Aalto KAL: Part 2, Swatching (again) and Casting On

After completing my 2nd swatch, blocking and hanging it for a while as suggested in the first blog post about our Aalto KAL, my gauge was still off by one stitch per inch – I have 21 sts and 27 rows per 4″ instead of the required 22 sts and 28 rows. So, am I going to make a new swatch on a smaller needle to try to squeeze in that additional st and row? No.

Now, before you jump all over me for not getting gauge since that’s what we preach here all the time, I have my reasons. First, this is not a garment that needs to fit accurately (like a sweater or hat does). I did the calculations and realized that the difference in size is not going to make a big difference for me personally. I’m making the largest size, so I will be casting on 209 stitches.

209 sts divided by 5.25 sts/” = 39.8″ (vs the 38″ shown on the schematic)

Almost 2″ difference. But, I’m tall and can handle that extra 2″ without any issue. I took a tape measure and held the end at the center back of my neck, down over the curve of my shoulder and along my arm. 20″ (half of the approx 40″ width of the front or back) hit me just above the elbow. I think that’s o.k.

Now about that pesky row gauge. What to do about that? If I was making a sweater with a set in sleeve, I would have to either get the row gauge or make some adjustments to make the sleeve work. But… Aalto is unfitted so adjustments aren’t as necessary or difficult. Again, I am tall (5’8″), so I don’t want to the garment to be short on me. Luckily, 26.25″ is pretty good for me. So, I just need to make sure that I get to the required length (23″) before I start the shoulder shaping. (I highly recommend checking the length by holding a tape measure to your body – if you are short, you may need to decrease the length.)

While I could simply measure each piece and hope for the best, the better way to make sure my front and back match in length is to count my rows. For 23″ at a gauge of 27 rows/4″, I should knit 155 rows (wow, that’s a lot of knitting!) before I start the shoulder shaping.

What’s the best way to count my rows? I could use the old-fashioned method of hash-marks on a piece of paper. Or I could use the CountMeme App that I have on my phone.


But, I’m worried that I will forget to “hash” or to press the button on CountMeme, so instead I am going to using locking stitch markers to mark off every 10 rows.

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For me, this will work the best. What technique will you use?

Finally, casting on…

209 stitches to cast on is daunting – especially thinking that I would have to count those stitches multiple times in order to convince myself that I cast on the right amount. To make it more palatable, I put a st marker on my needle after every 10 stitches – as I was casting on.

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For 209 sts, I used 20 markers. I could have used regular stitch markers, but I used locking ones because they were handy. After I knit my first row, I will remove all except those marking the 50th, 100th, 150th, and 200th stitches. I’m leaving those in to help with counting later on.

People always ask how to know how long of a tail to leave for long-tail cast ons such as the German Twisted Cast On called for in the Aalto pattern. There are many ways to accomplish this. Check out this Google search for some ideas.

That’s it for now! Who’s started their project?

~ Laura

Aalto KAL: Part 1, the Swatch

We’re gearing up to start the Aalto Knit-a-long starting June 17 (sorry for the delay, everyone; we had two colors that were back ordered…). In prep to start knitting, I highly recommend doing your gauge swatch at least the week before the KAL starts.

I did my gauge swatch this past week. I chose the Poppy colorway (thought it would go nicely with the purples and pink in my hair! The Poppy color is actually a bit darker than pictured).

Here was my process for doing my gauge swatch. I hope this helps you when you do your gauge swatch:

  • Because the gauge is supposed to be 22 sts & 28 rows/4″ and I always want to do a swatch at least 6″ wide (the bigger the better for swatches, people), I decided to cast on 30 stitches (to get a 6″ wide swatch, I really should have cast on 33 stitches, but…).
  • I knew this yarn would be slippery and while I am addicted to Addi needles because they are super fast, I decided that it would be better to go to a less slick needle. I chose Knitter’s Pride Karbonz. Karbonz circularI could have used bamboo needles, but the Karbonz combine the flexibility and “stickiness” of bamboo or wood needles with the speed of metal because of the metal tips. (Keep in mind when doing your swatch to knit it with the same needles you will be using for your garment – your gauge may be different with a wood needle vs a metal needle or a different brand).
  • The pattern calls for a German Twisted Cast On. Instructions for this cast on are provided in the pattern, but I found them hard to understand. Shibui also provides a link to Lucy Neatby’s video on this technique, but again, I was having a hard time following the video. So, I went to the trusty Cast On, Cast Off by Leslie Ann Bestor. Sure enough, German Twisted Cast On, aka Old Norwegian Cast On, was in there, IMG_2282and I was able to figure it out. Your swatch is a great place to practice this cast on if it’s new to you!
  • I started my swatch the way the pattern says to start – with 4 rows of reverse stockinette. This is not necessary, but I just wanted to see how it looked. After that I switched to stockinette for the full width of the swatch.
  • I often will slip the first stitch of every row for an item that is not being seamed, because it produces a nice edge; however, I noticed when I was doing each row in stockinette with this yarn and the bigger than expected needle size that the edge stitch was rolling under to the back. And I knew that the edge of the actual garment is in reverse stockinette, so after I had knit a few inches, I added the edging called for in the pattern to my swatch. Slipped StYou can see that the edge stitch (inside the purple box) is rolling to the front of the swatch now that I am doing the reverse stockinette edging. I decided that I really didn’t like that look, so I switched to actually working the edge stitch (knit or purl depending on the row). Here’s how it looks after I switched (above the black line is the area where I did not slip the first stitch of each row).Not Slipped I wish I had done a few more rows, but I think I like the non-slipped edge stitch better.
  • The gauge in the pattern calls for the swatch to be blocked. Make sure you do this before you measure! I got the swatch completely wet then laid it on my kitchen counter to dry overnight. I didn’t pin or use blocking wires; I just patted it flat and aligned the edges with my hand.
  • After it dried, I measured the center of the swatch in the area where I had only done stockinette (not where I had done the reverse stockinette edging). Measuring in the center will give a truer measurement than incorporating the edging stitches in your measurements. Make sure to measure across at least 4 inches. My blocked gauge was 18 sts/4″ – too few stitches!
  • BUT… because cotton & linen are notorious for stretching, I thought I’d better simulate gravity and hang my swatch up for a few days to see if the gauge changed. I hung the swatch on a pants hanger. Because the swatch is much smaller than the finished Aalto poncho will be and thus won’t stretch by itself as much as the full garment, I wove my circular knitting needle through the bottom of the swatch to simulate the gravitational pull on a larger garment. IMG_2330After hanging for a few days, my gauge had changed slightly to 19 sts/4″. Still not right…

It’s back to the drawing board (or knitting needles) for me – I’ll have to go down a needle size to try to get the right number of stitches per inch. (Oh, and by the way, my row gauge was 27 rows/4″; almost right. I’m hoping changing the needle size will help with that as well. I’ll discuss how to compensate for row gauge in a future post.)

~ Laura

Getting to Us During Road Construction Season

It’s well known that in Minnesota there are two seasons – winter and road construction. And, this year, the road construction season is going to hit 3 Kittens hard.


Hwy 110 will be under construction all summer with East bound traffic affected from May 15-July 24 and West bound traffic affected from July 25 until the end of the project in the early fall. You can read more about the project here.

The officially suggested detour for both directions will be to take Hwy 494 to Dodd Rd. But we have a few other suggestions that you might like to try. [Note – none of the following maps are clickable, but they were all created using Google Maps, which allows you to click and drag the suggested route onto other possible routes.]

Coming from the West (such as Minneapolis and surrounding suburbs)

494 to Dodd Rd

MnDot’s route is probably easiest if you are coming east using 494: exit at Dodd Rd and go north, turn right at Market St and enter the Village at Mendota Heights.

110 Alternatives - 494 east to Dodd

Hwy 62 (the Crosstown)

Take the Crosstown (Hwy 62) east until you cross over the Mendota Bridge, stay in the right line to merge onto Hwy 55, turn left at Mendota Heights Rd, turn left at Dodd Rd, turn right at Market St and enter the Village at Mendota Heights.

110 Alternatives - Crosstown

Coming from the North (such as St Paul & northern suburbs)

Hwy 52

Take Hwy 52, exit and turn right at Wentworth Ave, turn left at Dodd Rd, turn left onto Market St and enter the Village at Mendota Heights.

110 Alternatives - Hwy 52

Hwy 35E (but be warned that there is bridge construction on the I-35E bridge)

Take 35E south, exit and turn right at Hwy 13, turn left at Victoria Rd S, turn left at Marie Ave, turn right at Dodd Rd, turn left onto Market St and enter the Village at Mendota Heights.

110 Alternatives - Hwy 35E South

Coming from the East (such as Woodbury, Hastings, Inver Grove Heights)

Hwy 494 west to Dodd Rd

MnDot’s suggested route is probably the best: take 494 west, exit and go north on Dodd Rd,  turn right at Market St and enter the Village at Mendota Heights.

110 Alternatives - 494 west to Dodd

494 to 52 N

This route will help you avoid any back up on Dodd Rd going north: take 494 to Hwy 52 north, exit and go west on Wentworth Ave, turn left at Dodd Rd, turn left onto Market St and enter the Village at Mendota Heights.

110 Alternatives - 494 to 52

Coming from the South (such as Eagan, Burnsville)

494 to Dodd Rd

MnDot’s suggested route is probably the best – take 35E north, go east on 494, exit and go north on Dodd Rd, turn right at Market St and enter the Village at Mendota Heights.

110 Alternatives - 494 to Dodd

Mendota Heights Rd to Dodd Rd

If you want to avoid the 35E/494 interchange, you can exit 35E and head west on Lone Oak Rd, turn right at Pilot Knob Rd, turn right at Mendota Heights Rd, turn left at Dodd Rd, turn right at Market St and enter the Village at Mendota Heights.

110 Alternatives - Mendota Rd to Dodd



We hope that these ideas help you out. And if you have other route ideas, feel free to leave them in the comments below.

We rely on you, our customers, to allow us to stay in business – even during construction season. So please help us out by braving the construction and visiting us throughout the summer!

~ Julie, Laura and all of the 3 Kittens Team

Aalto Knit-A-Long Starts June 1!

We’re trying something a little new with our next Knit-A-Long (or “KAL” for short)!

First, here’s the project: Aalto by Shellie Anderson



I fell in love with this pattern the moment I saw it. It’s perfect for every “body”! Cool and breezy for summer. Plus it’s an easy knit – two stockinette squares joined at the shoulder with a 3-needle bind off. Perfect summer knitting and summer wearing!

We are offering Aalto Kits for this KAL. Each kit will include enough yarn to make Aalto in your chosen size, the printed pattern, and a little something fun for joining the KAL! The yarn is Shibui Twig, a 46% linen, 42% recycled silk and 12% wool blend that comes in luscious colors.

Shibui Twig

Kits must be ordered by May 1st in order to start the KAL on June 1!

Click here to order yours now!

For this KAL, we’re offering two ways to knit with us – In-Store and Virtual:

In-Store – This is our traditional KAL format. Join me (Laura) for 4 sessions at the store from 2-4pm on the following Saturdays – June 1, 10, 17 and July 8. It’s just $15 to join the in-store KAL, but seats are limited to 10 participants. Sign up for the In-Store KAL here.

Virtual – Since our space is limited for the In-Store KAL, I thought we would try a virtual way to join in the fun. We’ll have a dedicated thread on our Ravelry page to discuss our progress, post pictures, ask questions, etc. Plus, each week of the KAL, I will send out an email to all participants with a tip for completing your project – there may even be a video or two for special techniques that you might need. Virtual participation is free and is open to everyone (including our In-Store KAL participants). To sign up, just send me an email at laura@3kittensneedlearts.com.

I’m really excited about this KAL. I wish we could start it today!

~ Laura

PS Don’t forget to order your Aalto Kit by May 1! (Kits will be available for purchase after May 1, but I just can’t guarantee yours will be available to start on June 1…)

Winding Yarn Can be Hazardous to Your (Yarn’s) Health

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At 3 Kittens we will always ask our yarn customers if they would like their hanks/skeins of yarn wound into balls/cakes when they purchase their yarn. It is one of the services we provide happily to our customers.

But, did you know that winding a hank of yarn before it’s ready to be used can cause issues? Here are some of the cons to winding a hank too early:

  • Winding a hank into a tight ball/cake (which unfortunately is how our big wooden swift tends to create them) means that your yarn fibers might get stretched a bit from how they are in the relaxed hank. When you have an elastic fiber (meaning that a yarn when stretched will bounce back when released – wool is highly elastic, while cotton is inelastic), you might stretch the yarn so much that it won’t return to its original state.
  • Winding yarn that is ‘slinky’ or slippery might allow the yarn to get tangled if not used right away. The yarn is much less likely to tangle while it is in the hank!
  • Wound balls/cakes are less compact-able than hanks. Have you ever tried to squish a ball/cake down? It’s pretty impossible, particularly if the cake is wound tightly. If you’re packing your yarn up (either in a suitcase or a storage box), hanks are more malleable and easier to fit into odd spaces.

Of course, if you don’t have your own ball winder and swift and you live far away from 3 Kittens, it might be worth it to go ahead and wind all of your hanks at the time of purchase. However, if you live nearby or come to the store frequently, you should think about only having us wind your hank(s) when you’re ready to use them. We are happy to wind yarn purchased at 3 Kittens any time! And if you purchase yarn elsewhere and would like us to wind it, we are happy to do that as well for just $1/hank.


Sivia Harding Workshops in April

We’re very excited to have knitting designer and instructor Sivia Harding come to 3 Kittens on Friday, April 21 to teach two great workshops! Sivia is known for her beautiful and unusual shapes in her designs, and we’ve picked two projects that showcase that talent.

Short Row Stripes Workshop:rainshadow Rainshadow Scarf

This garter stitch scarf features two different kinds of short rows: one for the color insert wedges along the narrow edge and one that shapes the long curved lengthwise stripes. You will learn about these two short row methods (and why you need two!) while we work up a sample swatch. We will talk about lace, beads, color stripes, and all of the issues that you will encounter such as weaving in ends and carrying yarns. Note: In the class, you will be working on a swatch, not the actual scarf.

Click here for more information and to sign up

Harmonia’s Rings: Moebius & More!harmonias-ring

The Harmonia’s Rings family (cowl, tunic and sweater) uses Cat Bordhi’s Moebius cast on to achieve the mysterious spiral neck shape. We will concentrate on the cowl in this class. It features a stitch pattern that creates concentric rings reminiscent of ancient architecture. The cowl sits cape-like over the shoulders and flatters a wide range of body types. We will discuss customizing the cowl shape to fit any body type.

Click here for more information and to sign up

Timaru Cowl



Baby, it’s cold outside!

No, seriously, it’s supposed to be -19ºF tonight!

What’s a girl to do? Whip up a super fast wool cowl to keep out the cold, of course…

So, here it is, the Timaru Cowl. Made out of our bulkiest yarn in the store – Outlaw Yarn Queen Bee. This 100% New Zealand wool yarn knits up at 1.5 stitches per inch! Pull out your size 19US/16mm needles, and you can make the Timaru Cowl in just a few hours with a single hank.

Never heard of Outlaw Yarn? 3 Kittens is one of only four stores in the US to carry them. The first Outlaw yarn we carried was Bohemia Sport – a luscious blend of wool, alpaca, and New Zealand possum (which is different than our indigenous possum and considered an invasive species in New Zealand). When Deb from Outlaw Yarn came out with her super bulky Queen Bee, I knew we had to have it. It’s a great addition to our super bulky yarns. I hope you like it as much as I do!


Why the name Timaru? Outlaw Yarn is based in New Zealand, and Timaru is a port city along the Pacific coast of the South Island. And, well, I just liked the sound of it. I imagine they are much warmer there right now than we are here, so that helps, too…

~ Laura



Thanks for the Love


Melissa Leapman, author, designer and knitting/crochet instructor, sent me this little note to put on our blog:

I’m excitedly counting the days until my return visit (number 4? number 5????) to do a designer event at 3 Kittens.

Ten years?!?! Congratulations! It’s because you are one of the best, most comprehensive, and friendly yarn shops in the country–with the most fantastic customers! (Trust me because I know. Seriously, I’ve literally made a career out of visiting shops. <grin>)

Thanks, Melissa!

Melissa teaching for us in 2014 – I think the visit count is now at 4!

ten. 10. TEN!

3 Kittens Needle Arts is celebrating it’s 10th Anniversary

of ownership by Julie and Laura!


When we bought 3 Kittens on 2006, little did we know the impact that the store would have on our lives and the lives of our staff and customers. 3 Kittens had been in existence since 1972, and we knew that it’s history and customer base were strong. But we also knew that we had dreams and aspirations for 3 Kittens that we just HAD to bring alive! The store has evolved, and we are so proud of it and all that we’ve accomplished. Here are some of the changes that have occurred in our ten years of business:

  • Immediately, we changed the name from Three Kittens Yarn Shoppe to 3 Kittens Needle Arts – we wanted to reflect the fact that we didn’t just carry yarn, we also carried needlepoint and wanted the ability to bring in other needle arts.
  • In 2008, we moved from the former Diamond Jim’s strip mall on Hwy 13 to our beautiful location in the Village at Mendota Heights. 2007-07 (Jul).jpg
  • We introduced our 3K Club loyalty program which has grown to over 3800 members – and we can’t even begin to count how many $50 rewards we’ve given out!
  • Our needlepoint business has grown and grown and grown. Because of this growth, we have had to rearrange our store many times to accommodate more canvases, threads and classes.
  • We were in our forties when we bought the store – and our children still lived at home. As of this writing, both of us are empty nesters (although who knows if that will last…)
  • We have been lucky to have many, many national instructors visit our store – Kaffe Fassett, Brandon Mably, Romi Hill, Laura Taylor, Melissa Leapman, Nancy Bush, Amy Detjen, Elsebeth Lavold. romi-hill-workshops
  • We have our own national instructor, Paula Rae Schmidt, who teaches needlepoint for us as often as she can.
  • We have the most knowledgeable staff in the Twin Cities, and we actively encourage our staff to continue learning so they can pass their knowledge onto our customers.
  • 3 Kittens has grown to be in the top 20% of needle arts stores in the country (by annual revenue according to the State of Specialty Needle Arts 2016 survey conducted by The National Needlearts Association).

We still have dreams for the store. Change is never easy, but we’re always willing to try something new, explore different product offerings, shake things up a bit. Thank you for being along for the ride – whether it’s bumpy or smooth, we’re always here for you.

And, we’re looking forward to the next ten years!

~ Julie and Laura