New Cast On: Tsuzumi

© Yoko Johnston

I am already working on my Magnolia Sweater, The Shift cowl, and my upcoming test-knit shawlette from Milly’s Knit Designs, so I figure only logical thing to do is cast on a new project. In my defense, I have been eyeing this lightweight linen top since the first finished projects posted in June of this year. Tsuzumi by Yoko Johnston is a summer top with stockinette on one side and lacy panels down the other that can be tied up together if you choose. The lace can be worn in the front or the back, and I have to say I like both looks.

Tsuzumi is knit top-down in the round, and then you separate for the lace panels which are worked flat. I am knitting mine in Quince and Co.’s sparrow in the truffle colorway:

It is 100% linen and is crisp and almost shiny before it’s blocked. I’ve heard it softens up a lot after you wash it, and based on my swatch it looks like that’s the case.

I hope that the gauge works out. This yarn is very malleable. It knits up as an open fabric, even with tiny needles. I knit my swatch on size 2 needles, and only got 23 stitches for a 4 inch square. It was hard for me to get an accurate measurement of my swatch. When I first bound off, my swatch was a long, skinny rectangle despite casting on 50 stitches and knitting a full 50 rows. The whole thing was maybe 4 inches tall including four rows of garter stitch border on both the top and the bottom. But after I washed my swatch and set it out to dry, it became more or less square-ish, and I was pretty close to the pattern gauge. I still feel like I could block this anywhere from 20 to 40 stitches to a four inch square. It is all over the place. Fingers crossed that I don’t painstakingly knit two panels of lace only to have a doll-sized top, or an XXXL.

What are you working on? Have you ever knit with this yarn? I’d love to hear about it.

What you’re made of: Does needle material really affect gauge?

I’ve heard that knitting with metal needles as opposed to wooden needles can give you a very different gauge. But I’ve never tested it out for myself – until now. For this experiment, I cast on 32 stitches of a worsted wool and acrylic blend that I have laying around the house. Then I knit a square(ish) swatch with 6mm metal ChiaoGoo needles. I did the same with a set of 6mm Clover Bamboo needles. I have to say, the results surprised me.

As you can see, (even with the curling) the swatch knit with wooden needles is much larger though it has the same number of stitches. When I measured the gauge, I found that the wooden swatch was a full 1.5 stitches larger per 4 inch square and a full row larger per 4 inches.

I had heard that sometimes people knit looser with wooden needles, but I didn’t expect it to be this pronounced. I have always considered myself a tight knitter, but maybe it’s just because I love my ChiaoGoo interchangeable needle set, and they’re metal! What kind of needles to you prefer? Do you always stick with the same material, or do you mix it up?

Testing, Testing, 1,2,3,…

Do you ever have an idea that you just can’t get out of your head? I recently read the article on MDK’s website Confessions of a Test Knitter and I couldn’t stop thinking about signing up for a test knit of my own. On the one hand, it could be a great way to meet designers and work with a group of people all knitting the same thing at the same time. I could just do a regular old knit-along, but I felt like a test would be even better. On the other, there’s always the chance that being a test-knitter would take knitting, the one thing in my life that is purely for enjoyment, and turn it into a pressure-filled nightmare with a deadline. Leave it to me to make everything I touch into a type-A stress fest! I truly didn’t know how I would feel, but I thought I’d have to try it once to know for sure.

To this end, I’ve been keeping an eye out for test calls from some of my favorite designers on Instagram. I also signed up to be a tester with Yarn Pond, and checked out a few Ravelry boards for testers. And then yesterday I just got notified that I’m going to be a test knitter for Milly’s Knit Designs Eckert Shawl.

Milly’s Knit Designs

It’s a beautiful shawl that comes in three sizes: shawlette, triangular shawl, and giant rectangular shawl. I decided to start small and go with the shawlette. I’ll be knitting it in Walcot Yarns Opus in the Plum colorway. Hopefully within the week I will have both yarn and pattern in hand and can cast on!. Have you ever been a test-knitter? What did you think? I would love to hear your experience in the comments.

Fix it or Frog it: Where Am I?

I posted on Monday about how I was frantically knitting on Andrea Mowry’s The Shift Cowl. Well, my progress came to a screeching halt when I got to the end of a row and my stitch count was off. The Shift starts with a few stitches and increases by twos every few rows. I had an odd number of stitches. Not good. I counted again- still odd. So I tinked back a row, then two. Still off. Then I got annoyed and ripped back three or four rows just to be sure. I got an even number of stitches on the needles, but then I couldn’t for the life of me figure out where I was in the pattern. The row that matched my stitch count didn’t match the stitches I had done. Maybe I knit the wrong row? Ugh.

The pattern is very clear and not at all confusing, but the rows repeat a lot. As in “knit rows 1-8 two times, then knit rows 1-4 four times.” If I were organized, and remembered to check my stitch count, everything would be fine. If only. All of which meant that I had to rip back to the end of a section and start again. A new cup of coffee and some choice swear words later, I was back on track.

In order to avoid a repeat of this exercise in futility, I have started writing out each section and marking off my rows as I go, double checking my stitch count along the way.

Look who’s organized now

It’s a little bit uptight for me, but at least I know where I am. Do you have any tried and true methods to keep track of your progress?

What to Knit: Ocean Pathways Cowl

© Francoise Danoy

I have to admit, before I started knitting I never understood cowls. To me, a cowl always seemed like a confused little scarf, not suited to Chicago winters. But now that I knit, I can’t get enough of them. They keep you warm under a jacket. They look good on their own without a jacket. There are so many beautiful cowls out there that it’s hard to choose just one to knit. Good thing it’s July and I have lots of time before I have to wear one. Next on my list is the Ocean Pathways Cowl by Francoise Danoy.

The Ocean Pathways Cowl is knit in fingering weight and features extensive colorwork in four different colors. It can be knit as a regular or tubular cowl and it comes with both written and video tutorials along with the pattern. I love the colors of the samples and I know I would also have a fantastic time putting together a palate of four colors to work with. I like the vertical striping of the tubular cowl, so I’d probably knit that one. This has the added bonus of teaching me how to do a provisional cast on, which I’ve been itching to try.

What do you think: do you knit cowls? Am I the only one that didn’t see their potential? What colors would you choose?

The Best Laid Plans: The Shift Cowl

I don’t know why I bother making plans for my knitting, because they never work out the way I intend. I got some beautiful yarn from Quince and Co. that is supposed to be a lacy summer tee. Seeing as how it’s July and nuclear hot here, it’s the perfect thing to work on in the Chicago summer. Except I can’t seem to get excited about casting on. I was halfway through a swatch, and what did I do? I cast on Andrea Mowry’s The Shift Cowl. As you do.

Have I ever worn a cowl before? No. Can I wear a cowl any time soon? No. Do I want to sit with wool yarn in my lap on 90° days? No. But I will tell you, I can’t stop working on it. Maybe it’s the interesting stitch pattern. Maybe it’s the combination of yarns from Primrose Yarn Co. It is the very definition of potato chip knitting. You always want to knit just one more row. Check out these stitches:

How will the colors combine? It is so fun to knit!

I am using three different colorways of sport weight yarn from Primrose Yarn Co.’s Rose Sport: Emerald Midnight, Where is My Mind, and Tabloid Gossip. They are so pretty, and have made this project nearly impossible to put down.

From left to right: Where is My Mind, Tabloid Gossip, and Emerald Midnight

What are you working on these days? Is there anything that you just can’t stop knitting?

Joining in the Round: A Knitting Experiment

Do you remember the Pepsi challenge? There were a bunch of commercials in the 80s where ordinary people took a blind taste test to determine which they liked better: Coke or Pepsi. Even though we all know Diet Coke should be the real winner, I still love myself a good test.

It got me thinking, are there knitting questions that we can answer once and for all? Of course there are! First up: what is the best way to join for knitting in the round? There are three options that pop up most frequently:

1. Just knit and fix it later

2. Cast on an extra stitch and bind it off

3. Cast on an extra stitch and k2tog at the end of the round

For each method I used the long-tail cast on. I cast on 60 (or 61, depending on the method) stitches of Cascade 175 onto my shortest cable needle and knit a k1 p1 rib for 4 rounds before taking a look at how the join turned out. Want to see the results?? Let the games begin!

Method One: nothing fancy, just keep knitting

For this method, I cast 60 stitches onto the cable needle. Then I just knit the first stitch with my working needle and, voila – joined in the round.

Check out that jog

This join has a really visible jog at the cast-on edge and a decent sized hole where I made the first stitch. It gets points for simplicity, but surely we can do better.

Method Two: The sacrificial stitch

In this method, I cast on an extra stitch for a total of 61 stitches. I passed the first stitch (with the slip knot) onto the working needle, and passed the last extra stitch over the first stitch and off the needle, essentially binding off the extra stitch.

This method works a lot better. There was little to no stair-step jog at the beginning of the round. I still got a giant hole over the slip knot. Maybe I’m not doing this right? But overall I would have a much easier time fixing this when I weave in the ends.

Method Three: Cast on an extra stitch and knit or purl 2tog at the end of the round

This time I cast on 61 stitches, passed the first cast-on stitch onto my working needle and then knit the next stitch to join in the round. When I got back around to the end of the round, I purled the last stitch of the round together with the extra stitch to finish the round and return the stitch count to 60.

This method seems to be the best of both worlds. There is no real visible stair-step jog at the beginning of the round, and for once there’s also no giant hole over the slipknot.

Well, there you have it. The results are in: join the the round with method three. Our first knitting challenge is in the books. How do you usually join to knit in the round? Did I leave out a method that you like to use? Am I the only one that prefers Diet Coke? I’d love to hear about it.

Designer Talk: Geneva Vasquez

I was looking through patterns on Ravelry, as you do, and I happened across the most amazing collection of winter hats. It just so happens that I was in the market for a hat pattern for one of my girls. I know, it’s July, but her original hat got run through the washing machine and sadly is no more. So I owed her a new one, and I figured now was as good a time as any to make one. Given the fate of the last hat, I knew I wanted this one to be superwash, so I was looking for a pattern that would work with more conventional yarn and still look interesting.

Enter Geneva Vasquez. Geneva is the creator of Knot and Stitch, a collection of crochet, knitwear and pattern designs. Her patterns on Ravelry are all accessories: hats, cowls, and scarves, and they all have the most luxurious textured stitches. I settled on the Avery Beanie for my daughter and whipped it up in no time with some Cascade 128 superwash merino in the cotton candy colorway. Not my first pick, but she’s four, and subtlety is not her strong suit. I made the hat shorter than the pattern recommended because I wanted it to fit closer to her head rather than very slouchy. I think it turned out pretty cute, especially with the furry pom pom:

I love that Geneva Vasquez can create such beautiful stitch patterns using just simple knits and purls with a few decreases. I would love to make this hat, or one of her many others, for me in a better yarn. I think it would quickly become a go-to hat for its simplicity and style. What’s your favorite hat pattern? Is it crazy to knit for kids in anything but super wash?

Fix it or Frog it: Sock Surgery

After my first pair of hand-knitted socks got a giant hole in them, I couldn’t throw them out without at least trying something to salvage them. I knitted them in Northern Bee Studio’s Yak Sock, and I have plenty of yarn leftover. It was time to take drastic action. My plan was to thread a needle through the stitches somewhere below the hole, cut the sock (eek!) and unravel down to the needle. Then I could reknit the toe of the sock, and no one would be the wiser. What could possibly go wrong, right?

Everything was going according to plan. I threaded the needle onto the stitches. I took a deep breath and cut the sock. After tinking back a few rounds, I got all of the stitches oriented the right way on the needles and transferred them to dons. I did it. But then I noticed something strange:

What was that little thread? I took the stitches off the needles and ripped it back a few rows. The thread just got longer and stuck up more. I couldn’t figure it out. A sock is one continuous piece of yarn. The only loose ends are at the end, and the beginning. And as soon as I thought this, I realized that this was the beginning of the sock that I had woven in down the purl ridges of the sock. Whoops!

So, I got the stitches back on the dpns, and now all I have to do is join the yarn and reknit the sock. It’s considerably shorter than it would have been if I’d realized what I was looking at before I ripped back again, but all in all, I’d call it a success. Have you ever performed knitting surgery? I’d love to hear about it.

The surviving sock out of the ICU. Look at that pile of scraps!!

What to knit: Woodblock

© Brooklyn Tweed/Jared Flood

Woodblock by Emily Greene

The Woodblock Top is the kind of thing that I didn’t know I wanted, but now I have to have it. This is a bottom-up short sleeve tee that is knit in fingering weight yarn. It is seamless and has the most flattering textured pattern on the front and back. According to the pattern page it is reversible! Given that the pattern was only released in May and it already has over 60 projects on Ravelry, I think we’re going to be seeing a lot of this one.

A mini collection of Emily Greene’s patterns, including the Woodblock Top, is being sold by Brooklyn Tweed, and I can’t wait to see all of the beautiful projects people knit up. What is your knitting inspiration these days?