Wednesday, December 18, 2019

TWO Types of Gauge

The new aran has progressed to the point where it has a body and two sleeves.

Everything has been wet blocked so that I can get an accurate read on length. This turns out to be especially important after my discovery that while the teal Galway has a similar stitch gauge to the pale grey Lark (shown above), its row gauge is anything but the same. Ten baby cables in Lark = only 8 in Galway. I truly did not expect that. If you've been thinking about knitting this, don't worry; I am writing the pattern so that it refers to lengths in inches, not rows.
Today I got the tree up and decorated.

Yes, it's a fake tree. We have family members with allergies and asthma and really, no one wants to deal with those over the holidays. This tree is only three years old, but I'm happy to say that we kept our first one going for 27 years. If you'd like to enjoy a fun arts and crafts activity, those stars are part of our collection of dough ornaments, recipe here. Store them in a dry place, and they'll last for decades!

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Cabling Away

Who would think that spending most of one's knitting time following a cable chart would seem relaxing? Not me, usually. But somehow, working away at my handwritten chart for the second time through (see here for the results of the first iteration) is turning out to be just that. I think it has to do with not having to work out anything chart-related this time around. I still have to pay attention to length, because this version is not for me, but for Isabel, who is sitting on the other side of the continent, not available at any moment for a size check.

I love this colour! It's such an antidote to the darkness and snowiness outside.

Less than two weeks away from the solstice, and I'm counting until the days start to get longer again...

Monday, December 2, 2019

"Free", But Not a Free-for-All

About a year ago I decided to make all my Ravelry designs free. Today, I spent all morning and afternoon adding this little blurb at the bottom of the first page of each pattern (previously I had merely put a copyright warning on the last page):

Copyright Elizabeth McCarten (fill in year)
This pattern is for personal use only. Patterns and items made from this pattern cannot be sold for profit.

Especially at this time of the year, when craft shows abound, I feel a need to remind knitters, and shop owners too, that just because a particular pattern is free does not mean there are no legal rules regarding what can be done with it. A huge amount of work goes into producing quality patterns. All designs are governed by the rules of "intellectual property". Please respect the hard work that designers do. Even when a pattern is free, remember that you are not allowed to make a profit from its use, whether by kitting it up with yarn to sell in your shop, or selling finished pieces at your local craft fair. If you plan to use one of my patterns as part of a kit to sell yarn, write to me first for permission. Even if you plan to use a pattern for charity sales, please have the courtesy to do the same. Many of you have already done this, and I thank you.

With that out of the way, here's where I'm at in the knitting of Isabel's "Hedgewood".

I am reminded of EZ's statement that all aran knitting is really just fancy ribbing. It's why this looks like nothing much pre-blocking. I'll probably go for another inch before I wet block to check for size. It'll look more impressive then.

And finally, there's nothing like the first major snowfall to put you into a holiday mood. I passed this mountain ash loaded with berries while walking home from the grocery shop.

At least we can enjoy the first week of winter (while we dread the long months to come -- sigh!)

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

On Its Way

"Hedgewood", my slightly cropped aran pullover, is finally on its way. If you think you might like to be a test knitter of the pattern, please write to me on Ravelry, username, emccarten. The pattern probably won't be ready for testing for a few weeks, possibly just after Xmas, so don't worry that it will interfere with your holiday gift plans. The construction is bottom-up and seamless. Testers need to be experienced and reasonably quick knitters able to provide useful criticism of technical details.

Sleeve detail.

Happy American Thanksgiving to U.S. readers!

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

New Gloves

Every now and then I brace myself for the knitting of a new pair of gloves. It's not my favourite thing to do, but they are a favourite to wear, especially as liners for mitts, so when it's time to say good-bye to an old pair, I wait until I'm in the mood and go for it (them?)

So here is the first new glove in progress, with one of five digits more or less done. It's my go-to glove pattern, Robin Melanson's "Strata". Wool is Quince's Chickadee in "Gilded". I don't bother to taper the fingers, but for this pair I'm dealing with the gap between fingers in the same way as I would for picking up the thumb stitches. See this tutorial for details. So, this time around there won't be any little gaps to fill anywhere; I'll be able to just weave in the ends and be done. I made a pencil diagram in the pattern the first time I made these as a reminder of how many rows are needed for each digit so no further fussing with each one. Yay for customized glove fingers!

Thursday, October 17, 2019


A perfect Thanksgiving weekend was had by all here. Instead of the usual turkey routine, I asked my butcher around the corner for some turkey legs, which I turned into turkey pot pie for the main feast. This is what everyone here really wants more than sliced turkey with gravy, etc., so I obliged, especially since Isabel had travelled across the entire continent to be here. Here she is on the Glenora ferry last Tuesday, as we took advantage of the spectacular fall weather.

Along with her luggage came an old tam (this one) which had had an unfortunate encounter in a backpack with burrito sauce. The accident had occurred some time ago, so we both were concerned that it might mean the end of the hat. Clearly, the customary soak in Eucalan would not be enough. Instead, I soaked the tam for about half an hour in Sunlight dish soap and water, then gently rubbed some bar Sunlight into the stain and even more gently massaged it around. The cream background colour is the old (good) version of Patons Classic Wool, so the possibility of a felting accident was top of mind. Luckily, that was avoided, and we learned that burrito sauce is no match for the magic of good old Sunlight. I generally don't like scented products, but for some reason can't seem to get enough of that lemon bar soap smell! Here is the tam, clean and fresh, along with Isabel's Yule tam blocking over dinner plates on top of our radiators.

 My knitting over Thanksgiving consisted of this.

Instead of using a bulky yarn, I'm using a chunky (Cascade Eco in #8014, the not-quite-palest of the natural, undyed shades). I've gone up two sizes to produce the desired finished measurements at a slightly different gauge. I hardly ever knit other designers' patterns, but this one has been calling to me for a while, and so far the instructions are very well written.
While browsing Ursa's project page on Ravelry, I happened across Espace Tricot's version in a beautiful Norwegian yarn that they carry, and lo and behold, five skeins of it arrived at my front door this morning.

The colour is actually a bright olive green, but the rainy skies and low light this morning aren't showing off the gorgeousness of the wool. Not sure what this is destined for yet, but I can hardly keep my hands off it. All of this activity, including an avoidance of social media for the next week or so, is part of my plan to deal with Rhinebeck envy. Hope it works!

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Every Colour

Time for a new Fibonacci Neckerchief. The old one finally died at the end of last winter and I put off doing anything to replace it until now.

The yarn is Riverside Studio's merino singles in "Dryad". I think it contains some of just about every colour, but the shades are muted, the effect being as if natural dyes had been used. It ought to go with everything. This won't take long, and that's a good thing since our delightful weather is about to turn colder in time for Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

KnitEast 2019: Scenes

Back from KnitEast, getting ready for Thanksgiving (making cranberry sauce, ordering local bread and pickles, etc.) Too busy for an extended post, so here are simply "scenes" from last weekend.

View from my room.
The front lawn.
Wool at the local supermarket. By Sunday night they were cleaned out.
View of the Baptist church at dusk.
Stephanie and Lucy (both knitting on Steph's sweaters) during the fashion show.
Pencil illustration by one of my students to help another student. Thank you, whoever came up with this.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019


When you're doing repetitive activities that require only a corner of your brain, it's nice to have some good listening on the side--not something so engaging that it takes over your mind, just enough to keep you happy while you cook, or knit, or print class handouts, or wash and block sweaters.
I've been busy today with this,

and this,

so I've been keeping the other part of my brain entertained with some favourites from the 17thC, like this and this. If you don't think that early music rocks, then click on the links and enjoy!
P.S. So sad that the beautiful chunky wool I used for the above Petrova is no longer available. Why can't good things last forever?

Sunday, September 22, 2019


Handknits should, in my opinion, keep going for years, decades, sometimes generations. But it takes effort. It's a bit like conservation of a piece of art. Knits must be cleaned of sweat, food, dust, grime, the buttertart that leaked down its front last week, etc. Holes need to be repaired, pills removed, stains treated. That's what I'm doing during our September warm spell. The warm weather with low humidity makes for quick drying. My Modern Gansey is currently drying on the dining room floor after a day of multiple treatments for its buttertart accident. Sunlight dish detergent as well as Eucalan were involved. Not to worry; all is now well (whew!) It'll be part of KnitEast's fashion show in less than two weeks.

The collection of knits already refurbished for fall is growing.

The Bibliogloves, like the Modern Gansey, are in Quince's "Glacier" (but in Chickadee instead of Osprey). It's a truly beautiful colour, but let me tell you, boy, is it hard to keep clean. Worth it though.

Many designers keep a collection of never worn, pristine knits just for display at events like retreats and yarn fairs. I disagree with this approach. I want knitters to see how well-worn, well-loved knits look after years of wear and care. Maybe you've seen Elizabeth Zimmermann's famous aran cardigan with its shortened arms (due to worn out cuffs) and inventive heart elbow patches. That's how the life of a sweater ought to be lived!

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Home Alone

When the kids were school-age, and Bill went to work everyday (or more often, was in another hemisphere), I had lots of time home alone. It was my salvation in what amounted to sixteen years of single parenting while we lived in Washington, DC. I'd play audiobooks (on cassette back then!), listen to music, prep dinner, clean house, and KNIT.
Fast forward to the present, and my life with a retired stay-at-home husband. I'm hardly ever home alone anymore. Sigh. So, when I had the house to myself for most of today, I made the most of it. I always feel freer (more free?) and more creative when I'm alone. I tried on outfits for my upcoming weekend at St. Andrews, tried on makeup to wear with said outfits, made a giant batch of bias binding, as well as most of a new dress, listened to an audiobook while doing all of that, and generally had a great day.
Just in case you don't know this trick for making yards and yards of bias binding out of a fat quarter of fabric, here's a great video on the technique. Here I am in the midst of cutting up my continuous bias strip.

Before I launched into the bias binding marathon, I trimmed the new pompon on my Yule Tam (see previous post). Pro tip: always add the pompon before wet blocking. The soaking plus air drying results in a fluffier, slightly felted little ball all ready for a final haircut. Be careful not to overdo the trimming though; force yourself to stop before you end up with a teeny, tiny ball half your intended size.

Finally, I want to show off our new old daybed. "Old", because the frame is 19thC, purchased at an antique shop in Bath, ON. I had new hemp webbing and foam added, then had it painted in Annie Sloan's chalk paint in "Paris Grey".

It's super comfy, and makes for a perfect extra sleeping place when there are more people in the house than bedrooms. Hope your Sunday was as terrific as mine.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Pompon Transplant

With three weeks to go to KnitEast, I'm prepping my class samples and fashion show pieces. It's what I would do anyway to prepare for the cooler weather already here. My Yule Tam is something I pass around when I teach stranded (fairisle) knitting (FYI, the class is sold out). This original version of the Tam needs a pompon replacement. The old pompon is looking a little bedraggled and tired. Dare I say ratty? So, this afternoon it was out with the Clover pompon maker and some bright teal Galway worsted. It's a different yarn, but due to the nature of the tam, it fits right in.

After the pompon transplant, I gave the hat a bath in Eucalan, blocked it on a dinner plate propped up on a mug, and blow-dried the new pompon to fluff it up.
Next up, Audrey's Coat in "Gloxinia" Lopi. Here it is after a thorough de-pilling with my trusty little Knitpicks lint shaver (same as the one that used to be made by Dritz). It's going for a soak and spin in my top loader, but not before I baste the back pleat closed. This one is for the fashion show, although I'll probably wear it on the plane both for warmth and to reduce the weight of my carry-on bag.

The coat takes a few days to dry thoroughly, so there's time to do a few repairs on the other knits I plan to take. Will I see you in St. Andrews?

Friday, August 16, 2019

Willow Tank Hack

Early in the summer, I sewed several Willow Tanks, from Grainline Studio. They are part of this year's summer uniform. I pretty much wear one every day. More recently, I followed these instructions (more or less) from Fancy Tiger Crafts for modifying the tank into a gathered dress.

The fabric is a yarn-dyed linen. I cut out the pieces flat, not on the fold, to be sure to get the check pattern to match at the seams and darts. The only other change I made was to make patch pockets sewn into the side seams, instead of inseam pockets. Bring on the dog days of summer!

Friday, August 9, 2019

Another York Pinafore

Not sure if this is my fourth or fifth York Pinafore. No one I know seems to be able to stop at one. I wear mine year round--with leggings and sweaters in winter and with a sleeveless linen top in summer (no bra necessary). This one is in a medium-weight linen from Pure Linen Envy, colour "Byzantium".

Here are the mods I made to the pattern, which is from Helen's Closet (based in Vancouver):

1. I cut the bodice width to size L, while cutting everything else, including length to M.
2. I made my own single-fold bias binding out of cotton, and applied that instead of the double-fold suggested by the instructions.

That's it. So quick, so easy to wear. And those pockets can hold your entire life!
Best of all, it looks fab with my new Willingdon Cardigan.

Hope to write this up in the coming weeks. I promise it won't take as long as Ellerbeck.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Second Look

Blocking is done, and buttons are on.

This is not a staged Instagram-worthy photo. This is a throw-it-down-on-your-bed, like-the-way-it-looks-so-casual kind of picture. If you scroll back to the previous post, you'll be able to see the difference that blocking makes. Really pleased with this make; it exceeds expectations, and I can't wait for some fall weather.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

First Glimpse

August is not really when you want to be working on a chunky shawl-collared cardigan, especially when you don't have air conditioning. But, with the humidity gone and the nights back down to 13C (that's 55F), the house is staying cool enough to make knitting bearable. What you see below is a sweater with a collar and front edges that have not yet been blocked into submission. Nor have the buttons been sewn on or the ends woven in. In other words, everything will be much more beautiful in a couple of days.

The real challenge is going to be getting photos. My lack of an in-house model since Isabel left home is taking a toll on my design photography. If you know anyone approximately 5'2" and 100 lbs, who enjoys posing for the camera, send them my way!

Monday, July 29, 2019

When Underarm Grafting Isn't Quite Right

A few years ago I wrote a tutorial all about underarm grafting for bottom-up seamless sweaters. From the many links to it on Ravelry and elsewhere, it's been quite useful to a lot of you. It's a form of joining that looks very neat and tidy when executed properly PROVIDED YOU ARE WORKING IN STOCKING STITCH. So, what to do if you are working in some sort of stitch pattern? I have a solution. It's one I came up with on my own; to coin EZ's terminology, it's something I "unvented", meaning that someone else may have come up with this on their own but I'm not aware of it.

I'm in the final stages of knitting a cardigan in a simple pattern stitch.
You can see that if I were to join the underarms by ordinary grafting, there would be an interruption of the pattern in two ways: 1) there would be a horizontal band of stocking stitch across the underarm area, and 2) the vertical lines of the stitch pattern would be "off" by half a stitch, as that is what happens when you graft two pieces of knitting originating from opposite directions (it doesn't show in stocking stitch). I know it's only the underarms, but let's get it right. Here's my solution.

Start by turning the garment inside out. You will notice that this beautiful stitch happens to produce a reversible basket stitch on the inside. Now follow steps One and Two from my earlier grafting tutorial. (Hint: open it up in a separate window, so you can see both tutorials.)

Step One: The stitches are transferred to dpns. It doesn't matter if the sleeve is above or below.

Step Two: Remember to pay special attention to the orientation of the extra stitches picked up on the end of each needle.

Now, instead of grafting, simply unite the gap with a 3-needle bind off. It will look like this from the wrong (working) side,

and like this from the right side. Notice how beautifully the vertical lines of the stitch pattern come together.

It's not the first time I've done underarms this way; I used the same method of closure a couple of years ago when I made this unpublished aran.

 OK, now back to that shawl collar...

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Sweater Spa

Isabel dropped in for a visit last weekend and brought three, yes three, sweaters in her little carry-on bag. It seems that it's easier to lug the sweaters across the continent and wash them in my old-school Whirlpool top loader than it is to deal with them in a studio apartment in California. So, she soaked them and laid them out on the dining room floor, where they dried in record time in last weekend's heat wave.

I had already given the one she had made for herself a bit of a repair job.

Good thing that visible mending is in, because there was no more of the original wool in sight.
P.S. Two posts in one day -- from someone who goes months without posting. This is what comes of spending the day alone in the house without interruptions!

Back to the Future

Here I am sitting in an un-air-conditioned house in late July, knitting. Remarkably, the house is comfortable, thanks to its 1918 construction (front porch, high ceilings, big windows) and position surrounded by large trees on a hill where it catches the cool breezes off Lake Ontario. Plus, I've returned to the lessons of my childhood, when air conditioning was rare--windows open at night but closed during the day, blinds and shutters closed on the sunny side of the house, fans on, and cold meals involving no cooking. The bonus? Our utitilies bill is low and our consciences can rest easy that at least in this one area we are not contributing to global warming.
This morning I've managed to join my little cropped cardigan.

The wool is Cascade Eco+ in a pale grey. Here you can see the body and the right sleeve, which have been blocked to verify length and gauge, and the left sleeve, which I did not bother to block. To keep myself entertained whilst working my way up my decrease chart (for raglans, as well as a V-neck), I'm re-listening to C.S. Harris's Sebastian St.Cyr regency mysteries, as narrated by Davina Porter. A perfect summer morning.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Festina Lente

When you're working on a new sweater, perhaps sensing the first inklings of momentum, it can be difficult to take time out to wet block the work in progress. In a top-down sweater, I usually do this at about an inch past the underarms (and again, later, about an inch before where I want the hem to fall), and in a bottom-up sweater, I block at about an inch shy of the underarms. Why not knit all the way to the underarms or hem? Because nine times out of ten, the wet blocking will cause the work to grow to the desired length, and who wants to have to rip back? I'm a lazy knitter!
Here's my latest design having a nice soak in some water and Eucalan.

There's no need to break the yarn to accomplish any of this; simply leave it attached, but keep the remainder of the ball dry outside the bowl of soaking liquid. I usually wait at least twenty minutes for the wool to fully absorb the water, then gently squeeze the water out, wrap the knitting in a towel, and jump up and down on the towel to get out as much water as possible. Finally, I lay out the knitting on a dry towel, patting and moulding it into the desired shape and size. A measuring tape is essential. In our un-air-conditioned house in summer, the piece will be dry by tonight. In the meantime, I'll do the sleeve calculations and cast on with dpns for the first of those. Back in a bit...

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Bathtub Reading

There's nothing like a long soak in the tub with a good book. And among my fave bathroom books, Barbara Walker's classic Treasuries rank high. Yes, they're in black and white, and sometimes a bit blurry, but they remain the most authoritative source of stitch patterns and inspiration. They make for fascinating reading too, as she explains the sources and development of stitches through time and place. Not surprising, really, when you learn about her broad range of accomplishments. What a brain, and so much mental energy!
Hanging out in her first volume is this modest knit/purl stitch pattern I'm using just now. Here's the right side, looking a little rustic in Cascade Eco+,

and here's the wrong side forming a useful basket stitch.

Such a simple pattern, but so much bang for so little effort! This is destined, I hope, to become a fall jacket. Stay tuned.
P.S. In case someone is wondering, this is indeed the same stitch pattern I adopted for use in my Cataraqui Socks.

Friday, May 31, 2019

While Blocking...

I'm a monogamous knitter. It's all about not losing momentum on a project; I know that I'm easily sidetracked, and will lose interest if I don't keep to the one goal. So, what does a monogamous knitter do while a project is being blocked without being finished? She sews, of course!
Yesterday I made the Wiksten top out of linen.

The actual colour is not as eye-wateringly bright as shown. I had to play with my phone camera to get the colour reasonably close and this is as good as it's going to get. Such a quick and satisfying make, and perfect for the not hot, not cold weather we're having this month. I'm wearing it right now (underneath my Wiksten Haori) as I head out the door for a morning on the road. Happy end of May!