Thursday, February 26, 2015

Tutorial: Yarn Overs--Getting Over the Confusion

This post is for a knitter who wrote for help with her Cataraqui Scarf. Yarn overs can definitely confuse. Adding to the confusion is that terms such as "yarn forward" (yfwd) or "yarn over needle" (yon), and "yarn round needle" (yrn) sometimes pop up (usually in British instructions). Charted stitch patterns are helpful because they give you a visual representation of what's going on, without all the linguistic gobbledegook. 
Put simply, how a yarn over is executed depends on what comes before and after. There are four situations to consider:
1. Knit stitch, YO, knit stitch.

Bring the yarn from back to front,
then simply knit the next stitch. The yarn will automatically create a yarn over on the needle.

2. Purl stitch, YO, purl stitch.
Take the yarn from front, over the top of the needle to the back and under to the front again.

 3. Knit stitch, YO, purl stitch.

Start by bringing the yarn forward between the needles, then...
take it back over the top of the needle and under to the front again.
4. Purl stitch, YO, knit stitch.
This one is so simple it's tricky. It makes an appearance once in each cycle of the Cataraqui chart.

Leave the yarn at the front after the purl stitch and simply knit the next stitch; the yarn will automatically pull up and over the needle to create the yarn over.

Once you understand what's happening, you'll stop having to think about the process. Remember, the goal is just to place an extra strand of yarn over the needle between two stitches.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Snakes and Ladders

I have a new pair of socks on the go.

The stitch is an adaptation of the gansey snake cable pattern from Polperro. I love the way the curving cable stands out in relief from the straight lines of the background. Not sure what I'll do for the heel and foot--probably end the cable at the ankles and simply continue the background stitch. Cables don't work well inside shoes, and practicality is important in handknits. The yarn is a new one for me. I picked it up yesterday at Wool on Wellington and it's a wool/alpaca blend, incredibly soft and wonderful.
Earlier today I wound my new handspun into a cake. There's a little less than a hundred grams of it and it's more uneven, as in thick and thin, than my usual worsted-spun wool. At the same time, it's super soft and fluffy. A good practice skein. Most likely it'll become a cowl--

unless anyone has suggestions for what to do with a relatively small amount of aran weight yarn in a gradient colour scheme--and sparkles (which don't show here, alas).

Monday, February 23, 2015

A Three-Course Dinner

Here we are on the 23rd of February, supposedly late winter, and the temp at 10:45 am is -19C. And that might be the high for the day. If this is climate change, I need to re-think where I live. At least there's a need for lots of knitted things. I just took this photo of myself at the computer to show how I'm managing to stay warm up here on the third floor of a 172-year-old house with windows so frosted over I can't even see outside.

That's Petrova, buttoned up to the max, with a down vest over top. The new fingerless gloves are being put to good use. I confess that I hadn't realized what a good job they to do to keep a body warm. You can't see it, but I've got my nice warm Mackay shawl over my knees as additional laying. So far so good.

To stay entertained until the weather outside becomes more hospitable, I've temporarily given up my monogamous knitter status. Let's think of my various projects as courses in a dinner. Herewith, the appetizer:
This is some handpun just cast on for a new top-down design. Don't want to show more just yet...
Then there's the main course:

These mitts take about ten minutes to make. OK, a little longer than that, but seriously, I knitted the cuff on the second mitten in about ten minutes. The "Puffin" is soft and sort of felted--like Lopi that doesn't scratch or pill much. I'll still have to make some smaller-gauge liners. One layer of mitts, even in a wool so thick and felted as Puffin, won't cut it on a day like this.
Finally, of course, there has to be dessert:

Meriel, of Anwyn Yarns, recently taught me how to long-draw, so now I can produce woollen- as opposed to worsted-spun yarn. This is a batt from Frabjous Fibers. It's going quickly and by this time tomorrow should be plied and drying (slowly, given the temp) in readiness for knitting. This even has a bit of sparkle. Usually I spin with a specific project in mind, but not this time. More than one project on the go? Spinning without a specific goal? Sparkle? What's happening to me?

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Tutorial: Closing the Thumb Gap

Anyone who has ever knitted mitts or gloves with a traditional thumb gusset has had to deal with the pesky thumb gap problem. Typically, you knit up to the base of the thumb, put the thumb stitches on hold on a length of waste yarn, then cast on a couple of stitches by the backward loop method, and continue on with the hand. Then you come back, put the thumb stitches back onto dpns, pick up some stitches, and work the thumb. It's the picking up the stitches bit that can be problematic. So, step by step, here's what I do:

1. Assume you have 16 thumb stitches on hold. Return those sts to 3 dpns. Divide them 5-6-5.

2. Now, turn the work so that the thumb stitches are at the top, and the stitches that were cast on by backward loop are at the bottom of the opening. The point between those two cast-on stitches will be the start of each round.

3. Knit up the first cast-on stitch as a M1R, then pick up a strand in the gap and work a M1R into it. You now have two M1Rs in a row.

4. Work around all the thumb stitches that started out on waste yarn. You should now be at the second gap.

5. Pick up a strand between the last stitch on your needle and the remaining cast-on stitch, and work a M1L into it. Then, work a M1L into that remaining cast-on stitch. You now have two M1Ls in a row and are finished the set-up round. 20 sts total.

6. On the next round, begin by uniting the first two M1Rs by working them as k2tog. Work around to the last 2 M1Ls and unite them by working them as SSK. 18 sts total.

Voila! You have successfully and neatly closed those nasty holes on either side of the thumb. If there is any lingering looseness, you can always use the yarn end from the start of the thumb to snug things up on the wrong side, but odds are you won't need to do that.

IMPORTANT: Usually when you pick up a strand to work a M1, you pick up a horizontal ladder between two stitches. For this thumb gap business, pick up a half of an actual stitch, the half lying right on the edge of the gap. It's an exception to the rule, and makes the whole thing much tidier.

Here's a schematic to help clarify the process.

Fingerless Gloves in Quince's "Chickadee".

Finally, has anyone else encountered these? I'm not sure if they were produced for Shetland Wool Week, or Chinese New Year. Maybe both!

Now, I'm off to knit a set of bulky mitts in Quince's "Puffin" to go with that top-down hat you see above. Given the state of our weather, I'll be able to get some decent wear out them this season.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Out and About

Now, when I'm starting to suffer from cabin fever, it's time for a review of my favourite day-tripping locations from Kingston. This slice of North America doesn't offer spectacular geography, but nonetheless, it has a quiet beauty all its own. So, here we go...
First, let's travel west along the lake toward Prince Edward County. Before the ferry, the landscape begins to change. The farmland is richer, the trees taller, and in the fall I like to stop at one of the many apple orchards.

At the Glenora ferry, there's usually a bit of wait time. No wonder that I have so many photos taken at the eastern side in all seasons.

A short drive from Glenora, and we're in Picton, originally a Loyalist settlement, and home of Rosehaven Yarns (now you know why I like to go in this direction!)

Continuing a tour around the County, we visit some vineyards,

a restaurant,

and Chetwyn Farms, an alpaca farm/studio with its own "Shed" line of yarns.

The beach in tiny Welllington looks out onto the open lake, close to Sandbanks Provincial Park.

Travelling north from Kingston takes us into the Canadian Shield, with its pink granite, lakes, and pines. This is cottage country,

and the village of Westport is at its heart.

From Westport it's easy to do a circuit of other nearby towns and villages on the Rideau Canal, including Merrickville, with its lush gardens (in summer!),

 and Perth, now home to Unraveled.


When the days are long, there's time to make it as far north as Almonte, an old mill town, where the woollen mill is now a textile museum,

and the downtown is chock full of interesting boutiques. Both Almonte and Merrickville benefit from being close to the outer suburbs of Ottawa.

If you're in the area, make time to visit some sheep and/or alpaca farms.

This region is part of a growing animal fibre farming industry, with many farms boasting studios with one-of-a-kind products, such as these at Windblest Farm, part of the Fibre Roads group.

 OK, I'm ready now for some warmer weather!