Monday, April 30, 2012

Third Sock Syndrome

Finished the first knot stitch sock last night. Here it is:

Then I started thinking that I should have done a 1x1 ribbing at the top, and that led to thoughts that a tubular ribbing might be even nicer, so I've ended up starting the second sock with tubular 1x1 ribbing. I like Ysolda Teague's method best, shown here.

If I like this sock better, then I have enough wool to knit a third !!! sock to match it. Yes, sometimes I wonder about my sanity.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

One Thing Leads to Another...

Back from Toronto. Had a great time. Saw Lynda of Cabin Fever at her booth, along with Brenda. Brenda (on the left) and I had communicated online, but never met before.

Bought some Madelinetosh and Tanis Fibre Arts yarn, as well as some Shelridge Farm merino. Then sat down for lunch and watched the fascinating martial arts classes taking place in the same building, the Japanese Cultural Centre. Here are the archery students,

and their enormous bows.

I say fascinating, because the archery seemed to be mostly about form and process, rather than result, as the students moved in slow, choreographed movements like a dance.
Bill and I left Toronto before 4:00 p.m. and made it back to Kingston before dinner. Now I'm back to the knot stitch socks worked in the Lanett left over from Brookline. (BTW, I wore the new Brookline all day yesterday.) Without nylon, the socks won't be terribly durable, so I worked an "eye of the partridge" stitch to add strength to the heel flap, and because the knot stitch would be uncomfortable inside a shoe, I limited it to the parts of the sock that will show, placing the decreases on the top of the foot instead of along the edges of the gussets to form a tidy sort of V shape.

It's interesting how the stitch pattern looks so different worked at a snugger gauge and then stretched onto a foot. And odd how the Perth Cardi led to Brookline, which led to this. Have I mentioned how much I love this yarn? Especially after my foray into very expensive hand-dyeds, it's good to remember that there's value to be had out there in this beautiful, classic merino fingering.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Wool Socks Weather

As I write this, the sky is growing darker, the wind is colder, and I'm wondering if the seasons are actually moving backward. It feels as if spring has been on hold for weeks, a shock after our non-winter. Yesterday we had hail, sleet, snow, and rain. In his column in the Globe and Mail, John Doyle writes, " Some say this weather is a judgment from on high, a rebuke to the hubris of fools who thought winter had been avoided, just this once." However, on the bright side, it's still wool sock weather, so to celebrate, I'm using my leftover balls of Lanett to make a little pair of matching Brookline socks. Before I get to those, though, here's my completed cardigan ready to wear to the Fibre Frolic.

I'm still deciding what to wear it with. A Ravelry reader asked me if a woman in her forties could get away with wearing this design. My answer: this woman who is about to turn 55 intends to look great in it. I've tried it on with blue jeans and a white T-shirt, also with loose black knit trousers and a black knit tank. Different looks, but terrific (I think) either way.
On to Brookline, the socks. I'm knitting on US #2s and liking the result so far.

Unless we get a break in our non-Spring, I may be wearing these in June!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Finessing Brookline

Inevitably, when a pattern is put into writing and through the editorial process, small details end up being omitted, either because they involve lesser known techniques, they are considered too complicated to put into writing, or they are left to the knitter's discretion. So, this post is about the little things you can do to make your Brookline really lovely in small ways.
1) In my own Brookline, the knot pattern, which is first set up in the back, is mirror-imaged in the front. In other words, in any given row, the distance of the first knot from the raglan toward the centre of the body is the same in both front and back. Once the yoke is divided, the distance from the underarm seam stitch to the first knot is the same in both front and back. Quite apart from the aesthetic desirability of this approach, I find it makes the knitting easier. It allows me to check almost automatically that I have the right number of stitches and that the knot placement is correct.

View of seamline running from underarm (at top) down body showing mirror imaging of knots.
 2) I like my raglan depth a little on the long side, in spite of the current fashion trend toward a close-fitting underarm. If you are short, or you want a closer fit through the underarm, then consider shortening the raglan depth. The easiest way to do this is to try on the yoke every now and then to gauge when you want to stop. Then, look at the number of stitches you need to end up with in the body and sleeves, and simply cast on at the underarm to make up the difference. I always use the backward loop method of cast on for this job.
3) Don't consider yourself bound to increase for the gores by the M1P method. In fact, I used Elizabeth Zimmerman's backward loop method, mirroring the leaning of the increases left and right on either side of the gores. Remember, if you do this, that the right-leaning increase will need to be worked tbl on the succeeding row. I find this method of increase slightly more invisible in this application than the M1P, but it's knitter's choice as always.

View of gore from wrong side showing mirrored backward loop increases a la Elizabeth Zimmerman.
 4) Consider changing the overall length of the cardigan. My daughter, Isabel, and I are on the short side and we found that we preferred the cardigan to be around hip length, a bit shorter than shown in the Twist photos.
5) Feel free to use alternate short row methods. I used Meg Swanson and Lucy Neatby's "slip, wrap, replace" method. Whichever way you do it, you don't need to do anything more with the wraps on subsequent rows in garter stitch.
6) At the start of the sleeves, I decided to delay the start of the purled underarm seam stitch until the first decrease round. Since the underarm portion of the sleeves is picked up and worked in the opposite direction to the body, the stitch alignment at the junction is off by half a stitch. If you start the line of purled seam stitches right away, that misalignment is painfully obvious. OK, I admit no one is going to ask you to raise your arm so that they can inspect your underarm joins, but this sort of detail matters to fussy knitters. To improve the appearance of the transition, work 3 rounds of plain stocking stitch before embarking on the decrease and its subsequent line of purled seam stitches.

View of underarm with sleeve at top showing transition from picked up stitches to first sleeve decrease.
 7) Before you get too far along in the sleeves, consider whether you might do what I did and start the knot details before the sleeve decreasing is done, especially if you are on the short side.
8) Don't be afraid to take the sleeve down to fewer stitches in the forearm than is suggested. The design intent is to have a fairly closely fitted forearm, and women's forearms vary considerably in width. I ended up decreasing down to 48 stitches instead of the recommended 50. Just be sure to finish your decreases by the start of the sleeve gore.
8) Finally, the main purpose behind my decision to utilize crocheted button loops was to allow knitters the greatest possible freedom in choosing buttons. Feel free to select buttons in a different size or number. Experiment, if necessary, to alter the size of the button loops to fit your choice. This is a design where the buttons can make or break the final look, and it's nice to have the longest possible time to locate the perfect ones (in the case if the Twist cardigan, salvaged buttons from an old jean jacket!)

My buttonholes are a bit smaller than the version in the pattern, to accommodate these tiny beaten metal gems.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Filling in the Blanks

The first sleeve of my new Brookline is done, and I thought it would be a good opportunity to show a detail absent from the Twist photos, namely, what's going on in the lower sleeve. Here's a shot of my forearm with the knots, gusset, and cuff. Unfortunately, it's not easy to take photos of one's own arm!

Anyway, this gives a glimpse of the three knots, which I started BEFORE completing the sleeve decreases, which I took down to 48 sts instead of the 50 sts set out in the pattern. As I've mentioned before, I'm on the petite side and everything has to be adjusted. (That's how I got into making my own designs in the first place.)
I'm zooming along now and might even finish the second sleeve today, thanks to the aid of and the combination of Davina Porter reading C.S. Harris's "Where Shadows Dance". I swear that Ms. Porter's voice is totally magical, mesmerizing in fact. I might just have to keep going and knit socks to go with my cardi if I finish it before the book is done.

Friday, April 20, 2012


This week I seem to have shifted the focus away from knitting. I'm struggling to feel motivated to finish the blue/grey Brookline, even though I intend to wear it by the end of the month (barring a heat wave), and all that's left is a sleeve and a half. Instead of knitting I've been reading C.S. Harris's Sebastian St. Cyr mysteries, attending viol rehearsals, and planting pansies.

Elizabeth Cottage, across the street from our rehearsal studio, photo taken last summer.

Here's Brookline with its half sleeve. Note that I've managed to complete the front borders, so I haven't totally slacked off. Probably by tomorrow I'll have a burst of panic energy when I realize how close the Fibre Frolic is.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Brookline: Evolution of an Idea

It started with a trip to the sheep and wool festival at Rhinebeck in October, 2010. Janie H. and I drove down together and while we were there, Janie discovered Helen Hamann's yarns and designs. She must have tried on every garment in Helen's booth, looking fabulous in all of them as only Janie can, and before the day was out she'd made arrangements for Helen to do a trunk show at her shop in Perth, ON. On our last afternoon in Rhinebeck, when our woolly shopping was wrapped up, Janie and I did a little more shopping in the village. We visited Haldora, where once again, Janie tried on numerous garments and looked smashing in all of them. At a nearby, less pricey shop I bought a mohair blend wrap-style cardigan, knitted at a loose gauge with long ties.
In the end, I only wore that little cardigan once. I found the ties annoying because they forced me to wear the cardigan closed. Nevertheless, I loved everything else about the piece and in the back of my mind thought that sometime I might make myself something similar.
Fast forward to early December when I drove north through the Rideau Lakes to Perth to catch Helen Hamann's trunk show. Her designs weren't really my style, but I loved her alpaca yarns, especially the undyed colours, and I was intrigued by Helen's suggestion that I should try knitting her superfine Luxury yarn at a looser gauge than the ball band suggested. It wasn't until late winter, though, that I got around to thinking that the beautiful grey alpaca I'd purchased would be perfect for a useful little wrap cardigan with buttons instead of ties.
Thus, the Perth Cardi was born. This has been my go-to sweater for the last year. I wear it open with the fronts dangling, I wear it closed, I wear it with blue jeans and with dresses, I wear it layered under a heavier jacket in winter, or as a light coverup on cool summer evenings by Lake Ontario. Then, last summer, I bought some more of Helen's Luxury in a colour labelled "Raspberry Glaze", intending to make a Perth Cardi for Isabel, my then 19-year-old. If I loved the Cardi, shouldn't she? Apparently not. After some argument discussion and ensuing reflection, I decided to try a variation of the Cardi that would fit into the same number of stitches, and I thought maybe I'd do a higher V-neck, not a wrap. A few inches later, I realized that the garment I was knitting had a completely different feel. It was a little dressier, a little more fun, and even though Isabel, a computer science major, isn't the 'girly-girl' sort, her new cardigan was going to have ruffles. The Perth Cardi was transformed into what at the time I called the "Gore Street Cardigan", so named because of the design's early 19th-century feel, just like the street of the same name here in historic Kingston, ON, and appropriate given the deep gores in the cardigan's body. Isabel donned her new cardigan, we pinned up her hair, and despite the high heat and humidity, we managed some photos.

The buttons you see here were some ancient Rowan ones from my button box; the little stars echoed the knot motif perfectly. I had only enough for three pairs, but Isabel is small, so they worked. These were the photos which were sent as part of my submission to Twist.
After the submission was accepted, Kate asked how I would feel about doing the magazine sample in The Fibre Company's "Road to China Light". Who wouldn't be delighted to work with an alpaca/silk/cashmere/camel blend? The result, before I sent it off for professional photography is here:

In this case, the buttons were salvaged from an old jean jacket originally purchased from a J. Jill in the Washington, DC area when we lived there. Twist decided to re-name the design "Brookline".
Now, finally, I'm getting around to knitting a version for myself in SandnesGarn's Lanett from my stash in a soft, neutral blue-grey. 

Here, the top portion of the fabric looks smoother than the bottom due to blocking. I'm a big fan of putting all the stitches of a work-in-progress on a length of yarn and wet-blocking to check for gauge and fit. Since I'm only 5' 1", I've also shortened the raglans on this size 38". (I've previously blogged about how to do this in connection with my design, "Sandridge", in case you're interested.) If the weather co-operates, I hope to wear this latest version at Toronto's Knitters' Frolic in two weeks. Will I see you there?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Superwash: Reassessing

Not long ago I ranted about how much I disliked superwash yarns. I've had some really disappointing experiences with them, especially with the way they often grow in size when wet, making precise blocking difficult. Some yarns come with instructions to give the garment a spin in the dryer for 15 minutes before laying flat to dry, but even though this tends to bring the yarn back to size, it's hard to get sharp points and other details to work out as beautifully as with non-treated yarn. Then, there's the whole business of the yarn losing body as well as the ability to retain warmth.
Today I'm about to retrench. I'm working on a version of Brookline for myself in a (gasp!) superwash-treated wool. It's this:

You see, I fell in love with the soft blue-grey and knew, even though it's a baby yarn, that the weight would be perfect for this design. I tentatively blocked a swatch and lo and behold, it didn't behave badly at all. No change at all in dimensions, in fact. It seems that not all superwash  is alike. The warmth factor isn't an issue for this garment, which is intended to be worn during  those tricky transitional seasons, and the lovely drape post-blocking is just right. The merino highlights textural fabric delightfully. Best of all, Lanett comes in a huge range of non-baby colours. I'm in love.

  So, now I'm pondering all the things I can make with this yarn---a new Perth Cardi, new socks, a scarf....

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Time Travel

I'm spending time every day this week with Orlando--Orlando Gibbons, that is, the late Tudor/early Jacobean composer. I'll be playing some of his viol music, a fantasia and galliard, in an upcoming concert. I'll be playing some Monteverdi too, but I don't have the music for that yet. This is my favourite way to time travel (books being a close second).
In less than a week, the spring issue of Twist will be out and in anticipation, I'm working on a version of Brookline for myself. Here it is as of this morning:

OK, I'm a tease. Really, though, this is the yoke, with all the stitches on a length of yarn, about to be blocked. If you follow this blog, you'll know that I'm a great fan of wet blocking my work-in-progress to check gauge and size. Hopefully, it'll be dry and I can get going on the rest of the body tomorrow. I'd like to wear it at the Toronto annual Knitter's Frolic at the end of the month, assuming that the weather stays cool enough. After our non-winter, spring seems to be in a holding pattern.

Saturday, April 7, 2012


Signs of spring and renewal are everywhere in my neighbourhood. 


   and egg decorations.

Have a wonderful holiday.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Are you knitting an artifact?

Have you ever spent money on a garment you thought you loved in the changing room only to have it languish in your closet for years (decades sometimes)? How does this happen? With me, it happens when I forget to apply the "will I wear it tomorrow?" test. It happens when I think I might need to lose 5 lbs before wearing whatever it is, or I might need to have just the right event emerge on my calendar, or I might need a new pair of shoes to make it work.
The same sort of thing often happens in the realm of knitting. You fall in love with the way a garment looks on a model, you imagine yourself with your hair blowing in the breeze and the shawl you've spent the last 6 months slaving over fluttering gracefully from your shoulders. Never mind that in your real life you've never worn a shawl, or that shawls don't fit under coats terribly well. Or take another scenario: you find a particular sock technique so fascinating that you can't put your needles down. Forget about the fact that for most of the year you live in a climate that makes handknitted socks (or any socks for that matter) out of the question. And to make matters worse, instead of just wasting your money as in the case of store-bought clothing, you've wasted hours, days, weeks of your life.
If you're a process-oriented knitter, then you really haven't "wasted" your time. You've had a lot of hours of relaxing fun and, after all, knitting is cheaper than psychotherapy. Better, though, to have all the hours of fun and something you can enjoy wearing for years to come.
Over the years, I've spent a lot of time making knitted artifacts, destined for the McCarten Knitting Museum. I still have a few of these items, which are beautiful to behold, but sadly will probably live the rest of their lives in ziplock bags, too gorgeous to donate or throw out or frog, but not right for wearing today. I think I have some vague hope that in the distant future some descendant might pull them out and give them a new life. It's happened before, as when I wore my great-aunt Siddy's handknit sweaters for years after she'd died.
Now that I design most of what I knit, I'm getting better at assessing what works and what doesn't. I know I've designed a winner (from my own perspective, because that's what matters most) when I practically live in a sweater, when it's the one I reach for day after day, when I fret over what to wear while it's being washed and re-blocked.
This last year, my fave has been the Perth Cardi,  the alpaca version of which is shown here:

I wear it buttoned up with blue jeans and a T-shirt and with the front edges dangling open with my favourite knit dress and linen jumper. I wear the cotton short-sleeved summer version as a layering piece during spring and fall. For me, this is the ultimate go-with-everything piece, definitely not just an artifact.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Done and Done!

The taxes are filed and paid (yay!) and I've managed to ply a little bit of yarn to see how it works. See?

It really is like magic the way the kinkiness of the singles gives way to the smoothness of a 2-ply. And I haven't even washed it yet.
I was so excited and encouraged that I started to work on another bit of fluff, as evidenced by this:

This is some undyed BFL (blue-faced leicester). If it turns somehow into yarn, I might even try to dye it--or not. Depends on how brave I'm feeling.
For anyone wondering when the Spring 2012 issue of Twist is coming out, the date is April 16. FYI, my submission, the "Gore Street" cardigan, has been re-named "Brookline".