Friday, July 12, 2019

Festina Lente

When you're working on a new sweater, perhaps sensing the first inklings of momentum, it can be difficult to take time out to wet block the work in progress. In a top-down sweater, I usually do this at about an inch past the underarms (and again, later, about an inch before where I want the hem to fall), and in a bottom-up sweater, I block at about an inch shy of the underarms. Why not knit all the way to the underarms or hem? Because nine times out of ten, the wet blocking will cause the work to grow to the desired length, and who wants to have to rip back? I'm a lazy knitter!
Here's my latest design having a nice soak in some water and Eucalan.

There's no need to break the yarn to accomplish any of this; simply leave it attached, but keep the remainder of the ball dry outside the bowl of soaking liquid. I usually wait at least twenty minutes for the wool to fully absorb the water, then gently squeeze the water out, wrap the knitting in a towel, and jump up and down on the towel to get out as much water as possible. Finally, I lay out the knitting on a dry towel, patting and moulding it into the desired shape and size. A measuring tape is essential. In our un-air-conditioned house in summer, the piece will be dry by tonight. In the meantime, I'll do the sleeve calculations and cast on with dpns for the first of those. Back in a bit...

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Bathtub Reading

There's nothing like a long soak in the tub with a good book. And among my fave bathroom books, Barbara Walker's classic Treasuries rank high. Yes, they're in black and white, and sometimes a bit blurry, but they remain the most authoritative source of stitch patterns and inspiration. They make for fascinating reading too, as she explains the sources and development of stitches through time and place. Not surprising, really, when you learn about her broad range of accomplishments. What a brain, and so much mental energy!
Hanging out in her first volume is this modest knit/purl stitch pattern I'm using just now. Here's the right side, looking a little rustic in Cascade Eco+,

and here's the wrong side forming a useful basket stitch.

Such a simple pattern, but so much bang for so little effort! This is destined, I hope, to become a fall jacket. Stay tuned.
P.S. In case someone is wondering, this is indeed the same stitch pattern I adopted for use in my Cataraqui Socks.

Friday, May 31, 2019

While Blocking...

I'm a monogamous knitter. It's all about not losing momentum on a project; I know that I'm easily sidetracked, and will lose interest if I don't keep to the one goal. So, what does a monogamous knitter do while a project is being blocked without being finished? She sews, of course!
Yesterday I made the Wiksten top out of linen.

The actual colour is not as eye-wateringly bright as shown. I had to play with my phone camera to get the colour reasonably close and this is as good as it's going to get. Such a quick and satisfying make, and perfect for the not hot, not cold weather we're having this month. I'm wearing it right now (underneath my Wiksten Haori) as I head out the door for a morning on the road. Happy end of May!

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Apple Blossom and Lace

Full-blown spring is just about here--finally. This is the latest spring in my memory. Not that I'm complaining about the cool weather. It's sooo much better than the early (and continuous) heat of last year. And, really, how can a knitter not love being able to wear wool? The old apple orchard down the street at Bellevue House is in bloom,

and a big chunk of the body of my new lace sweater is blocking on the dining room floor in the afternoon sun. Gauge is spot on.

Now, I'm going to head out to the front porch for some afternoon tea, to be followed up with a half hour of weeding. Life is good.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Roots and Rain

At the Prince Edward County Fibre Fest in Picton, ON yesterday, I came across this.

The base wool is from our local Amherst Island Topsy Farm flock, dyed with local goldenrod before being finished with indigo (yellow + blue = green, remember?)
I've been wanting to get back to the sweater I planned a while back with a lace panel down the front, but I've been waiting for the right yarn to appear. This is it! It's a wooly sportweight that I'm knitting on 6mm (yes, you read that right) needles for a lacy, summer sweater. This morning I knitted a swatch.

The second photo, while not as "pretty" as the first, shows the light and airy transparency of the fabric. This shouldn''t take long at all!

Friday, April 26, 2019

Further Encounters with I-Cord

A couple of blog posts ago I wrote about I-cord selvedges on a stocking stitch background in the context of a Purl Soho cardigan border. Today, I'm looking at the I-cord edges of the garter stitch lower borders of Alanis, an attractive layering top by Elizabeth Smith.

This is a well-written pattern with so many features I really love--the loose drapiness, the garter stitch, the contrast pocket. You'll recognize these features in many of my own designs if you are at all familiar with them. I do, however, have a slight quibble with the technique for doing I-cord along the lower borders.

The method used is as follows:

Row 1 (WS): Sl3 pwise wyif, take yarn to back, knit to last 3 sts, p3.
Row 2 (RS): Sl3 pwise wyib, knit to end.

For me, this procedure leaves a bit of sloppiness on the edges, even if one does a little tightening up of the first stitch after the slipped stitches. It's not enough looseness that it's horribly noticeable, but it's enough looseness that it bothers me.
As often, it's a return to Elizabeth Zimmermann's basic I-cord technique, as presented in the practice swatch in her classic, "Knitting Around". (As an aside, you may be amused to know that this autobiography/knitting book is the ONLY knitting book my husband has found himself compelled to read.) Not only is the edge tidier, but it's more symmetrical on each side and consists of only one row.

Row 1: Knit to last 3 sts, yrn fwd, sl3 pwise.
That's it!

Look how nice it is.

Now back to contemplating what colour to use for that contrast pocket lining in my Alanis. Teal? Blue/grey? Heliotrope?
P.S. If you are making Alanis and decide to use this version of I-cord edge, then I recommend that you also change the method by which the borders are joined up to a simple k3tog (last stitch from the RH needle + first two stitches from the LH one); this right-leaning double decrease will make a neater join with this form of I-cord.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019


I have a plan for this. It's a merino/cashmere dk weight knitted at a gauge of 17 stitches to 4 inches on 5 mm needles. Super soft. Super drapey. My spring sweater is on its way. (Disregard the fact that by the time I finish this it will probably be too warm to wear.) Now for a little bit of math before I cast on...

Friday, April 12, 2019

Spring Inspiration

Sewing to the forefront right now. Just as late summer/early fall seems to be the time when the knitting bug hits hardest, early spring is when I want to sew new things for the soon-to-come (I hope) warm weather. 14C is the predicted high today, so not long to wait.
Today's inspiration comes from Lee Vosburgh's blog "Style Bee". My style, such as it is, will never come close to Lee's sleek, polished looks, but she is among the best for inspiration--certainly an "influencer" in the vernacular of digital marketing.
The caramel jacket she is sporting in the linked post is from Elizabeth Suzann, an American company specializing in sustainable (and comfortable) fashion. Below you can see the company's own pic of this jacket.

I love the oversized, drapey silhouette of this jacket, but not the colour, which would undoubtedly make me look like one of the walking dead. I have plans to make my own variation based on the Wiksten Haori sewing design. It'll be uniquely mine, and much, much less expensive.
A little while ago I made up an unlined Wiksten, long version. Here it is in its slightly rumpled state after a day of being worn out and about. I love it. It can be dressed up or down. So versatile.

But for spring, I'm tending toward a new palette.

The cafe-au-lait colour of the top fabric isn't really coming through here, but it's a perfect neutral and in the "cool" zone colourwise , so suitable for me. It's already shrunk, straightened, and ready for sewing action!

Friday, March 29, 2019

Making Something Good Even Better: a Tutorial on I-Cord Edges in Stocking Stitch

Ever since Purl Soho brought out its Top-Down Turtleneck Cardigan, I've been obsessed with it. It's not just the streamlined shape in a fine yarn; it's those beautifully clean front edges.

So, I tried out the method on a swatch -- and I wasn't happy. Call me fussy, and over-obsessed with details, but the two front edges did not match in appearance, and the left front edge looked sloppier than the right, especially on the wrong side. Why would this matter to me? Because when you wear a cardigan open, those little I-cord facings show.
Last year when I played with this, I made notes about the experiment in my Notebook #11 (I'm currently on #13) and, being caught up in other things, didn't get back to thinking about it again until this week. I'm working on a little, light-as-air mohair cardigan. I don't intend to add buttons to it, or seams either (not that I do that ordinarily anyway) because I don't want anything to weigh down the floaty fabric. It's something to wear in the spring/early summer when you just want a whisper of something to cover up your bare arms. (We're aiming for a high of 9C today, so I have a little time before I need this.) What I really want on this piece is lovely, clean, self-bound edges just like the ones above--except better.
When I looked closely at my earlier experimental swatch, I noticed that along the tidy edge, the three I-cord stitches were in fact twisted; they looked as though they had been knitted through the back loop. This was due to the fact that the instructions from Purl Soho were to slip those three stitches KNITWISE. Of course, every experienced knitter knows that the easiest way to tighten things up is to twist the stitches in question. The problem for me was to figure out a way to replicate this on the other edge. The solution? To knit those stitches at the end of the right side rows THROUGH THE BACK LOOPS before turning the work and slipping them PURLWISE at the start of the wrong side row.
Let me summarize:

Try a swatch with 16 stitches. Cast on by the longtail method and for the nicest top edges, make sure you cast on with a knot-less method.
Row 1 (WS): (Sl 1 purlwise) 3 times, purl to end.
Row 2: (Sl 1 knitwise) 3 times, knit to last 3 sts, (k1tbl) 3 times.
Rep Rows 1 and 2 to desired length.

This is what you'll end up with.

Right side.

Wrong side.
Remember, this is unblocked mohair, so things look a little loose and wonky, but the important bit is that both edges now have twisted stitches and mirror each other. After blocking, these edges are going to be perfect. I guess I'm a knitting nerd.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Only a Year

Today I've finally published Ellerbeck. It took a long, long time, I know. I kept getting sidetracked with other things. Then, last summer was our first without air conditioning and I barely knitted at all. Even the thought of wool was overwhelming. When I got back into it, I decided to play around a bit with the original design, making it shorter, adding German short rows to lower the back, moving the body increases farther away from the sides, and ending the increases after a few inches to create a slight "bubble" shape. On my final test knit, I knew I wouldn't have enough of the main colour and decided at the outset to knit stripes on the sleeves, easing in the new colour through a Fibonacci sequence. That turned out to be my favourite version.

Same version as above, just laid completely flat.

This swingy pullover was designed by me to wear with some of my sewn pieces from Sonya Philip's 100 Acts of Sewing collection. The neck is cast on provisionally, then finished later with Elizabeth Zimmermann's sewn bind off. There are links to tutorials for all the techniques. This is a quick, fun, and useful knit. Hope you enjoy it! Ellerbeck can be downloaded here.

Friday, March 1, 2019

A Handmade Birthday

I'm coming to grips with not having Isabel close by for her birthdays. To make both of us feel better, I decided this year to send a special handmade gift--a Wiksten Haori, made with fabric Isabel had seen and admired in my stash when she was home last Xmas. The only thing I had to buy was the lining fabric and thread. The shipping of the finished product almost cost me more!
Here's the jacket, in Essex linen/cotton in light periwinkle, lined with a granny smith apple small-scale cotton print.

The only mod to the basic pattern is the pockets; I noticed that other sewists were gravitating toward this version in which they are sewn right into the seams. It's much easier than patch pockets, and for anyone who has worn this jacket, you know IT'S ALL ABOUT THE POCKETS! So much room for all your stuff. And also so cushy from the double layers. Comfort plus. This is the XXS. Isabel is super-petite and the design is very, very oversized. I chose a couple of lining fabrics and sent photos for her to choose from. It's not a surprise, but it's something I hope she will love.
Winter continues. We're getting enough radiant heat from the sun to melt a little around the edges in the middle of the day, but conditions are far from feeling spring-like.

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that along with Isabel's present I included a hand-painted birthday card featuring the lake late last fall in its "everything grey" mode.

I know my watercolour painting is hopelessly amateurish, but perhaps it will remind Isabel of home.

Sunday, February 17, 2019


Finally, some photos of my Ellerbeck sweater, on its way to being published.


Testing is underway. Won't be long now.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Bellevue Mittens

Am I the only person to consider February the low point of the year? Or is it only those in snowy, northern climes who feel this way? It's not the darkest point in the year, but it is the time when lots of us feel trapped in some sort of Narnian endless winter nightmare.

During the extra-cold weather a couple of weeks ago, when I pretty much hibernated indoors, I came across a little bag of Ashford Corriedale top in a soft mauve-purple at the bottom of my stash. Using a home-made spindle and a shoebox kate, I spun it into a 2-ply worsted weight, a yarn that normally knits up to 5 stitches per inch. It was probably closer to double knitting weight than aran weight.

Next, I browsed through Wendy Bernard’s “Japanese Stitches Unraveled” and, it being close to Valentine’s Day, the cabled hearts caught my attention. I liked 1) the way in which the hearts are stacked, 2) the combination of cables and seed stitch, and 3) the unique way that the cables are constructed. Although the ropes look like ordinary k2 cables, they are in fact made by k1, p1, k1; the centre purl stitch is sucked invisibly into the rope, giving it a deeply sculpted profile. So clever.

I adapted the cable to the mitt silhouette and deliberately placed the thumbs very slightly toward the palms to prevent the torqueing of the main pattern on the back of the hand, incorporating a gap-less thumb pickup.
Because the stitch pattern is designed to fit precisely into the given number of stitches, the size adjustments for these mitts are made by varying the yarn and gauge (see below). The good news is that my pair ended up taking only 56g of hand spun, making them a perfect small yardage project.

 You can download the Bellevue Mittens pattern here.

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.