Monthly Archives: June 2009

Thumbs up for shawls

Yes, I think I will have to make more of these. Don’t tell my socks.

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Pattern: Swallowtail Shawl, by Evelyn Clark (issued in Interweave Knits 2006, and available for free here)
Needles: 3.5mm circular
Yarn: Sea Silk, from Handmaiden Fine Yarns. 1 skein did admirably for the lace-weight size, and I was left with about 11g of a 100g skein.
Cast on: June 18, 2009
Cast off: June 26, 2009
Size: After blocking, approximately 49″ wide and 22″ down the centre, slightly smaller than predicted dimensions for the lace-weight size.
Modifications: None.

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It is bee-you-tea-ful. The yarn is, of course, all manner of gorgeous (since it is mostly silk), and until I started this project it was one of my very few skeins of ‘precious yarns’, you know, those yarns that you neglect out of worry you won’t do right by them when you finally knit them up. I bought this skein at Lettuce Knit during the TTC Knitalong – and not the TTC Knitalong from earlier this month, no no, the last TTC Knitalong in 2007. So that’s two years’ worth of waiting to use this up, and I even had it wound up and bagged with the Swallowtail pattern since a year ago. No more. It is no longer yarn. It is a lovely shawl (or scarf, more like), and shiny and pretty and MINE.

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I would like to do a bigger version of this, in a proper drapey shawl that covers my arms. As many others have figured out by now, up-sizing this shawl requires a bit of thought and effort since the stitch count of the pattern repeats differs between the budding lace that you start with, and the lily-of-the-valley (featuring our dear friends the nupps) that finishes. If you increase the budding lace pattern by repeats of 5, it should work. I’d like to try this with a fingering weight version, perhaps adding 1 or 2 more repeats of the lily-of-the-valley as well.

You know, knitting is pretty great. It’s a good thing I do it a lot.

Knit some precious yarn today – you’ll be glad you did!

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Filed under finished object: shawl, lace

Just another Jaywalker

I’ve done me a fair number of Jaywalker socks in my time. It’s one of the few patterns I’ve done multiple times. (I could tell you about that winter I knitted five Harry Potter scarves as gifts. Oie.) It works for me because when I take it with me on transit or travel, the monotony of the 2-row repeat is just soothing enough to chill me out but easy enough that my brain can still think thoughts if it wants to. Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock has become my yarn of choice for the Jaywalkers since it’s lightweight enough to work on the 84-sts size I need (keep in mind that this pattern biases quite a bit), the yardage goes for days (did I mention I have Size 11 feet?) and the colourway options are just about endless. This is LL Jaywalker pair #5 for me, which puts me 2 pairs away from one for every day of the week.

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I made this pair in the recently-released ‘Rockwell’ colourway, which allows me to cling to favourite shades of blue and purple while stepping a toe in the less familiar orange and olive directions. Perfect. Just another pair of Jaywalkers, yes? Well, take a look at what happens once we get to the feet:

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I generally expect a bit of pooling on the feet since the stockinette soles change things up a bit, and I decrease a few extra stitches on the gussets to make things snug, and that changes the stitch count between leg and foot…But dudes, I have never had pooling quite like this. Check out that sock on the right. Completely blue/purple on the top…

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And totally orange/green on the bottom. Wild. I can’t get mad at it. I mean, not only did the yarn pool so neatly but it had the courtesy to leave my favourite 2 shades of the 4 on the most visible portion of the sock. Thanks, Rockwell colourway. We can be buds.

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And now, I get to start new socks. That’s the best part of finishing socks, am I right?

Happy knitting!

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Still with the Silk Garden

Some time in the recent past something went wonky with my So Simple Silk Garden sock pattern PDF on this site, and it has taken me far too long to correct it. In any event, if you are looking for the pattern, all free download links have been updated to reflect a new file address, so check here and you should be able to find it: So Simple Silk Garden

It is also available still as a free Ravelry download, so if you’re ever in a spot and need the pattern right away in a pinch (I don’t know when that situation might happen, but you just never know), you can always check there. Come to think of it, I have been meaning to do another pair of these myself, and that would certainly clear another skein of sock yarn out of my stash, pre-Sock Summit. Hmmm.

In other news, I’ll be back again soon to report on exciting adventures in pooling. It’s never a dull moment here at Knitting to Stay Sane! Film at 11!

Happy knitting today.

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Needs more shawls

As delightful blogger Cyn so fantastically summed up in her post yesterday, “if you’re not knitting a triangular shawl right now, YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG.” Well, nyah-nyahs to me, because I am doing it right. I am knitting a triangular shawl right now, and in fact it is on the homeward stretch of being finished.

What shawl, you might wonder? Well ladies and germs, it is the ubiquitous Swallowtail Shawl by Evelyn Clark. I think that just about everyone in knitting land has made this shawl. In fact, even if you haven’t made it, I think you should double-check because you may have actually made it when you weren’t looking. There are over 4,400 of these babies on Ravelry and I can see why. It is lovely.

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Well, that it is, it is lovely until you get to that first round of the freakin’ nupps. Increase 4 sts into 1 st? No problemo. Then on the next round, p5tog into that same stitch? Pah, no problemo….sort of. After those first 2 rows completing the first set of nupps, I was considering how I would feel tossing it out the window and letting the birds carry it off for their nests, that is how agonizing the first set of nupps was. I immediately grasped the rationale behind so many knitters’ decisions to replace those nupps with beads.

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But then, it got easier. The next set was better, and then the next set after that was better, and now I feel comfortable saying “I have nupped.” The thing that is worrying me now, interestingly enough, is the quantity of yarn. I still have what feels like a hefty quantity of the Handmaiden Sea Silk left (delicious, but also tres chere), and I would hate to have a huge amount of leftovers. (Mind you, I would also hate to run out. Please knitting karma, please be gentle).

In any event, I should discover the answer soon enough, because I am now on to the 2nd lily-of-the-valley repeat and then have the border edges to go. And then, a 2nd triangular shawl of the season will be mine. This may end up being the ‘Summer of Shawls’ that I wanted last year to be, and wouldn’t that be exciting?

Needs more shawls.

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Filed under lace, shawls

There and back again

I’m back now from Halifax, and let me tell you there is nothing like a bit of travel to remind yourself about the big-ness of Canada. I left Halifax yesterday when it was gloomy and grey and rainy, and stepped off the plane in Hamilton into a sunny, cloudless, blazing hot summer. It seems June has finally arrived, despite my fervent hope that we were going to just stay at about 23 C forever and skip the hot humidity…this just means my knitting plans are going to have to drift a little more intensely towards the ‘small’, and dang that Autumn Rose pullover is going to need to get finished in a hurry before I start to dread the sensation of a heap of wool in my hands.

But I digress. I can report once again, that Halifax is a lovely spot for a knitter to spend time in. I found yarn shops, naturally – I believe LK Yarns remains my favourite, and I enjoyed going back there. They had some sport-weight wool that I needed for some Sock Summit homework, and I had a very nice chat with the owner.

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Another nice find across the river was Tangled Skeins (picture above), in Dartmouth (have been unable to locate a website for them but someone please feel free to correct me), which my hosts obligingly drove me to. It really is a good little shop. They’ve got a fantastic variety for such a small space, and a skein of Malabrigo silky wool came home with me from amidst some very tempting wares. You’ll find Cascade, Mountain Colors, Noro, lots of different things there.

And when you get tired of yarn (I’ve heard that it can happen), there are also cupcakes (a peppermint one seen here from Susie’s Shortbreads, from their Saturday market stall):

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And then when you get tired of eating things (perish the thought), you can check out some of the awesome used bookstores. I carted home quite a few from Doull’s, where you could easily lose an hour or more of your life just browsing through the shelves and stacks.

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And more than that, I finished a pair of socks and started a shawl, which is so far going swimmingly. More on that next time!

I hope your week is starting off well. What’s the newest project on your needles?

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A Good Day for Yarn

It’s been a full 24 hours in Nova Scotia so far, and so far it’s going well. My Halifax friends are lovely hosts as ever, and today we ventured north of the big city towards the Wolfville area. My gravest concern, naturally, was to seek out Gaspereau Valley Fibres, which I’d heard from Kim was worth the trip.

And lo, it was. I think if I lived in that area this shop would be likely to become my LYS. They had a nice supply of ubiquitous yarns like Mission Falls, Fleece Artist, Manos, Briggs & Little, and also a wonderful selection of spinning fibre. It was very hard to choose, but since Kim’s turned on the spinning portion of my brain, I had to go for that, didn’t I? I mean, didn’t I? Just look at this one corner:

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They are a great stop, are Gaspereau Valley Fibres. Very friendly, very browsable with maybe also some Fleece Artist seconds shhh it doesn’t count as a sock yarn purchase if it’s that much of a steal does it? I didn’t think so, and with a fantastic selection overall. My friend Jenn, pictured here, made out with a pair of skeins of Manos wool-silk, and a skein of laceweight.

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I was a bit more generous in my spending, but man, the wool fumes were strong, I couldn’t help it.

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The red is 8 oz of merino/bamboo blend from Frog Tree Fibers, which I am happily going to save for my spinning wheel days when I want to branch out into non-wool blends, and that enormous fluffy ball of goodness is 250g of merino/tussah silk blend. It’s soft like butter and it is also coming home with me for a rainy spinning day. The yarns are 2 skeins of Fleece Artist seconds, in darker shades which I am trying to stash more of for sock knitting, and a beautiful, recently-produced find from Prince Edward Island – bamboo/merino/bison laceweight from Fibre-Isle Fine Yarns. I can’t even begin to talk about how soft this is. This silvery grey skein is about 600 yds and enough for a beautiful scarf or shoulder shawl. Delicious.

From there we carried on down the road to Gaspereau Vineyards, one of several vineyards in the area. The tour was very informative, the wine sampling certainly made us a bit more relaxed, and in general it was a nice addition to the sunshine-filled day. A recommendable tour.

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And now I have some yarn, wine, and cheese to contemplate here chez my hosts. Yarn and wine, they just go together like…things that go really well together. This weekend’s just getting started over here. I hope yours is relaxing! Keep the knitting close by.

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Filed under knitting tourism, spinning, stash, yarn stores

From across the pond

Last night I met up briefly with Lisa, for miscellaneous knitting and chatting and exchange of items. I’d left a few things behind at her place during the kitty-minding stint and she also had some goodies from the UK.

Clearly great minds think alike, as we were both knitting on Lorna’s Laces socks at the time, me on Jaywalkers in the new ‘Rockwell’ colourway, her on Synesthesia socks in the tried and true ‘Tahoe':

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That Jaywalker there is the 2nd of the pair, and I’ll be happy to have it finished and another set of LL Jaywalkers added to my sock drawer. (This will be pair #5, and I’d like at least 7). But Lisa was also kind enough to enhance my stash with some lovely knitting materials from ‘across the pond':

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This is a Rowan ‘Scottish Inspirations’ book featuring a selection of sweaters, accessories, and home knits. I like the look of several pieces in here. The wool is from Wensleydale Longwool Sheep Shop, a slightly hairy fingering weight wool in well-chosen charcoal and periwinkle. I’m curious to know if any of you UK knitters have worked with this yarn – what sorts of things have you made with it? I have visions of gloves or even a fair isle muffler…I will have to ponder this for winter knits.

Tomorrow I will practically be able to wave across the Atlantic to knitters on the other side of it, as I am off to Halifax for a long weekend visit with some friends there. I hope to have at least one yarn shop experience while I’m there, and in general am looking forward to a fun visit. I’ll catch you on the other side!

In the meantime, keep the knitting close by.

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Filed under knitting tourism, socks

Book Review: Socks from the Toe Up

I have a review for you this week, dear blog readers, this time for the recently released book Socks from the Toe Up, by Wendy D. Johnson.

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This book has been in wide release for a month and a half or so, so some of you may already have had a glimpse of it. Some of you may also be familiar with Wendy’s blog, and although I am not a regular reader of her blog I know enough about her knitting style to know that it makes sense that she would pen a book dedicated to toe-up sock knitting, since it is her method of choice for sock knitting. Let’s have a brief look inside the book.

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One high point of Socks from the Toe Up that bears mentioning is that it is technically strong. There are several pages devoted to techniques like toes, heels, and bind-offs which are useful for toe-up knitting. If you’ve dallied with toe-up sock knitting before, many of these techniques will already be familiar to you. If not, they are presented here with helpful images to make the process as painless as possible.There are instructions here for 3 different kinds of toe-up toes, heels (including the ubiquitously cuff-down slip stitch heel), and bind-offs.

Another strength of this book, possibly the strongest feature in fact, is its production. The images are colourful, plentiful, well edited, and generally quite attractive. Also, the format is quite user-friendly: the written instructions for each pattern are contained over the same fold, so there is minimal flipping back and forth required, and the size of the book itself is small enough to be portable – I can envision knitters slipping this into their handbag to set over their lap while in transit. (This is actually a quality I wish more knitting publishers would keep in mind – knitting books need not be coffee table books.)

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The technical ‘part a’ of the book is followed by the sock patterns ‘part b’, which in turn is subdivided into ‘Basic’, ‘Lace’, ‘Textured Gansey’, ‘Cabled’, and ‘Sportweight’ Socks, although these last three sections contain only 2-3 patterns each. Not counting the basic socks (which would be an excellent starting place for those new to toe-up), there are 20 patterns in this collection.

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The patterns are knit in a variety of trendy and colourful yarns, and are certainly meant to be eye-catching. Lots of bright colours and strong photography here. I like the look of the Lace and Cable Socks (above), which could be versatile for a number of sock yarns. I was also intrigued by the Vandyke Socks (below), which are knit in a single skein of Dream in Color Classy, and therefore likely to be a speedy knit.

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Socks from the Toe Up is in general a nice addition to a sock knitter’s library. In the end, my only concern with it is that I am still left wondering why the book does not do more to convince readers why we should be knitting socks from the toe up in the first place. Other than a brief note early on about the convenience of being able to use up all the yarn in the skein without worrying about running out, there is very little attention paid to answering this question. For example, from a toe-up sock book, it is surprising to me that other than the lacy patterns, many of these socks could be virtually identically reproduced working from the cuff down.

Perhaps I am under-selling the usefulness of yarn economy (which make no mistake is quite useful), but I think there was a big missed opportunity here. There are lot (a LOT) of sock books out on the market these days, and any new offering needs to distinguish itself from the others in some way. Either the ‘why toe-up’ question was not considered necessary enough to devote time to it, or the publishers are assuming that anyone who buys the book already wants to knit from the toe-up and does not need convincing. There are certainly valuable traits to toe-up sock knitting that have nothing to do with efficient use of yarn – what about customizing fit? or the difference of working certain patterns in one direction versus another? I wish Johnson would have done more to emphasize such benefits or differences involved working from the toe-up.

Overall this is a nice collection of patterns, and for knitters looking for a new set of sock patterns to work their way through, this will be a good book to add to the collection. If you are looking for a handy set of instructions about how to work socks from the toe-up, then this will also be a very useful book. If you’ve had a chance to look at this book yourself I’d be curious to know what you think, or if you have a favourite pattern from it.

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Getting the hang of this

About two years ago when I started spindle-spinning, I said I’d gradually save up cash for a wheel, and if I still wanted the wheel when I had the cash, I’d go for it. I think I am ready to say I will become a spinning wheel owner sometime in the near future. I want to be able to make more things like this:

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This is my second wheel skein that I did a week ago using Kim‘s Little Gem. Kim was generous enough to give me a few bits of roving to use along with it, and I believe this was some plain corriedale or similar sheepswool. It was lovely to practice with. This is 93g of something Aran-ish or close to it.

Then, this past weekend I hastily finished up a third skein before getting the wheel back to her, using some merino/silk blend. I love me some silk blend in just about any form, so this was certainly no exception. I can definitely tell that the merino part of it added a bit more challenge, but the silk adds strength. Good times had by all, except for when my plying got rushed toward the end. Still, Kim pronounced my efforts as highly successful:

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This one is about 70g of something close to a DK-weight. Both skeins are, unsurprisingly, over-twisted, and adding the spinning into the yarn-playing time of my week definitely contributed more arm/wrist strain, which I am now paying for a bit. But yes, me and spinning, I think we can be friends. (Also, plying with a lazy kate was so much easier than with a centre pull ball, I could just about weep.) Thanks so much for the wheel time, Kim, and for the highly skilled but subtle enabling.

Happy Moan-day…make sure the yarn is close by!

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12 of 12: June 2009

It’s been a long darned time since I’ve done a 12 of 12 post! Lately I seem to either forget about it altogether, or the 12th falls on a day when I am doing absolutely nothing that involves leaving the house or doing interesting photographable things. But this time, I remembered! In case you don’t know, the 12 of 12 is the brainchild of blogger and writer Chad Darnell, and involves taking 12 photos of your day on the 12th of the month. Let’s get posting!

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8:00am – Ahh, I love the sound of construction work in the morning, don’t you? Oh wait, maybe not. This is the view from the front window, where they have been re-doing the front walk and the walls surrounding the driveway (so that they will be actual walls and no longer crumbling stacks of bricks). Anyway, these dudes show up around 7am every morning, it’s actually pretty impressive.

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10:30 am – Off for a run, finally. Thank goodness for new Stash and Burn podcast! Sometimes new listening is the only motivation I have. And those mornings are starting to get warmer faster…

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12:30pm – En route to the bus station to catch the bus to Toronto. PS – those Lexie Barnes bags sure do hold a lot of stuff.

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2:45pm – Hello Toronto kitty cats! I am here for the weekend. Here is Somerset, demonstrating with excellent technique what all cats do best. Napping.

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4:00pm – At the Eaton Centre for a shopping excursion with my friend S. Here I am in the change room at RW & Co, with the approximately eleventy gazillion tees and blouses which I tried on, none of which fit me properly (thank you, this season’s cap sleeves that do not go with my shoulders, boooo…), and the khaki dress that I did decide to get. But what do I wear i with, is my question now.

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5:00pm – In the change room at Smart Set (clothes even more disappointing), where the wall is delightfully arranged with instructional images and hooks.

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6:00pm – The view up from the food court. You have got to love those Canada geese sculptures.

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6:30pm – Traffic goes by at Union Station.

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7:30pm – At dinner, I try to do the self-portrait thing but clearly I need a bit more practice at this. Must practice my smile into camera, I think.

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10:00pm – Back, and Shakespeare in Love on the tee vee.

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“Hello, my name is Greedo. I claim this armrest for all of catdom.”

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“Hello, my name is Somerset. I claim your lap for me me me all me.”

And, that’s my 12 of 12. Enjoy your Saturday! And don’t forget today is Worldwide Knit in Public Day – get out there with your yarn and knitting needles and start the revolution. Happy knitting!

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