Friday, August 29, 2014

A (Sort of) KAL

I'm writing, writing, writing here, to get the Inverness Gloves done for test knitters. I've added a little something to the patterning on the back of the gloves for a tiny bit of zing, but you'll have to wait to see that. Meanwhile, my thoughts are drifting to my fall wardrobe needs. I'm thinking about knitting a new "Buttonbox" in Ella Rae Classic Heathers, colour #137.
This will be a quick knit (I hope), because I have to pump out another couple of things before Rhinebeck rolls around, and I have to get things ready for the November retreat, and whoa, I'm starting to feel stressed, which isn't how I like knitting to be. Anyway, I really need this addition to my fall lineup. It's the perfect item for transitional seasons, and I know I'll get tons of wear out of it. Feel free to knit along with me, although this won't be a formal KAL through Ravelry. You have a few days to find the perfect wool while I finish up the gloves project. Remember, avoid choosing a superwash wool--the pattern is designed for wools that can be wet-blocked and moulded into shape. That little collar just won't stay in place otherwise.

My Buttonbox model is coming home this weekend from her summer in Slicon Valley, wild blueberry pie is being made for a welcome back treat, and the leaves outside my window are tinged with red.

 It's the best time of year to be a knitter!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Claire's Gloves: The Goldilocks Point

At last, after messing around for the last few days, I have a cuff with a little bit of flare (not a true gauntlet) that I like. The glove is still in progress, but here it is so far:

I'm really loving this colour, too. So, I think I've achieved the "Goldilocks Point"-- not too much, not too little, but JUST RIGHT!
Another issue for these gloves, which I haven't written about so far, is whether to add patterning on the palm side. In fact, I did add patterning to the other side of the cuff on my previous iteration, and I decided I didn't like it. It turns out that I like the contrast between the smooth palm side, with its unusual thumb increases, and the busy back of the hand. It's symbolic of the contrast between Claire's two lives, PLUS there's a practical reason for leaving the underside of the cuff plain. That's the side that gets the most friction from wear, and patterning would only make for more friction and pilling. This yarn will pill (I have a nice little wool shaver from Knitpicks for that), but I don't need to encourage it.
Here we are almost at Labour Day weekend. The students are returning to town, the nights are cooler, and some trees are showing a few red leaves. Our summer is so short! While the evenings are still comfortable for strolling, Bill and I walk after dinner by the lake.

These swimmers were enjoying the last of the daylight. Brrr! Lake Ontario is never warm. 
P.S. If you're waffling on whether to sign up for our retreat in November, here's a piece from this week's Globe and Mail that might get you moving. I think there are only a couple of spaces left!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Claire's Gloves: The Gunnister Influence

I know, I know, the title for this post sounds as though it ought to be the title for an episode of "Big Bang Theory". Yesterday I made reference to the Gunnister Mitts, those 17th-century gloves preserved on a body found in a Scottish peat bog. Incidentally, other interesting knitted items were also found on the Gunnister Man, namely a knitted purse and a hat. The more I look at these mitts, and at the various attempts to reconstruct them, the more I am struck with their simple ingenuity and elegance. Look at the way the purl furrows line up with the valleys at the base of the fingers. (FYI, the reason the original knitted artifacts are brown is from the acid in the peat.)
As I stated yesterday, the element of the gloves that I particularly like is their gauntlets. So, today I embarked on a bit of gauntlet experimentation in my newly-acquired wool/silk in the "Pebble" colour. (I refuse to use the word "beige"; it has such a negative connotation.)
Pre-blocking: looking good...


Woops, I may have overdone things! You only really know when you try it out. Now you know how messy the design process can be. Two steps forward, one step back.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Claire's Gloves: Continuing to Explore

There's been a lot of exploration here, both mental and physical, in the last 24 hours. Where to start? Well, first off, I'm really pleased with the fit of the hand portion of my glove, but the design needs a bit more "oomph" overall. I'm rather intrigued by these "Gunnister Gloves", from late 17th-century Scotland. What you see is a reproduction of gloves excavated from a bog. They are simple, but incredibly stylish. I really love the tapered gauntlet cuff, and so the next step I intend to take is to see what happens if I incorporate that feature into my own design. I won't need to knit an entire glove, just the cuff, so playing with this won't take very long.
Today I made a trip to a yarn shop and had another look at some choices. To be honest, if I had easy access to Quince & Co's "Chickadee", I have a feeling that that would be the perfect wool. I want something in a soft neutral, something close to natural sheep colours, but not cream (do you have any idea how quickly gloves get dirty?) Here are some choices:
1. This is a soft dove grey (as in mourning dove colour)--grey with a slightly taupy undertone.

2. This is a cool beige. BTW, Sublime's "Cashmere Merino Silk dk" has become "Baby Cashmere Merino Silk dk", although it is still available in a great range of adult colours. This one is "Pebble".

Here are the two colours side by side for comparison. Any thoughts?

Note that both of these yarn choices are non-superwash. I prefer that since so many superwash wools grow unpredictably when wet.
3. There's a third possibility that is superwash, shown below.

This is a pale, heather grey, with a much more unprocessed look. Don't know if I want that or not. Don't know how it will behave when firmly knitted and wet blocked. Maybe I'll play with it, even if just for future reference.
I brought another little goodie home. This has been known to happen when one visits yarn shops.

There's such a lovely antique feel to this colourway I couldn't resist. Needless to say, this is for socks, not my glove project!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Claire's Gloves: Out of the Mouths of Babes

You can pretty much always count on the truth from your own kids, even when they're not kids anymore. As I was admiring my new wool/silk glove, I casually thrust it in front of James, who was caught unawares in the middle of a bacon and tomato sandwich. "I don't like it," he blurted out. "Why?" I asked. "It's the colour", he replied, while mayonnaise dripped onto his plate. "It's terracotta", I explained. "No it isn't," he insisted. "It's OLD LADY PINK". Horrors! No wonder it never looked good in photos. So, first thing tomorrow I'm off to the wool shop to locate the right colour, or at least a better one.  Perhaps I'll take James along with me (or not). Pattern writing in progress. Test knitters abound. See you later.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Claire's Gloves: Getting a Custom Fit

Is it just me, or do store-bought gloves never fit you properly too? Even the stretchy ones aren't right for me. I think it might be that they're designed for women with long fingernails, and I wear my nails trimmed quite short (I work with my hands, plus I'm a musician, so long nails are out). At any rate, bought gloves almost always have fingers that are a bit too long. The pleasure of handknitted gloves is that you can get a perfect fit. The process involves trying on the gloves as you approach each finger tip (same for the thumb). On and off, on and off. If you're making these for someone else, make sure they're around for the few hours it takes to do this, and that they're prepared for the process. It's worth it.

I record on a diagram how many rows I knitted for each digit so that I can make the second glove to match.
Today, I finished up this prototype glove. I was particularly pleased with the join between the thumb and the palm. Even before the weaving in of the ends, it was nice and snug.

Once all the knitting was done, I turned the glove inside out to weave in the ends, using the ends between the fingers to close up any remaining gaps.

In stocking stitch, I like to weave in ends on a diagonal. It preserves the stretchiness of the fabric and is invisible from the right side. The colour of this close up of the thumb weaving -in is much closer to the terra cotta colour than the hideous pink in the rest of today's photos.

I tried on the glove to assess the fit...

gave the thing a soak in a kitchen bowl, then laid it out to dry.

Tomorrow I'll have a fresh look at it to see what changes/improvements I might make. Do I want to retain the little bit of chevron at the top of the hand? Do I want to add the bars to the back of the cuff (at this point it's plain)? Am I satisfied with the fit of the innovative increasing (FYI, Deb, I made the thumb a couple of stitches narrower than called for in your chart, since I wanted a closer fitting thumb for a dressy glove).
I'll start writing up the pattern tomorrow. Anyone interested in a little test knitting? Just leave me a message on Ravelry.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Claire's Gloves: These Gloves Have a Waist

A lot has happened with my glove since yesterday morning, in spite of a road trip today. (I got most of the thumb shaping figured out and knitted while on the Glenora ferry.) Yesterday, my principal decision was whether to incorporate waist wrist shaping into the glove. I like shaped wrists on ladies' gloves. It keeps them feminine and helps to dress them up so they don't look like work gloves. Why do I refer to it as waist shaping? Because the process is exactly like waist shaping on a sweater: a few decreases to take things in, then a few increases to take things back to where you started. In the case of this glove (I only have one so far to talk about), I chose to make the shaping happen in the side ribs, so that the gansey panel would remain undisturbed. See? The shaping is hidden in the purl sections.

When the cuff was done (twice, because I didn't like the first iteration), I made a big decision about the thumb increases. Rather than knit a traditional gusset, I chose to use Deb Gemmell's method of increasing for a thumb. I like Deb's style of increasing because it makes the base of the thumb very wide. All the thumb stitches are put onto one needle right at the top of the cuff, and the increases happen on the other side of the palm.

I think this is a very cool way to grow the glove and it's really fun to do.
Meanwhile, on the back of the hand, the chevrons were underway.

In the above photo, you can see the thumb stitches on a length of waste yarn, and below, you can see the almost-glove being tried on. Time to separate the fingers!

A few minutes ago, I placed all the fingers, except the index finger, on separate lengths of waste yarn,

and now the index finger is launched. The momentum is building.

By tomorrow at this time, barring some accident, I'll have a glove. They're so much faster to knit than you think they'll be. If only writing up the pattern could be as quick.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Claire's Gloves: Investing Them with Meaning

I'm a morning person. It's the time of day when my energy, creative and otherwise is at its peak. Plus, everyone else in the household is still abed, so there are no distractions. Creative thought also requires time for ideas to ferment and ooze around in the brain. Often ideas come while in the midst of boring physical tasks, like walking, taking a bath, etc.
All this is to say that this morning I woke up and decided to scrap yesterday's ideas completely, because a whole new and better idea had come to me somehow overnight. I'm going to knit these gloves in the traditional way (with a few quirks, see below) from wrist to fingertips. The important thing, though, is to invest them with meaning. They will feature the following:
1. Chevrons, ribs, and steps, a gansey pattern from Inverness (photo from a favourite book, "Cables, Diamonds, and Herringbone" by Sabine Domnick). Why Inverness? Because, of course, it's the jumping off point for "Outlander", the book.

However, I plan to separate the elements, with the herringbone on the back of the hand,

 and the bars and ribs on the cuff.

2. I intend to try out a different kind of gusset (which isn't really a gusset), cleverly designed by my friend Deb Gemmell. This "arched" gusset follows the lifeline on the palm of the hand. "Outlander" readers: think of Claire's tea leaves reading with Mrs. Baird.
3. What yarn will I use? I've chosen a wool/silk mix because that would have been available in some form in the 18th century for luxury items. Wool for warmth, silk for beauty and strength.

This is a dk weight. Fingering wouldn't provide sufficient warmth (as a Canadian, I know all about that). And I'm knitting on size US 3 needles to make a dense fabric that will not only keep the wind out, but will highlight the texture of the stitches.

See you in a couple of days.....
P.S. This is NOT an attempt to design and knit historically accurate gloves. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Claire's Gloves: In Which I Find a Use for the Magic Loop

Now that I'm over (more or less) my difficulties with the 21st-century take on the handknit bits in Outlander, I've decided to jump on the bandwagon and design what I think would be the perfect gloves for 18th-century Claire. These will be proper gloves, with full fingers, because eventually it's going to get cold, as in wintry cold, in Scotland. There might be a matching cowl in the offing, but that's down the road.
I'm holding off on a yarn decision for now and concentrating on a more basic design decision: bottom up, or top down. I've done both over the decades, but recently have been making multiple pairs of Robin Melanson's "Strata" for myself and Isabel. I say "multiple" because, unfortunately, our gloves have a habit of going missing. (My first pair were actually stolen when we had a break-in at a previous house. I was more upset at losing my handknitted alpaca and silk gloves than my credit cards!) "Stata" is a great basic glove pattern, but I have to admit to hating the part where I knit the fingers on dpns. It's fiddly, and best done when one feels full to the brim with patience.
Another take on top-down gloves is Meg Swansen's I-cord finger gauntlets. These are definitely ingenious, but I've never been really happy with the look of them--the tension where the ladder at the back of the I-cord is converted to an extra stitch isn't quite perfect enough in my version.
So, this afternoon I played around with a third option--top-down fingers begun with Judy's Magic Cast-On using a magic loop. First, I reviewed Cat Bordhi's hilarious video on how to do the cast on. There might have been some laughing out loud as she pretended to be a parrot in the jungle. Unfortunately, Bill was in the room at the time. I ignored any snarky remarks.
At first I tried the cast-on with dpns. Way too squinchy. Then I tried two circulars, as Cat suggested. Better. Then I caved and tried the magic loop. Perfect.

On my first try, I cast on all the finger stitches at once and, of course, ended up with a squarish fingertip. Then I wised up and cast on about 60% of the total, increasing in two subsequent rounds to the final number. Voila. A nicely tapered tip. Now on to some sketches of the gloves. Garter stitch cuffs? I-cord buttonholes? Stay tuned...

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

No Two-Timing Here

Last Saturday I took a sock class. As a dyed-in-the-wool dpn/heelflap-and-gusset sock knitter, I thought it would be salutary to learn a) how to do magic loop knitting, b) how to knit two socks at a time, and c) how to knit a shadow wrap heel. So I took Cheryl's class at Rosehaven Yarns and learned all of that. Then I came home, frogged my work, and proceeded to make one-at-a-time socks on dpns. I did, however, incorporate the new heel, and I like how it's made and how it looks. Now I'll have to wear these socks around to see how they fit.

Checking the length before grafting

The two-at-a-time approach seemed fussy to me--too much yarn management to be relaxing. My solution to "second sock syndrome"? Cast on and knit a couple of rounds on Sock The Second immediately after closing up the toe on Sock The First. I'm sure two-timing is fantastic for some people. Just not me.
P.S. The yarn is Regia's North Pole Colour, in case anyone is wondering. Size US 2 needles, 56 sts.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Outlandish Anachronism?

I'm loving the Outlander TV series so far. The pace is slow, as it should be, so that we get properly set up for plot and character developments down the road, and in Episode 1, which was made available online, I paused my computer to marvel at the tiny details of Frank's knitted slipover. I admired those little red crosses on the pale fingering-weight wool background! Beautifully designed and executed and so 1940s.
Therefore, I had high hopes for the knitted stuff in Episode 2. The 1940s-era knits came through for me again. More views of Frank's slipover, and also a lovely cabled one worn by Claire as Frank tells her about wartime interrogation techniques. But alas, something happened in the scenes set two hundred years earlier. It appeared that the knitted costume design had suddenly been thrust into the hands of a group of trendy young Ravelers. Instead of 18th-century hap shawls and kilt hose, we were treated to a weird chunky open "shawlette" on Letitia, a shawl/cape thing (is it felted?) on Geillis, a chunky, funky shrug!!! and loose, rather heavy fingerless mitts on Claire. I don't have the historical expertise of Kate Davies, but I have looked at many, many photos over the years of antique (especially Scandinavian) knits, and what I saw in Episode 2 seemed more appropriate to fantasy than history. It was imaginative and beautiful, but to me felt out of step with the time period Claire is stuck in.
Was this a deliberate design decision, meant to evoke an air of unreality? If so, it was sadly out of sync with the efforts elsewhere in costuming the series to achieve reasonable historical accuracy, and honestly, more than a little distracting. I'm still loving the series, but now it's mingled with a wee bit of disappointment in the knitting department.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

It's All Relative

We're having one of those days -- a day in the middle of summer when it feels more like late September, or maybe even October. It's 1:30 pm here, and the temperature outside has just risen to 16C (that's 60F). Plus it's grey, windy, and damp, so it feels considerably cooler. I've dragged out Harriet's Jacket,

and a pair of wool socks,

and I'm drinking a mug of steaming hot tea. Why does 16C feel balmy in April but freezing cold in August?
Some knitters have written to me on Ravelry asking for a KAL. So far, no consensus on which design. If you have a view, write to me on Ravelry, or here on the blog. It sounds like a fun idea...
P.S. Things could be worse. It's 14C and raining in Ottawa.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

No "Undo" Button? (And a Little Highland Fling)

If you're in your fifties, like me, you remember the days of the typewriter. You remember typing classes where you were not only timed, but measured for accuracy, because with typewriters, once it was on the page, THAT WAS IT. OK, you could use erasing tape to cover the odd letter here and there with white ink, but there was no possibility of real editing, let alone pressing an "undo" button to result in the magical reversion to what was there before. Just think of all those authors throughout the twentieth century who wrote their entire oeuvres this way. It boggles the mind!
Today, as I was working on some waist shaping for the THIRD time on my new cardigan, I lamented the non-existence of an "undo" button for  knitters. Wouldn't it be ever so convenient to be able to tap a button and instantly have what you just did not only undone, but reversed to what you had done before? I know that sentence is over-complicated, but I think you know what I mean. There are probably knitters and designers out there who almost always get things right the first time, but I'm not one of them. Oh well, apparently even Beethoven worked and re-worked his masterpieces (don't worry, I am NOT comparing anything of my own production to his!) But, when you finally get things right, and today I finally did, it's oh so satisfying.

Hard to know if that would be the case if I had an "undo knitting" button. Is pleasure measured in inverse relation to the ease of achieving it?
                                                     . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 
Almost every afternoon, as I sit at my computer, I hear piping--bagpiping to be precise. So today, just to be sure I wasn't imagining anything, and to otherwise satisfy my cusiosity, I took a break after that last paragraph and wandered over to the park. Sure enough, this is what I found:

 You can get a taste of my daily afternoon concert below.

So, now I can really be in the mood for Episode 2 of Outlander!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Flotsam and Jetsam

It's Sunday, so that means I'm taking care of a lot of "housekeeping" tasks. I don't refer to actual cleaning, but to paper work, bill paying, and the once-a-week tidy-up of our library/studio. Throughout the week, and particularly at the start of a new design, when I'm looking at a lot of books and pulling out different yarns from my stash, things tend to get somewhat chaotic. From what I've read, that's a good thing, a sign of a creative mind at work, but at a certain point, it's necessary to clear the decks to make way for fresh work and new ideas. Now that my new cardigan is safely launched on the needles, I've been spending the afternoon sorting through the layers of stuff on the desk, chairs, and floor. I'd forgotten about this purchase of some knot-shaped buttons.

Also, I'd put aside these mitts, my take on the classic Newfoundland Mitts, convinced I didn't like how they were turning out.

That's Ella Rae Classic Heather for the main colour, with some handspun inside the "windows". Now that I've just ripped the dpns out, I'm having second thoughts, and might just put them back into production. Proof that one should never frog anything too quickly!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Sheepdog Trials, 2014

Drove to Grass Creek Park this morning for Day One of this year's Trials. Even early, the parking fields were filling up. As usual, there were dogs and sheep,

but I was there to check out the spinning fibre. You see, I want to spin some laceweight so that eventually I can knit a Wheatsheaves Scarf entirely from handspun. I'll use a small drop spindle for the project. I don't have the skills to spin such a fine yarn on the wheel, and it will be more enjoyable to have something portable. This will be a long-term goal. Here's what I found...

Alpaca knitting yarn from Silver Cloud Alpacas.
More of same--spun at Wellington Fibres in Elora, ON.
Kool-aid dyed roving from Cornerstone Fibres.

Tomorrow is the Sheep to Shawl competition, with 3 teams in the running. Our Guild won last year.

 Here's wishing them good luck this time out.