Friday, March 28, 2014


"Fern", the temporary name for my cardigan-in-progress, is undergoing a second blocking. I'm done with the body and checking on the finished length. With superwash, you never know for sure. So far so good. Since the house isn't especially warm, it may take 48 hours, and then I'll get back onto the front border and sleeves. Meanwhile, I've embarked on this.

I rarely knit other designers' patterns, but Brigitta caught my eye recently. It might be the silhouette, which recalls Zora and Wakefield Redux, but it's definitely the seamless "English tailored shoulders", which have sparked my curiousity. Instead of the recommended Rowan Big Wool, I'm using Cascade's Lana Grande in Espresso. Julie Weisenberger suggests that this is a nice "weekend knit", but I doubt I'll get beyond the underarms, if that far. Extra chunky wool isn't as quick to knit as you'd think. Mostly it's extra clunky to work with. But I think the result will be lovely. In this case the fabric is light, the wool soft, and the weather (2C and raining)  is certainly conducive to thoughts of wearing this feminine jacket.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Tutorial: Picking Up from a Provisional Cast-On

Twenty years ago, provisional cast-ons were esoteric things rarely encountered. Thanks to the internet and Ravelry, and the consequent uptake of knitting among the young and curious, this is no longer the case. Provisional cast-ons are everywhere, and a good thing, because they are so useful. A little while ago, when I was working on Wheatsheaves, I posted a tutorial on how to do the crochet cast-on, one method for accomplishing this neat little trick. So, let's assume you've done it and worked a chunk of your garment, and now you're ready to go back, pick up the cast-on stitches from the waste yarn, and do whatever comes next in your pattern. Just how do you go about it? After all that work, you don't want some horrible mishap at the picking-up stage to set you back.
First, have a look at your crochet cast-on with the waste yarn positioned at the top and the last cast-on stitch on the upper right. You should see two yarn ends at that point--one from the waste yarn and the other from where you started with the working yarn.

This is where you will carefully begin to unpick the waste yarn. After you release the first stitch, you will merely need to pull on the waste yarn from the back to "unzip" the remaining stitches. I like to insert my needle into each stitch before pulling out the waste yarn. See below.

Keep merrily going until you get to the last two stitches. Then proceed carefully. Here's why. When you pick up stitches and start to work in the opposite direction, everything WILL BE OFF BY HALF A STITCH. This means that you will need to very carefully pick up what looks like half of a stitch directly to the left of the last most obvious stitch. See?

Be sure to orient it properly from front to back on the needle. It will be a bit tight and "squinchy" (for lack of a better word). Even so, I often work it through the back loop on the first row to make for a tidy selvedge for picking up from down the road. Now, count your stitches to be sure you have the right number. You're good to go! 

Monday, March 17, 2014


It's been a while since I spun and knitted my "Zora" cardigan.

I've been wearing it several days a week all winter and I'm thrilled with the way my first wheelspun has held up to such constant wear.
You can see that the above photo was taken in the fall, and the truth is that I've done almost no work with my spinning wheel since then. You see, the third floor, where my wheel resides, is simply too uncomfortably cold in the winter to make spinning there enjoyable. It's still ridiculously cold for the middle of March, but there's enough sunshine coming through the windows now to provide sufficient radiant heat to make life pleasant, at least in the afternoon. All this is to say that I've decided to spin for a new sweater project. Much as I love spindle spinning, it's more practical to spin a sweater quantity of yarn on a wheel. Last week, this arrived in the mail from the Fibre Garden.

It's a couple of lbs of Blue-faced Leicester top in a lustrous creamy white. It's more than I'll need for a garment, but I like to have extra to muck around with. As soon as it arrived, I started in on a sample of the yarn I'm aiming to make.

I am still, by any measure, a novice spinner, but I'm very happy with the result, which isn't far from the weight and feel of Rowan Felted Tweed DK (without the alpaca). I adore the way that newly plied yarn relaxes and fluffs out when washed and dried. So, now I'm trying to spin a little bit every day until there's enough to get knitting.
My other current project is a design with Shelridge Farm's W4 in "Moss", which Lyn, the dyer, tells me is her most popular colour--and somehow so appropriate for spring. This is a top-down project and I'm just past the underarms and ploughing ahead until I get to the interesting 8 inches of fern lace at the bottom of the cardigan.

This colour signifies the same thing that this does........


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Buttonbox: One Year On

It's one year since Buttonbox came out. It's been quite popular, having been favourited 2904 times, queued 1001 times, with 112 projects posted on Ravelry as of today. I've enjoyed seeing what everyone has done with it. Some faves:

antje's Buttonbox--This one went up almost before I could blink and it remains a favourite. I adore the ivory colour and the way it highlights the texture. Make sure you click to enlarge the photo of the buttons. Wow!

thebigsheepme's Buttonbox--Note that this was this knitter's SECOND Buttonbox. The first one was here.

jollypondknitter's Buttonbox--How can you not love this version--it's got handspun and bright colour all at the same time.

YarnFolkAnn's Buttonbox--I'm a Peace Fleece lover all the way!

Of course, not everyone has been totally happy with their waistcoat. Two problem areas have emerged that are within a knitter's control:

1. This pattern works best for non-superwash yarns. It's designed for yarns that can be moulded when wet. Knitters who've used superwash wools have had difficulty getting the collar to stay folded and getting the bottom garter stitch border to lie flat. Notice that I used handspun for my vest and Shelter, an untreated woollen-spun wool, for Isabel's. Both give you a lot of control during blocking.

2. Make sure you check out the measurements on the schematic before you start. Some knitters have found that the armhole depth is greater than they would like. Remember, this is something you have control over. Don't blindly knit the lengths that are stated in the pattern. Just be sure to end the shoulder on the same row of the stitch pattern as the pattern suggests to be sure of having an uninterrupted sequence of little boxes. Be brave!

This pattern is perfect for transitional seasons. I wore mine all last spring under a jacket in the morning, then without the extra layer in the warmer afternoons. If you haven't tried this pattern out, I hope you'll consider giving it a shot. Happy knitting!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Simply Clever

I've been engaged in a bit of stealth knitting for the last few days. Isabel's 22nd birthday is coming up next week and there's been some bright blue BFL Sock yarn from Fleece Artist in my stash since last fall waiting for this. The weather having numbed my mind and senses to the point where I needed a knitting "holiday" (mindless knitting, in other words), I launched into a new Hitchhikers Scarf for the birthday event. Just in case you notice that I knit a lot of things in blue, it's because bright blue happens to be I's favourite colour. It's part of how I bribe negotiate all the modelling--she puts up with posing in alpaca in blistering hot weather or in a sleeveless vest in freezing temperatures in return for garments she will enjoy wearing.
The problem with stealth knitting is that it has to be done "stealthily". About ten minutes ago I cast off the aforementioned scarf. I did so whilst listening carefully for sounds of footsteps at our front door, signalling I's return from her morning classes at the university.  The scarf has been hastily hidden behind a trunk in the living room at such strategic moments, and now I'm wondering how on earth I'm to get it blocked without giving its existence away.
While I ponder that difficulty, let me show you some photos (thank goodness, I doesn't read the blog).


This is one of those pattern gems that is delightfully simple and brilliantly clever all at the same time. I think I wrote when I last made this that I was captivated by the little points--the increase at the end of the previous row creates just the right amount of peak to each turn. This is the very best sort of knitting!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Over the Ice

This hard winter is making life in a part of the world dependent on ferries rather challenging. Yesterday, the snow squalls being over for the time being, I and two fibre friends took a little road trip to Picton to visit Rosehaven Yarns. Before I go any further, let me elaborate on the hazards of snow squalls for those of you who don't live in the Great Lakes area. Check out this image of a squall near Toronto. I was under the impression that the freezing over of the lakes would put an end to this weather phenomenon, but apparently not. Anyway, yesterday being a rare sunny day, we ventured forth on our ride along the lakefront. We arrived at the Glenora ferry around noon and discovered that the Bay of Quinte had frozen over almost completely,

 with just a narrow channel being kept open for the ferry.

See the ducks? A small flock has stayed to inhabit the relatively tiny path of open water and, as the ferry moved through the water, they continuously moved with it, just slightly ahead.

We visited the shop and its new proprietor, Leslie. That's her husband sitting at a table with his laptop.

We did some oohing and ahhing over the lineup of Habu yarns,

and I picked up a couple of skeins of my favourite Ultra Alpaca in "Grapefruit Mix", #62178.

Time for a new Tumnus in this lucious colour.