Archive for January, 2013

Tool Time: On yarn weight and gauge.

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

First off, forgive the photo-less post. Hopefully the astounding usefulness of the content will make up for it (it has been a pretty crazy few weeks).

Okay, so this is a post I have been meaning to write for a while now. A really common source of confusion, especially when substituting yarn for the recommended in a project is not being familiar with yarn weight terminology. Let’s cover the basics, shall we?

From finest to heaviest…

Cobweb/gossamer: The finest of yarns, not very commonly found in stores (I don’t think we even carry anything at the moment that would qualify – maybe one of the more unique Habu yarns). The most common use that comes to mind is Shetland Wedding Ring Shawls where the shawl is so fine that it can be pulled through a wedding ring by its corner. I don’t know what gauge this would correspond to, and I can’t think of any case where gauge would be checked except in a lace pattern.

Lace/Mohair: The standard for most lace shawls that you’ll come across these days. Often listed as a gauge of 32+ sts/4″ (needle size will vary greatly), this is usually not terribly important – typically gauge would be measured in pattern, not in stockinette. Fine mohairs such as Rowan Kidsilk Haze are often classified as lace weight, but there are heavier mohairs out there.

Fingering: Also called sock or 4-ply, this weight of yarn is often used for socks, but also shawls, and many other items. Typically the lightest weight yarn that is knit into a solid fabric that will produce any substantial body. Gauge is approximately 28sts/4″ on a 2.00 to 3.00mm needle.

Sport: A relatively uncommon weight of yarn, most often listed as a gauge of 24-26sts/4″ on a 3.5-4.5mm needle. “Baby” or “3-ply” yarns are both somewhat outdated terms that are still used by some sources and correspond to 25sts/4″.

DK: The lightest of the mid-weight yarns, DK or double-knitting yarn (different from the double knitting technique) knits up at 22sts/4″ on a 4.0mm or so needle.

Worsted: Somewhat less common than DK or aran weight yarn, worsted weight knits to 20sts/4″ on 4.0-5.0mm needles. Standard, mid-weight.

Aran: Starting to get into the heavier yarns, aran weight yarn ranges from 18 to 16sts/4″ on a 5.0-5.5mm needle. Sweaters, pillows, scarves, blankets, anything with a good degree of body to it. Starting to make a noticeably heavier fabric.

Chunky: Definitely getting into the heavy stuff now. 14-12 sts/4″ on a 6.0mm or heavier needle. Generally the heaviest I would recommend for sweaters, but still somewhat versatile.

Bulky: 10-8sts/4″ on at least an 8mm needle. In my mind, a bit much for garments, but very popular for quick accessories.

Super Bulky: Anything heavier than bulky. We are talking super ropey, big yarn here. Heavy, very warm, knits up quickly, but often impractical due to the bulk and weight.

Oh, and here’s a really fun fact to wrap up. If you want to know the weight of a yarn held double, multiply the gauge by 0.7 (or, 70%). So for example, if a worsted weight yarn is held double-stranded, it will knit up to approximately 14sts/4″ because 20×0.7=14 (on a larger needle – typically the needle recommended for yarn of the new, heavier gauge).

That’s only half the fun though… What if we want to hold two DIFFERENT yarns together? Let’s say we have a DK weight yarn and a fingering weight yarn. We add the gauges, average, and multiple by 70%. So, ((22+28)/2)x0.7 = 17.5 (or, very close to aran weight). This is maybe scary math for some people, but we can help you out with it in store, and it really is a very very powerful tool for taking control of your knitting.

Missing Jane

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

My favorite gal, Jane Richmond was at Urban Yarns on Friday night and I missed it! I heard it was a lot of fun and of course her new book ISLAND is amazing. I had the good fortune to pick one up at Knit City a few months ago so I have been knitting away, I might even knit one of everything! So although I’m terribly biased I thought I would offer a book review.


ISLAND starts off with pages upon pages of stunning photos. I’m not sure if I find them all the more stunning because they are of Vancouver Island, a place I love very much. Jane’s brother is her photographer and the way she tells it she just handed over the samples and said: go nuts. Well it’s a strategy that paid off because all the photos are amazing. Giant cedar trees, beautiful beaches, farms, and fields, all the scenery (as well as the knits of course) are inspiring. Jane says she created this book to put a little more of herself in the pages and I love that.



The second part of the book is the technical stuff. How to knit the items you have just been drooling over. I have already knit the Renfrew hat and the Arbutus Cowl (a marvel of knitting construction) and I have loved them both. The ingenious thing about the Refrew hat is that it appears to have a ton of purling, something not many are fond of, but it doesn’t! It’s knit INSIDE OUT so you are mostly knitting, then, voila! Lovely textured hat.



The Arbutus is shaped with short rows (don’t be afraid, they just take a little practice), to give it a fuller look in the front without too much bulk in the back. Very smart Ms. Richmond! One skein of Tosh DK is all it takes to make an Arbutus of your own. If your new year’s resolution is to learn something new short rows are really great. If you need help 1/2 hour lesson with Amanda will set you right. Thanks for creating such an inspiring book Jane!


Friday, January 25th, 2013

We’ve been noticing that lots of people have been asking for organic or ‘eco’ yarns lately, so I thought it would be neat to show some of the options that we have. This is a very very tricky topic because so far we have no industry standard for what “eco” or “organic” really means! In some cases it refers to the base yarn (typically organic cotton is the most common, as it’s tougher to guarantee organic wool), and in some cases it refers to simply undyed yarn. Or both. Or in some worrying cases of misleading branding, neither. I’ve included what I hope to be a good cross section below. Let us know if you have any favourite organic or eco yarns!


In this first photo, form left to right: Blue Sky Alpacas Worsted Cotton, Spud and Chloe Sweater, Misty Alpaca Best of Nature Organic Cotton, Worsted, and Chunky.


In this photo, Rowan Purelife Organic Cotton Naturally Dyed DK and 4ply, and Rowan Purelife Revive (made from recycled fibres).


And finally, Debbie Bliss Eco Baby, Debbie Bliss Eco Aran, Rowan Belle Organic DK (there is also an aran weight which is not pictured).

Also not pictured is the Cascade Eco and Eco Cloud. Note that the Cascade Eco and Eco+ are the same base wool – the Eco is undyed, the Eco+ is dyed with standard chemical dyes.

Chunky Rainbow

Saturday, January 19th, 2013


This summer/fall when my dear Emily came to town she had a mission: get a cute pic of Hunter in her latest design. We headed down to the beach with brand spanking new Jones and a relatively happy 1.5 year old Hunter. It was a glorious day and Hunter didn’t even mind that we made her put on a chunky weight sweater in the hot sun. That girl has grown accustomed to putting on knitwear in all kinds of inappropriate weather!


A lovely new pattern from Ms. Emily Wessel, Chunky Rainbows combines 2 of her loves: Cascade Eco Wool and Noro. You may remember her blanket sensation POP, it takes the same yarn. The Chunky Rainbows pattern is available for free from Petite Purls here, you just need a skein of Cascade equal and a couple of coordinated skeins of Noro Kureyon. I might add that it’s perfect for a baby shower, the wee size would knit up in no time!

“Easy Knitting”

Monday, January 14th, 2013

I found myself in a curious turn of events earlier this evening. I was talking (texting) with a friend and out of nowhere I insisted she guess what I was up to.

“Guess what I’m doing right now!”

A stony silence.

“I’m knitting!”

Now, as an established knitter, and someone who has worked in several knitting stores, and in fact writes on a semi-regular basis about knitting, and also in fact does some pattern design, this should really not come as a surprise. The last week or so has been busy busy busy and when I finally carved out some time today (perhaps I should have kept on with homework, but a knitter’s gotta do what a knitter’s gotta do) it was really relaxing. So much so, that in fact it caught me somewhat unawares.

Shetland Shawl Dress

This led me to think about why I knit. I mean, I know that I enjoy it, but why do I enjoy it? Well, I do find it relaxing – especially when I’m working from a pattern, it’s an easy way to unwind a bit, even with some very complex patterns! I think that a large part of my enjoyment comes from using my brain in ways that I don’t typically get to in my day-to-day affairs – a bit of a brain massage if you will.

Tonight I am knitting on the Shetland Shawl Dress by Teva Durham, found in Loop-d-Loop Lace, so this is certainly a case of relaxed knitting, no need to really pay attention beyond following the charts.

Why do you knit? Do you like to zone out, or use it as an opportunity to focus and flex your mind muscles? Are you content to follow a pattern blindly, or do you need to make extensive modifications or even design your own pieces?

Shetland Shawl Dress

Yarn Diet Yarn Schmiet

Friday, January 11th, 2013

It’s oh so trendy this time of year to say: I’m going to knit the stash. There are groups dedicated to this issue on Ravelry and in the blogging world. There are support groups and all those knitting-nay-sayers egging you on. Sure a yarn diet sounds good, like spring cleaning and resolutions but is it really the way to go?


Year after year I make the same type of deal with myself. I decide only to buy yarn for dedicated projects, I decide I can only get 1 ball for every 2 knit from the stash, or I decide it’s one UFO for every new O. But this year is going to be different! This year I’m going to knit with yarns I haven’t knit with before. I’m going cast on a new project today and enjoy it. Revel in the newness of a technique not tried before. It’s going to be a year of new instead. While the yarns in it might rotate, the stash will still be there next month, and probably the next one too! So I say take a class, try a new project, or a fiber you’ve never worked with before and enjoy!

New Year, New…?

Monday, January 7th, 2013

Well, I hope everyone had a nice wrap up to 2012. Personally I find that no matter what, it’s an exhausting time of year. Now don’t get me wrong, lots of visiting, good food, friends. On the other hand, lots of visiting, too much pastry and food, and for those of us in the service/retail industry, well… It is certainly stressful no matter where you work.

Many people are renowned for their annual resolutions (my favourite this year was “I resolve to keep talking about starting to do yoga”). Did you make any resolutions? Myself, I don’t typically bother, I prefer to make ‘running changes’ to anything I feel needs improving, rather than waiting and trying to commit to everything at once. That being said, I would like to spend more time knitting, and maybe dip into some other crafts as well (crocheting? Finally finishing that crewel kit I started ages ago?). I will do my best to do so, but I have just started my graduate program this past week, so I predict that I will be busy, to say the least.

A great resolution for anyone would be to take some knitting classes! We’ve got a great line-up this winter over at the main site ( With cables, lace, sweaters, socks, beginner, beyond beginner, all sorts of goodies to meet your schedule with day and evening offerings! We always want to know what you (yes, you) are interested in, though, so if there is something you’re interested in learning, let us know, and a class may not be all that far away…

One class in particular that I’m offering this month is the Guernsey Wrap by Jared Flood. It’s a really great advanced beginner project since it just incorporates knit and purl, but does get you comfortable with charts. All it takes is 640m of worsted or aran weight yarn (it’s a wrap, gauge is not so crucial, another reason it’s appealing), and you’re away! A sample is in the Point Grey store to get your hands on…