Wednesday, May 10, 2017

New pattern: Hextile Wrap

My latest adventure in lace is the Hextile Wrap, a long, versatile wrap with bold geometric patterning. The design gets its name from the tiling pattern of triangles and hexagons in simple lace mesh, and it's based on garter stitch for reversibility, ease, and cosiness.

Equally useful for cool spring or autumn evenings, this wrap has already come in handy! Last weekend Mum and Dad and I visited Napier to see my brother and his crew, and my sister-in-law Colleen modelled my Hextile Wrap on the beach like a pro. The sun went down just as we finished the last photo.

I designed the Hextile Wrap to make the most of two lovely skeins of sock yarn I've been saving - Miss Click Clack's Fenwick Street Flashmerino (made up of 85% extrafine merino and 15% nylon) in 'Melbourne Black'. The wrap's open mesh panels and bias-knit construction work together to produce a surprisingly large wrap from just two skeins.

The stitch pattern is fast, easy, and intuitive once you get the hang of the structure - the mesh is the simplest kind of lace (just yarn-overs and k2togs), and all wrong-side rows are plain knit rows. I found it a great project to accompany tv and podcasts.

  • an all-over geometric pattern of mesh lace triangles
  • intuitive and easy to knit
  • knit on the bias from end to end
  • easy to enlarge by adding extra repeats to the length and/or width
  • requires two skeins of fingering-weight or sock yarn
  • solid, semi-solid, or gradient-dyed yarn is ideal
  • pattern includes full written instructions as well as charts.

You can see all the details and download the Hextile Wrap pattern via Ravelry, Loveknitting, or Craftsy.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Knitted treasure

Have you been following the Yarn Love Challenge on Instagram? I've been doing my best to keep up with the prompts for the last couple of months, and it's been great for sparking ideas for my daily photos and also discovering other yarn-loving people through the hashtag.

The challenge prompt for April 30th was "made for me", which gave me the idea of showing off an amazing sweater which my Mum made for me, almost 30 years ago...

That's me and my brother feeding the chooks!

I'm a big fan of the harmonious colour palette, with its brights toned down with greys and pastels. Isn't it beautiful?

The pattern is 'Outlined Star' from Kaffe Fassett's 1985 book Glorious Knitting. It's one of the gems from Mum's collection of retro knitting books which we get out now and then to marvel over. Some of the 80s books are more valuable as comedy than inspiration right now, but Glorious Knitting still stands up in my opinion! I love the photography and colours, and I'm in awe of some of the designs. If you're keen for some top-notch colourwork inspiration, you might be able to find it at your local library or second-hand bookshop. 

There are certain knitting techniques that are generally considered difficult or advanced at the moment, that weren't so much when I was growing up. This sweater incorporates two of them: stranded colourwork knit flat, and 3-colour stranding. And because Mum was comfortable with these techniques, I didn't shy away from them when I first learned to knit. Thanks Mum!

My first attempt at colourwork of any kind was an Inga Hat, which I tried to adapt for flat knitting, but got horribly confused by the braid at the brim. Later, when I'd learned to knit in the round, my first completed colourwork project was an Opus Spicatum hat in a full rainbow of colours instead of the original two - which resulted in working 3-colour (and even a few 4-colour) rounds. It was a massive challenge, but I managed to finish it with the help of online tutorials and sheer bloody-mindedness. Hooray for adventurous newbies! ;)

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Wellington appreciation

I was lucky enough to visit Wellington last week! Willie's grandma was turning 90, so we all came over from Melbourne for the celebrations and to see our family & friends. It's always great to see my home city again, but this trip had a few extra-special highlights. 

Thursday was a whirlwind of brunch at Island Bay, settling into the hotel where we would be holding the first of the birthday parties, and zipping around town gathering supplies (and coffee)...

The waves at Island Bay, across the road from our brunch cafe

Julian and I stopped for long blacks at the Flight Coffee Hangar!

On Friday, after the party, I went for a lovely solo stroll from our hotel to the waterfront and back. The familiar landmarks looked beautiful in the early evening light...

Looking across the harbour

Over the bridge to Civic Square

My favourite library ever (sniff)...

Old Bank Arcade with overhead bus power-lines

I had Saturday afternoon all to myself, so naturally I headed for Tash's amazing yarn shop Holland Road Yarn Co, stopping for a quick lunch at Deluxe on the way.

Oriental Bay beach, below my old flat

Deluxe Cafe has reliably amazing salads!

I spent nearly two hours at the yarn shop, browsing and chatting... and spinning! A spinning group was in residence on the shop's couches, with wheels and spindles whizzing. Jen invited me to join in, and loaned me one of the shop spinning wheels and some fibre to have a try at wheel-spinning.

I had only ever spun yarn using a spindle, so I needed help to get started (thank you Alexis!). I managed to get everything flowing nicely a couple of times, in between fighting with over-twisting, re-attaching my fibre, and spinning the wheel the wrong way. I definitely got a good taste of using a wheel, and I've started researching affordable models. ;)

Holland Road is a wonderfully colourful place!

A rainbow of Quince & Co yarn

The Brooklyn Tweed Shelter wall

My very first wheel-spun yarn!

An amazing Sophie's Universe blanket on the shop's knitting couch

Heading back to Oriental Bay via the waterfront

Boat-sheds in the sun

The other big highlight of my few days in Wellington was joining my old choir on Sunday morning for some plainchant, Byrd, and Palestrina. Due to a long and expensive period of earthquake-strengthening, St Mary's has been closed for the last few years and only re-opened a couple of weeks ago. It was so good to see my choir friends and sing with them again...

The restored St Mary of the Angels, open again at last!

My view from the choir loft

I rounded out my trip with a lovely lunch with Willie and family, and then headed north to my family in Whakatane. I'll be here for a couple more weeks before I fly back to Melbourne. So far I've been enjoying Mum & Dad's cooking, scoffing all the feijoas I can find, and quietly getting back to my knitting projects.

These are my precious new yarn pets from Holland Road - aren't they gorgeous?

Knitsch Singularity + Brooklyn Tweed Arbor

Yarn is definitely my favourite kind of souvenir. <3

Thursday, March 9, 2017

How to block textured knits

Here's the situation: you've just finished knitting something with fantastic texture, either in cables or knits-and-purls, and now you need to block it. Wet-blocking, where you soak the project before laying/pinning it out to dry, can really flatten out texture, especially if you've used a yarn that doesn't 'bounce back' much once it's dry (like an alpaca or silk blend).

I had just this dilemma when I finished my Beeswax Scarf! I had wet-blocked my swatch and been disappointed by how flattened-out it was:

Scarf above; swatch below

Scarf on the left; swatch on the right

Obviously, I was keen to try a different blocking method that would preserve more of the lovely texture!

I settled on a method similar to wet-blocking, but with the order of the steps switched up: first you pin out your project, then you wet it. I used pins to stretch the scarf slightly and open up the eyelet-holes, and then I sprayed it liberally with a spray-bottle full of water. And I made a stop-motion video showing exactly what I did:

This method also has the advantage of taking less time to dry, because the yarn isn't fully soaked through. :)

I really want to try it next time I knit a cabled hat, because putting the hat over a balloon and spraying it has got to be easier than prodding a floppy, wet hat into shape.

Do you have a favourite blocking method I need to try?

Thursday, February 23, 2017

New pattern: Beeswax Scarf

I've combined my love of bees and textured knits once again, and the result is the Beeswax Scarf! Its large-scale honeycomb pattern echoes the cables on my Beeswax Hat, but this is much easier to knit - and most importantly for a scarf, it's easy to knit flat. No cables here, just simple lace and garter stitch. It's so incredibly cosy, I can't wait for winter... ;)

The stitch pattern really is simple to knit, and watching the honeycomb grow is quite addictive. The only skills you'll need are working basic lace stitches (knit, purl, yarn-over, k2tog, and ssk), slipped stitches at the edges, and the Long Tail Cast On (which is optional). Charts are included as well as full written instructions.

Bohemia Worsted by Outlaw Yarn is a snuggly, luxurious blend of polwarth wool, alpaca, and possum fibre. This amazing rich golden colour is called 'Troy', and I used three balls for my scarf with plenty left over for swatching.

The Beeswax Scarf pattern includes three size options - a standard scarf (which is the one I knit), a wider scarf, and a wrap. All are a generous length for maximum cosiness.

  • an all-over textured honeycomb pattern
  • knit flat from end to end
  • three width options (scarf, wide scarf, and wrap)
  • easy to enlarge by adding extra repeats to the length and/or width
  • requires 3, 4, or 5 balls of Outlaw Yarn's Bohemia Worsted (depending on size) or 611-1018 yards of worsted-weight yarn
  • solid, semi-solid, or heathered yarn is ideal
  • pattern includes full written instructions as well as charts.

You can see all the details and download the Beeswax Scarf pattern via Ravelry, Loveknitting, Etsy, or Craftsy.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Insulate 1,000!

My INSULATE! Hat has reached 1,000 projects on Ravelry - that's a huge milestone for me, and I'm thrilled that so many people liked my hat enough to knit their own! You can see a few of these fabulous projects (in an amazing array of colour combos) on the pattern's Ravelry page.

The INSULATE! Hat was one of my early-ish knit designs from mid-2012, and I offered it as a free pattern to other knitters who share my geeky love of Daleks. Its stranded colourwork design is nice and simple, and every now and then I receive a lovely comment from someone who used this hat as their gateway to knitting colourwork, which really warms my designer heart!

If you'd like to make one of your own, you can download the free pattern here.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Swatching in the round

Swatching in the round is something I know I should do if my project will be knit in the round, but I admit I sometimes swatch flat instead, especially if the stitch pattern is easy to work flat (like stockinette or a knit/purl texture). But for an important project like a garment or something else that will take a lot of yarn and time, there's no way around it - swatching in the round will give you the most accurate gauge information.

In this post I'll be showing you how I knit the swatch for my Cinnamon Stars cowl. The method will work for any stranded colourwork project, and for any other project knit in the round.

I planned ahead by adding a few extra stitches either side of the colourwork chart, alternating stitches of each colour in a chequerboard pattern - I got the idea from the 'bridge' stitches of a traditional no-sew steek. These extra edge stitches helped to keep the inevitable wonky edge stitches separate from the main part of the swatch. 

Because I had plenty of yarn in each colour, I decided to make a swatch that would be cut after knitting. Here's what I did:

1. Using a shortish circular needle, I cast on and knit a couple of rows back and forth in garter stitch.

2. I joined my second colour and began knitting the swatch 'in the round': at the end of each row, I slid my swatch back to the other end of the circular needle, draping strands of the working yarn loosely across the wrong side of the swatch.

3. When I had finished the colourwork, I knit a couple of rows of garter stitch with a single colour and then bound off.

4. I carefully cut the loose strands at the back of my swatch, avoiding cutting through any of the colourwork floats beneath.

5. I tied neighbouring strands together to make a more secure fringed edge on either side. This step is optional, especially if you don't wish to keep your swatch!

5. Finally, I wet-blocked the swatch to make it lie flat and even up the stitches. Once it was dry, I took my stitch and row gauge measurements and my colourwork-repeat measurements.

If you don't have extra yarn to spare, you could knit a 'froggable' swatch by making the loose strands across the back long enough to allow you to block the swatch without cutting them. Alternatively, there are other methods for swatching in the round that use even less yarn - the second method in this TECHknitting post 'Circular swatches knit flat' looks very efficient, but I admit I haven't tried it out yet. You'll recognise the first method as the one I used above.

Do you have a favourite swatching method?