Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Next BIG Thing

A few days ago winter tried to make a return in this neck of the woods (or perhaps I should say, this shore of the lake). All in all, it's been a remarkably mild winter and I see that Environment Canada is predicting a high of 8C this weekend. Spring-like. Nonetheless, I have a hankering for a knitted coat. A big knitted coat. Something voluminous, something to wear indoors on chilly days, or outdoors in spring or fall. I want a big shape, with big collar, big wool, and (probably) big buttons. I took a quick tour of Ravelry, looking for elements I liked in coats. There's the Pickles Fall Coat.

I love the neutral colour and the drape at the back of this. I don't love the fact that it doesn't have any buttons, although I notice that a bunch of Ravelers have added I-cord trim and buttonholes to it.

Then there's Regina Moessmer's Polar Coat, shown here as knitted by dreamsbythesea.

What do I love about this? The length and the pockets. Quite apart from their usefulness, pockets allow a coat to be worn with a certain casual slouchiness.

Final example: Drops Designs' Silver Haze.

This is actually more a jacket than a coat, but I really like the collar. It's reminiscent of my own Petrova. A big coat needs a big collar.

So, where does all of this take me? Here.

I've knitted about a third of the coat so far. It's blocking in the winter sunshine. If I like what emerges, expect to see the finished product fairly soon. Big needles + big wool = quick project.

Thursday, February 9, 2017


At long last here's "Fusion", the cardigan. Hope you have as much fun knitting this as I've had. And remember, if you don't fancy the colourways illustrated here, there are sooo many Chickadee colours that the options are almost limitless.

 The Ravelry link is here.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

My Love Affair Continues...

My fling with purple continues. The day before I went for my hysterectomy, I cast on for a pair of socks in some Opal I had hanging around in my stash. I did a few rounds of ribbing, then packed the work up with my things to go to the hospital, thinking I'd probably need some knitting to fight the inevitable boredom that would follow the surgery. (I also packed a pair of favourite striped socks to wear before, during, and after surgery, and it turned out that having warm feet really can make a difference in how you feel.) After the surgery, I alternated between reading a mystery novel and knitting until just before noon the next day, when I was permitted to return home. Once home, I continued to work on the socks. I felt pretty much back to normal, but knew I wasn't quite there until my interest in knitting plain vanilla socks (while watching David Attenborough documentaries on Netflix) waned a couple of days later. Yes, sock knitting turned out to be a good measure of my physical and mental state. At least now I have a new pair of socks.

Tops, toes, and heels are all beautifully matching. Hot tip: when knitting with self-striping wool, don't count rounds when working the second one; simply follow the stripes. That is, if you care about the socks matching. I do.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Sweet Anticipation

Discovered that BT yarns are now available at Rosehaven Yarns in nearby Picton, ON. These wools are difficult to come by in Canada, and with the exchange rate, not inexpensive. But--so exciting to see an entire wall of Shelter and Loft.

Both are lightly spun. I used Shelter for the first time when I knitted the Buttonbox Waistcoat for the Fall, 2013 issue of Knitty. The only negative: I'm concerned that the lack of twist could have a negative effect on the life of a garment with sleeves. It seems that the elbows on our sweaters are always the first bits to go. My solution is to use sturdier wools for anything with sleeves, and save my BT wools for vests, hats, etc.

"Hayloft", "Soot", and "Snowbound".
Anticipation is so sweet!
P.S. I was hoping to pick up some "Old World", but another knitter got to it before me.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Through Thick and Thin: Spinning a Good Yarn

Last week I spent a couple of days spinning. It's the only activity I know that is more Zen than knitting. When you really, really want to go into that deep meditative zone, nothing works like spinning, either with a spindle or a wheel. I was using my wheel because I wanted to get a lot done in a short time, and also because I wanted my yarn to be "woollen spun". For non-spinners out there, that means I wanted the twist to enter the wool DURING the drafting process, not after, as happens when yarn is "worsted spun". Although I was using combed top (plain vanilla Corriedale, to be precise), I used the long draw method to draft and spin, resulting in an airy, squishy wool. And because I wanted the effect of a thick and thin yarn, I worked a bit to achieve that result. Yes, that's right, I had to work to produce a thick and thin wool. The thing is, when you are a novice spinner, your aim is to make everything as even as possible. Once you've accomplished that goal, it's actually hard to let go and simply allow the spinning to happen a bit more haphazardly. If you can manage to do that, it's incredibly liberating. Here's what I ended up with:

The wool is somewhere between a DK and worsted weight. It could be knitted at a sweater gauge as a DK, but because there's so much loft in it, it's lovelier knitted a little loosely at a worsted gauge on a 4.5mm needle. I know I earlier described the fibre as "plain vanilla Corriedale", but in truth it's more like vanilla scraped directly from the vanilla pod to flavour a luscious French custard. I adore Corriedale, especially the special way it blooms after washing. I used it for my handspun Zora, and I've loved it ever since.
As for what I intend to do with this, just catch a glimpse of the blue book underneath the wool. Yup, it's good 'ol Barbara Walker. The first and still the best source for inspiration.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017


Here I am back at my computer after a brief interlude for a hysterectomy (in for surgery last Friday, home on Saturday). No need for anxiety--it was merely for the nuisance condition of prolapse. Appropriately enough, I arrived home on the day of the Women's March on Washington. Now, I'm pretty much back to normal. Laparoscopy is marvelous! And so is our health care system. All I did was show up with my health card. The surgery was performed at a teaching hospital three blocks from my house. No paperwork, no back and forth with insurance companies, no worrying about what aspects of my hospital stay would not be covered. I write this having spent 16 years in the Washington, DC area, during which time I was fortunate to be covered by relatively deluxe health insurance, courtesy of the IMF and World Bank. Nevertheless, the amount of time, energy, and money I devoted to dealing with the US healthcare system was staggering. Good luck, Mr. Trump with your attempts at improvement.
Before I gave up my lady parts, I worked rather frantically to get all the numbers crunched on the Fusion cardigan. I still don't have photos that I love, but there's time to solve that over the next little while. In the meantime, while it's grey and sleeting outside, here are some pics featuring the colour purple. Boy, do we need a shot of colour in this limestone city in the dead of winter!

The lavender barns at Closson Vineyards in nearby Prince Edward County.

Lower border of Fusion cardigan.
Underside of cuff, showing "seam" line.

A more subdued dose of purple in this version.

Better pics to come. Meanwhile proofreading in progress...

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!