Blendoku – a great game for Fair Isle fanatics

What’s Blendoku?  It’s an intriguing free app that sharpens your color management skills.  Should disaster strike and you find yourself without your knitting (gasp!) it’s a fun way to sharpen your skills for setting up smooth color gradients for your stranded knitting projects while you wait for the cavalry to arrive with your yarn.

Blendoku - a great game for practicing color placement skills needed in Fair Isle knitting

Handheld color gradient practice that can translate into Fair Isle knitting skills

Be warned: Okay, yeah, it’s also a black hole for time – too much fun!!

About these ads
Posted in Knitting, Miscellaneous, Technique | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Knitting’s Cerebral Side

CNN’s very interesting article on knitting’s cerebral benefits:

(But from the tips of our fingers, to our hearts, to our minds…we knew that! ;-) )

Posted in Knitting | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Steek stitches – how many???

Someone just posted an interesting question in my Two Strands group on Ravelry.  It’s one I’m often asked regarding Norwegian steeks, so I’ll share it with you folks here, too. She’s thinking about knitting the Dale Sirdal design from their new Book 267 and she’s wondering just how many steek stitches she should use.

Dale Sirdal Setesdal Fana

Dale Book 267 Traditional Designs for the Family, available through my on-line yarn shop.

Dale instructs her to set up the steek with four “cutting stitches” (steek stitches, to most of us.)  That’s not a bad approach, but I like 5 stitches better.  Here’s my reply, below, or you can visit my Two Strands group on Ravelry for the whole story:

Regarding the # of steek sts: It’s your call! If you’re machine-reinforcing your steek, as they direct (I would), it’s a question of how much sewing and cutting leeway you want to give yourself versus how many extra stitches you’re willing to forsake to the steek. Personally, I like 5 steek sts: steek_stitch_layout.png

The outermost blue columns belong to the body of the sweater.
The red lines indicate where you’ll pick up stitches for the button band.
I like to alternate the colors for each steek stitch, and I keep that stitch patterning vertically consistent, so that my steek stitches form clear sewing (yellow) and cutting (center blue column, #3) lines.

The Dale patterns use 4 stitches (think of my diagram, above, without the center column #3) and they simply instruct you to sew two double lines within the 4 steek stitches and cut the steek open between the pairs of lines. In truth, there’s nothing wrong with that approach at all; but, adding the 5th stitch for the center cutting line does a couple of nice things for you:

1) There’s no guessing as to where to cut – a very nice thing for those of us with less-than-perfect vision! A mistake in the cutting can ruin everything, so I think the one extra stitch column is well worth the effort.

2) As long as you keep your machine stitching within those (yellow) guidelines of columns #2 & #4, you can trim away as much (or as little) of central column #3 as you need to get a nice, straight edge. That can work to especially nice effect if you do a “covered steek”, as I often like to do on my cardigan designs. (I have more info about covered steeks on an old steeks article I put up on my site ages ago:


Gracie, our Golden Retriever, my knitting companion

Uh oh, I wonder what she’s doing with those scissors??

Posted in Knitting, Mary Ann's Designs, Norwegian Knitting, Technique | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Free Chart – Happy Valentine’s Day!

A “little something” to show my love for my dear customers.  Use this free chart in the next few days, to brighten up your Valentine’s gift wrap, or use it in your stranded knitting, down the road.  Either way, I hope you have a wonderfully happy Valentine’s Day!

free chart for Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine’s Day from Mary Ann Stephens.  Visit her at and the Two Strands Blog.

Posted in Free Charts, Mary Ann's Designs, Norwegian Knitting | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Free 2014 Chart

Needlework chart with 2014 date.  Can be used on knitting, needlepoint, cross-stitch, name it!

Free 2014 date chart for creating special memories on all of your someday-heirlooms.

Whether you work “2014″ into some wonderful chart work you have planned for this year, or embroider it in with duplicate stitch, once you’re done, may it someday spark sweet, sweet memories of the many fine times you had “way back” in 2014.

Posted in Free Charts, Free Knitting Patterns, Knitting, Mary Ann's Designs | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Free Knitting Pattern – Twist and Sprout Hat

Free knitting pattern for the Twist and Sprout Hat by Mary Ann Stephens.  Sized for the whole family!

Twist and Sprout Hat, sans fleur

The middle of January…yuck!  Here in the Northeast, you wouldn’t want to face January without a cozy hat nearby.  Not a dreary hat, mind you – there’s more than enough of that dreariness in the skies these days. So, here’s something to brighten things up a bit: a free  PDF for an old favorite – my Twist and Sprout Hat design, sized for everyone, updated with a choice of brims.

I wrote this pattern ages ago, and have sold kits to go with the original, flower-bedecked version, for a long time, too.  You can still get the kit – it saves you a little pocket change, since it comes with remnants for the flower – and you can get it in any shades of Dale Freestyle your heart desires (just add a note to your order, or email me at “mas” AT “kidsknits” DOT com.) Or, take a little dive into that legendary stash of yours and see what worsted weight wonders you come up with.


Click this link to download your own, personal-use copy of my Twist and Sprout Hat for the Two Strands Blog

Posted in Free Knitting Patterns, Knitting, Mary Ann's Designs, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Shetland Spindrift Naturals are back in stock!

Yippee!  I just received a big box of long-awaited Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift in the natural shades I use in my Polar Chullo design (among others.)  Normally, they’re a mainstay of my selection – foundation shades that I can’t bear to be without.  And normally, I don’t have to.  But, they’ve been on back order for a while now, as some of you know.  Of course, it’s great that there’s been a resurgence of interest in all things Fair Isle.  But, it was strange, having their shelf nearly empty for the last several weeks, and  I’m so glad to have them back here, next to me – they’re like old friends!

Shetland Spindrift yarn with Polar Chullo

The Polar Chullo sits atop its five best friends: Natural White, Mooskit, Sholmit, Moorit & Shaela.

If you’re already awaiting your Polar Chullo yarn pack, it’ll be there shortly.  If you’ve been thinking about getting one – now that you’re done getting everything in the world for everyone else – now’s the time!

Gracie, our dear Golden girl

Gracie contemplating her list for Santa.

“Happy Christmas to all, and to all, a good night!”


Posted in Knitting, Mary Ann's Designs, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment