New Knitting Pattern: Nightshade

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The idea behind Nightshade dates back quite a while to when my aunt asked me to knit her a cropped summer sweater. It should be ridiculously wide and boxy but at the same really short to just cover the breasts. The sleeves were intended to look like long sleeves, but in fact should just reach from the wrists to the elbows and be super tight. Sounds like a challenge? Well, here is the solution!

Nightshade is a lightweight, drapey, cropped sweater. This perfect layering piece for chilly summer evenings ends above your waist so you can wear it 90s-style to a pair of low-rise pants or in a more contemporary fashion to a high-waist bottom. The body is worked flat, the sleeves are worked in the round. All pieces are knit bottom-up and then sewn together. You can easily adapt the body to knitting in-the-round, but I recommend to stick to the pattern as the side seams add structure.

The shape of this sweater is very bold, so I have added minimalist, rolled edges to keep the focus on the shape. The yarn used is The Fibre Co. Meadow, a luxurious, fingering weight blend of 40% Merino wool, 25% baby llama, 20% silk and 15% linen. The yarn is drapey, soft and rustic at the same time with a beautiful semisolid colour effect due to the different fibre types. The surprisingly good meterage of the yarn makes my size M (36-38” bust circumference) sample weigh only 214g!

As Nightshade is my first graded pattern and I had problems finding test knitters, the sizes currently range from 28-30” to 52-54” bust circumference. If you need a larger size, please contact me and let me know which size you are interested in. I am sure we can work it out together. Please also contact me when you like my style and are interested in test knitting future patterns. I have a lot of ideas waiting to become new patterns!

You can buy the Nightshade pattern on Ravelry, as always. Go, show it a little love! Happy knitting!

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How to Sew Yourself a Bra

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I am wearing a non-standard bra size which is not available in Germany in case I insist on a modern/ lacy/ not-you-grandma style within a limited budget. I usually order my bras from the UK where sizes for full-breasted women are a lot easier to find. But when it comes to stylish soft bras, things get a lot more complicated.

As this year’s WGT is approaching and I plan to wear some tops with extra large armholes, I need something nice to wear underneath. While browsing sewing patterns, I stumbled upon Emerald Erin’s Jordy Bralette which is a pretty simple design that showcases your cloth perfectly. I turned a non-stretch, olive cotton sateen into a stunning result that sadly is unwearable.

The two cups are attached to an elastic band which is closed with hooks and eyes on the back. In my opinion, this construction makes the pattern not suitable for larger breasts as it lacks the support needed. The straps cannot compensate this. Another weakness of the pattern is that you can of course try on the cups before attaching them to the underbust elastic and straps, but you will not know if this bralette works for you until you have finished it. What a pity!

Before I could work myself up into frustration, I decided to try out Madalynne’s Barrett Bralette pattern. Before starting, I had done a little research if it was suitable for larger breasts and had found some projects that looked quite good. First, I cut and sewed the cups only from leftover scuba cloth. The largest size had a good fit, but the scuba did not give enough support for a 34F bra size. Next, I sewed the cups in a glittery, black cotton sateen containing 5% spandex. This cloth is totally not intended for lingerie, but was the perfect solution to my problem. As the barrett pattern is designed as a pull-on bra without back closure, I had to improvise a back closure due to an intended lack of elasticity. This meant finding the right back band length for my hook and eye closure (the 3XL back band was way too long!) and reshaping the back band to fit the side cup seams on the one side and my closure on the other. In fact, I just drew a line and cut away a triangle for a fast and easy solution. And here it is, my custom-sized, dark disco bralette.

I know that there are a lot of visible mistakes. I also could have added a lining as the pattern suggests, but this version will do for the moment. There still is room for improvement, but I have enough fabric left to sew myself another one. This, by the way, leads to my conclusion on how to sew a bra: just start and iterate the fit until you like it. And please, start with leftover fabric as the first try might not necessarily lead to a wearable result. 🙂

On Crochet Hooks

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Crochet never was a friend of mine. It took me years to understand the concept of one needle only to realise that my hands tire extremely fast even after I had acquired the basic skills.

Well, it seems like the problem was pretty easy to solve. The way I hold the hook just did not match the shape of the handle. While my hands tire and cramp using crochet hooks with thin or cylindrical handles, they do not when I use flattened handles like the Chiaogoo ones.

I deliberately chose bamboo handles as I had one other crochet hook that worked well for me, but whose handle was treated with a soft touch finish. Initially, this was not a problem at all, but the coating interacted with my natural hand cream and became sticky over time.

To test my new hooks and to improve my crochet skills, I decided to challenge myself with a doily. I chose the free Mathilde pattern by Grace Fearon and some cheap, red crochet thread. The pattern is well-written and easy to follow. I had to look up about half of the required skills, but there are tons of good tutorials on YouTube, some are even linked in the pattern. I’m pretty amazed by the result. Maybe, I’ll give crochet another chance.

A Full Intarsia Argyle Sweater

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When my dad asked me to knit him a fingering weight, Shetland argyle sweater, I did not expect how long it would take. I started it in September 2018 as a Christmas gift, but it ended up as a 2019 Easter gift. However, my dad is super happy with it.

I have modified the Jagger pattern by Martin Storey as a full intarsia front with navy sleeves and back. The yarn is Jamieson’s of Shetland Spindrift, a classic Shetland yarn for colourwork sweaters.

The largest size used about 450g of yarn on 3.5mm needles, 3.0mm for the ribbings.

This was my first large intarsia project, with up to 40 bobbins hanging at the back of each row of the front part. Nonetheless, intarsia knitting is not complicated once you get the hang of it. You may need a lot longer than usually to knit one row as you need to twist every crossing of two colours, but it does not get more complicated. The hard part comes when you have finished knitting and start to sew in a gazillion of loose ends. And that may be the reason why I finished knitting the pieces in January and finished the sweater as a whole in April.

I have to admit, I like the technique of intarsia knitting but I do not plan to knit such a large size in fingering weight ever again. However, I already have cast on the next large intarsia project, but this time a sweater for myself in a heavier yarn weight. At least, this time all pieces will have colourwork. I am already curious to see how much I will regret it.

New Knitting Pattern: The Hipster

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When I improvised a bum bag last year, I knew right away I wanted to publish it as a pattern. Here it is now, The Hipster!

I have designed it to be attached to your favourite belt. It is knit with Schoppel-Wolle Reggae, an aran weight, lightly felted yarn, at a very tight gauge. The resulting fabric is so dense, you do not need to line it. The body of the bag is knit bottom-up as one-piece in the round, the lid is then knit in rows using short-row shaping. The only sewing involved apart from sewing in the yarn ends is adding the zipper. This may seem difficult, but if you pin it in place with enough pins, it will work out easily.

The finished size is approximately 23 x 16 x 10 cm, large enough to fit your phone, your keys, your purse, a powder compact and a lipstick. At least, this is what I have tested it with and there still was some space left. It is a fun accessory to your everyday or festival outfit and a really quick knit. My version used only 58g of yarn. You can buy the pattern on Ravelry. I am looking forward to seeing your versions! Happy knitting!

Leipzig Wollefest 2019

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Last weekend, I attended the 12th edition of the annual Leipzig Wollefest. I love this event as the location, the exhibition centre’s glass hall, and the vendor’s list are both pretty extraordinary. As usually, I will introduce you to my latest discoveries as you probably already know the well-established exhibitors.

The very first booth that caught my eye was Kathienchen, a German hand dyer from Dresden.

She offers complex colourways on a variety of mostly Merino based yarn bases. She also sells high-quality kid silk lace yarns with a very high fibre length.

I have found the perfect match for two other yarns there that needed a third colour to become a shawl for a friend. I could not be happier with my High Twist in Peony!

Mominoki, a Berlin based hand dyer, showed semi-solid colourways on rustic yarns.

This is exactly what I had been looking for for quite a while now, and they even have two different bases, a fingering weight Finnish wool and a DK weight German Merino. Both are available undyed and plant dyed, the Finnwool also has acid dyed colourways.

Apart from those perfect-for-me bases, Mominoki offers some more yarns, an optionally plant dyed, drapey ramie silk, plied Merinos, singly-ply Merino and sock yarns. You definitely might want to give them a try.

Another vendor selling beautiful, rustic wool was Nordische Wolle.

They sell rustic, DK weight Baltic yarns in hanks of about 200g in a large variety of colours, but also ready-made stranded hats. The yarns are collected from the area around the Baltic spinnery, so they are entirely locally produced.

Moi Naturwaren showed handwoven linen and woollen cloths as well as plant-dyed yarns and ready-made caps.

All of their natural products are manufactured using traditional methods and processes as well as natural dyes where possible. I am very happy for every company that dares to follow such a consistent approach in today’s volatile times and hope there are enough customers to support them even in the long run.

Another cloth vendor worth I did not know before is Natur zum Anziehen.

This Berlin based online shop offers natural cloths only along with their own sewing patterns. I am particularly delighted to hear they plan to open a brick and mortar shop in the near future in Berlin.

Do you know the concept of Peace Silk?

This means that the silk worms are allowed to complete their metamorphosis and live, which results economically in a much longer process with shorter silk threads. This does not lead to a lower silk quality, it is just more difficult to produce. It is even possible to weave superfine cloths with a classik silken touch.

Seidentraum offer quite a large range of silk cloths, silk yarns and many more silk products. This is definitely a company worth supporting!

Another ethical company I found is we are KAL, a slow-fashion producer of handwoven scarves, handmade garments, handspun yarns, home textiles and hand knits.

They mainly use local and organic raw materials which are plant-dyed only. The idea is to preserve craft and culture in Ladakh, Assam and Himachal Pradesh by valueing their handmade textiles. I greatly appreciate this approach!

There were quite some local alpaca breeders showing their products. One of them was Starker Alpakas from the Dresden region, who sold handmade soaps, yarns, socks and other products.

Another breeder was Sachsen Alpakas, who sold yarns, spinning fibre, garments and cloths.

What I particularly liked was their faux fur, woven with alpaca fibre. It is super soft and warm and has a fantastic look and feel.

I am looking forward to the next Wollefest in 2020! It is always a pleasure to be there!

H+H Cologne 2019

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After spending only one day at H+H Cologne last year, I decided to opt for a full three days this year. This is definitely necessary if you want to explore new companies and have some time to talk, be it at the stands, with fellow knitting bloggers or designers.

H+H welcomed its visitors with a cosy coffee bar right after the entrance paired with a small exhibition focusing on sustainable and eco-friendly products right next to it.

There were quite a few novelties shown:

One of my first discoveries this year was Elbwolle, a small company from northern Germany.

Traditionally, sheep are held there to graze many of the greens, but their wool had not been put to use in the recent years. Elbwolle wants to change this and produces yarns, loden cloth, bedding and fertiliser using local wool. They offer two very different types of yarn, fingering weights and super bulky ones.

The fingering ones have a slightly rustic feel, just like I love them. They remind me of Traditional British and Scandinavic 2-plys. The super bulky ones range from 80g/ 10m, spun around a cotton core, to 220g/ 20m, spun around a woollen core. As an idea how to use them, Elbwolle has shown some knitted squares to be used as cushions as the yarn has some sort of built-in padding due to its construction and thickness.

They also offer huge, handcarved knitting needles and crochet hooks to match their super bulky weights.

I also like that their yarns have a code showing all process details. This starts with the crop year and the sheep breed and continues with all manufacturers involved in all steps of the making of the yarn! I am really impressed about this level of transparency!

Another very interesting, young company is Nomad Noos, a yarn manufacturer that sells handspun yarns from Mongolian animals.

The yak, camel, sheep and goat fibres are bought from nomads directly, then handspun in Nepal. All processes in the production are sustainable, the people involved receive an income above the countries’ average. You can read more about their mission here.

The yarn range consists of four fingering weight qualities. Dry desert camel, a 100% camel yarn, high mountain yak, a 100% yak yarn, smooth satul sheep, a 100% Mongolian sheep yarn, and so soft yak and satuul, a blend of yak and Mongolian sheep. All yarns are incredibly soft and wonderful to touch. Although the sustainable and fair approach makes these yarns luxury goods, I am deeply impressed about the consistency of this small company. I really hope this concept will work out in the long run.

I spent quite a while at Gepard, a small yarn company from Denmark.

They work with small, family owned Italian yarn mills and have a very interesting range. Their Kid Seta, e.g., has a remarkable fibre length, comparable to the Uschitita Kidsilk Lace I have used for the Birds of a Feather shawl. It comes in a large colour palette so well composed all shades go well together.

Another yarn that caught my eyes initially is Wild Soft, a fingering weight, worsted spun blend of 60% Merino and 40% wild Tussah silk. It also has a DK weight, woollen spun sister yarn, Wild Wool Silk. I really like this idea of spinning the same blend differently depending on the resulting yarn weight! There definitely will be interesting differences in texture, reflection and drape in the results.

A more classic yarn quality is Pura Lana, a DK weight blend of 50% alpaca and 50% Merino. In my opinion, this eco-tex certified yarn could be an alternative to the squishy, pure Merino DK’s of other manufacturers. Gepard also has a GOTS certified base, Cotton Wool, a blend of 50% organic cotton and 50% organic Wool. It is availabe in fingering and aran weight.

I was really surprised by the beautiful knitting patterns. There were some of the designs at the booth which all were very clever with lovely little details.

If you like unusual hand-dyers, you might want to take a look at Urth.

It is a family owned American company which has their yarns dyed in Turkey. Apart from the sock yarns which contain 25% Nylon for durability, their yarns are 100% natural. They have semisolid range, Monokrom, in fingering, worsted and chunky weight single-ply Merino. The Uneek range comprises variegated, but tonal yarns on the single-ply Merino bases as well as a pure cotton DK weight and a self-striping sock yarn.

The sock yarn also comes in non-striping variegated colorways as Merino Sock.

Now to their true gems. Coexist is a fingering weight 80% silk and 20% Merino yarn, that I wish was available in semisolid colourways, but that I have seen in lightly variegated colourways only. I would like to try it anyway as I imagine the result to be super drapey but with a lot more elasticity than pure silk. The next rarity is a fingering weight 2-ply pure cashmere yarn, Kashmir Mono. It is available in a variety of semi-solid colourways, among them a beautiful dark grey.

Their most extraordinary approach, in my opinion, is Harvest, a fingering weight, plied, pure Merino. This collection is dyed with natural colours only with stunning results! They even have a black as black as can be. This is pretty difficult even with artificial dyes and this is dyed naturally. Wow.

Urth also supports the Trees for the Future project with one planted tree per skein of yarn sold. I am really happy to see more and more companies trying to be more eco-friendly by whatever approach. Maybe there is hope for future generations after all.

It is always a pleasure to see The Fibre Co. at H+H Cologne. They develop their own natural yarns and have strong values behind their products. I attended their Saturday brunch where Daphne introduced us to the company, the yarns and a new project: The one sweater. The idea is to provide a classic sweater pattern that comes in 13 (!) sizes and that can be styled to suit everybody’s wardrobe. This means all sizes, ethnicities and different styles. I am really looking forward for the campaign as I expect a large variety of interpretations.

Last year, Lore was introduced. It is a wonderful DK weight yarn made from British Romney sheep with a fantastic stitch definition. As it took way longer than one year to develop it, there will be no new yarn this year. Instead, the colour palettes of the existing yarns will be extended.

I am currently working on two projects with The Fibre Co. yarns and I like them so much that there might be more in the near future. I will tell you more, soon.

Pascuali served their yummy yarns in dessert bowls, ready to be tested by you.

They just have launched Cumbria, a vegan, fingering weight yarn made from 60% cotton and 40% rayon from bamboo. It is very soft, drapey and good to work with.

Apart from their vegan range, Pascuali is well-known for their luxury fibres. Their selection includes camel, cashmere, musk ox, yak and even vicuña. They offer everything to make a yarn lover’s heart beat faster.

GGH always has a beautiful way to highlight their products.

They showed some fresh designs and yarns for a/w 19/20. I particularly loved the three designs by their new designer Kseniya Bogdanovich.

If you are still looking for a yarn for your summer knits, I can definitely recommend their Bambu, a 100% rayon yarn made from bamboo. It is super soft, light and has a beautiful drape. It also is the yarn I chose to realise my Sleeves shrug.

Austermann surprised me with their brand new booth. Designed to provide a lot of open space, it was held in neutral colours to highlight their yarns.

Their novelties include a beautiful, DK dip-dye effect yarn (60% rayon, 40% wool), a fluffy alpaca yarn and a 100% cashmere, fingering weight chainette yarn. They also have some interesting designs for the next a/w season, e.g., a simple, yet wonderful hooded coat in Alpaca Fluffy.

Every year, I’m looking forward to see Novita‘s new colourwork designs. They never disappoint:

They recently have published a collaboration with Moomin featuring some really cute designs.

I really like Novita for their yarn policy. They often add new colourways and discontinue older ones, but the yarn bases change rarely. I, personally, am always happy to have long-term sources for durable, classic yarn qualities. Novita definitely is one of them.

This year, Rosarios4 are celebrating their 40th anniversary. At H+H, they took this opportunity to decorate a full wall of their booth with portraits of some of their workers at their workplaces.

The Portuguese company is not only a trader, but also a yarn manufacturer focusing more and more on natural yarns. Their eco-friendly (plastic-free) collection currently comprises 28 winter and 24 summer qualities they even have naturally dyed yarns and 5 GOTS certified, organic yarns. To draw more attention to this approach, there was a large shelf showcasing their sustainable products only.

Gedifra easily combines playfulness and opulence. Did you know that all of their yarns are mulesing-free? I fully appreciate this philosophy!

Their new yarns include a cashmere lace yarn made from 95% recycled cashmere fibres and 5% wool as well as a self-striping glitter sock yarn, skeined to be knit into two identical socks.

For the first time, I was invited to the Initiative Handarbeit blogger meet-up. They introduced their 2019 DIY project, a bum bag sewing pattern intended to be customised.

They also presented their sustainability project make me, take me in cooperation with Green Bag Lady. The idea is to sew, knit or crochet sustainable grocery bags to replace plastic bags. Initiative Handarbeit aims at 10.000 German bags to be made until the end of this year. To keep count, you can order numbered labels to put on your handmade bags.

I really like the concept, but Green Bag Lady has started this idea back in 2008 and me and all my friends and family already use sustainable shopping bags only, so I wonder if this initiative did not come up a bit late. However, I am happy for every plastic bag that can be avoided.

Like every year, Initiative Handarbeit also organised a fashion show with all the key looks by Lana Grossa, Swafing, Rico Design, Austermann, Online, Veno, CONCEPT by Katia, GĂĽtermann creativ, GGH, Schachenmayr, Gedifra, Rowan and Lang Yarns.

Prym showed the next generation of their knitting mill which now can be fixed onto a tabletop and has the weight integrated into the overall design. Well done, this truly is an improvement!

They also have new pom-pom makers that feature handles to facilitate holding them.

Maybe they inspire you to make yourself such a gorgeous pom-pom chair:

I will close now with some pictures of the Katia booth which always is decorated beautifully. Thank you so much for having me, H+H Cologne! See you next year!