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Spring BOGO, New Mitten Patterns, and I Yarn Bombed A Horse. I Really Did.

I’ve been busy this winter but unable to tell you about it! Let me catch you up.

I’ve been making videos. My favourite so far is this one on how to pick up stitches for no-gap thumbs. I keep reading how it’s impossible, but it so isn’t. In the video, I show you exactly how and where to pick up your stitches to close the gaps without any weird twisting. The best part is, this method just makes it look like columns of knit stitches with nothing out of place. I’m pretty pleased with it.

Aaaand, that cabled mitten in the video? It’s my new pattern, just new out today. I named it XOX OXO. You know how when you write a letter to Santa, his postal code is HOH OHO? (At least it is here in Canada.) Well, the cables and the season made me think of how every time I wear these sweet, squishy mittens, it’s almost like I’m sending myself a message to be kind to myself. I’m a sentimental soul, and I have stupid Seasonal Affective Disorder, so basically I fight against depression every winter. A big part of that battle is recognizing which thoughts are mine and which are symptoms. Hint: if it’s soul-crushingly mean, it’s from a lack of dopamine.

#XOXOXOmittens @aknitica

#XOXOXOMittens @aknitica

Next on the list of winter-killed-my-brain-so-now-I’m-catching-up is this pattern, Fluffa. These are lightning-fast, super warm felted mittens. They’re knit up with bulky 100% wool on giant needles then shrunk into oblivion in the washing machine until they’re dense and snow proof. These are the mittens you put on your kids for hours-long outdoor snow play. My kids have been wearing theirs all winter, and people, let me tell you: finally, I’ve made hand-knit mittens that actually do the trick! Even when the snow cakes on the outsides of them, their hands are still warm inside. I made some for myself and my husband, as well, and we love them for shoveling the driveway.

#FluffaMittens #felted @aknitica

They’re available in sizes for the entire family, with choices of everyday cuffs or long cuffs for serious outside time. You can even make the larger sizes into oven mitts, since wool is fire and heat resistant. Neat, eh?

They go nicely into the dryer, too, for those days when your kids want to go outside again before the mittens have dried on the air vents.

Another thing I did, which I’m pretty proud of, is I knit a horse. Yes, I got to yarn bomb a horse statue! It’s been on display at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, in conjunction with their World War Women exhibit and a big knitted-goods donation drive they hosted.

#PompomTheHorse #yarnbomb @aknitica #CanadianWarMuseum

It was a totally cool project. I had to take all the measurements and design and knit the whole thing myself. My life was insane last fall when I had to make it, and there were a couple delays, so I had three weeks — yes, you read that right: 3 weeks — in which to do the knitting. With the strategy of eat, sleep, knit, and with my husband home to take care of absolutely everything to do with the kids and the house, I did it. Almost. I had to ask Lisa, a knitter friend of mine, to help me out by knitting the two front legs during the last week. And my mom spent a day at my place making all those pompoms.

#PompomTheHorse #yarnbomb #CanadianWarMuseum @aknitica 2015-12-06 001 2015-11-29 087

#PompomTheHorse #yarnbomb Getting fitted. @aknitica #CanadianWarMuseum

I’d love to write a more detailed post about how on earth one designs a fitted cover for a horse. Maybe later, now that my brain seems to have switched back on again, I will.

Lastly, I’ve discovered the joys of Instagram. It is my place, people. Pictures! Pretty pictures! And none of the drama of Facebook or Twitter. I’ve been posting there a lot, sharing pictures of my personal knitting projects, the many gezillions of things that I have on  my needles. (At last count, I had about 20 projects on the go. Yes, I’m one of those knitters.) If you’re on Instagram, come find me! I’m @aknitica. (And feel free to tag me if you’re knitting up one of my patterns! And you can hashtag the pattern name, too, if you like.)

Okay, now really lastly (apparently I was just kidding in the previous paragraph), I’m having a sale! It’s time for me to give all my lovely subscribers a deal. So, how about a BOGO! That’s Buy One, Get One FREE. For a limited time, and on Ravelry only, all of my self-published patterns will be part of this event, including those two new ones above, XOX OXO and Fluffa. Sadly, anything currently published by Knit Picks will not be included. But everything else is fair game. Simply add two (or multiples of two) patterns to your Ravelry cart, and the BOGO discount will automatically be applied to all eligible patterns. Yay! Go here to start shopping.

And rats, now I’m reminded that I had one last thing to show you. Too much yet? I just had another pattern published by Knit Picks! It’s Faela, my first sweater design, and it’s part of The Colorblock Collection. There are some gorgeous sweaters in there. This one is an oversized tunic with slight A-line shaping. It’s knit up in soft Knit Picks Swish Worsted.

#Faela Sweater pattern by @aknitica on @knitpicks

And that is really all for today. See you around the internets!


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Aves Hat and Charmed Fall Accessories collection!

Woohoo! A mystery project of mine is finally releasing today, so now I can tell you all about it. It’s so hard to keep these secrets, but I admit, it’s fun at the same time. I’ve really been enjoying working on a small and growing pile of secret things this year.

Read on for the details, an announcement, and a giveaway!

Aves Hat pattern by Amanda Schwabe, part of the Charmed Fall Accesories collection from Knit Picks. #knitting #aknitica

The Aves Hat is now available in Knit Picks’ new Charmed Fall Accessories collection! And oh my goodness, you guys, I’ve been pouring through the book today, and it is adorable. It’s full of cute hats in all sorts of yarn weights, and I notice that most of them (including mine) feature fun pom poms this year. They’re colourful and fun, whimsical, and yes, completely charming. The collection is aptly named. 🙂


I’m also delighted to see a selection of perfect mitten patterns. In fact, they’re basic and versatile enough that you might find yourself knitting them year after year. The designs have beautifully arranged stripes and just make me so happy.

Okay, and there’s more. More! Boot toppers with garden vegetables….!!!… cowls with feathers, with diamonds…. socks with foxes…. a scarf with a gnome on it (hilarious!), and then I found more gnomes as I flipped through the pages. And for the more subdued tastes, there are beautifully textured accessories that will be classics, like the Rectrix Scarf and the Eclate leg warmers and cowl (love!). I think I might need to make the Yarn Chase Hat with the kitty chasing a ball of yarn, at least for my daugher.

A more whimsical, charming, delightful collection I could not imagine. Knit Picks really knocked it out of the park, and I’m so thrilled to be a part of it. It’s just loaded with quick, perfect projects that make me smile.

My fellow Ottawa Knitting Guild peeps might especially like the Circus Hat, which features a bit of light 2-colour brioche stitch in the ribbing. (Our theme this year is brioche, so how perfect is that!) It is super sweet to boot.

Now, my Aves Hat features some light colourwork, just enough to keep things interesting, but not so much to make it scary, I hope. Once the little section of birdies is done, the dots are worked only every fourth row, so you’ll have 3 rest rows in between to knit mindlessly around in circles. It has a nice, slouchy fit and a fluffy pom pom on top that will make it drape just perfectly when worn. I made the ribbing around the bottom to be snug and cozy, and the pattern comes with 3 sizes so everyone can achieve a great fit.

Aves Hat by Amanda Schwabe in the Charmed Fall Accessories collection from Knit Picks. #knitting #aknitica

If you’ve never tried stranded colourwork before, don’t worry! Here are a couple things I’ve written with tips for you, and if you have any questions, just ask. Quick Tips for Knitting Fair Isle Colorwork and  Choosing Colors for Your Knitting.

The nice thing about this hat is that choosing the colours is a bit easier since there are only three. Heck, you could even knit it in just two if you like. I bet it would look awesome in black and white, or maybe black or grey with one of the Stroll Brights. I love those fluorescent colours! I wrote the pattern for Knit Picks Palette yarn, but you could easily knit it in Stroll instead, which is so super soft and lovely in a different way. Honestly, it’s hard for me not to knit 5 of each pattern I make, just to try out different colour and yarn combinations. I need more knitting hours!!

And now, another fun announcement:

If any of you would like to join me in a knitalong of any of the patterns in this collection, I’m inviting you to come and join my new Facebook group. The aknitica group is for anyone who likes to talk about knitting, of any kind, not just my patterns or classes. But obviously, we can talk about those, too, and if you have any questions about techniques or anything, I’ll be there to answer them as often as I can. And I’m sure there will be other knowledgeable knitters there, as well, who can help when I can’t get to the computer fast enough. 🙂

So come join the aknitica community and let’s knit together! There will be a giveaway of the Charmed Fall Accessories ebook, and I’ll tell you all the details of how to enter in the group.


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Unicorn Power! and Beaded Wristers Collection

Beaded Wristers Collection by Amanda Schwabe #wristers #beads #stashbuster

I am totally a magpie, attracted to shiny objects. That might explain my new obsession with beaded knitting. That, and the rhythmic, hypnotic, fun-yet-relaxing act of sliding beads into place amidst comforting garter stitch. (And if you’ve ever read any of my posts here, you’ll have noticed that I like fun-yet-relaxing knitting. Don’t bore me, and don’t make me tear my hair out, either. Give me something interesting, but not too interesting. What, beads? That’ll do.)

I get excited watching the beads grow into patterns and pictures. And, because I’m me, I get really excited dreaming up all the combinations of motifs and bling to put on my wrists and give to my friends.

And that, my friends, is why I present you today with not just one beaded wrister pattern — oh no! — but five. And there are more in the works. I’ve gotten completely carried away.

But why, you ask? Sure, they’re pretty, but what exactly does a tiny band around the wrist do?

Free As A Bird beaded wrister pattern. #knitting #beads #feathers

My goodness! They do all sorts of things! They’re not just a pretty face, you know. I’ve heard them called pulse warmers, which seemed pretty suspicious to me at first. I mean really, how much could a tiny woolly bracelet heat up a person? The answer is “surprisingly a lot.” They warm up the blood going to your fingers and make your hands feel all comfy while they’re practically naked. It’s a tiny miracle!

I wear mine almost all the time when it’s cold. I’ve even worn mine this summer in my air conditioning. (It gets chilly in here. First world problems.)

I keep a pair in my purse for “emergencies.”

I’ve decided they’re the perfect gift for every woman I know. Seriously. I can make a pair in a day or two, so why not? I will cover the world in fancy under-the-sleeve glitter, doling out warmth and goodwill made of prancing unicorns and glassy feathers.

Unicorn Power! Beaded wrister pattern. #knitting #beads #unicorns #mythical #cozy

The most fantastic thing, though, is that they keep me warm but don’t get in the way of my knitting. They fit under sleeves, both long and short, they will fit under my mittens, and they’re cute. They’re perfect for wearing while typing, biking, arm wrestling, working with clients, sipping lattes in over-air-conditioned book stores. And they’re a lovely, portable knitting project, too. Once you’ve pre-strung the beads, they’re ready to ride along in your purse to be pulled out in the event of knitting emergencies (read: waiting in boring lines or at the doctor’s office).

Pre-strung beads for knitting beaded wristers. #knitting #beads #shiny

The only thing I should warn you about is that if you have a tiny princess in your house who takes after you and your magpie-ness, she will want a pair or two or five. With bunnies. Not like that, mommy, like this. You will be surprised by her good taste and eye for balanced composition.

Coming soon, a pattern for Eva's bunnies.
Coming soon, a pattern for Eva’s bunnies.

And now to the nitty-gritty details. I’ve grouped four of the patterns together in a little collection, and they’re only available as part of this set. They are, clockwise from the top left, Liz’s Flowers, Epiphany, Free As A Bird, and Snowing.

Beaded Wristers Collection 6

Unicorn Power! is available separately, but I have good news. If you like bundles and deals, then prepare to bundle Unicorn Power! with the Beaded Wristers Collection and get a 10% discount on the whole shebang. Don’t worry, Ravelry will calculate that automatically for you when you add both to your cart.

Unicorn Power! beaded wristers pattern. #knitting #beads #unicorns #mythical

Now, I want to reassure any beading neophytes that this whole fancy beading thing is actually pretty easy. If you have dental floss threaders on hand, then you’re all set. They make the perfect “needles” to thread your beads onto your yarn. The patterns will tell you how many beads to load, and if you count them by 5’s, it’s fairly painless. Especially if you watch your latest series on Netflix while doing it.

You’ll want to get glass seed beads in size 8/0 (AKA #8). (The 8 means that you can fit 8 seed beads in one inch.) I’ve read that the Czech or Japanese beads are the most consistent in quality and size, so look for those. I get mine either from a local store (McBead Creations on Craig Henry in Ottawa) or online at Fire Mountain Beads.

As for the yarn, these things are so tiny that they make the perfect stashbusting projects. They require somewhat less than 30 grams of sock yarn per pair. You could probably even squeeze two pairs out of a small 50-gram skein of something wonderful, like Koigu Painters Palette. And don’t be afraid to stripe them up a bit. I’ve seen some beautiful ones done with stripes.


And there you have it. Welcome to my obsession. 🙂

If you’d like to pick up a copy of the PDF patterns, click one of these handy links. My kids’ orthodontist thanks you, and so do I.

Get just the Beaded Wristers Collection

Get just Unicorn Power!

Get both and save 10%


So who do you know that could use warm hands and pretty beaded wristers?

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Making 2-Stitch Cables the Easy Way … And a New Hat Pattern: Merry!

Finally! The long-awaited cabled ear-flap hat is here!

But first, let me tell you my favourite way to make 2-stitch cables. Did you know that you don’t need a cable needle for these tiny things? And you don’t need to rearrange the stitches, either? There’s a fun little trick for making them. Here it is:

Right Cross 2-Stitch Cable

You’ll be working into the two stitches while they’re both still on the left-hand needle. So, insert your right needle into the second stitch (the further-from-the-tip one) knitwise from the front of the work. Knit it, but don’t slide it off the needle. Now, insert your right needle (with the new stitch still on it) into the first stitch on the left needle knitwise from the front. Knit it. Now both stitches have been knit, and you can slide both off the left needle, and you’re done!

Take care that you don’t loosen the stitches as you’re working them. What I do is knit the far stitch, insert my right needle into the next one, then give the working yarn a tug before knitting it.

Left Cross 2-Stitch Cable

Again, you’ll be working the two stitches that form the cable while they’re both on the left-hand needle. Insert your right needle tip into the second stitch, but this time, do it from the back of the work. You can do it through the back loop. (Even though this will twist the stitch, it doesn’t matter because it’ll be hidden.) Knit it, but don’t slip it off the left-hand needle. Now swing your right needle around to the front of the work and knit the first stitch normally and slide them both off the left needle. Done.

Don’t forget to give the working yarn a tug between knitting each stitch to tighten things up. Keep your motions small and work at the tips of your needles.

Now for the hat pattern: Merry!

Merry hat pattern. #knitting #cables Merry cabled hat pattern with pompoms. #knitting #cables #pompoms


If you’ve seen Merrick, then this one will look familiar. It’s a complete reworking of the pattern (even the charts are different) because it starts from the I-cord up. The I-cords grow into the ear flaps, and then the hat is cast on around the ear flaps and worked up to the crown.

It’s a fun, squishy knit that’ll keep your ears and cheeks cozy on cold winter days. It makes a great gift for kids, teenagers, skiers, snowshoers, skaters, outdoor dog walkers, snowman builders, and bus-waiting commuters. The cables give the hat a lot of stretch and squish, so the sizes are quite versatile. And if you’d like to make a more slouchy version, just knit a size up.

Like I do in most of my patterns, I’ve included tips for making everything just so. Never knit an I-cord before? Don’t worry, there are full instructions plus tips for making them even.

And don’t worry about remembering the instructions for the little 2-Stitch cables. I’ve included the relevant ones in the pattern.

[box type=”download” size=”large” border=”full” icon=”none”]You can grab the Merry pattern here.[/box]

Or on Ravelry here.

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Sock Stashbuster Slouch Hat

I’m learning to embrace my quirks instead of trying to change them.

One of them, dear reader, is that I loooooove sock yarn and, well, any fingering-weight yarn.

Sock Stashbuster Slouchy Hat. #stashbusters #knitting

I have lots of it.  Fleece Artist, Knit Picks Palette, Stroll, and Felici, some Lorna’s Laces, Indigodragonfly, more Fleece Artist, some Madelinetosh… Oh, yeah.  I’m a junkie.  I like the good stuff.

I collect it with good intentions, I swear.  I try diligently to think up projects for the skein in my hand before I buy it.  I never leave the store with a skein that doesn’t have a future, a purpose.

But let’s be honest.  Sometimes I make those purposes up.  I would never admit it at the time, but having had certain skeins for a couple of years now, I can say that I *may* have been a teeny bit delusional.  But only maybe.  This is not a confession, and my husband is not allowed to use this post against me.

(Thankfully, I don’t believe he’s ever read a word I’ve written here, so haha!  I’m probably safe.)

ANYway, I love working with this weight of yarn.  My hands don’t get as tired.  I can make a whole project with just one or two skeins.  No large purchase decisions, no sweaters that started off well and then went off the rails… *ahem*

So here’s a hat.  It’s made of sock yarn.  Well, Knit Picks Palette, which isn’t technically for socks, but it’s close enough.  Especially since it can be replaced very easily by any old sock yarn out there.

Sock Stashbuster Slouch Hat pattern. #knitting #hats #sockyarn

Even a basket of those teeny, tiny, stupid, useless-looking leftovers from all the socks and gloves and hats I’ve made.

This hat, basically, is a stashbuster — an alternative, if you will, to making a Sock Yarn Blankie or a Beekeeper’s Quilt.  (Both of which I have been working on for years now.  My Blankie is about 4 feet wide and 1 foot long, and I have a small peach basket of hexipuffs.  I’ll return to you someday, my dears, I promise!)

It’s a nice, basic slouchy hat construction, so you can, if you want, make it from one new ball of yarn and forget the stashbusting altogether.  It’s up to you.

I made it to match my Scrunchy Ombre Arm Warmers pattern.  Why not, right?  I love the rainbowiness of them.

Scrunchy Ombre Arm Warmers by Amanda Schwabe

The pattern comes with instructions for working not only the basic structure, but also these rainbow stripes specifically and some tips for inventing your own stripes — tips on how to use up your stash, no matter the lengths of yarn you have left.

Now, some of you may have already found this pattern on Ravelry. It’s actually been there for a little while, and I’m only just now realizing I forgot to post about it! But I like it so much, I really wanted to share it. It’s actually been one of my most popular so far.

And now, without further ado, you may click this link to go to the pattern page:

[box type=”download” icon=”none”]Sock Stashbuster Slouch Hat[/box]



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Unusual Ways to Choose Colors for Your Knitting

Choosing colors for a project seems to be one of those things that makes us all second guess ourselves. So let’s go over some basic rules and guidelines that might help you to choose colors confidently.

1. Choose colors that you love. What makes your heart sing every time you look at it? Base your project on that.

2. Choose colors that you consistently wear. Have you ever said to yourself, “I wear blue all the time. I should branch out.” WHY? Why do you do that to yourself? Chances are that spending a month making yourself a pink sweater just because you “should” will end with a sweater that sits in your drawer instead of on your back. You know, deep down, that you won’t wear it. Don’t do it. Make yourself classics. If you’re going to branch out, spend $10 and 5 minutes at the mall to test a new color first.

3. Colors can really be combined in soooo many ways and still be pretty. I bet you’ll only think something is ugly if you incorporate a color that you just don’t like. If you don’t enjoy a color, leave it out.

4. If rainbows make you happy, make rainbows. A rainbow effect doesn’t have to mean you’re using all the bright colors in the exact rainbow order. Try using muted versions of the rainbow colors. Or switch the position of just two of them. Or add a bit of grey, brown, cream, or whatever your favorite neutral is to tone things down. If you like bright colors, do a bright rainbow. If you like soft, muted colors, use light colors with a hint of grey in them. If you like earthy tones, use brownish, toned-down versions of the rainbow colors.

5. Aim for balance. Balance just means that there’s a bit of proportion in your design. There are repeating motifs, whether in shape, texture, color, shade, darkness, lightness, brightness… Sometimes creating an imbalance can add visual interest. If you want to draw the eye to an area and really make it pop, use a color that isn’t everywhere else already. Think of sock cuffs in bright red, or just one stripe in a contrasting color. Balance and imbalance are both design tools to put in your tool box.

6. Use contrast. If you want to emphasize a motif, make it dark and your background light, or vice versa. They could both be colored, like yellow on blue. But if they’re both a medium shade, they’ll blend together. That could be a cool effect, but if you want your design to pop, try using a navy blue with a light yellow. If you use a dark yellow with a light blue, however, the yellow might not be dark enough to contrast well.

7. Try using three colors that touch each other in the rainbow or on the color wheel. Did you know that the color wheel is just a rainbow bent into a circle? Yup, it’s that simple. Three colors in a row will give you a nice, gentle effect. Think yellow-green, green, green-blue. Or yellow, green, blue. Or orange, orange-red, red. Have some fun with it.

8. Look around you for inspiration. Flowers, gardens, buildings, paintings, sunsets and sunrises, clouds, farmers’ fields at harvest time, the first rays of sunlight touching the frost on a window pane…. What are their main colors? Now look more closely. What tiny flashes of other colors are inside? If you find beauty in something, try using those same  colors in those proportions in your next colorwork project.

9. Beauty is subjective. Some things, like the golden spiral, are universally beautiful. Did you know that the proportions we consider to be beautiful are mathematical? Cool, eh? But color isn’t necessarily universally beautiful. I have a friend who exclaims in delight over any deep purple or harvest color. One of my sons thinks black and brown are the most lovely color combination. I, personally, will buy any electric-blue or turquoise yarn you put in front of me. If I tried to make myself buy the harvest colors, I’d undoubtedly be dissatisfied with them and my friend would think I was crazy. Such is life. So, buy the colors you like. They’ll match, I promise. Just remember to throw in some contrast in their shades (lightness and darkness) so the design doesn’t disappear.

10. The color wheel contains pairs of opposite colors. These pairs are called complementary colors. When you’re looking at a color wheel, they’re the ones directly across from each other. The main 3 pairs of complementary colors are blue & orange, red & green, and yellow & purple. When used together in a design, they create high contrast but also balance. Hm. I think I may have just learned something profound about life right there.

For more on color theory, check out this handy website.

In other fun color news, I’ve just finished this new hat pattern. I’ve named it Obla, and it’s a stranded colorwork hat made with just two colors. Interestingly enough, I chose two complementary colors for its prototype. And I used two shades, as well. The pinky-purple is medium-dark, and the seafoam green is nice and light. Simple color theory at work. 🙂 Oh, and of course, I actually quite like both those colors. Otherwise, what would be the point?

Obla Slouchy Hat pattern. #knitting #hats


It’s knit up using a total of 60 grams of fingering-weight yarn and size 3 US (3.25 mm) needles. About 30 grams for each of the colors should be enough. You can grab a copy of the pattern here on the aknitica website or over on Ravelry.

I really enjoyed knitting it up. The chart has a nice, simple repeat with no long floats anywhere. I wish I had more time to make another, maybe with a modified rainbow background and white for the contrast. Or maybe in dark charcoal grey with mustard yellow. What do you think?

Obla Slouchy Hat pattern. #knitting #hats


Obla Slouchy Hat pattern. #knittingtips #hats


I hope my color tips were a little helpful today. I figured that other places go into the technical details of color theory more, so maybe I should give you some other ideas. Can you think of any other tips for us? I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment below, and don’t forget to share this post on Facebook or Pinterest if you found it helpful.

Just out of curiosity, what is your favorite color combination?

31 Days to Your Nicest Knitting series. #write31days #knittingtips

This post is part of my 31 Days to Your Nicest Knitting series. Every day, I’ll post a new tip or trick to make your knitting nicer. You can follow along easily by subscribing. If you have any knitting problems you’d like me to fix, let me know and I’ll try to answer your question as part of the series. You can find all the posts in the series here.

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Quick Tips for Knitting Fair Isle Colorwork

Fair Isle can be an intimidating technique, but it doesn’t have to be. Sometimes, all you need is a little encouragement and guidance to get you going. At least, that’s all I needed. A few years ago, I took a 3-hour class with Sally Melville, and my knitting life suddenly expanded.

Tips for knitting Fair Isle. #knittingtips #write31days

Tips for Knitting Fair Isle

1. Try holding your yarn in different ways until you find a way that feels comfortable to you. (Read: least awkward.) Then, keep plugging away at it until your fingers hit their rhythm and you gradually speed up.

2. Some ways to hold your yarn:

  • with one color in each hand, knitting continental on one side and English on the other. (ie, alternating picking and throwing.)
  • with both colors in one hand: You can hold them together like a ribbon, side by side on your finger. You can have one strand wrap under your finger and the other over your finger. You can have one strand on your index and one on your middle finger. You could keep them on the same finger but separate them with a ring or a hair elastic.

3. Whatever way you hold your yarns, always keep them in the same positions in relation to one another. For example, if I hold my foreground color in my left hand, I keep it there for the entire project. I usually need to write it down because when I set it down for a while, I forget.

4. The color you hold underneath will be the more prominent color. The strand that runs overtop of the other will recede slightly. This is why, if you switch hands or yarn positions halfway through a project, it will look like your design has changed. So, whatever color you want to pop out, hold it in the bottom position. (In my case, that’s my left hand.) Actually, whatever way you hold the yarn, the strand that’s held to the left will be the bottom, popping-out one.

5. To prevent bunching of stitches between color changes: Every time you switch colors, spread out the knitting on the right-hand needle, then start with the next color. Actually, keep spreading out your knitting as you go. I think Sally recommended doing it every 3 stitches or so.

6. Your colorwork might look uneven at first, even if your tension was pretty good. Washing and blocking it will help.

7. Fair Isle gauge won’t be the same as your plain knitting gauge, even if you’re using the same yarn and needles. The floats tend to pull the fabric a bit tighter, making the stitches more like squares than little short rectangles. You must measure your gauge over a colorwork swatch, preferably in the same pattern as your project.

8. If your color changes happen further than an inch apart, you might want to “catch” the strand of the dormant color halfway across the gap to keep a long strand (float) from forming. This just means that you’ll bring the floating yarn in front of the working yarn (but not the knitting needle) before knitting one stitch. Then, you’ll return it to its original position and keep knitting.

9. Wool is more forgiving and is the best fiber for Fair Isle.

Sources: Mastering Color Knitting by Melissa Leapman and Two Hands, Two Colours Class by Sally Melville.

31 Days to Your Nicest Knitting series. #write31days #knittingtips

This post is part of my 31 Days to Your Nicest Knitting series. Every day, I’ll post a new tip or trick to make your knitting nicer. You can follow along easily by subscribing. If you have any knitting problems you’d like me to fix, let me know and I’ll try to answer your question as part of the series. You can find all the posts in the series here.

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How to Measure Knitting

Many patterns will tell you to “work in pattern for ____ inches / cm.” So measuring your knitting is an often-used, important skill. Here are some tips for getting accurate measurements.

The standard for how to measure knitting is different from the “counting your rows” standard. When we’re counting the number of rows we’ve worked, we do not include the cast-on edge or the stitches on the needles.

But, when measuring, we want to include the entire length of fabric. So we include the cast-on edge and even the unfinished stitches on the needles.

Lay your knitting on a flat surface. Arrange it and its needles so it’s neither stretched out nor scrunched up.

To measure length in knitting

Grab a straight ruler and line it up so the zero line is at the bottom edge, just as if you were about to measure a piece of paper or a desk. (A fabric ruler will work fine, but they’re less reliable in this instance because they can become distorted over time and because they don’t lay flat. If you use it, stretch it out taut to measure, but don’t pull too hard or you’ll stretch it permanently.)

Lay the ruler on top of the knitting away from the edges or any other distortions in the fabric.

Measure from the bottom up to the tops of the stitches on your needles.

To measure width in knitting

Arrange the ruler so the zero line is touching the outside edge. Lay it across the middle of the fabric, away from the cast-on or the needles. You’re looking for a place where the fabric is the least distorted. This is where a straight ruler comes in handy. You can use it to gently press the edges down if they’re inclined to curl. Measure across to the opposite edge.

To measure from the last decrease or increase

This is what you do when, for instance, you’ve finished a sweater’s waist shaping, and now you need to knit ___ inches further before the arm hole shaping. Or when you need to measure from the arm hole shaping up to the start of the shoulder shaping.

Find the landmark in your pattern. It’s a good idea to mark decrease or increase rows in some way when you make them so you don’t have to search hard for them later. Use a piece of contrasting-colour waste yarn, a safety pin, a stitch marker, or even one of those cheap, plastic hair elastics. You can put it directly into the stitch or between stitches, as long as it stays in the same row as you continue knitting. If you’ve used a cheap hair elastic, you can just cut it out later. (Thanks to my friend Laurie for that tip.)

Now that you know where your landmark is, measure from its row’s top edge up to the top of your stitches on the needles.

If you’re looking for info on how to measure gauge, not length or width, check out this previous post in the series.

31 Days to Your Nicest Knitting series. #write31days #knittingtips

This post is part of my 31 Days to Your Nicest Knitting series. Every day, I’ll post a new tip or trick to make your knitting nicer. You can follow along easily by subscribing. If you have any knitting problems you’d like me to fix, let me know and I’ll try to answer your question as part of the series. You can find all the posts in the series here.

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How to Avoid Repetitive Stress While Knitting

At some point, most knitters deal with repetitive stress or carpal tunnel problems, whether mild or severe. Here are some tips that might help to keep your hands and wrists in good knitting condition for many years to come:

Take breaks. When you do, get up, walk around, and stretch out your arms. Reach them up over your head. Loosen up your shoulder and neck muscles.

Stretch. Bend your wrists backwards and gently stretch your muscles. When you stretch, don’t pull many little times and bounce your muscles, but apply constant, steady, gentle pressure for about 10 – 15 seconds at a time.

Listen to your body. When your hands and wrists are aching or starting to ache, stop. Stretch. If you feel shooting pain, you’ve gone too far. Give them a rest until you can resume without pain.

Think in the long term. It’s better to stop before you hurt yourself so you can enjoy many years of knitting.

Repetitive stress is caused by doing the same motion over and over again. So switch motions. Try knitting in another style, like Continental, English, the pencil hold, or Peruvian purling. If you’ve been knitting flat, switch to a project in the round. If you’ve been knitting with worsted weight and relatively big needles, switch to a small-gauge project, like socks or gloves for a while. Switch from a cabled project to some colourwork. That way, you don’t have to stop knitting altogether when your hands get tired. This is what I do, and so far, it works. Because let’s face it, it’s not fun when you have to stop knitting.

Try using different needles. A different size, a different style (straights instead of circulars, perhaps), or even try a different substance, like bamboo or metal. There are even needles that claim to be ergonomically better for your hands, like the square, four-sided needles made by Kollage. (I just bought one in a 32″ circular. I’m going to try it out, just because trying new things is fun. The back of the package is fascinating. It says “The square needles are perfect for knitters who have arthritis, carpal tunnel, or stiffness in their hands and fingers.”  I hope to try them tonight.)

There are other products out there to help, like wrist braces that fit like small bracelets and don’t impede your motion. A friend of mine uses them and says they do help.

Keep your hands warm. Protect them from muscle stiffness. Hey, I happen to have a pattern to help with that!

Scrunchy Ombre Arm Warmers #knitting #stashbusters

If you’re a tight knitter, Stop It! Try to relax while you’re knitting. Be conscious about how you’re holding your needles and yarn, and if you notice yourself tensing up, make a point of relaxing your shoulders, arms, fingers, hands. If you’re worried about your knitting tension changing, try using a bigger needle size to make up for your new relaxation. An added bonus of relaxing your tension is that it will make your stitches much easier to work with and to slide along your needles.

Sit up straight. Apparently, when you slouch your shoulders forward, it compressed nerves in your neck. This, in turn, affects your arms, wrists, and hands.

What do you think? Have you tried any of these things? Did they work for you? If you have any extra tips to help other knitters, please leave them in the comments. 

31 Days to Your Nicest Knitting series. #write31days #knittingtips

This post is part of my 31 Days to Your Nicest Knitting series. Every day, I’ll post a new tip or trick to make your knitting nicer. You can follow along easily by subscribing. If you have any knitting problems you’d like me to fix, let me know and I’ll try to answer your question as part of the series. You can find all the posts in the series here.

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The Most Important Thing You Can Do To Improve Your Knitting

Hello, my knitting friends! We’re just over halfway through October’s series, and I have something important to tell you. It’s maybe one of the most important knitting tips I can ever share, and it needs to be said.

It will definitely improve your knitting because it will give you the confidence to seek out new skills, to try new things, to achieve more than you dreamed possible. It has worked for me, and it will work for you.

I’ve spent time with lots of knitters and, well, lots of people. And you know what we all do to ourselves that makes everything so much more difficult? Myself included?

We tell ourselves it’s too hard. We’re not very good. We need our hands held. We’re not as fast as so-and-so. We’ll never be that proficient.

What the heck are we doing to ourselves? We’d never put our friends down like that. We tell them nice things, and we encourage them. (I hope.)

So, today’s tip is this: be kind to yourself.

I love reading books about neuroscience and how our brains work. I have depression, and I’ve been on a constant hunt for the last 14 years for any and all information on how my brain works and how I can fix it. And you know what? I’ve found LOTS of good stuff. So many small things that have added up to me living a practically-normal, depression-free life. The most I get now is the winter blahs, and that’s because I keep forgetting to take my vitamin D.

One of the main, most helpful things I’ve learned applies to every area of life, whether it’s depression or knitting. It’s the neuroscientific (is that a word?) principle of “use it or lose it.” Did you know that our brains are constantly restructuring themselves? It’s called neuroplasticity. The more we think something, the more the neurons in that thought pathway light up, and a stronger, faster connection is formed. If impulses and chemicals keep going down that pathway, it becomes a superhighway in your brain. It becomes the default setting, if you will.

If your default setting is negativity, then your thoughts will more quickly go down that path without your even thinking about it. And, of course, our actions and outcomes follow directly behind our thoughts. And our emotions trail behind.

Are you feeling discouraged? What are you thinking about? I bet it’s pretty gloomy.

When I started examining my thoughts, I realized, My goodness! No wonder I feel so terrible!

The good news is that we can retrain our brains. We can decide to stop using those negative superhighways, and eventually, because of the use-it-or-lose-it principle, they’ll fade away. Isn’t that amazingly good news?

Next time you’re feeling discouraged about your knitting, stop and notice your thoughts. Would you say those things to your best friend? Your child? Your mate? Your boss? Then why are you saying them to yourself?

Now that you’ve noticed your thoughts, consciously replace them with something positive.

You can do this.

You can knit anything.

This mistake isn’t such a big deal. If it’s not on fire, it’s fixable.

Every time your thoughts start going down that spiral, notice them. Stop them. Change them. After a while, with some practice, you’ll build new pathways in your brain. Your superhighways will be made by you, as a conscious decision, and they will be beautiful.

It will take time and practice, so the first rule of reprogramming your brain is to give yourself grace. What’s grace? It’s unmerited favor. It’s unlimited chances without recriminations. It’s allowing yourself to start over right that minute, without bringing the baggage of past mistakes forward.

One sweater disaster does not equal a failure at future sweaters. It means one sweater’s worth of yarn that you can make into something beautiful.

Go make something beautiful today. You’re worth it.

Yes, you.

p.s. Neuroplasticity and visualization can also help you knit faster. Cool, right?

31 Days to Your Nicest Knitting series. #write31days #knittingtips

This post is part of my 31 Days to Your Nicest Knitting series. Every day, I’ll post a new tip or trick to make your knitting nicer. You can follow along easily by subscribing. If you have any knitting problems you’d like me to fix, let me know and I’ll try to answer your question as part of the series. You can find all the posts in the series here.