Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Zora Re-Issued

Remember Zora?

This is a cardigan I wear again and again. It's flattering, looks great with jeans or my handsewn clothes, and works from fall through spring. The grey version, above, was my first wheel-spun wool project. The original blue version was knitted in a yarn that is no longer available, and I've been meaning to update it for a while. At the same time, I want to do more to use and promote sustainable wools. So, I'm happy to announce that Zora has now been re-published on Ravelry for knitting with Topsy Farms Pure Sheep Wool 2-ply. You can read more about Topsy and my trip to Amherst Island last spring here. I'll be knitting a new Zora for myself shortly, probably in their soft black. (Am I crazy to knit an aran pattern in such a dark colour?) You can order Topsy wool here. Note that my yardage recommendations are generous. However, I don't think you'll have difficulty finding something to do with any leftovers.
The Ravelry link is here. Take time to check out the project pages. You'll notice that some knitters have chosen to interweave the cables while others didn't bother to mirror the cables as written. There's lots of room for choice.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

A Study in Lifted Increases

In the same vein as my last post ("When Simpler is Better"), here is my new sweater, designed specifically to go with Sonya Philip's Dress #1. I've made three of the latter and now that winter is upon us, I'm more or less living in those dresses in combination with leggings and various sweaters. Glenora and Audrey's Coat have been my mainstays, but I've really wanted something else, something with as much swing in the body as the dress. That's where this new sweater comes in.

Yes, originally I thought I wanted it to have a cowl neck and inset pockets, but as it grew on the needles, I realized that a cowl would turn the sweater into a piece that could only be worn in the depth of winter. Without the cowl it can be worn in late fall and early spring as a tunic length covering for Dress#1 and also Pants #1. After all, you can always add a scarf for extra warmth and colour in the neck region.
Also, as this top-down sweater grew, I realized that I loved its clean lines, emphasized by the use of lifted increases, both in the yoke,

and down the sides. One of the nice aspects of circular design is that one is not limited to increasing on just even or odd rows. In this case, I was able to increase every THIRD round to get just the right angle. The full extent of the increases is shown below. Yes, it's huge!

This looks crazily wide, until you realize that the fabric is quite drapey. I knitted the light teal Eco+ at 3 1/2 stitches to the inch on 6.5mm needles. If you go back and look at the top photo, you can see that the sweater hangs quite gracefully, with the sides a little longer than the back and front. The fact that the neck is fairly low means that no short row shaping was required at the back, making this sweater really, really simple.
Well, perhaps not completely simple. The lower hem and cuffs were completed with a straightforward purlwise bind off. Since I wanted the neck to have the same finish, I undid the longtail cast on and, using the long strand that was left, worked Elizabeth Zimmermann's "sewn casting off" from p38 of the newer edition of "Knitting Workshop". I will write the pattern so that there is the option of starting with a provisional cast on. The reason I chose the sewn cast off was that although it looks like a regular purlwise bind off, it is very, very stretchy, and that degree of stretch is needed for the yoke to hang properly.
Keep in mind that this design is meant to be something of a blank slate. I can see it in Noro-like stripes or in a soft mohair, or perhaps in a gradient. Hmm...
In the meantime, it fits into my wardrobe plan perfectly. See how well it coordinates with my Yule Tam from last winter? (That's the tam in the lower right of the photo.)

Not sure when this will be published, but at least I've got something new to wear. Minus 9C predicted for tomorrow.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

When Simpler is Better

We've arrived at that time of the knitting calendar when we knitters think about gifts, preferably quick gifts. It's an opportunity (and an excuse) to make those simple but beautiful little accessories that can be so useful. So often we forget that "beautiful" does not equate with "complicated". Remember that designs that are published in magazines are most often there because there is something striking or unusual about them--that's what appeals to publishers who are trying to catch the readers' eyes. However, designs that originate from yarn shops and yarn companies are actually more likely to fit the "simple and beautiful" category. They are likely to feature lovely or luxury yarns and, indeed, that is a big part of what makes these simple patterns work. Here are a few suggestions from what's out there right now, along with a few of my own patterns that fit this category.

1. Brooklyn Tweed's Patch: the garter stitch scarf elevated to a work of art. At US$95 for a kit, this may be too pricey for a lot of Canadian knitters, but it has to be tempting for a piece that will offer up a lot of knitting time and a scarf that will last a lifetime.

2. Churchmouse Yarn's new toque: the perfect little hat to keep handy in your pocket.

3. Purl Soho's Mistake Rib Cowl: soothing to knit and to wear in a luxury fibre.

4. My own Fibonacci Neckerchief: just the thing to use up a skein of merino hand-dyed sock yarn. I practically live in mine.

5. My Tumnus scarf. Reversible and unisex, I love it in Ultra Alpaca (available locally at Rosehaven Yarns in Picton).

6. Bibliogloves. Layer these over regular gloves for extra warmth. Shown here in Brooklyn Tweed's Loft.

7. I've just published an updated Yule Tam and Toque: great for a first fairisle project, especially the toque version, which has no shaping at all. And who doesn't love to make pompons?

8. Finally, there's the good ole Neck Thingum: boring as can be to knit, but we have been known to fight over these when winter does its worst. Settle in with a good audiobook and some soft wool and someone will be grateful.

Best of all, most of these patterns are FREE. Happy holiday knitting!

Friday, November 17, 2017

In the Works

Recently someone asked me about my design process. Do I plan everything out in advance, or do I launch right into the knitting? The answer is somewhere in between. I like to start with a sketch, inexpert artist that I am. My current project started with this a couple of days ago.                                            


I did a little experimenting with a small stitch pattern built into the yoke increases and then, because I'm working in a yarn I'm familiar with and know my gauge, I simply cast on. I played around a little with some short row shaping at the base of the collar, but then after trying it on, decided to nix it. I want everything simple.
Next, I plotted out the yoke shaping and did the calculations. You can catch a glimpse of those at the side of my sketch. I like to work in notebooks and I try to avoid the temptation to skip writing everything up, even the failures. It's a huge time saver, because sometimes I'll go back to a "fail" and take it in a different direction. That's how Harriet's Jacket was born.
This current pullover has been in my mind for a while, but it took the weekend away, talking to other knitters and designers, to get it going. On Monday, I took a good look around my work space,

and felt re-energized. Are you noticing more colour in my work?

 This is my teal triple whammy. Everything made by me!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Old Friends

In my previous post there was a suggestion that I was going to use my ram's head buttons (purchased about 15 years ago from Philosopher's Wool at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival) on my new coat. I actually intended to do that, and got as far as sewing the first button on. Then I realized that I didn't like the look of a shank button. So, I poked around in my buttonbox until I located exactly six (phew!) old Mission Falls black buttons with crosshatches on top. Mission Falls made the BEST buttons. When the company went out of business, I visited Mags Kandis on a studio open house day in Prince Edward County and bought a big batch of her remaining buttons in different styles. They're always just right.

Then, I donned my new coat and headed out to rake leaves and give the lawn a last mowing. By Friday the daytime high is predicted to be below zero. Winter really is coming.

BTW, these are Sonya Philip's Pants #1 in navy Essex, a linen/cotton blend. Perfect year round.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Wash Day

Yesterday I finally got around to doing something I had vowed to do a long time ago. I got around to posting, on the laundry room wall, instructions for how to wash wool. Why? I'm tired of various family members asking me to talk them through the steps involved in washing their woollies. (At least they've got as far as not expecting me to do the washing for them.) I guess they don't do this often enough to remember own their own. So, in case anyone else out there is interested, here's my poster.
NOTE: these instructions apply only if you have an old-fashioned top-loading NOT HIGH EFFICIENCY washer. I had an old Whirlpool model re-built just for me. There is enough movement of the laundry load in the newer high efficiency models, even on their "soak" cycles to felt wool. Unfortunately, I learnt this the hard way.

To Wash Woollens

1. Set the washer temp to “WARM”.
2. Set the water level to “SMALL” or “MEDIUM”.
3. Pour a capful (at most) of Eucalan into the washer.
4. Fill the washer with water by setting the dial at “Regular”, then just as it starts to agitate turn the dial to OFF and push the dial in so that the machine is completely turned off.
5. Submerge your garment in the sudsy water, gently squeezing out the air.
6. Allow the garment to soak for 30 min or longer, leaving the lid of the machine up.
7. Turn the dial and set it anywhere that says, “Spin”, then pull it out to activate the machine. The machine will not spin until you close the lid.
8. Let the machine finish the cycle. Remove the garment, supporting it with your hands to prevent stretching, and lay it flat to dry on a towel, moulding and patting it into the desired shape.

     Note: Eucalan is a “no-rinse” wool wash.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

What's In a Name?

Quite a lot, in fact, when knitters are trying to look up a design on Ravelry. With the proliferation of indie designers, e-publishing, and Ravelry, it's becoming increasingly difficult to avoid duplication in the naming of patterns. Add to that the fact that magazine editors have a preference for one-word names, as well as names that are easy to pronounce from their spelling (I have personal experience with this, having once tried to name a pattern "Strachan"), the problem is even more vexing. There are definite trends in names. I can't help but notice an unusual number of designs with made-up feminine-sounding names ending in the letter "a". It all makes me want to go the route of Sonya Philips with her sewing patterns named by number, i.e. Dress #1, Dress #2, etc.
All this is merely a preface to letting you know that, as of a few minutes ago, I have decided to re-name my favourite fall garment. Back in the spring, when I first chose a name, I performed the usual Ravelry search to check that the name had not been taken, and at that time nothing showed up. However, since then a pattern company has posted onto Ravelry a pattern leaflet from almost a decade ago with the same name. Wanting to avoid confusion, while at the same time retaining the obvious reference to the actress in question, I have simply altered the name of my own design to "Audrey's Coat". An apostrophe makes all the difference. You can find it here. Now, back to sewing the buttons onto my new plum version, which I intend to wear next weekend at the Wool and Wine Retreat in Prince Edward County. Maybe I'll see you there.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017


Some "preppers" get ready for the apocalyse, some just get ready for winter. I'm in the latter category. With temps expected to plummet by the end of this week, I'm feeling the need to round out my cold weather accessories.

In keeping with my planned colour palette for this season, there's my Yule tam from last winter, and I've decided to add some grey Bibliogloves in BT's Loft in "Snowbound", a pale grey with black flecks, and a new Tumnus scarf in Berroco's Ultra Alpaca worsted in "Oceanic Mix". The latter is a rich melange of teal greens and blues. I'm so in love with it that I might need to pick up more to make a sweater.
P.S. My plum Audrey Coat only needs pocket linings, then some weaving in of ends, and some wet blocking. Can't wait to wear it.