close knit: the neighborhood yarn shop

Monday, June 28, 2010

Comfy Cottons

Tara is a great cotton/microfiber yarn from GGH. It knits up at about 4 stitches per inch, so you can have a summer cardigan in no time! Two of the sweaters currently in our front window are made of Tara: Flair from Knit and Tonic and the Sweater with Cap Sleeves (above) from Rebecca #33 (also available free on their website). Tara would be a good substitute for Blue Sky Alpacas Dyed Cotton if you’d like to try something other than pure cotton. We have Tara in beautiful neutrals, including black, white, and grey, as well as some nice bright colors.

On the lighter side, GGH Bali is a worsted weight cotton/acrylic blend. If you are interested in how this knits up, we have this cute little hoodie dress from Rebecca #39. The yarn looks great in stripes, and we have some colors that would complement each other well.

Finally, there’s Rowan Calmer. With 25% acrylic, this yarn has a nice bounce to it, and it is a popular choice for sweaters, accessories, and baby items.

We have a sample from the Baby Knits Kit worked in Calmer. The knitted fabric is nice and dense and so very soft. I often recommended this for hats if the intended recipient is very sensitive or allergic to animal fibers. We have every shade of pink you might want, as well as some beautiful earth tones.

The acrylic content in these yarns gives them a springiness more like wool than pure cotton. In addition to being easy on the hands, these cotton blends knit up into garments with a nice elasticity, allowing them to retain their shape without stretching and sagging. If you are avoiding animal fibers or just want to try out a comfortable cotton yarn, one of these might be just the thing!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Summer Reading: Knitwear Design

When the days are sunny and warm, you may not care to knit a big, wooly sweater while you lounge by the pool (as I happened to do earlier today). However, if you want to keep your knitting brain sharp, consider increasing your skills and design knowledge this summer with one of our design books.

At the shop, we stock many useful resources for designing handknits to your specifications, using the design details that you want and planning so that garments actually fit the way that you want them to fit. In addition to Vogue Knitting and The Knitter's Handy Book series, we have a variety of knitting design books that would make great summer reading.

First, there's Jennifer Seiffert's Fearless Knitting Workbook. This is a book for beginners who want to increase their skills. It is designed as a sort of course, with "assignments" and a final exam. The assignments are fun and fast - squares knit to learn gauge and practice new techniques, like lace or cables.
We also carry Design Your Own Knits in Five Easy Steps by Debbie Abrahams. This book would be appropriate for the novice to intermediate knitter. Advanced knitters may even find some useful information in the book. It includes finding inspiration, choosing yarn, working with graph paper to chart designs, gauge, swatching and calculating yarn quantities.
Next is Debbie Bliss's Design It, Knit It. This is a relatively new book - published last year. It is more personal than the others, as Debbie Bliss shares what she has learned from decades as a successful knitwear designer. She highlights specific sweater patterns which illustrate points of her design advice, such as shaping, texture and color.
The recently rereleased Sweater 101 by Cheryl Brunette is a spiral bound book, making it easy to use as a reference while knitting. This book is in black and white and is very clearly written with everything the knitter might need, including helpful diagrams and math calculations. I like this book because it does not overwhelm the reader with too much information and the simple layout makes it easy to read.
The Cadillac of all design books, though, in my opinion, is the recently released and very impressive Knitwear Design Workshop: A Comprehensive Guide to Handknits by Shirley Paden. A bound and spiral-bound book, it also lies flat for easy reference. This book delivers what it promises: it couldn't be much more comprehensive. It begins with worksheets for planning your design, selecting fabric and yarn, creating the desired garment silhouette, common collars, necklines and details, finishing techniques and patterns for specific projects. This book would be most helpful for intermediate to advanced knitters and also would be a wonderful gift for the knitter who has everything.
So, if sitting by the pool with a heavy alpaca sweater on your lap doesn't sound like your idea of a good time, check out some knitting design books this summer. By fall, when cooler weather arrives, you will be full of inspiration, ideas and new design skills.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Debbie Bliss is for Babies

Summer is the perfect time for baby projects. Baby projects are small, compact and lightweight and Debbie Bliss Cashmerino is the perfect summer fiber. Baby Cashmerino is a five-ply sport weight yarn in 55% merino wool, 33% microfiber and 12% cashmere. It is machine washable, which makes it practical and perfect for gift knitting. We have recently restocked this popular yarn in colorways that are appropriate for all tastes. We've got the traditional pastels
bright, fun, fanciful shades
and darker, more autumnal colorways, too.
I have knitted many baby items with Baby Cashmerino and I love working with this yarn. I've made sweaters and booties and blankets and soakers - some for my son and others for gifts. The gifts are always well-received.

At Close Knit, we stock baby pattern books by Debbie Bliss as well, and many recommend Baby Cashmerino. Booties, Blankets and Bears and Simply Baby are two books that we currently stock.
And, we recently received Debbie Bliss's new book, which guides the knitter through the basic design process of designing for babies.
There are many options in Baby Cashmerino - from booties
to blankets and much more.
So, whether you are knitting for your own baby or for a loved one, be sure to check out Debbie Bliss. Baby Cashmerino is a fun and luxurious yarn to work with and Debbie Bliss's baby patterns are simple, clearly written, timeless designs.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

DIY: Design It Yourself

You see a fabulous yarn that calls out to you from the corner of your local yarn shop. Your newest obsession. Is it Malabrigo, Madelinetosh, Spud & Chloe, Noro? It doesn’t must have it.

But what will you make with it? Can you find a nice hat pattern at the right gauge? Maybe some simple mittens? Perhaps you have a vision of your dream sweater, but none of the patterns you find are quite right. Enter Ann Budd and her handy books.

The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns gives aspiring designers a place to start. Ann provides a basic pattern for mittens, hats, gloves, socks, vests and sweaters in a variety of gauges and sizes.

While the charts may seem daunting at first, the basic premise of these books is very simple. You choose your gauge and size, then find the appropriate instructions in the charts. I like to photocopy the pattern and circle or highlight my numbers so I don’t get lost. Or, you can write it out like a regular pattern to familiarize yourself with the process.

For each project, Ann provides the kinds of great tips you would expect from a seasoned knitter and gives instructions for adding your own personal touches to your design. I have used this book for countless hat, mitten and sock projects, and the results have always been exactly what I had hoped.

The Knitter's Handy Book of Sweater Patterns focuses on sweaters of many common constructions, including set-in sleeve, drop shoulder, saddle-shoulder, raglan sleeve and seamless yoke.

I used this book to create a saddle-shoulder sweater for my daughter. We call it her Pirate Sweater.

I added just the details I wanted: stripes on the sleeves, hemmed edges and a roll-neck.

I also created this sweater using Rowan Denim for my brother, who later confessed to not really liking sweaters of any kind. I gladly welcomed it back and it has become one of my favorites.

In addition to the basic do-it-yourself charts, Ann includes specific patterns for three examples of each construction technique. Again, there are tips and instructions for a wide variety of details and finishes.

If you feel like taking a little dip into designing, these books can provide a great jumping off point. So, go ahead and buy that fabulous new yarn. With Ann Budd's books, you can always design the pattern of your dreams!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Vintage Knits

Are you fan of thrift stores and vintage clothing? Do you want to avoid knitting what everyone else is knitting this year? If so, try knitting or crocheting something from a vintage pattern. I have collected vintage patterns, pamphlets, leaflets and books over the years and have used them for many unique knitted projects.
I knitted from mostly vintage patterns when I was expecting my son. I made his baby blanket from the 1940 pamphlet below and I knitted helmets, booties, soakers and sweaters from thirties to fifties patterns as well.
There are always cute options for babies and kids.
I have my eye on some of the sweaters from this pamphlet, now that my son is almost five.
If you have a flair for the dramatic, there are many striking designs for women and men.
There is a caveat, though. Vintage patterns are written in more formal language than today's knitting patterns. The women's patterns are quite fitted and may be sized differently, so it's important to measure carefully before determining your size. And, the patterns almost always call for skinny yarn - most call for sport or DK weight and some call for a thinner gauge, like lace or sock.
Many patterns call for discontinued 100% acrylic yarns, but when I look at the classic designs, I imagine them knitted up in sturdy wools. I think of Ella Rae Classic and Rowan and the new St. Denis Nordique. I have used Rowan DK yarn for vintage patterns, as well as Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Baby and Cashmerino DK with success.
So, next time you're at a yard sale or flea market, be on the lookout for vintage knitting or crochet patterns. Or, check out the options on e-bay. I found pages of them there. There are groups on Ravelry dedicated to vintage knits, as well as countless websites. Try googling "Vintage Knitting Patterns" and you will come up with endless resources, many of them free.
So, find your vintage pattern, stop by the shop and let us help you with yarn choices. Then, check out the area vintage shops to complete your look. And when you're finished, don't forget to come in and show us your retro vintage look!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Sweet Nothings

As the seasons change slowly here in Portland, I am thinking about what I would like to be knitting and wearing in the coming months. With my heavy woolies packed away for the summer, I find myself gravitating to the laceweight mohair and silk yarns at the shop.

Even though these yarns create a warm garment, the finished product is thin enough for summer layering. Also, most of these pieces require just three or four skeins of yarn, so the finished product weighs almost nothing!

Of course, Kidsilk Haze is fabulous for these kinds of sweaters. Veronique (above) from French Girl Knits and Precious from Kim Hargreaves’ Heartfelt collection each use only three balls.

I have my sights set on this simple, perfect hoodie from Rebecca #42, made with only three balls of Kid Melange from GGH.

Sally is working on Petrol from Rebecca #38. The bottom half of the sweater is knit with 2 strands of Kid Melange held together, and the top half uses a single strand.

Sabine is a beautiful wrap cardigan from Cocoknits, and the smaller sizes require only two balls of Filatura Di Crosa Golden Line Superior, which we have in both black and steel gray. The cashmere/silk blend is incredibly soft and would feel perfect wrapped around even the most sensitive shoulders on a cool evening this summer.

Several customers have fallen for Cia, knit up in Louet KidLin. The lace shawl collar adds interest, but would be easy enough for a beginning lace knitter to tackle.

There are so many beautiful options. Now I just have to commit to one. Which is your favorite?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A Knitting Slump: Finding Inspiration

I have found myself in a bit of a knitting slump these past few weeks. I'm sure that this is due in part to my current project, which involves miles and miles of cream-colored stockinette. While this is the perfect takealong project for car trips or waiting in line at the post office, it's not particularly exciting or inspiring.

What do I do when I feel uninspired? How do I work myself out of a knitting slump? First, I like to check out inspiring magazines and catalogs.
I collect clippings for my inspiration file and may look through the images that I've already gathered.
Nature always inspires me.
As does luscious yarn from my stash.
I might make sketches of ideas
and check out stitch dictionaries for specific stitch patterns.
I may knit up some swatches.
Then, I search Ravelry for favorite designers, friends' projects and queues and new and noteworthy designs.

Last but not least, I head over to my local yarn shop. Once I touch the fibers, check out new books and patterns and see what my fellow knitters are making, I am sure to find something that inspires me and helps me to climb out of my knitting slump.