Sunday, July 31, 2011

Miracle Book

I love the way that knitting design is more and more about spatial thinking. More and more designers are thinking about organic one-piece construction. I suppose Elizabeth Zimmermann and Barbara Walker started the ball rolling (if you don't count traditional garments such as guernseys, socks, etc.) Now a new book has come out that takes spatial thinking to a whole new level. Sandra McIver's "Knit, Swirl!" has me all excited.

What a brain! What gorgeous photography.  And thank-you for including a beautiful older woman as one of the models. I adore that. No wonder Cat Bordhi, in her introduction, refers to the basic design as the miracle sweater. It looks fabulous on everyone.

Spent all of yesterday evening digesting this book. Only problem is that the garments, by their sheer size, require huge yardages. Oh no, I might have to buy more yarn!                           

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Simple Hat

Elizabeth Zimmermann was right; a hat, knitted circularly, is the perfect first project. Most teachers of knitting shy away from teaching beginners on circulars, but that is false thinking in my view. It's also quite ridiculous that most beginner hat patterns are knitted flat and then seamed. Of all garments, hats are the ones that most demand a circular treatment. Our heads are round (mostly)! And it's useful for beginners to begin thinking in three dimensions, rather than in two. The crown of a chunky hat also provides the perfect opportunity to become comfortable with double points.
Isabel took to circulars and dpns like a duck to water. Of course, she's seen me using them all her life and understood the concepts right away. In less than 24 hours, here's what she managed to produce:

I'd like to show her in the hat, but my attempt to include her photo was rebuffed with a remark that she hadn't washed her hair yet today. Maybe later.
In any event, here's the simplest of simple patterns for anyone interested.

Simple Hat 
to fit average woman

One ball Noro Hisuji or other bulky wool
Size US 11 (8 mm) 16 " circular needle
Size US 11 (8 mm) dpns
Notions: ring marker, pin-type marker, blunt large-eyed needle, sharp large-eyed needle.
Gauge: 11 sts/ 4" (10 cm) not critical--don't bother with a swatch; the hat will fit somebody!

Using US 11 (8 mm) 16" circ., CO 54 sts by the longtail method.
Join, being careful not to twist, place ring marker for beg of rnd, and knit every rnd until work meas 7" from beginning, uncurled. 
Remove the ring marker and divide the sts among three dpns (18 sts ea). Use the pin marker to indicate the start of the rnd.
Dec for crown
Rnd 1: *k7, k2tog, rep from * to end of rnd.
Rnd 2: *k6, k2tog, rep from * to end of rnd.
Rnd 3: *k5, k2tog, rep from * to end of rnd.
Cont as est until only 6 sts remain in rnd.
Cut yarn, leaving about 8". Use blunt needle to draw the yarn through the remaining sts while removing them from the needles. Draw the yarn through the sts a second time to secure, then plunge the yarn through the centre into the hat. Secure by making a st through the centre, then switch to the sharp-eyed needle and weave the end in on the WS by going diagonally in two directions. Weave in the beginning end on the RS (which will curl up to cover it), taking care to make the join at the start of the work as invisible as possible. Soak the hat in cold water (with Eucalan if desired), gently squeeze, wrap in a towel and jump on it a few times, then mold to shape on a dry towel and let air dry. 
Note on joining in new yarn ends
The Noro yarn is a single ply wool that spit splices perfectly. When Isabel encountered a knot in the yarn, I showed her how to do this to avoid having any ends to weave in in the body of the work.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

I Come Clean

After visiting the big sale at Janie H.'s, I took stock of my stash and decided it was time for some re-organization. I have a couple of shelves I use to store my yarn, my policy being that I will not allow myself to have more than will fit there. I like to keep it all in plain view, both because it is satisfying to see it all nicely displayed and because it often inspires a new project. My designs tend to be yarn-inspired. That is, I usually start off with a yarn I love, then come up with a design for it. So, yesterday morning, I took a deep breath and hauled everything off the shelves onto the floor.

Pretty bad, isn't it?

Here's the "after" photo.

MUCH better! Now, here's the dirty little secret.... Halfway through the process, while I was ankle-deep in wool, Isabel sauntered in to have a look. Now, Isabel can knit, sort of. But she's never been captivated by it. So, when she asked if she could knit something, and I suggested a hat, and then we couldn't find just the right wool for it, well, you know where this story is going to end, right? Yes, I have to admit that we went out to Wool Tyme for some chunky-weight Noro. The payoff? Isabel spent the rest of the day happily knitting and listening to music. I might have a new convert.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Hot, Hazy

Went to an event at Fort Henry yesterday evening. It was definitely the coolest place around, and that's not saying much. Even though there was a breeze, it was like the breeze coming from the inside of a pizza oven. There was a magnificent view, however.

Ferry to Wolfe Island
That's RMC (the Royal Military College) off to the right.
Woke up to less humidity this morning.  Now I'm off to Janie H. Knits giant annual sale, then coffee with Natalie. It's supposed to cool off by Sunday. Can't wait.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

On the Edge

I'm been on the edge for the last day--and it's not just because of the heat. Thank goodness we live near the lake, so our temperatures aren't quite as high as inland, but even so, it's pretty bad. We have air-conditioning, so I'm able to keep knitting. Doing anything outside is out of the question.

I've been experimenting with edge treatments for Isabel's cardigan. I want something soft and maybe a little ruffly--but not too much. Here's my latest attempt.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Colour in the Big City

Drove to Toronto with the kids (can I still call them that?) to check out co-op student housing for James, who will return there in Sept. to begin a 2-year journalism programme. For some inexplicable reason, James had stayed up until 2 a.m. and was zonkered. Beyond the help of caffeine. We parked at my aunt Mary Fances's house just off Yonge St. (so we could go downtown by subway) and ran into her daughter-in-law, Elizabeth, along with sons Matthew and Christopher. My cousin Deirdre turned up, and later, as we were leaving, her sister Alison. So we had a surprise family get-together. Very nice, especially for my kids who grew up out of the country and probably felt as though they had no relatives on the face of the earth beyond their immediate family.
After firming up the co-op housing (which was really great), Isabel and I left James to read/sleep at the Indigo bookstore at the Manulife Centre while we walked to Lettuce Knit in the Kensington Market.
 As we trudged past the University of Toronto buildings, we saw this and thought about James and his weird sleep cycle. Had a discussion about young males and their sleep habits.

It was very hot and even though it wasn't muggy, we were feeling the heat by the time we got to the shop. No air conditioning, but lots of gorgeous wool, including these two skeins of hand-dyed fingering weight, now destined to be scarves.

"Viola" hand-dyed in Canada

On the way back to link up with James, I couldn't resist taking a shot of this, which prompted an analysis of why certain styles of houses take colour well and others don't. Conclusion: Victorian houses with gingerbread trim seem to adapt to colourful treatments especially well.

Drove home by moonlight on the lake. Now, off to Perth for my KAL.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Containment Policy

I like to knit in several locations at home. In winter, I like a sunny wicker chair in the sunroom off the bedroom. When James isn't living on the third floor, I like to knit on the futon up there, especially in the spring and fall when it's not too hot or cold. In the morning, before anyone else is awake, I like to sit on the living room sofa with my tea and my knitting. The problem is that any given knitting project involves a lot of bits and pieces: my ziplock bag of tools, my pattern, my yarn, waste yarn for putting things on hold, a ruler, etc. And sometimes (not often, though) there's more than one project on the go with its attendant flotsam and jetsam. So here's what I do:

Everything goes on a wooden tray. I picked it up earlier in the year at Pier 1 for use as a tea tray, but it became the stage for my knitting paraphernalia almost instantly. Why not use a bag? I do when I leave the house, but I love the way everything is laid out flat on the tray. I don't need to dig around looking for stray ring markers and tapestry needles. And it's easy to pick up and move to a new spot.
It turns out that the City also has a containment policy---for parked cars. I took this photo through the upstairs window screen this afternoon when I noticed a traffic cop writing a ticket across the street.

You've got to love a city that's this civilized about parking violations.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

What It Takes

Ugh! I've just spent the last 15 minutes frogging everything I worked on all day.

Helen Hamann Ultrafine Alpaca in Raspberry Glaze
This happens. Sometimes it's due to a simple change of mind over the direction of a design. Sometimes it's due to inattention. Sometimes it's due to a mathematical error. Today it was the latter. No excuses. I've already put the work back on the stitches, but it's time for a breather before I return to the project after dinner. Today's little snafu, combined with the experience of leading a knitalong on Friday, leads me to ask, "What does it take to be a good knitter?"
So, here's my list:
1. Persistence. No further comment required. It's obvious.
2. Skill at basic arithmetic. Clearly, I lack this.
3. A talent for spatial thinking. This one is often overlooked.  EZ with her Moebius scarf comes to mind. It's why, I think, that boys are often quicker learners of knitting than girls.
4. Strong motor skills.
5. Some desire for perfection, but not too much. Good knitters are prepared to rip out and rip out again to get the result they want. But at the same time, they're not so uptight about their knitting that they become tense and frantic. I've seen these latter traits in beginning knitters who knit so tightly that their stitches can't move freely on the needles.
6. Perspective, i.e. the ability to recognize when it's time to quit a project and move on. There's no sense in completing something just for the sake of completing it. I don't think we should be spending our time knitting museum pieces that won't be used and enjoyed. For that matter, the knitting itself should be enjoyable too. So, if you're not enjoying the project, or you realize it won't be worn/used and loved, don't be afraid to let it go. Sell the yarn in a yard sale or online, donate it, frog it for another project, but don't spend your precious knitting time working away on something destined to live at the back of the closet or under the bed.
P.S. Feel free to add to the list.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Chocolat 2.0

In spite of the heat (really, it's not all that hot by more southern standards!), I'm working away on a new version of the Chocolat jacket--a little more fitted with a shorter body and armholes, selvedge stitches up the fronts, deeper vents, buttonloops added at the end, and (maybe) shaped lapels. Might have to change the name.

The yarn is Cascade 220 in shade 4001. And it's not too early to be auditioning buttons from my collection.

Pretty, eh?
On another topic, I've had a few requests for the Perth Cardi KAL to have an online component. Do let me know via Ravelry or email ( if you're interested. There's still time to set up a separate KAL blog and connect it to a Ravelry group for the posting of photos, questions, etc.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Canada Day

Got up at the crack of dawn and drove James to the bus terminal so he could visit friends in Ottawa and attend the party with Kate and William on Parliament Hill. I don't think that, even when I was his age, standing in a crowd of half a million people on a blistering hot day would have had any appeal (even with the enticement of royalty). On the way, he asked about the words to God Save the Queen, which we used to sing in school every day when I was a kid. James says that every time he hears it, he hears the words to the American version--he may be Canadian, but he grew up in Washington, DC and sang for several years as a chorister at the National Cathedral. Isabel, having been born while we were in DC, has dual citizenship. Globalization at the family level, I guess.
Speaking of being Canadian, today's Globe and Mail has an updated list of what it means to be a Canadian in 2011. The list is here.
For my own Canada Day activity, I walked with Isabel over to Bellevue House, the Kingston home of Canada's first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald. Open house today with food, costumes, speeches, etc. The house is one of many 1840's era homes here in the "Italian" style. (Kingston was briefly the capital of Canada in the 1840s.)

House across the street from Bellevue House--this would have been the suburbs in 1840.
Bellevue House decked out in bunting (red, white, and blue for colours of the Union flag).

Isabel and I did a tour of the kitchen garden. We took a quiz and managed to name most of the plants on the list. I won a keychain.

We skipped the house tour. We've been through many times. It was hot (for Kingston), so we walked home by the lakefront so we could catch the cool breeze off the water.

Tonight we'll go down to the harbour to see the fireworks. Happy Canada Day.