Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Tutorial: A New All-in-One Shawl Collar

This tutorial demonstrates a deeper shawl collar than the one in the original Buttonbox Waistcoat from Knitty, Spring 2013. I've been thinking about this for a while. My previous tutorial on shawl collars presented a two-step format, with the front bands being completed first (laying the base for the collar), and the collar being completed separately. The advantage of that format, as a designer, was that it allowed for some playing around with the collar while leaving the front bands undisturbed. This one-step version involves partial completion of the front bands, then partial completion of the collar, followed by a long cast-off of the whole works in one smooth step. This new version can be adapted for any of my shawl collar garments (Zora, Wakefield Redux, Buttonbox, and Harriet), but for the purposes of this exercise I'm going to set out how to do it for the Buttonbox Waistcoat. Here goes...

1. Using a size 4 mm 32" circ (one size smaller needle than that used for the body), and starting at the bottom of the right front, pick up sts along the right front band, around the collar, and down the left front band. Do so using the same ratios I presented earlier:
- for vertical sections (front bands and the upper V-neck), pick up 3 sts for every 4 rows,
- for diagonal bits (the  V-neck and the short slopes on either side of the back neck) pick up one st for every row,
- in the tiny gaps between the back neck slopes and the centre back neck, work M1s into the horizontal strand in the gap; make the M1s lean toward the centre back neck, i.e. M1L on the right hand side, and M1R on the left hand side.

2. Knit one row. Insert locking st markers where you want your buttonholes to be. The top one should be 3 stitches below the V-neck, and I like the bottom one to be about an inch from the bottom. Space the others accordingly. Place them BETWEEN the two stitches where you want each buttonhole to go. Use locking stitch markers of a different colour to mark where the V-neck begins and ends.

3. Buttonhole row  AND beginning of short rows for collar(RS): *Knit to 2 sts before buttonhole marker, k2tog, YO, k2tog, rep from * until last buttonhole is completed, knit around collar to 2 sts before left side V-neck marker (the second one), SWR (see below), turn.
4. (WS row): Knit to 2 sts before right side V-neck marker, SWR, turn.

5. Knit to 4 sts before left side V-neck marker, SWR, turn.
6. Knit to 4 sts before right side V-neck marker, SWR, turn.

7. Knit to 6 sts before left side V-neck marker, SWR, turn.
8. Knit to 6 sts before right side V-neck marker, SWR, turn.

Cont to work pairs of short rows, working the wraps 2 sts apart until there are 22 wraps on ea side in total (total desired number of garter st ridges minus 3). In this case, I wanted 25 ridges in total (remember that in garter st, it takes 2 rows to make one ridge.)
AT SAME TIME, after 12 ridges (about half the total desired number of ridges) counted from the RS of the waistcoat back (don't count the first ridge which is actually the ridge from Row 8 of the charted pattern), inc approx 3" worth of sts (14 in this example) by the kfb method in the centre back between the shoulders. The increase row must be worked on the side that will become the RS when the collar is flipped over into its position when worn.
After the last SWR and turn, knit to end, ignoring wraps, i.e. don't bother to neaten them (see note below).

Next Row (WS): Knit to end, ignoring wraps, and working (k1, p1) into each YO to complete the buttonholes.

Last Row: Knit.

BO knitwise from the WS, using a 4 mm dpn in your right hand for the front borders (which should be worked rather firmly) and a 5 mm dpn (one size larger needle than for the body) for the collar (which needs to be done in a more relaxed manner). When casting off, work the last 2 sts tog for a neat corner.
Ta da!

General notes on garter stitch short rows: I've used Lucy Neatby's abbreviation SWR for slip, wrap, replace. Slip next st purlwise, bring yarn to opposite side of work, replace the slipped st, turn, and continue. Make the wraps fairly snug. In fact, Lucy talks about "strangling" the wrapped stitch! In garter st there is no need to to do anything more to neaten the wraps. Neither should you slip the first st of the next row as you would do in stocking stitch.

So, here's what the completed deeper shawl collar looks like:

Beautiful fall morning here, but...

chilly. Winter is coming!

P.S. In the course of re-knitting the waistcoat, I uncovered an error in the upper back regarding the placement of the knot pattern. See here for the correct numbers.

Friday, October 21, 2016

A Better Buttonbox

For a long time I've sensed that a lot of knitters would prefer a Buttonbox Waistcoat with a deeper collar. Some knitters have had trouble getting their collar to stay put, usually because they've used superwash wool or they haven't wet blocked their vest. My notes on the Ravelry page for this design have for a long time pointed to my tutorial on how to knit a deeper shawl collar. Well, at long last I'm making my own Buttonbox with just such a collar, and what's more, I'm getting ready to write up the details so anyone can do it without having to go through all their own calculations. Even better, the collar has a new all-in-one methodology, with the final cast-off covering the button bands and collar all in one smooth closing act. Here's a glimpse:

Everything you need to know to re-create this look in a couple of days (plus a small correction for a set of numbers in the upper back of the Knitty pattern). See you then...

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Frostfern Returns!

I've had a lot of queries from Ravelry knitters about when this cardigan would return to my shop. Well, here it is at last. I'm really pleased with the fit of the kimono-style collar. I'll probably get around soon to doing a tutorial on how to design your own kimono collar--it's not as easy as you'd think. The updated version of the design calls for Hikoo's Kenzie, a luscious blend of merino, angora, alpaca, nylon, and silk noils. It's absolutely perfect for this sweater, and I'll be using it again for sure.

For those of you wondering, our current house has not yet sold, but we are in possession of (although not yet occupying) the new house. Here are some pics of where we'll be going eventually.

These are the good bits. There's a lot that needs some TLC. But that's actually going to be fun to solve!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Coming up on Ravelry...

I meant to spend the day finishing up the edits on Frostfern, but instead I ended up taking care of a lot of post-Thanksgiving cleanup jobs. In the meantime, here are some pics I took of my new Frostfern in Hikoo's Kenzie. I'm in love with this yarn and its soft angora halo.

OK, I know the cardigan is pinned a little crooked--left is higher than right.
See the yarn halo? Mmmm. Yum.
I'm also sneaking in some knitting on a new Buttonbox Waistcoat, since this is the peak time of year to utilize its layering properties. You know how fall mornings start cold, but warm up. This piece is the perfect solution and I thought it would be great to have another.

Purple heather, for a change. 

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Canadian Thanksgiving

There was an article in the NY Times this weekend about Canadian Thanksgiving. Having spent 16 years living in the US, I can write emphatically that Thanksgiving here has little in common with the out-sized American version of the holiday. Here it's simply a long weekend in October (it always coincides with America's Columbus Day weekend). The holiday is on the Monday, but most families I know have their big dinner on the Sunday, reflecting the fact that the Canadian holiday seems to have grown out of Church of England Harvest Sunday celebrations (also, anyone travelling needs the Monday to get back to where they came from). In Canada, the holiday is not much more than an excuse for university kids to go home for a few days, especially if they're only a short train trip away. Sorry, Isabel, we missed you! Since there are only three days, few Canadians fly home for Thanksgiving. Who wants to spend two of three days at airports? So, although the trains and roads are busier than usual, this is not the blockbuster travel weekend that America experiences every November. Our big holiday is Christmas, possibly because it's extended by Boxing Day.
Next there are the food differences. First off, there seems to be a lot less food "hype" here. I was always amazed, when we lived in DC, at the enormous focus on Thanksgiving food. It was talked about everywhere--in the media, at the supermarkets, with friends. Sure, we have a special meal here, but it all seems more like something you take in stride. And what's eaten is different. Yes, we usually have turkey. This year, as usual, I ordered a boneless turkey breast (turkey meat rolled and wrapped in skin) from my local butcher at Bearances Grocery. I guess it's the vegetables and the "sides" (for some reason I loathe that word) that make for the big difference. I write here about Eastern Ontario Thanksgiving food. It's the tradition I know. No candied sweet potatoes. You'd have trouble finding marshmallow fluff at the store. Green beans aren't especially popular. They're not in season at this time of year, and anyway, almost everyone here prefers the more tender yellow wax beans. What you will find are lots of local, fall vegetables like brussels sprouts, winter squashes, parsnips, and turnips (by which I mean yellow turnips or "rutabagas"). What to do with the latter? Try this, one of our fave recipes. As for dessert, apple or pumpkin pie dominate. You won't see graham cracker crusts on your pumpkin pie either, just old-fashioned pastry.
We've had our turkey, cranberry sauce,

 braised carrots and parsnips,


 stuffing (which I make in a casserole dish, not inside the turkey),

and pumpkin pie.

French side of the can.

English side.

Then, James and I drove out to the Lemoine Point Conservation Area and got some exercise and fresh air.

Milkweed losing its fluff.

Michaelmas daisies.

Finally, I worked on getting Frostfern ready to re-issue this week.

I suspect previous owners might have brought our knocker back from a sabbatical in Italy.
See you in a couple of days!

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.
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.