There is little more gratifying than hand knitting a gift for someone and finding that they truly appreciate both the gift and the effort that it took to make it. I remember one year when I knit my sister a gorgeous ivory, mohair throw. As our extended family sat gathered around Mum's living room opening holiday gifts, there was paper and bows flying, with shout outs of "thank you!" and "hope you like it." But when Cathy opened the blanket box I had wrapped just that morning, tissue paper and a cloud of knit mohair fabric poured out onto the floor and there was an "ahh!" heard around the room, as if on cue. She loved the throw and everyone went on about how lovely it was, putting me right up on Cloud 9. That lovely blanket truly received a "stitchworthy" response!
I hope this baby blanket gift gets a happy response
To be clear, I made up the word "stitchworthy." Originally, I used to say "knitworthy" to describe someone worthy of a hand knit gift, but I changed it to stitchworthy to cover all of the needle arts, for the materials, time, and effort to create a sewn or crocheted gift are every bit as worthy of appreciation as a hand knitted item. I have also made the word into a single, non-hyphenated, adjective, because it is my word and I like it that way!
Before going into what responses put a person on our stitchworthy lists, first I offer some examples of what insures that someone does not make the cut. The person who regifts your hand knit, especially to someone you know and lives in the same community, is not stitchworthy. I had a breast cancer survivor regift my pricy ribbon and eyelash pink scarf back to me - now that was an awkward moment! One time I had made a gift of a generously sized topper for a queen size bed, knit in a luxurious angora blend yarn, in the color the recipient requested. When she came by to pick it up, she saw another large throw that I had knit especially for my own bed, using a color I picked up from my Waverly print wallpaper and drapery fabric. This gal had the chutzpah to ask if she could have the throw on my bed, instead of the one I had custom knit for her. Seeing how little she valued the elegant basket weave pattern blanket, knit in the mocha angora blend, I knew she would never be happy with it and made the excuse that her throw still needed blocking and I would get it to her later, knowing later would never come. A bit petty on my part, but she never asked about either throw again and I still put her on my unstitchworthy list. Hey, that was a lot of $$ and work!
The pink scarf, regifted back to me
Then there is the "in your face" rejection. I spent weeks and weeks and nearly $100 in yarn and an exceptional polished unikite button making the Stephen West capelet, Colonnade. The recipient told me to keep it, simply from seeing the pattern photo. I had tried so hard to find a project with a special meaning and to use colors I knew the person would like and they did not even want to see the finished project, telling me to keep it for a shop sample or give it to someone else. I know she was trying to see that the capelet went to good use, but I will never again feel confident knitting something for her. Sometimes picky people prefer gift cards, which is fine, but not stitchworthy.
The capelet is now a shop sample knit for Berocco Borealis
Of course, no one is going to love everything we make for them, but anyone half raised right knows how to accept even the most unusual gift. Even if they think it is a horrendous color or 2 sizes too big, they can show appreciation for the time spent to make the gift. No one says they have to wear it; they just need to show a modicum of gratitude, knowing that a person spent hours and hours trying to please them. There are gifts that may not be my taste, but I love them anyway, because I know the love that went into making it or even simply shopping for it. There is certainly grace in knowing how to receive.
A Noni bag I knit and felted for my favorite sister
But it is the stitchworthy people whom we know and love who keep our needles busy! My sister's coat closet has a whole row of scarves hanging on the inside of the door that I have knit for her. She wears her fingerless gloves to work and when she receives a compliment, gives me credit, sometimes even contacting me to get the pattern for the admirer. My husband wears the many pairs of socks I have knit for him, washing them in a lingerie bag every week so they will be ready to wear again. He loves the sweaters I have knit him and even credits the first cabled pullover I knit for him as part of what prompted him to propose. He saw how much work and love went into making the wool sweater and figured I was a keeper.
Bill's first sweater, now 34 years old
Yes, by and large, most of our loved ones are stitchworthy and they belong on our gift lists. But as our time is limited, if your niece keeps telling you she doesn't understand why you "waste time" knitting scarves, when you can buy them so cheap at Walmart, buy her that Walmart scarf and with the money you save, buy some nice yarn to knit a more stitchworthy loved one a hat or mittens.
Hand knit gift, ready for wrapping
Finally, there is no more stitchworthy recipient than another knitter. They know what went into their gift and they will treasure it. My dear friend Heidi has knit me two pairs of fingerless gloves that I adore and wear so often, I fear I will wear them out. Her response? When I do, she will make more for me. Our fellow crafters are truly the most stichworthy of all!
My favorite gloves
Copyright August 2013
I love all of the beautiful different colors and textures in the Giant Skeins from Hand Painted Knitting Yarns (HPKY.) I challenged myself to come up with an accessory project that would show off all of the various yarns, using a single 8 ounce Giant Skein. My first idea was a feather and fan shawl that self fringed. The lacy shawl is lovely, but with 306 stitches on US 8 needles, it takes awhile to knit. My goal became to come up with a project that all my knitting friends, even those who are short on time, could enjoy.
While swatching the yarns with various needles and in several stitch patterns, I tried what many call a "drop stitch" pattern. The long, loose ladders certainly put the gorgeous yarns at center stage! To make the knitting quick, I got out my US 15 needles and cast on, using 3 strands from the 12 different yarns in the Giant Skein. Every six pattern repeats, I changed to 3 different yarns. In a matter of hours, I had a fabulous, frothy scarf, generous in size and a fun and easy knit.
Adding to the easy factor, this scarf has no ends to weave in at finishing. As all 12 yarns are spun using animal fiber, I could use spit joins when changing yarns, leaving no ends. To me, spit joins are a magic trick of sorts and they always provide a bit of whimsy to my knitting. I find myself giving up a mental "Ta-Dah!", every time I do one!
Every Giant Skein is a cornucopia of luxury yarns and though all are hand painted in the same colorway, each one is different. When fraying the ends of the yarns to perform the spit joins, you get an up close look at all of the different plies, fibers, and construction of the 12 various yarns. For me, an avid fibernista, this is truly part of the fun! There is mohair spun into dainty curls along a fine strand and smooth plies of merino. While some yarns have glints of metallic fiber, others are matte and have a more subtle beauty. At first glance, several of the yarns look similar, but with a closer look, you will see differences in every yarn. Put them all together and you have a scarf that is as interesting as it is lovely.
Join the Fun!
This quick and easy scarf uses HPKY's Giant Skein in fingering weight. The result is a generous luxury scarf in gorgeous hand painted yarns.
Materials - (1) 8 ounce HPKY Giant Skein Fingering
Size 15 US needle
Gauge - 9 stitches = 4 inches in garter stitch with 3 strands held together
This lovely scarf is knit using (3) strands from an HPKY Giant Skein held together. You can either divide the 12 yarns in the skein into (4) groups of 3 yarns, as in the photo, or change the yarns at random. I suggest when dividing yarns into groups, to include one smooth yarn, one textured yarn (boucle' or brushed), and one metallic or otherwise visually prominent yarn in group. Yarn remaining after scarf is completed is used to fringe the two ends.
Cast on 17 stitches
Rows 1 & 2 - Knit in each stitch across.
Rows 3 & 4 - Knit in each stitch across.
Row 5 - Knit each stitch, wrapping the yarn twice (rather than once) when working the stitch. You will have 34 loops on your needle.
Row 6 - Knit in first loop of each stitch on needle, allowing second loop to drop off, forming an elongated stitch. (17 stitches)
Repeat Rows 3 - 6 a total of (6) times.
Cut each of the 3 yarns, leaving 4 - 6 inch ends, then *"spit join" (description below) the next 3 yarns to each of the cut ends of the previous yarns used in the scarf. You will now have 3 new yarns with which to continue knitting your scarf.
With the 3 new yarns, repeat Rows 3 - 6 a total of (6) times.
Repeat the process of joining 3 new yarns and working (Rows 3 - 6) 6 times with the remaining 2 groups of yarn.
You have now used all (12) yarns. Continue adding repeats of Rows 3 - 6 (6) times, changing out the yarns as described above until scarf measures 70 inches or to desired length.
Final 4 rows - Knit every row.
Bind off. Use remaining yarn, cut in 12" sections to fringe both ends of scarf, attaching
them in groups of 3.
* Spit join - unravel or fray with fingers, small needle, or scissor, 1 1/2 inches of both the yarn end on the scarf and the end of the new yarn to be joined. Lay the frayed ends, one over the other, so they overlap/intertwine in your palm. Moisten both ends with either spit (saliva) or spritz with water until fairly wet. Rub both ends (overlapped) between palms, back and forth, until you feel the heat in your palms from the friction and the two yarns are felted together, joining them. (Spit joins only work with animal fiber that is not superwash. All of the yarns in HPKY Giant Skeins are predominantly animal fiber and will easily spit join.) Tug on the yarns, to check for a secure join. If the join is not secure, repeat the process. It may take repeating the moisten/friction process, to obtain a secure spit join.
Copyright June 2013
Hand painted yarns are all the rage these days! Over the past year, I have had the pleasure of knitting several projects with an exceptional line of these popular specialty yarns, hand painted right here in the United States. Hand Painted Knitting Yarns, or HPKY as they are commonly known, contacted Rare Purls in early 2012 about displaying their yarns at the Georgia Alpaca Fiber Fest, where I was teaching that weekend. Although their catalogs had certainly piqued my interest, when the cases of yarns arrived, I was totally wowed by the luxurious skeins in so many gorgeous colorways!
HPKY Swirl Shawl
Bjorn Coordt is HPKY's fiber artist in residence. A master weaver born in Bergen, Germany, Bjorn moved to the United States in 2002, where the yarns he hand dyed for weaving quickly became popular among knitters and crocheters. Partnering with Rex Tannahill, they founded Hand Painted Knitting Yarns out of Wentzville, MO., debuting their incredible line of hand painted yarns to the North American market at TNNA in 2006.
HPKY booth at TNNA
At HPKY, there is attention paid to every detail, from the fashionable patterns paired with hand dyed hanks for their kits, to their clever Giant Skeins, with 12 yarns bound together in a single hank, then hand painted in elegant colorways. The different yarns in the Giant Skeins are spun in a variety of luxury fibers. As each fiber reacts to the dye in a unique manner, there are various of shades of each color in the colorway, broadening the palette and adding sophistication. The hand painted yarns range from skeins of fine lace weight to lush chunky, with merino, silk, mohair, and alpaca well represented in the fiber contents. HPKY custom dyes every hank of their extensive collection of yarns and Bjorn's signature colorways are the hallmark of their brand.
HPKY Alpaca Boucle' in Don Carlos colorway
Yes, the colorways of these artisanal hanks are truly magnificent! The colors include solids, semi solids, color themes, and natural colors, but the HPKY flagship is their collection of Opera colorways, all dyed from Bjorn's recipes of captivating color combinations. Offered in both a saturated, dramatic version, described as "Rich", and a softer, more subtle interpretation, their "Pastel" versions, the Opera colorways are named for classic operas, such as Carmen, La Traviata, Norma, and Madama Butterfly.
HPKY Rich and Pastel Opera Colorways
The designs offered by HPKY in their many kits include casual, evening and wedding garments, ladies' accessories, and cozy throws. The patterns can be knit easily by the novice to intermediate crafter, with minimal shaping and seamless construction. There are also crochet versions of many patterns. HPKY designs are sized generously, with garment patterns ranging from ladies small through 3X. From beautiful scarves and shawls to stylish sweaters and jackets, the interesting combinations of color and texture make these projects a true pleasure to knit!
Jacket on the Diagonal using Giant Skein in La Boheme
No review of a line of hand dyed yarns would be complete without a word about their sock yarns. HPKY has six fingering weight yarns, including my favorites, the superwash blend of bamboo/merino and their superwash merino/nylon/Donegal tweed sock yarns. They also offer Corriedale, a superwash wool/tencel blend, a superwash merino/nylon blend, and a 100% pure merino fingering, all especially nice for scarves and shawls. The generous hanks are 3.5 - 4 ounces, enough to knit a pair of large men's socks. HPKY fingering weight yarns come in a wide range of colorways, from muted hanks that will please even the most conservative, to eye catching, compliment fetching, bold and bright skeins.
HPKY sock yarns
At Rare Purls, there has been a fantastic response to the HPKY line of yarns and kits! The entire HPKY line can be viewed on their website, www.handpaintedknittingyarns.com To place an order or for more information, including pricing, call Rare Purls at 770-910-7626 or email us at email@example.com Items not in stock will be shipped in 2 - 3 weeks, as they will be custom dyed.
The popular HPKY Rome Bias Shawl
Copyright May 2013
Happily, I am to become a grandmother for the first time in August, so hand knits for Baby Mather have become a priority! Baby blankets are a must, from receiving to crib size, and I enjoy every part of knitting them, from the lovely baby colors, to the soft and cozy yarns. When it comes to making a baby gift, I like to give a nod to tradition, so for my latest baby blanket I am using the traditional log cabin pattern.
Log cabin quilts and blankets have been enjoyed for many generations, as they are both lovely and practical, often making use of odd scraps of fabric or yarn to create an attractive pattern. They can be sewn, crocheted, or knit and can be constructed either following a pattern or free form. You are not locked into a particular size at cast on, just keep adding sections until you reach the size blanket that fits your needs.
Although a log cabin blanket can be a great stash buster, for my latest version I chose to use bulky cotton yarns from Rare Purls in gender neutral colors. I first selected a lovely colorway of Antuco, a hand dyed multi from Ester Bitran, and from that I picked up the sea foam green, beige, and orange in the colorway. I found the sea foam and beige in Classic Elite Sprout, an organic cotton yarn that is both soft and textured. For the orange I combined two yarns, Pima Fresca from Queensland Collection and Hempathy from Elsebeth Lavold.
With these yarns, I began to build my blanket. The pattern is simple, alternating blocks of color in garter stitch - first knitting a horizontal block, then picking up stitches along the edge for a vertical block, binding off each block as they are completed. As the pattern builds, you will be picking up stitches across both edges and ends of the blocks - one stitch per stitch and one stitch per two rows. Of course, to visualize this process, a picture is worth a thousand words!
The first blocks of my log cabin baby blanket
For my baby blanket, I choose to start in the center and work out, but you can start in a corner or really anywhere you like! You can follow a published pattern, plot your own pattern, or wing it free form, as I did. I even used some stripes within a block to add interest. The only rule I followed in my blanket was not to let two blocks of the same color touch. For the perfect finishing touch, I put a border all around the edges, using three long circular needles. An easy double increase at the corners every other row, kept the border laying flat.
Although a log cabin blanket can utilize a variety of different yarns, it is best to use yarns very close to the same gauge. If you are stash busting and have yarns of various weights, the blanket should be knit at the heaviest gauge, combining lighter weight yarns to come up with strands of that gauge. For example, for aran weight Pima Fresca to work in my blanket, I had to add one strand of sport weight Hempathy. Of course, garter stitch is very forgiving and slight variations in yarn weight are usually not an issue.
For baby blankets, I prefer to use easy care yarns, so busy new moms can toss them in the washer and dryer without a worry. Cotton, linen, hemp, soy, easy care synthetics, or blends of these fibers are all good choices. I also like superwash wool, though check the label, as most recommend machine wash, dry flat. Remember, if you are combining several yarns, even one that requires hand washing will render the entire blanket hand wash only.
My finished blanket is as cozy as can be! After weaving in the yarn ends on the back side and a quick wash to freshen the blanket, it is ready to welcome a new baby. Whether used as a crib blanket, play pen pad, or wall hanging, the cheery colors and cuddly knit cotton are sure to be a welcome addition to baby's room.
Copyright March 2013
On the street or on the slopes, hats with flaps are all the rage! Ear flaps on a knit hat are not only super cute, they keep ears warm and cozy, even on the coldest of days. Whether decorated with colorful pom poms for your teen's ski trip or in a more masculine styling for hubby's subway ride to work, ear flap hats are both fashionable and practical.
My friend Bob in his Snow Board Hat
Several years ago, as a thank you to my friend Bob I designed the Snow Board Hat to mimic his favorite "Elmer Fudd hat". You see, the ties on the ear flaps can dangle casually or be worn fastened - under the chin, for snuggly warm ears, or atop the hat - as did Elmer Fudd of Looney Tunes fame - on less chilly days.
My young student in Snow Board Hat with flaps up
When checking out different versions of ear flap hats, I saw that many had small, perfunctory triangles over the ears, more for looks than function. When designing Snow Board Hat, I found that for serious protection from the cold, the perfect proportion for each flap was 25% of the circumference of the hat. This rendered ear flaps that were both attractive and functional. Using the same garter stitch pattern as the edging of the hat, it was a snap to pick up and knit the flaps on each side. To make the ties, I made a simple crochet chain from the working yarn at the tips of the flaps, easy peasy!
In my first Snow Board Hat, I used Limari, a super bulky, hand dyed yarn from Araucania, which has since been discontinued. Recently, I found that Berocco Souffle', a soft and warm baby alpaca blend, is a perfect substitute and it comes in many lovely, subtly striping colorways.
Sweater in Berroco Yarns Souffle'
Be advised that when knitting this hat, gauge is important! Your gauge determines the size of the hat. A gauge of 9.5 stitches/4 inches will knit a hat in youth size, as seen on my young friend. A gauge of 8 stitches/4 inches will make the adult size. For me, it took a 13 US needle for the smaller size and a 15 US for the adult size hat. Of course, the size needle you need to get the gauge may vary, especially if you substitute another yarn.
Ready for a blustery day!
Yes, this quick knit is as fun to make as it is to wear! Snow Board Hat knits up in about 4 hours, making it perfect for last minute gifts and the cost is under $20. Whether you are out running the slopes in Aspen or just running to Starbucks for a hot cappuccino, your new hat will keep you warm and cozy! We would love to see your version of this pattern - send jpegs to firstname.lastname@example.org or post to our Rare Purls Ravelry group. The pattern for my Snow Board Hat is in the free patterns section of the Rare Purls website:
Not only is my 9-year-old student darling, she can knit beautifully!
Copyright February 2013