Category Archives: all blog posts

The making of a new Knit Cafe

When The Knit Cafe began its journey 19 years ago we never would have thought that we would be shuffled off from place to place. From Queen Street to Roncesvalles and now to Dundas Street West – we do hope that we have now found our forever home.

When folks ask about our new location, they ask first “is it bigger?”. The answer is – Yes it is – and although that was not the reason for our move we are happy to have some more elbow room. Space for classes and gatherings.

You could say our new space needed a little bit of coaxing to get it ready, or you could call it a heavy duty reno! Here are some early pics – taking down the ceiling – putting in back up again – rewiring – choosing the new floor….

…and now the “after” photos….

We have such a bright clean spot, with lots of light – natural and otherwise. You will recognize The Knit Cafe’s signature cube shaped shelving and pegboard-love! Also our ball winder station has a bit of the original countertop from the Queen Street location. Our sales counter is a rebuild from our Roncey mini-counter. We are so glad we could repurpose so many elements – keep all those memories intact and also waste less.

Our decorative splurge was the wallpaper. Both Iwona and I are crazy about wallpaper and I have had a crush on this pattern for about a decade. It was designed by Swede Joseph Frank in the 1920’s. It was pretty stressful pasting it to the wall, but also fun!

…and there you have it. A practically finished Knit Cafe. We still have lots of details to add, and the search begins for a second table so we can host more classes.
We hope you can come by and see it soon, but if not – thanks for taking this pictorial tour!

Many thanks to the  Commercial Space Rehabilitation Grant Program for their help on this project.

Craftily yours
Kristin

Why Balaclavas?

Every single day in the last month knitters have been coming in The Knit Cafe looking for supplies to make a balaclava. Why are we so obsessed?

Surely not all of us have been watching Audrey Hepbourne looking ever glamourous wearing her Balaclava in Charades? So how does one explain this Balaclava-mania?

A hat and a cowl combined might be a very practical accessory but it really has not been in vogue for the last few decades. So why now? There is no way of knowing but like most things these days the rise in popularity of the balaclava may be due to the pandemic. A warm and wooly covering to tightly envelope your head and neck is the embodiment of emotional armor we need at this moment. The balaclava is a bit of cozy reassurance that we can take with us when we leave the protection of our at-home-bubbles.

Here are some balaclava patterns that have caught my eye

…and now some Crocheted Balaclavas

For the Kids

Will you be next to jump on the Balaclava Bandwagon? It is so tempting!

Craftily yours
Kristin

Make 9 Challenge 2022

Have you ever considered doing your own version of the  #MakeNine Challenge? This is a very popular hashtag on Instagram and other social media platforms to share crafting plans for the year ahead. It was inspired by the hugely popular “Best Nine” hashtag that often circulated around at the beginning of each year. Rochelle from Home Row Fibre decided that instead of looking at the past year she would look forward and make plans for the next. Choose 9 projects that you would like to make and share these goals.

Sounds a bit daunting doesn’t it? Like publicly announcing your New Year’s resolution – only there are 9 of them! I’m kinda freakin myself out now…..but I’m also intrigued. Will giving some attention to your goals and plans at the beginning of the year make you a more “mindful maker”? more productive? less scattered?

I’ve been thinking that this year there might be some added benefits to making some future plans. Many of us may be feeling that dwelling on the present is not where it’s at. Perhaps imagining our future selves making and creating will give us a boost, a jolt, a ray of sunshine!. Life goes on! There is beauty to behold and to discover! There are good times ahead! 

I have spent some time now thinking about some things I would like to achieve and I am going to throw them out there, and let the universe hold me to account. Or really just myself because ultimately I am the only one who cares about the outcome, so there is very little pressure. Perhaps you would like to join me? I have already recruited a few crafty folks. See mine, Iwona’s and Maurie’s choices for their challenges below

Kristin’s Make 9 Challenge:

When considering the items to include in this challenge I had a few things in mind:

I wanted my selection of items to be diverse and cover many of my crafting interests

I wanted to learn new things and stretch myself creatively

I wanted to make things that would be used or would contribute beneficially to my well-being.

I wanted my goals to be attainable. With time in between them for spontaneous projects and detours.

  1. On the needles currently, I have a sweater project called Karl Johan by Knitting for Olive. I am practically finished the yoke. This is a no-brainer to go on my list of makes for 2022
  2. I have already purchased some gorgeous linen from Blackbird Fabrics to make the Cornell Shirt for my sweetheart. He already knows about this so I have extra incentive to get it done for this Spring.
  3. On the same shopping spree at Blackbird I bought some linen for myself which I have earmarked for The Shepherd, a skirt pattern by Merchant and Mills.
  4. I am itching to spend more time with my punch needle and get some more experience with a rug hooking tool and I have a project in mind for this as well: 4 placemats! Really this is four makes – so if I only get one done I will be satisfied.
  5. I have a whole box full of mending that needs some attention. This year I will lessen that pile by at least one item. Visible mending -here I come!
  6. Several years ago I purchased some madder root for a natural dyeing project. Will this be the year I get this project done? I hope so!
  7. More knitting definitely needs to be on this list. This year I would like to try to knit an entire project in The Continental Style. I am by nature an English Style knitter but some shoulder trouble is making me consider a switch. I need a short easy project that has both knit and purls to practice on. I would also like a new hat. The Stockholm Hat by Petiteknits has made it to this list.
  8. Over the Pandemic, many of us did some re-evaluating of our lives. During my reflection I found that I was very unhappy that I was not giving myself time for an art practice. So painting and drawing have found their way back into my life in the form of some art journaling. Over 2022 I would like to fill at least one complete sketch book.
  9. Sometime in 2022 I would like to collaborate with Iwona on a kick-ass window display for The Knit Cafe. Perhaps in the form of some Amigurumi Crochet.

Iwona’s Make 9 Challenge: 

  1. Seamwork Willis in a denim fabric. I love denim shirts, but I would like one that is less bulky under my hand knit sweaters. Fabric to be determined. 
  2. My son asked me for a handmade blanket. I’ve decided to crochet his blanket  as I’ve been thinking about crochet lately. Pattern  and yarn still to be determined. 
  3. Another project that I’ve always wanted to make is fair isle xmas stocking. One of the knit cafe’s great friend’s inspired me with her stockings this year. Pattern still to be determined. I hope to use Fleece Artist Woolen Wonders
  4. Being a full time knitter makes it hard to find time for other crafts. Punch needle embroidery has been on my mind for years now. This year I would like to explore this craft in depth. 
  5. Two summers ago in deep covid lockdown I played around with a cyanotype kit from The Workroom. I really enjoyed this activity and I would like to explore it further. This is a perfect activity to do during summer, also an amazing activity for kids. 
  6. I have everything ready to make cushion covers with indigo dyed fabric. Last summer I explored shibori dyeing with indigo. I’ve dyed beautiful linen fabric for a dress and cotton canvas for cushions. My inspiration for the cushions was African indigo mudcloth. 
  7. I’ve been dreaming of sewing a comfy cozy sweater. I like Elliot Sweater and Tee from the wonderful Canadian pattern maker  Helen’s Closet. Kristin made a tee version of this pattern that I absolutely love. Fabric to be determined. 
  8. I LOVE fair isle knitting. I’ve never made fair isle socks before and I would really like a pair. Pattern  and yarn to be determined. 
  9. At the beginning of January I started  Sweater No. 12 by My Favorite Things Knitwear. I’ve already made one last year. I enjoyed making it so much I decided to knit another one in a different colour and size.  Colours used this time: Merino in cream and pomegranate and Soft Silk Mohair in oat and claret. All yarns from Knitting for Olive

Maurie’s Make 9 Challenge

1. On my needles is a sweater project that I just started. The pattern is called Pink Noise by Adela Dutra. Using stash yarn Brooklyn Tweed Shelter in cast iron and Kat Riverside studio merino singles in Sailor. This pattern is top down, raglan, stranded knitting.
2. Knit a pair of socks once every two months for family, friends or me. I will try new stitch patterns.
3. Design a cowl for a friend. I like taking inspiration from the colour or colour name to create something special for my friend.
4. Embroidery: this is two parts. Saw a pattern in Marie-Claire 100 idee magazines … embroider a 3 dimensional mushroom using lichen & lace embroidery floss. The other project is to create small hanging pillows for my permanent metal tree. Would like to create seasonal decorations.
5. Tackle my list of “to be completed “. This is a large and terrifying list which includes decorating tasks, mending and finishing projects …this is only page 1 oh no!!
6. Rug hooking! ..during covid I put my hooking away. I would like to explore the idea of using various weights of yarn and fabric. Possibly try the sculptural hooking that my mom did.
7. Weaving is my new passion. Would like to explore new techniques in weaving to create new textures.
8. Quilting: I decided to make 2 lap quilts for my friends as a cottage warming present.
9. Finally at the ripe old age of being close to 70…I have figured out what is my comfort clothing.  I will draft a pattern from my favourite top …

So what do you think? Are you ready to join me and Iwona and Maurie? Make your own list? Share them? Let us know how your plans progress? Allow us get inspired by all your good ideas! Share with us your #makenine2022 on Instagram @theknitcafe, so we can see all your plans and get inspired by your choices.

Craftily yours
Kristin

Gift Guide 2021

We’ve all been through a lot these last few years. We all deserve treats!
Here are our picks for gifts for crafters of all kinds:

For New Knitters

My First Scarf Kits, My First Hat Kits, and Mini Scarf Kits from Loopy Mango
Knit How – a great beginner book
For beginners who have a tried a few scarves and are looking for their next project: Mohair Beanie Kit

For Experienced Knitters

Accessories from Coco Knits – row counters, stitch holders, tape measures, stitch markers, accessory rolls, mesh bags
These Adjustable Sock Blockers will be just the right treat for some knitters out there. The whole collection of knitting and mending notions from Katrinkles is worth checking out for gift ideas.

For Rug Hookers and Punch Needlers

Check out the Rug Hooking and Punch Needle section of our shop for Rug Hooking Kits, Punch Needles, Monk’s Cloth, Hooking Frames, and Rug Wools.

For Macramers

Kits for Plant Hangers, and Rainbow Wall Art, Recycled Cotton Macrame Cord and Acceessories

For Felters

Needle Felting Kits from Felted Sky

For Weavers

A Beginner Weaving Kit, Tapestry Looms of all shapes and sizes, Tapestry Warping Cotton and other goodies from our Weaving Section of the shop.

For Menders and Needle Crafters

Hand dyed Embroidery Wool and Beginner Embroidery Kits from Lichen and Lace. Also mending supplies, like Darning Threads and Eggs and other pretty and useful things from our Needle Craft section of the shop.

For The Kids

Many of the kits we’ve mentioned will be great for kids – depending on their age and interests. Also check out these knitting dolls, pompom makers, Mini Scarf Kits.

Brand New – and gift ready!

Hand Block Printing Kits from Kate Austin!

Happy Holidays!

Our free fingerless mitten pattern gets better!

October is about the time I start wearing fingerless mittens. It is a small window of opportunity, when it gets a bit chilly, but not too chilly. They are great on the bike!
We published our fingerless mitten pattern called Lickity Split Fingerless Mitts here on our blog many moons ago, but I thought it deserved an update. They were designed to be a good pattern to learn how to knit in rounds on double pointed needles. We taught this pattern for many years to our Knit 101 students. If you do not like double pointed needles you can also knit these mittens with the magic loop method or your favourite method for knitting a small circumference in rounds.

I have updated the pattern with some extra sizing, a few notes and details, a downloadable PDF of the pattern and a video tutorial on how to do the thumb opening, there were always lots of questions about that! You will see that it is easy if you watch the video.

My recommends for this pattern is Brooklyn Tweed Quarry (although this is not the best yarn if you are a very beginner knitter), Berroco Ultra Wool Chunky, and Wool and the Gang Alpachino Merino, I would also love to see them done in Loopy Mango Mohair So Soft!

Find the Lickity Split Fingerless Mitt pattern HERE

planning your handmade gifts

I think most people agree that the things they give and receive that are made by hand have extra special significance, but that doesn’t mean that these gifts are always a good fit. When I was a teenager I received a beautiful cable knit blanket made from natural-white wool from my grandmother that I still use and cherish now. I also received quite a few sweaters from her – made with exceptional skill and much love that languished in a drawer. I am sure I have given many hand knit things that have met a similar fate. Now that I am a knitter I really consider who I will make a gift for and when I will choose to make a gift by hand.

Before you begin – check yourself!

Make sure you are making the gift for the receiver and not for yourself. Knitters, crocheters and other crafters just want to continue making our craft. We want to make more and more and feel inspired and creative and productive. Sometimes we use the excuse of gift-giving as fuel for this process. This drive to create cannot be the primary reason for the gift, or the gift is most likely fated for the bottom of the drawer. Take a good look at your motivations before you embark on your gift making and ask yourself a few questions before you begin.

Gift worthy or not gift worthy?

Recipients must score high on my Gift-Worthy scale before they get the goods.

  • Does the receiver already have an appreciation for handmade things. Do they use them?
  • Have they expressed interest or otherwise oohed and ahhed over things that you have made?
  • Are they capable of caring for the gift? Knits in particular may need to be washed and stored in a particular way.
  • If you have given this person a handmade gift before – Is it being used?

What should you give?

Once it’s established that you have a worthy candidate for a gift. Please also consider carefully what you might give them.

  • If they have been coveting something that you made in the past then it is not a stretch to just recreate it for them. Make sure you know what is it about that item that caught their eye. Was is the soft material or that particular colour?
  • Make sure it is an item that is useful to them. Some people are crazy for hand-knitted socks, but not everybody.
  • Make sure your gift is going to fit. The best way to judge the size you should make for someone is to measure something they already have whether it be a hat, or a scarf, or especially a sweater. Compare this size to the finished measurements in the size section of your pattern and make that size. If you can’t ascertain the size of something they already have you will have to make a guess based on the information in your instructions. In this case I would probably not make a sweater – as people are particular about how these fit – unless it is for a baby. In this case just make a bigger size than indicated for their age so that they can grow into it.
  • Let the recipient in on the process. Ask them what they want. Let them pick out the pattern and/or the materials. Sometimes people get a thrill out of planning the project. Also, then you will be sure that they like the colours and textures and the style of the gift. If they are really excited about this process than you know you are on the right track. If you are hard pressed to get answers from them, they may not be that into the gift and perhaps a pause is needed.
  • Don’t bite off more than you can chew! Stick to tried and true patterns and makes if you have a tight deadline. If you have a more challenging project you would like to try then give yourself lots of time and have a back-up plan in case you are not finished in time. Once or twice I have wrapped up a project still on the knitting needles to give. Then you take back your unfinished gift and resume knitting and everybody has a good laugh!

When to begin

I’ve heard-tell that some people make gifts all year round, for birthdays, for Christmas, and other special occasions, but I think that most of us wait till the occasion is upon us and then we panic! The end of the year is a heavy duty time for gift-giving, between Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Years Day, and Winter Solstice. Some organized people plan ahead. They start their gift making in the height of the summer and then sit back and relax when the holidays arrive, but that’s not most of us. I personally feel that I have done a good job at planning ahead when I start making my gifts in October. Are you with me?

How to get it all done

Make a plan. You will need:

  • paper and pen to make a list, or a note-taking app on your digital device
  • a calendar (paper or digital)
  • coloured markers, pencils, or highlighters (this is optional – just to make it fun!)
  1. Make a list of who you would like to make a gift for. You can colour code them if you like.
  2. add what you plan to make for them
  3. divide the work into goals and tasks
  4. add a complete by date

Example

NameGiftTasks/Goals
My lovely
friend
Hat pattern –
Toques for Tout le Monde
by The Knit Cafe
Colour: Red
Size: Medium
Purchase materials – Oct 1
Cast on and finish brim – Oct 2
Knit to decreases for crown – Oct 8
Knit the crown and weave in ends – Oct 15
Block – Oct 16
Wrap up the gift – Dec 23
  • Prioritize the gifts that you most care about completing and start them first. It is really hard to estimate how much time something with take when it comes to craft projects. So get the most important ones done first!
  • Add lots of details about the gift, so you will remember the particulars when you look at it again.
  • Divide the work into manageable tasks and assign each task a completion date
  • Once you have finished your list – add these dates into a calendar. If it is a digital calendar you can even add reminders and alerts to help you keep on track.

Give yourself a break

Once you see all your tasks laid out before you, you may feel overwhelmed. Maybe then, that is the time to scale back on your projects. Remember that your crafting time is meant to be enjoyable and relaxing. There will always be gifts to give next year. Pace yourself!

Are you ready to start planning your handmade gifts?
Craftily yours
Kristin

Swatching! Do you have to?

The quick answer is no, but you probably should.

I have noticed that most people view making a knitted swatch like a kind of “eat your vegetables” or “remember to floss” kind of task, but full disclosure: I love to swatch!!
For me swatching is this lovely getting to know ya kinda time between me and my yarn. It’s when I take it out and see what it can do. How does it feel running through my fingers? What does the colour look like when it is knit up? What’s the texture really like? All these questions are asked and answered during the swatching stage. If I am not in-love after the swatch is done I do not carry on with that yarn for that project. Full stop!

You may not feel the same about swatching, but besides the forementioned benefits there are a few things you should know about swatching before you pass it over.

Why you should swatch

Besides the opportunity to get to know your yarn and find out if it suitable for your project the most compelling reason to swatch is that it is best method we have to ensure that our projects end up the size that we intend them to be. This is pretty important. It is awfully disappointing to spend hours and hours of your time and money on yarn, not to mention blood, sweat and tears and end up with a garment that is unwearable.

How to swatch

A swatch is a square (or rectangle) of knitting made with the yarn and needles you intend to use for your project.
You should be able to measure a 10cm / 4 inch square within your swatch.

Here is a little recipe for FLAT stocking stitch swatch:
To establish how many to cast on: check your pattern for the gauge over 10cm / 4 inches. Lets use the example of 18 sts per 10cm. Add on some stitches for a garter stitch border (about 3 on each side =6). The border will prevent your swatch from curling and make it easier to measure. I like to add a few more stitches because the stitches next to the borders tend to be wobbly (about 2 on each side =4). So for this example cast on 18 +6+4= 28 sts.
Start with about 4 rows of garter stitch for the bottom border (that is knit every row). Then work 4 stitches in garter stitch for the border, place a marker if you like, work the next stitches in stocking stitch (that is knit a row, purl a row) till the last 4 stitches, place a marker and work these last stitches in garter stitch for the other border. Continue in this matter till you have over 10cm to measure for the row gauge. Finish with about 4 rows of garter stitch for a border and cast off.

Block your swatch! – This is really important because sometimes yarn changes after it is wet. Often it will stretch. I usually measure my swatch before and after blocking to see if it stretched. Blocking is just wetting your swatch (soak it for at least 15 minutes) and squeeze out the water and let it dry flat.

If your project is knit in circles then you will also have to SWATCH IN CIRCLES too! This is also really important. I wrote a whole blog post about this back in 2013. I have updated it with a few extra notes and a video. If you need to swatch in circles then check it out HERE, and I’ll post the video here for a quick reference.


Note: If your pattern calls for a swatch “in pattern” that means it is not knit in stocking stitch but in the texture indicated in the pattern. When you are creating this swatch you with need the number of stitches within the borders to work with that particular stitch pattern. Some stitch patterns lie flat and those ones you will not need to add borders.

How to measure a swatch

Once your swatch is dry, get out your ruler.
Stitch Gauge
Measure 10cm in the middle of your swatch across a row of stitches, and count the stitches. If you find that you have too many stitches within 10cm you are working too tightly and should try your swatch again with a larger needle size. If you find you that you have too few stitches within 10cm you are too loose and will have to try with a smaller needle size.
Row Gauge
Now measure your row gauge. Change the direction of your ruler so that is vertical along a column of stitches. Count the rows over 10cm. More rows = tight = bigger needle. Less rows = loose = smaller needle.

Note: In most cases it is the Stitch Gauge that is way more important than the row gauge. In many patterns lengths are given in measurements rather than number of rows. In this case you just knit to a certain measurement and the numbers of rows is irrelevant. Even if this is not true in your pattern it is easier to make adjustments to lengths rather than widths in most knitting projects. So what I am saying is concentrate your efforts on getting that stitch gauge.

Counting the stitch gauge11.5 stitches
Counting the row gauge17 rows

Some swatching secrets

To recap:

  • make your swatch flat if your pattern calls for flat knitting and make it in rounds if it calls for circular knitting
  • block your swatch
  • measure before and after blocking
  • stitch gauge is more important

…but here is something that most knitters will not want to admit but I will tell you. Sometimes even if we go to the trouble to make a swatch and you get perfect results; sometimes things still go off the rails. The reason is this: human beings are inconsistent. Your knitting tension when you swatched and when you knit your project may differ based on what was going on when you knit it. I once did some knitting in a hospital emergency room and that knitting was about five times tighter than my normal tension. Even when you are perfectly relaxed when you are knitting the difference in the size and weight of the swatch verses the size of your project may make you hold your knitting differently and alter your tension. So why go to the trouble of all this swatching? – you might ask! The answer is that is the best tool we have to get the best results. Most of the time the swatch will tell the tale and you will be able to follow it’s lead. Here are my last tips and they will help if the swatching does lets you down:

  • while you are knitting your project – check your gauge every once in a while.
  • while you are knitting compare the dimensions of your knitted project to the finished dimensions or schematic measurements given in the pattern and make sure you are on the right track.

When can you skip the swatch

In cases when projects are small (a hat, mittens etc) most knitters do not swatch. You can use the above advice (check your gauge and measure your knitting as you go) to make sure that your project is coming out the right size.

You can also do this for larger projects if you dare. It will just mean there may be a lot of unravelling and starting again along the way.

Good luck with your swatching or your “not swatching”!
Craftily yours
Kristin

rainbows rule!

Last week we put up our first window display in more than year, probably more like two! It feels pretty good. the window features a rainbow motif crafted with three different techniques. Macrame rainbows can be made with a kit supplied to us by Aster and Vine, Needle Felted rainbows and Punch Needle rainbows are Knit Cafe original patterns and also come as kits.

It is pretty tricky to take photos of windows but I love how the reflection in this shots elevates the rainbows skyward.

The Punch Needle Kits come with 4 different rainbow designs from which you can choose the one you like best. You can also just purchase the pattern as a digital download. All the profits made from these downlaods through the month of June 2021 we will be donating to Friends Of Ruby, which is an organization in Toronto that helps LGBTQI2S youth.

Several needle felted rainbows can be made with one kit. These would look awesome made into a mobile. There is video support for this kit for those who are new to needle felting!

This macrame rainbow is easy to make but you will need a glue gun or some strong glue!

Also….. As of June 16, The Knit Cafe will be partially open to shopping! Wow!
Customers can come in, one at a time with masks and we will help them at an area sectioned off at the front of the shop, So, no independent browsing just yet but you will be able to see those colours and textures in person.
Please check out the webshop before you come so you know what to ask for, and please get in touch for pre-visit consultations by email and by phone. We are here Wed-Fri noon-6pm, and Sat-Sun noon-5pm.

Our Pattern in Making 10. Intricate

It was around this time of the year when I started to work up a design that I hoped might be looked upon fondly by the folks as Making Magazine.
Making is my favourite craft magazine. Always inspiring, with drool-worthy pictures, and high quality projects. I like the size of it in my hands and the feel of the paper. I like that it contains not only projects for knitters but much of the textile arts that I am a complete sucker for. So you can imagine that I am seriously chuffed to be included in this upcoming issue of Making.  Wow!

This edition is called “Intricate” and the mood boards sent out to designers were full of golden hues and lots of texture. As I biked to and from work I was, as I am now, taking in all the smiling faces of sunflowers and dahlias and these became the motifs that I wanted to feature.
Mittens are my favourite garment to design and to knit – so that was an easy choice.

The result of my tinkering is the “Late Bloomer Mittens”. The picture above and the close up picture are both provided by the talented people at Making. Are they not lovely?
The Intricate edition will not be released till Oct 23, 2020, but look for preorders to open on September 14th from The Knit Cafe.

The yarn I used in the mittens was Lichen and Lace. A strand of Rustic Heather Sport and Marsh Mohair are held double throughout. We just received a lovely big box of both and here are some of the colour combos you could choose for this project or any other furry fabric that suits the gauge.

Craftily yours
Kristin

Summer Sale 2020

It’s Summer Sale Time!
The Knit Cafe is having a storewide sale. Everything is 15% off. This includes yarn and needles and tools and accessories, and rug hooking and punch needle supplies, and books and magazines!

Also, for the first time ever our wonderful Bargain Bins are making an appearance in our online shop. That means they will not be in the physical shop but does mean you can route through them in the comfort of your own home. There is a 25% off bargain bin, and a 30% off bargain bin and a 40% off bargain bin too.

Sale starts Sunday July 18 and ends at the end of the day on Sunday July 26.

Check out our webshop for goodies.