Knitting retreat

Last night I came home from the best weekend of the year. It was already the sixth Kierot puikot (Wonky needles) retreat. The fifth one I've participated in. I recommend knitting retreats to everyone, they're just the best. I usually go on atleast three retreats every year. Even my phone's autocorrect thinks retreat junkie is a word.

The best weekend of the year was held in Iisalmi, northern Finland, at Haapaniemi ranch. There was way too much good food, lovely company and sooo many bad jokes to keep me giggling for the next few weeks. We had a sauna, a massage therapist, yarn lottery and a pop quiz. There were also two yarn shops so there were plenty of temptations.

This time I didn't have any FOs ready for photographing but I got to take pics for my friend. In the pic below, her knits are held by this scary statue that frightened me every time I ran to the sauna.

I had amazing luck in the yarn lottery and got be one of the first people to pick out my prize. As I'm a firm lover of uncolors, I picked Hedgehog Fibres Sock in the lovely pinkish gray colorway Ghost.

The Wonky needles retreat always offers some classes as well. This year you could take part in a lace knitting class and a sock blank class. The pics below show, which one I chose.

There were so many hopefuls that our teacher ended up having atleast three classes so that everyone had a chance to take part. Sock blanks are dyed the same way as yarn. The fun is seeing how differently the colors blend once you unravel the blank and knit socks from it.

I dyed my first blank into this crazy colorful speckle thingy. I just kept splashing colors on the blank until it was full.

Others had much more artistic approaches. As I watched them, I wanted to dye another blank, this time a bit more organized. I painted this grey grid on the blank and filled the empty space with purple dots. I'm a bit annoyed that the grey color didn't go through to the other side which is quite white but you never know how fun it will look once the grey, purple and white mix as it's knitted. I started knitting the first speckle blank right away once I got home from the retreat last night.

Thank you friends for the bestest of weekends.

Baby gifts

I had the pleasure to meet my friend's baby and that kind of meeting requires some extra cute knitted gifts.

What: Bits + Pieces / Veera Välimäki
How: Circular needle 3.0 mm
From: La bien aimée Merino Singles + some grey scrap yarn, 18 + 6 g

As usual in these cases, I went straight for my favorite baby patterns. Bits + pieces is my top 1 for baby hats. It's not only sweet but also a fun knit since the cap is knitted with short rows like a heel turn. One huge plus for this pattern is also that it can be knitted in just a few hours. I knitted the hat in size 6 months and took one size bigger needles than in the pattern to be sure the hat would be big enough. Baby sizes are impossible to guess, but I managed to get it just right this time.

We got goodie bags at last summer's knitting festival and those bags were full of yarn tasters. My (and my sister's, thank you very much!) bag had this amazing colorway by La bien aimée called Wee rainbow on a vespa. Finally I found a tiny enough project to use it on. The grey yarn was also in the goodie bag but I can't remember what it was.

What: Mini motif baby mittens / Lynette Hulse
How: Circular needle 3.5 mm
From: Zelda's dippins Wild and free + The Uncommon Thread Everyday Sport, 9 + 8 g

Of course I had to knit something else besides the hat. The teeny tiny thumbless mitts are essetial here in Finland because the spring weather is still quite cold. This pattern is another one of my favorites. The best part in the pattern is that it includes eight (!) different charts to choose from. You can never get bored of this pattern.

This time I chose to go with the owl chart. However, yet again, I chose too variagated yarns and the owl doesn't really show all that well. Will I ever learn? I knitted the mitts in sport weight yarn to make sure they're big enough. I've knitted these before in fingering weight yarn and those mitts are best suited for a newborn.


Uncolor craving

Some projects are easier than others. This one was a pleasant knit but took for ages to photograph.

What: Color craving / Stephen West
How: Circular neelde 3.5 mm
From: BC Garn Semilla Extra Fino, 133 g

Once upon a time when Color craving came out as Westknits MKAL, I didn't really get it at all. This enormous thing that extends to all possible directions and is full of holes. Who would want to wear it?

But then I participated on Stephen's class and saw the shawl in action. It was wonderful! Just perfect! A lovely huge loose shawl that you can wrap around your neck a few hundred times. And the holes! Those are so handy! You can pull one (or as many as you like) end of the shawl through any of the holes and it stays put without having to make a knot.

From that point forward, I had to knit myself a Color craving. Just for me. Then one time in my LYS, I bumbed into the gorgeous frozen shades of pink and mint Semilla Extra Fino by BC Garn. I already had white and light grey at home, so that was decided then. One totally colorless Color craving coming up. I would knit my Color craving in four uncolors. Very fitting, isn't it? Okey, maybe not, but very me atleast.

The shawl was a fun knit even though the ever growing rows felt a bit numbing at times. The shawl begins at the striped center section. The huge holes are made with an enormous amount of increases on every other row, always at the same spot. Next, the corners are knitted one at a time in different colors by picking up sts from two sides of the center section and knitting short rows. The shawl is finished off with a picot bind off.

Knitting this project was a blast. The only thing I would change might be the order of my colors. The pattern calls for three colors but it was easy enough to add in one more. However, hindsight is 20/20 and now I feel that the muted pink and light grey make for a bit dusty looking combo. I wish I had striped the pink with the white instead of the grey. All in all, the shawl looks sweet this way too.

The problems started once I finished the shawl. Photographing it turned out to be almost an impossible task. We tried taking pictures with my bff while visiting her but somehow none of the pics turned out good. There was always too much noise in the background or the camera focused on totally wrong places or this or that. Always something wrong. I already started using the shawl and decided to tackle the pictures later.

Finally I had a new try with mum behind the camera. Except that I was already annoyed with photographing this shawl since last time didn't work out. If you have experience in photographing knitwear, I bet you know that a sour face shows in the pictures. So, once I had a total tantrum at mum, I apologized to her and explained it was the shawl, not her. Once I got it off my chest, the pictures started coming along nicely. Sorry, and thank you mum!

The biggest issue was the shape. Just look at it! It's so long and narrow, it's nearly impossible to fit the whole thing in one picture. I dare you to try. Regardless of the challenges with the photographs, I really love the shawl. I would recommend this to anyone who likes a bit more peculiar projects.


Who thinks woolly shorts can't be hot?

"My bum freezes while  sitting in the snow," said my sister-in-law to me asking for woolly pants. Well, it so happens that I'm a knitter and can indeed grant such a wish. I headed off to find the perfect pattern and inquired about her favorite colors

How: Circular needles 2.25 mm
From: Knitlob's lair Tuulen tytär, 121 g

Right at the time she asked for woolly pants, I bumbed into a really good looking pattern for wool shorts. She told me she didn't dare to think woolly shorts could look good but sure they can if you pick the right pattern. These look even sexy.

The pattern was very simple. The pants are knit top down. First you knit a looong rib that can be kept up to keep your stomach warm or you can roll it down. After the rib you add some stitches and the rest of the pants are stockinette stitch while the ribbing continues on the sides. Few short rows make room for the booty and once the shorts are long enough, you knit a gusset and pick up stitches along it for the legs. The cuffs are knit in ribbing. Easy and good looking.

The pattern is written for just one size, M/L. My sister-in-law is size S. At first I tried to modify the stitch counts but ended up with a garment that resembeled more a cowl than something that should accomodate hips. So I scratched that and begun again this time following the pattern. To get smaller shorts, I took needles that were one size smaller. I wish I hadn't added as many stitches after the rib but they fit quite well. It's just that they could fit even better.

The most fun part of this project was learning yet another knitting language. The pattern is written in Swedish. They do teach Swedish at our schools but that was years ago and I never became fluent. I only had to resort to a dictionary a few times. It was much more fun to try to figure out the meaning from the context. The side ribbing turned out more narrow than it should because I decifered the abbrevations for knit and purl wrong. But I think you won't notice unless I tell you. Whoops.

The yarn was soft and just the right kind of semisolid. It was a pleasure to knit. I really ought to knit a few sweaters in this one. One skein was almost enough for the shorts. I ran out of yarn during the first cuff. If I'd have worked the top ribbing a bit shorter, this project would've been a one-skein-wonder.

Thank you so much, sister-in-law, for lending your bum for the photoshoot. It was a joy to knit these shorts as the gift was very much appreciated.


For a friend

My best friend ventured off into the wide world. But no worries, I have the address and can follow her every once in a while. I know where you live, and other stalker comments fit for bestest of friends. So, I flew to visit my friend and on the way there, I knitted a pair of socks - and left the socks on her feet.

What: Basic socks / Own pattern
How: Circular needle 2.25 mm
From: La Bien Aimée MCN Light + The Uncommon Thread Twist Sock, 42+16  g

As you can see, I knitted striped socks. Oh, you can't see? I don't mean the colorful bits. I striped two grey yarns and one of them had these colorful bits in it. Yep, I can't tell the greys apart myself either. But trust me, there are three row stripes with two different greys.

Last year, I had a KAL with one of my knitting friends. We were so stressed about everything happening in the world that we needed some La Bien Aimée MCN between us and the world. We both made socks and we both had some yarn left over. My friend feels that once a skein has been caked and cast on, it's so last season, so she sold her left overs to me. I also destashed the other grey yarn from her. All together I had 90 grams, plenty enough for a new pair of socks.

The Happy feet by La Bien Aimée wouldn't have been enough by itself but striping with The Uncommon Thread, I managed to stretch it into another pair of socks. I made the cuffs, heels and toes in Happy feet but the rest of the socks are striped. You can't really see the stripes but the end result is much better than I ever expected. It's actually really nice that the stripes don't show. Now the other grey just stretches the colorful bits a bit further apart.

My best friend loved the socks and was happy to keep them. She really liked how the other grey calmed down the Happy feet colorway. I hope these keep your dear toes warm!


Hazy waves

Last summer, all the participants at Jyväskylä summer knit festival got a free shawl pattern designed by the one and only Veera Välimäki. It was nice, but I wasn't going to knit it. But after some time, the design started luring me in.

What: Hazy Waves / Veera Välimäki
How: Circular needle 4.5 mm
From: Handu Handdyed Perussukkalanka + Ikke Yarns Merino/Nylon/Cashmere, 93 + 88 g

The shawl was simple and addictive. Even so addictive that I cast on and bound off in just a few days.

The pattern begins with the main color at the sharp edge of the triangle. At first it's just garter st and some short rows to shape the shawl. Just before moving on to the egding, there are few stripes with the contrast color.

The edging is worked with the contrast color. It comprises of a sea shell pattern - worked with short rows of course. Typical and beautiful Veera. There's no room for guessing who designed this lovely shawl.

When it comes to the colors, there's plenty room for guessing. It was impossible to capture their beauty in photographs. The main color is merino from a Finnish indie dyer, Handu. The color name translates to something like Earnest bogeyman. It's an interesting mix of brown and metallic green. A very special color that doesn't really show correctly in any of these pictures.

The contrast color is a cashmere/merino/nylon sock yarn from another Finnish indie dyer, Ikke. The skein is a mix of green, blue and yellows. Oh boy. I've knitted with cashmere yarns before but each time they seduce me completely. The regular sock yarn felt like barbed wire next to this, even though it was soft too. In a shawl the cashmere won't wear out so easily so I'm hoping it won't pill too much. 

This shawl is going to my aunt if she likes the colors.


How different yarns behave in active use

A reader asked me to write a post on how my knitwear has held up in active use. I went through my closet and dug up some examples of how different fibers have pilled or not pilled after years of wearing.

Let's start with alpaca. (Sorry the older links are in Finnish only.) In 2013 I knitted Still Light tunic by Veera Välimäki in Drops Alpaca. The yarn is 100% alpaca which is famous for it furriness and pilling.

I have wore the tunic a lot and the alpaca has pilled somewhat. Actually, I was expecting a whole lot more pilling when I dug this up from my closet but it was a positive surprise. Four years in use and most pilling and lint is found at the bottom of the pockets. Not too bad.

The next sweater has some alpaca in it as well. In the spring 2016 I knitted Joji Locatelli's Light rain sweater from Baa ram ewe Titus. The yarn is 50% Wensleydale, 20% blue faced leicester and 30% alpaca. Wensleydale is a very long fiber (and bit prickly on skin) but the BFL adds some softness to the yarn and I quite like to combo.

This sweater has quickly become one of my most used knits. And with this yarn, it shows. The loose fibers pill into big, visible lint - especially in the sides and sleeves because those parts rub against each other when I wear it. Despite, the sweater is so comfy and lovely, I don't really care that it pills easily.

Enough about alpaca. Let's take a look at different merino yarns and how they behave. I've knitted several sweaters in merino single ply yarns like Madelinetosh Merino Light and Hedgehog Fibres Skinny Singles. This one is Moyen Age by Hanna Maciejewska, knitted in 2015.

Merino is especially prone to pilling due to its softness. In addition, single ply yarn is more sensitive than multi-ply yarn because in single ply the short fibers of merino can easily surface and make the knit a bit furry. This sweater is showing some pilling but not nearly as much as I would have expected due to fellow knitters complaining about single ply merino yarns. The most lint can be found at the sides and sleeves that rub against each other and at the tightest point at bust height. However, the pilling is quite small and doesn't bother me much. Also, the Wrought iron sweater I designed is knitted in merino single and has held up nicely through becoming my favorite sweater.

Bulkier merino knits are represented by this Hooray cardigan by Veera Välimäki in The Uncommon Thread Merino DK. It is my go-to cardigan when it's freezing cold during the winter.

The yarn is so tightly spun that even though this is merino, there's almost no pilling. I found a bit of lint at the bottom of the right front but that's it

In addition to 100% merino, I have plenty of knitwear with silk in them. Long, long time ago in 2012 I knitted Amy Christoffers' Pomme de pin cardigan in Manos del Uruguay Silk Blend. The yarn is single ply and has 70% merino and 30% silk.

Pomme de pin is my number one cardigan. Since I finished it in 2012, it has been in almost daily use. I wrote in my project notes in 2013 that if I had to choose just one knit for the rest of my life, it would be this one. Since I've used it so much, it really shows. In addition to merino single being prone to pilling, the silk has its own quirks. The silk creates a halo at the surface of the knit even after just a few wears. The halo is a greyish, shimmering layer on top of the knit.

So the cardigan pills eagerly and is covered in the silk halo. Also, since I've used this so much, it has felted at the sleeves. That turned out to be a positive because while sewing, I accidentally cut a notch in one sleeve. I was about to burst into tears but then I saw that the felted sleeve didn't care at all. Absolutely nothing happened. I have loved this cardigan a lot and it shows. But let it show, I'll continue to wear this daily.

I've also knitted garments in 4-ply merino silk. I knitted this Laneway tunic by Veera Välimäki in the summer 2014 with The Uncommon Thread Merino Silk Fingering. Nowadays, the base is a bit different but back in those days the yarn was 50% merino and 50% silk.

You can see the silk halo in this one as well - at least if your looking at it up close and not through the computer screen. The tunic is covered in a greyish halo but there's almost no pilling. I guess it's thanks to the high percentage of silk and the multiple plies. This tunic has been such a comfy yet stylish knit that I've recently started planning to knit another one - in merino silk, of course.

What about other fibers? One of my favorite fibers is BFL, Blue Faced Leicester. It's almost as soft as merino but more durable. In 2014 spring, I knitted myself a combination of Joji Locatelli's Feathers in the wind and Veera Välimäki's Make space. The yarn I used was Kraft Hand-dyed BFL DK. It's 100% BFL.

This cardigan as well is one of my most used knits. The BFL yarn has held up nicely. It hasn't really pilled but the fiber is a bit furrier which creates a little halo on the surface of the knit. Not as clearly as with silk, though. I bet one of the reasons this hasn't pilled are the multiple plies.

At last, let's look at some wool garments. In the fall 2013 I knitted Opettajatar by Veera Välimäki in Knitlob's lair Väinämöinen. I wanted to have some structure in the garment so I chose a woolly sock yarn. Väinämöinen is 75% wool and 25% nylonia.

This cardigan has endured the test of time well and I couldn't find almost any pilling. In socks the yarn (and all other yarns as well) pill much more easily. This yarn isn't the softest yarn against skin but I knew that when starting the project. My skin deals with prickly wool quite well.

Finally, a 100% wool cardigan, Uan which I designed for Tukuwool Fingering. Tukuwool Fingering is a Finnish wool yarn. It's soft but woolly. The cardigan has been in active use and it shows quite a bit.

The yarn is spun loosely to make it soft but this also makes it prone to pilling.

I was also asked about how I tend to my knits. Wool doesn't really require washing - unless you stain it, of course. Hanging your sweaters outside for a couple of hours in the winter is enough to freshen them up. If you do wash your knits, be prepared to block them again. Reblocking might do some good every once in a while even though it's quite laborous.

Inspired by this post, I finally went and bought myself a sweater stone. I tried it on all the knits shown in this post and gathered a big pile of pilling and lint. It worked best on Drops Alpaca, Baa ram ewe Titus and Tukuwool Fingering. I can recommend it on garments that clearly pill. On the other hand, with garments that didn't really pill but had for example the halo from silk, the sweater stone tended to create pilling where the was none. If there's no pilling, it might break the surface of the yarn, so I wouldn't recommend it for those garments.