Tin Can Knits | Modern seamless knits for the whole family
Here Tin Can Knits we love all things knitting and design. We love lace, cables, textures, garments, accessories, sizes for all, and we don't really enjoy seaming. Tin Can Knits is the collaboration of two Canadian designers; Alexa Ludeman and Emily Wessel. With accessible and clearly written patterns, beautiful photography and heartfelt stories, and we aim to share our love of knitting,..
Emily whipped up the prototype version of this soft and floaty sweater last year. It’s been so well loved and often worn that we know you’ll love yours just as much! Love Note is knit by holding a lace weight mohair and a sock weight yarn together. Knit on nice big needles (US 10/ 6mm) it’s a very quick knit, and it feels light as a feather and drapes beautifully when worn.
Penny is a raglan sweater with a v-neck and a striking textural lace pattern. We’ve styled it both cropped and regular lengths, and I can’t decide which I like better. We knit it in both a beautiful hand dye from SweetGeorgia in ‘grapefruit’ and a gorgeous subtle speckle from La Bien Aimee in ‘blush’.
The Penny hat has the same lovely lace as the sweater, but is knit up in a sport/sock weight yarn. We knit it up in one of Emily’s current faves: De Rerum Natura Ulysses. The bouncy yarn is perfect combined with textured lace, and the decreases are my favourite part, reminiscent of the beautiful windows in the impressive buildings around Paris.
Posy is a crescent shawl with texture and a floral lace pattern. It’s generous dimensions make is a sumptuous wrap, in either a light sock weight version, or a luxurious heavy weight version. We added a touch of extra luxury in our heavy weight version, combining a single ply and a mohair.
I love these little buds in the heavy weight version, the halo of mohair is so luxurious!
25% off of the bundle! Until the end of May 2019, get a discount if you buy these 4 patterns together! Simply add the 4 patterns: Love Note, Posy, Penny, and Penny Hat to your cart on Ravelry.com or on our website, and the discount of 25% ($7) will automatically be applied.
Happy Lace Knitting!
The amazing Aimee of La Bien Aimee in the Penny sweater. This soft and subtle colourway is ‘blush’
It’s not often that Emily and I are in the same city at the same time. We met while working together at a yarn shop in Vancouver, but since then have always been a long distance pair. We work most of the time with an ocean and an 8 hour time difference between us, so it a treat to be together in the same room!
This year we met in Paris, a place we have both longed to visit. We are here having a grand time, doing a bit of photography (new designs coming VERY soon), but mostly eating pastries, walking for miles, seeing the sights, and discussing our dreams and ideas for Tin Can Knits.
Finishing samples at the last minute? Never!
More Eiffel Tower? Yes we know it’s a tourist cliche, but…
Of course we had to pop in at La Bien Aimee!
Took my new sweater out for a spin! Admiring the beautiful Sacré-Cœur de Montmartre.
Taking in the architecture.
Nerds in our matching sweaters!
Nina and Ross in their best ‘Alexa made me pose for this’ pose.
New lacy lovelies coming soon
We have some new lacy designs for you that we’ll be launching in coming days! Hope you’ll join us at L’oisive The if you’re in the neighborhood!
I was seventeen years old in 1999 when Air Canada dropped me into the sweltering humidity of a small Ontario university town where I would study architecture… in preparation for becoming a hand-knitting pattern designer, of course. I was pretty certain I was grown up, and knew everything I needed to about the world. This is, of course, hilarious looking back.
Chantal and I twenty years back, in 1999 – first year of Architecture at University of Waterloo
Chantal was 20, super cool and oh so worldly, having worked and traveled around Europe the year prior. A long-legged blonde, she wore a yellow rain coat and jumped in puddles with a contagious crazy-eyed exuberance. So I followed her around like a puppy, overawed, and we became friends. Over our university years, we shared a dim room in Rome, a walk-up in Montreal, a lovely two-bedroom in Toronto, a hot little townhouse next to the tracks in Cambridge Ontario, and had many wacky adventures. Though we haven’t lived in the same city for over a decade, we still talk every month or two.
When I was getting married in 2014, Chantal landed in Edinburgh, and took over my unrealistic project to design and sew three bridesmaid dresses (WTF did I think I was doing?!). She calmly consoled me when, 72 hours before the wedding, I concluded amid floods of pregnancy-hormone-fueled tears that NO, the wedding dress I was attempting to construct WOULD NOT work. Luckily 2 hours of shopping later the tears were dry and I had a dress I loved.
That was 5 years ago! Since then I’ve wanted to make her something special, a gift that would show at least a fraction of the love and work and time that she’s put in over the years. This sweater was the result. Full disclosure? I made this for her in May 2018 when she visited Scotland, and it’s practically an entire year later and I only just shipped it last week…
I’m modelling Chantal’s sweater, as I couldn’t manage a trip to Toronto to photograph her!
This sweater is a Strange Brew yoke. I followed the bottom-up sock weight instructions, thought I made body and sleeves on the knitting machine to save time. After yoke join, I had 344 sts on the needles. I diverged slightly from the Strange Brew recipe by working raglan decreases (at the points where sleeve sts and body sts joined) 3 times, decreasing the stitch count to 320. Then I set up the 8-st pattern repeat.
As this was a ‘knit’ rather than a ‘design’ I felt free to pick from my rather large palette of 4-ply yarns. The body is Tukuwool Fingering, which is this LOVELY Finnish yarn, available in a great palette. I hoped this sweater would be be a hard-wearing heirloom (it’ll probably be another decade before I make Chantal another sweater). I selected contrast colours from within my extensive collection of shetland and shetland-style 4ply yarns, and they all work nicely together.
I worked this decreasing wedge chart through the yoke, then a couple of decrease rounds above the chart to get to the neckline stitch count desired.
I had this idea of 2-toned motifs, that worked against 2-toned bands of background colour. I staggered the changes, so that the foreground motif colours change on a different round than the background changes. This worked pretty well, the only part of the pattern that didn’t really read as clearly as I liked was the two colours of light pink in the middle; they’re too similar to read as two different tones, and the background colour ought to have changed out a round earlier. But this was a level of imperfection I could accept in a ‘strange brew’ sweater knit. I accept that I’m never going to get it 100% perfect, and trying to do so would prevent me from getting to FINISHED.
At chart completion, the stitch count was 240 sts. My aim was to get to a neckline stitch count of 128 sts. Right after the chart was finished, I first I worked a single round in MC, then a decrease round [k3, k2tog] around to 192 sts.
Next I found centre back, and worked some short-row back of neck shaping. I used the short-row instructions from the Icefall pattern, following instructions for the XL size, as it had the stitch count nearest to my total at that point. After short-rows, I knit another couple of rounds, then a final decrease round; [k1, k2tog] around, to 128 sts. Lastly I worked a narrow band of 2×2 ribbing and blocked it all aggressively! Beauty eh?
Overall, I worked about +/- 52 yoke rounds, then the ribbing. That’s pretty close to what the Strange Brew recipe pattern calls for for a SM (37” bust) size.
So tell us, have you knit a friend a sweater? Or a hat? What do you love about gift knitting?
As I explained in this post, last autumn I stated my ambitious goal to make my family four yoke sweaters, each an improvised design using the Strange Brew recipe pattern, and all before Christmas. Before you write me off as totally unreasonable (I am), know that from the beginning, my plan was to make the body and sleeves of each garment on my knitting machine, and then finish the yokes by hand. While this wasn’t an absolutely unreachable aim, it did end up being beyond my ability to complete!
There have been a lot of questions about my knitting machine so I promise a post on that coming soon!
This was the final Christmas photo! I finished John’s yoke, and Max’s yoke. Neve’s wearing this sweater, and I’m wearing this one, which is also a Strange Brew yoke, but was not the one that I had planned for Christmas.
John’s yoke DID get finished before Christmas, and I am very proud of it. I love it to bits, and whenever I saw him wearing it (most days over the holidays) I loved him a little bit more. Is there anything better than seeing people you love, and AT THE SAME TIME admiring work that you’re super proud of?! Yup, it’s the best. I’ve decided that John wearing a sweater I love is even BETTER than me wearing a sweater I love; because I don’t really see myself most of the time!
Anyways, enough waxing poetic about how great knitting is; we know it is, you know it is – that’s why you’re here!
Developing this yoke took some elbow grease. In the end I had to knit it 3 times to get it ‘right’, that is to get it to match the vision I had for it in my head.
the messy process
I began with a chart that interested me, then made a swatch. The swatch told me things about what I liked and what I didn’t like, and I used this to make a second chart.
Chart of the first yoke attempt.
I honestly thought with this chart, I would be able to go forth and knit the complete yoke, and get it ‘right enough’ on the first go. But that didn’t turn out to be the truth (which, in hindsight is pretty predictable). While this first attempt had some interesting forms, and colour combinations, all things considered, I found it too bright and dare I say it had a bit of a…..circus vibe?
Too bright and ‘clowny’ for me. But I DO like some of those motifs that were cut… they might have to come back again later in another design…
I felt like this yoke design was too frenetic, too intensely colourful, and bottom line I just didn’t think it looked excellent on John. I felt anxious he might not wear it. So I took the photo, and then ripped.
Chart of the second yoke attempt.
Given the things that I had liked best in the first yoke, I started over, and this time toned my palette WAY back, keeping only the bright coral as a high-contrast colour to the rest. This iteration of the yoke came MUCH closer to satisfying me, but with a sinking heart, as I bound off I realized it still hadn’t quite hit the mark; that feeling of ‘rightness’ that I aim for when designing something.
So RIP RIP RIP, it was time to take it WAY back. I decided to eliminate the brights entirely and focus on deep, intense, jewel colours alongside the olive that looks so great with his green eyes. These colours are quite bold hues (I love that deep purply red, the navy with purple undertones, and the glowing cobalt) but the palette doesn’t have the same high level of contrast that the others did. I also simplified the pattern design even further.
Charting the process: on the left is the first attempt; you can see the colours are brighter, the forms are more detailed; there’s more going on. In the middle is the second attempt (you can see I ripped back to round 13). I really liked what I developed from rounds 26-46 in the second iteration, so I ripped and reworked from the very bottom of the yoke when working the last and final version!
And in the end, it was ALL worth it.
Perhaps what I’m learning is that it always takes (at least) three attempts to arrive at the ‘right’ place when I’m designing. Well, this isn’t ALWAYS the case. There are some things that come very easily, and just work out the first time without too many iterations. But the reality is this occurs fairly seldom in my own design work. If it weren’t such a demanding process, if I didn’t keep setting more difficult and interesting problems in front of myself as a designer, there’s no way I’d find this work so rewarding.
Strange Brew; our deep dive into colourwork
The main reason that I was fully behind the concept of turning our Strange Brew recipe pattern into a full-fledged book, and thus spending a year and a half doing a ‘deep dive’ into colourwork, was that I knew it would be a MASSIVE learning curve, an area into which I could go deeper and deeper and learn more each and every time. Colourwork can be the work of a lifetime, and for designers (like Alice Starmore, Kaffe Fasset, and many others) it has been. Alexa and I are only just sticking our toes into the water. And at the same time, we want to invite all of you to do the same!
If you’d like to make a Strange Brew yoke sweater similar to this one, you can buy the recipe pattern here, and check out our tutorials on designing your own yoke here. Or just use the chart above, and make one the same as John’s! Details on the palette of yarns I used is on Ravelry here.
my love of cobalt, and combining different yarns in colourwork
When we created The Simple Collection back in 2013, we hoped it would be useful. Emily and I got our design starts working in yarn shops and teaching classes there. We knew some high-quality, free, beginner knitting patterns with tutorials would be a useful resource that yarn shops and instructors. But we had no idea knitters would take up these patterns with such force! The Barley hat has almost 20,000 projects as of the date of this blog post, and Flax has been a first sweater for so many knitters!
Matching rainbow Flax’s? Yes! I love these matching sweaters from Beja
The story of The Simple Collection is a classic example in the story of Emily’s and my partnership. First, Emily suggested we create a great free pattern for knitters to learn with, including tutorials to walk them through each step. But I said no, not just one, we should do 8! A whole series! With tutorials for ALL of them! Swept up in a wave of enthusiasm The Simple Collection began.
Over the years, the Simple Collection has grow to 12 patterns and we have added a few ‘light’ versions too (Flax Light, Barley Light, and Rye Light) for those knitters who prefer working sock weight yarn. If there is something knitterly and new you want to learn, the Simple Collection is here for you!
Got to meet FrogQueen33 at Stitches West and she was wearing her very first sweater, Flax Light, knit up in a fabulous gradient.
We think that our Flax and Flax light sweater patterns (and the Simple Collection patterns in general) appeal both to the newbies and the experienced knit mavens who could teach us a thing or two! They have been taken up by both dedicated sweater knitters, and those who just enjoy whipping up a tiny baby sweater or two every year for very special babies. We are so very pleased that the Flax pattern has been an introduction for thousands of knitters to our work!
It was so much fun searching through the thousands of Flax projects on Ravelry to create this post! There were so many smiling faces, proud in their new sweaters, so many Flax hacks from people taking it as a blank canvas and going wild, and so many gifts for loved ones too.
I really really really love handspun yarn. A day will come, I suspect, when I will direct a slice of my time and attention to learning and practicing spinning regularly. Now is not the moment, but that doesn’t dampen my enthusiasm for the end result of hand spinning! The subtle textures, the colour shifts, the springy feeling of the yarn, and the nubbly texture of a 2-ply handspun all fascinate, tempt, and divert me.
The novel nature of each yard that passes through your fingers can really heighten the experience of knitting – that’s probably also one of the reasons I love Noro yarns so much too.
Due to the side-to-side construction of the Beloved Bonnet, you can get really interesting effects if you knit it with a self-striping yarn, like this one. Do you love it or hate it? Although it doesn’t fall into any kind of clean minimalist aesthetic, I fall on the side of loving this kind of thing! Alexa might disagree…
Enough waxing poetic, Wessel!
When I bought these beautiful handspun skeins from The Sweatermaker ‘Mac’ yarns from Uptown yarns in my old home town of Courtenay, BC, I knew I’d really LOVE working with them. For me handspun is like the triple aged whiskey that someone breaks out on a very special occasion. It’s for SUBLIME knitting.
Last winter, Neve’s outgrew all of her baby sized hats, and so it was imperative that I make her a new Beloved bonnet.
Can you Cast On and Bind Off Before Baby?
Alexa has this personal tradition that she calls the ‘birth hat’. When a friend or family member begins her labour or heads in to the hospital for a cesarean, the birth partner sends Alexa a text to let her know. Then she casts on, and spends the next few hours knitting a baby hat for the tiny person making their dramatic transition from inside to out. It’s a small show of solidarity, sitting with her thoughts for both parents and baby, knitting love into fabric for the new one.
I LOVE this idea, and have done it a couple of times myself. I see this as a ‘snow day’; a delicious moment to step outside the flow of usual work and meditate on parenthood. While knitting, you might think back to the babes who are near and dear to you and about the changes that their lives have made in your own.
This little one is the child of two prolific knitters; @rofay and @tomhfay so his knit wardrobe? ACE.
I took this on when my friend Rosie had her baby, and this hat was the result. Alexa says she usually ‘binds off before baby’, with first babies, but with second babies the results are less certain! I don’t think she bound off before Max was born, and she certainly didn’t with Neve!
My second birth hat was this little bonnet I knit for my sister’s younger son, Charlie. What a cutie, eh?!
I’ve just recently cast on another Beloved bonnet. It’s always useful to add to the ‘gift box’ in preparation for new babies and birthdays. I also like to do this kind of a project as a ‘palette cleanser’ if I’m feeling stuck in my design work, OR if I have that perfect single skein, begging to be cast on.
This winter has seen a flowering of conversations within the Instagram knit community about the impacts of racism. Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) knitters have shared examples of the racism they’ve suffered both online and in real life at knitting groups, yarn shops, and knit events. Vox published a summary of the discussion to date here, it’s a reasonable place to start. Another is the Unfinished Object blog, which “explore(s) how diversity becomes inclusion, how representation morphs into change”.
So many BIPOC knitters and makers have shared their experiences, their feelings, and in so doing become targets of online hate. These knitters have taken big risks and suffered damaging consequences by speaking.
Vulnerability is oh so hard. It’s something you extend to friends, hoping that you will be held, and accepted. This vulnerability is something that many BIPOC knitters are extending to make a safer BIPOC space within the crafting community. This conversation has extended an opportunity to established white designers like Alexa and I, to make change for the better.
Thank-you for raising your voices, thank-you for sharing your stories.
We are sorry that our Instagram feed and our publications have, overwhelmingly, reinforced white norms of beauty, instead of challenging them. We are sorry that we personally have been ignorant and not educated ourselves beyond a superficial level on issues of racism, nor considered our white privilege critically.
Alexa and I have been listening, hearing, thinking, debating whether or how, as white women designers, we might contribute to this conversation. Unfortunately, waiting for the right words hasn’t lead to them. So we’ll fumble and falter, instead of remaining silent.
“We didn’t create racism, but that doesn’t absolve us of the responsibility to work to interrupt it.”
We believe this. And we are coming to learn what damage is done through passivity, through silence. We strive to learn to act and communicate differently.
Alexa and I have, for the most part, shared only pretty pictures of knitting and our children with you over the past 7 years, staying silent about politics, philosophy, parenting, what we’re reading and what we think and feel except as it relates directly to knitting. BUT for us, this conversation feels DIFFERENT. Different in impact, and different in importance.
In our minds, our work at Tin Can Knits has centered around a ‘you can knit this, we can help’ positive attitude toward making, an attitude with accessibility and inclusiveness as key. Voices speaking out for racial inclusion have shown us the ways which we have failed to do those things, we are sorry and we aim to do much better.
Intent isn’t the important thing; impact is. How our images and words land, how they make our audience feel, that’s what is critical.
This conversation changed my mind about the power of sharing stories on the internet. It also changed my perspective on my own responsibilities.
We are white designers and publishers, and we have a large audience and platform. To that end Alexa and I are thinking critically about the ways in which our content is exclusionary, and figuring out what we can do differently. We’re considering:
Our privileged positions: the ways in which we unfairly benefit from our white privilege, and from other intersecting privileges we hold.
The images we create; and other knitter’s images that we share, and how can we create a more diverse and inclusive vision with our work on Instagram and in published patterns and books.
Whose voices, outside of our own, are we sharing.
What products do we promote, and who benefits.
Our own influences, what we read, watch, listen to.
The education and resources we share with our audience.
The language we use; how we’re framing ‘normal’.
Some Antiracism resources we’ve found useful in our education process so far:
Where Change Started Introduction to Antiracism by Glenise Pike – helpful guidance and a place to start, with a glossary of terms.
Layla Saad – Me And White Supremacy Workbook – a self-guided examination of your personal position within our white supremacist society. Love her podcasts too.
White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo – written by a white woman for white people. Read it to learn to avoid defensiveness, to overcome your discomfort around speaking about race, to own your white racial identity, and to learn about interrupting racism.
There are many other excellent anti-racism educators out there, these are simply a few I have personally been finding helpful – Google and Instagram will lead you to many more.
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When I was designing the Icefall sweater, one of the most pleasant tasks was choosing just the right palette. After quite a lot of stitch pattern development, I settled upon the motif I would work with. But then, which colours to use? Instead of a symmetrical colour pattern, I had this idea to use 4 colours in a different way.
With this in mind I chose a deep rich blacky brown Tukuwool Fingering ’05 anga’ for the main colour of the jumper. Very dark and very light colours for a sweater body make for easy contrast colour choices. Everything pops!
The brights that I chose to set against this as the ‘panes’ of coloured glass were the next thing to choose. While traditional Fair-Isle patterns have a symmetrical arrangement of colour about a pattern centreline (loads of examples of that in this post), I had an idea about a 4-colour palette, with a different kind of symmetry. I thought I’d put the brighter colours, that would have stronger contrast with the body colour, at the centre, with the deeper, more saturated colours on either side. I decided to work two hues, one top, one bottom.
I trialed out A LOT of different options in Tukuwool Fingering (yup, I now have nearly ALL the colours, I love it!). My colour palette trials might give you ideas about how you’d like to work your version of Icefall.
How did I have the time and energy to make so many swatches? Spoiler alert: I used a knitting machine while I was developing both the motif, and then to choose the palette for this design. This allowed me to make slight adjustments to the stitch pattern, and then make a new swatch more quickly than would be possible if I hand-knit every option. And once I had settled on the final chart, I was able to check colour combinations much more quickly on the machine.
While there were many swatches I liked (I’m looking at you top right), I finally settled on the palette we used in Strange Brew, 29 murai, 28 taate, 02 humu, and h31 aava. I was so pleased with the effect of using the lighter/brighter tones in the center, it draws the eye in just the right way.
Alexa’s version of Icefall
While I toiled and debated, swatched, adjusted, and swatched again, Alexa let the yarn do the work! She chose a pretty light grey YOTH little brother ‘oyster’ from her stash and added a precious skein of Spincycle Dyed in the Wool in Melancholia. The light coloured body of the sweater meant the subtly changing teal really popped. Hunter was immediately smitten with the cropped sweater and has asked that all her sweaters be cropped from now on.
So, how what colour strategy will you use for your Icefall? There is always a lot of inspiration on Ravelry too!
When the cold winds are howling outside your door and the mornings greet you with frosty window panes, it’s time to get cozy. As knitters, this our prime time, if anyone knows cozy, it’s us! We know how to hunker down wrapped in woollies, a steamy cuppa in hand, working on whatever is on our needles between sips.
We are so pleased to bring you our newest sweater pattern, perfect for wintry weather, the Antler pullover! We knit up in the super cushy Hinterland Range, a warm mix of 50% Canadian Rambouillet and 50% alpaca raised on the British Columbia coast.
The Antler Pullover
The Antler pullover is brought to you by popular demand! There have been more than a few knitters on Ravelry who hacked the original cardigan, and now you can knit it as a pullover too! The pullover has short row shaping to raise the back neck as well as a slightly deeper yoke and higher neckline than the cardigan. We hope you like the latest addition to the Antler family!
Hinterland is run by the Hanahlie. After a career in photography and design, Hanahlie came to farming following her desire to make things with her hands. She raises rescue alpacas on Pender Island and Hinterland yarn is a mix of this alpaca fiber and Canadian wool; find her story here.
For the Antler pullover we used Hinterland Range, a wonderfully soft and warm yarn, it was a delight to work with! Hinterland’s yarn line also includes Watershed (a bulky weight yarn) and Dusk (a new fingering weight yarn) all with the same alpaca/wool mix. I picked up a few skeins of Dusk recently and can’t wait to cast on!