Free Cowl Pattern + Crazy Skein Cowl Kits!


I used to carry some awesome Shepherds Wool Crazy Skein yarn and I got a lot of questions about what would be the best thing to make with it. I’ve used it for lots of things – hats, shawls, scarves and and awesome cowl.

I wrote up a quickie pattern for you that shows off the wonderful texture and colors in this yarn.

Either Way Cowl

It’s a free pattern, and you can download the pdf, here.

Why is it called ‘Either Way Cowl’? Because I’m showing you two different ways to knit a cowl! Try the ‘easiest way’ if you’re new to knitting or want a really simple project! If you have some knitting experience under you’re belt, then ‘try this way’ and watch my provisional cast-on video for help!

cowl freshstitches
‘Try this way’ version shown.

cowl freshstitches

Download your Either Way Cowl Pattern and pick your way!

I can’t wait to see yours!


Crochet Provisional Cast On Tutorial

The crochet cast on is a fabulous cast on to have in your knitting tool kit. And I’ve made you a video to show you how to do it!

Crochet Provisional cast on from FreshStitches

It uses a ‘waste’ piece of yarn that you’ll pull out when you’re finished knitting: leaving a row of live stitches on the first row! It’s like magic!

It’s a technique you may see in cases where you’ll want to continue knitting from the first row. For example, I’ve seen it used to cast on for the neck of the sweater (when you’ll come back later to knit the collar). It’s absolutely seamless, so it’s a cleaner look than coming back and picking up the stitches later on.

Here’s the Video!

This is the sort of technique where a video is worth a million words. I’ve made a short (4 minute) video showing you:

  • How to cast on with waste yarn
  • How to mark your cast on so it pulls out easily every time!
  • How to count your cast on stitches
  • How to be sure you’re knitting the stitches in the right direction
  • How to pull out your waste yarn

I encourage you to watch and try it out for yourself!

Neat, huh?

Ready to try it out? Hang on to your hats!

I’ll be making a pattern available soon that’ll let you put this technique to use!

Crochet Provisional cast on from FreshStitches

What is Continental Knitting?

When I’m teaching new knitters, I notice that a lot of them get caught up in the terms for the different styles of knitting. What is continental knitting? What is throwing? And which one is better?

Do what’s most comfortable

When I teach beginning knitters, I don’t tell them anything about how to hold the yarn. I let them do what’s most comfortable. Most folks intuitively grab the needles and yarn in the way that works best for them!

What is Continental Knitting?

‘Continental Knitting’ refers to holding your yarn in your non-dominant hand. For right-handers, that means holding (and tensioning) the yarn with your left hand.

Continental knitting from FreshStitches

It’s called this because it’s thought to be the style of knitting most popular on ‘the continent’ of Europe (as opposed to England), but I’ve spoken to a number of international knitters that reveal this generalization isn’t completely accurate. The finer-grained truth is that there are a variety of knitting cultures (with their preferred yarn-holding styles) within Europe… but that’s a whole ‘nother blog post!

I made you a video so that you can see me knitting ‘Continental’:

Most crocheters knit this way, as they are used to tensioning their yarn in their non-dominant hand.

What is Throwing?

Throwing refers to the action of moving the hand holding the yarn around your dominant knitting needle. It is most commonly used with ‘English’ knitting (where you hold your yarn in your dominant hand), but not necessarily.

Throwing in knitting
Throwing in knitting

Most people consider this to be a slower method of knitting… but let me tell you, I know some throwers who make my continental knitting look like it’s happening at a snail’s pace!

I made a little video of me throwing. I’m a bit slower at it because it’s not my usual style!

And more…

There are all kinds of styles of knitting that describe how you hold your hands and where you hold your yarn. We’ve only scratched the surface!

And there is no ‘best’ technique! Each style takes practice and suits different knitters!

However, if you want to do stranded knitting (colorwork), then you’ll probably want to learn both of these techniques for faster two-handed knitting.

Why do different gauges use more or less yarn?

I hear you. Doing a gauge swatch is boring. You have a lovely ball of yarn in your hands and you just want to get started!

But did you know that if your gauge is off, you may end up using more yarn than is recommended? And if you’ve purchased a kit, that may mean you run out!


What does gauge have to do with yarn usage?

We’re used to thinking about gauge as telling you how big your finished product is going to be. If you’re crocheting a stuffed animal, you may not mind if the result is 1/2 inch bigger… but that doesn’t mean you can skip the gauge swatch!

crochet owl by freshstitches

When you measure gauge, you measure the height and width of the stitch.

But a stitch is made by wrapping the yarn around your hook or needle. And bigger stitches are made with bigger loops.

knitting swatch on Karbonz needles

A bigger loop on your hook or needle uses more yarn!

crochet hooks and yarn by FreshStitches

If you’re a loose crocheter or knitter, that means that your loops are a bit bigger than standard… and you’ll use up a bit more yarn!

What to do

First of all, do a gauge swatch! It’s the only way to know if you’re really on target with your stitches.

If your stitches are loosey-goosey, then check out this post on how to get an even gauge in crochet. It isn’t pictured, but a similar technique applies to knitting.

You might also want to read some tips for getting accurate row gauge.

And, if your gauge is off, you’ll want to change your hook/needle size. Going down a size will give you slightly smaller stitches.

You might also want to check out if you’re committing one of these common gauge sins.

Finally… this is only tangentially related to the issue of gauge, but it’s a great chart, so I want to share! There are more tidbits about calculating yardage in this blog post.

How to Dye a Gradient Yarn using a Spray Bottle

How to Dye a Gradient Yarn Using a Spray Bottle - tutorial from FreshStitches and Shiny Happy World

Remember when I told you how to dye a gradient yarn with a sock blank? Well, today I’m going to go a step further and show you how to get an even more gentle gradient using a *spray bottle.

When I made this skein of yarn, I was feeling Easter-y, so I picked yellow, blue and pink:

wilton dye for dyeing yarn

Click this post to see what the Wilton Icing Colors look like on yarn.

wilton colors 2

Okay, now here’s the technique: I rolled out my sock blank and dunked each end and the center in one color, leaving a lot of white space in between. See?

dyeing a gradient yarn tutorial

Ignore my ugly cooking sheet in the background. Actually, don’t ignore it (it’s crucial for keeping your counters clean in this project!)… just pretend it’s prettier!

Now, load up your spray bottle with the dye.

spray bottle 4

You want to use the spray bottle to direct your dye exactly where you want it. With this blue, I’m going to spray more towards the blue dyed portion of the yarn, and then spritz less to blend it into the yellow.

how to dye a gradient yarn

Now wash your bottle really well and repeat with the other two colors. You’ll get a very blended effect!

See how the colors blend? Because the dye is wet when you’re spraying, the blue mixes with the yellow and makes green… it’s an effect that’s hard to get if you’re just dipping the blank in dye.

dyeing a gradient yarn

I let it dry, and then wound it on a niddy noddy. Here’s the hank:

skein of yarn dyed by FreshStitches

The gradient-ness doesn’t show up too well in a hank. But no worries, I’ll show you what I’m knitting. Here’s a little shawl I’m working on:

shawl knit and dyed by FreshStitches

Isn’t the gradient fantastic? I can’t wait to wear this one!

How to Dye a Rainbow Gradient Yarn (using a sock blank!)

Today I’m going to show you how I dyed this beautiful skein of yarn:

Gradient Rainbow yarn dyed with Wilton Icing Dyes by FreshStitches

I’ve talked about how to dye a gradient before, but today’s technique is a bit easier (but costs a little more). For this project, I used a sock blank.

What is a sock blank?

A sock blank is basically length of undyed yarn knitted up using the stockinette stitch. I purchased mine from Knit Picks. It’s more expensive than buying yarn in a skein, but having the yarn already knitted up makes it easier to dye a gradient.

How to dye

You can dye yarn lots of different ways (check this post for how to use Kool-Aid), but for this project, I used Wilton Icing Dye. (check this post for a tutorial on how to dye with Wilton Icing Dye).

color card for wilton icing dye on yarn, freshstitches

Once you’ve set up your dye, you’ll want to apply a little bit to the sock blank… basically making rainbow stripes. You want the stripes to be horizontal (along with the direction of the stitches) in order to get a gradient.

gradient rainbow yarn by freshstitches 2

I used a silicone pastry brush to apply the dye and put the blank on a big cookie sheet (you don’t want that dye getting on anything else!

gradient rainbow sock blank freshstitches

To get the best gradient effect, overlap the colors a little bit (that is, you want a little green over top of the edge of the blue stripe… otherwise, you’ll get very definite stripes)

How to finish the yarn

You just let the yarn dry, and it’s dyed! But, you’ll want to wash and unravel the yarn before knitting with it, or else it will be all kinky (just like when you frog a project).

I washed the yarn (I guess it’s not a blank anymore!), and then unraveled it and wound it onto a niddy noddy. This makes a nice skein (and has the benefit of allowing the yarn to dry well).

niddy noddy freshstitches

Pop it off, and you have a skein!

gradient rainbow yarn by freshstitches 1

You can see the true beauty of the yarn when it’s wound into a cake:

Gradient Rainbow yarn dyed with Wilton Icing Dyes by FreshStitches

Amazing, right?

Tips and Tricks

  • If you’re not sure how a particular color will come out, do a test swatch! You don’t want to mess up an entire skein because one color comes out different than you wanted!
  • The disadvantage to a sock blank is that the bits of yarn that are tucked inside the stitches are a little harder to soak with dye, so a light application of dye may result in splotchy yarn. (although… it’s a cool look, so experiment. You may want that on purpose!)
  • Be careful what you put your blank on. Keep in mind that excess dye will be carried along with the liquid… and if it touches other parts of your yarn, it’ll dye that, too!
  • You can make your own blank, particularly if you have a knitting machine!
  • This same technique works with any kind of dye!

Happy stitching!


Knitting Phi: technique for carrying yarn across stripes

Do you want to see what I’m working on?

Phi Shawl

I’m knitting Phi, a fabulously fun garter stitch shawl.

Phi shawl

The shawl has stripes that can be quite thick, so you need to carry the unused yarn up the side of the thick stripes. I came up with a little technique for how to do this in a way that’s nearly invisible on the right side (a modification of the technique suggested by the designer), and I thought you might be interested!

Here’s the video!

That’s what I’ve been up to this week… how about you? I hope you have an awesome Wednesday, and get some great knitting/crocheting done this week!

If you want to check out more Work-In-Progress posts, please check out Tami’s Ami’s Blog, who’s been organizing a great WIP Wednesday blog theme! And, don’t forget to come back for FO (Finished Object) Friday!

Learn How to Knit a Sock

Rainbow striped socks knit by FreshStitches

I love knitting socks. And I get a lot of questions about which resources I’d recommend for learning.

So, in today’s blog post, I’m going to give you a list of my favorite sources!

Your First Pair of Socks

Do you feel comfortable increasing and decreasing? Have you used double point needles? Great! Then you’re ready to knit your first pair of socks!

My Easy Peasy Sock Pattern is designed for the first-timer. It’s a pattern that’s easy to follow and gives you a nice (although thick) sock.


Socks knit by mmeglet on Ravelry
If it’s your first time, then there are a few things you should know. First, ssk is a decrease, not simply slipping two stitches and knitting the next. If you’re not familiar with the stitch, then watch this video. Second, turning the heel requires working short rows. They aren’t scary, but they’re weird. If you follow my instructions to the letter, your heel will come out perfectly. Don’t overthink it.

If learning from a written pattern isn’t for you, then I highly recommend Donna Drachunas’s Knit Sock Workshop on Craftsy. It’s a video course, so you’ll learn everything you need to know!

If you used handwash-only yarn to knit your socks, you’ll want to learn how to hand wash your socks!

Your Second Pair of Socks

I designed my sock pattern to be the easiest to do… but it’s not the best-fitting sock. For your second sock, you’ll probably want to use fingering weight yarn and choose a different pattern. I adore the Basic Sock Pattern by Churchmouse.

neon knitted socks

I’ve knit 7 pairs of socks from this pattern. It’s easy to understand and contains lots of variations.

I also adore The Simple Collection by Tin Can Knits. I haven’t knit them yet, but I have no doubt that Rye is a fabulous sock to knit as one of your first.

You also might be prepared to ditch your double point needles. My favorite way to knit socks is with a 9″ Circular Needle. Read this post to see why I love them!

Toe-up socks knitting

And more…

My second favorite technique is to use two circular needles. You can even knit two socks at a time! I highly recommend Antje Gillingham’s book for learning the technique.

two at a time on two circulars

Socks can become a lifelong addiction… they’re portable and fun to make. As you make more socks, you might get interested in more complicated patterns and designs. I have the book Sock Knitting Master Class: Innovative Techniques + Patterns From Top Designers, and it really gets your sock juices flowing. Check out this really interesting toe shaping I learned to do:

toe up socks

You might want to have a listen to my recent Coffee with Stacey episode about knitting socks– I chat all about yarns, caring for your socks and different techniques!

Ready to Cast on?

Are you already a sock knitter? Or want to start? I hope you love these resources!

pile of hand knit socks

Perpendicular Mattress Stitch (knitting)

Do you remember when I was knitting this sweater?


Well… I’ve finished! And today, I want to chat about a seaming technique that really helped me out!

striped baby sweater by FreshStitches grey & orange

Perpendicular Mattress Stitch

I loved knitting this sweater… the pieces are knit flat, which makes for very speedy knitting. At the end, you need to seam the pieces together.

Have a look at the sleeves. You’ll notice that you need to seam together stitches that are going vertically to stitches that are going horizontally. Tricky, right?

Perpendicular Mattress Stitch

Fortunately, I discovered that MochiMochiLand has a fabulous tutorial for just this technique! She uses it for toys, but it works great on sweaters, too. You’ll want to click over to this blog post and scroll down to ‘Vertical-to-Horizontal Mattress Stitch’.


Do you prefer seaming or double points?

When knitting a baby sweater, there’s no getting around those tiny little sleeves! Your choices are to either knit the sleeves flat and seam them at the end, or knit tiny little rounds… usually on double point needles.

Which method to you prefer?

I’m generally a knit-in-the-round girl, but those sleeves are very tiny! (Right now, I’m knitting Flax on two circulars, and there aren’t a lot of stitches!)

I think for baby sweaters, I’m a seaming girl!

When should you teach a child to knit/crochet?

A little while ago, someone on Twitter asked me:

When should you teach a child to crochet?

My reply: whichever she’s most interested in, whenever she’s ready

Children begin to crawl at different ages. Kids start to speak at different ages. Is it any surprise that different children are ready to knit/crochet at different ages?

When is a child ready to knit/crochet?

There are a couple prerequisites to knitting or crocheting, so these are some good signs to look out for to see if your child is ready:

  • They hold and use a pencil (sloppy handwriting is okay!)
  • They can sit and work on an activity for at least 10-15 minutes
  • They can count to 10 (not a must, but helpful)
  • They show interest in the craft

Trying to teach a child before they are ready is not a good idea. It leads to frustration and can discourage the child from trying again later, so I highly recommend you look for these skills!

I began writing at four, and learned to chain when I was 5-6 years old. I just made chains for a really long time! That’s okay!

It’s most important that your child enjoys the activity, rather than hoping they accomplish a certain syllabus of skills. I liked crocheting (and according to my mom) was hopeless at knitting. Again, that’s okay. Encourage what the child is interested in.

What can you expect at what age?

One of the members of my Ravelry group taught her 6-year-old son to crochet. He made this frog all by himself!

frog crocheted by 6 year old

Isn’t that amazing? Before the age of 10, a child can typically learn to crochet with help from a parent who shows them the stitches and teaches them the steps of a pattern.

I’ve had children as young as 10 learn to crochet on their own in my Craftsy Course. By this age, kids are used to following instructions in class, and are able to take instruction from a teacher. So even if you can’t knit or crochet, your child might be able to learn!

child learning to crochet

Once a child is a teenager, they’re just about adults as far as learning knitting/crochet is concerned. ‘Kids’ of this age are usually fine taking an adult class at an LYS/shop (but double check with the store’s policy, first).

The younger the better!

As long as a child has the prerequisite skills (listed above), the younger the better! My husband, Tim, learned to knit when he was about 6 or 7, and it’s a skill he still has today!

With that background, I taught him to crochet as an adult in no time!

I think that exposing children to skills and experiences is a great thing to do… and they may never use it later on. (Tim has knit, like, one thing in his life) That’s okay! They may also latch on to it and the skill becomes a lifelong love, like it did for me!

You won’t know unless you give it a try! I recommend reading my post on tips for teaching a child to crochet!