Thursday, October 10, 2019

Every Colour

Time for a new Fibonacci Neckerchief. The old one finally died at the end of last winter and I put off doing anything to replace it until now.

The yarn is Riverside Studio's merino singles in "Dryad". I think it contains some of just about every colour, but the shades are muted, the effect being as if natural dyes had been used. It ought to go with everything. This won't take long, and that's a good thing since our delightful weather is about to turn colder in time for Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

KnitEast 2019: Scenes

Back from KnitEast, getting ready for Thanksgiving (making cranberry sauce, ordering local bread and pickles, etc.) Too busy for an extended post, so here are simply "scenes" from last weekend.

View from my room.
The front lawn.
Wool at the local supermarket. By Sunday night they were cleaned out.
View of the Baptist church at dusk.
Stephanie and Lucy (both knitting on Steph's sweaters) during the fashion show.
Pencil illustration by one of my students to help another student. Thank you, whoever came up with this.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019


When you're doing repetitive activities that require only a corner of your brain, it's nice to have some good listening on the side--not something so engaging that it takes over your mind, just enough to keep you happy while you cook, or knit, or print class handouts, or wash and block sweaters.
I've been busy today with this,

and this,

so I've been keeping the other part of my brain entertained with some favourites from the 17thC, like this and this. If you don't think that early music rocks, then click on the links and enjoy!
P.S. So sad that the beautiful chunky wool I used for the above Petrova is no longer available. Why can't good things last forever?

Sunday, September 22, 2019


Handknits should, in my opinion, keep going for years, decades, sometimes generations. But it takes effort. It's a bit like conservation of a piece of art. Knits must be cleaned of sweat, food, dust, grime, the buttertart that leaked down its front last week, etc. Holes need to be repaired, pills removed, stains treated. That's what I'm doing during our September warm spell. The warm weather with low humidity makes for quick drying. My Modern Gansey is currently drying on the dining room floor after a day of multiple treatments for its buttertart accident. Sunlight dish detergent as well as Eucalan were involved. Not to worry; all is now well (whew!) It'll be part of KnitEast's fashion show in less than two weeks.

The collection of knits already refurbished for fall is growing.

The Bibliogloves, like the Modern Gansey, are in Quince's "Glacier" (but in Chickadee instead of Osprey). It's a truly beautiful colour, but let me tell you, boy, is it hard to keep clean. Worth it though.

Many designers keep a collection of never worn, pristine knits just for display at events like retreats and yarn fairs. I disagree with this approach. I want knitters to see how well-worn, well-loved knits look after years of wear and care. Maybe you've seen Elizabeth Zimmermann's famous aran cardigan with its shortened arms (due to worn out cuffs) and inventive heart elbow patches. That's how the life of a sweater ought to be lived!

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Home Alone

When the kids were school-age, and Bill went to work everyday (or more often, was in another hemisphere), I had lots of time home alone. It was my salvation in what amounted to sixteen years of single parenting while we lived in Washington, DC. I'd play audiobooks (on cassette back then!), listen to music, prep dinner, clean house, and KNIT.
Fast forward to the present, and my life with a retired stay-at-home husband. I'm hardly ever home alone anymore. Sigh. So, when I had the house to myself for most of today, I made the most of it. I always feel freer (more free?) and more creative when I'm alone. I tried on outfits for my upcoming weekend at St. Andrews, tried on makeup to wear with said outfits, made a giant batch of bias binding, as well as most of a new dress, listened to an audiobook while doing all of that, and generally had a great day.
Just in case you don't know this trick for making yards and yards of bias binding out of a fat quarter of fabric, here's a great video on the technique. Here I am in the midst of cutting up my continuous bias strip.

Before I launched into the bias binding marathon, I trimmed the new pompon on my Yule Tam (see previous post). Pro tip: always add the pompon before wet blocking. The soaking plus air drying results in a fluffier, slightly felted little ball all ready for a final haircut. Be careful not to overdo the trimming though; force yourself to stop before you end up with a teeny, tiny ball half your intended size.

Finally, I want to show off our new old daybed. "Old", because the frame is 19thC, purchased at an antique shop in Bath, ON. I had new hemp webbing and foam added, then had it painted in Annie Sloan's chalk paint in "Paris Grey".

It's super comfy, and makes for a perfect extra sleeping place when there are more people in the house than bedrooms. Hope your Sunday was as terrific as mine.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Pompon Transplant

With three weeks to go to KnitEast, I'm prepping my class samples and fashion show pieces. It's what I would do anyway to prepare for the cooler weather already here. My Yule Tam is something I pass around when I teach stranded (fairisle) knitting (FYI, the class is sold out). This original version of the Tam needs a pompon replacement. The old pompon is looking a little bedraggled and tired. Dare I say ratty? So, this afternoon it was out with the Clover pompon maker and some bright teal Galway worsted. It's a different yarn, but due to the nature of the tam, it fits right in.

After the pompon transplant, I gave the hat a bath in Eucalan, blocked it on a dinner plate propped up on a mug, and blow-dried the new pompon to fluff it up.
Next up, Audrey's Coat in "Gloxinia" Lopi. Here it is after a thorough de-pilling with my trusty little Knitpicks lint shaver (same as the one that used to be made by Dritz). It's going for a soak and spin in my top loader, but not before I baste the back pleat closed. This one is for the fashion show, although I'll probably wear it on the plane both for warmth and to reduce the weight of my carry-on bag.

The coat takes a few days to dry thoroughly, so there's time to do a few repairs on the other knits I plan to take. Will I see you in St. Andrews?

Friday, August 16, 2019

Willow Tank Hack

Early in the summer, I sewed several Willow Tanks, from Grainline Studio. They are part of this year's summer uniform. I pretty much wear one every day. More recently, I followed these instructions (more or less) from Fancy Tiger Crafts for modifying the tank into a gathered dress.

The fabric is a yarn-dyed linen. I cut out the pieces flat, not on the fold, to be sure to get the check pattern to match at the seams and darts. The only other change I made was to make patch pockets sewn into the side seams, instead of inseam pockets. Bring on the dog days of summer!

Friday, August 9, 2019

Another York Pinafore

Not sure if this is my fourth or fifth York Pinafore. No one I know seems to be able to stop at one. I wear mine year round--with leggings and sweaters in winter and with a sleeveless linen top in summer (no bra necessary). This one is in a medium-weight linen from Pure Linen Envy, colour "Byzantium".

Here are the mods I made to the pattern, which is from Helen's Closet (based in Vancouver):

1. I cut the bodice width to size L, while cutting everything else, including length to M.
2. I made my own single-fold bias binding out of cotton, and applied that instead of the double-fold suggested by the instructions.

That's it. So quick, so easy to wear. And those pockets can hold your entire life!
Best of all, it looks fab with my new Willingdon Cardigan.

Hope to write this up in the coming weeks. I promise it won't take as long as Ellerbeck.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Second Look

Blocking is done, and buttons are on.

This is not a staged Instagram-worthy photo. This is a throw-it-down-on-your-bed, like-the-way-it-looks-so-casual kind of picture. If you scroll back to the previous post, you'll be able to see the difference that blocking makes. Really pleased with this make; it exceeds expectations, and I can't wait for some fall weather.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

First Glimpse

August is not really when you want to be working on a chunky shawl-collared cardigan, especially when you don't have air conditioning. But, with the humidity gone and the nights back down to 13C (that's 55F), the house is staying cool enough to make knitting bearable. What you see below is a sweater with a collar and front edges that have not yet been blocked into submission. Nor have the buttons been sewn on or the ends woven in. In other words, everything will be much more beautiful in a couple of days.

The real challenge is going to be getting photos. My lack of an in-house model since Isabel left home is taking a toll on my design photography. If you know anyone approximately 5'2" and 100 lbs, who enjoys posing for the camera, send them my way!

Monday, July 29, 2019

When Underarm Grafting Isn't Quite Right

A few years ago I wrote a tutorial all about underarm grafting for bottom-up seamless sweaters. From the many links to it on Ravelry and elsewhere, it's been quite useful to a lot of you. It's a form of joining that looks very neat and tidy when executed properly PROVIDED YOU ARE WORKING IN STOCKING STITCH. So, what to do if you are working in some sort of stitch pattern? I have a solution. It's one I came up with on my own; to coin EZ's terminology, it's something I "unvented", meaning that someone else may have come up with this on their own but I'm not unaware of it.

I'm in the final stages of knitting a cardigan in a simple pattern stitch.
You can see that if I were to join the underarms by ordinary grafting, there would be an interruption of the pattern in two ways: 1) there would be a horizontal band of stocking stitch across the underarm area, and 2) the vertical lines of the stitch pattern would be "off" by half a stitch, as that is what happens when you graft two pieces of knitting originating from opposite directions (it doesn't show in stocking stitch). I know it's only the underarms, but let's get it right. Here's my solution.

Start by turning the garment inside out. You will notice that this beautiful stitch happens to produce a reversible basket stitch on the inside. Now follow steps One and Two from my earlier grafting tutorial. (Hint: open it up in a separate window, so you can see both tutorials.)

Step One: The stitches are transferred to dpns. It doesn't matter if the sleeve is above or below.

Step Two: Remember to pay special attention to the orientation of the extra stitches picked up on the end of each needle.

Now, instead of grafting, simply unite the gap with a 3-needle bind off. It will look like this from the wrong (working) side,

and like this from the right side. Notice how beautifully the vertical lines of the stitch pattern come together.

It's not the first time I've done underarms this way; I used the same method of closure a couple of years ago when I made this unpublished aran.

 OK, now back to that shawl collar...

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Sweater Spa

Isabel dropped in for a visit last weekend and brought three, yes three, sweaters in her little carry-on bag. It seems that it's easier to lug the sweaters across the continent and wash them in my old-school Whirlpool top loader than it is to deal with them in a studio apartment in California. So, she soaked them and laid them out on the dining room floor, where they dried in record time in last weekend's heat wave.

I had already given the one she had made for herself a bit of a repair job.

Good thing that visible mending is in, because there was no more of the original wool in sight.
P.S. Two posts in one day -- from someone who goes months without posting. This is what comes of spending the day alone in the house without interruptions!

Back to the Future

Here I am sitting in an un-air-conditioned house in late July, knitting. Remarkably, the house is comfortable, thanks to its 1918 construction (front porch, high ceilings, big windows) and position surrounded by large trees on a hill where it catches the cool breezes off Lake Ontario. Plus, I've returned to the lessons of my childhood, when air conditioning was rare--windows open at night but closed during the day, blinds and shutters closed on the sunny side of the house, fans on, and cold meals involving no cooking. The bonus? Our utitilies bill is low and our consciences can rest easy that at least in this one area we are not contributing to global warming.
This morning I've managed to join my little cropped cardigan.

The wool is Cascade Eco+ in a pale grey. Here you can see the body and the right sleeve, which have been blocked to verify length and gauge, and the left sleeve, which I did not bother to block. To keep myself entertained whilst working my way up my decrease chart (for raglans, as well as a V-neck), I'm re-listening to C.S. Harris's Sebastian St.Cyr regency mysteries, as narrated by Davina Porter. A perfect summer morning.

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.