Monthly Archives: May 2012

Onwards

I’m pleased to announce the winner of Tuesday’s giveaway, by virtue of random number generator…

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…is commenter number 45, or Kris! Congratulations, I’ll be in touch with you asap and you’ll receive a fabulous little zippered notions pouch from Pog Totes. Thank you to everyone who left a comment on the giveaway post.

In the mean time, new projects are on the go here at Knitting to Stay Sane, and I’m sure I’ll have a busy spring and summer ahead. Since I’ve been flirting with lace and Nancy Bush’s book lately, I finally decided to go for it and cast on for a Queen Silvia stole, with some of the lovely Turtlepurl luxury laceweight I picked up at the Knitter’s Frolic. The yarn is a blend of silk and alpaca and cashmere, so you can imagine that it is basically like knitting with kitten purrs. I’m giving it at least a full pattern repeat before I fully commit to this combination, though, since it’s also a yarn at the very fine end of the laceweight spectrum and I’m not entirely sure if I wouldn’t prefer a slightly heavier laceweight option. There are nupps ahead, after all. Lots and lots of ‘em.

Have a great Thursday, whatever your project choice may be!
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Royale revised

A little over two years ago I released Royale. It was one of my early sweater patterns, and one which still represents my great affection for twisted stitches and travelling cables. I designed the original sweater for a deep scoop neck and 3/4 sleeves as modern details at the time. After a time I realized a few folks were modifying it to their own preferences, for full-length sleeves and a higher neckline for more versatility and cold-weather comfort, and so I thought, hey, I can make that a bit easier for people. Why don’t I just update the pattern? And while I’m updating the pattern, why don’t I knit myself another one?

And so, I did.

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This new sample (nicely modelled by fellow knitter Lisa) shows off said full sleeves and a more modest scoop neck that, with the ribbing, ends a little above the beginning of the armholes. I asked Lisa to model for me for a fresh set of photos since she’s about the same size as me, and this one actually fit her so perfectly I told her she would have been totally justified in stealing it. (She didn’t, though, which I appreciate).

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Royale is available here on Ravelry, and here on Patternfish. The new pattern contains not only two options for sleeve length and neckline depth, but also an additional size in the 3XL range, for a total of 7 sizes ranging from 31 to 53 inches at bust circumference. It uses your preferred worsted weight wool (shown in Cascade 220 heathers) at a gauge of 21 sts/4 ins over twisted moss stitch in the round (noted in pattern instructions), and I definitely recommend doing a swatch and gauge check before starting to make sure you’ll get the right fit. This is a sweater that works very well with a close fit, and zero ease or negative ease would be the ideal. As shown here, the sweater measures the same at bust circumference as the body of the wearer at the bust (in other words, it is being worn with “zero ease”), which is one reason it looks so awesome on Lisa. Negative ease would also be fantastic though, and show off the twisty cables even more.

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Even though this is more of a re-release than a regular release, admittedly I would normally choose to release a full length pullover like this a little closer to actual cold-weather time (speaking as a Northern Hemisphere resident, at least), rather than in the spring. But on the other hand, I always think it is one of the great ironies of knitting that we often knit items during the season we want to wear them – inevitably this ends with some projects being completed just as that perfect wearing season has ended. (Said the gal who just cast on a laceweight shawl that will probably take most of the summer.) So, at least if you start on a sweater in the spring or summer, you know it’ll be ready and waiting for you in the fall when you need it.

I’ve also heard tell that a couple of folks are planning to use this as a summer Olympics knitting project, which - go ahead with your mad skills, knitters. I salute and support you! Also why didn’t I think of that.

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Since this sweater does use quite a lot of those twisted stitches and travelling cables, as per usual I include in the pattern instructions some tips on how to work these without a cable needle. If you can get the hang of that technique, it will likely make your knitting proceed much more efficiently, and I’m a big fan. In fact, look for an updated photo tutorial from me soon on this technique as well – I’m planning a new one dedicated just to these little 2-stitch travelling cables so familiar to Bavarian twisted stitch work like in these motifs.

Other notes about this sweater – it is worked in the round up to the armholes, from the bottom up, then worked flat across the back and fronts separately. The sleeve caps are also worked flat, then the sleeves are sewn into the set-in armholes. All told there’s only small amounts of seaming involved, and working mostly in the round is a great approach for twisted stitch cables like these, because ktbl (knitting through the back loop) is a lot more fun that ptbl (purling through the back loop), I can tell you that.

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Finally, if you’re just tuning in here this week and would like a chance to win a fabulous little zippered notions purse from Pog Totes, check out my previous post which also holds a book review of Circular Knitting Workshop by Margaret Radcliffe. I’ll post a winner sometime after noon tomorrow.

Happy knitting this Wednesday! May you have a refreshing beverage waiting for you at the end of it.

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Filed under cables, design, finished object: sweater

Book Review: Circular Knitting Workshop

One admitted perk of blogging is that occasionally new books cross my desk to have a look at for review – and believe me, I see all kinds. There are pattern collection books, extreme niche knitting books, and also the reference manuals – all of which have their place on a knitter’s library shelf. Today I have a book review for you in the latter category, the recently published Circular Knitting Workshop by Margaret Radcliffe.

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I’m one of those knitters who, while I am happy to try new techniques – yea verily, I will sometimes reach for the most crazy ambitious patterns just so I know I’m guaranteed not to get bored with my knitting (the horror!) – I am also just as likely to fall victim to the knitter’s comfort zone, where I keep going with particular methods and techniques just the same way I learned them because that’s exactly where I like it and changing it up might be different and irksome. (I have a related story here where I thought I was going to be a double-pointed-needle/DPN knitter for the rest of my life and didn’t need Magic Loop in my life thank you very much, then tried Magic Loop knitting and now write all my sock patterns for both DPNs and Magic Loop because I love them both.)

This is all a way of saying I thought I had circular knitting down and really didn’t understand what else there was to say about it once you knew how to do it, but sure I’ll take a look at this Circular Knitting Workshop anyway because you just never know. I mean, once you know how to “join to work in the round, being careful not to twist,” you’ve got it licked, surely…but maybe on the off chance that there’s something else to it, I’ll give this a read.

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Let me cut to the chase and summarize: this book is awesome. There are several instructional sections supported by full-colour photographs of techniques like cast-on and bind-off, and problem-solving for things like what to do if you have, in fact, not been “careful not to twist” at the join and you have a twisted mobius-like piece of knitting instead of the tube you wanted. (Hint: catching this sooner makes it more likely that you’ll be able to fix it, but Margaret Radcliffe has your solution.)

Then there are a whole pack of guidelines for things that knitters tend to learn as they go, handily assembled in one easy reference – things like how to convert stitch patterns or whole garments from flat to in the round, working from charts, and a nice series on various ways to finish things like hems, toes, etc. There is a brilliant alternative to kitchener stitch in here, credited to Lucy Neatby, that allows you to finish a sock toe without doing regular kitchener stitch, that I might be a little bit in love with. (I have another related story here about how I still avoid kitchener stitch if I can help it. Actually…that’s pretty much the whole story, right there.) Finally, there are several patterns included here for practice and inspiration, including hats, socks, and sweaters.

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I also appreciate that Margaret stops to point out things like this list of 5 Reasons to Knit Flat, and 5 Reasons to Knit Circular. Because while being able to work in the round is fantastic and has wonderful applications, I agree that it’s not the best approach 100% of the time. Flat and circular knitting are both worth being comfortable with, and worth getting better at.

In short, this is such a lovely reference book that I’m afraid I can’t bear to part with my copy of it for a giveaway – I’m going to make it a nice home in my knitting library and will enjoy having it as a reference.

However, I do still have a giveaway for you today, of one of these fun little sewn notions kits from Pog Totes. Mary who runs Pog Totes sent me one and they were so adorable I asked if I could do a blog giveaway for a reader, and she kindly offered!

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To win one of these little handsewn, lined, zipped, brightly coloured darlings, leave a comment on this blog post between now and noon on Thursday (Toronto time), telling me your favourite thing about knitting in the round, and I’ll do a giveaway in a post Thursday afternoon.

Happy knitting this afternoon, and stay cool!
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Always in progress

I’ve reached that nice sweet spot of knitting where I have put a couple of finished projects behind me and have the freedom to cast on for something new, and am enjoying this prospect muchly. Granted, the approximately seven thousand new things I am likely to cast on in the next month will probably not seem so exciting a month from now when I am wishing I didn’t have seven thousand things all in progress, but still – for the moment I have some new projects to ponder.

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My new Royale is finished and blocking (updated pattern will be made available soon – options ahoy for two sleeve lengths AND two neckline depths), and I did make the bargain with myself that lace could happen next, so.

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I had been planning to put something together with these two things – my Tanis Fiber Arts laceweight purchased at the Knitter’s Frolic was going to be a Miralda’s Triangle from Nancy Bush’s Knitted Lace of Estonia, but when I finally sat down to actually start it I realized that this is a pattern that actually calls for fingering weight, not laceweight. And while I could modify that sucker for laceweight by changing the number of pattern repeats on it (many Ravelry knitters have done so simply to get a larger shawl than what is written), I decided that I will save this hot pink awesomeness for something else.

I’ve got a few fingering weight options in the stash that would be great for the Miralda’s triangle shawl, but I am pretty sure they are mostly in the purple colour scheme, and (since taking out my shawls for show and tell at Lace 101+ up in Collingwood in March and realizing I own a big pile of handknitted purple shawls) I promised myself the next shawl project I started would be something not-purple, I reached for something else instead. I’ve got this beautiful skein of Willow St. silk from Shall We Knit up on deck (it is one of their in-house yarns), and have started playing around with it for a scarf-sized shawl (I do like the look of wearing them bandit-style during the spring and summer), so this will become something fun. Also relatively quick, I think, since it’s one 475 yd skein. (Or so I say now. Further bulletins as events occur).

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Since it’s just about summer, though, I feel like more lace on the needles is a good thing, so don’t be surprised if I get back to my lace stash and start something else. I’ll try to keep it on the modest side, though – two more shawls in progress at most.

Happy knitting this Wednesday!

PS – if you’re in the Toronto/southern Ontario area and want to come to the TTC Knitalong, signups are now open for this July event! Spots are going quickly and some teams are full or almost full, so definitely keep many options in mind for your signup. All the teams visit four awesome stores in Toronto and everyone gets a fab tote bag to stuff with yarn for the day. Visit this page for more information.

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A short list for a long weekend

1. This weekend I have two movie outings with fellow knitters in the offing, and like any good knitters, we all made sure to have movie-appropriate knitting in hand. I started a new 3×1 ribbed sock in a skein of Socks That Rock Mediumweight in the colour ‘Amelie’, which is so red and cheerful I couldn’t keep resisting it on the yarn shelf much longer.

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2. I started this new pair of socks despite having another pair of ribbed Malabrigo socks that have been on the needles since March and still haven’t gotten past the toe of the first sock in the pair. I just needed to look at a different pair of socks for a bit.

3. There was a brief moment earlier this week when I realized that I’m almost done my now-with-full-sleeves Royale pullover, and thought that meant I was going to have a clean slate and could totally start fresh with a new project or five, but then I remembered about the other ribbed socks from March, and the 2/3 done Velvet Morning cardigan, and…I decided I’ll hold off casting on a new thing until Royale is done but THEN I am totally casting on a NEW SHAWL darn it all. A gal can only hold on for so long.

4. Speaking of shawls, I had a question about my Lakeshore shawl pattern and what it’s like to work with silk as compared to wool when working up a shawl. In truth I’m sure we could talk about many differences between wool and silk as fibers, but for me the key difference for shawl projects is how likely you are to be concerned about a dropped stitch. Silk is a very smooth and, well, silky fibre, which means if you drop a stitch you are more likely to have it become a problem much more quickly than if you were working with wool. If you drop a stitch with 100% wool, there’s every likelihood you won’t notice it until you get back to its place in the row, because wool fibers can be sticky enough that the stitches don’t want to unravel very much unless provoked.

For this reason I’m even more a fan of lifelines when working silk shawls than I already would be with wool, particularly when I’m designing a project. I snapped this picture when I was in progress with the Lakeshore shawl – I had had to rip back a section that wasn’t working out, and re-do it, and I managed to miss a couple of stitches from the lifeline. I picked ‘em back up again pretty easily when I got to that place on the shawl, but oooh I shudder to think what might have happened if I hadn’t had that lifeline in place. Or, perhaps the lifeline forgives mishaps more easily in the first place, so your brain allows them to happen more easily, too, who knows.

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In any case: When it comes to shawls, I am a lifeline sort of gal.

5. I’m pleased to announce the entire Urban Collection is now available on Patternfish as an e-book, as well as on Ravelry as it has been.

Have a great weekend! I hope you’ve got lots of fun knitting to work on.
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Urban Collection: Lakeshore Shawl

Knitting friends, I’m so pleased to announce that the final piece of the Urban Collection is here and ready! (Available now on Ravelry, as well as on Patternfish along with all other collection pieces). This last pattern took me a little longer to finalize than originally planned, but I have to admit I’m pretty happy with it. And now that spring has firmly established itself around these parts in Southern Ontario, the timing could not be better for shawls.

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When I was started planning this collection a while back, my goal was that if a knitter were to knit and/or own all of the items in this set, she would be ready for any occasion with a piece of knitwear. That includes sweaters and accessories to be sure, but I knew I wanted to finish with a nice shawl. Shawls are pretty welcome from spring through fall, either as the main attraction atop a dressy outfit, or wrapped over your shoulders while going about your day through the city. There are so many ways to wear them, and so many fabulous colours of yarn available to show off your lace handiwork!

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This pattern is worked in the classic top-down triangle shape, beginning from the top of the centre of the triangle at the back of neck, increasing outwards with yarnovers at edge and either side of the centre stitch. There are two main charts in the triangle portion, and the shawl is finished with a knitted-on picot lace border. It’s a shawl that will expect you to have a little bit of lace practice going into it (or at the very least be comfortable with the basics), but won’t tax you so much as to grow weary of complicated charts. I wanted this to be a piece in the lighter end of the intermediate range, that would ask a bit of attention of you but not so much that you can’t still get on with the rest of your day. I quite like the way it turned out, and I know I’m going to enjoy wearing this sample during the coming spring and summer!

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I think every knitter deserves a silk shawl in their life. This is worked with Tanis Fiber Arts Silver Label 100% mulberry silk, in Garnet. (Garnet continues to be one of my favourite colours, though I have to say I do not think there is a bad colour when it comes to the silk.) It uses 2 skeins of the TFA silk, or approx. 850 yds of your preferred laceweight or light fingering weight yarn, on 3.5mm needles. Finished size is a comfortable 72 inches across the top “wingspan”, and size is best altered by altering needle size and gauge.

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I’d like to once again thank Tanis Fiber Arts for yarn support for this and the other pieces in the Urban Collection, Bridget at Needles in the Hay for obliging me with a few photos of the modelled piece, and Kate Atherley for technical editing.

Happy knitting on this fine Tuesday! May there be delicious lace shawls in your future.

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A knitterly weekend

This past Friday and Saturday I had what is now becoming nearly a monthly jaunt up to Peterborough once more, for a bit of workshop teaching (I’ll be heading back there in June for twisted stitch cables and lace 101+), but also my very first trunk show festivities. Bridget and I hatched this plan sometime back in the winter, and it was great fun.

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I brought all of my finished Urban Collection pieces as well as some hard copy patterns, and a bunch of knitters came for the evening and we hung out and chatted and everyone got the chance to try on the collection pieces if they wanted. This also included the 8th and final piece of the collection – the Lakeshore Shawl – which is off the needles and making its final steps to online inclusion in the collection this week! I am excited to show it off to you properly later this week.

For now, though, I’ve got to tell you that as awesome as I know all the knitters are in your town, you’ve got stiff competition from the folks in Peterborough, Ontario. These ladies have some game, and they are stylin’. Everyone looked so great in these pieces I wondered for a moment if I was going to have to frisk them on the way out. (Also, they are all uncommonly photogenic. I think I might have to save up some designs and enlist them all for photo shoots.)

Thanks for a great weekend, gals! I’ll come visit again soon.

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Winning

Thank you all for your wonderful tips on my last post for Beyond Knit and Purl by Kate Atherley. It is a fabulous list and I encourage you to read through all the great suggestions, you might even come up with something you didn’t know before!

By the power of Random Number Generator, I give you the winner of a copy of the book…

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..which by my reckoning is Sandra, who commented with a tip about Portuguese knitting. I’ll be in touch with her and get a copy of the book on its way.

For now I’d like to leave you with some images of my other ongoing ‘work in progress’, photography – I’m continuing with some more courses and getting in more practice with it to learn, and imagine my surprise when adding another creative pursuit to the week makes the other things a bit squeezed for time? This impatient gal still has lots of knitting projects to finish, and new ones to start! But, a little bit at a time.

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Happy Thursday!

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Book review/interview: Beyond Knit and Purl

Knitting friends, I’ve got a few book reviews coming up for you in the next month or so around these parts, so what better time than the 1st of the month to get them kicked off? (Side note: How in the heck is it May already? Time passes awfully quickly when you’re knitting a lot of things.)

My friend Kate recently published her first book, Beyond Knit and Purl, and it is a very friendly volume of tips, tricks, and patterns for knitters in that amorphous stage of advancing from ‘basic’ things towards…well, less basic things, moving into that ever-broadening category of intermediate knitting. You will find a collection of technical explanations of stitches like increases and decreases, cables, lace, and more, all with full-colour photographs to bridge the written instructions. If you are in that stage of wanting to learn more than the basics but don’t necessarily know what you don’t know, this would be a good volume for you. There are a variety of patterns for socks, accessories, even sweaters, that would be at home in many a knitter’s library. Kate teaches in the Toronto area and uses many of these pieces of advice in her classes as well.

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Since there have already been a few stops on Kate’s ‘blog tour’ for this book, I decided to change it up a bit for my stop and ask Kate a few interview questions, both about the book and herself as a knitter! Read on for more, below. Additionally, Co-operative Press has also generously offered to do a book giveaway as part of my stop on her book’s blog tour. If you’d like to be entered to win a copy of the book (because hey, free book!) just leave a comment on this post before noon on Thursday (Toronto time) with what your favourite knitting tip is that you’ve learned (either recently, or ever), and I’ll name the winner this coming Thursday afternoon.

Kate, what are your favourite kinds of things to knit?
My comfort knitting is socks – plain old stocking stitch socks in a beautiful or fun yarn. I don’t have to look, and they are a small project I can tuck into the corner of my purse, so I’m never without something to do. I got most of the leg of a sock finished in a movie theatre last week. And when I’m in a line up at the bank, it helps pass the time! Then when I’m at home, or a long streetcar or plane ride, I love really challenging lace. I get a huge thrill from experimenting with stitch patterns, and I relish the mathematical challenge of working out how to fit them together in a shawl pattern.

If you had to pick a favourite set of tips from the book…
It was really important to me to teach proper finishing techniques – it’s too often given short shrift in the literature, and many a knitting project has been abandoned due to lack of confidence or knowledge about finishing. And no matter how well it’s knitted, poor finishing leaves you with an unattractive end result.

What’s something you learned during the process of making the book?
I asked knitters – professional and casual knitters, experienced and newbies, students and colleagues – for hints and tips to add to my book. I learned an amazing number of clever tricks! One of my favourites: when counting stitches on a straight needle, hold the pointy end and start counting there, towards the stopper end – it’s too easy to knock stitches off the end if you go the other way!

What’s your current favourite knitting “viewing”?
I love a procedural mystery. My husband likes to say that if someone dies before the opening credits, I’ll watch it. The Law & Order family – Law & Order UK is fab! — the CSI family, Castle, The Mentalist, those types of shows. They are very formulaic, but that works brilliantly for knitting. If I miss a few minutes because I’m counting stitches or reading the pattern or making notes, I won’t be lost. And if the crime scene is particularly gory, I can look at my knitting instead of the screen. It doesn’t have to be a murder, but most crime shows seem to focus on that. I’m also a fan of Fairly Legal, which tells the stories of a mediator working for a law firm, and the crimes there are often much more prosaic – business negotiations, house sales, that sort of thing. It’s surprisingly compelling – but still easy to watch with only half your attention.

How strong do you take your coffee again?
Brutally, fiercely, teethcurlingly strong. At The Purple Purl, they make a special Americano for me, since no-one else takes it the way I do.

Thanks for the interview, Kate! And happy knitting, to all.

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