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Fly Away, Revisited

June 17, 2021
Fly Away blanket pattern
This beautiful blanket was knit and photographed by Tanis of Tanis Fiber Arts

A few years ago (it can’t possibly be six, can it?!), we created Max & Bodhi’s Wardrobe, a collection inspired by two new babies in the TCK family. Part of that collection was the Fly Away blanket because even though her first babe was only a tiny thing at the time, Emily was already looking into the future, to that moment when Max would learn to fly on his own.

Six years later, Fly Away is still one of our most popular blankets, thanks to its deliciously simple garter, infinite colour options, and endless layout possibilities. So, what could possibly make this pattern better? (Drum roll, please…) Half squares!

Fly Away blanket pattern
The original Fly Away blanket features colourful stripes.

The original includes instructions for striped squares, but dyer/designer/all-around-great-human-being Tanis of Tanis Fiber Arts put her own spin on the pattern by creating half squares. Inspired by classic quilt motifs, and using her amazing eye for colour, Tanis knit up two of these beautiful blankets. A number of knitters have been asking for the details on this particular hack, so we decided to add them to the pattern!

What’s new?

The updated Fly Away pattern has all the same good stuff as the original, plus a little bit more:

  1. Instructions for the new half squares, in addition to the original striped squares.
  2. Yardages for both options.
  3. Layout suggestions for both striped squares and half squares.

Note: If you already have the Fly Away single pattern or Max & Bodhi’s Wardrobe ebook, you should have received the updated pattern by now. If you purchased from our website, the update will have come via email. If you purchased via Ravelry, you can hit the little ‘update’ button in your Ravelry library to download it.

A little inspiration

If you’re looking for a little inspiration for your own Fly Away, here are a few of our favourite projects to give you some ideas!

Fly Away for Micah blog post.
This Fly Away by Tanis uses the striped layout with a few modifications. Check out all the details here.
Undone57's Ravelry Project Page
This gorgeous blanket from @undone57 showcases the half square option beautifully. All the details are on her Ravelry project page here.
For this lovely pastel, half square version, Tanis tapped into her stash of scraps to make something amazing.
Nina of Rainbow Heirloom made this fabulous pink and purple Fly Away. I love how moody it looks with a dark main colour!

Grab your favourite palette and cast on!

Summer is my favourite time for knitting blankets, especially something that’s simple and done in pieces, so I can take it with me everywhere I go. Emily and I are obviously partial to rainbows, but this blanket looks great in any palette that suits you. It makes the perfect scrappy blanket, too! PLEASE be sure to share your projects using #FlyAwayBlanket and #TinCanKnits. We love to see what knitters are creating!

~ Alexa

Other People’s Patterns

June 3, 2021

It’s a rare occurrence when I have time to knit other designers’ patterns, but it is a distinct joy. I love seeing where the patterns take me. Of course, I rarely make it easy on myself. I like to go a little (or a lot) off pattern to see what I can come up with. Two sweaters I started in the early days of lock down last year were no exception. In the midst of those first few, trying weeks, Andrea Rangel’s Dissent Cardigan and Maxim Cyr’s For Fox Sake provided a welcome distraction.

A child in a grey cardigan with a blue colourwork yoke.

Dissent cardigan

As soon as Andrea Rangel released the Dissent cardigan, I knew I wanted to knit it. It’s an absolutely beautiful colourwork pattern inspired by Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s iconic dissent collar. I had one perfect skein of Spincycle Dream State in ‘Melancholia’ just waiting for the right project to come along. I paired it with the soft grey ‘Pumice” from Brooklyn Tweed Shelter, and away I went! But instead of following the pattern, which is written in grown-up sizes, I decided to make it for little Bodhi, mashing up the chart from Andrea’s pattern with our Strange Brew recipe.

A child in a grey cardigan with a blue colourwork yoke.

To make the cardigan kid-sized, I used Strange Brew for my cast-on and total yoke numbers. I shortened Andrea’s chart a little, so the yoke wouldn’t be too long. All was going smoothly (or so I thought) until I laid my sweater out, ready to be steeked. I realized the charts were off at the centre front…somewhere along the way, my math had gone awry! Off came the button bands, out came the steek reinforcements, and off came the yoke. I cut off the yoke, re-knit it with the correct patterning, joined the whole thing back together with a Kitchener stitch, and then steeked it. Despite all the bumps along the way, the final product turned out beautiful, and Bodhi just loves it!

A grey cardigan with a blue colourwork yoke. The colourwork pattern is misaligned at the centre.
One side of the button band has a ‘short’ section, and other side has a ‘long’ section – disaster!
A child in a grey cardigan with a blue colourwork yoke.
A child in a light teal sweater with a colourwork yoke.

For Fox Sake

When I first came across the wonderful work of Maxim Cyr (A.K.A. Max the Knitter), I was immediately smitten. Max is truly an artist, and it shows in this fabulous and fun, bespectacled, foxy character.

For Fox Sake is written in adult sizes, but I wanted to make it for young Jones. I decided to cast on the smallest size but use the sock weight Brooklyn Tweed Peerie, instead of the DK weight called for in the pattern. The funny thing is I cast on the sweater juuuust as Jones was starting a growth spurt, so I could have knit the smallest size as written, had I waited a few weeks. I ended up adding some length, so he could get a little more wear out of it.

A child in a light teal sweater with a colourwork yoke.

The simple joys of just creating

In making this sweater, I had a lot of fun just knitting a pattern. I didn’t have to think about math, or fit, or how to scale a motif. I enjoyed the simple, soothing act of assembling stitch after stitch, creating something useful and seeing beautiful colours come together in an inspiring pattern. I mean…perhaps I should have paid a bit more attention to the math in Bodhi’s Dissent yoke, but that, too, is part of the joy of creating. Sometimes things go sideways, and you get to decide how to roll with it.

~ Alexa

Top Tips for Photographing Kids in Knits

May 20, 2021

We love nothing better than seeing our kiddos all wrapped up in our knits, and we usually have our cameras at the ready! We’ve always photographed our kids in our knits, so if you want to take some fun and fab (and a little cheesy) pics of wee ones, we have a suggestion or two on how to make it work.

Here are our top nine tips for capturing beautiful photos of kids in knits. These pearls of wisdom have been polished up through years (and tears), so take notes!

1. Don’t ask kids to smile…it’s always suspect

The photographic evidence speaks for itself. Half the time, kids smile without being asked, but when you DO ask them? Well…just don’t expect top results!

Beloved Bonnet Pattern
Somewhere between four and six, kids learn to do this kind of smile. It’s cute, but…
Neve is wearing the Beloved bonnet and Ironheart sweater.
Strange Brew colourwork yoke recipe pattern
Max is wearing a yoke sweater I made using the Strange Brew colourwork yoke recipe pattern.
Moraine Sweater pattern
Then again, sometimes – despite all your best efforts – it’s just too cold to smile (eh, Hunter?!). She wasn’t quite warm enough in her Moraine sweater…Iceland is COLD.

2. Bring props

A good ‘esthetically inoffensive’ toy or two can keep the little wrigglers still long enough for you to capture the goods. We like neutral coloured blocks and toys, but any bit of junk will work!

Max and Bodhi's Wardrobe eBook
You EAT that wooden raccoon, Bodhi! Eat it right up! Alexa bought a set of neutral-coloured wooden toys as props when we were photographing Max & Bodhi’s Wardrobe. At just eight months old, Bodhi was already moving a mile a minute, so anything that could distract her for a few seconds was helpful. Here she’s wearing the Bumble beanie and Peanut vest.

Flowers, sticks, leaves, and stones all work, too. Just make sure to keep it safe because there’s nothing more parent-guilt-inducing than your kids’ hurting themselves while you’re snapping away behind a camera. (I’ve been there; I know!).

Snap Hat Pattern
Amelia was entranced by the colourful autumn leaves while I snapped some cute photos of her in the Snap hat. Bonus tips: A neutral wardrobe will keep the knit centre stage, and shooting with a low depth of field will give the background a blurred-out effect.

3. Don’t blink or you’ll miss it!

I like to set my camera to ‘rapid fire’ mode, especially with babies. Little ones don’t maintain the same facial expression for more than a split second, so you’ve gotta shoot FAST. And for the mood to be really ‘right’, you’ve gotta capture that split-second expression.

Strange Brew Yoke Sweater Recipe Pattern
We were on the most beautiful of holidays in the Canadian rockies, but Neve was having a bit of a moment – and I’m so happy I caught it! She’s wearing a Strange Brew yoke sweater.
Bounce Blanket pattern
Max, is that Bounce blanket tasty?!

4. Keep it short and sweet

Long photoshoots can be taxing on little ones and photographers alike, so I like to keep them short and sweet. I’ll weave a few photoshoots into the regular progression of a lazy weekend or take photos as part of a relaxed holiday – that way they don’t become too overwhelming. As for the sweet part, I like to keep my kids well-sugared for photoshoots. The next time I ask ‘pretty please can we take some pictures today?’, they’re champing at the bit because it’s a treat!

Prism Hat Pattern
Alexa took the ‘well-sugared’ advice to heart when she shot Hunter and Jones in their Prism hats. You can also notice the photographically inoffensive clothing she chose. Jean jackets forever!

5. Let them roam wild and free

I like to get my kids dressed up in their woollies and some neutral clothes, and then take them out to roam and play at a nearby park or beach. Photoshoots go well when kids are focussed on something other than the camera – and when you as the photographer take your time and watch for the shot. Just let kids play and be kids without any pressure to perform. They’re so beautiful when they’re playing!

Boardwalk cardigan pattern
Neve and I were just loving wandering along the Portobello front, and I captured this moment. How great does the Boardwalk sweater look against that minty green bench?!
Boardwalk sweater pattern
Hahahaha…a little bit later – and a LOT sandier!
Compass Sweater pattern
We went camping one summer. It was chilly (it’s Scotland), so Max and Neve were both wearing their Compass sweaters while playing in the lake. This wasn’t a planned photoshoot; I just happened to have my camera with me. The light was good, so I took advantage of the moment!

6. Avoid embellishments

Kids’ clothes (the ones my kids seem to reach for anyway) tend to be loud, with a metric tonne of sequins, sparkles, logos, graphics, and prints – and always pink, pink, pink. When I take them out to photograph, I cajole my little ones into a select supply of visually inoffensive clothes (which they’d never choose otherwise). I recommend denim, deep solids like black and navy, neutral colours, and tank tops, so the photo isn’t ruined by a neon shirt peeking out from underneath that oh-so-beautiful sweater. This allows the beauty of the kid and the beauty of the knit to shine without distraction.

7. Find simple backdrops

The best photographs draw the viewer’s eye to what’s important. We try to photograph kids against neutral, blurred-out backdrops, and we aim to contrast the backdrop with the model and knit in the foreground.

Antler Hat Pattern
I often use a nice, neutrally coloured stone wall as a backdrop. Ayanda is wearing the our free Antler toque.

We find that water, dark rocks, golden grass, sand, driftwood, and stone walls work well as neutral backdrops.

Caribou Cardigan pattern
Alexa often uses beach sand and blurry mountain backdrops. Hunter and Jones are wearing matching Caribou cardigans. For more delicious outdoorsy shoots and textured knits, check out the Road Trip eBook.

To achieve more of a ‘studio shoot’ aesthetic for our Mad Colour collection, we used industrial, painted walls as backdrops. This kept the images clean and minimalist but allowed us to find colour and contrast to highlight the knits.

Chromatic sweater pattern
Hunter is wearing the Chromatic sweater in a graphic black and white palette.

8. Bring a wrangler

You (nearly always) need a wrangler…or two. Having another adult around to look out for the safety of the situation is important. It lets me focus on the visuals and helps to keep stress levels manageable. And if I happen to be photographing only one of the kids, I’ll usually bring the other along as a playmate. The older kids get, the more they’re willing and able to follow directions, but Alexa and I love the simple authenticity of playful toddlers.

9. Use a neutrally dressed adult as prop or backdrop

Your wrangler may also serve as prop or backdrop! If you can convince them to wear some neutral clothing that won’t clash with the knit, that’s another win.

Antler cardigan pattern
John serves as a backdrop in this shot, wearing a black jacket and standing in front of a stone wall. Max was getting pretty playful that spring day, while wearing his Antler cardigan!
Max & Bodhi's Wardrobe eBook
John and Emily act as backdrops and support to Max and Bodhi, who are wearing nearly ALL the knits from Max & Bodhi’s Wardrobe!

So there you have it! Our nine tips for a great photoshoot with some happy, woolly clad children.

We’d love to hear any secrets you may have. Add a comment to share your tips for photographing wriggly kidlets!

~ Em

Woman with a big grin hugging two toddlers, all wearing colourwork jumpers
This is what it’s all about folks – you can tell they’re really loving, it, right?!

How to Use Stitch Markers

May 6, 2021

Of all the tools in my knitting pouch, stitch markers are the smallest, BUT they’re the ones I use most often. I always keep a few close by, buried at the bottom of every knitting bag (and I usually find a few hiding in my couch cushions as well). These tiny but useful little tools help to keep my knitting on track, and they’re often used to simplify pattern instructions. This post will help you add the mighty stitch marker into your knitting practice by going over the basics (what IS a stitch marker?), the terminology (BOR?), and some of the more advanced uses (lace, anyone?).

The basics

What is a stitch marker? There are lots of different ‘looks’ for stitch markers, but they boil down to two different types: the circular kind you put on your needles and the locking/removable kind (the ones that look like little safety pins) you put in your work . Do you need these fancy stitch markers? Nope! They definitely are fun, but you can always use a homemade version that will work just as well – like a bit of string tied in a circle or woven into a stitch.

A hand holding 2 stitch markers, one a black circle, and the other a metalic safety pin.
These are my two favourite types of stitch markers, the plain circle and the safety pin-ish version.

Circular stitch markers

The circular stitch marker is a loop of some kind that is placed onto your needle in between stitches. It marks a point between one stitch and the next. This marker sits on the needle just like a stitch. As you work the piece, whenever you come to the stitch marker, you will work the stitch prior to the marker, slip the marker from the left-hand needle to the right-hand needle, and then work the stitch following the marker. In this manner, the stitch marker stays in the same place, between stitches on each row as the knitting progresses. Note: some patterns use the symbol SM or slip marker, and some don’t. If you don’t see this note, just slip your markers from one needle to the next as you come to them. More on this later…

A bit of green knitting on the needles. A black circular stitch marker is on the right hand needle.
Here I have placed a stitch marker on my needle. It goes over the right-hand needle.
A bit of green knitting on the needles with a black circular stitch marker between stitches.
The marker sits on my needle between two stitches.

How to slip a circular marker

Once you have placed a marker in your work, you will need to move it as you come to it in subsequent rows.

  1. Work to marker.
  2. Move marker from left-hand needle to right-hand needle.
  3. Continue on your merry way.
A bit of green knitting on the needles with a black circular stitch marker 6 sts from the end of the needle.
First you will work to where your marker is. In the above image, the stitch marker is located 6 sts from where I am currently knitting.
A bit of green knitting on the needles with a black circular stitch marker on the left hand needle.
Once you have worked to your marker, it will be on your left-hand needle.
A bit of green knitting on the needles with a black circular stitch marker on the right hand needle.
Move the stitch marker from the left-hand needle to the right-hand needle.
A bit of green knitting on the needles with a black circular stitch marker a few stitches back from the next working stitch.
Continue on your merry way.

Removable stitch markers

The removable stitch marker, like a safety pin or even a bit of string that you can untie, is used to mark a stitch itself, or a point in the knitted fabric. It opens up, so it can be attached to a single stitch and left in the fabric. So as you continue working, and the fabric grows, it ends up far below the row in progress. Sometimes this means you need to remove it and move it up the stitch column as you proceed with your work.

A hand holding a safety pin type stitch marker that is open.
To place a locking/removable stitch marker in your work, the first step is to open the marker.
A bit of green knitting on the needles with a locking stitch marker in the work and a black circular stitch marker on the needles.
Here you can see the two different uses for stitch markers. I have used the locking/removable stitch marker to note a particular stitch and the round stitch marker to mark a spot in my knitting on the needles.

While you can use removable stitch markers in place of regular markers (by placing them on the needle, rather than in the fabric), you cannot use circular stitch markers in place of removable ones (because they don’t open and close).

Stitch markers are most often used as ‘landmarks’ in your knitting to orient you within a row. They let you know the point at which something changes or something special happens. For example, they may mark the decrease points on a hat, the increase points on a raglan sweater, or the points at which you switch from a stockinette stitch pattern to a different stitch pattern.

The Gramps Sweater – a removable marker example

Here in the Gramps sweater, locking stitch markers are placed at the beginning and end of this row. These markers will be useful later when picking up the button band and shawl collar.

A cardigan with the button band picked up. There are 2 locking stitch markers in the work.
Here in the Gramps sweater, I have two locking stitch markers, indicating where the neckline shaping has ended.

Another favourite use for removable stitch markers is noting my cable rows. I often forget which row or round I last cabled on, so I will sometimes place a marker in the cable row – then I can just count the subsequent rows to see if it’s time to cable again.

Abbreviations relating to stitch markers: PM, SM, and BOR

PM – Place Marker. When you see this in knitting instructions, it means you should place a circular marker on the needle at the point specified, between stitches. If a removable marker is called for, the instruction will be specific about this and say something like ‘mark the next stitch’ or ‘place a locking stitch marker at the end of the row’. In these circumstances, because you are marking the FABRIC, it’s necessary to use a removable marker, or thread a bit of waste yarn through the stitch itself. If it’s not specified, use a circular marker.

SM – Slip Marker. This is sometimes included to explicitly make clear that you have reached and passed a marker. You’ll work to the marker, slip the marker from the left-hand to the right-hand needle, and then proceed with the work.

Note: OFTEN, patterns do not explicitly include SM at each point where a marker is located. When there is nothing said about a marker, the default action you will take is to slip the marker from the left-hand to the right-hand needle, and then proceed with the work. This leaves the marker in place as a landmark for future actions.

BOR – Beginning of Round or Beginning of Round Marker. If you’re working a project ‘in the round’ on circular needles, you will often have a marker placed between the last stitch of a round and the first stitch of the next round. At the end of each round, you will slip this marker from the left-hand to the right-hand needle, leaving it in place.

CB – Centre Back or Centre Back Marker. This abbreviation is usually used in sweater patterns. The centre back marker is used to orient the patterning on a yoke or to indicate where the short rows will be worked at the back of the sweater. As is typical, if nothing is mentioned about this marker, simply slip it from the left-hand to the right-hand needle, leaving it in place as a landmark for future actions.

Orienting your work – some examples

One of the main functions of stitch markers is orienting your work. Markers can indicate where to stop and start stitch patterns or where to increase or decrease stitches, so you don’t have to count a specific number of stitches each time. They can be used to indicate a variety of different things; here are a few examples…

Shortening written instructions

Round 1: [k2tog, k56, ssk] around
Round 2: [k2tog, k54, ssk] around
Round 3: [k2tog, k52, ssk] around
Round 4: [k2tog, k50, ssk] around
etc.

With a marker, these same instruction can be shortened:

Round 1: [k2tog, knit to 2 sts from marker, ssk] around
Work round 1 a total of 4 times

It keeps things a little simpler, and you aren’t required to count large numbers each round. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been known to miscount occasionally.

Indicating where to change stitch patterns

If a knit has a significant portion of garter and a significant portion of stockinette, markers might indicate where to stop one type of stitch and where to start another.

For example: knit to marker, purl to marker, knit to marker, purl to marker…

A bit of orange knitting on the needles with 2 markers.
Here I have used markers to indicate where to work the ribbing, rather than garter stitch.

Indicating different parts of a garment

Markers can also indicate different parts of a garment. In a raglan yoke pullover, for example, you will likely have four markers indicating the different parts of the sweater, sleeves, front, and back.

The yoke of a white sweater viewed from above. 4 markers indicate the 4 sections of the yoke.
Here I have four markers separating the front, back, and each sleeve of this top-down raglan sweater.

Indicating where to work short rows

We often use markers to indicate where short rows should be worked. On a sweater, for example, you would place a marker at the centre back and work your short rows symmetrically on either side of that marker.

The yoke of a teal sweater viewed from above. 4 markers indicate the 4 sections of the yoke. and one marker is located at the centre of the back section.
Here I have placed a bright yellow stitch marker at the centre back, so I can work my short rows symmetrically around it.

Indicating where a panel starts and ends

Some designs have a panel of stitches that remain the same throughout. It’s helpful to mark this area to keep things clear. In the Barley hat, for example, we use stitch markers to indicate the garter panel.

The ribbing of a knit hat on the needles with 2 markers in the work. Arrows point to each marker, one with the words 'beginning of round marker' and the other with 'end of garter section marker'
Here I have two markers indicating where a garter panel will go.

Markers not in the pattern

Some patterns include stitch marker instructions, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find additional markers helpful! We don’t usually include instructions for marking pattern repeats, but it’s a practice some knitters find useful. If you’re working a pattern and find yourself forgetting to switch something, you might want to place an extra marker at that point as a little reminder.

Tip: If you’re placing additional markers that aren’t indicated in the pattern, you might want to use a different coloured marker. That way if a pattern states ‘work to marker’, you’ll know it’s not the extra markers you’ve placed, but the markers indicated in the pattern.

In the Flax sweater, for example, some knitters like to place markers on either side of the garter panel at the sleeves, so they don’t forget to switch from knit to purl at that point.

Many knitters like to place extra markers when working lace. It can be helpful in letting you know right away if you’ve missed a yarn over or a k2tog. You’ll know immediately if one section has too few or too many stitches.

Marking lace repeats can be a bit trickier. It is important to note that lace patterns can shift sometimes. If you’ve placed markers at each repeat for the first time you work through a chart, you may need to remove and re-place them for the next chart repeat. There also may be decreases that are worked over the marker. A central double decrease, for example, may use stitches from either side of a marker location. In this case, you’ll need to remove your marker, work the decrease, and then re-place the marker.

These are just a few examples of things you might want to use markers for, but of course there are many more!

Mark it up!

So now that you know how to use markers, you can keep your knitting on track! You’ll never miss an increase or forget to switch from knits to purls again – and you won’t even have to count!

For more helpful knitting tutorials, visit our support page here.

~Alexa

Knit Your Own Little Lullaby

April 29, 2021
several striped blanket swatches

Our newest blanket pattern, Lullaby, features a softly waving stitch pattern as old as the hills. There’s nothing groundbreaking or innovative here, and that’s by design. I’ve found that simple and meditative and knits bring me tranquility in trying times, and perhaps you feel the same way. That’s the beauty of this new pattern. The knitting is simple and soothing, while the design invites you to improvise with colour and texture.

We included four yarn weight options, and three sizes, making the Lullaby blanket pattern extremely flexible, so you can make it your way.

wavy striped pattern in three different yarn weights

Because we all have our preferences, Lullaby is written for four different yarn weights and three different sizes. You can make this blanket light as a feather for swaddling a tiny, new loved one – or knit it up as a fabulously chunky statement throw for snuggling under on the couch.

In addition to the Handspun Lullaby blanket I knit, I made several swatches to show some of the different weights and colour strategies you might explore with this comforting project.

Sock yarn rainbows

If you’re a fan of delicate knits, you can make Lullaby using sock yarn scraps. Each stripe doesn’t take much yarn, so odds and ends can be incorporated to make a quirky, striped blanket. And using one contrast colour throughout, whether it’s deep and dark or light and bright, will tie a ‘fruit salad’ of stripes together.

Wavy striped swatch in pink, golden, yellow, grey, blue and olive with white contrast lines between.

If you’re more comfortable with a solid plan, you can develop a special rainbow by choosing your colours a bit more intentionally, like I have for this swatch. Here I chose a rainbow of softer, warmer, and more nostalgic colours, and coupled them with a crisp white contrast colour. If you want to try this approach, we have a whole blog post that explores different ‘flavours’ of rainbow palettes that might inspire you.

Simple but striking monochrome

Wavy striped swatch in black and white marled yarn with white garter stitch lines between.

This aran / worsted weight swatch is made using a marled grey and white yarn with a white contrast colour. I used Mule Spinner 2-Ply by Custom Woolen Mills, an affordable, 100% Canadian wool. A blanket in this sort of palette would be VERY striking on a warm-coloured couch or in a modern, minimal nursery (that is, until it got stained with baby poo!).

Using a marled main colour adds texture to this knit in a very simple way. If you plan to work from sock yarns, you can hold two strands of sock yarn together to make up this heavier yarn weight and create your own marled effect.

Wavy striped swatch in black and white marled yarn with white garter stitch lines, on the needles, with cakes of yarn shown.

Bulky and scrappy

The last swatch illustrates how Lullaby looks at a bulky gauge. I didn’t have any bulky yarn in my stash, so I opted to create this heavier weight of yarn by holding several strands together. Here are some options for making up a more substantial weight of yarn: 

  • 1 strand DK + 2 strands sock
  • 1 strand Aran + 1 strand sock
  • 3 strands sock
  • 2 strands DK
  • 2 strands sock + 1 strand lace
Wavy striped swatch in marled stripes from purple, through blues and teals, green pinks to pale peach.

There are many more combinations that will work and add up to a bulky gauge – try for yourself and mix and match! The key is that you like the way the fabric feels.

Self-striping love

I’ve always had a soft spot for handspun and quirky self-striping yarns like Noro, Spincycle, and Zauberball. It can be a little tricky to match these special yarns with a pattern that enhances their beauty, but Lullaby looks exquisite with a self-striping yarn used for the main colour, and a solid used for the contrast colour. You can read the full story of my handspun Lullaby project here!

Handspun Lullaby Blanket

Simple, soft, and soothing

No matter how you knit it, the Lullaby blanket is a simple and soothing project, and it might be just the sort of knit you’re looking for right now. If you’re struggling to concentrate or find yourself reaching for a little soft comfort, get the pattern and cast on today!

~ Em

wavy striped pattern in three different yarn weights

Other TCK blanket patterns you might enjoy

Vivid Blanket Pattern

Vivid

Knit a rainbow of centre-out squares and then sew them together to make a Vivid knitted quilt. The pattern is supported by our Vivid Blanket Tutorial, and it’s great for stash-busting or playing with colour!

Bounce Blanket Pattern

Bounce

Stripe by bouncy, lace stripe, the Bounce blanket invites you to ‘just knit one more colour’. This is one of our most popular blanket patterns, with playful lace and an interesting result. It’s supported by a tutorial that teaches How to Knit a Central Double Decrease.

The Simple, Soft, and Soothing Lullaby Blanket

April 22, 2021
Striped wave blanket over stone wall

Recently I realized that simple and meditative knits bring me tranquility. I find myself drawn to projects that are uncomplicated and soothing to knit. This desire for simple comforts, combined with the ambition to use my most beautiful materials, inspired me to create Lullaby, our newest simple-but-satisfying blanket design.

Lullaby Blanket Pattern

Although I adore beautiful things, I’m really not much of a shopper. The exception to this rule is shopping for materials: fabric, yarn, fibre, art supplies, beads… These are the sort of things I love to shop for, buy, and collect. Materials are so full of potential for pleasure, for creativity, for transformation — and I find all of this potential very enticing.

Since I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo — and began following the sustainable fashion expert Aja Barber — my relationship to my THINGS has been changing. I’ve been feeling like there’s nothing worse than keeping the ‘good stuff’ hidden away. Instead, I want to share my space with exquisite materials and handmade things — so I can enjoy them on a daily basis. Life is just too short to keep beauty in a box. And so I set out to use these materials and create something both simple and beautiful.

The process of knitting a Lullaby is as soothing as wrapping it snugly around your shoulders. Soft waves of colour cascade over your knees as you knit, keeping you cozy and inspired by their ever-changing combinations. There is nothing complex, new, or groundbreaking here — just the comforting repetition of soft, undulating stripes. These gentle waves are shaped by a stitch pattern as old as the hills, like a lullaby passed down for generations, sung soft and low by a grandparent gently rocking their little one.

Lullaby Blanket Pattern

From fibre to fabulous

Lullaby, in all its simplicity, invites you to play with colour, texture, and halo to bring further richness and joy to the piece. The pattern includes three sizes and four yarn weight options, so there’s plenty of room to play.

Lullaby Blanket Pattern

In bringing Lullaby to life, I began with a delicious handspun yarn that sparked some serious joy for me. I started with two Lucky Dip fibre packs from Hedgehog Fibres, a weird and wonderful cornucopia of colour and textural bliss. Sometimes I like to NOT choose – and let others choose for me. Lucky Dip fibre packs are great for this. You get what you get, and then you work with it to make something unique and beautiful.

Dozens of small nests of colourful hand-dyed fibre piled on a table in all shades of the rainbow.

I decided to try a method that I’d seen of breaking up fibre into little tiny ‘nests’ and then spinning them together in random ways to blend a bunch of different colourways. Within the fibre pack, there were some warm colours (pinks, reds, rusts, purples), some cool colours (greens and blues), and some light colours (whites, pale tints, yellows).

Several bobbins full of colourful handspun singles, laid on a table, next to a finished skein of two-ply handspun.

I separated the nests into rough colour groupings and then spun and spun and spun to complete these lovely singles. I plied some of the singles together with themselves, and I plied some of them against other colour groups. In the end, I had 400g of the most joyful, rainbow-y, DK-weight, two-ply handspun yarn.

Two-ply handspun in a rainbow of vivid shades piled on a drying rack.
Six cakes of two-ply handspun yarn in rainbow colours arranged on a table.

Yarn in hand, I wanted to cast on Right Away. The material was SO delicious, and I was itching to get started. So I thought, I swatched, and I thought and swatched some more. I finally decided that I would design the most simple of blankets in order to use up every last drop of yarn in a single project. I couldn’t let any of this beauty end up back in a plastic box! Lullaby was born, and it proved to be just right for satisfying my need for simple comfort and exquisite beauty. From start to finish, this project was a sensual delight, and I hope you find as much joy in it as I did.

Lullaby Blanket Pattern

How will I knit my next Lullaby blanket?

Well, I’ll probably make it a scrappy, marled rainbow. I have loads of really beautiful sock yarn scraps, and I’m always looking for ways to use them. Next week I’ll share my exploration of these ideas in a more detailed post about Lullaby colour options and strategies that I hope will inspire you.

~ Em

Lullaby Blanket Pattern

How to Get the Perfect Neckline

April 8, 2021

Creating the perfect fit in a seamless sweater often depends heavily on the neckline. If you’re working top-down, for example, and the cast-on is too loose, the neckline can ‘spread’ and become too wide. If you’re working bottom-up and your bind-off is too tight, the sweater might not go over your head. You also might prefer a wider or narrower neckline than the pattern suggests. Below we offer some tips for creating that perfect neckline – and one method for fixing a neckline that isn’t to your liking.

Thinking ahead

Planning ahead is the best way to get your neckline juuuuust right. It’s always easier to get something right the first time, rather than having to go back and fix it, right? So start by considering your own knitting style… Is your ribbing usually a little looser? How firm is your cast-on? Think about how these things will affect your preferred neckline before embarking on your sweater. It will be a huge help, especially if you’re knitting top-down.

Adding structure

When knitting a sweater from the top-down, you’ll often cast on, work the ribbing, then the yoke, etc., so the whole sweater ‘hangs’ from that cast-on. If you have a firm cast-on and it’s a smaller sweater – or you’re using a lightweight yarn – this isn’t a big deal. But if you’re working on a larger sweater or using a heavier yarn, that’s a lot of weight to hang from your cast-on. If it’s not firm enough, the stitches can start to spread; this might result in a more open neckline than you want.

One answer to this problem is adding in a little extra structure. If you’re planning ahead, you can try casting on and skipping the ribbing. Work the yoke and the rest of the sweater first. At the very end, pick up and knit one stitch in each stitch cast-on and then work the ribbing. This way the sweater ‘hangs’ from the seam where you picked up the ribbing, rather than from the cast-on. If you use this method, try the sweater on. If you find the neckline is still too wide for your liking, you can rip back to the pick-up, work a decrease round, and then work your ribbing on fewer stitches.

Marshland sweater pattern
The Marshland sweater makes use of this technique. The yoke starts with a cast-on, and the neckline ribbing is worked last.

Hedging your bets

If you’re unsure whether the neckline will be to your liking in the end, you can always start with a provisional cast-on. (We have a provisional cast-on tutorial here and an alternative provisional cast-on method here!) Cast on using the provisional method of your choosing and skip the ribbing. Once your sweater is complete, you have some options:

  1. Unzip the provisional cast-on, work the ribbing, and then bind off.
  2. Unzip the provisional cast-on and bind-off, pick up and knit one stitch in each bound-off stitch, and then work the ribbing. (This adds a little structure.)
  3. Adjust the neckline stitches by working a decrease round before the ribbing.
  4. Adjust the bind-off round by using smaller or larger needles to get the right firmness.

Casting on provisionally and then working the neckline last is a bit fussier than just casting on and working the neckline first – but it it gives you the flexibility to adjust this critical area without too much trouble.

Love Note pattern
The Love Note sweater starts with a provisional cast-on, and this ethereal sweater hangs beautifully from a firm bind off.

Working bottom-up

One of the major benefits of a bottom-up sweater is easy neckline adjustments. It isn’t too much trouble to unpick the bind-off or the ribbing and try again. If you find your neckline is too loose for your liking, you can work an extra decrease round before the ribbing, or try a tighter bind-off. If you find your sweater needs a little extra structure, you can work a bind-off before the neckline ribbing, pick up and knit one stitch in each of the bound-off stitches, and then work your ribbing. It will hold firm and prevent the neckline from stretching out too much.

Antler pullover pattern
The Antler Pullover is knit from the bottom-up, so you have extra flexibility in getting the perfect number of stitches and structure at the neckline.

Making adjustments after the fact

So you’ve knit an amazing sweater, but the neckline just isn’t what you wanted it to be. If you’ve knit your sweater bottom-up, the fix is easy. But top-down? Not so much. Don’t lose hope, though! We have a few suggested fixes to get that sweater into regular wardrobe rotation! It can feel fiddly to fix the neckline after the fact, but we promise it’s worth it! You’ve put a lot of love and energy into your work of art, and it’s well worth the effort to get it just the way you like it.

Adding a bit of structure

One way to tighten up a neckline and add a bit of structure is to work a crochet chain around the inside of the sweater at the bottom of the ribbing. The crochet chain isn’t stretchy the way your knitting is at this point in the sweater, so it will hold firm.

Cutting off the ribbing and reworking the neckline

Thinking about cutting into your knitting is a bit scary, but don’t worry – this is only minor surgery! Because of the way knit stitches work, you can’t simply undo the cast-on and unravel the ribbing. (We tried it, so you don’t have to… but if you don’t believe us, go forth.) Instead, you need to insert your needle below the ribbing, cut one stitch, and take the ribbing off (described in detail below). Note that the photos show removing the ribbing on a bottom-up sweater, but all the steps are exactly the same to remove the ribbing on a top-down sweater.

  1. Insert a small needle through one ‘leg’ of each stitch. Make sure to keep in the same round.
  2. Cut one stitch and unpick the round below your needle.
  3. Remove the ribbing.
  4. Join new yarn, and you’re ready to redo that ribbing as you see fit.
A hand holding the ribbed hem of a sweater with a small knitting needle through the stitches above the ribbing.
Insert a small needle through one ‘leg’ of each stitch. Make sure to keep in the same round.
Needles inserted through the stitches above the ribbing at the hem of a sweater. Scissors ready to cut a single stitch below the needles.
Cut one stitch and unpick the round below your needle.
A knitting needle is inserted through live stitches and the ribbing of the sweater is being removed.
This is what it looks like as you undo the round above your needles.
A sweater with needles through the live stitches at the bottom and the removed ribbing underneath it.
Here we’ve removed the hem ribbing of a bottom-up sweater, but the steps are just the same for removing the neckline ribbing of a top-down sweater.

Once you’ve got that ribbing off and live stitches on your needles, you can work any of the changes listed in the ‘hedging your bets’ section above. It’s as if you’ve unzipped your provisional cast-on and are ready to go!

This is also the method you would use if you knit a sweater from the bottom-up but want to add or remove length in the body or sleeves. Insert your needle above the ribbing (or wherever you want to change the length), cut, and remove the ribbing. Then you can make your length adjustments and redo that ribbing.

Looking for more helpful sweater knitting tutorials?

We love sweater knitting, so we’ve created lots of sweater knitting tutorials!

  1. Knitting Hack: the provisional cast-on
  2. Let’s knit a bottom-up sweater
  3. Let’s knit a colourwork sweater
  4. How to block a hand-knit sweater
  5. How to knit a garment at a different gauge

Or you can find ALL our tutorials here!

Four Tips for Knitting with Handspun Yarn

March 25, 2021
smiling toddler in a striped cowl

I find it difficult to cast on with my handspun yarn because I label it ‘too Precious‘. I feel hesitant to let those wonderful, bouncy skeins out of my grip and onto the needles. I wonder if I’ll have enough yarn to complete the project, or I worry that the pattern won’t ‘do justice’ to a yarn that took so long to make by hand. If you find yourself with similar handspun hesitations, here are some tips to help you get passed the fear and get started.

Cakes of multi-coloured 2ply handspun yarn

1. Start small and simple

Small, simple projects are a great place to start with handspun. Their simplicity will spotlight the beauty of the yarn, and you won’t need to spin too much yardage to complete them.

For example, our Tall Dark and Handsome pattens have simple textures that will let handmade yarn shine. Both the free Barley hat pattern (for worsted/aran weight yarn) and free Barley Light hat pattern (for fingering/sock weight yarn) will highlight a complex handspun, thanks to their simple stockinette and garter stitch panels. And the free World’s Simplest Mittens pattern has three gauge options, so there’s bound to be one that will work for your special handmade yarn.

2. Stripe it up

When you don’t have enough yardage in one colourway to complete a project in a single colour, use stripes and slip-stitch patterns to your advantage.

Undertone Cowl pattern
The Undertone cowl is a great project for striping two handspun colourways. You could also pair handspun with a commercial yarn to make that precious skein stretch further.
Undertone Cowl pattern
You can use up the tiniest of scraps by changing out the contrast-colour yarn!
bumble beanie pattern
The Bumble beanie is a fabulous hat for combining yarns and making use of small amounts of handspun! You can knit it in a single colour, or work in stripes to achieve a subtle, tweedy effect, as I have with this one.

If you’re interested in the Bumble beanie pattern, check out this post that highlights the different effects you can get from working the pattern with one or two colours – and the lovely, distinct textures they elicit on each side of the work.

A kid wearing colourwork hat, striped cowl and striped sweater.
Hunter’s wearing the Prism hat, the Undertone cowl in a vivid rainbow, and the Chromatic sweater – all from our Mad Colour ebook.

Our Mad Colour ebook is full of vibrant patterns designed for mixing and matching yarns, making them perfect for creating colourful stripes with your handspun lovelies.

3. Combine handspun with other yarns

Adding a mill-spun yarn to the mix can stretch the yardage further than if you knit an entire project in handspun alone. What if you worked the colourwork section of a project using your handspun, and then picked a commercial yarn for the remainder?

Striped Flax Hack Blog Post
I used a combination of handspun and commercial yarns to knit this sweet, striped sweater from our free Flax pattern, with only a few adjustments.

I recently made a Flax sweater for Neve using up the remainders of several beautiful handspun skeins, striping them together with coordinating hand-dyed and commercial yarns. Here are a few more ideas, if you’d like to try your hand at some different combinations:

  • Knit the contrast-colour sections of the Fleet hat using small amounts of your lovely handspun.
  • Feature small amounts of one or two handmade yarns in the Twisp hat or Embers hat, while working the body in hand-dyed or mill-dyed yarn.
  • Stripe up the Prism hat with with 50yds or less of handspun (stripes are also an excellent way to make a self-striping colourway really shine!).
  • Use your exquisite handspun colourway as the contrast colour in a yoke sweater like Embers, Dog Star, Icefall, or another pattern from Strange Brew, our book of yoke sweater designs.

For more ideas, browse all of the colourwork patterns on our website.

Tin Can Knits Colourwork Patterns

4. Stop fretting and just cast on already!

Nothing can make the uncertainty go away like the simple act of casting on. Once I have a yarn on the needles, it often whispers to me what it wants to become. And if it doesn’t work? Just rip, rip, rip it out and start again!

A wave-pattern blanket knit in handspun with contrast-colour stripes.
A simple knit I’m working on in my most recent lot of handspun yarn.

I’ve fallen deeply in love with spinning over the past few months (check out my handspun highlights on Instagram). If you’re a handspun enthusiast like me, please comment to share any advice, tips, and inspirations you may have!

~ Em

Bodhi’s Bookish Birthday Sweater

March 11, 2021
A child by a lake in a colourwork sweater

The Golden Glow and a request

Bodhi’s current favourite book is The Golden Glow by Benjamin Flouw. We’ve read it a million times, and even though she can read it on her own now, she doesn’t have to. She knows it by heart. 

The Golden Glow is a stunningly illustrated tale of botany and adventure. It is the story of Fox, who goes searching for a rare and beautiful flower. Spoiler: When he finds the flower, he realizes that he should leave it where it is. It is more beautiful on the mountain top than it could ever be in a vase at home. 

After a whole summer of reading this book constantly, Bodhi requested a special sweater, a Golden Glow sweater. And she wanted it to have all the elements of the cherished story – every animal, plant, tree, and grape pâté sandwich. Mountains, rocks, Cousin Wolf, and even the golden glow itself…you name it, she wanted it on her sweater! 

Well, you know I love a challenge (and I can’t resist a request from my kids), so away I went. I wanted the sweater to be in sock weight because that would allow me to have the most detail at the yoke. For the colours, I wanted to replicate the warm palette of the book. I had the Strange Brew yoke recipe as a starting point, and from my colourwork stash, I came up with some Brooklyn Tweed Loft in just the right botanical greens. I was ready to go! 

a child in a colourwork sweater

A common mistake 

When I teach knitters how to create their own designs using the Strange Brew yoke recipe, I always offer this wise piece of advice: 

Don’t try to put every idea you’ve ever had into the yoke of a sweater. There just isn’t room, and focusing on one element you love makes for a much better design. 

But did I take my own advice? Of course not! I wanted to put every wonderful bit of this book into the yoke…and I suffered for it! I knit, ripped, re-knit, and ripped again. I could never seem to get a colour combination right on the first try. I had to make several trips to my LYS, Black Sheep Yarns, and Helen got a good chuckle every time I turned up for yet another skein. But that’s how colourwork goes sometimes – trial and error!

a child in a colourwork sweater

The hardest part of this project was figuring out how to nail the titular golden glow. I had to get the bright, flaxen yellow juuuust right, and after A LOT of experimenting, I landed on a teeny bit of Jamieson & Smith in the perfect hue.

a smiling child in a colourwork sweater

When I knit this sweater for Bodhi’s birthday, it was summer, so 3/4 sleeves were perfect. But when winter hit, she brought me her beloved jumper and asked for long sleeves. I added some colorful rainbow cuffs, which were sort of a pain to knit (not to mention those ends…), but she loves them.

a close up of the sleeve of a colourwork sweater

A gift for my dear Bodhi

At this point, I can’t really decide if the Golden Glow sweater is ugly or awesome..maybe it’s both. But Bodhi loves it, and I suppose that’s really all that matters. It was interesting for me to knit this sweater, knowing it wasn’t a design. It was just a knit – a knit to make a six year old happy on her birthday, a knit to go along with her young love of books and nature and adventure. She adores the little foxes, the bright yellow golden glow, and the tiny grape pâté sandwiches at the hem. My heart soars when I see her sitting in her special sweater, reading her favourite book. Ugly or awesome, it’s absolutely perfect.

~ Alexa

a child in a colourwork sweater

Dots and Dashes: Ombré in Morse Code

March 5, 2021

I am, and always will be, a sucker for ombré. It makes me happy to see colours fading from one to the next. Whether it’s a cool tonal palette or a whole rainbow of hues, it puts a smile on my face every time. This custom Strange Brew yoke is one of those happiness-inducing blends – the perfect pairing of a simple, graphic pattern and a sunset of warm, inviting colours.

A colourwork yoke pinned out on a black board
My yoke on the blocking boards

My inspiration

I was flipping through one of my many stitch dictionaries (everyone does that, right?), and I came across a pattern in knits and purls that I really liked. It was simple, just a few purls that stood out among a sea of stockinette. It stuck with me… But rather than going for texture, I wanted to apply the approach to colourwork – and the idea for a Morse Code yoke was born!

This dots-and-dashes design seemed tailor-made for a little ombré, so I pulled out some bits and bobs of Brooklyn Tweed Arbor in a warm, pleasing palette – and fought my urge to use a neutral as the main colour. Instead of the grey or cream I was gravitating towards, I went with an intense, deep teal.

A child facing away from the camera in a teal sweater with a warm ombre of colourwork.

A sweater for Bodhi

I love trying out new ideas on kid sweaters. It’s the perfect playground for my yoke ideas, and the result is a wearable little work of art. I followed the Strange Brew instructions for the size 8-10 with the wedge design option. Bodhi is only six, but I wanted to give her a little room to grow in this one.

I worked this sweater from the top–down. I cast on according to the Strange Brew instructions, worked a small increase round, followed my chart (below), and then knit a final increase round to get to the total stitch count. I then worked the short rows, body, and sleeves per the pattern. I focused all the fun in the yoke, keeping the body and sleeves plain.

a colourwork chart
I used this chart to create my Morse Code yoke.

Bodhi is so pleased with her fall sweater. I started it at the beginning of lockdown in March, and it was ready for her to wear when she went back to school in September. Bodhi is still little and smitten with anything her mum makes her, so she wears it all the time!

A child in a teal sweater with a warm ombre of colourwork at the yoke.

More Strange Brew

Will Emily and I every tire of yokes? Probably not! If you want to join us in our yoke obsession, we have lots of resources:

Strange Brew Directory: Check out all of our Strange Brew yokes (including charts) here.

A Week of Colour hats: This series includes strategies for choosing a colour palette.

How to Strange Brew: A series of posts on using the Strange Brew pattern to create your own unique sweater!

~ Alexa

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