Sunday, May 26, 2019

Roots and Rain

At the Prince Edward County Fibre Fest in Picton, ON yesterday, I came across this.

The base wool is from our local Amherst Island Topsy Farm flock, dyed with local goldenrod before being finished with indigo (yellow + blue = green, remember?)
I've been wanting to get back to the sweater I planned a while back with a lace panel down the front, but I've been waiting for the right yarn to appear. This is it! It's a wooly sportweight that I'm knitting on 6mm (yes, you read that right) needles for a lacy, summer sweater. This morning I knitted a swatch.

The second photo, while not as "pretty" as the first, shows the light and airy transparency of the fabric. This shouldn''t take long at all!

Friday, April 26, 2019

Further Encounters with I-Cord

A couple of blog posts ago I wrote about I-cord selvedges on a stocking stitch background in the context of a Purl Soho cardigan border. Today, I'm looking at the I-cord edges of the garter stitch lower borders of Alanis, an attractive layering top by Elizabeth Smith.

This is a well-written pattern with so many features I really love--the loose drapiness, the garter stitch, the contrast pocket. You'll recognize these features in many of my own designs if you are at all familiar with them. I do, however, have a slight quibble with the technique for doing I-cord along the lower borders.

The method used is as follows:

Row 1 (WS): Sl3 pwise wyif, take yarn to back, knit to last 3 sts, p3.
Row 2 (RS): Sl3 pwise wyib, knit to end.

For me, this procedure leaves a bit of sloppiness on the edges, even if one does a little tightening up of the first stitch after the slipped stitches. It's not enough looseness that it's horribly noticeable, but it's enough looseness that it bothers me.
As often, it's a return to Elizabeth Zimmermann's basic I-cord technique, as presented in the practice swatch in her classic, "Knitting Around". (As an aside, you may be amused to know that this autobiography/knitting book is the ONLY knitting book my husband has found himself compelled to read.) Not only is the edge tidier, but it's more symmetrical on each side and consists of only one row.

Row 1: Knit to last 3 sts, yrn fwd, sl3 pwise.
That's it!

Look how nice it is.

Now back to contemplating what colour to use for that contrast pocket lining in my Alanis. Teal? Blue/grey? Heliotrope?
P.S. If you are making Alanis and decide to use this version of I-cord edge, then I recommend that you also change the method by which the borders are joined up to a simple k3tog (last stitch from the RH needle + first two stitches from the LH one); this right-leaning double decrease will make a neater join with this form of I-cord.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019


I have a plan for this. It's a merino/cashmere dk weight knitted at a gauge of 17 stitches to 4 inches on 5 mm needles. Super soft. Super drapey. My spring sweater is on its way. (Disregard the fact that by the time I finish this it will probably be too warm to wear.) Now for a little bit of math before I cast on...

Friday, April 12, 2019

Spring Inspiration

Sewing to the forefront right now. Just as late summer/early fall seems to be the time when the knitting bug hits hardest, early spring is when I want to sew new things for the soon-to-come (I hope) warm weather. 14C is the predicted high today, so not long to wait.
Today's inspiration comes from Lee Vosburgh's blog "Style Bee". My style, such as it is, will never come close to Lee's sleek, polished looks, but she is among the best for inspiration--certainly an "influencer" in the vernacular of digital marketing.
The caramel jacket she is sporting in the linked post is from Elizabeth Suzann, an American company specializing in sustainable (and comfortable) fashion. Below you can see the company's own pic of this jacket.

I love the oversized, drapey silhouette of this jacket, but not the colour, which would undoubtedly make me look like one of the walking dead. I have plans to make my own variation based on the Wiksten Haori sewing design. It'll be uniquely mine, and much, much less expensive.
A little while ago I made up an unlined Wiksten, long version. Here it is in its slightly rumpled state after a day of being worn out and about. I love it. It can be dressed up or down. So versatile.

But for spring, I'm tending toward a new palette.

The cafe-au-lait colour of the top fabric isn't really coming through here, but it's a perfect neutral and in the "cool" zone colourwise , so suitable for me. It's already shrunk, straightened, and ready for sewing action!

Friday, March 29, 2019

Making Something Good Even Better: a Tutorial on I-Cord Edges in Stocking Stitch

Ever since Purl Soho brought out its Top-Down Turtleneck Cardigan, I've been obsessed with it. It's not just the streamlined shape in a fine yarn; it's those beautifully clean front edges.

So, I tried out the method on a swatch -- and I wasn't happy. Call me fussy, and over-obsessed with details, but the two front edges did not match in appearance, and the left front edge looked sloppier than the right, especially on the wrong side. Why would this matter to me? Because when you wear a cardigan open, those little I-cord facings show.
Last year when I played with this, I made notes about the experiment in my Notebook #11 (I'm currently on #13) and, being caught up in other things, didn't get back to thinking about it again until this week. I'm working on a little, light-as-air mohair cardigan. I don't intend to add buttons to it, or seams either (not that I do that ordinarily anyway) because I don't want anything to weigh down the floaty fabric. It's something to wear in the spring/early summer when you just want a whisper of something to cover up your bare arms. (We're aiming for a high of 9C today, so I have a little time before I need this.) What I really want on this piece is lovely, clean, self-bound edges just like the ones above--except better.
When I looked closely at my earlier experimental swatch, I noticed that along the tidy edge, the three I-cord stitches were in fact twisted; they looked as though they had been knitted through the back loop. This was due to the fact that the instructions from Purl Soho were to slip those three stitches KNITWISE. Of course, every experienced knitter knows that the easiest way to tighten things up is to twist the stitches in question. The problem for me was to figure out a way to replicate this on the other edge. The solution? To knit those stitches at the end of the right side rows THROUGH THE BACK LOOPS before turning the work and slipping them PURLWISE at the start of the wrong side row.
Let me summarize:

Try a swatch with 16 stitches. Cast on by the longtail method and for the nicest top edges, make sure you cast on with a knot-less method.
Row 1 (WS): (Sl 1 purlwise) 3 times, purl to end.
Row 2: (Sl 1 knitwise) 3 times, knit to last 3 sts, (k1tbl) 3 times.
Rep Rows 1 and 2 to desired length.

This is what you'll end up with.

Right side.

Wrong side.
Remember, this is unblocked mohair, so things look a little loose and wonky, but the important bit is that both edges now have twisted stitches and mirror each other. After blocking, these edges are going to be perfect. I guess I'm a knitting nerd.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Knitting Green

Now that there's a hint of spring--the robins and red wing blackbirds are back, and huge flocks of geese have been flying over--I'm getting ready to shed my heavy duty winter knits for something lighter. OK, not right away. After all, it's only minus 2C this afternoon. I have a little time to prepare. It's back to my old favourite, the Perth Cardi, re-vamped last year. The one I sweated over last summer (literally) has gone to live in California, where it's perfect for the foggy, cool weather of the Bay area. So I need a new one.

The grey, cold afternoon is not providing the right light to show you how vibrant this green really is. So "springy" in both colour and texture.
And you can see my other St. Patrick's day project in the background. That's the recipe for Irish soda bread I make every year. The late James Beard's recipe is the best ever and it's available online here. Hint: I never seem to have buttermilk hanging around in my fridge, so I just do that old trick of adding a tablespoon of vinegar to the bottom of the measuring cup before adding the milk and letting it sit for 10 minutes. Never fails. We love the velvety texture of this bread. So good with butter and a strong cup of tea. And knitting.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Only a Year

Today I've finally published Ellerbeck. It took a long, long time, I know. I kept getting sidetracked with other things. Then, last summer was our first without air conditioning and I barely knitted at all. Even the thought of wool was overwhelming. When I got back into it, I decided to play around a bit with the original design, making it shorter, adding German short rows to lower the back, moving the body increases farther away from the sides, and ending the increases after a few inches to create a slight "bubble" shape. On my final test knit, I knew I wouldn't have enough of the main colour and decided at the outset to knit stripes on the sleeves, easing in the new colour through a Fibonacci sequence. That turned out to be my favourite version.

Same version as above, just laid completely flat.

This swingy pullover was designed by me to wear with some of my sewn pieces from Sonya Philip's 100 Acts of Sewing collection. The neck is cast on provisionally, then finished later with Elizabeth Zimmermann's sewn bind off. There are links to tutorials for all the techniques. This is a quick, fun, and useful knit. Hope you enjoy it! Ellerbeck can be downloaded here.