25 Jul 2019

Are you using the right needle?

In my last blogpost, you'll have seen that I am currently knitting a lacy cardigan and for this I am using a 3.5mm Knitters Pride interchangeable needle set I purchased recently. These needle tips are from their Nova Platina range of chrome-plated needles and I am loving the sharp tips and the easy flow of the knitting.

However, here's something I noticed when I went to find a matching set of dpn's (double pointed needles) to work the sleeves: the size isn't exactly 3.5mm! Or rather, it wasn't using the gauge I was using at the time. I had grabbed my needle gauge from Nancy's KnitKnacks which tends to be my go-to gauge as it is fits very nicely inside the needle holder I have. 

When I measured the needle using that, it wouldn't fit into the 3.5mm space! If it hadn't had the "US 4 – 3.5mm" marking on the side of the needle, I might have thought that it was a 3.75mm. So I dived into my needle box where I have a slight embarrassment of needle gauges. I hadn't quite realised how many I had collected over the years!

I tried the needle with my oldest gauge made by an old UK company, Aero Knitting, and it was a perfect fit for 3.5mm. Ditto for the bright green Knitters Pride gauge I purchased about a month ago and a rather fun KnitPro elephant gauge that my daughter Anna found for me at the Knitting and Stitching show in Ally Pally (Alexandra Palace, London) last year. They all agreed the needle was, indeed, a 3.5mm size. Now, these are all gauges made for the UK market so I am presuming they are all milled in metric.

However, the needle only just squeezed into a KnitPicks gauge and would not fit into the 3.5mm hole in the Nancy's KnitKnacks sizer or my Lion Brand ruler. All three of those are US-based gauges and I expect they are milled in imperial measures. Usually, this wouldn't make the slightest difference, but in this particular case it did.

I went on to check with the two needle gauges I have from Japan. The needle sizes are different there as they measure them in 0.3mm increments instead of 0.25-0.5mm here. So in Japan the needles include 3.0mm, 3.3mm, 3.6mm, 3.9mm, 4.2mm and so on. Here, the same range would be 3.0mm, 3.25mm, 3.5mm, 3.75mm and 4.0mm. 

My Knitters Pride needles did fit into the 3.6mm measure, as you'd expect, but with only a small amount of extra ease as compared with the Japanese 3.6mm dpn's I have.

I then went to my collection of needles and found a set of KnitPicks 3.5mm dpn's. They fitted easily into all the US gauges and were quite loose in the Japanese 3.6mm measure. Interesting variation, eh? 

I tried the various needles out with my knitting and my gauge swatch was noticeably tighter if I used the KnitPicks needles when compared with the original Knitters Pride ones. I then tried the Japanese dpn's and they were much closer, especially if I just tightened my knitting slightly. 

If you're a long-time follower of this blog, you'll know that I'm always advocating checking your tension with a gauge swatch. For example, in my BYOB Market Bag knit-along series, you'll find me chatting about swatches herehere and here. Of course, we knitters know that there are many factors that will alter your gauge: the yarn used, the tension the yarn is held at, even how the ball is wound and whether the yarn was washed before or after knitting.

But who would have guessed that there would be such a difference between apparently identical sizes of needles... So if you are struggling to get the gauge for your current piece of knitting, it might not be you – it might be the needle! 

And of course this is a wonderful justification for acquiring a good collection of needles, gauges and other equipment! For me, I am now patiently waiting for a set of Knitters Pride dpn's so my gauge will be exactly the same on the sleeves as on the rest of the cardi. I ordered them today and they should be here next week.

Oh and please no-one tell my husband... he thinks I have enough needles already!

Until next time – Happy Knitting!


Last Blogpost: My WIP - Working in pink

19 Jul 2019

My WIP - Working in Pink

About this time three years ago, I wrote about the fashion colour forecasting company Pantone's duo-colour choice for the "2016 Colour of the Year", in which a battle royale between pink and blue resulted in a draw! 

That was the first time that Pantone had chosen a double colour for the award and certainly some eyebrows were raised at the concept. However, the pink side of that equation proved highly accurate as that particular shade of rose quartz was seen everywhere that year.

Well, over the last few years that shade of pink has gradually morphed into a stronger and slightly bluer shade, away from the soft yellowy Rose Quartz and into one of this year's key colours, Aurora Pink. 

Teamed with stronger shades of hot pink, or contrasting with corals and yellows, this fresh new pink colour was evident in many runway shows for Spring and Summer 2019.

And although it is a shade we haven't seen for a few years, it does feel very familiar. Which of us ladies did not have a ballerina outfit in just that colour when we were young? So this fits nicely with two of the themes in the fashion magazines in recent months: Ballerina outfits and Nostalgia. 

Well, I am not sure if I am quite ready to don a tutu right now even if they are in fashion, but I am loving the pink yarns in the shops. I recently found a lovely pink colour in the Sublime "Baby cashmere merino silk DK" range and it arrived just before we went to Japan so I could try it out while we were travelling. 

The yarn is wonderfully soft and is knitting up beautifully. I am currently working on a pink lacy cardigan and am loving how this is coming. So this is a double "WIP" – not just a Work in Progress, but I am also Working in Pink! 

The cardi is in a boxy, Chanel-style and I am planning to add some slim plain-knit sleeves when I have finished the 2nd front. I'll post more pictures as I work!

In the meantime, I hope you're enjoying your summer knitting and managing to keep cool!

Until next time - Happy Knitting!


1 Jul 2019

Postcard from Kyoto: The day summer started

July has arrived and with it the realisation that summer is finally upon us! But do you know the exact day when summer started this year? 

Well, it was June 11th!

How do I know that? Well, we have just returned from a holiday in Kyoto Japan, and feel invigorated by long walks and beautiful scenery. At the start of our holiday, on Monday 10th June to be exact, we were walking up a mountain and stopped by one of the ubiquitous vending machines (called jidohanbaiki) about half-way along our hike. We purchased a can of hot, sweet coffee and rested our legs for a delicious 10 minutes before setting off again.

The next day on a similar walk around a temple complex we again paused by one of these machines only to see every drink offered as a cold beverage. We walked on to the next set of machines, but they also only had cold drinks. 

Then it clicked: summer had started. You don't drink hot coffee in the summer...

They have a neat way of counting time periods in Japan with blocks of 10 days having different names. The middle 10-day period runs from 11th-20th of each month and is called chūjun or middle-ten. So summer very neatly started in the middle of June or on the 11th June to be precise!

We used to live in Kyoto in the mid-1990's and love to revisit whenever we can. This year we arrived at the start of what is termed the "Rainy Season" but were very fortunate only to have a couple of showers while we were there. 

One of the main reasons for wanting to go back to Japan at this time was to see the hydrangeas. Many people visit Kyoto for the cherry blossoms in April and May, but for me the sight of a hillside of deep blue hydrangeas is stunning. They are everywhere, and not just in blue but in all shades of white, pink and carmine red as well. They seem to really suit this rainy time of year and look at their most beautiful when the leaves and flowers are jewelled with raindrops. 

But the real summer in Japan starts with the coming of the lotus flowers at the start of July. When we visited there were lotus buds and even some early flowers in sheltered locations. However, we would have needed to stay another few weeks to see the ponds and lakes filled with blossoms. Perhaps we'll do that next year...

In the last week of our visit, we went to a temple called Hokongo-in which is known for its beautiful lotus flowers. We were rewarded by a beautiful display of early flowers contrasting against the dark wood of the temple buildings.

I sat on the temple steps and enjoyed the peace and quiet of the garden, knitting a pink cardigan in what I saw was an almost exact colour match to the lotus flower in front of me. I could have happily stayed there all afternoon...

However we were due to go to Fushimi Inari shrine, world-famous for its lines of bright orange torii gates. It was the end of the afternoon when we got there and Tim's camera was set to a long exposure to capture the scene. Then a lady wearing a kimono walked down the steps and into his shot creating a dreamy image of old Japan.

I hope you've enjoyed this "Postcard from Kyoto" and some of Tim's many photos from our trip. If you would like to see more of his work, then please see his Flickr site. He is also on Instagram here.

I'll be back with knitting chat next time. Until then,

Happy Knitting!


Last Blogpost: Slip those stitches!

26 Jun 2019

Slip those stitches!

I once watched a theatre production of "The Importance of Being Earnest" in which the redoubtable Lady Bracknell sat on stage apparently knitting. In fact she was slipping the stitches from one needle to another so that the work never got any longer! However, that did avoid the possibility of a ball of yarn wandering across the stage and tripping up any actors...

However, slipped stitches are really useful even when you do actually want to knit something and can be used for shaping, textural interest and strength.

So what is a slip stitch? Basically it is when you leave the next stitch unworked and move on to the next part of the work. Usually the stitch is slipped purlwise without twisting it and with the yarn carried at the back of the work. If you just see the instructions "slip 1" or "sl 1" then that is what is meant. The stitch will then be worked on a subsequent row, producing an elongated stitch which also serves to tighten the stitches to either side. 

You will probably have seen this being used at the edge of a flat piece of knitting to produce a selvedge as in the photo above, which shows the base of the BYOB Market Bag being worked, and you can read more about that here.

Sometimes, however, the stitch being slipped is worked knitwise. You insert the knitting needle into the stitch as though you are going to knit it but then just move it to the right-hand needle without working it further. This turns the stitch so that it is now facing in the opposite direction. 

One of the first places you might encounter this is with a decrease such as a "slip 1 knitwise, knit 1, pass slipped stitch over", often shortened to SKP. In that case, the slip stitch is lifted over the next one and forms a left-leaning decrease as an almost-mirror image to the "knit 2 together" or k2tog right-leaning decrease. 

The photo above shows the lace panel from the BYOB - Bring Your Own Bag pattern. In this one I have paired the k2tog's with another left-leaning decrease, the SSK (slip-slip-knit) giving a decorative finish to the stitch. 

In both those examples the yarn is carried on the wrong side and does not appear on the front face of the work. However, there are a number of stitches where the yarn being slipped forms an integral part of the final appearance of the fabric. 

The Somertide Placemats I featured in my last blogpost are a case in point. These use a lovely slip-stitch pattern called Double-Banded Rib from our book Reversible Knitting Stitches.

On the front face, the stitch has wide slipped stitches which give an interesting surface texture to the design. These banded stitches also help to provide an extra thickness and insulation to the fabric which is important for something like a placemat where you want to protect your table from hot or cold dishes.

The reverse face shows tight columns of knit stitches with narrow lines of Garter Stitch between. The fabric lies beautifully flat and the slipped stitches give added strength to the overall design.

The slipped stitches in this pattern have strengthened the final fabric in two ways. Firstly, the stitches to either side are shortened because the unworked stitches now have to span two rows instead of just one. This pulls the stitches tighter and keeps the fabric firm.

Then secondly, relatively inflexible bars of yarn are now being carried across the unworked stitches reducing the natural stretchiness of the knitting. The resulting fabric is much thicker and sturdier. These qualities make it eminently suitable for items such as tablemats, rugs and bags.

If you want an even sturdier fabric, then you can select a slip stitch with a shorter length of travel. For example, in Anna's Nokomis Beach Bag she has used the Single-Banded Rib stitch pattern. This is similar to its sister pattern, Double-Banded Rib, but is worked over just 2 stitches instead of 4 so the "bar" of slipped yarn is much shorter.

This gives it extra strength while still retaining a very interesting surface texture. The bag is further strengthened by cotton bands sewn onto the final design giving a very practical and good-looking bag.

But for a really sturdy knitted fabric then one of the best choices is Linen Stitch. This is a simple stitch to work but grows slowly as stitches are slipped on every single row, as opposed to every 2 rows as in the examples above. The result is a fabric that resembles weaving is both the appearance and the feel of the final fabric. In fact, it is sometimes called Tweed Stitch because it looks so much like a woven material.

The photo above shows another of Anna's wonderful bag collection. This one is called the Sierra Shoulder Bag and I can attest to how strong this bag is having seen it in action carrying large volumes of items back to her apartment from Tesco's!

The above examples mostly show neat grid-like patterns, but slip stitches can also be used to decorative effect by forming diagonal and zig-zag patterns as in Anna's Calypso Handbag above. Anna has used bands of colour in this design, but the stitch pattern also looks good in a single colour. 

I hope that gives you lots of ideas for how to use slip stitches in your work, especially if you would like to make sturdy fabrics for tablemats, bags and other household accessories. 

There are, of course, many more examples of slip stitches and I haven't even touched on Mosaic patterns and other colour slip stitch patterns... So please enjoy hunting out other stitch patterns using slipped stitches.

Many thanks to Anna for the photos of her lovely bags. Please visit her website www.kikuknits.com to see more of her colourful designs.

Next time we will travel to Japan for another couple of "Postcards" from our travels. Until then,

Happy Knitting!


Next Up: Postcard from Kyoto: The day summer started

Anna's Website: www.kikuknits.com

19 Jun 2019

New knitting pattern - Somertide Placemats

Summer is finally here! As I write, the sun is filtering down through a canopy of green and there are hydrangeas and summer flowers all around. The table is set for lunch with glasses of fresh orange juice and brightly coloured table mats – perfect.

That's one of the highlights of summer, isn't it. Being able to slow the pace and enjoy leisurely meals together. So here's a new pattern which will make your summer dining a delight. The Somertide Placemats includes instructions for both placemats and matching coasters in a glorious combination of summer colours. 

They are worked in a wonderfully crisp cotton/linen yarn, Cotlin by Knit Picks which currently has 44 colours in its range, so you can select just the right colour for your decor.

You could make a table set with each placemat in a different colour or complete the whole set in one co-ordinated colourway. Select bright summery turquoises and azures blues to remind you of the crashing ocean waves you can see from your beach hutOr go for a more gentle colour palette of coral, seashells and sand. 

The pattern includes instructions for four different sizes of placemats so you can make the perfect set for your table, whether this is a small-sized setting for an intimate lunch or a long table out on the lanai with all your friends and neighbours. There are also instructions for matching coasters for a completely co-ordinated look.

The stitch pattern is taken from our book Reversible Knitting Stitches and lays beautifully flat. The stitch has a really interesting surface texture which adds insulation to help protect your table from hot or cold serving dishes.

The Somertide Placemat pattern can be found on my website, and is available for immediate download from the site.

Until next time – Happy Summer Knitting!


Last Blogpost: Merry it is in Somertide

14 Jun 2019

Merry it is in Somertide

I was musing on the idea of "Summertime" this morning and a poem came into my mind that my father used to read to us. He loved reading Middle English texts out loud and it always sounded somehow magical to listen to the flow of the soft almost-recognisable words. As I would sit absorbed in the recitations, the meaning would often come through even though the words seemed unfamiliar. 

One of his favourite texts was The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer (as I mentioned before here). However, he would also occasionally read some of his favourite poems or Minstrels' songs from those times. There were a number of different recurring themes in these – love, loss, battles fought and won, or the ever-changing seasons.

Here is one verse which was published in "Of Arthour and Merlin" in about 1331:

Mirie it is in fomer tide;
Foules fing in foreft wide;
Swaines gin on iuftinge ride;
Maidens tiffen hem in pride.

or in other words:

Merry it is in Somertide,
Birds sing in the forest wide,
Men go on jousting rides,
and the young ladies are adorned with pride.

I love that word Somertide – it just seems to capture the season so well. There's the warmth of the sun and echoes of family holidays by the sea all rolled into one word. 

I think I actually prefer it to our more modern word, "Summertime" which has an element of a clock ticking away in the name. It is certainly true that summer often passes by so quickly it feels hard to capture it before it has gone!

I'm going to come back to the idea of Somertide next time with a brand new knitting pattern for some summer placemats. In the meantime, please enjoy some of Tim's photos of summer scenes near my old home in Hertfordshire, along with some more verses from the same book:

Mirie is thentre of May;
The foules make mirri play;
Maidens finggeth and maketh play;

Merry is the month of May,
The birds play merrily,
and the young women sing and dance.

The time is hot, and long the day;
The iolif nightingale fingeth;
In the grene mede foules fpringeth;

The days are long and hot,
The joyful nightingale sings,
and the flowers spring up in the green meadow.

Until next time,

Happy Summer Knitting!


Last Blogpost: Last-Minute Knitting

28 May 2019

Last minute knitting!

Have you ever seriously under-estimated the amount of time it takes to knit something for that all-important event? It doesn't seem to matter what the event is, whether it's something for Christmas, a new baby or, as in my case, our daughter's wedding. In every situation, the last 24 hours seems to be 1 hour of sleep and 23 hours of knitting!

Yes, dear Anna and Andrew told us they were getting married a year-and-a-week ahead of time. We even knew the colour theme and I had chosen my dress months before... So why was it only ten days before that I decided I needed a wrap? There is no rational explanation. 

We live in Florida, the wedding was in Cornwall and we knew it would be 20ºC lower temperature than we were used to. You'd have thought that I could have predicted I would need some kind of shawl or wrap. There is no logic.

So it was that I found myself scouring the LoveKnitting website for suitable yarns. Fortunately, I quickly came upon the perfect colour in a yarn I have used before: Willow and Lark "Nest". I used this when I made the Grayswood Scarf a couple of years back and loved using it. I ordered the yarn with express shipping and, true to their word, the yarn arrived two days before our flight!

I skeined it up and washed it, then gently regretted doing that because now I couldn't make a start until it was dry! Still, I always like to pre-wash my yarns so I just had to sit on my hands until it was ready. I had decided to just do a straight re-make of a favourite wrap pattern of mine, the Scottswood Stole, so all I needed to do was check the gauge then make a start.

All went well until two days before the wedding when I temporarily forgot that I was knitting against a deadline and made the mistake of undoing about 20cm of knitting! This was to correct the tiniest of errors that only I would have noticed. Have you ever done that? The next day I could have kicked myself. The wrap was sooooo short now! 

I knitted furiously until the wee hours and then admitted defeat and cast off. I sewed in all the yarn tails then started tugging. I dampened it slightly then pulled and pulled both ends. I pinned it onto the hotel room floor, stretching it out like no self-respecting piece of knitwear should be treated. However, it worked and I found that if I held onto the ends tightly while I was wearing it, the wrap looked fine and did the job of keeping me warm!

The wedding was wonderful. Anna looked absolutely beautiful and you could not imagine a happier couple. It was a stunning day and everyone had picked up on their theme of pale blues, yellows and whites. Cornwall did its best to blow us all from one venue to the next, but the sun shone when it needed to and the photographs were lovely.

The next day, I undid the bound off edge and started adding more length to the wrap. The second event in the north was in a weeks' time and that gave me the perfect excuse to get this to the length it was supposed to be. The new couple went for a honeymoon in the Lake District and I sat on Cornish cliff-tops or in the gardens of stately homes and knitted happily. 

At last it was done and I could wear the shawl without having to tug it to be inches longer. If only I had had another week's notice! Ha!

Although I had used the Scottswood Stole pattern, it looked so different in this yarn! The original had been in baby alpaca with the lovely halo that brings. This yarn is still beautifully soft but much smoother. 

I love the way this came out in the Willow and Lark yarn, so I have added that as a new version in the pattern. You can find the newly updated version here. Now you can work the wrap in a Sportweight baby alpaca or a DK merino/cashmere!

Until next time,

Happy Knitting!



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...