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Yellow for Jones

December 7, 2017

Jones is the only one of my kids with a strong colour preference. Hunter likes all colours in different shades at different times, and Bodhi changes her mind pretty regularly too. But Jones wants yellow. Always. If it’s not yellow, it’s not for him. So Jones got the yellow September sweater this year (details on all the September sweater here)!

Project Details:

Pattern: Strange Brew
Yarn: Brooklyn Tweed Arbor in ‘Klimt’
Size: 6-8 (Jones wears commercial clothing in size 6)

I knit Jonesie’s sweater last. I had begun with a clear idea for Hunter and a vague snowflake concept for Bodhi, but when I got to the third of my September sweaters (check them all out here) I was momentarily stumped. What to do… So after a little uncertainty I just did what we recommend in the Strange Brew pattern: just do it! I took the path of least resistance and used the pattern exactly as it is intended. I picked a few smaller scale motifs from those listed in the Strange Brew pattern and just followed the instructions. I worked short row shaping before my motifs. I worked a couple of patterns, a decrease round, a couple more patterns, another decrease round, a final pattern, a final decrease round, and then ribbing. Sometimes keeping it simple is just right, eh?!

I am so pleased with his sweater, I always love the look of small repeat Fair Isle. I designed the Tenderheart sweater this way, and the Dog Star sweater had only slightly larger motifs. I doubt I’m finished with the idea either!

Tomorrow will be all about Bodhi’s snowflakes!

For the love of simple Fair Isle:

Hunter’s Yoke

December 6, 2017

For Hunter’s September sweater (details on all the September sweaters here) this year I decided to go with the lovely wedge chart we included as an example in the Strange Brew pattern. It has a pretty icicle feel to it, and I loved the little diamonds in between. In order to work in this chart I had to make a few small alterations to the stitch count at the yoke.

Project Details:

Pattern: Strange Brew with mods (detailed below)
Yarn: Brooklyn Tweed Arbor in ‘Alizarin’
Size: 8-10 yr (Hunter wears a commercial size 7-8 so I knit it with a little room to grow)

To begin, I knit the sleeves and body per pattern. Once I had joined it all together for the yoke I worked short row shaping before starting the yoke patterning. I didn’t want short row shaping above the charts, it seemed better to have the icicles extend all the way to the neckline. The chart was a multiple of 16 sts, so I needed to decrease 216 to 208 sts to accommodate this (13 x 16 = 208). I worked my 8 decreases on the last round of my short row shaping, while picking up my wraps.

I used this chart (it’s included within the Strange Brew pattern), which begins as a 16-stitch repeat, and decreases to a 6-stitch repeat by round 34.

Next I worked the chart as it was. It was a few rounds taller than I needed for Hunter’s size, but I figured a few rounds wouldn’t break anything. As the chart fit 13 times around this yoke, when I was finished the chart I had 78 sts, rather than the 96 sts I was aiming for in the 8-10 year size. I debated taking it back a few rounds and skipping the last set of decreases (which would have given me 104 sts), but knitting is pretty stretchy and I was already done, so I worked the ribbing, a loose bind off, and it still fit just fine. If it had been too tight, I could have taken it back to round 34 of the chart, skipped the decreases there, and had 104 sts (13 repeats x 8 sts). Then I could have decreased 8 sts to 96 sts before the ribbing.

Voila! Hunter loves it, and it can even double as her Christmas sweater in all it’s red and white glory. Tomorrow I will detail Jonesy’s yoke!

More Fair Isle on kiddos from TCK:

A Tenderheart for Arlo

December 5, 2017

It’s a funny thing knitting for babies. They are so tiny when they’re born, but grow so fast, it all seems a bit unbelievable. When I was pregnant with Jones I pulled out the baby clothes from Hunter and thought to myself ‘No, that’s impossible. She can’t have fit in those clothes!’. I mean, I definitely had photographic evidence that she did indeed fit those clothes, but it bent my brain to reconcile the 2 year old in front of me with those tiny onesies and wee joggers.

When knitting for kids it is always advisable to knit a little bigger rather than a little small (more wear for your hard work right?!). However, for newborns, it seems you can’t knit small enough, and they fit for about 5 whole minutes. For more of our (somewhat expert?) recommendations of knitting for babies, check out this post!

The smallest size included in the Tenderheart pattern is 0-6 months, and that is quite a range. It fits a 6 month old better than a newborn (but babies vary quite a bit too!). Emily knit up a 0-6 month Tenderheart in no time… but it was enormous on wee Arlo! He will fit into that sweater very soon, but she wanted it to fit just right for our epic September Sweater photoshoot. So she cast on another and it was even smaller and faster than the first! Her newborn size modifications are listed below.

Project Details:

Pattern: Tenderheart (with the mods listed below)
Yarn: Brooklyn Tweed Arbor in ‘cobbler’
Size: Teeny Tiny – smaller than 0-6 months

Newborn Size Modifications:
Sleeves: cast on 24 sts, work 1.25” ribbing. Worked 2 sets of increases (28 sts), knit until sleeve was 5.5”. 6 underarm sts.
Body: cast on 88, worked 1.25” ribbing, knit until body was 6”
Join body and yoke: with 6 underarm sts at sleeves and body I had 120 sts for the yoke.
Yoke: Worked chart rounds 7-28 so there were 60 sts at the neckline and did 0.75” of ribbing at the neckline.

Arlo looked so cute with his cousins, and big cousin Hunter was so proud to be holding him for the camera. Tomorrow I detail Hunter’s icicle yoke!

More knits for the teeny tiny from TCK:

Go Big or Go Home – the September Sweater

December 4, 2017

It is often said that one should ‘go big or go home’, and I try to live according to that motto at least some of the time. If ever there was a ‘go big’ it was the invention of the September sweater. The September Sweaters are a sweater for each kid, according to some sort of theme, each September(ish). September sweaters are accompanied by a wild photoshoot, with much sugary bribery, and exhaustion after only 1/2 hour or so.

My sister-in-law Emily and I have accomplished this epic feat 2 years running and it is now a permanent addition to my yearly knit list. We might be nuts, but I think it’s worth it!

Last year’s September sweater featured Flax, with a little rainbow

Last year we did Flax sweaters for all four cousins, all with lovely rainbow stripes, giving them a sort of nostalgic 80’s feel. It was an epic amount of knitting, an even more epic photoshoot, and the end result might be my favourite photo I’ve ever taken.

Fast forward to this year. We decided to keep with the rainbow theme, but wanted to do more of a coordinated effort, rather than matchy-matchy. We picked up a gorgeous rainbow of Brooklyn Tweed Arbor (knowing there was a 5th cousin on the way) and set to knitting!

Brooklyn Tweed Arbor, from left to right: Alizarin, Klimt, Wreath, Sashiko, and Cobbler

We were originally going to knit them all Tenderheart sweaters, but once I started designing Strange Brew yokes I didn’t want to knit the same thing twice! Emily knit a wee Tenderheart for Arlo (with a few mods to make it fit a newborn, details here), and a Dog Star for Ellis.


Ellis’ Dog Star sweater is the only one we knit straight from the pattern, no mods! It came out so cute, and Ellis looks so big compared to last year’s photo!

For Hunter, Jones, and Bodhi I worked on new yoke designs, following the Strange Brew recipe pattern and enjoying the limited pressure of using only 2 colours, and the endless possibilities in a yoke! Charts and details for Hunter’s sweater are here, Jones’ sweater are here, and Bodhi’s sweater are here.

Do you go big, or prefer to keep things reined in when it comes to your knitting projects? Emily wrote last week about about how knitting can help you develop grit and the endurance to tackle larger projects, do you agree?

Planning September Sweaters for next year… the short list includes:

Stitch by Stitch: Knitting and Grit

November 30, 2017

One of the things I’ve developed through knitting is grit; for me this means an ability to tackle larger, longer-term projects, and persevere, despite setbacks, until they’re done.

Keeping my eyes on the distant prize, working through blocks, and bringing projects to completion doesn’t come easily to me, and I’ll be the first to admit that I have still got a lot of learning to do! Yet, with Alexa by my side (metaphoric cattle prod in hand) together we have managed to complete several book projects which have taken months or years from our conception, through gradual stitch-by-stitch and word by word development, to print.

Striped Swatch

Every project starts with a small beginning. Knitting projects proceed slowly, stitch by stitch.

Grit as behavioural trait has been recently popularized in part by the work of Angela Lee Duckworth; you can listen to her popular Ted Talk here. It is a bundle of learnable behaviours or orientations including motivation to work hard over the long term toward goals, willingness to stretch and possibly fail (courage), the ability to bounce back after setbacks (resilience), and belief that your actions matter.

After making 6-8 smaller swatches when designing the Chromatic sweater, then got this far into the final knit before deciding that the blue tones had to go. So I ripped back and began again. See the final result here.

I feel that grit and endurance is something that knitters cannot help but gradually gain, because knitting is such a SLOW way to arrive at anything useful! If you keep up with it, finishing one project and casting on the next, you can’t help but teach yourself that YES, stitch by stitch I CAN tackle this hat, new technique, sock, shawl, cardigan, king-size bedspread, college degree, or even parenthood!

Mad Colour Blankets

The number of stitches and hours that Alexa and I put in to bring you this bundle of blankets was not insignificant! Blankets are one of the largest and most satisfying projects I’ve made.

This week I’ve survived a household full of the cold, and also the desperate last few days of my month-long novel project. I bet there are a few of you out there who signed up to knit a sweater in a month during NaKniSweMo, right? I hope you’re ready to bind off today. I’m pleased to say that I have just this morning written the final words ‘The End’ on my 50,000 word novel.

Working on that project, I REALLY enjoyed the daily chunks of time I dedicated to writing, putting it ahead of pretty much everything else, generally getting most of my daily 1700 words onto the paper before 7:30 am. Despite a hectic schedule of nearly full-time work, plus two toddlers to get out to nursery then home, fed, books read, and to bed every day, 1.5-2 hours per day was actually possible (and to my surprise, almost entirely pleasurable!). Making it a daily necessity meant that it simply got done, and hour or two at a time.

This creative marathon finished, below are a few of the things that I struggled with, which may relate to your own knitting or creative work.

nasty voice of SELF DOUBT

Nasty Little Voice of Self Doubt: “This is a stupid, pointless project. It’s rubbish and you’ll never share it with anybody anyway, so what’s the point?” or “Geez this is embarassingly BAD, what were you thinking?!”

Emily: “Surely this isn’t any less pointless than an hour or two of Netflix, and it’s way more fun!”and “If I don’t try, if I don’t write a first draft or knit a first prototype, I’ll never make anything beautiful or meaningful!”

There are elements of this yoke prototype (which I worked as part of the Strange Brew KAL) that I didn’t love, but despite what I felt were imperfections, I decided to push through to completion. Finishing a rough draft can be more valuable than aiming for perfection.

Of course, if you’re struggling with uncertainty over a knitting or design project, you may be able to work on it WHILE watching Netflix… possibly an even bigger win-win?!

The SLOG in the middle

Oh the middle. Self doubt can cripple you there (see above) as can the sheer daily slog of getting the work done, bit by bit. For me the middle of the novel writing was a bit like knitting the stockinette body of a man-sized seamless jumper in the round. You can the time in, but sometimes it feels so pointless, as the work grows a meager inch per day. Keep going! Find ways to distract yourself and celebrate every of forward progress you make.

The difficulty of FINISHING

I find finishing things VERY difficult. The novel project has been harder to finish than many, but I honestly come up against this difficulty with all but my simplest and least-demanding knitting projects too. The piece below (check out the finished cowl here) languished for at least a year!

Creative spill-over

I’d hoped for creative spill-over from this writing project into my knitting and design work. And I think that I’ve started to feel this. First, in the drafting of work; both written work and design work – I’m inspired to begin sooner, work more iterations, and explore more ideas before completing a project. Second, in the taking on of very large projects, I’ve become even more confident in my ability to finish. And third, in the desire to wrap things up, and get the big pile of niggling works-in-progress out of the closet and into my life!

This is just a part of the pile of WIPS (works in progress) that I’m aiming to complete or let go by the end of the year. And that’s only knitting… I guess I’ll tackle my sewing and home decorating projects-in-progress next year!

What’s your style?

Do you stick to quick projects, or invest the long-term effort in epic big ones?

Are you a monogamous knitter, or do you have a million unfinished objects lining your closets?

Which part of a project do you struggle with, and does perfectionism hold you back?

Itching to cast on? Some big TCK projects we recommend:

POP blanket


Fair Isle All Over

November 28, 2017

When we first designed the Strange Brew pattern I immediately wanted to take it to the next level. Patterning at the yoke? Nice. But patterning all over?! Yes! I had to do it!

Strange Brew

The Strange Brew recipe gives you the freedom to work patterns at cuffs and hem or all over; or keep it simple and stick to the yoke.

Planning an all-over sweater takes a little more math and a little more thinking ahead, but can make for a very high-impact result. For my Strange Brew knit-along sweater (all the KAL details are here) I decided that I wanted to take things one step further: all-over Fair Isle with a rainbow!

My youngest daughter Bodhi is obsessed with rainbows right now and so I pulled out my vaguely obscene stash of Tanis Fiber Arts DK to begin. This may have been a bad move. Faced with this crazy rainbow, I was immediately overwhelmed with options and put the project aside. I needed a little more time to think (or perhaps just the pressure of a deadline?).

Prism Hat

This fabulous rainbow Prism Hat uses tone-on-tone rainbow stripes.

Things I had to consider….

Once I had relaxed a little, I began to think this project through. I needed to gather some information to make sure I didn’t end up with a sweater that moved from red to orange to yellow to green…..and ran out of room for blue and purple. How did I go about this?

  1. I measured a sweater I like on Bodhi. I knew I was going to knit the 4-6 year size (she’s nearly 4), but it’s always a good idea to check and see if you want to change the lengths. For Bodhi I decided to knit 12″ for both the sleeves and the body, as called for in the pattern.
  2. I checked my colourwork gauge (note, if the entire sweater is in colourwork, swatching in stockinette makes no sense), and it is 22 sts & 30 rounds for 4″. This means every 7.5 rounds is one inch in length. For the body and the sleeves I needed to discount 1.5″ for the cuff and hem ribbing, so I had 10.5 inches (12-1.5=10.5) in the sleeves and body to work with. 10.5″ x 7.5 rounds per inch = 78.75 rounds, I rounded that to 78.
  3. Next I checked the number of rounds in the yoke. I decided not to include short row shaping for this sweater. It is for a wee one and it wouldn’t really work with my patterning plan. The yoke join, one knit round, and decrease round, plus the 31 rounds of patterning makes 34 rounds in the yoke before ribbing at the collar.
  4. This meant my sweater was 78 + 34 = 112 rounds. I could divide this by the number of colours I chose (8) and make it all nice and even, no risk of my rainbow missing a colour!

Choosing my rainbow

I originally intended to use ALL the colours, but once I had laid them all out I decided to be a bit more selective. There were a few options of course, all of which I liked for different reasons, but I finally went with this one:

Tanis Fiber Arts DK in Grape, Lilac, Peacock, Sea Breeze, Frost, Lotus, Spearmint, Lemongrass, Caramel, Buttercup, Orange Blossom, Brick, Poppy, Grapefruit, Plum, and Orchid

I chose 8 tonal pairings that I thought would contrast well enough, but I’m sure I’ll learn a few things on the needles! This will make for a rather vivid sweater, but in my experience 3-year-olds are pretty okay with that.

So I had my colours chosen, I had some idea of the small repeat motifs I wanted to use (but mainly I was willing to wing-it in the motif department) and I knew I needed about 14 rounds per colouring pairing (112 total rounds / 8 colours = 14). I was ready! Except…..what colour did I want for the cuffs and hem? This set the project back another few days as I pondered my options. In the end I decided I had no idea and worked a provisional cast on for the body. Hopefully the answer will come to me when the sweater is complete!

Once I have the body complete to the underarms I will have chosen my motifs and I will know whether my colour pairings will work the way I think they will. Then it will be time to figure out the sleeves…..stay tuned!

How is your Strange Brew KAL sweater coming along? Check out the hashtag #strangebrewKAL on Instagram to see all of the fun!

This is Emily’s first Strange Brew KAL sweater. She’ll be sharing all the details on the blog soon… and she’s feverishly working on another one before December 11th rolls around…

More Rainbow fun from TCK:

Heart On My Sleeve – over $53,000 donated – 40,000 people protected

November 24, 2017

Hurrah for knitters! Since the Heart On My Sleeve ebook launch in February, we’ve sold over 3200 ebooks and donated all of the income (a whopping total of $53,745 USD) to the Against Malaria Foundation. The funds raised so far will buy over 22,000 long-lasting insecticidal bed nets which are set to be distributed in Malawi, Papua New Guinea, and Uganda (it’s easy to track the distribution of the funds we’ve raised on the Against Malaria website).

In human terms, this means that the entire populations of 70-80 villages have been protected through our efforts. These are people who would not have been safe from malaria, who now are. Malaria most affects children under 5 and pregnant women, for some of these people our donations will mean the difference between having their toddler or pregnant sister die of this preventable disease, or live to adulthood. I guess what I’m trying to say is that the impact of each dollar raised is not trivial.

Wholehearted, Tenderheart, and Ironheart are three of the great designs from Heart On My Sleeve.

Every two weeks as I transfer the period’s earnings to the Against Malaria Foundation, it lifts my spirits a little to be doing something positive. So many in this world suffer such hardship, and learning of these hardships while I sit and knit in comfort and safety can engender a feeling of disconnect.

I personally struggle with this. I experience a resistance to look, an anxiety about opening my eyes to the harsher realities of the world around me. Often when I learn a little about the children and babies dying needlessly of a preventable disease like malaria, about waves of people being displaced from no-longer-safe homes, about our destruction of environments and the suffering of working poor and oppressed folk in my own community I feel a need to shelter myself within my own little bubble of happy (privileged) existence.

Buy it NOW – The Heart On My Sleeve ebook is only available until February 2018, so get your copy now!

I find the only way to keep eyes open and at the same time maintain the emotional balance needed to take care of myself and my family is to focus on one action at a time. We, all of us, are only able to act in small ways. As parents, Alexa and I feel that there is nothing we wouldn’t do to protect our children, and sought a way to extend that concept of care beyond our own personal circle.

Alexa and I decided one way to act was to coordinate Heart On My Sleeve to raise funds for the Against Malaria Foundation. This project allowed us to do what we were already good at (knit design) and contribute to a cause outside of our immediate families. Obviously our impulse resonated with other designers, as 7 others jumped wholeheartedly on board with our idea, and each contributed a design. Once more I’d like to thank Shannon Cook, Romi Hill, Bristol Ivy, Tanis Lavallée, Joji Locatelli, Jane Richmond, and Ysolda Teague, and for their generous contribution of a pattern. Learn more about the contributing designers here.

Hearthstone, by Ysolda Teague, features a lovely cable detail along raglan lines.

On a personal note, Alexa and I have enjoyed the connections this project has initiated and grown. I’ve gotten to know Bristol Ivy a little bit better (check out her lovely new book!). I’ve enjoyed the chance to work with Ysolda, who lives here in Edinburgh (her hometown, and my adopted hometown) and is thus able to meet up for knitting dates every so often. We photographed her and Max in the Hearthstone sweater at the National Museum of Scotland, and there was so much running around! Some of the best photos were shot by her 7-year-old sister, Lolita! Obviously creative talent runs in the family.

Jane Richmond and Shannon Cook collaborated on the Lionheart hoodie.

While visiting family in Victoria, I enjoyed a beautiful afternoon at the photographing Jane Richmond whose collaboration with Shannon Cook epitomizes the relaxed-beachy-casual that I love Vancouver Island for. I was ecstatic to work with Romi Hill (one of my design idols!) and Alexa had the chance to hug her IRL at Knit City this year. I also absolutely loved throwing colour at Tanis Lavallée’s brilliant colourwork design, Crazyheart, when I knit one for Max.


I loved choosing colours for this Crazyheart, a delicious design by Tanis Lavallée.

And last but definitely not least, Alexa had a chance to meet up with Joji and Veera, along with Felicia of SweetGeorgia Yarns, while they were visiting Vancouver! It was a wonderful year for us to get to know some of the designers we have admired from afar a little bit better. All involved were so happy to contribute and so generous of their time and talents. It really was a joy to put this project together.

Joji Locatelli’s design, Heartstring, is elegant on an adults, and adorable on little ones too!

Gift a copy of Heart On My Sleeve today!

Heart On My Sleeve is a one-year fundraiser; after February 2018, the ebook will no longer be available. So get your copy right now! If you’ve already supported this project, thank you so much! If you want to contribute further, you can always donate directly to the Against Malaria Foundation here.

We will be hosting a Heart On My Sleeve KAL starting in mid January, 2018. If you’re an advance planner, get a copy of the book now, and add a sweater’s worth of yarn to your wish list! If you’re looking for a perfect gift for a knitter near to your heart, I’d suggest you gift them a copy of the ebook, and make a plan to participate in the KAL together.

A few of my favourite knitter’s projects made from the Heart On My Sleeve collection are featured on in this Pinterest board:

Knitting as action, knitting as comfort

In the face of the seemingly overwhelming suffering in the world around us, how do you act?

Does the stitch-by-stitch rhythm of knitting bring you comfort in the face of things that you cannot change?

Some of the lovely designs from Heart On My Sleeve:

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