Friday, June 28, 2013

Ready, Set....Wait?

Harriet, the pattern is written up, proofread, and ready to go. All that's missing is a great photograph ( or two or three). Unfortunately, it's raining and the forecast is for more over the next few days. This is our Canada Day weekend, so the weather is all the more unwelcome, especially to all those Canadians heading to their cottages. (Although, come to think of it, some of my very best cottage memories are of snuggling up with a good book by the fireplace with the gentle pitter pat of raindrops on the roof in the background.) Surely, we'll get a few breaks from the wet, and when that happens, you can be sure I'll be dragging Isabel outside for a little photo session. In the meantime, here's a peek at the finished jacket, all blocked and ready for action, dangling off the edge of one of our deep our windowsills.

Yesterday, in the early evening before the rain began, I took a walk around the block on my way to scout out a possible photo venue. These lovely homes date from the 1820s through the 1840s.

Wonderful places, but I have something less distracting in mind as a backdrop. See you next week. Happy Canada Day.

Monday, June 24, 2013


I'm done with the knitting portion of Isabel's jacket. Here it is with the loose ends hanging out and before any blocking (translation: it'll look a lot better after those things happen).

Wish I'd made this colour for myself. Reminds me of the rich colours of the costume worn by the character "Jill" in the old, really old, BBC production of C.S. Lewis's "Silver Chair". Odd, isn't it, how something like that from a quarter century ago comes back to mind? Clearly, the Elizabethan-style costumes made an impression on me.
The eagle-eyed will have noticed that the peplum on this version is longer, or rather, it starts higher before flaring out. That's because of the fact, which I believe I've pointed out earlier, that the construction method causes the length to grow (or shrink) in proportion to the width. Since Isabel is tiny around, her jacket is therefore proportionately shorter, requiring a little extra length below the bodice to bring the total length to her hips. Don't worry, the pattern instructions are VERY carefully and (I think) simply written to explain how to accommodate different sizes and shapes.
The button problem has come to an extremely happy conclusion.

I'm in love with these. Might have to put them on something of my own.

Best of all, just as I was finishing up the knitting, a big box arrived in the mail full of this, just like a reward for all my work.

This is the wool I plan to use for a Harriet's Jacket KAL. Hmm...I wonder how those buttons would look with it...

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Saturday Shopping

The City Market is open on Saturdays (and Tuesdays and Thursdays too). It's the first stop on my shopping excursion.

Believe it or not, this is where the skating rink is located in winter.
At last, the little round juicy local berries are in--a bumper crop this year!

Hard not to love peonies, even it they're this beautiful for only about an hour.

Yes, there's a knitting booth.

Then it was on to the supermarket, the natural foods store, the butcher, and finally home. So nice to be able to do all this on foot (with my Canadian Tire pull-cart).
The bodice of Isabel's jacket is done and I'm working on the peplum, for want of a better word. Here it is after the joining of the right and left halves and before I added the collar and front borders.

The summer heat has finally settled in. 

There's mist morning and night. If I'm not careful, I'll start feeling so relaxed I won't get on with this project.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

"Worsted Weight": Ending the Confusion

A couple of weeks ago, the Globe and Mail ran a link to a ridiculously entertaining blog, "What's Different in Canada", a blog that is "a beginner's guide to the differences between the two most similar countries on earth." As someone who has spent significant time living on both sides of the border, I can tell you that the differences are also surprisingly significant in both tangible and intangible ways. However, for the purposes of this blog, the one that I encounter most has to do with the words "worsted weight". Never mind that "worsted" also refers to a method of spinning. Here, I'm talking about yarn weight as it pertains to stitch gauge.

In Canada, things are pretty straightforward. When a pattern published here suggests "worsted weight" yarn, it means yarn that knits up at 5 sts per inch, or 20 sts per 4 inches or (because we're metric here) 10 cm.
Examples: Patons Classic Wool, Ella Rae Classic, Cascade 220. I generally get this gauge with a US #7 / 4.5 mm needle. This is the gauge you would get in stocking stitch if you wanted to knit a sweater.

In the U.S., it's more complicated. I first realized this when I encountered a pattern for a sweater that called for worsted weight wool, but the gauge was 4 sts per inch. What??? Did the designer intend the fabric to be loose? No. The suggested yarn was in fact way chunkier than what I had learned to think of as worsted. It turns out that "worsted weight" can encompass a fairly wide range of weights south of the border. I've seen it cover anything from 4 sts per inch through 4 1/2 sts per inch (I'd call this aran) to 5.5 sts per inch (what I normally think of as DK, or double knitting weight). Sometimes, you'll see the terms "heavy worsted" for the first and "light worsted" for the last.
Examples: Peace Fleece Worsted (I'd go so far as to call this chunky), Brooklyn Tweed's Shelter  (I'd call it aran), and Berocco's Ultra Alpaca (a true worsted, from the Canadian point of view).

On top of this, don't forget that there are some yarns that seem to work well at more than one gauge, Brooklyn Tweed's Shelter being a perfect example. It's part of why it's such a marvelous wool.

And also don't forget that sometimes we choose to knit certain items, like socks or mitts, at a firmer gauge than normal, and sometimes we want a fabric to be loose and drapey. That's what I did with my Perth Cardi,

knitted in fingering weight alpaca at a loose gauge and also for the prototype of Brookline. (Keep in mind that this latter approach generally works best with yarns with a lot of loft or fuzz.)

Does this help clear things up?

Monday, June 17, 2013

A Trunk Warmer?

The garnet version of Harriet's Jacket is underway. For Isabel I'm making the smallest size and that fact, combined with the chunky yarn, means that progess is quick. If only it didn't look like an elephant's trunk warmer!

I'll finish the left bodice tonight, then I estimate three days to do the right bodice, then one day for the collar, and one day for the peplum. Five more days. What could go wrong?  

Friday, June 14, 2013

Only One Thing Lacking

We're having one of those quintessential June days--warm, almost hot, everything lush and verdant. The climbing hydrangea in the back garden is coming into bloom. Makes me think of knitted lace.

Harriet, the written pattern, is done in first draft. I'm having a cup of Buckingham Palace Garden Party tea from here, to celebrate. The only thing lacking is local strawberries to go with it. It was about a year ago that I blogged about strawberries and cream. Our cold spring means the berries are late this year.
When I'm done with my tea, I'm going to cast on for Isabel's version of the jacket in garnet. I like the way all the wools I'm using for this design go together. The colours remind me of misty autumn days in the country.

That's Peace Fleece in Siberian Midnight on the lower left, and Elann's Peruvian Highland Chunky in Tranquil Lagoon and Garnet above and to the right. 

I want knitters to have options, so the third yarn I'm going to suggest using for this design is Briar Rose's Sonoma, a gorgeous hand-dyed chunky wool. In case you'd like to pre-order some of it, the jacket takes 3 skeins, except for the smallest size (33") which takes only 2, and the largest size (48") which takes 4. I'd suggest going for something tonal, rather than something with mixed colours. I'm thinking of doing a KAL right after Harriet is published. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

"These Are Important"

When I first did a sketch of what I had in mind for Harriet's Jacket, it looked like this.

The lower "skirt" was a bit longer, and the shape of the lower hem was less angled, but it is essentially the same idea. What is significant is that I made a note on the page about the buttons--"These are important". Somehow, in the process of knitting a second version of the jacket, I had forgotten that. Then I realized it and at the same time knew that none of the buttons I auditioned in my earlier post was "important" enough. Nothing I had was right. So, I did what I've done before. I stopped by the little wool shop three blocks from my front door and there they were.

These are larger than the others I looked at, and I admit to stretching the buttonholes a little bit to make them fit. In the written pattern I'll include a couple of sizes of buttonhole. Having options is good.
In case anyone wonders why I chose a relatively plain yarn (Elann's Peruvian Highland Chunky) for this version for myself, it's because I wanted a photo that would show the stitch texture and direction.

 And you can't even see the trash bins leaning against the wall where I took this!

Monday, June 10, 2013


Had a weekend of  tweaking, i.e. playing around with things that weren't totally right until they were more right. First up, Harriet's Jacket. No, I'm not showing the final version, because it's back on the needles--AGAIN. I'm currently on the SIXTH version of the peplum/skirt. This is all about getting it JUST RIGHT. I feel as though I've been knitting garter stitch for eons. I've probably created acres of garter stitch over the last 2 days.

I think I've just about got it nailed, and wouldn't you know, simpler is better. As usual.
Still on the hunt for perfect buttons for the jacket. Bill and I drove to Picton on Saturday as part of the quest. I didn't  bother to tell Bill we were there for buttons; I let him think we just going for a nice trip on the Glenora ferry followed by a nice cup of tea at Miss Lilly's and a browse in Books & Company. Sometimes it's best not to let husbands in on the ridiculous lengths to which you will go in order to find three buttons. In any event, I didn't find them, so will probably end up with one of those pictured in my last post by default.
For the trip to Picton, I always take some "ferry knitting", especially just now when there is only one ferry in service (until mid-July). Socks are, of course, the ideal road trip project.

Urban Rustic socks in progress.
On our way to Picton, we stopped for a few plant purchases in support of my second tweaking job--the front garden. All white is OK, but white accented with burgundy foliage and a splash of lime green is even better.

The deep purplish burgundy of the heuchera echoes the pale pink in the centre of the white roses in a delightful way. I moved some daisies to the back garden and substituted White Swan echinacea and Xenox sedum. Both will provide bloom through the fall while adding some winter interest (at least until they are covered in snow).

This photo does not do justice to the frosty burgundy of the Xenox. Is it silly to obsess so much over getting the colours just right?

No, it's absolutely worth the effort.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Challenge of Garter Stitch

One of the wonderful characteristics of garter stitch is that when knitted at the right tension (not too tight, not too loose), you get the same number of stitches as ridges (not rows!) per inch. This is what makes right-angled mitres possible. It's great, but it's also not great. In Harriet, it means that length and width grow proportionately. In other words, to achieve the desired width, you have to add on an equal amount of length. This is a number-crunching day, a day when I work out how to make the design work in a range of sizes.

I'd like to offer this pattern in as wide a range as possible, without sacrificing the shape and fit. Definitely challenging.
While this is going on, I'm previewing my button options. From my current selection:

I think the tree on the upper right is my fave, but I'm not sure if it will fit the buttonholes (this time, I built them in rather than adding them on at the end). I'll have to wait until it's dry to see. Thoughts?
It's so cold here today that I've hauled out leggings, wool socks, and my Perth Cardi. It's only 14C (about 57F), and we've given in and turned the furnace on for a while to take the chill off the place. That might also be why I'm in the mood to add to next winter's sock selections by knitting up a new pair of Urban Rustic Socks. (Just a little something to tide me over until I finish the calculations.)

Just love Ella rae Classic Heathers. The colour is 101, a sort of north Atlantic blue-grey. Suits the day. It just started to rain.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Grafting or Three-Needle Bind Off? How to Choose

In the bad old days before knitters wised up to ways to make their knits more seamless and organic, just about the only time you ever saw a reference to grafting (or, as I learned to call it, "Kitchener Stitch") was in patterns for socks. Then, I think largely due to the influence of Elizabeth Zimmermann, knitters woke up to the fact that grafting could be used in many more situations, and not just in stocking stitch. In fact, EZ recommended taking all the stitches off the needles to graft, a concept that still leaves many knitters gasping. She used it to join her famous Moebius Scarf and in her popular Ribwarmer.
When we first moved to Washington, DC and Isabel was an infant, I spent many hours nursing her while watching Schoolhouse Press videos and this was how I first became acquainted with the 3-needle bind off. I distinctly remember seeing Meg Swansen working it on a Norwegian sweater (the one from "Knitting in the Round"?) with Elizabeth looking on approvingly.
These days, both techniques are widely known and used.
So, with these two great choices for joining chunks of knitting, how do you make a choice? Here are the two questions I ask.
1. Are you working a pattern that would look best if the stitches coming from both directions met head-to-head? Remember that when two pieces are grafted together the stitches at the point of the join will meet one-half stitch off. This isn't a problem in garter stitch or stocking stitch, but if there's an aran pattern involved, everything will look better if 3-needle bind off is used to bring the pattern together without any offset. Example: this is the shoulder on my Wakefield jacket. See how the cable stitches meet each other head on?

The single line of stocking stitch at the far right that passes over the shoulder is the best argument for choosing 3-needle bind off over grafting for joining aran patterns.

2. Is the join at a point in the garment where stability and strength are a consideration? In fair isle knitting it is often possible to use grafting on the shoulders if you happen to be on a solid colour row/round. Even so, it may be better to choose a 3-needle bind off to give the shoulder seam more strength and to stabilize it.

Here, in my Trellis Waistcoat I opted for a 3-needle bind off for just that reason.

In my just completed Harriet jacket, again I chose 3-needle bind off over grafting to stabilize the centre back and minimize any sideways stretching. This is the back of my new jacket, currently laid out for blocking on the floor in our library.

If you look VERY closely you can see the join up the middle of the back. If it bothers you as a knitter, feel free to graft. I have no such qualms and prefer the speed of the bind off, especially when it's combined with the strength of the resulting seam.

Our cold spring seems to have turned into a cold summer. The furnace kicked on this morning for a while. This is the sort of weather that has cottagers lighting up their fireplaces. Ah, the scent of woodsmoke on a cool morning by the lake. (And thank goodness for wool!)
Our roses are finally beginning to come into bloom,

 and the peonies are on the verge of explosion.

Yes, the entire front garden is white. Quite dramatic, thanks to the previous owner of our house.
As for Harriet, while the jacket dries, I'm contemplating button choices. You'll have to wait to see the result. For now, here's just a glimpse of everything coming together yesterday.

It's a bit blurry, but you can see all the garter stitch ridges coming together at different angles. Perhaps the most exciting moment in knitting this jacket!

Sunday, June 2, 2013


Spent yesterday a.m. propagating moss. Spent yesterday p.m. realizing that my efforts were being washed away. Here's the tale.
First, I used a knife to pry up some existing moss from between the stones in our formal front garden.

Next, I used a whisk to break up the moss so its spores would mix with about 2 cups of buttermilk. Yes, it looks some some sort of gruesome kitchen experiment!

Finally, I painted the mixture between the stones where I want moss to grow.

At this point, one is supposed to spritz water onto the area to keep it moist until the moss gets going. Unfortunately, I didn't realize that we were in for an all-out gully washer around dinner time. I'll wait and see whether any of my mixture takes, but my guess is that I'll have to start over. Sigh.
Harriet meanwhile is growing; the bodice halves are joined and the collar and front borders are getting done.

Next post--3-needle bind-off or grafting: how to choose which to use. See you then.