Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Forever and Ever

Still working on the plum edition of the Audrey Coat. Not sure why this seems to be taking so much longer than the two I made last spring. Feel as though I will be knitting this forever and ever. At the moment, near the hemline of the body, the whole thing feels like a blanket. I could not have done this in the summer, in our house with no air conditioning. At this point in the year, however, the coziness is actually welcome.

I decided today that I also need a couple of more pieces from Sonya Philip's 100 Acts of Sewing, so I cut out fabric for a dress and another pair of pants, both for wearing at Rosehaven's Wool and Wine Retreat next month.
In the same vein, I've been showing some pairings of my sewn wardrobe + my own knitted designs on Instagram. Here they are:

Buttonbox Waistcoat (wide collar version) + Pants #1 + short boots.

Cataraqui Scarf + Skirt #1 + 13-yr-old J.Jill velvet jacket. (Imagine little heels and raspberry lipstick.)
 Finally, I noticed this simple but amazing planting while out for my morning constitutional.
Hydrangeas and ivy at Queen's University.
P.S. For those of you lucky enough to be heading off to Rhinebeck (I won't be going this year), here is a post from 4 years ago with some possibly useful observations.

Thursday, October 12, 2017


My wardrobe plan for fall is working. Today is sunny and cool--perfect for an outing in Dress #1 from 100 Acts of Sewing in Merchant and Mills teal washed linen (purchased from Fabrications in Ottawa) topped by my original grey Audrey Coat.

I'll probably wear grey bamboo leggings, half boots, and perhaps my Fibonacci Neckerchief. When the weather is like this, it's the best time of the year. Few insects, warmish afternoons, lots of opportunities to wear thick sweaters without having to cover them up with a winter coat.
I'm participating in #slowfashionoctober. Be sure to share your own makings there too.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Thanksgiving, 2017

Today we are experiencing the dregs of Hurricane Nate, with a "Tropical Cyclone Special Weather Statement" on Environment Canada's website--the first time I've seen such a thing! Actually, it seems as though we are having nothing more dire than a very rainy day. A good excuse to stay inside, eat turkey leftovers, and knit, don't you think?
Yesterday, Isabel (who is visiting for the weekend) and I did a neighbourhood walk in the unusually balmy and still sunny weather. Our new house is just a few blocks west of Queen's University, and we are still getting acquainted with what the area has to offer. We toured the garden at Bellevue House for a last time this season, and saw some Swiss chard which was amazingly healthy looking for so late in the season.

Then we walked down King St.West to the Tett Centre's Juniper Cafe, where Isabel enjoyed a hot chocolate. The view of the lake from inside the cafe is special.

Next, we walked a few more blocks west to Awlington St., where there is a pleasant mix of newish (pre-WW2) houses with 1840s-era homes, like the one below.

Today being much cooler, I'm giving my new seamless aran a first wearing.

Above you can see it paired with Sonya Philip's Pants #1, although today I'm wearing it with her Dress #1 and leggings. Both sewing patterns are from Sonya's 100 Acts of Sewing collection. The sweater goes with EVERYTHING. Still no name for it. Suggestions are welcome.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Lopi Mystery Solved (Sort of)

I had an interesting conversation today with a local yarn shop owner who told me that, because of a fairly recent deal between Berroco and Istex (the Lopi producers in Iceland), ALL North American sales of Lopi are currently being distributed through Berroco. Now, for my American readers I will explain that many, if not most, Canadian yarn shops do not sell Berroco products, and those that do face the problems of border taxes, duties, and brokerage fees when the wool crosses the border into Canada. Lopi does not fall under NAFTA protection, unlike the mattress I recently purchased online. This explains why Canadian shops that previously had reliable inventories of Lopi (enough to knit my Audrey Coat) no longer do.
To get around this problem, a couple of weeks ago I ordered direct from Iceland via this website. I thought the shipping costs would be prohibitive, but lo and behold, the entire ten balls of Alafoss Lopi, shipped, cost about US$80. Since my Ravelry sales are in US dollars, I am able to pay in the same currency through Paypal. So simple, and the wool arrived in just a few days!
I've been beavering away at it for the last few days, while Bill is having fun in Paris, and you can see that I'm at that exciting point where the body and sleeves divide.

You are, of course, looking at the coat upside down since it is knitted from the top down. The most exciting bit from my perspective is the beginning of the seed stitch pleat. There won't be much more excitement from here to the start of the pockets. Audiobook time!
Meanwhile, fall has arrived in earnest. This afternoon the lake was full of sailors bringing their vessels home for the conclusion (or near conclusion) of the season. Here they are at the entrance to the Kingston Yacht Club harbour area.

And you really know it's fall when giant cruise ships drop anchor in the passage between Wolfe Island and the mainland. I think it's mainly German tourists arriving (early) to see the fall colours. Good luck with that. Our weather has been weird and no one knows how it will affect the trees.
Finally, in case anyone is wondering why I chose to stay behind instead of tagging along to France, it's because the prospect of having the house to myself for a week held more allure than the Louvre or Paris Opera. Sad, but true.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Tutorial: Decreasing into Cables

My aran sweater is almost done. I'm at the point in the upper body where the raglan decreases are eating into the cables. In a lot of sweaters, even ones in knitting magazines, you will see that when the point was reached when a full cable couldn't be completed, the knitter simply left a portion of the cable in stocking stitch. This is not a good look.
The solution? When there are insufficient stitches to complete the full cable, work the remaining stitches in something resembling the original cable as much as possible.

Example #1: my sweater has columns of OXO cables worked over 8 stitches. When there were not enough stitches left to "place 2 stitches onto a cable needle, hold them at the back, k2, then k2 from the cable needle", I placed 1 stitch onto the cable needle, held it at the back, then knitted 2, then knitted the 1 stitch from the cable needle. OK, I didn't actually use a cable needle (see here for cabling without one), but you get the idea.

Example #2: when the same OXO cable lost more stitches from the other side due to some neck decreasing, leaving only 6 stitches for the entire cable, I brought only 1 stitch from each side to the centre to close the "O" while still moving the original 4 centre stitches to the back.

What does the result look like?

In the above pic you can just catch the beginning of the neck shaping in the upper left corner along with the raglan shaping that's in progress on the right hand side. As the OXO cable is squeezed from both sides, some alteration in the manipulation of the cable was needed to keep it going as long as possible.
The result is an OXO cable that doesn't quite look like the original, but comes close enough to fool the eye into seeing an undisturbed column of cables. Much better than a big patch of stocking stitch in a sea of cables.
BTW, manipulating cables while working raglan decreases is relatively simple when you are working in the round, as I am with this sweater. It's easy to keep all the cables doing the same things as you work them all in one round, as opposed to working in pieces and having to check your previous work to see that you've made everything match. Cable on!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Aran Sweaters I Have Loved

I've been knitting and collecting knitting books and patterns for a long time. I started knitting when I was 6, and now I'm 60. The first sweater I made was in fact an aran, from an old Bernat book (the same one that Karen Templer used recently). As I knit the yoke of my own aran design, I've been poring over my book collection and thinking about some of my favourite arans. Here they are, in no particular order.

1. Elizabeth Zimmermann's Fishtrap aran sweater/cardigan. There don't seem to be any really good pics of this anywhere, other than in EZ's Knitter's Almanac (the original edition and the updated one). The best I could do is to take a grainy photo of a page from the latter. It doesn't do justice to the garment.

I think it's the dense twisted stitch texture and the funnel neck that I love.

2. The shawl-collared cardigan from Madeline Weston's Classic British Knits, re-published several decades later as Country Weekend Knits.

You can't see the shawl collar here (if you look at my own designs, you'll see I have a fondness for this style), but you can see the gorgeous cabling. I think I still prefer the earlier edition version, which shows a shorter cardigan hitting around hip length.

3. Alice Starmore's aran pullover from her Fishermen's Sweaters.

This is a very '90s sweater, quite voluminous, and one that would never, ever work on my petite figure, but I adore the intricate textures and the deep collar. Note the the aran I'm designing for myself incorporates a version of the OXO cables you see above.
As an aside, I was fortunate to be able to take an aran class with Alice, and I won't be lending out my copy of Fishermen's Sweaters autographed by its author. It's too precious.
I should also add that it's sad that one rarely sees hardcover knitting books so lavishly produced anymore. I guess technology has changed the publishing business. Newer knitting books don't seem to have the quality photography, glossy paper, and coffee table quality that Alice's original books had. In retrospect, I think the '90s was the heyday of these high-end publications. If you have any '90s original hardcovers, treasure them!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Looking for Lopi?

A reminder that my Audrey Coat will be on sale for only three more days (including today). There's been a sharp uptick in interest in this design over the last week, as cooler fall weather approaches.

I don't know about you, but here in eastern Ontario, it's getting increasingly difficult to get one's hands on sweater quantities of Istex's Alafoss Lopi. Our yarn shops aren't ordering in new batches and the existing supply is dwindling to quantities inadequate for Audrey.
This morning I went online and learned that that old dependable supplier, Camilla Valley Farm, seems to have a good stock in hand. So, if you're planning an Audrey Coat, give them a call--it's the best way to order from them in my experience. Now, get knitting. I see that the overnight low for this Thursday is only 7C!

Monday, August 28, 2017


I'm almost up to the underarms on my bottom-up aran jumper, so this morning I put all the stitches onto a length of waste yarn and gave everything a bath in some Eucalan. Then I laid it out on a towel on the dining table on our deck. Warning: birds and squirrels, you are not invited to this party!

Using a tape measure, I carefully moulded the wet wool to the correct width. Not length--because my experience with Lark is that this wool grows hugely in length when wet, but somehow sucks itself back in as it dries.
You can see how much the aran cables have opened up. Remember, as EZ pointed out, aran knitting is nothing more than fancy ribbing. Like lace, aran designs are transformed by wet blocking. This step allows me to check that I have the length I want before embarking on the upper body, and to see that the knitting is really working out to my desired size.
I've already knitted the first three inches of sleeve.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Well, That Was Embarrassing

Have a really close look at the cable crossings in my previous post. Notice anything? One of them was not crossed correctly. I've circled it (rather faintly in red) below. It should have gone under, not over.

Unfortunately, I didn't catch it until a couple of inches later. Then, I took a deep breath, and with two small wooden cable needles I unraveled the one bit of cable down and re-hooked it back up correctly.

All fixed!

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Excitement Begins

After days of cabled ribbing, finally I've got launched into the more complex (and fun) cable patterns.
Here's my chart with my place marked using Knitpicks magnetic board.

If you work from charts at all, you need one of these. There are other brands out there, but I like this one because it folds up like a little book.
So much fun to see the chart getting translated into three dimensions.

Strolled down the street to historic Bellevue House to check out the kitchen gardens and orchard.

It looks as though the pumpkins are coming along nicely.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Aran Bible

If you're interested in designing aran sweaters, there's really only one book you need to have on hand--Janet Szabo's Aran Sweater Design. She covers EVERYTHING! For instance, I'm aiming to design a bottom-up raglan aran. Naturally, one gravitates toward EZ's percentage system, but how do you make that work when the body totals are much higher than they would be in stocking stitch because of all the cabling, and the sleeve is likely to have rather less cabling and more filler stitches? The answer: apply the percentage system using inches instead of stitch totals. Brilliant.

I'm done the extra long cabled ribbing (above) and about to launch into the serious cabling work. This is Quince's Lark in "Frost", not blocked yet and feeling oh so squishy!

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Plan

A few weeks ago, I took up Karen Templer's suggestion to read "The Curated Closet", by Anuschka Rees.

 Image result for the curated closet images

What a revelatory experience! In particular, I enjoyed her chapter on colour palettes. There's a tendency, of which I am guilty, to build a wardrobe consisting mostly of neutrals. In my case, I seem to gravitate toward grey and black. Not until I saw photos of myself wearing my Audrey Coat did I realize the effect of this on someone with greying hair. Boring, boring, boring. But how to incorporate colour without losing control over the essence of one's wardrobe? See Chapter 10 of Rees's book for guidance. She suggests choosing nine shades in total: three main colours, 2 neutrals, and four accents. Here's one of her examples:

Now, here's my own creation:

I've rendered the chart in words rather than nice little blocks of colour, but here is the palette translated into yarn and fabric so you can see the total effect. The light wasn't cooperating (nothing to do with today's partial eclipse--we're too far from the centre of action), so I'm including two pics--one in sunlight and one under an overcast sky.

Bottom Row left to right above:
-white (accent) linen from a top I already own,
- navy (neutral) linen/cotton Essex (Sonya Philip's Pants #1 in XS),
-teal (main colour) washed linen from Merchant and Mills (Sonya Philip's Dress #1 in S),
-pale grey (main colour) Quince & Co's Lark in Frost (in the process of becoming my new aran pullover),
-icy blue (main colour) Quince & Co's Chickadee in Glacier (shown here as Bibliogloves, but my Modern Gansey is in the same colour but in Osprey),
- plum (accent) in Cascade 220 in #8885.
Top row left to right:
-dark grey (neutral) in Sandnesgarn's Silk Mohair, and
-black (accent) in Knitpicks Wool of the Andes in Coal.

As you can see, I've built my palette around colours I already own and enjoy wearing. With the fall season approaching, for the first time I feel I have a concrete plan for wardrobe-related purchases. Liberating, not constraining!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Now on Instagram!

Hey, I've joined 2017, and I'm on Instagram! Go to chez_lizzie to find me. Only one photo for now (and you'd laugh if you knew how long it took me to figure out how Instagram works), but more and better to come.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Shirt #1

Spent yesterday a.m. sewing Sonya Philip's Shirt #1 in Kaffe Fassett's shot cotton. I wish you could see the amazing colour in the latter fabric, which Purl Soho describes as "woven with two slightly different colors, creating a subtle shimmer of light and beauty". Right on. This is a perfect layering piece to go with my other pieces from Sonya's genius collection of simple wardrobe pieces.

The skein on display is for a new Fibonnaci Scarf, part of my fall wardrobe plan, concocted after perusing Anushka Rees's book, The Curated Closet. More about this in an upcoming post.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Catch Up

This morning, in the aftermath of heavy rain and flooding, I got around to clearing out the backlog of photos on my smartphone (don't ask which model I have, it's embarrassingly old). Here they are in groups according to date and topic.

1. Canada 150. For my non-Canadian readers, this July marks our country's 150th birthday since Confederation. Our new house is fortunately just up the street from Bellevue House, the brief home of our first Prime Minister, Sir John A. MacDonald ("Sir John A." for short) in the early 1840s when Kingston was the capital of the united Upper and Lower Canada.

Visitor centre at Bellevue House.
During that period, Kingston experienced a construction boom and Bellevue house is a perfect example of the Italian villa style so popular at the time. The house is situated on a rise above Lake Ontario so as to capture cool breezes on hot summer days. Our house up the street benefits from the same, so we are finding that life without air conditioning is quite comfortable (large windows, verandahs, and 10-foot ceilings help too). OK, I confess this summer is on the cool, wet side so perhaps we haven't yet been put to the test.
Gentleman on the front porch at Bellevue House.
Ladies under a tent greeting the public on Canada Day (July 1). This was the pre-hoop skirt era. Lots of petticoats for volume instead.
The orchard at Bellevue House. My son, James, spent a summer working here. One of his jobs was to scythe this grass under the trees.
And, while on the topic of Sir John A., you MUST see this feat of felting. In June I attended a spinning event here in Kingston where this life-size model turned heads. Frighteningly life like.

2. Lilies. I have a thing for them, and it's the peak of lily season here. Bear with me.

Pale yellow lilies in front of Queen's medical school building.

A riot of colour at my local garden centre.
Classic orange lilies across the street from our new place.

3. Spinning update. This is mohair/silk fingering I spindle spun during the move. It's waiting to become something. Ideas?

4. While in Toronto staying with a relative and apartment hunting with Isabel (who is now settled into her first real job there), I took this pic of a portrait of my Great Granny White. She was a remarkable lady who lived from 1835-1934. This was done in the 1850s. Her husband owned the Montreal Gazette (and several other newspapers), and became Sir John A's Minister of the Interior during the expansion of the railways. White Pass in the Yukon is named after him.

See the gold bracelet? It's now owned by Isabel, who I think is the only family member with a wrist tiny enough to wear it!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Historical Flare

I have a new obsession. It's the 18th-century "short gown", really a sort of jacket that was worn mostly (but not always) at hip length. It all started with this blog post about the rarity of finding an intact piece of work clothing from that era. In spite of this being a working woman's piece, look at the graceful shape, including the flared body and princess seams.

From an exhibit at Pottsgrove Manor, PA.
From there I discovered other interesting versions of this top, which like other work garments came to have more upper class versions, like this beauty.

See for more about this Swedish reproduction garment.
The short gown even survived into the early 19th-century, when it evolved to have longer sleeves and a high waist.

A reproduction short gown based on what would have been worn around 1805. See
A large part of my fascination with this topper is its method of construction. In an era when the greatest cost in garment production was the fabric, the short gown was cut all in one piece from one length of fabric, thus reducing the amount of waste yardage. At the same time, the lack of piecing meant that a short gown could be sewn in a relatively short number of hours. Here's an example of a pattern:

This construction method was a feature of both the working and dressier versions of the short gown, as were straight 3/4 length sleeves with turned back cuffs, and a lack of buttons. The jacket was either pinned closed with straight pins and then held in place with an apron, or in the dressier versions closed with ribbons or tapes. The essence of it is reproduced in this simple print version:


It's the combination of easy construction, practicality, and a graceful shape that catches my imagination and leads me to want to interpret this as a modern knitted design. That said, the very aspects that make this a straightforward sewing job make it less friendly to knitting, at least circular knitting. A lot of thinking is required. So, that's my challenge!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Getting Ready to Ply: the Mason Jar Method

Believe it or not, this blog isn't dead yet. I'm finally on the other side of all the moving (ours AND Isabel's) and back to the point where there's some semblance of everyday life. This afternoon I unpacked two spindles of singles spun from a Wellington Fibres mohair/silk/wool blend in a colourway called "The Deep". The advantage of making my own spindles from Lee Valley materials is that they are so inexpensive I can have several. That means no more transferring singles from spindle to toilet paper tube/bobbin. I can head straight from spinning to plying with only one intermediate step--winding the singles into a centre-pull ball. Here's how I do it:

Here the mason jars are substituting for a shoebox kate. I could, of course, probably ply directly from the spindles, but I prefer to work from a transportable ball.
That's all for now. I'll be back to my regular blogging from here on, and I promise there will be pics of the new place. BTW, the principal rooms are large enough for me to hold workshops, so STAY TUNED.
P.S. Did you catch PBS Newshour's segment on the "Dirt to Shirt" movement?