Sunday, April 19, 2015

In the Knit Lab: Playing with Picot

I confess a fondness for picot. It combines something quintessentially feminine with a sort of tailored restraint. But while picot hems, like this one,

are relatively simple to knit, picot bind offs are less easy to do well. If one follows the usual instructions, they are too stretchy, or have little holes, or too much slant. So, earlier this week I devoted a morning to playing with a couple of picot bind offs to explore remedies to these problems.
First, I wanted to see if I could find a way to work a picot bind off in combination with a 3-needle bind off. Done the usual way (transfer st from RH needle to LH needle, CO 2, BO 3, etc) it left too much stretch, a series of bumps with a strong rightward slant, and ugly holes on the back side of the would-be shoulder. Would going down a few needle sizes solve this, I wondered? No, it would not. I wanted to continue to use the same needle size as I used for the body of the work. After a half hour of messing about, I came up with a solution. I'm saving the details until later, but here is the result:

Everything is tidy with a nice even gauge and no holes or slant. I experimented with making the picots closer together to see if I liked that better.

Not sure.
Next, I played with picots on a garter stitch edge. Again, the goal was to be able to use the same needle as for the border, but without any stretching or slanting. I made a little pretend buttonhole border, then added the picots during the bind off (or, as I was taught to call it, the "cast off").

Stay tuned; details, and a new garment to follow soon.

Sunday, April 12, 2015


Finally, we feel that spring has really arrived. Temperatures in the Celcius teens and full-on sunshine. Bill and I drove to Picton, and only the channel between Amherst Island and the mainland was clogged with ice floes. Brilliant blue water everywhere else.
After our time in Picton, we decided on the spur of the moment to drive to Bloomfield and then on to Sandbanks. The provincial park was officially closed, but we had inside information on how to access the dunes and waterfront from a back road. It seems we weren't the only ones doing this--we were lucky to find any place remaining to park by the side of the road, and even luckier not have become stuck in the axle-deep mud. The downside of this impromptu exercise was that we were caught rubber bootless. My leather boots may never be the same!
It was worth the trouble, though. Sandbanks is reputed to be the largest freshwater barrier dune formation in the world. Indeed, it's difficult in my photos to give an impression of the height and extent of these dunes. Here are some views of the day:

The muddy path from the road to the dunes.
Remnants of the winter snow.
The early spring forest with a haze of red dogwood in the undergrowth.
Our first glimpse of the dunes.
The view from from halfway up. You have no idea from this of the height we had to climb.
This is the tree peeking over the top of the dune in the pic above. It's actually a long way down to the shore.
View from the peak. Worth the climb.

Friday, April 10, 2015


I've just finished a new Harriet's Jacket, in Osprey, colour "Marsh". This is a wonderful shade of green, maybe olive, but in this context I like to think of it as loden.

It's a curiously neutral colour, and I can imagine it worn with everything from navy and grey to red. To maintain the mood, I've sewn on these pewter-looking buttons ornamented with leaping hounds.

This jacket will be on display at the Rosehaven Yarns booth at the upcoming Knitters' Frolic in Toronto, where you can purchase Quince yarns. The Osprey yardage is surprisingly good; I used only 6 skeins to make this size 36 jacket (OK, my sleeves are a bit shorter than the pattern called for due to my height, or lack therof), so this turns out to be quite economical despite the appalling exchange rate on our Canadian dollar. Drop by the booth, try on the jacket if you like, and give this buttery smooth wool a try.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

A Buttonbox Wedding (Truly!)

Every now and then, I like to check out the projects you knitters are making from my designs. It's useful to know what you liked or didn't like, and I especially love to see all the variations you come up with. Well, I was checking out Buttonbox projects recently when I came across SuomiSidhe's Buttonbox Vests.


Of course, I couldn't resist asking for more details. This is what she wrote:
I’ve been really into vests for the last couple years. I liked this pattern because of the texture of the design and the construction of the pockets. I’d had the Buttonbox pattern marked to knit for a year when I realized I had the perfect yarn for it. It’s a handspun brown wool that I acquired years ago. A fiber artist in Santa Cruz had passed away and all of her fiber, tools, yarn, etc were offered up free to local artists. So I had several balls of the brown wool and 6 of them looked to be the same weight of yarn. I did a quick and dirty swatch test (no blocking) and it appeared to be workable. (While I was knitting this vest, my partner and I were trying to plan a low-key, backyard wedding.) I made a lot of mistakes in my self-measurement equations (I blame the pre-wedding stress), so I ended up making adjustments as I was knitting and then having to sew darts at the bottom back of the vest, but the fixes are barely visible among the nubby-ness of the roughly handspun wool. Overall, I am really happy with the texture and shape of the finished vest. I adore the shawl collar, but wish I’d made it a little wider because it isn’t laying down on its own. I found some lovely purple buttons that bring a magical feel to the earthiness of the vest. When I was done, I had 3 balls left, so my partner asked me to make a vest for him in the same yarn and we wore them to get married in. Mixed with other items from our wardrobe, we turned into the perfect pair of hobbits to be wed.
P.S. If you have not used superwash wool and are still having trouble getting your shawl collar to stay put, try giving your vest a good soak (at least 30 minutes) in warm water with Eucalan or Soak. Then spin dry or squeeze out excess water in a towel and carefully block into shape. If that doesn't work (if you're busty, this could happen), then make a deeper collar following this tutorial. Because the collar is knitted on after the front border is completed, you can do this pretty easily, so long as you have enough extra wool.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015


Unfortunately, we're still wearing gloves in this part of the globe. The Canadian Coast Guard sent a couple of ice-breakers through earlier in the week, so at least we now have some open water on the lake, and this afternoon I noticed two teeny, tiny crocuses in our front garden. Thousands of geese flew over a few days ago. Progress, I guess, and a cause for some celebration.
With Easter in the offing, and the return of the Outlander TV series this weekend, I've decided to make my Outlander-inspired "Inverness Gloves" free from now through Easter Monday.

These are not a copy of anything worn on the show, nor are they an attempt at historical reproduction. They do, however, incorporate elements that link them to Diana Gabaldon's book. The stitch pattern originates in Inverness, as does the plot of the book, the palm grows by means of a "lifeline" gusset (think of Claire's chat with Mrs. Baird over tea), and the flared cuff is reminiscent of an ancient glove found in a Scottish bog.
Gloves can be the perfect portable project in warm weather. So, download the pattern now, and try to complete them before the series ends in a few weeks, or pull them out later when the days are too hot to contemplate working on something larger and heavier. Enjoy.
An addendum
Harriet in Osprey continues to grow. The colour is a rich olive green, called "Marsh" by Q and Co. As usual, my camera and computer screen are conspiring to make it look grey.

And I'm two-timing. Since Harriet is getting unwieldy for travel knitting, I've started a Baktus with some Regia sock yarn,

because, really, can you ever have enough Baktus scarves?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Myth Busting

There's a myth out there that drop spindles, or as Abby Franquemont prefers to call them, "suspended spindles", are just for beginners. Wrong, wrong, wrong. As she points out in her book, "Respect the Spindle", spindles can be used to produce all types of yarn and were used for everything from rope to fine cotton until the advent of the wheel around 500-600 years ago. Spindles are especially good for making fine lace-weight knitting yarns. Shawl knitters, take note!
It does takes more practice to become a reasonably competent spindle spinner than it does to learn to spin on a wheel. I'm no spinning expert. I guess I'd have to say at this point, though, that I've moved from novice to intermediate in my skill levels. I seem to gave got to the point where not only can I make usable knitting yarn, but I can custom-spin the yarn I want to work with.
Yesterday, I used my shoebox kate to wind my singles into a two-strand centre-pull ball, which I then plied using a larger spindle.

2-strand centre-pull ball ready for plying.
Plying in progress.
The wool magically fluffs out after washing and drying.
The finished product.
I don't obsess about getting my handspinning perfectly even and smooth, although I do try to end up with a yarn that will work to a fairly constant gauge. If I wanted an even, smooth yarn, I'd buy something commercial. The point of handspinning for me, is to wind up with a unique and beautiful yarn to make a unique and even more beautiful piece of handknitting. I hope you'll give spindle spinning a whirl.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

In a Whirl

Wheel spinning is nice, but to me, spindle spinning is nicer. I like that I can do it in any room of the house (or even outdoors if there isn't too much wind), and that I can stand up and walk around. I spend enough time sitting and knitting! It's more physical, and perhaps that appeals to the musician in me. Especially toward the end of the day, when I might be feeling a bit of stress or fatigue, spindle spinning is relaxing, even mesmerizing. Do a little bit every day, and before you know it, you have enough yarn for a scarf, or even a Buttonbox vest.
I'm definitely in a spindling mood this week. I have some of Malabrigo's Nube, purchased on a whim at my my LYS, Wool on Wellington (so nice to have a shop only a 5-minute walk from my front door--dangerous too!) I've been spending my post-dinner clean-up hours listening to Ruth Downie's "Terra Incognita", while spinning up this richly dyed merino. Now, merino's not my favourite fibre to spin, but this doesn't seem to be giving me much of a problem, probably because I'm giving it this treatment. The results so far:
I always try to prop my spindle in something to keep it from rolling onto the floor.

Toilet paper tube as a bobbin holding singles awaiting plying.
A Harriet update:
Many thanks for all the kind things you have written to me in the last few days about this design. Here's my latest iteration of the jacket in Osprey.

I'm afraid the rich Marsh colour isn't coming across, at least on my laptop screen. In case someone is thinking of asking why the cuff looks a little odd, it's because I chose this time to knit it flat, slipping each first stitch knitwise to create these little bumps at the edge. I simply wasn't in the mood for garter stitch in the round.


Today I'll thread the leftover length from the casting on (I purposely left it long) through the bumps,

back and forth, to bring the cuff together in a perfectly interlocking and flat seam. See you later.