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The Scandinavian-inspired Galloway cardigan is the perfect blank canvas for knitters wanting to explore “painting with yarn.” Stranded garments that use four colors, like this one, offer a staggering range of possibilities for how your finished sweater looks; the colorway shown in our photos is just one of hundreds of ways you could interpret the design.

When Jared was creating this garment, he tested many color combinations and came up with a total of eight color combinations to get your gears turning. We’re also providing some resources about hue and value to help you make informed color decisions for your own project.

Understanding Color

Generally speaking, the goal of selecting a color palette for colorwork knitting is to ensure the pattern will be easily discernible in the finished fabric, and not muddied or lost among neighboring colors.

Both the hue and value of a color are essential considerations in determining how successful your chosen colorway will be. Simply put, value refers to a color’s relative degree of lightness or darkness (picture a greyscale) and hue is the noticeable attribute of a color (redness, greenness, etc.)

If these terms or concepts are new to you, check out an in-depth explanation about hue and value in Jared’s post about color theory.

Color Values in the Shelter Palette

Above we’ve shown the Shelter palette broken down into three value categories: dark, medium, and light.

In the Galloway pattern, four colors are used to knit the cardigan. Selecting the background color first (C1 in Galloway) will allow you to make better decisions about the rest of your palette, so we recommend you start there.

Selecting colors from all three categories (light, medium, and dark) is always the best approach to stranded colorwork, especially with smaller motifs. When yarns from all three categories are represented, the pattern will have visual “pop.” Alternatively, if multiple colors of very similar values are used, pattern motifs will be difficult to discern.

To give you a sense of the different values used in our samples, we’ve written them down for you here. Use the value categories, corresponding colorways, and the samples listed below as a guide to mix and match your own combinations.

As you can see, some of the mid-values may be used as darks because their hue is so strong/bright that they will hold their own against dark neutrals. With color, everything depends on relative combinations — meaning rules can often be broken — but using the dark/medium/light value approach is a great starting point for color planning, especially if these concepts are new for you.

Compare Colors on Our Website

 

Our yarn product pages feature a useful “Compare Colors” feature aimed to help knitters in color selection. On the Shelter yarn page, select the Compare Colors button just above the color selection box. Once open you can select the colors in the palette and reorganize or remove them to view colors side-by-side.

Additional Color Palette Inspiration

The Grettir pullover also requires four colors of Shelter to knit. For additional color palette inspiration on a similar-style project to Galloway, check out the Grettir projects knit with Shelter on Ravelry.

Speed Swatching for Circular Knitting

Once you’ve made a decision about a final colorway using the above information, it’s time to swatch and test your choices! In knitting, there is simply no substitution for knitting a swatch to see how the finished fabric will appear, and this has never been more true with colorwork. Even experienced colorwork knitters sometimes are surprised by their results with a given color combination after swatching, and it’s always better to be surprised — whether positively or otherwise — on a swatch than on your finished garment!

The Galloway pattern includes instructions on how to speed swatch in the round for colorwork patterns. After swatching, you may find that you need to swap the position of two or more of your colors to achieve a more visually interesting fabric, or even replace one or more of your initial choices to finesse a fabric that needs a touch more contrast.

(And even if you’re using one of our pre-selected color palettes, speed swatching is still important in order to ensure you’re getting gauge!)

We’re Here to Help

Although the Galloway pattern is considered advanced, the required techniques are described at length in the pattern and we’re always here to help. You can reach us on Ravelry in the Brooklyn Tweed Fan Club group or email our pattern support specialist directly at support@brooklyntweed.com. Perhaps you’ll challenge yourself to knit this eye-catching colorwork cardigan during the BT Fall 17 KAL. If so, we’ll be right there with you every step of the way.

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Sometimes questions don’t arise until a project is well underway. Today we’ve selected a few different queries that have come up for folks during the course of their lace knitting journey. Our hope is that today’s final Q&A post answers will be helpful no matter where you’re at in your own lace project.

Q: I’m not ready to knit from a chart quite yet, but I want to knit a garment that only has charted instructions. Is there a way to write out the charted instructions?

A: Once you learn how to read a chart, you can translate the chart into written instructions. The example chart below is written for a piece that is knit flat (there is a right side and a wrong side of the fabric). We’ve described how to read a chart here, but the important things to remember are that charts are read from the bottom row, up and from Right to Left on the odd numbered rows (RS of fabric) and Left to Right on the even numbered rows (WS of fabric). If you are working on a chart in the round, all rows are read from Right to Left.

Each box in a chart accounts for 1 stitch. If there is a stretch of the same kind of stitch/symbol (i.e. 3 knit stitches in a row) you’d want to write them as one step. For example: Knit 3 (K3) versus writing out each individual stitch (Knit 1, Knit 1, Knit 1). This will make your knitting much faster as you won’t have to read instructions for each individual stitch. When knitting lace, you will complete increases and decreases in the same row to create the decorative pattern but maintain the same stitch count. (One benefit of reading charts is that you can see how stitches align vertically row over row, which makes it easier to catch a misplaced decrease or yarn over.)

To translate the chart below, review the Legend to familiarize yourself with the symbols and start with Row 1.

 

These written instructions correspond to the chart above:

Row 1: YO, K3, SSK, K4, P1.
Row 2: K1, P9
Row 3: K2, YO, K3, SSK, K2, P1
Row 4: K1, P9
Row 5: K4, YO, K3, SSK, P1
Row 6: K1, P9

 

Q: In addition to picking up stitches at a regular interval between ridges, are there any tricks for making sure you pickup stitches evenly along a long row of knit edging, such as with Bridgewater?

A: A technique that makes it easier to ensure your stitches have been picked up evenly and that you have the correct amount of stitches when you’re done is to measure the length of the piece and place stitch markers at even intervals along the fabrics edge. The interval will depend on how many stitches you have to pickup. Generally, it’s a good idea to place a marker every 1-2 inches. Divide the total number of stitches you need to pickup by the number of sections you’ve created. When you start to pickup the stitches, do so at a rate that will allow you to pickup that number by the time you reach the next stitch marker.

Q: Is there a difference between nupps and bobbles?

A: There is! Nupps are an Estonian technique that forms a small bump in the knitted fabric which is made by knitting into the same stitch repeatedly with yarnovers between each knit. Five- or seven-stitch nupps are usual; you could go higher, but bear in mind that on the subsequent row the nupp is closed by purling all of those stitches together. (The trick is to make those knits and yarnovers very loose, really pulling the right needle tip back from the fabric.) There’s more than one way to make a bobble, and they can be stockinette or garter based, but most methods have you knit into the front and back of the same stitch several times to create four or five stitches out of one. Then you turn and work multiple rows back and forth on only the bobble stitches to create a little pouch of fabric before binding off the extra stitches to return to your original stitch count and carry on knitting the row.

Nupps sometimes need to be coaxed to the right side of the fabric and give a subtler effect than bobbles – especially as they’re traditionally worked as a decorative element for cobweb-weight lace shawls.

 

Q: Is there a way to even out my decreases?

A: Typically tension will have the biggest effect on how the decrease lays on the finished fabric. After completing the decrease, insert your needle into the next stitch and gently pull the working yarn to tighten the decrease.  If you are experiencing this issue with a left leaning decrease, following our instructions for a modified SSK might help. To do so, Slip 1 stitch knitwise from L to R needle, replace stitch on L needle in new orientation then knit 2 stitches together through the back loops. Practicing the decreases on a swatch may also help you find the correct amount of tension before working on your garment. Also, keep in mind that knitting by hand can produce some imperfections and that’s quite alright — in fact, it’s part of the process and joy of making things by hand.

 

Q: How do you continue to pick up edge stitches if your blocking wire isn’t long enough?

A: Simply start picking up stitches with a new wire and you’ll be good to go! We recommend leaving at least a few inches of space on either end of your blocking wire in case you need to stretch out the fabric further while laying it out on the blocking mat. When pinning your wires to the blocking surface, be sure to place 1 or 2 pins at the point where two wires cross to keep them firmly in place.

 

Q: What type of surface should I block on? Where can I get the blocking board that BT uses?

A: Sadly the blocking boards that we use seem to no longer be in production, but there are many good alternatives available. The most frequently used product are called blocking mats. They are pieces of foam cut in a jigsaw formation that can be connected to accommodate the shape of your project. If the piece is very large, you can use your mattress or a clean carpeted floor. We’ve also heard of people using ironing boards for smaller projects.

If you knit a lot of hap, or pi shawls and like to build your own tools, you might consider making a stretching frame. These frames were traditionally used for blocking Shetland hap shawls. Kate Davies provides excellent instructions on how to make one at home on her blog.

 

Q: How do I weave in my ends invisibly in lace?

A: It’s best to leave long tails and weave in your ends after you have blocked your final piece. The best practice for lace is to weave in an end following the pattern as closely as you can on the wrong side of the fabric. Be sure to check your work on the right side frequently to make sure the yarn isn’t showing through the fabric. After the ends have been weaved in, gently stretch the fabric to ensure the woven in strand has the same tension as the knitted piece, and then cut the tail as close to the work as possible.

 

Q: I completed my first lace shawl and am feeling really confident, what’s a good second lace project?

A: After you have mastered the basics of lace knitting, you’ll have plenty of pattern choices available to you. Patterns that utilize multiple charts, or a larger repeat of a single chart, are a good option for a second lace pattern. We recommend Girasole, Quill and Ravine for your next project. You can also find our catalog of lace projects with an Intermediate skill level here.

Though our Summer of Lace KAL will soon be coming to an end, we continue to welcome questions about lace knitting at any time, feel free to also share with us what you’ve learned here in the comments. And don’t forget to share your projects with us on Ravelry and Instagram with #BrooklynTweedKAL and #BTLaceKAL17!

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Blocking lace is one of the most transformative processes in knitting, one that surprises and delights us every time. After you’ve faithfully created a pool of open — and perhaps unruly — stitches in your favorite yarn, the moment you pull a crisply blocked sheet of wool off the board is satisfying for the soul. You may wish to call for an audience when you do the unpinning!

Today we outline our preferred lace-blocking process in hopes of helping you make the most of your knitting time and cross the finish line with a stunning piece of lace.

Here’s what you’ll need:

1.) Rust-proof T-pins (the rust-proof part is important, as the pins will be exposed to moisture during the drying process and rust stains would be permanently visible on your finished shawl).

2.) A set of stainless steel blocking wires. Wires come in a variety of weights: some are thin and flexible — perfect along shorter curved edges — while others are a bit more sturdy and work well along the straightaways of a scarf or stole.

3.) Rinseless wool wash or delicate dish detergent (optional, but recommended for best results).

If it’s your first time practicing these blocking techniques, we recommend trying them out on a swatch. It’s important to always block your swatch in the same manner you’ll block your finished project in order to ensure an accurate finished gauge.

Please note that our directions are specific to blocking pure wool. If you are knitting with a different fiber, please consult the manufacturer’s directions for proper handling.

First, wash your item

Our worsted-spun and woolen-spun wool yarns are dyed using different processes, so their care instructions vary slightly. Never place any wool item under running water as this motion may felt or full the wool.

For Arbor and Vale, our worsted-spun yarns dyed in the skein, fill a sink or basin with cool water and submerge the fabric, gently squeezing out any air bubbles so that the piece can remain under water without being held there.* Soak work for 10 minutes, allowing fabric to become completely saturated.

For our woolen-spun yarns that are dyed in the fleece, ShelterLoft and Quarry, submerge finished fabrics in warm water.* Gently squeeze the fabric to release air bubbles and soak fabric for 30 minutes or until well saturated.

*You may add a small amount of delicate dish soap or rinseless wool wash to the soaking water if you wish; if not rinseless, you will need to submerge the piece in clean water once or twice to remove the soap from your fabric.

Remove the lace from the sink or basin and squeeze out excess water from your work, taking care not to twist or wring fabric. Roll your fabric between clean, dry towels with light pressure to further remove moisture.

Shape and secure the lace

Find a location to block your lace item where it won’t be disturbed while it dries. Cover a clean area of carpet or mattress with a bedsheet, or pin into a fabric-covered board or matrix of foam tiles created especially for blocking. Cork wall boards can also keep the lace up and out of the way as it dries — plan on a second set of hands to help pin the item to a vertical surface.

Gently spread the damp item out into a rough approximation of the desired shape — square, rectangle, or triangle — by hand. Carefully run your blocking wires through the stitches at a short and regular interval along the edge. Be tender as you go; remember that wool is at its most vulnerable when wet. As you work, refer to the pattern’s schematic and measure from the center of the work if working on a symmetrical piece. If you are sizing up or down, keep the proportions in scale to the original. By practicing on a swatch, you can determine the best place to insert your wires to avoid unsightly gaps in the finished piece. In our example below, we skimmed the blocking wires through the right leg of each stitch in the row worked before the bind off to create the most even and straight finished edge.

Once you have inserted your blocking wires, place pins along the inside of each one at consistent intervals while stretching your item to the desired dimensions. It is helpful to insert each pin into the blocking surface at an angle — this will prevent the lace from popping off as it dries. When stretching and pinning your fabric to shape, use a tape measure to verify overall symmetry and finished dimensions of the project. Because wool will often spring back slightly from the blocked dimensions after unpinning, you may wish to block your finished shawl 5–10% larger than the listed finished dimensions to account for slight shrinkage after unpinning.

Alternatively, if you haven’t yet invested in blocking wires, you can run a thread through the the lace edging and hook the drawn thread over the pins. However, on an edge designed to be straight, do not simply pin without wires as this will create visible points at each pin.

For circular shawls, blocking wires are not suitable. Instead use pins along the outer perimeter, starting by blocking the four “compass points” (north, south, east, and west), then placing four additional pins, one each halfway between the four compass points. Continue in this manner, inserting pins at regularly spaced intervals around the shawl perimeter, to ensure symmetry in your final dimensions.

For a pointed or scalloped edging, use one pin per each point for a decorative effect as shown above.

A word to the wise

Fight the urge to overblock. Blocked wool has a memory and overblocking can permanently strain the wool fibers. If your unblocked gauge is significantly smaller than recommended, do not try to make that up in the blocking but rather block to an appropriate drape for the chosen yarn.

Let the lace dry completely before unpinning. Weave in ends after the item is completely dry. Over the next 24 hours you may find that your garment relaxes a bit, which is normal (see our tip above about blocking slightly larger than your target finished dimensions). Store your new treasure neatly folded to preserve the crispness of the blocked fabric (unless you are proudly wearing it, of course!). When properly stored and cared for, wool lace will hold a crisp blocking for months to come.

Feel free to share your questions or additional tips below in the comments. Happy lace blocking!

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Lace knitting has a rich tradition in many cultures worldwide. Place-specific histories, techniques and garments are especially present in Shetland and Estonian knitting. While there has been much written about lace knitting, there are a few books in particular that come to the forefront when we are looking for lace knitting inspiration. Many of the stitches found in these books are heirlooms which have been used for generations and are rare to find in print. We’d like to introduce you to a few of our favorite lace knitting books here.

Most of these recommended books contain a substantial section of stitch motifs. Stitch dictionaries such as these are filled with charted stitch patterns, which can be used for inspiration while designing your own patterns or to substitute a motif in an existing design. If you’d like to replace a motif in a pattern, simply find a stitch that has the same repeat count, or modify the stitch count, as needed.

The Haapsalu Shawl: A Knitted Lace Tradition from Estonia (2009) by Siiri Reimann and Aime Edasi details the history of Estonian lace knitting in great detail. In this book you will learn how these lace knittings traditions have been passed down from generation to generation as well as the techniques used to master this type of knitting. We find particularly helpful the schematic information about how the Haapsalu shawls and scarves are constructed. Using this construction information, along with the accompanying examples of stitches, you can design a project that’s all your own.

Omas Strickgeheimnisse (in English, Grandma’s Knitting Secrets) (2008) by Erika Eichenseer, Erika Grill, and Betta Krön is a German stitch dictionary bursting with inspiration and information. The beautiful charts, which follow the tradition of German knitting and feature 200 stitch patterns, make this book worth every penny!

We hold a special place in our hearts for Shetland knitting traditions, and Brooklyn Tweed has published many Shetland-inspired patterns over the years. The hap shawls Shetland is known for provide warmth, comfort, and a fascinating history. Love Darg Shetland Shawls Centenary 1910-2010 (2010) and  Shetland Hap Shawls: Then and Now (2006), both published by Heirloom Knitting and written by Sharon Miller, are two of the best resources we’ve found that share the interesting story of lace knitting in Shetland.

That said, if we had to choose just one book about Shetland lace knitting to recommend, it would be Heirloom Knitting: A Shetland Lace Knitter’s Pattern and Workbook (2002), also by Sharon Miller. The breadth of information in this book is astounding. Miller systematically breaks down all of the steps to knit Shetland lace and provides practical assistance in the book’s “Knitting Advice” sections. Regardless of your interest in actually knitting traditional Shetland lace, for its breadth of topic and as an historical resource, we recommend this book for any knitter’s library.

With the plethora of resources available, we encourage you to learn more about the art of knitting lace. As you read, what have you found to be particularly fascinating about the history of knitting lace?

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It’s been great fun seeing everyone’s KAL progress so far! We are excited to answer some common questions that have been asked about lace knitting. There will be another lace knitting Q&A blog post on August 4th, so be sure to keep your questions coming in the Ravelry Forum and in the comments section of our blog.

Q: Which part of my lace pattern should I swatch?
A: Some patterns don’t include gauge recommendations for a charted portion of a lace project. This is usually because lace can be very fluid and can stretch quite a bit when blocked, making gauge neither precise nor necessary for the success of a project. That said, making a swatch before casting on is a good opportunity to become familiar with the lace motifs in your chosen pattern before you have to keep track of them over (potentially) hundreds of stitches. We recommend knitting a few repeats from each chart, or, if not a pattern repeat, choosing a portion of the chart that you feel the least comfortable knitting. To determine how many stitches you should cast on for your swatch, check the gauge (if listed) and cast on more than the recommended stitches over 4″ that is a multiple of the stitch pattern repeat, plus a few extra on the sides for a stabilizing border. If gauge is not listed, cast on an approximate number of stitches that will allow you to work the pattern repeat (or your selected portion of the chart) enough times to yield a swatch of approximately 4″ in width, plus extra stitches for the stabilizing side borders. After knitting a few border stitches, you could then work directly from the repeated section of the lace chart, ending your row with additional border stitches.

Q: Is it possible to increase or decrease the size of a lace project? Can I just repeat the charts?
A: Yes, it is possible to change the finished size of a lace project, and there are a couple of ways to do it based on the shape and charts used within the pattern you’re working from. If the pattern is a rectangle, like Wool Leaves or Umaro, you can simply add or subtract repeats based on the number of stitches in the chart repeat. Patterns that are crescent-shaped, circular or triangular, for example, can be easily changed by adjusting gauge. You can do this either by using a different needle size or using a different weight of yarn. Be sure to knit a swatch to ensure you like the new fabric and to calculate the new yardage requirements you’ll need to finish your project!

Q: Will my lace project be the same size if I substitute laceweight yarn for fingering weight yarn?
A: Lace patterns, particularly those with a lot of openwork, are very adaptable during the blocking process so substituting yarn can produce a fabric that is similar in size to the original. Knitting a gauge swatch in the different weight of yarn is the best way to ensure the possibility of a close match in finished size.

Do note, however, that the finished fabric will look different if the yarn weight is adjusted. Laceweight fabric will be airier and less substantial than the same shawl worked in fingering weight yarn on needles of the same size, and fingering weight fabric will likely have less drape.

Q: Is there a way to keep track of where I’m at in a row without having to count so much?
A: You can use stitch markers to mark the beginning and end of repeats in most patterns. To account for the increase and decreases in a lace pattern, however, it may be the case that the stitch marker needs to be either adjusted every round or you’ll just need to remember that there may be an additional stitch in the repeat before or after the set stitch marker.

Learning how to read your knitting can also be very helpful when it comes to keeping track of where you’re at while knitting lace. An easy way to do it is to locate reference points in your knitting. For example, when looking at your chart try matching the YOs in the previous row in relation to where you are placing YOs in your current row of knitting.

Q: Are chart symbols the same for every pattern?
Designers use many different programs and their own systems to create charts, and they may have different preferences for symbols that are more or less detailed in representing exactly what’s happening to the stitches. Carefully reading the key for your chart is critical. Make sure to refer to the specific chart legend in your pattern to ensure that you’re performing the correct techniques for the given symbols.

Q: How important is gauge for something like a lace shawl?
A: Unlike garments, lace shawls aren’t fitted so matching the exact gauge listed in the pattern isn’t necessary for the success of your project. Typically the gauge listed for lace is more of a suggestion versus other types of garments. If you want your finished piece to match the dimensions listed in a schematic, then knitting a swatch and blocking it is the best way to know if you will reach the target size and shape.

If you’re new to lace shawl knitting, it would be safe to err on the side of swatching to ensure that you will enjoy the fabric you’re about to create. Once you’re more comfortable with knitting lace shawls, you might find that getting exact gauge is of less importance to you.

Q: I need to join a new ball of yarn in the middle of my lace pattern, how can I do this without making an obvious knot?
A: If you find yourself needing to join your new ball of yarn in the middle of a row, felt splicing works great for 100% wool yarns. The Russian Join technique, a staff favorite, is another way to join yarn without making a knot and allows a clean edge for the picking up of stitches for the next section of the piece. If you have enough yarn to finish your row, you could also join the new ball of yarn at the beginning of the next row and weave in the loose ends after blocking. 

Q: How do you work a yarnover at the beginning of a row?
A: If your first stitch is a knit stitch, simply bring the working yarn to the front, as if to purl. When you knit the first stitch, the yarn will have traveled over the needle and formed a yarnover. If your first stitch is a purl stitch, begin with the yarn in back, as if to knit. This technique is used in patterns such as Brora and Rock Island and allows a clean edge for the picking up of stitches for the addition of a border.

We hope you’ve found this Q&A segment helpful! Please keep sharing your projects with us using #BTLaceKAL17 and #BrooklynTweedKAL. You can read more about the BT Lace KAL here.

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Once you’re feeling confident about your pattern choice, the fun begins: it’s time to gather your supplies and cast on a swatch!

Yarn 

Most regions of the world with strong lace-knitting traditions used a two-ply yarn for lace pieces because this balanced structure is the most receptive to opening up with blocking to reveal the openwork patterns. Brooklyn Tweed’s Shelter, Loft, Vale, and Plains are all constructed on this principle. The worsted preparation of Vale and Plains lends extra strength to the yarn so it can better withstand a stiff blocking, and the smooth alignment of the fibers gives crisp definition to the stitches. Woolen-spun lace has a more rustic look and is perfect for projects with a cozy farmstead feel. We love Loft for Shetland-style haps in particular.

Needles

Most knitters find they prefer needles with sharper tips for knitting lace; it’s easier to insert such a needle tip through multiple stitches during complex decrease maneuvers. Many also like a bit of extra traction to help control their tension — wood or coated metal needles will grip the stitches more than slick aluminum. This isn’t to say you can’t knit lace on your usual needles with perfect success, but if you find yourself struggling to draw a loop through a k3tog or to keep your yarnovers consistent in size, trying a lace-specific needle may give you the extra control you need.

 

Extra Notions

When you’re establishing a lace pattern and can’t yet see the motifs taking shape, it can be helpful to place stitch markers at strategic points. Marking off every repetition of a large chart, or every few repetitions of a small one, can make it much easier to find a missed increase or decrease if your stitch count is off at the end of a long row. (If working in the round, don’t forget to use a visually distinctive marker at the beginning-of-round so you know when it’s time to progress to the next row of your chart.) Some lace knitters also like to use lifelines. A lifeline is a thin strand of non-sticky yarn, string, dental floss, or any other material you’ll easily be able to pull out later. It runs through all of the stitches in a single row so that you can rip back to that point without having to recapture hundreds of loose stitches in lace patterning. Some lace needles come with a little hole in the base of the needle above the cord so you can tie your lifeline through the hole and drag it through the stitches as you work. If your needle isn’t made this way, simply thread the lifeline on a darning needle and run it through the stitches while they hang on the needle cord. Whether and when to use lifelines is entirely a matter of personal preference and confidence. You can place one at regular intervals just to be safe; you can place one at a change in motifs when you’re sure the work is correct but feel anxious about the next section, or you can never use one at all and simply trust to your own skill and savvy.

Swatching & Blocking

Your pattern may call for multiple swatches in different fabrics, so give yourself plenty of time for the swatching phase. Counting stitches within a lace motif can be difficult. If your pattern reads, “25 stitches x 36 rows = 4” in lace pattern,” you can make your job easier by placing locking stitch markers on either side of 25 stitches and at the bottom and top of 36 rows while you’re working, then use these points to make your measurements when the swatch is finished. Proper blocking is essential for lace. Your work may look dishearteningly like a heap of ramen noodles when it’s fresh off the needles, but a good stretching will open up the motifs to reveal the beautiful design you’ve created.  Deciding how much to stretch your fabric is a matter of balancing your preferences, the designer’s intentions, and what the yarn is communicating about its needs. Using your stitch markers as a guide, you can judge whether to apply a little more or less tension. If the fabric is fighting back and you still can’t stretch your markers to 4” apart, you may need to try a new swatch on a larger needle. If you’re at 4” without stretching enough to really flatten out the fabric and open up the eyelets, you’ll need a smaller needle — or a sense of peace about having a shawl that’s larger than planned.

Most knitters use either T-pins or blocking wires to stretch their lace. Pins are perfect for designs with toothed edges, but will leave points where you don’t want them along a straight edge.  Blocking wires can be woven through the fabric all along the edge and then secured with pins to put the stitches under even tension everywhere, forming a perfectly even perimeter around your shawl. We’ll post a tutorial on our preferred blocking practices later in the KAL, but your swatch is a good place to get a feel for what you’ll be doing to the final piece.

Are you ready to cast on? We are! Only 5 more days until the KAL begins…

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By now you may have selected your pattern for the knitalong, or you may still be mulling over a few final contenders. We’ll provide you with some additional pattern suggestions throughout this blog post, in case you are searching for some inspiration.

Getting to know your pattern is an important first step toward lace knitting success. Take the time to read through the instructions and flag anything that seems potentially confusing or complicated at the outset. Once you’ve covered basics like necessary yardage and recommended needle size, here are some further points we recommend investigating before you even reach for your yarn and needles.

A lace shawl is a flat piece of knitting, usually in a geometric shape, but there are a surprising number of ways to build those triangles, circles and rectangles. Will you be casting on from a center point and working in the round with concentric increases? Knitting from one end to the other? Knitting from both ends toward the middle and grafting? Beginning with just a few stitches at the spine and increasing, or casting on the full length of one or more sides and increasing or decreasing to shape the shawl? Picking up stitches to work in another direction? Take a look at the schematic, if your pattern has one, to make sure you understand how your piece is going to take shape. At BT we use arrows to indicate the direction in which the fabric grows. Our Construction Notes section thoroughly describes how the work will proceed, too.

If your pattern is a garment, you’ll also want to study the construction. If there is shaping within the lace portions, now is a good time to check whether the designer has given instructions on taking added stitches into the lace pattern or what to do when you’ve worked a decrease and no longer have enough stitches to complete a repetition of the lace motif.

Left to Right: Shale Baby Blanket, Tetrapods, Lunette

Some lace patterns are easier to work than others. If you’re a lace beginner, you may want to stick with a small and
regular motif that requires lace maneuvers only on right-side (RS) rows.

Pi shawls can be a good way to start out; the work is in the round and you’re always looking at the right side, so it’s easier to read your knitting and notice if something has gone awry. Garments with shaping that interrupts the lace require a strong ability to “read” your knitting and make sure the motifs are continuing to align correctly as the stitch count changes.

Are the instructions written or charted? Make sure you’re comfortable reading the charts. If the work is flat, you’ll be reading from right to left on right-side rows and from left to right on wrong-side rows, just the way you knit. If your fabric is stockinette based, you’ll probably see that the chart legend includes symbols that mean something different on the RS and on the WS. If your lace includes anything but plain knitting or purling on the WS rows, make sure you understand the maneuvers the chart requires. A yarnover worked from the wrong side needs to be handled differently than one on the right side. WS decreases have to be worked to match the slant on the right side; don’t be surprised if you see an instruction like p2tog tbl. (NB: To purl stitches together through the back loop, you’ll need to swing your right needle around parallel to the left so you can go into the second stitch first.) If the piece is circular, you’ll always read the charts right to left, in the direction of your knitting.

Left to Right: Carpino, Stonecrop, Terra

If you will need to work from multiple charts simultaneously, this is a good moment to make photocopies or print out the relevant pages so you can cut and paste those charts into an alignment that won’t require you to leaf back and forth through the pattern. Many knitters like to tape the legend onto the same sheet as the charts if the page layout hasn’t allowed the designer to do so. Others like to enlarge the chart for easier reading; break out the highlighters to color code various maneuvers; or write marginalia that will help them track anything else that’s happening in the pattern, such as shaping in a sweater pattern. If you know you’ll be decreasing every 8th row for waist shaping, writing a note about that on Rows 8, 16, 24, etc. on the chart may help you remember. It’s easy to get caught up in the lace action and blow past additional instructions… and not much fun to rip back in order to fix errors.

We hope that covers all you’ll need to consider about your pattern before you begin, but leave questions in the Comments field and join our conversation in the Brooklyn Tweed Ravelry group if you need some immediate answers! Our next post on tools and swatching will cover the rest of the preparation you’ll want to do before the KAL kicks off.

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Nothing says fall knitting quite like cables. Many of us have spent the summer knitting airy shawls or linen pullovers, perhaps putting in a few rows on a woolly sleeve for that Rhinebeck sweater when the weather isn’t too oppressive. But once there’s a nip in the air, we can celebrate by diving straight into a pile of good wool and reveling in all the possibilities. This feels like the time of year to take on serious projects—big garments, new techniques, challenging designs that will make us better knitters. Cables offer up endless ways to produce visually appealing and extra-cozy garments, perfect for cold-weather wear and for satisfying our cravings for truly hearty knitting.

In that spirit, here’s a round-up of some of the cabled projects in our new Fall collection. We’re hoping a little extra information about each one might help you evaluate these options for your own autumn knitting. (Click on any of the images in the post to read full specs about each pattern.)

 

_0001_Willamette

Take a closer look if you… love textured, geometric fabrics and timeless style—and can’t get enough cables in your knitting.

Willamette’s stitches cross on every row to form a deeply textured, deeply cozy fabric. You’ll work from two different charts, one for each face of the scarf, and it’s more than a little addictive to watch two separate but harmonious patterns forming on each side. The cables are almost always two stitches crossing over one, so you’ll probably find you can ditch the cable needle and trust your stitches not to try any funny business while you slide them off and rearrange them. The motifs are easy to track and you may be able to abandon the charts completely after a few repetitions.

Things to know before you cast on: This isn’t a speedy knit, but it’s a handsome gift that may succeed with recipients who don’t normally wear handknits—and it’s definitely the kind of present you’ll want to steal back from time to time.

Skill Level: 3 out of 5 (intermediate)

 

_0000_Copse

Take a closer look if you… long to work up some truly glorious chunky cables but tend to overheat in bulky sweaters. It will look stunning draped over your favorite armchair when you’re not wearing it.

This plush wrap is a cable-lover’s dream, and the large-scale motifs bring out Quarry’s very best. Every right-side row involves crossing stitches, but the motifs interact rhythmically and predictably, so you won’t have to peer at the charts every moment once you’ve established the pattern and can refer to the work you’ve already done. On wrong-side rows you’ll just knit or purl the stitches as they lie. The largest crossings are three over three, so depending on your comfort level and trust in your wool, you may be able to work largely without a cable needle. And you’ll learn a beautiful extension of I-cord that produces a flat vertical edge you may want to apply to future scarves, blankets, or cardigan fronts.

Things to know before you cast on: This pattern is worked from large charts.

Skill Level: 3 out of 5 (intermediate)

 

_0002_McLoughlin

Take a closer look if you… like dramatic texture but prefer tailored shapes.

McLoughlin looks complex but makes for a mellower knit than you might expect—large sections of the torso require cabling only every sixth row, and since it’s worked in the round with the motif only on the front, there’s quite a lot of knitting that won’t require your full attention. In chunky Quarry, this slightly cropped pullover will work up quickly despite the intricate patterning. And there’s no seaming apart from the underarm grafts.

Things to know before you cast on: There’s waist shaping to keep track of, and you’ll need to embrace the purl stitch to work in reverse stockinette. You’ll also have to be comfortable working from large charts.

Skill Level: 4 out of 5 (adventurous intermediate)

 

_0003_Birch Bay

Take a closer look if you… love the comfort and style of an extra-wide pullover but crave knitterly details to hold your interest while you’re making all that fabric.

If you enjoy knitting cables but don’t like the bulk large ones produce, consider fashion-forward Birch Bay. The traveling stitches that form the delicate leaf outlines are all single crosses, so you won’t ever need a cable needle. The simplicity of the garment’s shape makes this an intermediate-level knit, and there won’t be any fiddly modifications necessary to achieve the intended fit.

Things to know before you cast on: Birch Bay is meant to drape like a poncho, so don’t shy away from the generous ease the designer has indicated.

Skill Level: 3 out of 5 (intermediate)

And if none of these seems quite your style, here are a few more of our picks from the BT Archive that have become fan favorites:

_0000_Backbay

_0001_Bellows
_0006_VIKA

_0005_Stonecutter

_0004_Bray

_0002_Timberline

_0003_Exeter

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Since the launch of BT Fall 14, we’ve been getting some great questions streaming in over e-mail and social media. We thought it would be great to present a short Q&A today to answer some of the more common queries we’ve heard so far.

BT Fall 14 Q&A

 

The fashion world loves oversized sweaters these days, and we at BT appreciate their coziness (and also the extra large canvas for beautiful handwork). That said, we also know that these garments can be tricky to wear/style for many – so we’re focusing on that topic today (as well as the big question we’ve been getting from our male knitters!)

Q: I like my sweaters to have just a few inches of positive ease, creating a more classic fit. Which of the designs in BT Fall 14 can I knit, and how should I make adjustments if I need to?

A: Spinnaker, Docklight, Backbay, and Crosby are all designed for a standard fit bust circumferences down to 32-35”, which should allow even petite women a slim silhouette. Wake is also intended for 2-4” of ease, though we chose to show it worn with 6” for a more casual effect.

Classic Fits from BT Fall 14

Bellows and Zenith are styled in our lookbook with a lot of positive ease—9 or 10”. But again, the smallest sizes given are 35-36”, so even very slender knitters should be able to work up a sweater with a more traditional 4-5” ease. Keep in mind that both designs are intended as outerwear, with room for other layers beneath. If you are knitting a smaller size than is usual for you, consult the schematic closely to determine if you’ll need to add length, particularly in the sleeves.

Only Rowe is really intended for pure oversized drama; the smallest size in the pattern is 40¼” with the fronts touching…but don’t forget to picture those fronts overlapped and snugly bundled around you before you start plotting to scale it down even farther.

Q: I’m curious about oversized sweaters, but I’m not sure they flatter my body. How can I wear them?

A: Whenever you are increasing the scale of one garment, it’s usually a good plan to keep the rest of the outfit slim: pair wide-leg trousers with a tailored sweater or a boxy pullover with skinny jeans. Likewise, choosing a garment with slim sleeves and shoulders that fit you well will help keep a wide silhouette from looking simply baggy. Hawser and Ondawa both use this principle.

BT Fall Styling Tips

If you’re petite and large clothes tend to swamp your frame, consider an open-front cardigan like Rowe that can swing to reveal your slender shape within.

A few pitfalls to avoid: A garment that ends at the widest point of your body usually won’t be flattering. If, like many women, your hips are your widest point, make sure the hem falls at your high hip or extends to mid-thigh. Split-hem styles like Crosby may be flattering for you, too.

Q: What, no garments for men in a collection inspired by fisherman sweaters?!

A: Stay tuned – BT Men Volume 2 is in the works! In the meantime, Bellows is handsome for either sex, as are the scarves and hats in the Fall collection. And a variation on Wake could integrate into a contemporary masculine wardrobe with ease.


We hope you enjoyed today’s Q&A session – please feel free to keep the questions coming. We love hearing from you!

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This morning we’d like to introduce you to three of the colorwork designs in BT Kids: Jared Flood’s Atlas, Véronik Avery’s Magnus, and Julie Hoover’s Carson. These very different garments offer a chance to sink your teeth into techniques you may not have tried, so we’re glad to have the chance to talk about them in more detail. We thought you might also like to learn about the designers’ inspiration for these pieces.

BT Kids: Colorwork Spotlight

A visit to Iceland two summers ago cemented Jared’s love for the lopapeysa, the quintessentially Icelandic patterned yoke sweater, and led him to design Atlas. The lopapeysa tradition isn’t as old as you might imagine—it was invented in the 1950’s as a vehicle to bring the distinctive Icelandic wool and bold design sense of Icelandic artisans to an international market. The sweaters are so beautiful and useful that they quickly became iconic. Viewed from above, the yoke creates a sunburst effect that lets the designer play with simple combinations of shape and color. Jared loves how effortlessly lopapeysa sweaters come together—they’re seamless, with a lot of meditative stockinette, and just when you start feeling you could really handle something a little more interesting, along comes the glorious colorwork yoke, which is neatly finished before you feel overwhelmed by it. The lopapeysa is traditionally worked with bulky-weight wool, though Jared has always wanted to try one in a fingering weight. BT Kids seemed like the perfect opportunity, especially because the yoke motif could then be scaled back up for larger sizes just by substituting heavier yarns.

Atlas by Jared Flood

Atlas is offered as a pullover for knitters who want a seamless garment that’s quickly finished, but Jared added a cardigan variant for those who prefer more versatile styling options. The knitting process doesn’t change, but if you’re working the Atlas cardigan, you’ll cast on extra stitches to form a steek at the center front and then cut the fabric open when the sweater is complete. This clever shortcut is part of the knitting tradition across Scandinavia, the Shetland Islands, and Iceland, and it lets knitters create stranded color patterns while always looking at the right side of the work and never having to carry floats in front while purling—a slower and more awkward process for most of us.

Magnus by Véronik Avery

Steeks can be used to open the whole front of a sweater, as in Atlas, but they can also be used for shorter spans like armholes and neck openings. That’s how Véronik employed them in Magnus, her handsome interpretation of traditional Scandinavian handknits. If you’ve never tried a steek before, Véronik recommends cutting a swatch of your project yarn—it doesn’t even have to be a stranded swatch. If you’re nervous about the cut edge unraveling or if you’re using a non-wool fiber, a line of machine stitching ensures that nothing will come undone. (Tip: Place a piece of tissue paper under the knitted fabric for stability so the machine’s feed dogs won’t stretch out the seam.)

Véronik thinks the design quality of Scandinavian knits is particularly well suited to children, being both modern and traditional. Magnus is intended to be truly unisex, perfect for handing down through the family. The hood is a modern touch, added for the simple reason that kids love hoods!

Carson by Julie Hoover

And if you’re too impatient to wait until the yoke for your colorwork, try Carson. Julie had been playing with this diamond motif for a long time, auditioning it for at least two different collections before it found the perfect home in BT Kids. She cleverly placed the colorwork at the hems and cuffs of the pullover so knitters can work it in the round without worrying about steeks, and all that eye-catching detail in the lower portion of the piece invited some special treatment at the top for balance. Julie’s answer was to expose the seams where the sleeves are set in, which makes the seam visually prominent, and that drove her decision to work some unusual shaping through the yoke as well. She used a combination of full-fashioned decreases and a sloped bind-off to create a saddle shoulder in the front and an innovative hybrid shape in the back. She says it does take extra care to ease the sleeve into the front yoke correctly—you may want to use safety pins or split-ring stitch markers to secure at least the seam ends and the point of the shoulder before you start to sew. Julie also advises wet-blocking both the individual pieces and then the finished pullover for the most successful result.

Thanks for stopping by today to meet Carson, Magnus, and Atlas! Jared will be back next week with a post on choosing colors to help you take the next step if you’re considering any of these designs.

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