Springtime Yarn

It’s sunny here today and even tho its still cold oputside that makes me think of springtime…and what yarns I have in my stash to knit with this Easter. So I thought I would flash some stash spring themed yarns today…

So first up I have a local hand dyer – Dye Candy – Lindsay AKA Hutch is a magician when it comes to colour combos and looking at this skein makes my heart melt. I love the greens, yellow and pinks that she has incorporated on this…so much so that I bought two different sock bases and a DK base in the same colourways lol!!

Dye Candy SW Merino Cashmere/Nylon Sock in colourway Prairie

IMG_0850Next up we have some yarn from one of my favourite yarn brands – Malabrigo! Two skeins of pink… one in Rios English Rose (left) and the other in Baby Silkpaca Lace in Fuchsia (right).

Malabrigo Yarns are a firm favourite of mine. You get really good quality for reasonable price per skein. I always recommend these yarns to new knitters as a good way to try natural fibres and move away from acrylic. I’m not a fan of acrylic myself but there is a place for it and I did start out using it as a new knitter so I can’t complain. But these days my view is everyone’s time is precious so why spend it with acrylic on the needles and not some fabulous Merino, Cashmere, Alpaca… or other natural fibre.

Now when you think of springtime the colour you will think of first is probably yellow… and probably because spring is represented by daffodils. The next yarn I’m going to flash is some fabulous lace weight from Eden Cottage Yarns. Victoria is passionate about hand dyeing and her colour palate comes from the landscapes around her. This skein is Pegasus Lace which is a beautiful baby alpaca and silk in a very bright yellow colourway called Dandelion.


Now living in Northern Ireland when you think of springtime you also think of the green fields in the meadow. Jenny from Townhouse Yarns has expertly hand dyed this next Skein on her Chatham Lace base of Merino and silk which has sadly been discontinued so I suppose this yarn is now vintage stash!IMG_0846

Another favourite of mine is Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light. This yarn is soft and has a lovely stitch definition. This colourway is a limited colourway from the Loop called London Cosmopolitan, and a gorgeous shade of warm orange with subtle hints of pink.

Finally another Irish hand-dyer. This skein has been in my stash for a few years now and I still haven’t decided what it will become (suggestions please!) but it is so pretty to look at and whats not to love about Alpaca, Silk & Cashmere right? Coolree Yarns are based in Wexford and you definitely want to get your hands on a skein or two! This skein has been dyed in a lovely spring blue colourway called ‘Cornflower’.

So what yarns are you lusting over this spring? Please leave me a comment and let me know…


Friday FO: Marilyn

Well hello again folks..and very Happy New Year to you all!! Did you make any new years resolutions? If you did have you been sticking to them? Or perhaps not?

Did you know by now (mid January) most people have got out of the habit and drifted back into their old ways. So this year I’ve not bothered with the pain of resolutions. Not that I ever actually really did them anyways but you will remember back in 2014 I decided to cold sheep for 6 months – I did 5 months in the end but it only made me go crazy buying when I came off the sheep. So I’ve learnt that this sort of resolution shit doesn’t work for me.

So this year I’m doing goal setting, small baby steps to help me move towards my bigger goals. But by now you are probably thinking why am I telling you all this…

Well in the background for the last year or so I have been doodling designs, making samples, writing patterns, and even going as far as getting some test knit…but sadly I’ve lacked the confidence to actually publish the darn things.

So this year is about pushing that fear (as Susan Jeffer’s said “…feel the fear and do it anyway!”) and throwing it in the skip and just doing it. So I have…I’ve only gone and bloody published my first pattern folks!!

Let me introduce Marilyn

image (1)

Marilyn is a wide scarf that is knit in one piece from edge to edge; that is also large enough to use as a wrap draped around your shoulder on colder days.  The pattern sample was knit using Debbie Bliss Fine Donegal yarn in a really gorgeous colourway called “Autumn Gold“.  I’m a huge fan of Debbie’s yarn and this one doesn’t disappoint. Not only is the colour range fabulous (it comes in 24 different shades) but I think the yardage per ball is pretty generous at 380 metres.

The inspiration for this pattern came from one of my favourite classic films “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes“. I love the oldies, the Carry Grants, the Dories Days, the Audrey Hepburns. I was flicking through one of my stitchionary books and came across a diamond panel I liked. That was the beginning of the design and the reason for the pattern name.

The pictures were taken my myself at the local harbour in Carrickfergus. I have been developing my photography skills over the last year and its has become one of my favourite places to dander around. Its actually very relaxing just wondering about clicking away with the camera. These pictures were taken on my bridge camera but I have just invested in a Nikon DSLR so I’m hoping that I will get better with the manual mode function going forward. The only problem I’m sure most people have is finding a willing model. (I’m actually looking for someone to model some mitts and hats – if your interested give me a shout plz!!)










So as I hit the publish button last Sunday my anxiety hit the roof. The chatterbox went into overdrive. But my dear knitting friends cheered me on. I love them all dearly, they are such a great bunch of gals. I even got a pengiun cheering me on with pompoms… thanks Laura!! And thanks to the rest of you for all your kind wishes on twitter and facebook.


To make you will need 3.25mm needles and 415 yards of fingering weight yarn.  You could use a heavier weight yarn if you wish, or likewise a lace weight but you will need to factor that the yardage will differ from the pattern.  I’d actually love to see Marilyn knit up in a variety of yarn weights, especially a heavier yarn like Aran/Worsted. Though obviously you may need to reduce the yarn repeats otherwise you might end up with a blanket…unless that’s what you want lol.

The pattern is available to purchase on ravelry here and until midnight on Sunday 17th January 2016 you can grab this pattern for 30% off with the code MARILYN1ST – happy knitting!

So the pressure is off a little. Now I’ve managed to publish one and ticked my ‘one a month’ goal for January I feel great! I’d love to hear your thoughts about Marilyn. Would you knit it and if so what yarn would you use?

In the meantime I’m already working on my next design, which will be out soon. What’s on your needles?

Friday FO: The Wedding Shawl

The Wedding Shawl

Last week I was on a mission…a mission to knit my friend Lisa her wedding shawl. I’d left it to last minute with 14 days to make it before the big event. I know!! The stash was raided (see I’m still stash busting!!…more on progress of that soon!) and I found the perfect yarn – Malabrigo Sock – in a natural cream shade. I knew that her dress was ivory but I’d no idea of the style so choosing a shawl pattern blindly was difficult – I needed something that I knew I would be able to knit in a week to leave me enough time to do the finishing, but also something that would be pretty for a wedding but not too fancy as to over-power the dress (its really all about the dress on the day!).

There was much trawling on ravelry. I am a huge shawl fanatic and have many (and I mean many!!) shawl patterns in my library. So choice and variety was definitely not an issue! Sometimes too much choice is a bad thing and I did feel a little overwhelmed in making sure I picked the right one. It felt a little like Don’t Tell The Bride (and for those of you outside the UK this a very popular show here on the BBC were the groom plans the wedding – including picking the dress)…would Lisa like the finished shawl? I was in a real panic but I did manage to narrow my list down to five options…

  1. The Bamboo Wedding Shawl by Purl Soho
  2. Holden by Mindy Wilkes
  3. Out of Darkness by Boo Knits
  4. Fantoosh by Kate Davies
  5. Sunflower Shawl by Tin Can Knits
The Holden Shawl as over 8,400 projects on Ravelry

Time was ticking and after much consideration I decided to go for the much popular Holden Shawl. This shawl is a top-down style which initially is all increasing with yarn overs (YO) and stocking stitch (st-st) – so a pretty good pattern when your under pressure.

Bonus is the pattern has three sizes (small, medium and large) and you knit the stocking-stitch part until you get to the correct number of stitches for whichever size your making – this means you can slip the shawl over your shoulders as you knit and check the size. Initially I had planned to go for the large size – I certainly had enough yarn – but by the time I got to the medium size stitch count I knew it was going to be way to big going large. The benefit of this meant I could get started on the pretty wavy lace pattern sooner 🙂

The whole week every minute I had I was making that shawl – I knit it in bed, at the kitchen table, on the sofa, in work while having my lunch at my desk, to much glee from colleagues – they even got in on the act of asking how it was progressing each day. It became quite the talking point and this spurred me on to get it finished. There’s nothing like a deadline to get stuff done lol.

By Saturday (1st August) I had finished the wavy lace and was ready for cast off. Lisa wasn’t getting married until Thursday 6th August – so I had time to bling it with a beaded cast off…right? Yeah!! But boy that cast off took AGES!!! It was worth it though as the bead placed on the tip of each picot point really gave the shawl a subtle ping of bling to make it that extra special for a wedding. Though it did kill my eyes trying to put the teeny tiny bead on the crochet hook and then onto the stitch. But after three evenings it was done!!! Yeah!! Whoooopppp!!

Showing the beads placed on each picot tip


Just the finishing left to do and then it was ready for the handover to the bride for the final approval. As every knitter knows the handover part is the anxious bit, though more so to a non-knitter as they don’t understand the work that has gone into making the finished piece. Thankfully Lisa is a fellow crafter and when I dropped it round to her the night before the wedding she loved it!! I was so happy. I got a sneak peak of her dress and was so pleased to see that the shawl would work with it really well.  Mission completed! 🙂

Finished shawl – bigger than expected but so warm!

…I got so many compliments and everyone loved it!

Lisa loved it and has very kindly allowed me to showcase some of her wedding pictures with her wearing the shawl. She wore the shawl down the isle and it came in handy to keep her warm for the journey to the reception.  She told me afterwards “I got so many compliments and everyone loved it”. I’m sure you will agree that she looked stunning!

Lisa the ‘Bride’ wearing her Wedding Shawl – doesn’t she look gorgeous!


Lisa had hand knitted flowers in her bouquet
Lisa & Colin – gorgeous picture of the happy couple!
Close up colour image of the shawl. You can see how everything worked really well together here
The new Mr & Mrs McNally

And as for the shawl pattern – I would definitely recommend everyone makes at least one -in fact I’ve already cast-on my second! Although this time round I don’t think it will have a beaded cast-off lol.

So what’s on your needles? Leave a comment below…

Tutorial Tuesday: Substituting Yarn


There are several reasons why a knitter might choose to use a different yarn from the one specificed in the pattern. Perhaps the yarn has been discontinued, or maybe the yarn is outside your budget or you might even already have a large stash (*cough* – like me) that you want to use something from that instead of buying new yarn.

So how do you choose a substitute yarn?

New knitters especially get a bit nervous about substituting a yarn.  It’s actually not a difficult thing to do but there are a few things that you need to consider…

1. Tension / Gauge

Probably the most important thing for a knitter is understanding tension/gauge – and believe me I never thought I’d say that! Every knitter’s tension is different. The tension indicated in a pattern produces the dimensions for the pattern size that the designer got with the indicated needle size.

To test your tension against the recommended needle size in the pattern you will need to knit a swatch.  This is essential before you start a project – especially a large project.  There is nothing worse than spending all your time (and money) only to find that the fair isle sweater you’ve been working on for months has come out too big or too small. Imagine the pain of having to frog (rip) that one :-O

If your tension measurements show that you have too many stitches per inch then you will need to go up a needle size while if you have too little then you needle to go down a needle size.  Your individual tension will affect the amount of yarn you use.  So it is important to follow the pattern tension to ensure you have enough.

But how do you measure your tension?

The tension indicated in a pattern could say for example 28 sts by 28 rows over 4 inches. So this means you will need to have 7 stitches across per inch and 7 rows per inch.  You’ll need to knit a square – pattern usually says in stocking stitch – and then lay this flat and use a ruler to measure if your tension is correct.

Remember to make your swatch big enough – its not always enough just to cast on the amount of stitches for 4 inches and then measure the swatch to see if its this size – yarn stretches.  Its also important to wash and block your yarn before you make a final call about tension.  This will give you a full idea as to how the yarn will perform once you have finished your project.

A basic ruler does the job when measuring your tension but you can buy some specialy made tension rulers for knitting.  Tangled Yarn sell both a small and large gauge checkers which I think are very cute.  Churchmouse Yarns & Teas sell a tension ruler that also doubles up as a needle sizer.

2. Yarn Weight

If the pattern doesn’t tell you the yarn weight you can usually work this out from the indicated needle size. For example if it says 5mm it is most likely that an Aran or Worsted weight yarn is appropriate. If you are a member of ravelry you can search the yarn database for the pattern yarn and then you can see details about the yarn like it’s weight, gauge, needle size and fibre type.


The Craft Yarn Council has published the following standards for yarn. You can view this document on their website here


3. Yarn Fibre

Yarn comes from many different fibres these days. Back in the seventies and eighties when knitting was going through a revival your yarn was just called ‘wool’ and you bought it in the ‘wool shop’. However, wool is a generalised term for the yarn that comes from a sheep and there are many different breeds including Merino, Blue-Faced Leicester and Shetland. These days there are much greater options for knitting yarns such as Alpaca, Angora, Cotton, Silk, Mohair, Bamboo and Linen. In fact you can even get Chiengora which is a yarn spun from dog hair!

When you substitute your yarn you may need to consider the fibre that the pattern yarn was made from. Sometimes it is best to use a particular type of fibre for a project – for example if you are making a shawl you will want a good drape and perhaps a blend with some silk would be good, versus if you wanted to make a sweater perhaps a cotton yarn might not be a good idea as cotton stretches a lot with wear (unless you plan to knit a very slouchy sweater).

4. Yardage

Every yarn has a ball band with some essential information on it including the yards/metres for a ball/skein of yarn. It is just not enough to match the yarn by the number of grams as every 50g ball will have different yardage. A simple mathematical calculation (yes there’s lots of math in knitting) can help you work out how many balls of the substitute yarn you will need. An example has been shown below.


So the pattern suggests that you use Hedgehog Fibres Sock yarn but you have some Debbie Bliss Rialto 4-ply weight in your stash.  The pattern says two skeins i.e. 200grams.  Its not just straight forward enough to have 200 grams of the substitute yarn.  You need to work out the different yardage as follows:

PATTERN:         200 grams = 383 yards X 2 = 766 yards total
SUBSTITUTE:   766 divide by 198 (yards per ball) = 3.86 balls needed

Okay so maybe this wasn’t such a good example because the answer came out that you need same amount in grams i.e. 200gs of the substitute yarn.  But that is down to the yardage per 50 grams being similar.  If the yardage of the substitute yarn wasn’t as generous for example lets say it was 150 yards per 50 grams then this calculation (766 / 150) would have worked out as 5.10 balls.

So what’s your experience with substituting yarns? Have you had problems or perhaps you’ve come up with a different method?

I’d love to hear your thoughts. You can leave a comment below.

Copyright: All images and text are copyright of Gillian Harkness unless otherwise stated. Please ask if you want to use them first.