Saturday, December 31, 2005

Toasting the New Year with Crochet?

Father Christmas (that is, the English branch of the family) brought me a copy of the marvellous and insane book Knitorama.

It's even more absurd than the review in Bust had lead me to believe. Not a single sensible pattern in the entire book. Fried eggs, sandwiches, speaker covers, and mohair underpants.

And the masterpiece -- a crocheted pint of stout. I've been meaning to learn to crochet for a while now, but haven't really had any incentive. Until now.

It was slow going to start, and not just because I ignored my own rule and started with black yarn. International terminology differences ahoy! A UK DC is US SC. That is, what my grandmother taught me was a double crochet is what the North Americans call a single crochet.
At least in knitting the names of the stitches are the same.

I'm pleased to pick up crochet, as I can truly follow in Hilda's footsteps. She made the most wonderful Granny blankets. Simple crocheted blankets from leftover yarns. I have one of the two that remain... I can identify various sweaters from my childhood in the yarns.

A perfect use for all the Kureyon leftovers I'll have after the Vass Variation is done.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Works in Progress, and Work Abandoned

A Fleece Artist sock. Just one so far. This is my current portable knitting.

This is lovely, lovely sock yarn. I hope it wears well. It's 100% Merino, no nylon for reinforcement.

Another story with the vintage poncho thingy, a sadder tale. Lesson learned re: using handpainted yarns. These looked the same to me in the skein, but they're really very different worked up. The one on the left is bluer, the one on the right is yellower. Harumph.

I shall unravel the pieces and contemplate another use for the 5 skeins I have of this stuff. Argh.
I'm not interested in starting again with the old "2 row stripes" of this yarn. I know that would help with the colours, but I have grown weary of the pattern.

So, a summary of WIPs...
Portable knitting: Fleece Artist socks
At home knitting: Vass-Not-Very-Varied
Design brewing: a dog sweater in a novelty yarn

The Vass-Not-So-Much-Variation

Progress -- I've started working the sleeves. Pretty pleased with how the stripes are coming out so far.

I've noticed this working with Noro yarns. The dominant colour effect isn't always what you expect it to be. It is very, very purply-blue right now. I expect that to change over time, as I introduce the brighter colourways.

I'm making some manual "edits" on the yarns to ensure that the colours work the way I want. I abandoned a small portion of both of the two balls I used for the body, so that I wasn't getting repeats on the colours. The full Kureyon colourway seems to be roughly the length of the ball, so that as you near the end you may encounter a repeated stripe.

But yeah, I think it looks kinda neat.

Monday, December 26, 2005

FO - The Other Felted Bag

The Galway felted bag, in all its pinky glory.

Holy pain-in-the-butt to assemble, though, Batman. I spent more time sewing up than I did knitting it. Some important lessons were learnt about the nature of felted pieces, though, and I feel stronger for it.

Pattern will be available at the Sheep, come January.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Vass Variation - Not So Much Anymore

I ripped it back and have started again -- with the original design. But I did make it smaller -- aiming for 38" or so bust, rather than the 49 1/2" of the original pattern.

So not so much of a variation anymore.

But the colour choices are mine!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Vass Variation - Progress and Doubts

I've got the first ball knit, and it does look great.

Some doubts arose, however, in the middle of the night. (I'll blame Nigella's Bread-Sauce Scented Potato Gratin. Which is, by the way, delicious, if difficult to explain to someone who wasn't brought up in the UK.)

I'll relieved to report that in the harsh light of morning my panic about the cables was for nought. It had only just occurred to me I would have to possibly change the cable twist direction once I was "over the top" and heading down the back. And then I was concerned that because I'd be grafting together cables that had been worked in opposite directions, they might not look the same. The good news is that you can't tell the difference, and I wouldn't even need to change the direction of the cable twist.

I'm now not sure about the colour progression, though.

I did the math yesterday on when I will need to introduce a new ball and force a colour change. The body (up to the armhole break) will take just shy of four balls, and the sleeve portion just shy of 6. So here's the thing. I've got 2 each of 5 different colourways that form a lovely 5-ball colour progression.

The original plan had been that I work them in order 1 2, 3, 4, 5 up to the neck and then 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 back down. With that, each colour from each ball will appear precisely once on the front and the back. (If you recall I decided not to do that to eliminate the seams and possible non-matching stripes on the sides.) (Also recall that the colours of Kureyon I've chosen have non-repeating colourways -- that is, each colour appears in each ball precisely once.)

To use the balls I have in the circular variation, I'm going to have to do it as follows: 1, 1, 2, 2, up to the armhole break, then 3, 4, 5, 5, 4, 3 up and over the neck to the back. But this means that colours from colourways 1 and 2 will repeat.

The alternative is to rip it out and go back to the original design, and live with the possible mismatched stripes at the side seams. I'll be able to control this relatively well in that I'll be able to match up the number of rows from each ball and therefore be lining up the same colourway, at least.

Maybe I should just relax, huh?

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

On Fur and Phur

Related to the Mukluk-along.

We've been discussing possible substitutions for the trim yarn. The original pattern calls for a wonderful but very $$$ faux-fur, Plymouth Foxy.

Delana and I have been blogging merrily about finding an appropriate fur, and buying a fur cuff to sew on instead of the Foxy.

I read a reader comment, from mm, who said "Gotta do it without the fur though". Got me thinking. I tend to use the term "fur" to mean any fabric or textile or whatever with hair hanging off it -- animal-based or no. I wonder if people understand my usage that way?

I won't buy or wear "real" fur. And I won't knit with the stuff.

Politics aside, we simply don't need to.

The "fake" furs -- i.e. non-animal-sourced -- are so wonderful that there is no reason to use or wear anything else. The colours, textures and effects are amazing. And the stuff is warm.

But more to the point, there's a lot of them around, these non-animal furs. It seems to me that popular usage might well be changing... the term "fur" doesn't necessarily imply anything about the source of the material these days.

Certainly, I didn't mean I was going to trim these felted mukluks with real animal hair. I wouldn't dream of it.

Perhaps we should call it "phur" for clarity.

Almost a Bag!

Just some sewing up left to do. And a toggle to find. But it looks like a bag.

I'm quietly pleased with myself on this, as there were a number of hurdles to overcome along the way:

  • mastering two-handed stranding
  • coping with tension issues
  • the size of the piece was too small (due to above tension issues)
  • and then one of the round ends turned out to not be round after I cut it out

But I prevailed! And I have a rather elegant looking felted bag as my reward.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Another Felted Bag, and A New Technique

I've been working on a felted bag design for the Sheep, using the Galway of which I've become recently fond. (This is not the houndstooth bag, no. I'm not sure I'd force that project on anyone else.)

The body of the bag was easy, no issues.

Lots of things to think about, though, for the handles. Thick or thin? How long? Is this a handbag or a shoulder bag? I'm not a fan of what I call elbow-length handles (you know, ones that aren't long enough to go over your shoulder so you end up carrying it over your bent arm. Although Liza tells me that everyone is carrying their bag like that in New York right now, my elbows just aren't up to the demands of fashion.)

It didn't seem like i-cord would produce a handle substantial enough for the bag, so I decided to knit a 12-stitch round.

What a huge pain in the butt. 12 stitches on dpns. And of course, I only had the size I needed in metal, which made for a slippery jangly mess.

And again, the wisdom of Abby came to my rescue.

Tubular -- a.k.a. double -- knitting. Knitting in the round on straight needles. It's the coolest thing.

Here's how it works... cast on 12 stitches, normally. *K1, yfwd slip 1 purwise; repeat from * to end of row.
Work every row the same.

What you're doing is working alternate sides of the tube. It takes two rows to complete the round. And as long as you keep the yfwd sl1p perfect, you get an actual tube.

The end stitches aren't as neat as the rest, so this is best for an application that's going to lie flat. Perfect for handles for a felted bag, for example. Or a scarf. Or -- hey -- Teva Durham's double knit vest in Loop-D-Loop about which I've been obsessing since I first got the book. (Focus, girl, the Noro sweater comes first.)

Abby, thank you!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Mukluk-along

Because I can't not. Join us!

Silly but warm -- my favourite type of project for January.

The Vass Variation - Planning the Colour Progression

Had a long chat with Abby about this recently, over a glass of wine and some Christmas treats.

I've spent a couple of days lining up the 10 different colourways of Kureyon to choose a relatively natural progression of colour changes, but was running into an issue. I'd been envisioning a colour progression going up from the lower front and gradually changing through related colourways. The "graft in the middle of the back" scenario causes a problem, though. Although I'll get a nice colour progression up the body and to the front neck opening, if I continue with the progression as planned I'll get a "conflict" where the back sleeves are joined to the body.

We came up with a solution. I'll work the body through a colour progression (see above), but as soon as I divide up to work the upper front flat, I'll change the rules. At the changeover point from circular to flat, I'll change to a new colourway. I'll track the colourways I use up to the neck, and then work the same sequence in reverse back down again to the back graft point. For example, assuming it takes two balls to work from middle front to the neck, call them A and B, I'll work B and then A down from the neck to the middle back.

Makes sense?

Sunday, December 11, 2005


Wow. My houndstooth piece after a single run in a hot wash in with a bit of soap.

I'm overjoyed with the result. Now to make it into a bag. I have definitively decided on the roll -- it's just so much more chic and outside the norm.

Post-felting dimensions:

Rectangle: 26cm/10" wide, 63cm/26" long
Handles: 30cm/12" long
Loop: 26cm/10" long

Thursday, December 08, 2005

"Learn How to Knit"

I don't have a cent this Christmas usual it seems
So I'm going to learn how to knit

I'll knit you a sweater
I'll knit you a scarf
I'll knit you a cigarette holder

I'll knit you an airplane to fly and meet me here
I'll knit you the nicest taxi cab to pick you up from the airport when you get in

I'll knit you some mittens
I'll knit you some socks
I'll knit you a cigarette holder
I'll knit you the perfect Christmas feast for us to share
I'll knit you a setting sun that seagulls fly behind on the water

I'll knit you a blanket
I'll knit you a shawl
I might not knit anything at all
If my clumsy hands don't learn to knit by Christmas day
Would you still invite me by to celebrate the day in the morning
If all I brought was a kiss

(c) Hawksley Workman, 2001
Buy the CD from my friends at MapleMusic.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Not-Yet-Felted Bag

So here they are... the pieces to be felted. The body, two handles (well, ok, the other is still on the needles) and a toggle loop.

Still waffling on which bag design to do. Although I like the shape of the roll bag, I'm not sure I like the way it's assembled. The pattern book suggests blanket stitching, which I feel it rather fights with the dainty, structured look of the bag.

In the interests of science, the dimensions pre-felting are as follows:

37.5 cm/15 inches wide, 85 cm/34 inches long

Handles, each:
40 cm/16 inches long, 2.5 cm/1 inch wide

Toggle loop:
33 cm/13 inches long, 1 cm or so wide

BTW, the big rectangle is actually supposed to be 45 cm/18 inches wide . Which does indeed provide a wonderful illustration that tension of stranded colourwork does not necessarily equal the tension of the same yarn knit singly.

Christmas Knitting

It's December, and you know what that means. Knitters everywhere are rushing to finish their gift-knitting.

Except me.

I don't knit gifts. Not worth it. Too much work (especially when I've got a hundred design projects underway), and I hate the idea that something I've put so much love into might not be appreciated.

Ok, last year I gave my niece a Kureyon scarf. I had originally made it for myself but wasn't keen on how the colours had come out. But that doesn't count because I'd made it for me and I'd finished it in October.

In all my years as knitter, I've only ever given a single purpose-made hand-knitted Christmas gift.

It was 1997. Wyla had been on vacation in Scotland with her sister, and she'd fallen and suffered a very nasty spiral fracture of her arm and shoulder.

I bought the most lovely pink mohair with a thread of silver through it, surfed the web (yes, way back then) for some design ideas, and created a garter-stitch shawl with an openwork border. My goal was to create something to keep her arm warm and comfy as it healed.

I wouldn't describe it as sophisticated, and I know it didn't match the quality of work Wyla herself could produce. But I wrapped it up and gave it to her.

Sometime the following year we visited them, and I saw the shawl draped casually over the chair Wyla sat in to watch TV.

It was worth it.

Friday, December 02, 2005

To be hung with care.... Christmas Stocking

2 x 100g Needful Yarn’s Van Dyck (sample uses colour 247)
1 x 50g Needful Yarn’s Santa Ana (sample uses colour 4156)
6mm 40cm/16 inch circular needle
6mm dpns
stitch holder
stitch markers

Follow my Knitty sock template for a 50-stitch sock. (As my University professors would say, the details are left as an exerise for the student.)

Work the leg for 30cm/12 inches.

Turn the heel, and work the foot until it's 20cm/8 inches long. Decrease for the toe fast, every round.

For the trim:
Turn the sock inside out. Pick up and knit 56 stitches around the cast-on edge with the Santa Ana. Work 12.5cm/5 inches in stocking stitch. Turn the stocking right side out again, fold the trim over so that the knit side is out, and whip-stitch to stocking body to secure.

Make an i-cord hook with the Van Dyck.

Hang, and wait patiently.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Christmas Stocking

It's a giant sock. I don't know why this hadn't occured to me before... a Christmas Stocking is a giant sock.

To accompany the Santa Hat, I'm making a stocking. Using Van Dyck again, but much smaller needles. The fabric should be dense to hold up to the weight of the oranges and chocolates it will need to hold.

Pics to follow, but it's essentially a 50-stitch sock on 6mm dpn (a 40cm/16 inch circular works, too). The leg is 30cm/12 inches or so long. I did about 3cm/1 inch of k1p1 ribbing at the top because I'm planning to create a trim out of the same Santa Ana I used for the Hat. But if you want a plain sock, you'd need about 10cm/4 inches for visual balance.

I discovered is that a proportional foot looks odd, so keep the foot to about 20cm/8 inches or so before you decrease the toe, and do the decreases quickly -- every round seems to work.

I haven't got to the trim yet, but I'll probably do it the same way I do the trim on mitten cuffs. Pick up stitches partway down the leg, and work up a tube long enough to be folded over into the leg. Details once it's done.

Make a hook out of 15cm/6 inches of 4-stitch i-cord... fold in half and attach to top, just inside the cuff.

"You've Got Red On You" - More Zombies

It was only a matter of time. Shaun of the Dead.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

The Vass Variation -- The Yarn

It will certainly be colourful....

FO - Cashmere Hat

For when the kitten hat is too casual. Or when I'm seeing my mother.

Naturally, I modified the original pattern to work it in the round. Seaming is boring.

The scarf is the Rockstar, from Knitty.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Variations on a Noro Sweater - part 2

So I carefully chose 10 different colours of Noro Kureyon last night to begin the Variation on the Joan Vass 20th Anniversary Issue of Vogue Knitting sweater. (Hereinafter referred to as the Vass Variation.)

After a discussion with Erin about the success of her graft on the Teva Durham Lace Leaf pullover, I've decided that I'll do the grafting on the back rather than on the sleeves.

I was all keen to cast on, but was stunned to discover I don't own the right needle. Can you believe that I don't own an 80 cm long 4.5mm circular needle? Not even in metal. I'm shocked, I really am. I have a couple of 40 cm ones, used for hats and various other portable projects. And 80cm long 4mm and 5mm... but no 4.5. And I call myself a serious knitter?!

I think this is actually the knitting PTB telling me to finish the damn houndstooth felted bag before I start something else.

I've got less than 10 inches to go, which at my current rate works out to about 7 hours of TV. And we have this week's Prison Break, Lost and at least a couple of Daily Shows and Colbert Reports all stacked up on the PVR waiting to be knitted to. Now, to find the time to sit down.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Messing with a design

I own a copy of the Fall 2002 Vogue Knitting Anniversary issue. It's got some good stuff in it, but there was one particular design that caught my interest at the time.. an outrageously striped textured pullover knit in one piece from the front bottom edge, with integral sleeves, up and over and down the back to the back bottom edge. The only assembly is sewing up the slide/sleeve seams. It's designed by Joan Vass, in Noro Kureyon.

The designer used three different colourways of the Kureyon to vary the stripes. I loved it even before I'd even knit a single stitch with a Noro yarn. It's a clever design, in that the integral sleeves ensure that the striping isn't too insane or clashing.

But the sizing bothered me. It's a one-size-fits-many, with a 49 1/2" bust measurement. I'm fairly petite, and I figured it would just drown me. I briefly toyed with the idea of downsizing it, but I got distracted.

But then I was at the Sheep a couple of weeks ago, and Denny was carrying around her latest project. She had only a couple of inches knit, but I instantly knew what it was... that Noro sweater. I was still worried about the size, though.

And then I saw her wearing it at the shop. I demanded she strip so I could try it on. It's really wide, but the short length keeps it fairly flattering.

So I'm back to thinking about it again. I do need to downsize it somewhat -- probably 5 or so inches in the bust measurement. And I want to make another modification. I want to work it in the round.

Denny used 8 or 9 different colourways -- each ball in the project a different one. But that means that where the sides are seamed you've got a potentially jarring clash of colours at worst, and at best, stripes that don't line up. That's easy to solve, just knit it in the round up to the armholes. But then what?

What do I do about the sleeves? I want to preserve the direction of the knitting, so that the striping stays relatively under control. If I knit the sleeves the usual way, I'll end up with sleeve stripes that run perpendicular to the body stripes at the armhole seam. I could knit the sleeves separately in the same direction as the body and then seam them onto the body, but I've still got the issue that where the sleeves are seamed to the body there will be stripes mixing and possibly clashing. And trying to match up the stripes of the Kureyon seems like a nightmare proposition.

And so I considered how I could do the sleeves in situ as designed, but somehow joining them to the circular body section... .

Thanks to Rogue, a solution has occured to me: grafting. I can work the body in one piece circularly to the armholes, work up to the top of both the front and back separately with the sleeves as designed then graft them together at the top. Or, to eliminate the grafting work on the sleeves, I could actually work right over the top to the bottom of the sleeve back and do the grafting midway down the back.

Am I out of my mind? I'm much better at grafting than I used to be, and I'm certainly not afraid of it anymore. But it's a lot of stitches to graft.... If I do it at the neck opening, there are 110 on either side to graft, albeit in a garter stripe pattern that's probably a good place to disguise a potentially messy graft. Or, if I do it at after the sleeves are done, there are only 109 stitches to deal with, but they're in a pattern stitch, which will likely be fiddlier. (Actually, because of my mods to the pattern to downsize it, it's only 85 stitches. But still.)

And then there's the issue of trying to make the colours work at the graft point. Obviously, there's going to be some clashy-ness when I start a new ball, but will it stand out too much at the graft point? I have to assume not. If I graft at the shoulder seams, I think any clashing will be less disturbing than if I do it mid-back.

This is probably all moot, as I'm planning to follow Denny's lead and use as many different colourways as I need balls, so there's going to be insane collisions of colours regardless.


Friday, November 18, 2005

The Kidsilk Scarf

This is the first year since... oh, I don't know... 1980-something that I haven't had a black winter coat. I've got a closet full of colourful and interesting scarves. Which are now redundant.

I decided to try Rowan's legendary Kidsilk Haze for a scarf.

They call it CrackSilk Haze for a reason. Yes, the finished product is addictive. But I thought I was going to crack during the knitting process.

The yarn is very fine, hairy, and sticky. It's impossible to undo if you make a mistake, and it's very easy to drop a stitch if you're not paying attention. Argh.

I started by casting on 60 stitches on a 4mm circular needle. (I like using circulars for straight knitting because I can't lose a needle.) I worked a few inches in garter stitch. I wasn't thrilled with the results. It wasn't very interesting and was wider than I wanted. So I tried to rip it back. After fighting for a bit, getting tangled and snagging and breaking the yarn, I abandoned it. (I hate abandoning yarn. And this stuff isn't cheap.)

I started again. I cast on 50 stitches -- using the knitted cast on because I couldn't bear the thought of running out of yarn midway through a long tailed cast on and having to rip it back. Please note that this is the only time in the last 10 or so years that I've used that cast-on. I hate it. It's ugly and slow.

I decided to work in biased garter stitch. It was slow, it was painstaking, it was difficult. This is yarn that's very easy to make mistakes with, and yet is impossible to undo. Working on it required good light, and a serene atmosphere. Part of the problem was the choice of colour -- a lighter colour would have been easier to work with, I'm sure.

But yes, they're right, I LOVE LOVE LOVE the result. It's light and warm and chic and just the thing for my new coat.

And I bow my head in respect to people who knit lace shawls with this stuff. You are better knitters than I.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Kitten Hat - FOUND!

Anyone who knows me knows I've been extremely distressed of late. I couldn't find my beloved kitten hat. It's cold out, and my ears need covering. I ripped apart the closet last weekend, and went through all my coat pockets twice and yet I couldn't find it.

I was sad, and whiny.

Good news! Hubby found it today. He went digging, and found it in the one coat I didn't check. A coat I didn't check because I didn't think I wore it last year, but hey... at least it's found. (I suspect that the cat in whose likeness this was made may have had something to do with this.)

Yay! Kitten hat!

Made out of Classic Elite Waterspun. Lovely stuff.

My mother hates this hat.

Original pattern.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

More Felting and Sins to Be Covered

I've been fighting on and off for over a year with a stranded 2 colour felted bag project. It's a black and white houndstooth design, and the original intention was to create a roll-shaped bag. The idea comes from a book of Paton's felted bag patterns published last fall.... the houndstooth design comes from one pattern, and the shape comes from another.

The roll bag pattern calls for a large rectangle to be knit and felted, and then cut into pieces for sewing up. I might just seam up the sides and felt it as a big open bucket bag. We'll see.

I tend to work on it in spurts. It took about three months to get the first couple of inches done, until I got my hands on a copy of Debbie New's Unexpected Knitting with her helpful diagrams for two handed stranding. I picked up speed, and made some great progress early in the year. I abandoned it over the summer, and I picked it up again last night for the first time in months.

Thanks to Debbie New and Brandon Mably, I'm feeling more confident than I used to about stranded knitting, but I'm still no Fair Isle wunderkind. Before I felt the thing, I intend to pour myself a stiff drink and measure my tension. I'm interested to see how far off I actually am....

Weaving as I go, merrily, merrily. (Dear god. Showing off the back of my knitting in public. Grannie would be shocked.)

Thursday, November 10, 2005


Knitting for home

A felted bag idea for Lorena, trimmed in a novelty yarn. Stay tuned for pictures! The question is do I apply the novelty yarn trim before or after felting? I think the result will be more predictable if I do it afterwards.

Streetcar knitting

A cashmere hat from a Handmaiden kit because it was 3 degrees this morning.

  • That vintage poncho thingy. It sat for a while but it's underway again. This is the back. It's basically two rectangles attached at the shoulders with a hood, and buttons on the side near the waist. It's really just a showcase for this rather lovely variegated wool from Fleece Artist. Sadly, it was in the "delete bin" of a nearby yarn store, and doesn't seem to be in production any more.

I'm off on a roadtrip this weekend with a couple of my girl pals and am looking forward to some serious knitting in the car. I hope to finish the hat and get some good work done on the poncho.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

A Missed Meme Question - Casting On

I missed a question from the Meme... What knitting technique do you feel is the most valuable?

The long-tailed cast on, no debate.

This is an oft-discussed topic in my knitting classes. I won't let anyone leave my classes without learning it, and insist any sock or mitten projects in my classes start with this cast on.

Why? Three main reasons.

1. The long tailed cast on looks good in an unobtrusive sort of way. It disappears into ribbing, provides a plain edge for stocking stitch. It's nice.

A lot of the beginning knitters I meet use the the knitted cast on. Truth be told, the knitted cast on is ugly. I do teach this one in my beginning classes, I admit, but then we all used training wheels the first few times we rode a bicycle.

2. The long tailed cast on is stretchy. The knitted cast on, and its close cousin the cable cast on, don't stretch. Nothing worse than a pair of mittens that won't go over your hand.

3. It's quick.

I use the long-tailed cast on 99% of the time.

The trick is in estimating how much yarn you'll need in the long tail. Tip #1: keep the tail of the yarn (that is, the bit with the end rather than leading to the ball) close to you. The yarn close to you gets used up more slowly than the yarn away from you. Tip #2: an inch per stitch will do.

But yes, you often run out of yarn before you've cast on enough stitches. Happens to everyone, all the time. And so you need to be able to easily and happily undo the whole thing and start again. It took me three goes to get a long enough tail to cast on for my cashmere hat. It was made worse by the fact that the pattern suggested using the yarn doubled for the cast on. For 112 stitches.

The last time I used another cast on that I can remember was for the dreaded Kidsilk Haze scarf. That yarn is so damned sticky that I knew I couldn't reliably undo it if I ran out of tail during the cast-on. Come February, I'm going to love that scarf, but our relationship had a rocky start. (It's a story for another day.)

But other than that, I'm a long-tailed cast on girl.

Practicing Continental

I'm working on a felted bag in the round, and the knitting is fairly tedious.

So it occurs to me that if felting really does hide a multitude of sins, this would be the ideal time to practice knitting continental. I've always been able to fake my way through a knit stitch in continental, but not a purl. But the time I'm done this bag, I should be an expert at the knit stitch, and fairly fast.

Let's see how it goes.

And then I'll have to do the same project again on the wrong side to practice a continental purl.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Tagged for a Meme

(I think this means I've officially joined the sisterhood of "real" knit bloggers. Thanks yarntart!)

What is your all-time favorite yarn to knit with?
I'm a Noro girl. No question. Now if only they made a sock yarn.

Your favorite needles?
Short bamboo 2.5mm dpns for sock knitting on the streetcar.

The worst thing you've ever knit?
The ribwarmer. Twice. About ten years apart. In both cases, immediately upon finishing it, I frogged it. The construction fascinates me, and I do love a good fitted vest. But it looks awful on me (ribwarmers should be worn only by women with a modest bustline). The second one was done with the Noro Sarubia that ended up becoming Clapotis.

Your most favorite knit pattern?
Rogue rules. But you know that if you've read any of this blog.

Best knit book or magazine?
Loving Loop-D-Loop right now. Also Knitting for Anarchists.

Your favourite knit blogs?
the aforementioned yarntart

Your favorite knit-along?
Never actually participated in a knit-along, but I've knit both Rogue and Clapotis and have read up on the various knit-alongs before I launched into them.

Your favorite knitwear designer?
Jenna Wilson inspires me no end. Debbie Bliss does lovely, lovely things in a simple and timeless ways. Teva Durham challenges me in a way no one else does.

Clapotis - Done. But what the heck am I going to do with it?

In all its glory. It's big. But then I did use a heavier weight yarn than called for.

It's lovely, too.

But a question... where and when does one wear such a shawl?

Ok, I understand the application of the light wrap over a summer dress to protect you from a breeze.

And I developed a new appreciation of the pashmina (albeit acrylic) while travelling around the UK in June. But a pashmina is fine and light, and can be worn as a scarf, or can form an impromptu lining for a raincoat, and can even be used to dry one's hands in a pinch.

But this thing is thick and fairly heavy. It's too long and dangly to wear as part of an outfit. It's too chunky for a scarf. And I wouldn't dare wipe my hands on it.

I have, however, really been enjoying wearing it over my pyjamas as I sit on the couch and watch the Daily Show. So maybe I've just upgraded my blankie. Flannel be damned... my blankie is silk and mohair.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

On dropping stitches...

The knitting of the Clapotis is finished. It was pretty quick. It's the unravelling that's taking all the time.

It's funny. So many knitters live in abject fear of a dropped stitch. (Except those brave souls who cable without a cable needle.)

After having dropped stitches willy-nilly on the Clapotis -- as instructed, of course -- I can tell you that a dropped stitch may not be so inclined to drop as you might expect. It's actually taking upwards of 10 minutes (yes, I timed it), to unravel a stitch all the way down. It's likely due to the nature of the yarn, a slightly fuzzy and slubby silk and mohair mix, but even so, these stitches aren't inclined to go very far on their own.

A useful lesson.

I think I'll use this as an exercise in my next Project workshop. I do teach students how to pick up a stitch with a crochet hook, but having them get a sense of how a stitch behaves as it is unravelling is a very good idea.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Mittens With String?

I've had a request to make a pair of mittens with a string. In all my years of making mittens, and teaching mitten knitting, I've never made a mitten string. I love a new challenge.

So many options to consider! I-cord? A crochet chain? A complementary colour or a contrasting colour? How long?

This calls for some research and experimentation, I think.

Monday, October 24, 2005

'Tis (soon to be) The Season - Free Santa Hat Pattern

Novelty yarns can be tough creatures to work with. They're often flimsy and sticky and plastic-y feeling. When knitted up, even the chunkiest of novelty yarns can lack structure, so that whatever you knit is floppy and stretchy and doesn't hold a shape.

We got a shipment of Needful Yarn's Santa Ana into the store last week. I was pleasantly surprised. Its wool content helps provide some substance and a decent hand to the yarn, and it has sufficient weight that it holds structure. It was still horribly sticky on plastic needles, but it behaved a little better on bamboo.

The white Santa Ana wants nothing more than to be the trim on your Santa Claus hat... .

Santa Hat 2005
1 ball Needful Yarns' Santa Ana in colour 4156 (snowy white)
1 ball Needful Yarns'/Filtes King Van Dyck in colour 247 (a nice Christmassy red)
10 mm (US size 15) straight needles
pompom maker (or some spare cardboard)

Finished size: 20"/50cm around head, 21"/53 cm long. Fits most.

Tension for Van Dyck: 10 sts to 4"/10 cm in stocking stitch with 10mm needles
Tension for Santa Ana: 12 sts to 4"/10 cm in stocking stitch with 10mm needles

With 10 mm needles and Van Dyck, cast on 50 stitches. Starting with a knit row, work 3"/7.5 cm stocking stitch, ending with a purl row.

Decrease row: k1, ssk, knit to last 3 stitches, k2tog, k1.
Purl next row.

Repeat the previous two rows until 4 stitches remain. Cast off.

Using the Santa Ana, and with right side facing, pick up 60 stitches along the cast-on edge. Work a purl row, twisting every stitch. Starting with a knit row, work 5 inches/12.5 cm in stocking stitch. Cast off.

Fold furry cuff in half, towards the wrong side and loosely whip stitch it to the inside of the hat to secure. Fold hat in half lengthwise and seam.

Make the largest and thickest pompom you can and attach to the top.

Wear festively and jauntily.

I Did Tell You I'd Finished Rogue, Yes?

Being in black, it doesn't photograph worth a damn, but here's a view of the hood.

Again, Jenna's a genius.

Yes, I have the Clap

Clapotis, in progress.

It's an old Noro yarn called Sarubia that I got in a trade a couple of years ago. 60% silk, 40% kid mohair. Yummy.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Jumped the Shark?

Katie Holmes (oh, sorry, Mrs. Kate Cruise) has reported that she's learning how to knit.

Perhaps I'll take up macrame.

Applied Mathematics

One of my favourite knitting tools is a calculator. My students are often surprised that I keep a calculator in my knitting bag... and they're even more surprised, I think, how often I use it.

It seems obvious to me, but I've been asked about it often enough I figure it's worth explaining why.

I use it for calculating yarn requirements when making a substitution.

I use it to calculate where the increases go when I'm told to "increase 6 stitches evenly across row".

I use it for making any adjustments to a pattern.

And I use it to simply check my arithmetic. (Ok, so I started with 54 stitches and I increased 2 stitches 12 times which means I should have how many?... )

And in my pattern drafting class, I also explain why I love graph paper so much.

And my Dad thinks I don't use my Mathematics degree...

Thursday, October 20, 2005

More Learning to Knit

I'm doing a second workshop at Polish Beauty Bar next Tuesday, October 25th.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Knit Zombies. Yes. Zombies. Knitted.

Living with the zombie-obsessed N., you'd think I would have thought of this myself....

Reenacting Dawn of the Dead with knitted dolls.

Advanced Grafting

A few hints and tips for you, once you've got the hang of grafting stocking stitch. To refresh, visit for the mini lesson to get started.

The Slightly Condensed Version
Setup: Front needle first stitch purlwise. Back needle first stitch knitwise
Then repeat until you're done:
Front needle: first stitch knitwise then slip, next stitch purlwise.
Back needle: first stitch purlwise then slip, next stitch knitwise.

The Very Condensed Version (i.e. what's written on the piece of paper I keep in my knitting bag as a reminder)
Setup: Front purl, back knit.
Front: knit slip, purl.
Back: purl slip, knit

Grafting Reverse Stocking Stitch, or Garter Stitch.
It makes a scary amount of sense once you get the hang of it. You just change what you're doing with the back needle to match what you do with the front needle.

So in the Very Condensed Version, it becomes
Setup: Front purl, back purl.
Front: knit slip, purl.
Back: knit slip, purl.

Grafting Cables or Ribs
Required for doing the hood for Rogue.

If you're working on a section that changes from st st to rev st st, just change what you're doing on the back needle, at the right spot.

That is, you work on st st normally, and then when you go work for the first time into a purl stitch, just change over.

It happens when the first st on the back needle is still a knit, but the following stitch is a purl. The front goes as normal, and then on the back, you insert the needle purlwise as normal, slip and then insert the needle purlwise again, rather than knitwise. And then for the rest of the purl stitches on the back needle, use the "knit, slip, purl" version. And then when it's time to change back to st st, change back to "purl, slip, knit" for the back needle. The front needle never changes.

Works like magic, trust me.

Thursday, October 13, 2005


Yesterday, I was lucky enough to be able to spend the day with Brandon Mably, assistant and protege to the unparalleled Kaffe Fassett. Big thanks to Lorena at the Sheep for making it happen.

I'm not particularly a fan of their work. I'm a texture girl, rather than a colour girl. Anyone who's met me in real life knows that I tend to do one colour at a time. (I also don't like that everything they do is hugely oversized and often seems to come in a single size. But that's a separate rant.)

I discovered a couple of things: that I really am terribly cautious with colour, and that I shouldn't be.

More can indeed be less. The first few rows into the kaleidoscope swatch were an affronting mish-mash. But by the time a few inches were done, well.... I can only compare it to the effect of a Turkish carpet. The colours and constrasts all blend together to create an... an effect. The key is to look at it as on overall piece, rather than to consider the elements.

And I will confess that this whole "weaving in your ends as you go" thing does make the process more pleasant. It was worth it just for that.

I look forward to seeing where this takes me. Maybe I'll finish that houndstooth felted bag...

(The third thing I learnt is that Denny makes great pie.)

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Matthew Derbecker's Cardigan


I'm not exactly a whiz at the embroidery, but I think it's suitably adorable.

In dire need of a reblock.

Slaying the Kitchener Monster, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Graft

I used to think that grafting was too hard. Or weird. Or not worth the effort.

Last fall, I started teaching a sock workshop. I decided it was probably time to learn to graft, if only -- so I thought -- I could tell my students it wasn't worth it.

I discovered, as seemingly everyone does, that it's not actually that difficult. It's rather like baking a cake -- messy in process, but rather nice once it's done.

But I still don't use it to finish off the toes of my socks. I've got slender toes, so I just decrease down to 8 or so stitches, and then draw the yarn tail through them. Looks and fits just fine. And I have other ways to close up a mitten. (See my Knitty article for that discussion.)

But I'm knitting Rogue. And for Rogue, you really should graft. The genius of Rogue is in the cables. And to get the full effect of the cables on the hood, you need to graft the sides of the hood together. The idea is that the cables flow seamlessly together.

So I got up early, made a large pot of coffee, positioned a working light over the table, opened up Vogue Knitting to the right page. And then I grafted.

And my god, it worked. I followed my gut to make the change from a st st to a reverse st st. graft. The cables flow together like magic. (Any sufficiently advanced knitting is indistinguishable from magic?)

Ready to graft? I found this mini-lesson from very helpful.

(My hubby refers to this as the "Jedi head" shot.)

Friday, October 07, 2005

The Perfect Tension Swatch

Recipe for the Perfect Tension Swatch

Look at the tension stated in the pattern:

____ stitches x _____ rows using ________ size needles.

Using the correct needles, cast on twice that many stitches.

Bottom border:
Work 6 rows in garter stitch – that is, knitting every row.

Main body:
Right side: knit entire row.
Wrong side: k3, purl to last 3 stitches, k3.
Repeat these two rows until the main body portion measures 15 cm/6 inches.

Top border:
Work 6 rows garter stitch – knitting every row.
Cast off.

Steam or launder the swatch according to the instructions on the yarn ball band.

And then measure it. This provides a swatch large enough to get a good, flat 10 cm/4 inches to measure in both length and width.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Learn to Knit Workshop

Tuesday October 18th, I'll be doing a special two-hour Learn to Knit workshop at the Polish Beauty Bar, in the Queen/Spadina area. The workshop is for novices who wish to learn the basics quickly and easily. By the time the two hours are up, the participants will be well on their way to finishing their first scarf.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

A Meditation on Swatching

I am the first to admit that I don't always do a separate tension swatch. But I always always always always check my tension before I go far with a project. Always.

Socks? They're a tension swatch right there. Once I've got a couple of inches, it's a simple job to measure. If you're way off, it's not heartbreaking to rip it out.

Baby's clothes? Again, small enough that if you're off, you can start again without having wasted much time.

The trick is to measure at the first opportunity -- once you've got a couple of inches in length -- and don't be afraid to start again if you need to. And check it again, as you work. A particularly exciting episode of Buffy can cause your tension to change.

For the aforementioned Rogue, I swatched 6 times before I ultimately started into the project. 6. That's 6 swatches. I first bought some charcoal grey tweedy wool, and discovered upon swatching that I didn't like how it felt. That was two swatches.

I then bought some really great green Galway wool. Galway doesn't work to the tension they claim on the ball band. It claims to be an aran. It lies. It's a worsted, no matter how many times you change needles and block and steam it.

And then the project sat for a year until I heard that Mission Falls is closing. I'd used their 1824 Wool before, for a gansey, and loved it. I went with my gut, went back to Mission Falls, and back to black. I swatched twice for that, to get the right needle size.

And it was worth it. No question. She's coming out perfectly.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Cashmere Junkie?

Here's a few things I've been working on over the past few months.

Cashmere gauntlets

Cashmere slippers - two styles


Knitting for Home
Rogue. I can't stop talking about this project. Jenna, you're a genius!

Now that Abby's baby has arrived (Matthew John Elias, born October 3rd), I've got to finish up the sweater I've done for her. I had to wait to see what colour the trim needed to be.

Streetcar Knitting
A variation on an interesting vintage pattern that describes itself as a poncho. I like it precisely because it's not a poncho. It's more of a hooded sleeveless pullover, but instead of being seamed at the sides, it's closed rakishly and casually with a couple of buttons.

It's an automatic pilot project -- a big rectangle of stocking stitch edged with garter stitch. I've done most of the work so far in movie theatres.

Bubbling Under
I am so not a shawl girl, but I think I've caught the Clapotis bug. I've got some Noro that I got from Abby in a trade that I might use for this. To mitigate the fact that I'll likely never wear the damn thing, it seems prudent to use stash yarn.

Do other people knit something because it interests them intellectually, even though they know they'll never wear it? Don't get me wrong, the pattern is beautiful -- it's just that I don't wear shawls.