Hot Tip: Weigh it

Hot Tip: Weigh your yarn

Let’s say you finished a project awhile ago and need to know but can’t remember how many skeins of yarn you used. Or you want to wind one skein of yarn into three equal balls. Or you have most of a skein left over from your last project and think it miiiight be enough for that hat pattern you’ve got your eye on, but aren’t sure. How do you solve these problems and others like them? With a kitchen scale. Every yarn is labeled with the weight of the skein and the yardage, so with those two numbers, the weight of whatever you’re questioning, and a calculator, you can get to the bottom of anything.

Scenario 1 up there: Let’s say the yarn you used came in 50g skeins. If your sweater weighs 460g, you used 9.2 skeins of yarn. (If each of those skeins was 140 yards, and you have .8 of a skein left, you have 112 yards.) Scenario 2: Wind until your first ball weighs 1/3 of the skein, repeat for the next two balls. Scenario 3: That little nubbin of yarn in the photo above is all that was left when I finished Bob’s sweater! It’s O-Wool Balance which is 130 yards per 50-gram skein. I have 5g left, one-tenth of a 50g skein, so that’s 13 yards. (Enough to knit a new neckband if needed? Dicey! But more than I would have guessed from looking at it.) If you know what the yarn is but no longer have the label for the weight and yardage, consult the yarn company’s website or the Ravelry yarn database.

Although I can’t find any supporting evidence, I’m pretty sure the very first time I ever saw mention of weighing yarn was Jane Richmond (a role model where maximizing yardage is concerned) blogging about how to use every inch of your yarn for a Rae shawl, which is a long triangular shawl knitted from one wingtip to the other. She said to knit until your ball weighed exactly as much as your knitting, which would mean you were exactly at the halfway point of your skein, so that would be the exact center of your shawl (in this scenario). I was a brand-new knitter at the time, and the notion of weighing anything seemed like the most brilliant thing I had ever heard! No more guessing at how much yarn was used or left over when filling in Ravelry projects, or casting on with leftovers without knowing how far they would go.

PREVIOUSLY in Hot Tips: Mark your rows

The accidental V-neck

The accidental V-neck

Last Wednesday night I cast on my quickie black raglan sweater, and I began knitting it in earnest the next day while stuck in a waiting room for a couple of hours. I knew I wanted to make the drop from the back neck to the front a little deeper than I have on improvised top-down sweaters of the past. And this is a crazy fast bit of knitting. And my mind was elsewhere. I didn’t even have a ruler on me, just a rough idea of how tall I wanted my little crescent of fabric to be before I cast on the front neck stitches and joined in the round. So mindlessly I knitted, and quickly it grew. Even when I was casting on only five stitches, it didn’t occur to me what I had done. Late that night, I pulled the little yokelet over my head and … duh! … I’d made a V-neck by accident. A sort of gentle V, since I had cast on 5 stitches and not none, but a V-neck nonetheless. Given how fast it was to knit that bit of yoke in the first place, it would have been nothing to rip it out and start again, but I pretty much instantly decided to live with it. As I see it, I have two options: embrace it, or take it as a design challenge. By the latter, I mean creating a little V patch like a sweatshirt (always my favorite thing), which could be knitted a few different ways or could be wool gauze sewn on, which would be a pretty marvelous little detail.

I’m not really a V-neck wearer, so it feels a little foreign to me, and it’s obviously unlike my original sketch, in the upper left corner up there. I still want that sweater, and will very possibly still want that sweater (and still want it to be black) if I finish this as a V-neck. On the other hand, maybe the universe was trying to tell me something. If I decide the V isn’t filling up that whole in my heart, I can always rip out whatever edge treatment I put on it and do the patch thing instead. So for the moment, I’m embracing it. But it did mean stopping to ask what kind of hem treatment and what shape of sleeve will work best with the V. After sketching it out (such a necessity for me!) I’ve decided the original shape and details are still best, so I’m headed for the lower right sketch. As fast as this is going, we’ll know how it turns out in about 10 minutes.

NOTES: There is no pattern for this sweater. I am improvising it, and you can too: There’s a whole top-down tutorial right here. This yarn is Lettlopi, worsted-weight Icelandic wool, knitted on US10.5 needles at 3.5 sts and 5 rows per inch.

Best fisherman sweater patterns

Best fisherman sweater patterns

Back in November 2012, I wrote a little about my quest for the perfect fisherman-cabled sweater, or Aran sweater, and how that desire was one of the key reasons I learned how to knit in the first place. Aran sweater patterns were the first thing I searched Ravelry for, fantasized about, all of that. Two years after that post, I knitted my Amanda cardigan (along with so many of you) and I’m very happy to have it. But has that fulfilled my dream of a fisherman pullover? For obvious reasons, not. In the few years since I’ve been looking, several great patterns have come along, and there’s also that amazing cache of vintage booklets I was given awhile back. (Which I just realized includes the vintage Bernat pattern shown at #5 in my original quest post! How did that escape my notice at the time?)

You know I have a billion cable sweaters favorited at Ravelry at this point, several of which fall into my narrowly defined fisherman-cable set, but so many more I run across are out of print or otherwise inaccessible, or simply not quite right. The only thing that’s really going to scratch this itch is a true classic. Harrogate and Samantha, for example, are both terrific sweaters — either of which, in fact, would look less linebacker-ish on me than the ones pictured above — but without the allover texture, they just don’t give me the feeling. Woolwich is dreamy, but lost in an older Rowan publication I don’t have the good fortune to own. This free Lion Brand pattern is also good, but the drop shoulders combined with all the cabling would look horrendous on me. And so on. So the hunt continues, but for now these are the best candidates I’ve found:

TOP: Marsellus by Whitney Hayward is brand new and perfectly classic, with columns of braids flanking a panel of honeycomb, and the critical folded neck band.

MIDDLE: Grit by Kim Hargreaves and Honeycomb Aran by Patons are closest to the iconic Steve McQueen sweater — the key difference between them being Grit is set-in sleeves and Honeycomb is raglan. I slightly prefer the raglan, which is also a free pattern, and downloadable, while Grit is trapped in a book. (Then again, either one is so similar to the Amanda cardigan and the LL Bean sweater already in my closet that knitting either one anytime soon seems a little silly.)

BOTTOM: Stonecutter by Michele Wang is less classic, more contemporary. Plus I have tried on the sample and it is guilty of having the linebacker effect on me. But I want so desperately to knit those cables I might be able to convince myself I don’t care.

In the end (and despite the lack of charts) that vintage Bernat one may win out.

Our Tools, Ourselves: Julie Hoover

In Our Tools, Ourselves, we get to know fiber artisans of all walks, ages, styles and skill levels, by way of their tools. For more on the series, read the introduction.

Our Tools, Ourselves: Julie Hoover

Julie Hoover has been one of my favorite designers from the very beginning of my tenure as a knitter, and I’m happy to have learned from her and developed a friendship with her over the years. In October of 2013, I asked her if she’d be interested in answering my Our Tools, Ourselves questions and giving us a peek into her world, and she responded that she’d love to … in six months or so. She and her husband were embarking on building their dream home, most of her things were in storage, and it would be better, she thought, if she could show us the new space when it was done. We all know construction projects never go as planned, but this look into Julie’s space and process is well worth the wait!

You likely already know Julie’s designs for Brooklyn Tweed and under her own name, but make sure you’re following her on Instagram, @jgourmet, where she is a constant source of awe and inspiration! She’s also half of the team behind the Kniting with Company retreats. (Which I sorely hope to attend one of these days!) And if you haven’t listened to her Woolful interview, make sure you check that out, too.

. . .

Do you knit, crochet, weave, spin, dye, sew … ?

Being a fiber addict (with a BA in clothing & textiles), I’ve tried just about everything you can imagine at least once. I didn’t develop the skill until 2008, but knitting is my first love—hands down. I was living in Anchorage, Alaska, transitioning from a being a full-time art director (ad agency) back to freelance work and had recently given birth to my 3rd boy. I needed something selfish. My sister-in-law is a knitter and we scouted out the local yarn shops during a visit she made that summer. I picked up some baby llama and a pair of lovely wooden needles, and proceeded to knit a blanket. The rest is history.

Given my love for thread-weight yarns, I suspect I could easily go down the rabbit hole of weaving.

I also love sewing. For the past few years we’ve had most of our belongings in storage (due to moving and building a new home), including my sewing and overlock machines. I haven’t felt the immediate urge to start any sewing projects, but I suspect I will. My time is limited these days so I stay focused on knitting — and I’m good with that!

Tell us about your tool preferences and peccadilloes.

The needles I love most are my Lantern Moon straight needles in a mix of Rosewood and Ebony. I also have a full range of their circular needles. I absolutely love the feeling of the wood in my hands, but I found my tension wasn’t always perfectly consistent. In my design work gauge is critical, so I began using Addi circular needles instead and have come to rely on them. My favorite are the Rockets which have a wonderfully sharp tip.

Besides needles, my list of essential knitting tools is pretty simple: a swift and ball winder, cable needles and mini crochet hook for repairs (also Lantern Moon), blunt tapestry needles, scissors, tape measure, collarless/bulb pins, metal stitch markers (sourced from Fringe Supply Co.), t-pins, blocking wires and EZ-Sew blocking boards.

Other tools I consider essential in my design process are: sketch books (dot grid and Fashionary are my favorite), fine tip mechanical pencils and pens (.3mm or less are my obsession), Adobe software (I couldn’t live without Illustrator, inDesign, Lightroom, Photoshop), and of course the workhorse that they run on—my iMac. My Nikon and iPhone are also never far from reach.

I’m a minimalist at heart, so if there’s something not in use, it will get donated or given to someone special.

Our Tools, Ourselves: Julie Hoover

How do you store or organize your tools? Or do you?

Uh oh, here’s where I have to confess I’m a total organization neat-freak. Ideally, the more I can put out of sight when not in use, the better. I have a generous storage room downstairs from my studio space where I keep my back stock of patterns, shipping supplies and yarn/fabric stash. In my studio, I keep things in drawers or in bins. My needles are organized in DellaQ cases in natural muslin (and kept in a drawer). I don’t mind having things out and handy as long as they’re neatly arranged on a shelf, in a basket or in various wooden trays that I’ve collected over the years. I can’t stand dust collecting on things and there’s nothing worse (to me) than having to constantly move things out of the way to clean This practice applies to my entire home, not just my work space.

How do you store or organize your works-in-progress?

If I have something on the needles and know I’m not coming straight back to it, I will keep it in a project bag and tucked into a tote bag so I can easily grab it on-the-go. I’m currently using a few favorites: a leather Baggu zipper case and a couple of Ambatalia Bento Bags.

For me, part of “works-in-progress” means swatching, and I have piles of them. I organize them in containers labelled by yarn brand, so I can easily dive in and check on a gauge or reference a particular stitch pattern.

Our Tools, Ourselves: Julie Hoover

Are there any particularly prized possessions amongst your tools?

Hmm, not particularly amongst my knitting tools. I might categorize my Pfaff sewing machine that way, not because it’s unusually special but because of the memories it evokes of living in Germany during the time I purchased it. And I still treasure the Gingher dressmaking shears and tailor’s point scissors I purchased in college, decades ago.

Do you lend your tools?

Not generally, no. I am happy to lend them to someone I trust, but I’m hardly ever asked. I suppose it’s because I don’t do a lot of social knitting, and the people I do knit with are very well-equipped!

What is your favorite place to knit?

Obviously, I spend a lot of time in my home workroom/studio, but I do everything except knit in there. My favorite place to knit is definitely at home, and preferably when I’m home alone!

If I can tune out everything and everyone, I’m most happy and productive. I have two places where I usually camp out for knitting. One is in my living room in a chair by the windows (also happens to be close to the fireplace). That room is a big open-concept living/dining/kitchen area and is surrounded with floor to ceiling windows. I love the open/airy feeling of being in that part of my house, especially when I have it to myself. You can be sure I have music coming through the speakers, too. The other place I often find myself knitting (usually late in the evening or a lazy weekend day) is my bedroom, which is located next to my studio. I have a chair in that room as well, but I’m more likely to stretch my legs out on the bed. My dog Amando likes it when I choose that spot as well.

Our Tools, Ourselves: Julie Hoover

What effect do the seasons have on you?

I’m definitely a four-season person. I love each one almost equally, and thankfully living in Michigan gives me the best of all of them. If I had to choose a favorite season (the one I most look forward to), it would be Autumn.

There’s no season that keeps me away from working with wool, which is a good thing because the busiest production time is during the summer months, preparing for Fall and Winter publications.

Do you have a dark secret, guilty pleasure or odd quirk, where your fiber pursuits are concerned?

That’s a great question, and I wish I had a scandalous answer!

I do have a serious guilty pleasure for linen fabric. Aside from just collecting yards of it off the bolt, I have a ridiculous amount of vintage linens (sheets, table cloths, giant napkins) I collected from flea markets around Europe during the years we lived in Germany. I would get up at 3am and drive many hours to scour around, and I was rewarded with the most beautifully crafted linens you can imagine … hand-hemstitching, hand-monogramming, etc. For the most part, I don’t often use them — I just love having them.

Quirkiness comes with the territory, and I don’t know if this counts as odd, but after I knit a few rows/rounds, I can’t resist stopping and feeling the fabric with my fingers. (I can’t imagine I’m the only one who “pets” their fabric!) The other thing I’m very particular and methodical about (quirky or not) is wet-blocking my projects. I let pieces soak forever and use blocking wires on every single edge/corner possible. I treat my swatches in the same way. No short cuts.

What are you working on right now?

The “actively knitting” list isn’t too long at the moment. Currently on my needles is a second sample I’m knitting of my Cohle turtleneck in Shibui Pebble. A few of my Instagram followers are doing a very low-pressure #CohleKAL with me, and anyone reading is welcome to join in. Also on my needles is a design I’m working on using mYak. I should have two patterns in that yarn (100% baby yak heaven) ready for publishing by March.

Lots of other things are in progress, in different phases. I’m hoping to self publish 3-4 designs in Shibui yarns around TNNA [the trade show in June]. There’s plans for some Woolfolk and another yarn brand (not at liberty to say just yet) I’m going to dive into, and of course my Brooklyn Tweed designs are always high on the list, as well!

Our Tools, Ourselves: Julie Hoover

PREVIOUSLY in Our Tools, Ourselves: Victoria Pemberton

Photos © Julie Hoover

Today’s the day

Last batch of the highly coveted army green Field Bag

Today is the day a lot of you have been waiting for — the last batch of the army green Field Bags are here! It’s a pretty big batch, but whether they’ll be gone in a heartbeat or last into next month, I cannot predict. So to be on the safe side, I’m scheduling their release, and in two parts:

• PART ONE will hit the webshop this morning (today is Feb 5!) at 10:00am CENTRAL TIME — that’s 8am PT / 11am ET (those of you overseas can do the math for your time zone)

• PART TWO will be available tomorrow, Feb 6, at 1:00pm CENTRAL TIME — 11 am PT / 2pm ET

Again, hopefully they won’t sell out right away, but if you’ve got your heart set on one, cross your fingers and set your alarm for the appointed hour. When these are gone, they’re gone! We’ve used the last bolt of this fabric I searched for forever, so that’s all she wrote.

Natural and grey live on and are also available right now, and black will be back soon! ALSO back in stock this week: brass scarf hangersbonsai scissors, “High-fiber” tote bags, Yarn Pyramid tea towels, and brass-handled shears.

Happy weekend, everyone!

DIY vs. RTW

DIY vs. RTW : Fen vs. Madewell

I’m often stunned by the ready-to-wear clothes that pop up in my inbox or around the web — clothes that look freakishly as if they could have been made from one or another of the indie patterns popular in the handmade community (which, of course, were generally inspired by the runway or ready-to-wear, and around and around we go). Sometimes it’s downright spooky, as in the case of the Madewell dress above right, which is not only eerily similar to the Fen pattern (above left) I was obsessing over last summer, but is made in the exact same flowered fabric I had picked up around the same time and have pictured as a Fen on several occasions. In most cases, the timelines overlap in such a way that it’s obviously a simple case of great minds thinking alike, or tapping into the same zeitgeist (or following the same Pinterest feeds) for inspiration. But it’s fun to ride the inspiration merry-go-round, regardless!

DIY vs. RTW : Cadence vs. LL Bean

The new Cadence pullover pattern (above left) is such an all-American classic/basic that its twin is currently on offer at none other than L.L. Bean (above right).

DIY vs. RTW : Turia vs. Madewell

Madewell’s forthcoming overalls, above right, bring to mind the popular Turia Dungarees pattern (above left), with a few easy to swap out details either direction.

DIY vs. RTW : Camden vs. See by Chloe

The Spring 2016 collections are chock full of capes, many of them admittedly more similar in shape to the Camden Cape pattern (above left) than this See by Chloé version (above right), but how great would Camden look sewn up in denim with classic blue-jeans buttons like that?

Q for You: What’s your favorite step of the process?

Q for You: What's your favorite step of the making process?

While watching the Iowa results on Monday night I declared my own small victory, binding off Bob’s sweater. (Which fits like a dream.) First thing Tuesday morning it went onto the blocking board, and by afternoon I was happily plotting out my black raglan. You know, taking measurements, doing calculations, drawing my funny little cast-on diagram I always draw for every top-down. Cast-on-itis is clearly a thing with knitters — we all love to start new projects (some of us too much) — but I think my favorite step is actually the one before cast-on, or before cutting into fabric. I love love love the planning, from sketches or pattern research to yarn/material selection, working out sizing, the whole enchilada. Of course, I also love casting on, but nothing gives me quite the same creative buzz as the planning phase. So that’s my Q for You today: What’s your favorite step of the process — from dreaming through wearing — and why?

(My used and abused Knitters Graph Paper Journal, Fashionary sketch paper and Bento Bag are all, of course, from Fringe Supply Co. The heathered black Lettlopi Icelandic yarn I bought from Tolt.)

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PREVIOUSLY in Q for You: Did you make 2016 resolutions?