Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Testing, I, 2, YO...

One more repeat to work on my test knit of the Wheatsheaves Scarf.

The yarn is Indigodragonfly's merino laceweight in "Oooo....Shiny....". I'm using a larger needle than I used for the Icelandic wool version, to see how the scarf looks with a more open look.
Had a mini-photoshoot for the purple version yesterday up in Merrickville, with the Blockhouse in the background.


Monday, July 28, 2014

A Day in "The County"

On Friday, Bill announced that he was in the mood for a trip to visit Prince Edward County (translate that to mean the vineyards west of Picton). We had a look online at our options, and settled on the Norman Hardie and Rosehall Run Vineyards. We took the scenic Loyalist Parkway, along Lake Ontario to the Glenora ferry, where in spite of the long line we crossed quickly due to the use at this season of two ferries. FYI, this is the same route that the Yarn Harlot will cycle this week on her epic charity bike trip between Toronto and Montreal.
Now, I'm a non-drinker, so what was I looking forward to on this little expedition? First, a stop at Rosehaven Yarns in Picton, and second, a day in the idyllic summer countryside. I wasn't disappointed.

A day to knit, basking in the sunshine eating crisp pizza just out of a wood-fired oven, listening to nearby Quebec visitors quietly conversing in French, all the while watching wildflowers toss in the wind. Perfect.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Because I Can't Resist

It seems I can't resist taking photos of my new scarf.

It's full of air and light as a feather.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Dear Beckie

Dear Beckie,
                      Thanks so much for bringing back a little bit of Iceland to your shop, even if you had it hidden on a bottom shelf at the back of the store. Maybe you were hoarding it for your own personal use. I'd understand if that happens to be the case, because this stuff is totally magic. With just ONE!! small ball 50g ball of this, that I bought one week ago,

Icelandic laceweight in colour 9044--purple.
I designed and made this. (Yes, it features the Wheatsheaves lace pattern, which happens to be a version of "Aran Wheatears" from Martha Waterman's book on lace shawls.)

This is definitely lace blocking weather. The scarf/shawlette (ugh! I hate that word) is drying so quickly I've had to spritz it as I work to keep it damp. The wool, originally so crisp it felt like linen, has transformed itself into a froth of softness. Now, off to write up this fun little pattern, and knit a second as a test knit. If you had any hope of holding onto your stash of this amazing yarn, I think it just dissolved. I'll be back soon for more,
P.S. It was a close call. I held my breath during the binding off. This is all that was left.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Design Challenge: Crescent Lace

In my last post I revealed that I'd come across a little trove of Icelandic lace yarn during a trip to Merrickville. I'll admit that I've had lace on my mind for a while. It might be that it's summer and the thought of chunky knitting seems, at least temporarily, in the background. I'll also admit that I have a fondness for cresent-shaped scarves. I'm not really a shawl person, but I do like scarves. Does it have something to do with my aging neck? Maybe, but maybe not. A scarf makes almost anything look better (except on a hot summer day). Why crescent scarves? Because I like the way their ends are long and drapey. But from the design standpoint, they're tricky.
A regular triangle scarf or shawl, knitted from the top centre out is much easier to design. Here's why. The edges of such a triangle grow symmetrically. Have a look at this stunning example. See how each side of each triangle grows at the rate of one new stitch every right side row? In a crescent scarf, like my Fibonacci, the inner edge grows as above at the rate of one new stitch every right side row,

BUT the outer edge grows much faster, at the rate of two new stitches every right side row.
Therefore, the pattern stitch cannot grow on each side in any sort of symmetrical fashion. This is OK if you're dealing with a simple horizontal pattern, as in Fibonacci. It makes for much trickier planning if you're thinking about doing lace. That's what I'm doing. Is it worth the trouble? Definitely.

Because someone will ask, yes, that's the wheatsheaves lace stitch, reinterpreted in light purple laceweight wool.

P.S. I almost forgot to show this.

It's my new birdbath, from the metalsmiths in Merrickville.

P.P.S. For a reader who asked (via Ravelry) to see what the new shoulders in the Wheatsheaves cardigan look like.

It's hard to get a photo of shoulders when no one is in the sweater! But, I think you can see how nice and smooth the shoulder area is now, with no seam to get in the way and the short row shaping doing all the things it's supposed to do.

Thursday, July 17, 2014


Over the last month, I've made some road trips in Eastern Ontario. Unexpectedly, Merrickville remains a favourite destination. It's the first major stop on the Rideau Canal system south of Ottawa. It should be uninteresting--the countryside is flat, rather than the rolling landscape of pines, lakes, and pink granite farther south--but I find I love this little town on the Rideau.

Next post, I'll show you what I purchased from the Metalsmiths' shop. As usual, I stopped in at Unraveled, where Beckie, the owner, was her usual welcoming self. It was only near the end of my visit that she pointed out something truly unexpected--a substantial stash of Icelandic lace wool in brilliant colours tucked away on a bottom shelf at the back of the shop. Yum! Guess what I've been up to today...

Monday, July 14, 2014

Wheatsheaves Returns!

I've had so many requests for the quick return of this pattern! Finally, here it is, re-engineered to be better than ever. What's new?
1. There's now some back neck shaping. The surplice border looks simple and elegant, but in fact the cardigan requires some extra shaping to help it sit beautifully on the shoulders. How has this been achieved? The back shoulders are now each worked separately with some increases happening at the same time as the short rows, before being joined together with a cable cast-on. It's not as complicated as it sounds. In fact, it's ridiculously straightforward.
2. There are no longer any shoulder seams. Initially, I joined the shoulders with a 3-needle bind-off, concerned that the extra-wide dropped shoulders would sag without that reinforcement. Then I realized that sagging draping was in fact part of the design plan and it was important for there to be a nice, clean, totally seamless look to the shoulders. The bonus? Now there's no need to do any provisional cast-on for the front shoulders. They're simply knitted down from the already provisionally cast-on back shoulders. Sometimes simpler really is better.
3. The suggested provisional cast-on method has been changed to the crochet chain method. For most people, it's quicker, and easier.
4. The ratio for picking up the sleeve stitches has been changed from 3 stitches per 4 rows to 2 stitches per 3 rows.
5. There are new sleeve lengths, although I know you all have the sense to adjust for your own size and not to blindly follow sleeve length suggestions. That's the whole point of top-down knitting isn't it?
6. Finally, there are two additional sizes. Remember, this design is meant to have about 12" of ease, so a size 60" is really a size 48". Choose your size accordingly.
FYI, the above tutorial links have been included in the pattern.
Now, enjoy! This cardigan is easy and fun to wear. In fact, we're about to have a cool spell, so I'll be wearing mine over the next couple of days. I know it's summer, but this is Canada, right?
If you already have a copy of Wheatsheaves, you'll be receiving an invitation to download the new version. If you haven't purchased this pattern before, you can find it here.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


Layering is a design concept I love, although never having studied design, I have no idea if it actually exists as a formal principle. What I am referring to is the idea of starting with a main design feature and then adding smaller details that make for a richer whole.
I read a lot about gardening (I'm a fan of Marjorie Harris), and it's clear that the best garden designs rely on this approach.
I see it in architecture too. I happen to live in a neighbourhood that has a dense and well-preserved stock of structures reflecting 200 years of habitation (old for North America). While out for a walk a couple of days ago, I caught the evening sun highlighting some details not normally noticeable on a brick Victorian home. Usually when I pass by this house, I only notice is its turret and little balcony.

With the slanted rays of the evening sun casting a golden glow on the warm red brick, suddenly the background details were more visible. The richness of detail is staggering.

So, how does this relate to the world of knitting design? Brookline is a good example. At first
glance, what catches the eye is the overall silhouette, with its flared shape and gentle ruffles. 


Now go in for a closer look, and the texture of the knot stitch becomes more apparent, especially in this version done in 100% merino Lanett Babyull.

Now zoom in to see something noticeable only very close up--the little knots on the forearms.

The same sort of thing is going on in "Buttonbox" with its little french knots strategically placed on the pockets and centre back. 


This is what makes knitting and knit designing (not to mention knit wearing) so full of pleasure. It's what makes a garment (or a garden, or a house) worth looking at again and again, because it seems there is always something more to discover. 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Wine and Wool in the County

"The County", in this case, refers to Prince Edward County, that rural almost-island slice of paradise that juts out into Lake Ontario mid-way between Toronto and Kingston. For those of you who've never been there, it's a mecca for wine lovers and foodies, cyclists and birders. The limestone soils have encouraged the development of numerous vineyards, and the white sand dunes of Sandbanks Provincial Park make for some of the best beaches in Canada. I'm fortunate to live only 40 minutes away (depending on how I time my arrival at the Glenora Ferry) from Picton, the hub of the County. And it's only about a 10 minute drive from there to Jackson's Falls Country Inn, the site of our fall knitters' retreat. The flyers are done,

the website is up and running. Check out the classes, and visit Robin's website to learn more if you don't know about her already. Space is limited, so sign up early. I hope you'll join us for a fabulous weekend in a picturesque setting.

Friday, July 4, 2014

The Cable Cast-On (With a Wrinkle)

The cable cast-on was the second cast-on I learnt as a young person, right after the knitted cast-on. I think, but don't know for sure, that it is more commonly taught by those who knit in the English tradition. I say that having been taught it from family members with close connections to England. I think it goes along with being taught to hold my needles underhanded, like a pencil. Feel free to set me straight if I'm wrong.
I don't use the cable cast-on much any more. I find that it lacks stretch, and is slow to work compared to the long-tail cast-on, which is far more versatile. That said, it has its uses and one of the best of those is for casting on to the end of a row of work-in-progress. If only a few stitches are needed, I'll simply cast them on by the backward loop method, but if more than a few are needed, as for a front or back neck in a top-down design, then the cable cast-on is the way to go.
Here's how. Start by inserting the RH needle between the last two stitches on the LH needle, like this.

Pull a stitch through the gap, working this first stitch rather close to the points of the needles to close up any possible gap in the space you're working into.

Pull the loop through and place it onto the LH needle from the bottom up, as if to knit, like this,

NOT from the top down, as if to purl, like this.

Now, place the needle between the stitch just made and the one before and continue as above, with the caveat that you don't need (or want) to work as snugly as you did for the first stitch.

Here's the wrinkle. After you pull the loop through for your last stitch, but before you put it on the needle, bring the yarn to the front, then put the last stitch onto the LH needle. 

See how doing this last manoeuvre keeps that last stitch properly oriented?

This is what the cast-on edge will look like,

and it's just perfect for picking up stitches along a neckline.
However, before you do that, have a close look at the "cable". Notice that it has an upper loop and a lower loop.

Make sure you do your picking up into the lower loop, like this,

otherwise you'll end up with a line of purl bumps below your newly picked up stitches, instead of this nice clean line.

Ta da!
P.S. I apologize for the low light in the last three photos; they were taken very early in the morning. I think, though, that you can still see what's going on.