My Purrfect Project Bag

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When I started knitting, my go-to project bags were plastic shopping bags. But as the needles in them often destroyed them completely before the project was finished, I needed something else. My knitting buddies introduced me to some fancy project bag makers, but the ones I liked were way above my budget. So I decided to sew one myself.

During my research on suitable patterns, I found this tutorial, which makes a zipper bag (yay, less lost items!) large enough for a large shawl project. In my opinion, its size fits most portable projects, be it to knit night or your next travel. The last and biggest problem was finding some nice fabric. It obviously needed to be black and preferably related to cats. To my surprise, I found exactly what I was looking for at my local fabric store. Both prints are 100% cotton, originally intended for patchworking, reinforced with Vlieseline H640 fusible fleece. I couldn’t be happier with the result!

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#diversknitty

I should have known there is no such thing as a safe place from my personal, privileged background, particularly not a crafting community. I am a white, genderqueer person living an alternative lifestyle. I have been pushed around and excluded often in my life, but this is nothing compared to the stories BIPOC (black and indigenous people of colour) have shared on Instagram.

The discussion started in early January with a problematic blog post by Karen Templer about her upcoming trip to india. @thecolormustard was one of the first people to dedicate her a series of Instagram stories highlighting the racist, white-privileged parts of the blog post. Other important contributors to this discussion are, among others, @su.krita,
@astitchtowear, @tina.say.knits, @ocean_bythesea, @booksandcables, @burkehousecrafts, @masteryarnsmith and @knitquiltsewstitch. All of them have fantastic story highlights on what it is all about and how to educate yourself on the topics of white privilege and (everyday) racism. Karen Templer reacted by trying to understand and unlearn her white supremacy. Nice move!

The Me and White Supremacy Workbook by Layla F. Saad is one of the most mentioned good sources. It consists of 28 short and easy lessons, each intended to be completed in one day. The introduction gives a round-up on the importance of working on one’s white supremacy and a short background to the book as such. It is completely free, but you may also donate a certain amount of money to the author. I am working with this workbook, too, although I have dealt with educating myself on racism before. There is always room for improvement.

After about two weeks of ongoing discussion on Instagram, I thought everyone had understood, that even in the oh-so-cosy knitting community there is a major issue with racism even if the dominant white part of it was not aware. Then Maria Tusken, a hand-dyer posted this video. If you are new to the topic of white supremacy, you may want to start the above mentioned workbook before you watch the video. The “issue” mentioned is called “racism”. People are accused of following a one-sided belief (racism) to bully others no matter if it ruined their business. She thinks there was a huge majority afraid to speak up against these false accusations. As if this was not enough, she has linked to a questionable video to support her views. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

In case you do not understand what is wrong with tuskenknits’ video, @antigonanyc has put a pretty good summary in her story highlights. What strikes me most, is the remark on the silent majority. This is a term used mainly by populist and right-wing activists to justify their actions. @astitchtowear also has a story highlight on the term “silent majority”, its origin as well as its current meaning. In short, the silent majority are “comfortable, housed, clad and fed [people], who constitute the middle stratum of society. But they aspire to more and feel menaced by those who have less”. Please let this sink in. Are you feeling exposed now? Act. Educate yourself. Speak up.

There are so many wonderful BIPOC, LGBT and differently discriminated people in the fibre world. It is time to change perspective from the current white-centered point of view. Be aware of white supremacy, unlearn it, stop excluding crafters with a different socio-cultural background from yours, support small BIPOC businesses, speak up. Racism is real.

Free Knitting Pattern: Lazy Hearts

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When I first saw the pink, red and purplish colours of this yarn, I just had to knit some heart ornaments from it. As the yarn is a gradient one, I was looking for a one-piece, bottom-up construction with short-row shaping to form the top and minimal sewing. Sadly, I could not find what I wanted on Ravelry, so I made up my own pattern.

You can download it for free on Ravelry, but I would be happy if you mentioned me or linked to my Instagram when you knit it.

I used Schoeller + Stahl Limone Color in colourway 315, but the pattern is adjustable to any yarn weight and a matching needle size. One ball (50g) was enough to make nine hearts, in my case. Now grab your needles and knit a heart (or more) for your valentine! Happy knitting!

Yarn Review: Schachenmayr Regia Premium Alpaca Soft

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During Yarncamp 2018, I was offered a ball of Schachenmayr Regia Premium Alpaca Soft. After some initial problems (testing a set of dpns at the same time, a very bad idea for a convinced magic loop knitter) and some Christmas knitting, I finally have finished my pair of socks.

The sport weight yarn is a blend of 62% wool, 23% Nylon and 15% alpaca, which is pretty close to the classic Regia blend of 75% wool and 25% Nylon. The alpaca adds a light halo, but I have used way softer alpaca yarns before. I have followed a textured pattern, petäja sukat (free but Finnish only), to test both stockinette stitch on the soles and stitch definition on the patterned parts. The yarn looks very elegant in stockinette stitch and the halo surprisingly even highlights the textured pattern. There only is one point I did not like at all: the yarn fuzzes horribly. Whenever I worked on the socks, my pants were covered in short alpaca fibres afterwards. This raises the question how the yarn will behave over time and I am a bit worried the yarn might keep losing fibres. This probably will keep me from using this yarn again, but apart from the fuzzing, the yarn looks really good both in textured knits and in stockinette stitch.

I am very thankful for this testing opportunity and am looking forward to testing the yak version of this yarn, soon.

Wintergreen Cardigan

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When I was looking for a knitting pattern for a child’s cardigan on Ravelry, I stumbled upon the Wintergreen pattern by petitchoufleur. As I liked the idea of my two and a half year old godchild wearing a cabled cardigan, this was my pattern of choice. First of all, I am impressed this pattern comes in a large number of sizes, from newborn to 58” bust circumference. The cable patterns are provided as charts and in written form and are easily memorisable. As usually with heavily cabled knits, the progress is pretty slow even when you cable without a cable needle, which is my technique of choice. The cardigan is a bottom-up construction and knit in one piece, so only little finishing is required. I was very happy the saddle-shoulder sleeves are in stockinette stitch. This means, when you finally have reached the armholes, there will be way less cabling from there on.

I loved knitting the cardigan and I love the finished garment. Although I used a fuzzy aran weight yarn, it did not eat up the pattern at all. I’d rather say the fuzz gives it an extra twist. So you might like to use some mohair blend for extra cosiness.

The only point I have to criticise about the pattern is the way all sizes are put into one pattern. You definitely need to mark each paragraph that is relevant for the size you are knitting before you start. Otherwise, you might get confused easily. I would have preferred if at least the child and adult sizes had been separated. Nonetheless, this is a gorgeous pattern for a cabled cardigan and has only eight projects on Ravelry. What a pity!

Testing Schoeller Yarns

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In July, I received a pretty large package of Schoeller yarn samples to try them out and show my results at the Inside Schoeller blogger event. So here is what I made, including three designs of my own:

Alpaca Star

I already have tested this yarn earlier this year knitting my Wrapped in Leaves shawl. I really like this yarn and have bought some more to knit myself a cardigan for next spring.

Mohair Dream

This is a very fluffy yarn with a high meterage (250m/50g), consisting of 30% mohair, 30% cotton, 25% Nylon and 15% wool. I have knit a classic beanie with a folded brim to showcase the mohair fluff better. Sadly, the Nylon content is high enough for me to feel it when I touch the hat. But if you are less sensitive, you may want to knit yourself a super light sweater from it, e.g. Four balls of yarn should be enough.

Chic & Warm

If you like gradient yarns and need to knit on a budget, this yarn might be interesting for you. It knits up very evenly and is pretty soft although it has a 75% acrylic content. I do not really like gradient yarns, so I chose to knit another hat, but this time a spiked one (without short rows!). I am very pleased with the result and am sure I’ll wear it a lot this winter.

Big Flame

Looking at this beautiful black and gold striped i-cord filled with burgundy fibre, I was really looking forward to knit with it. But, as the name already suggests, it has a thick and thin construction and is pretty stiff on the thicker parts. This resulted in two days of pain in my hands after I had finished my project. However, the yarn could be really nice without the thick and thin effect. My project, by the way, is a bum bag with belt loops to put it onto your favourite belt. It is embellished with a rose gold zipper which I accidentally found at my local yarn shop and which adds a perfect detail to the red and gold bag.

Kid Silk Dégradé

I had been thinking about knitting a Striped Esjan by Stephen West for ages, when Schoeller sent me the perfect addition to black sock yarn and white alpaca fluff (in this case a ball of Lana Grossa Alpaca 400 from my stash). The colour gradient is very soft, so it adds some spice to the Beetlejuice body of the shawl. It perfectly meets my expectations of a kid silk yarn although there are more luxurious, softer (and way more expensive) blends on the market. I am super happy with the result, a typical Westknits shlanket. Due to its size, I had problems to find a cat-safe space to block it and ended up using my bed. I still had to fold the shawl and forgot to increase the number of towels underneath, so I had to spend one night on a wet mattress. Please learn from my mistake, it was not comfortable at all. But look at this beauty, it was totally worth it!

Let me add a remark on Lana Grossa’s Alpaca 400, a chain plied Nylon tube filled with alpaca and merino fibres. As I knit with a very high tension which results in a prestressing of the yarn, this yarn cuts into my fingers and loses all its softness. It regains a bit of its fluffiness after blocking, but this kind of yarn construction and my way of knitting do not go together very well.

All in all, I was very happy to have had the chance to test these Schoeller yarns. Thanks a lot for this opportunity!

Inside Schoeller

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I was super happy when I received my invitation to the Schoeller blogger event, particularly as it included a factory tour at their dye works in Hard, Austria. A perfect combination of my degree in engineering and my love for knitting! Of course, I confirmed the invitation and was delighted to meet Rebekka, Alice, Kiki, Miki, Fritzi, Stefanie, Janine, Jasmin, Katha, Simone, Steffi, Marco and Julia-Maria. We were welcomed with a cup of coffee in a beautifully decorated conference room.

First, we were introduced to the company, whose main branch are industrial yarns. With their dye works located within sight of Lake Constance, they had to fulfill a lot of environmental requirements very early. The result is, that their yarns are bluesign approved, the treatment for their machine-washable yarns is chlorine-free and as a bonus, they are mulesing-free as they use south-american Merino only.

The tricky part is, not all their handknitting yarns are manufactured by themselves. So the Austermann Merino yarns, Schoeller Zimba and all sock yarns are produced to the Schoeller standards, other yarns may or may not be chlorine-free or bluesign approved, depending on the individual case. However, I am deeply impressed, Schoeller is working on a sustainable production.

If you are interested in my pretty technical summary of the factory tour, you can find it in my Instagram story highlights. Nonetheless, I want to write about some details here.

This is a poster showing the fineness of sheep wool depending on the animal part it is shorn from. The lower the number, the finer is the fibre. As you can see, the shoulder part (1) is where you find the finest hair with only 14,5 micrometers in diameter. This is how it looks like as a wool top:

Sadly, this quality is so hard to spin that fine hand knitting yarns usually start from 16,5 micrometer fine fleeces.

As industrial yarns are knit on knitting machines, they must not have considerably thicker or thinner sections. During quality assurance, these sections are cut out and the yarn is joined with a technique known as “Russian join” in hand knitting:

After lunch, we were introduced to the design philosophy behind the Austermann and Schoeller+Stahl hand knitting yarns as well as their knitting patterns. They also had brought a lot of their knits to take a detailed look at them. As all of us had received a large package of yarns to play with beforehand, we were asked to show our projects and to share our opinions about the yarns we had used. My favourite projects were a cardigan and a hand bag knit by Fritzi and a cowl by Alice. I will show you my own projects in a separate post, soon.

Thank you so much for inviting me, it was a blast! It was totally worth the 20 hours I spent in Flixbuses to get to Lake Constance and back. The day passed by way too fast with an amazing insight into the company and some really good talks. Well done, Schoeller!