Thursday, January 10, 2019

Back in the Lineup

A while ago I removed this pattern from my Ravelry shop. I'm not even sure why, but since I made the Brookline cardigan free on Ravelry, I've been getting requests for the sock pattern. Here it is.

If you choose to knit these fun socks, DON'T do what I did. I used the leftover yarn from my Brookline cardigan, the lovely Sandnesgarn Babyull. It's 100% merino, no nylon. The socks were (note the past tense) equally lovely, but lasted about 10 minutes before the heels wore out. I guess I'd better indulge in a new pair. And I have this in mind for them.

It's Tanis Fiber Arts' sock yarn, a soft pink/grey. Perfect.
On an unrelated note, I took a pic of this 19C wall while out walking yesterday.

It's calling to me to design something. I'm just not sure what yet...

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Palette for Early Spring, 2019

OK, so winter hasn't even properly arrived and I'm already thinking about what I want to make and wear for early spring. In fact, it's probably the uncharacteristically spring-like conditions that have me daydreaming about a new palette. This morning I pulled out my watercolours and spent some time playing with a new colour palette, a little softer than my current one.

Taupey, cool browns are a new addition for me, as is the burgundy, which is almost the colour of dried blood. Not very appealing, I know, as a descriptor, but it's the best I can do. I've toned down the deep grape from my last palette to a dusky violet shade. I've also added a dusky pink, and I've eliminated deep navy, which I find a bit harsh with my aging hair and skin, in favour of a greyed, denimy version.
Fortunately, I already have a lot of these colours in my yarn and fabric stash. See?

There's everything from mohair, silk, cashmere, and wool yarn to linen and cotton twill fabric. Can't wait to get started!

Friday, January 4, 2019

Old and New

The online knitting magazine, Twist Collective, is winding up, and as part of the process the designs I published in it have been returned to me to do with as I will. I have decided to make them free. They are:

1. Brookline
This was not a name of my own choosing, and I was never in love with the magazine photos or yarn, so although the name sticks, I'm showing the sweater here in two of my own photos, the first modeled by my daughter, Isabel, in fingering weight alpaca,

and the second in Sandnesgarn's Babyull. The latter is an inexpensive, soft wool with amazing stitch definition. So overlooked!

2. Sandridge
In this case, I adore what Kate Gilbert, the magazine's editor did with my sweater. She concocted a story line for this segment of the magazine, and set it in Montreal. That's a gorgeous Carol Sunday design in pale blue on the woman chatting (presumably in French) with the gentleman in grey. There are instructions for making an A-line woman's version of the sweater with buttons, and I also wrote a blog post on zipper insertion (where the zipper teeth are not visible).

3. Vinland
This hat and mitt set ended up being photographed in blue and green in a nautical setting, and although the pics by Carrie Bostick Hoge are, as usual, lovely, the truth is that I had envisioned the pieces in black with burgundy "berries and vines" and dull gold trim. Here is the photo of the sample I did for submission as modeled by Isabel on a wintry day.

So, you can see I have mixed feelings about magazine publication. It can be a wonderful way to get recognition of one's work, and that was especially the case a decade ago when Ravelry was still in its infancy and Instagram non-existent. But that recognition comes with some loss of control over yarn choice, photography, and how instructions are written and edited (see here for more on that topic in relation to Brookline). I owe a lot to Twist Collective and its staff, and yet now I am happy to take back ownership of these three designs. I hope to continue to see yet more projects on their Ravelry pages.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Never Done

For me, design is an ongoing process. I'm not one of those knitters who gets everything perfect on the first pass. After I complete a garment and wear it (sometimes for more than a year!), I frequently decide to make modifications/improvements. Such is the case with the tunic sweater I knitted around this time last year. I wore it all last winter, but never got around to publishing it. Last week, while waiting for some mail-ordered wool to arrive for Isabel's Xmas sweater, I took the plunge and frogged the entire body of the sweater up to about an inch below the underarms. I re-skeined the wool (Cascade Eco+), washed it to remove the kinks, then re-knitted and wet-blocked the whole thing. The goal was to shorten the front body to about hip length while making the back lower by around one and a half inches by means of short rows (German short rows, but that's a whole other post). I also widened the strip at the sides between the pairs of increases. It's not easy to make chunky yarn drape nicely, but I'm hoping to have achieved that. [As an aside, is it just me, or has anyone else noticed that Cascade Eco+ doesn't seem as chunky as it used to?] To make a long story short, here's the result:

As for how this looks and drapes on a human body, you'll have to wait for more photos when I have a model available.
We're having a remarkably un-snowy winter so far, although there appears to be some threat of a return of the polar vortex later, apparently an ironic result of arctic warming. With the solstice happening later this week, I've really been enjoying the little spots of red in local decoration. Look at how these home owners have used red burlap to wrap their shrubs. So cleverly festive!

And last Saturday, while I was Xmas shopping on the main drag in Picton, the library was offering a venue for pet photos. So pretty and fun! (Take note, Melania, that spots of red are festive, while seas of red are just plain creepy.)

Isabel's wool has still not arrived, so this morning I might just cast on Churchmouse Yarns' men's necktie with a lone ball of Regia calling to me from the stash. The pattern is free. What about you? Any last minute projects?

Monday, December 3, 2018

Handmade Wardrobe: Knitting + Sewing

With my decision last week to delete my Instagram account, suddenly there was no place showcasing my knitting/sewing wardrobe makes over the last year. This post highlights some of my favourites involving pieces from Sonya Philips' 100 Acts of Sewing.

Colour palette chosen after reading Anuschka Reese's "The Curated Closet".
Modern Gansey + Pants No.1
Glenora + Dress No. 1

Cropped aran (unpublished) + Pants No. 1
Shirt No. 1 + Skein of hand-dyed destined to become a Fibonacci Neckerchief

Skirt No. 1 + 15-year-old velvet jacket + Cataraqui Scarf

Petrova + Skirt No. 1 made long
Buttonbox Waistcoat + Pants No.1
Dress No. 1 + Fibonacci Neckerchief

Perth Cardi + Dress No. 1

Front and back views of Audrey's Coat + Dress No. 1.
Links to all the knitting designs are in the blog sidebar (if you're viewing this on a mobile device you may have to switch to the web version to see). What you're not seeing in this collection is my latest "uniform" -- variations on the York Pinafore from Helen's Closet. That's a whole other story. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

When Things Don't Turn Out

It happens to every knitter. You spend hours, days, sometimes months on a garment only to try it on when it's done to discover that all your work has resulted in an utter disaster. You feel frustrated and even angry. Sometimes on the project pages of my designs I encounter a knitter who has experienced this disappointment. How does this happen? How can it be avoided? What can you do with a failed sweater? In this post I attempt to answer these questions. Sweater knitting involves a lot of time, effort, and often money. You want to get it right. Here are my tips for disaster avoidance and recovery.

Disaster Avoidance
1. Choose your project carefully, especially if you are a sweater newbie.
a) Visit your current wardrobe to get a clear picture of what silhouettes work best for you. If you have a lot of A-line tops in your closet, then you can be pretty sure that an A-line sweater will make you look great. If cropped, boxy silhouettes aren't your thing, then avoid a cardigan such as the Wolfe Island Gansey.

 b) Consider the weight of the finished fabric. A lightweight, drapey fabric will generally be more flattering to a wider array of figure types. Again, look to your current wardrobe to get a picture of what weights of fabric make you look and feel your best. I enjoy knitting with chunky wool, but I'm careful to use wools that are lightly spun, and I prefer to knit them at a slightly loose gauge to prevent any kind of stiffness in the finished fabric. Glenora comes to mind.

c) Compare your figure type with that of the model. For example, a sweater shown on a small-busted model may not work on someone who is very busty. The closure method in Brookline 

is best suited to those with a smaller bust. The corollary applies; a small-busted woman will look dreadful in something meant to be more filled out. And it's not just busts that cause problems. Use the project page of Ravelry to see how your chosen design works on a variety of figure types.

d) Make sure you choose the right size. Check the FINISHED SIZE. Is the sweater meant to fit with negative ease (closely), standard ease, or is it oversized? If the latter, make sure you read how much ease is intended, and decide whether you'll feel attractive wearing something significantly larger than standard sizing. Audrey's Coat, for instance, looks best when it's worn with about 10" of ease,

but I've noticed that a lot of knitters seem to be uncomfortable adding so many extra inches.

e) Check out the construction method. For the best chance of success, choose a design that can be tried on during construction. A seamless, top-down sweater such as the Modern Gansey 

is the easiest to get right, but sweaters constructed by other methods shouldn't be ruled out. Harriet's Jacket is a side-to-side construction in the bodice,

then top down for the "skirt", and easily tried on. Even a steeked cardigan such as Fusion

can be tried on, since the only steek is in the centre front. Of course, you'll get an even better idea of the final fit if you block as you go (see below). The problem with seams is that they make adjustments so difficult. Once a sleeve seam, knitted from the bottom up, is sewn, the effort required to undo the seam, then unpick the knitting and re-do everything is enormous.

2. Choose your yarn with success in mind.
a)Yes, those beautiful hand-dyed superwash yarns beckon, but superwash treated wools grow when wet blocked. You can throw them in the dryer for a few minutes to help bring them back to size, then lay flat to dry, but the end result is unpredictable. I restrict superwash yarns to scarves and socks and only use untreated wools for sweaters. You do not have to sacrifice softness. There are plenty of lovely untreated wools out there.
b) Keep in mind that superwash yarns will not hold their shape in the same way as untreated wool. You can easily bend untreated wool to your will. Collars (such as the one in Buttonbox)

 will stay in place and points on shawls and scarves (such as Wheatsheaves) willl stay crisp. FYI, we took the Buttonbox pics in a gale blowing directly off Lake Ontario. That's why one side of the collar is partially turned up!

3. Block your work in progress. I can't emphasize this enough. It may feel hard to let go of the momentum, but force yourself to do this. Many stitch patterns grow in length. The Perth Cardi is a perfect example of this.

In a top-down sweater like the Perth Cardi, I like to knit down to about an inch below the underarm, then transfer all the stitches to a length of waste yarn and soak the whole thing in a bowl for about 20 minutes to allow the fibres to fully absorb the water. I leave the ball of wool attached and outside the bowl. Then I gently squeeze out the water, wrap in a towel, jump on it a couple of times, and lay it flat to dry. When I try on the dried piece, I can get an accurate read on the fit. I repeat this process a couple of inches before the intended length is reached. No surprises!

Disaster Recovery Options
Take a breather. Put the sweater out of sight, go for a walk, and don't come back to it for a few months--or years! Absorb the lessons learned and cool off emotionally.

1. Give the sweater away.

2. If the yarn is very expensive, unravel, re-skein, wash to remove kinks, and re-use.

3. If the wool is suitable for felting, throw the whole thing in the washer and dryer, then cut up to make mitts, a tea cosy, whatever you want...

Monday, April 16, 2018

Spring Sale: Surplice Collar Jackets

You'd think a collar that is basically a big band around the front opening of a cardigan would be simple to design.

In fact, it's anything but. A surplice style jacket can be graceful and feminine and, unfortunately, often lacking in proper fit. To work, the band collar requires some finessing at the back of the neck and around the shoulders. The two jackets above, Wheatsheaves and Frostfern, have strategic decreasing built into their collars to make them hug the neck and shoulders. They are among my favourite sweaters and, in the cool spring weather we're experiencing at the moment, perfect for casual or more dressy wear. Although they are shown with shawl pins, I'm thinking of adding a crochet loop and button closure to my next iteration, and I think I'll make it in a light and pretty pastel. What do you think? Both jackets are on sale from now until the end of April on my Ravelry page.