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Glad You Asked

Q. Pure silk yarn is really slippery. How can I control it when knitting?

A. For the ‘Annabella’s Cowl,’ a Churchmouse Classics pattern, we used two tricks to corral the gorgeous but headstrong ‘Alchemy Silk Purse.’ First, to prevent the ball from tangling or collapsing, it’s best to pull from the outside of the ball. Also, we like to tuck our silky yarns into a little Ziploc® bag. If you leave the top just a little ‘unzipped’ and pull from the opening, it should behave itself quite nicely!

Q. What’s the quickest way to brew iced tea?

A. We’ve always been of the ‘brew-it-hot-and-let-it-cool’ school, but sometimes you just can’t wait! Karen Alfke swears by this much faster method: Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a pan; remove from heat and add 4-6 teabags or 4-6 tsps loose tea. Steep 5 minutes; remove bags or strain. While still hot, add sugar to taste (4-6 tsps) and stir to dissolve. Fill a sturdy pitcher with ice; pour hot tea over ice. It will dilute less than you might expect. And it’ll be ready when you are!

Q. Can I use my knitting yarns on a needlepoint canvas? Or my needlepoint fibers for knitting?

A. We like the way you think! The ‘cross-over’ possibilities are endless. For knitters, needlepoint yarns offer vast color options in nice small yardages, so if all you want is a color-tipped cast-on or a few rows of Fair Isle, you don’t need to buy a big skein to get just a little color. Silk & Ivory (Featured Fave! 10% off through August; call the store to order 206.780.2686) knits nicely at fingering gauge, while Appleton and Paternayan wools can be bulked up with multiple strands. Silk and metallic fibers can be used for surface embellishment, or to knit or crochet jewelry. Needlepoint fibers are also great for color matching knitting repairs. For needlepointers, hand-painted knitting yarns are especially interesting—try long or short color runs in a variety of stitches. Heathers and tweeds yield effects you won’t find in the needlepoint department. A yarn that’s sturdy and fairly smooth will wear better, but chunky and textured yarns can be fun, funky and quickto stitch. Whichever way you’re ‘crossing over,’ swatch! swatch! swatch!

Q. How should I care for my linen knits?

A. Linen and other ‘bast’ fibers take well to water and get softer and softer with each washing. We wash and dry ours in the machine—take out when still a little damp, pull or pin into shape and lay flat to dry. Linen knits have a tendency to bias, but we find an aggressive blocking can take care of this. Linen will shrink a little in the dryer, so it can be helpful to swatch twice: wash and dry one swatch for ‘finished gauge’ and compare the two to see how much extra length you should knit to compensate. To block lace in linen, use blocking wires and pin out with as much tension as you can muster—it’ll be infinitely prettier.

Q. OK, tea cozies are cute. But what’s the point?

A. For those of you who have never seen a tea cozy, think of it as a sleeping bag for your teapot. It serves two important functions. First, to get the most flavor from your tea leaves, you should cover your teapot with a cozy to keep the water at the optimum brewing temperature. Secondly, if you’ve brewed more than enough tea for one cup each, your cozy will keep the rest hot while you sip. Cozies that leave the pot handle and spout exposed are handy, but for full heat-keeping effect, choose one that covers it all. Practicality aside, whether your cozy is knitted, felted, stitched or quilted, it’s also another great canvas for self expression.

Q. Do I really have to do a gauge swatch? I always seem to knit to gauge.

A. I’m glad you’ve been lucky so far. But it’s unlikely you’ll match every designer’s gauge in every yarn. And if you’re even a quarter stitch off over 4 inches, you may wind up with a poorly fitting sweater you don’t like to wear. If you’re substituting yarns, another important question is “do I like the fabric?” You may have hit the suggested gauge, but is your fabric loose, limp and likely to loose its shape? Is it tight and stiff? Consider both aspects before you decide how to proceed. But definitely, swatch, swatch and reswatch until you’re happy. I know you want to dive in, but a little time now may save days of work.

Q. My needlepoint project is all askew. What did I do wrong? What can I do now?

A. While any of the diagonal ‘tent’ stitches can skew your canvas to some degree, you’ll do best to use the basketweave stitch wherever you can, and continental stitch whenever you can’t. Avoid half-cross stitch (which also provides poor coverage). Use stretcher bars or a scroll frame to help keep your canvas square. Blocking your finished piece can correct some of the twist, but a badly misshapen piece may need repeated blocking.