Tag Archives: Yarn

Advanced Intarsia Tips

Another blog entry from the NattyKnitter archives, this time from May 2009. I can honestly say that I am the master of most intarsia at this point. Fair Isle…now that’s a different story.

For the last few days, I’ve been working on an intarsia design and on my intarsia skills at the same time. I think I’ve finally cracked it, so here are some tips which might help you to crack that intarsia code too.

Intarsia Work

1. The yarn you’re knitting with needs wrapping together with the different color of yarn *only* if they’re in the same row. It sounds pretty obvious, but when you’re actually knitting, it can seem like a good idea to wrap the yarn around the loose end in the row below. This is not necessary. If you have a full row of one color, just knit right across, no matter what’s happening on the row below.

2. “Leave the Left Leaners”. If the line of the image is leaning left then don’t wrap the new color around the old color, of course when you turn the knitting, the left leaning line becomes a right leaning line. So you are only wrapping the yarn in every other row on a diagonal. This stops the knitting from looking pulled and pinched.

3. Avoid accidental wraps. Sometimes I find myself knowing that the yarn doesn’t need wrapping, but still reaching for the new color from underneath the old yarn. This is especially difficult to avoid when the color change is only needed for one stitch. Under these circumstances, I make a concerted effort to bring the new color over the old one.

and some other tips, reprinted from a previous blog entry

4. Learn how to make center pull bobbins, they are really easy and much more manageable than plastic bobbins or sprung wooden clothespins. Take the ball of yarn in your right hand but hold the end against your left palm with your left thumb. Now do the Vulcan salute or keep your little and ring fingers together and your middle and index fingers together (seriously this does work, just bear with me). Then wrap the yarn from the ball around these fingers in a figure of eight. When you have enough yarn on your fingers to make the bobbin, cut the yarn at the ball and slide the loops off your fingers. Fold the loops against one another and wrap the cut end tightly around the bobbin, tucking it under itself to secure. The end you knit with is the one you were holding with your thumb, it should pull out of the center of the bobbin really easily.

5. Don’t be frightened of knots. Knots are not usually a big part of knitting (ironically). Normally there should be enough tension in your work that you don’t need to knot a new ball onto an old ball, especially as you would only do this at the beginning of the row. However in intarsia, knotting in a new yarn color gives you something to pull against when you’re trying to establish tension.

6. Swallow your pride and admit that you’ll have to do some tension adjustment. I never have to do tension adjustment in ordinary stockinette stitch, but with intarsia you have to expect to be pulling on loose stitches to redistribute the excess yarn throughout the rest of the row.



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A Knitter Wishlist

This year I’ve been making wishlists and using the Etsy treasuries to get my point across. But then I realized that there are plenty of knitting supplies I’d like that aren’t even on Etsy. So it’s time to make another list, just in case.

Let’s start with yarn. Now, I am not a yarn snob, I’ll knit with acrylic, with something shiny, with superwash, with angora mix, with just about anything. But sometimes you need a little bit of luxury. I’ve been coveting this yarn for a while. It’s Holyhock Farm Alpaca in a worsted weight, it’s quite unusual to find a worsted weight alpaca yarn and even more unusual to be able to buy it straight from the Alpaca farmers. The farm is in Becker ,Minnesota and although the Alpacas who produced this yarn have passed away now, there are great stories about the younger Alpacas on Teresa’s blog. I am vaguely plotting a series of woodland creature patterns and some luxury owls, I think this yarn will be perfect for them.

Whilst we’re on the subject of yarn, I need more practice yarn. When I start a new design project, I often knit it in practice yarn first, the yarn needs to be resilient, inexpensive and a light, neutral color. This huge skein of Knit Picks undyed Swish DK would be just right for that.

I plan to master some new knitting techniques in 2012 and as I’ve never knitted a pair of socks, I thought this would be a good place to start. Heel turns come in many shapes and sizes and it seems Sock Knitting Masterclass by Ann Bud explores a lot of them. I like that the book has so many great designers as contributors. I’m also really intrigued by Brioche knitting, I’ve read a lot about it recently and the Knitting Brioche Essential Guide to the Brioche Stitch by Nancy Marchant looks very interesting.

If Santa is still looking for stocking stuffers, he could always aid me in my quest to go all bamboo. I love bamboo needles, but I don’t have many pairs of straight needles, in fact I often knit up smaller creations using dpns. A top tip I’ve recently discovered for sourcing these needles is to keep your eye on the Joann‘s coupons. They often have coupons for % off non-sale items and that usually includes the bamboo needles.

It’s actually not a very long list you know. I’m sure Santa could fit all of this down the chimney.

What does your knitters wishlist look like?

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Adventures in Sparkly Yarn

Washable children’s toys and glitter just don’t go together, so I don’t often knit with sparkly yarn. However, as the season of sparkle approaches I thought it was time to try knitting my designs as Christmas tree decorations.

The impulse to buy something sparkly was so strong that I couldn’t wait for an online order to arrive. I reasoned that if it was in my LYS, then it was probably readily available. This has turned out to not always be true, but at least I got my yarn fix straight away.

The first yarn I tried was GGH velour-lame, it’s one of those surprisingly hard to find yarns, although you can still order it directly from GGH. Velour-lame is a ribbon yarn, I’ve had limited success with ribbon yarn in the past, I think it looks great in loose knits or lace work, but it never really works for toys.

Something that set velour-lame apart for me is that it’s a nylon ribbon yarn with a chain stitch of gold thread running down the center. The nylon and chain stitch combination means that this ribbon yarn has a small amount of “give” in it, it’s unusually springy.

I knitted  a small Christmas tree with this yarn, it’s a foreshortened version of the Christmas Tree pattern. The tree pattern actually has a number of holes knitted into it’s design, so this was a great match. I was very pleased with this little tree. The only thing I didn’t like about this yarn was it’s availability.

Next up was something more luxurious, a hand painted sparkly yarn by HPKY. Once again, this yarn is going to be hard to get hold of, OK probably impossible as it was hand painted just for Atelier Marin, where I bought it. It’s a baby alpaca, merino and polyester mix with a silver nylon core, it is super soft, especially when it’s knitted up (when can you usually say that?) and because it’s a bulky weight it would be perfect for a cowl or scarf.

In the store, the yarn was shouting “buy me, I am fluffy and sparkly, like a Christmas owl”.  The yarn did not lie and knitted into a completely adorable owl.The owl was a little larger than usual, because of the yarn weight, but I figure that some people have large trees.

From exclusive luxury to cost effective and readily available, the next yarn I tried was Lion Brand’s Vanna’s Glamour. It’s a sport weight yarn, a single ply acrylic twisted with a thinner strand of metallic polyester. When I bought this yarn at Joann’s, I thought it would look terrible knitted up, actually I was wrong.

I chose to knit an owl again but this time it was a tiny owl, only 2″ tall. I think that the sheer cuteness of this tiny creation plus the excellent light catching properties make this my favorite of the Christmas tree owls I knitted. I went back to Joann’s and bought some red and white, I’m currently working on a heart with wings and then I’ll make a white owl.

My least favorite owl was knitted with Lang Yarns Lanalux. There’s nothing wrong with this yarn, it’s a soft merino extrafine and polyester mix and I love that the shiny polyamid is blue. Unfortunately black is just not a holiday color. This owl looks sinister, I tried giving him eyes, but that actually made him look stranger. It did occur to me that this yarn would be great for knitting spiders with, look out for them at Halloween next year!

The last yarn (for now) was Sublime Lustrous Extra Fine Merino DK. This merino yarn is encased in a fine nylon netting, a little bit like yarn sausage, it gives the yarn an opalescent sheen which is an unusual way to get sparkle into your knitting.

I knitted a Wings of Love with this yarn and I’m mostly happy with it. It definitely looks better at night when the sheen is more obvious. During the day it looks a little shabby chic, which is also not bad. I am going to keep looking for a good sparkly yarn to knit this little ornament with, I’ll let you know how I get on.

Meanwhile, if you have any recommendations for good shiny yarns, I’d love to hear about them.


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The Lure of the LYS

I have been resisting a trip to the local yarn store since December. It’s only a month, but it really has been a monumental effort.

On Sunday (just before the Superbowl) I finally cracked and went to Imagiknit for something soft, bulky and brown to knit into a throw pillow with this lovely blue stuff, which was hand spun by GobleWarming and has knitted up very nicely.

I went in, was assisted by the excellent and helpful staff, bought two hanks of this wool/alpaca/silk blend made by Mirasol . It’s extremely luxurious and has a slight sheen from the silk:

Job done, in and out and only spent…well it was a lot, but it was a luxury yarn and now I didn’t need to go back, right?


Obviously in my rush to leave the store and not spend any more money, I forgot to look at the yardage, yes, that’s right, I should have had three hanks. So later today instead of going running, I will be returning to the LYS for more of the same, oh and something to knit up a hug monster for the photos for the pattern, oh and maybe look at the cotton, I haven’t done much knitting with cotton and I’m curious about it.

It’s a slippery slope. A slippery, yarn filled slope.


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How do you deskein your yarn?

Getting your yarn from a skein to a ball is dull and sometimes backache inducing. The skein needs to be kept taut in order to stop the yarn becoming tangled as it unravels (and believe me, it really does get tangled) but there are plenty of ways to achieve this.

As you can see, I use two dining room chairs.

The other methods known to me are:

– sitting with your legs out in front of you on the floor and wrapping the skein around your own feet

– asking a patient spouse or friend to hold the skein as you unravel it

– just using the deskeining gismo in the yarn store (I’m a bit scared of the gismo though, as it does look like a pronged torture device)

Does anyone else have any good ways to get your yarn into a ball?

(And yes, that is the half kilometer skein of yarn on the chairs.)


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The Trouble with Bulky Yarn

I have a problem with bulky yarn. I never remember to buy enough.

Looking at the photo above, you would not think I’d need *more* of this stuff, but it’s all in the weight.

A standard sport, dk or worsted weight ball of yarn has about 150 yards in it and this is plenty of yarn to complete the largest of my patterns to date. However with bulky yarn you simply need more of it to complete the same pattern and it often comes in smaller balls, as small as 50 yards. I need to learn that when I’m dealing with bulky yarn, just pulling one delicious skein out of the LYS sale section is only going to result in more balls of unused bulky yarn!

For example, right now I need 220 yards of bulky yarn to test knit a hug monster. I have all the lovely coloured yarns above, but only enough to knit it in this:

Nice yarn, in  a massive 460 yard skein. But it’s such a subdued and earthy tone, monsters should be more interesting colours, right?

Can I really justify another trip to the LYS?

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Not Just for Knitting With

spiderweb It’s not a great photo because spooky things come with added low lighting difficulties. But this is a spiderweb that my son and I made in his room yesterday. We used some left over Berrocco Comfort DK and a bag of plastic spiders. It looks great.

Have a Happy Handmade Halloween!

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