A place for us knitters to go to to share our trials and tribulations with each pattern as we experience our choice of luscious yarns and many brilliant designers. I recently found one of those designers, Jennifer Wood, with her newly released book “Refined Knits”. I picked up a copy of the book after seeing her posts on Ravelry and found so many patterns in the book that I’m sure to spend my summer with the imprint of needles/hooks in my hands. I am totally in love. I can’t wait to try knitting the pattern called Anwen, which is a rectangular shawl (pictured on the front page of the book) and will look beautiful in our Queensland Llama lace by Euro yarns. I have to decide what color to use – decisions, decisions. I’m leaning towards ecru, but I can imagine this pattern would look divine in any of the beautiful colors.
What I like most about Jennifer Wood is that she is creative. In this new book she focuses on interesting, structural technique in cable and graceful laces. Since I love to stretch and learn new things, her patterns spark my interest. With every new skill I learn in knitting, I try to pick at least three patterns in a row where I can practice the skill. I remember when I was learning the Kitchener stitch….and any of you out there that know how to Kitchener, you have my admiration. I not only wanted to learn how to do it, but I wanted to memorize the technique to be able to teach it to other knitters and friends in our store. For those that are wanting to learn how to Kitchener stitch, pull up a chair, put on some soothing music and dive into Michelle Hunter’s tutorial video, or come visit me – I’m always happy to help someone learn something new to increase their interest in the art. I figure, any new skill worth learning is worth learning well! My challenge for you today is to “stretch” your skills too!
P.S. Everyone should have a skein of the Queensland Llama Lace Melange or Natural in their yarn stash. I bet it won’t stay in the stash for very long – Enjoy it!
Did you know when a foster child turns 18 he or she no longer qualifies to live in the foster system? Rather than have services available to help these young adults continue becoming a productive member of society, these kids are often turned out into the streets to find their own way. The Red Scarf Project extends a hug to these kids in the form of red scarves knitted by you and me and then donated to their cause. We offer a large assortment of red yarns and knitting needles for your consideration, plus several super cute scarf patterns! Also, the Red Scarf Project organizers’ website offers patterns for you. You can access the Foster Care to Success website to learn how you can help in many other ways.
The red scarves need to be submitted by Nov. 30th so let’s whip one up for a young person in need of your hug.
Shorter days. Cooler nights. Nothing is as comforting as hand knit socks! Here in Northern Idaho we’re enjoying cool nights and warm days and as the leaves turn to red and gold, it’s time to knit socks! It’s Socktober!!!
Sock knitting is a varied as knitters. Toe up, Top down. DPN. Magic Loop. Fabulous lace patterns knit from fine merino, self patterning sock yarns for simple fun, chunky weight slipper socks that warm your toes and your heart. We all have a favorite technique or two, so our staff is sharing with you some of our favorite patterns, yarns and techniques.
I chose one of Michelle Hunter’s patterns, as she makes patterns that are fun and easy to follow. Kaika is the Japanese word for “bloom” and it uses a beautiful and easy to memorize Japanese inspired stitch pattern. I used this pattern to make a toasty pair of light weight leg warmers that will keep me nice and warm during the cold winter months here in North Idaho. I used a picot cast on and a picot bind off to dress up my leg warmers. This gorgeous yarn is Madelinetosh Twist Light in “Optic” .Now that I have finished this pattern, I will search for another sock pattern or leg warmer pattern as we have lot’s of new fingering yarns that I am eagerly waiting to try! Kelley
I just finished my first pair of socks in ten years. Until recently, the thought of working with fingering weight yarn would turn my stomach. Oh, I made a number of pairs with worsted weight yarn, but somehow, in my book, they didn’t seem to count. They were workhorses-not the sprightly ponies of spots and blotches of randomly strewn color, crafted out of the finest gossamer threads.
Anyway, soon after beginning my new internship with Kelley, Kjirstine, Jennifer, and Maria at Alpaca Direct, I was affected by a strange affliction….Zauberball Crazy! While stocking a shelf with marvelous, mind-bending orbs of color and texture, I was overcome by a desire to knit on size 1 needles! Even more fantastically, to simultaneously create a PAIR of socks (not one, but two at a time!) on 1 ridiculously long circular needle! In my library (books I absorb, without ever reading), was a copy of “2-at-a-time socks”, by Melissa Morgan-Oakes. While everyone at work had moved on to knitting a pair of socks, two at a time, from the TOES up, I was completely entranced, bewitched and beguiled! The easy to understand and painless to follow step by step directions caught my attention and inspired me beyond belief! Within two short weeks, after a family wedding and during a family reunion, the “Earth” color way of Zauberball Crazy became the “Twilight” socks of Morgan-Oakes.
I am hooked. One more thing to add to the never-ending and ever-expanding list of things I mustn’t live without! Susan
I love to knit socks! The first class I took, after I learned to knit, was a sock class. I love to knit them the old fashioned way, top down, on double pointed needles. It’s soothing to my soul. I love the portability of sock knitting (I have kids at home, we’re always on the go). There is one pattern I have knit several times and I think that may be linked to my addiction to fantastic hand painted sock yarns! The pattern is found in “One-Skein Wonders” and is called “Hand Paint Highlights”. It is a great, simple pattern that really brings out the beauty of a hand painted yarn. This pair is a yarn from a local independent dyer, but I’ve used it many times with many hand painted yarns. So jump in, buy the one gorgeous skein from a hand dyer and make some great, one of a kind socks!!
Maria’s favorite socks right now are the fabulous lace pair that Becky knitted, entered in the fair, won first place, and then gifted them to Maria! A gift of hand made socks says volumes about the giver, but a receiver who truly appreciates them, and knows the value of the time and love invested in them, is a treasure as well!
We’re gearing up to start our Team Scoreboard KAL sponsored by Skacel. This KAL uses a great yarn called ‘Simplicity‘ that is very wearable and machine washable! The KAL is fun because you get to create a unique “Knitted Record” of the scores for your favorite team in a scarf that tells the story of their season! Each scarf has at least 2 colors. Every time your team scores you knit the number of rows for points your team gets. If the opposing team scores, you knit rows for their points. When the game is over you knit a purl row to call it wrap and begin again on the next game!
Be sure to pick your colors and order up your yarn so you can participate and share in the fun this football season! We’ll posting photos along the way and having fun knitting while we support our favorite teams!
Author, Teacher, and Designer Michelle “Knit Purl” Hunter is once again teaming up with skacel to create the most highly anticipated knit-along of 2015!
Slated to kick off with the beginning of the football season, the 2015 Scoreboard KAL will allow fans to capture their favorite team’s season in the form of a hand-knit SCOREBOARD cowl!
THE SCORECARD KAL PATTERN WILL BE AVAILABLE ON SEPTEMBER 3, 2015!
Let’s show some team spirit and…may your favorite team win!
Here’s the college colors by number:
and here’s the Professional Team colors by number:
By now, your knitting is probably languishing in a basket by the couch or stuffed in your knitting bag while you host barbecues or hang out at the lake. Thinking about wool when it’s 100 degrees outside is enough to make you break out in a heat rash.
But what if you want to knit? Are your hands (and your brain) are bored without something to occupy them?
Here are 5 things to knit in the summer:
No, you probably don’t need a hat now. But this is North Idaho. It will be cold enough for hats again in about two months or less. That’s eight weeks or 60 days. Hats are portable, great stash busters, and may be knit out of pretty much any fiber and weight imaginable. Most importantly, they don’t take up room on your lap. Here’s some hat patterns (Many are FREE!) to get you started.
2. Mittens/Gloves/Fingerless Mitts
Nope, you don’t need these either. Unless you work in an office where they keep the air conditioning set to the approximate temperature of a meat locker. In which case, a nice pair of fingerless mitts might just keep the circulation going in your hands enough for you to do your work. Also, these are small, portable, and won’t make you sweat while you’re working on them (unless you’re working on them outside when it’s 100 degrees. But that’s the sun making you sweat, not your knitting.) Here’s some fun Gloves and Mittens patterns to get you started.
Scarves are too long for me. I don’t have the patience and follow through necessary for scarves to be part of my knitting list anymore. Cowls, though, can be knit on straights or circulars. They’re quick and easy and useful once it’s cold again (see #1. It will get cold again, never fear.) You can make plain stockinette workaday ones, pretty lacey ones, or ones covered in cables. A cowl is a blank canvas of self expression! Knit a couple now and you’ll have choices to coordinate with your outfits when the time comes. Here’s some unique Cowl patterns to get your started.
Want to knit a sweater in the summer? Knit a baby sweater. Baby hats can be done in a couple hours. Booties? They’re tiny and cute and the definition of instant gratification for a knitting project. Soft toys for babies are also great. Put some beans in an old Easter egg and insert it into a knitted ball and you’ve got yourself a soft sided rattle for your favorite infant. Baby things are great summer knitting projects. They can be as simple or complex as you like, they’re small enough to complete quickly, and they won’t weigh you down when you’re taking your knitting on vacation. Here’s some cute Baby Knit and Crochet Patterns to get you started.
I love knitting socks. I nearly always have a pair of socks on the needles. It’s my go-to project when I don’t know what else to knit. The thin yarn and the small size make socks perfect for summer knitting. They won’t make your hands as sweaty as a thicker yarn can, and if you knit socks all summer, your feet will be happy come winter. Here’s some fun sock patterns to get you started.
Do you knit in the summer? What do you like to knit? Let us know in the comments!
It’s easy to understand why. The sweater is knit in the round in one piece. When you’re finished knitting, all you have to do is weave in your ends and hey presto! You’re all done! No seaming pieces together. No attempts at precision blocking to match the size of the pieces. No extra ends from the seaming process. And you can try it on as you go.
Who wouldn’t love that?
I’ve knitted a few top down seamless sweaters, and it is pretty nice to have a sweater practically finished once it’s off the needles. It’s the ultimate in sweater knitting for the knitter in need of instant gratification. Some knitters now refuse to knit a sweater any other way.
That’s fine, of course. There are no knitting police. You can knit your sweaters however you like. But, the top down seamless sweater isn’t without its flaws.
Raglan sleeves aren’t flattering on everyone. Women with a larger bust size tend to end up with lots of extra fabric around the underarms. And sometimes you just want a different line to your garment.
Knitting the sleeves is annoying. They’re knitted in the round after the body is finished. So, you have to flip the entire sweater around when you first start the sleeves at the end of every round. As you get further down you can let the sleeve twist and untwist it at the end of every round. But that’s kind of annoying, too.
It’s not very portable by the end (unless it’s for a baby). A sweater for a full grown adult can get unwieldy by the time you get to the sleeves. Not that it’s absolutely not portable, but if you’re like me and you take knitting with you to pass the time if you get bored, you’ll need another small project for those situations.
Seamed sweaters do have some distinct disadvantages as well.
You do have to make your pieces match, so blocking and accurate measuring are really important.
You have to sew the pieces together when you’re done knitting before you can wear the sweater.
You’ll have more ends to weave in, because you’ll have the ends from all the pieces plus the ends from the sewing.
I’ll admit that sewing pieces together isn’t necessarily my favorite thing to do. I have to be particularly motivated to do it, which means I have to really like the sweater in question. But, there are several points that recommend the seamed sweater, despite having to do more finishing work.
A seamed sweater has more structure. Seamless sweaters can grow more easily, which can be problematic with slippery fibers like cotton, alpaca, and superwash wool. The seams provide limits and structure that help the sweater not to expand as much or as easily.
It’s more portable. You can easily take a piece of a sweater with you, when taking a whole sweater would be unwieldy.
You have more choices for design elements. You can easily do all the shoulder styles as well as a wider variety of choices in construction elements.
It’s easier to block lacy sweaters in pieces than as one large item.
Of course, there are a couple other ways of knitting a sweater: side to side and bottom up seamless (with or without steeks) are other ways I’ve encountered. Personally, I’m not married to any one style. I’ve done all of them except for using steeks (I’m too chicken to take scissors to my knitting). If I like the pattern, I’ll knit it regardless of how its constructed.
What about you? Do you have a preference? Do you hate seaming sweaters? Let us know in the comments!
People get busy and it can be difficult to find time to do things you enjoy. Work and family obligations often take precedence. Making time to do something you enjoy is an important part of self-care. It will help you recharge so you are more easily able to meet the demands of your schedule and obligations.
Here are our top suggestions for finding time for your craft:
1.Join a group. Here at Alpaca Direct we have several groups that meet weekly. There are Tuesday evening and Thursday afternoon knitting groups as well as a monthly spinning group that meets on the first Friday of the month. If you’re part of a group that meets regularly, and you make it a priority to attend, you’re guaranteed that you’ll have at least that amount of time on a regular basis to work on your craft. You’ll also get the added pleasure of making new friends and getting to spend time socializing with people who have a common interest.
2. Craft while waiting for other things. Bring along your current project to your next appointment and work on it in the waiting room. Portable crafts like knitting, crochet, and spindle spinning are great in these situations. Waiting for water to boil before you put pasta on? Knit a couple of rows, or at least a few stitches. If you keep your project with you, it’s easy to get a little bit done in these pockets of found time. Little bits of time here and there add up, and you’ll eventually finish that project.
3. Work on a project in front of the TV. I think this is probably when most of us get the most work done on our current works in progress. It’s fairly common to sit and watch TV for a while in the evenings. This is prime time for working on your fiber crafts. I know I do the majority of my knitting while watching TV.
4. Put it in your calendar. I know that may seem silly at first. But, taking care of yourself is important. Pursuing hobbies that you find enjoyable is part of taking care of yourself. People schedule other hobbies – sports, fishing, camping – why not craft hobbies? When I was in college two of my friends and I had a standing Monday knitting date in my apartment. They’d come over and we’d watch our favorite TV show and knit or crochet, depending on our preference and current project. It just happened one time and we enjoyed ourselves so much it turned into a weekly thing. We all made sure not to schedule things over it if we could help it.
I always have a project that I can stuff in my bag and take with me. I usually have several projects on the needles at one time, so I just pick whatever seems appropriate for the situation. I work on larger projects (like my top down raglan cardigan that I’m currently knitting) at home or at knitting group. I have a sock to stick in my bag and take with me if I get stuck waiting somewhere.
With a new baby it’s a bit trickier to find time to knit. But I try to do at least a little every day, because it’s something I enjoy and it recharges me.
How do you find time to work on your crafts? Let me know in the comments.
If you’ve come to the Tuesday night Open Knitting group lately, you know that I’ve been pregnant. My baby made his appearance in the world on January 30, 2015.
This means that any time someone in the knitting group decides to knit for a baby, they ask my opinion first.
As the (apparent) resident expert in what to knit for a new baby, I thought I’d offer up my biggest suggestion and top five picks for baby knits.
Take Washing Into Consideration
Do you want to make something out of a lovely, soft merino silk blend? Or some other luxury fiber for someone’s little tyke?
Ask yourself this: will Mom or Dad be willing to hand wash whatever you’re making?
I know that there are some yummy soft yarns out there and they seem perfect for something snuggly for a wee one. But, remember that new parents, especially first time parents, are frazzled and probably don’t want to worry about hand washing much of anything. If it can’t be tossed in the wash with everything else, one of two things will happen. It will never get worn or it will get destroyed in the first washing.
You have to remember that babies cover everything in goo eventually. Between explosive poop and spit up, nothing is safe. Even things you wouldn’t think are likely to get nasty, like hats and booties, aren’t safe. If you’ve never had a baby, or it’s been a long time, you may not realize or remember the amount of effluvia that a tiny baby can produce. Let me assure you, it is astounding.
Personally, I love dressing my babies in wool. I actually use wool diaper covers, so I do a certain amount of hand washing. However, I am a knitter and used to hand washing hand knits. That said, I still prefer superwash wool for sweaters, hats, blankets, booties, and things like that. I’m willing to lay things flat to dry more than I am to hand wash, especially larger items like blankets.
For even easier care, Berocco Vintage is a great choice. It’s an acrylic/wool blend and can go in the washer and the dryer.
While that cashmere or merino/silk blend is lovely and soft, I definitely recommend keeping it for a project for yourself. You’ll know how to take care of it and it’s far less likely to get spit up or pooped on.
What to Knit for Baby?
Now that we’ve discussed yarn choices, let’s talk a little about what kinds of things to knit. Here is a short list of my favorites to knit, give, and use.
1. Baby blanket
This one’s pretty obvious, and it might seem a little overdone. It’s important to take into consideration whether you think the parents are likely to appreciate a hand knit baby blanket. But, if they will, then you really can’t go wrong with a blanket. No matter where you are, a baby will need a blanket of some variety. Infants can’t regulate their body temperature very well, so it’s important to help them stay warm. New parents are often gifted blankets, but they are pretty useful, so it’s hard to have too many. Plus, you can unleash your creativity a bit with a blanket. It’s a large blank canvas, so you can play with different stitch patterns and color combinations.
If you’ve never made a sweater before, a baby sweater is a great place to start. The construction is nearly the same, though with less shaping in general, and baby sweaters are really quick knits. Here are some of my favorite patterns:
I’m partial to cardigans, especially with newborns and little babies. They’re a lot easier to get on and off than pullovers. Sweaters are also great for putting on a baby or child in a car seat. They’re thin and warm and won’t interfere with the functioning of the car seat. (Bulky coats and snowsuits aren’t suitable for use in car seats. They compress in a crash and can the baby can be ejected from the car seat because of the extra space created by the compressed coat.)
This one is a less obvious choice than some of the others. But, let me tell you, a little baby in knitted pants is undeniably adorable. When made of regular wool, these can be lanolized and used as a diaper cover (which is what I do). But, they’re great even just as pants. They, like anything else, can be made from superwash wool, cotton, acrylic, or a blend. The pattern I use the most is Braided Longies, but there are lots of cute ones available. A couple others I’ve knitted are (cargo pants pattern from Knitty) and (that other one in my queue).
4. Hats and Booties
No matter what time of year a baby is born, hats and booties are useful. If you live in the northern part of the country, it gets cool in the evenings even in the summer, so lightweight knitted hats and booties help then. In the southern part of the country, everything is heavily air conditioned to approximate meat locker temperatures in the summer, so hats and booties are good for babies in that climate, too. The sheer number of hat and booties patterns is rather overwhelming. Hats are a pretty easy pick, though. Find a pattern you like, or a basic recipe and play with your own stitch patterns.
Hopefully this gives you some good ideas to knit for the babies in your life. And remember, babies don’t have to be dressed in pastels. Choose colors you know the parents will like. The baby doesn’t have an opinion yet.
With Valentines Day just weeks away, I thought I would share some of my favorite Valentine themed scarf and cowl patterns.
As any knitter knows, there’s a little love in every stitch. What a great way to show your love and appreciation for the special person with a hand knit scarf or hat.
This pattern is fit for a beginning knitter. The pattern is a series of hearts that can be knit on the needles two at a time using any worsted weight yarn. I used Misti Alpaca tonos 50% alpaca, 50% merino blend color #51 Zinnia then attached using the kitchener stitch once each half reaches the desired length. The pattern is called “Heart” by Stephannie C. Roy and can be found on Knitty or Ravelry and is a free download.
The next pattern is called “Besotted” by Adrian Bizilia which is also a free pattern that can be found on Ravelry and is a charming series of x’s and o’s made with cables. Use this pattern to knit your way into your loved ones heart! If you enjoy cables then you will love knitting this pattern.
Modeled by our staff member, Courtney, this scarf is beautiful in red, but would also shine in pink, purple or whatever your Valentine’s favorite color is!
We’ve just returned from the annual TNNA yarn trade show and have a variety of new yarns as well as new colors in our favorite yarns arriving in the warehouse.
For spring and summer knits we’ve added CoBaSi from Hikoo, a fingering weight blend of cotton, bamboo and silk. This yarn has a beautiful stitch definition and feels lovely in the hand. Versatile, you’ll want to make summer shawls, socks and garments from it’s wide color range.
If winter is still clinging to your landscape, you may want to make a cozy scarf or sweater from Hikoo Simpli Natural, an alpaca/wool/silk blend that combines sheen with drape and warmth to become a luxurious knittable yarn. The fiber drinks in the dye for an amazing depth of color and the silk adds a marvelous subtle shine.
Many of us have spent the last few months creating Christmas gifts. After the frenzy of holiday parties and gifts, it’s nice to spend a few moments to reflect on the past year and what we hope to accomplish in the new year. For many, this takes the form of New Year’s Resolutions.
As knitters (or other fiber crafters) it can be fun to come up with some goals for our knitting in the new year. Here are our top five picks for New Year’s Resolutions for Knitters for 2015.
1. Knit More For Yourself
After spending so much time knitting gifts for everyone else, it can feel like ages since you’ve knitted anything lovely for yourself. What does your Ravelry queue look like? I know mine is full of stuff I’d love to knit but just haven’t done yet. While I do still have a few small projects for others going, I’m spending most of my knitting time working on a sweater for myself. It’s been a long time since I’ve knitted myself a sweater, and while I still wear and like the others, it’s time for something new. I’m working on Ink by Hanna Maciejewska.
2. Knit Down Your Stash
This can go along nicely with the previous resolution. It might take a slightly different shape – choosing the pattern to go with the yarn, rather than the other way around. But, you could easily kill two birds with one stone. One of my favorite features on Ravelry is the pattern browsing function that allows you to narrow your results by yarn weight, yardage, and a wide variety of other attributes. Just remember, though – sock yarn doesn’t count as stash!
3. Advance Your Knitting Skills
Knitting is pretty basic, really. There are only two stitches – knit and purl. But these two simple stitches can be combined in seemingly endless ways. What technique is on your hit list for this year – cables, intarsia, stranded color work, lace? Or maybe you feel the need to brush up your finishing techniques – master the mattress stitch, learn to block, or weave in your ends so that no one can tell. Whatever it is, Alpaca Direct offers a variety of classes to help you. Don’t see what you need? Send an email and ask for it! We’ll also be adding more tutorials here on the blog about these topics. Sign up so that you receive the new blog posts in your inbox!
4. Finish Your Pile of WIPs
This can happen to even the most conscientious among us. You start a project and get frustrated or distracted and it sits in your knitting bag or basket for a while until it eventually gets shoved in the back of the closet. Maybe you have a whole closet full a few of these yourself. Decide whether to finish them, or just send them to the frog pond (y’know where you riiiip it, riiip it) and reuse the yarn for something you like better.
5. Learn a New Craft
Have you been knitting for a while and want to learn something new? Now’s a great time to do it. There is a whole world of fiber crafts open to you, many of which can go right along with your knitting addiction hobby – crochet, spinning, and dyeing to name a few. Weaving is also a fun way to make textiles, and you can get started pretty simply with a Zoom Loom or a rigid heddle loom. Not sure where to start? We offer classes for beginning crochet and beginning spinning. Not a knitter yet? Well, we offer a class for that, too.
Do you make New Year’s resolutions? Did any of these make your list? Any other fiber related resolutions you have? Let us know in the comments!