Monthly Archives: October 2011

How much yarn could you fit in it

You know what Monday needs? A giveaway. That’s right folks, it’s trick-or-treat, knitting style. The lovely folks over at Jordana Paige designs have given me the chance to host a giveaway for one of their beautiful bags, and were kind enough to send me a Rio to road-test (or knit-test?) on my own.

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I’ve owned a few knitting-oriented handbags in my time, and I have to say I really tip my hat to companies who take on the task. Handbag shopping is a minefield of personal preference and style, lifestyle and cost, and when you add in knitting to the mix, well. I’m glad it’s not my job to try to make those decisions. The Jordana Paige bags are striking a balance between knitting carryall and stylish handbag – they’re made with vegan-friendly faux leather and finished with careful details.

So far, I like the Rio. It’s a sizeable bag – at 14″ x 10″ x 6.5″ it’s larger than a purse, and a bit larger than their popular Satchel bag. I gather that it is designed on purpose to be able to accomodate larger amounts of knitting (or whatever) on the inside. For me this is a big bonus, because I’ve never been a person who can manage to travel very lightly. I like having things on hand to busy myself with for whatever place or scenario I’m in, and while that includes having a minimum of 1 knitting project with me, that’s really just one piece of the puzzle.

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Oct28-RioBagPockets

This is the empty bag (feet included for scale), so you can see the internal division in the middle. The little side-pockets are nice for small, frequently-reached-for items. I have my pocket camera and keys in one, and iPod tucked into the other. There is a zippered pocket (I stuffed my Altoids tin knitting kit in there, along with pens and a calculator – it has been fashioned my knitting notions pocket) down the middle which divides it into two purposeful sections. You can also see that there are no exterior pockets except for the two at the sides. At first this threw me off, because I’m used to having a pocket at the front below the clasp, or at the back on the section worn close to the body. However, I like this better because it ends up adding less pocket bulk that would make it awkward when you hold the bag around your shoulder.

Oct25-RioBag1

Even when the bag is stuffed full, it still sits on my shoulder comfortably. That is pretty darned cool. And how ‘full’ is full? Well, here’s a shot just as I departed Starbucks’ after a couple of hours of cafe time last week. I treat Cafe time like a mix of work and play time, so I come with everything. Here, along with wallet, sunglasses, and cell phone, I’ve got my novel, notebook, 11″ Macbook Air, two knitting projects (gloves and socks – this weekend I traded out the socks for a scarf-in-progress on its 4th skein of Ultra Alpaca, so that’s a bit bulkier), and even a pound of coffee that I bought that day because I remembered I was running out of espresso for the machine at home. This bag is not fooling around.

I’m curious to swap in a sweater project in the knitting half of the bag, to see how that sits. I think it’ll do fine, though I might have to leave the super-bulky knits at home. The only downside I’ve found with this bag is figuring out a place for the cell phone. My Blackberry usually sits in its own holster, so its found a home clipped to one of the inside flaps. I believe the outside pockets are intended for this purpose, but for me, I like the easier access on the inside of the bag.

In any case, the happy news is that one of you dear blog readers can have a Rio of your very own! To enter to win, please leave a comment on this post sometime between now and Noon (Toronto time) on Wednesday, telling me what your “must have” items are in your handbag. What are you unable to leave the house without? OR, even better, tell a story about how taking your knitting with you turned out to be a really great decision.

Happy knitting today, and Happy Halloween!

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Filed under product review

Chilly

That flirtation with cool weather we had at the very beginning of the month which then gave us a fake-out of warm weather a week or two later, has now returned in earnest and we are definitely settling into the chilly times. The thermometer is starting to dip below freezing overnight, and I heard tell there have been flurries sighted in NYC to the south of us, so, you know. That means Serious Knitwear Times.

A few days ago I finally rifled through my stash of winter accessories, and as usual came up a bit more empty-handed than I thought I should. I always end up losing a few small hand-knits in the to-and-fro-ing each season, despite the fact that i should know better. This time I’m remembering that I lost my dear Noro Silk Garden striped scarf, and I remember having at least one more pair of gloves than what I found in the basket, which means I’ve got to amp up some accessory knitting plans to include amongst the ongoing deadlines. I was happy to see, however, that my darling Podster mitts (available as a free download – either in my Ravelry store or from my blog post here) are still there and still a pair. I pulled them out and have been glad to have them around this week as a transitional mitt – it’s been chilly enough to want a bit of something extra, but not so cold I need to get out the worsted weight gloves.

And you know, I’m proud of these little guys. They’ve held up nicely.

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Two years later and they’re still going strong – especially well considering that last winter I wore them pretty steadily for running, which translates to 3 days a week for 4 months of sweaty hands and wrists and maybe a few swipes at a drippy nose (what? sometimes I forget Kleenex, okay), and lots of washings in the sink. They look like I could have just made them last week and I am super pleased about that. Dream in Color Smooshy, you’re all right.

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It’s a nice reminder that all this wonderful squishy superwash stuff and merino and sometimes luxury blend yarn that we’ve come to take for granted now as ‘sock yarn’ – and happily knit squishsy and merino and sometimes luxury socks with – doesn’t always need to go on your feet. Of course, it’s not as though I haven’t already gotten that memo, and you may have already too, but it’s true that my first impulse when I look at my sock yarn stash is to think, “what socks will I make with that.” And I don’t know about you, but my hands appreciate a squishy bit of yarn every bit as much as my feet do, and they do it without giving the yarn the beating of its life against my shoes and my jeans cuff and the occasional too-abrupt pull when coming on or off my feet.

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So I decided enough was enough, and did what I’ve been saying I was going to do for the last year, and cast on a new pair of Podsters for myself for everyday wear. I had a skein of Tanis Fiber Arts cashmere sock yarn (teal) wound up for quite a while and it’s been waiting ever so patiently, so here we go. It’ll replace my travelling sock project for a bit. Perhaps it’ll be followed by other accessory knits after that, while my full sock drawer contents itself with its ample supply for the time being.

Yep, i’m pretty sure cashmere sock yarn will make a pretty awesome and snuggly pair of gloves. I’ll take it.

In my last post I alluded to doing a blog giveaway – and I do indeed have one coming! But will wait until next week. Have a lovely and restful weekend, and I’ll catch you on the other side of it. Knit some awesome things!

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Fall Socks

Although it’s been a hectic couple of weeks around here, and the month of October seems to be passing by at a startling pace, I’ve got another pattern up my sleeve that I haven’t gotten the chance to show off to you properly yet! Allow me to present to the blog my Phellogen socks (available on Ravelry here, and on Patternfish here).

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I designed this pattern as a donation to the Tour de Sock (Ravelry link) knitting competition group, where participant fees are donated to charity and knitters get patterns along with the chance to finish quickly and compete for prizes. Sarah, the group organizer, asked me back in the summer if I’d like to contribute a pattern, and the only stipulation was “something with cables.” Heh. And since I do know my way around a cabled sock, and since I am a fan of charitable things, I went to my sock yarn stash and pulled out some yarn and got to work.

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When I was designing my Staked socks, I offered folks a modification to eliminate the swooshy angle across the foot, if desired, and simply continue the cables down the instep in a more classic fashion. I did this on a 3rd pair of my own Staked socks, and really liked how it looked – the result was a pair of matching but not identical socks, and the twisted cables feel so sleek and elegant once they’re on your feet. So, I decided to work with that general approach for this pair.

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On these socks, a slightly more prominent motif is featured at the outer edge of the leg and foot, combined with more modest, repeating twists towards the centre and inside of the foot. I left the heels and toes relatively plain, with twisted ribbing continuing out of the pattern motifs from the foot and leg. I like ‘em. I used Madelinetosh Tosh Sock at a typical stockinette gauge of 8 sts/inch, but a variety of solid or semi-solid plied sock yarns would work nicely.

Guys, I don’t think I had a full appreciation of what I was asking these competition knitters to do, by handing down this pattern to them. In my head I thought, “Hey, pretty cabled socks for fall! Fun times.” But the things is, in order for these folks to finish one round of the Tour de Sock before starting the next one, they need to finish a pair of socks in a week or less. Heh. Tour-de-Sock-ers, you are all AWESOME. Some of them finished these in less than two days. There are already almost 60 completed Ravelry projects for these socks, and many more WIPs, and they are all so impressive. I think it is one of those magical things where, given the pressure of a deadline, you don’t worry about whether or not you can do something, you just go ahead and do it.

For regular sock knitters less inclined towards deadlines, though, the pattern is in wide release (see links at top of post), and you may feel free to knit it as quickly or slowly as you like.

Happy knitting, and stay tuned to the end of the week when I just might have a blog giveaway for you. Have a great Wednesday!

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Filed under design, socks

A day with Elizabeth, and some knitters

Yesterday I spent a very fun day at the Purple Purl, teaching a project class on working EPS seamless yoke sweaters (that’s “Elizabeth’s Percentage System,” for those out there still encountering Elizabeth Zimmerman’s writings), and colour-work selection. If I’m a good girl maybe they’ll even have me back to teach it again some time. All I can say is I thought I was going to just teach the class and have fun and then go home and keep knitting the stuff I have to keep knitting, except now I want to go and knit another one of my OWN seamless yoke sweaters, because I feel like you can’t actually have too many of that sort of thing, and anyway isn’t winter coming soon? ::cough::

But yes, it was a fun day. Everyone brought their swatches – I’d expected plain swatches in the round or flat “speed swatches,” but then there were some inventive swatchers in the group. Sasha did hers in a multi-gauge affair, noting needle changes as she went.

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Then Laura did hers as a hat, which I think is pretty awesome and that Elizabeth Zimmerman would totally approve, and now I sort of wish I’d told everyone to just go knit a hat. Next time, I will.

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And we talked a lot about the EPS numbers, and yoked sweater construction, and took lots of notes. And we talked about colour…

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And selected yarn…

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And everyone coloured in their own customized charts, and we all fondly recalled colouring in kindergarten…

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Oct23-EPSclass

And then the afternoon was over and we all went home with ideas and yarn. The end.

But actually, it’s not the end, because before I left I went and looked at the “new” Elizabeth Zimmerman book, Knit One, Knit All. It’s a collection of patterns of Elizabth’s largely from the 1970s, which never got published because nobody thought it would sell. And I have to admit, I didn’t think a book of garter stitch patterns was something I needed in my life – but then I looked through the book and it turns out I was wrong, because I bought it and now I want to knit at least half of it.

Oct24-EZbook

I’m going to try to exercise a little bit of patience, though, and finish one of my current projects first. Then maybe I’ll knit a garter stitch jacket. Or just a hat to take the edge off.

Happy Monday, and I hope your knitting is waiting for you at the end of the day!

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Filed under elizabeth zimmerman, teaching

Cozy

It’s been an odd week around these parts – first it took me a solid couple of days to catch up on sleep/energy from the expenditures of Rhinebeck weekend, and then there were a few days of family waiting and uncertainty ending in some sad news. My knitting mojo’s taken a hit this week as well, I’m sure partly due to the above and also partly due to the regular post-project-completion ennui of finishing up my Rhinebeck sweater just in the nick of time.

And so while there are several projects scattered around that I could and should be working on at this very moment (including finishing writing up the pattern for said Rhinebeck sweater), I’ve reached instead for the Briar Rose Abundance purchased at last year’s Rhinebeck. Despite the “worsted” indications on the labels, I read it as a bulky yarn since it swatches up nicely over 14 sts/4 ins.

Oct21-AbundanceSleeve

If I can get a complete full length sleeve in less than a day, sign me up for that action for a little bit. I’ll let the other projects fight with it for some time, but a bit of cozy bulky purple wool is feeling pretty good at the moment.

Like my last sweater, this is starting with a sleeve and some cables, but unlike my last sweater, I actually have a fully-formed plan for it right from the starting gate. More sweater coziness ahead, which is good, since the fall wind doth blow out there.

I hope your weekend is restful and full of knitting! I’ll catch you again next week.

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Filed under sweaters

The goods

My Rhinebeck shopping this time around was fairly precise. I made a list going in, and stuck to it, and then stopped shopping and browsed and chatted and ate food the rest of the time. All good too, of course! I often get taken in by the pretty things and buy one or two skeins (especially the sock yarn, which is so beautiful and tempting), and then regret not saving more of my budget for a really great amount of sweater yarn.

Oct19-RhinebeckMug

In addition to 2 more Signature circulars, a book and a hug from Stephanie, and a really great mug from Jennie the Potter (for which I have to thank fellow Rhinebecker Abbie, who stood in line for me and may have snagged one of the very last mugs there, I did indeed get some lovely yarn. (The mug is my 2nd from her, and I can see why everyone mobs her booth – they are just wonderful for a cuppa or a latte at home, and have such pleasing hand-painted designs.)

I’ve gotten a few lovely skeins of sock yarn from Miss Babs before, and at Sock Summit this past summer I really strongly considered their worsted weight yarns but didn’t have room. This time, I made a beeline for the display of Yowza Whatta Skeins, and brought home 3 in a lovely brownish grey colour called “Field Mouse.” It’s about 1600 yds altogether, and I think it might be destined for the cardigan sister pattern to Royale, which I’ve been wanting to work on for the last year.

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I also brought home 2 more giant bumps of yarn from Briar Rose, in this bulky and flaming red shade of Abundance. I think it’s going to be something big and cozy and cabley.

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It’s a big world of yarn out there, and I love what I have access to through the yarn shops and dyers here at home, but at Rhinebeck there is always the thrill of getting to see a different selection of indie dyers and craftspeople, and it is wonderful that so many of us can benefit from this big yarn world in so many different ways.

In conclusion, yarn is awesome.
What yarn are you waiting to pull out of your stash – new or old?

Happy knitting today!

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Filed under knitting tourism, rhinebeck, stash

Rhinebeck 2011

The New York Sheep and Wool Festival (aka Rhinebeck) is pretty much a guarantee of a good time. There are people and yarn, and if you’re not finding much of one you can usually find some of the other, and even if by the end of it my introverted self has had so much sensory overload that I am on the verge of becoming feral and clutching said yarn in the middle of an airport waiting on my (delayed) flight home, it’s never not worth it.

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This time around a bit of an odd thing happened to me – I made a list of things I wanted, and stuck to it. Rather than filling up on appetizer yarns one or two skeins at a time and having no room for an entree of awesome sweater yarn purchases, I went right for some lovely sweater quantities of yarn at Briar Rose and then Miss Babs (pics tomorrow), and then finished off with an aperitif of two more pairs of Signature circular needles (I’m so sunk. I’m just going to keep filling in the collection, I can tell), and a Jennie the Potter mug, and then I was done. And it wasn’t even lunchtime yet.

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So after that it was just about wandering – which is nice because there were a whole lot of people to wander with. It is a good and strange thing to converse with knitters mostly through Ravelry and the blogosphere and then suddenly get to see them live in 3D all in one go. And reaffirming to have so many people to wave to across the crowds and hug when you get to them. Knitters are great.

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Gretchen (maplemom) was there with her mum and she was showing off her lovely, lovely Royale, and they were great to say hi to.

Oct15-GretchenRoyale

I saw Kristin, Angela, and Elinor, and for some reason did not manage to snap a picture of Elinor with her eyes open.

Oct15-KristinAngelaElinor

I played Rhinebeck bingo again (and did not get bingo, again, but still met some more knitters)…

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I showed Elspeth the progress on my Longbottom cardigan, which is destined to be modelled (and then kept) by her husband, and got a pretty great reaction…

Oct15-ElspethSweater

And I even got my own Rhinebeck sweater done in the nick of time, and got photographed in it by Melissa, and I love the pictures so much that I need to wait to post them in a post of themselves. Preferably accompanied by a finished pattern, I think.

And I petted some sheep, and ate a lot of food, and got some decent transit knitting done, and when i finally got home I fell into the best coma sleep on the planet.

Oct14-TravelKnitting

Thanks for being awesome, knitters! Let’s do it again next year.

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