Sunday, May 31, 2015

On Wool Winders

After a couple of days of all-out spindling (to get this urge out of my system!), I'm ready to ply. Here's half the braid of Malabrigo's Nube spun into singles, then wound into a double-strand centre-pull cake/ball on my Royal ball winder.

Now it's ready to be plied on a slightly larger spindle than I used for the original spinning. This is a good opportunity to say something about winders. My first wool winder was purchased in Washington, DC in the early 1990s. It was a Royal brand winder and cost a little less than US$25. I got it when I was embarking on my first Shetland wool project in the days when that product was still sold in skeins, not balls. At the time, I thought that winder was rather expensive, but necessary. It lasted 23 years. Less than a dollar a year! We were back here in Canada by the time it finally broke down. I called my LYS to see what it would cost to replace and with HST (our value-added tax) it turned out to be around CAD$75. Yikes. So I decided to cheap-out and try a Knitpicks winder. After all, I had (and still have) some Knitpicks products that I love, like sock needles and a lint shaver.
Turns out that decision fell under the old axiom of "penny-wise, pound-foolish". The Knitpicks ball winder was a struggle from the start. Unless I was very, very careful, the balls wouldn't wind properly. They would lose their shape, especially if the ball was on the larger side. I thought for a while that it might just be that I had a defective winder, but no, other knitters I knew had the same problem. As a spinner, I rely on my winder more than if I were merely a knitter. And, eventually I gave up the struggle. I chucked the Knitpicks winder into our plastics recycling bin, and bought a new expensive Royal. The two winders look almost the same, but the Royal is a reliable sturdy workhorse. It winds beautifully and effortlessly every time. Whew!
We are finally in the midst of high spring--vines back in leaf, pots of herbs on the front steps,

the world a warm (at least most of the time) and green place. Think I'll mix up some bread dough (this recipe) to rise while I finish up the plying.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Going in Circles

Sometimes all you want to do is spin. I'm listening to C.S. Harris's "When Gods Die" and spindling away with Malabrigo's "Nube". I don't speak Spanish, but I read on Ravelry that the name means "cloud".

Not one hundred percent sure what this will become, but I have my eyes on something like this.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Fibonacci is Free!

Celebrate the start of summer knitting with my Fibonacci Scarf. It's that time of year when you might not feel like lugging around a heavy wool sweater, so why not choose a fun sock yarn and try this easy scarf. It's perfect travel knitting, with most of the knitting doable on auto-pilot. Turn it into a shawl by using a sport weight and/or knitting an extra garter stitch stripe. Gauge doesn't really matter in this sort of knitting. Relax!



Click here to see more Fibonacci scarves and here to download. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Churchill Was Right

Winston Churchill apparently said, "Creativity is the ability to move from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm". (My source is Sally Melville, in her fabulously creative book, "The Knit Stitch".) I've been having a very creative day, moving from one failed attempt to another in an effort to make knit stitches flow in various directions without interruption. It seems quite ridiculous that I should find the problem so engrossing. Some would say I ought to be devoting this problem-solving energy to more weighty matters. However, I've had a most satisfying day and I'm happy to report that the problem has been solved and duly recorded in pencil in my Hilroy Notebook #9. (No sense in coming up with brilliant solutions if you don't keep track of what you did.)
The inspiration for my new garment comes from several sources. First, Sally Melville's above-mentioned book. If you're into garter stitch (and you really ought to be), this is one of the great must-have knitting books. It advertises itself as "a learn-to-knit book that's not just for beginners", and that's so right. I'd been knitting for almost 40 years when this book appeared and I learned A LOT from it. One of the later chapters presents a bunch of garments all based on garter slip stitch. I made the ladies' crop pullover years ago when the book was new and fell in love with the drapey no-purl stitch pattern. Now that I'm into making my own designs, I'm re-visiting it with some twists and turns of my own. Below you see the swatch I knitted and ripped and knitted again and ripped, over and over all day. Here it is in some leftover Lark,

and here's a closeup of the same stitch in Rowan's Felted Tweed Aran.

I played with buttonholes, short row shaping, waist shaping, and armhole decreasing, all within the confines of pure garter stitch. You've got to love a stitch pattern with no purl stitches to slow you down!
My second source of inspiration for this garment is Brooklyn Tweed's simple men's scarf, Dunaway. Looks similar to Sally's slip stitch, except it's reversible, with purl stitches making that possible. A wonderful man's scarf, if ever there was one.
My third and final source of inspiration for my new garment is Purl Soho's cardigan with garter stitch yoke. Check out that high collar with buttons. Yum.
What do all three of these design sources have in common? Garter stitch and simple, clean lines. I'm going to keep the nature of my new garment a mystery for now, but you can be guaranteed that it will have a clean, flattering, shaped fit, lots of garter stitch, and a sophisticated, yet rustic feel. See you in a bit...

Sunday, May 10, 2015

On Mother's' Day

You'd think that on Mother's Day a mother could count on a little cooperation, even a smile or two, but no, it seems that modelling a sweater might be too heavy a burden for my new computer science grad. Never were so many sad, bored, and/or sullen faces made in the course of trying to get a few decent photos of a new sweater. The background was perfect...

The sweater was perfect...

The picots were perfect...

Heck, even the buttons were perfect...

But sadly, the model was not in the mood.

This was the happiest moment of the shoot, 

at least until I called it quits.

Happy Mother's Day!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Turning the Page...

I'm about to lose my model. Isabel has finished her degree in computing at Queen's and in a couple of weeks she'll be leaving for a summer internship (her second year at the same company) in Silicon Valley, followed by grad school. Although she'll return home for brief stints, she'll likely never again live with us. I took her and James out for a last lunch at Chez Piggy, where we learned that in a quirk of timing, Isabel's favourite sandwich (grilled aged cheddar on olive bread, with carrot salad on the side) is leaving the menu on almost the same day as she is leaving town. So, here are Isabel and James on a sunny spring day in the courtyard in the old mews.

Now I have to rush to finish the lightweight cardigan I'm working on before Isabel hops on board her train to Toronto, then her flight from there to San Francisco. Today was the day of the big cut. Below you can see the yarn ends on the interior of the steek taped in place with masking tape. No point in weaving them in when they're about to be sewn in place. The tape does a nice job of keeping everything tidy during the sewing, which is done from the right side.

Next you can see the sewing lines from the inside. It's best to cut from the wrong side since the lines of contrasting thread show up so much better there. No need to worry about the contrasting colour showing. It'll get lost in the facing. After the cutting, I trimmed the yarn ends short.

And voila.

OK, I chickened out of all that pink. These soft blues and greens (three shades of the latter) are much more to my liking. I'm really pleased with the result. Now on to that picot border...