Sunday, September 28, 2014

Frostfern: First Photos

Isabel complains that the weather never seems to match the outfits she's modelling. Here we are in the midst of some glorious Indian summer weather--daytime temps in the low 20sC--and I have her posing in leggings, boots, and fingerless gloves.

This design is in the test knitting phase. My goal is to have it done before I head off to Rhinebeck, but goals frighten me and take the fun out of knitting, so no promises.

Friday, September 26, 2014

In Which I Take Some Good Advice

A couple of weeks ago I purchased a little bag of fleece at the Almonte Fibrefest. The fleece was all from one sheep and was clean, fluffy, and right off a drum carder.

You know you're a hopeless case when you can't resist taking a photo of carded fleece with the sun shining through it!

I'm an inexperienced spinner. I'm the one whose second drop spindle project was the Buttonbox Waistcoat. Ignorance is bliss, as they say, and I had no idea at the time that spindling a garment quantity of wool was a BIG PROJECT. Inexperience came to the fore again with my new fleece. I started to spin it up on my wheel. It was nice to work with, with very long fibres that were easy to draft. BUT, the result wasn't what I'd hoped for. As the bobbin began to fill up, it was obvious that this was going to produce a very hairy end product, even though I was drafting with a short draw worsted technique (it's all I know.)

I forged ahead onto a second bobbin, but halfway through that I quit. I realized that my disappointment with the look of the singles was overwhelming my pleasure in the spinning. I put the whole thing aside for a week and moved on. Then, I happened to mention to Meriel of Anwyn Yarns that I had this fleece that wasn't spinning up the way I'd hoped and she said, "Ply it and wash it before you decide." So I did, and guess what?

 I'm loving it.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Wheatsheaves and Frostfern: Practice Makes Perfect

I read all the comments made on Ravelry by knitters of my designs. Of course, it's wonderful to hear praise, but it's also useful to hear criticisms and concerns (when they're valid). I've added that last caveat since, with something as enormous as Ravelry, it's inevitable that there will be a few outliers who trash a design without heed to obvious instructions (example: the knitter who attempts to convert a bulky knit to a lightweight one in a design that's based on row gauge).
This week I read a note from a knitter regarding Wheatsheaves. Over the summer, I re-wrote the pattern to incorporate a bit of back neck shaping, and to make the shoulders completely seamless. The knitter of a recently posted "Wheatsheaves" writes that the shoulder area looks a little messy. This is a totally legitimate concern and the sort of thing I like to know about.
This afternoon I've been working on the shoulders of my design-in-progress, "Frostfern". (BTW, with the advent of Ravelry, the list of available names continues to shrink with every season. I'm always open to better ones, if you have suggestions.) Frostfern involves exactly the same construction technique as Wheatsheaves. Those steps are:
1. Cast on the back shoulders provisionally. After a few rows of neck shaping, by means of both short rows and increasing, the back shoulders are joined while more short row shaping continues to create a good slope to the shoulders. Work even to the underarms.
2. Place the provisionally cast-on shoulder stitches back onto a needle and work each front down to the underarms.
3. Join the back and fronts and keep on motoring down the cardigan.
The only difference between the upper bodies of Wheatsheaves and Frostfern is that the former is constructed in a chunky weight, while the latter is done in a DK weight. The important point is that for a smooth shoulder area to come about in either of these designs, you must be able to make really invisible short rows, and know how to work invisibly in the opposite direction from a provisional cast on. (I'll be teaching a class on this at our November retreat.)
Here's my test knit of the Frostfern pattern, showing a smooth and seamless shoulder area. The strand of pale green threaded through a couple of stitches is marking the top of the shoulder and shows where the provisional cast-on was before I picked up the stitches and worked in the opposite direction for the front shoulder.

The tweedy yarn is this.

There are several good ways to do both short rows and provisional cast-ons, and there are links in the patterns to my own tutorials for both techniques. However, if my methods don't suit you, I hope you will try something else. My suggestion is to practise (yes, dear American readers, in Canada we spell it with an "s" when it's a verb, a "c" when it's a noun!) on a smallish swatch until you've got it right. I made a deliberate design decision to have a large expanse of smooth shoulder for these two cardigans. It's worth a bit of practice to get a beautiful and satisfying result.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Knitting with Dpns: Avoiding Ladders

Laddering is a problem that a lot of knitters have when working on double-pointed needles. It refers to the long vertical line of horizontal strands that can develop at the joins where two needles come together. I suspect that concerns about laddering are at the root of today's movement away from dpns toward the magic loop method of small diameter circular knitting. I've been knitting now for 51 years and knitting on dpns for about 43. It's second nature to me and, although I've given other methods a try, I'm sticking with what I like and know. Here's what I do to prevent ladders from forming at the joins between my needles. Give it a try, and you might find you enjoy dpns after all.
First off, let me show you how I hold my needles. I don't honestly know if this is a factor; all I can tell you is that holding my handful of dpns UNDERHAND feels very comfortable and helps me get keep everything positioned snugly at the joins.

Second, I knit with the RH working needle positioned ATOP the preceding needle (the one on the right of the photo). See? In this next photo, the RH working needle (the horizontal needle) is receiving stitches from the far left needle. By positioning the RH working needle this way, the yarn travels the shortest possible distance from one needle to the next. If the RH working needle is held UNDER the preceding needle, the yarn has a tiny bit farther to go to get to the first stitch on the next needle--just enough to make a visible ladder over time.

Third, I use my right forefinger to lock the RH working needle into place, right up against the preceding needle, while I work the first three stitches after the transition.

 That's right--the FIRST THREE. You will often read about the importance of snugging up the first two stitches, but really, I find I get the smoothest transitions when I keep the first three stitches as close as possible to the join. Then I knit the rest of the stitches onto the needle as usual. The result?
No ladders, no ridges (the opposite of ladders, when the join is too tight), just smooth, even stocking stitch.

FYI, the yarn is from Opal's "Little Prince" series. As usual, the computer cannot do justice to the lovely antique feel of the slightly faded colours.

Sunday, September 21, 2014


Prince Edward County is a popular weekend get-away for Torontonians. Some have lakefront properties and spend their time sailing, some come to spend a day visiting the numerous wineries, and some have hobby farms. The owners of Chetwyn Farms definitely bring their Toronto sophistication to their farm studio near Hillier in the County. The whitewashed walls, the neutral alpaca shades, and the finished knitted goods all demonstrate a cleanness of line and simple, timeless elegance.

Ginger cookies and apple cider. What's more perfect for fall?

Grapes growing for the family's private wine making.
 In the midst of such a neutral backdrop, two splashes of red caught my attention.

If you've been enjoying the new "Outlander" TV series, and follow the blog of its costumer, Terry Dresbach, you'll appreciate the stunning impact of a limited use of red in a relatively subdued landscape (not that there is otherwise anything in common between Chetwyn Farms and the TV show!) Maybe I like to carry my big red bag while wearing mostly grey for the same reason.
I look forward to some enjoyable designing and knitting with Chetwyn's SHED brand yarns.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Blowing a Gale

Scenes from Battery Park (so called because it was the site of a British artillery park during the War of 1812), at the bottom of my street:

The slightly calmer inner harbour.

A martello tower with RMC (the Royal Military College) and Fort Henry in the background.

No rain so far, but it's coming. Tomorrow, off to an alpaca farm open house.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Ridgefield Kits Now Available By Mail

When I posted the first photos of Ridgefield last week, I had a flurry of messages in my Ravelry box from knitters wanting to know when/how they could get their hands on the pattern and beautiful limited edition yarn.

Now I'm happy to announce that kits are available by mail order through Janice Lever of Windblest Farm. Fleece from Janice's Leicester sheep makes up the wool component of the 60% alpaca/ 40% wool blend, and Janice is the one who has hand-dyed each kit separately. I saw the kits yesterday at the Almonte Fibrefest and the slate colour is slightly darker, richer, and more gorgeous than what you see in my prototype. The cost of the kits is $120 for the S/M and $150 for the L/XL. (Choose the larger kit size if you are taller than average, regardless of bust size. Janice, who is a slim 5'7" looks better in the L/XL.) Pattern specs are on Ravelry. Prices include all taxes, and are in Canadian dollars, so you Americans out there benefit from the recent drop in our dollar. To place an order, write to Janice at