Happy Stitches

Keep your stitches smiling!

A Conventional Yarn? January 20, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — happystitches @ 09:51


So why did I choose to use only Madelinetosh in my Mardi Gras blanket, rather than mixing it with some of my lovely yarns? Initially I was seduced by some some of their wonderful colours. (When you are on the road, visiting beautiful yarn stores and lonely for yarn, it’s so hard to resist.)

I had planned to mix in some of my own yarns too, but then I realized that I had a technical issue that precluded successful intermingling (IMHO). I’d like to explain why, but first we need a mini spinning lesson!

Most of the yarns we use for knitting are balanced yarns made up of two or more single ply yarns. In order to create a plied yarn, we have to begin with singles.

Unbalanced Yarns – Singles
The singles are usually created by spinning fiber with a Z twist. (The angle of the twist / is in the same direction as the middle of the Z.) Take a look at a piece of yarn, deconstruct it if necessary to check the individual plies.

Mardi Gras DK blanket
A piece of yarn twisted in only one direction is an unbalanced yarn. It’s desperate to untwist to become comfortable again. Left to its own devices, it will want to ply with itself.

To see this in action, cut an 8” length of single ply yarn, hold both ends apart then immerse the yarn in water. Move your hands together to fold the yarn into a U shape, and see what happens. Does it ply? Aquacise for yarn! Here’s the test.

Balanced Yarns – Plied
Two or more Z twist singles are generally twisted (plied) together in the opposite direction (S twist-the angle of the ply twist \ is in the same direction as the middle of the letter S) to create a nice balanced yarn. The idea is that the amount of untwist put into the singles by this causes them to happily entwine together, with the overall result being a nearly neutral yarn. If you try the ‘aquacise’ trick with a plied yarn, there should be very little inclination to twist.

Stitches knit from balanced yarns look like VVVVV from the public side of stocking stitch. Have you ever noticed fabrics where the stitches look more like this l/l/l/l/l/l/l/l/ or \l\l\l\l\l\l\l\l\l ?
This is due to an imbalance in the twist in the yarn rather than any fault of the knitter.

There is nothing wrong with working with a non-neutral twist yarn, as long as you know what to expect.It may change your choice of garment construction or stitch pattern. Kathryn Alexander has specialized in working with energized yarns.

Don’t forget our January DVD combo of the month Knitting Gems 2, both the disc and virtual version for the price of the virtual DVD only.


Many ways to chart – Part 1 January 11, 2016

Filed under: Design,Double-layer knitting,Patterns,Uncategorized — happystitches @ 07:16


The first of my addictive down-the-rabbit-hole double-knit blankets was the Sunburst. It had a nice straight-forward design that was easily described by means of a construction diagram and a conventional chart.

This was all that was needed to describe and portray this simple pattern. But, if you look at the blanket closely, you may be able to see the smooth sides of each of the 1/8th sections of the blanket are smooth, not serrated as they appear in the chart on the right. The central double increase pushes the stitches out, thus causing the actual continuous edge stitch columns to fan out, but on this kind of chart without using thousands of No Stitch symbols, this is the result. Below is a sketch of a tiny bit of such a chart with the outside columns running smoothly.


Before the advent of the truly amazing Stitch-Maps, this charting problem hobbled my ability to properly portray more complex designs: if you want to knit the pattern, surely you ought to be able to read it!




Happy New Sock Year! January 5, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — happystitches @ 08:21

Screen Shot 2015-12-31 at 8.59.05

My new FREE Knit-along 2016 has launched!

You, too, can join us–sign up for this on-going class with this link

Thank you to those of you who entered for the kit giveaway; the prize has now been awarded:  Imagine my special delight in receiving a very excited email from one of my ferry knitting friends on Tancook Island, letting me know that she was the winner! Just to let you know: I had nothing whatever to do with picking the winner. Sometimes very unlikely events occur, even around knitters!


Downtown Tancook Island

Home Sweet Home on Tancook Island

I hope you will all have a great time with the three patterns – I’ve put all sorts of fun techniques into them for you.

Insider tip: Once you have signed up for the class, click a link to one of the lessons not yet released (such as Lesson 5) to see the fun we had filming something surprising for you!

And don’t forget our one-week ‘New Year Special’ DVD offer! Get a DVD and ‘virtual’ DVD of the same title for just $19.99 Cdn. See my Spunyarn news for more details.





Sweet Surrender! December 23, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — happystitches @ 08:34

I was surprised by a chance at a couple of days in Bermuda last week! After the dim grayness in Nova Scotia at this time of year, what a gloriously colourful island to be welcomed to: houses in shades of ice cream colours, vibrant foliage,and the most heavenly sea colours. My Mardi Gras  blanket grew considerably  on the journey to and from (especially with the unscheduled extra time spent at the airport during the “from”), and looked totally at home lounging on the deck rail of our Bermuda lodgings.

The Craftsy Knitalong kit giveaway link will remain open for a few more days, with the actual class being set to launch on Jan 1st. I can now officially reveal that it covers three different sock designs, with a wide diversity of my favourite techniques! (Don’t worry, I will announce when the KAL goes live, so you won’t miss out!)


I have most of my family gathered around (or as close as they can safely be, what with a cold virus being in evidence here), and I’m now officially surrendering to the holiday season! I plan to enjoy the moments as they unfold; we’ll get back to the technical blogs after the holidays. I’ll be grounding myself with my Mardi Gras blanket to knit, and a special-treat jigsaw from Liberty Puzzles in Boulder, CO. This a picture of the last puzzle that I did – I couldn’t resist turning over after completion and extracting the whimsy pieces! Some of these were multi-piece mini jigsaws in themselves and I couldn’t fully appreciate them until the end.

Wishing you and yours the very best of the season—please savour the moments and don’t sweat about the Brussels sprouts!



New Year Knitalong Announcement! December 10, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — happystitches @ 20:14


I’m going to be hosting a free New Year knitalong on Craftsy!

It will consist of three projects each with two lessons with hints and tips on each project and some general knitting advice too. Do join me – I’ve used a wide diversity of techniques so there should be something exciting for almost anyone.

To be notified of the start of the Knitalong and for a chance to win a kit for the class projects (closing date Dec 23rd)  you may click this Kit Giveaway link now.


Why do we have a pic of penguins? – check out Spunyarn below!

Our latest Spunyarn newsletter is out now too. (It’s been a busy time.) You can read it here.


Mardi Gras – let the sketching begin December 7, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — happystitches @ 11:35

Sketches being translated into charts.

Since getting into designing large circular-style creations, I have gradually built up a library of blank charts in Stitch Map format to depict the underlying structure of the fabric, and the placement of the increases, to create a centre-out fabric. Because of the enormous number of stitches in the rows, I have to break my charts into several sections.

Using these blank charts, I start by sketching on top with a pencil, but without trying to conform to the stitch grid. Once I think I’m happy with the flowing shapes, I then interpret these in Illustrator on a layer above the chart to define the colour boundaries. I try to avoid nasty-for-the-knitter colour changes (for example: in the middle of the triple increase or the round directly above these stitches). These would be easy to draw, but a royal pain to execute.

One of the aspects I wrestle with is what the knitting will look like when at it’s at true scale, and when repeated eight times around a circle. I’ve messed around in Illustrator, but it has proved beyond my tech skills to achieve a proper representation! I just have to envisage this.

I go backwards and forwards between sketches and charts a lot. Sometimes I have an overall game plan for the whole design, such a Zinnia and Blossom, but Mardi Gras  is growing organically; I just have to stay ahead of the knitting. Which, as the rounds are growing larger now, is not such a challenge! It is very exciting not to know what comes next; the patterning evolves as I knit!

Behind the scenes we are setting up a Pattern-in-Progress club for Mardi Gras if you would like to join us!  We will let you know as soon as it becomes publicly available.


Diane’s Mardi Gras up to Rnd 41 in Kauni Side B

Diane's Mardi Gras



Mardi Gras – building a yarn palette. December 2, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — happystitches @ 07:37
Building my palette of colours

Building my palette of colours

Filling up fast

Filling up fast

First, buy lots of yarn.

Having gleefully acquired a box of Unicorn tails and many full skeins, I’m now burning with an urgent desire to get started.

I set about building my yarn palette and embarking on my design.

When working with multiple colours, I like to establish a shallow box with a little bit of each colour yarn wound into a center-pull ball and wedged into place. This way I can see all the available colours, and if I carry the box with me, then I have everything I could possibly need. With the small quantity of yarn (47 m) in each mini-skein, each could be wound into a single ball. In addition, I wound the full skeins first into a mini ball, then the remainder into a larger one to be kept aside for future replenishment.

I have arranged my colours in some form of grouping within the box, bluey/green, lights and greys, darks, warm and bright but I’ll choose the colours as I go.

I used this method with my Andean Vest project: I had two cucumber trays full of little balls, somewhere in the range of 70+ colours. Strangely, at the end of the project I still had two trays full of yarn – knitting for free??

Since I was on the road at this time, it was particularly important to keep my palette box compact. I had to have my big balls shipped home to avoid luggage overload. No, you may not laugh. … well, maybe a little…

The mother-lode arrives

The mother-lode arrives

Under other circumstances (more on this later),  I would complete my yarn palette with contributions from my stash. Sorting for similar weight, harmonious colours, and different lusters, if possible.

Now the swatching to choose the needle size could begin. My next thrilling installment will look at creating the design charts.


Fearless Knitting

Holiday special sales at Craftsy – if you are not into packing, wrapping and shipping, consider gifting a class. Any class may be purchased for a timed future delivery – there is an extraordinary range of subjects available.

My Affiliate link to the wider holiday sales and to to my classes.





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