Thursday, June 25, 2009

I am a lucky, lucky girl: Signature Needles

I was recently gifted with some sets of Signature double-pointed needles.

I've been reading about how much people love them, and have heard a few personal testimonials; as a result, as an avowed dpn-user, I've been quietly lusting after them for a while.

And some generous people who must like me very much came through.

I knew they were in the mail, and I stalked our mailman until they arrived. And then I dropped everything I was doing and transferred both of my current sock projects to them, and starting knitting.

Wow. Seriously. Wow. They are everything I'd hoped for, and more.

They're colour-coded, so that at at a glance I know which size they are. (The green ones are 2.25mm with Noro Silk Garden sock, and the purple ones are 2.5mm, with Colinette Jitterbug (the colourway is the fabulously-named Vatican Pie)). And the size is even marked on them. So not only do you know at a glance that you're using a matched set, you know what size they are. Don't underestimate this. I have a lot of sets of dpns. And since 2.5mm and 2.25mm and are my most frequently used sizes, I have more than one set of each. And when the damn things are labeled, and they are so close in size, I'm forever having to size them to figure out which is which. There are two knitting projects on the table beside me right now - one on 2.5mm and one on 2.25mm. If one of the needles gets separated from its project, in the old days I would have had to dig out my ruler and measure it. Annoying. A very popular brand of needles of which I'm otherwise fond suffers from this major drawback.

And then the points - my god, the very appropriately named stiletto point! They are the pointiest points I've ever used on a set of knitting needles. For someone who loves all sorts of insane pattern work - lots of cables and lace - the points are a godsend. And it's not just that they are sharp - but they're also very slick. That silver point is very smooth.

They are making Silk Garden Sock an absolutely pleasure to work with. It's a horribly sticky yarn, and it moves like butter on these needles.

But the Signature people are very clever. Very slick needles means you risk the knitting slipping off. So they've indented slight grooves around the body of the needle - the coloured portion. Your stitches stay very firmly put when you're not working them.

The slick/grooved combo is the best possible mid-point between the benefits of metal and bamboo needles - which would be worth it anyway. But then add the points. And the colour coding.

I am a total convert!

Now, that having been said, there are things to consider. I wouldn't call them downsides, just things to be aware of. These needles are tough, and aren't very likely to break. And the grooves means that your knitting won't slide off them when you're pulling them out of your knitting bag... but you still need some sort of device to keep them together and keep the points covered - I like the cardboard tubes, and those little rubber stopper thingies are good too -- because they're actually sharp. You risk poking a hole in your knitting bag, or scratching yourself. I've already got a couple of holes in my GoKnit bag. And you really wouldn't want to risk losing one.

And although, at least in North American and Europe, knitting needles are considered plane-safe, I wouldn't dare take these on a flight. I'm pretty sure they would grab the attention of the security personnel - and I'd hate to have them confiscated.

I will be honest that they took a few days to get used to - I've made a slight adjustment to how I'm working with them -- I'm tending to keep my stitches more bunched together, and moving them less.

Yes, they are expensive - but they are lifetime needles. And to help mitigate the expense, you are able to order precisely the number you need. I have sets of four because that's how I roll. Or you can order a set of five - knitter's choice. Or just one, if you (gasp!) lose one.

So yes - absolutely. They are as good as you've heard. And they are worth every penny. Thank you so very much to the gifters!

(On a totally different note - I was having a pre-coffee moment this morning, and couldn't remember the name of the GoKnit bags. So I googled "nylon knitting bag" and found this. I know that Italians do knit, but really... ? Dolce & Gabbana?)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Seeking Leftovers - Diamond Fine Merino DK

I'm working on a friend (brother? officemate?) for Adelaide - to be called Richmond. (The names, BTW, were inspired by a mystery book I read years ago. All the characters were named after roads and intersections in Toronto. Beverly Dundas. Chief Inspector Don V. Parkway. And Adelaide and Richmond Simcoe.)

I'm looking for scraps of yarn to make some clothes in different colours. Anybody got any partial balls of Diamond's Luxury Collection Fine Merino DK that they are willing to part with? I want bits and pieces of as many colors as I can find.

Contact me through email or find me on Ravelry and send me a message. Thanks!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

New Design: Entrelac Hat/Patternfish & Ravelry

This started out as a demo of Entrelac in the round at a recent class.... as I was working on it, it became pretty clear that it was actually a hat.

It knits up startlingly quickly on super bulky yarn, and uses less than 100m. It's also a great way to play with Entrelac in the round, before you move onto socks. The funny thing about Entrelac in the round is that it's actually somewhat easier than Entrelac worked flat -- no starting triangles on the rounds, you see.

So not only is it a great way to show off Entrelac skills - and a nice and different way to use a self-striping yarn - but it's also easy enough that it can be your first Entrelac project.

Available for purchase on Patternfish and in Ravelry.

I've been asked what the difference is between Patternfish and Ravelry, and why my patterns are available on both. Patternfish is an online shop that focuses only on high-quality knitting patterns, for sale. There are no freebies on Patternfish - all patterns are sold, and come with the assurance of knowing that there is someone to send questions or comments to. It's advertising-free, and focuses on being a simple, straightforward place to browse and buy patterns. The searching capabilities are pretty damn sophisticated, so you can fine tune a search to land on precisely the pattern you're looking for...

Ravelry is a full-on social networking site - with forums and discussions and personal profiles and a place to post your knitting projects and your stash. There are free and paid patterns available on Ravelry. Ravelry does require a by-invitation sign up - so not everyone is part of it.

I'm a fan of both sites - and I wanted to make sure that knitters have as many options as possible to find and (hopefully) buy my patterns.

And even if you don't buy it - have a good laugh at the thought of me modeling a heavy woolly hat on the first hot & muggy day of the summer.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

This Will Never Grow Old for Me

I teach a fair number of classes, and have published a fair number of designs.

I'm always thrilled to see my students complete one of my class projects, and to see one of designs come to life.

Michelle attended my "Learn to Knit in the Round Baby Hat" class - and she did! Have a look at her great hat...

And Emily knitted My Long Leaf Lace Shawl, and did an amazing job with it.

And S. told me a really great story recently. She and her sister-in-law both attended my "Learn to Knit Lace" class. In addition to teaching the basics about how to work lace, how to avoid and fix mistakes, and how to read and follow lace patterns and charts, I get students started on their first lace project. She told me that she and her sister-in-law attended a family event, and unknown to the other, each wore the shawl she had started in the class. Two of my designs in the same room - I wish I'd been there to see it.

It's a huge honour and thrill - that someone would choose one of my patterns -- and that they'd like the result enough to actually wear it! This will never grow old for me.

I CANNOT wait to see the first version of my Vicuna Sunray shawl...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

New Design: Chevron Scarf

UPDATE! Now available for sale on Ravelry! And also on Patternfish!

Using Louet's rather magnificent Paco Vicunas yarn. It is not a value-priced yarn, by any means, so this design was specifically created to get the most bang from a single skein.

I love the feel of this yarn - it's a blend of Optim merino wool, SeaCell and Vicuna. More details at the link above. It's got a raw silk sort of hand, and is an absolute pleasure to work with. It's textured with a bit of fuzz but not too sticky, and it takes blocking amazingly well.

Like all my lace designs, this is modern and geometric and I think highly wearable. It's light and delicate, but not too fussy.

Sample will be available for viewing and fondling as of tomorrow at The Purple Purl, and the pattern will be available shortly online and at the shop.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Say Hello to Adelaide

I told you the bears were evolving...

She comes with her own wardrobe...

I'll be teaching a class on how to knit Adelaide and her outfits at the Purple Purl in July.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Argh/Slow Knitting Week

What a week. Got back from an excellent vacation, and was promptly hit with a mighty cold.

I'm not sure I'll ever understand why a stuffed-up nose and sore throat makes it so hard to think or -- more to the point -- knit.

I've been managing some fairly plain stocking stitch, but not much else.

The good news is that plain old stocking stitch can actually turn into some very interesting things. The bears are becoming a doll.

(Norman was entirely disturbed at my willingness to cut the head off the doll. I had to spend a fair bit of time playing with the proportions of the doll - the head needed to be bigger than I originally anticipated. Which necessitated me taking a pair of scissors to an almost-complete doll and removing its head.)

Next up: clothing and a face.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Textile Museum Yardage Sale

BTW, I apologize to everyone who went to the Textile Museum sale on my recommendation... I've been told by several knitters that it wasn't a great event... apparently, there was lots of fabric available, but very little in the way of knitting goodies.

I sent a friend with a crisp $10 bill and directions to spend it on as much cool/interesting/amusing stuff as she could get her hands on. All she was able to find was a vintage sock pattern book en francais. It's a pretty typical 1950s (?) sock pattern book - lots of manly argyles and cables.

It's not all manly stuff, though... there's an excellent pair of over-the-knee lace and cable socks.

(Click to embiggen.)

The best thing about the pattern book is what I found tucked inside... two ads, likely cut out of magazines, for two very handsome pairs of socks. The ads are in English, and aren't for knitting patterns - they are for actual socks. Design inspiration for the owner of the pattern book, I have to assume?

The tag line at the bottomn of the ad is wonderful - "Makers of England's Finest Hose and Sweaters for Men".

These must have been some pretty grand socks - the price listed in the ad is $3.95 for a pair of half hose, $3.50 for anklets.

Travel Knitting

Lots of great knitting done while on holiday...

the Regia Nation Colour socks.... as yet unblocked and ends unwoven, because I lost my good pointy darning needle. Still, it's not really socks weather.

I am endlessly amused by the offset stripes.

And a really great simple lace scarf in Malabrigo sock yarn... it's from Victorian Lace Today. It's the "Scarf with striped border" from page 80.

I was without pins or blocking wires, and so all I managed to do was wash it in the hotel sink and then let it hang dry over the towel rail. I love it now - will be even better when properly blocked. You can see what it's supposed to look like at the top right of this page...

The Malabrigo sock is great for lace - nice and smooth, and fine. It's a soft yarn - almost delicate, and I think it's better suited to lace than socks. I'd be afraid that it wouldn't wear well.

And as to the needles on a plane status - no problems at all with bamboo dpns for the socks, and a short metal circular for the lace. I love lace for long plane rides, as I've often remarked.