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A year of new yarns and patterns mean lots of swatches for us to play with here in the Brooklyn Tweed office. So we thought, what better way to repurpose our Peerie colorwork swatches than to refresh our Lavender Sachets tutorial and share the inspiration?

We love how cheerful, festive, and sweet-smelling this new batch of colorwork sachets turned out. They’re also delightfully quick and satisfying to make — so much so that we couldn’t help but zip up Svenson Pullover cabled swatches too. (Last-minute stocking stuffers, anyone?)

Eager to repurpose your own swatches? Revisit our tutorial below!

In the second and third installments of our Foundations series, we covered the basics of swatching and seaming to aid you in tackling your knitting projects skillfully and confidently. Today, we’ll show you a quick and easy way to further practice these foundational techniques: by repurposing and seaming swatches to make lavender sachets!

These sachets are a delight to make for a number of reasons. First, they hit the sweet spot for both process knitters and project knitters — they’re truly approachable and suitable for practice because of their size and they make lovely, sweet-smelling finished objects that you can keep in a knitting bag or use in your knitwear care routine.

Second, they can be a great way to keep inspiration around you at all times. Perhaps you have a swatch for a visually-appealing intricate colorwork motif, or for a tactile-pleasing textured stitch pattern, or even for a simple stockinette fabric in a memorable yarn. Zip them up into a sachet that you can take with you for moments when you need a boost of creativity, or use to decorate your living or work space. (This project was inspired by the many development swatches we have strewn about the Brooklyn Tweed office!)

Third, they also make charming holiday gifts, either on their own or as a companion to another handknit.

What you’ll need

1) Two swatches of the same size

You can repurpose swatches that you already have or knit up two squares following our instructions in Swatching 101. Alternatively, you can use or knit up one large swatch that you can then fold in half to create your sachet (this method leaves fewer edges to seam).

2) A darning or tapestry needle

3) A few yards of firmly-spun seaming yarn in a matching color and of equal or lighter weight than your swatch yarn

4) Locking stitch markers or coilless safety pins

5) A sharp pair of thread/yarn snips

6) Loose lavender (cedar chips or shavings work well, too)

7) Fiberfill for stuffing (you can use wool roving or polyfill)

Zip it up!

Stack your two swatches with wrong sides facing each other, then seam the bottom and the two sides following our instructions in Seaming 101.  You can play around by mixing and matching the swatches that you choose! We made the sachet pictured above using two swatches for Galloway, with one side using the main colorwork motif and the other side using the lice motif on the body of the cardigan.

Once the bottom and sides are seamed, stuff your sachet with fiberfill and a couple scoops of loose lavender using the top opening. You can sandwich your loose lavender in between the fiberfill to prevent them from coming out of your fabric or bunching at the bottom of the sachet. Finally, seam the top closed. To hide the end of your seaming yarn, snip it leaving a tail of a few inches, then bury the darning needle in the sachet from a corner while scrunching the sachet. Push the needle back out, snip the end, then let the tail retract back inside as you coax the sachet into its original shape.

Alternatively, you can fold one large swatch in half; the fold will eliminate one seam. You can then seam two more sides before stuffing and seaming the sachet closed. You can also play with swatches knit in the round. We made the sachet below with a colorwork “tube” swatch by simply seaming the bottom, stuffing the pouch, then finishing off the top.

The rectangular shape makes this particular sachet work well as an eye pillow or as a wrist rest, so you can experiment with sizing too! For example, if you enjoy knitting large swatches, you can certainly repurpose them into a luxurious lavender-stuffed cushion.

However you choose to customize your sachets, we hope you’ll delight in the opportunity to practice foundational techniques on a small but gratifying project!

Originally published on December 6, 2017.

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In the latest installment of our Foundations series, we walk you through the fundamentals of reading knitting charts — deciphering chart symbols, determining the direction of reading, working simultaneously from charts and written instructions, and more. Today, we’re sharing our tips and tricks for keeping track while reading charts so you can have a more manageable, stress-free, and enjoyable experience while knitting.

Keeping Track of Rows or Rounds

Charts are read row by row or round by round, much like how you would work a knitted item. However, as you progress from the bottom to the top of the chart, it may become easier to lose track of which row or round you’re working on in between looking at your knitting and looking at your chart! If you’ve printed out your chart, an easy way to help keep your place is to line up a ruler or other straight-edge above the row or round you’re working (shown above), then moving it up as you progress. This way, you know that the row or round directly below your ruler or straight-edge is the one you’re working, while still being able to see how your stitches on that row or round are lining up with the stitches below it.

You can also use highlighter tape or decorative masking tape to keep your place in a chart (shown above). These tapes peel off easily without damaging paper, making them convenient for moving around as you progress through your rows and rounds. They’re also semi-translucent, which is handy because you’ll know that the row or round directly below the line of tape is the one you’re currently working, but you’ll still be able to see through the tape itself and anticipate what will be involved in the upcoming rows or rounds.

If you prefer to work from charts on a computer or other device (as opposed to on paper), you can use the menu bar on your PDF-viewing application (e.g. Preview or Adobe Acrobat) as a straight-edge. Simply scroll up across the pattern PDF until the rows or rounds above the one you’re working are hidden from view. For example, if you’re currently on Row 9 of a 20-row chart, you can scroll up the chart page of the pattern PDF until Rows 10-20 are hidden from view and you can only see Row 9 directly below the grey menu bar (shown above). Then, you can scroll down, revealing the rest of the chart row by row as you progress.

Some PDF-viewing applications also allow you to create a colored line that can be moved around on the page as needed.

Keeping Track of Different Types of Stitches

If you’re working from a chart involving many different types of stitches (e.g. directional cable crosses or twists), it may become difficult to distinguish their symbols from one another on the chart. Moreover, having to continuously refer back to the chart legend may hinder the flow of your work. One good way to easily separate multiple stitch symbols (that may look similar but involve different techniques) from one another is to code them by color. You can assign different colors to different stitch symbols on your chart legend, and then color them on the chart (either with colored pencils, highlighters, or highlighter tapes) according to the color code you’ve established.

For example, in the chart shown above, we assigned the color green to a 2/2 LC-purl and the color pink to a 2/2 RC-purl on the chart legend, and then applied those colors accordingly to the symbols on the chart itself. The contrast in color then quickly and easily shows us that on Round 3, the 2/2 LC-purl is worked before the 2/2 RC-purl.

Keeping Track of Multiple Charts at Once

If you’re working from a pattern involving multiple charts, it may become cumbersome to repeatedly flip through your pattern pages to switch from chart to chart. However, there are a number of ways you can make working from multiple charts more manageable!

If you’re working different charted motifs section by section up the garment (e.g. Byway, which alternates between a Moss & Garter Block Chart and a Cable Block Chart), you may simply rearrange the pages of your pattern such that the charts are closer to the written instructions in which they are mentioned. If you’re working from the pattern on a computer or other device, some PDF-viewing applications like Preview or GoodReader will allow you to move pages around in the document.

If you’re working multiple charted motifs across the same row (e.g. Ondawa, which involves working from a horizontal sequence of different cabled chart motifs on the body), we suggest printing out your charts, trimming the pages, then taping them together in the order that the pattern instructs you to work from them. Don’t forget to print your chart legends, too! Also keep in mind that the direction in which you should read your charts — not necessarily the order in which the charts are mentioned in the written instructions — will determine the order in which you tape them together.

For example, if the written instructions tell you to:

For circular knitting:

Round 1: Work Chart A over next 10 stitches, slip marker, work Chart B over 20 stitches to next marker, slip marker, work Chart C over 30 stitches to next marker, slip marker, work Chart D over 20 stitches to next marker, slip marker, work Chart E over last 10 stitches.

For flat knitting:

Row 1 (RS): Work Chart A over next 10 stitches, slip marker, work Chart B over 20 stitches to next marker, slip marker, work Chart C over 30 stitches to next marker, slip marker, work Chart D over 20 stitches to next marker, slip marker, work Chart E over last 10 stitches.

Row 2 (WS): Work Chart E over next 10 stitches, slip marker, work Chart D over 20 stitches to next marker, slip marker, work Chart C over 30 stitches to next marker, slip marker, work Chart B over 20 stitches to next marker, slip marker, work Chart A over last 10 stitches.

… you may not want to tape your printed charts together as Chart AChart BChart CChart DChart E, even though they are mentioned in the written instructions in that order. Here’s why:

Because charts illustrate the RS of the fabric and RS rows or rounds (flat or circular) are read and worked from Right to Left (←), you should tape your printed charts in that sequence as well, with the first chart (Chart A) starting on the right and the last chart (Chart E) ending on the left: Chart E + Chart D + Chart C + Chart B + Chart A. This way, the direction and flow of your reading won’t be interrupted as you move from chart to chart. If you’re working the charts circularly (i.e. you’re working every round on the RS), they’ll already be arranged in a Right to Left Sequence. If you’re working the charts flat, they’ll already be arranged in a Right to Left sequence for RS rows and a Left to Right sequence for WS rows.

The diagram above shows more clearly how you’ll read from chart to chart on RS rows in both flat and circular knitting (red arrows) and on WS rows in flat knitting (green arrows).

And there you have it — we hope these tips will be a helpful companion to you in your journey to charted knitting territory. Have tips to share from your own chart reading toolbox or have other chart-related questions you’d like us to tackle? Feel free to leave them in the comments or get in touch with us at support@brooklyntweed.com!

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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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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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