Monthly Archives: May 2013

Urban Collection 2: Empire Ave. Cardigan

The Urban Collection Vol 2 still has a couple more patterns left to release, and I’m happy to announce the third sweater of the set is now available. Presenting the Empire Ave. Cardigan! (Ravelry link) Named for one of the streetcar stops en route to the Purple Purl in Toronto, this is a light spring-to-fall cardigan done in Tanis Fiber Arts cashmere sock, or your preferred wool or wool/luxury blend fingering weight yarn.

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In working up this pattern, I really wanted a light spring layer that would be comfortable and versatile but not too fussy. A simple vertical lace panel on the fronts and back does the trick! I think this would work well in a variety of different colours, and although the Tanis cashmere sock is one of my favourite yarns, I think a regular wool fingering weight would be super as well. This is worked up at 6 sts/inch to allow a little bit of comfortable drape in the knitted fabric, on 3.5mm/US #4 needles or your preferred needle size to achieve tension.

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The construction is seamless from the bottom up, and sleeves are attached to the body for a raglan yoke. There is a slight scoop neck in the front, and a ribbed collar and button-band are picked up and worked after the body is completed. 3/4-length sleeves are a great choice for lighter weather!

There are a couple of structural details in this cardigan that I quite like. One is the slipped-stitch “faux seam” at each side – on right side rows the stitch at the very side between front and back stitches is slipped, which lends the seamless construction a bit more structure than otherwise. Especially when working with superwash wool (which tends to drape a little more heavily than plain wool), these kinds of details can really help! Also, there is a bit of ribbing at the sides just under the arm below the fullest part of the bust, to help with fit and structure in the upper body. It’s the little details that sometimes make the difference and that was one of my goals with this sweater!

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As usual, I already want another one of these in another colour. I must admit I’ve been enjoying the patterns in this collection even more than the collection I did last year, and it’s hard to resist casting on more of them to add to my wardrobe. I’ve got some vacationing coming up in June and already pondering what to knit. Maybe another Empire Ave? The jury is still deliberating.

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I need to thank my fellow knitter friend Austen for modelling this one for me once again (it’s so convenient to have understanding knitter friends who are also a similar size to me!), as well as the other patterns in the collection. There’s still one final accessory to come in the collection and I’ll be sure to report on it very soon.

Happy knitting this Wednesday!

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Pattern: Empire Ave. Cardigan
Yarn: Tanis Fiber Arts cashmere sock, in ‘plum’

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Green space

You know how sometimes, when it’s winter (that is, if you’re a person who lives in a place which experiences winter), and the winter starts to get grey and cloudy and snowy and goes on for a long time, you then realize that you can’t in any way fathom knitting something that resembles the colour of the outside world?

I do not have that problem with spring.

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Bring me ALL the green sock knitting, I am enjoying it immensely. I’m onto the second sock of my current ribbed socks (Socks That Rock mediumweight) and even though I’m also still only about 25% of the way through the Jaywalkers that are also on the needles, I’m already side-eyeing the other green sock yarn in my stash for what other green socks I could make next. It’s green outside, bring on the knitting greenery too, I say.

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I have another green thing to show you soon (as well as a not-green thing), namely the final two pieces of my current Urban Collection (Ravelry link). They’re so, so close to being ready to be released into the world – one of them has been finished for quite a while but the other has just taken a bit longer than anticipated to find its way – and my patience can only last so long, so here’s a quick sneak peek. These folks just need a bit of photography and final formatting attention and then they’ll be yours next week, I am looking forward to it.

I hope you’ve got some sunshine this weekend, and some great knitting time. Until next time, knitting friends!

Pattern: A Nice Ribbed Sock (on 60 sts instead of 64)
Yarn: Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks That Rock mediumweight, ‘enchanted forest’

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It’s a little gross, but it works

If you knit a lot of large projects – or projects involving more than one skein of yarn, you have encountered the step of switching from one skein of yarn to another mid-project. This is called a ‘join’ or a ‘tie-on’ in knitting lingo, and there are a lot of different ways to do it. You might know twelve different ways. It’s also entirely possible that you’ve been sort of Macguyver-ing this step and are convinced there is a better way to do it than your way. If you’re happy with the results you’ve been getting, by all means keep doing it.

Truthfully, you’ve got many fun options available to you, including simply dropping the old yarn and picking up the new one and returning later on to weave in the ends. There’s also the tried-and-true method of overlapping the incoming and exiting yarns with each other (holding them both yarns together and knitting a few stitches with both), or the approach of tying a square knot between the exiting and incoming tails of yarn, proceeding by knitting with the new yarn. I’ve used both of these options before, and they work just fine. The main downside with both of these options is that they  involve coming back later to deal with the ends.

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If you’re working with 100% wool, more methods are available to you – in particular, the spit splice. Strands of wool (and it must be 100% regular wool, not superwash wool or wool blended with other things) have the ability to get fuzzy and friendly with other strands of wool. The same qualities, incidentally, that allow wool to felt – the planned and purposeful version of shrinking a piece of knitting – allow you to execute a spit splice.  Just as any kind of wool felting involves three steps: moisture, heat, and friction, a spit splice also needs all of these things! If you’re not familiar with this join, here’s how it goes:

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(I grabbed this yarn from my leftovers bin, but in case you’ve fallen in love with it, it’s Knit Picks Wool of the Andes, in ‘amethyst.’)

1. First, separate the plies of your wool yarn at the ends (as pictured above). The yarn pictured is 4-ply which means I could actually go in and tease out all 4 individual plies on each of the two ends, but as you’ll see, separating the plies into 2 sections each does just fine. And, if you had a 2-ply yarn, you’d only be able to separate it out into 2 individual plies anyway.

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2. Next, arrange these unwoven plies so that they are overlapping and getting friendly with each other. Again, you can be as meticulous or non-meticulous as you want. Mostly you just want the plies from one end to intermingle with the plies from the other end.

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3. Apply the moisture required for the felting step – yes, this is the step where you actually spit on the yarn! If you’d prefer not to get quite that personal with your wool, you can apply water or run it under the tap, but I have no shame in admitting my splices are happily infused with my own spit. (I really put as much of myself into my knitting work as I can.) You can also just lick the whole thing in your mouth if you want – it doesn’t take long and is quite effective, although you do of course risk getting a fuzzy tongue.

(God I can’t wait to see the search strings that result from this post. I’m so sorry, blog.)

4. Finally, you’re going to apply the friction and heat at the same time, by rubbing the splice vigorously between your hands. This is going to take vigorous motion (i.e. more briskly than rolling a rolling pin), but will not take you very long. I bet this must look really fun to kids. Heck, grown-ups have fun with this part. Possibly after the first go you might have a few bunched-up portions, so go back a second or third time to rub those smoothly if you like.

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Ta-da! A  successful join. The nice thing about this is that you have no ends to weave in afterwards. Once the work is finished you’re not likely to notice it, but it’s still prudent to place this somewhere other than front-and-centre across the middle of your sweater, say. As you might imagine, this kind of join is especially useful on a project where a simple overlap or knotted join might be either very obvious (on a piece of lace knitting, for example), or when you’ve already got a lot to deal with and you don’t want to have to worry about two more ends (such as a colour-work project). It does, however, only work when you are joining the same colour to itself.

So there you have the spit-splice, folks. Is this already one of the tools in your knitting toolbox? What’s your favourite method of joining yarn ends?

Happy Wednesday!
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The thing about handknit socks

On an earlier post about sock knitting, someone asked in the comments something to the effect of ‘how do you keep your handknit socks staying nice looking after you start wearing them?’

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The answer, of course, is that you can’t. Unless you’re only knitting socks with the hardiest sheepswool knitted at a very firm gauge – and probably even then, eventually – hand knit socks are just going to wear out. It probably doesn’t help us out that current sock knitting proclivities have driven the sock yarn market towards squishy soft superwash merinos and luxury blends – even with a bit of nylon added in, these soft yarns just aren’t going to keep the fresh-off-the-needles look for very long, once our feet start doing their job by walking around in them. But they just feel so niiiiiiice, so we keep knitting socks with them anyway.

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And even if we gave up the soft sock yarns and stuck to only the hardiest stuff, the fact of the matter is that anything worn on your feet inside shoes, day after day, is going to take a beating. In Stephanie’s immortal words, socks are not forever.

It’s all extremely nonsensical, of course – if your goal is to get pairs of socks that last forever. Interestingly enough though, I don’t know about you, but since I started knitting socks, I’ve never lost one of a pair. I’ve gotten holes in them, I’ve had some get over-washed and shrunk, I’ve had heels and toes felt up from extended wear and I’ve given away some that ended up too small for me to wear and I couldn’t bear to re-knit the same length of yarn into something bigger. I bet if you took a survey of knitters who knit socks, they would probably all nod at this and think all of these occurrences are totally normal and barely worth shrugging at. But unlike almost every pair of commercial socks I have ever purchased, every single one of my pairs of handknit socks has remained intact. I don’t know why this is, exactly, but I’m pretty sure that it has something to do with the fact that once you’ve spent many hours of time and patience very carefully making something super pretty that is about to get bashed around on your feet (because this is in fact its proper and intended use), you tend to give it that same bit of attention in the washing, drying, and putting-back-in-the-sock-drawer-until-next time phases of its existence.

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And truth be told, I’m not sure my socks are all that perfect in the instant when they come off the needles, either. Usually I knit my ribbed socks in the movie theatre (because that’s a solid 2 hours of knitting time thanks ever so much), and inevitably I hit one row where my fingers forgot what “knit 3, purl 1″ ribbing was and I ended up out of sync with a few purl stitches placed where they shouldn’t be. (The errant row on this pair is from Iron Man 3. I regret nothing, and was thoroughly entertained). Those mistakes can stay where they are, I don’t mind. They feel the same on my feet.

The point is that in the short time span after these new socks come off the needles, they are the awesomest, greatest, most satisfying and comfortable, cutest and brightest socks ever in the whole world.

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Until the next pair, at least.

Happy weekend!

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Pattern: A Nice Ribbed Sock
Yarn: Sweet Georgia Yarns Cashluxe Fine, in ‘berry tart.’ (who says you can’t eventually finish that pair of socks that’s been in your handbag for 3 months? Well, not me, now.)

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Progress is progress

Knitter friends, I’m really not sure how it got to be Friday already. Between catching up on sleep and energy after a busy family weekend with a few late nights, and then slowly succumbing to the May-annual allergy stint that always leaves me wondering if the allergy pills are better or worse than the actual allergies themselves, I feel like the last week has passed in a haze. I’m so terribly behind on the things I wanted to have done by Friday, and yet I’m torn between putting in a huge effort or just saying to hell with it all and reading a book on the sofa while shovelling potato chips into my mouth. (As one does).

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Probably I’ll end up doing a combination of both, but I am at least happy to report that the Multiple Sock Knitting Projects plan has been doing pretty well in action. I haven’t actually finished a pair of anything yet, but I’m discovering that this works nicely to alleviate some potential boredom. If I don’t feel like knitting on one sock project at a given moment, I can just switch to another one.

I must say this is also making me rediscover some parts of my yarn stash that have lain largely by the wayside for the last little while. I went through a big phase of sock knitting and sock yarn purchasing a few years ago, but lately my actual sock productivity has dropped off. I have a whole whack of Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock that I gathered up back when I was knitting myself at least a week’s worth of Jaywalkers with it, but then promptly stopped knitting Jaywalkers and so the Lorna’s Laces stash sat idle. (I would still probably put Shepherd Sock in my top 10 yarns list, even though I have only ever used it for this exact pattern. What can I say, knitter idiosyncracy is just how I roll.)

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It is a real privilege to have access to so many different sock yarns these days, and I’d like to get myself back to rediscovering the ones that are waiting for me in my own shelves. Sock yarn is so easy to pick up a skein or two at a time, and after a while it starts to add up. Here’s hoping more sock knitting results from the needles this summer! I think I’m going to enjoy it.

Once again, have a great weekend, dear knitters! Whether you are knitting socks or other things.

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Pattern: A Nice Ribbed Sock (on 60 sts instead of 64)
Yarn: Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks That Rock mediumweight, ‘enchanted forest’


Pattern: Jaywalker (Ravelry link)
Yarn: Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock, ‘valentine’

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