Friday, October 11, 2013

No substitution for happiness

I'd better start this post by acknowledging Suge Knight as the source of this quote. Mr Knight runs Black Kapital and Death Row Records, looks after a number of major U.S. gangsta rap acts, gave us such gems of wisdom as "In prison, you get the chance to see who really loves you" and (perhaps more relevantly) has a rap sheet going back to 1996 for various violent offences. So thank you Mr Knight for our tag line, please don't come and visit me to talk about copyright infringements*...

This post is actually about yarn substitution. That wonderful journey of discovery, that begins when you find the absolute perfect pattern - in a yarn that you just cannot find anywhere!! Sometimes the yarn is an exotic something-or-other that isn't imported into Australia: sometimes the yarn has been discontinued and you can't find a shop that has enough of it to make your dream garment.

In this scenario, the internet is your friend. Once upon a time, things that weren't imported into Australia were as hard to get hold of as bunyips. Nowadays, a quick internet search will normally turn up a little Midwest shop that stocks the exact brand of quiviut required for your pattern, and Ravelry has a page where crafters can sell or swap from their stash, so 'discontinued' doesn't necessarily mean 'gone forever'.

However, sometimes even the internet can't save you, and you need to find an acceptable substitute yarn. In that case, read on...

Step 1: Go to Yarndex and find out all you can about the original yarn. Yarndex has data for an amazing number of current and discontinued yarns, and you should be able to find the yardage, fibre, texture, gauge and recommended needle size for the majority of yarns here. (If you can't, Google the original yarn name - this information will be out there somewhere!).

Step 2: Google for yarns with a similar fibre content. This will find you a bunch of yarns that (at least in theory) will behave like the original yarn. You can substitute across fibres, but you may find that the garment does not turn out as intended - for example, if you substitute a cotton or silk yarn for wool, you will find that the garment becomes much stiffer and less elastic. A different fibre may also detract from a decorative stitch pattern: the example below relies on a bulky cotton yarn to give very sharp stitch definition. Wool is always somewhat fuzzier than cotton, which would make the lace less distinctive.

Wendy's Chunky Cotton - lace patternStep 3: Find yarns that knit to the same gauge as your original yarn on the same size needles. This also applies if you crochet or tricot - if it knits up the same (in theory), it will also crochet or tricot to the correct tension.
Wendy's Chunky Cotton - Lace Pattern
Step 4: Work out the yardage/meterage - will you need more or fewer balls than the original pattern? Even experienced knitters can get caught out and buy the number of balls/grams required - only to find that the substitute yarn is a couple of metres/ball shorter than the original and they can't complete their garment.

You now have a selection of yarns which are theoretically acceptable substitutes for the original. Go forth and yarn-shop!! However, you need to be prepared to knit test swatches and to accept the risk that you'll end up with a lemon. The guidelines above have mostly worked for me, but now and then you find that 'similar to' is a long way from 'the same as'. If that happens, I usually turn back to the internet to find a pattern for my new acquisition - and another substitute for my dream yarn.

* Suge Knight is notorious (among other things) for allegedly threatening to toss Vanilla Ice off a hotel balcony because Vanilla Ice had used some material from one of Suge's clients in his song "Ice Ice Baby".

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Moebius... Entrelac... Toll Road!! Moebius... Entrelac... Market!!

One thing you can say for running a knitting shop, you will never lack for variety!! Over the past month, I've designed two new patterns for classes, accepted an invite to run a stall at the Luna Night Market and received a letter from the government telling me that my home is going to be demolished as part of the East-West link... admittedly, that last is not directly related to the shop, but it is another interesting challenge that I'm going to have to fit in around the winter rush.

(c) Andrea Tappe
This is the Cowl-leidoscope, the project for the Moebius Cast Ons class. We've run the Moebius class once already (first Sunday afternoon in July) and we'll be running it again on the first Sunday afternoon in September. The class covers five ways to create a Moebius scarf or shawl: participants can knit the Cowl-leidoscope as part of the session.

In alternate months (August and October), we'll be running an introduction to entrelac - sadly, the demo is not at a stage where it's ready to photograph. (That's another way of saying I've only just started casting it on this afternoon!). Expect to see a pic of the Tweedy Garterlac Scarf soon on our FB page!

When it's finished, it will look vaguely like the photo below- except it will be striped in a finer tweed yarn and done in squares, not rectangles... so only very vaguely like!!

What entrelac looks like
The Luna Night Market has been our next challenge - for four Wednesday Nights in August, we will be at Stall G21 in J Shed with our brand new Giant Yarn Crate from 5pm to 10pm. This is going to make Wednesday a pretty long day, since I usually start at 5:30am with a circuit at the local gym... But I'm sure I can survive for one month!

The goal with the market is to have a good range of projects, with things to tempt impulse purchasers while also making sure that people know that we have the wherewithal to help them knit, crochet or tricot a full garment. The last weekend in July will probably be dedicated to making up Spiderweb Scarf packs with our stock of Rare Comfort Kid Mohair, putting together a Pom-Pom and French Knitter kit for the kids and maybe whipping up a kit for the Rare Yarns Lace Gauntlets or a Misti Alpaca two-yarn scarf... I have to think very hard about this, since there's only so much I can fit in the crate! Apparently anything over 300kgs and it's likely to collapse ;)
Spiderweb ScarfTo market, to market...

The birthday cape - about half finished
And finally... the toll road. Not much to say there, except to hope that I'm going to get a friend's birthday present finished much faster than I expected, since I'm crocheting on the way to and from the protests - and sometimes crocheting during them as well. I figure if Madame Defarge could knit in the shadow of the guillotine, the least I can do is crochet woolly capes as I wait for the bulldozers to show up!

The cape is a nifty little thing that my friend picked off the Garnstudio website - I didn't have a colour in Twilleys 100% chunky wool that she liked, but I've substituted one of the New Zealand Naturally yarns, which is working extremely well. It's one of those patterns where you have to have faith - I crocheted the first couple of rows and was convinced that the pattern and/or the substitution was a dud - it looked terrible!! However, over time, the pattern started to emerge and the cape started to look more like the photograph... a good analogy for the situation with the toll road - it has started out looking pretty awful, but hopefully it will improve over time!!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Making ends disappear

For the last three weeks, I've been making up a T-shirt. Yep, T-shirt. Three weeks.

The problem is that it's a stripy T-shirt*.  The front and the back both have two repeats of a 64 row stripe pattern. The sleeves have a shorter stripe pattern, but there are still a lot of stripes, since most of the stripes are only one or two rows wide. And where there are stripes, there are ends to be sewn in. Lots of ends. Finicky, fiddly little 4-ply cotton ends...

The problem is finding a way to thread the ends into the work so that they don't pull loose and scratch or unravel, while also avoiding bulking up the seams too much with run-in ends. There are something like 200 ends in this garment (66 each for the front and back, and 30 for each sleeve), and that is a lot to hide in one seam.

Normally, if I was working stripes, I'd weave the unused colour up the side of the work. However, this trick only works with two or three colours - with 12 colours, it is less effective. In fact, when your stripes start and finish on opposite sides of the garment, it is completely useless!

Of course, now that I've finished the top, I've found an excellent tip on managing ends in striped work. In a recent Knitting Daily newsletter, one of their editors suggested carrying the cut-off ends along the back of your row, in the same way that you carry the colours in fairisle work.

This would achieve exactly the same result as stitching my ends into the purl bumps on the reverse side of my work - but it would achieve it at the same time as I was knitting, which would make the entire thing much less painful.

Since my masochism knows no bounds, I will get a chance to use this technique when I delve into my stash to knit up Glade later this year. I've been hesitant to start work on it, as my hands ache whenever I knit with fine needles for more than a couple of minutes. The obvious answer to that is to start knitting right away - four or five minutes of knitting every day should have me a finished jumper in a bit over a year, all going well!

As a break from sewing in teeny, tiny ends, I've been working on Moebius cast ons and entrelac patterns for our new classes. It will be an exciting change from beginner classes - and from running in ends! 

**The T-shirt is Marie Wallin's lovely Dauphine (from Rowan magazine 43, published in 2008). Looking forward to taking a photo and putting it up here - once I finish running in those blasted ends and actually get to sew a seam!!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Making up is hard to do

The other day, a customer came in with her first ever jumper and made me aware of the limitations of making up instructions! The pattern said "Join the shoulder seams". With no guidance as to what shoulder seams actually were, she'd accidentally attached part of the front neck to the back of the garment. Very easily fixed, but it made me think - patterns for newer knitters really, really need to include diagrams showing how the pieces fit together.

Shoulder seams
When you look at a cast-off back or front, you will notice that there are 'steps' up the top of the knitted piece. Usually, the two pieces fit together with the highest steps joining (the neck edge), then the next, all the way down to the lowest (the sleeve edge).

This is the shoulder seam. To join the two pieces, thread a wool needle with the same yarn you used to knit the garment and sew a horizontal seam. Berrocco have put together a very good video on how to do this - I don't want to even try to write it out, it is much easier to show than to explain. Personally, I sew from the edge into the neck, but there is no right or wrong direction as far as I know.

Once you have the shoulder seam in place, put your garment flat on a firm surface. If I'm making something up for myself, I usually sit it on the bed or the sofa - for customers, I'll lay the work out on the counter just to make sure that I have it perfectly flat and even.

Take the cast off edge of the sleeve and fold it in half: pin the stitch at the halfway point to the shoulder seam.

The sleeve will have two 'points' about halfway down, where you did your first shaping cast offs. Pin the points to the matching points on the front and back of the garment. (If you look at the photo below, you can see the point on the back clearly).

Sleeve ready to be pinned

Sew the top of the sleeve into place: I usually begin at the centre and work around to each point.

Once you've set the tops of the sleeves in, pin each side. I usually pin the hem, the armpit and the cuff: you may want more pins to hold the work more securely. Sew one long mattress stitch seam from the hem up to the armpit, then down the sleeve to the cuff to finish your garment.

Thread any loose ends into the seams and you're done!

If you want more information, there's a good article about seaming on the Vogue Knitting website with illustrations and Interweave TV has a Seaming Primer episode that is pretty easy to follow. I think it's always worthwhile taking a bit of time to review seaming techniques before you start making something up - after going to all the effort of knitting or crocheting a garment, you want the finishing to be as perfect as possible!

Jo Sharp Moebius Scarf (worn as cowl) Jo Sharp Moebius Scarf (worn long)
In other news, the Jo Sharp Moebius Scarf is off the needles. I love it! Funny, I would never in a million years have thought to knit it for myself, but it has quickly become my all-time favourite scarf. Very warm and soft!

Unfortunately, my Moebius class prep is not coming along quite so well. Garnstudio has an idiot-proof Moebius cast on - unfortunately, in Norway, they have really smart idiots. 
When I try it, the continental cast on is so tight that I can't pick up the stitches into it. I'm working on the Cat Bordhi idiot-proof Moebius cast on after I finish this blog - maybe I can get a version of that which won't leave half the class fighting to drive their needles into a cast on edge? Stay tuned...

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Boiling needles

Last week, I posted about the Jo Sharp Moebius Scarf and the different ways of casting on to create a Moebius loop. My inability to get the twist to work niggled at me, and I ended up going through my stash and pulling out some Silkroad Aran Tweed that I had left over from one of Dad's jumpers.

Of course, because there was no-one watching, this time I got it right on the first try. I was so excited that I abandoned my lifelong resolution never to upload a bad, home-filmed craft video to the internet - I pulled out the iPhone and did a short movie of me knitting the first round with the twist.

The two clips below are the only parts of the movie where you actually have any hope of working out what the heck I'm doing: Jane Campion is never going to lose any sleep over me! Basically, all I did was cast on (using a cable cast on), twist the cast on row about halfway along, then start knitting in moss stitch.

If you have a look at some of the stills below, it might be clearer!

Luckily, I chose the 'right' needles. The cables on Birch circular needles tend to kink, making it difficult to avoid twisting your rounds. Normally, when I buy a new Birch circular needle, I soak the cable in boiling water to get it to straighten. In this case, I didn't want it to be straight, I wanted help to get my twist - and sure enough I did. Have a look at the cast on below...

Cast on - Moebius Scarf
You can see that the cast on row twists up and around because of the kinks in the cable joining the needles. If you look closely, you can see where the work twists (on the right hand side of the picture). This was before I even touched it - it was very easy to see where the work naturally wanted to twist and to help it along.
Moebius twist - close up

With such an obvious hint, it was pretty obvious where I needed to grab the work and twist it!

Ironically, with a higher quality circular needle (such as the Clover needles) this is much harder to do - the cable sits very flat, and any kinks in the cable drop out naturally as soon as you open the packet. When I attempted my demo twist last week, I was using a circular Clover needle and I found that the work would move back into place no matter how much I tried to twist it. Usually, this is a good thing, but if you want a Moebius, it is a complete disaster!

I knitted the first round very easily, keeping the twist in place - if you look at the photo below, you can see the twist at the top of the picture. Ironically, now that I've got a couple of rounds on the needle, I'm tempted to whip it out of the work, take it into the kitchen and douse it with boiling water - although the twisty cable is very helpful when setting up a Moebius loop, it is a nuisance once the first round has been set up.

Moebius - first round
On the other hand, if I leave the needle as it is, it will be perfect for the next two scarves that I plan to knit (one following the Garnstudio instructions, and one following Cat Bordhi's method). Keep an eye out at Brunswick Savers for an influx of Moebius scarves this winter!!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Going around the twist with a Moebius scarf or shawl

I was reminded today that there is nothing harder than deliberately making a mistake. Last week, a customer purchased the yarn and pattern for the Jo Sharp Moebius Scarf from Knit Issue 10. Today, she came in with a beautiful double-moss cowl, without so much as a dip in the edge... certainly without the twist.
Jo Sharp Moebius Scarf

We went through the instructions together: they were pretty straightforward. You cast on, using a circular needle, and twist the cast-on halfway through the round. Knit the first pattern round. You now have a twisted loop - keep knitting until you run out of wool. Now, I've managed to do this several times without even thinking about it. However, each time the customer knitted her first round, we ended up with a perfect, even round of untwisted knitting. And although I've managed to mess up the starting round any number of times before, now that I was put on the spot, I couldn't get it to twist either. So we moved to plan B...

Plan B was to tap into the Garnstudio freebies. Garnstudio has a free Moebius shawl pattern on their website. Although the colours in the photo remind me of cheap toothpaste, the shawl itself has a very nice construction and - even better - it has photos and a video showing a technique to get the twist into the shawl. The very short version of their technique is:
  1. Do a long tail cast on over both your needles.
  2. Pull one needle through, leaving the stitches on the other.
  3. Pick up stitches along the bottom of the cast on edge.
You will end up with two lots of stitches: the stitches you cast on and the stitches you picked up. If you start knitting in the round, you will first knit the cast on stitches, then you will knit the picked up stitches, giving you a twist. Alternatively, if you're like me, you will accidentally unravel the second half of the work, giving you one round of straight knitting with a big gap in one side...**

From here, there was only one recourse - Cat Bordhi's tutorial videos on YouTube! Cat is a bit of a knitting celebrity in the US (and in Australia!) and does very good tutorials on weird and wonderful techniques, such as Moebius cast ons. All I can say about this is, somehow it works. I've watched it twice now, and it's like a magic trick - I can't figure out quite what's going on, but it works...

In the end, the customer couldn't face unravelling all those hours of work, so she decided on a clever compromise: she would pick up one stitch from the cast on edge in her cast off to make a fold - the fold will look similar enough that it won't be immediately obvious that the scarf isn't twisted.

My favourite option for a very easy Moebius scarf or shawl is to knit a rectangle, then twist it and cast off into the cast on edge to create the loop. You can also cast off normally, twist the work and sew the ends together to hold the twist in place. However, now I know some of the other options that are available, I'm very tempted to dig out some leftover Silkroad Aran Tweed that I have in my stash and give the Moebius scarf a try!! In fact, I'm tempted to knit three, so that I can try out the three methods of getting the twist :) I'm sure that my stash has more than enough wool in it to meet that challenge...

**I think the first failure was a combination of stage fright and trying to serve three customers at the same time as knitting a round: I've tried the Garnstudio technique again now that the shop is a bit quieter, and this time, it worked.Good to know!!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Melbourne in 1910

The other day, I found this in my Facebook feed. Fifteen minutes of silent movie era cuteness as a cinematographer films the streets and sights of early 20th century Melbourne :)

Some of the streets and buildings looked very familiar, even without their 21st century garnish of billboards. Some of the street scenes had me mourning the loss of lovely old buildings and their replacement by very large concrete blocks (reflective glass facades optional). The 'bustling streets' look practically deserted by today's standards, but trams seemed to be more frequent. I noticed several shots of gentlemen industriously sweeping the road, and was everlastingly grateful that horses in Melbourne now have to wear a large leather bag across their hindquarters! Most of the smartly dressed passers-by would have had their clothes made at home - some may have been 'flash' enough to afford the services of a professional tailor or seamstress.

I wonder how many of the shops would have stocked wool and yarn, and how many of the passing ladies would have had some crochet or a partly knitted sock stashed in their handbags in case they had some idle time while they waited for a train at "busy Richmond station"? I think the short answer would be - most. If you needed clothing in 1910, by default you made it yourself - and that meant lots of knitting, crocheting, tatting and sewing, which in turn would have meant lots of Local Yarn Stores (LYSs).

I'm eternally grateful for Progress (which has spared me from a relatively short life, with a Pin Shower as the highlight), but I can't help but think that shops filled with cheap, Asian-made T-shirts are a poor substitute for lots and lots of wool shops!!

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Fitting feature panels

And.... done!! The Green Chai Cardi is finally off the hook and safely stashed in Mum's birthday/Easter goodie bag. It looks amazing :) Very happy with it.

Finished! The Green Chai Cardi
Just before Easter, one of our regulars brought a top in to be made up. It was a clever design (from the Debbie Bliss Andes book) which included a feature cable that ran around the top of the neck.
The usual way to fit something like this is to:
  1. Sew or pin the ends of the band together.
  2. Pin the band evenly into place around the neck.
  3. Sew the band to the neck edge, using a mattress stitch seam.
Debbie Bliss Andes - top with feature cable
Sadly, in this case, the band was a fraction too long for the neck edge of the garment. You can see the little leftover bit in the photo - barely 2cm long, but enough to make the cable look cramped and bunchy when I set it in using the above method.

I tried to unpick it to pull out the extra bit and discovered that Andes is hopeless to unravel! I couldn't get the knot undone for anything. In the end, with Easter looming, I bit the bullet and contacted the customer: would she be OK if I cut the extra bit off? (I didn't mention that I actually couldn't think of any alternative that would leave her with a sensible looking garment). Luckily, she OK'd it - I cut off the extra and cast off along the cut edge. I could then set the band into place and finish the garment off.

This got me thinking about tricks to avoid the nuisance of feature pieces that don't quite fit. The sideways cable is a reasonably common one - in her early books, Jo Sharp designed cardigans with a separate band and collar that had to be sewn on and one of the recent Rowan magazines has several designs that included a feature panel in a different yarn that had to be slotted in to the final garment.

In a perfect world, we'd all do our tension squares and knit perfectly even pieces that would turn out to be exactly the correct size and fit together effortlessly like a soft, woolly jigsaw. In reality, even quite skilled and experienced knitters can find themselves with a feature piece that is just that little bit too long, too wide, too short or too narrow!

There are a few ways to minimise the nuisance value of the feature piece:
  1. Leave a nice, long end and a loose knot when you cast off the feature piece. That way, if it's not quite right, you will easily be able to unravel a few rows to make it a perfect fit - or pull out the whole thing and start over!

  2. Intarsia is not just for colour blocks. One of my first Jo Sharp projects was a cardigan with a long button band that was supposed to be knitted afterwards and sewn on. Instead of driving myself mad trying to knit a band of the correct length and fit it into place, I knitted the band at the same time as the fronts, using 3.25mm double pointed needles and a separate ball of yarn. When I reached the end of the band, I twisted the yarn around the yarn I was using for the main body of the garment, as you would for two intarsia blocks. Although it was a bit fiddly, it was worth the effort when I cast off two fronts with perfectly fitted bands and no sewing up to do!

  3. Another option (which would have worked well for the cable band above!) is to pick up a stitch into the body then K2tog/sl K1 psso at the end of each row. This effectively knits your band into place as you go. The only disadvantages are that you have the weight of the made-up garment hanging from your needles, and it may not give a smooth/invisible join.
With those options in mind, I might go and spend the last few hours of my Easter break raiding my stash... There are a lot of odds and ends in there that could be used for Rowan feature panels if I find the right base yarn! Happy Easter :)

Saturday, March 16, 2013


In the end, I decided to bite the bullet and finish the Green Chai Cardi. I need to have faith in my skills as a crocheter and assume that it will fit - instead of leaving my options open, then spending Mum's entire next visit frantically trying to get it finished.

Did I mention that I hated the sleeves? I hated the sleeves.

The reason was that they didn't come out even. They weren't badly out of alignment, but they were visibly different. I looked at them for a week, then cracked and ripped them out. Then, while the unravelled wool was soaking in a mix of warm water and wool mix to get the crinkles out, I sat down to see if I could work out a way of setting the sleeves straight into the garment. As you may have guessed from the photo below, yes I could. :)

Green Chai Cardi with crocheted-in sleeves
To provide a foundation for the sleeves, I did a row of double crochet into the broomstick lace (one dc for each chain in the foundation chain in the original sleeve pattern). I made sure that the double crochets were evenly spaced to either side of the seam (8 dc each side and 1 dc on the seam). Then I simply followed the pattern, working into the double crochets.

When the pattern changed from rows to rounds, I worked more double crochets to form a foundation for the round. It was actually easier than following the pattern - I found the whole "row of chain and join with a treble" a bit confusing, it took me a couple of goes to get it each time.

I also adapted an old knitter's trick of doing both the sleeves at once. This is a great tip that I got from my great-aunt, who was still knitting strong into her 90s. Her tip was to cast on both the sleeves at once (using two separate balls of yarn) and to work them at the same time. The idea is that you're unlikely to end up increasing on the right sleeve, then forgetting to increase on the left if you have both the sleeves on the needles at the same time.

Shawl Collar Cardigan - sleeves
This also works well for cardigan fronts - in fact, for pretty much anything where you have two knitted pieces that need to be absolutely identical. (Of course, it's no guarantee that they won't be identically wrong - but that is easier to hide that two uneven sleeves or fronts).

The crochet equivalent is to work a round - put a stitch marker or safety pin into the stitch to stop your work unravelling - take the hook out, then work the same round on the other sleeve. It seems to working quite well - I feel like the sleeves look far more even, and this also saves me from having to scribble notes about any 'fixes' that I've needed to make the pattern work out.

Lady Eleanor stole
While I was waiting for the wool to dry out after I frogged the sleeves, I had some time to spend on the Lady Eleanor Entrelac Stole.

Once I'd worked two tiers, the logic of it suddenly clicked and now I'm happily picking the stole up whenever I've got a spare moment and working a couple of rectangles. The Noro yarn is lovely and warm - very much looking forward to having this in my wardrobe by winter time! The pattern says to work 35 tiers, but I'm hoping I might have the yarn to make it 40. Not because I need a particularly long stole, but just because I'm really enjoying the pattern now that I've mastered it. :)

Stop taking photos and give us back our sofa!!
My next step will be to put together a simple entrelac design and block in at least one class for the winter. I'm thinking of doing something with one of the Jo Sharp tweeds... but more on that in another blog post. For now, I need to open the shop and give the sofa back to its rightful owners (see photo left!).

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Sleeves and buttons

Well the Green Chai Cardi is officially more or less finished. What this means is, I've done the sleeves and the buttons, and now I can't do any more until Mum next comes to visit me.When Mum visits, I'll pin the thing on her and make sure it fits - if it does, I'll put the button band on. If it doesn't, I'll adjust it to suit.

Things I've learned:
  • If this pattern is any guide, American women have no biceps. Mum's a farmer: she does. I am not sure that the sleeve would go over her bare arm, let alone over a jumper as intended. Hint to crocheting body builders and to anyone else who can lift a 10kg sack of horse feed: you will probably need to adjust the armholes and sleeves if you attempt to crochet this garment. I will do another post about this once I find out just how tight the sleeves actually are!
  • Covering buttons is fun! This button method would also create a fabric button if you crocheted tightly enough. To make these buttons, I took three wooden buttons from our stock which were damaged (the finish was all scarred and scratched). You could also use a self cover button or maybe some old buttons that you've got that don't match.
Green Chai Cardi - buttons and sleeve

Covering buttons

To make a button cover or a fabric button:
  1. Crochet a small centre ring (@ 3 ch), plus chain to start your round.
    These buttons were quite small, so I crocheted a single chain plus two chain as my first half-treble. For a larger button, you might want 3ch + 2ch as your first treble. The goal is to have a fairly tight centre ring, so that the button can't be seen through the gap.
  2. Work one round into the centre ring.
    For these buttons, I crocheted a round of half-trebles: for larger buttons, crochet a round of trebles or double trebles. The goal is to create a circle of stitches that is about the same size as your button.
  3. Working in the back loop only, work a round of double crochet. This creates a rim which fits neatly over your button.
  4. A. To cover a button, fasten off (leaving a long tail) and place the button into the cover. Thread the yarn through the double crochets and pull tight.

    B. For a freestanding button, work a second round into the back loops of the double crochet round (creating a flat disc). Fasten off, leaving a long tail to attach the button.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Green Chai Cardi - body all done!!

Well, it looks like I might get this one over the bar yet - Mum's birthday is this weekend, and the body of the Green Chai Cardi is already finished.

As I'd hoped, once I'd worked through the pattern a couple of times, it got into my hands and I could work without having to constantly refer back to find out what a shell was, how to form a cluster, etc etc etc. After I'd joined the fronts and back together and done the A-line increase, I was even comfortable stopping halfway through a row and picking the work back up again - which was good, because even in the smallest size, there's near enough to two hundred stitches from one side of the garment to the other!

Even though I've mastered it, the pattern has enough variation to maintain interest and keep me going for just one more row (or round, in the case of the sleeves). I'm loving the way it's come up in the Aran Tweed too. The fabric is fairly firm, and should be nice and snug as an extra autumn layer. If I find someone else who wants one, I'd be interested to have a go with a DK tweed (or with hooks a quarter size larger) to see if I could get something a bit more drapey, and where the lace pattern in the body is more evident. Although I suspect that the lace pattern is being concealed more by the tweed effect in the yarn than by the fabric density - maybe if I try again, I'll use the Jo Sharp Classic DK or maybe some Merino Magic, instead of a tweed yarn.

Off to finish the sleeves now! Just to be on the safe side, I'll get Mum to try it on before I do anything that might make ripping difficult - like sewing the sleeves in, running in the ends or putting on the button band. Looking forward to putting up a photo of the finished product!

Green Chai Cardi - body

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Green Chai Cardi - week 1

**Australia Day special: use the code OZ on our webshop or in store to get 10% off your total purchase**

Finding the Green Chai Cardi an interesting challenge! Sadly, I haven't finished as much as I expected, because I'm not game to work on it unless I'm able to concentrate completely - so no crocheting on public transport, while reading or between customers in the shop.  :(
Finished Yoke- Green Chai Cardi

The construction is interesting: I worked the broomstick lace pattern upwards from the foundation double crochet (US: single crochet) row, then worked the crocheted shell pattern downwards from the foundation dc/sc row. I'm now going to start working from the right front to the left front in the shell pattern, joining the whole garment together and leaving an armhole. It should look pretty amazing.

Things I've found interesting so far:
  • Working in US abbreviations. Luckily the shell pattern doesn't use many of the standard abbreviations and a chain is a chain wherever you are! However, there is a certain amount of muttering and translating aloud involved in making the shell pattern happen. I'm hoping it will get easier once I've done a few more rows of it and gotten it into my fingers.
  • 'Nested' instructions. For example, page 8 says "Work Row 2 of the shell pattern". I go back to page 3 and find the shell pattern, which says (something like) "ch1, sk 3 ch, sh, ch 1". So I go back to page 1 to find out what 'sh' stands for. 'Sh' is the shell, instructions are 'cl, ch (etc)'. So I read backwards up page 1 to find that 'cl' is the abbreviation for a particular stitch - thankfully, instructions for said stitch are next to the abbreviation in the glossary. Then I have to actually crochet the mothering thing, while translating the US abbreviations into English.
This is why 110% concentration is required! An apology may also be required when this arrives in Mum's mailbox around Easter 2014... Particularly if she finds out that I've knitted a Shawl Collar Cardigan for myself during all the bus/tram/train rides when I haven't dared to work on her present!

Shawl Collar Cardigan in Patons Jet

Monday, January 14, 2013

Broomstick Lace - the Green Chai Cardi

Green Chai Cardi (c) Interweave Publications
I've sometimes thought that it's a bit pointless for us to run classes in broomstick lace and tricot/Tunisian crochet when there are so few patterns for either technique. I mean, there's only so many scarves that you can wear/give away as gifts/sew onto street furniture as art - eventually you want to do something with your new skill other than produce a rectangle. Fortunately, over in the USA, they have the same problem, and the kind ladies at Interweave publications have come up with some very nice designs using both techniques. So I shouted myself a Christmas gift of half a dozen downloadable patterns from their website.

The first cab off the rank had to be the Green Chai Cardi. (The logic behind this decision? It's my Mum's birthday soon, and she looks like the model in the photo. Certainly more than she looks like me! So I figured it would look great on her and therefore would be an awesome birthday present).

For my first trick, I had to work out what would substitute for Madelinetosh Tosh Merino DK (yet another yarn that we can't get in Australia! Grrrrr....). I could have tried buying some over the internet, but with a February deadline and Christmas/New Year likely to delay shipping, I didn't want to take the chance. The obvious answer would be 'substitute any DK yarn from the shop' - however, I've tried crocheting US patterns with Aussie DK yarns before, with pretty ordinary results. I tried a broomstick lace swatch with some leftover Jo Sharp DK, just to prove my point, and came up with something significantly smaller than the gauge required.

Previous experiments with US patterns and Aussie wool suggested that an Aran yarn would probably give the right results. Sure enough, I dug out some scraps of Jo Sharp Aran Tweed, whipped up more swatches and it was right on target. It also comes in a colour that looks fairly similar to the Tosh Merino Thyme shade used in the photos (shade 139 Spring). Surprisingly, it worked with the hook and needle sizes specified in the pattern - usually, I need to go down one size to get the correct gauge for a crochet pattern.

Green Chai Cardi Yoke in Jo Sharp Aran Tweed (Spring)
That was the yarn and the hook sizes sorted. My next trick was to work out what size garment to make. Interweave patterns do measurements in inches and work to US sizes, which are larger than the sizes used in Australia. With an Australian pattern, for example, you can safely assume that the smallest size is a woman's size 8. A quick search through the internet left me pretty confident that the smallest size on this pattern was an Australian size 10, which is Mum's size.

I've done the back yoke and the left front yoke already (less than an hour for both pieces - broomstick lace is an incredibly fast technique). More importantly, I've also tried this on Mum just to confirm that I've selected the right size Luckily, I'd guessed right - Mum's a perfect US size 8 and the yoke went across her shoulders perfectly. Off to work the last yoke panel tonight - then onto the shell pattern tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Sewing up....

Well, the purple cotton top is finished and I think it's a bit of a winner. 
Supreme Chunky Cotton Top (1)Supreme Chunky Cotton Top (2)

The pattern was easy to knit once I'd gone through it a couple of times and the yarn knitted up quickly and easily. I think there were maybe two knots in the entire batch of yarn, which isn't too bad, and generally the project was an enjoyable knitting experience.

Then it came time to make it up. The instructions said to top-sew the seams. That worried me, as top-sewing/top-stitching gives a very bulky seam (you are sewing into the row under the cast off or garment edge) and I didn't fancy any idea that might make me look like an aspiring gridiron player!

So I did one shoulder seam using mattress stitch and top-stitched the other.

Top-Stitch Seam  
Mattress Stitch Seam

I was surprised to find that the mattress stitch seam actually didn't look that great. It sat nice and flat, and wasn't bulky, but the the top-stitch seam actually fitted in better with the character of the garment. So I top-stitched the rest of the seams. The lesson for me to take away - even if a pattern cover photo is badly styled, the designer probably still knows more than I do! The top is now alternating between store display and mobile advertisement (i.e. I'm wearing it out). Sadly, I didn't get to wear it at Christmas, as I forgot to pack it, but I did get to spend Christmas finishing off my first ever effort at a yoked jumper (pattern from Men's Jet 20 Designs 1266). Happy combined Father's Day and Christmas Dad!