Happy Stitches

Keep your stitches smiling!

Seamless Knitting – the fly in the ointment (and how to swat it). April 16, 2015

Pinstripe Mitten

Pinstripe Mitten

Very few knitters love finishing and assembling garments – I admit, it’s not my favourite stage either, but the satisfaction of a beautiful seam can go a long way to compensating.

Even if you are studiously avoiding finishing, and decide to knit the top of a raglan sweater all in one, there is still the under-arm seam that  needs to be joined. The underarm is a perfect place to get-away-with-it. This is a great place to have a cobbled together seam, very few people will check it. However, deep down, you will probably feel that you are letting down your otherwise impeccable knitting.

Fear not: here’s a method using waste yarn flaps that will help you to join and finish the underarm beautifully!

And now, how to gather and neaten the holes on either side of the grafted join.

The idea of using a waste yarn flap in place of cast on stitches can be used in a number of different situations such as mitten thumbs. A double waste yarn flap method was used for making the double thumb on the Pinstripe Mittens.

Let me of any other applications you come up with!

BTW Our half-price pattern of the week is the Cloud Scarf and Stole. This is an easy to finish design with integral side edgings.

Cloud Stole in Mango Celestial Merino knit by Susan Hannah

Cloud Stole in Mango Celestial Merino knit by Susan Hannah


Born to be knit! (Tips for seaming up with knitting yarn.) April 2, 2015

Grafting stitches head to head

Grafting stitches head to head

Knitting yarn has very limited outlook on life.  There are certain high points in its existence: the first of which is to bewitch a passing knitter with its qualities of colour, luster and feel. It will cleverly seduce you, persuading you that life apart from this particular skein of yarn would be an unbearably bleak existence.  So you make the acquisition and take the treasured skein home. This is, indeed, a great day.

Take ME home....

Take ME home….

Once home, the skein settles in, possibly with a few soft companions. Life is good.

Now the waiting game begins: restiveness amongst the yarn buddies begins to occur. Whose turn will it be next? A certain amount of surreptitious fiber shuffling may occur under the cover of darkness to facilitate optimal positioning to the top of the stash pile. Ah, patience is required.

The great day dawns, the skein of yarn is lifted from the pack and taken to the swift for winding into a center-pull ball. Hallelujah!!! All’s well with the world. Or, less fortunately, the skein is wound into a cannonball style presentation. The yarn feels a painfully stressed by this turn of events, but consoles itself that it will be knit soon.

Knitting proceeds, and the yarn perceives itself more on an individual stitch by stitch basis rather than collectively as a skein. The mid-row stitches are ecstatic! The end of row stitches rather less so, but it’s better than being stuck in a cupboard. As the project progresses, the remaining yarn begins to worry: is it not going to be required? Will it end up with a life sentence in a drawer, with slim parole options? Or, horror of horrors, will it be the bit that is used for sewing up?

No wonder it is anxious! Sewing with yarn spun for knitting can be painful for both the sewer and the yarn. Most knitting yarn is woolen spun (as opposed to worsted spun), which, for the sake of brevity, means it is much less suited to being dragged in and out of a hole. It has more little fiber ends near the surface of the yarn and so can become draggly and weaken quite quickly. Then there is the knitter’s tendency to use huge, long lengths of yarn to sew with (in order to avoid a couple of additional yarn tails).  Sadly, the longer the yarn, the more times it has to be hauled through the fabric before it is used and the more the plies tend to untwist. From the knitter’s perspective, too, it takes just as long to haul through yards of yarn, to periodically re-twist the decomposing yarn, and every so often undo a tangle or knot in the sewing yarn as it takes to use two shorter (happier) lengths of yarn.

  • Tips for sewing-up with yarn: Use only modest lengths of yarn: up to 24 inches, or thereabouts. (As an experiment, next time cut your usual length of yarn and measure it!)
  • Leave yarn tails unfastened and dangling outside the work until you are happy with your seam. This way, if you don’t like a section, it may be pulled out easily.
  • If the yarn becomes un-plied as you sew, twist the needle periodically to retwist the plies.
  • Use the working yarn for grafting and visible seams, but consider using a finer, similarly coloured yarn for mattress stitch seams. I’d suggest using a similar fiber type as the original yarn. If you have any supplies of crewel wool (it’s worsted yarn spun in a million shades), they can be useful for sewing up wool garments.
  • Remember that the pinnacle of life experience for a piece of yarn is for a little loop to be gently drawn up through another welcoming loop of yarn. So knit on, my friends!Omo mix log gullsFor more advice on finishing (and rescues), from before you cast on to the last tail to be darned, read my book Cool Knitters Finish in Style. It’s still available in paper and also in digital format.
  • Cool Knitters Finish in Style cover

    Cool Knitters Finish in Style cover


Dare to compare: What technique is right for you? March 25, 2015

A pair of matching Paradoxical mittens.

A pair of matching Paradoxical mittens.

Here’s a Knitting Hint: Dare to compare! When you are debating with yourself about the very best way to hold your yarns or knit up stitches, the most suitable decrease or buttonhole, or any of the other myriad of choices we face as engaged knitters, take a little time to play. Try the various methods open to you. Practice them in close proximity so you can directly compare the results.

Private side comparison of Paradoxical mittens swatch

Private side comparison of two Paradoxical mittens.

Paradoxical Mittens: swatch

Public side comparison of the same two Paradoxical mittens: note the difference in colour dominance

Making a small swatch, looking at it, ripping it out and then redoing it another way won’t give you the necessary comparison. It is not a truly useful experiment.

The pictures above demonstrate an extreme example of colour or stitch dominance, shown using my Paradoxical Mittens pattern. The samples show identical mittens – but one was worked with the dark yarn as the contrast (held in left hand), while the other was worked with the yarns held the other way.  What incredibly different results!   Either one would look fine on its own, but they don’t work as a pair. As you see, the difference is not evident unless we compare them side by side. (By the way, there is no need to work a whole experimental mitten, a modest swatch will usually do nicely!)

I love it when at workshops the cry goes up: “My goodness, you are right!”  It’s not that I’m on a power trip, wanting everyone to do things my way, but I do like knitters to explore their options and come to their own conclusions.  If it happens to be the same one I reached, that’s cool, but it doesn’t have to be.  Different techniques work differently for different people.  Occasionally, there is no ‘right’ answer — only the one best suited to you, your yarn and your knitting circumstances.  Experimenting with the options available to you is fun and educational: that’s why I included the small “Challenge Swatches” at the end of each chapter in my Cool Knitters Finish in Style book, inviting you to try a variety of methods and draw your own conclusions. Be curious: play with your stitches, make them smile!

Paradoxical Mittens

Paradoxical Mittens: feeling right at home on Big Tancook Island!

The Paradoxical Mittens are on sale for half-price this week only!  Before you begin your project, try working with the dark yarn as the contrast in one swatch and the light yarn as contrast in another.  See the difference?


The Storm Mountain DK Hat March 19, 2015

Storm Mountain DK Hat

The Storm Mountain Hat features built-in insulating air spaces!

Nova Scotians are digging out after yet another massive storm, with some parts of the province having received upwards of 50cm of snow.  Add to that the 70km/hr winds, and most of us  are now tunneling through drifts much taller than ourselves!

Sometimes the best solution to life’s little problems is to sit back, pull out some yarn and needles, and start a new knitting project. With that in mind, and as a small consolation to our Nova Scotian friends, we’ve decided to offer the aptly named Storm Mountain DK Hat for only $3.50 (half-price) this week!

This warm double-layer hat has built-in insulating air spaces between the layers. The hat uses two yarns: the inner yarn is the only one that touches the head and occasionally appears on the public side of the hat. The exterior colour only ever appears on the outside of the hat. The air spaces are created by working more rounds on the exterior fabric than on the interior layer.
We added a bonus to the updated pattern a few months ago, which features an alternate top I like to call the Space Cadet option!

The Space Cadet Topper option will work for any size Storm Mountain Hat you choose to knit: here it is on a baby-siazed version, knit with my Cat's Pajamas Yarn

The Space Cadet Topper option will work for any size Storm Mountain Hat you choose to knit: here it is on a baby-siazed version, knit with my Cat’s Pajamas Yarn

Wishing you Happy Stormy Stitches!


Work out with Craftsy classes! March 12, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — happystitches @ 07:55
Weather unfit for walking!

Weather unfit for walking!

Since last April I’ve been trying hard to increase my level of daily exercise. To this end, on days when it has simply not been fit underfoot to venture out for a walk, I’ve been pounding the treadmill.

In order to keep myself sane whilst pretending to be a hamster, I’ve been watching a variety of Craftsy classes. As a by-product of this activity I’ve been reviewing the classes I have watched.

You can find my review page under the Information tab on my website. Watch for regular additions.

For the next few days ALL Craftsy classes are on sale: this is a great time to stock up for your future learning!

BTW, you can always find discount links to my Craftsy classes Foundations of Double Knitting and My First Socks on the home page of my website. Feel free to share these links with your friends. (Or maybe send them a class as a surprise gift!)

Learning to love chipping ice!

Learning to love chipping ice!


Binding Off – Fast and Loose! February 25, 2015

Filed under: Knitting tips and hints,Pattern highlight,Youtube,Youtube Videos — happystitches @ 08:54
The Zen Mountain Scarf with super long picots

The Zen Mountain Scarf with super long picots

I’ve always disliked the usual process of binding off. The tedious action of grabbing the first stitch by the scruff of its neck and hauling it over the second stitch is unpleasant for all concerned. So I set to playing, and came up with a method I called: Modified Conventional Bind-Off. It’s structurally identical to a regular bind-off, but faster (with a little practice) and looser. You both knit the next stitch and bind off the outer one in one single knitting-like movement. It is a matter of training the left-hand needle to take a more active role.

I developed this method of binding off years back and have been teaching it ever since. Many knitters have made a complete conversion to this method. (Bonus: No more too-tight neck bind-offs.) The only time I revert to the conventional method is for three-needle bind-off.  However, caution is advised: The discovery of this way of using the needles led me to suffer from a major outbreak of picots, and this may also happen to you! Picots are decorative cast-on/bind-off extensions which may be used on a cast-on or a bound-off edge, mid-row or at the sides of your work. Picots, which hitherto had been a pain, now became fun. The first product of this picot-mania was my Sea Lettuce Scarf pattern, which has become a perennial favourite. It also led to the delightful Loopy Edging used on my Almost Saintly Socks, and for the super-long picots on the Zen Mountain Scarf.

Loopy Edging on the Almost Saintly Socks

Loopy Edging on the Almost Saintly Socks



On a Knit Row _ K1, * slip the tip of the left-hand needle purlwise into the new stitch and, pointing it towards the back of the work, keep the needle in this position whilst you put the tip of right-hand needle knitwise (as usual) into the next stitch to be worked. (This will feel awkward at first.) The right-hand needle should stick out at the back BETWEEN the second and first stitches, thus forcing the two stitches to form an X on the needle. Throw the yarn as for a normal knit stitch, bring the loop through both stitches in turn (between the legs of the X at the front of the needle). Drop the old stitches from the left-hand needle. Repeat from *.

On a Purl Row _ P1, ** slip the tip of the left-hand needle purlwise into the new stitch and angle it towards the back, slip the tip of the right-hand needle purlwise into the next st to be worked, p2tog.  Repeat from **.

It is very easy to misinterpret these directions and get a different result: the underlined phrase above is where this most commonly occurs. Instead of projecting the needle between the two stitches at the back, the knitter, consumed by the goal of binding off, goes further and pulls the second stitch out through the first one, to the side of the work and then knits it. This produces a beautiful edge, ideal for a finished edge not intended to be seamed (especially when worked in a contrasting colour). However, is it structurally different: it is a suspended bind-off which is hard to unravel and difficult to seam over.

BTW: The reason that a regular bind-off is usually too tight when worked with the same needle size as the project is that you are linking stitches on their sides (the bound off chain) across the width of the same number of stitches. Stitches are wider than they are tall. Ergo, the edge becomes tight.

The reason that this method is looser is that, as you swing your right-hand needle around into the second stitch, it elongates the stitch held on both needles. How much the stitch is stretched is up to you; the depth of the insertion of the needle tips and how far you crank it around are for you to control.

It is very likely that this method exists out there by some other name, as it’s too logical not to have been discovered before. I have recently heard it referred to as the Latvian Bind-off but haven’t yet found a video to confirm this. There are several similar methods but none that I have found yet that exactly replicate the structure of a regular chain bind-off.

Please send me links about similar bind-off methods if you find any.

To make this bind-off your own, practice it everyday for a week! It doesn’t have to be a whole project: just cast on 10 sts and then bind them off again. You are in knit-training!


A Cautionary Tale…please share January 31, 2015

Filed under: General Musings,The Tradewinds Team — happystitches @ 14:13

You may have seen my Tweet about re-starting my new work year on Jan 26th? The visitors had gone home, family members were back to work, the laundry was even under control, and I was ready to roll. I had a long list of projects to complete and workshop notes to write. I was ready and excited to get going, with creative juices flowing swiftly. Well, the whole thing got off to a very tough start.

I collected the mail (remember those messages that come in envelopes?) from the box on Jan 5th 2015 and began working my way through the correspondence. The bombshell looked every bit  like a mass marketing letter. I opened it, and the world changed colour. (It makes me feel ill writing this even now.)

To preface what follows: At Tradewind Knitwear Designs we totally support copyright rules and policies, obey them, and will support those whose copyrights have been violated.

It was a letter from gettyimages in Seattle, dated Dec 24th 2014: Unauthorized Use Notification ‘copyright infringement’… This was followed by  7 sides more of verbiage that I found very intimidating and a demand for $910 in settlement for the unlicensed use of one of their images from mid Nov 14.

That’s is HUGE sum for the inadvertent use of a picture of a pile of parcels for 6 weeks.

They included a screen shot of our home page, showing the image that they claimed to be theirs. Yes, we had used an  image which we believed to be free of copyright.

I’m shaking even now. I’d rather not relive this, but I feel it is important. There is a lesson here!

We IMMEDIATELY removed the offending picture as instructed. We made sure it was removed from our server as well. We began researching on line. I have only ever used pictures taken by one of the Tradewinds team or paid for and taken by Hillary for us, but in prettying up the home page News box Stephanie had in all innocence found an image on the Internet on a page of Google images–of a pile of parcels–and used it. (Please note, this is not in any way a criticism of our wonderful Stephanie. There are things that she should have been told, and wasn’t.)

There was no indication of any copyright – no watermark, no text; we’ve clicked on it exhaustively since and can find nothing. I failed to pick up on this stray picture (the buck stops here), and it sailed under our radar and onto the home page in mid – late November 2014. So here we had someone demanding money for this.

Did they really have any rights to it? How could we check? It smelled very like a scam. We searched on the company’s website high and low and couldn’t find the image. I even in desperation checked with our US lawyer for her opinion on this situation. “this is horrible, but it is legitimate.”

We called them to see if we could verify that they had the rights to this image and hopefully negotiate a lesser amount. We had used the image in all innocence and would have paid a modest penalty without argument. If their intention was to bring this to our attention and limit the length of time we accidentally used their image, surely an email notifying us to remove it with it would have done the trick and it would have saved two weeks? Even if they promised a letter to follow up the matter of compensation.

They were polite but intransigent, this was very highly valued picture and it had been used for 6 weeks and although they agreed to reduce the total by a small amount, we paid in excess of $700 in the end. That is a large part of our monthly earnings. We have learned an expensive lesson.

Please be warned: there are images lying around on the Internet with hidden identifiers. Use your smartphone–take your own pictures of everything. There are web crawlers out there detecting hidden data so that the pictures can be traced. Read more about this on-line, there are many other sites that have articles too.

Be careful when a third-party uses a picture on your behalf – you are the one that would be liable. Be cautious about re-blogging. Having said that please feel free to share this, it our photo and you may share it with our blessing. To cheer you up after this miserable saga, here’s Poseidon the cat, hard at work.

Poseidon taking on the cares of the world!

Poseidon taking on the cares of the world!



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