Monthly Archives: November 2009

Knitting Season

[EDITED to add a Note From The Future: Comment here to win a copy of the December 2009 Canadian Living issue mentioned here! All you have to do is Comment and tell me where you’re from and what your favourite thing to knit for winter is. 3 winners will be chosen. That’s right, 3! Share the warmth, baby. Comments accepted until Saturday morning at 10 am EST.]

I don’t know about you people, but something in my knitting impulse had a major shift this past weekend. Maybe it’s my rebound from the knitting ennui talking, but suddenly a few days ago I started looking at my yarn stash, and all of a sudden, knitting socks (as I’ve been doing a lot of lately) was not good enough.  We’re talking mitts, gloves, sweaters, scarves, here. Anything and everything to add layers of warmth because, um…winter is going to be here soon.

Around here we’ve been granted a reprieve this week and the temps are still several degrees above zero, which means this is the perfect time to put in some time on the cold weather knits because I always end up in the trap of only knitting these things when I actually NEED them, which is of course far too late to start.

MulledWineMitts3

So it’s darned good timing for me to be able to announce my latest design, a jenn-you-wine published pattern for the December 2009 issue of Canadian Living magazine. Yesterday’s twisted stitch tutorial goes hand in hand with this pattern, as the ‘k1tbl, p1′ ribbing is exactly what starts off this pair of mitts. I present the ‘Mulled Wine Mitts’, available now in print, in the issue which hits newsstands today. (The only downside is that you can only get the pattern at the moment if you are in Canada, or have a subscription to Canadian Living, or can bribe someone to buy you a copy and send it to you. The upside is that because it’s Canadian Living, you also get whackloads of recipes and home tips and all sorts of useful things along with my wee pattern.)

MulledWineMitts1

Now, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there are one or two fingerless mitt patterns already out there. You may have already even knitted a pair or twelve as gifts, oh, right about this time of year in knitting seasons past. So when I got hooked up to design a pair for Canadian Living I said “Sure! Super fun challenge, I’d love to!” And then, I quietly panicked. “It’s all been done before,” I moaned to myself.

So I went and got some Malabrigo (like you do, when you want something warm and cozy on your hands), and started playing around with it, and got a first version. And then I made it less complicated and knitted it again. And then I changed one or two other things and knitted it again. And then the thumb wasn’t how I wanted it to look, so I knitted it again, and you know, now that they’re done, I rather like the result.

MulledWineMitts2

These mitts are simple enough to not require more than a week or two of off-and-on knitting (or a weekend for the speedy types), but interesting enough to keep you paying attention. There is a full thumb gusset – because I like thumb gussets – but the actual thumb itself is quite minimal which means that once you’ve cast off the palm, you’re practically done. They’re knitted in Malabrigo Silky Merino which is super soft and lofty, but because the double-moss stitch panels are done in twisted stitch, they will be a touch more snug and durable than if done in plain stockinette. And they are long enough to fit under the cuff of your sweater or jacket, which means they can keep that chill from going up your sleeve while you sit in your cold office or dash out to grab that newspaper maybe with your coat thrown over your pyjamas and clogs not that I would ever do that, though or whenever you find yourself needing a bit of insulation.

And, most importantly, because they only require a single skein of that delicious, delicious Malabrigo Silky Merino, they will let you splurge on some of that luxury yarn without having to break the bank. Of course, because they’re so soft and quick, you may need to either guard yours carefully or be prepared to make more for gifts. They may be hard to take off.

Also, may I say how pleased I am to be in the Canadian Living December issue, which always has whackloads of holiday recipes in it…this one, I have noticed, includes a holiday brunch menu offering recipes for not one, not two, but three different vodka/juice cocktails. Canadian Living food editors, I like your style.

In case that’s not enough reading for you today, Austen, the CL crafts point-woman was nice enough to do a little blog-style interview with me, and you can find further Ramblings Of Mine over on her post from today.

Enjoy, my friends! Stay tuned later, when I may just have to go off in search of extra newsstand copies for a blog giveaway. And, as always, may your Monday be as painless as possible, and may your knitting be waiting for you at home.

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Filed under accessories, design

Twist it, baby

As an adventurous knitter one of the things I have become pretty comfortable with is twisted stitches – that is, purposefully twisted stitches. I’m a pretty conventional knitter in the sense that I knit “normal” English-style, and don’t twist my stitches unless I mean to. There are, of course, knitters who knit all their stitches twisted and then purposefully untwist them (or not) on alternating rows as they please, and this works well for them. When I talk about twisted stitches, I mean that instruction that we come across to knit “through the back loop,” or as it is often noted, “ktbl” or “k1tbl.”

Ktbl-Ribbing

However, on the off chance that there are knitters out there reading this who have no idea what we mean by “ktbl” for “knit through the back loop”, I thought I’d offer a brief demonstration of this. If it’s a new term for you, it’s the sort of thing that is much easier to understand visually than descriptively. Below is a short, 3-minute video clip of me demonstrating ribbing in alternating ‘k1tbl, p1′, but I’ll show off the basics with a few photos as well. This was a fun chance to practice out a few more camera tricks and use my little point & shoot for more of the things it can do. Here we go!

Video-me explaining ktbl, below:

(I think my voice sounds a bit odd here, but that is probably due to the fact that I was lying on the floor in front of my wee camera and tripod to do this. Totally worth it, though.)

Photo-me explaining the same process from 2-D images:

We’ve got some nice ribbing going here already in ‘k1tbl, p1′. The yarn helping us out is Malabrigo Silky Merino in ‘Amoroso’. It’s a single-spun yarn which really shows off the difference between k1 and k1tbl quite well. (I’m using the Magic Loop technique to work in the round on this sample.)

Now, if we were doing a regular k1 stitch, we would move to insert the needle through the stitch knit-wise, through the ‘front’ loop, like so:

Ktbl-NormalKnit2

However, this isn’t a normal k1, so we are instead inserting the needle through the stitch purl-wise, through the ‘back’ of the loop, like so:

Ktbl-InsertNeedlePurlwise

From there, we simply wrap the knit stitch (or pick, as all you super-speedy continental-knitters would do) as we normally would, and pull it off onto the right-hand needle. The result is that the knit stitch sits slightly twisted on the needles, as we have rotated it slightly:

Ktbl-TwistThatStitchOff

And you’re done! That wasn’t so hard, was it?

Ktbl-AndYou'reDone

The result is that the twisted stitches sit much more snugly and produce a more clearly defined, sturdy stitch than a regular knit stitch would. They are highly decorative, which is why they can be well-used in applying texture to stitch patterns and to swirly, twisty cables. Anything labelled as “Bavarian” is going to have whackloads of twisted stitches. (Mmmm, delicious challenge). However, twisted knits are also much less elastic than normal stitches. So, ribbing in ‘k1tbl, p1′ will still be clingy, but much less stretchy. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it is just something extra to take into account when you apply twisted stitches. When applied all over a garment, you may need a few more stitches than you normally would to achieve the same size or fit.

And you know, I think they’re pretty.

Ktbl

One of the key things to keep in mind is how you hold your hands and fingers. You are adding more twist and tension to your knitting when you do this, so there can be added twist and tension on your hands and fingers as well. You may find yourself wanting to stop occasionally and stretch it out a bit more than you normally would, or feel your hands fatiguing a bit sooner. I know this is often the case for me.

I’ve used twisted stitches as a design feature a couple of times – for any of you who have already knitted Viper Pilots, you know there isn’t a single normal knit stitch in there. They are all twisted. I know this because after I finished them I had to remind myself that it was possible, in fact, to knit normal knits instead of always twisting them. They can be a challenge at first, but very easy to get used to.

That’s the story for today, folks! Stay tuned for Part 2 on Monday, wherein I reveal my most recent application of the k1tbl ;) Happy Sunday!

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My brain and Fiona

I find my knitting brain in an odd place at the moment. I think that I’ve been putting a lot of my knitting energies lately into finishing things so that I can move on and start something else, whether something of my own or just an item that I want to make and check it off some kind of “done” list. And it’s great for getting things accomplished but not so much for the psyche after a while. In the last week I’ve been feeling a bit of the knitting ennui and a bit of the project fatigue and even some of the “but what if I’m a hack who will never have any more creative thoughts EVER” and, well. That’s never fun. At the moment I’m medicating myself with small, manageable-sized, travel-knitting projects and telling myself it’ll all turn a corner again at some point.

So, it was pretty darned interesting sitting in Fiona Ellis‘s class on Morphing Cables at the Naked Sheep on Saturday morning.

Oct31-Class1

It was, make no mistake, a great class. I’m very glad I went. Fiona is a friendly and expert teacher and strikes me as the sort of person who could go from beginner basic to advanced crazy talk heirloom knitting in about 5 seconds, and would see nothing strange about this at all. Happily, all of us in the class had had some experience with cables before and were pretty game, so she started us all off a few floors up from the basic and after a bit of discussion of breaking down what cables are and how we get them, she had us go right into creating our own.

Yep. Did you know you can make your own cables, just from your own brain? I think I might have known this, but possibly just needed Fiona to tell me so. And really, you should have seen the swatches people were turning out in this class. I was a little bit intimidated looking around the table, for reals. There was a lot of intent work and exploration and graph-paper-charting and “let’s see what happens when I do this” sort of knitting.

Oct31-Class6

Me, I spent a lot of time staring at my swatch, knitting a few rows, noting on the graph paper what I’d done, knitting another few rows, ripping them out and knitting them again, re-writing the graph paper, and staring at my knitting for even longer moments. And Fiona would go around to everyone and talk and give tips, and then get to me and steeple her fingers and ask “how are you doing, Glenna?” And I would say “UM. I have no freaking idea.”

As soon as we had the word ‘go’ I recognized I was going to have a challenging morning ahead of me, because it immediately became clear to me what exactly my creative process is. I absolutely suck at not having a plan. When I get an idea I have to mull it over for the requisite number of hours or days that it decides it needs until it is fully formed, and then I have a plan, and then I work towards executing it. And here we were asked to have absolutely no plan whatsoever, and just “go”. Ahahahahhahahahahhaha surely you must be kidding about this.

Oct31-Class3

It was a little bit world-tilting for me and my brain went back to the “but what if I don’t have an idea?” problem. I have decided that I just need to tell that part of my brain to sit down and shut up and mind its own business, because it has nothing constructive to offer me. I’ll have an idea at some point, it all comes around when you least expect it. And the fact of the matter is I love cables and want to use more of them and have a few pretty specific thoughts on where I’d like to apply them. They’ll let me know what they want to look like, when they feel like it.

And now I feel a bit more as though I know how it works to do go through that execution process. Fiona had several key tips on how to construct cables and make them appear and disappear and morph, and how to try experimenting with them on a rainy day with nothing to do. I’d go back again.

Oct31-Class7

At the end she showed us many of her samples of cabled items which she has knit into patterns and we all ogled and oohed over them. It reminded me I have my printed out copy of Bonnie all bundled with a small heap of Mission Falls 1824 that I need to get out there and knit this winter.

And in the mean time I’ll just be over here clutching my stash and being patient with my brain. It’s got work to do.

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Filed under cables, design

Finishing is Fun

Although I’ve finished a few projects in the past month, I’ve been a little bit slow in getting the FO photos together. My Cassidy cardigan is one such casualty. I finished it in time to wear at Rhinebeck – yea verily, I was sewing on the buttons the night before – which was darned useful as I knitted it in Ultra Alpaca and it stood me very well as a warm outdoor garment.

This past Saturday I wore it into Toronto for my yarnly engagements – a class at the Naked Sheep, and hanging-out time at the Purple Purl – and got Jennifer to take about a bazillion pictures of me while I was at the Purl, figuring that there would be at least a couple of shots that turned out. Turns out yarn shops make good photography backdrops, as one might well anticipate.

Oct31-Cassidy6

Pattern: Cassidy, by Bonne Marie Burns / Chic Knits
Yarn: Berocco Ultra Alpaca, ‘oceanic mix’ colourway
Needles: 4.5mm Addi Turbos
Cast-on: September 12, 2009
Cast-off: October 13, 2009.

Modifications: The only thing I did differently was to add length, as I usually do. It adds up to about 1.5 ins added both before and after the waist shaping. The waist then sits where my actual waist is, and covers my hips comfortably. Tall girls unite! Modifying patterns for length since time began.

Oct17-RhinebeckATouchOfTwist

This is a very comfortable sweater, the Ultra Alpaca is a gorgeous, heathery shade of turquoise, and I have been getting nothing but compliments on it when I wear it out and about. I am even contemplating doing a second one some time in the future…or at the very least, more Ultra Alpaca sweaters. I love this yarn to bits and pieces.

While I’m here, let me just put in a PSA for the benefits of working sweaters in pieces. Now, there are different forms of sweater construction and I’ve done several of them. I think there are times when working a sweater in the round is appropriate and enjoyable, and I’ve done many sweaters in the round. Sometimes it’s because the pattern told me to, other times it’s because I’ve preferred it in the round and modified the pattern to suit my interests.

Cassidy directs you to work in separate pieces which are then seamed together, and I went with this. Here are my reasons three:

1. Portability. I knitted about 2/3 of this sweater over 2 weeks, largely because every time I got on a bus or train, I pulled this out of my bag. It is a lot easier to carry around a piece of a sweater to knit one at a time than to eventually be carrying around most of an entire sweater, which you will be doing at some point if you work it in the round.

2. Structure. Here i used Ultra Alpaca, which is 50% wool/50% alpaca. Alpaca is wonderfully warm and drapey, but also much less elastic and springy than wool. As a result, things made with alpaca and, to a certain extent, alpaca blends, will want to sag and stretch a little bit more than things made with plain wool, which bounces and blocks right back into place after you handwash it. Seams add structural integrity and strength to the garment, and sometimes you want a little bit of extra of that to go around.

Oct31-Cassidy4

3. Control. Cassidy, as you can see above, has a hood. If I had done the sweater all in the round bottom-up and attached the sleeves as I went, I would have ended up working the hood with the entire weight of the sweater in my lap. When you’re working the hood back and forth up there at the neck, you’re flipping back and forth and it can be cumbersome to do that with a whole sweater. Here, I seamed up only the body, worked the hood, then attached the sleeves last.

And you know, the truth of the matter is, I don’t mind seaming. Well, I mind it in the same way that I mind pretty much any finishing steps in the sense that it is the thing standing in the way of me wearing the item and this sometimes annoys me enough to avoid it as long as possible (seriously, I have been known to procrastinate 2 weeks on two little ends to weave in on a shawl. Two), but now that I know how to do seams and how they should look, I don’t mind them as much as I did when I was first knitting sweaters as a new knitter. It gets easier and better with practice, like most other things.

And then when you finish it all, you have a really comfortable and pretty sweater that even Fiona Ellis herself will compliment you on when you wear it to her class. More on that tomorrow!

May your Monday be as painless as possible, with knitting waiting for you at home.

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Filed under cables, finished object: sweater