Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Hunkering Down

Now that COVID-19 has finally hit our community (36 active cases as of today), Bill and I are doubling down on staying out of harm's way. A brisk walk in the neighbourhood once a day, 

some leaf raking (all done now, thank goodness), and a once-a-week curbside pickup at our local Loblaw (our milk, eggs, and local veggies are delivered by Limestone Creamery). That's pretty much it. Lots of knitting and sewing. I made new 3-layer masks after the new mask recommendations came out a couple of weeks ago. Xmas presents all made, and tomorrow I'll get a box of goodies (edible and not) into the mail for Isabel without even having to enter the post office, courtesy of the nice staff at Peters Drugs down the road. 

Victoria 2.1 is underway, but nothing to show you yet. As soon as it's done, testing will begin. 

Lentil soup and scones for dinner. This is our new favourite scone recipe.

Oatmeal Date Scones


2 c wholewheat or spelt flour

2 tsp baking powder

½ tsp cinnamon

¼ c + 2 tbsp canola oil

1 tsp vanilla

1 tbsp honey

½ c dairy or soy milk

1 c chopped dates*

¼ rolled oats (I use large flake)


*If you buy the kind of pitted dates sold for baking, they may be a little dry. Snip them into raisin-size pieces with scissors, then soak them in hot water for 10 min before draining the water off.


Preheat oven to 400F. Mix dry ingredients except for oats. Mix the wet ingredients separately, including dates, then add to dry mix. Knead gently for 30 seconds. Spread half the oats on baking parchment, then shape dough into a flat round about 1” thick. Sprinkle remaining oats on top and press down very lightly so they stick. Cut into 8 wedges and bake until golden on the bottom.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Size Inclusiveness: A Hot Topic

Recently, a Raveler who is also a yarn shop owner wrote to me to express disappointment that the sizing for Willingdon is not as inclusive as she had hoped for. She has a lot of larger customers who won't fit into the size range of the pattern (36 1/4 - 49"). It's a valid criticism. So, it's worth taking a moment to let you know where I as a designer am coming from.

I'm a small person, and so is my daughter. I'm 5'1" and she is 5'2", and we're both on the slim side. Both of us have difficulty finding and wearing clothes off the rack. This is how my motivation to make my own designs was born. I had had enough of re-calculating patterns to accommodate our petite stature. My designs have always arisen out of my family members' knitting desires and needs (include my son in here too -- "Stripes", Sandridge, and the "Modern Gansey" were invented just for him). So you can see that from the start, I've been something of a specialist in the small end of the size spectrum. 

It's also important to remember that size is about more than just height and weight; it's also about proportion. Isabel and I are small but pear shaped. We have small busts, skinny arms, and wider hips. That's why some of my designs don't look their best on the well endowed. Brookline, for example, has a narrow front closure which is prone to gapping on those with more frontage. (As an aside, that's not why it's not currently available. I was never happy with the magazine editing of this sweater and at some point I need to go back and restore its original features as seen in the red version on Isabel. That's a whole other tale for another day. Don't give up hope all of you who have requested this back in the lineup.)

"Grading", which is the technical name for the sizing of patterns, is complex. It has to take many factors into account. When designing a top-down raglan pattern, for example, there has to be a balance between the depth of the raglan, the width of the upper arms, and the circumference of the chest. Add to that the need to accommodate a particular stitch pattern and you begin to see what's involved. Some designs are easily adjusted to deal with all of these elements, some not. With the as yet unpublished Victoria (not a top-down design), I would probably have to add a third repeat of the lace panel if I were to add larger sizes, which would in turn change the look of the hem and neck decreases. Doable, but the end result would have a different feel. Gaps between sizes can also vary depending on the size of a stitch pattern repeat. Trellis, for instance, has a long stitch pattern repeat, resulting in relatively large leaps between chest sizes. 

Magazines (online or print) these days want to be as inclusive as possible. It's common now to see submission calls stipulating sizing up to a women's 70" bust. I applaud them for this. But, mathematical limitations aside, since my aim remains primarily to design for my family's personal use (I have no business model), so far I have not aimed to expand sizing beyond my comfort zone. That is not to say that it is not worthwhile or not being done. My friends Robin Hunter and Deb Gemmell, have done a thorough exploration of the problems of fitting larger sizes. I highly recommend their set of cardigan patterns. There are constantly more options as the demand for expanded sizes continues to increase.

I suspect I may have unleashed a storm with this post, but at least now you know why I do what I do.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Garter Stitch Heels

Until a few years ago I wasn't much of a fan of short row heels. As someone with a relatively high arch, I found them ill-fitting. So, I stuck with the traditional heel flap method. Then I stumbled across Lucy Neatby's garter stitch short row heel, and everything changed. Her simple solution? Make the heel on 60% of the stitches instead of the usual 50%. Add to that cushy, hard-wearing garter stitch and you have the perfect heel. I was lucky enough to teach with Lucy at KnitEast last year, and realize now that I forgot to thank her for this little sock innovation.

Above you can see sock #2 of my latest Snakes and Ladders pair in progress as I rounded the heel turn this morning. Notice that I chose to put the instep stitches onto a length of waste yarn -- not necessary, but I find it simpler to work the turn without those pesky instep needles in the way. 

Here's a photo of the original Snakes and Ladders socks all blocked and beautiful before several years of wear wore them down.

Can't help but love the "Colonel Mustard" colourway on this grey and chilly November day.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

At Home: New Skills Edition

I read somewhere recently, in an article about coping with pandemic fatigue, that the two pillars of mental health are physical activity and creativity. This may explain why I don't seem to be having an especially difficult time hanging out at home. I walk outdoors almost every day, and I try to keep learning new things. The latest thing I've learned has been more or less forced upon me. I mostly sew Indie patterns, and since the start of the pandemic most Indie designers have been  producing only pdf patterns. Previously, I would take these to my local copy shop and have them printed out on huge pieces of paper from which I would trace the pattern pieces (it's best to keep the original intact in case of future alterations). Lately, I've learned (finally) how to skip the copy shop and print and piece together patterns on my own. I'd tried it earlier, but somehow everything always ended in a horrible mess. The process would start out all right, but as I moved down and toward the right the "tiles" would become progressively mismatched. It turns out there are two secrets to getting it right (assuming you don't have problems printing to scale). 

1) Cut off the right-hand side and the top of each printed page, and 

2) As you piece the "tiles" together, cut out the pattern pieces as they emerge (adjusting any little discrepancies if necessary). 

There's a good description here on the Helen's Closet website. In fact, I'm preparing to sew the Pona Jacket from the same source. I'd show a photo, but I think it is subject to copyright. It's the longer version I'm interested in. In wool, just like the one featured by Sewing Therapy this week. Clearly, I'm on my way down some sort of rabbit hole with this jacket, but what better time for that?

Here's the printed out pdf of the jacket front ready to trace (I use tracing paper that comes in a big roll and feels more like interfacing).

In the evenings I'm gradually adding to my sock collection with a new pair of Snakes and Ladders Socks (link in the sidebar). These are surprisingly quick to make. Really.

This last week of October feels more like November -- winter coat cold. Pics below from the front of our property.

In fact, as I write the leaves are falling fast and it's started to snow. Sigh.

P.S. I forgot to mention in the new skills department, that I'm learning to use Zoom (isn't everyone?) Good thing, because I've been invited as guest speaker by a large knitting guild south of the border. So, new skills AND new opportunities. Got to find the silver lining in every dark cloud.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Good Things

In a normal year, I'd drive to Picton, ON via the Glenora ferry every few weeks, winter excepted. I'd stroll down the main street, buy a takeout lunch, check out the boutiques, and end with a trip to the Hagerman farm stand, possibly the best in the world. On a full day trip, I might take Bill and visit trendy Wellington or have lunch with him at one of Prince Edward County's many wineries. And of course I'd stop at Rosehaven Yarns. Lesley Snyder, the owner, says the shop is hanging in through this weird time. She carries an eclectic mix of gorgeous stuff, from Quince & Co yarns to Briggs and Little to rovings for felters and spinners. The shop's website has had a fantastic upgrade so online shopping is (too) easy, and Lesley tells me that knitters are sending in orders for multiple projects at once. 

So, to support Lesley, here are some project ideas to entice you to check out Rosehaven's offerings.

Hedgewood works well with any wool that knits up at 5 stitches/inch, including Quince's Lark and Owl. Not everything in the shop is on the website. Ask Lesley if she still has Briggs and Little's Regal in stock because it can work too. There's no sewing up with this design, and most of the cabling is done with the right side facing. This model is knitted in Lark in "Frost". Remember, you need a light colour to show off the texture.

Not in the mood for a big sweater project? Perhaps this is the time to prep for winter with a new pair of mittens. These Bellevue Mittens also use the same Lark, Owl, or Regal and are surprisingly quick to make. I recently wrote a blog post about how to make those essential mitten liners

You could also opt for mindless knitting, perfect for Netflix bingeing or audiobooks (my fave) with this Neck Thingum. For this I'd stick to Lark; since it clings to your neck you need something really soft.

If you want a quick, soothing sweater knit in chunky wool you can't go wrong with Cascade's Eco+. Lesley has this in some yummy colours, including my favourite Summer Sky Heather, shown here in my Willingdon cardigan.

Do you have a man in your life looking for the perfect stay-at-home sweater? Eco+ to the rescue again in the Modern Gansey. In fact, this pullover is unisex, with instructions to modify the shape to work on a feminine figure too.

And a third option for a sweater with almost no finishing is Glenora, aptly named for the ferry crossing I take to get to Rosehaven.

You may have noticed in the above photo that Isabel is wearing my Bibliogloves. This has been a super popular pattern on Ravelry and for the small and medium sizes all you need is one skein of Quince's Chickadee. Someone on your holiday gift list will appreciate these quick fingerless gloves.

Maybe you're a sock knitter or a lover of sock yarn. You'll need a solid or tonal yarn for these Snakes and Ladders Socks. They are shockingly quick to make and perfect for cable newbies. I'd recommend Biscotte Sock Yarn.

For some soothing knitting with luxury fingering yarn, go for a Pembroke Scarf (there are knitters on Ravelry who've made multiples of this during the pandemic). Only 2 rows to memorize, and you'll end up with something beautiful and practical.

Check out the Ravelry page (link above) for inspiration. Malabrigo Sock was made for this. Now go treat yourself to some new yarn!

Sunday, October 18, 2020

For Jo: Answers to some Audrey Questions

Jo has written to me on Ravelry:

Now I’ve started to knit, I’m a little bit confused by the stitch numbers in the raglan shaping. I just can’t get the maths to add up…

The left front after the collar starts off with 4 sts, and the right front with 5. (I’m not talking about the seed stitch panels because they are marked off and separate).

However, when coming to the divide for the body and sleeves, you state an equal stitch number for both fronts - which, since the increases are symmetrical at the ‘sleeve’ edge of each front all the way through, just doesn’t add upp.

I’m not making the mistake of counting the seamline stitches; but if you start off with a different number for each side, and make symmetrical and equal incremental increases to each side, I don’t understand how they would both end up the same at 22 sts (plus seamline stitch). Either I need to miss an increase for the right front, or add an extra one for the left; but the pattern makes no mention of this…

I’m also a little bit puzzled by the sleeve stitch counts.

They start off at 4 sts each on the first row after the collar, and are increased on either side, therefore adding 2 sts to each sleeve every alternate and subsequently every 4th row. But at the divide, the pattern says the sleeves should each have 39 sts.

Since it’s mathematically impossible to start off with an even number, add an even number, and finish up with an odd number, I’m not sure again whether I need to do a single increase somewhere to each sleeve, and if so, whether this should be in the raglan line at the back of the sleeves, or at the front. But this would make the armholes slightly asymmetrical…

I’m now trying to work out whether to add in another stitch after increasing regularly up to 38, thereby adding another 4 rows in length to the shoulder area, or whether to go with 38, and panicking about whether this will affect the fit of the sleeves in a material way.

I’ve gone through the pattern line by line with a fine toothcomb and plotted the increases into a spreadsheet to try and see if I am missing something…but I just can’t get the maths to add up.

I’ve also tried to resolve this by going carefully through the pattern notes for others who have made this pattern. But I can’t see any mention of an issue with the maths - everyone seems very happy with it, and no-one seems to have had this problem.

I’d be really grateful if you could respond and help me out on this.

Since it's not straightforward to post photos into my Ravelry message box, I'm writing the answer here. Perhaps it will help someone else too. 

First, here is a diagram of Size 43 at the divide for the underarms. 

The overlap at the front is shown at the top, and the seed stitch back pleat is at the bottom. The "1+" indications are for the seam stitches. The dividing row is a RS row and for Size 43" it reads:

Seed 17, k22, remove marker, k1, transfer next 39 sleeve sts to a length of waste yarn, remove marker, CO8 for left underarm by backward loop method, k30, work Pleat Chart sts, k29, remove marker, k1, transfer next 39 sleeve sts to a length of waste yarn, remove marker, CO 8 for right underarm, k23, sl marker, seed 17 (working in buttonhole if applicable). 167 total lower body sts. 

You can see that the raglan seam stitches are being added to the body stitches. The totals for each section after the above row are:

Back: (1 + 29) x 2 + 11 = 71

Fronts: (1 + 22 + 9 + 8) x 2 = 80

Underarms: 8 x 2 = 16 

Total = 167

 Now for the sleeve question. Again, here is the chart from my workbook.

Although the sleeve begins with 4 sts (an even number), one of those is a "seam stitich", so the actual number is 3. You can see that every now and then in my chart I show a number in parentheses; that's the actual sleeve stitch count. So, at the end there really is an odd number, 39. Remember, in the dividing row all the seam stitches end up as part of the body. 

I hope this helps. 


Tuesday, October 13, 2020


Today I am a spinster, at least in the antique definition of the word. Originally, the word applied to anyone who spun wool. Over time, as this relatively mindless drudgery was allocated to unmarried women (especially those unlikely to become married), the term came to mean any unmarried woman, especially an older woman. 

There are other things I should be doing today, but sometimes we have to indulge ourselves, and so I'm beginning a long-term design/spin/knit (DSK) project. Last week I ordered 2 lbs of Ashford Corriedale combed top in "Grape Jelly", described by The Fibre Garden as "an excellent medium purple". 

So, the adventure has begun. 

Meanwhile, on my front porch an enterprising spider has been spinning too.

Our night time temps are now getting perilously close to freezing. The question is, should I take out this gorgeousness with one sweep of my broom, or should I simply let nature take its course?