All posts by Rachel Brockman

Day 12 of Winter

For the last installment of our blog series on our 12 Days of Winter Kit Collection, we’re unveiling the Twining Vines Cowl Twining Vines features Amphora. It is a perfect yarn for colorwork because its gorgeous halo blends the fibers together seamlessly. The effect is almost like an impressionist painting.

In addition to carrying two colors throughout this pattern, you’ll also need to trap your floats. It’s simpler than you might think. This tutorial is useful for any stranded project. If you’d like a closer look at the images, simply click on them.

Notice the large number of white stitches between the blue stitches. This is an area you’ll want to “trap” or “catch” your float to prevent any snagging.
Begin by knitting across your row as usual. Continue until you reach the section that requires trapping a float. Usually, an area that requires trapping floats will have more than five stitches.
As a rule of thumb, I trap my floats every five stitches. I’ve knit across four stitches, and I will trap my float on the fifth stitch.
Simply place your non-working yarn over the right-hand needle, but do not knit with it.
Wrap your working yarn around the right-hand needle to knit. Make sure your non-working yarn (the blue yarn) is over the needle and the working yarn (the white yarn).
Begin to knit the stitch. Notice how I’m holding the blue yarn. It is still above the white yarn, but it is not wrapped around the right-hand needle. Take care not to pull the non-working  (blue) yarn through the stitch. 
Knit the stitch. As you can see, the blue yarn is still at the back of the work. You can continue knitting as usual after this. That’s really how simple it is!
When you peek at the wrong side of your work, you’ll be able to see where you trapped the float. Notice the blue bump in the middle of the white stitches? That is where I’ve trapped the blue yarn underneath the white yarn.

Just like that, we’ve released all 12 of the patterns featured in our 12 Days of Winter Collection. We sincerely hope you’ve been enjoying our blog series highlighting each pattern. You can find the Twining Vines kit on our website here.

Now that you’ve seen them all, I’d also like to emphasize that tomorrow is Small Business Saturday. What better way to show your support for your local yarn shop than by stopping by to pick up one of our kits on Small Business Saturday?

Day 11 of Winter

What are some things that come to mind when you think of winter? Seeing your breath in the cool air? Staying warm at home as snow falls softly to the ground? Building snowmen and coming inside to a cup of warm cocoa? Whatever you envision on a cold winter’s day, Tundra is sure to keep you warm.

Tundra is cabled hat that captures the look of icy winter days, yet keeps you snug and warm. It features all-over cables that begin at the cuff and are carried into the crown shaping.

If ever there was a yarn meant to be coupled with cables, Dona would be that yarn. It has impeccable stitch definition, which is perfect for the interlocking twists and turns of cabled fabric. The Tundra hat combines simple, but beautiful cables with the plump and incredibly soft Dona.

Like each kit in the 12 Days of Winter Collection, the Tundra Kit comes in a giftable package. Perhaps you’re the knitter doing the gifting (isn’t the act of knitting a gift to yourself anyway?)–great news–this pattern is sized baby through adult, so it’s perfect for anyone special in your life.

By the way, I’d be remiss not to mention that today is also Thanksgiving! Happy Thanksgiving to each and every one of you. I hope your day is full of delicious food, laughter among loved ones, and some comfort knitting while you recover from all of that feasting!

You can find the kit for Tundra on our website here.

Day 6 of Winter

The Pine View scarf is a perfect winter accessory. It’s large, warm, and has an excellent amount of squish because it’s knit in our Deluxe Chunky.

This pattern only uses charts, but don’t let that intimidate you! The stitches are not at all complicated. You’ll get a nice rest at the center of the scarf, too. Personally, I prefer charts over written instructions because I’m a visual person. Charts enable you to see the stitches before you create them.

With that said, some charts can seem overwhelming. You might feel as though you’re getting lost in the grid full of symbols. Fear not, because I’d like to share some helpful tips and tricks for reading charts.

  • Familiarize yourself with symbols.
    1. Take time to review the key and ensure you understand what  each symbol means.
    2. Flat or in the round?
      • Is the pattern flat or in the round? When you knit in the round, charts are read from right to left on every row. Pine View is knit flat, meaning that on right side rows you’ll read right to left, and on wrong side rows you’ll read left to right.
      • Charts that are knit flat have numbers on both the right and left sides. Charts knit in the round only have numbers on the right side.
      • Stay on track!
        1. Highlighters – Don’t cross out rows—you want to be able to go back and read previous rows in case you make a mistake. And, if you’re like me, you will make mistakes! I probably use highlighters most frequently. Simply highlight the rows you’ve completed, and read from the row above.
        2. Washi Tape – For those who prefer not to see previous rows at all, washi tape is a great solution. It can easily be removed from the paper, so you can hide previous rows and simply peel back the tape to see them.
        3. Stitch markers – For charts that have repeats, use stitch markers. It honestly makes a world of difference. A mistake is less likely to offset the entire row if you’re using stitch markers between each repeat.

You can find this kit, Day 6 of our 12 Days of Winter collection here.

Day 5 of Winter

Today we’re introducing the Nutmeg Hat and Mitten Set. The neutral set is incredibly wearable for men and women alike. Personally, I love working with undyed wool. It is rustic in appearance and goes with nearly anything. While I’m a lover of color, I equally adore the natural shades of wool. You can see more of our Deluxe Worsted Naturals collection here.

This set features all over cables and a contrasting cuff. I wanted to give this set a professional finish, so I used the long-tail tubular cast-on method.

I can easily recall a time when I felt intimidated by the Tubular cast-on method. Like many things in knitting (and in life), we often perceive new things to be more challenging than they really are. This cast-on method is one of those things. If you look at the Nutmeg set, you’ll notice that the 1×1 Ribbing seems to run seamlessly from the right side to the wrong side. Notice the lack of a cast-on edge in the photo below. You can’t tell where it was cast-on. That is the beauty of a tubular cast-on.

It takes more time than most other methods and it feels a bit fiddly at first, but it’s well worth it. It’s by far my favorite method when I’m using 1×1 Rib.

If you’d like a closer look at each photo, simply click it.

To begin, place your yarn over the needle, leave a long tail as you would with a traditional long-tail cast on. You can use a slip knot, however; I do not so that the cast-on stitches are as invisible as possible.
Hold your yarn in place with your index finger.

Separate your tail and working yarn with your thumb and your index finger. You’ll do the same way you would for a regular long-tail cast-on.
Notice that I’m tensioning my yarn the same way that I would for a regular long-tail cast on.
Working from front to back, bring your needle under the yarn around your thumb.
Bring the needle up through the center.
Working from front to back, bring the needle over the yarn around your index finger and dip underneath it, then underneath the yarn around your thumb.
Correct the tension in your yarn. You now have two stitches. Notice how there is not a bump across that stitch? This will be a knit stitch.

The motion for a purl stitch mirrors the knit stitch.

Working from front to back, bring the needle over the yarn around your index finger, dipping below it and bringing the needle back through the center.
Working from back to front, bring the needle over the yarn around your thumb, dipping below it and then below the yarn around your index finger.
Correct your tension. Notice that this stitch has a purl bump. This is a purl stitch.

Continue in this manner, alternating between knit and purl stitches until you have the required number of stitches.

Notice the difference between the knit stitches and the purl stitches.

Once you have the correct number of stitches, carefully turn your work. I highly recommend using your index finger to hold the last stitch you cast on in place. Now you’ll begin working the first foundation row.

Once you’ve turned your work, grab your working yarn and slip the first stitch purlwise with your yarn in front.
Bring your yarn to the back.
Knit the next stitch through the back loop. This will untwist the knit stitch.

Continue to slip the purl stitches with your yarn in front and knit the knit stitches through the back loop to the end of your work. Turn your work. Now you’ll begin the second foundation row.

Just as in the previous row, slip the purl stitches purlwise with yarn in front.
Knit the knit stitches normally–there is no need to knit them through the back loop because these stitches should no longer be twisted.

Repeat the last two steps to the end of the row

On the next row, simply work in K1, P1 ribbing by purling the purl stitches and knitting the knit stitches.

This is what your finished cast on should look like.

Once you’ve finished casting on, you can join your work in the round (as would be the case for the Nutmeg Hat and Mitten Set). There will be a small space you’ll want to seam. Typically I do this just before weaving my tail into the project.

This method works for projects that are knit flat or in the round. It gives your projects such a neat finish. It’s also much more stretchy than a traditional long tail cast-on.

You can find the link to the Nutmeg Hat and Mitten set here.

Day 1 of Winter

Over the next 12 days, we’re releasing a series of kits designed by the Universal Yarn Design Team. It’s a cozy, wintry collection of accessories that make perfect gifts–for yourself and your loved ones. To accompany the kits, we’d like to share a blog post each day. This series will highlight special aspects of each pattern and include inspiration, tips, tricks, and a few tutorials. For Day 1, we’re introducing the Blue Spruce Socks.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved evergreens and conifers. I’m not sure if it’s because of their fragrant needles and bark, or if it’s because their beautiful colors brought me joy during long and endlessly grey winters. Whatever the reason—I’ve always been drawn to them, so it’s no surprise that I designed the Blue Spruce Socks for our 12 Days of Winter collection.

These socks are warm, cozy, and a joy to knit. If you aren’t a fan of stranded colorwork, don’t fret! The Blue Spruce motif is achieved through slipped stitches. One color is carried at a time and only the stitches requiring the working yarn are knit—the rest are simply slipped purlwise. It requires twice as many rows, but the overall effect is very similar to the appearance of stranded knitting.

In addition to colorwork, the small details make this project ever so special. It features a 1×1 Twisted Rib cuff and an Eye of Partridge heel. My favorite detail is the slip-stitch stripe just before the contrasting-color toes.

You can find this kit, Day 1 of our 12 Days of Winter collection here.

 

 

Spice Box Color Kit: The Stratification Shawl

One of the yarns I’ve fallen most in love with since joining the Universal Yarn design team is Fibra Natura Dona. This yarn is simply gorgeous. It is soft, plump, and has excellent stitch definition. We have a variety of great kits that use Dona, but I was excited when Amy asked me to contribute to our Color Kit lineup. My design is the Stratification Shawl.

I love the Spice Box palette. These are, without a doubt, my kind of colors. I love warm colors and earth tones. I spend much of my free time outdoors and draw inspiration from the colors and textures of landscapes. I already knew that I wanted to incorporate stripes into the design, so I revisited some photos for further inspiration.

The Spice Box palette made me reminisce about a trip I made to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area outside of Las Vegas, Nevada. During my trip, I was mesmerized by the beauty in the strata, or rock layers, in the landscape. Similarly, I loved the way flora sprinkled pops of color into neutral desert landscapes. I’ve included some of the photos that inspired me to include the bold green and coral stripes into the shawl.

This shawl is a pretty straightforward project. It features top-down construction and increases occur along the sides to create a crescent shape. An alternating sequence of simple stripes is elevated with a knit-purl stitch pattern. Dona shows off the stitch pattern perfectly. Finally, the shawl is finished with an I-Cord bind off. It is an excellent project for both beginning and more advanced knitters. I sincerely hope you enjoy this pattern as much as I enjoyed designing it!

 

Natural Dye Series: Part II

Happy Halloween! Nothing will make you feel as though you’re creating a witches’ brew like dyeing with lichen. It’s a unique way to get into the holiday spirit.

In the second installment of the Natural Dye series, I’m going to show you how to use lichens as a natural dye. If you thought the marigold dye from Part I was fun, you will love this installment. Remember the foamy, magenta liquid in the jar from Part I? That’s the lichen dye.

This dye takes about a month to prepare, but it is well worth the wait. Something about it is magical because you’d never expect such a vibrant color to come from a leathery, grey-brown lichen.

For today’s tutorial you’ll need:

  • A glass jar – canning jars or recycled sauce jars are perfect
  • Measuring cups
  • Ammonia
  • Water
  • A handful of umbilicaria pepulosa (pictured below) – this type of lichen is abundant on boulders, and there are several variations. For results closest to mine, try to find this lichen. You may achieve different results with another variation, but that is part of the fun of natural dyeing!

Before you get started, I want to include a note on ethics and lichen dyes. Unlike our marigold tutorial, in which I grew and harvested my own plants, lichen dyeing requires you to search public and/or forested land. Be considerate and mindful of your impact on the land and how you may be disturbing the ecosystem. Do not collect more than you’ll need – a little goes a long way. Avoid scraping lichen from stones as much as possible as lichen is slow-growing and may not regenerate. I went out on a windy day over the weekend and found more than enough on the ground surrounding the boulders.

Once you have your lichen, you’re ready to go. To achieve a magenta dye from umbilicaria, an ammonia extraction is required. After you’ve collected your lichen, place your handful into a jar.

Next, create a 50/50 solution of water and ammonia. I’ve measured out 1 cup each. Pour the solution over the lichen, leaving about an inch of air at the top of the jar. You should notice the solution briefly change to a brilliant shade of red or purple that will fade to brown.

Close the lid tightly and shake to your heart’s content. Give the jar a few shakes each day for about three weeks. Once a week, take the jar outside and carefully remove the lid and swirl the contents of the jar to allow oxygenation. Repeat the process over the next few weeks until the liquid is purple or magenta. This process can take more than three weeks. Do not rush it– it is a practice in patience. I’ve dyed this way many times and have found that I can achieve a gorgeous dye after about a month.

Since I already have another jar of concentration ready to go, I’m going to dive into dyeing.

For this part of the tutorial you’ll need:

  • 1 skein of Universal Yarn Ready to Dye Superwash Merino Worsted Weight yarn.
  • Jar of concentrated dye
  • One stainless-steel pot that you don’t plan to use for cooking – I purchased mine for a few dollars at a thrift store.
  • Tongs – they don’t need to be stainless steel but choose some that you won’t use for cooking.
  • Measuring cups
  • Water

In Part I, you used a mordant to help fix the marigold dye to the fiber. That step isn’t necessary for this lichen. In fact, it can actually dull the color.

Fill a stainless-steel pot with 4-5 cups of water and place your yarn inside. Set aside for approximately 30 minutes.

Pour off approximately 1 cup of the concentration into the pot. Gently stir and turn the yarn to incorporate the dye into the water. I suggest you open your windows for ventilation as you’ll be warming an ammonia solution over the stove-top.

Bring water to just under a simmer. If you have a thermometer it should be about 190 F. Allow the yarn to soak in the dyebath for approximately one hour, occasionally turning the yarn gently with your tongs. Notice how brilliantly saturated the color becomes.

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Remove from the heat and allow the yarn to cool in the dyebath overnight.

Remove the yarn from the dyebath and thoroughly rinse. I do recommend a gentle detergent or wool wash as the ammonia can be quite pungent. Hang and allow to dry completely. Then, pat yourself on the back for your patience. I told you it was worth the wait!

I’m working on a pattern that uses the yarn from Parts I and II of the Natural Dye series. In the future, I’ll show you how to use natural dyes on some of our other Ready to Dye yarns.