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

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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.

 

 

Gemstone of the Month: Rock Crystal

April’s birthstone (in the precious stone range) is the diamond, but diamonds are not everyone’s cup of tea, nor within everyone’s budget. But you can give as a gift a lovely clear sparkly stone that is affordable and pretty without taking out a second mortgage: the rock crystal.

This macrocrystalline form of quartz is named crystal from the Greek word for ice, as it was believed that rock crystal was eternally frozen. It’s chemical composition is silicon dioxide, with no other chemical additions to give it colour. It is found all over the world, but the most important deposits can be found in Brazil, Madagascar, the USA and the Alps.

At Granary Knits, we have recently been adding some rock crystal items to the shop.

A single stitch marker, made from a rock crystal bead which has a lovely crackled interior, is available as both a knitting and a crochet marker.

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A set of clear rock crystal marker are a welcome addition to the range of gemstone stitch marker sets currently in store. This set features five markers with three, four, or five crystal chips.

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And finally, some smooth clear nuggets of rock crystal fashioned into beautiful earrings.

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Spring is Finally Sprung!

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To celebrate the arrival of Spring in the Northern Hemisphere, I have been designing some more spring-like stitch markers, and they are now available in store.

First, the Spring is Sprung set of knitting or crochet markers. This set of five features glistening golden beads, the colour of daffodils waving in a balmy breeze (currently here in West Yorkshire it is about +2 degrees Celsius, but I can dream!), and a lovely banded agate marker in the colour of purple crocuses. There are also plenty of charm markers – a sweet bird with a big heart, a cute rabbit peeking through his paws, a Tibetan silver flower bud about to open, and a graceful tulip.

Spring is Sprung
Spring is Sprung

Apart from the golden bead and bird charm, these markers are also available as single markers.

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April will soon be here, and April’s birthstone is the lovely Rock Crystal. As well as a single marker and a set of markers, I have also added a pretty pair of rock crystal nugget earrings. Beautifully polished and light-catching, these earrings are just perfect as a birthday gift.

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Finally, a new line in Jewellery for your Knitting and Crochet – stitch marker holders. I do send a small free cloth bag with each order, to keep your markers safe, but a clip to hold them all together is a welcome addition to my range. I shall be adding to the designs over the coming months, but my first two holders have been listed today and feature either a large feather charm or a large heart with a cutout pawprint. I am always on the lookout for larger charms as they are ideal for stitch holders, so watch out for future shop announcements!

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New Stitch Markers

Today I have been adding to our already extensive range of stitch markers; a new set of six markers, and two styles of single marker are now in store.

The Chess Set of stitch markers features six lovely solid 3D charms in the form of chess pieces, one each of King, Queen, Bishop, Knight, Castle/Rook, and Pawn. Each piece is distinctive and rounded, and the set as a whole is available as either knitting or crochet markers.

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The Crochet Queen is a charm I have been looking for for some time. Similar in shape and concept to my existing Knitting Diva and Knitting Queen stitch markers, these markers are slightly larger and flatter with a different finish. The Crochet Queen markers are a delightful addition to the range and I hope will find favour with crocheters; Crochet Queen is also available as a knitting marker.

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Finally, to herald the Spring in the Northern Hemisphere, I have added the beautiful Tulip stitch marker. This is an elegant Tibetan silver charm, gracefully curved and finely detailed. It is available as either a knitting or crochet marker.

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Gemstone of the Month: Aquamarine

Another gorgeous gemstone features as this month’s gemstone of the month. Aquamarine is the birthstone of March, and as its name implies it is the colour of the sea. Aquamarine is a stunningly beautiful stone, semi-transparent to transparent, greenish-blue to pale blue, like the colour of seafoam.

Aquamarine is a type of Beryl and is related to emerald; its chemical composition is aluminium beryllium silicate, and owes its beautiful colour to iron. The most important deposits are found in Brazil, although it is also found in Australia, many countries throughout Africa, and China.

Here at Granary Knits, we use aquamarine in jewellery, both as single-stone pieces, such as these aquamarine earrings, and mixed with other gemstones and luscious glass beads to form individual unique pieces.

Knitted on silver wire, these aquamarine earrings are stunning
Knitted on silver wire, these aquamarine earrings are stunning
Simple but effective
Simple but effective
Aquamarine features in these beautiful rainbow pieces
Aquamarine features in these beautiful rainbow pieces

 

 

Mother’s Day

Mothering Sunday, or Mother’s Day, is just a month away, at least for the UK; 26th March is the date this year (in the USA it is 14th May). As well as our fabulous selection of jewellery suitable for any occasion, Granary Knits is delighted to offer two new ideas in stitch markers for you to give to your Mum, with love.

The first is a single stitch marker, available as either a knitting marker or a crochet marker/progress keeper. It is a flat heart charm with the word Mother etched on both sides. I think this is a pretty stitch marker, especially for crafters who like to use a marker but not something too big or flamboyant. A quiet heartfelt statement.

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The second new item in store is a set of six stitch markers designed for a daughter to share with her mother. It features glitz, colour, and lots of hearts! The central charm is a split heart, with the word Mother inscribed on one half and the word Daughter on the other; this forms two markers. Flanking this is a flattish double sided heart featuring Mother and a clear rhinestone on each side, and another of the same style featuring Daughter and a clear rhinestone. Finally, two lovely silver foil-lined heart beads in a choice of three colours – a rich red, a medium blue, and a glowing gold. You can have two of the same colour, or choose a combination of any two of the three colours on offer. With each order of this set, you will also receive an extra one of my pretty cloth storage bags so that you can give one half of the set to your Mother in a bag and keep the other half for yourself! The set is available as either six knitting or six crochet markers. If you would like a mixed set (three crochet and three knitting, for instance), please message me for a price quotation.

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Mother’s Day Mother/Daughter knitting markers
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Heart bead colour choice
Little cotton storage/gift bags, made from quilting fabric
Little cotton storage/gift bags, made from quilting fabric

Gemstone of the Month: Amethyst

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February’s birthstone is Amethyst, a beautiful richly coloured transparent to semi-transparent gemstone, ranging in hue from pale lilac to deep purple grape. It is the most highly valued stone in the quartz group, the most important deposits being found in Brazil. Silicon dioxide is its basic composition, coloured by traces of manganese, titanium and iron. Its name means not drunken in Greek, and was worn as an amulet against drunkenness.

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Amethyst and silver knitted earrings showing the range of shades
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Cape Lilac Amethyst knitted onto silver wire

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I use amethyst in a number of pieces of jewellery; plain individual colours as shown in the photographs above, as well as mixed with other gemstones and glass beads to give a rich texture and colour to unique earrings and bracelets. To see my full range of Amethyst jewellery and stitch markers, please go to the Granary Knits Etsy shop.

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