Archives for category: Tips and Tricks

I continue to love designing and making hats – they’re satisfying on so many levels. They involve just enough shaping to play with interesting motifs or techniques and take just long enough to feel substantial without being a major commitment. They’re a great canvas for colorwork or cables and a great way to show off that special yarn. Aside from all of those things, I think that they can really make an outfit.

Quincy Laurel

Beaumont Tam <span class=

That said, a good little mix of hat designs made their way into this collection – each with their own technique, flavor and fiber.
Meet Quincy.


Garter stitch anyone? I had to get it in there somewhere. Quincy is a hat with a bit of a jaunty twist… literally. I was surprised after I finished it to learn that it can be worn in three rather different styles: (1) twist in the front, for an updated flapper-like style, (2) twist on the side (my personal favorite) for what I like to call the Urban Robin Hood, or thirdly (3) twist in the back – which makes for a more traditional looking beanie from the front and sports a hidden detail behind – its got that whole business-in-the-front-party-in-the-back thing going for it.

The Double Q!

Quincy is put together in a non-traditional way and is deceptively simple! It also employs one of my favorite techniques: built-in I-cord – worked on both edges of the sideways garter stitch portion to make a piping-like border. Ariosa is a lightly spun, almost-roving-like merino cashmere blend. Super light and warm which makes the chunky hat disarmingly weightless.

Meet Laurel.


Laurel was a response to a lot of Japanese knitwear that I was (slash am always) looking at. I love how cables and bobbles can be executed unapologetically but with restraint and control – one of my favorite things about Japanese knitting in general, and something that serves as consistent inspiration for me. It’s all about details.

The hat motifs remind me of vines and berries and are sure to add a bit of whimsy to any ensemble.


For the beret-shape, I blocked the hat over a kitchen plate, approximately 10″ in diameter. Cardboard circles work great as well. For a less flared shape the hat can also be blocked without this form to have a more beanie-like silhouette.

And, meet the Beaumont Twins:

Beaumont Beanie

Don’t you love what a little angora can do to colorwork? Smokey!

Beaumont Tam

The hat comes in two versions: A traditional tam worked in 2-colors, and a 4-color beanie in shades of grey. You’ll notice that the beanie-version shown has a bit more of a halo than the other… that’s because I wore it for about 4 months before I decided it could also be included in the collection. Oops! I had originally just planned on the Tam having the spotlight but then I figured I’d throw in the greys for good measure.

Aside from the number of colors used, the hat is worked from the same pattern at different gauges to create the different styles. Like Laurel, the Tam version is shaped over a 10″-ish circular form during blocking (careful not to stretch the ribbing during that process!)

Beaumont Tam

I hope you enjoy these toppers – stay tuned for more pattern profiling this week!



Beaumont Beanie on Ravelry

Beaumont Tam on Ravelry

Quincy on Ravelry

Laurel on Ravelry

*All of these patterns are also available as individual PDF downloads through Ravelry or through my pattern page here.*

There has been a gaggle of baby knitting going on over here – a very important little person is coming into the world and I’ve made it my personal mission to instill a high wool tolerance, nay, dependence on the little one.

Also – baby stuff can make anyone feel like a super knitter – little projects that give you the similar types of construction satisfaction (sometimes) as larger garments, take about a tenth of the time, and give you an excuse to play with all those beautiful yarns you were saving for something special but didn’t have enough of to make anything substantial with. Works for me!


Now, Cisco. Here’s a project that is almost too cute for it’s own good. You know, the project that makes you giggle as you work because it’s so darned cute… and because you know that any little head when wrapped in little ears like this will be ten times more likely to induce cute-baby-sighs.

Pattern: Cisco [Free Pattern from the Berroco Design Team] [Ravel it!]
Materials: “Lazy Daisy” Handspun light-worsted-weight 2-Ply Merino from Pigeonroof Studios; Scraps of Solid Brown Cascade “Cash Vero” for trim and I-cord
Size: With my very limited knowledge of baby sizing… I’d guess this came out to fit around a 6-12 month old
Needles: US 8/5mm circulars (the piece is knitted flat)
Start Date: March 1, 2009
Finish Date: March 8, 2009

The original pattern is written for various brightly colored yarns, striped together. I opted for a more subtle self-striping look. As I always say, when the yarn can do the work for you – just let it. And when you have the chance to put a little handspun to good use (with garter stitch) – do it.


I had just enough handspun left over from this hat to make a miniature – and the big bonus? The original hat was made for the baby mama… meaning yes, we have a matchy-matchy scenario on our hands. I love it. [See a photo of the un-knit handspun here]

There are some fun and clever little construction details on this – like the formation of the ears, mitered forehead point, and shaped back-of-head portion. All pieces are knit flat, but picked up and worked directly off of one another, so no seaming is involved (brownie points).


Aside from the difference in yarn choices, I only made a few small modifications to the existing pattern. I omitted the stockinette center peak of the forehead – I liked the look better keeping it in garter, and rather than using YO increased, I worked raised bar increases to omit holes. I trimmed the whole thing in a solid contrasting color – one ridge of garter stitch with a bind off in purl from the RS. I left 3 live stitches at the base of each earflap as I was binding off and made them into I-cord. I made the I-cord just long enough to tie, but not so long as to be a dangling nuisance for parent or child.

I thought the ears, being the absolute best part of the little piece, needed a little extra pop so I worked a crochet chain in the darker solid around each ear to emphasize their shape. I think they look much better with it than they did before.


What a little gem of a pattern this is – highly recommended and definitely worthy of getting of the regular-baby-knits list if you ask me! Thanks to the lovely ladies of the Berocco DT for another winner!

I’m so happy to finally be able to share this project with you all – I’ve been starry eyed for it for months, but didn’t want to feature it here until the pattern was all set with t’s crossed and i’s dotted. She’s all set now, though – and just in time for wintry knitting!


May I introduce my new favorite thing to have on my person at all times. In fact, I knit this in August while I was in the PNW (summer knitting is bearable there), but only recently, since the cold weather has hit us hard have I been getting to indulge myself. You’ll see two versions shown here – the Blanket version (Yellow) is worked in an aran weight Wool/Llama blend (Cascade Pastaza) and the Shawl Version (Light Brown) is worked in fingering weight Shetland wool (Jamieson’s Spindrift)(Swoon). They’re both fantastic and so very different.

Girasole (Shawl Version)

I’m consistently fascinated by how incredibly important yarn choices are when we knit, and how, especially with lace, a project can completely change in nature solely based on yarn construction, weight and fiber. My goal here was to provide a pattern that could have flexible function – if you want a big woolly throw to keep you warm this winter – you got it. If you want a more traditional, Shetland lace shawl – light as a feather and shockingly toasty – you can have that too!


The pattern is worked in the round with a traditional circular shawl construction – started in the center and increasing outward towards the edges as you work. A circular cast-on is recommended but not required – and if you’ve never tried one, I highly recommend it. You’ll never go back! [Great tutorials here and here] My favorite thing about circular shawls is, as you may have guessed, absolutely no purling(!) – and this one is no exception. Also, every other round is plain knitting, so essentially half of the knitting is mindless stockinette, and that’s always a plus in my book.

Girasole (Shawl Version)

The pattern utilizes a knitted-on edging to finish off. Because elasticity is a prized quality in lace, any and all bind-offs should be avoided like the plague. Knitted-on edgings are a completely wonderful solution to this problem – not only are they equally elastic as the rest of your knitting, but they look great and add an interesting contrasting element (worked perpendicular to the rest of the shawl) to any design.


For you first time Knitted-On-Edgers, this is how it works: when you’ve reached the last official round of the center section of the shawl, you will no longer be working in the round. With the working yarn you cast on directly the number of sts for your edging (in this case 4) and begin working back and forth on those stitches in the edging pattern, joining the edging to your live shawl sts around the circumference as you go. It’s a fascinating technique and a whoooole lot of fun. Read more about circular shawl construction + edgings here [Thanks, as always to Eunny for these exhaustively thorough, wonderful lace compendiums].

Girasole (Shawl Version)

As with many of my other patterns, the bulk of the motifs are charted (I’m a chart freak, what can I say.) If you’re new to knitting from charts, or want to brush up your skills here is a wonderful tutorial with lots of visual aids that I find very helpful. The pattern includes yardage/dimension/gauge information for both weights listed above, but I always encourage creative yarn choices and love to see how patterns play out with different yarns. Gauge in stockinette for the blanket version is approx 4 stitches per inch, and 6 stitches per inch for the shawl version. As always, though, gauge in lace is variable and should always be determined by your personal preference for the finished fabric.

The pattern is available for 6.50 (USD) in my Ravelry Store, for Ravelry members, or through Paypal. Just follow the buttons below.

Girasole Preview
Purchase Via Ravelry Purchase Via Paypal

The Brooklyn Tweed Guarantee: As a self-publishing designer, I strongly feel that it is my responsibility to you to present a quality product free of errors that is pleasing both from an aesthetic and practical point of view. All patterns that are self-published here at Brooklyn Tweed have been test knit by multiple knitters using various manufactured yarns to ensure the most pleasurable and intuitive knitting experience. I have personally prepared all diagrams and charts as well as knit/photographed samples and designed pattern layouts – soliciting the opinions of knitters prior to publication in an effort to streamline this product. I have done my very best to bring you a pattern that I am proud to stand behind fully. I do my best to respond to concerns or comments as soon as possible and, as always, thank you for your support and encouragement. Happy knitting! -Jared

Every once in a while we’re lucky enough to acquire a truly special batch of yarn. We save it and save it until we think we have the perfect pattern for it. When and if that moment ever comes and we dare start in on this high-pressure project, we spend half the time worrying if the sweater will ever be good enough for this, the jewel of your stash. And very often it’s not.

I’ve had and have a lot of these types of yarns that have never been touched as a sole result of the fear that no garment could ever do them justice. And until the beginning of June this was one of them. And, for the first time I’m not sitting here wondering if there could have been a pattern that might have been just a little more appropriate – and that’s enough on its own to be pumped about.

Spiral Yoke Pullover (by b r o o k l y n t w e ed)

Pattern: Spiral Yoke Pullover by Meg Swansen [Ravel It]
Source: Handknitting With Meg Swansen (Schoolhouse Press)
Materials: Sundara Yarn Worsted Merino (Discontinued) in Charcoal over Scarlet
Amount: 7.5 skeins (approx. 1300 yards)
Needles: US 7 and 8/4.5 and 5.0mm Addi Turbo Circulars

Start Date: 2 June 2008
Finish Date: 16 June 2008 (real-time is always a bit ahead of blog-time…)

Spiral Yoke Pullover (by b r o o k l y n t w e ed)
Notes: I followed the pattern recipe as directed – there’s already a lot of freedom built in so there isn’t much to modify or fuss about. I worked a tubular cast on for both sleeve cuffs and base of body (i use this method – it takes longer but the results are always clean as a whistle), which looks really sharp in a yarn with such crisp stitch definition. To finish the neck I worked a sewn bind-off, my very favorite way to finish collars – super stretchy without ever getting streeetched out of shape.

Spiral Yoke Pullover (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

This is truly a special sweater: the yarn alone means a lot – a gift from a talented friend which is not only exactly the color I had been vainly searching for for ages, but is also now sadly discontinued – and a pattern which I couldn’t have enjoyed more. Seriously. Rarely, if ever do I find a pattern that I wouldn’t mind knitting again right away after finishing. But, never say never.

Spiral Yoke Pullover (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

If you’re interested in making this but don’t want to buy an entire book for one pattern, let me tell you to silence those worries straight away. Handknitting has a bunch of smart, quality patterns, (author people, author) many of which I plan to make in the future, and is, as can be expected, full of clever tricks and techniques as well as plenty of the witty banter we’ve all come to expect from Elizabeth and Meg.

Spiral Yoke Pullover (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

More about the yarn – it’s a semi-solid, hand dye by Sundara of Sundara Yarn in Seattle, WA – one of the great dyeing talents in the business and a wonderful person to match. I came into this rare lot two Christmases ago and have had it decorating my shelves ever since. It’s a 4-ply, worsted-spun merino with super crisp stitch definition and the ability to suck up some serious color! I’ve never seen a yarn with as deeply saturated a red as this. (Also the hardest color in all of Christendom to photograph… but it’s close enough *grumble grumble photoshop frustration grumble*.)

Spiral Yoke Pullover (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

The pattern is written using EPS (Elizabeth’s Percentage System) which you know I can never get enough of. There are no stitch counts or spoon feeding of any kind, just gauge suggestions, body percentages, and of course charts for that lovely spiral, which means if you put your mind to it you’re almost bound to have a sweater that fits you wonderfully and a knitting process that is hugely satisfying.

The spiral yoke is genius because it exploits round-yoke construction (consecutive decrease rings evenly spaced over yoke depth) in a beautiful and clever way, at the same time totally camouflaging all those k2togs (or ssk’s if you want your spirals to go in the opposite direction)(Yes, you get to choose). I’m always drawn to the spiral in knitting – it seems to me to be the organic shape that is most in line with the process of knitting in the round, or at least regularly decreasing in the round (think spiral crown shaping on hats, etc). It’s smart and intuitive, and really fun to knit.

Spiral Yoke Pullover (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

My favorite part? Definitely the collar accent where the spiral snaps into the opposing direction, defining the collar band and creating all those sharp little zig-zagged angles. So cool.

This pattern has a big ol‘ stamp of approval from me – I’d love to see more of them with different yarns and on different folks. I’m seriously considering another. I’m thinking…. Handspun natural Shetland. Cardigan. Sounds good right? Now if it weren’t for all those other sweaters sittin‘ around getting jealous.

Spiral Yoke Pullover (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

Of all the things I’ve knit, I can’t remember a time when I’ve been more smitten with a project. Sure there may have been things that we more exciting or eventful to work on but nothing (and I mean nothing) is better for wrapping yourself up in than this. (I realize the timing of this post is absolutely ridiculous as I’m writing in the middle of this summer’s first heat wave, but there it is)

Lovefest Realized (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)
Pattern: Knitted Garter Stitch Blanket in Sheepsdown (Ravelry)
Source: The Opinionated Knitter by Elizabeth Zimmermann
Materials: Cascade Eco Wool (100% undyed Peruvian) #8063; yarn held double
Amount: Just over 9 skeins; approx. 4500 yards, 5lbs (!)
Needles: US13 circulars (although straights will work too)
Finished Dimensions: 80 x 53 inches

Started: October 2007
Finished: May 2008

Squishy Lovefest (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)
Here is another example of how far a simple, clever design can go. The pattern originally appeared in Elizabeth Zimmermann’s 9th Wool Gathering Newsletter in the Fall of 1962. It is available now in The Opinionated Knitter (a collection of Elizabeth’s newsletters) with both the original texts (typewritten and all) and diagrams alongside Meg’s present-day suggestions and updates to each pattern.

EZ Garter Stitch Afghan (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

The original pattern calls to be knit in Sheepsdown, Schoolhouse’s super bulky, lightly spun, undyed wool. Gorgeous stuff, and I had grand plans of knitting with it before I got economical and turned to my stash to find a plethora of Eco Wool begging for attention. Holding Eco Wool double gave me a bulky gauge (not as bulky as Sheepsdown, but close) and a wonderful squishy, cozy fabric that seemed like a dream to work up a whole afghan with.

Wooly Lovefest (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

Now, about the simplicity and the genius: the entire blanket is composed of four interlocking pieces, all of equal width, which are formed by simple mitered corners. The beauty, to me, is that throughout the entire process you always have 24 stitches on your needle. Always. And there is nary a purl stitch to be found. Netflix Knitters Dream Project? Yes.

EZ Garter Stitch Afghan (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

Because my gauge was 3 sts per inch and the pattern calls for 2sts per inch, I upped my stitch count from 24 to 36 in hopes of having a very large, very substantial piece of knitting upon finishing. Another benefit of the design is its complete ease in resizing – because the only shaping involved is a mitered corner and you only have one number to worry about (24sts), you can essentially knit this in any weight of yarn at any size depending on how many stitches are cast on. I think a baby-blanket version in a nice soft DK weight wool would be lovely.

EZ Garter Stitch Afghan Edging Detail (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

Whenever there’s this much garter stitch, and this much weight, stretching and distorting of fabric can become a valid concern. Another built-in advantage of the design is that the fabric’s consistent directional changes due to the mitered corners gives more structure while mainting wonderful stretchiness. The addition of the I-cord edging also frames the entire piece with added structure to keep everything in shape, and I think cleans up the design for a very nice finish. The I-cord edging is a suggestion from Meg, and one I definitely think is worth the extra time at the end – I love how it turned out.

Wooly Lovefest (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

The directional patterning also makes a wonderful texture and a wonderful play with light and shade, as different parts of the whole catch light differently (see photo below). The finished dimensions on mine came out to about 80″x53″ – nice and big, and fits perfectly on the surface of a queen-sized bed. Also a favorite for snuggly folks on couches.

EZ Garter Stitch Afghan (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

Finishing on this one is a big job and also entails some important decisions. There are many ways to seam up garter stitch, and I tried different methods to see what I liked best. I first tried an invisible garter graft, which looked nice on the RS, but not as nice on the WS, and was too weak in my opinion to hold this beast together. I decided in the end on using a single crochet chain seam to join all the pieces. The crochet seam has some major advantages here: first and most important, because the geometry is strong and completely carries the aesthetic, I wanted a visible seam that accented the construction in a clean way (and had an acceptable WS look). Aside from the aesthetic aspect, a crochet chain is strong and can really take a beating without a flinch. Because this thing weighs about 5 lbs (!) a strong, sturdy seam is essential.

As I mentioned above I trimmed the whole thing with a 3 stitch I-Cord, both for looks and structural help. After all the pieces were sewn together, I knit up one stitch for every ridge and attached the I-Cord all the way around, grafting the first and last row together invisibly.

Wooly Lovefest <3 (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

Another quick tip: I recommend a sewn bind-off on all pieces. It keeps the ends of each piece stretchy and matches the cast on (I did a long-tail).

I’m totally enamored and think this is a lifer – good sturdy wool in a good sturdy pattern is sure to hold up for the long haul. I want to thank my models, Ryan and Joelle, for being total champs and swathing themselves in this thing during 96 degree heat without complaint. That’s a feat unto itself.

And although you’re folded up for summer, dear blanket, when September rolls around again you’ll know how truly loved you are. Happy knitting one and all.

Edited to Add: Oops! Looks like I forgot to take a picture of the beast in its entirety! Had to strap on the wide-angle lens and clear out the living room… but I got it. You can see the full shot here.

I really had to dig deep through the blog archives to see when, oh when did I even start this thing! I got the yarn when it was just released in Fall of ’06 and started the knitting some time early in December. I remember that I started this on a sick day – I was in bed, freezing, wearing wooly things and needed something soft and colorful to keep me busy. I don’t think I ever thought it would be two summers later before it was wearable, though. Don’t you love knitting?

Swisher (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

: Top Down Raglan Recipe
Source: Knitting From the Top by Barbara Walker
Size: 43″ Chest Circumference
Materials: KnitPicks Swish Superwash Worsted (100% Superwash Wool)
Amount: 6 balls “Bordeaux” & 7 balls of “Truffle” (finished sweater weighs 650g)

Started: December 2006
Finished: May 2008

Swisher (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

Barbara Walker is right up there with Elizabeth Zimmermann as one of the veritable forces of nature in the recent-history of our craft. Aside from her most well-known contribution and complete re-invention of the stitch dictionary, she is also credited with exploring, dissecting, and propagating knitting from the top down, not just sweaters mind you – hats, dresses, pants and more! Her book is a classic and comes highly recommended from me. She is truly a wonder.

Swisher (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

If you’ve never knit a sweater from the top down, you must try it. My very first sweater was knit in this manner,and I’ve always had a fondness for it. Aside from one minor drawback, it’s full of all kinds of advantages, the most valuable being absolute control over length in body and sleeves and the try-on-as-you-go possibility. As you’re knitting, you can don your garment as many times as you need in order to get your lengths just right before that final bind off. (In fact, you could technically knit the sweater whilst wearing it, as exhibited on the book’s cover, although I don’t recommend it.) (Yes, I tried) If your sleeves grow after washing, just rip out the bind off, tear back an inch and bind off again. It’s all very convenient. The drawback? The sweater gets a little cumbersome and large towards the end, when you’re finishing off that last sleeve you may get a little tired of flipping the whole thing around as you’re knitting. I think, though, that this is a completely reasonable price to pay for the obvious benefits of top-down knitting (intuitive points, check).

[EDIT] Awesome tip left in the comments by Miss Sandra – after finishing the yoke, knit the sleeves first. When you’re ready to start the body, tuck the sleeves inside the yoke to minimize all those awkward appendages while turning your knitting. It won’t change the weight of the garment, but will definitely help with the cumbersome aspects of maneuvering your sweater. (Thanks, Sandra!) Also I forgot to mention, EZ recommends (in Knitting Workshop) to keep the bulk of the garment in a canvas or cottan bag as you work for ease of turning.

Swisher (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

I think the main reason for the long lull between start and finish on this project was primarily a materials issue. As far as superwash wools go, I think Swish is a pretty good one – where softness is concerned, it’s wonderful (baby knitting heaven) – but I’ve realized over the years that I’m not a big superwash man. Back in 2006 I think I was still optimistic, but in the end I prefer my wools to be as sheepy and woolly as possible. When wool fibers are treated to be washable they lose some of the qualities that I’m most drawn to and since knitting, for me, is very much about the tactile experience, these material choices really make a difference in how fast or slow a project goes. (I think I have some cotton projects that may never rise from their half finished states. They’re really old.)

Swisher (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

My sweater grew slightly after washing . When I swatched (waaay back then), I washed and dried in a machine and had a shrinking of row gauge. So when I decided that I’d just wash it by hand like I do with all my other sweaters, I was caught off guard when the thing grew a bit upon drying. This little surprise turned out to be a blessing in disguise – the yarn gets über soft upon washing, and the fit was slightly baggier than I’m used to, the sleeves just a little longer than normal – turns out it’s one of the coziest ones in my collection now and I’ve been wearing it a lot (those days are over now, 95 degree forecast for the weekend. Blargh.)

[EDIT] I forgot again to mention something important about my stripes! This info is also true for my striped vest, as I seemed to get a lot questions about jogs with that project as well. In all of my striped projects, assuming I’m working with only 2 colors, I employ this technique for jogless stripes and carry the unused yarn along the inside of the garment, wrapping the colors around each other at each color-change to catch the unworked yarn and keep things clean on the inside. There are no extra ends to weave in, and the beginning of the round is almost completely invisible on the RS of the fabric.

Swisher (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

All in all, I’m really happy with how this turned out – while I don’t love knitting with superwash, i do like wearing it. Also, it’s definitely an interesting wardrobe item color-wise. And speaking of color – I apologize for the slight deviation in color-correctness from photo to photo. Magenta and warmish brown really like to trick my camera!

Up next, a ginormous wool blanket that can swallow people whole. Not kidding.

Welcome back to the second half of our anatomy lesson. Today all the fun stuff happens – we’ll be turning fiber into yarn through a few simple steps. To answer a couple of questions from last time, I spin with a Kromski Minstrel, (you’ll see it in today’s pictures) and yes, I love my wheel. It’s an upright double treadle that is compact enough to fit into small apartments without being cumbersome and is an aesthetically pleasing piece aside from its upstanding functionality. Both big priorities in my book.

Now, lets do some spinning, shall we?

Spinning I (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

Spinning is essentially putting twist into loose fibers to hold them together into a strong, continuous string or thread. Twist is, in fact, the very essence of spinning and mastering control over the amount of twist you choose to use will dramatically change your resulting yarn. Hard, durable yarns have lots of twist and are favored by weavers and rug makers for their ability to take hard knocks and stay intact. For handknitters, lighter, lofty yarns are often preferable and are less tightly spun. Of course this is an over-simplification, but you get the idea.

Spinning 2 (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

I’ll be spinning a 2-ply yarn today, and the first step in the process is to spin singles (single plies of fiber). These spun fibers will then be plied together for the finished product. An important rule when plying: the direction of your twist in the singles must always be reversed when plying – thus equalizing the tension put on the fibers and forming a balanced yarn.

I like to think of twist as dormant energy – if you put too much into your singles and don’t compensate for it while plying, one throws the other off balance.

Anatomy of a <span class=

Above we have two bobbins of singles in more or less equal amounts. Before spinning I made sure to divide the fiber evenly into two parts in hopes of maximizing the yardage of the finished, plied yarn. You can see clearly on the bobbins how cleanly separated the color fields have spun out. If we were to knit this yarn up as-is, we would see clean, dramatic color stripes in our finished fabric. Plying them together, however, will essentially have the effect of mixing paint – the colors will come together somewhat randomly to diffuse or enhance one another, depending on their individual combinations. This is to me one of the best things about spinning plied yarns from hand-dyed fibers.

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Before plying, I like to load my bobbins on a tensioned Lazy Kate, for ease and consistency of flow while plying. A Kate isn’t absolutely necessary for plying yarns but I find it makes the job a whole lot easier and more enjoyable.

Plying is enjoyable and seems almost too easy in comparison to spinning singles – in a way the plies actually want to come together and relax as the tension of their twist is balanced. The amount of twist added while plying should more or less correspond to that in your singles, as I mentioned before, to achieve a no-fuss yarn.

Plying (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

With one hand pinching the yarn, I use another to separate and guide the plies as they flow off of the Kate. Plying can be rather hypnotic, not only as you watch colors combine and flow but also from the constant whirring of the wheel and mindless peddling of your feet. Very relaxing. Just don’t do it while your cooking something on the stove. Seriously.

Before you know it, you’ll have a nice, full bobbin of 2-ply yarn waiting patiently to come off the bobbin.

Celebration (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

Now the spinning is done, but don’t forget that “finishing” your yarn is an equally important (and enjoyable) part of the process that I shant forget to mention. Using a niddy-noddy, the back of a chair, or any other surface you can think to string yarn around, gently skein your yarn off of the bobbin in preparation for its inaugural bath.

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Washing handspun yarn is essential because it sets the twist, allowing the fiber to relax and adapt to its new configuration. Washing is also wonderful because, much like blocking your knitting, it will often erase or at least de-emphasizes mistakes, snags or tension issues. When taking it out of the bath, it’s also a good idea to give it a few good *whacks* against the tub to even things out. Especially for beginners, skeins straight off the wheel may be far from balanced, but giving the yarn a bath will work wonders as a self-esteem booster. I’ve had particularly ugly yarns come out of the sink looking well-behaved and beautiful. Another of wool’s many wonders.

Wash your yarn like you wash your sweaters – gentle soap, luke warm water, no agitation – squeeze out excess water and hang up to air dry. Weighting the bottom of the skein as it dries also works great for helping to balance your yarn.

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When everything is dry, you can go nuts. Petting, smelling and general merry-making are all now acceptable activities for which to engage with your yarn. Whether or not knitting happens, no worry, handspun is beautiful as a stand-alone, boasting enough aesthetic prowess to hold it’s own just about anywhere in the house.

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And that, my friends, about sums up this fast and loose version of handspinning a 2-ply yarn. This is just one of the many ways you can use a spinning wheel to make yarn, though. The possibilities are truly endless and if you really love having your hands on fiber, you probably won’t ever tire of spinning.

I intend on covering a third portion of this series talking briefly about knitting with handspun and planning projects, but probably not immediately. My knitting time has been fruitful and inspiring lately (I have much to show you), and I don’t have anything immediately in mind for my most recent batch of handspun. When I do, though, we’ll talk more about knitting with handspun yarn.

I do hope everyone is enjoying the sun, it’s been gorgeous around here – my spinning wheel loves all the open windows. Happy spinning!

Last week while riding the train early in the morning with my bare hands stuffed deep in the pockets of my winter jacket I decided I was sick of having cold hands in the morning. Last weekend I resolved to put my current knitting on hold and tend to my cold-hand problem post-haste.

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See, I’m a fidgety person who tends to keep busy at all times (a blessing and a curse), including in transit – so mittens aren’t great for me. I love knitting them but feel positively annoyed while wearing them in most situations. Too many times I’ve tried to answer the phone or scribble some notes in a notebook while mitten-clad, only to see my phone crash onto the sidewalk or my pen go flying under my neighbors subway seat. And lets not even talk about coffee spillage. Granted gloves also lend themselves to an obvious loss of dexterity but at this point in the winter, it’s all relative.

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Pattern: Ken (free from the Berroco design team) [*via Ravelry]

Materials: Noro Kureyon; #51

Amount: 160 grams (just over 1.5 skeins)

Needles: US8/5.0mm Double Pointed Needles

Started: 22 February 2008

Finished: 23 February 2008

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This was a total impulse knit. I didn’t even have a pattern in mind, just grabbed two balls of Kureyon from the stash and went pattern-huntin‘ on Ravelry. I found this free pattern, got gauge on the first try and went for it. There’s something really refreshing about spicing up your knitting with small, impulse-projects, especially when they work out – and I find that they often do. Maybe it’s the absence of obsessive planning and worrying that seems to surprise us time and again.

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I like this pattern – it’s fitted and detailed while remaining straightforward. Knitting ten fingers is always kind of a drag, but at this gauge they go mighty quick. I think that Kureyon is slightly heavier than the yarn called for in the pattern and makes for a semi-dense, very fitted glove. I really like it like this, but if you prefer a glove with a bit of ease on your hands, I’d recommend maybe using a different yarn or jumping up a needle size.

Green Fingers (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

I guess I should also mention that my hands are large-ish and the pattern specifies a men’s medium, so if you have average size manhands, you can probably disregard my previous warning.

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I was putting off knitting myself a pair of gloves, mostly because I continue to entertain the idea that spring is just around the corner. I know that this is wishful thinking here in the city, and winter is, after all, one of my favorite times of year. Although I think most of us knitters are perpetually wistful for Fall, winter is pretty great too (Sometimes I forget. Usually early in the morning).

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To sum up – this is a great *free* pattern that is definitely worthy of being squeezed into a weekend. Why not go spelunking in your stash and surprise someone you love with warm hands for the rest of the winter? Until next time – happy knitting.

Don’t ask me when, but at some point this winter I found some time to do a whole bunch of spinning. This was a while ago, but nonetheless, I’ve amassed quite a little army of handspun and it’s so beautiful and well-behaved, sitting quietly on the shelf, knowing it will probably have to wait much too long to see the needles. So far they’ve all been happy to sit for portraits – and there lies our compromise.

Low Country Shetland (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

The photo above is probably my favorite skein – it’s shetland wool dyed at HelloYarn in Boston, MA. I had never spun shetland and loved it way more than I anticipated. I was expecting scratchy and sticky, but it spun wonderfully and fluffed up to my ideal specifications. Note to self – spin more shetland. (Here’s a picture of how the fiber looked pre-spinning).

Charmer (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

Corriedale 2-ply in “Charmer” – another of Adrian’s. I’ve been sampling small batches of various wools, which also means having fun with small batches of crazy colors.

Bulky Corriedale (Skein #2) (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

I got a huge bag of white corriedale wool with my wheel and started spinning bulky singles (very instant-gratification) with hopes that I’ll have enough for another wooly blanket for next winter. Hey, it’s good to have (unrealistic) goals.

Mushroom Swatch (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)
Forest Handspun (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

Both of these beauties came from Pigeonroof Studios in California. Wonderfully subtle and tweedy yarns – I’m quite partial as you might expect. The yellow/green batch is fine shetland, spun from this (and already occupying half of a BSJ). The brown/pink batch is South African Fine wool, spun from this. That Krista is quite a dyer.

And if you haven’t gotten enough juicy spinning pictures, pop on over to my 2008 Spinning Gallery to get your fix.

There’s been a great amount of knitting and some new projects are brewing. I’ve slowly been wooing my knitting mojo back into my corner (he abandoned me for a bit there) and great things are happening. More to come very soon.

Thank you so very much for all your comments on the Pi Shawl Blanket – it really is a special pattern and a very special knit to have around. I highly recommend giving it a shot with any yarn you have lying around – it’s very versatile. There were a number of questions that I received via e-mail about the shawl (mostly about the yarn and blocking) that I’ve done my best to answer at the conclusion of this post. I hope they are helpful!

And since we’re already in a lacey state of mind, I figure I’d exploit this opportunity to introduce a finished project that has been waiting for a little blog coverage for months. If you’ve followed my knitting for any length of time, you know I prefer knitting lace in thicker weight wools – I think the beautiful stitch work combined with something a little more heavy duty is a winning combination and I always seem to come back to it. My second swallowtail is no exception.

Swallowtail Shawl 2.0

Pattern: Swallowtail Shawl by Evelyn Clark [Ravelry]
Source: Interweave Knits Fall 2006
Materials: Queensland Collection Uruguay DK (70 ex.fine merino, 20 alpaca, 10 silk) [Ravelry]
Amount: about 4.5 skeins (approx. 225 grams/560 yards) in “Mint” (#10)
Needles: US7/4.5mm Addi Turbo 32″ Circulars

Started: April 2007
Finished: May 2007
Blocked: August 2007
Gifted: December 2007 (Phew!)



The color in this photo is the least accurate – a touch too green. The other photos are more true to actual color

This is a wonderful pattern and quite a popular one. I knit my first one in October ’06 with lace weight and ever since wondered how those lacey bobbles would look in a dk weight. Of the two I think I prefer the thicker one, but they’re both beautiful and have their own unique charms.

Thicker yarns give a great stitch definition but don’t have as good a blocking memory as lace. I see this as an added advantage because it makes them that much more thick and snuggly. I’ll often add a couple repeats in the lace pattern if possible when working with thicker yarns to compensate for this.


The yarn is wonderful – I snatched it up from a WEBS sale last year and had a great time working with it. It’s not the wooliest of wools but it’s got a bouncy, soft feel and a light sheen because of the silk that provides both elegance and warmth.

This was gifted in December an I’m happy it’s getting some wear now that the daily temps here in New York are in the low 30′s.

Pi Shawl Queries: A few additional details about my Pi Shawl to answer e-mails I’ve received.

First, more specifics about the color of the wool. I received this yarn as a gift from a friend in Iceland. She purchased the yarn there in person. Schoolhouse Press does sell this yarn, but in a limited palette – which I should have mentioned earlier – and does not currently carry the color that I used.

The color of my wool is titled Sea Green Heather and listed as product #1422 on the Istex official color card – viewable here. You’ll notice they have a lot of wonderful colors! Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

In researching, we think that the best bet for possibly acquiring this yarn by mail order would be the Handknitting Association of Iceland, but can’t say for sure. All of their contact information is available behind the link. NOTE: it seems that the colorcard listed on their site is an older version and sites Sea Green Heather as #9736.

Blocking: Yes, blocking was quite a challenge in our hardwood-floored, tiny apartment. I was hoping to be able to block the shawl on the queen-sized bed but realized very soon that this would not be possible. After some creative brainstorming, we tried a rather unconventional but nonetheless effective way of blocking – involving the box spring. The picture says it all.

And finally – a few of you asked if I worked with the unspun Icelandic wool single stranded or held it double stranded. I worked single stranded.

I hope that helps – I’ll add this information as a post-script in the original post so everything is in one place. Happy knitting!