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.