Monthly Archives: August 2008

More with the photos

I couldn’t resist posting just a couple more shots from the Nova Scotia trip. Re-entry after a vacation is always a bit hard. I hope your Friday and your long weekend (if you have one) are both great. May your knitting be close by!

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Jiggity jig

Home again, home again, and other than general travel-weariness, the sensation that I may have eaten at half of Halifax’s eateries in the last 4 days, and mild wonderment over whether the overpriced takeout pizza I am now waiting for is actually a good idea (though the house is currently devoid of people and food, so one has to forage somehow), I’m doing pretty well. Tonight’s going to be some sitting and pondering of knitting present and possible futures, especially in light of purchases this week.

Halifax and its environs are, I feel, doing pretty well in the yarn area of life. My first yarnish stop was at Have A Yarn in Mahone Bay, after visiting Lunenburg earlier in the day. It may well earn the reputation of “most twee signage ever” (and I mean that in a good way):

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It’s doing pretty well on the inside, too. You’ll find more Fleece Artist/Handmaiden products than you could possibly want, along with an array of sock yarns, worsteds, and so on. I walked out with some dark purple heather sheepy wool (I cannot resist the sheepy wool) from Lismore Sheep Farm and was well pleased.

In Halifax proper, I waited until Wednesday to visit two shops with my friend Jenn while her husband was busy in a meeting, and this worked out pretty well since Wednesday ended up being the rainiest day of my visit. We went first to LK Yarns, which is the one Jenn has used in the past and enjoys, and I have to say I am inclined to agree. For a small space they pack a solid selection of yarns and have a good balance of traditional faves (oh that wall of Briggs & Little sheepswool, you were lovely but I stayed away), to contemporary trends (they also now have the Malabrigo sock yarn, along with lots of other good things).

Jenn chose a pair of skeins of sock yarn for her first shawl project, and the decision-making process was hard in the good kind of way.

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The lion’s share of those brightly coloured skeins are a superwash/nylon hand-dyed sock yarn from Tanis Fiber Arts, a fairly recent-on-the-scene Canadian indie-dyer who was new to me and whose colours are fantastic. Here at LK Yarns I purchased a shawl’s worth of my own, which turned out to be just the right colour match to some begonias in the Halifax Public Gardens….

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I feel no shame in admitting I picked up another couple of skeins of this (they are gifts, GIFTS I tells ya) at our final stop at Loop Craft Cafe, in the downtown area.

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They’re a small but friendly shop, with a precision selection that I feel complements LK Yarns pretty well. I liked looking through the patterns and chose one to bring home as well. All in all there were some good finds to be had.

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Afterwards we sat across the street and chilled for a bit at ‘Just Us’ cafe, where my 2nd sock of the pair got a few more rows in. I cast off that sock on the flight home today, in possibly a record-breaking sock-finishing speed even for me. I’ll catch up in a later post with more details and some FO pics for that and the Jaywalkers I finished on the flight down.

For now, though, food and clutching yarn will do me fine. I hope all’s well in your part of the world!

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Good times

Natives of the east coast will be pleased to know that so far Halifax is treating me well. My friends are being the best possible hosts ever, my knitting is cooperating (I did indeed take the Jaywalkers along and cast off on the plane, able to then cast on a new pair of socks lickety split), and we got in a good piece of key Nova Scotia tourism yesterday while the sun shone. (Tuesday calls for rain, but from what I gather weather reports don’t necessarily actually mean anything. Think good thoughts.)

Me and my new sock took in Lunenburg and the Bluenose II (thankfully still in harbour):

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(Then, just like a knitter, the Bluenose II cast off. Yuk yuk yuk…)

And after a longish jaunt and much more car-knitting time, made it over to Peggy’s Cove. The sock and I were both extremely impressed:

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Then we came back and had fish & chips and a pint at the Henry House. And lo, it was good.

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There was 1 yarn store stop in there too, but I’ll save those for later reporting as I’m sure there will be yet more. Today was some good shopping and browsing and wandering around downtown, and I still have 2 more days for further delights.

I hope your knitting is going well, wherever you are are at.

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Almost

In my head, I was going to have these two things finished by now.

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This Hourglass Pullover and these Jaywalker socks were going to be done. Done, done, done. I was right now (or any moment, any single moment now) going to be experiencing the glee of casting on a new project at whatever my whim. In a few hours I hop on a plane to Halifax to visit longtime friends from my MA years, and there is nothing like a bit of travelling to make you want to wipe the WIP slate clean and have something fresh.

Sadly, the Hourglass is stalled halfway through the yoke and the Jaywalkers are still missing an inch and the toe of the 2nd sock. I may yet take the socks with me to try and finish on the way, so that’s something. This does put a wrinkle in what to bring with me, so I may just go with another sock project as backup, but then a new sweater’s sleeve would be ever so easy to start on…

Of course, it’s not as though I’ll be going into a yarn vacuum – I hear they have yarn in Halifax. Quite a lot of it, actually, and as one of said friends is a knitter, you can bet I’ll be visiting some of that yarn as well. Just a matter of time. Oh, the horrible dilemmas of the travelling knitter. If this is my worst decision-making experience of the whole trip, I’ll take it! (Note to universe: this is not an invitation to delay my flight/rain every day I am there/sprain my knitting muscles/other horrors…just sayin’.)

Catch you on the flip side! May your WIPs be done soon and your stash be enticing.

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Book Review: Tweed

There are times when I get books for review and can’t wait to tell you about them. A Fine Fleece and The Knitter’s Book of Yarn are a couple of recent examples of this. Not only did I drool over them as I flipped through the pages but they are two books that still take up occasional residence on my nightstand for project planning and stash shopping.

And then there are other times when I get a book and am so mystified as to what to write about it, that it just sits there on my desk for months as I endlessly say “I’ll get to that review next week.” Tweed is one of these books. I’ll admit that this isn’t my favourite knitting book I’ve received, but the thing is it does have a few strong points, and it deserves to be written about just like any other book that comes across my desk.

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I’m going to start out with what I think are this book’s flaws, because I think they are fairly significant and hard to ignore. The first is that the patterns are, essentially, a big enormous advertisement for Takhi/Stacy Charles Yarns. All of the projects use yarns by this company, most predominantly Takhi Donegal Tweed and Takhi Soho Tweed. Now, these are lovely yarns to be sure, and I know it’s not uncommon for books to favour certain yarn purveyors in a single collection. But in this case the book promises its scope to be about tweed yarns, which don’t belong to one single company. It’s true that Donegal tweed carries much of the historical legacy of tweed, but many yarns now achieve or imitate the tweed effect, and it would be refreshing to be able to compare the different looks of different yarn companies’ versions of tweed. Heck, when even priced-to-own labels like Patons, Elann, and Knit Picks now all offer tweed versions of their popular yarns, it’s safe to say that tweed is no longer the domain of one company. There’s a big missed opportunity here to compare and contrast.

My second gripe with this book is the way it uses tweed yarns in combination with each other, specifically the way the patterns combine different colours. Maybe I’m missing something, and if these are patterns y’all would make happily then please correct me if I’m wrong – but something’s not working for me in a few of these samples:

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Folks, I just don’t know about these. With this many colours used in combination in a single piece, how is it possible to still celebrate the tweedy qualities of any single one? It seems to me that in a piece like the Hebrides Sampler Throw (middle), a more muted colour range would do more to show off an individual yarn’s texture and stitch quality.

But the thing is, I just can’t deep-six this book altogether, in fact I think I’ll be passing it on to a friend of mine who is a relatively new knitter, and there are two big high points that explain why. The first is that the opening chapters really do provide a concise and interesting history of what ‘tweed’ really is – in both fabric and yarns. Did you know, for example, that the little colourful flecks are also called “nepps” or “burrs”? and that they were originally inspired by the bright colours found in the natural landscape, to provide contrast to the naturally gray, brown and off-white shades of the sheepswool? Call me a knitting geek, but that kind of information is sort of cool.

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Aside from a bit of knitting history, the book approaches knitting and working with yarn in general from a perspective that would be very useful for a new knitter. There are explanations of how to care for woolen yarns, how to felt, and how to substitute yarns. All of the projects make use of yarns which are worsted, aran, or bulky weight, which makes it pretty darned easy to find substitute yarns for the projects involved, in case your pocketbook or local selection can’t supply the prescribed Takhi collection.

My favourite knitting medium is sweaters, and there are few in here that I love. They are simple but interesting, modern enough to fit into your current wardrobe, and not too intimidating for someone new to cables. The Moss Cabled Cardigan and Scottish Isles Pullover are two examples:

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I also rather like the ‘Kilt Bag’ knitting bag pattern (above), which would be pretty useful as a project for small quantities of similarly weighted yarns.

So all in all I think this book comes down to personal preference – whether or not you like the patterns, and whether your tweed love is enough to make the history pieces worthwhile. For me, some of the patterns do have merit and practicality, and tend to include a wide range from 36-50″ bust size of the finished garments, which is a non-negligible plus. But I was disappointed not to see more variety of yarns in the samples, and for a book which promises to hold “contemporary designs to knit”, I’d like to call for a review of some of the more questionable ones, above. Contemporary does not automatically mean ‘colourful’.

This book has been on the market for a few months, so I’d be curious to hear from anyone else who has used it or read it.

What knitting books are on your bedside table right now?

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My yarnz, i show u them

Yarn makes everything better. Especially when it’s new Malabrigo Sock yarn that I didn’t expect to be in existence yet. The Purple Purl has once again separated me from more of my money, but how could a person say no in the face of this…

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It’s not all for me, admittedly, but it’s just so squishy and gorgeous and soft, and I hope it feels as good in sock form as it does in your hand. It’s 440 yds light fingering, superwash merino, and hopefully coming soon to a yarn shop near you.

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And now, I’m going to try to finish up this pesky bit of grading so that I can get on with my knitting and see what startitis I can indulge next. Happy weekend, and happy knitting to all!

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Oh those Halcyon days

And that’s a wrap, folks.

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Pattern: Halcyon, by Lisa Lloyd in the book ‘A Fine Fleece’.
Yarn: Briggs & Little Regal (light worsted), in ‘turquoise’, just under 6 skeins total. It’s a sheepy sheepy wool, so sheepy that you will regularly encounter bits of straw and grass, etc, but is a bang for your buck at $5-6 for 270 yards. Also, mmmmm, wool.
Needles: 5.0mm for the cables, 4.0mm for the ribbing. (I worked all the cables without a cable needle, which turned this into a surprisingly portable project as it is worked in pieces, and eventually the cables become memorizable).

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Cast-on/Cast-off: I started this in the end of April, which gives this about 3.5 months for the project, but that included several stints of on-again-off-again knitting and a re-start of the back piece to give it a bit of shaping.
Modifications: The only changes I made were to knit the 2nd smallest size to begin with on the back/front, then decrease after about 2 centre panel repeats to end up with the smallest size at the waist and bust. Other than that, I completed it exactly as written, and the instructions were clear.

This is a long sweater. I ended up with about an extra inch of length, which is fine for me because I’m 5’9″ and can handle a bit of extra length (I often count on a slightly looser row gauge as a built-in lengthening modification on sweaters that would normally be meant for a shorter frame). However, if you’re significantly shorter than me then even the intended length of 26.5″ might be longer than what you want. My recommendation is to measure yourself, measure your gauge, and adjust accordingly by omitting a few rows at the beginning. (I rather like the way the cable ends at the collar).

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Although the fit is generally good, I think my blocking may have been a bit too aggressive and for the next go I’ll probably try to get a smidge less ease. Any way you slice it though, this is a comfort aran and meant for wrapping you up on cool days. I’m happy with it now but probably won’t fully appreciate it until November.

While I did take a few months to work on this and probably could have done it in less time fairly easily, I’m glad in retrospect that I gave it those little vacation breaks now and then. Sometimes you want to knit cables for hours and hours and sometimes you don’t. I saw on Ravelry that someone has this on the books for their Olympic knitting project, and dude, all I can say is godspeed and may your cabling be swift.

I will, however, strike a pose, and celebrate a completed project well done.

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(Photo credits, as per usual, go to my lovely patient sister.)

Onwards!

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