The Knit Knack's Blog

my handspinning, knitting, natural dye, weaving fibre home

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Mittens matter

The past couple of weeks have pressed all of T’s mittens into use.  In addition to the 3 pairs of plain stockinette knit mittens he has a store-bought pair that withstands the snow play longer.

It’s a strategy that left me with wiggle-room for the inevitable… a lost mitten.  It happened!  Not quite 2 months into his school career, I looked down at pick-up time with an instant, “Hey!  Where’s your other mitten, hon?”

Yarn bowl of irieknit's Peace Fleece yarn for mittens

Peace Fleece – reserved for mittens apparently

We asked, and looked but a Peace Fleece mitten is lost to the environment.  He regrets the loss.

Maybe someone stole it, Mom.

No, I don’t think so but understand what you mean.  It’s a pretty nice mitten except just one won’t help anyone.

Since it really is a pretty nice mitten, and I do have more yarn, last night I cast-on & off again for a third one of these.

The Peace Fleece yarn has all of my love & admiration as a kindergarten-mitten-grade wonder.  It comes with some VM and stiff fibres for your picking-out but really does better than standing-up to this level of play.  This morning, T regretted that the replacement is not as soft as the other.  I was sure that he could break it in very soon.

Oak leaf hydrangea early buds


Early buds is my signal for there also being a lot of grit and mud left behind.  The school yard is making itself known with the accessories.  We are at 15°C today, and may break a February record if the radio forecast is correct.  It is downright delightful.

Handknit Cormo wool child's mittens by irieknit new and used

Well loved, and broken-in Cormo wool mittens

Remember the backup pair of Cormo mittens from Sheepspot yarn?  They came in quite handy while I took my time working up to knitting the pattern a 7th time!

Of the 3 pairs, it is the superwash Rowan wool mittens that has fared the worst under T’s outdoors fun conditions.  Where the Cormo pair is this picture of fuzzed-out happiness, the superwash wool mittens have pilled, lost shape, and are close to getting rejected by T.

It’s all very well & good considering that I have some stranded mitten ambitions that could start with the child’s size!  The Christmas stocking for T was a wonderful glimpse into Latvian motifs.

Handknit Latvian motif stranded Christmas stocking decoration by irieknit

A first stocking for T

The pattern is “Irma’s Christmas Stocking” from the Fall 2011 issue of Knitting Traditions.  After lots of delving, I replaced the 5th chart with a motif given as from Kurzeme in “Latvian Mittens” by Lizbeth Upitis. Specifically, chart 122, plate 13C in the book.

Handknitting Latvian motif Christmas stocking by irieknit

Latvian stocking-in-progress


This was my first time knitting with these now-discontinued yarns.  They are simply stunning for stranded knitting:  Valley Yarns Northhampton sport.

The other day, T got my warmest yes answer.  He asked if we couldn’t just keep the stocking out a little longer.  Why, I asked?

Because I just like looking at it sometimes.

Now if this is not a good reason to make warm mittens for growing hands then I do not know what is!

Handknit Valentines Day hearts

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Lots of love, Happy Valentines!

Happy Valentines Day!

Handknit heart decorations by irieknit

Family of hearts

The middle Heart Pin is for T.  It used a bit of my remnant Cascade 220 worsted wool yarn.  Each side has 4 ends of weaving-in love.

Outer hearts are in Sublime angora/merino bought these many years ago as a single ball on sale.  They have gone with cards for T’s new teachers.  Schooling love started last month.  How proud am I?  20 ends sewn-in proud with glitter heart stickers proud!

The white tie on our left heart there is also in T’s set of back-up mittens for school.  The undyed Cormo Worsted from Sasha Torres’ Sheepspot line of yarns paired with her inky blue to take the edge-off knitting a third pair of mittens.

Handknit child mittens in Sheepspot Cormo Worsted yarn by irieknit

No-itch Cormo Mittens!

The pattern is Kathy’s Mittens by Chris de Longpré.  All 3 pairs are knit in the round.  The other 2 (not shown) are solid yarn leftovers from two of T’s sweaters – Peace Fleece and green Rowan pure superwash wool.

For this last pair in Cormo, I used 46 yards of blue + 16 yards of natural.  With a cuff that I was clearly anxious to stop knitting plus breed-specific yarn, I am happy to send them inside of T’s backpack.  What kindergartener is easy on the mittens?

Off the needles

One of last year’s happy knit events was a KAL in the Knit/Wit Designs Fans Ravelry group.  It fell out of the blog posts at the time but was a fun gift for a dear family friend, Hedy.

Handknit colourwork Zeccola Cowl in progress by irieknit

Zeccola Cowl starting lines

The Sheepy Time Yarns rainbow kit was an obvious choice since the answer to favourite colour that Hedy gives everyone is “rainbow!”  This is one in a series of colourwork designs by Sarah Jordan, the Zeccola Cowl.

Handknit colourwork Zeccola Cowl by irieknit

Ready for shipping, Zeccola Cowl

This project is a perfect example of how knitting has worked to naturally stretch my colour horizons.  Our friend loves her bright scarf.  It is knit in the round, and is probably superb in Sarah’s recommended sport yarn.

Fast forward to this year, and Sarah is currently hosting her StitchburghKAL.  It runs until Friday, March 3rd & is for patterns in her new collection of the main name.

Handspun Corriedale handdyed wool yarn by irieknit

Deep stash – handspun Corriedale wool

As the image shows this was a 2010 yarn of super density that I spun on my then-new Spinolution Mach 2 wheel.  The around 222 yards is not much to hold 8 ounces of Corriedale wool!

If you have heard me go on about my grist learning curve – yup, that’s it!

444 yards per pound may not be an easy yarn to plug into most patterns at half that yardage but Sarah has an ingenious pattern in her collection that works for a wide range of yarns.

Handspun handknit Corriedale wool Pierogi slipper sock

Instant gratification for the mid-winter: Pierogi slipper sock

The Pierogi Slipper Socks pattern is written for sport or DK-weight yarn.  It worked very well using a stitch ratio approach.  I again gave thanks for my Darn Pretty Needles as the 2.75 mm set is unharmed.  They worked hard to give me 20 stitches in stockinette stitch in the round.

Handspun handknit Corriedale wool Pierogi Slipper Socks finished by irieknit

Ah, the brightness! We need the brightness!

The colourway is Gumdrops by Sweet Georgia Yarns.  I had bought 2 braids from a local spinner’s destash.  This tight gauge blends the clearly barberpole yarn into such neat colour bands.

As you can tell, my toe-knitting is still not equal from one foot to the next!  It was late?  My nutty gauge used approximately 140 yards.

Back view of handspun handknit Corriedale wool Pierogi Slipper Socks by irieknit

The “pierogi” tabs on the hoof!

These were a quick-enough knit that joining the knitalong now is definitely do-able.  Mine were between January 31 and February 3, 2017.

This was my first finished object of 2017.  Handspun stash lessening!  They are warm and equally nicely, snug.

My family lived in Pittsburgh for 4 years when I was around T’s age.  It has been cool to read Sarah’s design introductions because I have childhood memories but have not been back since age seven when we returned to live in Jamaica.



New knits with handspun

Last year’s push to work with my handspun yarns has really started to bear fruit.  I’m excited because there’s now plenty more to share as brand new knits in my life.

Fall Colours, my way

Back in September, I told you about my Seriously Fun Spin.  Weeks later the dyer, Brooke of The Painted Tiger, announced her Fractal Fiber spin-along/ knit-along in the Ravelry group.

This is Susan Ashcroft’s “very easy but effective” No-Fuss Shade-Loving Shawl.

As I quipped on my project page – it’s a fractal-loving shawl!


The form (i.e. modifications) followed function.  The solid colour bands were on the verge of shifting when I was making the seed stitch lower edge.  I sped up the increases (every row), and made Meg Swansen’s edge.  It’s charted on page 114 of Knitting Around.

Heart Warmers

Around the same time, I was spinning grey Jacob wool top.  This project was all geared towards making purple & grey stranded mittens for this winter.

This spin on my Wee Peggy helped me weather more of the medical stuff.  Soon, I was wondering why not try to design these mittens myself?

The cuff is based on the Estonian Peacock’s Tail pattern set out in the Knitter’s Book of Wool Risti Mittens by Nancy Bush.  I threw caution to the wind adding sundries:

  • Red:  fibre came with my Jenkins delight from a B.C. Raveler.  Traditionally, red cuffs are for good luck;
  • Avocado:  natural dye sample of woolen-spun PolwarthxPort fibre; and
  • Purple:  leftover SW Corriedale from my Redhook sweater.

My gauge on 2.5mm needles was 15 stitches = 2″.

This book taught me both the elements of mitten knitting & the stitch repeats (Swedish & Faorese):

Sheila McGregor, “Traditional Scandinavian Knitting.”

Not many knitting books sit by my beside.  “Traditional Scandinavian Knitting” did for ages.  It’s full of useful information that doesn’t leap off the page on a 1st reading.

Sure, DH was within his rights to declare the cuffs “ghetto” but I am super-proud of this project.  One simple idea that grew into its own:  I have a pair of warm Jacob mitts!

Out of Hiding – Shetland 

As far back as 2010 this spin shot Shetland to the top of my personal wool list.

Moral:  spinning triumphs sometimes become an end in themselves.  Keep creating.

The spark for taking the skeins out of the box was another spin-along/ knit-along on Ravelry.  It’s in A Spinner’s Study, and I joined Team Lace – cowl knitting.

Aah, my friend, Logwood!  This time, I threw some copper liquor into the dye pot.  Made from this humble copper scrubbie.

Copper teaching me electrolysis in action

I am showing you the cowl first before the group.  I gave it diamond lace to match my new mittens.

There’s a lot out here about the ‘hows’ and ‘wherefores’ of spinning.  What I wanted to show today is why I really spin.  Handspun is yarn that gives back to you.  Large.

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It’s a pair!

At long last, I have finished the Norwegian Mitts!  The photos are a bit off but here they are:

Right Mitt

Right Mitt

Left Mitt

Left Mitt

Left Mitt's Palm

Left Mitt's Palm

Eventually, I’ll block them but for now I’m just so happy to have:  (a) learned colourwork; and (b) done an Elizabeth Zimmermann pattern!  Feels like ‘real’ knitting.  The left mitten knit up pretty fast – only 2 sittings for the body of the mitten.  I have small hands, so that helps!  I really liked working with the Eco Wool, and have plenty left-over.

As for the sock-in-progress… I did rip her back, and am just going to knit it plain.  I was surprised that the Wool Bin ladies raved about it.  Apparently denim sock yarn is a rare find.  I had no idea!  It’s not been the priority though.  Having been empowered by a set of painting tips, we decided to finally tackle our powder room.  It’s been long days of scraping wallpaper.  Every inch was glued down, so my arm is aching…  We got a light blue – icy moon drops or something – and cracked the people up at Benjamin Moore in the process.  This is a steeeep learning curve.  See, our parents were never DIY people… in Jamaica painters aren’t expensive at all…  So, for all the wonderful upbringing we have NO clue on the paper/ paint front.  Wish me luck… the walls need more prepping!

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Enabling knitting in public

Brother dearest is forwarding Lady B northwards this week!  Yay!  Will solve a raft of problems & ease any return to the workforce:)  Anticipation could kill me right now.  Of course, I understand it’s not on its way until he posts it… hint, hint.

I resisted the urge to start another mindless project, and casted on for Mitt No. 2.  It’s not a slog this time, and I got a good amount done, yesterday.  Depending on how good the thumb placement is, I may have to rip her back a bit… As much as I adore Elizabeth Zimmermann’s writing style, she’s light on the details.  So, I eyeballed it.  Guided only by the fingerless gloves pattern.  I’m at the stage where I know this eyeballing thing is bound to result in ripping back…  If it’s all good, pictures will follow.

Finding internet tutorials and other resources has given me a push to keep at her.  My way of holding yarn in my left hand is to wrap it around the second finger, and then guide with the index.  I found wrapping the pinkie difficult for feeding more yarn on the floats.   Anyhow, I’m not hanging on for dear life anymore, and I love seeing the patterns knit up.

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And on other needles…

Yoga was pretty good:)  Mad rush of self-esteem in a beginner’s class!

I am responsible for the design flaws in this one & cannot cast blame on anyone else.  This scarf started life as a gift for Ms. Mittens.  It’s Noro Silk Garden, and was to be a match for the fingerless gloves she was first gifted.  It’s edged with the Sea Foam pattern from Nicky Epstein’s “Knitting beyond the Edge” and has a zig zag eyelet throughout.  The stitches are great but the sides are curling, and I wanted to give her a warmish scarf.  Ms. Mittens got Puff, and I have this much in train:

Noro Silk Garden scarfette

Noro Silk Garden scarfette

See the curling after the sea foam edge?  With Spring on its way, I’m now getting the vibe to mount a defence against the curling.  I have an idea but the peg bag fiasco is an open wound, so I’ll be taking care not to go crazy with the fixer-upper ideas again…  See, I may be mad with Debbie Bliss for not fitting peg bag to wooden hangers but I’m big enough to admit bending a drycleaner’s hanger wasn’t my brightest moment…

It’s labeled ‘scarfette’ because I’m short on yarn.  I’ve gone 1 of 2 skeins, and it’s apparent that this baby should not aspire to knotting or tying of any kind.  Now, I got it recently from a LYS, and they probably still have an extra skein.  But truth be told, I am waaay over-budget on yarn/ discretionary spending.   So, a pin will do, and scarfette it shall become.

Oh, and yes, I did finish the first Norwegian mitten.  Thumb and all.  It’s a bit, shall we say, snug.  I am itching to cast on for the left mitten but I wasn’t up to sitting at the table for long stretches after yoga class no. 1…  Hopefully, arnica will help me through this return to exercise!

Tomorrow, I am having lunch with someone, and fully expect it will be awkward from start to finish.  I’ll wear my handknit socks for moral support:)  Wish me luck!


Progressing the Mitts

Fair isle is not easy & has up-turned my usual knitting m.o.  In order to follow two charts, I had to get off the couch.  A large flat surface was a must, and so I have moved kit & kaboodle over to the dining table.  I’m liking it in there, and faithful Toby is happy too.  Silence & meditative knitting are good things but the faint gaming noises from the basement are not, so, I’ve resurrected my ipod.  Learning the conventional knit stitch has made all the difference in doing the fair isle justice.  As a result, I am not contorting the body for every other stitch, and it’s loosened things up considerably.

Mitt no. 1 has everything but her thumb.  Mitt no. 2 is a twinkle in my eye.  Here she is:

Topped but not thumbed - rightie Norweigan Mitt

Topped but not thumbed - rightie Norweigan Mitt

Palm pattern - rightie Norwegian mitt - thumb to come

Palm pattern - rightie Norwegian mitt - thumb to come

Goes without saying that I am hugely proud of this baby:)  I do have a hunch that ending mid-motif may not be true-to-tradition, and yes, the palm join is off-kilter.  Progress not perfection!

In terms of yarn, I’m using Sirdar Eco wool dk.  The band says 100% undyed virgin wool.  It has a great hand but is also easy to split in stitches.  It seems loosely spun but I’m hardly an authority on these things.

This is my introduction to Elizabeth Zimmermann’s patterns.  I like her style but am v. grateful this isn’t my first mitten/ glove attempt.  Thanks to the Fingerless Gloves, I know how to make this right-hand, and the next left-hand.  I’m also keeping the thumb stitches, and will make it up on the dpns next.