Thursday, 28 April 2016 00:00

I love shawls, and I have a special place in my heart for shawls made out of plant fibers. They feel drapey and breathable, which makes them perfect for the summer weather that is approaching the Pacific Northwest.

One of my all-time favorite patterns is really more of a recipe or formula than a pattern. It’s called a triangle shawl, and it is truly simple. You can memorize it and customize it to fit your skill level or time. You can do it while walking, or, like I did, while watching a movie.

You only need to know two stitches for the most basic version: Knit and Yarn Over. That’s it!

When beginning, it will feel like you are working from the bottom or point of the triangle up, but in fact you are working from the middle of the long side or top of the triangle. You will be increasing by 4 stitches on each right side row, starting with Row 3. Here is how to do it.


k - knit

yo - yarn over

pm - place marker

sm - slide marker

Triangle Shawl Pattern

CO 3 stitches

Row 1 - k1, yo, pm, k1, pm, yo, k1

Row 2 (and every even row) - k to marker, sm, k, sm, k to end

Row 3 - k1, yo, knit to marker, yo, sm, k1, sm, yo, k to last stitch, yo, k

Repeat Rows 1–3 until shawl is desired length. Cast off loosely. Weave in ends. Block if needed. To sum up, you only need to know how to do 3 rows, and one of them (Row 1) you will only do once at the very beginning. The rest of the rows are simply knit one and yarn over (creating a new stitch) at the beginning of all right side rows; knit until you get the center stitch (signified by the markers); yarn over on both sides of the center stitch (creating two additional stitches), and then knit until you get to the last stitch on the needle, yarn over (creating your final new stitch for that row), and then knit the last stitch. On the wrong side/even rows, simply knit all the stitches, sliding the markers when you come to them so they stay in their proper place.

Following this, you can get as creative as you want. If you like stockinette better than garter, purl the wrong side rows instead. Don’t like the holes made by a yarn over? Here is a great reference for other types of increases you can do that don’t make holes. If you are an advanced knitter, you can add your own lace or cable pattern. Play with self-striping yarn. As long as you keep increasing by one on both ends and by two in the middle, the shawl can be as simple or as elaborate as you want.

Here is a pattern for a fun short project:

Lacy Triangle Headscarf

You will need:

1 skein of Elsebeth Lavold Hempathy in Light Blue (042) or similar yarn

Size 9 US 28” circular needle

A ½ to ¾” button (bamboo would be lovely; I opted for a vintage one I had lying around)

A tapestry needle that will fit through your buttonhole

Using the above pattern, knit Rows 1–3. Repeat Row 2 & 3 twenty times or until project measures about 19 inches in length and 7.5 in height (adjust for your head size, if needed). Repeat Row 2 one more time so you finish on a wrong side row, and cast off loosely, leaving a long tail at the end to sew on a button. Block. Sew button on, and weave in ends. The button will simply go into one of the yo holes on the opposite side.

The triangle shawl is a great way to make something with a yarn that has been sitting in your stash a while but maybe doesn’t have enough yardage to make a big project. Get creative, and have fun with what is really one of the simplest patterns.

Full headscarf

Vintage Button

Stitch Detail


Thursday, 24 March 2016 00:00

In February, I showed you how you could recycle your old t-shirts by making them into yarn. I want to show you how you can use that yarn to make super cute moss stitch coasters. You only need basic knitting skills and a few hours to spare.

I use a slip stitch on the edge to give it a nice selvedge edge.

For two Moss Stitch Coasters:


  • One ball of t-shirt yarn from a size large t-shirt
  • Size 10.5 knitting needle
  • Large finishing/tapestry needle.

Stitches used

  • Knit
  • Purl
  • Slip stitch

4 stitches and 5 rows = 1 inch in moss stitch pattern


  • Cast on 17.
  • Row 1 - k1, p1* repeat *-*, until the end of the row.
  • Row 2 - slip first stitch purlwise, *p1, k1* repeat *-* until last stitch, slip stitch purlwise.
  • Repeat rows 1 & 2 until coaster reaches 4 inches high or until project looks square.
  • Cast off.

One large t-shirts will make two coasters. 

Selvedge Edges

Play with odd stitch amounts to make different sizes. I used 29 to make a great washcloth that is dense enough to also be a pot holder. I'm thinking that my next project I'm going to try is dyeing the yarn with Kool-Aid—a project I have yet to try!


Monday, 29 February 2016 00:00

It’s almost March, and for a Portland knitter or crocheter, this means one thing: Rose City Yarn Crawl!

The annual Rose City Yarn Crawl (RCYC) will be held from March 3–6, 2016. This year’s theme is Oregon Grows Great Things. Keeping in the spirit of growing great things, I wanted to take a little time to talk about plant-based yarns.

The fiber composition of yarn is either animal-based, synthetic, or plant-based.

Animal-based fibers are the most common, as they have been around for centuries and include wools from sheep, alpaca, llama, angora, and cashmere. Silk is also an animal fiber.

Synthetics are available at almost any craft store, and are typically less expensive. They include acrylic, nylon, and polyester.

Plant-based fibers are the underdogs of the fiber world. One reason for this is that they don’t have as much elasticity as the animal fibers, and some, like bamboo, are relatively new to the fiber world. Many of their great qualities are overlooked, not least of which is the fact that they are a renewable resource! They also have a great array of textures, from slightly rough or plied to buttery-soft.

Below are the most common types of fibers to look for at this year's yarn crawl. Pictured are cotton (upper left), linen (upper right), and hemp blend (bottom). 

Cotton: Crocheters are a bit more familiar with cotton, as crochet thread is generally made from it. However, cotton is great for knitters and crocheters alike. Cotton is versatile, soft, strong, and machine-washable. It is great for dishcloths, baby blankets, and summer shawls. What it lacks in elasticity it more than makes up for in durability.

Hemp: This fiber is on the rise again, and for good reason. It has a smaller ecological footprint than cotton, and is extremely durable. Once worked, it can be one of the softest plant fibers available. Hemp also retains dyes very efficiently, and is resistant to fading. Hemp holds its shape really well, which is great for garments. It is frequently sold in blends, and is great for making summer tops and bags.

Linen: Made from the flax plant, this yarn is breathable, and starts out crisp before becoming drapey and lustrous. It is a hollow fiber, so it allows air to pass through it easily. In addition, because of the way it absorbs moisture, it actually becomes stronger when it is wet. Linen makes beautiful skirts and dresses.

Bamboo: This plant makes a luxurious-feeling fiber that is silky and almost slippery. Because it is so slick, it is often sold as a blend. This can be a bit tricky if you are looking strictly for a product without any animal fiber. I love bamboo for scarves because it is very soft against the skin.

In Portland, there are quite a few little yarn shops. I had the pleasure of visiting some of them or chatting with the owners, and I discovered many great finds. Every store on the RCYC carries a 100% cotton yarn in various weights. The Naked Sheep Knit Shop has a lovely hand-painted cotton/rayon blend from Araucania called Alumco. (Rayon is very often made from bamboo.) Happy Knits carries beautiful jewel-toned hemp from AllHemp6. When I spoke to the owners of BlackSheep at Orenco and Close Knit, they were particularly proud of their Be Sweet 100% bamboo and Shibui 100% linen yarns.

I wish I had time to visit every store in town because I have truly just touched the tip of the iceberg. Please check out the RCYC or visit any of Portland’s many incredible yarn stores for their vast selection of plant-based yarns, and find the joy of working with the unique fibers!

Edited by Lisa Charles, MPH