Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Kitchener-Waterloo Knitter's Fair: Official Start of the Sweater Season

The second Saturday of September is an important day on my calendar... it's the date of the Waterloo County Knitter's Fair, hosted by my friends of the wonderful Kitchener-Waterloo Knitter's Guild.

I've always considered this weekend the official start of the sweater season - the weather is often a little cooler, and everyone is wearing their hand-knit finest. And there's so many wonderful ideas for fall and winter knitting projects on display.

I love this event - over 60 vendors, many of them very small, selling all sorts of fabulous yarn and roving and wonderful knitting goodies. Gemini Fibres and Needle Arts Book Shop are always important stops for me for their fabulous selection of crafting books. And so much great yarn - lots of local sheep and alpaca farms showing their wares. I'm getting excited just thinking about it!

Even more exciting: this year I'm speaking.

My topic is...
The first time doesn’t have to be awful: your first sweater, your first socks, your first shawl & how to make them better.
Learning to knit and learning to knit a garment are completely different things, and yet this is rarely addressed in knitting books or classes. I’ve been teaching knitting for nearly 10 years, and every week I see knitters struggle with the same problem: how to get from knitting and purling to successfully executing patterns. I’ll explain why this evolution is so challenging ,and why the current knitting literature doesn’t help.I’ll talk about how knitters of all levels can avoid the “horrible first attempt” syndrome while improving their skills and taking on new challenges. I’ll share my “training sock” philosophy (and patterns), and I’ll provide a series of tips and techniques for ensuring that your first attempt at any new technique is always fun, easy and successful.
More details in the newsletter.

I hope to see you there! Say hello!

Denise Powell is also making a presentation about using quilting designs as inspiration for knitting. She wrote an article for A Needle Pulling Thread on this topic, and if you're a quilter (or just admire them from afar, as I do), it's very cool stuff.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Long-distance travel: all a girl needs

A travel pillow and a lace knitting project.

Of course, to add to the fun, I decided partway in that I wanted to change the lace pattern, and so I dug out my little graph paper notebook and recharted it.

But I'm not always in the mood for lace, so I've got some sock projects with me, too.

Two plain black socks (Project Black Sock is ongoing, in case you were wondering), and a cabled sock design idea in orange.

I am away for three days, after all. I would hate to run out.

So far, 32 or so hours into the trip, and I'm halfway through one of the black socks. No risk of me running out at this rate...

Friday, August 26, 2011

Fair Isle Fingerless Mitts, Or: Do UFOs get less finished over time?

Earlier this year (I know it was a long time ago because it was cold and snowy), I taught a workshop on designing your own Fair Isle fingerless mitts.

In preparation for the class, I worked up a design for a pair of sampler mitts, as examples. The two are deliberately different, both using a random assortment of classic Fair Isle peerie (small repeat) patterns. And I had some fun mixing up the colours, so that the ribbing is worked in different colours on the two mitts. (Yeah, yeah, I know: I love this sort of thing, even if it drives some of my... er... saner friends and students bonkers.)

I finished the first one before the class, but I never got around to completing the second. It's been sitting at the bottom of my to do list for months... I've been distracted with other work, and given that it requires a chart and three balls of yarn, it's not been a very good portable project.

So it's been gathering dust. I dug it out the other day, as I'm in need of a travel project for an upcoming flight, thinking that it would be perfect.

Well, it would be, if I had more than 20 rounds left to knit. I'd forgotten how far along I was... I'd separated off the thumb, and was already partway through the hand portion.

I never cease to amaze myself - honestly, there's less than 2 hours knitting left on this project. Why on earth did I put it down?

I know this is fairly common - knitters tell me all the time that they they're often surprised how little work remains when they dig up old UFOs. I suppose it's like the ironing - the pile gets bigger in my mind, the longer it sits. If you'd asked me to guess, I would have thought I had at least 10 hours of work left on this project. I bet this has happened to you, dear readers?

Still, I'll have a lovely new pair of fingerless mitts ready for the first cold snap.

Perhaps I should publish this pattern - that would encourage me to finish it!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Sock Yarn Leftovers

I've just finished a pair of Socks in Colinette Jitterbug, which I bought on a trip to the UK a few years ago. I love this yarn - thick and smooshy, with lovely vivid colours - I used it for the Vampire Boyfriend socks. I have found it's best handwashed - it seems to felt a little with machine washing.

And, once again, I'm confronted with the question of what to do with the leftovers. Having smaller-than-average feet, I always end up with a fair quantity leftover from a skein of sock yarn.

Inspired by recent conversations with my two crochet fairy godmothers, Jennifer and Tamara, and a long-ago conversation with Sarah, I have finally decided what to do with them... a giant crochet granny square blanket.

Sarah's (in the above picture) is seriously great...

This is mine so far... I've got a way to go....

But I've got the yarn all lined up and ready...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Free Peppermint Twist Sock Pattern: Brought to you by Soak

As I mentioned last year, I collaborated with the lovely people of Soak on a fun project. They needed some socks for the labels of their terrific Heel foot cream, and I have some socks... so they borrowed them, and took some photographs.

Heel has been a terrific success for my friends - and it never fails to make me smile to see pictures of my socks in all the yarn stores I visit!

As part of a fall promotion, Soak and Vogue Knitting have published the pattern for the sock featured on the label for my favourite scent of the Heel, the minty scented one: my Peppermint Twist socks.

Free! Download here!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Nancy Bush & Folk Socks: My brush with greatness

It's amazing how long it takes to regain your equilibrium after something as monumental as Sock Summit. Or perhaps I shouldn't be amazed... after all, it was pretty wonderful.

(It may also have been all the coffee I drank.)

I promise I'll stop blathering on about it, but wow: I got to enjoy half an hour over a beer and some sock knitting with Ann Budd and Nancy Bush, the two women I credit for me being a sock knitter at all, let alone being a professional in the industry. I just hoped they weren't judging my technique.

Nancy Bush wrote the seminal Folk Socks. This book is the reason I knit socks.

In addition to a collection of attractive and interesting designs, the book contains a history of sock knitting, and a fairly detailed technical analysis of sock construction, including all sorts of heels and toes. It's a book I keep going back to as a reference, and as eye candy. I bought the first edition shortly after it was published in 1994. (I think people think I'm exaggerating when I say I've been knitting socks for 15 years. I'm not, honestly. I bought my first yarn for socks from a store that closed in 1996.)

I watched another instructor approach Nancy at the teachers' dinner at Sock Summit and ask her to autograph a very dog-eared copy of the book... my first thought was "why didn't I think to bring my copy", and the second was "wow, hers is as well-loved as mine". Nancy herself remarked that she's seen (and been asked to sign) many very well-used copies.

The best news is that book is being updated and reissued this fall, and I can't wait to see it.

(What I didn't want to say to Nancy is that no matter how much I love her book, she is also somewhat responsible for my obsession with sock and feet sizes. All the patterns in her book are in one size, and as I worked through the book, it became somewhat of a frustration to me, as a non-average-footed knitter. Don't let this stop you from buying the book, though. It's a masterpiece.)