Tip of the week: Use your previous cables as a guide

15 cables as a guide

Once you have decoded your cable instructions and established the first few rows of your project, you have already knitted yourself a quick cheat sheet.

If you reach the next cable in your pattern and have a sudden blank about whether your cable needle needs to be held at the front or the back, look down your work at the cables below to find an equivalent one. Look at the cable you are about to knit - if you have the cable needle at the front, will your stitches cross in the same way as before? If yes, your cable needle is in the right place. For visual learners, this can be a lot more help than reading the cable instructions again.

In general, look at the patterns you cables form at you knit - they make a clear picture on your work, so it should be easy to spot a mistake like the one picture above. Also once your cable pattern is established compare it to the pictures in your pattern. 

This idea of stopping, from time to time, and looking at how any pattern is developing is a good idea for any project. If it doesn't look right, it may well not be.

Tip of the week: Decoding cable patterns

14 cable decode

When I talk to people about why they are intimidated by starting a cable project the answers is often that the terminology or abbreviations seem so complicated. They seem surprised when I say that all cables use the same basic steps:

  1. Put a given number of stitches on cable needle.
  2. Hold the cable needle to the back or front of the work as instructed.
  3. Knit or purl a given number of stitches from your main needle.
  4. Knit or purl the stitches from your cable needle.

The result is a set of stitches that cross each other.



The key to cable knitting is understanding the number of stitches that go on the cable needle, whether it goes to the back or front and what you knit or purl for each type of cable in the pattern. This can seem like a massive puzzle because there are so many different ways that cables are written in patterns.

However, whatever coding system has been used the pattern abbreviation key should tell you what to do for each one. To be honest, it there isn't a key telling you that, I would be inclined to find a new pattern.

There are lots of cable notation systems. My preferences is for the version that includes writing the abbreviations for example as C8B and Tw4F. Here the the "C" generally indicates that you are working all the stitches in your cable in the same way, the number is how many stitches in total are used in the cable and the B means the cable needle is used to the back. Tw means you will knit some stitches and purl others and F is holding the cable needle to the front.

So C8B could be written as "place 4 stitches on cable needle and hold to the back, knit 4 sts, knit 4 from cable needle". BUT even if you think it means that double check - it could mean place 5 stitches on cable needle and hold to the back, knit 3 sts, etc.

Tw3F is likely to be "place 2 stitches on cable needle and hold to the front, purl 1, knit 2 from cable needle. You can see this type of cable on the upper right of the diamond in the picture above. As you can see it slopes to the left which is why you may see it abbreviated to Tw3L.

If your pattern uses a notation you don't like, it is worth writing out a translation list where you note down how you would think of each cable so you can refer to it until you are sure you are getting your pattern right. 

Tip of the week: Use pins and wires to help block lace

26 laceblocking


Lace seems to be what most knitters associate with blocking. It generally requires a particular blocking method and some tools to get the best results.

A lace project rarely looks that great when it comes off the needles – it’s usually a bit scrunched up rather than looking floaty and ethereal.

To turn it into the finished item you will need something to pin your shawl out on, a lot of pins and if possible some blocking wires.

A lot of people use foam matts as the base for their blocking and I recommend T-pins – these a more robust than sewing pins and easy to see as you adjust your piece.

Collect your pins, wires, matts, measuring tape etc before you do anything else – juggling wet knitting while you look for the measuring tape isn’t that much fun.

Blocking wires are often the item that make people nervous. They are simply flexible wire rods that you can thread through your knitting. The main type are straight and unsurprisingly very helpful when you want to block one or more straight edge – thread them through your straight edge and then use a few pins to place each edge. You can also find finer wires that naturally sit in a curve.

The first step in the wet blocking process is to get your piece wet. Soak it in warm water – and no rinse wool wash if you want – for at least 15 minutes.

Once your knitting has soaked, lay a towel on a flat surface. Gently lift the knitting out of the water – let water drain off but DO NOT wring it out. Gently put your knitting on the towel keeping it as flat as possible. Roll the towel to create a knitting swiss roll and then gently squeeze it to draw the water out of your lace. You will end up with a damp but not dripping piece of knitting where the fibres have been thoroughly wetted through.

Then you are ready to lay out your knitting on your blocking surface. I generally start by threading the wires through the straight edges and pinning those in place then I work on curves, the points on edges etc.

Here I want the stocking stitch section to have straight edges,
so I’ve run a wire along at that point and then I am using pins
beyond that to open the lace border with a pin at the top
of each “leaf”.

 On this curved shawl I used wires for the straight side of the
semicircle and then pinned the curve at the halfway and then
the quarter way point, and so on, to help get the curve right.

Take your time to get the shape right and your lace opened nicely - you may move some pins several times. Then leave it to dry.
Don’t remove the pins or wires until you are sure your shawl is dry.

Tip of the week: Working with charts


19 charts

There will always be some people who don't enjoy working from charts because of how their brains process instructions but for everyone else they are a useful tool for knitting a pattern or for checking it if you prefer using the written instructions. So it is worth understanding how they work.

A chart is basically a picture of your knitting using coloured blocks or symbols.

Colourwork charts are the simplest version of charts, in terms of seeing the picture. Each square represents a stitch and they are arranged in rows. On right side rows you read the chart from right to left. If you think of all your stitches being on the left needle, you will work along them from right to left. Wrong side rows are read from left to right - you are knitting back the other directions. If you are working in the round all your rows are right side rows, so you always read the chart from right to left on every round.

Lace charts are the ones people usually find harder to get their heads round, but they are still a picture. The symbols are designed to match the stitches they represent. For example, a yarnover is represented by a circle which matches an eyelet. A k2tog decrease slopes to the right and in a chart it is shown by a line leaning the same direction.

The picture below is of the pattern created by the lace chart above. You can hopefully see the same lines of eyelets and the sloped lines of the decreases.

The red box on the chart is the one thing that makes the knitting look different from the chart. The box represents the repeat of the pattern whereas you will see all the repeats in your work. But the chart should at the very least help you to see what shapes your lace should be making.

Why not try working with this chart and pattern - A Bench in the Clearing - or some of my other shawl or accessory patterns, to practice working with charts. There's 15% off all my patterns on Payhip until 24 November with the code SHAWL1511.


Tip of the week: Knitting with double pointed needles

22 hedgehog
"It looks like wrestling a hedgehog" - probably my favourite description of knitting with double-pointed needles from someone nervous of trying it.

There is a misconception that you have to hold all your DPNs all the time. In fact, once you get into your rhythm the needles will stay put unless your accidently pull out the wrong one. 

When I am teaching in person I wave my sock knitting round my head to demonstrate how secure the needles are - try it! If you were at the Knitting and Stitching Show last week, you may even have seen me do this.

This means there is no wrestling involved. Just concentrate on knitting across the stitches on the next needle, and only holding the two needles involved in that. Then when you free up a DPN, rotate your work and start across the next needle, ignoring the others. That way you are only ever holding on to and worrying about your active needles. The others will just sit in your work. If you look at the picture, I'm only holding two needles. 

The only way to get over that hedgehog wrestling feeling is to practice with your DPNs, after a few rounds it will feel much easier.

Becoming a knitting evangelist

Portrait 1
Hello my name is Bronagh and I'm a knitting evangelist.
Knitting for me has been a hobby, now it's a business that still brings me much joy, it is also something that has helped with both physical and mental health challenges. It is a medium where I can reproduce ideas that reflect the image in my head.
For all those reasons I love knitting and I want other people to enjoy it as much as I do. That's why my aim is to design items you'll enjoy making and using, and to help you develop confidence in the techniques you want to use.
What I am not is someone who came through an art school design track - I came to designing much later and have worked in many spheres including the theatre, TV production and journalism. I'm also not a willowy model type, so posing one with one of my creations is challenging but I'm trying to embrace it more.
Picture taken by Chiara Mac Call Photography featuring the Electric Storm shawl (using yarn from The Wool Kitchen ). 

New Pattern: Hemingford lace sleeve sweater

Have you noticed that I like detail? I don't tend to make plain items but that doesn't mean all over pattern.

The Hemingford sweater has a plain stocking stitch body with loose lacy sleeves which add a little glamour.

Hem 2

It is knitted in Cascade Yarns Heritage 4-ply which is one of my go-to fine sweater yarns and the pattern can be found in The Knitter issue 167 out now. The sample is in a very on trend Coral shade but the yarn comes in a wide range of colours so I am looking forward to seeing what people choose.


Creating video courses for lace knitting

After designing, my favourite thing of the various activities and jobs I have in the yarn sector is teaching – or more precisely empowering knitters to enjoy their hobby and be able to make the project they want.

That could be a face-to-face class, online help, in a magazine “agony aunt” column, picture tutorials or as the UK Hand Knitting Yarn Doctor solving individual problems.

Most recently I have created my first online courses, rather than one off tutorial video. These were lace knitting classes for the fabulous Knit School. The Intro to Lace masterclass, followed by the Next Steps in Lace course, combine videos, instructions for practice swatches and patterns to take students from making their first yarn over to tackling more unusual stitches and techniques from Estonian and Shetland traditions.


Ks grab

It was particularly interesting to plan the courses in video sections each designed to add to the skills of the previous one so that students learned to understand what was happening in lace patterns and why a particular combination of stitches gives a certain effect. It also means that someone who is happy with yarnovers can join in at the stage explaining double decreases or reading charts, for example.  

Working with Knit School also meant that when the classes launched there were also opportunities to interact with students via live Q&A sessions and through the community chat group. This is very rewarding – especially after talking to a camera by myself to create the classes in the first place.

P4251819Demeter's Delight beginner's shawl - now available from my pattern store

It was fabulous to receive really positive feedback for students about how the classes had helped them or changed their knitting. Some have kindly allowed me to reproduce their feedback here.

TD: “I was a complete lace newbie. I loved to look at lace knits but couldn't even comprehend understanding a pattern never mind a chart. Now I am knitting yarnovers like no tomorrow!! I'm actually knitting a lace shawl and already planning my next 🤩"

CM: “I have made a few lace patterns before but by taking the time to work through the course it allowed me to stop and appreciate the difference in the way the stitches were worked. I'm much more confident in correcting mistakes and being able to read the knitting.”

PL: "I had worked on a couple of simple lace patterns before, but I had tried and failed numerous times to try something more adventurous. The course video was easy to follow and really informative with lots of helpful tips. There were also lace knitting swatches to try, which was so helpful. Everything had been thought through so that the patterns gradually increased in difficulty and the fb live and Knit & Natter sessions were there to support you and help you along the way. I learnt so much - I am now much more confident about trying lace patterns and I also understand the importance of practicing a new lace sequence/pattern beforehand instead of diving straight in, getting confused and giving up. Thank you!"


Kelp P5271854
In the Kelp Garden wrap - a more advanced 4-ply lace pattern available now from my pattern store

Following the success of these courses I will be working with Knit School to develop more classes for next year and I am also thinking about how I can do similar online courses elsewhere as well as making plans for a new YouTube channel with short videos focusing on a single stitch or technique. More on that soon but you could help by commenting below to tell me what you’d like to see.

In the meantime, there are other ways you can learn from me. Knit School is open for new members from 23 July – this will give you access to both the lace courses I’ve been talking about (and the patterns), a mini-class on adding beads to lace, the patterns I designed to go with the courses and the vast amount of other Knit School content (there are hours and hours of great lessons in there). You can find out more by  clicking here  and there's an online prospectus. Note I’m an affiliate of Knit School so linking from my blog or social media can help support me too.

I am also offering one-to-one Knitting Therapy sessions where I tailor a lesson/session to help you with your specific knitting needs – techniques, helping you prepare for a project (sizing, yarn choice, practising stitches), fixing something that’s gone wrong, etc. Click for more info and to start a conversation.

You can sign up to my newsletter for news on what’s happening with my plans – plus access to pattern discounts on my Payhip store (use BLOG721 for 5% off today).

Pattern sale - just because...

Just because square

Some times you need a little boost or a treat.

After a rough week, I got a lovely boost this morning so I thought I should do something to brighten other people’s days.

So if you have treated yourself of a lovely skein or two of stunning hand-dyed or have something crying to get out of your stash, why not treat yourself to turning it into a something you’d love and use.

That’s the great thing about knitting – there’s the pleasure from knitting and the pleasure from the wearing.

So just because… here’s 15% off all the patterns in my payhip store until 25 May. Use the code JUSTBECAUSE521

Check out a selection of shawls in 4-ply, Laceweight and DK plus fun socks, scarves and more. Enjoy



New pattern - the No Sew Bolero

It really is no sew apart from weaving in ends.
No sew
The body is knitted in one piece to the armholes and the shoulders are joined using a three needle cast off.
The sleeve stitches are picked up round the armhole and then shaped using short rows.
Finally, the lace edgings are added using a knit on technique.
The brief was for a garment with less common construction so I set out to create something without sewn seams but which wasn't a yoked sweater or a top down raglan.
It was a fun challenge and I think the result is rather pretty. But what's really important is that none of the techniques are really difficult, just take it step by step.
Bolereo style file
Find the pattern in Knitting Magazine issue 215 where you just might find another pattern and an article by me!
K215 cover