Monday, December 29, 2008

Ravelry Pattern Store Open for Business

My Ravelry Pattern store is now open for business!

I have lots of my patterns available for sale...

the Peace Hat

the Exploded Ribbing Sock

the One Skein Luxury Kerchief

and lots more!

If you don't have a Ravelry account, email me and I can sell you patterns through PayPal.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Meet Earnest

This is Earnest the bear. He is rather serious looking, but that's because he knows he has an important job. He's my demo bear.

I've been wanting to design and knit a bear for a long time now, and finally gave myself the kick in the pants I needed - I decided to teach a class on the topic.

Earnest is knitted with a little less than 100m of plain and simple worsted weight wool, and he's about 6 inches tall when seated. His sweater is made from a scrap of DK (leftovers from the Peace Hat, actually). I embroidered his features rather than using button as it's safer for young children. He's thread-jointed, which means he's posable.

Bear knitting (whether in my class or from a pattern) is quick and fun. It's a good project for adventurous beginner or intermediate knitters. As long as you're comfortable with increasing and decreasing, and reading patterns, you'll do fine.

In the case of Earnest, the body and head are made in one piece, and the legs and arms knit up in a matter of minutes. The biggest challenge is the finishing, as the pieces have to be sewn up and carefully assembled.

In the class, we'll work through the bear pattern -- with any yarn you like! Fingering weight makes a terrific pocket pal - and a chunky weight would make a great bedtime companion. (Earnest is the perfect size to sit on a shelf, watching over the action at the shop.) We'll also create a customized sweater. Stripes, cables, even lace if you're making a girl bear. You can change his expression with the use of buttons for eyes, or different embroidery.

I'll teach you everything you need to know -- how to read and follow the pattern, how to sew up and assemble your bear, and how to add the finishing touches of face and sweater.

More details about the class here.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Noro socks: done! On the question of softness

At long last.

I've worn them a couple of times already, and I can report no ill-effects or untimely wearings-out.

I am going to keep wearing them as often as possible (allowing for washing, of course), to see what's up with this damn yarn. The wear is the big concern for me -- it's a single, and rather fine in parts, and I'm honestly not sure how long it will last when exposed to the abuse of my winter boots. I've heard that it "fills out" and felts a bit with washing, to make a better, denser fabric. I will post regular reports.

Another complaint I hear about this yarn is that it's not very soft. I get a little cranky about this, I'll be honest. Yes, softness is great, but the softer the yarn the more it pills, and pilling means wear, and wear means wearing out.

We're not talking about itchiness, we're talking about softness. I will happily concede the point if you tell me that you find the yarn itchy. Fine.

But softness? I mean, come on. Your feet just ain't that delicate. Who doesn't wear shoes or sandals without socks at least a few times in the summer? I don't know about your sandals, but mine are certainly less soft on the inside than Noro sock yarn. Anyone who's ever given themselves a blister from a pair of ill-fitting or uncomfortable shoes and then proceeded to wear them again is, IMHO, immediately disqualified from claiming that sock yarn might not be soft enough.


Saturday, December 20, 2008

I Dream of Noro

I had a dream about knitting last night.

Specifically, about Noro. But not the sort of dream I would have expected to have about Noro yarns....

I've picked the long abandoned Noro sock yarn, and am committed to finishing the second one in the very near future. Like others, I am unsure about the wearability of the yarn -- not the softness, more on that later -- but how well it will wear.

Last night, I had a very disturbing dream. I dreamt that the gusset separated from heel -- that the picked up stitches had all broken. I checked them this morning, they're all ok.


(Amateur psychoanalysts: have at it.)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Needle Pulling Thread

I'm thrilled to announce that two of my sock designs and a profile appear in the new issues of the Canadian magazine "A Needle Pulling Thread".

Click here for a preview...

There's a lot of terrific stuff in this magazine, and it covers a variety of different needlecrafts. There's some wonderful designs -- including an absolutely stunning quilt design called "Frosted Midnight" that may well actually cause me to dig out that quilting-for-beginners kit I got last year.

Look for it at your favourite Canadian crafting store.

Monday, December 15, 2008

For a Good Cause

Because I only take my clothes off for a good cause...

I'm Miss November in the 2009 Purple Purl "Naturally" calendar. I am modelling some of my socks. Several pairs of socks. In strategic locations.

For sale at The Purple Purl, $20 each, and all proceeds go directly to Princess Margaret Hospital. Someone close to me was treated there for cancer this year. He had nothing but good things to say about his experience, and thanks to their work he will live many more years.

I'm thankful for that, and they deserve all the support we can give them.

Rest assured there's a little something for everyone in the calendar -- there are fabulous knitters, crocheters and spinners, there are lovely ladies, handsome men, and a gaggle of adorable babies. I think my personal favourite is Tom's handsome rescue dog snuggling in a heap of Noro....

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Power of the Internets

Thanks to a reader (and commenter) on my blog, I now have two balls of the longed-for Regia Nation Colour in red and white.

Thank you Mrs. G!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

In Which I Reveal My Proclivities To All The World

To Graft or Not to Graft... my Knitty Winter 08 article.

Have already had one comment from a knitter who enjoys grafting. That makes three of you.


Tuesday, December 09, 2008

DKC Winter Workshop

I'm thrilled to announce I'm going to be teaching at the Toronto Downtown Knit Collective Winter Workshop, January 31 and February 1st 2009.

January 31st, 11am-1pm, I'll be running my Pattern Reading Workshop. This is designed for newer knitters who are confident with their needles, but less confident with pattern instructions. Over the years, as I've taught many different knitters, it's become very clear that being a good knitter is one thing -- being able to decipher the diagrams and tables and codes and strange abbreviations in a pattern is something else entirely. I've been collecting all the weird and wonderful things I've seen in patterns, and I'll explain every last one of them. If nothing else, this session is worth it to figure out how to handle the very unhelpful "reversing shapings".

Sunday February 1st, 10am-1pm, I'll be revealing the secret of Entrelac!

See flyer for more details.

Hope to see you there!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Peace Out!

Just finished!

Peace hat, also known as "hey, have you seen some of the wacky cables in the Barbara Walker books, I should do something with those... "

Update: Available at Patternfish and Ravelry.

My project for over the Christmas break is to get set up for pattern sales on Ravelry, BTW.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Two Quick Mitten Related Things

To answer a question I've been asked: the yarn for the mitered mitt is Kureyon colour #188. And no, I didn't plan it so that the colour change would happen at the end of the ribbing -- it just worked out that way. So for the second one, I could either throw caution to the wind and let the colours fall where they may -- or I could engineer it to match the first. Either is a valid technique with Noro, I feel.

(And in a related, very annoying point, the mitt uses 26gm of yarn. Which means that a single ball will almost but not quite be enough for two mitts. Argh.)

And on the other topic, it's cold today and snizzling today. Snizzle is like drizzle, but with snow. It's cold enough that the snowflakes are small, light and dry and pretty constant. Snizzling.

So I broke out the Latvian mittens for the streetcar ride. And I discovered a serious design flaw... the colour work is all over the hand of the mitt, making a lovely layered and warm fabric. Except for the thumb.

It's a single colour. Which means it's a single thread of yarn. So it's not nearly as wind-proof. Harumph. This may well be enough to inspire me to design my own, with stranded thumbs.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Look! A Mitten! Yay!

My own variation of EZ's mitered mitten, tweaked in several ways.

I added a ribbed cuff for better fit - a mitered k2 p2 - and reduced the number of sts so that it actually fit me.

Click on the picture to see the ribbing.

The original calls for 48 sts in this gauge yarn, which would be a good size for a man or a larger woman, but significantly too big for my little girly hands. I suspect that EZ was a big, strapping farm girl with big, strapping farm girl hands...

And of course, worked in Noro Kureyon because it's the best yarn in the world for this sort of thing -- warm and wooly, yes, and great colour effects for the mitering.

I'm teaching a class on the Mitered Mitt and its variations at the Naked Sheep. Click here for more info.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Improving on Perfection; And Lessons Learned

At Lisa's request, I've been playing with some Noro Kureyon, and the Mitered Mittens pattern in EZ's Knitter's Almanac.

Love love love how the stripes work in the miters -- this is, after all, what makes the Jaywalker sock so great.

Two things have become obvious during this process.

The first is that you really should read the pattern. Really. I seemed to have missed the "Knit one round" instruction. During first and second attempts, I thought to myself that it seemed odd that there wasn't an even round between pattern rounds... but by the time I got to the fourth attempt, I'd thrown caution to the wind and was proceeding on blind faith that our Great Mistress of all thing Knit, EZ herself, must have had her reasons.

Nope. Turned out I had simply missed that line in the book.

(Thing the First and a Half is that, as a pattern writer and technical editor, spacing can make a huge difference in the readability of the pattern. The "K 1 rnd." is immediately after the instruction for the second half of the first round, with no line breaks. And I missed it. I know why. The round is worked in two halves, with the patterning exactly the same on the second half as on the first. And as I read the instruction for the first half of the round in detail, noticed the litte note that said that the second half is the same as the first, and then ignored the rest of the line.

(Which I suppose means that Thing the First and Three Quarters is that Experience breeds Arrogance. I figured I knew what to do so I didn't bother reading any more.))

Anyway, Thing the Second is that you shouldn't -- and really can't -- mess with the genius that is an EZ pattern.

It turns out that it's impossible to improve on perfection. I've been working on them for a week, and all I've got are two bits -- both of which are going to be ripped out.

I don't like the cuffless nature of the basic Mitered Mitt, so I've been playing with a ribbed cuff, in the same mitered style, and it's just plain awful.

As is my usual strategy with mitts, I worked the cuff on fewer sts than the body. So on its own, the mitered cuff looks cool, but there are two big issues... the first is that mitering the ribs significantly reduces the stretchiness. And the second is that I really couldn't figure out how to make the increase flow smoothly into the hand. If I simply worked a couple of rounds of miters with only the increases and not the decreases, the pattern is retained, but it bunches oddly where the decreases should havebeen.

My original, middle-of-the-night idea was to offset the miters, so that I'd get a flat bottom to the cuff, rather than the angle that the pattern normally produces. But that didn't do what I needed it to do, for reasons I have not yet figured out.

Eventually, I gave up on the cuff and went back to the original design. 5 rounds of k1 p1 rib and then launch straight into the miters. Still riding on my high horse, I only worked 2 rounds of k1 p1 rib -- this seems to actually be ok. But because I've got tiny girly hands, I decided that the 48 sts that the pattern calls for, and that I'd been playing with on attempts numbers 1 through 4 was too damn big, so I cast on 40 sts. And of course, it's just too damn small.

Still cruising down that river in Egypt, I forged ahead for a while last night, and got far enough that I thought it might be time for the thumb. So I went back to the book to figure out what she says about thumb placement, and there it was... "K 1 rnd."

So. Back to the beginning. Again.

The eagle-eyed will also notice that I changed around the decreases... that might or might not stay.


And so all of this leads to Thing the Second and a Quarter... if you're going to significantly alter a pattern, it's probably helpful to have worked it according to the instructions at least once before...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Found one!

Found: one ball of Regia Nation Color sock yarn in red and white. Sadly, there was only one ball, in a bargain bin, labelless.

Even if the hand-written label hadn't been there, I would have bought it. It's unmistakable.

I reckon I'll do black ribbing, heels and toes, and I'll still be able to reverse the stripes - but it won't be quite as amusing as the all-over striped version.

Next up -- seeking the red, white and blue, and the blue and white... Santa?

Monday, November 24, 2008


I was teaching the other day, and a woman dashed into the shop. "I see you offer classes... " She seemed somewhat relieved.

"Do you have one on... you know... putting things together?" "Of course!"

More relief on her face.

"Is there one before Christmas?"

Yes Virginia, there is a finishing class before Christmas... And it's in the first half of the month, so there will be plenty of time to do whatever needs to be done for gift-giving.

On that note - some finishing of my own to report...

The second exploded ribbing sock is done, as is the fatigue-inducing mystery project - the edge of which can be seen in the photo.

The exploded sock pattern (I really need a better name for it) will be done by the end of the weekend, I promise. I have a bit of a queue of knitters waiting for it at this point...

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Knitting MacGyver Tip of the Year

No cable needle handy?

Use a golf tee!

Big thanks to N. for the tip!

Now, if only Norman played golf...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Sock Knitting: Practical Yet Insane

At the risk of whining about the weather, it's unseasonably cold and snowy here. Winter has arrived early. Too early for my tastes.

So it's back to my double-sock routine... a pair of thin cotton socks under a pair of hand-knit socks. I get really cold feet, and I need the extra layer.

I got caught out last night -- the snow started pretty seriously only after I'd left to teach a class. The good news was that it was a sock class, so I had a bag full of pairs to choose from for my extra layer.

I love teaching sock classes. Socks are my favourite form of knitting, no question. I had a student in my class last night, B., who has attended other of my classes. She's a great knitter, but she confessed to me a while ago that she wasn't a sock knitter... I got a sense that she was hesitant about the whole thing, that she really didn't understand the deal. It seemed pretty clear to me that she only really attended the class so she could see what the fuss was all about, and so she could help out her Mum, who has just started her first sock project.

I hear this reasonably often... puzzlement about what the big deal is. Sock knitting may well be the least efficient way of spending of your knitting time and money... I just spent nearly $40CDN (yes, forty dollars) on sock yarn with sterling silver thread in it. This is for something that goes on my SMELLY HORRIBLE FEET, to be HIDDEN inside my boots. And I'll probably spend between ten and twenty hours knitting a pair with this yarn (am noodling on a design idea, something fussy and interesting).

Socks can be complicated and challenging, and they require special equipment - insane teeny tiny needles, double points at that, which makes them more difficult to work with. And it's slow going, the tiny gauge.

It's not necessarily a rational thing, sock knitting.

Midway through my class last night, just after we'd turned the heel, B. looked up, smiled, and said... "hey, I get it now!" I think I've just converted another disbeliever...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Project Fatigue & Sparkly Encouragment

It's not an unfamiliar concept, project fatigue. When you tire of what you're working on, and need to take a break.

I see it often in my Project Classes. The Project Class is a workshop that runs for a few weeks; over that time, I guide students through their entire project - from choosing it, to swatching, to reading and working the pattern, to finishing it up.

I do encounter students who make excellent process for a time, and then partway through the class, suddenly stop. They're suffering from project fatigue.

I'm suffering from a serious case of it myself right now. I've been working on a commission, a set of items using the same yarn, for a yarn company. The yarn is great and I'm happy with the designs -- but I've been knitting nothing else for about 5 weeks now, and I simply need a break.

I've found myself scratching around the house looking for anything else to work on, any possible distraction.

I've picked up the long-abandoned Noro Kureyon Sock project...

(Remember how beserk I went when this yarn first appeared? Odd how I never actually managed to finish a pair... )

I've been working through the final few inches of the second Exploded sock so that I can write it up....

And I've been making far too much progress on the circular shawl thingy.

It happens. Sometimes you need a break from a project -- particularly a project that's big, or demanding.

This is all well and good, and I always recommend that knitters have more than one project on the go, particularly when one is challenging. I like to have an "at home" project, something that requires serious attention and goes well with mindless TV and radio. I also like to have a totally mindless project that goes well with engaging TV, movies with subtitles, in-car and in-the-dark knitting. More often than not, it's a plain and simple stocking stitch sock, because I can work them in my sleep. J. told me just today that she always knits a pair of socks between bigger projects, as a sort of palate cleanser.

My problem right now is that I'm actually on deadline.

So, as an encouragement to finish up the deadline project, and to finish up the others, I bought myself some sock yarn... some of the most stunning sock yarn I've ever seen.

Dye Version's Silver, in Midnight.

I'm not a sparkly girl, but this is absolutely magnificent. Look at it... shades of night sky, with a fine thread of silver through it.

And the thread of silver? It's actually sterling silver. Really!

I'm dying to start knitting with it. Can't wait. And therefore, it's going to sit, unwound, in plain sight, until I get everything else done. How's that for a reward?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Party, Party

See you there, perhaps?

The lovely ladies at the Purl talked me into participating in a charity... err... event... All will be unveiled today at 1pm. Visit the shop, or this site later for more information.

Let's just say that it's good thing I have a lot of pairs of hand-knit socks.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Things We Take For Granted: Sheep

I know that there are knitters out there who are wool-sensitive. Indeed, I've even contributed to Amy Singer's bible on the topic, No Sheep For You.

And I've certainly answered a lot of questions from knitters about non-wool sock yarns, and about good non-wool yarn substitutions in general.

Me, I'm the opposite of wool-sensitive. It's far and away my favourite fibre (yes, ok, I do love cashmere and the softer members of the wooly family), and I can wear some pretty scary scratchy sweaters without complaint. (I will wear Kureyon and Lopi next to my skin!) And so although I understood the problem intellectually, I'd never really internalized it. Indeed, I will admit that in the past I was one of those knitters who didn't really believe it was an actual allergy, that it was just a point of preference. Working with Amy disabused me of that notion some time ago... but that doesn't mean I've ever really thought about what it might mean when I teach classes.

Last night the whole thing was brought home to me in a way it never had been before.

A lovely knitter by the name of H. was in my class. The topic was Fixing Mistakes, and a key part of the class is having the students examine some mistake-ridden swatches I've prepared for the class.

(It leads into a fun discussion about the types of mistakes that you do have to fix vs. the types of mistakes you don't have to fix. I'm a pragmatist, after all. If the sweater isn't going to fall apart, if the pattering is working out, and the mistake isn't [very] visible, then why bother?)

And my swatches are all in wool.

H. is very wool-sensitive. Very. To the point where she took an antihistamine before she came to the class -- since she knew she'd be surrounded by wool.

I'd never considered that my teaching swatches might be a problem.

Lesson learnt. Thanks, H.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

"Can I Take Your Class Anyway?"; The Other Hand

I've been asked this question many times before, but this time it was obvious to me that there was a real sense of worry behind it.

I encountered a knitter at one of the shops where I teach who was interested in a class... We talked about it a bit, what I cover, how it works. And then she paused, lowered her voice a little, and said... "but I knit Continental, can I take your class anyway?"

My heart went out to her.

My answer was that of course she could take my class, and if anyone had told her that knitting Continental is somehow different from "English" knitting, then they were making a mountain out of a molehill.

(Follow the links above for more info, but the short answer is that English knitting is when the yarn is carried and wrapped around the needle with the right hand, and in Continental knitting, the yarn is carried and wrapped around the needle with the left hand.)

I wonder how many classes she's not taken, how many books and patterns she's put back on the shelf because she knits differently. It saddens me.

I've always thought the question odd, to be honest. In the grand scheme of knitting, it's such a minor difference, how you hold your yarn. As long as you're wrapping and putting the needle in the same way, it really doesn't matter a jot how you hold your yarn and needles and wrap.

I love watching a skilled Continental knitter go... V., who's attended a couple of classes of mine lately, knits like the wind. She's the fastest knitter I've ever seen work, and it's hypnotic to watch. Her tension is lovely and even and relaxed.

I knit English, and yes, it's ergonomically less efficient, and slower than it could be -- but it's the way I've always done and I just can't seem to program my fingers to work any other way. My theory is that how good you are at Continental is determined by a couple of factors -- if you learnt it first, but also (for right-handers) how capable you are with your left hand. I'm strongly right handed, very clumsy with my left. And I just can't make my left hand move the yarn in a controlled way to make even stitches if I attempt Continental. So I go back to my old way and enjoy it.

Now, combination knitting -- that's an interesting one. And that does absolutely change things...

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Note to Self: Don't Expect to Get A Lot of Knitting Done When History is Being Made

In my defense, the start of the pattern is a little challenging -- managing 8 sts on 3 dpns, and making sure that the yarnovers at the end of each needle don't drop off.

However, now I'm onto a circular, it's plain sailing. And my god, this pattern is rhythmic and easy. Would be ideal public transport knitting if it wasn't so damn big.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Knitting

Please. If you're a citizen of the US, please vote. You've heard the rhetoric about why this is so important. Just get out there and let your voice be heard.

And then, once you've voted, consider what you'll be knitting in front of the coverage.

I've had this project waiting for a long time, and I finally have the yarn. "Opening Night", from the Manos book Metropolitan Diary, available for purchase here.

It's a circular shawl with clever armholes so you can wear it as a vest. A shawl that might actually stay on. Haven't knitted a circular shawl yet, so I'm looking forward to it.

The yarn I've chosen is Cascade Eco Wool , and I'm doing it in plain black for maximum wearability. Yeah, I know, I'm boring, I knit a lot of things in black. But at least I can guarantee they'll go with everything in my wardrobe.

The yarn comes in giant comedy skeins, which wind into giant comedy balls (that's what she said). So big that I had to take it off the ball winder and finish it by hand.

Skein and ball photographed with this evening's beer (Rogue Dead Guy Ale, seems appropriate, no?), for a sense of scale.

I'm keen to start this tonight because it seems like fairly simple knitting, and I suspect my attention will mostly be on the TV.

Ravelry pattern link.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Odd Socks, Sort Of

Odd, and yet not. Exactly as amusing as I'd hoped.

Love them.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Hairy Loopy

I teach a finishing class. It's always popular, and it's always a lot of fun for me. The students invariably bring a bag or three containing various scrunched up projects in pieces, and we get to figure out how to turn those crumpled pieces into actual garments.

It's very gratifying, to see the garments come together -- and the sense of relief in the room is palpable, that this thing that the knitter worked so hard on will actually become what it was supposed to be.

Finishing isn't easy, and patterns aren't very helpful. Finishing instructions are given such short shrift in the pattern -- "assemble", "set in sleeves", "seam". And then, of course, the worst instruction of all, "pick up and knit 76 stitches around the neckline".

Some patterns are better than others, but in general, I find that you can never have too much detail in the finishing instructions.

So there I was, on Saturday morning, coffee in hand, surveying the contents of the (sometimes sheepishly unveiled) plastic bags.

And there it was. The Hairy Loopy sweater.

Mum's been working on a Fleece Artist kit, the Garter Stitch Cardigan. I've mentioned it before in the blog, I think. It's one of those very deceptive kits. It's a great design -- she tried a sample on, and it's a very wearable, very flattering piece. It's a simple shape, all the better to let the yarns themselves be the starring element. Very little shaping, very little finishing -- should be easy, right?

I distinctly recall the yarn shop owner we bought it from telling us that it was an easy project, a fun and quick knit. Yeah... not so much.

Mum calls it the Hairy Loopy sweater. (With capital letters, I can hear it in her voice.)

The yarn is very very challenging to work with. You work with a strand of mohair and a strand of the Fleece Artist "Curly Locks" yarn, held together. The mohair has that typically halo of fuzziness -- the Hairy -- and the Curly Locks has loops -- the Loopy.

The combination of the fuzziness and the loopiness means that it's tough to see the stitches, tough to be sure that you're actually working in the stitch and not with just an errant bit of hair or loop, and it's well-high impossible to undo if you make a mistake.

Mum's an excellent knitter, and it's been driving her insane. I've been doing the finishing for her, to help her out. And it's driving me insane, too. It's so damn easy to drop a stitch, and so damn hard to find them and pick them up -- but the good news is that there's no damn way that the thing is going to unravel.

So there it was, pulled out of another knitter's bag.

I had to laugh. And then I had to apologize and explain.

(And yes, it turns out that my new knitting friend hated the knitting as much as my Mum has.)

(There's a cautionary tale here about how a yarn can make all the difference between and beginner and an expert-level project, which I will pick up later. See also my ravings about Kidsilk Haze and its friends.)

Monday, October 27, 2008

More Fun With Sock Yarn

Colour me easily amused, but I love this sort of thing. It's Regia Nation Color -- once again, found in a bargain bin -- in black and yellow. You're going to ask me what nation this particular colourway is associated with, aren't you? This site lets you do a reverse lookup on flags based on colour and layout. Based on my search, I've decided that these socks are in the colours of the St. David's Cross.

I took a fair bit of time to make sure that the stripes worked out. The colours break pretty hard...

I redid the cast on a couple of times so I was maximizing the yellow and not having any black appear in the ribbing...

And then as soon as I ran out of yellow, I stopped ribbing and changed to stocking stitch.

The stripes are nice and broad -- about 15 rounds -- so that there's enough for a decent ribbing in a single stripe.

And of course, being an absolute control freak about this sort of thing, I carefully engineered how the colour breaks around the heel so that the stripes flow perfectly down the foot. I started the heel halfway through a yellow stripe, and worked the heel with the grey, and then picked up for the gusset and finished the yellow stripe.

And magically, the stripes worked out so that I was able to start the decrease for the toe at the start of a yellow stripe.

Very pleased!

And now the first sock is done, and I'm working the second sock so that the colours are reversed.... stay tuned!

And if you find any of this yarn in the blue and white or red and white stripes, I'd like two balls of each. Thanks!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Wiggle Dress and Jacket on a Real Live Model!

I'll never get tired of seeing my designs actually being worn... especially when the model is so cute... click here...

The Wiggle dress and jacket is a sweet little set for your sweet little girl - a jacket and dress worked in DK weight yarn. The fuzzy trim is entirely optional - or, a good way to use up leftover novelty yarn.

6, 12, 18 & 24 months sizes available.

The set is available for sale on Ravelry and Patternfish.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Travel Knitting: Lessons Learned

1. No problem at all with a short metal circular at either Toronto or Heathrow. I had carefully transferred my lace project to a bamboo needle, to go through security, and had the metal needle tucked into my bag in its holder, ready to be abandoned if need be. I also had extra stitch markers, and point protectors for my needles. No questions or issues at all.

I don't often use point protectors -- those little stoppers to put on the end of the needles -- but in this case I was in terror of my knitting falling off the needles, so I dusted off a set and pressed them into service. Didn't lose a single stitch.

2. I know I've said this before, but lace knitting is great for flying. After all, it needs significant care and attention, and god knows on a long flight there really is nothing else to do. And as an added bonus, 400m of lace weight yarn takes up hardly any room in your carry-on bag.

(On a separate note, if I think about how long it's going to take me to finish this scarf, I'll get depressed. I got about six inches worked in about 6 hours. And the scarf is going to be about 50 inches long. Given that this is the sort of project that can only be worked in ideal conditions -- good light, undivided attention, fully alert, this is going to take a while. Perhaps I'll plan on working an inch a week so it will be ready for next fall?)

3. No matter how good an idea it might seem, knitting in the pub really isn't a sensible thing to do.

(The sock I was working on in that shot was restarted the next day.)

4. Flight attendants who work long haul flights (hello ladies!) are as keen to knit to pass the time as the passengers.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

FO and SO - Finished and Started Objects

A project finished, as part of my program of sensible socks, a pair in Socks that Rock Grawk from the Raven Clan.

They are ny second pair in Socks that Rock. It's great yarn, feels terrific to work with, and I do love the Raven clan. It's a genius idea. Mostly black yarn, shot through with a bit of colour. Because, after all, sometimes you need more sensible... more sutble socks. The jury is still out on how well it will wear, as it is 100% wool. I'll let you know in a year or two...

And a project started.

This is Misti Alpaca Laceweight. Also black. I've had this kicking around in the stash for a while. It was originally going to the Lace Wings shawl, but I tired quickly of the stitch pattern, and decided I wasn't keen on having yet another triangle shawl.

So this will be a long rectangle, aiming for about 18 inches wide. I'm keeping the patterning pretty simple, since it is very fine black alpaca. It's reminding me somewhat of my experience with Kidsilk Haze, but it's not quite as difficult. I don't know whether that's me or the yarn. It seems less sticky; I was actually successful when I needed to undo a row or two.

I'm travelling over the weekend, so will have some dedicated time to work on it. It's not the only time this particular yarn will have been on a plane. I also took it with London and Cannes with me in May, and it stayed tucked in my bag, untouched. I didn't even cast on. But this time I'm ready, I've cast on and I'm good to go.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Just Send Me A Postcard...

Way back in the spring, at the Frolic, Mum bought a knitting kit from Philosopher's. A beautiful Fair Isle design -- this one, if memory serves.

It's gorgeous, in rich blues and greens.

I wound the yarn for her with my ballwinder and swift, since to do it by hand would likely have taken longer than the knitting...

There's a lot of yarn in that kit. A LOT of yarn.

Mum's just about finished up with the other project she bought at the Frolic, and is ready to tackle this kit.

I've been helping her out here and there with that other project. It's a Fleece Artist kit, and you know how I feel about Fleece Artist patterns. It's not that it's got mistakes in it, but it's so casually written that there simply isn't enough detail for the average knitter.

But now it's just about done, and she's ready to tackle the Philosopher's kit.

Internets, I have a dirty, dirty secret: I'm not a fan of Fair Isle knitting. I love the results, but I don't enjoy the process.

I told her that she should just send me a postcard when she's done.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Latvian Mittens!

I'm honoured to count among my knitting a friends a lovely woman called Aija. She's attended a few of my classes. One day last winter, in the midst of our long, horrible, cold, nasty winter, she wore a pair of beautiful Latvian mittens. They are stunning, in black with allover fair-isle patterns in greens and blues. Being fair isle, they're lined and warm.

She told me of the long and wonderful traditions of Latvian mitten knitting. 4,500 pairs were knitted as gifts for all the attendees of the 2006 NATO summit.

Aija is from Latvia, and she visits every summer. She emailed me recently to tell me that she'd managed to find me a pair on her most recent -- very much out of season, the selection was small, but the pair she brought me are absolutely magnificent.

Handknitted with local wool in shades of soft greys, the patterning is very traditional, and beautifully done.

The details are wonderful, right down to little tails that were tied together.

But here's the thing that I love the most -- the thing that I couldn't stop talking about... the construction. They're the most practical mittens I've ever seen.

They have a a flip-top so that your fingers can be exposed when you need them, without having to remove the mitten....

And look at the length of the fingers! These are mittens for serious warmth.

But this is the best part of all...

a flip-top thumb! How wonderful is that?

Aija -- many, many thanks!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Metal Needles; The Exploded Ribbing Sock

I used a picture of a sock in my recent Knitty article -- the "exploded ribbing sock". I designed it in the spring, using a new yarn from Diamond's Luxury Collection, Footloose. The colourway is called "Mouse" which I think is rather cute. It's a rather improbable blend of a soft medium brown and a light grey-blue, which works much better than you'd expect. It's neutral but definitely not dull.

(Click to embiggen to see the detail of the stitch pattern.)

I'm on a bit of a roll designing socks with variegated yarns and reverse stocking stitch. I love how the colours in a short-burst variegated blend on the "wrong" side, and I chose this stitch pattern because it shows a lot of the wrong side, and how clearly the knit ribs stand out. This wouldn't work as well in a very strongly coloured yarn, or in a yarn with longer stretches of colour.

There's only one in the picture because I'd only knitted one. This lonely single sock has been sitting around in my sock yarn stash for several months, waiting for its mate.

Inspired by the number of enquiries and compliments I received on the picture, I decided to finish up the pair and I will be publishing the pattern shortly.

Here's number two in progress....

Note carefully the needles. Shock! Horror! I'm using metal sock needles. I never thought I'd go back, and now I'm seriously thinking of throwing out most of my bamboos.

I learnt to knit socks on metal needles -- old school, 8 inch long metal needles. And of course because my first sock was in heavy yarn, they were thick, heavy needles. Awful. I'm honestly surprised I kept at it, because managing the needles was a headache. Once I switched to proper-sized sock needles -- 2.5mm -- they got easier to handle, but still weren't great.

And then about 4 years ago I got my first set of bamboo sock needles. I loved them instantly. Bamboo needles are great because they're light, warm, and a little bit flexible. And compared to older metal needles, I had much more control over the yarn. I also bought the shorter ones, which made a big difference.

Regular readers will remember that several months ago, I was struggling with a heavily cabled design that had a lot of twisted stitches. And I discovered that the points of my bamboo needles weren't holding up. Not only weren't they very pointy, but I was shredding them. Working twisted stitches requires a good point to dig into the stitches. I was wearing down the points of my bamboo needles.

On the recommendation of other knitters, I ordered myself some sets of KnitPicks' Harmony wood needles. Love them. The points are better - sharper and more solid -- and they don't feel like they would break as easily. I'm reasonably careful, but I have broken a bamboo needle by sitting on it.

Faced with the thought of working the second Exploded Ribbing sock -- a sock that's all about twisted stitches -- I tried something new. I ordered myself a set of the KnitPicks' nickel-plated 6 inch sock needles. And yes, I'm in love.

I never thought it would happen. Metal sock needles.

They're light and they're short and those two things make all the difference in the world. And being metal, I don't have to worry they'll break when I stick my project in my purse. (Yes, I always have a sock project on the go in my purse. It's how I have such a large wardrobe of socks.) And the smooth, slick surface is tremendous for fast knitting.

I still love the wood and bamboo needles for travel. Indeed, I'm flying next week, and am really looking forward to sitting down with a set of Harmony dpns and a skein of Malabrigo sock yarn.

But for everyday use -- it's all about metal.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

I Love This. Knitting Audio Books

... for the blind.

The Canadian National Institute for the Blind provides a very extensive library of audiobooks for the blind.

Available new as of August 2008 Debbie Bliss' Step by Step Knitting Workbook.

Seriously, this is wonderful. No discrimination, no assumptions, no dismissals that knitting might not be for the vision-impaired.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Since It's For Winter, It Needs a Jacket

The Wiggle Dress needed a little jacket, don't you think?

Will be available as of this weekend at the Sheep.

Monday, September 29, 2008

My Own Greatest Hit

Nearly four years ago, at the behest of Lorena, I designed the Wiggle dress.

Knitted in Rowan Calmer, with trim in Crystal Palace Squiggle, it's a dress sized for 3 to 18 month olds. It's been a huge hit at the Naked Sheep.

Lisa recently requested a winter version....

Worked in Diamond's Luxury Collection Superwash DK, again with Squiggle trim, it will make a terrific jumper for holiday parties. Next up, a little jacket to match.