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La Bien Aimée

May 23, 2019

Our recent trip to Paris was amazing. Em and I spent days chatting, drinking coffee, visiting museums, and eating all the pastries TOGETHER! On one of our last days in Paris we spent time getting to know the amazing Aimée of La Bien Aimée, taking her picture, and enjoying knit night at L’Oisive Thé.

Aimée in the Penny sweater in LBA Merino DK in ‘blush’

When Emily and I decided to meet in Paris we knew we wanted to release a few lace designs we had been working on. We immediately thought of Aimée’s delicious yarns, and asked if she’d be willing to model for us too!

Aimée, looking lovely in the Posy shawl knit with LBA merino single and mohair silk held together. We used ‘yellow brick road’ with ‘romance’.

We had met Aimée briefly at Vogue Knitting and Edinburgh Yarn Festival, but during the madness of a knit show, it can be difficult to have a proper chat. As we wandered the streets near her cafe, choosing locations and taking photos, she shared some of her story. She spoke of dreaming as a young person about moving to France, how circumstances aligned and she moved to Paris, how her business began and has grown, and about her many travels.

Love Note in LBA merino singles and mohair silk held together. Colourways are ‘Rust’ with ‘Undergrowth’.

One of the things I’ve always loved about photographing our patterns is the chance to make and deepen friendships. There is plenty of time for conversation between shots and locations (or while I fiddle with my settings). It can be an opportunity for a shared adventure!

Photos done, we enjoyed knit night! Aimée is a wonderful host and a fascinating person, we sat and chatted, ate dinner, and of course, knit. It was a leisurely evening of discussing the latest pattern and yarn combinations and trying on our new designs.

We also had to stop by the La Bien Aimée shop… we might have had to go a couple of times to get it just right! We came away with yarn for a few projects, we are both smitten with layering mohair over a single, it makes a totally new combination!

Meeting the wonderful people in this industry is always a treat. It was a great opportunity to spend some time getting to know Aimée!

A mini collection from Paris

May 9, 2019

Emily and I couldn’t just hang out in the same city at the same time, we had to put together a little collection too! When springtime brings warmer and brighter days, we love knitting lace, and we now have four new lace designs to share: Love Note, Posy, the Penny sweater and the Penny hat.

Love Note

Emily whipped up the prototype version of this soft and floaty sweater last year. It’s been so well loved and often worn that we know you’ll love yours just as much! Love Note is knit by holding a lace weight mohair and a sock weight yarn together. Knit on nice big needles (US 10/ 6mm) it’s a very quick knit, and it feels light as a feather and drapes beautifully when worn.

Love Note Sweater

Penny

Penny is a raglan sweater with a v-neck and a striking textural lace pattern. We’ve styled it both cropped and regular lengths, and I can’t decide which I like better. We knit it in both a beautiful hand dye from SweetGeorgia in ‘grapefruit’ and a gorgeous subtle speckle from La Bien Aimee in ‘blush’.

The Penny hat has the same lovely lace as the sweater, but is knit up in a sport/sock weight yarn. We knit it up in one of Emily’s current faves: De Rerum Natura Ulysses. The bouncy yarn is perfect combined with textured lace, and the decreases are my favourite part, reminiscent of the beautiful windows in the impressive buildings around Paris.

Penny Hat

Posy

Posy is a crescent shawl with texture and a floral lace pattern. It’s generous dimensions make is a sumptuous wrap, in either a light sock weight version, or a luxurious heavy weight version. We added a touch of extra luxury in our heavy weight version, combining a single ply and a mohair.

Posy Shawl
This light and airy version of Posy is in Julie Asselin Nurtured Fine, a single ply sock weight yarn.

Images of both Posy samples: Caption: Light weight shawl shown in Julie Asselin Nurtured Fine in ‘dew’, Heavy weight shawl shown in La Bien Aimee Singles in ‘romance’ held with La Bien Aimee Mohair Silk in ‘yellow brick road’

Posy Shawl
I love these little buds in the heavy weight version, the halo of mohair is so luxurious!

25% off of the bundle! Until the end of May 2019, get a discount if you buy these 4 patterns together! Simply add the 4 patterns: Love Note, Posy, Penny, and Penny Hat to your cart on Ravelry.com or on our website, and the discount of 25% ($7) will automatically be applied.

Happy Lace Knitting!

The amazing Aimee of La Bien Aimee in the Penny sweater. This soft and subtle colourway is ‘blush’

Bizmoon in Paris

May 6, 2019

It’s not often that Emily and I are in the same city at the same time. We met while working together at a yarn shop in Vancouver, but since then have always been a long distance pair. We work most of the time with an ocean and an 8 hour time difference between us, so it a treat to be together in the same room!

This year we met in Paris, a place we have both longed to visit. We are here having a grand time, doing a bit of photography (new designs coming VERY soon), but mostly eating pastries, walking for miles, seeing the sights, and discussing our dreams and ideas for Tin Can Knits.

If you are a Paris local come join us for knit night at L’oisive The on Wednesday May 8th at 6:30 – please book ahead in the L’oisive The Ravelry group here.

Finishing samples at the last minute? Never!
More Eiffel Tower? Yes we know it’s a tourist cliche, but…
Of course we had to pop in at La Bien Aimee!
Took my new sweater out for a spin! Admiring the beautiful Sacré-Cœur de Montmartre.
Taking in the architecture.
Nerds in our matching sweaters!
Nina and Ross in their best ‘Alexa made me pose for this’ pose.

New lacy lovelies coming soon

We have some new lacy designs for you that we’ll be launching in coming days! Hope you’ll join us at L’oisive The if you’re in the neighborhood!

A sweater for my bestie

April 18, 2019

I was seventeen years old in 1999 when Air Canada dropped me into the sweltering humidity of a small Ontario university town where I would study architecture… in preparation for becoming a hand-knitting pattern designer, of course. I was pretty certain I was grown up, and knew everything I needed to about the world. This is, of course, hilarious looking back.

Chantal and I twenty years back, in 1999 – first year of Architecture at University of Waterloo

Chantal was 20, super cool and oh so worldly, having worked and traveled around Europe the year prior. A long-legged blonde, she wore a yellow rain coat and jumped in puddles with a contagious crazy-eyed exuberance. So I followed her around like a puppy, overawed, and we became friends. Over our university years, we shared a dim room in Rome, a walk-up in Montreal, a lovely two-bedroom in Toronto, a hot little townhouse next to the tracks in Cambridge Ontario, and had many wacky adventures. Though we haven’t lived in the same city for over a decade, we still talk every month or two.

When I was getting married in 2014, Chantal landed in Edinburgh, and took over my unrealistic project to design and sew three bridesmaid dresses (WTF did I think I was doing?!). She calmly consoled me when, 72 hours before the wedding, I concluded amid floods of pregnancy-hormone-fueled tears that NO, the wedding dress I was attempting to construct WOULD NOT work. Luckily 2 hours of shopping later the tears were dry and I had a dress I loved.

That was 5 years ago! Since then I’ve wanted to make her something special, a gift that would show at least a fraction of the love and work and time that she’s put in over the years. This sweater was the result. Full disclosure? I made this for her in May 2018 when she visited Scotland, and it’s practically an entire year later and I only just shipped it last week…

I’m modelling Chantal’s sweater, as I couldn’t manage a trip to Toronto to photograph her!

Chantal’s Sweater

This sweater is a Strange Brew yoke. I followed the bottom-up sock weight instructions, thought I made body and sleeves on the knitting machine to save time. After yoke join, I had 344 sts on the needles. I diverged slightly from the Strange Brew recipe by working raglan decreases (at the points where sleeve sts and body sts joined) 3 times, decreasing the stitch count to 320. Then I set up the 8-st pattern repeat.

As this was a ‘knit’ rather than a ‘design’ I felt free to pick from my rather large palette of 4-ply yarns. The body is Tukuwool Fingering, which is this LOVELY Finnish yarn, available in a great palette. I hoped this sweater would be be a hard-wearing heirloom (it’ll probably be another decade before I make Chantal another sweater). I selected contrast colours from within my extensive collection of shetland and shetland-style 4ply yarns, and they all work nicely together.

I used several yarns and colourways:

I worked this decreasing wedge chart through the yoke, then a couple of decrease rounds above the chart to get to the neckline stitch count desired.

I had this idea of 2-toned motifs, that worked against 2-toned bands of background colour. I staggered the changes, so that the foreground motif colours change on a different round than the background changes. This worked pretty well, the only part of the pattern that didn’t really read as clearly as I liked was the two colours of light pink in the middle; they’re too similar to read as two different tones, and the background colour ought to have changed out a round earlier. But this was a level of imperfection I could accept in a ‘strange brew’ sweater knit. I accept that I’m never going to get it 100% perfect, and trying to do so would prevent me from getting to FINISHED.

At chart completion, the stitch count was 240 sts. My aim was to get to a neckline stitch count of 128 sts. Right after the chart was finished, I first I worked a single round in MC, then a decrease round [k3, k2tog] around to 192 sts.

Next I found centre back, and worked some short-row back of neck shaping. I used the short-row instructions from the Icefall pattern, following instructions for the XL size, as it had the stitch count nearest to my total at that point. After short-rows, I knit another couple of rounds, then a final decrease round; [k1, k2tog] around, to 128 sts. Lastly I worked a narrow band of 2×2 ribbing and blocked it all aggressively! Beauty eh?

Overall, I worked about +/- 52 yoke rounds, then the ribbing. That’s pretty close to what the Strange Brew recipe pattern calls for for a SM (37” bust) size.

So tell us, have you knit a friend a sweater? Or a hat? What do you love about gift knitting?

Pompoms : advanced techniques

April 9, 2019
A confetti pompom is the perfect topper for a bright and fun Snap hat!

We LOVE POMPOMS (yes, shouty caps are required).  How do we love them?  Let us count the ways!

We have a tutorial that illustrates how to make a pompom here, but I want to share a few more fun techniques that will take your pompom to the ‘next level’.  Yup, this is serious stuff!

how to make two colour or layered pompoms:

It’s not too hard, use the same as for the basic pom but each half of the pom pom maker has a different colour.

The Twisp is definitely improved with a half-and-half pompom!

how to make ‘sparkle’ or ‘confetti’ pompoms

Select your yarns (I’m using a rainbow of odds and ends), then, holding all of the strands together as one, wrap your pompom maker. This technique looks great on a Snap hat!

The Snap hat looks great with a confetti pom!

maybe full rainbow pom is needed?

I mean, why stop at just 2 colours right? For our Prism hat we pulled out all the stops and went ROY G BIV.

Hunter’s low contrast Prism hat got a high contrast rainbow pom!

the VERY LARGE pompom can be hilarious and fun

It might give you a stiff neck… but it looks cool, right?! For these giant poms I used the big blue size.

My favorite is probably the green maker, but sometimes a hat just calls for big blue or wee yellow or pink!

Some rather giant poms on the Honeypie hat.

the VERY LITTLE pompom can be cute and comical

We like some comedic value in our pompom-ing. How about a teeny tiny electric yellow pom on an otherwise serious black and grey hat?

Or perhaps your next Beloved bonnet would be EVEN MORE adorable, topped with a wee pom?

This Beloved bonnet is extra cute with a teeny pompom….or maybe it’s adorable Samantha!

and when you run out of hats… what other items can be improved by the gratuitous use of pompoms?

When you inevitably become enamored of pom poms, you will eventually run out of hats… no fear! You can always make a pretty pompom garland for your home, it’s the perfect tiny project for yarn ends too!

Well we generally think everything is better with a pom pom on it, but I do find it’s very hard to fit a wildly pompom-ed hat under your bicycle helmet. So, there is at least one downside to pompoms, but I can’t think of any others, honestly…

So tell us, are you pro pompom?

Lily was LOVING a fade to pink Snap hat, and the big pom on top cinched it!

A Strange Brew for John

April 1, 2019

As I explained in this post, last autumn I stated my ambitious goal to make my family four yoke sweaters, each an improvised design using the Strange Brew recipe pattern, and all before Christmas. Before you write me off as totally unreasonable (I am), know that from the beginning, my plan was to make the body and sleeves of each garment on my knitting machine, and then finish the yokes by hand. While this wasn’t an absolutely unreachable aim, it did end up being beyond my ability to complete!

There have been a lot of questions about my knitting machine so I promise a post on that coming soon!

This was the final Christmas photo! I finished John’s yoke, and Max’s yoke. Neve’s wearing this sweater, and I’m wearing this one, which is also a Strange Brew yoke, but was not the one that I had planned for Christmas.

John’s yoke DID get finished before Christmas, and I am very proud of it. I love it to bits, and whenever I saw him wearing it (most days over the holidays) I loved him a little bit more. Is there anything better than seeing people you love, and AT THE SAME TIME admiring work that you’re super proud of?! Yup, it’s the best. I’ve decided that John wearing a sweater I love is even BETTER than me wearing a sweater I love; because I don’t really see myself most of the time!

Anyways, enough waxing poetic about how great knitting is; we know it is, you know it is – that’s why you’re here!

Developing this yoke took some elbow grease. In the end I had to knit it 3 times to get it ‘right’, that is to get it to match the vision I had for it in my head.

the messy process

I began with a chart that interested me, then made a swatch. The swatch told me things about what I liked and what I didn’t like, and I used this to make a second chart.

Chart of the first yoke attempt.

I honestly thought with this chart, I would be able to go forth and knit the complete yoke, and get it ‘right enough’ on the first go. But that didn’t turn out to be the truth (which, in hindsight is pretty predictable). While this first attempt had some interesting forms, and colour combinations, all things considered, I found it too bright and dare I say it had a bit of a…..circus vibe?

Too bright and ‘clowny’ for me. But I DO like some of those motifs that were cut… they might have to come back again later in another design…

I felt like this yoke design was too frenetic, too intensely colourful, and bottom line I just didn’t think it looked excellent on John. I felt anxious he might not wear it. So I took the photo, and then ripped.

Chart of the second yoke attempt.

Given the things that I had liked best in the first yoke, I started over, and this time toned my palette WAY back, keeping only the bright coral as a high-contrast colour to the rest. This iteration of the yoke came MUCH closer to satisfying me, but with a sinking heart, as I bound off I realized it still hadn’t quite hit the mark; that feeling of ‘rightness’ that I aim for when designing something.

So RIP RIP RIP, it was time to take it WAY back. I decided to eliminate the brights entirely and focus on deep, intense, jewel colours alongside the olive that looks so great with his green eyes. These colours are quite bold hues (I love that deep purply red, the navy with purple undertones, and the glowing cobalt) but the palette doesn’t have the same high level of contrast that the others did. I also simplified the pattern design even further.

Charting the process: on the left is the first attempt; you can see the colours are brighter, the forms are more detailed; there’s more going on. In the middle is the second attempt (you can see I ripped back to round 13). I really liked what I developed from rounds 26-46 in the second iteration, so I ripped and reworked from the very bottom of the yoke when working the last and final version!

And in the end, it was ALL worth it.

Perhaps what I’m learning is that it always takes (at least) three attempts to arrive at the ‘right’ place when I’m designing. Well, this isn’t ALWAYS the case. There are some things that come very easily, and just work out the first time without too many iterations. But the reality is this occurs fairly seldom in my own design work. If it weren’t such a demanding process, if I didn’t keep setting more difficult and interesting problems in front of myself as a designer, there’s no way I’d find this work so rewarding.

Strange Brew; our deep dive into colourwork

The main reason that I was fully behind the concept of turning our Strange Brew recipe pattern into a full-fledged book, and thus spending a year and a half doing a ‘deep dive’ into colourwork, was that I knew it would be a MASSIVE learning curve, an area into which I could go deeper and deeper and learn more each and every time. Colourwork can be the work of a lifetime, and for designers (like Alice Starmore, Kaffe Fasset, and many others) it has been. Alexa and I are only just sticking our toes into the water. And at the same time, we want to invite all of you to do the same!

If you’d like to make a Strange Brew yoke sweater similar to this one, you can buy the recipe pattern here, and check out our tutorials on designing your own yoke here. Or just use the chart above, and make one the same as John’s! Details on the palette of yarns I used is on Ravelry here.

my love of cobalt, and combining different yarns in colourwork

Look at how VIVID the cobalt looks here in a palette alongside browns and golds! We’ve got an entire blog post that explores the application of colour to stranded motifs here.

As John’s yoke design developed, I found myself including more cobalt! This is a colour I LOVE, and it’s a shade that can be difficult to find. When I find it, I snap it up and keep it in my stash, waiting for the right moment! It is so very effective in colourwork. This is why I LOVE combining yarns across brands, styles, and even different weights. Once you realize this is possible, you can really extend your palette for colourwork.

Do you have favourite shades, or favourite combinations? In a previous post we talked about keeping a catalog of colour combinations you love as a way to help you choose colours when you’re feeling less-than-inspired!

Image credits: Syncopation Adoration by Stephen West, branwynnemay’s Posies & Robins’ Eggs, yarnosaurus’ Syncopation Not So, and album art from Byron the Aquarius

A Flax Round Up

March 14, 2019

When we created The Simple Collection back in 2013, we hoped it would be useful. Emily and I got our design starts working in yarn shops and teaching classes there. We knew some high-quality, free, beginner knitting patterns with tutorials would be a useful resource that yarn shops and instructors. But we had no idea knitters would take up these patterns with such force! The Barley hat has almost 20,000 projects as of the date of this blog post, and Flax has been a first sweater for so many knitters!

Matching rainbow Flax’s? Yes! I love these matching sweaters from Beja

More stripes! I think stripes might be the favourite Flax hack…. From AnnahJ, FogandString, Scitchr, isaida, undone57, tanisfiberarts, ArieltheApple luludora

This Flax by Ashleigh2002 is so great, love the colour!

The story of The Simple Collection is a classic example in the story of Emily’s and my partnership. First, Emily suggested we create a great free pattern for knitters to learn with, including tutorials to walk them through each step. But I said no, not just one, we should do 8! A whole series! With tutorials for ALL of them! Swept up in a wave of enthusiasm The Simple Collection began.

Over the years, the Simple Collection has grow to 12 patterns and we have added a few ‘light’ versions too (Flax Light, Barley Light, and Rye Light) for those knitters who prefer working sock weight yarn. If there is something knitterly and new you want to learn, the Simple Collection is here for you!

Got to meet FrogQueen33 at Stitches West and she was wearing her very first sweater, Flax Light, knit up in a fabulous gradient.

We think that our Flax and Flax light sweater patterns (and the Simple Collection patterns in general) appeal both to the newbies and the experienced knit mavens who could teach us a thing or two! They have been taken up by both dedicated sweater knitters, and those who just enjoy whipping up a tiny baby sweater or two every year for very special babies. We are so very pleased that the Flax pattern has been an introduction for thousands of knitters to our work!

Cute wee Flax’s from ferguss, kurisan , jennyishi, mcshellyraebelly , dwj1978, and kellymarie2, yuanpao

It was so much fun searching through the thousands of Flax projects on Ravelry to create this post! There were so many smiling faces, proud in their new sweaters, so many Flax hacks from people taking it as a blank canvas and going wild, and so many gifts for loved ones too.

More awesome Flax inspiration from Anidori, lifeandknits, DammitMax, ichbineinetomate, MissFoliage, strickland66, Kepanie, lavagirlcourtney, Hannaliini, and purltwo, eathmuffine, HRLaurie, and kgburke

Tell us, what was your first sweater? Was it a Flax? Share your first sweater story with us in the comments! Also, if you share knit photos on Instagram, we’ll get to see if you include #flaxsweater or #flaxlightsweater – or tag us @tincanknits. We love love love to see what you are all knitting!

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