Category Archives: Tutorials and How-To’s

Tips and Techniques for knitters and crafters

How to Start Knitting

So, there are thousands of videos and tutorials out there that show you how to knit and purl. It has never been easier, thanks to social media sharing to pick up a new craft like knitting, but do some things get lost in translation as you skip from video to video? As a complete beginner do you really feel like you have all the tools you need to get started?
The answer to this for many people is probably no.
Here I will attempt to get you started on your knitting adventure and try to fill in some of those gaps between knit and purl.

How to start knitting

1. Find your LYS. That’s “Local Yarn Store” to the uninitiated. They will have lots of advice and maybe some in-person classes there. Someone live, telling you and showing you how to knit is probably the best way to learn for most people. If there are no classes in your neighbourhood, see if there is anyone in your community who knits who might be able to show you a thing or two. Once you start asking – you may be surprised who is revealed to be a knitter.

2. Choose your yarn! Choose wisely!
There are many factors when choosing a yarn to knit with – colour, texture, price, sustainability, fibre, washability, and on and on. So what should a beginner choose?
Choose a yarn that is thick! Thicker yarns knit up more quickly and this is motivating for a first time knitter. It is defeating to work on a project for hours and not see much progress and this is inevitably what happens when one uses thin yarns. Also, thicker yarns make it easier to see your stitches and this is very beneficial. Yarn is categorized into different sizes. We suggest beginners should choose yarn in one of the following categories:

Super Bulky (also called #6)
Bulky (#5)
Chunky (also #5)
You can find this information on the yarn’s label.

Choose a yarn that is smooth! No mohair please for your first project. Fuzzy yarns mat together and make it hard to fix mistakes, it is also hard to see your stitches through the fuzz. Other very textured yarns can present similar problems.

Choose a yarn you love! You will be spending a lot of time with this yarn so it should make you happy! One of the wonderful things about knitting is that you can always reuse your materials. Just unravel it and knit something new. So even if your first project is not the greatest, your pretty yarn can be made into something new later.

The Knit Cafe has a section in our webshop with yarn suggestions for new knitters called Best for Beginners

3. Prepare your yarn for knitting. Yarn can come in a few different forms. Shapes like balls, donuts, bullets, and cakes are all ready to knit. Just find the end of the yarn and knit away, but look out for yarns that come in a pretty twisted shape that unfolds into a big loop of yarn. Those are called skeins or hanks and they need to be wound into a ball before you begin knitting, otherwise they turn into a tangled mess.

Click HERE to see a video where we show how to wind a skein into a ball!

4. Find the right needle size! If you choose a needle size that is out of step with your yarn size you will run into trouble. Bigger yarn is going to require a bigger needle size and smaller yarn will need a smaller size. To find a good needle size for your yarn consult the yarn label. On most labels there will be a recommendation. If you are purchasing your yarn online, pay attention to the knitting needle size suggested on the yarn’s product page.
Note: There are two different sizing systems that are most commonly used for knitting needles. Some labels will list both and some only one or the other. The American Sizing System is indicated by a number alone – for example 10, or US10. In Canada and many other places we use the metric system to size our needles. A US10 is a 6mm.

6. There are two different styles of knitting. One is called English Style and the other is called Continental Style. The instructions that you find will show the knitting techniques in one of these two different styles. English knitters hold their yarn in their right hand, Continental knitters hold their yarn in their left hand. That does not mean that English Style is only for right hand knitter and Continental Style is only for left handers – it really makes little difference. Find the style that suits you best and look for instructions that showcase that style.

7. Find some good resources. If you are not able to enrol in a class. Find some easy to follow video tutorials. You will need the following “how-tos”:
How to Cast On
How to do the Knit Stitch
How to Bind Off
How to Weave in Ends

The Knit Cafe has released a how to knit a scarf tutorial video that shows all these techniques. It is called Made By You. Here it is:

Check out your local Library for beginner knitting books. We recommend Knit How for beginners who come to The Knit Cafe

8. Choose a good beginner project. A good first project will be square or rectangular, with no shaping. It will be all knit and no purl. It will not have complicated instructions that you cannot understand. In fact it may not come with a knitting pattern at all.
The most common first knitting project is a scarf because it fulfills all the above criteria. When you purchase your yarn from your LYS they can make a recommendation on how many stitches to add to your needle for the width of your scarf. You can also figure this out for yourself but be warned it will take a bit of math, but only a little. If you are interested in how to calculate the number of stitches required for your scarf you can check out this resource: How Many Stitches to Cast On for my First Scarf Project

9. Get all the yarn you need! Again, the helpful folks at your yarn shop will be able to help you figure out how much yarn you will need for your project. If you are following a pattern look for how many yards or metres required and compare that to the information given on the yarn label. The length of the yarn more accurately represents the quantity than the weight.
If you do not get all the yarn you need for your project you run the risk of not being able to get more when you want it. Also…..the colour might be slightly different the next time you buy it. Yarn is dyed in batches called “lots”. Dye lots are represented by a number on the yarn label. Make sure all the dye lot numbers match before purchasing your yarn or risk a slight colour difference between balls.

10. Read the yarn label! So, by now you probably know this is an important step. To review look for:
yarn size, needle size, yardage, and dye lot number. The label will also tell you what the yarn is made of, where it was made, and how to care for it.

11. Find a community. Once you are hooked on knitting you will want to share it.
Invite your friends over for crafter-noon fun! Ask your LYS if they have a social time. Look for knitting meet-ups in your area. Check out online knitting communities like

Good luck on your knitting adventure!
Craftily yours

Learn Something New!

One of the things that keeps me fascinated with knitting is that there is always something new to learn. Not only are there centuries of knitting history to look back on but new knitters keep making stuff up!

The other day I learned something new and it gave me a little jolt of joy so I thought I would share it with you. This new tip came from Brooklyn Tweed, a very special yarn company that The Knit Cafe has the good fortune to represent. Not only do they provide us with covetable yarns that are ethically and sustainably produced, but they also produce kick-ass knitting patterns and have wonderful technical support.

Brooklyn Tweed just released a video about Helix or Helical Knitting. What a fancy name!
Helical Knitting is used when knitting in rounds with single row stripes so that you don’t get the uneven colour jogs that happen when you change colours at the beginning of a round. It’s pretty neat!

Here’s a video of me showing it to Iwona

Helical Knitting Demo

If you would like to know more: Watch this video from Brooklyn Tweed. It explains Helix Knitting thoroughly including how to do it with Magic Loop. For even more info you can check out this video from VeryPinkKnits who shows Helical Knitting with three colours on a circular needle.

Helical Knitting is also very useful for Knitting with hand dyed yarns which often vary from skein to skein. If you alternate your skeins in a striping pattern you blend the various colours together so you don’t see a abrupt change in colour when you change to a new skein. Brooklyn Tweed also suggests using Helical Knitting techniques with their Dapple Yarn which is dyed on a gradient.

So I recommend it – learn something new, and when you do tell someone about it so they can learn it too!
Craftily yours

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

Oxford Punch Needles at The Knit Cafe

The Knit Café now carries all sizes of Amy Oxford’s Punch Needles!

These rug hooking needles are the best. They are made for comfortable punching thanks to the curvy, smooth, wooden handle and the sleek, surgical steel needle.  The Oxford Punch Needles come in a variety of sizes so you can switch the size of your yarn and also change the length of your pile for lots of interesting textural possibilities.

I have made a handy chart for The Knit Cafe to illustrate!

The Oxford Punch Needles come in sizes #14, #13, #10, #9 and #8. It breaks down like this:

#14 creates the shortest pile and only comes in “Fine” (which is for worsted or DK weight yarns. It makes 3mm tall pile
#13 is slightly taller with 4.75mm tall pile. Also only comes in “Fine”
#10 comes in both “Fine” and “Regular”. “Regular needles suit bulky yarns.
The #10 has 6.35mm high pile.
#9 also comes in both “Fine” and “Regular”. The pile is 9.5mm.
#8 comes in both “Fine” and “Regular”. the pile is 12.7mm high

So which one should you choose?

Choose the “Fine” size if you think you want more details in your pieces.
Choose the “Regular” size if speedy punching is important or if you plan to make less detailed more abstract work and like those fat stitches!

Choose a lower pile for details and a cleaner look. Choose taller piles for more texture! The chart shows the longest pile – the #8 twice. The first time in the grey is made with the standard punching technique and the maroon yarn shows the piles of the yarn cut to get a tufted effect. It’s shaggy!!! Another kind of texture for you to try. The centre of the chart that is not marked in the lilac colour has no pile length because it is punched on the other side. This is a great way to get a flat look and can be done with any size of punch needle.

Check out the Oxford Punch Needles at The Knit Café HERE

The next Punch Needle Class at The Knit Café
is Tuesday July 9, 2019, 6:30-9pm.
Register HERE

Craftily yours


Today I would like to highlight the final pattern in The Knit Cafe’s Wee Collection Fall 2014. It’s called Tee!

It’s a small size t-shirt, to fit baby and up to 3-years in size. Knit in organic cotton it is meant to be casual and comfortable, the polka dot embellishment is meant to be a whole lot of fun!

tee front cropThis is the front!

tee back cropThis is the back!

teeYou may add the polka dots where you will as they are added on after with a marvelous and easy technique called duplicate stitch.

Duplicate Stitch is a wonderful way to add coloured embellishments to your knitted garments.  It is more akin to an embroidery than a knitting technique and is so simple and fun to do. I will demonstrate in the form of a tutorial!


You will need: a darning needle, and contrast colour yarn in the same thickness as the yarn you used to knit your garment, and sharp scissors too.

Cut a piece of yarn. The length of which will depend on how large an area you intend to cover, tempered by how long a piece you can handle pulling up through your work repetitively without getting tangled up. It takes approximately 147cm length of yarn to make a polka dot but we made each polka dot with two separate lengths of yarn. We started with a piece of yarn about 80cm long.

duplicate st 1

Thread your yarn on your darning needle and thread it through your knit fabric just under the stitch you intend to cover. Duplicate stitch is always worked over stocking stitch so each stitch will resemble a V in shape.  The needle will come up at the base of the V, shown here with a  red dot!
Leave a length of yarn on the reverse side of the fabric which is long enough to darn into your work once you are finished the duplicate stitching.

duplicate st 2

Next, thread your yarn through the stitch above the stitch you intend to cover.  The needle goes under one arm of the V and through the other arm.  See illustration above.

duplicate st 3

Then insert your needle through the original spot where your yarn first appeared.  Pull just so that the yarn covers the stitch, not so tight that it puckers the fabric and shows the stitch underneath and not so loose that it looks untidy.

duplicate st 4

To place a duplicate stitch beside the one you just finished, bring your needle up under the base of the V beside the stitch you just covered (indicated with blue dot) and repeat the steps above.

duplicate st 5

Or you can place a stitch above the duplicate stitch you just completed by bringing your needle up under the base of the V above the completed duplicate stitch as shown by the blue dot in the diagram.

Repeat as necessary to finish your polka dot or whatever pattern you fancy.


We used Anzula’s Mini Skeins in For Better or Worsted yarn to make our polka dots. One skein in each of the 3 colours was plenty to make the polka dots we required. Hooray for mini skeins!

Other patterns in the Wee Collection Fall 2014 are Baby Harem.  and Tremblant Blanket and Bunting for Beginners too. You can see all The Knit Cafe’s Pattern on our Ravelry Page HERE.

Craftily yours



Old Dog – New Tricks

They say the best way to keep the old noggen tickityboo is to keep it active.
My carreer as a knitter should then keep mine sharp as a razor.  I never stop learning things. NEVER!

Well just the other day I learned a thing that I wished I’d learned when I was but a fledgling knitter.  A thing I wish that I had passed on to the oh-so-many students I have taught to knit.

-a simple thing, a useful thing, an easy thing.

I learnt it from Pinterest – as one does. The other day someone posted thisDo

It’s originated from Ysolda Teagues as part of her Technique Thursdays series.
By the way there are many gems in this series.  Ones brains could become very buff after a few hours brushing up on these knit technique.
I especially like this post on casting on and casting off as it takes two of the basics (usually the first and the third thing one learns when one takes up knitting) and adds a commonsense twist that makes these basics all the better.
Best yet they are, if not as easy, then possibly easier then ones regular cast on and cast off.

Cast on: This will only interest those who cast on with the Long Tail Cast On method, but if you do – you do not have to make a slip knot before you begin your cast on! It’s true!

Cast off: Instead of threading the yarn through the last stitch on the needle, simply pull on your last stitch till the yarn comes all the way through. This is a subtle distinction, but I think you’ll see the difference if you go to the post.

Why make these small changes? The answer is prettiness.  Many times I have been asked about bulgy beginnings and loosey goosey endings to knitting projects and I have had to reply that that’s just the way it goes. Darning will often fix up these misshapen stitches but what if they looked perfect from the get go.
They can!

Check out Ysolda’s post here.
After you’re through – check out the link for the Long Tail Cast On for 1×1 Ribbing.  It will blow your mind!

Craftily yours

PS – you can see what we’re posting to Pinterest here

Swatching in circles

To swatch or not to swatch, that is the question.
The answer in many many cases is “yes – you should”.
Don’t worry, I won’t spend this time trying to lure you over to the side of pro-swatchers. Today I want to talk about swatching in the round.
When you are knitting a project in the round it is imperative you test swatch in the round too.  I am sorry to say that this is something I did not learn, till later in my knit-life.  It seems that the difference in our tensions from flat knitting to circular knitting can be extreme! Extremely extreme!
So if you are about to knit a project that requires you to knit in rounds then follow these steps to make a swatch.

1.  Using the needles you would like to knit with (these will be either circular or double pointed needles) cast on stitches sufficient enough for a swatch.  It is desirable to have at least 10cm to measure, since most gauges are given over 10cm. If my swatch is for a stocking stitch fabric I like to do a little boarder of garter stitch so that the swatch won’t curl as much when I am trying to measure, but this is optional. Work your first row.


2.When you get to the end of the row drag your stitches to the other needle point. Don’t turn your piece to the other side!


3. Leaving a long stretch of yarn flopping across the back or the knitting, work into the stitch you have positioned near the tip of the needle (the first stitch in the previous row).


Repeat steps 2 and 3.  Eventually you will get something that looks like this on the back side.  You see how it is important to keep those runs at the back as long as possible so your swatch can lie flat for measuring.


Once the swatch is blocked many people will snip the long runs at the back before measuring, but if it is laying flat without cutting you don’t have to cut.


Before you measure, block your swatch. Now go ahead and measure.

Here is a quick video you can watch to see the swatching in action:

Craftily yours

I heart hearts and groundhogs!

There’s still time to make your sweetheart one of these guys for Valentines day.
heart jpeg 2heart
It’s an oldie, but a goodie.  A pattern of mine that was published in the wonderful online knit magazine Knitty.  You can find the pattern there for free too. If you are down with the double pointed knitting needles then this pattern is a breeze and fun to make too.  I have made plenty over the years.
heart x2The heart on the left is the only heart I kept from all the plenty. The heart on the right is a mini version of the heart (great for pinning on your sleeve or lapel). The mini heart pattern is found here.  The left heart is improvised.
I kept this heart partly for the very special yarn it was made from.  Leftovers from socks I made for my Dad, my last bit of fuzzy, neon, orange, angora, and hand dyed cashmere from Handmaiden yarns. Using bits and pieces from projects-past made this heart even more special to me.  The cable is a nice touch too.
Lots of other folks have made their own versions of the heart.  See them on Ravelry.  There are currently 710 to peruse.

If you decide to make your own heart here’s a tip!

Beginning the heart is the hardest part.  You must cast on 6 stitches and join in the round and immediately increase stitches.  Over the years many have cursed my name trying to accomplish this.  Over these same years I have learned some tricks to make lighter work of this tricky maneuver. This is how I do it.heart tutorial 1

1. Cast on your 6 stitches onto a double pointed needle




2. The next instruction is to increase the stitches with a (Kf&b, K1) repeated, but first you must join the round to start knitting in a circle. Instead of dividing the stitches onto the double pointed needles try joining the round like you would if you were making an I-cord. First move the stitches down to the other point on your double pointed needle.  Let the yarn drape over the back of your work as you insert your needle into the first stitch closest to the tip (the first stitch you cast on). Work your Kf&b into that first stitch making sure you give some tension to the stitch to close the circle.  Continue working the stitches on the needle making your increases as you go. heart tutorial 3

3. You will now have 9 stitches on your double pointed needle




heart tutorial 44. Reorganize your stitches on the double pointed needles, 3 stitches on each needle and join in a round.
If 9 stitches still seems too puny to start using all  your double pointed needles on, then use the I-cord technique to do your next row. This will increase your stitches to 12.  Now get out the rest of the needles and put 4 stitches on each.

Apply this I-cord technique to anything that requires you to cast on only a few stitches and then knit in rounds, like the Knit Cafe’s Tedster pattern or the Wee Owlie too.

Happy Groundhog Day, 2 out of 3 groundhogs say spring is coming early!
Craftily yours


With the Crochet Blanket Class close at hand (it starts on July 22) I thought I would share my version of the blanket.
I was inspired by Maurie Todd’s beautiful creation below.  In fact I outright copied her.  Noro Sock yarn for the middles: that ever-changing yarn that gives you all the colours in the rainbow in just one ball, and a solid coloured sock yarn for the outside.

But since the recipient of this blanket was still in diapers, I  picked some peppy colours.  Lorna’s Laces Firefly for the background.
I found making this blanket addictive, especially the happy little middles that I stacked up and admired. Then I unstacked them and ordered them, reordered them, puzzled and plotted, and restacked them.  Then I made more.  Attaching them all together was not so bad either.  They were crocheted together with NO SEW SEAMS! Something you will learn in class.

When it was all done – I was not!

The finished blanket had wavy edges thanks to the hexagons and all their angles. Those of you who have made the blanket will know what I mean.  To remedy this I made “half hexagons” and added them along the edges that needed them (2 of the 4). Necessity being the mother of invention – I taught myself how.  Others have gone before me and done the same but they were not around.

This is what I did…

Continue reading

the perfect blendship!

This weekend is the Friendship Bracelet Workshop

Embroidery floss is the traditional medium of the friendship bracelet!
I think we might get experimental with mini skeins too!

I look forward to this upcoming crafternoon.  Here are the details:

Friendship Bracelet Workshop
Sunday May 27, 1-3:30
$30, materials not included
children of all ages are welcome
call to register 416 533 5648
more on friendship bracelets here

All morning I’ve been “down the rabbit hole”.  This is how I describe the phenomena of being swept away from web link to link, with no visible end.  Eventually you take pause and wonder how you arrived at where you landed.  This time spent in the hole I have no regrets about.  I learned so much.
I think it started here ↓These instructions on how to make a garter stitch tab at the beginning of your shawl project may not interest everyone, but I urge you all to check out Tricksy. This site is replete with interesting things like this↓
It was just the other day, I was admiring the well-marked  paper pattern I was working from.  Decorated with chicken scratches, check marks, and circles, it was full of the history of my knitting adventures.  I wondered to myself how folks with iPads managed to follow a pattern, unable to draw pictures and make notes where necessary.  I mumbled to myself “I bet there’s an app for that”, and of course there is.  A PDF reader in fact.  Read about it here
I will never get the hours back I spent playing with this Chart Maker, but I don’t care!

I also found, in no particular order:

this very useful head/hat size chart

a tutorial on how to weave in ends which includes weaving into ribbing stitch!

a how-to decode decreases: how to make them, how they look, and when to use them.

There was more
but I think that is quite enough for today!
Apologies if you get trapped in the rabbit hole.

Craftily yours