Monthly Archives: August 2012

Fall in Love with Sweater Knitting KAL: Tips for Knitting a Sweater with Hand-Dyed Yarn

As you know, we’re big fans of hand-dyed yarn here at Stash and they certainly help with that “Wow” factor in our finished projects. Since every skein of hand-dyed yarn is a little bit different, it can be a bit challenging to use in larger projects. However, there are some tips and tricks you can use to make sure that you’re happy with your finished sweater!

Here’s what you probably don’t want your sweater to look like:

No woman wants a line directly across the chest area! Needless to say, this sweater ended up in the frog pond.

There are a few things that went wrong here. The first being that my skeins didn’t match as closely as they should have. I also alternated the darkest two skeins instead of using all three at once.

So, how can you avoid a sweater with a big, obvious line when you change skeins?

1. When you’re shopping for yarn, choose the skeins that look the most alike. Sometimes it’s hard to tell when they’re twisted in their skeins, so it’s often a good idea to un-skein them and lay them next to each other. Like this:

2. Alternate Skeins while you knit. There are a few different ways to do this that we’ll discuss in just a minute.

3. If you’re knitting a top-down sweater, Save some yarn from the top to use when you go back and knit the sleeves. TRUST ME on this one (I speak from experience). It doesn’t need to be a lot, but I’d suggest phasing the skein you’re using when you split for the sleeves out and putting it aside to be used later. When you get ready to knit the sleeves, pull this skein out and use 1/2 for the top of each sleeve.

4. If you have skeins in your stash that you’re using and one skein is a bit different than the rest, use the different skein for things like trim, button bands, hems, and neckbands.

Alternating Skeins – to alternate skeins, work from two balls of yarn. Switch yarns every 2 rows (you can do 3 or 4 if you’re knitting in the round) by picking up the second strand of yarn from underneath the strand you’re working with. Make sure not to pull too tight when you pick up the new strand. 

If your skeins match really well, you can just alternate as you get close to the end of your ball to transition to the next one. It will look like this on the inside of your knitting:

When you knit a cardigan with button bands (or just front bands/collar) that are knit on afterwards, such as the Calligraphy Cardigan, you can alternate right at the edge of your knitting every 2 rows. Easy peasy.

If you’re knitting a pullover from the top town, alternate starting at the back raglan and after you split for the sleeves, alternate at the side seam. If the sweater is knit from the bottom up, you would alternate at the side seam and then transition to the back raglan.

This isn’t a pullover, but it has a decent shot of the back of the sweater so you can see where to alternate.

For a cardigan that has you knit the front bands as you go, you can either alternate at the sideseam/back raglan as in the previous example or you can alternate where the body meets the front band.

For Sleeves: alternate at the underarm, which will be the beginning of your round for each sleeve.

I know alternating skeins sounds a bit tedious, but it’s really worth it when knitting with hand-dyed yarn. I’ve never been sorry that I’ve alternated skeins, but several times that I haven’t I’ve regretted it (see: frogged sweater at the top of the post!).

Let us know if we can help you pick out well matching skeins at the shop or help you decide the best place to alternate skeins!

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Fall in Love with Sweater Knitting KAL: Deciphering Your Swatch and Choosing a Sweater Size

Before we talk about the washed swatch, let’s talk about choosing the right size for your sweater. The first thing you’re going to want to do is take your measurements. I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on taking measurements, but there are some fantastic resources out there. Amy Herzog has a great post in the Fit to Flatter series about taking your measurements. There’s even a printable PDF to keep track of all the information you collect. If you have Little Red in the City by Ysolda Teague, you can take a look there for tips on taking measurements and she also provides a sheet to record all of your numbers.

EASE:

Now that you have your measurements, you’ll need to decide how much ease you’d like in your sweater. There are three types of ease: Positive, Negative, and Zero. Positive Ease means that your finished sweater measurements are larger than your body measurements. Negative Ease is when your sweater measurements are smaller than your body measurements and Zero Ease means that your sweater and your body measurements are the same.

Take out a favorite store-bought sweater and take it’s measurements. This is usually a good place to start to figure out how much ease you’d like. I think one of the biggest mistakes that new sweater knitters make is choosing a size that is too large. I like to use my high bust measurement instead of full bust to choose my size. This will give you a good fit through top of the sweater, a bit of negative ease at full bust, and a good fit through the waist. Of course, not everyone is comfortable with a close fitting sweater and it really depends on your comfort level, the pattern, and the yarn.

Let’s look at a couple of examples:

This sweater was knit with zero ease at the full bust. I knew I’d want to wear a t-shirt underneath it, and I didn’t want the cables to pull at the bust.

This sweater was knit with about 2 inches of negative ease at the full bust (so zero ease at high bust). It was knit in a bulky yarn, and let’s be honest- none of us want to look more bulky, right?!

Choosing a Size from the Pattern:

After you’ve decided how much ease you’d like in your sweater, take a look at the pattern schematic. This will tell you the Finished Measurements of the sweater. Is there a size that is close to what you’d like for your finished sweater? Don’t get too caught up in inspecting every single measurement right off the bat. Focus on the finished chest measurement. You can make some really easy changes later on to adjust the sleeves, waist, and hem if you’d like them to be different than the pattern measurements.

Now…measure the gauge on your washed swatch. Don’t worry too much about row gauge, focus on the stitches per inch.

If your gauge matches the pattern gauge, great! You can cast-on for your sweater !

If not, you can do 1 of 2 things. You can either do another swatch with a different sized needle to try and get an exact match or you can do a little math and do the sweater with the needle size that you swatched with.

Why is gauge so important? For smaller projects, being off by a stitch or two over 4 inches doesn’t always matter too much. However, when you’re talking about hundreds of stitches for the circumference of a sweater, those stitches add up fast. If the pattern gauge is 20 sts/4 inches and you are getting 18 sts/4 inches your sweater will be 22% larger if you don’t adjust for the difference. So, if you wanted your sweater to be 34″ it would actually end up being 41″! Take the time to adjust your gauge or do the math! 

Doing the Math:

You only want to go this route if you’re not too far off on your gauge. One or two stitches over 4 inches is fine…but if you are way off, go back and swatch again. Take a deep breath, this isn’t as complicated as it seems and I’d be more than happy to help you figure out the math over in our Ravelry Group (or at the shop!) if you aren’t sure about it.

Let’s use the Featherweight Cardigan as an example. The gauge in the pattern is 24 sts/4 inches. Say your gauge is 22 sts/4 inches. Less stitches per inch mean that your sweater will be larger than the schematic measurements. 

Take the PATTERN gauge divided by YOUR gauge and multiply that number by the finished measurement that is closest to the size you want.

If you want to make the 38.75″ size… 24/22= 1.09 & 1.09 x 35.25 = 38.42, which is pretty darn close to 38.75″.

Now, if your gauge has MORE stitches/inch, it will mean a smaller finished sweater. If your gauge (for the same pattern) is 26 sts/4 inches, this is what the math would look like using the closest larger size.

If you want to make the 38.75″ size….24/26= .92 & .92 x 42 = 38.64, again pretty close to your ideal size! 

I know it can be really tough to wrap your brain around all that math, so don’t feel like you have to “make it work”…keep swatching until you get the correct gauge!

What to do if you are between sizes: If your ideal size is in-between the available sizes, don’t be discouraged! You can use the same math above to knit the sweater at a different gauge, or you can make some adjustments as you are knitting to achieve an in-between size. Most of Hannah Fettig’s patterns are raglan style top-down sweaters. It’s incredibly easy to just leave out a set or two of increases to achieve a smaller size or add a set or two of increases to achieve a larger size. We’ll talk more about this during the “Making adjustments on the fly” segment of the blog series!

I know this post is very wordy and probably confusing after a first read through. Take it in small chunks or come ask questions in the ravelry group! We really want you to have a successful sweater knitting experience!

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Fall in Love with Sweater Knitting KAL: Swatching

Most knitters have strong opinions on today’s subject: Swatching. They love it, they hate it, some always swatch, some never.

I think you’d find that most knitters fall into one of three categories:

1) The Serial Swatchers: these folks swatch for every project they knit no matter how large or small. They probably have a whole basket full of pretty swatches at home.

2) The “It Depends on the Project” Swatchers: these are knitters who swatch for certain projects, but not others. I definitely fall into this category. I ALWAYS swatch for sweaters, but rarely for small accessory projects (this has, of course, come back to bite me in the you know what on more than one occasion. ahem).

3) The Non-Swatchers: the category of knitters who NEVER swatch. For anything. Some people like to throw caution to the wind and just take their chances.

For sweater knitting, my personal rule is ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS (did I say always?) swatch. Presumably, you’re investing a large amount of time and money into a hand knit sweater and you want it to fit. Sure, there are other things you’re going to want to consider and choose to ensure you get the right fit, but gauge is the first step.

I’m going to take you through the process I use when swatching. It’s not the only way, but it’s what works for me!

Look at your pattern. Somewhere on the first page or two there will be a section that gives the materials, gauge and suggested needle size(s). Read the gauge CAREFULLY. Is the gauge in stockinette stitch? Is it in some other stitch pattern? You’ll want to knit your swatch in whatever stitch the pattern specifies. For example, if you’re knitting the Rocky Coast Cardigan you’ll want to swatch in the cable pattern.

Choose how you’re going to knit your swatch. Is the sweater mostly knit in the round or is it knit flat? If the pattern is knit in the round, you should swatch in the round. Unless you’re 100% sure that your gauge is the same flat as it is in the round, it’s really essential that you swatch in the round.

Let’s take a minute and talk about swatching in the round.

The swatch on the left was knit “flat” (stay with me here, I’ll explain in a second) and the one on the right was knit as a small circumference using magic loop. The problem with the one on the right is that it’s really too small around to effectively measure gauge over 4 inches. You could just make it larger, but you’d use a LOT more yarn in order to make it a full 8 or 9 inches around and it would take longer. So…there’s a trick you can use to swatch in the round, but have it be a flat swatch! First: Using a circular needle (preferably the one you’re going to use for your sweater) cast-on enough stitches for 5″ or so (so, if your gauge is 20 sts/4inches, CO at least 25 sts). Knit to the end of the first row. When you reach the end, slide your knitting to the other end of the circular needle…do not turn your work. Your working yarn will now be at the wrong end (the left). Pull a length of yarn behind your knitting (leave enough so your swatch will sit flat) and knit another row. Continue in this manner until your swatch measures 5″ tall!

Choose the needles you’re most likely to use for your sweater. Many knitters achieve different gauge on different types of needles. If you’re planning on knitting with bamboo, swatch with bamboo. If you’re going to use your Addi interchangeables, swatch with those.

Are you a tight knitter or loose knitter? If you’re typically a tight knitter, you may want to swatch with a size up from what the pattern suggests. Loose knitter? Start with a size down. The needle recommendation in the pattern is just that. A recommendation. Try not to get caught up in using the same needle size as the designer.

Cast on for your swatch! Like I mentioned above, make sure you cast-on some extra stitches so that you have about 5 inches of fabric (or even more, if you’d like) to work with. You want to be able to comfortably measure your gauge without using the stitches on the edges. I also like to do a garter stitch border on my stockinette swatches (do 3 or 4 rows of garter stitch at the top and bottom as well as 3 stitches of garter stitch on each side) so that they lay flat, which makes it easier to measure your gauge. So, if your pattern gauge is 20 sts over 4 inches, cast on 30. You’ll have a few extra for measuring ease and 6 stitches for a garter stitch edge (3 on each side).

Continue your swatch for at least 5 inches. Bind off.

Measure your gauge. I like to measure my gauge before and after blocking so that you know what to expect when you’re actually working on your sweater.  Use a ruler, stitch counting frame (we have these at the shop!), tape measure or other gauge measuring tool. Count the number of stitches you have over 4 inches as well as the number of rows. Write these numbers down.

Each little “V” represents ONE stitch. For row gauge, flip your measuring device 90 degrees so it runs parallel to one row of stitches.

Think about how you’re going to wash your finished garment? Will you soak it and lay it flat to dry? Is it machine washable? Will you be putting it in the dryer?

Wash your swatch. I usually just soak mine with a little bit of wool wash and room temperature water for 20 minutes in a mixing bowl. You can use your sink or whatever you have handy. If you’re going to machine wash your finished sweater, toss that swatch in the washing machine. Squeeze the water out of your swatch…you can take up the excess water with a towel if it’s really dripping.

Dry your swatch. If you’ll be laying your sweater flat to dry, do the same with your swatch. I usually pin the corners very lightly just to help it keep it’s shape and prevent it from rolling. Machine drying your sweater? Throw that swatch in the dryer.

Next Wednesday we’ll talk about measuring your gauge on your finished swatch and what to do if it doesn’t match the pattern gauge!

Before I go….a couple more swatching tips and tricks:

  • If you want to swatch with more than one size needle, go ahead and do it all on one swatch! Put a garter stitch ridge when you switch needle sizes. (see photo above).
  • Want to swatch with multiple needles but don’t want to lose track of what size needle you used? Make eyelet holes that correspond to your needle size. For example, if you’re using a US size 6, make 6 eyelets by doing [YO (yarn-over) K2TOG (knit 2 together)] 6 times:

  • Use Ravelry to keep track of what needle size and brand of needles you’re using to swatch. That way if you swatch and then move onto another project for a while, you can go look up exactly what you used when you come back to start the sweater.

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Fall in Love with Sweater Knitting KAL: Choosing a Pattern and Yarn

If you’re going to invest the time and money in knitting yourself a sweater, you want to love the finished product and love how it looks on you, right? Something I’ve learned over the course of knitting ~20 sweaters is which styles look flattering on me and the styles I’m most likely to actually wear. Some of that has been good ol’ trial and error and the rest has been little tid bits I’ve picked up from other knitters via Ravelry,  blogs, and knitting books.

Before choosing a sweater for the KAL, take a look in your closet. Pull out your favorite store bought (or handknit if you’ve knit sweaters before!) sweaters and tops. Is there a style of top that you gravitate towards? A particular cut that makes you feel like a million bucks?

The Calligraphy Cardigan has the potential to be flattering on almost any body type. It would be simple to adapt the pattern to tailor it to your specific body (we’ll talk about that in another post in the blog series!). *Photo from the Ravelry pattern page

If you aren’t sure which styles flatter you the most, Amy Herzog has put together a fantastic series of blog posts called Fit to Flatter (scroll down to the bottom and start with Installment 1). There’s also a Fit to Flatter Ravelry Group to answer any additional questions and see her tutorials in action. She covers everything from determining your body shape to how to choose and adapt knitting patterns to flatter your shape. It’s well worth a read-through even if you’re a seasoned sweater knitter.

If trying to nail down a pattern choice weren’t enough, you’ll also need to find a yarn that will work well with the pattern. Lucky for you, we’ve taken a good hard look at Hannah’s patterns and made a handy dandy spread sheet pairing up patterns and yarn available at the shop! We’ll have a copy of this as the shop as well, so we Stash Enhancers can help you choose the perfect yarn! Hannah Fettig has a number of other designs that aren’t on the spreadsheet, mostly from old issues of Interweave and KnitScene magazines. Of course, we’d be happy to use our special yarn choosing powers to help you pick a great yarn for those patterns, too!

I’ll be knitting the Schoodic Cardigan in some yummy Fibre Co. Acadia (the recommended yarn)! *Photo from the Ravelry pattern page

Of course, these blog posts are supposed to help you with future sweater knitting, too! One of the first things I do when I’m trying to decide which yarn to use for a sweater pattern is to head over to the pattern page on Ravelry.

Once I’ve found the pattern page, I click on the “projects” tab and browse through the finished projects and take note of the yarn substitutions that other knitters have used and how the sweaters look in various yarns.

Ravelry is a fantastic resource to use when trying to substitute yarns for any type of project. You can also look up the yarn in the Ravelry database and take a look through the different types of projects made with that specific yarn.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re working on pairing a sweater pattern and yarn:

1. What are the details of the yarn used in the pattern? Fiber content? Yardage? Gauge? Single ply or multiple plies?

2. Take a look at the stitch pattern in the sweater. Will you want a crisp yarn with good stitch definition? Is the sweater structured or drapey?

3. Will you be wearing something underneath your sweater? Or does the yarn need to be “next-to-skin” soft?

4. Be realistic about the durability of the yarn. Does the yarn look like it will resist pilling?

5. If there are cables, lace, or some other kind of textured pattern consider your color choices carefully. You don’t want to lose the beautiful details of the sweater by knitting in a color that will hide the reason you picked that pattern in the first place!

If you’d like to delve further into this subject, The Knitter’s Book of Yarn by Clara Parkes is a wonderful resource. Little Red in the City by Ysolda Teague also has a small section devoted to choosing yarns for sweater knitting.

We have some fantastic yarn for sweater knitting here at Stash. Here are just a few of my favorites:

Top Row (L–>R): Imperial Columbia, Knitted Wit DK

Bottom Row (L–>R): Baah! Sonoma, The Fibre Co. Road to China Worsted

On Wednesday, we’ll talk about swatching for your sweater! I know, I know…every knitter’s least favorite thing. But I’ll tell you why I think it’s incredibly important in the sweater knitting process. Stay Tuned, Knitters!

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O For Feet Sake, I’m in Love!


My love affair with The Bar-Maids began back in 2011 when I got my first Lo-Lo bar.  It was love at first sight, really; cute packaging, great ladies behind the product, all natural ingredients, and made in small batches in Washington.  From their website:

Bar-Maids, LLC is a small, socially and environmentally responsible company based in Vancouver, WA. Our strict commitment to quality ensures that you receive only pure and natural products offered in environmentally-friendly, reusable, and recyclable containers.  Our products, made and packaged by hand from a precise combination of natural ingredients (with high organic content), are beneficial for all skin types and ages.

So what’s not to love?  And with scents like Summer Breeze, Bamboo Element, Orange Juice, Vanilla Cake, and even Plain Jane, there’s sure to be something to tempt just about anyone.

I like to keep my small Lo-Lo bar in my knitting bag, within easy reach when I discover a snarly cuticle or dry hands while knitting.  The moisturizer bar smells and feels great, and doesn’t leave a greasy residue.

Here at Stash, we are thrilled to offer you a delicious lineup of hand, lip, and body products sure to make you feel pampered and loved.  In addition to the Lo-Lo Bar moisturizer, we also carry lip balm, cuticle intensive sticks, and the O for FeetSake foot softener.  Our feet could all use a little pampering this time of year, and this stuff is an amazing treat for those tired doggies.  I can just imagine how good it will feel to slather some on come winter, then put on hand-knit socks.  I’ve been using my cuticle intensive stick almost every day since June, and there’s nary a hangnail in sight which is quite unusual for me.

We have a limited supply of free moisturizer samples , so stop in this weekend to claim yours! 

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Fall in Love with Sweater Knitting: Hannah Fettig Sweater KAL

It’s time to start thinking about our next Knit-A-Long, and what says Fall better than a cozy wool sweater?! Instead of choosing one pattern to knit, we’ve decided to highlight designer Hannah Fettig (aka Knitbot). Hannah Fettig is known for her classic sweater designs that are knit in one piece (no seaming!), which is ideal for first-time and veteran sweater knitters alike.

All photos from Hannah Fettig’s pattern pages on ravlery

This KAL is going to have some extra goodies including a series of blog posts with advice on everything sweater knitting! Beginning August 20th, we’ll have 2 blog posts per week to guide you through the sweater knitting process. Be on the lookout for the following blog posts:

  • Choosing a Pattern and Yarn
  • Swatching
  • Deciphering Your Swatch and Choosing a Sweater Size
  • Tips for Knitting a Sweater with Hand-dyed Yarn
  • Making Adjustments on the Fly
  • Tips and Tricks for Sleeves
  • Seaming – hardly any of Hannah Fettig’s patterns require seaming, but we’ll discuss it anyway!
  • Blocking

Think of these blog posts as a free knitting class on making a well-fitting sweater that you love.

A little leery of making your first sweater? Fear not, Hannah’s patterns are easy to follow and there’s surely something for everyone in her collection of patterns. The Stash Enhancers will be happy to help you pick a pattern that will match your skill level. There are even several pint-sized versions of her designs, most notably the Coastal Kids patterns, for the little ones in your life.

The Fall in Love with Sweater Knitting KAL will run from Wednesday September 19th-Wednesday December 12th to give you plenty of time to complete your sweater! The entire blog post series will be finished the week before the kick-off, so you’ll have the resources you need to cast-on right away!

KAL participants will receive 15% off yarn purchased for the knit-a-long between August 22nd and September 19th! Stop on in, browse through the Hannah Fettig patterns, and choose some gorgeous yarn to inspire your fall knitting!

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Vintage Modern Knits:: A Trunk Show

As soon as I saw the box, I knew it was going to be a rough day.

For it was a box full of beautiful hand knits made in sumptuous yarns of silk, wool, and alpaca, and I had things on my To-Do list; being driven to distraction with the temptation of trying on said knits was not one of them!

I think I showed remarkable restraint, and only tried on one sweater immediately.  Fortunately there were other willing victims models around, and soon we were all parading around in our hand knits and practicing Sweater Pose.

Kathryn in the Yangtze cardigan (left) and Andrea in the Tilghman Island pullover (right)

What could bring on all this strange behavior, you ask?  Why, it’s the Vintage Modern Knits trunk show, of course!

Released in 2011, this book is chock full of modern interpretations of some lovely vintage garments.  From sporty ski-bunny ready hats to delicate colorwork stockings and elegant cardigans, there is a true range of style and skill in this book.

One of my surprise favorites is the Maple Bay cardigan.  Not normally one to knit or wear large-scale intarsia motif sweaters, my unabashed love for this sweater really caught me off guard. Perhaps it’s that it’s a bit ironic while still paying homage to the traditional Cowichan sweaters from Canada.  Or maybe all that OSU spirit is sinking in, and I can’t help but love a knit with a beaver on it.  Either way, I’ve tried this one on multiple times and have goaded others (even a dude) into trying it on.

And have I mentioned the yarn?  All of the patterns in the book feature yarns from The Fibre Company, known for its sophisticated color palette and fiber content.  We currently carry Canopy fingering (as seen in the Yangtzee Cardigan), Road to China (Rhodes Point Gansey),  Acadia silk/merino/baby alpaca; the new bulky Tundra is also on its way.  These yarns represent multiple weights and could happily be used for several of the patterns in the book.

Sonia in the Adelaide Pullover

In any case, there’s a serious case of Things I Want to Knit Right Now happening over here at Stash.  Prepare to be tempted into a little fall/winter knitting.  It’s never too early to start, even when it feels like summer has only just begun!

As a special treat for you, we’re offering all books and patterns from The Fibre Company and Kate and Courtney at 10% off this weekend only.  So grab a friend, come on down to the shop for a fashion show, and stock up on patterns!

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