How to Knock Out a Handknitted Christmas Gift in Two Days

It’s early December, and you’re probably feeling the heat of your Christmas knitting deadlines looming. That scarf you’ve promised your favorite niece. The charity drive for handknitted scarves for the homeless. Or your kids who’ll expect an annual handknit scarf. And you’re freaking out.

Friends, you can do this. You can still knock out a half dozen handknit scarves, if necessary. I’m in the same boat, and here’s my recipe for an easy-peasy handknit scarf you can knock out in two days – assuming you have something worthwhile to watch on TV or appropriate Christmas music playing in the background.

  • First, procure a big skein of size 5 bulky yarn. I’m using Yarnspirations Caron brand “Sprinkle Cakes” yarn, bought at my local big box craft store. You just need one skein per scarf.
  • Next, get yourself size 11 US (8.0 mm) knitting needles – straight or circular, doesn’t matter.
  • Cast on 20 stitches, knit one row for a nice border.

You’re going to use a 4×4 basket weave pattern – blocks of 4 stitches, 4 rows high. Four knit stitches, 4 purl stitches, repeat to the end of the row. Flip your work over and continue in reverse. Do this for 4 rows, then switch the knits for purls and visa-versa, to wit:

  • Row 1: Knit 4, Purl 4, Knit 4, Purl 4, Knit 4
  • Row 2: Purl 4, knit 4, purl 4, knit 4, purl 4
  • Row 3: repeat row 1
  • Row 4: repeat row 2
  • Row 5: Purl 4, knit 4, purl 4, knit 4, purl 4
  • Row 6: knit 4, purl 4, knit 4, purl 4, knit 4
  • Row 7: repeat row 5
  • Row 8: repeat row 6

Continue in this pattern until you almost run out of yarn. Bind off, weave in loose ends. And voila! You’ve got a long, cozy, generously knit scarf that makes you look like a star!

For added warmth and good wishes, drink one glass of wine or a handful of chocolates while you knit. You’ll feel less stressed. I promise. 

You’ve got this! Go forth and finish that Christmas knitting!!!

Advent Blessings for a wonderful holiday, Cindy

P.S. Thanks so much for all your positive response and kind words on the publication of my new book!!!!! Y’all are awesome!!! Love, Cindy

Cynthia Coe is the author of The Prayer Shawl Chronicles, interrelated stories about knitters and those for whom they knit and love. The sequel to this book, The Knitting Guild of All Saints, has just been released! Available in paperback and on Kindle, included in Kindle Unlimited. 

Are Knitting Books Now Obsolete?

As a writer and lifelong bookworm, I love finding a new knitting book, newly published and on display in the bookstore. But lately, I’m finding myself less and less enthusiastic about newly published collections of knitting patterns, even if they are beautifully designed hardbacks with full color illustrations and photos. Nice to look at, but…?

As some of you know, I often have the special treat of reviewing brand new books digitally, well before they hit the market. In reviewing new knitting books, I’m seeing a trend that makes my eyes glaze over. Many – if not all – of these new knitting books assume I’ve never picked up a pair of knitting needles in my life. These books offer voluminous tips on how to get started, what tools I need, how to choose yarn, and even how to make the most basic of stitches. Lord knows I’ve covered that territory umpteen times before. 

So when I eagerly pick up a new knitting book, I inevitably skip large chunks of introductory material and skip straight to the new patterns. The patterns are usually fine; but do I want to buy an entire book just for a few patterns?

In the meantime, a plethora of interesting and innovative patterns are now available on multiple platforms for just a few bucks a piece. Why buy a book of info you don’t need, when you can buy only what you want for much less? 

And as for instructions on how to knit, it’s all about video these days. I rarely figure out a new stitch from two-dimensional illustrations on paper. But show me a quick video, and I’ve got it under my belt in no time.

I’m going to make a pronouncement (because it’s my blog and I can): Knitting instruction books are obsolete. If you want to learn how to knit, do a search and find a video. If you want a pattern, check out Ravelry, Etsy, or who knows what other platforms are out there in cyberspace. 

I love books, but time and innovation move forward. 

Happy Knitting! Cindy

Cynthia Coe is the author of The Prayer Shawl Chronicles, a collection of interrelated short stories about knitters and those they meet through knitting and sharing prayer shawls. 

Copyright 2022 Cynthia Coe

Legal Disclosures: I provide links to products (including books I have written), and as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases (which means I may get a very small fee if you click through the link and buy something).

DIY Knitting Design – When You Can’t Find a Pattern That’s Just Right

You may have heard that knitted vests are all the rage these days. I’ve seen quite a number of knitted vests and armless tunics featured in fashion magazines, though I haven’t really seen many in the stores yet. 

Honestly, I haven’t worn a knitted vest since around 1987. Would I wear one again? I just might. If I could find a pattern I liked….

With plenty of yarn at my disposal (my yarn cabinet overflows), I have many yarn options available. The problem? I can’t find a pattern that works. I searched high and low on Ravelry for a free pattern. But everything on offer featured complicated details, the dreaded short rows, or intricate stitching that would ruin my eyesight. The few I liked called for fingerling yarn (too small) or bulky (too large). I just couldn’t find that Goldilocks “just right” pattern.

As I’ve found many times in my knitting life, sometimes it’s just easier to make up your own pattern that works for you. In fact, unless you have EXACTLY the yarn called for in a pattern – which is rare – you might save yourself a lot of time searching through the multitude of patterns on the web by scribbling out your own design.

It’s not that hard to come up with your own design. Here’s my process:

  • Identify a favorite sweater that fits just right. It can be store bought and manufactured.
  • Measure it. Write down the width and the length of the body, along with the dimensions of the arms and the neck.
  • Knit a swatch and determine the gauge. How many stitches to an inch? Multiply the dimensions of the favorite sweater by your gauge, subtracting stitches for neckline, armpits, and so forth. If you’re off, forgive yourself and carry on. 
  • Use your favorite stitches to give your garment some zing. I usually do this as I go.

Do you need pages-long instructions and umpteen books to do DIY Knit Design? Nope. What I find most helpful are bare bones charts for top-down sweaters (telling me how many stitches to increase on top and how many stitches to put on a lifeline for the arms) and a comprehensive stitch dictionary. Here are my current go-to sources:

As a knitter, you have skills. You have the ability to make precisely what you want. Go for it!

Blessings on your DIY Designs, Cindy

Cynthia Coe is the author of The Prayer Shawl Chronicles, a collection of interrelated short stories about knitters and those they meet through knitting and sharing prayer shawls. 

Copyright 2022 Cynthia Coe

How Do You Knit Socks?

When I knitted my first socks two years ago, the entire process of making socks was a mystery. What’s a gusset? What’s a heel turn or a heel flap, and are those two different things? What’s this Kitchener stitch everyone talks about with reverence and awe but can never seem to remember?

My first pair of socks found me, as I signed up for a subscription service that sent a sock kit as the new subscriber freebie. I had pondered trying to knit a pair of socks for some time, but even as an experienced knitter, I couldn’t figure out how in the world the process worked. But I gamely got myself an outrageously small set of circular needles and dove in.

This first pattern I tackled featured an “afterthought” heel. You make the body of the sock and go back and knit the heel afterwards. This process includes putting in a lifeline and the terrifying act of pulling the lifeline out on this project you’ve toiled over for a week, trying to get the thing back on your toothpick sized needles. I survived the experience, presented my husband with the cozy wool socks he had asked for years ago, but pondered whether I would have the nerve to knit another pair.

A month later, I gathered myself and tried another sock pattern. This time, mercifully, there were no afterthought heels or any other high wire acts involving life lines. As I got to the heel flap (whatever that was), I slavishly followed the instructions through a mystifying process of slip stitches, picked up stitches around a tiny rectangle, and a series of decreases that somehow looked like an increasingly larger triangle. But finally, I successfully rounded the corner of the heel and ended up with a piece of knitting that actually looked like the embryo of a sock. I even mastered the Kitchener stitch and sewed up the toe neat and pretty.

Was this steep learning curve worth the effort? Oh yes. Hand-knitted socks are a luxury on par with hot chocolate made with real cream and topped with high-end marshmallows. On a cold day, nothing compares.

I admit I have not tried any more afterthought heels. Life seems too short to deal with lifelines when you don’t have to. But who knows what the future holds? Live dangerously once in a while. I do like the color contrasts you get when you make the heel a different color, so I might give it another go one of these days.

Want to learn to make socks?

  • This is my go to resource for sock knitting – a classic, in my opinion: Getting Started Knitting Socks by Ann Budd. It includes everything you need to know about knitting socks. Invaluable is an extensive stitch dictionary for adding pizzaz to your socks. You can make them as plain or fancy as you want.
  • Want to try a new method? A new book with a new and innovative method is coming out soon, Knit 2 Socks in 1 by Safiyyah Talley. I’ve gotten a pre-publication peek at this book. You basically make one long tube, then make a cuff, a toe, and afterthought heels later.

Will I try afterthought heels and the dreaded lifelines again? Maybe. The beauty of trying and succeeding something challenging is that you gain both mastery and a new sense of confidence in your work. Worth it? Oh yes.

Blessing to those trying new knitting techniques! Cindy

Cynthia Coe is the author of The Prayer Shawl Chronicles, a collection of interrelated short stories about knitters and those they meet through knitting and sharing prayer shawls. 

Copyright 2022 Cynthia Coe

Legal Disclosures: I provide links to products (including books I have written), and as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases (which means I may get a very small fee if you click through the link and buy something).

Pandemic Knitting – How it’s Changed Us As Knitters

Hello Knitters! Yes, it’s been awhile since I’ve posted on this blog. When the pandemic hit, I took a break to relax and live a very quiet life in lockdown. Then, my beloved husband was diagnosed with a rare and advanced cancer in the spring of 2020 and passed away in December. My knitting kept me sane and relatively calm, but I found myself with writer’s block for the first time in my life. It’s time to get back to writing again, so here goes. 

It’s been quite a year. Just about everything we do has been affected by the pandemic, and knitting is no exception. Here’s just a few areas where the practice of knitting has changed:

Learn-to-Knit Opportunities

Have you recently taken up knitting? If so, you’re certainly not alone. Lots of folks have taken up new crafts or sought to improve their skills. At the beginning of the pandemic, I signed onto the online learning platform Bluprint and learned to pick up stitches neatly, make button bands for cardigans, and tackle the art of short rows. Sadly, Bluprint was sold in mid-2020 and re-emerged as a new version of Craftsy. Other online learn-to-knit platforms advertise heavily on the web, reaching out to new and intermediate knitters. I just signed up for a “learn new knitting stitches” kit with Annie’s Kit Clubs. It appears that learning to knit via video is here to stay, with readily available, affordable, high quality platforms.

The Yarn Supply

Even as we have more time than ever before to knit, our collective stash may be dwindling. Sources of high-quality, all-natural yarns have been moving targets. I previously bought several kits from Kitterly, but they seem to be scaling way down (what little they offer is on deep clearance). Bluprint offered wonderful yarns, but their stash didn’t transfer to Craftsy. Knitcrate, however, has managed to keep the luxury yarns coming, despite delays in shipments from Peru and challenges with the U.S. postal system. 

If you want acrylic or other synthetic yarns, however, the big box stores seem to have plenty on offer. From my own personal experiences, the “order and pick up at the curb” services did not work. One understaffed big box store left me waiting at the curb for a half hour and never did come out with my order. (I had to go inside and stand in line.) Another big box store cancelled my order, saying they didn’t have in stock what their website said they had. But if you actually go in the big box stores, they will have plenty to choose from. 

The End of Local Yarn Shops?

Once upon a time, I went to a tiny little knit shop in Knoxville called the Knit Wits, where two sweet elderly ladies taught me to purl and how to make a sweater. They carried lovely yarns from Europe. I remember them fondly. And I may remember more local yarn stores as something I “used to frequent” before this pandemic is over. The local yarn store in my community of Farragut closed early into the pandemic. Though I’m aware that other yarn stores in the greater Knoxville area have offered curbside services and online Zoom knitting circles, I haven’t participated or taken advantage of these offerings. To stay connected to the knitting community, I’ve veered more towards large online groups on Ravelry, where’s there’s always someone online, day or night, to chat about yarn, fuss about supply issues, dream together about planned projects, and show off your finished work.

While I do support the notion of local yarn stores, I wonder if they will be able to survive in the future. The online stores offer plenty of wonderful yarns, and they almost always have all you need to finish even the largest of projects. I’ve found local yarn stores in South Carolina and North Carolina that sell their inventory on Amazon. They sent my yarn quickly, beautifully packaged, and with free shipping. Perhaps this hybrid model of “local yarn store that ships all over” is the new model that will keep the locals in business? 

All in all, the craft of knitting is in great shape, with more enthusiastic knitters worldwide than ever before. With incredible opportunities to try new yarns and connect with knitters all over the world (and more time on our hands for many of us), there’s never been a better time to knit. 

Blessings to all my knitting friends, Cindy

Cynthia Coe is the author of The Prayer Shawl Chronicles, a collection of interrelated short stories about knitters and those they meet through knitting and sharing prayer shawls. 

Copyright 2022 Cynthia Coe

The End of the Knitting World as We Know It?

Last fall, my knitting world was at its best. I attended a knitting convention with an abundance of yarn on offer. I had a terrific subscription service sending me luxurious yarns from Peru every month, and if I wanted anything at all knitting-related on short notice, I just jumped in my car and headed to a lovely local yarn store or took my pick from three big box craft stores near my home.

That was the best of times – knitwise – and now it’s looking like the worst of times. I can certainly place orders for yarn, but will I actually receive it? Who knows?  Some of the yarn I ordered during this quarantine took a month to arrive; other yarn has yet to arrive. One of the big box stores flat out cancelled my order. My go-to source for looking up unfamiliar techniques I needed for advanced projects, Bluprint, announced a shut-down in late May. Then, boom, yesterday the local yarn shop in my community announced its closing. 

Will we ever get back to the “normal” ways we purchased yarn and learn new knitting techniques? Even in the last two weeks, I’ve changed how I buy yarn and from whom. Most of my yarn purchases had moved to online purchases anyway, but I’m finding myself looking closely at which sellers actually have yarn in stock and which do not. I’m delighted to have found a yarn store in South Carolina that seems to have lots of yarn on hand and gets my yarn shipped to my door in two days. If it weren’t for all this change, I would never have ordered from them.

Despite this rapidly changing economy, the knitting world will eventually settle out. There WILL be changes, and some of those changes WILL be for the better. Though we’ll mourn the loss of our favorite local stores, we may well celebrate finding new purveyors of yarn we’d never heard of before. 

Knitting has been around for hundreds of years, if not longer. Whatever happens to our favorite knitting suppliers, we will still manage to get hold of some kind of fiber and make something beautiful with it. The world will go on, change and all, and we will keep on knitting through the good times and the bad. 

Blessings, Cindy

This is my first blog post in a couple of months. I’ve been homeschooling and caring for a family member with a serious illness. Thanks to everyone who has checked out my older posts and read my books!!! Much appreciated!!!

Cynthia Coe is the author of The Prayer Shawl Chronicles, a collection of interrelated short stories about knitters and those they meet through knitting and sharing prayer shawls. 

Copyright 2022 Cynthia Coe

Want to Learn to Knit? There’s Never Been a Better Time

It’s never been a better time to learn to knit, crochet or any other craft you can do in your home and by yourself. Fortunately, with a few clicks of your fingers, you can get all the supplies you need delivered to your door AND take classes from top notch instructors right in your own home. If you’re already a knitter, you can take this time to bump up your skill level or just try something new. 

As I check my emails, I notice many craft related companies have stepped up to the plate to offer “something to do” for those of us with too much down time on our hands. Here’s a selected list:

  • Bluprint just announced they will offer a free 14 day trial period for new potential subscribers. They’ve also slashed their annual fee to $39. They offer LOTS of family friendly crafting classes, along with advanced classes for those of us wanting to up our skills during this long break. Also, they ship supplies (including yarn, needles, stitch holders, everything). Bluprint helpfully offers “start-up kits” for newbies, with everything you need to take a class and get started with a craft. 
  • KnitCrate ships two skeins of yarn and a little booklet with patterns for the yarn each month for only $25. They also have a very active Ravelry group for online chats with other knitters. Knitcrate is great if you want to improve your knitting or crochet skills. By making the project you’re sent each month, you’ll learn lots of new techniques. Perfect for those who “learn by doing.” 
  • Michael’s Craft store is sending out emails about every day with crafting projects for kids they will ship to your house. They are currently offering a nice discount on purchases. Update: Michael’s is now offering curbside pickup.
  • JoAnn’s offers online shopping for yarn and other crafting projects. As of now, they offer curbside pick-up. You can also have your purchase shipped to your home. Emails have offered generous discounts for online orders. If you knit a lot and need an affordable option, the big box stores are great options. 

We’re facing an unprecedented disruption of daily life. With all this extra time on our hands, it’s a great opportunity to learn or improve a craft that will calm us down, give us a sense of accomplishment, and help us connect with other crafters while doing something we enjoy. 

Blessings during this difficult time, Cindy

If you need something to do while sheltered-in-place (besides knit), please take a look at my two novels, The Prayer Shawl Chronicles and Ginger’s Reckoning, both available in e-book and paperback editions, both available worldwide.

My Season of Knitting Cardigan Sweaters

I wear cardigan sweaters all the time. Here in the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee, we rarely have bitter cold weather. But in the pastel beauty of the Appalachian spring and among the yellow and orange leaves of autumn, we have cool mornings and crisp evenings perfect for a light sweater. During the heat of the summers, cardigans are perfect for peeling off by midmorning or to cope with excessive air conditioning indoors.

This year, I pledged to learn to knit my own cardigans. My closet is full of fairly inexpensive, store-bought cardigans, but I didn’t have a single cardigan sweater I had made myself. As a longtime knitter, I found this situation embarrassing and unacceptable. I admit, I found all the shaping, button bands, and tricky necklines highly intimidating. 

But I resolved to learn the skills needed and become a Cardigan Queen. Two months into the year, I’m pleased to say I’ve completed two cardigans and have another well under way. I started with a yoke-neck cardi. Much to my surprise, my first cardigan took less than two weeks to complete, fit perfectly, and is now a “go-to” part of my wardrobe. 

The verdict is still out on the “saddle” neck cardi I’m making, using a kit from Kitterly. It’s complicated, using German short rows, make-one-lefts and rights, cable cast-ons, and some other techniques I hadn’t used before. But I followed the directions and somehow got several indescribable shapes onto one set of needles to form a corset shaped garment that is starting to look like a sweater. 

Will my season of cardigans come to a successful conclusion? Probably. Though my season of cardis is not yet in full bloom and I still have a lot to learn, the seeds of a fruitful harvest of all new cardis is firmly planted, taking root, and in a promising growing season. 

Here’s What I’m Using to Make Cardigans

Margaret Hubert, One-Piece Knits: Essential Designs in Multiple Sizes and Gauges for Sweaters Knit Top Down, Side Over, and Back to Front (This book of charts proved easier than it initially looks. I’ve easily adjusted the charts slightly to fit me. Several techniques are included. Highly recommended.)

Yarn: Knitcrate offers very high-quality yarns at very affordable costs. If you subscribe to the “member crate,” you’ll get enough yarn for a small project (patterns included). At the end of the month, you can get fantastic deals on the featured yarns (and get enough yarn for a sweater). Buy early – they sell out! Click this link to get a crate for only $5.

Kits: I’m using kits from Kitterly. These kits are pricey but include high quality yarn and well-designed but complicated patterns. They work, but you’ll need to pay close attention to the directions. 

Blessings on you own season of knitting, 

Cindy

Cynthia Coe is the author of The Prayer Shawl Chronicles, a collection of interrelated short stories about knitters and those they meet through knitting and sharing prayer shawls. 

Copyright 2022 Cynthia Coe