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Improvisation

January 10, 2019
For Christmas this year, I had the ambition to make a family of yoke sweaters using our Strange Brew Recipe. I finished two of the four I had planned in time for the photo… that’s not bad, right? Luckily I had a dozen other yokes to choose from, so we are well cozy in wool!

For me, 2018 was ‘the year of the yoke’. I’m sure that applies to many knitters out there, right? Yokes are so hot right now, and it’s easy to understand why. Once you knit one… It can be difficult to stop!

As a designer, I was SUPER excited to publish our Strange Brew yoke recipe pattern, because it meant that I could knit just about ANYTHING… using a single pattern. I could knit it a little differently each time, depending on my mood and inspiration.

My Sweater

This Strange Brew yoke sweater is a knit that I improvised on the needles. I cast on, working from the top down, working with a palette of yarns that interested me! I followed the Strange Brew instructions for cast-on and initial increase of a sock-weight top-down sweater.

This has been my most-worn sweater for the past 6 months, ever since it came off the needles! I’ve just bought some more so I can make another one in the same yarn – De Rerum Natura Ullysse – but a different colour, so that this one can have a rest once in awhile!

How I worked out the yoke design:

Because I was working the yoke by feel, I began with a 4-stitch repeat, with a vague plan to add stitches to the repeat, to eventually arrive at an 8-stitch repeat, and thus double my stitches, by the time I’d worked about half of the yoke depth. Tip: A wedge chart that doubles in stitch count by half-way through the yoke depth is generally a solid bet.

As I worked, I switched out one colour at a time, creating an alternating pattern of rectangles. As long as I liked the combination of the yarn that I added in, I would continue, without too much thought as to an overall plan for the yoke. Only at one point, in the centre of the pattern, did I begin to break my own rules, creating a set of little squares that alternated with the background colour.

Once I’d worked half-way through the pattern, I had established a palette of colours I liked, and from that point on I simply used each of them once more, to bring a cohesive and intentional look to the finished design. Using the forest green as the final colour also helped tie the design together, as it was the CC colour I had begun with at the neckline, and its low-contrast pairing against the navy means it creates a blendy edge to the colourwork.

As you can see here, the wider columns of colour (which have the little navy boxes inset within them) are formed mainly of lighter colours, and so they stand out against the deep pink, navy, and olive green of the narrower columns of colour. This effect of ‘columns’ could be enhanced or diminished using colour placement.

The wedge pattern, thus developed, had only increased from 4 sts per repeat up to 7 sts per repeat. I went a little off-piste and added in some raglan shaping points while I did the short-row shaping at the back of the yoke, and working a few extra rounds to get the desired yoke depth.

The stockinette body and sleeves of this jumper I completed on the knitting machine, which means they are seamed. I shaped the body with waist shaping, which is an option given in the Strange Brew pattern. I made the body a little bit cropped, and the sleeves are a little bit long, so I fold them back most of the time.

I REALLY love this yarn. De Rerum Natura Ulysse is soft but sturdy, and comes in INTERESTING colours. My next Strange Brew sweater in this yarn will have this fabulous red-orange heather as the main colour.

De Rerum Natura Ulysse

The yarn is De Rerum Natura Ulysse, a sport-weight yarn that I used when I made the child-sized samples for the Compass sweater and Compass cowl designs (from the Strange Brew collection). I really love this yarn to bits. It’s a French & Portuguese grown and milled merino that’s been woollen spun, and it comes in a sophisticated palette of subtle heathers. I found that the fabric pilled quite a bit at first, but after the first time I shaved the sweater, it has looked great and has not produced many more pills. A sweater in this yarn is the perfect weight for me. I find it soft enough for against-the-skin wear which is great for me because I usually wear tank-tops under my sweaters.

An ‘odd duck’ palette – pushing my boundaries out

The palette I chose was a bit of an ‘odd duck’ for me. With the exception of the navy MC, these are not colours I’m usually drawn to; either on their own, or in combination! But developing the Strange Brew recipe pattern and collection has given me a framework in which to push my skills and experience in combining colours outside of my comfort zone! Frankly, it’s much more interesting for me to attempt combinations I’m uncertain of than it is to stick with tried-and-true palettes. While this means more ripping and re-knitting, it’s also more satisfying when I land on a combination like this one that really speaks to me!

Navy, Olive, Fucsia, Orange, Pale Blue, and Pale Pink… who would guess this would work?

I’m sorely tempted to cast on and make another just like this in a different palette, because the process of making this sweater was just so fun and satisfying, and I’ve hardly taken it off since it was finished in the spring.

Design your own yoke sweater!

We’ve put together a host of tutorials that can guide you as you use our Strange Brew recipe pattern to design your own colourwork yoke sweater, including a tutorial on planning a steek, just in case cardigans are really more your thing!


More colourwork from Tin Can Knits:

Rye Light

January 1, 2019

Sock knitters are a special type of knitter! They always have a pair of socks on the needles, whether they’re using double points, magic loop, working their socks two-at-a-time, cuff-down, or toe-up. Sock knitters have this whole other thing going on. They knit socks anywhere and everywhere, watching kiddies at the park, riding the bus, or chatting with the in-laws! The socks go where they go.

We often hear from knitters that the next step on their knitting journey is socks. They yearn to become the type of knitter described above; a knitter with a memorized sock recipe that they make over and over. These knitters, on the cusp of becoming sock knitters, are intimidated by the heel turn, but ready to try something new! Our original Rye socks have been the first pair for many knitters since the pattern was released back 2013.

Well, for the last 5 years we’ve been hearing requests for a sock weight version of Rye! While we still recommend making worsted weight socks as your first pair (they simply go so much faster!), we know you all have a precious skein of sock yarn languishing in your stash, waiting to come out and play!

I knit Bodhi’s wee socks in ‘leaf jumping’, I love all those teeny tiny speckles!

For our splendid Rye Light socks we used Sunshine Yarns Luxury Sock in ‘be still’, ‘leaf jumping’ and ‘pumpkin bread’. It was absolutely delightful to knit with! I especially enjoyed the tiny flecks of all the colours in ‘leaf jumping’, it was like little bits of happiness with each passing stitch.The simple garter panel and otherwise plain nature make it a great place to use a precious semi-solid, or a wild speckle, anything goes!

Wrapped in woollies! These three are all wearing Flax sweaters and Rye Light socks, Emily is wearing her Antler Toque and Jordan is sporting an Apple Pie hat.

We have already given the Flax sweater and Barley hat the ‘light’ treatment and now we’ve got Rye Light! It’s the same modern simple design, but now in a lighter weight yarn. And of course the pattern is sized baby-to-big!

Rye Light Details

Pattern: Rye Light available here for FREE!
Sizes: Baby (Toddler, Child, Adult S, M, L)
Yarn: 120 (180, 240, 320, 380, 480) yards sock / fingering weight yarn
Suggested Needles: US #1 / 2.25mm DPNs (or circular for magic loop) US #2 / 2.75mm DPNs (or circular for magic loop)
Tutorial: The Rye tutorial works for this pattern as well, the numbers are different but all of the concepts are the same.


More socks from TCK:

How to plan a steek in a Strange Brew colourwork sweater

December 20, 2018

What is steeking? Steeking is cutting your knitting, and it is a particularly useful technique when knitting colourwork. Using this technique you knit a sweater in the round as though it were a pullover, then ‘steek it’, cutting it up the front, it to create a cardigan.

I knit Bodhi’s steeked cardigan in a delicious fall palette of Brooklyn Tweed Peerie.

For full details on how to reinforce and cut a steek see our post on steeking here. This post focuses on how to plan a steek for a Strange Brew sweater. This post is part of our multi-part series on how to design or knit a colourwork sweater.

Why not just knit it back and forth? Stranded colourwork is generally best worked in the round. The result tends to be tidier because it is much easier to see your pattern forming on the right side and it is easier to keep an even tension and loose floats. In addition, keeping edge sts tidy can be tricky when working colourwork back and forth.

How to plan a steek in your Strange Brew design:

There are a few things to take into consideration if you are planning a steek in your Strange Brew sweater. You will consider the placement of steek sts, pattern alignment, and how precisely to work the steek sts.

Steek stitches: In order to steek a sweater you will designate 5-7 sts at the centre front as the steek stitches. Throughout the sweater these 5-7 stitches are sacred, you must place all increases and decreases outside of these stitches so as not to impact them.

This is the hem detail on Bodhi’s steeked sweater. You can see that there are 5 steek sts between the white lines. I’ve also started and finished my ribbing outside the steek sts with 2 stockinette sts.
This is the yoke in Bodhi’s steeked sweater. There are 5 steek sts at centre front. All of the increases and decreases occur outside of these 5 sts. I also made sure my pattern started and ended on the same colour before and after the steek sts to keep the edge symmetrical. 

Once your sweater is done you will reinforce and cut up the centre of the steek stitches. The button bands will be picked up on either side of these steek stitches. The picture below shows Bodhi’s sweater with the crochet reinforcements (in red) and the button bands already picked up and knit.

Once your sweater is cut, the steek stitches will have been eliminated (you will have cut up the centre stitch and picked up button bands on either side of the steek stitches). Because you will gain the width of the button bands, there is no need to add 5-7 stitches to the Strange Brew numbers, you can simply use the stitch counts given in the pattern.

Pattern alignment: When knitting a steeked sweater it is best to have the pattern jog or beginning of round (BOR) occur at the steek (at the centre front of your sweater). This way there are no pesky ends to weave in, you are cutting them up anyway! Depending on your motifs you may need to add edge sts so your patterning is symmetrical around the steek stitches.

How to work the steek sts: In 2 colour rounds, colours should alternate at the steek, as shown in the charts below. Alternating colours in this manner means you wont end up cutting into a long float, and both yarns will be well anchored in place. For single colour rounds, you will work only that single colour at the steek stitches.

On the left is the checkerboard pattern and on the right is a vertical stripe pattern. Either method works well to mesh the yarns at the steek. 

Bodhi’s Fall Cardigan: an example

For Bodhi’s steeked cardigan I started with the idea of interlocking crosses for the patterning at the yoke and hem. It was a fairly simple idea that worked out to a 2 stitch repeat. I worked the 4-6 size, top down, in sock weight yarn according to the Strange Brew recipe.

I worked this sweater with 5 steek sts. The first stitch of my round was the centre of these 5 stitches. This means I had the BOR marker, 3 steek sts at the beginning of the round, the rest of the yoke patterning, then 2 steek sts at the end of the round. I changed colour at the BOR.

For the ribbing, I knew my button bands would be picked up on either side of the 5 steek sts so I wanted my steek sts to be in stockinette rather than rib, and I wanted to start and end the round outside of the steek sts with 2 stockinette stitches so it would look nice and tidy when the button bands were picked up. So, the centre 9 sts were in stockinette, the 5 steek sts plus 2 on either side.

You can see my centre 9 sts were stockinette for the ribbing at the collar.

I worked yoke increase rounds before and after the yoke patterning and made sure that none of the increases occurred within the steek. This meant I had to throw in an increase or 2 extra in the rest of the round to end up with the desired final number.

I skipped the short rows, but if you wanted to add them in to a top-down steeked design, you would knit 1/2 of your sts, place your marker for the centre back and work your short rows from there, following the instructions included within the Strange Brew recipe pattern.

The chart: The chart below shows how I worked the hem detail for Bodhi’s sweater. The first stitch at the bottom right is the first stitch of my round. So I had 3 steek sts, then my 2 stitch repeat, and each round ended with 2 more steek sts.


TIP: I recently picked up a great tip for steeking! Pick up the button bands BEFORE you cut your steek. It puts even less stress on those freshly cut stitches.

Steeking Large Motifs:

While Bodhi’s sweater has a small repeat pattern, you may be considering a design using larger motifs. It’s more important with larger motifs to consider the way the pattern will begin and end on either side of the steek stitches (and thus on either side of the button band locations). This is simplest to figure out visually, armed with graph paper, pencil and eraser!

Considering the example below, you wouldn’t want to end up with a full snowflake on one side of your button band and a half or partial snowflake on the other. You would want button bands to be located such that a full or half motif was maintained on either side of button band. With that in mind you may need adjust the total stitch counts through the yoke in order to allow for your chosen stitch patterns to have this sort of mirrored beginning and ending.

In this example, to work this pattern it would be necessary for your stitch count to be a multiple of 16 sts, plus 3 edge stitches, plus 5 steek stitches, thus it would be a multiple of 16 + 8.

Armed with a little planning you are now ready to go forth and plan yourself a Strange Brew cardigan!

Almanac hack

December 13, 2018

Part of the joy of a deadline comes the day after, when I allow myself to cast on a project IMMEDIATELY with whatever yarn or concept I’m most desperate to get on the needles. After we sent Strange Brew to the printers this black-and-white version of Almanac went right on the needles! I combined a special subtly shifting marl from Uist Wool (Meireal Aran) with a Canadian grown & mule-spun yarn by Custom Woollen Mills (I’m relatively sure it was this one).

The day after the deadline, John and I and the kids headed off on a little cycle trip to Peebles in the Scottish Borders, a day’s ride south of Edinburgh. Despite the fact that most of the time would be spent cycling there and back, I had to bring yarn, right? For me it’s just not a holiday without a knitting project!

I chucked a skein of each into the panniers, and cast on that evening, over take-away curry in the rental cottage, and as you can see, the result was pure BLISS.

The knitting of the yoke was over too soon, but once the exciting bit was done the project languished in the back of the closet for months. Eventually I came back to it and whizzed through the stockinette of body and sleeves on the knitting machine. Knit night at our local pub got me through the hem colourwork, and then I pushed onward to complete cuffs the next evening.

I love the way that the CC yarn, a marl which is also a subtle self-striping yarn, changes slowly through the yoke, and fades to a lighter grey at the hem! A pretty happy accident.

I finished in the nick of time! With temperatures plummeting here in Scotland, I’m pleased to have such a comforting and lovely sweater in my collection! I’m hoping (or cultivating a wilful optimism?) that I’m past that period of parenting during which it is impossible to own anything white. But to be honest, I don’t know if I was able to manage white even before the brats… Ahhhhh well, I’ll enjoy it while it lasts!

The original Almanac sample fit in a slouchy, cozy way on me and Nina.

I loved the cozy ‘boyfriend sweater’ feel of the original sample which had been made to fit my husband, John. I wanted a sweater that had that same slouchy feel, but with lengths to better suit me. I worked the women’s size ML, but as the yarn I chose was a bit bulkier than the Lettlopi, my sweater is 44″ in body circumference, rather than the 40″ it would have been had I knit it to pattern gauge. My bust is 39”, so that’s 5” of ease at bust (more through the rest of of the body). Curious about ease and choosing a sweater size? Read more on that here.

Adjusting the charts from colour to black & white

To create this version of the Almanac design, I re-coloured the pattern chart, using the white for the parts of the pattern that I considered the ‘lines’ and black for the parts that I considered the ‘fills’. In order to transition from dark at the neckline and cuffs to a white main colour for the sweater body, I added 2 pattern rounds to the top-down yoke chart, and also to the the cuff and hem charts in order to create a line of dark against which the white of the pattern would show up.

I am curious to see how some of the other designs from Strange Brew would work in black and white. Some of them, like Compass or Cartography, were designed for two colours, so it’s pretty obvious how they would work out. Others, like Trek or Marshland which were designed in a wider palette of colours, and would require a bit more experimentation to convert to black and white.

How do you prefer your colourwork? Do you reach for ALL the colours when you get started on a project, or do you prefer to pick a pairing that you know will shine in two colours? We discussed monochrome in regards to Mad Colour a couple of years back; and we talked about how simple it is to make monochrome (or two-colour) pairings work in this post.


Rave: get your party on!

December 7, 2018

The Rave pattern, originally published in the Pom Pom anniversary issue, is now available as an individual pattern here.

Is it a scarf? Is it a shawl? It’s both! Everyone needs a great statement piece to wear with their winter coat. Perhaps something in a kicky colour that makes everyone smile as you contrast with the grey days of winter. Something with a lot of sumptuous garter to keep out the wind and cold, and a cable to look suitably fancy.

Mmmmm, just look at that delicious braided cable!

The Rave shawl has a simple construction, it’s knit from the smallest point to the widest with a heavy dose of garter stitch and a delicious braided cable. This dense, cozy cable is so easy to work it becomes nearly mindless once you’ve gotten started, yet looks so impressive!

We knit up the Rave shawl in squishy yarn in a vivid bright purple, in Rainbow Heirloom Sweater in ‘New Nailpolish’. Who else wishes their job was naming colours? I’m contemplating casting on a Rave shawl for me in a lovely red for the holidays… or maybe a deep emerald green, I’ve been seeing that colour popping up everywhere lately!

Rave Pattern Details:
Pattern: Rave by Tin Can Knits
Yarn: 750 yards DK /light worsted weight yarn (sample shown in
Rainbow Heirloom Sweater in ‘new nailpolish’)
Needles: US #7 / 4.5mm (or as required to meet gauge)


More cabled goodness from TCK:
         

Golden Light

November 29, 2018
I knit Em’s Antler Toque in Quince and Co Osprey in ‘honey’

This summer I knit four Antler toques, for four of my favourite people, and we photographed them at one of my very favourite places.

Love this pattern? Download your free copy today! And if cables are something new, see our in-depth tutorial too.

We had spent a long and happy day hiking on Meares Island, splashing in the Pacific Ocean, sitting around the campfire, and eating delicious burritos. As the light began to fade and the temperature began to drop at the campsite we headed down to the beach, bundled in woolen blankets and topped with toques. Everyone was in a grand mood and the light was golden, it was a perfect evening to sit on the driftwood and watch the sun disappear.

The pleasure of these simple knits, the warm evening light and the company combined to form a golden moment. Our annual Tofino camping trip is a family tradition stretching way back, and occasionally the Wessel family travels from Scotland to join us on the exquisite beaches of Vancouver Island’s western shore.

The Tin Can Knits family enjoying another golden sunset in Tofino back in 2017

An Antler Cable Obsession

I’ve been obsessed with the antler cable since I began designing knits. First came the Antler mittens, then the free Antler toque and the Antler cardigan too. There MIGHT even be a pullover in the works… if you sign up for our emails we will let you know when it’s ready. This is simply my favourite cable pattern, I can’t get enough!

I used the lovely Quince & Co Osprey for Hunter, Jones, and Emily’s hats (in Aleutian, Fox, and Honey respectively). The yarn is so soft and plump, the cables really pop. I’m already plotting another Antler sweater for myself in this yarn! Jordan’s toque is knit in Stone Wool Cormo, a yarn I’ve been rather smitten with lately, and have used in the Mountain Mist and Moraine sweaters.

So Many Fab Free Patterns

The Antler Toque is just one of more than two dozen free patterns that we’ve developed over the years!

We’ve created 11 Simple Collection patterns, specifically designed to help you learn the basics from cast-on to turning a heel, and knitting your first sweater. And we have dozens of other free patterns too, to get you started with lace, cables, or colourwork!

Free patterns are indicated on our website by asterisks *** – and you can find them all in one place on this page

We take just as much care when developing our free patterns as we do with our paid patterns; learn more about our process here! This is one case where the old adage ‘you get what you pay for’ doesn’t apply. So if you haven’t tried a Tin Can Knits pattern yet, download one for free now and see what you think!

Marshland

November 22, 2018

Sometimes things come easy, but Marshland? Not so much.

Sometimes the knit design process is straightforward. Starting with a concept, we swatch or knit up the prototype and then grade it (that means figuring out directions for 25 or so sizes), knit up the final sample, photograph, test-knit, tech edit, and lay it out. Simple right?

But sometimes it is not very simple at all. The Marshland sweater was a design that required some elbow grease. I swatched and I swatched, changed colours and changed motifs, then swatched again. It was a good lesson in perseverance and try-try-again!

The first yoke was just okay. It was more blue than I wanted and I only liked about 1/2 of the motifs together. I picked out the motifs I really liked then cast on again!

It also turned out I had made a mistake in the initial increase and it was the wrong size to boot…

Next came the colour debate, I had chosen Brooklyn Tweed Shelter for my sweater but should I use Artifact or Button Jar?!

After a couple weeks, I had swatched in the blue/green combination so many times I needed a change! I ran out to my LYS and picked out the yellow/brown/cream palette I used for Jones’ sweater just to break up the monotony! It was as I worked on the kid size that I finally struck upon what I wanted: chunky motifs, strong blocks of colour, and bold shapes. It was perfect.

I graded the yoke design up, cast on Gary’s sweater and I was FINALLY on my way. While we always hope to have our sweater samples bound off well ahead of photoshoot time, I was still working away on the sleeves as we headed out on the Icelandic ring road from Reykjavik!

Marshland Pattern details:

Pattern: Marshland from Strange Brew
The Marshland pattern includes sizes from 0-6 months through Women’s and Men’s sizes up to 4XL (61″ chest). The design is worked in worsted / aran weight yarn, we used Brooklyn Tweed Shelter, a lofty soft woollen-spun yarn that comes in an excellent palette of tweedy colours.  Find all sizing, and yarn details here.

You can also find some really amazing versions on our Pinterest board here: https://pin.it/lr6r5r66nhprxp

Mountaintop Views:

Normally while driving over a mountain pass you can see your path laid out in front of you. There is a space between two mountains through which you might pass, or you can see the line of the road cutting across the slope. One day on our Icelandic journey, as we drove north to Akureyri we headed towards a wall of mountains and all we kept saying to each other was ‘where will we get through?’.

The road had the appearance of heading straight into the mountainside. Finally, as we approached we could see a narrow winding dirt road that led up. It was so faint we couldn’t see it from afar. Up up up we climbed and finally came out on top. We found a stunning vista of lake, snow, the warm dirt and bright green mosses.

The wind that day threatened to blow us over, but we got Gary and Jones sweatered up and these are some of my very favourite shots from the book. Father and son in coordinated sweaters, enjoying the great outdoors.

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