Knitty Friday

Pinwheel Shawl KAL

A Knitty, we are big fans of the “deceptively simple” – a piece that looks effortless to wear. A piece that seems to be simple in construction but has a clever twist. A piece with a clever variation that makes you look at something in a whole new way.

Laura Barker’s Pinwheel shawl, from our most recent issue, checks all three boxes. It’s a large rectangular shawl, worked from the center out – so no pesky purling! – and which allows you to show off a gradient yarn. And she provides a neat way to pin it so it drapes like a vest – ideal for summer-time, when you need a bit of warmth, but don’t want a big heavy thing around your neck.

If you’ve been thinking about working it, Laura is launching a KAL for the summer, starting June 18th. She’ll be hosting the KAL in her Ravelry group, and will be providing guidance, tutorials, and cheering along as you go! She’ll tackle the casting on, working and reading the lace chart, and working the clever and lovely attached edging.

The project is suitable for knitters with a little experience with lace and working in the round. In fact, it’s an terrific project to take your lace skills to the next level, learning some new tricks along the way.

Spring & Summer Issue Projects

I love Joline’s Stiorra sweater. It’s just so very elegant.

Just perfect.

This tweedy version of Inhabit  by Esuzabeth is a winner!

I love seeing a happy knitter in a happy FO.

Franzfranz‘s alpaca Gocce is splendid.


Making me wish the warmer weather would hurry up, Fishie‘s version of Lake Diamond is worked in fingering weight yarn held triple – very clever!

A perfect “transition” piece, for cooler days when you want to be dressed for summer.

Designer and friend of Knitty Laura Nelkin is proud to wear this lovely pair of Rectify socks, made for her by a friend of hers.

Stiorra: additional resources

The designer of this issue’s fabulous Stiorra sweater writes about the design on her blog. We adore this sweater: it’s lacy, but not too delicate, and just so very wearable. I think my favourite detail is the shirt-tail hem.

Ewelina’s blog post also has links to a bunch of helpful resources, too.

The sweater uses a clever “horizontal rib” technique around the neck, to avoid it stretching. She’s created a very helpful tutorial.

And she’s also got both written instructions, and a full version of the Back Lace chart.

Speaking of charts, we’ve also got an alternative chart for the lace pattern, courtesy of JC Briar’s Stitch-Maps tool.


This view of the sleeve pattern, shows the symmetry of the “flower petals,” and the pairs of yarnovers separating them, as highlighted below. These types of “flow” charts don’t work for all designs, but this view is a terrific way to help you visualize the fabric you’re creating.



On Liquid Honey and Craving Color

It’s spring! Apparently. Where I am, it’s still grey and brown, and it’s going to be a few more weeks before we see much in the way of greenery or flowers.

Although the cold and snowy winter days get tiresome, I think this ‘season’ – after the snow but before things start growing – can feel the longest here in the Northeast of North America. It’s just so very drab. You’re still mostly wearing your dark winter clothes, mornings are darker with the shift to Daylight Savings Times, and there’s no colour outdoors, and with all that pre-summer rain, there seems to be less sunshine.

Good friend Denny always says that you shouldn’t knit with grey or brown in March. She’s absolutely right!

Certainly when considering designs for our spring issue, we’re attracted to color! And we loved Amy van de Laar’s Liquid Honey shawl design for its bright sunshiney hue, and also for the fabulous photographs.

Just so beautiful.

(Hint: Want to be a Knitty cover designer? Send us pictures of summer in the depths of winter! 🙂 )

Amy writes about the design — and the trees and plums she was posing with — on her blog.

This design in very accessible, even to less experienced lace knitters, and is the sort of beautiful but not-too-fussy shawl you’ll reach for every day. As you can see, it looks great with denim, worn very casually, it would cheer up that dark winter coat, and I can also see it worn with a fancy dress at a summer wedding. Follow Amy’s lead and make it in a bright color, one that brings you joy.

Surprise WIPs

Our Surprises launched a couple of weeks ago, there’s already some terrific projects taking shape.


Genesneaky‘s Here Be Dragons socks are looking terrific. A dramatic color choice, but not so dark that you can’t see the patterning. Fab.

AndreaFL‘s Talula looks very promising… I adore this color choice.

And bonus points for a really beautiful swatch….

This makes me so very happy…

And Calenia‘s Stars in the Twilight shawl is absolutely gorgeous in an unexpected but fantastic colour.

Look at the beads!

On a Knitty design: Kastanienfeuer

Fantastically warm!

In the northeast of North America, after a very warm fall and year-end, winter has finally hit with a vengeance. It’s messed me up terribly. We didn’t experience that slow slide into colder weather that we typically do in November and December: early this month we had about a week of transition and then boom it’s well below freezing and there’s snow on the ground.

This mean that there wasn’t the usual slow wardrobe transition, when you progressively dig through the strata of winter gear in the closest. Just two weeks ago, I was wearing a light coat and a single layer of mittens and no hat! Now it’s the full-length down coat, hats, big cowls and double-layer mittens.

I don’t know whether you do the same thing, but I enjoy the usual slow transition into a winter as a time to assess my winter accessories. I get them out from their moth-proof plastic bags, and see how they look. Still fresh, or a little tired? Any spots of wear and tear I didn’t notice in my rush to put them away last spring? Do I still like them? The slow transition gives me time to mend, rework, or outright replace ones I’m tired of.

Back when I was editing patterns for our winter issue, it was definitely not mitten weather. Being of cold hands and currently obsessed with brioche knitting, I absolutely adored the Kastanienfeuer mittens. The brioche fabric is ideal for mittens: lush and full and insulating and soft and warm. I remember thinking to myself that they’d be an excellent candidate for this year’s mittens. And then it just never went cold, so they slipped my mind.

Then last week, it got cold. Needless to say, I’m tossing my stash for yarn for these mittens.

The designer has provided some additional guidance on working the mittens, with expanded charts, on her blog.

And checking some of the WIPs on Ravelry has made me even more excited about the project.

Bimtral: On designing for specific properties of a yarn and clever grafting

The Winter issue features a new design from one our favourite hat designers,  Woolly Wormhead.

Bimtral is classic Woolly: flattering and easy to wear, and all sorts of fun to knit.

It’s worked sideways – not just for fun, but to address the properties of the yarn that Woolly chose. The yarn is a wonderful blend of camel and silk, which is soft but not wildly stretchy. So Woolly turned the hat 90 degrees, substituting sideways garter for the usual lower-edge ribbing. But because it’s worked sideways, it requires a graft to finish. But this graft is not your usual – it’s grafted in a very particular manner to create a purl ridge.

Since grafting can be a bit tricky at the best of times, Woolly has written a tutorial on her blog, here.  It turns out that the specific technique required for this hat is actually the easiest of all of the “speciality” grafts – even easier than the standard version, in fact!

The Sidekick Boot Socks, on ‘Sequence Knitting’; now that all your gift knitting is done…

I’m grateful for all the love for my Sidekick boot socks.

(Funny story: You can’t tell in these pictures, but the boots I was wearing had just developed a hole, and needed replacing. Shortly after we took these pictures, I got myself a new pair, and the first thing I did was make sure they still worked with socks. Because priorities.)

I’m not going to bang on about how you’ve probably got a lot of variegated sock yarn in your stash that needs using up, and how this is a great way to use up and tame a busy variegated yarn. And I’m not going to talk about how longer sock legs can take a long time to knit and that this design solves that problem, too. But there is one element of the design I do want to talk about… the pattern stitch I used on the leg.

For months, other designers were raving the wonderfulness of the book Sequence Knitting. After Laura Nelkin basically told me that she wouldn’t be friends with me any more unless I got a copy, I went ahead and ordered it. When it arrived, I flipped through it, expecting my socks to be knocked off immediately.

And I have to make a confession: based on that first cursory pass through the book, I didn’t get it. I thought I was missing something. I could see that it’s beautifully photographed, the layout is gorgeous and very usable, and it’s clearly well-written, but I didn’t get why everyone was raving about it. They’re just knit and purl stitch patterns, I was thinking… what’s the big deal?

But one night I sat up in bed, and I read it. I started right at the introduction, and actually read through the book. This is a book that needs to be read. There is a fantastically clever and wonderful and amazing concept behind the book and the pattern stitches, and it needs a little reading and thinking. But I read. And then I thought. And now I’m obsessed.

Sidekick is my first design to be inspired by Sequence Knitting, and I’m quite sure it’s not the last. This particular stitch is a three or four-stitch repeat (depending on how you’re looking at it), and it creates a wonderful, squishy, stretchy – and most importantly – reversible fabric. Ideal for a long, fold-over boot sock leg, in fact.

Your gift knitting is done, isn’t it? Nearly? (One year I finished knitting the hat I was giving my mother in the car on the way to her place Christmas morning…. I let her try it on and then took it back to weave in the ends and block it.) If so, it’s time to be selfish! And just in time for the cold weather, perhaps a pair of quick-knit boot socks?

SpaceCadet, the dyers of the lovely yarn I used for this design, is hosting a KAL, starting December 26th. There are prizes! I will be popping in to answer questions, provide guidance and generally admire the colour combos that you’ll choose! More info on the KAL in the Ravelry group. They’re also offering kits of the yarn, too….


Cameo Flower: Alternate Charts

Today we have another in a series of occasional guest posts from JC Briar, developer of the Stitch Maps charting solution.

Let’s get something straight right up front. I don’t mind “no stitch” symbols, at least when they’re used appropriately. I get that sometimes they’re needed in grid-based charts to show where the stitch count changes.

But, the charts for Cameo Flower have a lot of “no stitch” symbols, don’t they? So many “no stitch” symbols, in fact, that they make it a little hard to see what’s going on in the pattern. Take the Filigree chart, for example.


Although the designer placed these “no stitch” symbols to help the knitter see how the pattern lines up, they create other questions: for example, where, exactly, does the stitch count change? And should the double decreases on row 9 really be directional sssk and k3tog decreases, considering that all the other double decreases in the chart are centered CDD decreases?

Instead of tripping over “no stitch” symbols, let’s try examining the pattern as a stitch map.


With column guides enabled, the motifs pop into view. Smooth lines of k2tog lean to the right, and lines of ssk lean left, joining together to create peaks. The directional double decreases of row 9 blend perfectly with existing decrease lines, and the centered double decreases on rows 13 and 15 cap off little trios of stitches. I especially like being able to see how everything comes together in the center of the stitch pattern.


Such lovely symmetry! A conventional chart with “no stitch” symbols does obscure this.

Seeing this symmetry, seeing how the decrease lines come together, is super useful to me as I’m knitting: if I don’t see the correct stitches being joined by a decrease, I know I’ve goofed and it’s time to tink back. But the point is that I’ve caught the goof early, when tinking back is still a reasonable option. And that’s part of why I love stitch maps. By getting rid of the grid and “no stitch” symbols, they make it easier to see what’s supposed to happen in a lace pattern. And being able to see the target makes it easier to hit, right?

Want more? Check out the stitch maps for Carving Flowers, and for Cameo Flower’s border as a whole.

On Blocking

Hello! This is Kate with her Technical Editor Hat on! The topic of blocking came up a few times when I was editing the patterns for this most recent issue, and I thought it was worth discussing…

The word “block” tends to send knitters into a bit of a tizzy. (It did me, for years. I’m not ashamed to admit it.) It seems so complicated, with all these pieces of equipment like mats and wires and pins and buckets and towels and special washes and goodness knows what else.

The word “block” is actually a very general term: think of it like “cook”. When you “cook” dinner, sometimes you use the oven, sometimes you use the stove-top, sometimes you use the barbecue, sometimes you use the slow-cooker, sometimes you use the microwave – heck, sometimes you don’t even use any equipment at all, you just take some bread and lay slices of meat or cheese or beautiful garden-fresh tomatoes on it.

How you cook depends on the ingredients and the recipe; how you block depends on the yarn and the project.

The good news is that for the vast majority of types of yarns and projects, there is a very simple answer: wash. That’s right, just wash whatever it is. Of course, you’ll want to pay attention to the washing instructions for the yarn: if it’s wool that’s inclined to felt, hand-wash; if it’s a cotton, or a man-made fiber, or a wool that’s treated to be safe in the washing machine (i.e. “Superwash”), then you can throw it in the machine.

(And if you’re worried about washing wool, remember that sheep get rained on. Washing wool does not ruin it. Quite the opposite: wool LOVES water. Wool NEEDS water. What felts wool is not water, it’s the agitation; it’s rapid temperature changes — i.e. pouring very hot water into cold — or the sort of agitation that a top-loading washing machine creates.)

Washing a knit piece is actually rather miraculous: it evens out your stitches, it smooths the fabric, and tidies up your edges, it makes your fabric lie flatter, it opens up the lacework, it brings your cables into shape, it relaxes your colorwork. It beautifies!

But it’s also necessary: it gets the dog hair and coffee stains out, it gets rid of any unfixed overdye (I had blue feet once for a couple of days because I wore a pair of socks made of hand-dyed yarn that hadn’t properly been fixed, and the dye bled onto my feet), it removes any moisturizer than you might have applied to your hands before you started knitting. It removes any sizing that might have been applied to the yarn at the mill, any dust that might have gathered on it from the yarn shop.

And washing the pieces is super-important before you sew up. It makes it easier to sew because pieces lie flatter and edges curl less. But even more than that, a proper washing brings the fabric to its final shape and size. Just as when sewing with woven fabrics, you prewash to preshrink before cutting so that your seams aren’t puckery, you want to prewash your knit pieces before you sew them up so that the seams are tidy and neat.  After all, if you sew up and then the pieces stretch out with a first wash, then you’re going to have lumpy and funny-looking seams.

Fibers and fabrics can change pretty radically with washing: a superwash wool, especially one that is knit loosely, tends to stretch out, linen and hemps soften, silk blooms and relaxes; garter stitch will relax vertically, ribbing relaxes horizontally.

What this means, of course, is that when you’re knitting it, your fabric might not look the way the finished project will… I remember when I was just starting to seriously knit as an adult, I couldn’t figure out why the knitting on my needles never looked as good at the knitting people in my LYS were wearing: I just assumed (like everyone does) that it was because I was a rubbish knitter: nope, not true. It’s just that I hadn’t washed the pieces yet. When I’m working on something, it’s crumpled and uneven and untidy and scrunched up and often pretty awful-looking. But once I wash it, it looks much nicer! (You don’t think that the lovely Electricity hat looked that smooth and neat on the needles, did you? There is absolutely no chance in the world it did. That hat’s been washed and steamed. And Cameo Flower was absolutely a crumpled mess when it was being knitted.)

It also means that your fabric on your needles might not be sized the way the finished project will be, either… if you’re working a piece of lace, you know this instinctively, it’s smaller on your needles than when done. (Which, by the way, means that you need to measure your swatch after it’s been washed the way you intend to wash the finished project; listed gauges are always blocked gauges.)

Now, there are some projects for which you need to do more than wash: and this where the mats and wires and pins and all that goodness come in. Lace needs to be stretched to open up all the lovely yarnover holes: to do that, we get the piece good and wet – I soak it in lukewarm water for a good twenty minutes, roll it in a towel to wring it out, and stretch it out, pin it and let it dry in its stretched state. A yarn that has elasticity and a memory (wool, silk, other animal fibers), will “remember” that stretched position when it’s dry and be gorgeous. And colorwork often needs an additional steaming to tidy up any bumpy areas.

But true confession: the only projects I pin out this way are lace shawls. I don’t bother pinning garment pieces (gasp!) because I’m not going to pin them out every time I wash the thing, so I don’t want to set a precedent I’m not going to keep up with.

There are some yarns that need some treatment in addition to washing. Man-made fibers, for example, don’t stretch or change shape or relax with washing, so we apply steam to those to smooth, even out, open up those fabrics. But I still always wash: after all, I’ve still been eating chips and sharing the couch with the dog and spilling coffee, no matter what yarn I’m using.

There are times when a pattern might suggest specifically not to stretch or manipulate something too much: the designer of the Attention Span hat, for example, suggests being careful not to squish or flatten the lovely texture of the Entrelac. But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t have a wash: after all, it’s a winter hat, chances are it’s going to get snowed or rained on at some point!

And a garment is going to need a wash at some point, is it not? Indeed, I can’t think of anything you will knit that won’t need to be washed at some point. Most things will be worn many many more times after washing than before, yes? So knit with that in mind: make it look good after washing! More the point: let the washing make it look good! Seriously, if you’ve not been happy with how your pieces look when they’re done, try giving them a wash: I guarantee you’ll see a difference.

(Want to learn more? There’s a Craftsy class!)