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That Which We Can Control

May 28, 2020
Beloved Bonnet Pattern

This pandemic is hurting people all over the world right now. When it comes to weathering this storm, Alexa and I are among the most privileged, and we know that many people are suffering more severe hardships and losses. It was this knowledge that inspired us to donate some of our sales to local charities last month, and we are grateful for the ability to help where we can.

While I work to remain aware of my privilege, I must admit to feeling waves of stress and anxiety wash over me these past months. Life’s uncertainties have come into sharp focus, and the sense of control I had has completely evaporated. My family’s usual routine has been upended altogether, and we’re all a bit off balance.

Terraced flats and a leafless tree

With my routine turned on its head, the constants I previously assumed are no longer reliable. The future has lost its trustworthiness. I know that trustworthiness was an illusion, but frankly, it was a comfortable one. It allowed me to feel comfortable taking risks, making plans, and working creatively.

Beyond that, I miss some simple things that brought me joy before. I miss seeing my friends in the flesh. I miss dreaming up new designs in the myriad of excellent coffee shops within 10 minutes of my apartment. I miss feeling the hum and excitement of Edinburgh.

With many aspects of my life uncertain, I am yearning for some stability. These are not easy times to be sure, but knitting is easy, right? I know how to do that – and that’s a little something I can control.

Finding Comfort in Simplicity

Usually I’m more of a designer than a knitter. It’s the challenging side of the craft – the stitch-by-stitch hunt for new ideas, motifs, and methods – that excites me. But now that I’m ankle-deep in a rising tide of uncertainty, I feel like I’ve become a knitter once again. With my mind, body, and emotions processing so many changes, I’ve been reaching for knits that are simple. For me, it’s comforting to work on a project that I can see the end of –something I know will come out beautifully.

Beloved bonnet pattern
This Beloved bonnet is knit in Qing Fiber Merino Single in ‘bone’ . Project details here.

With that in mind, a Beloved bonnet for a new baby in the family was a perfect starting point.

This project reminds me of a cherished children’s book you are happy to read over and over again. You begin with an i-cord, increase following an easy-to-memorize pattern, reach the turning point before you know it, and then decrease back to end with the other i-cord. The second half of the knit seems to accelerate as the rows become ever shorter, culminating in a sweet conclusion with only two little ends to weave in. You can find all the techniques for this bonnet in our in-depth Beloved tutorial.

Beloved Bonnet Pattern
This rainbow of Beloved bonnets was a joy to make. Find all the yarn details on our Ravelry project page.

Once I finished the first bonnet, I couldn’t bring myself to stop. I used leftover sock-weight yarns, held doubled to get gauge. Beloved is designed in DK weight yarn, but if you work in worsted, aran weight (or holding sock-weight doubled as I have), it comes out just a little bit bigger.

Beloved Bonnet Pattern

After I had my fill of bonnets, I knit a couple pairs of The World’s Simplest Mittens. With Scotland’s on-again/off-again spring weather, my kids often wear their mittens well into May, and I was happy to have more on hand.

The World's Simplest Mittens Pattern
Max’s mittens were made using a vivid and difficult-to-photograph combination of neons!
The World's Simplest Mittens Patterns
Neve’s little mittens were made using our free pattern, The World’s Simplest Mittens. For yarn details, see our Ravelry project page.

With these mittens done, I pulled out some beautiful handspun yarn and got started on a simple, striped Flax sweater for Neve.

Flax Sweater Pattern

While everything seems more out-of-control and out-of-the-ordinary than I am used to – and while I’m on the phone with loved ones half a world away – these kinds of simple, trusted projects bring me comfort and help me bear my fears a bit more bravely.

Are You Reaching for Your Needles?

Are you finding comfort in needles and yarn these days?

What projects are you most drawn to for stress relief in a sea of uncertainty?

~ Emily

Simple Tin Can Knits patterns:
Snap Hat Pattern Antler Pullover Pattern Wheat Scarf Pattern

A Strange Brew for Hunter

May 7, 2020
Hunter smiling in her hand knit colourwork yoke sweater. Backdrop is beach and water.

growing into your personal style

Do you remember developing your sense of style? I’ve never really been great with clothing style, or perhaps I should say that I’m more confident at fashionably clothing others than myself. I remember deciding in High School that layering was the way to go. I would wear a plain 3/4 length sleeve shirt under a t-shirt, with bell bottoms (remember when those came back for a hot minute in the late 90s?) and I was pretty sure that was the coolest outfit that was still comfortable, so it was a win.

Flash forward and I’m watching Hunter decide for herself what she wants to wear. She has the same struggles I did, she sometimes wants to be fancy, but realistically reaches for the clothes that are comfortable. I’m so pleased she still loves her handmade sweaters (for now), but she has more specific requests these days (you can read about her black Antler pullover here).

Strange Brew recipe pattern

inspired by Emily

I started this sweater while Emily was churning out Strange Brew yokes at an unbelievable rate. It seemed like she had a new sweater weekly (it definitely wasn’t weekly, but she finished the body and sleeves on the knitting machine so it felt super fast). Find a list of all our Strange Brew knits (all of which include charts, so you can make them for yourself!) here.

I was so inspired by Emily’s knits, I cast on immediately to try out some ideas that had been percolating.

Close up of colourwork yoke. Hunter faces the water and her curly hair is loose.

strange brew recipe with minor modifications

The central motif on Hunter’s yoke was one I had been wanting to try out for a while. I knew I wanted the motifs above and below to have a sort of ‘fade in’ quality, and the background would be light. I had a few ideas for how to do the ‘fade’ so I cast on to do some experimenting.

The yarn is Brooklyn Tweed Peerie in colourways ‘vintner’, ‘muslin’, and ‘mesa’. Not my usual colour jam, but I’ve been broadening my colour palette horizons lately! Here are the charts I used:

Colourwork chart

This knit mostly follows the Strange Brew recipe. I knit the 8-10 year size and started it from the top down. The increases come between the motifs. I worked the short rows after the yoke pattern, before the split for body and sleeves. The body is a cropped length and I added short rows to create a high-low hem. The sleeves were meant to be a bit longer, but she grew a bit as I was knitting and when it was done she declared that was how long she like them, so I left it alone. I might need to lengthen them next year to add a bit of wear, but we shall see.

Strange Brew Yoke Recipe

a well loved knit

This sweater has been a great success because it is already in heavy rotation. If you look close you can see it need a bit of a de-pilling and at least the cuffs could use a wash. That’s what I like to see in a sweater knit for a kid – lots of love!

Hands Ever Moving

April 21, 2020

UPDATE: Thank you so much to all the knitters who purchased during our fundraiser. We were able to raise $14621.50 USD which we rounded up to $15,000 split between our two charities of choice! Knitters are amazing!

The world is full of uncertainty and we know many of you are in no position to think about knitting right now. While our own families have suffered only minor inconveniences so far, our hearts are heavy for those in vulnerable and less privileged positions who are suffering in real, deep, lasting ways.

The situation feels daunting, but donating to support vulnerable people in our communities is a small thing we can do. Proceeds from all Tin Can Knits patterns and ebooks sold (either from our website or Ravelry) from Friday, April 17 to Friday April 24 (ending at midnight PST) will be donated to two charities local to us: Share Society and Saheliya

Beloved bonnet pattern
Knitting has always been something that brings me comfort in times of added anxiety.

To keep my hands moving I have been churning out Beloved bonnets, knit in little leftover balls of yarn, with no particular recipient in mind. If you’re like Alexa and I and find yourself with a little extra time and a lot of extra anxiety and sadness, maybe you are leaning a bit more heavily on your knitting too. Maybe, like us, you’re focusing on small pieces of beauty and simple actions that you know well, outcomes you can trust in, rhythmic and habitual things that might make you feel a little better.

We’ve designed a lot of simple things over the years, and these are the kind of projects we are reaching for now:

Teeny Tiny Things

April 2, 2020
tiny brown colourwork yoke with white pattern
Tiny new baby Emma in her rainbow striped onesie and the Snap hat I made for her.

It has been a while since I knit really tiny things for my own little ones. I had almost forgotten the sheer joy of whipping up the littlest of sweaters or the most wee hats for a really fresh new babe! My cousin recently welcomed her second child a month early (everyone is doing great!) and I gleefully knit a few really small things for the new addition to the family.

Snap hat pattern.

It is somewhat impractical to knit a sweater that baby can wear right away. I mean, they do grow SO VERY fast so it will really only fit for a few weeks. And with newborns ranging in size so widely, it might not even fit that long! When I knit baby gifts, I usually knit our smallest size (we call it 0-6 months, but it leans more towards the 6 months side), but for some reason this time I was taken with the idea of making very smallest things for Emma to wear when she first got home.

Emma in a yellow sleeper wearing her Snap hat.

As is my tradition, when Holly texted to say she was in labor, I cast on a hat. I figured it might be a fast one, so I decided on a Snap hat. I went to my stash of bits and bobs, pulled out a bright and cheery palette, and cast on. I cast on 4 fewer sts than the smallest size, and knit an inch less before starting the decreases. It seems VERY small to me, but it was still a smidge too long at first!

Strange Brew pattern

If this Strange Brew sweater looks small, it is! I had one beautiful skein of Earl Grey Fiber Co Oolong in ‘stay golden’ and a little ball of La Bien Aimee DK in ‘blush’ (leftovers from my Penny sweater) so I was ready to go! I cast on for the smallest size, but I knit the yoke a few rounds shorter and changed the last increase before splitting for the sleeves so I would have 4 fewer body stitches and 2 fewer stitches at each sleeve. I knit the body and sleeves an inch shorter than the smallest size too.

Colourwork chart for Emma's little sweater.
Here is the chart I used for Emma’s tiny sweater.

This faded Flax I knit following the instructions for the smallest size, but knit in DK weight yarn rather than worsted, on US6 / 4mm needles, so it’s just a little bit smaller. I used 3 colourways of specked DK weigh yarn and used the fading technique from the amazing Andrea Mowry.

Flax pattern.

Lastly, when I found out Emma was coming early, I cast on a Flax Light. The other sweaters were small, but would they really be small enough?! The yarn is the prettiest skein of Woolberry Fiber Co Berry Cashmere in ‘ocean mist’. To make it super small so she can wear it immediately, I cast on 4 fewer stitches at the neckline, had 1 fewer stitch in each section at the set-up round, and only worked 7 increase rounds. The yoke is only 3″ deep and the body and sleeves are 5″. It is impossibly small and light, but is woolly and warm and I know Holly and Emma will love it!

A tiny blue sweater in progress against a grey background.
The tiniest of sweaters in progress. This is a Flax Light, with a few modifications to make it even more wee.
Flax Light Pattern
It fits! For now…

So, now Emma has a tiny little wardrobe to start her off in life. A bit of love from her Aunty Alexa to wrap around her!

Grand knit plans

March 18, 2020

I really love a good plan. I would say I am also pretty happy to abandon said plan if something shiny crosses my path OR if the plan, which seemed super smart while I was dreaming it up, just isn’t quite as good as I thought it was!

For 2020 (I know, it’s March already), I made myself a grand knitting plan. Really it is more of a reminder system, so that I check in with my goals and see if I am meeting them or if they need adjustment. I didn’t accomplish all of the things I intended in 2019, many because I didn’t start early enough. I don’t want that to happen again this year! If it’s written down I figure I have a better chance of success so here it goes…

Prism hat pattern
These are only 4 of the dozens of Prism hats we knit up for Mad Colour. I think I have a few of these in my future!

A Stack of Hats

A couple of years ago there was a bit of a baby boom among my close friends and family. This was a great joy to me because I love a baby cuddle! Mine had grown into children, but I was able to borrow the new babies from time to time, which suited me just fine. This year I plan to knit hats for all the growing kiddos in my circle. Kid hats are fast, fun, and are the perfect project for the precious single skeins I have collected over the years. So, this goal is very doable, I just need to keep it going through the year in order to have everyone hatted in the fall. A couple of hats a month should do it!

Clayoquot pattern hack post
Mum wears her hand knit sweaters with great pride, I am always happy to knit for her!
This is her modified Clayoquot sweater (details on the mods are here)

Love Note for Mum

Next up is knitting for my Mum. I gave her a few TCK sweater samples this year and has been wearing them non stop this winter. I am thrilled! I want to knit her a Love Note for Christmas 2020. This is another reasonable goal, as long as I don’t leave it entirely to December! I’m having a tough time choosing the colour. Mum has always loved red (also making it rather festive), but has been really into mustard lately… I think I’ll need to ask her in a slick way that won’t give away the plan.

Sweaters for the Kids

For my kids I am feeling somewhat practical… or at least as practical as a knitter can be. I mean, knitting is pretty much the slowest possible way to clothe a person right? My goal is to make each of them a sock weight sweater. Their wardrobes could use a good light-yet-warm pullover that they can throw on in the fall, layer up when it gets really cold in the winter, or wear on summer evenings when we go camping. Something simple and not too fussy. Possibly a Flax Light, or maybe a Compass sweater. Or maybe just a trio of Strange Brew sweaters to keep things interesting! Three sock weight sweaters is no small goal. These are slower knits so I’m hoping to keep them going throughout the year, with a goal of finishing all three for the beginning of October.

Marshland sweater pattern

One for Gary Too

Next on my knit list is Gary. He sort of has a Marshland sweater (it’s half his and half mine), but it’s a bit too warm for him. Worsted weight with colourwork make it very cozy and Gary runs warm. So I plan to make him a sock weight sweater too. I am thinking something dark for the main colour with a bit of colourwork in a single CC at the yoke. My plan is to work this one from the bottom up so I can get cracking and deal with the thinking part later.

Knitting Plan recap:
A whole bunch of kid hats
A Love Note for Mum
3 sock weight sweaters for the kids
1 lightweight sweater for Gary

dissatisfied child in hand-knit sweater
“What, really Alexa, that’s your plan?!”

Emily’s Commentary on Alexa’s plan

OK, so as much as I love Alexa’s inexhaustible knitting ambition, I think I need to intercede and suggest that all of the above (except the stack of hats perhaps) will NOT happen, because Alexa will, in fact, be busy designing lovely new garments and accessories for our next collection, that’s right, isn’t it, Alexa?! Hahahaha – I love a plan too, but I especially love telling my business partner when her plans are utterly preposterous and unrealistic!

Tell me your plan!

Are you a knitter with a master plan? Or do you prefer to go one project at a time? Do you make boundlessly optimistic lists like the one Alexa has described here? Any tips for keeping on track? What are your knitterly goals for 2020? Tell us all about it in the comments!

Michelle’s Matching Mountain Mists

March 5, 2020

That’s a tongue twister isn’t it?

Mountain Mist Sweater Pattern

I have been known to create knitters seemingly from thin air. When our knitwear model Emily first started dating my brother I immediately knew I wanted her to be my knitting companion. She came over for dinner one night and I was ready, armed with a beautiful skein of Handmaiden yarn, some circular needles, and the pattern for the Simple Yet Effective cowl. Well, I think we all know how that one turned out!

Mountain Mist Sweater Pattern

An auspicious beginning

When Michelle casually mentioned she would like to learn to knit I was somewhat less prepared. We were camping and I only had some sock weight yarn and a long circular on hand. No problem for Michelle! Within minutes she was magic looping and an hour later she declared that it was boring knitting a baby hat in one colour and she needed to do some colourwork to keep things interesting. I think my jaw literally dropped.

Michelle sitting in a camp chair knitting with white yarn.

I suspect Michelle really started her knitting love by modeling for us. She was willing to strike a pose (mostly on beaches) in the Stovetop hat and the Antler pullover to name a few.

Sweaters Forever!

Michelle is already a devoted sweater knitter. She has knit herself a Prairie Fire sweater, a Windswept sweater, and (of course) a Love Note. She’s also knit several accessories and a Flax Light for Henry.

Yarn Details:
Windswept Yarn: Estelle Andean DK colour ‘54906’
Flax Light Yarn: Hedgehog Fibers Twist Sock in ‘pod’
Prairie Fire Yarn: SweetGeorgia DK in ‘deep cove’
Love Note Yarn: SweetGeorgia Cashluxe Fine in ‘glacier’

Michelle picked up lace knitting immediately and she even adapted the lace pattern from the Oaken shawl for a hat!

Michelle turned away facing the mountains, with a handknit lace hat and a handknit colourwork yoke sweater.

Knit City and Matching Sweaters

This year Michelle came out to help in our booth at Knit City. She found a little time to shop too and came away with the main colour yarn to make matching Mountain Mist sweaters for herself and her son, Henry! The contrast colours came from my stash and she made the VERY best use of them!

Mountain Mist Sweater pattern

Mountain Mist yarn details

Michelle’s Sweater: Main colour is Isis Fiber Arts in ‘cedar’, contrast colours are Farmers Daughter Fibers Juicy DK in ‘ghost dance’, SweetGeorgia Cashluxe Fine (held doubled) in ‘glacier’, and one mystery skein.

Henry’s Sweater: Main colour is Cherry Pie Cottage DK 100 in ‘dusk’, contrast colours are Western-Sky-Knits Simple in ‘millpond’, Madelinetosh Sport in ‘grasshopper’, and Bumblebirch Forage in ‘Truffle’

I can’t wait to see what Michelle casts on next!!

Mountain Mist sweater pattern

Love Note For Littles

February 27, 2020

It has brought me so much joy to see ALL the Love Note sweaters, on Ravelry, on Instagram, and in person at Knit City. So many beautiful combinations of yarns and colours, on all different bodies too!

Many people in the same lace yoke sweater.
This was only Day 1! It was a heart warming experience to see all the beautiful Love Notes wander by the booth!

Love Note is not just for grown ups!

While our initial concept was definitely a grown up party sweater (you can read all about Emily’s sweater inspiration here), there’s no need to keep all the fun for ourselves! Love Note is ultra cute on kids too. I knit these two for Bodhi and her buddy Liv and they couldn’t have been more adorable picking flowers in the field!

Love Note Pattern

Bodhi was so smitten with her Love Note she has requested mittens that are “as soft as my pretty hairy sweater” (kid descriptions are the best). Check out the mittens that resulted from this request!

2 balls of yarn, one purple mohair, the other white with speckles next to a sweater laid flat.
La Bien Aimee Mohair in ‘PB&J’ and Singles in ‘neon static’

While knitters have made Love Notes in all manner of yarns, we knit up the originals and these wee ones with a strand of mohair held together with a strand of single ply fingering weight yarn.

These magical little sweaters took 1 ball of each, the single and the mohair. I made them both using skeins of beautiful La Bien Aimee yarns I couldn’t resist when we visited Aimee in Paris last year. Liv’s is made using ‘neon static’ for the single and ‘PB&J’ for the mohair. It’s amazing how the layering has made a completely new colour!

Love Note pattern

Bodhi’s Love Note is ‘rust’ on ‘rust’. Same or similar-colour tonal combinations are a ‘sure thing’ if you are worried how a more adventurous combination would come out. Learn more about blending with mohair in this post, Emily made about a million swatches to demonstrate the painterly beauty of layering colours!

Love Note Pattern

I recently cast on a Love Note sweater for Hunter too (she couldn’t miss out on all the fun!). This one is made using Hedgehog Fibers in the colourway ‘beach bunny’ for both the mohair and the single. It has a lovely wild quality layering a speckle on a speckle.

2 balls of blue speckled yarns next to a coffee cup and knitting that is only a few rows in.
Love Note Pattern

Do you knit for any little ones in your life? What are your favorite type of kid patterns to knit?

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