Friday, December 29, 2006

Knitter, Please!

I broke down and ordered Moo Cards for myself.

The whole process was marvellous -- the cards are lovely, the cardstock and printing quality outstanding, the ordering process is fun, and there are clearly human beings running the company. It's almost worth placing an order just to get a confirmation note from "Little Moo".

And now I have blog cards. I don't have a Flickr photostream, and it seemed gauche to use someone else's, so I orderd Skype cards and just had them leave off the Skype logo.

And now I have Wise Hilda Knits business cards -- and very cool ones at that.

If you're very nice to me next time you see me, I'll give you one.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Look What Santa Brought....

I've been asking for these for months now (noted on this blog, even).
On this topic precisely, the Harlot's post this week made me laugh out loud.

Although it's only put my dining room chairs out of work, not my hubby.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Number 12! Halfway There! Well, Maybe...

I'm going to be very restrained and put this project down over my 2 week break.

It's the ideal project for my commute to work, and I want to save it for then. With all my time at home and in the car, I'll have the time and space to work on bigger/more complex projects.

The pic doesn't do justice to the colours in this one. I think it's my favourite so far.

Have been teaching J. to knit, and everytime she sees me, I have another square of LR underway. She loves it as much as I do, and it seems to have become a great incentive to focus on improving her skills so she can give it a go. Can't wait to get her started on her first square!

I think my biggest problem is going to be that I keep finding other colourways in the Kureyon, ones that I hadn't seen before. I've got this sinking feeling that I might end up doing more than 24. Anyone else done a bigger one?

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Pimlico Progress/Difficulties with Written Instructions

Coming along nicely... it's a great autopilot project, interesting to knit but still not so interesting that I can't watch Battlestar Galactica while I'm working on it. It's nothing to look at, at this stage... you work a big square of the eyelet pattern, and then the cleverness is in the assembly.

I still think it's a weird eyelet, though. And the pattern is written poorly. The schematic is of no help at all, and the way the eyelet is described isn't helpful.

The puzzling bit is this instruction:

k1b, k1 in 1 st, (some stuff that makes sense), k1b-f, k1 in 1 st

I get that you're making two stitches out of one in both cases. But the k1b, k1b-f are abbreviations I've not encountered before. They're helpfully explained as follows:

k1b: Knit into back of st in row below next st on left-hand needle (I'm ok to here), inserting right-hand needle into st from the top down (what?)

k1b-f: Knit into front of st in row below next st on left-hand needle. (This one makes more sense.)

I figured something out that I think works, but I'm not convinced it's what the designer intends. It looks ok, so what the heck.

This illustrates nicely the challenge pattern writers have in trying to articulate a motion, a placement of needles. This is why I have so many students in my classes tell me that they can't figure something out from written instructions, but it takes them a tenth of a second to figure it out once they see me do it. And I really don't think it's about being a visual learner in the case of knitting. If I don't know what the "top" is , when you're asking me to insert the needle from the "top down", then I'm stuck.

(I'm actually sorted of frightened to ask others how they did this stitch, because I'd hate to discover -- 22 inches of 34 into the main piece -- that there's a better, more attractive way of doing it.)

This is all to say why I love the big Vogue Knitting book, and it's helpful step-by-step pictorial instructions.

And why I figure I'll always be able to get teaching gigs.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

More Progress!

Numbers 10 and 11!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Cumulative Progress

All of 'em so far, lined up.

Too busy stuffing my face with latkes and fruitcake and PB&J party sandwiches and mince pies to get much actual knitting done. But Lizard Ridge continues to truck along at a rough pace of a square a week, in commute time.

I suspect I'll spend more time trying to arrange them for the final blanket than I will knitting them... "Oh wait, that one's got a lot of green it, it shouldn't be close to this one... "

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Thoughts on a Fair Isle Design

Am starting to play with an idea for a Fair Isle vest design.... time for an "All Creatures Great and Small" marathon on PBS? My mother calls Fair Isle "James Herriot" sweaters.

I'm designing a vest with a delicious yarn called Khroma from The Fibre Company. It's not inexpensive, so to keep the overall project cost down, I'm planning to do the colourwork only on the front.

So of course, I swatched. I swatched in Fair Isle, even.

I don't know what level of Zen Master you have to be to get the same tension in fair isle as you do working a single strand of the same yarn.... The label tells me I'm supposed to get something like 18-20 sts on 5mm needles. I'm actually getting 24 stitches, no matter how relaxed I am.

Of course, what this means is that if I'm going to do a plain back, I have to fudge the tension on the back to make it line up. Ribbing seems the perfect answer. k2 p2, maybe?

The other thing I've discovered is that designing fair isle patterns isn't as simple as it seems...

Saturday, December 09, 2006

More Lizarding!

Latest complete square.And here's the cat, enjoying the one that's currently on my needles. I understand he'll sit on it once it's done, I can only take it as a compliment that he wants to sit on it already.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Measure Twice, Knit Once

It's important to measure your tension; we know this. I know on about this at length in my classes, and have talked about it on this blog.

And how do we measure tension? With a tension swatch, right. But that doesn't eliminate the need for a sanity check once in a while.

I'm distracting myself with what was supposed to be a quick and easy project: Matador, in Noro Iro.

(You may find it startling that there's a Noro yarn I hadn't yet worked with -- I did.)

Anyway, I carefully measured my tension, and I was absolutely correct. So why on earth is the thing a good 4 inches wider than it's supposed to be? Stuff happens, I know that. This is a good and humbling reminder that it's useful to measure a second time -- once you've started working.

They call it a sanity check, I think, because its goal is to preserve your sanity.

It's a seriously great yarn, though.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Cutting It Close/On Lizard Ridge

I finished up the edging and collar on Mum's cardigan, and this is what I'm left with.

The pattern calls for 9 balls in the smallest size, and this is the end of the ninth ball.


Of course, I'm being disengenous. I bought an extra ball, as I am wont to do, and it will happily become a square of my Lizard Ridge.

I've been told by Denny (who is often quite reliable) that sales of Kureyon have gone up noticeably worldwide because of the popularity of Lizard Ridge.

Kudos to the designer.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Miss April 13th & Miss June 11th!

This is the 2007 "Knitting Pattern a Day" calendar. And I'm in it! Twice!

The last two years I've bought this calendar -- this year I had one shipped to me by the publisher.

I feel like I've hit the big time!

Monday, November 27, 2006

1970s Acrylic, or a Spanking?

A great story shared by R., in one of my classes.

Her grandmother was a knitter... a knitter of the "saving money" school. She used to buy only the bargain yarn.

R. tells me of a fight that her sister had with their mother... "We're going to visit Nana, you should wear that sweater she made for you."

The showdown resulted in an ultimatum being issued -- wear the sweater, or get a spanking.

She chose the spanking.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

New And Improved! The Even-More-Perfect Recipe for the Perfect Tension Swatch

Revised in response to questions and feedback in my classes.

The Perfect Stocking Stitch Tension Swatch

Look at the tension indicator in the pattern. It will typically be a number of stitches and rows over a 10cm/4 inch square, in stocking stitch. If it’s stated over a smaller area – for example, 1 or 2 inches, calculate the number of stitches over 4 inches. If it's given in something other than stocking stitch, these instructions don't apply.

____ stitches x _____ rows over 4 inches/10 cm square using ________ size needles.

Using the needles specified, cast on twice that many stitches. For example, if it states 18 stitches, cast on 36.

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.

Friday, November 24, 2006

It Runs in the Family, This Kureyon Obssession

Mum's working on this...

well, ok, she's done her bit, I have to finish up the neckline, graft the underarms and weave in the ends.

It's Kureyon colourway 147, FYI.

The pattern is Amy Swenson's Rosedale, from Knitty. We made a couple of adjustments -- plain k2 p1 ribbing rather than corrugated, and no constrasting intarsia rectangle. The second decision was more for my sake than the design... I just didn't want to have to field the support calls...

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

And Another One!

And I found a 24th colourway on Saturday -- very exciting! I have 24 different colours, and I've already got 6 of these squares knit. It's incredibly painless and quick going. I got half a square done in the car ride to and from Oakville Saturday.

For the record, the colours I've chosen are:

40, 90, 92, 95, 102, 134, 138, 139, 147, 148, 150, 153, 154, 159, 164, 165, 170, 180, 182, 183, 184, 185, 188, 194

Just don't ask me which is which. The flaw in my plan is that I haven't been keeping track.

Sunday, November 19, 2006


Ok, I admit it. I gave up on the F&F shawl. The yarn is in a puffy envelope, winging its way across the ocean in that yarn-for-coffee trade I suggested a few days back. May it behave better for T. than it did for me.

I've been eyeing the Pimlico Shrug from Knit2Together since I first saw the book. I'm not really a shapless cardi kind of girl (that I'm aware of, anyway), but I love the innovative construction. It's a big square folded over to make holes for attached sleeves, and a ribbed edging all the way around the outside.

So I grabbed myself a ball of Lamb's Pride, in black, and swatched away. The eyelet is very odd, but as Tracey says in the book, once you get the hang of it, it goes swimmingly.

I found the yarn/tension in the book a hair confusing... it calls for Koigu Kersti which claims to be a DK but looks for all the world like a worsted. And the tension of the actual swatch is closer to aran...

So I threw caution to the wind and picked a yarn I love instead. The good news is that for this design, it really doesn't matter. You knit a big rectangle -- so it was easy enough to calculate the tension of my swatch (18 sts) vs. what the pattern calls for (19 sts), and reduce the number of cast-on stitches appropriately.

And then you knit tubes for the sleeves in k2p2, so I figure I'll cut out a repeat, since I have little arms anyway... and then the edging all around is k2p2 again, so I'll just eyeball it. Easy peasy!

Looking good so far...

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Lizardy Progress

5 done! The sixth is underway! Loving this project! Over-punctuating!

Oh, and the cat seems to like it, too.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Currently on the Needles/Thoughts On A Difficult Project

The second Xmas sock is two thirds done (Yes! Gasp! I wrote up a pattern for a pair of socks when I only had one completed!). I've turned the heel, but it's on hold to use as an example in my next sock class, next weekend.

My current portable project is Lizard Ridge squares. Ideal streetcar knitting, on a short circular. Not a lot to carry around, it can easily be stuffed in the corner of my bag. And I've memorized the pattern so I can knit it on autopilot (although not in the dark, sadly, as I figured out at the movie last night).

For home knitting, I haven't settled on what I want to do. I've been trying in earnest to make progress on the Country Wool Feather & Fan shawl. It's not been going well, though. This project is resisting me at every turn.

The yarn was going to be a poncho-thing, at first; although the knitting went well, I wasn't pleased with the results, and there was too much variation in the hand-dyed colourways. So I ripped it back. It sat for a while, waiting for inspiration. A while later, while researching lace knitting, I found this pattern for a feather & fan shawl. I thought this would be a more interesting project, something to test my lace skills, and possibly a good gift for someone I know who's hard to buy for. Not so. I have been struggling. Lots of ripping back. I make mistakes. I mess up the stitch count. I fail to pay attention and work the pattern in areas that should be plain. I just can't seem to make this one stick in my brain. I think I'm actually trying to make it harder than it needs to be....

Do I persevere, or put it down and find something I'm happier with? Will it ever be done, this shawl? And more to the point, do I really care? I'm not sure it has a role in my life anymore, given that I have the really rather magnificent Highland shawl completed, and the possible giftee seems to have gone off green. (Don't ask. She's a bit odd about colours.)

I advise my students in my class to only work with yarns they like touching, and to pick projects they'll enjoy. A project that you don't enjoy knitting will never get done -- or you'll have to force yourself to work on it. And god knows there's enough in life that you have to force yourself to do, I don't believe knitting should fit into this category.

Perhaps I should take my own advice and give the damn thing up entirely? It's great yarn, maybe it needs to find another home?

Anyone want 5 or 6 100gm skeins of an aran weight variegated green hand-dyed 100% wool? Will trade for a double espresso...

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Xmas Sock pattern

Festive Sock (After Vogue Knitting's Holly Leaf Socks)

Ladies' one size fits all.

1 50gm ball green sock yarn (pick your favourite, I used Paton's Kroy 4 ply)
1 50gm ball red sock yarn (pick your favourite, I used Paton's Kroy 4 ply)
1 pair 2.5mm needles

approximately 40 sts and 40 rows over 10cm/4 inch square in mock cable rib pattern

Using red, and 2.5mm needles, cast on 64 stitches. Join, being careful not to twist the round.

First round: *Skip first stitch(leaving it in place on the needle) and k into second stitch, then k into first and slip both off the needle at the same time, p2; repeat from * to end of round.

Change to green and work leg in mock cable rib pattern as follows, until leg measures 6 inches/15 cm.

Mock Cable Rib (over a multiple of 4 stitches)
Rounds 1, 2 and 4: *K2, p2; repeat from * to end of round.
Round 3: *Skip first stitch(leaving it in place on the needle) and k into second stitch, then k into first and slip both off the needle at the same time, p2; repeat from * to end of round.

Set up for heel: work 34 stitches of next round in pattern (these are the instep stitches), attach red yarn, and work remaining 30 stitches of round in pattern. The 30 heel stitches should start and end with 2 knit stitches... if it's doesn't, fudge it by working 2 extra green stitches before you change to the red.

If it's easier to handle, slip the 34 instep stitches to a holder. Turn and work an additional 21 rows on heel stitches with red yarn, as follows:

WS: Slip 1, p1, *k2, p2; repeat from * to end of row.
RS: Slip 1, k1, work mock cable rib until last 2 stitches, k2.
You'll end with a WS row.

Foundation row for heel turn, RS facing: Knit 20, skp, turn.
Heel row 1, WS facing: Slip 1, p10, p2tog.
Heel row 2, RS facing: Slip 1, k10, skp.

Repeat the above two rows until all heel stitches have been worked. You'll end on a WS row, and there will be 12 stitches remaining. At this stage, you can cut the red yarn, leaving a tail to be woven in.

Go back to the green yarn tail position, at the end of the instep stitches. With the green yarn, pick up and knit 15 stitches along the left side of the heel, work the 12 heel stitches, and pick up and knit 15 stitches along the right side of the heel. Work across the instep stitches in pattern.

The start of the round is between the instep stitches and the left side of the heel. From here, you'll work the 34 stitches in the mock cable rib pattern, and the rest of the stitches will be in stotcking stitch.

Work one round even, twisting all picked-up sts.

Next round: K1, ssk, knit to last three stitches before instep stitches, k2tog, k1, work across instep stitches in mock cable rib pattern.
Work a round even.

Repeat these last two rounds until you're back to 64 stitches.

Work until foot measures required length -- 2 inches/5 cm shorter than total foot length. Your stitches will be arranged as follows: needle 1 has 15, needle 2 has 15, needle 3 has 34.

You'll finish the toe in plain stocking stitch.

Decrease for toe:
Needle 1: K1, ssk, knit to end. Needle 2: Knit to last three stitches, k2tog, k1. Needle 3: k1, ssk, knit to last three stitches, k2tog, k1.

Knit three rounds even.
Work a decrease round followed by two even rounds, twice. (6 rounds total)
Work a decrease round followed by one even round, three times. (6 rounds total)
Work decrease rounds until 8 stitches remain.

Cut yarn and thread through remaining stitches to close. To finish, weave in ends.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

FO: The Highland Triangle Shawl


What do you think? I'm pretty pleased, and have worn it a couple of times already, to many compliments.

For those who asked, it's the Highland Triangle Shawl from Cheryl Oberle's Folk Shawls.

It was a challenge, but I learnt a lot about lace knitting, and feel confident that I could go further next time.

The bit that tripped me up the most was the applied edging. It was fiddly and time-consuming to work. And I discovered at the end that I'd dropped a couple of stitches.

Which, of course, only became evident during the blocking process. Argh. There was much debate about what to do to solve the problem (not to mention the cursing). I ultimately did the repairs in situ, with some careful weaving. And you can barely tell.

Mock Cable Rib

For those of you who were asking, here's the instructions for the ribbing I used on the Xmas sock.

Mock Cable Rib:
Worked flat, over a multiple of 4 stitches +2.
Row 1: P2, *k2, p2; repeat from * to end of row.
Row 2 & 4: K2, *p2, k2; repeat from * to end of row.
Row 3: P2, *skip first st and k into second stitch, then k into first and slip both off the needle, p2; repeat from * to end of row.

Worked in the round, over a multiple of 4 stitches.
Rounds 1, 2 and 4: *K2, p2; repeat from * to end of round.
Round 3: *Skip first stitch(leaving it in place on the needle) and k into second stitch, then k into first and slip both off the needle at the same time, p2; repeat from * to end of round.

It's sophisticated yet easy to work. Good for socks, mitten cuffs, or a flourish on the edging of a cabled sweater.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Xmas Sock Idea

So far...

Subtle yet festive, I think.

Red heels and toes, but I'll leave the rest pretty simple.

Lizardy Progress

3 squares done! 21 to go!

I've decided that to describe this as an afghan undersells it. It's an art piece.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Back to First Principles/When Does It Become My Own?

Sometimes, you have to go back to the start. I worked on a sock last night, nothing too fancy. It came together, and I like it. Knitter's block dealt with, I think.

On a different note, this raises in my mind a question about how far one has to stray from a published design before it counts as original.

The source project is the Holly Leaf Socks from the Vogue Knitting On the Go Socks book. I posted about this before. Two goes and it was awful on both. They're magnificent, but really not up my alley from a construction perspective.

As I said, I should have known -- knitted flat, with copious intarsia. A total disaster the first time around, and a medium range disaster even in the modified version.

So, back to my revised plan... much simpler, much more manageable. A narrow edging at the top in bright red, the leg in a nice festive green mock cabled rib, and I'm planning the heel and toe in red. I'll probably stick with a single colour of green, rather than the 2-colour foot I was considering -- because really, what's the point of working the damn thing flat and then having to seam it.

But then at what stage is this so far from the source that it's an original design? The yarn is different, the number of stitches is different, the needles are different, there's no intarsia at all, they're worked in the round rather than flat... what is the same is the edging and the basic colours and the mock cable rib stitch.


Sunday, October 29, 2006

Post-knitum depression?

I've been on a knitting rampage of late -- four new designs (including a full hat, mitt and scarf set), the Highland Shawl, and I've got three Lizard Ridge squares done. All excellent stuff.

And in the last few days, I've hit a wall. I've been working on and off for over a year on a feather & fan shawl in some stash yarn. I picked it up yesterday for some roadtrip knitting, and ended up ripping a significant portion of it out -- too many mistakes. Then even the reworked section was causing me problems. And I picked up again a twice-abandoned mock-cabled and colourwork sock project, and I'm really not having much success with that.

And Lorena gave me some Rowan Romance to swatch with for a specific design she has in mind, and it's just not coming together for me.

Am I all creative-d out? I've been doing some seriously interesting and challenging stuff over the last two or three months, and I think I'm exhausted. Right now even the easy things seem hard.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

The Lizard Ridge Continues

Look! Look! Isn't this cool?

I have my mother participating in the hunt for additional colourways. I have 19 now, and I'm willing to move heaven and earth to ensure I get 24 so that each block is different.

I'm having a heck of a time explaining this to people who aren't knitters, though.

"There's this yarn, and it's naturally stripy. And then you do this pattern so that it makes more stripes, and they're bubbly now but it will flatten out so it's wavy." The price of knitting in public, I suppose. All I know is that I get asked about this more than anything else I've knitted.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Applied Tedium

Working on the last piece of the Highland Shawl, the outer edging.

After I worked the inner border, I put the stitches on hold, to have an edging applied to them. All 186 x 2 + 2 of them. That's 372 stitches in total.

It's a few. But that's ok, I'm not afraid of a few stitches -- see my post about ruffles.

And then there's this little edging you apply. It's pretty simple, an 8 row thing you attach to the inner border every WS row. Easy-peasy. It varies from 5 stitches to 9 so it's not like it's a lot of knitting.

So 372 sts divided by 4 is 93. 93 repeats of the edging pattern.

That's ok, 8 rows. Easy. But here's the problem... the repeat is oddly difficult and time-consuming considering how small it is.

R1: Sl1, k2, yo, k2.
R2: k2, p1, k2, attach to last stitch of shawl (I'm using a k2tog).
R3: Sl1, k3, yo, k2.
R4: k2, p1, k3, attach to shawl.
R5: Sl1, k2, yo twice, k2tog, yo, k2.
R6: K2, p1, k2, p1, k2, attach to shawl.
R7: Sl1, k8.
R8: Cast off 4, k3, attach to shawl.

I'm finding two problems with this: it moves so quickly that I forget where I am -- "I can't already be casting off, I just did that." And I keep mixing up the position of the yo in R3. It's just not sticking in my head for some reason. So I have to keep looking at the pattern.

This means that a repeat takes about 4 minutes.

4 minutes times 93 is 372 minutes. Which is 6.2 hours.

And I have to be careful about how I hold the needles, because the shawl is heavy, and all that turning means I'm at risk for stitches slipping off the needles.

It's both horribly fiddly and horrifically dull at the same time. Whee!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

What does this say about my state of mind?

Lorena asks me for a hat design and I come up with this.


This is known as the Silly Hat. Because it is.

It's also a very very quick and easy knit with bulky weight yarn (11 sts/4 inches on 8mm needles), worked flat so it's accessible to even the newest knitter. It's sized for kids and adults, and uses hardly any yarn at all - betweeen 75 and 150 yds, depending on the size.

Available on Patternfish and Ravelry for $3.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Wither Chunky?

Have been asked by a reader (hello! so glad you like my designs!) what I mean when I say "chunky". As in my hat, and the Sheep Wrap.

I mean something like 16 sts/20 rows to 10cm/4 inches in st st with 6mm needles, or a

Lizard Ridge Fever

I have Lizard Ridge fever.

I've loved Noro Kureyon since the first time I saw it, just over two years ago.

I've used it for a sweater (the Vass Variation) and a couple of scarves, and I've evangelized it relentlessly. My mother is knitting a cardigan with it, Nicola made a scarf with it, and I try to force it on my students every chance I get.

The colourways fascinate me -- in a Kaffe- Fassett-more-is-less sort of way -- and I've noodled on the idea of a design that uses as many of them as possible. My Vass Variation started down that road in a timid sort of way....

Thanks to the Fall Knitty, I found what I was looking for. Lizard Ridge!

It's genius... an afghan of 24 blocks, each just less than a ball of Kureyon. 24 blocks means 24 different colourways! I actually don't know how many they make in total, but I've already got 10 and I know there's more I haven't bought yet. I'm hoping I don't have to repeat a single one.

I've never actually made an afghan before. I love the idea that each block is in itself a portable project, ideal for my commute.

Like the designer, I was thinking that I'd take it slowly, one block at a time, between bigger projects, or as I find a new colourway.

Phooey to that! The knitting is addictive; I'm loving the anticipation of what colour comes next, and how they combine. I got one block done entirely between some TV yesterday and a couple of subway trips.

Oh yeah, and the "just less than a ball" means that I'm going to have 24 bits of leftovers... I sense a scarf or something! Might be an excuse to actually learn how to crochet.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Oddly Productive

We've just had four solid weeks of dedicated home time. We've been nursing our sick dog (about which you know, and I will say no more on this topic).

During that time, we watched a lot of TV and I got a lot of knitting and designing done.

I got two designs completed - both of which are fairly out of character for me. MMJ says that my ruffled cardi is the Anti-Kate sweater. I never wear pink and wouldn't be caught dead in anything in the least ruffly.

And then I produced this pinky-purply kids' sweater with big shiny buttons. Again, not really me.

But you know, I rather like them both.

Let's see what the next few weeks produce, as my emotional state shifts again.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Best Dog in the World

Goodbye, sweetie. We'll love you and miss you always.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Discouraging or Honest?

There's a knitter out there somewhere who thinks I'm a horrible person.

I was in Sheep last Sunday, having just finished my sock class, and I was approached by a woman who needed some help. I'm a reasonably helpful sort, so I waded in.

She was asking about different types of yarns; she was looking for a dark coloured mohair or similar. I pointed her to some lovely chunky weight mohair yarns. As we chatted, details emerged. She's a new knitter. She doesn't yet know how to purl. And she's working on her first scarf.

She had brought her needles -- her only set -- to the store with her. I think she thought I might have needed to check them for safety purposes.

I started gently redirecting her to smoother yarns; yarns easier to work with.

"Oh no, no. I need something to go with the mohair I've got."

After some pointing and questioning, I learn that she's already got 2 balls of Kidsilk Haze. In dark purple. To make a scarf. I remind you that she's a new knitter who doesn't yet know how to purl.

So here's the thing about Kidsilk Haze. I've said it before, you might recall. The results are unquestionably magnificent. It's lightweight and warm and cobwebby and mohairy and delicous.

It is also -- bar none -- the most difficult yarn I've ever worked with. I told the customer this. I even said "you might think I'm horrible, but... ". I made a scarf last fall in Kidsilk Haze and it nearly killed me. A garter stitch scarf, mind you. The stuff is incredibly sticky, gets tangled like some horrible tangly thing, and is impossible to rip out. (Although I suppose that actually is a good thing if you drop a stitch...)

"But it's so nice... " "Oh yes, absolutely, no question. It's lovely. But don't use it."

We went on like this for a few minutes. I repeated to her that I was a seriously experienced knitter and even I would think twice about working with it.

I left her there, puzzling. I have no idea what she ultimately did. I may have frightened her off for life -- but the Kidsilk Haze would have have the same effect.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Ruffles: Amy Did Warn Me

I'm quite proud of this, my latest design.

For some reason, I got it in my head that I wanted a ruffled border. I'd seen it used very effectively in other designs.

Well, yeah, the effect is amazing, but dear god it's a serious investment of time and yarn.

Using the sleeve edging as an example, here's how you make a ruffle.

There were 34 sts in the cast on edge of the sleeve. Sleeve has been seamed, so you're working in the round. With RS facing, and appropriate dpns, pick up 34 stitches in the selvedge edge of the sleeve. Yes, that's right, one for one. Knit 1 round even. Next round: kfb in every stitch -- doubling the number of stitches on your needles. Work another even round, knitting all those 68 stitches. Work another round of kfbs -- doubling again the number of stitches. Knit another even round. Cast off. You start with 34 sts, and end up with 136 stitches.

Which doesn't sound too bad. And then you start working the border of the body opening. In one piece. 76 sts for the lower back, 20 for the back neck, and 85 on each side. That's 266 sts. You then double that, and double it again, for 1064 sts. No wonder it took me 5 episodes of Rome on DVD and almost a full ball of yarn to finish the edging!

I think it was worth it, though... what d'ya think?

Pattern available from Ravelry and Patternfish.

Sunday, October 01, 2006


When I'm teaching sock knitting, I often tell a story about my grandmother, the Hilda after whom this blog is named.

Hilda was an expert knitter, all through her life. She told me a story once -- a story I didn't really appreciate at the time -- that when she was a girl she'd earn a penny by turning the heel of a sock for less-skilled knitters.

I finished up a two-part sock class today, and as he was leaving R. apologetically pressed a coin into my hand.

He couldn't find an English coin, he said, so this would have to do.

A Sacagawea dollar coin.

R. -- thank you. You're a terrific knitter, and a gentleman, and I will keep the coin in my knitting kit with me always. (It's there, in the tin with the safety pins and stitch markers.)

Hilda would be smiling, I'm quite sure.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Boring or Soothing?

The Highland Triangle Shawl is now coming along well (after some painful recovery from more mistakes than I'd care to admit).

Working the edging alternates between boring and soothing, depending on my state of mind. It's a vertically oriented pattern from a 6 stitch repeat, creating a rather nifty ribbed effect. Ok, so I like my laces geometric rather than organic.

I love how it's turning out. And after some encouragement from Denny, I've been working without markers!! The patterning is so obvious that once I got established, the markers were just slowing me down.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Way to go Marnie!

My sister-in-law, who is entirely humble about her knitting skills, produced this. She designed it all on her own. My contribution was to design the closure, based on those beautiful buttons, and sew it up.

It's made from the Paton's Lopi knock-off, which isn't a bad yarn at all.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Cash Iroha Ruffles

Love this yarn.

Great hand, lovely "organic" texture -- slightly slubby, slight variations in the colour.

Cashmere and silk, how could it be bad, really?

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Life is getting in the way of blogging

Forgive me if I go quiet for a bit...

I'm knitting, just not writing.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

I Broke Down

I wanted to do the Ribwarmer in black. (Of course I did.) But after all the emails back and forth with Emma about hers, after seeing the pics, and being in the middle of a design slump, I knew I just had to get one going.

So I dug through the stash and found two almost complete balls of Lamb's Pride in not-at-all complementary colours. Beggars can't be choosers, you know. (The other colour choices can be spotted in the pic, on the right hand side, on the lower shelf of the coffee table.)

And here we are. The knitting went very fast. Sewing up was unexpectedly a pain in the butt, and the edging was slow because I was playing "nearly out of yarn" chicken. There was lots of ripping back and measuring of the tiny bit of yarn I had left.

Yes, Denny, those are ends which I will weave in.

And that's Avery. She's the best dog in the world. You might think you know the best dog in the world. But her name is Avery, she's a 13 year old yellow lab, and she lives with us.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Fall 2006 Knitty

Woolly Acres farm visit
To quote Amy and Jillian: which Kate learns that wool comes from sheep!

Pattern: sheep wrap
To quote Amy and Jillian: which the sheepy wool turns into something to keep Kate warm

Thanks to the inimitable Denny for her help!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

On Tension & A Ribwarmer

Emma Jane has finished her Ribwarmer and it's terrific! Cannot wait to make one myself. Am still waiting for the yarn, unfortunately.

I was talking to Denny and one of her friends this week; Denny introduced me as the Queen of Tension. "Kate always checks her tension," she said. I'd like to think there was a bit of awe in her voice, but I suspect it was more that she thinks I'm crazy. Denny's heard me give my lecture about measuring tension in a class several times. Yet she still never checks. (She also knits lace in angora with neither stitch markers nor a lifeline. Draw what conclusions you will.)

"My friend Emma never checks hers." Yeah, yeah, I know. And who got a Ribwarmer done first?
Anyway, Emma has kindly measured her tension for me, and I remain confident that Lamb's Pride worsted will do the trick.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Pride Goeth

You know the old Pride goeth before a fall thing?

Well, it goeth big time.

I was feeling all proud and smug about my first completed lace design -- the red thing of which I'm not posting pics. I had shared a pic with a couple of my best knitting pals, and their feedback was terrific. (Thanks Abby and Lorena!)

So on a quiet evening at home, I went back to the edging on the Highland Lace shawl, and discovered a colossal and unrecoverable mistake in the third row. And of course I hadn't bothered feeding a lifeline... So I had to pull back 5 rows of 360+ stitches very very carefully, and pick the stitches one by one -- including a billion yarnovers.


Wednesday, September 06, 2006


So it's a no. Not enough yarn.

I ripped back a full 10-row repeat and was able to finish the edging, with not a heck of a lot left over. Others have said this before, but I continue to be surprised by how much yarn those last few rows use up...

Object is now finished, and I can move on.

(You want pics? Sorry, no, it's destined for somewhere else... you'll get to see them eventually, just not here.)

What now? I have three balls for swatching for design ideas... Needful's fluffy and rather sweet Joy, Noro's swoonworthy Cash Iroha (silk and cashmere and wool... ) and Rowan's oddly enchanting and not overdone Romance.

I'll let you know what I think of the yarns as I work with them.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Estimating yardage, part two

So I'm working a lace shawl design. (!!!)

It's worked from the tip up. I'm trying to keep it to 3 balls of the particular yarn I'm working with, and I feel like I'm playing chicken.

I've got this much yarn left. ...
I need to work a knit row, an eyelet row, 5 or 6 garter rows and a cast off - and I'm at 175 stitiches. I'm really not confident I have enough.

It's a delicate balance -- maximum use of yarn. I personally hate a pattern that makes me buy 3 balls and barely uses the third. But if I pull it back a full 10-row repeat, there's going to be a fair bit of yarn left over, I fear.

Oh well, I'll just have to keep working and keep my fingers crossed. .

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Estimating yardage

Fell in love yesterday with some yarn in the bargain basement of the aforementioned R___ shop. It was inexpensive, a really great colour, and clearly 100% wool. Oh yes, and unlabelled. The woman working the (probably awful) basement shift could confirm it would wool, and that it was from Philopher's. It was 4 ounces (because she'd measured it, she told me). But she couldn't tell me the yardage.

ARGH. Could I have come up with some kind of approximation, by looking at other yarns of similar gauge and fibre composition... but I was without my calculator, and wasn't feeling particularly clever.

Very annoying.

She told me that none of the small Canadian yarn producers put the yardage on their labels. I have a hard time believing this. I shall have to do some research, I think.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Banned from planes again?

Great story about a woman's knitting needle exploding as she was using it....

It's just absurd enough to be true. There's even a plausible science-y explanation.

That doesn't stop the conspiracy theorists and rumours, though... "space aliens"?

I'm just worried that the TSA will hear about this and ban knitting needles from planes again.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Lace Designing!

I'm chosing to blame this on Cheryl Oberle and Barbara Walker, rather than Denny.

As I get into the zen of it, as I get more familiar with the lace pattern of the Highland Shawl, I'm able to think more about the shape of the stitch patterns, rather than just trying to figure out what comes next in a row. And as I do that, I think about what might happen if I do a left-leaning decrease rather than a right-leaning decrease, or what might happen if I put the yarnover before rather than after the decrease... and hey presto! I'm designing lace.

The Highland Shawl continues apace, and with it, in red, you see the start of an idea upon which I am noodling.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Correction - Oops!

The fingering weight yarn for the lovely Cat's Paw shawl actually came from Hopeful Farms, not Woolly Acres as I'd previously mentioned.

Thanks -- and apologies -- to Michele and Gil of Hopeful Farms.

Monday, August 21, 2006

It's Official

I am a lace knitter. I bought blocking wires.

I blame Denny.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The Ribwarmer is on Hold

So the answer is indeed a heavier yarn. Emma Jane proved it. Although she did confess that she often plays fast and loose with gauge... with sometimes hilarious results... in this case, she got it right.

LK doesn't have Lamb's Pride in the colour I want, so I've ordered it, and will be forced to focus on one of my other existing projects until it arrives.

That's not a bad thing.

What is on my needles right now?

For Boring TV:
There's the Highland Lace Shawl. Requires much attention.

For Exciting TV and Car Journeys:
Requires little attention, but is large and hard to carry around: a feather-and-fan shawl in some hitherto abandoned cast-off Fleece Artist Country Wool.

For Commuting:
Small and requires no attention at all: rainbow socks.

Saturday, August 19, 2006


Thanks to a chat with Abby, I solved the problem. The yarn required for the ribwarmer is a heavy, heavy worsted.

I just swatched with Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride worsted on 5mm needles and it matches the cable pattern gauge.

The rib pattern gauge has got to be the misprint.

Wahoo! Off to buy some more yarn! The good news is I know it will knit up very quickly.


They don't call it "tension" for nothing.

The yarn substitution I made for the ribwarmer isn't working. In a big way.

First all, it's pretty clear that the original yarn must be an aran, not a worsted. That, I can handle.

But I'm still hugely puzzled about the difference in row gauge across the two stitch patterns.

A k4 p4 rib should be 18 sts/24 rows when lightly stretched... that's basically st st, so that's a perfect aran.

But then a 8-row cable pattern with the same yarn, same needles should have 16 rows to 3 inches. Which is 21.3 rows for 4 inches. WTF? It's got to be a typo, must be 16 rows to 2 inches.

I spent some time with the schematic, and I'm even more puzzled.

10 repeats of a second 8-row cable pattern, essentially the same as the other one, should provide 15 inches. Which means that they're serious about the 16 rows to 3 inches thing. I have NO idea how this is supposed to work.

Am I missing something about the behaviour of cable patterns that the row gauge changes so radically? I thought I was pretty good at this stuff, pretty smart.


Thursday, August 17, 2006


I got distracted.

The new fall Vogue Knitting has this faboo little cable vesty shrug ribwarmer thing.

I'd seen someone wearing something like it last year, sketched it out as a possible design project, and then promptly forgot about it.

In my recent survey the pre-fall offerings in my local megamall, I saw and tried on a similar thing. It was indeed as stylish on as I thought it would be.

So I hurried my butt over to LK, picked up the mag and some yarn, and cast on.

I bought Nashau "Julia". The gauge seems slightly off what the pattern calls for. The manufacturer of the original yarn says it's a worsted weight; other sites suggest it's an aran.

I'm a bit suspicious, because there's wildy different row gauges given for the two (not that) different cable patterns. One gives 24 rows/4 inches, another gives 16 rows/3 inches. That doesn't feel right to me.

We shall see how this goes.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Zen of It

I'm getting the hang of this new lace pattern, slowly but surely. The approach is entirely different.

Instead of mindlessly placing markers and repeating patterns between the markers, the pattern requires a careful count at the start of each row.

I've got to repeat a 24-row chart 5 times. The wrong side rows are plain knits (other than an increase). The 12 right-side rows repeat 2 different stitch patterns, at a different offset...

stitch pattern one: k2tog k1 k2tog yo k1 yo
stitch pattern two: k3 yo [slip 2 together knitwise, k1, pass 2 slipped stitches over] yo

The magic is in knowing how many stitches in from the edge you start the pattern, and which stitch of the pattern you start on. The rest is just repeats of the 6 stitch pattern from there. Markers don't help because of the offset, and because of the yarnovers. I find it tricky to keep a marker in the right place when you're doing yarnovers either before or after it.

I've got a copy of the chart with the key rows labelled, I've got a sticky note and a pencil. When I'm done a row of the chart I note it. Simple! Well, easy enough that I can mostly pay attention to the TV.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

More Adventures in Lace

Feeling emboldened by my recent success, I decided to take on another lace project: the Highland Triangle Shawl from Folk Shawls. I chose it because it's got three separate elements -- the basic triangle, an inner border, and the outer edging, applied row-by-row. Seemed like a good test of my skills.

In a word: holy mother of god. It is a test indeed. I'm struggling with the basic triangle. The problem is with the lace pattern. The Cat's Paw shawl was sets of vertically aligned 7-stitch pattern repeats. I could place markers, and repeat the pattern across the row. When the sides grew another 7 stitches I would place a marker and work additional repeats of the chart. Easy! I was actually working on this one in the streetcar! I could work it while watching TV!

The chart for the triangle is a mind-binder. It has repeating elements, but the basic pattern repeats at an offset, and the repeats blend into each other. And there seems to be no rhyme or reason to how you add increased stitches into the pattern.

I tried placing markers, but because of the pattern alignment, there's no good position for them that doesn't get wrapped up into the double decrease. So each row requires me to read the chart and count stitches. Which means that it's a total attention-absorber. I can't do anything else while I'm working it -- no TV watching, no talking. And because I need the chart in front of me, I can't work it while in the car, either. Sigh.

I shall persevere.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Finishing Queen!

Another FO! A modest-sized (50 or so inches wide, 25 or so long after blocking) shawl in undyed fingering weight from my friends at Woolly Acres Farm. (Have I said recently how much I love their yarns?) The picture doesn't convey the depth of the grey -- it's really very lovely.

It's not bad, considering how badly I suck at lace knitting. There was some serious ripping 'n' cursing required to get it done. I am a master of threading lifelines, though.

I messed with the pattern, of course. I added the eyelets at the top, before the border, to balance it out a bit. It's garter-edged with an easy-to-memorize 7 stitch cat's paw lace pattern repeated across.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

"Even I Don't Do That"

I'd heard many rumblings, over the years, about the friendliness -- or lack thereof -- of the staff at a certain big, old Wool shop here in downtown Toronto.

I've been going for years, since I used to live to around the corner, and I've never had a single problem. They were helpful when I was a beginner, asking stupid questions. Their selection is unbeatable. But maybe I like it because, for the most part, they leave you alone to rummage. And don't engage in unnecessary chat or banter that might distract me. I like to be left alone in paradise.

I dropped by yesterday, looking for some inexpensive superwash DK for a lace wrap project I'm experimenting with.

I started in the bargain basement, I always do. It's a positive Aladdin's Cave. (Worth a visit since they moved it downstairs.)

There was a lone staffer downstairs... "The DKs?" "Wool?" "Yup." "Over there."

I pondered the colours for a bit, and ultimately a chose an interesting green colour. (Still not confident enough to do lace in black.)

As the staffer rang me up, she asked me what it was for. "A lace shawl." "What, now? But it's August." "Yup. Hey, it could be worse. A few summers ago I made a mohair wrap for a friend's September outdoor wedding."

"Mohair in August? Even I don't do that." She handed me the bag and we were done.

Some might consider that insulting or unhelpful.

Me, I took it as a massive compliment. If I'm doing stuff that even a R___ staffer doesn't do, then I must be hardcore.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Thanks Denny! Got it!

That is all.

(This will all make sense in a month or two.)

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


At last! A pair of bee stripe socks!

And I'm loving how this next sock project is turning out. The yarn is Sheldrake Farm Soft Touch Ultra 100% wool which I picked up at the Knitter's Frolic in the spring. Great rainbow striping. These will bring some serious fun to my winter boots.

These will be my fourth pair of 100% wool, hand-dyed, small producer sock yarn socks. Am a bit worried about how they'll wear... ask me again in April, after a winter's worth of boots.