Mood Cowl - Knitting the Stash - Part 3: It finally got cold out!    Thursday, October 25, 2018

Mood Cowl - Knitting the Stash – Part 3 - It finally got cold out…

EVERY fall, when the first few breezes of cold air hit my neck, I immediately snap into action and begin knitting dozens of scarves and cowls and hats. Forget looking for the ones I actually finished and wore last year, no…. feeling the cold air is like the first time I’ve ever felt cold air and, therefore, I need to knit!!!! I LOVE winter and fall, so my response to the cold air is more of a celebratory knitting fervor rather than one of despair.

Well, thinking about my stash and the adorable ponchos I made using fingering weight doubled (see the blog post before this one, people!), I decided I wanted a cowl. And QUICK! I have two specific favorite cowls because of their sizes and drape. I fashioned the sizing of the Mood Cowl after these two cowls:

The Honey Cowl by Antonia Shankland (my Honey Cowl may have been a slightly different finished size from the pattern) and my Clementine Cowl.

One last thing before the pattern details! These projects make for GREAT group swaps. Bring all your odds and ends and even some full balls of fingering and sock yarn to your next knitting guild meeting or knitting group and trade with friends to get some really interesting color combinations. Of course, please make sure to buy some yarn from your LYS if you’re planning this swap there… they may even have some “mini skeins” or ombre sets that you can use to spice up your color selection! Since it's easier to weigh your bits and pieces than count the yards, I’d recommend using a kitchen scale like this one to measure how much yarn you have for each cowl so you can plan for 1, 2, 3, 4, or 100 of them. They're easy knitting - so it's especially great to have these handy for when you are between projects or need somthing mindless to work on. Happy knitting!


Mood Cowl by Shaina Bilow

SMALL - over the head - tall and skinny:

Yarn: about 100-120 grams or 350-420 yards of fingering weight yarn in a variety of colors

Finished Measurements: 22” circumference and 13” depth

Needle: US 9 (5.5 mm) 24” circular needle or size needed to obtain gauge

 

LARGE - loops over the head twice - short and wide:

Yarn: about 165-180 grams or 575-630 yards of fingering weight yarn in a variety of colors

Finished Measurement: 48” circumference and 9” depth

Needle: US 9 (5.5 mm) 32” or 40” circular needle or size needed to obtain gauge

 

Gauge: 4 stitches = 1” in stockinette stitch holding yarn double stranded. The fabric shouldn't feel dense because this cowl is meant to be soft and flexible when finished. 

Notes for changing colors:

  • Yarn should always be held doubled for this cowl.
  • Change colors wherever in the cowl you like. You don’t have to change colors at the beginning of the rounds. In fact, your cowl will be less bulky with tails if you stagger them throughout the piece.
  • I suggest fading colors into one another by never abruptly changing both colors of yarn at the same time. If you work two strands of color A at the beginning, cut one strand and attach color B. Then work AB for a little while. Then cut color A and attach another strand of color B or a strand of color C. If you change both strands abruptly, you will have defined stripes rather than a subtle fading of one color to another. Of course defined stripes aren’t a bad thing, if that’s what you’re looking for. And, if you follow my suggestions but your colors are highly contrasting, you may get “abrupt” looking stripes anyway.
  • You might have a few balls of yarn that might work well together in terms of colors – mix and match those combinations at will. If, on the other hand, you have a few colors that don’t work with one another, plan a little bit in advance so you don’t end up using a combination that you find unappealing. For me, contrasting colors on the color wheel (red & green, yellow & purple, blue & orange) combinations are not my favorite for stranding so I would avoid putting those colors together directly. I might put red with a deep yellow and then put that deep yellow with the green to soften the contrast of red and green.
  • ABOUT MY COWLS: For the smaller cowl, I used leftover bits from hats that I’ve been making. Some of it was Three Irish Girls, Mothy and the Squid, Zen Yarn Garden, and Dale of Norway Baby Ull. For my larger cowl, I used two full balls of Koigu KPPPM and one full ball of Rhichard Devrieze Fingering weight. The RD yarn has 65 g per ball. I didn't end up using the green and purple mini-skein pictured below on the right. That color was terrible with the others once I knitted it in. It got frogged. 

 

 

Instructions

Instructions for the smaller cowl are written first and the instructions for the larger cowl are written in the parenthesis.

Holding yarn doubled, cast on 88 (168) stitches. Place a marker and join the work in the round without twisting.

Work 5 rounds of k1p1 ribbing or k2p2 ribbing. This is your preference – my samples are in k1p1 ribbing.

Continue in stockinette stitch, a.k.a. knitting every round in the round, changing colors as desired using the suggestions above, until piece is about 12 (8)” from the cast-on edge.

Work 5 rounds of ribbing to match the bottom. Bind off in rib pattern. 

Weave in tails and wet block. Wet blocking really loosens up the stitches and softens the work. To wet block, soak the piece in a tub of cool water with a little wool-friendly soap. Pull the piece out and roll it in a towel to "wring" out excess moisture. Lay the piece out in a dry area of your home (for me, that's near my boiler closet or heaters once they're on for the season) and let it dry. 

Please post photos of your finished cowls on Ravelry! I can't wait to see your color combinations!! 

Knitting the Stash - Part 2 - Fingering Weight Odds and Ends    Monday, October 15, 2018

Knitting the Stash - Part 2 – Fingering Weight Odds & Ends

I’ve been hard at work using more stash and this time I set my sights on my fingering weight. While it would be incredible to make socks and shawls with all of this yarn…

I crunched the numbers and realized that as I accumulate more and more shawl and sock yarn, I need to allot that much more time to knitting said yarn. Makes sense, right? However, the number of people I’d actually knit socks for fluctuates between 3 and 1 depending on my mood and the number of times I wear a shawl per week is less than once…

so… what to do with all of that sock and shawl yarn?!

With birthdays coming up for my kiddo’s buddies, I decided to knit up a few of my Basic Children’s Ponchos using doubled fingering as a worsted weight. Doubling the yarn means the projects go a bit more quickly AND I get to ply colors and play a bit with fading colors and creating a really custom look.

Poncho #1:

Here’s the before photo, as I was planning what colors to use.

Here’s this sweet little poncho, finished!

 

Poncho #2:

Here’s the before photo, as I was planning what colors to use.

Here’s the amazing rainbow poncho, finished!!

 

I adjusted my original pattern because these ponchos are intended for toddlers rather than children:

  • I used a size 8 needle instead of a 9 to make the poncho a little smaller.
  • I wanted the neck to fit a little more snugly, so I cast on 68 instead of 72 and worked the rolled neck. After the purl round, I increased to the 72 and placed my markers according to the pattern.
  • The ponchos were worked to about 13” for the 2-year olds.
  • I held fingering weight double stranded, as mentioned above. To keep the ponchos from looking too striped (I wanted more of an ombré look), I would only switch out one strand of yarn at a time. Let’s say I was knitting with two strands of color A. I would work that up and then cut one strand out and add one strand of color B. Then I used A & B held together. When I was ready to change, I cut color A and added in a second strand of color B.  

Working the colors this way allowed me to use every last drop of the smaller balls, it also meant I didn’t have to weave in four tails in one spot. I’d only have two tails – one from the color that was cut and one from the color that was added in. The color that didn’t change didn’t need to be cut. Save yourself a little work!!

Sometimes my color shifts worked in this way:

AA

AB

BB

BC

CD (Check it out! I went right from a strand of B to a strand of D… but since C has remained the constant, I still have a color change that doesn’t look too abrupt)

DD

DE

etc...... 


Stay tuned to see an EASY PEASY cowl that uses the same color shifting techniques with double stranded fingering weight AND the very cozy hats I’ve been knitting up on my knitting machine with fingering weight yarn.

Knitting up the STASH    Tuesday, August 28, 2018

“My yarn stash is too large” – No Knitter, Ever

Except, maybe… me.

Ever since I’ve welcomed my son into my life, I’ve been feeling more and more like I need less and less “stuff”. There are a zillion reasons why… but I won’t unload them all onto you, tempted as I might be. This wave of a very light minimalism started with clothing and shoes and keeps expanding through my house to cooking items, cabinets, drawers, and closets. My favorite tool for measuring progress (other than seeing empty space or neatly stored useful items in closets) is my own printed chart of 2018 things to declutter in 2018, inspired by the Nourishing Minimalism Decluttering Challenge of 2018. Below is a photo of my progress by the end of August. Each colored box represents one item gone. YEAH! I tried changing colors each month, but there were a couple of deep-cleaning months and I felt I earned a new color halfway through. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


So… How does the yarn fit into this? Knitting and crocheting are my favorite hobbies. They’re also my work and two of my creative outlets. But sometimes looking at so much yarn makes me feel less creative. Less happy. Yarn that I’ve had for 10 years or a project that’s been sitting half done for 3 years don’t bring me joy. They make me feel burdened. Additionally, if I’m designing a project, I certainly don’t want to use a yarn or color that has been discontinued. I realized a few months into my light minimalism phase that I needed to take control of this aspect of my clutter as well. I love my local shops and want to support them and will continue to buy new yarn. But, as with all of my shopping during this epic decluttering, I bring a mindfulness to the store with me about what comes home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pictured above is my yarn cabinet after it was tidied two years ago. At that time, I had about 2 more cabinets worth of yarn in a storage room in my studio. Some of these yarns have been sold or donated and some have been knit. Some still sit there, waiting for their fate to be decided. 

I plan to chronical what I’ve been doing with my yarns to declutter and curate my stash in a few blog posts. Here are the first four steps towards this:

First step: Lessen the load. I’ve been destashing yarns in my Etsy shop. I have also been donating a lot of yarn, books, needles, etc. to the knitting group at my town’s senior center. They are loving it. Their joy in receiving items matches my joy in offloading them. How do I decide what is for sale and what to give away? If it's a valuable yarn (nice fiber, hand-dyed) or if there's enough yarn to make a substantial project and/or it holds some sentimental value for me, I try to sell it. If it's inexpensive yarn that costs more to ship than to sell or yarn that I only have bits and pieces of, it is given away. 

Second step: Knit the random single skeins of certain yarns and colors that you just can't bear to part with. Turn that love of the color or fiber or yarn into an actual project. What a concept. I began this process by knitting a hoodie cardigan for my son in some single skeins and odds & ends I had accumulated in Filatura di Crosa “Zara”. It's one of my favorite yarns ever, which is probably why I have so much of it. Yes, present tense. I still have a lot, even after finishing this sweater. 

About the sweater: I worked a basic top-down sweater with 8-row stripes of varying colors. I didn’t want to have to make the sleeves match, so I made sure that the stripes in the front of the body wouldn’t always match, either. Hooray for intarsia! I was able to use about 300 grams of yarn and I found ROBOT BUTTONS in my button stash (*in robot voice* PERFECT). This project was 100% STASH. It's probably going to fit him when he's 6.

Third step: Pat myself on the back!

Fourth step: Repeat steps 1-3.

 

Ravelry Projects 2018 Post-A-Thon!    Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Have you knit something that I've designed? Please post those projects to Ravelry! For each finished project you post, I'll gift you another pattern for FREE!

Here's how it works:

For the remainder of 2018, if you knit one of my published designs* and create a project page for that finished project on Ravelry, I'll send you a coupon code through Ravelry messages to download another pattern for FREE from my Ravelry Shop**.

The only rules are that your project page must be linked to my pattern AND your project page must have at least one photo of the finished project. You don't need to rate my pattern 5 stars, but I'd love the ego boost ;)

Are you a super-duper-Shaina-pattern-knitter (and local)? Have you worked up 8 or more of my published designs and created Ravelry project pages? I'd love to give you a spot in one of my group classes on the house!*** This offer goes through the year... so start knitting and posting!

If you are a regular student of mine and think I might have photos of your project from my camera, a quick reminder in an email would be great.

Happy Posting - and, THANK YOU!!

 

 

* Published designs are designs that are attributed to me and/or are available for purchase (or free) on my website, Ravelry, or Etsy. These are available from multiple sources: some are self-published on Ravelry/Etsy/www.ShainaBilow.com, others are published with Interweave or with Tahki/Stacy Charles, etc. A published design will have a pattern page on Ravelry that you can link your personal project page to. Custom designs do not qualify.

** Your free pattern gifts are self-published patterns from my Ravelry Store only. Patterns that have been published in knitting magazines or for knitting companies are excluded. The coupon codes expire on 1/31/2019.

*** Group class must be used before 1/31/2019. Please e-mail me once you've hit 8 pattern pages. One group class for free for every 8 separate finished project pages posted to Ravelry. Posting photos of 8 different necklaces under one "Gatsby Necklace" page counts as only one project page, whereas creating 8 different project pages for 8 different necklaces would count as 8 separate projects. 

Little Hats, Big Hearts    Saturday, October 29, 2016


I'll be collecting red baby hats to send to the NJ chapter of the American Heart Association in February for their "Little Hats, Big Hearts" initiative. The goal of the program is to raise awareness of Congenital Heart Defects. Babies born in February are given red hats in participating hospitals. For more information, to see if your state is participating, and for additional patterns for the hats, please visit: 

https://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/General/Little-Hats-Big-Hearts_UCM_487734_SubHomePage.jsp



Shaina's Ribbed Baby Hat for Little Hats, Big Hearts (SEAMED VERSION):

Materials: US 7 needle, worsted weight cotton or acrylic (washable) yarn, tapestry needle for seam.

Instructions: Cast on 54 stitches.

Row 1: k2, (p2, k2) repeat between ( ) to the end of the row.

Row 2: p2, (k2, p2) repeat between ( ) to the end of the row.

Repeat rows 1 and 2 until piece measures 4” (or 6” if you want the brim to fold-up), after completing a row 2.

Crown Shaping:

Next row: k2tog, (p2tog, k2tog) repeat between ( ) to the end of the row. 27 stitches remain.

Next row: p1, (k1, p1) repeat between ( ) to the end of the row.

Next row: k1, (p1, k1) repeat between ( ) to the end of the row.

Next row: p1, (k1, p1) repeat between ( ) to the end of the row.

Next row: k1, (k2tog) repeat between ( ) to the end of the row. 14 stitches remain.

Finishing: Cut yarn leaving a 12” tail. Using a tapestry needle, pull the tail through the remaining stitches to secure them. Seam the hat and weave in tails. 


Shaina's Ribbed Baby Hat for Little Hats, Big Hearts (SEAMLESS VERSION):

Materials: US 7 DPN, worsted weight cotton or acrylic (washable) yarn, tapestry needle.

Instructions: Cast on 52 stitches and divide evenly among DPN. Join work in the round.

Round 1: (k2, p2) repeat between ( ) to the end of the row.

Repeat round 1 until piece measures 4” (or 6” if you want the brim to fold-up).

Crown Shaping:

Next round: (k2tog, p2tog) repeat between ( ) to the end of the round. 26 stitches remain.

Next 3 rounds: (k1, p1) repeat between ( ) to the end of the round.

Next round: (k2tog) repeat between ( ) to the end of the round. 13 stitches remain.

Finishing: Cut yarn leaving an 8” tail. Using a tapestry needle, pull the tail through the remaining stitches to secure them.  

 

Knitting Tool Bag Essentials    Wednesday, May 25, 2016

One question I'm asked a lot by students is: "what accessories and tools should I have in my knitting bag?" 

While the contents of my tool bag look like I'm prepping for knitting doomsday, there are essentials that every knitter should keep with their active projects. Nobody wants to pause their knitting session because they forgot to grab a pair of scissors. So...

Here it is, folks! A list of quintessential items for your knitting bag. I’m not talking yarn, needles, and patterns (we already have that covered, right?). I’m talking about the goodies that prepare you for (almost) anything you’ll encounter in a project or pattern. No more panicking that you don’t have a measuring tape! Stitch markers at the ready? Bring it on! I’m such an accessories person that a good project becomes a great project when one of these sheep stitch markers greets me at the beginning of every round. Use a pencil case or cosmetics bag to hold all of your gear and you can easily transfer your tools from one knitting bag to another. Marvelous! 

Here are the items that are crucial in your knitting bag:

Scissors – find a nice, sharp pair with a sheath to protect you from injuries while the scissor isn’t in use. Slip-N-Snip Scissors

Stitch markers – an assortment of sizes and styles is best. Get fixed rings in a variety of sizes for lace knitting. The lock-ring style can be used on the fabric itself as well as on the knitting needles. Lock-Ring Stitch Markers

Tapestry needle – my favorite tapestry needle for seaming and weaving in tails is the Chibi by Clover. The bent tip makes seaming a breeze! Clover Chibi 

Tape measure – use a flexible tape measure made of fiberglass or flexible plastic/fabric that measures in inches as well as centimeters (for European patterns). 60 Inch Tape Measure

Crochet hooks – an assortment is good for fixing mistakes. Try to get hook sizes that are close in size to the knitting needles you typically use. Example: if you tend to use a lot of worsted weight yarn, an “H” hook would be a good one to have. Susan Bates Silvalume Crochet Hook Set

Stitch holder – I like the double-ended stitch holders from Clover but the basic metal safety-pin style stitch holders work well, too. Double-Ended Stitch Holder

Needle gauge – Needle gauges verify knitting needle sizes and usually have a tension measurer, too. Be aware that there is a slight discrepancy in sizing for European 4.0 mm and American US 6 knitting needles. If you use European needles (Addi Turbo), get the Addi Needle Gauge and if you use American needles, get the Susan Bates Knit-Chek

Needle stoppers – if you ever work with a lot of stitches and worry about them falling off the needles, it is a good idea to keep a pair of needle stoppers in your bag. Point Protectors

Row counter – row counters, when necessary, are an incredible tool! Clover Mini Kacha-Kacha Row Counter

Spare yarn – for placing large amounts of stitches on hold, for working a lifeline, etc.

Highlighters – in multiple colors, highlighters can help you organize different instructions in knitting patterns. I especially love using them on charts and written patterns that use multiple stitches. Sharpie Highlighter Set

Button needles – small, blunt-tip tapestry needles are great to sew buttons on with. Clover Tapestry Needles

Going for some extra credit? Here are a few other items that are useful depending on the projects you tend to knit: cable needles, yarn bobbins for intarsia, calculator, large eye beading needles for beadwork, pom pom makers.

 

The Knitter's Pride Pattern Holder in small or large is also a great accessory. The magnetic board keeps your patterns upright as you knit and you can move the magnet to keep track of rows. This is particularly helpful for chart knitting! 

 

Happy knitting!

Forget to work a cable? Duplicate stitch to the rescue!    Tuesday, March 1, 2016

You’re knitting away happily, about to finish your project. Then, you look down and realize that about 20” into the thing you …FORGOT…A…FREAKING…CABLE…!

We’ve all been there. Maybe a riveting TV show was on while you were knitting. Maybe it was a tough day. Distracted or not, whatever the reason, cables were forgotten and you didn’t notice until it was too late to rip. In fact, it wasn’t until AFTER Gloria’s blanket came off of my blocking board that I noticed the missing cable.

Somehow cables can just sneak past us. Let’s face it: they’re twisted creatures to begin with.

Fortunately, there was a bit of yarn in the bag. Gloria had doubled the yarn for this project, so I threaded a double-strand of yarn onto my tapestry needle and began working a duplicate stitch over the section that was missing the cable. A left (front) cable was missing – so I began working the duplicate stitch from the first stitch on the right side and connecting it to the fourth stitch of the cable panel.

I then worked into the second stitch, the fifth, the third, and finally the sixth stitch. After connecting the appropriate stitches to create a mock-cable, I adjusted the tension to create a “row” of stitches. I then pushed the yarn tails to the WS and wove them in.

Shhhhh… our little duplicate stitch secret!

Other great uses for duplicate stitch:

Working small sections of color in Intarsia or Fair Isle, weaving in tails, and repairing small holes or tears in knitted pieces. 

Have you used duplicate stitch to fix or as a shortcut and felt like a genius, too?! Share your experience!

Repurposing Knits    Thursday, May 7, 2015

Once in a while a client will come to me with a project that hasn't been touched in months or years. This project may have become dormant because the knitter got stumped by tricky instructions or had a major life event get in the way. Usually I'll work through the pattern and get the person back on track. However, if the client isn't in love with design anymore or started it for a child who is now, say, in college, we need to come up with a better use for the yarn. 

Chaye knit the back and front of a child's color block sweater years ago and then put it away until recently. When she began the sweater, she twisted her stitches as she knit. Chaye has since learned to knit conventionally and completing the rest of the sweater with her old knitting technique wasn't a viable option. 

We ripped the two pieces until about 6" remained, stuck the stitches onto a knitting needle, and worked a few rows of rapid decreases. Two baby hats were quickly made! These will be fantastic baby gifts and she plans to use her remaining yarn to make my Mod Stocking Cap. Fabulous repurpose! 

Other repurposing ideas

Note: you may need to rip a bit to make these ideas work with your specific project

Half of a scarf can be turned into a cowl with a quick seam. It can also be ripped to 18-20", turned on its side, and made into the brim of a hat. Stitches will need to be picked up along the long edge of this piece and then a hat crown will need to be knit. 

Two pieces of a sweater can be made into a pillow, a drapey oversized wrap (depending on the sweater size), or a knitting bag. 

Remnants of yarn can be combined to make my Zucchini Blanket.

 

Have fun repurposing your projects! 

 

 

 

Vintage Knitting Books - for a good laugh    Thursday, December 4, 2014

I adore vintage knitting books and find much inspiration in their pages. On a recent tidying of my attic I found a stack of vintage knitting and crochet books that I hadn't looked at for a while. Perhaps it was my mood or all the dust getting to my head, but I could not stop giggling at some of what I saw. Here are some of the designs that YOU could have been knitting in the 1960's-1980's:

Dick and Stephen have a great time modeling their sweaters together, don't they? Well, it seems that they enjoy being in sweaters more than these next two little dudes in crocheted sweaters from the 80's. The youngster on the right looks like he's about to knock out the photographer's assistant if even one more photo is taken! 

Susie, wearing the classic knit twinset, chokes the family's beloved cat, Whiskers. Careful Whiskers! If Susie doesn't get you first, Jack is comin' for you in a striped short-sleeve pullover that grandma made!

What vintage knitting and crochet photo collection would be complete without the his-and-hers vest patterns? A WHOLE book full of gems like this:

I'll leave you with one last hunk wearing a fabulous 70's vest and a whole lotta chest hair. 

I hope those brought a smile to your face!

 

A textile lover in Ireland    Tuesday, July 29, 2014

I recently took a trip to Ireland with my husband and it was obvious I was in the right place once we landed in Dublin and saw a sheep pasture outside of the airplane window.  The trip was a wool-lover’s dream! We drove through a lot of the country, hopping from city to city, and the drives were so peaceful with the sheep-dotted hills, stone walls, and farms filling the countryside. However, this feeling of peace and serenity would come and go as we found ourselves on the slimmest of roads holding on for dear life as cars flew past us.   

In addition to pulling the car over whenever I thought a scene was photo-worthy, Matt also stopped into every sweater shop we saw and patiently watched me touch each sweater in there... and there were plenty! The sweater shops were FULL of Irish knits and woven pieces that are *gasp* actually still made in Ireland – most by machine. The patterns and designs everywhere were incredible. I ended up bringing home a gorgeous woven throw. Just a quick squeeze of the fabric brings a smile to my face.

On the third day of our trip, we wound up in Limerick at the Hunt Museum. As we wove our way through the museum, inspecting artifacts, jewels, and art from the Hunt Family collection, we happened upon a room where two lovely curators were setting up an exhibit on Sybil Connolly, an Irish couture fashion designer from the mid-20th century.  The curators had their gloves on and were nice enough to talk to me and let me watch them unwrap the garments. I got to take some photos, learn a bit about the designer, and see the fabrics and designs up-close. It felt like a personal tour and was one of the highlights of the trip for me.   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The cream dress on the left has crocheted Irish ​lace flowers appliqued onto it. The pink dress has a lace overlay made by a particular group of Irish Nuns. Special permission needed to be granted to Connolly to dye it pink, as the lace is not supposed to be altered from its original white.

 


 

The garments are remarkable and unique and were probably even more so in their time. I left the museum feeling inspired to sew, create, and design. I hope you’ll find some inspiration, too!  

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