Why I love knitting with rustic yarn

I have been pretty obsessed with Holstgarn Supersoft since last autumn when I discovered it. I was already obsessed with a Spanish brand called dLana, because the rustic wool reminded me of the wool my grandma used to knit us socks with.

In summer I’d see her card the wool, wash it over fire, spin it and knit it into warm socks and sweaters for all family members. They had sheep, my grandparents and they were soft and friendly.

Processing wool from scratch took a long time, but every chore had its time and place in the village.

My mother tells me stories of my grand-grand-mother drying petals and herbs, and waking up at dawn in summer to make soap. On the day of soap-making diners were simple and everybody had to manage on their own. Then soap was made and dried for the whole year.

In comparison, turning fleece into yarn was a much longer process, from my grandpa shearing it in summer when the sheep enjoyed the breeze, to cleaning it before autumn when it was spinned and knit. All winter, sitting cozy by the fire, my grandma would knit.

A few years ago, when I learned how to knit socks, I made her a pair in undyed wool, the same she used to knit with, and it felt magical to see her joy and see her wearing it. My grandma doesn’t knit anymore but I in the last few years I’ve learned so much about it and I’ve become so enchanted by the slow practice of making fabric hoop by hoop.

So when I use this rustic yarn, and I know it’s a hype thing at the moment, I connect with her and that kind of life, full of work, much harder, but which to me, living in a big city, sounds magical. I love the scratchiness of rough wool, the lack of shine, the definition, and how warm it is.

green handknit sweater

A raglan sweater of many firsts

I had tried making a sweater on circular needles five times before this one. I wanted to love circular knitting on circular needles and I couldn’t. With this sweater I discovered it was the cable or my circular needles: first I had always used circular needles with thick, unbending cables and the size of the cable didn’t fit the circumference of the pieces I had attempted to knit.

detail rib on raglan sweater

With this sweater, a new pair of cable needles and a well explained pattern, a new world, full of possibilities, has opened. Now I want to knit everything in the round and even try to… eeek… steek!

The pattern I used is the Tin Can Knits Flax pattern, which is a free pattern. I have a profound dislike for the garter stitch, so I skipped the garter motif alongside the sleeves. This pattern explains the construction of a raglan, so it’s easy to use it as a base for future sweaters. The wonderful Amy Palko swapped the garter stitch with a lace motiv in the same number of stitches to make a completely new sweater, for example. She wears it in this episode of her podcast, which I recommend to all knitting lovers.

neckline detail

I knit this on 3.5 mm needles, in Holstgarn supersoft yarn (my newest yarn obsession), held double. The colorway is dark apple. When I ordered it online I thought the green was going to be brighter, more like and apple, than like a forest green, if that makes sense? I love the color anyway so no hard feelings there. I used a cone, but I would say I used about half of the 500 grams cone for a size SM, cropped version of the sweater.

I wore it already five times or more, and it’s the perfect winter into spring kind of garment. (I am even wearing it as I type, how lovely!)

green handknit sweater

Yet another first for this sweater was trying out the very short cabled circulars that are made for sleeves or sock knitting. I used the Addi Sockenwunder, which I got from the Holstgarn website and even if at first I wasn’t sure, I ended up loving them. I like knitting socks with dpns, but sleeves, the turning, with all the bulk and the falling needles… not fun. But the tinky circulars got me over sleeve island.

I have a Tambourine cardigan without sleeves waiting for me since last year in my abandoned WIPs, maybe this is the time to bring it back to life.

handknit yellow socks

An ode to worn socks

Oh, the pleasure of casting off a brand-new sock. The perfectly aligned stitches and, on the horizon, the places these socks will walk, the weight they will carry.

casting on a sock

We share a lot of photos of finished objects and perfectly looking socks, but not so much our worn socks. I’ve lately seen some wonderful mended socks, but that feels like the focus is on the mend itself and the revolutionary action of repairing something instead of buying new.

worn handmade socks

So this post is an ode to worn, unblocked, socks. The socks I take out of the sock drawer, wear on my wooden floor and in my winter boots, the socks that I made to keep me warm.

wool socks handknit

I made these in Holstgarn supersoft yarn, a 100% wool, non-superwash wool yarn, held double. The colourway is old gold. The heels are knit in a remnant of Drops Fabel yarn, which is 75% wool, 25% polyamide, also held double. I used 2.5 needles.

The socks you see here have been worn and washed in the washing machine on a cold program 3 times.

handknit yellow socks

Some more trivia about the materials and objects you see in these photos: I recently made the Japanese linen trousers you see peek of, I bought the needles second hand a few years ago, and they still feel like a treasure, the book is La vorágine, by José Eustasio Rivera, a book about the Amazon jungle, originally published in 1924.

Knitting a red wool beret on straight needles

I have finally conquered the circle! That’s how I felt when I finally understood the maths of the beret. For some reason, for years I wanted to knit a beret and I had downloaded free patterns that never matched my gauge and after a couple of disastrous tried, I – temporarily gave up.

And then I figured out that the closest shape to a circle I could use was a dodecagon. A dodecagon is one of the types of polygon which has 12 sides. So, as long as I forced any number of stitches (or the circle radius) into a 12sided shape, I could make a circular looking beret.

The beret pattern for straight needles

Gauge: 18st on stockinette stitch (st st)
I used holstgarn supersoft, held double on 3.5 mm needles, but check your gauge.

Cast on 97 st in a stretchy CO (I used long-tail cast on) and then do a 1&1 rib (knit 1, purl 1) for 10 rows for the band of your beret.
Increase row: k1, knit front and back (kfb), k1 to the end of the row. You now have 145 st on your needles.
Work for 10cm in st st
Decrease row 1Now, we will try to force this rectangle into a dodecadon. We divide 145/12=12, so every 12 st we need to decrease one. K11, knit 2 together (k2tog), knit 11, k2tog until the end of row.
On the wrong side we purl. We will only decrease on the right side.
Decrease row 2K10, knit 2 together (k2tog), knit 10, k2tog until the end of row
Decrease row 3K9, knit 2 together (k2tog), knit 10, k2tog until the end of row
Decrease row 4K8, knit 2 together (k2tog), knit 10, k2tog until the end of row

Continue the same way until you only have a few stitches on your needles. Cut a long yarn tail, thread through the last stitches and pull tight, closing the stitches. Then seam close the two sides of your beret. That’s it.

You can use this recipe for any gauge. You just need to cast on the amount of stitches that you need to fit the circumference of your head. You do this by knitting a swatch to get your gauge. Furthermore, you take the measurement of your head at the crown, and then divide it by your gauge, and that’s your cast on number.

When you start decreasing, just divide the total number of stitches by 12 and use that resulting number as the number of knit stitches to knit before the k2tog.

My first try was with alpaca, but that made for a very floppy beret. I frogged it to make this knitted beanie.

And then I got a cone of holstgarn supersoft in Crimson and the more rustic yarn had more structure and the beret was just perfect.

Let me know if you knit this and get stuck, I’d be happy to clarify the cryptic notes above.

Sewing a turtleneck by hand

The last time I have sewed more than a few centimetres by hand was maybe when I was a teenager, before I bought my first sewing machine. I remember I made myself a dark green heavy-duty canvas backpack with leather piping. It must have taken me weeks, but I remember it was summer and the process was enjoyable. I wore that backpack for years and years after that.

After buying my sewing machine any larger surface was sewn with the machine.

Lately I have been thinking a lot about slow making and slow stitching and I have been experimenting with some sashiko-style embroidery. I love the portability of hand sewing and the quiet.

So I’ve started sewing a turtleneck by hand.

striped fabric with thread and purple hyacinth

I had this fabric in my stash for a while now. I think I had originally purchased it to make it into a turtleneck dress. Since then, I have come to terms with the fact that I prefer pants.

The pattern I cut is a Neenah turtleneck by Seamwork patterns. I had this pattern since it launched, more than 4 years ago, I think, but I haven’t made another turtleneck in years.

Slowly but steady I am seaming close the pieces of fabric, finishing seams with blanket stitch and enjoying the morning sun and the song of birds while occasionally pricking myself in the finger with the very sharp needle.

handsewing project

Slow stitch, a potholder made of tiny scraps

One of the most inspiring books I read last year was Claire Wellesley-Smith’s Slow Stitch: Mindful and Contemplative Textile Art. It talks about practising slow making, creating a journal of stitches, of repetitive embroidery as meditative practice. It’s beautiful and inspiring, and I recommend it to anyone interested in slow living, sustainability and fibre arts.

So, inspired by this book, I took a look with fresh eyes at my scrap pile, patched them together in as I went, without trying to make it perfect in any way, and then added simple embroidery on top.

I love the idea of making something I can use, where I can use things I already have at home. I am interested in exploring more hand sewing in the near future. It’s soothing and portable and quiet.

I had dyed the textile pieces for this project beforehand in a rather failed experiment. I tried making a solution of acrylic paint (which I already had at home) but the dye set into the wrinkles of the fabric and didn’t transform as I’d have imagined.

Make as you need compostable crochet dish rag

I’ve been using these crochet dish rags for maybe a year now. They work fine for handwashing dishes, make a decent amount of foam (not as much as a sponge, but then again, plastic sponges are evil). I like that I can throw them in the washing machine, they dry quickly, and when it needs to be replaced I just make another one.

There’s nothing fancy about this, just row after row of double crochet stitches on a chain of 20 stitches or so.

I got the soap from a local outdoor market, it works well for dishes, but my partner prefers the commercial liquid dishwashing soap to the bar. I tried making the bar into liquid soap, but I always get a gooey liquid that doesn’t lather much. If you know how to prevent this, I’d love to know!

A red knitted beanie (with pattern) and first signs of spring

Hello, hello is this thing on? Um… yeah it’s been a while. What a year! Am I right?

We all know what kind of year that was so let’s just fast-forward. There isn’t much we can’t do when we live in a half made up dream world.

Today I was looking at this recently bloomed hyacinth and I couldn’t help myself marvelling at the beautiful colour work of nature. I’ve never been into purples, but looking at this make me want to make something in these colours. The photo doesn’t capture well the green leaves of the plant. Both colours just pop and sing a song of spring.

Does it feel a little like spring where you live?

In other news, I’ve been spending some time knitting. For this beanie I was inspired by erikomagnifiko, who made a very similar beanie, with this very particular pom-pom.

For the beanie I used Drops alpaca which I held with Hjertegarn alpaca (just what I had, they are 99% similar, these yarns). So alpaca held double.

Gauge: 18 st on 3.5 mm needles (kindly check your gauge:)

The pattern was very simple. I worked it flat on straight needles.

Cast on 97 st in a stretchy cast on (I used long tail) and worked in 1&1 rib for 10 cm.

Rib patten is:

R1 – Knit 1(k1), Purl 1(P1) to the end of row

R2 – P1, K1 to the end of row.

Repeat rows until you have the desired length for the stretchy rib.

I then worked in stockinette stitch for another 10 cm. (Stockinette stitch is R1 knit all, R2 purl all, repeat).

Decrease:

Decrease row 1 (right side) Every 7 stitches, knit 2 together (k2tog), repeat until the end of row

Decrease row 2 (wrong side) purl without decreasing. From now on you only decrease on right side rows.

DR3 Every 6 st k2tog

DR5 Every 5 st k2tog

DR7 Every 4 st k2tog

Repeat until you get a very small number of stitches, pull a needle through the live stitches, gather and sew closed the top of the hat. Seam closed the two sides of the hat.

Add pom-pom.

Alpaca yarn is very soft and warm and it makes a lovely hat.

For this project I used two 50g balls, with some yarn left over.

Knitting in the round pattern modification:

If you’d prefer to knit this on circular needles, in the round:

CO: 97, place marker, join round without twisting stitches

Work in knit 1, purl 1 rib for 10 cm,

Switch to stockinette and work in knit rounds only for another 10 cm.

Start decreasing, considering the beginning of each round.

Decreases:

Decrease round 1: Every 7 stitches, knit 2 together (k2tog), repeat until the end of round

Decrease round 2 Knit all, no decreases. From now on you will decrease on every alternative row.

DR3 Every 6 st k2tog

DR5 Every 5 st k2tog

DR7 Every 4 st k2tog

Repeat until you get a very small number of stitches, pull a needle through the live stitches, gather and sew closed the top of the hat. Add pom-pom.

Easy knit spring vest with construction details and a sort of a pattern

 

spring knitted vest in acrylic yarn

I was very inspired lately by all the beautiful, airy knits that I’ve been seeing on Instagram. A lot of beautiful, spring pop over vests, that looked like they were easy and fast to knit and as fast to enjoy.

Knitting is an exercise of self-love, especially when you knit for yourself.

My favourite part of knitting is the process of creating something new. From inspiration, to idea, to the construction process, to the final result. Even if the final result doesn’t match perfectly with the original idea.

For this vest, I was inspired by the knitting pattern maker Petit Knit and her beautiful vests in earthy tones and soft fibres.

the process of making a knitted vest

I also wanted to use some yarn from my stash for this project and I choose a yarn that I had given up on, after trying to use it for many projects, like slippers etc. I bought this yarn in a moment of suspension of logic that I cannot explain. It is a shiny acrylic yarn that I despise with all my might and that I have already knitted into a cardigan and frogged because I disliked it so much. I also had another recycled yarn from an industrial knitted scarf that I’d received as a gift but was uncomfortable to wear and unpractical for me.

So I used these two yarn together and after knitting a swatch much smaller than the recommended size I came up with a gauge 16 stitches per 10 centimetres (or 4 inch).

spring knitted vest detail

I then drew the pattern piece on paper, starting with my waist measurement and the distance from belly button to the chest point (the mid distance between your nipples 🙂 to create the basic shape of the vest.

So for example, I wanted to have a front piece that was quite cropped and added one centimetre to each side of my piece. So I cast on 56 stiches to create a 35 centimetres length of ribbing. I calculated how many centimetres I needed to increase by and at each point to get to the bust line, which for me was 45 cm. Since I needed to increase 10 cm in total, 5 cm on each side, I calculated that I would need to increase 1 cm (1.6 st) at each 5 centimetres of work.

Once I got to the sleeve, I would decrease from the sides and cast off around a third of the stitches from the middle, which would be my neckline. I would then knit each strap separately and cast off. The back would be similar, with a lower hem, so a few more rows of ribbing, and with a softer slope for the neckline. I would then stitch together the two sides and pick up and knit a few rows of ribbing for the armhole and neckline.

And that’s what I did.

spring knitted vest in bulky yarn, folded

Pattern: Use your stash and your imagination vest by me
Gauge: 16 st to 10 cm (4 in)

Front piece:

CO 56 and knit in rib (knit 1 purl 1) until your rib is 5 cm high (or as much as you want, depending on your design modifications)
Then on a right side row, I increased 1 on each side and continued in stockinette stitch (front row knit, back row purl) for 4 rows
On the fifth row I increased 1 again on each side and i continued like this until my piece was my desired length from rib to chest point, which in my case was 20 cm. Try this thing on as you knit it.

Shape armwhole

To shape the armholes I started by decreasing 3 st on each side on a front row, then purl normally the next row
Repeat on next front row by decreasing 2 st on each side of front row and purl back row
Then decrease 1 st on each side and purl
On front row divide your remaining number of stitches by three. Knit the first third of those, cast off the second third and knit the last third
Knit straps as long as you want (try it on yourself)

Back piece

Same as front piece, except two things: one, after the last decrease I knitted in stockinette stitch until the length of my knitted piece was the same as my front piece, minus two cm, and here I decreased in the same way by dividing the number of stitches in three.

I also knit the ribbing longer, so that the back had a longer hemline.

 

Sew pieces
Pick up stitches at armhole and neckline and knit in rib for 3-4 rows or as long as you’d like, depending on your creative inspiration. Cast off and wear.

To make any other size, start with the waist measurement of the person you are making this for and calculate how many stitches you need. This is easy, you just divide your gauge by 10 (or 4) to get the number of stitched needed to create 1 cm (or 1 in) of knitted fabric.

For example: in cm, for this project, I got 1.6 st for each 1 cm of knitted fabric, and multiplied that by the number of needed centimetres of desired knitted fabric.
Then use the same progressions and steps as the pattern above (try it on often),

I even made this in a different yarn with a much different gauge (10 st for 10 cm) and following the same pattern, I’ve knitted a second vest. So it’s a very simple and versatile pattern for creative and fearless knitters.

spring knitted vest in bulky wool yarn

spring knitted vests folded

Disclaimer: I am not a pattern maker, I just make things for myself and share my process with you.