Monday, September 19, 2016

It's Back!

It's that time of the year to take stock of my supply of woollens, in preparation for the inevitable cool freezing weather ahead. As part of last year's inventory, I noticed that I really hadn't worn my "Wheatsheaves" cardigan as much as I thought I would. Why? It came down to fit, specifically the fit in the neck and shoulder area. The design is essentially a kimono shape. It has some back neck shaping in the body to help the shoulders sit where they're supposed to (as opposed to sliding backwards, a common problem with this silhouette), but the collar was never quite right. Last winter I withdrew it from my Ravelry shop for editing, but it's only recently that I've got around to dealing with it. Surprisingly, the solution was simple. It involved only the re-working of the collar, with some carefully placed decreasing. I'm so pleased with the result. Here I am, hair tousled, no makeup, lighting all wrong, but excited nonetheless to have the problem solved.

The pattern is back up on Ravelry, and I'm working on a glitch in getting the updated version (along with notifications) out to prior purchasers. If you've already made one of these and would like to make it better, all you will need to do (once you receive the update) is to frog the old collar back to the pick-up row, wash the frogged wool to get out the kinks, and re-knit the collar following the new instructions. The new version actually takes slightly less wool than the old, so you shouldn't have to worry about running out. Of course, if you have a leftover skein you could also use that. I really love this design and can't wait for some cool weather so I can enjoy wearing it.
P.S. Reporting back same evening: the brilliant Ravelry folks have solved the glitch and updates have already been sent out. 
P.P.S. Frostfern is next up for the same treatment. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Favourite Yarns Part 1: Cascade Ecological Wool, and Eco+

Time for a new series of posts all about my favourite yarns. First off, let me reassure readers that this blog is NOT monetized, and I have received nothing of any sort to endorse particular yarns. These are the yarns I use over and over again. They're dependable, beautiful, and worth your time, effort, and money.
I'm starting off the series with a couple of non-superwash wools that are incredibly versatile. They're warm, soft, and not at all expensive. They are Cascade's Ecological Wool and Eco+. The former is sold in a wide range of undyed colours, while the latter is available in a huge range of rich dyed shades. The skeins are huge, at 250g, so for a small woman's sweater you can get away with only two. Even for a man's sweater, three will usually do the trick. So, what is it I love about these wools?

1. They can be knitted at two distinct gauges. For a chunky gauge, at 4 stitches per inch, I use a 5.5mm(US#9) needle, and for a bulky gauge at 3 1/2 stitches per inch, I use a 6.5mm (US#10.5) needle.
Examples of my own designs at 4 sts to the inch that can be knitted with Ecological Wool or Eco+:

Harriet's Jacket (shown here in Peace Fleece, but it can easily be knitted in Ecological Wool or Eco+).
Wheatsheaves--soon to be re-released.
 Modern Gansey for him.
Modern Gansey for her (shown in Quince's Osprey, but also knittable in Ecological Wool or Eco+).
And here are some of my designs knitted at 3 1/2 stitches per inch:

Glenora's cousin, Petrova (shown in a discontinued yarn, but I've since knitted a version in Ecological Wool).
 2. Both Ecological Wool and Eco+ are soft enough to be worn comfortably next to one's neck. Notice that both the Modern Gansey (hers) and Petrova demand soft, neck-friendly yarns.

3. Ecological Wool and Eco+ are widely available, at least in North America. They're very easy to find.

4. Both wools are relatively affordable. You can knit a high quality sweater for well under C$100.

5. Both wools come in a wide range of undyed and dyed colours, some of them marled or heathered.

Now for the bad news (not VERY bad, though). With softness comes pilling. I take it for granted that this is a normal feature of wool. Arm yourself with a good lint shaver (I like this one best) and give your garment frequent cleanups, especially in the first few months of wear. Over time, the pilling will lessen. Don't be put off. Pilling isn't caused by cheapness (Quince's Osprey pills even more), but by soft, short fibres and loose spinning, both of which factors make yarns comfy. Just deal with it and enjoy wearing your beautiful garments.

P.S. I almost forgot...these Cascade wools are perfect for spit splicing -- perfect for when you hate weaving in ends.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Glenora Countdown

A reminder: the summer sale on Glenora will be over at the end of the month. That means only a few more days to grab this easy-to-knit, easy-to-wear pattern for only $1.

This useful jacket has no edgings to work, no sewing, and offers the choice of a shawl-pin closure (the "no closure" option), or buttons. If you choose the latter, make sure you add the button loops after blocking, and pay attention to their placement--one just below your bust, one at the base of the neck, and one halfway in-between those two. It's an opportunity to use a few special buttons from your button stash. Last winter, I wore my Glenora more than any other sweater in my collection. It's become a wardrobe staple, so what are you waiting for?

Sunday, August 21, 2016

August Tidbits

1. I've just grafted the shoulders of the updated version of Wheatsheaves. Just in case someone reading this hasn't done much Kitchener Stitch (named after Lord Kitchener, who during WW1 ordered that the toes of soldiers' socks be made seamless), here's a tip. While working the initial graft, don't bother about tension, other than to keep everything on the loose side. Then when all the stitches are joined, go back and tug gently on them just until they match the tension of the surrounding stitches. It's a simple matter to tighten up the tension, but devilishly difficult to loosen things up. Below, you can see where the stitches on the right-hand side have been adjusted, while the ones on the left are waiting their turn. It's unnecessarily fussy to try to get the tension perfect on the first pass.

To those readers who complain of my penchant for knitting with grey, I swear that this wool is definitely not that colour. It's actually a lovely greenish turquoise, rather on the bright side, in fact. Somehow, my phone camera refused to acknowledge it.

2. While the heat and humidity are dreadful, our drought seems to be over. Things are greening up (apart from the trees, which have gone into a weird stage of early fall). Case in point: the hibiscus on the corner of Earl and King Streets.

How can you not love dinner plate sized flowers!

3. Went for a walk in the late afternoon yesterday before the crowds gathered in Market Square for the last Tragically Hip concert.

Crab apples and the dome of St. George's Cathedral.
Trucks setting up for live screening of The Hip's concert with dome of City Hall in background.
We were out of the country for the decades when The Hip became the iconic Canadian band. Regardless, we could feel the poignancy of the day.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Sock Talk

Confession: I'm not much of a sock knitter. It's hard for me to get excited about something that (most of the time) is hidden from view when worn. At the same time, I love to wear hand-knitted socks. Who doesn't? They're toasty warm and can be made to fit perfectly. Plus, socks make perfect social knitting, provided they're relatively simple and utilitarian in design. They're also great for summer knitting because of their portability and lack of hot, heavy bulk. ( I had to give up on my Fall Coat knitting because of our intense heat over the last few weeks.)
Today I want to show off two beautiful versions of the Snakes and Ladders Socks--a design that looks complicated but is actually quite easy to knit.
First up is ThereseS's Snakes and Ladders in a rich, hand-dyed cherry red.

See the star toe? I love it because it fits my toes really well and there's no grafting to do.
Next, here's knitgarden's handspun version of Snakes and Ladders. Yes, you read that right--HANDSPUN!

The lighter colour lets you see the garter stitch heel, worked over 60% of the stitches and oh, so cushy. The fleece is CVM. That stands for "California Variegated Mutant", which always sound to me like something SciFi, but is actually a breed of sheep. These socks are entered in the Monterey County Fair. Can't wait to see how they do.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Vim and Vinegar

I've been silent for a while. There's a reason. We're caught up in a home purchase and sale---again. Yes, our current 3-storey limestone house is lovely, and yes, we can walk to just about everything, and yes, we can see the lake from the front door. So, why would we opt to move? Because:
1. I really want/need better and brighter studio space.
2. I want a place large enough to hold workshops.
3. Eventually we would need to move anyway since our current place is tall and narrow, without a main floor bathroom. Bill, who is older than I am, turns 66 today. I think it's a good idea to move to where we can "age in place" rather than wait until we have to move.
4. I strongly desire a bit more connection to the natural world. OK, I have some garden here, but our new place has tall, mature trees and larger grounds (think dye garden).
5. A place came up at the right price in the right place. It needs work. Actually, Bill keeps referring to it as "the dump", but the space speaks to me and it's in Barriefield, a more-or-less intact early 19th-century village within walking and biking distance of Kingston's downtown.
No pics yet of the new house, but here are some shots of Barriefield when we attended its 200th anniversary a few years ago.

For now, our house smells of Vim (a household cleanser, for my non-Canadian readers), and vinegar, as I struggle with maintaining an unnatural state of neatness and cleanliness, and panic at the dangerous possibility of owning two houses.
P.S. Very little knitting going on for the moment.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Suddenly, Unexpectedly

One of the better surprises of the yarn variety is the unexpected discovery of yarn. Thus it was when I discovered, while walking back to our inn in Rhinebeck from the Sheep and Wool Festival, that the local variety store had a back room full of high end yarn. And so it was last Saturday when Isabel and I happened upon a yarn nook in a clothing shop in nearby Westport. The day was cloudy and cool, the sort of day that comes as a relief after a spell of very hot, muggy days. It was Isabel's second last day home before returning to her studies out west, and we decided to make the best of it with a girls' day out, poking about the little shops in the picturesque village about 30 minutes north of Kingston in the heart of the Rideau Lakes.
We ate Kawartha ice cream and strolled down to the harbour,

entered the potter's workshop and checked out her work,

stopped by the visitors' centre to use the washrooms and wifi (Isabel may have tuned in to Pokemon Go, even though it was not yet officially available in Canada for another 24 hours), noticed this useful set of public bike repair tools, and

at the Westport Bamboo Company, suddenly and unexpectedly, 

we came upon this!