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Over this past year, I have been doing some research into the history of knitting. And as far as that topic is concerned, frankly it has been surprisingly slim pickings. At the same time, it is intriguingly bizarre to see what sorts of titles come up when searching for information. For while there isn't much on knitting itself, there are plenty of books and articles on all sorts of knitting-related minutiae. 

My latest accidental find in that regard: The History of Knitting Pin Gauges, by Sheila Williams. I'll not include any spoilers here, you understand. But suffice to say, that much of what one might hope to learn about the origins of these devices, is covered in this useful volume.

Of course what really got me, were the photos of the charming antique gauges. I was especially drawn to the ones shaped like bells. Certain that these were priceless, difficult to find collectors items, I had a quick look online anyway ...and was stunned to discover that for a couple of euros I could very realistically possess my very own vintage bell-shaped knitting gauge.


Naturally, I now own a small collection!

These gauges were all made in England, in the 1930s. All are the same in size and shape, but differ in their placements of the cutouts, in their metal finishes, and in their stamped, or engraved, illustrations.

From left to right, mine are the Aero, the Griffin, the Archer, and the Sabre.

There are many others to collect in the same vein, most made by the manufacturers Abel Morrals and H. Walker. 


So... if you enjoy using vintage objects and find yourself in need of a knitting gauge (or four), I think the antique ones are a good option. They are durable, accurate, charming, and inexpensive - and moreover, you will own (and possibly save from the trash bin) a small piece of knitting history. 

Edited to add:
Where you can find them: the usual virtual auction website - just search for 'bell knitting gauge' or any of the names I listed above. The History of Knitting Pin Gauges, by Sheila Williams, is also easily available, new and used, via the usual online book sellers. 




The Remake-Along! with Knitting the Stash



Having officially submitted my entry to the Remake-Along 2018, I wanted to let you know about this fabulous project, organised by Melissa of Knitting the Stash -  

Re-Make-Along Project

We all have a sweater that we picked up from a big box store, a thrift shop, or our granny’s basement … we love something about it, but there is also something left to be desired: it doesn’t totally fit us, it’s falling apart, or it’s made from some strange acrylic brew. So, let’s Re-Make these gems into something we love!

The Project: Choose a sweater and post a picture in our Ravelry group. Here, we’ll discuss what we like, what we hate, and HOW we’re going to make the big change in 2018! We’ll have a blast learning from each other. And in the end, we’ll all have a better sweater!

Anyone can join in at any point in 2018. We’ll surely have some prizes along the way for progress and I’ll do a giveaway at the end of next year for anyone who has finished a garment.

My own entry, pictured above, is a gauzy mohair-blend sweater, purchased 5 years ago from Benetton. I have worn it quite a bit over the years, and it has acquired some stains and holes in the process. I would now like to remake it, with some minor modifications.

What I like about the original sweater: 
. the drapey, flowing style
. the yarn weight and gauge it is knitted at
. the colour, more or less
. the size and fit, for the most part

What I don’t like about the original sweater: 
. the seams
. the nylon content (it's a kid mohair-nylon blend)
. the style of neckline
. the useless ribbed edgings (they look inelegant compared to the rest of the sweater and still curl up despite the ribbing)

My plan is to re-knit this sweater in a kid mohair-silk blend, seamlessly, with a more open neckline and with i-cord edgings. The size and fit will be similar to the original, but perhaps I would like to make it just a tad longer.


Happily, I already own yarn that is suitable for the job. It is a laceweight 70% kid mohair /30% silk blend from Pickles Norway, and it's a shade of lilac that is just a smidgen darker and warmer than the original sweater, which suits me better colour-wise.

And as far as construction, I am thinking a boxy, top-down, contiguous sleeves sort of thing?… well, I still have time to decide. I will most likely begin knitting in late March, and will hopefully will have re-made the sweater in time for the lilacs to blossom. 

If the Remake-Along sounds like a fun project, join us!  You can be an experienced knitter, or not - Melissa is releasing a series of instructional videos for every step of the process, so have a look!

You can access the Remake-Along ravelry thread here.
Watch the first Remake-Along instructional podcast here
And visit the Knitting the Stash website here

I am excited to be taking part!


Fit Clinic: If Your Hat Is Too Loose at the Brim...



After my earlier post on raglan sleeve sweaters, I thought it might be useful to mention another problem area I often hear about from knitters: hats!

Hats, eh? Yes, they are quick and easy to knit. And yet so many seem to experience fit issues. The most common problem, seems to be that the hat is loose at the brim, and that it grows ever-looser with wear - to the point that it eventually it starts to slide, or fall, off the wearer's head!

As before, I have finally had a look at the patterns folks who mention this problem are using. And I've noticed a common theme: The instructions call for the brim of the hat to be knitted over the same number of stitches as the body, and/or on the same size needles.

This I found quite surprising, having myself been taught that the brim of a knitted hat must be considerably tighter than the body, in order for the hat to stay on the wearer's head. 

For example: For a typical beanie, as a rule of thumb, I would want the brim to be knitted over 75% of the body stitches, and on needles at least 1mm smaller in diameter than the needles used for the body.

So, let's say you are using a hat pattern (bottom-up, in the round), and it reads as follows:
. Cast on 100 stitches using 4mm needles; close round
. Work in ribbing until brim measures 1"
. Then work in pattern until hat measures as desired, before decreasing for the crown

If you want the hat to sit more snugly on your head, modify these instructions as follows:
. Cast on 75 stitches using 3mm needles; close round
. Work in ribbing until brim measures 1"
. Switch to 4mm needles
. Next Round: K all, and at the same time increase by 25 stitches evenly throughout the round
. Then work in pattern  until hat measures as desired, before decreasing for the crown

Note that even if you are going for a relaxed or slouchy beanie, the fit of the brim should still be tight if the hat is to stay on securely. So depending on how slouchy the design is meant to be, I would try knitting the brim over 65%, 60%, or maybe even 50% of the body stitches, and again on needles at least 1mm smaller in diameter.

Hopefully, the above makes sense and is helpful! 

{And one request here, dear readers: If you enjoy a post, or have further questions about the topic, please comment here rather than emailing me  - firstly, because I live in a rural area and my internet time is very limited; and second so that others can benefit from what you have to say or ask. I allow anonymous commenting, so there are no obstacles or privacy issues. Thanks in advance!}


Notes From a Recovering(?) Shawlophobic



shawlophobia {n., knit., faux psyc.; adj: shawlophobic} - 
an irrational and pervasive fear, or dislike, of knitting shawls, oftentimes despite a penchant for wearing shawls.

You know the way knitters talk about how they love to knit shawls, but never wear them? That their closets and dressers are practically bursting from all the hand-knitted shawls they contain, most of which never see the light of day once they are off the needles? How they wish they could stop knitting shawls they don't need, only it's so much fun that they can't not knit shawls?

Well. I have the opposite problem. I love to wear shawls. I look good in shawls. I would drape a different shawl over my perpetually chilly shoulders every day if I could. Only I hate, hate, hate, knitting them.

Why? I have no answer. At least not a rational one. I do know how to knit shawls in several basic shapes, and it isn't difficult. And yet somehow, the very thought of doing such a thing fills me with dread and despair. A friend of mine jokes that if it hasn't arms or legs, I am not interested in knitting it. And it's true that sweaters and socks are my favourite things to knit. But heck, I also knit hats. Cowls. Skirts. Shawl aren't any less engaging than those. And you would think that wanting to wear them would give me extra motivation. 

Nope. Despite desperately coveting others' shawls (caugh... Melissa's Rebel shawl, I want it! caugh...), I haven't knit a shawl for myself since... Jeez, actually ever. I have never knitted myself a shawl!  

This madness had to stop. 


Enter some handspun Gotland yarn from Woolly Mammoth Fibres.

I met the talented Emma at the Yarnfolk festival last year, and was attracted to many things at her booth. But especially the Gotland yarn. I can't quite describe what I liked about it exactly, but something about the combination of its unique texture and smell... Oh my. Months later, I still couldn't get its Swedish soft-yet-rustic goodness out of my head. It occurred to me, that perhaps this yarn was just what I needed for that extra push toward shawl knitting. 

And so, at length I had in my hands 200g of chunky Gotland, handspun and plant-dyed by Emma. The yarn is spun expertly, and dyed a rich mustard green. It's a colour that doesn't look good on everyone, but happens to suit me quite well, matching my eyes and most of my clothing. Perfect! 

So you see, my plan was sound: chunky yarn + simple design = quick project.

Determined to make this happen, I considered knitting from a pattern. But as soon as I began to browse shawl patterns, I already started to feel the dread and the not-wanting-to-do-it creeping in. I realised that if I wanted to end up with a shawl, it had to be done quickly - like ripping off a bandaid. So before I could change my mind, I improv-knit, with feverish determination, a basic triangle shawl with some eyelets. 



The shawl is a standard top-down design that starts with a cast-on of 5 stitches and grows outward. As I dislike garter stitch, I knitted it in stockinette, and added some staggered clover-shaped eyelet repeats, then finished the edge with a picot bind off (the heavieness of which prevents the stockinette fabric from curling). The shawl is actually reversible, and looks good both on the stockinette and the reverse stockinette side. 


Wanting the fabric to be somewhat gauzy and light, I knitted the shawl on 12mm needles. Happily, I used up the full 200g of yarn, winning a seriously tense game of 'yarn chicken' in the process!

I should mention also that the yarn itself was perfect for the shawl. There are chunky yarns that are very 'round', and the danger of using them for something like a shawl, is that the fabric comes out too thick and puffy. But this particular handspun Gotland is quite 'flat' (you can really tell I am not a spinner when I start saying stuff like this!), which makes it just right. 


There isn't any more to say about the shawl itself here, I don't think. It is a fairly basic, traditional design executed in a chunky rustic handspun. And as far as shawls go, you can see it's on the small side, almost in the shawlette category. So if I were to do anything different next time, I would make it a 3-skein shawl. 


Be that as it may, I am ridiculously happy with the result, and am glad to have finally made myself a shawl.

Sadly though, I am not sure that I am any closer to getting over my shawlophobia. I want more shawls. I just wish someone else would knit them for me! A shawl-for-socks exchange, anyone?

Sigh. No, I know that I must do it myself. And I think I will again. Clearly, finding an exciting yarn is the key for me, and thankfully there is no shortage of that in the world these days. Frilly, fingering-weight shawl, I see you in my future... eventually! 

Are there things you love to wear but hate to knit? or vise-versa?

Also, here is a question: Do you think this shawl design is too basic/ generic to write up as a pattern? 


Fit Clinic: If Your Raglans Bunch Up at the Underarms...



Sometimes when I wear a raglan-sleeve sweater or dress I have made, a fellow knitter will remark on the lack of bunching at the underarms. They will then go on to explain that, whenever they try the raglan construction, they are always plagued by this unsightly problem. Do I know why that is?

Without seeing the garment they'd made, I could not really say, other than perhaps a too-shallow yoke depth could be the culprit (this post from Fringe Association explains this pretty well). However, a recent encounter made me aware of another possibility.

A few days ago, I was chatting with a local knitter and she mentioned the raglan-bunch. Frustratingly, she's had this same issue with several sweaters now, and making the yoke deeper did not seem to help.

Curious, I asked to have a look at the patterns she was using. And in terms of the raglan shaping (top-down), the instructions in all of them read something like this:
. increase for the raglans every other round, until so-many body and sleeve stitches are attained
. then, work in pattern (no longer increasing) until the yoke is deep enough to separate the sleeves

I looked at the instructions, then looked at the knitter, and finally it dawned on me what the problem was.

These instructions, while perfectly typical of raglan construction, result in a yoke shape that favours broad or squarish shoulders - that is, shoulders which widen fairly rapidly.

Unfortunately, for those who have narrow, or sloping shoulders, this shaping will result in too much fabric being created too high in the yoke - leading to bunching.

If you suspect that this might be the problem for you, try re-writing the yoke instructions given in the pattern as follows:
. increase for the raglans every other round, until 75% of the suggested body and sleeve stitches are attained
. then, increase for the raglans every 4th round until the full suggested number of stitches are attained
. finally, work in pattern (no longer increasing) until the yoke is deep enough to separate the sleeves

This will result in a more gradual raglan increase, favouring those with sloping or narrow shoulders.