moss knits

What Is Nettle and Why Is It in My Yarn... and My Salad??

tina fischerComment

We recently discovered Nettle Grove from Plymouth Yarns and we're loving knitting with it. But we were really curious as to why the blend included nettle, considering we had just had nettle in a salad. How could it be good to eat and good to knit with too? Plymouth's Kaelin Hearn filled us in:

"The plant has endless uses and can be found in anything from lotions and soaps to food, tea and wine. The matter leftover after processing is often used for animal bedding. Nettle fibers make a fabric that’s even softer and more durable than cotton, and cultivating nettles is a much more sustainable alternative to cotton, as its growth rate and low-maintenance qualities mean it requires minimal amounts of water and no pesticides. Nettles grow like a weed in several parts of Europe, Africa and western North America, and are related to both hemp and flax of the bast fiber family. The plant also attracts copious amounts of wildlife and thrives even in the poorest of soil unsuitable for other crops, with the added benefit of fixing nutrients back into the soil it grows in.

"Nettle Grove is a blend of cotton, linen, nettle fiber and silk, and it's machine-washable and tumble-dry, too! The fibers of the stinging nettle have a special characteristic in that they're hollow, which means they can accumulate air and create a natural insulation. To create a cool fiber for summer the yarn lengths are twisted closing the hollow core and reducing insulation. In winter with a low twist, the hollow fiber remains open maintaining a constant temperature. 

Nettle fibers are now experiencing a long awaited and deserved revival in the world of textiles and fashion, with fiber researchers and design-savvy clothing labels taking on the task of bringing us stylish and sting-free nettle garments made from nettle textiles."

We thought this was very cool and are now searching for nettle in other yarns too....

 

Ribbed Knee Cozies - our gift to you!

tina fischerComment

Call them 'leg warmers' or 'boot toppers', but whatever the label, these are the perfect accessory for boots, to keep legs warm without the need for bulky socks. They look cute with tall or short boots (or ice skates), and can be scrunched down or worn straight up. They're one-size-fits-all, knit in the round in a simple rib pattern, and are so easy to make that we're giving the pattern away. Enjoy with our compliments!

Baby's First Holiday Hat

tina fischerComment
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Here's a cheerful seasonal project for the baby in your life, just in time for Christmas. We love it in Malabrigo Merino, a super-soft single ply that truly does not itch - perfect for tender babies' skin. It's fun in holiday colors, but also really cute in other hues. And it's so small, that it knits up quickly. You'll knit it on a circular needle, till you start reducing to shape the top of the hat; then you'll use double-pointed needles. This is not a beginner's project; you should be comfortable working with double-pointed needles. But since you're working with just two colors per row, it is a good first color work project. Happy Holidays!

Seasonal shift

tina fischerComment

As Spring approaches and the temperature warms, a full hat feels like more than we need many days. Our ears still need some coverage though for the wind off the water... and our new Stonington Ear Warmer is just what Goldilocks ordered - not too hot, not too cold, juuuust right. We love the coziness of an aran weight yarn for the earband, and Tahki's marled Zona is a lofty, soft choice for warmth without weight, and without too much heat; it's a cotton and wool blend.

Prefer a worsted weight? This pattern includes instructions for that as well, along with two sizes to choose from, in both yarn weights. Our ear warmer is highly adaptable, and a fast but interesting knit (no buttonholes; those buttons are sewn on to close up the band); you can whip up one in just a few hours. We've got several on the needles, in a rainbow of refreshing Spring colors.

March can't quite make up its mind - lion or lamb?

Double-duty cowltina fischerComment
 You can wear this cowl with the hood up or down

You can wear this cowl with the hood up or down

March’s changeable weather is the inspiration for this cowl – which can become a hood when temperate turns temperamental. On days when your ears don't need hugging, it's a cozy neck warmer.  We knit it in a soft pink (Quince's Osprey in 'Shell') to herald spring, but it would be stunning in a naturally colored yarn or in a deep, intense hue for fall. This is an easy knit too – just knits and purls on a circular needle in a large gauge, so you can whip one up and be ready for whatever the day brings.

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Knit your guys some love

knitting patterns, Baby hats Holiday Hats, hats to lovetina fischerComment
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Ahh... February - winter's midpoint here in Maine.  A month when we all need a little extra love!  A little extra warmth too - and not just on Valentines' Day.  We've created an adorable hat combo that will warm the heads and hearts of your favorite guys, big and small.  We added little red duplicate stitch - looks like a heart!  (Thank you to Cooper and his daddy Sam for modeling for us - aren't they the cutest duo?!) Head over to our pattern pages for details.

January begs for color

tina fischerComment
 Just a few of Malabrigo Yarns current colors, in Merino Worsted

Just a few of Malabrigo Yarns current colors, in Merino Worsted

Back in the fall, when Mother Nature provided us here in Maine with a riot of color, we found our knitting reflected a more subtle palette - mostly undyed or neutral colored yarns - seeking balance perhaps?  But now that it's January and the landscape is starkly neutral, we're yearning for energizing color!  Rich bold reds; deep, intense greens and blues. A recent visit to Halcyon Yarns, in Bath, Maine, provided an abundant tapestry of colors and textures - especially the shelves full of Malabrigo Yarns!  The depth and range of hues within each skein never ceases to amaze and inspire. We couldn't resist, and we're now working on some soft winter hats for the guys - in strong jewel tones, with maybe a 'fishermen's rib' or 'Brioche' stitch, for extra plush ribbing around the ears.... Colorful comfort! 

 

How to be happy with your hand knit hat

knitting to fittina fischerComment
 Gauge really does matter

Gauge really does matter

Be sure you've knit the hat to fit. This is soooo important - and worth every minute you spend getting it right. This means knitting a gauge swatch before you start your hat, to be 100% sure that the combination of yarn and needles that you've chosen are creating the correct number of stitches over 4 inches. (Everyone seems to knit a bit differently, in terms of the tension on the yarn, so the needle size specified on your pattern may not be ideal for you.)  Even a relatively small difference in gauge can quickly result in a hat that is much too loose or tight. (In order to fit well, a finished, unstretched hat should measure about 1 1/2" less than the circumference of the wearer's head, measured around the brow, including the ears - right where the brim of the hat will be worn.)

Here's how to get gauge:  Knit a swatch that is in fact at least 6" wide (not just 4") and is employing the stitch pattern (stockinette, garter stitch, ribbing, etc.) that will be used around the brow/over the ears - where the fit really counts.  If your hat is knit in the round, go ahead an cast on like you're starting the hat, and knit round and round until you've knit at least 2" of rows in your stitch pattern. Now measure the number of stitches in 4 inches (wide). If you have more stitches than you should, keep knitting your swatch (no need to tear it out and start again) using a needle that is one or two sizes larger than you first used (try a size 8 instead of a size 7).  If instead your swatch had too few stitches per inch, you need to try a thinner needle (a size 7 instead of a size 8). So simply switch to a different size needle and knit another 2" of rows, and measure again (over 4").  Don't worry about purchasing another set of needles - you will use them again and again. You really can't trick your fingers into knitting more tightly or loosely to accommodate the wrong needle size, no matter how much you try!  After the hours you spent knitting your hat - you want it to fit; that's what matters. 

"Whaddya mean by 'soft'?"

choosing yarntina fischerComment
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We often suggest "soft" yarns for our next-to-skin accessories, but you may be wondering how we define "soft". Actually, what's important is how you – and your skin – define soft; it varies from person to person. But we can tell you how we measure our 'personal prickle tolerance' (PPT!) – we rub the skein against our neck(s) to see if this is a yarn we'd enjoy wearing. A yarn that's soft in hand is not always as soft around our necks or on our heads.

And 'soft' doesn't mean just cashmere or musk ox. Softness is not just a matter of yarn content; fiber length and thickness, and how it was raised, processed, and spun are all factors. Alpaca and mohair can be divinely soft fibers – or they can be a little scratchy. Merino is a favorite softie, but again, some yarns crafted from this fiber are better for mittens or socks than for scarves. 

A great fiber primer is Clara Parkes's, The Knitter's Book of Yarn, as well as her subsequent excellent tome, The Knitter's Book of Wool. Dubbed 'the yarn whisperer' (the title of her fourth book), Clara is in fact now producing a small line of her own yarns, using American raised Cormo, which she describes as incredibly soft. 

There are soooo many yarns with which we fall in love – for their color or sheen, texture or twist, plumpness or provenance – and yarns are created to suit a multitude of end uses. We encourage you to choose a yarn that truly suits your project. For hats, scarves and cowls, you'll wear what you knit if your yarn choice passes the 'neck test'!

 

A day to test our mettle, and our new designs...

tina fischerComment
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The day of our late fall photo shoot on the coast was one of the very few really cold days we'd seen this season – biting cold with an insistent wind off the water. (Though as is often the case in southern Maine this time of year, the afternoon sun was brilliant; not a cloud in the sky.) Our intrepid photographer Leah and very hardy model Katie took it on without a whimper. Fort Preble provided gorgeous backgrounds and the cold gave us the opportunity to test the coziness factor of our new hats and cowls. Happy to report that all passed with flying colors (and flying hair, and flying leaves...)! May our designs help you to chase away winter's chill and bring you many hours of knitting pleasure.

Happy Holidays - and Welcome to Moss Knits

the joy of knitting, knitting patternstina fischerComment
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Patterns you'll make again and again...

'Tis the season – to knit! Whether we're knitting for gifts or for personal warmth-enhancement (!), here in Maine, we're excited that the annual season of making is upon us. At Moss Knits, we've actually been tinkering like elves for months, in order to launch our new line of hand-knitting patterns. For our first offerings, we've focused on relatively basic accessories, that are not complicated to knit, and that can be interpreted in multiple colorations and yarns. (Our 'Little Hearts' baby hats are shown above in reversed colorways.) Each design could work equally well in richly colored hues, subtle neutrals, or with variegated yarns; with stripes – or just one thick stripe; with pompoms or tassels, or not; fiber choices and 'small' details, can have a huge impact. We hope to inspire you to imprint our creations with your own unique style.

Knitting can be many things: meditative, stimulating, soothing, challenging – a pleasure to be shared or one to enhance solitude. Perhaps most of all, knitting is the art of combining fiber, shape, style, color, technique, and fit – to create a wholly unique creation.

So please enjoy our patterns to their fullest – and try them in many iterations. Happy Knitting Season to you and yours!