you have a matching yarn in your stash, it suggests it, as in the example of Easy Seas where it has found that I have several colours of Rowan Kidsilk Haze with suitable quantities for this pattern. I can also mark a specific yarn to be used for a pattern in the queue, even if it is not the yarn specified in the pattern, as in the example of Rivendell Smoke Ring cowl, where I have marked a Crystal Palace yarn to be used from stash, as I have no Plucky Knitter yarn.

It is unlikely, but with a little analysis, I could probably knit everything on my queue, and much more, just from the yarns I have in stash! I may never have to buy yarn again (said no knitter ever!)

These two are a discontinued yarn from Louisa Harding called Grace Hand-Dyed. They are a DK weight yarn,  very silky and gorgeous bright colours. I bought them in a sale some years ago, but never used them because I rarely knit in DK and could not think of what to do with them. Having found them in my stash I now have an idea for a new design using them up and giving me something wearable and cosy. Watch this space for a free pattern that may help you use up some items from your stash, too.

 

 

Feather Cap Beanie Pattern Released!

The Feather Cap Beanie pattern is now available from the Granary Knits Ravelry store,

Feather Cap is a stranded knit hat, using ten colours of Jamieson’s of Shetland wonderful pure wool Spindrift yarn. The motif itself and the colours I have chosen reflect the feather patterns and colours of my lovely Cream Legbar chickens: Freddie, Sorrel, Sage, and Lavender. From a distance they look a like a dull brown, but close up, their feathers are a beautiful brown/grey, with touches of cream and pink. The four background colours and six foreground colours reflect this lovely effect.

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The pattern gives three sizes; teen/small adult, adult, and large adult. In addition to the subdued palette I also provide suggestions for a more brightly coloured palette and for a monochrome colourway in shades of grey.

Many thanks are due to my tech editor, Fiona (https://contact86367.wixsite.com/alittlebitsheepish), and to my lovely test knitters: Jacqui, Larisa, and Madeleine.

I am also working on matching mittens (full mitten and fingerless) and a matching cowl, so watch this space!

https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/feather-cap-beanie

Granary Knits at Craft Fairs

In November 2016, I had a stall at my very first craft fair, the Holmbridge Rural Christmas Fair, organised by my lovely friend Carole. It was fantastically well attended, and rightly so because the stalls had been carefully selected to complement each other rather than overlapping, the hall was beautifully decorated, and the organisation top notch.

Holmbridge Parish Hall in all its Christmas finery
Holmbridge Parish Hall in all its Christmas finery

I hadn’t known what to expect, so I filled my 2ftx6ft table with lovely things, got out my knitting, and prepared to sit and knit while the throng of people looked and smiled and passed by. I didn’t get to knit one stitch, and I barely sat down for the entire six hours! It was a fabulous day, and I was completely bowled over by the enthusiasm of the crowds that attended, but completely exhausted at the end. I learned a lot that day, about not loading the table too much, keeping an eye on the stall, and chatting to people, even if they are not interested in buying from you. I also learned that I needed help to mind the stall, as I had underestimated how many people would all want to buy at once!

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This year, the fair is on Saturday 18th November, and I shall be there again, with new ideas for display, new ideas for jewellery, and, hopefully, my husband sitting with me to provide moral support, a second pair of eyes, and help when I need a break.

I shall also be taking along some copies of the Raspberry Pi Shawl pattern for sale to people who may not be on Ravelry.

I hope, if you are in the area on 18th November, you will have time to call in and see some of the wonderful things on offer at the fair. Even if you don’t buy anything, there is a great cafe attached to the hall, with lovely homemade cakes!

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Raspberry Pi Shawl Pattern Published

I am delighted to announce that my very first pattern has been published today on Ravelry. The pattern is for a lovely circular shawl, designed using Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Pi Shawl principle, hence the name!

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This is not a difficult pattern! I have written it to appeal to both beginners in knitted lace as well as experienced knitters. It has been tech-edited and tested by three test knitters, using both four-ply and lace yarns. My original shawl was knitted in Debbie Bliss Fine Donegal four-ply yarn, but any four-ply, sport or DK yarn could be used. It looks especially lovely in a long-colour-change yarn.

The price of the pattern is £3.50, and the entire proceeds from sales of the pattern will go to the JTen Village Project in Kenya, to help provide schooling for the orphans living there. You can read more about JTen on their Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/JTenvillagehomes/

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You can see the pattern page, and buy the pattern, here: http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/raspberry-pi-shawl

 

 

Gemstone of the Month: Carnelian

The birthstone for July is the carnelian, a form of chalcedony. It is usually offered as a brownish red coloured stone, but can range from pale apricot through bright orange to a darkish chestnut. It is found in Brazil, India and Uruguay, in forms translucent to opaque.

The chemical composition of carnelian is silicon dioxide, enhanced by iron to give it colour. It can be distinguished from reddish brown agates by the fact that the inclusions causing the opacity are cloudy and evenly distributed, and not organised into bands.

In the Granary Knits Etsy store, carnelians feature in a number of pieces of jewellery as part of a mixture or as standalone gemstones.

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The Joy of Swatching

90% of all knitters have never swatched before they launch into making a garment. I just made that statistic up, but I imagine you have either said yourself, or heard a knitting friend say, “I can’t be bothered to knit a swatch, I’ll just knit the sweater/cardigan/hat and I’m sure it will be OK”. Perhaps it will be OK, perhaps it won’t. You may have the knack of matching, exactly, the gauge of the test knit garment, but it is highly unlikely.

What is Gauge?

Gauge is the tension used by the designer when knitting the test garment, using the yarn and needle sizes specified. It is the tension you need to match in order to obtain the correct size/fit for your garment from the instructions given in the pattern.

Gauge is usually measured over a square of knitted fabric just over 10cm (4inches) square. The pattern will tell you if this is measured over stocking stitch (stockinette) or garter stitch, or over a portion of the pattern such as a lace repeat. Ideally the swatch should be washed in the way recommended by the yarn manufacturer and blocked to size so that the number of stitches across and the number of rows down can be measured accurately for a 10cm square.

If, having knitted your swatch, washed it, blocked it and measured it, you find that you have too many stitches/rows in your sample you need to use a larger needle; go up half a millimetre and re-swatch. If you find you have too few stitches/rows in your first sample, then you need to go down a needle size and re-swatch.

Some Sums

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The photograph above shows the difference a tiny 0.25mm needle change can have on a finished article. The top stocking stitch swatch was knitted on 3.75mm needles (the size recommended for the yarn) and the gauge I obtained was 20.5 stitches and 28 rows in a 10cm (4 inch) square, marked by the coloured threads. With the same yarn I went down a size to 3.5mm needles and my gauge was 22 stitches and 30 rows.

This may seem a fiddling small problem, but supposing you were knitting a sweater sized to be 50 inches around, using that yarn and 3.75mm needles, and the tension of the pattern says 22stsx30rows, but you are knitting at a tension of 20.5stsx28rows. For every 4 inches widthways you are knitting 1.5 stitches too many; that is 19 stitches too many in total on every row, or an additional 4 inches/10cm of fabric. For a loose garment you may be able to live with that, but for something that was meant to fit to the form, it would not work.

The length matters, too. This imaginary sweater may have a specific pattern that has been carefully constructed to require 300 rows, that is ten lots of 10cm/4inches/30rows. But your tension gives 28 rows to the 10cm, and so your garment, knitted to the pattern, will actually be the same number of rows but three inches longer than the pattern specifies.

And that is just with a difference in needle size of 0.25mm!

So overall, your lovely imaginary sweater is too large by a piece of fabric measuring 4 inches by 40 inches plus a piece of fabric measuring 54 inches by 3 inches; that is a lot of fabric and a lot of yarn to waste on a sweater that will not fit well when it is finished.

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Two swatches of the same pattern in Aran weight yarn, to determine tension for a tunic

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Alternatives to Swatching

Swatching and re-swatching takes time and yarn, and most knitters, having decided to knit something, want to get started. You may not have enough of a precious skein to knit a swatch as well as the garment; you may be constrained by time. Sometimes, knitting the first part (say, the welt and first part of the back of a sweater) is enough to give you an idea that you are on the right track with tension; it is not too much to have to unpick if the tension is out.

If you are knitting an item, such as a shawl, you can usually dispense with a swatch, as long as you are confident you have enough yarn to cover the eventuality that the finished item is larger than the pattern specifies. With items such as socks and hats, having an idea of your own tension using typical sock yarn or 4ply/fingering would be invaluable in ensuring a good fit. After all, you would not want to go to the trouble of knitting a Fair Isle Tam only to find that it is too tight to fit your head! Nor would you want to knit socks that bag at the ankles because your tension is not accurate.

Other reasons to Swatch

A swatch of a portion of edging, to test a pattern

When designing a garment or item, swatching is essential to the process. Unless you are a very skilled and experienced designer, it is very difficult to picture a pattern written on paper as the finished article/edging/cuff/etc. A swatch immediately shows up any flaws or inconsistencies in the design.

Designing is a process of refining until the desired effect is reached. This involves a lot of drawing, experimenting and swatching, and is rarely achieved by simply picking up needles and yarn and casting on. The next time you buy a pattern for a beautiful shawl, with a complex and challenging pattern, you can be sure that the designer spent months and months drawing and swatching, charting and reswatching, until s/he was heartily sick of the pattern!

So my advice to knitters is, bite the bullet and swatch. It may take you a couple of hours and an extra ball of yarn, but the finished results will be worth it.

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two swatches testing pattern ideas

 

 

Gemstone of the Month: Moonstone

June‘s birthstone is the beautiful glowing moonstone.

Moonstone is part of the feldspar group of rock. it can be colourless, or pale yellow, with an internal sheen that is particularly lovely, like the shimmer of moonlight (hence its name). It is one of the potassium feldspars, with a chemical composition of potassium aluminium silicate. Deposits are found in Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Brazil, India, Madagascar and the USA.

In the Granary Knits Etsy store, we have both jewellery and stitch markers using a particularly lovely pale grey moonstone.

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Gemstone of the Month: Emerald

The birthstone for May is the Emerald, a type of beryl, available as both a precious and semi-precious stone. The precious gemstone emerald is a rich glowing transparent green, the deeper the colour (and the more transparent) the more highly prized the stone. So beautiful is the stone it has given its name to the particular shade of green.

Its chemical composition is aluminium beryllium silicate, the colouring agent for true emeralds is chrome (other green beryls are coloured with vanadium, and should not be called emerald, but instead “green beryl”). It is mined in Colombia, Brazil, Zimbabwe, and many other countries around the world.

Semi-precious emeralds are clouded by inclusions, and may vary from pale to dark green. These are the type of emerald you will find in the Granary Knits Etsy store, in the form of earrings using selected shaded chips.

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There are many large and well-known emeralds, mostly held in museums around the world, including the Natural History Museum in London, the American Museum of Natural History in New York, and the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul.