Difficulties with knitting difficulty

I’d already been thinking about knitting difficulty classifications when the LoveKnitting blog post went up highlighting 10 challenging patterns. They included my Gingham Style scarf (on LoveKnitting and Ravelry) because it is a double knit intarsia pattern.

Gingham Style by Natalie Servant

The blog post and other comments about knitting difficulty have had me thinking about what a difficult knitting pattern is. I think the perception of difficulty depends on the knitter and their experience. Here are just some of the reasons that I’ve heard people call a knitting pattern difficult:

  • it only has charts
  • it only has written instructions
  • it includes a technique they’ve never tried
  • it includes a technique they find tedious (purling, cabling, intarsia, darning in tons of ends)
  • it calls for a yarn weight they don’t like to use
  • it’s time-consuming

In my description for Gingham Style I called it challenging because it can be. If you’re familiar with both double knitting and intarsia and willing to put up with handling multiple balls of yarn, it’s fine. I enjoyed working on it when I knew I had uninterrupted time and my setup of the balls in order beside me wouldn’t be disrupted.

These days when I’m writing pattern proposals I tend to list the techniques needed instead of giving some kind of difficulty rating. I’m trying to do that in my patterns on Ravelry too.

When I’m writing patterns, my goal is to make them knittable. If I don’t think something is a generic enough knitting technique that people will figure it out with Google, I include either a tutorial or a link to one.

Frequently, difficulty is temporary. Something is difficult until you’ve done it enough times that it is just another skill in your repertoire. It may take a bit of pain to break through that barrier, but it’s often worth it. Sometimes it takes the right desired end goal (your dream project) to get you to persist.

Here are some projects that I found difficult as I was making them. I know I could make them again now with more happiness and confidence:

A christening dress – the seaming was painful for me because it wasn’t something I had done properly before.

Zoe's Christening dress

A double knit scarf: started, but never finished.

my first double knit project

Anemoi Mittens by Eunny Jang – my first stranded colourwork knitting. It was also the first pattern I ever bought online! I did bail on the tubular cast on…

Anemoi mittens by Eunny Jang

La Traviata stole – this was reasonably logical, but I needed to closely follow the charts. It was also just acres of knitting (or so it seemed at the time).

La Traviata pattern by Marianne Kinzel

What do you find difficult in knitting? Has your idea of what is difficult changed?

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Streamline Moderne

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you’ll know about my interest in architecture. One area of Art Deco architecture that I haven’t explored (or photographed) much is Streamline Moderne. There have been a couple, including the Go Transit station in Hamilton:

Go Transit building, Hamilton, ON

And a few blocks away (because I was strategically photographing nearby buildings of interest while the family waited), there was this other building:

55 John Street N, Hamilton, ON

I don’t think the tenants appreciated my interest in their building, especially when I went inside. But look at their light fixture:

Light fixture, 55 John St. N, Hamilton, ON

I do love the curves and straight line elements of these buildings, and have stopped Poirot (and other shows) to take photos like this:

Hotel from Poirot

House from Poirot

It’s taken a while, but I’ve finally come up with a knitting pattern inspired by these buildings. Streamline Moderne is a bottom-up garter shawl with scalloped edges and stripes. It’s a skinny triangle.

I made one in beautiful greens in some lovely Bohemia Sport from Outlaw Yarn. This soft and fuzzy yarn has a blend of Polwarth, alpaca, and possum.

Streamline Moderne in Bohemia Sport from Outlaw Yarn

And then I made a nautical version in worsted weight Clara Yarn Cormo 1.0. The gorgeous blue was dyed by Jennifer Heverly of Spirit Trail Fiberworks. The garter stitch in this one is *so squishy*!

Streamline Moderne in Cormo 1.0 from Clara Yarn

I’m working on getting this finished up & released as soon as possible, but I’m thinking that both of these babies are coming to Rhinebeck with me next week. See you there?

Streamline Moderne in Bohemia Sport from Outlaw YarnThanks as usual to the lovely Francine for being my model!


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Visit to the Marine Building

Marine Building - the top

This year I got to check something big off my Art Deco building bucket list: the Marine Building in Vancouver, British Columbia. I talked about this beauty back when I released my Marine Building shawl, but I only showed one little picture of the building just above the front door.

We had a family trip to BC for a week this summer, and we stayed in a hotel just a couple of blocks down the road from the Marine Building. I took outside pictures by myself, but was too shy to enter without being part of a walking tour.

Here’s the entrance and a few close-ups, including the beauty that you only see if you stand under it and look up:

Marine Building entrance

Marine Building entrance detail

Marine Building entrance detail

Here’s some lovely but pock-marked seaweed by the entrance:

Marine Building detail

The tour was great & this building was the highlight for me. I could have easily spent an hour getting detailed shots of all the amazing things, but this way I figure I’ll just have to get back to Vancouver and visit it again.

Here are the elevator doors that I obsessed over:

Marine Building elevator door

Sometimes it’s the little details that pop out later on. I love these tiles on the stairs:

Marine Building - tiles on stairs

Check out the look on the face of the whale in the middle here:

Marine Building - whales and ships

And the waves around this ship are amazing:

Marine Building - ship light

Even the ceiling is stunning:

Marine Building - ceiling

What’s on your must-see bucket list? I’ve got whole maps with pins in them set up for Chicago and New York City!

Posted in Art Deco, Canadian Art Deco Knits, inspiration | 1 Comment


I posted on Instagram about the #FallShawlKAL2017 a while back. It’s going on until the middle of October. There are weekly themes and prizes! Now that I’m back from family vacation I thought I’d tell you a little more and tempt you with pictures.

There are 7 indie designers participating, and each of us has chosen 5 eligible patterns. You can see the full list of 35 shawl patterns over in the Ravelry group. Here are my top picks:

Fairy Wings from Ruth Brasch

Fairy Wings by Ruth Brasch

dekke by talitha kuomi

dekke by talitha kuomi

Aveza by Emily Ross

Aveza by Emily Ross


Sparkling Rain by Christelle Nihoul

Sparkling Rain Shawl by Christelle Nihoul

Birdsfoot Fern by Laura Patterson

Birdsfoot Fern by Laura Patterson

Solar Flare from Lindsay Lewchuck

Solar Flare Circular Shawl by Lindsay Lewchuk

Remember that the #FallShawlKAL2017 runs on Instagram until Oct. 15th, and there are weekly prizes. Head on over & check out what’s happened so far. There is a different theme for each week:


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Last day of the Echinacea KAL: another prize!

Remember earlier in the week I showed you the fabulous one-of-a-kind Echinacea bag that my friend Beatrice made? Well she’s done it again. This time she spotted some echinacea fabric and she’s sewn it up into a sturdy bag with some denim left over from a skirt. It has an interior pocket in the Echinacea fabric and two metal D-rings for yarn guides.

Echinacea bag by Beatrice Janky

It’s deceptively large. For scale, I borrowed my friend Nicole’s mostly-full wound ball of Wollmeise Lace (300g, 1575m):

Echinacea bag with a skein of Wollmeise LaceWhat does this mean to you? It means there’s another fabulous prize, and your best chance at it is to win the Yellow Jersey. If you’ve finished up your project take the prettiest picture you can and make sure you add it to your post in the Finished Object thread for the KAL. If you’re not participating in the KAL just make sure you’re a member of my Ravelry group or on my mailing list, and you’ve still got a shot depending on the prizes that people earlier in the list choose.

In the mean time I’ve managed to finish up my own new Echinacea shawl. I decided to try out the rectangular shape with just one repeat of each chart. I used Vale Lace and started out with Morel, then Arabesque, and finally Barberry for the flowers. I can’t wait to unpin this and get some good pictures!

Rectangular Echinacea by Natalie Servant

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Echinacea KAL: 1 week to go!

With one week remaining in the Tour de France (and so also one week remaining my Echinacea Shawl KAL), I’ve got some wonderful news. Beatrice, a fantastically talented friend of mine, had an idea and she had to act on it. She’s made an Echinacea project bag as a prize for my KAL!

It’s a beautiful one-of-a-kind wedge bag (about 11″ x 8″) with a hand-painted echinacea flower. The bag is embellished with embroidery and scattered with little individually-applied Swarovski crystals. On the inside there are two yarn guides with snaps, making it a great project bag for colour work.

Echinacea Bag by Beatrice Janky

Beatrice is amazing!

So now this new prize is added to the pile of yarn as well as any of my patterns or ebooks. You’ll be spoiled for choice if you enter!

So far we’ve had a few folks finish including Heather, who used a variety of lace weight yarns based on the colours in both the French and American flags:

Heather's Echinacea Shawl


Peigi made a stunning gray version from local-to-us Red Sock Blue Sock yarn:

Peigi's Echinacea ShawlThere’s still time to start, even if you don’t finish. As usual I’ve got prize categories that include people who finish as well as those that don’t finish, and even those who cheer from the sidelines. All the details (and prize threads) are in my Ravelry Group. Join us!

Tune in next week & I’ll let you know who won and showcase some more finished shawls!


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Tour de France KAL: prize details

Yesterday I covered some details on the Echinacea shawl, the subject of the KAL as well as the prize categories. Today, I wanted to show the yarny goodness that you can win.

Prize details:

As well as the yarny prizes below winners can choose any Natalie Servant Designs pattern or e-book, if they like.
Alegria by Manos del Uruguay in Atlantico
75% merino/25% nylon, 445 yds in 100g
Alegria Atlantico

Alegria by Manos del Uruguay in Mallard
75% merino/25% nylon, 445 yds in 100g

Arietta by Sweet Paprika in Rumplestiltskin
50% silk/50% merino, 1110 yds in 100g


Please Stand By Yarns PSA in Gabrielle (Xena – Warrior Princess)

100% superwash merino, 400 yds in 100g


Please Stand By Yarns PSA in Xena (Xena – Warrior Princess)
100% superwash merino, 400 yds in 100g


Posh Yarn Amelie Cobweb in I Belong to Yesterday
50% suri alpaca, 30% merino, 20% silk, 1300 yds in 100g

Madelinetosh Tosh Sock in Warm Maize
100% superwash merino, 395 yds in 100g

Ecobutterfly Organics Pakucho Qoperfina Lace in Natural & Deep Golden Brown
3% copper, 97% cotton, 500 yds in 50g

Posh Yarn Olivia Lace in What’s New Pussycat?
100% mulberry silk, 820 yds in 100g

Tanis Fiber Arts Silver Label in Cobalt
100% mulberry silk, 550 yds in 100g

Posh Yarn Olivia Sock in Such Sweet Thunder
100% mulberry silk, 460 yds in 100g

Hopefully there’s something in the group that appeals to you!

Tour de France KAL prizes 2017

See you in my Ravelry Group on Saturday, when the Tour de France kicks off. Show us what you’re knitting with and let us know which version you’ll be knitting!

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Tour de France KAL: Echinacea details

July 1 is less than a week away. That’s when the Tour de France starts, and with it my annual KAL. This year’s shawl is Echinacea. It’s time for a few pictures and more details about the pattern.

Echinacea by Natalie Servant

The blue sample is a medium sized 3 section version in heavy lace weight (~600yd/100g). I used Valley Yarns 2/10 Merino/Tencel Colrain Lace.

Echinacea by Natalie Servant

The purple & pink sample is a small sized 2 section version in fingering weight (~400yd/100g). I used almost a full skein of Madelinetosh Eyre Light in Flashdance, and about half a skein of Persian Rose.

What will you need?

Echinacea - yarn guidelines

Here are some simple outlines show you the basic shapes of the 2, 3, and 4 section shawls. Each section is a truncated triangle and each shawl is worked from the top down:

Echinacea - 2 sections



So that’s the shape side of things. Next up is size. The shawl begins with 1) a stockinette section punctuated by lace, followed by 2) a lace section with diamonds.

For the small size, each chart is worked once.

For the medium size, section 2’s repeat is worked twice.

For the large size, both section 1 and section 2’s repeats are worked twice.

Finally, there’s yarn choice. I’ve done the estimation for 3 different weights of yarn. I’ve also listed approximate stitch counts of each size, so if you do the swatch that’s part of the pattern right now, you’ll have an even better idea of how much of *your* yarn it’ll take.

TdF KAL Prizes

The Tour de France KAL will be run in my Ravelry group, and as usual there are prizes for everyone: participants, finishers, people who have issues, and people who don’t have time to participate but want to hang out. Prizes will be chosen in the following order, and I’ll post tomorrow with the full list of prizes.

Prize Selection Order:

1. Maillot Jaune: Yellow Jersey – Finished object from this thread with the most (love).
2. Maillot Vert: Green Jersey – random draw from first 5 finishers in this thread.
3. Maillot à Pois Rouges – Polka Dot Jersey: The mountain prize will go to the person whose tale of woe in this thread has the most (love).
4. Maillot Blanc – White Jersey: This prize for rookies will be drawn from among the list of finishers who tag their project with the “white-jersey”. It’s up to you to decide whether or not you belong in this category.
5. Finishers: A draw will be done among all finishers who haven’t already won a prize. Just post your FO in this thread.
6. Lanterne Rouge: Started but didn’t finish? You’ll be eligible for a draw for this prize, provided you’ve got a picture of your progress on your project page.
7. Past Glory: You wanted to do one of my previous TdF KAL patterns instead? Go ahead. Post your finished object in this thread to be eligible.
8. Red Devil (Spectators): We don’t all have the time and space to compete in the Tour. Follow along and cheer on the competitors. Random draw from among members of my Ravelry group and my mailing list. The inspiration comes from Didi Senft, a notorious spectator, bike-builder, and cycling fanatic. Here’s a great short video of Didi.

So now that the shawl design is a little clearer, what tempts you? I love the contrast of the border on my 2 section sample, but I love the drape of the 3 section sample. Perhaps I need to knit another!

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Tour de France KAL 2017: Echinacea and prizes

July is less than 2 weeks away, and I’m afraid I’ve been running a little later than usual on my annual Tour de France Knit Along (TdFKAL) preparation, but I’m close! The pattern has been edited. Two samples have been knit. Proper pictures are happening on Tuesday. Here’s a little preview of Echinacea:

Echinacea by Natalie Servant

It’s the floral border that gives the shawl its name. It reminds me of the drooping shape of Echinacea flowers.

Echinacea border

This sample is the medium 3-section version knit in Colrain Lace from Valley Yarns – a heavy laceweight yarn, around 600 yds/100g. Echinacea can be knit in 2, 3 or 4 sections and in small, medium, or large sizes.

The pattern is available for pre-purchase now ($5 USD until the end of the TdF, then $7). Right now it only includes swatching information as well as yardage estimates. This should give you plenty of time to prepare for the Tour de France KAL if you want to swatch and get a good estimate of yarn usage. Consider it your training. The full pattern will go up on July 1st! The KAL is run out of my Ravelry group, so head on over there for prize info, rules, chat & more.

Echinacea is inspired by Chantilly Lace. The characteristics of Chantilly Lace that I felt were important to include are:

  • a hexagonal lace background with more solid designs in the mesh
  • an undulating border with a special design
  • an eyelash edging

As always, I’ve been through the stash and come up with some delightful prizes for participants and spectators of this KAL:

Tour de France KAL prizes 2017

I’ll explain the prize categories & detail the yarny goodness of these prizes later on this week, but it’s too pretty not to show you now!

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Brooklyn Tweed’s Wool People 11 came out today, and I’ve got a cowl/stole pattern included: Prism.

I’ve been working on reversible lace patterns for a few years, exploring different ideas. I love making something that you can’t put on the wrong way. When the call for designs came out for Brooklyn Tweed’s Wool People 11, it looked like it was right up my alley:

  • laceweight wool yarn
  • simple or complex designs
  • traditional lace motifs not required
  • plenty of geometrical inspiration photos

I dropped what I was working on and came up with a swatch. Then I looked at it critically and realized it wasn’t right: close, but not quite right. I futzed around on the computer, changing my chart. I made multiple options and solicited opinions from all of my family members. What ended up coming off the needles was much better than the first attempt:

Prism swatch

Confession: I unraveled the top edge of this swatch and I’m still working on my own Prism. I do have a gold yarn obsession!

What this swatch turned into was a long stole using 3 skeins of Vale in Hammock:

Prism by Natalie Servant for Wool People 11, photo by Jared Flood / Brooklyn Tweed

(photo (c) Jared Flood / Brooklyn Tweed)

The cowl version used 2 skeins of Vale in Sashiko and is seamed in a garter stitch section:

Prism by Natalie Servant for Wool People 11, photo by Jared Flood / Brooklyn Tweed

(photo (c) Jared Flood / Brooklyn Tweed)

This is just one of the 12 beautiful designs in Wool People 11. There are some gorgeous sweaters and tempting accessories. I’m delighted to be a part of it. What are you tempted to knit?

Keep an eye on the Brooklyn Tweed social media feeds & Ravelry group for more details, but they’re planning a Vale KAL during July. I’m also running my annual Tour de France KAL in July. There’s also a wide-open TdF KAL on Ravelry. Oh, and there’s a Canadian KAL running until September if you want to knit something that qualifies for lots of KALs!

My medium-sized 3-sectioned Tour de France shawl sample in a slightly heavier yarn is just off the needles, but I’ll be doing major math this week to figure out how much yarn you might need. If you’re thinking of getting Vale from Brooklyn Tweed or from a local stockist and you’re worried about getting the yarn in time, get in touch and I’ll try to help you figure out yarn requirements. Stay tuned in the next week or so for previews!

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