Category: Purls of Wisdom

variegated skeins & what to knit with them

Do you ever see a skein of gorgeous variegated yarn that you just have to have? So you buy it and get it home only to realize you have no clue what to make with it? Yeah, that’s me. I’m a total sucker for bright, multicolored yarns, but they usually sit in my stash forever while their solid counterparts cycle in and out consistently. Well, I’ve found some patterns to help you in your moment (or moments!) of weakness!

I had a cheat day while on my yarn diet and snagged this crazy pretty skein of Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light in Electric Rainbow.


Had I had the sense to grab 2 skeins, it would have become Gather by Andrea Mowry.

Gather © Andrea Mowry

But I just get so excited that I don’t think rationally. So I’m planning a Mon Sheepworks Shawl by Caitlin Hunter instead, possibly incorporating a bunch of bright Knit Picks Alpaca Cloud that I need to use up.

mon sheep
Mon Sheepworks Shawl © boylandknitworks

With either shawl, you’ll need at least one other solid yarn. So these aren’t “one skein wonder” projects, but they sure do make a statement!

A definite one skein wonder piece is Reyna by Noora Laivola. This pattern is written for fingering weight, but can easily be adpated to whatever you have! Just use the suggested needle size for your yarn (or one that creates a fabric you’re happy with). I used Miss Babs Yummy 3 ply, a sport weight, for my Reyna (see post here). Keep in mind you may have to remove a few repeats if you’re running out of yarn. The pattern is free, well written, and highly customizeable. I’m pleased with the final result of my shawl!

Reyna © theknitpicky

If you’re a sock lover, I highly recommend Whiskey and Rye by Audry Nicklin. (I also recommend whiskey and rye in general, but that’s another post!) I knit a sock from this pattern, but was having trouble converting the pattern for sport weight (totally my bad, not the pattern’s!). Before I frogged the sock, it was visually one of my favorite things I’ve knit. The slipped stitches just make variegated yarns sing! I have some more Miss Babs in my stash I think will be perfect for these and can’t wait to give them another go!

Whiskey and Rye © Audry Nicklin

Hats can also be a great way to show off that beautiful hank in your stash! I recently knit 2 lovely hats using a skein of Malabrigo Arroyo in the colorway Lotus. I fell in love with this yarn and brought it home about 6 months ago, where it stayed in my stash until I ran across Cabito by Gabriella Calderini. Like the sample, I decided to pair it with black (I used the same yarn in the Black colorway) to make the variegated yarn pop. This pattern really delivered! I didn’t want mine slouchy, so I started the decreases after 8″. I really like the brioche & broken brioche stitches in this hat, and would definitely knit it again. Bonus: it’s a free pattern!

Cabito © theknitpicky

I had also been in search of the perfect yarn for the Rudbeckia Hat by Andrea Mowry, when it dawned on me that I could use the leftovers from my Cabito! Rudbeckia calls for light DK or sport, so this worked out just right. Mine isn’t quite as slouchy as Andrea’s, so I would probably knit the Large size if I had to do it over. But I’m still really happy with this hat and love how the pattern breaks up the variegated yarn (yay for no pooling)! I even have enough yarn left to make another hat… I’m thinking another Rudbeckia, but switching the MC and CC. Dreamy!

Rudbeckia Hat © theknitpicky

Another idea for DK weight are the Tinsel Mitts by Andrea Mowry. I haven’t had a chance to knit these yet, but if Andrea’s other designs are any indication, this one will be awesome! Using less than 250 yards for the largest size, you may be able to get more than one pair out a skein! (Matching mama/baby mitts, anyone?! Swoon!) I love how these mitts make the yarn look like confetti… or sprinkles? Either way, they’re a party on your hands! Versatile with 3 options – classic, convertible, or fingerless – and sized for the whole family. What’s not to love?!

Tinsel Mitts © Andrea Mowry

Before I became really active on Ravelry, I knit my mom a Barley hat by tincanknits, a simple and attractive pattern. Though I don’t remember the brand (nor do I have photos), the yarn I used was wonderfully variegated and earthy. I love how this pattern alternates between stockinette and garter, bringing out the uniqueness of each skein. By looking at the over 10,600 projects (holy cow!) made from this pattern, it’s obvious that it’s a great match for highly variegated yarns. Bonus: (besides being free!) it has instructions for all sizes – from baby all the way up to adult large.

Barley © Tin Can Knits

Andrea Mowry’s North Country Mitts, which I have knit and love, are another great option for worsted. Plus they use under 75 yards so you can whip up 3 pairs with just one skein… or make a matching hat! So many possibilities. Just look at this Electric Rainbow pair – so fun!

Electric Rainbow Mitts © sarahjoannee

This is for lovers of those big, squishy skeins of Malabrigo Mecha and other bulky yarns. The popular free pattern Chicakdee Cowl is an excellent one-skein project. I haven’t knit this myself, but I have plenty of experience with bulky yarns. The advantage is that these projects knit up super fast and are super cozy! This cowl would be just perfect for a last minute gift! Check out the nearly 2,000 projects on this pattern and see if this one might work for that lovely bulky skein in your stash.

Chickadee by throughtheloops

In general, when looking for patterns for that variegated yarn lurking in your stash, I recommend knitting a quick gauge swatch in stockinette. If there’s any pooling, try to find patterns that incorporates slipped stitches, brioche, or some kind of texture like seed stitch. Many variegated yarns also look great in stockinette! If you like the way your swatch looks, a basic pattern might be just what you’re looking for! Whether you choose a delicate shawl, simple hat, bulky cowl, intricate socks, or fun mitts, there are so many great patterns out there for your lonely yarn!

What are your favorite patterns for these gorgeous skeins?

things I can’t knit without | #whatsinyournotionspouch

I posted a photo on Instagram with tag #whatsinyournotionspouch and was inspired to write a post expanding on the things I can’t knit without!


First up, the pouch itself was a gift from my darling Nana. She picked it up for me on her most recent trip home (England, that is). I love the images of the Queen’s Guard, Big Ben, and sweet little terriers… it makes my heart happy! It’s also the perfect size to house my various notions.



let’s talk needles

Having a variety of needles is useful when you want to pick up a project right away, but it can also be overwhelming for a beginner. Today’s post explains the differences among knitting needles and what I personally have in my arsenal. Enjoy!


What are straight needles used for?
Straight needles can really only be used to knit things flat – think dishcloths, scarves, blankets… things like that. You can, of course, knit something flat and seam it up to make something round (cowls, hats,etc.), though I rarely use this method. They come in varying lengths to accommodate the size of your project. I (along with most knitters, I assume) learned to knit on straight needles. In my case, they were very long, metal needles. They were hard and cold and a bit intimidating. It wasn’t until about 6 years ago that I discovered circulars while attempting to knit my first hat. What a difference! It didn’t take long for me to realize that I prefer bamboo needles to metal, but each knitter has unique tastes, so I would recommend trying out both to see what you like! I don’t have a real recommendation for straight needles because I literally never use them anymore. In my experience, though, the Clover brand has a solid line of bamboo needles if that’s your thing.

Image credit: Takumi

What are double-pointed needles?
Double-pointed needles (DPNs) are also straight, but are pointy at both ends. They’re used to knit small things in the round (that’s basically a whole other post!). For bulky yarn, I use the Clover Takumi DPNs to finish my hats and to knit chunky mitts and mittens, mug cozies & boot cuffs.

Image credit: Takumi

My most recent purchase is the 5″ Caspian Wood Double Pointed Needles Set. I bought these specifically for socks, because my circular needle set (more on that later) doesn’t come with small enough tips. I’ve already used them to knit up a sock and I love them so far! DPNs also come in varying lengths; I chose the 5″ for socks, but this set also comes in 4″ and 6″ lengths.

Image credit: KnitPicks

Why use circulars?
Circular needles are essentially 2 straight needles connected by a flexible cord. The cords vary in length, depending on how big around your object is (e.g. 16″ circulars are often used to make hats). Circulars can be used to knit things in the round. Once you join the round, you are knitting on the right side. This is the cool part, for me, because I don’t like worrying about right side/wrong side. There’s also an awesome technique called the Magic Loop method, which utilizes a longer cord (like 40″) to knit small things like socks and hat decreases, without breaking out the DPNs! The other super cool thing about circulars is that you can use them to knit absolutely anything that you can knit on straight needles! Instead of joining in the round, you just knit as you would with straights. This is ideal because the cord will hold the bulk of your project’s weight. Plus, if you’re anything like me and have a penchant for losing needles… these are connected, so you’re safe! (In case you haven’t already figured it out, I much prefer circulars.)

What should I get if I’m looking to buy circular needles?
I first purchased Clover Takumi Bamboo Circular 16-inch Knitting Needles and loved them instantly. The problem is, I wanted to knit ALL the hats. With ALL the different yarns, which have different weights. So I have about 10 sets of 16″ circular needles, which is neither cost effective nor easy to store. If you love knitting hats (or want to learn), I highly recommend these needles.

Image credit: Takumi

If, however, you want to knit lots of different things, large and small, in the round and flat, with all kinds of yarn, I recommend an interchangeable set. I recently invested in the Options Interchangeable Rainbow Wood Circular Knitting Needle Set, which includes 9 different popular needle sizes, 4 cords (of 2 different lengths), 8 end caps, 2 cable keys (to tighten up the joins), and a clear plastic case.

Image credit: KnitPicks

So far, I have really enjoyed these. The joins are smooth and don’t snag my yarn as long as I tighten them plenty. I’ve used them to knit socks and hats in the round using Magic Loop and am currently working on both a blanket and a shawl, knitting flat. While the rainbow wood is beautiful, some people (beginners or those with poor eyesight) may have trouble seeing darker and jewel-toned yarn on these needles. I personally haven’t had a problem, but it’s something to note. I also had an issue last week when one of the needles came out of its metal casing, causing me to lose a few stitches (thankfully I was able to pick them up). I called KnitPicks and they immediately shipped out a replacement – at no charge. I really should have notified them before it broke, because I could tell it was loose when I started knitting with it. The wooden needles are glued into metal casings, so make sure they are securely glued in before you start your project!

The Lineup
With this mix, I never have to worry about whether or not I have the right needles; I can just cast on and knit away!

  • 5″ DPN set for socks and similar in the round
  • The Options Interchangeable set works for anything requiring size 4 to 11 needles. I knit flat objects with these, knit in the round with the shorter cables, and use Magic Loop
  • For super bulky yarns (like I use for my Etsy shop!) I still use the Clover circulars & DPNs, since I need sizes larger than 11

What are your favorite needles? I’m always looking to try out new ones!

Warmest Wishes & Happy Knitting!!


5 Tips for Beginner Knitters

5 Tips for Beginner Knitters

Here are the top 5 things I wish I had known when I first started. If you’re just beginning, I hope my tips inspire you to keep on knitting!

1 – You will mess up. A lot.
Unless you’re some kind of knitting prodigy who can pick up a pair of needles and never make a mistake, it’s going to happen. You’ll drop stitches. You’ll have too many stitches at the end of a row. You’ll get frustrated and throw your knitting across the room (guilty). But making mistakes truly is how you learn and grow as a knitter. Before you toss your needles, try to find your error and fix it. If you can’t, scrap your project and start over. Look at it is a learning opportunity. Don’t get discouraged and remember… “knit” is a four-letter word.

2 – Start small.
“You do remember what happened to the little girl that tried too much too fast, don’t you? She… she died, Jill.”
Okay, so you’re probably not going to die if you take on a big project too soon (bonus points if you know where that quote is from). But it is important to start small. My Nana used to knit afghans, and I was sure that would be the first thing I’d make. After several hours, I had barely knit enough to make a drink coaster and it was riddled with holes. I was ready to give up. After much encouragement, I decided to perfect my technique before attempting such a daunting project. There are several great patterns for simple dishcloths (this one is my favorite) and they knit up quickly. I highly recommend that new knitters start with something quick and easy. Completing simple projects gives you encouragement and lessens the chances of you giving up.