Sunday, September 28, 2014

Frostfern: First Photos

Isabel complains that the weather never seems to match the outfits she's modelling. Here we are in the midst of some glorious Indian summer weather--daytime temps in the low 20sC--and I have her posing in leggings, boots, and fingerless gloves.

This design is in the test knitting phase. My goal is to have it done before I head off to Rhinebeck, but goals frighten me and take the fun out of knitting, so no promises.

Friday, September 26, 2014

In Which I Take Some Good Advice

A couple of weeks ago I purchased a little bag of fleece at the Almonte Fibrefest. The fleece was all from one sheep and was clean, fluffy, and right off a drum carder.

You know you're a hopeless case when you can't resist taking a photo of carded fleece with the sun shining through it!

I'm an inexperienced spinner. I'm the one whose second drop spindle project was the Buttonbox Waistcoat. Ignorance is bliss, as they say, and I had no idea at the time that spindling a garment quantity of wool was a BIG PROJECT. Inexperience came to the fore again with my new fleece. I started to spin it up on my wheel. It was nice to work with, with very long fibres that were easy to draft. BUT, the result wasn't what I'd hoped for. As the bobbin began to fill up, it was obvious that this was going to produce a very hairy end product, even though I was drafting with a short draw worsted technique (it's all I know.)

I forged ahead onto a second bobbin, but halfway through that I quit. I realized that my disappointment with the look of the singles was overwhelming my pleasure in the spinning. I put the whole thing aside for a week and moved on. Then, I happened to mention to Meriel of Anwyn Yarns that I had this fleece that wasn't spinning up the way I'd hoped and she said, "Ply it and wash it before you decide." So I did, and guess what?

 I'm loving it.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Knitting with Dpns: Avoiding Ladders

Laddering is a problem that a lot of knitters have when working on double-pointed needles. It refers to the long vertical line of horizontal strands that can develop at the joins where two needles come together. I suspect that concerns about laddering are at the root of today's movement away from dpns toward the magic loop method of small diameter circular knitting. I've been knitting now for 51 years and knitting on dpns for about 43. It's second nature to me and, although I've given other methods a try, I'm sticking with what I like and know. Here's what I do to prevent ladders from forming at the joins between my needles. Give it a try, and you might find you enjoy dpns after all.
First off, let me show you how I hold my needles. I don't honestly know if this is a factor; all I can tell you is that holding my handful of dpns UNDERHAND feels very comfortable and helps me get keep everything positioned snugly at the joins.

Second, I knit with the RH working needle positioned ATOP the preceding needle (the one on the right of the photo). See? In this next photo, the RH working needle (the horizontal needle) is receiving stitches from the far left needle. By positioning the RH working needle this way, the yarn travels the shortest possible distance from one needle to the next. If the RH working needle is held UNDER the preceding needle, the yarn has a tiny bit farther to go to get to the first stitch on the next needle--just enough to make a visible ladder over time.

Third, I use my right forefinger to lock the RH working needle into place, right up against the preceding needle, while I work the first three stitches after the transition.

 That's right--the FIRST THREE. You will often read about the importance of snugging up the first two stitches, but really, I find I get the smoothest transitions when I keep the first three stitches as close as possible to the join. Then I knit the rest of the stitches onto the needle as usual. The result?
No ladders, no ridges (the opposite of ladders, when the join is too tight), just smooth, even stocking stitch.

FYI, the yarn is from Opal's "Little Prince" series. As usual, the computer cannot do justice to the lovely antique feel of the slightly faded colours.

Sunday, September 21, 2014


Prince Edward County is a popular weekend get-away for Torontonians. Some have lakefront properties and spend their time sailing, some come to spend a day visiting the numerous wineries, and some have hobby farms. The owners of Chetwyn Farms definitely bring their Toronto sophistication to their farm studio near Hillier in the County. The whitewashed walls, the neutral alpaca shades, and the finished knitted goods all demonstrate a cleanness of line and simple, timeless elegance.

Ginger cookies and apple cider. What's more perfect for fall?

Grapes growing for the family's private wine making.
 In the midst of such a neutral backdrop, two splashes of red caught my attention.

If you've been enjoying the new "Outlander" TV series, and follow the blog of its costumer, Terry Dresbach, you'll appreciate the stunning impact of a limited use of red in a relatively subdued landscape (not that there is otherwise anything in common between Chetwyn Farms and the TV show!) Maybe I like to carry my big red bag while wearing mostly grey for the same reason.
I look forward to some enjoyable designing and knitting with Chetwyn's SHED brand yarns.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Blowing a Gale

Scenes from Battery Park (so called because it was the site of a British artillery park during the War of 1812), at the bottom of my street:

The slightly calmer inner harbour.

A martello tower with RMC (the Royal Military College) and Fort Henry in the background.

No rain so far, but it's coming. Tomorrow, off to an alpaca farm open house.

Friday, September 12, 2014

In Which Reality Asserts Itself: Frostfern Wins Over Buttonbox

A couple of weeks ago I announced on this blog that I intended to knit a new Buttonbox. At the time, I expressed a little anxiety about the feasibility of this in light of various other knitting commitments, and now, lo and behold, those commitments are breathing down my neck and telling me to back away from my Buttonbox plans. For those of you looking forward to a (sort of) KAL, I apologize. The truth is that I don't like knitting under pressure. Knitting is supposed to be enjoyable and relaxing, not a chore, and I try to keep it that way. So, although I have actually knitted the pocket linings and a few rows of Buttonbox, I'm going to put all that on hold while I have a push to get "Frostfern" ready to give to Lyn Gemmell of Shelridge Yarns in time for Rhinebeck. I started this design last spring, and there's a version of it already in existence.

It's a cousin to "Wheatsheaves", with a mostly similar silhouette, except that the sleeves are three-quarters length and slightly flared and the back has some added fullness which you can't see in these photos. I'm at the writing up stage. Then comes the test knitting phase. Then, perhaps, comes a new Buttonbox--unless I get caught up in designing a male version of "Petrova" for James, who has been asking for months for a new chunky sweater for this winter. We'll see.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Wellington and Beyond

Bill and I drove west to Prince Edward County yesterday, soaking up the last of the summer sunshine for this season. Cooler weather and cold nights on the way later this week. On the spur of the moment, I turned the car down "Beach Drive" in pretty downtown Wellington, and lo and behold, there we were on the open lake with the surf pounding ashore. Like the ocean, but no saltwater!

On the far side of Wellington, we stopped at the Keint-He Winery where the view from the uplands overlooking the lake was outstanding.

That patch of blue behind the late-blooming echinacea is the lake, always present somewhere nearby in the County.

Now for the most exciting part of the day--Rosehaven Yarns in Picton is preparing all these empty shelves for the arrival of ...

Quince & Co. yarns, any day now. Rosehaven will be only the second shop in Canada to carry this beautiful line of wools (the other being in Montreal). It will be fantastic to have this resource so close at hand.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Tutorial: Attaching I-Cord Edging to the Rideau Wrap

This garment has a tidy I-cord border with distinctive scallops around the neck. This tutorial is all about how to do the regular I-cord and the scallops.

Start by having a close look at the sequence of ridges and valleys in the knitted fabric. As you work the I-cord edging, you will be picking up one stitch in each garter ridge and two stitches in each valley, like this,

EXCEPT that you will be doing it from the WRONG SIDE. So, before you do anything, have a good look at the reverse side of your work and determine which loops you will need to work into. You can and should work into the loops at the very edge of the fabric.
Next, cast on 3 stitches provisionally. I'm using a provisional cast-on because down the road I'm going to want to join the beginning and end of the I-cord together for a seamless border. Here, I'm using the crochet chain method. First, I make a chain of more stitches than I need.

Then I knit up 3 stitches into the little bumps at the back of the chain using a dpn.

Now I arrange things so that the working yarn is coming from the LH end of the dpn. With the WRONG SIDE facing, pick up (don't knit) a stitch in the garter ridge to the left of the centre back seam. There are now 4 stitches on the dpn.

See the working yarn coming from the back of the second stitch from the left? That's exactly where you want it to be!
Row 1: K2, k2togtbl. Snug things up as much as possible. At this point the I-cord cast-on is "married" to the garment, albeit somewhat tenuously.

Complete Row 1 by using the LH end of the dpn to pick up two stitches from the next valley (remember, you're doing this from the wrong side, so don't be afraid to flip your work over to check that you're picking up in the right spots). Slide all 5 stitches to the opposite end of the needle.

Row 2: K2, k2togtbl. Slip all stitches on RH needle to LH needle. 4 stitches remaining.
Row 3: K2, k2togtbl. Use LH end of needle to pick up 2 sts in next 2 ridges. Slide all 5 stitches to the opposite end of the needle.
Row 4: K2, k2togtbl. Sl all sts on RH needle to LH needle. 4 stitches remaining.
Repeat from Row 1.

Before long, you will see a band of I-cord developing along the top of your work. Seen from the wrong side (in this case, the working side), it looks like this,

and from the right side, it looks a little narrower.

Now for the collar. You will be working into the outer half of the little "braid" that forms the bound-off edge. You will also be working some unattached rows of I-cord. To do those, simply *k3, sl all sts to opp end of needle, rep from * the specified number of times. The scallops are formed by working a few unattached rows, then skipping some bound-off stitches before re-attaching the I-cord. So simple, and so pretty (at least I think so!)

When you get the collar done and have I-cord completed all the way around to where you started, return the provisionally cast-on stitches to one of the dpns and weave the beginning and end of the I-cord together using Kitchener Stitch. It won't be flawless, because you'll have two pieces of knitting coming together from opposite directions,

but it will be GOOD ENOUGH!