Saturday, October 31, 2009

On Finishing/Scary Things for Hallowe'en/Thinking about Christmas

With help from me and Ann Budd, Mum is knitting a sweater for T, out of Briggs and Little yarn. A simple stocking stitch sweater with set-in sleeves and a crew-neck.

It's coming along brilliantly - and quickly, being a chunky weight - and Mum's been using it as a palate cleanser between two more complex projects. (A strategy I use myself - having something complicated on the go for when you've got the time, brainpower and strong light, and then something easy for when you just need some therapy knitting, or for when you actually want to pay attention to something else, or you're in the car and don't want to make yourself car-sick.)

She's ready to put it together and work the neckline. So we had the talk about sewing up.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: proper seaming techniques seem to be a rare and wondrous - nay, magical - art. I love teaching the Finishing class, just for the looks of amazement at the beauty and ease of a mattress stitch seam. It's incredibly gratifying, sure, but I know that by teaching proper finishing, I'm opening up a whole new world of knitting projects - things that HAVE ... cue scary music.... more than one piece!!!

There are lots of knitters out there who dislike finishing, and will do anything to avoid sewing up. (Even, god forbid, knitting one-piece sweaters. Stop with the one-piece sweaters, people. They're not *that* much easier, they can be difficult to fit properly, and because they have no seams they are often saggy and stretchy and baggy.)

I have said it many times: proper finishing is neither difficult nor scary. And it's SO worth it. A well-sewn seam is a thing of beauty, and makes a garment looks so much better.

How did I learn to properly finish? The bible, of course.

If you're serious about knitting, if you want your garments to look their best, if you want to be proud of your work, if you want to be able to wear the sweaters you make for events other than walking the dog, if you want to be able to work projects that come in more than one piece - if you want to be a better knitter - BUY THIS BOOK.

Put it on your Christmas/Chanukah/New Year/Birthday/Diwali/Kwaanza wish list. Damn it, register for it as a wedding gift. I don't care. Just get a copy.

I've had my copy since the mid 1990s, and it's well-loved and looking pretty tired. I paid $60 for it at the time - which was totally appalling, but good knitting books were very hard to find back in the dark ages at the end of the last century. The dust jacket is long gone, it's dog-eared, stained with coffee - and I use it every day.

(And yes, yes, I know there are lots of great references and resources online. But you still need this book. Not only does it show you how to do anything you might ever want to know - a million different methods for casting on, casting off, increasing, decreasing, seaming, you name it - but it also explains why and where you might need to use a particular technique. Online videos are terrific for seeing a technique illustrated in three dimensions; the bible provides the background you need to know where to use a technique.)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Hello New Friends & Visitors!

Lots of new friends dropping by the blog after seeing My Vampire Boyfriend Sock on Knitty.

Nice to meet you all! I'm Wisehilda on Ravelry, BTW.

I cannot wait to see all the socks... lots of discussion from Team Edward about using sparkly sock yarn - well, of course.

In case we haven't met before, here are a few things you might enjoy...

My Socks 101 and Socks 102 articles on Knitty - everything you wanted to know about the hows, whys and wherefores of Sock Knitty.

A handful of free sock patterns: The February Lady Sock,

The Christmas sock (all over mock-cable rib for a great fit - and no cable needle required!)

and the ever- popular Basic Ribbed Sock (sized for men, also). A great first sock pattern, and a classic I use over and over again. So do others - check out the projects on Ravelry!

And a few socks patterns to buy....

the new Forest & Trees Sock (don't let the colour overwhelm the patterning, and don't let the patterning overwhelm the colour - a nice balance!) -on Patternfish & Ravelry

the Signature Cables & Twists sock (because who says that a pair of socks has to be exactly the same?)

the Open House sock (a great way to use up leftovers!) on Patternfish & Ravelry

And the Exploded Ribbing sock (as seen on Knitty in the Socks 102 article) - Patternfish & Ravelry

Thanks for dropping by! Hope to see you again soon!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

My Vampire Boyfriend...

Just in time for Hallowe'en (and the new Twilight movie), the Vampire Boyfriend Sock is live on Knitty.

Thanks to Sarah and Cheryl for awesome photos!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Converting Magic Loop Patterns to DPNs

(And back...)

I think everyone knows I prefer DPNs to magic loop for socks. No judgment on either technique - I know which one I prefer and I stick with it. I am good friends with avowed ML users; and they seem to tolerate me.

The thing that does frustrate me about the whole situation, however, is the patterns. It surprises me how many patterns are written specifically for one technique or the other. (And yes, I'm guilty of this, but I've changed, and am slowly trying to update my older patterns.) I think, as designers, we're doing knitters a disservice. Sure, a really experienced knitter can convert on the fly - but not everyone is confident enough with their needles, or wanting to do some homework with their knitting project.

Since ML and DPNs produce the same result, and really are the same technique with a single minor difference- how the stitches are distributed on the needles - there is no reason why the patterns shouldn't accommodate all techniques - hey, even those who knit with two circulars!

With this in mind, I wrote a blog post for my friends at Signature Needle Arts on how to convert from Magic Loop patterns for working on DPNs.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

On Winding Yarn

Three years ago, after winding far too much sock yarn by hand, I was given a swift and ball winder as a gift. Changed my life, absolutely.

It seems like more and more yarn is only available in skeins, rather than in balls. All well and good when you have access to a swift and ballwinder - either at a friendly neighbourhood shop - or at home.

If you don't, then the resource have been known to press a chair - or a friend, husband or small child -- into service to hold the yarn while you wind a ball. It's not impossible, but just tedious.

I was teaching a class recently, and I think I frightened a student of mine. She was prepping a skein to be wound. She untwisted it, took the label off, and proceeded to start to undo the little ties of yarn that keep it in a neat skein.

All before she'd put it on the swift.

I might have barked at her. (If I did, J., you know who you are - I apologize!)

I do know I dashed across the room to forcibly stop what she was doing.

Once, a long time, ago, I used to do that. Undo all the ties before I put it on the swift. But then, once, I dropped it as I was manoeuvering to get it on the swift. The thing hit the floor in one giant tangled mess.

Needless to say, I don't do that anymore.

So, J. - I hope you weren't offended. Please know that it's all about saving your sanity - and time. Whatever you do, do not, under any circumstances, undo the ties and remove the label until the thing is safely on the swift.

Trust me, I know.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

New Patterns Available Online

The Scowl
Scarf/cowl hybrid, with clever buttoning. Uses one skein (100m) of a fabulous superbulky deliciousness. I used Misti Alpaca Super Chunky, and have also successfully substituted Berroco Peruvia Thick & Quick.


Silk Garden Hat & Wristwarmers set

Two balls of Noro Silk Garden for the set! Quick and easy for gift-giving, or just those days when you are seriously tired of your existing winter hat.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Creativ Festival/New Designs

Exhausting but fun.

It's unusual to find myself in a mixed crafts environment. And I'm not just talking about crochet... At the Creativ Festival there are quilters and embroiderers and smockers and cross-stitchers, not to mention the scrapbooking.

I love looking at the other crafts, to see how they use colour, to see what sorts of textures and designs you can create. I do occasionally flirt with cross-stitch - mostly because of its portability - but I'm otherwise pretty monogamous to (with?) knitting.

I have to say, though, that the highlight of the show was meeting Ozzy the Alpaca. Really! Ozzy was in the booth of one of the alpaca farms, and he was charming and handsome and serene. I'm sure he'd be very warm to cuddle up to on the couch...

It's also a great show for me because I get to meet knitters from other parts of Canada - I had knitters from as far away as Calgary and Quebec in my classes.

At the show, I launched a couple of new designs, in The Purple Purl booth: an updated Silk Garden hat & gauntlets set...

using standard Silk Garden. (The previous version used the chunky weight.) Two balls only for the set!

And then there's the Scowl.

It's a scarf-cowl hybrid, so named because that's the look you'll have on your face by the time it's cold enough to be wearing it...

It makes a cowl...

A collar....

And a scarf...

It uses two skeins of the Misti Alpaca Super Chunky, and some clever short rows!

Kits are available at The Purple Purl, and patterns will be available online soon.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Creativ Festival This Weekend

If you're around the Toronto area this weekend, I encourage you to come by the Creativ Festval. Events start today, and it runs all weekend in the South Building of the Convention Centre.

I'm teaching two classes - Socks Friday, and Entrelac on Saturday.

The retail fair runs Friday 10am-8pm, Saturday 10am-6pm and Sunday 10am-4pm. I'll be in the booth for A Needle Pulling Thread magazine - drop by. You may also run into me at the Yarn Cafe, hosted by my friends from the Purple Purl.

The show covers many crafts, not just knitting, but there's definitely a good yarn presence. Exhibitor and instructor list.

The Westminster Fibers booth has a display of Rowan garments and designs going back over 30 years, and on Friday and Saturday, in booth 1024, you'll be able to meet an Alpaca (which I will be keeping away from my face).

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Oohh... New Noro... And Mitten Weather

I was surfing around, checking out some of my favourite LYS sites, and I tripped over this on the Naked Sheep site...

Gorgeous, eh? This mittten was worked with Noro Bonbori, using my mitten template as published on Knitty.

Everyone knows I'm a ho for Noro (t-shirt, anyone?), and this is a Noro yarn I haven't worked with. I'm dying to try it out. Just look at those colours!

On a related note... it's zero degrees Celsius in Toronto this morning... brrr... definitely mitten weather.

If you've got some Noro lying around, or your hands are cold - or you just realized like I did that it's just over 10 knitting weeks to Christmas - then you might be interested in revisiting my mitten knitting lesson and design-your-own-mitten instructions at Knitty.

This is what the lovely ladies at the Sheep used to make the mitten pictured above.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Teaching TV Hosts to Knit

Don't laugh, but I'm going on TV tomorrow morning. It's the CH11 Hamilton breakfast show, "Morning Live", but it's still TV. 8:10am, I believe. (No, Mum, I don't know which channel that is on your TV, and yes, we'll be recording it...)

I'm there to talk about the Creativ Festival, and the all-Canadian needlecraft magazine, A Needle Pulling Thread. I have a 5 minute segment, and they've suggested I teach the hosts to knit.

I do have a partially knit scarf on the needles, and I figure if I can get someone to execute a single knit stitch properly, I'll be good.

I was working on the scarf yesterday, thinking about teaching. I don't often teach beginners, and so it really forced me to think about the process, and how I hold the needles. I knit English (that is, I throw the yarn with my right hand), and with the very large demo needles I'm using, it's pretty cumbersome. I have to hold the right needle with my left hand so that I can pick up and wrap the yarn.

So I decided to try Continental - with the yarn in my left hand. Although I'm clumsy at it myself, and my gauge wasn't wildly even, I think it might actually be easier to explain and demo.

Something to noodle on.

I am taking a whole load of knitwear for me and the hosts to wear, so if nothing else, people can see what cool stuff they can make. I'm hoping that N. cashmere toque is going to get its 5 minutes of fame on the head of a Hamilton morning show host.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Worst Baby Yarn Ever?

The other day I ran into V., a student and knitting buddy of mine.

She's always up for new and interesting projects, and is participating in a craft swap with a co-worker. Her co-worker is a skilled potter, and is making some custom items for V. In return, V. is knitting sweaters for her co-worker's two young children - a baby and a two-year-old. The co-worker had tried knitting in the past, but decided that it wasn't her thing. So she dug out the yarn from the inevitable half-finished project and asked V. to use that for the sweaters.

Thing is, the yarn is Lopi. Dark green Lopi.

Lopi is less common, it seems, than it used to be. There's only a couple of the stores in the city I know of that carry it. And I know of knitters who have never heard of it, and have certainly never knitted with it.

Suffice it to say that Lopi is about the worst choice possible for a baby sweater.

It's not washable.
It's chunky.
It sheds.
And - most important of all - it's not what exactly you'd call soft.

Me, I'll wear any fibre (well, except for alpaca, apparently), and I'm not prone to itching. But prolonged exposure to Lopi makes me even me itch.

Now, in all fairness, it's a jacket yarn, rather than a sweater yarn. I wouldn't hesitate to use it for an adult. Well, ok, as long as I know it's not going to be worn next to the skin, and I know the adult will hand-wash it, and owns a good lint brush.

But for kids? No way.

The problem is that the Co-worker told V. how much she'd loved the yarn when she chose it - and V. is a nice sort who doesn't really want to insult.

We discussed some coping strategies. Jackets? Felting it? An extended soak in cream conditioner?

And landed on the simplest of all: "Hey, Co-worker, this yarn isn't machine washable. I wouldn't want you to have to worry about hand-washing these lovely sweaters I'm about to knit for you. How about I find you something that doesn't require so much maintenance?"

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

I'm definitely allergic to something/Yak/Not Fussy

Hmm... this is the third time in recent weeks that I've had irritated eyes. On each occasion, I was knitting and/or handling yarn (but then there is rarely at time I'm not), but each time it was different yarn.

I've had a few helpful suggestions on how to test for an allergy - and some optimistic ideas about what it might be other than a fibre allergy. Could be dust, or the dye, or something that's used in the yarn preparation process. Fingers are crossed.

I did the basic test - tuck a bit of the fibre I think is bothering me into my clothes, in a sensitive area. Let's just say that my underarms have no issue with Berroco Ultra Alpaca.

On a different but related note, I've been working with Bijou Basin's yak yarn of late... it's seriously delicious stuff. Very nice soft hand, light with a bit of drape, and the colour is wonderful - a sort of tweedy hot chocolate shade.

I'm working a design for a men's vest. Plain and simple, no fussy detail, nothing fancy. I don't know about the men you know, but the men I know don't like anything fussy. When talking to men about knitwear, the word "fussy" comes up a lot, in combination with the word "not".

The vest is a lot of stocking stitch worked in the round, and therefore is straightforward, not-very-interesting knitting. To add a bit of fun for the knitter, however, I've included a cheeky detail - a tiny little cable at the side seams.

I think this qualifies as "not fussy".

I hope.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Alpaca Rash?

I've been playing with some Misti Alpaca of the Super Chunky variety.... working on a scarf/cowl sorta idea, with short rows. (I think I'll call it a Scowl since by the time it's cold enough to need a giant cowl, that's what I'll be wearing on my face.)

After three or four hours of on-and-off knitting, and wrapping the piece around my face and neck, I noticed that my eyes were itchy, and there was some redness on my cheek.

This disturbs me no end.

The yarn is a 50/50 wool and alpaca blend. It doesn't seem very sheddy, but I did feel like there were little hairs coming off it as I worked.

If I have to choose, I'd rather be allergic to Alpaca than wool, but it's not a choice I want to have to make.

I spent half an hour or so with it a couple of days later, and nothing untoward seemed to happen, but I am a still a bit worried.