Monday, May 31, 2010

Further on the Topic of Travel Knitting

See my post over at the KnittyBlog.

You guys probably know that I'm part of the Knitty team - I am the grasshopper to sensei Mandy for technical editing. Love the work - it is precisely the combination of math and knitting that makes me happy. I've said this for a long time - I use my math significantly more in this world than I ever did in the tech industry, and technical editing really exercises that side of my brain. In addition, I find a strange pleasure in charting - it fires exactly the same neurons as doing Sudoku, and gives me precisely the same satisfaction.

Okay, okay, it's weird, I know - but the knitting world is benefiting from my weirdness in having well-written and accurate sock patterns. I use my powers for good!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Textile Museum Yardage Sale this weekend in Toronto

A highlight of the crafter's year in Toronto is the Textile Museum's "More than Just a Yardage Sale".

It's a fundraiser for the museum, held in the parking lot beside the building. The Museum collects donations of new and previously loved crafty materials, tools, patterns, equipment, books and so forth. There is a huge variety of crafts represented - knitting, quilting, sewing, embroidery, cross stitch, rug hooking - there have even been macrame sightings in previous years. Knitting stuff was in short supply last year, but there's always a few goodies, and the prices are amazing.

I've found some real treasures there over the years: a partially complete sewing project of a 1960s vintage mohair suit, complete with pattern - for $10. I took it to a dressmaker and I have a one-of-a-kind custom fit outfit. I also got a skirt length of lime green Harris Tweed, complete with matching lining. There's always lots of books and patterns - I've found some great sock patterns dating back to the 1970s for 50 cents, and a copy of The Knitter's Guide to Sweater Design, for the princely sum of $2. It sells online for much more, I was very pleased with this find.

And last but not least, for 75 cents I bought a half-complete cross stitch project - an antique car, if memory serves. I ditched the actual cross-stitch, but kept the two needles and the frame - a bargain!

You'll find a lot of UFOs (unfinished objects) in various states of abandonment - some almost complete, some barely started. They are priced to sell, and definitely worth looking at, not necessarily for the project, but as with my cross-stitch purchase, for the book or tools or materials contained within.

Bring cash and a shopping bag or two.

I'd like to tell you that it starts at 1pm on Friday to give me time to shop, but the website gives my game away - the hours are Friday 11am to 6pm, and Saturday 10am to 1pm.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Air Travel: Newflash

I hadn't done any flying since the latest round of changes to airport security, so I wasn't sure what the situation was.

We had a quick trip to Boston this weekend to visit the newest member of Norman's family, a special little baby born of challenging circumstances called Jacob Nathaniel.

It took me ages to decide what to take with me to work on: I couldn't take my current design project, as it's colourwork and 4 balls of yarn would have taken up too much room in my bag.

And I couldn't take the design project that's up next on my to-do list, as it's lace, and I haven't settled on the stitch patterns.

So I dug in the pile of UFOs and came up with the Noro Sekku laceweight scarf design I'd been playing with in the winter. Of course, nothing is ever simple: the needles were an issue. I'd been working it on 2mm metal needles (!), and I suspected that choice wasn't going to fly for two reasons. 1) No one would ever want to knit a scarf knitted on 2mm needles, and 2) 2mm metal needles look more like a weapon than anything I've ever knitted with. I was quite convinced they would be taken away.

So I dig up the smallest non-metal 16 inch circ I own - 3.5mm - and swatched. Ick - too loose.

Alison found a 3mm bamboo for me, and so I took that home and started working with that. Ack. Awful. First of all, it was too loose still, and it was just so damn slow with the Noro.

So I decided, in the spirit of science, to gamble. I restarted the scarf on a 2.5mm 16 inch metal circular needle, and stuffed an emergency ball of sock yarn and a set of bamboo sock needles in the corner of my bag just in case I had to surrender the circular needle. I also packed my little Stitch Saver mini crochet hook.

And I'm very pleased to report I didn't have any problems - well, other than getting distracted and making mistakes.

So, yes, short metal circulars - still plane-friendly.

And the baby? Adorable!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

New Design: Shetland Skies Circular Shawl

My first circular shawl, created with the 'Pi' method popularized by Elizabeth Zimmerman. I've used traditional Shetland patterns - Cat's Paw, Fern, Tree, and of course Feather and Fan - but a very non-traditional colour. And I love it!

A single skein of Malabrigo sock yarn (or equivalent 400m) gives a shawl about 32 inches/80 cm in diameter. A second skein adds about 10 inches/25 cm to the diameter, with a larger and more dramatic Feather & Fan border. You could work in any yarn - a DK would make for a bigger shawl, or go with an aran or even chunky for a great blanket!

Pattern available at Patternfish and Ravelry. The sample is available for viewing at Lettuce Knit.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Pragmatism or Paranoia? Or Just Clever Risk Management?

I am contrary in so many ways, as a knitter. (Well, ok, in the rest of my life, too.)

And one of the biggest points of contrariness in my knitting life is on the issue of how to pull the yarn from the ball.

You know: do you pull from the centre or the outside?

Many, many knitters pull from the centre. They've been told - by books, by wise grandmothers, by other knitters - that pulling from the inside is the One True Way. Naturally, I do it differently. I pull from the outside. (Gasp of horror.)

Oh yes, if the ball is perfectly wound, and the yarn is nice and smooth and not too sticky, pulling from the inside is great. The ball doesn't roll around in your bag. It stays compact, and clean and convenient.

All lovely. I can definitely appreciate all of those benefits.

And yet. I pull from the outside.

I like to claim it's pragmatism. I'm beginning to wonder if it's paranoia.

There are things I like doing, and things I don't like doing. Knitting - love it, of course. Writing patterns - yup, love it. Charting, even. Love it.

In the "not so much love" category, however, falls the task of untangling knotted yarns. I would rather undergo dental surgery than untangle a huge hopeless mess of a tangle. One badly tangled ball is too many for me.

Just this week I watched a customer at one of my LYSs spend nearly two hours untangling a mis-wound ball of sticky laceweight yarn that she had tried to pull from the centre.

Sometimes it tangles right at the start. I've watched knitters spend 15 minutes of a 2 hour class fighting with the yarn barf before they can start knitting. (Come on, doesn't the fact that it's called Yarn Barf tell you something?)

Sometimes it tangles partway through, or as you approach the end of the ball.

And most times, it doesn't tangle at all.

But I really really really don't like untangling. So it's all about risk management for me. I am willing to compromise those wonderful benefits so that I don't have to waste a single moment untangling.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Frolic 2010: Is it Possible to be Hungover from Yarn Fumes?

What a great time!

I taught three classes - Pattern Reading, Fixing Mistakes, and Designing Your Own Custom-Fit Socks. Met some great knitters, and had some great discussions.

My Custom-Fit Socks class shows you how to take your gauge and your foot measurements and design a sock (top-down or toe-up, as is your wont). But of course we talked about the challenge of designing socks as a gift for someone whose foot you cannot measure - either due to geographic distance, or because you don't want to ruin the surprise.

One of my students said that the Sears catalogue, apparently, has a table of shoe size correlated to foot length, so as long as you can get a shoe size, you're well on your way. Brilliant!

As to what I did in my brief breaks between classes - a little tiny bit of shopping. I resisted the yarn, but did manage to get myself two marvellous and obscure lace books

and the niftiest little toys in the world: mini bamboo crochet hook and knitting needles. The crochet hook is 3mm, and the knitting needles are 2.5mm - and each is 2.5 inches/7 cm long. Just the thing to add to my little box of mini knitting tools.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Material Girl Socks

I'm thrilled to announce the first sock pattern in a series of rockin' sock designs for Van Der Rock yarns.

Meet the Material Girl.

This pattern will make you want to draw on a fake mole, wear your bra as outerwear and constantly re-invent yourself.

And matching wristlets, naturally.

Three-page full-colour PDF includes pattern for socks and wristlets in three women’s sizes, with tips for personalizing the fit. Calls for 2 x 50g skeins of Van Der Rock Super Sock or Merino Sock and shown here in Neon.

More details on Ravelry and at Van Der Rock Yarns' site.

Material Girl is the first in a series of rockin’ sock designs... check back during Summer 2010 for more patterns inspired by women who rock.

She'll be on display at the Frolic, and patterns and the seriously wonderful Van Der Rock sock yarn will be available. And even if you're not livin' in a material world, I bet they have a colour that you'll love.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

A classic from the back catalogue; The Stone Roses Effect?

I designed this lace shawl, the Long Leaf Lace, about 5 years ago.

Since then, it's sold many, many copies, and I encounter people on a regular basis who have knitted it.

And I still love it. It's a modern piece, not too fussy - to knit and to wear - and work with as both a casual or dressy piece.

I worry sometimes, though. I've designed a number of other lace pieces since then - and none of them have had the same response. Am I like the The Stone Roses - never to duplicate the success of my first release?

It won't stop me from trying!

Pattern available on Ravelry and Patternfish.

See more of Emily's version on The Naked Sheep blog.

There are versions in sock yarn, in a worsted weight yarn, and everything in between. It works well in pretty much anything. It's a manageable project for a newer lace knitter, with a nice big lace motif.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

DKC Frolic Saturday May 8th: Classes & Shopping

Much buzzing and excitement in the southern Ontario knitterly world, as we get ready for the DKC Frolic this coming weekend.

I'm teaching three classes: Pattern Reading, Fixing Mistakes, and Design Your Own Custom-Fit Socks.

Pattern Reading is for knitters who are confident with their needles (or getting there!) and are ready to tackle a pattern. Patterns are written in a language all their own, and I teach you how to read, understand and follow a pattern, whether using US/Canadian standards and language, or UK, or even Japanese. I also explain gauge and how to check it (and when you don't need to!), and how to read sizing and schematic info so you know you're knitting a garment that will actually fit. Bring any patterns you want to work, or are having problems with.

Fixing Mistakes is for knitters who are getting good, but are still stymied when something goes wrong. I'll show you how to safely undo stitches and correct them - as I say in the class, taking the stitches entirely off the needles really should be the last resort. I'll show you what to do about dropped stitches, incorrect stitches and strange holes. I'll also talk about fixing the sorts of mistakes that happen in following the pattern - forgetting an increase, or doing an extra one. And most important of all, I'll teach you when a mistake doesn't need to be fixed! Bring your mistakes - I promise I won't embarrass or make fun of you for them...

And Design Your Own Custom Fit Socks is for knitters who have worked a few socks, and are ready to start creating their own. I cover top-down and toe-up, and talk about how to not only properly fit a sock, but how to apply pattern stitches and one-of-a-kind design elements. Optional: bring a swatch of the yarn you'd like to work it.

Info and sign up details here.

As for shopping, I won't have much time, but it's just going to force me to be focused.

On this year's wish list:

Some kind of mini-ruler and scissor solution.

I am trying to put together a mini version of my toolkit for carrying in my purse. So far I have a mini crochet hook, safety pins, markers, a cable needle and a darning needle all handy in an Altoids gum tin. For cutting I've been carrying a small Swiss Army knife, but it takes up too much room and has too many other non-relevant tools to really be appropriate. There's also a USB stick, because yes, I've found it's good to have my patterns and teaching notes with me. What I need is a smaller cutting solution, and some kind of a ruler. I've seen some nifty "got gauge" rulers, but they are only in US/imperial measurements. I'm not adverse to changing the container, if I can find something reasonably small.

Update: a couple of good suggestions in the comments - thanks! I have half been considering getting an unobtrustive tattoo of a ruler of my hand, but popular opinion is that it might sag over time and give inaccurate measurements... ;-)

a needle gauge pendant, in the smaller sock/lace sizes
, for both function and style!

And of course, some fun, interesting and obscure books. I am sure Marsha of the Needle Arts Book Shop will be able to tempt me.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Summer Sock Wardrobe

(And oldie but goodie from my pattern catalogue, which I find fabulous relevant in our current unpredictable weather.)

I love going barefoot in the summer, and will cheerfully ditch my socks at the first sign of spring - but just because it's sunny doesn't mean it's actually warm enough to expose my toes.

These socks fill a gap in my sock wardrobe - for those days when I want to go sockless, but can't really do it.

Ankle socks for wearing in your sneakers - pom-pom mandatory.
Pedicure socks - expose your toes but keep the rest of your feet warm.
And flip-flop socks - just because.

Summer Sock Wardrobe - Patternfish link; Ravelry link

The pedicure socks represent an improvement on other published version in that they have a thong that goes between your big and next-to-big toes, so that they stay on.