Tuesday, September 29, 2015


I need a little break from knitting. My Petrova is done, except for the I-cord and blocking, and after teaching a spindle class last weekend, I'm in the mood for a small spinning project. The challenge? To spin AND knit a pair of Bibliogloves in one week. I challenge other spinners, especially spindlers, to do the same. This is a perfect project for such a challenge--small, good for luxury or exotic fibres, easy to knit, fun to wear.
Q & A:
1. What fibre will I use? At first I was going to make my new Bibliogloves in a beautiful green merino I found while teaching at Rosehaven Yarns last weekend. Then, once home, I realized that I desperately wanted some alpaca content and perhaps an undyed natural colour. Upon scrounging around in my fibre stash I came across 100g of Ashford merino/alpaca in a creamy white. The thing about alpaca white is that it doesn't have the yellowy cast so many sheep wools have. OK, so white is supremely unpractical for fingerless gloves. I know that, but for some reason I crave this regardless. It's emotion, not reason, that's ruling the day.

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2. What spindle will I choose? I'm going with my new Akerworks modular spindle with a 10" shaft and a large whorl. Last summer, after the Yarn Harlot blogged about these, my curiosity got the better of me and I ordered one.
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I'm in love! I love the way the whorl comes off and the whole thing packs flat. I love that when you lay it down on a surface, it doesn't roll off onto the floor. I really, really love the cover on the hook which not only keeps the hook from grabbing hold of everything in your bag, but also acts as a stopper on the fibre when you take a break (see above). The only thing I didn't love at first was that the carbon shaft was slippery and it was difficult to get enough grip to initiate a good spin. I've solved that with that little rubber band you see wrapped around the base. 
3. Will I dye the fibre? No intention to do so at this point (see 1 above). Of course, that could change. FYI, did you know that Kool-Aid unsweetened crystals are no longer available in Canadian supermarkets? I looked up mail ordering, but unless you want to order 150 packets of Grape in bulk, forget it. 
So, join me in my pre-Thanksgiving (remember, Canadian Thanksgiving is in early October) challenge. I'll be wearing mine at Rhinebeck. 

Unless it's too hot.

Monday, September 28, 2015

That Time of Year

It's a knitter's favourite time of year. What more is there to say?

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Bill checking out the apple options at  a local orchard.
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Pumpkins at the Glenburnie grocery.
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View out my bedroom window.
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Chorizo and white bean ragout, from "Good and Cheap"--what a great cookbook!
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My charcoal Petrova, almost done.
Good night moon: view of the pre-eclipse moon from Battery Park.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Join Me

I've organized an impromptu drop spindle class next Saturday from 11-1 at Rosehaven Yarns in Picton. Bill is going to a wine tasting event at the Crystal Palace and I'm the designated driver. I have time to kill and I'm going to do that with this class. If you've always wanted to learn how to make usable yarn this is your chance. I'll cover basic spinning of singles, as well as how get from there to plyed yarn using simple equipment like a ball winder and a shoebox kate. Everything will be demonstrated with lots of hands-on opportunities. Cost is $10 cash. Bring a top-whorl spindle with a notch if you have one. I'll bring a few extras to lend for the class. Call ahead to the shop at 613-476-9092 to let them know you're coming and whether you need to borrow a spindle from me.

See you there!
P.S. If you're coming from the east, the wine event is a big draw and makes for extra traffic and wait times at the Glenora ferry. Allow a bit of leeway. Still worth the wait, though, because it's much more scenic and relaxing than the alternatives.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Separation Anxiety: Adventures in Double Knitting

I've been working on the lower body of my re-vamped Petrova. The double-knitted pockets always seem to take forever, but at the same time they're so much fun it's easy to forget to be careful. One lapse of concentration and the two layers could end up fused instead of separate. Usually, every now and then during the knitting I pull the two pocket layers gently apart, to test that fusion has not occurred. Still, I hold my breath when it's time to separate the layers. First, I thread a length of waste yarn through the front layer of stitches. These are the ones destined to be finished off for the outer top of the pocket.

Next, I knit across the back layer, dropping the front layer of stitches off as I go. Then I gather both ends of the waste yarn holding the front layer and tie a knot.

When the rest of the garment is done, I'll come back and finish these pocket tops by simply returning them to a dpn and casting off loosely (I'll use a needle larger than the size I used for the body.)

Made a trip up to Westport on Sunday. Gorgeous early fall weather--sunny, low humidity, comfortable temps in the high teens, crickets chirping gently in the background.

 I restrained myself and didn't touch that ripe tomato in the foreground.

Friday, September 18, 2015

What a Pill!

I've fielded a few queries in the last few days regarding Cascade's Ecological Wool and Eco+, the wools I've recommended for both Glenora and Petrova. (They work well for Harriet's Jacket too, but at a different gauge.) I love Ecological Wool and Eco+, but some knitters have concerns about the way in which they pill. First off, yes, they pill. BUT, all wool pills, especially soft wools, and one of the things I love about Cascade's Eco line is its softness. It's lightly spun and airy, making for a comfy, lightweight garment. Lopi pills too, even though it's fairly scratchy (or "crunchy", as one knitting friend describes it), but that's because it's really just unspun roving.
What to do? I suggest that you invest in one of these.

Lint Shaver

It's a little lint shaver. The same model used to be sold by Dritz, the sewing supply company. It looks as though Knitpicks may have bought the rights to it, because that's the only source for these that I can find these days. I like the little ones, not the great honking big ones that I've occasionally come across. I have two, in case one breaks, and I keep a supply of AA batteries to keep them running. These little gizmos do a fantastic job of refreshing pilled knits. After the first few cleanups, the garment won't shed very much. Keep that in mind.
And, oh yeah, don't do what I did once, and use a lint shaver on cotton. The fibres aren't meant to be knicked off like wool. I destroyed a baby sweater once that way, and had to re-knit the whole thing, which was intended as a gift. Live and learn, as they say.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Good to Know

I've chosen to make my Edgewater Collection free on Ravelry, for tax reasons. This means that there have been thousands of downloads of the patterns so far, and I'm thrilled that there's been so much interest in them and in my design work. Each pattern has been test knitted in several sizes and until yesterday I thought everything had squeaked by without any errors. Then, while I was knitting up the sleeve of a new Petrova (a relative of Glenora), I suddenly realized that a test knitter of Glenora had been right when she said she thought there was a typo on p5 at the top of the sleeves. Carol, one of my testers caught this, and I checked the body instructions leading up to the joining of sleeves and body, but I neglected to check the sleeve instructions. Sorry!


Now comes the interesting bit. I immediately uploaded a new version of the pattern onto Ravelry. When you SELL a pattern on Ravelry, notice of any updates is sent out to all purchasers in the form of a message. But, when a pattern is free, things happen differently. If you downloaded the pattern AND saved it to your Ravelry library, then you will receive a notice on your library page in the section labelled "Updates". In other words, you have to hunt a bit. This is the downside of patterns being free. If you are a Raveler, please ALWAYS save your free downloads to your library, and check for updates before you print.

Looks like a tall ship out on the lake today!

Sunday, September 13, 2015


Well, Glenora is now available on Ravelry and, surprisingly, currently in fourth position on the most viewed page for knitting. I know it won't be there for long. Sweaters rarely are; there's far more passion for small projects, especially shawls. Sweaters are bigger, riskier, more expensive, and REQUIRE FITTING. Nevertheless, thank you everyone for your interest in my latest knitting offspring. The wool, Cascade Eco+ or Cascade Ecological Wool, is widely available and not expensive, so I hope you'll give this cardigan a try. Plus, it's figure friendly.
I want to say an extra thank you to my test knitters and especially to Cheryl (see previous post) for modelling Glenora. We stood on the edge of the public parking lot in Picton for the pics at the end of her work day, when she was probably in a tearing rush to get back to her doggie, and we did the whole thing in five minutes with my smart phone.
Moving on...
Glenora is really an unstructured, more flowing version of my Petrova jacket. So, while I was working up the numbers for Glenora, I went back and re-edited its cousin.

The yarn I used for the original Petrova has since been discontinued, so I re-wrote it for the same yarn as Glenora, Cascade Ecological Wool or Eco+ (the dyed version). And I went over the numbers and completely re-did the Size 44", where I found one discrepancy (ouch!) 
Finally, I incorporated short rows into the back just before the body is joined to the sleeves, instead of merely suggesting that one might want to add those in. 
So, now I'm looking for some testers for Petrova. Keep in mind that this design involves a little more technique: there's seed stitch and a ribbed waist, double-knitted pockets, and I-cord edging with buttonholes. That said, the pattern is suitable for someone who has never encountered double (two layers at once) knitting before, with very explicit directions. So, be brave! If you're interested, write to me on Ravelry, username emccarten.  Here's a little inspiration.

Finally, fall has arrived--a knitter's favourite season! 

Only a hint of colour so far, but there's a chill in the air and it's time for socks (wool of course!)

Friday, September 11, 2015


I met up with Cheryl (of Little Church Knits and a designer in her own right) at Rosehaven Yarns this afternoon, where she was unpacking skeins of Quince and Co yarns and displaying them in the shop shelving. She had agreed to model my Glenora cardigan, coming to Ravelry later this weekend.

I love seeing the cardigan worn with such exuberance by a woman close to my own age. Thanks Cheryl!

View from the Glenora ferry landing across the Bay of Quinte to Adolphustown on my way home.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Labour Day, 2015

My roofers failed to show up as promised; they also failed to communicate. I am not happy; there are better ways to enjoy the remains of summer (hot, hazy day with cicadas buzzing gently in the background) than by waiting for workmen not to show. I finished the collar on another Glenora jacket, communicated with test knitters, and watered the front garden instead.

Newly planted mums.
It's Frosh Week at Queen's and I can hear the sound of the students beginning to overtake the insect noises. Labour Day always feels as though it should be New Year's Day--it must be the rhythm that comes from living in a university town.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

That Buttonbox Girl

Just skyped with Isabel, who told me that the graduate student mentor assigned to her is a knitter who recognized her as the Buttonbox model.


Good to know there are knitters out west!

P.S. FYI, the above pic was taken with almost gale-force winds blowing in off Lake Ontario. If the right side of Isabel's collar looks as though it's not staying down, it's because the wind was pushing it forward. Same goes for her hair. The Shelter yarn used for this project moulds beautifully when wet-blocked, and the collar normally stays folded perfectly.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Tutorial: Sewn Bind Off (or "Casting On Casting Off)

This is such a useful bind off--or "cast off", as I was taught to call it. Elizabeth Zimmermann called it "casting on casting off", to distinguish it from her "sewn casting off". Both are described on pp 37-8 of the 2013 edition of her "Knitting Workshop". This version mimics the longtail cast on, so naturally it lends itself to situations where you would like the start and finish to look alike. Elizabeth Also, I find that it curls a great deal less than a regular bind off, and has the additional virtue of having a bit of stretch. And it's surprisingly simple to execute. All in all, just about perfect!
The important thing to keep in mind with this method is that you must break off your yarn and begin the bind off with a new length of yarn. You will be working from the right side, starting at the LEFT HAND edge. You can work directly off the knitting needle, or you can place all the stitches onto a length of waste yarn and work off it, or you can slip some or all stitches off and work from live stitches. Knitter's choice.
Thread a blunt tapestry needle with enough yarn to get you through the whole bind off. *Go through the second stitch from the left as if to knit, then go through the first stitch as if to purl, rep from * to end. KEEP THE YARN COMING FROM ABOVE AT ALL TIMES. If you've ever worked "outline stitch" in embroidery, that is what you are doing here. It looks like this:

This is one of those brilliant "unventions" of Elizabeth Zimmermann. There is a drawn illustration of it on p38 of the 2013 edition of "Knitting Workshop". Like so many of EZ's techniques, it's beautifully simple.

 Why the tutorial now? It's how I bound off/ cast off "Glenora" (currently in test knitting). Yesterday I found myself knitting Glenora at Glenora. This view was taken while waiting for the ferry,

and this one from the ferry. The water was an odd luminous blue/green. I hope it wasn't an algae bloom.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Another Test Driving Opportunity

Calling anyone wanting a preview of the Glenora jacket. This is a bigger test knit than socks or fingerless gloves. Because of the scale of the project, you will have to provide your own Cascade Ecological Wool or Eco+. I'm looking for tests of the 3 largest sizes: finished bust measurements of 40, 43 1/2, or 48". The lower hem is 11 1/2" wider, so choose your size by your chest size. This yarn is widely available in a wide range of colours. The jacket takes 3 skeins for the first two above sizes, and 4 skeins for the largest. Send me a message on Ravelry, username emccarten, if you're interested.

This is a quick knit; I made the model shown in 5 days without any extra effort!