Tuesday, August 31, 2010

FO: Oscar's Baby Blanket

Sarah has finished a version of my Colour-Your-Own Baby Blanket in shades of green, for Oscar, the new baby of a very good friend of hers.

Sarah's a newer knitter, and she should be proud of this project - it's gorgeous!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Further Progress

I'm pretty pleased with it. What you can't see is the two needles in it - one in the body, and one in the cowl neck. Both need to be longer, but I'm close.

I worked on this on a train trip today. It was clear that some of my fellow passengers were thinking it was odd that I was knitting, I could tell by their faces. And then I tried the sweater on - even stranger.

And then - horror of horrors - I spit-spliced two ends together. I was worried that someone was going to cite me for a health code violation.

I tried the sweater on again later, at our favourite coffee shop. At this point, it was about 8 inches long from the underarm - still pretty short. A woman at the next table was watching me... I smiled at her, and she asked me "Is that how it's going to look when it's done?"

I'm still not sure what she was getting at...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Walking on Sunshine...

The third in my Rocker Chick Series for Van Der Rock Yarns, Walking on Sunshine will make you want sing lustily, check your mailbox and win the Eurovision song contest.

Using the most sunshiney of yellows, and fun wavy cables, this pattern will have you humming right through from cast-on to the toe.

Four-page full-colour PDF includes pattern for socks in three women's sizes, with tips for personalizing the fit.

Calls for 2 x 50g skeins of Van Der Rock Super Sock in Tartrazine.

Get more details and buy it here.

Check out Hollaback and Material Girl, the first two in the series...

All three will be on display and available at the K/W Fair.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Progress on the Top-Down Cowl Neck Vest

I remember, once upon a time, that I used to be shy about knitting in public.

In fact, I can remember very sheepishly taking some knitting to a baseball game about ten years ago, and trying to keep it hidden as I worked on it.

Ha! How things have changed - not only for me, but for baseball.

But now, not only do I shamelessly knit in public at every opportunity, but I will even go so far as to try on a work-in-progress.

Once the round was joined, I did a couple of increases for shaping at the front. I did consider some short-row shaping, but I realized that it would mess up my carefully aligned cables: There's a single cable running up both the front and the back, and as I had worked it out so that when I joined the body, the cables would be on the same row. If I added some short rows to the front, it would mean that I would work more rows in the front than the back, and the front and back cables wouldn't line up anymore. It's a minor detail, but the sort of thing that would bug me.

I've just decreased the extra stitches, and am now in the home stretch on the body.

I've also just finished a ball of yarn, so I plan to work on the neckline and armhole edgings next.

I'm keeping the original neckline - a big reverse stocking stitch cowl, but I'm going to experiment with the armholes. In the original, I picked up stitches all the way around and then cast off, just to tidy up and stabilize the edge. I'm going to try a crochet edging to see if that does what I want.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Reworking the Cowl Vest, Top-Down; Bonus Pic of Dexter

Ah yes, the old "bathroom mirror" shots. But you know, I rather like the lighting... it's forgiving of the bags under my eyes.

A few days ago I wrote about wanting to recreate an old design of mine...

I've been working away on it, in what few minutes of knitting time I've been able to snatch between games of indoor fetch, and walks, and rope tug.

I've not actually changed the original design all that much up to now, other than to work it upside down. The neckline and armholes have remained the same, and I've even kept the same cable. I'm most amused, so far, that I was able to line up the cable so that I was at the same row when I joined for the body. Math is fun!

Now that I've joined for the body, however, I think I will do some tweaking - because a top-down design allows it. I'm going to add some bust and waist shaping, and I know I want it to be somewhat longer than the original.

And since I don't have tons of yarn to play with, I'm going to work the cowl neck and armhole edgings before I proceed.

I'm thinking I will write a tutorial on how I did this...

And here's the promised bonus picture of Dexter... No, he's not doing yoga, he's just having a good stretch.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

James Norbury's The Family Knitting Book/Hardcore/This Could Have Been Me

I was recently given a truly wonderful gift by a student of mine, C.

She mentioned in passing that she had some vintage knitting books. I'll jump at any opportunity to rummage through book collections. I love all vintage knitting books - whether for humor value, design inspiration value, or educational value. I'll happily take and read any knitting book, of any era and quality. (Which is how I ended up with a copy of "Knitting With Dog Hair" in my collection, but that's a story for different day.)

When rummaging through a collection, there are a few key names I'm always looking for; a few key designers and authors whose fabulous books are long out-of-print and very hard to find.

Alice Starmore used to be in this category, but her books are being reprinted one-by-one, thank goodness. But two authors remain sadly unreprinted: June Hiatt (specifically, her encyclopedic "The Principles of Knitting"), and James Norbury.

Used copies of the Hiatt book sells for hundreds of dollars, and is treasured by serious knitters. It's -- apparently -- one of the best reference books out there. I've never actually had my hands on a copy, which saddens me. (If anyone has one they'd be willing to lend/rent to me, let me know!) If it's as good as they say, I'd be up for buying a copy, but I feel like I'm not going to spend that much money without knowing what I'm getting. I have heard from reliable sources that Ms. Hiatt is working on a new edition, but she is very thorough and it's taking longer than anticipated.

James Norbury's works are less sought after, but just as wonderful. He was a prolific designer and author, and even had his own BBC television series. He was an opinionated sort (not that that is a bad thing ;-) ), and insisted that there was a right way and wrong way for everything.

When I mentioned Norbury's name, C. said she thought she might have a book of his. Indeed she did - specifically his 1969 book, The Family Knitting Book. It's an all-in-one book, featuring patterns, instructional material, and a small stitch library.

C. very generously gave it to me.

The patterns are terrific - many of them timeless classics, although the styling and photography is very much of its time.

And I'm loving the educational material at the front: he starts, naturally enough, with casting on. And the first cast on he shows in the Long Tail method. That's before knitters have even worked a single stitch.

The Long-Tail cast on (although he calls it the Thumb Method) is on page 15. How to actually knit a stitch is shown on page 20. I know that in a book you have to show casting off before you get to knitting, but I love that he chooses the Long Tail cast on as the first one you should learn.

(Click to embiggen and read the page.)

I'm on his side on this - I strongly believe that the long-tail is the best all-purpose cast-on - but when teaching beginners I do tend to start with something a little... err... gentler.

I love this book for two other reasons: James Norbury was born and lived around the corner from where I was born, and where my grandmother Hilda lived, and I'm quite certain she would have had some of his books, and likely would have knitted some of his designs. And give nthat this book was published the year I was born, I have the distinct sense that I may well have worn some of the babies' designs.

Yes, this could have been me....

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Wheatsheaf Shawl and Double Diamond Stole; Making Lace Accessible

Bit behind on this one... I've had two lace designs published in recent issues of Yarn Forward Magazine.

The Wheatsheaf Shawl was featured in Issue 28, and it's specifically written to be accessible even for a non-lace knitter. I spent a lot of time considering the elements that make lace challenging, and figuring out how to address them in the design and the pattern. It's only a two-row pattern repeat for the basic last stitch, and one of them is a plain purl row! Easy-peasy! And I wrote out how to incorporate the increases into the lace stitch in detail.

And last but not least, I did something a little different in the centre spine... Most top-down lace shawls have an innocent-looking central spine of yo, k1, yo... Seems simple enough, but it's actually very difficult to work for a knitter who's not confident with yarnover increases. You can't reliably place a marker, as the yarnovers can get wrapped around them, and the marker can end up in the wrong place. And if the yarnover travels, the central spine goes horribly awry. I see this a lot in my classes. The knitter can be doing everything right, but a slipped marker can make things go horribly wrong! So I changed up the central spine to be 2 stitches: yo, k2, yo. It looks just as good, but allows you to safely and confidently place a marker. And I think it looks good too - it harmonizes very well with the edgings. I'm not sure why it's not more common, to be honest. It seems like a simple and elegant solution to a vexing problem.

ElectroGirl has posted a finished Wheatsheaf shawl on Ravelry and I love it. Great choice of yarn, and she did a terrific job of both knitting and photographing it.

The writeup has lots of hints and tips to make lace knitting easy and fun - and ideally get knitters hooked so that they will consider other projects - like the Double Diamond Stole, for example!

The Double Diamond Stole in Issue 29 is a great next step. See a picture at this preview.

It's an easy-to-manage but very rewarding and beautiful project. It's worked in cashmere from ColourMart - my god, I loved working with this yarn. It adds a small level of challenge in that there are a few different patterns rows and a decrease that might be new to some knitters, but it's still entirely approachable for all skill levels. Yarn Forward was generous enough to provide me enough space to be able to include a really detailed pattern writeup to guide knitters through the project. There are both written instructions and charts, so that knitters who prefer one over the other are accommodated.

Can't wait to see the projects on Ravelry!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Ready for Sweater Weather

Even when I was a teenager, long before I was the avid knitter I am now, the middle of August would find me longing for "sweater weather".

This year the craving is stronger than it's ever been. Between the insanely hot summer we've had, and my proximity to all these stunning fall yarns, I'm absolutely ready for summer to be over.

Now, I'm not crazy. I'm not yet ready for full-on jackets and sleeves and mitts and boots and all that nonsense, but I'm definitely starting to feel vest-y. I've got some really great (sadly also discontinued) Harris Chunky Rowan yarn in my stash...

and it's screaming out to be made into something for those first few crisp days of fall.

I bought the yarn from the bargain bin at the Sheep a while ago with a specific project in mind; it's just been waiting for a slot to open up in my schedule so I could actually knit with it.

As to what I'm going to do with it... I have a pretty firm idea.

Back when The Naked Sheep first opened, I designed a vest for the shop in the newly released Rowan Plaid. The yarn is now discontinued, and it's a shame. It was a good one: a not too weighty chunky yarn, with nice colour combos, and a great hand. It was a blend of wool, alpaca and acrylic, so it was warm but light.

The vest itself was very simple - worked in reverse stocking stitch, with a single cable running up one side, and with a cowl neck.

The sample is long gone, too... I believe it may have moved to B.C. with the old shop owner, Lorena. I know she used to wear it. (That's the ultimate compliment that can be paid to a sample you've knitted for a shop - finding the owner wearing it!)

In fact, she's wearing it in this picture...

I want to recreate the vest so I get to wear it this time!

Of course, I can't leave well enough alone... this 2010 version will be worked from the top-down so that I can make it a bit longer. I don't have tons of yardage, and this way I'll be able to use up every last bit. The new yarn is a bit more textured than the original, so I think it requires a slightly larger scale cable, too.

I'm desperate to get going, but there is the small matter of the sock project I need to finish first...

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Dexter Update

Over on the KnittyBlog... there's a lesson for every pet owner in Dexter's story.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Finishing: Very Helpful Links

It's no secret that I have strong opinions to share on finishing.

Good finishing makes all the difference in a project. Good finishing techniques make a project look,... well... finished.

I know it's not necessarily the most fun part of a knitting project. It's sort of like ironing your cotton clothes, however - a necessary step to make something look its best.

And I know that a lot of knitters don't feel confident about finishing. I can't say I blame them - it's not well explained in the patterns or books in general. The average pattern will say something helpful like "sew up", or "assemble", or - my favourite - "set in sleeves". And it's not necessarily covered in sufficient detail in the books, either.

But as I prove every time I teaching a finishing class, taking time to use proper seaming techniques is absolutely 100% worth it.

A proper seam is smooth, tidy and invisible.

Here, let me show you...

Seamed using the techniques you would normally use to seam fabric:

Seamed using Mattress stitch:

What do you think?

Proper seaming techniques aren't difficult - but I do find they simply aren't well known. Even very skilled and experienced knitters don't necessarily know how to seam a good seam.

I learned many of my techniques from my bible, Vogue Knitting. And I recently discovered that their Knit Simple publication's website has a lot of helpful info - including a page of info about some of the key seaming techniques.

And as usual, Theresa provides an incredibly helpful how-to on Knitty.

Go! Check them out! Key information! Seriously! These won't necessarily make Finishing more fun, but they will certainly help you make it easier and better.