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. Available in e-book for US $4.99 and in paperback for $14.99. Read it for free if you have Kindle Unlimited.

Ten Reasons To Teach Knitting or Crochet To Young People This Summer

Looking for a engaging, worthwhile activities for your summer camp? Offer Knitting or Crochet lessons. Why?

  1. It teaches a craft they can practice and enjoy for the rest of their lives.
  2. You’re teaching “real” life skills, not an “arts & crafts” project they’ll trash as soon as they get home.
  3. Knitting and crochet help young people calm down and get away from their phones.
  4. It’s perfectly acceptable for both boys and girls to knit and crochet these days.
  5. Finishing a knitting or crochet project gives you a huge sense of accomplishment and self-esteem.
  6. If you knit or crochet, you can make your own clothes, hats, scarves, and blankets.
  7. If you use cotton, wool, alpaca, or bamboo yarns, you’re introducing a sustainability lesson, too.
  8. You can engage members of your community as teachers and create bonds between generations.
  9. Local crafters will likely donate much of the yarn you need (because all of us knit and crochet folks have leftover yarn and secret stashes we know we need to give away). You may even get donations of needles and hooks, too!
  10. Your young people will remember “the summer I learned to knit” as one of their best memories of summer camp. 

Cindy Coe is the author of two resources to help children and youth engage with nature during summer camps. Her latest book is “The Prayer Shawl Chronicles,” a collection of interrelated short stories set in and around an Episcopal Church in Tennessee. 

Is Yarn As Addictive As Candy?

It’s been said that yarn-buying and knitting are two separate hobbies. I’m inclined to agree. With all sorts of lovely, soft yarns on the market these days, it’s easy to get carried away. 

This past year, I made the big switch from buying cheap, synthetic yarns to buying higher quality, all-natural yarns. I’m really glad I did. The yarns are softer and much better looking. As an environmentalist, I can feel better about purchasing more sustainable products. 

After bumping up my knitting skills in the last year as well, I’m also ready to say, “my knitting is worth the better yarns.” If I’m going to use my much-practiced skills and well-honed techniques, I should quality materials. If you’re just starting out, using cheaper materials is recommended. But I’m well past that stage in my life. It’s time to “own” my more advanced stage of knitting.

Yet I still go through a heck of a lot of yarn, as much as I knit. It’s hard to pass up on the pastel violet yarn that would make a gorgeous springtime sweater…or the yellow and orange sherbet fingerling alpaca that would be just the thing for a summer garment…or the silk and wool blend navy blue yarn that would match everything in my winter wardrobe. 

Yarn is indeed as addictive as candy. One look, and you want to indulge. Visions of all the great sweaters, scarves, cowls, hats, and even summer tops dance in your head. You feel better just having the stuff in your hands. And, like candy, you can have too much. Your yarn storage bins bulge with yarns that’s been sitting there, un-knitted, for the last several years. You cringe at your credit card bill and vow to say “enough!”

It’s “yarn diet” time for me, I’m afraid. I’ve promised myself I’ll knit through the four sweater projects and three or four smaller stashes of yarn before I buy any more yarn. But once I’ve knit through these projects….I can buy more yarn!!!

Happy Knitting (and Yarn Buying), Cindy

Cynthia Coe is a writer, book reviewer, and avid knitter. Her books and blog posts can be found on her Amazon Author Page

A Shout-Out to Ewe Knit & Sew for the swirl-pop yarn in the photo! What a great marketing idea!

Persevering Through Projects, One Stitch at a Time

This past December 31, I finished the longest knitting project I’ve ever done – a temperature blanket begun on January 1, 2019. This temperature blanket was “long” in more way than one. At twelve feet long, it was the lengthiest piece of knitting I’ve ever made. I also spent the longest period of time on it, one full year.

Yet the time I spent on this project actually seems minimal. I worked on one garter ridge each evening. With a hundred simple knit stitches on each row, this took me a mere ten minutes after dinner each night while watching TV. 

The lesson I’ve learned through my year of knitting a temperature blanket is that even the longest, most time-consuming projects we work on are knitted one stitch at a time, one row at a time. There’s no need to rush. There’s no need to procrastinate, either. If you’re working on a lengthy project, it simply takes the amount of time it takes. You can enjoy a few minutes of peace and quiet while you work on it, and it will eventually get done.

As New Year resolutions fade from initial excitement and resolve to the mid-January reality of daily work and discipline, we might remember that all projects worth doing require one stitch at a time, one row at a time. If you work on your project daily – even for a few minutes a day – you’ll eventually end up with a completed project and, better yet, a sense of accomplishment and work well done.

New Year’s Blessings, 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. Available in e-book for US $4.99 and in paperback for $14.99. Read it for free if you have Kindle Unlimited.

Christmas Gifts for the Favorite Knitter in Your Life

What do you want for Christmas? Your spouse, child, close friends, and family members may ask this of the Knitting Superstar in their life (which would be YOU). What to tell them? 

You may have something specific in mind. But all of us like nice surprises for Christmas. If your loved ones need help in making Christmas extra special for the Knitting Diva in the house, here’s a handy-dandy suggestion list:

  • A Gift Card to the local yarn store nearest your home. Your beloved knitter will be sure to pick out lovely yarn, needles, or patterns to make something lovely. 
  • Extra Special Needles. These come in all price ranges. Check to see what brand your knitter uses and think about a set of them. Sets keep the knitting life organized and make sure the right size is always on hand. Here are some popular choices:
  • Clover Takumi Bamboo Interchangeables: This is what I use, and I highly recommend them. Most of the sizes you’ll ever need, with a good variety of cables, all in a nice case.
  • Chiagoo Sets: I use the small sets for socks. These metal needles are smooth as silk and come in nice cloth cases.
  • Prym Ergonomic Needles: I just discovered these recently and love the feel of them in my hands. No sets, but any size would make a good stocking stuffer.
  • Yarn. Luxury Yarns are even better. Knitters love squishy, soft yarn, and many of us penny-pinchers shy away from buying the expensive yarns for ourselves. Treat your favorite knitter to three months of projects with extra special yarns with a gift subscription to Knitcrate.  You can also buy luxury yarns online or at your local yarn store. Go for your knitter’s favorite color, and you’ll make her very happy. 
  • Swift and Winder. If your favorite knitter habitually buys high end yarns, they’ll likely have to wind them into balls by hand. Help your knitter out with some low-tech tools.
  • A Good Floor Light. It’s all about eyesight, whether you’re young and hoping to hang onto yours or older and can’t knit without direct lighting. Not a glam gift, but highly practical.
  • Fancy Stich Markers. These look like jewelry, but your knitter uses them to keep track of pattern changes within her work. Many of us use scrap yarn, but you know your knitter deserves better. Available online and likely at local yarn stores.
  • A Yarn Bowl. These are now the “must have” knitting accessories. They’re both decorative and help keep yarn balls from rolling all over the house.
  • Big Fat Knitting Books. Keep your knitter occupied with pretty pictures, lots of patterns, and everything there is to know about knitting. Try the new Vogue Knitting Ultimate Knitting Book or the Interweave’s Ultimate Pattern Collection.
  • Alone Time to Knit. If all else fails, make your loved one a certificate for quiet, peaceful, uninterrupted time to knit. Believe me, this will be appreciated by stressed, busy wanna-be knitters.

Happy Holidays!!!! 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. Available in e-book for US $4.99 and in paperback for $14.99. Read it for free if you have Kindle Unlimited.

Legal Disclosure: 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 – at no additional cost to you). These fees help pay for this blog!

Knitting Christmas Gifts – Are We There Yet?

Hello, Fellow Knitters! It’s now less than a month before Christmas, and I’m knitting my little fingers off.

For those of us who knit, this is our season. Not only do we actually get to wear all the lovely knitted garments we’ve worked on this past year (no small thing for those of us in warm climates), we also get to use our knitting superpowers to actually make our Christmas presents by hand.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been rather busy. Fortunately, I started around October. After asking what family members wanted in the way of handknitted gifts, I got orders for two pairs of socks, a cowl, and a scarf, plus a couple of surprises for someone who reads this blog. As many of you know, socks take a long time! I’m delighted to make them, and they look fabulous, but I’m sure glad I started early.

At this point, I’m wondering if I’ll get my knitting done by December 25. “Yes, I will,” I tell myself! There is no alternative. So every chance I get, I’m stitching away.

And when my last handknitted gift is finished, I’ll sigh a long sigh of relief. I love knitting, and I’m delighted that my family members actually want me to make them something. But on Christmas afternoon, I’ll be knitting very, very slowly…and making something for myself!

Holiday Knitting Blessing to All,

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. Available in e-book for US $4.99 and in paperback for $14.99. Read it for free if you have Kindle Unlimited.

A Knitter Learns to Crochet

This past year, as I’ve upped my knitting skills, I’ve also developed an interest in crochet. Many yarn companies offer both knitting and crochet patterns, and at times, I’ve looked at a crochet pattern and said, “I wish I could make that.”

At the Vogue Knitting Live event recently, I took a three hour beginners’ crochet class, taught by the sassy author of Stitch ‘N Bitch fame, Debbie Stoller. I loved it! With a solid background in fiber arts and a terrific teacher, by the end of the class, I had made a mini-version of a crocheted scarf. I amazed myself with the lovely scallops I’d made and how quickly I picked it up.

Having “crossed the divide” between knitting and crochet, here’s my thoughts on knitting versus crochet:

  • Crochet is more forgiving if you make a mistake and easier to rip out and try again.
  • If you already know how to knit, you know a lot of the basics of crochet, even if you don’t think you do. You know the basics of manipulating yarn to do what you want. 
  • Crochet is more architectural than knitting; you can go in more directions with your stitches. Crochet stitches are like building blocks, and you can make several rows at one time.
  • Crochet seems faster than knitting; you use more yarn per stitch. 
  • Knitting makes a more finished-looking fabric; crochet looks a bit more chunky.
  • Needless to say, the one small needle of crochet is a little easier to keep up with, store, and use on-the-go than the two needles of knitting.

I’ve enjoyed crochet and plan to use it for quick gifts and household items. I’ll likely use small crochet projects for the “purse project” I always keep with me for waiting rooms and car pick-up lines. Looking ahead, I think crochet and cotton yarn will make a good summer beach project.

The common wisdom is that crochet is very “different” from knitting – a completely separate craft and technique. But from my experience, it’s just a different way of using yarn to relax, calm yourself down, and do something constructive. Is one better than the other? My own view is that whatever makes you happy is what’s best for you at the moment! I love knitting, and I’m loving crochet, too.

Blessings on your chosen craft, whatever it is!

Cindy

Here’s what I’m using to learn crochet, all books I’ve personally used and highly recommend:

Debbie StollerStitch ‘N Bitch Crochet: The Happy Hooker

Deborah Burger, Crochet 101: Master Basic Skills and Techniques Easily through Step-by-Step Instruction

Interweave Editors, Crochet to Calm: Stitch and De-Stress with 18 Simple Crochet Patterns

Cynthia Coe is an author, blogger, and avid knitter. Her books are available in paperback and e-reader edition on Amazon.com. Visit her Author page and follow this blog for more info and news.

Knitting Fashion Forecast: Big Sleeves, Argyll, and Chunky – Will They “Take”?

Hello Knitting Friends! I’ve just returned from Vogue Knitting’s Live Event, ready to report on upcoming fashion trends in knitting. 

If you’ve never attended a knitting convention, by all means give it a go. If you’re a fan of the Vogue Knitting magazine, it should be on your bucket list. Some of the best events were actually seeing the sweaters and knitwear from the magazine modelled on the runway (with a front row seat to boot!) and getting to hear the editor-in-chief talk about designs in the magazine.

What knitting fashion trends will you soon see? Here’s the fashion forecast from Carla Scott, the new editor-in-chief of Vogue Knitting:

  • Big, unusual sleeves (bell shaped, oversized, and highly embellished with design elements). 
  • Argyll: Lots of Argyll diamond-shaped patterns were featured, looking timeless yet fresh
  • Fringe and Embellishments: Beads, embroidery, long fringe, and other blingy design features, along with metallic yarn
  • Chunky hats and sweaters: slouchy hats and big, oversized sweaters are here to stay

Some of these trends I really liked. I loved the Argyll designs, and I’ll definitely add one or two patterns to my works-in-progress line-up. I’ll also keep knitting slouchy hats for the young adults in my life, along with some big, chunky sweaters for the deep winter. I’m intrigued by the technique of embroidering on top of my finished knitting, and I’m eager to try it. 

But the huge, bell-shaped sleeves? Not for me. I imagine such things picking up every scrap of dust and debris everywhere I go, struggling to get a coat on over them, and generally finding them more of a nuisance than a fashion statement. Ditto the fringe. I love the oversized sweaters in January, but by the middle of February, I need something much lighter here in Tennessee. 

Once upon a time, fashion magazines set the trends and determined what we would wear in coming seasons.  In this age of Ravelry and a plethora of media outlets online, how do we decide what we’ll knit in coming months? In my mind, “fashion” only matters if people actually like and wear these types of knitwear. Just because a fashion magazine tells us that oversized sleeves are “in style” doesn’t mean we all have to start knitting them.

I’ll be watching carefully to see which of these trends actually “take.” In the meantime, happy knitting of…whatever you want!!!!

Blessings, 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. Available in e-book for US $4.99 and in paperback for $14.99. Read it for free if you have Kindle Unlimited.

Five Reasons to Go to a Knitting Convention

Hello Fellow Knitters! I’ve just returned from the Vogue Knitting Live Convention in Columbus, Ohio, and I’m bursting with new ideas, skills, and enthusiasm for the craft of knitting. Have you ever attended a knitting convention? If you haven’t, here’s why you should:

  • The Sheer Geek-Out Factor: High quality yarn everywhere you turn, like-minded new knitting friends, lots of new ideas, knitting fashion shows, and it’s perfectly okay to sit and knit at each and every event.
  • The Classes: Take classes by well-known, highly skilled teachers and learn advanced knitting skills – mosaic, double knitting, brioche, you name it. Plus hear talks on knitting fashion trends, design skills, sustainable wool production, and more. 
  • The Marketplace: Find all those small but crucial niche products you need for your knitting but can’t find locally. Try out those new-fangled knitting needles you’ve had your eye on and buy directly from the manufacturer. And did I mention the yarn? Lots and lots of yarn.
  • Meet Craftspeople Who Make Knitting Possible: Talk to the actual craftspeople who dye the yarn, make the wooden buttons, and even raise the sheep. Put a face with that yarn you’ll use for your next project and those handmade buttons you’ll put on your next cardigan.
  • Re-charge Your Knitting Life: All of us need new ideas and skills to revamp, re-charge, and re-invigorate our hobby once in a while. By immersing yourself in all-things-knitting, you’ll discover new ways of practicing the knitting life you’ve always loved. It’s the ultimate “me time” for knitters.

I’ll be blogging more on what I learned and observed over the next week or so. Follow this page or the Sycamore Cove Knitting Facebook page for info on latest knitting fashion trends, product news, and how I flunked Brioche 101.  

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. Available in e-book for US $4.99 and in paperback for $14.99. Read it for free if you have Kindle Unlimited.

How Many Knitting Projects Do You Need? 3. You Need 3.

How many knitting WIPs (works-in-progress) do you currently have going? In looking at the online knitting forums, the answers vary widely. 

Most of us knit for several reasons. It calms us down in an overly busy, wired world. It gives us something to do while we’re waiting to see the doctor, waiting in the pick-up line for kids to come out of school, waiting for a meeting to start or the bus to come. Most of us start with something simple, but eventually, we need to bump up our skills and learn something new. Portable projects are great for on-the-go knitting, but many of us will want to knit a blanket, sweater, or other project that takes up to half a room. 

So for those flummoxed by why some of us have several projects going on at one time, here’s (generally) the three kinds of knitting projects most of us really need in our lives:

  1. A Meditative Knitting Project (also known as “Medknitation”): Mindless knitting just to knit and unwind requires something simple, something we don’t have to think about. Prayer shawls, simple blankets, scarves, or even a simple placemat can fill the bill. The idea here is to tune out, knit, and rest your mind. Repetitive patterns requiring little or no counting work best. Knitting while watching TV is included.
  2. A More Challenging Knitting Project: Meditative knitting can get monotonous, so we need something to challenge us once and awhile. Everybody needs to keep growing and expanding their skills.  Working on a new knitting technique or stitch keeps us mentally fit and interested in the craft. These projects might include learning to make socks, learning mosaic or brioche knitting, or making a sweater with challenging stitches or techniques new to you.
  3. A Portable Project Kept in Your Purse or Car: For a knitter, nothing is worse than finding yourself in a waiting room for more than ten minutes without a knitting project to work on. No, you don’t want to read the magazines on offer. You want your knitting needles!!!! So most of us keep a small project in our purse, tote bag, or even in the car for such modern inconveniences.  Personally, I keep a placemat project in my tote bag, using circular needles (harder to lose than straight needles) and cheap cotton yarn. If it gets stained, dirty, or lost, it’s no big deal. 

Many of us, of course have lots more projects than three on the needles. There’s that project you lost interest in, the one you ran out of yarn for, the one you somehow misplaced or forgot about. No judgements!  

And if you just have one project on your needles, consider another one. For those who do meditative knitting, try something challenging. As if you’re lost in a difficult project, slow down and knit something simple. But always have a project you can pick up and take wherever you go!

Knitting Blessings, 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. Available in e-book for US $4.99 and in paperback for $14.99. Read it for free if you have Kindle Unlimited.