Making the Big Switch to Circular Knitting

It all began when I saw those luscious cake yarns that looked like big, juicy, colorful sweet rolls made of yarn. I found myself thinking, “I wish I could knit something that preserved those lovely swirls of color.”

After knitting “flat” since my girlhood days, I recently made the big switch to knitting in the round. And I’ll have to admit, I’m enjoying my knitting and making higher quality garments after making the big switch to circular knitting.

What makes it better? First of all, it’s easier. If you’d rather knit than purl, circular knitting is for you. In top-down knitting of sweaters, once you make your increases at the neckline, you pretty much flat-out knit until you’re done. You also don’t have to play “yarn chicken” as much, wondering if you you’ll have enough yarn to bind off that neckline or finish off those sleeves. By starting at the top with circular needles, you make the crucial parts of the sweater first. If you run out of yarn, your sweater will be a bit shorter than you planned, but you’ll still have a completed garment.

And did I mention no sewing up seams and very little tying off loose ends? I’ll admit, I love the process of knitting but often procrastinate for days (if not weeks) in putting a flat-knitted sweater together after finishing the knitting. With top-down, circular knitting, you make the sweater in ONE piece, with only a slight amount of tying up loose ends that even I can handle within a couple of minutes.

The downsides? For very small circular knitting projects, you still have to use the old double pointed needles, which tend to poke out in all directions and tie your brain in knots. But once you get your project up to a certain circumference, you can switch to small length circular needles, and you’re on your way down the path of quick and easy again. For most sweaters, you can use a set of interchangeable circular needles, and you don’t have to fool with the dreaded double pointed needles at all.

You do need a few new tools if you’re making the switch to circular needles. Here’s what I’ve needed to add to my knitting tool kit:

Is Circular knitting worth the time, effort, and expense to make the big switch? I vote yes! Making any change in your life involves new tools, new skills, and taking advantage of new resources and wisdom. But like most life changes, you’ll eventually be glad you made the switch.

Happy Knitting, Cindy

 

New Blanket Patterns: Knitted, Crocheted, & Quilted

Winter has finally arrived here in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, and that’s got me thinking about making some new blankets for my family and for Christmas gifts.

Several new pattern books have just come out, offering lots of great ideas and patterns:

Designer Knit Home: 24 Room-By-Room Coordinated Knits to Create a Look You’ll Love to Live In by Erin Eileen Black. This just published book features big, chunky blankets for all over your home: bedroom, kids’ rooms, family room, and even your office. A few pillows, baskets, and other accessories are included. All are knit with big needles for quick and easy projects.

Corner to Corner Crochet: 15 Contemporary C2C Projects by Jess Coppom. For advanced beginners, this book has plenty of technique tips and instruction on “C2C.” The blanket patterns in this book are particularly nice.

The Art of Crochet Blankets: 18 Projects Inspired by Modern Makers by Rachel Carmona. This beautifully photographed and colorful book will inspire crochet crafters to up their game. The author showcases the work of several artists to draw inspiration for her own designs. Artists working in papercraft, quilting, tiles, fabric design, and tiles are featured, along with a crochet design based on that artist’s work. Designs based on paper craft and quilts were especially nice.

Quilt Big: Bigger Blocks for Faster Finishes by Jemima Flendt. The concept of this book is beautifully simple: make big square instead of tiny squares for quicker, easier projects and bold designs. With vivid designs, this book gave me lots of project ideas to last me the whole winter.

Enjoy these new books! Happy Crafting!

Cindy

 

 

It’s Fall Knitting Season! New Pattern Collections Just Published

Finally, Fall has arrived here at Sycamore Cove in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. We actually had cool weather this week, and I got to wear a sweater I knitted two months ago.

With Fall weather comes the upcoming Christmas gifting season and cool days and evenings perfect for wearing hand knit sweaters. Several new pattern collections have just been published, just in time for getting those knitting needles in gear.

100 Knits: Interweave’s Ultimate Pattern Collection. This whopping 500 page collection of patterns has it all – shawls, hats, sweaters, cowls. These are customer favorite patterns from this publisher, collected in one huge book. My copy just arrived, and I’m itching to get started with several of these classic yet contemporary designs. Just published in October 2018.

Knitting for Little Sweethearts by Hanne Andreassen Hjelmås and Torunn Steinsland.    This book offers lovely, classically designed garments for babies, toddlers, and small children. The authors are two moms, and their collection features a huge number of garments children actually wear – rompers for babies, sweat pants for toddlers, and lots and lots of caps. This will be your go-to book if you often knit for small children or like to give handmade baby gifts. Coming October 28, available for pre-order.

Knitting Ganseys by Beth Brown-Reinsel. This excellent book covers both the history and construction of this classic British sweater and offers a number of patterns. Recommended for advanced knitters.

Knockout Knits and Hoods by Diane Serviss. This book offers a number of do-able hat patterns, despite the rather spectacular hat on the cover. Many patterns incorporate yarns from the big box stores. Recommended for the average knitter.

What to knit next???

Blessings, Cindy

 

 

Climate Change and Knitting: The Diminishing Need for Sweaters

I have a new wardrobe classification – fall colors but still summer. Here in Tennessee, the calendar says it’s fall, but the temperatures are still in the upper eighties and low nineties. For me, this means continuing to wear sleeveless dresses in feather light materials that are floaty and provide maximum air circulation. Otherwise, I’ll sweat like a roasting pig every time I step outside.

Yet in my in-box and everywhere else I look in the online fashion world, all I see are heavy sweaters. I love to knit, and the yarns currently on offer suggest a coming need for heavy, bulky, dark and autumnal hued hats, scarves, pullovers, and blankets. I don’t want to knit that stuff when it’s ninety degrees outside!

All my current knitting projects at the moment come from skeins of lightweight cotton. And I won’t even be able to wear my new cotton, short-sleeved sweaters for another month, at least. I knitted a lovely self-striping, short-sleeved, cotton sweater two months ago. I wore it once and stripped it off before noon. So no surprise I haven’t stocked up on any of the new winter yarns yet.

Climate change has, for much of the country, drastically cut the need for winter clothes. Several years ago, I gave almost all of my sweaters away to the charity store. I simply didn’t need them any longer. If we do have a harsh cold snap, I’ve kept two heavy turtlenecked sweaters for those several days. I use knitted hats for about a month, in January, but those have become superfluous, too.

Where does that leave the craft of knitting? It needs to change. Give us patterns we can wear year- round. Give us more cotton, bamboo or other lightweight yarns that can breathe. Give us sleeveless and short-sleeved patterns or home goods we can use for something other than wearing. In short, I really and truly wish the fashion industry (including the knitting supply industry) would acknowledge that in 2018, we just don’t need heavy sweaters any more.

Recommended Resource of the Week:

100 Knits by the Interweave Editors. This new collection of patterns includes a whopping 500 pages of contemporary garment patterns for hats, shawls, cowls, sweaters, and socks. I was delighted to find a whole section in the back for what the editors call “t-shirts” – lighter weight and either short-sleeved or sleeveless sweaters perfect for those of us in warmer climates. Just released in October 2018.

Cynthia Coe is the author of Considering Birds & Lilies: Finding Peace & Harmony With the Everyday World Around Us, two novels, and resources to introduce young people to creation care.

 

New Books on Knitting and Yarn Crafts

Greetings, Fellow Knitters!  When I’m not knitting, I’m a writer and book reviewer. I’m always checking out new books, including new resources for knitting. Several new books have come out recently (or will soon). Check these out to expand your knitting skills or find a new project:

Knitting Ganseys, Revised and Updated by Beth Brown-Reinsel.  This is an excellent book for expanding your knitting skills or for reference. I especially liked the history of this type of knit sweater, along with the detailed explanation of how exactly a sweater is properly constructed. I will likely use this book for ideas for making my own designs, and this use of the book is embraced by the author. I would have liked a separate set of the stitch designs featured. These sweaters are beautiful but a bit too complicated for my needs and interests. I will likely use some of the stitch patterns in my own designs, but not the entire sweater patterns.

Knitting Modular Shawls, Wraps, and Stoles by Melissa Leapman. The big picture concept is fairly simple: combine triangular shawls to make larger garments. Many of us love to knit shawls but end up having too many of them to use. This concept helps with figuring out what to do with all these shawls. An unexpected surprise of this book was all the many, many stitch patterns on offer. I’m always looking for a fairly straightforward (and easy to remember) stitch to give my work a little kick, and this book has plenty. Honestly, the value of this book is more in the patterns than in the concept of combining various shapes of shawls to make bigger ones. Lots of ideas for making and designing your own shawls.

Crochet 101, by Deborah Burger.  Occasionally, we knitters need to chain stitch a neckline. Or maybe we have a midlife crisis and want to figure out exactly what else you could do with that crochet needle you keep around to weave in your loose ends. This book covers the basics. I wondered how I could learn to crochet from a book, so I put it to the test. I’m happy to report that I did indeed learn to make a swatch of single chain stitch. With more time, I think I could master the other basics of crochet with this book.

One Piece Knits: Essential Designs in Multiple Sizes and Gauges for Sweaters Knit Top Down, Side Over, and Back to Front by Margaret Hubert. I just finished my first top-down, all-in-one-piece sweater, and I love the easy process of this method. I’ve got more of these sweaters in my future, using this book. Currently bargain priced at $6.70.

For more book reviews and other resources, follow my blog at www.sycamorecove.org Cynthia Coe is a writer, book reviewer, and curriculum designer. Her books and blog posts can be found on her Amazon Author Page.

 

 

Designing Your Own Knitted Garments – The “Cindy” Beach Cover-Up (Designed When I Couldn’t Find What I Wanted in the Pattern Books)

Before I went to the beach this summer, I dreamed of the perfect beach cover-up. It would be all cotton and a light color for high temperatures on the coast of South Carolina in June. It would be mini-skirt length and have kicky vents on the sides to show off my legs and for freedom of movement when I went on one of my long and meditative walks on the beach. It would cover my shoulders and prevent sunburn. It would have a rounded but modest neckline. It would feel loose and free and fit me perfectly.

Alas, I looked and looked through umpteen pattern books and magazines but found nothing even close to what I wanted. So, I designed my own. I’ve been knitting since I was a teenager, usually easy patterns that allow me to watch TV or just sit and think while I knit. I don’t go for anything complicated or patterns that have me glued to an incomprehensible piece of paper or that gives me eye strain.

Much to my surprise, for my first beach cover-up design, I came up with an incredibly simple pattern that fits me perfectly, covers my shoulders, and is flowy and comfortable to wear. Here’s the pattern (such as it is – it’s in plain English, no abbreviations, challenging techniques, or anything a moderately experienced knitter couldn’t pull off):

The “Cindy” Beach Cover-Up

General Concept:Knit two large rectangles and a drawstring. Knit holes below the bustline to insert the drawstring.  Adjust measurements to fit yourself. (I’m 5’4” and wear US dress sizes 10-12.)

Materials:

Bernat Handicrafter Cotton Yarn(Two 12 ounce skeins, you’ll have lots left over)

-Size 9 circular needles

-stitch holder for neckline

Front:

-Cast on 84 stitches (more or less if you’re bigger or smaller)

-Knit until you’ve got 21 inches (again, adjust if your waistline if longer or shorter)

-Put in holes in the next row. (I used a pattern of knit two + yarnovers to accomplish this)

-Knit until you’ve got a total of 30” (more or less, adjusting for your size)

-To make a simple rounded neckline, bind off about 20 stitches in the middle of the garment, decrease on each side of the neckline until you have about 22 stitches on each side

-Bind off each side

Back:

-Cast on 84 stitches (or same number you cast on for the front)

-Knit until you’ve got 21 inches (or same length to drawstring row as the front)

-Put in a row of holes for the drawstring (Knit Two + yarnovers)

-Knit until you’ve got a total of 31” (more or less depending on depth of back neckline)

-Cast off about 20 stitches, decrease each side until you’ve got 22 stitches on each side

-Bind off each side

Drawstring:

-Cast on 3 stitches, make an I-cord (look online for how to do this; use double pointed needles or circular needles – it’s easy)

-Make the drawstring as long as you want it (I’d make it 70” to 80”, depending on your waistline)

-Cast off

Construction:

-attach the front to the back by putting seams on each side between the drawstring row and about 8-10” from the bottom (leaving vents for ease of movement)

-if neckline is floppy, crochet one row around it to cinch it up a bit

-sting the drawstring through the holes and cinch for comfort

Extras: (These are what I did to personalize my own beach cover-up)

-for a cooler garment, make rows of holes (simple knit two + yarnover pattern) along the bottom few rows

-to add texture to the bottom of the garment, I used this pattern: Knit rows 1, 3, & 4; purl row 2

-to add texture to the top of the garment, I used this pattern: on reverse side, purl two, yarnover, purl 2 more, pull yarnover stitch over the last two purls (I added this pattern about every 4 rows)

For more info on basic stitches and construction of garments, I highly recommend the new Vogue Knitting book. It’s a huge book that covers it all.  If you had to buy one book on knitting, this would be the one. Available at: https://amzn.to/2sImZ7W

If you like to design your own projects, a good comprehensive stitch dictionary is invaluable. You might try Debbie Tomkies’ Knit Stitch Dictionary: 250 Essential Knit Stitches, available affordably in both paperback and Kindle editions at: https://amzn.to/2JzCJjS

In the next few months, I’ll be adding other simple knitting patterns for useful household items and garments to the Sycamore Cove Creations website.  Please subscribe to this blog or follow me on my author page on Facebook for free patterns and blog posts about knitting.

Blessings, Cindy

Copyright 2018 Cynthia Coe. All rights reserved!

 

What’s A Prayer Shawl? (And Do You Have to Literally Pray Over Each Stitch to Make One?)

One of my favorite spiritual practices is to knit prayer shawls.  I love to sit quietly and not think, letting my mind rest while I simply make loop after loop with my hands and two bamboo sticks.  When I donate my work to my local church, I feel something like a sense of relief.  The thoughts and concerns that worked themselves out during the knitting of a large project come to an end, given over to a higher purpose. 

I have been known to sit and knit during church services.  I knit in the early morning silence of my meditation and prayer time.  But I also knit while watching TV with my family, in the school pick-up line, and while waiting for doctor appointments.  So I’ve wondered, what exactly makes a knitting project a “prayer shawl”?

For me, it’s all about intent.  Some knitting projects are for specific people for specific purposes – a hat for my husband, a winter scarf for my son, a tote bag for my daughter, a sweater for myself.  But for me, prayer shawls are for someone I likely will never know or meet.

In donating a prayer shawl, I’m giving up to God an investment of my time – usually several weeks’ worth of knitting on a daily basis.  I use soft yarns I hope will provide comfort to someone going through a hard time.  Sometimes I choose peaceful, calming colors for my prayer shawls.  Other times, I choose cheerful, peppy colors I hope will provide a cheerful, upbeat presence in someone’s life.  Sometimes I have in mind a female recipient and knit in pinks and reds and pastels.  Other times, I have a male recipient in mind and knit a prayer shawl a guy wouldn’t mind draped over a favorite chair.  I’ve knitted prayer shawls large enough to serve as a blanket on a nursing home bed.  Others are triangular and meant to wrap around someone’s shoulders.

In any case, the purpose of the project is to share love, comfort, and peace with someone in need.  Occasionally, I know someone who has had surgery, has cancer, or is at the end of life.  When I knit these shawls, I very intentionally think about the person for whom I’m knitting and for their struggles.  But usually, I don’t know where my prayer shawl will end up.  And that’s part of the spirituality of the task – putting forth your best efforts, sharing a gift of love, and trusting in the work of the Holy Spirit to get your work where it needs to go. 

So while knitting a prayer shawl is a form of meditation at many points in the making of it, it’s more about the general intention of the whole project.  It’s about a gift of my own peacefulness, sending the finished project out into the world to serve as a visible, tangible reminder of the peace, love, and comfort that can be found in Christian fellowship – even if I never meet the person I find myself connected to with my gift. 

Cynthia Coe is the author of two novels and “Considering Birds & Lilies: Finding Peace & Harmony with the Everyday World Around Us.”  She is currently at work on a series of short stories about prayer shawls and those who knit or receive them. 

Recommended Reading:

Peggy Rosenthal, Knit One, Purl a Prayer: A Spirituality of Knitting (An excellent, succinct little book that covers lots of topics related to knitting-as-prayer)

Clara Parkes, The Yarn Whisperer: My Unexpected Life in Knitting (Great light reading, a nice memoir that pleasantly meanders along at a calm pace)