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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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/
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And finally, some smooth clear nuggets of rock crystal fashioned into beautiful earrings.
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.
Apart from the golden bead and bird charm, these markers are also available as single markers.
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.
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!