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Pattern Review: Tied Knots Hat

Last month I stumbled upon Justyna Lorkowska’s Tied Knots hat pattern and knew I had to make one. There is just nothing I love more than a cabled hat and I really don’t know why I don’t knit more of them.

The Tied Knots hat is a beautiful cabled hat knit in DK weight yarn and is avaliable for free on Ravelry. The pattern is very well loved with over 1,000 Ravelry projects. I thoroughly enjoyed knitting this hat. I actually loved this hat so much that I imediately cast on a second.

Edit: I have since knit a third Tied Knots Hat but since it was knit as a gift I will not be posting about the yarn details.

The Pattern

What I Loved

This pattern is short, as a hat pattern should be, but still contains all of the necessary information to complete this project with ease. I have come accorss many patterns that sacrifice clarity for the sake of keeping a pattern short and I have also seen patterns that are basically a novel and I think both of those pattern writting styles are a problem. First, a knitter should not have to rely on previous knitting experience to complete a pattern, unless it is clearly labled as a recipee. On the other hand if you add too much detail important information can get lost in long blocks of text. Justyna’s pattern was concise, meaning that it had all of the necessary detail you would expect from a professional pattern without any fluff.

Tied Knots is avaliable as a free Ravelry download but is still a polished professional pattern. The photos are great and the pattern is beautifully formated, which is not alwasy the case with free patterns. That’s not to say that patterns without a pretty layout are inherintly bad but a pretty pattern is always a bonus.

In the same vein, this pattern is also error free. It was at the very least very well tech edited and based on the pattern quality I would guess that the pattern was also test knit. I did not see any errors in the pattern. I also did not find any mention of errata or errors in previous versions of the pattern, meaning that this pattern was polished and error free from the get go.

What I didn’t Love

This pattern only comes in one size. I have an average sized female head so my hat fit well but if you want to knit this hat for a child or you have a larger head you will need to play around with gauge and or stitch count to alter the size.

The cable pattern has both charted and written instructions but the pattern does not indicate that the written instructions correspond to the charted pattern. I am familiar with cable knitting so I knew to expect both written and charted instructions. I can also read both written and charted instructions so I was able to verify that the two were identical. I bring this up because a new knitter may not be familiar with pattern writting conventions regarding charted patterns and the lack of clarity here may cause some confusion.

Difficulty Rating/ Recomondations

I would rate this pattern as advanced beginer. The cable stitches are pretty simple as far as cables are concerned and I think that this could definetly be tackled as a first cabled project.

I would recomend this pattern to any confident beginer. I would not recomend knitting this as your first hat pattern if you don’t have experience with cables. I think this pattern would be a great first exposure to either hat knitting or cable knittin but not both.

My Twisted Knots Hats

Yarn Choice

As I said, I made two of these hats. The first was made out of Knit Pick’s Palette held double. Palette is a 100%Peruvian Highland wool fingering wieight yarn. I used the Marble Heather colorway and I used approxomately 356 yards or 77 grams.

I like the way this yarn looks knit up but the knitting process was not great. Knit Pick’s Palette is loosely plied and very easy to split. I was working with two strands, which only made the spliting problem worse. I love the finished hat but I would deffinetly not use Pallette double stranded again.

I knit my second hat out of Morningside Road Fiber*. The yarn was a DK weight 45/45/10 baby alpaca, merino, silk blend in the Rose Wood colorway. Working with this yarn was fantastic. The yarn did not split easily and the yarn was very smoth and knit up very quickly. I would absolutely use this yarn for a similar project.

*As far as I can tell this dyer does not have an online shop. I bought the yarn at an LYS while I was in Texas. 

Needles

I got gauge with the needle size recomended in the pattern. I used my Hiya Hiya Sharp interchanables. Since I cable without a cable needle having sharp needle tips is really important for picking up stitches.

Modifications

I made very few modifications to this pattern. Like I said, this pattern is amazing just the way it is so I didn’t need to make any adjustments. The two things I did change stem from personal preference and convience.

On both hats I used psso decreases instead of ssk decreases. This is just my personal preference and doesn’t have an impact on the look or function of the finished product.

On the second hat I used a US 4 (3.5mm) needle for the ribbing instead of the US 3 (3.25 mm) called for in the pattern. I bought this yarn while we were in Texas for a wedding and I didn’t have my US 3 needle with me so I just made do with what I had on hand. The ribbing is a little bit looser on my second hat but it doesn’t look bad and the fit is fine.

Summary

The Tied Knots hat is a great pattern suitable for advanced beginners. The pattern was truely a joy to knit and has a timeless style, sure to be loved by all of the knitworthy people in your life.

What to do when you can’t get gauge

I’ve talked about how to knit a gauge swatch and why it’s important. But that post assumes that you are able to get the gauge specified in your pattern. And while you can do a lot by changing the needle size you’re using I’ve never really talked about the instances where you can’t get the gauge specified in the pattern. So what do you do?

First, what gauge are you getting? If the pattern specifies 27 stitches per 4″ but you can only hit 26 stitches or 28 stitches you’re probably close enough. A lot of patterns incorporate positive ease into the pattern if this is the case than you can pretty safely knit at almost gauge and end up with a well fitting garment.

Deciding if you want to go with the 26 stitch gauge or the 28 stitch gauge is going to depend on the characteristics of the garment and how your measurements compare to the pattern measurements. If the closest avaliable size is a little larger than you would normally wear than knitting the pattern at a slightly tighter gauge may be result in a better fit.

If the garment you are trying to knit is knit at a loser gauge of say 16 stitches per 4″ and you can only hit 15 or 17 stitches than you are probably going to want to either do some math and alter the stitch count of the pattern or knit a different size.

Figuring out which size you should knit based on the gauge you are getting is actually pretty easy. If you divide your stitch count by 4 this will give you the stitches per inch. Take that number and multiply it by your bust measurement plus the whatever postive ease you want in the finished garment and this will give you the stitch count for the bust. Now take a look at the pattern and find the size that has the stitch count closes to this and follow the dierections for that size.

Have you every had trouble hitting the gauge specified in the pattern? What was your solution? Let me know in the comments below!

Are indie dyed yarns better than commercial yarns?

I was not introduced to the world of indie dyed yarns until I started watching knitting podcasts on Youtube. And while the the beautiful speckles and rich tonal yarns crafted by indie dyers are certainly alluring their price tag can be a bit daunting. We often associated a higer price with higer quality and while that is often true I am not convinenced that indie dyed yarns are inherently better than more budget firendly commerciallyed dyed yarns.

But let me be clear as much as I love indie dyed yarn and as much as I want to and try to support other creaters I simply don’t have the budget to knit exclusively in hand dyed yarn. And I certainly don’t want to imply that there is anything wrong with indie dyed yarn or that I feel indie yarn is over priced. Indie dyers are often one person dying skeins of yarn in small batches and the cost of the yarn reflects this. However, when compared to commercially dyed yarns there is no question as to which is the more affordable option.

That being said I want to make a case for yarns sold by companies like KnitPicks becasue you can get high quality fibers at an affordable price from these companies and I don’t want anyone to think they are not a Knitter with a capital K becasue commercially dyed yarns are all the can afford.

So to answer my question — are indie dyed yarns better than commercial yarns– I would say that depends on what you are looking for. While companies like KnitPicks do offer animal fibers and a limited number of luxary fibers if you are looking for a speckled Merino/Cashmere blend you probably won’t find that from anyone but an indie dyer. If you are looking for a solid or tonal wool/nylon blend there are plenty of options avaliable from both commercial dyers and indie dyers.

When it comes to my own knitting I use a mix of indie dyed and commercially dyed yarns. When I knit socks I primarilly use indie dyed yarns for a few reasons. The first being that I have not found a commerically dyed sock yarn that I really like or that knits up well for my feet. Additionaly, since you only need one skein for a pair of socks this isn’t a budget killer.

But when it comes to sweaters I tend to gravitate towards commercially dyed yarns, with a few exceptions for special projects and special yarns. I don’t have the budget to knit all of my sweaters out of indie dyed yarn and I absolutely hate alternating skeins, which is a must when knitting with multiple skeins of indie dyed yarn.

What kind of yarn do you use for your porjects? Let me know in the comments below.

How and When to Rip Out a Sweater

The knitter in me is cringing as I write this post. While I hate to admit it (almost as much as I hate to rip back sweaters) this is a necessary post. No matter how careful you are at some point you will probably have to rip back a sweater.

How and When to Rip Back a Sweater

Before we talk about how, let’s talk about why you might want to rip back a sweater. Please note that this is not an exhaustive list.

First,  you might rip out a sweater because your gauge is off. If you are knitting at the wrong gauge your garment will end up bigger or smaller than you intended. This might not be a huge problem if your gauge is only a little off or the garment your knitting has a bit of ease you can play with. But you might end up with a garment that will not fit and needs to be ripped out.

I recently knit a gauge swatch and I was a little lazy about it.  I only counted gauge over one inch areas instead of counting my gauge over a four inch area and calculating my stitches per inch from the four inch stitch count. This a problem is because I thought my gauge was 5 stitches per inch when in reality it was 4.75 stitches per inch. Had I counted the number of stitches in a four inch area and divide that number by four I would have known my actual gauge.

Second, you might just not like the garment you are knitting. It can be difficult to picture how a particular yarn will knit up until you actually do it. It is such a shame to put hours and hours into a project that you don’t absolutely love or isn’t your style. I’m not sure who said it first but,” If you don’t like it now you’re not going to like it 14 rows from now.” So do yourself a favor and rip it back.

Now lets get into the how. For this I am going to assume that you are planning on re-knitting the sweater or at the very least you are planning on using the yarn again.

First, you are going to need to figure out how much of the sweater you are going to rip back. Are you going to rip out all of your knitting or is there a portion that is salvageable? If you are ripping back to a specific point go ahead and insert a lifeline this way there are no live stitches to pick up.

Next, it’s time to take your knitting apart. If you’ve got a lot of ripping to do you are probably going to want some entertainment. So pour yourself a glass of wine and queue up your favorite show or a knitting podcast and grab your project.

entertainment

Now you are going to start ripping back your project winding the yarn into balls as you go. You want to be careful not to end up with a tangled mess.

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Once you have your yarn wound into balls it is time to soak the yarn and get all the crinkles out. This step is important because crinkled yarn is going to knit up differently than smooth yarn. For this I wind my yarn into hanks using my swift.

Once, my yarn is back in hank form I make sure they are tied securely and I put them in the tub for a soak. Then I squeeze out the excess water and hang them to dry.

I’m not going to lie, after I rip out a project the yarn typically has to sit in timeout for several months before I can knit with it again. Have you had to rip back a sweater? Tell me about it in the comments below!

Sock Heels: Short Rows or Heel Flaps

Creating your perfect sock recipee is a time consuming process that takes a lot of trial and error. And honestly, even after five years of sock knitting my perfect sock recipee is something I am still working on. While gauge and stitch count definetly matter in the world of sock knitting I’ve found that these variables were a lot easier to lock down than my perfect sock heel.

You see there are two basic sock heel constructions: short row heels and heel flaps and gussets. I have tried them both and I have come to the following delema; heel flap and gussets create too much space in the heel/instep area and short row heels don’t provide enough.

I heard about Mina’s Mini Heel Flap Adjustment a few years ago but  I had never gotten around to trying it out until recently. I  started knitting a pair of vanilla socks and I decied to give it a go.

Mina’s instructions are great and super straght forward and knitting the mini heel flap followed by a German Short-row heel was pleasent and uncomplicated. Since it is the middle of summer here in the the United States it will be a few months before I can take these socks for a test drive but I am excited to see how the heels fit!

Tell me about your sock recipee in the comments below!

The Seven Steps to Knitting a Perfect Gauge Swatch

Cue the collective groan. Everyone hates swatching and I know you are all thinking ‘why Myra, why do we have to swatch?’ And there are some really good answers to that question.

First, if you are knitting a garment I am sure you want it to fit it’s intended recipient. In order to ensure a good fit you need to know how many stiches and rows it takes to knit and inch. Most patterns will give gauge specifications for 4 inch/ 10 cm areas and that is becasue you’re not a machine and your gauge is going to vary a little bit no matter how consistant of a knitter you are. Additionally, your gauge might end up being something like 4.75 stitched per inch. It’s pretty hard to measure three quarters of a stitch but 20 stitch/ 4 inches is a much easier measurment.

Second, you will need to wash your garment at some point and washing hand knit garments takes some care. Felting your finished garment would be heart breaking but felting your swatch is a minor inconvience. Knitting a swatch gives you the opportunity to give your yarn a washing test drive.

Third, you get to see what your yarn will look like once it is knit up. Knitting an entire sweater just to find out that you don’t like the fabric would be very dissapointing. Yarn often looks differnt in a skein then is does once it’s knit up and knitting a gauge swatch will allow you to sample your yarn.

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But what is gauge?

Simply put, knitting gauge is the number of stitches and number of rows in an inch of knitted fabric. In order to measure your gauge you are going to need to knit a gauge swatch, which can be torture. Knitting a sweater is so exciting and since I buy most of my yarn online I have to wait for it to arrive. Once I do get my yarn and pick out my pattern I don’t want to sit around knitting a swatch that I have to wash and block. But I  know that knitting a swatch will ensure a good fit so I suffer through, most of the time….

Step 1: Pick Out your Yarn

While swatching with left overs of the same yarn weight might sound like a good idea this can actually get you into trouble. Just becaues two yarns are both considered worsted weight does not mean they will knit up at the same gauge. There is a fair degree of variation within yarn weights so make sure you swatch with the yarn you will be using for your project.

Step 2: Pick Out your Needles

The type of needles you use can have a significant impact on your gauge. I know that bamboo needles gove me a looser gauge than metal and shorter needle tips give me a tighter gauge than long ones. So picking out the needles I am going to use for my project and using those to knit my swatch is super important.

Step 3: Pick your Stitch Pattern

Your pattern will most likely tell you what stitch pattern you should knit your swatch in. Make sure if your pattern says gauge is measured over a particular texture stitch that is the stitch you use to knit your swatch. If your pattern does not specify the stitch your should use, knit your gauge swatch in stockinette stitch (knit on the right side, purl on the wrong side).

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Step 4: Knit your swatch

You want your swatch to be bigger than four inches so that you can measure the stitches in a contigeous four inch area. I like to knit garter stitch borders on my swatches so that they lie flat. So if the gauge I am trying to hit is 20 stitches = 4 inches I will cast on about  30 – 32sitches. That way I can knit the first 3 stitches on either side in garter stitch and still have an area larger than 4 inches to measure.

Note: Knitting in the Round

If the garment you are knitting is knit in the round it is important that you knit your swatch it the round because your purl gauge is most likely different than your knit gauge. But don’t worry you don’t have to knit a swatch that is double the size. You can carry your working yarn along the back of your swatch like you would a colorwork yarn float. When it comes time to wash and block your swatch cut the floats down the middles so you can lie the swatch flat.

 

 

Step 5: Washing and Blocking

 

Once you’ve knit your swatch it’s time for washing and blocking. It is important that you wash your swatch the same way you will be washing your sweater. If you plan to machine wash your sweater don’t hand wash your swatch. Remember this is a washing test drive you want to make sure that this finished product will stand up to whatever washing routine your plan to use.

I am not a huge fan of superwash yarns, which means most of my garments require hand washing (or careful machine washing but that’s a post for another day). I use Eucalan lavender scented no rinse wool wash. I recieved this bottle as a gift a few years ago and I have used it on all of my hand knits with great results. I havn’t tried any other wool washes and probably won’t anytime soon because it is what my LYS carries. I cannot speak to the quality of other wool washes but there are other popular brands out there.

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For something this size I fill a glass mixing bowl with room temperture water and put a few drops of Eucalan in it. I let my swach soak for about 20 minutes beacause it does not take long for the water to permeate something that size.

Once the swatch is finished soaking I gently squeez out any excess water. You never want to ring out anything hand knit. Once I’ve squeezed out all of the water I can I put small projects into my salad spinner and give them a spin, this removes a lot of excess water that you wouldn’t be able to get out otherwise.

*I don’t use this salad spinner for food. I am not a medical professional but I don’t think there is anything in the wool wash that would be dangerous, particularly if the salad spinner was washesd thouroughly, but there is often excess dye that comes off the yarn when is is washed and consuming yarn dye would most certainly not be good for you.

After the salad spinner I pin my swatch to the blocking my blocking mats. I use children’s play mats for blocking because they are made of the same material as blocking mats but are significantly less expensive. An individual child’s play mat will be smaller than a blocking mat but when I purchased these I found the difference in price to be substantial enough that I could purchase enough childern’s play mats to cover the same amount of surface area as a set of block mats and still save money.

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If you don’t own blocking mats don’t worry. You can lay your knits out on a towel. However, if you knit a lot of lace projects I would recommend purchasing the necessary block materials because a good blocking is vital in achieving well defined lace.

Once you have set your swatch to block let it dry over night. If you live in a particularly humid climate or it is the middle of winter your swatch may require additional drying time.

Step 6: Mearsuring your Gauge

Now that your swatch is dry it is time to measure your gauge. All you will need for this is a ruler or tape measure and your swatch. Lay your swatch flat and make sure that you are not stretching it out. Place your ruler or measuring tape on top of your swatch and count the number of stitches in a 4 inch section. Make sure you count your gauge over multiple areas to get an accurate count. Repeat the process counting your rows.

Step 7: Write it Down

This is the most important step in measuring gauge. You need to write everything down. Your needle size and type, the yarn used, how you washed it, and your gauge. You WILL NOT REMEMBER IT IF YOU DON’T WRITE IT DOWN. I don’t care how good your memory is write it down.

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Yarn Love: Bluefaced Leicester

I actually ended up with a skein of Bluefaced Leicester (BFL) sock yarn by chance. Molly from a Homespun House was doing a Christmas at Hogwarts sock yarn club and of course I needed to sign up. The club was dyed up on several of her bases and so I ended up with a skein of her BFL sock yarn.

At first I was a little disappointed that I ended up with BFL instead of merino. I was worried my socks wouldn’t be soft and cozy and that they would not work up the way I wanted. But I was so wrong.

YARN LOVE

It’s safe to say that I am a BFL convert. BFL / Nylon is by far my favorite yarn base for my socks. It holds up much better than my merino sock (much less pilling) and I didn’t have to sacrifice softness to get a sturdier sock. Plus in my experience, your mileage may vary, my BFL socks retain their shape and don’t stretch out the way my merino socks do.