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6 Tips for Overcoming a Challenging Knitting Pattern

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Seeing a challenging knitting pattern that, from the outset, looks really complicated can be very intimidating.  For example, it may be several pages long, have two charts, each with a different number of rows, to be knit at the same time, as well as increases to be knit at certain intervals.

Makes you want to run the other way right?  But you don’t have to. These challenges don’t have to stop you from knitting it!  Here are a few tips to help you through.  I also have an example of what I did with a complicated pattern.

Tip #1:  Breathe.  A few deep breaths before reading through the pattern will help calm your brain down which is probably shouting, “Danger! Too hard! Don’t do it! RUN!”

Tip #2:  Read through the whole pattern to get an idea of what will be entailed.  Jumping right in without reading through the whole pattern may set you up for failure.  There is often a direction “at the same time” which occurs further along in the pattern, but is something you are supposed to already be doing by the time you read it!

Tip #3:  Map out your rows.  When a pattern has several charts as well as instructions for increasing, it helps to map out how you will accomplish your rows. Writing down each row, along with the corresponding chart rows, in a chart format or just in rows on your scrap paper will help tease out the confusion (see my example below).

Tip #4:  Cross off each row on your map as it is completed so there is no question as to what row you are on if you put your project down for a while.

Tip #5:  Keep breathing! One row at a time and you will get there.

Tip #6:  If you are still confused about how to organize your rows/charts, stop in at your local yarn shop and ask for a little help!  Most shops are happy to take a few minutes to help walk you through what to do and get you on your way.  [If it is a particularly complicated pattern that will take more than 10 minutes or so, they may suggest you schedule a private lesson.  Private lessons are great for quality one-on-one instruction and well worth the cost.]

I recently found a challenging knitting pattern – an adorable baby sweater pattern which was 7 pages long, had two different charts, that had two different repeat lengths, that needed to be knit at the same time (at different parts of the same row) while knitting from the top down and increasing at four locations on my needle.  Whew!  The challenge was:  How do I keep track of all this?

Once I had worked out a system for keeping track of two charts and increases, it went quickly.  To work out the system, first I took a deep breath!  I read through the whole pattern to understand what would be happening throughout the project. For example, in this pattern the back chart is only knit once but the front chart is knitted throughout.  That bit of information would help me get organized.

Next, I made a little map/chart for the rows I would need to knit. I lined up the two rows I needed to repeat for the increases with the rows of each of the knitting charts like so:


Look at the first number for the increase row, then follow the numbers vertically down for what you will need to do on the rest of that row.  You will see that after row 14 of each of the charts it gets interesting.  You are still working on the first (and only) repeat of the back chart but you need to start over at the beginning of the front chart.  Making a little chart like this to keep track made the process soooooo much easier to complete.

*The “EVEN” means to work even (no more increases).

Challenge accepted and challenging knitting pattern overcome! I finished the Misty Blue baby (and child) sweater yesterday and I can’t say enough how cute it is.  See for yourself:

See? So cute right???  I just love the back lace detail.  It’s something a little unexpected.

This Misty Blue pattern goes from 0-6 mos up to 9-10yrs in sizing.  You can make it with long or short sleeves.  The cute butterfly buttons are a little too big for my buttonholes so I’ll be searching for another set.

For those who are local, this will be a class offered at The Spinning Room yarn shop in June and I’ll teach you all these tips in person.

I did also overcome another knitting challenge — the one where I couldn’t knit for a long time because of my elbow tendinitis. HOORAY! After much rest and heat and stretches and REST, I’m able to knit for some pretty good lengths of time.  I still need to stop before I want to, in order to rest, but the elbows are much better!  I am using this FUTURO Tennis Elbow Support which really helps.  I also use this FUTURO Energising Support Glove. I have used the glove for several years already as it just gives some nice support to your hand when you are knitting for a long time. (click on those links to get them on Amazon)

Boy does it feel good to actually be making some progress on knitting projects!

What do you do when you find a challenging knitting pattern?  Ignore it and find a different pattern? Run? Try it?

Knitting Lesson: Knowing When to Move On

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How do you know when to move on from a knitting pattern that just isn’t working? You are excited about a knitting pattern and you are excited about the yarn, but it’s not going your way.  Do you keep trying?  Do you try a different yarn?  Do you look for another pattern to knit?

Luckily (??), I have an example for you!

The Background of My Knitting Pattern Dilemma:

A couple of weeks ago, I started the Diamond Tempest Cowl with the impossibly soft and wonderful-to-knit-with Cascade Baby Llama Chunky yarn.  It had a great pattern to it and I thought it would make a great knitting class in learning how to do right twists (RT) and left twists (LT).  And the yarn! Sooo great.

BUT, there was the game of yarn chicken, in which I lost, running out of yarn with two rounds and the bind off still to do:

This was completely my fault for using the wrong needle size and not checking my gauge.  So, out it came and I started over, changing my needle size and checking my gauge.  My gauge was a tiny bit tighter than suggested, which was okay, because that meant I would need less yarn.  It also meant that my cowl would be a tiny bit smaller but that was okay too.

When I got halfway through the pattern, I weighed my yarn to make sure I was in the clear, and that I wouldn’t run out of yarn again:

The Decision Point in My Knitting Pattern Dilemma:

I had exactly half my ball of yarn left.  In any normal circumstance in which I am the only one affected by this cowl, this would be fine.  If it was really that close at the end, I could cut out one round and it would be fine.  However, since this is going to be for a class I’ll be teaching, I need to keep my students in mind.  Several things come into play:

  1. If I had gotten the correct gauge, I probably would have run out of yarn again.
  2. In a knitting pattern there really should be a buffer in terms of yardage needed.  This allows for differing knitting tensions of the people working this pattern.  Adding 10-15% to the amount used in the sample is a general rule.
  3. You may ask, “Why not just get more yarn?”  And the reason is that this is supposed to be a one-skein project.  To spend money on another skein of yarn, just to need 2-3 rounds worth is just not practical to ask students to do.
  4. I did not want to ask the students to modify the pattern. They are coming to class to learn the pattern that they saw and liked, not how to modify it.  (That’s another class I guess!)

At that point, I decided I had done my due diligence to make this yarn and pattern choice work together. I did not want to change the yarn I was using because I love working with it. The only option was to abandon that particular knitting pattern and find another quick, chunky cowl to make for a class.

The Solution to My Knitting Pattern Dilemma:

I found the Airy Alpaca Cowl:


The yardage needed was 100 yards, and while there was not a range in the pattern, I knew that I had a buffer with my yarn (which was 109 yards).

It knit up quickly!

The end result is great.  It is not what I wanted starting out, but I did still get to use this wonderful yarn. I got a wonderfully cozy and soft cowl, that was quick to knit.  I can work the Diamond Tempest Cowl another time when I’m sure I have enough yarn!

Extra Bit of Knitting Info:

By the way, here is the difference between pre-blocking and post-blocking:

Before blocking:

After blocking:

Can you tell the difference?  This example is a little subtle, but you can mostly see it in the middle pattern.  The diagonal sections are laying flatter and allowing the holes to open up and be shown more.


Have you ever had to abandon a pattern or yarn for some reason?

Storm Stella Dig Out (and a little knitting)

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The biggest news around here yesterday was storm Stella.  In case you are not tired of seeing snow pictures, I’m happy to give you some more.

We ended up with a little over two feet of snow.

And here is a video of Paul plowing the driveway for the second time:

Paul actually worked most of the day from home and I was busy too.

I did do a little knitting once things calmed down. I’m working on Misty Blue:

An adorable baby/kids sweater (up to size 9-10) that I will teach in a class at The Spinning Room in June.  I’m making it with Malabrigo Rios, a superwash wool, which I love, Love, LOVE!

I also need to tell you about the cowl that I was working on – remember the one I had to restart because I ran out of yarn?  But that needs it’s own post.  Yes, there is a story to tell. [cue the cliffhanger music]

Were you affected by storm Stella?  How did things go for you?

Have I Misled Ravelry?

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I feel like I have somehow misled Ravelry.  If you don’t know, Ravelry is sort of like the Facebook for knitters and crocheters.  You have your own page to catalog your projects and you can have “friends” and you can join discussion groups and you can search for/buy patterns. I love it and use it almost every day.

There is this great feature on the main “patterns” tab called “your pattern highlights,” which shows you patterns Ravelry thinks you will like based on the patterns, styles and designers you have already queued or “liked.”

It’s my go-to spot when I’m looking for patterns to queue or to pin to my Pinterest page (see my pins on the sidebar – click over there to follow me). I have often said, “Wow, Ravelry really gets me. ”  The patterns are most often ones I would like to knit and I put many of them in my queue.  I have loved this feature for many years.

However, for three days in a row, my pattern highlights have all been completely not for me.  At all.  I am not criticizing the designs – they are just horrible picks for me.  And when I really think about it, for longer than three days, there just aren’t as many that I like. I feel like Ravelry no longer knows me.  I think something has gone wrong in the coding department maybe?? Or I threw it off by queuing something totally “not me”??

I’m not sure how to fix it.  Should I contact customer service? Should I start “liking” or queuing more patterns so that maybe Ravelry will see that information and adjust?  Or should I cull my horrendously long 860-item-as-of-just-now queue (yes, I do plan to knit all of those, thank you very much*) in case there are some outliers giving Raverly the wrong idea?  Or maybe it’s just a little glitch that will be fixed tomorrow. I hope. Like I really need more ideas for that aforementioned horrendously long queue.  From which I am totally knitting everything**.

Do you know about this feature and is it working for YOU?

* If you choose to or already do follow me on Pinterest, please know that I am also planning to cook all the things on my “recipe” board, follow all the suggestions on my “stress free” board, get as organized as everything on my “organizing” board and make everything on my “crafts and diy” board.  Ever-y-thing.

** See *.

Four Things

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Just a quick post today to tell you four things…

1) I absolutely love, Love, LOVE this colorway from KnitCircus Yarns, What Happens at Knit Night:

This is one of those yarns (like Anne with an E) that I would buy simply for the name!  Although, I really love the colors too.  I’m sitting on my hands so I won’t impulsively buy it. [Truth be told, the fingering weight that I would want is out of stock anyway.]

2) My nephew got a snake for a pet.  I feel bad for my sister.

3) I can’t put down Fool Me Once by Harlan Coben.  I told you I new I would love it.  You’ve got to try one of his books if you like mystery/thriller books.

4) It is below freezing out and I’m tired of it.

Out, and in, too, apparently.  [That’s downstairs.  I’m upstairs and it’s toasty here in my craft/blogging room.]

I can’t wait for spring.

That is all.  Have a great weekend!

Three Lessons In Pushing The Reset Button

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Sometimes life just doesn’t go your way.  You make a mistake or a wrong choice and you feel upset and disappointed. Not necessarily with something big and earthshaking – sometimes it’s just the little things that can really annoy you. It is at those times, you need to take a deep breath, push your reset button and then keep on going.  Want a few examples?

Reset Button Lesson #1: I recently lost a game of yarn chicken, running out of yarn with just 2 rounds and the bind off left to knit on my Diamond Tempest Cowl.  It was aggravating and disappointing. I’ve put it behind me now and the best way to do that was this:

…which is the easiest, fastest and least painful (because it’s fast) way to frog (rip out) a project. Reset partially accomplished.  [I love my ball winder.  The company that makes mine went out of business but you can get one like this or like thisif your local yarn shop doesn’t have them!]  

The other way to help me reset my mindset after that pain in the neck nice lesson in the need for a gauge swatch, was to distance myself from that project for a bit and work on something else.  I finished the Almost Lost Washcloth, using Sun Kissed cotton yarn (a new yarn at The Spinning Room if you are local):

This was quick to knit up and I think I did a pretty good job with my seam (at right about 3 o’clock in the picture).  The picture of the washcloth doesn’t show very well the pretty tonal quality of the yarn – you can see it better in person and in the ball of yarn. There is also a mini version!  Reset fully accomplished.

And now, I’m ready to begin anew:

The correct needle size is now at the ready to make a swatch so I will know that my gauge is correct and not run out of yarn again.

Reset Button Lesson #2:  I was reading The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian and just wasn’t comfortable with the story line.  Very succinctly, it centered around a family man caught up in a Russian sex slave/prostitution case when he thought they were just having a fun bachelor party for his brother. I liked his writing and how be brought the story along, but I just didn’t like the subject, so I put it down. It was disappointing to me because I don’t do that often. I have this idea of not “giving up” on a book. In this case, though, I just couldn’t finish it.

To reset, I picked up Fool Me Once by one of my favorite authors, Harlan Coben, and immediately got drawn into the story and I’m loving it.  Which I knew I would because I love him.  Reset accomplished. [click on those links to purchase on Amazon]

Reset Button Lesson #3: All this talk of pushing the reset button reminded me of one of my favorite salads!  The Reset Button Salad, which I found on the Shutterbean blog, is a great way to reset your diet when you have overindulged over the holidays or a weekend or any random day when peeps and jellybeans are in season (*cough* speaking from experience *cough*).  It has all kinds of wonderful, yummy vegetables and qrains and nuts, and makes you feel very healthy. Reset accomplished. Try it, and take a look at the Shutterbean blog.  It’s great.  Tracy has great recipes, lots of ideas for meal planning, and wonderful photography.

Remember, when you have an annoying little snafoo in your life: Take a deep breath.  Push the reset button.  Keep going.

A Lesson In The Need For A Gauge Swatch

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I’ve said many times here on this blog that I really dislike swatching for gauge. And today I’m here to tell you I still dislike it, but I’ve been schooled in the need for it.

To me, swatching feels like wasting time and I just want to get to the knitting of the project.  I do know, however, that there are times when it really is necessary to do a swatch.  For example, when you are making a sweater or something else in which it is important for the item to fit correctly, you really should do a gauge swatch.  You really, really should… but often, I still don’t.

I think my knitting is “average” in the gauge department, meaning I’ve done swatches with the suggested needle size before and have gotten the right gauge, so why should I keep doing it, right? And for projects like a shawl or cowl, however, gauge is not as important because it could fit just about anyone and often there is only one size anyway, right?

That first question really is just pushing the issue and you really should do a swatch anyway for a project in which size matters.  That second question is what we are here to talk about today.

I started the Diamond Tempest Cowl with the wonderfully soft Baby Llama Chunky (both by Cascade) last week.

It was going along swimmingly.  The yarn was wonderful. The square needle was feeling great in my hands.  I was doing a little at a time and was creating this pretty pattern:

But then, I started looking at my ball of yarn and it seemed to be getting awfully small.  I had this gnawing feeling I’d be playing a game of yarn chicken.  Yarn chicken is when you are pretty sure you don’t have enough yarn to finish your project but you are really hoping you do have enough so you keep knitting, crossing your fingers and toes that you will have enough.  Then it’s just a game of seeing  who wins, you or the yarn.

With two pattern rounds and a bind off still to do:

The yarn won. !@#$%^&.

The pattern called for just one skein so why did I run out?  I thought about it for a bit and then I knew.  It was the needle.  I had done some reading about square needles and how they are supposed to be easy on your hands.  I also read that because of the squareness, the actual gauge the needle gets might be different than a round needle and many people have to go up a needle size in order to get the right gauge. So I chose one size larger for this project.  The project calls for a US 10 and I used a US 10 1/2.

You would think that a half millimeter difference in diameter would not make a difference but it does.  And you would also think that given the uncertainty of how these needles get gauge that I would check it –it was many people, not all people who had to go up a needle size.  And you would be thinking wrong because I blindly trusted that statement and didn’t give it another thought.

Please take this as a lesson that doing a gauge swatch is important! Sometimes it is important so your knitted fabric will look right — not too tight or not too loose.  Sometimes it is important because you want the item to fit correctly.  Sometimes it is important because you might run out of yarn. And sometimes it is important when you are using a new kind of needle and have no idea how it will perform.

Once I realized my mistake, I put that cowl right into time out until I could stop being mad at what it did myself.  And then I started this:

The Almost Lost Washcloth which will be an upcoming class at The Spinning Room this spring.  More about that when it’s done.

So, I’m now off to the ball winder to unwind the whole project and start again by doing a gauge swatch with a size 10 needle. [It’s really kind of ok, though, because if you look closely way back near the beginning, just after the ribbing, there is a weird section that I think I knitted wrong and I was trying to ignore it.]

While I’m doing that, take a look at what the Thrummed Mitten class came up with on Saturday:

Do you have a gauge fail that you’d like to share? Or something you’ve been “schooled” in regarding knitting?   Tell us about it in the comments!

5 Podcasts Worth a Listen (or a Watch!)

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Do you listen to podcasts?  I listen while in the car or while knitting or while taking a nice walk outside.  And sometimes you just need something different to listen to, am I right?  So I’m sharing 5 podcasts that I like and and asking you to share some that you like. Maybe these will get you interested in podcasts if you don’t already listen or add some variety to your already existing list! [SHOCKER: They are not all knitting podcasts.]

1) The Way I Heard It with Mike Rowe

photo from

First of all, he’s got the best voice for listening to.  Next, each podcast is only about 10 minutes long so he touts it for those with a short attention span.  Each story starts out simple enough about an ordinary person doing some sort of ordinary job or activity but by the end I am always gasping and saying, “No. Way.”  The stories end up being about someone famous or some famous event that happened.  Definitely worth a listen.  Especially because they are short!

2) Prairie Girls Knit and SpinThis one is just a fun duo who talk about their spinning and knitting and crack me up.  And I love their tag line: May your drafting be consistent and your gauge never lie.

[I just have to say for the life of me I never spell “gauge” correctly the first time.  I always spell it “guage” so thank goodness for spell check.]

3) Just the Right Book with Roxanne Cody

photo from

I found this one (I think a suggestion from my mom) after Books on the Nightstand ended (also a great podcast with lots of episodes you can still listen to).  This is done by Roxanne Cody, the owner of R.J. Julia an independent bookstore in Connecticut.  She usually interviews and author, asks about the book that changed their life and what they are reading, and then gives some book recommendations.

3) Knitmoregirls

photo from

A well-done, well-organized podcast with lots of information about knitting, spinning and even some sewing thrown in.  One of my favorite segments is “When Knitting Attaaaaaacks” (said with a deep voice and scary music in the background).

5) The Fat Squirrel Speaks

photo from

This one is actually a video podcast but you can just listen to it too!  Her tag line is “Knitting, Spinning and Assorted Awesomeness”.  Silly and fun.

There you have it: A nice mix of podcasts that may be new to you and maybe you will want to try. If you have any podcasts that you love, leave a note in the comments.  I’m always looking for something new and interesting.  And yes, even if it is not knitting related!

And now, a mini-commercial about Craftsy.  Since I am an affiliate, I need to talk about it sometimes!  But, I’m an affiliate because I really like it, so there’s that.

I prefer taking knitting classes at my local yarn shop to support them, but for classes they don’t offer this is great. I signed up for a class on how to design cowls and that is how I came up with my Easy Cozy Cowl. AND they have so many different types of classes — cooking, gardening, baking, quilting, sewing, drawing and woodworking! If you have not tried Craftsy before, try one of their FREE mini-classes! [see how I did that?  A mini-commercial about mini-classes?]

Click here to try them out. If you like them and want to sign up for a class, please consider coming back here and clicking through the side bar.  I will get a small commission and that goes towards supporting the blog.  Thank you!

Stay tuned next time when I may actually have a finished project to show you and talk about LT’s and RT’s.  [If that’s not a good teaser, I don’t know what is.]

And don’t forget to comment about your favorite podcasts!

Knitter’s Elbow Tendinitis: The Progress is in the Details

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Dealing with elbow tendinitis as a knitter has been challenging to say the very least. My recovery progress has been going VERY slowly, so I’ve had to figure out some workarounds. Seeing how the knitting is likely 70% of the reason I’m in this mess, I needed to figure out the best way to deal with it because what I have realized is that I can’t continue to NOT knit.  I just can’t.  I’m driving myself (and likely, indirectly, my husband) bonkers.

I have gotten advice from an orthopedic doctor, 2 physical therapists, a massage therapist and a chiropractor. With all those opinions (some of them contradictory to each other), it’s been a little frustrating to figure out what should help me but I think I have settled on a few things to do to help my recovery progress while still being able to knit. *Disclaimer: If you are dealing with this, these may not be the right suggestions for you.  It is simply what I am finding to work for me.

1) GEAR UP:  When I’m going to knit, I’ve got to wear the supportive gear.  A tennis (golfer’s) elbow strap and a hand support glove.

2) GO SLOW: Physically slow down my knitting.  This is very hard for me because I can knit pretty fast and it takes some deliberate focus to slow down.  Slowing down makes me pay attention to how I’m holding my arms and helps keep my muscles somewhat relaxed.

3) SHORT TIME FRAMES:  I’m knitting for 10-15 minutes at a stretch. This has also been hard. I used to knit for several hours at a stretch.

4) SMALL AND BIG: I’m working on small projects with big needles.  I had been working on a stockinette project which I thought would be easy to do.  However, it was a blanket and the large number of stitches on the needle was making it heavy!  (Although, I did try a few rows on my Tangled shawl and even though it was US3 needles, I didn’t have a hard time I think because the yarn is so lightweight. And I only did a few rows.)

5) REST AND STRETCH: After my 10-15 minutes, stop!  STOP! Also hard for me – see #3 above. Stretch my arms/hands and then put on more gear – a wrist support that limits my wrist movement because wrist movement is what affects the elbows.

6) REST SOME MORE: I want to do another 10-15 minute knitting session way before I should, so I remind myself to rest some more.

7) YOGA: I’ve started doing yoga to get some additional stretching in, not just of my arms but everything else.  How I have been holding my upper body to adjust for the pain of resting my arms on things has made all kinds of other muscles tense up.  I have had A.M. and P.M. Yoga (click there to get it on Amazon) for years and just dug it back out of the cabinet.  It is a beginner video and I really like it.  And yoga is just so awesome in general.  I always feel so good after doing it.

And the result of all this?

In about five days, I’ve gotten 16 rows of a cowl done! While that is absolutely the best news – I’m actually getting some knitting done – I’m trying really hard not to think about the fact that I used to be able to knit something like this in one day.  Baby steps.

[That is the Diamond Tempest Cowl made with Cascade Baby Llama Chunky which is WONDERFULLY soft and nice to work with. I’ll be teaching a class in this at The Spinning Room in late May/early June.  While you don’t usually think of knitting with chunky yarn in the spring, it is a small project and a great head start on next fall/winter/holiday knitting.]

One last thing to tell you about — a product review of sorts because I love it so much.  This being winter (sort of — it’s going to be 68 degrees here today, 35 degrees tomorrow), my hands get very dry and that can make for snagging yarn.  So I’ve been using my lavender Lavishea Lotion Bar .

It absorbs quickly (good for when you are knitting and still good even if you don’t knit) and makes my hands so soft and it smells so wonderful. Not everyone loves lavender but it comes in other scents. It’s a little different because it comes in a bar form (not a bottle of lotion) but you get used to it quickly. And they even have a Lavishea Yarn Bar !  If you try it, I hope you love it like I do.

Buttoned Cowl – A New Design

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My latest adventure in knitting design is the Buttoned Cowl:

It has a pretty, textured design with an interesting and new-to-me stitch technique.  The k1 long entails putting your needle in between two stitches that are two rows below your needle and pulling up a “long” stitch.  Fun and keeps the knitting interesting.

There are six buttons and that gives you room to get creative or go the safe, blending-in route like I did!  This pattern actually started out with just three buttons…

…but I quickly realized, when I tried it on, that it was not going to work. There were big, open gaps between the buttons! And those buttons were a little more daring. My prototype had the buttonholes at the end (luckily), so I took it back and re-knit the design with 6 buttonholes.  I looks much better!

[And a quick note on buttons: I used a wool yarn which is fairly sturdy and can hold up to some heavier buttons, but if you use a less sturdy yarn such as alpaca, be sure to choose lighter buttons.]

Knit with worsted weight yarn (I used Cascade 220), this can also be made longer to make an infinity cowl. It is knit flat so you can make it any length you want!

If you are interested in purchasing this pattern, you can use the “buy now” button below and it will take you to Ravelry.

If you are local, I’ll be teaching this in a class at The Spinning Room in April! (It is not on the schedule yet, but it will be very soon so keep checking the classes page and then call to sign up.)

I would love to see your finished projects so get in touch and send me a picture:  liz at lizytishknits dot com

P.S. In case you are wondering, I did NOT knit this recently because I’m not supposed to be knitting much these days! I knit this last year and got stalled with the button issue.  If you know me, you know that I tend to have a little motivational trouble when it comes to sewing on buttons and I was somewhat discouraged about needing to fix the gap issue, which meant adding more buttons. More. But, clearly I overcame and persevered!