Wednesday, January 18, 2017


It's important to get the neckline right when knitting a sweater. After all, the neckline frames the face. I try to keep this in mind both when I choose ready-to-wear pieces, and when I design my own handknits. Let's have some examples:

Shawl Collars           
Harriet's Jacket in Peace Fleece's "Siberian Midnight"
Zora in my handspun Corriedale, with the Fibonacci Neckerchief filling in the neckline.

Buttonbox in my spindle-spun BFL, showing its shallow, slightly more graceful (in my opinion) collar.
Cossack Collars

Petrova with its slouchy, feminine collar.
A collar should look as good going as coming,

open or closed.
Petrova all buttoned up for the dead of winter (year of the Polar Vortex).
You might not have realized that Glenora has the same collar (minus the buttons and I-cord) as its cousin Petrova--exceptionally face framing!

Here, Cheryl of Little Church Knits exudes the relaxed attitude of this sweater, knitted in Cascade's Eco+.
 Surplice Collars
A surplice collar (just like a kimono) is a favourite way to show off a beautiful border
and/or shawl pin, as in Wheatsheaves.
It works on all ages. Here I am wearing Frostfern in Hikoo's Kenzie with its soft halo of angora.
The High Collar
The Modern Gansey (feminine version) adds length and height to the body with a tall collar.

You can never go wrong with the lengthening properties of a V-neck, in all its forms--collared, as in the Wolfe Island Gansey,

which also illustrates the importance of a collar sitting beautifully across the shoulders,
or not collared, as in this 100% alpaca version of Brookline,
and the Perth Cardi shown here in the same (now discontinued) alpaca yarn.
A V-neck can have a flattering echo in the back, like the Ridgefield Wrap.
A U-neck has the same lengthening properties as a V-neck.
I hope this retrospective look at necklines in my designs highlights their significance. The right one can make a look. So, pay attention!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Steeking Made Easy: the Front Bands

Seemingly endless closeups of cardigan front bands might not turn your crank as a knitter, but I happen to know a lot of knitters out there looking for a bit of courage guidance in this whole area of cutting into knitted fabric. If you're one of them, here's the next step after the BIG CUT.
After knitting up and finishing the neck border, I knitted up stitches for the Left Front border. Why the left first? Because that's the button border. It's easier to do the buttonhole border second. While I usually pick up front borders at a ratio of 3 stitches for every 4 rows, for this particular cardigan I found that a ratio of 2 stitches for 3 rows worked better. The picot border has more stretch than a typical border, so fewer stitches are better. For more details on how I knit up stitches, go here. In this case, I am knitting into the half of the "border stitch" closest to the body of the cardi, the "border stitch" being the outermost stitch of my steek. (A steek has two border stitches, one at each end.)

Above, you can see the machine stitching from yesterday's post just above the knitted up buttonband stitches. The steek naturally folds itself to the inside, as you can see below.

You can also see the extent to which the machine stitching (at the top of the folded over steek, below) melts into the stocking stitch side of the work. It's pretty much invisible here. That's why in yesterday's post I used contrasting thread and cut from the wrong side.

Another shot of the folded over steek, looking a bit scraggly in the colourwork section. No problem--this will get tidied up after blocking.

Now it's time to tackle the Right Front. I use locking stitch markers to show where my buttonholes will be. They get placed BETWEEN 2 stitches, because I plan to make this buttonhole.

So simple, so effective.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Steeking Made Easy: Preparing and Cutting a Sewn Steek

On Thursday I got my act together and cut open my purple Fusion cardi.

Step 1: I prepared the field of cutting by weaving in the cast-on end at the centre of the steek at the neck, and then simply taping all the other ends in the direction of the knitting. Before taping, I made sure that the tension of the stitches leading to the ends was even. I used regular invisible tape. I've found that masking tape tends to adhere a little too much.

Step 2: Next, I loosely basted down the middle of the two stitches at the centre of the 8-stitch steek, to aid in their identification during the sewing.

Step 3: Upon uncovering my Bernina, I discovered that it was loaded with thread almost the same colour as the wool. Not good. To make the cutting easy, I need a high degree of contrast between the wool and the thread (the stitching, especially on the right side, sinks into the knitted stitches, almost disappearing).


Therefore, before proceeding any further, I loaded up my machine with the above light-coloured thread.

Step 4: Using a small stitch, from the right side I sewed down the centre of the marked stitches, sliding the basting out ahead of the machine sewing. I was careful to overstitch the beginning and the end of the stitching to secure both the upper and lower edges. I was also careful not to catch any other parts of the garment unintentionally, nor to stretch the fabric. My mantra was, "HANDLE WITH CARE". You will notice that the stitches disappear into the right side of the knitted fabric. However, from the wrong side all is well, because the machine stitching is perfectly visible there.

Step 5: With small, pointed, very sharp scissors, from the wrong side I cut open the steek.

Ta da!
 P.S. Don't worry. The thread will be completely invisible when the steek is folded back and finished. That's why it makes sense to take advantage of the visibility afforded by the contrasting colour. 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Stripes: Now in Pattern Format

Six years ago, my son, James, asked for a scarf for his New Year's Day birthday. I wanted to knit him a simple yet handsome scarf and, after sifting through my stash for suitable colours, I came up with this one, which he still wears most winter days. The instructions barely merit writing down, but because knitters keep asking, here they are...

Even though this is a garter stitch piece, it has a certain manly sophistication, both in appearance and in the construction with its crochet cast on and stretchy bind off. It looks good on the reverse side too.

When the knitting and blocking was complete, I hustled James out the door for pics on what turned out to be the first real snowfall of the year.

Happy knitting, and Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

New Year's Eve Fusion

On the eve of James' birthday, we're having traditional tortiere. For my American readers, this is a French Canadian pork pie typically served in the Xmas through New Year's period. When we were in Wash, DC, I made this once when we were entertaining fellow Canadian expats. One of the guests almost cried when he saw the pie, which reminded him of his mother's home cooking. For the recipe, see this earlier blog post.
To accompany the pie I made an apple chutney this afternoon, after walking downtown for some fresh ginger. There was a biting wind, but it didn't seem to deter the skaters in Market Square.

My favourite chutney comes from the original Moosewood Cookbook. Anglo/Indian condiment meets French Canadian main course in a sort of culinary fusion.
At the same time, the Fusion cardigan is coming along.

I'm also washing and repairing some of James' knitted garments, preparatory to their (and his) return to Toronto next week. Happy New Year. Stay warm!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Boxing Day

This day-after-Boxing Day, I thought I'd have a look back at some previous Boxing Day posts for some insight into why I love this holiday so much.

As the "No JAM" post reminds me, I have a birthday to contend with, and a son who has a new sweater request. It's great to knit for someone who really appreciates (and wears) my knits. So, I e-mailed him a few Ravelry men's favourites to score on a scale of 1 to 5 stars, to help me home in on just what he's looking for in his sweater. Then I wandered into Chris James, a local high-end men's clothing shop where my James is working over the holidays while he's home from University, and he showed me some sweaters there that he likes. So, now I have some ideas for the direction this new sweater is going to take. I won't get it done in time for the big day (January 1), but I'll have made a start and it should be ready to try on when he comes home (I hope) for Reading Week in mid-February.
Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Random Updates

1. Fusion, the purple version, is coming along, albeit slowly. Some knitters cruise along at high speed at this time of year. Not this knitter. Too much interference from family, holiday events, etc. I'm almost done the body (just the lower border left), but the sleeves shouldn't take long.

I know, I know, we knitters always think like that and then something horrible happens. I'm optimistic, though. BTW, that's the front steek over on the right, in case you're wondering. And I won't cut it open until after the entire cardi is done, apart from the front borders. It will hold the fronts together nicely while I do the sleeves.

2. Winter is definitely here. I snatched this pic of the Frontenac County Courthouse while out walking two days ago.

It may be snowing on and off, but at least so far it's not wildly cold.

3. Had my annual fun making baked ornaments. Recipe here.

We like them both as is, and painted. They make lovely small gifts.

Our first set lasted more than 10 years, but lately we've needed to re-make them annually, probably because our damp climate turns them slightly mouldy over the summer.

4. Now for the really BIG NEWS. We have gone from owning two houses, to owning none! Yes, that's right. In November, we realized that our beautiful three-storey limestone townhouse had hit the market at the wrong time. At the same time, Bill was becoming increasingly grumpy about moving out of the downtown. So, we decided to put the Barriefield house (still vacant) back on the market. It sold quickly, and at enough of a profit to cover most of our costs, to a doctor just moved here from England with his young family. We promptly took down the For Sale sign on our downtown house, and then on that same day we unexpectedly received an unconditional offer on it. Since in the words of our agent, that offer was "gold", we accepted, although thankfully our closing date isn't until summer. We have all spring to find yet another place for ourselves. Crazy, I know. Makes life exciting!