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Beloved Handspun

March 8, 2019
2.5 year old Neve in a Beloved bonnet.

I really really really love handspun yarn. A day will come, I suspect, when I will direct a slice of my time and attention to learning and practicing spinning regularly. Now is not the moment, but that doesn’t dampen my enthusiasm for the end result of hand spinning! The subtle textures, the colour shifts, the springy feeling of the yarn, and the nubbly texture of a 2-ply handspun all fascinate, tempt, and divert me.

The novel nature of each yard that passes through your fingers can really heighten the experience of knitting – that’s probably also one of the reasons I love Noro yarns so much too.

Due to the side-to-side construction of the Beloved Bonnet, you can get really interesting effects if you knit it with a self-striping yarn, like this one. Do you love it or hate it? Although it doesn’t fall into any kind of clean minimalist aesthetic, I fall on the side of loving this kind of thing! Alexa might disagree…

Enough waxing poetic, Wessel!

When I bought these beautiful handspun skeins from The Sweatermaker ‘Mac’ yarns from Uptown yarns in my old home town of Courtenay, BC, I knew I’d really LOVE working with them. For me handspun is like the triple aged whiskey that someone breaks out on a very special occasion. It’s for SUBLIME knitting.

Lovely Sweatermaker Yarns

Last winter, Neve’s outgrew all of her baby sized hats, and so it was imperative that I make her a new Beloved bonnet.

Can you Cast On and Bind Off Before Baby?

Alexa has this personal tradition that she calls the ‘birth hat’. When a friend or family member begins her labour or heads in to the hospital for a cesarean, the birth partner sends Alexa a text to let her know. Then she casts on, and spends the next few hours knitting a baby hat for the tiny person making their dramatic transition from inside to out. It’s a small show of solidarity, sitting with her thoughts for both parents and baby, knitting love into fabric for the new one.

I LOVE this idea, and have done it a couple of times myself. I see this as a ‘snow day’; a delicious moment to step outside the flow of usual work and meditate on parenthood. While knitting, you might think back to the babes who are near and dear to you and about the changes that their lives have made in your own.

This little one is the child of two prolific knitters; @rofay and @tomhfay so his knit wardrobe? ACE.

I took this on when my friend Rosie had her baby, and this hat was the result. Alexa says she usually ‘binds off before baby’, with first babies, but with second babies the results are less certain! I don’t think she bound off before Max was born, and she certainly didn’t with Neve!

My second birth hat was this little bonnet I knit for my sister’s younger son, Charlie. What a cutie, eh?!

I’ve just recently cast on another Beloved bonnet. It’s always useful to add to the ‘gift box’ in preparation for new babies and birthdays. I also like to do this kind of a project as a ‘palette cleanser’ if I’m feeling stuck in my design work, OR if I have that perfect single skein, begging to be cast on.

For more Beloved inspiration, check out all of the awesome projects on Ravelry here as well as the #belovedbonnet hashtag on Instagram here.

Diverse Voices, Inclusive Images

February 28, 2019

This winter has seen a flowering of conversations within the Instagram knit community about the impacts of racism. Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) knitters have shared examples of the racism they’ve suffered both online and in real life at knitting groups, yarn shops, and knit events. Vox published a summary of the discussion to date here, it’s a reasonable place to start. Another is the Unfinished Object blog, which “explore(s) how diversity becomes inclusion, how representation morphs into change”.

So many BIPOC knitters and makers have shared their experiences, their feelings, and in so doing become targets of online hate. These knitters have taken big risks and suffered damaging consequences by speaking.

Vulnerability is oh so hard. It’s something you extend to friends, hoping that you will be held, and accepted. This vulnerability is something that many BIPOC knitters are extending to make a safer BIPOC space within the crafting community. This conversation has extended an opportunity to established white designers like Alexa and I, to make change for the better.

We personally would like to thank the following knitters and makers whose stories have impacted us: @su.krita, @ocean_bythesea, @thecolourmustard, @thepetiteknitter, @astitchtowear, @nadiratani, @kindahamaly, @jeanettesloan, @tyneswedish and so many more.

Thank-you for raising your voices, thank-you for sharing your stories.

We are sorry that our Instagram feed and our publications have, overwhelmingly, reinforced white norms of beauty, instead of challenging them. We are sorry that we personally have been ignorant and not educated ourselves beyond a superficial level on issues of racism, nor considered our white privilege critically.

Alexa and I have been listening, hearing, thinking, debating whether or how, as white women designers, we might contribute to this conversation. Unfortunately, waiting for the right words hasn’t lead to them. So we’ll fumble and falter, instead of remaining silent.

“We didn’t create racism, but that doesn’t absolve us of the responsibility to work to interrupt it.”

Omkari Williams in conversation with Layla Saad on her podcast here.

We believe this. And we are coming to learn what damage is done through passivity, through silence. We strive to learn to act and communicate differently.

Alexa and I have, for the most part, shared only pretty pictures of knitting and our children with you over the past 7 years, staying silent about politics, philosophy, parenting, what we’re reading and what we think and feel except as it relates directly to knitting. BUT for us, this conversation feels DIFFERENT. Different in impact, and different in importance.

In our minds, our work at Tin Can Knits has centered around a ‘you can knit this, we can help’ positive attitude toward making, an attitude with accessibility and inclusiveness as key. Voices speaking out for racial inclusion have shown us the ways which we have failed to do those things, we are sorry and we aim to do much better.

Intent isn’t the important thing; impact is. How our images and words land, how they make our audience feel, that’s what is critical.

This conversation changed my mind about the power of sharing stories on the internet. It also changed my perspective on my own responsibilities.

We are white designers and publishers, and we have a large audience and platform. To that end Alexa and I are thinking critically about the ways in which our content is exclusionary, and figuring out what we can do differently. We’re considering:

  • Our privileged positions: the ways in which we unfairly benefit from our white privilege, and from other intersecting privileges we hold.
  • The images we create; and other knitter’s images that we share, and how can we create a more diverse and inclusive vision with our work on Instagram and in published patterns and books.
  • Whose voices, outside of our own, are we sharing.
  • What products do we promote, and who benefits.
  • Our own influences, what we read, watch, listen to.
  • The education and resources we share with our audience.
  • The language we use; how we’re framing ‘normal’.

Some Antiracism resources we’ve found useful in our education process so far:

  • Where Change Started Introduction to Antiracism by Glenise Pike – helpful guidance and a place to start, with a glossary of terms.
  • Layla Saad – Me And White Supremacy Workbook – a self-guided examination of your personal position within our white supremacist society. Love her podcasts too.
  • White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo – written by a white woman for white people. Read it to learn to avoid defensiveness, to overcome your discomfort around speaking about race, to own your white racial identity, and to learn about interrupting racism.

There are many other excellent anti-racism educators out there, these are simply a few I have personally been finding helpful – Google and Instagram will lead you to many more.

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February 20, 2019

When I was designing the Icefall sweater, one of the most pleasant tasks was choosing just the right palette. After quite a lot of stitch pattern development, I settled upon the motif I would work with. But then, which colours to use? Instead of a symmetrical colour pattern, I had this idea to use 4 colours in a different way.

With this in mind I chose a deep rich blacky brown Tukuwool Fingering ’05 anga’ for the main colour of the jumper. Very dark and very light colours for a sweater body make for easy contrast colour choices. Everything pops!

The brights that I chose to set against this as the ‘panes’ of coloured glass were the next thing to choose. While traditional Fair-Isle patterns have a symmetrical arrangement of colour about a pattern centreline (loads of examples of that in this post), I had an idea about a 4-colour palette, with a different kind of symmetry. I thought I’d put the brighter colours, that would have stronger contrast with the body colour, at the centre, with the deeper, more saturated colours on either side. I decided to work two hues, one top, one bottom.

I trialed out A LOT of different options in Tukuwool Fingering (yup, I now have nearly ALL the colours, I love it!). My colour palette trials might give you ideas about how you’d like to work your version of Icefall.

How did I have the time and energy to make so many swatches? Spoiler alert: I used a knitting machine while I was developing both the motif, and then to choose the palette for this design. This allowed me to make slight adjustments to the stitch pattern, and then make a new swatch more quickly than would be possible if I hand-knit every option. And once I had settled on the final chart, I was able to check colour combinations much more quickly on the machine.

While there were many swatches I liked (I’m looking at you top right), I finally settled on the palette we used in Strange Brew, 29 murai, 28 taate, 02 humu, and h31 aava. I was so pleased with the effect of using the lighter/brighter tones in the center, it draws the eye in just the right way.

Alexa’s version of Icefall

While I toiled and debated, swatched, adjusted, and swatched again, Alexa let the yarn do the work! She chose a pretty light grey YOTH little brother ‘oyster’ from her stash and added a precious skein of Spincycle Dyed in the Wool in Melancholia. The light coloured body of the sweater meant the subtly changing teal really popped. Hunter was immediately smitten with the cropped sweater and has asked that all her sweaters be cropped from now on.

So, how what colour strategy will you use for your Icefall? There is always a lot of inspiration on Ravelry too!

Let’s Get Cozy

February 15, 2019

When the cold winds are howling outside your door and the mornings greet you with frosty window panes, it’s time to get cozy. As knitters, this our prime time, if anyone knows cozy, it’s us! We know how to hunker down wrapped in woollies, a steamy cuppa in hand, working on whatever is on our needles between sips.

We are so pleased to bring you our newest sweater pattern, perfect for wintry weather, the Antler pullover! We knit up in the super cushy Hinterland Range, a warm mix of 50% Canadian Rambouillet and 50% alpaca raised on the British Columbia coast.

The Antler Pullover

The Antler pullover is brought to you by popular demand! There have been more than a few knitters on Ravelry who hacked the original cardigan, and now you can knit it as a pullover too! The pullover has short row shaping to raise the back neck as well as a slightly deeper yoke and higher neckline than the cardigan. We hope you like the latest addition to the Antler family!

Antler Pullover Pattern Details:

Sizing: 0-6mo (6-12mo, 1-2yr, 2-4yr, 4-6yr, 6-8yr, 8-10yr, Women’s XXS, XS, S, SM, M, ML, L, LXL, XL, XXL, 3XL, 4XL, Men’s S, SM, M, ML, L, XL, XXL, 3XL, 4XL)

Finished Chest Measurement: 18.5 (19.5, 21.5, 23, 25, 26.5, 28.5, 30, 32, 34.5, 36.5, 38, 40, 42.5, 44.5, 46, 50.5, 54, 58.5, 36.5, 38, 40, 42.5, 44.5, 48, 52.5, 56, 60.5)”

Yarn: worsted / aran weight yarn
320 (350, 410, 480, 580, 640, 700, 800, 900, 1050, 1150, 1250, 1325, 1400, 1450, 1550, 1600, 1700, 1900, 1200, 1300, 1400, 1500, 1600, 1700, 1800, 1900, 2000) yards


Hinterland is run by the Hanahlie. After a career in photography and design, Hanahlie came to farming following her desire to make things with her hands. She raises rescue alpacas on Pender Island and Hinterland yarn is a mix of this alpaca fiber and Canadian wool; find her story here.

For the Antler pullover we used Hinterland Range, a wonderfully soft and warm yarn, it was a delight to work with! Hinterland’s yarn line also includes Watershed (a bulky weight yarn) and Dusk (a new fingering weight yarn) all with the same alpaca/wool mix. I picked up a few skeins of Dusk recently and can’t wait to cast on!

All That Sparkles

February 7, 2019

This little darling! Her smile and that dimple get me grinning every time!

Alexa has gone back down one of her favourite rabbit holes recently (the antler cable… something new coming oh so soon). This kindled in me a desperate desire to make an Antler cardigan for Neve! I’ve made one or two for Max, but poor second child that Neve is, she had thus far been neglected! So this lovely red Madelinetosh Vintage that had been languishing for some years in my stash became an Antler cardigan, and it was the perfect opportunity to use these lovely mismatched gold buttons from my stash too!

I’m a big fan of ‘similar’ buttons. They don’t need to match exactly, they just need to work well together as a set. More on my button love here.

There’s a great thrift shop near my house with an EXCELLENT button selection, and I love to go in there and rake through them, picking out ‘similar’ and ‘coordinating’ combinations of buttons. There’s just something so inspiring and intriguing about buttons, especially considering the past history of second-hand buttons… I can take a pleasant journey in my imagination thinking up their stories!

The yarn is Madelinetosh Vintage in ‘robin red breast’ – this is the very same yarn we originally designed the Antler Cardigan in originally. Years later I still love it to bits. It’s a great, robust, hard wearing and delightful semi-solid yarn for garment projects; especially well suited to sweaters for little ones which tend to require more laundering!

Sometimes, I throw my ‘work knitting’ to the back of the closet and just knit a project PURELY for the fun of it. These sparkly Barley hats were this kind of project! I knit them while visiting in-laws over Christmas; the pattern requires ZERO attention, and always seems to come out beautifully.

Other ‘just for pleasure’ knits that I made recently are these SUPER SPARKLY Barley hats for Neve and Max. Occasionally I spend my morning working at a cafe in a lovely department store here in Edinburgh, and occasionally I’ll peruse their yarn selection. It doesn’t have the great selection you would find at an independent LYS, but it’s still interesting when I want a little hit of colour and inspiration. This is where I stumbled across this outrageously sparkly stuff; it’s Rico Design Luxury Magic Mohair. I thought to myself, well, we’re probably not going to do a design in it, so I let it stay on the shelf. Right. Sensible.

Then the next week, I stopped on by to look at it again, once more deciding that it was impractical, and not buying it. Eventually, I told Alexa about this sparkle yarn I’d been obsessing over, and she laughed at me “That’s silly, if you love it you should get it!” So I felt a bit ridiculous and supposed she was right. Best not to shy away from inspiration! What are a few more balls going to do… ? While sparkles are not my norm, sometimes you need to give in to desire; and perhaps sparkly holiday hats are just the moment for impulsivity and indulgence!

Despite my desire to finish both John’s and my own Christmas jumpers (a leftover ambition from the Strange Brew KAL), I couldn’t help casting on immediately, and these two barley hats were the result! The kids love them of course!

The Simple Collection – Fabulous Free Patterns

Have you knit something from The Simple Collection? We published this free learn-to-knit series of simple modern patterns back in 2013, but have been gradually adding to it ever since! The first 8 patterns were all made in worsted-weight yarn, but we’ve since added some lightweight versions; the Flax Light sweater, the Barley Light hat, and we started this year ‘best foot forward’ with the Rye Light socks. There are now 13 free patterns to choose from!

There is PROBABLY something that you need to knit from The Simple Collection. The Barley hat, for example, has nearly 19,000 listed projects on Ravelry, at the time of this blog post. Clearly it’s a fan favourite, and it’s pretty easy to see why!

How to knit an i-cord

January 26, 2019

An i-cord is just a little tube of knitting. It is a great way to make tie for any knit item that might require it. You can use this technique to connect up your mittens so they don’t get lost, create ties for the Cable Me Softly booties to keep them on the wiggly baby feet, or make the ties for the Beloved Bonnet.

Bodhi is wearing her Beloved Bonnet with i-cord ties. It is knit up in Cedar House Yarns Yearling DK in ‘sunstone’.

To make an i-cord you will need yarn and double pointed needles (a circular needle will work just as well, but it’s a little fussier because you have to slide your stitches all the way from one end to the other).

Ready to make my i-cord!

An i-cord can be creating using 2, 3, 4, 5 or sts. For this tutorial I am working a 4 stitch i-cord for my bonnet.

How to knit an i-cord:

  1. Cast on 4 sts (I used a long tail cast on).
  2. Slide your stitches from one end of the DPN (or circular needle) to the other. Your working yarn will be coming from the 4th stitch cast on.
  3. Knit those 4 stitches.

Repeat instructions 2-3 until your i-cord is the desired length.

1. Cast on 4 stitches.
2. Slide those 4 stitches to the other end of the DPN (or circular needle). Note that the working yarn is coming from the 4th stitch.
Ready to knit those 4 stitches, the working yarn is coming from the 4th stitch so you are going to bring it across the back of your stitches to knit that first stitch.
After you knit those 4 stitches give your tail a little tug and your i-cord will look like this.
Here I have slid those 4 stitches to the other end of the needle so my working yarn again comes from the 4th stitch. I will bring it across the back to knit that first stitch.
As you repeat steps 2 and 3 your i-cord will start to grow!

To keep the tension even in your i-cord, after you have knit the first stitch of the set, give it an extra tug so it’s nice and snug.

That’s it! I-cord is easy peasy once you get the hang of it!

Patterns perfect for i-cord from Tin Can Knits: Beloved, The World’s Simplest Mittens, and Cable me Softly


January 10, 2019
For Christmas this year, I had the ambition to make a family of yoke sweaters using our Strange Brew Recipe. I finished two of the four I had planned in time for the photo… that’s not bad, right? Luckily I had a dozen other yokes to choose from, so we are well cozy in wool!

For me, 2018 was ‘the year of the yoke’. I’m sure that applies to many knitters out there, right? Yokes are so hot right now, and it’s easy to understand why. Once you knit one… It can be difficult to stop!

As a designer, I was SUPER excited to publish our Strange Brew yoke recipe pattern, because it meant that I could knit just about ANYTHING… using a single pattern. I could knit it a little differently each time, depending on my mood and inspiration.

My Sweater

This Strange Brew yoke sweater is a knit that I improvised on the needles. I cast on, working from the top down, working with a palette of yarns that interested me! I followed the Strange Brew instructions for cast-on and initial increase of a sock-weight top-down sweater.

This has been my most-worn sweater for the past 6 months, ever since it came off the needles! I’ve just bought some more so I can make another one in the same yarn – De Rerum Natura Ullysse – but a different colour, so that this one can have a rest once in awhile!

How I worked out the yoke design:

Because I was working the yoke by feel, I began with a 4-stitch repeat, with a vague plan to add stitches to the repeat, to eventually arrive at an 8-stitch repeat, and thus double my stitches, by the time I’d worked about half of the yoke depth. Tip: A wedge chart that doubles in stitch count by half-way through the yoke depth is generally a solid bet.

As I worked, I switched out one colour at a time, creating an alternating pattern of rectangles. As long as I liked the combination of the yarn that I added in, I would continue, without too much thought as to an overall plan for the yoke. Only at one point, in the centre of the pattern, did I begin to break my own rules, creating a set of little squares that alternated with the background colour.

Once I’d worked half-way through the pattern, I had established a palette of colours I liked, and from that point on I simply used each of them once more, to bring a cohesive and intentional look to the finished design. Using the forest green as the final colour also helped tie the design together, as it was the CC colour I had begun with at the neckline, and its low-contrast pairing against the navy means it creates a blendy edge to the colourwork.

As you can see here, the wider columns of colour (which have the little navy boxes inset within them) are formed mainly of lighter colours, and so they stand out against the deep pink, navy, and olive green of the narrower columns of colour. This effect of ‘columns’ could be enhanced or diminished using colour placement.

The wedge pattern, thus developed, had only increased from 4 sts per repeat up to 7 sts per repeat. I went a little off-piste and added in some raglan shaping points while I did the short-row shaping at the back of the yoke, and working a few extra rounds to get the desired yoke depth.

The stockinette body and sleeves of this jumper I completed on the knitting machine, which means they are seamed. I shaped the body with waist shaping, which is an option given in the Strange Brew pattern. I made the body a little bit cropped, and the sleeves are a little bit long, so I fold them back most of the time.

I REALLY love this yarn. De Rerum Natura Ulysse is soft but sturdy, and comes in INTERESTING colours. My next Strange Brew sweater in this yarn will have this fabulous red-orange heather as the main colour.

De Rerum Natura Ulysse

The yarn is De Rerum Natura Ulysse, a sport-weight yarn that I used when I made the child-sized samples for the Compass sweater and Compass cowl designs (from the Strange Brew collection). I really love this yarn to bits. It’s a French & Portuguese grown and milled merino that’s been woollen spun, and it comes in a sophisticated palette of subtle heathers. I found that the fabric pilled quite a bit at first, but after the first time I shaved the sweater, it has looked great and has not produced many more pills. A sweater in this yarn is the perfect weight for me. I find it soft enough for against-the-skin wear which is great for me because I usually wear tank-tops under my sweaters.

An ‘odd duck’ palette – pushing my boundaries out

The palette I chose was a bit of an ‘odd duck’ for me. With the exception of the navy MC, these are not colours I’m usually drawn to; either on their own, or in combination! But developing the Strange Brew recipe pattern and collection has given me a framework in which to push my skills and experience in combining colours outside of my comfort zone! Frankly, it’s much more interesting for me to attempt combinations I’m uncertain of than it is to stick with tried-and-true palettes. While this means more ripping and re-knitting, it’s also more satisfying when I land on a combination like this one that really speaks to me!

Navy, Olive, Fucsia, Orange, Pale Blue, and Pale Pink… who would guess this would work?

I’m sorely tempted to cast on and make another just like this in a different palette, because the process of making this sweater was just so fun and satisfying, and I’ve hardly taken it off since it was finished in the spring.

Design your own yoke sweater!

We’ve put together a host of tutorials that can guide you as you use our Strange Brew recipe pattern to design your own colourwork yoke sweater, including a tutorial on planning a steek, just in case cardigans are really more your thing!

More colourwork from Tin Can Knits:

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