The Right Knitting Tools For The Job

I agreed to knit a shawl for a knitting magazine even though I was secretly scared of the yarn.

Do you have much experience knitting with lace-weight yarn? 

I’ve used it a few times in shawl designs but it’s tended to be the slightly thicker type of lace-weight or ‘sticky’ mohair. So when the editor of The Knitter magazine got in touch to ask me if I’d like to design a shawl with some gorgeous merino silk lace-weight (800m per 100g), of course I said “yes please”, but secretly I was a bit nervous about knitting with such fine yarn.

This prompted me to have a think about which needles I would use for the project. Recently when I’ve knitted lace, I’ve enjoyed using a 4.5mm Hiya Hiya Sharp fixed circular needle: as well as having quite sharp tips, the metal is smooth, allowing the stitches to slide easily off the needles.

I decided to leap into buying a set of the same needles but the interchangeable version … and I’m so glad that I did! They are lovely and sharp, but not too sharp, just enough to tackle the fine lace stitches. Actually, I think sometimes needles that are too sharp can split the yarn … so it’s definitely a case of choosing the right needles for the job, whether that’s in terms of the sharpness of the needles, or the materials that they’re made from.

Despite having the ‘right’ tools for the job, I did panicked a bit when I started knitting the sample and realised I was dropping stitches every so often. Argh! I thought maybe it was my lack of concentration due to lockdown but I realised that it was just that I wasn’t used to knitting with such fine yarn or with my new needles, so I persevered.

Now I’m well into the project, and into the rhythm of it, it’s flying along and I’m loving working on the design. Plus there’s no more dropped stitches! Sometimes you need to give new things a chance and knitting lace-weight yarn with sharp slippy needles has definitely been a learning experience for me.

A light a floaty piece of knitting is suspended above the ground, creating a dappled shadow.

The final shawl is going to be a beautifully floaty and light piece of knitwear even though it’s made of nearly a kilometre and a half of yarn! While I can’t show you a photo of the actual shawl, I’ve shared a couple of photos above of one of my initial swatches, which will give you a feel. Hopefully, I’ll be able to share some photos of the real thing soon.

If you’d like to be the first to know when the pattern is published in The Knitter, and see some exclusive photos, sign-up to my mailing list by clicking the button below.

Top 10 Patterns: Number 1, Ama Sweater

I almost didn’t publish my Ama Sweater pattern, which seems ironic as it’s my best selling pattern and number 1 on my Top 10 Ten Countdown! The pattern is built on the back of a moment of crashing self-doubt.

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I had what I thought was a great idea and I’d worked hard on all the little details: getting the raglan increases to sit nicely with the ‘string-of-pearls’ stitch; making sure the over-sized raglan shape didn’t mean huge sleeves for the upper sizes; and working out how to make the least fussy neckline possible!

Then, bam! I was hit with a horrible wave of self-doubt where I questioned everything about the pattern and couldn’t see a way forward. I put the design on hold for months and told myself that I’d just have to forget about it.

However, there was a little niggle in the back of my mind telling me to ‘just do one little thing at a time’, so that’s what I did. I strapped numerous pillow cases around my tailors’ dummy’s chest to help me check the measurements for all the sizes and I started to learn how to use excel for some of the maths. I had some very welcome support and friendly nudges from my knitting friends and yarny colleagues … and do you know what? It worked. The pattern was in good shape and when I had it test knitted, I received the most fantastic feedback.

My Ama Sweater pattern has gone on to be, not only be my best selling pattern, but also my most knitted pattern: at the time of writing there are 74 projects on Ravelry and 354 uses of the hashtag #amasweater on Instagram.

So in light of all that, I’m pleased to let you know that I’m planning to release a flurry of new garment patterns over the coming autumn and winter!

Now would be a perfect time to sign-up to my mailing list. Not only will you be able to buy all of my Top 10 Patterns with 15% off, but you’ll also be the first to know when new patterns are released and the first to find out about preview knitting opportunities. Plus it’s the only way to receive exclusive discounts on all my new designs. Click here if you’d like to sign up

There’s also a video tutorial for working Ama’s decorative ‘string of pearls’ stitch, which you can find on my Tutorials page or by clicking here.

The Ama Sweater pattern is available to purchase by clicking here for my Ravelry Store or clicking here for my new Payhip Shop.

 

Top 10 Patterns: Number 2, Ama Shawl

As both of my Ama Shawl samples have met with disaster, it seems a bit odd that it’s number 2 in my Top 10 Countdown and that I find myself needing to knit another one. My original pink/grey sample (pictured) has been nibbled by (now dealt with) moths and my blue/grey sample has fallen foul of being put away damp on top of something red … you can guess how that turned out!

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So it’s just as well that I finally got round to creating a tutorial for the Ama Shawl’s i-cord tab cast-on, which you can find on my blog or by clicking here. Ama is a top-down shawl that starts as a semi-circle shape with some simple short rows added to create a wider, more wearable style of shawl. Like my Ama Sweater pattern, it features the ‘string of pearls” stitch and is a great option for variegated yarns (this sample was knitted in yarn from The Wool Kitchen).

The Ama Shawl pattern is available to purchase by clicking here for my Ravelry Store or clicking here for my new Payhip Shop.

Remember … mailing list subscribers get an exclusive 15% off all the top ten patterns until 31st July! Click here if you’d like to sign up

Tutorial: How To Knit An I-Cord Tab Cast-On

MaddieHarvey_Ama_HeldOutAn i-cord tab cast-on is used in lots of top-down shawls with an i-cord edge, just like my Ama Shawl pictured left. It works in the same way as a garter tab cast-on but the ‘tab’ that you pick up stitches along is an i-cord rather than a strip of garter stitch.

If you’d like to know more about garter tabs, click here to have a read of my “Smarter Garter Tabs” blog post.

You could use this method with any of my top-down shawls, where you wanted to replace the garter stitch edge with an i-cord: just be sure to pick up the correct number of stitches along the i-cord in accordance with your pattern instructions.

 

Firstly, cast on three stitches. Knit the three stitches and slip them back to the left-hand needle. Repeat this twice more (or however many times according to your pattern).

 

Next, knit the three stitches once more, but this time don’t slip them back to the left-hand needle. Instead turn your work 90 degrees clockwise. You’ll be picking up stitches along the line of V stitches as shown in the right hand picture below.

 

Now pick up and knit, 3 stitches along the side of the i-cord (left hand picture below). You now have 6 stitches on the right hand needle. If you’d like further details on how to do this, then click here to read my blog post about picking-up stitches along an i-cord.

 

Lastly, turn the work 90 degrees clockwise again and pick-up and knit 3 sts along the cast-on edge of the i-cord (right hand picture above). This can be a little bit fiddly but try to make them as evenly spaced as possible, inserting your needle under two strands of yarn before pulling through a loop. You should now have 9 stitches. Work the wrong-side row according to your pattern instructions.

I hope you’ve found that helpful? For more knitting tips straight to your inbox, you can sign up to my mailing list to receive my twice-monthly “Creative Notes” and news of exclusive offers, by clicking here.

Click here to head to the pattern page of my website, to find out more about my Ama Shawl pattern.

Top 10 Patterns: Number 3, Soft-Hearted Cowl

Now we’ve reached the top three of my Top 10 Patterns, and I’m delighted that the Soft-Hearted Cowl is number three, as it was only released in March of this year as part of Gamer Crafting’s Operation: Social Justice campaign. I can’t wait for the weather to get cooler again so that I can wear the sample!

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Another super-versatile 4 ply/fingering-weight pattern with three different size options, I’ve included the hand-drawn schematics below so you can see. Size 1 is a single-thickness cowl knitted with 2 x 50g of two contrasting colours. Size 2 is also a single-thickness cowl but is knitted with 2 x 100g of yarn, which is also the amount of yarn needed to knit the size 3 version, which is turned sideways so as to create a double-thickness cowl for a really cosy accessory.

Whichever version you make, each one starts with an i-cord, along which stitches are picked-up and knitted, so today’s blog post is a tutorial to help with that. You can have a read by clicking here.

The Soft-Hearted Cowl pattern is available to purchase by clicking here for my Ravelry Store or clicking here for my new Payhip Shop.

Remember … mailing list subscribers get an exclusive 15% off all the top ten patterns until 31st July! Click here if you’d like to sign up

Top 10 Patterns: Number 4, Folden Shawl

First published in 2017, this pattern has had a wee resurgence recently thanks to Jess of Ginger’s Hand Dyed, who knitted-up her own ‘free style’ version as part of featuring me as Summer Designer at Ginger Twist Studio. You can find Jess’s version by searching the #foldenshawl hashtag on social media.

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Folden is a great pattern for people who are new to shawl knitting and it’s also a lovely relaxing knit for those who are a bit more experienced. Plus it’s a fantastic design for using up leftover 4ply/fingering-weight yarn: you could knit one in 10 x 10g, 5 x 20g or 2 x 50g and you could stripe different yarns or knit your Folden in blocks of colours. There are lots of possibilities for being creative with this pattern!

Plus, Folden has tassels, which are great fun to make and a good way to use up leftover yarn. I have a video tutorial on my YouTube channel to show you how to make the tassels and you can also find it on the Tutorials page of my website by clicking here.

The Folden Shawl pattern is available to purchase by clicking here for my Ravelry Store or clicking here for my new Payhip Shop.

Remember … mailing list subscribers get an exclusive 15% off all the top ten patterns until 31st July! Click here if you’d like to sign up

Top 10 Patterns: Number 5, Demelza Edition Shawl

Kicking off the top 5 of my Top 10 Pattern Countdown, is Demelza – a super versatile pattern that was originally published in Knit Now Magazine in 2017 and was reworked as part of Countess Ablaze’s #titsoutcollective in the summer of 2018. This pattern is perfect for connecting with your inner Demelza Poldark, and striding along a wind-swept Cornish clifftop!

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So, I said Demelza was a versatile shawl … there are three different sizes to knit, in two different yarn weights and with two different colour options. The two colour version pictured is the size large 4ply/fingering-weight shawl, which uses 2 x 100g of yarn from Old Maiden Aunt.

There’s also a small-sized 4ply/fingering-weight version too, which is great for those single skeins lurking in your stash, especially solid and slightly variegated colourways.

As if that wasn’t enough, there’s a double-knit version too. It measures up in-between the two 4ply/fingering-weight shawls, and uses 250g of double-knit yarn (something around 120m per 50g).

There’s also the possibility of making the shawl bigger if you have more yarn by extending the cabled section and the garter stitch edging. Phew! That’s a lot of options!

Demelza a a traditional top down triangular shawl so I’ve got some top tips lined up for you about the garter-tab cast on, as I know it can be fiddly for some people. You can find that by clicking here.

The Demelza Edition Shawl pattern is available to purchase by clicking here for my Ravelry Store or clicking here for my new Payhip Shop.

Remember … mailing list subscribers get an exclusive 15% off all the top ten patterns until 31st July! Click here if you’d like to sign up

Top 10 Patterns: Number 6, George Street Shawl

I really dislike weaving-in ends, in fact I have a whole multi-coloured sweater that I wear regularly, and after 5 years I still haven’t woven in the ends, Every time I wear it I have to make sure that the ends aren’t sticking out of the top like a decorative fringe. Usually I have to tuck a couple back in and check every so often for escapees.

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So, of course it was inevitable that I’d design a shawl with minimal end-weaving-in. Hence my George Street Shawl pattern where, despite having fairly wide stripes, the clever edging means that you only have four ends to weave in when you’ve finished knitting. The perfect shawl for those who hate weaving-in ends!

This is also the kind of shawl where you can keep knitting the edging until you run out of yarn, and I have a blog post all about weighing your yarn to help with this … which is basically a guide to “how to win at yarn chicken”! You can find it by clicking here.

The George Street Shawl pattern is available to purchase by clicking here for my Ravelry Store or clicking here for my new Payhip Shop.

Remember … mailing list subscribers get an exclusive 15% off all the top ten patterns until 31st July! Click here if you’d like to sign up

Top 10 Patterns: Number 7, Patience Cowl

Pattern number 7 on my top ten pattern list is the Patience Cowl, a large double loop cowl with a swirl of reverse stocking stitch running around the outside.

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Perfect for mini-skeins and leftover yarn, Patience was originally designed as a pattern to knit up with advent calendar mini-skeins, but it’s great for any time of year and will work well with amounts of 4ply/fingering-weight yarn from 5g up to 20g.

The pattern includes helpful information and suggestions about how to organise and order your mini-skeins, to get the effect that you’d like, whether that’s a more striped version or a fade-effect.

Today, I’m recommending two blog posts to accompany this pattern: one about dealing with casting on a large number of stitches and one about joining-in yarn. You’ll find “Big Cast On” by clicking here, where there are lots of tips about breaking down big cast ons into smaller chunks, and click here for “An Easy Way to Join-In Yarn” which explains a great way to join in new colours of yarn that avoids you having lots of ends to weave-in after knitting – always a bonus, in my opinion!

The Patience Cowl pattern is available to purchase by clicking here for my Ravelry Store or clicking here for my new Payhip Shop.

Remember … mailing list subscribers get an exclusive 15% off all the top ten patterns until 31st July! Click here if you’d like to sign up

Top 10 Patterns: Number 8, Cherry Stone Shawl

Top knitwear designer Kate Atherley once challenged me to buy the loudest skein of yarn and make it into something (this was back in 2015 at a knitting retreat in Manchester)! Now, I LOVE a challenge and I may be a tad on the competitive side … so I didn’t just knit something with the loudest skein (which of course was from Countess Ablaze), I designed a shawl and published the pattern. Cherry Stone was my first self published design and I’m delighted that it’s come in at number 8 in my top 10 pattern countdown.

I know that you probably have a similarly wild or maybe a couple of particularly gorgeous single-skeins in your stash so like Kate Atherley, I’m challenging you to free one of those skeins by knitting it up into a Cherry Stone Shawl!

As well as being great for those precious single-skeins, the other neat thing about this shawl is that when you’re finished you have very few ends to weave in. The clever ‘picot-on-the-go’ edging that’s worked at the beginning of every right-side row, means that both yarns are carried-up the side of the shawl, even in-between the wider stripes. You can find a handy video tutorial for this technique in the Tutorials section of my website – click here to head over there.

Anyway, a lot of my lovely Knit Night friends have knitted a Cherry Stone Shawl. They’ll happily tell you that out of all my designs, Cherry Stone is a well-worn favourite of theirs … and just to clarify: that between them, being the lovely knitterly friends that they are, they’ve knitted a lot of my patterns!

The Cherry Stone Shawl pattern is available to purchase by clicking here for my Ravelry Store or clicking here for my new Payhip Shop.

Remember … mailing list subscribers get an exclusive 15% off all the top ten patterns until 31st July! Click here if you’d like to sign up