Double-Twist Loop Cast-On (or Twisted Loop Cast-On)

Tutorial videos have become a thing for me recently – in writing my patterns there have been a few techniques that I use frequently, or in some cases are unique to a certain pattern, that I want explained in a certain way that I haven’t found available online. At a certain point in my life I did quite a lot of video editing, and although I’m enjoying it resurgence in this format, I have to say I am not a fan of the voiceover… I find it extremely awkward, and it takes me… many, many annoying takes.

That said, I do hope you’ll find the videos useful, and amuse yourself picturing me sitting alone in a quiet room (not a small feat for my house) gritting my teeth while I chat to my computer screen and try very hard not to include any profanity in my voiceovers.

The January meeting of the Yarn Club was all about Cast-On & Bind-Off techniques, so I made a few videos of the most-requested techniques, and I’m slowly adding voiceovers and uploading them to my YouTube channel. I’m starting off here though with a tutorial for my favourite and much maligned cast-on, the Double-Twist Loop Cast-On, or Twisted Loop Cast-On. This is my most-used cast-on – for many years the only way I knew how to cast on, which is bizarre because it’s not one you’d normally teach to a beginner, and it’s not always appropriate, but man is it fast. Watch the video, you’ll see what I mean.

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December 2018 Yarn Club Show & Share

Laura brought her Stormy Sea shawl test knit, knit in her own Twin Oaks Farm yarn, Wellington Fibres, and AB Yarn Project.

VIctoria brought in her Sundottir sweater made with Gaynor Homestead Worsted Rambouillet

Victoria also brought her Folk Museum’s Selbu Mittens made with Sandnes Garn Sisu.

Kris brought in her Dropar sweater made with Istex Alafoss Lopi

Judy wore her Tailored Pleats sweater made with Cascade Roslyn

Erin brought in her Cline Sweater made with O-Wool Balance

Liz brought in her Hayward sweater made with Brooklyn Tweed Loft

Gillian brought in her Oban Sweater test knit made with Blue Moon Fiber Arts Targhee Worsted

Gillian also brought her Tassels in Amsterdam shawl made with Nature’s Luxury on Stage Long Métrage.

Alexis brought in her Rocky Coast Cardigan made with Cascade 220 Superwash

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Grand River Stole Errata

For patterns printed or downloaded prior to November 5th, 2018.  The “Introduction of Eyelet Lace Pattern” section should read as follows:

Row 109 (remember to K new MC stitch together with first CC stitch): With MC, Knit.

Row 110: K5, *YO, CDD, YO, K3, rep from * to last 13 sts, YO, CDD, YO, K3, YO, CDD, K4. (71 sts)

Rows 111, 113, 115: K5, P to last 5 sts, K5.

Row 112: K5, *K3, YO, CDD, YO, rep from * to last 12 sts, K3, YO, CDD, K to end. (70 sts)

Row 114: Work as for Row 110 to last 11 sts, YO, CDD, K8. (69 sts)

Row 116: Work as for Row 112 to last 10 sts, K3, YO, CDD, K4. (68 sts)

My apologies for any inconvenience.

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October 2018 Show & Share

We had a great collection of projects at the October Yarn Club meeting!

Mindy brought in the pattern she’s currently working on, the Gros Morne Cape, which she’s working up in Twin Oaks Farm Worsted 3-ply. Check the Ravelry link to watch for the pattern’s release!


Jo brought in her Easy Folded Poncho made with Rowan Felted Tweed.


Karen brought in her Guthrie sweater made with Artfil yarn.


Roxann brought in her own shawl design, Granny’s Planting Hostas in the Garden, made with Koigu yarn.


Liz brought in her Lang Ayre shawl that she’s making with Jamieson & Smith.


Sue brought in socks she’s making with Stephanie Pearl-McPhee’s plain sock pattern and Timber Yarn in Just Because and Big Red colourways


Kris brought in her Spring Maple shawl made with Serenity Suris from Canadian Alpaca Products.

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Yarn Substitution Part 11: Using the “Wrong” Yarn

As a follow up to my talk in May about Successful Yarn Substitution, I thought it would be interesting to consider in more depth the situation in which you decide to use a yarn that is completely different than the one called for in a pattern – i.e., the wrong yarn.  What does this mean exactly?

I addressed part A, above, pretty extensively in Part 1 of our yarn substitution discussion, so I’ll only touch on it here. This sort of substitution is what I refer to as a heterogeneous substitution.  You want to swatch it very carefully, not just to get gauge and calculate your finished measurements, but also to see what the fibre change will do to the fabric and therefore drape and fit of the project. Changing fibre-type will affect the weight and elasticity of the fabric and will give a very different finished product.

Part B is what I’d like to focus on chiefly here.  This situation is assuming that you’re not radically changing the fibre characteristics of your yarn, but rather just changing the thickness or weight.  Which is where the math comes in.

But first, let’s give a little attention to my favourite topic: swatching.  As everyone knows, I really like to talk about swatching.  Obviously it comes up a lot for me, and I know not everyone loves it as I do, but it’s pretty essential if you’re going to pull off the operation we’re about to address – changing gauge.

The reason I ask “How do you swatch?” is because in my experience each person has her or his own preferred method, and you can find as many “right ways” to do it as there are knitting experts.  Every swatcher has a way they have worked out that they find successful, just as individual as each knitter’s tension.  Here are a few examples:

I’m not going to outline how I swatch – as evidenced above it’s been done many times before.  Start swatching, pick a method as a jumping off point and make it your own over time.  Find what works for you and your knitting.  What I will suggest is what I’ve pointed out in the slide above: that how you swatch should be dictated by what information you’re trying to get out of the swatch.  I don’t just swatch for gauge.  I also swatch to test shaping, to test fabric, to test stitch patterns, to test the yarn.  And for each of these situations the swatch will have a different approach.  I guess what I’m trying to get at is that, although knitwear designers and many knitters are rather militant about the need to swatch, the rules around how you must swatch are much more fluid and forgiving.  The important thing is that you actually do it!

If you’re just starting out on your swatching journey, however, here are a few quick guidelines for swatching specifically for guage: Make it big enough.  This means big enough that you can get a good long average measurement from it (since most guages are based on a 4×4″ square, you should make your swatch bigger than this!).  Imitate the conditions under which your project will be made. Use the needles you’re planning to make your project with.  Don’t swatch while watching a horror movie unless you’re going to make your whole sweater while watching nothing but horror movies (this is a joke… sort of).  Finish the swatch the way you’ll finish and care for your project.  If it’s a sweater, you’re likely going to wash it, so wash the swatch.  If it’s a hat and you’re not likely to get it dirty, block the swatch how you plan to block the hat.  If you need guidelines on how to measure accurately, use the links above.

Now that I’m done browbeating everyone about swatching (for now), let’s move on to the examples.  I thought the best way to talk about how to change gauge or yarn weights in a pattern is to create different examples of how you would go about it for an actual project.

Assumption: I should note here that I am making the assumption that in each of these examples, the needle size would also be adjusted to create appropriate fabric for the project.  So for example, going from an Aran weight yarn to a Fingering weight yarn, you would not still knit the lighter yarn with 6 mm needles, but would instead size down to 4 or 3.5 mm so that you weren’t left with a fabric of net-like gaping holes.

The first example is a straightforward scarf pattern that is free from Purl Soho.  Below you’ll find the original pattern information pertinent to changing the pattern.

Given this information, and the simplicity of the pattern, you have three options for changing the pattern depending on your chosen yarn:

Here are two examples of how you might change the pattern, Option 1 and Option 3:

In Option 1, you would maintain the CO count of the original pattern.  At the new gauge with lighter yarn, the scarf will be only 6″ wide instead of 10″.  If you were to use a heavier yarn, the scarf would turn out wider.

In Option 3, you would use the new gauge to calculate a new CO number to maintain the original width.  To keep the width at 10″ with the lighter yarn, you would cast on 70 sts instead of 42.  If you were using heavier yarn and maintaining 10″ as the width, you would calculate a smaller CO number.

For the second example, I used my Diamond Kerchief Cowl pattern as an example of converting a pattern where you have to take a large repeated stitch pattern into account.  This is a conversion I actually did myself when I wrote the pattern for KnitPicks.  The original sample I had made was in Fingering weight Fleece Artist yarn, but when I pitched the pattern I changed it to a worsted weight cowl.  Here is the conversion I made:

Above are the pertinent details pulled from the pattern that you need to consider when making this sort of alteration.  The more complicated the pattern, the more information you have to pull from the pattern to make your conversion, so try to think about the switch you’re making from every angle of the finished piece.

This is an Option 2 conversion.  At my new gauge, my aim is to maintain the circumference of the cowl, but I also have to take into consideration the stitch pattern repeat.  In order to maintain a full repeat, I have to remove one full pattern repeat from the final stitch count, taking the count from 120 sts down to 100, which at the new gauge actually loses a couple of inches of the circumference and reduces it to 22″.  However, if I’d kept the 120 st count with that 6th pattern repeat, the circumference would have ballooned to 27″ which would adversely affect the drape of the neck of the cowl.

In the next example, rather than an overall stitch pattern, this pattern (my Comforati Hat pattern) has a central stitch motif, and the stitches on either side of the motif are scaleable depending on the gauge of the yarn used.

Above is the information from the original pattern.  For this conversion we’ll be considering Option 3.

To convert the hat to a lighter yarn, you would add the extra stitches to the stitch pattern on the sides of the central motif.  Above is the new gauge and the required stitch count to maintain the hat’s circumference.

Figure out how to place the motif.  For this hat, the motif is on each side of the hat, so the stitches remaining from the new stitch count is 34. This doesn’t divide into an even number for the 2-st repeat of the border stitches, so it must increase to accommodate that, which gives a new overall CO number of 132 sts.  The final step is to make sure that 132 will work with the 2×2 rib pattern of the hat’s brim (you don’t want 2 knit stitches to bump up against 2 other knit stitches at the join).

Finally, we’ll consider a more complicated project.  This is the Rocky Coast Cardigan by Hanna Fettig, and I converted it for myself with a sweater’s worth of Cascade 22o. Let’s take a look.

Originally the pattern is written for Aran weight yarn and 6.5 mm needles.  With my Cascade 220, the 6.5 mm needles would result in a rather gaping fabric.  I didn’t want to use more than 5.5 mm needle with my yarn, so to the calculation pad I go!

Above is the new gauge I got by swatching my yarn on 5.5 mm needles and washing the swatch as I would my sweater.

Because I need the measurements for the 40″ size, I used the old gauge and the stitch and row counts from the pattern for that size to calculate the final sweater measurements for body and sleeve length, shoulder width, arm circumference, etc.

With those measurements and my new gauge, I calculated how many stitches I would need to approximate the same measurements for my size. I then compared those stitch counts to the other sizes and found they were closely matched by the 55″ size.  I paid special attention to widths in this comparison, because the lengths are more easily dictated by my fitting preference as I knit the garment.  So for the knitting, I am following the instructions for the 55″ size instead.

When you’re deciding if a pattern like this will work for a gauge conversion, consider the above criteria. These characteristics made it possible and straightforward for me to use a lighter yarn.

I hope you’ve found this helpful! If you have any other suggestions for successful yarn substitutions, please let me know – I’m always collecting good tidbits!

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September Show & Share

Cheryl’s striped Find Your Fade made with Indigodragonfly Cariboubaa and Gobsmacked Four Quarter.

Barb brought in her version of Wist which she made with Cascade 220.

Barb also brought her LiCa which she made with Mirasol Sulka Legato.

Erin brought in her version of Flyway Twist which she made with a gradient from coriand3r knits, and a Cascade neutral.

Sandy brought in her Comforati Hat which she made with Cascade Cloud

Sherrill brought in her Ombre Cowl Hood that she made with Debbie Bliss Angel

Please let me know if I missed anyone!

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Sustainable Yarn Crafting

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my impact and my family’s impact in terms of the products we use, and particularly the ones we dispose.  Since digging into this, it’s feeling for me very much like a party I am SUPER late to, but one whose block-rockin’ beats I’ve been hearing in my periphery for years.  I’ve finally hit a straw-and-the-camel-back point in our household where I’m ready to get pretty darn militant about it (possibly I stepped on one tiny sharp plastic toy too many – Kinder Eggs, I’m lookin’ at you), and I decided to take Yarn Club along with me.  Naturally, Here are some of the things we talked about:

Photo credit: Sara Gresbach

There are two ways that your yarn habit can fit in to your greening efforts.  The first is by making things that will support your waste reduction.  The second is by committing to use only yarn and related supplies that are themselves sustainable.  But first, some key terms!

The Stable Ones The Tricky Ones The Zeitgeisty Ones
sustainability green Slow Fashion
organic ecological (or “eco” or
“eco, friendly, etc.)
recycled upcycled Carbon Footprint
repurposed environmentally-friendly
GMO (& nonGMO) natural
fair trade

Why “stable,” “tricky,” and “zeitgeisty?” The stable terms are ones whose meanings are easy to get a grip on.  They mean only one thing (although admittedly in Canada, “local” can be a subjective measurement).  The tricky ones are so named because they can be hard to pin down.  They’re easily manipulated by advertisers and misinterpreted by consumers.  The zeitgeisty ones are those trendy terms you hear thrown around by the movement-du-jour.  “Slow Fashion” is one that, as a knitter with my particular set of interests, I see come up in my social media feed with great regularity. In our discussion at Yarn Club, a member mentioned that Karen Templer of Fringe Supply Co. blogs often about slow fashion. In Ontario, our local fibreshed movement is the Upper Canada Fibreshed.

The first way to work crafting into sustainability efforts is to make items that will help you on your quest to be more earth-conscious.  Embarking on this topic, I created my little crochet basket using plastic bags as a core to give the fabric the body to hold its shape.  I also enjoyed quick projects like the soap sachet pictured above, and Simply Notable’s weightless produce bag.  Another easy thing to do for us yarn enthusiasts is to use up our stash.  Using existing resources rather than buying new ones is an obvious way to decrease the demands on our planet.  Equally, giving away things that you no longer have a use for (de-stashing perhaps??) redistributes existing resources. (Further on the topic of recycling plastic bags, see Milk Bags Unlimited. In Guelph, Dublin Street United Church is collecting for this cause.  Also in Guelph, the Stone Store is the place to go if you are trying to buy without packaging – bring your own containers to fill with bulk food items.)

The above lists the elements you need to consider in determining whether or not a product is sustainable.  Each step in the production chain must be considered.

Sustainable farming is a complicated balance of relationships and resources.  The Union of Concerned Scientists offers a good 101 overview.

Do you remember the bamboo-clothing-craze of the early ’00s? I distinctly remember the labelling changing to “Bamboo-sourced Viscose” instead of the much more innocuous sounding “bamboo.” Talk about pulling the wool over our eyes.  Bamboo fibre may start out in nature, but the process of turning the fibres from woody plant material into useable fabric is incredibly toxic to the environment and the workers who produce it.  Soy is another example of fibre that comes from a “natural” source but becomes a chemical wasteland on its way to being spun into a yarn.  Not to mention the fact that soy is an extremely pesticide-heavy crop unless it is grown organically.

Natural vs. synthetic dyes is such a can of worms, and I can only nod at it here.  Nor am I really certain there’s a good and clear answer to the debate.  However, you can read more about it from Dharma Trading,  from Organic Lifestyle. Bonus points for reading about Rachel Brown’s sequential method of acid dyeing, which I find fascinating.

Photo credit: The Rocking Yak

When you’re considering the overall impact of a product, you mustn’t overlook the impact it has on the workers who are making it.  What chemicals are they being exposed to? What is their working environment like? Are they being compensated fairly? Two companies worth investigating for their contributions in this area are the Mirasol Project, and the Rocking Yak, both of whom are working to support the communities in which they operate beyond the financial aspect.

Ways to reduce the carbon footprint of your project include buying locally produced yarn and tools; using natural fibres such as wool and other animal fibres, or cotton and bast fibres that require minimal processing to render into yarn; choosing yarns that haven’t been “superwashed” or “mercerized” which are both chemical processes involving caustic soda.

I pulled these numbers from this article about estimating the total carbon footprint of a fabric.  The upside for us yarny types is that the energy required to turn yarn into fabric is being provided by us! We’re so renewable…

A final and straightforward way to keep your knitting/crochet/etc green is to seek out existing resources.  Much like using your stash or even de-stashing unwanted yarn, this reduces demand for new materials and thereby reduces the overall planetary strain of your hobby.  Many people haunt second hand stores looking for sweaters that they can dismantle.  Pro-tip: since many machine-made sweaters are very fine gauge, and the yarn you can unravel from them isn’t well suited to hand-knitting (unless you’re VERY ambitious and blessed with vast fields of time), a good solution is to befriend someone with a spinning wheel and have them ply several of the yarn strands together to make a thicker yarn to work with.

That’s it for me. What are your best green crafting tips?

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Crochet Basket Using Plastic Shopping Bags for the core

This month I’ve been thinking a lot about how to make my crafts more eco-friendly.  One thing in particular I try to combat in my house is plastic shopping bags.  Despite the fact that I have been using cloth shopping bags for years, I can’t seem to completely eliminate the plastic ones from my life.  I just hate throwing them out.  Every time I see those heart-wrenching images of sea creatures inundated with plastic bags I think “Oh my god, is that pink floating one MINE?” which of course is exactly their aim.  GOOD JOB YOU GUYS, I AM TOTALLY GUILT-RIDDEN.  I’ve got to DO something with them though, and being a yarny-type that is of course where I headed first.  I’ve got to say though, I don’t love the look of the “plarn” people have come up with when it’s used on its own.  I wanted to create something that didn’t look quite so much like… well, trash.

So I started to play around with using plastic bags as a core, and covering it with yarn.  I cut up my plastic bags as per the “plarn” instructions I found (since the idea here is not to throw any plastic out, I didn’t throw away the handles, and I cut the bottom open instead of off – any leftover pieces I just tied on to the other strips with a double knot).  I made the strips approximately 1 1/2″ wide.

I own an I-cord machine (Embellish-Knit) which I love, and I used it to create an I-cord which I then threaded the plastic yarn through to sort of stuff it.  The result was something you could use to braid or wrap (or crochet using it as your yarn) into a basket or rug, but I wasn’t satisfied with the efficiency of the technique, so I turned to crochet.

I found this lovely tutorial for making a crochet rope basket and used the basic premise to crochet over the strips of plastic bag instead of rope.  The result is this little improvised basket.  I used Noro Silk Garden Sock and a 5 mm (H-8) hook to crochet, and in total used up 5 shopping bags in its creation. I wouldn’t use thinner than fingering weight yarn for this project unless I was making skinnier plastic strips, but I do intend to experiment with heavier yarn weights (and corresponding larger hook sizes as well). For example if you wanted to hide more of the plastic of the core, a heavier yarn would help fill in those spaces.

It gets a little lumpy in areas where I crocheted over the knots in the plastic, but I think it has a certain rustic charm.  Plus it’s cheerful, holds its shape well, and doesn’t look like it belongs in a landfill.  I plan to make more, larger baskets with my remaining bags (Perhaps a market basket with shoulder straps? Hmm.).  I’m glad to have an actual demonstrable use for the bags that find their way into my house, although I’ll continue to combat them wherever possible.

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June Show and Share

Sandy shared a delightful pair of socks, aptly called Fine Socks, a pattern by Kim Petryshen. Sandy knit hers in Fleece Artist Cottage Socks.

Fine Socks, photo via JoEdgett, Ravelry

Gillian brought in her Oban Sweater, a classic looking cabled sweater by Thea Colman. The yarn she used is Blue Moon Targhee Worsted

Oban Sweater, photo via Thea Colman, Ravelry

Valerie earned some ooo’s and ahhh’s from the Yarn Club crowd with her stunning Stained Glass Cowl by Wendy D. Johnson. The yarns she used are Cascade Heritage Paints and Ella Rae Lace Merino.

Stained Glass Cowl, photo via RioBioBIo, Ravelry

And let’s not forget the most perfect use of a variegated yarn, Valerie’s Pincha Shawl by Pinpilan Wangsai. The yarn is Fleece Artist Merino Slim in Kluane Yk. I don’t think you could have chosen a more suitable yarn for this pattern. Bravo!

Northern Light Pincha Shawl, photo via RioBioBIo, Ravelry

I shared a sweater I finished for my nephew’s third birthday, the Wilhem Tell (Iceland Yoke Sweater) by Elin Brissman. My nephew is REALLY into ‘digs’ and anything to do with large construction equipment, and his birthday party (coming up this Sunday!) is construction themed. I loved the pattern for the simplicity and the fun arrow yoke detail, and the colour combination looked just perfect on the sample so I used the same colours. I picked up the yarn at the Spinrite factory outlet in Listowel (total aside, have you all been there? It’s AMAZING!), it’s Patons Classic Wool DK Superwash.

Wilhelm Tell (Iceland Yoke Sweater), photo via Allison McCoy, Ravelry

Happy knitting,


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June Meeting Recap

As my meeting reminder emailed said, who doesn’t love an alpaca? Wendy Cross from Lady Slipper Alpacas was our guest at our last meeting before breaking for the summer. Wendy shared pictures of her lovely alpaca herd and told us all about these critters.

Wendy got into raising alpacas kind of by accident, she told us how she and her husband wanted some animals for their farm and thought alpacas looked cute. It seems bringing home a cute and cuddly animal is a great way to kick start a new business venture! Fast forward a bit and Wendy now has a number of alpacas and produces fleece and fibre to sell at shows. Wendy shared some insider details about alpacas and their adorable noises (seriously, YouTube it), and told us they make great watch dogs.

Check out Wendy’s website for more information about her products, and you can find her at local shows and festivals if you’re looking to purchase anything from her. You can find her next at the Black Sheep Festival in Elora on July 7.

This was also my last meeting acting as the facilitator for Yarn Club, and I wanted to thank everyone for their support and encouragement over the last year. Thank you for your feedback, your attendance and participation at meetings, and your support of the fibre community. I’ll continue to be a member at Yarn Club and you can find me at meetings or on Ravelry. Alexis is back leading the charge when Yarn Club returns in September. Keep an eye on your inbox for more details about next year’s program.

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