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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!).

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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:

 

All The Mini Skeins – yarn tasting at Edinburgh Yarn Festival 2018

March 22, 2018

Mini Skeins at The Little Grey Sheep stall

While Alexa has the fabulous Knit City in Vancouver, for a home knit show I am lucky to have the top-notch Edinburgh Yarn Festival on my doorstep! Since the beginning, I have always brought a Tin Can Knits stall to the show, but this year I decided to do something different and teach classes rather than being a vendor in the marketplace. This was VERY exciting, because it left me oodles of time to shop the show! I was able to chat with many of the yarn producers and dyers, make connections with other designers and industry people and enjoy the Ceilidh too.

One of the purchases I was very excited about was a range of colours in Woollenflower’s natural-dyed fingering weight. Jules has dyed on a really lovely base, a woollen-spun yarn made by Polo & Co from French fibre milled in France.

I acquired A LOT OF YARN this year (it really needs to be in all-caps folks, seriously). And what I discovered was that in previous years I had really been missing out on a critical research trip, because I’d been too busy chatting about my own work to look around and focus on the exciting new yarns and products that were available! So this year I basked in the excitement and shopped till I very nearly dropped!

Another bundle that made me swoon was this delicious yarn from Germany. Rauwerk is a woollen-spun DK/worsted weight, and I went crazy over those blue shades… And the grey… And the ochre which is dyed by Hey Mama Wolf… These were the very first skeins I wound up for swatching!

But my own current interest in woolly and natural dye tones aside, I feel like Mini Skeins were the theme of Edinburgh Yarn Festival this year. Most hand-dyers booths included a great selection of single minis or gradient kits. And many of the producers of mill-dyed yarns offered ‘little’ options too. Being currently obsessed with colourwork, I felt literally like a kid in a candy store, I wanted to try one of each!

Max was VERY excited about these mini skeins from EasyKnits – especially the hot pink, which is his favourite colour!

A small selection of the mini skeins that drew my eye!

What patterns work well with mini-skeins?

Well… we’ve got a colourful suggestion or three!

Undertone, from our book Mad Colour, is a lovely cowl for using up odds and ends and mini-skeins! If you have fingering-weight yarn, you could hold it double in place of the DK weight called for in this pattern.

The Twisp hat was designed in sport / sock weight, so would be perfect for playing with sock-weight minis!

Wenlock has a colourful yoke that would work using DK weight mini-skeins, or you could hold 2 strands of a sock-weight together while working the colourful yoke section.

Scrumptious Shetland

Another thing that particularly caught my eye this year were Shetland yarns. Because of our current colourwork focus I’ve been collecting colours in J&S, Jamieson’s of Shetland, JC Rennies, and a few other These companies have, for decades, been selling the original mini-skein put-up; 25 gram balls that allow you to collect the wide range of colours that are the required palette for Fair Isle style blending in stranded colourwork.

I’ve added to my palette of Shetland ‘jumper weight’ colours. The blanket shown is the Vivid Blanket, which was designed in Jamieson & Smith jumper weight, because of the colour possibilities! I was able to eke 2 squares out of a single 25 gram skein!

Lastly, I think that PINK was probably a pretty major theme to my EYF too… And I’m falling in love with it a little more every day!

I picked out several pinks that I plan to use in the yoke of a brilliant green sweater (next year’s Christmas outfit plan). I plan to make the body and sleeves of this sweater on my knitting machine, and then work a delicate yoke in some of these greens and pinks.

Do you get a chance to visit a wool show and shop the wide range of delicious offerings? If you haven’t had a chance to try it, I’d recommend you head to a show near you, there’s such an excitement and energy when so many creative businesses and shoppers converge!

How to knit marled projects by holding yarns together

March 13, 2018

speckly, pebbly, lovely marls

A marled yarn typically has two, but sometimes more, plies of different colours. Knit up, it creates a delightfully speckly fabric with delicious texture and interest.

This is a marled yarn, Brooklyn Tweed Shelter in ‘Newsprint’, you can see how there are 2 plies, one white and one black.

The marled yarn knits up with a sort of pebbled look. This swatch is garter stitch.

You can create a similar effect by holding yarns of different colours or tones together, without the need to purchase a marled yarn. We’ve done this in a few different projects, most recently the Snap hat, but also in the Marley blanket from Mad Colour and the Sea To Sky blanket from Pacific Knits.

The Marley blanket is a real stash buster! Emily used her mighty stash of odds and ends to create an ombre from yellows and oranges through to reds and purples, by holding multiple strands together at the same time.

The joy of this technique is that you can use lighter-weight stash yarn that you don’t think you’ll end up using knit singly (like lace weight skeins) by holding them together with other yarns, creating a marled fabric at a gauge that knits up more quickly. You can also use up lots of odds and ends this way, especially if you are ‘moving’ from one colour to another like in the Snap hat.

By swapping out one of the 4 strands held together for the Snap hat, Emily was able to use small leftover balls of sock yarn to create a beautiful ombre effect.

Also, when you’re creating a marled fabric with two or more yarns, you can easily create ombre and blending effects and make use of odds and ends of stash yarn, because the continuity of one of the yarns throughout can make the changing of colours quite subtle and beautiful. So holding yarns together to create marled fabric is a very practical and adaptable technique.

For this swatch I used 2 colours, Hedgehog sock in Coral and Poison.

For the swatch above I cast on holding together 4 strands of coral and worked as follows:
6 rows holding 4 strands coral
6 rows holding 3 strands coral and 1 strand poison
6 rows holding 2 strands coral and 2 strands poison
6 rows holding 1 strand coral and 3 strands poison
6 rows holding 4 strands of poison
Bind off.

You can see how lovely the blending effect is using only 2 colours!

A Needle to Start With

When you hold two yarns together, you need to use a larger needle size than you would for a single strand of the yarn. How much larger? Well one typical rule of thumb for doubling is that if your gauge in a single strand is, for example 26 sts / 4” (this would be a typical sock-weight garment gauge), then multiply that number by 0.7 or 70% and you will get 18.2. So your doubled gauge will be approximately equivalent to 18 sts / 4”, which is typical for worsted / aran weight yarn which you might knit on a US # 7-9 (4.5 to 5.5 mm) needle.

Based upon my swatch tests (this is the very unscientific sample size of one):

2 strands sock weight held together:
18 sts & 26 rows / 4 inches on a US 7 / 4.5mm needle

3 strands sock weight held together:
16 sts & 22 rows /4 inches on a US 9 / 5.5mm needle

4 strands sock weight held together:
13-15 sts & 19-20 rows / 4 inches on US 10.5 / 6.5mm

This should give you a starting point, you may need to go up or down a size or 2, depending on your personal gauge, and the gauge at which you achieve a fabric you like for your project. Holding 4 strands together for the pink-to-purple swatch above I used a US 10.5/6.5mm needle. You may want a slightly denser/tighter fabric for a hat, but something a little looser for a blanket.

Of course your stash might not be made up of sock yarn scraps, you can substitute a worsted for 2 sock strands, 2 strands of worsted for about a chunky weight, throw a lace weight in with a worsted for an aran weight, the list is endless! The most fun thing is a little play!

What about colour? ALL THE COLOURS

As you can see, the level of contrast between the yarns used has an impact on the effect of the finished fabric.

These swatches were made with 2 strands of worsted weight yarn. I used the same red yarn throughout and changed the grey yarn.

I find marling is a nice way to use variegated and speckled colourways that might be too much of a ‘dog’s breakfast’ when knit on their own. Speckles are so hot right now… but that doesn’t mean they will always shine, or shine in every project. Holding a speckle or variegated colourway alongside a kettle dye or solid colour yarn can tone down the crazy and add a level of sophistication and polish to the finished fabric.

This swatch (knit in Hedgehog Fibers Sock) was made holding 2 strands of a pale grey (Crystal) yarn with a wild speckle (Oracle). The effect is much more subtle than the speckle on its own.

This is Oracle knit all on it’s own, a bit wilder than the marled swatch with pale grey mixed in.

What about pattern? KISS

I’m a big fan of garter and reverse stockinette stitch in marled fabrics. I think they look better than plain stockinette, because they break up the dots of colour even more effectively than stockinette does. They look more pebbly and speckly rather than striped.

The Bottom MARLED Line? Cast on and start experimenting!

Just like knitting with speckled yarns (which are SO MUCH FUN), making marled, scrappy versions of projects is SUPER FUN. You’re going to have a great time, and learn through experimentation. All of the above info is just to inspire you to get started and experiment on your own.

It’s a SNAP

We’ve just released this snappy little hat that is the perfect project for experimenting with marling!


TCK projects that would look great marled:

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It’s a SNAP

March 8, 2018

Marled… Ombre… it’s a SNAP! What’s not to love?

This design was just a simple project that called my name. Once the idea popped into my head, despite all the many and various other things I was SUPPOSED to be working on, it would not shut up. It crooned ‘knit me, knit me, say that you’ll knit me’ (think The Cardigans – Lovefool circa 1996). And so, obviously, I had to knit it. What else could I do? I hope you’ll enjoy the Snap hat as much as I have!

This hat is a snap. There’s absolutely nothing complicated about it, it knits up in 2-3 hours.

The most joyous part (for me) was seeing how the colours combine! You’ll need a pile of odds and ends, but if you’re a knitter, I’m going to speculate that you probably have a basket of little lovely bits which you couldn’t quite bring yourself to throw away.

I used A LOT of colours. I’m not going to lie, I’ve been knitting for years, and I have many tiny balls of leftover sock yarn. But you could make an exquisite Snap hat in two colours as well: start with 4 strands of a single colour, and then gradually swap out one strand of the first colour for the second until all 4 strands are your second colour.

When creating marled combinations, you will find that you achieve different effects depending on the contrast between the colours. Lower contrast combinations will be more like blended solid colours whereas higher contrast combos are ‘sparklier’ or ‘specklier’ (both of those are totally words). We’ll talk about the technique of marling in more detail next week!

The joy of this pattern is that you can simply experiment as you go. And if the finished hat isn’t exactly to your own taste in terms of colour, you know there’ll be somebody you know who REALLY WANTS TO STEAL IT! If it’s not for you, let it go.

I photographed Snap on Nina and Max during last week’s cold snap in Edinburgh! This photo-shoot had the most extreme weather conditions we had yet experienced… intense blowing snow and icy winds. But Nina (our lovely model, friend, and the dyer behind Rainbow Heirloom) was a sport, as always! And we warmed up with cake and coffee after surviving the Arctic blast!

Excited for EYF:

I’m eagerly anticipating teaching two classes at this year’s Edinburgh Yarn Festival. I decided to forgo having a Tin Can Knits stall in favour of teaching, meeting up with knit designer friends travelling here from all over the world, and fully enjoying the marketplace and events! I’m particularly excited to show off my new sweaters and my ceilidh dancing skills… Are you coming along?

Throwback to the inaugural Edinburgh Yarn Festival in 2013! This was my very first show (note the highly professional hand-drawn sign that I made that morning, as folk were arriving). I was wearing my original Lush cardigan sample, before the book Handmade in the UK was even published!

This year I’m teaching ‘Off The Charts’, which is an ode to my love of charts as a design tool, and ‘Strange Brew‘ in which participants design their own colourwork yoke, using our recipe pattern Strange Brew. If you’re not coming to the show in person, I’ll be sharing the excitement on Instagram, so follow us or surf the tags: #EYF #EYF2018 #EdinburghYarnFestival


Super Simple Satisfaction from TCK:

Waffles Blanket by Tin Can Knits

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