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Sonya Philip, an interesting wardrobe, and projects that require practice

May 10, 2018

Recently I’ve realized that I am at a point in my life where many of my current projects require PRACTICE, repetition, and solid habits. Maybe its the theme of this decade (my 30’s)?

The things that I’m interested in taking forward in both my creative work and my personal life are the sorts of things that don’t come easily or quickly. These kinds of projects require daily or weekly attention, a load of work, and seem to develop so very much more slowly that I’d prefer!

Just a few of the swatches and prototype projects that I’ve made as I develop colourwork designs for our upcoming collection.

A few things I’m working on personally are my posture (pilates), fitness (regular running), and re-learning piano (I just started lessons). In my knitting and design I am focussed on building skills and experimenting within stranded colourwork, as Alexa and I put together our next collection.

Let me tell you, designing in colourwork requires A LOT of practice! These hats are from our Week Of Colour blog post series that explores different colour strategies.

Perhaps somewhere between the professional and the personal floats my grand ambition to develop a more interesting wardrobe for myself. For as long as I can remember I have bemoaned my lack of an ‘interesting’ wardrobe. Despite being a designer, my clothes have always been woefully boring, and yet I’ve always admired women and men who let their personalities and playful sides show through clothing.

As I write this post, I realize I have a load of stylish friends who inspire me; Ysolda puts together quirky yet thoughtful combinations and wears loads of hand-made items, Jess of Ginger Twist Studio rocks vintage pieces alongside a stunning array of knits, and the lovely ladies of PomPom never fail to impress with their whimsical mix of delicious colours and modern designs.

Sonya Philip, creator of 100 Acts of Sewing

A view from the Instagram feed of Sonya Philip, textile artist and creator of 100 Acts of Sewing.

I recently met a woman who REALLY knocks me out with her fashion sense and creativity. At the Edinburgh Yarn Festival this year I ran into my current style idol, Sonya Philip in person! I’ll have to admit I butted right in to her conversation with ‘OMG I LOVE YOUR WORK SO MUCH’ in true awkward fan style. Luckily I ran into her later on and apologized!

Sonya and I headed to EYF 2018 – we made a pretty great colour combination eh?! Photo by Jeni Reid

Sonya is a San Francisco-based artist and the creator of a series of sewing patterns, called 100 Acts of Sewing. In 2012 she began a project to sew 100 projects. In her words: “What began as a personal challenge to make 100 dresses in a year, has developed into a larger exploration of praxis.” Read more on her site.

Sonya’s Instagram feed is one of my very favourite. Ever. It just makes me crazy happy! There are many things that I love about her work, but the thing I want to focus on is PRACTICE.

100 Acts of Sewing patterns

With the 100 Acts of Sewing patterns, Sonya has created basic patterns which erase any barriers to creation. It is in each person’s use of these patterns, their curation of fabrics, pattern, and details where these patterns really shine. For me, Sonya’s work is an invitation to play, to practice, to become proficient. Not to BE perfect, BE proficient, or HAVE the ideal thing instantaneously, but to create, step by step, day by day, and revel in the joy of this process and its results.

Sonya wears her designs so well! I find her combinations of colour, pattern, texture so joyous and inspiring. How can I drool over this endless source of inspiration, but then pull on the same jeans & tank top every day?! Well… because it is a long process, a daily or weekly practice, to go from boring shop-bought wardrobe to interesting hand-made wardrobe. And to be honest (and make my excuses!), my kids are 2 and 3.5, so life is only just now becoming a tiny bit easier!

an interesting wardrobe for me

So there it is, a 30’s life goal … making and wearing clothes that speak a little bit more of me, who I am, and what I love. I’ll be starting with sweaters (naturally!), and moving from there. I made these swingy tank tops last year, and I think I’ll make a few more because they’re what I really love to wear under my sweaters.

To move beyond jeans, I think the sewing project that I need to ‘nail’ is trousers (I suppose that 7 years in Scotland means I’m converting from ‘pants’!). So I’m hoping to find or develop a perfect pattern for a) high waisted wide leg trousers and b) slim trousers, like a jeans fit but made in other fabrics. Any suggestions for likely sewing patterns that might fit this bill? I’ve got some great woollens collected to get started on…

As for the sweaters I have planned… Well it’s all about yokes for me for at least another year! I’ve got A LOT of sweaters planned for me. In the past I’ve had very few handmade sweaters for myself, but recently I acquired a hand operated knitting machine. I’ll talk more about this useful tool in a future post, but suffice it to say that it’s allowing me to complete some sweaters for my own wardrobe, something I have seldom had time for in the past few years.

A few initial concepts / colour explorations for the sweaters I have planned

I may work on adding to my wardrobe in ‘outfits’; one sweater plus one pair of trousers. Conceptually, I don’t want to do a lot of different things, I want to take 2 or 3 basic patterns: our Strange Brew yoke sweater recipe, and two styles of trousers, and work various iterations within these basic patterns. There are SO MANY ways I could do a yoke sweater, right?

Here are a few of the recent yokes I’ve made, but this has only just whet my appetite for more!

And with one or two trouser styles, and a stack of different colours and textures I am sure I will be able to build a handmade wardrobe that I find both interesting and practical. Inspired by Sonya Philip’s iterative exploration of simple basics, I will work within the canvas that I’m loving (the yoke sweater), and practice; again and again.

Concept sketches of my new ‘uniform’ … let me tell you, yoke sweaters are featuring BIG in my imagination! And sexy trousers… and boots that go stompity stomp.

Neon… it goes with everything, right?!

This amazing green has been especially calling to me lately. Next year’s ‘Christmas Sweater’ is going to be this vivid ‘Vintage’ green with pinks and deeper greens at the yoke. I swear, I probably told everybody I met at EYF this year about this green sweater idea I was obsessed with… So after talking it up so much, it had better be good!

I just need to swatch to determine which pinks & greens to use through the yoke. Or maybe a little of all of them? The cone is Rennie’s Supersoft, and the balls are from Jamieson & Smith, Jamieson’s of Shetland, and Rennies.

Do you have grand master plans for a handmade wardrobe? Or to bring more of your personal style out through the clothes that you choose to buy?

Tin Can Knits sweaters that make great wardrobe additions:

Strange BrewFlax Light by Tin Can Knits

Beloved Bonnet

May 3, 2018

Is it small and squishy? Put a bonnet on it!!

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – one of the most enjoyable things for me, as a knitter, is watching my kids play in beautiful knits! This is definitely the reason why Alexa and I decided to size our patterns from ‘baby to big’. However, despite making piles of knits for our babies over the years, this is our very first bonnet pattern… and I’m so proud of it! Beloved is a joyful, clever little knit which I’m quite sure you will love. Get the pattern and cast on today!

I made Neve’s bonnet in Hedgehog Fibres Merino DK in ‘genie’

After experimenting with MANY bonnet prototypes (four or five in total) I hit upon a design that really worked. Beloved is knit from the i-cord on one side to the i-cord on the other, so it requires zero finishing. It’s shaped with short rows (these are described step-by-step in the pattern, don’t worry!) so it hugs the nape of the neck for a perfect fit.

Crisp details make this bonnet joy to make; the i-cord ties flow into i-cord edges, and short rows make the nape of the neck pull in for a perfect fit

Once I had finalized this delicious little knit, Alexa took it up with force. Her nephew Arlo was a tiny newborn so she grabbed a skein and cast on. ‘I have to test it!’ she cried. Well, it didn’t stop with one, she knit one for Hunter too, then embarked on a grown-up size. Now, we should say we weren’t entirely sure adults really ought to wear bonnets, but there is something hilarious and excellent about this one. Natalie, our model, said it looked very ‘Handmaids Tale’.

Brand new baby Arlo is wearing the newborn size in Hedgehog Fibres sock, held doubled.

It’s hard to explain the addictive and fun nature of this knit (you might just have to knit one and see). The bonnet is worked from i-cord to i-cord, has a memorize-able repeat in the middle, and the whole thing is just a joy to knit. It has only 2 ends to weave in, works in pretty much any DK weight yarn (or fingering/sock held doubled), and is there a small child alive that wouldn’t look adorable in one of these? Nope.

As if that weren’t enough, the practicality of a bonnet is high. My daughter Neve has worn hers non-stop for the last year; first in a baby size, then toddler size, and most recently I had to knit her a child size since little noggins grow so fast! I designed the bonnet for DK weight yarn, but Alexa made all her versions by holding sock yarn doubled; it’s a versatile pattern for leftover bits and bobs.


I suffered the keen disappointment of many a lost hand-knit hat when Max was small. He pulled them off when he was in the sling on my back, and John or I wouldn’t notice until we were miles down the road, or already home. Beloved keeps tender little baby ears covered, without a hat brim getting in baby’s eyes. With soft i-cord ties it’s perfect for little monkeys who constantly pull off their hats the instant you pop them on!

Big but still Beloved

Of course, it would never do to leave this level of cuteness to the babies alone!

Hunter is wearing the child size in Hedgehog Fibres Skinny Singles in ‘monarch’ (sock yarn held doubled)

Natalie is wearing the adult SM in La Bien Aimee Merino Twist Sock in ‘pop grunge’ (sock yarn held doubled)

Beloved is darling on girls and boys, and cute on grown-ups too! Really, who DOESN’T need a bonnet? Bonnets are so hot right now.

We don’t often make patterns that are this purely adorable!

More TCK adorableness:

Rocky Joggers by Tin Can KnitsPeanut Vest by Tin Can Knits
















































Alterknit Stitch Dictionary

April 26, 2018

Alterknit Stitch Dictionary

I recently got my hot little hands on Andrea Rangel’s latest book: Alterknit Stitch Dictionary and I love it! I wanted to share it with all of you.

Who is Andrea Rangel?

Andrea is a designer I’ve known….I think since I started designing! She lives near by (ish) in the Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, and Andrea draws inspiration from the beautiful world around her. I first knit her Dude sweater (which has since been upgraded to the Knitters Dude) during a KAL for the 2010 Winter Olympics. I have always liked her style; Andrea’s designs are often rugged knits, meant to be worn! I have also knit up a Little Dude sweater for Ellis, and it is oh so adorable.

Ellis’ Little Dude details: I knit up the 2-4 so he would have a little room to grow.

Yarn: Quince & Co Lark in ‘audoin’, ‘bark’ and ‘caspian’

The book

Andrea’s latest work is the awesome new: Alterknit Stitch Dictionary. The timing couldn’t be better for us as we are neck deep in Fair Isle these days! What is a stitch dictionary you ask? It is a big book of inspiration and, you guessed it: stitches. My personal knitting book shelves have a few choice pattern books and a whole lot of stitch dictionaries, a designers best friend. Some are texture heavy, some are full of cables and lace, and some are full of colourwork stitches. Andrea’s book is a very welcome addition, full of stitch patterns that are new and different, not an easy feat in the world of knitting! In addition to colourwork stitch patterns, this book is full of tips for choosing a colourwork palette as well as ways to manage your yarns and hands when knitting with multiple colours.

The process

I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Andrea’s process for the book. She worked closely with her husband Sean, who isn’t really a knitter, but comes from a Fine Arts background. He would create a chart, she would bust out the needles and yarn and try it out. Motifs were tweaked and changed from there. This process is one that is somewhat familiar to Emily and I, designs often start out with a sketch, we will discuss changes after the prototype has been knit, charts or pattern writing will be tweaked etc. It is nice to have 2 minds thinking about the same project or idea, but often from different angles!

Combining Alterknits and Strange Brew

Alterknits and Strange Brew make a perfect combination. A book of inspiration to go along with all the sweater/hat/cowl math? The design possibilities are endless!

More TCK that would blend with Alterknits:

The West Coast Cardigan

April 19, 2018

West Coast Cardigan

Emily and I both grew up on the coast of British Columbia and one of the most iconic knits from this region is the beautiful Cowichan sweater. Growing up it was the kind of sweater that your parents or aunts and uncles would own, maybe as a kid you had a vest in the same style. These types of items are ones that are passed down, patched when worn through, and generally well loved. The bulky wool was perfect for the cold damp days here. Of course I adore the designs, containing both geometric patterns (my favourite) as well as traditional First Nations imagery.

These beautiful sweaters have a complicated and often exploitative history. I have had the opportunity to hear Sylvia Olsen speak on the topic a few times and she is absolutely riveting. The story of her own history living and working with Cowichan knitters on Vancouver Island and selling Cowichan sweaters is fascinating. I really loved her books Working with Wool and Knitting Stories; I couldn’t put them down and one of her stories even had me shedding a tear in the middle of a crowded airport. I highly recommend giving them a read! Cowichan knitting is more than just the garments themselves, it has a specific style. While I personally almost never catch my floats when knitting stranded colourwork, the Cowichan style catches with every stitch. Sylvia offered a wonderful class in which we made a hat using this technique.

So, with my interest in these beautiful sweaters piqued, I was so pleased when my friend Jane Richmond came out with her West Coast Cardigan pattern! The geometric patterning appealed to me immediately and I had to cast on. There are a lot of great projects on Ravelry here in all different colour combinations, it was nice to be able to look through them before choosing my colours. I planned to knit a West Coast Cardigan for my aunt, Tessa, and I knew she would like it in some cool neutrals, so I decided on greys. I picked up some Briggs and Little Country Roving and away I went! I had to make only a few modifications. I knit the yoke as written, then I wanted to make the sweater longer, since Tessa is pretty tall. I added in a few extra rows of stockinette in MC between motifs, and I added in an extra motif at the end as well.

There is really only one thing I would do differently next time:  I would follow Jane’s advice (that is written right into the pattern), and knit the sleeves with the wrong side facing outwards. This would force my floats to be a bit longer. This wasn’t a problem in the body, but my sleeves came out a smidge tight. When my Dad saw the sweater he immediately declared that he needed one too, in exactly the same colours. I will have to get on that!

Some chunky knits from TCK:

Lush Cardigans : Little and Big

April 13, 2018

It’s spring. The daffodils are out! Cheery (and local and cheap!), daffodils were my wedding flowers, so they hold a happy place in my heart. Here in the UK it’s been a cold and slow-to-start springtime, and still hasn’t warmed to my satisfaction (although extended opportunities for the wear of sweaters and woolly socks is an upside!).


When springtime comes, I tend to explode with ideas for lace, and I love to knit in bright bright colours! This one is no exception, although I’ve had to rein in my lace loving side.  We are deep in the depths of completing a new colourwork collection, which is VERY exciting, but also requires so very much knit, knit, knit, think, think, think, work, work, work. I did recently manage to fit in something lacy for a spring wedding… here’s a tiny sneak peek!


Are you knitting lace this springtime? Fancy an adorable sweater for you, or a matching set for you and a little one? I designed Lush before I was even THINKING of babies, but when I began to think about little ones, I knit a teeny tiny version of the jumper in anticipation.


Some years later I was able to get the obligatory Mum & Daughter shots of me and Neve in matching sweaters! For all the designs that Alexa and I have published, most of which are sized from baby to big, we really haven’t made very many matching jumpers for us and our kids!


Neve’s Lush cardigan is made in Sweet Fiber Merino Twist DK in ‘something blue’ and mine is in Rainbow Heirloom Sweater in ‘favourite aunty’. They’ve both been favourite items for both Neve and I to wear!



What are your favourite lacy spring knits? Are you a shawl knitter? Perhaps a lacy sweater?

More lacy knits from TCK:



A Knitterly Bird Migration

April 6, 2018

Cordova, AK

I have come to realize I am the type of person who is really inspired by place. Much of my work is inspired by the place I live, the west coast of Canada. The Pacific Northwest is rainy and lush. There are mountains, forests, and the wild Pacific ocean. I have expounded on my love of Tofino on many occasions too! As I may have mentioned before (here and here), I found Cordova, Alaska and The Net Loft to be pretty awesome and inspiring places as well.

Although my visit was short, it will now always hold a place in my heart. When I was in Cordova last summer there was talk of a project. A birdie project. Well, it has taken me awhile, but I finally finished my birdies!

The Copper River Delta Birds by Hand project is inspired by the great migration of birds (and fisher folk) that head to the Copper River Delta every spring. Over 1.1 million shore birds head to the Delta during their migration (the peak is April 25-May 15) on their way further north to breed. The goal of the project is to collect 1000 hand crafted birds to hand in to the museum there, birds that have migrated from all over!

I knit 3 birds using Arne and Carlos book, Field Guide to Knitted Birds. I knit 1 for each of my three little hatchlings, a Jonesie bird (in yellow of course), a Hunter bird (in peachy speckles), and a Bodhi bird (in purple speckles). I used bits and bobs leftover from other projects, enjoying using up every drop of these speckled lovelies. These birds are already winging their way to Alaska as we speak!

For all the details on how to join the project and more information on the yearly migration, check out the Copper River Birds by Hand page here. You can also follow along on Instagram here.

Lines Mittens

March 29, 2018

When Making Magazine first came out I knew I wanted to be a part of it. It is a publication that combines many of my loves: sewing, baking, crafting, and (of course) knitting! I love the beautiful, clean, esthetic of the magazine and it is put together by some wonderful ladies in the fiber community, Carrie Bostick Hoge of Madder and Ashley Yousling of Woolful. If you haven’t had a chance to check out Carrie’s amazing designs or Ashley’s insightful podcast, I highly recommend it!

The Lines mittens are now available in Making No. 4 or as a single pattern here.

We were first published in Making with the Waves mittens, but Ashely and Carrie were smitten with the idea for the Lines mittens as well so we did those ones too! The idea is a simple one, and emerges from a common inspirational theme in our work: the rain! Coming from the wet coast of Canada (and the rainfall in Edinburgh is nothing to sneeze at either), we find ourselves looking through rain streaked windows quite regularly. The lines in these mittens appear as droplets at the finger tips and streams near the cuffs.

My modeling instruction to Gary: just make your hands look normal. This is what I got……

Pattern Details

Pattern: Lines by Tin Can Knits

Sizing: toddler (child, adult S, adult M, adult L)
to fit hand: 5 (5.5, 6, 7.25, 8)” around at palm
total length: 7 (8.5, 10.5, 11, 13)”

Yarn: DK weight yarn
MC: 70 (90, 130, 140, 150) yards
CC: 60 (80, 110, 120, 130) yards
(sample shown in Purl Soho Cashmere Merino Bloom in ‘heirloom white’ and ‘charcoal onyx’)

Needles: US #3 / 3.25mm and US #6 / 4mm DPNs or long circular needle for magic loop (or as required to meet gauge)

Gauge: 22 sts & 24 rounds / 4” over colourwork pattern on larger needles

Notions: darning needle, stitch markers

A soft and special yarn

The yarn I used for these pretty mittens is Purl Soho Cashmere Merino Bloom. This yarn is BUTTERY soft, making for a pair of delicate and oh-so-warm mittens. I love the way the yarn blooms (ah, I see where the name comes from there) once it’s knit with, creating a slight halo. I couldn’t let a single drop of this yarn languish in the stash, so I acquired 2 more skeins and knit up the mitten leftovers into a Grain shawl. It was the prefect thing to keep out the cold as Em and I wandered around New York this January! I couldn’t resist picking up a couple more skeins when we popped into Purl Soho too, I feel Gary needs a little something soft and special around his neck next winter too!

Me and my leftovers Grain shawl in NYC

More Colourwork Mittens from TCK:


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