10 Jan 2020

20 for 2020


There's always a tremendous feeling of a "new start" at the beginning of a new decade, isn't there. A time for new explorations and new challenges. So it was that on 1st Jan 2010, I opened my brand new notebook and wrote:

"AIM: To find or design knitting stitches that look good on both sides. 
Q: Can I get to a total of 100 stitches? "

A few years earlier I had made a long ribbon of stitches, a bit like a Doctor Who scarf, with a sampler of reversible stitches I had either found or drawn up over the years and had got to a grand total of 73. However, the "scarf" format was unwieldy and I had chosen a lot of dark yarns which didn't photograph well.


So I chose some new yarns and made a start by reknitting all of those stitches. Then I went through all the books I had here and found another 12 so now I had 85 samples, but still far short of the challenge to find 100 that I had set myself.

It was about this time that Anna saw the increasing sets of samples piling up everywhere and joined in the hunt. We started with graph paper and knitting needles and soon had another 20 or so stitches to get to the 100 stitch mark and just beyond.

At which point she said to me, "We should write a book!"


And that's how our Reversible Knitting Stitches book came into being. First as a challenge for the new decade in 2010, then with a fresh pair of eyes and a second pair of hands knitting away over on the other side of the Atlantic.

We scoured the libraries and on-line sites, we took promising stitches and designed new variations to make them reversible, we played around with stitch charts and sampled, sampled, sampled. Then suddenly we were within sight of 200 stitches – a good number for a book. A final few months of exploration and we reached our target! The E-book was published in Sept 2016 and followed shortly afterwards by the print book in 2017.


So what challenge have I in mind for this year? Well my new 2020 Notebook has started with the entry:

"AIM: Find or design more stitches to add to our Reversible Knitting Stitches collection.
Q: Can I add 20 stitches in 2020? "

So that's what I'm going to try to do this year and I'm going to post here with news as I try them out. It might sound a modest number, but I think it will be a fun challenge!

If they look like they'll be good additions to the collection, then we'll add them to the E-book and perhaps try to get a new version out towards the end of the year. I've been wanting to get a new version out for a while anyway, as Anna has some great examples of final pieces to illustrate some of the existing stitches and I'd love to incorporate them into the E-book. 

And of course, we'll send the updated version to everyone who already has the current edition. I'll post updates here as to when that might be, but we're aiming for perhaps October or November if all goes well.

Next time, I'll show you the first of the stitches I've been working on. It's a nice easy stitch and I am currently using it for some placemats and coasters. I'm very excited about these but I'll save news of them until next time.


I'll leave you with a photo I took a couple of weeks ago at one of our lovely beaches, Caspersen Beach in South Venice, Florida – and yes, the sea really was that gorgeous turquoise colour that day! 

I hope your New Year has started well and that it will be a happy and successful year for you all. 

Until next time – Happy Knitting!

Moira




Last Blogpost: Keep those ears warm



30 Dec 2019

Keep those ears warm


Things get tricky when you have a pony tail... You want to keep warm but your favourite hat won't fit. You can lift your parka hood up but that still doesn't bring the circulation back into your ears and you start to believe the old wives' tail about losing half of your body heat through your head in winter!

So here's the solution: a cozy headband or ear-warmer. Quick to knit, easy to make and super-stylish, these small accessories are a must for deep winter. Here are two of my favourites that you can knit now ready for the New Year snows.


The two photos above show Anna's Frost-Fighter Headband and Mitts – a super combination to keep both your ears and hands warm. Anna tells me that she especially likes using the headband when she is out on her morning run as it not only keeps her warm but also keeps her hair out of her eyes.

The set is worked in one of my favourite yarns, Willow and Lark 'Nest' and the pattern includes two different sizes.


The pattern features a lovely stitch from our Reversible Knitting Stitches book. This is the Ribbed Cable stitch which is a wonderfully graphic stitch with quite a different look on the front and the back. Both sides are well-padded for extra insulation and the texture feels good against chilly ears.


The second headwarmer I am featuring today is the Teversham Headwarmer, shown here with the matching cowl which is also included in the pattern. This is a super-toasty headwarmer worked with two ends of a DK yarn held together. The combination of a soft merino mix yarn and the deep, textural pattern gives a winning head-warming combination.

This is a lovely deep headwarmer and is shaped to the head like an open-topped hat to give a cozy fit for a "messy bun hat" look. The pattern includes three sizes of headwarmer together with the separate cowl which would make a good men's accessory for that all-important couples' look on the ski-slopes.


Both the headwarmer and the cowl are worked in a textured double rib pattern which is a variation of the Hatfield Check pattern from our Reversible Knitting Stitches collection. The stitch is easy to work and gives a wonderfully graphic spin on a double rib design. 


Both the headwarmer and the cowl have colour bands which are worked with either two ends of the same colour or a tweedy combo of the dark and light yarns for a snow-specked effect.

I hope that has given you some ideas for some cozy headwarmers to keep your ears warm in these ultra-chilly days. If you would like to see more ideas for keeping warm this winter, then please click here to go to the start of this blogpost accessories series.

It's almost New Year so if you have snow where you are, I hope you will enjoy wearing your new cozy accessories while you have fun snow-tubing, ski-ing or having a fun snowball fight!

Until next time – Happy New Year Knitting!

Moira


Last Blogpost: Time to knit a hat
Next Up: 20 for 2020

20 Dec 2019

Time to knit a hat


It's almost time for ski season – that magical time of year when you actually welcome a cool, crisp blue-sky day with fresh powdery snow waiting for you. 

And even if the ski slopes are not calling to you, then the coldest months of the year are approaching fast! So now is the time to don your best snow outfit and top it off with a colourful hat to keep you super cozy.


The photos above shows Anna's Twinning Hat, which is a super-colourful hat with sizes to suit both men and women. I love the wide turn-back to keep your ears warm and the colourful pom-pom on the top. The cable pattern is fun to work and gives a lovely textural result. 

Make two in different colours and hit the ski slopes with a colourful couples' look!


The Moon Hat is another of Anna's designs and this one features broad, colourful stripes. Both the Twinning Hat and the Moon Hat are worked in a DK yarn and can be worked with just 2 or 3 balls of yarn. 

The Moon Hat has a fine twisted pattern and a super-deep turn-back to keep your head insulated against the worst of the winter storms to come. It also has a fun gathered top for a contemporary look.


If you prefer your beanie hats to be without turn-back cuffs, then here are two hats that might fit the bill. The one shown above is the Northstowe Beanie Hat which is a comfortable, easy-to-wear men's beanie. The hat features strong textural details with wide ribs intersected by garter stitch bands. 

It is worked with two strands of a DK yarn held together to give a chill-beating finish.


Just as the Twinning Hats can be made in a his-and-hers styling, here's another hat where you can team your couples' look. The Madingley Beanie Hat has a lovely feminine double-banded rib pattern to co-ordinate and compliment the more rugged look of the Northstowe Mens' Beanie.

This is also worked using two strands of a soft DK yarn held together which adds to the insulating qualities of the yarn. ​


So far I have featured hats which are worked with DK yarns either held singly or doubly, but here's a hat which has been knit in a super-soft chunky yarn. This is Anna's Glacier Hat and is shown here is lovely winter colours like glacier ice.

Big, bold and super-cozy, this hat can be worn as an oversized slouchy hat or with a turn back to fit snug to the head. 


The Glacier Hat hat needs just 1 ball in each of the colours so is very quick to finish. If you start one now before you head off on your holidays, it might be finished before you get back home again!

I hope those have given you some good ideas for hats to start work on now. My thanks to Anna for allowing me to feature several of her lovely hats alongside my own. Please check out her website, www.kikuknits.com for more details of her great patterns and to sign up to her newsletter.

Next time, I will be continuing my blogpost accessories series with a look at head-bands and head-warmers which are excellent choices for extra ear protection, especially if you wear your hair in a pony tail.

Until then - have a wonderful holiday and safe travels!

Moira



Anna's Website: www.kikuknits.com

28 Nov 2019

How much yarn do I need for a scarf?


We have reached the start of winter, with heavy snows falling in the Boston area. Even further south, the cold weather is sure to have everyone looking for a scarf or hat to keep warm. If you have been following my blogpost accessories series so far, you will know that I have been looking at cowls, neckwarmers and other small accessories to knit now ready for the winter ahead.

However, we can’t leave the topic of neckwear without mentioning scarves – that absolute necessity for any wintry clime. So if you fancy knitting a new scarf either for yourself or a loved one as a gift, then how much yarn will you need?

Well, this will depend on a number of factors but the main variables are: 
. how wide the scarf is
. how long it is
. the depth of texture
. and the yarn density


So, let’s look at a few examples starting with one of my favourite men’s scarves, the Lamberhurst Scarf. This has been worked in a soft merino DK yarn and has what I would term a medium texture. There are two lengths of scarf included in the pattern and the shorter version measures 23cm/ 9 ins wide x 130cm/ 51 ins long. This gives a neat, draping style. The sample I worked used 198gm/ 7oz of yarn which is 474m/ 518 yds of wool.

That left almost nothing from 4 balls of yarn so I would suggest that you would be wise to have a 5th ball of yarn on hand, especially if you might want to add a little bit more to the length of the scarf.




The longer version of the scarf is 173cm/ 68 ins long, which is great for wrapping around the neck to ward off those pesky winter winds. However, it is also a little slimmer with a width of just 19cm/ 7.5 ins. The combination of a slighter slimmer width but longer length means that it only uses a bit more yarn, 210gm/7.4oz which is 499m/ 546 yds. 

This is, of course, all to do with the total area of knitting. I was mentioning Maths a couple of blogposts ago, and it’s back again! The small Lamberhurst is 23x130 cm = 2,990 cm2, but the larger one is 19x173 cm = 3,287 cm2, ie the area of knitting is not much more even though is over 40cm/ 16 ins longer. So this is a good way to make your yarn go further. If you know you would like a lovely long scarf, then you might want to plan for a slimmer width.


Let’s look at another scarf in DK, this time for the ladies, the Elizabeth Scarf. This is a slim scarf but worked with a good length so you can wrap it around your neck several times or work an elaborate fold for a fashion look. The scarf shown in the photo is worked in a DK weight and measures just 16.5cm/ 6.5 ins wide but has a lovely length of 185cm/ 72 ins. It used 205gm/ 7.3oz of yarn which is 468m/ 505 yds, so very similar to the above examples even though it is much longer.

So, you can probably see that if you have perhaps 5 balls (250gm/9oz) of a DK yarn, you will get a good-sized scarf. Even 4 skeins (200gm/ 7oz) might be enough for a skinny scarf or a shorter one, but 250gm/ 9oz should give you a nice length or a bit of a thicker texture.


So let’s have a look at thicker yarns. Another man’s scarf that I like to work because it has such a dynamic pattern is the Beckenham Scarf. I have made a number of these and although it is nominally a man’s scarf, I have actually worked this one for ladies too with good results. Again there are two versions, a worsted weight and a chunky and each of those can be worked in 3 widths.

The widest scarf measures 21.5cm/ 8.5 ins wide and is 185cm/ 72 ins long. This used 237gm/ 8.4oz of Worsted Weight yarn, which is 475m/ 520 yds. This is 5 balls of yarn, but in the pattern I have suggested purchasing 6 balls just to sure you have enough to complete the design. The pattern has quite a long repeat, so it would be very annoying to run out of yarn at the end. 


The chunky Beckenham has the same dimensions but here the large size used 385gm/ 13.6oz. However, here’s a surprising thing: when I checked the yardage I found this was exactly the same as for the Worsted Weight size, 475m/ 520 yds! Now, although at first that surprised me that the number should come out to be identical with the Worsted Weight scarf, somehow once I thought about it then it wasn’t so surprising after all. 

Indeed, it is often said that it is better to think about how many metres/yards of yarn you need for a project rather than the weight or number of skeins. 

This is especially true with heavier-than-usual yarns. Yarns can vary enormously in their density, as I found when I used to do more hand-spinning. The yarn was lovely, but garments I made from hand-spun tended to be much heavier because the yarn was denser. To be honest, that was probably my inept spinning and you might get lighter yarns than I did! However, you still need a certain yardage to make a scarf or sweater, even if the yarn weighs more. 

So looking at the metreage/yardage for the above scarf examples, you could say that about 500-550m/ 550-600 yds of wool will make a fairly slim, medium-long scarf with a medium texture.



Another thing that affects the amount of yarn used will be the depth of the texture. So to illustrate that, here is the Grantchester Scarf. This is a deeply-textured scarf also worked in a worsted weight yarn. Because of the deep squishy texture, you don’t actually need to work such a long scarf for the same amount of cushy warmth.

The scarf pictured here is a neat style suitable for cycling, so is just 20cm/ 8 ins wide and only 120cm/ 48 ins long, so is quite short when compared to the previous examples. However, it is super cozy as there is 166gm/ 6oz of wool packed in there. This is 340m/ 365 yds of yarn.

Let's translate that into a direct comparison with the Beckenham Scarf. That measured 21.5x185cm/ 8.5x72 ins and needed 237gm/ 8.4oz of yarn (475m/ 520 yds).

If we worked a Grantchester Scarf with the same dimensions, then we would need 275gm/ 9.7oz of yarn, or 561m/ 605 yds, so the rich texture has used yarn up at a much faster rate. 

Again from the Mathematical point of view, that is logical - we are, after all, knitting a 3D object! So although we have spoken about the area of knitting above, it would probably be more accurate to say that we should think about the volume (width x length x depth). So a richer, deeper texture will need more yarn.


These are then, the main factors that will determine how much yarn you need to have on hand to work a scarf: 
. A skinny scarf will use less yarn than a wider one. 
. A longer scarf will need more yarn than a shorter version. 
. And a deep, well-textured scarf will use yarn up faster than one with a medium or fine texture.

 So it follows that you will need to use more yarn if you wish to create a big-volume scarf which is wider, longer, and/or has more texture.These are all factors that will increase the amount of yarn needed. If we look at the Cambourne Scarf, then you will see that this ticks all three of those boxes! It has a deeper texture and the largest scarf is a generous 26cm/ 10.25 ins wide. It is also 190cm/ 75 ins long so will need extra yarn. 

The Cambourne Scarf is worked in one of my favourite yarns, Lang Merino+, which is a super soft Worsted Weight yarn. The scarf is worked lengthwise and has a contrast coloured stripe at one side. For the largest size, I used 322gm/ 11.4oz of the Main Colour and 60gm/ 2.1oz of the Contrast Colour, so a total of 382gm/ 13.5oz of yarn, 688m/ 752 yds.

So if you would like to make a larger and/or wider scarf for that multi-wrap fashion look, then I would allow about 650-750m, say 700-800 yds of yarn. 

Of course these are just guidelines and the actual amount you need will depend on the particular yarn, the fibre content and so on. The above examples are all in wool or wool mixes, and you may well find that cotton or other fibres may not work quite the same. In any case, it’s always a good idea to have extra yarn on hand just in case you find your knitting uses yarn up at a faster rate that in the pattern – everyone’s knitting is unique, and what works for one person may not work for you. You can always make a hat with the leftovers!

If you would like some more suggestions for scarf lengths and widths then please see my earlier blogpost, "How long shall I make this scarf?". I hope that has given you some good ideas for using your stash or recent sale yarn purchases for some fabulous new scarves. Then you can go and play in the snow!

If you'd like more information about any of these scarves, then please have a look at my websiteNext time I’ll be back with a look at some hats to brighten up the dull winter days. 

Until then - Happy Knitting!

Moira

10 Nov 2019

On trend with short scarves and buttoned neckwarmers


The autumn days are well and truly upon us, with Halloween and Guy Fawkes Night behind us and the trees starting to take on their winter forms. So I want to continue with my “Accessories” series and this time I’m looking at short scarves and buttoned neckwarmers. 

Did you know that short scarves are this years “hot” fashion accessory? Well, I didn’t know until I made one for myself! Then I saw some e-mails and fashion postings about them and realised that, once again, I have found myself at the cutting edge of fashion! It doesn’t happen very often but it’s fun when ideas coincide isn’t it. 


I made this one as a slighter shorter version of my Elizabeth Scarf pattern using a lovely soft DK yarn. I love how this came out and the fact that it is so easy to carry. With the first chill days of winter coming you don't want to be the only person carrying an enormous scarf around, so this is an unobtrusive way to add some extra warmth without the fuss. 

Another thing about short scarves is that it doesn’t take a lot of yarn to make them, so that is a double benefit for knitters! 

You can fold it over your knees at a ball-game as a mini-blanket, or sit on it if you have only a cold bench to hand. Then when you’re ready to go on your way, you can slip it around your neck and keep the chills at bay as you cycle home.


The scarf using one of my favourite stitches in our Reversible Knitting Stitches collection, Hatfield Check. This is a deeply textural stitch so it packs a lot of warmth into a small space. That is important for a short scarf, of course, because you are not going to wrap the scarf around more than once so it needs to be super-cozy.

Then wrap it around once and pin it, tie it or button it in place. Or attach a faux-button so it’s in a set shape such as a cross-over V and slip it over your head. Alternatively, just drape it around your neck to provide some light warmth by your collar. There are lots of ways to wear short scarves, so they are very versatile.


Some years ago, I made another item that I have used and reused over the years, a buttoned neckwarmer. I made a couple of these way-back-when and every autumn they come out of the drawer again. I made one to team up with a crew-neck sweater, extending its usefulness into the coldest months, while the other was a slim-line version to fit under a coat.

Well both of those were showing signs of age so I decided to make a new one and have been having fun knitting it. I have just published the pattern and am pleased to introduce the "Warmington" to you! This features a fold-down ribbed collar which is buttoned into place at one shoulder. Then two panels gently cover the top of your shoulders and extend down to cover the vulnerable front chest and back neck to give extra warmth. 

The neckwarmer is worked in a gorgeously warm cabled yarn, Eco Cloud by Cascade. I love this yarn as it gives a wonderful texture and insulation to the finished article. I can see this is going to keep me warm even in the deepest snowy days ahead. It is perfect with my Barbour jacket and also teams well with a snowy crew-neck sweater I have. I can carry it with me like having a polo-neck in my pocket!


The front and back panels are worked in Double Moss Stitch, which is a beautifully flat reversible stitch so it will sit neatly under a jacket or cardigan and not ruche up. Not only is it nice and flat, but Double Moss Stitch also has a lovely texture to provide warmth just where you need it.

Buttoned neckwarmers are perfect to slip on without having to pull them over your head. This makes them easy to take off when you get somewhere warmer and then put on again when you’re ready to head out of the door. And again, they are small, easy to carry and unobtrusive so you can keep warm without bulk.

I hope the last few blogposts have given you lots of ideas for neckwear to make for the cooler months. Next time I am going to post about how much yarn you need to make a scarf (always a dilemma for knitters) and then I will be turning my attention to hats!

For more details about the new Warmington Neckwarmer, please click here.

Until next time, Happy Knitting!

Moira




8 Oct 2019

Add a twist to your knitting!



In my last blogpost, I started my new accessories series by looking at knitted cowls. These wonderful creations are great for keeping your neck warm at this time of year, since they are quick to make and easy to wear. Also, the smaller cowls only take a few balls of yarn so you may well have enough to start a new cowl right there in your stash basket.

They are perfect for many situations from casual walks by a lake or an evening out. However, there is one situation when there can be a problem with cowls – and that is when you want to wear them under a coat or jacket. Then you might find that they are trying to stick out from your body and refusing to fold neatly at the neckline. 

There is fortunately an easy solution to that, but we need to go into the realms of mathematics to find it!


So think back to when you last wore a standard scarf under an overcoat. Did you cross one end over the other to form a neat 'V' shape? I don't suppose I am alone in doing that. It is just a perfect way to close up the gap at the top of your coat and also adds a double layer of knitted wonderment to keep cold drafts at bay.

And you can achieve that same neat fold in a looped cowl or scarf by simply adding a half-twist then joining the two ends together! It's such a simple technique but adds so much to the finished result. As you can see in the photos above, this forms a pleasing 'V' shape at the front while still allowing the scarf to curve smoothly around the back of your neck.


For those of you with a dim and distant memory of early Maths classes, you will probably remember the fun lesson where you did just this with a strip of paper then drew a pencil line along one side of it... Only to find it actually only had one side! Your pencil line went around and around and ended up exactly where you had started. 

You had just made a Möbius / Moebius strip. 


So how do we do this with knitting? Well the easiest way is to do exactly the same with your knitting as you did with your paper strip: knit double the length you want for your looped cowl or scarf then take one end, give it a half-twist and join the two ends together. 

Then there are three methods for joining the ends together. Firstly, you could sew the cast-on and bind-off edges together. This would leave a visible seam but it is an easy method and can give a good result if the knitted fabric is fairly flat.  

Another option is to begin your work with a Provisional Cast-On as I have in the photo above. Then you can work a 3-needle bind-off to join the beginning and end. This will also leave a noticeable seam but it isn't too obvious if you always make sure that it is at the back of your neck when you put it on. 

The best way, however, is to graft the two edges invisibly together. Grafting used to be known as Kitchener stitch and if that thought fills you with dread, then the other methods can work very well. However, if you are using a well-textured pattern or a chunkier yarn, then grafting is by far the best way to go as you really can't see it when you have finished.


However, there is one other requirement for a Moebius Scarf and that is that you need to use a reversible knitting stitch. This sounds slightly odd for a garment with only one mathematical side! However, by definition both "sides" of the knitting will be on view so you really need to select a reversible stitch for this.

It doesn't matter what the stitch is, so you can have fun delving through collections such as our Reversible Knitting Stitches book for inspiration. For example, the cowl and scarf I am featuring in this blogpost use Mistake Rib from the book and this gives a beautifully cozy ribbed neckwarmer.


This same half-twist can also be applied to longer scarves. We usually refer to these as Infinity Scarves but the names are fairly interchangeable. Like their shorter counterparts, an Infinity Scarf sits beautifully flat with an elegant drape when just worn loosely like a long scarf. 

However, they really come into their own when wrapped twice around your neck for extra warmth. The Moebius twist seems to make the fabric fold in a particularly appealing way, giving an intriguing shape and geometry to a simple scarf. 

The scarf shown here is the Sawston Infinity Scarf and is worked in a hand-spun Bluefaced Leicester wool. Super-soft and cozy warm it is one of my favourite sheep breeds for a wrapped scarf such as this. I love the West Yorkshire Spinners "Bluefaced Leicester DK" yarn and that is what I used in the other examples in this blogpost. If you would like to try this yarn in your next project, you can find it here.

Soft, double-sided and with an interesting twist – what's not to love about Moebius Scarves? 

I hope that has given you some inspiration for trying a Moebius Cowl or Infinity Scarf as your next project. If you'd like more information about the Sawston Cowl and Infinity Scarf knitting pattern, then please click here. The pattern includes instructions for both lengths, so you can start work on a shorter cowl or a longer Infinity Scarf straight away.

Next time, I will be back with a look at this year's hot-fashion trend: short scarves and buttoned neck-warmers.

So until then – Happy Knitting!

Moira


Last Blogpost: Time to knit a cowl


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