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Yarndale 2015 : a woolly holiday

October 6, 2015


This year, I chose not to exhibit Tin Can Knits at Yarndale, and went as a visitor instead.  Last year, Max was 12 weeks old and it nearly killed me to travel from Edinburgh and work the booth all weekend, despite having mounds of help from my Mom and John.  So this year, the weekend after my return from a busy trip to Canada, I decided that a woolly holiday was in order, and left man and bairn to focus on the yarn without any distractions!


Yarndale definitely doesn’t disappoint!  My friend Rosie and I spent the better part of Saturday on our first pass through the market hall.  What were the big themes this year?  There were a LOT of rainbows on display!  Many dyers are doing ombre and rainbow mini-skein kits, and there were quite a variety of self-striping ombre skeins too.  There were a lot of exquisite crochet blankets in rainbow shades, and a lot of UK designers with new collections to enjoy.


There was also a number of stalls with perfectly adorable felted creatures!  It’s not a craft that I’ll ever venture into personally, but I appreciate the work that these artists are doing, and love to look.


My shopping focus this year was in looking at interesting undyed / natural yarns, and British made yarns.  I picked up some really beautiful natural shades of wool, alpaca and a merino/cashmere blend too, and had a chat to the folks at Baa Ram Ewe, John Arbon, Purl Alpacas, and Laxton’s.

The Lux purchases... natural UK alpaca by Purl alpaca designs, Whitfell DK alpaca by Eden Cottage Yarns, and a very interesting natural cashmere / merino blend by Polo & Co, a small French yarn company.

The Lux Yarns: natural UK alpaca by Purl Alpaca Designs, Whitfell DK alpaca by Eden Cottage Yarns, and a very interesting natural cashmere / merino blend called Sutak by Polo & Co, a small French yarn company.


The Wooly Wools: Swedish wool from Midwinter Yarns, a lofty worsted-spun DK from The Little Grey Sheep, Baa Ram Ewe’s lovely new Dovestone DK, some beautiful heathered merino called ‘Viola’ from John Arbon Textiles, and some gloriously gritty Hebridean/Manx from Blacker Yarns.

Of course, visiting a knitting expo like Yarndale is also a great chance to reconnect with friends in the industry.  I had a chat with Rachel Coopey of Coop Knits and drooled over her new accessory collection Toasty Volume Two, I just love the way she’s created crisp modern and fun fair-isle designs in Baa Ram Ewe’s Titus.


I’m mad about these detailed geometric designs… and easily seduced by big pom poms too!

I reconnected with Lydia Gluck at Pom Pom Quarterly, got a great new project bag and admired Alexa’s latest design for Pom Pom, the Hitchcock pullover, in person.


A excellent rack of knits at the Pom Pom Quarterly booth! I’m planning and scheming to make matching Hitchcock pullovers for John and Max…

I had the opportunity to lunch and chat knit design with Justyna Lorkowska of Lete’s Knits, who is both talented and so open and friendly!  It was great to swap stories of our design projects and speak about balancing design work with little ones.


Lovely lunch and knit chat with Justyna Lorkowska of Lete’s Knits! We got sweaty running for the Yarndale bus, as evidenced by this grainy selfie!

At the Ginger Twist booth, I got to hang with some of my favourite ladies!  I had a lovely brunch with Clare Devine of Yarn and Pointy Sticks, a designer and tech editor who I don’t get to see nearly as often as I’d like since she moved south, and a quick chat with Jess of Ginger Twist, and Sylvie of the newly launched Phileas Yarns.


The weekend was a hands-down success, and I cast on immediately in the new buttery soft DK weight alpaca I’d picked up from Vicky at Eden Cottage yarns… it’s a sample for a new book, so I can’t show you the right side…!


Eden Cottage’s new Whitfell DK in ‘natural’, ‘misty woods’ and ‘charcoal’

I was very glad that I enjoyed a yarn shopping holiday this year, but I’m sure Tin Can Knits will be exhibiting again at Yarndale 2016!  Fall is here, I’m planning more sweaters for #TCK12sweaters2015, and with my stash of new yarns I forsee many swatches and new ideas coming from Tin Can Knits.


Autumn inspirations from TCK:


Woollies for the Family

September 20, 2015
We were briefly all in the same place at the same time so it was time to pull out all the sweaters!

We were briefly all in the same place at the same time so it was time to pull out all the sweaters!

I know, I know, it’s barely September. The sun is still shining (mostly….), the lake is still warm enough for a brave evening dip, and people are barely back from their summer road trips. Still, with 3 kiddies, I have to start thinking about winter woollies early! I hauled out the bin of warm hats, cowls, and mitts, to make sure everyone had something that fit. They didn’t. So it’s time to get working on a few new woollies for fall.


Hunter needs a hat. She is at an age where she wants some say in her wardrobe, but is still pretty open to suggestion. I am in love with the colorway ‘Princess Rockstar’ from Emily’s Rainbow Heirloom and Hunter agrees so a Bumble hat will be coming her way!

I love it when things fit 2 years in a row!

I love it when things fit 2 years in a row!

Jones has a Tall Dark and Handsome hat that fits, but he needs some new mitts and maybe a cowl. I’ll be knitting him a Gather cowl and some Bon Bon Mitts. The cowl is Tanis Fiber Arts Green Label in ‘Chris Grey’ and the Mitts will be in some left over Sweet Fiber Merino Twist in ‘smoke’.

Leftovers ready to become a hat and cowl for Jones

Leftovers ready to become a hat and cowl for Jones


Bodhi needs a hat so I am going to knit up a Hipster hat in some Madelinetosh Vintage ‘Esoteric’. To be honest…she probably doesn’t need a hat but baby hats are so quick and fun!


Last, but not least, my hubby asked me for a knit! He asked at the end of last winter for a toque and I was paralyzed with indecision. I think, however, that I am going to knit him up a Tall Dark and Handsome hat (my go to) in Sweet Fiber Cashmerino in ‘woodsmoke’.garyTDH

For myself? I am working on an Apple Pie hat and a Bradway Shawl by Shannon Cook! That is a fair bit of knitting so I better get clicking!

Bradway Shawl by Shannon Cook

What woolies are you working on for fall? New mittens for a man? Hats for the kids?

More woolies for your fall wardrobe:

My Little Playdate

September 11, 2015
Playdate Cardigan by Tin Can Knits

Max exploring Miracle Beach Park in his new Playdate cardigan

Once or twice a year, I travel home.  Leaving Scotland behind, I visit family on Vancouver Island and spend a week working with Alexa in Port Moody.  It’s always an exciting and tiring visit with a schedule full of chatting, crazy last-minute sample knitting and photo-shoots.  Now that Max is a toddler, it is so much fun to show him my favourite spots in the place I grew up!  He loved the forest and sand at Miracle Beach, a beautiful provincial park just a short walk from my childhood home.

Boy with a stick

Boys love sticks!  And Max ate a LOT of sand at the beach.

He also loved crawling around and exploring the forest floor, finding pinecones to chew on and sticks to wave about! For the trip I had to put Max in a little playdate to show off. I decided on a simple pattern change: single row stripes!

Playdate Cardigan by Tin Can Knits

Sure, you can eat that pinecone… if you really want to!

Playdate Project Details:

Playdate Cardigan PatternPattern:  Playdate Pattern $7 – available for download now (or get the Max & Bodhi’s Wardrobe ebook)
Sizing:  This adorable cardi is sized from baby to big!
Yarn:  Rainbow Heirloom Merino Light in ‘verdant’ (the Nostalgia Club colour for June 2015) and ‘jewel sea’ – less than 2 skeins required
Needles:  US#3 / 3.25mm and US#4 / 3.75mm (or as required to meet gauge)
Gauge:  24 sts & 36 rows / 4″ in stockinette
Notions:  stitch marker, darning needle, buttons


Single Row Stripes

When working a flat piece of knitting in single-row stripes, you need to use a circular needle, because you must work two right-side (RS) rows, then work two wrong-side (WS) rows, so you need points on both ends of your needles.

Single Row Striping Pattern
Row 1 (RS): green
Row 2 (RS): teal
Row 3 (WS): green
Row 4 (WS): teal

As you can see, I decided to keep the pocket opening section in the green, and then worked the pocket bind-off row in teal, which made for a tidy little detail.

Playdate Cardigan by Tin Can Knits

I considered quite a few options for buttons, but in the end I chose these vintagey looking olive green ones.  I love choosing buttons – I always wait until the knit is complete, then take it to my button store, and try a bunch of different options before selecting the one that matches the mood of the design best.  It’s difficult to buy buttons in advance, because you can’t be sure how they will look with the buttonhole spacing and button band width of the finished knit.  So it’s easiest to wait until the project is finished to find a perfect match.

Playdate Cardigan by Tin Can Knits

Details, details… I love choosing buttons!

Simple Pattern Hacks

Have you ever knit in single-row or single-round stripes?  I was inspired to make this ‘pattern hack’ by the creative and talented Laura (undone57 on Ravelry) who made this little scrappy playdate with stripes and fair-isle dots… Exquisite eh?  Check out her project page on Ravelry for more information.

Playdate Cardigan Playdate Cardigan

Over the years, we have created a number of simple designs that lend themselves well to the striping or the addition of simple colourwork patterns.  One of my favourites is the free Flax pullover from The Simple Collection.

Flax Pullover by Tin Can Knits

Other simple designs perfect for ‘hacking’:

Flax Pullover by Tin Can KnitsRocky Joggers by Tin Can KnitsHarvest Cardigan by Tin Can Knits

Teaching Kids to Knit

September 3, 2015

I have posted a few pictures of Hunter and her knitting on Instagram and there have been a lot of questions about how I taught her to knit, how old she is, etc. Let me tell you all about it!

Hunter at World Wide Knit in Public (WWKIP) day at 88 Stitches

Hunter at World Wide Knit in Public (WWKIP) day at 88 Stitches

First, a little about Hunter and her knitting. Hunter is 4 years old and showed some interest in knitting. I got her some needles (I think they are 6mm needles and the important thing to Hunter is that they have flowers on the ends), and some yarn from the stash (SweetGeorgia Worsted in Glacier, that spoiled girl). I was also gifted a copy of Annie and the Swiss Cheese Scarf by Alana Dakos. What a fabulous book! All about a little girl learning to knit. Hunter loves it.


I taught Hunter to knit shortly after she turned 4 with pretty low expectations. I really thought we would knit ‘together’ for a long time, but, boy did I sell her short! At first she was in charge of inserting the needle, I would wrap the yarn, and she would bring it through (we did the last step together at first, but she mastered it quickly on her own). One lesson later and she was doing the whole thing by herself. I find, when I teach grown ups to knit, bringing the loop ‘through’ is the hardest part, but she picked that up immediately. This rhyme helped:

In through the front door

Around the back

Through the window

Off jumps Jack!

Now that Hunter has been knitting a few months, she is kind of bored with her project. She originally wanted to knit a cowl for her brother (it’s a scarf right now and I will sew together the ends together when she is done), but now she wants something new. It may have been too big a project for a 4 year old, since their attention span is pretty small.


I knit a few rows for her here and there, calling them ‘clean up rows’. I fix the odd dropped stitch and get her a row further on. It is a fine balance because I don’t want to do it for her, but I know she wants to move on to knitting something new.

Here are a few tips for teaching kids to knit:

  1. Wait until they show some interest, no sense in trying to teach them something they don’t want to know (in this case).
  2. Age: when I taught kids to knit in the shop I started with kids who were 7 years old. If the lesson is 1 on 1 you can start younger on a kid by kid basis. I think 4 is pretty young, I hadn’t planned on teaching her until she was 5 or 6.
  3. Start them with some worsted weight yarn and needles to match (more or less). Sometimes it seems like the bigger the better, but I think it gets a little unwieldly if you have super bulky yarn and giant needles.
  4. A little at a time. Hunter knits for about 5-10 minutes at a time, a row or 2 and she’s off to something else.
  5.  Small project. I learned this one the hard way. Hunter is dying to get onto something new but I have this feeling she should really finish one thing before starting another. The end of her scarf will likely have a few more mummy rows than the beginning.
  6. Fix it. A few mistakes and weird tension are totally fine…maybe help pick up the dropped stitches though. You don’t want the whole thing going totally off the rails.
  7. I took some advice from Elizabeth Zimmerman: when they hand it to you to fix, do a couple of rows. While you don’t want to do it for them, you can certainly help them along!
  8. Local shops are a great resource for teachers! Whether in a class setting or a private lesson.
Hunter's yarn choice for her second project: Madelinetosh DK in 'holi festival'

Hunter’s yarn choice for her second project: Madelinetosh DK in ‘holi festival’

There you have it! Have you taught wee ones how to knit? Any tips or tricks to share?

How our patterns get made

August 20, 2015

Knitters often ask us about our pattern process. I don’t think they are usually prepared for the long list of steps I launch into! So, this is how sausages (ahem patterns) get made here at Tin Can Knits:

  1. We come up with an amazing concept, usually while we’re in the shower (no, we don’t shower together… minds out of the gutter please!).  We’ve got a great post about design as the intersection of inspiration + desire. We usually make a little sketch, talk it over with the other person and then it’s time for phase 2.
  2. The swatch: We make MANY swatches (mmm how I love a good swatch!).  And then we make some more!
    knitting swatches
  3. We make a mini sample (because we love baby knits… and because knitting is obviously the most cost-effective and practical way to clothe our children… ).

    Caribou Cardigan by TIn Can Knits

    Hunter in a mini-sized version of the Caribou Cardigan, from our book Road Trip.

  4. Using what we learned from the mini sample, we proceed to ‘grade’ the pattern (calculate the math for all the sizes) then write up the draft pattern.  Pull out your spreadsheets ladies and gentlemen!  18 sizes is not for the faint of heart!
  5. We knit the adult sample, and make any required adjustments to the pattern.  As deadlines inevitably loom large, this sample may need to be completed over the course of four days solid knitting (40-60 hrs or so…).  This is why working Moms like us go on and on (and on) about coffee and wine.  As evidenced by Instagram, we do indeed rely heavily on coffee to keep our business running:
  6. We lay out a draft pattern (making it nice and purdy as you would expect, with draft photos, charts, and a pattern schematic) to send out for test knitting.  With 18 sizes, and at least 2 testers per size means that 30-40 people knit the design, and provide feedback (it’s like a super cool early-access designer KAL, and a bunch of extreme knitters get to see our designs WAY before the rest of you do!).
  7. We adjust the pattern per our test-knitters comments on fit and pattern writing.
  8. We do a final photo shoot (or two… or three if children are involved), sometimes we need a few takes to get ‘the one’ which highlights how positively irresistible our knits are!  Read more about our fun-filled photoshoots for Road Trip and Max & Bodhi’s Wardrobe.

    Max was particularly perturbed by this shot. Maybe we weren't getting his 'good side'?

    Max was particularly perturbed by this shot. Maybe we weren’t getting his ‘good side’?

  9. We send the final draft pattern to our Technical Editor (she gets capitals because she is so excellent and so very important!), she does a final check of the math, makes sure our pattern is written and laid out per our standards, and that the pattern sizing matches industry standards.
  10. We make any final changes to the pattern, and add helpful links to tutorials, yarns, and a Ravelry ‘cast on’ button so you can very quickly find the pattern online.  We love our links because they make everything faster and easier for you!
  11. Our exciting new pattern goes live!  We send you an email about it (cause you get our email updates, right?!).  We post the pattern on Ravelry, our website, a few other great places around the web where you can get our patterns (Craftsy, Patternfish, Kitterly, Kollabora, …) and let our retailers know that they can order print copies to stock in shops across the world!

Are you a little bit exhausted just reading about it?  Well a typical Tin Can Knits sweater pattern requires at least 80-120 woman hours to put together, (this is excluding hundreds of hours of test-knitters’ time) a lot of expertise, experience and MAD knit skills!  Put in context, that is 2-3 weeks of full-time work.

We are committed to bringing you an exceptionally high standart of design and pattern writing clarity…and fun photos! We have a thorough process and now you have seen behind the curtain!

What’s an even better value?  Getting the same exceptional design quality FOR FREE… so you can share it with your friends!  We’ve put just as much care into the creation of The Simple Collection, yet all 8 designs are free, and supported by in-depth tutorials.  Check it out, and be sure to share it with all your friends!

SC-wheat-tmb-b SC-rye-tmb-c SC-malt-tmb-a SC-harvest-tmb-a Barley Hat SC-flax-tmb-a SC-maize-tmb Oats Cowl by Tin Can KnitsHarvest Cardigan by Tin Can Knits

Tanis’ Take

August 13, 2015

As a designer it is always a LOT of fun to look through the project made from your pattern. All the different color choices, the different yarns, and of course, the mods! As a knitter I almost never knit a pattern straight through without changing something (to varied results of course!), it’s in my nature. So it comes as no surprise to me that there are knitters out there tweaking our patterns to make their knits their own. Tanis, the genius behind Tanis Fiber Arts yarn has knit 2 patterns from Max & Bodhi’s Wardrobe and her take on Rocky and Fly Away are amazing!


Since Tanis was growing a tiny person at the same time Max & Bodhi’s Wardrobe was released she was a little extra smitten with this book. With new baby in mind she whipped up these adorable Rocky joggers. I say ‘whipped up’ because that woman is a crazy speedy knitter! It seems she has a new FO to share on her blog every week!

(I had to put in the one of daddy and babe, big men and little babies will never stop being adorable to me!)

The lovely little detail that made me want to cast on a pair immediately is the little duplicate stitch heart. What a precious little detail! For info on how to use duplicate stitch there is a tutorial from the Purlbee here. The yarn is TFA Purple Label in ‘Sand’ and Blue Label in ‘Atlantic’, a combo I can definitely see myself using in the future!


Fly Away

Not only did Tanis bring her fabulous eye for color to her Fly Away blanket, but her designer’s eye as well. Her version uses the basics of our Fly Away pattern, but her yarn choices and layout make for one stunning effect!

In order to make a blanket from her ‘scraps’ (calling all those beautiful ball ends scraps feels wrong!), Tanis used all different weights of yarn and 20 different colorways, holding them doubled, tripled, or quardrupled to get the right weight. The finished blanket was a beautiful gift for her new baby boy Micah…but big brother Rowan is a pretty adorable model too!

The mods:

  1. instead of just a one stripe in the middle, she worked a stripe of equal width at the end, and in the case of the 4 squares with red in the center at the beginning and the end.
  2. Tanis worked 4 colors per square (as opposed to our original 2), and 5 colors per square for the 4 with red in the center. You can see the awesome diagram below to help you make the same mods for yourself!

I am always excited to see just what beautiful inspiration will pop up on her blog next! If you are looking for a little color inspiration for your own Tanis Fiber Arts Fly Away Blanket, the TFA Palettes are a great place to start! Tanis, in her infinite color wisdom, has chosen groups of 8 colors that shine together. Well, Tanis, these are truly some inspiring knits!

More knits from Max & Bodhi’s Wardrobe

Lodestar Stole

August 4, 2015

Lodestar Stole by Tin Can Knits

Sometimes all you want is a simple and satisfying knit.  Lodestar is a generously sized lace stole that makes a perfectly cozy cover-up for a cool summer night or crisp autumn day.

I designed Lodestar in Rainbow Heirloom Lush DK, a sumptuous DK weight alpaca blend. I wanted something luxuriously large and warm, without taking too much time to knit.  While the pattern is written for DK weight yarn, it is easy to adapt for knitting with lighter or heavier yarns, and it includes instructions for making a wider shawl or a thinner scarf.

Lodestar Stole by Tin Can Knits

Lodestar Project Details:

Lodestar Stole by Tin Can KnitsPattern:  Lodestar Pattern $7 – available for download now
Sizing:  Approximately 14” wide by 80” long, depending upon blocking
Yarn:  490 yds DK weight yarn – shown in Rainbow Heirloom Lush DK in ‘fireside’, a limited edition colourway for August 2015
Needles:  US #7 / 4.5mm (or as required to meet gauge)
Gauge:  19 sts & 23 rows / 4” in lace pattern after blocking. The 6-stitch / 20-row lace pattern measures 1.25” wide by 3.5” tall.
Notions:  stitch marker, cable needle, darning needle


Lodestar Stole by Tin Can Knits

Some lace patterns don’t look like much on the wrong side, but the geometrical lace used in Lodestar is almost reversible, perfect for an accessory worn bundled up around your neck!

 Lodestar: easy adjustments

Lodestar begins with an increase section, has a straight section, then a decrease section to finish.  The pattern has instructions for how to make the most of your precious yarn by marking the midpoint in your yardage, and counting your repeats.  It is a very simple matter to adjust this design for a different yarn weight, or even to create a triangular shawl!

Lodestar Stole by Tin Can Knits

Lodestar is knit from end to end (left to right in this image)

To knit in lighter-weight yarn, you would want to knit more repeats of the increase chart for a shawl of a similar width.  For heavier-weight yarns, you could knit less or simply follow the pattern as written for a wider wrap.

If you wanted to go ‘off piste’ even further, you can create a big asymmetrical triangular shawl by continuing the increase section until you have just a little bit of yarn left, working a few rows in garter stitch, then binding off.

Rainbow Heirloom Lush DK in ‘fireside’

Rainbow Heirloom Lush DK is an irresistibly soft and drapey blend; 70% baby alpaca, 20% silk and 10% cashmere.  Once you have fallen in love with this yarn, you can get the same perfect blend in sock (RH Lush Light) or heavy lace (RH Lush Lace).

Rainbow Heirloom Lush DK in Fireside

‘Fireside’ on Rainbow Heirloom Lush DK is the limited edition Nostalgia Club yarn for August 2015.

Fireside is a limited edition colour, available for August 2015 only as part of the Rainbow Heirloom’s Nostalgia Club.  The Nostalgia club is a series of one-of-a-kind colourways inspired by my stories and photos of home, journeys, and special moments.  You can learn more, and order this yarn or a club membership here.  And you can sign up to win 2 skeins of this yarn here!  More colours on this luxurious base will be available in the Rainbow Heirloom Update on Friday, August 7th at 8pm BST… get RainbowMail to preview the colourways, and mark your calendar so you don’t miss out!

Lodestar Shawl by Tin Can Knits


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Learn about lace

If you are new to lace knitting, we have a series of excellent resources to help you get started.  The Gothic Lace Cowl (or scarf) is our free pattern for learning the basics of lace, and we have posts on how to read a lace chart, how to work lace increases and decreases, and how to block lace.  If you have questions, be sure to ask in the comments, or connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and Ravelry!

Tin Can Knits on FacebookTin Can Knits on Instagram Tin Can Knits on Twitter Tin Can Knits on Pinterest Tin Can Knits Email Updates button-ravelry-40

Other Luscious Lace Patterns:

Thistle Scarf by Tin Can KnitsEstuary by Tin Can KnitsBotany Shawl by Tin Can Knits


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