Knitting Experiments with Inkodye

When I was a child, I always looked forward to the summer. It meant long days, no homework, and my favorite thing of all, summer camp. While I was fortunate enough to attend a few different types of camps, I always enjoyed science camp the best. My favorite part about science camp? Definitely the experiments.

Even though I love the idea of experimentation, I find that I don’t experiment nearly enough with my knitting projects. I am trying to change this now, but knitting is usually an un-experimental process for me. I find a yarn I like, choose a pattern (or vice versa), and get started. Other than changes in gauge, yarn, and a few modifications here and there, I largely stick to projects that will give me predictable results.

A product called Inkodye has opened my eyes up to a whole new world of surface design and experimentation. Inkodye is a UV light-activated dye which allows you to print images on fabric. It is a innovative way to add color and pattern to your knitting without relying on traditional methods like stripes, stranding, and intarsia.

The Inkodye process is fairly simple and user-friendly. All you really need to get started is fabric, Inkodye, image-making materials, and sunlight. You can make images by using photographic inkjet paper, or a technique called shadow printing.

We used the shadow printing technique to create our swatches. For our experiment, we gathered plant materials around our yards and then placed them over swatches of Shibui Cima in Ivory. Covering parts of the swatch with opaque objects blocked out the sunlight, resulting in negative images kind of like a photogram.

The hard part about experiments is that there is usually a little room for improvement. While I had fun with the process, there are definitely a few variables that I would change next time. Next time I would try flattening the leaves/petals out so they left behind a more defined shape, and seeing if leaving the swatches out longer in the light would result in deeper, more saturated colors. I also can’t wait to experiment with photographic negatives.

There is so much more you can do with Inkodye—you can try mixing different colors of Inkodye together to get new colors, you can fold and dye your fabric in the Shibori manner, and you can draw on transparency film and make up a hand-drawn pattern repeat! There are all sorts of project ideas in the Inkodye gallery.

Experimenting with Inkodye has made me realize that there is so much to explore in the world of knitting and surface design. Even if you don’t use Inkodye this summer, there are multiple ways to experiment with your knitting that you might not have considered before. Try combining two different yarns together. Knit freestyle, without a pattern. Go outside of your usual color comfort zone. Combine several techniques in one project. You just might be surprised at what you come up with!

June 24, 2015 by Oleya Pearsall

Swatch Sketchbook: Banded Agate

Last week, I explored combining plant-based sources of inspiration with swatching. This week, I'd like to explore the possibilities that lie in the world of minerals.

Ever since I was a child, I’ve been fascinated by gems, rocks, and minerals. I enjoyed collecting them in variety of colors, textures and patterns. I remember my favorite piece being a small rock of Fool’s Gold (pyrite). I thought it was something magical.

As an adult, I no longer collect rocks and minerals, but I still love to look at pictures of them on the Internet. One of my favorite sources right now is

There is so much inspiration out there in the world of rocks and gems that it’s hard to know where to when deciding on a design. After lots of scrolling, I decided that banded agates were a great match for with my affinity for knitting striped items.

I love all the color combinations that nature comes up with in the layers of these agates (seriously, there is not a bad one in the bunch!), and the undulating effect is quite beautiful.

There are many stunning banded agates out there, and it was hard to choose one for my design inspiration. Here is the inspiration photo I used for the swatch:

For my banded agate swatch, I decided on Shibui Pebble for the yarn (appropriately named!), and a basic ripple knitting pattern for the undulating stripes.

Since the rippling effect is not uniform in the agate, I decided to only do the rippling effect on certain rows, working across the rest of the row normally. One row stripes created with random increases and decreases created just the effect I was looking for.

Charts are a lot more fun when I get to use my colored pencils! Here is the knitting chart I made in my Knitters Graph Paper Journal.
June 17, 2015 by Oleya Pearsall

Swatch Sketchbook: Dandelions

The plant world is full of wonderful textures, color palettes, and shapes for knitters to draw inspiration from. Recently I have been finding myself drawn to dandelions, the invasive weeds that have been appearing on my front lawn this past spring. Even though they can be a nuisance, I do think that their white fluffy heads are beautiful and inspiring.

I wondered how I could translate the characteristics of a dandelion to a small knitted swatch, perhaps for future use in a shawl design. I decided to sketch out my idea in my Knitters Graph Paper Journal, which is full of blank charts to use for all sorts of knitting purposes.

For this particular design, I knew I wanted to create the appearance of a dandelion quite literally—capturing both the long, skinny stem and tufted head. After a few false starts, I decided the stem would look best as a twisted knit column on a background of reverse stockinette stitches.

Finding a way to make the seed heads was probably the trickiest part of the swatching process. I started by knitting rays of slipped stitches going in multiple directions, but the result wasn’t quite what I’d hoped for. After spending some quality time with the Internet, I was lucky enough to find a stitch pattern called dandelion stitch, and I worked that pattern into my swatch so that it stacked on top of the stem design.

After finishing the design, I experimented with a few different yarn combinations. I settled on Shibui Silk Cloud held together with Shibui Cima in Ivory. I thought Silk Cloud’s halo would nicely mimic the fluffiness of the dandelion, and the Cima would give the swatch a bit more structure.

Here is the resulting swatch:

While I like the end result, next time I might experiment with making more loops to fill out the dandelion head a bit more. Overall, it was a fun experience, and I really enjoyed combining natural inspiration and my Knitters Graph Paper Journal to create a design.
June 10, 2015 by Oleya Pearsall

Deciphering Lace Charts


After our extensive section on cable knitting, I thought about what other projects knitters worry about tackling. Lace, of course, was first and foremost in my mind. Delicate shawls, scarves, and even sweaters can become a dizzying prospect when you open the pattern to discover that it’s full of charts, abbreviations, symbols, tables, and more!

Many knitters throw up their hands and search out what is familiar and comfortable—written instructions. But working your way through repeats that read like gibberish is hardly the path to easy lace knitting. While some of you are sure to groan when I say it, a chart is always the answer.

Charts are essentially maps for your knitting. There are some simple rules for reading charts, and none of them are going to make your head spin, I promise!

Read the Legend

The legend, or key, of your chart behaves just like a map’s legend or key. Each symbol appearing on the chart represents a single action that may or may not include multiple stitches. Unlike cable charts (where the action shows how many stitches it occupies), a lace chart often combines several stitches into one square or symbol. A good example of this is the sk2p stitch: slip one, knit 2, pass the slipped stitch over. This combination uses three stitches, but is often represented by this single symbol on the chart. I like to make notes next to complicated stitches so I know what they mean without having to flip back and forth to the abbreviations in the notes (which are often on a different page of the pattern).

lace chart use courtesy of Through the Loops

lace chart courtesy of Through the Loops

Read as you Knit

In the US, we read our books left to right, but we knit right to left. Cable charts are read the way you knit—right to left—so don’t get confused by using them the other way around. Because they are a visual map of your stitches, this also makes it easier to see where mistakes are in your work (and move back to correct them).

Stuck on Repeats

Many charts feature a repeat inside of the chart, often designated by a colored outline, area, or box. Stitches that fall outside of this area aren’t repeated. It’s a good idea to always print your charts in color so that you can keep track of the differences, but if you have to print in black and white, use a highlighter to outline the repeated interval.


lace chart courtesy of Through the Loops

lace chart courtesy of Through the Loops

Counting Rows

Keeping track of which row you’re on is important for maintaining a great lace project. Use highlighter tape, magnetic row counters, or a Post-it underneath the row you are working on to keep track.

Of course, there are so many other tips for lace, too. Just like with cables, lifelines, yarn choices, and pattern nuances contribute to your outcome. With lace, there’s also another important element—blocking! Stay tuned for a blog post coming up later in the month talking about why swatching (and blocking those swatches) helps determine the outcome of your projects.

January 13, 2015 by Hannah Thiessen
Tags: Stitch Lab

Cable Tips & Tricks

This is the third piece in our three-part series on cables! Read parts one (choosing the right yarn for cables) and two (cabling with or without a cable needle.)

I am all about cheats, tips, and tricks. Why work harder when you can work smarter? Your knitting should be no exception, especially when tackling cables. Here are some of my favorite tips for mastering cables and working your way towards gorgeous (and impressive) cabled fabrics.


Charts are your friend, so embrace them when working with cables. Read from right to left (in the direction that you knit), cable charts at first glance can look like a mess of dashes, dots and loops. Be sure to keep your cable chart key handy—most patterns provide their own—and use highlighter tape, a magnetic guide strip, or a post-it flag to keep track of which row you’ve completed. I often make tally marks in the margins of cable charts to track repeats of each row. Don’t be afraid to blow up a chart larger if you’re having trouble following it. Simply increase the scale in the dialog box on your printer’s pop-up window to a larger one you’re comfortable with, and re-print that page.

While lifelines are often considered a lace knitting trick, they can come in handy for cable knitting too. I keep a bobbin of smooth cotton thread or baker’s twine in my knitting tool kit at all times so that I can be ready to thread in a lifeline at a moment’s notice! If your cable chart has a motif that you repeat every so many rows, this is a great way to keep track of your repeats, too.


Last but not least, the biggest tip I could possibly give you is perhaps the simplest: take your time. Cable projects aren’t meant to be speedy—don’t be afraid to work on them a little bit for a long while. Don’t expect them to be your late-night television knitting or the project you take with you on the bus (especially if they’re complex). Knit cables for the sake of cables, and be sure to enjoy every stitch!

December 30, 2014 by Hannah Thiessen
Tags: Stitch Lab

Cables, Two Ways

This is the second post in our series about cables! Be sure to read the first one here.

Success with cables can rely partially on your personal arsenal of techniques and tools. Cable needles, which help you cross the stitches over each other, are often bent or U-shaped to help manipulate the stitches. Choose a cable needle close to or larger than the needles used in your project, as this will help the stitches retain their size and your gauge look even throughout. You can also use a short straight DPN or a Lantern Moon cable needle (it has awesome ridges for keeping your stitches from slipping).


Here, I’m using an aluminum, U-shaped cable needle. Cables are often designated in a pattern by a special abbreviation. Be sure to check out your pattern’s legend to see which cable abbreviations mean which. The cable I’m showing (knit here on Stonehedge Fiber Mill’s Shepherd’s Wool Worsted) is a simple crossed cable over four stitches, with a left lean. It might be abbreviated as C2F (cable two front). This means that you slip two stitches to the cable needle and hold the needle in front. Then you knit the next two stitches with your standard needle—then knit the stitches from the cable needle to make the cross.



I usually prefer to cable without a cable needle, as I tend to find the addition of even a short double-point distracting and fiddly. This technique, originally popularized by this blog’s tutorial, is especially handy on smaller cables that cross one to four stitches. If you’re knitting larger cables, a cable needle is generally a better choice to keep you from dropping moving stitches.

To cable without a cable needle, you want to have sharp tipped needles, so that you can slide the stitches around easily. If your tips are too blunt you’re going to spend a lot of time poking at stitches, trying to get them back on the needle. (This is also relative to your yarn choice and the cables’ complexity. I am using a slightly blunter needle, but I’m also using a worsted weight yarn.) Here’s how to do a C2F cable without a cable needle:


First, you’ll knit up to the cable. My cable is flanked by two purl stitches, so I moved the yarn to the back of the work to prep for the cable. Since typically the next two stitches would be held on the cable needle, just skip them, and knit the next two stitches.


This is where it gets a little tricky. You need to move the stitches around to make the cross, using both needles. Using the left-hand needle, come in front to put both of the held stitches (the ones that have not been knit) onto the left needle.


Then, gently slip the two stitches that are on the right-hand needle off, allowing the held stitches to properly align (giving them a little room). Put them back on so that you can now knit the two stitches on the left-hand needle, completing the cross:




For a C2B (cable two back), the process is similar, but the yarn indicates which stitches are held a little easier. You will skip the stitches like before, but keep the yarn in front. Knit the next two stitches as normal.


Then, move your left-hand needle around to the back and pick up the two held stitches with the left-hand needle.


Slide the right hand needle out of those stitches and the already-worked ones, then put the already-worked stitches back on the right hand needle.


You can now knit the two unworked stitches on the left-hand needle as usual, completing the C2B cross.



While this might seem trickier at first, it saves you time when working large cable motifs like sweaters. You can follow along on your chart without needing extra tools for those smaller cables (like those featured on the front of the Brooklyn Tweed Crosby pullover!). Practice makes perfect, so if you find yourself needing extra help, check out some of these sources:

Knitting Help – Cables without a Cable Needle

Ysolda – Technique Thursday, Cables without a Cable Needle


December 16, 2014 by Hannah Thiessen
Tags: Stitch Lab

Building Better Cables

The Exeter cardigan is a stunning example of cables!

The Exeter cardigan is a stunning example of cables!

Whether they’re found stalking the runways, adorning an actress, or climbing along the edge of a sock, cables seem to be everywhere season after season. Cable knitting, one of the most instantly recognizable and visually impressive techniques for knitters to learn, is much easier than it seems. If you’re able to follow a chart, count, and have a fairly good grip on your needles, you can do it. Especially armed with a few facts, tips, and tricks for easy cable execution.

Before we start talking about how to make cables, let’s talk about the why and how of these intertwined design elements. Believed to have developed somewhere around the 20th century in Ireland, cable knitting was a way to adorn sweaters with notes about the person wearing them. (See this interesting wikipedia entry for more notes on aran sweaters, a fascinating knitting history subject!) Originally, many of these sweaters were made in lanolized wools that would help keep out the cold and wet of the sea while fishing and trading. Now, you’ll see aran and cable patterns adorning garments of all sizes and varieties. That said, yarn choice is important to the overall look of your cable pattern. Here are some examples of how a yarn choice might influence your pattern.


Alpaca and alpaca blends, like the swatch above knit in Shibui Maai, often blur or soften cables with the slightly raised fibers, making complex stitch patterns disappear in their halo. That said, alpaca naturally has a lot of drape, and Maai is a cabled yarn, which lends some definition that standard alpaca would not have and creates a lofty, luxurious fabric. Since cable-adorned fabrics do not easily stretch (due to the crossing-over of stitches used to form them), drapier fibers can rely on cables for structure.

In contrast, the other swatch is knit with Sincere Sheep Equity Fingering, a two-ply Rambouillet merino yarn. The extra ply and simple structure with this yarn, combined with the lack of halo, creates a rustic and bouncy cable that will help complex patterns shine.

Compare these two with the third pattern, knit in Stonehedge Fiber Mill’s Shepherd’s Wool, which shows off the cable in even, clear stitches. Smooth yarns like Shepherd’s Wool are wonderful for a variety of cable patterns, even the more complex ones.

Will your cables be soft and luxurious? Precise and exact? Or somewhere in between? Join us as we move through some notes, tips, and techniques about cables in this short blog series, next time tackling how to cable with — and without — a cable needle.

December 03, 2014 by Hannah Thiessen
Tags: Stitch Lab

Wrap & Turn Short Rows


There are so many methods for shaping knit fabrics, and designers seem to use them all! Short rows, perhaps one of the most common ways to create three-dimensional shape in a knitted fabric, are found in patterns for everything from hats to shawls to sweaters. While there are many methods for making short rows, perhaps the most frequently used is a method involving wrapped stitches that are then picked up later in the work.

“Wrap & turn” is a phrase that strikes fear into many a knitterly heart, but it doesn’t have to be! Understanding how short rows work and how to make them easily and effectively can help this multi-step process go more pleasantly, and we’re here to help with a quick tutorial. I cast on with some Shibui Staccato as the base color, and will be using some Shibui Pebble to illustrate how short rows create curves in fabric. First, I knit a few inches in simple stockinette stitch.


Most short rows use a numbered spacing method—with the same or a similar number of stitches between each “gap” or pair of turned stitches. For my short rows, I will be grouping the stitches in pairs and working the short rows on only the wrong side of the fabric. First, I start by purling all of the stitches across until I only have three left on the left-hand needle. One will be my “wrapped” stitch, and the other two will not be worked.


When purling, the yarn is in the front of the work. To wrap the stitch, I move the yarn to the back of the work, as if I was going to knit the next stitch:


But instead of knitting, I slip the next stitch (I slip purlwise, generally), and then turn the work completely around. This is the “turn” part of the wrap & turn—the wrap part occurs when you bring the yarn back to the back of the work to begin knitting the stitches. You’ll see the green strand of Pebble “wrapping” the Ivory Staccato, and you can see an example of the Staccato wrapping the Pebble below it.



The next part is easy. You see how in the image above, gaps and pairs start to form? These will help you figure out which stitches you’ve worked, even when using all one color (and not stripes, like in these pictures.) Keep mind of your gaps and pairs, and you’ll never get lost in short rows. You can even count them to determine how many wraps & turns you’ve performed:


After you’ve worked all your short rows, it’s time to go back and pick up the wraps. You always pick up a wrap on the same side of the fabric that you were on when you made it. That means we’ll be picking up our wraps on the purl side.

Work the stitches until you come to your first wrapped stitch. You’ll see where it is because the “bump” surrounding the purl stitch will be slightly large, and if you lift that bump you’ll see that the stitch looks like it has two bumps stacked, like in the left stitch in this green wrap & turn pair (see how it is wrapped with Staccato?)


Next, you’re going to pick up the wrap and work it! You do this by inserting the right-hand needle into the wrap:


And then lifting it onto the left-hand needle, where you’ll purl it together with the original stitch!


Do this all the way to the end of your row, and watch how the fabric forms a curved shape caused by the short rows.


Sometimes wrap & turn short rows aren’t the prettiest choice for colorwork because they show the lifted stitches on the front; but in a solid fabric they’re quite invisible, especially after a few rows of fabric or an edging are added on.


Ready to get going on some wraps & turns of your own? How about starting with Jet Stream, a pattern from Heidi Kirrmaier –  it would be lovely in Alpha B Sexy B! I’m partial to Teal Me, myself.

November 24, 2014 by Hannah Thiessen
Tags: Stitch Lab

Afterthought Add-ons

When I first started knitting, I followed every pattern to the last detail. I wanted to make sure that I ended up with exactly what I saw pictured on my pattern. As time passed and I became more aware of and comfortable with the different ways that different designers cast on, bound off, increased, or […]

The post Afterthought Add-ons appeared first on Knit Purl Blog.

April 29, 2014 by Rachel Bishop
Tags: Stitch Lab