Monthly Archives: May 2009

Hey look, I found knitters

It’s been an odd week. I’ve been getting over annoying allergies (plugged nose then irritated throat leading to cough spasms…mercifully clearing up now), working on miscellaneous thing, feeling ambivalent about my knitting (better now that I’ve finished a pair of socks and can move on to something new), spent the last couple of days in Ottawa and am now back in Toronto for a week, with some friendly kitty cats once again.

In trying to get a booking into the campus residences for the conference (a rather big one) and receiving no word whatsoever and despairing about shelling out for an overpriced downtown hotel, I sent a distress call to my friend Kelly who is now in St. John’s but did her degree at Carleton and I was hoping still had friends in the area of downtown Ottawa, who then connected me with Nancy, who is an awesome knitter and as it turns out is also friends with Lisa, whose Toronto house I am now staying in for the week. Dig that, huh? Knitters with the ‘small world’ award.

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So I arrived in Ottawa on Thursday, got myself all registered and conferenced-up, and got back to Nancy’s for dinner and a pretty great knitter’s night. She had put out the Batsignal to her local knitting friends and we had a fun night of knitting and chatter. Of course, I was too busy relaxing to remember to take pictures, but I did snag this nice one of Nancy and Linda post-conference on Saturday. They took me to the pub before sending me back on the train to Toronto and we knitted over beers, like you do.

They even came to watch my presentation, which was the nicest moral support. (I talked about knitting in public…first steps and figuring out if I can write a paper on this – hooray for knitting life and real life co-existing). But at the conference book fair I also encountered Jo, who was hosting a booth for her research support company, and wearing a pretty kick-ass Peacock Feathers Shawl.

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(Note to self: knit this shawl. Note to all booth holders at conferences: wear knitted things to attract visitors). So let that be an awesome reminder of the fact that knitters are indeed everywhere, and are quite successfully making the world better one step at a time.

And just a reminder to anyone who might be interested – the TTC Knitalong is this coming Saturday June 6th, in Toronto, and there is still room on the West and North teams. Register today and come on out and join us for a day of travelling the city and knitting together.

Guess it’s time to get a new week started yes? Time to get knitting.

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Phew

I’ve got enough superstition in me that I hesitated to post this logo on my sidebar, until now.

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I am going. I am registered. Bring on the sock knitting insanity. BRING ON THE MARKETPLACE. Bring on Portland in August! I am going and so is my Rhinebeck partner in crime Rebecca, and we are filled with much glee.

Today unleashed the insane frenzy known as “Sock Summit Registration”. I have the feeling that Stephanie and Tina are holding on by the hair of their chinny chin chins right about now, as the process of thousands of knitters trying to log on and register simultaneously was predictably chaotic! Heck, I’m feeling a bit shaky right now after waiting out the server timeouts and patiently clicking and waiting, so I can only imagine what the organizers are going through. I know there are many out there with a few sorrows right now at having missed their desired classes as things filled up at lightning speed, but I hope that once the dust settles things will move forward with all the joy and anticipation that goes along with such an enormous event as this one is sure to be. I have nothing but sympathy for those who didn’t get the classes they wanted, and can only imagine the heartbreak of wanting to attend this event and being disappointed.

Serious, serious props (and cake and beer and chocolate and maybe some poutine) go out to Stephanie and Tina and all of their team-members for their organizational efforts with this – I know they have been in for a world of stress getting this off the ground and that it is taking the energy of many committee members to operate the Sock Summit. I have never ever attended a convention that had this many people salivating at the registration opening quite like this. It is a testament, yet again, to what happens when the passion of knitters is released en masse!

What will I be taking? Well, I am pleased to have gotten two of my first choices – Beaded Cables with Sivia Harding, and Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Wearable Art Stockings with Meg Swansen. I also managed to get Paint Your Toes (stranded colourwork) and Arch-Shaped Socks (also with Meg). It looks like I am in for a whole lot of colour-work sock knitting (hands up, anyone who’s surprised), and I am thrilled to be learning more about beaded knitting from one of the bonafide experts in the field.

Now, is it too soon to start my Sock Summit homework? Hmm…

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New Pathways

Yesterday I made good use of my current schedule-less schedule to head into Toronto for Cat Bordhi’s class at Lettuce Knit. She is slotted to teach at the Sock Summit and her full-day ‘New Pathways’ class based on her sock architectures book is one of the ones I was anxious to take. So, when Lettuce Knit announced Cat was making an appearance around here this week, I took the opportunity to make sure I’d experience her class – and now I have one less class to try to book myself into at the Sock Summit!

I recall last summer sitting at a knitting night at the Purple Purl and one of the ladies there was struggling with a sock, so I helpfully offered to have a look at the pattern for her. It was Cat’s New Pathways for Sock Knitters book, and I quickly realized that this involved knowledge I did not possess. I became certain that I would need to learn about this some day, and this week, some day arrived.

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Cat is an extremely energetic and patient teacher, and one gets the sense that she is a person who thinks about knitting constantly, creatively, enthusiastically, and is able to respect and appreciate mainstream or traditional methods while simultaneously breezing past them in about five different ways before lunch. This was a big motivation for me in taking her class, because I’ve gotten pretty comfortable in my current sock knitting methods and I would be disappointed to get so comfortable in my ways that knowledge becomes a barrier more than a support. I’m ready to expand my knitting brain a bit further, and I want to knit some of Cat’s awesome socks. And Cat will definitely lay some knowledge on you.

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Her class took us through the basic approaches to the socks in her book, and things like the heel-turning, cast-on methods, and overall theory of sock construction that she relies on. There was more than one moment of “Ohhhhhhhhh” throughout the day, as we practiced on making teeny tiny little socks. Keri was quite taken with hers – SO CUTE, right?

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Each sock demonstrates a key architecture from her book. I completed one during the class, started a second on the bus ride home, and when I got back I cooked dinner as fast as I possibly could (because don’t you hate it when meeting physical needs like hunger gets in the way of your knitting time), so that I could finish the second and then decide on a ‘real’ sock to start in on from the book.

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Much of what Cat does relies on thinking mathematically in a way that frees you. Take these two wee toe-up socks, for example. They may look slightly different, but mathematically they are virtually identical. They are the same size, same gauge, have the same toe, same heel, and have the exact same # of stitches, round for round. The only difference is the location of the increases over the arch of the foot. And would you get this? According to Cat, you can put them anywhere. No really, anywhere. As long as you increase 2 sts every 3 rows, between finishing the toe and starting the heel, you are good to go. It is mind-blowingly true. And her book demonstrates several different different architectures based on this truth.

And so, I have begun a Real Sock after my bit of training yesterday – am trying out the Bartholomew’s Tantalizing Sock first, but I think I could have started with any of them. I am looking forward to seeing it take shape.

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I’m also on cat-sitting duty this week, chez Beatrice, Ramona, and Halley, and wouldn’t you know it Cat’s socks are actually fully cat-approved.

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Now if I can just figure out how knitting these socks will help me write my conference paper I need to do for next week, I’ll be golden. What do you think the chances of that are?

Catch you later as the adventures continue. Keep your knitting close by!

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Four months later

Back in January, as I embarked on the busiest and arguably my most stressful semester thus far, I started a pair of Sanquhar gloves. Because naturally, when you have lots of stress, the best response is to add a comparable amount of stress to your knitting. As it happens, I got about 75% through them in January but then set them aside for more portable projects, and they sat long enough by the wayside that I became worried they would enter the eternally despondent land of Unfinished Objects, never again to return to the friendly grove of Works in Progress.

Thankfully, this was not their fate. I picked them up again last week and finished the rest of the second glove, and lo, they are beautiful.

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Pattern: Sanquhar Gloves, instructions by Tata & Tatao, largely composed of a set of charts and a few English translations from Japanese. (You have got to love the modern knitting world wherein a centuries-old traditional Scottish knitted garment is re-interpreted through pattern instructions in Japanese, then re-fashioned into English translation.
Yarn: A Touch of Twist light fingering weight (270yds per 50g), in dark purple and pale teal, purchased at Rhinebeck 2008.
Needles: 2.0mm steel DPNs.

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The pattern actually directs you to use laceweight and 1.5mm needles – and don’t get me wrong I’d still love to try that – but this would have resulted in gloves too small for my own hands, and in any case I was looking for an excuse to use this bit of my Rhinebeck purchases. (I still have 2 balls of the same yarn remaining, in a pale purple and dark red. Hmmm). Overall it worked quite well, though somewhere between January and May I must have had a gauge shift, because the fingers on the 2nd glove turned out slightly bigger than the first. Happily, this is not very noticeable when they are worn, and in general the pair fit, well, like a glove. (Ho ho ho, I kill me).

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This is, to say the least, an adventurous pattern. One of the main challenges is that because the instructions are English translations from Japanese, they are relatively sparse. However, the charts are quite clear, and the Sanquhar knitting format leaves little room for maneuverability, which is good for interpretation – the ‘blocks’ format of the motif are all the same size and as long as you can keep this consistent, and work at a gauge that will produce a glove of the correct size for you, the pattern will work. Although this is my first time knitting colourwork at such a tiny gauge, once you get the hang of it it is easy to develop a sort of rhythm to it, as is often the case with stranded colourwork.

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The only thing I didn’t quite do properly were the finger gussets – I fully admit that I pretty well fudged those. I would like to try another pair of these sometime in order to give it my 100% and do better. But you know? These still kick ass. I’ll take ‘em. The overall result is an incredibly intricate, light yet warm pair of gloves that nobody else on Earth has. I am actually debating whether to put them into regular Winter rotation come November – they are gorgeous and I would love to show them off, but on the other hand I don’t think I would recover if I lost one, or both.

Thankfully I have the summer to ponder that. Onwards, yes? Yes.

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Filed under accessories, fair isle, fearless knitting, finished object: accessories

TTC Knitalong: 2009

I was going to post today about another FO I managed to reel in this week (long-forgotten Sanqhuar gloves, anyone), but that will have to wait. It is far more important to announce the return of a fantastic Toronto knitting event – the TTC Knitalong! Registration is now open, so visit the TTC Knitalong blog for details. This will take place on Saturday, June 6th, now less than a month away!

The purpose of the event is simple: to gather as knitters, make our craft more visible, and have a great day while doing it. And, oh yes – to buy yarn! There will be 3 ‘teams’, in the West, North, and East, and all participants must register with a specific team. There will be limits on team size (sadly there is a maximum of how many knitters can cram into a single wee yarn shop – or streetcar – at once), so register early to select your team and avoid disappointment. If necessary, teams may be split into smaller, staggered groups to accommodate more participants.

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The cost of the event is $10, which includes access to a few discounts available from the yarn shops participating in the Knitalong, a chance to win prizes throughout the day, as well as a donation to Sistering which is the charity of choice for this event.

I will be volunteering for this event on (I think) the East Team, but all 3 Teams will take you to a variety of yarn shops and include plenty of friendly knitters from across the Toronto area. If you’ve never done a ‘yarn crawl’ before, this is definitely a good way to do it! If you’re from the Toronto area or are considering visiting for a day to schedule in some yarn time, definitely consider registering for the TTC Knitalong. Fun times are sure to be had.

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See you on June 6th!

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Book Review: Knitting and Tea

I’ve been remiss in getting back to the book reviews the past few weeks, but now that I’ve gone through a period of post-term sloth, it’s time to get back to the writing and the thoughts-thinking, and what better way to ease into that than with a book review? This one has been on my desk for a month or so, and is a recent publication called Knitting and Tea, by Jane Gottelier:

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On the surface this would appear to be a collection of knitting patterns inspired by the world of tea, but it actually strikes a decent balance between both halves of the title. It does contain knitting patterns inspired by the world of tea, but also includes a great deal of attention to tea itself, including brief notes on how it is processed, different locations where it is planted, and particular attention to cultural events or sites focussed around tea – cricket matches, afternoon tea, or even more workaday ‘builder’s tea’. All of these provide chapter divisions between patterns, but also a small series of recipes. I’m quite interested to try the cake-like Bakewell Tart, as one example.

The knitting patterns themselves are diverse, and include a variety of techniques and skill levels. Sweaters are definitely in the majority, but there are several accessories including a scarf, capelet, hat, pillow, knee-socks, and – as would be expected in a book like this – several different kinds of tea cosies. Here are some relatively lo-tech images to illustrate.

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The ‘builder’s tea’ chapter offers several casual knits, including this ‘biker’s’ scarf and a-symmetrical cardigan jacket. I would make either of these, although I might adjust the cardigan as a plain front. The men’s sweater above is a beautiful cabled piece, and I might actually be inclined to adjust it to a women’s pullover – but I admit to wondering if this piece would actually appeal to a broad number of men. My sense with male knits is that cables are best used in a more modest fashion, but I’m very happy to be proven wrong.

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These two sweaters above present me with similar questions – I like the women’s Somerset Cable sweater, but find the back more attractive than the front which includes an extremely bulky cable in the centre. I would knit this with the back piece adjusted for the front as well. The men’s Cricket Cardigan is definitely reminiscent of the pale-coloured layers worn by men on cricket fields, and I commend the design. Again, though, I wonder at its versatility, similar to the builder’s pullover above.

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This Flowerdew camisole is, I think, one of the strongest pieces in this collection. It is feminine, delicate, and includes delicate stitches, beads and YO frills around the edges, and a lacy hem. It is knit in fingering weight and I am imagining the decadence of making this in a merino-silk or merino-cashmere blend. Another strong piece is the Garden Jacket (below), worked in a DK blend from Rowan that could be easily substituted with the DK blend of your preference.

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And tea cosies? Well, we’ve got your tea cosies right here. There are sparkly ones, pom pom ones, a tea-cosy made to look like a cupcake and another with tassels on top. These, like some other patterns in the book, will be entirely up to individual knitter style preferences. I would recommend a nice browse through this book before deciding whether to purchase, but overall there is a broad range of patterns here, an intriguing theme, and delicious recipes as a bonus.

The only thing that leaves me less enthusiastic about this book is the way the models are used to showcase the garments. According to theme, the chapters are organized according to the location of tea consumption or tea production, which affords 2 chapters in India and ‘Ceylon’ (now Sri Lanka), and several more located in the imaginative space of the United Kingdom or elsewhere in Europe. It is clear that the models have been chosen for each of these chapters with the same kind of visual homogeneity in mind – chapters ‘set’ in England use models are pale-skinned, and often pale-haired, and chapters ‘set’ in India use models with darker skin likely of South Asian ethnicities. The two sets of models do not overlap in either set of ‘locations’.

This leaves me wondering how appropriate this is to visually represent people according to the sites of colonial history in this way. On the one hand, the history of tea is a colonial one, which includes a hefty share of power imbalance and trading relationships across the British Empire. On the other hand, how does it help us to so casually reinforce the assumption that people’s skin colour must always locate them in a specific part of the world? Particularly when such assumptions are more and more difficult to hold, in our present day world. I wonder if the Gotteliers considered such questions in their process of producing this book.

If you’ve had a chance to look at this book I’d be pleased to know your thoughts as well. As a collection of knitting patterns alone, this is worth looking at, but in many ways leaves me uncertain if such a theme would have been better approached with different organization.

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An interruption

So, as it turns out, knitting half of a fingering-weight fair isle sweater in 10 days will give you a bit of burnout. (Hands up, everyone who’s surprised). By Tuesday morning as I was rounding the final stretch of the first sleeve, my just-one-more-row-itis was waning and my arms said O hai there we are sore so I had to pause on Autumn Rose for a few days. In the meantime I have had a fair amount of thought space freed up for twitchy self-doubt such as

a) what if, despite swatching efforts, gauge is wrong and it is turning out too snug;

b) what if, despite swatching efforts, colours are all wrong and that clover green shade is too electric to be used as the main shade, or

c) what if I maybe should not have tried to knit half a fingering-weight fair isle sweater in 10 days.

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Since I tend to get over bouts of knitting ennui best by working through unfinished projects, I decided to just push through and finish up the Gentleman’s Fancy Socks which have been on my needles for over a month – mostly due to infrequency of knitting.

The pattern is a definitely an attractive and versatile one, and I can see why it is so popular. I would like to knit them again, although with this particular pair I think the gauge turned out more snug than I would like – possibly due to either the nickel-plated 2.0mm DPNs or the thin Schaefer Anne yarn, or some combination of the two. I ended up with enough horizontal stretch on the foot that I needed to add length before starting the toe – lots of yardage on the Schaefer Anne, so no worries there, it was more a matter of time and mental effort to get these suckers done.

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I like this yarn and would knit with it again, but will definitely go up at least one needle size, possibly two. There’s enough nylon and mohair in this stuff to make it pretty sturdy on its own, so I think it can handle a slightly drapey gauge. I’m going to look out for it again, possibly for another pair of these same socks.

This makes the 6th pair of finished socks so far for 2009 and dang I’d like to see that number get higher in a hurry. I need to finish at least 4 more before the Sock Summit in order to reach my goal of more finished socks going “out” than my sock yarn purchases coming “in”. I’m also glad to finish these off by this week since next Tuesday I am signed up to take Cat Bordhi’s class at Lettuce Knit in Toronto, and I’m sure that’ll stretch my sock knitting brain in a few new directions.

Now…time to get back to the Autumn Rose for round 2. We’ll see how the pacing goes. Happy Knitting on this Sunday! And Happy Mother’s Day to those out there with kidlets.

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Just one more row

I can stop any time I want.

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Maybe.

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