Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sophisticated

Prince Edward County is a popular weekend get-away for Torontonians. Some have lakefront properties and spend their time sailing, some come to spend a day visiting the numerous wineries, and some have hobby farms. The owners of Chetwyn Farms definitely bring their Toronto sophistication to their farm studio near Hillier in the County. The whitewashed walls, the neutral alpaca shades, and the finished knitted goods all demonstrate a cleanness of line and simple, timeless elegance.


Ginger cookies and apple cider. What's more perfect for fall?


Grapes growing for the family's private wine making.
 In the midst of such a neutral backdrop, two splashes of red caught my attention.



If you've been enjoying the new "Outlander" TV series, and follow the blog of its costumer, Terry Dresbach, you'll appreciate the stunning impact of a limited use of red in a relatively subdued landscape (not that there is otherwise anything in common between Chetwyn Farms and the TV show!) Maybe I like to carry my big red bag while wearing mostly grey for the same reason.
I look forward to some enjoyable designing and knitting with Chetwyn's SHED brand yarns.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Blowing a Gale

Scenes from Battery Park (so called because it was the site of a British artillery park during the War of 1812), at the bottom of my street:




The slightly calmer inner harbour.


A martello tower with RMC (the Royal Military College) and Fort Henry in the background.

No rain so far, but it's coming. Tomorrow, off to an alpaca farm open house.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Ridgefield Kits Now Available By Mail

When I posted the first photos of Ridgefield last week, I had a flurry of messages in my Ravelry box from knitters wanting to know when/how they could get their hands on the pattern and beautiful limited edition yarn.




Now I'm happy to announce that kits are available by mail order through Janice Lever of Windblest Farm. Fleece from Janice's Leicester sheep makes up the wool component of the 60% alpaca/ 40% wool blend, and Janice is the one who has hand-dyed each kit separately. I saw the kits yesterday at the Almonte Fibrefest and the slate colour is slightly darker, richer, and more gorgeous than what you see in my prototype. The cost of the kits is $120 for the S/M and $150 for the L/XL. (Choose the larger kit size if you are taller than average, regardless of bust size. Janice, who is a slim 5'7" looks better in the L/XL.) Pattern specs are on Ravelry. Prices include all taxes, and are in Canadian dollars, so you Americans out there benefit from the recent drop in our dollar. To place an order, write to Janice at windblest@storm.ca.

Friday, September 12, 2014

In Which Reality Asserts Itself: Frostfern Wins Over Buttonbox

A couple of weeks ago I announced on this blog that I intended to knit a new Buttonbox. At the time, I expressed a little anxiety about the feasibility of this in light of various other knitting commitments, and now, lo and behold, those commitments are breathing down my neck and telling me to back away from my Buttonbox plans. For those of you looking forward to a (sort of) KAL, I apologize. The truth is that I don't like knitting under pressure. Knitting is supposed to be enjoyable and relaxing, not a chore, and I try to keep it that way. So, although I have actually knitted the pocket linings and a few rows of Buttonbox, I'm going to put all that on hold while I have a push to get "Frostfern" ready to give to Lyn Gemmell of Shelridge Yarns in time for Rhinebeck. I started this design last spring, and there's a version of it already in existence.




It's a cousin to "Wheatsheaves", with a mostly similar silhouette, except that the sleeves are three-quarters length and slightly flared and the back has some added fullness which you can't see in these photos. I'm at the writing up stage. Then comes the test knitting phase. Then, perhaps, comes a new Buttonbox--unless I get caught up in designing a male version of "Petrova" for James, who has been asking for months for a new chunky sweater for this winter. We'll see.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Wellington and Beyond

Bill and I drove west to Prince Edward County yesterday, soaking up the last of the summer sunshine for this season. Cooler weather and cold nights on the way later this week. On the spur of the moment, I turned the car down "Beach Drive" in pretty downtown Wellington, and lo and behold, there we were on the open lake with the surf pounding ashore. Like the ocean, but no saltwater!



On the far side of Wellington, we stopped at the Keint-He Winery where the view from the uplands overlooking the lake was outstanding.


That patch of blue behind the late-blooming echinacea is the lake, always present somewhere nearby in the County.



Now for the most exciting part of the day--Rosehaven Yarns in Picton is preparing all these empty shelves for the arrival of ...


Quince & Co. yarns, any day now. Rosehaven will be only the second shop in Canada to carry this beautiful line of wools (the other being in Montreal). It will be fantastic to have this resource so close at hand.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Tutorial: Attaching I-Cord Edging to the Ridgefield Wrap

Ridgefield has a tidy I-cord border with distinctive scallops around the neck. This tutorial is all about how to do the regular I-cord and the scallops.


Start by having a close look at the sequence of ridges and valleys in the knitted fabric. As you work the I-cord edging, you will be picking up one stitch in each garter ridge and two stitches in each valley, like this,


EXCEPT that you will be doing it from the WRONG SIDE. So, before you do anything, have a good look at the reverse side of your work and determine which loops you will need to work into. You can and should work into the loops at the very edge of the fabric.
Next, cast on 3 stitches provisionally. I'm using a provisional cast-on because down the road I'm going to want to join the beginning and end of the I-cord together for a seamless border. Here, I'm using the crochet chain method. First, I make a chain of more stitches than I need.


Then I knit up 3 stitches into the little bumps at the back of the chain using a dpn.


Now I arrange things so that the working yarn is coming from the LH end of the dpn. With the WRONG SIDE facing, pick up (don't knit) a stitch in the garter ridge to the left of the centre back seam. There are now 4 stitches on the dpn.


See the working yarn coming from the back of the second stitch from the left? That's exactly where you want it to be!
Row 1: K2, k2togtbl. Snug things up as much as possible. At this point the I-cord cast-on is "married" to the garment, albeit somewhat tenuously.


Complete Row 1 by using the LH end of the dpn to pick up two stitches from the next valley (remember, you're doing this from the wrong side, so don't be afraid to flip your work over to check that you're picking up in the right spots). Slide all 5 stitches to the opposite end of the needle.


Row 2: K2, k2togtbl. Slip all stitches on RH needle to LH needle. 4 stitches remaining.
Row 3: K2, k2togtbl. Use LH end of needle to pick up 2 sts in next 2 ridges. Slide all 5 stitches to the opposite end of the needle.
Row 4: K2, k2togtbl. Sl all sts on RH needle to LH needle. 4 stitches remaining.
Repeat from Row 1.

Before long, you will see a band of I-cord developing along the top of your work. Seen from the wrong side (in this case, the working side), it looks like this,


and from the right side, it looks a little narrower.

Now for the collar. You will be working into the outer half of the little "braid" that forms the bound-off edge. You will also be working some unattached rows of I-cord. To do those, simply *k3, sl all sts to opp end of needle, rep from * the specified number of times. The scallops are formed by working a few unattached rows, then skipping some bound-off stitches before re-attaching the I-cord. So simple, and so pretty (at least I think so!)


When you get the collar done and have I-cord completed all the way around to where you started, return the provisionally cast-on stitches to one of the dpns and weave the beginning and end of the I-cord together using Kitchener Stitch. It won't be flawless, because you'll have two pieces of knitting coming together from opposite directions,


but it will be GOOD ENOUGH!


Sunday, September 7, 2014

Presenting... the Ridgefield Wrap

Some months ago I embarked on a design project with Fibre Roads, a group of sheep and alpaca farmers in nearby Lanark County. Last spring the 60% alpaca/40% wool blend we decided on was spun into samples for me to play with by Donna Hancock of Wellington Fibres in Elora, ON. Imagine how exciting it is as a designer to have the opportunity to have a yarn custom spun! Then Janice, of Windblest Farm, dyed the sample skeins a rich slate. Here they are drying on a fine day early last spring.

My goal with this project was to come up with a design that would be flattering to a wide range of women, differing in both ages and shapes. I wanted a design that would be light and airy, so that the alpaca wouldn't weigh down the garment or make it too warm. Finally, I needed the garment to be reasonably simple to knit.
The stitch I chose is Barbara Walker's "Banded Insertion" pattern from her first Treasury. It involves nothing more complicated than garter stitch ridges alternating with stocking stitch valleys. The clever bit is that the valleys are worked on a needle three sizes larger than the ridges. The result is as close to lace as you can get without the use of any yarn overs.
The body is cast on provisionally at the centre back, then worked outwards until the sides are joined by 3-needle bind-off. The sleeve stitches are transferred to a small circular needle and worked out to the cuff, with the ridges gradually spaced at longer and longer intervals. 


Finally, the centre back is joined, and an I-cord border worked all the way around, with graceful scallops framing the neckline.


With Isabel away on an internship this summer, I asked Beckie, the owner of "Unraveled" in Merrickville to be my model. I'm afraid I sprung it on her unexpectedly, but she was a good sport as you can see here. In fact, I think she fell in love with the next-to-skin-soft fabric.





For now, this pattern is available only in kitted form with the Fibre Roads yarn, and those kits will go on sale for the first time next weekend (Sept. 13-14) at the Almonte Fibrefest in Lanark County, ON, through Windblest Farm, Victory Farm Alpacas, Silent Valley Alpacas, and Fortune Hill Farm. You should be aware that the number of kits is quite limited. I hope to get up there on Sunday. Hope to see you there too.
P.S. I've posted the pattern specs to Ravelry; at some point in the future, the pattern will be made available on its own with a suggested commercial yarn equivalent.
P.P.S. The lovely shawl pin you see here was also made locally by Francine of "Fancy That". Her Etsy shop is here.