Wednesday, April 29, 2009

New! I Am For Sale on Patternfish

Two patterns and counting! Look for me there! It's a great service - check it out. And buy something!

So Very Very Proud; Maybe Also a Little Jealous

A student in one of my project classes (we shall call her Clementine, for reasons she will understand), is a newer knitter.

She came to the first class with a pattern, a ball of yarn, and a very specific project request. The Silk Sleeves from the book One Skein. They were to be a gift for a coworker. Worked in Kidsilk Haze.

(A picture of another knitter's version can be found here. Ravelry pattern page here.)

Now, Clementine seemed like a sensible girl, and although she was a newer knitter, she seemed careful and confident with her needles. And the sleeves are worked in stocking stitch, so we got her cast on in the first class.

I did strongly suggest she change to metal needles from the original plastic ones she had, and they definitely seemed to help.

What I didn't tell her was that Kidsilk Haze is my nemesis. This yarn defeats me every time I try to work with it. (Now, Clementine had one thing working to her advantage - she had chosen a light colour. Me, I insist on picking dark colours. And attempting lace with it.)

And I'm very very proud to announce that our fearless knitter absolutely ROCKED the silk sleeves. She did an absolutely amazing job. They're perfect, and beautiful, and I'm in awe.

Once they were done, I sheepishly confessed my little issue with Kidsilk Haze. I don't know whether Clementine was happy or distressed to hear this -- but either way, she has a great gift to show for her work -- and she'll never be afraid of any yarn again.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Indeed I Was, Clearly

Everybody has been very polite, not pointing out the terrible typo in the heading of the previous post. I think I shall leave it, to demonstrate precisely how exhausted I was...

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Exhasuted, Happy and Not Totally Broke: The Frolic Haul

Two books from Marsha. Neither, of course, is the one I was looking for, but there wasn't a copy to be found. So there. Anyway, books should never be restricted, they're edumacational.

Dark sock yarn - yes! Koigu KPM since I haven't actually knitted with it. So that's research. And also Shibui Sock yarn, since I'd never actually seen it before. Apparently, it's fairly new to Canada. More research.

And then the obligatory insane sock yarn purchase... $8, in what I can only describe as a "clown" colourway. Lana Grossa Meilenweit Magico. I refuse to feel guilty about this.

(Seems I like my socks in two colours - black, or clown. This is a surprise to no one but me.)

And then something I'd never seen in person before... Kauni... there's about 650m in this 160gm ball, and it stripes in all the colours of the rainbow. Literally. Looks like a sport weight, 100% wool. I'm thinking a spectacular lace shawl. Rectangular, so that the stripes are regular.

So. No one had blocking mats, although Jennifer tells me to go buy kid's playmats at Canadian Tire.

And didn't see a good colour for a doll. And then I didn't find a colour I liked for summer laceweight yarn.

So, nothing too insane, and even something that was on my list.

I look forward to seeing everyone else's goodies.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Comments and Questions on my Shopping List

Re: Vintage Knitwear for Modern Knitters. I know very little about this book, I'll be honest. Love the title and the concept - I'm desperate to take a look at it. One commenter says it's nothing too exciting - I've actually heard that from another source, too. Anyone else seen it?

Re: dark sock yarn. Yeah, I know, it's boring and hard to knit with. But I have an extensive wardrobe of brightly coloured socks, and it's time for some dark, boring socks to wear with work-appropriate shoes.

And it's good to know that other people have strange impulse purchase yarn sitting in their stashes... someone generously suggested that I might have bought it because reminded me of spring.

Although that gives me an idea for how to use it... rather than trying to hide its astro-turf-like properties, perhaps I should embrace them... ?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Shopping List

An interesting challenge to myself... If I publicly declare my shopping list in advance, how closely can I stick to it?

After all, I am desperately trying to avoid what happened last year: the blood sugar drops, my defenses are low, and I come home with something like this...

Which remains unknit to this day. I love it, but cannot for the life of me think what to do with it. (I distinctly remember my Mum looking at it, and then me, and saying "Really?" in that are-you-out-of-your-mind? tone of voice.)

So here's what I'm looking for:
-blocking matts and pins
-plain sock yarn in dark colours
-"Vintage Knitwear for Modern Knitters"
-some worsted weight yarn in a colour suitable for a doll -- since I think the bears might be evolving
-summer lace-weight yarn (i.e. non-wool - silk, seasilk,... ?)

and, of course, I have a standing item on any shopping list: I have full liberty to buy whatever cool/new/interesting/bargain sock yarn I might find.

If you're a sock knitter, definitely put these on your shopping list...

What are they? Clever little cardboard tubes that you can slide your fragile dpns into to protect them. I carry a sock project with me wherever I go (seriously; stop me at the Frolic and ask to see what sock I'm working on) and this is a great way to carry them.

I always worry that my bamboo or wooden dpns are going to get caught on something - or get sat on - and break. This way, I know they are safe. You also can't lose a needle, or a stitch, for that matter. Everything is bundled up nice and tidy. I will happily give you a demo when I show you my sock project on Saturday! (Not advertising, just a happy customer.)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Knitter's Frolic: Socks and Yarn

This weekend is the DKC Knitter's Frolic, held at the Japanese Cultural Centre near Don Mills and Eglinton in Toronto. I've blogged about this event before -- it's a major highlight of the knitting year -- and one that I'm always in town for!

I'm teaching a workshop on Saturday - Socks 102. It's designed for knitters who have some experience knitting socks, but want to broaden their skills. I discuss different heel and toe shaping. I will demonstrate how to tweak and customize the fit of a sock- including making knee socks, accommodating particularly narrow or wide ankles, and how to improve the feet of a short-row heel. I will talk about toe-up and top down. I will even demo magic loop! Bring your sock-related questions! I love a good challenge.

I love the marketplace, too. The exciting bit for me is meeting with the smaller, local yarn producers. Hopeful Shetlands and Shelridge Farms are two of my favourites. They're both based in Ontario, and produce wonderful stuff. Hopeful in particular has a lot of undyed yarns, in the most wonderful natural sheepy colours. And Shelridge makes one of my favourite sock yarns.

Hope to see you there! Say hello!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

More Gifts from My Readers

Irena, a student of mine, recently read my blog post searching for old Paton's sock yarn.

She had found a stash of even older Beehive 3 ply and 4 ply yarn at the Textile Museum's Yardage Sale, and having read my post, she very generously gave it to me.

(If you don't know about the Yardage sale, and live in Toronto, mark off May 29th and 30th on your calendar. Every year, the Textile Museum has a fundraising sale. They sell the most amazing selection of odds and ends I've ever seen -- all sorts of materials and equipment and books for all sorts of crafts: fabrics, yarn, thousands of pattern books, needles, notions, all sorts of things. And the prices are amazing. What I love best are the bags of UFOs. Crafters from far and wide donate from their stashes - including partially completed projects. I've bought more than one UFO simply for the raw materials. I bought a half-finished cross stitch once, for the princely sum of 50 cents, just to get the embroidery hoop.

The very first time I went, I bought the most amazing sewing proejct: a 1960s vintage furry mohair suit. Well, ok, all the pieces had been cut, but not a stitch had been sewn. Even the lining was intact. I took it to a dress maker, and have an incredible, one-of-a-kind, custom-fit vintage suit - and it cost me $20 for the materials.

Anyway, yes, back to knitting. One year I found the much-sought-after book "The Knitter's Guide to Sweater Design" for $2. People pay upwards of a hundred dollars for this amazing reference. And there it was, for $2. You do have to be willing to roll up your sleeves and dig, and flip through an awful lot of terrible 1980s pattern books, but there are many, many treasures to be uncovered.

For the second year in a row, I'm actually going to be away and will miss it. Very sad. I shall ask a few key friends to keep their eyes open for more vintage sock yarn goodness, however.)

This yarn is amazing. I hesitate to use it for socks - I want to show it off. I feel a lace design coming on.

This being vintage yarn, however, there is essentially no information on the ball band -- no yardage, no washing instructions, no colour name or number, no weight, no recommendations for needle size or gauge, no indication of what the yarn is made of, even. All is says is: "Beehive 3-ply Scotch Fingering".

The good news is that I can figure most of these things out -- but it rather puts into perspective my frustrations with current yarn-labelling standards. Here's me getting annoyed when you only get the stitch gauge and not the row gauge. I shouldn't take so much for granted...

I do love this - the dye lot tag:

The 2 brown balls (on the right in the upper picture), I think, are probably a little newer -- they are balls rather than skeins, and there is one additional tid-bit on the label: "Shrink-Resist Patonised Finish". I take this to mean it's superwash.

But yes, given that I have idea of the yardage, and I doubt the majority of the yarn is machine-washable, I think it's going to be a scarf.

Many thanks to Irena!

UPDATE: I found a bit of info about the yarn... 170yds per 1 oz skein. It's definitely an ounce, I weighed it.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Like a Dog With A Bone

It's bugging me, that yarn.

I do really really want to work with it. I feel like I need to conquer it.

So -- attempt #3 - the Scarf with Striped Border from Jane Sowerby's Victorian Lace today (Ravelry page, a finished scarf from a knitalong).

Wish me luck!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Got To Give It Up, Pt. Umpteen

I really should practice what I preach.

A., in one of my project classes, started a colourwork project. It was lovely, no question, but required - at the most complex section - 10 different colours going at the same time. Therefore 10 different balls of yarn.

She worked on in during the first class. Slowly, and uncertainly, but she did work on it.

The second class, when she arrived, I asked how the knitting was going.

Her face lit up with a giant grin... "I ripped it out!"

She hadn't been enjoying the knitting, and so she decided to cut her losses and abandon the project. Absolutely, completely the right thing to do. I complemented her on her decision, and indeed talked about sometimes the right thing to do is something else.

After all, we do this for pleasure, this knitting thing. Even when I'm working -- you know, earning money with it - it's for pleasure. (The day job still pays more.)

I knit for pleasure. I teach knitting for pleasure. I write about knitting for pleasure. I -- god forbid - chart insane sock patterns for pleasure.

So there's this lace project I've been working on for a while. Well, ok... to say I've been working on it is a bit of an overstatement. About once or twice a year, I pull it out of the back corner of my stash, look at it, work on it for a few rows, and then stop.

This yarn was going to be Lace Wings. (May 2007.)

Gave up on that when I decided that I didn't like the stitch pattern, and anyway, I wanted a rectangular shawl
. (December 2007.)

And then it was going to be a North Sea Shawl. (May 2008.) Of course, I had to do some math because I didn't have enough yarn, so I altered it, and gamely cast on.

And I even made some progress on it. (October 2008.)

Last week, I pulled it out, took a good look, found about four hundred mistakes (well, ok, three, but pretty frustrating ones), and so I undid the entire thing and restarted it.

But in a moment of honesty, inspired by Angela's bravery, I decided that the real answer is to give up.

I hate this yarn. It's sticky and horrible. It's a poor man's Kidsilk Haze - very similar composition, very similar hand, very similar beautiful results. It's the most beautiful yarn in the world and I cannot abide working with it.

The only thing this yarn will ever be for me is a nightmare.

So -- anyone need about 700m of Mista Alpaca Lace in black? There's a full skein that's entirely unused, but it has been wound. The second skein, as pictured above, has been a bit used... I think about the first quarter might be a bit tatty -- it has, after all, been knitted and undone three times.

Would be willing to trade - all I want in return is a suggestion for a good laceweight yarn in black. (Well, ok, and maybe a coffee ;-) ).

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

On Gauge - Two Cautionary Tales

Two excellent answers to the "why bother swatching" question....

In the same class recently, I had two students proudly present their gauge swatches to me. (Having taken classes with me before, they know I'm all about checking gauge before you cast on. )

D. had made a yarn substitution... she was supposed to be getting 16 sts on 4 inches with 6mm needles. With those needles, and her choice of yarn, she was getting 14 sts on 4 inches. If she had proceeded, her nice tailored summer top would have been about 4 inches wider than she wanted.

S. was using the yarn and needles recommended in the pattern. She was supposed to be getting 16 sts on 4 inches. She got 20 sts on 4 inches. That's a 25% difference -- her lovely jacket would have been 25% too small. S. isn't a big girl -- she's a petite sort like me. 25% smaller would make a jacket that would barely fit a teenager.

Could you imagine if either of these knitters had proceeded with their projects?? Heartbreak and many wasted hours handily avoided with the investment of a little bit of time to swatch...

(Not sure how to do it? Try this... )

Monday, April 06, 2009

My New Favourite Thing, and It's Not Sock Yarn...

I saw this bracelet on a knitter in a class recently, and I just had to have one. I'm the cautious type, I don't normally order things like jewelry without having a chance to try it on and fondle it, but this I just had to have one of my own. I eventually ordered the half inch metric variant as shown here, but I thought long and hard about the "lots of numbers" version, too.

Get your own (or at the very least admire the wonderful, wonderful things) at Individual Icons.

Shipping was fast and I'm very happy with my new toy/jewelry/conversation piece/knitting-tool-in-a-pinch. (Not a paid ad, just a happy buyer!)

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Earnest & Georgina Bears: Pattern for Sale

A fun little project to use up some scraps, or to make a quick gift, or just because they are sort of adorable.

Patterns for sweater and dress are included.

Pattern calls for DK weight yarn, but it works well with anything, as long as you use the same yarn for both bears and their clothese.

Available on Patternfish and Ravelry.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Georgina Says Hello!

Earnest the Bear has a new friend - Georgina!

More details on the upcoming "Design Your Own Bear" class here.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Further on Alterations - EZ's Percentage System?

My last post has spurred some good discussion and questions...

Jasna asks if Elizabeth Zimmerman's percentage system (well explained in Knitting Without Tears) would have solved this knitter's problem.

The percentage system is a great way to design a sweater from scratch, but it unfortunately wouldn't help in this situation. The first reason is that it is for designing a sweater from scratch - and this knitter's project was half finished -- and the second is that it is limited in the styles that it can help you with... it's all about seamless sweaters (and in their simplest incarnations, seamless raglans).

My heart-broken knitter friend wanted a set-in sleeve cardigan, which although strictly possible with EZ's system, is not the simplest of the versions.

(I may be scorned for this, but... I love EZ's work, but it's not necessarily beginner-friendly, nor is it the solution to every problem.)