Archive for the ‘Knitter’s Table’ Category

Wet Blocking Vs Steam Blocking

Saturday, April 20th, 2013

Congratulations!  The final stitch on your latest knitting project has just been cast off, now what?  Before you sew your seams together, take time for one of the most important steps in finishing a garment, blocking, which will shape and mold your knitted pieces to correspond with the actual measurements given on the pattern schematics.  This will make a huge difference to the overall look, from homemade to professional with just a few simple materials that you may already have at home.  Set up an area with a table to work on, and gather together the following supplies, a tape measure, rustproof pins (T-pins are preferable), a few large towels to use as a blocking pad, spray bottle filled with water, steam iron, and a linen or cotton tea towel.  The next step is crucial, choosing wet blocking vs steam blocking.  To decide which method is most suitable for your project, check the fibre content on the ball band and match to the chart below.  If in doubt, test a small swatch first, any yarns that contain synthetics should be wet blocked, as the heat from a steam iron will damage these fibres.  Both blocking methods require pinning the garment pieces so they will measure out to the required sizing.

Wet Blocking- fold a few towels to create a soft pad and pin your garment pieces in place.  Choose either a spray bottle filled with cool water or a large damp towel as your blocking tool.  Both work equally well, it is a matter of personal preference.  Wet the pieces thoroughly with either the spray bottle or the damp towel.  Leave overnight to dry.

Steam Blocking- fold a few towels to create a soft pad and pin your garment pieces in place.  Set your iron to the lowest steam setting, hold slightly above the pinned garment pieces, and rotate in a circular motion without touching the fabric.  The steam will dampen the pieces without pressing.  If your work requires a light pressing, make sure a linen or cotton tea towel is used as a pressing cloth to avoid direct contact with the fabric.  Leave pins in position until pieces are thoroughly dry.  Drying time is much quicker with this method.

 

Angora-   Wet block by spraying

Cotton-  Wet block or warm/hot steam block

Linen-  Wet block or warm/hot steam block

Lurex-  Do not block 

Mohair-  Wet block by spraying

Novelties-  Do not require blocking

Synthetics-  Carefully follow instructions on ball band- wet block by spraying, do not press

Wool-  Wet block by spraying or warm steam block

Wool blends-  Wet block by spraying, do not press

 

The Allure Of Alpaca

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

With jet black eyes shyly hidden behind a ‘mop top’ reminiscent of the Beatles era, its no wonder these gentle creatures capture our hearts at first glance.  Alpacas are cousins to both llamas and camels, native to Peru where they existed for thousands of years raised purely for their luxurious fibre.  In the late 1880′s, a British wool importer noticed the unusually soft and glossy fibre tucked inside a sheep wool shipment from Peru, and promptly launched the introduction of alpaca wool to the European market.  It wasn’t until the 1990′s that the first of five hundred alpacas made their debut in Canada, highly regarded as sustainable farm animals requiring very little maintenance, and leaving a gentle footprint on the environment.  Naturally inquisitive and social, alpacas get along well with other farm animals, and are exceptionally clean, able to adapt to almost any terrain or climate.  They are quiet animals, communicating with a gentle humming sound within the herd.  

Mop Top Alpaca

There are two very distinct types of alpacas- Suri and Huacaya.  The Suri breed has long straight locks and a noticeably silky lustre, yielding a highly prized fleece.  Suris make up less than twenty percent of the world’s alpaca population.  Huacaya is the more common breed with a full coat of soft crinkly fleece that fluffs outwards in a teddy bear- like appearance.  Over eighty thousand pounds of this buttery soft fleece is sheared in Canada each spring, processed into rovings, batts, felt and spun into luxury yarns, blending easily with silk, bamboo, linen, cotton, and mohair.

Huacaya Alpacas

Alpaca fleece is quite different from that of a sheep.  It is a hollow fibre containing no lanolin which makes it hypoallergenic.  Exceeding sheep wool in strength and resilience, alpaca is highly rated for its thermal value, drapes well in knitwear, and is very lightweight.  The only animal to come in so many colours, alpacas range from jet black, to black-brown, beige, fawn, silvery grey, to creamy white, a total of twenty-two officially recognised colours.   White remains the most desired colour for yarn manufacturers as it readily accepts dye.  

Suri Alpaca

Close Up of Suri Fleece

The popularity of these adorable animals continues to grow with hobby farmers, as one couple remarked, “we started with a pair of alpacas as pets, and in just three years we had a herd of thirty seven, they are hard to resist with their sweet disposition and charm.”      

Qina by Mirasol- baby alpaca and bamboo sourced viscose

Mainland by Earth Collection- baby alpaca and silk

Alpaca Silk Aran by Debbie Bliss

Suri Prism by Diamond Luxury Collection- suri alpaca and nylon

Captivated By Katia

Monday, May 31st, 2010

In Barcelona, a city richly flavored in culture and fashion, well-known for its impressive vistas from hilltops sloping gently towards the Mediterranean Sea, one yarn company has stood the test of time.  For close to sixty years, Katia has spun out innovative yarns, reviving the industry with trend-setting styles based upon European design.  The Katia team has built a solid reputation with quality products that grace the shelves of yarn stores in more than forty countries from Austria to Costa Rica, Guadelope to Hong Kong, and all points in between.  

Katia publishes ten design catalogues a year, focusing on handknitting patterns for babies, children, teens and adults.  A company remaining true to its name, Katia (translates as ‘pure’ in English) sticks with a proven formula that works, covering the gamut from posh elegance to relaxed sportswear as effortlessly as winding yarn around a needle.

For the coming season, Katia pumps up the volume with polar weight yarns  in solid and multi coloured shades, and reaches to deeper depths with smoky hues in self-striping wool blends.  Metallics glisten and gleam in the evening light in shades of silver, black and indigo.  Novelty yarns are puffed up with eye-catching texture displaying remarkable ingenuity from a company that doesn’t hold back when it comes to raising the bar.  Have a glimpse at some of the highlights from Katia’s Collection for Autumn/Winter 2010-2011 and see what catches your eye.

Fabula by Katia

Fabuliscious Fabula!  A polar weight yarn in pure superwash wool, this cowl neck pullover from Katia Book #63 will look great in a range of self-shading colours- red, magenta, teal, charcoal, or denim blue.  Don’t worry about the length of time it takes to knit on 9 mm needles, with nine shades to choose from, it will take much longer just deciding on which colour.

Memory by Katia

The warmth of Autumn is spun into Memory, a supersoft chunky wool blend that balances somewhere between a tweed and a self-striping yarn blending brights and darks together.   No need to sort these colours out before washing, its all in the mix.  This pullover stands out in Katia Book #63 with its unusual ribbed waistband ruched into a front cable panel.   

Alhambra by Katia

A little bit of shimmer goes a long way with Alhambra, an elegant new yarn combining ribbon and just a sliver of mohair for a subtle hazy effect.   This one knits as a chunky weight on 7 mm needles in seven fanciful shades for all out glamour- teal, charcoal, taupe, pearl grey, navy, burgundy and black.

Alhambra by Katia

Alhambra by Katia

Another two alluring styles from Katia Book #63 in Alhambra, a classic cap sleeve with a shawl collar in deep and mysterious teal blue warms up nicely with matching arm warmers.  Cool evenings are all wrapped up in a butterfly stitch shawl in charcoal black. 

Azteca by Katia

Azteca is back again with twenty-one inspiring colourways, the magic of stripes appearing in every ball of this popular aran weight yarn.  In a comfortable blend of wool and acrylic, this simple to knit cardigan with deep pockets from Katia Book #64 shows off the rustic shades of Autumn in the country.    

Azteca by Katia

If you prefer more slimming lines, knit vertically from side to side and add the ribbed border afterwards.  Its a super easy slipover vest that highlights the amazing colourways of Azteca

Illusion by Katia

Make this Illusion a reality in a fiery shade of red.  Its a headturner, a classic swing coat, lightweight and warm enough for gusty Autumn days in a delicate blend of superkid mohair, merino wool and a touch of nylon for durability.  With eighteen shades to choose from, in lively brights and subtle neutrals, why limit yourself to just being a lady in red.

The History Of Noro

Saturday, April 10th, 2010

‘The World Of Nature’ is the simple and intriguing caption on every brightly coloured ball of Noro yarn.  For thirty-five years, these four little words remain the constant heartfelt message from the founder of  Japan’s most innovative yarn company-  Eisaku Noro.  He is a true pioneer with an impressive artistic vision and the sincerest admiration for nature.      

Eisaku Noro

Eisaku grew up in the province of Mie, with nature right at the doorstep.  The Yoshino-Kumano National Park became his playground, an unspoiled primitive forest where he spent many hours fishing in the crystal clear waters of the Miya River, hiking in nearby mountains, and occasionally glimpsing Mount Fiji off in the distance.  His deep respect for nature developed at an early age, while later in school, he discovered an interest in art.  It is both of these great passions that he holds dear and credits as the basis for his life’s work, “I think everything I saw in my childhood was blended in my mind, and spins out whenever I need inspiration for my work.”  In his mid-teens, Eisaku began to study and learn the process of spinning and dyeing yarns. 

It wasn’t until well into his 30′s that he made the leap and started his own company- Noro, implementing all the techniques he had learned, as well as pioneering earth-friendly methods into the manufacturing process.  “For more than thirty years, we have been only using natural fibres, seeking colour with the vitality of nature,” states Mr. Noro in his mission statement.  Fibres are gathered from around the world- silk, kid mohair, pima cotton, and sheep wool which is primarily grown on a large ranch in Adelaide, Australia.  No agricultural chemicals are used and the wool fibres must pass strict standards to become certified organic before shipping to Japan.  All fibres are hand cleaned of debris without the use of chemicals or machinery, in order to keep the natural properties intact. 

Colour Selection Table

Raw fibres go through an individual colouring process within large vats where the temperature is set moderately cool to prevent damage.  After a spin dry cycle in a second vat, the newly dyed fibres are arranged by hand, carded and slowly spun into ‘slivers’.  These irregular combinations of short and long fibres are blended not twisted to retain a thick and thin handspun quality.  An array of slivers are gently spun together according to the Noro palette, to produce the amazing colourways we have all come to know and love.  

winding the slivers

steam setting the colours

spinning machine

Noro has set industry standards many years ago, leading the way with its green approach to preserving the environment.  Metal dyes are not part of the colouring process, and more than fifty percent of the cardboard used for yarn coning, as well as packing materials is from recycled sources.  By modifying the spinning machine used in production to run at a slower speed, hydro usage is reduced by more than twenty percent.

AYA- Book #27

FURIN Book #27

Eisaku Noro is well into his seventies now, involved with all the day to day operations at the company headquarters.  His lifelong dream to bring nature together with the world of yarn has been accomplished, “although it is difficult to reproduce our thoughts into colour, we are happy with the results.”

Within every ball of Noro yarn is a rainbow of possibilities. 

(Images courtesy of www.noroyarns.com)

Fresh Fibres

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

There is something invigorating about the arrival of Spring, a lightness in the air, that draws a knitter out of winter’s snug cocoon, in search of fresh fibres.  Before heading out the door to try some of the newest offerings at your LYS, take a minute or two and familiarize yourself with a few well-blended ingredients in the current collection of knitting yarns. 

Yarn is spun from fibre, which falls into one of three categories:  plant-based, animal-based or man-made.  While some yarns are a pure fibre, others are a chemist’s harmonious concoction of two or three categories.  By reading the ball band or wrapper on your favorite new yarn, what fibres were spun together to create a texture that appeals to you?  In celebration of the first week of Spring and all things fresh and green, here is a brief rundown on some of the most popular plant-based fibres. 

Viscose and Rayon cover a broad range of natural plant fibres originating from different types of wood pulp.  This plant matter is processed into a complex carbohydrate known as cellulose, and then spun into yarn.  With characteristics similar to cotton and silk, these fibres breath easily, and have lovely drape and sheen.  

Ester Bitran- Canela (Cotton and Viscose)

Bamboo is a type of viscose, derived from the leaves and inner stalk of the plant.  The pulp is extracted by steam, mechanically crushed, and soaked to produce a lustrous fibre, for spinning and rolling onto spools for yarn.  Bamboo sourced viscose yarn wicks away moisture from the skin, stays cool and comfortable and is hypoallergenic and odour resistant.  Its a renewable fibre that blends exceptionally well with cotton, wool, and silk.

Sirdar Flirt (bamboo sourced viscose and wool)

Modal is a cellulose type fibre, created from Beech trees.  This is a fascinating fibre, in the way that it absorbs much more readily than cotton, accepting dye and remaining colour-fast when washed in warm water.  Modal is extremely soft and smooth, a great additional ingredient spun with cotton, hemp and linen fibres.

Elsebeth Lavold- Hempathy (Cotton, Hemp and Modal)

Lenpur comes from the white Fir tree and is part of the viscose family.  Very much like Modal in its absorbent properties, it is extremely tactile with the softness of cashmere and the durability of cotton.

Louisa Harding-Albero (Cotton with Lenpur)

Linen is a fibre that has been around for centuries, originating from the Flax plant.  Known to be one of the strongest and most durable fibres, linen has a loose organic structure, and keeps the wearer extra cool in the summer heat.  Sometimes overlooked for its rough texture, it actually softens as it is handled.

Katia- Lino (Linen)

Corn is one of the new ‘foodie fibres’.  This plant is easily grown, and has a very high level of natural starch that can be broken down and fermented into sugar,  forming a paste that becomes suitable for spinning into silken strands of yarn.  

Queensland Collection- Haze (Corn and Cotton)

Soya is manufactured from the soybean plant.  Its the oil of the bean that is used to create a supple and luxurious yarn, with the drape and softness of bamboo sourced viscose yarn.  Soya is highly absorbent, and resistant to certain bacteria.  It blends well with other plant-based and animal-based fibres.

Diamond Luxury Collection- Zen (Soya, Bamboo Sourced Viscose and Cotton)

Cotton remains the most popular of all plant fibres.  Obtained from the seed pod, which splits open at maturity, this soft and fluffy fibre has its own natural twist, making it much stronger than wool.  Known for its plush texture and super absorbency, it lacks only one thing- the elasticity and memory of wool.  For that reason it is often spun with wool or man-made fibres to correct its imbalance.  Egyptian cotton is regarded as the highest grade quality with extra long fibres and luxurious sheen.  

Diamond Luxury Collection- Superfine Egyptian Cotton

Sugar Cane is another member of the ‘foodie fibre’ generation.  It is a type of viscose, extracted from the pulp of sugar cane.  A very smooth and supple fibre with superior strength and silky sheen. 

Araucania- Ruca Multi (Sugar Cane Viscose)

Kapok is another natural cellulose fibre originating from the Kapok Tree, the tallest tree in Africa, growing well over one hundred feet in height.  The seed pods protect the silky down that is used in the yarn manufacturing process.  Kapok is the lightest and thinnest of all cellulose types, it has a hollow core and spins together smoothly with cotton and other natural fibres. 

Sublime Baby Cotton Kapok DK

The History Of Sirdar

Monday, February 1st, 2010

Sirdar is a company with humble beginnings, deep family roots and a long standing commitment to quality and reliability.  Knitters are familiar with the trusted label- SIRDAR knitting made fashionable, but few of us know the entire story that has spanned one hundred and thirty years, the heritage that stands behind some of our favorite yarns and pattern leaflets. 

The original spinning mill was founded in 1880, in the tiny town of Ossett, England, by two brothers, Tom and Henry Harrap.  With a small handful of employees and a strong drive for success, the two brothers aimed high, producing good quality wool products and building a solid reputation.  A decade later, the company moved to its present location in Alverthorpe, a manufacturing district just outside of Wakefield.  It was Tom’s son, Fred who brought about the name change when he took over the helm in the 1930′s.  The new company name- Sirdar, was chosen in respect to Lord Kitchener and his appointment as Sirdar (Leader) of the Egyptian Army.  With his keen foresight, it was also Fred who re-directed the company to keep up with the changing times in England.  In the 1930′s Sirdar introduced handknitting yarns and pattern leaflets to the public.  By 1960, Fred’s daughter had joined the company and began to introduce patterns to the rest of the country through a new and popular format, women’s magazines.  The Sirdar label was now well on its way to gaining international recognition.  Lets take a glimpse into the archives, and follow the remarkable journey of Sirdar, a company well-trusted by knitters far and wide, as it has evolved from one decade into the next over the past one hundred and thirty years.   

Sirdar Vest 1930's

The pullover sweater made its debut in England during the 1930′s.  This was an era of thrift and recycling.  Sweaters were unravelled instead of being discarded, and the yarn was re-knit again and again.  Wool was harsh and scratchy, in a very fine fingering weight.  Cardigans, sweaters sets, and skirts were all popular knitted styles, and most clothing was knit by hand, not store-bought.

Sirdar Man's Vest 1940's

The 40′s brought about wartime knitting, colours were dark and sombre, women knit with what little wool was available.  The styles were refined and sensible, still in a fine fingering weight.  Socks were knitted for soldiers.  Handknit gloves and scarves became popular for women. 

Sirdar Vest 1950's

Sirdar knitting leaflets were now printed in full colour.  Double knitting weight yarns started to make an appearance.  During the 50′s, clothing items were knit for comfort and warmth.  The styles continued to be form fitting for both men and women.     

Sirdar Baby Set 1960's

 Acrylic yarns became increasingly popular in the 60′s.  A well-dressed baby was often seen in handknit leggings, coats, bonnets, and booties.  Children were taught how to knit in school during this time.  Ski sweaters with fairisle yokes became fashionable in England, and twin sets were in demand for women of fashion.

Sirdar 1970's

 In the 70′s, the styles loosened up, ponchos, capes, skirts, and wide leg pants were featured in knitting patterns.  Crochet became a huge trend in clothing and home decor.  Sirdar Snuggly and Wash n Wear  yarns emerged as strong sellers and have remained all-time favorites.  

Sirdar 1980's

 The 80′s introduced the first novelty yarns, and luxurious mohair sweaters became popular.  Handknitting was more about texture, sweaters became softer and fuller.  Dolman sleeves were the ‘in’ thing.

Sirdar 1990's

 The 90′s continued with a penchant for luxury knits.  Sweaters, cardigans and vests were now knit with ribbons and mohairs.  Picture knits became popular with children.  Favorite cartoon characters and animals soon appeared on the front of pullovers. 

Sirdar Flirt 2010

Over the last ten years, we have watched knitting rise to great heights in the media and fashion spotlight.  The introduction of novelty yarns like Funky Fur and Foxy caused an exciting phenomenon as new knitters emerged from the wings.  Self-striping yarns grabbed our attention with their magic and have kept us enthralled ever since with constantly changing colourways.   The environment has guided us gently in a new direction and eco-friendly yarns emerged.  These yarns have made a huge impact and continue to develop.  With more than three hundred published designs each year, and over nine hundred shades of yarn in their current collection, Sirdar continues to lead us forward, keeping practical fashion and durability at the forefront. 

Socks And Ladders

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

Sock knitters quite often complain about Ladders, those annoying little spaces that occur between double pointed needles while knitting in the round.  This happens all too often with a tight tension, when the yarn is held taut from one needle change to the next and has no chance to relax into its natural shape. 

Here are three simple solutions to try-

Let the first stitch on each needle loosen up, and tighten only the second stitch. 

Change the arrangement of stitches on the needles, every two or three rounds, so there is no consistent line between needles. 

Take a break from stocking stitch and try a ribbed or textured sock pattern.  This blurs the ladder line considerably.

After a few washings those sock ladders will be next to invisible.  

If you have any helpful knitting tips to share with our readers, we would love to hear from you.   Please feel free to leave a comment.

100_0774For sock knitters who enjoy the transitioning colourways of Noro and crave a bit of rustic charm, this diagonal rib pattern gives a subtle textured effect.  Why not knit a pair to tuck in a special friend’s stocking this Christmas, or keep a pair for yourself in a secret cupboard to wear on weekends.   Wherever they end up, they will be in demand.

Noro Silk Garden Socks

Size:  Women’s Medium

Needles:  2.75 mm double pointed

Yarn:  100g ball Silk Garden Sock col # 268

Cast on 60 sts.  Divide sts evenly onto 3 needles.  Join in round.  Work in K2/P2 ribbing for 1″.  Cont in Pattern as follows-

Rnd 1-4:  K1, *P2, K2*, rep *to*, end with, P2, K1

Rnd 5-8:  *P2, K2*, rep *to*

Rnd 9-12:  P1, *K2, P2*, rep *to*, end with, K2, P1

Rnd 13-16:  *K2, P2*, rep *to*.  Rep these 16 rnds until work meas 7″.

Make Heel:  K across first 15 sts, turn, P across 30 sts, cont on these 30 sts only for Heel.

Row 1- *SL1, K1*, rep *to*

Row 2- SL1, P across row.  Rep these 2 rows until heel meas 2.5″ ending with WS facing.

Shape Heel:  P15, P2tog, P1, turn

Row 2- K3, SL1, K1, PSSO, K1, turn

Row 3- P4, P2tog, P1, turn

Row 4- K5, SL1, K1, PSSO, K1, turn

Row 5- P6, P2tog, P1, turn

Row 6- K7, SL1, K1, PSSO, K1, turn

Row 7- P8, P2tog, P1, turn

Row 8- K9, SL1, K1, PSSO, K1, turn

Row 9- P10, P2tog, P1, turn

Row 10- K11, SL1, K1, PSSO, K1, turn

Row 11- P12, P2tog, P1, turn

Row 12- K13, SL1, K1, PSSO, K1, turn

Row 13- P14, P2tog, P1, turn

Row 14- K15, SL, K1, PSSO, K1, turn = 16 sts

Shape Instep:  With RS facing, pick up and K 15 sts along side of Heel, cont in Pattern St across 30 sts from holder, pick up and K 15 sts along opposite side of Heel, K across 8 sts.  Divide sts- 23 sts on 1st needle, 30 sts on 2nd needle, 23 sts on 3rd needle = 76 sts.

Rnd 1- K to last 3 sts of 1st needle, K2tog, K1, work in Pattern across 2nd needle, K 1st st of 3rd needle, SL1, K1, PSSO, K to end of needle.

Rnd 2- Work in Pattern as set.  Rep these 2 rnds until 60 sts remain.  When Sock meas 7″ from Heel-

Shape Toe:  Divide sts as follows- 15 sts on 1st needle, 30 sts on 2nd needle, 15 sts on 3rd needle.

Rnd 1- K to last 3 sts of 1st needle, K2tog, K1, K1 st on 2nd needle, SL1, K1, PSSO, K to last 3 sts of same needle, K2tog, K1, K 1st st on 3rd needle, SL1, K1, PSSO, K to end of rnd.

Rnd 2- K across all needles.  Rep these 2 rnds until 20 sts remain.  Cut yarn and graft sts together.  Sew in ends.

A Few Words About Swatching

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

Every knitter knows the importance of doing a tension swatch before starting a new project. But when a bright, shiny ball of yarn is sitting within arm’s reach, and the pattern is sending out sparks of enticement, this tiny 4 x 4 test piece tends to get overlooked.

100_0749

A tension swatch will determine the finished size of a sweater. If you are knitting loosely, the test square will measure larger than the required size, if you tend to knit too tightly, the test square will measure smaller than the required size. It’s simple to adjust your knitting tension by changing needle sizes until your swatch measures exactly the required size. One stitch or one row difference on a 4 x 4 test piece may not seem like a big deal, yet on an adult sweater it can change the finished size by more than an inch or two.

Swatching is also useful when a knitter chooses a yarn for all the right reasons (eye candy) but has absolutely no idea what pattern would be suitable for it. Then it’s time to experiment with different size needles. Begin with the recommended size listed on the information section of the ball band, cast on twenty stitches or so, and try ten rows of basic knitting. Think of this part as the test drive, take a moment to feel the texture and the handle of the yarn. Sit back and look at the swatch. Try different stitches to see what brings out the best qualities in the yarn. Smooth yarns sometimes look best in a rib or seed stitch pattern. Nubby and textured yarns speak well on their own, they tend to look best in garter and stocking stitch. Change needle sizes until the yarn feels soft enough yet sturdy enough to keep its shape.

The fun part of knitting starts with the anticipation of what a ball of yarn can be transformed into. Swatching lets us take a test drive before we invest time and energy into a full size project.