Skip to content

How to Knit an I-Cord Edge

January 13, 2022
Rockfall Sweater Pattern

An i-cord is a method for binding off that creates an attractive edge detail at the same time. This kind of edge is worked perpendicular to the final row of the work. Sometimes it’s used to finish a sweater neckline, shawl, or blanket – it can be used to finish any edge!

We also have a tutorial that covers how to work a standalone i-cord, and within our Beloved Bonnet tutorial, we included a description of how to work an i-cord edge alongside (parallel to) a piece of work.

Setting up for an i-cord edge

First you will need to add the number of stitches that you want your i-cord edge to be (in width). I would suggest two, three, or four stitches. More than that might be too many to form a tidy i-cord; however, it will really depend on the weight of the yarn you’re working with. For a thicker yarn, try fewer stitches, and for a thinner yarn, try more.

Create these extra i-cord stitches using either the knitted cast-on method (described below) or the backward loop cast-on to add extra stitches on to the LH (left-hand) needle. 

  1. Insert the RH (right-hand) needle into the first st on the LH needle ready to knit, and pull through a loop.
  2. Place this newly formed loop on the LH needle (one stitch cast-on).

Repeat steps 1 and 2 until you have cast on 2, 3, or 4 sts. You now have 2, 3 or 4 sts more than originally on your needles.

Working an i-cord edge

You are now ready to work the i-cord edge. For the purpose of clarity, I will assume you have cast on 3 additional stitches and are working a 3-stitch i-cord edge.

  1. k2, k2tog-tbl – With the working yarn and RH needle, knit the first two stitches on the LH needle. Then, using the last ‘extra’ stitch and one of the stitches from the edge, knit these two together through back loops (k2tog-tbl). You do this by inserting the RH needle tip into the backs of the two stitches, forming a loop aroung that RH needle tip with the working yarn, drawing that loop through, and then dropping the two stitches off the LH needle at once. This decreases a single stitch, resulting in one stitch ‘bound off’.
  2. slip 3 sts back to LH needle – Next, you will slip the 3 stitches now on the RH needle back onto the LH needle, one at a time, starting with the last (decrease) stitch, then the previous one, and then the first of the three. Slip them without twisting the stitch. You want to keep the ‘front’ leg of the stitch in the front, rather than twisting the stitches. Now all stitches are on the LH needle once more, and one stitch has been bound off.

Repeat steps 3 and 4, drawing the working yarn across the back of the two stitches each time; this forms the i-cord edge. Each time you repeat these steps, you decrease one of the live stitches, effectively binding off a single stitch.

Completing an i-cord edge 

Once you have worked your edge and bound off ALL the stitches originally on the LH needle, you will have just 3 stitches remaining on your RH needle. If you slip these back onto the LH needle tip, or along to the other tip of the RH needle, there are a couple of options for completing.

If you have worked in the round (for example, around a neckline or the edge of a centre-out blanket or shawl), you have a little cast-on edge where the i-cord began, and a little edge, with live stitches, where the i-cord ends, and a gap between these two that needs to be bridged.

There are a couple of options for bridging this gap.

The simplest option is to bind off the 3 live stitches, and then use the yarn tail to sew the ends of the i-cord together in a way that tidies up that join.

Another option is to break the yarn and use the yarn tail to ‘graft’ the two ends together in a method similar to grafting with a yarn needle. You would go through a stitch on the cast-on end, through the live stitches on the end of the i-cord, working back and forth until all the live stitches were tacked down and the gap is closed.

Tips and tricks for i-cord edging

Now that you’ve learned the basics, we have some options for adjusting this technique. We’re all looking for that PERFECT FIT, especially at a sweater neckline (which we write about in how to get the perfect neckline), so if you are working an i-cord neckline, here are some tricks for getting it ‘just right’.

Adjust the tension (and thus the length) of an i-cord edge

The precise tension at which you work an i-cord will have directly effect on how much that edge will stretch. This means that if you work an i-cord neckline and find it doesn’t quite fit comfortably over your head – or that it’s too sloppy and open – you can easily adjust it by pulling it out and re-working it.

  • Try using a different needle size (smaller needles make smaller stitches and a tighter bind-off and vice-versa).
  • Try relaxing your knitting style and allowing your tension to be looser as you work the edge. 

Bind off at a more rapid rate than one stitch per row to adjust the number of rows (and thus the length) of the i-cord edge

You can also decrease MORE stitches than one per row by, for example, knitting 3 stitches together through back loops, rather than just 2 (this would incorporate the last of the 3 i-cord stitches, plus 2 of the bind-off row stitches. You might want to do this every second or third repeat to sharpen the rate at which stitches are bound off in relationship to i-cord edge rows. Here’s an example:

Row 1: k2, k2tog-tbl, and then slip these 3 sts back to the LH needle [1 st bound off].
Row 2: k2, k3tog-tbl (working the last of the i-cord sts together with two of the live edge stitches) [2 sts bound off].
Repeat rows 1-2 until all stitches have been bound off. 

This will create two i-cord rows for every three stitches of the piece, creating a tighter / shorter edge.

Other i-cord techniques 

How to knit a standalone i-cord – an i-cord makes a great drawstring or tie for a hat!

How to knit an i-cord edge alongside your knit fabric, parallel to the knitted work – worked at the same time as you knit the piece, this creates a tidy and firm edge.

Knitted-on edging – A knitted-on edging is a wider strip of knitted fabric which is worked at 90 degrees along a bind-off edge. It typically binds off stitches at the end of each second row. It is worked in a very similar way to the i-cord edge described in this tutorial, but back and forth, rather than as a tiny tube.

Some TCK i-cord inspiration

101 Reasons NOT to Knit

January 6, 2022

I often find myself explaining my job (and hobby) to people who don’t knit. This year, Alexa and I have been thinking and writing about why we love knitting, and I’ve found myself really struggling to explain it!

Seven matching yoke sweaters, laid flat.
Ummmmm…. why?! Alexa always finds an excuse, but is that really a reason?

In trying to figure out why I personally love knitting and spinning, I’ve come up against a bit of a black box. In his thought-provoking book Blink, Malcolm Gladwell writes about the way people love to wrap reasons around their impulses, to rationalize them, because we crave a logical story. We wanna answer the WHY question. But the thing is, it turns out that often these stories and excuses often don’t have any connection to the real drivers of our intuitive actions. The true reasons are squirrelled away in a different part of our mind, inside a black box, and we can’t look in.

So as I’m feeling stumped in my quest to understand my own love of this strange hobby, I’ll tell you a few of the 101 reasons NOT to knit…

Knitting is an EXPENSIVE hobby

I’m not kidding here. Well, OK, maybe I am, just a little! But when you tell somebody you knit, and they respond with a great story about how their Nana used to knit to save money, you know you’re in for a snoozer because THIS person does NOT knit. Yes, I know there are, in fact, lower-cost yarns. You can recycle yarns and by spinning your own, you can create luxury yarns at a lower cost. But our friend the non-knitter’s eyes will pop right out of their head if you told them how much you spent on the small-batch-artisanal, local-organic, ethically hand-dyed yarn for the shawl you have casually wrapped around your neck. And that’s without counting the hours you spent in the knitting, which leads us to my next reason not to knit…

Just to display a lovely counter-argument… this handspun was created from Jamieson & Smith Shetland fibre that’s heavenly soft, at £11 for 500g. If you had time and inclination to spin that up (and obviously I do!), you can spin a small sweater amount for less than $15 USD.

Knitting takes FOREVER

It would be much more efficient to go to a thrift shop and buy a second-hand jumper. Seriously. You could probably take a 10-hour bus ride to a city near you (or even to a neighbouring country), spend the day visiting several thrift shops, buy a sweater, take another 10-hour bus ride back home, and do all of this in less time (and for less money – see my previous point) than knitting that sweater yourself. Buuuuuuuut… I suspect the knitters in the audience would simply be contemplating how many knitting projects they’d take along for the bus ride, am I right?!

Strange Brew colourwork sweater collection
Yeah… it definitely would have been quicker to go shopping!

Hand knit garments don’t come out as polished as ready-mades

Please, feel free to argue this point until you are blue in the face. I know ya wanna!

Some experienced knitters really ‘nail’ the combination of pattern, yarn choice, and knit with skill that transforms their sweaters into works of art. But let’s be honest, the majority of us aren’t making items that are all THAT polished. At least not consistently. Honestly. Just scroll through the millions of projects we’ve listed on Ravelry, or visit your local knit night.

Love Note Sweater Pattern
Then again, sometimes they do come out BETTER than anything you can buy at the shops…!

Knitting takes a lot of time to learn (at least the complex bits)

Sure, the basics can be learned in an afternoon, but then you want to knit a sweater that you really love, maybe with some colourwork or cables? Trust me, it takes some practice (maybe a decade?) to get to that perfect wardrobe staple you needed when you imagined totally transforming your life in a pastoral, foreign village with a handsome widower like Jude Law (yes, I’m talking about The Holiday). And at the end of that decade, I’ve ended up with wrinkles and a couple of bratty kids, and I don’t need Jude Law anymore… or maybe I do, even more than ever? Nah… my foreigner is plenty adorable…

Ironheart Sweater by Tin Can Knits
Ironheart and Tenderheart by Tin Can Knits and Wholehearted by Bristol Ivy

Knitting doesn’t bring you sex appeal, respect, or status

Try it…really. Try picking somebody up using your epic knitting skills as a conversation starter. Try mentioning at a party that you’re a knitting instructor or that the hobby you just can’t get enough of is KNITTING. It never goes well for me. Nobody gets it, well…except for those rare few gems who do!

a child in a colourwork yoke sweater with triangle and square motifs
This old thing?! Yeah, I made it myself, nah… it wasn’t difficult at all.

BLAH…who cares about why?

You’re probably reading this because you already really, really, like REALLY, love to knit, so please excuse the blathering nonsense of this post. You and I will just keep doing what we love, despite the 101 reasons why it doesn’t make much sense, at least to the rational mind.

The one answer I’ve come to is that I’m not likely to understand my own love, at least not with the help of logic, so I’d better stop wasting time and cast on something new!

Sometimes I think that Alexa and I basically only knit so we can take photos like this one (it’s Alexa’s brilliant Moraine sweater) to share with all of you!

What about you?

Can you contribute more reasons not to knit? Do you have your own reason-excuses to explain why you knit? Stories you’re not ready to let go of? Or are you one of those who’d prefer to argue my above points? Let ‘er rip!

~ Em

Epic Christmas Sweaters!

December 23, 2021
Seven children of various ages in white sweaters with bright colourwork yokes.

This year, I’ve been thinking a LOT about how my kiddos are growing up…maybe I’ve been thinking about it a bit too much.

I think about coming moments: when they won’t wanna go camping or hiking with me anymore…when they’ll only want to hang out with friends…when they’ll no longer want to wear my handknits. As they grow, they are developing their own lives, separate from me. And of course that’s OK. It’s good because their independence is a big part of what I’m going for as a parent.

But today? Today they are all still little. They will be little for a little while longer, and I want to soak up and savour every little second.

They still love heading into the woods with me, baking cookies together, and doing crafts. They still love wearing their special, handknit sweaters, and they don’t ALWAYS want to hang out with their friends instead of their parents. I plan to take full advantage of these short years. And so, with their fleeting childhoods on my mind, I embarked on an EPIC Christmas sweater project.

Seven sweaters for seven cousins

As usual, my plan didn’t start small and grow; it started big, with a sweater for each my three kids and one for each of my four nephews. That’s seven sweaters for seven cousins! And all this work would culminate in a fun photoshoot, with all the kids showing off their special knits.

I so enjoy knitting colourwork, and I especially enjoyed creating colourwork in the bright, fun holiday palette that I created out of odds and ends from my stash. I was inspired by images of vintage Christmas baubles, with a pretty rainbow of warm golds, all different reds and greens, a bright teal blue, and even a hint of pink. The sweaters are all variations on a theme. No two have exactly the same colours, and they each have a different colourwork motif. Just like my kids and nephews, they are all different but have some family resemblances!

I originally planned to knit them all myself, but once I’d gotten through all of the yokes, I took up an offer of help from my sisters-in-law, Emily and Michelle, who knit the bodies and sleeves for their kids. It was a classic, epic knit, with late nights and a last minute block – but we got it done. To Michelle’s credit, she got it done with lots of time to spare. Emily and I were the ones knitting well into the night before the photoshoot. We never learn…!

Special memories

I’m so pleased with how the sweaters and photos turned out. When our little ones eventually do grow up, I hope photos like these remind them of childhoods spent with cousins and the special bonds they forged. It is a joy for Gary and me to raise our kids alongside our own siblings, with all the cousins growing up together. I know that someday soon they’ll prefer friends to family time, so for now, I treasure every moment of this special time.

Seven children of various ages in white sweaters with bright colourwork yokes.

The Spit Join

December 9, 2021

Let’s talk about something kind of gross but completely genius for a second: the spit join. What is it? Why would I do it? And how am I just now hearing about this awesome technique?!

What is a spit join?

One common way to join in a new ball of yarn is to leave a tail, start working with your new ball, and then weave in the ends later. This is fine. It works. BUT, if you aren’t a fan of weaving in ends (I know I’m not), you might want to try a spit join instead.

Note: this will only work if you are using an animal fiber (wool, alpaca, etc.) and a non-superwash yarn. If you aren’t sure if your yarn will work…try it! If you follow all of the steps, give your yarn a tug. If it comes apart, it’s not meant to be.

How do I join two yarns together with a spit join?

  1. Get the two ends you are joining wet – this is where the spit comes in.
  2. Overlap the two ends a bit (1/2″-1″ will do it).
  3. Rub the two damp, overlapping strands vigorously together between your hands. Really give ’em a go, like you’re trying to start a fire.
  4. Check it. Once you’ve given them a good rub, take a look. Does it look like the two ends are felted together? If not, keep rubbing, if so, you’re good to go!

Need a better visual? Check out this video:

Round and Round the Carousel

December 2, 2021
woman wearing a sweater with geometric colourwork at yoke and cuffs
Francine is wearing a Carousel sweater with colourwork cuffs, but you can skip this optional detail if you prefer.

With its crisp, sparkling pops of vivid contrast, our new Carousel sweater reminds me of a vintage fairground attraction, all bright lights and eye-catching shades. Perhaps there are too many colours and shapes going on all at once – fun but a bit frenetic. Honestly, though, this colourful, kicky little yoke sweater is a joy to knit and to wear!

child in a colourwork yoke sweater with triangle and square motifs
Neve is wearing the 2-4 year size, which uses fewer colours (four rather than six) but is just as much fun!

I love knitting round and round on these colourful yokes, watching the crisp little geometries form under my fingertips. I’m always curious to see what the next colour combination and motif will bring. I especially love wearing Carousel around the house and seeing the way the ornately decorated cuffs dance while I type, knit, or carefully stir the spaghetti sauce (gasp…risky business!).

detail of a colourwork cuff

Sized for all!

Like most of our patterns, Carousel is sized from baby-to-big. In the littlest sizes, newborn through to 2-4 years, the design only calls for a total of four colours – one main colour (MC) and three contrast colours (CCs) – making it more accessible for knitters who are new to colourwork.

Carousel sweater pattern
The adult sample has more contrast and ‘pop’, while the toddler sweater is more muted. Which do you prefer?

Start (and maybe finish?) with a swatch hat!

We get it…not everybody wants to knit yoke sweaters. And those who do often like to start with a swatch hat – I know I do! So we’ve created a sister hat design. Meet the Carousel hat!

Not ready to commit to a yoke sweater? Try the matching Carousel hat instead!

So. Much. COLOUR!

Carousel completes the range of new colourwork knits we released this autumn, so if you like this one, be sure to check out the Sunshine sweater and hat, Rockfall sweater and hat, and Sweetshop sweater and hat. Of course, you can always travel back to the beginnings of our colourwork obsession with the Mad Colour and Strange Brew collections.

And if you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by all this colourwork, stay tuned. We’ll be bringing you more of our signature simple and textured knits in the coming year…I promise!

~ Emily

How To Knit Slipped Stitch Patterns

November 12, 2021
4 swatches on a grey background. Each are 2 tones, a light and a dark of the same shade. There is a large yellow swatch with a green, blue, and red swatches.

When I got started knitting, I imagined that colourwork meant tangled yarns and complexity. I discovered slipped-stitch patterns, which are an alternative to stranded colourwork (which also, unsurprisingly, turned out to be a lot easier than I’d feared!).

Slipped stitch patterns are an easy way to create colourwork and texture patterns, while only needing to handle a single strand of yarn at a time.

What is a slipped stitch pattern?

The basic ‘move’ that creates slipped stitch patterns is slipping stitches from one needle to the other without working them. That’s why we call them ‘slipped stitch’ patterns.
Knit or purl: When you slip a stitch, you can slip them as if to knit or as if to purl, otherwise known as ‘knitwise’ and ‘purlwise’. Slipping a stitch knitwise results in a twisted stitch, while slipping a stitch purlwise results in an untwisted stitch.
Yarn in back or yarn in front: You can also slip stitches holding the working yarn in the front of the work, which creates a ‘bar’ across the slipped stitch, or in the back of the work, in which case the working yarn is hidden and the slipped stitch appears elongated vertically relative to the stitches either side.

With slipped-stitch knitting you can create exquisite patterns simply by varying:

  1. The number and pattern of stitches that are slipped, versus knit or purled
  2. If stitches are slipped with the working yarn held on the front or the back of the work
  3. Whether the pattern is worked in a single colour, or two or more colours

The basic moves are described below, or you can skip past to see the video.

How to slip a stitch purlwise

If it’s not specified in the pattern, your best bet is to slip a stitch purlwise. This keeps the stitch ‘neutral’ or untwisted. To slip a stitch purlwise you insert your needle left hand needle into the next stitch as if to purl, then move that stitch from the left hand needle to the right hand needle without working it.

How to slip a stitch knitwise

To slip a stitch knitwise you insert your left hand needle into the next stitch as if to knit, then move that stitch from the left hand needle to the right hand needle without working it.

How sl1-wyib – slip a stitch with yarn in back

If it’s not specified in the pattern, the default is to slip stitches with yarn held in the back of the work, this is abbreviated to sl1-wyib.

To slip a stitch with the yarn in back:

  1. Bring the working yarn between needle tips to the back of the work (if it’s not there already).
  2. Insert the RH needle into the first stitch on the LH needle, as if to purl.
  3. Move that stitch from the LH to the RH needle without being worked.

The working yarn is drawn behind the slipped stitch, in a horizontal line, to the next stitch. Slipping stitches with the yarn in back is the default way to slip a stitch unless a knitting pattern specifies otherwise; so if a pattern says sl1 or slip one stitch, use this method.

How to sl1-wyif – slip a stitch with yarn in front

To slip a stitch with the yarn in front:

  1. Bring the working yarn between the LH and RH needle tips, to the front of the work (if it’s not there already).
  2. Insert the RH needle into the first stitch on the LH needle, as if to purl.
  3. Move that stitch from the LH to the RH needle without being worked.

The working yarn is drawn in front of the slipped stitch, in a horizontal line. If the next stitch to be worked is a knit stitch, you will move the working yarn back between the needle tips to the back side of the work before knitting it.

Needles, Gauge and fabric properties of slipped stitch patterns

Because you are slipping some of the stitches in a given row or round, you are requiring that the loop that forms that slipped stitch stretches or elongates to the height of two (or more) adjacent stitches. This means that you will often need to work slipped stitch patterns on larger needles than you would if you were working stockinette or garter stitch using the same yarn. If you work slipped stitch patterns on the usual needles you will get a much denser fabric (which may or may not be desirable).

Gauge is also vertically compressed, for the same reason. You will work more rows or rounds in an inch of slipped-stitch pattern than in an inch of stockinette worked with the same yarn weight.

Reading knitting charts for slipped stitch patterns

Although slipped stitch patterns used in knitting are often quite simple, and described in words rather than charts, you will often see slipped-stitch techniques described using vertical or horizontal bar symbols. Here is a chart for the slipped-stitch pattern we use in the Bumble hat, and the corresponding text instructions:

Written out the stitch pattern looks like this:

Round 1: [k1, sl1-wyib] around
Round 2: [k1, p1] around

Repeat rounds 1-2

In chart form it looks like this:

A knitting chart that is the equivalent of the above text.
The chart is read from right to left, from round 1-4 and knit in the round. 4 stitches and 4 rounds are shown for effect, but it is really a 2 stitch and 2 row repeat.

And the finished fabric looks like this:

A hand holding a big of green striped knitting.

Slipped stitches and texture patterns

One of the great things about slipped stitches is the texture they create. By making some stitches elongated and other more compressed the fabric can be squishier and more 3-dimensional than other stitch patterns.

A green swatch. It is dark green with light green vertical stripes.
This swatch is made up of only knit stitches and slipped stitches, creating a dense garter stitch texture with vertical stripes.
A pink and red vertically striped swatch with a nubbly texture.
This swatch was the most dense, with slipped stitches on every row. It has a very nubbly texture and almost no stretch to it.
A pale blue swatch that appears to have dark blue woven through it.
This swatch involved knits and purls, with some slipped stitch rows and some stockinette rows. This has the effect of a woven appearance, with the dark blue appearing to be woven through the light blue. The purl bumps give this stitch pattern an extra 3-dimensional quality.

An added delight occurs when both the right side of the fabric and the wrong side are both interesting. This is the case for the slipped stitch pattern in the Bumble hat.

Slipped stitches and colour patterns

Adding colour to the equation has a lot of impact with slipped stitches. They are usually worked as stripes, rather than traditional stranded colourwork, which simplifies matters a bit.

A close up of a cowl that has an ombré of teal stripes against a pale grey background. There are vertical pale grey stripes.
This Undertone cowl uses stripes, slipped stitches, and ombré to accomplish this look. The slipped stitches occur in the main colour, giving those vertical stripes against the horizontal ombré stripes.
A woman is giving a little baby a kiss on the cheek. They are both wearing hats with a cool ombré band of dots.
The ‘dots’ version of the Prism hat uses slipped stitches with yarn in front (wyif) to create a stockinette fabric with dots of colour.

Bibliography

Many stitch dictionaries will include at least a small collection of slipped-stitch patterns for you to experiment with. Barbara Walker’s treasuries are my favourite, and they include extensive sections of Mosaic knitting patterns (mosaic knitting is simply a subset of slipped-stitch pattern knitting to create complex two colour patterns). If you are looking to experiment with slipped stitches, a stitch dictionary is a great place to start.

Get Slipping!

The basics of slipped stitch patterns are IMMEDIATELY accessible to you, now that you’ve tried the basic moves; that is, slipping knitwise or purlwise, with yarn held in back and and in front. These patterns are interesting, delicate and very easy to work, so cast on something with a slipped stitch pattern today!

Check out our patterns which feature VERY simple slipped stitch patterns: 

A Trip to the Sweetshop

October 28, 2021
Sweetshop sweater pattern

Like an array of colourful candies laid out before your eager eyes, our newest yoke is reminiscent of a fondly remembered Sweetshop. There are so many delicious options for this sweater – all you need is a few of your favourite colours, and away you go!

Colourwork rookie or a seasoned pro?

This sweater is perfect for anyone looking to try their first colourwork yoke. The repeats are small, and there are a TON of palette options to choose from. You can try it with three, four, six colours, or more – as many as your little knitter heart desires! And if you’re an old pro, you’ll love Sweetshop, too. Emily and I have knit a LOT of yokes over the years, and we couldn’t get enough. We had so much fun choosing different colour palettes, and we both just wanted to knit another and another!

A white sweater yoke on the needles with 3 small swatches coming from it in 3 different colour combinations.
Having trouble deciding on your colour scheme? Try swatching on the needles! To try out my colour combos, I worked to the point of colourwork and then worked back and forth on a small section. Once I chose the winner, I ripped out the other swatches and carried on my merry way!

Pullover or steeked?

Sweetshop sweater pattern

Sweetshop is written with instructions for either a pullover or a steeked cardigan, and I can’t decide which one I like better! If you’ve never steeked a sweater before, check out our tutorial here. If you’re feeling EXTRA adventurous, see our tutorial on adding pockets.

How about a sweet little hat?

Need just a little bit more colourwork in your life? We’ve also got a matching hat! The Sweetshop hat is a fun, fast knit, and it’s the perfect way to try out your colour combination before jumping into a full sweater.

Soft and lovely Pishkun

4 skeins of yarn on a grey background. The skeins are a warm red, plum purple, golden brown, and peachy pink.

I knit the Sweetshop pullover and hats in The Farmer’s Daughter Fibers Pishkun, a Montana- and Wyoming-raised Rambouillet yarn. It’s buttery soft, and I love the way it knits up in colourwork, with just enough stitch definition. It’s a bouncy, woolly yarn – perfect for a sweater that’s light, warm, and durable.

Bet you can’t knit just one!

Have you ever had a bit of knitting you just couldn’t put down…the phrase ‘just one more row’ on repeat in you head? We call this ‘potato chip knitting’ because it’s impossible to stop at just one! Sweetshop is definitely potato chip knitting. The colourwork is incredibly simple and satisfying, and there are only a few rows before the exciting addition of a new colour. I’ve been known to stay up late into the night, eagerly trying to finish one round, so I can start the next colour. With this yoke, you’re always only two rows away from a new hue…so be careful!

Once you have your own delicious Sweetshops done, share them with us on your favourite social spot. Use #TinCanKnits, #SweetshopSweater, or #SweetshopHat to join in the fun!

~Alexa

Rockfall Hat… and Turned Brims Forever!

October 14, 2021

If you like strong geometric colourwork, you’ll love the Rockfall hat. It’s the bite-sized companion to the intensely satisfying Rockfall Sweater, but with the same bold motifs.

Rockfall Hat Pattern
Is there anything cuter than a siblings peck on the cheek? Yes… kissing in matching colourwork hats!

You can knit a whole family of these hats as gifts, or simply knit one or two to trial your yarn and colour combinations for a matching Rockfall sweater.

Rockfall Sweater Pattern
The Rockfall sweater is the companion yoke design to this hat.

So Emily and Alexa… do you have some kind of odd obsession with turned brims?

Short answer: Yes.

Longer answer: Alexa and I LOVE to knit hats as gifts. But one thing we’ve discovered over a decade of knitting and designing is that head size and hair volume varies WILDLY. For instance, when my kid Max was two – I kid you not – he was wearing an adult SM hat. That kid has a big head (maybe a bit like his mum)!

Rockfall hat pattern.

So, what’s the answer to hat-sizing issues? How can you knit a hat to fit most anybody? Add a turned brim!

With a turned brim, it’s easy to adjust fit, whether you like your hats neatly rolled up, slouchy, or pulled right down over your eyebrows. We’re 100% convinced it’s worth the time it takes to knit that extra 2″ of ribbing.

Rockfall Hat Pattern

Are you planning to give knitted gifts?

I am slowly developing a serious love of gift knitting, especially for my kiddos – and it’s not for the joy that my gifts may (or may not) bring them. It’s all about the JOY I feel as I knit them, and the joy I get from appreciating my kids’ beauty, heightened by the beauty of my knits. If you’re ramping up for some gift-knitting, the Rockfall hat is a great place to get started!

A colourwork hat on ground. The hat is a purple-ish pink with mustard, pink, and white colourwork motifs.

This hat is a FUN knit. In fact, for me, most colourwork hats are REALLY playful and satisfying to knit. Yes, it can be annoying to pull out ALL the yarns to choose your palette, but it’s totally worth it as you watch the colours combine and the pattern form right under your fingertips. Then before you know it, it’s off your needles and onto somebody’s head!

Other colourwork hats you might enjoy

If you’ve got a craving to knit more colourwork hats (either as gifts or for yourself!), check out all our cozy caps. Click your favourite to get the pattern!

~Em

Rockfall…Falling in Love with Colourwork All Over Again

October 7, 2021

It’s official: colourwork yokes are my go-to for COMFORT knitting. And as autumn begins, I’m reaching for a little cozy comfort – which led me right back to the Rockfall sweater I created a couple of years ago. This particular design is so delicious that I couldn’t stop knitting it! I knit one for John and then made a matching sweater for myself. I also knit one for my mum, and I couldn’t resist making a teeny-tiny one for a beloved friend’s first baby – and it was all pure pleasure through and through.

With so much goodness to go around, we couldn’t keep it to ourselves any longer; the Rockfall pattern is now available!

Rockfall Sweater Pattern
This is the Rockfall sweater that I made for my mom (with me modelling, before I shipped it off to Canada).
Rockfall features bold geometric motifs, and it looks great in rich colours.

Loving the knitting and knitting the love

Love of family and friends is knit into each and every stitch of this striking yoke. Even when I’m feeling far, far away from family (4,400 miles to be precise), it brings me joy to think of my mum wearing a sweater that matches mine while she cycles or paddles – or chases along behind my nephews through the forest trails of my childhood. And I smile when I see John reach for his Rockfall sweater on a chilly (summer) afternoon here in Edinburgh!

Rockfall Sweater Pattern
John’s Rockfall sweater features a deep, moody colour palette with a warm green to match his eyes.
Rockfall Sweater Pattern

Our theme this year is Knitting for Love, and I have to say Rockfall is the epitome of everything I love. It was a challenge to ‘get it just right’ when I first designed this yoke sweater for John, but I took so much joy from the process! Then there was the guilty pleasure of stealing John’s because it’s seriously the most COMFY thing ever. Then I thoroughly enjoyed the colourful process of selecting a second palette to make one for myself…because cheesy matching sweaters are a must (obviously)!

Rockfall Sweater Pattern
Rockfall Sweater Pattern
On this version of Rockfall, I worked an i-cord bind off instead of a ribbed collar. This option is included in the pattern, too!

Once I finished knitting all my love into my mom’s sweater, Alexa said it was time we shared the pattern! That meant grading Rockfall across our inclusive size range – from baby to big – and knitting a couple more teeny-tiny versions too, of course.

Rockfall Sweater Pattern
Rockfall Sweater Pattern
Alexa knit a newborn size in tones of heathery grey-blue, teal, olive, and white.
Rockfall Sweater Pattern
I knit a baby size with navy as the main colour, relying heavily on that vivid cobalt colour once more!

A fun knit with loads of resources

So what are you waiting for?! If you’re new to yoke sweaters, Rockfall is an excellent introduction because it knits up relatively quickly in worsted or aran weight yarn. And if you’re at a loss for colour ideas, you can check out the dozens of palette ideas I put together.

Since we released our Strange Brew colourwork collection years ago, we’ve been busy developing a long list of tutorials to help you with colourwork and yoke sweaters. Here are just a few:

I hope Rockfall brings you the same love and comfort it gave me – and I hope you’ll share your knits with us on your favourite social spot. Use #TinCanKnits or #RockfallSweater to connect with the TCK community!

~ Emily

Rockfall Sweater Pattern

How to Get Started Knitting Colourwork

September 24, 2021
A sweater yoke in progress with all of the yarns used beside it

Knitting colourwork (also known as stranded colourwork or Fair Isle knitting) may seem difficult, but it’s actually quite simple. When knitting colourwork patterns, you use two colours (sometimes more) in a single row or round. This looks tricky to the uninitiated; however, the pattern is formed using only knit stitches, so it’s not nearly as complicated as it looks! If you’ve been too intimidated to give colourwork a try, this tutorial will demystify the process and take you through it step by step.

The basics of colourwork knitting

  • First, you knit a stitch (or several) in one colour – let’s call it the main colour (MC).
  • Then you knit a stitch (or several) in another colour – let’s call it the contrast colour (CC).

Simply follow the colourwork chart, and the pattern appears! The mechanics are REALLY that simple, and if you know how to follow a chart, then you can stop reading, grab one of our free colourwork patterns (like the Anthology hat and cowl or the Clayoquot toque), and start knitting right now.

The rest is just details! But since you’re here – and maybe you’re in the mood – let’s talk about some of those details…

How do I read a colourwork chart?

Typically, stranded colourwork is knit in the round, rather than back and forth in rows. This is convenient because you’re always looking at the knit side of the work – and thus can ensure that the pattern is forming correctly. A colourwork chart is typically read right to left, starting from round 1 at the bottom of the chart and working your way up to the top, one round at a time.

As you work following the chart, the fabric grows to create the pattern shown, so you can look at the colourwork chart and make a fair guess at what the finished product will look like – they’re closely related.

Morse Code Yoke blog post
This Strange Brew sweater was knit from the top down using the chart shown below. For all the details on this sweater, check out our blog post here.
Morse Code Yoke blog post

But how do I hold two yarns when knitting colourwork?

Try the first timer’s easy-peasy method (just drop the yarns when changing colours)

For YEARS, well into her career as a pattern designer, Emily knit colourwork this way: Knit with the MC colour and then drop that strand. Pick up the CC strand, knit with it, and then drop it. Pick up the other strand and knit with it…and so forth. It’s not as slow as you might think (though it’s also not fast 🤣).

Try holding one yarn in each hand

I like to knit stranded colourwork holding one yarn in each hand. When knitting the MC with my right hand, I throw (English style), and when knitting the CC with my left hand, I pick (Continental style).

I’ve taught countless colourwork classes and literally NEVER had a student who couldn’t learn to do colourwork using this method – but they did find it difficult it at first (there’s always a bit of cursing). But after a couple of hours of practice, everybody manages to get the hang of it.

Other techniques for holding yarn when knitting colourwork

There are about as many ways to knit colourwork as there are ways to knit, so feel free to experiment and find the technique that works for you. There’s no wrong way to knit, and there’s no wrong way to knit colourwork. There’s only what you prefer.

And what’s this about floats and tension?

Floats 

The yarn that’s not currently being used is drawn across the back of the work, and those strands are called ‘floats’. It’s important to draw this yarn LOOSELY across the back of the work. Otherwise, the fabric will be tight and compressed horizontally, which is NOT fun as you knit it – and it doesn’t look good when it’s done, either.

The inside of a colourwork yoke with a hand showing the float

Tension 

Because you have floats making a straight line across the back of the work, the fabric formed by stranded colourwork is much less stretchy than that formed with a regular knitted fabric. You’ll want to keep this in mind when choosing the right size if you’re knitting a sweater with a colourwork body (get more info on choosing a colourwork sweater size here). And before embarking on a sweater-sized project, it’s wise to do a swatch first. Check out our tutorial on swatching for colourwork here.

Trapping floats

You may have heard of trapping floats, but I’ll let you in on a little secret: Emily and I almost never trap our floats! Some folks will tell you to trap floats every 3, 5, 7, 10+ stitches, but we almost never do (mittens are the exception). If you do want to trap your floats, it’s as simple as twisting your two yarns together. If you hold your yarns in each hand, check out this video for a slightly fancier way of trapping:

That’s it? C’mon! I still have a million more questions… 

How do I join a new yarn?

To join a new yarn, just leave a yarn tail and then get started with the new yarn from the beginning of the next round. You’ll weave in the ends later.

an inside out colourwork hat with yarn tails showing

What about increases and decreases? 

When there’s an increase or a decrease in a colourwork pattern (like in a colourwork round yoke), you’ll simply work it in the colour shown on the chart. You can work any increase or decrease stitch in the colour shown.

Almanac sweater pattern
For the Almanac, a top-down colourwork yoke sweater, the increases are incorporated into the chart.

What is ‘yarn dominance’?

When you knit colourwork, the stitches sit a little differently than in regular stockinette. When you go from knitting one stitch in the MC to one in the CC, they don’t sit as perfectly as they might if they were done in the same colour. For some knitters, the difference is glaring, while others hardly notice it at all.

Is blocking different for colourwork pieces? 

Blocking colourwork isn’t really different from any other kind of blocking, but it is CRITICAL! You’ll definitely want to block your colourwork piece after you complete it, and regular wet blocking works just fine. It’ll make the finished knit look a lot better because it will even out the stitches and help the yarn ‘bloom’.

How do I keep my yarns from getting all tangled up? 

When you begin knitting stranded colourwork, you may find that your yarns get all tangled up around and around each other, which can be annoying, but this is simple to prevent. If you place the CC ball to the left of your body and the MC ball to the right of your body (and always keep them in those positions), they will not tangle. You will always draw the CC yarn (the one on your left) up from underneath the other colour, so it will create slightly longer ‘dominant’ stitches.

What about all the yarn tails? 

Suck it up, buttercup – those yarn tails aren’t gonna weave in themselves! Or, you can be a lazy ass like me… I just tie them to the next colour, trim them fairly short, and then hope that, with plenty of time and wear, they’ll eventually felt themselves together into a nice, solid, woolly mess.

A colourwork yoke sweater inside out with yarn tails showing.

What kind of yarns should I use? 

We’ve got an opinion (or three) on this topic! Check out our posts about: 

Choosing a palette for the Sunshine Sweater or Hat

How do I choose colours for a colourwork project?

You sure you really wanna open that can of worms? Okay, excellent, so do I! 

We’ve got a long list of posts that are all about picking palettes and combining colours. Here they are in order of relative usefulness (just my opinion!): 

  1. Week of Colour: Strategies for Designing a Palette – picking a palette can be easier when you choose a strategy
  2. Applying Colour to Stranded Knitting Motifs – because there are MANY ways you can do it!
  3. Swatching Colourwork – we detail several methods for you.
  4. Collect Your Favourite Colour Combos – beg, borrow, and steal!
  5. Colour Theory for Knitters – key terms like saturation and contrast.
Strange Brew colourwork yoke recipe project directory
Pretty soon you’ll be ready to design your own Strange Brew colourwork yokes, like these ones!

Ready, Set, Go!

While all this can seem like a lot of info, you won’t figure any of it out unless you get going. We recommend starting with a hat and only two colours – just dive in and enjoy the learning process! Once you’ve knit a project or two, you’ll be ready to tackle any colourful knit. Check out the pics below for a little inspiration and click your favourite to get the pattern!

~ Alexa

%d bloggers like this: