ChiaoGoo knitting needles – how love shifts

Ever since I discovered the KnitPro interchangeable needle series around 6 years ago, I’ve been a KP girl. I tried out a variety of their needles – wood, acrylic, metal, cubics, karbonz. The metal ones always were my favorites, though Karbonz were a close contender. However, the Karbonz did end up annoying me as much as I liked them, with needle tips coming loose and, with my most recent (pretty big!) order, needle tips and cables not always fitting. Over the past 6 months, I have been considering changing to a completely different brand – at least try it out, but perhaps change over for good.

Please don’t misunderstand me, I have enjoyed the KP metal needles immensely for 6 years, so I am by no means trashing them. I have just gotten curious about other brands, and may have found the KP’s wanting on a couple of features. What I still very much like about them is the stiffness of the cable, the sharp tips, and the ease with which you can change between different tips. The metal ones will still be in my tool collection, right until I completely wear them out or if another deserving knitter inherits them.

In the summer of 2014, I bought my first Signature needles. I was absolutely in love! I loved the aluminium that warms up in your hands quickly, the sharpness of the tips, the swivel join, and initially the soft cables. And a separate size cable for each needle size makes the join pretty seamless and comfortable.
Using them more, however, I have also discovered some weaknesses. The cable, mainly. With my tendency to just chuck any project in my bag before I leave the house, the cable gets scrunched up in the bag. It has tons of memory, so getting the project out everything can be a bit hard to work with for the first couple of minutes. Also, it’s not that handy for magic loop working, which I do a lot – with the cable being so soft, it’s not so easy to push through. And then, well… Additional cables costs a lot of money. They’re around 3-4 times the cost of the KP ones, and then you can only use them with one tip size. I have only bought one extra cable, for the 4 mm size needles, but it feels like I could just as well have bought a full fixed circular needle instead.
Still, I LOVE them. The needles themselves are awesome, and for a non-portable project which doesn’t require magic looping, they’re absolutely great.

Recently, my friends and I put in a big order for ChiaoGoo needles. The reason being that we have created our own sock club this year: One pair of socks each month, with yarn from stash. The rule is we just need to cast on, basically – so we were joking a bit that at the end of the year, we’ll each have 12 unfinished pairs of socks, still on the needles. That prompted an urge to buy more needles, of course! ChiaoGoo needles being our latest obsession for sock knitting, we all started wishing for those. A huge order for needles of all sizes was put in, mainly 2,25 mm (US 1), but also the numbers around that. And a couple of us wanted other sizes, just to try!

All the knitting needles in a pile - and sorted by needle size (note that pile #2, that's the 2,25 mm / US 1 ones!)
All the knitting needles in a pile – and sorted by needle size (note that pile #2, that’s the 2,25 mm / US 1 ones!)

Having gotten some money as a present a short while ago, I thought this the perfect opportunity to try out the ChiaoGoo Twist interchangeables. Metal tips, the nice stiff red wire (perfect for magic looping and socks! Just make sure not to whack yourself in the face with them, that happens…), and an opportunity to also buy the ChiaoGoo Spin wires from their interchangeable bamboo range, which have swivel joins.

So I also threw the ChiaoGoo Twist small set in my virtual shopping basket.

ChiaoGoo Knitting Needles

“The small set” basically means it only contains the small sizes: 2,75 – 5 mm / US 2 -8 (3 mm / US 2.5 is missing though, which I found a bit puzzling…). The bigger set consists of sizes 5,5 – 10 mm / US 9-15.
ChiaoGoo has taken the consequence of the wires and joins issue, and divided the small/large set by two cable join sizes. The small set has a small cable join, the big set a bigger one. This makes sense to me – I would need a bigger join for a bigger needle if it needs to work alright with the needle thickness. In the set, 3 wires are included, one of each of the (I guess) most used lengths: 35 cm, 55 cm, and 75 cm (14″, 22″, and 30″). That’s the cable length itself – adding the tips, it adds approximately 13 cm to the length at either end. That makes for a final length of 60 cm, 80 cm, and 100 cm – exactly the wire lengths I use the most of.

I bought 2 each of each wire length, but from the Spin Bamboo range. That’s their interchangeable range with bamboo tips instead of metal tips, which have swivel joins on the cables and softer, see through cables. You can just about glimpse one there in the photo above!

The verdict?

Of course, I LOVE them! But not unconditionally.
I love the stiffness of the Red Twist cables, and I like the sturdy appearance given by the join with the tips. For some reason they seem more sturdy than the KP’s – I wonder if that has something to do with the opposite join (you stick the needle into the join on the cable, while on KP’s you do it the other way around)? Or have they just paid more attention to detail? In any case, I like it. It’s also easier to tighten the join between tip and cable for some reason, even though it happens with a tightening key just like with the KP’s.


The Spin cables however, I’m not sure I’m a fan of. They are a lot softer (they don’t have that metal core), and give a slightly fragile appearance. Despite the swivel join that I like a lot, and which would resist my twisting and turning of hands while I knit, I’m not entirely convinced that they will last super long.
(I have an annoying tendency to twist the needles in my hands while knitting – probably because I’m subconsciously trying to tighten the join all the time. On my convertible KnitPro needles, the join comes undone quite quickly. I discovered this while trying out KP Cubics, which turned out to be very uncomfortable due to that particular habit!)

Another little note: Only 2 cable stoppers were included in the set, and additional cable stoppers need to be purchased separately. The KP cables all have 2 cable stoppers in the package, which is pretty handy – you’ll have stoppers for all your cables! That’s not the case with CG though, so I will need to get a hold of some of those. A ton of cables doesn’t really make sense to me if I can’t just snatch the needles and secure the project before I move on, like I am used to doing.

ChiaoGoo Knitting needles

I will be trying them out more, knit some more projects on these. Meanwhile, I will most likely only be doing one project at the time on a particular size CG needle, due to the lack of cable stoppers. Good thing I still have my KP’s and Sigs handy ;)

New Design: New Start

In September, I released a shawl pattern in collaboration with Rainbow Heirloom: The Road I Took. It is a pattern show casing the Nostalgia Club September colorway – and this month, I’ve been so lucky to get the chance to design something with the January colorway called ‘Auld Lang Syne’. See the blog post on the Rainbow Heirloom blog here!

Emily sent me 3 skeins of yarn: two skeins in the club base, Rainbow Heirloom Lush Light, and one skein in the Sweater base. Being different fiber blends, the colorway came out slightly different on the two bases. I decided to mix the different yarn weights, just to see if I could make it work!

New Start cardigan

The New Start cardigan is worked up in a fun construction. First, the back panel is worked in the worsted weight Sweater yarn, then stitches are picked up for the fronts worked in Lush Light. The collar is worked, and at the end the sleeves, using a raglan construction worked with short rows.

New Start cardigan

New Start cardigan

The process kept me interested all the way through. It was so much fun to see it shape up, add different stitch patterns for the ribbing, and get a final result I love!

New Start cardigan

This cardigan, being cropped, works really well with dresses. Most of my dresses flare from the waist, and I have always been a bit sad about the usual full length cardigans interfering with that cut. This is my solution – and it’s a much used one already! I even made a second version in my own handspun yarn, slightly different, but I’m very happy with it.

You can see the pattern page on Ravelry here.

Buy the pattern directly right here!

Rainbow Heirloom has the colorway in the shop this month, on both the Lush Light and Sweater. Go take a look, the color is so beautiful!
Nostalgia Club on Rainbow Heirloom

Design Process #4: Knitting…

Step 4 of designing in this series is just knitting. Knitting, adjusting my draft pattern, adjusting numbers if necessary. Trying the sweater on now and again to make sure it is all as it should be.

Most of the adjusting and trying on happens when working the yoke. I’m trying it on several times to see if it works. Once I’ve divided for sleeves, the process is smooth sailing from here – the rest of the body is just knitting and knitting, spruced up with some waist shaping and the color changes. I take meticulous notes on the yarn usage for each color, to check if the calculations I made on color use actually work out or not.

In this particular case, it looks like the calculations were on the generous side, which is good. I might need to adjust it a little bit for the final pattern, as the calculations were very generous, but I’m happy that I indeed have enough yarn and did the calculations right so I am sure not to run out. Phew! If it turns out I don’t have enough yarn, it’s a huge turn off and the project risks being thrown in a corner to think about what it has done ;)

Some decisions have to be made at this point as well. And, actually, one of the inklings I had regarding the yarn, which I had ignored for the sake of ease, proves right. I will in no way have enough of the last, dark blue, to make the sleeves the full length I wanted them to be. As the sleeves are around 10 cm longer than the body, I would need double the amount of the darkest yarn for the sleeves to make that length. And I don’t have that, as I worked the required stripe length + the ribbing in that color.

What to do? The project gets to hibernate a little bit while I contemplate whether I should do something fun with the yarn left overs in other colors, or just stop the sleeves after the second to last color and work a ribbing for 3/4 or bracelet length sleeves. Tough decision here.

 

Next up: Step 5: Taking a final decision, blocking, and sending the pattern off for tech editing.

Christmas Cookies

Christmas Cookies

In December, everyone is baking. Me too. I get inspired by everyone else, and then I spend half a day in the kitchen, having fun!

Last week I posted a picture of some of my baking on Instagram. A lot of people were asking for the recipe, so here it comes!

Christmas Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 300 g / 10.5 oz white flour
  • 150 g / 5 oz sugar
  • vanilla bean grains
  • a tiny nip of salt
  • 240 g / 8.5 oz diced cold hard butter
  • 1 beaten egg

Mix the above ingredients and, with cold hands, knead it quickly into a pliable dough.
Let rest in the refrigerator for about half an hour.

Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough to a thickness of around 0,5 cm / 1/8 inch. Cut out shapes with your favorite cookie cutters! Place them on a baking sheet, approximately 2 cm / 1 inch apart.

Ingredients for decoration:

  • 1 beaten egg
  • almond slivers
  • coarse sugar crystals

Brush the cookies with the beaten egg, then sprinkle with almond slivers and/or the coarse sugar. You can also choose to not do any of this, then decorate the cookies with sugar paste after baking.

Bake for approximately 20 mins at 175 degrees Celcius / 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove them from the baking sheet to cool.
The cookies keep well for a couple of weeks in an air tight container.

 

Christmas Cookies

 

Design Process #3: Casting On

Swatch and calculations done, I’m finally ready to start knitting. This is my favorite part!
I usually write the pattern alongside the knitting of my sample, as I want to remember exactly what I did. With all those calculations done, sometimes I can actually already write a draft for most of the pattern at this point. As the calculations are based on the pattern process/flow, it’s more or less a matter of writing down each step and plotting in the numbers.

Casting on and knitting

While I knit, I adjust the pattern instructions I wrote to start with. Sometimes it looks better when done slightly different, or the plan I had simply doesn’t work out.

There is also quite often some ripping out happening at this point. As I knit, it might suddenly turn out that the numbers I calculated are wrong, make it look odd, or just should be adjusted a little bit. In this particular case, casting on and knitting for a while happened 3 times, as I didn’t like the look of the yoke to start with. Working this sweater top down (my favorite method – you can try it on while working on it, it’s so handy!), the cast on and yoke is the most complicated part of the pattern, so I can just as well get it right straight away.

Next up: Step 4: Knitting…

 

New Design: Little Sowa

After a lot of requests and comments on my Sowa top from the Impulsive Knits collection, I decided to make a kids’ version of the pattern as well. I had a perfect little model in mind, my darling niece, who is just as jumpy and crazy as I am at times!

Little Sowa is available in the sizes 2-12 years, with the biggest sizes overlapping the grown up Sowa top sizes a bit, with some slight mods like waist shaping removed. Also, there are instructions for working it in a fingering weight yarn only, so you’re not limited to using a lace weight yarn. The use of fingering weight yarn will however make the ruffles a little heavier. This isn’t a big issue for the kids’ sizes, as the ruffles are smaller, but it would make the grown up top look less light.

I made the size 6 years for Frida, as I hope it will fit her for a while. She’s only 4 years now, but big for her age – despite that, I was surprised by the perfect fit!

See the Ravelry pattern page for Little Sowa for more info – and you can buy it straight away right here.

If you want to make a matching kid & grown up set, purchasing Sowa as well as Little Sowa will make you eligible for a $2 discount on Ravelry – which counts towards previous purchase as well, should you have already bought Sowa. Discount is applied automatically upon check out.

And, just because I loved my little model’s own ideas for how to model stuff, here is a bit of picture spam:

         

Design Process #2: Calculating

Having done my gauge swatch, it’s time to do some calculations.

For the calculating, I use Excel spreadsheets. I could of course calculate everything by hand with a pen and a piece of paper, and that would also work fine – but knowing the right formulas and notations in Excel, that just goes a lot quicker. An additional plus is that it will be a lot easier to do the grading (= calculating other sizes) later on, as it will be a matter of copying the same formulas used into the same places in another column, using different numbers for the size only.

Calculating stitch numbers

Now I’m usually doing the grading simultaneously with my calculations for the sample I’m working on. There’s a very specific reason for that: This way, I can find out straight away if the plan I have will also work out for other sizes. It’s pretty handy, as it will make it possible to make sure I don’t need to do all kinds of things specific for one size or the other.

Step 2B: Calculating yarn use per color

Apart from calculating the stitch counts needed for the sizes, I also needed to calculate how much of each color I could use in order to have enough for both body and sleeves. This includes calculating the area of the fabric (cm2, square cm), and multiplying it with the amount of yarn used per cm2 (calculated on grounds of the size and weight of my gauge swatch). A little simple math later, I could see that I could make stretches of around 11-12 cm per color, and only use the 5 skeins I have in the gradient. Hurray! Now I just hope my calculations actually are right (which isn’t always the case at this point in time) :)

Next up: Step 3: Pattern writing, start knitting, ripping out, re-calculating, starting over…

Design Process #1: Planning

For a long time, I have been wanting to share the process I (usually) go through when designing something.

I say “usually”, as it can vary a lot from design to design. Sometimes I start knitting and see what happens, sometimes there is more planning involved. It very often depends on the type of pattern I’m writing: Is it a shawl, a sweater, socks? A shawl can be pretty simple, but may require some calculations. A sweater most definitely requires calculations, and also swatching, so you can do the calculations properly.

Also, what is the inspiration?

John Arbon Knit by Numbers

In this particular case, for the design I am using for this series of blog posts, I was inspired by the yarn. I bought it at Unwind Brighton in July 2014, when I fell in love with the shelves full of gradients at the John Arbon stand. You can take a look at the Knit by Numbers merino yarn range here, they even ombré’d it on the website! I am a sucker for that kind of gradients/ombrés, so I just HAD to have it. I bought a grey gradient (the KBN01-KBN06) and a blue gradient (KBN80-KBN84). 6 skeins of the grey one, 5 of the blue one. I can’t for the life of me remember why I only bought 5 of the blue!

In any case, it’s the blue I will be using for this sweater. It’s going to be a sweater, you see – a simple sweater, which can show off the awesome gradient, but at the same time not boring to knit.
As I love texture, I was thinking: What about Half ‘n Half? Half stockinette stitch, half garter stitch?

I didn’t even make a sketch for this one, which I usually do. I was simply so convinced it would work out, that I wanted to get started straight away.

Step 1: Make a gauge swatch!
My thoughts about the stitch patterns I wanted to use keyed in to this. Garter stitch, when done at a loose gauge, will stretch an awful lot. At a tighter gauge, it is better at keeping its shape. Stockinette stitch on the other hand is flat and lovely, and is a bit less prone to change much if done at a right gauge. So I grabbed my 3,75 mm needles for this Sport weight yarn and got going, seeing if I could fabricate a fabric that I liked.

swatching
30 sts is my usual swatch size, and that’s what I did this time as well. A couple of rows of garter stitch, and then the real deal: stockinette and garter stitch. I chose to be lazy and make half the swatch in one, the other half in the other. To get an accurate gauge measurement you need at least 10×10 cm to measure on freely, but in my case it would be around 5×10 cm (5 cm in width). It won’t be exactly accurate, but that doesn’t matter a great deal, as it can be fudged as we go on with the design. I am thinking a garment with no ease, and it’s okay if it turns out with a little bit of positive ease or negative ease.
Done with knitting, I measured my swatch. The stockinette stitch part was 18 sts & 27,5 rows per 10×10 cm, the garter stitch part 19 sts & 35 rows. So some blocking was needed if I wanted it to be alike.

Measuring my swatch
A little bath and a block, gently stretching the garter stitch but not the stockinette stitch part.
Funnily enough, after blocking, I ended with 19 sts & 26 rows for the stockinette stitch part, 19 sts & 28 rows for the garter stitch part. So – the stockinette stitch shrunk in width. Good to know! The garter stitch part kept it’s shape when I had stretched it, which is also a good result in this case. If not, the sweater would become longer on one side than the other, and that would look a bit odd.

Next up: Step 2: Calculating!

New Design: The Road I Took

My newest shawl pattern just went live!

The Road I Took

“The Road I Took” is a collaboration with Rainbow Heirloom, to go with their Nostalgia yarn club. The club colour of the month is “Winding Road”, on a the scrumptious base of Brit Aran, and the colourway name + Emily’s inspiration picture for this month + the yarn itself was an instant inspiration for this design.

It practically designed itself and flew off the needles, once I got everything going. The diagonal rib texture pattern happened “by accident” – I had planned for something else entirely, but due to tiredness forgot to take the increases on every row into account, making the stitch pattern turn out completely different. Pretty cool, I think!

The Road I Took

The Road I Took

I worked this shawl up in 3 skeins of the Aran weight yarn, so it turned out pretty huge. There’s tons of options for substituting yarn weight and amount though, as it’s worked from the tip and up, and is bound off when you have only a little yarn left. I would however recommend the big size – it’s awesome for the coming autumn and winter!

By the way, Rainbow Heirloom have a monthly giveaway of the Nostalgia club yarn of the month. For a chance to win simply sign up for Rainbow mail, which is the RH newsletter. This month, the giveaway is yarn to make “The Road I Took” – 3 skeins of Brit Aran in “Winding Road”!

For more information about “The Road I Took”, see the pattern page on Ravelry. There you will also find test knitters’ projects and photos.

If you want to start knitting straight away, go buy the pattern right here!

The Road I Took

New Design: Trillidium

My newest shawl is something I have been working on for a looooong time – especially since that lace-y border just didn’t want to work out. Initially, I had no specific plan for that border – I was perusing stitchionaries for weeks, but never found anything in particular that I thought suited the body of this shawl.

Until… Well, until I (yet again) stumbled over the Estonian lace flower that has been used in so many different settings.

I decided to use it for the edging of this shawl, setting off the sheer striping effect (acquired by alternating one and two strands of yarn) perfectly. Also, after the soothing (some might say boring!) knit of garter stitch for the body, what is better than finishing it off with some intricate lace?

Trillidium

Trillidium is named after the trillidium govanianum, a rare Himalayan plant of the Trilliaceae family. The plant has three leaves, and the flower three petals.
The yarn I used is a little “rare” as well – actually, I used a discontinued yarn. I know, I know – a designer should NEVER do that! I’m so sorry! I just couldn’t help myself, as I found the yarn (Juno Fibre Arts Bliss) and colorway (Ocean) perfect for a shawl this size and type. Luckily, there are lots of companies out there that deliver yarns which resemble the one I used, and I’ve given a couple of suggestions in the pattern as well.

Trillidium

Trillidium

Trillidium

For more photos and details, take a look at the Ravelry pattern page: Trillidium
There you will also find links to other knitters’ versions of the shawl. Some of my testers have tried out two-color versions, with fabulous results!

Click here to buy the pattern now.