You’re Still Not on Ravelry?!

It has come to my attention that there are knitters out there who are still unaware of Ravelry.

WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN? Do you live under a ROCK??

Not to make you feel bad or anything, but you are missing out on so many wonderful features that will add to your enjoyment and delight in knitting!

What’s Ravelry?

Ravelry.com is a magical combination of social media platform and mega pattern & yarn information database.

You must create a username and password to access the platform, but it is completely free to do so. Once you’re a member, you have at your fingertips a library of hundreds of thousands of knitting and crochet patterns.

Many of them are free to download, and others you have to pay for. The staggering number of over 500,000 patterns can be a little misleading because they’re not all necessarily available to download. Anyone can add a pattern to Ravelry, even if it’s a pattern from an old magazine for instance. But mostly, you’ll find a pattern that is at least available somewhere online, even if not directly on Ravelry.

Some of My Favorite Ravelry Features

Aside from the enormous list of available patterns, there are many features I love on Ravelry.

1. Advanced Search Filters

First, I love the pattern search filter options. When you’re looking for something to knit, you can search by almost any possible category you can think of.

The Advanced Search option lets you choose by craft (knit, crochet or both), category (garment, accessory, toy, home decor), whether it’s available to download, yarn weight, design attributes… SO MANY OPTIONS!

I love using this when I have some yarn and I don’t know what to do with it. I’ll search by weight, yardage and how many colors I have. Though I’m not usually a stasher (I buy yarns with a specific pattern in mind), when I’ve had a stray skein or two this has been so helpful.

2. Projects

Though this requires a bit of input, I love the option you have to add projects to your profile. You create a project and you can include so much information: the yarn you use, the needles, who you’re making it for, sizing, etc.

If the pattern exists on Ravelry, you can automatically populate a lot of the details in your project. As soon as you link your project to a pattern, it is then visible from that pattern’s Ravelry page.

I always try to add photos (because it’s one thing to see the designer’s photos of the pattern, and it’s another thing entirely to see how the piece looks when other crafters knit it).

You can also write notes, which I always try to do. Why? Because I LOVE it when other Ravelers write detailed notes on their projects. When I’m thinking of knitting a pattern, I’ll comb through others people’s projects and read their notes.

You can even search through projects linked to a pattern and filter your search by whether or not the project has notes, and if other Ravelers (yes! That’s what we’re called!) have identified them as helpful.

In my notes, I’ll include links to videos I used for techniques, or to blog articles I found helpful. I’ll also make a note of changes I’ve made in the pattern, or issues I encountered. A couple of my projects have been added to peoples’ favorites because of my detailed notes, so that’s great!

3. Yarn Reviews

Especially when I’m shopping for yarn online, I don’t like to buy without first checking out the yarn’s Ravelry page.

There are SO many yarns listed on Ravelry, that unless you’re talking about a really small scale dyer, or someone who simply isn’t online, you’re pretty sure to find your yarn there.

You can search by fibre, by weight, you can look up your local yarn shop (assuming they’re on Ravelry!)… There are just so many options.

Most importantly, I look at the ratings and the comments (if any). People will give feedback on how the yarn feels, how it holds up after washing, whether it pills or splits, and more.

If you’re looking to try out a new yarn, the Ravelry yarn database is a good first stop for info.

4. Stashing

This also requires a lot of input, but it’s worth it if you take the time. If you keep your stash updated on Ravelry, you can more easily search for patterns to match your stash. You also don’t have to go pulling out all your yarns every time you’re thinking of what to knit.

Simplify your life, add to the power of Ravelry and stash your yarns!

I’ve also actually managed to buy and sell leftover or unwanted skeins by listing it in my stash as “will trade or sell.” If you’re suffering from stash guilt, I suggest you give that a try…

There’s So Much More

There is a whole lot more to love about Ravelry. I don’t use the forum feature much at all, but that is a huge part of the community for many people.

You can also join groups of your favorite designers and sign up to do test knits of new patterns. I follow many designers, but since I don’t spend time in the forums I never learn about a potential test knit in time.

Lots of people make heavy use of the queue feature (basically, listing what you’re going to knit next), but again I haven’t been very good about that. It is a nice thing to use, especially if you keep your pattern library and your stash up to date!

I strongly recommend you check out Ravelry if you haven’t already. Play around with it, because there are so many ways to make it work for you!

It will add to your enjoyment of knitting or crochet, and it also helps to foster a sense of community. You can add friends on Ravelry (careful! This is not like Facebook where you have to approve friends–you can be added by anyone, so be aware before you put too much personal info in).

Look me up: I’m thebraininjane and I’d love to see what you’re making!

Knitted Knockers (or Knot!)

It’s time for another knitting post! This time, I have knitted what might be called a “medical accessory”: Knitted Knockers!

Knitted Knockers are knitted breast prosthesis, designed to be comfortable, lightweight and soft. The Knitted Knockers foundation registers medical providers to sign up to receive knitted prosthesis for their patients. The foundation also gets the word out to knitters and crocheters all over the US to invite them to make and donate knockers.

Makers can choose from several different approved knockers patterns: click here to see all the different pattern options! The foundation also provides a list of approved yarns. The yarns must be cotton–no wool!

Once you’ve made your knockers from approved yarn and the official pattern, you mail them to the foundation (unstuffed) for quality control. They’ll take a look at the sizing, at your gauge, and at the quality of the knitting. If they meet the foundation’s quality standards, they’ll stuff them and get them out to medical providers and clinics who need them.

There is very high demand for these, and when I first heard about them I thought it was a brilliant idea. I didn’t realize how soon I’d need to make them for someone I loved.

Knockers Needed

In December, we learned that a family member needed to have a double mastectomy. Always a scary prospect, we were especially worried about her going into hospital due to Covid (this was before many people were vaccinated).

Thankfully, all went well, and once the procedure was over, the prognosis was very good. Of course, recovery wasn’t easy and naturally the scars from the procedure are significant and uncomfortable.

That’s when I thought of Knitted Knockers. Of course, offering to knit someone breast prosthetics isn’t covered in any etiquette guidelines I know of. I wasn’t sure how to proceed and I didn’t want to be indelicate or offend.

Thankfully, this person is a crafter herself, and we have always enjoyed chatting about knitting, crocheting and other crafts together. So I decided to make the offer in the most straightforward and friendly way possible.

My offer was well received, and it was taken absolutely in the spirit it was meant: with love.

The Knitty Gritty Details

We consulted on size and color, and I decided to knit a size A in Cascade Ultra Pima cotton yarn (color “buff”–as in, “in the–“!).

For the pattern, I chose the latest version of the knitted pattern: Bottoms up in the round on DPNs. The original pattern started at the front of the knocker (at the nipple, essentially), with only three stitches cast on, and increased from there. Many knitters found that to be difficult and fiddly, so the pattern designer, Claudia Barbo, wrote a new version in which you knit the knockers from back to front. In this version, you cast on 15 stitches, which is a lot easier to manage than just three!

My yarn was a DK weight, and the pattern called for 3.75mm needles. However, I didn’t have DPNs in that size, and since my gauge tends to be tight anyway, I went up to 4mm.

I have to admit that I am not crazy about working on DPNs. The pattern tells you to divide the stitches by three and always keep them on the same needles. This creates a gap between the stitches on each end of the needles. Usually, when I’m knitting on DPNs, I rotate around so that my needles don’t always change at the same spot.

I followed the pattern, and here’s the result:

Not the most even stitching…

The Knitted Result

Though pretty, I was not crazy with the unevenness of the stitches. Also, the decreases on the front of the knocker (what you’re looking at in this picture) created ridges which met in the middle and formed what looked like a “nipple”. Washing and pinning it out to dry helped to reduce that, but still. It could have been smoother.

Also, it was too small! When the knockers arrived at their destination and were stuffed, they were about two sizes too small.

No problemo! That’s an easy one to solve: just make it bigger!

The issue of the “nipple” created by the decreases required some trial and error.

Yarny Experimenting

There are several different patterns available on the Knitted Knockers site. I decided to try the original pattern, starting with just 3 stitches and increasing from there.

However, it was really fiddly. I had trouble keeping my needles straight and making it look any good.

Then, I tried using the pinhole cast on:

It’s a beautiful cast on, but even doing this there were ridges that wouldn’t have been smooth enough.

I tried a few more times, but I really wasn’t happy with how it was turning out.

Then, I had an epiphany:

I Know How to Crochet!

That’s right! I know how to crochet! And the crocheted knockers looked fantastic!

And so, I dusted off the ol’ crochet hooks. They haven’t seen daylight in quite a while, and I had to re-learn how to hold the yarn in my left hand. But muscle memory kicked in really quickly, and before long I had cast on using the magic ring and was chugging along.

Using the same yarn and a 4mm crochet hook, I whipped them up pretty quickly:

Tah-daaahh!

I was SO happy with how these turned out! Though denser than the knitted version, they are far smoother. I washed and dried them and they came out very soft.

Crocheted Knockers (not as catchy…)

So they’re not knitted, but they look great. They’re on their way to their recipient, and I’m awaiting feedback on these. Hopefully they’ll be as comfortable as their knitted counterparts!

You can read all the details about my knitted knockers and my crocheted knockers on my Ravelry page.

I made two sets of knockers using one skein of yarn. I have a whole other skein, so I will either make more upon request for my family member, or I’ll donate some!

Another Weekend(er)

Yet another sweater has come off my needles!

I finished my own Weekender last year, and as soon as it came off the blocking mats I knew it was something special.

I wore the thing all winter and didn’t put it away until only about ten days ago. (Full confession: I washed it when I blocked it, and then didn’t wash it again until just before I put it away for the season. Wool really is a wonder fabric.)

As soon as I finished my own version of the Weekender (by designer Andrea Mowry), I knew I wanted to knit one for everyone I loved. Everyone should be this comfortable and cozy all winter long!

Yarn Choice: NOT Superwash!

My Minnesotan sister-in-law was top of my list, as I had not yet knitted her something. I turned to trusty Knit Picks for yarns, and sent her different color options.

I made the mistake, however, of suggesting a superwash yarn. I realized later that this would simply not do!

Why not, you ask? Superwash yarn is so convenient! It’s machine-washable! Perfect for gifts!

A Brief Lesson in Superwash Wool

Well, yes and no. Superwash yarn is treated so that it won’t felt when it’s washed.

Each strand of wool yarn has little scales or fibers that stick off it (imagine those little amoebas with the flagella that help them move–kind of like that). Those scales are what cause yarn to felt to itself when agitated (aka thrown in the washer).

To make a yarn “superwash” it is treated with chemicals to strip those scales, and then coated in a resin to make it super smooth. Great! You can now machine wash your knits without worry!

Aside from the environmental concerns some have over this treatment, removing those little scales also has its drawbacks. Those little hairs, when not agitated and felted together, help a knitted fabric to hold its shape. By removing them completely, the yarn doesn’t stick to itself at all.

What does that mean? Well, when you’re knitting something small and rather light, it’s no big deal. Shawls and scarfs are fine, even mittens or a hat. But something larger and heavier, like a sweater, will simply STRETCH OUT.

Sweaters knitted with superwash wool are famous for being ENORMOUS once they come out of the machine. Some people insist you must also tumble dry the sweater for it to regain some of its shape, and I’ve heard people have had success with that. However, the idea of tumble drying wool is just too terrifying to me.

And so, despite having ordered a lovely batch of superwash wool from Knit Picks, I sent it back and instead ordered this:

Knit Pick’s City Tweed Aran yarn in color “Blue Blood”

Swatching & Gauge

The Weekender is knit in worsted weight yarn. However, the City Tweed Aran yarn I used is a “heavy worsted” or aran-weight yarn.

I have a somewhat tight gauge, so I cast on for my swatch using the needle size recommended in the pattern. For my own Weekender, I had used regular worsted weight yarn and I had had to go up a needle size. This time, I got it right on the first try!

The Weekender is knit in the round, meaning it’s knit on circular needles and you’re always knitting, never purling. Therefore, your swatch should also be knit this way. However, casting on a little tube of knitting is really annoying. So here’s a trick:

I knitted this swatch flat in the round. Whaaaaat?? you say? Yes, it’s confusing. No, it’s not difficult. Check out this video from VeryPink Knits and skip to minute 3:05. She’ll show you how to do it.

I hit gauge bang on the nose with 4.5mm needles.

Cast-On, Ribbing and Joining in the Round

Andrea Mowry has you do a tubular cast-on for the Weekender. It’s a lovely cast on and definitely worth the trouble. However, I couldn’t make heads or tails of her video. So I went back to my trusty knitting teacher, Staci Perry of VeryPink Knits:

I cast on 55 stitches to get the required 109 stitches for my pattern. After chugging along happily on my ribbing (front and back), I was ready to join to knit in the round.

Now I am convinced there is an error in the pattern. Andrea says to finish the back and front ribbing with a RS (right side) row, and to then start your stockinette stitch. However, when you do that, the “seam” stitch that runs up the middle of the front and back of the sweater doesn’t line up with a knit stitch in the ribbing. It lines up with a purl stitch.

That bothered me to no end. At first I thought I had misread the pattern. But this had happened when I knit my own Weekender last year, and a girlfriend had also had the same problem.

So I will add this correction to the pattern: Finish the ribbing on a WS (wrong side) row, and then join to work in the round and start your stockinette.

Body & Shoulder Shaping

The only modification I made in the body was to make it about 5 inches longer, as per my SIL’s request.

Before casting on, she had provided me some measurements from a favorite sweater of hers. Based on those, I’d selected which size to knit for her Weekender, and then planned some changes accordingly.

After chugging up the main body, I separated for the front and back. I always realize, when switching from knitting in the round to knitting back and forth, how much I dislike purling. Luckily, this pattern doesn’t require much.

Then at the shoulder shaping it was time for… SHORT ROWS! Some people love them, some hate them. Ever since discovering German short rows, I have grown to love them.

German short rows are simply a way of avoiding doing the traditional “wrap and turn” short row, which then requires you to do a fiddly move to “pick up” the wraps when you’re done with your short rows. They can be substituted in any pattern.

Here’s Staci Perry’s very helpful video:

When I had first finished my short rows, I looked at the purl side of the work and was a little nervous about how it looked. The Weekender is knit in the round on the “wrong side” and then turned inside-out when you’re done with the body. So it’s actually the purl side which shows on the finished sweater.

Luckily, blocking worked its magic as usual, and all the bulky wonkiness of the short rows vanished after my Weekender had had a good bath.

Unblocked, after joining at the shoulders

I did the shoulder ribbing as per the instructions. However, I did not use the tubular bind off as suggested by Andrea Mowry for the neckline.

When I tried the tubular bind off on my own Weekender back in 2020, I followed the written instructions in the pattern and found it way too tight and very uncomfortable. According to Staci Perry’s video, it’s supposed to be really stretchy, so I must have been doing it wrong. Perhaps another time I’ll try it again.

In any case, I successfully managed the 3-needle bind off for the shoulders (after dropping a stitch and having to work it back up nearly half the body of the sweater–but never mind, it all worked out), and I was ready for my sleeves!

Sleeve Island!

Hooray for Sleeve Island! To fit with the measurements my SIL had given me, I went up two sizes for the sleeves. I found the sleeves on my own Weekender a little snug, and according to the schematic, they would not have been comfortable for my SIL. Instead of picking up the number of stitches for the size 3, I picked up the number for the size 5.

I knitted the sleeves for my own Weekender at the same time using magic loop. This time, I decided to knit them one at a time, and I was glad I did!

When picking up stitches for the first sleeve, I made the mistake of not picking up a stitch right at the edge of the 3-needle shoulder bind off. The result was an unsightly bump at the end of the shoulder:

UGLY BUMP!!

Thankfully, I hadn’t gotten very far down the sleeve, and I was only knitting one at a time. I quickly ripped it back and tried again. The result was perfect:

Ahhh, much better.

After that little hitch, all was smooth sailing down the sleeve. I kept meticulous notes as to the number of rounds and decrease placement, so that when I knitted the second sleeve, they’d be exactly the same.

Here’s me, very excited about finishing the first sleeve, modelling it for my SIL and being a goofball:

Blocking and DONE

I was so excited to bind off the second sleeve that I did a little jig. The best part of this yarn, is because it is NOT superwash, it can felt to itself. That makes changing balls of yarn a breeze. I simply spit-spliced them together!

(If you’re reading this Sudha, yes, that does mean that I slobbered all over the yarn as I was working it, but in all fairness I gave it a good wash before sending it to you.)

Thanks to the magic of spit-splicing, I had very few ends to weave in when I finished. Then, after a little lukewarm bath with some Eucalan, I blotted it on towels and pinned it out according to the requested measurements. Here it is:

Tah-daaaaaahh!

Sending it Off

I forgot to take a photo of the personalized label I sewed into it. It says, “Handmade with love by Jane”. And it’s true. I really loved making this sweater. The entire process was a joy.

I also love the way it turned out. The tweedy yarn is delicious, and since it’s a blend of wool and alpaca, it’s wonderfully soft. Perfect for snuggling up on a cold Minnesota day in midwinter.

Tucked in tissue paper, placed in a pretty box, I wrapped the whole thing in parcel paper and mailed it off with a kiss (and very detailed care instructions: DO NOT PUT THIS IN THE WASHING MACHINE!!).

My SIL’s feedback was exactly what a knitter loves to hear: “It’s perfect!”

As are you, my love. Wear it in good health and with great joy.

Still Knitting…

This is tense, isn’t it??

Yesterday, it was nearly unbearable. I felt useless, sluggish and distracted all day. I couldn’t focus on anything.

So I knitted.

On Tuesday, I finished off the oats cowl I’d begun on Monday evening, completing it in under 24 hours.

The yarn is acrylic, which is not my favorite, but I am pleased with the (unblocked) result.

Yesterday, I whipped up a swatch for my Santa pillow. This was tricky. I was swatching fair isle in the round, which is never easy, and my stitches went all wonky. Also, I had some long red floats which needed to be caught on the back but showed through the white beard. I’ll need to find a better solution for that on the actual pillow.

The stitches are an absolute disaster. I’m hoping it will be better on the full-sized project when I’m not fussing with a small swatch size.

Next, as I waited for my Santa swatch to dry, I cast about for something else I could cast on.

Stash Diving

At the foot of our bed is a painted and carved wooden trunk. In that trunk are two large and one small sealed storage bags. The largest contains all my worsted weight (heavier) yarn. The second contains all my DK weight (medium weight) yarn. And the smallest contains my fingering weight yarns.

My stash.

In moments of stress and anxiety (like yesterday), I like to open it up and imagine the possibilities.

Yesterday, I stuck to the bag of fingering weight yarn.

I pulled out some absolutely gorgeous hand-dyed merino wool yarn I purchased at a big craft fair in Munich. It’s a German brand, Tausendschön, and it’s a deep midnight blue in light fingering weight.

Also in my stash is something I picked up at the Virginia Wool Festival last fall (sadly canceled this year). It’s a Shalimar Yarns fingering weight yarn called “Paulie.” The color is best described as a bright not-quite-pink but not-quite-red. It’s called “Tamarillo.” The yarn is a luxurious blend of merino wool, camel, cashmere and silk. It is SOOOOO squeezable!

I have two skeins of each of these yarns, and though they are slightly different weights, I am swatching up to see if I can use them together in a project.

Enter the All About That Brioche shawl by Lisa Hannes.

Photo copyright @maliha on Ravelry.com.

This is a deliciously squishy shawl which I knit for my mother a few years ago. I still own the pattern but do not have a shawl of my own! I think it’s time. The midnight blue and the tamarillo (which looks a lot like the pink/red color pictured here) would look great together.

That should tide me over until the yarn arrives to make the Crazyheart sweater for the Bug!

Other Fanciful Ideas

I was at Target this morning and spotted their multicolored pompom wreath in the newly set-up Christmas section.

(Don’t get me started on how ridiculous it is to have Christmas decorations up in EARLY NOVEMBER. What about Thanksgiving?! Do we just IGNORE that holiday??)

Looking at this in more detail, I decided it would be relatively easy for me to make one myself. All that worsted weight yarn I have in my stash is in mainly Christmas colors. I bought it last year at A.C. Moore when they were going out of business.

It should be easy to build a stiff backing to glue the pompoms onto.

Easy! I have two different sized pompom makers, and have a great technique involving a fork for making smaller ones. Three sizes of pompoms should do it, and if I get started now I should have plenty by Christmas!

I’m going to be SO busy!

And Now

I’m off to check the election results for the umpteenth time today.

I had hoped that writing this article would kill more time. Sadly, it hasn’t taken me all that long.

Fantasy knitting

Fantasy Knitting

You’ve heard of fantasy football? Well this is nothing like fantasy football. Let’s just make that clear from the start, shall we?

Since I am still off the knitting, it’s given me plenty of time to fantasize about what I want to knit once I’m allowed to. I’ve browsed through my copies of PomPom Quarterly for ideas, but mostly I’ve turned to the wonderful online world of:

Ravelry!

I have dutifully updated my stash on Ravelry, and because of the wonder of this database, I can then look at what other people have knit with my yarns and be inspired.

Of course, I inevitably start looking at patterns that do not call for the yarns I have stashed. Oh, dear…

Projects I’m Dreaming Of

© Martina Behm on Ravelry

Case in point: the Obvious shawl by Martina Behm.

I do not have all the sport weight yarn necessary to make this pattern! I don’t even own the pattern! What I do own are several other patterns that I haven’t knitted yet.

So let’s focus on the patterns I actually own, shall we?

In My Ravelry Library

© Brooklyn Tweed/Jared Flood

First off, the Statis pullover by Leila Raven for Brooklyn Tweed. I have been wanting to make myself a yolked sweater for a while now, and I’ve seen this one in the flesh before. The original pattern did not have the contrasting color around the neckline, but when I saw it like this I fell in love with it. Happily, I also have a yarn to use for this project.

Originally purchased for another sweater, I decided against knitting that one and have set the yarn aside for this baby. It’s a gorgeous O-Wool O-Wash fingering in colors I do not usually select. It’ll be nice to branch out from my usual greens/blues.

tanisfiberarts on Ravelry

Next up is Tanis Lavallee’s Seaboard sweater. This one is an absolute gem. It’s got so many interesting details, it makes me drool! I love the dropped shoulders, the split hem, the boat neck, the combination of lace and cables… Pretty much everything about this is lovely.

Once again, I do not have a yarn for this project. So this one will have to wait, unfortunately, until I work through some of my stash.

Third is a pattern I’ve knit before, but in child sizes. Tin Can Knits make wonderful patterns for beginner knitters, and their Flax Lite sweater pattern is a favorite for baby gifts. I’ve knitted versions of this for my Bug and for other people’s kids. Now, however, I want to make it in adult size for my Chico.

© Tin Can Knits

It’s an easy top-down sweater knit in the round. The garter stitch detail on sleeves will look great on Chico, emphasizing his shoulders. The pattern is unisex, and shouldn’t require any shaping, but I can play with it and see if I want to taper it slightly just below the shoulder blades to give it a slimmer waist. I’ve never done any customizing, so we’ll see how that goes.

I bought yarn for this project at a fiber festival in Virginia back in the fall. But I had a forehead slapping moment earlier today when I realized that this sweater quantity of yarn I have is in DK weight, not fingering!! D’oh!! I’ll have to swatch and see what can be done.

Alternatively…

© Jill Zielinski

I’m writing this on Valentine’s Day, and the newly released Quill Crossing infinity scarf just went on sale for a 42% discount. So… I bought it.

But it calls for DK weight yarn! I have DK weight yarn! That’s justification, right? …Right…?

Okay, I have a problem.

Soon! SOON!

All of these plans and ideas are purely theoretical for the time being. I’ve also got the Mjolnir hat to re-knit, and I’m working on my ongoing Tempestry project (more information to follow).

My physical therapist has given me the go-ahead to knit for 10-15 minutes a day, with stretches before and afterwards. I have to be very careful of my posture, too.

Does anyone have any good suggestions??