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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Knitter's Pride Needle Review


Knitter's Pride Nova Cubics Interchangeable Set

I’ve owned a whole lot of knitting needles over the years, and I’ve definitely had an evolution in my needle preferences.  From my initial love of straight wooden needles, I’ve progressed so that now I almost exclusively use metal needles, and most of the time those are from one of my interchangeable needles sets.  I’ve used Addi Clicks, both the standard and the short lace tips, as well as Knit Picks and Hiya Hiya’s.  I’m always interested to try new tools, so I was excited for the opportunity to knit with and review a variety of metal Knitter’s Pride Nova needles.  Full disclosure - the needles in this review were sent to me free of charge.  Since I really only use circular needles, I’ll be reviewing a 16” circular fixed needle with square tips, an interchangeable set with square tips, and a few interchangeable needles with standard round tips.  I made swatches or small projects with each of these needles, though I’ve only had them for a couple of months, so my experience is based on an initial reaction rather than long-term use.

There’s a lot to like about all of these needles.  First are the needle points.  They have a wonderful taper and are sharper than my Addi Clicks, but not quite as sharp as Addi Lace or Hiya Hiya tips, making them great for most projects.  I always love pointy tips, so if you like wooden needles or other blunter tips, these might be pointier than you like.  I also appreciated the smooth finish.  My stitches glided along without me really noticing, which tells me that the finish isn’t too slippery or too sticky.  Adding to that smoothness was the catch-free join between the needles and the tips.  



My only real complaint has to do with the joining mechanism for the interchangeables.  They connect using a long screw and are tightened with a small tool - you may have seen this method on Knit Picks needles too.  Even after using the tightening tool quite aggressively, both the square and round-tipped interchangeables always seemed to come un-screwed.  The thread is quite long, so they didn’t seem in any danger of actually coming apart, but it was irritating to constantly be trying to screw the needles back together.  I noticed the problem a lot more using the round tips than the square ones.

UPDATE: I got a response from Knitter's Pride that the needles should not come unscrewed and that I may have gotten some defective tips.  I tried a few other tips, and sure enough, with most of the tips, both the round and square ones stayed in place with magic loop, back-and-forth knitting, and standard circular knitting.  While it was a bummer that several of the ones I tried were problematic, it's nice to know they have a good replacement policy: If you happen to get tips that won't stay in, Knitter's Pride will replace them free.


Overall, these needles are a great addition to a knitter’s tool chest.  I think I’d recommend the square rather than the round tips for simply because they seem to stay together a bit better, and I recommend the fixed circulars without reservation.

Here are my notes for each needle type:


16” FIXED CIRCULAR SQUARE TIPS, Size US #2/2.75 mm


Pros
Lovely, sharp tips
Smooth, comfortable finish
Smooth join between needle and cord

Cons 
None

Notes
I think I’ll get a lot of use out of these for hats and cowls.  I didn’t particularly notice the square tips feeling different than what I’m used to, but I also didn’t notice any hand cramping, which I often get when using the shorter tips that are necessary for 16” needles.

Bottom Line
I would recommend these to any knitter.


ROUND INTERCHANGEABLE NEEDLES


For the review I used the US #4/3.5 mm tip with a 32” cord and tried both my favorite small-circumference knitting method - magic loop -  and regular circular knitting.

Pros
Lovely, sharp tips
Smooth, comfortable finish
Smooth join between needle and cord
While it seemed a little stiff to me before I started working, the cord actually worked perfectly well for magic loop.  

Cons
Even after tightening with the included tool, the tips seemed to come slightly unscrewed every round.  It didn’t mess up my work, but it did slow me down.

Notes
The unscrewing issue won’t stop me from using these, but it may have me reaching for the square tips first.

Bottom Line
I wouldn’t recommend these since the square ones seem to stay attached better.
UPDATE: I can go ahead and recommend these since they have a good policy on replacing problematic needles.


SQUARE INTERCHANGEABLE NEEDLES


For the review I used US #8/5 mm tip with a 32” cord.  I tried both magic loop and regular circular knitting with this cord.

Pros
Lovely, sharp tips
Smooth, comfortable finish
Smooth join between needle and cord
Cord was flexible enough for magic loop method
The square tips seemed to come unscrewed much less frequently.

Cons
Every now and again, I did notice the tips starting to come undone.

Notes
I was curious how the larger square tips would feel, and while it’s definitely more noticeable than with the US #2/2.75 mm one, it didn’t seem like a vastly different knitting experience.  They felt slightly more substantial and easier to grip than my usual round tips.

Bottom Line
I would recommend these with the caveat that the tips did occasionally start to come unscrewed.



Have you ever used Knitter's Pride needles?  What are your favorite needle brands and styles?



Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Kust


This is Kust, the latest in my collection inspired by my summer bike tour in the Netherlands.  It's got all sorts of special details that make it a high-quality wardrobe staple.  Particular attention is paid to the shaping - traditionally snug at the hips, but with a relaxed fit and delicate waist shaping - and the edgings.  The cast-on edge is a ribbed, cable cast on, a technique that looks like a tubular cast-on, but doesn't require waste yarn or extra steps, and the neckline and armhole edgings are finished with tubular bind-offs.  The round neckline is flattering and functional, since it can be opened up for a little extra air or buttoned up for warmth.

I made mine using Hazel Knits Artisan Sock, a go-to yarn for me.  The color, Henna, is a beautiful burnt brick orange/red that I found to be really inspiring.  Like many Hazel Knits colors, the depth and complexity make it a bit difficult to describe, but worked in simple Stockinette stitch, it really shines.  


It was hard to part with, but this sample, along with 15 others, will be in a traveling trunk show this fall and winter.  Check out the shops signed up to participate so far:

September, 2014: Fibre Space, Alexandria, VA
October, 2014: Fancy Tiger Craft, Denver, CO
November, 2014: Stash Local, Corvallis, OR
December, 2014: The Knitting Boutique, Glen Burnie, MD
January, 2015: Beehive Wool Shop, Victoria, BC

Speaking of fun events, I'll be teaching at Knit Fit in Seattle this November!  I'm excited to offer classes on beginning lace, finishing, and yarn substitution.  There are a lot of other great classes and activities going on that weekend, so I encourage you to check out the website.  The marketplace is sure to be even better this year too - Hazel Knits will have a booth!

You can read about upcoming trunk shows, classes, and clubs in the Events section on my website.

Back to the new vest pattern - it's now available on Ravelry and on my website.

PATTERN SPECS
Finished Measurements

33.25 (37.5, 41.5, 45.75, 50, 54, 58.25, 62.5) in/84.5, 95.5, 105.5, 116, 127, 137, 148, 159) cm

Intended to be worn with +2-4 in/5-10 cm of ease at bust for casual fit; shown in size 33.25 with +3.25 in/8 cm of ease on model.

Gauge
25 sts/30 rows = 4 in/10 cm in Stockinette stitch using Gauge Needle (Needle C) 

Materials
YARN
735 (830, 970, 1125, 1175, 1245, 1360, 1475) yd/675 (760, 890, 1030, 1055, 1135, 1245, 1345) m Fingering weight yarn

Shown in Hazel Knits Artisan Sock (90% Merino, 10% Nylon; 400 yd/366 m per 120 g skein) 
Color: Henna; 2 (3, 3, 3, 3, 4, 4, 4) skeins

NEEDLES
*Needle sizes are recommendations only; always use needle size necessary to achieve given gauge.
Needle A: US #2/2.75 mm 24 in/60 cm circular needle
Needle B: US #3/3.25 mm 24 in/60 cm circular needle
Needle C (Gauge Needle): US #4/3.5 mm 24 in/60 cm circular needle
Needle D: US #3/3.25 mm 16 in/40 cm circular needle
Needle E: US #2/2.75 mm 16 in/40 cm circular needle

NOTIONS
stitch markers
tapestry needle
three .5 in/1 cm buttons

Technical Editor: Tana Pageler
Copy Editor: Jessie Kwak




Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Fietser Cowl & Mitts


This week I've published two new patterns, Fietser Cowl and Mitts.  The designs are ones I created for my trip to the Netherlands and I'm happy that they're ready to share!  (Fietser is Dutch for cyclist!)

I'm generally captivated by intricate surface design and interesting shapes, and so I tend to create patterns with lots of texture and color. But over the past year or two, I've become enamored of certain designers who do "simple" so incredibly well.  I know I've talked before about my admiration for Purl Soho, Julie Hoover, Dianna Walla, and Churchmouse, and inspiration from that clean, brilliant aesthetic has definitely begun to seep into my work.  While I still enjoy employing lots of knitterly details and textures, I've been challenging myself to seek that balance that my favorite designers seem to achieve between simplicity and clever design.  


With this set - a cowl and fingerless mitts - I started with one of the most humble ideas in knitting - a Stockintte stitch tube.  We all know that, with the right yarn, Stockinette has the ability to glow with luxury and relaxation.  Since I started with Anzula Cloud, a loosely-spun two-ply Merino/Cashmere/Nylon blend, I knew that I could step back from my usual urge to decorate the surface and let the yarn shine with the most basic of stitch patterns.  The welting added with narrow Garter stitch stripes creates just enough interest to keep the knitter excited, and even though the yarn is fingering weight, this is one of those projects that gives the knitter a sweet feeling of instant gratification.


The cowl is designed to scrunch up pleasantly - the top end is narrower than the bottom, so the piece will relax gently along your collar bones while still snuggling the back of your neck.


And the welting along the mitts allows for an easy slouched look if that's more your style.


I've often been asked for easy beginner projects, and most folks assume that a scarf is the ideal way to go.  But unless a new knitter is really excited to knit a scarf, I like to steer them away.  I tend to find easy scarves incredibly long and boring.  In order to be really wearable, I want my scarves to be at least five inches wide and five feet long.  It doesn't matter your gauge - that's a whole lot of knitting.  One of the joys of knitting, and one that I think encourages newbies to continue, is that of finishing a project! So I recommend cowls to new knitters.  They don't have to worry about going back and forth in rows and the project can be finished relatively quickly.  It can also be worked on a sixteen-inch circular needle, so there's no need to learn magic loop or double points right away.  (For this reason, I think the cowl is more of a beginner project than the mitts.)  This cowl also includes the chance to practice some important basic skills - purling and Make One increasing.  If you or a friend are just learning, this might be just the thing to get you going.  Start with the cowl and move on to the mitts for a little skills challenge.

Of course, as experience knitters, we also sometimes just need a little bit of tasty sock yarn candy.  Have a special skein languishing away in your stash?  (Or a few, perhaps?)  Both mitts and cowl can be made with just one skein of Anzula Cloud, though you may need a second skein to make both if your yardage is less than Cloud.  (Most sock yarns come in skeins of about 400 yards/366 meters, while Cloud has 575 yards/526 meters. The cowl takes about 315 yards/288 meters, and the mitts require 165-190 yards/151-174 meters.)  The set would also be a lovely and special gift.

You can find the patterns on Ravelry and on my website.  They're sold as a pair for just $6. Buy either pattern to get the download file for both.  As is true of all my independently-published designs, these patterns have been tested and reviewed by both a technical editor and a copy editor.  Check out the beautiful projects that my testers worked up over on Ravelry!

PATTERN SPECS

Finished Measurements

COWL
13.75 in/35 cm long; 14.25 in/36 cm circumference at smallest point; 17.75 in/45 cm circumference at largest point


FINGERLESS MITTS
6.5 (7, 7.5) in/16.5 (18, 19) cm hand circumference 


Gauge

28 sts/40 rows = 4 in/10 cm in Stockinette Stitch pattern after blocking

Materials
YARN
Cowl: 315 yd/290 m fingering weight yarn
Fingerless Mitts: 165 (175, 190) yd/150 (160, 175) m fingering weight yarn

Shown in Anzula Cloud (80% Merino, 10% Cashmere, 10% Nylon; 575 yd/526 m per 114 g skein) Color Temperence; 1 skein is enough to make both Cowl and Mitts

NEEDLES
*Needle sizes are recommendations only; always use needle size necessary to achieve given gauge.
Needle A (Cowl): US #3/3.52 mm 16 in/40 cm needle
Needle B (Mitts): US #3/3.25 mm double pointed needles, 32 in/80 cm or longer circular needle for magic loop method or 2 circular needles; use your preferred small-circumference circular knitting method.


NOTIONS
stitch markers tapestry needle 

Technical Editor: Tana Pageler
Copy Editor: Jessie Kwak


Thursday, July 31, 2014

Richting

It’s been a month since we rolled back onto BC soil, and while I’ve definitely been thinking fondly of long morning rides, canals, and sheep, I’ve also been loving the work I’ve been able to get done here at home.  I’ve already made a significant dent in my book designs, and I’ve had a great time working with my testers on the patterns I created for the bike tour.  Today’s news is that the first pattern of that collection is now ready for all of you knitters!



Richting is a lightweight hat worked with just a touch of contrasting color, and a rich, but subtle textured stitch pattern.  The pattern is charted and written, so however you like your stitch pattern instructions, I’ve got you covered.  




I knit mine up in Brooklyn Tweed Loft.  The light, woolenspun yarn gives a wonderful fabric that just gets more cohesive and beautiful with time and wear.  Some of my testers chose to work their hats in crisper yarns like Quince and Co. Finch, which creates a fabric with higher relief and clearer texture.


Richting fits just right under my bike helmet, but I think it's perfect for any time you need a little barrier against a chill.  I don't often think of wool hats as being necessary for summer, but if you love to get outside early or sit around the campfire at night, a cozy beanie can be just the thing.

Get the pattern now and stay tuned for the rest of the collection!

See it on Ravlery here.

Pattern Specs:
Finished Measurements 
Sizes S (L); shown in size S 
19 (22.75) in/48.5 (58) cm brim circumference

Yarn 
Main Color: 130 (160) yd/120 (145) m fingering weight yarn

Shown in Brooklyn Tweed Loft (100% Wool; 275 yd/251 m per 50g skein) 
Color Woodsmoke; 1 skein

Contrast Color: 15 (20) yd/14 (18) m fingering weight yarn

Shown in Brooklyn Tweed Loft (100% Wool; 275 yd/251 m per 50g skein) 
Color Sap; 1 skein

Blocked Gauge 
Gauge measurement should be taken after blocking. 
21 sts/44 rows = 4 in/10 cm in Textured Stitch pattern

Needles & Notions 
Needle Sizes are recommendations only. Always use needle size necessary to obtain gauge.

Needle A: US #4/3.50 mm 16 in/40 cm needle 
Needle B: US #4/3.50 mm double pointed needles, 32 in/80 cm or longer circular needle for magic loop method or 2 circular needles; use your preferred small-circumference circular knitting method.

Notions: stitch markers, tapestry needle

Skills 

Switch from one color to another, work a textured stitch pattern using charted and/or written instructions, work shaping in pattern


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Bike Travel in the Netherlands: Part 10

We’re back in Canada!  After a full month camping and riding, I’m happy to be home. 




I’m really glad we chose to go to the Netherlands.  We wanted a trip that would be relaxing and enjoyable rather than hard work, and it was perfect for that.  The whole country is flat and the cycling infrastructure is better than anything I’ve seen.  Campsites are abundant, so we were never worried that it would be too far to the next one if we wanted to ride just a bit farther.  Some really windy days and unpredictable weather made it a little more adventurous, but the only things that really brought us down (like my strange allergic reaction and kids going through our stuff) could have happened anywhere.  

Bottom line, if you like to ride your bike, or if you think you might like riding a bike, you should make a pilgrimage to the Netherlands.

Here’s what we did:

The Tour
- Distance pedaled: Just over 1000 km (about 620 miles)
- Days on the road: 31
- Kinds of transportation: bike, plane, ferry, bus, train. (The buses and trains just got us between the Vancouver airport and the Vancouver Island ferry.)
- Places we visited: Amsterdam, Texel, Leeuwarden, Rotterdam, Utrecht, Delft, Den Haag, and a whole lot of countryside in between 
- Places we loved: Amsterdam, Texel, Utrecht, and Delft
- Places we’d skip next time: Rotterdam and Den Haag
- Amount of gear we took: two rear Ortlieb panniers each, holding a total of 80 litres (for all 4 bags), plus our sleeping bags, which we kept in dry bags on top of our racks.  (We didn’t carry anything on the front of our bikes.)
- Flat tires: two (one for each of us)
- Trips to the emergency room: one (related to my allergic reaction, not anything to do with cycling)
- Number of collisions: one
- Traveler’s insurance? Yes, and I’m glad we had it.
- Number of knitting projects completed: five (socks, mitts, and three hats)

Most Valuable Gear
- Garmin Etrex 30 GPS
- Inflatable pillows from MEC
- Ranger bands (a common bush crafting supply that come in handy for a variety of different uses.  They’re just car tire inner tubes cut in strips and they end up being big rubber bands that can be used as bungees, clotheslines, and whatever else you can think of.)
- Soap in a tin
- Mini camp towels



Most Disappointing Gear
- Mountain Hard Wear Direkt 2 Tent - it leaked and had a horrible condensation problem
- REI inflatable sleep mat - the valve cracked so that it wouldn’t seal and all the air leaked out.  I’ve had this mat for several years, so maybe it had lived its life and was just old.

Lessons Learned 
- Take an independent way to charge electronics on tour.  Outlets were hard to find and babysitting the phone while it was plugged into a public outlet was boring and inconvenient.  I don’t know what the solution is, but next time I’ll make a different plan.
- Bike maintenance is vital.  My bike is accustomed to being stored indoors, so in order to avoid chain squeak and rust, we had to oil it more frequently than usual.  Also, paying attention to my tires meant we noticed that one of them was worn out and needed to be replaced before it blew out.
- Chocolate is a fantastic tool for staying happy, energized, and motivated, especially when it contains toffee.  I recommend regular chocolate breaks to anyone on tour.


So now that I’ve finished my bike adventure, what’s next?  My big announcement is that I’m working on a book!  I’m partnering with Interweave and it’s scheduled to be published in the fall of 2016.  I’ve set up my studio in our new apartment and this is where I’ll be parked, focusing on knitting and designing a whole lot of secret projects.  Here’s my inspirational yarn wall, created with two shoe racks and S hooks made out of wire.


I'll also be testing the designs I made for our bike tour over in my Ravelry group.  Right now, I'm accepting testers for my vest pattern, so if you'd like to knit with us, please check out the call for testers.



Saturday, June 21, 2014

Bike Travel in the Netherlands: Part 9

Our focus on this trip has definitely been on enjoying bicycling and the beautiful scenery of the Netherlands, but when you're in Europe, I think there's some kind of requirement that you appreciate the old and impressive architecture at least a little bit. Last week we were in Utrecht and got the chance to visit this lovely church, Domkerk.

It's been Protestant since 1580, but was originally Catholic. (Yep, it's been there since long before 1580, at least parts of it.) There are impressive stained glass windows, and this organ. I pretty much can't believe how enormous and elegant church organs are. (Am I the only one who sees ribbing and lace in those columns of tubes and their embellishments?)

Many of the villages and cities we've visited have multiple churches whose bells chime out the hours. In Delft, where we've spent most of this week, there's a town square that's got churches and old buildings on every side. We spent most of a morning there people and bike watching, listening to the bells from several differnent churches every 15 minutes!

For more photos of architecture, scenery, other things from this trip, be sure to visit my Instagram feed.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Bike Travel in the Netherlands: Part 8 (Ups & Downs)

We're now three weeks into our Netherlands bike tour, and it's been mostly incredible. My favorite parts have been riding in the morning sunshine, full of energy, and relaxing and knitting at beautiful campsites. Happily, the trip has been mostly ups. But, like every adventure, this one has had it's share of downs too. We've had some rain in combination with a leaking tent, some kids stole our food and dumped out our stove fuel, we've crashed our bikes together, and we've been to the emergency room, among other minor disasters.

The worst thing by far was a mysterious allergic reaction I had shortly after we left Amsterdam. I got a rash on the backs of my hands that eventually started to blister. I went to the doctor and received some antihistamines, but decided to bike to a big city emergency room the next day when the pain got considerably worse. The much stronger medications they gave me cleared it all up in just a few days, but it meant we stayed put for four nights while it healed. I've never had anything like that happen before, and the doctors weren't sure what caused it. We suspect I may have developed a nut allergy, so I'm avoiding nuts until I can get home and get an allergy test. It's a bummer not to be able to eat nuts while traveling, though. They're such a great, lightweight source of protein! Overall, I'm very grateful to the Dutch healthcare system and happy to be rid of whatever it was.

Nothing else has been as serious. Trying to avoid a passing car, we misjudged how wide our bikes were (those panniers make a very large backside!) and collided. All we got were a few scrapes and some bent hardware that was easily muscled back into place. My trusty Doc Marten boot took the worst of it. That was a rough day, but it could have been worse.

 
 

We've tried to be security conscious - always locking our bikes, taking our valuables with us everywhere - but last week, someone got into our stuff anyway. After setting up camp, we headed into the city for some sight-seeing, and when we got back, our stuff had been opened and our food containers were open and empty, strewn around the campsite. Our fuel bottle (we have a simple alcohol stove) was empty too, which worried us - hopefully no one drank it or poured it on anything flammable. Nothing but food was stolen, and it seemed more like vandalism than anything, but it definitely made us feel uncomfortable and vulnerable. We left that campsite the next day.

Most of our gear has held up really well, but a few things have failed all at once. Last night as I was getting ready for bed, I realized that the valve on my inflatable sleeping pad was cracked, leaving it hissing and deflated. And this morning one of my flip flops fell apart on my way back from the showers. Both of those things were already pretty old when they started the tour, but I think three weeks on the road also takes its toll. For now, we've used duct tape to patch things up, and I'm hoping they hold on just a little longer.

We've got about a week left of travel before we head back to Amsterdam for our flight home. Here's hoping the rest of the trip goes smoothly!

 

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