Monthly Archives: May 2011

Month’s end

Folks, I say this every month, but this time I honestly do have no real clue as to how the time has managed to pass so quickly. How is it possible that tomorrow it will be June? Many parts of me are in full on rejection mode about this. Especially the parts of me that are recoiling in horror at the 40C+ humidex that is already climbing in. Now really, a knitter needs a bit more time to adjust to this sort of thing. Especially when said knitter happens to be knitting a wool/silk pullover. (One could also argue that said knitter should really have moved on to the lace silk shawl already, instead, and one might be sort of right about that, but one would also have to deal with said knitter’s stubbornness. So.)

I’ve been busy enough behind the scenes here, keeping up with my running (and now with some rest after over-doing my poor hip, WOE is me), getting busy with some new designs for later this summer and the fall, and generally trying to get with a new routine. Speaking of catching up with a few things, though…

1. The TTC Knitalong (Calling Toronto-area knitters!) is happening yet again, with many excited knitters already planning to descend on the city, knit their way through the streets, streetcars, and subways, and converge with lots of happy purchases and chatter. If you’d like to sign up, do so quickly, since spots do sometimes fill up quickly on some of the teams! Have a 2nd or 3rd choice ready! I’m planning on volunteering along with one of the North teams if all goes well, since that’s a route I haven’t sat in on before. But they all promise yarn and good times.

2. In March I promised you that I would donate proceeds from my pattern sales to charity, in light of ongoing relief efforts in Japan and around the world. And although I mentioned the results of this on my Twitter feed, somehow it got away from my blog and I would be remiss not to finally report to you that, thanks to your purchases and a bit of my own top-up, I donated $400 to charity, split evenly between the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders. Thank you for your generosity, dear knitters!

3. In knitting progress news, I am pleased to report that my Silk Garden Hourglass sweater now has both two sleeves AND a body, and is moving along swiftly on the yoke. I’d hoped that I might have it done this month, but that does seem a bit less likely now given that, at the time of reporting, the month only has about six and a half hours left in it.

May31-NoroHourglass

Still, I am enjoying it. I ran into a bit of a fretful moment on the weekend when I realized I was down to my 2nd last ball of the darker colourway, but still had 3 more of the brighter one. Happily, I also happened to be hanging out with Lisa’s kitties on the weekend (cute kitty picture included below, for reference – new wee Athena, and Greedo), and her place is close to Passionknit, and they had a veritable wall of Silk Garden choices. Now that I have procured 2 extra skeins, I am sure this means I will now manage to squeak by to the very last yard of the original set of yarn, and not need them at all, but one does always want to be prepared to meet that eventuality with some reinforcements at the ready. Thankfully, Silk Garden is always useful to hang around the yarn stash.

May27-Kitties

4. I’ve been doing a bit of pattern updating, and am happy to announce that my Lamplight Shawl is now available in wide release, both in my Ravelry store and on Patternfish. I did this pattern last year for The Sweet Sheep, and the larger version (very cozy, or so I think) uses one of her Soft Spun Super Skeins, which are wonderful in that you can get an entire big shawl out of one and never have to stop to join skeins or weave in ends.

Aug22-Shawl5

5. Sock Summit Registration happened – and I am pleased to have snagged a few classes once again! I’ll be knitting with Cat Bordhi, Cookie A, and Franklin Habit. It will be a great bit of vacation and visiting and knitting and learning (um, and maybe shopping) and general merriment. Will any of you be there as well?

Happy knitting! Catch you next month. (ha!)

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Filed under design, knitting in public, sweaters, Uncategorized

Approaching sweaters

Because knitters are diverse, inventive, and also often very stubborn people, we have at least a dozen ways of doing any one particular thing. I was talking about this with Austen the other day in reference to socks and heel construction – you could go on for days with the variations. So it is with sweaters. You can go in the round, in pieces, top down, seams, fake seams, yoked, cardigans, whatever you’re feeling like that day. I still like to go bottom-up with my sweaters, and don’t mind a good seam or two for structural integrity if it is so called for. This Hourglass Pullover, though (pattern in Last Minute Knitted Gifts), has appeal for being in the round and entirely stockinette. It’s pretty quick to knock out if you are so inclined, and I’m happy to report that I’m already at the halfway mark or possibly just past it.

May25-NoroHourglass

One thing I like doing with sweaters, if I have the presence of mind and it makes sense at the time, is to begin with the sleeves and get them done before beginning the body (whether or not the whole thing is in the round or not). It doesn’t actually give you any advantage in time, but it does offer a wonderful psychological advantage of letting you finish the two quickest bits while you have that period of new-project momentum. You’re going to hit the “oh good gracious why is this project not done yet” doldrums during the body at some point, so you may as well get there with nothing else left to do but the rest of the body, rather than having to psych yourself up for the sleeves still to come. Also, if you are the sort of person who sometimes resists gauge swatching (not that you would be, of course, but you might know someone who is, you know ::cough::), the sleeve is usually a pretty low-stakes part of the garment, so you can take the first half of the sleeve as a sort of working swatch, and adjust things from there if you need to. It all works out.

I was pleased to discover that indeed, I am getting gauge, and indeed, the alternating Noro Silk Garden colourways are doing their crazy thing and coming up with their own colour plan as they usually do. I’m trying hard not to engineer the pattern and to let it fall as it may, since everything will eventually repeat itself. And a colour muddle, if repeated enough times, becomes a design feature, as Sally Melville says, so I will give control to the yarn and let it produce the sweater it wants. Looking forward to seeing how it turns out.

Happy knitting this Wednesday!

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Around and around

The Pi Shawl, she is done, and I am well pleased. I wore it out on Wednesday as a layer under my jacket (then, erm, learned very quickly to be careful not to choose jackets with little grabby snaggy parts underneath the collar – had a close call) and got to show it off at the Toronto Downtown Knit Collective meeting at ‘show and tell’, which was also super fun. Go ahead and knit yourself one of these, man. I mean, sure, it’ll take a while. But then you get this:

May20-PiShawl2

This is worked with 2 skeins (just 2 skeins – 5g left of the 2nd one) of Indigodragonfly 50/50 merino/silk, or about 1400 yards, in “One, one purple skein, Aaa Aaa Aaaah!” that I got myself last summer as a birthday present. I had a 3rd skein waiting and ready, but was glad to get to just the end of the 2nd one and not be left with a large amount of remnants. This is on a 4.0mm needle and after a solid blocking is about 5 and a half feet across. If i had to do it again, admittedly, I would go down to 3.5mm and work more rounds to compensate for the difference. The finished product here is lovely, but the yarnovers are a little wider than I’d like (this ain’t no Orenburg lace, to be sure, but you know) for full comfort. Still, I’m happy with it, and it’ll be a nice light layer or scarf to throw on when needed.

May20-PiShawl1

Elizabeth Zimmerman’s instructions for this shawl are workable for a number of different yarn weights, so you could easily do it with fingering or DK if you like, for a snugglier garment. The yarnover variation here (yarnovers worked every 6th round) is one that appealed to me since it adds just a hint of interest, but a plain stockinette version would surely be the ultimate in mindless knitting, if a person were drawn to that sort of thing. And the garter stitch border is sitting there doing just what I wanted it to – being plain more than fancy, and floating along happily at the edge.

May20-PiShawl5

So look at that. Sometimes when you put a project away for a few months, and then come back to it, you realize you really CAN finish it after all! Thank goodness.

I do have the Peacock Feathers shawl still waiting and on deck to come up next, but before I start that I am getting in some quality speed-stockinette time on a new Hourglass Sweater (pattern from Last Minute Knitted Gifts). It’s been on my brain ever since January when I went to Vogue Knitting Live with Lisa and she pulled hers out of her suitcase to wear one day and I immediately wanted one of my own. We’re just in sleeve country at the moment, but I’m hopeful that chugging away on this will have me a completed sweater in a brisk enough period of time, and then I can sink my teeth into some more lace knitting.

May20-NoroHourglass

Happy long weekend, or regular weekend if you are not in a Canadian part of the world! And happy knitting to all.

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Filed under elizabeth zimmerman, finished object: shawl, lace, sweaters

The lace knitting version of crazy

So, you know how, when you’re knitting a lace-weight shawl, and you’re so close to being done that it feels like you’re really close, but then you realize you actually still have at least another two hours of knitting to go on the border? And it feels like it’s never going to end? And you’re not really sure you were thinking very rightly when you decided to start this project on a whim?

May17-PiShawlBlocking2

But then, eventually it does end, and you wash it and pin it all out for blocking (because even though it’s a circular shawl you don’t actually have circular blocking wires and are just making do with a million T-pins instead), and it looks sort of nice, like maybe it really did turn out OK after all, and that maybe it was actually a really great idea to start the shawl, because if you only ended up with exactly 5g leftover on the second skein then that’s a pretty great place to have stopped at?

May17-PiShawlLeftovers

And so you know how then you think, well, this lace knitting business isn’t so bad, now you have to immediately decide to start another one, even though you have a zillion other things to work on and you know eventually this new one will still have that agonizing almost-done-but-not-yet phase waiting for you?

May17-Pondering

Yeah. Me too.

(And if the sunshine ever returns from under these rain clouds that seem to have glued themselves to Southern Ontario, I will totally get on some proper Finished Object photos of the Pi Shawl. But it’s done, and I like it, and it was all worth it.)

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Filed under elizabeth zimmerman, finished object: shawl, lace

Resurrecting

Remember this? Me too, dimly. The Pi Shawl I started on back in the fall has lain dormant amongst the yarn stash and WIPs since about mid-November. I think I harboured some hopes of finishing it over the Christmas holidays, but then with other knits going on it became clear this project just needed some time to sit. I’d reached the part of the pattern where you’re knitting nearly 600 sts in the final section and just reached a stopping point.

May12-PiShawl2

A week or so ago I took it back up and realized, as one often does after the Great Timeout of Projects That Were Sucking The Life Out Of You Before, that I wasn’t actually that far from finishing. This could actually get done. Of course, although the Pi Shawl is extremely versatile, the original instructions aren’t written for laceweight, and when you reach the final instruction of knitting the last section for 40 rows “or until tired,” there’s a fair amount of leeway for deciding when to stop. I’ve sort of been going with the technique of holding up the radius (it’s a big bunched up circle at this point) along my arm and judging if it’s reached my wingspan yet. I think it has. Which means I finally get to start on the edging.

May12-PiShawl

Because I’ve made a deal with myself that I can’t start one of the two (or three or four) sweater projects I’m itching to start on until I finish this shawl, you see. And, uh, just being left with a knitted-on garter stitch border on an almost-600-stitch circular shawl, that’s almost like being done, right?

I hope so.

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Filed under lace, shawls

And then you get a sweater

Between late January and early April I worked on the Dusseldorf Aran, as a brightly coloured respite from the winter and a “someone else’s pattern” respite from my own design work. I enjoyed it. I would have liked to have finished it a bit sooner, and gotten some winter wear out of it this past season, but I’m pleased enough that it will be waiting for me in my closet come October.

May8-Dusseldorf4

It’s a lovely pattern (Fiona Ellis, for Interweave Knits Winter 2009), and the pleated sleeves are completely fun. Granted, they are also a bit less practical, and this won’t be a sweater to wear while, say, washing dishes in the sink, but it’ll be a nice warm and dressy sweater all the same. The yarn is Ultra Alpaca from Berocco, in a stubbornly bright magenta shade that I found at Stitch in Jordan Station, Niagara, last year. I brought the pattern and materials with me to the Vogue Knitting Live event just to use as a reference for a sweater class with Anne Hanson, and then back in my hotel room later on I thought, “you know, I actually want that sweater. I will cast on right now!” So I did. I made a few modifications – lengthening the torso by about an inch and a half or so, lowering the neckline slightly, and adjusting to a smaller size than normal to account for my slightly looser gauge than what the pattern called for. It worked out well.

May8-Dusseldorf5

I hear a lot from knitters who consider sweaters to be in the “wow that’s hard, one day I’ll do that” category. And I get it – a sweater is a commitment. This is more time and yarn than many other kinds of projects. But it’s all incremental. Casting on – check your gauge, check your measurements and size. Choose where you’re going to modify the pattern, if you have to. (Hint: your body may not be the same body as the one in the pattern schematic.) Then move on to the hem, then the decreases, and before you know it you’ve finished the body and are moving onto the sleeves.

Then the finishing looms, but then you do it and when you’ve sewn up the seams and woven in any ends, then you have a sweater. I often think the reason I procrastinate the most on the finishing stage (seriously, it could be a single skein shawl with only 2 ends to weave in, and I’ll leave it for a week until I get around to sewing them in), is because then the project isn’t a project any more, it’s a garment and I don’t get to knit it any more. Which is odd since I actually really love getting to move on and choose the next project, but I suppose it’s some weird way that my subconscious says “hey, you LIKE the knitting part, remember? Let’s make it last longer!”

May8-Dusseldorf2

Anyway, I like sweaters. Socks and other accessories have colonized so much of my knitting in the last year or two that sweaters often get left aside, and I would like to knit more of them. Really, they are the best example of knitted satisfaction – in a sea of commercially-made sweaters that don’t fit you exactly right and aren’t made in the materials you prefer or the colours you might choose for yourself, the knitted sweater is the best example I can think of, of knitters wielding their power to make their closet more satisfying. Heck, I bet Tim Gunn just wishes he had a shelf full of handknit sweaters. It sometimes takes a sweater or two to get there – like anything else in knitting, the first results are often less than perfect. But it doesn’t mean you can’t get there with a little effort.

So if you’ll excuse me, I think I’m going to go have a visit with my stash and ponder more sweaters. Who cares that summer is around the corner? Happy Monday!

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Filed under cables, finished object: sweater, sweaters

This time with sparkles

Two years ago I put out a little sock pattern into the world, one that I was geekily proud of. I almost didn’t publish it because I honestly worried that it was far too geeky to bother with, and that nobody would want to take it seriously.

I needn’t have worried. It turns out that over 160 knitters (at least by Ravelry numbers) have knitted the Viper Pilots socks (still available for download on Ravelry and Patternfish), so that means that if it’s far too geeky a pattern to be bothered with, at least 160 other people besides me have decided not to care and just knit it anyway. And no mistake, it’s a challenging pattern. My first impulse in design is often for the insanity. (Throw more cables on there! What do you mean those stitches aren’t worked through the back loop, twist them, damn it!) In this case, I was validated in my twisted cable selections because I’d managed to match up some motifs together in a sock that went really well with the whole idea of a Battlestar Galactica themed knitting pattern. There was no way these things were going to get named anything but Viper Pilots. Little ships flying through space!

May6-ViperPilots

Then a little while after the pattern release, Steph knitted herself a pair using sparkly sock yarn. And frak me if that wasn’t the most brilliant idea ever that I was annoyed with myself that I didn’t think of it first. Ever since then, I’ve wanted to go back and knit myself a second pair with sparkles in it, and I haven’t managed to get around to it what with, you know, jobs and other knitting and life and getting sleep and meals and things like that. But I’m trying this new thing where I actually use some of the yarn that i buy, after I buy it, as opposed to just letting it sit beautifully on the shelf, and I came home with some Shiny sock yarn (merino/silk/nylon/silver) from Indigodragonfly Yarns this past weekend at the Knitter’s Frolic. (Colourway: Also I can kill you with my brain. A Firefly reference, not BSG, but the geekery still stands firm.) So, here we go, sparkly Viper Pilots shall be mine. I’m making this my 30-minutes-a-day project for the moment, in an effort to ensure some of my personal knitting time is not lost amidst the other fun design projects I get to sink my teeth into in the next couple of months, as well as getting reacquainted with my stash (it’s an awesome yarn stash). There’s just so much fabulous yarn to knit, I want to do it all at once. Some of it gets done 30 minutes at a time.

Happy weekend, dear knitters!

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Worlds colliding

I am thinking now with fond thoughts on the weekend – it was a pretty great one, as weekends go. Despite being a bit weary post-move, I got to dash off to the big city again and spend the weekend with various friends – all knitterly, and friendly in many ways. Lisa put me up for the weekend and she had decided we needed kick things off with a visit to the local tea shop that was doing an afternoon tea in celebration of the Royal Wedding. (Was that just Friday? It feels like years ago now. Also: still grappling with the fact that Camilla is one day going to be Queen Camilla. Just seems somehow odd. Thanks Wikipedia reading on the Royals! The more you know…)

Apr29-Tea

May3-FrolicPurchases

Saturday, though, was the Knitter’s Frolic marketplace day hosted annually by the Downtown Toronto Knit Collective. I made out moderately bandit-like, though only partly via purchases. I spent a bit, as might be expected. A japanese stitch dictionary came home with me, along with these lovely skeins from Van Der Rock Yarns (the bright green ‘gypsum’ sock) and Indigodragonfly Yarns (the other 3 – mix of sparkly, merino/cashmere, and merino). It was a pretty leisurely few hours, and had some down-time waiting for Lisa to finish her class before driving back downtown, so I ended up chatting with a few people for a while. That was a nice change of pace from the rush and crush that often happens at these events. And lucky me, I also came back with a few skeins for designing with, as well as a lovely gift. Knitter and runner friend Kathy (who is also going to be running the Wellington Women’s Half Marathon in June, in Ontario), generously sewed me up a sparkly fun running skirt (mine was purple, hers pink – we will do the girly event in frivolous and possibly sarcastic style). And when I went to hand her back the bag that she’d put it in, she refused and said “no no, all that’s for you, too.” Lo and behold, I now own a lovely new sock project bag and a skein of fun chunky handspun. Thanks, Kathy!

May3-FrolicGifts

And speaking of knitters who are also runners, I got to round out the weekend with the Toronto Sportinglife 10k race on Sunday morning. It was pretty darned huge, and a bit jostly-crowded at times, but I’m happy with my time and it was a good run. Fellow knitter-runner (and new racer, despite being several minutes faster than me, darn her) Dr. Steph was there too, and we met up at the beginning and end and then later for post-race burgers and beer. I think that’s the best part, is the finishing and cheering afterwards. Here we are about 15 minutes after finishing, doing our best not to shiver in the cool-down chills under the Toronto grey skies.

May1-10kMeandSteph

I am now working on Steph to do a half-marathon with me. I will win her over, I am sure of it, especially now that she has felt the glee of race-finishing.

Right now my possessions are in a transitional state, as I rearrange and organize, and my knitting is in a similar phase. I need to get some Finished Object photos in there for my Dusseldorf Aran (thank you for asking about it, friendly readers!) and start some new things. I’m thinking about a pair of sparkly Viper Pilots, since so many other folks have done it sounds like a good plan. And how can sparkly distracting things be bad, I ask you?

Until next time, dear knitters! Keep the yarn close by.

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Filed under knitting in public, real life miscellaney, running