Thursday, January 15, 2015

A New Year and a New Knit-along!

the latest Churchmouse Classics collection - all patterns are available at the shop
Happy 2015! Are you ready for a knit-along? We've been planning this one since last fall when Churchmouse released their latest Classics patterns. The collection includes three sweaters and three accessories. And most of the pieces feature a lot of knitting - all three sweaters are straight-up stockinette and one of the scarves features linen stitch in a fingering or lace-weight. Sounds like the perfect excuse for a knit-along!

The Knit-along officially kicks off tomorrow (Friday, January 16) and runs through April 3. Any project that is started and finished within that timeframe counts. If you post your project to Ravelry - and we encourage you to! - please use the tag CottageQ1KAL15 - just saying...there might be prizes!

We highlighted three of the patterns (Modern Wrapper Fine, Two-tone Twill Scarf and Walking Rib Cowl) in our newsletter last October (direct link here), including yarn and color suggestions. Below are our suggestions for the other three patterns. These are just ideas to get you thinking. One of the great things about the Classics is that they are suitable for a wide variety of yarns (and budgets).


The Go-To Cardigan has A-line shaping, a split hem and a relaxed fit. Knit in a DK-weight, there are plenty of yarn and fiber options. Of course we love the suggested Rowan Felted Tweed; it's a nice yarn to knit, holds up well and comes in great colors. Shown above are a few of the neutrals (left to right shades 175, 190, 154). For a year-round piece, how about Rowan's Wool Cotton. It's a machine washable 50/50 blend of cotton and merino wool and it comes in a full range of colors. We like navy (shade 909) and purple (shade 969) for now, but there are also lighter colors for the warmer seasons. Finally, if you're thinking about a warmer season piece, Rowan's Revive fits the bill. It's a silk/cotton/rayon blend with tweedy flecks. There's also an extensive color palette; shown here are 465 Rock, 474 Silt and 467 Ironstone.

The pattern itself is eight pages, but don't let all that detail scare you. There are plenty of pictures and helpful tutorials for techniques like an invisible cast-on and wrap-less short rows. The pattern is sized XS (37-1/2" bust) through XL (53-1/2" bust) and suggests 4-6" of positive ease - in other words, choose the size that is 4-6" larger than your bust.


The Better-Than-Basic Pullover is that easy, simple just-right sweater you'd buy...if you could find it! It comes in two lengths (hip-length and tunic, along with tips to customize) and two necklines (rib-neck and funnel-neck). You can mix and match to suit your taste and style. The pattern suggests a light worsted (5 stitches to the inch) yarn. That pale blue version on the cover is Rowan's Kid Classic, which knits up light and airy and surprisingly warm. For a wardrobe staple, we love cream (shade 282), navy (shade 873) or khaki (shade 889). Another option is Rowan's Colourspun. This yarn is labeled DK, but we love it knit at the looser pattern gauge. Shown above are shades 274 and 273.

This pattern is also eight pages - for the same reason! It's also sized XS (42-1/2" bust) through XL (59-1/2" bust) and suggests 8-10" of positive ease - in other words, choose the size that is 8-10" larger than your bust.


If a sweater seems daunting, how about striped mitts or a cowl? The Accelerating Stripes pattern suggests Rowan's Finest, a lovely fingering weight blend of merino, alpaca and cashmere. The mitts take one skein of each color and the cowl takes two. The color names are pretty cute, too! We chose (left) Charm (62) and  Rapture (68) and (right) 59 Rare (59) and Love (65). That Rare/Love combo would be perfect for Valentine's Day!

A few of us have yarn already...and a few of us have even swatched (ahem, that would not be me!) But please don't worry if you're just getting started. You still have plenty of time to participate.

We'd love to help you choose a project (or two). There will be a crowd of us at the shop tomorrow afternoon...just getting started. We hope to see you there - or on-line in our Ravelry Group. There's a thread in our forum to share what your knitting.

We do hope you'll join us!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Let's Knit (All the) Hats!

Last week's newsletter (you can subscribe here to receive it via email) featured four quick and easy hats.
top to bottom - Swans Island Watch Cap, Swans Island Nor'Easter, Simple Pleasures, Churchmouse Pressed Rib Cap
By the time we published, a few of us had plans to knit one or two of them...and one of us *ahem that would be me* decided she needed to knit all four! I knit the Simple Pleasures hat shown above, so that really means I "only" need to knit three more.  

Every crazy knitter needs company, so let's have a knit-along! There are only three "rules" for this one:
1. your project needs to be one of the hats featured in the newsletter; and
2. you need to knit it with yarn purchased from the shop (stash counts!); and
3. you need to cast on and finish the project during the KAL ("official" cast-on started November 6 when the newsletter published and the end date is Friday, December 12 - just over five weeks.)

Depending on the response, there might even be prizes, but for sure there will be plenty of fun and camaraderie. 

To participate, you need to post your project(s) in Ravelry with the tag cottagehatKAL14, along with a finished photo by December 15. The photos don't need to be modeled shots, we just want to see the FO! Of course if you're local, we're always more than happy to take those FO shots (especially if you'll let us share them on Instagram or Facebook!) Don't let the Ravelry part scare you - if you have any questions, just ask us. We promise, it's easy!

 clockwise from upper left - Nor'Easter, Watch Cap, Simple Pleasures, Pressed Rib
Need a little more encouragement? How about a few alternative yarn suggestions*:

First, the Nor'Easter . We featured it in the pattern suggested Swans Island Bulky. That yarn is super soft and really nice to knit. But it doesn't come in the ivory I had my heart set on. Trendsetter's new Merino 12, however, does (along with about a million other solid colors!) The yardage is the same, so a single skein of the Merino 12 is all you'll need for one hat.

Next, the Watch Cap . We featured it in two colors of Shibui's Merino Alpaca. Three "single skein" options would be the pattern suggested Swans Island Pure Blend, Shepherd's Wool Shepherd's Worsted or Juniper Moon Farms' Moonshine. Note that our sample (as well as the project featured in the pattern) is a large. That's definitely the size to knit for a guy, but if you're making it for a gal, I'd suggest the medium (that's the size I plan to knit). Finally, the pattern also has a small size, perfect for kids.

Third, Simple Pleasures . We featured it in Shibui Cima + Silk Cloud. I'm a huge fan of Shibui Mix...and this combination is one of the reasons why. I might even knit another one! If, however, you told me you didn't want to bother with holding two yarns together - even though that meant giving up the wonderful "cloud" on the top of the hat - I'd suggest Mirasol's Nuna or the gorgeous Baah Aspen (a decadent blend of merino, silk and cashmere in a stunning rainbow of colors). The yardage on the Nuna should be just enough to work with a single skein, but you'll need to be sure to end the brim ribbing at 6". The Aspen has 330 yards; you'll have enough leftover to knit a pair of matching mitts!

And finally, Pressed Rib . We featured it in Juniper Moon's Herriot. If you want to use a washable wool/blend, how about Berroco Vintage or Rowan's Pure Wool Worsted? These yarns are both about 220 yards per skein; you could knit a one-color hat with a single skien of each (or get two contrasting colors to knit two hats). Note that the washable yarns will not "press" the same way an unprocessed fiber will. If you're knitting the Cap and Muffler set and need the "press", Aslan Trends has two lovely options: Royal Alpaca (100% Alpaca, 220 yards) and King Baby Llama/Mulberry Silk (70% Llama/30% Silk, 218 yards). Either of these would make a beautiful set and the yardage on both is

*Although we carry all the yarns suggested, they aren't all listed on-line. If you'd like to order one of the yarns that's not listed (i.e., there's no link to the on-line shop), please call us and we'll be happy to process your order over the phone.

We'll be knitting along at the shop on Friday afternoons (as always). If you can't make it in person, it's ok. You can participate virtually in our Ravelry group or on Facebook. The more, the merrier. That's what's makes a KAL fun! Come join in and keep me company. Because whether you want to knit one, two, three or all four, you can't ever have too many hats!

P.S. We know a few of you are still knitting along on Lindsay. Do you need a little encouragement to keep going?


It's worth it!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Lindsay Coat | Three Things.

My apologies. Kathy and I realized yesterday we'd never shared anything about our next KAL here on the blog (or on Instagram, or Twitter, or Facebook). Let's fix that now!
my swatch - Cima+Linen in Caffeine and Silk Cloud in Field
We're knitting Lindsay, a fabulous sweater coat designed by Cocoknits. We fell in love with the Shibui Mix version from last spring's Mix Event and knew that much knitting would need company. Now that Fall is upon us, we're ready to cast on. The plan is that we'll finish just as the weather cools off enough to wear it.

The Shibui Mix sample was knit with Cima + Linen + Silk Cloud. The Cima and Linen are the same color way and the Silk Cloud is a contrast/complement. Another option would be Rowan Felted Tweed or Lang Tweed with the Silk Cloud.

Our plan is to cast on next Friday (September 19) afternoon. But, if you want to get started sooner, here are three things to keep in mind:

First, swatch! If you want your coat to fit, you need to make sure you know your gauge (and unless you want to do a lot of fancy math, you want your gauge to match what the pattern calls for!) The slipped stitch pattern is a multiple of 4 stitches plus 2. I cast on 30 stitches for my swatch. That gives me six 4-stitch repeats plus 2 with 4 extra stitches to put a 2-stitch garter edge around the pattern.

I knit a couple rows of garter stitch and then swatched the pattern stitch between the 2-stitch garter edge. In other words, I started and ended every row with knit 2, and worked the 8-row pattern repeat in the middle.

The pattern gauge is 18 stitches to 4 inches. My swatch had 26 pattern stitches (the garter stitch edge doesn't count) so "on gauge" it should measure 26/18 x 4 = 5.78 inches. (I got lucky - mine did!) Note that the row gauge is 28 rows to 4 inches. Again, the garter stitch border doesn't count. I worked four repeats of the 8 row pattern (so 32 rows). On gauge, that should measure 32/28 x 4 = 4.57" If your row gauge is "close" (say no more than two rows different), you should be fine... any more than that and you might need to made adjustments to the pattern, particularly the sleeve shaping. (That's beyond the scope of our KAL!)

A final note about the swatch - you should wet block it before you call it good. Not only does the wet-blocking make a nicer fabric (and seriously, this Shibui Mix is like butter), it plumps up the stitches and gives you better measurements.

Second, the stitch pattern is a little tricky. Three of the swatches I've seen (my own included!) mis-read row 7. Each pattern row is always knit 2, slip 2 - the only difference is that the slipped stitches are moving over one stitch. Row 7 starts with one stitch slipped, then 2 knits, then two stitches slipped, 2 knits, 2 slips.... I realized my mistake halfway through my swatch. I didn't rip it out; that mistake isn't going to affect my gauge (but boy am I glad I hadn't started the sweater!)

Third, all the knitting begins with a Provisional Cast-on. My favorite method for this is to crochet waste yarn onto my needle and then work one knit row with my real yarn. (Here's a great tutorial). The row with your real yarn is the Cast-on. You don't want to start the slipped stitch pattern with waste yarn on your needle.

I started my first sleeve yesterday and I've finished five repeats of the pattern stitch. I am in love!

If you want to join our KAL, all you need to do is get your yarn, your pattern and start. Please feel free to share questions and comments here, on Facebook or in our Ravelry group. Happy Knitting!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Shallows KAL Progress.

We hope you're enjoying our summer knit-along for Shallows . It's fun to see all the works-in-progress, but it's even better when the finished projects start showing up.

Pat B finished this one (and has since finished a few more...all just as pretty!)
the first FO!
For this piece, she used a single skein (170 yards) of Manos Serena - a fingering weight blend of alpaca and cotton that is soft to knit, blocks beautifully and drapes perfectly.

She knit three repeats (instead of the pattern-suggested four) and had just a little yarn left over. The blocked piece is nearly 7" wide and 38" long, just right for a single wrap.

One more easy modification (that I plan to use myself) is a 3-needle bindoff to join the two ends. It's nearly hidden against the garter stitch ridge that begins the piece. And it's a lot faster!

We've revived our finished objects thread on Ravelry. Please share your FO's there; we can't wait to see!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Announcing our Summer KAL.

That's right, a knit-along! We've chosen Shallows , a lovely cowl or scarf, designed by Bonnie Sennott, also known as Blue Peninsula.

The pattern is available for in-store purchase (or on Ravelry) and calls for 350 yards of a light fingering weight yarn on size 4 needles. The sample shown was knit with Swans Island Organic Merino/Alpaca and it's stunning. Of course there are loads of other options and we especially like blends that include silk, bamboo and/or alpaca to ensure drape. The Fibre Company's Canopy Fingering (you'd need two skeins) and Shibui's Staccato (also two skeins) would be perfect. The Canopy Fingering is a blend of merino, alpaca and bamboo and Staccato is a blend of merino and silk.

I'm going to play around a bit more with mine. That's one of the great thing about knitting cowls and scarves - they don't have to fit!

I've chosen Shibui's Cima and Silk Cloud, which mixes to a sport weight (a little heavier than what the pattern suggests). I'm thinking I'll use size 6 needles so it will drape. I have two skeins of each which gives me just over 650 yards; that would be more than enough to knit the pattern as written. I'll probably add stitches to get more width and I'll see how it goes to determine if I add rows for more length. Stay tuned...

The KAL officially kicks off this Friday, July 25. We'll be casting on at the shop that afternoon. If you can't be there in person, we hope you'll join us virtually. You can share questions, comments, and - of course! - project photos in our Ravelry group or on Facebook.

Please join us!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Guess Who's on Instagram Now?

...yep! We finally (!?) took the plunge. You can follow us using the button at the top of the sidebar or just search for "castoncottage" in the Explore tab on Instagram.

We look forward to sharing glimpses of what's fun and new at the shop - and hope you'll enjoy the virtual visits. We are also really excited about seeing what you share...stash, WIPs, FOs, needlepoint, inspiration, puppies... Please feel free to tag us (@castoncottage) to be sure we see your posts.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Finished Poncho.

Which is really the story of how this

became this!

I finished the knitting on Sunday night (stockinette is great for World Cup matches!) I had a big rectangle of linen that looked kind of like a mess (that's the top photo above).

Monday morning I wove in the ends - there were just a couple that happened mid-row. I always join yarn mid-row if the edge will show. It's so much easier to hide the ends that way. I split the linen into 3 pieces and threaded each piece onto a sharp needle and buried that end into the wrong-side purl bumps.

Then I gave the piece a soak in cool water for about 30 minutes, patted out some of the water and proceeded to block it. I threaded wires through all four sides of the piece, stretched it into a rectangle and pinned the wires to hold it all in place.

I was delighted that the stitches really did even out!

It took just a few hours to dry. Then onto the seaming. For once I wasn't putting that part off - it is only 13 inches! I laid the piece out with the cast-on edge to my right and the bind-off edge to my left. I used a one-stitch seam allowance on the right edge and a 1-1/2 stitch allowance on the left edge.

See how the V's line up!

I had a few more ends to bury in the seam and then it was done. I am thrilled with the finished piece! The linen is so light and airy it's almost transparent.

And the drape is perfect.

Note that I didn't use that fifth skein and I had about half of the fourth leftover. For more details, check out my project page on Ravelry.