What’s On Your Needles – Summer or Winter projects?

What’s on your needles this summer? Many knitters and crocheters put down their needles for the warmer months and only come back to their projects when the cooler weather comes along.

Me? I think I have at least four projects on the go of which 2 are summer knits and 2 are winter knits. I have a summer tank that I am designing in a cotton wool blend ( mostly cotton), a linen, cotton blend tee, an almost finished chunky sweater and a of course a pair of socks. One of the disadvantages of summer knitting is that it is finer gauge so it takes longer but there are also more lacy summer knits.

http://knitty.com/ISSUEss12/PATTgemini.php Gemini Tee knit in cotton linen blend, Zooey, which I have on my needles.

Juniper Moon Farm Zooey

Turtle Dove sweater knit in chunky weight yarn.

How many projects are too many? Even though I have 4 projects on the go that doesn’t stop me from itching to start another project. Because I teach knitting, I am always on the lookout for new projects to help teach techniques or just fun projects that I think people will want to take to a class to learn. I like to have a technique that I can teach that may be new for some knitters. Sometimes I see a project and think ooh that would be good to teach as a class. Other times I look for or design a project specifically to teach a technique.
I am one of those knitters who doesn’t like to knit the same pattern twice ( no twenty of the same item for this knitter) so I have to come up with new projects to teach techniques like Fair Isle. For the past couple years it has been Fair Isle hats- this fall it will be Fair Isle mittens in a chunky weight yarn.

Some knitters or crocheters like to work on only one project at a time. The satisfaction of finishing the project is what drives them. For me, it is learning a new stitch or seeing how a new yarn knits up. It helps that I have to come up with projects to help sell the yarn or would be good for a class.

I get bored once I have figured out how the stitch pattern works. The tank I am designing has reached the point where the stitch pattern is so easy for me that I am getting bored and I still have more than 30 inches to knit ( the top is knit from side to side and it overlaps ( it seemed like a good idea when I started it). So I am already thinking of what else I could cast on, like those Fair Isle mittens. What’s on your needles?

Spring Yarns

Spring is finally in the air and with that comes the arrival of spring yarns. Many think knitting and crocheting is only for the winter months but there are lots of great things to knit and crochet for the warmer months of the year or for those of you who are lucky enough to live in a warmer climate.

For the warmer months there are great cotton, linen and plant- based fibres which are great for lighter garments. Check out all the great patterns for tees and tanks on Ravelry http://ravelry.com.

Queensland Dungaree – a DK weight cotton based recycled yarn

One of the newest spring yarns is a cotton yarn by Queensland called Dungaree. Dungaree is a DK weight yarn ( 22 sst over 4 inches on a 4 mm needle) made out of recycled jeans. The yarn is 95% cotton and 5% other fibres. With 200m in a 100 gm ball there is a good yardage in these skeins. There are 12 different colours in heathered tones with a good selection of neutrals and more vibrant colours.

Juniper Moon Farm also has a new spring yarn out that is a blend of linen and silk

Juniper Moon Farm Pollock

Pollock is 55% silk and 45% linen and has 320 m in each 100 g ball. It wtonaill make a beautiful summer shawl or top. The yarn is tonal and has beautiful variation without being striipey. 2 or 3 balls are all that are needed to make the pattern called Natalia, a nice sleeveless longer lengthed top.

Natalia, knit with 2 to 3 balls of Pollock

The final yarn I am going to talk about today is Ella Rae Eco Organic Cotton which is a sport weight yarn with 250m in a 100 g ball. We have 11 different colours in stock. It is 100% organic cotton with a nice twist and soft hand. Wouldn’t a baby blanket knit from this be beautiful? 4 balls makes this Seraphina Blanket by Andrea Babb

Make this the year you try a spring or summer knitting project and try out some of the great plant based yarns that are available.

Dye Lots Matter!

You may have heard that dye lots don’t matter because everything is computerized now. It is not true. Dye lots matter! There are quite a few factors in how the yarn takes up the dye, so even when exactly the same formulation is used the colour will change slightly ( or drastically) between dye lots.

When yarn is dyed, there are many things that will affect how the dye is taken up by the yarn.

First of all if the yarn is an natural fibre, the amount of sun the animal or plant was exposed to will affect the colour of the fibre. Just as our hair gets lighter in the sun so too do animal fibres. If the season was a rainy season the fibre will be darker than if it was a sunny season. The slight variation in colour in the base yarn will also show up in the dyed yarn.

The temperature of the water in the dye bath as well as how long the yarn stays in the dye bath will also affect the colour of the yarn. The longer and the hotter the water the more dye wil taken up by the fibre affecting the final colour of the yarn.

The amount of moisture in the fibre will also affect how much dye is taken up. The dryer the fibre the more dye that will be absorbed. The more dye taken up the more intense the colour.

Below is a picture of 3 different dye lots of the the same colour on the same yarn base. This is a more extreme variation than what is normally seen, but it illustrates how different dye lots can be.

3 Different dye lots of Biscotte and Cie Bis Sock in Apple Core.

The moral of the story is to buy enough yarn for your project and check that they are all of the same dye lot. Even better buy 1 extra just in case and if you don’t need it for your project bring it back and exchange it for another ball of yarn for your new project.

Full of Possibilities

The nice thing about working in a yarn store is that every time we get a new shipment of yarn in, it is like opening a present full of possibilities. Every box contains something different – different colours, different fibres, different gauges. What colour would I pick from the shipment? Which colours could I put together? What would I make from each of the different kinds of yarn?

Before I open a box I am so excited to see what the yarn I have ordered looks like in real life. Often I have only seen the yarn in an image on the computer. At most, I may have held a ball of the yarn in my hand when the sales rep came in but not in all the colours that are contained in that box. Often I will have seen small colour cards with samples of the yarn but not a full ball of the yarn. Some of the multicolour yarns look very different in a ball or skein than what is shown in the little swatch that I am shown when ordering. I have not felt how squishy and soft the yarn is in a skein or ball.

Every yarn is a possible hat or sweater or cowl. Some yarns are so beautiful they don’t need special stitches or techniques to look stunning. I may pull a package of yarn out of the box and know exactly what I would like to make. We just got in some Uneek Chunky yarn and I am itching to cast some on the needles to knit a chunky hat. Who cares that I have a sweater that needs finishing, I really should be finishing off the sample for an upcoming class or I should finish knitting those socks for my sister- Christmas is fast approaching. The new yarn is just asking to be knit and who am I to deny it?

Other yarns stay in my mind as I look at different patterns throughout the day as customers show me what they are wanting to knit or crochet. It may take a while to find the perfect pattern for a yarn but once I see it, I remember that yarn I pulled out the box the other day. Do we have enough left in stock or in the colour I think would be perfect?

Most of the time I have to be satisfied with seeing what our customers knit or crochet with all the yarns that come out of that box full of possibilities. Often I have to be content with that to assuage my curiosity. I do love to see what everyone has knit or crocheted. There is not enough time to knit or crochet all the things I want to make. Luckily I like to make smaller projects and can try more yarns that way.

Knitting Slumps

I am in a knitting slump. I am feeling frustrated with a couple of projects on which I am working. Last night I was sitting on my deck ready to work on a project I am hoping to offer as a class this fall. I heard someone say “oh no” then” No, No” and then I smelt a very strong skunk smell. I think my neighbour startled the skunk that lives somewhere in our neighbourhood. So then I had to move everything inside.I love sitting outside in the summer an knitting. I really don’t like having to be inside when the weather is nice.  I worked part of a row and realized I had used the wrong colour so I frogged it. Then I had difficulty figuring out which colours and in what order I was supposed to knit. I knit a row and I was not enjoying it and it was taking forever. I don’t like the yarn I am knitting with and I just feel frustrated. I don’t know whether to give up or keep going. I could finish off some socks but even that has little appeal at the moment. I have some hats I need to finish for someone but they are not my favourite pattern.

On the weekend I organized my needles as they were a mess and I thought it might inspire me to do some knitting. So my needles are all neatly put into a forms cabinet which works perfectly for them. It is a cabinet that has thin drawers that were used to hold legal forms. It looks like the the top section of this cabinet. I have a drawer for my DPN, for each length of circular needle and my straight knitting needles as well as a drawer for my crochet hooksUnfortunately it is in our garage at the moment because I have not figured out where the best spot in the house would be. Some day I hope to have a whole room devoting to my knitting.

We have some beautiful new yarns in the store now and I would love to knit with them but I feel I need to finish what I have already started. Maybe next I need to go through my stash and that will kick start my knitting urge.I think one finished object would make me feel happier with my knitting. I love seeing what our customers are knitting. It often leaves me itching to pick up my needles. Here is one of the new sock yarns we got in- I think I may use it for my next sock class if there is any left.

I do have a long car ride coming up soon and that is always a good place for me to get some knitting done. Hopefully I can fix this knitting slum and get knitting again.

I CAN Crochet

If you had asked me  a month ago can you crochet? I would have said, I am more of a knitter than a crocheter. I have tried to crochet and just not been able to do it quickly and gone back to my knitting. I know how to do a single, a double, a triple and I can read the pattern to help someone with the pattern, but I have never done anything more than a dishcloth. I would try and just not be able to do it. Everyone told me how crochet was so much faster- obviously they never saw me crochet. To add to my crocheting woes, I am left handed and just couldn’t quite get it right.

Ziggy round 21

Well I have embarked on my first actual crochet pattern and I didn’t just pick a simple hat or shawl. I jumped right in with a blanket that starts with a mandela and works out into a square. A 96″ x 96″ square blanket. There are over a hundred rounds and each round is different. It was a pattern I saw that intrigued me. I wanted to do it.

Ziggy round 33

I am going stitch by stitch and round by round and it is coming along quite nicely. I am learning a lot and am gaining confidence in my ability to crochet. I can now say I CAN crochet. Sometimes we talk ourselves out of doing things saying we can’t do it. How are we going to learn if we don’t at least try? As long as you are enjoying the process, that is all that is important. You don’t need to be the best or the fastest. Our hobbies are about giving us something we can do that give us pleasure. It is a bonus that with knitting and crocheting we get a useful finished project as opposed to say stamp collecting or some other hobby.

Sometimes we use excuses – like I am left handed so it is too hard to figure out how to do it from all the right-handed pictures. I think we just need to find the right project, the one that inspires us to keep going. A lot of people ask me what is it I should make now that I can knit and purl. I always ask what do they want to make and what type of knitting is it that drew them to knitting. Do you like fair isle? Cables? Entrelac? Then that is what you should try. You don’t have to start with something complicated. Was it a certain yarn that you liked the colour of? Then get that yarn and knit with it because it gives you joy, not because someone said that it was appropriate for a beginner. I didn’t decide – this is my first crochet project so I am going to use the cheapest yarn possible, I chose a yarn with which I thought I would enjoy working. Life is too short to use crappy yarn or knit or crochet something because someone tells you it is what you should do.